Regrouping for 2012

Okay people. I haven't been here for a year. Sorry about that. It was a roller coaster ride of year, most of which was more down than up. Bye 2011 and screw off please. Don't come back. Again. Ever. (Okay, the good parts are allowed back.)

I have to fess up that I haven't really known what to do with myself since the great layoff a little over two years ago. I haven't known what to do about my marriage or what to do about my career. I was all gung ho to go to a famous culinary school, damn the $100K debt, but my wise husband said "maybe you shouldn't rack up that much debt without being sure you can be a star chef out of the gate." Read: Gun shots in sails. To which I replied "Damn baby! Why you gotta do that to me?" Grrr.. But he's right. This is the dynamic going on in our house. He didn't become successful by doing stupid things. He is the smart, patient, slow turtle and I'm the idiot fast hare. But now...

Still Working on THE Roasted Chicken

So, I'm still working on the roasted bird. The first time I did it, it was bit of a flop. Edible but nothing to cuss about. The second time was much better but still, I need it to be even better. Cooking it breast side down worked MUCH better in making a juicy chicken boobie. Cooking breast side up definitely makes a dried breast. It was suggested in the article that I read, that I should cook breast side down for only a little while and then flip the bird back over during the last half of cooking. But I didn't do that. I cooked it breast side down the entire cooking time.

Goal: Induce Blasphemous Praise of Roasted Chicken

Okay hellions, I have not mastered the roasted bird yet. Oh sure, I can put some seasonings on (and in) the bird and roast it and it tastes alright (if I don't give two craps about how to get dinner on the table as long as it gets there somehow). But I've never ever made a bird that made the chicken eater say "ohhhhh damn!!!" I have said "yum, good chicken" but I'm looking for the "Oh, Damn! This is is Good!" or "God Dammit! This is the BEST chicken I've EVER had!" or the ultimate blasphemous compliment: "Jesus' Muuuutha!! .......Woooooo Lorrrrrd!!! Oh HELL Yeah! Mmmmmmmmmmmm....."

Of course, as with anything, a self mastered cook goes for the gold, the reaction that goes something like this:

Lesson 8: Chef Knives: Everything You Wanted to Know

Of all the equipaje in your damn kitchen, you really should make your most thoughtful investment in your chef knife. It took me a couple of months to figure out the importance, care, use and maintenance of this very important tool.

At first, I just wanted to know what knife was the best. I bent the ear of knowledgeable sales associates in Kitchen Kapers and in Williams Sonoma. Both experiences were very good and they both offered to let me "test drive" the knives. Well, in order to test drive, you need to know how to drive. So, in order to keep myself from looking like a damn idiot, I went home and watched a few youtube videos (luckily there are a great number of excellent instructional videos out there, so go explore!) on how to hold and use a chef knife. After watching more than one (it's ALWAYS good to see different perspectives on the same subject), I test drove with my own cheap chef knife that I had been using for years. What an experience! It's amazing how much more control and efficiency you have with your knife when you use it properly. You have to try it. Here's a great youtube video on How to Hold Your Chef Knife

However, when I held it properly and chopped a few onions with it, it didn't take long for me to notice that


Emotional Cherries in a Cobbler

It's the middle of the summer. And friggin Hades has laid down his blanket of oppressive heat on our heads. If you look out my window tomorrow morning, you'll see my burnt lawn and those invisible flames that distort the view of my neighbor's house. Also, cherries are in season. Heck, don't you think it's time we fire up the oven in the kitchen of my damnation? It's not quite hot enough, let's sear our faces in the inferno of hell's fury!

And in addition to this blazing heat wave we've been having, well, let's just say, life has thrown us a few damn pits, hasn't it? Screw the "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" cheery bullcrap saying. It's up to you if you want to put on a sunny smile while getting kicked in the hooch by this stinkin economy or whatever else ails ya. That's not how I roll. I don't have a damn job yet and there shall be no sunny damn lemonade in this hellish kitchen. So here's my saying:

Lesson 7: What the Flatulence?

It is a socially accepted fact that boys have problems with gas and girls don't. Really, girls don't. Ever. I'm a girl. I don't become flatulent. Accept it as truth, or else I will have to kill you.

