Saturday, March 15, 2008

1 Recipe #35: Whiskey Shrimp A-Go-Go!

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Next up, an original dish made with whiskey, which I've named "Whisky Shrimp A-Go-Go."

I just realized that the order in which I've posted these recent booze-infused recipes thus far is almost identical to the one rattled off in that old George Thorogood song. All you classic rock folks will know the one I'm talking about: "...One Bourbon, one whiskey, one beer. Ah-wah-hah-hah-hah......" ;-)

(Well, to be fair, those aren't the exact lyrics. It's actually, "...one Bourbon, one Scotch, & one beer." But close enough! And anyhow, I didn't exactly have a bottle of Scotch just lying around my house to use as the basis for my next recipe. ;-) )

But let's return to original subject of this post: Whiskey & shrimp. I made the aforementioned "Whiskey Shrimp A-Go-Go" dish for dinner earlier tonight & it was another smashing success. So, below is that delicious recipe, for all of you to enjoy:


Whiskey Shrimp A-Go-Go (Shrimp Stir Fry)

Ingredients:
1/8 c. sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 c. blended whiskey
1/2 pint mushrooms, sliced into 1/4" thick pieces
salt, to taste
1 lb. shrimp, peeled & deveined, with tails removed
1/8 c. rice wine vinegar
1/4 c. Lite (low-sodium) soy sauce
2 inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled & sliced julienne (NOTE: Can also use 1 tsp. dried ginger)
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. red chili flakes (optional; for a hotter dish, add 1 tsp. instead)
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
6 green scallions, finely sliced

Directions:

1. Heat a wok (or skillet) to medium-high heat. Add sesame oil & garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes, but do not let garlic brown.
2. Add 1/2 c. whiskey to deglaze pan.
3. Then add sliced mushrooms, & sprinkle salt on top help remove moisture.
4. After mushrooms have cooked, add shrimp, stirring often.
5. Immediately following, add rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, & remaining 1/2 c. of whiskey.
6. Next, add the ginger root, & stir.
7. Sprinkle freshly ground pepper, & red pepper flakes (if using) on top of the shrimp. Mix well.
8. Cook shrimp until they turn pink. NOTE: Shrimp will cook fairly quickly, so be sure to watch the stove, so they don't overcook.
9. Divide into 2 portions & put on a plate. Garnish each portion with sesame seeds & scallions, & serve. Enjoy!

Yield: Makes 2 servings.

0 Recipe #34: Honey-Glazed Bourbon Chicken (Au Nouveau) - A Fresh Reinterpretation of An Old Southern Classic....

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As promised, I'm now (at long last!) going to post the first of two Bourbon-inspired recipes,"Honey Glazed Bourbon Chicken," which is a recipe I worked up on the fly as I was trying to figure out what I was going to make for dinner last evening. (As I was pondering this question, my eyes just so happened to land on a bunch of Bourbon bottles resting on top of my bar area, et le voilà, an idea was born. ;-) )

The recipe is a new twist on an old Southern favorite, "Bourbon Chicken." The two of us had it for dinner last night & OMG, was it amazingly delicious!!!! So you lucky ducks, you! (LOL); in just a few moments, I'm going to be sharing that little gem of a recipe with you..... Hot off the presses, taste-tested, & given the seal of approval by its author & her significant other alike. [And let me tell you, this author's fiancé has a very discerning palate (not much escapes his notice) & is quite straightforward & fair in his assessments. At times, the author of this blog wishes that the delivery of these opinions wasn't always quite so straightforward (LOL), but atleast it's good to know that he'll always give me an honest opinion when asked. After all, a well-intentioned, constructive critique, when it is of the solicited kind, can be educational, character-building, & ultimately good for the soul. ;-) ]

Anyhow, as many of you probably already know, "Bourbon chicken" is a famous recipe that's often associated with Cajun-style cooking, BBQ, & Louisiana -- more specifically, Bourbon Street in New Orleans, which is also the origin of its namesake. Chinese restaurants also have been to known to serve a version of it as well. (In addition to the obvious ingredients of Bourbon whiskey & chicken, the traditional recipe also typically incorporates ingredients commonly used in, & associated with, Chinese cooking -- i.e., soy sauce, ginger, garlic, vinegar, corn starch, & brown sugar.)

My original recipe was created in the spirit of the classic Southern-style Bourbon chicken, retaining its tangy, spicy, & sweet flavors, but also adds some new ingredients & textures, & is a tad bit healthier than its more traditional incarnation as well. (Yes, even with all that booze! ;-) ) I hope you enjoy it! We sure did!

