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Watch Chef Holli Ugalde on Hell's Kitchen

Watch Chef Holli Ugalde on Hell's Kitchen

With all apologies to Paul Harvey, the last time the Chef Holli Ugalde was featured on Blog Well Done, her story was only half finished.  When we last saw our intrepid culinary star, we learned how she get on the show, what her favorite ingredients were, and what, exactly a banquet chef does.  (Though we did fail to find out what part of India wraps their halibut in a banana leaf.)

However, there were still eight chefs fighting for their place in culinary history.  Not a single black jacket had been handed out and the horror of almost seeing Ed’s privates were still a little too fresh in our minds.

We couldn’t let that stand, especially the part about Ed’s privates!!  So, we invited Chef Holli back to finish the tale of her triumphant ascension into Hell’s Kitchen culinary fame.

And much to my surprise, she accepted.

The Truth Behind My Prediction

First thing’s first: my confession.

In my article, I boldly predicted that Chef Holli would win Hell’s Kitchen.  And I meant it.  Of course, when I was interviewing her, I might have said something like “You’ll get a black jacket for sure…” not realizing there were only two eliminations left until the final six.

Who knows how to sweet talk a famous chef?  (Hint: it’s me!)

Now on to more exciting matters…

What’s It Like to Win

Strangely enough, Chef Holli hates the fame, acclaim, and fortune that comes with winning.

Okay, not really.  She’s really excited and happy about the win.  “So many doors are opening,” she says.  At the same time, though, it’s “exhausting.  I’ve never told the same story so much in my life.”  (For the record, I’ve now made it a life goal to get bored talking about myself.)

In all seriousness, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Congratulations, Chef.  You deserved it.

The Truth Behind the Confessional

It’s probably not one of the top things you want to know about Chef Holli, but I really, really wanted to know how the whole confessional thing worked.  So I asked.

Apparently, there were soundproof confessional rooms all around the dorms and near the kitchen (“They were supposed to be soundproof,” Chef says “…I could hear them talking.”)  Chefs were free to go to the booths and spill their guts any time they wanted.

Still, did you ever notice how pissed off the chefs were during their confessionals?  That’s all real.  At any moment, one of the production staff could tell a chef to go do a confessional, including during dinner service! This means during the part of the show that would determine if they were staying or going home, the chefs had to balance the demands of reality TV with the exacting standards of one very vocal, grumpy chef and fifty hungry diners.

If the confessionals weren’t enough, the chefs had to deal with always being miked up and having to do battery checks.  Lots of battery checks.  Don’t even ask Chef Holli about battery checks.

It was not an easy feat.  “People say ‘It’s just cooking,'” says Chef Holli.  “’Anyone can do that.’  But there’s so much more.”

Blue Jay…Did He Fly Away?

Yes and no.  Chef Holli talks to Blue Jay all the time, even after the comments he made on the show.  “He’s such a dork,” she says, but they were just friends and flirted.  She liked the back and forth with him and much preferred spending time with him than say, Ben.  That was as far as it went.

Besides, she says “I’m so not a sweet little innocent person.  I felt like I was messing with [Jay].”  From the look in his eye after the “house in London” comment, she might be right.

So, to recap: for now, single men you’re in luck.  She’s still single and says she doesn’t see that changing.  Although, if you want to catch her eye, you’ll have to compete with the random guys who email her marriage proposals.  Which you never know, she might accept.  Although, as a suggestion for the emailing hopefuls out there, add a picture or two.  And maybe, I don’t know, use some blue hair dye?

Ben

I always give the benefit of the doubt to reality TV personalities.  I figure the way they are on the show can’t be how they are in real life.  “Ben was the same,” Chef Holli said.  She says she’s watched and rewatched the show and as far as Ben’s attitude goes “I think he hated women in the kitchen.  I don’t get it really.”

And the back thing…totally fake.

Why would he fake it?  Chef’s explanation: “[Ben] can’t stand to watch a woman kick your butt.”

And that’s all I am going to say about that, but you might want to ask Chef Holli about it.  Her opinion on the subject is quite illuminating.

Why She Won

One of the questions I received was whether Chef Holli deserved the win over Blue Jay.  Jay, as he himself pointed out, had years of head chef experience and looked very confident running the pass.  Chef Holli readily admits “It was a big shock to me.  I kept wondering if I had the wrong door.”

At the same time, Chef Holli feels that Chef Ramsey was looking for someone he could mold and who wasn’t done growing.  In other words, someone like Chef Holli.  Now, she’s on her way to London.  (Though she promises not to let the molding go too far.  She’s doesn’t see herself screaming nearly as much as he does.)

So, if she’s heading to the Savoy, it begs the question:

And You’re Not in London Because…

…Paperwork!

