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.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

1 My Cookbook: A Work in Progress......

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Today, I finished the introduction of my new cookbook. I had a really good time writing it, & the words flowed very easily onto the page.

I kept laughing all the while I was composing it, which is of course a good sign.

At times, it felt like I was doing stand-up at Caesar (Salad)'s Palace. Ba-dump! (OK, insert "groan" here. ;-) )


Yes, imagine culinary jokes like:

"What did the meatloaf say when it fell on top of the Keylime pie?


OR.....

"What did the Chicken Paprikash say to the bowl of brussel spouts?


Ugh! Ack! Eek!

Seriously folks, even though in the above instance, I was trying to tell "gawd-awful" jokes on purpose, I know that, in any event, it wouldn't be a wise thing for me to even try to tell GOOD jokes, let alone attempt a career in stand-up comedy. Pure folly, I tell you!

I know I'd probably stink at it, as I'm not the "telling jokes" kind of funny, but rather have been told that I'm at my funniest when I tell stories & anecdotes. My fiancé likes to say that that "I'm funniest when I'm NOT trying to be funny," or that "I'm the 'natural' kind of funny that can't be taught." He tells me that he often laughs at the way I say something. Or maybe he's just laughing at me for other reasons. ;-)

-C

2 A Piece Of My Culinary Mind... In Cookbook Format!

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Hello Everyone,

I hope that you've enjoyed reading my blog and trying out some of the new and original recipes I've posted here.

For those of you who like what you've read (or tasted!) so far, you'll be happy to know that I'm working on compiling a new cookbook of all-original, gourmet recipes, which have come from the inner recesses of my feisty, culinary mind.

I promise that using my cookbook will be just like having a pint-sized version of me standing alongside you while you cook (in cookbook form, mind you), cheering you on, & entertaining you with the same brand of take-no-prisoners, off-the-cuff brand of humor you read right here in this blog.

For those of you interested in finding out more about my cookbook, rest assured that I will be blogging about it from time to time. Also, you're welcome to comment about it on my blog or email me. I'm always happy to hear from readers!

Happy Cooking!
-C

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

0 Shop at Your Local Ethnic Grocery Store & Save Big $$$$

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Yo, people, here's a word to the wise: If you buy your spices in bulk & shop at places like your local Indian market (or other ethnic market), you can often save big bucks.

Link to this page in a new windowNow I don't skimp on quality ingredients, but why pay more if you don't have to pay it? Spend your money elsewhere, like on a 10-piece set of hard-anodized Link to this page in a new window cookware. A much better investment, & more long-term bang for your buckola.



Example: I paid just $3.99 for a 14 oz. bag of Laxmi brand cumin seeds (or $0.29 per ounce) at my local Indian market, for which I would've paid $40.04 (or $2.86 per ounce!) for that same bag at the regular generic grocery store; and THAT size bag, my friends, bag isn't even available at the generic grocery store. You do the math.

Or, if you're feeling lazy & don't feel like doing the math for some reason, let me translate for you: You'd be paying over 10 times (Yikes!) what you might've paid if you'd only have gone to the Indian market.

What a rip-off, eh?!

If a light bulb has suddenly gone off in your head, congratulate yourself. Now, you're catching on. ;-)

That little glass McCormick bottle of ground cardamom that costs over 11 bucks? Don't even THINK about dropping the cash. If you've already done so, go & have a little cry in the corner & then promptly smack some sense into yourself & tell yourself to NEVER do that again. People, it's a scam, I tell you, a SCAM!


Out of sheer laziness, people consciously opt to get ripped off instead of putting a minor amount of effort into finding it somewhere else for cheaper. I mean for chrissakes, there's the internet, people. Even if you don't have a local ethnic grocer near you, you just don't have a good excuse for why you can't get it cheaper somewhere else. You don't even have to leave your house to find a good deal. Buy it online in bulk with a place that has free shipping -- And while you're at it, find a place out-of-state & get it tax free too!

If you do lots of international cooking like me, trust me, you'll want to buy in bulk.

Monday, August 20, 2007

3 "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares" is Bloody Brilliant Television, If I Do Say So Myself!

