Thursday, August 31, 2006

Funny Videos: Flight 405

Okay, I admit it. I've become slightly obsessed with home video sites, such as You Tube and Veoh. As an example of a really well-made clip, here's Flight 405. The special effects are professional and there's a nice punch at the end, so stick with it because it's worth it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Lucee's Recipe Box


Matt from Matt Bites recently wrote an entry about finding his partner's grandmother's 100-year-old recipe box, just chock full of goodies. I can just imagine.

Well, he's inspired me to upload a few pictures of my mother's (Lucee) recipe box which I snatched from the remaining items of her household. Most of these recipes I would never consider making, but they do definitely tell a lot about what people were cooking back in those days. Lots of casseroles, Jello salads, dishes containing other packaged or canned items. I do enjoy leafing through them and seeing Lucee's handwriting, and that of our relatives and her girlfriends. Even one handwritten in my dad's chicken scratch printing he was famous for, a recipe for cracker blintzes, a recipe I think my grandmother made up, sort of a Depression-era desperation dinner using what was left in the ice box and pantry. Also, there's the stray newspaper clipping of some recipe which probably was never made, but was saved with good intentions. Don't we all have a pile of those sitting around somewhere?


Also here are a couple of shots of a CD Eddie's friend George from Newcastle, England sent us the other day. I'd never heard of this group, The Puppini Sisters, but, wow! , it's great, especially if you like '40s-style music, a bit campy but very very good. A cross of the Andrew Sisters, Bette Midler, Carmen Miranda and Blondie.


Here's what's written about them from Amazon.com :

Every now and then something comes along that causes a massive "Why on earth didn’t I think of that?!" reaction. Something original and quirky, that fills a gaping void and that appeals to just about everyone. Ladies and gentleman, it gives us great pleasure to welcome on to the world stage: The Puppini Sisters. Dressed with 1940’s glamour, The Puppini Sisters perform tongue-in-cheek classics in three-part close harmony. Their album, 'Betcha Bottom Dollar', is
one of the most accomplished, eccentric and original albums of the year - ready for a general public that won’t know what’s hit it but will thoroughly enjoy being ambushed! In the tradition of the greats, The Puppini Sisters have worked their own vibe and stuck to their guns, and the result is a work of pure genius. Tracks range from well known favourites such as Mr Sandman, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B and In The Mood, to more diverse covers such as I Will Survive, Wuthering Heights and Morrissey’s Panic.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New Favorite PBS Cooking Show - Joanne Weir's Cooking Class


My new favorite cooking show is Joanne Weir's Cooking Class, now showing on PBS channels. The first episode I've seen focused on basic risotto techniques. This series features a student cooking alongside Joanne, which is a bit different from a lot of shows. Joanne's bubbly personality comes through in her casual and straightforward teaching style. Techniques are explained and shown so that a beginner cook will not be intimidated. In fact, there were things to be learned, even for experienced cooks such as myself. For example, when the risotto is done, Joanne recommends covering the pot and letting it sit off heat for five minutes to completely absorb the remaining stock. I've set the DVR box to record all the episodes so I won't miss any of them. Like I need one more cooking show to watch! Actually, I do because the Food Network has mostly reruns and the newer shows don't really interest me because they seem to be more lifestyle and travelogue type programs which I can get on other channels. Heads up, Food Network! You're losing a longtime watcher here if you don't shape up.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Eggs Poached in Basil Tomato Sauce


For breakfast this morning, Eddie poached eggs in this sauce we picked up at half-price at Cost Plus. I must say, this is by far the best-tasting, freshest bottled sauce I've ever had. No hint of commercial bottled sauce flavors. He gently warmed the sauce, then cracked the eggs over and brought it to a simmer, covered, until the yolks were still a bit runny. Unfortunately, we did not get to enjoy them with a nice toasty slice of country bread. Nonetheless, it was delicious. We plan on getting back down to the Cost Plus store soon to scoop up the remaining half-price bottles. Next we'll try the bottle of puttanesca sauce, which no doubt will be on the spicy side. These sauces are nice to have around for a quick pantry meal, and getting an otherwise gourmet type of sauce at a good price only makes it better.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Beef Stew with Almonds & Olives




I had this recipe in my to-try file, and since we're still on the low-carb kick, this looked like it would fit the bill. One thing that drew me to the recipe was the odd procedure of starting out with the onions, garlic, meat and some water together in the pot and basically cooking it until the liquid is evaporated and has formed a nice brown layer on the bottom of the pot. An inexpensive dry sherry is fine -- I used what I had on hand; a bottle of screw-top Gallo brand -- and the addition of the spices along with the blanched almonds and olives gives this stew a distinctly Middle Eastern or Southern French flavor. This will definitely be made again, especially since it can be made a day ahead and reheated; the flavor only improves. We had it with green beans, but for more normal eating times, I would have made rice or simple boiled new potatoes to sop up the yummy sauce. The serving yield is for 6, but not in our world. This makes just enough for 4 servings, so next time I'll double it and freeze half.

