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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Leek and Canadian Bacon Tarte

As I said, sometimes I go back to my Swiss roots and I make something that is typically Swiss. This time I decided to give it my own little twist. It is pretty usual in northern Switzerland to have meatless meals on Fridays. A lot of people in Schaffhausen, where I am from, eat a variety of savory or sweet tartes. they can be eaten warm or cold and almost every bakery and grocery store with a deli counter will offer a variety of them.

In Schaffhausen, the most famous and traditional one is what is called "Schaffhauser Boelle Tuenne", which means "Onion Tarte from Schaffhausen" its a very traditional food staple. I usually make this one from time to time, but I had some leeks and some Canadian Bacon I didn't want to go to waste so I used them instead of just using onions.

The Swiss CookbookThe base recipe comes out of "The Swiss Cookbook" by Betty Bossi, but lots of Swiss Cookbooks will have a basic crust recipe in them. It's fast, easy and anyone has the ingredients in their fridge and pantry.

Here is what you need for the crust:

200 g flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 75 g butter cut in cubes, 100 ml water

Mix flour and salt in a bowl, add the butter and work the butter into the flour with your fingers until you have small crumbles (kinda looking like parmesan crumbs), then add the water and work it quickly into a soft dough (don't knead), flatten it out a little, cover it and let it rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Once the dough is cool, take it out of the fridge and with a rolling pin , roll it to an about 3 mm thick round. Transfer into a round tart pan , and prick the crust all over with a fork, put back into the fridge for about 15 min.

Prepare the filling. I used

3 stalks of leeks (cut in thin rings), 2 thick slices of Canadian bacon (cut in small cubes). To do this I use either a large Chef's Knife or a Utility Knife from the Jamie Oliver Collection. These knives are super sharp (be careful) and balance perfect in your hand, which is very important when you are working in the kitchen.

For the custard mix 100 ml milk, 100 ml cream, 1 large egg, salt, pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika and I added some fresh grated parmesan.

Take the crust out of the fridge and evenly spread leeks and bacon on the crust, then pour the custard mix evenly over the filling. Bake in the lower half of a preheated (425 Degrees)  for about 30 min.

Remove from the oven, let cool slightly and serve warm with a nice green or mixed salad and a nice glass of white wine. A Riesling or Chardonnay will work very well!

Bon Appetit!

You can use the same crust recipe to make a sweet tart as well. For example with apples, apricots or plums. after cooling the crust in the fridge, sprinkle it with ground almonds or hazelnuts.

Then layer fruit in a shingle pattern on the crust until covered, mix the custard, but instead of all the spice, mix in 3 tablespoons of sugar and maybe some vanilla flavor or cinnamon, pour the mixture over the fruit and bake as above adding about 10 minutes of baking time to soften the fruit.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Baby Blues BBQ

BEST BBQ in LA! Hands down! Baby Blues BBQ on Lincoln Blvd. in Venice is the place to eat BBQ on the Westside. We do go there ALL the time and never ate anything we didn't love. Everything they have on the menu is fantastic. It's hard to choose really, so I just tell you what I like the most, eat the most and can't have enough of.

Usually we start out with the "Suicide King", which consist of a base of delicious homemade cornbread, topped with coleslaw and shrimp grilled to perfection and some kind of secret sauce. OMG! Delicious! You try it once and you are hooked.

My Favorite the Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich! The crunchy toasted bun it comes on, is loaded up with fresh pulled pork and coleslaw, oh and you get a nice big pickle with it too. Use some of the infused vinegar you find on the tables to drizzle on your sammie and if you like it HOT, use their XXX sauce. Your taste buds will thank you!

The Baby Backs oh WOW! Can't go wrong with those, so tender they practically fall of the bone. And ten they also have Beef Ribs, for all those that don't eat pork or just love beef. They are huge, I'm not kidding either. It's really hard to not order the whole menu.

