Monday, June 29, 2009

Did I Mention I Love Summer?

Washington has a very sweet, and very fleeting strawberry season. The strawberries up here are like nowhere else I have seen. From the end of June through about late July, farmer's markets and quality grocery stores are carrying scads of these red wonders. What makes them even more special is that they are so delicate that they do not get shipped anywhere else in the United States, because the berries would be mush upon arrival. We here in the great Northwest get them all to ourselves!

The one downfall of our strawberries is that, consequently, they don't last very long here either. This means that when I buy a 1/2 flat of strawberries (like I did Saturday- see picture), they must be put to use quickly. But let me back up a little bit...

A couple of weeks ago our neighbor friends gave us an ice cream maker that they never use. And like I always say, if the worst thing ever is buying an ice cream maker and never using it, then the best thing ever is getting a free ice cream maker and using it all the time. In a month's time I have made vanilla and honey ice creams (repeatedly), frozen yogurt, and rhubarb sorbet. It all beats the most high end store bought frozen desserts.

Today, I decided that the purpose for all of my strawberries would be this: strawberry sorbet. I looked online and all over the place for a good recipe, and couldn't find one I liked. The problem is that they were all made of cooked syrups. This simply would not do. I have no idea why people would ruin fresh strawberries by cooking them before making sorbet. The sugar dissolves in strawberry juice just fine without heat, and it's not like berries are a tough fruit like rhubarb. I just didn't get it. I also knew sorbet could be done without cooking the berries, because I remembered doing it with fresh raspberries in pastry school.

In the end I took some quantities from other recipes and made my own. Remember summer days when you were little? When it was perfectly hot, you were running through the sprinklers without a care in the world, and for all you knew you had an endless amount of days before you had to do anything like school or work? Well, the strawberry sorbet was that in a bowl.

Strawberry Sorbet

3 pints strawberries
1/2 cup cold water

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon vodka

  1. In a blender, puree the strawberries with the cold water. You may then strain to remove seeds, but I like the seeds. It also makes your sorbet go just a little bit further when you keep the seeds.
  2. In a bowl, combine the puree with the lemon juice and vodka, then stir in the sugar until entirely dissolved.
  3. Cover mixture and refrigerate until cold.
  4. Pour chilled mixture into ice cream maker and follow directions for your particular ice cream maker.
  5. Scoop frozen sorbet into a container. Seal and transfer container to freezer for several hours to allow sorbet to firm up. Or if you want to, eat it soft. It kind of tastes like a strawberry margarita.
I served (and ate) mine with shortbread cookies. It was amazing!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

5 Year Anniversary Blowout Sale at Whole Foods Bellevue!!

I am soooo sorry I did not know to tell you about this earlier! Today I went to Whole Foods for some Mahimahi, and I was so pleasantly surprised to see the most incredible markdowns I've ever seen at that store.

Sorry if you are not in the Seattle area, but the sale is only at the Whole Foods Market in Bellevue in celebration of its five year anniversary. But if you are in the Seattle area, you have one more day (June 28th) to go. If you are a Whole Foods regular, if you only go for a treat, or if you never go because the prices make you want to throw up, NOW is the time to go.

Some of the highlights:

-Wild sockeye salmon $5.99 lb

-White Corn 5 for $1 (not organic, but for twenty cents

-Organic mini seedless watermelon $2 each

-Half flat of local, amazing strawberries $12.99

-64 oz tub of Nancy's plain yogurt $4.99

-Huge bags of Kettle Chips $2 each

-Papayas $1.00 each

-Smoked bacon $3 lb marked down from $6.99

-Hot italian sausage $3 lb marked down from $6.99

There were a ton of other less noteable markdowns on other fruits and veggies, as well, because apparently California was too hot to store a lot of its produce and they had to get rid of it fast. I love summer! Oh, and I literally had to tear myself away from the Dr. Haushka cosmetics, because they were all 50% off. I could have walked out with the entire store's supply if I didn't restrain myself (I did get mascara and facial mask).

Here is a photo of my haul:

Seriously, if you are able to- GO!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hail to the Grads

I am soooo proud of my sister! She has worked incredibly hard for the degree in nutrition that she earned. Congratulations to any other graduates that may be reading this.

I feel like the topic du jour for people graduating, as I'm sure it is often, is what next? My sister certainly doesn't know exactly. She knows that she wants to be effective in the world and heal people through food, but by what outlet?

I find it interesting that my sister and I both developed a passion for food in our early adulthood, but in different ways. Like her, I have an interest in health and wellness, but I also have a bit more of a weakness for sugar and refined flour! Perhaps she nourishes the body, while I nourish the soul?? I must give props to Bastyr University, because what they are doing in the areas of nutrition and natural medicine is truly special. It's the yin that this very yang society of western medicine needs.

