Time for a Change

I got a letter in the mail yesterday that let me know that it is time for a change. Two weeks ago I had a physical which also included doing a blood profile.

I have always taken great pride in knowing I followed my fathers genes for height, weight and cholesterol until yesterday. My mother has very high cholesterol which she is managing well; she and Dad are in their 80’s and are doing well.

For many years all of my lab reports were great. Now, this report comes back with a spike in my LDL cholesterol (the bad one) into a danger zone of 160 (it should be below 100). “Let’s talk about some medications” my Dr. suggests.

i take drugs

I suggest drugs! (Photo credit: the|G|™)

Guess the butter has caught up to me. And the lamb, fried chicken, bacon and pastries. If you realistically look at it and ask

“Just how many Bacon Topped, Maple Glazed yeast doughnuts can one eat before you have to pay the price?” you would know the answer.

Darn, because that sure does sound amazing,  is it the bacon part? Or the maple glaze part? Or the raised glazed part? Can’t we just forget about health this one time?

Well the real question that has come home to roost is how many times can you say “yes, just this time.”

How many times can you rationalize in your mind that it is “OK” to slather bread with butter, or load up that baked potato with sour cream and cheese on top of that butter or dip that fried chicken finger into ranch dressing.

a baked potato with butter

a baked potato with butter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How many times can we continue to look away?

No more, according to that letter.

Now, either I get to show and do what I know is right nutritionally or I can get on that AMA medicated bandwagon for the rest of my life. At 57 years old, I hope to have a lot of life ahead and have no desire to do so medicated or dependent on some doctors opinion.

I talked myself out of walking today because it was “cold”. 53°F “cold”.

Ha.

I scolded myself for not going. I didn’t go because I was lazy. Although I can come up with several excuses that all sound so much better than lazy, lazy is the truth. Lazy is a choice and lazy is something I can do something about.

Avoiding cardiovascular disease needs exercise, so I’d better get over this lazy spell.

While I don’t have a cardiovascular diagnosis, its numbers like these that lead to it unless something is done. Here lies my choice.

The amazing thing is that I really truly do know better! I am better educated about diet, health and food than most and yet I still find myself eating bacon, sugar and butter as if I were immune to the effects.

Today, I made some multi-grain bread and crackers with organic flour and whole grains, made hummus without oil, thanks to the vita-mix. Gosh, it had such a bright flavor! These are some of our go to snacks and lunch stuff for the next week.

I looked in the fridge and noticed some things that need to go.

Cholesterol is Good for You!

Cholesterol is Good for You! (Photo credit: Mr Jaded)[This is NOT really in my fridge! But wouldn’t it be nice if it were just this easy to eliminate cholesterol?]

The determination to do this myself, by ‘eating better’ is going to trump the medication possibility.

I asked myself today, “what do I want to accomplish by eating this?” and threw some junky food away rather than down my throat.

So some changes are in order.

While I’m not going to say I’ll never eat butter again or bacon or brie cheese, I can’t make them part of a normal diet. Maybe once a year or never for that doughnut.

My immediate goals are to change the amount of fat, increase vegetables and fiber, balance lean meats and breads.

I make all of our bread, I know what is in it, I’m not real keen on giving that up any time soon. Not being gluten intolerant or sensitive to it gives me a choice to eat my lovely breads or not.

I like meat, I really like the flavor. I was a vegan vegetarian for about 3 years when I was in my early 20’s. I determined then I really liked the flavor of meat. Being aware of how much meat and what kind of meat we eat is a key to control.

We don’t eat processed foods or fast foods and limit sugar and salt intake. We eat a variety of grains because we actually like them so some of the diet modifications should be rather simple to accomplish.

It’s the butter and pastries that need to go away. I know that and I don’t need a doctor to put me on meds in order to get the LDL under control.

I have been teaching bakeshop classes since January, I am 100% positive that change in schedule is a definite contributor to the spike in LDL. Next week when my new classes begin, I’m out of bakeshop and into Global Cuisine and so all those pastries and temptations will be well out of reach.

