Category Archives: Blog

Thanksgiving Tips and Tricks

Thanksgiving Tips and Tricks

Thanksgiving for most is a day of relaxing and eating yourself into a food coma but for those of us responsible for preparing that gust busting meal it can be anything but relaxing. For the home cook producing 5-7 dishes plus dessert in a single meal can be very overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. All it takes is some planning, advanced preparation and some tips and tricks from the pros will not only make your meal preparation simple but also improve the quality of your dishes.

Where to start? I start at least a week before Thanksgiving by choosing what dishes and desserts I want to serve. Print those recipes out, I suggest writing them out on a recipe card so they are more convenient then a pile of papers while your cooking. Take those recipes and create a shopping list for yourself. Make sure you are meticulous with this because the last thing you want to do is have to run out to the store at the last minute when the stores are just insane. Once you have your menu selected you will need to analyse your selections and determine which of those dishes or parts of those dishes that you can prepare the day before and in what order they need to be prepared so that you have enough oven space and time to get everything done in time for the meal.

I unthaw my turkey the day before Thanksgiving by placing it in a sink filled with cold water and then leave the tap on a bare trickle. This keeps the water moving and cool which will unthaw the turkey faster than just a still body of water. Is this safe? Yes it is as long as the water stays cold and you move it to the refrigerator as soon as it feels flexible and pliable. I also brine my turkey because the flavor and moisture levels are markedly better than a non-brined turkey. I will put the turkey in the sink in the morning and by late afternoon it is ready to be placed in the brine and refrigerate overnight.

Another turkey tip is to make sure you pull your turkey out of the refrigerator about 2 hours before cooking. You need to let it come up close to room temperature and allow the skin to really dry so that it will cook evenly and the skin will be crispy. If you take your turkey directly from the the refrigerator to the oven or fryer it will increase the cook time and cause some parts of it to overcook while others struggle to reach temperature.

If you want your roasted turkey to have a rich mahogany color than you should dry the skin well and then brush or rub it wil melted butter. Basting while the turkey is cooking is good but make sure you stop basting about a half hour before the end of cooking time so that the skin can crisp back up again.

Most dressing and casseroles can be made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight. Reserve any toppings for just before you place the dish in the oven so that they will brown properly. If you don’t want to make them the day before then you should cut up your ingredients and have them ready to prepare the finished dish without having to pull out your cutting board.

Desserts should be prepared the day before and their flavor will benefit from the chance to relax meld when they are covered and refrigerated overnight.

Your turkey stock should be made the day before because it takes 4 hours at least to make a good pot of basic stock. I feel this is one of the most important part of meal preparation because your gravy and stuffing or dressing require a really good stock for full flavor. I purchase turkey necks, wings and or legs and give them a light sear in the stock pot before adding water. See my Basic Stock recipe for the best professional technique for a good stock.

Finally if you make your own gravy then there are two ways to thicken them either with a rue of flour and fat or a cornstarch slurry. If you use a rue or flour to thicken your gravy make sure you give it at least 45 minutes to simmer because otherwise it will have a raw flour flavor. I can vouch that this really does make a big difference in the flavor. When you use a cornstarch slurry you need to make sure you don’t use to much because it will turn your beautiful gravy into a lump of brown jelly. Slowly drizzle in the slurry and stir and it will reach full thickness within a few seconds if the gravy is at a medium simmer. I suggest you add a bit and stir and give it a bit to see the thickness before you add anymore slurry. If you want to boost flavor you can use cool turkey stock as your liquid for the slurry.

If you have any questions or suggestions let me know! I will be posting suggestions while I cook today on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

 

How to make Thanksgiving Dinner without breaking a sweat

cooked-turkey-1

I have been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my extended family for almost 20 years. Not all of those dinners went smoothly. Like the year I forgot to make the mashed potatoes or the year I forgot the rolls in the oven and turned them into bricks. I have picked up so many tips and tricks over the years that now making Thanksgiving is simple and easy. With just a little prep a day or two before Thanksgiving you can actually enjoy the holiday alongside everyone else.

