Food Journal

Welcome to my food journal! This is officially on the net as of Oct. 24th 2011! I will try to put new entries in my journal once a week if possible – some of them may take a little longer. My journal is where I will be writing about anything going on in my culinary world. This includes recipes from my home, restaurant and event reviews, some basic culinary information that I want to share with you, and whatever else may come to mind. The food journal will always have the last ten things I put on the site in it, just not categorized. Everything will be in it’s own category on the menu bar as well. This is the best place to look if you want to see my latest post, because it will always be at the top. You can use the search tool to look for a specific subject by typing key words into the search bar. You can also go to the index on the menu bar for a list of everything on the site. If there is something you would like to know about that I haven’t posted or if you have a question, please feel free to contact me and I will try to answer as soon as possible. I love to share my food and knowledge, and  I put this site up for us!

Here are my 5 most recent entries!
If you would like to see a list of all of my recipes, lessons and reviews, please go to the index on the menu bar.
Pastelon

Fried Pickles

Alcapurrias

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Coleslaw

Chili Mac

 

 

 

 

Caramelized Onion Dip

Posted by on Feb 13, 2012 in Appetizers, Food Journal | 0 comments

Caramelized Onion Dip

Caramelized Onion Dip- I think that just about every get together/party or whatever that I have ever been to had some kind of chip dip. Usually in the form of some type of dried soup mix or dressing powder dumped into a tub of sour cream. Admittedly, it’s not too bad. However, I think we can do better. So I came up with a pretty simple recipe. It takes a little time because of caramelizing the onions, but it’s still an easy recipe. Plus, it’s delicious. My husband is so funny, because when I asked him what he thought, he said “It tastes like a chef made onion dip”. And I said back “one did :D” . Then he said, “People will have to get used to it, it doesn’t taste like it’s been processed with chemicals. It’s better though”. I guess it may be one of those you had to be there moments because it’s not as funny typed out :)! Anyway, this is definitely better the next day so try to make it in advance. That way the flavors can develop. If you can’t make it the day before, at least give it a few hours before you serve it. Also, if you’re one of those people that’s grossed out by double dipping (like I am), I would suggest either providing the little disposable plastic cups next to the dip so people can make their own little personal cups, or dividing it into three or four serving dishes and putting out one at a time. Only putting out a little at a time is always a good idea anyway when you have something that should be kept cold. It looks prettier to have a full dish all the time too ;)! Enjoy everyone and Happy Cooking!

 

Ingredients

1 onion, diced -I ended up with around 2 cups diced (I used a brown onion, yellow would be good too)
1 teaspoon olive oil
dash pepper
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup mayo (you can replace this with yogurt if you’d like to stay super low fat)
2 cups yogurt, plain, fat free
1/4 cup green onions, sliced fine, green parts only
1/2 teaspoon thyme


Instructions

1. In a medium saute pan, add the olive oil, onions, dash of pepper and Kosher salt.
2. Caramelize your onions. If you are unsure of the best way to caramelize your onions, please check out my article “How to Caramelize Onions“.
3. When you reach the step in caramelizing your onions that you turn the heat down, add your garlic and stir it up.
4. In a bowl, combine your mayonnaise, yogurt, green onions, and thyme. Cover and put in the fridge until your onions are ready.
5. After your onions are nice and caramelized, remove them from the heat.
6. Spread your onions onto a plate to help them cool faster.
7. Add your cooled onions into the yogurt/mayo mixture and stir.
8. Cover your dip and put it back in the fridge. It is best to make it the day before you plan on serving it, if you don’t have the time to make it a day ahead, it should be made at least two to three hours in advance. This is because the flavor gets better if you let it set for a while.
9. Serve with your choice of chips, or veggies (this is a really healthy veggie dip if you replace the mayo with yogurt). I served mine with Chips (Kettle Brand Sea Salt) and Veggie Straws.

yield – 3 1/2 c


Stuffed Mushrooms – (whole wheat)

Posted by on Feb 7, 2012 in Appetizers, Food Journal | 0 comments

Stuffed Mushrooms – (whole wheat)

Stuffed Mushrooms – If you ever need a really easy appetizer that everyone will love, this is it! I learned how to make a version of these in Culinary School. This really came in handy, because the owner of the wine bar where I got my first Chef position wanted them on the menu. It was one of the foods on our menu that we almost always sold out of towards the end of the night. From the first time I made stuffed mushrooms, they became one of my “go-to” recipes. Just the other day we went over to a friend’s house for dinner. They never ask us to bring anything, but I generally insist (I don’t want someone else to have all the fun cooking :D). Anyway, they were making steaks and grilled veggies, so I wanted to make something that would compliment the menu that they had planned. Stuffed mushrooms go great with steak as an appetizer or as a side (which they ended up being). They are also great for get togethers where you put out a lot of finger foods for people to munch on. Stuffed mushrooms are  very versatile and once you are comfortable with the basic recipe, you can start to make other versions on your own, like crab or shrimp stuffed mushrooms-YUMMY! Don’t be afraid to experiment, just add a little of your own special ingredient to the recipe below and have fun! Happy Cooking!

