Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Pumpkin Butchering

There's an old saying about curiosity killing the cat. I don't know about cats but curiosity has always served me well. Waiting for a Caesar salad to-go, I pondered out loud about the squash anchoring the festive fall decorations sitting on the bar at Lidia's Kansas City. You see it was rather large for an indoor pumpkin. So I asked the hostess what they were going to do with it once Fall was over. "Well, the chefs will take it back to the kitchen and make pumpkin raviolis out of it." How great was that? So great that I asked if I could watch and by "watch" I meant be the photographic fly on the kitchen wall while they broke down the massive 80 pound pumpkin. After a flurry of emails with busy Chef de Cuisine Cody Hogan and Executive Chef Dan Swinney, I found myself squeezed into some tight kitchen spaces to witness The Pumpkin Butchering.


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pumpkin trio copy

pumpkin duo

pasta sheet duo

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ontheline1 copy

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butter zuchini almonds

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Now it would be much easier and probably more cost effective to buy a big can of pumpkin at the Restaurant Depot and call it a day. But that's the difference between OK restaurants and great restaurants. They take tremendous pride in their food, from seeking out the best local fresh ingredients to using those ingredients to make simple luscious well seasoned and balanced dishes. I can tell you that the best compliment I could give to the chefs that day was an grateful empty plate.

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You would be doing yourself a favor by finding and supporting those restaurants that understand that simple philosophy. I know I'll keep supporting the treasure that is Lidia's Kansas City.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Be Prepared

I have been known to keep a treat or two in my pockets for my four legged friends that I might run into while going about my daily business. However I was caught completely off guard when leaving my downtown KC workplace the other day.


This would be O'Sullivan and Blaise. I believe that's Officer Mike Mast with O'Sullivan but I didn't get the name of the officer on Blaise. I'll make up for it next time they come walking up the street by having an apple or carrot or two ready for sharing with our hard working police horses.

Are there doughnuts for horses.....?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sugared Cranberries

It's fresh Cranberry season and I'm celebrating. Cranberries, much like brussel sprouts, are an acquired taste. Which is fine, just means more for me but I've got to hustle because cranberry season does not last long.


I like the cranberry's flavor. It's got that bitter tang that adds another level of complexity to a dish or your meal. I'll definitely be making the longtime favorite from Epicurious, Cranberry Sauce with Port and Tangerines .
I've always wanted to try my hand at sugared cranberries. They are so pretty when I've seen them online and sugared fruits of all kind are a great food decorating method.

sugared cranberry1

Turns out it's a very easy process. Make a simple syrup, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water, simmered until the sugar melts. Let it cool just a bit because you don't want your cranberries to burst from the heat and then pour it over a rinsed, well picked bag of cranberries, coating well. Cover and let that sit in the fridge at least 5 hours or overnight. Once the cranberries have finished their simple syrup soak, drain them from the syrup and place the cranberries on cookie sheet, all in one layer and let them sit out for 1 hour. Then roll them, small batches at a time in sugar.

sugared cranberry2

Now the sugar suggestions range all over the map. Some recipes call for superfine sugar like caster, other call for a first rolling in a larger grained sugar, then re-rolling in regular sugar. You'll have to experiment with what you like best. I went with the really fine grained sugar. After which I proceeded to eat copious amounts of cranberry bombs.

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Guess what's coming to work as a snack??

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Chef Walks into a Grocery Store with Ten Dollars....

Best intentions. I'm sure they had the best of intentions. Who am I talking about? A whole passel of folks in the news recently but mainly I'm talking about the Partnership for a Healthier America. Last week a group of celebrity chefs gathered in Washington DC to stunt cook (but for a good cause). This particular event caught my eye for two reasons: 1) Tom Colicchio and 2) it was a straight up repeat of this challenge...

...where Season 4 chefs' shop at Whole Foods to make dinner for a family of four using a $10 budget. The twist this time? They are not pimping Whole Foods but their supposed challenge was to use SNAP coupons. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or the current form of food stamps. So the two teams of chefs were supposedly to use $10 of SNAP money to make their meal. But our long experience with Chef Tom tells us that there's no way he's going to actually take ten bucks into a grocery store and shop for a whole meal. Nope. As typical with restaurant chefs, they've jiggered the numbers again to allow themselves to use restaurant math to make this work for them. They also decided that the recipes that they produced were for two families. So already they've taken a very real situation that many people face today and cheated it into something totally unrealistic all the while giving themselves a big pat on the back for being so philanthropic. If you think I'm being harsh, here is Tom's list of ingredients for his three course meal of Salad, Beef Stir Fry and Panna Cotta with Orange Segments.

