Monday, November 29, 2010

Top 5 Things You Can Learn from a 15-Month Old

If you have followed me this week, you know that Dr. C. and I have been babysitting for our Granddaughter Poppy since we left Maui on Saturday. I've been out of the baby business for a very long time;I used to say that I made babies cry....Poppy has taught me a lot this week and I thought that I would share what I've learned with you, since I'm probably not going to get into the kitchen any time soon. 

#5: Toddlers have a language all their own; sounding like a string of consonants, punctuated by "no" every 6th word. 

#4: Poop happens......often.

#3: There is something for every situation when it comes to babies; calming cream, organic diapers, organic wipes, organic fruits and vegetables in NASA-like packaging that they can suck out, age appropriate pop up books (whatever happened to Babar and Curious George?) Classical Baby DVD's and robotic Elmos.

#2: Sesame Street is still entertaining for adults; just check out this video with Ricky Gervaise and Elmo.  

The #1 Thing that I learned from Poppy is how to use an I-PADApple iPad MB292LL/A Tablet (16GB, Wifi)---yes indeed, this little girl can turn it on, find her favorite You Tube videos and ABC games---fortunately, I figured out how to play Fruit Ninja all by myself!  

I'll try and be back tomorrow with a Take-5; the weather has turned cooler here in San Diego, so it might be a good day for a casserole.  

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fire in the Hole!

OK, this isn't my turkey, but the house sure smelled like it. Let me backtrack a bit; my family spends Thanksgiving in a huge condo on the beach in Maui (someone has to do it!)

Every year we cook Thanksgiving dinner here; yesterday I realized there was no roasting pan in the condo, so we did what I tell my students not to do and we used one of those disposable roasting pans from the grocery store.  (NEVER, NEVER A GOOD IDEA!)  

About half way through the cooking time the condo was filling with smoke; I was attributing this to the bacon splattering in the oven, but then realized that the roasting pan was leaking drippings onto the bottom of the oven.

OK, what does the Diva of Thanksgiving do in a case like this? Primal screaming wasn't going to stop the smoke---I transferred this 17 pound monster to a baking sheet, covered it in foil, and then proceed to roast another hour until the turkey was cooked to 170---all the time smoke would pour out of the oven when I opened the oven door--setting off the smoke alarms every time---it wasn't my finest hour.  

Finally when the turkey reached temperature, I turned the oven off---now what to do with the ice cold made-ahead side dishes?  I microwaved them, till they were cooked through, but what about the crusty top that the kids look forward to???  By this time the oven had cooled down, I lined the dripping laden oven floor with foil, and turned on the broiler, and broiled the tops of the potatoes and corn.  The gravy was distinctively smokey --- but the rest of the dinner was just fine, I just collapsed at the table and watched everyone enjoy the meal.  

The moral of the story---pack the roasting pan!  I hope you and your family had a blessed Thanksgiving---we are leaving paradise tomorrow with our 15 month old granddaughter--soloing for the first time on a plane with her and babysitting in San Diego for a few days while mom and dad stay in the islands a bit longer.   Aloha from Maui.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Recipes for Disaster

Yes, it’s that time of year again, when the relatives gather to give thanks that they don’t have to cook dinner, and they will tell you all the things you should have made for them! Take heart, there are lots of families in your situation---you probably only see these people once a year, and since I’m a glass half full (of wine) person, I always look at this holiday as one where I celebrate everyone in our lives. We can’t all be Martha Stewart and have the perfect table, or the perfect dinner, but we can give it our best shot and make people feel welcome, and included.

I have cooked Thanksgiving dinners in many places; a small kitchen in a Japanese house for 17 people, most of whom had left their families to be stationed without them for a year, a retreat center in Washington, DC where our family and extended family gathered; my own home(s) and for the past 7 years in a condo kitchen in Maui. No matter where you celebrate be thankful for what you have and those you can share it with. Here are a few personal disasters that I'm proud to share so that you don't make the same mistakes!

