Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ah, the holidays!

I'm spending my end-of-the-year vacation in Michigan with Bobby and I'm having the best time ever! Our main activity during the week was "hunting" for Xmas gifts in the midst of rush hour, but we still managed to have lots of fun! On Xmas eve we went to his sister's house for dinner with the rest of the family and yesterday, Xmas day, we had a nice day at home with his kids, opening Santa's presents and being lazy for the most part of the rest of the day! :)

For dinner at Susie's place I was looking for appetizer recipes that could go well with Manhattans (the family's favorite cocktail) and something to end the meal on a sweet note . . .

Found an appetizer recipe on Southern Living (November 2003 issue) called "Cranberry-Cheese Box", but modified it and created my own version:

Susy's Rhubarb-Cheese Spread

  • 3/4 cup shallots, finely minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon McCormick's Black & Red Pepper Blend
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1-8 oz. container Chive & Onion Philadelphia Cream Cheese Spread
  • 1 cup Hellmann's Mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons Daisy Light Sour Cream
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • Zest from 1 orange
  • 1 cup dried cherries, finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon McCormick's Black & Red Pepper Blend
  • 1-10 oz. block Kraft's Cracker Barrel Natural Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • 1-7 oz. block Kraft's Natural Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • 5 oz. rhubarb marmalade (I used more or less half of a 9.5 oz. container of American Spoon's Rhubarb Marmalade)
  • Garnishes: whole toasted pecans and dried cherries
  • Crackers

Fry shallots in vegetable oil until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Set aside until cooled to room temperature. In a big bowl mix together cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream. Add pecans, orange zest and dried cherries. Season with salt and pepper. Add grated cheeses and mix well. Spoon mixture into an 8- x 8- x 115/32-inch square foil pan. Cover and chill 8 hours (or up to two days). Unmold and spoon rhubarb marmalade on top; garnish, if desired. Serve with crackers.


I must admit that I was greatly impressed with own my creation, especially since I also got rave reviews from everyone at the party! :)

Now, for the "sweet note" at the end of the meal, I went with the "Dulce de Leche Coffee" from "The Pioneer Woman Cooks" site. I adapted the ingredients to what I was able to find at the store. All I can say is . . . you've got to try it! It's simply yummy!!! :)

Dulce de Leche Coffee

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Servings: 6

  • 4 cups strongly brewed good coffee (bought a 12 oz. package of "Folgers Gourmet Selections Chocolate Truffle Ground Coffee")
  • 6 ounces, fluid “dulce de leche” (bought a 15.8 oz. bottle of "Nestle La Lechera Dulce de Leche"
  • 6 tablespoons Kahlua—more if preferred! (bought a bottle of "Sabroso Licor de Café"—imported from Mexico)
  • 1 cup heavy cream (instead of making my own whipped cream, I bought a 7 oz. can of "Extra Creamy Reddi-wip whipped topping" . . . if you do this, omit the next ingredient, sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons chocolate, grated (bought a 3.5 oz. bar of "Lindt Excellence Intense Orange Dark Chocolate")

Add Dulce de Leche to the very hot coffee; stir until completely dissolved and combined. Keep coffee hot. Combine cream with sugar and whip until stiff. Add 1 tablespoon Kahlua to each coffee cup. May add 1 1/2 if desired, or may add whiskey or brandy in addition. Pour the coffee/dulce de leche mixture into each glass. Top with a heaping tablespoon whipped cream and grated chocolate of your choice. Absolutely sinful!

Note: Dulce de Leche is sold in the Hispanic aisle of supermarkets, or in Hispanic specialty markets. It is sold in solid 15 ounce blocks, or in cans or bottles in more of a liquid form. You can also find recipes for making your own Dulce de Leche using sweetened condensed milk. Yum!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Au Gratin Potatoes Casserole

This year I wanted to contribute with a dish for our Thanksgiving dinner up-north and spent a good week searching for recipes on the Internet, although I sort of knew I wanted something with potatoes.  I love Au Gratin Potatoes or Scalloped Potatoes, but it's hard to find a good recipe, and I've tried several versions . . . some of them not even worth mentioning!

