Friday, February 29, 2008

Italian Meatball Soup

My brothers and sisters surprised our mother with a day of skiing at Kirkwood Mountain Resort on California State Route 88 this week. Initially, a brother talked about treating mom to a day of skiing.

One-by-one, each sibling expressed interest in joining them. My task was to bring soup for Mom.

Since her birthday falls in the middle of winter, it was an appropriate treat. After Dad taught Mom to ski in the 1950s, the couple spend many hours on the slopes of Badger Pass in Yosemite National Park. Each child was in turn groomed on the bunny hill, and soon graduated to more advanced runs.

By 1980, the five of us had left home, and the ministry took Mom and Dad to Mammoth Lakes. Mom's birthday treat was often a day on the slopes at Mammoth Mountain. The tradition continued until Dad could no longer ski.

This was Mom's first birthday since Dad's passing last October. To complete the suprise, we invited Mom's sister to join us. And our sister who lives on the East Coast caught the Red Eye to join us.

I prepared the meatballs Sunday evening and cooled them in the refrigerator. After making a pot of soup Tuesday evening, an ice water bath quickly cooked the soup in the pot. This stopped further cooking and made sure that I delivered a safe pot of soup to the family. I slowly heated the soup over a Coleman stove at the resort (pictured above).


This recipe prepares 24 servings, or 1-1/2 gallons of soup and 60 to 66 meatballs. Cut the recipe in half to serve 12.

1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1-1/2 pounds Italian sausage
1-1/2 cups Italian bread crumbs
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
2 teaspoons dried basil

3 quarts chicken broth
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 (15-ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch fresh spinach, stems removed and washed
2 medium zucchini, sliced
6 ounces orzo
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
2 teaspoons dried basil

Combine beef, pork, eggs, bread crumbs, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Add more bread crumbs if needed to form balls that hold their shape. Shape meat mixture into 1-inch balls with a 1-ounce ladle or no. 30 disher. Bake in 350° F. oven 18-20 minutes to medium doneness, until not pink in center and juices show no pink color.

Combine broth, onions, carrots, potatoes, green bell peppers and tomatoes in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and gently simmer for 15 minutes. Do not overcook vegetables as they remain firm.

Add beans, spinach, zucchini, orzo and herbs to pot. Return to a boil, reduce heat and gently simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the orzo is done. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, place 3 meatballs in a bowl. Ladle 1-cup hot soup over meatballs. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese or pesto if desired.

Now closed

Now closed
Originally uploaded by SeabeeCook

This is the kind of high country resort that has always intrigued me. I've though that it would be fun to operate one such as Kay's Resort on Silver Lake in Amador County.

It may not be possible as the current owner, El Dorado Irrigation District, recently found wiring problems, contaminated soil and a leaking septic tank. (Spoils the picture, doesn't it!)

Kay's Resort -- closed for good

Kay Resort was a fixture at Silver Lake for years. It's now closed for good, not just for the winter.

Newspapper reports last year said that the El Dorado Irrigation District, current owner of the property and operator of the lake, may not operate or lease the resort.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Another view of the California Capitol

As an armature photographer, I've started to develop an eye for photographic potential. It's not perfect. But I tend to view my surrounding environment through the view finder.

When I arrived at work, one of the managers asked if I was available to run a document to the finance office in the Capitol. (Yes, Bill. I'm rubbing shoulders with the big guns now!)

It looked like a great way to clear my mind and get a little exercise on the job.

The purple flowers jumped caught my attention as I walked by the Capitol's impressive white marble facade around 8:30 a.m. I quickly composed several photographs in my mind and delved the package.

A late meeting prevented me from leaving work promptly at 4 p.m. As the meeting broke, I sided up a 15-minute break in the weather. I knew I'd have to move quickly if I were to beat the sunlight to the Capitol.

The seven-block walk to the Capitol took 10 minutes. By the time I arrived on the grounds, rain clouds loomed. And the blue sky had moved east of the Capitol dome. I knew that I had to move quickly if I wanted a picture under good light.

This is the first picture of more than a dozen. I like how the purple flowers, lined in perfect rows and columns by the gardner, draws your eyes right into the picture and up to the dome.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cookin' In the Park

It's almost time for the Cookin' In the Park Dutch oven cookoff in Red Bluff, California.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Apple bread pudding pie

This pie is not what you think. It had a creamy texture, much like bread pudding that's laced with apple chunks. The crumb topping adds a contrasting texture that's crunchy and sweet. Each bite is a treat.