So now you've heard all of the backstory from the past 2 posts, & have waited ever so patiently, I bet you just can't take it any longer. Are bursting with anticipation yet?! Heheheheh. Anyhow, enough anecdotes for one day already (!), let's get straight to the recipe:

Honey-Glazed Bourbon Chicken (Au Nouveau)

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. butter
2 shallots, diced
1/2 of 1 red onion, diced
1 c. Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey (i.e., Old Grand Dad, etc.)
1 lb. boneless chicken breasts, defatted
1/2 tsp. dried tarragon leaves
1/2 tsp. thyme
2 tsp. dried parsley leaves
1/4 tsp. lemon peel
juice of 1 lemon (Use fresh, not bottled/from concentrate!)
1/8 c. toasted, slivered almonds
4-6 large (fresh) mushrooms, sliced into 1/4" thick pieces
1 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp. pepper, or to taste
1 dried red chili, crushed (optional)

Directions:
1. Chop onions & shallots & put aside.
2. Slice mushrooms & put in a bowl.
3. Wash & slice chicken breasts into small strips, & put aside.
4. Melt butter over medium heat. Add onions & shallots. Cook until translucent, but do not allow them to brown.
5. Deglaze pan by adding 1/2 c. Bourbon.
6. Toss in mushrooms & season with salt to aid in evaporation of moisture. Cook until mushrooms are soft but do not let them shrivel or burn.
7. Add chicken strips & then pour in remaining 1/2 c. of Bourbon.
8. Next add lemon juice & peel, & all remaining spices (taragon, thyme, parsley, black pepper, & chili pepper if using).
10. Stir often, cooking chicken on each side for about 3 minutes, or just until chicken is mostly cooked, but still has a warm pink center. Be sure to drizzle each side with honey when you flip the chicken over. IMPORTANT: At this stage, you don't yet want to cook the chicken all the way through.
11. If need be, gradually add a bit more Bourbon as the chicken cooks to keep it moist. Let the alcohol cook down until there's no more than a 1/2" layer of liquid covering the bottom of the pan. Mixture should have a sauce-like consistency, but not be as thick as ocean-liner sludge. ;-)
12. Let chicken cook until warm pink center gradually disappears. When you're done cooking, the chicken should still be soft! Set aside.
13 Toast almond slivers (in a toaster oven) for about a minute or two. Slivers will cook really fast, so be sure to watch them carefully so they don't burn.
14. Divide chicken into 2 portions & place on plates. Sprinkle toasted almond slivers on top of chicken & serve. Enjoy!

Yield: Makes 2 servings.

Chef's Notes & Suggestions: As alluded to above, I used Old Grand Dad, which is 86 Proof Kentucky straight Bourbon whiskey. You can probably get away with using any type of Bourbon whiskey, & could even substitute regular whiskey as well.

This chicken recipe would be great on the BBQ, especially during those warm summer months.

3 Booze 101: A (Not-So-)Brief History Of Bourbon Whiskey......

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Like that title? I'm sure some of you are probably thinking, "Too bad they didn't offer course in college? I would've passed with flying colors." Hahahahaha. But this little history lesson isn't about recording one's own personal drinking history. LOL! It's about the history of booze itself, more specifically Bourbon whiskey.

As a continuation on the previous post's theme, I decided it would fitting to write a little piece on the history of Bourbon whiskey, & in the process, learn something about a subject that, only just moments ago, I'd professed to know next to nothing about. Have to say that I learned a lot through my research. And no, not THAT kind of research! ;-) I mean actual research, as in books & online references.

OK, so let's start with the basics. Many of you might already know that Bourbon whiskey is frequently associated with Kentucky, & other parts of the South. You might also know that it's typically distilled from grains like corn, wheat, rye, & barley. And if you're really savvy, you might even know that there are US federal regulations requiring that, in order for a whiskey to be labelled true "Bourbon whiskey," it must be made in the US, be 100% natural, consist of atleast 51% corn, be distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof, & meet various other requirements. If you know all that without having to look it up, I will now congratulate you & say, "Man, you are good. I'm really impressed you know that off the top of your head." Either that or you work in the distillery business. ;-)

But what you might NOT know is that Bourbon whiskey did NOT actually originate in Bourbon County, Kentucky, as it's so commonly thought, but rather in another county in Kentucky altogether. And no, I am not playing some kind of inane April Fool's trick on you, even though April is still almost 2 1/2 weeks away.

Shocking, I know. ;-)

Yes, I do realize that most of the world refers to Bourbon county, Kentucky, as "the birthplace of Bourbon whiskey." In fact, if you google the word "Bourbon whiskey," you'll see several of these erroneous references to this supposedly "well-documented fact," plastered all over the internet (i.e., Wikipedia, etc.) & probably other offline sources as well.

