Monday, December 6, 2010

Cold Weather and no Snow.

It's that time of the year when all I want to do is bake!..
Yesterday I made cinnamon rolls, I tried my best to make them healthy...
Haha yea right! I used half wheat flour half white flour and a cup of pecans and walnuts... Butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and Cream cheese frosting. Delicious.
Wheat flour really is a noticeably different but without a doubt it has a sweetness that is added... The cream cheese frosting I made still has a couple lumps but talk about imitation Cinnabon. I may have created the exact same frosting. 8ounces butter, 16 ounces cream cheese, a little less than 2 cups powder sugar, and vanilla all whipped up to unhealthy perfection. I still have 6 unbaked rolls if anyone wants to come over and enjoy them with me...?

Today I will make pumpkin cupcakes with the same cream cheese frosting... Last year I mailed out cookies and breads to all my friends and the family that was on my parents exchange list. My grandpa said it was the best pumpkin cake he's ever had. Happy 88th birthday grandpa, I'm sending dad with some treats!

The reason why winter is so great; you can keep your house smelling like baked goods day after day. I love it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Feast!

Thanksgiving; Good Food, Company, and Booze.

The night before:
Chopping of veggies. I chopped onions, celery, shallots, and mushrooms. I left only the green and potatoes for me to prepare veggie wise the day of.

I made beautiful pumpkin pies the night before. One of them I traded my mom for fruit salad and a delicious cranberry salsa recipe she found in the newspaper... (That salsa may have stolen most the attention for the night) The pies were made from roasted fresh pumpkins, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and a tiny hint of nutmeg and vanilla. I thought for sure they were going to be runny inside, because I added more pumpkin and no more eggs...It took so long to bake that at midnight and after an hour and a half of baking time and the knife still not coming out clean i said "screw it, I have way to much to do tomorrow to wait all night for pumpkin pies." The surprise was on me at the end of the Thursday night when the pie was a perfect finish to meal.

Even though I don't eat Turkey, there is something about Injecting the Turkey I have a guilty pleasure doing. I combined vegetable broth, orange zest, butter, fresh garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary, and hot sauce. I let these ingredients simmer to make sure they would blend together in taste then ran my immersion blender through it to combine all the herbs... You fill the syringe then stab the turkey. Injecting the mixture it makes it expand likes lips getting collagen. My helper had no interest in what I was doing until the breast started expanding.

Thursday arrived:
To do; stuffing, turkey, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, sweet potato souffle, mashed potatoes and gravy:) mmmmm complete thanksgiving.

Stuffing: Fresh dried bread, lots of butters, onions, celery, (a small handful of mushrooms only because I had a few mushroom haters to fool), fresh sage, thyme, fresh parsley, poultry seasoning, veggie broth, and of course salt and pepper to taste... I like the caramelize everything then add the bread crumbs to toast up a little bit more in the pan.... I add enough broth to make the bread damp but still with a little crisp. It sits in the fridge and continues to absorb the liquid... and who like mushy stuffing? If it still has a crisp when you put it in to bake add a cup more of veggie broth evenly dispersed on top.

Cranberry Sauce: More like relish, processed a bag of cranberries with an apple, fresh squeezed o.j., orange zest, ginger, and honey. I ran out of honey so I cooked it all together for about 5 minutes. It brought out the sweetness and made it bright pink!

After the cranberry sauce I juiced my oranges and thinly sliced an unjuiced one. Stuck that in the fridge as it was a main ingredient for my turkey rub. I needed to take a break, load up the car with the dogs, a pumpkin pie, and some cranberry sauce. I was going to make a trade with my mom. Pie for fruit salad.

My mom made the best dish of the night by far... Or maybe it was the fact that everyone was starving and all we had to munch on was my moms cranberry salsa. (She takes no credit I think the recipe may have come out of the Denver post) Cranberries, dried cranberries, roasted jalapenos, red onion, lime, agave, cilantro, salt, and pepper. It was SO good, and unusual. Salty chips and sweet salsa. Killer combination. The fruit salad was pretty good too. :)

Once I got home it was spring into action time. Orange Juice, butter, thyme, sage rosemary, salt and pepper into a pan to simmer for a minute or two. Then the grand finale, I take this yummy buttery liquid and smear it all over the turkey. I pull the skin up and drench the meat with this. No skimping whatsoever. I Put sliced oranges on top of that but still under the skin. (I am so bummed I didn't take any pictures) Think pork roasting with an apple in its mouth. That's the feeling you get when you pull out a beautiful golden brown turkey with dark orange imprints in the skin. 325 oven for a couple hours... (It was only a ten pound turkey.) Wrong time estimate. Planning for 5:30/6 dinner turned into sitting down and eating at 7:30. I think the oven may be very slightly off temp. Every 30 minutes or so after the first hour I brushed my yummy orange butter on the top. Keep it most and browning up evenly.

