Friday, April 29, 2011

Recipe: Roasted Asparagus & Baby Carrots with Chive Butter

One of the most common questions I'm asked by readers after a $25 Shopping Cart post is, "What can you make with what you bought?" 

On most of these posts, I make a short list of different dishes I can make with the goods from my shopping trip and what I had on hand before heading to the store.  Of course, these are just ideas; I hardly ever have a specific menu in mind since I'm the type that likes to let the food in my kitchen inspire me, so even if it sounds good at the time, I might end up making something completely different.

But when it comes to the farmer's market edition of these special shopping trips, I really throw caution to the wind and let the produce tell me what new form it should take.  From stir-fry dishes to salads, desserts to batches of steaming hot soup, there is no shortage of ideas for how to use the freshest fruits & veggies.  Which is why it was so easy to incorporate the produce I found during my last trip to the farmer's market into my simple but elegant Easter brunch last week.

I'm a big fan of colorful dishes, particularly when I'm planning a full menu, so I thought it would be nice to have something vibrant on the table to complement my Baked Eggs & Herbs in Portabella Mushroom Caps.  I immediately thought of the white, yellow & orange baby carrots I'd recently purchased, and decided they'd go perfectly with some vibrant green asparagus.

Keeping with the theme of simplicity, I just roasted the vegetables and whipped up a quick, flavorful chive butter to serve alongside them.  This is a beautiful side dish to serve all spring & summer long, and the butter can be used on any number of vegetables, depending what's in season.  It would even go well melted over thick cuts of steak, or over some tender salmon.  Warning: this chive butter is extremely addicting, so proceed with caution!

Roasted Asparagus & Baby Carrots with Chive Butter (makes 2 servings; total cost per serving: ~$2)

1 lb fresh asparagus
1 lb fresh baby carrots
1 T olive oil
Salt & ground black pepper

Chive Butter
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 c chopped fresh chives
1/8 t sea salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°.  In a small bowl, cream the butter, salt & pepper together in a small bowl until smooth.  Add the chopped chives and gently fold into the butter until completely incorporated.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer until ready to serve.

Prepare a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Rinse the asparagus & cut off the woody ends at the bottom of the stalks.  Rinse & peel the carrots, leaving the tops on but cutting off the bottom tips.  Gently toss the asparagus in the olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the tops of the vegetables begin to brown.

Remove from heat and place on a plate.  Take the chive butter out of the freezer and place about 1-2 t on top of the veggies.  Allow the butter to begin melting, sprinkle with another dash of salt & freshly ground black pepper, and enjoy!

Review: Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen - Sacramento, CA

If you live in or near Sacramento, you've probably heard the buzz about a (not so) little event called SactoMoFo.  Taking place this weekend in Midtown's Fremont Park, Sacramento's first mobile food festival is expected to attract thousands of gourmet food truck enthusiasts and folks who are curious about what exactly a "gourmet food truck" is. 

Though many of the vendors will be coming in from the Bay Area, Sacramento's own food scene will be represented by food carts from popular brick & mortar establishments like Chando's Tacos and established trucks like Tacos La Piedad, who operate just outside the city limits in order to avoid the stifling city ordinances currently in place.

But there are a couple of new kids roaming around these Sac city blocks.  Drewski's Hot Rod Kitchen & Mini Burger, are getting around the whole 30-minutes-in-one-spot rule by using social media.  They tweet which area they're headed to so that followers can be on the lookout, and tweet again to let folks know their exact location.  And so far it seems to be working.  Business is going well for both, although some customers do end up getting turned away because the serving time frame is so small. 

This week I finally had the chance to sample the fabulous food from each of these gourmet food trucks during the Pre-SactoMoFo Tweet Up.  Since I didn't have the opportunity to try too much from Mini Burger that evening (something I am SO making up for this weekend because I have the feeling EVERYTHING is going to be as amazing as that Ninja I tried), this post will focus on Drewski's and all the rich, decadent food he serves off that hard-to-miss truck.

The first item I tried off of this tangerine truck with its hot rod flames and animated version of owner/chef Andrew Blaskovich, was the granddaddy of all the sandwiches he serves: The Hemi.  The kind of sandwich that's so rich it almost requires a side of Lipitor to go along with it, this guy comes with Carolina pulled BBQ pork, 4-cheese mac & cheese, caramelized onions and melted cheddar, all piled onto brioche bread and grilled to perfection.  O.M.G.