First thing I do every year is look at my menu for the day. Mine was based on what my family served when I was a kid and updated slightly with a deep fried turkey and my own spins on the old recipes. You don’t cook this menu more than twice (Thanksgiving & Christmas) so it is ok to have the exact same thing because your family will not get tired of it. I admit my Thanksgiving dinner is lacking in vegetables but my family gets at least one or two servings of vegetables with every normal meal so I don’t feel bad about not serving them on this special occasion.

My traditional Thanksgiving menu consists of –

Deep Fried Turkey – This is a must and this recipe can also be used on a hardwood smoked turkey for more juicy results.

Giblet Cream Gravy – I actually withhold the giblets from this recipe and use them in my dressing recipe.

Sage Turkey Dressing – This recipe is one that has been in my family for as long as I can remember and is my favorite. My dirty little after Thanksgiving treat is to take cold slices of this and make sandwiches out of it.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Praline Topping – If you make this Sweet Potato Casserole for a family dinner make sure you take a couple copies of your recipe because people will ask for it.

Decadent Mashed Potatoes – These are the best mashed potatoes ever. Being part Irish they make me proud.

Lion House Rolls – These tender buttery Lion House rolls are like the combination of a croissant and the standard parker house dinner roll.

Cranberry & Mandarin Orange blend – A can of whole cranberries and a can of Mandarin oranges mixed together and chilled.

Pecan Pie – This recipe was the most sought after pecan pie recipe on the web for years.

Sour Cream Apple Pie – Some people are prejudiced against sour cream so just say its apple pie until after they have taken their first bite and then they will be in love.

Hot Mulled Cider – Family members show up and look for this first thing because it is so good.

First thing to do while planning out your meal preparation is to go down the list of ingredients you need for each dish and make sure you either have them or they get on your shopping list. Double check the items you think you have because half the time I think I have them but I really don’t because one of my kids have done away with them recently. Make sure you get extra turkey parts like wings or legs to make your turkey broth because I find you don’t get enough flavor from just a neck and giblets and once in a while those are missing from your turkey. This was a tough lesson learned one year when the turkey was missing its giblets and my local grocery stores were all either closed or out of turkey parts.

The nice thing about this menu is that you can either make ahead or have most of the preparation done the day before Thanksgiving that way you are mostly just waiting on things to cook. This lets me actually enjoy some time with my family instead of rushing around the kitchen. The first thing I do each year is get my turkey in its brine. They can set in the brine for up to 48 hours but I prefer right around 24 hours. This lets me get my giblets out of the turkey also so I can make my turkey broth. You can either use a pressure cooker to make your turkey broth or you can cook it low and slow so you can all the flavor and gelatin out of the bones. I like to brown my turkey bits before boiling them so that the flavor is richer. I also like to include a half an onion, celery, a carrot and a clove of garlic along with some herbs like thyme, sage and a tiny bit of rosemary. Don’t waste fresh herbs on this. The dry stuff will turn out just as well. Once your broth is done strain it well and save all the meat and giblets for either your gravy or your dressing. Refrigerate and remember to remove the solidified fat from the top before you use.

I will usually make my pies one or two days ahead of time that way they get proper time to cool. Make sure you hide them well because hungry children are known to steal entire pies. I also put my cans of mandarin oranges and cranberries in the refrigerator at least a day ahead of time that way I can just throw them together at the last minute without worrying about chill time.

While I am waiting on the broth I will throw my sweet potatoes in the oven on a aluminum foil lined baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or throw them in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes. Make sure you peel them right away after you take them out of the oven because they will just slide out of their skins. It will be much harder after they cool. I just throw them in the refrigerator until I am ready to put together the casserole. While I am waiting on the potatoes to bake I chop my onions, carrots and celery for my dressing.  If you are making rolls you should have your dough made and refrigerator proof it overnight. This makes it quick to get them done the next day and it also improves the flavor.

Once all that preparation is done you are ready to relax and rest up for Thanksgiving morning. Some key tips for Thanksgiving morning is to have a prep list for yourself so you don’t forget anything. Mine looks something like this.

