Arugula, Tomato, Feta Couscous

On October 30, 2011, in Featured, Recipes, by Chris Baccus

Every Saturday morning the boys and I head to swim class where they learn to navigate the water and I spend time figuring how I’m going to navigate my cooking for the coming week.  It’s a great 30 minutes to explore new cooking blogs.  One recent find is the blog The Kitchn (Kitchen – minus the “e”, because I’m sure was already taken.)

I bought some arugula at the Farmer’s Market and was looking for something new to do with it. Thinking I had some orzo pasta at home too the Dinner Quick: Arugula with Orzo and Garden Tomatoes looked like a good choice for lunch today. When I arrived home, I was out of orzo pasta but had some Trader Joe’s Israeli Couscous I decided to substitute. I made a few other tweaks too, including added saute pine nuts.

Arugula, Tomato, Feta Couscous
Serves 4

1 cup Israeli couscous
1 bunch of arugula, large chop
Olive oil
1 Tablespoon dried basil
2 Tablespoons pine nuts
8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 ounces goat or feta cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper

Cook the Israeli couscous per package instructions. While that is boiling, saute the pinenuts in a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Let them brown, cooking for about 4 minutes, turning often. Empty the pine nuts into a mixing bowl.

Add a little more olive oil to the saute pan that had the pine nuts and cook the chopped arugula till it just starts to wilt. Add it to the mixing bowl. Add some olive oil again and saute the tomatoes adding the dried basil, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 3 minutes then add them to the mixing bowl.

Crumble the feta cheese into the mixing bowl once the couscous is ready.  Now add the couscous and add a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper to taste.


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Vegan Curried Sweet Potato with Herbs

On October 28, 2011, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus

The sweet potatoes at the farmer’s markets are looking great. It’s also the perfect time of the season, even if it is still 80 degrees in Texas. It’s fall and fall foods like squash, pumpkin, potatoes, and root vegetables are perfect ingredients to add to your October cooking plan.

One recipe that caught my interest comes from a blog I’m a new reader of. I was initially attracted to it because of our recent VitaMix blender purchase, but I’m also finding some great vegan and vegetarian recipes. Plus you have to love the design of the blog. Healthy Blender Recipes from Tess Masters is a blog worth checking out.

Earlier this week I made the Vegan Curried Sweet Potato with Fresh Herbs dish that turned out pretty good. The only part I didn’t like about it was my forgetting I had the sweet potatoes boiling in hot water and forgot to set a timer so they ended up a bit mushy and more like a sweet potato mash, but that was all my issue not the blog’s.

For the Recipe: Healthy Blender Recipes – Vegan Curried Sweet Potato With Fresh Herbs

Long Queues at the Texas State Veggie Fair

On October 25, 2011, in Family, Food, by Chris Baccus

Walking up the hill to the Texas State Veggie Fair

Last Sunday marked the 2nd Annual Texas Veggie State Fair. Yes, I said “veggie” State Fair, not to be confused with the one full of fried foods and pig races. You won’t find any of that here. Instead, what you will find are several food trucks, some vegan lifestyle demos, and a bouncy house for kids. What’s most noticeable though are the really long lines where people wait for food.

We arrived 2 hours into the event at 1pm as the Jackalope Mobile Vegan Kitchen truck ran out of food. A neighboring truck called Geonarino’s was still serving food as was one of our favorite restaurants in Dallas – Spiral Diner. We decided to go with Geonarino’s since we had never tried them. Plus they were serving vegan pizza, something the boys would definitely eat.

I spent 35 minutes in line waiting to order 3 pizzas and another 25 minutes waiting for my placed order to be ready. Here is what I received:

A 1 Hour Wait for a Sad Vegan Pizza

It was the saddest “pizza” I’ve ever seen. The boys didn’t really care because it was all dough and, for all its sadness, the dough was tasty. The toppings needed some work. For $5, a splash of crushed tomatoes and 4 shreds of vegan cheese was almost riot worthy. I’m surprised the crowd, which looked like it was taking an afternoon off from #OccupyDallas, kept calm even after such sorry food.

My guess is the event attendees were good enough with Dallas actually having a Texas State Veggie Fair, even if the food was lacking and the lines were horrendously long. Just knowing more than 5 people enjoy vegan food in Texas, outside of Austin, is a revelation and will probably save this event from the failure it unfortunately deserves.

The waiting begins and never ended

Hopefully, this year’s strong turnout will cause more vendors to come. I really do want this to succeed but if I have to wait a hour for “pizza” and longer than 40 minutes for a smoothie – and don’t get me talking about how disgusting the bathroom was — I’ll find something better to do with a Sunday afternoon.

Food Critic Tips from Anthony Bourdain

On October 25, 2011, in Food, by Chris Baccus

I read Kitchen Confidential long before Anthony Bourdain became the darling of the Travel Channel or is it Discovery or is it Bravo? I can’t keep all of these food-travel shows straight, probably because I never watch them; though, I have caught a couple No Reservations episodes since they are on NetFlix streaming.