I baked this pie for the crew at the El Dorado Western Railway engine house last weekend. It's the third recipe for the black bean chili menu.


Use Jonathan, Rome Beauty or Winesap apples for this recipe.

1 unbaked 9-inch pastry shell
3 eggs
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 slices bread, cut up (about 3 cups)
2 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

For crust, line the unbaked pastry shell with a double thickness of foil. Bake in a 450 degree F oven for 8 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for 4 minutes more. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl stir together eggs, applesauce, yogurt, granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, oats and cinnamon. Stir in bread and apples and set aside.

For topping, in another bowl stir together 1/4 cup packed brown sugar and flour. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts. Pour filling into the prepared pie crust. Sprinkle topping over filling. Cover edge of crust with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil; bake 30 minutes more or until top is golden and fruit is tender. Makes 8 servings.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Peppery cheese bread

Here's the quick bread recipe that I baked for the crew at the El Dorado Western Railway engine house last week. Although I baked the recipe in the home oven, this recipe should easily convert to a Dutch oven. Bake the recipe in a 10-inch Dutch oven with coals for 350 degrees F. If desired, bake it inside a loaf pan in a 12-inch or 12-inch deep Dutch oven.


I find that you should pull the bread from the oven a little short of the regular baking time. This helps produce a moister loaf.

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 beaten eggs
1 (8-ounce) carton plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup cooking oil
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

Grease the bottom and 1/2-inch up the sides of an 8x4x2-inch loaf pan; set aside.

In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, pepper, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine eggs, yogurt, oil, milk, and mustard. Add to flour mixture along with cheese and green onions. Stir just until moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake in a 350-degree F. oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan. Cool for 1 hour on wire rack; serve warm. Wrap any leftovers and store in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Makes 1 loaf (12 to 16 servings).

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Black bean chili recipe

I cooked for the crew at El Dorado Western Railway engine house today. Since they like chili, I kept the menu simple, as follows:
I cooked the chili, bread and pie last night at home to allow me time to work on other projects at the engine house. When I arrive at 9 a.m., I lit a batch of charcoal in a chimney starter and warmed the chili on a large Dutch oven. The coffee boiler holds hot water for dishes.

I'll post the recipes for the bread and pie soon. The idea for the menu comes from the Better Homes and Gardens website.


Alter the chili's heat by selecting a salsa that fits your tolerance for capsicum heat. I find that a medium salsa with Ro*tel-brand tomatoes gives me a flavorful chili that doesn't overpower.

3 pounds lean diced ground pork
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cups thick and chunky salsa
2 (14-1/2-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish
Sour cream for garnish

Heat a 12-inch Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Lightly season pork meat with salt. Brown pork in hot oil in 2 to 3 batches to avoid overcrowding. Remove each batch of pork to a bowl after it's browned.

Add additional olive oil if needed and heat until shimmering. Sweat bell pepper, onion, garlic and cumin together until soft. Add reserved pork and juices to Dutch oven.

Stir black beans, salsa, undrained tomatoes, oregano, chili powder, crushed red pepper and salt into mixture in Dutch oven. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 60 minutes until pork is tender.

Uncover and add beans to Dutch oven. Simmer about 15 minutes more or until desired consistency is obtained. Check seasoning. Ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle each serving with Cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream if desired. Serves 8 to 12.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Cookin' hot dogs in the rain

We try to cook several times each year at the engine house of the El Dorado Western Railway. Since our focus is restoration of the Diamond and Caldor Railway No. 4 locomotive, the fare is simple and direct.

This is railroad food, alter all. I don't have a lot of time to cook gourmet meals, especially when I have a newsletter to produce and need to help with projects. Our meals tend to be quick affairs that let us get back to work quickly.

Thus past Saturday, Keith Berry lit a charcoal fire in an old blacksmith's forge. His object was to bake old grease off of the brake linkage rods for the locomotive.

True to our nature, fire in the engine house can only mean one thing -- it's time to cook!

Four large Polish sausages (about 6 ounces each) came courtesy of Bill Rodgers, our treasurer and jack-of-all-trades. In the picture, Bill tends sausages on the grill during a light rain. An inverted wheelbarrow shields the sausages and fire from the rain.