1. Remove these items from refrigerator

  • Dough
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Turkey Broth – Remove the fat right away
  • Turkey – 1 to 1 1/2 hours before you plan to cook the turkey

2. Make Sweet Potato Casserole

3. Make Dressing

4. Prep Turkey for Frying then fry – Dry well and rub with olive oil, salt and spices

5. Form Rolls and let rise

6. Make Mashed Potatoes

7. Make Gravy

8. Bake Rolls

9. Make cranberry and mandarin mix

Tips for the turkey which are true for both a roasted or fried turkey. Make sure you take your turkey out of the refrigerator early enough so that it comes up to close to room temperature before you bake it. This will help it to cook more evenly and will make it more juicy. The key to the juiciest turkey is the brine ahead of time which imparts the moisture and flavor throughout the bird and not just where you injected it. The last thing to remember is to always let your bird rest tented in foil for about 10 minutes after you remove it from the oven or fryer. This lets the moisture redistribute and will keep it from gushing out everywhere when you cut it instead of remaining in the meat. Turkeys that are brined and rested properly will be moist and juicy even as a leftover.

I hope these tips and tricks will help you to not only have a more delicious dinner but one you can enjoy from beginning to end!

 

 

My Must Have Kitchen Christmas Gift List

I have an over accessorized kitchen. It is hard to find a appliance or gadget that I don’t have because I collect them obsessively. I spend hours and hours in the kitchen and I love to do out of the normal type of dishes or preparations. I have put together my list of kitchen Christmas gifts at some great holiday bargain prices!

 

 Pepper Mill

If you aren’t grinding fresh pepper in your food you are missing out on the incredible flavor of freshly ground pepper. This grinder has a ceramic grinding mechanism which means it will last a long time and you can use it for both salt and pepper. Another great ideas is putting your favorite dried herbs in one of these and grinding them on demand to release more essential oils.

OXO Pepper Mill

OXO Pepper Mill

 Electric Pressure Cooker

I often wish I had two of these because I use mine constantly and could do double duty with two. I make fast delicious bone broth, make ham and bean soup in less than two hours from scratch or just steam sweet potatoes into fluffy, moist, deliciousness. The use for this pressure cooker is endless and you will never file it away in the cabinet.

Instant Pot

Instant Pot

 

 Knife Sharpener

The one thing that I cannot stand is a dull knife. It is amazing what a difference it makes using a finely honed knife versus a dull one. I know you probably have a steel but a steel only removes rough spots from the blade and does not actually sharpen the blade at all. If you haven’t had your knives sharpened in the last 6 months than you are suffering through dull knives that make everything you do more difficult.

 

Diamon Sharpener

Diamon Sharpener

 Immersion Blender

The tool that the infamous “Two Fat Ladies” dubbed this tool the kitchen vibrator, is my favorite tools when making sauces and soups. Transferring hot liquid to a blender to smooth soups is a messy and dangerous adventure that can be avoided entirely with this little beauty. This also lets me use vegetables to thicken my sauces without dirtying my blender. I think everyone should have one hiding in their cabinet.

Immersion Blender

Immersion Blender

Sous Vide

This tool is a busy cook’s best friend. You put together your meal in vacuum bags and set the temperature and time on your machine and go conquer the day. All you do it maybe give your meat a finishing sear and your perfect meal is complete.

I have my eye on a Mellow when they come out because it just looks and sounds too cool.

Anova Sous Vide

Anova Sous Vide

 Nespresso Espresso Machine

I know you don’t directly cook with an espresso machine but you do make beverages that are necessary for me to have a fruitful day without ripping anyone’s head off. I am not always a fan of espresso but I have found that I can rely on Nespresso pods to always be delicious!

Nespresso

Nespresso

Interested in other items that I think are worth having in your kitchen? Check out my Amazon Store.

 

10 Things to Keep in Your Kitchen to Make Cooking Easy

 

Make Cooking Easy
Whether you enjoy cooking or not, it’s one of those necessary parts of life. Having a well-stocked kitchen can make the whole process more enjoyable and efficient. When you have a kitchen that’s organized and full of the right tools and ingredients, you can always make a delicious meal without having to spend the time on a 5 o’clock run to the grocery store. Here are ten important things every kitchen needs.