Kitchen Confidential was brilliant. It was the first food book I enjoyed reading. It was funny. It was brutal. It was all Bourdain.  I’m a fan. So when I caught a tweet from the @CityofAte twitter account sharing they did an interview with him before his visit to Dallas later this week; I took notice. Unfortunately, I’m out of town Thursday so I’ll miss his show here.

What caught my eyes most from the City of Ate interview is the following Q&A:

I’m new to the game. Help me out: What makes for a good food critic and what makes for a bad one?

Preserve your sense of wonder and delight. Is it still exciting and wonderful and new? Is it a fresh and are you happy with your work. Do you like eating this food? Is it fun? Do you like chefs? Do you understand the process and people behind the creation of your food? Do you understand where it came from and if it matters? Those are important.

Or are you an angry, frustrated, dissatisfied person who was working at The New York Times and then Los Angeles and then ended up in Dallas?

Are you a person with personal connections to chefs? Are you bent? Are you compromised and accepting things of value from the subjects of your articles? Do you have an agenda other than informing your public? Are you an honest broker of opinion? It’s always subjective, but can you bite the hand that feeds you?

I love the last line: “can you bite the hand that feeds you?” This is the most compelling comment since it really showcases that decision between truth and special treatment, whether that means a free meal, a special event invite, or just about anything that goes on with media outreach (blogger outreach too.) It’s a very interesting comment and I wonder if Bourdain himself has been able to truly maintain his own truth.

Regardless, it was a good read and there is some solid advice for any foodie or food critic.

Source: Before Anthony Bourdain Visits Dallas, He Chats with City of Ate About Bad Food Critics and Evil Truffle Oil

Pad Prik King

On October 23, 2011, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus

One of my favorite Thai dishes is a recipe called Pad Prik King. You can use any kind of meat or do it vegetarian with tofu or a blend of additional vegetables. Here I used chicken from Windy Meadows Family Farm.

The recipe below I found doing a Google search as I was looking for something to do with a bag of green beans I bought at the Coppell Farmer’s Market yesterday. A couple recipes called for a Pad Prik King pre-made sauce. I eventually found a recipe where I made some minor changes making it work with ingredients I already had. Best of all it turned out perfect.

Pad Prik King
Serves 4

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken cut into bit-sized pieces
2 cups green beans
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons curry paste (yellow or red)
1 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons julienned kaffir lime leaves

Heat the oil in a wok and add curry paste. Let the paste cook for about 2 minutes to bring out the flavor and add the chicken cooking for 5 minutes on medium-high heat stirring often. Add green beans and cook for 2 minutes. Add water, sugar and fish sauce and let it all cook for another 3 minutes and add kaffir lime leaves at the end cooking for another minute.

Serve with rice.

Source: Thai Food Cooking with Jam

Pork Tenderloin and Mustard-Wine Sauce

On October 17, 2011, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus

Simple ingredient recipes that are full of flavor are a great way to end a long weekend.  This pork tenderloin will be a big hit as the sauce is amazing benefiting from the juices of the roasted pork.

Pork Tenderloin and Mustard-Wine Sauce
Serves 4

1 lb Pork tenderloin
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450. Whisk the wine, water and mustard together. Season pork with salt and pepper on all sides.

Heat a 12-inch ovenproof saute pan over medium-high heat; add oil. Brown pork all around turning the pork every few minutes.  This should take about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and add mustard-wine mixture. Transfer pan to oven.

Roast the pork, spooning the sauce over meat about halfway through.  Cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let it rest for 10 minutes to finish cooking through. Slice and drizzle sauce.


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So what’s the bad news? I got something.

On October 17, 2011, in Food, by Chris Baccus

It’s World Food Day and Blog Action Day today and to celebrate the combined event Blog Action Day decided to focus on food issues. So I decided to write about my latest food “issue.”

There is an ad playing on a few of the children cable channels that tells the story of how chocolate milk from Tru Moo is a good parental decision, since it does not contain high-fructose corn syrup and comes with 8 Essential Nutrients.


Anyone knowledgeable about food choices is intelligent enough to know food without high-fructose corn syrup sounds good, but what did they replace it with, another sugar?  In the case of Tru Moo, yes. They just used natural sugar, 22 grams per 8 ounce serving to be exact. A 12 ounce can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar, 12 ounces of Tru Moo chocolate milk has 33 grams of sugar.

Of course you don’t get those precious 8 Essential Nutrients, but does your child really need them if they eat whole, real foods – not processed junk – and a daily multivitamin. Most likely your child can do without this nutritional “benefit.”

Both high-fructose corn syrup and sugar can cause the same things like obesity, liver damage, heart disease and other ailments to one’s health. Sugar is sugar.

“The main problem with high-fructose corn syrup isn’t in the manufacturing process or its nutritional value, but in its price, ” explains an Opt-Ed piece from the Los Angeles Times last month.

So my kids watch the ads from Tru Moo and tell me this chocolate milk is good for them.  Sorry guys, not true.

It will be a good thing when we finally move to an understanding about sugar that is more in line with this popular video from Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology.