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Is anyone else a fan of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares? A friend of ours got us into this show & it's "bloody brilliant television, if I do say so, young chap"! ;-)

Meet Gordon Ramsay -- ex-professional footballer, 7-Michelin star restauranteur, & foul-mouthed chef who isn't afraid to tell it like it is to failing restaurant owners & cooks who need all the help they can get. This show is hilarious! It's reality TV at its funniest & most outrageous!

Apparently, there's an American version of the show, done in a different format. I haven't seen the American version of the show yet (not sure which channel or of the exact airing date), but have heard that it's not going to be in the same format as the British version. Of course, I imagine that they'd have to bleep out the entire show, unless it was on a pay cable channel like HBO. ;-)

Here's the BBC America program info: Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.



0 You'll Find Only Delicious, Taste-Tested Recipes Here!

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Hi Everyone,
Just letting you know that all of the recipes you see here on this blog have been taste-tested by yours truly (as well as by family & friends). I only post recipes that I've made myself & truly enjoy. As they say, good cooks taste their own food!
-C

1 Recipe #15: Strawberry Banana Cookies

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Eureka, I did it! After much trial and error, I finally managed to create a successful sugar-free cookie recipe that tastes really yummy! The secret is in the bananas, strawberries, & honey, which give the cookies a moist & creamy taste, and also help to bind all the ingredients together. Strawberries and bananas are the perfect complement to one another: The sweet and tart flavors balance each other out quite nicely. Hope you enjoy this recipe!


Strawberry Banana Cookies

Ingredients:
1 c. bananas (about 2 bananas), mashed
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. strawberries, chopped into small pieces
1/2 c. butter (1 stick), room temperature
1/2 c. honey
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. walnuts or pecans

Directions: Preheat oven to 375°F. In mixing bowl, thoroughly combine bananas and baking soda, and let it sit for a minute or two so that the acid in the bananas can react with the alkaline (base) salt in the baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Then gently mix in strawberries & set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter & honey together, & then mix in egg & vanilla extract. Next, add flour & salt & stir thoroughly. Pour in fruit mixture & nuts, & mix well. Spoon out a dollop of batter onto a nonstick cookie tray. Bake 11-13 minutes or until golden brown.

Yield: About 30 cookies.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

0 My New Creation: Licorice Spice Tea

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Yesterday I concocted another new tea spice mix, "Licorice Spice," which has hints of licorice, cinammon, orange peel, & other yummy flavors. Like my other original spice blend (i.e., my masala tea mix), the licorice spice mix is supposed to be added to a cup of piping hot tea.

As with my masala tea mix, I personally prefer to use decaf Green tea or decaf Jasmine tea. Unlike the masala tea mix, the licorice spice mix isn't really meant to be taken with milk, although you can certainly add sugar.



I'm excited to announce that both of these tea spice mixes (along with other products) will soon be available for sale at my new online store. Check out the related blog & website: Lady Bug Tea Company Blog & Lady Bug Tea Company Online Store for more information. (The website is currently under construction, but check back in about a week or so for further sales & product information.)

Also, see my sister's blog, Ladybug & Co.: Simplification of the Modern World & website, Ladybug & Co.: We Do the Crawling For You, for other great lifestyle products & services.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

0 Recipe #14: Surprising Summer Omelette, Take Two

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Tonight I cooked a different version of my "surprising summer omelette" for my family, & prepared the rest of the casaba melon for dessert. (The original omelette recipe can be found here.)
This new recipe got even bigger rave reviews than the original, as "the best omelette I've made yet."


Corey's Surprising Summer Omelette, Take Two

Ingredients:
1/8 tsp. butter (or less), to season pan
2 eggs
1/4 c. non-dairy "lite" creamer
1/4 c. soy milk
1-2 oz. cheddar cheese, cubed
1-2 sprinkles of shredded asiago cheese
2-3 sliced fresh mushrooms
2 sprigs fresh oregano, use leaves only
2-3 sprigs fresh parsley, finely chopped
dried spice mix, consisting of 1/4 tsp each of thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, marjoram, sesame seeds, & black pepper
2 kalamata & 2 greek olives, pitted & sliced
3-4 sun-dried tomatoes, (i.e., the kind that's not packed in oil), sliced julienne
1-2 tsp. capers
fresh cracked pepper to taste

