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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sweet Reward

Having unexpectedly come into a load of organic fruits and vegetables, I felt the need to utilize them before they went downhill.  In tougher times I find that I instinctively revert to my thrifty Yankee roots, and remember my Grandmother repeating that famous axiom "a penny saved is a penny earned." 

So, looking at the beautiful Fuji organic apples sitting in the bowl, and knowing Dear Husband has a sweet tooth the size of Manhattan, I decided to make a French apple tart.  After the usual internet recipe research, I settled on a recipe that sounded close to what I was looking for, and that I had the ingredients for.  The results are pictured below....


The ultimate reward of thrift + time + talent is that one need not pick up store-bought, preservative laden treats for dessert.  The wonder and flavor of creativity in the kitchen is that if you can envision it, you can make it. 

Today I am in that wonderful, Springtime hopeful mood.  I plan on a productive day, filled with freeing our lives of the things that may encumber us from our next goals, and firmly planting our feet in the future.  I try to treat myself especially well when our life situation is not optimal, so today for lunch I am thinking of making a healthy re-make of chilis rellenos. Photos and comments to follow (ok, that's IF it turns out well).  One must have something to look forward to, not just in the food department, but in life as well.  It's called hope, and without it, I am convinced our species would have been long gone.  Eat well, my friends.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Soupy

As you can see, my Won Ton soup (made from the potsticker pork mixture) turned out quite well.  And my little prop there IS my sushi mat, since I know that is what you were thinking. So much flavor for so little effort.  I am always encouraged when successfully pulling off an Asian dish, and wish that more would put down the takeout menu, and pick up their woks. 



Today's trip to Flavortown (sorry Guy, I really like that term) is a dish called "Corona Chicken".  I first heard of it on an episode of No Reservations (yes, back to that again), and whilst Tony was in Texas, (instead of this frozen ****-hole) I can re-create that feeling from food.  Yes, that's what it is all about, how food can transport one to a different, perhaps happier place.

I marinated the chicken in Corona beer, with cumin and cilantro.  I then pounded the breasts out, and filled them with shredded pepper jack cheese, chopped pickled jalapenos, and finely minced onion.  I then rolled them up, wrapped with bacon, and sauteed, turning them, until done.  During the last two minutes of cooking time, I brushed them with Teriyaki sauce.  I think the results were spectacular.


When I cut them open to reveal the perfectly cooked chicken, and the center filled with melting cheese, jalapenos and the rest of the filling, I was pleasantly surprised...a perfect cross-section. 

Needless to say, I was one happy foodie/camper.  The flavor is wonderful as well.  I guess my point in posting this today, is to confirm that if one has the culinary skills and know-how, creating a dish without a recipe is not a difficult endeavor.  When I am in Texas, I will try the Corona Chicken, but I am willing to bet it tastes just like what I made. Eat well, my friends.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Obsessed

Today, while watching last weeks' episode of Tony Bourdains' No Reservations (ok, so I cannot stay up late enough to watch the new episodes on Monday nights), I took note of the theme of the show, which was food-based obsessions.  The show also included food bloggers, which I was particularly interested in, being a new food blogger myself.  Sidebar:  Good combined word....foodie + blogger = FLOGGER!! In more ways than one, I'm sure. Or, even better = BLOODIE!! (blogger who is a foodie). In case anyone asks, I MADE IT UP FIRST!!  I also call dibs on the front seat of the car, the first hot french fry out of the box, and the line at the ladies restroom.  Seriously, you do NOT want to see me doing the pee-pee dance, it's almost as painful to watch as it is to perform.

Did I get off topic there for a minute?  Anyhoo...my point is that if someone were to try to nail down where my unique food obsession lies, I'm not sure I could pin it down to any one item, or cuisine for that matter.  I think, like most things food-related it all begins in childhood, and having a Mother and extended family that despite not being wealthy, provided an amazing array of tasty unforgettable dishes to grow up on, was key.  Even my Mom's simple steak sandwich (small, served on hamburger buns and just FILLED with flavor) can make me salivate to this day.  My Grandmothers' Portuguese Canja, a wonderful chicken and rice soup, was as simple as it was memorable.  If I have a cold (rare) I simply have to make it, like I am commanded by Nana to make it, from the great beyond.  She was right.

 Of course, growing up in South Florida, the amazing array of Stone Crabs, Dolphin (Mahi-Mahi, not Flipper already) grouper, snapper, conchs, blue crabs and shrimp....what can one say?  We came from Fall River, Mass., and Connecticut, and brought with us those wonderful New England ways with seafood as well.  Clams stuffed with Chorizo (pronounced SHER-EEESE in my family), lobster of course, New England boiled dinner, and full-belly clams rolled in cornmeal, fried simply, and eaten while still hot enough to leave a line of hot clam juice trail all the way down my happy throat.  Who could grow up with this background, and not turn into a serious foodie? The three years spent in Europe, in my formative twenties did not hurt either...for instance; the smoked eel sandwich in Holland that was a revelation, the wonderful Indian curries had in the West End in London, the incredible lunch at a hole in the wall restauraunt in Lyon, France.  They all had such an indelible impression on me, that I set about to re-create that moment in anyone who tastes anything I create. By the way, my chippie in Orton Goldhay, a suburb of Peterborough in England, made the ultimate cod, chips & mushy peas and will forever be my favorite food memory of England.  Doused in vinegar, piping hot and grease-free - all fish and chips should be this good. And pictured below, my re-creation of potstickers from a favortie Asian restaurant I used to frequent in Sacramento, California....my favorite place in the world....



