Friday, November 23, 2007

1 "Duff Goldman" Mystery Solved

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Ooops. I think I realized that the person I thought was actually Duff Goldman is actually someone else. Pure & simple, it was a case of mistaken identity.

I was just recently contacted by a former camper & CIT of Capital Camps who told me the first & last name of the person who helped us decorate the inside of the art shack with graffiti. And he was absolutely correct about that person's identity. And it wasn't Duff Goldman. It was as if a light switch in my brain had suddenly flicked on & then I remembered it all.

Well, they looked a lot alike & shared a lot of commonalities. Oops.

Now I can only wonder what the Ace of Cakes people are probably thinking. If they actually happen to be reading this post, which I realize is probably highly unlikely, please accept my sincerest apologies. ;-)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

4 Arrrgh! Blogger Template Corruption, Again!

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I'm getting really sick of my blogger templates getting corrupted. It doesn't seem to matter if I've got them backed up, because it still means I've got recreate the polls & other junk from scratch once I fix the problem. Backing up the template doesn't seem to preserve the actual data either. It just preserves the structure of the blog. Grrrrrr.

The blogger platform doesn't seem to like the custom, 3-column template I was created, so please bear with me with the current funky appearance of this blog. This not only happened multiple times on this one blog, but it's also happened to most of my other Blogger blogs!

I might be moving to Wordpress shortly, so stay tuned......

Do any of you have an opinion one way or the other on the various platforms, & which one you think is best? Have any of you Wordpress users found similar problems with template corruption (i.e., sidebars moving to the bottom of the page, etc.), or this problem seem to be mostly specific to Blogger blogs?

Would appreciate any feedback you have on your own experiences or general knowledge of the differences between platforms. Thanks!

-C

0 Of Thanksgivings Past + A Turkey Confessional

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Yes, finally! Some new material to write and the time to post it, thanks to today's holiday, Thanksgiving. What will this post be about? Why Thanksgiving Day food, but of course!

So, I was supposed to travel yesterday evening to be with family for Thanksgiving. Well, that didn't happen: my main squeeze, Erik, has been bed-ridden with the flu over the past few days (he was feeling very weak and dizzy), so I stuck around to take care of him. While I'll miss hanging out with my family and enjoying my aunt's Thanksgiving Day feast, there's a part of me that's also rather relieved that we won't be travelling on the road during one of the most traffic-filled and accident-prone times of the year! And of course, since I'd been expecting to eat Thanksgiving with my family, I had nothing prepared for today's holiday meal. So that means no turkey this year. Boo hoo. That was sarcasm, people. ;-) I'll confess that, while I'll occasionally eat sliced turkey as a healthy alternative to chicken, I am by no means a huge fan of turkey.

There have been a few rare exceptions: At a family Thanksgiving feast I attended two years ago, a family friend cooked an amazingly scrumptious and juicy turkey that I absolutely loved (Shock, shock!). Also, last year, Erik and I made a fairly tasty bird from scratch (our first joint Thanksgiving Day cooking venture!). However, for the most part, I just usually don't get that excited about eating that brown-feathered bird with the funny dangling waddles underneath its chin.

Even though I know it's not as healthy for me, I'd rather eat chicken. I can't help it, I just like it better. I'm sure many turkeys are joyfully jumping up and down upon hearing that. ;-) Not surprisingly, this taste-preference seems to run in the family. When it was just my immediate family getting together, my mother used to make chicken. Yes, that's right, chicken. Go ahead and scream "Blasphemy!" Whatever. Each to his (or her!) own.

Now, before that, when my sister and I were little, it used to be an annual family tradition to go to my paternal grandparents' house for Thanksgiving. My paternal grandmother would get up at 4 am to put the turkey in the oven. She'd cook up a veritable feast. She was a great cook and I loved many of her dishes, but sorry to have to say it, I just didn't like her turkey. (It was typically dry, and thus, hard to get down one's gullet.)

Every year, I would try to slip away from the table, unnoticed, hoping that no one would see I hadn't eaten the turkey. Most times, my "get-away" was unsuccessful: The older relatives sitting around me would usually demand a small concession from me, pressing me to eat atleast one slice, so I'd begrudgingly oblige them, so as to get them off my back. Looking back on it now, I think that, aside from a familial concern with proper nourishment, the relatives were primarily concerned with protecting my grandmother's feelings, as the lack of eating potentially could've been construed by my grandmother as an insult to her cooking. What can I say, small children aren't always the most subtle or tactful of human beings. After all, they are usually too truthful for their own good. Ah, the innocence (and bluntness!) of youth..... ;-)

Can't remember if she'd also make chicken as well, (which I'd probably have eaten!), but will have to ask my Dad about that. Anyhow, my point is that I didn't like turkey, even when I was young: It always tasted dry to me, but later I realized that it didn't have to taste this way. (Sorry, Grandma!)

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For most of the years that Erik and I haven't travelled places for Thanksgiving, we usually do our typical, traditional Thanksgiving Day meal, which for us, means, Gasp!, dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Or if we're feeling really lazy, Chinese take-out. ;-) As most people (who've lived in America and/or know anything about Thanksgiving Day) already know, Chinese restaurants are one of the only rare food establishments actually open on Thanksgiving. Not even the grocery stores are open. (That's why, in grocery stores all across the nation, the evening before is such a frenzied madhouse of shopping!) Actually, come to think of it, Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where almost everything is closed! Even on Christmas, you can find the rare open gas station, dining establishment, or grocery store. But try to find anything that's open on Thanksgiving Day! You're really out of luck then!

And heaven help you if your car should break down on this National holiday. Then you are really *@#$* out of luck! This actually happened to my parents. Just ask them to recount the dramatic story of how their car broke down on Thanksgiving Day, not once, but on two separate occasions. One of those times was many, many years ago, possibly before my sister and I were even born. If I recall correctly, my parents had gotten stuck in Rochester in several feet of snow. I remember my mother recounting how it was an absolute freezing blizzard, the streets were a virtual ghost town, and yes, this was well before the age of mobile phone technology. ;-) So my Dad had to walk a few miles before he hit any sign of civilization. I think he eventually found a gas station or an auto mechanic somehow, but as I wasn't there and don't remember all the details of the recounting of this tale, you'd have to ask my parents for the exact ending to that story.

The other time we were stuck in Brewster, MA, en route to my grandparents' house for the Thanksgiving holiday. This particular occasion I do happen to remember, as my sister and I were present, albeit this was several years ago, when we were just wee little lasses. I'm sure you can just imagine how restless two small children can get in the back of a broken-down car in the middle of nowhere! You might even have experienced this phenomenon personally, perhaps as parents of small children yourself. 8-)

Anyhow, I seem to recall I even made a live tape recording of the event. Don't ask me why, but for some reason, I used to carry around a tape recorder with me everywhere I went, and this trip was no exception. I guess it was just a phase I was going through, and I carted around the darn thing with me everywhere. (This was around the time when tape recorders technology had just broke into the market at large, and I was just another fascinated, tech-toy-obsessed kid getting my jollies from recording everything around me. This little anecdote also probably reveals how old I actually am. Oops, didn't mean to do that. Darn it! LOL.) Anyhow, one of these days I'm going to find that tape cassette and play it again just for laughs.

OK, whoah, that was certainly a tangent. What the heck was I even talking about? Oh, yes, Chinese restaurants, and how nothing's open on Thanksgiving. Well, thank goodness for Chinese restaurants, or some of us would actually starve on Thanksgiving. ;-) There's nothing quite like a delicious, hot Chinese food meal on Thanksgiving Day! I'm being totally serious! You don't have to cook, and you can still have the fabulous experience of dining out when everything else around you is closed!

