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    Bringing back the lost art of home cooking.
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    Aug 9, 2012 12:51PM

    End Of Summer Special, $50 OFF Cooking Classes


     
    Can you believe the summer of 2012 is finally coming to an end. Yay! I just read that July 2012 was the hottest month ever, in the history of weather tracking.  I am so ready for my favorite season of the year..FALL!   The gorgeous foliage, the first crisp, cool morning, pumpkin picking, the smell of a wood burning fire and toasting marshmallows.... Of course, I love to be in my kitchen in autumn cooking fresh apple pies, toasted pumpkin seeds, apple sauce, pumpkin bread, and experimenting with all of the funny shaped fall squash and gourds.
     
    It has been a busy summer for Cooking In Pajamas.  I have been filming a series of instructional cooking videos for Dacor Appliances.   I have done some amazing recipes including the BEST Carrot Cake Cupcakes, Homemade Pizza, Baked Kale Chips and a complete Glazed Salmon dinner.   You can find those videos, and others, on my YouTube channel or at Dacor.com.
     
    To celebrate the end of summer, I am running a special on cooking classes, demos and parties. Book by a class by September 1 and receive $50 off.  Your booked class must be completed by December 16, 2012.  Go to www.cookinginpajamas.com for the latest information on pricing and policies.  We will come up with the perfect customized menu for you!
     
    It is time to get back in the kitchen! I hope to see you all soon.
     
    Take care,
    Gwenn
     
    You can also find Cooking In Pajamas on:
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    Pin me, follow me, like me, connect with me.... (I sound so needy)!
     
     
    0 Comments ~ Posted By GwennW
    Filed in: miscellaneous ~ Tagged with: cooking in pajamas
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    Jul 3, 2012 10:23PM

    I Think I May Be A Food Blogger.......

    A really funny blog post from BlogHer written by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love.  It's funny, because it's true.....

    40 Clues You Might
    Be A Food Blogger

    1. You are positively giddy when you see ramps at the farmers market.

    2. You know that when I say “ramps,” I am not talking about making the farmers market wheelchair-accessible.

    3. You’ve made kale chips. And there is a recipe for them on your blog.

    4. You are “over” a specialty ingredient like black garlic, even though the majority of the population doesn’t even know what it is.

    5. You’ve had a conversation with another food blogger that goes something like this:

    Other food blogger: “I just don’t understand why people would spend money on _____ when it’s SOOOO easy to make at home and way cheaper!” (fill in the blank with “tomato sauce” “granola” “pickles” “chicken stock” “their own wedding cake” or whatever else they think is incredibly overpriced and ridiculously easy to make)

    You: “Oh I know! It’s ridiculous! And SO much better when you make it yourself!” (however, secretly, you are ashamed because you have never made said item at home)

    6. You take the same photos of the produce at the farmer’s market that you did last year, but you can’t help it. The rainbow chard is so pretty!

    7. You really are confused as to why granola is so expensive at the grocery store.

    8. You go shopping with your significant other, and at some point, while looking for a specific item on your grocery list, you turn to him/her and say, “We need to shop at a white person grocery store.” —stolen from a Matt Armendariz Tweet.

    9. When dining out, no one is allowed to eat the food until you have whipped out your camera/iPhone/Android and taken a shot of it first.

    10. You actually style the plate you are photographing at the restaurant first, before said photo is taken.

    11. You scope out restaurant tables at lunch with proximity to windows to provide natural lighting for your photographs.

    12. You own a ridiculous large number of plates with different designs on them. Not sets. Just individual plates.

    13. Same with silverware, napkins and cups.

    14. You actually own cloth napkins. You realize no one ever uses cloth napkins right?

    15. If you’ve been food blogger for less than two years, you are super-excited by the prospect of a company sending you something for free.

    16. If you’ve been food blogging for more than two years, you immediately become suspicious if a company offers to send something to you for free.

    17. You ACTUALLY know someone who is celiac, gluten-intolerant, or has a gluten allergy, as opposed to those people who say they are avoiding gluten, but will then pick the croutons off of the salad because it’s the trendy diet they are on.

    18. You’ve done a “cleanse” or elimination diet before.

    19. You have run out of room for your cookbooks. Yet you still buy more.

    20. You eat seasonal. And local. And organic. And unprocessed. As much as possible. (unless someone offers you a slice of chocolate cake).

    21. You think Pinterest is a godsend as well as the devil’s work.

    22. You Tweet. You Facebook. You Instagram. You Pin. You comment. You even occasionally stumble. But you don’t really bother with Google+.

    23. You aren’t quite sure what you did with your spare time before food blogging and social media took over.

    24. You’ve brought a cake or pie to a party with a slice already taken out, which you had done earlier, when you photographed it.

    25. Every time you see someone with a dSLR camera, you feel obligated to ask that person what type of camera they are using, and what lens they own. Then you either exclaim “Oh I have that lens!” or “I totally want that lens!” It doesn’t matter what lens they say; these are the only two appropriate answers.

    26. When your significant other or kid accidentally spills something on your wooden surface that you just distressed for your photos, you start to get angry and then you look at it and think, “Hmmm. That actually looks pretty good.”

