The Shack’s Rib Cook-Off

Hey readers! I know it has been a while, and I hope you are still with me. As you know, I have been writing regularly about positive restaurant experiences for The Beach Reporter. However, I’ve decided that I miss blogging and want to devote more time to getting back into “Megan’s World of Food”. Obviously my voice has changed since I started publishing my writing online at age eight, but I intend to keep updating the blog for as long as possible.

The experience that inspired me to write today is one that you have not yet seen on my blog. Last Saturday, my dad and I entered a rib-making contest at Playa Del Rey’s The Shack, along with our friends Ken and Eric. Our team of four had never entered a BBQ competition before, but we were excited and ready to take on a challenge!

The way this competition worked was that competitors would get supplied with nine racks of ribs on Friday night, and would come to the bar the next morning to actually smoke them. The winner was decided by judges, but a “People’s Choice Award” was given to the BBQ team with the most votes from visitors. If interested in the rib contest, a customer could buy tickets and go around to the teams. A ticket per rib, visitors would taste their way through the parking lot and decide on their favorite.

However, like all good competitions, there are ways to cheat. But at this one, bribing and getting on the voters’ good side are actually encouraged! Each team made treats for throughout the day to make a good impression on the voters. Ours consisted of homemade New Orleans Chaurice sausage, my dad’s grilled wings, and pralines.

Preparation for the “big day” started days in advance; my dad stayed up late making sauces and I assisted in making the pralines. My dad’s new smoker was painted (with the face of former University of Iowa football coach Hayden Fry, of course) and our friend Travis’ truck was ready to transport our supplies to the bar. Everything was in place, it seemed, but I knew so much could go wrong…

My dad told me weeks in advance that my job on the day of was to smile, pass out bribes, and get the voters on our side. Well, that would be easy if I were the least bit charming. Naturally, I woke up on Saturday and put on a waitress’ attire: jean shorts and a black shirt with converse and, of course, a fresh coat of sunscreen. I was convinced I was ready to face the day!

The morning of the competition, Eric, Ken, Travis, and my dad were all standing in front of our garage loading and packing. At 7:30, we got the truck ready and piled in three cars to head to the bar.

Our team’s name was Tailgate Trail, so aside from focusing on BBQ (obviously), our theme revolved around sports (mostly college). Besides the painted smoker, we also advertised a love for sports in our clothes. With Eric’s University of Virginia shirt, Ken’s Kansas City shirt, and my dad’s Delta State University hat, we were supporting plenty of teams!

my dad's spicy New Orleans Chaurice

my dad’s spicy New Orleans Chaurice

The first thing we did after we set up under the tent we were given was to light the smoker and get things started. At 10:00, we were allowed to put the ribs on, and we let those cook until about 3:00. Next to the ribs, we put on my dad’s homemade, hand-ground spicy New Orleans Chaurice sausage, shaped into small bites for sample sizes. When they were done, Eric stuck toothpicks in each individual sausage and I cut them apart. We served them alongside little cups of garlic aioli, and they were a crowd favorite for sure. A friendly competitor from the tent next to us was named Antonio, and he loved our sausage so much he said we should sell them!

Next up, my dad grilled some wings on our make-shift grill (the smokebox– see left) and tossed them in his home-made buffalo wing sauce. A wing per plate, we handed them out as samples and got just as good feedback as we did on the sausages. People chose between Ranch and Bleu Cheese dressing on the side, because the wing sauce definitely had a kick to it.

My pralines were given out last, a sweet reminder to “vote for Team Tailgate Trail”. It was a nice treat to have after standing in the sun for a few hours, and the crowd seemed to like them a lot. The leftovers went to me and Emma, a girl I met at the event and really liked.

Finally, it was time to get the ribs plated and to the judges! We took the foil off of them and sliced up all nine racks, putting 8 ribs on a single plate to give to the judges and keeping the rest for customers. A ticket per rib, we gave away every single rib except the last one (which we ate). People chose between our South Carolina mustard-style sauce or our original Red, and both were well-liked. My personal favorite is the mustard-style, but my dad’s friend Ken (being from Kansas City) preferred the red BBQ sauce. All we were waiting for now were the awards!

