Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bread Pudding - White Chocolate Cherry Flavor

So here is the bread pudding recipe I promised. It's in "kitchenspeak" so you might have to translate a little.

Yield = 1/2 hotel pan (about 14 x 10 x 2 inches)

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
6 yolks
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
Zest of 1 orange
2 cups dried cherries, soaked (soak in cherry liquor if you have it)
1 cup white chocolate chips
croissant or brioche cut in very small pieces. enough to fill the hotel pan.

Grease the ramekins or hotel pan very well! Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Scald milk/cream mix.
Whisk yolks and sugar until ribbon stage.
Temper the cream into the eggs and let cool to room temperature.
Add vanilla and orange zest.
Add drained Cherries and chips to bread cubes. if you used the cherry liquor, add a little of that to the mix.
Mix custard into bread cubes in batches and wait for the bread to absorb the custard.
The consistency should be like gooey oatmeal. pour into ramekins or into the hotel pan. Bake for 30 minutes at 375 and check for doneness. the puddings should puff up a bit and be GBD. (Golden Brown and Delicious!) Maybe another 10-15 minutes depending on your oven. The recipe is forgiving, but don't overcook it.

Serve warm with some whipped cream or ice cream.

You can unmold these from the ramekins and serve on a plate or serve them in the ramekin. If you make this in a pan, you can cut squares when its cold, and then reheat before serving.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Quick Yummy Lunch Stir Fry Chard with Farro

Today for lunch I made some Farro (well that was left over from the other night) and baby rainbow Swiss chard that I sauteed with shallots and garlic and then finished with Tamari and Siracha hot sauce. SOOOO GOOD! Oh it was so yummy I couldn't stop eating it. This is going to be my new quick stir fry recipe.

I'm sure you are asking what is Farro? From what I have been able to find out, its an old Italian grain, similar to whole wheat. it is also called Emmer Wheat. It cooks quickly (about 25 minutes) but uses a 3:1 ratio instead of rice or quinoa that uses a 2:1 ratio of liquid to grain. Although, I have seen recipes that call for a 2:1 ratio for the Farro. I made 3:1 and it is wonderful!

3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup farro
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced green pepper (use red or whatever color you have)
1 clove garlic smashed, but left whole
salt and pepper to taste
2 T olive oil

heat olive oil over medium high heat in a sauce pot with a tight fitting lid, add onion and green pepper, saute for a few minutes. Add garlic clove and saute for a minute more. Add Farro and stir for a few minutes. Add hot or room temp stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 20-25 minutes. Check for doneness. Farro should be tender, but a little toothy, NOT al dente. Remove from heat and cover and let sit for a few minutes if there is still some liquid to be absorbed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove garlic clove.

Add ins:
a couple of handfuls of spinach, some artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper OR use it as a base for the stir fry, and season with soy sauce, sesame oil and scallions.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cocktail Party Prep - before the snowstorm

I made my shopping list and prep list. This shouldn't be too bad. Well if I can get everything before the snow falls that is! The party is Friday night and hopefully I will have everything done in advance and all I have to do is show up and cook everything.

This is a hors d'oeuve buffet, so everything is self serve, no fancy passed items. It just wasnt that type of party. The main attraction for the buffet is spice rubbed tenderloin. I'm serving that with rosemary balsamic carmelized onions and traditional horseradish sauce on garlic crostini.

I'm making my favorite nuts from Ina Garten. Her cashews are to die for!
Here is the recipe:
20 oz salted cashews (I use raw ones, unsalted)
2 T chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 tsp. cayenne
2 tsp. dark brown sugar
2 tsp kosher salt (I use sea salt)
1 T melted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Place nuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes until they are warm. While nuts are in the oven, combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Take the warm nuts out of the oven and toss in the bowl with the mixture.

These store very well too. Make them for your holiday party and watch them disappear!

I'm also planning Christmas dinner for my family which should be so much fun this year. We are doing a Frontera Grill inspired meal. Guacamole, Ceviche, pulled beef tacos, roasted tomato salsa, tomatillo salsa, spicy mushroom tamales, achiote roasted vegetable tacos, black beans, rice, and for dessert: Mexican Wedding Cake cookies and Swirlz Cupcakes. My mouth is watering already!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Favorite Cookie

Favorite Holiday Recipe: Mexican Wedding Cakes from Betty Crocker's Cookie book. We call them Pecan Crescents. We make these every year and actually fight over who gets to make these cookies and who makes the best ones. I think mine are the best. I really wanted to make them this year, but my niece called "dibs" first.

We are doing a Fontera Grill Inspired menu for Christmas this year. I borrowed my sisters cookbooks to do some research for recipes and traditional Mexican holiday dishes. I'm really excited to have something other than turkey...again!

So far we have: ceviche, guacamole, pomegranate mojitos...really, what else do you need...LOL. more to come on recipe research and beverage recon....

Monday, November 30, 2009

Turkey day traditions Vegan Style

I love holidays since they revolve around my two favorite things, food and gathering together to have a good time.

