figmo: (Lynn-Lady)
It's Sugar-Free! It's Gluten-Free! It's Kosher! It's Vegetarian!

Better yet, it comes together in less than five minutes!

Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free Meyer Lemon Microwaved Mug Cake

.75 c almond flour or almond meal
4 T sugar substitute equivalent (I used six packets of Splenda)
Zest and juice of one Meyer Lemon
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
2 T unsalted butter, melted (if you use salted butter, obviously omit the pinch of salt)
1 large egg, lightly beaten or 1/4 c "egg product"
Lightly sweetened whipped cream for garnish (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk the almond flour, sugar substitute, Meyer Lemon zest, baking powder, and salt.

Add the Meyer Lemon juice, melted butter, and egg. Stir until well combined.

Divide the batter between two microwave-safe mugs, and microwave each separately for 1:20.

If desired, top with whipped cream.
figmo: (Lynn-Lady)
I was watching the so-called "Food Network Live" event this morning, only to find out that it wasn't "live" but had been pre-taped the day before. The special is usually entertaining to watch because it's one of the few times you get to see some of these food experts interacting in the same room in real time. This year's main four were especially entertaining because Giada DeLaurentiis and Ina Garten come to the table (figuratively and literally) from very different places than Bobby Flay and Alton Brown (who could turn a piece of lint into something entertaining). After a while, though, I found the level of enthusiasm over the Thanksgiving food really annoying, and I had to turn it off.

Every year we Americans get bombarded by all kinds of media pushing upon us this particular banquet of weird foods that we don't eat the rest of the year. The menu usually contains something along the lines of:
  • roasted turkey
  • stuffing or "dressing" (the same thing, but not stuck inside the bird)
  • gravy
  • cranberry sauce
  • string bean casserole
  • mashed potatoes
  • sweet potato casserole
  • dinner rolls
  • pumpkin pie
I never understood why we had to eat this food on this day. First of all, every piece of information we have suggests that the first Thanksgiving dinner had none of these at the table. Second, if these foods were all so wonderful, we'd eat them all the time.

The only one of the "dinner" foods that I like is the stuffing, but that is not a meal. I am okay with pumpkin pie, but it's not my favorite food. I have never been a big fan of pie crust and would happily eat pie fillings without it. When I was little I loathed pie because it involved this fatty, starchy, flavorless stuff. If someone had put streusel crumbs on top instead of pie crust underneath, I'd have eaten the stuff in a heartbeat. I have always loathed turkey. It has a nasty taste that chicken doesn't have. It's not the size of the bird, either; capon doesn't taste nasty. I will only eat turkey if my taste buds can't tell that it's turkey. I'll eat turkey bologna (the stuff with all the nasty-ass chemicals in it), for example, because it tastes like regular bologna but without the indigestion or the calories. (I can't stand the Whole Foods version because it tastes like turkey with bologna flavoring added.)

Then there are all the foods that mess with my reactive hypoglycemia. I never liked sweet potato casserole. For years I thought I didn't like sweet potatoes. Nope. It's all the sugar and marshmallows that's added to the potatoes that I dislike. Sweet potatoes border on cloyingly sweet to my tastebuds in the first place. Adding marhsmallows is...disgusting. I've never been big on marhsmallows by themselves; it's like eating a mixture of flour-covered gelatin and sugar. I never liked the mouth-feel of Jell-o in the first place. Adding sugar to something that's already sweet is at best, redundant and at worst, painful.

Cranberry sauce is one of the more pointless items on the table. It has three things going against it:
  1. It's sickeningly sweet.
  2. It's bitter.
  3. It has the consistency of Jell-o or jelly.
Why on earth would someone want to eat a foul-tasting piece of fowl with bitter jelly?

Then there's the string bean casserole. How many ways can one dish land me in the emergency room? In this case, at least two:
  1. I'm allergic to string beans/green beans. At best I get really nauseous. At worst I barf. Big time.
  2. I am even more allergic to mushrooms. That Cream of Mushroom soup will land me in the emergency room in no time flat. While it would get me out of the rest of the meal, hospitals aren't my idea of a fun place to hang out.
'Nuff said.

Then there's the mashed potatoes. I loathe the gooey, pasty texture of mashed potatoes. I like potatoes. I don't like eating paste. I like my potatoes to have texture. I like to bite into them. When Mom would swap out the mashed potatoes for twice-baked, that would add one item I could eat besides stuffing. Granted, stuffing and potatoes do not make a meal, but at least the twice-baked ones had skins.

The stuffing itself could even pose a problem. Mom used to put ground-up mushrooms in her stuffing. When my mushroom allergy manifested itself, I couldn't even eat that until she finally started making a batch without the damned fungi. I couldn't taste the difference without the mushrooms anyway.

