Aug 19

It’s hard to look at my blog, something I nurtured, loved and developed a following only to realize I’ve abandoned it for two years.  Do I have a list of excuses?  Of course, but none of them matter.  The blog is sadly a metaphor for most aspects of my life for the last two years.  I hit some bumps and rather than pop up fighting I just pulled the blankets over my head and hoped that I’d come out the other end.  That approach worked out splendidly well, said no-one ever!

I’m lucky, we all have gifts, but I am fortunate to know mine; writing, storytelling and cooking.  No matter what goes on, I can use those gifts to sooth myself and the people around me, but first I have to get out from under the blanket.  So today,  I’m taking another step towards getting out from under the blankets, I’m writing my blog!

We’ve made several changes in the last two years, eating healthier, running and yoga.  Bill has a new job, he’s working at the Ritz, and his schedule means he’s not always home for dinner.  And I’m no longer working from home, so I no longer have the freedom to start a slow cook dinner early in the day.  Lately, I’m making meals we can reheat and eat for lunch or maybe a second night dinner together.  Tonight, that means Moroccan Chicken Casserole!  It’s a one-pot meal, quick to put together, very flavorful and super healthy!

Moroccan Chicken Casserole

2 cups chicken broth

14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes

4 oz can sliced kalamata olives

2 cloves minced garlic

1 tsp cumin

2 tsp salt

Juice of half a lemon

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup diced cilantro

1 bay leaf

1.5 cups couscous

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast

1/2 red onion sliced

olive oil for drizzling

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

Combine first 10 ingredients in a bowl and stir.  Stir in couscous.  Pour into a greased  9×13 baking dish.  Lay boneless chicken breasts on top, sprinkle sliced onion on top of chicken, drizzle with olive oil.  Cover the pan with foil and put it into the oven for 40 minutes.  Remove the foil and use broiler to brown the top.

Serve garnished with fresh cilantro, sliced green onions and a squeeze of lemon juice.

A cucumber, tomato and red onion salad with feta cheese would be a great side dish!

Jul 4
Happy Fourth of July America
posted by: dawn in Rants and Raves on 07 4th, 2011 | | No Comments »

It’s the fourth of July and I am as sick of BBQ specials on Food Network now as I will be of seeing Turkey and dressing in November.

Don’t get me wrong, I love BBQ, I love Turkey and dressing.  I just get a little overwhelmed when the entire food community rallies around one style of food or ingredient for weeks on end.  Yesterday Bobby Flay was making a smoked brisket on my TV as I was milling around the house getting ready to go shopping.  I was nothing short of irritated.  Who decided that it’s July 4th and therefore we will BBQ (or grilled meats for you purists)?  There are so many foods that typify America (sorry Canada, I know I should say “The United States” but it just didn’t work in this context).  How did BBQ become the symbol of July 4 and Fathers Day?  It’s almost as if you are not celebrating if you eat food that was not grilled.

This year we decided on a better plan for our food celebration of our nation’s holiday; we ate internationally.  I kicked off our long weekend with the best beef bourguignon I’ve ever made (Viva la France! And thank you for the Statue of Liberty).  The next night I embraced local St. Louis tradition by serving a pork steak* rubbed with Rendevzous Dry Rub along with a grilled Portobello mushroom marinated in Italian dressing and home-made potato salad (pretty traditional Americana).

*Pork steak is cut from the shoulder of the pork just like a butt roast, but it’s sliced to about an inch thick and cooks up nicely on the grill some people choose to marinate and slow cook them but we grilled it just like a beef-steak and it was the bomb.

Yesterday afternoon I made a plate of baguettes, French Brie, fresh figs, prosciutto & mortadella  (from our local butcher shop Valenti’s) that we enjoyed with a locally brewed IPA.

