Sunday, December 16, 2012

You can never have too much butter!

I love butter so much!  It is truly one of my favorite ingredients in cooking, only surpassed by salt.  I have been using and eating "too much" butter for years.  I used to eat it on my sandwiches as a young girl. And, when I was a learning to bake chocolate chip cookies as a child, I was the only one who wanted to lick the beaters after only creaming the sugar and butter together.  Needless to say I LOVE butter.  So, when I found out there was such a drink that used butter as the garnish on top, I knew I had to try it!  My first hot buttered rum was exactly a week ago yesterday and I loved it.

Tonight, I had the privilege of hosting a Christmas party for my new friends.  We decided to watch White Christmas.  At the mention of hot buttered rum in the film, I commented, "yum, hot buttered rum!"  A friend of mine had said that she was curious to know what that tasted like.  Being someone who just happens to have those ingredients on hand I had to make of for her and myself.  Hot Buttered Rum is an acquired taste I fear, it has an extremely unique flavor.  Well, seeing as I actually was able to serve this drink on the night I planned to write the third and final post in my series of Hot Christmas Cocktail suggestions, I felt it was only appropriate for this to be the recipe that sent us out.

So here it is... no frills, no Kristenisms, just the plain strait recipe.

Hot Buttered Rum:
2 oz. Spiced (or Dark) rum
2 oz. Hot water
1 tsp. Brown Sugar
1 pat of butter on top (will melt to create a layer of creamy foam)
Ground All Spice, Cloves, Cinnamon, Nutmeg to taste (optional)

Friday, December 14, 2012

A need for something different

I know that this is a food blog, and that my main purposes of writing here are to offer culinary tips, advice, or fun ideas.

But today that doesn't seem appropriate.  Today something tragic struck our hearts in this country and I felt the need to write about it.  I have recently just started using a new outlet for my writing in addition to this blog so here is a link to the story I posted on Storylane.  I hope you find it honest and comforting.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Baby It's Cold Outside

With the change of weather often comes seasonal sickness. My throat always could use some help this time of year.  Perhaps my most favorite warm cocktail is also one that happens to be an excellent throat soother.  The Hot Toddy is a classic cocktail that has been used by grandmothers to sooth soar throats for years, even before the concoction received its name.  Even though this cocktail can be a great for medicinal purposes, it is also a great tasty drink for any wintery day.  And, that makes it a great addition in my three part series this week.  So, continuing on with my recommendations for holiday hot drinks, I've included a recipe for my version of the Hot Toddy.  The traditional recipe uses hot water, honey, cloves, a cinnamon stick, lemon juice and whiskey or brandy.  However, like everything I like to put my own spin on things, so here's my recipe for a hot toddy.

Kristen's Hot Toddy:
1 tsp.     Honey
1/4 tsp.  Pumpkin Pie Spice
2 oz.      Hot Water
2 oz.      Blended Scotch
2 Orange Slices

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Time is Here

With Christmas just around the corner, everyone is either hosting or attending parties. Whether you are the host or the attendee, the same dilemma usually ensues. "What dish do I make?" One of the things I love most about the holidays is the food, but I have found it to be true is that no matter how delicious the food, people will always enjoy it just a little more with a really good cocktail.

So, this year, instead of agonizing over the food why not be the one to fill people's cups with cheer? There are several options whether warm or cold of drinks that are excellent for entertaining and deliciously fun. This week I will be talking about the Christmas cocktail. I will provide you with three of my favorite recipes that I've tweaked or created. So here to get us started is number 1 of 3.

Glögg Mulled wine is one of the most traditional Christmas beverages. Even though it has not been fortunate enough to find it's name in a song, it's popularity as a winter cocktail has spanned centuries and is as renown as the famous Wassail and Hot Toddy.

If you were to look for a recipe for Glögg on the internet you would find a slew of them. I have been playing with my own recipe for a while and I love this version of it the best by far.