Additionally I need to get moving. Go walking. Anywhere.

Hopefully I can work up to a light run and learn to enjoy the process and shake these lazy bones.

Soup on Sunday 2013

It’s time again for another Soup on Sunday! Held the last Sunday of January, risking the wrath of  possible inclement weather, Soup on Sunday has always been held on time and on date, except 1 year about 2 years ago. The community really supports this event.

Who wouldn’t like a lot of amazing soup on a cold winter day?

Yummy Soup!

Yummy Soup!

Our culinary department hosts this event every year to benefit local Hospice. Typically we get more and more each year, both people attending and money raised.

Area restaurants bring 5 gallons of a signature soup to promote their restaurant.

warming Soup

Warming Soup

Warming soup

To round out the plethora of soups, Great Harvest Bread Company brings an amazing variety of fresh bread, the area culinary schools, Johnson and Wales, Art Institute and CPCC, do both soups and table-breaking loads of desserts, chocolates and cookies.

How it works:

Buy a ticket: $30 gets you in to taste everything available; A $40.00 dollar ticket allows you to pick a bowl valued at $10.00 from the pottery room.

Once you get in, you can eat as much of anything you want. The soup is served up in small bowls so you can TRY to have a bite of every one. With about 35 restaurants participating, if you only ate the soup and ate every one, you’d consume over 1/2 gallon of soup! And that does not include the pizza,

Pizza!

Pizza!

Pizza lining up for the oven

Pizza lining up for the oven

The Woodstone Pizza Oven. Students have a blast using it!

The Wood Stone Pizza Oven. Students have a blast using it!

or cookies or ah-hem the Chocolate Soup.

Chocolate Soup!

Chocolate Soup!

Not many people realize how important the dishwashers are to an event. These Johnson and Wales students volunteered their time and talent to the event and took charge of the dish pit. Thank You!

Awesome Dishwashers!

Awesome Dishwashers!

After the final numbers were tallied, over 770 people came by to support Hospice. The event is the major fundraiser for them and we are all so glad to be able to host and facilitate the event. Everyone gets involved and gives back.

Soup Bowls for sale

Soup Bowls for sale

Area clay artists donate pottery bowls for sale starting at generally $10.00 and up. The quality ranges from really talented to rudimentary primitive ( typically done by kids), which can work, depending upon the decor of the area you are decorating. Each year, I buy at least 1 bowl, sometimes 3-4. We enjoy using them throughout the year. Last year I bought  beautiful footed deep soup bowls, in previous years I bought fruit bowls and rice bowls. This years bowl is a condiment bowl, small and lovely; it is the bottom on in the photo below.

I bought the one in the bottom of the photo

I bought the one in the bottom of the photo

This is my 6th Soup on Sunday and now I have 6 hand-made pottery bowls that we use and enjoy all the time.

Please enjoy the following photos of Soup on Sunday, 2013!

Great Harvest Bread Ladies

Great Harvest Bread Ladies – Loretta and Robin – Former students!

Each basket of spoons marks a spot for a different restaurant

Each basket of spoons marks a spot for a different restaurant

They can decorate their 3'any way they want, tablecloths, flowers etc.

They can decorate their 3′ table space
any way they want, tablecloths, flowers etc.

Over 770 people came this year!

Over 770 people came this year!

Sorting supplies for each station

Sorting supplies for each station

Serving soup, they stay busy with those 2 oz ladles!

Serving soup, they stay busy with those 2 oz ladles!

Pouring Soup

Pouring Soup instead of using the ladle.

Shrimp and Lobster Bisque

Christmas Eve dinner somehow has become a seafood feast that features ravioli. This year Tyler asked me to make the Shrimp and Lobster Bisque like we used to make in the restaurant. It takes a bit of effort but it sure is an indulgent soup!

Perfect for a special dinner.

So here goes.

Make Shrimp and Lobster Stock

Shrimp and lobster1# fresh wild-caught shrimp, any size (I used 26-30’s for this recipe)

1- 2 ounce lobster tail per person + 1

You can use a whole lobster and use the claws for decoration or you can use frozen lobster meat. Tails were on sale at the grocery so I bought some. Perfect!

