Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Roast Pork Mondays at Gene's Grinders

I should have known this was the place to go for a great sandwich. Fire trucks and emergency vehicles were everywhere. Hungry firemen were all in line and each one ordered the Monday special, the roast pork sandwich. The picture does not do justice to this creation. This is an awesome sandwich! On Mondays it is the special of the day, along with the kielbasa sandwich, but I went for the pork, of course! Oh man, and this is the small. Look at that ton of meat! Layers and layers of moist, tender roasted pork, sliced thin and just enough, topped on a fresh French roll. Mayo, a big helping of tomato slices, lettuce, and if you like, pepperoncini. Worth the wait, though the line was long. Hey, those cute firemen can always go ahead of me!
Gene's Grinders
800 S. Myrtle Ave.
Monrovia CA 91016
For fast pick up, phone in your order

Friday, July 11, 2008

There's a New Thai in Town - Thai House in the Plaza

Directly across the street from the McD's, is a tiny little Thai restaurant. Parking is available in the mall, but they face a very busy street and on more than one visit, they were closed. Same thing with the taco place next door. I have never seen that place open either. Well, on a frightfully mucky summer night, armed with a coupon in hand, I dragged myself into the Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors here in town. There it was, Thai House has branched out and just recently opened up a beautifully decorated, chic and modern larger location near the ice cream store. This one is down the street from the old one, less than a block. If you stand outside one location, you can see their other location. Quickly, I placed my to-go order, ran to the 31 Flavors, where I knew there would be a wait, got my mini sundae, and ran back to the Thai House and just in time, because my order was ready.

OK, so I wimped out and ordered the #87 pad thai chicken & boba tea, but it was my first time. It won't be my last. Tender pieces of lightly sauteed chicken, crispy fresh veggies, and a ton of pan-fried noodles all in a delicately flavored sauce. It went perfect with my 31 Flavors dessert. The Thai House menu offers over 114 dishes, plus they have a lunch menu Monday thru Friday. It's gonna take me a while to get through their menu, wish me luck!

Thai House (in the Plaza)
2080 S. Atlantic Blvd.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Open Monday thru Sunday (?)
9 am - 9 pm
$20 minimum on credit card

Monday, June 30, 2008

Remembering Food Pioneers in America

This year we have lost a number of folks who were pioneers in local and national food history. Gone to that big soda fountain, big hot dog cart, big burger joint, and big grocery store in the sky. Though not generally considered "gourmet" or "celebrity chef" status, their contributions to American cuisine are as important and iconic as the "Bon appetit!" wishes from Julia Child, or the hearty "Bam!" from Emeril. Among this dearly departed group are the Pringles can inventor, the man behind "Great food close to home" Baker's Drive-Thru located in the Inland Empire, one of the 31 Flavors Ice Cream founders, and the guy who started with a simple hot dog cart and turned it into an empire, Carl's Jr., and the partner in CKE, the founder of Hardee's.

In their honor, and since soon we will celebrate Independence Day, let us remember these American food pioneers. Over the month of July we will take a look back at these five and how they earned their place in food history. Each one will get a special post dedicated to them here at La Vida Dulce. I am currently in the midst of working on some projects, but things should settle down around the middle of the month. Ay, que cosas! Keep cool, hasta luego amigos!

Friday, June 06, 2008

National Donut Day!

Yes, amigos, today is National Donut Day. Around here we believe everyday should be donut day. And they have no calories. Ha! But don't laugh too much, because there is a real history behind this holiday that dates back to WWI and the Salvation Army. Click on the "Serious Eats" link and enjoy reading more about doughnuts.

La Vida Dulce also has a history of donut admiration, dating back to the Helms Man and the yummy glazed donuts. Those delicious Helms donuts called your name out loud! Helms has gone away to the heavenly place where all good things dwell. Since then I have been on a quest for donut perfection.

Donut Numero Uno at La Vida Dulce is the buttermilk glazed and the apple fritter is a greasy close second, with raised glazed coming in at number 3. The best buttermilk glazed are served up at the Olympic Donuts located at the corner of Brooklyn (Chavez) and Mednik. Crunchy outside, tender and light inside, covered in a sweet sugary coating---it doesn't get any better. But this is a mom & pop shop and sorry, amigos, no freebies here. Not an everyday choice, but a nice little piece of heaven once in a while or once a month.

Close behind in second place in creating buttermilk donut perfection is the Shell Gas Station at the corner of Atlantic Blvd. & Riggin/Brooklyn/Chavez (you know how street names change from one city to the next) where they actually make fresh donuts in a tiny space next to the counter where you pay for cigs, lottery tix, & gas. Winchell's used to be pretty good, but try and find a real Winchell's anymore, but that would be third place.

So go out and enjoy a warm donut with a cuppa joe! Couldn't hurt.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Boom(ers)!