Yes, nothing has really changed that much for me in this way over the years, even after many, many Thanksgiving Day celebrations. If I'm not eating at someone else's house for this holiday, then I'll most likely be eating Chinese food as my de facto Thanksgiving Day meal. Please don't feel sorry for me; I actually really love it! ;-) And for me, it's not just about the mere act of eating/enjoying a good Chinese food meal on Thanksgiving, it's about the memories surrounding the experience. I have many, many fond memories of eating Chinese food on Thanksgiving. Mostly with either friends and/or with Erik.

One year, Erik and I witnessed a lively birthday party at our favorite, local Chinese restaurant. The party was a large family get-together to celebrate one lucky fellow's birthday, which coincided with Thanksgiving. The whole family took turns singing karaoke, even the birthday honoree, who was, unfortunately for those who were listening, a tad bit tone deaf! But no matter; everyone had a great time. We were serenaded by the entire family, who prompted us to join in on the fun. We sang "Happy birthday" with them, which was a blast. We even managed to get a brief lesson of how to sing the song in Chinese. It was great!

I also have fond memories of spending Thanksgiving in San Francisco with my friend, Dave. I think it was 1995 or so, before Erik and I even knew each other. We had Chinese take-out and watched movies on TV. If I remember correctly, he had 5 other roommates at the time. They were a lot of fun to hang out with and didn't seem to mind that they were practically living "on top of one another." They were a very happy group of people. I seem to recall all of them had to take turns parking their cars in their minuscule garage, which was attached to their even tinier, horrendously overpriced flat! 8-)

And so, the word is finally out, Corey, the "Gourmet Foodie With Attitude" (G.F.W.A.), actually prefers eating Chinese food to turkey on Thanksgiving Day. And on top of that, there's the additional shocking revelation that she'd rather not have to cook on Thanksgiving at all. Oh the horror and the injustice of it all! ;-) Yes, as surprising as it may seem, sometimes, the household-appointed chef just doesn't feel like making the extra effort to cook. So there!

Now before you go on the offensive, and jump all over me for my lack of effort or desire to cook holiday meals, etc., etc., let me just say that it's my right to do what I want. :) Erik and I both work long hours, and have full lives filled with friends, family, and lots of extracurricular activities. And even though we both work out on a regular basis, we're still fairly tired at the end of the day. Plus, let's be honest: We're only human, and like any regular human being, don't always feel like cooking sometimes. Yes, Corey the Cook is telling it to you straight. I'm sure that many of you out there in the blogosphere, are probably nodding your heads right now. It doesn't matter whether or not you are single or married, with or without children, a homemaker, business-owner, corporate drone, or other type of worker-bee. I think you can still relate to what I'm saying here.

So, what's on tonight's menu, you might ask? Probably steamed vegetable dumplings, tofu and mixed vegetables, chicken with broccoli, and some fortune cookies for dessert. 8-)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

6 Foodie, Oh Foodie, Oh Where Have You Gone?!!!

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Rest assured, my friends, Corey the Gourmet Foodie With Attitude (G.F.W.A.) has not permanently gone into hiding nor has she been submerged underneath her kitchen pots & pans! I am still here! Just a tad bit busy here, as I've been preoccupied with several other things/activities that are taking precedence right now.

OK, I'll make you a deal: I promise not to talk about myself in the third person again, if you promise to cut me some slack for my lack of posts over the last several weeks! Heheheh. ;-)

I promise that at some point soon, I will start posting recipes & other foodie-related news & comments again. It's just that right now, my various business projects, marathon training, & running blog (!) have taken over my life. No, just kidding. Well, sort of. ;-)

As you probably already know, I have 6 blogs, to which I contribute when I can find the time & also, frankly, when I feel like it. So, sometimes I'm in the mood to post about these various subjects -- food, business, art, music, fashion, etc. -- and sometimes I'm just not.

I'm just like the rest of you -- I've got a full-life & career, with about a zillion different interests & projects -- so, that means that while I often have the inclination & the interest, I might not always have the time. I do try my best, but as I'm human & only have 10 fingers with which to type, you'll have to forgive me if I lapse on this blog, or any of my other blogs, from time to time.

If only I'd been born a cephalopod; then I could really type fast! The only problems would then be (1) a slight language barrier issue, (2) typing 75 words per minute, underwater, and lastly, (3) resisting the temptation to eat the really cool-looking, waterproof computer. ;-) Hey, you never know. Cephalopods have been known to do crazier things.

I'm sure you other bloggers out there can relate to what I'm saying. That is, about the non-stop multi-tasking craziness in our ever-busy lives, and not about the cephalod pod thing! (...Although it clearly might come in handy!)

Blogging can easily take over your life if you let it, and frankly, with my 6 blogs, 3 businesses (with myriad fashion & trunk shows & other promotional events), 1 cookbook project, weekly marathon training, & various activities involving 2 cats, 1 fiancé, friends & family, etc., I sometimes feel like my head's going to explode. And then add in the internet information overload.

I know it probably feels like you are sitting on a park bench (albeit a virtual one in cyberspace!), "waiting for Godot," or rather "waiting for Corey to post" on this blog, but I promise you that your patience will not go unrewarded.

I've got some exciting new recipes in the works, which will be released in a brand new cookbook. These recipes will be all-original recipes created by little ole' moi, a.k.a., Cyberpenguin -- passionate foodie, gourmet chef, & blogger extraordinaire. OK, maybe that last qualifier was a little much, especially since I haven't exactly been blogging regularly here on this site. But that's why you need to check out my other blogs, because who knows when the mood to blog will strike, or where & when the next post will appear. Your guess is as good as mine. ;-)

So, as a small consolation prize for your steadfastness & patience, I'd like to offer up blog content from my other blogs. Your welcome to check out the most recent posts from my running & fashion blogs, both of which contain several new articles, written over the past few days.

Bon appétit, & thanks again for your comments & emails, & for being such loyal readers & vocal advocates/fans of my blog!
-C

Friday, October 12, 2007

0 My Hiatus From Cooking

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Hi All,
I must confess that I've been so busy that cooking lately consists of the easiest things possible. Atleast the foods I'm putting together (if not cooking) are healthy, but lately it's been simple meals like smoothies for breakfast and soft-boiled eggs & toast for dinner. (Think I'm falling into Category #2 in my survey, "How Often Do You Cook During The Week?" ;-) That'd be about once a week. Yikes.) Really am quite the busy little devil right now, with yet another upcoming trunk show to plan, as well as several business meetings, etc., etc. Just don't have the time right now, & am frankly focusing on running when I'm not working. If you need your daily blog fix, courtesy of yours truly, you're welcome to visit my running blog, where I post almost daily, & sometimes even twice or thrice in the same day. I blog after every run & every time I hop on the scale, & also whenever I have nutrition/exercise psychology/fitness/running apparel tips to share. So come on over for a visit! Thanks!
Have a good night!
-C

Sunday, September 30, 2007

6 Recipe #22: A Healthy Mango Smoothie That's So Good You'll Think It Was Soft Serve Custard!

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Here's another original recipe that tastes more like a dessert than a healthy beverage:

Corey's Delicious Mango Smoothie


Ingredients:
2 oz. Lifeway plain Kefir (get low-fat version if available)
1/3 c. light vanilla Silk soy milk (the refrigerated version)
Juice of one 1/2 lemon
6 oz. frozen mango chunks
2 tsp. plain whey protein isolate

Directions: Pour all ingredients into a blender in the exact sequence as listed above. If you pour in liquids first, it evenly disperses the ingredients & prevents the protein powder from gathering into a congealed blob on the bottom of the blender. Pulse ingredients until blended into a custard-like consistency. Do not overblend, as you want to keep the mixture thick. Too much blending will liquefy the mixture. The consistency of this recipe should be more like that of a custard or soft serve ice cream! And in fact, it tastes more like a dessert than a healthy breakfast beverage! Enjoy!

