We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Celebrating El Día De Los Muertos (The Day of The Dead) in Southern Arizona and Banana Salsa

by Michelle

"After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure."
                                                                                                     —J.K. Rowling

Our sister, Juliette's beautiful daughters, Avalon and Sonora at Tucson's All Souls Procession.
Top Row: Juliette's son, Paul and Sonora. Bottom Row: Avalon and Juliette
We all met for dinner in downtown Tucson before attending the Procession.
   Last year, I celebrated El Día De Los Muertos over the course of a couple of events, beginning with a weekend in Bisbee to attend and photograph an art and altarpiece juried exhibition managed by my sister Juliette and concluding with the All Souls Procession in downtown Tucson.
   The art event was held at Central School Project which is housed in a historical building (and a retired high school) situated just above the downtown area. The former classrooms have wood floors and beautiful casement windows that open to let the fresh air circulate around the high ceilings that are embellished with crown molding.
   The gallery space is not too small and not too big and is flanked by staircases that give the room an air of openness like an Escher drawing. Juliette encouraged me to contribute artwork to the show, and with some nudging, I made canvases from photographs that I captured during the All Soul's Procession of 2012 and 2013 as well as photographs of my visit to Tumacácori. The community altar was decorated with paper flowers made by a small group of women, including my sister, Juliette. I traveled down to Bisbee to photograph the event and to document how the paper flowers are made.

This is one of the images (and my favorite) that I contributed to the Art and Altar
Piece Juried Exhibition hosted by the Central School Project in Bisbee, Arizona. 
   For the last few years our family has made an event of attending the All Soul's Procession. We eat dinner early and then we stay together as a loosely knit group. We stake a claim to territory on the sidewalk where we hope to maintain an unencumbered view of the Procession as the reflective participants meander by in honor of loved ones that have died. Because I choose to shoot the Procession handheld (no tripod) and without a flash, every year I seek to find an area to stand where the road is flooded with light from overhead street lamps. So, depending upon how long dinner lasted, and how thick the crowds have become, we have not yet had the opportunity to stand in the same place twice from year-to-year.
   The 'tarot of photography' is the way I'd describe capturing images at the All Soul's Procession. No two photographers standing side-by-side will produce the same photographs. A bit of luck and skill and perhaps even chutzpah come together for one to quickly capture with the click of a shutter, the fleeting personal moments that rapidly appear and just as quickly disappear. The strolling crowd is constantly moving forward, and past where I am standing. My camera is held at the ready, just below my chin, while my eyes scan the crowds for interesting subjects and compositions. I never really know what I have picture-wise until I download the photos to my laptop and begin scrolling through the images. I cringe at the "just missed" shots, which are usually too blurry. And, I rejoice at the clean captures. That's life... sometimes you just don't know what you're going to get. It's a bit of a game. Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win.

All Souls Procession 2014

Art and Altarpiece Juried Exhibition at Central School Project 2014

My sister, Juliette and friend, Carolyn did an amazing job organizing the community event.
The larger-than-life Joker was contributed by Tucson artist, Hank Tusinski.
The textile birds are handmade by Renata González.
   This year our extended family was thrilled that Juliette's sugar skull was featured on the cover of Edible Baja Magazine. Juliette has been making intricately decorated sugar skulls adorned with brightly hued fondant frosting for a decade. Her festive designs never fail to delight us and we look forward to seeing her new creations in August and September, which are made in advance preparation for numerous celebrations held in mid and late October leading up to November 1st, when Día De Los Muertos is observed.
   To learn more about making sugar skulls, read our blog post how to make sugar skulls at home and then throw the ultimate sugar skull decorating party. And, if you are going to host a sugar skull decorating party, there is no better time to make and serve Juliette's famous Pumpkin Soup. For dessert, what could be better this time of year then baking Dead Man's Party Cookies? Nada!

My daughter Maddie is proud of her Auntie Juliette for making
 the sugar skull featured on the cover of Edible Baja Magazine.
Our sister Juliette built this shrine in the bar area at Cafe Roka in Bisbee. 
Juliette made the skeleton "Sprite" and the loaf of sourdough fougasse-style 
bread shaped like a skull (featured on the left). 

Banana Salsa

   Make this salsa ahead of time by simply mixing all the ingredients together except the banana. When ready to serve, peel and dice the banana and add it to the mix. Double the recipe if needed, but be forewarned that leftovers of this salsa do not keep well.
   Whip up a quick meal of tacos or steamed tamales and top with a large spoonful of Banana Salsa for a burst of fruity, tangy flavor. The salsa is also beautiful and tasty served over steak type fish such as Halibut, or pan fried chicken breasts.