    27. You start to get nervous when you are down to only one pound of butter, one bag of flour, one head of garlic, or one onion.

    28. You own more than five different salts, and are aghast when people just own one type – especially if it is regular iodinized table salt.

    29. You get super-crazy-excited when you meet a famous cookbook author, chef or food blogger that you admire, and when you try to tell the story to your non-food blogging friends with a “You won’t believe who I just met!!!” intro, they give you a blank look and don’t have a clue who you are talking about.

    30. You own chickens. Or you wish you owned chickens.

    31. You now describing food as “bright” or “intense” and reserve the words “delicious” and “yummy” to describe articles of clothing or up-and-coming actors.

    32. When you eat out and order a dish that surprises you, instead of enjoying it, you start mentally analyzing it and trying to figure out if you can reverse-engineer it at home.

    33. Your significant other has gotten in the habit of finishing really amusing, but slightly embarrassing stories with the phrase “…and you can’t blog, Tweet or Facebook about this!"

    34. You get tired of people asking you when you are opening up a restaurant/bakery, writing a cookbook, or getting your own TV show. It’s not that easy, people. It’s really not that easy.

    35. You own more than one cake stand. Actually, you own more than five cake stands.

    36. When you see peeling paint on the wall of a dilapidated house, instead of being sad for the house's owner, you think to yourself, “That would be make a great background texture for one of my photographs…”

    37. Even though every food photographer you know has told you that “the gear doesn’t matter,” you know in your heart of hearts that if you owned a Canon 5DMkIII or Nikon D800 your photos would never be rejected byFoodgawker or Tastespotting.

    38. You are willing to walk very, very far for an expensive donut. Or an expensive slice of pie. Or an expensive macaron. But not a cupcake. You’re totally over cupcakes.

    39. You own at least 10 URLs and keep on buying more as you think of them. Because, you never know when that URL may come in handy.

    40. You desperately need to put a blog post up because it’s a Monday and “all your readers” expect you to publish a post on Monday, but you don’t have one ready, so you resort to a silly filler blog post, like “You know you’re a food blogger if…

    0 Comments ~ Posted By GwennW
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    Apr 25, 2012 6:43AM

    No Roll Pie/Quiche Crust

     

    I truly believe everyone should know how to make a basic pie crust.  I didn't always think that. I used to buy the frozen pie crust dough. It was cheap, easy and fast.  Making a homemde crust was intimidating. I had tried to make it before with mixed results.

    The more I thought about it, the more determined I became to perfect this simple kitchen task. I tried several recipes, and the more I did it, the easier it became.

    This is one of my favorite recipes because it doesn't require any rolling with a rolling pin. Just mix in a bowl and press into your pan.

    There are a few simple keys to success.  The most important is to keep all of your ingredients super cold. Some people even freeze the butter and flour before combining them (but you would need to use a food processor for combining these).  Pie crusts become flaky when little bits of unmelted butter are layered in with the flour. The butter melts away while baking, forming a tender, flaky crust.  Another tip..do not over work the dough.  You are not kneading this like a bread dough or a pizza dough. As soon as the dough comes together and seems cohesive, it is done. It may feel dry and crumbly, but the results will be tender and flaky.

    No Roll Pie/Quiche Crust


    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    2 Tablespoons sugar
    1/8 teaspoon baking powder
    6 tablespoons butter, very cold, cut into cubes
    1/4 cup canola
    1 Tablespoon cream cheese, at room temperature
    2 Tablespoons cold milk

    In a medium sized bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder and sugar.

    Add butter and tablespoon of cream cheese.  With a pastry blender, work the cream cheese and butter into the flour mixture, breaking the butter and cream cheese up until they’re in well incorporated into the flour.  Some butter bits will be tiny, other the size of small pebbles.

    Combine the milk and oil.  Whisk together.  Add all at once to the flour and butter mixture.  With your pastry blender, begin to combine the ingredients, making sure that all of the flour mixture is introduced to the liquid.  The mixture does not need to come together into a ball.  Dump the dough into a clean 9-inch pie plate.  With your fingers,  press the dough evenly into the bottom of the pie plate and up the sides.  It will have a nice “rustic” look.

    Place the prepared crust in the freezer while you preheat the oven and prepare your filling.  If you’re going to pre-bake your crust, heat the oven to 350 degrees F and line the chilled pie crust with foil, weigh down with beans and bake for 10 minutes covered.  Remove the foil and beans and bake for 4-6 minutes uncovered until golden brown.

    If you need an unbaked pie crust, simply remove the crust from the freezer once your filling is made, fill your pie and place in a preheated oven.  Bake according to your particular recipe.

     

     

    0 Comments ~ Posted By GwennW
    Filed in: miscellaneous ~ Tagged with: crust
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    Apr 22, 2012 7:47AM

    Coconut Oil....What do I do with it?

     

    There is a reason that we are now seeing coconut oil everywhere...it is good for so many things!  You don't have to be an organic hippie to use it.

    The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. These benefits of coconut oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, soothing, etc.

