Mar 26 2017

From Dandelions to Daffodils

Last weekend was filled with adventure. My girlfriend Carolyn and I were trying to come up with something fun to do. She mentioned going to Jackson, CA for their Annual St. Patrick’s Dandelion Days Celebration and then I mentioned that I’d never been to Daffodil Hill and I could hear her GASP through texting. Her response… seriously? You’ve never been to Daffodil Hill? We decided to combine both with a few other side trips and the day turned out to be a great one.

Dandelion days is the Jackson, CA Lions Club’s largest fund-raising effort and benefits student scholarships and other community events. It takes place in Historic Downtown. The streets were packed with vendor booths and people enjoying music, food and time with family and friends. 

It was my first time in the historic downtown area of Jackson and I look forward to going back to check out some of the local shops. 
One thing we knew we wanted to do was support the Jackson Fire Department by purchasing their famous tri-tip sandwiches. It’s a huge fundraiser for their fire fighter association that helps them purchase new equipment as well as training for the department. We already had a place in mind for lunch later in the day, but that didn’t stop us from a little pre-lunch sandwich.
The tri-tip was smokey and delicious, cooked to perfection. 
The National Hotel was very cool. I had to do a little research/reading to find out more about it. In 1849, at the dawn of the California Gold Rush, two Pennsylvania natives, Ellis Evans and D.C. White, with a fortune they amassed manufacturing cotton gins in Louisiana, made their way to California, where they built a general store at the south end of Main Street, on Jackson Creek. Three years later, that store became The Louisiana Hotel and Store. After a fire in 1862, Evans and White rebuilt and expanded, calling their new establishment the National Hotel. You can learn more by visiting The National Hotel’s website.
 

I loved seeing the Ferris Wheel and all of the food booths – this was also where the live bands were playing. We were tempted to get shaved ice, but it was a little chilly.

Our next stop led us to my friend Frank’s volunteer job at a local thrift store. We stopped there for a quick visit and a side trip recommendation. Frank mentioned a place that we had seen on the way in. Swingle Meat Co, located at 12640 Kennedy Flat Road in Jackson.

I hadn’t planned on buying anything and $50 later – I walked out with some grillin’ goodies. 

Deer heads have always been VERY disturbing to me. My grandparents had one in their garage and it used to freak me out.. That aside, all four of us were like kids in a candy store. Aaron was particularly excited to find that they had frozen packages of raviolis and meat gravy. He explained that his grandma made the BEST meat gravy and that it was a favorite food memory of his. I will have to check-in with him to see how it compared. Lots of frozen pasta options, not everything was meat on top of meat with a side of meat.

Dan and I decided on one Kona and one Whiskey marinated tri-tip. I usually don’t do pre-marinated meat – learned that from my brother that makes amazing BBQ delights. I still wanted to give these a try. We also got some chicken and beef skewers. 

Aaron and Carolyn had a cooler bag in the back of the car, so we were in business. Thank you Frank for the awesome recommendation. Next on my list will be to try your other recommendation of Andrae’s Bakery and Cheese Shop in Amador City. By the time we got there – they had already closed. 

Our Next Stop was lunch in Sutter Creek at Buffalo Chips Emporium Restaurant. Located right on Main Street, a few doors down from my favorite Sutter Creek store – The Antique Gardener. 

The place was adorable. We had a short wait and the entire time I drooled over the dessert case. The chocolate chip cookies looked magical and the pie… OMG!

Not to mention the cake and pie plates themselves… I wanted to take the whole case “to go”.

Dan and I eyed another guest’s grilled cheese sandwich while we were waiting for our table and I knew that was going to be what I ordered. As most of you know, grilled cheese and macaroni and cheese are my comfort foods of choice. Add an overcast/rainy day into the mix and perfection comes to mind. 

I did love the simple brown lunch bag flowers on each table. What a cute, inexpensive way to hide the green plastic plant container. Rubber stamp that puppy with a monogram or other single design and you could have wedding/party/bridal-baby shower centerpieces in minutes. 

I opted for the ham and grilled cheese sandwich and I’m glad I did. The house sourdough was amazing from the crust to the crunch of the lightly toasted middle… I savored every bite. Dan ordered the same thing because we’re cute like that. Ha-ha, no, seriously… that NEVER happens. 

Carolyn ordered the rosemary ham and brie on local ciabatta bread and was happy with her choice. 

