Jul 27, 2008

She: Tamale Sauce

This isn't really tamale sauce. Its more like an overall tex-mex sauce that has all my favorites: some mole, some tomato, not spicy but tangy, nice and thick...I put the kitchen sink in this. Mark brought home tamales one night for dinner, but no sauce, and I was bound and determined to make something tasty. In retrospect, the only thing I would have done differently is to add a bay leaf to the stock for some more depth, which I went ahead and added to the instructions. So check out my madness:

Part One: Take one can of tomato paste and put in the pan, and stir while cooking on low til color changes. Then add one can of chicken broth, bay leaf, 1/2 tsp cumin, pinch of cinnamon, 1 tb ancho powder, 1/2 tsp garlic salt, 2 tb smoked cherry peppers, 1/4 tsp oregano. Bring slowly to a boil, whisking to mix spices (don't skip this!), and let boil 1-2 mts.

Part Two: bring down to a simmer, and add 1 tb dark chocolate, 1 1/2 tb honey. Stir/whisk. While its simmering, grab a bowl and add 5 tb of cold water, and mix in 5 tb of flour, one at a time to make a lump-free paste. Kick the temp back to a boil and add this bit by bit.

The flour thickens the sauce, so if you don't use the sauce immediately it'll create a skin. I just added a little water when it got too thick. The only thing that might be hard to find is the smoked cherry peppers. I found them at a spice shop in Seattle, but I'm pretty sure you can get something like it from Penzy's, too. They were a great addition, and I'm hoarding the rest from Mark. Snicker.

Jul 25, 2008

She: Cous-Cous Method

When my mom told me she was buying cous-cous for meals, I promised to add this post. Mark showed me a great way to make cous-cous very fast and simply, and even better, virtually mess-free...my favorite! This method just steams the cous-cous in a ziplock baggy, which you can then chuck into the fridge inbetween meals. Get: 1 cup cous-cous, 2tsp olive oil, 1.5 cup boiling water, 1 small cucumber, 1/2 onion, small handful of mint (or basil), 1/2 tsp cyanne, 1/2 tsp salt, and fresh pepper.

Thats the most basic list of ingredients. Everything than can be cut/diced, including the mint, should be. Put the cous-cous and the oil in the baggie first. Then add all the veggies and the salt/peppers. Pour in the boiling water and seal the bag. Let it sit for a few minutes, and voila! I personally add some apple and/or roma tomato (but add those after it steams), but dried cranberries or raisins are also nice, especially with mint! This is very healthy as a side dish, and a nice alternative to something mayo-heavy like coleslaw. Best of all, besides the knife and cutting board, there's nothing else to wash. :)

Jul 9, 2008

She: Powder mixes

So, this post will be a bit different from others we've had, but it is something we've both done a lot of research on as well: protein powders. If anyone finds it handy, I'll add one on energy bars, too. As it is, I'm up to a 4 mile run 3 times a week with some more cardio/weights mixed in other days, and Mark is biking long distances to work each day as well as his own cario/weights. A few years ago I started running, and diet became more important, and like a trooper Mark jumped on the bandwagon as well, to be my support buddy in it all. Of course, for a while it was really me huffing and puffing more than running, but I digress.

One of the things we read about was the "body for life" diet. They had meal shakes and all sorts of stuff. Of course, there were a TON of carbs and some sugar in the mix too, and when I did the math found out the calories from that one shake were more than erasing the calories I burned on my best workout. I needed about 20-30 grams of protein and didn't need the added carbs or other calories, as I was still eating "normal". To check out your calorie intake, try a site like WeightLossforAll Most exercise diets are geared towards men, who need more protein and whose bodies can handle a lot more carbs without storing it as fat. We started trying protein powders, looking for high protein instead of carbs or sugars, and one other important ingredient: taste.