I remember growing up, my mom would make something really interesting for Christmas Eve dinner, but not Christmas day and especially not Thanksgiving. Not until recently did we start making some new and different foods and all are vegan. My niece has always been vegan and almost everyone in my family needs to eat better.

I am not so adamant about having the same traditional foods at holidays, probably because I never liked green bean casserole or the candied yams. I was just a stuffing, turkey and cranberry girl. And probably because we would always go to my aunt and uncles house for thanksgiving and the turkey was really dry. I remember running out of water one time and wondering how I was going to finish my turkey. Yeah, it was that dry.

So this year with two vegans in the family and some other "dairy phobes" and people who want to eat better, we made everything so anyone could eat it then you would just add your turkey and gravy if you wanted to. I had another motive for this, to convince my meat dominant family members that vegan food tastes good. I think I won over some people especially with my sleeper dish, Swiss Chard Gratin. Everyone said, "I don't normally like this, but it was good." That to me is the ultimate compliment!

I can't wait for Christmas. We went to Frontera Grill and had brunch together and were inspired to do a Mexican Christmas feast.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gingerbread house part 2

So the house is complete and was turned in. Now its on display and up for voting for "people's choice". I entered the "Professional" category hoping I could advertise my business, but right now no name is on the display. I went to go look at it and a small part is already broken, but its just the fence, so I'm not too worried.

The reception is on December 14. You can go to the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, WI and view the houses. Remember to vote for me!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gingerbread house part 1

So I decided to enter a contest for building a gingerbread house. I've never done this before, well on 2 levels, never entered a food competition nor built a gingerbread house. So, why not? I'm a pretty good pastry chef, how hard can this be?

I met a woman at a friend's birthday party who told me about the competition and how it would be great marketing for my personal chef business. I found this all out Sunday night, researched recipes and plans on Monday and baked the house on Monday night. Tuesday was assembly and starting to decorate. I am landscaping right now...

You can find photos here, and on my Facebook page, RUNNING GOURMET.

Part 2 to come....stay tuned!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Whole Wheat Banana Muffins

I saw this in Oprah's mag over the summer and just made them and inhaled 2 muffins. They are moist and delicious. The recipe is great, but the instructions got me in trouble! I have made some corrections and posted the recipe below.

1 cup whole wheat or all purpose flour ( I did 1/2 and 1/2)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup light brown sugar (I have dark brown and used that)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick butter) butter or veg oil (I used butter of course)
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas about 2-3
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp. orange zest
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line or grease a muffin tin. You can use a large 6 muffin tin or standard 12 muffin tin.
Mix dry ingredients together.
In a mixer, cream butter or oil and sugar. Add bananas, egg, applesauce, vanilla and orange zest. Mix well. Add nuts. Fold dry ingredients into wet.
Scoop out into prepared muffin tins. Fill only 3/4 full. These will rise a little bit.
Bake 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What is comfort food?

Someone asked me, "What is your favorite comfort food?" and I didn't have an answer. I eat different things for different feelings/issues. Like having a cold/flu I want homemade chicken soup, if I have a full blown cold then I want Mexican or Chinese food so I can taste it. When I was a kid I loved, prime rib, green beans and mashed potatoes. Chocolate chip cookies always make me feel better, maybe that's my comfort food.

Now that I am trying to clean up my diet and eat better, I find more comfort in eating a well balanced meal full of veggies and healthy grains. The bag of Cheetos, while tasting good for a few minutes, really leaves me feeling not so good, physically and mentally. Guilt and gas, not fun.

I am choosing to be very conscientious about what I eat, sometimes that is a drag. Like counting calories, its a pain at first, but after you get used to it, the practice becomes second nature. I have a few friends who are losing weight successfully with this method. I lost weight by cutting out empty calories. I ate a lot of white starchy foods, desserts and snacks. Its a wonder how I was doing Ironman triathlons and not losing weight until it dawned on me that I can't eat whatever I want. I cut out desserts first, increased salads and veggies, then cut portions down and cut out potatoes and pasta. I used to be addicted to carbs, but realized that they weren't good for me. My body wanted protein. Then in the off season I cut out the 4th meal. In training I would eat 4 meals a day.

The thing about comfort food, it shouldn't make you feel bad physically or mentally. If you are in a bind, sick, stressed, traveling or working late, go for the healthy option. Ultimately you will feel better in doing the right thing for your body and mind. Taking care of yourself is the most comforting thing of all.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sore throat - need chicken soup STAT!

I just made chicken soup. Comfort food is the best when you really need it, like going to bed with a raging sore throat and waking up with it even worse!

1 cut up whole chicken into 8 pieces
1 gallon water
2 onions, skin on, large dice
3 carrots, large dice
3 ribs celery, large dice
1 small clove garlic, peeled and left whole
handful of fresh parsley stems
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of whole peppercorns
fresh thyme stems or marjoram stems

Put everything in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes at least. Taste your stock. Pull out the chicken on a plate and let cool. Strain the stock. You can save the veggies and bones to make another batch if you like. Pull the meat off the bones and dice it up to spoonful size. Put stock back in the pot.

