Sunday, December 31, 2006

Rachael Ray's kick start kiwi smoothie

This morning I made a Kick Start Kiwi Smoothie. I found the recipe in the December/January 2007 issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine.

What a exhilarating drink! The little bit of lime juice and the tart sweetness of the kiwi fruit yields a very refreshing taste. It is quite light but also fulfilling. Drinking this is a great way to start the day.

note* each serving is only 2 Weight Watchers points.

Kick Start Kiwi Smoothie
4 kiwi, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1 banana
1/2 cup plain fat-free yogurt
2 Tbsp honey
10 cubes ice cube(s)
In a blender, combine all ingredients except for 2 kiwi slices. Server in tall glasses and garnish each with a kiwi slice.

crosscut stump stew

So, now that I have my own food blog, I can participate in tons of online food blogging events. Shaun of Winter Skies Kitchen Aglow is hosting this week's Weekend Cookbook Challenge. He has chosen STEW as the theme. Sara of I Like to Cook is the creater of this challenge and designates a different food blogger each week to host the event and select the theme.

As soon as i read the that the theme would be stews, I knew exactly what i wanted to cook. There is an interesting recipe for Crosscut Stump Stew in I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris. Actually, the stew looks like any other good and hearty beef stew. What drew me to it however was how she wrote about it in her book. Amy is a comedian and she separated the chapters of her book in a quite unique way. Since the book is about entertaining, each chapter is for a target audience of people you would have a party for. This stew is featured in her lumberjack section. Yes, you read correctly. There is a chapter in the book dedicated to having a party for lumberjacks. In addition to recipes, she suggests party favors and decoration ideas. Her featured stain removal tip in the lumberjack chapter is for mud:

Make sure that the mud stain on the rug has dried. Vacuum the dirt off. Take some laundry soap and work it into the stain. This should work. If not just turn the rug over and deny it ever happened.

The stew recipe is pretty basic. As I prepared my shopping list, I realised I have never made a simple stew before. I have not made that many stews before period. But the ones I have prepared have been made something with gourmet-type ingredients. Also, I have only made stews in my slower cooker and never made one stove-top or in the oven. I was excited to try this one and get a good basic stew under my belt.

I'm not sure if I like Amy's recipe style. She is not very exact. I am one who prefers to follow recipes exactly and I want to know the minimum amount of each ingredient to add to the dish. If a recipe adds a "to taste" I am fine, but i don't like how her recipe just calls for "sugar" with no specific amount. I had never cooked a stew like this before and was unsure of how sugar will effect the taste. However, I can go with the flow and just figured it out. I suppose this is why many chefs suggest you taste at each step.

Amy suggests serving the stew with a stack of white bread and oatmeal raisin cookies.

Crosscut Stump Stew (serves one lumberjack or six people)
2 pounds of stewing beef (cut into 2-inch cubes)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup of red wine
2 Tbsp. of wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds of small pearl onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown your cubed beef on all sides in a pan of hot oil and then transfer to a casserole dish. Add onion and garlic to the pan. Add more oil or butter if you need to, fry until the onion is soft. Add tomato puree, wine, and vinegar and stir. Pour this over the meat cubes in the casserole dish, and add the bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, sugar and salt and pepper.

Cover and cook in over for 1 hour, or cook on stove, slowly. While beef is cooking, boil a pan of water. Remove roots and tops of pearl onions. Crosscut (score) the root end and place in a bowl. Cover in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain off water. The skins will slip off easily. Add the onions to stew and continue to simmer on low until the meat and onions are tender and the sauce is thick. (About 1 1/2 hours longer).

Saturday, December 30, 2006

2007 foodie resolutions

An interesting question was posted over at Save Your Fork... There's Pie! What are your food resolutions for 2007?

I had not even thought of making something like a "food resolution". But like my fellow food blogger, I too have some goals regarding food for the coming year. So I have listed my food resolutions below . . .

1. Actually READ my cookbooks. Many of my cookbooks have some valuable information in them aside from just recipes. Until now, I have just passed over that "fluff" and went straight to the recipes.

2. Make at least one recipe in each of the cookbooks I have. I'd like to do this before I purchase any additional cookbooks. I have many cookbooks that I bought for the novelty of it or because they were on sale at Costco and I thought I had to have it. Many I have not even actually made one single recipe from. This goal will pose especially challenging for The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden which I have cracked open several times but have always been discouraged and confused about deciding what I want to cook. I may also have some issues with a sushi cookbook my friend gave me.