After we cleared up a bit and socialized, the owner of the bar decided to announce the awards. Antonio’s team, next to us, won the People’s Choice Award, which I think was the real winner. Another group, who we hadn’t talked to, won the judges’ pick. Last up, the host chose his own favorite… “Team Tailgate Trail”. He said that our team was what The Shack was all about, and that he was glad we had come and hoped to see us next year! We may not have really won anything… but we weren’t there for a trophy. We were there to make good food that the people enjoyed, to have this experience as a memory and (hopefully) the first of many rib trials, and just to have fun! What can I say, we did just that.

The Shack’s Annual Rib-Off– see you next year!

A Fantastic Week!

Go Southbayfood.com!

Go Southbayfood.com!

This week has been crazy, but rewarding!  Today is Easter, and this week was my Spring Break, not to mention three articles were published about our own southbayfood.com!  Talented reporter Stephanie Cary (@stephiecary) interviewed me about my blog and wrote an astounding article about my culinary love and my likes and dislikes in the kitchen.  Congratulations to Stephanie on her article being printed in both The Daily Breeze and The Beach Reporter (as well as online with several newspapers partnered with The Daily Breeze)!

Thanks to The Daily Breeze for the great picture!

Thanks to The Daily Breeze for the great picture!

Also, Grub Street LA’s blog posted a piece about young chefs elevating, and southbayfood.com was a big part of it.  They were very supportive of kids’ talents, but just so you know, I’m no professional chef.  I’m just a girl who is still learning and following her interests.  Thank you, Grub Street Los Angeles!

I haven’t done much for Spring Break, but here is the news flash on Easter 2013 …

 

 

Happy Easter!

********

Our Creative Creation

Our Creative Creation

“Perfect!” my dad smiled proudly, as I placed the last decoration upon our watermelon Easter egg basket.  We had just hauled every last bit of watermelon from the rind.  We filled the watermelon three-fourths the way full with fake grass, and then I carefully placed our polychromatic Easter eggs in the basket.

What you need:

  • One watermelon (pick a size that will fit your contents), or other melon
  • A melon baller or a scoop
  • Paper towels or fake grass to cushion the eggs (or whatever your basket will contain)
  • Easter eggs, refreshments or whatever else you will stash in your basket
The delightful by-product of our creation was a boatload of melon balls.  We might do something artistic with them before devouring the sweetness, but most likely, they will just end up in our mouths in about 2.5 seconds!
Merry Easter! ;)

Merry Easter! 😉

 

Happy Easter and Spring, and have a great day!

An Unbeatable Breakfast

Hallelujah!

Hallelujah!

One crucial concept you must know to cook:  “Mise en place,” a useful phrase meaning “everything in place or set up.” Every chef who excels must know how to set up, and how to clean up.

Remind yourself of “mise en place” every time before you cook.  Why use this important phrase?  Later, you will not be running all over the kitchen in order to find what you need.  Second, you will make sure you actually have every ingredient before cooking.  Running out of stock when you are creating a dish would never be a good thing.  So, I suggest that you use “miss en place” whenever you are in the kitchen.

*******

Sharing My Ideas With the World

Sharing My Ideas With the World

This morning, I decided to make Mini-German Pancakes for our family breakfast.  I thought it would be nice to make breakfast without any help, so no one else would have to work for a delicious breakfast.  (Dad sat this one out!)  German pancakes are “a mildly sweet pancake, oven-cooked in a skillet until brown and puffy.”  I personally prefer them with fresh fruit or a good-quality fruit syrup, like our unique Blackberry Patch “Whole Blackberry Syrup” or “Peach Cobbler Syrup” from Belgian Waffle Works in Lake Arrowhead.  I enjoy these delicacies with my dad’s tasty sauteed cinnamon apples.  So, let’s see what’s on our menu today …

********

Mise En Place

Mise En Place

Step 1:  “Mise en Place.”

  1. First, lay out your recipe (ours being Bobby Flay’s Mini-German Pancake recipe) in your workspace.  Also, read through your recipe carefully to make sure you have the ingredients, the right quantity, and it is in your time range.
  2. Second, preheat the oven.  For this recipe, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Next, once you are positive you are capable of cooking the dish, lay out all of the ingredients, including refrigerated items.
  4. In addition, get yourself ready:  Get your hair out of the way, roll up your sleeves, and make sure to wash your hands.  Now, you are ready.

