I live to eat and love to cook. Welcome to my life!

January 30, 2010

All about me

Have you ever had one of those days where you want to be entirely selfish? Do what you want, when you want and with the people you want? I am sure you have. :) You've turned off your phone, ignored emails, disconnected with the world and perhaps gotten in your car and driven to the beach, the mountains or to any number of random spots where you didn't have to interact with anyone unless you wanted to.

My job lately has been interesting in the least.....changeable by the hour, intense, challenging and it has kept me busier than a one legged man in an ass kicking contest. Still, I am grateful and happy all the same. Not only to have a job when I know there is a ridiculous amount of folks who don't have on, but also to love what I do. There is definitely something to be said for time off though.

Almost every week within my Facebook community I see posts on Wednesday that read "halfway there!" and on Friday "TGIF" and the like. Being in the hospitality industry, weekends are generally not considered time off for me and my fellow hotel/restaurant/chef peeps. We tend to get Mondays off as a rule, sometimes paired with a Sunday and more often than not, our days off are split like the pins in my last bowling game. :(

So it was no surprise that when this weekend rolled around and found me with not only a Saturday off, but also the Sunday I was a little bit excited about it. Not just excited for the time off, but also because I had nowhere to go and nothing to do, except for whatever I came up with.

No surprise, I started off the morning with a beach walk with my Mom. The insanely full moon last night brought on a tide higher than I have ever seen in Ventura. The waves were breaking over the promenade , soaking the unaware walkers and dogs, San Jon Road was closed due to flooding and the beach was littered with cobbles, driftwood and even a telephone pole (possibly leftover from the storm?).

The people watching is awesome, the sea air invigorating and I even got to see my buddy Surfer Bob and catch up with him for a few minutes....great therapy!

Stop number two was the Ventura Farmers Market on Palm Street and Santa Clara...we cruised looking for the best deals and for things we had a craving for or that were in recipes we planned for the week. I think I might have some sort of dirt fetish because I went heavy on the root vegetables....celeriac, beet & potatoes and rounded it out with some fennel, gorgeous baby brussels sprouts, leeks and broccoli rabe.

Lunch was light and enjoyed solo with a book and a glass of wine (yes, I drink at lunch...what of it?). And to make it even better, I got carded when ordering my wine! Yay! And then homehomehome for a nap on my couch.

Oh yes, today was lovelovelovely.

I had several options for dinner this evening based upon Brocks plan for hunting the elusive wild pig. He has unfortunately not been able to bring home the proverbial bacon this year but is very committed to doing so and has gone out several nights in a row. So I remain flexible and optimistic and figure that tonight is an opportunity to make something simple and tasty and test it out on myself before serving it to my sweetie.I got my new Bon Apetit this week and though this sounded terrific....and it was. AND I didn't change it at all. :)

Linguine with Bay Scallops & Fennel

8 ounces linguine
3 T olive oil, divided
1 medium fennel bulb, halved, very thinly sliced, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
1 medium onion, halved, thinly sliced
1 pound bay scallops
1 6-ounce container cherry tomatoes, halved if large
1 T Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur (I used Ouzo-leftover from Greece trip!)
4 T chopped fresh parsley, divided
1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced fennel and onion; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until wilted but crisp-tender. Using slotted spoon, transfer to medium bowl.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet. Add scallops and sauté until just opaque in center, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to bowl with fennel-onion mixture. Add tomatoes to skillet and sauté until heated through, about 2 minutes. Return fennel-onion mixture and scallops to skillet. Mix in liquor.

Add drained pasta to skillet; toss to coat, adding reserved cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Stir in 3 tablespoons chopped parsley and 1 tablespoon fennel fronds. Transfer to large shallow bowl, sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, and serve with lemon wedges.

This was sooooooo yummy. AND if you use less pasta and a little more fennel you can lighten the carbs and it turns in to a lighter dish even though it is still pasta.

Cheers, here's to being selfish!

January 22, 2010

Back on track!

I truly wish you could see what goes through my head on my half hour drive home from work daily. If I haven't already picked out what to make for dinner the inside of my head resembles the interior of an exotic butterfly aviary with colorful winged creatures fluttering to and fro....do I go with spicy, exotic and colorful? Savory and solid? Light, fresh and tangy? What to do, what to do?

I spend a good portion of my day at work taking other peoples food orders, creating custom menus, talking about food options, detailing out menus and parties and watching them get produced, so it is not big surprise that sometimes I come up against a stumbling block and the butterflies in my head turn in to a rainbow tornado that I can't control. At which point I call Brock and ask him what he wants for dinner. His standard reply is "I'm easy!". Which he is.

