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All posts for the month October, 2009

Creepy Eyes From SuZenDu

Creepy Eyes From SuZenDu

Best Halloween Foods

Halloween isn’t all about the “Boo” anymore.  It’s about the food!

There’s something about Halloween that gets people feeling creative.  Maybe it’s all the time and effort thinking about costumes that just spills over into thinking about spooky new recipes, but there’s just something Halloween the brings out the food stylist in all of us.  (Except me since I stink at the visual stuff, but that’s another story…)

Anyway, because I am so visually challenged, I wanted to reward the creativity in others.  That’s why I put together a short list of the best Halloween foods I found this year.

But first we’ll start with a bit of self-indulgence.  Who could forget the Deviled Eggs that Skyle shared with me from last year?  Also, here is the Halloween menu I did for Big Blend Magazine based on the famous Hell Night menus at East Coast Grill in Boston.  It’s HOT (and HAWT)!

15 Hauntingly Healthy Halloween Snacks (Check out the hand coming out of the dip)
Top 10 Creepy Halloween Recipes (The Crawling Hand Rocks)
Scary Halloween Recipes (Eyeballs a la Indiana Jones)

Oh, and one tip from GeoKaren: mix Scotch and Starburst for a great adult cocktail.  I’ll take her word for it!

Anyway, click and keep in mind next time you need a spooky holiday party.  Enjoy!

Picture from SuZenDu.

Fantasy Top Chef

Fantasy Top Chef

Yes, I’m a day late.  But last night I was assisting in the teaching of a class with Jasper Mirabile at the Kansas City Culinary Institute.  We made a ton of ziti.  It was great for dinner after class.  And lunch today.

But without furhter ado, we have some business to take care of:

The fantasy Top Chef standings:

Me: 22
Michele: 19
Josh: 14
Debbie: 13
Karen: 13
Colleen: 11
Elise: 8

Elise doesn’t talk to me anymore.  *Sigh* 

Oh, and word to the wise…if you ever get into a league with Michele, don’t talk trash with her.  She’s a pro.  I was duly impressed.

Also, for my fantasy top chef knockout pool I had Robin.  Yay me!  Still it in.

——–

Here is the part of the post where I talk about food lessons from the show.  What did I take from last night’s episode?  Vegetarian food rocks! 

Well that, and apparently for all the time I was vegetarian I was subhuman.  Thanks Eli!  At least I know you’re going home to parent’s house soon.  (Kidding…)

Anyway, like Robin, I was made a little giddy by the prospect of all that awesome veggie produce in the walk-in.  Especially all the mushrooms.  I love mushrooms.  And eggplant.  I feel I could have created a dish with all that that might have made Natalie Portman smile.  But, there was something that caught me.  There was no tofu in that walk in.  No seitan and probably no vital wheat gluten.  No tempeh.  No Match Meat.  WTF???

I actually sat there for a minute, thinking about what I would make and I panicked.  I had no idea what to do with out my meat replacers.  How could I possible make vegetarian cuisine without my meat replacers???

Then I calmed down and started thinking like a Voltaggio (kidding.  Technically I should say I was thinking like Kevin during lent)…and some ideas started flowing.  Had I been standing in CraftSteak, I’m pretty sure my menu would have looked like this: a trio of ravioli, one mushroom, one pea, and one eggplant out of homemade pasta and serve them on a bed of alfredo and red pepper marinara.  Maybe a side of balsamic roasted carrots.  I think I could have made a happy vegetarian or two with that menu.

Recipe for Homemade Pasta
Mushroom andEggplant Filling
Pea Filling
Alreado Sauce
Homemade Pasta Sauce

Maybe I’ll make it one day.  Natalie, call me?

Aunt Else's Aebleskiver

Aunt Else's Aebleskiver

Who’s ready for aebleskiver?  What, you’ve never heard of aebleskiver?  Well, you won’t be able to say that anymore after we talk about

Aunt Else’s Aebleskiver

Okay, I wouldn’t be surprised if you had never heard of aebleskiver.  I hadn’t until a chance viewing of The Best Thing I Ever Ate on Food Network in which someone (Duff Goldman maybe?) mentioned how much he loved the things.  I didn’t give it much thought until I happened to meet Aunt Else Aebleskiver on Twitter, who started a company selling all organic aebleskiver mixes, complete with their own hardware!

When she offered me a pan, I absolutely jumped at the chance to try them out for myself.  So she sent me Aunt Else’s Aebleskiver Starter Kit (scroll down to the bottom of the page to order one for yourself!) which included my really cool 9 hole aebleskiver pan, a bag of mix, a stainless steel chopstick, and the heat resistant handle cover.  Like it says, it was everything I needed to get started aebleskivering. 

