Yesterday was our wedding anniversary, and like many other special occasions we have shared in the past, we celebrated in our traditional manner: I drove him to the airport.

The husband travels often… this has been a norm since the day I met him, so we are both comfortable with the comings and goings and the time apart. It has helped us to foster independence from each other and keeps us from taking each other for granted.

In the beginning, one of my biggest challenges when he was gone was cooking dinner for just lil ol’ me.  I love to cook. I find so much comfort in cooking for my friends and loved ones, but it just seemed sad and pointless to cook for myself. I’d end up eating toast with peanut butter or a bowl of cereal or canned soup… some pathetic excuse for a meal that would leave me feeling even more lonely and unsatisfied than a night without my husband.

Recently, I’ve found joy in these dinners for one. So much of my normal meal planning centers around pleasing my husband… not because I feel like I have to please, but just that I want to please, to delight, to nourish. Cooking is an act of love. So I finally realized that on these solo nights, I should show myself the same care, love, and joy that I would show my husband or my friends.

Last night I came home and my best friend called. We talked for a good hour and a half, and it was almost 8 p.m. by the time we said our goodbyes… and I hadn’t even thought about dinner. I was hell bent on watching a movie too, and since I like to be in bed well before 11, time was quickly slipping through my fingertips.

I didn’t make it to the farmer’s market this weekend, so my veggie selection was sparse (to say the least). A few small zucchini and some sad looking green onions were all that remained in the crisper from last week’s trip.

I rummaged around the pantry cupboard and pulled out a can of black beans and a can of fire roasted tomatoes. I started some water boiling on the stove for a quick polenta (though any grain would work with this), and got to work on a very quick dinner for one. From start to finish, this took me about 15 minutes to prepare. To make things even easier, you could use those microwaveable brown rice packets from Trader Joe’s frozen food section. As I mentioned above, I was limited in my vegetable selection, but any fresh vegetables you have on hand could work well in this.

  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped 
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 3/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 can black beans, loosely drained
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes, diced with juice

 

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and stir for 1 minute, add the zucchini and the spices. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the black beans and tomatoes, simmer until heated through.

 

Serve over prepared polenta, brown rice, couscous, quinoa, or cornbread.

Our cellar master made lunch today at the winery to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. “Happy Cuatro de Mayo,” we teased him.

Potato tacos are the ultimate Mexican comfort food. Lightly spiced mashed potatoes spooned into homemade corn tortillas, closed with toothpicks, and deep fried to a golden crisp. Add homemade salsa, shredded cabbage, queso cotija, and a squeeze of lime. The initial crunch of the taco gives way to the warm, softness of the potato within. It’s just one more way to make mashed potatoes even better.

I lost count of how many I ate. But what the hell… Cuatro de Mayo only comes once a year.

I do so love farms. And when I say “farms”, I’m not talking factory farms. I’m talking small farms. Windrose farm is just one of those farms.

Sunday was almost one of the best days ever. This particular event was a farm tour/luncheon, sponsored by the San Luis Obispo Symphony. In fact, I gathered that it was a silent auction item at a recent benefit. I felt a little guilty, since we hadn’t “paid” for it… it was a gift from my mother-in-law, as she was unable to attend. When others shucked or clucked their teeth upon being told that, I let them know that they needn’t feel badly for her as she was on a plane to Maui that afternoon. If asked whether I would trade places with her… well, I’d actually need to pause a minute on that one. THAT’S how much I love small farms, people.

Our afternoon began with local wines and cheeses under an incredible oak tree. After spending the morning and early afternoon working on our new house in the 90 degree heat which is characteristic of Paso Robles, Tay and I pulled up to the farm feeling somewhat wilted. Anything east of Paso Robles is usually pretty much an oven, so we were incredibly surprised (and pleasantly so) to step out into a lovely breezy afternoon in the Creston canyons. When we mentioned this in our conversation over beer and wine, Farmer Bill Spencer explained that they’d found quite the unique micro-climate when they purchased Windrose back in 1990. What’s left of the ocean breezes which wind through the canyons of Highways 46 and 41 West make their way out to Windrose.