Aaron got the roast beef sandwich with arugula, horseradish and mayo on local ciabatta bread. Aaron was also happy with his order. I was pleased to see thinly sliced roast beef. My pet peeve is super thick roast beef, it ruins a solid roast beef sandwich. We all opted for fries instead of chips and side greens.

We hit up the Antique Garden before getting on the road to our next stop. I always find a million ideas there and that my friends is ALL I left with this time – IDEAS. I really am working on bringing less home decor stuff into my house. It’s only been 3 months, so I’m not claiming to be cured just yet. The drive from Sutter Creek to Volcano was filled with twists and turns and some pretty cool houses and farms along the way.

We pulled up to Daffodil Hill and I felt like I was on a movie set of one of my beloved Hallmark Movies. It was opening weekend and the crowds were definitely out. Sheriff’s directing traffic to a hilly dirt lot, people crossing the street in multiple directions and more cameras than you see at Disneyland. Professional photographers with their clients and photo enthusiasts with their fancy lenses. The majority were people like us with cell phones. 

Daffodil Hill is a ranch owned by the McLaughlin family since 1887, and is located at 18310 Rams Horn Grade in Volcano, CA. In the past several years an average of 16,000 daffodil bulbs per year have been planted and it is estimated that Daffodil Hill is carpeted with approximately 300,000 bulbs when in full bloom. Learn more about Daffodil Hill here.

I find that blogging and actually finishing posts happens much faster if I just use my iPhone. I’m not as worried as I used to be about getting the perfect photo, it’s more about capturing the overall experience. I often go through my blog and look at things I did and places I visited years ago. The posts put me right back there and that is one of the reasons why I keep doing it.

I really expected to have a “The Hills are Alive” experience and was a little disappointed. I wanted blankets of yellow and white as far as my eyes could see.

It was opening weekend and my guess is that more will be in bloom in a few weeks time. There were parts that were more populated and that was cool to see.

I kept looking for my favorite Hallmark actors 🙂 – it really did make my heart happy imagining a movie being filmed there. Super Hallmark geek and proud of it. 

Daffodil Hill is open only in the spring, usually from mid-March through the first weeks of April. After that it goes back to a working ranch and is not open for visitors. Admission and parking are free, although donations are appreciated -there are hanging metal buckets at the entrance. Visitor donations help fund new bulbs for the next year.

Another successful outing with dear friends in the books. Now I must go fill my house with sunshine and yellow daffodils. 

Foo

 

Permanent link to this article: http://foodiddy.com/?p=10832

Mar 13 2017

Coconut Quinoa and Lentil Curry w/Homemade Naan

We tend to go out every Friday night with friends. We decided this year we would make more of an effort to eat some meals at home like we used to – making recipes as a group and trading off hosting/houses. I received a text from my girlfriend Michelle with a link to Half Baked Harvest’s – Simple Coconut Quinoa and Lentil Curry with Lime Mango asking what I thought about trying to make it on a Saturday, since it was a little too involved for Friday after work. It sounded good to me, but I knew it was going to be a VERY hard sell to Dan. I knew for sure the Greek yogurt would be a “no go” and team that with the kale, quinoa and lentil “way too healthy” trifecta and I pictured stopping at McDonald’s on the way there. I was wrong. I showed him the recipe and he agreed to give it a try… so off to the store Michelle went.

The dish was very ingredient heavy, but it was worth it for sure. If you want to see gorgeous food photography, head over to the linked recipe post. I’ve got iPhone photos here because I wasn’t even sure I was going to post about this. The photos I took were just for my own reference…then I tasted the dish and wanted to share with everyone on planet Earth. Ha-ha.

Michelle and I did make some substitutions to the original recipe and those are noted below

M&K’s Coconut Quinoa and Lentil Curry

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 red bell peppers chopped – we diced
  • 2-3 carrots chopped – we diced 3
  • cloves garlic minced or grated – we minced 4 instead of the 2 suggested
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger – recipe called for 1 tablespoon fresh – our piece of ginger was bad… so we switched to ground
  • 2-3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste – we used 2
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder you could use spicy curry powder for more heat
  • 1 (14 ounce) can full fat coconut milk
  • 4 cups coconut water OR vegetable broth OR water – we only used coconut water
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce or soy sauce if you want to make it veggie – we used soy sauce
  • 1 cup green lentils rinsed
  • 1 cup mixed red and white quinoa rinsed
  • 3-4 big handfuls baby kale – we used massaged regular rough chopped kale, stems removed
  • Juice + zest from 1/2 a lemon – we used the whole lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro + basil chopped – we used fresh cilantro, but dry basil – 1 teaspoon dry is equal to 1 tablespoon fresh. We used 4 teaspoons
  • 1 mango sliced or chopped – we chopped
  • 1 lime zest + juice
  • Salt to taste – we added it after our pre-service tasting
  • Naan, greek yogurt, fresno chiles + almonds, for topping – we left off the fresno chilis and almonds because we forgot to get them – the almonds would probably be good texturally, but it certainly didn’t need them. 