  • When I was in Jr. High School my dad made a big deal about carving at the table—he really was culinarily challenged but being a Navy Captain, he felt it his duty to carve (probably something to do with carrying a sword on occasion) After a few too many Manhattans he plunged the carving fork into the bird, the bird slid off the platter, skittered across the floor, though the kitchen door and banged against a cabinet in the kitchen. Ever the showman, he silently picked up the platter, headed to the kitchen only to return in 10 minutes with a perfectly carved turkey---I think he had a little help and a lot of grief from my mom! The moral of the story is NEVER carve at the table.
  • Or how about the neighbors that look over the fence as you are smoking that turkey in the big green egg, and invite themselves over; bringing ma, pa and the gang.
  • One year when teaching a Thanksgiving class, I was given a frozen turkey and expected to make it into the perfect holiday bird in 3 hours; luckily I was teaching at a grocery store, and sent it back to the meat market to have them saw it in half, and then we defrosted it in cold water.  Turned out to be a teaching moment for students because most didn't realize that for every 5 pounds of weight you need 24 hours in the refrigerator to defrost.  So gentlemen, if the little lady has a frozen bird on her hands, this is the time to crank up the chain saw and let 'er rip!
  • At another class, we went to carve the birds, and I realized that the assistants hadn't removed the giblets, or neck from the turkeys.  I did a lot of camouflage while trying to carve these beauties, and no one realized it but me and the assistants who were horrified.  They'd done one too many turkey classes, I fear!
  • Be thankful for what is in the grocery store; we lived in Japan for 3 years, and the military commissaries would run out of cranberry sauce and canned pumpkin in September because people would stockpile it like gold.  Fresh cranberries??? Forget it.
  • Remember that alcohol and knives don't mix---we have a saying in our house, no wine until the knives are put away--that way we can avert any potential for blood. 
  • Tone down those expectations; there have been many family meals where I thought, just for once everyone would behave themselves and how wrong can I be?  This is a celebration, not a time to find every fault that someone has and dwell on it till everyone is sick.  That saying "charity begins at home," really does mean give a guy a break. 
  • If you are going to someone else's home for dinner, tell them if you are lactose intolerant, or need gluten free, or are allergic to anything.  I once made a creamy, cheesy entree for a party, and when a guest sat down and saw what was for dinner, she said, "I can't eat dairy".  From that moment on I always ask guests if they have any food restrictions--this should take care of the vegetarians in the crowd as well. 

Wishing you a happy, healthy and warm Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for my family, friends, colleagues, students and the retailers who invite me into their kitchens and let me do something I love!  Salute!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Top Ten Pieces of Equipment for the Best Thanksgiving Dinner Ever; Plus One!

If I could send you to my favorite gourmet retailers, I would send you with this list, and have you buy everything on it that you don't have to get your Thanksgiving dinner off to a great start. If you live near the places I teach, stop by and have them help you—I know that they would love to give you their best advice and help you on your way to a stress free Thanksgiving.

Heavy Duty Roasting Pan

Caramelized bits on the bottom of the roasting pan are what give your gravy color and flavor. Buy a 3 to 5 ply roasting pan—with the 5-ply it will go right on the stove top to make gravy. My picks: Mauviel or All-Clad.   

Roasting Rack

The Cuisipro Roasting rack comes apart to give you an easy way to transport the bird to the carving board. It's genius, and it's dishwasher safe! Using a rack is essential; if you lay the turkey on the bottom of the pan without a rack, it will steam, and the juices will be pale and watery. Buy the rack, you won't be sorry!