And then I came across this one recipe from Southern Living magazine.  The recipe looked yummy and easy, but then I started reading the ratings and reviews and one link even took me to a similar recipe from Cracker Barrel . . . and more reviews . . . so I read them carefully, modified and combined ingredients from the two recipes and came up with my own version . . . of course, I forgot to take a picture of the final product, but this one I "stole" from Taste of Home looks very similar! :)

One more thing . . . I prepared the casserole the night before and stored it in the fridge (covered with foil).  I read somewhere on the reviews that doing so would help the flavors meld better.  I guess you can also prepare the casserole a day in advance and refrigerate it until you are ready to bake.  My problem with doing this was that I wasn't sure if I would have the oven available at the party, since I knew that Bruce (Bobby's brother) was cooking several dishes at once!  Well, all I can (proudly) say is that everybody seemed to like my dish (even me) and a couple of people even asked me for the recipe! :)

Au Gratin Potatoes Casserole

• 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
• 2 tbsps fresh thyme
• 2 tsps Aunt Jane's Krazy Mixed-up salt
• 1/2 tsp pepper
• 2 cups freshly grated sharp Cheddar cheese
• 1 cup freshly grated Colby-jack cheese
• 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• 1-10 3/4 oz can cream of mushroom soup
• 1-10 3/4 oz can cream of chicken soup
• 1-8 oz container sour cream
• 3 tbsps chives, finely chopped
• 1 bag (32 oz.) Ore-Ide southern style hash browns, completely thawed
• 1/2 cup freshly grated sharp Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses (1/4 cup of each)

1. Fry onion in 1 tbsp olive oil until translucent. Add thyme, seasoned salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
2. In a big bowl mix next 7 ingredients. Add onion mixture. Add thawed hash browns and mix well.
3. Spoon mixture into a slightly oiled 9” x 13” pyrex dish. Smooth top with the back of a spoon.
4. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the mixed grated cheeses on top.
5. Bake in a 350 F oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Note:  If you notice that top of casserole is getting too brown, cover with foil during last minutes of baking time. Test doneness by pricking potatoes with the tip of a knife. There shouldn’t be any resistance at all.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Who mentioned chicken???

Didn't I say I wouldn't feel guilty if I craved chicken and actually ate it?  Well . . . I did! :)

Last time I ordered my groceries online I included a whole chicken for the first time in months!  I had been dreaming with roasting a chicken with potatoes and tomatoes . . . yum!  In the past I've tried different recipesalways looking for the perfect roast chickenbut, invariably, each time I would find something that I could have changed or done slightly differently to improve the flavor.  So . . . this time I decided to take ideas from two different recipes, with my own inputs . . . and I got a winner!!!

I like America's Test Kitchen recipe for "Crisp-Skin High-Roast Butterflied Chicken with Potatoes", which includes brining the chicken, but this time I added ingredients to the brine—which I found in a Thanksgiving turkey recipe from Alton Brownand left the bird in it for a much longer time.  I also varied the ingredients for the flavored butter applied underneath the chicken skin.  Well . . . here is the recipe:

Susy's Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Tomatoes


For the brine:
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-half gallon (64 fl oz) container of apple cider
  • 2-14 oz cans of vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons dried rosemary leaves
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
For the flavored butter:
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons roasted garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • Ground black pepper to taste
Rest of ingredients:
  • 1-4.5 lb chicken, giblets removed (do not use a kosher chicken—it is salted and has a taste and texture similar to a brined bird)
  • 8 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • Ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil

1. Start with the brine the night before. Dissolve salt and sugar in apple cider and vegetable broth in large container. Add the peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and garlic and mix. Immerse chicken and refrigerate overnight.

2. Early in the morning next day, remove chicken from brine and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Following illustrations 1 through 6 (below, under "Technique"), butterfly chicken, flatten breastbone, apply flavored butter (to prepare it, mash together all ingredients in a small bowl), and position chicken on broiler pan rack; thoroughly pat dry with paper towels.  For extra crisp skin, after applying the flavored butter, let the chicken dry uncovered in the refrigerator 6 to 8 hours.

3. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line bottom of broiler pan with heavy duty foil and spray with nonstick vegetable cooking spray.

4. Toss potatoes and tomatoes with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, thyme and pepper to taste in medium bowl. Spread potatoes and tomatoes in even layer in foil-lined broiler pan bottom. Place broiler pan rack with chicken on top. Rub chicken with 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil.

5. Roast chicken until spotty brown, about 2 hours, until skin has crisped and turned a deep brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees in thickest part of breast. Transfer chicken to cutting board and let it rest (loosely cover with foil) for 15-20 minutes. Cut chicken into serving pieces and serve with potatoes and tomatoes.

