Grilled Garden Vegetables

After Garden School last weekend, I returned home with a giant loot sack full of fresh veggies from my Master Gardener friend's garden.  Not wanting to overpower the fresh flavor of each individual harvested goodie when I consumed them, I pulled out an old standby recipe.  It is packed full of flavor and highlights the delicate delicious taste that each vegetable has to offer.

Grilled Vegetables 
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

I ignored the whole list of veggies from the recipe and used what was in my bag of garden trick-or-treats instead.

I grabbed...carefully...my Swissmar Borner V-Slicer and set it to make thick slices.

I placed all the sliced veggies in a gallon bag and tossed them with olive oil, salt, and pepper until everything was lightly and evenly coated.  Then I heated my favorite grill pan over medium-high heat and started grilling the veggies, one batch at a time.

Like it mentions in the original recipe, pretty grill marks are a result of not moving the vegetables around once they're on the grill.  Let them cook slowly and get all pretty in the pan.  I only flipped them once.

Parsley, basil, and rosemary came out of my own backyard and I made my dressing similar to the original recipe, increasing the amount of the garlic, balsamic vinegar, and rosemary.

2 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 T. balsamic vinegar (tweak for taste, I added an extra splash)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 tsp. chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

I whisked all the ingredients together in a small bowl.  When all the veggies were grilled and plated, I drizzled the dressing over them.  Fancy and fabulous, right?  I love using the leftovers for future meals, as well.  The flavor is so rich and grilled veggies just taste so darn good, even the next day!


Dining Out Paleo: Scarlett Begonia

Welcome to my Thursday series: Dining Out Paleo 
Every Thursday I post a recent dining out experience and how I chose the best possible options to stay true to my Paleo lifestyle, opting for the freshest and most nutrient dense foods while avoiding grains, sugars, dairy, and soy to the best of my ability.  Unless informed otherwise, I always assume that the restaurant uses vegetable/canola oils for cooking.

I tend to get a little wild with my Yelp searches, but Yelp has yet to disappoint when I am in hot pursuit of good food.  In my most recent quest for a Dining Out Paleo subject, I entered "locavore" into the search field and waited for the results.  Nothing.  Apparently restaurants in Rosamond aren't known for their in-season local produce or farm fresh, pastured eggs.  Great hearty breakfasts?  Certainly.  Seasonal, local, and farm-to-table fresh?  Not so much.

Fully prepared for a bit of a drive, I expanded my search to agriculturally dense Ventura.  I then narrowed it to the only restaurant open for breakfast.  Bonus for being rated 4.5 stars from fellow Yelpers.  Scarlett Begonia was a clear winner for my Dining Out Paleo breakfast.

The tidbit of info that assured my visit was Scarlett Begonia's dog-friendly policy.  Dogs are welcome on the patio!  Volt and I hopped in the car, leash and water bowl in hand and paw, and set out on our incredibly scenic 2.5 hour drive to get breakfast in Santa Barbara.

After a short wait and a quickly lapped up bowl of water, Volt and I were seated in a quaint courtyard with bright yellow umbrellas and matching place settings.  I was offered three menus - drinks, meals, house baked goodies - and Volt was offered another bowl of water and his very own cookie.

I had come for eggs and fruit, but upon reviewing the incredible selection of fresh salads, I decided to go for the luncheon veggies instead.  I ordered the Kale Caesar Salad, no croutons, add a poached egg.

After taking my order, the server brought a breakfast amuse - homemade granola, dried cranberries, Greek yogurt, all topped with a blackberry that I was certain was going to punch me in the face if I tried to touch it.  Seriously, that behemoth piece of fruit was a little intimidating.  And tasty!  I picked through the fruits and tasted the yogurt and granola.  Not Paleo.  Although texturally appetizing, I wished I had a dining partner with opposable thumbs to whom I could've passed this over.

My kale salad arrived with bright giant pieces of fresh kale, sliced avocado, pine nuts, thick crispy bacon, a poached egg, shaved Parmesan cheese and Caesar dressing.  A salad that can be easily tweaked for personal tastes - hold the cheese, dressing on the side, etc.  The contrasts between the hot creamy egg, the cool creamy avocado, and the cold crisp kale were fantastic.  The flavors were bright and delicious and I couldn't have been more thrilled with my breakfast choice.

I also ordered a side of the house made sausage.  It was brought to the table with a drizzle of real maple syrup.  The sausage was bold and full of flavor and my dew-clawed dining partner seemed to approve of my selection.

It was a nice leisurely breakfast.  I took my time savoring my meal and basking in the cool coastal weather.  I overheard my server explain to the table next to me how the produce had been purchased just the previous day at the farmers market and that the Stone Fruit Salad and the Heirloom Tomato Panzanella were both noted items containing the late summer farmers market freshness. 

After our delightful dining experience, Volt and I took a short walk around State Street.  We passed by lush foliage, whimsical boutiques, and even more quaint patio-ed restaurants.  Then we crawled back into the car and made our way home.

As temperatures drop and fall flavors make their way into kitchens, I'm eager to go back and see what seasonal items adorn the menu at Scarlett Begonia for the autumn months.  One of my favorite things about living in California is the access to local, organic food year-round.  It may require a bit of a drive, but so far it has always been worth it!


Learning from the experts...

Almost six months and five tomatoes later, I was thrilled to learn that a friend of mine was offering a four week gardening class at her house.  I have only heard about her mythical garden in conversation, seeing a glimpse of a corner in photos here and there.  So when Master Gardener Susie announced that she would be holding classes IN her garden, I had no choice but to sign up.