I would venture to say that a good number of students in culinary school, or any other school dealing with foods, has some sort of nurturing side. Sure there are other personality types in the culinary field- artists, type 'A' chefs who want to climb to the top....but I can't see how anyone would want to serve people food without having a certain caring side of his or her personality.

Going to culinary school was a very special experience for me. I once talked to a girl in my class about what she wanted to do when she finished. "I don't know," she said, "I just want to feed people." When I really think about it, I finished with my pastry degree almost three years ago, and I'm still wondering to myself "what next?"

Just like most degrees, culinary and nutrition degrees are only the very beginning of the journey. There are limitless directions to go from there. The most important thing is to never stop learning! It is fun to already look back at what I have done since finishing pastry school. I am excited to see where my sister goes, also!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Gang's All Here!

Well, the gang was all here...My entire family was out for my sister's college graduation. Between having seven people staying in my little house, Father's Day, and graduation festivities, it's been a whirlwind of fun.... centered around food, of course!

Since we had out of town guests, we basically ate through all of our favorites- recipes and restaurants alike. Here are some of the highlights:

Thursday morning I made my family some delightful lemon-ricotta pancakes. They were light and fluffly, and delicious with raspberries on top.

Since I knew Sunday was going to be busy, I made my dad the chicken stew with biscuits I told you about for him on Friday. He then proceeded to eat the leftovers for the rest of the weekend (I told you it was a winner!). On Friday night, the men went out and the girls stayed in for one of my now truly favorite past times of pizza, wine, and musicals (seriously, it you haven't tried this yet, It's the best)! Only this time it was Brigadoon, frozen pizza from Whole Foods, and Chardonnay from the Chateau St. Michelle winery.

Saturday was again a girl's day, with three generations sitting down to tea at the Queen Mary Tea Room, which I simply must tell you about in another blog. I love it!

Sunday we ate Father's Day brunch at our old fall-back, Geraldines Counter, since we knew there would be something for everyone.

Finally, Monday after the graduation ceremony we met at the Flying Squirrel Pizza Co. for a great graduation party. I made a 100% organic coconut cake (my signature recipe!) for the nutrition grads, and we ate until we were stuffed.

I am still digesting everything, and I don't foresee eating again for at least a couple of days. What fun!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A None Worse Fate Than This...

The Obama administration has been undoubtedly controversial from the very beginning. This spring, our first lady, Michelle Obama performed the most questionable act yet- she planted an organic garden on the Whitehouse lawn.

(pause to let everyone gasp and compose themselves)

You may think it can't get any worse, but Mrs. Obama even shamelessly used the help of a fifth grade elementary school class to plant some of the seeds. What is happening to our country???

Luckily, large companies across the country are speaking out against this horrifict demonstration. The Mid America CropLife Association, a group that represents agricultural and pesticide companies, had already written a letter to Mrs. Obama and the Whitehouse administration. “We live in a very different world than that of our grandparents. Americans are juggling jobs with the needs of children and aging parents,” the letter states. “The time needed to tend a garden is not there for the majority of our citizens, certainly not a garden of sufficient productivity to supply much of a family’s year-round food needs.” Also, thankfully, the MACA (who I would like to again remind you represents Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont Crop Protection) is looking out for the American people by reminding Mrs. Obama of all the important uses of chemicals and pesticides in agriculture. She really should have thought harder about the example she was going to be on the country.

Naturally, the MACA is not the only organization that has a problem with our President's wife publically planting and eating local and organic foods. Xavier Equihua, who represents the Chilean Exporters Association as well as the Chilean Avocado Committee, would like to remind you all of the dangerous consequences of eating locally. The main problem, he says, is that local food is seasonal. For example, avocadoes grow in California during the summer months. Same with grapes. "What happens if you want some grapes during the month of December?" says Equihua. "What are you going to do? Not eat grapes?"

Not eat grapes? NOT EAT GRAPES?!?!? How would we survive??? What is this world coming to?? Oh the horrors! Shame on you, Michelle Obama! I sincerely hope that these honest, upstanding, and hard working companies have reminded you that you are a public example and will have an effect on the actions of consumers across the country. Please think next time before you plant!

Monday, June 15, 2009

On Father's Day

I know Father's day is yet a week away, but I am getting you started early so that you have time to go grocery shopping. To me, this dish is the perfect father's day meal. Then again, my dad's favorite food is chicken and dumplings. Still, it's simple, hearty, and straightforward- like the universal father should be. Also, it requires the perfect amount of work to be a "special occasion" meal, but not so much work that you get really stressed out and end up snarling and yelling at the the person of honor by the time you are ready to serve it.