     

    I purchased a 16 oz. container of Coconut Oil at Trader Joe's for $5.99! That is a bargain.  I used to get a 12 oz. bottle for $22 at the health food store. I now keep one container in the kitchen and one in my bathroom.  My top five favorite uses of coconut oil are:

    1 - adding it to smoothies

    2 - using it to saute or roast vegetables (try roasting sweet potatoes in coconut oil...YUM!)

    3 - as a lip balm

    4 - as a deep conditioner for my hair

    5 - as a skin softener added to a bath

    As you are about to see, the uses for coconut oil are endless.  I can't wait to try it as an insect repellant (see #35) this summer.

    Here is a link to tons and tons of recipes using coconut oil

    Coconut Oil Recipes

     

    Delicious Obsessions

    1. Eat a spoonful when you need an energy boost.
    2. Use it as the base for a homemade body scrub.
    3. Use to condition your wooden cutting boards.
    4. Use as a super conditioner on your hair (apply to dry hair, leave in as long as possible and then shampoo as normal).
    5. Use as a styling agent if you have really dry hair. Just rub a tiny bit on your palms and apply to your hair and style as normal.
    6. Keep a little container in your purse for lip moisturizer.
    7. Add a spoonful to your dog or cat’s food. CO is great for our furry friends!
    8. Replace nasty, unhealthy vegetable oils in your cooking and baking with CO.
    9. Make healthy Magic Shell ice cream topping.
    10. Use it for oil pulling (learn about oil pulling here).
    11. Use a tiny dab on your underarms for a natural deodorant.
    12. Use coconut oil instead of shaving cream.
    13. Add to your bath tub for a moisturizing soak (a drop of peppermint oil is wonderful!).
    14. Use as a makeup remover.
    15. Use it to help sooth chicken pox, shingles, or other rashes or skin irritations.
    16. Use it to treat athlete’s food, ringworm, or other fungal or yeast infections.
    17. Take a spoonful with your vitamins to help improve absorption.
    18. Spread a thin layer on cuts or burns to speed up healing.
    19. Take up to 5 spoonfuls per day for improved thyroid function.
    20. Add a spoonful to your smoothies for extra nutrition and flavor (herehere, andhere).
    21. Use on the delicate tissue around your eyes to help prevent wrinkles and sagging.
    22. Use as the base for homemade toothpaste or lotion.
    23. Use in place of massage oil.
    24. Use on your baby’s diaper rash or cradle cap.
    25. Use to help reduce visibility of stretch marks or to prevent stretch marks.
    26. For nursing mothers, use coconut oil on your nipples to prevent cracking and irritation.
    27. For nursing mothers, consuming coconut oil will help increase your milk flow.
    28. Apply to bee stings or bug bites to soothe and heal the wound.
    29. Women can use in the nether regions to relieve yeast infections, dryness, and/or discomfort.
    30. Eat a spoonful with each meal to improve digestion.
    31. If you’re prone to nosebleeds, coat the inside of your nostrils with coconut oil regularly.
    32. Helps soothe and heal hemorrhoids.
    33. Take to helps reduce or eliminate migraines.
    34. Use as the base for homemade vapor rub.
    35. Mixed with peppermint, lemon balm, rosemary, or tea tree oil makes an excellent insect repellant.
    36. Mix with baking soda for a non-toxic “Goo Gone”.
    37. Use to help detox the body during a cleanse or fast.
    38. Use as a metal polish, but always test a small area first.
    39. Use as a leather moisturizer.
    40. Season your cast iron pans.
    41. Use to oil your pans and baking dishes instead of pan spray.
    42. Got gum stuck in your hair? Try using coconut oil to remove without cutting your hair.
    43. Use instead of WD-40.
    44. Use as a personal lubricant (not safe with latex).
    45. Take a spoonful to help with heartburn, acid reflux, or indigestion.
    46. Use as a natural sunscreen.
    47. Mix with a tiny bit of fresh lemon juice and use as a furniture polish (always test a small area first!).
    48. Mix with butter and toss your popcorn in it.
    49. Use on cracked or rough heals to help smooth them out.
    50. Massage into your nails and cuticles to help strengthen them.
    51. Use as the base for homemade chocolate candy (like peanut butter cups).
    52. Take a couple spoonfuls every day to help overall immune function.

     

    0 Comments ~ Posted By GwennW
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    Feb 19, 2012 7:45AM

    100 Greatest Cooking Tips Of All Time

     

     

    These tips have been gathered from the top chefs in the country by Food Network.  I want to share them with you, because there are a ton of simple ideas that will save you time, money and improve your skills in the kitchen.

     

    Find the tips here.

    0 Comments ~ Posted By GwennW
    Filed in: miscellaneous ~ Tagged with: Cooking Tips
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    Sep 3, 2011 1:46PM

    Going Organic

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I decided to do it!  It was finally the right time.  I had been researching it for years, but wasn't ready to make the commitment, until last week.  I decided to rid our house of all processed foods, and replace it with organic, natural foods!  Yup....ALL OF IT!   Gone are the pancake mixes, cake mixes, cereal bars, low-fat flavored yogurts, Oreos, Bugles, canned soups, Weight Watcher frozen treats and diet hot cocoa mix.   That is my "throw-away" pile in the photo on the left.  I didn't actually throw it away, I gave most of it to Jamie, who doesn't seem interested in our all-natural conversion.  After getting rid of all of the junk, my pantry now looks like the photo on the right.