Chef's Notes: It's very important to use frozen mango chunks, as this is what gives the smoothie it's excellent texture. The best kind are from Trader Joe's; I've found most other types to have a funky/rather unpleasant aftertaste. Also, be sure to use a strainer when squeezing juice, to avoid having seeds drop into blender. :)  And lastly, whey protein can usually be found at your local health store, i.e., GNC, or ordered online.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

0 Yes, Finally Some Foodie Content Again!!!!!!

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Yes, I know it's been an endless string of posts about awards & thank you's for these awards, & I bet you're probably thinking, "Enough already, when's she going to write some foodie content?!?" Or "How about atleast stringing us along with a recipe or two?!" Well wait no more. My stomach is growling, my kitchen cutlery & sense of humor are both sharpened, & I'm ready to talk about food!

Well, the new season of Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares has begun & Gordon is as blunt as ever! Certainly not a man to cower from confrontation, he's in rare form, once again telling restaurants where to stick their horrible-tasting food! But he's not all criticism; he pitches in, offers useful advice, & helps restaurants by retooling their menus & helping the staff clean up their heinously unhealthy kitchens that would make any health inspector cringe!

You have to be fairly thick-skinned to take his harsh-but-true style of criticism. While watching the show, have you ever considered whether or not you yourself could take that kind of bluntly delivered criticism? It might be uproariously funny & very entertaining, but I know I certainly wouldn't want to be the object of his fiery harangues! ;-)

I think I'd probably be like some of the more feistier chefs featured on his show, who'd give it back to him in spades! All lip & attitude, & a big spatula-smack to his rear to boot! Hahahaha!

I'd probably start out by getting mad, then get even (no, just kidding!), & then settle down & take his criticism. In the end, it's really the way you tell someone that their soufflé stinks, or that their menu needs work, that makes all the difference. ;-)

Ultimately, no one enjoys criticism, but atleast constructive criticism usually is given with the intention of helping you to get better. Gordon could use some work in the tact department, but then again, the show probably wouldn't be nearly as amusing to watch. ;-)

Heaven only knows, Gordon isn't a man with the time or patience to politely couch his constructive criticism in euphemisms. And his bluntness sometimes leads to drama & chaos, but I guess in the end, I'd rather have someone tell me the truth than kiss my ass. Wouldn't you? Atleast you know where you stand.

1 OMG, More Awards!!!!!

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YEA, YEA, YEA, YEA!!!!!! WHO-HOOOOOOOO!

Now I know Barby of Meh is just way too modest & doesn't want me to make a big deal of the award she recently gave me, but nonetheless, I'm going to jump up & down & get just as excited as I did when I got my very first award.

So there. ;-) My apologies to Barby for being such a spazz (& for taking so long to post this!)......

But I think it's very cool that she thinks enough of me & my blogs to nominate me for an award. Her blog, "meh" is totally hilarious; you'll definitely want to check it out if you don't already know about it! My sister, Missladybug of Ladybug & Co, was the one who originally introduced me to Barby's blog, so I must thank her as well! ;-)

So, here's the award:



...and the link back to Barby's original post.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

2 Wow, More Awards! Thank You, Yet Again!

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Geez, I don't know if I can handle being showered with all of these great awards! :-) You sure do know how to make a gal feel special. Thank you everybody!



Yes, I can't believe it myself, but I just got ANOTHER "Rockin' Girl Blogger" award, this time from Missladybug of Ladybug & Co, which brings the count of awards to four - two "Rockin' Girl Blogger" awards, one "Bodacious Blog" Award, and one "Totally Fabulous Blogger" Award! Wow, this is so COOL!

Thank you, Missladybug!!!!!!! I appreciate the wonderful mention on your blog, as well as the exciting, blogalicious comments you left on my blog.



For those of you who don't already know, Missladybug writes a witty (no, make that HILARIOUSLY FUNNY!) blog filled with all sorts of useful tips & advice. You will probably fall off your chair from laughing so hard!

As she's a doctor, writer, musician, gourmet chef, & just all-around talented renaissance woman, she's got a lot of good solid advice to give on multiple subjects. So head on over to her blog for a fun time & some excellent advice!

0 Wow, Thank You, Christy & Ann!

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This is me doing the "Happy Penguin Dance"!!!!

Whoo-hooooo! This is just too cool for words. I've won a Fabulous Blogger award from my blogger pals, Ann Clemmons of A Nice Place in the Sun (& two other great blogs) & Christy Zutautas of Totally Fabulous.

I would just like to say a huge thank you to Ann & Christy for my Fabulous Blogger award. Ann & Christy are not only talented writers & bloggers extraordinaire, but also very kind & thoughtful souls.



I will proudly post my award on this blog's sidebar for all to see, with a link back to Ann & Christy! (Click here & here to visit Christy's blogs & to read more about her. Click here to see a listing of all Ann's blogs & to find out more information about her.) So please check out their excellent blogs!

Friday, September 14, 2007

0 A Fine Feathered Fish Connoisseur!

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Check this video out. It's a true story. When I saw this, I just had to post it! There's nothing like fresh fish, especially when it's been hand- (er, flipper!)-selected just you by your very own penguin pal. ;-) Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

1 Feel the Love.....

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Oh my goodness, my BlogCatalog pal, Joolz888/JOolian/Julian, just bestowed a "Bodacious Blog" award on me. Thanks so much, Julian. You are too kind!

I will proudly post my award on this blog's sidebar for all to see, with a link back to Julian's blog! So please check out his awesome blog!

While I'm at it, I'd also like to thank all of my readers & blogger pals for your outpouring of good vibes & support. Right back at ya! 8-)

-C

4 And Now For the Awesome GUY Blogger Awards.....

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Now I just couldn't leave out the guys..... There are many very worthy & deserving guy bloggers out there too, whom I think deserve some recognition.

And so, & in the spirit of gender equality, & to show my appreciation to those guys who've been, well, awesome (!), I've decided to dole out awards to my favorite guy bloggers!

And so...... Drum roll, please! (DRUM-DRUM-DRUM-DRUM-DRUM-DRUM-DRUM!!!)

I would like to bestow the following awesome guys with the "Awesome Guy Blogger" award:

Chessnoid of Chessnoid Random Noid Musings

Cymrusteve of Run Bulldog Run & 2 other cool blogs

David B. Dale of Very Short Novels

Vincent Wright of Wright Hand Blogger & about a zillion other websites

RennyBA of RennyBA's Terella

RoarinRow of R Playground & other blogs.

Joolz888 of Just JOolian ~ Hippocampus Hi-jinx

Ryan0Rules of The Crazy News

ZMoney of ZBlog

Castaway of Run-a-bout! & other interesting blogs

Nathan of Nathan's Running Blog

Greg of Greg on the Run

Tom of Runners' Lounge

Bob of A Bob A Day

Francoyong of Mind Body Spirit And Fluttering Thoughts

LarryB of Mommy, Where Do Customers Come From? A Guide to Marketing & Selling to a Connected Customer

Vishnuap of Arbitrary Servings from the Noodle Joint Upstairs

Gashcrumb of gashcrumb.homelinux.org

Artknight of Spicypage Blog

SecludedHabitat of Sydney through a Local's Eyes

Fruity of Fruit Species

Congrats!

Feel free to show off your award on your site & link back to this post (like I did with my award & link back to BlackTennisPros, who gave me my award), showing proof positive of where you won your award & proudly displaying your "awesomeness" to the world (although you probably already know how awesome you are)!