Well, now you can tell anyone who repeats this little fallacy that they're all dead wrong & that this commonly-held notion is complete & utter rubbish. ;-)

And here's why..... The honor of that claim (i.e., the true & rightful birthplace of Bourbon whiskey) apparently goes to Fort Harrod, which in 1774 -- the year commonly attributed to Bourbon whiskey's birth -- was then part of Lincoln County, Kentucky. Back then, Bourbon County didn't even exist. Bourbon County was first formed in 1785, & at that point in American history, it was actually part of the State of Virginia. It was brought into being by the Virginian state legislature, whose members decided to slice off a piece of Fayette county & retitle it "Bourbon County." ;-)

Now, while it IS true that Bourbon whiskey has been brewed in Bourbon County for quite a long time, this fact was purely coincidental & had nothing to do with its true place of origin. Furthermore, the distilling of whiskey was no mean an exclusive practice of the region. According to historians, by the time Bourbon county came into being, there were already several distillers throughout Kentucky who were well-versed in the art of making whiskey.

So, first came the drink, then came the county. And neither began with any connection to the other. [Yup, you heard me correctly! "So how about them apples?!" ;-)] It was only until much later that an association was imposed upon the two entities, forever linking them together in the minds of Kentuckians & consumers everywhere. (More on that later.) To some, this revelation might seem like splitting hairs, while others might not really care, but it's still the truth! ;-)

Even though I'm sure it'd be much less of a bother for people to go on believing the less-complicated, albeit fallacious, version of this story -- it'd certainly be a whole heck of a lot easier to remember, & at first glance, appears logical enough -- it would be irresponsible of me or anyone else to suggest otherwise.

But of course, history is more complex than that. It also has this funny little way of being convoluted & inconvenient, & doesn't always end the way we'd like. It would be rather nice if it came wrapped in a pretty little package, but it's not always as nice & neat as we would often like it to be. And sometimes what we'd like to call historical fact is really just a myth repeated over & over to the point where the repetition of a statement in perpetuam is eventually believed as fact. Don't even get me started on the purported "facts" surrounding the origins of pizza, the inventor of the Vigenère cipher [commonly misattributed to -- you guessed it -- a man by the name of (Blase de) Vigenère], the discovery of America, or Paul Revere's "midnight ride." ;-)

But let's return to our story...... So, if Bourbon whiskey didn't originate in Bourbon county, then why do people still associate it with this area? What gives? Where did the name "Bourbon whiskey" really come from? Well, all shall be revealed very shortly, I promise.

It all began with a region once referred to as "Old Bourbon" & the early exportation practices of one of its most popular products, whiskey.

"Old Bourbon" was a term originally used to describe the geographic location of the original Bourbon county as it was first established in 1785, which encompassed a vast region of Kentucky, (basically all of the land to the north, east, & southeast of Lexington). (This area was named after the French royal dynasty, The House of Bourbon, to demonstrate America's gratitude for their military aid during the Revolutionary War.) This area was later sub-divided into other, smaller counties. (To give you an idea of just how big this county once was, consider that 34 modern Kentucky counties were once part of the territory originally delineated as Bourbon county.) In the late 18th century, any barrels of whiskey from this general region were labelled as "Old Bourbon," regardless of their specific location within this territory. The stuff which came from this area was generally regarded as the best.

Around this time, whiskey also became the region's most important export, & out of financial necessity, farmers often found themselves resorting to the practice of distilling their crops as a way to stay economically viable. However, distilling wasn't done merely for the purpose of basic economic survival; it was also clearly a highly profitable venture, and so, not surprisingly, the whiskey business soon began to flourish. At the turn of the 18th century, there were more people distilling whiskey than you could shake a stick at, & pretty soon everybody & their grandmother was trying to get in on the act.

So eventually, people stopped referring to "Old Bourbon" as a geographical region, & the term instead became synonymous with the Bourbon whiskey product itself, as distillers in various other parts of Kentucky soon also took up the practice of labelling their barrels as "Old Bourbon," regardless of where it came from.

So, as you can see, the name of this legendary libation was, in fact, appropriated ex post facto by some rather shrewd distillers before the advent of patent law. ;-) Basically, it was an ingenious little piece of "early American" marketing -- as in "ye olde hype"(!) -- dreamed up by some rather clever & opportunistic Kentuckians, who were out to make a buck or two. ;-)

Hey, they knew a good thing when they saw it! The fact that the name of this distilled beverage has little to nothing to do with its true geographic origins wasn't about to stop these guys either. The way they saw it, it was just savvy marketing.

Probably one of them said to the other something like, "Hey, that 'Old Bourbon' whiskey coming down the Ohio River sells really well & is some pretty great stuff to boot. Wouldn't it be a great idea to call our whiskey 'Old Bourbon' too?! Now that would certainly help to drum up business, eh?!" And, thus we have an early American example of the copy-cat phenomenon. ;-)

Regardless, I'm sure these whiskey distillers found it incredibly convenient indeed to have a "Bourbon county" located in Kentucky! :-) (By the way, you might be interested to know that Kansas also has a Bourbon country, founded in 1855, which is named after the original one in Kentucky. Sorry, Kansas, I think someone already beat you to the punch for those booze-infused tourism dollars. ;-) Nice try though! JUST kidding.)