1. Pasta or Rice
Keeping pasta on hand means you can have a filling meal on the table in under 30 minutes. Whether you make stovetop mac and cheese or simple spaghetti and marinara sauce, you can feed a lot of people with a single box of pasta. If you avoid gluten, choose rice or alternative pasta instead.

2. Frozen Veggies
Frozen veggies are less expensive than fresh and higher in nutrients because they’re picked at the peak and frozen immediately. Keeping vegetables on hand means you always have a side dish, and you can even make a quick main course of stir fry.

3. Measuring Cups
Having a good set of measuring cups is essential for any kitchen. Choose a durable material such as stainless steel or pyrex and make sure the markings are permanently etched rather than painted on so they won’t fade or disappear.

4. Eggs
Keeping eggs (or egg substitute) on hand gives you a multitude of options for every meal. Omelets, scrambled eggs, frittatas and quiche work equally well at any time of day and are fairly quick and simple to make. You can also make hard boiled eggs to keep in the fridge for a healthy and protein-packed snack.

5. Frozen Meals
Whether it’s a frozen pizza from your favorite brand or a homemade enchilada casserole, a frozen meal is a perfect solution for those nights when you just don’t want to cook. You’ll save the hassle and expense of ordering takeout and get dinner on the table quickly.

6. Slow Cooker
A slow cooker is one of the most versatile kitchen appliances. There are new models that even function as pressure cookers as well like the Instant Pot, which I use almost daily. This tool lets you prep your meal in the morning and cook it all day even when you aren’t home so it’s perfect for people with busy lifestyles.

7. List of Go-To Recipes
Take stock of your usual cooking routines and write up a list of your favorite go-to recipes. I use the mobile application Cozi to not only store my recipes but help me make my shopping lists and plan my meals. Keep all the ingredients on hand and you’ll always have an easy option for dinner even if you haven’t meal planned or grocery shopped in a week.

8. Good Knives
Knives are no place to skimp when it comes to quality. A good knife can last a lifetime when cared for properly. Look for high-quality materials and choose knives individually rather than in a set. Most cooks really only need two or three good knives and it’s best to pick styles that feel comfortable to you. As a chef I find that there are really only two knives that you need in your kitchen and a good knife sharpener because those knives if kept sharp may last you a lifetime. I suggest a good chef’s knife, pairing knife and a 3 stage sharpener.

9. Sandwich Fixings
A sandwich is another great go-to meal. Whether you like a loaded club sandwich or a simple grilled cheese, there’s something magical about the combination of bread, condiments, meat and cheese. Choose good-quality sliced bread and fillings. Don’t forget the seasonings and condiments. Healthy HamptonCreek flavored mayo is a great way to add extra flavor to your sandwich without overloading on cholesterol or artificial ingredients. Add a piece of fruit to your place and you have a complete meal in no time at all.

10. Good Cookware
You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a shopping spree at the fancy kitchen store, but every kitchen should have a few high-quality pots and pans. A large nonstick skillet, covered Dutch oven, a small saucepan and a stockpot will give you the ability to make just about any recipe. If you enjoy cooking, you can expand your collection to include cast iron and specialty pans.

A well-stocked kitchen makes cooking easy and can give even novice cooks inspiration. Keeping your pantry stocked with ingredients such as rice and pasta means you can make a meal quickly, especially with eggs and some vegetables from your freezer. Keep a frozen pizza or casserole on hand for those nights you just don’t feel like cooking and make good use of your slow cooker. Invest in quality knives, measuring cups and cookware. Choose high-quality sandwich ingredients to keep on hand for another quick, healthy meal option and enjoy knowing you can put dinner on the table easily.

 

Busy Moms – Getting a headstart on school lunches

School Lunch

I know Summer isn’t close to over yet but my life is extremely busy right now attending the Culinary Institute of America here in San Antonio and working part time. On top of both of those my hubby has been gone on business more weeks than not so I am juggling 3 jobs as full time parent, student and a part-time job. I need to plan everything I can out ahead of time to make the best use of my limited time. The reason I have to worry about school lunches is that my kids have become very mindful of their food and school lunches quality is at an all time low. The current attempts to provide “Healthy food” without actually going back to cooking at the schools again is very misguided. Until that gets sorted out and my kids are willing to eat the food again I need to help them pack healthy lunches they will eat. Unfortunately today everything is more complicated than it was when we were kids. This guide will give you a few hints and tips for successful school lunches.