What is an Aebleskiver?

An Aebleskiver is a Danish pastry (and believe me the Danish know pastries.  Think about it, they had one named after them.)   Strangely enough, the term Aebleskiver means “apple slice” since they were originally filled with apples, though more modern versions come filled with any number of savory and sweet combinations.

Personally, I tend to think of it as a pancake dumpling.  When I was mixing the batter, it looked a lot like pancake batter (and bubbled like it, too.)  However, the batter is poured into holes maybe two inches around and fried to make things that look like dumplings.  Top with powdered sugar, maybe a little syrup, and boom!  Aebleskiver.

I love the contrasting textures in the aebleskivers.  The outside of the aebleskiver is firm and tender while the inside is moist, tender, and chewy.  They are a perfect little bite that is surprisingly unsweet without the assistance of the aforementioned powdered sugar.

There is One Problem: Making the Aebleskiver is HARD!

To make an aebleskiver, one must:

  1. Season your pan if it’s brand new because Aunt Else just sent it to you.
  2. Heat your pan
  3. Make your batter
  4. Pour in about 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil
  5. Fill the aebleskiver hole about 90% of the way up
  6. Let the oil fry the batter forming a stiff outer edge (this should take as long as it takes to fill the aebleskiver holes)
  7. Stick your chopstick or special Aunt Else aebleskiver chopstick into the batter and pull up the already cooked outside and quarter turn.  (The instructions refer to this as turn.  I would have called it a pull or a flip myself since your are pulling the outside out of the pan rather than rotating it.)
  8. Wait a bit, turn them again.
  9. Finally, turn them a final time.

Now, if you are reading this and thinking “what?”  It’s okay, I was to.  I had to find an online demo of how to make the darn things, like the one Aunt Else has on her Aunt Else’s Organic Aebleskiver homepage.  I would highly recommend you don’t even THINK about making an aebleskiver without watching that video.  Twice.

Even then, it will probably take several tries to really figure out the aebleskivering process.

My hope is that I can get Aunt Else to come on the blog and help us figure out  a few things.

1.  The directions say that the pan should be “hot.”  However, how hot is hot?  And conversely, how hot is too hot?  (I know I found too hot once, but that’s a different story.

2.  When, precisely, do I know that the outside is set.  I think that’s the key to knowing when to turn.

Still, once it’s all said and done, you can truly sit back and say that you have learned a skill only a few possess!  Then you, too, can sit back with a big plate of these little Danish fried goodies and truly enjoy.

Notes I learned the hard way:

  • The handle guard that comes with the aebleskiver pan is flammable.  At least I think it’s flammable.  It might be some batter got inside of it and that caught on fire.  One way or the other, don’t leave it on the handle when making aebleskiver.
Shawna Coronado's Pumpkin Harvest

Shawna Coronado's Pumpkin Harvest

Also, happy World Pasta Day!  Good grief, so much going on.  We better get right into

Penne with Basil and Pumpkin Bechamel

Wow…so let’s see…  This recipe is my #meatlessmonday post for Meatless Monday. 

It’s also the last of the 2009 Nude & Eco-Cheap Cooking recipes for this year (boo!  I know, I’m bummed.)  I’d team up with the awesome Shawna Coronado for any cooking challenge anywhere and I am going to miss all her delicious veggies.  Still, as winter touches the Midwest, all her nude (no chemicals) eco-friendly veggies are going away and without the veggies, it’s hard to feed a family of four for less then $10.50! 

But, if she’s up for it, I’m would love to see a 2010 Nude & Eco-Cheap Cooking Initiative!

Oh, and before I forget,  it’s also World Pasta Day, which can only be celebrated by eating pasta.  Which is how we get to this crazy recipe  I dreamed up.  Continue Reading

Fantasy Top Chef

Fantasy Top Chef

Yes, I am posting this after the ep is over, but I haven’t watched.  I am really looking forward to it when I get a chance to watch it in a few minutes.

Until then, know that my Fantasy Top Chef knockout pool selection was Mike I.  See you soon!