Next I peeled Yukon gold potatoes and stuck them in water. They can sit like that for hours and not turn brown.

Green Bean Casserole: This is by far my favorite dish. I cleaned up the green beans and par cooked them in boiling heavily salted water. You don't want to put them in complete uncooked because they don't cook at all, but if you give them a slight cook they are still crunchy after its baked together. I sauteed mushrooms and shallots with some rosemary salt and garlic in they were good and brown. Bechamel sauce consits of a roux which is equal parts butter and flour melted and combined together, then cold milk whisked in... I season with a pinch of cloves and nutmeg, salt and pepper. Traditionally you are supposed to cook it with half of an onion with two to three cloves pressed into it. I took the short cut. You let this cream sauce cook until it is nice and thick. I then added some Colby jack cheese and the sauteed mushrooms. Poor over the green beans and Voila all you need is those yummy already made fried onions. (Yes its true I take all sorts of shortcuts)

Sweet Potato Souffle: Thank you Sam. I followed the recipe to the tee, and it was phenomenal. Yummy sweet potatoes baked with eggs and sugar, than brown sugar and pecan topping. I would love to elaborate but this is not my recipe and I don't feel right just giving it away. Hats off to Sam Craw!

Now it was time to wait I put everything together. Everything needed to be baked and the turkey was taking forever...

Finally I got a reading of 160 on the thermometer in the turkey. I pulled it out. Carryover cooking will bump it up to 165. In went all the sides, stuffing which i pulled the stuffing out from the inside of the turkey and put it on top of the rest to bake. Better to be safe then sorry when it comes to uncooked turkey juices and whatnot. Green bean casserole and sweet potatoes all in the oven to bake for a half an hour or so. Potatoes get turned on and the gravy.... I make a roux and let it cook until it is brown, then i added pan drippings and vegetable broth. Did I mention most of our food had an orange glow to it. Veggie broth has tomatoes and carrots... It brings a little more color to everything. The potatoes were boiled, i drained them and added sour cream, butter, salt and pepper. Sour cream makes them creamier than milk hand down. I whipped those up in the Kitchen Aid. The kitchen aid truly does everything a person can ask for. Seriously.

Dinner time was phenomenal. Friends, Family, good food, and good beer. Also no t.v. to distract everyone with the football games.

Food done the way I want to. God I love the Holidays.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Carving pumpkins..?

Maybe some baked goods?

The weather is beautiful and shining.

I'm staring at two pumpkins waiting to be carved. (Maybe somehow I will challenge a creativity that I am completely unaware off.)

BBQ some pizza, which at this point I have become a master off... Rustic and traditional, I would almost call this my specialty.

Baked pumpkin seeds will come next. I'm thinking candied sweet, salty, and a little bit of spice on them.

Spiced apple cider? A scary movie or two?

This Halloween may not be filled with costumes and drinks, but a warm cozy day and night filled with good food and company. Thats what any Holiday is truly about :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

How to really impress a dinner date...!

It's true.

I spent a year in Italy watching Mauro make gnocchi at least twice a week; Potatoes, flour, egg yolks, salt. It is so simple and easy. Made simply without a special shape or design they were just cut from the roll of dough and Every time they were cooked it was like the perfect potato pillow, never mushy or chewy.

The best way to judge a good Italian restaurant in my mind is by the gnocchi. Such a simple thing yet so many times you are amazed at how they are chewy, to big, one big blob. There a few places that hit the nail on the head. Love what you are doing. That is the secret.

I had a few days off and wanted gnocchi. I didn't want to drive into town and get the only great gnocchi you can buy in general so I decided that I would do it myself! I have a good Italian cook book and some knowledge from watching some Italian chefs in the kitchen. The ratios were easy, about 2 pounds potatoes, 1-1 1/2 cup flour, 2 egg yolks, 2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese (give or take) and salt.

You bake the potatoes for about an hour. You let them cool so you can peel and then mill or grate with a cheese grater. You don't just mash them because you want the potatoes to have no lumps.... You the add the egg yolks, 1 cup of flour, cheese and salt... You want to mix the dough thoroughly but not to much. The dough should be firm with a tiny bit of stickiness (It cannot be to sticky or you will get a bowl of mush after boiling). The more flour you add you have a greater chance of chewy gnocchi.