Instructions:
Prepare all dry ingredients (including fresh spices & veggies) & put in separate bowls. Set aside. Mix together eggs, creamer, & soy milk. Season nonstick omelette pan with butter. Heat omelette pan to medium-high heat. Pour in egg mixture. Sprinkle dry & fresh spices on top, followed by cheeses, then mushrooms & olives, sun-dried tomatoes, & capers. Turn down heat to medium-low. Fold omelette over as soon as eggs solidly congeal in pan.

Yield: Makes 1 serving.

Important Tip: Make sure you do not fold the omelette prematurely, as this will make it harder to flip the omelette later, & thus, also harder to cook it evenly. Flip omelette when it's reached a light golden brown color, and cook for another 1-2 minutes, or until a light golden brown on both sides. Be sure to watch omelette carefully so it doesn't burn.

Transfer omelette onto a plate & grind fresh black pepper on top. Et le voilà. You have a beautiful & delicious summer omelette!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

0 Recipe #13: Fennel Bean Soup & Some Procrastination!

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For dinner tonight, we had my fennel bean soup, some barbecued chicken, salad with my cilantro lemon ginger dressing, left-over string beans (marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, & sesame seeds), and some marinated zucchini & eggplant I made on the grill. For dessert, we had casaba melon & my masala tea. (The recipes for most of these items are listed here on my blog.)

Yes, I know I still have to post the fennel bean soup recipe that I mentioned in earlier posts. For some reason, I keep procrastinating about posting this recipe. I think too much time has passed since I made it for me to remember everything I did. Perhaps I shall have to cook it again to remember! Hahaha!

I'll just make a quick attempt to scribble down the ingredients here, and then will revise what I write later to make it into an official "recipe."


Fennel Bean Soup

Ingredients (that I can remember!):
fennel stalks & fronds only (Note: The bulb should be reserved for the Tomato Fennel Salad recipe.)
Cannellini beans (dried kind in a bag)
red potatoes, peeled & diced
carrots
celery
leeks
Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
scallions? (Can't remember if I tossed these in or not; I'm thinking maybe not.)
garlic cloves, minced
fresh dill
fresh oregano
fresh thyme
fresh basil
bay leaves
salt
pepper
coriander
fennel seeds
nutmeg
allspice
soy milk

That's all I can seem to remember right now. Too tired to write much more! I made a late brunch this afternoon, then went to the hospital this evening to visit a relative again, & afterward, grilled 2 gigantic bowls of veggies outside on our deck for what seemed like several hours! My sister cut up enough eggplants & zucchini to feed an army; it took forever to grill it all! I was even grilling AFTER our meal was over. Unbelievable, eh?! I would come in from grilling, take a bite of something, & then go right back out to the grill to make sure nothing was burning, & then repeat that procedure about 5 zillion times over the course of the dinner & well into our post-dinner clean-up time. I barely sat down for more than 5-10 solid minutes at a time. Now that's what you call a piece-meal meal! ;-) I'm so exhausted from all the cooking & moving around today. Time to pack it in & call it a night!

Have a good night!

-C

0 Recipe #12: Corey's Peach Cobbler

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As promised, here's the recipe for my peach cobbler (i.e., the healthy version), which doesn't contain any fat or added sugar. Enjoy!

Corey's Peach Cobbler

Ingredients:
4 peaches (or nectarines)
4 tbsp. cinammon
1/2 tbsp. nutmeg
1 c. orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. oatmeal (plain, unsalted oatmeal flakes)
lowfat/light non-dairy whipped topping

Instructions: Pit fruit & slice into wedges. (I like to leave the skins on because they add to the flavor of the dish & are nutritious to eat.)

There are two ways to make this dish; you can either make it in a pan or in a glass dish. If you make it in a pan, you need to add all of the ingredients (except the whipped topping of course) to the pan. Reduce the liquid in the pan by about half, & stir until the sugars caramelize. This makes a really sweet treat with a compote-like consistency. I like to serve small portions in little glass custard dishes with a dollop of light non-dairy whipped topping on top.

