Monday, October 22, 2012

San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust's 10th Anniversary Celebration

Weather is ALWAYS a concern in Fresno, but yesterday's couldn't have been more perfect for this event. Not too hot, not too cold (like Goldilock's porridge)and blue skies as far as the eye could see. If you've never been out there, its a real hidden gem (we seem to have a lot of those around here).

There was music, art, a self-guided historic home tour, a hike, things to amuse the children, a raffle, farm goods for sale, and food...oh the food..

It was like walking into Christmas morning with a tree loaded with presents and not knowing where to begin! There was P*de*Q, Tako BBQ, La Elegante, Mattie's Wood Fired Pizza, Express Grill, Summertime Pies, and Ooh De Lolli ice pops.

I had to start with the one thing I'd been neglecting for too long, P*de*Q, (Pao de Quejio). A kind of South American cheesy bread ball made with tapioca flour, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. They are naturally wheat and gluten free as well. We tried the parmesan and the jalapeno (they also had chocolate and carrot raisin, but I wasn't ready for sweets). Luckily they had just taken them out of the oven and they were everything they say, crispy on the outside, soft and cheesy inside. I really enjoyed the jalapeno because it gave some real oomph to the gentle tasting dough.

Next on the eating agenda was Tako BBQ truck, an old fave, the owner even remembered me as that "foodie chick".. its nice to be remembered! My hubby went for the Spicy Pork Quesadilla, and my daughter and I shared the Eggplant Korta. As usual everything was amazing. The quesadilla had plenty of meat and cheese, with a delicious sauce on top. The Korta (Korean/Torta), has been my new fave for a couple of weeks now, but this was our first time trying the Eggplant. Delicious! You don't even miss the meat because the eggplant seems to be marinated and chargrilled and cut into meaty chunks.

While waiting for our order, I sent the girl over to Summertime Pies to secure a new Chocolate Chess Pie, something this Southern girl had been dying to try ever since I heard about it. It was perfect. Not too sweet, very rich, and chocolatey good!

My last food stop was Ooh De Lolli for ice pops. I'd been chomping at the bit ever since I heard she was doing a pop made from the Chicken Pie Shop's legendary rice pudding, oh man! She had mixed it with our local persimmons for a rich, subtly fruity treat that I can't stop thinking about. My daughter got the roasted banana, and if you love bananas this is for you! It tasted like bananas, amped up with a rich, roasted flavor. A stop at this beloved cart always reminds me of the scene from Willy Wonka where they're tasting the wallpaper..and he says, "the snozberry tastes like snozberries".. everything she makes tastes exactly like what its made you're eating that thing, in ice pop form!
Sorry about the bite taken out of mine...I couldn't wait!

We wandered around for a bit, taking in the lovely scenery, chatting with dog owners and the helpful docents, taking a tour of the lovely historic house, and overlooking the water.

By that time I was ready for a nap! (Gimme a break, I'm old..), but I am looking forward to their holiday fete on November 17th! Again, its a beautiful place and it helps preserve one of our natural treasures, so please, visit when you can.
San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust
11605 Old Friant Road
Fresno, CA 93730
Hours: M-F 9 am to 5 pm, and Sat: 830 am to 3pm.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cooking Inspirations

I've been branching out lately with my cooking.. here are a couple of successful dinners worth of pics and semi recipes.

Old School Chicken Dinner
I've always loved chicken dinners. I grew up on them. But I've never been able to recreate my grandma's and mother's chicken recipes. I still can't (I leave that up to Come and Get It Chicken and Waffles.) But I can finally make a damn fine fried chicken (I've always been able to make biscuits, gravy, mashed potatoes, etc.. no gravy this time but the rest was lovely.)
I overcame my fear of frying, and started out by seasoning four chicken legs with onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. I let that sit for a bit for the flavors to soak in. Then I shook them up in a bag with cornstarch, then dipped in egg/milk seasoned with Sriracha, then shook them in another bag with flour mixed with crushed cornflakes and salt. Then deep fried them @400 degree oil for 15 minutes, turning halfway through.
The biscuits are my standard recipe:
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup oil
mix everything together til it forms a dough ball, then knead about 10 times. Form into 8 balls and place in greased pan(rolling to grease all sides) and bake at 450 for 14 minutes.
The mashed potatoes were just peeled red potatoes, boiled, and mashed with mayo, butter, milk, and salt. And here you are:
Then tonite, I was craving Chinese American food so I made:
Chinese American Style Sweet and Sour Pork and Fried Rice

I make my fried rice by cooking regular rice ahead of time (2 cups water, 1 cup rice, bring water to boil, add rice, turn down to medium low and cook for 25 minutes covered, then remove from heat and keep covered for another 10 minutes. Fluff with fork and spread on cookie sheet sprayed with nonstick spray to dry for at least an hour.) Scramble 2 eggs, set aside. Cook 1 cup of peas/carrots, set aside. Add small amount of oil in pan on medium high heat, mix rice with eggs, veggies, green onions, grated garlic and ginger, salt, sesame oil, sugar, and soy sauce (amounts vary). Fry til brown on bottom, and mix. Set aside and keep warm while you make sweet and sour sauce:
1 cup water and/or pineapple juice 1/3 cup vinegar 3/4 cup sugar or sugar substitute (or less to taste) 1/4 cup ketchup 1 1/2 TBSP cornstarch Mix 1st 4 ingredients and boil over medium high heat, mix cornstarch with a bit of cold water or juice and add to boiling sauce, turn down heat and cook til thick. You can add pieces of pineapple and/or veggies afterwards.
I then cut up 3 boneless pork chops into small pieces, salted and peppered them, and dredged them in cornstarch and fried them in about a half inch to one inch of oil til brown. I tossed those into the sauce. Here are the results!

