Wednesday, October 27, 2010

So much to catch up on...

I have been a bad, bad blogger...once again.  I do apologize to my regular readers.  The last couple of weeks have been a bit busier than usual and I find myself occupied with things all day long and never quite finding the time to sit down and write. 

There are several items that I need to include in this post.

First:  Thank you to Biren Rotinrice for my new award. 

To recieve an award from such a lovely and talented blogger as Biren is such an honor.  If you have not visited her incredible blog...please click on the link above and check it out! 

Second:  One of my favorite bloggers (I think he is one of EVERYONE'S favorite bloggers), Chef Dennis from More than a Mount Full tagged me a couple of weeks ago in the most recent round.  I'm sorry I haven't had the time to get to the answers before now.  But I suppose better late than never right?

Ok...Jeez, is this like truth or dare for bloggers?

Here are the questions posed by Chef Dennis (and approved by Mrs. Chef Dennis)

1. If you could eat anything without any health repercussions or guilt, what would your meal be?

I would eat mountains of rich, dark decadant chocolate...the darker the better.  I would dip everything I could find in luscious melted chocolate...I'd fill my bathtub with melted chocolate and take a chocolate BATH...I'd...ok, the rest of this is probably TMI!!

2. If you could meet anyone living or dead who would it be and why?

This one requires two answers:  the dead one would be Salvadore me weird,morbid or insane but the guy was SO strange (and talented) that I would just HAVE to meet him!

The live one would be Nigella Lawson...I love her!  There is something remotely (or not so remotely) "witchy" about her.  ;)

3. Why did you start blogging and what did you expect when you started?

Hmm...I started blogging with a different blog altogether because I just wanted a place to rant and say EXACTLY what I think about EVERYTHING with no repercussions.  My thought was...if you like it fine...stay and read it.  If you don't...don't let the door smack you in the virtual butt on the way out!  However, I may have written 2 or 3 posts before I discovered that I was just bitching in the wind.  I switched over to writing a blog about what I love the most...COOKING and FOOD.  I don't really know that I expected get anything out of it other than an outlet for creativity.  I am continually and pleasantly surprised by the warm, inspiring, supportive friends I have made in the blogging community.

4. What is the one book you could read over and over again.

Could and HAVE read Wuthering Heights dozens of times.

5. If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?

I have the most overwhelming desire to stand on the White Cliffs of Dover and be transported back to the roots of my family.  When I look at pictures...that land calls to me like I have stood there on the precipice in a hundred other lifetimes and gazed across the white capped waves.  This image is my haven when I is where I go.  I stand ( as I have stood in my mind/in another life) there and for some reason, I am either wearing a suit of armour of a filmy white cotton gown covered by a long green velvet cape, billowing in the wind.  My long red hair blows out three feet behind me...and I am always standing with my face to the eyes cast to the sea.  I could go on...I have written many, many journal entries from this place.  Though I've never physically been, I have always been there.  Someday I will stand there my armour or my matters not. 

6. If you could have a TV show on the Food Network what would it be?

I don't know what I would title it but I know it would showcase vegan and vegetarian dishes.  People have such a misconception about us wearing Jesus sandals, clothing that we dug out of a dumpster, unshaven legs and armpits...eating hemp brownies and living at Spawn Ranch, sitting around listening to "Charlie" sing Beach Boy songs.  Most of us are not handing out flowers at the airport and trying to save the world one dehydrated kale leaf at a time...we are just eating the way we want to eat.  Believe it or not...

7. What was the best meal you ever had?

Are you kidding me?  I don't even know if I can attempt to answer this one without having my brain melt and run out my ears!  Wow...uhm, I guess it would have to be something my grandfather made...anything he made (except glazed ham....long, funny store there) was incredible and made even more memorable because he cooked it.  The man was a self taught culinary genius.

8. Who had the greatest influence on your love for food and learning to cook?

Definately have to say it was not a person but a show.  Years ago, (in my early 20's) when I was a young mother and wife (barely more than a kid), I found a show on PBS...Great Chefs of America and I fell in love with cooking.  OMG...I couldn't even leave my house if that show was on..LOL  They had different series...GC of San Francisco, GC of New Orleans, GC of the Pacfic North West, GC of the South, GC of Americas Country Inns etc.  I remember thinking how worldly and wise I was at 21 years old because I knew what a bouquet garni was...a bechamel sauce...gastrique....genoise....croque em bouche.  My oldest daughter was just a baby and when she napped, I took the notes that I had scribbled so furiously during the show and spent the afternoon in my kitchen trying to replicate the dishes I saw on the show.  I will NEVER forget the rush I got the first time I made the croque em bouche with it's golden spun sugar "crust" for a Christmas party when I was 22 years old.  I felt like the most accomplished cook in the world because everyone was so impressed!