Anyhow..... By around 1840, the first descriptor ("old") was dropped & it just became known as "bourbon." (For some reason I'm very tempted to geek out & now find it difficult to restrain myself from reciting that infamous HHGTTG passage which begins, "Oh don’t give me no more of that Old Janx Spirit...." Any clueless people, please simply disregard the reference!) As I was saying, pretty soon people everyone had taken to calling their whiskey "bourbon," & it became rather confusing; so something had to be done about that! To distinguish the various types of whiskeys, the definition of "bourbon" was restricted to whiskeys that were predominately corn-based, in order to distinguish them from the other types of grain-based whiskeys like wheat & rye.

So why do people still persist in thinking that Bourbon whiskey comes from Bourbon county, Kentucky, even to this day? In the end, the real truth of the matter is this: Over time, much of the prior collective knowledge about the history of Bourbon whiskey was either forgotten or lost to the annals of history. And, as is the case with the passage of time, decade after decade went by, & after a good long while, the people who knew that sort of knowledge firsthand had pretty much all died out. There were suddenly a lot of people around who weren't at all familiar with the history of the region or the true origins of Bourbon whiskey.

Apparently, there weren't any job openings for "whiskey historian" back then. ;-)

Anyhow, due to the aforementioned reasons, people, in general, through basic ignorance or lack of curiosity about the heritage of the region, just began to assume that Bourbon whiskey was originally invented in Bourbon County, Kentucky, even though the association was, in truth, quite false & there was little supporting evidence to back up these foregone conclusions. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if this myth persists to this day. (I imagine that perpetuation of such a falsehood could be, in varying turns, either deliberate or inadvertent, depending on the extenuating circumstances.) And, thus ends our little history lesson for today. Phew!

So how about that for a curious little factoid, which will surely impress all your friends & colleagues?! Who knows, maybe it'll come in handy the next time you play Trivial Pursuit?! Now you will have an interesting anecdote to tell people at parties whenever anyone raises a glass of Bourbon. ;-) I'm sure you'll be the life of the party with that story. ;-) Hahahahaha. But at the very least, it will surely be fun to freak out everyone else around you with this little known piece of trivia! Plus, you can show up all of those snooty know-it-alls who think they know everything there is to know about alcoholic spirits. ;-)

So, you're welcome for that little history lesson. Have a side-order history with that honey-glazed Bourbon chicken. ;-) (Yes, I promise, the recipe's coming up next!!!!)

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Footnote: The above story is a good illustration of the point that just because something might seem as if it's highly likely to be true (i.e., that two entities appear to have a correlation, etc.) doesn't mean it's necessarily so. ;-)

4 A Weekend of Whiskey & Bourbon! (Whee-eeeee!)

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No, that title isn't as bad as it sounds. Really, it isn't.

For some unknown reason, the other week I suddenly decided it was time to use up the extra booze in the house. And no, I'm not talking about going on some raucous, week-long drinking binge or anything quite so decadent & brain-cell-battering, just in case your mind was inclined to wander in that direction. ;-) If that's what you thought I was up to this weekend, then you obviously don't know me! ;-)

I'm talking about cooking with booze, people. In particular, the goal was to (eventually, over time,) use up everything we weren't going to be drinking anytime soon -- i.e., the hard stuff like Bourbon & whiskey -- & anything else that could probably cause hair to grow where it's not supposed to be. ;-) It was with this aim in mind that I'd put several bottles of whiskey & Bourbon on the kitchen table & examined each one, trying to decide which one to use first, & then once I'd chosen the bottle, what the heck I was going to do with it!

I was on a mission! (Sometimes I get in these moods where I just want to use up certain things in the kitchen, like excess spices, various dry goods, the half lemon in the fridge, the last drop of milk, & other heretofore unused, little bits & scraps, etc.) Well, mission accomplished. Not only did I dream up 2 totally new & original recipes incorporating booze as a key ingredient, but I also managed to use up almost two whole bottles of the stuff in my weekend cooking escapades! That's a bottle per recipe, two nights in a row. Whoah. (What a bunch of lushes we are. NOT! Heheheheh.) Now, we've got only 4 or 5 bottles to go! Hahahaha.

First, there was the rather ancient-looking, 3/4-full bottle of "Old Grand Dad" (i.e., Kentucky Bourbon whiskey) which looked like it'd had been a relic left over from pre-Civil War times ;-). This was the bottle I'd used to make a chicken dish the first night. (I assure you, the Bourbon tasted just fine in the recipe. Delicious, in fact.)

