Saturday, February 27, 2010

Food Traditions-Bodega Style!

I’m sure some of you reading my blog may say, “Hey, she bakes a lot of sweets!” and most are probably wondering if I eat them all.

No, I don’t eat the sweets I bake. Yes, I do have a bite or two to taste, but generally I never consume what I bake when it comes to confections. So, what do I do with all these mouthwatering desires? I give my baked treats to those I know will enjoy and appreciate them.

Most recently it has been my lucky neighbors and the family that runs the 24/7 bodega around the corner from me. On a planned trip to the west village, it would be my sister and her bo, but my sister is on a very indecisive food regiment where if I introduced sweets, she would personally be mad at herself for succumbing to the sugar. So, I have to respect her food diet/issues and not temp her.

I have become somewhat close to the bodega family, as I have shown up there at least every other day or so for the last 8 years since they re-opened the store. They are a great family and I have really felt that they are the real deal. They are originally from Pakistan and in most cases I cannot and unfortunately understand the parents due to a language barrier, but their kids do speak English and are very well spoken. I have seen at least 2 of their children grow up and as I understand it, there are a total of 5 children in all.

I know 3 of the 5 kids, which work in the store in place of their father or during their respective shifts, while they attend HS or college. The mother and daughter do occasionally work in the store, but they haven’t in the last 5-6 months. Only on rare occasions do I see them now. I do miss seeing both of them there, as they are amazing women. I love talking to them.

But to the point of this post…Because I have been giving my sweets to my Bodega family, they have also reciprocated kindly by making/giving me some great eats. I was recently honored by a container of chicken and basmati saffron rice, with an onion raita. I cannot tell you how good this dish was. It superseded any restaurant Middle Eastern (even Indian) dish I have ever had. There really is no comparison to an amazing home cooked meal and done to its traditions.

Now, I know the woman that cooked and gave me this meal and I am enamored by her. This woman CAN COOK! I am humbly honored that she would take the time to think of me and give me a care package of amazing food. I hope that maybe she can show me some of her secrets one day!

I do believe in traditional food, as no restaurant, I have ever been to, can replicate the honest to goodness home cooked meal no matter how hard they try. There is nothing like an excellent home cooked meal. Restaurants can try, but they can never match the home kitchen and love that truly goes into food.

This post is in honor of my bodega family and the woman that put her love and effort into making this dish! I hope they are willing to deliver me more of their goodies!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

3rd in a Million Ways to Prepare Potatoes

So, I watched Secrets of a Restaurant Chef with Anne Burrell a few weeks back and she prepared a potato dish called “Pommes Chef Anne”. It’s funny that this show magically appeared, as I was putting together a post about one of my favorite potato dishes: Potato Pancakes. But Chef Anne’s dish looked so good; I thought I would forgo the potato pancakes this time and try her recipe out.

I ultimately made 2 batches on separate days, but I forgot, with the first one I made, to take pictures and that gave me an excuse to make it a second time. I modified Chef Anne’s recipe on both occasions because I felt I wanted a little more flavor.

The really nice thing about this recipe is it’s between a potato pancake and an au-gratin (without all the dairy and butter). Don’t get me wrong, there is cheese-Parmesan Cheese! One of my kitchen staples. But I rarely think of Parmesan Cheese as a heavy dairy product like Cheddar and other worldly cheeses.

So following the recipe, my first go at it I layered in thin slices of onion. This was absolutely delicious, but my second round I added thin slices of garlic and onion and it made the dish even better! I topped the second version with a drizzle of Serrano cream, which was the ultimate addition to flavor.

Sorry-I did not take pics with the cream on top. I was so hungry when I made this, that I completely forgot.

Here is the Recipe Link: Pommes Chef Anne

Serrano Cream
  • 3 fresh serrano chilies or jalapeños, seeded and chopped fine 
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt  
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
Make the serrano cream:

In a blender or mini food processor blend together the chilies, the garlic paste, and the sour cream until the mixture is combined well. (Be careful not to overblend the mixture or the cream may curdle.) Force the mixture through a fine sieve set over a small bowl. The serrano cream may be made 1 day in advance, kept covered and chilled, and brought to room temperature before serving.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The wait is over!

For those who have been anticipating and waiting a long, long time for me to make my cheesecake again, the wait is over!  My run for Olympic Gold will never happen, but my run to make the best cheesecake ever has been completed.

I spent most of the week, mentally preparing for this long awaited treat, because honestly, it has been more than several years since I baked my last cake. Why so long? Well, I had put my career first and gave up cooking and baking for at least 7 years or more. There was just no time for me to spend in the kitchen and I subjected myself to microwave meals, take out and dining out.