Now, this might not be crucial for many others, but I have the gag reflexes of a five year old choking down canned lima beans. In short, if it doesn't taste good, I just don't do it. Silly, maybe, but true. It did cut the list down to a few: Beverly's Ultimate Muscle Protein, Cytosport's EvoPro lite, and BSN's Syntha-6. Now, before I go any further, something to look at is the source of the protein: is it whey, soy, egg, or casein? Different kinds of protein get stored/burned in your body differently. Since I was running and not body building, I was looking for a blend with casein and another source: I needed a quick restore plus something that would promote muscle regrowth for longer periods of time. Bodybuilding.com has a good description of each. Also, I found a TON of information specifically for women as well as links at a great fitness blog: Causic Musings. Make sure to look in her "fitness and health and her "fitness on a budget" subcategories. Some of her diets are scary, but the girl is buff and knows what she's doing! I also must add that most of these I mix with soy milk instead of regular milk or water, too, for the quick burst of carbs soy has. SOOO, back to taste.

All three of these taste well enough for me to chug, unlike some others where you can taste the sugar or a chalkiness to them. I always get vanilla, because just about any other flavor is very artificial tasting. Once Mark accidentally picked up a cookies/cream and I had a veeeery hard time with that stuff! Beverly tastes good and has a lot of good stuff in it, except it was more difficult to mix--it didn't want to blend at all and was harder to swallow because of it. EvoPro mixed better, and was my choice for a really long time, but Syntha6 is my new favorite. It mixes very easily, and though its sweet, it isn't sugary, but more like vanilla pudding. Nice. None of these are especially cheap. But I know a lot of new vegans who wonder why they bruise easily and lose muscle tone--you still need protein! You can get a lot of it thru nuts and such, but see if a soy, whey, or other protein can help you out. If wasn't exercising, I wouldn't need the superprotein stuff, but even then, check out the actual amount of protein on the carton--about 20g in a shake is normal, and in a bar, any less than 10g a serving isn't doing you much.

Jun 21, 2008

She: Sweets of sorts

Right now I'm waiting 2 hours for one type of sweets to freeze, and for another to cool. Figured I'd spend the time by letting you know what I was up to...First, I have been eating a TON of cherries. Its cherry season here, and I have never before been so enamoured with the fruit. But after three weeks of the red stuff, some of the farmers at the market have been picking stuff that is ripe right then, so it won't last as long. We bought 4 lbs of cherries this week for just a few bucks and I was determined to do something with them. Besides pit them. that is. I made Mark do the dirty work since we couldn't find a cherry pitter. However, I just read a tip: you can use a straw to pit cherries. Yes! You take off the stem, then poke the straw thru that end, and it will push out the pit on the other side. Nifty. Anyways, I didn't want to make a cherry pie. The crust is always so heavy and not that good for you. I found a Macaroon Cherry Tart Recipe from 101cookbooks blogger. Instead of a traditional crust, it uses a lot of coconut and egg whites, so it is marginally better for you. It smells awesome, and I've had to remind Mark twice to let it actually cool!
On the other hand, I'm freezing my new rocket pops! I bought a set of three tovolo rocket pops that let you layer flavors. I've been looking at these and the pig/icecream sandwich presses they have for a long time. Of course, the real kicker was the pudding I picked up for it. I wanted that fat free, sugar free jello pudding you can get--makes it preeeetty guilt free as a treat.All day on our list of errands I would cry "pudding!" in a cosby accent. Its silly, but Mark started picking it up, too. We were walking around the grocery store barking "pudding!"...anyways. I couldn't find anything but a few boring flavors. I got bananna and chocolate, of course, but besides cheesecake or pistachio (eeeeh) there was nothing but vanilla! What is that about? What about all the funky jello from my childhood? Sigh...

Jun 17, 2008

He: Grilled Vegetable Enchiladas

What do you do with squash? Why does everyone spend all of their time trying to find ways to hide it in baked goods, cover it with cheese, disguise it as something other than what it is? The only thing that squash has really done to us is to drive us to come up with enough ways to use it before it goes bad. This is one of those really fabulous ways to use it when you have an overabundance and just can't stand the idea of just cooking it by itself.