Those of you who know me well know that this isn't something I would usually order, but I have to admit this sandwich is beyond tasty.  The pork is tender and full of flavor, with the carmelized onion adding just the right amount of sweetness and the generous amount of cheddar a delightfully ooey-gooey mess.  I was a bit worried about the mac & cheese at first, because I thought there might be a full serving on my sandwich, but there was just enough on there to add a new dimension of flavor & texture without overwhelming the entire experience.  It was so rich & heavy (in weight... I'd be interested to put that thing on a scale one of these days, just to see how much it weighs) that it took me two days to eat the half I was given to sample, but trust me: that thing is just good

Next, I tried The Mustang, which is sort of a Asian-fusion grilled cheese.  Piled high with braised Korean boneless beef short rib, house-made kimchi, crispy daikon strings, melted havarti and a Sriracha/wasabi aioli, this is another super-filling, super-flavorful sandwich with an extra spicy kick.  I absolutely loved the beef and the way the daikon strings added a bit of crunch.  But since Drew had had such a busy day before making it over to the tweetup, there was no kimchi left to put on to the sandwich, so I was a little bummed about that.  He made up for it by adding a bit more of that spicy aioli and stepping out of his truck to apologize for the inconvenience.  Right then & there he made an indelible impression: any chef who is willing to go the extra mile service-wise and do whatever it takes to make his customers happy has my vote.

I was convinced to give his tater tots a try, which wasn't hard to do once they explained these little potato snacks were tossed in olive oil & rosemary.  The tots were hot & crispy, but to me they were a bit light on the rosemary.  Drew explained that some people found the rosemary leaves a little off-putting, so he & his crew are trying new ways to get enough of that rosemary flavor on there without using whole leaves.

There was a lot more of Drewski's food floating around the parking lot that day, including deep-fried mac & cheese balls with compound truffle butter (I'm pretty sure that's illegal somewhere... sounds entirely too decadent) and The Special, a lighter sandwich featuring sliced apples, smokehouse almonds, wildflower honey and melted brie (!!!).  Most folks were gracious enough to let me photograph their food since I was too full from the five or six bites of those ginormous sandwiches to eat anymore.

That is, until Drew asked if I wanted to try some creme brulee.  How this man knew about one of my many dessert weaknesses, I will never know, but I quickly asked for a to-go container so that I could take all of this yummy goodness - including my creme brulee - home. 

When I was finally able to dig into my dessert, I was as pleased as Amelie in that one scene where she holds up her spoon & the narrator talks about cracking the burnt sugar shell of the custard being one of life's simple pleasures.  Drewski's homemade creme brulees have that perfect shell that cracks after a few taps with one's spoon and oozes warm creamy custard from within the small container.  It was the perfect ending to a ridiculously decadent meal of samples.

All in all, I really liked Drewski's.  It's not health food and doesn't try to be; it's rich, decadent handheld comfort food that fills you up without emptying your pocket.  And that's the best part about Drewski's, besides Drew himself: the value.  Most sandwiches are $7.50, but their sizes & portions are so huge that I can almost guarantee you'll be taking half your meal home with you.  Two meals for under $4 each?  Poor Girl approves!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Recipe: Baked Eggs & Herbs in Portabella Mushroom Caps

Ahh, Easter: a day of celebration & reflection for some, one of copious amounts of chocolate & elaborate food spreads for many others.

I found myself alone this Easter as I have many times in the past, but I didn't mind.  I've had a rough couple of weeks and really needed the downtime.

But that didn't mean I wasn't going to spoil myself with my own special meal on this holiday!  So after taking care of a few chores & errands, I got to work on a simple but delightful menu, featuring a few of the items I'd scored last week at the farmer's market.

~ Easter Brunch Menu ~
Baked Eggs & Herbs in Portabella Mushroom Caps
Roasted Asparagus & Carrots with Chive Butter
Minneola Mimosas

My little menu in a word: exquisite!

