Adventures in Culinary School – Pedrone Peppers

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I am currently enrolled in the Culinary Arts program at Diablo Valley College.  It’s our local community college and the facility was completely renovated from the ground up about 3 years ago so it’s a top notch facility.  Right now, I am taking a farm to table, organic urban farming class.  We meet at a ranch at an offsite location, close to the college.  This week, we were making observations in the beds of organic ingredients and I noticed a plant in between all of the tomatoes growing Pedrone Peppers.  These are my absolute favorite peppers in existence.  My eyes immediately got big, I knew I had hit the jackpot! During the summer months, you can find them at Whole Foods or a farmer’s market during July-August and that’s about it.  We always buy a big bag at the farmer’s market on a weekend where we plan to entertain and fire up our wood fired pizza oven.  We throw them into a cast iron pan with some vegetable oil and cook them for a few minutes.  At 800 F, that’s all they need.

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Light & Easy Turkey Chili

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A couple times a year at our house we focus on clean eating for a whole month, usually right before summer begins and then again in early fall, before the holidays hit.  I really believe in living life in moderation, in all aspects, as much as possible. This light & easy Turkey Chili is the perfect meal to whip up when you’re looking to prepare a quick healthy meal.  It’s so flavorful, you’ll never notice it’s missing beef and/or sausage.  The ground turkey seems to absorb all of the chili flavors, so it ends up tasting like a delicious bowl of chili and not necessarily like turkey at all. Clean eating is cooking with fresh, organic ingredients, eliminating all processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, gluten, sugar, dairy and soy.  I find that doing this a few times a year is like a reset button for my body and I end up feeling great.  Of course I also end up feeling like I’m really ready for a glass of wine!

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Coq Au Vin

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Coq au Vin is a classic French dish of braising chicken with wine, mushrooms, garlic and bacon.  You can use bacon or pancetta, it’s a win-win either way, right?  Julia Child helped make this dish increasingly popular in the United States, it was often thought of as one of her signature dishes.  Red wine, specifically Red Burgundy is typically used, although you could always try it with a different varietal if you want.

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Roasted Tomato Soup

I’m not sure there’s a better combo that exists than Roasted Tomato Soup and a Grilled Cheese with Gruyere on Sourdough.  I make this Roasted Tomato Soup all year long.  Even though tomatoes are at their height of ripeness during the summer, this method of slow roasting them will bring out natural sweetness even when they’re not at their peak.

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Roasted Vegetable Beef Stew

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Fall is in the air…football is on tv, temperatures are dropping, I hear some places are getting quite a bit of rain!  None for us here yet in the SF Bay Area but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t waiting anxiously for it.  I love cooking comfort foods, they are such a perfect weekend meal!  Roasted Vegetable Beef Stew is another great recipe you can put together during the day, let it simmer and it will be ready for you by the time dinner rolls around.  Plus, your house will smell wonderful, cozy and inviting. Continue reading →

Chicken Parmesan

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Chicken Parmesan is the ultimate classic comfort food and everyone has their own version…this is mine.  Now to the inspiration for my Chicken Parm.  I am not necessarily a huge fan of NFL football, however, during the season, it’s usually on at our house.  To me, this is also known as “background noise”…sorry, but it’s true.  Last year, after hearing months of Peyton Manning hum “Chicken Parm, you taste so good” during the Nationwide Insurance commercials, I was moved on more than one occasion to whip up a batch for the family. Continue reading →

Butternut Squash & Ginger Carrot Soup

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Fall is here!  Well, sort of.  Where I am in the inland SF Bay area, it was 104F yesterday.  Although I love summertime, I love fall even more.  The crisp mornings, beautiful colors of leaves changing on trees, nights that cool off enough to light a cozy fire.  Of course, fall also means comfort food and Thanksgiving….the biggest foodie holiday of the year…I love it, I love it all! Continue reading →

Ancho Short Rib Tacos

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This recipe for Ancho Short Rib Tacos came across my Facebook feed recently from Williams-Sonoma and I knew I had to try it.  Most of the recipes I post are recipes of my own, however, I have to make an exception for this one.  I made a few alterations of my own, but not many, it didn’t need them. It is a phenomenal recipe with amazing flavors.  I made this when we had family in town visiting and it definitely did not disappoint.  The beauty of this recipe is that with a little planning ahead, it will do most of the work for you while you’re entertaining guests or relaxing with family.  The end presentation is beautiful and you can serve it family style. Everyone can build their own just how they want it, so everyone is happy! Continue reading →

Weeknight Shrimp Marinara

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Sometimes quick and easy meals are still elegant in presentation, this Weeknight Shrimp Marinara is a perfect example.  It is a great weeknight meal that is light and healthy with a few secret ingredients.  You can also call this a “Fra Diavlo” or spicy red sauce.  I don’t make it too spicy because although I love a little heat, I don’t love to the point that the kids complain….it’s a fine line, you know what I mean?  I put my own spin on this pasta dish by adding in fresh spinach that I had on hand…great way to sneak it in before the kids even knew it! I also used gluten free pasta and I honestly don’t think anyone could even tell the difference.  The whole meal was done and on the table  in 30 minutes and the whole family loved it! Continue reading →

Roasted Beet Salad

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Now that fall is officially here and we are out of that grey area after Labor Day but before the 22nd of September….let’s talk about fall food!  There’s nothing quite like the colors of roasted beets that look like fall on a platter.  This recipe is easy, as long as you plan ahead a little so that you have time to roast the beets and make the dressing, after that….assembly is quick and the presentation is beautiful and elegant. Continue reading →