Take dough out of bowl and cut into about 6-10 equal sized pieces. Sprinkle flour on your counter and a little it of flour on a cookie sheet. Roll the dough into a snake, depending on the thickness you want your gnocchi to be. Then cut into equal sized "pillows." Once you cut the pieces put onto the cookie tray. Continue this same process for each of the large pieces. Cook immediately or refrigerate. Do not freeze until completely cooled or they will freeze to the tray and each other.
When you cook these you do so in a very large pot of heavily salted water. Add the salt to the boiling water. You do not put the salt in the cold water because it lowers the boiling temperature. Add Gnocchi and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Do not over cook or once again they will turn into mush.

My favorite way to eat these is with fresh tomatoes, garlic and olive. Another very traditional way is with pesto. Different regions in Italy served them baked, big, or with cream sauce, and with meat sauce is another way to serve them as well.

The response I got was better then the packaged ones. "Bomb-diggity!"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Potstickers and Hot Oil

Along the lines of traditional I went on a pot sticker journey. I needed something fun and easy to teach my cooking class. I looked through the notes that I kept of the things they wanted to learn and dumplings was a choice. Pot stickers( Chinese, steamed and or Pan fried) or gyoza (fried) are one of my ultimate favorite foods. Not eating meat poses a slight problem in the land of Pot stickers; usually when you get these wonderful fried treats they have pork, chicken, and shrimp a winning combination assorted meats. I have tried a few different kinds of veggie pot stickers "Ling Ling" is the best brand I have found so far but most do not cut it. They are stinky and usually filled with rice, tofu, and to much cabbage... I did a little bit of Internet and cook book research and came up with an amazing Veggie Pot sticker!

In Chinese cooking they have a traditional mirepoix: GGS (Garlic Ginger and Scallions) in the US our Mirepoix is Onion, carrot and celery. When cooking Chinese savory food I think it is fairly important to use GGS it gives whatever you are cooking an immediate "Asian" flavor.

Instead of using tofu or rice to fill these bad boys up, I used Nappa cabbage, Shitake Mushrooms, and Baby Bok Choy... For flavor I sauteed GGS, a yellow onion, carrots and a yellow bell pepper. I then Added a ton of shitake mushrooms two baby bok choy and half a head of nappa cabbage. I also added a couple pinches of Chinese five spice powder, a tablespoon or so of Tamari (this is instead of salt) and a teaspoon of rice vinegar. You can always use salt and pepper, but traditionally salt is not used in most Asian foods. (There a lots of salty fermented soy products and different sauces to use in place of salt.)

The grocery store was out of the round gyoza wrappers so I used the small won ton wrappers. It is important to use either the gyoza or won ton wrappers and NOT egg roll wrappers because the gyoza and won ton wrappers are meant top be steamed or boiled where as the egg roll wrappers are meant to be fried only.

Once the filling has cooled you want to place a heaping spoonful in the middle, coat the edges of the wrapper with water, fold edges over and seal. I made mine all triangle shape, you can get incredibly creative as long as the edges seal up so your filling doesn't fall out.

I tried making these two ways, first round I fried till brown then added water and covered so they could steam as well... yummy this was a more soft pot sticker with a browned bottom...
The second way was fry on both sides only which gifts you a crispy more Japanese style dumpling. Both ways excellent and efficient just be careful if you choose to add water. Hot oil and water do not like each other so if you don't have a cover to put over the water you are entering a HOT oil flying zone which creates bad burns. The oil is also very unpredictable so it flies everywhere and anywhere.

To dip these I used rice vinegar, tamari, brown sugar, red chili flakes and scallions. If you like a lot of vinegar flavor add less sugar.

The kids were impressed, my dinner guest was impressed, and I am very excited to have come up with a GOOD vegetarian pot sticker recipe!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Teaching a Class...

Peach Pie is the topic....
Teenagers are the age group. It's for the boulder YMCA breakthrough arts program.\
Thank you for this awesome opportunity to hopefully teach younger people easy healthy recipes, and possibly touch on produce seasons and whatnot. Hence peach pie as the topic its the end of peach season and to make a pie should hopefully take up the allotted time.
Wish me luck.

Friday, August 13, 2010

New Diets and Exciting Life things in general

WOW> Summer has come and almost gone.

Personal News: August 22nd I will attend an Open Casting Call for the next Food Network Star... Wish me luck! Hopefully the Idea of saving the world with food will be enough....

At the beginning of summer I came in and filmed at Whole Foods. Hopefully those videos will be edited and posted soon... Nothing better than education on Seafood and Meat.
Lots of great Ideas and new people to (cross my fingers) work with and learn from...

This summer has been a hot one.... Thank God for the Charcoal Grill.

Veggies have been the main dinner item for the past couple of months. Nothing like local corn burnt on the grill. Portabello mushrooms in tamari, bell peppers, asparagus, grilled pizzas and cold salads. Anything to keep the oven and stove off.

