Jicama for the Veggie Tray

One of the mainstays for the party table is a veggie tray.  Nearly all veggie trays have carrots and celery, maybe grape tomatoes, broccoli or cauliflower, possibly mushrooms.  One of my favorite things to add is jicama (pronounced /hee-kah-mah/). Jicama is a tuber with a tough, papery skin that you peel off (I usually use a knife rather than a vegetable peeler because the skin is fairly thick) to reveal the white, crunchy interior. The flesh of the jicama is something like a raw potato or green pear in texture and has a very slightly sweet taste, but is generally neutral. As such, it makes a great carrier for dips from Ranch to salsa. I also use them in stir-fry dishes, especially when I don’t have any water chestnuts on hand but want a little extra crunch. The jicama is also a common feature in my salads, when I can find good ones.

You will typically find jicama in the produce section near the potatoes, yams, turnips, and rutabagas or sometimes in a specialty produce section with the Mexican goods. You want to look for one with a firm, smooth skin, not shriveled. Unfortunately many produce workers in this part of the country are not familiar with them and have no idea when they should be removed from the shelf until they are obviously moldy and gross, so it’s hard to find good ones consistently. They should be stored in a cool, dry place, but not the refrigerator until cut. Because the jicama is mostly water, it does dry out easily if sliced bits are left out. It can easily be cut for a veggie tray and refrigerated, covered, for a day before serving.

Adult Food

The four Tartlets have gone with The Husband’s Parents on a little adventure to eastern Montana. We’ll follow them next week and rendezvous at the family reunion for The Husband’s maternal side of the family. Until then, we are footloose and fancy free for nearly a week. This is the time that foods that little tastebuds don’t appreciate or seem too expensive to buy for 6 people begin to appear on our menu. Last night I made a nice dinner for us using a recipe I pulled from the Sunday paper years ago. While salmon is The Husband’s favorite seafood, this Asian orange glaze is not his favorite preparation (but it is *mine*).  He likes it grilled with just a little lemon juice and served with tartar sauce.

I didn’t have quite enough orange marmalade on hand so I ended up using about 2/3 orange marmalade and 1/3 apricot preserves. It was very good. I didn’t have the scallions on hand, but it makes the salmon look pretty if you use them.

To serve with the salmon, I made brown rice similar to this, using chicken broth, soy sauce, and pineapple juice for the liquid and adding both garlic and ginger to the pot. I grilled some broccolini (baby broccoli) drizzled with lemon juice, just until it was bright green but still crisp (about a minute on each side), and sauteed some baby portabella mushrooms to go with it. I was first introduced to broccolini at The Great Impasta and love it, which is surprising considering that I really don’t love broccoli at all. However, it tends to be rather expensive so I rarely buy it. It made a nice treat for an adult meal.

Grilled Salmon with Orange Glaze

½ cup orange marmalade
2 t. sesame oil
2 t. soy sauce
½ t. grated fresh ginger root
1 garlic clove, crushed or minced
3 T. white rice vinegar

1 lb skinless salmon fillet, cut in four pieces

6 thinly sliced scallions with some green, optional
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, optional

Combine marmalade, oil soy sauce, ginger, garlic and vinegar. Heat grill. Brush orange glaze on each side of salmon and grill about 5 minutes on each side. Top with scallions and sesame seeds and serve.

Notes:
This can also be done with the skin on, just lay the fish skin side down on foil on the grill or in the oven (350 F) and spread with glaze. When the fish is cooked and tender, slide a spatula between the meat and skin, lifting the meat off the skin.

Orange Glazed Carrots

This is my favorite way to have cooked carrots. I like carrots in most of my soups but I rarely cook them alone except this way. The kids aren’t fond of cooked carrots and I don’t think The Husband is either, although he usually won’t say anything negative about food, especially in front of the kids. So I only make them a couple of times a year, like Easter. This post is for M&M who especially enjoyed them. I’m sorry I don’t have a close up of the carrots, just of them on the table with everything else.

Orange Glazed Carrots (from Betty Crocker, 1969)

1 1/2 lbs fresh carrots (sliced, baby carrots, whatever you like)
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 t. salt (optional)
1/2 t. grated orange peel
2 Tbsp. butter

Steam carrots and set aside (for Easter I steam the day before and refrigerate and then glaze and reheat just prior to the meal).

In large skillet, cook and stir brown sugar, salt, orange peel and butter until bubbly. Add carrots; cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes or until carrots are glazed and heated through.

I like to add a little juice from the orange too. It makes them less glazed and more saucy, but the sauce is so good over ham!