Last night we celebrated the holiday by going to a local Mexican restaurant (Ole!).  While we picked Mexican food last; within a few minutes of our house we could have selected Chinese, French, Thai, Sushi, Polish, German, Italian and of course, smoke house BBQ.  That’s my take on what’s great in this country.  You don’t have to be French to make beautiful  macrons — you just have to love and respect the food (My macaron link takes you to Eat Live Travel Write by Mardi who is is an Australian blogger who lived in and loves Paris and now calls Toronto home — LOVE IT).  In the United States we are fortunate enough to have access to almost any food ingredient known to man.  Even produce that we can’t grow here.  To this eater/writer, that is cause for celebration!

That said, It is my sincere hope that the weather will cooperate and I can go to our small town festival and eat some BBQ, Corn Dogs, Funnel Cakes and perhaps enjoy a beer or two!

Happy Forth of July!  Be safe!

P.S.  I’m not compensated by Rendezvous or Valenti’s.  I just like to share my favorites with others.

May 14

How can it be May?  I haven’t posted on my blog for six months.  I think that’s criminal.  I owe an explanation to anyone that was kind enough to read my blog regularly.

My life turned upside-down in December.  Out of the blue, I found a job opportunity with a great company that is doing exciting things in solar energy.  The thing is, I had to relocate from Orlando to St. Louis.  My first day at my new company was January 31.  This probably doesn’t mean much to anyone who doesn’t live in St. Louis, but that was the day a “historic” blizzard hit town.  I’ve lived in California and Florida.  Snow and I don’t know how to deal with each other.  For me, this was nothing short of traumatic.

The other half of the trama was that my husband stayed in Celebration so his son could finish out his senior year of high school.  So I was in the snow, alone and without my treaure trove of kitchen toys.  I didn’t cook much and therefore the blog fell off my to do list.

What I did do was eat out.   And I have some thought I’d like to share.  I’ve found lots of things to love.  But in keeping with my style, First let me get this rant off of my chest.  While researching my move, I became very excited to try St. Louis style pizza.  I’ve tried several versions and ….  I miss California pizzas.

Death to Provel

If you are a St. Louis native you know about Provel, and it’s likely that I’m going to offend you in my next sentence.   St. Louis style pizza is an insult to Italians, an insult to cheese, and insult to people with taste buds.  This is all because of Provel.  Pizza is a personal thing.  There are so many ways to make it and enjoy it that I had to think long and hard about declaring a method to be wrong.  Who am I to say that an entire style of pizza is wrong? I am the blogger! And if you come visit me we’ll have lots of good food but I will not allow a guest of mine to be subjected to St. Louis style pizza.

For the lucky uninitiated reader, there are really two things that define St. Louis style pizza.  A thin crust and provel cheese.  I can accept thin crust though some of the versions I’ve had are so thin that they are almost like a tortilla.  At that point it’s no longer a pizza, it’s a distant cousin.  I prefer a thicker crust, not NY style and absolutely not Chicago style but thicker than a classic neapolitan crust.

If the crust were the only differentiator, I’d probably decide that St. Louis pizza and I aren’t friends, but I wouldn’t declare open blogger warfare.  Unfortunately the creators of St. Louis style pizza weren’t content with just ruining the crust, they also felt it necessary to mess with the cheese.  This is where it gets ugly.  Why would any rational human being swap out the delicious stringy milky goodness of mozzarella for a processed cheese?  Seriously, were they mad (you can read that as angry or insane, both definitions apply)?

Provel is to cheese as a hotdog is to sausage.  It pretends to be in the same family, but one quickly realizes that all of the quality has been stripped out and the only resemblance is visual.  Provel is a processed cheese made with cheddar, swiss and provolone.  It’s specific to this region and the name Provel is a trademark owned by Kraft.   Wikipedia pretty much sums it up by saying that “like all processed cheeses, it’s legally allowed to be calledcheese.  You can buy it in the grocery store, typically in the deli section next to exotic cheeses, it typically comes in a plastic tub and is extruded.  You can’t call it grated, it looks like a long wad of spaghetti noodles.  It clumps together.  It melts over the top of the pizza like an oil slick and feels like one in your mouth.  I’m pretty sure if you tried to feed this to Nona from the old country she’d slap you silly.  Provel is all that is wrong with the US food chain.  It’s not food, it’s cheap mass produced nutritionally devoid garbage.