The move to Gluten Free and Dairy Free is inevitable at this point. Seizures can be very heavily helped by cutting these two main staples out of the diet of my usual "dinner guest"
Dairy in general is mass produced and bad for us and the earth so it makes lots of sense to just stop with it...
Tonight will be an experiment with gluten free pasta. We will see how it goes! Like I said before to Save the world with great food is my mission and hopefully this is just one more step into the right direction. If only one persons mind can be changed I consider it Job well done!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

WHOAH! Summer is Finally here!

Tis' the season to BBQ, Cold Soups, Watermelons, Homemade Popsicles and Ice-cream. I love the summer time. Not only are some of the best meals prepared outside but my favorite desserts are cold as well.

There was some family in town, who I hadn't seen in close to seven years. Very strange for me not seeing family considering we spent every summer growing up hanging and visiting with mom and dad's respective families. The chance arose and I was roped into three days of family. Eating out, hanging out, and gin and tonics. My absolute favorite and go to drink ;)

After a couple days of visiting that included eating out almost every meal and hanging outside in the smoldering heat. Jane and Doug's Trip was rapidly coming to and end, or maybe it was just my weekend ending and work week beginning. The final consensus was "Jane and Doug come over for dinner." The more permanent living spot that I'm in has been HOT. The entire west facing side of the house is windows and the sun shines till almost 8 at night, it ends up being at least 10 of not 20 degrees hotter in the house. All day Monday after breakfast was spent going back and forth to Home Depot and Lowe's trying to get the swamp cooler to work. With no luck and it going to be warm and rainy on Tuesday I came up with a plan, Gazpacho and Chocolate Mousse Pie.... MmMmMmMmMmmmMMmm.

Gazpacho is one of the best cold meals a person can make. A spicy tomato cucumber soup with cold veggies and hot buttery croutons for garnish. You take onion, garlic, pimento or a roasted red pepper, cucumber, and tomato juice. You blend it up and add some red wine vinegar and olive oil and let it chill. You can add any veggies cut up and cold. I like yellow and orange bell peppers, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, green onion, and avocado. Most often you will get sour cream as well. I don't like sour cream so i choose to use avocado instead. To make your own croutons you can use your favorite bread or focaccia, cube it into small pieces and dry it out in the oven at 200* for about 2 hours. You can add a little olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, pretty much any seasoning that you want for your croutons you can use. The best part is the hot toasty buttery croutons sizzling in your cold soup. My dinner guests were impressed. They had all forgotten about Gazpacho into the moment they were in my home.

I was pleased with the compliments but i could not wait to bring out the chocolate mousse pie. I'd like to say I slaved over this in the kitchen but surprisingly making a traditional mousse with egg whites, yolks, and whipped cream has many steps and dirty dishes but is literally "easy as pie." I made the chocolate mousse, layered strawberries on the bottom of a chocolate cookie crust and in the middle of two mousse layers then garnished with half strawberries all around the top and a dollop of whipped cream on each piece. My dinner guests were dazzled. My aunt mentioned a couple days before whats the point of dessert if it's not chocolate. I was in love with this recipe, it came out way better than my normal chocolate pudding pie. Rich smooth and creamy. I sent a piece home with my mom and got a couple phone calls the next day about how amazing the pie was.

My advice don't skip the steps and make the real deal Mousse. It is Phenomenal!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cuisine for Two

I am trying everyday to adapt to cooking for a small amount of people. Usually it is just me plus one and I generally "prefer" to cook for me plus anywhere from 3 to 5. For my budget and the earth it is uneconomical and wasteful. While shopping around Home Depot I grabbed a "Cuisine For Two" magazine. A complete impulse by and mostly just meat and fish recipes but a couple of vegetarian and definitely ways to change the meat with different veggies.

The recipe that stood out the most to me was a Zucchini cake with Diavalo sauce. I thought why not and modified the recipe to what I had. I grated two zucchinis, half of an onion, one clove of garlic, and a sweet potato. I twirled those around in the salad grater to get all the extra water out. I added some egg and panko and baking soda, also nothing is complete without a little bit of salt and pepper.

Diavalo Sauce is typically a spicy tomato sauce. You take a yellow onion and red bell pepper and saute those. I also added some red chile flakes to the oil that I was sauteing the Garlic is something that I never skimp out on. I have learned that it is best to add the garlic in once the other "mirepoix" like vegetables are almost completely finished. The recipe I had called for white wine vinegar and white wine to deglaze the pan with. I did not have the white versions in my sauce so I used red wine vinegar and some Merlot I had leftover from visitors. You then add some tomato paste and diced tomatoes. After everything has been added you cook it down on low temp for about a half an hour.