It is also true that farting has become a sport for many boys, especially the teenage variety and quite more so, the old man variety. In fact, I think all boys have an arsenal of tools ranging from the humble match to the brazen gas torch with which to create the ultimate in human methane fires. I know, you know, we all know... as, at one point, at some sort of summer camp along the way, we witnessed the laughter and explosions near the woods with certain nervousness of the start of a forest fire. Oh, the boys. How they love to fart anywhere and everywhere. Woe to the girl who must enter the car of the boy who has trapped the aroma of his consumed and released amusements. Even if the girl is the Mommy and the boy is a giggling little 4 year old. I call this experience "Pandora's Vehicle." I knew I'd have fun with the post, what with my inherited juvenile sense of humor. I'm sure, if I didn't have to get to the food preparation part that is relevant to a cooking blog, I could regale you with many a story of boys I have known and other boys my girlfriends know... and even stories that have become legends in the annals of the flatulence tales among my crowd of friends. I'm sure you, being fan of my page, and reading as far as you have, you probably have a few tales of your own to share. (I'd love to hear them in the comments section if you're brave). So, we are all familiar with the issue.

While some boys are proud of their musical toots, I know there are many gentleman out there who would rather avoid the beans and save themselves undue humiliation in front of the ladies that, as you remember, never ever have flatulence problems.

It's a shame really, to have so many people avoid the beans, especially

Food Study: Beans

Hello Readers,

Thank you so much for your patience as I have taken time to get my pain managed. Now, that I'm back in the kitchen, and a little broke due to all the price increases that have been going on (yikes! you noticed too, huh?), I thought our food study for the next month or so should be beans!

I purchased two bags of beans last weekend. One 2 lb. bag of black beans and one 2 lb. bag of Great Northern White Beans. Total cost: $2.35. Yes, my darlings, even a .45 cent bag o' beans is essentially a thing of the past. But still, when you can fill a whole stock pot full of food for under 3 bucks (and feel at least 10 people with that), that is NOT BAD!

As you probably experience in your own home, the trick is getting your family on board with both the idea of having beans for dinner and actually eating them. Not everyone is a fan. So this presents a dual challenge: make it cheap and make it good enough to win them over! I have a feeling this is going to take some serious experimentation and study of flavors but with enough research I'm always optimistic that even the most cantankerous among us can be converted. Today is Thursday and I have already made Black Bean Burgers one night and Black Bean Tacos (using the leftover burgers) on the following night. Right now, I'm simmering a pot of Great Northern Whites in chicken broth with a bay leaf, garlic and onion powder and salt. Heck, I might throw some of my favorite frozen turkey sausage in there in a minute.

Now, beans are very popular in soup format but I can tell you right now, soup also does not fly around here (though I myself love soup). If it does end up being a soup, it has be hearty and thick like chili. So, what I can do is make white chicken chili out of it. The problem is, when you look at ingredients for white chicken chili, they are fairly hard on the budget. Chicken is about $7-9 dollars a package now, you'll need sour cream and cheese. So... before you know it, we'll be missing the whole point of frugality and simplicity with the beans. I think what I'd like to do, is puree them so that it is a thick soup, add some garlicky sauteed spinach for color and texture and a little cream, maybe some parmesan too. Kind of like a thick and hearty, very filling escarole. I'll puree the bits of sausage right along with it so that it adds a delicious smoky and meaty flavor. And then serve with some nice crusty Italian Bread that I know I can get for $2.

Tomorrow, I shall post the outcome of this experiment and if it won over the picky people in the household. Pictures and recipes to follow of course. :) If not, I'm sure there is an inexpensive way to make white chicken chili, maybe with canned chicken packed in water (no preservatives) for $2.00? If you have other ideas, please feel free to post your comments below. Or on my Facebook Page.

Thanks so much for studying with me! :)

Oh and here's the recipe for the Black Bean Burgers:


Prepare 16 oz bag of dried black beans according to package directions. If you have a day job, you might want to do the overnight soak and then cook them in the crock pot all day with a little sausage.

Or - use 3 cans of black beans.

In a food processor or use a pastry knife, chop up beans and add the following. (I eyeballed the ingredients so this is my best guess. Taste mixture before adding eggs).

1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp - 1/4 cup taco sauce
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/3 cup ketchup
1 cup plain bread crumbs
2 eggs

Mix all together with a fork, except eggs, and taste. Adjust seasoning if needed. Add eggs. If mixture is too wet, add more bread crumbs. It should be a stiff consistency. Heat a little oil in a skillet on medium (slightly high). Shape the patties relatively thin (they won't shrink like meat does). Note: if patties are too thick, it will take too long to get the inside cooked and they will burn on the outside.