Apparently, the Federal government doesn’t take culinary stardom as seriously as they should.  The paperwork allowing her to take the job in a foreign country is still in progress.

To appropriate governments, I say: HURRY UP!  Chef Holli opens in October and she’s got to get over there because I have reservations.

When she does finally head for the Savoy, it will just be her and her son (and maybe her mom for the free babysitting.)  No one else.

I know you want to know more.  That’s all I’m going to say.

Where’s Chef Holli?

In the meantime, it’s not like Chef Holli is sitting around doing nothing.  She just relaunched her website (which is dead sexy.)  She is working on a cookbook, for which she is trying to get input.  If you go right now (and promise to come back), you can tell her ingredients you are scared of and she’ll make recipes based on them.

For instance, I am afraid of preserved duck eggs.  What are you going to do with that, Chef?

Also, she’s been doing hotel, restaurant, and beverage consulting and will continue to do that wherever she goes.  Though you have to figure that California restaurant consulting is a bit different than London restaurant consulting since California restaurants rarely serve haggis or steak and kidney pie.  For this we are thankful.

She is also releasing a line of gourmet olive oils.  They are cold pressed and flavored with blood orange, meyer lime, or kumquat.  (Yes, kumquat.  I don’t get it either.)  There is also a white truffle infused oil.  In addition to the olive oils, she is very excited about her line of 25 year old balsamic vinegars.  They come in traditional, vanilla fig, raspberry, pomegranate, and kumquat.  (Yes, kumquat.  I don’t get it either.)

Editor’s Note: I am pretty annoyed because it sounds like they won’t be available in Kansas City any time soon.  Whole Foods, I’m looking at you here.

She’s also the voice behind her Twitter account @ChefHolli and had enough time to talk crap on my son after he picked Blue Jay to win.  (Good use of your time there, Chef!!)

Anyway, with all that going on, it’s probably okay to say that Chef Holli has been a little busy.

And now you know the rest of the story…sort of.  While the book of Chef Holli’s time on Hell’s Kitchen has been written, the future has yet to come.  Who knows what she will accomplish?  Who can say what she’ll do in the future or when she’ll have her shabby chic eatery or whether I can convince her to partner with me in a Kansas BBQ joint.

Still, though, at the end of the day, there is one final question that I fear may forever remain unanswered.

C’mon, really, the halibut…the banana leaf…Indian…really?

BLT with Seafood Salad#GoJunkFood is back, this time with

Gourmet BLTs with Sriracha Seafood Salad

See, @elleskitchen and I were thinking that with the gourmet hamburger craze, the bacon, lettuce and tomato (BLT) just hasn’t gotten the love it deserves.  So we decided to dedicate this edition of #GoJunkFood to the tastiest, craziest, gourmet-iest BLT sandwiches we could think of.

The inspiration behind my BLT was the need to be a little different.  Last time I did breakfast loaded fries, and that was okay, but not earth shattering.  This time I wanted to do something people would remember.  Thus, the BLT with Sriracha Seafood Salad was born.  It’s a little bit BLT and a little bit lobster roll, but it’s pretty darn good.

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KCBSKansas City Barbecue Society Cookbook

Barbecue… it’s not just for breakfast anymore.

Such is but one of the many pearls of wisdom featured in the Kansas City Barbecue Society Cookbook, a treasure trove of barbecue wisdom from the United States’ best BBQ town: Kansas City, MO.  (Okay, so I’m a bit biased, what can I say?)  But regardless of personal bias (and the fact I was sent a review copy), this really is a cool cookbook.

It starts out with a history of the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS), which was started in 1986 to bring together BBQers (called cookers) from around the area.  At its inception, 30 cookers paid $12 to be members.  From these humble beginnings, the KCBS has turned into a premier BBQ association, publishing the first edition of the Kansas City Barbecue Society Cookbook with it’s subtitle Barbecue…it’s not just for breakfast anymore in 1995.  In the intervening years, the society has also grown from 30 members to over 13,000 and now sanctions 300 BBQ events from coast to coast.  (I love this town!)

So when their 25th anniversary rolled around, KCBS had more then enough contributers to submit recipes and make the their 25th Anniversary cookbook something special.

Kansas City Barbecue Society Cookbook

Enough about KCBS, it’s time to eat!  (Well, read about eating anyway.)  The Kansas City Barbecue Society Cookbook is a collection of more than 200 recipes that covers everything from marinades to sides to fish to pork to beef to eggs and absolutely everything in between.  If it can be cooked BBQ style, there’s an entry.