Step by step: Preparing to Roast

1. Cut through bones on either side of backbone, then remove and discard backbone.

2. Flip chicken over as shown and use the heel of your hand to flatten breastbone.

3. If using a compound butter, slip your fingers between skin and breast, loosening the membrane.

4. Scoop some of the butter onto a spoon, slide it under breast skin, and push off with your fingers.

5. Work butter under skin to cover breast evenly. Repeat steps 4 and 5 with each drumstick and thigh.

6. Transfer to broiling rack and push legs up to rest between thighs and the breast.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

You are only human!!!

That's what Bobby told me last night when we were talking on the phone and I was sort of complaining about how I was struggling to keep up with the vegan diet.  He said that I shouldn't be so hard on myself.  And, yes, he's right . . . I'm only human!!! :)

So, I've decided that I'll make a concession here:  I'll try to eat vegan a couple of times a week, at least, and I won't feel guilty if I crave chicken . . . and actually eat it!  I'll just take it a day at a time and I think I'll feel better about myself this way.  It's not what I had intended to do but, oh well!  I'll try to keep posting vegan dishes every now and then, but I'll also post no-vegan recipes as well.  After all, I'm eclectic! lol

Having said this (phew!) . . . last weekend I was hankering something sweet andin an attempt to use up things I had in my fridge/pantry . . . and keep it vegan—I came up with this recipe:

Bread Pudding

  • 1-32 fl oz carton of vanilla flavored almond milk
  • 2-4 oz containers of organic apple sauce with cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup fig preserve
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup dried mixed berries (golden raisins, cherries, cranberries and blueberries)
  • 4 cups day-old bread cut in cubes

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  In a 4.5 quarts (4.25 liters) bowl, combine all the wet ingredients (you might want to start with less almond milk and adjust the amount depending on how dry your bread is.), spices, salt, dried mixed berries, and walnuts.  Start adding the bread cubes and, with the help of a wooden spoon, try to break them down and mix well.  You should end up with a fairly stiff but still moist batter—your wooden spoon should stand up in the batter.  Pour the mixture into a rectangular 7.5"x12" baking pyrex dish and bake for one hour or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Turn off the oven and, with the door slightly open, let the bread pudding cool down.  The top of the bread pudding should be golden brown.  You can eat it warm or cover the baking dish with foil and put it in the fridge until the next day.  I prefer to eat my bread pudding the day after, cold and when all the flavors have completely melded!

I took 3/4 of the bread pudding to work and some friends tried it . . . no one could believe it didn't have any dairy or eggs!  But, what was more gratifying to me was that they all loved it!!! :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Eighteen times two . . .

. . . that's the amount of roses I got for my birthday!!! :)  Let me tell you how it happened . . . Bobby sent me 18 beautiful, long stem, multicolored roses on my birthday (19 October).  Once I followed all the "instructions" that came in the box (Fill a clean vase 3/4 full with fresh cool tap water and add 1 packet of flower food.  Cut 1 inch off the stems under running water and immediately place in vase), I captured the moment by taking several pictures of my roses . . . they looked absolutely gorgeous!  I decided I would leave the arrangement at the office, so I could enjoy it the rest of the week. :)

The next morning I couldn't believe what I saw . . . almost half of the flowers were wilted and the leaves were dry and brittle!!!  I was feeling so sad!!!  When I talked to Bobby around mid morning, I told him how glad I was I had taken pictures of my roses the day before because they were wilting already, even though the instructions said that the roses would fully bloom in 3-4 days.  "No way"Bobby said—"Take pictures and e-mail them to me so I can complain."  And so I did . . .

I hadn't had the flowers for even 24 hours and they looked terrible!!!

Bobby called me later that afternoon and told me that I would be getting a new arrangement by Friday!!! :)  When I got the box on Friday afternoon, I decided to take them straight home.  Again, I followed the instructions but, this time, I added ice cubes to the water . . . my flowers are still looking beautiful!!! :)

And . . . of course . . . I know this is my first posting since July, but there was a lot going on . . . a trip to Michigan, long hours at the office, the visit of a friend from Canada, family problems in Lima . . . and getting off my vegan diet.  In August, when I first went on vacation after starting my diet, I had a lovely time with Bobby . . . but being on the road at remote little towns or at his dad's house (in the woods) where I didn't have any access to vegan products, made it hard for me to keep my commitment.  I noticed that once you break the cycle, it's kind of hard to get back in track.  I've been trying my best to eat vegan certain days, but—for the most part—I've failed miserably!!! :(