And he isn't. But that doesn't help when this scenario comes about.

Every once and a while he does give me a straight request as referenced in my previous post of chili & cornbread. But most nights he leaves me to my own devices and imagination which range everywhere from take out pizza on a lazy night to insanity in the kitchen where every dish, pot & pan I own is dirtied somehow.

But he is open to trying just about damn near everything I make as long as I stay away from a few taboo foods....that in itself is priceless. :)

After my insanely good but not so dietetic chili the other night I have been trying to eat leaner and cook lighter. Some days it works and other days not so much. But after a visit to the gym I found I was down another pound (yay!) and that made me want to amp it up again and do my damnedest to keep the LB's comin' off.

I was also not really up to going to the store after a long ass day that started off with only about 4 solid hours of sleep on the books.

Thus begins the mental inventory of what is in the fridge, freezer and pantry and then trying to wrap my head around what cuisine/continent I wanted to channel. Do I go Italian, American, Asian, Mexican, Southern or fusion???? Good lord there are too many things jumping around in my brain for me to even focus on this.



And then????

Ding!! Dingdingdingdingding!!!!

Trader Joe's Potstickers...frozen and waiting for me to add them to tasty broth with veggies.

Oh good lord was that a freaking relief!

Veggies are solid, I knew I had a few snow peas hanging around, carrots, green onions & celery and some crimini mushrooms would round it out nicely.

For the broth I thought I might have to resort to using my stash of "Better than Bouillon" chicken flavor, but was stoked to find a bag of chicken wing tips (from the hot wing post-oh yeah!) and a bag of frozen shrimp with shells on.

In to the pot goes.....

About 8-10 Chicken Wing Tips
Shrimp Shells from about 10-12 Shrimp
1 Onion, chopped
1 Carrot, chopped
2 Celery Stalks, chopped
6 cups water

Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer, skim off any foam that rises to the surface and discard. Simmer for about a half an hour and then strain.

While the stock is simmering, chop, slice & dice....

2 Medium Carrots, peeled-slice on the bias
2 Celery Stalks, sliced thin on the bias
4 oz Mushrooms, sliced
4 oz Snow Peas, sliced in 1/2
3 Green Onions, sliced thin

Slice Shrimp lengthwise in 1/2 and set aside

After stock is strained, return to the pot and add the carrots, mushrooms and celery, add a tablespoon or more of soy sauce to the pot depending on your salt preference. Cook for about 15 minutes and add in the snow peas, shrimp, green onions and 6-8 frozen potstickers (can be pork, shrimp or veggie). Simmer gently until won tons are cooked through and shrimp is pink.

Adjust seasoning as needed with soy sauce, Siricha hot sauce, sesame oil or even oyster sauce if you like.

Now your toes are going to hurt from all the weight falling off, right????

January 20, 2010

Diet schmiet...

So exactly how is one supposed to go on a frigging diet when the weather is cold and all you crave are warm comforting foods? Mostly warm comforting foods that are made with things not on your frigging diet and need to be sopped up with delicious vessels made from carbohydrates that are definitely NOT on your frigging diet.

Definitely having one of those evenings....maybe I have been depriving myself so much that my body actually CRAVES it.

Oh yeah, that must be it.

I do pretty good until nights like this when I walk in to the store and go just a little insane....Brock requested chili and cornbread for dinner, and although he would have been fine with the Von's brand from the deli, you know me by now and know that I went and got all the makings to make it from scratch because it would be better for us, right?


Brock makes his favorite "quick" chili from a mixture of random beans and canned chilis only known to him along with green chilies and the "secret ingredient"....chorizo. Fattening as hell, but it has SUCH good flav-a!!

So here I am in the store looking at the chorizo debating between pork and beef, looking at the calories and fat grams (Seriously? How DO you pack 22 grams of fat in to 1 serving the size of a tablespoon??? What else is in there besides fat???) and opting to go for the beef since I was doing beef chili. As it turns out, there is the equivalent of about 1/2 cup of solid matter in one 1# link once you have cooked it, drained it and squeezed all the fat out through a paper towel or cheesecloth. I like to think that I removed all the fat this way...please correct me if I am wrong!

Whatever, it's not like I eat like this every day. And the addition of flavor is worth it, I just won't be telling my doctor about this.

And THEN...because I was having chili, you know I had to make cornbread right? Because it is like a PB&J, BLT, cheese and wine....some things are just meant to go together. So of course the cornbread calls for butter and milk, but then I go and add green onions for flavor & color....and cheese because Brock likes it that way.

