There are cooking blogs out in the blogosphere that have mostly high fat, high calorie recipes on their blogs, but not me. However, I do realize the value of a special occasion meal, and since last night was our wedding anniversary we did it up! Now over the years we would sometimes go out for our anniversary to a special restaurant. Most of the time we prefer to stay at home and have some sort of lobster dish. Last night I bought 3 live lobsters and brought them home for a feast. I decided I’d do lobster two ways. First was the old standby of Lobster Newburg, a wonderful preparation with lobster sauteed in clarified butter with minced onions and mushrooms. It is thickened with roux, then the milk and sherry are added. A touch of ground white pepper, and nutmeg finish it off perfectly. To this dish I then added butter poached lobster as a garnish. This is a way of cooking lobster I learned from the book “Soul of a Chef” where chef Thomas Keller took up about a third of the book, and was highlighted in his French Laundry restaurant. Wow, it was good! To round out the plate I steamed whole brussel sprouts, and made a nice rice pilaf with a touch of saffron for flavor and color. I also served a small dish of corn relish for a mini salad course. The Roederer Estate sparkling wine was a perfect match, for both the main dish and the store bought fruit tart and cherry tart. All in all I was very pleased and will remember the evening fondly. And that my friends is what special occasion meals are all about! Great food is part of our lives, and one of the things we remember from special occasions. So by all means enjoy the good stuff, just don’t eat like this every night if you want to be healthy and active.
Fast and Furious Newburg Sauce for Two
1/3 cup white mushrooms diced small
1/4 cup yellow onion diced small
1 tablespoon clarified butter
1 cup whole milk
dash of ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
In a 1 quart pot saute the onions in the clarified butter on medium low for 3 minutes then add the mushrooms stirring often,(about every 30 seconds). Continue cooking for 8-10 minutes on medium low to cook out most of the moisture in the mushrooms stirring often. Add the flour to make a roux and cook 4 more minutes on low. Whisk in milk and turn heat up to medium stirring slowly but constantly until the sauce just starts to bubble and simmer. Add pepper, nutmeg and salt to taste. Remove from heat and cover until needed. Enough sauce for two servings, maybe even three.
For the lobsters.
I use an 8 quart pot to precook my lobsters in, but as long as you can get a lid on you can use a smaller pot for this step. Fill the pot about one third full of water, cover, and bring to a boil. When the water comes to a boil drop the lobster in head first, belly up. Cook for 3-4 minutes on high heat and remove to cold water to stop the cooking process. Repeat for each lobster. After lobsters cool , the meat should come out easily when the shells are cracked open. Cut lobster tail into bite sized pieces, and leave claws whole. Dry the lobster pieces with paper towels and saute in clarified butter in a medium sized saute pan on medium heat for 5-8 minutes. Drain lobster butter off into a bowl to save for bread dipping(yum!). Add Newburg Sauce to the pan and heat just until it starts to simmer. Pour into preheated baking dishes if you have them and serve with sliced French bagguette slices.
Serves two but is easily doubled.
* I used three 1 1/2 pound lobsters for this dish, and had a bit of lobster meat leftover for lobster hash the following morning.
My Cooking Blog Project
When I started this blog I had no idea how much work it would be. Cooking itself comes naturally to me and I flow through most cooking projects easily. The biggest challenges have been learning the operating systems of the blog. To name a few there is WordPress for blog hosting, Aweber for Email management, Facebook for promoting, Twitter for promoting, Ejunkie for processing payments, and a few others. This has been a bit more costly than I expected too. I have enjoyed this whole project even when some of the above mentioned caused me to need a long walk. Now that my Fast and Furious Cookbook volume #1 is available I hope most of you have received some benefit that would entice you to buy my cookbook as a way to help me defer some of my cost of putting out recipes and tips to make your food world a better place. For only $9.97 you would be helping me stay on track to produce new recipes and food news for many months and possibly years to come. When you buy the Ebook you will also get over 40 recipes that will have you making great healthy meals from scratch quicker than you thought possible. There is also a one week sample menu to help you plan your household meals. I will continue writing new original recipes for a print cookbook that I expect to have done by the end of the year. That cookbook I plan on publishing as a traditional print cookbook. I am enrolled in photography classes to improve the food pictures I take for the blog and cookbook. I will also attend Eat, Write, Retreat in Philadelphia to up my skills in all areas of food blogging so I can bring you my best. All I ask is for a little help, please.
