Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Whoever said, “there is no such thing as a free lunch” did not do his homework. With a little digging, finding a complimentary meal isn’t as hard as you may think. Some may require a little bit of elbow grease on your part, but at least your bank account remains untouched. With a few of these tips, you may actually end up with money!
Social events and festivals are a great way to fill your belly without working to hard for it. Small artisan businesses actually want you to try their new bbq sauce on hot dog or burger samples. With the high foot traffic, getting seconds or thirds will probably remain unnoticed. Want a whole meal? Offer to help for free in the booths. Meeting new people, probably getting a tan, and dinner sounds like a great day to me.
Want to get paid to eat for free? Become a taste tester. There are food labs all over the U.S. that want your opinion, and are willing to shell out up to $50.00 an hour for it. Large corporations rely on these companies to find out if their food is even worth pushing on the general public. Be aware that you have to fit specific requirements for that test. Age, tax information, and where you live may be asked of you.
Hit up your local farmers markets for fresh goods on their last leg. Farmers often have produce that cannot be sold for regulatory reasons. If you are willing to take a little risk than ask for what they can’t sell. If they say no, than move on to the next willing soul. Most people with a heart would rather see it go to you than the trash.
So step out of your comfort zone and eat on less than your budget for once. With these ideas and little creativity on your part, you might even be able to eat “on the house” permanently. Free just tastes better anyways, doesn’t it?
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
That's what my roommate said to me this evening while I was explaining what was going into my butternut squash soup. I learned about the spice Espelette through a fellow chef friend of mine who works at a hotel in Manhattan Beach, CA. He told me if I could ever find it, to pick it up for you don't need much of it and it has a crazy complex flavor. Most of you know i'm alllll about that. Espelette is a pepper cultivated in France. It is primarily used in Basque cuisine. Now their Cuisine deserves a few articles within itself. The reason for it's growing popularity is the mild flavor, but the peppery heat doesn't hit your palate until the very end. I knew it would be perfect in a butternut squash! The sweet flavor of the vegetable deserved a little heat. I purchased the spice through a company called whole spice. They are located in Peteluma, CA and offer so many different spices at very reasonable prices. I highly recommend getting their Harissa Blend as well. Spices are so fun so don't be shy with them. Give it a chance! :)
Monday, February 23, 2009
I have noticed that when I cook a sauce, and people are watching, there is a trend in the commentary of those observing. "I can never make a good sauce." These tend to be the words of choice. Sauces can be complex. but I have found that the simple ones tend to still pack a ton of flavor. If you have just baked a chicken or even seared off a piece of beef, those leftover goodies at the bottom of the pan should be treated with the same respect as the meat itself. Take your pan and place over a medium heat. add a little flour to thicken those goodies. This Will thicken your sauce and create a base. Add some good white or red wine, and butter. Maybe some finely chopped shallot? Season with salt and pepper. Remember to add a little more salt than you usually would. Keep in mind that your dish is going to absorb a lot of that seasoning. So while it may taste slightly salty on the spoon, your plated chicken might tell you otherwise. For you foodies feeling a little braver, below is a recipe for a wonderful apple and pinot sauce. You stay saucy friends. ;)
1 small yellow onion roughly chopped
1 celery stalk roughly chopped
1 granny smith apple peeled, cored small dice
2 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
1 bottle of pinot
1 cup of chicken stock
butter to taste
Saute onion, garlic, and celery until slightly translucent. Add apple, and continue cooking until all is soft. Add 1 bottle of your favorite pinot noir. Let reduce by half. Add 1 cup of chicken stock and bring to a simmer for 15-20 min. Take all, and emulsify or place in blender. strain. Place back in pan and add about 2 tablespoons of cold butter for sheen. This sauce is wonderful on pork, or beef dishes! Enjoy! :)
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Today I have had the most random of cravings for one of the bay area's little treasures. An It's It. I can't exactly leave work to go get one, so I thought I would do the next best thing and search the internet for a photo. Well that didn't ease the craving at all. In my photo search however, I did gain a lot of knowledge about this tasty morsel. In 1928 a hero (At least I think he is) sandwiched vanilla ice cream in between two oatmeal cookies and dipped it in chocolate. It's It was exclusively sold at San Francisco's Playland-at-the-beach for over 40 years. When playland was torn down, It's it was gone with it. In 1974 they were resold again and took off to remain a part of every child's happy memories. I love foods that have memories attached to them, and It's it was always the treat my father bought me at the end of our days at the lake. So do you have and great food memories? Share in comments! Gosh I'm hungry now. . . .