1 large, ripe, firm banana, peeled and diced
½ red or yellow bell pepper (or half and half), seeded and diced
2 Tbsps chopped fresh mint, cilantro or Italian parsley
1 scallion, trimmed and finely chopped or 2 small shallots, minced
1½ Tbsps fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp brown sugar or honey
1 Tbsp jalapeño, seeded and minced
1½ tsps minced peeled ginger root
1½ tsps olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients; toss lightly to mix. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve within one hour. Makes 1½ cups.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Crispy Chicken with Lemon Caper Dijonaise and Spiralized Yellow Squash (Gluten-Free)

by Michelle

"Almost anything is edible with a dab of French mustard on it." 
         —Nigel Slater, The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater

   Autumn and mustard are a natural pairing. Mustard has an affinity for honey, apple cider vinegar, cream, garlic, shallots, and herbs. And, of course, mustard also complements cold cuts, cured meats, cheeses, salad dressings, and vegetable-based dishes. What would Oktoberfest be without beer, sausages, potatoes, sauerkraut and mustard?
   In my wanderings over the last month I have encountered wonderful dishes prepared with mustard that I've wanted to recreate at home. At Proper, a restaurant located in downtown Tucson that focuses on farm-to-table American fare, I enjoyed a leisurely dinner with my family when my sister, Juliette was visiting the "big city" (or at least that's what Tucson seems like when you live in a tiny town like Bisbee). For my entree I ordered Top Knot Farms Chicken Breast with Serrano Ham, plus Dijon Emulsion, Summer Squash and Snap Peas. The Dijon sauce made the dish.
   I recently traveled to Northern California so that Linda and I could jointly photograph our first wedding. The rehearsal dinner was scheduled late on a Friday afternoon and the wedding took place on Sunday afternoon, which left Saturday open to pursue a fun activity in wine country. Mark, cook extraordinaire and occasional Salvation Sisters' blog contributor, scheduled a wine tasting at The Hess Collection in Napa Valley that included a personal guided tour, a viewing of the prized contemporary art collection and a private lunch prepared by Chef Chad Hendrickson. Everything about our time at Hess was exceptional, and we'll have an upcoming post of our time at the winery. The whole grain mustard sauce served with the halibut steak was a surprise pairing and was absolutely delicious.
   If you open my refrigerator and take a peak inside you will note the various containers of sauces stashed on the shelves. I have thankfully discovered over the years that many sauces can be made ahead and improve in flavor when stored for a day or two in the refrigerator. Some key ingredients for sauces, such as demi-glacé, freeze well and are easily portioned in ice cube trays. Use a cube or two in Diane Sauce for steaks or Mushroom Sauce and transform everyday dining into a special occasion meal. I think you'll agree with me that a well received dish is often attributed to a well executed sauce. Here then, to celebrate the loveliness of mustard, is a Dijon emulsion that sublimely dresses vegetables, or just about anything else you can imagine, including a sandwich. My mouth waters at the thought!

Crispy Chicken with Lemon Caper Dijonaise

   At Proper, the chef serves the chicken breast and Serrano ham on a bed of summer squash and snap peas tossed with "Dijon Emulsion". I also think it would be fun to spiralize yellow beets into long curling strands, which can be quickly pan fried in a little olive oil and then tossed with the Dijonaise sauce.

Dijonaise Sauce:
2 egg yolks
2 tsps Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp water
dash white pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup avocado oil

Combine all the ingredients together in a tall narrowish vessel, such as a French working jar and blitz with a stick blender until emulsified, about 10 to 15 seconds. Then add:

3 Tbsps Dijon
2 Tbsps honey
1 shallot, minced
1 Tbsp capers, rinsed
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add the above items to the mixed sauce and blend once again. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve, up to a day.

Chicken breasts take a short five minute rest in the oven so the ham warms and Parmesan melts.
Crispy Chicken:
Prepare Boneless and Breaded Chicken Breasts

You can prep the chicken breasts ahead of time, by pounding each breast flat with a mallet. Store chicken covered in the fridge.
   The original recipe calls for ice cold chicken to be dipped in a blended combination of 1 pint plain yogurt + 1/2 cup honey + 3 tablespoons Dijon Mustard. The chicken is then coated with a combination of blended unsweetened cornflakes (or, gluten-free cornflakes) and sliced blanched almonds (3 to 1 cornflakes to almond mixture, whirled in a food processor).
   I find that my recipe for Boneless and Breaded Chicken Breasts is much easier to prepare and yet tastes similar because the "flour" coating calls for Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix (Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free), which has ground almonds in the ingredients list. The almonds brown beautifully when pan fried.
With a paring knife gently remove the strings from the seams of the snap peas.
The Spiralizer makes short work of slicing the squash into long pappardelle-like ribbons.
Vegetables, such as:
summer squash, sliced thinly on a Spiralizer or mandolin
snap peas
ribbons of carrots
yellow beats, peeled and sliced with a Spiralizer

Sauté vegetables in a little olive oil in the same pan you used to fry the chicken breasts. Sprinkle with a little salt to help the vegetables release juices. To serve, toss cooked vegetables with Dijonaise Sauce. The sauce will thin a bit with the moisture the vegetables release (which is a good thing). Divide vegetables between plates. Top with pan friend chicken breast. Garnish with Serrano ham, capers, and minced parsley.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Linda's Delicious Detox Saffron Lemonade