4 lb. assorted summer squash
2 lb. spring onions with tops
2 tbsp. good olive oil (preferably a nice extra virgin)
30 corn tortillas
1 jar of Fronteraenchilada sauce
1 tbsp. dry oregano
1 tbsp. smoked chile powder (not chili powder, but a singular powder like ancho, chipotle, aleppo, pasilla)
sea salt and black pepper to taste
cheddar, jack, or some other melting cheese (if desired)

1) Cut the ends off the squash and cut into planks about 3/4" thick. Do the exact same thing with the onions bottoms (save the tops to cut like green onions at the end).
2) toss the squash and onions with the oil and a little salt and pepper (it's really hard to say how much, just aim to make them taste like squash and onions, just a little bland...if you're really unsure try a Tbsp. of salt, and 1/2 tsp of pepper).
3) Grill on a preheated grill until soft, or about 2 minutes each side. Cool completely
4) Cut all of the vegetables into a nice 1/4" dice, add the oregano, smoked chile powder, the sping onion tops (cut very, very thinly) and any additional salt and pepper if you aren't satisfied with how they taste. Here's my load of veggies all set to become filling

5) Set up your enchilada assembly station just like this picture on the left, with plastic lining your counter and enchilada sauce on top of the plastic. This is an old restaurant trick...trust me it works like a champ.
6) Add a small amount of neutral tasting oil (canola, soy, corn...something inexpensive, since it's just for frying...kinda) to a large skillet and fry the tortillas in this oil for about 5 seconds on each side.
7) Move the tortillas to the assembly station and add a small amount of the squash mixture (about 3 tbsp per tortilla), and roll up the enchiladas.
8) As you finish each one move them into a casserole pan with the seam side facing down. Also, they work best if you push them right up against one another, otherwise they will tend to unroll. These are mine all set for the oven (note, I did some without cheese for the lactose intolerant guests that I had.

9) Once you have them all in the pan, top them with additional enchilada sauce, cheese if desired and then bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
10) They are done when the cheese is melted and the house smells like enchiladas (try not to get them too brown or the tortillas will be like eating tree bark.

11) Enjoy and thank me for putting up something else healthy!

He: White Lasagna

So, the family has been not so happy with me and the blog. Well, they're not unhappy, more annoyed that we create all of this really cool food that they hear about over the phone and there is never a recipe put up that they can try and make. Well you people here's me making an attempt to communicate better and put up more things that you can make at home that could be healthy.
This is a fairly involved recipe for a white lasagna that you might find in northern Italy (please don't hold me to this, but the techniques are accurate to what would be done). I am going to try and demystify the recipe and the difficulty in the techniques as I go along. As always with my recipes, if something doesn't make sense email or comment and I will explain in different terms than what I have put up here.

Meat sauce ingredients:
1 lb. ground turkey
2 oz. unsalted butter
2 oz. white flour
1 qt. 2% milk
2 ea. bay leaves
10 ea. whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (please don't be lazy with this one, pre-ground always tastes like sawdust)
salt to taste

cheese mixture:
1 head cauliflower (finely chopped, stem, leaves, everything)
2 bunches red chard chiffonade(cut into ribbons) leaves and stems separated
1 lb. 2% cottage cheese
2 tbsp. dry oregano
2 tbsp. dry parsley (you can use fresh on the herbs, just double the amount)
1 cup grated parmiggiano reggiano
3 ea. large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil (divided into 2 tbsp. increments)
salt to taste

assembly ingredients:
1 lb. low fat mozzarella (sliced)
2 lb. lasagna noodles
sea salt to boil with the water for the noodles (1 tbsp per gallon of water)

To make the meat mix:
1) Brown the meat in a saute pan on medium heat until cooked through. Drain excess water and grease.
2) Make the bechamel by melting the butter on high heat stirring frequently until after the first foaming.
3) Immediately add the flour and whisk until evenly distributed.
4) Continue cooking on high heat, stirring constantly until the mixture smells nutty and is a pale golden brown (maybe 5 minutes). Immediately add the milk and stir to combine.
5) Add the nutmeg, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Return to a boil, then lower the heat to as low as it will go and cook for at least 5 minutes.
6) Remove from the heat and allow the spices to infuse for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and peppercorns and stir in the cooked meat.
7) Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt (it's best to err on the side of slighly bland rather than slightly salty, the cheese added later will up the salt content significantly).
8) Set aside until assembly

To make the cheese mixture:
1) Turn oven to as high as it will go.
2) Take the cut cauliflower mixture and toss with 2 tbsp of canola oil and a tbsp or two of salt, spread out on a sheetpan and roast until the florets begin to caramelize.
3) Add the remaining 2 tbsp canola oil to a saute pan set on medium high heat and add the chard stems. Cook until soft.
4) Add the chard leaves and cook until just wilted. Season to taste with salt.
5) Cool the cauliflower and chard until at least room temperature (best if they are cold before proceeding).
6) Combine the vegetables with all remaining ingredients for the cheese mixture.
7) Set aside until assembly.