Step 2:  Follow your recipe.

Blending it Up

Blending it Up

Bobby Flay’s Mini-German Pancakes

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 heaping tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (we used Mexican vanilla and we might have put a bit too much — totally on accident!)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (we did not include orange zest, but feel free to try it and comment about how it works out)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (we used Trader Joe’s Pink Himalayan Salt)
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Powdered sugar to sprinkle

Directions:

  1. Pour O Pour the Pancake Batter

    Pour O Pour the Pancake Batter

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Blend eggs in a blender until smooth and frothy.
  3. Then add milk, sugar, vanilla, and zest (optional).  Blend again to smooth.
  4. Add the flour, butter, and salt, and blend for about one minute.
  5. Spray muffin tins well with nonstick cooking spray.
  6. Pour batter into each muffin tin, filling about three-quarters full.
  7. Bake until golden and puffy on top, about 15 minutes.
  8. Remove and let sit on baking rack or stovetop for a few minutes.
  9. Remove the individual pancakes to a platter.
Bon Appetit!

Bon Appetit!

Serve with syrups, whipped cream, and powdered sugar. Enjoy!  I personally make a deep cut into my German pancake and let all of my syrups pour out.  While I am eating, I dip pieces of my pancake into the dripping syrup.

 

 

Heaven

Heaven

Notice:  Beware!  Almost immediately after these delights are taken from the warm oven, they start to collapse.  Eat them quickly and enjoy every last bite, because they are not transportable.

Overall, I had a blast making our Mini-German Pancakes!!  I think everyone else enjoyed eating them as much as I did.  Tabitha and I each ate five! Unfortunately, Mom was out, so she could not try our dish, so that meant more for us!  It was certainly a great feeling to call Tabitha down for breakfast and tell her that I made German pancakes.  She said “Thank You” so nicely!

Thank you, Bobby Flay, Tabs, and Dad!  See you next time at Southbayfood.com!

Slurpy Summer Surprise!

Fresh At Home

Fresh At Home

One hot summer day, my dad (surprise, surprise) found a smoothie recipe.  He knocked on my bedroom door while I was reading.  “What do you think about making fresh fruit smoothies for breakfast?”  He said, “We could freeze our smoothies into popsicles, and drink the leftovers as a tasty morning snack.”

And I replied, “I’d love to!”  Here is the recipe we used:

 

 

Before It Is Mixed

Before it is Mixed

Fruit Smoothie Popsicles

1 large banana, peeled and sliced

8 ripe strawberries, stems removed and quartered

4 black plums, pitted and halved or quartered

1/2 cup frozen blueberries (from our fruit picking trip!)

1 cup yogurt (fruit flavored yogurt suggested)

1/4 cup fresh pulp-free orange juice

2 teaspoons honey (we used fresh blueberry honey from our fruit picking trip)

Squeeze It, Tabs!

Squeeze It, Tabs!

Shaved/crushed ice

Materials:  Popsicle molds and a blender.

Put everything in the blender except the crushed ice.  Blend until the texture is of your liking, adding ice until you find it the way you like it.  When you are done mixing, pour into popsicle molds, and freeze.

Drink and enjoy your extra smoothie as a morning snack!

Makes 4 popsicles and 2 smoothies.

*******

Pouring Into the Molds

Pouring Into the Molds

It was a lot of fun to work with such fresh ingredients and make such a sweet, soothing morning refresher.   I cut up the farm-to-table black plums and strawberries, and Tabs cut up the banana all by herself.  Great job!  After adding my self-picked frozen blueberries, we eyeballed yogurt, orange juice, and honey, not to mention lots of crushed ice. And the best part?  Enjoying my “chef’s privileges” as we prepared it:  I ate an exceptionally juicy plum and lots of delicious frozen blueberries!

Family Matters

Family Matters

As I pressed the Start/Stop button on our blender multiple times, I realized it wasn’t what I was doing that was important, but who I was with that brightened my day.  Thanks for a great morning, Tabs and Dad!

That night, Tabs and I shared our delicious popsicles with our friends Luke and Tyler.  We had a great night, and they were both pleased with our creation!

What's the Verdict, Tyler?

What’s the Verdict, Tyler?