Beef Stew with Almonds and Olives

(Adapted from Sunset magazine, October 1998)

2 pounds fat-trimmed boned beef chuck
1 onion (8 oz.), peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon bacon fat, if available
2 cups fat-skimmed low-sodium beef broth
2/3 cup dry sherry, divided
1/3 cup blanched almonds**
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup calamata olives, pitted
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Cut beef into 1-inch cubes. Place meat, onion, garlic, bay leaves, and 1/3 cup water in a 5- to 6-quart pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat to medium, and boil 20 minutes. Uncover and boil over high heat, stirring often, until juices evaporate and a dark brown film forms in pan, 10 to 15 minutes. Add bacon fat.
2. Add broth, 1/3 cup sherry, and almonds, thyme and cinnamon; stir to release brown film from pan. Return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour. Add olives. Cover and simmer until beef is tender when pierced, 10 to 15 minutes longer.
3. If more than 1 cup liquid is in pan, boil, uncovered, over high heat until reduced to 1 cup. Mix 1/3 cup sherry with cornstarch. Add to pan; stir until boiling.
Allow to cool, cover and chill overnight.

Reheat. Pour into a bowl; sprinkle with parsley.

Yield: Makes about 6 servings

** to blanch the almonds: bring water to boil in small saucepan. Drop in the almonds. Boil for about a minute. Drain. Rinse with cold water. Peel off the skins.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Laughlin, Nevada

The other day we took a spur-of-the-moment on-a-whim trip to Laughlin, NV. The drive was uncrowded and offered lots of spectacular scenery. We packed overnight bags in case we wanted to stay. When we arrived in town, we were really hungry, so we had a decent brunch buffet at Harrah's resort. After lunch and driving through town to get the lay of the land, we settled into a great room at the Flamingo, soon to be known as the Aquarius, as the hotel was purchased in May by the Las Vegas Stratosphere outfit. It will have a complete makeover and be done by November. Although the public areas of the hotel seemed a bit tired and well-worn, the room was just the opposite: clean, very light with floor-to-ceiling windows with a full river view, and a very efficient and silent air conditioner. We don't gamble much at all, so we can't see staying more than a day and a night, but would definitely return. Way more for your money than in Las Vegas. Of special note was our dinner in the steakhouse of the Edgewater Hotel.
Also worth mentioning was the breakfast buffet at the Flamingo for only $6.50, which would have been a dollar less with the casino club card.




Friday, August 11, 2006

Braised Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions, Raisins & Pine Nuts

The other day at Costco we picked up one of those mega-packs of boneless loin pork chops. I'm always at a loss what to do with so many; it can be a bit overwhelming, as many of you know. Geez, there are only two of us in the house. How much pork can a person consume?

I've had this recipe for Braised Pork Chops with Caramelized Onion, Raisins & Pine Nut Ragut that's been sitting around long enough, so I decided to give it a try. The recipe came from the California Raisin Marketing Board website, which has a rather nice recipe database with a comprehensive search engine, including lots of recipes by well-known restaurant chefs.

Let me say right off here that when I opened the package of chops, I was shocked by how thick they were. There's no way to tell without unwrapping them to know, but each one is almost like a mini pork roast -- at least 2 inches thick, some even more. So I halved them to make thinner chops and then brined them as follows:

6 cups water
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup table salt

Stir this until dissolved well, add the chops, refrigerate for about an hour or hour and a half, and then drain and rinse the meat and pat dry.

The recipe as written has the meat browned, then braised in the oven. I didn't want to turn on the oven for an hour (it's already 109 degrees outside); so I decided to try making it in the slow cooker. Well, let me tell you this turned out great, in many ways. The flavors were balanced, a nice sweet and sour tang; the ragut of onions, raisins and toasted pine nuts was just right with the mild-flavored pork; and best of all, dinner was ready and waiting when we decided to have it. All the clean up was done well ahead of dinnertime, so all we had to do was the dinner dishes. Easy, Easy. Here's the recipe, with my notes as I made it yesterday.

Braised Pork Chops with Caramelized Onion, Raisin And Pine Nut Ragu
by: Chef James Perillo


• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 6 center cut pork chops, seasoned well
• Salt and pepper

• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 3 large yellow onions, (I sliced them with food processor)
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, leaves only, chopped (used 1 teaspoon dry)
• 1/4 cup cider vinegar
• 1 cup California raisins
• 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
• 2 cups chicken stock (used only 1 cup in slow cooker)
• Salt and pepper

Heat a heavy-bottom saute pan very hot, add olive oil and sear pork chops until golden brown on both sides. Remove chops and set aside. In the same pan, add butter and onions and saute until caramelized. Add bay leaves and thyme; deglaze with cider vinegar. Reduce by half. Add California raisins, pine nuts, and chicken stock and bring to simmer. Place pork chops in a buttered casserole dish and spoon ragu on top. Cover casserole dish and place in 350°F oven for approximately 1 hour. Check to make sure pork chops are tender.
Serves: 6

As made on 8-10-06:

Caramelized the onions first. Added 1 t. dry thyme and bay leaves along with raisins and toasted pine nuts. Deglazed and reduced with the vinegar. Emptied pan into a bowl.