Kristen's Glögg:
yield 12 servings
2 Bottles Inexpensive Red Wine
2 Cups Spiced Rum
1 Cup Light Rum (Optional substitute Brandy, I have done both but prefer Rum) 
1 Cup of Tripple Sec (Substitute 1/2 cup of sugar if you don't have tripple sec)
2 Oranges 2 Tbsp Whole Cloves
1 Tbsp Whole Allspice
5-7 Cinnamon sticks (plus 12 for garnish optional)

In a large pan combine the wine and 1 cup of the spiced rum. Poke the cloves into the oranges so that they look like spiked balls and add to the pot. Add allspice and cinnamon sticks. Turn on the heat to medium-high. Cook for about 10 minutes until steam starts to rise or until liquid reaches 160* F. Reduce to medium-low heat and cover for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add all remaining ingredients, then cover for another 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy! Glögg is a scandinavian specialty, this is sometimes referred to as Mulled Wine or the German Glühwein. However you pronounce it and whatever you decide to add to it, hot spiced wine is one of my favorite cozy Christmas party beverages. It is not only economical to serve to several guests, but it is also easy to make.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Turkey, Turkey, Turkey

Thanksgiving turkey 1 of 2
So, you are all probably sick to death of Turkey by now.  So sick of it, in fact, that you can't stand the thought of making one at Christmas so you're thinking about buying a ham instead of cooking the 23-pounder in your freezer.  Well, I feel your pain, I am one of those crazies who actually cooked two turkeys this year and didn't even host Thanksgiving.

Turkey is one of the most wonderful parts of Thanksgiving, but the left-overs can linger on for what seems like an eternity.  So, today I thought I would share with you my ideas for turkey left-overs.  It can be far more interesting than eating Thanksgiving dinner five times over.  The ways you can repurpose turkey meat are endless.

Left overs option #1:

Turkey Stew:
This is an easy way to take a lot of the drier portions of the bird and and make them moist again.  And my favorite way to eat turkey stew is to pour a ladle of it over mashed potatoes.  The part of this dish is that you don't have to make it in any one way, you can make it however you'd like.  Just follow a basic stew recipe and add whatever you would like into it. (If you need some help figuring out what to put in your stew, here is a great recipe from Taste of Home, Just substitute turkey for the chicken--Simple Chicken Stew). My personal recipe is very simple, it's just turkey, broth, carrots, and onions, then some cornstarch or arrowroot to thicken it up.  I don't care for celery much and I don't like a lot of starches in my stew because I like to have the option of rice or potatoes later.  This is an economical and tasty way to get rid of some turkey and possibly some other Thanksgiving left overs.

Turkey stew may not have been enough of a flavor change for you.
So here's option #2:

Turkey Soya:
This is a terrific family recipe that has been handed down.  I love this dish it's quite possibly one of the easiest and cheapest ways to feed a lot of people. There are different versions of it I'm sure, but the way I made it this year was basic because I lacked some of the other ingredients and it worked out great.

(Kristen's Version) Turkey Soya:

1 Cup Soy Sauce
3 Cups of Water
1 Bay Leaf
3 Tbsp. Dark Brown Sugar
1 Tsp. Salt
2 Cloves Crushed Garlic
2 Tsp. Black Pepper
3 15-oz Cans of Black Beans (drained)
or 1 1-lb bag of black beans soaked overnight (drained)
2-3 cups shredded left over turkey

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot. Cook on Low for 6-8 hours or on High for 4 hours.

Finally my favorite thing to do with turkey left overs...

option #3 anything Mexican:

I love to repurpose turkey meat for mexican food.

I recently made turkey tacos, turkey quesadillas, and my personal favorite turkey enchiladas.

All of these things are simple to make and you can find recipes for any of these dishes online.  And, don't forget you don't have to even look for turkey versions just substitute turkey for the meat in the recipe.  But, for the enchiladas I made I took the meat and repurposed it by turning it into Turkey Carnitas.  I know that seems like it's not possible but, it is and it's EASY!

Turkey Carnitas:

2-3 lbs. Shredded Turkey meat
3 Tbsp. Bacon Grease or Lard
1/4 cup WarmWater
1 Tbsp. Salt
3 Cloves Garlic

Pre-heat oven to 250*

Dissolve salt in the water. Set aside.