After an hour or so of “getting to know you” time, Farmer Bill announced that he’d like to take us on a tour of the farm, which he claimed could take anywhere from “10 minutes to… oh… who knows.” The tour took us through the allium fields, out to the stone-fruit orchard, past the potato sprouts, and through the greenhouses until we finally returned to the shade of that grand Oak. All along the way, Bill educated and entertained, quoted a dozen or so books, fielded questions with ease, and became my new local hero.

We chatted at the tables as the food came out little by little… platters of lamb riblets, a salad of tepary beans tossed with their home smoke-dried tomatoes and snap peas, steamed asparagus, a gorgeous chard-ricotta tart, and a lovely tossed green salad. Lucky for Tay, dessert came out just as we had to leave, rueful… lovely meyer lemon custards in individual tea-cups.

I was disappointed to learn that they no longer frequent any of the San Luis Obispo county farmers’ markets, but they can be found at the Saturday Santa Barbara and the Wednesday Santa Monica markets. Their heirloom tomato selection is phenomenal, they grow over 100 different varieties, and sell nursery plants at the markets as well as seasonal offerings. For those lucky enough to live here on the Central Coast, this year they’re opening a farm stand on their property coming soon. Check their website for more details.

I’ve resolved to return to Windrose’s nursery once we move into the new house to purchase some starts of heirloom tomatoes and herbs, since I was unable to plant my own seeds this year.

WOWZERS! My first ever MEME! This is so EXCITING!! Mrs. B over at Eating Suburbia tagged me, and I have to say I was tickled pink to be tagged!

What’s more exciting, is this meme is forcing me out of my Jennatarianism reclusiveness… I’m actually posting on this defunct blog. And perhaps I can keep on keepin on and post more often? Time will tell.

Considering I hardly ever post here, I’m sure there is plenty you don’t know about me. And I’m just going to assume that you don’t read my other blog, as I reveal much more about myself over there than I do here. Anywho… Here’s 5 things that I can think of that you may not know about me:

1. I’m an “Ashtangini.” I wake up at 5:30 a.m. every morning except for moondays, Saturdays, and “Ladies Holidays” to practice Ashtanga Yoga. Currently, my practice is about 100 minutes in length, and just keeps getting longer. I also teach three Ashtanga yoga classes per week here in San Luis Obispo. I began practicing yoga about 7 years ago after two car accidents limited my train-running and weight-lifting. You can see pictures of me bending myself into strange shapes here on my flickr page.

2. I love to arm wrestle. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment as I’m actually not that strong and I only win about 40% of the time if that, but seriously, I love it. Arm wrestling is fun. This is how I try to settle most of my arguments. Words are overrated. :)

3. I have big feet. Mostly due to my very long toes. I’m overly obsessed about my size 10 feet… Whereas most women ask their husbands whether or not their butt looks big in a pair of jeans, I’m more likely to ask mine, “Do my feet look big in these shoes?” Now, I’m not saying that size 10 is an overly large shoe size, but it is pretty big for someone who’s just barely 5’3″.

4. I was very nearly born in my dad’s Midnight Blue Porsche 911 on Highway 17 during rush hour traffic. This is why I feel that Porsche should give me a car. Unfortunately, we don’t see eye to eye on this matter.

5. I took piano lessons for 9 years (began when I was 5, stopped when I was 14). I still play from time to time, but I’m not a “musician.” I know I’m not a musician because one night a few years ago after a few martinis, I decided to play a tune on the baby grand piano in a jazz bar here in San Luis Obispo.  After the first few bars of a “The Heart Asks Pleasure First” by Michael Nyman (from the soundtrack of The Piano, which is the only song besides “Heart and Soul” that I can play in its entirety from memory) I was asked to leave the bar since the piano was “for musicians only.”

Now comes the part when I have to tag people. This wouldn’t be so hard since I subscribe to close to a hundred different food blogger feeds, but this meme’s been going around for a while and I’m not sure who’s left!