Now, before the naysayers start hemming & hawing that this is "too fancy" or "doesn't sound cheap at all", let me remind you that lovely meals can be made for small prices if you're wise about your choices.  I definitely proved this last fall when I threw my Luxury Dinner Party for the PFB contest, featuring a 4-course gourmet menu for five that only cost about $15 per person.  Eating well doesn't always have to mean using the most expensive ingredients; it's about creativity, nutrition and presentation.  And even though I ate today's "fancy" brunch in a t-shirt, jeans & flip flops, I know I ate like a queen.

Because three of these recipes are new, even to me, I figured I'd break up this menu into three different posts.  Tonight, we'll start with the main course, with the side & drink coming later this week.  Besides, this particular recipe is so special, it couldn't possibly share the spotlight with anything else.

Those of you who have been reading PGEW for awhile know that I have a total food crush on baked eggs.  From serving them with sautéed tomatoes & peppers to baking them right inside a tomato, I've happily explored many wonderful baked egg combinations through my journey on PGEW.  They're simple to prepare, flavorful and offer a different approach to brunch - or brinner.

I gleaned inspiration from my recipe for Baked Eggs, Ham & Asparagus in Tomato Cups.  I've always been a huge fan using fruits & vegetables as edible servingware, and despite how delicate tomatoes can be, the experiment worked like a charm.  I had a couple of nice portabella caps in the fridge and thought they would make an equally great "dish" for my baked eggs.  Some chopped fresh herbs and a couple sprinkles of freshly ground black pepper, and I was ready to roll.

This dish is fantastic because of its simplicity.  There are no added sauces, no random cheeses thrown in for richness; just tender, meaty portabella mushrooms, soft baked eggs, and fresh herbs.  Each ingredient complements the next in such a way that the entire experience is a melodious symphony of flavors.  When it comes to "less is more", this dish delivers.

Perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner, this is incredibly simple to make and will make you look like a pro in the kitchen, no matter what your skill level.  It's also quite filling, as most portabella mushroom caps can hold two eggs at a time. This one is definitely going into heavy rotation, so long as I can find my portabella caps on sale!  With my $1.49 eggs from Trader Joe's and a good deal on the mushrooms over at Safeway, I'll be able to have this a couple of times this week for less than $2/serving. Gotta love that!

Baked Eggs & Herbs in Portabella Mushroom Caps (makes 2 servings; total cost per serving: $1.85)

2 medium portabella mushroom caps
4 large eggs
2 T chopped fresh chives
1 T chopped scallions
Salt & pepper
Cooking spray (olive oil or regular vegetable oil)

Preheat the oven to 375°.  Line a cookie sheet with foil and lightly coat with a thin layer of cooking spray.  Rinse & pat dry the mushroom caps, making sure all extra traces of dirt are removed.  Gently pop off the stem and leave the gills intact.

Lightly sprinkle each mushroom cap with salt & freshly ground pepper, followed by about half of the herbs.  Carefully crack two eggs into each mushroom and place on baking sheet.  Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the eggs are set according to personal taste.

Remove from the oven & allow to cool for about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with the remaining herbs, add another sprinkle of ground black pepper for garnish, and enjoy!


Friday, April 22, 2011

Last minute Easter menu ideas!

It seems almost impossible to me that Easter is this weekend.  Between new jobs, writing gigs, health stuff and everything else that life keeps throwing my way, I've been too busy/distracted to notice how swiftly this year is moving.  If I had some place to go this Easter weekend, I'd be completely screwed due to unpreparedness.

Alas, I have way too much to do and no Easter meals to crash in Sacramento, so technically I'm "safe".  But if I did have somewhere special to go on Sunday, I would turn to some of these tried & true recipes to help me look a little less out of it without spending too much.

For all my fellow distracted people, this post is for you.  Whether you're hosting a brunch or heading over to a loved one's for dinner, any one of these recipes will be a lovely addition to your Easter spread.  Feel free to mix & match to create your own menu!  Enjoy, and I hope you have Happy Easter!

Brunch...
(title links to recipe)










Lunch/Dinner...
(title links to recipe)







Dessert...
(title links to recipe)



Thursday, April 21, 2011

The $25 Shopping Cart, v. 14.0

Ahhh, the farmer's market.  Land of fresh local produce, bouquets of technicolor flowers, unique cheeses & baked goods, and low prices. 

