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Sesame Noodles with Zucchini and Ground Beef

We blogged about this recipe here.

Sesame Noodles with Zucchini and Ground Beef

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 3 T chopped shallot
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2-3 zucchini squash, unpeeled, cut into about 3/4″ chunks (if you’re at an Asian market and can find a fuzzy melon or a bottle gourd, use them; just peel them first)
  • 2 T toasted sesame seeds, ground
  • 1 T chili sauce, such as sambal oelek
  • 1-2 T soy sauce
  • 3/4 lb fresh egg noodles (thin-ish)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 4 green onions, sliced thinly
  • Sriracha sauce (optional)

Heat a wok or large skillet to high, then add the oil.  Add the garlic and shallot and stir-fry for just a few seconds; add the ground beef and salt and stir-fry until the beef is starting to brown, about 3-5 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the zucchini  (or fuzzy melon), ground sesame seeds, chili sauce, and soy sauce.  Cook, stirring regularly for about 10 minutes, or until the melon is soft and translucent.

While the beef mixture is cooking, bring a large pot filled with water to a boil; add about 1 T salt.  Add the noodles and cook just until tender, about 3-5 minutes.  Drain and then toss with the sesame oil.  Transfer to a serving bowl.

Spoon the zucchini and beef mixture over the noodles.  Garnish with the sesame seeds and green onions and serve.  We always top ours with a few drops of Sriracha sauce.  

The recipe will re-heat in the microwave and freeze beautifully.

Recipe brought to you by Big Little Meals and Andy and Ann.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Can there be too much of a good thing?

Are 11 Aussie pups too much of a good thing? Colorado’s Desert Storm, this mama, – who is related to our Aussie, Oakley – would probably say “YES!!!”
Are too many flowers too much of a good thing? And I love Brooklyn’s stoops!

Yes, this September 14, 2020, New Yorker magazine cover speaks to me. Along with many others, I over-planted this summer – as the pandemic impacted our daily lives, and colorful flowers and veggies took on a new role – a bright, lovely and healthy respite from life with masks and isolation and dreariness (as an aside, Andy finds his respite from life in one of his dresser drawers – see Andy’s Corner).

Have I said it before? I don’t “do” annuals – at least not until this year. During all of our years with our gardening business, MiniBlooms, I was happy to plant annuals for others, but I stuck with perennials and shrubs for our home. My argument? Life is too short to have to buy and replant year after year after year.

The summer of 2020 was SO different. I enthusiastically, almost obsessively, brought home 6-packs of zinnia orange ‘Profusion,’ 4″ pots of mango-colored calibrachoa, and a few of the fabulous little petchoa (a cross between calibrachoa and petunias) in an amazing dark reddish-brown color. I stuck those between the ‘Vancouver Centennial’ fancy leaf geraniums – that are normally considered annuals but actually survive our Northern California winters.

It was a great summer diversion. But in the long run, it wasn’t my style. I still love my more simple and permanent perennial beds. Now we’ve got the lovely echinacea ‘Tangerine Dreams’ (from Cottage Gardens of Petaluma), sempervivum ‘Centennial’ (from Sonoma Mission Gardens), achillea ‘New Vintage Red’, and chrysocephalum apiculatum ‘Mini Gold Buttons’ (both from Friedmans). If you live in Northern California, fall is a perfect time for planting perennials.

And do I have advice about planting your perennial beds? Of course! The biggest mistake I see folks make is planting just one or two of something. You need repetition of the same plant to unify the bed. Don’t plant too many different varieties. Stick with drought tolerant if you’re in the west. Mulch. Don’t line plants up. And PLEASE have a color scheme!

Our annual bed – summer of 2020.
Our newly-planted (and still very young) perennial bed – fall of 2020

Vegetable gardens can also produce way too much of a good thing. Take zucchini plants, for example. We have neighbors who wince when they get their box of CSA (community-supported agriculture) produce, dreading the amount of zucchini that may be included. While we are one of the few who are only fair at raising zucchini, we have enough Thai chile peppers on our one plant to burn our tongues and make our eyes water and noses run through about 20 meals. Actually, make that 40 meals. The plant has more than 20 little red hot chiles and we can’t bear to put more than half of one into any recipe.

Can you have too much zucchini? 🙂 I hear “YES!” from y’all. Whether or not they’re a “good thing” might be debated.

If you’ve got too many zucchini – and maybe don’t even like them much – I heartily recommend our zucchini bread recipe. I guarantee that even the biggest zucchini hater won’t detect their presence. And it’s such a refreshing change from banana bread! If you have lots of zucchini and just need some more recipe ideas, you can’t go wrong with Zucchini Fritters, Zucchini and Mint Frittata, Zucchini and Mint Turkey Burgers, or Sesame Noodles with Zucchini and Ground Beef.

