Clapping On The Down Beat

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A Little Reflection. May 9, 2016

Filed under: Interests,Meal Planning,Sharing and Caring — clappingonthedownbeat @ 7:48 PM

I went to a memorial service today.  For a 1 year old.  And even though, it was anticipated, it seemed sudden.

The family frequently posted journals on Caring Bridge, and I always appreciated the honesty, faith and love that they shared through the posts.  It was a way to feel connected.

Knowing that I was teaching yoga today, then my tire light went off in the car, and I rushed home to get the kids after school for the memorial, I had not planned dinner.

Pressure cooker.   We have a love/scared to death relationship.


It really is fantastic.  It just scares me when the steam starts coming out.  Really.  I stay out of the kitchen till the timer goes off.


I bought some heirloom Mexican beans when I was in California.  These cooked up beautifully in the pressure cooker with a ham hock and an onion.  They were the size of a kidney bean, the color of a pinto (like a milk chocolate) but really creamy.

And how about a bacoeggcado?  A poached egg, in an avocado wrapped in bacon.  I am still working on getting the bacon to stay on wrapped tightly on the avocado.





Back into the Routine April 25, 2016

Filed under: Interests,Meal Planning,Sharing and Caring — clappingonthedownbeat @ 7:58 PM

Coming back from a break can make it hard to get back into the routine.

I haven’t been as good about writing, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been making messes in the kitchen.

Here’s a fun recipe and a great secret tip.

Mediterranean Sliders:

1 pkg ground turkey or chicken

4 green onions, finely chopped

1-2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp. cumin

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

(optional: 1/4 c. – 1/3 c. feta cheese)

In a bowl gently mix all ingredients .  Form small patties (sliders).  Sauté in a hot skillet with a little olive oil.  Serve on slider buns or in a pita with cucmbers, tomatoes and lettuce.


I really like hummus and  taziki sauce with this too.  (Mix plain greek yogurt with shredded cucmbers, fresh dill, lemon juice, salt/pepper).


Quick Hummus:

One 15-ounce can chickpeas- drained and reserve liquid
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, about 1 large lemon
1/4 cup well-stirred tahini, use store-bought
large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt, depending on taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 to 3 tablespoons water

I like to saute the garlic in the olive oil first.  Then in a food processor, puree all the ingredients.  Add water as needed to thin out the hummus.

Here’s a secret:  save the chickpea liquid.  It’s high in protein and it can be whipped up like egg whites.  I use them as an egg replacement for baking or in my waffle recipe.  Save your eggs to eat and bake with replacements.



I also finished a quilt for my science-loving son while he was away at camp.

IMG_2303 IMG_2408

IMG_2409  IMG_2407




I’m a little behind…..CA trip summary April 13, 2016

Filed under: Interests,travel — clappingonthedownbeat @ 8:44 PM

I came back from my trip to Napa, CA and was excited to post pictures, but I brought the flu back with me.  After laying low, and then uploading all my pictures, I’m ready to share my trip!

We drove up to Berkley the afternoon we arrived.  Chez Panisse was on my list to vist.


Chez Panisse- new American Gourmet.  Known as one of the inspirations for California cuisine. Restaurateur, author, and food activist Alice Waters co-founded Chez Panisse in 1971 with film producer Paul Aratow, then professor of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. The restaurant focuses on ingredients rather than technique, and has developed direct relationships with local farmers, ranchers, and dairies.  This is where farm-to-table began.

The service was outstnding, the food was simple and divine.


Roasted Turnip soup with sorrel and creme fraiche.


Grapefuit and avocado salad with kumquats.


My mom and I both had the halibut.  It was baked perfect with butter and white wine.  I wanted to lick the plate (but I didn’t).

I came to eat, so I wasn’t going to leave without dessert.


Rhubarb Galette with vanilla ice cream.

Here is a picture of the open kitchen.


We then headed up to Napa.


A great doccumentary movie (that I also find funny- but it’s not a comedy) is Somm.  It follows four guys who are studying to be a Master Sommelier.

SOMM trailer

DAY 2:

We had a tour scheduled at Beringer.