Start By Checking With the School About Restrictions

Before you begin purchasing items, check with your child’s school to determine if they have any restrictions. Some school districts prohibit nut-based foods and other high-risk allergens to ensure no allergic students are accidentally exposed. They may also restrict which types of containers your child can bring meals in. Some even prohibit certain foods deemed unhealthy.

Purchase Your Supplies

Once you know what is and isn’t acceptable, you can purchase supplies. Buy each child a sturdy, reusable lunch bag. If you can, get one that includes an ice pack. Without the ability to keep food cold, your child’s options will be severely limited. Don’t forget zippered bags for storing food, plastic containers, and silverware.

Plan the Entrees

The main component of your kids’ lunches will be the entrees. If you can, find recipes that allow you to make and freeze lots in advance. It will be a great timesaver during those busy weeks of work, school, and extracurricular activities. There are plenty of options. For something easy, purchase some mini tortillas, your child’s favorite lunchmeat, cheese, and veggies, and make wraps. You could also make and freeze mini pizzas made on whole wheat crusts with pepperoni, vegetables, and cheese. Do you need a vegetarian option? Bake and freeze corn and zucchini fritters and include dipping sauces.

Choose Two or Three Sides Per Lunch

The next component of a healthy lunch is healthy sides. Go basic by purchasing and cutting up fresh fruits and vegetables and sending them in snack baggies, or create a treat by making healthy chips and dip. Slice zucchini, sprinkle it with parmesan, and bake until crispy or sprinkle apple slices with cinnamon and bake. Include ranch dressing made with Greek yogurt or vanilla yogurt for dipping. If you’d like to add something more unique and filling, try a bean and cheese salad or make healthy “macaroni” and cheese out of cauliflower.

Decide on Drinks

In some cases, it may be easier to give your kids milk money and let them choose their own drinks at school. If this isn’t an option for you, you could send milk in a thermos or choose something else altogether. In addition to basic bottles of water, you can try flavored waters or infuse your own water with fresh fruits and send a thermos of it in your kids’ lunches. Do your children love their sodas? Make your own with soda water, mint, and lemon, or purchase carbonated flavored water as a healthier alternative.

Include Extra Snacks

Because so many schools have an overabundance of students with little space for mealtime, many students find themselves with short lunch periods or eating early in the day. For this reason, many schools or individual teachers now allow students to bring snacks for the afternoon. If your school district allows this, don’t forget to pack a bit extra. Sometimes a student has to bring enough for the entire class. If it’s your turn to bring snacks for the week, try easy items such as popcorn, sunflower seeds, or granola bars. Don’t forget to ask about allergens you should avoid.

Don’t Forget Dessert

A school lunch just doesn’t seem complete without a dessert. Try sending dried fruit or their favorite yogurt or sugar-free gelatin. You may also consider making banana, blueberry, or strawberry muffins with chocolate chips in them. You can make these in advance and freeze them for later use.

If you don’t have time to make an entire recipe from scratch, find a gluten-free option at the grocery store for a healthy alternative. hamptoncreek produces and sells four traditional cookie dough flavors that you can simply spoon onto the cookie sheet and bake. Do them the night before school or make several batches at once for convenience.

Once you’ve created a list of ideas and decided what you’ll make in advance and what you’ll buy as convenience items, you can head to the grocery store. Don’t forget to check the sales ads and coupons to see if you can save money in the process.

Becoming a Chef

CIA San Antonio

CIA San Antonio

I recently realized that I was destined to become a chef. When other kids were outside playing, I was either cooking with my grandmother or watching cooking shows on TV.  Once I left home and had full control of my kitchen my learning curve was exponential. I was cooking every day and trying to do something new as often as I could.  I was also on the bleeding edge of Internet  development so when I was put on bedrest during my first pregnancy I created this site.  It was one of the very first “food blog’s” that existed.  I was devouring recipes and techniques and regurgitating that knowledge at an amazing pace. I was consumed by the passion for the culinary arts.  I cooked for guests whenever I could.  I had offers for restaurant management and to become an untrained chef that I turned down because I had a plan for my life.