Ingredients

24 ounces Crimini mushrooms
Kosher salt
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup shallot
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
mushroom stems (from your mushrooms), chopped (I trim the ends if they’re dry or dark brown)
1/4 cup green onions, sliced thin, green part only
2 Tablespoons parsley (flat leaf), chopped lightly
3 Tablespoons butter (omit this if you are trying to keep it vegan and use extra stock)
1 cup whole wheat Italian bread crumbs (you can use store bought or make your own, recipe follows)
1/4 cup stock, I use beef, but you can use veggie if you want to keep this a vegetarian recipe
2 ounces Gruyère Cheese (you can substitute Swiss or Provolone)


Instructions

1. Wash your mushrooms by putting them in a bowl and covering them with water. Swirl them around a little with your hand and drain them in a colander. Remove the stems and set them to the side.
2. Place the mushrooms into a large pot (I use my 8 quart) and fill with cool water.
3. Add the salt and 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and turn it on high to bring it to a boil, when they start to boil, turn off the heat.Llet the mushrooms stay in the water for about 1 minute. Remove them from the water and allow them to drain/cool on a sheet pan – stem side down.
4. In a separate pan, sweat your shallots with the olive oil and a 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
5. Add the mushroom stems and stir to combine. Continue to cook on medium heat until the mushrooms are soft.
6. Add the green onions, parsley and butter.
7. Once the butter is melted, add the bread crumbs and stir well.
8. Add the stock, stir and remove from the heat.
9. Allow to cool enough for you to handle the stuffing.
10. Stuff about one Tablespoon of the filling into each mushroom.
11. Sprinkle the tops with Gruyère Cheese.
12. Place under a broiler until the cheese is melted and brown and bubbly-mmmmmmm!
13. Enjoy your mushrooms!!!!!

How to make your own whole wheat bread crumbs :).

Ingredients for Bread Crumbs

8 slices of whole wheat bread
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Kosher Salt
pepper
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Instructions

1. Pre-heat your oven to 300°F.
2. Brush the bread lightly with olive oil.
3. Sprinkle it with Kosher salt and pepper.
4. Place in the oven on a sheet pan at 300°F until toasted, about 10 minutes or so.
5. Remove the toast from the oven.
6. Place the toast into a food processor with the dried herbs.
7. Pulse to desired consistency.
8. Store your breadcrumbs in an airtight container for up to one month.


French Onion Soup Gratinée

Posted by on Feb 3, 2012 in Food Journal, Soups | 0 comments

French Onion Soup Gratinée

French Onion Soup – I had never had French Onion Soup until I went to culinary school. It was one of the dishes we learned how to make in Basics – the first class you take. This is because it is a great example of how to caramelize onions, and of the effects of caramelizing. In Basics, I had to make enough to feed two people.  About half way through school, we got to work in the restaurant that is located on campus. In the restaurant, each student works a different station everyday. The day I had the French Onions Soup station was a tearful day to say the least.  It wasn’t that I was sad or upset in any way, it was the onions I had to cut up at the beginning of the day. In my memory, it was like 100 pounds of onions, in reality, it was only 50 or so. Still a hefty amount.  After chopping them all up, I cooked them in a giant tilt skillet. You can google “tilt skillet” if you’d like to see what one looks like. They are kind of like, if you can picture, a stove but instead of burners, it has a big metal box on top with no lid that tilts forward to empty it. They’re big and they’re for cooking huge amounts at a time and they’re awesome :D! At the end of the day, after all the tears, and work in the kitchen. You get to see the result of your labor, someone enjoying the food you made. It’s an amazing feeling. I love this soup :)! I hope you love it too! Happy Cooking!

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 pounds onions, (I use 2 brown, 1 yellow, and 1 red) sliced with the grain
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup sherry (something inexpensive please :D)
2 quarts of beef stock (if you use cans, they come in 14.5 oz cans, just use four and don’t worry about those few extra ounces, no big deal)
croutons (recipe follows)
Swiss or Gruyere Cheese (I use Tillamook Swiss in these pictures, I love the Gruyere too, I just don’t usually have it in the house-like when I decided to make this yesterday)
6 croutons (recipe follows)

Special Equipment

oven safe bowls, or crocks of some sort (available in my “foodie shop“)

Instructions

1. Peel and slice onions with the grain about 1/4 inch thick – How do you keep your eyes from watering? The only solution I’ve found for this is to cut them under my vent fan with it on high. Also, only breath through your mouth.
2. Place the oil in a large wide bottom pot or saute pan and turn it on medium high heat.
3. Add the onions, salt, and pepper, stir to coat evenly.
4. Sweat your onions, you are looking for them to begin to get a translucent appearance (see my article on caramelizing onions).
5. Reduce the heat to medium low.
6. Let your onions cook. You will have to stir them about every ten minutes to start and more often as they cook down, make sure you scrape the bottom as you stir. If they start to stick, add a little water, scrape the bottom, and stir (check out my article “How to Caramelize an Onion“).
7. Once your onions have cooked down to a beautiful, dark golden brown, add the sherry.
8. Stir and  let it cook for 30 seconds or so.
9. Add your stock.
10. Bring it to a boil.
11. Place the soup into oven safe bowls.
12. Put a crouton on top of each one and cover it with cheese. You can use shredded or sliced or a combination, it is also OK to use provolone, Swiss, Gruyere, or even Parmesan if you want. I put my bowl on a sheet pan to make it easier to get them in and out of the oven.
13. Place your soups in the oven under the broiler until the cheese gets melty, brown and bubbly – Mmmmm YUMMY!
14. Remove the soups from the oven – BE CAREFUL!
15. Enjoy your beautiful French Onion Soup Gratinée!


Ingredients for Croutons

6 slices of whole wheat bread, or 6 slices of french bread
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Kosher Salt
pepper

Instructions

1. Pre-heat your oven to 300°F.
2. Cut the bread to fit the top of the bowls you will be using. I put the rim of the bowl on my bread and push down to cut it out or to make a little circle print to follow.
3. Brush the bread lightly with olive oil.
4. Sprinkle the bread with Kosher salt and pepper.
5. Place it in the oven on a sheet pan at 300°F until toasted, about 10 minutes or so.
6. Remove it from the oven and go to step 12 above.