Low prices?  Yes.  I've said it several times and I will keep repeating myself until I'm blue in the face: if you're looking for fabulous produce at affordable prices, your local farmer's market is the way to go.

It's counterintuitive, especially in this day & age of everything "sustainable" and "organic" (and therefore, "expensive") being so en vogue it might as well don a white studded belt, listen to indie rock and call itself a hipster.  But if you shop wisely and stay away from most of the money traps, you can escape this promised land of produce with some incredibly delicious bargains.

I hadn't planned on heading to the farmer's market for this month's $25 Shopping Cart, but it had been so long since I'd been that I could no longer resist its siren call.  And it just so happened that after paying all my bills and getting things ready to for BlogHer Food next month (I'm going as a volunteer!), I was left with exactly $26 to spend on some produce to go with my bare bones staples.  In cash, no less!  Perfect farmer's market currency.  I took that as a sign, grabbed my camera, my granny cart and a friend, and walked to my food mecca.

After the initial euphoria of being surrounded by everything fresh and alive with colors & textures, I finally settled down and started looking at prices.  Some things that aren't yet in season, like tomatoes, were a bit on the spendy side, but most things were as affordably priced as ever.  Here's what I got:

  • 1 bunch of golden beets - $2.50
  • 1 bunch of white & yellow carrots - $2
  • 1 bag (about 2 lbs) of minneolas - $2
  • 3 bunches of cilantro - $1
  • 2 bunches of scallions - $1
  • 1 bag of Thai basil - $1
  • 1 bunch of chives - $0.50
  • 1 large bunch of red beets - $1.50
  • 5 lb bag of turnips - $2 (!!!)
  • 1 giant bunch of rainbow chard - $1.50
  • 1 lb bag of dried fava beans - $1
  • 1 large bunch of asparagus - $1.75
  • 1 8 oz. bear bottle of local honey - $3.50
  • 1 bag of 4 delicate endives - $2

Grand total: $23.25!  I could have never done that at a regular grocery store.

The last two items were total splurges, of course. But there was no way in hell I was going to leave a bag of endives at that price, and the local honey is actually something I'm trying for my seasonal allergies.  I was actually pretty surprised that it was sold at such a low price, since some varieties I've seen at the farmer's market have been much more expensive.

But I think my absolute favorite find was the bag of minneolas.  A member of the tangelo family, these little guys are part tangerine, part grapefruit, and 100% delicious.  They're slightly sweeter than tangerines, incredibly juicy, and so lovely in color that you can't help but smile with delight when you look at them.

Overall, this is was a fantastic start to my farmer's market season, and I can't wait to start cooking with all my treasures.  Between this and the dried legumes & whole grains I have in my cupboard, this upcoming Scary Week won't be scary at all.

Now if I can just convince StuKitty to stay away from my Swiss chard...

EVERYONE loves the farmer's market! Even Stuart the Cat...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I ♥ the Farmer's Market v. 546287

Today was the first day in all of 2011 that I had the chance to visit my favorite farmer's market under the freeway at 8th & X.  Between the inclement weather, lack funds and my health issues earlier this year, it just wasn't possible for me to experience the splendor of this amazing display of local & regional produce.

But as they say, good things come to those who wait, and I was pleasantly rewarded with the fruits (and vegetables) of today's visit.  From the first stalks of rhubarb to rows & rows of bright green asparagus bunches, the best of early spring was on full display.  Since everything was so lovely and I've been sorely lacking in fresh produce lately, I decided to take advantage of the five $5 bills I had in my wallet to do this month's $25 Shopping Cart.  But not without taking a few photos first (as many as my camera's low batteries would allow, that is!  Gotta remember to recharge next time...).

Here are just a few of the reasons why I <3 the farmer's market so much.  Don't forget to check back tomorrow evening this week for the full write-up on this season's farmer's market edition of the $25 Shopping Cart.  Enjoy!


Sunny, juicy & sweet as candy...

Technicolor rainbow chard...

It's like a little forest of funghi!

Spring has most definitely sprung!

All the colors of the rainbow, root veggie style...

I still can't get over how crazy bright red these cherry tomatoes were! 
Onions, onions, everywhere...

Mandarins!

These were awfully tempting...

As were these beauties... so ready to be dipped in garlicky melted butter!

Funghi Forest, take 2.  They were just too cute to leave alone!

