Monday, April 6, 2015

Begin with butter ... and a lot of love

When you're busy, starving or just don't want to go out to dinner... try going back to basics with a simple and classic white sauce known as béchamel. My Mother used to make this sauce and place sliced leftover roasted chicken on toasted bread and pour the white sauce on top. Served with a salad or roasted carrots. Tonight I deviated the recipe and used fat free milk. Gasp! I know, I know, but I've got to cut down on some of the fat somewhere.
What is a béchamel? Is a simple sauce of milk, butter and flour. In a sauce pan melt butter and slowly add flour. Stir until combined and the taste of raw flour is cooked away. Pour in slowly room temperature milk and stir constantly until combined with a wooden spoon or a wire whisk. If the milk is at room temperature the mixture combines easily and prevents lumps. Sprinkle with salt, freshly cracked black pepper. But, wait you don't have to stop there. I added garlic powder, dried basil and a few red pepper flakes, just to spice things up. I also sautéd thinly sliced onions in butter and olive oil and added them. A classic béchamel sauce has simply salt, freshly ground or cracked pepper...either white or black with freshly ground nutmeg. NUTMEG? Oddly, enough the warmth of the nutmeg combined with butter, flour and milk is delicious! For my final touch I added fresh broccoli florets. The florets will cook while the sauce simmers and thickens. Broccoli florets? Yep, cut a section of the broccoli flower off. Then cut a smaller section and cut each stem gently into to smaller pieces.'ve got florets. Sometimes I cut the florets fresh from the Farmers Market and freeze them, use them as a snack or toss them into a salad.
Allow the mixture to simmer until thick. Add shredded roasted chicken and spoon over pasta. Simple, huh? And a small serving is very filling.
A béchamel sauce is easy, creamy and versatile and can be used to make a MEAN wild mushroom lasagna. There is something that I like about the mixture of béchamel with pasta. It's a divine match.
So, if you are having a busy evening and no ideas for a meal or just want to walk on the wild side and create something new.

Cooking with love makes any recipe taste better.... even when going back to the basics with butter.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Low calorie ...and full flavor.

If you love The Culinary Arts as much as I do you might find your taste buds leading you in directions you've never explored.
On this day I was wandering the isles' of my favorite grocery store, Wholefoods, picking up essentials for the week. After picking up a package of pita bread, I paused for a moment to examine the whole wheat version of the same brand. When you take a pause, a breathe and listen to what the universe has to offer... unexpected pleasure come through.
In the case the pleasure was an idea for a satisfying, yet low calorie, version of pizza. I adore pizza! But have you ever considered the calories one single slice has? Let's take Round Table for instance which has over 290 calories... JUST FOR ONE SLICE alone! If you're trying to lose some weight. That's it for that meal. No vino for you.
However, using my trusty Fitness Pal app a similar version which is more filling with one slice and homemade has about 185 calories. Big difference. And the great thing is you can make a veggie version, all meat, Caprese version... the culinary world is unlimited.
1 lengthwise slice of whole wheat pita bread.
2-3 sliced mozzarella bocconcini balls
1-2 tablespoons of Italian sweet sausage link
2-3 sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon of sliced red onions 
Sockarooni, Newman' Own sauce
First, slice the pita bread carefully around the edges and open up much like open faced sandwich or pizza. Then, lightly toast the bread on 375 for 5-8 minutes until lightly brown. If you skip this step then all you'll have is soggy bread with a lot of stuff piled on it. Toasting seals the bread and prevents the sauce from soaking through the bread.
Next, cut and season with salt and pepper your veggies. I like to toss them in a heated pan until warmed through. Even the sauce... it'll cook faster. Then, spread the sauce on the bread, sprinkle the cheese, sausage and veggies. Heat in the oven at 375 for 8 to 10 minutes until bubbly. BTW, if you haven't tried Paul Newman's sauces... then, go immediately to the store and buy a bottle. Simply... it's just tasty on just about everything. Pasta, pizza, dipping sauce even veggies.
Allow it to cool slightly, to prevent from burning the roof of your mouth, and then slice, fold, roll... however you eat your pizza.
So extra yummy and full of flavor.
Can't wait to try this with fresh seasonal basil and summer tomatoes.
Hope you'll try this quick easy version of a college to retirement food. Pizza.
Remember, cooking with love makes any recipe taste better.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Valentines Day ...