—-

Okay, here’s the scores.  It was an interesting week since there was not one Quickfire winner, but four.  Though there was only one Elimination winner.  To be fair, all four chefs earned their respective fantasy owner 1 fantasy point for their quickfire win.  So after that week, the standings are as such:

Me: 20
Michele: 16
Josh: 13
Debbie: 13
Karen: 12
Colleen: 10
Elise: 8
All I can say is that thank goodness for Michael Voltaggio.  Keep the points coming!!  Also, I am still in my knockout pool!
Oh, and as always, keep reading the live blogs on TNSmackdown.  There is always live blogging about every Top Chef!
—-
So normally I try to do something from the episode, but frankly, nothing really grabbed me as being blogworthy.  So, instead of talking about the episode, I am going to take this opportunit to give a shout out to the people at BoBo Restaurant located at
1471 E 151 Street
Olathe, KS 66062
If you live in Olathe and need some carry out Chinese, give BoBo a try because they’re really  nice people.  And they are open late.
See last night, I was out running errands for my wife and I had BWD, Jr. with me.  And we’re cruising along when I hear:
BWD, Jr.: “Daddy, is there a gas station?”
Me (thinking): Oh crap.  “Do you have to go potty?”
BWD, Jr.: “Yes.”
Me: “Can you hold it?”
BWD, Jr.: “I don’t think so, Daddy.”
So we pull off into a parking lot because I see a Walgreen’s that looks open.  I drive up, park, check the hours, and see they’re open until 10:00 (it’s about 9:30 because errands had gone pretty poorly.)  So I get my son out into cold, get him to the door and see two people inside sitting there, doing their best to ignore me.  That’s when I see the sign “Open October 23.”  It’s the 21st.
BWD, Jr.: “Daddy, I really need to go.”
So, off we sprint across the parking lot up the minimall to BoBo Restaurant which, blissfully, is open until 10:00.  We scurry into the restaurant and I let BWD, Jr. make a beeline for the potty while I figure out what I am going to order.  (I wasn’t hungry, but it’s kind of a jerk move to use a bathroom and not pay for anything.  Unless you’re the 24 hour Kinko’s in Lawrence, but that’s a differnet story.)
So:
Me: “Shrimp with Lobster Sauce.”
Them: “Anything else?”
Me: “Nope.”
Them: “Cash or charge?”
Me: “Char…crap, I left my wallet in the car.”
Didn’t matter.  They still let me place my order, waited for me to get back to  the car, grab my wallet and come back and pay.  $7.50 for a dinner portion with tons of rice, an egg roll, a crab rangoon, and an extra fortune cookie for a much happier BWD, Jr.   Not too shabby.
Crisis averted and BWD, Jr., who suddenly realized he was FAMISHED, got a bedtime snack of white race.
So, Top Chef was good, though my girl Jen C. nearly got removed from the rolls.  Still, last night was really about how grateful I was that BoBo was open until 10.  If not, I might have had a mess on my hands.
Shawna Coronado's Pumpkin Harvest

Shawna Coronado's Pumpkin Harvest

Yep, that’s right.  It’s another #meatlessmonday and another installment of the 2009 Nude & Echo-Cheap Cooking Initiative.  Today we’re making

Pumpkin Soup

If you’re not familiar with the 2009 Nude & Eco-Cheap Cooking Initiative, that’s where I take the delicious veggies grown by the always awesome Shawna Coronado and turn them into a meal for a family of four that costs less than $11.50.  Can I do it?

Yes I can with this easy, but delicious pumpkin soup.

I actually love pumpkin season.  I think it’s kind of a shame that it only seems to be popular for about two months.  Still, every year people go NUTS for pumpkins: pumpkin desserts, pumpkin soups, pumpkin coffee drinks, pumpkin pizza, and so on.  Then even before the Thanksgiving leftovers are done…BOOM… everyone’s on to peppermint or sugar cookies or some other Christmas phase.  Anyway, I’m ranting.

The good news is that for the next month or so we can continue to enjoy pumpkin recipes like this one.

Continue Reading

Milagro Mole Brushed Shrimp

Milagro Mole Brushed Shrimp

Mole sauce tastes good on beef, burgers, and pork, why not

Milagro Mole Brushed Shrimp

Yes, sadly we have come to the final part of the trinity: the last delicious meal I made from one single bottle of @melanieyunk’s delicious mole sauce that she gave me.  Now, this is the second bottle of Big Acres Gourmet® Milagro Mole® sauce that she’s sent my way.  The first time I blew it all one dish.  The second time I got smart: I spread it out, making not one but three delicious dishes including these beautiful shrimp.

For those who haven’t had the Milagro mole, it’s a little bit heat and a little bit sweet, but it’s really good.  It’s a surprisingly complex mixture of raisins, nuts, chocolate and chilies so it simultaneously excites all your taste buds.  It’s one of those sauces that if the raisins were a little more sweet, the chocolate and chilies a little more savory, or the nuts a little more intense in flavor, the sauce would go from delicately balanced to disastrously awful.