1#  thickly sliced carrots

1/2 pound chopped celery

1/2 pound chopped onions

1/4 cup  tomato paste

Sprig of fresh thyme

3 cloves fresh garlic, smashed

1/4 cup brandy, flambeed to remove alcohol

1 gallon water

1 pint heavy cream (later, to finish)

Remove the shells and tails from the shrimp, reserve the shells and tails for making the stock.

Set shrimp aside, keep it cold.

Remove the tail meat from the lobster, run a skewer down the underside of the tail to keep it from curling while cooking. Keep the tails cold.Insert a skewer to prevent curling

Roughly chop the shells with your knife. put the chopped shells and shrimp shells into a 2 gallon stock pot.

Over high heat, saute the shells until they turn red and pink.

Add the chopped carrots, onions, celery, thyme and garlic to the pot and saute the vegetables until they soften a bit.

Saute the shells and vegetables

Saute the shells and vegetables until they turn pink.

Add the tomato paste and stir to coat everything as much as you can with the paste.

Do not allow this to burn. Once you see a bit of color forming on the bottom of the pan, add the 1/4 cup brandy. Since you are working in a stock pot, you will have to ignite the brandy fumes with an extension lighter. Just place the flame over the edge of the pot to ignite the brandy. Let the fire burn until it extinguishes. This burns out the raw alcohol.

Flambe with Brandy

Flambe with Brandy

When the flames go out, stir and then add 1 gallon cold water.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow this to simmer for at least 1 hour, 2-3 hours is best.

Do not cover the pot, do not boil the pot and do not stir. Doing any of these things will make your stock cloudy.

Strain, reserving the liquid, throw away all of the vegetables and shells. Use a fine screen strainer to ensure all shell fragments are removed from the finished stock.

Cool and reserve for making the bisque.

To Make the Bisque:

Reserve a few shrimp whole for garnish. Roughly chop the remaining shrimp. Season with salt and white pepper.

Season the skewered lobster tails. Trim the bamboo skewers used to keep the lobster straight so they fit into the saute pan.

Saute the tails and shrimp in a small bit of olive oil. Deglaze the pan with the brandy, allow to flambe to cook out the alcohol.

Saute and deglaze the lobster  and shrimp with brandy before adding to the bisque.

Saute and deglaze the lobster and shrimp with brandy before adding to the bisque.

Perfect consistency is when the soup coats the back of a spoon and it stays separated when you draw a line through it with your finger.

Perfect consistency is when the soup coats the back of a spoon and it stays separated when you draw a line through it with your finger.

Mound a bit of the cooked seafood in the bottom of the serving bowl; pour the hot soup over the shrimp and lobster.

Mound a bit of the cooked seafood in the bottom of the serving bowl; pour the hot soup over the shrimp and lobster.

Garnish with sour cream and chives or scallions.

Garnish with sour cream and chives or scallions.

Bring the stock to a boil and add the heavy cream simmer until the consistency coats the back of a spoon. This may take 30-40 minutes, depending on how fast you simmer.

Alternatively, you could use 4-6 ounces of roux to thicken and simmer the stock and cream for 15-20 minutes to cook out the flour taste. I prefer to use the reduction method for better flavor and less fat and flour in the final dish. Using roux is the classic method.

When the stock and cream are at the consistency you desire, add the flambeed shrimp to the soup.

Remove the skewer from the tails and slice each tail into nice neat disks.

Place 3-5 disks of lobster  in the center of the soup bowl and ladle the hot broth over the lobster.

Garnish with a small dollop of sour cream, whipped cream or creme fraiche.

Saute the

Georgian Style Green Beans

Anaida is someone who I consider a dear friend. She is from Moscow, Russia and has the warmest heart of anyone I have met in a long time.

I wish I had a picture of us together. She was such a joy to have in classes, she got along with everyone.

Anaida, are you out there? Can you send me one in an e-mail?

