Thursday, October 30, 2008

Blog Blossoms

There is a simple, fun tool which creates a blooming graph of the html code in your website or blog, color coding various components, tags, and links, and rendered as a gently unfolding blossom which is rather hypnotic to watch. Shown above is a graphic of my blog. Shown below is a graphic for Tastespotting.

How about yours? Comment with your blossom links!

And just what do the colored spheres mean?

Blue: links (the A tag)
Red: for tables (TABLE, TR and TD tags)
Green: for the DIV tag
Violet: for images (the IMG tag)
Yellow: for forms (FORM, INPUT, TEXTAREA, SELECT and OPTION tags)
Orange: for linebreaks and blockquotes (BR, P, and BLOCKQUOTE tags)
Black: the HTML tag, the root node
Gray: all other tags

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Vegetable Pot Pie

Twice a month on the Second and Fourth Thursdays, my online blogging friends the Barefoot Bloggers challenge each other with recipes chosed from the recipes of Ina Garten, formerly of the Barefoot Contessa. This week it's Vegetable Pot Pie. Regrettably, I had to use one of my "passes" for the first time since I joined, and skip making this recipe. I have out of town guests and it isn't the time to be cooking and experimenting, photographing, blogging and such (although I'm sure a lovely pot pie would be much enjoyed). Instead, I'm inviting all of you to scroll through the blog roll for the BB'ers, and smack your lips at a bunch of lovely pies.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Bread Box

I love bread in all forms. The saying "Don't fill up on bread" was coined with me in mind. "Bread is the staff of life" has personal meaning to me. I usually answer "bread" when memed with the question "What one food would you never want to be without?"

I purchase and have more on hand than I'll ever possibly use or eat in a week. I live alone, and have a boyfriend who doesn't eat much bread. It's one of his faults. As a result, my freezer is always jammed pack with a variety of bakery products and flavored butters.

I compound by the problem by wanting to bake rolls and breads on my days off, because it's pure comfort, relaxing, and tasty. I end up with bags of rolls after I eat the first few hot out of the oven, so I developed my "personal bread basket" out of necessity.

Most of my bread ends up in the freezer and it can be irritating to pry off a few frozen pieces of bread and toast it in order to use it right away, or to over-nuke a roll to serve with dinner or pack a bento lunch.

Plus, I'm fickle in my taste. What do I want today? Brioche? Rye? Wheat? Corn? Hmm. Decisions, decisions.

Enter the Food Container. I starting using this plastic vegetable and fruit container which is intended to keep your produce fresher for a longer period of time in your refrigerator (and they do work). I keep a few rolls and a few slices of each variety of bread on hand in my Bread Box, and keep that in my fridge (I realize bread should be stored at room temperature, but I simply can't use it up quickly enough to prevent staleness or mold). The remainder of each variety stays in the freezer until it's time to remove a few slices to replenish the bread box.

This week's selections are (top to bottom, left to right) Brioche, Raisin, Slider buns, Rye, Sesame Knots. Each day I can select whatever suits my fancy from my bread box. It's a simple idea, really, but it's those simple ideas that often make us the happiest.

This makes me happy.

(Pssst. I have two more and I do the same thing with sliced deli meats in one and cheeses in the other.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Canyon Ranch Spa Cuisine: Appetite for Health

Canyon Ranch Spa's Chef Scott Uehlein is consistently recognized for his creativity and expertise in the development and preparation of healthy cuisine. Under Chef Scott's direction, Canyon Ranch has received top honors from Travel + Leisure (Top Spa for Food in the U.S.), and rated Best Spa with excellence in the food category by Gourmet and Conde Nast Traveler magazines.

Now, Chef Scott is presenting a series of 10 short, fun, instructional videos in his Appetite for Health series. After the jump, a video guide, and, links to popular text version recipes from Canyon Ranch spa.

Text Recipes:

Canyon Ranch Cocktail
Cantaloupe Orange Tofu Smoothie
Holiday Eggnog
Strawberry Daiquiri
Breakfast Bread Pudding
Lime Coffee Cake
Cold Pea Salad
Cashew Chicken Salad with Baked Wontons
Kale Soup
Mulligatawny Soup
Sweet Potato Soup
Five Onion Bisque
Spanish Onion Soup
White Bean Soup with Pesto
Fish Tacos
Roasted Lemon Chicken
Blackberry Orange Cobbler

Recipe Videos: Appetite For Health

Click Now to watch Chef Scott in a series of short, fun 5 minute videos which bring you fast and fun tips on incorporating the spa and wellness lifestyle into your daily routine. Whether you want to whip up a fast pomegranate cooler, strawberry salad, or just get a few tips for staying hydrated, Chef Scott will show you how.