Browned 6 brined boneless chops, seasoned only with black pepper.

Set chops in bottom of crockpot. Topped with onion ragout. Added only 1 cup stock.

Set on low and will check after 4 hours.

Next time I'll check the dish after 3 1/2 hours; they'll be even moister.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Curry Chicken


Continuing with our low-carb eating this week, I finished off a value pack of chicken with my favorite curry in the world. This recipe came from 500 Low-Carb Recipes by Dana Carpender. I've made several recipes from the book, but I keep coming back to this one. Believe me, this is just about foolproof and takes about 10 minutes to throw it together. The recipe calls for chicken quarters, which I've used, but since I had on hand boneless/skinless, that's what I used. The sauce is to die for and I always make extra to put over the chicken or, when not watching carbs, over fluffy rice. I used enough sauce to bake the chicken, and then I reduced the remainder in a sauce pan for later, just in case we run out. While in the oven, the sauce reduces, thickens and takes on a nice golden hue. To finish it off, I fire up the broiler to brown the top of the chicken. To finish off the plate, I'll make steamed broccoli. This is about as easy and as good as it gets. Total winner!

Curried Chicken
(adapted from"500 Low-Carb Recipes" by Dana Carpender)

4 or 5 chicken quarters, cut up and skinned (be sure to remove the skin, or else it will turn out limp and flabby)
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon butter
1 rounded tablespoon curry powder (I prefer Madras brand)
1 cup heavy cream
4 cloves garlic, crushed (or to taste; I use more)
1/2 cup water
(I added: healthy pinch cinnamon, healthy pinch cayenne pepper)

Preheat oven to 375 (350 for boneless breasts)

Arrange chicken in shallow baking pan; chop onion and scattter over the top.

Melt butter in skillet and saute curry powder a couple of minutes, until fragrant.

Mix together and pour over the chicken the cream, garlic, water and sauteed curry powder.

Bake uncovered 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes (less for boneless), turning the chicken every 20 minutes so the sauce flavors both sides.

Arrange chicken on platter.

Pour sauce into blender and blend until smooth. Add more cream or water if necessary to get smooth consistency. Check for seasonings.

Serves 4
5 net carbs, 42 grams protein per serving

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Chicken Capri with Low Carb Coleslaw

After last night's unexpected invitation to dinner at a friend's house (the green chile enchiladas were fantastic!), we're back on track today with our carb-watching routine. I saw this recipe on the South Beach Diet site and saved it for this week. One or the other local markets always has on sale boneless skinless chicken breasts, and this looked tasty. Also, we had the ingredients in the house, so that saved me another trip to the store this morning. The chicken came in a large package of five really large breasts, so I'm only making two for tonight and will save the other three to make my version of chicken curry for tomorrow or Friday.
Instead of dragging out the food processor, I just used a fork to combine the ricotta and spices. I sauteed the chicken a couple of hours ahead of dinnertime and set them aside. All that was needed later on was to fire up the oven, cover the chicken with the ricotta mixture, the tomato and the mozzarella and bake them off. Easy Easy.
As a side, I made coleslaw with what was sitting around. The nice cold and crunchy textures from the cabbage and apples really hit the spot. With the leftovers, I'll wrap it up in lettuce and turkey slices for a midday snack.
Chicken Capri
(from South Beach Diet site)

Serves 4

1 cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup crushed tomatoes
4 slices reduced-fat mozzarella cheese

In a blender or food processor, combine the ricotta with the oregano, salt, and pepper. Process to blend. Rub the chicken with the garlic powder. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 12 minutes per side. Place the chicken breasts, side by side, in a large baking dish and allow to cool. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spoon 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture and 1/4 cup tomatoes onto each chicken breast. Top each chicken breast with 1 slice mozzarella. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of a breast registers 170°F and the juices run clear.

Recipe from The South Beach Diet Cookbook.
Nutritional Information:
340 calories
20 total fat (5 g sat, 15 g mono)
115 mg cholestero
l6 g carbohydrate
44 g protein
1 g fiber
470 mg sodium
Waldorf Coleslaw
(Based on recipe of George Stella's)

1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy mayonnaise
1/3 cup sugar substitute (recommended: Splenda)
1/2 cup shelled walnuts, coarsely chopped , toasted in microwave until fragrant
2 tablespoons pineapple vinegar
1/2 head of cabbage and 1 small carrot, shredded
diced green apple and 1 spear pineapple, diced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon celery seed


In a large bowl, mix all ingredients, tossing to combine. Chill for 2 hours before serving.