If you want sides.... The Mac'nCheese is heavenly! Nice creamy, cheesy, gooey deliciousness!

There are lunch specials starting at $10 during weekdays, but even when coming on weekends, it won't break your bank to eat there. Best BBQ on the Westside for a price that can fit in anyones budget!

Look just go to Baby Blues BBQ, try it and fall in love with the place and thank me later!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Horsing Around in L.A.

So you've seen that I have a new found love for horseback riding and the place I go to is Griffith Park Horse Rentals . It is, in my opinion, the best place to go riding in LA, obviously there are other places, but I just fell in love with the place.

Julie and her staff are super nice and pay close attention to who should be riding which horse, so you'll be given an animal companion that matches your riding level. Everyone is welcome, children under 7 can enjoy a hand led pony or horse ride, once they're 7 they can go on the trail with the rest of us. Helmets are mandatory for the little ones.

Griffith Park Horse Rentals  is open 7 days a week, rain or shine and first rides go out at about 9 am, the last one at about 5 pm. Please check out their website for special rides, like the Dinner Ride, or after hour rides with a private guide.You don't have to make reservations, just show up and be ready to go.  Large groups should make reservations.

There are horses of every size, ability and age. They all are happy, gentle horses and they love it when you bring them carrots.

If you'd like to get lessons or want to refresh your skills, Alexis is your woman, she's great with kids and adults alike, has lots of experience and knows what's to know about horses. Just call the stable and they will be able to book a lesson for you.

Oh and if you see me mucking out the stalls or picking up a brush to give a little love to a horse, don't be surprised.

I hope I see you  there!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Semi-Homemade Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Betty Crocker Supermoist Cake Mix, Yellow, 18.25-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 12)There I was early last Sunday morning without any cookies or cake anywhere in sight, but I had PROMISED to bring something sweet to the stables. What to do? I thought I had a serious dilemma, because it would take me way too long to get cupcakes ready from scratch and I didn't have all the ingredients to make them either. So I went into my pantry and found a box of basic yellow cake.

Then and there I decided to just use that box and just give it my own little twist. You'll be surprised on how you can transform a box cake into something nobody would think of as coming out of a store bought cake mix. Delicious and easy.

Here's what I did. Just get the ingredients you need according to the box, instead of water use milk, that makes it a bit richer. Set everything to the side and don't start mixing stuff yet.

Get 3 or 4 medium size carrots (depending on how much carrot you like) and shred them finely with a food processor or by hand with a grater (I use the Zyliss Contour Grater) , mix in 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 3 oz of ground almonds, a cup of chopped milk chocolate (or any other chocolate chips) and set aside.

Now mix the cake ingredients as required on the box, once that's done, mix in the shredded carrot/cinnamon/almonds and chocolate chip mixture so it's evenly distributed into the cake mix.

Spoon mix into 24 cupcakes, or in any cake pan and bake just like mentioned on box according to what kind of baking dish you use.

Once baked, let cool and ice or just serve without icing.

The variations of this Semi-Homemade Cakes are endless....

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Navajo Sandstone Formation

Rock Formation
Originally uploaded by kpizka

Another picture from Arches National Park....
Nature at its finest!

Lemon and Dill Salmon with Caramelized Onions and Tomato Salad

Does that make you hungry? Well it should, cause that's what was for dinner yesterday. I was pretty damn tired after driving home from work for about an hour and road rage almost made me lose my temper, but then I thought the better of it and told myself, I'll just get even with an onion, slice and dice it with one of my new knives from the  Jamie Oliver Knife Block, 6-Piece Set, I got myself and that should get rid of my excess energy.

I started out by getting my ingredients ready, broke out my new knives and got going on the onion, sliced them nicely and started sweating them in a pan with some flavored olive oil and a dab of butter. Get them going on  low heat and cook them until they are nice and golden brown, stirring occasionally.