Anaida is a mature woman, in her fifties. I met her one day in one of my classes. She came up to me and asked if she could use a Russian English dictionary on the exam.

She was just learning English and here she is in the USA taking college level courses.

Certainly I would not be able to do anything remotely similar in her country. I would be lucky if I could order a cup of coffee let alone take a college level course.

It took her a couple of times, but she passed the exam and progressed to culinary lab classes. I had the pleasure of having her in my Advanced Cooking class last fall.

To Anaidas credit, some native English speakers have a hard time grasping some of the concepts the class she was in. Let alone learning a complex subject in a language you are just learning.

She inspires me to keep progressing in my French lessons.

Whole green beans in a carton.

Whole green beans in a carton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anaida shared many of her native cuisine recipes, one of my favorite is her recipe for green beans, which is included here.

She shared many gifts from Russia like these spoons,

Russian Spoons

the toothpick holder, an apron, shawl all very nice things I hold dear and use daily. Well, I use the shawl in the winter. It is Russian made and I think it contains magic warmth yarn as it keeps me nice and warm in the cold. Lordie knows, it gets cold in Russia!

Anaida returned to Moscow as her visa required as well as her international student status. She often returned to Russia between semesters and brought us back lovely gifts and made the most tasty pastries she shared with the office.

Anaidas dream was to get into the bakeshop class at the college, which she was registered and ready to do this fall. Only one hitch in the get-along.

The State Department declined her student visa based upon concern about Anaida returning to Russia as some point in the future. Since she is retired, they are doubly concerned.

Anaida’s daughter lives here and teaches. This summer she got married to the love of her life, a kind German man. Eventually they are going to move to live in his home town in Germany. Being Anaida only daughter, I doubt Anaida would choose to live so far away from her daughter especially when grand-babies come around!

Even knowing this, they still decline her access to return.

It just doesn’t seem fair.

Could it be the recent change of power to Putin? Or is someone in the state department just having a bad day?

I wish there was something I could do.

In the meantime, Let’s make Anaida’s beans.

Green Beans with Herbal Vinaigrette Dressing

“Georgian Style, you will like!”

  • 1 pound of fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • Fresh Tarragon, Cilantro, Basil, Parsley chopped

Chopped herbs, use the combination you like best. Start with equal amounts of each fresh herb.

Use the amounts you like, equal of all three, more basil, or more tarragon, what ever you prefer.

If you don’t know, start with equal amounts of each, chopped together.

  • Salt to taste

Method:

  • Steam the beans until done, about 5 minutes.
  • Mix the oil, vinegar and minced garlic in a bowl. Whisk briskly to combine.

    Mix oil and vinegar. I added a few herbs, but you don’t have to. Any vinaigrette and chopped herbs left over can be used for salad dressing later. Just combine whatever dressing and chopped herbs left and you have a nifty herbal vinaigrette.

  • When the beans are done, just before serving, dress the beans with a light amount of vinegar and oil.
  • Top with the chopped herb mixture.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Only use enough of the dressing to lightly coat the beans. Dress them just before serving to preserve the bright fresh green color.

These beans are simple but full of flavor. I love this recipe!

Wouldn’t these go nicely in a Salad Nicoise?

Anaida, I miss you.

Anaida’s Beans

A story about blue crabs

St. Johns River, Florida

There was a time in my life when I lived on the St. Johns River, south of Jacksonville, FL in a small place named Switzerland.

We had a dock and a couple of boats and crab traps. The traps would get stuffed with chicken necks and then dropped in the river.

Most of the time, we could drop them right off the dock and get traps so full of blue crabs we couldn’t possibly eat them all.

So, we would build a bonfire on the riverbank, pull some coals to the side and place cast iron dutch kettles into the fire to

Maryland Blue Crab

boil water and then fill the pots with crabs, herbs, and seasoning, cover and put it back in the fiery coals to cook the crabs.

When they were cooked, the pot would be spilled all over the picnic table and another pot put into the fire.

Crabs for sale at the Maine Avenue Fish Market...