Yeah, amigos, we are all getting older, even that beefy burrito of manhood, Indiana Jones. Hope he has plenty of Salonpas for all those sore muscles from saving the world. Must be getting harder for him to open up that can of whoop-ass, and crack that whip. A few years back, I was upset when Harrison left the wife and took up with a younger chick. (I hear the divorce settlement was $$$$$.) Lots of boomer guys take that route. So do the "Cougars" the older women who go after younger men. That works for them and I sure hope they are happy. Didn't work for me. It was hard for me to date out of my species. "See honey, this is the Beatles," I held up the CD and explained to my much younger companion about John, Paul, George and Ringo. He was sweet, always a gentleman, but the age difference made things impossible, since I was constantly having to stop in the middle of the conversation, to ask if he understood what I was saying---ay!

So what kind of mischief does our Indy get into this time? Well, I'd like to think he's up late, sitting at the dining table, room dimly lit, smoke rings wafting about. He puts down the cigar into a dirty ashtray, and he takes a swig of whiskey. Then the camera moves in and he's going through his Medicare supplemental health insurance plan. Suddenly he stands up, picks up the papers and flings the stack into the fireplace, ashes and sparks fly everywhere.

Or he's standing in line at the DMV and suddenly they make him take his behind the wheel test over again. Or he's at the table again, only this time he's putting all his meds into the little plastic SMTWTFS container, all the time swearing because he can't get the child-proof lids open. Or better still, he gets pulled over on the bus going down to Mexico for the El Cheapo Rx's, fighting with the Federales, "Chuy, I have a real Americano prescription for these pills!" I'd like to think of him as being just like the rest of us boomers. Getting kinda creaky around the edges, but still full of fire and passion. Raiders of the assisted living center, that's us!

Come sit over here, Indy, and let me fix you a "mock-tail" granita that won't interfere with your meds. It's from another little hunk of beef-cake, the "Take-Home Chef" Curtis on TLC Channel. Yeah, I'd consider being a cougar over him in a heartbeat! His version is with passion fruit, of course! This one is watermelon, so cool and refreshing. Just what Dr. Jones ordered. Salud, viejo!

WATERMELON GRANITA - adapted from Chef Curtis Stone, The Take-Home Chef
4 cups diced watermelon, or other tropical summer fruit
1 cup simple syrup, made from 2 cups water & 1 cup granulated sugar
brought just to a boil in a small saucepan, then cooled to room temp
1 oz. jigger rum or tequila, optional or omit on Doctor's orders
Blend the watermelon and cooled simple syrup till liquefied. Pour into an 8x8 glass pyrex or corning ware pan. Place in freezer. After an hour, remove and scrape the top, making fruit snow. Return to freezer, and repeat again. Serve in a cocktail or martini glass, garnish with a lime slice or mint leaf. Paper umbrella and jigger of rum or tequila optional. Note: Equal or Splenda may be used instead of simple syrup.

Play a word game, win free rice!

Check out this link I found over at the fine folks who blog at Peanut Butter Etouffee, their link is:

At Free Rice, you take a guess at the word definitions and collect grains of rice for distribution to those in need. Enjoy your day and keep thinking good thoughts. Our world sure needs them.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Remember the Taco Truck!

Hola! Join Pulitzer Prize winning food author Jonathan Gold, Barry Glassner, the author of "The Culture of Fear and The Gospel of Food," Chris Rutherford, co-founder of the groundroots movement site saveourtacotrucks.org, and fellow foodie Chowhound.com's C. Thi Nguyen as they present "Remember the Taco Truck" on May 22nd at the Los Angeles Center Theatre. The link above has all the info. "Carne Asada is Not A Crime!" We present our evidence.

Above right we have for your pleasure carne asada, marinated in secret herbs and spices that would make the Colonel lick his chops. Prepared on a flat top, and grilled with onions, peppers, pickled zanahoria (those hot and spicy sliced carrots!), and served with potato salad, spicy beans, and freshly warmed corn tortillas. Hombre, it doesn't get any better.

To the left, for your non-beefy enjoyment, try either the fresh fish or fresh shrimp tacos, no Mrs. Paul's or Gorton's fisherman for our amigos. So fresh, you could swear they were still flapping! Served al estilo de Mazatlan, with thinly sliced cabbage, crema, spicy fresh salsa with onions, and lime wedges. Warmed fresh corn tortillas, a hefty portion of beans (no rice this time) and to wash it down, a frosty cold bottle of Coca-Cola from Mexico, sweetened with cane sugar, no high fructose corn syrup. Try it with a lime in the bottle, Corona-style. Que sabor!

Por favor, can you show me, amigos, where is the crime here? Just plenty of good food, freshly prepared, and priced to feed the whole familia. Sounds like, in the words of an aging Parrothead from Georgia whom I once knew, some "serious changes in attitudes are desperately needed 'round here." C'mon, man, it's just food, it's La Vida Dulce.

