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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gadget of the Week- Citrus Juicer







When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and use Chef'n FreshForce juicers to do it! I love these new juicers. They are powerful, efficient, and helpful for keeping seeds out of your food. Plus who doesn't like fun and colorful gadgets in the kitchen? Citrus juice is great to use in cooking because it adds an additional dimension of flavor and depth to your dish. I use lemon juice in almost everything, from soups to sauces, vegetables to seafood and desserts. No need to buy both, just get the larger one which can be used for lemons, limes, and small oranges.

Find it at: Sur La Table
Price:$20
Rating: ****

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bad to the Core




What’s so great about apples? I don’t get it. Apples are boring. You eat an apple when there’s nothing better. It’s a last resort fruit, like last resort panties. If a genie popped out of a magic lamp and told you that you could have any fruit in the world, would you choose an apple? No. Apples are depressing. They’re the fruit they sell in airports and give away in hotel gift baskets. It’s the fruit you get at cheap buffets and prepaid lunches. Apples always disappoint. 90% of the time they’re grainy, mealy or rotten. Apples are sneaky. I spend 20 minutes giving an apple my sensual apple exam. I look it over, feel it up, breathe in its scent and if no one’s watching, I lick it. Apples lie. They say, “pick me baby, ooooh I’ll be so delicious and crunchy. Not too sweet, not too tart, extra juicy for you.” I believe it. They suck me in with their ruby red skin and hard firm body. I take it home, expecting at the least a solid crunch, some sort of sensual delight. Instead I get a soft, dry, mealy mouth rape. “That’s not what you promised me” I scream. “Hehe” the apple chuckles, “shut up and core me”.


When did apples become the Oprah of fruit? They’re everywhere. Fairytales, teachers’ desks, apple pie, apple strudel, apple bob, apple computers, Johnny Appleseed, Isaac Newton and the apple, the Big Apple, apple of my eye, Apples to Apples, Applebee’s, Gwyneth Paltrow’s child!? Jesus! What’s wrong with people? What about the orange? He’s part of a complete breakfast. You don’t hear of celebrities naming their children kiwi, cherry, or kumquat. What city calls itself the Big Berry? I don’t get it. Apples are cliché. Give your teacher an apple? Yeah, if you hate her.


Apples are supposed to be the best defense against illness. That’s what my doctor told me the last time I saw her. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” she sang. I followed her advice for 2 months and forced an apple down my gullet daily. I went to visit a friend in Boston who had just come down with the swine flu. She told me to cancel my trip but I wouldn’t hear of it. “Don’t worry,” I said as I boarded my flight. “My doctors got me on this crazy strict optimum health diet”. Two days later I’m on my back sweating like a pig and hurling apple chunks.


Let me remind you, apples are bad. Ever heard of a poisoned apple? Eve ate an apple and betrayed Adam, God and humanity. What a foul fruit to screw all of humanity. Because of the apple we’re not living the naked rumpus life God intended. That’s ridiculous. Am I missing something? Who ever heard of anyone not being able to resist an apple? Oh wait. Snow White. Didn’t she die after eating one? If you ask me, apples are the Mel Gibson of fruit.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Herbilicious





Herbs are the magic dust of cooks. They have the power to make something good taste great and transform a bland dish into something seriously delicious. You may think that the teaspoon of minced thyme or sprig of rosemary called for in your recipe is unimportant. This could not be further from the truth. Without herbs many popular dishes would be impossible. Can you imagine mojitos without mint, pesto without basil or pasta sauce without oregano?

10 things you should know about herbs:

1. Fresh herbs are best. Substitute any dried herb for fresh whenever possible.

2. Throw out your dried herbs every year as they lose their flavor quickly.

3. Some of the most commonly used herbs are basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, dill, chives, cilantro, mint, oregano, cilantro, parsley and tarragon.

