Monday, July 26, 2010

Picnic in the Park

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than with good friends in a beautiful park, complete with a lunch feast!  My college girlfriends and I got together with our kids for a full day of eating and playing.  Instead of buying your typical macaroni salad or potato salad in the grocery store, I wanted to make a few items and figured my friends could be the guinea pigs. My contribution to our feast was a rice salad, a pasta salad and goat cheese rounds with honey. 

The salads had an added benefit in that I could make them the night before.  I love that most salads get better as they sit, so making them ahead is sometimes the best way to go  I started with the Rice Salad.  The title is deceiving since there are many other components that go into this dish.  Peas, celery, onion, pimentos, and protein from hard boiled eggs and a can of tuna.  The dressing is made with mayo, mustard, sweet pickle relish, lemon juice, and dill.  It's moist, filling, and hearty.  The slightly sweet pickle relish is balanced by the pimentos, onion, and dill.

The second salad is called Spiral Pasta Salad.  If you are like me, you're probably bored of the basic pasta salad with Italian dressing.  Not that I would turn it down, but I was ready for something with a twist.  This dressing is made with oil and vinegar (I know, the starting point for Italian dressing) but then taken to a new level with the addition of ketchup, onion, sugar, salt, ground mustard, paprika, garlic powder, and oregano.  As with the rice salad, this pasta salad was sweet, but with a tang from the onion, vinegar, and mustard.  The base is pasta, celery, tomato, green pepper, and shredded carrots (another slightly sweet item).   The kids loved this one.  Both of these salads have a slightly sweet element, but when feeding children, that is never a bad thing. 

The simplicity and distinct flavors of the Creamy Goat Cheese with Honey won over my heart and stomach.  I actually did make a portion of this the night before, but waited to drizzle the honey on the day of.  I chopped up some left-over pecans I had in the freezer (freezing nuts extends their freshness), and combined them with cinnamon in a small bowl.  Then cut a goat cheese round 12 portions, roll them into a ball, and coat them with the pecan and cinnamon mixture.  After pressing down gently to form a disc shape, this is where I left these goat cheese morsels to rest overnight in the refrigerator.
The day of the picnic, I chopped up fresh rosemary, sprinkled it over the rounds, and brought the honey with me in the jar that contained the pimentos from the rice salad.  Those little glass jars are quite handy!  When we were ready to feast, I drizzled the goat cheese with honey and severed them with a fresh baguette.  These cheese gems were both crunchy and creamy and when smeared on a torn piece of baguette, were divine.  The food was fun, but the company was the best.  My college friends and I had a blast laughing about old times while our kids made new memories together. 

You may have noticed that all the recipes on this post came from a website called (ha ha). But seriously, a feature of theirs that I love, is the ability to put in ingredients you have on hand and search for recipes containing those ingredients. You can even exclude ingredients you don't want. I know there are several other websites that have this ability, but I tend to find a lot of interesting recipes on this website. It's a great way to use up what you have in your fridge and pantry!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Strawberry Cardamom Bread

 'Tis the season...for luscious, and cheap, strawberries!  I was looking for something new to do with strawberries and this recipe grabbed me due to the addition of cardamom.  A spice used mainly in Indian cuisine, I had only used this spice one other time before in a cookie recipe.  Marie posted this Strawberry Cardamom Bread to her wonderful blog, The English Kitchen
The ingredients seem at first to be a pretty typical of a quick bread, but then there is the addition of creamy sour cream and fragrant cardamom.  Marie used actual cardamom pods, removed the seeds, and ground them up.  Trying to use up the cardamom I already had, I passed on the pods and stuck with the jarred spice.  I'm sure it wasn't nearly as fragrant, but the wonderful aroma and flavor did come through.  A unique twist on strawberry bread and delightful to enjoy at any time of day.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ballpark Food at PETCO Park!

We love our Padres so we try to make it to as many games as we can.  Since my parents are half-season ticket holders, we've been fortunate to attend a fair amount of games which has allowed us the wonderful opportunity to try some of PETCO's finest food attractions.  Some are winners and some are losers.  I'm going to do my best to give you our personal take on what we've tried so far and how we liked it.  I welcome your thoughts too, since we haven't tried everything! 

