Sunday, December 30, 2007

10 Healthy Ingredients

I was browsing through old issues of Food & Wine magazine and came across an article by Suki Hertz, F&W's health guru. She looked at 10 categories of food—meat, fish, grains, greens and more—to find the most nutritious example in each and this is her list: squash, bok choy, turkey, edamame, quinoa, mango, salmon, buttermilk, beef, and chickpeas.

I know this is the month of resolutions, so I resolve to eat more of the above and accompany each with the “more” food group, which is the other reason this magazine is published…the “wine” group.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Chopped Onions & Chili's

Bob and I stopped in for a quick bite to eat at the Chili's Restaurant in Camden on Friday evening. Bob got his BBQ ribs that he was hungry for and I ordered a bowl of chili and a side salad.

"The broccoli soup?" the waitress asked.

"No, a bowl of chili," I said.

"Ok, so you want a cup of chili?" she asked.

"No," I said, "a bowl of chili."

About 20 minutes later she delivered to me a bowl of pale, speckled and congealed goop.

"I'm sorry," I said to her. "This doesn't look like chili and that is what I ordered."

"Oh, I'm sorry!" she said, "I thought you said broccoli soup!"

I finally got my almost room-temp bowl of chili (the cheese wasn't even melting) and I took a chance and requested some chopped onion. Off went our waitress, returning a few minutes later to proclaim, "They said we are out of onions."

"Oh my!" I exclaimed. "I feel so bad for anyone ordering a cheeseburger, then!" (Yes, I can be a smartass but it was totally lost on this girl.)

"Well," she explained, "Those are purple onions on the burgers."

Patiently (I promise you) I asked, "Well, can you please ask "them" to chop up some of those for me?"

"Well, I'll ask," she said and off she went.

She came back (the only thing hot about my chili by now were the spices) and proclaimed that she had talked with the manager and he found me some chopped onions, and with a flourish she presented them to me.

I tried not to think about whether or not the kitchen staff (who couldn't figure out that chopped red onion is still onion) was maintaining safe food handling practices in the kitchen; i.e. safe holding temps for food like my chili. I would not allow myself to speculate if our waitress (who seemed to have no listening or reasoning skills) perhaps washed her hands BEFORE using the restroom instead of after. I ate most of my chili because I was starving and forced myself not to think of all those disturbing things.

Now I'm thinking about them and I'm pretty sure that these questions are something relevant to all the chain restaurants like Chili's, whose staffs are minimally trained, whose food arrives in the kitchen mostly prepackaged to be heated or just dumped into a bowl, and whose managers probably work themselves silly to overcome the pitfalls of a high turnover waitstaff.

I think I'll make Bob his ribs at home the next time he's hungry for them.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Being Truly Thankful

We are so excited that our daughter and her husband are planning to host their very first Thanksgiving celebration at their beautiful new home in Sumter, SC! My cousin, Sandi, and her husband, George, will be joining us from Elgin. It will be a small group, but I'm so grateful that we have family to enjoy over the holiday, and especially grateful for little 2-year old Mary, who will keep us all very busy!

Working in food service, there was no way our son and his fiancee would be able to come home for Thanksgiving and we resigned ourselves to that. Yesterday, however, Rob gave me a call to tell me that he and Kelsey were able to get today and tomorrow (Monday & Tuesday) off work together and they are coming up from Sea Island to be with us! Of course, we're going to have a special Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow at our house and Lyndsey, Daryl, and Mary will come join us for that. (We'll still have Thanksgiving Dinner at Lyndsey's on Thursday, too.)

Yours truly has been cooking up a storm of holiday favorites, sides only because Kelsey has brined a turkey and is bringing that along with some things her chef made. She also made a pumpkin and pecan pie. She said she hasn't had a Thanksgiving celebration dinner with family since she left hers back in Oklahoma and started working in restaurants years ago, so this will be a special time for her with her "new" family.

What a joy it is for me to have my family together for any occasion. There are few guarantees in life, so if this holiday finds you sharing with family and friends, I hope you count every moment as a blessing.

