Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Journey...not the Destination

Road Trip! Nothing makes me happier than a Road Trip. When we were kids mom and dad used to pack us up in the car on a Sunday and just take off driving. I don't think they had an actual destination in mind, they really were just driving aimlessly on an adventure. I loved those trips, loved being in the car with all the people I loved best; reading, singing, joking, fighting, crying.

It wasn't the destination. It's not like we knew we were on our way to Disneyland and the fun would commence once we got there, we knew that the fun was the journey and the adventure and what we would see and experience along the way.

That feeling of just taking off and driving has stuck with me and recently my sister Lisa and I took a road trip. We did have an actual destination in mind, but the day we left we had no where to be and no set time to be there so we just winged it and took the road less traveled on our little adventure.

We spent the whole time talking and laughing, complaining and whining and yes...even shedding a few tears.

That first day on October 9th we headed North on Highway 99. We could have taken the I-5. The men in our lives told us to take the I-5, but have you ever been on the I-5? BORING!!! There's nothing to see on the I-5! I so much prefer Highway 99 and all the small towns and farms and dairies you see along the way.

We made our first stop in Fresno where we wanted to do some shopping. We found a nice shopping mall and let me tell you we dropped some money there. We both needed some things for the weekend and got lucky in finding most of what we needed. Lisa is  not a big fan of shopping but even she had fun.

Then back on the road again. We were starving by this time but we had a plan on where we wanted to stop for lunch.

There's this fabulous restaurant in Turlock that we used to visit often when my daughter April used to live there. It's a Mexican restaurant called Mi Casa and they serve a really unique dish that we had been craving since we had last been there in January of 2010. I know because I wrote THIS BLOG POST about it.

So we sucked it up and waited until we got there and it was well worth the wait! We ordered a Chicken Molcajete! I'm hoping you will be able to see the video below, it's really small, just 5 seconds. I don't know why I took such a short video but I didn't realize it until it was too late.

A Molcajete is a traditional Mexican Version of a Mortar and Pestle and looks like this before the food is added. It's not normally used as a serving dish but as a tool to grind things such as corn to make corn meal or different spices and nuts.

This particular restaurant heats up the molcajete, not sure how they do it but they heat it until its a big hot rock and then they put the food in it and serve it to you. It's still bubbling and boiling and hissing and steaming when they place it in front of you and the heat radiating from it makes you back up real quick!

Doesn't that look delicious? Lisa and I shared one and it was way more than enough for us. Alongside they serve a big plate with refried beans, Mexican rice, guacamole and Pico de Gallo, you can see that plate in the background on the bottom pictures. Then a basket filled with flour tortillas and we were in Heaven! My mouth is watering right now just typing this!

Because we were on the road I didn't want to order a drink but Lisa had one since she was just the co-pilot and I took a couple of sips. It was some kind of Halloweenish drink supposed to be Vampire Blood or something, I don't remember the name of it, but it was super yummy and we of course had to take pictures in front of the restaurants sign inside.

We took a little tour around the small town of Turlock, it's a beautiful little town and we reminisced about our times there with April and my mom who always went with us because she missed her granddaughter. It was bittersweet and we marveled at how we leave little pieces of our lives in so many out of the way places.

This is it for Part One of the Road Trip and I'll leave you with a picture of where I woke up the next morning to see if you can figure out where we're headed!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Baby J Sunday! Fall is in the Air!

Any day with Baby J is a good day, but starting out Sunday morning with her is especially wonderful. This child is a bundle of energy and keeps us all on the go but my gosh is she adorable and funny! Such a great little personality! Her Nini (grandmother) and her Poppa (grandfather) and I all went to a Halloween Costume party last night. Her Nini was just dying this morning to give her the orange thingy she wore on her head last night. Needless to say Baby J loved it.

Nini and Poppa on the top picture, Baby J dancing in the kitchen and with her daddy.
Then she cracked my mom and me up when I tried to get a picture with her next to a little Halloween decoration filled with fall leaves. I asked her to stand next to the "flowers" as she calls them and she thought the best way to take the picture was for her to just lay her head on the table!

I had to scootch her around and show her how to stand alongside the table, then she gave me the cheesiest smile!

What a character!

Here's just some random pictures that I thought were adorable. This child is just like her Nini, super photogenic!

When it was time for her daddy to leave he asked if I wanted to spend some time with her without him and Nini around and I jumped at the chance to have her all to myself. You can see in the picture above that she just loved standing inches from the TV watching Scooby Do! Another great Baby J Sunday!