If you prefer, you can also cook the ingredients in a glass dish. Pour all of the ingredients into the glass dish (except the whipping topping) & bake on 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10-15 minutes or until crisp. Watch to make sure the apples & pears don't burn on the bottom. Serve with a dollop of light non-dairy whipped topping & enjoy!

Alternate Preparations: You could also try this recipe with apricots.

To make this recipe vegan, simply leave out the lowfat/lite non-dairy whipped topping or replace it with one that's truly dairy-free. Now, I bet some of you are probably wondering, "But wait, doesn't 'non-dairy' mean truly 'dairy-free'?" Nope. :) Please note that most non-dairy toppings still contain caseins/sodium caseinate, which is a milk protein derivate, thus making these products not truly vegan. One truly vegan whipped topping is called "Hip Whip" and can be ordered online from The Mail Order Catalog for Healthy Eating.

0 Recipe #11: Lemon Cilantro Ginger Salad Dressing

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As the John Cleese catch phrase goes, "and now for something completely different..." and, I'd like to add, a bit more exciting than your average boring Italian or Balsalmic Vinagrette dressing. Thank goodness for variety!

If I may so myself, this dressing rocks! Now you might think I'm slightly biased sinced I'm the recipe creator & cook, but my entire family loves it as well, so it's not like I'm some pompous braggart. Maybe I just have good taste! Hahahaha. ;-)

Seriously, I will also tell you when I cook something that tastes like ocean-liner sludge, or as my sister likes to say, "pickled monkey with a side order of feet!" HAHAHAHAHA! My lil' sis cracks me up. Every time I recall her comments I can't stop laughing!

But seriously, anyone who really knows me well, will know that I give very honest appraisals. You might not always like what have to say, but at least you know that I'm telling the truth. I believe that life is too short for BS.

I personally dislike flattering, sycophantic suck-ups who try to manipulate situations to their own advantage. So I do everything possible to inure myself against this poisonous type of behavior & to also keep my distance from people who are like this.

When asked, I try to give constructive, tactful advice. (I know some family members who read this will laugh when they see I've described my advice as "tactful," but that's because I'm often a tad bit too blunt with them. Naturally, since they are immediate family, I feel very comfortable speaking my mind with them & telling them what I think straight out! Lucky them! Hahahaha. But seriously, I think they can handle my unfiltered commentary/opinions, because otherwise I wouldn't give it to them! This is actually a credit to them & our close bonds of trust with one another, although I'm not sure they always see it that way. ;-) )

Anyhow, back to the recipe-writing: The other night (when cooking the "sumptious feast" described in a previous post), I had some left-over cilantro and some ginger, which was on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown. (The ginger was starting to look like a shrunken head! Just as long as it didn't grow eyes & a mouth & start making faces at me! ;-) )

As if often typical of the way I cook, I had no idea what I was going to do with it until the very last minute, when I threw the ingredients in the blender only minutes before people sit down to eat. (Hey, I like to live on the edge a little! ;-) Winging it can often be fun & creative!)

I threw the chopped ginger & cilantro into the blender & waited for inspiration to strike. Thankfully, I'm been in a very creative cooking zone lately, so this approach has worked for me as of late. Anyhow, I got the needed "a-ha!" flash of inspiration moment, & decided to make an original dressing. So, long story short, here is the long-awaited "Lemon Cilantro Ginger" salad dressing recipe:




















Lemon Cilantro Ginger Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

1/4 c. fresh cilantro
2.5 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 tsp. mustard powder
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. garlic
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil

Instructions: Toss ingredients into a cuisinart or blender & pulse until smooth. Pour into serving container, et le voilà! Nothing to it!