Lovely fresh flower bouquets...

More fresh young onions...

There are simply no words for such beauty...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Recipe: Linguine with Creamy Scallion Pesto

When I started my new job a few months ago, everyone told me, "Oh, you're not going to be poor anymore!" or  "Now you'll be able to go out for drinks (or concerts, or plays, etc.) on the weekends!"

Being a realist and knowing exactly how dire my financial situation was, I knew none of that would be true for a long time.  And you know what?  That's okay.  Because life after unemployment is a perpetual game of catch up, I'm nowhere near being out of debt or even having enough money for a bit of retail therapy.  But I've gotta say it feels incredible to be able to do things like send in my rent payment.  On time.  In full. 

Of course, being able to do that means I'm left with very little money until my next payday.  So once again I find myself in Scary Week: that week right before your non-rent paycheck when you're left with about $6 and need to figure out how to make those precious dollars last.  Way better than unemployment, but scary nonetheless.

"OMG, six dollars?  Are you okay?  How are you going to live?  What will you eat???"  I was asked recently.

I food shop from my cupboards & fridge, of course. 

Granted, the cupboards are currently stocked way better than the fridge because I loaded up on some bare bones staples at the Co-op the last time I was there.  But because New Apartment's fridge is so much tinier than the one downstairs (its one tragic flaw), I can't keep too much in it.  Which means I have to shop more often.  IF I can afford to.  Since I can't do so right now, I use what I have and make the best of it.

Here's what I had at my disposal: a bag of frozen pineapple chunks from TJ's, a bag of frozen Brussels sprouts, half a loaf of whole wheat bread, and some ice packs for my neck & back.  In the fridge I had one giant block of tofu, assorted condiments, Neufchatel cheese, portabella mushroom caps, eggs, a couple of broccoli crowns, a bag of kumquats (mmm... kumquats...), and a rather large amount of scallions.  Not the best line up of food, but there were some serious possibilities; especially with all those scallions (a.k.a. green onions, a.k.a. spring onions, a.k.a. mouthwatering...).

My first instinct was to make a hefty batch of pique, a Colombian scallion sauce that is used pretty much the same way chimichurri is used in Argentina.  Alas, pique requires a generous amount of cilantro and white vinegar, neither of which are in my kitchen right now.  So I regrouped and decided to try my hand at making some pesto out of my scallions instead. 


Making this was as much fun for me as my foray into cilantro-pistachio pesto-making last year.  The result was just fabulous!  Rather than the crisp coolness that basil lends to traditional pesto, the scallions made this version slightly more savory & piquant.  The almonds added a subtle nutty sweetness that helped to round out the overall flavor of the pesto.

The "creamy" factor doesn't come from added cream or butter; it comes from the white parts of the scallions, which even out the vibrant greens of the onions' tops.  This pesto is perfect on pasta, over steamed veggies, mixed into other grains like couscous or quinoa; the possibilities are truly endless.

But the best part of this little concoction wasn't the beauty of its pale spring green hues, nor its enticing aroma; it was its teeny, tiny little price tag.  Because scallions & almonds are generally less expensive than the standard basil & pine nuts (unless you're growing your own basil, of course), making this versatile sauce is much more affordable. 

Poor Girl Tip: Got a garden?  Harvest your own scallions & the price tag goes even further!  If not, no worries; you can always get them at the store.  But to get the most bang for your buck, avoid major chain grocery stores and head to your local farmer's, Latin or Asian foods markets instead.  You'll find some lovely beauties for a fraction of what you'll pay at places like Safeway or SaveMart, and they'll be far more flavorful to boot.

Linguine with Creamy Scallion Pesto (makes 4 servings; total cost per serving: $1)

1 8 oz. package linguine
2 bunches scallions, rinsed & coarsely chopped (about 15-20 stalks)
1/2 c almonds, coarsely chopped
2 large garlic cloves
1/4 c olive oil
3 T parmesan cheese
2 T lemon juice
1/2 T sea salt
1/4 t ground black pepper
Extra olive oil for drizzling

Cook the linguine according to package instructions.  Drain & drizzle with a bit of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking.  Set aside.

In a food processor (or hand blender cup), combine the chopped scallions, almonds, garlic, olive oil, cheese, lemon juice and seasonings, and purée until almost smooth.  Check for seasoning and adjust according to taste.