Cook 3-5 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels and serve. Makes about 10 burgers.

You can also broil these about 3-5 minutes on each side.

Note that if you omit the eggs, these will be prone to falling apart in the skillet so you'll have to be extra gentle when flipping. But I made a few of these egg free and they were still very good. They taste a little more like falafel that way but a very good falafel patty. :)

Lesson 6: What in the World is Going on in the Kitchen?

On the LineOkay students, if you want to work in a professional kitchen one day, or you are just reading this out of curiosity, then you need to know about the Kitchen Brigade.

Most of you know about the Executive Chef and the Sous Chef. The executive, as you all may have gathered, is the big nuts boy (or girl), the one running the whole show back there. If they are any good at what they do, they will be more like Chef Gordon Ramsay and less like wimpy Gomer Pyle. From my years as a Trainer, I learned that when it came to students, familiarity does indeed breed contempt. The more I'd try to befriend them, the less they would respect me. The same holds true if you are indecisive. I learned the hard way that you gotta walk in with all your peacock feathers spread out and show your confidence. It really helps to actually be confident and that comes from really knowing what you're talking about.

Lettuce Eating Gone Hog Wild!!

For ONE freaking day, it has stopped raining and the springtime sun has bestowed its grace upon us. Thank God! I'm praying for drought this summer. We are so soaked up here that we're almost waddling and paddling. Before you know, we won't even speak English...we'll just QUACK and have dunk offs.

Anyway, food, let's talk about food. You know I've been all up in my kitchen with the pig and the green stuff. I had myself a ball at Trader Joe's the other day and went nuts with the produce and picked up some bacon. If there is ever a way to be more one with the earth, it is to eat your way through it. Nothing says "Spring" like stuffing your mouth full of baby greens coated lightly with the sweet brilliance of fresh honey mustard and crushing it all with your molars.

I know too that I look pretty effing ridiculous eating like that. But really,

Dead Sexy Pate a Choux

The proper way to say this is "Paht ah Zsu!!" There, now don't you feel French? I'm feeling more and more "French" as I go through culinary history, food techniques and even having a little fun working on french pastries during a recent class I took at Kitchen Kapers. It's all about food with the French and expressing life and moods through what you make. You can apply any feeling to food, as long you always add love.

And speaking of love, nothing is as passionately creamy as a little St. Honore' cake. Made with a circle of puff pastry, pate a choux piped around the edge, baked, filled with vanilla pastry cream and then topped with whipped cream and optional additions of cherries and spun sugar, this is the food that your love should go to the trouble of making to win your heart. The french pastry is dead sexy

My Grandma's Easy Chuck Roast Recipe

This is something that my Grandma Ada made for us every time we would visit to her cozy home in Park Hill, Oklahoma. Surrounded by endless trees, roses, blackberry bushes, dirt roads and a sunset vista of rolling hills and cattle farms, it brings back warm memories of love and comfort. You use the beef juices to make a delicious gravy. I highly recommend making a side of mashed potatoes and my Grandma's extra sweet corn to go with it (see note about corn at bottom).

Ingredients:

3-4 pound chuck roast
Salt
Pepper
Flour
Unsalted Butter
2-3 Tbsp Cold Coffee

I like to start making this at 12 noon for dinner at 5 or 6. It's a great Sunday dinner plan.

You Know You're a Foodie When...

I have been a terrible blogger this past week. I'm generally on my computer all day long and all night long, with short breaks in between to play referee between my son and the dog. But I have indeed been damn busy!

Firstly, I was successful in make 5 quarts of white beef stock! Woohoo! See the picture to the left? Not so appetizing, huh? Well, it's not supposed to be right now. While it was simmering, it smelled faintly of beef and onions. You are not supposed to add salt during simmering either because you are to add it later when you are making your sauces from it. So, when I tasted it, it was pretty bland. But again, after storage in the freezer, one is to defrost it and make a reduction mixed with a pale roux and other delicious aromatics/seasonings to bring out the fine flavor. Was it worth the trouble? Well, if it turns out to make a ridiculously fantastic veloute and bechamel, then I would say so.

Also you all know how I feel about factory processed broths. They are high in CRAP. Meaning, they all kinds of

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