When the sauce was done I was good and ready to fry up the cakes. I heated olive oil in a non stick pan. A non stick pan is important in this case because when frying wet, gooey things you want to be sure they will not stick on the pan. I put a very large overfilled 1/4 cup of the zucchini mixture into the pan smashed it down and fried each side for about 5 minutes. I prefer crispy fairly dark brown for color when I'm frying any sort of vegetable. These included.

I dished dinner up and brought it out to my "dinner guest." WOW! i thought it was so freaking good. Sweet fried veggie cakes complemented with a spicy tomato sauce. Healthy, cheap, and quick; A winning combination in my book. My "dinner guest" on the other hand liked the cake but didn't know why there was hot salsa on it. They suggested to make the veggie cakes again, but use it as a side dish to a piece of fish. Not filling enough and the "hot salsa" did not make it a big hit. But if I was cooking for 1, I would eat a version of this once a week!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Breakfast of Champions!

Thank you Nutella! My life has become a little bit more complete since the discovery of Nutella... I learned about this tasty product while living in Italy. Every morning one of my very dear friends Michela had Brioche (which in America we call croissant's) with Nutella and a cappuchino. I never once saw peanut butter. It was always Nutella. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this product; it is a chocolate hazelnut breakfast spread. The equivalent of peanut butter in places where there is no peanut butter.

For breakfast a common theme of mine is Nutella and Strawberries. I love these two things together and being inspired by brioche and nutella in Italy I have made my own version!
1. Crescent Rolls (Pillsbury or an all natural kind)
2. Nutella.
3. Strawberries sliced thin (these are optional)\

I pretty mush take the crescent rolls and put a spread of Nutella at the beginning of the roll before forming them into the crescent roll shape. You would also add a couple slices of strawberries at this point. You bake according the package and VOILA!!!! a breakfast masterpiece. Easy, simple, cheap and tasty.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spaghetti Squash Casserole. Who Would Have Thought?

A certain someone has been begging me to make Spaghetti Squash. I love squash but I have to admit Spaghetti Squash is by far my least favorite. I looked into the squash online because I wanted to make a complete meal with it and the squash being the center of attention.

I've been told that classically this squash is paired with marinara and Italian style things. I scoffed when hearing this and said"NO WAY...." Boy was I wrong when looking into it. I learned very quickly that almost every recipe idea that I could find was the squash pretty much being used as a replacement for noodles.

I did my shopping. I got what I would normally put into a sauce; mushrooms, bell pepper, and onions. I also got some carrots and celery. I decided that I was going to Caramelize my traditional mirepoix (2 part onion to 1 part Carrot and 1 part celery) then add shallots, garlic, mushrooms and the bell pepper and caramelize them as well. Caramelizing brings out the natural sweetness in vegetables though it takes a little while to do properly every time it is worth it. I got some whole milk mozzarella and the organic pre-made marinara sauce to finish this dish off!

To start I had to cook the squash and let it cool. I baked in the oven at 375, 45 minutes face down and then 45 minutes face up. Once it was cooked, pulled out of the oven and cooled off I proceeded to shred the squash out with a fork. It pulls out the width of the squash looking like spaghetti noodles but if you do it the length of the squash it turns into mush. I added my caramelized vegetables and a pinch of salt and pepper and made sure everything was mixed in evenly. Then I took about a cup of marinara and mixed it in as well. I did not make sure it was everywhere because I don't think that it was the most important ingredient. The most important ingredient was the cheese on top! Mozzarella was grated up and sprinkled very generously on top. I baked it up for about 45 minutes until the cheese was bubbly and turning brown on top. The brown cheese is my favorite part!

I had an extra guest over for dinner this night who hates mushrooms. I think it's just merely the idea of them because as I have proven if he doesn't know they are in the food he eats everything up and never complains. If he sees me put them in the recipe he refuses to eat it because there are mushrooms, even if the pieces are big and easy to pick out. What a phenomenon it is with foods people don't like. I hate having to adjust recipes for certain things that I love. Lucky for me the usual dinner guest eats everything (especially mushrooms) and just discriminates afterwards. But without fail will always try whatever I put in front of them!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thermometers. Keep them Calibrated!

What is Calibrating a Thermometer? Pretty much you are testing the thermometer to make sure it is reading the right temperatures, and then setting it to the right one. A couple things to keep in mind; boiling point of water is 212* Fahrenheit or 100* Celsius, and the freezing point of water is 32* Fahrenheit or 0* Celsius. Once you have these very important numbers in your head you are ready to check any thermometer to make sure they are on temp!

I prefer to use a thermometer that has the numbers listed on top and turns. The nice thing about these thermometers are they are easy to clean and easy to calibrate. Anytime you drop your thermometer it needs to be re calibrated. I suggest just checking the temp to ice water or boiling water before you use it. Some people get very worried about their internal temperature of meat, and from personal experience always checking poultry temps is a good habit to get into.