The eggrolls were from the freezer section of the store and were pretty crappy. But everything else was just delicious!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Impromptu Gluttony (no pics, sue me)

I was STARVING this morning... and I came this close to going to Carl's Jr for their breakfast glad I didn't...because another muse hit me. Charlotte's Bakeatery (Bakereatery, Bakery..whatever) was on my must try list, based on various reviews etc. Now I've never quite understood the whole cupcake phenomenon, never having had a cupcake worth much in my estimation. I've tried many in town, just to see if I could figure out what the appeal is.. to no avail...these overly frostinged, overly sweet, creations were more pretty than tasty.

Then this morning I had an epiphany after visiting Charlotte's... first off the service (while understaffed) was as sweet as could be.. I wish all counter people could be as sweet and friendly as this girl was. I wanted a variety of things to test their abilities. I ordered the lemon lavender and chocolate chocolate chip cupcakes, a mixed berry tart, and a loaf of garlic wheat bread. and the bread was still warm...

As I mentioned before, I was VERY hungry, so on the way home I bit into the chocolate cupcake...ohhhh THIS is what they're supposed to taste like! Dark chocolate cake with chocolate chips, and dark chocolate frosting applied in a normal manner. Not too sweet, not overly frostinged (is that even a word? it is now!) Oh and get this...vegan AND gluten free! Who knew? Then I bit into the bread...oooooo! garlicky! wheaty! yummy! Couldn't wait to get it home to enjoy with the Irish butter I'd just bought.

Once home the goods were shared round... to much appreciation. The lemon lavender was in one word: AMAZING. Very lemony, not too sweet, with that background note of lavender. The "tart" (more of a semi open turnover) was also could taste fruit, not just sugar, and the pastry itself was expertly made. And the bread...with butter...couldn't stop eating it...HAD to make myself stop eating it..

So now here I sit, full, happy, and understanding the cupcake thing. My only warning would be to understand that these goodies are pricey. 14 plus for 2 cupcakes, 1 tart, and the bread. But SO worth every penny! So my advice to you would be to get yourself down to the Tower District (just west of Teazer, across the street from The Revue and Piamonte's), and indulge. You'll be glad you did!

Charlotte's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The End of the Af-Fair

Dear Big Fresno Fair,

I hate to say this, but I'm breaking up with you. It's not you, it's me. I just can't take the fried foods, the sweets, the heat, and the crowds anymore. Your exotic animal exhibit WAS interesting, and I even enjoyed playing those marimbas. The racing pigs are adorable, the splashing puppies are great, and I wanted to take home every animal in the SPCA truck! But I'm old and tired, my constitution is more delicate, and even though your discount days are great, I'm just not up to the noise, the weather (usually too warm for me), the food (the healthy options just aren't why I came to the fair), and the number of people. Not to mention it comes at a difficult time of year financially, and they've raised prices on everything.

I used to devote days to the fair every year.. I also used to enter (and win) multiple competitive exhibits. It wasn't uncommon for me to go at least 5 times during the run of the fair. I entered this year, 2 items, and got a 2nd place for my cupcakes, but the thrill of competing just isn't there anymore. I've got a wall full of blues and reds, I think that's enough. I've got my hands full with a new husband and a teenager I'm still trying to adjust to. I also used to go to multiple concerts..but now, unfortunately, I don't have the time or the energy to stand in line for the free seats anymore.

So its with a heavy and exhausted heart that I say "farewell".. its been good and we'll always have some great memories that I will always cherish.

Fair Food n' Stuff

It was with a heavy heart that we found out that Chicken Charlie, the premier fried food vendor and innovator would NOT be bringing his brand of deep fried goodness back to the Fresno Fair this year. I don't remember when he first started appearing, but he's been a staple for many years now. I found out it was a combination of bad timing, a new 2nd trailer, and a new baby that was keeping him away this year. Hopefully he'll be back.

However still hopeful and ready for anything, my family of four went to the fair on opening day, to check out the food, the exhibits, and to see if my two baked goods entries (double chocolate cookies, and tropical cupcakes) had won anything.

The teenager of course took off to meet a friend with a 20 in her pocket. The rest of us immediately pounced on Garlicky's, a whole menu of garlic infused food..who could resist that? We settled on the Garlic Dog, basically a garlic infused sausage cooked corndog style. We gobbled it down before we could take a pic..but it just looks like a corndog. It had a mild garlic flavor, but hardly worth the 8 dollar price tag.
Then the eldest suggested we go see if my 2 entries had won took forever to spot my cookies (they keep moving things!), but they hadn't won. We found my cupcakes right away to find a red ribbon. We then headed towards the fine arts building so the eldest could check her exhibits, 2 photos and a drawing. Sadly no ribbons there. While we were waiting on her we went to the Indian Taco booth and ordered one. Deep fried deliciousness with chili, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and sour cream. Here's a partial pic.

I was starting to get full! And I was already exhausted from the heat, so I suggested Gelato, which we all thought was a good idea. The eldest and I shared a strawberry cup, and the hubs got Lemon Ice.. both were absolutely delicious, especially on a hot day. Yes I know I promised lots of pics, but you all know what gelato looks like... the strawberry looked and tasted like fresh strawberries and the lemon ice was tall and cool and refreshing.

I was curious about the latest "Discover the World" exhibit so we walked there, and here are some pics of the interesting animals. Btw, if for no other reason, visit this area because it's one of the coolest(tempwise) parts of the fair

By this time I was really tired..still needing something cold and needing to grab a bag of kettlecorn to take home. We grabbed the kettlecorn, and headed for another ice cream stand, this time to grab a giant frozen chocolate covered banana. (After making absolutely sure those were peanuts only..because it would be stupid to die at the Fair)

So there we are.. my Fair experience for 2012! Whee!