Anyway . . . this time I'm just trying to relax and take things easier so that I don't get anxious! :)  Today I decided to make another Peruvian dish, "Papas a la Huancaína" (Potatoes in Huancaina Sauce or Potatoes Huancaina-Style), which I love!  This is a cold appetizer consisting of boiled potatoes covered in a spicy yellow sauce and comes from a region in the Andes called Huancayo.  The original recipe is vegetarian (with milk and cheese), but I modified it for a vegan version.  This is what I came up with:

"Papas a la Huancaína"

6 medium yukon gold potatoes
2 tbsp Aji Amarillo (yellow peppers) paste (found at any Latin store)
3 tbsp canola oil
1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
4 saltine crackers, crushed
1-12.3 oz (349 g) package of firm Silken tofu
3/4 cup almond milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Botija olives (found at any Latin store) or other black olives (like Kalamata)

Wash the potatoes, peel them, slice them (half inch thick) and cook them in a pot of salted water until fork tender, but still firm.  Set aside and let them cool slightly.
Place aji amarillo paste, oil, garlic and saltine crackers in a blender and mix for 1-2 minutes.  Crumble tofu into small pieces and add it to the blender.  Pulse until combined.  While blending, slowly add the almond milk until the mixture reaches a thick, sauce-like consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Place 3-4 potato slices on a plate, pour sauce over and garnish with pitted black olives.  The sauce can be served chilled (which makes it thicken up nicely) or at room temperature.  Some people also garnish the plates with lettuce leaves, but I find that the sauce then gets into the crevices of the leaves and, since I don't eat the lettuce, it's kind of a waste of the yummy sauce!!! :)

Yields 3-4 servings


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Oh the Cravings!!!

Being vegan doesn't necessarily mean that you have to deprive yourself of flavors you like or grew up with.  In my case, I'm often craving Peruvian food, which—of course—includes dishes made with beef, chicken, goat, fish, seafood or pork.  One of my favorite Peruvian dishes (well, one out of my many favorite ones!) is "Lomo Saltado"—an entree that has Asian influences, consisting of strips of sirloin marinated in vinegar, soy sauce and spices, then stir-fried with red onions, tomatoes and parsley, and traditionally served over white rice and homemade french fries.  At home, in Lima, we wouldn't eat much red meat, so "Lomo Saltado" was one of those dishes we could only have for special occasions, like birthdays.

When I started thinking of what to prepare for lunch today, for some reason the thought of "Lomo Saltado" kept coming to my mind . . . and I said to myself:  "why not???"  So, I went into my fridge, freezer and pantry and got out the ingredients that I needed, and adapted them to my cravings.  This is what I came up with:

"Chicken-less Stir-Fry" (Peruvian style)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (for the stir-fry)
1 medium red onion, julienned
2 cloves garlic, sliced into fine slivers
1 heaping spoon of tomato paste
2 plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Ponzu
7 oz. vegetable broth
Kosher salt to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste
Parsley flakes to taste
4 oz. chicken-less strips (you could also use beef-less strips)
1/2 pound sweet potato frozen fries
vegetable oil (for frying the sweet potato fries)

Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet and sauté onions until they start to slightly caramelize.  Add garlic and sauté until it becomes fragant, about one minute.  Add salt and red pepper flakes to taste.  Add the tomato paste and sauté for a minute, letting it caramelize a bit.  Add tomatoes and let them cook for two to three minutes, until they are soft.  Add the vinegar, Ponzu and vegetable broth to deglaze the skillet.  Cook everything for two more minutes or so, until the tomatoes break down, adding a little more broth if needed.  Finally, add the chicken-less strips and sauté for a couple of minutes.  Sprinkle parsley flakes to taste and remove from heat.  In a separate pan, fry the sweet potatoes in one to two inches of vegetable oil for almost three minutes, in order to obtain desired color and crispness. Drain on paper towels.  Serve stir-fry with brown rice and fries.

Serves 2.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Embracing New Habits . . .