Heat up a large skillet (preferably Cast Iron, but any oven safe skillet will do) on stove on Medium heat.  Add bacon grease and heat until liquid in texture.  Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds.  Add turkey. Evenly coat the turkey with the grease and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes, allow turkey to start to crisp or brown just slightly.  Remove from heat. Add salt water to hot skillet and stir turkey to evenly distribute the steam.  Put in oven for 3-5 minutes until water is fully absorbed or steamed off and turkey is moist.

Well, there you have it three different ways to eat your thanksgiving left overs without losing your mind.   What are some of your favorite things to do with turkey leftovers?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What does a novelist eat?

Today marks the beginning of NaNoWriMo 2012.  What in the world, NaNowRiwaht? You ask...

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month.  Every year for the month of November daring and intrepid creators unite their persistant passion to write, and embark upon the task of finishing a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days.

So, how do I a food blogger incorporate this into my blog?  By telling you what a crazy NaNoWriMoER eats during this insane journey.  When trying to surmount such a difficult feat in such a short amount of time, you need foods that will help you cope and perhaps even help the creative juices flow.  Everyone handles this venture of verbosity in their own unique ways, and everyone has their own hang ups and bouts with writers block.  Many writers find that their muse doesn't strike until after midnight, so their stashing their diet Cokes and popping their dark chocolate covered espresso beans. I happen to have a less difficult time finding my muse and a harder time getting my inner critic to shut the hell up.  So what did I eat to ready my mind and body for day one of this adventure?

Three steps to shutting up your inner critic:

1. Eat red meat.
Nothing in this world makes me feel more satisfied and happier than a piece of juicy steak.  I love nothing more than to get my protein by eating some satisfyingly salty red meat.  Not only does this satisfy my hunger long enough to avoid any cravings that may interrupt my writing flow, but it also relaxes me by filling my tummy.

2. Chocolate is your friend.
After finishing my delicious dinner, I realized that I may need a slight jolt to keep me awake as I'm writing, but not a jolt that would wire me up the way a cup of coffee would.  I needed that perfect blend of caffeine and sugar to provide just the right amount of energy, so... CHOCOLATE!

3. "Release your inhibitions... the rest is still unwritten."
Well if you have been reading this blog for any length of time or if you just know me at all you know that I am a wine lover.  I love wine for so many complex reasons, but one of the side effects of wine that I appreciate is it's ability to help you relax.  When you're in a battle with your inner critic, sometimes the best way to win that battle is to weaken your opponent.  Your inner critic is simply your inhibitions gaining a voice.  How do you slow your inhibitions enough that your true voice can come out?  Well, I happen to do it with a little red wine.  And, as an added bonus, most red wines pair well with some kind of chocolate. Score!

my workstation

Anyway, there you have it... This self-critiquing NaNoWriMoER foody's formula for success.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

who has time to bake anymore?

Being gluten intolerant can be a nuisance.  However, with the proper amount of planning and research, an entire world of possibilities present themselves.  I always hear people saying how expensive it is to live gluten free (GF).  I understand this and I will not deny that my grocery bill has increased since I found out I needed to be GF.  That said, the main things that cost more are pre-made and processed foods.  Cereals, breads, frozen pizzas, and baked goods are all nearly three times the price of their non-GF counter parts.

So, how do we fight this?  

First, I recommend simply eating less processed foods, not only are the GF versions of these products riddled with corn and rice flours (which if you over do it on these, can cause similar issues to a wheat reaction), but to be honest before being GF we probably shouldn't have been eating as much of these foods as we did.

Second, as the Boy Scouts taught us, "Always be prepared!"  My mother was a wonderful planner.  She would always find great deals on brownie and cake mixes then freeze them for a later time.  We never went without some sort of easy to make sweet treat.  GF brownie mixes can get expensive especially if (like me) you are already buying your flour in bulk and plan on using it to bake.  Like any busy American woman I myself have purchased large quantities with ideas of grandeur, thinking I would just make more of my food from scratch if I only kept the proper ingredients on hand.  That dream usually lasts about a week, if I'm lucky.  But, rather than kicking ourselves when we're already down, we need to just recognize that life is sometimes too busy to bake from scratch every day.