This was a great first stop to learn about the history of the area, the types of soils that the wine grape varietals grow in, how the wine is harvested and made.  This time of year is bud season.  The grape vines are just beginning to bud, the weather is perfect (70’s) and it is not crowded.  We toured the wine caves, had a barrel tasting, and did a food and wine pairing.  Since I am not much of a wine drinker, the pairing was fasicnating.  I really noticed how much the taste of the wine changed based on what type of food we were eating with it.

As a side note- I couldn’t help but think about this book series I read.  Secrets (The Michelli Family Series Book #1):  by Kristen Heitzmann


To have a wine label that says Napa Valley, 95% of the grapes have to come from Napa by law.  Other wines label California- come from somehwere else.

Next stop was the CIA, which was next door in the Greystone (old Christian Brothers Winery).


We had lunch here.  There is a student run restaurant.  I had a lentil soup and a goat cheese salad.  My mom had an roasted eggplant sandwich.


The rest of the afternoon we drove around a just stopped at some smaller wineries like Frog’s Leap, Rutherford, Elizabeth Spencer, and we did an olive oil tasting at Round Pound.    We stopped at V. Sattui, which has an amazing deli to grab some “snacks” for dinner.  Our hotel was serving wine from Mario Andretti’s vineyard (can’t say much for celebrity wines).

Day 3:


This was truly the “vacation day”.  We headed up to the northern part of Napa towards Calistoga stopping by Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.  They won the Paris Blind Tasting in 1976 (that was a good year!) for their Cabernet Sauvignon.  This was a HUGE deal because the vines were only 3 years old. We also visited Chateau Montelena which won the 1976 Paris tasting for their Chardonnay.  Without boring you with a bunch of wine knowledge and history- there is a good movie about it called Bottle Shock.

Bottle Shock trailer

Chris Pine plays Bo.

This is Bo now.


This was the wine.


We also stopped at Castle Di Amarosa.  It is modeled after a Tuscan Castle.


Did I mention how wonderful Napa smells?  There was jasmine, orange blossoms, and flowers blooming everywhere.


Calistoga is know for their mud baths, so how could we not try a mud bath?


Yes, it was awesome.  Then there was a mineral bath soak, steam room and a massage.  AND………..dinner at Bouchon.  Bouchon is the Bistro to the French Laundry.


We had this amazing French dinner, and stopped by the bakery to get some treats for breakfast the next day.  Since restaurants are like museums to me, I wanted to go see the French Laundry and have my picture taken there.  (The French Laundry is one of the top 50 best restaurants in the world).  This is where my birthday trip is frosted and has a cherry on top.


So, I take my picture by the French Laundry- Thomas Keller’s restaurant- and I think “I’m just going to ask for a clothes pin” (it’s like grabbing a match book- it’s a souvenir).  When I ask the Marte’ D, he was so friendly and hospitable, that he not only got me a clothespin, but the menu of the evening, a magazine they publish twice a year, short bread cookies, AND invited me to go back to the kitchen and meet the chef and tour the kitchen!!


DO you see the stars above us?  They are a 3 star Michelin restaurant.   I got to talk to Chef  David for about 15 minutes.  It was incredible.  If you like movies here are a few other favorite restaurant related movies….



The Hundred Foot Journey


Day 4: Etude, drive through Sonoma, Sausalito, San Francisco for the afternoon/evening.



Those are the highlights……….a very memorable trip and a great vacation destination- even if you don’t drink wine.




It’s not all gourmet March 28, 2016

Filed under: Meal Planning,Saving Money — clappingonthedownbeat @ 1:56 PM

I hope there is not a feeling out there that everything I make is always some gourmet affair.  I’d like to share with you “leftover night dinner”.  This is where I see that there are some leftovers- but not enough for us all to eat- and I look through the pantry (make sure you rotate your can goods and check expiration dates!) and I dump everything together.

I had left over tater tots, half a bag of frozen corn, a can of chili beans, a can of diced tomatoes, taco seasoning, leftover cook ground bisonand about 1 1/2 c. leftover chicken broth.  At this point we culd have leaned towards a chili- but I went with taco seasoning.