I can't remember if I have shared this recipe with you any rate, it's good enough to share with you again. Also, I realised that it has been quite some time since I shared with you a good, solid, savory dish. The recipe might look daunting, but there are lots of steps you can do ahead so that on Father's day you actually have time to celebrate with whatever father (or fathers) you would like to spend time with. All you need to actually do the same day is make the biscuits.

Chicken Stew With Biscuits

from the Barefoot Contessa
  • 3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots (4 carrots), blanched for 2 minutes
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen peas (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

For the biscuits:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions, and parsley. Mix well. Place the stew in a 10 x 13 x 2-inch oval or rectangular baking dish. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the biscuits. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Add the half-and-half and combine on low speed. Mix in the parsley. Dump the dough out on a well-floured board and, with a rolling pin, roll out to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out twelve circles with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter.

Remove the stew from the oven and arrange the biscuits on top of the filling. Brush them with egg wash, and return the dish to the oven. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the biscuits are brown and the stew is bubbly.

Note: To make in advance, refrigerate the chicken stew and biscuits separately. Bake the stew for 25 minutes, then place the biscuits on top, and bake for another 30 minutes, until done.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What a Coincidence!

Just a couple weeks ago I wrote an article about Julia Child's book My Life in France. I had no idea about a new movie coming out called, "Julie & Julia" until one of my readers (Cierra Pera from Cierra Pera Photography) sent me a link to this trailor:

I am totally excited about this movie! Not only is Meryl Streep the PERFECT actress to play the late, great Mrs. Julia Child, but I can so relate to this "Julie," who is blogging about french cuisine. In case you didn't know, this "365 days of Julia" challenge is no new feat. I know of many cooks- non bloggers and bloggers alike- that have done this. It is such a great way to challenge ones culinary experiences. I do plan on attempting it one day whit one of my favorites, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I will have to remember not to blog about it, though, as I see that's already been done.

It looks like a lovely movie, and I hope everyone goes to see it!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

We love fish. We respect fish.

My interesting headline for the day:

Two major Seattle institutions have recently had a clash- the fish throwers at Pike Place Market and vegetarians. PETA, to be exact.

Let me start out with the facts: The American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) annual conference is going to take place in Seattle. The conference conference included plans for the fishmongers from the Pike Place Fish Market to toss fish as part of a "motivational convention presentation" that was to take place on July 10th. PETA wrote a letter to the AVMA asking them to cancel this event quoting, "it's cruel enough to eat fish, but it literally adds insult to injury to use them as toys for silly stunts." Now, the AVMA is considering changing its presentation. After being accused by Peta of disrespecting fish, Justin Hall, assistant manager of Pike Place Market responded, ""We love fish. We respect fish. Fish is what makes our business thrive and what drives customers to us. There's nothing we would ever do to disrespect seafood."

Today, I am glad I am a blogger and not a news reporter, because now I can opine on this subject as much as I want. Let me start out by saying, seriously, PETA? You have nothing better to do with your time than harp on the fishmongers at Pikes? Maybe, when cows, pigs, and chickens are no longer being over-bred on factory farms while living in their own feces. Maybe when China is no longer skinning dogs alive for their fur. Maybe, maybe when seal pups in the north aren't smashed on the head with blunt clubs for sport.

I am certainly not a vegetarian or an animal rights activist, but I do have standards that the meat I eat must live up to. I prefer that the animals I eat have lived happy (yes, I believe animals can be happy and/or aware of their circumstances whether good or bad) and healthy lives, and that the animal's lives were ended humanely (no pain). In a perfect world, I would want every part of the animal to have been put to use somehow so that none of it was wasted. These animals died so we can eat. I think that deserves some level of respect.

What I do not think is that the long time tradition of fish tossing down at Pike Place Market disrespects the fish that they are selling- or any fish, for that matter. Eating is not just shoving food down one's throat. It is an experience- from choosing your salmon down at Pikes and watching it fly through the air to sitting down at the dinner table and eating said airborn fish. It's all equally important.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Since We Must Work

I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I envy those who do. Yes, I do love food, but that's still a very broad range of jobs. I know a girl a little bit younger that I am who has already worked at five star restaurants and is now touring Europe to learn new techniques. While I never really wanted to work in the restaurant industry, I still envy her passion. She knew what she wanted from the beginning.

As I said, I do have a passion for food, but so far being in an industrial kitchen full time has not become the end all of my culinary career. This website here had a small list of non-restaurant food jobs that have appeal. For example, the "household cook" is something that I often do in my job anyway, but it is not my entire job description.

I did actually come to a small conclusion about this as I was blogging the other day...I mean as I was writing about food, I realized what I might love do dive deeper into: writing about food! So don't be surprised if I start experimenting with strange subjects that go beyond good recipes (which I will still give you, of course, every time I make something I'm excited about). Come to think of it, I've written about some strange things already, so I don't think you will be surprised...