So when my friend Sweetpeasurry (K) blogged about my new blog site and mentioned my cheesecake a few weeks back, the door had been opened for the challenge and I happily accepted.

I must say, it was like riding a bicycle, you never forget. I pulled out my dusty spring form pan from the back of the cupboard and I was good to go.

So, here is my recipe-Modified-as I will not divulge my secret ingredient, but this one is just as tasty as mine. One secret I will give away is that my recipe uses less sugar than other classic recipes. I do make other flavorful cheesecakes, which eventually down the road I will make the more complicated ones for all to see and try out.

Classic Cheesecake
By Have a Seat
Special Equipment: 8" Round Spring Form Pan; Electric Beaters or a Stand Mixer; Parchment Paper; Heavy Duty Tin Foil; Rubber Spatula; Roasting Pan*Roasting pan must be large enough to hold the Spring form pan and must be 2 1/2" deep.
  • 24 oz. Cream Cheese 
  • 3/4 c Sugar + 2 Tbls* (2 Tbls is for Crust) 
  • 1 Teaspoon Real Vanilla Extract 
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 Teaspoons Fresh Lemon Juice 
  • 1 c Sour Cream 
  • 4 Tbls Butter* (1 Tbls if no Crust )
  • 1 ¾ - 2 c of Shortbread Cookies-Crust 
  • Fruit Topping (any kind you like) 
  • 6 small amaretto cookies 
Equipment Preparation:
Prepare the 8" Spring form pan by taking a sheet of Parchment paper and placing it on top of the Spring form plate (disc.) Take the "form" and fit it around the "plate" and tighten. There will be some overlapping parchment paper if done correctly. Turn the pan upside down and cut the paper so that there is about an inch of paper fanning out of the bottom of the spring form pan. Carefully, butter the paper and the inside rim making sure the butter covers every inch of the pan. Set aside in the refrigerator.
Take the roasting pan and fill with warm water to 1". Place tin foil over water. Do not secure tin foil around edges. This is what is called the "water bath." Since water can only reach 220 Degrees, it creates even cooking temperature for the inside of the cake, while the oven temperature cooks the outside of the cake. The "water bath" technique, also works well with other recipes, such as; soufflés, custards and even regular cake mix.
Preheat oven to 375 Degrees.

Cake Preparation:

For bottom Crust (Optional):
Take shortbread cookies and crush into a sandy texture. A food processor will help with this. If you do not have a food processor, place cooking in a plastic Ziploc bag and crush cookies with your hands or use a rolling pin. Again, the crumbs should have a consistency of sand. Place crumbs in small to medium bowl, add 2Tbls of sugar and the 3 Tbls of melted Butter, then mix. Get your Spring form pan from the fridge and add shortbread mixture and evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Take the back of a measuring cup and pack the mixture in the pan so that surface is smooth. Place pan back in the refrigerator for about an hour.

For Cake:
In a large bowl place cream cheese and beat until soft. Once the cheese has softened, add sugar and vanilla and beat until well incorporated. Continue to mix and add one egg at a time. Do not add all 3 eggs at once. Again, continue to mix while adding the sour cream and lemon juice (I also like to add Lemon zest). Scrape the bowl with the rubber spatula and continue to mix until all ingredients are well incorporated or until the batter is smooth and looks like it’s almost doubled in volume. I fiddle with the speed settings during the initial mixing process and after my last spatula check let it mix untouched on med high for about 5 minutes. This allows for an airy consistency vs. a dense one.

Remove the spring form pan from the refrigerator and pour the cheesecake batter in the pan. Carefully, place the pan on top of the tin foil in the roasting pan. Lightly secure the tin foil around the roasting pan, leaving a small gap open, allowing the steam to escape.

Carefully, transfer cake to oven. Let cook about 1 hour or until middle of cake jiggles firmly. Allow cake to cool in oven, with the door slightly open to allow the heat to escape (about an hour or 2). Take cake & roasting pan out of oven and let cool for another 2 hours (Do not disassemble cake and roasting pan). Once cake has cooled, remove from roasting pan and refrigerate cake overnight, still in the spring form pan.
Remove cake from the fridge, and then remove the spring form carefully. Add your favorite fruit topping…Crush Amaretto cookies sprinkle on top and enjoy heaven!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

2010 Olympic Feast-It’s a Long Ride and been a long time!

I’ve never, EVER, been a huge sports fan. And this blog may be a bit off topic for most of those wanting to see what I cook next, but this past week the Olympics have taken a higher priority to me. I have actually surprised myself, with my attention to the winter sports this year. Though I will admit it my appreciation for winter sports really started 4 years ago during the 2006 Torino events and Snowboarding was the culprit.