4. Wild marjoram or sometimes marjoram, is just another name for oregano

5. When using dried herbs rub them between your fingers to help release their flavor before adding them to your dish.

6. Cilantro and coriander is the exact same herb.

7. Buy basil in its fresh form as the dried version tastes nothing like real basil.

8. Store your dried herbs in a dry cool place and your fresh ones wrapped in a damp paper towel then sealed in a plastic bag.

9. In medieval Europe it was thought that dill protected against witchcraft and curses.

10. It’s easy, affordable and fun to start your own herb garden on a windowsill or in your backyard.


Here are the four herbs I use most often and favor because of their distinct differences and versatility.

Thyme- A great all around herb. I put this on everything like bean soup, chicken or turkey, potatoes, carrots, pasta sauce, salad dressing, dips, quiche, or scallops and is especially amazing with mushrooms.

Rosemary- A great herb for heartier meats and stews or to roast with. I love it in bread, chicken, lamb, roasted or mashed potatoes, carrots, goat cheese, pasta sauce, salad dressings, or turkey.


Basil- A key herb in Mediterranean cooking and the essential ingredient to pesto. Basil is delicious in breads, burrata cheese, eggplant, strawberries, onions, pasta, pizza, olives, caprese salad, white fish, tomatoes, and Thai dishes.

Sage- A native Mediterranean herb and possibly my favorite next to thyme. Love this with butternut squash, white bean soups, chicken and turkey, stuffing, corn, cheese soufflé, duck and sweet potatoes.





Here are some different styles of herb gardens to inspire you!






Monday, February 15, 2010

Guys CAN Cook

In my last post I mentioned the valentines dinner my boyfriend was going to prepare for me, with some skepticism. How can you blame me? This is a man who orders delivery every night of the week and considers his homemade salads a gourmet masterpiece. He is, however, extremely picky and has an appreciation for fine dining. Apparently sometimes this is all you need because his 3 course dinner last night absolutely shocked me. It was honestly one of the best home cooked meals anyone has ever prepared for me. The man freaking flambéed! I'm a culinary graduate and I never flambé. If that wasn't enough to put me to shame his calm, cool, and collected manner in the kitchen was. "Who are you and what have you done with my incompetent boyfriend?" I'm just glad I have finally discovered his secret talent so I can reap the benefits more often ;)

Making magic

Small potatoes with olive oil, garlic and cipollini onions that he roasted at 350 degrees for 30 min. If you can find these onions buy them! They are sweet and tender and make a great addition to any roasted dish.

A side dish of sautéed spinach and fresh tomatoes with garlic. So simple and so delicious.

Quail browned then simmered with white wine, fresh herbs, garlic, shallots and Cognac. Surprised? So was I.


The finished product:








Extremely happy, proud and excited to eat.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chocolate is in the Air


















Still looking for a way to celebrate the silliest holiday ever? OK I guess Valentines can be sweet although I think it's more notorious for spawning disappointment. (Let's hope this isn't the case with the valentines dinner my boyfriends preparing.) Just kidding ;) Regardless, whether your with your schmoochoopoogus, friends, family, co-workers or yourself, here are a few delicious ideas that won't disappoint.

Cupcakes from Sprinkles


A 6 piece box set from Jin Patisserie filled with specially selected tea, spice, herbal, asian, citrus and alcohol flavored chocolates.


Or join Sur La Table's chocolate class this Saturday to make your own amazing desserts like this chocolate whipped mousse in a handmade chocolate bowl.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How to Overeat


Gluttony is not your fault. If food wasn’t this good, we wouldn’t have a problem. That's why I'm blaming the food, the farmers who grew it, the chefs that made it and God for creating it. But as a true foodie and glutton, we know that behind all the sharp digestive pains, gassy sleeps, acid reflux, excruciating bathroom trips, cold sweats, and compulsive vomiting, it’s worth it.