Adventures in Herbalism by Linda

"After doing a juice cleanse, I am motivated to eat healthier and not emotionally. Cleansing is like my meditation. It makes me stop, focus and think about what I am putting into my body. I'm making a commitment to my health and hitting the reset button." — Salma Hayek

The fully 'brewed' lemonade is ready to enjoy.
   Recently I visited a doctor who practices holistic medicine. During my visit, she showed me a drink that she makes daily before she heads to work. At the office she sips it throughout the day. It was basically a cold-brewed saffron tea, and I was intrigued. She told me that it helps elevate mood and digestion—bringing "sunshine" into the body.

So simple to make—lemons, saffron, cayenne and stevia. 
   Back at home, embarking on my cleanse, I decided to add saffron to a lemonade that I would be making from lemon juice and stevia. To add even more detoxification properties, I added a tiny sprinkle of cayenne which is part of the Master Cleanse formula that has been popular for 50 years, especially since Beyonce Knowles became associated with the Lemon Detox Diet.

   My detox program eliminates all sugar, so I made my recipe with stevia for the sweetener, and adding saffron because it is not only adds a delicious flavor, but also because it has been used as a medicinal herb for over 3,500 years. 
   If you are not a fan of stevia, you are going to love this recipe. The saffron and cayenne mellow the lemon and cover the taste of the stevia. It is more rich tasting than regular lemonade, with just a hint of spice. I promise—you will not have a clue that this lemonade is not sweetened with sugar.
   I was surprised at just how delicious this combination is—the saffron adding an extra depth of flavor. I make it first thing in the morning and carry it along to work. I sip it during the day along with piping hot cups of jasmine green tea.

Linda's Delicious Detox Saffron Lemonade

1 24 ounce Mason or widemouth canning jar
citrus juicer
tweezers for saffron (optional)

the juice of two fresh lemons
one tiny pinch high grade saffron such as Mehr
very small sprinkle of cayenne pepper
filtered water
10-12 drops of liquid stevia

Juice the two fresh lemons and pour the juice into the bottom of the glass jar. Using the tweezers, add a small pinch of the saffron to the lemon juice. Gently swirl the saffron into the juice and then fill the jar to the top of the fill line (the line just under the threads of the jar). Add stevia to taste, for me that is about a dozen drops of stevia, and add just a tiny sprinkle of cayenne powder unless you prefer more spice—then by all means add a little more. Screw the lid onto the jar and swirl until blended. Allow to sit at room temp or in the fridge until ready. Lemonade is ready to begin drinking in about 15 minutes. You will see the liquid turn a rich gold color from the saffron.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Joan's Baked Meatballs (Gluten-Free and Paleo Versions)

by Michelle

   I inherited this recipe from my mother-in-law, Joan. Many years ago, when I learned that Joan's meatballs were not fried... well, I had an "aha" moment. Baking the meatballs in broth ensures tenderness. And guess what? It's incredibly easy to make a big batch of meatballs and leftovers are conveniently stored in the freezer. When you want to make meatballs with marinara, or perhaps even mushroom sauce, there is no need to defrost the meatballs ahead of time. Simply add meatballs to the sauce and heat slowly over a low flame.
   While the meatballs are reheating in the sauce, you can bake a spaghetti squash or boil water for pasta. My favorite gluten-free pasta is made by Bionaturæ®, which cooks and tastes like traditional pasta. If you need to prepare a meal for someone who is adhering to a gluten-free or Paleo lifestyle, and don't even know where to start... well, I've just solved your problem for you. Just about everyone loves a great meatball.

   Earlier this year when I committed to eating Paleo for a month while participating in a self-inspired Whole30 program, Joan's recipe made Paleo-style (with no breadcrumbs and no Parmesan cheese), was a lifesaver. The secret to gluten-free or Paleo-style meatballs is to swap seasoned mashed cauliflower for breadcrumbs. I read about this technique in Nom Nom Paleo's cookbook by Michelle and Henry Tam. Now before you cringe and say, "Oh yuck, " rest assured that the cauliflower flavor is not even remotely detectable in the meatballs.
   If anyone could taste cauliflower hidden in food, it would be be husband Jay, who pretty much dislikes cauliflower altogether. When we talked about completing a second round of Whole30 this month, Jay asked how we could accomplish our goal and avoid eating as much cauliflower as we did the first time around when I over did making faux-rice, faux-potatoes, and faux-bagels (yes, all made with cauliflower) with varying degrees of success. Rest assured, if Jay gives this recipe two thumbs up, the cauliflower is not detectable. These meatballs are moist and tender and I think you and your family and friends will adore them as much as we do.

Joan's Baked Meatballs (Gluten-Free and Paleo Versions)

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