Here's a photographic sampling of my first day at Garden School:

We learned about useful reading materials for improving our mad gardening skills...

We selected fall friendly veggies and started seeds to take home and germinate in little greenhouses...

Each student brought a jar of soil for separating/testing/observing... my jar was a little small (and cracked)... so I have homework for next time.  We learned about soil composition and watering requirements.  I'm pretty sure our composition is still mostly clay, even though Matt and I did our best to try and create a better blend of garden soil in the backyard. 

We propagated pomegranate tree stems.  We learned about composting and a few do's and do not's of composting.  No proteins, no fats, and don't stick your hand in an active compost pile as it can reach temperatures of up to 180 degrees F.  I'm not really sure why anyone would want to stick his hand directly into compost, anyway.

Then we got to play in the garden!  Japanese eggplant taking over the walkway...

Gorgeous Swiss chard...

We each took turns planting cilantro.  I felt so confident that I ran home after class and planted three small pots in my own garden hoping that THIS time it will grow!

It does exist and it is even more incredible than I could've imagined.  Four 16' beds full of tomatoes, eggplants, onions, and peppers with a whole separate part of the yard dedicated to squash!  The perfect backyard slice of heaven.

The best part of the whole day was getting to take home souvenirs.  Garden grown produce is beautiful and tastes incredible. 

Looking forward to my next class and more play time in the dirt!


Spicy Sweet Cabbage Salad

It feels good to be back home!  Matt and I are both pretty run down after a hectic couple of days of coast to coast flights and a busy weekend with my mom mourning the death and celebrating the life of my grandmother.  Phew!

After a few more nights of sleep, I'm hoping we'll all be nice and recovered and back to normal.  I'm planning to cook up a big batch of bone broth this week to help that process along as well.

Being home means getting back in the kitchen and purging my poofy body of all the crud that I ate while trying to process everything that's been going on the past few months.  I was happy to get cooking today, even if it was all simple and quick.  All the better!

These guys were pretty happy to see me back at the cutting board as well...

After enjoying the brisk 44 degree near-fall weather back in New England, I was saddened and shocked to wake up to 103 degree sunshine blazing outside my window.  Cool, crisp, and refreshing was the only thing I could possibly want to make for dinner.  A few weeks back, I did a post about making soba.  I included a Paleo version of the recipe and decided to start with that and make a few more tweaks for the evening's dinner.

Paleo Otsu - Modified. Again.

zest of 1 lemon
1" cube of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1/4 c. rice vinegar
1 T. honey
fresh squeezed juice from 1/2 lemon
1/3 c. coconut aminos
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. toasted sesame oil

Combine lemon zest, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, salt, and rice vinegar in a blender or food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Add honey, lemon juice, and coconut aminos.  Blend.  Slowly drizzle in extra virgin olive oil and sesame oil until all ingredients are well combined.

1 head green cabbage, cored and shredded
1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 carrots, shredded
3 green onions - whites and greens, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and thinly sliced
1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro

In a large salad bowl, combine all the vegetable and herb ingredients and toss well.

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 T. coconut oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 T. Red Boat Fish Sauce

In a large skillet, heat coconut oil over medium-high heat.  While pan is heating, chop chicken thighs into small bite-sized strips and chunks.  Season generously with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Brown chicken thigh pieces over medium-high heat.  Halfway through cooking, add fish sauce to pan and stir to combine with chicken.  Continue browning chicken until cooked through.  Once the chicken is completely cooked, allow to cool.

In the large salad bowl with all the vegetables, add the cooled browned chicken thighs.  Drizzle the sauce over the meat and vegetables and toss until everything is evenly coated.  Serve with toasted sesame seeds and additional chopped cilantro as garnish.

A perfect refresher for what seems to be the never-ending summer and our first nights getting back in the groove!


Hot Dog! Bark in the Park at Dodger Stadium!

On September 1, the Los Angeles Dodgers hosted "Bark in the Park" at Dodger Stadium in the Right Field Pavilion.  Since Volt seems to glue himself to the television whenever there is a Dodgers game on, we thought he might enjoy actually getting to see his team play live and in person.  Go with me on this, the pups are Matt's and my furry babies and I am thoroughly convinced they truly understand everything we say to them. 

Matt and I signed our waivers... basically agreeing to the fact that if we get attacked by a pit bull, we won't hold the Dodgers liable.

We gathered together all four tickets... Volt and Miss Ellie each got their own seat.

We packed a copy of up to date shot records, as requested...

And Volt confirmed everything was copacetic.

When we arrived at the stadium, it was Dodger dog craziness!

Before the game, all the dogs and their owners took a lap around the field.

I encouraged Volt to bite the nearby Diamondback player with no success.

 Every person and pup settled in to their seats... It was time for Dodger baseball!

There was plenty of time to sniff for leftover peanut shells, nachos, and even a mustard soaked foil wrapper or two...

Volt and Miss Ellie couldn't get enough of the all-you-can-eat Dodger Dogs.

Matt and Miss Ellie sang along to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch...

And when there were no more nachos or peanuts to clean from the floor... the doggies, Matt, and I looked on as the Dodgers capped off the night with a 2-1 win over the Diamondbacks.

With such an eventful day full of food and excitement, how could the following day possibly compare?  Easy.  By resting our exhausted bodies!