But to keep this post a little bit about food…In honor of the Olympics, I am gearing up to make my famous cheesecake this weekend. Call this past week a preliminary round, as I have been mentally preparing for what I know is my best recipe of all time, as this one recipe took me about 17 years to master the perfect cheesecake. I’ve gone to the market to get all my ingredients, including my secret one and now I must decide how I want to prepare…Not sure if I want to go the full cake or in individual form, which will ultimately decide how the cake is presented. Either way could win the Gold, but you never know! Plus, I think I will be eliminating the expected Graham Cracker crust for something more subtle but extremely flavorful, with an unexpected twist for my topping.

So, I’ve never been a person to “follow” the big Olympic stories and any other sports story for that matter, with the one exception; When the Red Sox finally broke the curse and won the World Series many years back. I actually watched the final game, almost scared to watch them screw up again, but they didn’t and I cried when they won. I cried, not only because they were my original hometown team, but for Massachusetts, all the diehard fans and the fact that none of us gave up during all those long hard years of supporting them. I also cried in joy for my family’s closest friends who moved to AZ, that love the Boston RS more than I ever will. A shout to Pat, Beth, Scott, Hank, Shenta and Max for their love of the game and the RS!

Unfortunately since then, I have not really paid attention to what the Boston RS and Baseball in general are doing and came to a realization, that since they broke the curse, I am done rooting for them. Baseball has become just another sport I don’t care about. I hate football, still after all these years never could understand the rules and even the excitement of the game. I do like hockey, but only if the Boston Bruins are in the Stanley cup.

VANCOUVER OLYMPICS: I want to give major shout outs to the following sports that I have fallen for: Snowboarding-All Competitions, Speed Skating (short and long)-All Competitions, Alpine Skiing- All Competitions, FreeStyle Skiing- All Competitions, Ski Jumping- All Competitions and finally Curling…This is a great sport/game to watch!

I am particularly excited about the Snowboarding competitions, as Torino really opened my eyes on the sport, not just Shaun White, even though he is an amazing athlete in his sport and was a factor in my liking of the sport. I must admit, I love to watch this sport and the true innovators that are changing the game day by day, like Shaun White, Seth Wescott and Kelly Clark amongst a few other talented athletes in the US and Worldwide.

Snowboarding is an American born sport and most incredibly something we as Americans should support more than anything, just as we would Baseball and Football. We should support this sport with more pride than we do right now. It’s not just an “X” games sport… It is a World Wide Olympic Sport that originated in Vermont, which we should all be proud of and support with the same pride we have for Football and Baseball.

RANT: So NBC is covering this year’s winter Olympics and I am so frustrated with the coverage. This is one of the main reasons I have gone off topic in my blog. For the sports that I am interested in watching, they save until primetime and have to wait until hours after the event to really see what’s going on. I’ve had to resort to the Official Olympic site to watch the results as they happen live, with no live streaming. I hope that ABC fights to get it back! I miss ABC’s Wide World of Sports!

PROUD PROPS: I know that there are more medals to be given (Apolo-I hope you break the medal record!), but I have to give a shout out to all those Americans that have won medals of any kind so far! You all ROCK! Canada-I love you and also congratulate those that won medals for their country…After all, you are our best neighbor and deserve US Support.

As of 2/19/2010 US Medal Honors:


Figure Skating - Men - LYSACEK Evan
Snowboard - Men's Halfpipe - WHITE Shaun
Speed Skating - Men's 1000 m - DAVIS Shani
Alpine Skiing - Ladies' Downhill - VONN Lindsey
Snowboard - Men's Snowboard Cross - WESCOTT Seth
Freestyle Skiing - Ladies' Moguls - KEARNEY Hannah


Alpine Skiing - Men's Super-G - MILLER Bode
Snowboard - Ladies' Halfpipe - TETER Hannah
Alpine Skiing - Ladies' Super Combined - MANCUSO Julia
Alpine Skiing - Ladies' Downhill - MANCUSO Julia
Nordic Combined - Individual NH/10 km CC - SPILLANE Johnny
Short Track Speed Skating - Men's 1500 m - OHNO Apolo Anton


Alpine Skiing - Men's Super-G - WEIBRECHT Andrew
Snowboard - Ladies' Halfpipe - CLARK Kelly
Snowboard - Men's Halfpipe - LAGO Scott
Speed Skating - Men's 1000 m - HEDRICK Chad
Alpine Skiing - Men's Downhill - MILLER Bode
Freestyle Skiing - Men's Moguls - WILSON Bryon
Freestyle Skiing - Ladies' Moguls - BAHRKE Shannon
Short Track Speed Skating - Men's 1500 m - CELSKI J.R.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I could live on Bread and Water

I mentioned in a previous post that about a year ago that I obtained a bread maker. Since then, I have been making many types of bread from the product maker’s recipe booklet, after I got more comfortable with the machine, I have been branching out a bit more into more Artisan style breads.