Tabs, Luke, and I Had a Blast!
Tabs, Luke, and I Had a Blast!

A Recipe to Keep

Beautiful Red Chard

Beautiful Red Chard

This week, our basket of farm produce from Farm Fresh to You contained two star ingredients:  fresh red chard and plump, multicolored delicata squash.  We decided to combine these two delicious ingredients (and some chicken sausage) to make a wonderful stuffed squash entree.  Now THAT is perfect for fall!

Yummy Seasoning!

Yummy Seasoning!

Right now, I am chopping up the beautiful red chard.  Pretty soon, we will be spooning our ingredients into the skillet over the stove.   First, we cleaned out each half of the delicata squash, and we seasoned the halves with salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Into the oven they go!

Sauteed Deliciousness

Sauteed Deliciousness

Out of the corner of my eye, I see the popping sensation of red onions, bell peppers, chicken sausage, and garlic.   But really, all my mind senses is the savory smell of this concoction!  Next, the cooked wild rice is added to the pungent mixture to make the colorful stuffing that you could use for anything. 

Stuffing the Squash

Stuffing the Squash

The now-soft squash, which has been roasting with oil in the oven for the past several minutes, are finally browned.  As I spoon the rice/veggie/meat mixture into the striped colorful squash, my mouth almost drools with excitement.  I can’t wait to try our creation!

Our entree was delicious!  That is why we use fresh produce!

Stuffed

Stuffed

******

Farm Fresh to You

www.farmfreshtoyou.com

Kitchen Kid Cooking Camp: What a Week! :)

Me and Counselors Ashley and Cindy

Me and Counselors Ashley and Cindy

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a cooking class camp called Kitchen Kids.  This week was Italian Week, which was called “Mangia! Mangia!” meaning “More! More!”  I had so much fun learning the different ways to use different knives safely, how to core and seed or pit fruits, and lots of other things that were useful in the kitchen.  I made lots of friends, including Ellen, Jackson, Wiley, and Jocelyn.  Our counselors (Cindy, Ashley, and Sam) were incredibly nice, helpful, and experienced. 

Dream Bruschetta Bar - Yum, yum, yum!

Dream Bruschetta Bar - Yum, yum, yum!

My least favorite dish was the caramelized carrots, but they weren’t so bad.  Four of my favorite dishes we made were:  the bruschetta bar, the zucchini risotto, the fluffy potato onion soup, and the chocolate and cocoa powder truffles.  The bruschetta bar had three different kinds of bruschetta:  a ricotta cheese and chopped kalamata olive spread, a cannellini bean spread, and a tomato, garlic, and basil bruschetta (my favorite!).

Me and Some Friendly Campers

Me and Some Friendly Campers

 

On the first day of cooking camp, I made focaccia bread, basil pesto, and broiled zucchini and potatoes with parmesan crust.  Jocelyn and I worked on the whole wheat focaccia bread (which had basil) while Wiley and Jackson worked on the white bread focaccia (which was topped with rosemary).  Then, Wiley and Jackson worked on the pesto, and Jocelyn and I worked on the parmesan crusted veggies.  This recipe was adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, my favorite Italian chef on Food Network.  Here is the delicious, kid-friendly, 3-step recipe:

Ashley, Ellen, and I At Work

Ashley, Ellen, and I At Work

Broiled Zucchini and Potatoes With Parmesan Crust

4 small new potatoes, red or white, about 1.5 inches in diameter

2 TBS butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves

2 small zucchinis, cut in half lengthwise (about 1 inch wide by 5 inches long)

Pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 grated parmesan

1.   Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Add the potatoes and cook until just tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and let them cool.  When cool, cut the potatoes in half.

2.   Place a medium saute pan over medium heat.  Add the butter, garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and let cook until the butter melts, about 2 minutes.  Meanwhile, season the cut sides of the zucchini and potatoes with salt and pepper.  Carefully place the zucchini and potatoes, cut side down, in the melted butter.  Let them cook until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. 

3.   Preheat the broiler, and line a baking sheet with foil.  Place the browned zucchini and potatoes on the baking sheet, cut side up.  Sprinkle the tops with the parmesan.  Place under the broiler until the cheese is golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and serve.

So good!  Makes 4 servings.