Can’t say that I have ever woke up with them bullfrogs on my mind, but I did wake up with butternut squash and Rory Gallagher the Irish blues legend on my mind today. And why did I wake up with these two completely different things on my mind? Bullfrog Blues was on my mind after a chat with my friend Bobby in Alaska who called me to hook me up with some Rory G songs on the internet. If you need a taste here is a link, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33Jaodra7AY&noredirect=1. This is a good morning maniac music type song to get you going.The butternut squash was on my mind due to a visit to the Home and Garden show in Timonium, Maryland yesterday where I sat through a 30 minute demo of Kitchen Craft cookware. I usually wouldn’t do such a thing however it was at a point where my wife and I had seen just about everything, and had some time to spare to see what this whole “cooking without water” thing was about. It was very interesting especially the presenter’s claim that you lose 70% of the vitamins and other good stuff when you cook vegies in water. The presenter made some good points on why to get rid of your aluminum cookware, and especially your teflon cookware. Not that I believed everything he said, but it’s probably a good thing to dump the aluminum, which I have been doing in stages for about 15 years anyway. But I digress. The reason I had butternut squash on my mind was because the presenter made a good point on why to include it in your diet often, and I had a lovely butternut hanging out on my kitchen counter just waiting for inspiration on what to do with it. So today is the day it gets prepared, but before I get into that here’s some good info on the nutritional benefits of butternut squash from www.wholeliving.com:
Per 1 cup cooked, approximately 205 grams
Fat: 0.2 g
Vitamin A: 1,144 mcg = 163 percent* of DRI**
Vitamin B6: 0.3 mg = 20 percent of DRI
Vitamin C: 31 mg = 41 percent of DRI
Folate: 39 mcg = 10 percent of DRI
Potassium: 582 mg = 12 percent of DRI
Percentages are for women 31 to 50 years old who are not pregnant ** DRI, Dietary Reference Intake, is based on National Academy of Sciences’ Dietary Reference Intakes, 1997 to 2004
You can probably see that it is full of good stuff for a body, but the best part is all the ways you can prepare it. I love butternut squash soup, or oven roasted butternut squash. It cooks up well with so many different types of herbs and spices from onion and garlic to cinnamon and ginger. You can cook it seasoned with Indian Curry, or your favorite steak seasoning. I will admit it is a challenge to peel a butternut squash, but most grocery stores sell it already cut into cubes for fast and easy preparation. For todays post I decided to do Butternut squash 3 ways using a 1 pound 2 ounce organic specimen. To make it a bit more interesting I’m going to make it in 3 ways that I have never seen or had before today so hang on, here we go.
#1 Curried Coconut Butternut Squash Soup
#2 Butternut Squash with Walnut Oil and Sage Tossed in Penne Pasta
#3 Butternut Squash and Celery Salad
I’m back at the laptop and done with the whirlwind Butternut project and quite pleased with the results. For the pasta and salad dish I oven roasted the squash all at once sparing me some time. While cutting up the squash I decided to try a new idea on roasting the seeds so I put the seeds from the squash in a small baking dish prepped with a quarter teaspoon of walnut oil and seasoned them with ground dried chipolte pepper powder and Lawrey”s Seasoning Salt. They came out great! The pasta dish was good, but would be better with the addition of mushrooms, or Italian sausage. I liked the way the salad turned out and will try it with dried tarragon next time to see if that’s a better herb.