Valentine's Day is one of my favorite days of the year. It's the celebration of love, sharing and giving. Not that we don't do this everyday, or is it set aside for "couples-only". It's a day that everyone can celebrate the idea that love is eternal. Love is magical. Love heals all things.

So, how do I celebrate the magic of the day? I typical wander to Wine Country to pick up shipments, admire the shifting from Winter to very early Spring. And I hope to do this on that day as well.

What do I like to create for the trip? Start out with Cranberry Sparkling Wine Sippers. Simply enough. Take frozen cranberries and make a cranberry simple syrup.

1 cup cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cups water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Bring to a boil until berries are pooped and sugar is dissolved. Allows to cool to room temperature and sift out all the berries either with a cheese clothe or strainer. Squeeze in 1 tablespoon of fresh orange juice and 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Place the cranberry simple syrup in to a vessel and let cool in refrigerator for an hour. To make the cocktail pour 2-3 tablespoons into a chilled Champagne glass. Then pour your favorite Sparkling Wine or Champagne to the top. For decoration float frozen cranberries or a twist of lemon or orange.

Now for the food. IT'S CRAB SEASON ... so anything with crab is a great idea (unless you're allergic). If allergic, shrimp can be a wonderful substitute. I like to roast the chosen seafood with salt, pepper and olive oil at 400 degrees for 8 - 10 minutes. Mind you if you are doing the crab version ... it has to be shelled, cleaned and placed on a sheet. And use some parmesan cheese lightly sprinkled for texture and a retain moisture.

After roasting the seafood than serve with crackers, toasted baguette slices, or just a plate of the wonderful and delicious is good too with a salad or veggies. My favorite lately is to roast crab, toss lightly with mayonnaise, scallions, pickled peppers and a good slaw and serve on a lobster roll or Hawaiian bun. Recipes to follow on another blog post for Summer picnics.

To me the idea is less food and more connection with the people you love and surround yourself with on this special day. Use the food an enhancement, rather than the center piece.

Remember cooking with love,makes any recipe tales better ...and on Valentines' Day allow your heart to soar.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rethink and reboot...

After much consideration I've decided to reduce the weekly post for Lady E Cooks to one article a month. I hope that everyone around the world has enjoyed the articles, posts and humor presented in this blog. However, I am venturing to write primarily to my and writing my novella.

I continue to love cooking, but having matured just a little more I've learned that splitting your time and efforts in multiple ways is not true to myself and my passion ...writing. I'm happy to have discovered my passion which was spawned by the creative outlet of cooking.

One article a month will be posted here and helpful hints and commentary will continue to be posted on my Lady E Cooks Facebook page. If you are not currently a member of the Facebook page, please join or like the page.

Thank you for all your support and readership in the past .
God bless ...and remember, cooking with love makes any recipe taste better.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Where did all the cool Cafe spots go?

It's a sunny day and I woke up with a smile on my face and a skip in my step because it's Sunday. Sunday to me means after my Church and chores I get to do the thing I love the most... write. Writing for me has become my found joy. And each day I discover different ways to express the written word either by writing for the blogs or writing my 3 different novellas with the goal of one day becoming a published Author.
So on this particular Sunday I thought it might be a great idea to find a local Café, like the ones you see on TV, and eat croissant drink coffee with my computer in front of me ready to receive the words and thoughts filling my head. So I googled Cafés in Oakland and Berkeley. What I found on the internet was quite disturbing No Cafés were in the search results. Only Bars, Restaurants or Coffee houses. I wrote down a couple and ventured out to see what was what.
The first place was truly not the setting for me. First, they didn't have croissants only stale pastries,, but the cappuccino was made perfectly. The furniture on the website was very different than the actual furniture on site. They were dirty old couches that either needed to be reupholstered or recycled into something else. This place was definitely a local haunt for College students to let off steam before, during or after exams. Not a place to foster creative thinking for a writer. Even the sign outside the front door screamed, "Be QUIET!"

SoSo , what's a potential a writer to do? Walk to the next destination and hope for the best.  Happy to say, I wasn't disappointed. The Kitchen with it's mile high biscuits and freshly made summer jam was delicious and the quiche was warm, flaky crust and cheese that was to die for. Definitely a place to venture to again and again. The Restaurant name? Appropriately named The Kitchen at 388 Grand Avenue in Oakland, Did I ever find the Café to write? Nope...I did not. I fear the places that Jack London sat in for hours sipping coffee and staring out the windows for inspiration are long gone. But, the good news is the restaurant business in Oakland is booming with places that are worth investigating. Maybe one day I'll create a corner in our world designed for writers, readers and where food is a highlight not the main focus. Until then, I will continue to write, eat ... and do it all with love.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Nailed, It!