Friends, family, neighbors would all gather around, eat huge amounts of blue crab, drink beer, I think back then it was Rolling Rock and Heineken. It was great having everyone around talking, sometimes singing and having a great time.

1893 bird's eye view of Jacksonville, with ste...

1893 bird’s-eye view of Jacksonville, with steamboats moving throughout the St. Johns River (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The families we were with at the time had actually settled the area in the mid to late 1800’s. There were stories of Reggie Moreman sailing down the St Johns to locate and settle the highest point on the river. There were stories of pirate ships sailing down the St Johns to Black Creek to fill water kegs with the tannin water for long voyages; stories of Indians and smoke on the banks across the river near Green Cove Springs.

Two families tried to tame the once wild river banks. One with potato farming and the other established some of the first orange groves in the state of Florida. They had docks that would load with oranges for shipping to anywhere. When the groves got frozen out, they moved to southern Florida to grow pineapples in what is now downtown Miami.

The Moremans stayed in Switzerland, Florida. When I was there, we still ran through the remnants of the groves plucking ripe fruit from the trees before the first frost. Most were sour oranges due to the base stock being sour, but there were still a couple of sweet trees.

The crabs always ran like this in the deep fall, or was it spring? I can’t recall exactly what time of year it was, other than it was chilly, the night air dry and crisp.

This is one of my favorite memories of living on the riverbank  and eating crabs in Switzerland, Florida.

Calling the ferry, St. John River, NB, 1915 (?)

And well before the river got so polluted the fish sprouted two heads. (Really.)

“Feed Me Chef!”

Our dear friend June had a mile marker birthday recently. Our gift to her was to go out to the “Feed Me Chef” dinner at Zink American Kitchen in Charlotte, NC.

Robert and June

What a wonderful experience! The premise of the Feed Me Chef dinner is to sit around the bar area that is right up to and nearly in the kitchen. The chef will then create a 5 course meal for you of their choosing.

You can watch the kitchen in action

Sitting there, you get a birds-eye view of the kitchen operations from gearing up, getting slammed with the dinner rush and then slowing down slightly as we left 2 hours later.

The hostess had called earlier in the day to ask about allergies, diet restrictions and if there was anything in particular we wanted. These parameters were given to Chef Amy who in turn gets to be creative and create a 5 course meal.

The kitchen crew operated very well together. There was clear communication, effective movements and great looking food. Everyone knew their job and did it well. It was great entertainment.

And you want to know something? In this open kitchen all the crew, both front and back of the house, were so polite not only to the guests, but most important, to each other.

“Please, thank you, you’re welcome, excuse me”, all used frequently amongst the staff even when they were at their slammed best. How refreshing.

Chef Amy Kumpf

Our chef this evening was Amy Kumpf who was delightful, fun, charming, very skilled and knowledgeable in her craft. If was a lot of fun to watch her and her crew work through the dinner rush, very smooth.

She planned a menu for us and paired the wine for each course. Settling in, our meal began.

Course #1

Yellow Tomato Caprese Salad

Yellow Tomato Caprese

Instead of using fresh basil, Amy fried the basil for the salad. The result was delicate umami touched with sweet tomato that danced around in your mouth with a party going on.

Amy reduced balsamic vinegar to a coating glaze which she drizzled over the assembled salad. She chose yellow tomatoes, delicious fresh mozzarella, fried basil and balsamic reduction.

Definitely whetted the appetite. It was beautiful and delicious.

To pair wine with this course, Amy chose Cooper Mountain Pinot Grigio from Willamette Vally.

Perfect pairing.

Course #2

Plancha Seared Snapper with Fire Roasted Tomatoes and Cucumber Salsa

Snapper in Tangine

This dish alone would be worthy to come back for again and again. Fabulous!

The cucumber salsa had mango, red peppers, mint, honey and other things. It was very well made, knife skills showed.

Fire roasted tomatoes are roasted and grilled with red peppers and blended to create  a lovely sauce they use on several dishes from pizza to our snapper. This was served in  crisp white Moroccan style tangine.