The soup however was the best of the bunch. It came out thick and rich tasting with just the right amount of curry. For you my dear readers since I usually only post one recipe per post I’ll give you the soup recipe here today, and the rest will be re-tested for addition to my cookbook project. For you brave souls that try the Butternut Squash Soup please leave your comments. Bon Appetit until we meet/eat again.
Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut and Curry
1 tablespoon walnut oil, or canola oil
1/4 cup minced yellow onion
1/4 cup minced celery
1 cup sliced carrots
2 cups water
2 cups cubed butternut squash
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 can of coconut milk,(14 oz)
1 teaspoon Better Than Bullion Chicken Base, or 1 vegetable stock cube
salt and white pepper to taste, about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon each
Saute minced onions, and celery with oil in a 1 1/2 to 2 quart pot on medium low for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Add carrots, squash, curry powder, turmeric, chicken base and water. Increase heat to medium high and cook covered until it starts simmering. Turn it down, stir, and continue to cook simmering until squash is cooked, about 12 to 15 minutes. Add coconut milk, salt and pepper then cook for about 3 more minutes. Turn off heat and blend with an immersion blender or table top blender until smooth. Serve with roasted squash seeds on top, or a small sprinkle of nutmeg.
* Low fat coconut milk can be used.
Today I said goodbye to my dog Vixen after a four month battle with Lymphoma. We had a great five years together since picking her up as a pup on January 26, 2008. She had most of one year in Colorado, and the rest in Maryland. She was as good as a dog can be, and most people that knew her said she was one of the best trained dogs they had seen. She was beautiful, and many times at dog parks or on walks people would remark about her looks. Her true beauty was in a big heart and sweetness. She brought more than one boy out of their shell at St Vincent’s Villa where I volunteer with boys that live there facing challenges few of us imagine. When I couldn’t crack the shell of three of these boys she stood up to the challenge and always won them over. Her pet sitters considered her one of the family. When I took her there for one of my several trips each year she would almost bust down the door to get in. When I would come back to get her she would almost bust down the door to come to me. A perfect dog in that regard.
In five years in this world she never bit another dog or human. Just sticks, tennis balls and frisbees. However if you came to our door she would be the guard dog she was bred to be, and people would see a snapping snarling, barking maniac of a dog until I got there to call her off. She lived a life few dogs get to live, that is because she was with me 24/7 except for the 4-5 weeks per year I’d be gone on trips, or when we went out for dinner or a show. And so it is I think of the saying, “It’s not the years in the life but the life in the years that count”. Vixen had a lot of life in those five years.
Goodbye my dear friend.
Where Did We Go Wrong?
Healthy recipes for baking go back centuries before the advent of white flour yet most of us have been fed little in the way of whole grains most of our lives. It was after 1870 that wheat grinding changed significantly with the advent of iron, steel or porcelain rollers instead of stone. This produced a more refined flour and the rest is history. I could go on and on, but would instead send you to http://www.grainmillandwheatgrinder.com/history-of-white-flour.html where in just a few minutes you can get the rest of the story. My story is that I use way less white flour in my baking, choosing instead whole wheat, and sometimes using oat flour, or even barley flour. I experiment using these whole grains in bread, muffins and cookies. Consider that all whole grain flours are not created equal. I like getting my whole wheat flour, and white flour from King Arthur Flour Company after I read an article about them in Smithsonian Magazine several years ago. It stated that King Arthur was the only flour the French imported from America it was that good! I get my other flours and cornmeal from the small producers like Arrowhead Mills, Red’s Mill, or Hodgson Mill. I encourage you to add more whole grains in your diet which may be a challenge at first, but if you get the book, Whole Grain Baking by King Arthur Flour you will be exposed to over 500 pages of whole grain baking recipes, and information about whole grains in general. There is a baker’s hotline included in the book that has been quite useful to me on several occasions.One of the things I learned from the hotline was to keep my whole grain flours in the freezer as whole grains can go rancid. The phone number for the hotline is 802-6493717. Not all these are healthy recipes, like the lovely Lemon-Raspberry Cake that graces the cover, but there are hundreds of recipes that are healthier than most baking recipes us Americans use. Try increasing your whole grain consumption by getting a copy of this amazing baking book, and see if you agree with me that it is the best whole grain recipe resource out there.