The great thing about a bread maker is it does most of and sometimes all of the work for you. What I like most about it, is that it contains a proper environment for the dough to rise. The weather in my apartment isn’t all that consistent except in the summer time and trying to make bread rise on my countertop during wintertime doesn’t always work out the way I would like.

The other nice feature of a bread maker is that most all bread recipes can start out in the maker and then you can take out the dough and bake in your oven if you don’t want to use the machine from start to finish. I have a nice plus on my machine, as it has an Artisan setting, which allows for long cooler rises, instead of warmer rises.

My first venture baking outside the maker was French baguettes. I had a specific purpose to making theses as every wintery holiday (T-Day/X-Mas) my sister’s fiancé makes his specialty fondue(which is the best fondue I’ve ever had) and when I first got my bread maker, I offered to make the French bread for the cheesy feast. I think it’s now a family tradition since this past X-Mas, I supplied the bread again…This time with a better recipe and I learned a bit more on how to roll the dough properly.

So it’s been a bit more than a year using my bread maker and it is time for me to attempt the European style breads that stand on their own with or without those lovely additions such as butter, olive oil and garlic to eat with. This adventure, I have attempted to make a Country Loaf, which is really just a plain old Boule that should have lovely airy holes when cut.

This first go around, was a bit of a trial, as per the recipe I followed, the crust of the bread did not become as crusty as I had anticipated, but I will say that the bread itself, after tasting was most incredible. Incredible enough for me to take the next steps in baking my ultimate bread conquest.

The recipe I have posted is from KAF and I will attempt it again under different weather circumstances to get the results I expect, but no matter the results of my initial attempt, the final result was incredible! For such a simple recipe with no starter/poolish/levain, the recipe is a great starter rustic bread for those who are learning the “dough” life, with or without a bread machine, I urge all to try this recipe out, even without the “Seeds”.  Please note...The flavor comes from the other flours, like Pumpernickel...You can use Rye or other flours to bring out the taste.

You all get a treat this time with 2 Pictures from me!

Country Loaf

This loaf, like many European loaves, includes a bit of whole grain flour for texture and flavor. For a lighter-colored loaf, cut the pumpernickel or white whole wheat down to just a couple of tablespoons, while increasing the all-purpose flour so that the total amount of flour used remains 3 cups.(Notice this is a non-fat loaf: eat it quickly, or it'll stale. To keep it fresh longer, substitute 2 tablespoons of oil for an equal amount of the water.)

Ingredients View by: Volume Weight
  • 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup pumpernickel flour OR King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • seeds (sesame, flax, caraway or poppy) OR oat or rye flakes, for sprinkling
"10 ounces lukewarm water1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast2 ounces pumpernickel flour OR King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour10 5/8 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour1 1/2 teaspoon saltseeds (sesame, flax, caraway or poppy) OR oat or rye flakes, for sprinkling"

Bread Machine Directions: Place all of the ingredients in the order listed above into the pan of your bread machine, select Manual or Dough, and press Start. Proceed from*.

By-Hand Directions: Pour the water into a mixing bowl. Add the yeast and pumpernickel or white whole wheat flour, and let sit for several minutes until the mixture begins to bubble. Stir in the salt and 1 cup of all-purpose flour and mix well. Gradually add the second cup of all-purpose flour until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 4 to 5 minutes. Let the dough rest while you clean out and grease your bowl; then knead the dough a few more minutes. The dough should be on the slack side and a little tacky, but should not be sticky. When the dough is well-kneaded, place it into the prepared bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Proceed from*.

*When your dough has risen once, flour your dough-rising basket heavily and sprinkle some seeds (sesame, flax, caraway, poppy...) or some oat flakes or rye flakes in the bottom. Pick up your dough and work it around in your hands a bit, expelling the air. Make the dough into a ball and place it, "nice" side down, into the basket. Drape the dough with lightly greased plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise for 45 minutes, or until it's crowned nicely over the rim of the basket.

Have a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet ready. Very gently, roll the dough from the basket onto the baking sheet. It should slip out gracefully, without deflating. if it deflates totally—a small settling is OK—simply form it into a smooth ball, put it back in the basket, and let it rise again (only this time not quite as high).