Thursday, February 19, 2009
You have no idea how many large catering events I have done, and had to throw away copius amounts of food due to legal reasons. Knowing that this is going on every day across the country is dishearteneing. Well the wonderful people of City Harvest have lifted that pain a little. They come, pick up leftover food, and deliver it to those in need. What a beautiful concept! The excess food goes to soup kitchens, senior centers homless shelters and beyond. We don't have one where I live, but I will donate to their cause. Here is their website for more information if you feel a little tug on your heartstrings. Go to www.cityharvest.org.
So this is possibly one of the best crowd pleasing recipes I know. I love the sauce because sweet and spicy never contrasted so well. Have fun making it, and let me know what you think in comments!
1 1/2 lb fresh shrimp (love florida pinks, but they are kinda expensive so whatever you find will do!) peeled, devained, tail on
4 whole eggs
3 Tbs cornstarch
2 cups flour or more if needed
2 cups coconut flakes
2 cups unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 cup olive oil (fatty but so worth it!)
salt and pepper to taste
1 half small red onion rough chopped
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/2 jalapeno pepper seeded and rough chopped
1 bunch of Cilantro
1/4 cup of lime juice
Combine flour and cornstarch in seperate bowl. The cornstarch is like the "glue" for your coconut. It will help the batter and the coconut to adhere to the shrimp. In another bowl whisk eggs until the yolks and whites are combined. place coconut flakes and unseasoned breadcrumbs in a third bowl. I like to create a little assembly line. Place all three bowls next to each other. Now this part might get weird but I have faith in you! Dredge (lightly dust) shrimp in flour and cornstarch mixture. Place shrimp in egg mixture. Place shrimp in breadcrumb and coconut mixture. Place oil in hot pan on medium heat. The oil should cover about 1/4 of the shrimp. I never said this was healthy. Place shrimp in pan and like mom always said: DO NOT TOUCH! let the crust develop before you move them around, otherwise you will have a big battered mess on your hands. You will see the coconut start to brown underneath, and thats your signal to flip. Place finished shrimp on plate lined with paper towels to remove excess oil. Now its time to get saucy! Are you ready for the directions to a perfect sauce all in one line? Combine all ingredients in Cuisenart mixer and pulse until combined. Done!
Chef of the day:
What does it take to be the most innovative chef of your time? I bet sleeping in a cot on your restaurant kitchen's floor was the last answer you would give to that question. Chef Ferran Adria has been captivating guests for years holding the lead in "molecular gastronomy" cooking. His famed restaurant El Bulli is open only six months out of the year. The other six months of the year, he spends perfecting his recipes. He is quoted saying "the ideal customer doesn't come to El Bulli to eat but to have an experience." With a 30 course meal, I wouldn't expect less! Noted for being obsessed with the use of science (N2o is his flavor of choice) in his cuisine has caused much controversy.
When I was in Culinary school, I became quite enamored with his book El Bulli 2003-2004. Now it wasn't so much for his cooking, but his style and blending the most unlikely of flavors. With items like frozen whisky sour candy, white garlic and almond sorbet, and tobacco flavored- blackberry crushed ice you can't help but be surprised. A person willing to step outside of the norm for his passion certainly deserves my respect.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
So like most people, I am really having fun in this recession. No really I am! I am typically not one to back down from a challenge. Let alone a culinary one. Being that I don't really have much selection in my grocery shopping any more due to the lack of dollars in my bank account, I have decided to embrace my economy and have fun with it! Low and behold, my food actually tastes just as great as it did before. Here are a few tips to help your pinch.
