Welcome to my world!

I've developed a passion for cooking since childhood, but in the past six years, that passion has grown into a geeky obsession. I love cooking, baking, and most importantly, sharing the love of food with family and friends. I invite you along on my journey of food discovery and passion.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tough Love on My Recipes

Be Tough! No Clip Crazy

If you've followed this blog (all 10 of you) since day 1, you know I started the blog to "tough love" my cookbook collection.  While I would love to say that's a success, honestly, it's an epic fail.  However, the reason why is that I've shifted to cooking most (but not all) of my recipes from cooking magazines. 

As I don't ever want to be featured on the tv show "Hoarders"

for holding onto cooking magazines for years, or let's face it, decades, I clip recipes from the magazine pretty soon after receipt.  That said, I do tend to let those same recipes continually accumulate and I end up throwing out probably 50% of them a couple years later after I realize I won't try them.  Oops!

For those of you that love "Extreme Couponing," a key them is organization!  Organization will keep things from spiraling out of control and consuming your life.  Ok, maybe it still becomes all consuming, but it's a more organized approach.

So, with that, here is the first in a series of cooking magazine recipe clipping rules and its implementation:

"Re-ClipR" (Recipe Clipping Rules) (c)

Re-ClipR #1:
You may only clip as many recipes as you will realistically cook meals in one month.

Fiskars Scissors - Great Clipping Option
Translating this - if you only cook breakfast on weekend mornings (Saturday or Sunday(, don't clip more recipes than weekend mornings in a month.  If  there are 4 weekends in a month, then you clip up to 8 recipes approximately.  Cook only on Sunday?  Limit down even further.  Why limit yourself?  Realistically, life gets in the way of the best-laid plans.  You may intend to get up every Sunday morning and cook breakfast.  Then, the kids are sick, or you wake up late and want lunch, or you make brunch plans, etc.  So, rather than clip 10 recipes you may never make, clip 5 you love.  You're more likely to make them, and more likely to want to make them again and again!
Lipper International 8814 Bamboo Recipe Box
Lippert International Recipe Box - Eco-friendly organizer

Same for dinners or lunches.  Never cook lunch?  Then don't count that as a meal you'd clip a recipe for.  If you cook 3 meals per day x 30 days, that's up to 90 recipes a month.  Would I ever clip that many recipes?  Most likely not, but I also don't cook 3 meals per day every day.  Realistically, I cook 4 dinners per week and homemake about 2 - 3 lunches and maybe 1 - 2 breakfast recipes a week. 

Multiply that x 4 weeks per month, and I can clip 16 dinners, 12 lunches, and 8 breakfast recipes.
Still quite a few recipes, but not the overwhelming amount that I will never conceivably make.  Now, I stretch the rule a bit since I make multiple recipes in one meal (i.e. meat, starch, and vegetable at dinner, so I give myself leeway to clip 3 - 4 for one single meal (if I plan it out).  Again, adjust the totals based on YOUR cooking habits.  This is a guide, not a must, but it's a guide intended to help me "tough love" my recipes.

Starting in October, I will be keeping count of what I clip and categorize!

Future rules: special occasion meals, recipe rating systems, and storage/organization!  Stay tuned....

Monday, September 26, 2011

Burger Bonanza

Burger Please!

Everyone has a food vice.  Mine tend to be anything involving salt, fat, and sugar.  But if I must be more specific, salt = french fries or salt & vinegar potato chips, fat = cheese, and sugar = dark chocolate.  While this might inspire me to consider chocolate dipped potato chips from time-to-time, I generally keep my food obsessions separate and distinct.

Right now, the food I cannot stop thinking about is a hamburger.  I am DYING to try a juicy, medium rare burger at a good burger place (and that doesn't mean fast food).  I want to sit down and enjoy a rich, medium-rare burger char grilled or flat-top butter basted, with a toasty bun and cheese.  My mouth is salivating at this thought.  I would actually make my own burger, but didn't buy what I need at the store for the week, so I won't make one myself.  I just can't get this out of my head.  What to do?

In honor of my obsessive thinking, and perhaps anticipating my burger decisions when I satisfy the craving, here are some ideas for tasty burgery treats:

American cheese
Onions sauteed in burger fat or butter
Beef patty
Steak sauce

Westward Ho
American or cheddar cheese
Sauteed onions
Barbecue sauce
Sour pickles
Beef patty

Southwest and Spicy
Tabasco/Cholula sauce
Sliced ripe avocado
Swiss or pepper jack cheese

And because I'm feeling like having someone else actually cook these burgers for me, here are my favorite burger joints at which to eat:

Five Guys Burgers - they do burgers, they do fries, and that's about it, but they do them well!
Various Five Guys Locations

Mooyah - quirky disposition plus burgers, fries, and shakes adds up to family-friendly deliciousness

Twisted Root - chef-designed burgers, homemade pickles, and saucy disposition make this a foodie fave

So, now that I've made you drool, I would love to hear about your "vices" and what killer burgers you love (and where).

Perfect Panzanella

Living in Florida, light and healthy fare seems the most appetizing after a long day or week at work. Looking through my Cook's Illustrated one day and came across a recipe for Panzanella. What, exactly, is that? Panzanella is a bread salad traditionally made with leftover bread and summer tomatoes.

Well, if you are frugal or plain old cheap, it's the perfect way to use up day old French or sourdough bread when you cannot think of what to do. If you happen to be blessed with a bounty of summer tomatoes, then you have THE most critical ingredient to the dish. If you have both of those items plus some produce you need to use up, you, my friend, have hit the jackpot.

The secret to great Panzanella, according to CI, is toasting the bread, not just letting it go stale. Other recipes call for soaking the bread in water first. Personally, water soaked bread is a mushy goo, so I prefer the thought of toasting the bread until crouton-like. Aside from that, a simple technique of using the juices from the tomatoes (minus seeds) plus an acid and olive oil gives a great and well-flavored dressing.

Here is how to make my version of perfect summer Panzanella, both vegan or meat-loving:

Clear-the-veggie-drawer Panzanella

4 cups French bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 lb. Ripe summer tomatoes
Chopped veggies of choice, up to 2 cups*
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp fresh basil (or 1/2 tsp dried)
2 Tbsp fresh parsley
OPTIONAL additions - cubed fresh mozzarella and/or cubed salami or ham

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut up French bread and place on baking sheet. Drizzle bread with 2 Tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss cubes to distribute olive oil. Bake in oven for approximately 3 - 7 minutes or until toasted (not too dark). Remove from oven and cool.

Meanwhile, core tomatoes and remove seeds (squeezing out seeds is easiest). Chop tomatoes coarsely and place in colander. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and place colander over bowl to capture juices. Let sit 10 minutes. Chop other vegetables into chunks and place in bowl. I suggest peeled and seeded cucumbers, chopped bell peppers, green onions, some olives and the tomatoes.

Once tomatoes have sat 10 minutes, squeeze them over the colander to release the juices, then add tomatoes to the other vegetables. Combine the tomato juices and red wine vinegar, garlic powder, and then whisk in the oil, adding up to 3 Tbsp. Season with salt and pepper.add the bread into the vegetables and pour over dressing. Add in Basil and parsley, if desired Mix to combine. Let stand 10 minutes. Just before serving, add in cheese and meat if desired.