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The Whole Foods Experience
Among the highlights of my recent trip to Austin were the multiple trips to the Whole Foods flagship store. It is massive! Probably the size of a Super Walmart or something. We spent 2 1/2 hours there on Thanksgiving, proving to be the most lovely Thanksgiving celebration I have had to date. The only turkey we ate were smoked turkey legs, and that was mostly for the humor of it. There has been word that a Whole Foods is coming to Santa Barbara. If that’s true, watch out Lazy Acres, you just lost your best customer!
Texas=BBQ and BBQ=Texas. My one regret from the trip is that I didn’t
demand more BBQ. We went to a really popular chain called Rudy’s and it was delicious. No frills, just some of the best brisket I have had. My Hawaiian friends would be so jealous. The guy wanted us to try the pecan pie so bad that he told his manager that it was Meg’s birthday and for the rest of the night everyone was saying it to her. Mostly funny because she is the kind of girl who doesnt lie about anything at all (except that time at barons with that game…)
My Culinary Creations
This was a vacation for me from cooking, except for the cookie decorating activity at the resort we stayed at on Thanksgiving night. Given the lack of utensils and tools for decorating (a plastic spoon), I think I did a lovely job (made a piping bag out of used parchment paper). I figured that the most authentic cookies would have to be cowboy hats with Longhorns…cant overestimate how attached Texans are to those.
On our trip to the Whole Foods in San Antonio, we were bewitched by this loaf of apple, cinnamon, and raisin Challah bread. It really just called our names. Here is the basic recipe, though you may need to edit proportions.
Challah French Toast with Carmelized Bananas and Blueberries
serves 4 people
10,000 calories per serving, but worth every bite
1 loaf Challah Bread (I used one with raisins and apples in it)
2 cups eggnog (soy and rice available at some stores, I used Rice)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
8 T salted Irish butter
3 bananas, peeled and sliced
2 cups fresh blueberries
Maple syrup (none of that Aunt Jemima crap)
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
1. Slice Challah into 1 1/2 inch slices. Combine next 5 ingredients in large bowl and whisk to fully blend egg yolks. Add 1-2 slices of bread at a time, turning once and being careful to not break or over-saturate.
2. Heat 2 T butter in large nonstick pan on medium heat. Once pan is hot, add first 2 slices of bread. Cook for about 3 minutes per side, or until crispy and golgen with out burning. If the outside is dark and the inside mushy, turn heat down and continue cooking until cooked through.
3. Repeat with remaining slices. Add more butter to pan before adding new slices of bread. Keep slices warm in 200 degree oven.
4. Once all the slices have cooked, add remaining 3 T butter to pan and turn to high heat. Add bananas and blueberries and stir constantly for about 2 minutes. It should all be sizzling now. Add 1 cup maple syrup to pan and allow bananas to carmelize. You dont want the bananas to fall apart, just be browned on the edges.
5. To serve: Divide French toast among 4 plates and ladle fruit and syrup evenly. Serve with more butter and syrup if desired, but probably not necessary.
Well, as you learned if you read my Master Cleanse post, I only lasted 3 days. I broke down last night at about 10pm and ate a pepperoni pizza and a Caesar salad. Unfortunately, as you may soon realize, I can be a big hypocrite (“do as i say, not as i do”). Better I just tell you now rather than you accuse me of it later. I justified it (as i am able to do with most bad decisions) with the fact that since I had broken the fast everyday anyway and that it only lasted 3 days, that I wouldn’t need to partake in the “coming down” phase. I found it interesting that of the myriad of choices to break the fast that I chose a Caesar salad. Yes and pizza, too, but ignore that for now. So I was hiking today and contemplating the deeper mysteries of life and it dawned on me that I simply must take time to pay hommage to my dear friend, the salad.
