Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mother Nature In A Skillet

It's either she's in a skillet...or I'm going to hit her over the head with one.

I live in the Midwest, and we are in the middle of a cold spell.  Another one.  I don't care what the Weather Channel calls it: polar vortex, deep freeze, or Arctic blast...it's effing cold.  It's gray, it's icy, it's dirty, it's depressing.  And it's cold.

So, time to practice a little kitchen witchery, yes?

I mean, I can't make a greener, more practical, more fitting offering up to Mother Nature.  Greens (here, kale) and eggs.  Both harbingers of spring and fertility!  The only thing I could have added was a rabbit.

But, that's another topic for another post.

Anyway, I found the idea for this dish at cleaneatingmag.com.  Naturally, I tweaked it and made some changes...but the sriracha hollandaise is my idea (although, not original, probably).

This dish starts off easy enough...1 onion, sliced, sauteéd until soft; 8 oz. box of mushrooms of your choice; 6 cups of greens...the type that's really good for you (spinach, kale, collard or mustard greens); and some kicky seasonings (cumin or cayenne, oregano, etc.).

I've made room for the eggs, indicated by the weird black circles above.  Because I'm going to do this:

Yeah.  That just happened.  Then, I throw this trusty cast-iron skillet into a 400 degree oven.  Ten to twelve minutes later, I get that picture we started off this whole discussion with.

While the Spring Skillet is doing its thing...I've got just enough time to do the hollandaise.  Hollandaise is a relatively easy sauce, provided you've got the right equipment.  It can go horribly wrong as well, as in the case of my mayonnaise snafu (documented for all future generations here).  But, when you've got a blender or a food processor, it's hard to do it wrong.  Egg yolks, melted butter, lemon juice, salt, sriracha.  Blend until creamy and whatnot (okay, there's a couple of other things to do first, but that's about it, really).

This is what you're going to spoon over your Spring Skillet before you offer this dish up to the Goddess of Your Belly.

And ultimately, whether it works to bring on spring or not, you gotta feel pretty darn good when you eat something like this.  Simple, non-processed goodness.  Just like Mother Nature intended...when she's not playing us about with this stupid weather, that is.

Get your Printable Recipe Here!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Child of the 50s

Okay, so you know those silly quizzes, "What Decade Is YOU?" like the ones you find...






I love those things.  I was born in the 70s, did my first round of informative learning in the 80s, did my second round of informative learning in the 90s, got all "grown up" and shit in the new millenium, and am reinventing myself here in the twentyteens.

All decades are good decades to be alive, I guess.

Though I was born long after the decade ended, I feel a certain affinity with the Fifties (based on the quiz results from the first link).

It was the best of times: prosperity, peace, strings of pearls, neighborhood barbecues, and shirtwaist dresses!

But, it was also the worst of times: processed food, lax government regulations in the area of food and food production, and paranoid anti-Communists.

None of that today, though.  I spent today in the manner of all the impeccably dressed and mannered June Cleavers before me: preparing an simple, delicious, and nutritious (no, really) for myself and my husband, baking a pan of chocolate chip bars for my son's orchestra fundraiser, grocery shopping, laundry, beautifying my home, and doing all those little things that cause a house to run like a well-greased machine.  I felt quite accomplished...although I suspect I'll tire of it soon (I was born to work outside the home, that much I know is true...how so very 80s of me).

The second quiz I took said my best-fitting decade was the 80s.  The third link here said I'm a "Miss Millenial".  I guess I should research...and see exactly what that means in regards to housekeeping.

Maybe tomorrow I'll start the day with a little Sweatin' to the Oldies before preparing a macrobiotic lunch for Brent and I...and have a pitcher of Cherry Kool-Aid ready when my kids come home from school.

Or, maybe tomorrow's lunch will be low-carb in the manner of Atkins or similar.

Or, it might just be a good damned day to do it like the married women of Downton Abbey do it...somebody brings them breakfast in bed.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Grease = Cure For The Common Hangover

It sounds counterintuitive, doesn't it?  Greasy foods seems to be the least appealing of all when one is suffering from a hangover.