Are the 20+ crazy-hot peppers on our Thai chile pepper plant too much of a good thing! For sure.

If your one Thai chile pepper plant is over-producing, try Thai Spicy Basil Chicken (which just happens to be from one of our daughter’s cookbooks). And, of course, a teeny bit of minced Thai pepper can go into any recipe calling for Serrano or Jalapeno pepper. Just remember that Thai chiles are about 20 times hotter than a Jalapeno, using the Scoville Heat Units.

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Don’t Chicken Out

Seems lots of us have been in “fowl” moods off and on lately, so I’d like to return to my pet rooster, Pecker, for the final time.  You’ve heard about him before (here – and here).  Sorry for the blurry photo of me and him and our turkeys, but it was taken about 55 years before iPhones and their amazing cameras were invented.

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I must have been about 8 when we had him as “our” pet.  My brother – to this day – claims that Pecker belonged to him.  Right.

I have no idea how long Pecker was a part of our family, but I do remember the tears – and more tears – I shed when my dad solemnly announced to me one morning that Pecker had died that night – defending his flock.

The website “ScoopfromtheCoop.com (“insights for a happy, healthy flock”) indicates “Most chicken losses occur at night when raccoons, skunks, opossums, owls, mink, and weasels are most likely to prowl.”  I remember my dad thinking it was a raccoon.

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Lovely rooster we photographed who was meandering – a bit-  around Sayulita, Mexico.  Hope there aren’t raccoons there (or skunks, possums, owls, mink, or weasels).  Note the two wandering cuties behind him.

Why didn’t Pecker’s flock defend themselves – or at least help him out?  My respect for hens has been diminished.  They “chickened out” at the worst possible time.

Being annoyed with hens led me to googling species which have females in control.  It turns out there aren’t many…African Lions, Killer Whales, Spotted Hyenas, African Elephants, Orcas, Lemurs, and – Bonobos, according to New Scientist.   I’d explain why I have a new appreciation for Bonobos – which are considered one of human’s closest relatives – but we consider this a family-rated blog 🙂  Suffice it to say that “She had him by the balls” is literal as well as figurative for Bonobos.  If you want to explore this further, here’s a great article from Scientific American.

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One of our closest relatives – the Bonobo; I feel like this is the look I give Andy sometimes 🙂

Even if dogs are not included in that list, I came across this analysis of canine females and males from the “Honey Hill Aussies” website (yes, I’m still in search of a puppy).  It may be surprising to know that “bitches” usually rule the roost –  but read it,  inserting “human” instead of dog – and I bet you’ll find it as unintentionally and hysterically funny as I do!

In the dog pack makeup, females usually rule the roost, determine pecking order and compete to maintain and/or alter that order.  The females are, as a result, more independent, stubborn and territorial than their male counterparts. Most fights will usually break out between two females.

Males on the other hand are usually more affectionate, exuberant, attentive and more desiring of attention.  They are very attached to their people. They also tend to be more steadfast, reliable and less moody. They are more outgoing, more accepting of other pets, playful for more years and take quicker to children. 

Most boys are easily motivated by food and praise and are so eager to please that training is easy. However, males can be more easily distracted during training because of their playful nature. No matter what age, he is more likely to act silly and more puppy-like, always wanting to play games.

Boys are fun loving until the day they die.

Females tend to be more reserved or dignified as they age.   

Doesn’t that say it all? 🙂

Speaking of Aussies and females dogs and bravery, Andy has an even deeper look into that in today’s Andy’s Corner.

To conclude:  Hens may be wimps – and they clearly don’t “rule the roost” – and aren’t as aggressive as female dogs or as in control as female Bonobos – but everything and everyone deserves SOME credit.   And hens deliver one of our favs…eggs.

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Our eggs from neighbors Sandy and Stacey

Those adventurous chickens we saw in Sayulita, Mexico, make me think of our new “breakfast especial.”  Try it – as well as some of our other egg-enhanced recipes:

Zucchini and Mint Frittata
Tuna Nicoise Salad Bowl
Breakfast Lunch and Dinner Fried Rice
Scrambled Egg Muffin Sandwich (we’ve actually got 3 simple egg recipes there)
Japanese Cheesecake
Moonshine Cake

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Tostadas de Frijoles con Huevos

Tostadas de Frijoles con Huevos (tostadas with beans and eggs)

We really like homemade tostada shells, and baking them is so much easier than frying them…and almost as satisfactory. As for refried beans, we recommend Goya Traditional Refried Pinto Beans – either vegan or not – or Bush’s Best Cocina Latina refried black beans.