*****

The focaccia was a big success!  I enjoyed the crunch of the thin wheat more than the soft doughiness of the white bread, but I adored the rosemary’s strong delicate flavor.  Here’s the easy, four-step recipe:

Focaccia Bread Recipe

Flour for the work surface

1 1-lb package refrigerated white pizza dough

1 1-lb package refrigerated wheat pizza dough

12 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper

8 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 1/2 cup shredded asiago cheese

1 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary needles

1 1/2 tsp fresh basil leaves, chopped

For the white focacccia:

1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Spray and 8 x 8 square pan with Pam or nonstick spray, and then gently press the dough into it.  You may also do a free-form loaf by stretching the dough into an 8 x 12 rectangle pan and placing it on a parchment-covered cookie sheet.

3.  Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.  Use your fingers to make dimples in the dough.

4.   Bake for 5 minutes, and remove from oven.  Brush the dough with the remaining oil and sprinkle with the garlic, rosemary, and asiago cheese.  Return to oven until golden brown, approximately 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

For the wheat focacccia:

Use the same steps as the white focaccia, just substitute wheat pizza dough for the white dough, and substitute basil for the rosemary.

******

The basil pesto was extraordinary!  I loved watching Jackson and Wiley make it in my rare free time; it seemed like tons of fun! 

The other group (Ellen, Erin, and Tyrell) made Giada’s marinara sauce (obviously adapted from Giada) and honey-drenched struffoli (adapted from Mario Batali).  I couldn’t believe that there were healthy vegetables in Giada’s marinara.  It was so good it could have been served in a restaurant!  Yum!  The honey-drenched struffoli (also known as Christmas fritters, or little round dough balls) was very well made, but I personally don’t love sprinkles, and they put rainbow sprinkles on top.

Jocelyn and I Serving Cheesecakes

Jocelyn and I Serving Cheesecakes

What a fun week at Kitchen Kids!  There is a camp in Santa Monica, California and one in Manhattan Beach, California.  I’m so glad I found one!  Thank you to Ashley, Cindy, and Sam for inspiring me to do even more cooking at home, and to all my fellow campers for helping me along the way!

***

 

Kitchen Kid Cooking Camp

www.kitchenkid.com

Tel:  (310) 450-3462

Life in the Caribbean, Day 3: A Journey Around Our Island

Today, we went on a kayak tour of St. John.  First, we paired up:  me and Mom in one kayak, and Tabs and Dad in the other.  A nice couple from Texas, who were on their honeymoon, came with us.  Their names were Bill and Jessa.  We started from Cruz Bay, which is St. John’s largest town, and we set out for Honeymoon Beach, which you can only get to by water or by hiking.  We beached our kayaks and snorkeled there for about 30 minutes.  This was my first real snorkeling ever!  Dad, Bill, Jessa, tour guide Scott, and I saw some really cool turtles and coral reef.  Bill, Jessa, and Scott saw a puffer fish under a coral rock, but Dad and I couldn’t get under the rock enough to see it.

Next, we kayaked to Henley Cay (prounouced “key”).  On the way there, I got a huge itching rash on my neck and chin from the too-big life jacket.  It stung and itched really bad!

When we arrived at Henley Cay, we snorkeled some more.  Dad and I saw some amazing fish!  They were striped thousands of tropical colors, and they were … just beautiful!  After another 30 minutes of snorkeling, we made the long trip back to Cruz Bay’s shore.  During our cruise back, the wind and waves seemed to be tearing us apart.  The currents were always carrying us to the right.  It was a hard way back, but we made it!  We had some problems, but the tour was definitely still worthwhile!  Thank you, Scott from Arawak Expeditions!

*****

Juicy, Red, and Irresistable!

Juicy, Red, and Irresistable!

After the kayak tour, we went out to lunch at the Beach Bar.  We ate at a table right on the sand.  What a great spot!  While we waited for our food, Tabs and I played in the ocean.  I had tender delicious seared tuna bites that came with a creamy, delightful sauce.  The sauce was a cilantro ranch dip.  I also had two virgin coladas, one banana and one pineapple.  Everyone gave the Beach Bar five seashells!

After lunch, we shopped a bit in Cruz Bay.   We decided to cook at “home” tonight, to save a little money.  That is a good tip for eating on vacation:  Cook at home at least a little bit, instead of going out to restaurants every night. 