Again, I say whatever! Double workout tomorrow and better lighter cooking the rest of the week.

But for now I share with you a delicious chili recipe that is damn easy to prepare....

Ground Beef Chili

1 Large Onion, medium dice
1 Red Bell Pepper, medium dice
3 Cloves Garlic, fine dice

Sweat the above in 1 T olive oil until soft.

Season with 1 tsp Chili Powder.

1 -15oz Can Diced Tomatoes with juice
1-1/2 cup Beef Broth or Stock

Simmer gently and add

1# Lean Ground Beef, browned & drained
1# Link of Chorizo, browned and drained REALLY GOOD

1-15oz Can Kidney Beans, drained and split in 1/2

Take 1/2 of the Kidney Beans and add to the chili, keep the other half aside and add a little water. Puree in food processor or with immersion blender and add to chili.

Simmer for a while and season to taste. Serve with Cornbread and whatever garnish you want....if you don't care about an extra calorie or two, use cheese, sour cream or other delicious dairy based condiments. Cilantro & green onion are also delicious additions.

You know, this blog is almost as good as going to a priest for confession, I feel better already!

January 14, 2010

Family addiction

So I am not super in to television....in fact, my colleague makes fun of me a bit and is super impressed when I actually recognize a TV personality or tell her that I couldn't drag myself away from the latest episode of Glee! I went without TV for almost 10 years and probably wouldn't have it now if it weren't for Brock. I do enjoy having it in the house, but if I didn't have it, would probably not miss it much.

Except when it comes to family night.

Mom, Dad, Brock and I convene weekly (or bi-weekly) at my parents house and root for the best teams during football season, watch DVR'd episodes of yesterday's Jay Leno because we can't stay up that late and when American Idol starts, we have a standing dinner date for the day after it airs. (No commercials thanks to DVR....helloooo!)

I know we are dorky, but I love us all the same. And you know that in some way you have the same addiction somewhere...be it Grays Anatomy, Dirty Jobs or any of the other shows that are totally escaping me because I don't pay attention to TV. :)

Tonight finds us a few days after the first two hour episode of American Idol in Moms kitchen....sun setting, wine glass full (the whole "on the wagon" thing just wasn't working for me...) and a pot of Feijoada on the stove.

Yeah, you read right, that is not a misspelling....pronounced fay-zhwah-duh...it is a Brazilian Black Bean soup that is filling, comforting and pretty healthy when made as listed below. You can of course fatten it up if you want, but as most of us want to slim down instead of fatten up I am guessing and hoping you will follow my lead.

There is a little bit of bacon in it, which is not considered healthy by some (whatever!), but it is an integral part of my existence so just deal with it....or replace it with turkey bacon if you are super against using the pig variety (Really??? Turkey bacon? How does that work??? Have dissected turkey and found no bacon!). But remember, your body does need fat in your diet to absorb vitamins, so consider this little bit of bacon fat a vitamin bearing visitor....you just need a little time on the StairMaster to make it go away. :)

Brazilian Black Bean Soup
~Mom's Feijoada~

6 Strips Thick Sliced Bacon, diced
8 oz Turkey Smoked Sausage, diced (has less fat than regular LITE Kielbasa!)

1 1/2 cups Onion, chopped
3 Cloves Garlic
1-2 Serrano Chiles, diced (depends on your heat preference)
2 tsp Chili Powder

2 Cups Black Beans, drained & rinsed
5 Cups Chicken Broth or Stock

6 Cups Collard Greens, stemmed & chopped
2 Cup Tomatoes, seeded & diced

1 1/2 Cups Cooked Rice (preferably brown basmati)
Fresh Orange Wedges

Saute bacon in a soup pot or dutch oven until crisp, remove and drain. remove most of the bacon fat and brown kielbasa in remaining drippings. Remove and drain. Wipe the pot clean.

Add a little olive oil to the pot and saute the onions for a few minutes and then add the garlic and serranos, stirring so the garlic does not burn. Add in the chili powder and saute until all veggies are soft.

Stir in the beans and mash a bit, start adding broth a cup or so at a time, scrape up the browned bits from the bottom. You may not need to add all the broth depending on how thick you want the soup....Add in the bacon & kielbasa and simmer for a bit.

Meanwhile in a big saute pan, heat a little olive oil and add the greens & tomatoes little by little until the greens are wilted.

Add the greens & tomatoes to the beans and season to taste with salt. Serve with the orange wedges on the side.,,,the orange wedges are a MUST!