*Farmers markets are typically the freshest and least expensive place to find produce. So quit those huge one stop shops and embrace your local purveyors. With the money you save, by a big bouquet of golden sunflowers for your bedside. Look! you just saved money, made better meals, and have a little greenery to brighten your mornings for at least a week.
* Coupon it up! This clickable site offers great national coupons, shows your grocery stores weekly specials, and offers the best online deals. I figured out a way to get my husband's favorite $5.99 "designer" orange juice for just $.99. It's worth at least a look.
*Don't hate on canned goods. I know you foodies out there are squirming at the thought, but my friends desperate times call for desperate measures and I have no shame. Canned black beans, tomatoes, and corn, last a lot longer than most fresh goods. So although straight from the ground might taste better, 10 for $10 sounds a little better.
So go ahead and throw yourself a fab dinner party. I mean, you have the money to do it now right?
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Visiting my Husband's Grandmother in Napa is always quite the experience. I have never met anyone with such a great sense of humor as well as someone who is always on the "cutting edge" (no pun intended) on new kitchen gadgets. You name it, this woman has got it. From electronic wine openers to the perfect garlic peeler. One thing, however, in her treasure trove will always confuse me on whether it is funny, creative, or downright weird. So tell me below in comments! What do you think of the voodoo knife holder?
With the cold weather out It reminds me of all things comfy, cozy, and warm. Stew has got to be one of my favorite meals. It encompasses all things that I love. It's Healthy, it makes your home smell delicious for hours on end, it's super inexpensive, and it's quick to make. Well at least the making part is. The longer and slower you cook your stew the better for sure. I have also noticed that I don't think I have ever met anyone who hates a good meaty stew. Perfect for entertaining a crowd, or when your snuggled on the couch with your puggle watching HGTV all day. So google a great recipe and try something a little crazy for me. add a little cocoa powder in the mix. It gives a great dimension of flavor as well as a "je ne sais quoi" to the meal. For your stovetop (or crockpot!) pleasure.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Winter is coming to a close, and spring is soon to come! I feel February is a pretty random month for seasonal fruits and vegetables, but it does have some sweet surprises.
Citrus for example is at it's best. Mandarin's right now are super sweet and yield a lot more juice than usual. During my trip to Costco (don't judge), I came across a large box and decided that with my purchase I would get a little crazy and creative with them alll this week.
Last night I made a mandarin, and chinese five spice simple syrup. A simple syrup is just that. simple. It's equal parts water to sugar, boiled down and reduced. I boiled 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, 1/2 tbs of five spice, and 1/2 cup of my freshly squeeezed mandarin juice. With this little concoction I made some pretty fun martinis. But that's not the end of it. tonight I'm going to use it in a french toast batter. I hope this inspires you to go out and get yourself some great citrus. squeeze the fun out of it. Ha!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
With Valentine's day behind us, I began to reflect on what exactly I love. So I compiled a mental list of things I knew I could not live without. Of course there was the obvious such as family and friends, but what about the items that make each day more "lovable". Thus my blog about coffee.
Now I am faaaaarrrrrr from a morning person. So naturally a legal stimulant is a fabulous excuse to become one right? Caffine used to be the only reason that I would partake in my daily cup of Joe. But, as I became more aware of the sweat and toil that goes into creating a great bean, that quickly changed.
We have so many options now, but this past month I was introduced to (forgive me for being so cliche) Starbucks casi cielo. Wow wow and wow. The name means almost heaven and it holds truth. The bean was first roasted exclusively for only the finest restaurants in the world, but is now available for your pleasure.
I hope this blog encourages you to sit back relax and take part in a bit of liquid love today!