Carving Knife

I tell students it's not so much the brand, as what feels comfortable in your hand; that being said, you get what you pay for with knives. Wusthof is my favorite—German engineering---need I say more? Many people love Shun, and Global and Messermeister is another brand. Test drive them before you buy---hold them in your hand and see if they feel heavy, light weight, if the grip feels good. Any reputable cookware store will let you do this—If I could send you all to my favorite stores, that would make me happy, because their staff(s) know what they are talking about. Check out the places I teach, and if you are nearby it's worth the trip! Oh, and for carving knives, I prefer the ones with the Granton or "hollow ground" scallops---that way the knife doesn't drag through the meat. Check out the turkey carving video at my website under "Do-Ahead Tools".

Swivel Peeler

OK, my students hear me say this over and over, if you still have that peeler you got when you moved into your first apartment it's time to get rid of that rusty old thing and get a new one. My preference is the Oxo – feels good in my hand, and works like a charm, with an ergonomic handle. Messermeister makes a serrated peeler and it's terrific for soft skins like peaches, and tomatoes.

Fat Separator

To separate the fat from the drippings for gravy, this baby is essential—it also doubles as a measuring cup in the off-season. The Oxo is my fat separator of choice—it has a little vacuum plug in the spout that prevents the fat from coming up the tube. Dishwasher safe—love that!

Oven to Table Bake-ware

I love Emile Henry bake-ware; made from Burgundy clay, this bake-ware cleans up beautifully, and your baked goods heat evenly in these pans. They come in gorgeous colors to match any décor, and are freezer to oven to table safe.

Silicone Baking Bands

These look like rubber bands, but are in fact silicone for tying roasts, and trussing turkeys. They are dishwasher safe, and reusable. (Also double as pony tail holders for some assistants I've had!)

Silicone Pastry Brush

The Orka is the BEST!! It's a baster and a brush, so you can brush rolls with butter without having to reload. Silicone, so it's heat tempered to a zillion degrees you can even use it at the grill.

Meat Thermometer

The only way you will know if the meat (turkey) is done is by its internal temperature; make the investment and buy a thermometer. You can either buy an instant read , or a probe that is inserted into the turkey and has a digital read out that sit on the counter—this is my favorite type because it also monitors the oven temperature to let you know if you are baking too hot or too cold. The read out will beep when your meat is at the desired temperature---it couldn't be easier!

3 to 5-quart Saucier

This pan is for making gravy or sauces, and reducing sauces. It is a workhorse in your kitchen and if you have one you will find yourself picking up over your other saucepans.

Sauce Whisk

You can't make a great sauce without a whisk; a sauce whisk comes in various shapes, from flat, to narrow oval, to straight beaded. I'm fond of the Kuhn Rikon silicone whisks, which can be used in non-stick pans and Le Creuset pans. Sauce whisks will help take the lumps out of your gravy, or sauce, and whip up a dressing in no time.

Wishing you aloha from Maui!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Here Today, Gone to Maui

Dr. C. and I are on our way to Maui to spend a week with our kids and granddaughter. I can't think of a better way to spend Thanksgiving week; add in the EA Sports Maui Invitational NCAA Basketball tournament, and I am very happy girl.
Yesterday I taught a Specialty Produce Farmer's Market Bag class at Great News---I had more fun that should legally be possible! We had such gorgeous produce, and made dishes that incorporated the entire Farmer's Market Bag produce. I'm going to post a few recipes here that I didn't do in class, if you weren't there, you should think about coming to learn what this is all about; we teach the class based on the contents of the Farmer's Market Bag that SP will be providing that week—you get to taste all the recipes, then after class you get the recipes and a Farmer's Market bag to take home and try all the recipes with your family. We will be teaching the class once a month at Great News for the foreseeable future.

Watermelon Radishes with unsalted butter, on baguettes
Serves 6
One baguette, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
10 Watermelon radishes, scrubbed, thinly sliced and cut into pieces that will fit the baguettes
Cyprus sea salt or Fleur de Sel
Micro arugula
  1. Spread each baguette with some of the butter, top with a few slices of radish and sprinkle with sea salt or fleur de sel.
  2. Serve garnished with a bit of micro arugula.