Can you hear the jailhouse conversations?
"What you in for?"
"Tacos, man."
"You robbed a taco stand?"
"No, man, I make carne asada tacos and sell them from a truck."

No, it makes no sense at all. And don't even get me started on the bacon dogs controversy over at Drew Carey's Reason.tv!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

National Chocolate Chip Day

Check this link for chocolate chip recipes from Nestle---enjoy!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Stud Muffins for Mothers Day

Happy Moms day to all. Here's a little gift from La Vida Dulce to moms everywhere, a big batch of freshly made Stud Muffins! Our local news team featured this new cookbook and you can click the title of this post for the link. Why didn't I think of that? Pretty as a bunch of posies, almost tastier than a box of Sees chocolates, and a close second to breakfast in bed. Enjoy!

Monday, May 05, 2008

One Bowl Espresso Nut Brownies

I've been working on a quick-to-fix brownie for quite some time, trying to come up with just the right taste, not too sweet or too heavy. The good folks over at "Coffee Bucks" make a drink concoction with lots of sugary caramel and mocha. What I wanted to do was capture that that same caramel mocha flavor, but without the diabetic coma or the increased waistline. The flavor comes from the addition of instant espresso and vanilla paste. Also, the brown sugar has a deeper sweet taste even though you use less. One brownie recipe called for TWO CUPS in only an 8x8 pan. YIKES.

While this little gem has less sugar than the usual brownie recipes, and it has a soft, cakey texture, not the heft of a dense and chewy brownie. Not that there's anything wrong with those brownies, they certainly have their place on the dessert tray. However, sometimes you just want the flavor, and this one fits just fine. More along the lines of a snack cake, 3 out of 4 college students give these a big thumbs up!

The other challenge was to find the right size pan and I think this little hand-me-down from Granny's glass bakeware collection might be the right fit. The standard 9x13-inch pan resulted in a brownie that was too flat, and the 8x8-inch pan made the batter overflow into a big chocolate mess. This little 12x8 green Pyrex pan saw plenty of pot luck action in its day, and it was just right. I know how Goldilocks must have felt on her third try!

These brownies are dark, rich, and full of flavor. Serve them with or without the cajeta or caramel sauce, and maybe a glass of milk. Measurements are given in volume and weights.

depending on how you cut them

3.35 oz. or 1 cup cocoa
4 oz. or 1 stick unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
5.10 oz or 1 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla paste or extract
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 bar Hershey's milk chocolate with almonds, broken
1 oz. or 1/4 cup chopped pecans, optional
Cajeta or Caramel sauce, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line pan with foil so that it extends about 2-inches over the side. Spray with pan coating or brush with melted butter. Melt the butter in a large enough microwaveable bowl and nuke for about 1 minute at 10 second intervals, taking care so butter does not burn. Remove from nuker and add cocoa & brown sugar, whisking until completely dissolved. Add eggs one at a time, beating in until batter becomes glossy. Add vanilla, espresso powder, salt, soda. Add flour and nuts, mix well. Pour into prepared pan, then add pieces of chocolate bar, if desired. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until springy to the touch. Let cool in pan, then remove using the foil to lift from pan. Cut into squares, garnish with caramel sauce, ice cream, or a simple dusting with powdered sugar.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Chronicles

Let's get it started here! If you send a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) to:

Carl Griffith's
1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough
PO Box 321
Jefferson MD 21755 USA

(and enclose a buck or two to help the cause), the good folks at the 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Preservation Society will send you a portion of dried sourdough starter. Directions on how to grow the starter are on the website, click the link above for more information. http://home.att.net/~carlsfriends/

The site includes the history of the 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough, directions to reactivate the dried start, recipes for breads plus pancakes and more. Over the next few days we will watch how this new start grows and post recipes from Carl's original brochure.

In a small clean container, mix in one tablespoon of lukewarm water, bottled water is best to use if you have hard water. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of Carl's dried start and let stand for a few minutes to soften. Mix in one tablespoon of AP flour, adding a drop or two of water to make the consistency of thin pancake batter. Let sit until the mixture gets bubbly. Then add 1/4 cup water, stir then pour into a larger clean container and then add 1/4 cup flour. When it gets bubbly, add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour. When this gets bubbly you should have about a cup of active start.

Now we are ready to get baking!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bacon Dogs, the real L.A. street food

One of the reasons I love to shop the flower mart and garment district of downtown L.A. is the street food, like the tacos, tamales, and licuados other stuff. But the best street is the bacon dogs, complete with grilled onions, peppers, and zanahorias con chiles. Those are the pickled jalapenos with carrots, not quite as hot, yet they still pack a punch. Drew Carey at reason.TV has lots to say about the subject.

Well, now things have changed and what was once a thriving little entrepreneurial concern has now become a bigger issue, involving fines, arrests and jail time. Are we the only major city in the world that has no real street food culture? And to make things worse, now the taco trucks are getting a bad rap, with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors enforcing new rules that will eventually put most of the trucks out of business.