Unlike other ocassions when I didn't have the time to write, I've been avoiding my blog on purpose since the begining of the month.  Why?  Well, simply because I drastically changed my eating habits overnight and I didn't quite know how to address the subject over here:  I started a vegan diet.  There!  I said it!  :)

It all started a little bit over three months ago.  I can even remember the exact date:  Saturday, 17 April.  That morning I was still laying in bed, watching my usual cooking shows and, all of a sudden, I got bored and started fliping the channels, stopping briefly on each one to see whether there was anything interesting.  When I got to MPT (Maryland Public Television), I heard this guy talking to a live audience about type 2 diabetes.  That peaked my curiosity (I have type 2 diabetes).  The guy turned out to be Dr. Neal Barnard (the program was: "Tackling Diabetes with Dr. Neal Barnard"), and he was giving this lecture about how a low-fat vegan diet can help many patients cut their blood sugars, improve their insulin sensitivity, and reduce, if not eliminate, their medications.  That definitely caught my attention and I watched most part (excep for the very beginning) of the whole 90-minute special!

Through "Tackling Diabetes with Dr. Neal Barnard", Dr. Barnard shares his scientifically proven system to taking control of diabetes through nutrition, without drugs.  His new approach addresses diabetes, but it also helps with other ailments including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and weight. In the program, Dr. Barnard explained the different types of diabetes and how each can be triggered by genetics, weight, poor diet and lack of physical activity or pregnancy. Dr. Barnard explained about his research and offered simple, step-by-step guidelines to apply the research into one's lifestyle.  Through a series of studies, Dr. Barnard discovered that it is possible to repair insulin function and reverse type 2 diabetes through nutrition. By following Dr. Barnard's life-changing approach, one is expected to be able to control blood sugar three times more effectively than with the standard dietary regimen for people with diabetes and, at the same time, protect the body from head to toe including the heart, eyes and bones.  Dr. Barnard's program is a three-rule system to taking control of diabetes including a vegan diet, low in fat and low glycemic index. A vegan diet means avoiding all animal products and, instead, eating regular meals in the four food groups—vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes.

In case you are wondering who this Dr. Barnard is, he received his M.D. degree at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. and is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, a Life Member of the American Medical Association, and a member of the American Diabetes Association.

I was so excited after watching the program, that I jumped off the bed, got online on Amazon and bought two of the books he was talking about:  "Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes" and "Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings and 7 Steps to End them Naturally".  Got my books three days later and—literally—starting "devouring" them!

Even though I wanted to jump into the diet immediately, I thought it would be a wise idea to talk to my doctor first.  I had my quarterly diabetes check-up on 10 May and, not only did my doctor give me the "green light" to start on the diet, but he told me as well that he knew Dr. Barnard and that he had participated in part of the research studies!  Still, I didn't start the diet until 3 July, simply because Dr. Barnard recommends that you try the kickstart plan for three weeks straight . . . and during May and June I was still travelling to Michigan, and it wouldn't have been a good idea to start the new plan while being away from home.  My next trip is not due until mid August, so I figured July would be the best time to start!

I did all my vegan grocery shopping the night before starting the diet and got rid of anything that could become a temptation (butter, eggs, milk, cheese).  I went to Trader Joe's and was surprised with the wide variety of vegan foods available!  I packed the shopping cart to the rim!  :)  I won't deny that these three weeks have been a little challenging, specially when grabbing something to eat at the cafeteria at work.  It's hard to pass up your favorite foods all at once!  And, except for the two occasions that I ate chicken (went out for dinner and lunch with two different friends), I've managed to stay on the plan.  To be honest, I thought it would be a tough challenge, but every day I keep finding new ingredients and ideas for recipes.  I can even have ice cream, yogurt or pizza with mozzarella cheese . . . all vegan!!!

I have my next diabetes check-up on 5 August . . . we'll see how it goes!

And, well, to finish this posting with something interesting, I'm copying here a recipe I found earlier today on FatFree Vegan Kitchen ( "Grilled Tofu with Blueberry-Peach Salsa", which I'm planning on preparing tomorrow for lunch . . . today I had baked polenta with tomato-mushroom sauce and some gooey "cheese" on top! :)

"Grilled Tofu with Blueberry-Peach Salsa"

Maple-Chili Grilled Tofu

14 ounces extra-firm tofu
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 teaspoon Ancho chile powder (or mild chili powder)

Wrap tofu in a lint-free kitchen towel and place a light weight (about 1 pound) on top while you prepare the marinade. Something flat like a book with a can of beans on it works well to remove some of the water from the tofu.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large ziplock bag or bowl. Cut the tofu into 8 slices about 1/2-inch thick. Place them in the marinade, turning so that both sides of slices are coated with the mixture. Refrigerate for at least an hour, turning halfway through.