Tangine

Wine paring: Chamisal Vineyards 2011 Central Coast Stainless Chardonnay (unoaked) Crisp and perfect with the complex flavors of this dish.

Course #3

Hickory Salmon

Hickory Salmon with Slow Cooked Potatoes and Asparagus

Another genius dish. The potatoes went so well with the salmon, sweet 100 tomatoes are slow roasted to add a sweet acid punch to the richness of the potatoes and  salmon. Additionally on the plate were fennel confit and melted leeks. Eating this was a pure pleasure experience.

Wine pairing: For some odd reason I didn’t record the Pinot noir chosen for this dish. It was the only one we thought didn’t complement the food. We enjoyed the wine tremendously, just didn’t like the paring.

Perhaps another Pinot with a fruitier base as most US Pinots are known. This one was in the “Burgundian” style which made it rich and robust with full tannins. These rich robust wines are normally my preference. But not with this dish.

The sweet salty nature of the salmon and the delicate texture of the fish wanted something a bit milder.

Course #4

Grilled Flank Steak with Smoked Tomato Cream Sauce and Shaved Asparagus

Seasoned and grilled to perfection. The meat was tender, juicy and full of flavor.

Shaved asparagus was created by peeling asparagus length wise with a “Y” peeler. You can do a lot with a vegetable and a Y peeler. Here, Amy created ‘pasta’ for us with thin shavings of asparagus.

Grilled Flank Steak

By this time we were getting full.  So I tasted everything and then decided to bring the rest of this dish home to eat for lunch and jump into dessert.

Wine Pairing: Brazin Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, 2009

Course #5

Warm Apple Compote, Whipped Caramel Cream, Orange Confit, Dulche de Leche and Dark Chocolate

I got a pleasant surprise when the dessert chef came out. She was a student of mine. She said she was nervous but for no reason. Her dessert fit the bill perfectly. (No flour products – part of Junes diet; hence the asparagus pasta.)

Pastry Chef Sheena

Although our tummies were full, we managed to consume every bite.

Brilliant wine paring and fine ending to a great meal: Late  Harvest Mer Soliel

Apple Compote

Robert and me

All in all, we had a great meal and an outstanding evening. I could eat like that every time we go out. The idea of not knowing what your next course will be is intriguing.

We will have to do this again soon and I suggest you go find a place near you who does this kind of service. Ask at your favorite restaurant. Sometimes this style of dining is called a “Chef’s Table” and sometimes tables are in the kitchen. Depends on what the health code is in your area. You may discover such tables need to be reserved well in advance.

We had a delightful interaction with the staff. The entire evening was great fun.

Naturally, if you find yourself in Charlotte, NC, head over to South park and stop in at Zink and say “Feed Me Chef!”

You will be glad you did.

These photos were taken in low-light conditions of the restaurant with the i-phone 4.

How to Roast a Chicken

Here is another basic skills post about how to roast a chicken. The same principle applies to most birds, large or small. Ducks are just a bit different due to the amount of fat on them.

To select a whole chicken, carefully look at the wing tips, they should not be brown in any way. Slightly red is OK but no brown. Look at the neck area, same thing. These areas show age on market chickens. If they are fresh, they will be ‘chicken color’ and possibly red tips on the wings. No brown, green or purple.

The chicken should also not have any odor. Give it a sniff. Pass it by if you smell anything.

Sometimes the inside of the bird contains a small bag of the heart, liver, neck and gizzard. Remove this from the inside of the bird. Throw it away unless you eat heart, liver, neck and gizzard. My father made wonderful sauce from these parts. Sometimes I saute the hearts and livers but there is only one inside each bird so they become the cooks treat. YAY!

Thoroughly rinse the bird inside and out. Pat the bird dry.

Carefully, using your fingers, loosen the skin but do not tear it.

Look carefully, see the butter under the skin?

Insert compound butter between the skin and the meat, smoosh it around so it almost covers the meat and then rearrange the skin back in place. This will baste the meat with herbs and butter while the bird roasts.