My solution to this didn't come until I had to move a month ago and I had a ton of GF flour that I had premixed in a large vat-like container.  I didn't want to use it all up before I moved but I desperately wanted to make it more manageable to move.  My solution... PRE-made baking mixes.  We have all received a homemade brownie or cookie mix in a jar at some point in our lives.  Why not take that "gift" concept and use it in every day life.

Creating my own GF baking mixes has changed my life.  I have more cash and more time.  It simply took one day to prepare in advance over a dozen baking mixes.  It has been a month and I still have more than half of the mixes I made that day and have had brownies or cookies about 5-6 times since moving.  Preparing goes a long way especially when you have a food allergy, but you don't have to quit your day job in order to do it.  Just take a moment to think ahead and when you have a day off, take that one day to plan and prepare.  Remember these are all mixes you make with things you probably already have on hand and certainly would have bought anyway. If you still need more motivation, with every mix you make in advance say to yourself, that's five dollars more in my pocket this month.

Feel free to contact me for more tips like this or just advice on how to get started... HAPPY PLANING!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

which came first the chicken or the soup? the chicken!

"What did Kristen do with chicken?"  I am sure this question has been burning in your brain for longer than a week now.  Since, I'm also sure you have nothing better to do than to tirelessly check my blog to see if I've posted anything new allow me to apologize yet again...  I  have been busy trying to get settled here in A2 and have completely neglected my blogging responsibilities, but I am back, and ready to settle into a rhythm.

As for the chicken...

Well, I used it for two very different dishes.  After removing the whole bird from the crock pot, I shredded all of the meat and set it in two containers.  Then rather than just throwing the bones away, I returned them to the drippings in the crock pot, added veggies, spices and water. Setting the crock pot on low for the rest of the night, I woke up to a lovely chicken stock.   Which I then used to make homemade chicken soup.

I used half of the chicken for the soup and half the chicken for taco/quesadilla meat.  After all was said and done I ended up with 14 cups of chili and 12 cups of soup.

I still two weeks later, have most of the soup and half of the chili.

....more still to report from these two days of epic cooking!  For now, enjoy my tuscan chicken soup recipe.


1 onion
4 carrots
1/2 the meat of roasted chicken
1/2 cup of chopped fresh italian (or flat leaf) parsley
1 32-oz can of diced Italian stew tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic (whole and peeled)
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. cumin
2 quarts of chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
juice of one lemon (optional)

Dice onion and carrots, and sauté in small amount of olive oil and salt and pepper just until the vegetables are soft. Add chicken, lemon juice, and cumin. Allow flavors to combine for just a couple of minutes, then add all other ingredients. Bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer and allow to simmer for a minimum of 1 hour.  (I cooked mine for 3 hours.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Frugality wins!

Here I am in Ann Arbor.  And, it is officially Fall!  Cool weather and beautiful sights.  Autumn is my absolute favorite season.  I think part of the reason I love this time of year so much is that it is full of great REAL food.

I have made few REAL meals since I've been here, but today is cooking day!  In order to keep myself well fed on a tight budget I have to keep my list of ingredients short.  In order to do that I am making a lot of a few single dishes.  Then, I will eat these dishes throughout the rest of this month.

So, what can you make cheaply, that actually tastes good, and that I won't get sick of?

When trying to find dishes like this, it is important to look at inexpensive sources of protein.   Here are three of my favorites:

 1. Chicken
 2. Beans
 3. Ground beef

These proteins are all used in a wide range of dishes which makes choosing what to make with them fun but difficult.  When considering what dishes I wanted to make with these ingredients, I chose based on what would feed me for weeks.

Chicken was an easy choice.  Chicken is vastly versatile and extremely easy to cook.  Chicken is cheapest when you buy it whole.  So, I purchased a whole chicken and put it in the crock pot with just a bit of seasonings and some crushed garlic.  With little effort I will be able to turn this chicken into two separate meals that will easily feed me multiple times.

(Tune in next week to see my plans for this deliciously diverse bird).