As for the dinner rolls, they were nothing to get excited about. I've never been a big bread eater. Mom made bread nearly every day anyway, and the stuff she made was way more exciting than dinner rolls. Again, bread and butter by themselves are no meal -- especially white bread.

Then there's the pumpkin pie. I have nothing against pumpkin. I like pumpkin cake, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, and so forth. I like pumpkin pie filling. I could do without the crust. When I was little I wouldn't eat pie at all because I disliked the crust so much. I'm still not fond of pie crust, but I'll eat it. (I feel the same way about burgers.)

My mother used to make and host The Family Dinner. She'd start preparations of the "appetizers" (the foods folks ingested all day before the official "dinner" started), side dishes, and desserts for days in advance. These were okay. Mom could tell I was "growing up" when I started asserting my own culinary viewpoint on some of those, such as the time she and I made different versions of guacamole and let my aunt and cousins "vote" on which was better (mine won; Mom's contained mayonnaise!). My grandmom (Mom's mother) was sensitive enough to my dislike of the foods at the table that she started making at least one "alternative" dish a year. Sometimes it was lasagna. Sometimes it was spanakopita. At least once it was quiche. I was always grateful for that dish because it made the actual meal palatable for me.

Every year, the extended family would trek for miles to Mom's house for this. For me, that was the part that made this dinner tolerable. Yes, I don't just love my relatives, I like them. I tried to "like" football because I noticed that if you were watching football, you didn't have to do any of the "housework." As much as I loathe housework, I strongly preferred (and still do) conversing with people I cared about to yelling at a bunch of strangers doing stuff I don't care about. My brother somehow managed to disappear so he wouldn't have to watch football or hang out with us. The football watchers interacted with the TV instead of each other.

Eventually it came time to set the tables. Yes, tables. I did say extended family, didn't I? The typical crowd was anywhere from 20-40 people. As the dinners got bigger, Mom started putting the food in one place and the seating in another. When the "kids" started having kids, we had to merge the "kids" table with the "grownup" table. The "good" china and "good" silverware were used. After the main course, the non-football-watchers cleared the table. The part that forever tainted this nasty-ass banquet for me came next: Cleanup.

Mom would fill the sink with what I can only describe as "hot, soapy yick." The "yick" was a mixture of the hot water, all the dirty dishes and flatware (all of which had to be washed by hand), and the assorted detritus that came off them. As if being subjected to a meal full of foods I mostly either couldn't eat (such as the string bean casserole) or couldn't stand (everything but the stuffing) wasn't bad enough, I had to deal with The Slimy Tub of Yick. One or both of my grandmothers would take pity on me and take over, and then Mom would snarl at me to go "push them away" and go back to it, and we'd usually "strike a compromise" where they washed and I dried.

Grandmom passed away when I was 21. Nanny (my paternal grandmother) passed away when I was 31. The month after Nanny died, Mom was diagnosed with cancer two days before Thanksgiving and was in no emotional shape to do The Dinner, so Dad took the entire extended family out to dinner. We all got stuck eating The Nasty-Ass Thanksgiving Food at its most traditional (that meant I had stuffing for dinner), but at least there was no Slimy Tub of Yick afterwards, so it was an even trade-off.

The year after that, Dad was dying and couldn't eat. It was really hard watching him watch everyone else eat when he was stuck with his NG tube and ice chips. He wanted to be with the rest of us, so he hung out at the table anyway. When it came time to deal with the Slimy Tub of Yick, there was no one to spell me, but my Aunt Charlotte came over to help dry the dishes. My only "respite" was when my dog whined in a way that made it obvious to everyone that I "had" to "take [her] outside." Good Doggie.

The year after that there was no Dad and there were no grandmothers. Mom had passed off parts of the dinner to other relatives, which meant that the food was more "traditional." There was a little bit of non-mushroomed stuffing for me. There was dessert, but since my hypoglycemia was not fully under control, I had to forego most of it. I had to clean up, but there was nobody to relieve me from the Slimy Tub of Yick. Even Fuzzball couldn't help me because Mom realized that all I had to do was open the back door, shove her out, and close it. The day after Thanksgiving was Dad's (gravestone) unveiling, which meant that there were fewer relatives at the dinner because they were instead coming down for that. We had all this food I loathed sitting around the house. I was so miserable that visit that I swore I wouldn't put myself through that again -- and I haven't.