Please enjoy this “how-to” chop an onion video!


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How to Caramelize an Onion

Posted by on Feb 3, 2012 in Culinary 101, Food Journal | 0 comments

How to Caramelize an Onion

How to Caramelize an Onion

Caramelizing an onion is a great way to add flavor to a dish. It is also a basic culinary skill. One which we had to master in Basics class, the first class at Le Cordon Bleu. There are just a few steps, patience is required.

1. The first thing you need to do is peel and chop your onions. If you slice them with the grain (from top to bottom) they will hold their shape a little after you cook them and you will end up with pretty curls of onions in say, your French Onion Soup. If you chop them against the grain, or dice them, they will not hold their shape. This is better for things like French Onion Dip.

2. Next, put a little oil into a saute pan. I use about 1 tsp per pound of onions. You can use olive oil, canola oil, veggie oil, or clarified butter. I use olive oil unless it’s a special occasion in which case I use clarified butter.

3. Place your onions into the hot saute pan, sprinkle them with Kosher salt (3/4 -1 tsp per pound) and sweat them on medium-high heat.

4. Reduce the heat to medium –  low and allow your onions to slowly caramelize. The longer they cook, the more flavor you will bring out so don’t be in a hurry. It takes me around an hour and a half to caramelize mine (I like to take it really slow). It should take no less then 45 minutes though. As they are cooking, you will need to stir them occasionally. At least every ten minutes at first and then more often as they cook down. If they start to stick, add a little water, scrape the bottom and stir them (see notes below)

5. When they are a nice deep golden brown, they are done. Remove them from the pan. If you are not using them right away, cool them and store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.

What Happens When You Caramelize an Onion

Sweating – (this is not when you work out with your onions) as the onions get hot, the water from inside forces its way out of the onion’s cells, this causes the cells to rupture and the water starts to evaporate (onions are about 75% water by weight), this is what causes them to soften at the beginning of cooking. The onions will begin to have a translucent appearance. This is called sweating your onions. If you have a recipe that says sweat your onions, this is what it is asking you to do. When they are “translucent”, move on to the next step.

As the cells in the onion continue to break down, they release proteins, sugars, and aromatic compounds (mercaptans, disulfides, trisulfides, thiopenes and other long and impressive chemical names too). This is also when you, your hair, and your clothes start to smell like an onion :)! Mmmmm, you smell yummy!

The water will continue to evaporate, and the temperature will continue to rise. When your little onions reach around 230°F they will begin to caramelize. During this time, there are a few things happening. The Maillard reaction begins to take place. This is when sugars, proteins, and enzymes interact and cause browning. It is the same effect that happens to toast and steak. It is not fully understood exactly what happens as there are hundreds of changes that take place so we aren’t going there. Another reaction that is going on is oxidation of the large sugar molecules (sucrose). As they break down more compounds are formed and more flavor is added to your onions. The sucrose (a large sugar molecule), is broken down into fructose and glucose. Fructose and glucose are sweeter on their own then sucrose. So, your onions get sweeter! Yay!


So, here’s a common problem that people run into when they’re caramelizing their onions. The smaller, pieces, and the ends can start to get dark to quick and stick to the pan. There is an easy solution to this. Before I tell you though, I’m going to warn you that a lot of people are going to tell you not to do this. I have done this myself and it works so…. ignore them :D! If your onions start to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a little water and scrape the bottom of the pan then stir them up. This is not for when you’ve burned them beyond recognition, but for when they are beginning to stick and are brown (not black) on the bottom. The reason this works is that the brown that’s stuck to the bottom of your pan, the over browned edges and the little pieces are brown and sticking from water-soluble, sugar based compounds that have been concentrated into one area. When you add the water and scrape and stir, you redistribute these sugars evenly. You can add water whenever it is needed, but if you find yourself constantly adding it, your heat is too high. Onions should be caramelized on medium – low for best results. There are ways to speed up caramelization like adding baking soda (which makes them break down faster and therefore release their sugars faster etc….etc….). You can also caramelize some table sugar and add it. I don’t recommend either of these things though. I think they come out nicer doing it the slower way. It’s your choice though. I’m not even eating at your house tonight :)!

Oh, one more thing. Which onions are best to caramelize? At first, you may think that obviously the sweet onions would be better right? Well, sweet onions do contain about 25% more sugar, but it is the lowered amount of lachrymators ((Propanethial S-oxide) the chemical that makes you cry) that make them have a sweeter taste. The lachrymators, when cooked, develop into more complex flavors, so the other varieties have a distinct advantage. It has been my experience that they caramelize about the same, but you get better flavor when using yellow, brown or red. I use a combination of the three when I make my French Onion Soup. I would also like to add that brown and yellow, in my opinion, get the prettiest color. The red ones turn a weird grayish green. They taste good though, so I still add them in.

So, now you have the basic information that you need to make perfectly caramelized onions. Have fun and make lots of delicious dishes! Happy Cooking :D!

Please enjoy this “how-to” chop an onion video!