My life plan was to get married have kids and raise them as a stay at home mom. Successful happy families have that one parent who is willing do anything to support the rest of the family and I volunteered for that position. I found any way I could to work from home while raising my kids.  My cooking skills carried me through those years but I have always been restrained by my responsibility for my kids.  My eldest child  has already left home and the two remaining will be out of school shortly. I feel like I can finally think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I jumped the shark in 2013 when I bought my food truck and started CockAsian. My eldest child said she was all in with me but she quickly tired of the intense lifestyle.  My husband travels for business at least bi-weekly and wanted to share what little down time he had with me and not on the truck.  We still rocked it for almost a year before my team broke down and neither my husband or daughter wanted to work the truck anymore.  It was a sad day but I finally put the truck in storage and found a job that used my other great skill communication. I work for Marriott International as a customer care representative but I have plans to change that position and I will tell you about that later.

I made myself block out my culinary side for the first year with Marriott but I felt unfulfilled in my life.  Lucky for me Marriott has a tuition program that will pay for your college within the hospitality industry. I took a look at what was going on at home and in our finances and after a ton of research, I decided I could work my job and still attend school. I applied and somehow managed to get accepted into the Culinary Institute of America here in San Antonio.  I didn’t think they would accept me when I applied but I had to try.  I was totally shocked when I got my acceptance letter.  I was actually on a culinary tour of Japan at the time so it felt very unreal until I got home and opened the envelope myself.

Since then it has been a whirlwind of planning to make sure I can keep working while attending classes. I am very thankful Marriott has a strong presence in this area so staying employed by Marriott is not a problem. I am actually really looking forward to working for the San Antonio JW Hill Country for my externship because they have a number of different restaurants and I should be able to gain a wide variety of experience. And you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place to work. I am a little sad that I will no longer have the freedom to work from home but I get to work in an awesome office with some really great people so I shouldn’t complain.

CIA Office

CIA Office

I went in for my orientation this week and it was very interesting to meet my classmates and actually see the inside of the school. I must admit it is much smaller than I had imagined. I was nearly shaking with excitement and I cannot wait to start classes next week. It has been 20 years since I set foot in a classroom but I have never been more ready for this. I don’t think I would have been able to focus in the same way back then there were too many distractions in life. I have learned so much since then and I am much more confident in my abilities to stay on task and get good grades.

CIA Kitchen

CIA Kitchen

The orientation was a very emotional thing for me. Starting that path that I have been fighting to get to my entire life. It is so huge for me to be here learning from the best and gaining the knowledge that will let me fulfill my wildest dreams. I have a long game goal and one of these days I will tell you all about it.

I am going to keep you all updated on my classes and cool happenings! Looking forward to the visiting chefs and sharing them with you.

Thanks,

Candie

CIA here I come!

Culinary Institute of America

The post from yesterday was almost a month in the making while I fixed issues with the site and dealt with life issues. I received the best news ever while I was on vacation in Japan.

I was accepted into the Culinary Institute of America! I thought it was a long shot but I was accepted so quick it left me in shock. I can’t start classes until May 2016 because I have to get my work schedule adjusted and that doesn’t happen until sometime after the next semester begins. That is fine it gives me lots of time to get everything ready for this new chapter in my life.

I have taken on a new struggle over the last few months. I am trying my hardest to lose weight but it feels like it goes against everything I live for. I love food. I love making food. I love eating food. Unfortunately I just can’t stop once I start and I cannot withstand temptation. I hate not being able to eat anything I want any time I want. I understand that realistically I can just in very small  portions and there is my fault. I am also Irish/German so I love beer and whisky. Fortunately I can stop at just one of those but when I am trying to lose weight it seems like just one is all it takes to stop me in my tracks. I am adapting and figuring out how to get the weight loss done without having forsake everything I love.