To cook noodles:
1) Boil in salted water according to package instructions.
2) If you really need help with this step you should not be attempting this recipe

Assembly and final cooking:
1) Assemble in this order: noodles, cheese mixture, meat mixture, noodles, cheese mix, meat mix, noodles, cheese mix, mozzarella.
2) Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
3) Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Here's a picture of what the final pan will look like. We had another shot with just a single portion of this, but it looked disturbing cut. If you consider the ingredients that go into this dish there is a great deal of protein, only a nominal amount of fat, and a lot of fiber from all of the veggies that are in it. Outside of the healthful items that are here, this really keeps well (10 days or so, refrigerated) and reheats fabulously.

Jun 13, 2008

She: Mexicali dinner

So, last week we made a Kick. Butt. Dinner. It was fabulous. and I can actually say we split duties. Usually he does most of dinner and I do dessert and random tasks. But this was great. Mark made some turkey that he did his little ziplock technique to...he posted that Sous Vide? Anyways. We had that, and he cooked black beans, and I made the corn bread and guacamole, and whatever it was I made for dessert which I can't remember.

Almost everything came from our farmers market. The honey for the cornbread, the corn, avacados, cilantro, etc. That was really nice, and I felt good about the organic local stuff. Now we go to our little market off sunrise every saturday morning and get our veggies. And right now, cherries. I should get Mark to post his cherry custard, which kicked butt...but back to this meal. I'll let him explain the meaty stuff should he desires, but I was really pleased with the guacamole--my first attempt. I thought I'd give ya the recipe.
Two avacados. I sliced 'em in half and twisted. I scooped it all out in small chunks with a spoon and put it in a bowl. Then I took the cilantro, twisted it up in a bunch that I folded twice and cut it up (faster that way). I added one sweet pepper, 1/4th to 1/2 tsp salt, a tad bit of ground black pepper, and I squeezed one lemon to mix it up. I actually like lemon in it better than limes--it has more zing, I think. Stir it up and mash just a little.

The thing I remember was at the market I was about to pick some that were too hard or too soft. Mark picked one up and showed me where to poke it gently--near the stem. You want that to give slightly, and mostly ignore the rest of the fruit. Oh, and he swore that keeping the pit in with the guacamole would keep it green, but I looked it up. Its an urban myth, about nitrogen or something keeping it fresh, but in reality it doesn't. So if you have leftovers, press plastic wrap to the surface. The citrus juice helps the color stay green, too.
Doesn't dinner look beautiful? It was great, cheap, local, and healthy!

May 24, 2008

He: Rice

Sorry...no pretty pictures this time. This is just an information post to help clear some nutritional information out of my head. This is just about rice, spurred on by an article that I read earlier today in cook's illustrated that was talking about the best ways to cook brown rice.

Just so that I don't run into any potential issues with Cooks Illustrated getting pissed off that I put up their cooking method on the internet, I won't. The way that I normally cook brown rice is basically the same way that I cook white rice. I usually do a ratio of 1.5:1 of water to rice and steam it until tender (at least 45 minutes). you can get more complicated than that, but for basic rice that works. When you have significantly more rice you need to add more time, but for simplicity's sake I'm just putting up this. Now, you don't have to be limited to just water for cooking your rice....you can use just about any liquid under the sun. I have found over the years that you need to be careful not to use any sort of high acid liquids (tomato juice, wine, orange juice, Dr. pepper) to cook your rice because it has a tendency to cause the grains to split down their length. Also, I personally prefer to add salt before cooking, while Brandy prefers to season her rice after cooking (my method is see as the more western technique, her's is the more eastern).