Almond Biscotti – (whole wheat)

Posted by on Feb 1, 2012 in Cookies, Food Journal | 0 comments

Almond Biscotti – (whole wheat)

Almond Biscotti – OK, I might as well admit it, I’m a coffee addict. Hello, my name is Alicia, and I’m addicted to coffee :D! I have it every morning and some afternoons too! I don’t usually get to have it with biscotti though. I bake a lot, but the kids usually want something else – what can I say, my little ones aren’t big on the coffee yet :) LOL! So, when I do get to have it with biscotti, it makes me feel like I’m getting a little reward along with my normal morning coffee. I got to make some the other night though because it just happens that my ladies church group is doing a tea cup exchange (fun :D) and the person my cup is going to loves almonds. So, what do you put in someone’s teacup that loves almonds? Almond biscotti of course :)! Don’t worry about the little ones, they got chocolate chip cookies (I’ll post that recipe soon too)! Happy Cooking :D!

Ingredients
dry ingredients
1 3/4 cups almonds, ground fine in the food processor
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup splenda or sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coriander
1 1/2 cup almonds, whole

wet ingredients
1/2 cup honey
3 eggs



Instructions

1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F, put an oven rack in the center of the oven.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.
3. In a separate, small bowl, combine wet ingredients and mix them up well.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix by hand to combine – I use a rubber spatula. It will seem like the mix is too dry at first, but just be patient and keep mixing, put a little muscle into it :)!
5. Place the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into two pieces.
6. Roll each piece into a log that is about three inches thick, it should be almost as long as your sheet pan (cookie sheet).
7. Place the log onto the sheet pan (that you have already sprayed with cooking spray). You can put them both on one pan if they fit, just make sure they have room to spread out a little.
8. Press down gently with your hand to flatten the tops.
9. Bake at 350° for about 20-25 minutes on the center rack, when you touch it with your finger, it should feel firm.
10. You will now have a loaf. Remove it from the pan and place it on a cooling rack and let it cool, turn off the oven for now.
11. Once your loaves are cooled, heat oven to 325°F
12. Place the cooled loaves onto a cutting board one at a time and slice them on a slight diagonal about every 1/2 inch.
13. Place the sliced pieces cut side down on a prepared sheet pan.
14. Bake at 325°F for about 15 minutes or until toasted.
15. Cool your beautiful biscotti on a cooling rack.
16. Store in an air-tight container.

yield – about 36 pieces


Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Posted by on Jan 26, 2012 in Dinner, Food Journal | 0 comments

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce- Anytime someone makes spaghetti, the whole neighborhood knows. That’s one of my favorite things about spaghetti, how it fills the whole house (and neighborhood) with it’s delicious scent! It seems like every time I make spaghetti, the whole family is constantly in and out of the kitchen wanting to smell the sauce and to sneak a taste. Maybe that’s why spaghetti always tastes like it has so much love in it – because it feels loved as it is cooked :D! Whenever I cook it, I have this wonderful vision in my head. It’s of a very old and beautiful Italian Grandmother. She’s in the kitchen making her sauce. She never stops to measure, her hands know the recipe by heart. She is like watching a dance as she cooks! So, now it’s time for all of us to channel our inner Italian Grandma, and make some spaghetti! Don’t forget to add the love because, food cooked with love always tastes better :D! Happy Cooking!

Minced Garlic

Minced Garlic

Ingredients
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced small (I usually use a brown onion, sometimes, I use 1/2 a red onion and 1/2 a brown onion-read step 17 for my onion notes)
12 cloves of garlic, minced (you can adjust this to your taste, I love garlic though) (see video on “how to quickly peel and mince garlic)
2 teaspoons Kosher salt (you can use a different salt, but please check out my “Table Salt” article under culinary 101)
1 teaspoon pepper
2 pounds ground beef (I use 93/7 – the 93 represents the amount of meat, the 7 represents the amount of fat, check your label)
1 teaspoon Rosemary (dried) or 1 Tbsp (fresh), chopped lightly *see note on chopping herbs
2 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes or 3 fresh, peeled (I try to use organic plum tomatoes when using canned and Heirloom when using fresh *see note on tomatoes)

Oregano (left) and Rosemary (right)

14 ounces beef stock (homemade or canned – use water if you don’t have any)
2 Tabspoons oregano (dried) or 6 Tbsp (fresh), chopped lightly
1 teaspoon thyme (dried) or 1 Tbsp (fresh), chopped lightly
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon of Italian Seasoning (if you happen to have any)
3 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
1-2 teaspoons sugar
2 packages of whole wheat spaghetti noodles (if you want to make homemade, go for it ;D)
Parmesan cheese for garnish
fresh basil for garnish (cut chiffonade – that means into little ribbons!)

Instructions
1. Place a large pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil, the onions, garlic, add 1/2 the Kosher salt and pepper.
2. Stir to coat them in the oil.

Ground Beef Browned

3. Add the ground beef and the other 1/2 of the Kosher salt and pepper, and mix until well combined.
4. Add the rosemary.
5. Saute until your meat is browned.
6. Add in your diced tomatoes.
7. Add in your beef stock, turn the heat to medium low. Stir every five or so minutes. Make sure you scrape the bottom of the pan when you stir, tomatoes like to stick to the bottom (I use a high heat rubber spatula).
8. Fill a large pot with very salty water (I use an eight quart pot with almost 1/4 cup of iodized salt)*see salt article.
9. Cover the pot with a lid and bring water to a boil.
10. When your water gets to a “rolling boil” add the noodles.
11. Reduce your heat to medium and stir the noodles for about 30 seconds.