On The Lighter Side

Tonight we hosted the group party for The Husband’s lab and I made a few appetizers, veggie tray, fruit platter, and Christmas cookies. Since some are vegetarians, I wanted to find something to make that would balance the meat skewers besides the veggie tray and goat cheese with crackers. Weight Watchers came to the rescue with this curried carrot and zucchini pancake. Since I followed the recipe nearly exactly (I used quick oats rather than old fashioned rolled oats), I’m just giving you the link.

I thought they were a little too light to be a main dish dinner, but they were perfect for a lighter appetizer, lunch or snack. I’m not sure the sauce was worth making, though. It does add different spices and is good in that way, but I think I’d just as well add the spices to the pancake and skip the sauce altogether.

A Volunteer

After we came home from our vacation this summer, I found a plant growing in the patio where a brick was missing. It seemed like a recognizable plant, so I let it keep growing. In fact, it looked a LOT like a tomato plant. A few weeks more and I could smell that it was a tomato plant. I don’t know if a kid just dropped a little grape tomato on the patio or if someone spilled a cut tomato from a salad or how the seed ended up right where it did, but I couldn’t pull it out. I really ought to transplant it to a container. Especially now that I’ve found this:

blossom.jpg

I can’t wait to see if it actually bears fruit! What a fun, random thing to find!

We really like tomatoes here. In fact, aside from the obvious nutritional and intestinal reasons, Thing 4 could probably live on tomatoes alone. Well, maybe toss in a few grapes and pears and she would consider it a perfect diet.

Today is our anniversary (15 yrs) and I thought we were going to wait to go out on Friday (free college baby sitters, how can we pass it up?!) so I planned a little special dinner for today. Since we *are* going out tonight, I made part of the dinner last night (steak kabobs) and will save part to make another day (crab cakes). When the tomatoes I usually buy were exceptionally foul this week, I picked up this special box for our salad:

tomato-box.jpg

They are so cute!

tomato.jpg

I think I should save a few seeds and see what we can grow at home! 😉

Comfort Food

I think I’ve mentioned before that chicken isn’t really a favorite of mine. Sunday I made this uninspired dinner.

sunday-dinner.jpg

I remember eating a lot of chicken dinners on Sundays. Even if the kids think eating drumsticks is feasting, I can think of a lot of other things I’d rather eat. But mashed potatoes and peas . . . that’s some real comfort food.

I actually don’t prefer to eat them the way they are pictured. I like to put the spuds on the plate, top them with peas, and the gravy is optional. I never really started to like gravy until a few years ago, anyway. The kids are picking up on my habits — a couple of them prefer their peas and potatoes mixed. Ugh — don’t put them separate! Mix them, Mom! 😉

Experiencing Technical Difficulties

AT&T was experiencing some technical difficulties that result in infrequent phone and computer connectivity for a week. A week without the phone I can survive *IF* I have the internet. A week without internet is a near-death experience for me. 😉

I’ve done a little cooking and baking but it’s been hot. I’ve done some grilling and made these roasted vegetables:

roasted-veggies.jpg

which we shared with Ramona, Nat, and baby. I made them other stuff too but there are no pictures. The veggies were so colorful and bright — you can get three of your 5-a-day colors right there. I tossed them with a little balsamic vinegar and some Italian seasons and roasted them until tender-crisp.  Quick and easy.

After that I was busy with some other projects. We’re hosting the big Student Welcome party on Sunday so I baked 6 dozen brownies, 4 dozen peanut butter cookies, and a couple dozen chocolate crinkle cookies. Some of the peanut butter and chocolate crinkle cookies were consumed with the lunch I packed for the Quad Day crew. I have a couple of other things that I may or may not get done before Sunday . . . I really need to do some cleaning too, not just play! 🙂

Tomorrow we’re celebrating Thing 4’s birthday — she’ll be three on Saturday but I didn’t want back-to-back events so we’re having three other families over for a little cookout, cake and ice cream. According to the forecast, it may be storming. 😛 For weeks Thing 4 wanted a Butterfly Cake but a couple of weeks ago it became a Bunny Cake. So I baked a rectangular cake and decorated it with a pink rabbit. It came out just so-so, nothing fantabulous. I was also toying with some fondant. The first two bunnies I made weren’t so thrilling:

sun-bunnies.jpg

The first one is the one on the right. I thought the mini chocolate chips were going to work well for eyes but they look more like sunglasses. Thing 3 asked about the first bunny — “Mom, is that a bunny? . . . or a . . . goat lying down?” I don’t blame her — I’m not particularly artistic. The next bunny had some better features. Then I had to go help with the paper route because two inserts made the paper as heavy as a Sunday paper and Thing 1 was dramatically demonstrating how she could not possibly carry the bag with 14 papers. I came back and finished a third bunny:

good-bunny.jpg

And I’m really pleased with how he turned out. I used a toothpick to put a little black food dye spot for the eyes. I was going to toss the first two and start over with more like the third but the family protested.

bunnies.jpg