The next big topic that I want to share is nutritional information when dealing with rice. For many years now in assorted cooking circles I've had people blast at me for not having issues with parboiled rice (Uncle Ben's rice). They say that it's basically a white rice, and when white rice is made it's pearled, or tumbled to remove the outer bran and with it goes most of the nutrients. While the glycemic freaks are right that plain white rice isn't all that good for you and will cause a glycemic spike in your system that will cause you to store most of the calories in the rice as fat, Uncle Ben's/parboiled rice isn't quite the same thing. The way that parboiled rice is made is that it's flash steamed while it's still a whole grain (brown rice basically). What happens is that a lot of the nutrients that are in the bran layer actually adhere to the inner white part of the grain, and when this rice is tumbled it doesn't lose all of the nutrients that unsteamed white rice does. True, you will still have a glycemic spike by eating parboiled rice, but at least you will get more nutrients into your system while this happens.

The last thing that you should think about when you are out shopping for rice is, where is your rice coming from? You can get just your basic old Uncle Ben's rice, or Minute rice (if you really want to support Kraft foods and mega-agribusiness) or you can purchase rice from a legitimate American company that grows fantastic rice. The company that I'm imploring you to try is Lundberg Family Farms . All of their rice is grown right here in California...actually I've met some of the people in the company and cooked for all of the growers and they're just fantastic people. They actually produce rices that the world market sees as being the best in the world. If you try nothing else you have to try their short grain brown rice just once. I also wholeheartedly recommend their wild rice blend...it's just some really tasty stuff

If you need recipes for what to do with rice let me know and I'll put some up here.

May 17, 2008

He: Coco Cafe Rehersal Dinner

Okay this post is only just barely about food. This is mostly about our rehearsal dinner at this really tasty little spot on Kauai called...yep Coco Cafe.

Without going into all of the reasoning why we picked this one let's just say that it really suited us well, and the price was right (inexpensive..evrything else was going to be $50 + a person...not cool). We loved the open air part of it, we loved the lack of alcohol sold on premise (actually I loved it...my whole family seemed to be against it...that's all they seemed to talk about).

This is one of our best friends Kris, Krumrie to all of his friends and the name that he was introduced to me as. That's his girlfriend Naiomi....the first one that Brandy and I both approve of. The last one is Domo...if you don't know Domo I feel sorry for you ha! ha! Actually look him up, and all of his small furry buddies (they're just some of the many neat little toys that we have in collections here at the house). The other site that sticks out in my head is a designer in L.A. called the monster factory...or something like that?

At some point later on I'm sure that Brandy will put up some more pictures of Domo's fabulous Hawaiian vacation. The shots are just hilarious. But I digress....

That's some more of the family. The one with the camera is Amber...and the one that looks a little too white is Brandy's mom (it's just the flash...she has a fabulous tan).

Brandy has the great idea to get a bunch of disposable cameras and give them out to everyone to take pictures of the wedding, and the reception and whatever else. on the packaging for the cameras we taped on a message to give them back to us at the end of the reception. Brandy's family latched onto this idea and went nuts. We gave 'em 5 cameras and they filled 8 or 9...along with a ton of shots on their own digital cameras. Can't say the same thing happened with my family...they didn't like the cameras...couldn't figure out how to use them....blah blah blah. I don't know what the deal was, but it was really disappointing. I guess I've lazily protested it all by not talking to any of them since we got back. I will, I'm just bad about communicating...and talking to most of them is just dysfunctional and painful.

Okay so I have no idea how any of this has anything to do with food...but I don't care. If you don't like it...tough.....I will post more important things in other posts. This post is just for us.

She: Noodles in Kauai

Hamura Saimin Stand in Lihue was one of the best things about chowing down in Hawaii. I lived overseas in Asia growing up, and in my school we didn't have tater tots and chocolate pudding--we had noodles and fried rice. And lord do I miss the noodles. We have lots of vietnamese restaurants here in sacto, but I don't think any of them make their own noodles...there's a zang to the yellow noodles that is lacking, and the consistancy is wrong. Well, Hamua's had fresh noodles, and I practically turned into a puddle slurping them down.