To calibrate a thermometer first you are going to want to boil water or prepare a cup of ice and add cold water to it. Then you are going to stick the thermometer into whichever method of water being sure not to touch the end of the thermometer to the pan or cup. If you do touch the tip to the bottom of the pan or cup you will get a wrong reading. The bottom of the cup or pan are always going to be hotter or colder than the boiling or freezing temp. Once the dial on the thermometer stops moving you want to turn the top to match the right temperature up with the dial. (232* or 32*)

Any time you drop your thermometer, have it in a cool or hot place for an extended amount of time, or if anything "out of the ordinary" you need to calibrate it. Having the temperature off could mean a dose of food poisoning for friends and family. Keep it smart and healthy by always having a thermometer handy for pork and chicken. (Pink pork is okay though many people think and say otherwise) A properly calibrated thermometer is a tool that every person cooking should have!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vegetarian St. Patricks Day

This is the first year in a LONG time that I have not had the traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage, which I love. Actually I love corned beef hash which is more of the next day leftovers my dad has brilliantly made every year and passed on his recipe to me. Sweet creamy sauce, onions, potatoes and salty corned beef; a winning combination in my eyes.

Trying something new and somewhat Irish ended out as a hit and a dish I can make over and over for a side. At my job Whole Foods they started selling a few weeks ago Potato's Colcannon. At Whole Foods they used Kale I did a little bit of research and found that traditionally this has red potatoes, cabbage, leeks and onion. I also found some recipes that said it has bacon, buttered greens (which is pretty much any green such as kale, chard, collard, etc cooked in butter) The potatoes are cooked first, then you cook the leeks and onion in butter and add the cabbage. Once everything is hot and cooked you mash them all together. TA-DA fancy Irish style mashed potatoes. I wanted something with a little bit more oomph to it. I did some more web browsing and found this recipe :

I prefer Yukon gold potatoes anytime I make mashed potatoes, they are so buttery on their own that I think you don't have to use as much butter in the mashed potatoes. I left out the cabbage, simply because I forgot it when I was at the store. I cooked the leeks and onions down in butter, clove, salt and pepper till they were almost caramelized. The recipe calls for mace which i do not have in my house so i so thats why there was cloves. I par-boiled the broccoli in super salty water to be sure the broccoli stayed green and then finished it off with the leeks and onions. I mashed up the cooked potatoes with with some yogurt (instead of sour cream) a little bit of milk, maybe a tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper. I tried to keep most of the salt, pepper and butter in with the leeks and onions. I mixed in with the potatoes the broccoli mixture trying to keep the broccoli pieces as whole as possible then topped the entire thing with lots of sharp cheddar.

My dinner guest loved it! A comment was made about the extra spice in it, but all in all it is a side dish that can be repeated over and over. Plus it is way easier then making a potatoes Au gratin with broccoli or greens. Slicing potatoes thinly is a pain in the butt! Except now I have a mandoline and all things are way easier to slice thin.

Friday, March 12, 2010

I Love Salad

Two months ago I did a cleanse for my whole body that was more or less vegan, gluten free, and majority raw. I made some amazing salads and salad dressings, but the one that stands out the most to me was the grapefruit, avocado and watercress salad. I bought a 10lb bag of grapefruits a week before I started this cleanse and I was barely eating them. I did not want them to go bad so I researched some grapefruit ideas and this salad was a combination of two recipes I liked the most. First with the grapefruits I peeled them, trying to get as much of the white stuff from the peel off. This part is bitter and I didn't want to add it into my sweet refreshing salad. Then I pretty much just tore the grapefruit apart making all the pink insides into small little pieces that were beautiful and hot pink! Then I sliced up an avocado into pretty decent sized cubes. I added watercress to give the salad a little bit of a kick. Watercress is so good for you and barely eaten on anybodies table. It has a mild peppery flavor and is great to add to any type of salad mix that you are using.

I then made an orange dressing with extra virgin olive oil, I have two bottles of Extra Virgin olive oil; one for cooking and the other for salad dressings. The one for dressings or drizzling over things is a little bit more expensive just because when serving olive oil raw you want it to taste good. When making dressings I generally us a 3 oil to 1 acid (vinegar, wine, lemon juice, orange juice, etc). When using a juice I usually add a little bit more just so the flavor is a little bit more overpowering than the oil. To keep my dressing from separating I added a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, the flavor mixes well with citrus and vinegar without taking over the whole flavor of dressing. To spice it up a little bit I added some fresh dill, a little bit more than a teaspoon of honey for sweetness, a clove of garlic, some crushed red peppers, and of course Kosher salt and some pepper to taste.