Two carts that I find most intriguing are FriarFit and Gluten Free.  FriarFit seems like a great idea - I always come to the ballpark to find healthy foods.  Okay, but seriously, there were people in line, so someone had the right idea.  But Gluten Free?  I know some people need to exclude gluten from their diet, but I also partially think some people are doing it as a fad right now.  We'll see if the Gluten Free cart is around next year.

Moving into the Western Metal Supply building, there are several good food stations.  However, the first thing that catches my eye, is the beautiful blue glow from the bar. 
This is a unique space.  The original brick building is structurally impressive and they converted this floor into quite the social scene.  There is an outdoor sitting area that is open to all; to regulate the crowd, they rotate people every 3 innings, I believe. 

Some of the best food stations are here inside the Western Metal Supply - carved brisket sandwiches, nachos with all the toppings in the world, sausages of all types (including the Sonora, which is a spicy sausage wrapped in bacon).  It's all pricey, but what isn't at the ballpark.  For what you get at these stations, it seems to be worth it, compared to the basic hot-dog and nacho stands. 
The brisket is pretty darn good, as long as you dress it up.  The meat on it's own is bland, but it comes with bbq sauce and coleslaw.  The trick is to put this all together, including the coleslaw on top, and then you have an extremely messy, but very tasty sandwich!  The portions are huge, which does not necessarily equate to good in my book, but you do get your monies worth. 
Another bar within Petco Park is on the Field level in the "Mercado".  It's towards the back and has some great views of the convention center and railroad tracks. 

This is also a full bar, with slushy drinks (never tired them), and some decent beer on tap.  Lately, I've been enjoying a refreshing Widmer with a lemon wedge. 

The "Mercado" is a food court.  They have your basics, but then they also have Rubio's and Anthony's Fish Grotto.  I've eaten the fish and chips from Anthony's a few times (like once per season) and keep thinking I like it and then after I get it, realize I was mistaken...or else they've gone down hill in the last couple of years.  The must for the fish and chips, is to top them both with the malt vinegar and lemon.

Now onto our favorite item at the ballpark - Rubio's shrimp burrito.  A mildly spicy burrito that is packed with pinto beans, rice, salsa fresca, cheese, chipotle sauce, and shrimp that pop in your mouth. 
It's the same shrimp burrito you would get at a Rubio's restaurant, but I am impressed with how fresh it tastes.  The shrimp aren't rubbery, there are actual jalepeno peppers in there, and freshly diced tomatoes.  Reasonably priced and big enough to split, you definitely get a bang for your buck.  Nice job, Rubio's.

If you want something more basic, outside of hot-dogs, they also have Ruby's for burgers and Oggi's for pizza.  I give kudos to Oggi's for trying something a little unique at the ballpark, their Padres slice - tomatoes (2 slices), spinach, and a few specks of feta - but it just isn't that good.  I must preface this with also saying that I've never liked Oggi's pizza to begin with, so I'm not surprised that I didn't care for this one.  Funny thing, though, is that I've ordered this a few times.  I'll have that craving for pizza and always think it may be better than the last time.  It's not, but it's pizza.

I haven't touched on Randy Jones BBQ.  When the Padres were at Qualcomm, I pretty much saturated myself in Randy Jones items, so I hardly get it anymore since we've moved to the new ballpark.  It may be time, though.  I can't live on shrimp burritos alone. 

You may have noticed I didn't mention anything sweet.  I don't do sweets at the ballpark.  It's probably because I'm normally drinking beer, and the ballpark doesn't have a beer that would pair nicely with ice cream.  So instead, here are some of the beautiful sights at the ballpark.
But of course what surpasses all of this, is the game and the people watching.  Depending on the game, sometimes people watching wins out! 

When we were taking the scenery photos on the upper deck level, we noticed a lady walking towards us that appeared to have some OCD tendencies. She made it her mission to touch the flowers as she strolled the length of the walkway.  We were in her way, but stood our ground since we were curious to see what would happen.  She went around us, but didn't break her pattern, and continued until the end of the flower bed. 

We do enjoy the games and have been lucky enough to be in attendance for 2 grand slams this year!  To Mark's dismay, we only saw one of the grand slams since he agreed to accompany me on my photo scenery tour, so therefore missed one of them.  We heard the crowd, caught the end of it on the tv screen, but Mark may hold it against me for a little while longer. 

I urge all locals to visit PETCO Park and support our #1 San Diego Padres!