People from St. Louis LOVE their pizza.  And I’m happy for them.  The comfort of food is as much about a memory as a taste.  But as for me, I think I’ll be making my pizza as long as I live here.

Nov 30

November was a whirl wind month.  I managed to cook along with my French Friday’s with Dorie friends but I didn’t manage to post anything.  I had a bit of vacation time around Thanksgiving and I’ve stocked up some posts.

In November I made the potato gratin (pp. 360 – 361) the roast chicken for les paresseux (pp 200 – 201) Marie Helene’s Apple Cake and I made a french apple tart using Dories pastry crust recipe.  I loved them all!

The potato gratin is so easy to make and the cheesy crust on the top is heavenly.  As usual I made way too much, but this time we ate it all!  I served it with a roast chicken, though not Dorie’s recipe, that I would tackle later.  I did make an addition to the dish inspired by something I recently saw in a magazine.  I had tons of mushrooms left over from another project so I sauteed them in butter, drained them and made a mushroom layer in the middle.  Divine!  It helped break up the potatoes and added a new flavor.

Marie Helen’s apple cake is actually dangerous, as my friend Mardi at Eat Live Travel Write pointed out.  Dangerous because it’s so easy to make and completely delicious!  The batter is light and airy, almost like a slump and the apples are sweet but not too.  A great dessert, breakfast or afternoon treat.  I didn’t photograph this because I ate it too quickly!

The Roast Chicken for les Paressuex is the easiest roast chicken I’ve ever made, which is pretty impressive since roast chicken is seriously easy to.  Dorie uses bread to rest the chicken during cooking which resulted in a really ugly but luscious treat that Tyler and I nearly fought over.  The juice from the chicken seeps into the bread but the dutch oven keeps it crisp.  We dubbed it “chicken bread.”  The skin on the chicken was crisp while the chicken itself was moist, adding the vegetables later in the roasting process created a great brown crust but they retained a toothsome texture to instead of being mushy.  I really love Around my French Table, but this recipe alone is worth the price of entry!

And lastly my French Apple Tart! This was a labor of love to be certain.  I relied on Dories short crust recipe for the tart, the same recipe I used for the base of Gerard’s Mustard Tart from last month’s challenge.  I broke out the mandolin, which always makes Bill nervous, and sliced about 5 gala apples.  I covered it with a cup of sugar and then dabbed about a half a stick of butter across the top.  Popped it into a 425 degree oven for about an hour and there it was, art on a plate.  I think I can do better presentation wise but that will come with practice.  To me, the tart was not only a visual reminder of France, but one bite and I was sitting in a cafe watching traffic.  All I lacked was a cafe creme.  The crust was crisp, the apples maintained a toothsome texture and it was just sweet enough to be dessert, but not so much I felt guilty.  Which is good because between making the crust, slicing and placing the apples and bake time this was a long process, how bad would it be to feel guilty about eating it after all that work.

Thank you Dorie for taking me back to France when a real trip is out of the question!

Nov 29
To Sum it All Up!
posted by: dawn in Rants and Raves on 11 29th, 2010 | | No Comments »

I (as you probably are too) am an advocate of cooking at home using the least processed ingredients possible.  I am not 100% organic, but I try.   Except for the rare indulgence (the blue box mac and cheese that reminds me of college) I don’t eat pre-packaged foods.

In the United States since the invention of convenience food in the 1950′s we’ve become addicted if you will to pre-made food.  We don’t focus on quality, we focus on speed and volume.  If you can buy a 9 inch pie for $3.00 at the bakery why not buy the 18 inch pie at Costco for $3.50, never-mind that five people have no business having a 16 inch pie to themselves.  We no longer even bother to set our microwaves!  We are so lazy we use buttons labeled “soup,” “popcorn,” “baked potato,” or my favorite “sauce.”   Exactly how does my microwave know what kind of sauce I have and how I want it heated?