Another fabulous treat while we were there, only served once or twice a week, were the pork filled rice buns. Buck fifty a peice for a softball sized bun-o-heaven. We ate there a day before we were married, and came back the day after for more! Now, I have to say, I rarely put in much effort to the photos on this site...photography is "work" and I try to keep this blog casual and fun, which means to serious lighting or equipment. The photo I have here shows an exception to the rule--we took Domo with us everywhere on our Hawaiian wedding trip and he hung out for all the snapshots. Domo rocked the noodle shop (snicker). Everyone talked about the lilikoi (passionfruit) pie they had, but I thought it was sooo light I couldn't hardly taste any passionfruit, let alone zippy tartness, so that was a disappointment. BUT, the overall experience was great, and at 4.25 per noodle bowl, an absolute steal and trip (for me) down memory lane. If you aren't sure if you'd had great noodles, ah, buy a plane ticket to Kauai and try these guys out!

May 15, 2008

She: (mini) Lemon Cupcakes

So, stress baking begins again. I am in the midst of grading portfolios. I gotta say, english teachers can complain about essays all they want--at least they can fit it into one bag! Sigh. Anyways. I made some cupcakes for one of my classes, a classic lemon cake. Usually I fill it with lemon custard, but I didn't have the time, and I was using my new cute mini cupcake pan! Hurrah! Isn't the size just cute? I think I like them better than regular sizes. Fit into your mouth in two bites.

Well, here's what you'll need:

8oz flour, 2.5 tbs corn starch, 2.5 tsp baking powder, 3/4 tsp salt, 7oz sugar, 3 oz butter, 1 egg, 1 tsp vanilla, zest of 2 lemons and 8oz milk.

This goes a little differently than normal. First mix wet (except milk, use creaming method) then add dry (except flour). The creaming method, btw, is when you mix the butter til creamy, then add sugar, then egg, etc. After all this is mixed (including zest, yes?) then you alternate adding milk and flour. Bake at 350. If mini cups, 15 mts. If normal cups, 19 mts.

For the icing: cream 4 oz butter with 4 oz cream cheese, then add 1 lemon juice and about 3 cups powder sugar. Voila!

May 12, 2008

She: Absentee

So, we haven't posted in a while, and in particular I haven't posted in even longer...with good reason. We got married! I can assure you that I had very good reason to ignore the blog. First there was the planning, then the pre-emptive push with my classes for while I was gone. THEN we got married, and then its been catch-up for all the things I couldn't preschedule. But we are back. Its exam weeks now, but I assure you I will be adding posts about some of the interesting food we had while in Hawaii, and some of my stress-baking I did in the weeks prior to the big shebang. But for now, I come almost directly from William Sanoma...

Since its exams week, and photo classes use part of that time in critique, I try to bake stuff for my students. As much as I love cupcakes though, with 100+ students, its too much work. So I bought a mini cupcake pan! I love it when I can buy things with the excuse that I need something for work. I'm not fooling my wallet at all, but it's still fun.

However, that isn't why I'm posting. I'm posting because I think I saw the most ridiculous device ever. The "Peanut Butter & Jelly Spreader". It is a knife. One side is for peanut butter and one for jelly. They are color coded ends, so there is no unwanted mixing of peanut butter and jelly. :| This costs 10 bucks with tax! I KNOW there are some things there we don't need but are great toys: premade pancake mixes, once-a-year overpriced cookie cutters, but a special peanut butter sandwich knife? COOOOOOME OOOOON! If mixing is such an issue, use two knifes, but don't waste money on this!

Mar 13, 2008

He: Sous Vide pictures

For anyone that is keeping track of things based on the dates that are posted at the top of the posts...get over it. Sure, I've taken a lot longer than I said I would to put up pictures...what can I say? I'm a king at procrastination...even when it's something that I like.
This first image is the bag of chicken and the seasoning, and the thermometer. The thing that I want everyone to see is the temperature on the thermometer (which is right around 120 degrees). This is lower than the final cooking temperature that was reached several hours later, but important to see nontheless.