Jerusalem Artichoke and Red Thumb Potato Gratin
Serves 6
1 pound Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 pound red thumb potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 clove garlic, minced
2 leeks, cleaned, and finely chopped, using the white and tender green parts
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
6 drops Tabasco
1 1/2 cups finely shredded Gruyere or imported Swiss cheese
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat the inside of a 9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the artichokes, potatoes, milk, cream, garlic, leeks, thyme and Tabasco and cook 5 to 6 minutes, until the vegetables are almost done; they will be firm, but a knife will pierce them easily.
  3. Transfer the vegetables to the prepared pan, and sprinkle with the cheeses.
  4. Bake the gratin for 30 to 40 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheeses are golden brown. Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. (Great with grilled meats, chicken, or seafood)

Lettuce Salad with Roasted Acorn Squash, Crumbled Goat Cheese and Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
Serves 8
1 large acorn squash, quartered, and seeded
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, parchment or a silicone baking liner.
  2. Drizzle the oil, salt, and pepper over the inside of the squash, and bake for 40 minutes until the squash is tender.
  3. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  4. At this point, the squash can be kept at room temperature for about 6 hours.
  5. When the squash is slightly cooled, remove the skin, and cut the squash into 1/-2 inch dice.


4 heads lettuce, washed and spun dry in the salad spinner
Diced acorn squash (above)
6 ounces crumbled Goat cheese

  1. Arrange the lettuce on 8 salad plates.
  2. Divide the squash between the salad plates (depending on the squash you may have more than you need---6 to 8 pieces is a good number)
  3. Top the squash with some of the goat cheese.
  4. When ready to serve, drizzle the salads with the warm dressing.

Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup
6 strips bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons rice vinegar vinegar
2 shakes Tabasco

In a small skillet, cook the bacon until crisp, add the shallots, and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until the shallots are softened. Add the sugar and mustard, and stir until the sugar is melted. Add the vinegar and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the Tabasco, and drizzle over the salads while still warm.

Swiss Chard with Meyer lemon, Orange, Garlic and Parmigiano Gremolata
Serves 6 to 8
Shredded zest of 1 large Meyer lemon
Grated zest of 1 navel orange
1/2 cup tightly packed Italian parsley leaves
3 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

  1. In the food processor, mince the zests, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.
  2. Stir half the mixture into the cooking broccoli (see step 3 below)
  3. Add the cheese to the remaining mixture, and process again. Toss the finished beans with the cheese mixture.
  4. Gremolata can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Rainbow Swiss Chard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound rainbow Swiss chard, cut into 1-inch pieces, including the stems
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth

  1. Lightly film the bottom of a 12-inch skillet with the oil. Heat over medium high heat, and add the chard and sprinklings of salt and pepper, and sauté for 2 minutes, tossing to coat the chard.
  2. Add the broth, cover and turn the heat to medium low. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until the chard is tender.
  3. Stir the lemon gremolata mixture into the cooked chard.
  4. Drain off any cooking liquid, and turn the chard into a serving bowl. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the chard and serve.

Julian Empire Apple Pie Cake
Serves 6
8 medium Empire Apples, cored, peeled, and sliced – if Empires aren't available use your favorite cooking apple
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

  1. To make the apple mixture, toss together the apples, cinnamon, sugar, and lemon juice in a large bowl.
  2. Do-Ahead: At this point, you can store in a zipper-top plastic bag in the refrigerator overnight.
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine, melted
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cups pecan halves

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat a 9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer the apples to the prepared pan.
  2. To mix the batter, combine the melted butter, flour, sugar, eggs, and pecans, stirring until blended. Pour over the apples and bake until the top is crisp and golden and the apples are bubbling underneath, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature with unsweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Fuyu Persimmon Muffins
Makes about 24

2 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups peeled and finely chopped ripe Fuyu persimmons
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans or macadamia nuts)
3/4 cup golden raisins