2 Recipe #10: Pear & Apple Crisp

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As promised, I'm finally posting some of my original recipes from the last few days of my cooking escapades:


Pear & Apple Crisp

Filling Ingredients:
2 1/2 c. ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored, & diced into 1 1/2" pieces (about 2 1/2 - 3 large Bosc pears)
2 1/2 c. Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, & diced into 1 1/2" pieces (about 2 large Granny Smith apples)
1 1/2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. orange zest
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg powder
1/4 tsp. clove powder
1/4 tsp. allspice powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 c. orange juice
1/8 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Topping Ingredients:
1/2 c. oats, finely ground in food processor into "oat flour"
3/4 c. whole oats
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 c. honey (or for strict vegans, substitute applesauce)
1/8 c. unsweetened organic, plain soy milk* (use regular kind, not lite)
1 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small cubes (vegans can substitute cold vegan butter cubes)

Instructions: Mix together spices for filling in a small bowl, then add wet ingredients and stir. Set aside. Then, transfer diced apples and pears to large mixing bowl from an electric mixer, pour in wet spice mixture, and fold together with a spatula until well-combined and then pour into a 1 1/2 qt. circular, glass or stoneware baking dish that's about 8" across in diameter. (This size dish provides the perfect amount of surface area, so that the topping will completely cover the filling. I prefer to use Corningware's French White 1 1/2 qt. circular baking dish, which is ideal for this purpose.) Set aside. Wash out the mixing bowl and dry, and then pour in the topping ingredients. Mix on medium-low speed until mixture is well combined. When ready, mixture will form into small crumbly pieces. Using a spatula, scoop out the crumbly oat topping and place onto the filling's surface. Be sure to completely cover the filling with topping. Place glass dish onto a large baking tray (to keep your oven's interior clean if crisp should bubble over). Place tray into oven and bake (uncovered) on 350°F for about 55-60 minutes or until crisp. Serve with a dollop of vanilla (soy) ice cream or lite non-dairy whipped topping and enjoy!**

Chef's Notes: *Be sure to use regular, plain soy milk, and not the lite version. A bit of fat is needed to brown the top of the crisp. :)

**Vegans: Please note that just because a topping is labelled as “non-dairy” doesn’t mean that it’s truly dairy-free. That’s because most non-dairy whipped toppings commonly found in supermarkets contain  casein/sodium caseinate, (in the form of sodium caseinate), which is a milk protein derivative. So, be sure to carefully read the labels and be on the lookout for this. If you're looking for vegan toppings, you can either try your hand at making your own (using full-fat coconut milk, cornstarch, and other ingredients, etc.) or just buy a ready-made vegan whipped topping. If you can’t find vegan whipped topping in your area, you can always purchase them online. For example, the vegan whipped topping "Hip Whip," which can be ordered online from The Mail Order Catalog for Healthy Eating.

0 A Sumptious Feast for Seven

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Last night my sister & I cooked a sumptious feast for 7 family members(!) . We have 3 visiting relatives from out of town staying with us, and so there was a lot of food to prepare. We made so many dishes our heads started spinning. With the exception of the chicken, all of the dishes we served that evening were original creations of the Irwin sisters. My sister prepared the chicken and made a cauliflower pesto caper dish & a fingerling potato dish with sage, while I made a soy sesame string bean dish, salad with a lemon cilantro ginger dressing I made from scratch, fennel bean soup, and a "peach" cobbler (which was actually made with nectarines).

Since I'm really tired right now & it's very late, I'm not in the mood to post recipes right now. So please check back later & I'll do my best to include some of these recipes in my next post.

Goodnight! Sweet dreams (of healthy & delicious peach cobbler with light non-dairy whipped topping)!

-C

Friday, August 10, 2007

0 Freak-a-zoid Pepper, Part II

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It's AAAA-LIIIVE! Doesn't it look like there are two green fingers trying to 
break out from the top of this pepper? Now THAT's appetizing, eh?! NOT. :-D 
Hey Ma, look, it's "Thing" from the Addams Family. ;) CREEPY!
We finally dared to eat the freak-a-zoid pepper described in one of my earlier posts. (See here for more details on that unusual veggie specimen.) I cut it up & used it for a veggie & dip dish last night.

The large main pepper tasted pretty much like an ordinary green pepper, but the mini pepper protrusion -- a.k.a. the "Alien Spawn/Swamp Thing/Creature-From-The-Deep"!!!! -- was another matter all together. (OK, this is turning into "name-that-disfigured-horror-movie-monster"!)