However, I will admit, the cookbook’s comprehensive study of all aspects of BBQ suprised me a little bit.  I expected this fine cookbook to contain a bunch of recipes for brisket, a bunch of recipes for ribs, a few recipes for pork butt, a bunch of recipes for BBQ sauce and rub and about a 20 ways to make baked beans.  Now, let me say in no uncertain terms I would not have been unhappy with that cookbook at all.  Not one bit.

What, I got, though was something far better.  For instance, I like to grill fish and seafood.  There’s recipes for oysters “thermidor”, ahi tuna with maui onion dressing, ahi steaks, fish boil, and salmon (among others.)  I have thought about BBQing desserts and if I wanted to, I now have the recipes for Big Will’s Triple-Chocolate Cheesecake, Rick Browne’s Brown Bag Apple Pie,  bourbon sweet potato pie, and no-bake cookies that can be done BBQ style.  And let me tell you that I have never had the desire to make chicken livers on the grill, but with the Kansas City Barbecue Society cookbook, now I can.

Aw, yeah.

Putting the Kansas City Barbecue Society Cookbook to the Test

So, whenever I review a cookbook, I like to cook something from it.  Just to test it out.  And since I am from Kansas City, I just had to do Korean Fire Meat!

(What, you were expecting pork butt?)

The recipe with paraphrased directions follows below, but let me tell you, this was some good Korean beef.  My one mistake was using dark soy sauce because it was a bit too salty.  Next time I’ll buy some low sodium soy sauce and use that for the marinade.  Still, check this recipe out!

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Crispy TendersGardein Crispy Tenders

Welcome back to another #MeatlessMonday.  For this week’s post, I thought I would again review a product from Gardein, who was nice enough to send me several coupons to try their product free of charge.

Now, the WellDone family is quite the connoisseur of vegan faux meat replacements, stemming back from the time that we were vegan or vegetarian.  Even though we have started to eat meat again, we still love faux meats because they taste good, but have far less fat and many fewer calories than the real thing.  That’s a good thing.

So, how did Gardein crispy tenders stack up?

The Good

When grading vegan faux meat products, I tend to grade them on two factors (also known as the BlogWellDone Vegan Meat Product Dual Index Rating System™…okay that’s not true.)  The first factor takes into account how tasty the vegan meat product is overall.  In other words, it measures the product on its own merits.  The second factor is how pleasing a non-vegetarian/vegan would find the product. 

All in all, Gardein crispy tenders are probably my favorite vegan chicken nuggets on the market.  Gardein’s chick’n has a nice, sweet flavor like good white meat chicken and it has pretty good texture for not being the real thing.  Plus, the breading that has been deep fried on (yes, I said deep fried) and is slightly salty with a nice hint of pepper.  We cooked them in the oven according to package direction and they were decently crispy, especially for frozen chicken nuggets.  So in the overall factor, they do very, very well.

How do they do as a meal for non-vegan/vegetarians?  Of all the Gardein and Morning Star Farms and other frozen faux meats, the Gardein crispy tenders rate as my fave for non-vegetarians.  In fact, if you serve them with a dipping sauce, most of your carnivorous eaters will have no idea that there’s no meat in them there tenders.

The Bad

Actually, there wasn’t that much bad about Gardein crispy tenders.  If anything, it might be the shape.  They’re too long to be nuggets and not long enough to be chick’n fingers.  Visually,  my son was more than able to tell that the crispy tenders weren’t his usual nuggets and this caused a whole slew of issues.  But that’s more my son’s issue than anything else.

In Conclusion

Buy them, they are good.  What, you were expecting something poetic? 

In all seriousness, the Gardein chick’n tenders were really good and could be eaten by themselves, in quesadillas, in sandwich wraps, on salads, coated in buffalo sauce, however you like.  They are BlogWellDone approved!

So, yeah, in the end, give them a try.  They are perfect for this Meatless Monday or next week’s or the week after or the week after…

Photo from Gardein.com.

Blueberry Pancakes

Today’s guest post is from Jen Schall from My Kitchen Addiction.  She was nice enough to let me guest on her blog and then offered to do a guest post for Blog Well Done.  How could I pass up such an offer?  The recipe looks amazing and you’ll never see prettier food photos on my blog!  Enjoy!


Pancakes3I could eat blueberry pancakes every day.  Sometimes I do. It doesn’t help that I always see commercials for a boxed pancake mix.  In the commercial, they sing “blueberry pa-an-cakes” and I find myself singing along… And craving pancakes.

I think the advertisers are onto something… Most of us are busy in the mornings and don’t want to take the time to measure out all of the ingredients for pancakes from scratch. Wouldn’t it be helpful if we had a convenient mix that would make the process much easier?