My next dish choice fell in my lap like the leaves falling off trees. Other than some simple spices it only requires both Beans and Ground Beef. It will surely feed myself (and others) more times than I can even guess.

Yes, it's CHILI!
Chili is not only easy to make, inexpensive to make, and delicious.  It happens to be one of my favorite cool weather comfort foods.  And as a bonus it pairs well with any beverage of choice (wine, beer, soda, mixed drinks, water, etc.)

Chili is also one of those things that can easily be used in a variety of ways. It can simply be eaten on its own, placed atop a baked potato, or used for taco salad. (All of which are ways that I happen to enjoy eating it).  Finally, chili also keeps for an extremely long time.

I think this should be enough to feed me for quite a while. As such, I should be able to keep on budget.

What are your favorite inexpensive meals?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Culinary Birthday

Today marks the eve of my 27th birthday.   First I would like to thank all of you for your birthday wishes!  Now onto the play by play for those of you who are just dying to know how I spent my birthday.

The celebration started last night with a dinner at Houlihan's Restaurant.  My parents kindly treated me to my favorite... Disco fries! I also shared a plate of Chipotle Chicken Nachos with my mother.  Of course I also imbibed.  I had three varieties of Long Island Iced Tea, including the original.  Needless to say my father drove home.

Today, the partying continued as my co-worker Christine kindly spread the word about my birthday, which made the day much more fun! Thanks Chris!

Then as I left work I received an email from my boss at my second job containing birthday wishes and a prompt to stop in if I could because I had a package there. And, boy did I ever! I have never received a kinder more generous gift from an employer.  As I unwrapped my beautifully packaged box, inside I found four of the best crystal wine glasses in the world. (Well worth upwards of $60).

After I returned home with my steak purchased from Fresh Market and my Riedel Crystal wine glasses I quickly started baking.

I made myself GF brownies from scratch...yum!

Then I went up to my room, threw on some sweats and pulled out the bottle of wine I have been saving for two and a half years (a $35 Cab from Coppola Winery).

While bringing the wine down to drinking temperature, I began preparing my birthday dinner... STEAK FRITES!  This is one of my favorite french dishes of all time, not just because of it's wonderful saltiness and meatiness, but also because it's absolutely one of the fastest and easiest french meals to make.

After my dinner was fully prepared, I settled in for the night watching a fantastic movie.  I watched the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring, while eating my delicious dinner and drinking my delectable wine.

The only interruption of Aragorn's handsome heroism an studdly sword brandishing was a welcomed birthday phone call from my Big Sister and best friend, Sarah.  Love you, my only regret was that I didn't have you here to watch LOTR and drink wine with me. 

After switching to the second disc of the collection, I started to feel a little hobbitish.  So, I finished the night with a glass of port wine, a couple pipe bowls, and another brownie.  It was the perfectly quiet and lovely weeknight birthday.

Thank you to my family and friends for all your birthday wishes here's to my 28th year on this earth.  Cheers!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

By popular request...

Papa Burgers:

1 lb. 80/20 ground beef
3-4 pieces of bacon
1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup bread crumbs
6 oz. of beer

Cut bacon into bite size pieces, cook bacon in a pan until crispy.  Pour Bacon and fat into a large bowl.  Put all of the remaining ingredients in the bowl. Mix all ingredients in a bowl (*note to pour bread crumbs and beer on top so the bread crumbs can soak up the flavor of the beer.

Makes 4 - 1/4 lb. burgers. Serve with caramelized onions.

I have made these burgers for my co-workers and they have been asking me for the recipe. So, here it is!

And now for a short history:  Originally I came up with these burgers for father's day.  My father is called Papa by my nephews (i.e. Grandpa = Papa).  As such my burger recipe I shortly thereafter dubbed "Papa burgers."  This was named for my father because of the day in which the recipe was created and because this recipe is also meant to only be enjoyed once a year, preferably on father's day. :-)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day

So it's a cook out, you forgot you were supposed to bring a salad and no where is open.  What do you make?

Here is a tried and true crowd pleaser and it is likely you have some if not all of these three ingredients on hand.