Before serving the salad my "dinner guest" stuck their hand into the grapefruit and had no problem telling me that the grapefruit was a little tart. I obviously smacked their hand away and told them to wait until the whole salad is together before making judgements. Once the rest of my dinner was ready (Stuffed bell peppers with brown rice, toasted pine nuts, basil, corn, shitaki mushrooms and then drizzled with some homemade pesto was the main dish) I put the very chilled and dressed salad on the table and my "dinner guest" dug in. Once dinner was over and no salad was left I received a whisper in my ear, " The salad was perfect you should make this for salad every night. The sour grapefruit was perfect with sweet avocados, whatever the lettuce you used, and the dressing is my new favorite salad dressing. Don't forget the recipe!"
I'd call it another stepping out of the box dinner success.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Meat in the USA

Right now in my life I have decided to not eat meat. I still very frequently cook meat for my dinner guest because two weeks after we decided to not eat meat I got the complaint "I'm eating meat again, my stomachs been bothering me I know it's because we haven't been eating meat!" I would by NO means call my self a vegetarian, I am not grossed out by meat, nor do I judge people who eat it.

My background with the vegetarian thing is very strong. My mom's family is from Alaska and one of her sisters has been a vegetarian my entire life. Growing up my sister and I went to Alaska every summer for the month of August, when I was 10 I went by myself to go to summer camp. The summer camp I went to was in Fairbanks so I stayed with my Aunt who is a vegetarian. She does eat fish, as does my entire family because we have people in our own personal family that make a living off of the fish industry in Alaska. My uncle even helps supply a co-op that sells to Whole Foods. I never even new what farm raised fished was until I went to culinary school.

I pondered this issue very seriously for a month or so after the trip and decided on a family road trip in the middle of Kansas where there are not many vegetarian options that it was the day I would be a vegetarian. I kept it up for 6 years then stopped. Bagel dogs (made with kosher all beef hot dogs of course) were my downfall. I never particularly ate a lot of meat my mom is more of a chicken and fish cook, with an occasional "steak and martini" night.

In culinary school you take a food safety class that teaches you about food born illness and all sorts of other safety and sanitation tips. The one thing that always stood out in my mind was the fact that most food born illness do not come from the product to begin with, but actually the conditions that these products were raised in. It is knowledge I have always had and known, but never really payed much attention to until I was living in Italy.

The 10 months I was there I never heard of a salmonella outbreak or somebody getting sick from salami that wasn't cooked right. The restaurant I worked at cured a raw pork loin in equal parts sugar and salt for 7 days, rinsed the salt/sugar off than pan seared the outside. They than thinly sliced the pork which was pink as pink could be and served this as an appetizer cold. Not one reported illness from this pink pork. In Italy it is small scale farms. People buy their meat fresh everyday from the butcher and shop for produce in the market each morning or afternoon. There was no imported cheese at the equivalent to a super market "Iper." Almost everything came from the local area or just Italy in general. I learned the true meaning of fresh!

After watching "Food INC." I decided that I could not bring myself to support one of the largest industries in the U.S. Not only are the animals treated horribly but the people that do these jobs are treated almost the exact same way as the animals. I cried from start to finish of the movie and decided that if I couldn't keep a dry eye watching the movie I should not be eating meat. According to the Whole Foods meat department they check out the products that they buy and visit the farms to uphold the quality standards of Whole Foods. I will prepare meat for my dinner guests and my cooking show, but only organic with pasture and friendly raised signs all over the meat . I also will not call myself a vegetarian because when I go out to eat dinner and somebody says "this is the best (enter meat item here) I have ever had" I will not hesitate to try it. Just a standpoint I have reached right now because I don't have the heart to watch animals or people being treated unfairly. No discrimination against meat just the big corporations that run the meat industry here in the U.S.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Noodle Expansion

Cold days=Hot Soup and anyone who is here in Colorado this year knows it’s been cold an long.

I made some minestrone soup that was amazing. Parmesan rind is the secret flavor in this ever popular soup. I made mine with vegan beef bouillon cubes and a can of diced tomatoes for the base. Cannellini beans, potatoes, rainbow chard, traditional mirepoix which is 2 parts onion, 1 part carrot and 1 part celery, garlic, and shallots. I also added some fresh rosemary and basil. It was phenomenal the first day and second day then the third day I made a huge disaster out of the leftover soup.