  • In a large bowl, stir together the baking soda and the persimmons, set aside.
  • In the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars.
  • Add the eggs, one at time, beating after each addition. Stir in the lemon juice and vanilla and beat until well combined.
  • Stir in the persimmon mixture, and then stir in the remaining ingredients, beating on low speed until combined.
  • Using a scoop, fill the muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes, until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a crumb or two attached.
  • Transfer to wire racks to cool for 10 minutes, and then remove from the muffin tins and serve warm or at room temperature.
  • The muffins will keep stored airtight in the fridge for up to 3 days, or they freeze well for about 1 month. Defrost and reheat in a 300 degree oven for about 10 minutes.
    • Description/Taste
      Fuyu persimmons have a thin, reddish-orange skin and soft flesh. Ripe fruit offers a pleasant, spicy-sweet flavor and is tannin-free. Described as having a flavor compared to a blend of mango and papaya, with apricot notes.
    • Fuyu persimmons are eaten hard, like an apple but may be cooked as well. Diced persimmon and combine with green and red onion, chile, cilantro and lime for salsa. Add diced persimmon to Bundt cake batter or fold into bourbon-spiked cake bread batter. Chop persimmons and cook with sugar cream and spices, puree, then add gelatin and cool into panna cotta. Persimmons will keep at room temperature for up to two weeks.

I'll be posting sporadically throughout the week with tips and things for the best Thanksgiving dinner ever. I'll also tell you the horror stories I've heard about the Thanksgiving dinners that were less than a Martha Stewart Perfect! Till then, Aloha, and Maholo for stopping by.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tips for a Stress-free Thanksgiving

Whether your Thanksgiving table looks like this

Or like this

Chances are you are probably experiencing some food anxiety as well as some family anxiety in anticipation of Thanksgiving a week from today.  We all know what this is like; that aunt who always gives you faint praise for the dinner you have worked so hard to create, when you know she's had so much gin she can't taste anything.  Or the parents who criticize every aspect of your house, yard and children. We all know who they are and who we might be if we are visiting someones home.
With that in mind, I've developed a few tips for keeping sane during this very stressful time of the year, so that the table doesn't look like this....

Try and set the table a day or two ahead, cover it with a sheet  to keep dust and kids, and pets off of it. 

Fill your washing machine with ice and chill your drinks/wine/sodas in there; the water drains out and your don't have to be lugging coolers around.  Great wines for pairing with turkey are Reisling, and Pinot Noir.
If you are having more than 8 people at the table, set up a buffet line; more than 8 at the table makes it difficult to pass platters.

If you set up a buffet, make sure all your platters will fit on the tables---label each place where a platter will be placed with post-its.

Have teens or young adults help seniors to their chairs, and help them with the buffet line.  

Use a meat thermometer to register done-ness---170 degrees.  

Always let the turkey rest at least 30 to 45 minutes before carving (trust me, it will still be hot)

NEVER use the plastic pop-up meat thermometer that will come in the turkey (actually remove it from the bird) It works on a moisture principle and when there is no more moisture in the bird it pops up--giving you turkey jerky or the Griswold Family Turkey. 

Get your knives sharpened this week--no one wants to see you next week.  

Make a few things ahead and refrigerate or freeze them.  Good choices are: most sweet potato dishes without egg, green beans can be cooked a day ahead, cranberry relishes benefit from being made ahead, butternut squash (either side dish or soup) gravy (you will have to look here to find out how)  desserts.  

Make a shopping list and include the non-cooking items like napkins, and plastic trash bags, and paper towels.  

Always start the party with a clean dishwasher and a clean trash can--nothing worse than having to take the trash out in the middle of the party.  

Give yourself permission to order things: veggie trays, rolls, desserts.  All of these things take time, and energy, and if you have great sources for any of them---use them!  

Make your company feel welcome---traditional Thanksgiving is what they are expecting, so if you decide to serve turkey curry instead, warn your guests.  