    I saved a few things, that just felt wasteful to throw away, like the 2 huge jars of Skippy peanut butter that I just purchased at Costco.  As I use it up, I'll replace it with the 100% natural version.  I also have about a dozen sticks of butter in my freezer.  I'll use those up and replace them with organic butter.

    What did I get rid of? All processed foods and junk food.  Anything with chemical preservatives, gums, artificial coloring, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers, stablizers, thickeners, artificial flavorings, refined ingredients, or bleached ingredients are gone.

    Why now? Of course there are the health and social reasons, but the biggest one being that I finally got Phil and Joey on board.  I had been contemplating it for many years now, but no one else in the house seemed interested.  It is much easier to make the switch, when you have the support of the people you live with.

     

    The next logical question is why?  After all, my family is (thankfully) in good health, so why bother to switch?

    1 - Organic foods may have more nutrients than conventional food.

    2 - Your health, specifically your fertility health, can be affected by the pesticides used in conventional foods.  You can reduce your pesticide exposure by 80% if you switch to organic versions of the "Dirty Dozen" (peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, imported grapes, carrots and pears).

    3 -  Organic food tastes delicious!

    4 - There are over 6000 chemicals used in the food processing industry, many of them are known to be harmful to your health, including your immune system and fertility health. They are also knows to increase your risk of certain cancers. An average conventionally grown apple contains 20 - 30 artificial chemicals on its skin...even after rinsing!

    5 - Many processed foods contain unwanted trans fats.  Trans fats are so bad for you.  If you eat enough, it can kill you!

    6 - Organic products meets very stringent standards.

    7 - Organic farming is better for the soil, better for the water supply, and the farmers work to preserve a healthy ecosystem.

     

    How to begin your conversion:

    1 - Read the ingredients label. Are there ingredients you don't recognize or cannot pronounce? Would you add these ingredients if you were cooking at home? If the answer is yes, don't buy it.

    2 -  Don't eat partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated trans fat.

    3 -  Avoid products with a long shelf life.  The longer they can stay on the shelf, the worse it is for your body.

    4 - Avoid GMOs (genetically modified) produce.  No one knows the implications on our long term health.  Nearly all processed foods contain GMOs.

    5 - When it comes to fruits and vegetables, if it has an edible skin, you are better off going organic.

    6 - If you cannot find organic, look for the "Clean Sixteen", which are the fruits and veggies that are found to contain the lowest number of pesticides:  onions, avocadoes, sweet corn, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwis, cabbage, eggplants, papayas, watermelon, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes.

    7 - You can still eat convience foods, but look for organic versions.  Some amazing options include: Kashi cereals, Amy's frozen foods, Annie's Natural salad dressings, Cascadian Farm frozen prodice, Applegate Farm cheeses, and Newman's Own entire product line.

    8 - Start slowly.  For example, begin with your milk.  Conventional milk contains hormones, antibiotics and pesticides and many kids consume milk in large amounts. Next, switch to organic potatoes.  Even after being peeled and washed, the potato contained the highest level of pesticides out of the 46 fruits and vegetables tested.  Peanut butter is another easy switch, in addition to apples, fruit juices and ketchup.

     

    One of the biggest barriers for people wanting to go organic, is the higher prices.  It's true, organic foods are more expensive than conventional foods, but there are several good reasons why.  Organic farmers don’t receive federal subsidies like conventional farmers do. Therefore, the price of organic food reflects the true cost of growing. The price of conventional food does not reflect the cost of environmental cleanups that we pay for through our tax dollars. Organic farming is more labor and management intensive.

    Most people who make the switch, find that the benefits to organic agriculture, off-set the cost.

     

    A few tips to help you manage buying organic:

    - Comparison shop. Many grocery chains now carry their own line of organic products.

    - Cook more.  It is much cheaper to feed a family a homemade meal, cooked with fresh ingredients, than it is to buy frozen corn dogs or fish sticks.

    - Stock up when items are on sale and buy in bulk when available.

    - Shop for produce when it is in season.

    - Save money from another part of your budget. Do your kids really need that new toy? Do you really need a new coat this season?  I will bet if you look hard, you will find lots of easy ways to cut your budget elsewhere,

     

    I hope you find this information informative and interesting.  It may initially sound intimidating, but start with one food at a time.  The benefits of eating organic will far outweigh any negatives that you are thining of.

    UPDATE 11/19/11 - I decided to modify my food policy.  I buy organic whenever possible, but more importantly, I try to buy seasonally (peaches in November? no thanks) and locally.   I have found that eliminating processed foods has made a big difference in how I feel.  If it is organic, great, if not, this is my philosophy:  I read the ingredient list. It should read like the ingredients of a homemade recipe...milk, eggs, flour, vanilla. If it has more than one ingredient that I don't recognize as food, I put it back on the shelf.

    0 Comments ~ Posted By GwennW
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    Dec 29, 2010 5:47AM

    Our Favorite Food Trends and Our Least Favorite Food Trends of 2010-2011

    It's that time of year again....what's in, what's out...it's anyone's guess.  I suppose these are actually my wishes for the upcoming year based on what I want to see more of and what I am totally over.