And the day before wasn't bad either. Lisa and I went to a surprise Wedding Reception for a dear friend Rebecca and she was thrilled to see us and we were so happy for her! We met her new husband and their baby girl Natalie. We had some great food and are so lucky to have a such a great friends. Wishing you and Matt and Natalie every happiness and joy in the world Rebecca! Love you my friend!

That evening Lisa and her husband G and I all went to a Halloween costume party hosted by relatives of G. We had a great time and I'll end this with a picture of the three of us in costume. Thank you Connie for inviting us! It was a Blast!


Friday, October 24, 2014

Burnt Chicken - No Lunch - Losing my Mind - Way too Busy to be Productive!

You won’t believe what I did last night!

I made pork chops with Rice-a-Roni Garlic Rice Pilaf and salad.

At the same time I seasoned some chicken breasts and put them in the oven and set the timer on my phone.

We ate a nice homemade meal, both my kids in 7th heaven because they love my cooking.

I cleaned up the kitchen and went to go try on a witch costume my co-worker loaned me for a Halloween Party I'm going to this Saturday.

While I was trying it on my alarm went off on my phone that the chicken had finished baking for 1 hour.

I turned it off and promptly forgot all about it because I was busy taking a picture of myself in the costume to send to my sister. That was at 6:45 pm.

At 9:00 pm I remember the chicken! I ran to the kitchen and my son was just coming in and and saw the panic on my face. I yelled “I forgot the chicken!”

He said, “No you didn't, I heard the timer go off on your phone and saw you shut it off”.

I said “I know! I shut it off and then forgot to turn the oven off!!!”

 Needless to say I had 2 charcoal bricks stuck to the foil paper in the oven *sigh* no lunch for me today!

Life is just too rushed anymore...


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Baby J Sunday - Decorating for Fall with my Favorite Little Helper!

Had my son take my boxes of Fall decorations out of storage and decided since it was Baby J Sunday it would be a great day to start putting some decorations around the house to get everyone into a holiday mood. It is so fun to see things through the eyes of a child! She was just mesmerized by all the fun things in the boxes. Had to watch her though as many of my things are breakable. She did find a few things to play with that were Baby-J-Unbreakable!

She loved this plush little pumpkin. She had just been to visit the Pumpkin Patch yesterday and she was all about the Pumpkins! Love how she balanced it on her head!

Then she found a plastic bag filled with my fall leaves, so of course she had to take them all out of the bag! What else would you do with a bag full of fall leaves?

So once you have a whole bag of fake fall leaves on the floor what do you do? Why you toss them up into the air just like I showed her how to do with the real ones we raked up in the backyard! After all, daddy was there to pick them up!

But even with all the wonderful distractions of my lovely little helper, I was able to somewhat get some fall decorating done! Baby J will have to wait until next week to see the end results and I shudder to think what's going to happen when she wants to play with the plush pumpkins and the fall leaves again!

You can see the plush pumpkin in the middle here on my dining room hutch and I artfully tossed the fake Fall leaves and placed decorations on top. She hasn't even see the turkey's yet...that's going to be an adventure!

I know she's going to want to play with this little witch house! She's going to love the little shoes!

Maybe the ghosts will keep her curious little hands away! BOOOOOO!

Another great day with Baby J!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Creamy Chopped Cauliflower Salad and Spicy Cajun Chicken Drumsticks - Another Low Carb Dish

Yesterday I made a yummy Faux Potato Soup trying to duplicate my dad's famous Caldo de Papa. I did it by using Cauliflower instead of super carby potatoes. I thought it came out pretty good. I shared a bowl with my low-carb co-worker and she thought it was pretty good too so I definitely will be making it again and you should too! Trust me, you'll love it!

Because I wasn't sure if I was going to like it I only used half of the head of cauliflower and tonight I used the other half to make a Creamy Chopped Cauliflower Salad. I based it on the recipe from the website Eating Well. You can follow THIS LINK to find their recipe.

I kept to the recipe but made a few changes to try to lower the carbs, which aren't that high to begin with, so if you want to stick to the recipe it wouldn't hurt anything if you follow a low carb lifestyle.