The second image is of the bones at the end of the cooking of the chicken. I wanted you to see this to illustrate a principle that happens in meat that everyone takes as law. Chicken meat that is still red is not necessarily undercooked. According to my favorite food scientist/chemist/god to all chefs Harold McGee, 'When meat is heated quickly, its temperature rises quickly, and some of the muscle proteins are still unfolding and denaturing when the pigments begin to do the same. The other proteins are therefore able to react with the pigments and turn them brown. But when meat is heated slowly, so that it takes an hour or two to reach the denaturing temperature for myoglobin and cytochromes, the other proteins finish denaturing first, and react with each other. By the time that the pigments become vulnerable, there are few other proteins left to react with them, so they stay intact and the meat stays red'. Basically what he is saying is that since the myoglobin(the particle in meat that has the color) breaks down so slowly the color never has a chance to react before the molecules that it will react with will already be denatured and unable to cause a reaction to change myoglobin from red to brown. This accomplishment can also be done chemically through sodium nitrite (the salt used to cure meats like bacon), or through normal table salt (if it has enough time in contact with the raw meat). Therefore, with this very slow cooking method that I have presented here, since the meat is raised to a temperature that will kill all errant microbes very, very slowly the myoglobin never has the appropriate proteins to react with to break down.
Oh, to answer the question that was asked about the website of the food chemist that explains how to do sous vide at home it's: www.khymos.com

Feb 26, 2008

He: Sous Vide cooking

Okay, what the hell is sous vide, and why in the heck would I want to do it. Sous Vide means 'in a vacuum' in French, and it's been all the rage in high end restaurants for the last several years. Chances are, unless you've dropped a couple hundred bucks for one of those multi-course extravaganzas at a mecca of great food, you've never seen the term....that's okay I will explain.
The principle behind the technique is based in the idea that there is an absolute perfect point, temperature-wise, that you want to bring any protein to where it will be the most palatable. The trick to all of this is best shown by making a custard...creme caramel, creme brulee, or for that matter creme anglaise or even just french toast. With all of the aforementioned dishes there is that idea 'sweet spot' where the egg is just set and the dish is creamy without being runny. I really like the way that Alton Brown explained it in his first book. If you don't have his first book, I'm not going to go through the explanation for you in detail. As always, if you would like the long explanation, please post a comment and I will answer to the best of my ability (just expect to learn a lot more than anyone could possibly want to know).
In terms of the 'sweet spot' for meats, there is some variability depending on the final results that you're after. For the sake of simplicity, and because I don't have any pictures to back up any other meats today, I will just stick to chicken. The ideal 'sweet spot' for chicken is 152 degrees. How did I come to this number you ask? Well, the number is something that many chemists and food scientists that have hated having dry chicken (or for that matter any other poultry) so they did experiments and research into the actual chemical and physical changes that take place. Luckily for me, I didn't have to wade through millions of pages of scientific papers to find out about this 'sweet spot' for America's favorite bird I just checked out the section on meat in Harold McGee's food bible. Okay, I also used this great website written by a chemist that explains how you can scam the true technique for minimal money at home. Again, if you want that link you will have to post a comment.
The pictures that you see are of the last chicken dish that I put together. In the bag are two chicken leg quarters, along with a pile of seasonings. For those of you that wish to attempt this technique here's the other ingredients: Annatto seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper, garlic cloves and bay leaves....oh yeah, and one gallon ziplock freezer bag.
All that you do for this techique is to flash blanch the chicken for 5 seconds in rapidly boiling water to kill external bacteria, and any other nasties that you might not want to have. Stick the chicken in the bag with the seasonings. Suck as much of the air out of the bag as you can(I found that a straw works really well for this). Then all you have to do is drop the bag of chicken into water that is maintaining 152 degrees for at least 6 hours. I want to say that this batch I think I cooked for 36 hours, but who's counting really. 36 hours you say!...is he absolutely deranged? Nope, the chicken never has a chance to overcook because it never exceeds the temperature range of the 'sweet spot' which is anywhere over 160. How did I maintain temperature for that long? Well, the only thing that I did was to add ice cubes if the temperature ever went too high...which happened once or twice....and I'd turn the heat up just a touch if it was too low.
This technique is sooooooooo stinking simple that anyone should be able to make the most succulent chicken of their entire lives this way.

Okay...in the hopes of having something posted, pics or no here it is. The pics aren't up because B won't materialize the cord for our digital camera, and I suck with photoshop. I promise that I will get the cord from her and post very, very soon.