Heat a barbecue grill, electric grill, or non-stick skillet; spray lightly with non-stick spray if necessary. Cook on each side until light brown. Serve with Blueberry-Peach Salsa on the side.

Servings: 4
Yield: 8 slices

Blueberry-Peach Salsa

1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries
1 peach
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 seeded and minced jalapeno pepper (or to taste)
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt

Put blueberries in food processor. Pulse 4-5 times until berries are coarsely chopped. (Some berries will remain whole; do not over-chop.) Cut peach into 1/2-inch cubes. Combine berries and peach in a medium-sized bowl with remaining ingredients. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Servings: 8
Yield: 3 cups

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hot, hot, hot!!!

Summer hit us all of a sudden during Spring and . . . man, is it hot!  This week has been quite brutal—temperature wise—specially with a record high temperature of 100 degrees for this time of the year, which was set on Thursday (and which actually felt worse because of the heat index!).

So many things have happened since I wrote last time . . . I travelled to MI twice, the Cooking Channel was launched (and I'm hooked!); it's been a year since Michael Jackson passed away; oil has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for more than two months now; General Stanley McChrystal—the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan—publicly criticized President Obama . . . and got fired; according to a government report, the U.S. economy is slowly but steadily recovering across the country; Marvin Isley—bass player who helped give Isley Brothers their distinctive sound—died at 56; Israel announced easing of Gaza Strip blockade in response to international pressure; Gary Coleman—42 , the diminutive, wisecracking child star of the sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes"—died at a Utah hospital from a brain hemorrhage; the 2010 FIFA World Cup started in South Africa . . . among other things . . .

But, going back to my last trip to MI . . . it was such a fun week!  Bobby and I did tons of things, but specially enjoyed antiquing (our favorite hobby lately) and accompanying him to play golf.  We visited the "Dixieland Antique Flea Market" (one of the oldest and biggest flea markets in Oakland County, with over 250 independent merchants offering unique items, antiques, and collectibles).  I also had the chance to go sailing for the first time in my life out of Grand Traverse Bay, in Traverse City . . . and my sunburn marks are still showing after a week! lol  I was on board tall ship Manitou, which is a replica of an 1800s “coasting” cargo schooner, similar to those that sailed the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.

Bobby and I stayed one night at the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel . . . in one of their Deluxe Suites!  The suite was well over 500 square feet (way bigger than my own apartment!) . . . hardwood floors, king bed, bathroom with marble countertops, jetted tub, and oversized shower with seating and multiple showerheads. Wet bar with refrigerator and marble countertop. Two 50-inch LCD TVs, one in the bedroom and one in the living room . . . among other amenities!  I know what you must be thinking . . . "how much did it cost?" . . . well . . . not even a penny!  It was a "treat" from Bobby's brother and his girlfriend—courtesy of Turtle Creek—for being such good clients!  Of course, we went to the casino on the ground floor and had a delightful dinner at the casino's "Bourbons 72" restaurant . . . I had Cream of Broccoli Soup, Chicken Oscar (a moist chicken breast topped with sautéed asparagus and crabmeat, drizzled with hollandaise sauce, served with rice pilaf) and Crème Brûlée . . . all washed down with a delicious Blackstone Cabernet Sauvignon!

We also went up north to visit Bobby's dad—more golf and attended an "after golf" party at a beautiful house by a lake.  Father's Day was, as well, a day filled with fun stuff . . . and I flew back home that same night.

This week has been kind of grueling—specially with the hot weather—and I even had to monitor an exam during almost 7 hours!!!  I'm so glad the weekend is finally here!!!

Well . . . speaking of hot . . . I was checking a blog I came across today (well, actually yesterday, since it's 1:28 a.m. already . . . ha ha ha), "White on Rice Couple", and found an interesting recipe for a home-made condiment I usually request at a chinese restaurant, near the office:  Sriracha

Chili Garlic Hot Sauce Recipe- Cult Sriracha style
Posted By White on Rice Couple

Note: this recipe all varies depending on the chili’s (red jalapenos, habanero’s, etc.). Every chili pepper has a different heat level, so you must be the judge of the amount of spice you prefer. Start your first batch with smaller chili pepper quantities to familiarize yourself with the heat level of your chili peppers.