Bake the bread in a preheated oven at 425°F for 20 to 25 minutes. For a crunchy, crisp loaf, spray water into the oven with a spray bottle three times during the first 10 minutes of baking. When the bread is done, remove it from the baking sheet, set it on the rack of the oven, turn the oven off, and crack the door open a couple of inches; let the bread cool completely in the oven. If you want a soft loaf, remove the bread from the oven, and from the pan, and let it cool completely, at room temperature, on a wire rack.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sweet Comforts and the Smells of Winter

It’s Snowy, cold and windy in NYC and what a great day to stay in and bake for comfort and some sweetness. There is nothing like homemade hot cocoa and the aroma of cinnamon permeating throughout the house.

I do love when I stink up the entire apt building with wonder aromas of fresh baked bread, sweet & savory spices, and cakes and of course when I cook with garlic! Ahhh, the smell of something cooking that hits all senses in an eye rolling; mouthwatering temptation is just delicious heaven. No fishy smell here!

I’m sure the neighbors in my building are wondering what I am baking today and if any of them are home, I will knock on their door, show some neighborly love and offer them my sweet of the week.

About a year ago, when I was laid off from a company I gave over 9 years of my life to, I decided, since I had to cut back on costs to use some of my Credit Card points and get me a bread maker. It was one of the best decisions I made! Not only do I not buy bread from the store anymore, I am also making healthier breads with no crazy chemicals in them. I do save a lot of money believe it or not. It also got me cooking again and wanting to branch out a bit more in my cooking capabilities.

But today is not about bread, it’s about Cinnamon Rolls/Buns using my bread machine! You never forget the smell and taste of a Cinnamon Roll/Bun even if the years have passed since the last gooey bite. I’ll be honest, I don’t usually eat these that often, actually I think the last time I had one was about 8 or more years ago. I have heard that there is a chain out there, in which these lovely breakfast/brunch treats are the main attraction and people go crazy for them (I personally have never had one from this chain and never will).

So, since I am using my bread machine and the recipe that came with it, all instructions are machine only (I don’t feel like translating out of machine today). But if you are a savvy baker, then you know how to make the dough outside of the machine (It’s really not that hard). I’ve made some personal adjustments to this recipe, specifically to the filling and topping. This will yield approx 24 rolls/buns depending on how thick you cut them.
Cinnamon Rolls
Ingredients: Makes2 1⁄2 pounds dough = 24 cinnamon swirl rolls
  • 2⁄3 cup Lowfat milk, warmed to 80°–90°F
  • 3 Eggs, large, at room temperature
  • 6 tbls Unsalted butter, cut in 1⁄2-inch pieces, at room temperature
  • 1⁄2 cup Granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 4 cups Bread or AP flour
  • 2⁄3 cup Cornstarch
  • 2 1⁄4 teaspoons Yeast, active dry, instant or bread machine
-Place the milk, eggs, unsalted butter, granulated sugar, salt, vanilla, flour, cornstarch, and yeast in the bread pan fitted with the kneading paddle in the order listed. Place the bread pan in the Bread Maker. Select
Dough option. Select dough size. Press Start to mix, knead and rise. When cycle is completed remove dough and punch to deflate. For large and medium recipes, divide into 2 equal portions. Let rest 10 minutes.
-Roll the dough out into rectangles 12 inches wide and 1⁄2-inch thick. Brush each rectangle with melted butter to within one inch of one long side and to the ends of the other 3 sides, and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll as for a jelly roll, ending with the unbuttered side. Pinch along long side to seal.
-Cut with a serrated knife into 12 equal portions. Arrange in prepared pans, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise 35 to 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F.
-Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until puffed with golden tops, and hollow-sounding when tapped.
-Let cool 20 to 25 minutes before frosting. Spread or drizzle cream cheese frosting to taste.

  • 1⁄2 cup Brown sugar, packed
  • 1⁄4 cup Granulated sugar
  • 2 1⁄2 tbls Cinnamon
  • 1 tbls Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 6 tbls Butter, unsalted, melted –Reserve 2 Tbls for brushing Dough.
-Place the filling ingredients in a small bowl and stir with a whisk until well blended; reserve.
-Lightly coat 2 ten-inch round/2 nine-inch round/1 ten-inch round cake pan(s) with cooking spray and reserve.

Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 4 oz Cream cheese
  • 1⁄4 cup Unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1 1⁄2 cups Powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon Milk
-Combine frosting ingredients and stir with a whisk until smooth (this may also be done in a food processor fitted with the metal “s” blade, or with a hand mixer).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Movies and Meat

I just finished watching the HBO Special Temple Grandin Starring Claire Daines. I’ve known about Temple Grandin for many years now, thanks to a PBS special I had seen. I think she has brought amazing insight to the meat industry and I hope that she will continue to better our national treatment of cattle and hopefully other animals we consume as a nation. BTW-Claire Daines was an amazing portrayal. Kudos to HBO for this personal documentary.

There have been plenty of movies these days and over the years about the food we eat, especially meat. I honestly believe we should listen to the premise of these movies and move forward as a better human race that does care about what it eats.

I do believe that we as a nation have no idea what it means to be with nature. We as a human race, like the matrix, are a virus ready to destroy anything in our way for survival. We lose all perspective of what Nature really is and only a few have interest in sustaining what we should covet.

I am not and will never proclaim myself as a vegetarian, but as I have learned over my years, eating any kind of meat has to come with a price of conscience. There are places in this world that do respect what they eat and what bothers me as a meat eater in the U.S. is that we forget what it means to eat and the respect that animal deserves while we eat it.

The U.S. is such a greedy, unconscionable nation. We expect with all our hard work we deserve anything and everything, no matter how it’s obtained. We claim to be the major morality and political conscience, but we are a nation of fools and fat protagonists. We preach, but don’t practice because we are lazy jerks. We think we deserve respect just because we are a nation that pretends to be of fair justice.

When it comes to the meat eating population, we tend to forget that what we are eating is real, alive and has a purpose in our eco system other than just our stomachs. By Nature, humans are carnivores, but it should not mean that we treat those we eat with disrespect.

Think about the fact that Humans are Carnivores. That would mean in any dire situation we could potentially eat each other. Would you just drown or purposely slain someone without feeling and respect just to have a meal at your expense? That is the philosophical question of the day.

I am tired and sad that I live in a nation that has no heart. That is willing to treat this world like crap. I am not an exception to this either, as I am also responsible for being lazy and not respecting my environment. But, I am willing and want to change.

Although Temple Grandin is still with the major beef industries that are more “industrial” and still do not treat animals with the respect they deserve, we cannot fault her. She has improved this industry to at least be somewhat humane. Although it still could be better, Temple has made more of an impact than the rest of us could and should on the massive beef and meat industry.

Now I truly understand the cost factor in all of this, as I am poor and can’t afford more humanely driven meat in my current circumstances. So, to me what that means is that I will only buy good meat (grass fed and antibiotic free) when I can afford it. That means less meat for me in the long run, but also better for my health and the environment overall.

Let us remember, not only are humans carnivores, but we are ultimately omnivores, which means we also eat greens…vegetables…fish etc…Humans are not exclusive and we are not really supposed to be a part of the overall eco system mother nature intended. Humans are creating havoc among mother earth and that needs to change immediately.

If we as humans were intended to be a part of the eco system, then let us be worthy of it, instead of being a race that destroys everything in its path.  We should not be the cause of the Eco System demise but a part of the revision of it.

For those who can’t forgo meat like I can, at least try to buy locally and buy from a local butcher instead of a supermarket. Buying meat from a supermarket is not a good thing and promotes more mass slaughter and disrespect of the animals you are eating.

Thank you!

Tomato Soup and Processed Sin

I will admit that even though I consider myself a food snob of sorts, I do love a classic American grilled processed cheese sandwich with tomato soup, especially during these winter months. Now, you might think this is about the classic canned Tomato soup and all American Grilled Cheese, but you are half wrong.

I did buy a can of that classic canned Tomato soup a few weeks back and found it very strange tasting. As a kid I loved this soup (but what kid doesn't?). After not having that canned soup for years and years and then buying it, because I was lazy, a huge mistake and a waste of my taste buds and time. I ended up adding homemade croutons, parmesan cheese and other herbs just to make the soup bearable and even that didn't make it very edible. So, for now on, Tomato soup will be all homemade for me.

Back to the sandies...In this case it's totally all American born or it ain't the processed sin we all but hate to admit we love to crave. You can't argue the sinful taste of the buttery, oozing American Grilled Processed Cheese. I'm a bit of a purist with this processed cheese sandwich. When I do make it, I use soft white bread (yeah-the balloon brand) and room temp butter and in a fry pan, not a grill and not a waste of space Panini maker. Sometimes I have a hankering to add some sliced tomato and/or add bacon. Spicy or just yellow mustard on top makes it the Bomb!