Beef After the Tomatoes are Added


This helps them not stick together. You want to keep the water at a boil, but I had you reduce the heat so that it is not splashing out of the pan, you can raise your heat back up to medium high, just adjust it if it needs it.
12. Check the time, your noodles should boil for 8 minutes for regular dried spaghetti or cook according to package directions, if you’re using fresh, they will take from five to seven minutes.
13. Add your remaining herbs to your tomato sauce and the tomato paste, stir to combine.
14. Set up your sink to drain your noodles (they’ll be done soon), clean the sink if necessary and place your colander in there.
15. Check the time, your noodles are probably done.
16. Drain the noodles, add a little olive oil on top once they’re drained (like a Tablespoon). Stir them up and return them to the pot you cooked them in – DO NOT put them back on the heat, but DO cover them with the lid to stay hot.

Tomato Sauce After the Tomato Paste is Added

17. Taste your sauce, add one of the teaspoons of sugar and stir it, can you taste the difference? Now decide if you want the other spoon in there. The amount of sugar needed for the recipe is going to depend on a few things, mainly the tomatoes you used-how acidic they are and how ripe they were at the time they were canned. That’s why I want you to taste it before and after you add the sugar-so that you can learn to tell if it’s needed on your own. The type of onion you use makes a difference too. Yellow onions will add a sweetness and may make the sugar unnecessary all together, white onions are more alkaline producing (on the PH scale) and may make the sugar more necessary – yay :D isn’t food chemistry fun! Also, brown onions (which I love and use all the time) can give some people heartburn – if this is a problem for you, you may want to use a sweet onion (like a Vidalia (super sweet) or a yellow (mildly sweet) and omit the sugar all together – sorry if I made anyone’s head swim!
18. You’re all done :D YAY! Garnish as you’d like and eat your delicious homemade spaghetti! OK, one more tip, I can’t resist. When you put your noodles on the plate, it looks prettier if you first take a big pinch (a portion) of noodles out of your pot with some tongs and then kind of twist them into a tall pile on a separate plate, then put them on the serving plate. This gives your presentation more height and keeps your noodles from being all spread out and sloppy :)!

Spaghetti Wound Up Tight with Tongs

* A note on chopping herbs - Remove any thick stems, bunch the leaves into a little pile and gently pinch them, go over them with a sharp knife once, maybe twice if needed. DO NOT chop your pour little herbs to death. If you are seeing their oil on your cutting board (there will be a mysterious green color on your board) you’ve over chopped them. The oil you want in your spaghetti sauce is now stuck in the crevices of your board and gone forever :( – A little green on the board is to be expected. When you think of herbs, think of tiny layers of bubbles being  in their leaves filled with oil, the more you run your knife over the leaves, the more bubbles you pop and the more oil that leaks out.


Spaghetti Plated - YUMMY!

*A note on canned tomatoes – Fresh is better, but  - canned tomatoes are fine. It is true that some fruits and veggies are disgusting when canned, that is because of the different chemicals that they contain. For example, green veggies contain chlorophyll, chlorophyll does not do well  when cooked for long periods of time especially when covered.  Tomatoes, however, do not contain chlorophyll, they contain anthocyanins, anthocyanins are not effected by long cooking times the same as chlorophyll (though there is some loss of vitimins, that’s going to happen anyway, your’re cooking the sauce). Chlorophyll containing fruits and veggies overcook easily, their taste is greatly affected,  that’s why it’s better to saute your spinach. When green veggies are overcooked they get that olive green kind of dark color, when they are cooked correctly , they are bright green.  You can’t really overcook a tomato (when following a normal recipe – I’m not talking about the silly “well what ifs”).  Canned tomatoes are a close second to the fresh. Use the fresh in the summertime, not the winter (at least that’s my general rule).  Also, very often, the canned are better then the fresh, again, unless it is summer. That’s because they are generally canned at the peak of their season. Tomatoes are best when they are in season, like anything. The thing with tomatoes is that they don’t travel well. This is because they don’t like to be refrigerated. The ones that we get from far away are usually pricey and travel under refrigeration. I’d like to note that most of the tomatoes that do travel well and can be refrigerated have been genetically altered to do so. Google it (tomatoes crossed with fish- YUCK :P!) Yes, I know, there are varieties that are OK in the winter. Use them if you want. I am weary of the fish thing and don’t have a list of farms or companies that I bring to the store as you never know what farm/company the store bought from that day anyway!  I use canned in the winter and I don’t generally make spaghetti in the summer, it’s too hot, I live in AZ. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I grow my own Heirloom in the summer.

Please enjoy this video on “how-to quickly peel and mince garlic”!


The Best Lean Hamburgers Ever with Swiss Cheese and Sauted Mushroom Sauce – Recipe

Posted by on Jan 20, 2012 in Dinner, Food Journal | 0 comments

The Best Lean Hamburgers Ever with Swiss Cheese and Sauted Mushroom Sauce – Recipe

The Best Lean Hamburgers Ever with Swiss Cheese and Sauteed Mushroom Sauce- I don’t know about you, but I can always go for a really good burger. The only thing is that often the best burger is made with fatty ground beef or a combination of fatty meats. I use the 93/7 meat when I make my burgers. If you cook this meat without doing anything to it, except seasoning of course, you usually end up with a dried out burger. That’s because the fat to meat ratio is low on the fat side. For those who don’t know what those little numbers mean, let me explain. The 93 represents the amount of meat, and the 7 represents the amount of fat. So if you have 80/20 you have 80% meat, 20% fat and so on. I would think that I’m pretty safe in saying that most people “drain their meat” when using the higher fat product anyway. So, essentially, you are literally pouring your money down the drain. In my opinion, it is more cost effective to buy the lower fat version and have more meat. It is also healthier – obviously. So, in order to make a really great burger using 93/7, we are going to have to add a few things. It’s funny because when I gave my mom this recipe she said “so you basically make something like meatloaf” and I said “yes”. I do in fact use this exact same recipe when I make meatloaf, except I bake the meat-because that’s how you make meatloaf :). These burgers can be cooked in a saute pan on the stove or grilled. I have even done them slider style in the oven. A word of caution though – if you grill them they burn pretty easily if you have big flames. Make sure you are watching them and that you don’t have actual flames under them, just hot coals or stones or whatever. Also, feel free to top them however you like :D. Oh, and just in case you are wondering what’s on the plate with the burger, those are delicious tostones de platano (Puerto Rican fried plantain chips – yum). So, without further ado, my awesome burger recipe. Happy Cooking!

