Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Candy candy candy candy candy!

Got my loot! Noteworthy items included:

lots of kit kat, twix peanut butter cups;
Cheese and cracker snacks;
Mini microwave popcorn;
Sugar cookies with halloween frosting;
ghost-shaped cupcake with frosting and choc chips for eyes
Famous Amos cookies
Nerds, dots, jolly ranchers;
Pixie stix!
Sour patch kid gumballs

A bit of a dearth on snickers, but I did get a few. Most of the loot was quite excellent.

I love Halloween.

T-minus 15 minutes to candy

Every year, my work does trick-or-treating, where each worker who wants to can bring in some treats. All of us who participate get to go around the office at 8:30AM Halloween morning to trick-or-treat.

We have 60 people participating today. It's going to be oh, so sweet.

I was going to make something from scratch to bring in, but got busy, and didn't have time to make enough for 60 people. So instead I brought in Capri Sun drink pouches. I figured it's still sweet, but just a little different from the normal things to eat.

I shall post later today with the highlights of my goodie bag.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Master of the London Broil

London Broil is one of my husband's comfort foods. And tonight, after 3 years, I finally mastered cooking it "just like mom used to." I figured I'd share my triumph by sharing the recipe.

2-3 pounds London Broil roast
Lawry's Adolph's meat tenderizer
pepper and onion powder
A broiler

Heat broiler. Prick roast with fork. Sprinkle both sides with meat tenderizer, pepper, and onion powder. Do not add extra salt--the meat tenderizer has salt in it. Broil 5 minutes per side, turning once. Then broil another two minutes per side, turning once. Let rest for 10 minutes. Slice thinly across the grain, on the bias. Enjoy some perfectly medium-rare to rare london broil. Yummy.

Taking requests

I've had some requests from friends for good topics/recipes to post here on the blog, which I will be doing over the next two weeks. So look for features on hot chocolate and chili during this spurt of cold weather we're having.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to ask you, dear reader, to suggest topics if you feel so inclined. I'm open to pretty much anything, from recipe ideas to cooking questions.

Hope to hear your ideas soon.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Part 2 of How to use up 50 heads of garlic in 3 months

As promised.

Garlic soup – Toasting the bread before simmering it gives the soup a richer flavor. This is very soothing when you are sick, and surprisingly easy on the stomach. Serves 2.

Take some good bread, cube it. Saute it in a saucepan large enough to make some soup, with some olive oil and several whole peeled cloves of garlic. You want the bread toasted and crouton-y, and the cloves can get a little toasty too.

Add 2 cups of chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water. Simmer the soup for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot.

Chicken and cloves – Easiest recipe ever, and it always impresses. Serves 4.

Put 4 chicken breasts in baking dish, and season with salt, pepper, and herbs. Peel 4 to 5 heads of garlic completely. Cut off any woody or bruised areas. Add a lot of olive oil, enough to come up the baking dish at least a third. Scatter garlic around chicken, so that most cloves are in the olive oil, and some are on top of the chicken. Cover and cook at 350 degrees, for at least 30 minutes. (If you use frozen chicken, make it at least an hour). Serve with crusty bread on the side. Smoosh roasted garlic on bread and use bread to sop up the garlic oil.

If you are cooking this for more or less than 4 people, estimate 1 head of garlic, 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, and at least 1/4 cup of olive oil per person.

Garlic Dill pickles – the recipe I use is Alton Brown’s refrigerator pickle recipe, with extra garlic and lots of fresh dill springs thrown in.

Parmesan garlic dip - A dip I first created because powdered parmesan doesn't get enough respect.

1 16 -ounce container sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ c. Parmesan cheese (the powdery kind from the green shaker)
1 clove garlic, minced finely
1 teaspoon salt
white pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate. Serve with crackers and a bag of pre-mixed, pre-cut vegetables. This dip is especially good with snow peas.

Chocolate covered garlic – this isn’t as strange as it sounds, really. Then again, it’s not a recipe for everybody…because most people are too chicken to try it. The garlic is poached in wine, sugar, and spices, which makes it very mellow and sweet. It’s really not all that different than eating a chocolate-covered cherry, or a pretzel.

Since this recipe is originally from The Garlic Book, I can’t really post it without permission. However, since it’s apparently out of print, I will give the general procedure and ingredients for the recipe.

Peel a head of garlic. Simmer cloves in wine, sugar, lemon peel and spices, until soft. As cloves are cooling, melt a high quality melting chocolate. Dip cloves in chocolate using a toothpick, and lots of waxed paper to keep the mess down. Sore on waxed paper in a sealed container. These do not keep well, so eat within a day.

How to use up 50 heads of garlic in 3 months

To those of you who have complained that there's a dearth of garlic on this blog (which being named "Garlic is Love," should really have more garlic), I offer this post:

We had an Iron Chef party in June for my friend's birthday. We were given three options on what the secret ingredient might be, and it turned out to be "Battle Garlic." (Woo-hoo!) I won, but only by one point (a very close battle indeed).