Freezer items don’t push quality as the first attribute, it’s speed of cooking time followed by how many you can buy for $4.  There’s a shelf-stable, microwaveable, lunch pasta product on the market that dares to use the word “Fresh” in the title.  Exactly what is “fresh” about canned sauce with canned meat in it (which is probably pretty close to cat food in quality).

We wonder why obesity is an epidemic when our grandmothers cooked everything they could in bacon fat while drinking like fish.  Yes it’s because we sit in cars and at desks more than we stand up.  Yes, it’s because we have to go get on a machine to walk because we are so lazy.  But it’s primarily because we don’t’ cook.  We are a nation of fat malnourished people. Roughly 35% of Americans are obese, 60% are overweight and 95% are malnourished.

This is caused by the garbage we put in our bodies; fast food, gummy fruit flavored “healthy” snacks; vitamin enriched water and mass farmed produce.  How did I start this rant you may wonder?  It all started with an article about Paris Chefs cooking in the subway because they want more Parisians to cook 4 star at home.  We can’t even get people to roast a chicken on Sunday.  How sad is that?

Nov 28

This Thanksgiving I was thankful to have a  2009 bottle of Martín Códax Rías Biaxas Albarioño supplied by winemaker Katia Alvarez.    What better to inspire a mood of appreciation than free wine?

I was excited to accept the offer to review this wine because I already adore wines from Spain and frankly, I’m thrilled to encounter and support  female winemakers.  GIRL POWER!  If you aren’t familiar with Spanish Wines, you should investigate them.  I’ve found excellent Spanish wine at a much better value than better-known regions.

It wasn’t too long ago that Sherry was the only wine from Spain that most people in the United States would recognize.  Those days are long gone.  Today, most wine drinkers are familiar with Rioja and Cava as popular Spanish varietals and others are on the rise.  Albariño is a crisp and light white wine, typically high acid and best consumed young.  (Saying this always reminds me of my father joking about how he “hated aged wines, don’t give me that old crap, give me the fresh stuff!).  The Martín Códax wine

I served this wine as I always do, without reading the tasting, notes because I like to decide what I think it tastes like before being influenced by the tasting notes.  Typically when I smell a wine I think “it smells like wine.”  (I know, not very impressive)  But maybe because I was showing off for my parents; or maybe because my nose is getting better; this time I smelled citrus and pineapple.  The wine tasted exactly like I thought it would, crisp light and palate cleansing.

As I mentioned we had it with our Thanksgiving dinner.  I’m traditional, we had turkey, cornbread sage stuffing, mashed potatoes and cauliflower.  The wine was nice with dinner; but I enjoyed it more after dinner, when it had warmed a little.  It’s a very drinkable wine, dry but not sour (as some whites can be).  The price point for this wine is a value at $15 per bottle.  I wish I was writing this in May or June because this is a great “sit on the patio and sip” kind of wine.  I ended up with a little left over and used it to deglaze the pan for a chicken dish on Friday.  It was the perfect flavor addition and reduced well (meaning it was still tasty, sometimes I reduce a wine and am very unimpressed).

Bottom line – I’d take this wine to a friend’s house for dinner and I’ll add it to my “cellar”.  I hope you enjoy it as well!

Cheers!

(Disclaimer, this wine was supplied by the winemaker.  In case you wonder why you never see me write a bad wine review, it’s my personal philosophy not to write negative reviews.  When I receive review samples I don’t like, I reply privately to the sender and explain my experience. )

Nov 28
Being Thankful
posted by: dawn in Uncategorized on 11 28th, 2010 | | 2 Comments »

I’m trying really hard this year to focus on what I’m Thankful for instead of what irritates me.  For some reason, it seems to be hard work to me.  It’s much easier to get frustrated at the “jerk” driving in front of me than it is to remember that I’m in the seven percent of the world’s population that has a car and the privilege of being behind that “jerk.” I should be grateful, not angry.  Not to mention that the frustration only serves to dampen my day while the other driver is blissfully ignorant of my rant and continues along without a care in the world.