1 c thai red chili peppers (about 100 grams). Start with less (about half) if you want a more mild, gentle hot sauce
4-5 med. cloves of Garlic (crushed or minced)
2 med Shallots (minced)
1 T Vegetable Oil
2 – 8 oz. (or 1- 15 oz.) can of Tomato Sauce
1 T Fish Sauce (don’t skimp out on this!) or use Soy Sauce (for vegetarians, but if you can, try to use the Fish Sauce)
3 T Rice Vinegar
3 T Sugar

1. Remove stems of chili peppers, rinse clean. Blot dry with paper towel. Wearing rubber gloves, mince the chili peppers. The smaller the cut, the smoother your final sauce will be.

2. In sauce pan, heat oil then add minced garlic and shallots. Over medium-high heat saute for a about 1 minute or until light brown and fragrant. (don’t burn your garlic!)

3. Add tomato sauce and minced chili peppers. Let sauce come to a simmer then lower heat to keep at a low simmer. Add fish sauce, vinegar, and sugar. Mix well.

4. Continue simmering sauce for about 5 minutes. This will break down the chili peppers and soften them to create the smooth consistency.

5. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

6. Transfer sauce to blender and blend till smooth or until most of the chili pepper skin and seeds break down- preferably on the “liquefy” mode.

7. Taste the hot sauce. Further customize the hot sauce to your liking: add more sugar, vinegar or water. Blend one last time till smooth. Pour into clean, air tight jar and refrigerate. Use within about 1 week.

(Article printed from White on Rice Couple:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

An Evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert in Washington, D.C.

How often can you have the chance of getting up close and personal with celebrity chefs?  Well, international food celebs Anthony Bourdain & Eric Ripert hit the Warner Theatre stage—for one night only—on Friday, 21 May . . . and my friend Sandi and I had tickets!!!  It was 90 minutes of unscripted fun while both chefs were dishing behind-the-scenes stories, giving away kitchen tips, and talking about their travels and families . . . all with a fair amount of "smart-ass-ery". DC radio personality, MIX 107.3’s Tommy McFly, was the host in this "no-topic-off-limits show", which also included Q&A from the audience, and an exclusive "meet-and-greet" and book signing!

Sandi called me last weekend to ask me if I would be interested in buying tickets for this show at the Warner Theatre to see Anthony Bourdain (at the time we didn't know Eric Ripert came in the package, as well!).  So, I said "yes, of course!" and she got in charge of getting the tickets, which ended up being $84 a piece. Later on during the week I got on the Warner Theatre website and found a note that stated: "$89.00 ticket allows access to the post show meet and greet book signing".  I never got to comment this with Sandi and figured out that she had gotten discounted tickets! :)

Friday came around and I was very exhausted, since the night before we had to work on this important document, and ended up staying at the office until 4 a.m.!  However, I was more excited than tired!

Sandi had made reservations for "pre-teather" dinner at Ceiba restaurant—which we both love—and it's barely two blocks away from the office!  Got there at 5:30 p.m. and started out with Mojitos, followed by the waitress' appetizer recommendation, "Mexican Sushi", which we shared (photos courtesy of Sandi).

Our entrees were Sandi's "Pan Seared Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes" (served with Sweet Potato Hash, Yucca Crisp, and Jalapeño Aioli) and my "Grilled Free Range Chicken Breast" (served with Peruvian Fried Rice, Fried Quail Egg, Green Beans, and Huancaina and Aji Amarillo Sauces).  The food was simply delicious!


Earlier that afternoon I called the box office at the theater to find out if they were going to sell books—since they were having a book signing—but they wouldn't give me much information.  So Sandi and I decided to go accross the street from the restaurant (after dinner) to Borders to get our books.  My "wish list" already included "Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook", so—needless to say—this was the perfect excuse to get it and cross it out from the list!  I was lucky enough to get the last copy available on the shelf . . . and I wasn't particularly interested in getting Bourdain's other books.  Also, I hadn't planned—because of budgetary reasons—on getting any of Eric Ripert's books but, funny enough, when I read the reviews for Bourdain's Les Halles on the back cover, I found out that Eric Ripert had given him one!

OK . . . walked to the theater (two blocks away from Borders) and got there around 7:30 p.m.  Sandi was taking photos of the theater while we were waiting for the show to start at 8:00 p.m.