And then there was a blended whiskey (the name of which I've since forgotten by this point), which I incorporated in a shrimp dish the night after that. (Come to think of it, I think the brand was probably "Johnny Walker," since they apparently are one of the more popular makers of blended whiskey. And that, my friends, I had to look up on the internet, as I'm not exactly the world's foremost authority on the subject! ;-) )

Now of course, the reason I used so much booze was twofold: Aside from the obvious motivation to get rid of the booze, I noticed that even though my recipes called for 1 cup of booze, I kept having to add more & more booze to the dish while I was cooking it, not just to deglaze the pan in the initial stages, but also afterwards, to properly infuse the food with flavor & also keep enough liquid in the pan, as it cooks down considerably while the food is sizzling in the pan. (Yeah, I know, I could've used water instead. But anyhow....) Of course, the bulk of the alcohol burns off during the cooking process, so it's not like we're going to launch into the stratosphere after "tasting" the contents of an entire bottle of 80 proof Bourbon whiskey. Hahahahaha.

I figured that, at the very least, cooking with the stuff would be the safest way to "use it up." Especially since the resultant product would be mostly sugar & very little alcohol.

Nonetheless, I'd still have been curious to measure our BAC (blood alcohol content) after dinner just for the hell of it. Hahahahaha. Can you imagine getting drunk from such delectable dishes as "Honey-Glazed Bourbon Chicken" & "Bourbon-Infused Sesame Shrimp." Good thing we didn't have anywhere to drive that night, just in case. JUST kidding.

Let me qualify this whole excursion into boozeland by saying that Erik & I aren't exactly what you'd call "big drinkers" in general, & neither sets of parents are either. As for me personally, if & when I drink, it's usually going to be beer, wine, or cocktails. And I drink primarily to enjoy the taste of the beverage, not to "get wild & partay!" (After all, I'm a mature & responsible thirty-something adult, for chrissakes!) I do like a good mixed drink every now & then, especially with flavored liquors like crème de casis, etc., just as long as alcohol isn't the overriding flavor. I just don't do hard liquor by itself. It literally makes me ill (i.e., turns my stomach), & frankly, tastes like something that's supposed to be in a person's medicine cabinet, instead of their liquor cabinet. ;-) So, if I'm going to be ingesting hard liquor, it's either going to be masked by some sweet, savory, salty, or sour flavor in a mixed drink, or incorporated as part of a culinary dish.

So why then did I have all of this booze in the first place, if Erik & I aren't big drinkers? Well, a few years ago, I was throwing a big party at the house & my parents generously offered to help me out by donating alcohol to the cause, so I wouldn't have to bear the large expense of stocking my bar from scratch. (Previous to that moment, the only alcohol that I'd had in any great amounts at the time was several bottles of wine.) And let me tell you, my parents gave me an @%&*$!-load of liquor. Now, as they drink even less often than we do, they had been more than happy to get rid of the stuff that'd probably been festering in their attic since the early 80's or possibly even earlier. ;-) (I think the stuff was either from my parent's wedding or my coming-of-age party.)

In any case, all of the above anecdotes & background details were a just a preface of what's to come. Next up are the very creative, all-new & original whiskey & Bourbon-tinged recipes I just described!

1 Let's Try A Different Contact Method, Shall We?!

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Hello All,

Have any of you other bloggers experienced the following phenomenon? You are a friendly & communicative person, so you post your email address(es) on your blogs, & then notice a sudden increase in spam, much of which passes right through your spam filter? Either spammers are getting more & more clever, or spam filters just aren't what they used to be, or in all likelihood, it's probably a bit of both! You know what they say about building a better mousetrap...... ;-)

So, in an effort to cut down the tremendous amount of spam I'm getting, I've made the decision to close the various gmail (& any other domain) accounts associated with this blog. So let that be a warning to all of you spammers out there!

And if you do happen to be a spammer trolling for email addresses, you should know that I've removed all existing references to my email addresses in this blog, so don't bother searching. ;-) And links in cached searches or other reference points are of course now invalid.

I sincerely apologize to all of those valid senders who have never abused the privilege, but I had to do something, as the whole situation was driving me nuts, & it was just taking too much time to sift through my Inbox.

However, if you are a valid sender, obviously this means that you can no longer send emails to these particular accounts. So don't be surprised if you get bounced messages back, or they seem to go into a "black hole" with no apparent response. I'm not deliberately ignoring you; I'm just not getting your emails. ;-)

Chances are, if you are a person with whom I've already got an established, long-term connection, you probably weren't using these blog-affiliated emails anyhow, as you most likely already possess alternate contact information. ;-) As the common-sense blogging rule goes, if the information isn't supplied on the blog, then it's probably not something the blogger is willing to divulge. ;-) Again, this isn't said to be snotty; it's only done to preserve privacy & (reduce the amount of time wasted on sorting through bogus email! ;-) ).