Put the veggies for the garnish in the simmering stock with the pasta. Add diced chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 25 minutes more. Add fresh parsley before serving.

1 cup of pasta of your choice - I used ziti, because it was open
2 carrots - medium dice
2 ribs celery - medium dice
ground black pepper
chopped fresh parsley

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Itchin to get in a kitchen

I'm really feeling the creative juices flow. I want to cook up some experimental food and need guinea pigs to taste it. On the list: savory biscotti, grilled shrimp with chermoula marinade, posole, green chile stew, vegi chili, pizzas. Oh i'm getting hungry just thinking about it all!

The good thing is i now have been cleared to run by my ortho. I fell 6 weeks ago and broke my collarbone, that put a monkey wrench in my fall cooking plans since i couldn't even lift a full pot of soup! When i was able to ditch the sling and lift a pot I made a stick to your ribs, lentil soup

Clean out the fridge lentil veg soup

1 16 oz bag of lentils, washed and drained
2 T olive oil or canola oil
8 cups of water, veg stock or chicken stock (your choice, I used chicken stock, homemade of course!)
1 14 oz can of tomatoes - fire roasted would have been great here too!
1 leek, washed and finely chopped
2 carrots - small dice
2 celery ribs - small dice
2 cloves garlic - just smashed and left whole
1 parsnip (like i said, cleaning out the fridge)
1 poblano pepper - small dice
1 yellow pepper - small dice
fresh baby spinach about 1/2 bag or 3 really big handfuls
salt and fresh ground pepper TT (to taste)
soy sauce - low sodium, preferably Tamari or Shoyu if you can find it.
Really good olive oil and smoked sea salt for serving

In a large soup pot, heat about 2T olive oil, and add leeks. saute for about a minute, add carrot, celery, parsnip and garlic. Cook for about 5-7 minutes on medium heat. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Don't go heavy on the salt, because you are going to add soy sauce later and finish with some salt, but you need some salt at this point to build flavor. If you have to stick to a low sodium diet, don't salt at this point and just add the salt at the end. You will get the most bang for the buck that way.

Add peppers and cook for a few minutes. Add rinsed lentils and stir, add tomatoes, stir. Add liquid. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer.

Simmer for about 20-30 minutes, covered with a few holes for venting. Check volume of liquid frequently and add more if needed. I started with 6 cups and ended up adding the final 2 because i ran out of liquid. Add spinach. Add about 3T soy sauce to start, taste your soup and adjust seasoning as you like it.

For serving, a big bowl of soup - drizzel some really good olive oil on top and sprinkle some smoked sea salt on top too. serve with some crusty bread. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ahh the joys of a commercial kitchen

I love working in a big kitchen. big ovens, sheet pans, mixers, and knives. All the tools you need to get the job done quickly.

Yesterday I made: spiced molasses cookies, cinnamon sugar cookies cut into little acorns and oak leaves dipped in chocolate, an apple and raisin strudel with caramel sauce, 2 salad dressings and some spiced nuts.

I am working with Tom Leavitt of White Oak Gourmet and we are catering St. Viator Day at St. Viator in Arlington Heights, IL. The dinner is for 55 people and the menu is going to be really tasty!

Cocktail Hour with passes Hors d'Oeuvres
Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette, Spicy Walnuts and Bleu Cheese
Choice of:
Roast Prime Rib of Beef with Fresh Horseradish Sauce
Pommes Dauphinoise and Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Salmon with Pommes Puree and Pommes Frites and Sauteed Spinach
Apple Cinnamon Ice Cream and Pumpkin Ice Cream with Spiced Molasses Cookies and Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

Enough to work for me!

Friday, September 25, 2009

shiner and a busted shoulder

It's been almost two weeks since my mountain bike crash, and I'm doing better. I can now drive short distances, stay awake for a full day and I am off the painkillers.

I had just finished my triathlon season with a 2nd place AG finish and a 9th place AG finish at the Chicago Triathlon. I was very happy and riding high on these two personal bests. Then, I got on a mountain bike. My friends all made it look very easy...well its not. I crashed by making a dumb decision and now have a broken collarbone, some awesome bruises on my leg and hip and a shiner. I lost a bit of memory and still have no recollection of the crash, getting up and walking back to the parking lot.

So how does this relate to food? Since I can't work out like I was, I have to cut back on my calories. So far my weight hasn't gone up. I'm still holding 134 lbs. I'm really happy about that. When I train a lot and race a lot, and all of a sudden that is taken away from me, well it can get depressing. When I get depressed and bored, which I am, I eat. So I have been coming up with menus and dishes to keep me satisfied, full and keep my weight under control.

Since I am starting a personal chef business cooking for athletes and people who want to make healthy eating a priority in their lives, I am having fun being my own guinea pig. I have always experimented with food and cooking, but now I can see the direct results of diet and being sedentary and how to control your weight and be happy.

Now I just need to go get some clients and use myself as an example. The proverbial making lemonade out of lemons, no?

So would you hire a personal chef with a shiner and a busted shoulder?