We find it strange that in the midst of all this food legislation, Food & Wine magazine, the folks who bring you that top-rated and sometimes over-the-top reality show, "Top Chef" currently features an article about some of the best street food to be found in these here United States. We are sorry to find that Los Angeles is not included in the list. And remember last season in San Francisco? The chefs had a team challenge to take street food up a notch and yet keep its simplicity. Hmm. There is a link to that article above.

We should all use common sense when we make choices about what we eat, whether in a real sit-down restaurant or at your Aunt Matilda's. If the food doesn't look or smell good, don't eat it. Fish should smell clean like the ocean. Chicken should not be red in the middle. Keep hot things hot and cold things cold.

I have had my share of bad meals, and the stomach upsets that follow. Yet I never got sick eating a bacon dog from the cart vendor downtown. The fresh orange juice lady on the corner across from culinary school had the cleanest shopping cart I have ever seen. And the pupusa lady on the next corner always had folks queuing up early in the morning. I have had the most delicious meals in places with a red "B" rating, and some of the worst disasters at squeaky clean "A" restaurants.

Here is the response to a letter I sent to my local county supervisor in support of our local street food vendors:
"Thank you for contacting my office to share your views regarding the proposed changes to the Los Angeles County peddling ordinance. Please be aware that this ordinance is effective only in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County and it will become effective after May 15, 2008.

The changes to the ordinance allow vendors to remain in one location in a commercial zone for one hour, which is one-half hour longer than permitted under the existing ordinance. Los Angeles County is not the only jurisdiction that places time restrictions on vending; cities that
border the unincorporated areas have similar restrictions.

Although not everyone is pleased with this ordinance, please be aware that sidewalk vending has never been permitted in Los Angeles County. Our ordinance is a compromise that will allow vending in a manner that protects the health and welfare of our residents, and respects the needs of our business community."

I appreciate your taking the time to express your views. If you require additional assistance with a County-related matter, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (323) 881-4601. Thank you."

Looks like it's a done deal. All that is left to say is that if you are fortunate to have street food vendors in your 'hood, please give them your support.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Peter Reinhart's Pizza

Peter Reinhart is one of my food heroes and if you are the sort who love cookbooks, then La Vida Dulce highly recommends any of his books. His best is "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" and it should be on every baker's bookshelf. The current issue of Fine Cooking magazine dated May 2008 features his pizza formula. This is one dough that takes a bit of time, between kneading, chilling, even freezing, but it is worth every minute. Pages 66-67 show a beautiful classic pizza Margherita, and the article goes on to feature his delicious versions of calzones and strombolis. The pizza pictured here is topped with herbage, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, grated parmesan, hot pepperoni and homemade sausage. The ground pork and pork belly is from my local 99 Ranch Market. It would take me all night to type up this article, so pick up the magazine at newstands everywhere or check it out online at www.finecooking.com. Tutti mangia!

HOMEMADE ITALIAN SAUSAGE - makes about one pound

16 oz. freshly ground pork belly with some fat added (do not fear, fat is flavor, just ask Batali!)
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried sage
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. crushed red chili pepper flakes, optional
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. kosher salt or to taste
(***Note: if you like the taste of dried fennel, add 1/4 tsp., sorry, it's not my favorite seasoning)

Keep ground pork well chilled. In a medium bowl, crush all spices and then combine with the ground pork. Take a small scoop of the seasoned sausage mixture and press into a small patty. Cook over medium heat in a small skillet pan. As the grumpy chef says, cook it till it's done. Test for flavor, then adjust seasonings as necessary. As with all raw meats, wash all surfaces in hot soapy water, and wash your hands. Cover bowl with plastic and let the raw sausage chill in the frige overnight. Like your Granny's potato salad, it tastes better the next day. When you are ready to make the pizzas, scoop out teaspoon-sized balls of sausage and place on top. Sausage will cook completely when baked in a 500 degree oven. Also makes good sausage balls for pasta sauce and for sandwiches.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bunz of Cinnamon

Look all around and it's bad news everywhere. Higher prices at the gas pump and the grocery store, people getting sacked and not in a good way, politicians slinging dirty low-down garbage at each other, money woes on every level. What is it all about, this Vida Dulce? Well, some folks make lemonade out of lemons, and some can make a smile out of limes. Don't quote me, I read that on a Daisy sour cream label. But hold on, I think I have a temporary solution.

Going through some old favorite baking formulas, I came across this one---let's make our life a little bit sweeter with sweet rolls. Buns of steel? Hardly, although these are quite hefty though airy, yet they are not recommended for everyday consumption. Sure, they can be adapted to include nuts (we like pecans) or re-hydrated dried fruits like golden raisins or cranberries, or sticky toffee glaze, even adding chocolate bits to make this simple recipe more delicious and rich. I kept these bunz plain cinnamon iced.