As always, you're welcome to post comments on my blog. Of course, I don't expect you to list your email address in the comments & thus leave yourself vulnerable to spammers. However, I've got an even better idea.

Instead of posting my email for all the world to see, we are going to try a new approach. Here's what I propose: If you are part of any social networking groups to which I also belong (see listing of groups in various places on the right sidebar), you are welcome to contact me through these means. This way, if you wish to leave for email address for me, you can do so in a much more protective, private, & suitable fashion, which will also help to keep both parties safe from spam.

IMPORTANT: Just so you know, I tend to use Blogcatalog more than some of the other services/communities, so best to contact me there.

Also, please know that I've got the external email notifications turned off for many, if not most, of the message repositories for these various social networks -- otherwise I'd get hundreds of emails a day from these sites, so don't be surprised if it takes me a while to get back to you.

Additionally, please be aware that I typically only accept "Facebook friend requests" from people with whom I already have some pre-existing relationship or connection. (It used to be that, if you add someone as a Facebook friend, there wasn't a good way to block them from seeing certain types of default information on your profile. So, of course, that made me rather reluctant to add certain people whom -- while they might very well be honest & friendly, & have honorable intentions -- were still tenuously connected to me at best. I think that most of you can understand & appreciate my reasons behind these actions. It's certainly not my intention to be mean or unfriendly, but of course, sometimes a person just has to do certain things to protect themselves. Thankfully, Facebook has finally implemented more privacy controls, but since it requires additional security actions on my end & yet still doesn't complete block all personal details, I'd rather only add known entities at this point.)

And finally, if you wish to procure my fashion consulting services, you're always welcome to contact me via my profile on Kasamba.com.

Of course, I honestly wish that I didn't have to resort to removing these email accounts, but I figure that, in the end, the people who really are sincere in their efforts to "befriend" me or atleast further a positive connection or discussion regarding our mutual interests will make the effort to find me through these alternative means I've suggested.

Anyhow, just wanted to let you all know about the recent changes.

Cheers,
Cyberpenguin

Friday, March 14, 2008

3 Recipe #33: Sine Qua Non Salad

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As I'd promised to post some more creative salad recipes, here's another -- the "Sine Qua Non Salad." This recipe is yet another "Corey original," & happens to be a newer favorite of mine.

Sine qua non. So why the unusual name? And what could've possibly prompted such a title? Let me provide a brief explanation. If you already know what the phrase means, or could care less about such things & just want to eat, then please just skip ahead to the recipe. ;-) If not, please proceed as you were.....

According to Wiktionary.com, the Latin phrase sine qua non literally translates into "without which [cause] not." In simpler terms, the phrase refers to "an essential or indispensable element or condition."

Many know the term by its legal usage, i.e., a "test used to establish causation in fact," but the phrase has since been expanded to a more general usage in various languages, and is also applied in the fields of economics, philosophy and medicine.

Mind you, this post isn't meant to be a dissertation in Latin or a lesson in law, but nonetheless, that's a quick explanation for those of you who might be interested in the background details.

So, it logically follows that the "Sina qua non" salad is what I like to think of as an "essential salad" recipe. While it's not exactly what you'd call a "basic salad," it's nonetheless a "new favorite" to which I return again & again. It's got all the proper ingredients for the makings of a great summer salad -- Crisp and fresh, and IMHO, simply unforgettable. So, in my mind, that makes it truly essential. ;-)


Salad Ingredients:
1/2 lb. mesclun (i.e., mixed) greens
1/4 lb. spinach
1 avocado, peeled, pitted & sliced into medium-sized wedges
1 pomegranate
10 olives, pitted (NOTE: Use a mixture of green & black olives like Greek, Kalamata, cracked green, &/or Gaeta olives.)
1 small handful of pistachios
1/2 pint grape tomatoes
1 yellow (or orange) bell pepper, pitted & seeded & sliced into wedges
1/2 cucumber -- Do NOT peel!
1 sprigs, fresh basil, stemmed
1 sprigs, fresh thyme, stemmed (use leaves only)
1 sprigs, fresh oregano, stemmed (use leaves only)
sumac, a few sprinkles

Dressing Ingredients:
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. lemon peel, grated
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ground sumac (NOTE: Sumac can be purchased in most Mediterranean markets. Sumac usually has plenty of salt added in its ground form, so no additional salt is requied.)
1/2 tsp. mustard
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 garlic clove, peeled & finely minced