So as I wind up my Thanksgiving weekend I thought I’d share some things:

I’m thankful for my husband who supports me and my blogging habit!

I’m thankful that our son wants to do well and isn’t one of those kids that get arrested.

I’m thankful for other bloggers who share their knowledge and help me learn.

I’m thankful that my job has allowed me to travel and taste food from all over the world (YAY PARIS!)

I’m thankful that anybody bothers to read what I have to say let alone comment!

I’m thankful that I feel loved and respected.

That’s it.  The list is much longer, but It felt very nice to share some of the things that make me happy.  Please post a comment about what makes you thankful!

Happy Holidays!

Oct 16

I am a soup girl.  I eat soup every day.  My middle name could easily be soup (but that would be weird wouldn’t it?)  So I was thrilled to see that this week’s recipe for French Friday’s with Dorie was ……  soup!  Spicy Vietnamese Chicken soup to be clear.

As a lover of soup, I don’t buy into the concept of using canned stock.  So on Monday I made my own stock using my new induction burner which I”ll write up later but I can sum up the review “LOVE IT!!!”  Then as always, life happened and I didn’t actually make the soup until last night.  I’m a little sad to report that this recipe is not for me.  I think if I’d left the coconut milk out and made something closer to a traditional Pho I would have loved it.  The spices are delightful.  I may have used too much fish sauce for my taste, but I really think the coconut milk killed it for me.  I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t love it the way I thought I would.   That said, I sent a bowl over to my friend who agreed to be my taste tester and she loved it.

Even though I am not in love with the soup itself, I am still in love with Dorie.  The recipe was very easy to follow, she gave ideas for variations.  I will say this every week (unless sweet potatoes make the mix then I won’t play)  but I love this book.  Just love it!

So my first surprise was my reaction to my soup.  My second surprise was my wine tonight.   A while ago the very nice people at Wine Chateau contacted me and asked if they sent me a bottle of wine would I be willing to review it.  Who in their right mind says no to such an offer?  Not me that’s for sure.  I told them I am primarily a red wine drinker and that I was looking forward to making a lamb dish.  Could they send me something that would pair nicely?  Imagine my surprise when this arrived:

PINK WINE!!!  Yes I know it’s not called “pink,”  I recognize that it is a rose.  It’s also not that awful white zinfandel that I believe is primarily consumed by college students and trailer parks (yes, I can indeed be opinionated!).  It’s a 2007 Wild Rock Vin Gris. It’s made from Pinot Noir grapes.  I know all this, but still I sat the bottle on the table and played a game of stare-down with the wine.  What a twerp I was.  I was thinking about this recipe and I sent an email to my friend Al at Wine Chateau an email with the basics of the recipe asking if he thought it would be a good pairing.  He said yes, and so … I bit the bullet thinking that I was going to have great food and have to struggle through a wine review.

I can’t tell you how wrong I was.  Yes it was pink, yes it had a screw top and yes, I was very timid about approaching it.  When someone sends you a product to review you want to write good things and all appearances made me think I wasn’t going to like it.   (By the way, if I hate something I just contact the person who asked me to review it and let them know but I can’t slam products online.  I think it’s wrong).  The wine is dry and light.  It has great Pinot Noir flavor but is crisp a when you drink it.

Buying wine online may seem like a gamble, but the folks at Wine Chateau have been friendly and responsive.  They shared their knowledge with me and didn’t even back off when the “wine expert” asked what temperature to serve the wine at.  While you can’t use an online purveyor for a last-minute purchase  you can get great service.  What’s less intimidating than sending an email asking for wine advice?  I would absolutely go to them again.  And …. the Wild Rock Vin Gris is on sale for under $7 per bottle.  Try them — I hope you have a great experience!