Episode Guide:

Episode 1: Water Water Everywhere
Learn with Chef Scott about the importance of staying hydrated, then watch as he creates refreshing Watermelon and Pomegranate Coolers that will help you recover from those tough summer workouts.

Episode 2: All About The Organics
Chef Scott clarifies the meaning of "organic," then makes an organic Strawberry Chicken Panzanella Salad. After this episode, you'll know how organics can help change your diet to a healthier and cleaner eating plan!

Episode 3: Less Is More?
Chef Scott visits an exercise physiologist and learns how to exercise for maximum gain. Then he demonstrates making Pasta with Grilled Artichoke, Leeks, and Chicken -- a dish that's sure satisfy your post work-out cravings.

Episode 4: Fishy Business
What's the lowdown on fish? Chef Scott explores the importance of fish in your diet and which fish choices are best. Then he teaches you to make delicious Cod and Kalamata Olives.

Episode 5: 40 Winks
Having trouble sleeping? Wake up tired every morning? Learn with Chef Scott how diet and eating patterns can affect sleep. Then he demonstrates a delicious, low-fat recipe for everyone's favorite nighttime snack -- cookies and milk!

Episode 6: Pain In My Neck
Chef Scott wakes up with an excruciating pain in his neck that distracts him from his daily routine. He visits a neuromuscular therapist, who teaches him how to properly stretch his neck, and talks to him about the importance of sleeping right, sitting right, and walking right. Watch as Chef Scott prepares a healthy alternative to one of the most popular comfort foods, meatloaf.

Episode 7: Shopping Spree
Chef Scott returns home to find his kids gorging on junk food. He decides to take a family field trip to the grocery store to teach them about healthy food choices. In addition, he shows you how to make Chicken Scaloppini with Arugula Salad -- a dish the entire family is sure to enjoy.

Episode 8: The McSalmonator
Chef Scott learns about the differences among farm-raised salmon, organic farmed salmon and wild salmon, then prepares an exciting Salmon with Cucumber Lemongrass Salsa that's easy to replicate at home.

Episode 9: Feelin' Blue
All about blueberries! Chef Scott explores the tremendous health benefits of blueberries and shows you how to make savory Salmon with Blueberry Mango Salsa.

Episode 10: A Little R&R
Chef Scott realizes he is stressed-out when he absentmindedly bakes dozens of cookies with carrot chips instead of chocolate chips. Learn about ways to manage stress -- from massage to calming breathing techniques. Then watch as Chef Scott prepares easy-to-make Fruit and Nut Bars.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Beef, Egg and Onion Sandwich

This was one of my father's favorite sandwiches, when he was alive. I remember my mother made this sandwich for him for lunch, or occasionally as a brunch sandwich, in place of breakfast. It's one of those nostalgic recipes you just grow up with, and you don't really know where it came from. My mother always used Armor Chipped Beef, the same product she'd use to make Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast (my all time favorite dinner as a child), and would occasionally soak it water first to reduce the salt level. Other times not, just snipped a bit into the egg and then peppered.

For my version, above, I used a dried cured Italian beef called Breseola, which is significantly less salty. It has a different, more complex flavor. I hate to say it ... Iliked my Mom's simple version better.


1 shallot
2 slices of dried beef or Breseola
2 eggs
Salt and Pepper

Saute the shallot in butter until soft, but not browned. Add 2 slices of dried beef which you have snipped into small strips with scissors. Sautee until soft. Quickly add 2 well beaten eggs, and gently toss until the eggs are done and the onion and beef are incorporated. Serve on buttered toast, as a sandwich.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut Squash Risotto, Step 11

I had mixed feelings about this month's selections for the Barefoot Bloggers. The first of two selections is Ina Garten's Butternut Squash Risotto as chosen by Rachel of Rachel Likes to Cook, from the Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook.

Oh, I was quite certain the risotto would be delicious, and I love, love, love squash. It's hearty fare, perfect for Autumn, but it's still rather warm here in Northern California, I've been working my butt off at the office, I'm cranky and tired, and I admit it ... the few times I've had risotto, I truly never understood what all the fuss was about. A fancier rice pilaf! I knew, however, I wasn't having it served under ideal conditions. The first time I had it, it was from a mix. From Target, no less. The second time I had it, it was from Whole Foods' hot dinner case, and it was hard and dry. The third time I had it, it was "to go" from a nice restaurant. It's not the kind of thing that travels well and it was just thick, heavy rice pudding when we got it home.