Until the last few years, I've worked broadcasting jobs on Thanksgiving, and then celebrated pilgrims and Indians by leading a pilgrimage to an Indian buffet. I like it that way. I get to do what I like to do, I enable other folks to do what they like to do, I get to eat foods I actually like, and there's no Slimy Tub of Yick. I've put in for a couple of broadcasting jobs this year, but it's probably too late this year for me to get anything even for Christmas. I would have applied sooner, but given my ankle and the surgeries, I wanted to be sure I was in good enough shape to work before applying for it. Oh well.
figmo: (Lynn-Lady)
The newest culinary "fad" seems to be microwaved cupcakes -- as in microwaving a cake in a mug. I was craving something warm and chocolatey this evening (so much that even unsweetened cocoa powder tasted good to me!), so I experimented with this and came up with the following recipe:

Sugar-Free Microwaved Chocolate Cup Cake

3 T cocoa powder
4 T Bisquick (baking mix)
4 T (or equivalent) Splenda
2 T butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 T milk

In a large mug, combine the cocoa powder, Bisquick, and Splenda.

Add the melted butter, vanilla extract, and milk; mix with a fork until most of the lumps are out (it's okay to have a few lumps; they'll "bake" out).

Microwave for 2-3 minutes, checking after 2 minutes. The cake will be a little bit moist and fudgey in the middle.

Eat and enjoy!
figmo: (Default)
Via [ profile] firecat: Bold the ones you have and use at least once a year, italicize the ones you have and don't use, underline the ones you use at least once a month, strike through the ones you have had but got rid of.

I wonder how many pasta machines, breadmakers, juicers, blenders, deep fat fryers, egg boilers, melon ballers, sandwich makers, pastry brushes, cheese boards, cheese knives, crepe makers, electric woks, miniature salad spinners, griddle pans, jam funnels, pie funnels, meat thermometers, filleting knives, egg poachers, cake stands, garlic crushers, martini glasses, tea strainers, bamboo steamers, pizza stones, coffee grinders, milk frothers, piping bags, banana stands, fluted pastry wheels, tagine dishes, conical strainers, rice cookers, steam cookers, pressure cookers, slow cookers, spaetzle makers, cookie presses, gravy strainers, double boilers (bains marie), sukiyaki stoves, ice cream makers, fondue sets, healthy-grills, home smokers, tempura sets, tortilla presses, electric whisks, cherry stoners, sugar thermometers, food processors, stand mixers, mincers, bacon presses, bacon slicers, mouli mills, cake testers, pestle-and-mortars, gratin dishes, apple corers, mango stoners and sets of kebab skewers languish dustily at the back of the nation's cupboards.

In my case I use nearly all the devices I've purchased. The breadmaker came from Mom's house when she was cleaning it out years ago. I haven't used my bamboo steamer mostly because I haven't been able to find it since my move (it and the breadmaker are somewhere in my storage room, along with my yogurt maker...sigh).

Right now I'm not doing much cooking because I can't stand long enough to do anything real and because my dishwasher is broken (which means I have to stand to clean up after I cook). I enjoy cooking and even have a few devices that I use often enough that aren't on this list, such as a pizza maker with a built-in stone (it makes wonderful 12" pizzas and piadines), a stick blender, a separate coffee grinder for spices, and a full-size salad spinner (great for cleaning greens).
figmo: (Default)
I've been doing a lot more cooking over the last few months, and I figure I ought to share a little bit.

This week I got to try out a Vidalia Chop Wizard at Warren's house. He didn't know his folks even had one. I used it to make soup this week, and it worked like a champ. You have to cut vegetables down to size, but that didn't surprise me. Whoever bought it had thrown out the box and whatever documentation came with it, so I didn't know it was dishwasher-safe. Still, I was very impressed. When I can justify the expense, I Want One.

I've been looking at food choppers. Grandmom used to have a device similar to the "Slap Chop" for chopping nuts, so I was curious. I tested out a "Slap Chop" this week and was underwhelmed, as the thing didn't rotate as promised. I also tested one by Cuisinart and couldn't get the thing back together. The only one that appears to be dishwasher-safe is the KitchenAid one. More research is necessary. I made the mistake of buying a food chopper for $5 at the Grocery Outlet, only to find out the chopper I bought doesn't rotate. Meh. Useless. The garlic stuck to it. I want the performance Brian Boitano gets with his, which apparently was under $20.