Next week …. Hachis Parmentier!


Oct 11

Tomato and Mustard Tart (with approval from Chef de Cuisine, Ratatoulie)

I know I’ve been on a Mexican food bender lately, but French food will always be my first love.  I’m so happy I make it a point to read my friend Mardi’s blog Eat. Live. Travel Write, because she introduced me to Dorie Greenspan and French Fridays with Dorie.  Each week a group of bloggers make the same recipe from Around My French Table and talk about it.  I love cooking challenges and I love reading how other people approach to recipes.  Unfortunately my book didn’t arrive until late Wednesday last week so I’m a bit behind on cooking and blogging.

The version of this recipe that most other people made (everybody I think) includes leeks and carrots which I didn’t have at home.  I did however have some beautiful Campari Tomatos.  One thing I really like about this cookbook is that each recipe comes with a story and typically an idea of how to vary it.  It’s a blogger’s dream.   Dorie explains that the recipe in her book is a riff on the more traditional tomato version so I decided to improvise instead of going to the store.   I’m so glad I did! The tart is so good even Bill, my tomato hating husband, loved it!

The recipe for the crust is nearly foolproof.  I actually made my dough on Thursday morning thinking I would be able to make the tart after work.  That didn’t happen.   In the instructions Dorie mentioned that it could be refrigerated for up to 5 days which is a great tip because you could make a batch of dough on Sunday and be able to make a fresh tart during the week by just rolling it out.  I was concerned that the dough would be too hard to work after being refrigerated for so long but with a little muscle it went very easily. (one note about rolling the dough, this is not the time to multi task, it warms and becomes sticky really fast)  It would be a great dough to have on hand!

This is my tart dough rolled out and ready to chill before blind baking it.

After blind baking I decided to improvise a little and put some Gruyere cheese in the tart (who doesn’t love cheese?)  I hope Dorie doesn’t mind!

Assembled and into the oven (That’s a cast Iron Pan and Pizza stone in the oven.  I leave them there all the time.)  I’m sorry that the photo is a little blurry.  I didn’t realize it was until it was too late (As in I was writing the post)

My tart pan is not the kind you can take the tart out of, nor is it the right size so my tart was a little thinner than perhaps it should have been, but it was devoured none the less.  I have since purchased a proper tart pan and intend to make a new version of this recipe with leeks and potatoes.  I think it will be delicious!  I can see putting many flavors in this tart the basic recipe is versatile.

You may have noticed Remy in my photo, he always cooks with me.  As Remy says, “Every Great Meal Starts with a First Ingredient”

Bon Appetite!

Oct 9


Meet Bernardo.  He’s 18 pounds of German attitude (he’s a dachshund) and an adorable member of our family.  A couple years ago you may remember there was an incident where tainted wheat that was used for dogfood ended up killing many pets.  So, I decided that if I eat local produce and fresh veggies he can too.  I couldn’t bear to think of feeding him something that might kill him (have you ever read the ingredients in dog food? A lot of garbage and not very much food). You may think it’s expensive, time consuming or even crazy to cook for a dog, but his food is about $6 a month and it’s healthy.  My vet loves it.  And about once a month I spend 20 – 30 minutes (much of which is downtime) cooking his food.

Bernie’s Turkey Delight!

1lb ground turkey

2 cups quick cook barley

1 cup chicken broth

1 bag cole slaw mix (shredded cabbage)

1 16 oz bag of mixed vegetables

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
Brown the turkey in a dutch oven  over medium heat using a spoon or potato masher to break it up.  Add chicken broth and barley.  Reduce to simmer and cover for 20 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients.  Cover and simmer for additional 20 minutes.
That’s it, you have cheap healthy dog food and a dog that adores you!  Come on, who could resist a wagging tail?

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