Coconut Quinoa and Lentil Curry

Instructions:

Heat the coconut oil in a large heavy bottomed pot set over medium heat. Once hot, add the red pepper and carrots, cook 2-3 minutes or until lightly charred on the edges. (Ours never charred which worked out fine) Add the garlic + ginger and cook 30 seconds. Add the Thai red curry paste and curry powder, continue cooking for another minute or until the curry is fragrant. Slowly pour in the coconut milk, coconut water and soy sauce. Stir to combine and then bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, stir in the lentils and quinoa. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the lentils are tender and the quinoa is soft. Stir in the kale and continue cooking, uncovered for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice + zest, the cilantro and basil. We added a few more pinches of salt after tasting.

Coconut Quinoa and Lentil Curry

Spoon the curry into bowls and top with mango. Drizzle the mango with lime juice + zest. Garnish the curry with a dollop of greek yogurt and serve with fresh naan. This is where you could add the Fresno chilis and almonds.

I am happy to report that Dan used his naan to literally scrape the bowl clean. Our version was much less rustic due to dicing the carrots and peppers uniformly and not using fresh basil. It was also visibly thicker than the original recipe – looking at our finished dish compared to the photos on Half Baked Harvest. I really think the less soup-like texture is what sold Dan. It should be noted that I have developed a slight allergy to Mango, so I didn’t add any to mine – the others liked the addition. 

I took all of the leftovers home and ate it for lunch for 4 days straight. So instead of getting 4 total servings as the original recipe suggested, we got 8 and didn’t change the ingredient quantities. Guessing our portions were smaller. Yay, more room for naan. The curry flavor got better and better as the days went on. It really was the perfect make ahead meal to portion out for lunches. 


Homemade Naan

We also followed Half Baked Harvest’s recipe for naan. Making naan was a first for both of us and OMG, it was fairly easy and it tasted so freakin’ good. The leftovers were even good. I used a cast iron skillet to re-heat them.

Nann Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour or 1/2 all-purpose and 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour – we used all-purpose
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup hot tap water
  • 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • Melted butter for brushing may use olive oil – we used butter
  • Fresh cilantro or other herbs for topping – we only used sea salt

Homemade Naan

Instructions:

  1. In a medium size bowl, or 4 cup glass measuring cup, dissolve the sugar in the warm water (about 105°F). Add the dry yeast to the warm water and stir until the yeast is dissolved. Let it sit for 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to froth and rise.
  2. Add the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder to a large mixing bowl.
  3. When the yeast is foamy and smells like bread, add the warm milk and yogurt. Pour the wet ingredients right into the middle of the dry and begin mixing the wet with dry using a wooden spatula or spoon. When the dough is about to come together, use your hands to finish mixing. As soon as it comes together, stop kneading. It should be sticky, but should form a ball and be soft. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for 1 hour.
  4. When ready to cook, divide the dough into 8 equal balls and using a rolling pin to roll each piece of dough into an oval shape. It should be about 6-8 inches long and about 1/4-inch thick, but no thinner. Repeat this method with the rest of the dough.
  5. Warm a cast iron skillet (we used a regular skillet with success) over medium-high heat (you definitely want it pretty hot, but not too hot or you will scorch the naan). Brush both sides of the naan with melted butter and if desired sprinkle on any spices you like such as cumin and garlic. (We didn’t use any spices, just sea salt) Place the naan on the hot skillet, cover with a lid and bake for 1 minute, until you see bubbles starting to form. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side, until large toasted spots appear on the underside. Brush with a bit more butter if desired, then sprinkle with salt. Place the naan on a tea towel-lined plate. Repeat with the rest of the naans and serve. Fresh is best, but will keep in a ziplock bag for a few days or in the freezer.