But, then again, maybe it depends on the severity of hangover, yes?  When the hangover is so bad that the sufferer spends two days with his/her head in the toilet, *nothing* edible sounds good at all.  The mention of bacon and potatoes and such is enough to send him/her crawling for the nearest retch-spot.

However, for mild hangovers, the ones symptomized by a slight quease in the stomach or a headache...grease is just the thing.

Here's the hypothetical illustration that proves my point.

Some friends that I happen to know got together last night for dinner and drinks...as a sendoff to another friend of theirs, who will be leaving soon for Spain for six weeks.  And you, dear readers, know how these little soirees go.  Someone gets out of the tequila, and pretty soon, everyone's drinking beer, or wine, or amaretto...or whatever.

Luckily, some of these people did not get the spins (unlike others in the group, I'm sure).  S/he had just enough of a leftover icky feeling to warrant this recipe:  German-Style Potato Salad.

Who knows if the Germans planned it that way, or it it's just simple doo-dah coincidence, but for my hungover friend, this bacon-grease-potato dish hit the spot and totally gave him/her the energy to at least take a shower and drive out somewhere for a cup of coffee.  And maybe it will work wonders for you and yours as well.

Printable Recipe Here

Saturday, February 15, 2014

If You Can't Be With The Ones You Love...

Cue late 60s music...

Love the one you're with.

This was the result of my 12-hour day yesterday.  A Valentine's Wine Dinner at the Winery.  There was a lot of love going around last night.   

Mixed green, cranberry, pecan, and blue cheese salad to start
Entree: Beef shoulder tenders, mushroom risotto, and seasoned green beans
And for afters: Vanilla Bean Bread Pudding (my special caramel sauce) with Chocolate Drizzle

Have a good Saturday, readers.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The End Nears...

So, my culinary school career is drawing to a close.  Things are winding down.

Today was the last day of my Catering & Banqueting class, and yesterday I wrapped up Culinary Management.

Today was a field trip. 

The term doesn't technically end until next week, but since we've taken all our tests, completed all our projects, and reviewed all our work...there's not much left to do.  So, our instructor basically cancelled classes for next week.  That means with the exception of a Marketing final on Monday, I'm done with my sixth term.

That leaves the 7th and final term.  I'm enrolled in three classes: a Culinary Internship, Entrepreneurship, and Culinary Industry.  The last two are six-week classes, and I will take them the first six weeks of the term...I'll be done with them by April 1st.

Then, I leave for an internship.  The program requires six weeks, but most of the internships are longer than that.

On April 20, I will leave my home and begin my internship at the Gate House Restaurant on the lovely, picturesque Mackinac Island, Michigan.  And I will be staying the whole season.  That means I won't come home to Iowa until the very end of October.  Over six months.

While I am very excited and nervous, it is a long time to be away from my family.  But, while I will miss them, I'm not as concerned about the duration as maybe I should be.  It's only six months, and my husband is a very capable parent.

There is a West wind blowing, change is on the horizon, and whether I believe it or not, the universe is unfolding in the way it should be.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Written Account of Failure

As presented to you by me, author of the blog "To Thine Own Self, Be Food."

Herein lies the truth, and hopefully it will set me (and you, maybe) free.

I joined Pinterest several months ago because it seemed like the vogue, trendy thing to do.  I didn't pin very much, mostly because I was intimidated.  Pictures everywhere of gorgeous dishes, cleverly plated entreés, and cuteasallgetout desserts.  Obviously, the message was this: cooking and baking alone is not enough...to be successful here at Pinterest, you must also be a decent food stylist and photographer.

And the message was received.  My boards have been neglected for some time.  But it's okay, because I still have you beautiful people, my dear readers.

I'll admit, though, it's difficult to read other food blogs.  Not only do they make amazing food and have clever ideas, but the final product manages to look perfect, in just the right light, on just the right shape of plate.

If any of you are like any of me, you'll oooh and aaah and fawn over such blogs.  And then, over a glass of Riesling (or a gin and tonic or whatever) later that night, you wonder why hardly anybody documents and broadcasts their failures for the world to see.  Not to mention their poor photography skills too.

Huzzah, readers!  Let's not wonder anymore.  Today, you are going to see failure at its finest.  Along with crappy photography!  Let the good times begin!