If you want to read about the theater's history, check this link

Even though there were moments when the sound system wasn't all that good, it was a very interesting show.  While most of the conversation was light, there were some serious and even poignant moments. Both chefs offered opinions on the foie gras controversy, pointing out that there is misinformation being circulated about the treatment of ducks/geese as they are sourced in the Hudson Valley, noting that “an unhappy animal yields bad food” and that they are advocates of humane treatment. Bourdain—who was caught in Beirut during unrest while filming one of his "No Reservations" episodes—was greeted by one of the US Marines that evacuated him, who presented a token from those troops.  Both men also shared their devotion to their families, although Anthony Bourdain joked about his temperamental Italian wife and how sometimes she wasn't very supportive of his cooking.  Talking of fast food, Eric Ripert admitted he had never actually eaten it. Bourdain and Ripert mentioned they both love The Rolling Stones.  Bourdain gave his opinion about the Arizona Law (against it).  Ripert mentioned he preferred to work for Public Television rather than the Food Network, and how he didn't have an opinion about Paula Deen (yikes!).  Bourdain offered this advice to an audience member about to embark on the opening of his first restaurant: “Figure out who you are, what you do best, and do it relentlessly.”  And Eric Ripert added that using good quality ingredients was also important.  He also mentioned he was returning to New York the next morning to cook for the Dalai Lama at his restaurant, Le Bernardin!  Here are more photos and the article that appeared the next day on The Washington Post.


Predictably Snarky but Likeable

Posted by livesaymt
May 22, 2010

Set on dark wicker patio furniture and white cushions with orange and fuschia accents, was much like a late-night talk show, with a likeable host keeping the momentum going with rapidfire questions. Bourdain, predictably, spoke quite a bit more than the heavily French-accented Ripert, and was trying a bit too hard to make things edgy. Topics included kitchen comparisons, chef ratings (Gordon Ramsey got harsh reviews from both), travel, and Tony's sensitivity (particularly with his daughter). Unfortunately, the microphones didn't capture the conversation clearly and the ushers loudly yelled "no cameras!" at the audience right over the interview questions(!). Overall, seemed a bit thrown together but a good night for true Bourdain fans.

When the show was over, we were expecting someone from the theater to say something about the "meet-and-greet", but we didn't hear a thing and started following people as they were leaving.  And then, all of a sudden, we noticed that there was a group of people going into the opposite direction within the theater and we started to follow them.  There was just one little detail that was worrying us:  all those people had a white wristband . . . and we didn't!  We talked to one of the security ladies and she told us that with our $89 ticket we should have gotten the wristband.  We told her that we had actually paid $84 for our tickets and hadn't gotten any wristband.  She asked us to wait and talked to another lady.  She then came back and told us to follow this other lady (from security, as well) and that we would have to talk to the person in charge once we got where the "meet-and-greet" was taking place.  So, after going up and down several flares of stairs, we got to this elegant and modern atrium, in a building adjacent to the theater.

And then we talked to the security lady in charge, who requested to see our tickets.  Sandi had only handed me my ticket as we were entering the theater that night, so I really never saw it before.  Besides, the print was really small and I didn't have my glasses on.  Well . . . to my dismay—and as the lady pointed out—the tickets were clearly priced $69!!!  At that moment Sandi and I realized that Ticketmaster had charged her an extra $15 for each ticket!  Of course, the security lady then said that we couldn't stay for the "meet-and-greet"!  I was feeling soooo disappointed!!!  Sandi started to walk away, and—on a whim—I  turned to the security lady once again and—in a very nice tone—asked her if there was any possibility for us to stay.  At first she hesitantly said no, but then she seemed to have second thoughts and finally told us "OK, you can stay".  My soul—literally—returned to my body!!!  We couldn't believe our luck, so we thanked this lady for her kindness!

We waited in line for approximately 45 minutes, but it was totally worth it!  We finally got to meet both Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert, shaked hands with them, had our books authographed and our photos taken with them.  Sandi was a little bit mad though . . . "I knew I shouldn't have given my camera to that security person", she said.  She was right.  Take a look at our photos! lol



When I got to Eric Ripert I told him that I hadn't been able to get one of his books, but that I had noticed that his review was on the back cover of Anthony Bourdain's book, and asked him if he wouldn't mind signing it, which he did!  He then turned to Anthony Bourdain and jokingly told him he didn't remember making that review for him! lol

And Anthony Bourdain asked me kind of surprised as he was getting ready to autograph my book:  "Susy with a Y?"  I just said "Yes" . . . :)