Teacher Appreciation Luncheon ~ Celebrating Our National Parks

Teacher Appreciation Luncheon ~ Celebrating Our National Parks

Teacher Appreciation Luncheon – National Park Theme

I wish there were a national contest for the most outstanding Teacher Appreciation Luncheon. I’m certain that the parents of students at Rolling Hills Country Day School would come in first place. Every. Year.

Going way beyond creative, in the past 5 years these parents have turned an ordinary auditorium into mysterious colorful Morocco, a charming Farmers Market, an all-star Ballpark, a clever Eco-Friendly environment, and a delightful Asian restaurant …

And now – into a National Park!

Teacher Appreciation Luncheon ~ Celebrating Our National Parks

On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service turns 100! The Centennial will celebrate the achievements of the past 100 years and kick off a second century of stewardship for America’s national parks and for communities across the nation.

Teacher Appreciation Luncheon ~ Celebrating Our National Parks

Camp Rolling Hills Country Day

“Please join us for a woodsy afternoon luncheon at RHCDS National Park in honor of our Teachers & Staff and the 100th year celebration of U.S. National Parks.

So grab your hiking boots and camping gear as we adventure and explore the beauty of the great outdoors.

We’ll gather around the campfire for stories and s’mores.”

Teacher Appreciation Luncheon ~ Celebrating Our National Parks

Wearing our nifty new Outdoor Adventure T-Shirts, we arrive at the “national park” to find a fabulous Glamping-Style Buffet, and upon further exploration we find that our campsite features S’mores Around a “Live” Campfire, a General Store where we can take our cool new backpacks to fill with all the supplies we’ll need on our adventures.

These include a picnic blanket, canteen, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, lip balm – all embossed with the Camp RHCDS logo. Also included  – a neat little Pelican LED flashlight. Thanks to the generous parents, we’re equipped and ready to enjoy the great outdoors now and all summer long.

To ward off hunger along the trails, we are supplied a red bandana which contains a s’mores kit. Plus, we visit the Happy Trails booth to customize trail mix for the hike, choosing from a wide assortment of dried fruits and nuts and seeds. And finally we visit the Bear Country Bakery booth for bear claw brownies, muffins, and cookies plus hot coffee for energy. We definitely won’t go hungry on this trip.

Come, take a hike with us and check it out!

Maybe we’ll even spot a bear???

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Fun Little Baked Potato Shooters

Baked Potato Shooters with Bacon, Crema, Cheese, and Chives

Baked Potato Shooters
Bacon, Mexican Crema, Cheese, and Chives
Chive Blossoms Too

I credit Graham Elliot with this idea. A couple weeks ago, we had a wonderful meal at his eponymous bistro in Chicago. On the menu – baked potato soup / traditional accompaniments, untraditional ways.

At a recent party, I served liquid baked potato untraditionally in 2 oz. shot glasses with traditional accompaniments of bacon, sour cream, cheese, and chives. They were a big hit. Thanks, Graham.

And with their savory garlic-oniony flavor and pretty lavender color, chive blossoms from my garden added a charming untraditional finishing touch.

Baked Potato Shooters! Bacon, Mexican Crema, Cheese, and Chives, Chive Blossoms Too

Baked Potato Shooters Recipe

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Chickpea Spaghetti with Roasted Carrots, Cilantro Dill Pesto #glutenfreevegan

Chickpea Spaghetti with Roasted Carrots, Cilantro Dill Pesto

Chickpea Spaghetti with Roasted Carrots
Cilantro Dill Pesto

My health-minded friends at Explore Cuisine have just released a new line of Pulse Pastas.  Certified vegan, organic, and gluten-free – their Pulse Pastas are made in Italy into spaghetti, penne, fusilli, and lasagne shapes.

Pulses are part of the legume family, the term “pulse” referring to the dried seed. Dried peas, edible beans, lentils and chickpeas are the most common varieties of pulses. Pulses are very high in protein and fiber, and low in fat.

Made of chickpeas, red lentils, or green lentils these noodles are much more than a gluten-free pasta substitute, they are smart choice for the chef to savvy home cook, and they make a perfect dish for everyone at the table. Packed with protein, high in potassium, with lower net carbs, and a good source of fiber – beyond the health benefits, these noodles have an impressive taste, texture, and color.

Here, chickpea spaghetti is paired with carrots that have been roasted and slightly caramelized for depth of flavor. The carrots were spiralized for a nifty presentation. Fresh and herby, with bright lemon and zippy garlic flavor – the cilantro dill pesto complements the roasted carrots. It is a simple but very tasty and healthful dish.