This past week's soup was French Lentil with Turkey Kielbasa. Click here for the recipe. )

The soup was a major hit. Everyone took seconds. I was able to let it cook while I did other things (like work, help Warren's mother, work, eat, work....).
figmo: (Default)
It feels so weird to have a laid-back day. This whole season hasn't felt like the Winter Holiday Season. I see some decorations (fewer than usual overall), but between the lack of employer-sponsored holiday parties and the tough times we're all going through, it Just Doesn't Feel Like Christmas. Yeah, I know, I'm Jewish, but I'm also half-Slovak, and Slovaks are always happy to horn-in on a good party. :-)

Today I awoke early despite the lack of phone calls (sigh). Not knowing what else to do, I started in on my other contract. A little later in the morning I went to see the worker's comp doctor. Warren was supposed to go to the podiatrist this morning around the same time, but he slept through his appointment. I rolled my eyes when he said "God had a reason for my doing that." When he called Kaiser to see if he could still come in, it turned out the podiatrist hadn't even shown up for work! Sometimes you win one, and this time he did.

It's the 14th anniversary of the day we met, and since I'm not working at KLIV tonight, we're going to spend time together. I have a late afternoon appointment with Dr. James, and after that I hope to go to Berkeley Bowl. After that we'll do a relaxed dinner. I have food for my KLIV shifts that I can fix quickly and that don't leave crumbs on the console and don't stink up the on-air booth, so I don't have to worry about last-minute shopping. I don't get a lot of time between newscasts, and since at least half the time I'll be the only one at KLIV, I need to be able to keep my blood sugar level while constantly going between the newsroom and on-air booth (without breaking my jaw again, thank you!).

Meanwhile, I think I've got a menu set for Warren's parents' Friday dinner:
  • Meat loaf, my style. Warren raved about it when I last made it. Warning: It isn't Kosher. I start out with a 2:1 mixture of lean ground beef and lean ground pork, 1 egg, mix it with bread crumbs and whatever herbs and spices suit me that day, top it with tomato sauce (mixing some into the meat) and laying slices of bacon across the top. I bake it at 350F for at least 45 minutes. You can also start it in the microwave and finish it in a regular oven to save time. If the bacon on top isn't crispy, I put it under the broiler to rectify the situation.
  • Some kind of latkes. Just to be different I'll either do sweet potato or purple yam. I'm pretty sure I have leftover shredded sweet potatoes vacuum-sealed in the freezer from the last time I did sweet potato latkes.
  • Wilted Spinach Salad. Warren raved about this one, too. I pilfered the recipe from Food Network (Tyler Florence, "How to Boil Water"). Heat 2T butter in a wide saute pan until lightly brown, then add 1-2 chopped shallots. Saute for 1-2 minutes till the shallots are translucent. Turn off the burner and add around 1/4 cup wine vinegar, the juice of one lemon, and 1T honey. Whisk to mix, then toss in a huge plastic bin (1 pound?) of baby spinach leaves, turning to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve while still warm.
  • Persimmon pudding. I am going to try the same recipe I used two years ago, but using erythritol for some or all of the sugar and using cut-up freeze-dried persimmons instead of raisins or fresh persimmons.
  • Nut roll. It's something Grandmom made every year. I'm going to try to do a sugar-free version, and since the dough doesn't contain much sugar (1/2 cup sugar to 6 cups of sifted flour), I can easily substitute it out. Warren doesn't think I can get any of this done, but the nut roll turns out to be a lot easier than it sounds (the recipe in the Slovak cookbook is "Two-Hour Nut Roll," and that was in the 1950s!) and is always impressive. The last time I made it was for a baked goods pot luck at one of my jobs, and it was the first thing to disappear. It's also a fallback in case there's a problem with the persimmon pudding.
I'm also hoping to be able to put out a tray of cookies Just Like Grandmom Used To.

When I was a child we'd go to Grandmom and Grandpop's house for Christmas. Grandmom and Grandpop were Mom's parents. Grandmom was Catholic and Grandpop was Lutheran, so we got to elbow in on a really good thing. The tree (always artificial -- Grandpop was strongly against cutting down a perfectly good live tree) was decorated the same way every year in an almost obsessive-compulsive manner. First the lights went on it, then the blue ball ornaments (later blue "icicles" when the balls were no longer available), then the boas of tinsel. It plugged into a rotating base, and there was a color wheel that would shine different colors on it. At the base there was a town scene Grandmom used to do. On one side the base was green "grass," and on the other, "snow." It was surrounded by a built-to-scale fence that was amazingly effective in keeping the dogs out. Grandpop had trained me in the assembly and decoration of the tree, but the thing at the base was always Grandmom's.

Every year Grandmom would make the same tray of cookies -- spritz, chocolate crinkles, biscotti, pizzelles, these little rolled things with nuts in them, and one other cookie that would vary from year to year. After dinner, Grandmom would delicately remove any leftover cookies on the tray, put them into their respective Tupperware containers, and put them back on top of the refrigerator (which is also where she kept the containers when they were empty).