I told you a few days ago I would attempt macaroons...a notoriously fussy confection.  I used the measurements and directions from Gwen's Kitchen Creations, because she seemed very interested in taking the time to provide tips and suggestions so that I too could make the perfect macaroon (or, in France, macaron).  Everybody else just told you how damn hard they were to get right before giving you the straight instructions.

Things started off rather well, I thought.  I was able to assemble all my ingredients in a capable, confident manner.

And due to my bakery education, even this step of whipping the egg whites, cream of tartar and red food coloring was not daunting.  I eventually came up with a batter that resembled, as Gwen recommended, "magma".  Pink magma.

This might have been where things started to head south. Click on the picture for a bigger view, but you'll see that I didn't pipe them very well onto the cookie sheet.  I should spaced them out more, so that the cookies wouldn't touch at all.  But, lesson learned.  Moving on.

Removal from the oven here, and you'll see the cracked tops, the lack of feet, and well, just a general sad silly-looking little cookie.  But, I'm made of stronger stuff, so we forge on.

There are approximately two cookies on the sheet above that are perfect.  Good enough for me.

A little dab of strawberry preserves piped in the middle and sandwiched between the macaroons for the finished product.  They definitely aren't perfect, but the taste was fine.  Macaroons are interesting things...crispy and chewy at the same time.  And to my family and friends' credit, there wasn't a single confection left the next morning.

So, today, we celebrate failure.  Because it's real, and you can taste it.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Not Your Madre's Guacamole

About three weeks ago, The Kirbster went on a church retreat with a friend.  She came back with what she said was the most amazing guacamole recipe...ever.  That's a mighty big claim, but after today, when she actually made it for us...she just might be right.

At the retreat, the speaker who demonstrated the dip included a lot of spiritual metaphorical explanation for each of the ingredients; the official title of the condiment/lesson is "Life Is Like Guacamole".

I won't go into all that here (I mean, really, if you're religiously savvy enough, you'll figure out what ingredient represents in regards to a relationship with God). But here's what I know...or least deeply suspect...if the poorhouse worker boys in the opening sequence to Oliver! the musical would have had this guacamole to eat instead of that damned gruel, Mr. Bumble and the governors would be dead, and London would have been powered by the pure manual force of this one workhouse alone.  Oliver would be King, Fagin would be Prime Minister, Bill Sikes would have been instantly vaporized by the sheer energy release, and Nancy would have lived.

Yep, Dickens' whole story would have been way different had this guacamole been in the picture.

It's not surprising, or even original, to add fruit to this dip.  But, the mango adds a little color and sweetness, but the pomegranate seeds are just plain awesome.  A little crunch and little burst of fruitiness.  You get yourself some salty tortilla chips with some of this, and you've got your classic sweet-and-salty combo.  I've included a link to the recipe below.

The red dots? Not tomatoes, but pomegranate seeds.  Yeah.
A really shoddy upclose picture of one of the most perfect unions known to man.

Unfortunately, Kirby could not remember the name of the gentleman speaker who presented this guacamole...nor could we find evidence of his name anywhere in her retreat literature.  Alas.  While I cannot assign the full credit, let it be said that I do not take this recipe for my own. 

Hopefully that won't stop you from enjoying it.  It shouldn't, anyway.

Printable Recipe Here

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Not Nuclear Fusion...But Really Kind Of Close

Saturday.  Three things.

1. I received a recipe in my Inbox this morning for Red Velvet Beet Cake from Food & Wine.  Um.  Yes!  Soon.

2. Since last updating my pantry/freezer/fridge inventories last weekend, I have been harangued by those bags of almond and coconut flours in my freezer.  It's time I did something with them...or die trying.  I hope to attempt (and document for you, readers) my adventures in macaroon-making.  Hopefully tomorrow.

3. But, right now, let's talk about my state's capital city.  Des Moines.  I know when you think of Des Moines, you do not think about the apex, the epitome, the embodiment of foodie sophistication.  To be honest, I don't think of DM like that, either...but an East wind is blowing, friends, and things are changing. 