**If you want more kick, you can also add diced serrano chiles (more of them!) as a garnish.

January 5, 2010

Thinking Thin

After a couple of months of celebration I find myself in the position of once again beating myself up for overindulging in food and drink.

Last year I went on a pretty good diet....by pretty good I mean I not only went on a diet for more than a week, I stayed pretty true for closer to 5 months. AND I joined a gym. AND I actually went to the gym. More than once a week.

OMG...what they say is true...diet + exercise actually work. Who knew?

And I lost weight, more than I have ever lost before in any stretch of time. Which is good because quite frankly I have more weight on me than I ever have in my life. Not a good feeling just to look in the mirror and not love what you see, but also not good to have your doctor threaten you with medication of you don't get your blood pressure/sugar under control.

So I made the change in my life and found that it did make a difference, the weight came off little by little, my clothes started bagging on my butt and I felt better about myself not only for the loss of the weight, but for the thought that kept rolling around in my head. "Holy crap, I CAN do this!"

And then the holidays came. I know this is a piss poor excuse, but I am using it and will probably use it in years ahead. The days are shorter and I felt less and less like skipping off to the gym with a big bottle of water and more like hunkering down on the couch in my cozy living room with a glass of wine and something that falls in the category of comfort food.

Every day I kicked myself for it knowing I was going to gain weight back and have to work harder to get back where I was at. And yet, I did nothing about it.

Until now. :)

Like most Americans at the beginning of the New Year I tend to set goals for myself that include diet, exercise and depriving myself of tasty adult beverages for a period of time. Most often I do 2 out of three as it tends to be a bit much for me. I don't really want to turn in to a cranky brat and my friends thank me for this. :)

I didn't gain as much as I thought I had, but it is just enought to piss me off and make me want to get rid of it and more ASAP. I am not sure how much fun my food blog will be this month since I am probably going to be eating a LOT of salad, but I will try to bring something fun to the table.

Tonight I made an old favorite of my family's out of LOTS of veggies leftover tri tip from last nights dinner. Very good diet food as it is heavy on the veggies, light on the meat and little or no carbs. Think Chinese omelet with savory gravy. It makes for a good breakfast too which is good because this recipe makes quite a bit! Note the positive words scattered throughout the recipe. :)

Egg Foo Yung

1 cup Bean Sprouts (Good DIET veggie!)
2 SKINNY Carrots, peeled and grated
2 Green Onions, chopped SMALL
1 Celery Stalk, sliced THIN (another good DIET veggie!)

1 can drained Straw Mushrooms, chopped in to SMALL pieces

1 1/2 cup Tri Tip, sliced THIN & chopped in to SMALL pieces

You can also use chicken, pork or shrimp...I tend to use whatever meat I have in the fridge that is healthy & seasoned well.

7 Eggs (preferably from HEALTHY chickens)

Beat and season with...
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix all together and pan fry in a non stick skillet, if needed, use Pan or nonstick spray. Should make about 8- 5" cakes.
I like to use a small omelet pan to help keep the shape so the egg doesn't leak everywhere.

1 1/2 cups Chicken Broth
1 T Rice Wine Vinegar
2 T Soy Sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cayenne

Thicken with 3 T water and 3 T flour

Serve hot with gravy and keep thinking THIN!!

January 1, 2010

Fresh starts

So maybe mixing tequila shots with wine wasn't the best idea.....but it sure was fun at the time!

We spent New Years Eve at a friends house on the hill, celebrating with a fantastic group of people, eating delicious munchies, imbibing all manner of delicious adult beverages and were dropped off at our front door by the limo provided by our gracious hosts. Plus I got to kiss my sweetie at midnight and slow dance with him under the stars and a full moon. Not a bad way to end what was really kind of a crummy year overall.

I awoke today to the tune of the ten little drummers making an album inside my head and welcomed the first day of 2010 with a bottle of water and 2 Excedrin.

And a craving for something tasty. Donuts maybe? Something with bacon perhaps? Something that was easy, that is for sure.....My brain can't handle much more just yet.

mmmmmmm.....coffee cake.

I think it cures what ails ya because I felt better before it was even out of the oven :)

Quick Coffee Cake
1/ 2 cups sifted flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

2 T flour
2 T butter
5 T brown sugar

Blend dry ingredients and cream in the butter until smooth. Add sugar, egg, milk & vanilla and pour in to a greases 9x9 pan.

Blend the streusel ingredients together and sprinkle over the cake batter evenly.

Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Eat it hot, right out of the pan. Soooooo goooood!!!

Happy New Year!!!!