     

    Love These Trends:

     

    Fresh, Locally Sourced Food: It really does taste so much better! Join a co-op or head to the farmer's market, you'll never go back to grocery produce again.

     

    Food Truck "Rodeos": A dozen or more food trucks turn an empty parking lot into a gourmet food fair on wheels.

     

    Retro Cocktails: Thank you Mad Men for reminding us about the Manhattan, Tom Collins, Pina Colada and the Gin Rickey!  I adore Pina Coladas and Singapore Sling.


    Actual cooking shows on the Cooking Channel: Enough with the "realty cooking competitions"!  Check out Nadia G. on Bitchin' Kitchen.

    Artisanal Ice Pops: Unexpected flavors flavors like Blueberry-Lemonade, Pineapple Juice-Coconut Milk, Spiced Cider and Mint Tea, these treats may just dethrone cupcakes as the latest dessert craze.


    Cupcakes: I think hating cupcakes is a new trend. I know I am in the minority here, but I still love them!  My only wish is that we could buy smaller cupcakes for a cheaper price.  I don't always want a $4 cupcake the size of a melon.


    Supper Clubs: They are so much fun, but this trend can easily slip toward snobbery and exclusion. As long as it stays down to earth, I am loving this trend.


    Dessert Shooters: Sometimes you only want one bite of dessert.


    Improving School Lunches: When my kids would rather starve than eat the food in their high school cafeteria, something is wrong.  Notice how all the food on this tray is brown...even the orange doesn't look appetizing?


    Frozen Yogurt: The real frozen yogurt, not the TCBY chemical stuff. It is so easy to make at home too, with Greek yogurt, some flavoring and an ice cream maker (or just go to your local Pinkberry). I live on this stuff in the summer.

    Affordable Eats: The economy is not getting much better. This usually means better quality food at more affordable prices.

    Macaroons: The French pastel colored sandwich cookie, not the Manischewitz version from a can.

    Meatless Monday: More and more people are going vegetarian at least one day a week. Try it, you may like it!

    Pie: Sweet and savory pies are making a big comeback (did they every actually leave?).


    The casual sit-down dinner party: A cross between a formal sit-down dinner and a potluck, this is the best way to entertain.  Is anyone under the age of 60 really impressed by "formal china" anymore?


     

    Trends That Need To Go:

    Non-cooking shows on Food Network: Try to find an actual cooking show on Food Network during prime time hours.


    Along the same line,  get rid of the cake shows, cake competitions, and baking reality shows: OMG....they are so boring!  Cupcake Wars?!?!?!  I would rather watch my dogs sleep.


    "Super Fruits" : Example: goji berry or acai.  Has consumption of these fruits truly improved anyone's health?


    Gluten-Free Diets: Unless a doctor has diagnosed you with Celiac disease, this is a passing "diet" trend.  People who claim they feel better and are losing weight on a "gluten-free" diet, most likely feel better because they are eating healthier and eating fewer processed foods.

    World record food and competitive eating: Why is there even a world record for eating 7 sticks of butter in 9 minutes?  What is in this photo?  A 50 foot long enchilada? Por que?

    Bacon on everything: I love it in the morning and on a club sandwich...that's it! I don't want it sprinkled on my chocolate chip cookie or in my apple pie.



    Banning fast food restaurants in poor neighborhoods: Scary!  What's next? Banning Starbucks in upscale shopping centers because the people there drink too much caffeine and spend too much of their disposable income on overpriced beverages?


    Urban Farming: Raising chickens in a cage on the roof of your apartment building just so you can eat fresh eggs? Seems cruel to the chickens.


    Paula Deen:  Sorry Paula..I need a break. Your face is everywhere!


    Rachel Ray.....you too!


    Also..... Celebrity Chef Cookware: It disappoints every time.  It may look like high quality cookware, but it is usually overpriced crap.


    Brown eggs being more expensive than white eggs:  Why is this? The only difference between the two is the color of the shell!  Brown eggs are not organic, cage-free or tastier....they are the same exact product as white eggs!


    Adding hot peppers into desserts: Dessert is a time to relax, not the time for a piece of jalapeno to show up my chocolate ice cream.


    Being overly allergy conscious: Banning all peanut products from an entire elementary school or an entire airplane because of one kid with a nut allergy?  This doesn't teach kids how to live in the real world.  Not to mention, some little kids will only eat peanut butter and jelly!  Why are they being punished?

     

    And check out these up and coming food trends for 2011 and beyond, as predicted by The BA Foodist,  Andrew Knowlton.

     

    Pop Goes the Restaurant: Get ready to follow the next movable feast: the pop-up restaurant. Here today, gone tomorrow, and always the toughest reservation in town, these temporary spots are taking hold all over the country. In LA, there's Ludobites, with chef Ludovic Lefebvre opening up in a new location every few months. In San Francisco, there's Mission Chinese Food, a modern Chinese restaurant within a conventional Chinese restaurant. Update your twitter feed to follow local chefs and food media, then watch for one near you. Sounds exhusting for everyone involved!