For example, take this place right here, Fong's Pizza.  Eclectic, friendly, funky, this restaurant in downtown DM *is* the word fusion.  Asian and Italian cuisines.  Crab Rangoon pizza, Beef and Broccoli pizza, just about every popular Asian Buffet dish you might imagine...Fong's puts it on a pizza.  Genius, right?

For example,

Crab Rangoon pizza.  Thin, wheat crust.  The creamy cream cheese of the rangoon is the pizza "sauce".  Chunks of the crab sprinkled throughout, the wonton strips crumbled atop that, along with a helping of the sweet chili sauce. Scattered with green onions and cheeses.

Asian-Italian fusion.  At its funky finest.  Dead daring brilliant.

In addition to the Crab Rangoon, we also sampled the Fongolian Beef pizza (being that there's not much better in life than a decently good Mongolian Beef), which had its merits, no doubt...but it's hard to go for the cute, quiet librarian when the hot-as-hell supermodel is right in front of your face, you know what I'm saying?  (For those of us who have been in those types of choose-between-two-amazing-women scenarios).

It's a tough call.  It's like asking me: Matt Damon or Benedict Cumberbatch?

But that's not all.  Equally interesting are Fong's appetizers, which change every month.  For February...

Sweet dear Lord and all the seraphim above, here's what you're looking at:

an egg roll.

That should be enough, right?  I mean, I probably freaking had you at 'egg roll'.

What happens when I tell you this particular egg roll is stuffed with mac n' cheese, and bacon, and jalapeño? 

Fusion, people.  Fusion.  #realtalk

As if these menu offerings weren't enough to make you want to drive (or walk or ride bike or hitchhike with strangers) there right now (or maybe tomorrow, depending on your time zone), then consider the fact that the place is called Fong's Pizza...and it's just fun to say!  I guarantee at some point you will swap out 'thong' for 'Fong' in Sisqo's "The Thong Song".  Fongf-fongfong!

And if that doesn't do it, then the case is hopeless.  I just don't know what to say.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Run, Rabbit. Run.

PETA is probably going to have a cow (no harm to the cow, of course) after reading this post.

Let that be your warning, readers.

Rabbits are nice.  We associate them with Easter, springtime, cuteness, sex, and of course,
Bugs Bunny.

My experience with them today was, well...a little different.

First of all, my rabbit was dead.  Not only that, but it came in a cellophane-wrapped, cool-storage-friendly package.  In about seven parts.

Our chef-instructor told us yesterday to mentally prepare ourselves for what he called a Market Basket Activity.  Sort of like Iron Chef or Chopped, or all those other shows on Food Network I never watch.  He would give us some kind of protein, and we would have two hours to create a plated entreé.

What fun, yes?!

And so the assignments of meats began.  Two of my friends were assigned duck.  Another got tilapia.  Another was given pork belly.  Ground beef, tuna, catfish, pork tenderloin, etc., etc.  And finally, my teacher called my name.  My assigned protein?  The fabricated rabbit.

I've never cooked rabbit.  I've never eaten rabbit either.  So, preparing it was bound to be gooood times.  Thankfully, my teacher informed me that rabbit was quite lean...which told me straightaway that roasting/baking would not be a good idea.  A lean cut of meat lacks moisture (or fat that melts and moisturizes during cooking).  Grilling or broiling would probably not give me the texture or finish I was looking for.

So, I finally opted for braising.  Submerge the browned rabbit pieces in a liquid mix of beef broth, red wine, mirepoix, and for fun, chocolate and chorizo; then, place in an oven set to low for a few hours.  Easy-peasy-pleasy.  But, I still had the pesky loin pieces left...the ribs were still attached and there wasn't much meat to write home about.

What to do?  A frenched rack of rabbit, of course...with a wheat germ and herb crust.  Of course!

For plating, I also did a carrot and potato pureé, which you'll no doubt see in the pictures.

Surprisingly, the final product tasted good.  The braising renders the meat tender and yummy, and the richness of the chocolate-chorizo was present in every bite of rabbit.  The frenched rabbit was okay; I mean, it's more novelty than anything...you hardly get much to eat with the frenched rack.

But still.  It's just so darned cute.  Dead rabbit and all.  Erm.