A bit of background: My friend Em* and I decided this week that it was time to get back our girlish figures (the main reason I started the cleanse). I have committed to losing the 20-25 pounds that I have gained over the last two years, of which most can be attributed to sugar, gluten, and having given up my workout routine. I remember the days fondly when I used to love salad, and I am going to use it as one of my main strategies to get myself a hot bod. Works for Jennifer Anniston, it can work for me. It is unfortunate that salad gets such a bad wrap. The common “I’ll just have a salad” talk implies that it would really be tastier and more luxurious to dine out on some other menu option. Maybe some really do prefer meals that require a subsequent 2 hour nap, but let me try and open your eyes to the wonders of delicious salads that you may have yet to experience. Here are my top 5 reasons that salad should become a bigger part of your diet:
1. Flavor & texture balance: One of the characteristics of a good meal to me is that its well rounded. This means that it hits most of the notes on your tongue (sweet, salty, sour, bitter…and i will add spicy and creamy/fatty to that). Good sauces and salad dressings usually have these. Take a salad dressing, for example: lemon/vinegar (sour/acidic), sugar/honey (sweet), oil/mayo (fatty), pepper (spice), salt. You may not recognize or be able to discern why you would like one sauce over another, but I can guarantee you that the more robust and complex flavors will come from from those that are made with this in mind. People often ask me how I know what to add to dishes that are lacking once I have tasted them. This is a good rule of thumb, though it does take time to train your palette to be able to do it effectively. That’s why they pay me the big bucks, folks 🙂 Anyway, a good salad is smothered with dressing, but it doesn’t stop there. I like to pair the ingredients in my salads in a similar way. You can add an endless combination of things to give your salads a variety of tastes at textures. Let’s take the salad I made tonight, for example:
Candied walnuts (sweet, crunchy)
Chicken (salty, chewy)
Pear (sweet, juicy)
Green onion (spicy)
Walnut oil (fat)
Maple syrup (sweet)
Cayenne Pepper (spicy)
This was a delicious salad (recipe to follow). You may have noticed that the ingredients in the dressing ate the same as those in the Master Cleanse. If you did, gold star. (I thought it would be funny, ironic, and practical to use the same thinks that I was just yesterday downing solo every hour on the hour.) Anyway, next time you are composing a salad at home, at the salad bar, or scanning a restaurant menu, see if it meets these guidelines. Note: salad does not have to have all components to be wonderful, but if you really focus, you will find that most do.
2. Low Carb: It is agreed upon by most people that a low-carb diet helps you lose weight. Many argue that it is essential for good health. I personally thrive on a low-carb diet. Unless you are eating a salad of mostly croutons or a Panzanella (bread salad), one with lots of rice, beans, or other grain, salad will always be one of the lowest carb choices on the menu.
3. Mostly Raw: Now this isnt 100% true for all salads, but the typical salad will be composed mostly of raw veggies and fruit. Whether or not you are a raw food enthusiast, you can probably see the benefit to eating more raw stuff. Raw food provided a bountiful assotment of enzymes that cooked food lacks. These enzymes aid in digestion and are essential for good metabolism of nutrients.
4. Easily Accessible: You can get a salad most anywhere, and they can be easily adapted at restaurants to add/subtract things you like/dislike. Good luck doing the same with a quiche.
5. A Canvas for Creativity: Making a delicious salad can really boost your confidence in the kitchen with very little culinary knowledge. Try this: Go to Trader Joe’s and fill your basket with things you like. Go home and add it to a bed of lettuce with your favorite salad dressing and see what you think. Take the things out that dont work for future salads and continue to experiment with new flavors. I went to TJ’s tonight and spent $150 on this “research project” (tax purposes). Here is a sample of the things I bought to test new salad recipes. I am sure you would want to edit it down, but this will give you a good idea (try and buy organic when availible and budget allows):
Base: Romaine, spinach, arugula, cabbage, baby greens.
Marinated: Artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, bread and butter pickles.
Grains & Legumes: Precooked brown rice & lentils, black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, quinoa, canned corn.
Nuts & Dried fruit: Tamari almonds, Marcona almonds with rosemary, candied walnuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, Thai lime and chile cashews.
Protein: Turkey, salami, chicken breast, eggs, tuna, smoked salmon, bacon.
Cheese: Feta, brie, parmesano reggiano, aged gouda, goat cheese crumbles.