Chickpea Spaghetti with Roasted Carrots Recipe

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Blackened Barramundi and Sea Scallop Salad, Blackberry Vinaigrette

Blackened Barramundi and Sea Scallop Salad, Blackberry Vinaigrette

Blackened Barramundi and Sea Scallops with Frizzled Leeks
Red Leaf Lettuce and Radicchio
Asparagus, Purple Potato, Fresh Corn, Red Onion
Fresh Blackberries and Blackberry Vinaigrette

Remember back in the 80s when “Blackened Redfish” was all the rage on restaurant menus everywhere? The late Louisiana Chef Paul Prudhomme’s recipe caught fire around the country.

Moist, succulent barramundi is an excellent stand-in for redfish with its mild buttery flavor and texture that is flaky yet firm, perfect for this blackened preparation.

Australis farmed barramundi from Vietnam received a “Best Choice” recommendation  from Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Native to the Indo-Pacific, this omega-3 rich fish is a healthy choice as well as an eco-friendly choice. Farmed barramundi is often marketed under the names “Asian seabass” or “giant seabass.”

BLACKened barramundi and BLACKberries contrast each other in this striking salad. It’s vibrant, colorful, savory with a hint of sweetness and a balanced spicy character – I think the Chef would approve.

Blackened Barramundi and Sea Scallop Salad, Blackberry Vinaigrette

The blended vinaigrette is such a pretty shade of purplish-pink, be sure to serve extra on the side in a clear little pitcher.

How to Make Blackened Barramundi and Sea Scallops

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Succulent Fresh Fish and Spring Produce

Fresh-Caught Pan-Fried Yellowtail, Garlic Butter Petite Peas and Green Beans, Toasted Pine Nuts, Tarragon, Mint, Parsley, Meyer Lemon Hummus Drizzle

Fresh-Caught Pan-Fried Yellowtail
Garlic Butter Peas and Green Beans
Toasted Pine Nuts
Tarragon, Mint, Parsley
Meyer Lemon Hummus Drizzle

Neither succulent fresh fish nor fresh spring produce need much embellishment. Although the addition of lots of fresh green herbs and a drizzle of meyer lemon hummus doesn’t hurt. The verdant colors of spring make the dish pop. Where pine nuts, parsley, and lemon juice are a classic pairing with hummus – here all these flavors and textures lend a supporting role to the fish and vegetables. The ubiquitous dip is equally fabulous as a sauce for fish.

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Rhône Blend White Wines are a Dream to Pair with Foods

Fried Goat Cheese, Butter Lettuce Cups, Green Apple, Almonds, Sweet Meyer Lemon Cream

Fried Goat Cheese
Butter Lettuce, Green Apple, Almond, Borage
Sweet Meyer Lemon Cream with Cardamom

paired with

Le Cigar Blanc 2012
Bonny Doon Vineyard
Arroyo Seco, Monterey County, California

for

Grocery Outlet’s
Spring Wine Sale

Rhône Blend white wines are a dream to pair with foods. Who can resist the tempting flavors of peaches, apricots, ripe pears, sweet spices and honey, or the seductive aromas of honeysuckle and tropical fruits? White wines from France’s Rhône tend to have these characteristics. Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, and to a lesser extent Picpoul Blanc – are the dominant varietals in the region. Many of the wines tend toward a creaminess that is rich but not heavy, with a refreshing acidity, and a pleasing minerality and nuttiness.

California Winemaker Randall Graham of Bonny Doon Vineyards has been a tireless champion of the grapes of the Rhône for decades. It is difficult to resist his stylish wines as well as his quirky sense of humor. This wine, Le Cigare Blanc (The White Cigar) is named after his flagship, Le Cigar Volant (The Flying Cigar), so-called in honor of the cigar-shaped flying saucer banned by decree of the village council of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It’s a true story,  in 1954 the mayor and the council voted to ban alien craft from the airspace of their hamlet in order to protect their precious crops.

The 2012 vintage of Le Cigar Blanc is made of 48% Grenache Blanc, 44% Roussanne, and 8% Picpoul Blanc. The Grenache Blanc adds notes of green apple and lemon-lime citrus. The Roussanne brings honeyed notes with a rich mouthfeel and nutty aromas. These characteristics are highlighted and elevated by this salad’s rich goat cheese, sweet/tart meyer lemon cream with a hint of warm cardamom spice, allumettes of green apple, and lightly toasted almonds. Soft butter lettuce, creamy cheese with a toasty panko breadcrumb crust, and crisp Granny Smiths add contrasting textures.

This goat cheese salad and Rhône blend make a quite dreamy pair.

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