The tater tots broke apart and just look like diced potatoes.


I also had some lettuce to use up and I always have sour cream and cheese.   From here this would make a great filling for enchiladas, or taco lasagna.  We ate it in bowls topped with lettuce, sour cream and cheese.


I had another quick fix dinner this weekend.  I had a bag of red potatoes that I boiled up and then mashed.  We had a mashed potato bar- eat when you are hungry.  And yes, I do have that one child on occasion who decides that they really don’t like whatever I have fixed.  But, I am pretty firm in “this is what’s for dinner”.  If you don’t want to even try it, then there is a banana on the counter.  No one has ever starved  here.  If they are hungry, they eat it.


This is traditionally a  Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes that’s popular in the summer. It includes chunks of soaked stale bread and tomatoes, sometimes also onions and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar.  But for Easter I made a simple spring version.  This could be a meal in itself.

1 loaf seed and nut bread (I found one a Costco-Delicious) this could also be leftover loaf bread

1 Pkg frozen peas

1 bunch pencil thin asparagus- cut off just the top third

1 English cucumber- sliced

1 bunch watercress (usually sold in a package near lettuce section)

1/2 c. Olive oil

1/4 c. red wine vinegar

1 large shallot, minced

2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped


Cube bread into crouton (bite sized) pieces.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and toast in the oven at 375 10-15 minutes.  Should be crunchy all the way through. (I did this the day before)

In a bowl mix olive oil, vinegar, shallot and dill.  Wisk.  Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Drop in peas and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Remove and place in a bowl of ice water (sometimes I cheat and place on a sheet pan and then stick in the fridge)  Repeat with asparagus (this is called blanching- brings the green out and par cooks the vegetables).

When ready to assemble- toss peas, cucmbers, asparagus, watercress and bread in dressing.  Serve.




It’s not fat March 21, 2016

Filed under: Interests,Saving Money — clappingonthedownbeat @ 2:20 PM

I had to take a little writing break because it has been busy.  Three birthdays in the house, and two big catering events.  I have been cooking/baking A LOT.

So here are a few highlights and recaps:

When I can, I like to buy big cuts of meat and break them down myself.  It is cheaper this way and I feel like you get a better understanding of the meat.

I bought a 15 lb cut of pork shoulder.  This is sometimes labeled pork butt.  It is not butt.  It’s from the pork shoulder.  Don’t get me started on meat labeling…..that’s a whole other post.  The shoulder is a working muscle and has a lot of connective tissue.  Therefore, it needs to be cooked low and slow for a long time.


The white “stuff” is not fat.  That is the connective tissue.  I clean as much of that off as I can.  Work the tip of a knife under it, and begin to cut away from yourself.  You probably won’t get all of it, but get as mush as you can see without hacking away at the meat.



Pork shoulder is great in a crockpot (pulled pork), or braised all day in the oven (pork stew).  I made pork rillette.  It is the French version of pulled pork turned into a rich spread.

For Christmas I got some molecular gastronomy chemicals- this takes playing with your food to a whole new level.  I had some time to prep and set up a twist on a caprese salad.


I started by making tomato juice.  With fresh tomatoes, I peeled the skins, seeded them and cooked the liquid down slightly seasoning it with a little salt and pepper.


Then I added sodium alginate to the tomatoe juice and chilled it.  I made a water bath with calcium lactate gluconate.  I then squeezed tiny drops of the tomato juice into the water bath and got spheres or tomato pearls.

Next I made a balsamic and red wine reduction and added agar agar to make a gel.

Then using fresh basil I made a basil oil and turned it into a powder.  My brother got me a 1.5 pound container of tapioca maltodextrin.  I guess I will be making lots of food powder.

I then put it together on a spoon with a small piece of fresh mozzarella.


Lastly, I made one of my favorite desserts.  Baklava.