My questions for the next group of victims tags are as follows:

1-  What is your "cringe" food and why?

2-You are on an episode of "Chopped" and your mystery basket includes a durian fruit, langoustine, panetone and a bottle of Jagermeister.  Since drinking the jager and passing out is not one of your options...what would you make?

3- If you had to compare your life experiences to an episode of Doctor Phil or Jerry Springer...which would it be and why?

4- What is your most embaressing food-related moment?

5- If you were placing an ad on a singles web site what would you say about yourself?

6- Complete the following sentence with one word (the first one that comes to your mind):
     The most important thing in life is.............

7.  The sorting hat would probably send you to which "house".....Slitherin, Griffindor, Ravenclaw or    Hufflepuff?

8.  In your own opinion, what is your most admirable trait?

The following people are "IT"

Rick at Bittersweet
Kristen at Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker
The Mom Chef
Stella at the Witchy Kitchen
Victoria at Mission: Food
Nancy at Spicie Foodie
Alisha at The Ardent Epicure

Now for the third item:  I'd like the thank the kind people at POM Wonderful for choosing my menu as one of the entries in the POM dinner party contest.  I'm excited.  I have a fabulous menu planned for six.  The appetizer and cocktail course will be served on the lanai at dusk.  I have  marvelous della robia style centerpieces planned for both the tables.  Dinner will be served in the dining room at 7:30 and we'll return to the lanai for a sumptuous candle lit dessert and after dinner drink.  I can't wait!  The party will be the second week of November!  Look for the pictures and recipes.

Fourth:  If you live in the Fort Myers, Cape Coral area...please come out to show your support for the Harry Chapin Food Bank and participate in our Halloween Party at Around the Clock Fitness.  Yours truely will be decked out in her best witchy costume serving up goodies to the kiddies! 

October 30th from 5:00-9:00 PM

All we ask is that you bring canned goods for the Harry Chapin Food Bank canned food drive!

Last but not least:  Thank you to my girls at Profiles Nail Salon on Pine Island Road in Cape Coral!  Client appreciation night and breast cancer awareness party was a lot of fun to put together.  I thoroughly enjoyed doing this worthwhile event.  Oh...we had our DIVA on that night.......yes we did!

Fight Like a girl!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Last Bite...Food Porn Inspired by Gaga

Each soft, luscious mouthful of the silken Vanilla Lemon Flan played across  the tongue; it's appeal only made stronger by the intoxicating scent of the lilac honey that dripped lanquidly over it's soft sides.

Alejandro's lips quivered expectantly as the spoon drew nearer, all the senses heightened in anticipation of the next sweetly sinful bite.  He must wait; savor the tantilizing aromas of the sensual vanilla, the light playfulness of the lemon zest and the exotic, delicate nuance of the lilac honey. 

She knows...senses his anticipation and lightly brushes the spoon across his slightly parted lips then draws it away with a sweep of her slender wrist.  "I know that we are young....and I know that you may love me.  But I just can't be with you like this anymore...Alejandro."

She laid down the spoon and put both her hands in her pockets.  She won't look at him...can't look at him.  She hides true love, en su bolsillo.  She's got a dollop of custard on her finger around him.  Slowly and deliberately she licks the sweet confection, a golden drop of honey left on the tip of her tongue...Alejandro wasnts to share it.

"You know that I love you like Mexico, rejoice.  But at this point I have to nothing to lose."  And with that she picked up the spoon and slid the last velvety bite slowly into her mouth...letting it melt a bit before swirling her tongue around to embrace it's sweetness.

He opens his mouth and speaks her name in a tortured, longing moan... "babe" he breaths...

"Please...don't call my name, don't call my name Alejandro.  I'm not your
babe, not your babe.  Don't wanna kiss, don't wanna touch." 

She pulls the cigarette from a sterling silver case and lights it with a soft flick of her monogramed lighter.  "Here," she sighs, "just smoke this cigarette and hush but don't call my name...don't call my name. I cannot share with you Alejandro."

"Oh Alejandro...Alejandro.  Ale Ale jandro...."

She leaves him standing there, alone and half naked with the stub of a cigarette in his mouth.  One last drag and as he reaches for the ashtray to extinguish it, he notices the traces of her lipstick left behind on the filter...taunting him.