The next year I'd be at Grandmom's and would see her take the Tupperware containers full of cookies -- spritz, chocolate crinkles, biscotti, pizzelles, and the little rolled things with nuts in them -- and put them back on the same tray with the same doily arrangement. When I was little, because I never saw Grandmom baking them, I used to think those were the same cookies from the year before!
figmo: (Default)
I was invited to [ profile] lisa_marli's family seder this past Saturday. I always enjoy going because I feel like I'm part of the family and because her seders are fun and not stuffy. Lisa asked everyone coming to bring "some kind of vegetable" this year.

Given that there were going to be at least five children in attendance, I figured I'd try making something the kids would like. Last year I tried making this old Slovak favorite using a head of cabbage and pre-made Passover noodles (the wide ones). The flavor was about right, but the noodles were kind of icky and mushy and fell apart. This year I tried making the dish using pre-shredded cabbage (the kind in the bags labelled "coleslaw") and homemade spaetzle.

The spaetzle:
  • 2 cups cake meal
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 3 eggs (next time I'll use 4)
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 T margarine (Kosher/Parve)
  • around 1/2 tsp freshly-ground nutmeg
  • around 1/2 tsp freshly-ground pepper
  • around 1 tsp kosher salt
In a food processor, mix all the ingredients until a soft dough forms that you can sort of drop off a spoon. If the dough is too stiff, add more water.

Using a spaetzle maker (or if you don't have one, scrap the dough in 1/3 tsp bits off a small plate), drop the noodlets into boiling water in batches until they float, then quickly pull out with a slotted spoon or small strainer into a bowl. Add margarine to keep the spaetzle from sticking to each other. Repeat until the dough is finished (you'll be best off doing this in 3-4 batches).

As for the cabbage, put around 2T margarine in a large enough saucepan. Add the cabbage, cooking till wilted and slightly browned. Mix in spaetzle, and add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle lots of dill weed on the final dish.

The end result was only slightly off traditional spaetzle in mouth-feel (hence my recommending one more egg) and taste. I had no leftovers. Next time I might double the cabbage (2 bags instead of 1) to get more of a vegetable component into it.
figmo: (Default)
I (obviously) made this last week when my loaf of low-cal bread was starting to dry out and fall apart.

  • 6-8 slices of low-cal bread, crumbled up into tiny pieces (around 2 cups)
  • two large eggs
  • two egg whites (I used the ones in a carton)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup Splenda
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used nonfat, but use whatever you like)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.
Preheat oven to 250F.

Beat eggs and egg whites together till well mixed. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix until well-mixed and the bread has absorbed it all. If necessary, add more milk.

Put mixture into greased pan, cover with foil, and bake for an hour. Uncover and bake for another hour.

The result is a rich-tasting, moist, fudge-y bread pudding. I like it served warm with sugar-free triple fudge ice cream (hey, why not?).
figmo: (Default)
Sunday night I had an awkward happening; a part of my suture from my injury popped like a zit, complete with white pus (eeeuw). My plastic surgeon is out until May 5th, so Monday I had to rush in to see the guy who is covering for him. The verdict: I have "spitting stitches." It means the "dissolving" stitches below the surface of my skin aren't dissolving. Instead, my immune system is rejecting them, quasi-dissolving them, and pushing them towards the suture because it's "the fastest way out."

The weirdness going on in the injury area might explain the migraine.

Today it's raining. I wanted to go work out this evening, but when I heard thunder as I was about to head out of the house, I decided a swimming pool wasn't the safest place to be. I also didn't feel like driving the new car in a "first rain" with all the folks who seem to forget how to drive in the rain, so here I am at home. Even Lady hasn't felt like budging.

Pesach has been rather awkward because we've got a matzoh shortage in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am having to make do with matzoh ingredients like cake meal, matzoh meal, and half a box I found lying around in my cupboard with the inscription "Kosher for Passover." Under the circumstances, it's the best I can do.

I am also due to make another couple of Mad Scientist In The Kitchen posts.
figmo: (Default)
Last night my hot-food aficianado friends and I went to one of our favorite restaurants that had reopened. Unfortunately, it had reopened under a new name and new incarnation.

The former "Asia Moon" on Winchester Blvd. in San Jose is now "Fuel - Simply Vietnamese." We figured it was just a remodel and name change. Then we went inside.

Actually, our first clue that things were different was that the restaurant seemed awfully dark for a place that's supposed to be open. As soon as we opened the door, two things hit us:
  1. It's awfully dark in here.
  2. They're playing really loud wumpa-wumpa music (the kind of trance/rave music you'd listen to at a rave, but there was no dance floor).
The new menus had fewer choices, and it appeared they had doubled the prices to pay for the remodel and the wumpa-wumpa music. We were in the back of the restaurant, yet the wumpa-wumpa music was still so loud we could hardly hear each other over it. Even our waiter couldn't hear part of our order!