Fruit: Grapes, apples, pears, oranges.
Veggies: endless. Remember that those veggies that arent great raw are delicious roasted (eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, potatoes, squash, Brussels sprouts, fennel) and added in once slightly cooled. Also experiment with the way you cut the veggies (diced, shredded, chunks, thinly sliced, etc) for variety.
Salad dressing: either make your own with the framework laid out, or get a variety of your own. Spectrum makes a delicious line of dressing. TJ’s are pretty good, too. I like their Goddess Dressing.
Over the next couple weeks, I will be posting my new salad creations for you to try if you like. I would also love to know about the salads that you love and/or are experimenting with at home. If you try a delicious one at a restaurant, I want to hear about those, too. If I see any that I like I will put them in my new cookbook, “Ode to Salad” that I will be compiling once this little project is complete.
Happy and healthy eating to you this holiday season!!
*name has been changed to protect her identity
Here is the Thanksgiving menu that I am planning for this year. I will attach the recipes and my review of how it all turns out:
- Maple Bacon Turkey & Gravy
- Sausage, Apple, Sage & Pomegranate Stuffing
- Sweet Potato Casserole, two ways
- Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes
- WIld Mushroom, Carmelized Onion and Green Bean Sautee with Mustard Sherry Vinaigrette
- Fresh Orange Cranberry Sauce spiked with Grand Marnier
- Pumpkin Pecan Pie with Cardamon Whipped Cream (layer of punmkin pie, layer of pecan pie)
So when asked what 3 foods I would choose to eat for the rest of my life if I was stuck on a deserted island, this is always my response: sushi, bacon-avocado cheeseburgers with onion rings, and the day-after-thanksgiving turkey sandwich. I am pretty sure if i only had one, it would be the sandwich. Lucky for me, Thanksgiving came a week early this year. So while the actual sandwich is a snap if you have your key ingredients leftover, you gotta start with the goods: the turkey, stuffing, and gravy. This is now my 3rd year making Maple Bacon Turkey, and I am not sure that I can ever go back. The template for my recipe comes from Tyler Florence’s Recipe which calls for strips of bacon to cook over the turkey breast and for it to be basted with maple syrup. Un-freakin-believable. The gravy really is the key. After all, it is the culmination of 5 hours of cooking the meat and bacon with loads of garlic, onions, celery, carrots, rosemary, sage, thyme, stock, and maple syrup. This year i also has an extra pot going with the neck and gizzards, which i added in later on after straining. Some people like them cut up into the gravy, but i dont. Just cant get over the texture and mental images associated with raw turkey liver. Anywho, dinner last night was a big hit. The gravy was the best i have ever made, which leads to the main event today…
Do you remember the episode of “Friends” with Ross and his special after Thanksgiving sandwich? Its been awhile, but I think they sent him to anger management training when he freaked out that the sandwich (equipped with “the moist-maker”, a layer of gravy-soaked bread in the middle of the sandwich) was snatched by one of his colleagues. I totally felt his pain when I saw that. An over-reaction it was not. This is not just a sandwich. It symbolizes the byproduct of many hours slaving in the kitchen to make a moist and delicious turkey. To me, it is the prize for job well done. The dinner was a hit, the kitchen is clean, now here is your prize. Savor it and love it, because it is the last one you get till next year…ok, here it is for real:
The key ingredients: toasted sourdough bread, mayo, romaine lettuce, fresh cranberry sauce, stuffing, and gravy soaked turkey. Some people like mashed potatoes on it, too, but i prefer those on the side. Too messy.