He turns his gaze to the empty dessert plate; sticky with the residue of lilac honey.  He trails his finger through a small puddle and licks it ...just as she walks out the door.

"She's not broken," he thinks.  "She's just a baby.  But her boyfriends are  like a dad...just like a dad.  All those flames that came before me, gotta do some the bad..."

One tiny fleck of the custard remains on the spoon.  He cannot resist.  The taste is exquisite.  The cell phone in his pocket feels warm.  He must call...try to bring her back.  Try to convince her to make another custard.  It rings...

When she answers he holds his breath, every nerve ending in his sleek muscular body tensed.  "You know that I love you boy, hot like Mexico.  But at this point I had to chose...the flan or you...and you lose."

"Please, don't call my name, don't call my name Alejandro.  I'm not your babe, not your babe or your pastry chef Alejandro!  I don't want to cook, don't want to touch...just smoke a cigarette and hush.  Don't bother me Alejandro...
Fernando...Roberto or whatever the hell your name is.....just let me go."

All he has left is the memory of the Vanilla Lemon flan's delicate taste, the empty custard cup in his sink and one precious drop of lilac honey on his bare chest.  He shivers...remembering...

Alejandro's dark eyes fill with tears.  It cannot end this way, he thinks.  His fingers ache to punch her number one more time but he knows there is no use...she is gone.  He begins to despair, thinking he will never know that feeling upon his lips again.  He will hunger...he will wither away from unrequieted desire...

Then he sees it; just the tip of a small green card sticking out of a partially open kitchen drawer.  Curiosity and a glimmer of hope quicken him.  With an unsteady hand he reaches out and glides the pad of his thumb over the drawer pull.  Can it be, he wonders?  Could she have left behind........

the recipe?

Alejandro's breath catches in his throat as he reads.  The swirls and loops of her distinctive, seductive handwriting are unmistakable...they curve to form each letter, each word...enveloping you, mesmerizing you, leaving your body aching for... STOP IT STOP IT his brain cries!  He must think only of the custard...

He must preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Then he must set out 4 individual custard ramekins, dip a pastry brush in warm, soft butter and brush it in each mold.  As he spreads the warm butter over the insides of the ramekins, a memory overtakes him.  It is a scarf draped over the night stand lamp, silk cords on the bed posts, rubber sheets, the current of the ceiling fan raising goose bumps on his bare flesh and her...hands, body..covered in butter...undulating...STOP STOP STOP...he MUST cook!

In a medium bowl he must combine...

1 cup of organic non-fat dry milk powder
3 tablespoons of Xylitol natural sweetener
2 packets individual packets of Stevia natural sweetener (a heaping teaspoons if using loose powder)
1/4 cup organic liquid whole egg substitute
organic liquid egg whites (Nature Valley) equivalent to 3 large egg whites
1 2/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (may sub 1 teaspoon of extract)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure lemon extract
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon peel
Lilac or Heather Honey for the top
lemon wheels for garnish.

He must whisk all the ingredients together until the dry milk powder and the xylitol have dissolved.  Then Alejandro divides the custard evenly between the four buttered ramekins.  

He places them in a 9x13 baking pan and sets them on the center rack in his oven.  Then he pours hot tap water around them until the water comes halfway up the sides, taking care not to pour any water into the ramekins.

He closes the oven door to wait; 55 minutes.  It is torture.  The water bath has set his mind adrift again.  This time to a hot tub, her wearing a dress made out of bubble wrap, stiletto heels...her HUGE eyes with their unnaturally large pupils and two sets of false eyelashes...making her look like a cupie doll.  The nurses come and force her to drink her own bath water...and he waits on a big white bed.  He is pretty certain he died that night...he remembers her coming toward the bed wrapped in a huge polar bear throw.  She drops it to reveal a bra that spits fire..and he awakens from a strange dream in which she is lying beside his charred remains smoking a cigarette from the sterling silver case...and laughing.   

The timer on the oven brings him out of his reverie.  His head still feels a little full of cobwebs so he must be extremely careful when he removes the pan full of hot water from the oven.  He must exercise caution...don't want another third degree burn ( like the time she wanted to play with hot wax and bengay). 

Alejandro lets the custards cool to room temperature and them puts them into the refrigerator to chill for several hours.  When at last it is time...he takes them out and runs a little knife around the edges of each, dips them briefly in some warm tap water and inverts them onto dessert plates. 