To give you an idea of what it tasted like, let me quote my incorrigible sister, Abby, who has an equally silly sense of humor: "It tasted like pickled monkey, with a side order of feet!" I don't know how she'd know that exactly, since her diet is mostly vegetarian, but it did taste rather bitter. "Blech-y!" to be precise!

If you'd like to hear more hilarious commentary from Abby-the-Incorrigible, you're welcome to visit her blog, Ladybug & Co. She gives fantastic product reviews & tips for simplifying life.

She also comments on my blogs from time to time, as I do on hers, so check back for more of her humorous commentary.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

0 Recipe #9: Orange Creamsicle Smoothie

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When I was a child, my grandfather would walk with my sister & me to the corner store to get a creamsicle on a hot summer's day. It's a very fond memory that my sister & I share; both of my maternal & paternal grandfathers liked to take us for walks in their respective towns -- We made several trips on foot to the playground, the corner store, the duck pond, etc. I think our grandfathers also took our parents when they were young children as well, because they also have a nostalgic fondness for creamsicles, which probably also came from similar long summer walks which most likely ended up at their local corner store! 8-)

Of course, food can be a very nostalgic thing, and so, it's no surprise that I endeavored to recreate a bit of my childhood by making up my own "orange creamsicle" recipe, albeit in a much healthier form. My whole family loves this recipe; it's a real crowd-pleaser & I've gotten several repeat requests to make it while I've been here (i.e., at my parents' house). We sometimes have it for dessert, or for breakfast or a mid-day snack; & sometimes, when we're really tired & it's too late for a full meal, we've even eaten it for dinner!

Of course, there's no actual orange creamsicle in the recipe itself, but it certainly tastes like there is!

Hope you enjoy this family favorite!

Orange Creamsicle Smoothie

Ingredients:
6 ice cubes
1 c. orange juice
2 tsp. whey protein isolate powder (plain or vanilla work best)
3/4 c. low-fat, plain soy milk
1/2 c. low-fat plain yoghurt
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

Directions: Pour all ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth. (How easy is that!?!) Makes about 2 servings.

The great thing about smoothies is that they take less than 5 minutes to make and there's barely any clean-up to do!

0 Recipe #8: Grapefruit Apricot Smoothie

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I made a really delicious smoothie today for lunch. It's another original recipe I concocted; I couldn't seem to find any grapefruit smoothie recipes out there that I liked, so I created my own! It has the perfect balance of tartness & creamy, mellow flavors. If you are like me, & like desserts & drinks that are tart as well as creamy, then you'll probably really enjoy this recipe:

Grapefruit Apricot Smoothie

Ingredients:

1/2 c. low-fat plain yoghurt
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
1 c. grapefruit juice
3/4 c. low-fat/light plain soy milk
2 fresh apricots, pitted (This recipe works best with apricots that are soft)
2 tsp "Max Pro" whey powder (protein drink powder mix) (Can be purchased at GNC.)
6 ice cubes

Instructions: Add ingredients to a blender & pulse until smooth. Makes 2 servings.

Monday, August 6, 2007

0 Thinking About Publishing A Cookbook.......

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My sister & I were thinking about collaborating on a cookbook of all original recipes from the Irwin sisters.

My sister was a successful personal chef in NYC for a while. Yes, it runs in the family. :)

We both like to cook healthy, organic meals without compromising on taste. We both know a lot of tricks to make delicious, low-fat recipes & would like to publish these tips in cookbook format. Together, we have almost 50 years of cooking experience!

We welcome your comments & questions:

We'd like to hear from you! Give us your feedback on any &/or all of the recipes I've posted in this blog, whether they be original recipes, my own spin on other cook's recipes, or otherwise.

Also, if you'd be interested in hearing more about our cookbook, or think you'd like to buy our cookbook, please let me know by posting your comments here on this blog. I'll do my best to respond to your comments.

Happy Cooking Adventures!
-C

1 Recipe #7: The "It-Tastes-Too-Good-To-Be-Healthy-For-Me," Scrumptious Celery Soup

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I'm the type of cook that likes to use a little of this and a little of that. And so, not surprisingly, my recipes follow suit.

And although cooking is part-science, part art, I am on an experience level where I pretty much already KNOW how much I really need of a particular ingredient to make a recipe work.