Don't get me wrong...a Caprese, Fontina w/Arugula, Munster w/Caramelized Onion (my French Onion Soup Sandy), Goat Cheese w/Chive, Tarragon and a drizzle of Honey and other "couture" grilled cheese sandwiches are just mouth watering heaven and higher on my list of amazing eats, cooked on a stove top grill or grill pan. Give me any good artisan melting cheese, herbs, crusty bread, olive oil and garlic and I can't even describe the pleasure I get, even just thinking about making and eating it.

Even though the canned soup was a waste of my time, it should also be yours too. Homemade is the better, tastier, easy and most economical to make believe it or not. I'll do my best here to list the Soup Ingredients and Instructions as my cooking...not a measured by eye, taste and whatever I have in the pantry. This will make approximately 12 Servings. It's a lot of soup! 
Winter time is hard to find good ripe plum tomatoes, so I've gone with canned tomatoes that I usually use for pasta sauce. Don't worry, at first the soup may tast a little tinny from the canned tomatoes for the first taste test, but after it simmers for a bit, all flavors will combine and the tinny flavor will go away.

Tomato Soup
Special equipment: Either a Blender or Handheld Blender or a Food Processor

  • 2-28oz cans of Whole Plum Tomatoes

  • 1-15oz can of fire roasted Chopped Tomatoes with ancho chili pepper

    • (if you cannot find this item, 1-15oz Can of Chopped Tomatoes and 1 Roasted Red Pepper can be substituted)

  • 3 Cups Vegetable or Chicken Broth-Approx
  • 4 Cloves Garlic-Chopped Finely
  • 2 Medium Shallots-Chopped Finely
    • (1 half of Medium Onion can be substituted)
  • 3 Tbls Extra Virgin Olive Oil-Approx
  • 1 Tbls Dried Oregano or Italian Herb Mix-Approx
  • 1 Tbls Fresh Rosemary-Chopped-Approx
  • 1 Half Pint Heavy Cream or Half and Half
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • S/P to Taste
-In a large pot (Pre-Heated) on medium heat add Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Shallots and sweat (about 1-2 min), then add garlic to sweat (another 1-2 Min).
-Add Rosemary and Dried Herbs-A couple of quick stirs to incorporate. Add Tomatoes with their juice and bring to a simmer. At this point-take the mixture and puree. If you like it a bit chunky, make sure you reserve some of the tomato mixture.
-Add back to pot (on medium heat) and add Broth, stir and bring to a simmer again for about 15 minutes. 
-Add S/P to taste with a squeeze of lemon juice and stir for another minute or 2. Then add Heavy Cream and stir while bringing the soup back up to a simmer. DONE!
-Serve with your Favorite Grilled Cheese Sandy or just toasted garlic bread
-Add a dollop of Sour Cream or just drizzle with some olive oil.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Joking the Joker?

Ever been stupid enough to fall for the loose salt cap and more salt than you bargained for ends up all over your food? Well, salt didn't exactly happen in my most recent case, but what makes it worse is that not only was I the sucker of this cruel act, I was the perpetrator as well and that's what makes this doubly stupid.

I had recently realized after a full day of cooking confections, I hadn't eaten a thing for myself and suddenly found myself hungry for a quick late night meal before I retired for the evening. My usual idea of quick eats is a bowl of pasta with a quick parm cheese/alfredo sauce or just olive oil, garlic and herbs.

So I got my pasta cooking, start grating some parm cheese, peel a few cloves of garlic and in this case I had no fresh herbs so I decided I would use some dry Italian herb mix I had in my pantry.

When it came time to make my quick alfredo, I do what I always do...Add some milk in a sauce pan, use my beloved microplane and grate in the garlic, add freshly grated parm cheese, add salt and pepper to taste and my herbs. However this time when I went to add my herbs, I opened the jar, without realizing I had removed the "sprinkle" cap from previous use, and with 2 rapid shakes my sauce was drowning with dry herbs. So you can imagine my reaction...nothing but un flavorful comments spewed from my mouth.

So, I scooped out as much herbs as I could to try and save the sauce. What resulted from a classic joke and cooking blunder was a pretty tasty meal. The joke was still on me, as there were still more herbs that over powered everything, but I see it as, a lesson learned...NEVER PERMANENTLY REMOVE those Sprinkle caps from your jars of Herbs and Spices.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Green Brownies-Was Money Involved?

Well, it looks like, at least at my local bodega, my brownies won't make any money. According to the son of the owner, no one wants to pay $2 for a 2.5x2.5 brownie. Most of the customers would rather pay $1.50 for a mass made and unknown ingredient filled piece of crap. And this bodega doesn't even sell brownies from the vendor they purchase from!