Now I must clean the house (and the collards!) but in the meantime, here is our family's favorite sweet potato casserole. I always just throw it together (as many of you probably do, too), but in case you want to try something "measured," this recipe adapted from an old Southern Living is what we enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sweet Potato Casserole

5 pounds sweet potatoes
Finely grated peel of one large orange
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk, or enough to moisten potatoes
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups cornflakes cereal, crushed
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Miniature marshmallows

Line a large baking sheet with foil. Wash and dry sweet potatoes and place on pan. Cover tightly with another layer of foil and bake at 400° for about 1 hour or until tender. Let cool to touch; peel and mash sweet potatoes.

Mash sweet potatoes, orange peel, sugar, and next 5 ingredients, first with a potato masher, and then stirring in the other ingredients with a woooden spoon. (I like mine to be a bit lumpy.) Spoon potato mixture into a greased 3-qt. baking dish.

Combine cornflakes cereal and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. (Will take longer if you've made this ahead of time and the potatoes are cold.) Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes. Sprinkle with marshmallows; bake an additional 10 minutes or until marshmallows soften. (Have someone watch the marshmallows or they will go from soft to burned in just a minute!) Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings. Make ahead: Make the casserole, but package the topping in a little zippy bag for storage. Allow to come to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe as written.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Pinot Party

This year our holiday party at Fox Trot Farm is going to be a "Pinot" party. Of course we love to entertain during the holidays and have our friends and neighbors share the season with us, but this year the theme is partly out of desperation.

We must have lost track of how much Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris we purchased at the wineries during our October wine tour of Oregon, but were reminded a couple of weeks after our return when UPS and FedEx made daily visits to our front porch and the bottles of liquid bliss overwhelmed our wine console! Oh, what a dilemma!

I've been in the kitchen developing recipes to pair with our wonderful wines and thought I'd share one with you here. Maybe you'll enjoy a bit of Oregon Pinot during the holidays, too!

Meatballs in Pinot Noir Sauce

2 pounds lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (not the dry from the box)
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 eggs
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinot Noir Sauce (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a large shallow baking dish or pan.

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, bread crumbs, celery, onion, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, and pepper: mix well. Shape into 24 (1 1/2-inch) balls. Place in one layer in prepared baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile make sauce (see recipe below).

Remove meatballs from pan and discard fat. Place meatballs in bowl and pour sauce over. May freeze or refrigerate.

Before serving heat in microwave at 70% power, stirring frequently, until heated through. Place in a heated chafing dish or a slow cooker and keep warm while serving. Serve with appetizer toothpicks.

This is also great served over rice as a meal.

Pinot Noir Sauce

1 (16-ounce) can whole cranberry sauce
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup Pinot Noir
2 teaspoons hot Chinese mustard

In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, add cranberry sauce, brown sugar, pinot noir wine, and Chinese mustard; stir to combine. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat; set aside.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Sun is Shining in Sun City and the Village of Marvin

Lyndsey (my daughter and chef's assistant) and I are sitting on the couch, quite unwilling to get up for any reason (thank goodness for the remote control!) because we both had wonderfully busy days today. I held two cooking classes at Sun City Carolina Lakes and Lyndsey respresented us in the Chili Cookoff Fall Festival in the village of Marvin.

For me, I just think it's hard to beat being with a group of retired folks living in beautiful Sun City. They are always there to have fun and share. Some were seasoned cooks and some, after having worked for years, were interested in taking up cooking now that they have the time. All were there to enjoy what I had to teach them. They especially enjoyed the tasting part of the class!

Lyndsey really enjoyed the all-American atmosphere of the festival...good, clean fun, families, and friendly, friendly folks! She's a real people person and we know she was in heaven this afternoon with that endless supply of people to talk to!

I think we'll just sit here a while longer. I need to build up the reserves to be able to make it up the steps to fall into bed! What a great day!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Bounty of Oregon

We're back from the wonderful week we spent exploring the bounty of Oregon. That's actually the name of the month-long festival celebrating the and sea. Our thanks go out to the friendly folks in Oregon for making our visit so enjoyable!