Honestly though, the primary reason for my reticence was simply that I've never made risotto from scratch and the thought of it intimidated me. Still, that's what these blogging groups are all about, creating dishes out of our comfort zone, with the ideas from and support of my fellow bloggers.

Having now completed the task, and I made it as close to the recipe as I possibly could, with no shortcuts other than scaling it down by half for me (with guaranteed leftovers), I can say the following:

Yes, it was a bit time consuming.
Yes, it was a bit rich and fattening.
Yes, it was worth it.
Yes, it was easier than I thought.
Yes, I will make it again. For sure.
Yes, it was Fan. Flipping. Tastic.

Rachel, I bow in your general direction, congratulate you on your guts, and blame you for the carb-fat I'm going to be gaining this coming winter.

On with the picture show, my friends.


Butternut Squash Risotto, Step 1
Assembling everything in advance (a rarety for me, but I can't afford to screw this up -- I already got the wrong kind of pancetta, so I added a bit of crumbled bacon I had on hand to make up for it). Left to right, parmesan cheese, butter, bacon, rice, shallots, saffron, and pancetta (it's actually a close cousin, but we're calling it pancetta for simplicity's sake)

Butternut Squash Risotto, Step 2
Roast the diced cubes of fresh butternut squash in olive oil, salt, and pepper, until tender.

Note: I wish I had not added the salt and pepper at the various stages called for. Pancetta, butter, bacon, parmesan cheese -- these are all salty items and I should have waited until the recipe was done, and salted to taste. It was a bit heavy on the salt, but still delicious.

Butternut Squash Risotto, Step 3
Simmer my homemade chicken stock, which is probably the most profound change in my cooking to occur this year -- I made a pot of fresh stock from a rotisserie chicken, froze it in baggies, and finally understood why all chefs tell you to make your own stock. BECAUSE YOU NEED TO. YOU REALLY, REALLY NEED TO. I can say that barring a crisis requiring canned goods, I'll never go back to store-bought stock.

Butternut Squash Risotto, Step 4
Simmer the pancetta, shallots and bacon in the butter, until soft, but not browned.

Butternut Squash Risotto, Step 5
Add the rice and stir to coat the rice in the melted butter.

Butternut Squash Risotto, Step 6
Add a splash of white wine now, and simmer the rice in the buttery wine.

Butternut Squash Risotto, Step 7
Add the saffron threads and more salt and pepper. See note above -- I wouldn't add the salt and pepper next time. Trader Joe's, I curse you for having such a crappy spice selection, but, for those few spices you DO have, I thank you for making them so affordable.

Butternut Squash Risotto, Step 8
Adding the ladle of chicken broth. Ladle, ladle, ladle. Stir, stir, stir. Look at all those pretty ingredients. Rice, shallots, saffron ... coming together nicely.

Butternut Squash Risotto, Step 9
After lading broth and cooking in installments with continual stirring, it thickened up nicely, was velvety, and, ready to take the cubed, cooked squash, parmesan cheese, both added off the heat. Look how messy my pot is. My stove was worse.

Butternut Squash Risotto, Step 10
Hello, you beautiful, fattening, sexy beast. You don't come here often, do you?

Butternut Squash Risotto, Step 12

About this challenge: The Barefoot Bloggers join forces and cook or bake recipes by Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten each month, chosen in order by members, and present them for discussion on two Thursdays each month. Hungry? Please join us at the table!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Blackberry Crostata with a dab of cream

Happy Monday, ya'll. It's cooling down up here in Northern California (we even had the slightest little rain shower this weekend, which was so pleasant), and my desire to hunker in and bake and roast is returning.

The urge to stock up on pumpkins, cake flour, nuts, fruits, spices and everything you need for a Fall Baking Frenzy is strong, but I remain committed to cleaning, organizing and using up the contents of my TWO (yes, 2) freezers: One in my fridge, and one stand-alone chest freezer.

This weekend I found a box of Trader Joe's unbaked pie crusts in my chest freezer, from last season, and the remnants of a bag of frozen raspberries. In my fridge I had a container of fresh blackberries going wonky, and voila -- all three ingredients called for a free form crostata.

The cons -- I didn't like and won't purchase the pie crust again. I know a pre-purchased pie crust isn't ideal and will never beat a scratch pie crust, but I know myself. I will not make and roll out pie dough for just one person. I'll do all sorts of specials things for myself (important for the solo diner, I believe), but scratch pastry has never been one of them. Even Pillsbury makes a better pre-purchased pie crust dough than this, which had no flake to it at all, and was akin to a giant biscuit.