3. Cook food that I can take for lunch. I have a plethora of recipes for all sorts of good salads, breads, tacos, etc. I should be able to find several things to throw together that won't cost an arm and a leg.

4. Become conscious of the food I put in my mouth. I am not necessarily going to go on a diet, but I want to be aware of foods that are very fattening. I plan to add all the recipes I make to the Weight Watchers online recipe tool because I like using their points system to determine how fattening or healthy something is. I get confused with calories, fat grams, etc.

5. Blog the results of each recipe I cook. That's what I started this blog for afterall. I'm using it as a food journal of sorts.

6. Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in '07. Do my best to try as many foods on this list as possible. I think it will be a fun way to try some new things.

So what do you think? They all seem like reasonable enough goals to me.

book review: Julie and Julia

I just finished the most interesting book. Well, interesting to me as a person on a cooking quest. Prior to this, I haven't sat down and READ a book in a long time. It's usually audiobooks while driving. I bought this book at the airport on the way home from Lake Tahoe earlier this month. It's called Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously.

Julie Powell is a 29-year-old secretarial temp. Unhappy with her job. Not sure what to do with her life. Not ready to have kids. She decides to take on a project: she will cook all of the recipes in Julia Child's famous Mastering the Art of French Cooking. There are 524 recipes all of which Julie plans to cook within one year - 365 days. AND she blogs about her experience. Her Julie/Julia Project blog is still available online.

I dream of doing something like this. I LOVE cookbooks. I buy them and look through them but then am usually too tired from reading to actually cook anything. I've been really making an effort to cook more and more lately. So I love this gal's concept and determination. In fact, I started rachel's bite as a way of having some ownership and sharing my experiences with my recipe cooking. You can say that this book inspired me.

What is really interesting is that a few months ago I listened to the audiobook of My Life in France by Julia Child. This was the last book she wrote before she died and it was all about how she got started cooking, cooking lessons at Le Cordon Bleu in France, her decision to write a cookbook about French food for Americans (Mastering the Art of French Cooking) which she wrote with two friends, and the beginning of her television series. That book was GREAT. Julia Child is a very interesting person.

I really enjoyed Julie and Julia because Julie is a real person, similar to myself, who is going to conquer this old cookbook and I got to read about her trials and errors. It is humorous too because she discusses all her frustrations in finding rare ingredients and the all the difficult techniques first identified by Julia Child. These are the typical things I go through almost every time i cook a recipe from a magazine or something on The Food Network (especially Emeril!). And it really is a different world now. Mastering the Art of French Cooking was first published in the 60s. Ingredients and kitchen gadgets have changed so much since then. And that book fills each recipe with butter and cream which seems so unhealthy now.

Of course the down side is that now I want to complete a similar project. I have no interest in cooking everything int Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I don't like French Food too much, even though I'd love to execute some of Julia Child's recipes - just to say I can. However I would like to make all the recipes in The Joy of Cooking. I would love to learn to cook all the basics in that one. Unfortunately that one has over 4500 recipes so it would take me years to complete. But who knows . . .

Below is a cute clip I found on YouTube which someone made highlight one of the funniest part of Julie and Julia . . . Julie's experience with attempting to get bone marrow for a steak recipe:

blueberry chicken salad

My sister received The Marshall Fields Cookbook as a free gift when she was buying Macy's gift certificates this year. (Macy's purchased Marshall Fields and took over all of their stores effective fall of 2006. It is a touchy subject in Chicago). She wouldn't let me have it, but I flipped through it and found some good recipes. Their recipe for Blueberry Chicken Salad seemed similar to a salad that i used to love from their Marketplace. It was made with roasted turkey and grapes. I'm not sure what else was in it but since I like that, I decided to write down the recipe for the Blueberry Chicken Salad. Even though the thought of blueberries with chicken seemed kind of strange.

I did have a bit of a shopping nightmare trying to get all the ingredients together. I was attracted to this recipe because it uses roasted chicken. I picked one up while I was at the grocery store and tried to remember all the other ingredients. I got most of them but ended up having to go back to the store for a second trip. I couldn't find hazelnuts! And blueberries are way expensive right now, and not very ripe. I went to a different store and found that they did have hazelnuts.