Gently fold about 1 cup of pesto into the linguine and stir until well-coated.  Serve as a side or entrée with a couple sprinkles of extra parmesan cheese, and enjoy!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Recipe: Spicy Beef, Pepper & Asparagus Udon Noodles

If it's true that you are what you eat, then I have turned into a 5'6" asparagus spear.

It's the beginning of asparagus season and with Stockton & Isleton (California's asparagus capitals) just about an hour away, little green stalks are starting to sprout in markets all over the place.  One of my local stores recently had asparagus on sale for just $0.97/lb. and because I'm such a huge fan, I couldn't resist buying a few bunches.  For me, new asparagus in markets is a clear signal that spring has indeed arrived.  And after making due with frozen veggies & fruits all winter long, I am beyond excited to sink my teeth into something fresh & green.

And that's what I've been doing pretty much non-stop.  I've had my asparagus with poached eggs for brunch. I've had them in salads.  Heck, I've even taken to just zapping a few stalks in the microwave for one minute, drizzling them with olive oil and a quick sprinkle of lemon pepper, and snacking in asparagus-loving bliss. 

But these are all mild, safe asparagus pairings, and I know that these tender green stalks are capable of so much more. So with the help of some sweet red peppers and a few other ingredients, I created a quick, delicious dish that shows that asparagus can be pretty darned sassy when it wants to be. 

Since I'm still pretty noodle-obsessed these days, I've been tossing asparagus & noodles together. A lot.  My first Mushroom Channel recipe (featured this week) was actually for Five Spice Mushrooms & Asparagus with Udon Noodles.  It was phenomenal.  So easy, yet so packed with flavor & different textures that I ended it up having it for dinner three nights in a row last week.  The best part about that one was that all three servings came from the same $8 recipe!

This time around I wanted an equally intense flavor but a lot more heat.  Not wanting to part from my udon noodles, I stuck with those and added some lean flank steak for my protein fix.  I kept the sauce relatively simple - some soy sauce, cooking wine, and a bit of brown sugar - but amped up the heat with a healthy dose of crushed red chilies. 

With the tender asparagus, bright red peppers, and crisp purple onions, this dish was a fabulous explosion of colors, textures and flavors.  It's a wee bit more expensive than the Five Spice Mushrooms & Asparagus recipe, but every bit as delicious.  Not a meat eater?  Simply omit the steak or swap it out with some tofu or mushrooms and you're good to go.

Spicy Beef, Pepper & Asparagus Udon Noodles (makes 3 servings; total cost per serving: $3)

1 8 oz. package dried udon noodles
10 oz. lean flank steak
1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
1/2 lb fresh asparagus, cut into 1" pieces
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 T cooking oil, divided
1/3 c soy sauce
3 T cooking wine
1 T brown sugar
1 t crushed red chile flakes
1/2 t ground ginger
Salt & pepper

Cook the noodles according to package instructions.  Drain, drizzle with a bit of oil to prevent them from sticking together and cover to keep warm.  While the noodles are cooking, whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. 

Cut the beef along the grain into 2" wide strips.  Season with salt & pepper.  Heat 1 tablesepoon of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the garlic.  Cook quickly until it just begins to brown, then add the beef.  Allow the beef to cook undisturbed for about a minute or so, allowing it to start searing.  Then stir-fry for another 1-2 minutes until browned but not completely cooked through.  Remove the beef from the skillet & set on a plate.

In the same skillet, heat the remaining oil, then add the onions, peppers, and asparagus.  Stir-fry for 1 minute, then return the beef & any accumulated juices to the skillet.  Continue to stir-fry for another 1-2 minutes, or until the beef is cooked through but not tough.  Add the cooked noodles and sauce, and toss together until completely combined.

Serve immediately either family style or in individual bowls, and enjoy!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Photo Makeover: Pork & Apple Fajitas

My first photo makeover of the month is for my Pork & Apple Fajitas, a recipe that I absolutely loved and just had to share, despite the crappy picture.  You see, it was the recipe I posted when I announced that I had finally and officially scored a full-time job, the job that I'm still learning & enjoying right now.  Like most people, I like to celebrate special occasions with food, and this was the perfect mix of savory, sweet and fun that I needed in a new dish.