So, when I concoct original creations, I find it rather irritating to focus on little petty details like amounts of ingredients. ;-) Usually, I'm a fairly good-humored individual, but the aforementioned statement happens to be all-the-more true when I'm feeling particularly cranky! 8-0 Honestly, I find it bothersome to have to repeat or record recipe information. Bluntly put, I am the type of cook who likes to conquer new "culinary" mountains, instead of regurgitating stories of old conquests.

While I understand the need for specifics and know that not all of you can be mind-readers (i.e., "How much of such-and-such ingredient would Corey add in this instance?" ;-) ), I really would prefer to just list ingredients as ratios to other ingredients. If it were up to me (hey, wait it is!), I would just be a very lazy recipe writer & not list anything at all. (I do have other things to do like, run a business, that is aside from my temporary, complementary cooking gig at my parents' house.) However, since I've gotten several requests for my recipes, (Sigh! The perils of popularity! ;-) ), I've decided to step up to the task of committing recipes to paper.

I've been pretty good about this aspect of recipe-writing so far (mostly because my blog has several recipes that AREN'T Corey-originals or are only spins on other people's recipes), but I can't promise to dutifully record exact amounts for my own recipes. It's more important that I get the basic ingredients down on paper, before I forget them. I usually worry about recording the specifics (amounts, specific instructions, etc.) later. So, if you're looking for that kind of detailed stuff, you might want to check back to see if I've revised any of my initial recipe posts. No, I'm mostly kidding here. ;-) I'll try not to leave you, loyal reader and recipe-enjoyer, too high & dry. For most people, a lot of ingredients and no instructions is generally a recipe for disaster (especially if you've never cooked before in your life!), but if you've got a knack for cooking it can be a fun and heady challenge. A good example of this would be, ah-hhh let's see, "Iron Chef" anyone? ;-)

So anal-retentive recipe-followers & novice cooks beware; proceed at your own peril: You might need a roadmap to the inside of my brain & a large shovel (to dig yourself out!) & before venturing further into my undiscovered continent of original recipes.

Now that you've been duly warned, here's my recipe for celery soup, which got rave-reviews from several family members:


Corey's Scrumptious Celery Soup

Ingredients:
3 medium-sized shallots, diced
3-4 scallions (green onions), diced
1 T. butter
2 c. white wine (You don't need to use your best wine, but just don't use anything resembling ocean-liner sludge)
1 bunch/head celery, diced (use leaves & celery stalks)
dash of celery seed
fresh parsley
fresh dill
3 large red potatos, peeled & roughly chopped
3-4 T. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2-4 c. soy milk
1 c. nonfat milk (or can substitute with 1/2 c. lite non-dairy creamer)
2 c. plain non-fat yoghurt
1 T. minced garlic
salt & pepper, to taste
few dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
few sprigs fresh basil, chopped or roughly torn
few sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped (Use only tender shoots & leaves)
7-10 leaves of fresh oregano
1 dollop nonfat or lowfat sour cream

Directions: Use common sense or pray. No, just kidding. I'll actually provide you with directions. ;-)

Peel & chop the potatoes & put aside in a large bowl. Dice the shallots & drop them into a big cooking pot. Then add the butter. Cook shallots on medium heat until soft. Devein top ridges of celery stalks (i.e., remove outer string-y stuff), & dice into approximately 1/2 inch cubes. (Is that exact enough for ya? ;-) ) Cook celery until soft. Add garlic & diced scallions (i.e., green onions). Stir ingredients constantly to make sure ingredients do not brown or burn. Deglaze pan with white wine. Turn down heat & simmer. Add all of your diced/chopped fresh spices, celery seed, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, & potatoes. Cook for about 20-30 minutes on medium heat, or until alcohol has most evaporated & veggies are soft but not mushy. Add water if necessary (i.e., if it's cooked down too much). When soup is done, add soy milk, milk (or creamer), yoghurt, & sour cream. Then ladle it out into a blender, a portion at a time, (make sure blender is only 3/4 full each time), & pulse until smooth. Put blended portions into a large tureen & add salt & pepper to taste.

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