I guess if one had to try to get to the bottom of it, I'd have to say that I'm all about the quest for the very best flavors, textures and combinations.  If you use the very freshest ingredients, (and I know that sounds trite nowadays, but it's true) cook with true love and attention to detail, the results can be magical.  I heard it described in one of the best ways by someone who said; "Cooking is the only art form which can affect people on the cellular level". Think about that for a minute.  Am I going to fill someone's body with grease, and fat, and disgusting, disease-producing, pre-packaged crap?  Or am I going to gently roast whole garlic (it smells wonderful in here) for my chicken cacciatore tonight? Is it extra work, particularly on a weeknight?  You bet.  Is it worth it?  Just look at your son/daughter/husband/family, and you'll know the answer. Eat well, my friends.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cheesy

Today's food adventure; home-made "Boursin"-type cheese.  I understand that it comes out tasting just like the store bought version, but at a fraction of the cost.  The reason I must make this, of course is because I must duplicate the burger I saw on a certain Food Network show. 

I readily admit to being a huge fan, although I do agree with some of the observations made on that food network humor website.  After a while though, I find myself thinking that some of the commenters are just bitter people who get some sort of thrill by negatively bashing the personalities on the network. Even foodie Gods like Tony Bourdain get mocked, and for no good reason!

I for one, admire the Food Network chefs and cooks, and applaud their success.  It also takes guts to put yourself out there, knowing full well that you might be subjected to just this sort of negativity.  I had a recent experience that made me realize just how brave these people must be.  I decided that I, yes, humble me simply must go out and buy a digital video camera, and cook and post the results on YouTube. Perhaps to educate new cooks, or show that even "gourmet" dishes are not really difficult, something to that effect.

Let's just cut to the part where, after many failed attempts to have my entire head in the same frame as the stove-top area, I finally got the camera set up right.  Nothing like seeing your headless self standing in your kitchen, talking to pretty much no one.  The bottom line is that, since the great state of Alaska has endowed me with an extra ten pounds, I could not believe how fat I looked on camera.  If the camera add ten pounds, I must look like I weigh one hundred and forty pounds!  Now, I know I should not complain, but having been one hundred twenty five pounds most of my adult life, this is a shocking and disturbing new look for me, to say the least. 

The video camera is sitting in my office, awaiting my return.  It's gonna be a while. For those of you who actually HAVE a spring time, enjoy.  I will sit here and watch the snow blowing sideways, make my home-made boursin cheese, and silently seethe. Oh, and I'm quitting smoking - HELLO TEN MORE POUNDS, nice to meet you!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Stone Soup....no, really

This is further proof that the universe is constantly trying to tell me "look, I know you are doing your best, but, hey, I'm gonna MESS YOU UP anyway".  This morning, feeling particularly virtuous, I made a health food soup called miso soup.  This soup was made in the macrobiotic manner, with carrots, tofu, scallions and wakame (a seaweed type) in a miso (bean paste) broth. I divert a little from macrobiotics, and throw in a dash of sesame oil and soy sauce...it makes the seaweed a little more, well, edible.

Feeling rather chuffed with myself, I sat down, turned on a news program (thereby feeling informed as well as virtuous), and proceeded to eat the soup.  About halfway into the bowl, as I ladled another spoonful into my mouth, I bit down on something incredibly hard.  My first thought was that I had broken a crown or tooth.  I was dreading the inevitable dental visit that was soon to follow, and I spit out the offending object into my palm.

It was a ROCK.  Now, I presume that this ROCK was once a ROCK floating around in the sea, and when those ever-lovin' seaweed harvesters gathered this nutritious sea vegetable, they did not see my ROCK floating around in the seaweed.  I'm sure it was overlooked, having as little nutritional value as ROCKS generally do, but REALLY?  Why me?  I swear I am a weirdness magnet.  If there is any weirdness to be had, the universe is gonna sock it to me good.

I threw it all out, rolled up two, count 'em TWO slices of pastrami with brown mustard and ate it while switching over to less informative, but certainly mouth watering food-related television.  Sometimes being virtuous just makes the universe kick you a little harder. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dear Diary.....

Dear Diary, I have consumed the following foods during the course of my morning; a grapefruit, halved and sectioned, a fantastic grilled asparagus and sun-dried tomato salad, made EVEN better by the addition of some lucsious Danish bleu cheese, and two squares of Vermont white cheddar with pickled jalapenos on top.  Why no, Doctor, I have NO idea why I cannot lose weight.....

Actually, I have lost five pounds in the last 6 weeks, no doubt due to the four flights of stairs I must ascend and descend to do laundry, and the 3 flights up and down just to get in and out of our building.  Can you imagine what we're saving on gym memberships?