I used:
  • 5 Tablespoons regular Mayonnaise, not the reduced fat
  • 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar, I didn't have the regular kind
  • 3 small shoots of green onion, about 3 tablespoons, finely chopped, shallots
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground Cumin, I've never had Caraway seeds and they were $6 for a small container so I looked online to find a something similar to Caraway in taste. My choices were Anise, Dill and Cumin, Cumin was all I had.
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 cups cauliflower florets, about 1/2 a head
  • 2 cups chopped hearts of Romaine
  • 1 teaspoon Granulated Splenda
  • 1  1/2 cups of Jicama chopped into small cubes

It was very good. I love crunchy salads and the cauliflower and jicama both gave it lots of crunch. In the picture on the Eating Well site the red apple added a lot of color. I think next time I might add a tomato for color, plus I love tomato!

To make this you:
  • Whisk together in a large bowl the Mayonnaise, Cider Vinegar, Black Pepper, Cumin (or Caraway if you use them), the green onion and Splenda. 
  • Add the Chopped Cauliflower, Jicama and Romaine Lettuce
  • Toss and Serve
  • Makes about 6 servings
I served this as a side dish for one of my old standbys that I've made a million times, Spicy Cajun Chicken Drumsticks. A perfect side dish as the coolness of the salad helps with the spiciness of the chicken.

This was very good and something different from the normal coleslaw I usually eat with the chicken. Oh and by the way the Jicama was very good, not quite as sweet as an apple, but the same texture and crunch.

The Chicken is super easy to make, recipe HERE.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Potato Soup Fakeout - Low Carb Cauliflower Soup

I'm so ready for Fall already! Ready for football and hot chocolate, for reading while wrapped in a blanket, for soups and sweaters and cold misty mornings!

Unfortunately, Fall is not accommodating me this year! So I'm having to continue with Fall like things even though it's in the 90's outside and I have to turn on the air conditioning just to give me Fall-like conditions!

Earlier today it was a bit chilly in my office. I was having lunch at my desk, a cold Asian Chicken Salad. It wasn't what I wanted, even though it was delicious; what I was really craving was my daddy's Caldo de Papa, Potato Soup!

He made the best Potato Soup ever! He used potatoes, of course; and tomato and jalapenos and lots and lots of cheese! It was warm and soothing and very, very spicy...that was the best part. He taught me how to make it several times, but in one ear...out the other. Fortunately my sister wrote it down for me.

I realized when I got home today, that I had all the ingredients. I had gone grocery shopping yesterday and my cupboards were fair to bursting with all sorts of goodies! So I dragged out my recipe book and started gathering supplies.

I took half a head of cauliflower and cut it up into florets. I diced up one Roma tomato and one Jalapeno, being careful to remove the seeds. I didn't have any fresh cheddar cheese to shred so I took out the handy pre-shredded bag of Cheddar that my son uses to make Quesadillas with and got to work!

With some Olive Oil in the pan I browned the cauliflower for about ten minutes judging the softness by crushing some of the bigger pieces with the spoon. When it was almost tender I added the diced tomatoes and jalapenos and cooked those all together for about five minutes or so.

Then I added about two and a half cups of water. My dad used to add milk, but milk would ruin the low-carb aspect of this dish so I used water and then added just a splash of heavy whipping cream, about a 1/2 cup. You could also use half and half or if you have a super fast metabolism and you can eat anything you want then you can use regular milk and I will envy you forever!

I let that simmer for a bit until it came to a boil then I added salt and pepper to taste. I had to add salt again later and I still think it could have used more but I'm a salt-fanatic, so don't go by me! While it simmered I did the dishes and put things away and found that I had some Monterey Jack Cheese so I cut that into small cubes and added it to the now boiling pot along with about a cup of the shredded Cheddar Cheese, just cause I'm crazy like that!

Now of course you need to wait for it to boil again and then check it for salt and pepper. (This is where I added more salt, don't be like your salt intake!)

Look how beautiful all those veggies look together! The cauliflower is crisp-tender and the jalapenos have given just a bit of heat to the broth. The cheese thickens the soup almost like a chowder and you don't have to use flour as a thickening agent. And the tomatoes? Well they just give it a pretty little pop of color!

Then you serve it in a pretty bowl. I tossed in some bacon bits as a garnish and it did this weird thing when I did. I created a different color and made almost a flower in the middle. Do you see that or is it just me? Maybe I need to quit drinking wine while I cook?

Well regardless, it was very, very good. Not as good as the soup my dad made, but he would have been proud and would have smiled at me and said "Muy bien Chaparra" (Very good Shorty), and then he would have eaten a big bowl of it, probably adding several shots of Tabasco!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Goddess of Small Victories, Cesar Chavez and Crunchy Mexican Rice!