As if the music wasn't enough torture, every once in a while the lights over our table would get really bright, then start strobing along with the bass notes coming out of the speaker. It was obvious the electrical system in the restaurant wasn't designed to handle huge speakers. Instead of putting the lights at a comfortable level (so we wouldn't have to use flashlights), they'd excessively dim them. A few minutes later the strobing would continue. When we tried to complain about the strobing, one of the staff members replied, "It's enhancing the music!" The strobing was soooo bad one of the people at the table was asking if anyone had ever had a grand mal seizure.

The food, a fusion of Vietnamese, Thai, and Japanese, was excellent, but again, it cost around twice as much as it should have. The wumpa-wumpa music and strobe lights made sure we won't be back anytime soon.


Nov. 11th, 2007 10:18 pm
figmo: (Default)
This has not been my week.

The migraines have been back, and it's been "arthritis weather" on top of that. I was going to work out Monday and then go to BASFA; instead, I went straight home and into a warm bathtub and then bed.

Tuesday afternoon I got a copy of the poster for my upcoming gig. A couple of hours later I got e-mail from the booker saying the headliner had cancelled, so I'd been cancelled too. Grrrf.

My first paycheck from the new job finally arrived Wednesday, and I deposited it that day. Bank of America, however, wouldn't let me at my money till Friday morning. This made things even more stressful than they had to be.

Tonight, just as the guy in the earlier posting had said, it was made official: John Besh is not The Next Iron Chef. I was especially bummed because Besh took a big risk by making a swordfish dessert. I was also disappointed that they didn't show how the judges voted or give any idea of what the score was.

I still say Besh should be an Iron Chef. He's fun to watch. He is daring. He's fun (although, as Michael Symon remarked, he was unusually quiet during the battle for The Title). He's entertaining.

In any case, I'd like to see Besh with his own cooking show, preferably either with an audience or cooking with another chef. IMHO he's at his best when he's got someone to play off of.
figmo: (Default)
I've been trying to spend more time in the kitchen. Part of it is budget-driven, and part of it is because cooking is a creative outlet for me.

Monday I did a simple dinner. Warren wanted to eat what he calls "my [his] bland" and what I call "gray meat." I bought some scallops and collard greens for myself and made simple buttered noodles to go along with them. The scallop preparation I was simple; I merely seared them in a little butter and did the greens up with a little garlic and salt. To add a little kick to mine I scraped my plate with a little Dave's Insanity sauce. That was just enough to make the greens "pop."

Wednesday I made a kick-ass dinner of sweet-and-sour meatballs, roasted brussels sprouts, and baked sweet potatoes. The meatball recipe is very easy: take meatballs (homemade or premade), and add equal parts of ketchup and grape (or similar) jelly. I had no problem finding sugar-free ketchup (the Grocery Outlet even had it on sale!), but finding sugar-free grape jelly has been impossible. Smucker's makes it, but I'd have to mail-order a six-pack just to get one jar of it. I substituted Trader Joe's açaí and pomegranate spread and it worked really well. The potatoes had an almost souffle-like texture to them, and the sugars in the brussels sprouts had caramelized.

This evening I repeated the brussels sprouts. Berkeley Bowl had huge stalks of them for less than $2.00 apiece. I couldn't resist. This turned out to be a major bargain because the stalk had enough sprouts on it for several meals. Warren had requested buttered noodles, and the main dish this time was monkfish, aka "poor man's lobster." I split the tail into several pieces of similar size, sprinkled them with a smidgen of paprika for color, roasted them in the oven, and served them with drawn butter. Warren was amazed. Dessert was quince crisp, which was the "cooking experiment du jour."

I'd never had quince before. Most of the recipes I'd seen for it combined it with other fruits, but since it was my first exposure ever to the fruit, I wanted a baseline. I peeled, cored, and sliced two quinces. I also tasted the raw fruit to find out why people always cook it and found it to have a strong taste of alum. Lady, however, liked the peels and kept begging and doing tricks for them.

On top of the sliced quinces I put a mixture of 2/3 cup rolled oats, 3T butter, finely chopped, 1t cinnamon, 1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg, and the Splenda equivalent of 1/2 cup sugar. I baked it at 350F for a little over half an hour and allowed it to sit in the warm oven while we ate.

I now know I like quince. This is good, because I had two extra quinces I peeled, cored, sliced, and froze.

Meanwhile, Warren has been obsessed with this weekend's Preview channels on my satellite. One of them he left on was called Verio. I was doubling over laughing watching this. Imagine a "crunchy granola" version of Food Network with cooking shows done by people who choose to eat the way I and many others have to eat. Eeep. After several minutes of it I had to switch it off because it was that over-the-top.