Almost all of my posts include my original recipes, but when I find a recipe worth sharing I change my routine for you dear readers. Today’s venture into whole grain baking took place here at the Fast and Furious test kitchen,(my home), and featured brownies from page 341 in the above mentioned baking book. I tried the applesauce version that cuts the amount of butter or oil in half. I have baked with applesauce to cut down on fat in baking recipes for years with excellent results, and recommend you give it a try too if you haven’t already. Today’s experiment is going to be a gift to the staff and volunteers of St Vincent’s Villa in Timonium, Maryland where I volunteer each Wednesday mentoring a 12 year old boy that lives there. I bet they won’t even know that these are a healthier recipe for brownies unless I decide to tell them. If you want to try this recipe, it is here by permission of the good bakers at King Arthur Flour.
Double Fudge Browines
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 t espresso powder (optional)
1 T vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups traditional whole wheat flour
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease a 9×13 inch pan.
Melt the butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl or in a saucepan set over low heat. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the microwave (or heat) briefly, until it’s hot and starting to bubble. Heating this mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust.
Stir in the cocoa, baking powder, salt espresso powder(if using) and vanilla. Cool the mixture until you can test it with your finger: it should feel like comfortably hot bath water. Whisk in the eggs, stirring until smooth, them add the flour and chips, again stirring until smooth. Spoon the batter into the prepare pan.
Bake the brownies until a cake tester or sharp knife poked into the center reveals wet crumbs but not raw batter, 30 minutes. The brownies should feel set on the edges and in the center. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack: cover when cool. Let sit over night before serving: this gives the bran a chance to soften, giving the brownie a more pleasing texture.
Cut the fat by substituting 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce for 1/2 cup butter: add after the vanilla. The brownies will have a slightly milder chocolate flavor and slightly less fudgy texture.
You can’t please all of the people all of the time. I have heard this many times throughout my life, and believe it’s true. Take any favorite restaurant that you have been to and liked for years as an example. You might out of the goodness in your heart recommend that restaurant to a friend only to find out later that they didn’t think it was any good. It doesn’t matter that you have been there several times and always had a good meal there. We just don’t all enjoy the same food, movies, books, etc. Good thing there are options in the food world. While some restaurants may say on their menus,”No Substitutions Please”, I encourage substitutions. Take this standby of American, and Italian cuisine, Spaghetti with Meat Sauce. In this following recipe I encourage tweaking it. You could take the one pound of ground beef and replace it with:
1/2 pound ground beef, and 1/2 pound Italian Sausage
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound of sliced mushrooms
1 pound ground lamb
You could also take the 1 tablespoon of mixed Italian herbs and replace it with:
1 teaspoon dried basil, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon basil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, and 3 tablespoons fresh chopped basil in the last 5 minutes of cooking
3 tablespoons of fresh minced oregano, and 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
The options are almost endless, and fun to play around with. That is the reason I put ingredient options with many of my recipes. I want you to have fun playing around with a recipe, and tweak to your taste. Many of my main dishes can be vegetarian, vegan or meaty. So please enjoy this classic comfort food by inserting or deleting ingredients until you find what works best for you and let me know how it turned out.
30 Minute Spaghetti With Meat Sauce
1 cup diced onion
2-4 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon oil
1 pound 85% or leaner ground beef
2 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb blend
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon red pepper, optional
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
In a 2 quart pot saute onions and garlic for 5 minutes stirring or until soft on medium heat.
Add ground beef and turn up heat to medium high stirring every 30 seconds or so.
Turn off heat and drain the fat. Return to stove on medium high heat and add the rest of the ingredients. When it starts to simmer turn down heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes stirring every 5 minutes.
*Ground beef can be omitted, and substituted with ground turkey, ground bison, mushrooms quartered or sliced, or even ground pork.