     "Damn it to hell, Kurt! Set the table!" 
     "Don't swear like that, Adele. And don't get so agitated. this is not a formal dinner." 
     I stuck my tongue out at his back. I set the table and looked at it critically: no silver, no fine porcelain. The secondhand bride had not merited an elaborate trousseau.
     He stayed planted by the window.
     "Where are they? Did you tell them six o'clock?"
     "They had to bring Russell to the station first."
     "I'm wondering when I should put the souffle in the oven."
     "You should  have planned a simpler menu."
     "Albert Einstein is coming to dinner! Of course I'm going the whole nine yards!"

     This is a post inspired by the book The Goddess of Small Victories by Yannick Grannec, a novel about brilliant mathematician Kurt Godel as told from his ex-cabaret dancer wife's perspective. Join my online book group, From Left to Write on October 16th as we discuss The Goddess of Small Victories. As a member I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Kurt Gödel and his wife, Adele.
Photograph by Oskar Morgenstern,
courtesy of the Archives of the
Institute for Advanced Study.
     In the excerpt above from the book we find Adele, the wife of the famous mathematician Kurt Godel preparing to host a dinner for Albert Einstein!

     Can you just imagine that? Having dinner with Albert Einstein? Not only having dinner but hosting a dinner and doing all the cooking yourself?

     It's just mind boggling to me. I've never before had to make a dinner for a famous person. I've never before had to make a dinner for anyone other than family and friends.

     I do remember when I was dating my now ex-husband that I invited him over so that I could cook him a traditional Mexican meal. He requested Enchiladas, Rice and Beans. I think that is probably more traditional to Caucasians that visit Mexican restaurants but as Mexicans that's not a normal dish that we eat all the time, at least not in my family.

     But I tried. I don't remember if I made a homemade enchilada sauce or if I used a canned one. I think I probably just used the red chile powder that my mom would poo-poo as not authentic, but the enchiladas were ok. What I really didn't get right was the rice. I don't think I had ever made Mexican rice by myself prior to that time, I always just watch my mom and stirred the pot when it was needed.

     My rice was disgusting! It was crunchy and under-cooked. It wasn't the beautiful orangy color that Mexican rice is supposed to be. Mine was more the color of dried blood. But to give credit to my then boyfriend and future husband/ex-husband, he ate it and said it was the best thing he'd ever tasted. I guess that's the reason I married him.

Photo Credit - The Kitchn
     This started me to thinking about who I would invite to dinner if I could have dinner with just one person living or dead, and family and loved ones were not allowed.

     So many people came to mind. Mother Teresa was first, Elvis came to mind too. I thought about John F. Kennedy and Joan Rivers, but then I remembered that a long time ago when I was a teenager my dad took us on a summer vacation trip to visit his mother and father in Santa Maria, California.

     At that time we lived about 350 miles away from them, so that was a pretty long car trip for us. My sister and I usually took a book to read and when we got bored we terrorized our little brother Freddie who sat in the middle of us in the backseat.

Photo Credit - bio.
     I remember on this trip that I took a library book, a biography of Cesar Chavez, labor leader and farm worker advocate and founder of the UFW, United Farm Workers. It was a very interesting book and I was learning a lot about Cesar Chavez and his movement to unionize farm workers to provide better working conditions and fair wages, especially since Mr. Chavez believed in justice through non-violence.

     I remember asking my dad about Cesar Chavez. My dad at that time was a farm foreman and was in the thick of dealing with the UFW. He scoffed when I mentioned how I admired Mr. Chavez for his justice through non-violence and named several things that had improved under his leadership like clean water and bathrooms for the farm workers. Breaks and lunch hours.

     My dad in the meantime, like many other farmers and farm foremen had been dealing with the violence of the UFW during the picketing and rioting of the Huelgas (Strikes) and the strong arm tactics of the thugs that were the hired guns for the UFW. What my dad was telling me, what he had seen and experienced was totally different than what I was reading in the book.

     I think it would be so interesting to sit down to dinner and talk with Cesar Chavez. I do believe in my heart that he did want to change things and to do it without violence. I also believe that he did many good things and brought about change and gave a voice to many.

     It would be even more interesting to sit down with Mr. Chavez and my dad and listen to both of them talking about their experiences and what they saw and how they viewed the Farm Labor Movement. One thing I do know is that if I had both of these gentlemen over to dinner and I was in charge of making the meal I definitely would not make Enchiladas, Crunchy Rice and Beans!


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Queen of Chile Colorado

I wrote this in August, 2014 but forgot to publish it! So I'm going to leave it as is, but this actually happened in August.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~August Happenings~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This weekend my cousin Stella visited us from San Diego. She brought a very special guest with her, our Tia Ninfa (Aunt Ninfa). Tia Ninfa is the widow of my mom's deceased brother, Uncle Jesse.