If you get the opportunity to visit this beautiful state, please try to go during harvest time. You'll get to see the grape vines in the orchards heavy with berries, road stands full of apples and pumpkins (there is even a map of these called "The Fruit Loop" and trees bursting with color.

Did I mention the seafood and the wine????? Wow!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Joys of Eating from the Farm Market

Yesterday my husband, daughter and two year old granddaughter joined me for a trip to the farmers market in Waxhaw to drop off some of my recipe cards for Donna and Bill to hand out with their home-grown butternut squash (it was so beautiful that I couldn't leave without a bag-full!), and we ended up gathering the ingredients for a late breakfast from the vendors there.

Fast food? Yes! Healthy and delicious? Most definitely! We bought a package of the most deliciously fresh organic whole grain pitas, then a container of Bosky Acres soft goat cheese and couldn't resist some giant oatmeal cookies.

We all piled back into my Forester and off we headed for Northlake Mall and a day of shopping. I sat in the back seat with Mary and spread the pitas with goat cheese and we all enjoyed that and the cookies more than anything we would have found at a fast food restaurant!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Mexican Spaghetti Recipe

While in Mexico City, my friend Manuela prepared Sopa Seca de Fideo, which she called Mexican Spaghetti. She told me the recipe is in the the cookbook "Frida's Fiestas," which is a cookbook honoring the famous Mexican artist wife of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo. Of course, I had Manuela help me find a copy in English! Here is the recipe. It is delicious!

Sopa Seca de Fideo

1 lb. thin spaghetti noodles
10 medium tomatoes
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
3 parsley sprigs
2 c. chicken broth
Pasilla chiles, fried and chopped, to taste
2 avocados, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 c. heavy cream

Saute noodles in hot oil in a saucepan until golden. Drain off all but 3 T. of oil.

Puree the tomatoes with the onion, garlic, and salt to taste. Add the puree to the noodles and simmer together until the mixture has thickened. Add the parsley and chicken broth to cover. Cover the saucepan and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the noodles are tender and the broth absorbed; add more chicken broth if needed. Discard the parsley.

Pour the noodle mixture onto a heated serving platter and garnish with chiles, avocados, cream and cheese. Serves 8

A Celebration in Mexico

We just returned from one of the best experiences we've ever had in a foreign country and I had to share some of the culinary discoveries we made. We visited Guadalajara, Mexico City, Acapulco and Taxco in Mexico.

Just feast your eyes on the display of fresh fruit in the picture! This picture was taken on a narrow street in the colonial silver mining town of Taxco in the mountains of Mexico, where the native farmers set up their colorful displays of home-grown fruits and vegetables along side hand-made crafts. It's customary for the vendors to offer their fruits for tasting before purchase, and we enjoyed tasting sun-kissed fruits that were new to us.

In Mexico City, we visited the large and bustling market where everyone was friendly and helpful....and the displays of produce, cheeses, breads, and fresh meat and seafood were dazzling. Although I wasn't there to purchase, the vendors seemed delighted to introduce me to new tastes and to pose for pictures. The language of food (and sales) is global!

While we were traveling, we tried to eat as many dishes as possible that were typical of the areas where we were. The food was fabulous and nothing like what we find in our local Mexican restaurants in Lancaster County. We had oysters on the half shell that were as large as dinner plates, tender and so sweet! Tortas Ahogadas (drowned pork sandwiches) were one of my favorite fast food items, and a late night visit to a taco stand introduced us to delicious soft corn tortillas topped with savory meat, beans and cheese. Poblanos stuffed with a sweet and savory pork mixture, topped with a creamy walnut sauce and garnished with pomegranate seeds was one of the most beautiful and delicious dishes we had. The waiters were so helpful; many spoke English and those who didn't were patient with my broken Spanish.

We were introduced to "tequila completo" in the Mexican state of Jalisco, a tradition of sipping smooth premium tequila alternately with the tomato-citrus beverage called Sangrita. This was so delicious that I wonder why that tradition hasn't followed migrants across the border into our area! The non-alcoholic Sangrita is so healthful that I made some when we got back home and even my 2-year old granddaughter loves it!