Directions:
1. Wash mixed greens & spinach thoroughly. If spinach leaves are large, tear them into slightly smaller pieces. Put in a salad tosser to remove moisture & put into a large salad bowl.
2. Cut pomegranate into quarters, remove seeds & set aside. Discard scraps.
3. Cut up avocado into medium-sized wedges. Remove pit & discard. Set aside.
4. Wash cucumber. Do NOT peel. (The skin is where a lot of the vitamins are & leaving the skin on gives the salad a much livelier, crunchier texture.) Score the outsides with the tines of a fork in a vertical direction, rotating the cucumber each time until you've gone all the way around the cucumber, & then slice horizontally into 1/4 inch circles. Place in bowl.
5. Cut up bell pepper into long vertical slices, about a 1/2 inch thick. If the pepper is extraordinarily long, you should probably halve these slices as well.) Place in bowl.
6. Wash grape tomatoes & set aside.
7. Wash & pat dry fresh spices (i.e., basil, thyme, oregano). Remove leaves & add them to bowl.
8. Add olives. Toss salad.
9. Make dressing, mixing together all dressing ingredients, pour in a small flask -- preferably one with a lid, & shake vigorously until mixture is well-blended.
10. Immediately before serving, add tomatoes & avocados, & toss again. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds & pistachios on top. Then add a few sprinkles of sumac. Serve & enjoy!

3 Recipe #32: Baked Figs (or Pears!)

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A week or two ago, after having watched Season 1, Episode 8 of Gordon Ramsay's "The F Word," (which was automatically taped as a TiVO suggestion -- What can I say, my TiVo really does know me well!), I went to my computer & scanned the internet far & wide, looking for Janet Street Porter's delectable-looking "fig pudding" recipe, which beat out Gordon's fig tart as the winner of their "bake-off" contest. After searching everywhere, I came up empty-handed. Sigh. Maybe one of these days she'll put out a cookbook. But until then, it looks like she's keeping that recipe a family-secret. (Speaking of which, if any of you do happen to know where I can procure this recipe, I'd be very grateful for the information! ;-) )

But of course I wasn't about to give up that easily. Those of you who know me, know that I am not often deterred when I'm determined to find something. So "Ha!"

I decided to re-watch the bake-off contest, writing down ingredients & approximating others which weren't explicitly shown or talked about. In the end, I probably ended up with a very different recipe, but I didn't care. Since I couldn't find the exact recipe to try, I was going to get creative & improvise on ingredients I thought would compliment the figs.

I sent my fiancé to the store to buy fresh figs, knowing full well that they were out of season, but, all the same, hoping against all hope that they would somehow be at the supermarket. After all, these days, the existence of high-tech greenhouses make the growing of out-of-season crops possible. Well, as luck would have it, I would have no such luck! :-) He came home without figs, but thankfully I'd given him a back-up plan -- Get pears instead if there are no figs. (Of course, had he have gone to a gourmet supermarket or had we lived in a state like California, things might've turned out differently. ;-) But it's no sense worrying or wishing about that now!)

So, anyhow, that night I put "Plan B" into effect, & served the baked/poached pears with a side of Breyer's low-fat vanilla ice cream for dessert. It took a matter of minutes to make & the dish was delish!

Try it, & let me know what you think!


Baked Figs (or Pears)

Ingredients:
1 fig, split into quarters (or 1 pear, sliced into small chunks)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar (or honey)
1/2 c. Marsala wine
honey, about 1/2 tsp.
1 Tbsp. butter
1/8 tsp. ground clove
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 small scoops Breyer's light vanilla ice cream

Directions: Cut up the fig/pear & place in a mini dutch oven. If you are using figs, split them open, but do not cut them completely apart. Pour Marsala wine on top. Add brown sugar & spices, & mix thoroughly, making sure to douse the fruit in the liquid mixture. Add butter & drizzle honey on top. The fruit should be mostly submerged in the liquid before you place it in the oven to bake. Place in the oven & bake for 30 minutes, or until fig/pear is soft but not mushy. Check the dish every so often as it's baking. When done, dole out mixture, dividing portions into two small porcelain ramekins. Scoop out 2 small scoops of vanilla ice cream & place on top. Serve & enjoy!

Yield: Makes 2 servings. (Of course, you can always double, triple, or quadruple the recipe to serve larger parties.)

Chef's Notes: Be sure to choose figs (or pears) which aren't too ripe, as they will disintegrate in the oven. For a healthier version of the above recipe, simply leave out the butter & sugar. It'll still taste good, just not as rich.

Serving Suggestions: If in season, sprinkle red currants on top. The tang of the currants is a nice contrast to the sweetness of the figs/pears. Alternatively, you could serve the dish with raisins on top, but in my opinion, that's a far more conventional & less exciting option. Live a little. Do something unexpected for a change! ;-)

I've also seen fig dishes served with mascarpone (or crème fraîche) & hazelnuts, which also sounds good. Of course, I encourage you to be creative & think of your own toppings as well.