If I’m tagging you, and you’ve already been tagged, feel free to ignore me. Sorry for your troubles.

Since this meme has been all over the food blogosphere for so long, let’s see if we can switch it up to include the yoga/ashtanga blogosphere as well….

Yogamum over at YogaGumbo

Brendan at Something in Season

Jenn at Life Begins at 30 

Andrea at but i was alive

Fortune at bread coffee chocolate yoga 

A friend of mine threw herself an Iron Chef birthday party this last weekend. See more details here at my other blog…

This was such a fun idea. Each guest had to bring an appetizer made with mushrooms. There were some great dishes: Stuffed mushroom caps, foccacia topped with sauteed mushrooms, wild mushroom crostini with goat cheese, fresh spring rolls with mushrooms, a wild mushroom-bacon soup… the list goes on and on.

What did I bring? Baked brie with mushrooms in puff pastry. I don’t really have a recipe here, I just kind of threw stuff in a pan without paying too much attention to quantities.

I sauteed some sliced baby portabella mushrooms in butter and olive oil with sliced green garlic and shallots, added chopped sage and prosciutto, let it simmer with a splash of marsala wine, threw it all over a round of Brie, wrapped the round in a sheet of puff pastry, and baked it until the pastry was a lovely golden brown.

The results were lovely. I’ll make this one of my staples, for sure. And next time I make it, I’ll pay more attention to quantities, measurements, etc.

I wish I had pictures. My camera’s out sick again. The batteries charge fully, but seem to last mere seconds before going dead. But believe me when I say it was pretty. And more importantly, it was so good.


IMG_2284

Originally uploaded by jennasuz.

It was good. It was very good.

The best part was the almond crust. No, the creamy gruyere. No, it was definitely the crust.

And with a leap of faith, I left my husband with the baking instructions. And I was pleasantly surprised with his results. Nice job, hon.

Here I thought I wasn’t a fan of Mac ‘n Cheese. Now if only I didn’t have to restock my lactaid pills after each and every meeting with this creamy dream of a dish.

Almond Crusted Mac ‘n Cheese

  • 8 oz. Elbow Macaroni (2 cups)
  • 1 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 packed cups grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg

Almond crust:

  • 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fine dry breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter 11×7 inch baking dish. Cook macaroni in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain well.

Melt butter in a small skillet over medium high heat. Sautee shallots until soft and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Set aside.

Blend 1/3 cup Parmesan, almonds and breadcrumbs in processor until nuts are coarsely ground. Add 1/2 cup almond mixture to prepared dish. Tilt dish to coat bottom and sides. Return any loose almond mixture to processor.

In a large bowl, whisk 1/2 cup Gruyere, whipping cream, milk, sauteed shallots, and nutmeg. Add macaroni and toss to coat. Check for seasoning. Transfer macaroni to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining one cup Gruyere over the top, then finish with the last of the almond crust.

Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes until cheese melts, crust browns, and macaroni and cheese sets. Serve warm.

Tag: mac-n-cheese-off

For some reason, I had it in my head that TODAY was Friday and YESTERDAY (which I knew was Wednesday) was the only day I had left to make the mac-n-cheese for the challenge.

Oh, but then I realized after making the mac-n-cheese that there is another day sandwiched in between the two, and this day is known as THURSDAY. How I forgot about Thursday’s existence is beyond me, because Thursday is my favorite day of the week. This is the day we get a catered lunch at the winery. I’ve never in the history of my employment with this winery forgotten about Thursdays.

So anyways, I forgot about Thursday. Which, it turns out, is A-Okay for me, because last night I feasted on a Mac-n-Cheese so yummy… Oh wait, it’s too early yet to talk about it. But I ate it. I ate a lot of it. I even took a few pictures. They’re not the best photos, but they’re photos, nonetheless.

And I’m almost wishing it was Friday and not Thursday because then I could eat the leftovers for lunch. Oh, but wait. Our lovely caterer is making Enchiladas. Never mind. Leftovers can wait.

Tags: mac-n-cheese-off

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