The good news is none of that happens and you get a great sauce for making amazing Tex Mex dishes.

Continue Reading

The Climate Will Affect Our Food Supply

It’s Blog Action Day.  Are you ready to make a difference?

This year, bloggers from around the world and standing up to say now is the time to do something about the climate.  I know, it’s a weird thing for a food blog to be talking about, but I’m a locavore and slow food guy for a reason.   I know changes in the environment will affect the amount of food we have to eat in the coming years.

But what does that really mean?  Affect food supply? 

How about the end of the apple?  In her post Blog Action Day: Saving Apple Pie, FreshNewEngland argues (quite convincly) that the changing temperatures are affecting apple production.

Go ahead.  Click it.  I can wait.

I’d never really thought about it like that before, but she’s right.  Climate change is changing the length of growing seasons everywhere, including New England, Minnesota, and Missouri where the best apples in the world are grown.  Ergo climate change = no apple pie. 

And as we all know apple pie is the true non-partisan issue.  Who doesn’t love apple pie?

Living in Kansas, I am around farmers all the time.  My family were farmers and I know the climate here in the Midwest (always weird) is getting more unstable.  However, that article suddenly made the government euphemism “loss of food security” actually mean something. 

More greenhouse gas = less apples and maple syrup.  Oh my!

But it’s not just apple pie

Even worse, it only took a Google search for me to realize what else climate change means to my state.

According to a NASA-GISS, Columbia University, Florida State University study, one of most credible models about the environment in the coming years shows that rainfall will significantly decrease across both Kansas and Oklahoma.  That’s bad, m’kay?  While a lot of agriculture has shifted to California, Kansas is still the bread basket of United States.  We grow a lot of wheat, soy, and corn that feed thousands of people every day.  And we grow cows.  Holstein cattle are raised by factory farms and artisan ranchers which supply the nation a bunch of delicious meat.

And that’s just the large scale production.  There are also small and medium farms growing fresh produce all across this great state which feed many local families and are sold to restaurants and homes all across the region.

All of that is threatened.  All of it.  If rainfall decreases while greenhouse gases increase (which according to estimates is a certainty if we don’t make a change soon…), both meat, according to the University of Maryland, and crops, accoding to NASA, will be harder to grow and farms harder to maintain if we cannot reverse climate change soon.  So in other words, if you like fresh bread or if you like your K.C. Strip, the time to act is now.  Do something about it.

Here are fifteen things you can do to make a difference.  (Scroll down to the bottom.)  You can also download my eBook Greening Your Diet which talks about food choices and recipes you can make to help the environment.  You don’t need to make huge change.  All it takes is all of us making small changes and one hundred years from now your grandkids won’t be having to ration their meat.  Or their water.  Or their food.

Think about it.  If not, there might not be as much food to enjoy.

Fantasy Top Chef

Fantasy Top Chef

Top Chef comes on in less than 1 hour!

My pick for tonight’s strikeout pool is Laurine!  I’ll be back in about 2 hours with Fantasy Top Chef updates as well as tips on how to cook like the top chefs.

And while you’re waiting, don’t forget to check out TNSmackdown‘s live blogging!

——-
Okay, Fantasy Top Chef Update.
Suicide Pool: I picked Laurine and I am still in.  (I sweated that ending like a whole bunch.)
Me: 19
Michele: 15
Josh: 13
Debbie: 12
Karen: 11
Colleen: 10
Elise: 8
Again, it looks like I am still on top.  Who would have figured I’d still be scoring points with Robin.
——
Okay, so the cooking topic for today is confit tomatoes.  Kevin put them on his almost winning Quick Fire dish and seems to just love the darn things.  I, personally, have never made them, but they sound awesome.
Real quick, anything confited means that it is slow cooked in fat.  The most common example is duck confit, which is duck meat cooked in its own rendered fat.  It is totally yummy.  However, you can confit just about anything if you want to slow cook it in fat. 
When I say slow cook, I am talking about cooking the tomatoes for several hours in just enough oil to cover them.  This slowly infuses them with all the delicious flavors of the fat and develops their flavor.  Of course, it makes them a little less healthy than they would be in their raw form since, well, they did just take an oil bath.
But sometimes, things have to be sacrificed on the altar of flavor!
Anyway, I found two different recipes for confit tomatoes.  The first is a long version, taking about an hour.  The second is a much quicker version using cherry tomatoes that would be just perfect for … say … a Quickfire.
Long version: LATimes.com
Short version: The Maltese Bacon
Now, get to slow cooking and enjoy!
Oh, by the way, picture from BravoTv.com!