Perhaps the best part is the aroma as they bake and infuse your home with an intoxicating perfume. Yeah, those HIGH PRICED BUN makers know what they are doing as you stroll through the mega mall. I dare you not look their way as pans of "sin"-a-mon bunz (admit it, they are evil) are removed from the ovens and placed in front of the shop windows for all to see. Ahh! Deliciously evil little things, torturing all who breathe in that scent. One bite and you are hooked. But these here bunz are much better for you, actually cost-effective, plus you have the benefit of bragging to all creation that you baked them yourself. Gosh, look at that, I couldn't help myself and ate one before I could find the darn camera. Yep, sure takes the bite out of a lousy economy!

This recipe takes a bit of time, especially waiting for the pre-ferment and the raising of the dough. It is given in weights for accuracy and volume for the heck of it. Hang in there, like all good things, you will be pleasantly rewarded for your efforts. Bon appetit!

CINNAMON ROLLS - adapted from "Crust and Crumb"
by Peter Reinhart
Makes 12 large or 24 regular
13 oz. AP flour (3 cups or less)
4 oz. Cake flour (1/4 cup or more)
Lemon zest, fine (2-3 tsp.)
16 oz. Buttermilk (2 cups)
Mix the buttermilk, flours, and lemon zest in a large bowl by hand, cover with plastic wrap, put in frige for up to 24 hours. Best left in the frige overnight for baking in the morning.

Pre-ferment all 33 ounces of it
15 oz. AP flour (3-1/2 cups or more)
4 oz. granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
2 tbsp. instant yeast
1 tsp. plain salt, not Kosher
1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 oz. unsalted butter, softened (1/2 cup)
Combine all above ingredients, including the pre-ferment in a mixer bowl fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed 1 minute, then on medium speed for about 8 minutes, stopping to check that motor does not overheat. Many KA mixers have gone to meet the Mater Baker In The Sky due to mixing heavy doughs, so make sure you check the top of the mixer for heat. Dough should be soft, smooth, a bit sticky (sounds like one of my ex's) and pass the windowpane test. Take a small piece and stretch it out, it should be translucent. Place kneaded dough into a clean large bowl, take the softened butter wrapper and wipe the top of the dough, cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise 45 minutes to double. You can also place the dough in the frige for one hour, or even freeze it for later use. It will firm up as it cools, the texture is really very nice. When you are ready to rock, remove from frige or freezer and let it come up to room temp. Lightly dust your table surface with flour and roll out the dough into a rectangle about 1/4" thick. Sprinkle on top with a mixture of:

2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
and if desired, mix in
2 tsp. vanilla paste (optional)
Rehydrated raisins, cranberries, etc. (optional)
Chopped nuts, pecans, walnuts, etc. (optional)

Roll up from one end like a jelly roll. Prepare cake pans or a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray or with parchment paper. Cut dough roll into 1" wide pieces and place them spiral side up on prepared pans, allowing 1/2" between them. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temp for about 1 hour, until the dough swirls thicken and the pieces are touching. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place pans in oven on lower third rack. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until bunz are a deep golden brown and firm to the touch. When done let cool slightly on pan while mixing glaze:

Glaze icing:
8 oz. confectioners sugar (2 cups sifted)
2-4 tbsp. cream or 1/2 and 1/2
2-3 drops vanilla, orange, almond or lemon extract
OR 1/2 tsp. vanilla paste

Drizzle glaze on bunz evenly and pull apart to enjoy. You will never crave those mall bunz again.

Friday, April 04, 2008

"Happy, happy happy anniversary..."

"It seems like only yesterday I was yelling at her to clean her room!" I told myself in disbelief. Yes, it is true, today is the 10th anniversary of the Frog Daughter's wedding to my beautiful son-in-law. The young ladies in the wedding party stayed over at our house the night before. Then the brother-in-law to be showed up, due to a late flight, so we put him in the living room on the sofa. To get everyone in the proper mood, we all watched "So I Married An Axe Murderer" which is truly Mike Myers' best performance. "Heed!" as the dad yelling at the bushy-haired son to get out of the way of the TV, and then going off about "The Colonel" and his "wee beady eyes" just cracks me up! Click the post title and to see a snipet from the wedding reception.

Hair dryers, clothes, make-up everywhere, the house looked like a college dorm. Weeks later, I was still finding curlers under the sofa cushions! It was a beautiful wedding, baby girl. Enjoy the day, and remember to start planning the "Vegas" trip. Con mucho carino y besitos to you both!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Too Late For Pullet Surprise

Mea culpa, missed entering this year's contest held over at Peanut Butter Etouffe. Click the title of this post for the winners, and just like Kip, don't I love technology. By the time I looked at my calendar it was a dia late and a peso short. Up to my elbows in changes, drama, and La Vida Dulce in general, I am so glad March is over. On to the good stuff, bring it! So here it is, a late entry, Burritos de papas con huevos y jamon. You will need 2 potatoes, eggs, ham, onions, grated cheese, s/p to taste, (plus salsa, sour cream, jalapeno & cilantro optional), and of course large size tortillas.