I hope you'll enjoy displaying your award on your website! Please "pay it forward" & pass on the good vibes by honoring other fellow awesome guy bloggers out there! And while you're at it, you're welcome to bestow a few "Rockin' Girl Blogger" awards to some rockin' blogger gals as well! ;-)

Sincerely,
-C

8 You Are All Rockin' Grrrls! Now Here's Your Award!

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Hello there everybody,

As promised, I'm going to fulfill my responsibility as a winner of the "Rockin' Girl Blogger" award and pass the torch to other deserving lady bloggers. I'm happy to have the opportunity of passing on the good vibes & the respect! (Reminds me of the movie, Pay it Forward.)

So, I'd like to bestow a "Rockin' Girl Blogger award to the following rockin' blogger girls:

Bonnie of How Can I Do That?

Nubia of The Disconnection: Encounters with Strangers

Wikta of London, The Music, & many, many other blogs! (Thought I had a lot of blogs! Don't know how she does it!)

Missladybug of Ladybug & Co

Badthing of Marilyn's Non-Violent Planet Newspage & other blogs

Cutetoes of Meh

Slugger of A Nice Place in the Sun

Heather of The Wishful Writer

Anna of My Hints

Zvi Band of With The Band

Dana of Run Granola Run

TequilaMockingbird of Tequila Mockingbird

Amy of Runners' Lounge

Tracy of The Zen Housewife

Suz of Suz on a Diet

EJ Cooksey of Losing It - Getting Fit

Abi of Couch to 5K & other blogs.

Deann of Living the Life

Fishwithoutbicycle of Fishwithoutbicycle

Thank you ladies, for your bloggerific friendship, generosity, and kindness of spirit! I greatly appreciate your warm feelings of camaraderie & sisterhood! Thank you for being people of substance & doing it with style -- I applaud you for trying to make a difference by blogging about things that matter, &/or for just trying to make people smile & laugh, which is definitely a necessary part of living a healthy & happy life!

Congratulations!

Feel free to show off your award on your site & link back to this post (like I did with my award & link back to BlackTennisPros), showing proof positive of your award & your "awesomeness" (although you probably already know how awesome you are)! I hope you will "pay it forward" & pass on the warm fuzzies & good karma by honoring other deserving blogger "grrrls"!

Peace,
-C

Monday, September 10, 2007

1 I won a Rockin' Girl Blogger Award! This is SO COOL! I rock!

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Hi Everybody,

I'm happy to announce that I just won a award from Sheila of Black Tennis Pros. Here's the original post about it: It's A Beautiful Day: I Rock!.

So check out her very cool blog!

In my next post, I will continue the good karma by bestowing this award on other Rockin' "Grrrrl" Bloggers out there in the blogosphere.

So stay tuned & rock on!
-C

Sunday, September 9, 2007

1 The Email Letter I Wrote to Duff Goldman

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Hi Duff & the Ace of Cakes People,
I know you are all really busy, but I wanted to ask Duff a really amazing question: Did you happen to work at Capital Camps (in Waynesboro, PA) during the Summer of 1993? Because if so, I think we might actually KNOW each other. That year I was the art director at Camp Kaufmann. I just have to know if that was really you that I worked with all of those years ago. Too many of the details I remember about this person fit your description -- The guy I knew was around the same age & looked a LOT like you, was from Maryland, plus he was a graffiti artist, played in a band, drew these really crazy cartoon sketches of pickles (!), & happened to be Jewish, just like you. It was so long ago, but every time I watch your show, I used to get the feeling that I knew you from somewhere, until it dawned on me one day. If you get the chance, check out my photo on my blog, http://cookingwithcorey.blogspot.com, & see if you recognize me. I probably look a bit different than I did in 1993 (don't we all?!), but let me know if my face rings a bell.
-C

Saturday, September 8, 2007

0 Very Cool Update: Found More Supporting Evidence That I Might Know Duff!!!!

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OK, now listen to this! I just read on another blog that Duff is a graffiti artist. That's right, you heard me. Isn't that an interesting "coincidence," after what I wrote in my last post. What are the odds? Now, all I need is a direct confirmation from Duff himself, that he worked at Capital Camps in '93.

This is getting more interesting by the minute.....

Will keep you posted as new developments occur.....

Thursday, September 6, 2007

4 Duff Goldman, Do I KNOW You From Somewhere?

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In a recent post (i.e., two posts ago), I rapped about how much I liked Ace of Cakes. Or rather, more accurately, first I ranted about some Food Network chefs who annoy me and then raved about the Food Network chefs who rock, like pasty chef Duff Goldman & his crew from Ace of Cakes. :-)

Since I wrote that particular post, which ended on a discussion about Ace of Cakes, I started thinking more about the show. And then I remembered a recurring notion that I just couldn't shake:

Every time I watch the show, I kept getting this feeling of certainty that I know Duff from somewhere. I couldn't never seem to put my finger on the exact place or how I know him, but he looks really familiar. This is not out of the realm of possibility, since my past is in fact, connected to many people from Maryland (& Massachussetts, his home state).

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks -- The summer of 1993. Yes, I think I actually might KNOW Duff Goldman. (No, I'm actually serious!)

Back in the summer of 1993, before I had a full-time job in the real world, I was the art director at Camp Kaufman (the older kids' camp) at Capital Camps. I remember this kid who was an amazing graffiti artist & helped us decorate the inside of our art shack with graffiti! (Yes, they let us do that, believe it or not! Some of the kiddies got a little too enthusiastic though & couldn't resist putting some graffiti on the outside of the art shack while I wasn't looking, which they later offered to help me scrub off, to keep us all out of trouble! But that's a completely different story altogether....)

Anyhow, I think this guy was actually a younger counselor or perhaps a CIT. He had a skater punk kind of vibe & also drew these funny cartoons of pickles. (Judging from the expression on their faces, I think they were half-sours & not regular dill. ;-) Ba-dump!)

After all these years, I can only remember what he & his artwork looked like (his artwork was very cool & left quite an impression on me!), but he did look a LOT like Duff. In addition to the physical resemblance, his sense of humor, artistic sensibilities, hobbies, & love of food definitely all fit the description.

Now, it possibly could be a case of mistaken identity, but if that guy I worked with back in '93 actually WAS him, wouldn't that be a completely amazing coincidence??!!!!

So, just for the heck of it, I emailed Charm City Cakes via their web form & told them how cool I thought they all were & also how I blogged about them & am thinking about utilizing their services for my upcoming nuptials. At the time, I didn't mention that I might possibly know Duff from a previous association, but wouldn't it be really cool if Duff & his crew read this post & respond!!!!!

So Duff, if you're reading this, did you happen to work as a counselor at Capital Camps (either Camp Benjamin or Kaufman) in Waynesboro, PA??!!!! Was that REALLY you I worked with in 1993?! If so, you're welcome to email me & say "hi"! And even if that wasn't you, heck, it'd still be very cool to hear from you! ;-)

So, were you a graffiti artist in your past life? If so, it's good to see you channeling your artistic talents into something legal (!), like baking cakes!!!! 8-)

So how the heck ARE you, man? Judging from your show, it looks like you're doing pretty darn good! 8-)

-C

Monday, September 3, 2007

0 Prestone Punch, Anyone?

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In college, during the spring semester of my senior year, I attended a very typical college dorm party, comprised mostly of friends from our school's film appreciation club. The party might've been typical, but the beverage they served was anything but. I can't forget it, even until this day.

Called "Prestone Punch" for its radioactive-looking, bright neon green color, obtained by mixing untold quantities of numerous alcoholic spirits together, it was a favorite among friends. Now I know it sounds like it'd be truly disgusting, but the taste was fantastic; I'd even go as far as to say "transcendent." ;-) Some people drank it in large quantities to get drunk, but I actually drank it for its great taste. I swear it's true!