Here's a photo of them getting read to leave. My cousin Stella is that pretty lady in the back with the short hair. Thanks Stella for making this weekend happen! Stella's sister Faye is in the sunglasses, she came along for the fun also. That cute almost a teenage girl is Stella's granddaughter Roni, she was a lot of fun and she's almost as tall as her grandma already!

Left to Right - My mom, My cousin Faye, My Tia Ninfa, My cousin Stella in the back, and Stella's granddaughter Roni
Baby J with Tia Ninfa
A special picture of three beautiful ladies. From left to right, My Tia Casimira, she's also my Godmother, my Tia Ninfa and my beautiful mom Tomasa who you can see from this photo is in 7th Heaven to have her loved ones with her!

Because we knew that we were going to have many local family members coming by the house to see our visitors my mom insisted we had to make her signature dish, Chile Colorado! This time I paid attention! I didn't write down the recipe, but I think I got it committed to memory. As bad as my memory is I figure I better get it down into my blog here where I know I can find it at any time.

We started out by cleaning the chile. Mom's recipe calls for two (2) 12 ounce bags of El Guapo Dried California Chile Pods and one (1) 12 ounce bag of El Guapo Dried New Mexico Chile Pods. You can find it in almost any store here in California but if you can't find it in your local stores just google and you can probably find it on Mom said that the California chile is not very hot so she adds the New Mexico to kick up the heat. I love spicy so when I make it I will probably do 2 New Mexico and 1 California!

When I say we clean the chile pods what we do is pull off the stem and with a knife slice down the middle and remove most of the sees. Rinse them off in a big pot with water, then fill the pot with water and let them soak about an hour or longer.

After they've soaked and softened, you use your blender to grind them using the water they soaked in. Mom always likes a really thick sauce (I would have liked to use more water). That is all that we use for the sauce at this point. Then just set it to the side and let's go to work on the meat!

We used about forty (40) pounds of Pork Meat. I think we used Pork Butt and we cut it into bite size chunks and then browned it in a big pot with some water added until it's nicely browned and most of the liquid at the bottom is cooked out. You stir and stir and stir constantly! This smells fabulous! I just love pork meat! I was a bit flabbergasted to find out that mom didn't add any seasoning of any kind at this point. I would have thought you would add at least salt, but she said no, plus she said the salt would make the meat tough.

Once the meat is cooked sufficiently then you scoot the meat to the side of the pot and take about a 1/4 cup of flour and brown it in the corner of the same pot, this is what will help the sauce to stick to the meat and of course it's also a thickener. Stir well to coat the pork with this flour mixture. Then you pour in the red sauce until you have as much as you want.

Then the secret ingredient! You take about 8 cloves of garlic and you peel them and blend them really, really well in your blender with about 2 cups of water. Once you have the meat and the chile sauce together, you pour in this garlicky delicious mixture in and stir, then add salt to taste and some dried oregano about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons. You let this cook until it bubbles stirring to make sure it all gets enough garlic. Taste as you go along, you may need to add more salt or more oregano.  (I noticed it tasted bitter and thought "Uh-Oh, now what?" You just keep adding oregano and it takes the bitterness away).

Then before your guests arrive, you pour a few beans and some of the chile in a bowl. There are rules to Chile Colorado, you don't use refried beans, Frijoles de la Olla only, that means Beans from the Pot and you can only eat it with flour tortillas. Only flour! No proper eater of Chile Colorado would dare to eat this with a corn tortilla, it's just not done! Then you sink your teeth into the deliciousness that is Chile Colorado, Tomasa Style (Tomasa is my mom's name). This is why my mom will always be The Queen of the Chile Colorado!

Does your mom have a signature dish? I think mine would be my Meatloaf Pie. I don't think Queen of the Meatloaf Pie has the same ring to it though!


Monday, October 6, 2014

Happy Birthday to my Sister, my Best Friend!

“Sister. She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she's the reason you wish you were an only child.” ― Barbara Alpert

Happy Birthday to my sister, my best friend in the whole world! She and I have been through so much together. She is all of the above, my teacher, defense attorney, press agent and especially shrink. She is the witness to my life and I don't know what I would do without her. She's the most beautiful woman I know both inside and out!

Happy Birthday Lisa! I wish you all the health, happiness and joy the world can offer. I would gladly give you a kidney if you needed one!