I kind of knew in the back of my mind folks in my neighborhood would have no sense of what really good food is. But it is disappointing that folks have no concept of wanting and expecting healthier and good food. I'm not so sad about not making money as I am more sad about the unhealthy customer decisions.  I do however, in these times understand that every penny not spent is a penny saved.

My Brownies may be a sugary treat, but they are much better than a brand that uses crazy chemicals, artificial flavors, and ingredients you can't even pronounce and have to look up in the dictionary or Wikipedia to find out what it is. 

Pounding the Pavement and Getting Lemons

My job search goes on, still with no real success. I seem to attract lots of recruiters, but the jobs I'm either not qualified for or nothing seems to pan out. It's all been lemons!

Don't get me wrong though, I love lemons. So I thought in honor of me still "pounding the pavement", I thought why not take all the lemons from my job hunt and make Lemon Pound Cake (It's too cold for Lemonade)!

I am a "pound cake" newbie, so there are no alterations to the recipe I chose. I picked this one from a Bon Appétit Mag-July 1993 by Darren DiPietro: State College, Pennsylvania. The instructions are very well done, but I do have a bit more advice.

Now, I have a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer (These last forever!) and I would not recommend using a general electric mixer, but if that's all you have then make sure you use a very large bowl. Also, make sure your Mise en place is within your reach, it will make your life so much easier. Plan this recipe to ensure your eggs and butter are at room temperature.

So all went well, but I would have liked a heavier lemon flavor and I think the pan that I had was a tad too small or I just needed to add a bit less batter than what was yielded. I also think for my oven, I will need to drop the temp to 300 degrees vs. 325 degrees as recommended. The end result was that the cake baked with a slight overflow on the edges of the pan and got a little darker than I would have liked. But that can all be fixed anyway. Note that this recipe makes 12 Servings, I do know that Pound Cake does freeze well. So if you can’t use all of it, freeze the rest-Just cut in slices beforehand.

Sour Cream and Lemon Pound Cake
Bon Appétit: July 1993; by Darren DiPietro: State College, Pennsylvania. Yield: Serves 12

• 3 cups cake flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 3 cups sugar
• 6 eggs, room temperature
• 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
• 1 cup sour cream

Cooking Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease 16-cup tube pan. Dust pan with cake flour; tap out excess flour.
  • Sift flour, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl at medium speed until fluffy. Gradually add sugar and beat 5 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until combined after each addition. Beat in lemon juice and peel. -Using rubber spatula, mix in dry ingredients slowly. Mix in sour cream. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
  • Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Let cake cool in pan on rack 15 minutes. Cut around cake in pan. Turn out cake.
  • Carefully turn cake right side up on rack and cool completely. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Wrap in foil and let stand at room temperature).

Monday, February 1, 2010

Green Brownies

Nooooo...These are not brownies baked with illegal substances.  However, they can be considered somewhat "green"-the ingredients are mostly organic and no delivery services required.  Though the green I am really hoping for is monetary.

About a year ago, I had made a batch of Brownies with Peanut butter swirls and brought them to my local bodega owner and his kids.  His kids loved them so much, they've been begging me to make them again and they offered to sell them in their store.  So, I finally broke down and made a batch this past weekend.

I didn't want to go with my traditional recipe, so I scoured the web looking for just the right recipe.  Nothing seemed to be going well, so I took bits and pieces from a bunch of recipes and this is what I came up with...

Decadent Dark Chocolate Browings with a Peanut Butter frosting.  So wish me luck on selling these...I hope I can atleast make my money back!

Dark Chocolate Brownies With Peanut Butter Frosting:
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2/3 cup butter = 1 Stick + 2 Tbls + 2 Tsp.
  • 1 c Organic Cane sugar
  • 3/4 c brown sugar, packed
  • 3 eggs - Free Range/pastured
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Approx 2 tsp Real Vanilla Extract (Please don't use imitation)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter with chocolate in a large saucepan, Over a double boiler. Remove from heat and stir in both sugars, add eggs when inital mix is cooled, flour, salt and vanilla. Spread batter into a greased 9x9x2 or 7x11x2 baking pan. Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes depending on your oven, or until they start to pull away from the edges of the pan. Cool for at least half an hour before slicing. Makes approx 16 brownies.
Peanut Butter Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup smooth organic unsweet peanut butter
  • 5 Tbls Butter,softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-3 Tbls milk (if needed)
Beat peanut butter and margarine with an electric mixer until smooth.Add sugar.Beat until incorporated. If the frosting is too thick,add milk,a tablespoon at a time until you get the desired consistency.