Cucumber Caprese Salad:
2 Lg. English Cucumbers (I use English/Hothouse Cucs because it saves time on peeling, but use any cucumbers you want, but if you use conventional cucumbers just be sure to peel them.)
1 pkg. of TJs Sun-dried Tomatoes
1 16 oz pkg. of Hormone-free fresh Mozzarella (If you can afford it, Mozzarella di Bufala is the best!)
1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I prefer a high-quality first cold press Italian Olive Oil but any EVOO will work.)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Simply dice cucumbers and cheese.  Mix all ingredients and serve!  Easy and delicious!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Swedish Daze

Last night "Waterloo" hung in the air as the Abba Tribute Band was wrapping up their final set. This week is Swedish Days and not only am I working for a third street vendor but I am also working mornings at TJs. It is a crazy work week but it is a fun crazy. As for food this week free burgers and my annual serving of swedish meatballs. All this Scandinavian fun might wear me out but I have to say I love festivals because I love street food. Last night I was inspired to make my own little dish with a street food flare about it. Today I had a bunless burger and tonight I had my annual swedish meatballs yum! What fun I love street food.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ice Cream makes everything better

In the middle of the night last night I was in excruciating pain, and this morning I was forced to call in sick to work because of said pain.  I was in bed for nearly another six hours after taking some tylenol with codeine and anti-nausea medicine.  As if that physical pain wasn't enough, when I woke up I found out that my family underwent quite a difficult circumstance today.  Details are a little too fresh to talk about at the moment, but I have to say it has probably been the single hardest thing my family has ever had to deal with.

All that said... I'm making homemade ice cream.  Well homemade Gelato and Coconut ice cream to be exact because when life gives you lemons you make lemonade and when life gives you hailstorms you make ice cream.  Not only will this comfort my soul it will offer a distraction from my physical, mental, and emotional anguish.

So anyway here it is what I did on possibly one of the worst days ever...   I made my own recipe for Dark Chocolate Raspberry Gelato (with fresh raspberries, yum) and Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream.

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Gelato

2 cups Whole Milk
1 cup Half & Half (to keep the fat content lower)
1/2 cup of sugar
3 oz of Dark Chocolate (I actually combined 72% and 55% dark chocolate).
12 oz Fresh Raspberries

1. Melt Chocolate into Half & Half until it looks like a pot of hot cocoa.
2. Add sugar and Whole Milk.  Bring to slight simmer and remove from heat.
3. Add Raspberries and chill for 3-6 hours.
4. After mixture is aged and completely chilled through add to ice cream maker and follow directions of your particular model.
5. Freeze until set.

Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream

2 cans light coconut milk
1/2 cup of sugar
3 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder

1. Bring coconut milk to a slight simmer and remove from heat.
2. Add sugar and Cocoa, stir until fully dissolved.
3. Chill for 3-6 hours.
4. After mixture is aged and completely chilled through add to ice cream maker and follow directions of your particular model.
5. Freeze until ice cream sets.

Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream...YUM!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Life, people and work

"It is so nice to have a job in this economy."  How often do you hear this and think to yourself, ugh yeah you walk a mile in my shoes and see if you're grateful for this job.  I remembered feeling somewhat overwhelmed this time two years ago being a full-time nanny and looking for a job.  Which is where I ended up landing the gig at Trader Joe's.   When you're starting something new of course everything seems great, but then it sets in and when working retail full-time... well let's just say soon enough, it becomes hard to remember how to be grateful.  Lots of weekends, lots of long hours, and all for so little pay it really starts to mess with your sense of value and self-worth.

I have been struggling with this sense of value in my job because I have been working so much I don't hardly have time to breathe.  This also explains why it's been so long since my last update. Everything gets harder when you work two jobs (particularly two jobs that are both so similar --i.e. RETAIL!)

But, then I stop to count my blessings and remember all the awesome things about my life.  I'm not homeless... I'm not hungry... and I am blessed to have two jobs in a time when so many can't even find one.  What's even better is my jobs allow me to meet so many interesting and great people.