The method: Spread thick layers of mayo on each side of toast. Top with heated gravy soaked sliced turkey, then heated stuffing (i actually like stovetop for this sandwich, but dont tell), shredded lettuce, spread cranberry sauce over the other side of the toast over the mayo. Recap: toast, mayo, turkey, gravy, stuffing, lettuce, cranberry, mayo, toast. I have always been a believer that the order in which you build the components is key. the shredded lettuce helps absorb some of the extra moisture of the cranberry and the stuffing absorbs some of the gravy. Today’s sandwich had no stuffing and i didn’t shred the lettuce, so it was literally dripping all over me (very sexy). I certainly didn’t need Ross’ “moist-maker”. I am still trying to figure out why this sandwich is so wonderful to me. I think i can try: The cranberry lends the sweet/tart component, the toast is slightly sour and crunchy, the turkey moist and savory, the lettuce cool and crunchy, the mayo creamy. That sums it up: the perfect meal (I think it’s also the only time that I dont have an ounce of remorse for eating gluten-rich bread. I have triend it with GF toast, and while it works if absolutely necessary, it really isnt the same as the sourdough).
Since we really are talking about the world’s perfect meal, it would be incomplete if i didn’t tell you about my favorite dessert: Pumpkin Pecan Pie. It is the best of both worlds: a layer of pumpkin pie and a layer of pecan pie. All in the same dish, THE SAME BITE! Truly amazing.
Finish sandwich off with a slice or three of pie topped with fresh whipped cream. All this talk is making me hungry. Time for round two.
Last Thursday night, a large wildfire errupted on the hillside about 2 miles from my Montecito residence. I was on my way home from the supermarket a little after 6pm, and saw it blazing on the hill. My first thought: “The power better not go off while my wedding cakes bake…that could be a disaster”. Priorities, right? But seriously, to have to re-bake a cake that will serve 30 people? What a waste of Madagascar Vanilla deliciousness!! As the night wore on and we saw the fire expanding from our front porch, fear began to creep in. If the winds decided to turn, my home could ignite as quickly as the Rum-glazed shrimps that i bruleed last year (that ended up on fire in the middle of the kitchen floor, but that is another story). I had remained calm for several hours, sure that the fire would be quickly contained, but then turning the television to CNN and getting a call from my dad in New Mexico told me that the fire-and story about the fire-were spreading more quickly than I thought (not to mention the neighbor alerting us that everyone else on our street was evacuating).
Ok, think, Camille, think! If I only have 4 minutes to save my stuff, what do I save?? First, the wedding cakes, 6 in total, followed by 3 bowls of frosting, and the bag of filling ingredients. Check. My collection of favorite cookbooks (Tyler Florence, Big Yellow Gourmet Cookbook, Moosewoods, Gluten-Free Bible, etc), my aprons, my knives, food processor, favorite sautee pan, and spices collected from around the world. Ok, I am feeling a little better now that these have been safely evacuated to my car (I wouldn’t be telling the whole story if I failed to tell you that I also evacuated my entire closet of clothes, about 7 trash bags worth…minor detail). I decided not to leave since we still had power and there wasn’t any smoke coming in our direction, thanks to opposite-blowing winds, and “The Office” was about to start. Hey, if the fire is going to melt the TiVo, better get one last episode in, right?
So to make a long story short, I stayed at home all night, and in the end, the fire missed me. Unfortunately, it did not miss my client’s neighborhood and they were evacuated for several days. Surely then would still need to eat home-cooked “Camille Food” as they have coined it, so in the midst of un-evacuating all of my 7 trashbags of clothes and assembling a 3-tier wedding cake, I came up with some really yummy Veggie Burgers with Homemade Pickled Cucumbers to deliver to them. Here is the recipe (well, the ingredients, anyway. i need to retest for the measurements)
Quinoa, Lentil and Black Bean Burgers with Pickled Tumeric Cucumbers
dried black bean flakes
grapeseed oil for frying
I served the burgers on sprouted wheat buns, but toasted GF bread would be lovely. I also would recommend a curried mayonnaise on the bread/bun to accompany the tumeric pickles. Dont forget the tomato, sprouts, and avocado!!
i will edit soon with the measurements.
So at the end of the day, the fire passed my clients home as well, and they are back safe and sound. Everyone else on their street was not so lucky. All told, the fire destroyed over 200 homes and many thousands of acres of beautiful Santa Barbara landscape. All because a couple kids decided to have a bonfire. Big bummer.
Oh, the wedding cake was a success as well! The fall Farmers Market flowers really made it unique, and it was delicious to boot. I will upload some pics shortly.