Sadly, it was the dead of winter, we had about 2.5 seconds of sunlight a day, and I was forced to deal with the horrid fluorescent lighting in my kitchen.  Without a professional lighting set-up, there was no way I could possibly make these sizzling, succulent fajitas look as good as they tasted.  I did what I could in the editing department, but I was always sorely disappointed in the photo.

Luckily, I recently found myself with some lovely pork chops & crisp apples again, as well as a major hankering for these unconventional fajitas, so it was the perfect opportunity to redeem myself photographically.  I think I did alright.  A vast improvement in lighting (nothing better than natural light for food photos) and some handy little props, including a new sangria recipe, at last convey the true deliciousness of these fajitas.

For the full story & recipe, check out the original post.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What's in Store for April

Could this month have started any more beautifully?  I know there are folks in other parts of the country who are  dealing with some pretty awful weather this April (and I feel for you!), but here in California spring has finally sprung.  It's been bright, sunny, breezy and slightly warm, and I'm loving every minute of it!  Definitely a welcome change from the crazy wet weather of March.

A lot of things I had on the agenda for last month were again pushed back to a later date.  Between bad things (like getting sick) and good things (like moving to this new little home and scoring my first paid writing gig), I didn't have all the time I needed to get to everything I had planned.  But that's life, so I just roll with the punches and try to reschedule things as best as I can.

The good news is that my neuralgia is almost bearable, I can see the floor in my living room now that a lot of boxes are out of the way, and my first Mushroom Channel post should be up this week!  Here are some other updates and a sneak peek at things that I hope to get to in April...

  • First of all, I wanted to welcome all of the new readers that have come to PGEW over the past month or so.  As many of you know, I'm a featured contributor on TakePart.com, the official website for the movie Food, Inc., so a lot of new folks have discovered my little blog through the recipes featured on TakePart's Hungry for Change blog.  It's fabulous to see so many new readers and I just wanted to say thank you for stopping by & welcome to the family!  
  • Here's some exciting news: yours truly was recently nominated as Best Local Blogger on KCRA's A List!  The A-List is an annual list of the best of Sacramento businesses, services, and people, and I am beyond honored that one of my readers took the time to nominate me.  If you have some time, I'd love it if you could cast your vote for me.  Who knows?  Maybe PGEW will be named the Best Local Blog of 2011.  Thanks in advance! 
  • Next on the list: a couple of photo makeovers!  I've become a little obsessed with practicing my photography skills, now that I have better equipment courtesy of my marvelous mom and generous friends who insist they want me to upload more videos onto YouTube.  So that means that some of the older photos on the site will be getting a much needed facelift (because, frankly, some of 'em are making me cringe!).  The first photo makeover is actually from a relatively recent recipe, but I had a craving for it this weekend and had to take advantage of the opportunity!  Still deciding on which one will be the second, but no matter what, it'll be an improvement.  Look for the first one to be posted tomorrow!
  • Speaking of videos, I've decided to do another video recipe this month!  Though it was a lot of work and I had some trouble with the editing programs I was using, I actually had a lot of fun creating a video so I wanted to do it again.  Look for that toward the latter half of the month.
  • It's spring and produce has sprung around these parts!  Asparagus is my current obsession, so all you fellow asparagus lovers, stay tuned for some great new recipes featuring our favorite little green stalks.
  • It's $25 Shopping Cart time!  With the way food prices have been skyrocketing, some folks aren't so sure I can continue shopping with such a tiny budget.  But just because the prices go up in stores doesn't mean my budget goes up too, so I'll just have to shop that much smarter wherever I go.  Oddly enough, I don't have any particular store in mind for this month, so if anyone has any suggestions for where I should go this month, let me know!  Otherwise, I may hit some of the more challenging stores, like the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op.  
  • As you may have noticed from my last recipe, I seem to have a bit of a kumquat addiction right now.  So before the season completely comes to a close, I thought I'd feature a couple more recipes using these delightful little fruits.  I've been getting a lot of feedback from folks who aren't always quite sure what to do with their kumquats, so I'm here to help!  Trust me, they're a lot more versatile than you think.  :)

That's all for now, folks.  Time to hit the sack and tackle another work week.  Happy April, everybody!

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