It's amazing how many times I will pass strangers throughout the week and they will stop me saying, "Don't I know you? Where do you work?"  Without fail when I answer Trader Joe's or my second job they will immediately follow up with, "That's right I remember, you helped me find [insert meat product, gluten-free item, or wine here]."  It may not seem like much to me to help someone find something they're looking for when they come in, and heck it may not even seem like much to me to shoot someone a smile, but really I have nearly hundreds of opportunities every week to brighten somebody's day.  So, I realized as much as I hate working so many hours for so little pay, my job has a very rewarding return that has absolutely nothing to do with monetary profit.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Where to eat today?

Do you ever have this dilemma?  You know you're hungry, know that you don't have time or the ingredients you need to cook, so you say to yourself, "I'll just eat out."  Now what?

Where do I go?  What kind of food do I want?  And, what more if you're like me, where can I find non-allergen foods? Ugh, sometimes eating out is more of a hassel than it is worth.  However, there are days, that you can find that perfect little hideaway that you were looking for.  You know what I mean, the place where you find a place to be you and enjoy awesome food.  The kind of place you want to share with everyone but you're afraid to because you don't want it to become so popular that it loses its charm.

Well I am in search of that place this morning, I have to eat some breakfast soon or I will fall over, and I want to get out of the house, so I will be looking out for my new nook, I'll keep you posted if I find it.

Tell me about your nooks?  Do you have a special little coffee shop, diner, or even a fun pub that is your little hideaway?

Monday, May 21, 2012

A new Google+ friend

I have recently joined Google+ and I love the blogs that I have found.  This particular blog was one that I just had to share because I totally agree with her, and I think you'll see one of the ways all of my passions fit together so well.

Meet Darya Pino, and her blog, Summer Tomato.

I can't do it captain, I just don't have the power!

Gluten-free flours, wow what a challenge...

I've been working on my gluten-free cookbook, so I've been perfecting all of my gluten-free flour mixes to use in a variety of recipes.  I have been playing with all kinds of flours, and writing recipes from quick breads, yeast breads, and pizza crusts, to cookies, cakes, and pies.  But, as difficult as this all has been I've been able to push through and think about ways to improve but now I have finally hit a wall.

Tonight, I attempted to make gf homemade flour tortillas, and it was not quite a success.  They were edible, but not very tasty. This seems like it should be so simple, but authentic flour tortillas are usually so fluffy and delicious, so how do I create that same flavor and texture without wheat?  Does anyone have any advice on this one?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

GF Limone Pappardelle

Today, I saw the best pasta recipe from Amalfi, Italy via David Rocco's show.  Spaghetti al Limone is a dish indigenous to the Amalfi Coast because in this part of Italy the most flavorful and luxurious lemons  are grown 9 months out of the year. In this episode David showed different ways to highlight the lemon from main courses to desserts.  So, I felt inspired to make this recipe but of course being me I had to put my own little twist on this recipe not to mention I had to find a way to make it gluten free.

Obviously to make it gluten free I had to start with gluten free pasta. Well, I decided to make fresh pasta and rather than make a thin spaghetti I thought a thicker noodle would work very nicely with the lemon sauce. It also adds a heartier texture to make it seem more like a full meal without any protein added into the sauce.

I made a brown rice pasta recipe. (I created this recipe by amending the Gluten Free Gourmet's pasta recipe, check out her book if you're interested in another option).  This was my first experience with making homemade GF pasta, but I will definitely be working on creating some new recipes, any particular grain requests?

Kristen's Brown Rice Pappardelle:

1/3 cup Brown Rice Flour
1/4 cup Tapioca Flour
2 Tbsp. Potato Starch
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Xanthan or Guar Gum (if not available sub 1 packet of Gelatin)
1 Tbsp water 
2 Eggs

1. Combine all Flours, Starch, Salt, and Gum powder in a large bowl.  Mix with a fork and make a well.
2. In a small bowl beat eggs and water together.
3. Add eggs mixture to flour mixture.  Bring together with fork into a ball.
4. Flour a large work surface.  Knead dough about 10 times, roll out dough very thin, until it is nearly translucent.
5. With a pizza cutter cut dough into strips about 1/8 of an inch wide.