2 corn tortillas – about 6″ in diameter (or 2 packaged tostada shells – we like the Guerrero brand)
olive oil or vegetable oil
Diamond kosher salt
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c refried beans (figure about 2 T of beans per tostada)
salsa of your choice
1/4 c crumbled cotija cheese or feta cheese
cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 425˚F.

If you are making your own tostada shells, brush or spray each side of the tortillas with olive oil and season with a bit of salt. Bake for about 10 minutes, turning the tortillas over after 5 minutes.  They should be golden brown and crispy when you take them out of the oven.  If not, leave them in the oven a few minutes longer.  Watch them closely; they will easily get too brown!  And note: tortillas vary in thickness and width, so you have to adjust the baking time accordingly.

Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium heat and add about 1 T olive oil. Add beans and heat until warm (or stick the beans in the microwave for about 1 minute).

Heat another small skillet (8″ works) – which has a lid – over medium high heat.  Add 1 T oil and when the oil is hot, crack each egg (carefully) into the pan.  Salt and pepper to taste.  When the whites have begun to crisp up on the very edges – about 30 seconds, add about 1 T water to the pan, cover, turn the heat down to low, and cook until the layer of white over the yolks is barely opaque.  We estimate about 1 1/2 minutes – and more if you like the yolk to set up.  When checking the eggs for doneness, lift the lid just a crack to prevent loss of steam should they need further cooking.

To assemble, spread the tostada shell with a thin layer of beans; add salsa to taste, a fried egg, a sprinkle of cotija cheese, if you’re using it, and cilantro.

Serve with a fork – but you’ll find it easier to eat if you just use your hands.  Have a napkin nearby.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go Here, Not There: Counter Culture

“Counter Culture” is neither “here nor there” for the two of us.  Andy’s Corner today ties our last dinner party into one kind of counter culture.  For me it’s all about where we like to eat out.

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The French Laundry restaurant in the Napa Valley

Andy and I are not into fine dining.  We’ve never been to Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Napa (where Valentine Day dinners were priced at $650/person). Nor have we tried the $298/person tasting menu at Quince in SF or the $330/person menu at Single Thread Farm Restaurant in Healdsburg.

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Offering from Single Thread Farm Restaurant in Healdsburg

When we do go out – which is usually for lunch – you’re most likely to find us enjoying a meal at a super-casual little locally-owned spot, often where you order at the counter (Get it?  Counter culture!); it’s likely a place that’s always busy and cozy and bright – as in lots of windows – and with a friendly staff.  Oh, yes, the food should be good and it should be something I wouldn’t want to cook at home.

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“FAR OUT!”  Actually, from Glen Ellen to the coast and back, isn’t that far.  And along the way you can pick from amazing sweet rolls, enchiladas, burgers, bread pudding – then end with fish ‘n chips!  ALL counter orders.  It’s the Counter Culture!

The local owners of special little eating places need and appreciate your support (especially now!).  So if you’re in Sonoma – or visiting Sonoma – try out our recommendations below.  If you happen to be in Fort Collins, CO, you’ll love the Little Bird Bakeshop.  In Crown Heights Brooklyn, go to Peppa’s Jerk Chicken,  AND if you’re in San Francisco’s Financial District during the weekday anytime soon, try out the newest counter order spot: Tacolicious Chico!  Think Tacos de Guisados.  Think Chicken Tinga Tacos or Greens ‘n’ Beans Tacos. Think yum.  Think local.

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Now – what do we not cook well – and often – at home?  Surprisingly enough, I’d say we haven’t mastered the perfect all-beef hamburger. For that, we go to The Picazo Cafe on Arnold Dr in Sonoma…and order a Picazo Burger with extra order of spicy Picazo sauce to go along with it and the fries.  Damned if we can figure out the sauce ingredients – and they’re not about to tell us.  However, there may be hints of sour cream, chipotles, and mushrooms 🙂

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Picazo Burger with extra Picazo spicy sauce

I am crazy about deep-fried Baja-style fish tacos and fish ‘n chips but I don’t deep-fry at home.  So for that we’re off to Fisherman’s Cove in Bodega Bay (where we might also have some raw oysters before we move on to our fish dish).

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Fisherman’s Cove, Bodega Bay

Friends and family visiting us recently can’t say enough good things about El Molino Central on the north edge of Sonoma in Boyes Hot Springs.  We agree that homemade tortillas and chicken enchiladas suiza are not something we’d try at home – and are absolutely d-lish here.  Plus, if I could replicate their refried black beans, I’d be in culinary heaven; apparently lard is a secret ingredient.

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There’s a nice amount of light while we wait for our Chicken Enchiladas Suiza at fun little El Molina Central.