It is so hard to be calorie conscious when your thoughts are always on how you can make a food taste better. As a chef your goal is to provide the ultimate culinary experience you can so balancing flavor versus calories can be a real struggle. Adding spicy, sour and or salty flavors to a dish can up the flavor without added calories. I will be posting much more calorie mindful recipes in the future while I continue my personal struggle. So far I have lost 25 pounds and the loss is starting to be noticeable with my clothes fitting better so I am happy with my progress so far. My only fear is that when my oldest daughter leaves for Germany in a few weeks that I again revert to my not give a damn ways. Have any of you felt this same struggle? If so how do you overpower your inner food diva?

 

Balancing your life and your love

CockAsian Food TruckMy last 3 years have been a whirlwind that I could have never predicted. Trying to balance my strong urge to be an entrepreneur and passion for all things culinary and my family and their needs. I am a work horse when I am doing something I love there is almost nothing that can stop me once I start a project.

I have been self employed since shortly after college. That makes over 20 years of working for myself. This year working for somebody else with a set schedule has been a tough adjustment. I am used to being very fluid with my time and being in full creative mode all the time. My current job is enjoyable but I miss the joy of creativity. I have decided that my next endeavor will be to find a way to work my culinary interests back into my life.

My first step was encouraging my husband to start brewing his beers again. I am a back seat home brewer. I help me pick the recipes and hone the flavor qualities he wants to have in those beers. One of my greatest gifts is my ability to almost taste the flavors in my mind so he can tell me what flavors he wants to come out of his beers and I can tell him what hops, herbs, spices, and or fruits he needs to add during brewing to produce them. I must admit beyond procuring ingredients and later drinking I don’t involved in the brewing process. I love that smell of boiling wort it is such a comforting smell almost like baking bread.

We have a refrigerator dedicated to our serving beers from our pony keg (5 gallon kegs) system. It hold 3 kegs which means we can potentially have 15 gallons of beer on tap. My husband and I enjoy very different beers so I will choose a beer, he will choose a beer and then we choose one we can both enjoy. It normally takes him most of a day to brew a single 6 gallon batch of beer so he does that on Sundays while I am working. Two Sundays ago he brewed our version of Southern Tier Pumpking which used graham crackers, vanilla, lots of pumpkin, spice and will come in at about at 8% ABV. Last week he brewed his version of 3Floyds Zombie Dust. This week he is brewing one of my all-time favorite brews our imperial version of New Belgium’s Trippel. All 3 of them are outstanding brews and I would be happy to share those recipes with you if your interested.

I have decided my next goal is to go to culinary school. Here in San Antonio we have the Culinary Institute of America and I have been dreaming about attending it for a while but now I am ready to do it for real. I learned from the food truck that I need to learn to take baby steps and this is a perfect place to start my  next adventure. My current job will cover my tuition so I just need to enroll and start looking at classes! I am Super excited!

In the mean time I plan to sell my food truck and get my blog rolling again and start living the dream again!

Indian Recipe Collection Basics

I absolutely adore Indian food. My children actually ask for Punjab Choley, Palak Paneer, and several different curries at least once a week. I don’t even remember when I started making Indian food at home it just evolved out of my families love for curry. I know some of you are thinking to yourselves, “but Indian food it too spicy”. That is the great part of making it yourself you can adjust the spiciness to your liking. In my family we kick it up and make everything too hot for the general public. I have to be careful to hold back the heat when cooking for guests because I have caused a few too many eyes to water. Overall Indian food is simple, healthy and fun change up to your boring meal time traditions. The Indian recipe collection below are some of my favorites.