In a preheated cast iron skillet on medium-high, brown two potatoes, medium dice, in a bit of olive oil and a splosh of butter. When potatoes are almost ready, add 1/4 cup finely diced onion and 1/4 cup diced ham, and seeded, ribs removed and diced fresh jalapeno, optional . While these are cooking, beat 4-6 large AA eggs in a bowl, then pour into pan. Gently mix in eggs and let set slightly. Turn over with a spatula, then add the grated cheese on top, 1/4 cup or more, turn off the heat and cover. We like the cheddar/jack blend, it is your choice. While the cheese is melting, warm the tortillas on a clean hot griddle or over the gas flame, just like abuelita did.

This quantity will make 3-6 monster burritos, depending on the size of the tortillas. We like the Sonora size for burritos, around 12+ inches in diameter. Smaller tortillas are just as good, only resist the temptation to eat more than two burritos, their small size can be deceiving and very filling.

Here is a short guide on how to fold big stuffed burritos. Start with placing your warmed tortilla on a large dinner plate. Then add your fillings, not exactly in the center, but more towards the bottom third of the tortilla as shown. If it gets too close to the center, fold the tortilla over the fillings, then pull it all to the edge. Fold over that side, the one closest to you.

Next, fold in the two sides to the center of the filling, keep it covered. Then bring the sides in.

Just before you get ready to roll, check to see if you want to add anything, like salsa, more cheese, salt and pepper, Tapatio hot sauce, whatever you like. Now get ready to start rolling. In one continuous move, roll the burrito over itself, keeping it on the plate. Grab both sides and get rolling!

OK, we are almost there! You can see why using the dinner plate is important, it provides a good support, especially when you want to add additional ingredients, like a good salsa, making it easy to transport back and forth from the stove to the counter.

It is also ready for serving once the rolling is done!

Tah-dah! There you have it, a big breakfast egg burrito.

For presentation, cut in half at the center at an angle, and serve with additional salsa, cheese, sour cream or go way over the top covering it with a warm chile sauce, and serve it "wet" topped with some chile strips. A breakfast like that calls for an afternoon nap! Enjoy, amigos.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Dodgers Win Home Opener of the 50th Anniversary

We did it, the Bums kicked SF butt in a win that counts! Sure, the exhibition game on Saturday at the Coliseum was memorable and a tribute to that first season here in Los Angeles. I was there for that first season back in 1958, just a chiquita La Vida Dulce child. So a win would have meant a lot on Saturday, but heck, I'll take a 5-0 win over the hated ones any day! In honor of the 50th Anniversary, we got together with the cousins and celebrated with bacon-wrapped ballpark dogs, complete with grilled onions, tomatoes on a soft bolillo, (did you know that the city has banned the street vendors from selling the famous hot dogs from their makeshift carts?) and carne asada soft tacos. I hear that Canter's now has a concession stand at Dodger Stadium. That certainly calls for a ballpark grub review this season. For the real story, sports fans, click the title of this post. Let's go Dodgers! BTW---that baseball is signed by both Ron Cey and Jerry Reuss.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

It's What You Crave, Amigo, Que No?

Here at La Vida Dulce we are major league fans of those greasy little sliders. Here's why:
When we moved to Colorado back in the 1980's, there was no Major League Baseball. They had a team called the Zephyrs, but after sitting in a showplace of a ballpark like Dodger Stadium, it just wasn't the same. The entire state of Colorado is big on sports, but lacking in MLB back when we were there, long before the Rockies came to town. So one day while scrolling through the cable we found WGN and the Cubs, who once in a while played against my beloved Bums. We also discovered White Castle burgers sold in the frozen food section at the King Soopers markets, and we watched the ballgames while enjoying our little nuked sliders. We soon adopted the Cubs as our substitute team to root for and I have a fondness for them to this day.

Years later, while in that wonderful town of Chicago, I was honored by my hosts with a trip through the drive-thru line of a real honest to goodness White Castle burger stand. Immediately I was transported back to L.A. with the sound of a heavily accented "May I take your order?" My host had no clue and kept yelling "What? What?" into the speaker. I moved up to the car window and relayed our order in Spanish and at the window we were presented with so many White Castle swag freebies and extra burgers and fries. My hosts were so astonished and we thanked them for their generous and courteous service. Like peanuts or potato chips, when it comes to sliders, you can't eat just one!

Recently I received a kind email in response to my request for the company to open a White Castle burger stand out here in sunny California. Here is part of that letter:

"Thank you for your recent suggestion directed to our corporate office
that we locate a White Castle restaurant in your area. We appreciate
hearing from customers who enjoy our products. We have noted your suggestion
and have forwarded it to our real estate department for consideration;
however, at this time we have planned all of our construction for 2008
and are now looking for sites for 2009 and beyond.