Lady has been acting strange. This morning she mewed. I looked at Warren after she'd distinctly gone "mrrrarrrwrrr" like a cat and asked, "Did you hear what I think I just heard?"

"Madam went 'meow.'"

"Good. My ears aren't playing tricks on me."

This isn't the first time I've heard her do this, but it was the first time she'd done it in front of Warren and the first time she'd done it in a while.

In standup, I did the showcase at SFCC last night and class today. I was going to try new material last night based on science fiction cons, but the group wasn't all that intellectual, so I wound up doing some old stuff to get laughs, resorting to my "Have you ever done crystal meth?" line. That one kills every time.

Today in class I did the SF con material. It's about how you can tell what a guy's been reading by the way he acts. "If he reads Bujold, he kills off your best friend, kidnaps you, and then you fall in love with him and get married. That's not so bad, but then you have to explain to him that babies don't incubate in vats.

"If he reads Heinlein, he'll expect you to have sex with his old man. I don't mean his father -- I mean the oldest man in his line marriage.

"If he reads Niven, look out for his 'gripping hand.' Then you get to explain to him that it's not a hand, and it's not even a foot -- it's six inches."

Now I get to figure out how to explain the authors a little better to non-fannish audiences.

Friday I had a little bit of trauma. I was the last one left at work, and when I came back from the bathroom I discovered the door was locked. I had my key with me, and this was when I had the misfortune of discovering the key I was issued didn't work. It took over an hour before someone could let me back into the office.

Warren had a similar problem Saturday. Somehow he locked himself out of my house. The only good thing about that was he discovered it's pretty close to impossible to break into my house. I almost went to work out after doing the SFCC showcase, but something told me to go straight home, and I'm glad I did.

The other thing going on with me is I need a new vacuum cleaner. Suggestions are welcome. I've heard Dysons are the best. If so, please tell me why. If another kind is better, please let me know.
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I watch Food Network. A lot. Sunday night I watched "The Next Iron Chef." This is a show where eight chefs get to compete to be the 5th "iron chef" in "Iron Chef America."

Food Network claims one of the existing Iron Chefs, Mario Batali, will continue to appear in "Iron Chef America," but the New York Post claims he's leaving the network altogether.

Anyhow, after catching the first show I already know who I want to win: John Besh. Even if the guy doesn't win I'd like to see him get his own show. I've seen him on several Food Network shows. He's not only a good chef, he's entertaining. When he was on Iron Chef America against Mario Batali he was a hoot and he beat Batali soundly. For example, when he grabbed a couple of lobsters he exclaimed, "Look! Crawfish on steroids!"

I was hoping to see more of Traci des Jardins, who was eliminated in the first round. I was really surprised they didn't bump Michael Symon, who didn't do well in the first challenge and showed no originality in the second one. I could see why des Jardins was invited -- like Besh, she beat Batali on Iron Chef America. I could not, however, figure out why Symon was invited. When he competed on Iron Chef America he lost. If he can't outcook an Iron Chef, what is he doing trying to be one?

Here's the part that gets me: According to the 7th response to this post, Symon wins. I have also read that Michael Ruhlman is a close friend of Symon's.

I am hoping the post is wrong, but somehow I fear it isn't.
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There used to be a restaurant in Palo Alto that served a "hot braised beef wonton soup." This wonderful soup had a strong beef broth flavored with star anise and hot chili peppers. This soup went away, alas, when the restaurant closed.

Recently I was scouring the Internet and found a recipe for a "Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup" where the broth recipe sounded about right.

Today I was at work, feeling a bit feverish, so on the way home I decided to make a "cheater's version" of this soup. I went to Piazza's, a small, local chain that has lots of esoteric ingredients not carried in The Big Stores and picked up some boxed beef broth, star anise, and a few fresh chilis. The store didn't have frozen wontons, but it did have frozen kreplach. "Even better!" I thought. Kreplach is "Jewish comfort food" or the Kosher equivalent of wontons.

I went home, simmered the soup with three stars of anise and two split chilis for half an hour. I then reconstituted the soup (which was nearly evaporated), removed the chilis and anise stars, and boiled the kreplach in it.

The end result could've used a tad less pepper, a tad more star anise, and a bit more beef flavor, but hey, it was quick and easy and close enough to hit the spot. Even cooler, it was Kosher! :-)

Sometime I'm going to try the recipe I found on the Internet and see if it comes close. Meanwhile, I just want to feel better.
figmo: (Default)
I saw boxes of this this in Walmart yesterday:

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Tonight I made a dinner worth photographing. Unfortunately, I'm still using my Grandmom's dinnerware (from the 1950s).