Aaron's Catch of the Day

Aaron's Catch of the Day

Searching for some fish that we could grill, we went to Cruz Bay’s spice store and the fish market attached to The Fish Trap restaurant.  At the spice store, we bought two mixes:  Spiced Pirates Pepper and Black Voodou Grilling Spice.  At the fish market, we met Aaron, the owner.  He was incredibly kind, and he told us about a fish called corvino that was — according to him — a delicate, flaky white fish.  We ended up buying two long mahi mahi filets and one wahoo steak, as well as some fresh shrimp, and headed “home.”

*****

Seasoning Up the Fish

Seasoning Up the Fish

Right now, I am making dinner with Dad.  We are grilling the mahi mahi and wahoo fish filets.  I sprinkled our newly-bought spices on to the fish.  I put the Spiced Pepper on the wahoo, and I put the Black Voudou spice on the mahi mahi.  I also made garlic bread, and Dad made grilled shrimp and fried mashed plantains called “tostones.”  Mmmm!  Tonight is going to be a good dinner night!

Grilling Our Dinner

Grilling Our Dinner

Dinner tonight was very satisfying.  It was ranked by everyone in the house.  Both Mom and I gave it four seashells (stars).  Dad voted 3 1/2 seashells, and Tabs, although she hated everything except the pina coladas, voted 5 out of 5 seashells. (I don’t think she quite understands the meaning of rating.) 

The fish was very tender and juicy.  The mahi mahi was softer and less cooked than the wahoo, which I liked, but the wahoo, in my opinion, had way more flavor. 

Our Island Feast!

Our Island Feast!

Believe it or not, it was my first time trying mahi mahi, and guess what?  I didn’t really like it.  How do people LOVE that fish?  I personally thought it had no flavor, but the rubs and spices were fantastic. 

 

Tostones are Not for Me!

Tostones are Not for Me!

Mom really loved the tostones (plantains), and Dad liked them, but Tabs and I didn’t really like them at all.  The sweet shrimp had no seasoning but were still desirable to anyone who enjoys shellfish.  Overall, dinner was pretty good, and we saved a little money.  See you tomorrow!

 

***

Arawak Expeditions

P.O. Box 853

Mongoose Junction

Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI 00831

Tel:  (340) 693-8312

www.arawakexp.com

***

The Beach Bar

Wharfside Village

Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI 00831

Tel:  (340) 777-4220

www.beachbarstjohn.com

 

 

 

***

The Fish Trap Restaurant and Seafood Market

Raintree Court

Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI 00831

Tel:  (340) 693-9994

www.thefishtrap.com

***

The Shelves of St. John Spice

The Shelves of St. John Spice

St. John Spice

P.O. Box 1693

Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI 00831

Tel:  (340) 693-7046

www.stjohnspice.com

 

 

Making Sushi!

 

My Sushi Plate!

My Sushi Plate!

Yesterday, I made sushi rolls for dinner.  First, we had to go to the store to buy crab (surimi imitation crab or real cooked crab), rice wine vinegar, sushi rice, nori, and a collection of other ingredients that we needed.  When we bought all of these foods, we drove home to make our delicious Japanese dinner.  I had a teacher named Ms. Nakano who loved cooking, and she gave me this recipe.  Thank you, Ms. Nakano!  Here’s how we made it:

Megan’s California Rolls

1 package sushi nori (roasted seaweed sheets)

6 TBS rice wine vinegar

2 TBS sugar

2 tsp salt

3 cups medium grain sushi rice

1/2 large cucumber

2 avocados

lemon juice

2 small carrots

cooked crab or imitation/surimi crab

wasabi

soy sauce

1/2 cup sliced jicama

To make the sticky rice:   Put the rice wine vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan, and heat until the sugar dissolves. Let it cool.   Put the rice in a large bowl, and wash it several times until the water comes out clear.  Soak the rice in water for 30 minutes, and then drain all the water.  Put the rice and 4 cups of water into a rice cooker, and press the button.   When the rice is done, put it into a large bowl and let it cool for five minutes.  Drizzle in the rice wine vinegar mixture, and gently fluff it all together.