What is compound butter? Soft butter with herbs and seasonings mixed in. Any combination, any flavors, your choice. Toss it in a mixer, mix it up, place in a container and use it anywhere you would use butter. The butter I used here contained thyme, garlic, lemon, shallot and pepper.

To give the bird some flavor while roasting, insert herbs, onion and garlic into the cavity. For this bird I used rosemary, thyme and onion and a bay leaf.

For food safety sake, if you want stuffing, bake it in a separate pan. See note below regarding food safety.

On the bottom of the roasting pan, place chopped carrots, celery and onion (25% carrots, 25% celery, 50% onion ratio) and 1/2 cup or so of water or stock.

Professionally, we call this vegetable ratio “mirepoix”.

Tie the legs together with butchers twine or cotton string. Run the string around the legs and thighs and tie it off under the wings. This holds the bird together in a nice compact bird-like shape, controls the legs and plumps the breasts.

This is how you get a good-looking finished bird that isn’t splaying its parts all over the place.

Season the birds skin. I used Montreal Steak Seasoning for this one. Season as you like.

Season, tie the legs and truss the chicken. Place on top of vegetables to roast.

Place the tied and stuffed bird in the roasting pan on top of the vegetables.

Roast the bird in a 350°F oven for about 2 hours or so for a 3 pound bird. Please use a thermometer to test for 180°F internal temperature in the thigh, not near a bone.

The dark meat takes longer to cook so you test there. Please be sure to cook your chicken all the way.

There is nothing as unappealing as cutting into a whole roasted bird and have blood come out. Obviously, it goes back into the oven to finish cooking, if that happens.

When the bird is done, allow it to “rest” for about 15-20 minutes before carving. This is when I prepare the vegetables and put the final touches on the meal.

Food safety really comes into play with handling chicken.

  • Keep the bird cold.
  • Sanitize the work area with a mild bleach after preparing and handling the bird.
  • We are trying to avoid contaminating our families with Salmonella and Campylobacter jejuni in particular.
  • If your bird is frozen do not allow it to thaw on the counter or in the sink. Put it under cold water that you change frequently or in the refrigerator which takes 2-3 days to thaw, so plan ahead.
  • Always sanitize everything that chicken and your hands come in contact with during preparation with a mild bleach solution when you finish. Knives, boards, spoons, counters, sinks, knobs, handles, towels, aprons, etc.

To make a sauce, use the drippings in the bottom of the roasting pan. Deglaze with chicken stock or white wine. Strain the liquid from the roasting pan into a sauce pot. Bring to a simmer.

Mix equal parts of butter and flour together in a small bowl. Drop small pea sized pearls of the flour and butter mixture into the simmering stock, whisk to incorporate. Season as desired. Simmer for 10-15 minutes to cook out the starch taste. Finish with a pat of cold butter whisked in, adjust salt and pepper. Strain again if desired.

Roasted chicken with sauteed beet greens

We sautéed the beet greens we had on hand from the pickled beet post. Yummy stuff.

There will be another post soon on “How to Cut Up a Chicken”

Enjoy roasting your chickens! I adore the aroma, it smells like home and all things wonderful.

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Interview Cookies

I was asked to bring cookies to a job interview one day so I made a batch of Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies. Walking across the street for the interview, I realized the cookies were still on my kitchen counter. Going in empty-handed was not an option so running home as fast as possible, I grabbed the cookies and waltzed into the interview only a few minutes before it was time to start. Typically being there 5-10 minutes early is preferred rather entering right on time. Luckily I lived close by.

I was right about going home to get the cookies. There was a “refreshment” table set with a big empty space for the platter. Milk, tea, coffee, plates and napkins –  a successful interview hinged on good cookies. The interview panel was outfitted by the colleges cookie monsters.

Being cookie monsters, they were satisfied munching while they took turns grilling me with questions. After the cookie interview, it was required to film a ten-minute lesson of their random choosing.

I wondered what they wanted to eat next.

After several more interviews over several weeks, they awarded me the position.  I always wondered if they were curious why I talked so fast or was out of breath at the initial interview. Probably not.