sliced mushrooms in the pan

Ingredients

1 onion – diced small
2 pounds ground beef – 93/7
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire
2 Tablespoons ketchup
3 eggs
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 garlic cloves (minced) or 2 Tablespoon garlic powder
mushroom sauce – *Mushroom Sauce Recipe Follows
Swiss cheese (I use Tillamook)buns (I use the whole wheat sandwich thins, they’re better for you and it makes the burger more burger-y (can that be a word for today) and less bready)

mushrooms ready to drain

Instructions

1. Saute the onion until it begins to caramelize, set it aside to cool.
*If you’re making the mushroom sauce, go ahead and slice your mushrooms and get the other stuff ready to go.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly (I use my hands).
3. Mix in your cooled onions if you didn’t in step two (start cooking those mushrooms – step 2 below).
4. Form the patties (if you need to, separate them into nine little balls before you start so they’re all even)-I stack them and use parchment (wax) paper to separate the stacked layers.
5. If you are not cooking them immediately, cover them with plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator – they’ll be fine for several hours or even overnight if you want to make them ahead of time. NEVER leave raw meat sitting at room temperature for long periods of time-you can get sick from it and it’s yucky!
5. Cook those burgers however you choose – saute, grill or oven. If you had your meat freshly ground from a reputable source you can probably safely cook them to whatever internal temperature you want, if not I recommend cooking them well done.

beautiful golden roux

Yield – about  9 (1/4 lb) burgers – you can cut this recipe in half if you want. The burgers will keep for four days in the refrigerator if you chill them immediately after cooking them.

Ingredients for Mushroom Sauce

1 1/2 pound Cremini mushrooms (also called Baby Bellas), sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
 For the Roux (the roux is what thickens the sauce)
2 teaspoons butter or olive oil if you prefer
2 teaspoons flour (white AP flour, one of the few things I use it for)

Instructions

whisk your mushroom liquid into the roux

1. Wash your mushrooms-I know, you see all these chefs on TV wiping their mushrooms. I don’t care, wash your mushrooms. Put them in a bowl, fill it with water and swirl it around. Now take them out and look how gross that water is – ewww :p – aren’t you glad you washed your mushrooms? You’ve probably heard that they absorb water, maybe a little (I’ve never noticed), but guess what, it won’t hurt and if you’re cooking them, it cooks out anyway. Sorry,
but this is something I feel very strongly about! If you’re still worried, here’s a little experiment for you. Measure out 1 cup of water, now put a few mushrooms in there. Wait a few minutes and take the mushrooms out – How much water is left-a cup. Moving on.
2. Place mushrooms in a saute pan with the olive oil on high heat.
3. Sprinkle them with the salt and pepper, stir them really good to distribute the salt and pepper.
4. In a separate saute pan, melt your butter or put in your olive oil (for the roux).
5. Add the flour to the melted butter.
6. Stir it quickly scraping the bottom (I use a high heat rubber spatula for this).


delicious mushroom sauce

*You may need to add more butter or more flour depending on what your roux looks like – it should look like wet sand. Make adjustments as necessary (the reason you may need to make adjustments to these measurements is that different brands of butter contain different amounts ofliquid and fat, so, the exact measurements will depend on your butter).
7. When your roux is a beautiful golden color, remove it from the heat and set to the side.
8. By now your mushrooms should have a lot of juice around them, drain them reserving the juice (you should get around one cup).
9. Slowly pour this juice into the roux whisking as you pour, whisk it  until it’s smooth and heat it until it’s thick – yay, mushroom sauce :)
10. Add the mushrooms into the sauce.
11. Top the burgers with sauce and one slice of Swiss cheese- we also put a little mayo on ours – oh, and put them on buns silly!
Enjoy!

*A note on mushrooms-You may not know this, but Button Mushrooms, Crimini Mushrooms, and Portabella Mushrooms are all the same mushroom in different states of maturity. They are the variety Agaricus bisporus. The white button and the crimini are the youngest and therefore the softest. Why are the crimini brown? Well, they are bred to be brown, but the only real difference between them and the button is color….and price. Sometimes I like to use the crimini anyway because even though I know they’re the same, they somehow seem “nicer” to me. I don’t know why – maybe because they cost more :). The Portabellas are the most mature in the family and have the “meatiest” texture and the most flavor. Look for mushrooms that have a membrane covering the gills. Those are the freshest. If you can’t find any that are still “closed” (that means the membrane is there), then make sure the cap is still turned down. If the cap is turning up, that’s a sign of an old mushroom. There, now you’ve learned something today :).