Getting Started
There is never a bad time to become a glutton. I suggest starting on New Years Day when all the suckers have turned to dieting. More food for you! While you are hung-over on the couch, pondering if everything could be easier over a bucket of fried chicken, be proactive. Organize a big Greek lunch at Taverna Tony in Malibu.
Eat: hummus, melitzanosalata, taramosalta, 2 grilled Octopus tentacles, 9 pieces of calamari, a Greek salad, 5 grilled vegetables, sixteen pieces of pita, baklava, 5 mouthfuls of bougatsa, and... 3 mimosas.

Does you’re body need this? Of course not. Should you say “no” when the meal is over and you top it off with another order of fried calamari? (It’s your goddamn suggestion.) And when you are rolled away and put in the back of a car where you ooooh and boohoo with stomach pains do you stop there? No. 2 hours later go to the movies, order popcorn drowning in butter and eat it all by yourself. Who’s the piglet? You are!

Follow Through
Wake up nauseated by the thought of food. In spite of this, have a smoothie and fried egg sandwich for breakfast before heading to Laguna. By 1:30pm you will be wondering if a small animal has crawled into your stomach and died. Ignore this feeling. Meet friends for lunch at The Rooftop, where not wanting to be rude, you scarf down salmon, Asian slaw, a side of chips, fish salsa and a mojito. Just to be polite.

By dinner you are sure a baby whale is lying dead in you’re gut. This is normal. On the way to dinner complain that you’re too full to eat, but when you get there exclaim, “Oh I didn’t know we were going to Tabu Grill! It’s one of the best restaurants in Orange County according to Zagat.” So, after a cranberry and goat cheese salad, yellow fin poke, flourless chocolate cake, a few glasses of wine and some champagne, push your plate aside and loudly say, “Ah that was just right”. This is of course a lie as you have already undone the top button to your skinny jeans and pulled the zipper half down allowing your new muffin top to rest comfortably over the edge.

2:30 am you should be writhing in bed, ridiculously uncomfortable with an abnormally large mid section. At 9am wake up to noxious fumes of onions, cheese, cream, bacon, butter and FAT. You will want to hurl but don’t. You have not yet maximized your gut’s full potential. An hour later sit down to a brunch of egg frittata with potatoes, ham and cheese and a mushroom tart oozing cream, sherry, butter and more cheese. Eat a piece of both. Difficulty re swallow the masticated bites forcing their way back up your throat.

Ejection
By 3:55 pm you will be on the 405 back to LA when you empty your mid-day snack of Doritos and chocolate milk out of a plastic bag. (Advanced gluttons may consume these items now.) 4:00 pm it hits you. Clutch your plastic bag as you exit for a bathroom while acidic burps act as a warning sign for the explosion that is about to occur. Ten minutes later insert head into dirty public toilet and spew the mushroom tart, cheese frittata and a bit of that Asian slaw. Pull out any shredded cabbage that may have become lodged in throat. At 4:18 pm, near LAX, upchuck the slaw, tuna tartar, and an octopus tentacle into your faithful plastic bag. Asian flavors will be strong. Spend the rest of the night devoting your time between the bathroom floor and puke stained couch. By morning you may be weak but you will be ridiculously thin.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

It's game time














Just because it's the Super Bowl doesn't mean you have to resort to KFC or Pizza Hut. Not that there's anything wrong with that (I still have a very special relationship with The Hut). But why don't you let 2010 be the year you surprise your guests with some awesome homemade food! Here are two simple recipes that are sure to be a hit at any Super Bowl party. Make the guacamole if you’re low on time and are looking for something to bring to the party. Tackle the chili if you have a few hours to spare and are having the Super Bowl party at your place. That way you can start the chili in the morning, let it simmer for a while, and by game time you will be good to go!

Killer Guacamole

• 4 ripe avocados halved, pitted and peeled – save pits
• 1 red onion finely diced
• 2-3 cloves of garlic minced
• Fresh lime juice to taste
• ½ cup cilantro chopped
• Cherry tomatoes halved
• 1 tsp red chili flakes
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1 jalapeno chopped (optional)

1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl and mash with a fork until avocado is broken down but still slightly chunky.