The other day I wrote an article about my attempt at making chocolate candy appropriately named, "Not So Nutty". Needless to say it was a slight disaster. So, I went back in the kitchen, rolled up my sleeves and used some common sense. First attempt failed because the chocolate didn't adhere to the nuts and visa versa. Solution? Use a small container to restrict the chocolate in one area.
Second, problem... how to set the chocolate and make them easily removable? Grease never hurt nobody! So, I used BUTTER... it wouldn't hurt the nuts, chocolate or raisins, right! Right.
1/2 cup mild chocolate morsels
1/2 cup dark chocolate morsels
1/4 cup of raisins - I used Flame.
1/2 cup roasted plain almonds.

I have a mini muffin pan. Why do I have a mini muffin pan? To make muffins? Nope, I had no real need to use the mini muffin pan when I first bought it at Home Goods eons ago. It was on sale for $2.00...and as my Mother would say, "..Never pass up a $2.00 sale on anything. It'll come in handy one day...". Well, are so right. In this case the mini muffin pan came in mighty handy. 
Liberally line inside the muffin tin with butter, just so once the chocolate has set the candy is easy to remove. Then place on the bottom a few (2-3) raisins and (1-2) almonds, depending on how chunky you like your candy.

In a Pyrex boil over a pot of simmering water, called a double boiler in culinary terms, be sure the water does NOT touch the base of the Pyrex bowl... unless, of course you want the chocolate to scorch, burn and be totally useless. Okay, moving no... pour both chocolates in the bowl. DO not and I repeat DO NOT walk away. This is where patience comes in handy, not paying any attention to anything electronic or distractions will test you. Children won't bother you, because they want to lick the spoon...OM, your way into chocolate bliss, you'll thank me for it later.

Some of you might be asking...where's the heavy cream? The liqueur? It's not really needed...but, it won't hurt. That's for another recipe and article. Watch the chocolate melt slowing and with ne hand gently hold either a wooden spoon or my preference a latex spatula. When there is more molten chocolate than chips that's when you start to fold gently until the mixture turns into liquidy mocha gold. Remove from the double boiler and begin to spoon into prepared muffin sections. Let cool for  2 - 3 minutes than set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Once done... chocolate chunk heaven.

WARNING: they are a bit challenging to bite into and...they are darn irresistible. Recommendation: Instead of butter... a plain non flavored oil or spray will work, too. Also, in my next experiment I might dust powered sugar or dark chocolate after the oil as been placed in the tin... then put a dollop of chocolate on the bottom as a base then, raisins and nuts, then more chocolate to top off.

Next experiment... pecans and caramel. Can someone say great holiday giveaways?

Remember, cooking with love makes any recipe taste.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Not so, nutty

If you're anything like me .... you LOVE chocolate! So I had a brilliant, so at least I thought so at the time, to make a little dessert for the night. Well, best laid plans and all... it didn't go so well.
Weekly, as my regular readers know, I go to the Farmers Market and purchase food for the week. One of my weekly buys are nuts. I typically buy raw almonds and roast them at home. When you're uber hungry a dry roasted nut can ease the hunger pains.
So while roasting a batch of almonds in the oven (375 degrees for 8 mins) I had the idea to toss the hot nuts with milk and dark chocolate straight from the oven. The conception was that the hot nuts would melt the chocolate and adhere to the nuts. Well, kinda. A few nuts are clinging to the warm chocolate, but mostly they are falling off in a gooey mess. Plus for the nuts to have that crunch and nutty taste... they need to cool to room temperature. Which was a step I skipped.
What's the solution? I think the solution is to treat each ingredient separately and bring them together. So, next batch I will roast the almonds in the oven as normal and melt the chocolate separately. Then in mini muffin tins put the cooled nuts on the bottom and pour the melted liquid chocolate gold over the nuts and layer as much as possible inside the tin
The hard part will be patience. Allowing the candy to cool to room temperature or not eating all the chocolate. Experiments happen. Mistakes and problems happen... that's normal in the kitchen. The good news is to try, try, try again.
Remember, cooking with love makes any recipe taste better. With chocolate ... they are full of love one morsel at a time.