Yeast-y sweet breads are another item I don’t do often at home (though I occasionally get into the bread-making mode).  We’ve got our own little French bakery right here in Glen Ellen – Les Pascals.  Andy’s bicycling group stops there regularly – and small as it is – they manage to accommodate 20+ bicyclists.  Our favorite pastry there?  Kuniaman!

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Kuniaman – from Les Pascals.  SO good!

How can you not love the Water Street Bistro in Petaluma.  We’ve been enjoying their friendly staff, casual vibe – and pastries and bread pudding (served in hot cinnamon-y milk!) – with maybe some quiche and salad on the side 🙂 – for years.

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The friendly counter service at Water Street Bistro in Petaluma

To be honest, we’re not crazy about our homemade hamburgers; but we have two new burger recipes to share – both of which are great.  And we want to remind you to try our Zucchini Turkey Burgers from Yotam Ottolenghi, which are a hit whenever we make them and a hit with our friends who have tried them at their homes.

And as for meatless burgers such as Beyond Meat….I’m not ready to commit yet; I can’t quite embrace their mix of odd ingredients, but I’ll keep reading and experimenting as they evolve (update: an upcoming blog will reveal the unexpected result of my experimentation with meatless meat!).

Finally FYI: I was an English major but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the word “demonym” before doing this blog.   In researching why we use the word “hamburger” for something which has no ham in it, I found this from Wikipedia: Hamburger in German is the demonym of Hamburg, similar to frankfurter and wiener, names for other meat-based foods and demonyms of the cities of Frankfurt and Vienna (in German Wien) respectively. Continue reading

2020 – It’s Music to My Ears

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Carole King’s rendition of Chicken Soup with Rice is a favorite.  Slipping is not a favorite.

As we begin a new decade with new joys and challenges, I find that this little ditty by the Australian artist/cartoonist Michael Leunig speaks to me.  In fact, it inspired me to put together a “2020” playlist!

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We give thanks for singers.
All types of singers.
Popular, concert singers and
tuneless singers in the bath.
Whistlers, hummers and those
who sing while they work.
Singers of lullabies; singers of nonsense
and small scraps of melody.
Singers on branches and rooftops.
Morning yodellers and evening warblers.
Singers in seedy nightclubs, singers in the street;

Singers in cathedrals, school halls, grandstands,
back yards, paddocks, bedrooms, corridors,
stairwells and places of echo and resonance.

We give praise to all those who give some small voice
To the everyday joy of the soul.

Amen

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Andy and I agreed that we’d each make a playlist of 20 songs that we’d enjoy while cooking – or cleaning up after cooking….songs that have something about food in the title or lyrics.  Get it? 20 and 20 for 2020!

You would think this would be a non-confrontational task! 🙂  I started my playlist with my ode to Andy: Sweet Home Cookin’ Man  (listen and watch it here).  I thought “Lord how my baby cooks” was tender and loving, but Andy took exception to the “ain’t got personality” and “ain’t got such good looks” lines.

Well he ain’t got personality
He ain’t got such good looks
When I come home hungry
Lord how my baby cooks
He’s a chef of fine distinction
Always cooks and it’s just right
Whether I come home in the morning baby
Or somewhere late in the night.

That was nothing compared to when I read over Andy’s blog and his playlist and noticed one of his top choices:  My Wife Can’t Cook  from Bill Wyman of Rolling Stones fame (listen and watch it here).

If it wasn’t for the beans that come out the can
A lot of the peas or the beets, the rice and the Spam
The milk and bread at the grocery store
I tell you, I couldn’t eat no more

‘Cause let me tell you, my wife, she can’t cook
If I thought she could read, I would buy her a book
But she knows how to do with the fuss and bother
She don’t even know how to boil hot water

But in the healing spirit of the New Year, we moved on 🙂  Isn’t that what a relationship is all about?

My 20 songs for the 2020 playlist are below.  You can listen to bits of each song right here – or go to Spotify to get the whole thing.  Dance around to it while you’re makin’ that Crawfish Etouffee, sippin’ on a Sazerac, and dreamin’ of going to Mardi Gras!

And just to make a point, I would like to remind you of some undeniably great recipes that I’ve fixed for Andy – with canned beans!

*Not Your Mother’s Chili
*MountainWestBob’s Easy Crockpot Chili
*North African Crockpot Lamb Stew
*Quick White Bean Soup
*One Dish Pasta and Beans

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I’m very selective about the brand of beans I buy!

In fact, we celebrated New Year’s Eve with friends, serving them this d-lish Black Bean Chili (which also happens to be vegetarian).  After everyone left, Andy turned up the speakers, clicked on his Jazz for Kitchen Cleanup playlist and welcomed in the New Year.  See today’s Andy’s Corner.

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