*Fresh herbs can be used, but be sure to add them towards the last 5 minutes so the delicate flavor doesn’t cook out of them. I like fresh oregano, thyme and basil for this type of recipe using about 2 teaspoons of each basil and oregano, but only 1 teaspoon of thyme.
*Diced green or red bell peppers are a nice addition. Just saute with the onions and garlic.
*This is a quick recipe. Be sure to have your water starting to heat up at the same time you start the sauce. You can cook this longer and more flavor will develop, but it’s plenty good in just 30 minutes.
*2-4 tablespoons of tomato paste can be added for a thicker sauce.
I just got back from visiting my parents in Grand Junction, Colorado, and I noticed the health food store business is alive and well in this small market. It may be because Coloradans are often at the top of the list of healthiest Americans, or it could be more broad based. Either way there was enough demand for Sprouts, a natural health food type grocer, to come into town with a spiffy new store. Here on the East Coast I have seen a large and modern Whole Foods store built not too far from my Baltimore home lately. This new Whole Foods in Pennsylvania is quite a large store compared to the ones in the Baltimore area. It leads me to believe this progression of consumers wanting more natural, less processed food is gaining momentum. Could it be that we are waking up and realizing our American diet is not worth it? After all, Twinkies are no longer being made last I heard. I have noticed these healthier stores are never empty when I go shopping, and sometimes so busy I have a hard time navigating around all the shoppers. I think that if this trends continues we will have more access to healthy choices both at grocery stores and restaurants. I buy the bulk of my groceries at stores that carry the widest variety of organic produce, and makes an effort to have it be as fresh as possible. When I go out to eat I appreciate a restaurant that gets as much of it’s food close to home, likes organic suppliers, and highlights the season. So be on the lookout for this new type of grocery store that has a reason to keep you eating healthy, and looking good.Here at Fast and Furious Central I’ll do my part to provide you with fast, healthy recipes to get you in your kitchen whipping up the good stuff. This week’s recipe is a very fast, about 10 minutes, way of eating loads of vegies, or can be tweaked to add meat if you like. I hope you like it!
Thai Broccolli Rice Bowl
1 teaspoon oil
1 clove garlic minced
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 cups broccoli florets
4-6 oz button mushrooms quartered or halved if larger than golfball size
2 stalks celery sliced diagonally
1 carrot sliced diagonally
6 oz lowfat coconut milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2-3 teaspoons Thai green chili paste
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
Heat oil in a wok or large saute pan over high heat just until it starts to smoke, see note*. Add garlic and onion and cook for 30 seconds. Add broccoli and mushrooms and cook for about 3 minutes stirring often. Add rest of the ingredients and stir in the green chili paste well cooking another 3-5 minutes. Serve over rice. Serves four as a side, or two as a main.
This dish cooks fast so be sure and start your rice ahead of time.
Be sure not to heat pan in the beginning if it is a teflon or non-stick type pan as some of them give off toxic fumes!
Add your favorite meat, or tofu to make this a main dish.
This was fun to create today after reading a piece by mynutritionist.com about the many good and interesting qualities of chocolate. Who knew beans loved chocolate? Well they do! Try this recipe if you are brave in the kitchen. It’s really not a weird tasting dish at all. See alternate fast method using canned beans instead of dried beans in the notes. This fast method takes about 20 minutes instead of 2-3 hours.
Chili Molé Beans
1 cup dry beans, kidney or christmas pole limas
6-8 cups of water
1/2 yellow onion chopped, about 2/3 cup
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Cook onion in 6 cups of boiling water for 5 minutes then add beans,salt, cumin, chili powder and cayenne. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and cook for 2 hours. Add tomatoes, and cocoa powder and continue cooking on low until beans are soft.
*Molé is pronounced mo lay.
*A bit of steamed brown rice goes well with this dish, and makes it a meal.