Yes, a drink worth leaving that much of a lasting impression is worth the effort of hunting down the recipe.

Now college was a long time ago. A few years ago, I tried contacting some of my college buddies from the party, but no one seems to remember the recipe. I think it might've had blue Curaçao in it, & perhaps some Midori (which would explain its electric green color), but I can't be sure.

So, if you happen to be a classmate of mine or from the same school during that four year period, and happen to know the recipe for Prestone punch, & strangely enough, happen to also be reading this blog post at this very moment (yes, highly unlikely I know), I'd be ever so grateful if you could send me recipe. :-)

0 It's Smack-Down Time: Nigella Lawson vs. Rachel Ray!

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Now the guys might like to think that I'm talking about something else completely different with a title like that. This is still the Food Network I'm talking about here, so don't get too excited. There will be no mud wrestling face-offs with scantily-clad female chefs. No battles to the death, with chefs armed with nothing more than spatulas and rubber chickens. ;-) (After all, how much could damage could a beating by rubber chicken actually do?!)

But how fun would it be to see Nigella Lawson kick Rachel Ray's behind?! Maybe it's because I really like Nigella, who seems to be genuine person, while I find Rachel Ray to be one of most saccharine, annoying human beings on the planet. Plus, her trashy "marshmellows-and-dorritos-on-a-spit" type of recipes make me want to yak!

Is it just me or does anyone else find many of the TV personalities on the Food TV Network just totally annoying?!

Let's start with the females of the species first, shall we? (After all, it's ladies first! ;-) ):

I find that some of the female hosts suffer from a serious case of the "squeakies" and some seriously plastic over-smiling.

Take note, Giada (De Laurentiis) and Rachel (Ray), high-pitched squeaky voices and permanently plastered-on smiles are just NOT appealing in any form. So just cut it out, you fakers!

The two of them are about as natural as polyester. :-)

When you start modeling your behavior after a Barbie Doll, that's really not a good thing at all. Barbie is inanimate and has a plastic head, which is sometimes gnawed upon by the family dog. Perhaps this lack of regard Fido has for Barbie should be a sign to pick a better role model.

OK, the Barbie-resemblance thing is just really flat out disturbing, not to mention the just-too-darn-perky demeanor. Frankly, it freaks me out. It's just unnatural, I tell you. I bet one of them is secretly on crack cocaine, just like Mr. Rogers! ;-)

I also have a sneaking suspicion that Giada is not as nice as she appears on TV. I can't put my finger on it, but there's something unsettling about her. Now I realize I have absolutely no grounds for saying this, but it's just a hunch I have. Maybe she's secretly been replaced with a Stepford wife and we just don't know it yet. So if her true personality ever had a movie equivalent, how many of you secretly think she'd probably have been cast as one of those snotty cheerleaders from the movie Heathers? ;-)

Atleast Giada's recipes do have some appeal, although she focuses way too much on pastas. Judging from the look of her, I bet she doesn't eat her own high-carb cooking. Or her skinny rear would resemble a giant pumpkin.

Next on the hit-list is Paula Deen. She seems to focus entirely on sweets and very heavy, unhealthy types of food. Not exactly a role model for healthy eating. Not to mention that her voice drives absolutely batty.

I have a fairly neutral opinion of Ina Garten's personality, but again, just like Paula Deen, she certainly uses enough fattening ingredients in her cooking show. I don't know HOW eating so much butter and cream like that on a repeated basis could possibly be good for you. Her poor husband. Although his taste buds might be temporarily thrilled, he's probably in danger of having a major heart attack.

Next up on the chopping block, the guys:

Does anyone really get Emeril Lagasses's off-kilter jokes (which most times aren't really even jokes) and his strange, ill-timed conversational pauses? I've watched that man's show a few times, and while he might truly be a great chef (I have no idea), his manner is really off-putting. I just couldn't keep watching his show. It was truly painful to watch. Like one of those of those TV shows that relies on cringe humor for laughs, except that, in this case, it's all cringe and no humor. ;-)

And did you ever notice how many spaced-out, freaky people are in his audience? It's like he intentionally scouts out the weirdest, most rabid fans out there and bring them into the audience so they nod vigorously in agreement with every strange utterance he says just like robots. Maybe the studio doles out a few rufies to subdue the audience and keep them from leaving.

To be fair, I have tried some of his recipes, but had to modify several of them into healthier versions or change/omit a few ingredients to make them more suited to our own personal taste. They weren't exactly horrible, but I wasn't horribly impressed either.

Dave Lieberman seems like a likable enough guy, but his verbal tics and show's repetitive format made me stop watching. Same goes for Napa Valley chef, Michael Chiarello. Both had decent recipes, but frankly I'd rather just get their recipes from the Food TV Network's website. :)

What I'm getting at here is that many of the aforementioned chefs are just NOT suited for roles as TV personalities, and frankly, would be better off resigning themselves to taking a job as a restaurant chef where their only interactions would be with kitchen staff (!).

And at that, I wouldn't be surprised if the sous-chef aimed a kebab skewer at Rachel Ray's head after the first 15 minutes of working in the kitchen with her.

When your personality is so totally distracting that we can't focus on your cooking techniques and instead want to jump out a window, maybe you should consider that a sign that a TV job is not for you. ;-)

Now before any of you lay into me too heavily for being "all rant and no rave," I will say this about the Food TV Network's chefs: Firstly, I do have many favorites whom I think have great personalities and are also great chefs: Nigella Lawson, Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, etc.

And I really like Duff Goldman's show, "Ace of Cakes." I like the dynamic of the people in his show. I think he has a really healthy attitude towards his business (i.e., Charm City Cakes) and towards life. You can tell that, while he gets the job done, that he never takes himself too seriously. I like how he injects a sense of humor into everything he does and is so laid back. (You just know that a man with the same name as Homer Simpon's beer has got to be a casual guy! :-) ) He seems like he'd be a fun/easy person to get along with and work beside. I guess it helps that most of the people he hires are his friends and around the same age as himself. Which makes for an easy and hospitable work environment.

Of course, this is a show about cakes made for special occasions, so I think I can let go of my "death-by-chocolate," soap-box style rant in this particular instance. Yes, I can forgive him for making hip-widening cakes because I like his show so much. ;-) The show's more about the creativity that goes into the cake-creation process, and about the people who make and also buy the cakes.

The funny thing is that I'm considering asking him to do either our wedding cake (which is most likely going to be just a small family wedding), or possibly a different cake for the picnic we're going to throw for our friends who live in the area, in celebration of our wedding. Yes, picture two giant bride and groom penguins... in cake! And when we cut into the cake, the inside of the cake will be red! (Just like the armadillo cake from Steel Magnolias!!!!) HAHAHAHA!"

Well, I guess I'm just another person who doesn't like to take themselves too seriously! ;-)

Keep Cooking!
-C

P.S. I promise that the next post will NOT be a rant. ;-) There might be another zany installment of "what it's like to write a cookbook" coming your way. Who knows what's in store. Not even me. I don't usually know until I start to type! Atleast this way it keeps it exciting for us both! ;-)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

0 Isabella Beeton, Mother of the "Modern" Cookbook

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I'd like to recommend a quirky little movie I saw the other night called The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton.

Appropriately enough, the movie's a biopic on the life of Isabella Mary Beeton (1836-1865), spirited British authoress of the famous Victorian cookbook & household management guidebook, Mrs Beeton's Book of House Management.

As the title suggests, the book is a guide on how to run an efficient household, providing, among other things, a compendium of over 900 recipes; the book was a best seller (selling almost two million copies by 1868) and was considered the authoritative guide of its time. It set the standard for recipe formatting that we still use to this day: The ingredients were listed first, followed by the instructions & special notes.