I thought so, too! Don’t worry (or send me hate email)… I’m not proposing that you go out and pick up a package of the boxed pancake mix. You won’t find that stuff in my kitchen. Instead, I have put together a homemade pancake mix that you can mix up when you have some free time and store in your pantry. Then, you’re ready whenever the pancake cravings strike! In fact, these blueberry pancakes can be mixed up using only one mixing bowl. Oh, and did I mention they are healthy, too? The pancake mix is made with white whole wheat flour, but that can be our little secret.

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summer_grill_productChavrie Blue Berry Salad with Walnuts

At 9:30 PM a few weeks ago, I had a startling realization: I had to bring a dish to church the next day!!  Well, it wasn’t so much a realization as it was an acceptance that I could no longer procrastinate, nor did I have a viable excuse to get out of doing what I promised.

“To the refrigerator!” I cried and I went to the refrigerator.

See, there’s something everyone needs to know about me.  I live in a constant state of preparedness…for the show Door Knock Dinners. Ever since the first New York Battle on Iron Chef, I’ve become obsessed with the idea that any time, Gordon Elliott or an Iron Chef (or you know, me) could walk into my house and prepare a huge gourmet meal with only what I have in my fridge, freezer and big freezer downstairs.

So, it was with the highest level of confidence that I  attacked my pantry on a quest to make something to take the next day.  Let me tell you, I came up with the best idea.  I was going to layer sheets of puff pastry with layers of sweetened goat cheese and fresh, homemade blue berry syrup and then top the whole thing with a nice splash of blueberry balsamic.  Sounds pretty good huh?

Then I realized I was in no mood to cook and made this salad instead.

But you know what?  It rocked!!  It was also my first experience using Chavrie as anything more than a cracker spread.  (Here it comes, FTC disclosure: I was given coupons for free samples, which is why we had some in the house.)

Because it was my first experience using Chavrie, I wish I could have done a little better with it.  I simply did not realize just how soft it was.  Normally when I make this salad, I use feta crumbles.  The Chavrie was far softer than that so when I cut into it, it wanted to spread on me.

Next time, I hope to not be making the salad on the hood of my car so I’ll have time for a little more finesse, but whatever.  (Did I mention I had to buy and breakdown Romaine lettuce in the Target parking lot?  By the way, yes, I still could have made it on Door Knock Dinners, but then it would have been a spinach salad and I wanted Romaine, darn it!)  Still, it was  a good salad.

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Photo Credit teafromtaiwan.com

Photo Credit teafromtaiwan.com

Oolong Tea (a.k.a Crack Tea)

So, funny story.  I was sitting in front of my computer, with a nice little headache, talking to a friend of mine who is dragging a bit.  We’re both lamenting because he’s tired and I’m trying to think of a topic on which to write.  Anyway, I start telling him that instead of energy drinks, whenever I feel like I need a pick-me-up or when I have a cold, I drink crack tea.  For minutes I go on and on about how this green oolong tea we get from TeaFromTaiwan.com is better than coffee, makes us feel better when we are sick, and is basically what makes us awesome.

I’m not sure he went and bought any, but it did give me a topic.  I’m going to review crack tea!

Wait, Why’s It Called Crack Tea?

Well, for starters the package is written in Chinese characters, so we had to call it something.  More importantly, we called it crack tea because the minute it entered into our office, none of us could stop drinking it.  I would go through 2 bags a day and I started hoarding some in my desk because I wanted to make sure it would be there when I needed a fix.  I even carried some around in my planner because I might need a little at home.

Okay, I have to stop here and say don’t freak out.  While all of that was true, I wasn’t quite the addict I claimed to be.  (Hi Mom!)  It was just I do love my caffeine and I used the stuff to get me off soda, which was pretty cool.

Anyway, crack tea also earned the name crack tea because of the caffeine in it.  We said drinking it was like being on crack, though frankly, I’m not sure any of us actually know what that’s like.  (Daniel?)

Either way, the stuff tastes good (tea purists will roll over in their grave when they hear I sweeten it … with Sweet and Low), it packs a punch, and seriously, if you have a cold, it’s 1,000 times better than DayQuil.  So if you get the chance, try some out.  A pack of 50 bags is only $16, which is a bargain when you think of all the soda and over the counter cold meds you won’t need to buy!

Fair Warning

I don’t know, I feel the need to raise the only concern about crack tea I have.  My concern goes back to the package being written in Chinese characters.  I honestly have no idea what’s in it.  I am pretty sure it’s only tea leaves and maybe a little cassia bark or something for flavor, but if you are really concerned, a little more research or a call to the owners of the website might not be a bad idea.

Honestly, at the end of the day, the stuff is probably made in the US and given crazy packaging so that American consumers think they are getting something mystical.  I’m not too worried about it.  The site appears reputable and I seem to be okay after drinking it for almost a year, so yeah, I say go for it.

Get your own crack…er oolong tea!

Picture taken from teafromtaiwan.com