The toasting and peeling of the hazelnuts did not happen as described in the recipe below. In fact, it didn't even happen at all. I put them in the oven and cooled them off and the skins were not budging. So, I gave some to my bird to play with and threw out the rest. I used chopped pecans instead which I got at the store when I couldn't find the hazelnuts.

I somehow managed to not buy any blue cheese. I was not going back to the store for a fourth time so I used some crumbled feta I had instead.

The salad came out wonderful. It is very simple to put together once you get the chicken pulled, which I did the night before. The dressing is rich and flavorful. I might cut back on the shallots next time, but maybe if I had used pungent blue cheese it would have balanced out the flavors better. I was a happy girl eating my chicken salad for lunch today and I have plenty left over. The recipe says that it will keep for two days.

I will be making this one again!

note* each serving is 9 Weight Watchers points.

Blueberry Chicken Salad (6 servings)
2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
2 Tbsp. minced shallot
2 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 roasted chicken, meat torn into bite-size pieces (about 3 cups)
1 large granny smith apple, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 1/2 cup green grapes
1 1/2 cup blueberries, picked over
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and coarsly chopped
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, shallot, honey, lime juice, salt, pepper and rosemary. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion.

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, apples, grapes, blueberries, hazelnuts, and blue cheese and toss well.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss wekk to coat thoroughly. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Toasting and Skinning Hazelnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake, shaking the pan once or twice, for 10 minutes, until the nuts are lightly browned and fragrant. Wrap the nuts in a clean dish towel and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Rub the nuts in the towel to remove their papery skins.

cookbooks at the library of congress

i find cookbooks fascinating. and i just discovered that the library of congress has tons of original cookbooks! i'm all excited. i have a trip planned to washington dc this coming may. i have never been to washington before.

As the editor of Marie Martinelo's 1892 New York Cook Book reminds us, "The fashions of the cuisine, like those of the dress, are subject to changes." Nowhere is that so clear as in the Library's incomparable collection of cookbooks.

Their current exhibition called American Treasures of the Library of Congress contains many first edition and rare cookbooks. The Domestic Arts part of the exhibit contains original recipes for meals eaten by Thomas Jefferson himself, the first Yiddish cookbook and labels from classic american products.

This video featuring Julia Child is an except of the documentary "Memory & Imagination: New Pathways to the Library of Congress". Julia is describing some of the cookbooks featured in the Library of Congress.

Friday, December 29, 2006

2006 food trends

earlier this week, epicurious announced their top ten best food trends of 2006. a day later they announced their top ten worst food trends of 2006. a guilty pleasure of mine are all these top ten lists which people create for the previous year. of course i was very curious to read these lists from epicurious.

the worst trends first: they list such events as the e.coli contamination of spinach and fois grais being banned in chicago as items on their top ten worst list. i was a bit disappointed in this. i was hoping that something like "french cooking" would be on the list, not news events. i just don't see those as trends. i think of a trend to be something like "pink is the new black" which we see in the fashion world. still, they do have a few notable items on their list, like "botique water" which is listed in sixth position:

6. Boutique Water: For every report on our overflowing landfills, diminished petroleum supplies, and melting ice caps, there seems to be a new absurdly riced fancy bottled water. At Epicurious, we've read about food and water pairings, and we just got an advance copy of an entire book devoted to Fine Waters, due to be released in January. Even when we do buy water, we don't see the point of paying more than a buck a bottle — unless it's going to turn into wine.

their top ten best food trends is more promising when it comes to actual trends. "southern food" is listed as the number two trend. and i have seen a return to good old-fashioned american cooking. i had a discussion with another food blogger last week about meatloaf. he is from england and was asking me for a meatloaf recipe. i told him that i never ate meatloaf while i was growing up. we then went on to discuss the history of meatloaf and all the fancy meatloaf recipes that are available now. who ever would have thought people would be making asian meatloaf using ground turkey?

other trends mentioned included fancy cocktails, organic food, steakhouses and burgers of all types. the final item on their list is a trend that i didn't even know was a trend, but i find quite interesting:

10. Oh, Honey, Honey: All kinds of honey — lavender, buckwheat, macadamia, blackberry, and hundreds more — proliferated on menus and in stores. "Honey has been around for thousands upon thousands of years and was re-recognized this past year on a national level in the culinary world," says David Guas, executive pastry chef of Acadiana, Ceiba, DC Coast, and TenPenh in Washington, DC. "Fads in the food world come and go, but I am glad to have witnessed this newfound appreciation for this ancient magical nectar."

