Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Another Peep About Peeps

Doing research for another print writing assignment, I came across the Culinary Institute of America's recipe for marshmallow chicks (which they call peepz). Here's the link. Two things that concern me about the recipe -- getting the sugar mixture to exactly 311 degrees and the fact that the completed chicks stay fresh two weeks. I like mine stale!

For those of you who like that sort of thing, a You Tube video is provided.

For more on peeps, see my post here.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Mac and Cheese Memories

Who doesn't like mac and cheese? I know my family loves it. I started making it from the "blue box" for myself when I was in college. For an extra special meal, I would stir in a can of tuna.

When I went from hot plate cuisine to a real kitchen, my Kraft blue box days were behind me, but so was macaroni and cheese. I graduated to gnocchi and pesto and other pasta combinations. Once I had kids, however, I was back in the mac business big time.

At first, I made mac and cheese from scratch with browned onions and gourmet cheeses. After enough of these calorie spectaculars had taken up residence in my arteries, I began experimenting with lower fat versions. My oldest was a toddler then and ate them all happily. Then he went off to preschool and began raving about the mac and cheese he had at lunch there.

"Mom," he said, "you have to get the recipe."

The next day I called the school's director. She heard my request and laughed.

"It's the kind from the blue box," she said.

That was it, the oldest wasn't having any mac and cheese that wasn't Kraft's. Store brands never cut it for him. It had to be the fluorescent orange, salty and slightly chemical tasting glop from the blue box. The youngest never had a chance. The blue box dominated our pantry from before he was born. The oldest's taste did mature, he did flirt with an white version that's no longer available and he now prefers the Velveeta and Shells version, but when he has to make it for himself at the dorm, it's the microwave Easy Mac blue box variation he reaches for. The youngest, who is a bit of gourmet, still astonishes me by insisting on a supply of the blue boxes on the shelf "just in case."

Here is a link to a post I wrote for Paper Palate on the March 2007 issue of Vegetarian Times. In it I give my adaptation of the magazine's cover recipe for macaroni and cheese. It's full of flavor, fairly slimmed down in fat and calories, and is the baked kind with lots of those nice browned and crusty patches. I added some heat with the addition of green chiles, but they are optional.

The recipe serves eight according to the magazine, but realistically I'd say it's six dinner size portions. We had lots left over and it was delicious either reheated in the microwave or cold straight out of the fridge.

If your family likes a creamier, unbaked mac and cheese, make sure any vegetable additions (if using) are well cooked when you combine them with the mac and cheese mixture, mix in the additional cheese reserved for the topping and skip the bread crumbs and baking steps. It beats the pants off the blue box any day. Unless you are my kid, anyway.

Update (9.30.12) Paper Palate and Well Fed are long gone (and someone else has claimed the paperpalate.net url) but thanks to the way back machine you can see the post here.

See below for what I wrote back in March 2007:

Thursday, March 22, 2007

For My Peeps

Are you a peeps addict, having to get your fix whenever Just Born's Marshmallow Peeps appear in the market? Are you a peeps purist, disdaining the seasonal peeps that appear as orange pumpkins or red hearts or green trees for the purity of the chick or bunny? How do you feel about the orange creme or vanilla creme flavored ones? Do you like your peeps fresh and gooey or stale and chewy?

Whatever your peeps quotient, you might want to check out my Spring Marshmallow Peeps Update on Sugar Savvy.

The report includes the debut of several new peeps (including a sugar free one), some peeps facts (including that a peep has only 32 calories), and links to some peeps sites worth taking some peeks at (including a recipe for do-it-yourselfers and photos of a peeps shrine and other peeps art).

For the record, I don't like the flavored peeps. I'm not fussy about the shape or color but think anything but a chick in pink or yellow is a crime against nature. I like my peeps on the stale side and so far this year I haven't had a one. However, peeps season is just beginning and I'm most likely to buy them after Easter when they are just starting to go stale and on sale, a combination I can't resist.

If you care to share your peeps favorites, stories or links, please leave them in the comments below.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Eat My Words -- Diner Speak

For a non-virtual writing assignment I have been researching diners. I was charmed by the colorful code or language waitresses and cooks developed over the years. See if you can answer these Diner Speak Questions correctly. Answers are in comments.