The Chairman, the birthday girl's husband, wanted to dramatically rip the cover off the theme ingredients to reveal them, just like they do on the show. Which he did, by buying about 50 heads of garlic.

As the two chefs cooked, it slowly dawned on the "Chairman" that he had bought way too much garlic (The boy doesn't cook much). Even with my dishes of individual roasted garlic, we went through fewer than a half a dozen of the heads.


We wound up splitting the difference, and I went home with about 25 heads of baby garlic, mexican garlic, and elephant garlic (which is actually a leek).

Thus, why I scrambled to find new ways to use up the leftover garlic this past summer.

Here's what I came up with:

* Anytime I was sauteeing anything, I added one clove of minced garlic. (1 clove per recipe)
* I made lots of dips that use a lot of garlic, like tsati..tzaz...cucumber garlic dip...onion dip with garlic, herb dip with garlic, hummus, and so on. (1-2 cloves per recipe)
* Garlic bread (1-2 cloves per recipe)
* Garlic dill pickles. (4-5 cloves per jar)
* Garlic soup. (1 HEAD per recipe)
* Chocolate covered garlic--no, wait, no one lets me cook that anymore... (1-2 HEADS of garlic per recipe, theoretically)
And, the mother of all garlic dishes when you have a ton of garlic...
* Chicken and 40 cloves of garlic (4-5 HEADS per recipe!!)

Armed with this phalanx of garlic recipes, I got through 25 heads before Labor Day, and even found myself using so much garlic that I had to go out and get a bunch of fresh stuff in bulk at the farmer's market.

I'll post the recipes separately.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Last week of my farm share :(

Today was the last day for the weekly farm share, which I've been participating in since early Spring. For about $15 a week, I got between 5 and 15 items freshly and organically grown on a farm within 25 miles from me.

The farm share is also known as CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agricultrue. I like "farm share" better, because it needs less explaining. We are a family of two, so I got a half share.

The experience was pretty good. It definitely got my husband and I to eat more veggies, and I was able to use nearly all of the produce I recieved without it spoiling. There were a couple squash that I let sit too long, and some swiss chard, and that was pretty much it.

It was, at times, hard to tell if I was getting my money's worth from the CSA, especially with the early season being droughty and the late season being floody, the reverse of what is ideal for farming. But, overall, it was a great experience, and I'll probably do it again. It did mean that a lot of days, I had to cook even if I didn't want to, or else my produce would spoil.

I'm lucky that there are several CSA's in my area, and I think next year I'll try a different one to see if I like it any better. After I've shopped around a bit, then I'll pick the one I like best.

If you are wanting to get into the local food thing, and you enjoy cooking on a daily basis, I highly recommend CSA's as a good way to start. And the fresh garlic that I got was very, very nice.

Look for a longer post about local food sometime soon--meat and veggies.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Northern Michigan Wine Extravaganza

It's a Michigan thing--go up north, see the fall color, and do wine tastings at a half a dozen vineyards or so. The Leelanau Peninsula, also known for its cherries, is becoming more and more recognized for its wines.

There's several dozen wineries up there, including one run by Madonna's Dad. No way to see them all in a day, really, so you have to pick just a few and find yourself a designated driver to really enjoy the experience.

The leaves were great. The wine experience was mixed.

If you never been wine tasting, the first thing to know is each tasting room has a different vibe. Some, like Shady Lane, are rather elegant, with a backyard patio for you to enjoy your tastings. Some, like L. Mawby are hip and edgy, with witty sayings plastered all around and irreverent wine names, like Sex. (Insert your own sex joke here)

I can't forget to mention Boskydel winery, which is run by a curmudgeon who makes some mighty fine, yet inexpensive, wine, that he sells out of a shop a little bigger than a dorm room.

Black Star Farms, one of the more famous wineries in the area, is the exact opposite of Boskydel. To accommodate the large volume of tasters that come in, the tasting room is one big bar, and the floor is easy-to-clean concrete. Then they have a smaller, carpeted tasting room for the "good stuff," ciders, ice wines and fruit cordials.

And that, right there, sums up the problem with wine tastings in Michigan these days. Two years ago, when I went on my first wine tasting, nearly everything was free. Black Star was the only place that charged you for your samples. The other places assumed let their wines speak for themselves, and that you would buy something you liked. They assumed you cared

Now, everybody follows the Black Star model, or something similar. At Black Star, you pay for your own glass, for $5, and you get to taste the basics. Once you have the glass, you get to keep it, and can come back next week, or next season, for free. However, you have to pay extra for their "good stuff," as I stated above.

The other model is the "wine flight" model. You pay between $3 and $5 for four wines (give or take) and a little snack on the side (usually crackers with goat cheese or fish pate).

Now, I'm all for snacks with wine, but a wine tasting it is not. And it kinda ruins the real experience for people who actually like to learn about wine and taste different things.