Mexico is a country filled with history, natural beauty, and friendly people. With a government filled with corruption, no social "safety nets" for the poor or disabled, high unemployment and extremely low wages, there is a huge chasm between the classes. As industry moves south of our border, however, the middle class is growing and there is hope for many. What an educational experience this visit was for us and also served to remind us of all that the American people have to be grateful for here in the United States.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Waxhaw Treasures

Put my chef duds on this morning and took some recipes to the Waxhaw Farmers Market for those who need more ideas about what to do with all the absolutely gorgeous eggplants there. I bought one of the beautiful little fresh-cut flower arrangements that Donna cuts from her own flower beds. What a compliment to the senses to have bunches of colorful flowers next to the baskets of shiny at-the-peak-of-ripeness red and green bell peppers, zuccini and yellow squash, corn and beans and the sweetest little watermelons I've ever tasted!

I had to pull myself away from that dazzling display and headed for my friend Vic at "What's Your Beef?" and he served up great conversation while he was cutting my beautiful veal shanks for Osso Bucco and perfectly-sliced scallopini for Veal Parmesan that I'm preparing for a client.

The Waxhaw, NC Farmer's Market and "What's Your Beef?" custom butcher shop....two real gems in the Western Union County area of Waxhaw!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Recipe: Shrimp Ratatouille with Boursin Cheese Grits

Shrimp Ratatouille with Boursin Cheese Grits

Makes 6 servings

35 shrimp (16 to 20 count), peeled and deveined
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chopped basil
Salt and pepper
¼ cup olive oil

4 cups milk
1 cup quick grits
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
4 ounces boursin cheese

¼ cup olive oil
1 zucchini, diced
1 yellow squash, diced
1 eggplant, peeled, large diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 green pepper, diced
4 ounces Michelob Bavarian style wheat Beer
2 tomatoes, diced
1 cup tomato juice
Basil, oregano, salt, pepper to taste

MARINATE: Combine shrimp with 1/4 cup olive oil, 6 cloves diced garlic, 2 teaspoons chopped basil, and salt and pepper. Let marinate 30 minutes.

MAKE GRITS: Bring milk and butter to a boil. Add grits. Cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper. Add boursin and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Add beer and cook for 3-4 minutes. Adjust seasoning.

RATATOUILLE: Heat 1/4 cup oil in large skillet. Add eggplant and cook
5 to 7 minutes until brown. Drain excess oil. Add onion, garlic and peppers. Cook another minute. Add zucchini and squash. Add tomato products, salt, pepper and herbs. Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes.
When almost ready to serve, heat a sauté pan and place shrimp mixture in heated pan. Cook shrimp for 30 seconds on each side.
Serve in individual bowls with grits topped with ratatouille, then shrimp.

Chef Tim Thomas, Sea Island Resort

Cooking up this blog!

I just finished setting up my new blog spot...well...not really finished because I haven't uploaded my picture yet to my profile and still have tons more to learn about this medium that is so new to me! Check back and I promise you lots of recipes, local news, and restaurant reviews as well as exciting news from my kitchen table!

I went to Philadelphia, PA and stayed at the beautiful Loews Hotel a couple of weeks ago for the USPCA annual conference and joined more that 200 other personal chefs for classes and LOTS of great food and "celebration." You can imagine how much information we shared, and how much fun we had! (I'm the one in the striped skirt - what WAS I thinking wearing horizontal stripes???) with friends at the famous Striped Bass restaurant.)

First of all, for most of us (people in general) food is JOY. For all of us "foodies" anything involving food brings us unexplicable happiness. So, because every class I took was related to food and my business (which is FOOD service) it kept my interest far more than 99% of all my PSU classes all those many years ago!

Chef Mark Tafoya, executive chef of The Guilded Fork and founder of the Culinary Podcast Network is solely to blame for my introduction into blogging because he taught the "new media" class. (Check out #104-A Taste of Philly to hear some of our fabulous speakers.) I have a feeling this will be addictive!