 

Slicing Up the Avocado

Slicing Up the Avocado

To prepare the sushi fillings:   Seed and peel the cucumber, peel the carrots, and pit and peel the avocados.  Slice the cucumber, carrots, jicama, and avocado into thin strips.  Cut the crab legs into two thin slices each.

To make the rolls:   Lay out a sushi nori sheet onto a cutting board or sushi mat.  Spoon some rice onto the nori sheet, leaving one rice-free inch at the top and bottom of the sheet.  Place rows of veggies, crab, and/or avocado from left to right.  Don’t cover the whole sheet with rows of filling, or the sushi rolls will be too fat.  Carefully roll the sushi rolls away from you tightly until it is a tube.   When you get the other side, wet the upper rice-free nori edge to seal it together.  If the roll is not holding together, moisten another piece of nori and put your roll, seam-side down, in the middle of the sheet, and roll it up tightly.  Repeat with more rolls until your filling is gone. When you are ready to eat, slice and serve with the optional soy sauce and wasabi.  Eat and enjoy!

Filling Up the Rolls

Filling Up the Rolls

 We loved our rolls, which we served with a Japanese cucumber salad, with our cucumbers delivered from the farm.  We also had steak kabobs, which were bite-sized pieces of New York strip steak and squash grilled on a skewer.  The cucumber salad was very good, and it was gone by the half-way point of dinner! 

Slicing Up the Sushi Rolls

Slicing Up the Sushi Rolls

The sushi was much loved, and will be made again, because it was so much fun as a family activity too!  (Even little Tabs rolled one!)  Overall, the sushi was amazing! 

On the Fourth of July…

Happy Birthday, America!

Happy Birthday, America!

Happy Independence Day!  For my family, this celebrated day was filled with fun!  In the morning, Mom, Tabs, and I saw “Monte Carlo.”  I really liked it!  My dad saw “X-Men:  First Class,” which was apparently a very memorable experience for him.  It was his favorite movie all summer, and he has seen “Green Lantern”!  (“Green Lantern” got bad reviews, but I loved it, and so did he.) 

After our movie, Mom, Tabs, and I read our books in the car for what seemed like an hour, waiting for “X-Men:  First Class” to end.  Although the wait was long, I was too captivated by my science-fiction fantasy mystery to notice the flying time.  My breathtaking book was called “Magyk.”  It is the first of a series by Angie Sage.  You may not have heard of this author, but kids should read her books.

Paisanos Pizzeria

Paisanos Pizzeria

As time went by, I started to wonder if Dad’s movie was supposed to be this long …  Finally, my dad approached our car with a smile.  “So, he liked his movie,” I thought.  When everyone was in my mother’s burgundy Pilot, we drove home.  After a quick change of clothes, we headed downtown to Paisano’s Pizza, one of my favorite pizzerias.  After polishing off a good and greasy slice of sausage pizza, we ran downtown to the overly crowded beach.  We found a spot where Tabs and I could see our parents from the ocean, and they could see us.  Perfect!

Celebrating America's Food

Celebrating America's Food

After a few fun hours of swimming and splashing, we walked home, and my dad made an Americana feast.  Burgers, hot dogs, milkshakes … we had it all!  The burgers were juicy and meaty, and if you added the spiciness of Phillippe’s mustard, you had a pretty tasty burger.  The tender beef was delicious!

We ate our Nathan’s hot dogs right after we watched a Nathan’s hot dog-eating contest on TV. 

Eating Just ONE Hot Dog

Eating Just ONE Hot Dog

What a disaster!  The men’s high score was eaten by Joey Chestnutt, who ate 62 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes!  That is what I call disgusting!  The women’s winner, Sonya Thomas, ate 40 hot dogs.  Even though it was not as many as the men’s score, it was still gross!  After the contest, no one was in the mood for a fat greasy hot dog, but they were still decent.  

The Skor candy bar and dulce de leche milkshakes were heavenly.  The blended toffee crunched as we chomped on the addicting pieces, and the rest slid down my throat.  Yum!

Delicious Deviled Eggs!

Delicious Deviled Eggs!

Guess what else we had?!  We had one of my favorites:  deviled eggs!   The yolk mixture was creamy and delicate, and the egg whites offered some moisture.  Here is our deviled eggs recipe.  We spice it up with hot mustard, but you can use regular mustard if you want.