0 Recipe #31: St. Patty's Day Milkshake

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In honor of St. Patty's Day, which is coming up shortly (i.e., in only 3 days), I've created a special, original beverage just for the occasion. Time to celebrate St. Patty's Day in my own special way with a vanilla milkshake that's just for grownups! :) Appropriately enough, the mint garnish adds "something green" to make it holiday-appropriate. ;)


St. Patty's Day Milkshake

Ingredients:
1 c. lowfat Breyer's vanilla ice cream
1/2 c. lowfat (1%) milk
1/2 Tbsp. Frangelico
1/2 Tbsp. Tia Maria
1/2 Tbsp. Baileys Irish Creme
1 Tbsp. plain malted milk powder (i.e., Ovaltine, etc.)
1/4 tsp. Dutch-processed cocoa powder
pinch of ground nutmeg
2 mint leaves (for garnish)

Directions: In a blender, combine ice cream, milk, Frangelico, Tia Maria, & Bailey's. & blend until well-combined; mixture should be smooth & foamy. Pour into a highball glass, dust with a Dutch-processed cocoa powder, malt, & pinch of nutmeg, garnish with mint leaves, & serve immediately. (For an extra twist, top with low-fat whip cream and garnish with a pirouline, or serve with an oreo cookie on the side.)

Yield: 1 serving.

Chef's Notes: Skim milk isn't typically thick enough to use in a milkshake; otherwise, I would've suggested using it instead of 1% milk. You might be able to combine skim milk with a packet of plain gelatin or egg white meringue (made from whipping together egg whites & a pinch of confectioner's sugar).  I haven't yet tried either of these methods before, but both seem like techniques which would give enough body & lift to the milkshake while still being considerably lower in fat than whole or reduced fat (1-2%) milk. Not sure if adding light, non-dairy creamer, plain or vanilla soy milk would work, but those ideas could possibly work as well.

Friday, March 7, 2008

0 Recipe #30: A Brazilian-Inspired Cocktail -- "The Drink From Ipanema" :)

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Mmmmmm, boy, that last recipe made me hungry for more foods from Latin America. This time we'll "travel" to Brazil -- land of Carnaval, samba, soccer (national sports obsession #1), volleyball (probably a close second to soccer, or atleast very high up there on the list!), beautiful beaches, beautiful people, samba, exquisite geodes, Linux, & yes, a nation-wide obsession with the badunkadunk. :-D


For starters, I'd like to suggest a cocktail. :) Now, I realize I'm probably committing blasphemy by listing an alcoholic beverage on a supposed "health food recipe blog," but we can't all live like monks day in & day out. Otherwise, we'll all go diving headlong into a 10 lb. chocolate cake & devour the entire thing in one sitting. ;-) Plus, it's my blog & I can do with it what I want. If I want to list a cocktail recipe on my blog, or an occasional dessert that's not entirely low-fat or low-anything, then I'm bloody *#@$% well going to do it. So there!

While I'm admittedly more of a "once in a blue moon" kind of drinker & make a practice of abstaining while training (for obvious reasons!), I never claimed to be a teetotaler either. After all, a little enjoyment of spirits here & there is something of which most of us like to partake. And now for that cocktail recipe:


"The Drink From Ipanema"

Ingredients:
5 oz. guava juice
1 oz. rose water
splash of triple sec
splash of blue Curaçao

Directions: Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon or lime. For extra visual effect, float a single rose petal on top of each drink.

Yield: 1 cocktail.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

0 Recipe #29: Sweet Whipped Ricotta Cream with Fresh Spring Berries

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Sweet Whipped Ricotta Cream with Fresh Spring Berries

Ingredients:
2 c. nonfat, part-skim ricotta
1/2 c. honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. triple sec
1 Tbsp. blue Curaçao
juice & zest of 1/2 lemon
3 c. fresh strawberries, hulled & sliced
1 c. fresh blueberries
1/4 c. raw unsalted almonds, toasted & then crushed
fresh strawberries, sliced (about 1/4 c. per person)
mint leaves

Directions: Blend ricotta & honey in a food processor until smooth, about 1 minute. Next add vanilla, triple sec, blue Curaçao, lemon juice & zest, & berries, and blend for another minute. Refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours before serving. Divide into equal portions, garnish with toasted nuts, fresh sliced strawberries, & mint leaves.

Alternate Preparation Ideas: Another way to make this would be to make the ricotta cream without adding the fresh fruit into the blender, and instead use some of the blueberries & sliced strawberries as part of the topping, along with the almonds & mint leaves.

Another idea would be to pour the ricotta cream and berry mixture into a graham cracker pie shell and chill 3-4 hours before serving. Garnish the "pie" with sliced strawberries, almonds, & mint leaves.

Yield: 6-8 servings.

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