 

Samosa

Samosa

Samosa from Jeyashri’s Kitchen
Aloo Gobi

Aloo Gobi

Aloo Gobi from Crave Cook Click
Bhatura

Bhatura

Bhatura from Sailu’s Kitchen
Paratha Bread

Paratha Bread

Paratha Bread from Food and Flavors By Shipli
Chole Paneer

Chole Paneer

Chole Paneer from Sinfully Spicy
Kadhai Paneer & Triangle Paratha (Flatbread)

Kadhai Paneer & Triangle Paratha

Kadhai Paneer & Triangle Paratha (Flatbread) from Sinfully Spicy
Tiki Masala

Tiki Masala

Chicken Tiki Masala from Serious Eats
Mutton with Potatoes

Mutton with Potatoes

Aloo Gosht – Mutton with Potatoes from Sinfully Spicy
Fish Curry

Fish Curry

Fish Curry from Sinfully Spicy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Vegetables and Why Fresh is Best

MEN-AS09-fall-garden-vegetablesI love Fall. Every year when the weather cools and the gardens are bursting with the new harvest I am in heaven. When you can get fresh harvested Fall vegetables, they taste so much better than the stuff we find in the grocery store. I stalk my local farmers markets for winter squash, brussel sprouts, and other wonders that need a bit of cold weather for the flavors to develop. Nothing makes me more happy than to run home from the market and prepare those vegetables before they even see the inside of my refrigerator. I am going to give you a list of Fall vegetables and when they are at their peak of flavor. I am also listing out some of my favorite recipes to prepare them.

Beets – Beets can be harvested late spring through Autumn. Beets are most flavorful when they are between 2 and 3 inches in diameter.

Broccoli  – Broccoli can be grown year-round in temperate climates so we’ve forgotten it even has a season. It is more sweet, less bitter and sharp when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates.

Broccoli raabe, rapini –  A more bitter and leafier vegetable than its cousin, broccoli, but likes similar cool growing conditions.

Brussels sprouts – Brussels sprouts grow on a stalk, and if you see them for sale that way snap them up – they’ll last quite a bit longer than once they’re cut. Look for them after your first frost or cold front for the most flavorful sprouts.

Cabbage – Cabbage is bright and crisp when raw and mellows and sweetens the longer it’s cooked. The cooler the weather when it’s harvested, the sweeter it tends to taste (this effect is called “frost kissed”).

Carrots – Carrots are harvested year-round in temperate areas. Unusual varieties are harvested during the carrot’s natural season, which is late summer and fall. True baby carrots – not the milled down versions of regular carrots sold as “baby carrots” in bags at grocery stores – are available in the spring and early summer. Locally grown carrots are often available from storage through early winter even in colder climates.

Cauliflower – Cauliflower may be grown, harvested, and sold year-round, but it is by nature a cool weather crop and at its best in fall and winter and into early spring.

Celery Root – Celeriac/celery root is at its best in the cooler months of fall, winter, and early spring (except in cold climates, where you’ll find it during the summer and early fall).

Celery – Celery is at its best in the fall, with its harvest continuing through winter in warm and temperate climates.

Chard – Chard like all cooking greens, chard turns bitter when it gets too hot. Chard grows year-round in temperate areas, is best harvested in late summer or early fall in colder areas, and fall through spring in warmer regions.

Fennel – Fennel’s natural season is from fall through early spring. Like most cool weather crops, the plant bolts and turns bitter in warmer weather.

Kale – Kale is like all hearty cooking greens – cooler weather keeps it sweet.

Kohlrabi – Kohlrabi (late fall) comes into season by the end of fall, but stays at its sweet best into winter.

Leeks – Leeks more than about 1 1/2 inches wide tend to have tough inner cores. The top green leaves should look fresh – avoid leeks with wilted tops.

Parsnips – Parsnips look like white carrots and have a great nutty flavor. Look for thinner parsnips, since fatter ones tend to have a thick, woody core you need to cut out.

Rutabagas – Rutabagas also known as “yellow turnips” and “Swedes” are a sweet, nutty root vegetables perfect in stews, roasted, or mashed with plenty of butter.

Shallots – Shallots are harvested in late summer and into fall, and are at their sweetest when fresh.

Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes are often sold as “yams.” They store well and are available from local sources year-round in warmer areas; from late summer through winter other places.

Turnips – Turnips have a sharp but bright and sweet flavor. Look for turnips that feel heavy for their size.

Winter Squash – Winter squash of all sorts comes into season in early fall and usually last well into winter. The squash you find in your local grocer could be up to a year old and the flavor will a shadow of what it once was. Find these fresh at your local farmers market to really experience winter squash.

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