Once I got my onions in the pan, I broke out a ovensafe glass dish, lined it with foil (clean up is so much easier) greased it with a bit of butter and got a little bit of the onions on the bottom. Lay down the Salmon on the onions and season with salt and pepper, some crushed red pepper and fresh pressed garlic. Then generously top it with the zest of a lemon and put a couple of sprigs of dill on it. Splash with the lemon juice, add a little dab of butter, wrap up the foil so you have a tent over your fish, and stick in the pre-heated oven (400F) until done. The time really depends on how thick the salmon is.

Once your salmon is done, arrange it on a nice bed of the caramelized onion, add a little tomato salad on the side and

BAM, there is dinner!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What I just finished reading

I just finished reading this book after my friend Tina recommended it to me..... I must say, it's definitely one of the best books I've read in a long time

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Vintage)

 I couldn't help but immediately run out and get it's successor The Girl Who Played with Fire as well, I guess I'm hooked now because I can't put it down, if I could read and drive at the same time, I probably would. But better NOT!

So in a few months the last book in the trilogy will be available as hard back, and I'm just gonna have to have IT. Should I pre-order?

Has anyone else read these yet, if so, let me know what you thought.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Munching Giraffe

Munching Giraffe
Originally uploaded by kpizka

What you thought Giraffe's aren't food enthusiasts too? I took this picture some time ago at San Diego Zoo. That reminds me, we have to go soon.....

Sunday, January 3, 2010

C.T.A. Salad with Shrimp and Lemon Vinaigrette

After a long day at work and some heavy food items for lunch, my hubby requested something light and refreshing for dinner, because he wanted something more substantial than just lettuce and tomatoes, i decided to make one of my favorite dishes.

My C.T.A. Salad with Shrimp and a Lemon Vinaigrette. It's light, refreshing, healthy and balanced. Just in case you want to make it, here  is what you need:

For the Salad:
1/4 of a small onion, finely sliced
1 small cucumber, peeled and cubed
3 medium roma or regular tomatoes cubed
1 avocado, cubed
1/2 to 3/4 lbs of cooked shrimp (small or medium)

For the dressing:
4 Tbs Olive Oil
2 Tbs Vinegar (I use Apple Cider, but you can use any kind)
1 Tbs Lemon Juice
2 1/2 Tbs Mayonaise
1 Clove Garlic, finely chopped or pressed through a garlic press
Seasoning Salt and Pepper to taste

When cooking, I like to prep all my ingredients before I start mixing them together. I start with the dressing, by adding all the oil, vinegar, lemon juice and mayo to my Zyliss shaker , it has a insert that helps break down the mayo and makes the dressing really creamy, add the seasoning salt, pepper and maybe some paprika. Peel  a clove of garlic (or more if you love garlic) finely chop or press through a garlic press (I just got myself the Zyliss Susi 2 and its the best thing ever, you don't even have to peel your garlic), add to the other ingredients and give it a good shake. Taste and add salt/pepper to taste.


Once the dressing is ready, rinse and drain your cooked shrimp, put them in a bowl and pour the dressing over them. Cover and chill in the fridge.

After you have your shrimp nicely marinating in the fridge, get going on the other salad ingredients. Peel the cucumber, cut down the middle lengthwise and then again cut the halves down the middle, then cut in bite size cubes. Proceed the same way with your tomatoes, holdback on the peeling though. Lastly slice your onion (you can use any kind of onions, if you want some more color use purple).

In the meantime your shrimp have had a nice bath in the dressing and you can now mix in the cucumber, tomato and onions. Lastly pick a nice ripe avocado, take out the pit, remove the skin and cut avocado in bite size pieces, gently fold into the salad.

Arrange on a nice platter and serve with a nice crusty bread! Works great with a crisp cold beer or a nice Chardonnay!

Enjoy! And let me know how you liked it!

PS: Just in case you don't like onions, you can leave them out completely and if you like your dressing creamier, don't hesitate and add some mayo.