This apparently wasn't always the case! I'm sure the average Cro-magnon woman might've scratched out a few notations on a nearby tree, but there probably weren't too many guidebooks around back in those days to tell you at what temperature you should roast the saber tooth tiger kebabs. ;-)

I won't reveal any other details, as I don't want to spoil the movie for those who are interested but haven't yet seen it.

BBC & PBS will probably replay the movie, so you can simply TiVo the title to catch it the next time it rolls around. Or just rent it on Netflix or some other movie service.

The movie was very interesting & entertaining. I highly recommend this movie, especially if you are interested to find out more about the life of Isabella Beeton, Victorian history & cooking, & of course, the experience of cookbook writing!

-C

0 Recipe #21: Cranberry Mascarpone Mousse

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This tart little confection really hits the spot on a hot summer's day! It's also quick & super-easy to make.


Cranberry Mascarpone Mousse

Ingredients:
1/2 c. cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1/3 c. mascarpone cheese
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 c. water
1 packet Knox plain gelatin
mint leaves (for garnish)

Directions: In a food processor, combine cranberries, mascarpone cheese, honey, vanilla, lemon juice, & lemon zest. Pulse for about 30 seconds, or until smooth. Pour cold water into a sauce pot, followed by the contents of the gelatin packet. Let the mixture stand for 1 minute, then cook on low heat for 2 minutes or until gelatin is completely dissolved, stirring constantly. Allow to completely cool, & then transfer gelatin to food processor, and pulse until contents are combined, about another minute. Refrigerate for at least an hour (preferably closer to 2-3 hours) before serving. Pour into glass custard dishes (or ramekins), garnish with mint leaves, and serve.

Chef's Notes: If you prefer your mousse a little bit sweeter, just add another 1-2 Tbsp. honey.

Yield: 2 servings.

0 Recipe #20: The "Delicious, Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink" Oatmeal, Nut, & Fruit Muffins/Bread

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As promised, below is a delicious, fiber-rich recipe that I sometimes make in either muffin form or sheet-cake form. (OK, now don't get too excited just yet, it's not actually a recipe for sheet-cake!). I eat it for breakfast or as a snack. It's high-protein & high-fiber.

I've actually lost weight eating it repeatedly for breakfast. It's like a breakfast bar, but only tastier. If you make it in a sheet-cake type of pan, you can pre-cut slices into about 4 oz. servings & freeze them for future use. Or just store in your fridge as a quick grab-&-go snack.

I've made multiple different versions of this recipe, altering the fruits, nuts, fruit juices, & spices in the recipe, & I haven't made or tasted a bad batch of the stuff yet. It's almost idiot-proof. That is, unless you toss in something weird or totally wrong & disgusting like green peppers or pickled eggs. That was not a suggestion or a dare, OK?! ;-)

This recipe also tastes really good with dried fruits like dried apricots, raisins, etc.

So, without further ado, here's the recipe. Substitute ingredients at your own peril. ;-)



The Delicious, "Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink" Oatmeal, Nut, & Fruit Muffins/Bread


Ingredients:
1 banana, mashed
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 large egg
1 c. orange juice

1 Tbsp. orange (or lemon) zest (You can substitute dried lemon or orange peel if you don't have the citrus to make fresh zest.)
1-2 Tbsp. lime or lemon juice
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
3 c. oats, ground into flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp ginger, or to taste
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. clove
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 c. pecan &/or walnut pieces
1 c. apples, roughly chopped
1 c. blueberries
1 c. cranberries
extra virgin coconut oil, for coating the pan

Directions: Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium-sized bowl, mash together banana & baking soda with a fork & set aside. In an electric mixer, mix together remaining wet ingredients (egg, orange juice & zest, lime or lemon juice, & vanilla extract) on a high speed until ingredients are well combined; mixture should be fluffy & frothy. Then, turn down mixer to medium speed, add in mashed banana mixture & whisk together until just combined. Don't overmix batter or dough will become gluey, making a dense, hard bread. (There should still be banana lumps in the mixture; be careful not to purée bananas or bread will not become as light & fluffy as it should during the baking process.) Turn off mixer & set aside.

Next, sift together all remaining dry ingredients (oat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, clove, & allspice), minus the nuts & remaining fruit, into a separate, large bowl. This is a very important step. Do NOT skip it; it will help to further aerate the ingredients. Transfer wet ingredients from mixing bowl to this bowl & gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry (i.e., this is called the muffin method) until just combined. Bubbles should start to appear in the mixture, which is an indication that the baking soda & baking powder are reacting with the wet ingredients. Fold in nuts, apples, blueberries, & cranberries, & mix only until the fruit & nuts have been evenly distributed, which should only take a few seconds. Do not over-mix the batter or the softer fruits (i.e., the blueberries & cranberries) are likely to burst; this recipe tastes better when the fruits are consumed in small chunks.  Immediately pour the batter into a Pyrex glass baking dish, sheet-cake style pan, loaf pan, or muffin tray that's been coated with coconut oil, & bake for 23-25 minutes, or until top turns golden brown. Test with a fork for doneness; if fork pulls out easily without any batter on it, then it's ready. Let cool for about 10 minutes before removing from pan. Serve, preferably warm, & enjoy!

Chef's Notes: Depending on the thickness or height of your mixture, & also your elevations level, this dish may take longer to cook. To be on the safe side, continually check the oven while the mixture is baking to ensure your muffins/bars don't burn. Test occasionally with a toothpick or fork to see if it's ready; if the utensil comes out clean, i.e., without any ingredients stuck to it, you know it's probably ready. You can also cut into it with a knife to check its progress.

If you are using muffin pans, make sure to remove the muffins soon after cooking, so they don't stick to pan. (Believe me, I've made this mistake before; you don't want to have to employ a large catapult to heave out the ingredients, or be scraping out the pan until next Tuesday.)

When I make this recipe in large amounts, I usually bake it in a sheet cake pan, cut it up into bars, & just leave it in the frig (in a plastic/Ziploc bag or in a bowl covered with plastic wrap or foil) to nibble on whenever breakfast or snack time rolls around. Breakfast-bar-sized portions are about 4 oz., while snack-sized portions are about 2 oz.

Let me know how your version of this recipe turns out! Would love to hear what other ingredients you've tried using for muffins or banana-bread type recipes. I look forward to hearing your comments & suggestions! Thanks & Bon Appétit!

-C

0 The Easy & Painless Way to Get Your Daily Dose of Fiber (Without Cringing!)

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People, have no fear. I'm not going to instruct you to start taking those cringe-worthy fiber supplements like Beneful, FiberChoice, or Metamucil, or whatever-the-heck kind of fiber supplements are being recommended these days because people are apparently not seeking out naturally fiber-rich foods in their diet.

Well, I have an easy solution to this problem: Start cooking with oats, fruits (like apples), veggies, & other high-fiber foods.



Now, I don't want to send you running to the bathroom. (I'm sure that any of you Canyon Ranchers or other spa-dwellers out there will instantly relate to what I'm talking about here. Only someone who's been through that much fiber in such a short period of time can truly understand what it's like to experience this sick form of torture. So, the obvious lesson to tuck away for future reference is this: If you're not already eating fiber-rich foods, PLEASE start by SLOWLY incorporate these foods into your diet.

So, to help you along towards the path of eating more fiber-rich foods in your diet, I'd like to share some of the recipes I make to accomplish this goal in my own life. These recipes will be listed in the next several posts.

-C

0 Recipe #19: A Healthy AND Delicious Dip Recipe That'll Wow Your Party Guests, & Simplify Your Party Prep

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Here's an oldie-but-goodie I pulled from my original recipe archives.