1 pound pistachios and walnuts, coarsely ground, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
1 cup ground biscoff cookies
2-3 sticks unsalted butter, melted ( I start with 2 and then melt more as needed)
16 sheets phyllo dough (thawed, if frozen)

For the Syrup:

2 cups sugar
1 6 -to-8-ounce jar honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Combine the nuts, cinnamon and ground cookies in a bowl.

Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with some of the butter. Layer 10 pieces of phyllo in the dish, brushing each piece with butter before adding the next (keep the remaining dough covered with a damp towel). Sprinkle a quarter of the nut mixture over the dough. Layer 4 pieces of phyllo on top, brushing each with butter before adding the next; sprinkle with another quarter of the nut mixture. Add 4 more phyllo pieces on top, brushing each with butter, then add another quarter of the nut mixture, 4 more pieces of phyllo with butter, and the remaining nuts.

Layer the remaining 10 pieces of phyllo on top of the nuts, brushing each with butter; brush the top piece with extra butter. Cut into the baklava to make strips, about 1 1/2 inches wide. Then make diagonal slices, about 1 1/2 inches apart, to create a diamond pattern. Bake until golden, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the syrup: Bring the sugar, honey and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat and cook, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice and boil 2 more minutes, then let cool slightly.

Pour the syrup over the warm baklava; let soak, uncovered, at least 6 hours or overnight. Garnish with nuts.  * Note: you may only need 2/3 of the syrup depending on how much it soaks up the syrup.  I start with 1/2, let it sit a little while, then add more.




Happy PI Day March 14, 2016

Filed under: Interests,Meal Planning,Sharing and Caring — clappingonthedownbeat @ 10:05 PM

I was going to make a pie today for PI day (3/14   3.14) but I got sidetracked and made Beef Stroganoff for a friend in need of a dinner.  I thought I would share another quick dinner.  This is easy to make meatless as well- just “beef” up the vegetables by adding a variety of mushrooms and serve over mashed potatoes.

Start with 1- 1.5  pounds cubed beef.  In a gallon zip lock bag, add 1/2 c. flour, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Toss beef in seasonsed flour.

In a large pot, heat 1 Tbsp oil.  Add beef in one layer.  This is important.  If you dump all the beef and crowd the pan, it steams, and doesn’t brown or cook evenly.  Cook in two batches or use two pans if necessary.  Turn beef.  This should take a few minutes on each side.  Heat is on medium.

Next add 1 1/2 cups beef or vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil then down to a low simmer and cover the pot.  Stir every once in a while so meat does not stick to the bottom.  Simmer for at least 1 hour.  (meat could also be put in a crock pot on low here)

In a skillet saute 1 pkg of mushrooms (or more if you like) and 1/2 of an onion small dice or minced.  Let onion soften and some of the water cook out of mushrooms.

After beef has simmered, add mushrooms.  Beef sauce should have thickened.  Add 1/2 c. sour cream and gently stir in.  Serve over egg noodles.




A side trip + quick meal March 13, 2016

Filed under: Interests,Meal Planning,Parenthood,Sharing and Caring,travel — clappingonthedownbeat @ 10:26 PM

It was a very rainy Spring Break week.  We had already planned a quick trip down to San Antonio.  The last time we were down there- we only had 2 out of three kids and one was still in a stoller.

We hit Bluebonnet Cafe (pie), Guenther House (pioneer mill- great breakfast), the missions, Alamo, Riverwalk, Pearl Brewary (and CIA), a movie, HEB, Magnolia Cafe (another great breakfast), Natural Bridge Caves, and a short stop in San Marcos.




Upon returning, I had to work a catering event plus we had basketball games.  Here is a quick stew with ingredients I usually have on hand.

Chickpea Stew

In a skillet, soften:

1 diced onion

1 shallot

In 1-2 Tbsp olive oil

Add :

2 cloves diced garlic

1 tsp minced fresh ginger (I often keep a tube of minced ginger in fridge)

1 Tbsp curry powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp brown sugar

2 chopped carrots

(you could also add diced potato, frozen peas, eggplant….)

In a crockpot add:

1 can coconut milk

2-3 cans drained and rinsed chickpeas

Then add onion mix from skillet.  Simmer on low 4 hours.  Serve over rice.