    Forest Is the New Farm: Locavore foraging has gone loco! Anyone can grow an heirloom vegetable, but only the most intrepid chefs can find and cook well with moss, lichen, pine needles, seaweed, and hay--just a few of the "found" ingredients that chefs are working onto their menus. Ummm...what exactly are chefs doing with pine straw and hay?

    You're Gonna Eat Bunny Rabbit: We know they're cute, but so are pigs. Rabbit is the other other white meat. It's a versatile ingredient, it's sustainable, and, yes, it tastes like chicken. That's why chefs of all stripes (at Animal in LA, Cochon in New Orleans, The Girl and the Goat in Chicago, to name a few) are hopping on the trend with delicious dishes like rabbit and kale ravioli, deep fried rabbit legs, rabbit and dumplings, and rabbit rillettes. Nope...not me!  I ate rabbit once, and thought it was very gamey.

    Asian-Fusion 2.0: We're not talking wasabi mashed potatoes or miso-glazed cod. Here's the new-and-improved iteration of American food: Kimchi quesadillas. Vietnamese chicken pot pie. French onion soup dumplings. All bets are off when it comes to using Asian ingredients and techniques in irreverent but always satisfying ways.  YUM!!  I love Asian everything.  I can't wait to see what our local Atlanta chefs come up with.

    Noodle Mania: From homemade cavatelli (it's easier than you think) to hand-pulled rice noodles (it's as hard as it sounds), noodles are everywhere. Ramen, strozapretti, spaetzle, you name it. And not just in restaurants. Home cooks now have at their disposal local and imported specialty flours and kitchen gadgets to help them make noodles like a pro. Throw away you box of Ronzoni.  Once you taste how much more flavorful and delicate homemade pasta is, dried pasta will seem like cardboard.

     

     

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    Jun 11, 2010 5:02AM

    A Blast From the Past........

    I was looking for a recipe on Nigella.com, Nigella Lawson's website, when I found something that made me smile.... a pie chart:

     

     

    Remember two years ago when everyone was getting "Rickrolled"?   You would send an email to a friend with a subject line like, "..check out these amazing photos of you.." or "...very important...sinkhole found in your yard!!!!!!" along with a link that looks like it goes somewhere important, but it really goes to a video of Rick Astley singing his number one 80's hit "Never Gonna Give You Up".   I don't remember who "rickrolled" me first, but I remember thinking that "Never Gonna Give You Up" is such a catchy tune.

    A few weeks later I "rickrolled" Phil at work.  He called me up a few hours after opening the email and was totally confused as to why I sent him a Rick Astley video, instead of the photo he thought he was clicking on.  I spent 5 minutes explaining to him why it was funny that he was expecting to open one thing, but instead got a cheesy music video.  He didn't quite get the humor.  Jamie and Joey tried explaining it again that night at dinner (explaining why it was so funny), but I don't think he ever thought it was as funny as we did.

    Oh well....

    Don't these cupcakes look yummy?  The entire recipe has only 6 ingredients and takes only 5 minutes to prepare.  Best of all...each FULL SIZED cupcake has less than 50 calories!

    You can check out this recipe for my latest healthy, summer creation:  a low calorie, five minute, double fudge marshmallow swirl cupcake with chocolate french buttercream frosting, here at KeyIngredient.com/gwennweiss/cupcakefudgeswirl. It is a MUST TRY!!!!!  Each full size cupcake, with frosting, only has 45 calories!!!!!!  And it tastes amazing!




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    May 9, 2010 5:12AM

    Happy Mother's Day!

     

     

    Happy Mother's Day

    (no cooking today!)

     

    A man stopped at a flower shop to order some flowers to be wired to his mother who lived two hundred miles away.

    As he got out of his car he noticed a young girl sitting on the curb sobbing.

    He asked her what was wrong and she replied, "I wanted to buy a red rose for my mother.

    But I only have seventy-five cents, and a rose costs two dollars."

    The man smiled and said, "Come on in with me. I'll buy you a rose."

    He bought the little girl her rose and ordered his own mother's flowers.

    As they were leaving he offered the girl a ride home.

    She said, "Yes, please! You can take me to my mother."

    She directed him to a cemetery, where she placed the rose on a freshly dug grave.

    The man returned to the flower shop, canceled the wire order, picked up a bouquet and drove the two hundred miles to his mother's house.

     

     

    "As long as a woman can look ten years younger than her own daughter, she is perfectly satisfied." - Oscar Wilde

    "The worst feature of a new baby is its mother's singing." - Kin Hubbard

    "When your mother asks,'Do you want a piece of advice?', it's a mere formality. It doesn't matter if you answer yes or no.  You're going to get it anyway." - Erma Bombeck

    "A suburban mother's role is to deliver children obstetrically once, and by car for ever after." - Peter De Vries

    "Mothers of teenagers know why animals eat their young." - Author Unknown

     

    "I want my children to have all the things I couldn't afford. Then I want to move in with them."  - Phyllis Diller

     

     

    Things Mom Would Never Say:

    "Why don't you hitchhike?  It would be, like, totally cheaper than taking a taxi."

    "Nah..you don't have to call me.  I'll eventually figure out if you're in trouble."