My son called from college the other day and asked for some cookies. These will work nicely.

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Recipe adapted from Quaker Oats Company “Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies”
  • 1/2 cup ( 1 stick) + 6 tablespoons soft room temperature butter
  • 3/4 cup  dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Dry Ingredients
  • 1- 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon non-iodized salt
Measure to fold in last
  • 3 cups uncooked old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Pre-heat oven to 350°F

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until creamy.

Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a large bowl.

Mix  the dry ingredients together well with a dry whisk, spoon or fork.

On low-speed, slowly add the dry flour mixture to the creamed eggs and sugar.

Add the oats, then the cranberries, mix well to combine all ingredients.

Use a scoop and scrape it along the edge of the bowl to level the portion size for consistent sized cookies

Drop by rounded spoonfuls, or use a cookie scoop, onto a parchment lined sheet pan. Space 2″ apart.

Space evenly 2" apart to allow spreading. Use silpat or parchment on the baking sheet.

Bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and allow the cookies to cool on the sheet pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Use a spatula to lift the cookies from the parchment.

Cool completely.

Drizzle the cookies with icing. Make note of the parchment and tray under the cookies to catch icing drips.

Watch out, cookies disappear before they are finished!

Drizzle with fondant icing if desired.

Fondant Icing

1 cup 10x confectioners sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 tablespoon milk and more as needed.

Place the 10x sugar in a bowl. Add the milk and stir. Drip more milk, drop by drop, into the sugar until drizzling consistency is reached.

It is easy to make this too liquid so start with a small amount of milk first and add while stirring. It changes quickly.

Using a fork, drizzle the frosting over the cookies while still on the cooling rack.

Allow the frosting to dry before storing in an air tight container.

These cookies are best inside of tummies, guarded by a glass of milk or cup of tea.

Take a bite!

Arugula and Pickled Beet Salad

Today’s shared bounty is some lovely arugula (aka rocket). The added bonus of this shared bounty is roots! After washing what we would eat, I choose some to plant and grow more.

Thanks Adria!

Washed and refreshed, arugula is ready for a terrific, quick and easy salad from things created over the last few days for posts on Spoon Feast.

Picking some fresh red-leaf lettuce from the garden, combining it with arugula, garnishing with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, steamed artichokes, pickled beets and hard-boiled eggs.

All food gathered from a walk to the farmers market Saturday and shared bounty from friends and colleagues. Oh, add salmon, wild caught, from Alaska.

We tossed the salad with a chive blossom vinaigrette to bring it all together then added croutons and slabs of fresh bread and a few shavings of cheese.

You could use the beet juice from the pickling jar and drizzle a bit of olive oil for the dressing.

I drank champagne; Robert, Stella Artois.

We got to eat the duck, kale and white bean soup earlier

This is how we get to use up a weekend of playing in the kitchen. I don’t just write about recipes and food, we live it. Every day, every meal.

Only a small percentage of what I really cook ever gets written about. I call that “cooking without documentation.”

I cook and create food every single day for as many meals as I can. Sounds like we would be fat porkers, but we aren’t.

Eat responsibly is the key. Love and enjoy food but don’t overdo it.

Robert loves the results. I must admit, it sure is fun to finish with all the cooking and writing and photography; go take a bath and fall asleep. The next day go down to the kitchen and enjoy all the tasty things there are to eat over the next couple of days.

It leads to more posts, more food and photographs.

Robert does not like his food photographed.

Arugula and Pickled Beet Salad with Salmon

So, I make a plate to shoot before we eat. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t like his food photographed, he wants to eat first.

I try not to waste food by eating what is photographed. Sometimes it is necessary to dedicate a plate to the shoot. Others, the plate gets consumed as soon as the camera lights fade.

This time of year is my favorite as there is so much produce, fruit, and flowers available to play with.

I encourage you to try using arugula/rocket in a salad. It is great to top a pizza or drop into soup.

Use arugula/rocket just as you would spinach, raw and cooked. The home-grown varieties  seem to have more peppery flavor than commercial products.

Let me know how you like this crazy green.