The exotic lilac honey waits...he warms it gently in the microwave and then ever so slowly, drizzles two teaspoons over the tops of the custards.  It runs over the sides and pools on the plates.  He garnishes each with a lemon wheel and then stands back to admire his work.

They are lovely to be sure but will they taste like hers?  Will they taunt and tease his tastebuds?  Will they beckon him from sleep in the middle of the night to come and rescue them from the cold, dark confines of the fridge?  Will he stand there naked in his kitchen, honey running down his chin?  Probably...

Will he miss her?  Not anymore.....

Friday, October 8, 2010

WAITER...there is a fly in my soup!

Oh, everyone I am so excited to introduce you to the newest member of the menagerie that is my household!  First let me explain...

My mother and I LOVE to go "picking".  We do funky little artsy type shops, estate sales, quirky antique galleries, consignment shops etc.  The more unique (odd) and bohemian (mismatched) things I can find...the better!  There is my huge Moroccan bird cage, the vintage alcohol posters, ink sketches of flappers (actually authentic from the 20's), angels, Indonesian Buddas, Shivas, batik scarves for table cloths and couch throws, beads, fringe, bangles, antique rosaries, 5 foot tall carved wooden animals...well, you get the idea. 

So...this week, I got a butler!  OMG I love him!!  We found him in my absolute favorite quirky little upscale interiors consignment boutique.  I plan to make him a little wooden name tag and glue it onto his vest when I get the opportunity. my new butler....Henri (pronounced "ornery" in our house!)

He's just a bit over 4 feet tall

By the way, on his tray...a split of the champagne, the one we served at our wedding, the glass strawberry salt and pepper shakers on the silver "vine" holder belonged to my gread grandmother.  The small crystal flutes came from a friend of the family who died from cancer a few years ago.  The copper topped  "for two" casserole dish is a vintage piece that I dug up from somewhere...I don't remember though.

He's standing next to my kitchen table in the breakfast nook.  Don't you just love him?  He's signed on the back btw.  Always a plus.

Oh...and we are just a few weeks away from Halloween and ya'll KNOW I gotta have some wicked halloween nails!  My costume is ready..puple silk witch hat with a black mesh veil, large dark purple silk flower on the brim.  Very long purple false eye lashes (for top and bottom).  Obsidian ring, a black heart.  Fish nets to go with my witchy stilletos.  Very cool black dress with a crepe ruffle kick out in the front.  My gym is doing a haunted maze and I'm doing a "healthy halloween" snack table for the kids.  I have my cauldron ready...

There will be pictures but MUST see the nails!

Pointer finger...dipped in "blood" and ring finger has a 3d spider with yellow stone eyes!  The other fingers...are called Halloween Chaos.

Are these totally outrageous or what?

I grabbed the fringed edge of the black beaded scarf that hangs over the back of my living room sofa.  It looked really cool woven around my fingers.  I did have to have her cut my nails down though...they were twice this long...LOL

Vegan Pina Colada French Toast

Yes, I have been a terrible blogger for the last two weeks!  Do you ever just need a break?  That's my only excuse really.  I just needed a break!  Have no fear however, we certainly have not stopped eating just because I stopped posting about it!

Truthfully, I spent 9 days out of town with my husband's step-mother who has two types of cancer; Papillary Cirus Endometrial and Lung Cancer.  It really wasn't the time or place to mess around in the kitchen whipping up something to photograph. 

However, since I got home, I have been back in the kitchen...just not back at the computer!  I spent most of the time that I was gone working on new menu plans for the next month.  By the way, in case I have not mentioned this before; I am a total control freak plan-a-haulic.  I don't recall whether or not this is a subject I've ever brought up in the blog but I'm quite good at that sort of thing.  Much of my personal chef work has consisted of preparing menu plans for my clients based upon the dietary needs and or restrictions that they provide for me. 

It is quite labor intensive to prepare a weeks worth of meals with their nutritional content AND provide a variety of good tasting dishes that meet a client's dietary needs.  In any event, I've done it for myself for so many years that it was a natural extention to do it for others.

To begin with, I've really fallen off the wagon a bit over the last few months when it comes to certain ingredients!  As a rule, I usually strive to make foods as healthy yet tasty as possible.  Too much sugar and white flour have been finding their way into my recipes lately and I really felt that a exorcism was in order!  The following are some of our "cleaned up" recipes from the last couple of weeks.

First up is a fantastic breakfast offering...Vegan Pina Colada French Toast.