Now those of you who balk at the idea of using tofu in recipes (you know who you are!) , you will be pleasantly surprised when you taste this recipe. In other words, it doesn't TASTE like you are eating tofu, which is rather bland & tasteless anyhow. (The nice thing about tofu is that it absorbs the flavor of whatever you add to it. It's the chameleon of the food world.)

Now I'd like to address those other people out there that've got it in their heads that healthy food can't be delicious: Just get over yourselves, now, OK? And try this recipe, which might just change your mind!

This recipe goes well with veggies or any type of snacking chips (like tortilla chips, etc.) Of course, it's a great thing to have on hand for parties, as it's a real people-pleaser & takes less than 5 minutes to prepare.

And no one at your party will even KNOW you used tofu. There, you've sneaked in some healthy & delicious party food right under their noses, & they won't even realize it! So how about that for a cool little subterfuge. ;-)

So, here it is:













The "Just-Kick-Me-Because-It-Doesn't-Taste-Like-Tofu" Tofu Dip

Ingredients:
8 oz. tofu
1/2 c. mix of mild, sweet pickled peppers: jalapeños, banana peppers, &/or cherry peppers (roughly 1/6 c. of each; just eyeball it by filling a 1/2 c. measure with equal amounts of the three kinds of peppers
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 tsp black pepper
salt, to taste (optional)
1 tsp pickling juice remainder (Use the juice from the can of mild, sweet pickled peppers.)
1 tsp water, or more (optional; add if you'd need to adjust the dip's texture more to your liking.)

Instructions:
Put ingredients in a blender. Mix until thick & creamy. Chill, then serve.

Now how easy was that!?!

0 Recipe #18: Shchav (Spinach Borscht)

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Shchav (i.e., a type of borscht) is a Russian/Eastern European soup made of greens like spinach, beet greens, swiss chard, sorrel, watercress, &/or cabbage. It can be served hot or cold, and typically has a tangy taste, which comes from the greens themselves and a souring agent like lemon juice or vinegar.

Although this soup is sometimes made with a meat base, this particular version is vegetarian. Hope you enjoy my own original take on this classic recipe!


Shchav (Spinach Borscht)

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. yellow onion, finely diced (about 1 small onion)
1 c. celery (including leafy greens), finely diced (about 1 stalk)
2 lbs. fresh spinach (or 20 oz. frozen)
1 tsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 qts. (8 c.) water (or vegetable broth)
1 1/2 c. red-skinned potato, scrubbed, peeled, & shredded (about 1 large potato)
2 c. green cabbage, shredded
1/2 c. fresh (curly leaf) parsley, finely minced
2 large, fresh dill sprigs, finely minced
juice and zest of 1 1/2 lemons
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 sprigs fresh dill, finely minced
lowfat sour cream or nonfat plain yoghurt
cucumbers, diced or shredded

Directions: In a large soup pot, sauté onion & celery in olive oil on low heat until soft. Next, add spinach, butter, sprinkle with flour, nutmeg, & a small pinch of salt, and stir until reduced. As spinach cooks, slowly incorporate broth/water, a cup at a time, stirring with each addition. Add diced potato, cabbage, parsley, & dill, & simmer for 35-45 minutes, & then remove from heat. Add the lemon juice & zest, & season with salt & pepper. Let cool & transfer soup to a nonmetal container. If serving cold (instead of hot), refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Immediately before serving, garnish each bowl with diced/shredded cucumber and a dollop of lowfat sour cream (or nonfat plain yoghurt). Enjoy!

Yield: 6-8 servings.

Chef's Notes: If you're aiming for a truly authentic-style preparation, then you should know that puréeing shchav is considered to be sacrilege. :-D Shchav is a rustic dish from the old country. Translation: This isn't some smooth & velvety, I'm-too-sexy-for-you, foo-foo-shi-shi soup. :) This is an in-your-face, chunky-as-heck, proud-of-its-peasant-roots kind of soup. :)

Also, other traditional topping include hard-boiled eggs and scallions, but I personally prefer it prepared in the above fashion (with cucumbers & sour cream), which is yet another traditional preparation.

Monday, August 27, 2007

0 Useful Kitchen Tip #1, or How to Avoid Saying "¡Ay, Caramba! I'm On Fire!"

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As many of you most certainly already know, the essence/juices of certain vegetables and other foods are particularly pungent (i.e., garlic, onions, seafood, etc.) or have a bit of a sting to them (i.e., chili peppers, lemons, etc.). And sometimes it's not always as easy as just washing your hands to get rid of the smell or the stinging. Once their essence is absorbed into your skin, it can often be very difficult to remove.

Additionally, certain foods, like chili peppers, can be particularly hazardous if you get their essence of your hands & then accidentally rub your eyes. Not that I am talking from recent personal experience or anything. ;-)

Heaven forbid you pet the cat or touch someone else & spread the wildfire. (Shameless plug, I know.)

Case in point: About two nights ago, I decided to make green chutney as a side for one of the meals that I was preparing in advance. (See here for that recipe.)

Let me first preface what followed by saying that I was tired & apparently didn't have my head screwed on straight before deciding to chop up the serrano chili peppers with my bare hands. No, apparently I was not thinking at all. Perhaps I had been sleepwalking when I'd wandered into the kitchen. ;-)

Well, let me tell you, it hurt like *@#$!%!. My hands felt like they were on fire. For several hours. Worse still, once the capsaicin in chili peppers absorbs into your hands, it doesn't just wash out. Even after several days of washing your hands & showering. That's right, you heard me correctly. Once you make contact with the capsaicin, it absorbs into your skin, so that its effects last PARTICULARLY long.

So, kiddies, don't try this at home. Unless you want your hands to look like one of those large foam props they use at football games.

Now, normally, my hands don't feel like this after chopping chili peppers. But then again, I don't usually attempt something like that without first wearing gloves. Doh!

So, the lesson here today, kiddies, is that when chopping up chili peppers or garlic, it's a good idea (hahaha, that's understatement for you) to wear latex surgical gloves. Surgical gloves are far more effective than your average pair of kitchen or household gloves, which are thicker & harder to use than surgical gloves, especially when you're trying to pick up or manipulate objects.

Surgical gloves typically come in different sizes (small, medium, large, etc.). Also, if you happen to be allergic to latex, the gloves also come in a latex-free version -- usually in either vinyl & nitrile.

Just google "surgical gloves" & you'll find several suppliers.

If you'd like to try a pair on for size, here's a place that offers free samples, Lifewear. Just call 1-888-878-0048 to request your free sample. (And before you jump to any conclusions, no, I don't work for them nor am I being paid to endorse their products!)

So, learn from my tale of misery & woe, and snap on a pair. You can better believe that's what I'll be doing the next time around I'm tempted to chop a chili.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

2 Product Review: Quick Mini-Post RE: Calphalon Pots & Pans

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As my blog claims to be about "Recipes & Reviews," I realize that lately it's been all about recipes & less about reviews (either restaurant or kitchen product reviews).

So, tonight, to placate my readers who want to know more about cooking gadgets, I'm going to take the easy way out & link to my sister's blog. (I know, I know. Don't tell me the obvious. Although I don't believe in making excuses, I will say this: I'm really tired & have a lot on my plate with my upcoming art gallery opening/exhibition/trunk show at the Sirani gallery, & other various actvities, & promise to write my own original material about cooking gadgets & the like when things calm down a bit & I've had a chance to try out new gadgets/restaurants & comment on them.)



My sister's blog (http://ladybugandco.blogspot.com) has some great tips on how to simplify (& thus enhance) your life. Not only does she give great general advice, but she also reviews & recommends products which help you achieve "simplification nirvana," that sense of inner peace & calm that comes from reducing the noise, chaos, & overactivity in our lives.