This year as we give thanks I am reminded of the years my family spent in Japan, when my husband Chuck served in the Navy. Our house was open to everyone, and we adopted lots of singles who would come for the holidays, as well as couples, but the men who were without their families tugged at my heart.  This year we have troops with and without their families stationed around the world, making a difference for our country. To celebrate this most American of holidays in a foreign country is surreal to say the least, but to do it from a tank, or in a remote area of Afghanistan must make it even harder.  We all need to remember and give thanks for the men and women and their families who serve in our military; whether we agree with their mission or not, they choose to serve and for that I am grateful.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Take 5 Tuesday

It IS Tuesday isn't it?  The past few days have been a blur; we're expecting our daughter and her family tomorrow, I'm teaching tomorrow night at Great News and doing a Farmer's Market Bag class on Friday morning where I find out what's in the Farmer's Market Bag from Specialty Produce on Monday and then develop recipes for the class on Friday.  I also had a chat with a reporter today who wanted me to come up with some ideas for a bag that was given to her from the local Food Bank, and she needed serious help to make this bag into something that would be special for a family.  All in a days' work, but I sure didn't realize it was Take 5 Tuesday till I began to think about dinner; oooh, what's in the fridge?  Eggs, leftover broccoli, spinach, Cabot Farms sharp white here's what I came up with --it's really two Take 5 recipes because next week I'll be Maui on vacation with the entire family and may not get to a Take 5 -I'll be busy building sand castles with our granddaughter!  

Broccoli Cheddar Quiche
Serves 4 to 6

One 9-inch pastry crust (either homemade or store bought---Marie Callender's deep dish are great)
3 large eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream
4 drops Tabasco
2 cup finely shredded sharp white cheddar cheese (Cabot Farms)
1 1/2 cups cooked broccoli, chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and cream, and add the Tabasco.  
  3. Stir in the cheese and broccoli, and transfer the mixture to the pastry crust.  
  4. Bake the quiche for 45 to 50 minutes, until the quiche is set. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.  
 Warm Spinach Salad 
Serves 3 to 4

One 10-ounce bag or box of baby spinach
4 strips bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
One small shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar 

  1. Wash the spinach and spin dry in a salad spinner. Place the spinach into a salad bowl and set aside. 
  2. In a small skillet, cook the bacon until crisp, add the shallot and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, until the shallot is softened.  
  3. Add the sugar and mustard and stir until the sugar is melted.  
  4. Add the vinegar and bring to a boil.  (at this point, the dressing can be set aside for up to 2 hours, reheat before serving)  Pour the dressing over the spinach, toss and serve.    

I'll be back with more ideas for the holidays tomorrow, until then, enjoy your evening. 

Monday, November 15, 2010


Weddings are joyous occasions where family and friends celebrate with the bride and groom.  Weddings should be fun, with lots of laughter, and love surrounding the entire day.  I was privileged this weekend to help with one and the entire day was joyful.  I've been at some weddings that were hyper planned to the point where no one was having fun---sort of like the invasion of Normandy.  This wedding took place at the Condor's Nest Ranch in Pala, California, which is about 30 miles north of San Diego.  Perched on a mountain-top you can see all the way to the ocean on a clear day. Here are a few snaps from the day.

   We have had a Santa Ana condition here in San Diego for the past week, so the clear skies prevailed, and we had an incredible sunset to end the day.  

I couldn't end this post without this fabulous clip of the wedding scene from the movie The Princess Bride where Buttercup is marrying Prince Humperdink, hoping that her Wesley will save her.  Enjoy, I'll be back tomorrow. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Don't Try This At Home

It's that time of year again, when the male species decides they will take over the cooking of the Thanksgiving dinner---yes, the deep fried turkey brigades are hitting Wal-Mart and Sam's Club and buying turkey fryers and zillions of gallons of frying oil.