    "Yeah, I used to skip school a lot, too"

    "Just leave all the lights on ... it makes the house look more cheery"

    "Let me smell that shirt -- Yeah, it's good for another week"

    "Go ahead and keep that stray dog, honey. I'll be glad to feed and walk him every day"

    "Well, if Erin's mom says it's OK, that's good enough for me."

    "The curfew is just a general time to shoot for. It's not like I'm running a prison around here."

    "I don't have a tissue with me ... just use your sleeve"

    "Don't bother wearing a jacket - the wind-chill is bound to improve"

    "That outfit isn't sexy enough, here, unbutton your blouse and wear it with a shorter skirt.  You don't want to be a virgin forever! "

    "Don't clean your room so often. It makes the rest of the house look bad."

    "I'm so OVER Oprah!"

     

     

    Top Ten Things Mom Was Always Right About

    1.  Eat your vegetables

    2.  This too shall pass.

    3.  If you don't do it now, when are you going to do it?

    4.  If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

    5.  It could be worse.

    6. I don't care who started it, you stop it.

    7.  Do unto others as you would have them to do you.

    8.  Be yourself.

    9. Never live above your means.

    10.  What goes around comes around.



     

     

     

     



     

     

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    May 2, 2010 5:00PM

    It Was A "Big Night"

    "Big Night" is pure food porn.  It is a fabulous movie about two immigrant brothers from Italy, Primo and Secondo, who move to America to open an Italian restaurant dedicated to serving Primo's authentic Italian masterpieces.  His effort's go unappreciated in 1954 New Jersey, where the customers want meatballs and spaghetti.  With the restaurant on the verge of closing, Secondo decides to have one last "Big Night", a dinner thrown in honor of invited guest Louis Prima, in the hopes that the publicity will save the restaurant.  Primo gets to prepare the meal of a lifetime.  You will have to get the movie to find out what happens on their "Big Night".

    What I will tell you is that Primo and Secondo know how to throw a party!  It is impossible to watch this movie and not want to join in the festivities!  Amazing food, bottomless bottles of red wine, music, dancing, talking, laughing, elegant women dressed in sexy dresses, men in their suits and tuxedos....

    Jenny Levison to the rescue!  She has thrown another one of her fabulous, but super, secret, Underground Supper Club dinners.  When word got to me that the theme was going to be "Big Night", I almost fell off my chair!  I couldn't pick up the phone fast enough to call Phil.

    I won't go into the details of how you get invited to one of Jenny's Underground Supper Clubs, but you may want to stop by Souper Jenny for a bowl of soup, check out her website on a regular basis and/or get on her email list (but you didn't hear it from me!)

    Once your invitation arrives, on which you are only given a date, you have 24 hours to RSVP.  Once you accept the invitation, the clues as to the chef and location begin to trickle in.  We were also clued in as to the evening's dress code of "Ava Gardner meets Frank Sinatra".  This is what we came up with.....


    Our "Big Night" would take place in the kitchen of Anitco Pizza Napoletana.  The hottest pizza place in Atlanta.  It is the darling of the Atlanta food blogging community and one of the few restaurants that actually lives up to all of its hype.  Owner and chef Giovanni Di Palma has created the perfect formula of crunchy crust, buffalo mozzarella and sauce made San Marzano tomatoes cooked in a wood burning stove...INCREDIBLE!  Best pizza in Atlanta...no doubt, and the perfect location for our dinner.


    We were instructed to enter through the back door, simply because the restaurant was open for business.  Once we entered directly into the kitchen, there were 3 large tables set up with white table clothes and candles.  We were handed a prosecco cocktail and began to mingle.  Actually, I began to people watch. Some of the women were dressed so beautifully and elegantly, I couldn't stop staring.  I really felt like I was at a party in 1955!  The crowd at these dinners is always a wonderfully diverse group of people.

    This is a photo taken from my seat.  Doesn't the man on the right look a little like Marlon Brando in The Godfather?


    Shorty after arriving, several appetizer platter came out.  I didn't get any photos, because I was hungry and was trying to balance my cocktail and my appetizers without spilling.  There was a platter of melon wrapped with prosciutto, topped with a cherry (which I embarrassingly mistook for a very sweet cherry tomato), two platters of cured Italian meats with fresh greens and of course....an Antico white pizza.  The perfect start to our meal.

    Everyone then grabbed a seat.  Phil and I introduced ourselves to our dinner companions and began to chat, as we awaited the first course.

    Our first course arrived and I was psyched!  Baked Clams and Spicy Peel-n-Eat Garlic Shrimp.  Breaded baked clams are a favorite of mine, but I don't see them on many Atlanta menus.   They are on almost every Italian menu in New York, but not so much here.  These clams were perfect....crispy and crunchy breading, with a tiny little succulent clam at the very bottom.  The shrimp caused a little confusion.  Several people at my table began to cut their shelled shrimp with a knife and fork.  Hmmmm.... that's not very efficient.  I did think about it for a minute, but then I picked up my shrimp and began to dig in.  The shrimp was completely infused with a light garlic flavor.  YUM!  When they came around offering seconds, I accepted them greedily.  The red and white wine was being poured generously, and I was already pretty content.