*Faster and Furious method is to use canned beans:
1/2 onion chopped, about 2/3 cup
1 clove garlic minced
1 15 ounce can black beans
1 15 ounce can of kidney beans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1tablespoon cocoa powder
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Cook onion and garlic on medium heat in a 1 1/2 quart pot with just enough water to cover for about 7 minutes, or until soft. Add rest of ingredients, increase heat to high, then reduce heat and cook simmering for 10 minutes and serve. It’s better if you can let it simmer 20 minutes.
For many of the last thirty plus years people have asked me, “why don’t you open a restaurant”? My quick answer is always, “because I have never wanted to”. In Anthony Bourdain’s excellent and entertaining book Kitchen Confidential one of my favorite chapters was about why anyone would want to open a restaurant. They are full of challenges like, getting and keeping good employees, keeping theft to a minimum, plate and glass breakage, leases that can go way up after you have finally established a good reputation, food spoilage, and the list goes on and on. Last night while my wife and I attempted to dine at a new Baltimore restaurant,Ouzo Bay, that is receiving great reviews we almost got to try it. We chose the bar for our dinner because the dinning room was booked for most of the night. We were seated and got our drink orders in and requested a menu, which we received. Things were looking good, and I went over to the fresh fish display that was full of great looking items. When I got back to my bar stool we were informed that the restaurant had to close the kitchen due to the hood fan belt breaking and there was no ventilation. At that point I reminded my wife why I never wanted to own a restaurant. Here all these employees and clients had high expectations for the night just to have it all end abruptly at 6:15pm. Lucky for us there was a good plan “B” by going just down the street to Lebanese Taverna, and got in just before it was full. We had a fine meal indeed. It was made all the more wonderful because we got in and got fed. So for all of you out there that think owning a restaurant sounds great, think again, but please support those brave souls that do open a restaurant and make our world a better place by doing so.
Cooking and Music
Back in the days when I was cooking in the fast paced world of restaurant line cooking music could make a big difference in how any given night shift would go. Myself and the other line cooks needed fast rock and roll like Led Zepplin “Black Dog” Ten Years After doing “I Going Home”, or similar good stuff from the late 60’d and 70’s. Music like that would keep the pace needed for an intense 4-5 hour shift, and put us in a happy place too. I remember well a restaurant I worked at in Keystone, Colorado where we had a young manager who had just taken over from the previous owner after the place had sold. This young manager after about a week on the job told us we couldn’t play loud rock and roll music in the kitchen anymore even though it wasn’t heard out in the dinning room. Well I showed him by packing up my rock and roll tapes and quitting. I still crack me up thinking about that move. Fast forward to today and I still think music is a great aid in the kitchen for fostering a fast pace when needed, or even thoughtful music for experimenting in the kitchen while making up new recipes. Any given day might find me listening to Jimi Hendrix or Beethoven, or Warren Haynes “Fire in the Kitchen”, or Dvorak’s “New World Symphony”. Music, like cooking is a creative art form, and the two go together well. This mornings quick cooking project was to bake something sort of healthy baked good for the crew at Essex Middle River Vet Clinic. They take such good care of Miss Vixen on our almost weekly chemo visits, and she is doing well thus far. So there I was trying a new recipe for Whole Wheat Biscuits and had a very short timeframe to pull it off. From the music library I selected Jude Cole’s “Start the Car” to power me through the prep part of this job. It only took about 10 minutes to measure and mix the dough and another 5 to knead and cut the biscuits out. I cut them small so there will be enough for the crew at EMVC. In the oven they went and I went to work on the laptop writing this piece. Now they are out of the oven and smelling great! Time to get to the vet.
We are back from the vet and Miss Vixen got to skip the chemo today due to low white count on the blood test. She is still in complete remission according to the vet and looking good!
The crew there liked the biscuits and apricot jam for a morning snack, and I told them I take requests for what I’ll cook for next weeks visit. Cooking treats for people is one of the best ways I know to show gratitude. If you like whole grain baking this King Arthur baking book is just about my all time favorite baking cookbook. Give it a try and bake some healthy goodness in your home. Be sure and show someone you care by cooking up something special for them soon.