1 whole bag carrots, 1/2 cup raisins, 2 apples, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2 T apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper, 1 1/2 pounds beef round, 1 cup broccoli florets, 1 cup snow peas, 1 cup button mushrooms, hot sesame oil AND regular sesame oil, 3/4 cup soy sauce, 1 T oyster sauce, 1 T fresh lime, 1/2 cup green onion, 1/2 cup peanuts, 1 cup onion, 1 T garlic, 1/2 cup cilantro, 3 cups brown rice, 1 packet sugar free orange jello, 1 1/2 cups buttermilk and orange segments.

Now I don't have to go shopping to tell you how crazy that list is for regular folks and I'm not sure just what the rules are for what products are and are not allowed to be purchased using SNAP, but I'm thinking oyster sauce is not included. Here's what I do know. When faced with attempting to make every dollar stretch, every penny count, unemployed parents are going to hard pressed to turn away from a cheap Micky Dee's Happy Meal when faced with this list. Hell Tom's list is not so bad compared to Ming Tsai's list which includes two heads of frisee. But these restaurant chefs are going to have to accept the fact that folks using SNAP are not going to have two kinds of sesame oil in their pantry, if they still have a pantry at all.

So what did they accomplish? Did they raise a lot of money for their non-profit? Probably. Did they raise awareness about healthy eating? Not sure since there were no nutritional values listed in the press releases or on their website where I found their recipes. Did they convince anyone that the meals they made can hit their ten dollar budget? Highly unlikely since again, no monetary values were attached to the recipes. Did Chef Tom get the experience of having someone spit out his creation in front of a live audience? Hella yes! (Read all about it here at the Washington Post article describing the hilarious spit by spit event) But let's just take a cold reality shower and remember that 60 Minutes and CBS News recently had a sobering piece about families living in vehicles because of the economic reality many are currently experiencing.

Arielle Metzger and Austin Metzger

Maybe these two kids should give a seminar on eating healthier on $10. It might be a little more honest.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Update

I don't know about you but I had an awesome Thanksgiving holiday. I ate so much that I'm pretty sure I'm going to need to wear my Wonder Sauna Pants for at least a week.


I'm not sure how this will fit in with the office dress code....however knowing my co-workers I doubt I will be the only one wearing a pair. I had the pleasure of not cooking a darned thing for the dinner. Let me tell you it felt mondo weird but my big gay boyfriend Craig had it all covered, including this beautiful table setting with a tablecloth he threw together himself.

pretty table


Craig actually had the dinner catered. I'm not telling you who did the catering because it was so freaking delicious that I don't want the secret to get out.

turkey and gravy

By the way, if I'm ever in a coma and my mom's gravy is unavailable, this is the 2nd in line turkey gravy to plug into my IV in order to revive me. Even though we had plenty of food, Craig decided to deep fry his own turkey.

deep fried turkey

He was testing out Butterball's new indoors turkey fryer. He had the small model but it worked so well on this little turkey he went right out and bought the larger version the very next day.

Good food, good friends, children telling embarrassing stories about their parents, and plenty of libations to keep the mood festive. Even the weather had a good time and busted out with the low 60's that allowed us to sit outside and snack before dinner. But the icing on the cake? A soft, adorably cute, 10 week old Brittany puppy named Dusty.


Really, if you want to make your party a total success, rent cute puppies and let them loose on your guests. Especially if you to see me turn into a goobering idiot.

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Hi, my name is Dusty and I want to whisper secrets in your ear...

Meanwhile back in the kitchen, a tragedy is about to happen. Turkey carcasses were about to be thrown out. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!


I'm fairly certain Craig thought I was crazy but just like making fish stock, meaty carcasses make the best stock. Since I hadn't cooked anything before the meal, I rushed home to cook after the meal. First I cleaned off a lovely pile of meat from the two turkey carcasses I rescued. Next I arranged all the bones into a big roaster and let them get good and brown. Then I hauled out my big blue granite ware canning pot and dumped the hot bones in some water with some onions, celery and carrots and a little bundle of fresh herbs. A couple hours and a lot of skimming later we have turkey stock.

So I've got plenty of white meat, dark meat and stock. What to do? Actually our weather helped me decide. Currently we have been yoyoing between winter-like temps and Indian Summer. The day after Thanksgiving swung back to the cold side so soup seemed like a good idea. I'm not a white meat aficionado so finding a way it more palatable was necessary. Tortilla Soup seemed like a winner.


Since this was basically a leftovers meal, I didn't want anything too complicated. The Pioneer Woman Cooks had just the right Tortilla Soup recipe. I only had a couple of changes to her recipe. First, didn't have to roast any chicken breasts since I had the turkey. I did sprinkle some of the spice mix over it and then stir fried the white meat in a little bit of oil to give it some depth.

leftover turkey

Followed the rest of the recipe except that I added some finely diced jalapeno and a can of hominy to the soup. As for the toppings, I went with fresh onion, cilantro, avocado and lime. Many recipes call for sour cream and Monterey Jack cheese but frankly, with the avocado, who needs it?

tortilla soup 2

Oh so the right choice. Earthy flavors of cumin and garlic with the brightness of lime and the crunchy yumminess of corn tortillas. Really this is almost a stew but who's complaining. It's the Thanksgiving that keeps on giving.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you should remember that we had a Pie Off not too long ago. One of the pies in the running was Momofuku's Crack pie. Froggy over at her blog has a Thanksgiving family tradition of making a Mystery Pie and yep, you guessed it, she made Crack Pie. Go on over and look at it's loveliness. By all accounts Crack Pie goes into the win column.