Sure, in California we have In-N-Out, Bob's Big Boy, and we are the birthplace of McDonald's. But for White Castle lovers like Harold & Kumar, nothing would stop them on their mission to find what they craved, and in the end, they were triumphant. In spite of Doogie Howser. Maybe one day the Burger Gods will descend upon the Golden State and honor us with a real White Castle stand, maybe in my lifetime. Ah yes, I can dream of those real sliders, so meanwhile enjoy the frozen ones from Ralphs and the new Harold & Kumar movie, amigos. White Castle is truly like no other burger. Click the title of this post and it will take you to the "crave quiz" on the White Castle site. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Car

The Frog sent this image of her newest acquisition. The Car has a devoted following, and it is known throughout the city. "Your wife drives The Car?" people stop her husband on the street and ask. Having once owned a Honda Accord, I know she made a wise choice as far as quality. Dependable, good gas mileage, but the camo paint job is above and beyond the valley of good taste. Still I have to laugh, she is her mother's daughter!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

No Cookies for Old Men

Gramps was one tough cookie. He had a list of ailments that would have made the toughest movie outlaws and bad guys cry big baby blubbering tears. Any single one of his illnesses would lay them out flat. Not Gramps, he was tough. Man, they don't make them like that anymore, Gramps and the guys from his generation. Gotta love 'em!

However, there were times when his sweet tooth would act up, and right at the exact moment, I was dealing with a fidgety little kid, caught with his hand in the cookie jar. His usual sugar fix of choice was either black cherry ice cream or pineapple sherbet from Thrifty (now Rite-Aid), and in a pinch, any ice cream bar or paleta would do him just fine. But he sure did love cookies. He denied it, of course, but he would sneak a pack of those chocolate covered grahams into the house. And boxes of vanilla wafers and plain grahams always seemed to disappear, exactly when I needed to make a pie crust or a layered dessert. Cookie crumbs were scattered everywhere--- the cold hard evidence gave him away, little crumbs and chocolate smudges all over the place. Of course he blamed the fact that they were already in the house, so that's why he ate them. "Are you eating cookies again? Better let me take a look at your numbers, old man," I would threaten to read the meter. "It's not my fault, you bought them!" "What?" and that was the argument nobody ever won.

Lots of us sandwich generation folks are living our lives, stacked like a bunch of Oreo sandwich cookies---with aging and frail parents on one stack, kids growing up and moving on another, and whatever is leftover goes to our significant others, if we are fortunate to have their love and support. It is truly a miracle how we divide ourselves up, and not come up a cookie or two short. Talk about tough cookies, God bless you if your life is like that. I know how hard a task you have.

This is the first year since the late 1950's that I haven't seen a single Oscar nominated movie. Watching the trailer for "No Country, etc." makes me crack up, because on a good day, my hair looks like the wig on the gimpy menacing evil bad guy, played by Javier Bardem, who won the Oscar. Oh, big woo, he's so mean and tough! Nah, not even close with that funky lady hairdo, it only makes him look like a tough old broad, and I mean that with all respect to tough broads everywhere.

We sure loved to watch old movies together, Granny & Gramps and me. Our numero uno family favorite will always be "The Godfather"---all 3 parts, (although I don't care much for Al Pacino's hair in Part 3). It should have its own cable channel running 24/7, heck, they show it practically every week. Granny loved musicals and mysteries, Gramps loved war movies and westerns, like "Stagecoach" with the Duke. Tough guys, just like him. Tough broads like Granny.

Well, if you happen to have a couple of tough cookies in your familia, like our Gramps & Granny, share a sweet cookie or two with them. Once in a while won't hurt. Plain grahams and vanilla wafers actually have less sugar, but chocolate covered grahams are so tasty! Get together with them and talk about old movies on AMC or Turner Classics, the ones they grew up watching. Sit back and watch an old flick. You deserve to enjoy the moment. They don't make them like that anymore.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Menudo, the real Culinary Cucuy

Umm...Look at that warm comforting bowl of steaming hot menudo. All around are the traditional accompaniments. Hot corn tortillas fresh off the comal. Freshly diced onions, cilantro, lemon wedges, dried oregano, even a couple of drops of Tapatio to kick it up heatwise. Nothing to fear, que no? Wrong-o, amigos. Let's look carefully at the menudo bowl.

There within lies the real Cucuy, not the hideous beasts terrorizing the citizens of a major metropolis, like "Godzilla" or "Cloverfield" on film and DVD. Not the guy on the Mexican FM radio. No, my friends, be afraid, very afraid---it is menudo bowl. Way down deep, beneath the depths of gallons of cooked hominy and chile colorado the nasty Cucuy bits are lurking: honeycomb tripe, a cloven hoof or two, and other assorted organ meats, depending on what's around. Nothing goes to waste, it's all in there. Some folks swear by this soup as a cure for the dreaded hang-over. Menudo for the crudo, as it is known in these parts.