I definitely had a fear of making dough before my obsession with making the perfect at-home pizza. The only thing to consider is allowing enough time to let the dough rise. As I said above, the homemade naan was a total win. Not necessary for the curry recipe, store bought would be fine, but I encourage you to give it a try – it really was easy. It helped to have another set up hands with the butter basting, lid removal, etc. Now that I’ve done it once, I could probably do it by myself next time, it’s just getting the timing down – every cooktop is different.

Thanks Michelle for an awesome night and fun cooking adventure. I’m excited to try other things as the weather starts to warm up. My Weber grill needs a workout!

Foo

Permanent link to this article: http://foodiddy.com/?p=10754

Mar 03 2017

Brunch at Meadowlands Restaurant

I had been hearing many good things about Meadowlands Restaurant, located at the original Slough House, built in 1850 – off Meiss Road in Sloughhouse, CA. Nobody in my immediate circle of friends had been yet, so when my friend Carolyn suggested getting together for brunch – this place topped my list and she’s always down for a new food adventure.

Meadowlands, Sloughhouse Sign

When I first moved to the area back in 1999, we often visited Sloughhouse Inn, one of the previous restaurants in the same location. Over the years there were other failed attempts at re-opening. This time around restaurateurs Ron and Terri Gilliland – who also own Lucky Dog Ranch in Dixon and Roxy and Lucca Restaurants in Sacramento, are behind the venture with executive chef Dan Origel in the kitchen. Roxy is another go to brunch place for us and I have enjoyed many amazing meals at Lucca – so I went in very excited to give Meadowlands a try. 

Meadowlands Restaurant - Sloughhouse, CA

It was a perfect day for a drive. The massive rains we have been getting in and around the Sacramento area led to some flooding in the restaurant’s parking lot – a common occurrence due to the location. We were happy to see sunshine and clear skies.

Carolyn loves all things history and historical markers of any kind must be read. She also likes butts and taking photos of statue butts, we’ll save that post for another day. 

I really liked the simple interior and a good mix of booths and tables is always nice. I’ve been looking for a new dining room light fixture for over the table and had considered the glass and metal Edison bulb look – they had them throughout the main dining area and it made me like them even more, it’s the keeping the glass panels clean that has me concerned… still on the hunt for the perfect light fixture, I’m getting close. 

We were seated in the darkest table of the entire restaurant. I knew photos would be a challenge, so I made sure to get the menu photo on the outdoor deck. Aaron, Carolyn and Dan are used to me moving plates around for the best lighting option. I swear, I’m a pure JOY to dine with…ha-ha. Thank God I have really great friends that understand my passion for documenting/blogging some of the restaurant meals I eat. Trust me, my everyday eating would put readers to sleep. My daily meals for the most part are boring. 

I ordered the Avocado Toast. Slab bacon, poached eggs, hollandaise, pickled red onion and radish on brioche with house greens. The greens were dressed perfectly – the pickled onion added so much to the dish and I’ve pretty much been living off avocado toast, eggs and pickled everything since. No, I’m not joking. 

I had to get the breaking into the egg photo… just looking at the photo makes me think – get in my belly! Since our brunch trip was such a success, I’m thinking of switching it up with a visit for dinner next time around.

Aaron ordered the biscuits and gravy. Maple sausage, jalapeno gravy, sage, fried eggs and slab bacon. He also got a side order of breakfast potatoes that I kept stealing. Thanks Aaron! He really liked the flavor profile of his dish, we all really enjoyed what we ordered.

Carolyn decided on a coffee and the cast iron cinnamon roll with cream cheese frosting and pecans. A cinnamon roll the size of your head = sharing and a to-go box for home. It was delicious and the perfect dessert ending to my avocado toast. 

I haven’t eaten too many cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing – you know… the Pillsbury canned versions don’t come with the fancy stuff. It was a fun change-up on the norm. I have made cinnamon rolls from scratch before and I also enjoy an occasional Cinnabon version, but I lean towards savory on all things breakfast. I guess that statement is true for every meal and all snacks. I’d much rather eat a bowl/entire bag of chips or a hunk of cheese over a cookie or any piece of candy.

Dan ordered the Stagecoach Breakfast – choice of house-made sausage, wild boar sausage or bacon with eggs any style, griddle potatoes and toast. I failed to get a photo of his plate, but he gave it a thumbs up as well. 

Meadowlands serves their our own pasture raised beef, fruits & vegetables from their gardens and Davis Ranch, conveniently located right off Jackson Road. 

I saw on Facebook that they are searching for local bands to play during the Summer – a cocktail, some tunes and patio dining, now that sounds amazing. I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

Foo

 

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