Until then celebrate World Food Day and Blog Action Day by taking some time to watch The Bitter Truth video above and find better choices for your kids than drinks full of sugar.

Focaccia Bread (or Pizza Dough)

On October 16, 2011, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus

Pizza Dough or Focaccia
(makes 2 — 12” rounds)

2 packets “rapid-rise” active dry yeast 1 cup warm water (105 – 110 degrees)
2 teaspoons sugar
6 cups all-purpose flour*
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons olive oil

In a bowl, proof the yeast by mixing yeast, warm water and sugar. Let stand until it becomes foamy. This will take about 5 minutes.
In a mixer or large food processor, mix the flour and salt. Add the proofed yeast mixture and combine. Add olive oil and combine until the moisture is well-mixed into the flour. Add as much additional warm water to produce a dough which is smooth and not sticky. When dough is smooth and can be formed into a ball, it has been sufficiently kneaded.

After combining place into a greased bowl and cover

Place the ball of dough into an oiled bowl; turn to coat all over with oil; cover with a towel, or plastic-wrap, and set in a warm place. Allow it to double in size, which will take about 10-15 minutes, or 1 hour with regular yeast.

When ready to proceed, preheat oven to 450.

Punch dough down; cut into halves; form each half into a ball; roll-out each ball into about a 12” round. Oil pizza pans lightly, and place dough onto pans. Push the dough up slightly around edges to make a border to hold the fillings.

Place out on a pan and add toppings and dimple the bread. Sprinkle with olive oil

Top pizzas with desired fillings, and moisten top by drizzling on some olive oil. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until dough is golden-brown and fillings are slightly bubbling.

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Roasted Cauliflower with Pasta and Lemon Zest

On October 16, 2011, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus

As a kid I would only eat cauliflower if it was drenched in Cheez Whiz. I don’t think I’ve had Cheez Whiz since the 1980s and doubtful I’ll ever have it again. Fortunately, I’ve come to like cauliflower without gobs of processed cheese that’s why it’s great to find a recipe that brings the vegetable to my plate.

This dish is quite simple.  It’s flavor is fairly muted with the few ingredients.  Use some high quality Parmigiano-Reggiano to help boost the flavor or a Romano cheese if you want more flavor without the nuttiness of the Reggiano cheese. Either option works and feel free to add some more olive oil to each dish after serving.

Roasted Cauliflower with Pasta and Lemon Zest
Serves 4

1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 red onion, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
¼ cup salt-pack capers, rinsed
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb dried orecchiette pasta
½ cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)

Preheat oven to 450°. Toss together cauliflower, onion, capers and 2 tablespoons of oil in an oven safe casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes stirring halfway through, until cauliflower is tender and brown.

Meanwhile boil some water for the pasta. Add pasta and cook according to instructions. Toss hot pasta with remaining olive oil, the parsley and lemon zest. Add cauliflower mixture and season with salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine.


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The real hit of the State Fair, the Chevy Sonic with XBox Kinetic Fruit Ninja Game

The Texas State Fair is a big deal here in Dallas. I think I went to one State Fair growing up. It was in Salem, Oregon and technically became the first concert I ever sat through, or more correctly slept through – Three Dog Night.  My parents wanted to see them and well my brother and I were dragged along. I don’t recall it being anything like the Texas State Fair.  Don’t recall a ton of rides, kid activities, or gobs of fried food.

With the boys out of school for Columbus Day, we were set to take them to the Fair when I received an invitation from some friends at Chevy inviting us to attend a family morning event with some other bloggers –@SmockityFrocks @BerryLowman and @mommyswishlist. Plus we had early access to Chevy’s Town Square and some free breakfast. It certainly made for an early morning but a great way to beat any crowds.  Plus the boys had a great time wondering around the Chevy display.

Theo asked for my credit card so he could buy this.

In the tent where we had breakfast, there were several cars on display including the Chevy Camaro “Bumblebee” from the Transformers movie.  Theo came running up to me asking to borrow my credit card so he could buy a car!  Notice his cool slouch (he is on the left) in the photo above. I think he believed we were buying the car.  Sorry little man, maybe next time.

A pair of twins.

The most fun they had was a peddle car track where the boys raced one another and surprisingly didn’t get into any moments of road rage. They had the track all to themselves.  The woman running the track was a twin and her twin sister was at another area of Chevy’s Town Square, so we had to capture the meeting of the twins.  That didn’t last too long as the boys were more interested in the cars than taking more pictures.

Peddle car racing on the Chevy "Test Track"

It was a great way to spend the morning at the State Fair. Sadly I didn’t partake in any fried food eating, so technically the visit didn’t count.  I missed the famous Fletcher’s Corn Dogs and the fried salsa (salsa enclosed by a bunch of tortilla chips then deep fried) a few people told me I had to try.  It was just too early in the morning and walking to the other side of the Fair was a bit much with two barely cooperative 5 year olds.

Sorry no food stories this year. Just a lot of fun riding rides and enjoying some time with our friends from Chevrolet.


Disclosure: I was given 4 tickets to the Fair and free parking. Plus received some coffee and donuts.