now i'm going to have to start looking for all those yummy honeys! macadamia honey sounds amazing. god bless the internet because i am sure it won't be available at my local grocery store.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

tula's country-style greek salad

i made tula's country-style greek salad from i like you: hospitality under the influence by amy sedaris. when i received two joy of cooking cookbooks for christmas, i exchanged one for this "unique" cookbook. i read most of it on the plane ride home from chicago. she is a comedian, but the book itself is just strange (more on that later). i think because it's so random. the recipes look great though. amy sedaris mentions that she knows greek cooking very well so i was attracted to a few of her greek recipes. i love cucumbers, tomatoes and feta cheese so this salad seemed like a great place to start.

And it was . . . this salad is super refreshing. the kalmata and feta give it some substance and the salad by itself is quite filling. it is very simple to just chop up some veggies and whisk together a quick dressing. i like it with lots of fresh ground sea salt sprinkled on top. And to my surprise, the salad lasted. i actually made it last night but forgot to add the olives and pine nuts. it is a very large salad so i barely finished half of it. i just left it in the bowl and covered it with tinfoil. there was some extra juice tonight, probably due to the tomatoes, but nothing got soggy. the feta is firm enough not to soak everything up. so i just added in the olives and pine nuts and was good to go. there was so much left that i ate it as the majority of my meal with a little bit of leftover soup.
Tula's Country Style Greek Salad
3 medium tomatoes
1 large cucumber
1 small red onion
5 oz crumbled feta
a handful of kalamata olives
a handful of pine nuts
salt, fresh ground pepper and oregano to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar (i used balsamic)
Instructions (serves 6)
slice tomatoes and onion. peel and slice cucumber. arrange tomato, cucumber and onions in bowl. top with feta and olives and sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano to taste. toss in pine nuts.

mix olive oil and red wine vinegar. add salt and pepper to taste. beat olive oil and vinegar mixture and pour over vegetables.

note* if you make this with fat-free feta it will only be 4 weight watchers points.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

roasted garlic soup

i received the joy of cooking as a gift for christmas. i asked for it. it is the ultimate staple cookbook. as i'm back to cooking again, i've been realizing that i make a lot of fancy stuff and none of the basics. so that is why i asked for this one. while i was flipping through the book on christmas morning, the first recipe that caught my eye was roasted garlic soup. it sounded simple and tasty.

i made it tonight. my favorite part was roasting the heads of garlic. i love the way it makes my house smell. i used to roast up garlic and just spread it right on some hot bread that i'd get from the italian bakery down the street back when i lived in chicago.

the recipe calls for the joy of cooking number 2 way of roasting the garlic. i used to just wrap it up in tinfoil but their method was different. chop off the top third of 6 heads of garlic, place them in an 8x8 dish, add chicken stock into the pan until it covers the bottom third of the garlic heads, and then drizzle 2 Tbsp. olive oil over the garlic. cover with tin foil and roast the garlic in a 325 degree oven for an hour.

the rest is quick after the garlic is finished. you squeeze out the garlic into three cans of chicken stock which you poured into a pan on the stove and whisk it all together. this purees most of the garlic but also leaves some nice chunks. i suppose this would be a good time to use one of those emulsion blenders if you have one. i don't and the roasted garlic is very mild so i like the chunks. you tear up three pieces of white bread without the crust into small pieces and add that in there, add some salt, pepper, paprika and the juices left from the rosted garlic and then let it all simmer for about 5 minutes.

after i laddeled the soup into my bowl, i freshly shredded some manchego cheese over the top so it melted right in. this soup is so awesome. and it was perfect tonight because it's cool outside and it's the perfect cold-weather soup. it doesn't seem like it would be filling, but even with that little bit of bread, it adds alot of body into the soup and makes it quite hearty.  i also made a greek cucumber and tomato salad which i ate as well.

note* 1 cup of this soup is only 4 weight watchers points.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

humble pie

i just finished humble pie by UK celebrity chef gordon ramsay. he is probably best know in the US for the reality show hell's kitchen. i can't believe i missed that one considering how much i like those type of reality shows and cooking shows. however, i have been watching the f word on bbc america which is another one of his shows and i love it. he is known as an obnoxious asshole. but really, he has had a hard life. he came from nothing and made something amazing himself. he could have been another statistic - like his brother who ended up a heroin addict. his story is amazing and he is really an inspiration for everyone.