The rack of rabbit atop the carrot and potato pureés

Same kind of presentation, but I tried being more fancy-pantsy

As you can see, plate presentation is NOT my forté.  I hope to get better at this when I go on internship in a few weeks.

In the meantime, Run, Rabbit, Run...right onto this here plate.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Super Bowl Synchronicity


My kind of Super Bowl

It's Super Bowl Sunday, readers.  Which really means nothing to me, honestly.  I have no vested interest, I have no favorites, I have no great love of the game.

But what I do have, dear readers, are two phenomenal food-and-wine pairings for you today.

The Vertikal Riesling with the Spicy Garlic Shrimp.  The Vertikal is fine for drinking by itself (which means, on the sweet side), but it really gains a new life when drank with the spicy, garlicky, srirachy flavors of the shrimp.

The Vertikal is a bit nebulous.  The label indicates the wine was made in the Mosel river region in Germany, which is a very good thing.  But, it's imported to the States by an American wine company...and it's not out of the question for a conversation between American importers and German winemakers to go like this:

Am: Hey, there, German wine people.  We've got a great way to sell your wine here in the States.

Germ: Oh yeah, how's that then?

Am: We know that a true Riesling is on the dry side, but we can sell more of it if it's a little sweeter.  Americans like sweeter wine, and they like feeling like they're drinking European wines.  What do you say?  Your wine, sweeten it up a little, and we'll sell it for you?

Germ: It goes against everything we believe in, but ach, we need the marks.  Okay.

There you go.  It probably happened very similar to that.

Pairing #2

Ignore the scratched-off price tag.  That's the way it is around here

A pretty good pairing, although not as good as the Riesling/Shrimp

For dinner tonight, the kids chose a tasty, fun French bread pizza.  The main base, though, was Ranch dressing and mozzarella cheese.  Interesting, right?  I mean, what wine does one pair with a Hidden Valley Ranch dressing?

All research points to a Chardonnay (maybe a Pinot Gris).  So, that's what I bought.  For some weird reason, Brent bought the Black Swan brand on Chardonnay...and it's not because he's a fan of the movie (because he certainly is not).  This wine was gorgeous to pour, that dark golden color...I mean, just pure spun gold.  The taste was okay, nothing terrible, but nothing to write home about either.  It paired well with the pizza, and I definitely noticed more caramel notes coming out of the wine as I ate the pizza.

And, on a plus note, making the pizza allowed me to use up the rest of my Hidden Valley Ranch dressing.  Now I can go another three years before buying another bottle (not really, but one can wish).

Go Bears!  Or Bulls!  Or Bottles of Wine!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

On Lazy Saturdays Such As These, We Shall Talk Of Desserts

It's one of those rare Saturdays here at Be Food...one without much of an agenda, obligations, or constraints of any kind.  With the exception of doing the weekly groceries and a birthday party to run the youngest child to later today, there's nothing I really *must* do today.

How then does one spend such a leisurely Saturday?

There's always something to do, right?  And if you're like me, what you decide to do with free time comes down to two categories: What You Should Do and What You Want To Do.

For example, after I finish today's blog post?  I *should* exercise.  But, I *want* to take a nap.  Or, I *should* finish up a project for my Culinary Management class.  But, I *want* to take a nap.  Or, I *should* make and freeze a big batch of spaghetti sauce.  But, I *want* to take a nap.

You're feeling me, right?  You see where I'm coming from?

In the end, I suspect the nap will win out.  It's cold outside, it snowed last night, and the sky has that frosty, funky, unfriendly whiteness to it...my bed needs me on a day like today.

But before I drift off, let me provide pictures and directions for the Milk Chocolate Bavarian Cream I did for last night's Wine & Pasta dinner.  I was quite, quite pleased.  Nearly all of the tables of guests asked about what it was, how I made it, etc.  The texture is very similar to that of a mousse, light, airy, and well, just kind of fun to eat!  I topped it with a quickly made chocolate ganache, whipped cream, and a raspberry (for color, you know). 

I used round PVC molds for that cool circle look.  Ganache pooled over the top.
Pretty maids all in a row

Bavarians typically are molded, which means if you've got access to those fancy silicone molds or other such kitchen coolness...this dessert is for you!

Fancy technology time!
Printable MC Bavarian Cream Recipe Here