2. Add rest of ingredients, combine well and taste for seasoning. Taste continuously until you are happy with the marriage of flavors.


3. Add the saved avocado pits to your guacamole. This make look funny, but they will keep the avocado from turning brown. Serve immediately.


Todd's Runnin' and Gunnin' Turkey Chili

Runner-Up at my company's Chili Cook-Off, this recipe has been shared with friends, family, and co-workers alike and become their chili recipe of choice. Why didn't it take home first place, you ask? The results were rigged. The proof is in the chili.

Just remember that the full flavor won’t be realized until everything starts breaking down. So be sure to have your spices nearby to get that perfect flavor. Enjoy.

Ingredients:

• 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
• 1 White Onion, peeled, diced
• 3 Bell Peppers, various colors, diced
• 2 Jalapeno Peppers, diced
• 1 - 2 Cans Diced Tomatoes
• 1 Small Can Tomato Paste
• 1 Can Kidney Beans
• 1 Can Chili Beans
• 1 Pound Ground Turkey
• 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
• Salt
• Pepper
• Cumin
• Cayenne Pepper
• Chili Powder
• Hot Sauce
• Sour cream, cilantro, cheese, avocado or scallions for garnish

1. In "High" crock-pot, add: 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1/2 can of tomato paste, diced bell and jalapeno peppers, 1/2 of total diced onion, 1/2 of minced garlic cloves.

2. Drain Kidney Bean juice from can and dispose. Add 1/2 of Kidney Beans to crock-pot. With leftover half, smash inside the can with a fork, then add smashed beans.

3. For Chili Beans add juice and 1/2 of can's contents to crock-pot. Smash similar to Kidney Beans and add to crock-pot. Fill Chili Bean can with water and add to crock-pot.

4. Place oil in medium nonstick pan, add second half of onions to the oil. Sauté onions until translucent. Add remaining garlic to oil.

5. Briefly sauté garlic prior to adding the turkey. Season with salt and pepper. Cook Turkey until just not pink.


6. Transfer Turkey, onions, and garlic to crock-pot. Stir chili and add salt, pepper, teaspoon of cayenne, tablespoon chili powder, cumin, and several splashes of Hot Sauce (you will want to add more during the process, be conservative at first.


7. Cover and let simmer for an hour. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cook for additional two hours on low heat.


8. Garnish with any or all: sour cream, minced scallions, chopped cilantro, avocado or shredded cheese.

Chili Recipe courtesy of Todd Johnston

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Olive Oil



No I’m not talking about Popeye's sweetheart. I'm talking about that delicious, flavorful oil that is found in everything from salad dressings to gourmet ice cream. These days there are hundreds of olive oils to choose from ranging from $4 a bottle to $50 bucks! So it's important to know what you're paying for.

Olive oil is like wine. The flavor, color and consistency vary on regions and types of olives. Oil is extracted from olives through an olive press. All olive oils are graded in accordance with the degree of acidity they contain. The less acidic, the better and in general, the deeper the color, the more intense the olive flavor. Make sure to reserve the expensive oil for things like salad dressings, bread dipping, or garnish on a dish. Extra virgin and virgin olive oils are not meant to be used on high heat.

Extra Virgin- The King of olive oils. This is the first cold pressing of the olives, which contains an acidity level of only 1 percent or less. It produces deliciously fruity, elegant, strong, and expensive oil.

Virgin- From the first cold press, but riper olives are used which yields a slightly higher acid level, between 1-3 percent. This is a great basic olive oil to have on hand.

Plain olive oil - A blend of virgin or extra virgin and refined olive oil. It is much lighter in color and blander in taste. It is an all-purpose olive and good for cooking at higher heat levels.

Light olive oil- contains the same amount of calories and fat as regular olive oil but is so refined that is has little of the classic olive oil flavor. Good for baking or cooking when you don’t want that olive oil flavor and great for high heat levels.

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