1. Which of these terms does not refer to a hot dog?

A. Ground Hog
B. Coney Island Chicken
C. Dog and Maggot
D. Bloodhounds in the Hay

2. A soup jockey is a ________________.

A. Patron that orders soup
B. Cook who prepares soup
C. Waitress who brings soup

3. Which of these terms does not refer to a hamburger?

A. Cowboy
B. Hockey puck
C. Chewed with Fine Breath
D. Burn one

4. What exactly are these desserts?

A. Nervous pudding
B. Eve with a lid
C. Bucket of cold mud
D. Fish eyes

5. What are these drinks?

A. Windmill Cocktail
B. Adams Ale
C. City Juice
D. Dog Soup

For more diner slang, you can click here (which is where these terms came from).
Photo credit: Hangar Hotel

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What I Did Over the Weekend

Well, I went to Napa Valley for a reunion of old friends. We had a blast. Didn't get to visit any wineries this time, but I did eat some amazing meals. Watch this blog for write ups of my experience at Bouchon and the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A Spring Walk In My Neighborhood

A few weekends ago my husband and I took a little stroll through the hills neighborhood where we live. It is an oddity, a suburban neighborhood with rural aspects in the middle of a very urban city. In the morning when I drive my youngest to the school bus the trip down the hill will sometimes take my breath away with its panorama of water, bridges and the sparkling city across the bay. Sometimes it is the little details of the pale spring blooms and tender green shoots that attract my attention. In winter, spring, summer, fall and fog there is always something to make me appreciate where we are fortunate enough to live. It is not just the food that makes the San Francisco Bay area so special.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Jumbo Addition to the Blog Roll

A while back, I donated a prize to the Menu for Hope raffle, "The I Wanna Be a Food Writer" package of books. Brilynn of Jumbo Empandas was the winner, but I got something out of it, too, -- a new blog to check out. Jumbo Empandas has to be one of the nicest looking adaptations of a straight Blogger template I've seen (very inspiring). It's full of Brilynn's observations, recipes and beautiful photos. I hope you'll check it out. Brilynn has been a regular reader (and commenter) of Blog Appetit for some time, so this link is long overdue.

If you want to be a food writer and didn't win my prize here's the books I recommend. They are available through most bookstores here in the U.S. and on Amazon in Canada and England. (FYI - Amazon in U.K. seems to have great shipping deals if you live elsewhere in Europe.)

  • Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob
  • The Recipe Writer's Handbook by Ostmann and Baker
  • The New Food Lover's Companion by Herbst

If you have a food writing resource you'd like to add to this list, please leave a comment below.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Friend Indeed Is A Friend Who Shares Her Soup Recipes With Me

My friend Leslie P (I have a number of friends named Leslie for some reason), emailed me recipes for some soups she has had success making. Thanks, Leslie.

The salmon chowder is rich and hearty, the beet-carrot soup is vegan and full of flavor.

Here's her recipes in her own words ( I think she always wanted to be a blogger, if the truth were known):

Salmon Chowder

1 Cup Smoked Salmon ( we always have cans around) cut in chunks.
2 TBS.Butter, 1/2 C. Chopped onions, 1/4 c. sliced celery, 1/2 c. green pepper , 2 TB. flour, 1 1/4 C. Chicken Bouill.., 1/4 c. s. cream., 1 tsp dill, pepper, chopped parsley.
Melt butter, saute onion, clery, pepper. Stir in flour, add bouillon- cook over med. til boiling.
Add s. cream, dill pepper, smoked salmon.
Heat 2-3 min. Top w/ parsley

Rosemary Red Soup
(this one is really good)

3 med. carrots, 1 Beet, 1 TBS olive oil, 1 lg. onion, diced- 1 c. dried red lentils, 6 cups water/stock, 2 Bay leaves, 1 Sprig Rosemary- (3")- 1 TBS Oregano, 2-3 TBs Miso.
Scrub and chop carrots and beet, Heat oil in soup pot, add onion and saute til soft. Add carrots and beet, saute a few min. more, wash and drain lentils, Add lentils, water, bay leaves, rosemary and oregano to sauteed onion. Bring to Boil, Lower heat and simmer 40 min. Remove Bay leaves and stems . Puree Soup in Blender w/Miso- gently reheat before serving.

She is promising me a poblano soup one, too. Can't wait.
About the photo: Beets and other good root vegetables at the Berkeley, CA, farmers' market.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Potatoes Plus Sauce Base Equals Almost Free Soup

I needed soup and I needed it fast. Today's quickie soup inspiration -- a carton of fresh cioppino base (a tomato and vegetable sauce for a seafood stew or soup). I got mine fresh from Safeway, but Trader Joe's sells a jarred version and I've seen others around. It is part of Safeway's fresh signature soup line and lists for only $2.99, but it is on sale for $2.99 OFF through March 6th, so if you act quickly it costs you nothing.

