It’s almost November but I’m still trying to hang onto the coattails of late summer and autumn. I know that the rains are here, I can feel it on my head and the dog and I often come back soaked from our walks. I know how cold it gets at night since I’ve resisted turning on the heat and have instead resorted to sweats, sweaters, and blankets. I did turn the pilot light on for the gas fireplace and have used it several times; I’m not completely off my rocker. But one of these days very soon I’ll be turning the thermostat back on. But I have resisted embracing autumn’s and winter’s foods. Late summer and early fall were just so hectic that I didn’t really get a chance to indulge in the orgy of fresh veggies available. I resist the comforts of squash, greens, apples, and pears no matter how beautiful and tempting they may be. I know that I will be eating them for months and months…and months.
Luckily you can still find the remnants of the summer harvest. I’m not militantly local but I do prefer some items in season. Vegetables like tomatoes, red peppers, lettuce, and cucumbers, not to mention berries and fruits, always taste so much better when in season and local. They are allowed to ripen to their full potential and I can no longer bring myself to buy them out of season. Okay, so lettuce doesn’t really have a season and I break down and end up buying it from wherever on occasion but I really do prefer the taste when it’s local and I’m pretty firm about the other items.
The rains have started and we here in the Valley may not see the sun again until late January or early February. But you can gather together the last vestiges of your summer harvest and conjure a little make believe on your plate. Continue reading →
Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend, my mom referred to this as bird seed. I really can’t disagree; it looks exactly like the stuff out in my bird feeder. Well, minus the suet. So that’s what we call this in my family. “What are we having tonight? Birdseed!” However, just because we have a nick name for it and it looks like birdseed does not mean that it’s bad, quite the opposite in fact. Mom was a meat and potatoes kinda lady; if she was willing to eat it you know it had to be pretty good!
The Harvest Grains Blend consists of Israeli style couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans and red quinoa. Israeli style couscous is much larger than regular couscous and reminds me more of barley than pasta or couscous.
This blend is hearty enough to serve with beef, pork, or sausage but delicate enough for fish or seafood. The blend of pastas and grains plumps up nicely yet retains their shape resulting in a cohesive blend that rolls onto the tongue. Unlike some dried grains these rehydrate nicely and are small enough that even a potato lover can like them. The ingredient selection also cooks evenly, something you don’t fine in most packaged blends.
The package calls for adding butter, I use olive oil. It also calls for water or chicken broth, I recommend the broth. It adds a depth of flavor that is just missing when you use water. You can always keep it vegan by using a vegetable broth. It would also be a nice addition to soup. One package makes about eight large servings.
Give the Harvest Grains Blend a try; it might just pass your potato lover’s taste test.
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Some things come out of nowhere and lay you flat. My mom passed away a month ago. Many people have asked if she had been ill or otherwise wanted to know if it was expected or unexpected. After losing a few people I can say, you never expect it. Not even when you know they are not well, not even if the doctors have given you a short prognosis, as they did with my father, even if you think you have prepared your self for the eventuality, even if your on pretty good terms with death, you never really expect them to die. It’s an abstract thought, until it isn’t. When the death is somewhat unexpected, she was ill but was recovering and had been released from the hospital, it is even harder.
I had not heard of this dish until last summer. I worked with several people that were familiar with it and it came up in conversation several times. I knew just from the sound of it, that it would be something my family would love. Mom loved potatoes. I’m pretty sure there were very few days of her adult life that did not contain potatoes. Just about any combination of dairy product and potato made them even better in her book.
There seem to be as many incarnations of this recipe as there are families that make it but the base seems to be diced or shredded potatoes, a thick cream sauce, and cheese. I decided to add sautéed onions and garlic because most entrees should have onions and garlic, two more of Mom’s favorites. And just to shove it completely over the top, I added bacon. The bacon is an excellent touch, it infused the whole dish and gave it that smoky, bacony something extra.
The name completely throws people. I took this to a gathering a few days after the funeral and people really hesitated when I told them what it was called. So, you might want to refer to it as simply a Potato Casserole or even a Cheesy Bacon Potato Casserole. But it serves its function well under the original name for it is a carb heavy, fatty comfort food, something you desperately need when things have fallen down around you.
The leftovers were excellent with an over-medium fried egg, ‘cause that’s the way Mom liked her fried eggs, for breakfast. Don’t forget to add some fruit so you can pretend you’re eating a well-rounded meal.
So, because Mom would have loved them… Continue reading →