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Butterscotch Apple Upside Down Torte (whole wheat)-Recipe

Posted by on Jan 18, 2012 in Desserts, Food Journal | 0 comments

Butterscotch Apple Upside Down Torte (whole wheat)-Recipe

Butterscotch Apple Upside Down Torte – I created this recipe for my favorite (and only) big sister, Julie. My Pooh Bear! She called me about a month ago telling me how she wanted to make a butterscotch dessert for her wonderful husband Andy as a surprise. She explained to me that she had tried a few recipes, but none of them came out how she expected – some of them came out a gross watery mess. My sister is a good cook and she has tons of recipes. If she doesn’t have a recipe for something she wants to make, she always checks with me and Grandma for one. The problem is that if neither of us has one, she, like many people, turns to the Internet. Now, I’m not saying that there are no good recipes on the Internet. That would be silly, after all there’s my site :). Just kidding of course. There are lots of really good recipes to be found and a lot of reputable chefs out there willing to share. The problem isn’t a lack of good recipes, it’s the ocean of bad ones. Unfortunately for her, she fell in the ocean three times on this one. So, I made this special just for you Pooh! I love you and hope you and Andy – and everyone else out there love it! Happy Cooking!

Ingredients for Torte
Dry Ingredients
1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1/4 c splenda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Separate Bowl for Butter
9 Tbsp butter (I use Plugra)

Wet Ingredients
3 eggs
1/2 c yogurt – plain, fat free
1 tsp vanilla (I love the Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste – available in the “foodie Shop” on my site)

Sauce Ingredients
1 1/2 c light brown sugar
1/2 c water
4 Tbls butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp milk

3 apples (I used 1 Granny Smith, 1 Gala, and 1 Braeburn)

Special Equipment
9 inch Spring-form Pan (order one in the “foodie shop” on my site :D)
candy thermometer (order one in the “foodie shop” on my site :D)


Instructions
*you are going to be kind of going back and forth between the cake, the sauce and peeling/chopping apples, just trust me, the timing is important on this cake-these instructions are how I timed mine – also read this whole recipe before you start, maybe even twice – it’s not hard, there’s just a lot going on :)
1. allow all ingredients to reach room temperature, spray your spring-form pan with cooking spray and cover the outside with foil (to prevent leaks), also get out your saucepan and mixer, and move your oven rack to the bottom
2. in a medium saucepan (mine’s 2 qt), combine your light brown sugar and water for the sauce (don’t turn it on yet)
3. measure all the other sauce ingredients, you can combine the vanilla and vinegar in a small ramekin or bowl, but keep the milk and butter separate (they go in at different times) leave everything by the stove
4. in a small bowl, combine all dry ingredients for the torte
5. in a liquid measuring cup (2 cup size) measure your yogurt, then add the eggs and vanilla to the yogurt and mix it all together
6. in a large mixing bowl, cream your butter (for the Torte) for about 30 seconds
7. beat in 1/2 of your liquid mixture (for the Torte), then 1/2 of the dry ingredient mixture scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula in between additions
8. repeat step 7 using the rest of your dry and wet ingredients, leave that there for a minute
9. turn your sugar and water mixture on med-high heat (the sauce)
10. get out your apples and start peeling, remove the core and slice them into 1/4 inch slices – like you would for apple pie – do this by the stove because you have to baby-sit the temperature of your sugar/water mixture
11. when your sugar/water mixture reaches 240°, remove it from the heat and allow it to set for four minutes *the temperature is very important, if it gets too hot, you’ll have hard candy when it cools
12. put your apple slices in the bottom of your greased spring form pan
13. go back to your torte batter and mix it on medium speed for 2 minutes – this is to develop it’s structure (to give it some air bubbles)
14. go back to your sauce which should have had sat for four minutes, add in the butter and stir to melt it in
15. when the butter is all in, add the vanilla/vinegar and stir to combine
16. add the milk and stir it in- your sauce should have a beautiful, smooth texture-if it looks curdled, it is, either it didn’t reach the right temperature, it didn’t sit long enough, or the vinegar wasn’t stirred all the way in before you added the milk – try again and don’t worry, it’s happened to all of us at some point
17. pour the sauce over the apples
18. spread the torte batter over the apples and sauce using a spatula to smooth it down, put your spring-form pan on a sheet pan (cookie sheet)
19. bake at 350° for 40-50 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven until it’s golden brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean
20. allow to cool for 15 minutes
21. Place a large plate/platter on top to the pan and flip the whole thing over-it will be juicy on the bottom
22. YOU DID IT! :D remove the pan and enjoy-serve warm

*This recipe is best served the day/night it is made. The texture changes when you have it as a left-over!



Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies – Recipe

Posted by on Jan 17, 2012 in Cookies, Food Journal | 0 comments

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies – Recipe

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies – My little girl Tia, who is three, loves to cook. I think she would rather do that then just about anything else actually. I let her use her imagination in the kitchen and try to never tell her that we can’t make something or that “that doesn’t go together”. So, on Christmas Eve, when I asked her what kind of cookies she wanted to make for Santa, it came as no surprise when she replied “peanut butter and jelly and jellybean cookies”. I mulled the idea over in my head for a minute, “peanut butter and jelly and jelly bean cookies, OK, we can do that” I thought, (still in thought) “jelly bean cookies-huh”. I of course looked at her with a great amount of excitement in my eyes and replied (in my kid friendly, high pitched voice) “peanut butter and jelly cookies with jellybeans, Santa will love them, what a great idea”! So, we commenced work on a recipe that would be fabulous and worthy of Santa’s cookie taste – after all he eats millions every year! This is the recipe we came up with. We only ended up putting jellybeans in a few of them (marshmallow and banana flavor). We got a note from Santa that he loved them :D , Tia wouldn’t let anyone else try them, so we just have to trust him ;D. The rest of us however, got to eat one of the best cookie inventions ever-peanut butter and jelly cookies (sin jellybeans-that means without). Since Christmas, I have made these a couple more times. It’s only mid-January by the way but they are sooooooo goooood! They are definitely not going to be restricted to Christmas time only! I’m so glad my New Year’s resolution was to exercise and not to diet! LOL! Happy Cooking everyone!