Before I go into the particulars let me just say a word about the photos first.  I am aware that there is a shadow; I'm not a professional photographer and my camera is a point and click.  I have decided to stop worrying about whether or not my photos will garner praise or "clicks" because they won't...and that is okay.  The recipes are the point.  Clearly, readers can see that this is a lovely dish...crappy photo notwithstanding.

Secondly, I write like I speak.  I'm frank, funny and literate.  I may misspell a word here and there but that's more likely because of my fingernails than my education.   My blog reads like a conversation around my dinner table and that is the way I like it.  Thanks Lazaro for reminding me that ultimately this is MY blog, my ideas and my passion. 

Whew...that felt good!  Now to the recipe.  My constant readers know that I am horribly allergic to eggs.  I've actually ended up in the ER on more than one occasion thanks to those little devils.  Consequently, many of the classic breakfast foods are out of the question for me.  I may make them for the hubs and my mother but you won't find a bite of frittata crossing these lips! 

I was messing around in the kitchen Sunday morning making my husband some French toast and it looked so delicious.  I decided to take a stab at making a vegan French toast and to my great actually worked and it was delicious.  The bread I have used here is Cinnamon Raisin Ezekiel bread which is a flourless bread.  I really love it.  This is a bread made from seven different sprouted grains.  It is vegan but even though it is flourless it is NOT gluten free.  Check out the website at the link above if you are not familiar with Ezekiel bread.

The recipe is really simple:

1 heaping tablespoon tapioca starch or Ener-G egg replacer
1 cup unsweetened organic almond, oat, hazelnut, soy or hemp milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
*for this version I also added 1 teaspoon coconut extract but that may be omitted if you are not making the pina colada sauce

Put the starch or egg replacer in a shallow wide bowl and add the milk.  Whisk to dissolve the starch.  Stir in the extract/extracts.  Melt some coconut oil in a skillet or griddle.  Dip the slices of bread in starch/milk mixture and place them in the heated, oiled skillet.  Cook over medium low heat until toast is browned; flip and brown on second side. 

I also prepared a pineapple sauce to pour over top the French toast.

1/3 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
1 teaspoon tapioca or non gmo corn starch
2 tablespoons Xylitol natural sweetener
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

In a small saucepan, whisk starch with xylitol until mixed.  Whisk in pineapple juice.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly.  Cook 1-2 minutes or until mixture is loses it's milk appearance.  Remove from heat and stir in coconut extract. 

When I plated this, I sliced the French toast in half diagonally and topped it with shredded unsweetened organic coconut and some fresh bananas and raspberries then drizzled it with this delicious pineapple sauce.  I must say, it was wonderful!!

For lunch we've got a velvety smooth soup made with three types of roasted winter squash, coconut milk and vegetable broth and millet.  This soup is so simple and yet so very delicious.

Three Squash and Millet Soup is comfort food to the max.  The roasted squash is pureed to a smooth, velvet texture.  The millet provides a healthy boost of fiber and protein.

6 cups of mixed peeled, cubed hard squash * I've used butternut, turban and kombucha
2 tablespoons organic extra virgin coconut oil
1 teaspoon sweet yellow curry powder
8-10 scrapes fresh nutmeg
6 cups organic reduced sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup dry organic millet
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 cup organic full fat coconut milk plus more to drizzle on top
salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Toss peeled cubed squash with melted coconut oil, curry powder and nutmeg.  Cover with foil and roast until squash is fork tender.
Working in two or three batches, place roasted squash in blender or food processer with 2 cups of vegetable broth.  Pulse and until completely smooth. Pour into a 3 quart kettle with lid.  Repeat with remaining squash and vegetable broth.  Add the millet and bay leaf.  Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer very slowly until millet is tender; about 45 minutes. 
Remove bay leaf and stir in coconut milk.  Heat through but do not boi.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sever with a drizzle of coconut milk on top.

Not a very good picture...even by my standards but this soup is fantastic!

There will be more recipes forthcoming.  My slump is officially over!  By the way, thank you so much to my new youtube subscribers!  I've got new videos ready to post that I HOPE we will get to this week AND...just wait till you see the next one!  Its going to be a healthy pizza dip with baked pita chips!

To all my foodbuzz friends...please don't be offened if I don't comment on any of your posts from the last two weeks.  I cannot believe how many posts I had sent to me while I was on hiatus...THOUSANDS!  There is no way I can possibly go through all those.  I'm just going to delete them and start fresh with your new posts.  I'm sorry because I really do like to check out what all my friends are cooking but this is overwhelming!

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Fort Myers, Florida, United States