The pros -- the dessert itself was simple, fast, and I think, with some decent dough on hand, I'd make a rustic crostata over a traditional pie every time. I like the rough, free-form nature of it, and the thin end-result delivered an excellent fruit-to-crust ratio (you'd think with as much as I love crust and demand a 50/50 ratio to fruit, I'd make my own, and yet ... )

Of interest, I had a bunch of those little packets of True Lemon and True Lime (pure powdered citrus in a single-serving small packet) which the manufacturer sent to me to sample in relation to a healthy cuisine food project I was working for, and I've been trying to use them up. Typically I use them in my morning fruit smoothies. The pure and intense citrus flavor adds that missing ingredient -- a tart puckery zing -- which always separates a home smoothie from a Jamba Juice smoothie. But I digress.

So I had the packets of True Lemon and decided, what the heck, I'm already mixing flour and sugar to toss with the berries, and it calls for lemon juice as well, so I made a flour mixture of a few teaspoons of sugar, a few teaspoons of flour, and one packet of True Lemon powder. Tossed it all, added the berries, and baked. The fruit mixture was excellent. Tart, sweet, tangy, no artificial flavor at all. I'd do that again, definitely.

In fact, since True Lemon and True Lime are pure (or so they promise me), I'm thinking it would be very simple to have a small container of citrus sugar available for baking and rimming glasses. I'm not advocating not having fresh lemons and limes on hand at all times -- actually I do. I love the zest. But an always-available lime or lemon sugar rim on a cocktail? Laws yes.

Finally, the cream. I really love heavy cream and whipped cream, and I prefer it unsweetened. Just the smooth texture and creamy taste is all one needs -- skip the sugar the next time you whip cream and see if you agree. I didn't even bother to whip the cream, for this crostata. I just drizzled a teaspoon of real cream over the berries and it was perfect that way.


1 layer of your favorite pie crust -- purchased or homemade
2 teaspoons of flour
2 teaspoons of sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
1 packet of True Lemon or 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1 cup of blackberries
1 cup of raspberries
Turbinado Sugar
Orange Juice or Egg Wash

Spread pie crust over a skillet, baking pan, or pie dish (I used a cast iron griddle). Mix flour, sugar and 1 packet of True Lemon in a dish. If using lemon juice, do not add at this point -- reserve. Sprinkle a bit of the flour-sugar-citrus mixture over the center of the uncooked pie crust, and brush it slightly to evenly cover the crust, leaving a wide margin all around. Toss the berries with the remaining flour-sugar-citrus mixture to coat evenly. Pile the berries in the center of the pie crust, smoothing out slightly to leave a several inch margin all around. If using real lemon juice, sprinkle it over the berries at this point. Fold up the crust over the fruit, leaving the center exposed, but pleating the dough to form a barrier. Brush the crust with orange juice or egg wash (I used orange juice), and sprinkle with turbinado or coarse sugar. Bake until well browned and bubbly, at a temp and for a duration suitable for your own oven. Slice, serve with a teaspoon or heavy cream on each slice.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Shrimp and Crab Casserole

Shrimp and Crab Casserole.

I tried to make a quarter out of 15 cents. I recently purchased, and didn't like, a container of Costco shrimp salad. It wasn't terrible. It just lacked flavor, and they used such large shrimp that it wasn't a dainty enough salad for my taste. I didn't want to throw it out, so I doctored it up as a shrimp and crab casserole which was better than the shrimp salad it started life as, but, not good enough to make again.

I remember reading a blog post, quite some time ago, and I wish I'd bookmarked it so I could give her credit. She was expressing her confusion over the comment "I made a batch of pancakes that were terrible, I can't wait until I eat them all and they are gone, so I can try something else." Her argument was, that when you break down the cost of the ingredients of a batch of basic pancakes, you're talking about $3 at most -- why suffer for days eating something you don't like -- not to mention consume the calories from something you don't like? Arn't you worth more than $3.00?

Sure, sure, I am as mindful about waste as you are, but she did make a good point (better than I'm able to recall, here). If you don't want to eat it, don't. Take it into work, donate it to a neighbor, feed the dog. But don't make something out of sub-par ingredients and expect something extraordinary -- it's a rare and happy event when it works.

Another old adage comes to mind -- don't cook with a wine you wouldn't drink. I ignored that advice and although this casserole was adequate and was a hot meal, I didn't really love it, and it goes down the disposal. Now, I've thrown away much more than just the shrimp salad. Silly!


Shrimp Salad
Canned Crabmeat
Siracha Sauce
Cooked Rice
Half and Half
Topped with cracker crumbs

Bake until bubbly. Eat without succor. Toss the rest.