Finished Dough

Ingredients

2 1/4 c whole wheat pastry flour (you can use regular whole wheat if you can’t find Pastry)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 stick (8Tbsp) butter

Dough Ball

1 c brown sugar (I used light)
1 c Splenda (or other sweetener)
3/4 c peanut butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla (I like Bourbon Pure Vanilla Paste – available in the “foodie shop” on my site!)
2 eggs
8 oz jam or preserves-I used homemade raspberry preserves, but I recommend “Stonewall Kitchen” (you can order it from the “foodie shop” here on my site!)

Gently press down on them.

Instructions

1. allow all of your ingredients to come up to room temperature
2. pre-heat oven to 350°
3. in a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stir to combine
4. in a medium mixing bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, and Splenda,

Use a measuring spoon to make an impression.

5. scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula
6. add the peanut butter and mix to combine
7. scrape the bowl with a spatula
8. add the vanilla and eggs, mix to combine – that’s right, scrape the bowl after
9. add the dry ingredients, half at a time mixing and scraping between additions

Fill the impression with jam.

10. roll the dough into balls about a Tablespoon at a time
11. place the dough balls onto a greased (I use cooking spray) sheet pan (cookie sheet)
12. flatten them-don’t mash them into oblivion, just give them a gentle little press
13. use your 1/2 tsp measure to press little circles in the middle
14. fill each impression with the jam/preserves (use your 1/2 tsp to measure)
15. bake at 350° for about ten minutes-do not allow to brown on sides (the bottom should be golden)

Enjoy your cookies!

yield-48 cookies or so - depending on how big you make them :)


German Chocolate Cake (whole wheat) with Coconut Pecan Frosting – Recipe

Posted by on Jan 16, 2012 in Desserts, Food Journal | 0 comments

German Chocolate Cake (whole wheat) with Coconut Pecan Frosting – Recipe

German Chocolate Cake – Last week for my birthday, my kids practically shoved my husband and I out of the front door while promising to watch the little ones. They said I needed to go on a birthday date and that we should go see a movie and have some fun. What I did not know was that they had a secret plan. Tristan (age 16) and Vanessa (age 14) were making a roast turkey dinner, and Eleyna (age 12) and Tia (age 3) were making me a personal German Chocolate Cake. YUMMY :D! The picture you see here is a picture of the cake that they made. Pretty impressive in my opinion! It was beautiful and delicious with a perfect consistency throughout. The consistency, in this case, refers to the air holes-they should be uniform with no tunnels if you mixed it properly (something that as a chef, I can’t help but notice). The following recipe is my recipe for a full size cake. It is super delicious! Oh, and in case you’re wondering, dinner was awesome too! Happy Cooking!

Ingredients
2 c whole wheat pastry flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c Splenda (or another sweetener, you can also just use more sugar)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
11 Tbsp butter (I use Plugra)
3/4 c milk
1/4 c yogurt (plain, fat free-vanilla would be fine too)
2 tsp vanilla (I like Bourbon Pure Vanilla Paste – available in the “foodie shop” on my site!)
3 eggs
4 oz melted chocolate (I use Scharfenberger Chocolate – available in the “foodie shop” on my site!)


Instructions
1. allow your ingredients to come up to room temperature
2. prepare your pans by spraying the inside with cooking spray and lining the bottom with parchment (wax) paper – the easiest way to do this is to put your pan onto the paper, trace it using a butter knife (it will scratch the line) and cutting it out along the line, then place it on the bottom (the cooking spray should hold it in place)
3. pre-heat oven to 350°
4. in a small mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, Splenda, baking soda, baking powder, salt
5. in a measuring cup combine milk, yogurt, vanilla and eggs
6. melt chocolate, set to the side (I melt mine in the microwave in a bowl at 20 second increments stirring in between, it usually only takes 40 seconds, but if it’s not melted do ten more)
7. in a medium mixing bowl cream butter
8. add 1/3 of the dry mixture and mix until combined
9. scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula
10. add 1/3 of the wet ingredients and mix until combined
11. repeat steps 7-9 adding the second 1/3 of the dry, mixing, scraping, then 1/3 of the wet, mix, scrape and so on
12. mix in the melted chocolate
13. mix the batter on medium speed for 3 minutes stopping at the 2 minute mark to scrape the bowl
14. pour batter into two well greased and lined 8 or 9 inch cake pans
15. bake at 350° for about 35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean
16. allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove from the pans and allow to finish cooling on cooling racks

Ingredients for Coconut-Pecan Frosting
*this makes a ton of frosting – enough to frost your cake thick, or even to cut each layer in half and make a “four layer cake” so don’t worry about laying it on thick :) if you’d like the “normal amount” of frosting, use the measurements below for “less frosting” and follow the same instructions
12 oz evaporated milk
1 1/2 c sugar
6 egg yolks (slightly beaten)
3/4 c butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 c coconut
1 1/2 c pecans (broken up)


Instructions for Frosting

1. Combine all ingredients (except coconut and pecans) into a medium saucepan
2. cook and stir over medium heat until thickened, about 10-12 minutes
3. remove from the heat
4. add the coconut and the pecans and stir to combine
5. cool until thick enough to spread, stirring occasionally

Ingredients for Less Frosting

8 oz evaporated milk
1 c sugar
4 egg yolks
1/2 c butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 c coconut
1 c pecans (broken up)

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