But waiting for you inside that bowl sits a tasty treat. Surely not meant for sissies, but for fearless women and men, it is delicious beyond belief. It must get its flavor from the slow cooking of all those nasty bits. Good to eat morning, noon or night...if you are brave enough, or suffering from the bacchanalia of the night before! For those less inclined to tackle the Cucuy beast within the menudo bowl, may we suggest pozole, menudo's domesticated cousin. If you haven't tried it yet, add a bowl of menudo to your own Culinary Bucket List.

Here at La Vida Dulce we enjoy a can of Juanita's Menudito now and then. Cooking a pot of homemade menudo is EXTREMELY time consuming, due to the slow cooking required for the pata (hoof) and the tripe to become tender. Another alternative is the time-honored tradition of taking your own soup pot to the local panaderia or tortilleria early on Saturday or Sunday morning. Any way you serve it, menudo is the real cucuy!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cloverfield vs. Cucuy

Back in the old days, we had black & white monster movies that in comparison to movies today look pretty lame. We grew up with the Channel 9 Million Dollar Movie running "Godzilla" every night for a week and twice on the weekends. Corny as it seems when I watch it now, that post-atomic era reptilian creature stomping through the streets of Tokyo still gives me the creeps!

Here's why: In the summer we slept with the windows wide open and from somewhere far away outside you could hear a scary noise late at night. If you got to bed early enough, you didn't hear it. We couldn't figure out where it came from, that loud, slow "WHOOSH-WHOOSH" seemed to be off in the distance, like big heavy footsteps. I swear, it sounded like Godzilla was marching up Brooklyn Avenue. Add to this, the family tradition of discipline by instilling fear. "That's the Cucuy coming to get you if you don't go to sleep." Any menacing creature is given the name of the Cucuy, regardless of country of origin. When the nearby brickyard finally closed, I learned the truth about the sound, coming from the bellows that stoked the fire for the bricks. So much for trying to scare us anymore!

A 21st century version of the Cucuy appeared in movie theaters this past weekend, and from the trailers, it has that same creepy Godzilla thing going on, stomping around the streets of New York, upsetting everyone and everything. This movie has the silly name of "Cloverfield" but don't be mistaken. This has the makings of a truly scary movie. Not the crap where blood is gushing everywhere, saws, machetes, guns, torn limbs, with flying mummies and psychopaths running amok. Yawn. Nah, I like the slow Mummy, the dusty scraggly one nobody can out-run, even though he's slower than your Granny. I appreciate a good "things-that-go-bump-in-the-night" movie. In a claw-to-claw smackdown, the Cloverfield monster would defeat any Cucuy from the 'hood.

Well, you can imagine my surprise the other day when on my way to work, I got stuck behind the radio DJ Cucuy and his tour bus. That was really scary, I was almost late!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Candidates' Cookie Platform

The cousins were over here the other night, for dinner and to watch the debates on TV. We pretty much came up with our slate, plus a new set of cabinet officers, all of them winners and bipartisan, too. Go figure. So I came up with my own platform, or rather, a cookie platter of candidates. All of them must be pretty tough cookies, going after a job that one commentator mentioned will literally take years off your life. YIKES! Some of these candidates already look rode hard and put away wet. Here's to 'em all and may the best cookie win! Names were randomly drawn, not in any order of personal preference:

McCain - vanilla iced shortbread

Richardson - drop cookies (UPDATE: he quit the race)

Kucinich - cookies from the Keebler elves

Clinton - ginger snaps

Romney - snickerdoodles

Obama - macadamia nut chocolate chip

Huckabee - moon pies

That's all we have so far, but the only thing that really matters is that we get out and vote.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Emeril and the Dodgers 50th Anniversary Float

Happy New Year! Hope you all have a wonderful year full of love and all the good things. Well, I almost broke with tradition to watch the Tournament of Roses Parade in person this year. Came pretty close, but no cigar. Two reasons. The Los Angeles Dodgers are celebrating the 50th anniversary this year, and a float was entered. Can you believe it, I actually attended two games that first season in 1958. Gramps worked for a company that printed the programs, and he was given the tickets. I will always cherish the memory of watching Major League Baseball at the Coliseum. Next reason, Emeril was the Grand Marshall of the parade this year. Gotta love the guy, he put Food TV on the map, bamming his way to a well-deserved success. His "Essence of Emeril" show is the best, and he is a great teacher and an inspiration to all of us foodies. I thought about it for a while, but neither event was enough for me to go out into the cold morning. Better to watch on TV curled up with a warm cup of coffee, some Cranberry Bliss clone and a blanket, "Northern Exposure" and "Twilight Zone" marathons, and endless football. Ahh, what a country!