    We were next served a palette cleansing lemon sorbet in preparation for our second course, Eggplant Parmigiana with Sausage.  The flavor of the sauce was outstanding, and if it were bottled, I would have purchased a gallon on the spot.  My eggplant was room temperature, which is a pet peeve of mine.  I like my food really hot!  In the middle of dinner, if my dish gets too cold, I will reheat it in my microwave.  I do not care for Eggplant Parmigiana at room temperature, which was too bad, because had I gotten the dish hot, I think it would have been out of this world.  I am sure I could have sent it back, and asked them to reheat it, but I knew there was more food to come and frankly, I was having a great time.

    Next..the timpana......


    What is timpana?  Every Italian cook has their own recipe.  It is basically a pasta pie....a HUGE pasta pie, with a rich bolognaise sauce and fillings that can include meatballs, chicken, beef, veal, hard boiled eggs, cheese, calf brains...whatever the cook wants to add in.  Sometimes, the entire pie is wrapped it phyllo dough.  It is baked in a large bowl or baking dish, and flipped over right before serving, with the hopes it will slip right out and keep it's shape.  It is supposed to be served by the slice.  I tried making a timpana once.  There was about two weeks of prep work involved (making the dough for the shell, making the sauce, baking meatballs, etc.).  Once I baked it, I was not only unable to get it out if the pan, it completely fell apart.  This was about ten years ago, and I have not tried it again.  It is very difficult to even find a recipe for timpana.

    Well....I finally got to witness a live timpana presentation.  I help my breath as the chef presented his timpana, and prepared to flip it over.  He grabbed each side of the dish, flipped it over, gave the bottom of the dish a tap, picked up the dish to reveal his timpana and....nothing!  It didn't release!  He tried tapping the bottom a little harder!  Still nothing.  Then he placed the dish in a cookie sheet and began to bang it a little on the table.  Still nothing.




    Whew!  Finally got it!  And it retained it's shape!  Doesn't look very appealing, but I promise you it was delicious.  This version was fairly straight forward...pasta, sauce and meat.


    Did this inspire me to try another one?  Nope!  Too much work and too much margin of error.


    Time to take a break from the food for some homemade limoncello, the notorious lemon liqueur, which gained notoriety a few years ago when Danny DeVito showed up on The View still drunk on the limoncello he had consumed the night before.  Typically served after a meal, we enjoyed it mid-meal, which was a nice break.  Limoncello, in theory, should taste like lemonade (the ingredients being only lemon peel, vodka and simple syrup), but this one was strong!!!!!  We were doing shots of this stuff!


    Ok, so my shot came out of a vintage champagne glass, but it was still a shot!

    Finally, the main course.  Red snapper (I think it was snapper) roasted whole in a salt crust.  The salt crust keeps the fish moist and incredibly flavorful.  It was served with a side of sauteed broccoli rabe (or broccolini, I couldn't quite tell).


    Then, to top it all off, they brought around big trays of Antico's amazing pizza, which we had been watching them prepare all night long.  Let's face it, who doesn't love a great slice of wood grilled pizza?  I had two small slices, and I am not embarrassed to admit it (yes I am).   Oh yeah...and this entire time, we are still drinking wine and cocktails.



    Now...on to dessert.  Always my favorite part of any meal!  I especially enjoy Italian desserts, and Antico has the best (I am not exaggerating) cannoli.  The shell is sweet and crunchy and they fill it for you as soon as you order it.  I was hoping we would get some.  Our plates come around, and we are served, of course, tiramisu.  How can you end an Italian meal like this without tiramisu?  Oh wait...I see another tray coming around!  What are these?  Ricotta pastries?!?!?  I never had these but they look good.  One bite, and I am sold.  Crunchy, light as air, pastry shell, stuffed with sweet, creamy ricotta filling.  I have just about died and gone to heaven.

    Just when I think I am going to bust out of my Spanx, another tray comes around!  It's probably just seconds of tiramisu.  Wait a second..... that's not tiramisu....it's the cannoli!!!!   Dozens and dozens of cannoli!  I want to take five!  No, I can't, I can only take one.  Maybe I'll distract the server and grab two.  Maybe I'll steal Phil's cannoli.  Maybe I'll steal Sheila's (she was the nice lady sitting next to me).  No, she's too nice, and it's her anniversary, I can't take her cannoli.  Maybe, I'll go to another server and say that my server skipped me!


    OK...I think I am going off the deep end over my favorite Italian pastry.  It must be time to call it a night.  But wait, there's more.  Just when you think the night cannot get any better, the live entertainment begins!  Jenny jumps up on to the counter and begins to croon.  People grab their partners and begin to slow dance, right there in the kitchen of Antico Pizza!   When was the last time you got to slow dance with your date to live singing?  And I don't mean at a wedding or Bar Mitzvah.

    The entire night was a very fitting homage to the movie "Big Night".  It would have made Primo and Secondo proud.

    As for Phil and I, our second foray into the underground supper club scene left us happy.  Really happy.  It reminded us that even in a large, transient city like Atlanta, a group of strangers can get together and feel totally comfortable and relaxed with each other, while bonding over a universal love of something as simple as great food and wine.  Once again, thanks to Jenny Levison and her crew for planning a wonderful evening.


    (Jenny and me)

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