My first wine tasting ever, was more than five years ago at a place called Bel Lago,. We got to try as much as we wanted for free, and the person pouring actually talked about what the wine tasted like. This Riesling tastes like flowers, she said, and I could taste the flowers (and hated them, but at least I could taste them). Now, compare and contrast this oaked Chardonay with this one that was fermented in steel barrels. Taste the difference? What do you like? What don't you like?

With the new model, it's all about economics. They figure most people aren't serious wine drinkers--they're just up there to get trashed and to have a good time. They don't value you as a consumer, so they can't trust you to buy anything, thus the paid tastings. No one tries to educate you about the wine--they only tell you the name, and any awards its won to try to impress you. And nobody spits.

And I didn't spit either. I wasn't up there for a fine wine experience--I was up to see some old friends and enjoy the company and the weather. But even though I enjoyed it, I still need to criticize the lesser points of the day. I'd like to see more places go back to the older model, where they actually teach you something about wine, and trust you, instead of being focused on the line-out-the-door-of-the-tasting-room and their own Bottom Line.

Whitefish pate be damned.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dude! "The Chairman" is on Stargate Atlantis!

This is totally sweet. I saw the guy who plays the Chairman on Iron Chef America, Mark Dacascos, on a preview for an upcoming Stargate: Atlantis.

This is one of those days I wish somebody actually read my blog.

Click below for more info on the actor--he's a bit of a Renaissance Man...and he actually does martial arts!

Interview with Mark Dacascos

Mark Dacascos IMDB Page

Mark Dacascos' Web Site

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Next Food Network Star versus Next Iron Chef

Finally, a competitive reality show that I can get behind.

I had been boycotting "The Next Food Network Star," because I felt that they constantly misrepresent that show. The commercials for the show suggest that YOU could be the next winner! Well, unless YOU just happen to be a professional chef...not so much.

Yes, I submitted a demo tape to them eons ago, and it's not that I'm bitter for not being picked. I'm bitter because they gave people like me false hope that average Joes and Janes who like to cook might just have a chance.

Now, the Next Iron Chef show has no such pretensions. It clearly states that its contestants are "The best, of the best, of the best, sir!" So far so good. And, the emcee of the show is Alton Brown. Even better.

So I gave it a chance. Loved it.

Each episode has two challenges--one that is not judged, but gives the winner some kind of advantage (usually picking first ingredients for the next challenge), and one that is judged , which determines who stays and who goes.

First off, the contestants have lots of personality, and their interactions during the cooking challenges are very real, and (fairly) uncensored. That is, swearing is bleeped, but you still know they are swearing. Even the sweat that drips off the contestants as they scramble to finish each challenge adds to the realism (and is kinda gross).

Second, the challenges are really cool and varied. The first challenge that they did was "simple" food prep. They had to cut up a whole bunch of meats and veggies--salmon, chicken, lamb, oysters, coconut, and radish.

The other really neat challenge was when they got to play with all the gadgets--like an anti-griddle, that freezes instead of heats, and liquid nitrogen.

The show is only in its second week, and it looks like one contestant gets booted off each week, so I guess it will be a 7-week miniseries.

The only thing I didn't like is that they are trying too hard to show that "the chairman" is the one masterminding everything. It's pretty clear to me that a phalanx of Food Network producers, possibly even Alton himself, were the ones who designed the challenges. But I can forgive the dramatic structure, because, hey, we're supposed to have the cheese factor, or it's not Iron Chef.

The other thing that kinda sucks is that the only two female competitors have already been voted off. It would have been nice to see more female contestants, or see them do well. But, for the second week at least, I can't really disagree with who they voted off or why. Bummer.

Either way, it's gotten my interest back up for Iron Chef, and I've definitely got my favorites who I'm rooting for.

Whose recipe is it anyway: squash soup

Much like Whose Line is it Anyway is/was a show based on Improvisation, my "Whose recipe is it anyway" will be a repository of improvised recipes.

Yesterday, I made a very nice free-form squash soup for lunch. I used up a bunch of leftovers-- squash, roasted peppers, and a half a carton of heavy cream I had in the fridge.

Small saucepan
stick blender or regular old blender

1 roasted squash, cubed (this was something I picked up from the farmer's market. I can't tell you what variety it was)
2 roasted bell peppers, cut into strips
1-2 cups of chicken broth
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1-2 Tablespoons of curry powder (more or less to suit your tastes)
salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer squash, peppers, and chicken broth until heated through. Add heavy cream. Turn off heat, add curry powder, salt and pepper to taste.
Puree mixture in the blender, or use a stick blender. Puree less if you want it chunky, more if you want it smooth.

This was pretty tasty. I should have pureed it smoother, because the squash chunks were a tad stringy. The curry powder I used was very mild. Idea was based on something from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa show on Food Network. Adding the curry powder I got from a different squash soup recipe in a newsletter.