Feb 12, 2008

He: Organics, and the price of labeling

This is a post just for me (sorry I'm sure you're hugely disappointed). It revolves around a very annoying conversation and a rather insane idea from a woman that I spoke with yesterday for what felt like an eternity. She wheeled herself up to me in one of those electric shopping carts to ask me if the salt that we were using in the kitchen was organic sea salt or not. In the process of arguing with this woman that the idea of having an organic mineral is just insane, I talked her into looking further into what she is trying to hold as ideals. Coincidentally, organic sea salt is just not possible...or is it?
Does everything in the free world have to have a label in order for it to be good? According to this woman that is hell bent on everything that enters into her body to be organic....yes. For the rest of modern society, should we be looking to organics to save our less than perfect eating habits...no. If you consume 4000 calories a day, and half of that is fast food or something fried covered in cheese...then you deserve to be the fat lazy slob that you are. If you consume that much food, and you're thin as a rail...be happy...the genetics roulette game has come out to your genetic advantage on this one.
I'm not in the best of moods about it all so I won't go into too much more of a rant. I just can't stand the idea of someone trying to hold anyone to some high and lofty standard if they don't actually hold themselves to that standard meaningfully.
Coincidentally, even though there are millions of organic products that are available to me every single day (thank god for California), I buy organic only when it makes sense. If anyone out there really wants to know what I think about it, or as a chef which products I feel warrant purchasing organically..just ask

Jan 28, 2008

She: Brandy Gets Creative

We have this problem in our house sometimes. Well, often. My partner tends to eat/use ingredients I've mentally earmarked for a recipe without either buying more or letting me know I need to (grumble, grumble)...typical stuff, really, but when you're halfway thru making oatmeal cookie dough to find most of your oats gone, ya gotta get creative. In the end, it turned out to be a great new recipe and a really unique cookie.
3/4C butter
1C brown sugar
1/2C sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup oats
1 3/4 C flour
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup dried tropical fruit (I used a mango/pineapple/coconut mix)

As usual, cream your butter and sugars with the cinnamon. Add eggs and vanilla, and mix in the flour, salt and soda/powder. I mixed in the fruit stuff by hand and baked it at 375 for 10 minutes. This is a chewy cookie that gives a slightly different flavor than a regular oatmeal-raisin does.

Jan 9, 2008

She: Pecan Sandies

I think these were the most polished looking and tasting cookies we had over the holiday. I love pecan sandies, and haven't ever tried my hand at them. The recipe I used said that you needed to have a special cookie cutter, but I ignored that for common sense--I just used a small jar lid, about 3 inches diameter.

3/4 C toasted pecans (3 oz), plus about 2 cups unroasted pecan halves for cookie tops
2/3 C plus 2 tbs powder sugar
1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter @ room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg, separated

To toast the pecans, I just put them on a cookie sheet at 400F for about 5 mts and let them cool. Then you take them and your 2tbs sugar and pulse them together in your food processor til they become a fine powder. Then mix it with your other dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix your remaining sugar, butter and vanilla, then add egg yolk. Mix all your ingredients together (minus egg whites and unroasted pecans). My dough was crumbly, but it held when I shaped it into a ball. Then take what you can between wax paper and roll it til about 1/4 inch thick. Use your jar and cut out circles. Brush it with lightly beaten egg whites, and place your pecans on top. Brush that with egg whites too (I think to keep it in place) and stick em in the oven for 12-15 mts at 325F.

Jan 1, 2008

She: Striped Cookies

I think I had the most fun this holiday making these cookies. It wasn't really that difficult, but they looked reeeeally pretty, and since I used Scharffenberger cocoa powder the chocolate came thru nicely. I also did all the steps inbetween other cookies, so I wasn't waiting around for stuff to chill. Here's how it goes:

For each of the doughs, you mix the sugar, butter, then egg, and mix with the dry ingredients. It'll be crumbly, so you add the icewater and then roll it in a ball and put it in a container for a half hour. Now you should have 2 cold balls of dough. What you need to do is divide each ball in half. Put it between 2 sheets of wax paper and roll it out to about 8x12 and stick it in the freezer for an hour. Take off the paper and stack each dough (alternating vanilla and chocolate) so you have 4 stacks. Cut those stacks in half and place that on top so you have 8 layers--I used a rolling pin to press them together lightly. Trim off the excess and cut your stacks into 1/4 inch thick cookies. I baked mine for 12 minutes at 375.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (about 5 1/2 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons ice water

3/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 1/3 ounces)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons ice water