For those of you who care, the meal was even Kosher. I had picked up a huge thing of sole at Costco, so I've been preparing fish in different ways. Yesterday was oven-"fried" fish with red-skinned creamer potatoes "micro-steamed" (nuked in a microwave-safe ZipLoc bag), then seasoned with a little butter and sea salt.

Today's dinner was my soon-to-be-famous Bruschetta Fish and Pasta with Garlic Butter and Parsley.

The pasta was just half a pound of some yuppie pasta that looked like radiatore on steroids. I minced around 1/4 cup of fresh flat-leaf parsley and two cloves of garlic. As the pasta was draining I added two heaping teaspoons of butter, added the parsley and garlic and crushed two more cloves of garlic into the mixture. Once the butter melted, I added the pasta, tossed to coat, and added Kosher salt to taste.

The fish was five fillets of sole. I diced what came out to around 4 cups of heirloom tomatoes. I added a large chiffonade of basil (I'd guesstimate it at a little less than 1/4 cup), four cloves of crushed garlic, and salt to taste. I put the fillets on a baking sheet lined with foil and coated with olive oil, then topped each fillet with the "bruschetta" mixture, then baked at 425F for around 25 minutes (it could have gone less).

The end result was a really pretty set of fish fillets with a multicolor tomato sauce that tasted even better than it looked (and with five different varieties of tomato, it looked spectacular). The pasta looked and tasted pretty good, too; the garlic was even sweet.
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I wasn't feeling well towards the end of the workday and had a sudden and severe craving for beef barley soup. The so-called recipe behind the cut-tag. )
figmo: (Default)
When you're eating pie or cake, do you eat it with a fork or with a spoon?
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They loved the dinner despite the problems:
  • I used garlic chives instead of garlic powder, and I put too much buttermilk into the biscuits, making them come out flat.
  • The cauliflower needed 13 minutes to cook in the microwave.
  • While melting chocolate for the lava cakes in the microwave, the bowl broke, along with 14oz of sugar-free semi-sweet chocolate. I ran out to the store and blew a wad on a similar bowl, only this one by Anchor Hocking, and on 14oz of sugar-free semi-sweet chocolate (that wasn't on sale...sigh).
  • The lava cake recipe made way more than the ten it said it would. I don't know what they consider "muffin sized" tins. I used standard cupcake tins and wound up with eighteen of them. Luckily, Warren's father had two.
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One of the nice things about having a boyfriend, especially one with two living parents, is you can "adopt" them on days like today. My father died in 1989, so it's been a long time since I did anything fun for Father's Day.

Today I am making dinner for Warren's folks.

The menu:
  • Chicken breast strips marinated in French dressing.
    It's a simple dish. You just take the boneless, skinless breasts, cut them into strips, and stick them in a zip-top bag and add enough French dressing to coat. Put the bag in the refrigerator for a few hours, then either roast (bake) or broil. It's foolproof. The advantage to using strips rather than whole breasts is when three of us have smaller appetites and one doesn't (Warren, of course), this allows folks to take as little or as much as they want with no guilt.
  • Orange cauliflower florets with browned butter and chive flowers.
    This is another easy dish that sounds way more fancy than it is to make. Separate and wash the florets from two small heads of orange cauliflower, then put into a microwave-safe zip-top bag. Nuke for six minutes. While nuking, melt half a stick of butter till brown and chop 5-8 strands of chive flowers. By the time the cauliflower is done, the butter will be turning brown. Put the cauliflower florets into your serving bowl, add the browned butter, toss to coat, check the seasoning (add salt and pepper to taste), then add the chives.
  • Scalloped potatoes.
    It's one of Warren's mother's specialties, and she's offered to make it. Alas, no recipe here.
  • Cheesy garlic herbed biscuits.
    I cheat a bit, starting with Bisquick's Cheese-Garlic mix. Instead of using milk or water, I reconstitute with buttermilk, making for a richer biscuit, and add one T of dried oregano and sometimes some extra garlic. They're always a hit.
  • Sugar-free chocolate lava cakes.
    Warren's father is a chocoholic. IIRC Diabetes runs on both sides of Warren's family. I can't afford to be rushing to bed after dinner. This is the recipe I'll be using, substituting Splenda for the sugar and using dietetic chocolate. I'll be serving it with a garnish of fresh raspberries, sugar-free white chocolate (if I remember to bring it), and sugar-free vanilla bean ice cream.
I'm tired as all getout right now, but I'm psyched about this dinner. His parents are thrilled. At the same time they don't understand that I enjoy cooking for them as much as they enjoy the effort-free dinner.

July 2017

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