Bring 5-6 cups of water to a boil.  Add about a tablespoon of salt to the water.  Immediately add the pasta to water.  Keep stirring the pasta or the pot will boil over... fresh pasta will grow about 1 1/2 (sort of like dumplings) the size it was when it is finished cooking.  Cook for about 10-12 minutes.

Drain pasta quickly, but do not rinse.  You want to stop the pasta from soaking any more moisture but keep all the beautiful starches that cling to the noodle.  This will help the sauce thicken and cling to the pasta.

Here is where I pretty much followed David's recipe nearly verbatim....

After using his trick of rubbing the fresh garlic clove all over the inside of the serving bowl.  I squeezed the lemons in to the bowl. (a little tip, hold the lemon face up toward your palm and let the juice run down the rind) This does two things, first it holds the seeds inside the lemon, second it takes some of the oils of the rind into the juice as you're squeezing the lemon.

Then I added the olive oil.

David did this with a fork but I used a whisk to whip the lemon juice and olive oil together until they emulsified.

Add the pasta and toss until all the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce then add 1/2 of the cheese.

Add the parsley and the lemon zest.

Top with remaining cheese.

Serve and Enjoy!!!!

Okay like I said I have to put a little twist on just about any recipe.  I like simple flavors but honestly I needed a little more kick in this recipe so I added both freshly ground black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes... it was delicious!!!

Self Study

Many of my friends have seen me really come alive in these last several months.  My passion for food and cooking has always been evident, but it has only recently become so important to my life that almost every time I'm around people I have to be cooking.  This has led me to understand how this passion could and should be a career path for me.  So, I am saving my money to do something I thought I'd never do--go back to school!

I began a search for the best culinary school that has what I'm looking for.  It is exciting to think about this next stage of life, but as I've been embarking on this journey I have also become a sponge of culinary learning. I have used my public library card more in the last four months than I think I have over the course of my whole life.  And, obviously I've been watching cooking shows like crazy.

So, in my search for even more resources I need your help, because being a foody literally could be a full-time job (unfortunately it doesn't pay that well).  What have you found to be your favorite or even your "go-to" resources for culinary information--be it a website, a certain Food Network chef/show, or your favorite cookbook?

Monday, March 19, 2012

CHEAP Cabernet tasting

We have internet again... sorry for the sabbatical.

So it's my first post back and I'm on a mission... I want to start giving you some wines to look for and wines to look OUT for (in other words they may be bad wines masquerading as good buys).

Wine #1
Label/Producer: David Stone

Varietal (grape): Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: Purchased at Walgreens normally $5.99 on sale for $5.00

Vintage: None (that should have tipped me off right there)

Alcohol Content: 12%

My wine tasting notes:
  • Nose - Cherry and currents, slightly grassy
  • Mouth - fruit forward, light and earthy notes, with an extremely stringent aftertaste.
  • Food Pairings:
1. mild cheddar - the saltiness of the cheddar brought out the fruit and mellowed out the acidity, however, the lightness of the wine and the thick coating of cheese on the tongue also created a metallic aftertaste.

2. navel orange - the juiciness of the orange drowned out all the fruitiness of the wine, but the acidity of the orange defeated the overly-acidic finish of the wine and surprisingly made it more palatable.

3. dark chocolate - the sweetness and creaminess of the dark chocolate brought out ever imperfection of the wine, leaving you with only the metallic aftertaste and stringent finish. However, the bitterness of the dark chocolate brought the cherry notes even more forward than they were in the beginning.


My score for this wine is 1 and 1/2 stars out of 5. I would never buy this wine again because of how stringent and acidic it was. Traditionally Cabernets should be heavy, bold, and well balanced with tannins. However this wine was as light and fruit forward as grape juice but without the boldness and oakiness of a traditional Cab. Finally I felt this cab was so acidic that it hurt my stomach. For being $5-$6 wine, it delivered the quality of a $2-$3 wine.

The next time you're at the drug store and tempted to reach for the cheap and on sale David Stone Cabernet Sauvignon- spring the extra $4 for a fantastic Meritage or just invest the extra gas and time to run up the road to your local TJs or Aldi and stick with the under $3 Winking Owl or Charles Shaw, both vastly superior and cheaper.