The first two days I kept the noodles separate. I cooked them very al dente then added soup to the cooked noodles. Than the third day I took the remaining half pot of soup over to a friend’s house. I was starving and they didn’t have any clean pots so I added an extra 2 cups of water to the soup and brought it to a boil. Against my better judgment I added the noodles to the soup. Now I know better than that but being starving I let my stomach take over. My bowl of soup was great, but no one else was hungry 7 minutes later so the noodles sat in the pot. BIG MISTAKE! I ended up with a pot of completely expanded star noodles. After simmering for another hour or two the noodles absorbed all the liquid that was in the pot… I ended up with mushy slimy noodle based soup. Lesson learned; cook the noodles separate and add the soup, if not you will end up with a pot of slimy noodles.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

MmMmMM Enchiladas

Having more than just my usual “dinner guest” over for dinner is by far one of my favorite things to do. I always cook for more than two and have tons of leftovers so it is a treat to be able to feed friends and family. I’ve recently been on a Mexican food kick and enchiladas have been a once a week experiment for me. Over the last few weeks I have created vegan enchiladas which I used roasted red bell pepper, roasted Anaheim pepper, and cashew butter blended together to make almost a really heavy cream in place of the cheese. I have experimented with Queso Fresco which my “dinner guest” thought was a big chunk of cottage cheese in the middle, not so great if you don’t like cheese, and definitely weird to have in the middle of your enchilada. Yesterday I made them with pepper jack cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, and mild cheddar cheese. They were the best I made so far besides the vegan ones (surprisingly the cashew/pepper butter was amazing). I always put different veggies in the middle but generally include spinach.

I try to sneak dark greens into almost everything I make. They are so good for you. No food compares to dark green veggies in nutritional value. I like to add squash, zucchini, potatoes, corn, pretty much a variety of different colors. If I am filling them with a cheese I stay away from potatoes, it seems like a little bit too much when cheese is your main focus. I prefer to use the canned green enchilada and make the red. There is a weird taste to me in the can of red, whole foods where I work doesn’t even sell red enchilada, but they do sell the dried peppers to make it with! I also add refried beans and some sort of rice. A little bit of onion and tomato sauce spice up rice in the most pleasant of ways. My guests thoroughly enjoyed the enchiladas and even after dinner for three I managed two more meals of leftovers. The next time I make an amazing enchilada I will keep you all posted.

Now the real question is; does anyone in the Denver/boulder have an amazing authentic Mexican restaurant to suggest? I am dying for some real Mexican food!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cooking Adventures in the Life of ME!

Pasta is by far my favorite food. Anytime anyone wants pasta I am more than willing to come up with an idea. Right now in my life I am not eating meat so adding something to replace the meat is always my search. My favorite lesson in cooking that I learned in Italy was in the homes of all the people that I spent my time with. Pasta is what Italy is known for, and I learned it’s the love that people put into their dishes is what makes it so good. Pasta in your home is putting anything and everything you have lying around. The difference is the people in Italy always have some sort of tomato product, garlic, table cream, some sort of cheese, cured meats, and other vegetables.

Last night I made a simple veggie marinara sauce. I half a sweet onion, 3 cloves of garlic, half of a green pepper, 4 mushrooms, and 4 leaves of fresh basil and sautéed those up. I added a large can of organic diced tomatoes and let it simmer. I than used my immersion blender to blend all these ingredients up and made a smooth sauce. The immersion blender is honest to god the best creation and replacement for a blender. You can make any sort of sauce, soup, chop up nuts and not have to dirty a separate pan! Than I chopped up the other half of the bell pepper, onion and 6 mushrooms very small and I caramelized those in a separate pot. You always want to add some salt and pepper and if I had a small can of diced tomatoes I would have added them to the smooth sauce with the caramelized veggies to give it some more texture. The sauce was great, not too many herbs and all the flavors blended together than with extra veggies to enhance it.

When I was in Italy I learned it’s not necessarily what you put into the pasta but who you are sharing the pasta with. And one critiscm any Italian has the right to dish out is if the pasta is more cooked than al dente. I agree. Unfortunately my “dinner guest” doesn’t like the tiny crunch in the pasta that me and so many Italian truly appreciate so I am stuck cooking it a minute or two longer…. I try to get away with al dente as frequently as possible but generally I get “Next time Dana, you should could the pasta a little bit longer.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Getting Hot...

For 1lb Chicken wings

½ Cup flour

Cayenne Pepper to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

½ Cup Franks Red Hot Sauce

¼ Cup Medium Wing Time Sauce

¼ Cup Butter

Enough High Heat Oil to cover and Fry wings

Pour oil into fryer or pan and heat up to 375 degrees. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut chicken wings in half if you want them to look like the “traditional wings” you buy in a restaurant. Coat the wings with flour, cayenne, salt and pepper to get rid of all the moisture. Put wings into the oil and allow to cook for about 6 to 8 minutes. You want them to be golden brown. While the wings are cooking mix the butter, franks hot sauce, and wing time sauce in a small saucepan. Once you drain the oil from the wings put them on a cookie sheet and bakes for another 5 minutes in the preheated oven. Coat with sauce and enjoy. Add carrots, celery, ranch and blue cheese to make it a real snack!