Dad’s Deviled Eggs

6 boiled eggs

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 TBS spicy or regular mustard

1 tsp vinegar

Salt & Pepper

Slice eggs in half, lengthwise.  Pop out the yolks into a small bowl. Set the egg whites aside. 

Mash the egg yolks into crumbs.  Add the vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper to the yolks.  Stir thoroughly with a mixer or a fork. 

Using two spoons, fill the egg white cups with yolk mixture until all 12 cups are filled.  (We like to over-fill our egg cups!)  Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper, sliced green onions, and/or cajun seasoning.  Serve happily and enjoy!

We ended our day with a beautiful display of American fireworks.  We watched the fireworks from our roof!  What a day!  Please tell me about your Independence Day by commenting below.  As always, thank you for reading!

 
 
 

BOOOM!   BOOOM!

BOOOM! BOOOM!

Paisano’s New York Style Pizza and Pasta

1132 Hermosa Avenue

Hermosa Beach, California 90254

Tel:  (310) 376-9883

http://paisanospizzahb.com/home/

Farmer Eric’s Garden of Fruit!

Under the Grapefruit Tree
Under the Grapefruit Tree

One Sunday, my family went to my dad’s friend Eric’s house in Mar Vista.  We were there to harvest some fruit, because he has lots of fruit trees, like a farmer. 

Climbing the Apricot Trees

Climbing the Apricot Trees

We picked and tasted grapefruit, apricots, loquats, and figs.  The grapefruit were all so juicy and sour, but there was more rind than fruit on most of the wedges.  The apricots were soft and were bubbling with juice.  I couldn’t stop eating them.  So addicting!

Beautiful Figs!

Beautiful Figs!

The figs weren’t my favorite.  I didn’t really taste much in them, but they had a smooth texture that I liked.  Last, but not least, were the loquats.   Its texture was like a peach, and it tasted kind of like a peach.  I didn’t like them as much as I thought I might, because I love kumquats.

As we walked out the door, we picked some rosemary from the bush in Eric’s front yard.  The rosemary’s fragrance filled

Gorgeous Apricots
Gorgeous Apricots

the air, and I could have stood there forever smelling the luscious plant!

Eric has a very successful rosemary bush, and right next to it was a peach tree.  Soon, the peaches will be ripe and ready to eat.

Eric also has a colossal tree in his front yard with beautiful looking and smelling flowers. Tabitha and I each got to take one home because we liked the smell so much.  Tabitha couldn’t stop smelling the huge aromatic flowers!

What kind of tree is this?

What kind of tree is this?

 

We came home with loads of harvested fruit, and we can’t thank Eric enough.  Thank you!

At home, we made an apricot tart from the apricots we picked.  Here is our recipe:



Megan’s Apricot Raspberry Tarts

Eat and Enjoy!
Eat and Enjoy!

2 sheets puff pastry, thawed

Sugar

5-6 apricots

4 raspberries

4 mint sprigs 

Seedless apricot preserves

  • That's how I roll!
    That’s how I roll!

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  • Sprinkle sugar over both sides of one pastry sheet.  Roll out the sheet to approximately 12 by 12 inches square. 
  • Put a soup bowl upside down in the corner of the sheet, but leave space for another bowl in the opposite corner.  Cut along the side of the bowl with a knife to create a cutout circle. 
  • Repeat to cut out another circle from the sheet.  Repeat twice for the other sheet of pastry.  You should have four good circles.
  • Place the four circles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle each circle lightly with more sugar.
  • Painting the Pastries Pink!
    Painting the Pastries Pink!

    Microwave raspberry preserves for 30 seconds.  Using a pastry brush, lightly dab on some of the preserves.  Cover each circle with a light layer of preserves.  Place 8 thin wedges of apricot on each puff pastry circle.  Face the corners in, like the spokes on a wheel.

  • Add a raspberry in the middle of the 8 wedges, like a centerpiece.
  • Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry turns a brownish-gold.
Fresh From the Oven
Fresh From the Oven
  • Slip the corner of a mint sprig under each raspberry to make it look like a rose with its leaf!
  • Sprinkle powdered sugar on top and serve.  I suggest serving them warm with ice cream.

The tart was very sweet, not to mention how pretty it was.  I was very proud of my creation.   What dishes that you have baked are you most proud of?  Please leave me a comment below!