My last duty of Thanksgiving is to give Dani of Gardening Under the Florida Sun her Thanksgiving Holiday turkey.

dani thanksgiving 2011

Mr. Dani should be thankful that I'm only giving her a digital turkey because we all know she wants a real one.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Foodies come in all shapes and sizes

Jackson and I have a routine. We walk. A lot. We walk because he can jump my backyard fence as easily as he breathes. So at least three daily walks happen. He enjoys it because it allows him to patrol his neighborhood for squirrels, rabbits and crows and I enjoy it because my leaf lard ass sits in this chair entirely too much blog surfing. So we walk. As you can imagine, we see a lot of squirrels. Squirrels in trees, squirrels on the ground, squirrels just being squirrels.


What sometimes scares me is when we don't see any squirrels at all on our walk, as if the world had gone all zombie and the zombies started by eating the squirrels first. (not really a bad thing)

squirrel stare


Anyhoo, we were out on one of our mid-afternoon walks when we spied a pair of squirrels in the street. This is not unusual. The fat one in the middle of the street had something that appeared white in it's mouth. I say white because I couldn't really see it and my brain just assumed it was an apple. Of course Jackson saw it and went into his patented super slow silent stalking mode, convinced of his own invisibility. I know this because I get nastiest dirty looks whenever I step on a dry leaf when he's in his stalk. Normally the squirrels feel the deathrays shooting out of his eyes and scamper back up the nearest tree post haste. But this squirrel, he kept coming towards us, heading for a tree on the other side of road, very slowly. Drool puddles started to form beneath Jackson's feet in anticipation of Slow Stupid Squirrel. Me? I'm suddenly worried that the white thing in the squirrel's mouth is foam and that we've found ourselves a rabid squirrel. The situation almost reached the point of leaping dog death teeth when the squirrel, not rabid, not slow nor stupid suddenly dropped what was in it's mouth and turned furry tail and ran back across the street. For all you folks who don't believe animals experience emotions like disappointment, anger or frustration, you needed to see Jackson after the Almost Squirrel Snack.


It wasn't until I comforted the hound at his near miss of having a squirrel actually walk into his mouth that I finally saw what the squirrel was hauling back to his nest.

squirrel bread

A full freaking loaf of french bread??? This loaf was longer than the squirrel. No wonder the dumb ass was moving so slow. I'm so sad I didn't get to see him attempt to get it up his tree. Of course my first thought was "Who throws out a whole loaf of french bread?". My second thought was, damn, squirrel's got foodie game! You go Squirrel! Don't forget the brie.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play

The season of blood has begun. The trees, in one last gasping spasm of summer life, practically bleed from their branches.

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It's at if some tragic and bitter massacre has occurred in countless yards and forest floors, some mysterious battle fought and lost....

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...leaving behind dry brittle bones and blood stained images tattooed into hard surfaces. It's not just the trees that bleed.

leaf outlines

It's the season when men and women take to the woods in sturdy fashions of swirling brown and green. Sitting in trees, crouching in high grass, waiting. Little lies are told of past hunts and if the waiting goes on long enough, bigger truths are examined and revealed.

Tim's Antelope

Hunting is woven deeply into our shared dna, whether immigrant or native born. Protein kept us alive when this country was so very young. Hunters today heed the call of their dna, their blood. They return home with sweat sculptured hair, all angles and waves. They return with cheeks and noses ruddy from exposure, padding around like giant camouflaged ducks with thick grey wool-webbed feet. They nap and dream of big bucks and racing blood.

Chris's Antelope

Most home cooks today only know meat as something vacuum sealed in plastic and styrofoam, waiting in a refrigerated case, only to be thrown in a grocery cart, practically bloodless and sterile.

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The blood, if any, to be instantly cleaned from the kitchen with anti-bacterial sprays for fear of "cross contamination". Death by chicken blood.

antelope blood

We are lucky to still have a season of blood. That the deer and the antelope still play in such numbers that we can enjoy and appreciate nature's bounty.


I am lucky enough to be the recipient of such bountiful gifts of venison and now, antelope and I am always grateful, especially since I am not a hunter. I always try to do right by the beast that fed me.

roast antelope

This wonderful and tender antelope roast was prepared by using a recipe I found at Texas Hunt Works. It was delicate and juicy and I can't wait to try more recipes for the rest of the antelope I have in my freezer. Thank you Tim and Chris, it's good eatin'.