So check out this post from my sister about one of the truly amazing kitchen products known to man: Calphalon pots & pans. Enjoy!

-C

0 Recipe #17: Tantalizingly Transcendent Tiramisù

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Here's a much lighter version of tiramisù. Instead of adding nothing but full-fat mascarpone, I used a mixture of 3 parts non-fat, part-skim ricotta to 1 part mascarpone. Both have a light and creamy texture, but the latter is far less fattening. (Of course, you can also make the recipe with 100% nonfat ricotta; however, I still wanted to use a drop of mascarpone to give it a bit more of a creamier texture. Lowfat cream cheese will also work in a pinch as a substitute for mascarpone, giving it a creamy texture while still keeping the recipe relatively low-fat.)

Also, I substituted honey for sugar, which not only lowers the sugar content, but also works quite nicely with the ricotta and the lemon zest. All together, they form a sweet and airy concoction, so they are a natural compliment to one another, and the combination is typically incorporated into many recipes, such as honey-ricotta breads and cakes, grilled peaches with ricotta and honey, etc, etc.

Even though there's only 1/4 c. honey, believe me, that amount, along with the addition of the wine and the cocoa, makes it plenty sweet, without being cloyingly so!  Tiramisù is supposed to be creamy and light; its slight sweetness should be perfectly balanced by a just hint of coffee flavor. In other words, a careful balance and subtlety of flavors are the main objects here. :) This is a dessert that can stand confidently on its own merits; it doesn't need to "shout in order to be heard."

In addition to being lower in fat & sugar, another major advantage of this particular recipe is that it's also a lot quicker to make than many other recipes: There's no coffee to brew, & you are basically just combining all the ingredients and placing them into a glass dish. :) Can't get much easier than that!


Tantalizingly Transcendent Tiramisù

Ingredients:
3 large eggs, separated into yolks & whites
2 1/2 Tbsp. (instant) espresso (dry powder, not brewed!)
1/4 c. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. Marsala wine (or if unavailable, use another sweet, fortified dessert wine like sweet vermouth or port)
3/4 c. nonfat, part-skim ricotta cheese 
1/4 c. mascarpone
2 Tbsp. (Meyer) lemon zest (the zest of about 2 lemons)
1/2 tsp. confectioner's sugar
16 ladyfingers (use Bellino Savoiardi, if available)
1 Tbsp. Dutch-processed cocoa powder

Directions: Separate egg yolk from egg white, place into 2 small bowls, & set aside. Combine egg yolks, 1/2 Tbsp. expresso, honey, vanilla, & wine into a large electric mixing bowl. Beat for 1 minute on high speed. Add ricotta, mascarpone, & lemon zest, & beat for another 2 minutes on high speed, until smooth. Remove bowl from machine base & put aside. (Or, if you've only got one bowl for your electric mixing stand, transfer contents into another bowl, & be sure to thoroughly wash the mixing bowl before re-using; the residue of other ingredients will react unfavorably with egg whites & make them harder to whip into stiff white peaks.) In a separate mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 30-60 seconds. During the last 10-15 seconds, add the confectioner's sugar, for optimal foam. Gently fold into cheese mixture. Separate each ladyfinger into its two halves & lightly dip (not douse!) each side of these halves into remaining (2 Tbsp.) espresso. Start by layering 16 ladyfinger halves on the bottom of a 7" x 11" Pyrex glass serving dish. Spread 1/2 of the cheese mixture on top of the first layer of ladyfingers & sprinkle with a 1/2 Tbsp. cocoa, using a sifter. Layer next row of ladyfingers on top of the first & finish with a cheese layer & then another 1/2 Tbsp of sifted cocoa. (Garnish with dark chocolate shavings if so desired.) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Do NOT freeze. Enjoy!

Chef's Notes: Do not use the regular, sweetened variety of cocoa, i.e., the instant kind used for hot cocoa. The most commonly found brand in the tea & cocoa aisle of the grocery store is probably Hershey's, and that will certainly suffice.

As far as the cheese is concerned, the BelGioso brand commonly found in many supermarket chains is a lot less expensive ($4-5) than the brands found in gourmet, specialty shops (which can sometimes run up to $8-9 a pop). It's just a matter of how much you want to spend on cheese.

Frangelico, brandy, cognac, Madeira, and even sherry, can also be used as substitutes for the above wines. Don't be afraid to experiment with different sweet wines and liquors for your tiramisù. :)

The kind of Ladyfingers I buy usually contain 12 ladyfingers to a package, so that works out perfectly. No one will notice if there are 1 or 2 extra ladyfingers in there. :) If you can't fit the extras into the tray, either place them on top as decoration or just munch on the leftover ones with a cup of tea. :)

Serving Suggestions: Tiramisù goes nicely with healthy accompaniments like a cold glass of (skim) milk or a cup of herbal tea, preferably a tangy selection like orange or lemon, or a spiced variety like cinnamon or licorice, etc. And then there's also decaffeinated cappucino or decaffeinated tea.

Yield: Serves 4-6.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

0 Recipe #16: Caponata Siciliana

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Caponata is one of my favorite appetizers (antipasti). It goes really well with rustic breads, & also makes a tasty mid-afternoon snack. Of course, it's very healthy as well. :)











Caponata Siciliana
Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium-sized yellow onion, finely diced
2 large garlic cloves, peeled & minced
1 large eggplant (aubergine), about 1 lb., unpeeled & cut into 1/2" chunks
2 fresh artichoke hearts, choke discarded & leaves removed, chopped into 1/2" squares
1 c. celery, leaves discarded & diced into 1/4" pieces (about 2-3 stalks)
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded & cut into 1/2" squares
1/4 c. peperoncini (marinated, sweet banana peppers), seeded & cut into 1/2" squares (about 3 whole medium-sized peppers)
3 Tbsp. capers, drained
4 large, vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. lemon zest
4 small anchovy fillets, soaked in milk for 10 minutes (to remove "fishiness"), then drained, & chopped (optional)
14 green (&/or black, i.e., Kalamata/Greek) olives, chopped into small pieces
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 Tbsp. Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano leaves (about 2 sprigs)
2 tsp. thyme leaves (about 3 sprigs)

Directions: Sauté onion & garlic in olive oil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add eggplant & artichokes & cook for about 5-6 minutes, stirring often. Then add celery, bell pepper, & peperoncini. Cover & cook until firm but tender, about 5-6 more minutes. Add capers, olives, tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, lemon zest, parsley, oregano, thyme, & anchovies (optional) & bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Season with black pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, until the mixture has a thick & chunky texture, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a container & cool. Cover with sealable lid & chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving. 

Yield: About 6-8 c.

Serving Suggestions: Garnish with 10-12 handful fresh basil leaves (torn into small pieces), 3 Tbsp. lightly toasted pinenuts (or almonds or soy nuts for a healthier alternative), & Asiago shavings. (If you like your caponata with more heat, you could also add 1/8 tsp. crushed red chili pepper flakes.) Serve with lemon wedges & toasted ciabatta. You can either serve the caponata on a single slice of ciabatta (open-faced), or make a sandwich with two slices of ciabatta. If you'd rather skip the bread products, you can also serve the caponata on slices of tomatoes or grilled zucchini. Caponata also makes an excellent topping for pasta or pizza.

Alternate Preparation Ideas: The other way you can make this dish is by cooking only the onions, celery, & eggplant, & then combining them with the rest of the ingredients in their raw form. Also, if (1 large) eggplant is unavailable, 2 mediums-sized zucchini will make a nice substitute.

To make this recipe vegetarian or vegan, simply omit the anchovies soaked in milk.

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