The video is just a little warning, but the most important warning is, JUST SAY NO!!  This is a holiday, not a hunting trip---you don't need to prove anything to your family and friends--let the turkey bake in the oven, emerging delicious, juicy and tender.   

If you must deep fry the turkey, take it out to the middle of a field, away from any structures that might burn down; and make sure to DEFROST the turkey, and remove the bag of giblets inside the turkey.  Whichever way you choose to cook your turkey, remember that this is a holiday in which we give thanks for all that we have.  We are a wealthy nation, and if during this holiday you able, give to homeless shelters and to your local food bank.  Invite those that will have nowhere to go to join you during the holidays--you may just make the difference in that person's life. Here in San Diego, we have the opportunity to invite military men and women home for the holidays, or we can adopt a military family to help provide for them while their loved one is in harms' way.  
Keep your loved ones out of harms' way and just say no to deep frying that turkey! 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Just another Day in Paradise: Mac and Cheese

Don't let the pile of dishes in the sink deter you, this is really a terrific mac and cheese, and can be your Take 5 dinner.  Today I was testing recipes for classes I will teach December 4 and 5th with my friend Phillis Carey at Great News.  We are doing what we call a "duet", where we each do courses for a meal around a theme, this year Phillis' brilliant idea was New Years' Eve. I'm doing down-home comfort food, she's doing the elegant intimate dinner party.  The centerpiece for mine is Lobster Mac and Cheese.   So, Dr. C and I had quite a dinner tonight; if you want to get the recipe for the Lobster Mac and Cheese, come on down to Great News, and join us--you'll get lots of great recipes, tips, tricks, and entertainment--there are usually rubber chickens lurking about, we wear tiaras, and costumes for this shindig---it's a great way to get into the holiday spirit, as well as get some great ideas for the holidays. 
These are the photos from the Lobster Mac and Cheese today.

Cook pasta 2 minutes less than al dente, so that it won't become mushy in the oven.  I love Barilla, the elbows have ridges and hold the sauce nicely.

Cabot farms sharp white cheddar is awesome in mac and cheese.

Sauce with lobster

OK, I want to eat this whole pan!

Crispy crumbs give you some nice contrast to the rich sauce, and mac. 

Since I can't give you the recipe for the Lobster Mac and Cheese, here's one for a dynamite Mac and cheese to serve to your family--enjoy the rest of your Tuesday, I'll be back later in the week with some more gifts from the kitchen ideas. 

Mac and Cheese

Serves about 6

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
6 dashes Tabasco
1 1/2 cups finely shredded mild cheddar cheese
2 cups finely shredded sharp white cheddar cheese (I like Cabot Farms and Tillamook---both at Costco)
1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked 2 minutes short of al dente
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

1. In a large saucier over medium high heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter and add half of the garlic, sautéing for 1 minute, until fragrant and softened.

2. Whisk in the flour and cook until white bubbles form on the surface. Cook the mixture for 2 to 3 minutes, until smooth and thick.

3. Gradually add the broth and milk, mustard and Tabasco bringing the sauce to a boil, whisking constantly.

4. Remove the sauce from the heat and slowly add 1 1/4 cups of the mild cheese, and 1 3/4 cups of the sharp cheese, stirring until the cheese is melted. (If you leave it on the stove the cheese may separate from the high heat)

5. Coat the inside of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Combine the macaroni and sauce in a large bowl, and stir until well mixed. Transfer to a prepared dish.

6. Melt the remaining butter in a small sauté pan over medium high heat.

7. Add the remaining garlic and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant. Remove from the heat.

8. Toss the garlic, butter with the breadcrumbs, Parmigiano the remaining cheddars and parsley. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the Mac and cheese. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

9. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and bake the Mac and cheese for 30 to 40 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the crumbs are golden brown. Let the casserole rest for 5 minutes before serving.

10. Cook’s Note: Don’t substitute skim or 2% milk for the whole milk, it will make a weak and watery sauce, and skim milk will turn it blue!