I tossed mine in a pan, dropped in about a half pound of cubed, cooked potatoes and heated it all through. (The Safeway cioppino base was only 25 ounces, so adjust your add ins accordingly.) Tasty, spicy soup!

It would also work well with cooked crabmeat (real or krab).

If you are a Manhattan clam chowder fan like me, it would also make a good base for that.

Or, you could also make it into a real cioppino.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Kung Hay Fat Choy -- Lychee Sorbet for the Lunar New Year

A post on Sweetnicks about her Chinese New Year Party sparked some pleasant memories of similar parties I’ve hosted over the years. Usually pot lucks they included watching our local Chinese New Year’s parade on television.

Some highlights from feasts past:

Home-made wontons in soup
Scallion cakes
Steamed salmon with ginger, garlic and black beans
Lots and lots of stir fries
Various noodle dishes
Home-pickled vegetables
Noah’s almond cookies
Noah’s fruit tart with ying-yang design (lemon cream with kiwi and strawberries)
Lychee sorbet

The sorbet is easy, easy, easy. The lychees are sweet with a slightly floral tone and the sorbet is a refreshing finish to almost any meal. The sorbet is a pale, off white (quite appropriate for the lunar new year) and looks nice presented in a colorful dish and/or served with berries or other fruit and maybe an almond cookie, too.

Lychee Sorbet

(From 365 Ways to Cook Chinese by Rosa Lo San Ross, Harper Collins)
Makes about 1 quart

2-20 ounce cans of lychees packed in syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
grated zest of 1 lemon

Drain fruit, reserving syrup. Puree lychees. (There should be about two cups.) Add two cups of the reserved syrup, cinnamon, cloves and lemon zest. Mix well. Place pureed mixture in ice cream maker and process following directions. Finished sorbet might be a bit soft, if so pack into freezer-proof containers and freeze for a few hours. Take out 10-20 minutes before serving.

To make the sorbet without using an ice cream maker, see the directions on the tangerine sorbet post here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

"Going Freezer Shopping" -- Green Chicken Soup

I was overdue for making a soup (a staple here at the Blog Appetits) and had agreed to limit my forays to the market for a while to “eat down” the pantry and freezer to make some room for any new purchases later. (Whenever I source a recipe this way I refer to it as “going freezer shopping,” hence the first part of the post’s title.)

While shuffling the contents of my freezer looking for inspiration I came across a package of boneless chicken breast tenders, a bag of Trader Joe’s Organic Greens with Envy and some frozen chicken stock (maybe a quart or so?). The frozen vegetable mix featured shelled edamame, spinach, green beans, broccoli florets and asparagus tips.

It made up into a light but full-flavored homey chicken vegetable soup. The smell of the simmering chicken soup was warming and cheery on a rainy winter day and made me feel well taken care of and loved. The soup itself looked bright and fresh and reminded me that spring would soon be here. (An aside, it might be a nice non-traditional "green" dish for St. Patrick's Day if you are looking for something other than corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew or green bagels.)

You could substitute canned or boxed chicken stock if that’s what you have hiding in your pantry, but homemade always packs a taste punch. Substitute whatever fresh or frozen chopped green vegetables you have on hand, but be sure to include something green and leafy, something green and a bit crunchy, and perhaps fresh or frozen shelled edamame or canned or frozen lima beans. There is little added fat and lots of nutrients in the vegetables, so it is a good-for-you-soup, too.

Other cuts of chicken on or off the bone will work well, too. You could skip the chicken entirely, but poaching the poultry in the soup adds of depth to the flavor even if your stock is not homemade.

Green Chicken Soup

All amounts approximate
Serves 4

Oil spray or 1 tsp oil (I used grapeseed)
1 small or ½ large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
16 ounces frozen or fresh chopped green vegetables
1 quart chicken stock
¾ to 1 pound (or more) boneless chicken breasts or breast tenders (frozen or fresh) OR other chicken on or off the bone
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Spray the bottom of a large pot or add 1 teaspoon oil. Heat over medium high flame. Add onion and sauté until just softened. Add minced garlic and sauté until beginning to brown. Add frozen or fresh vegetables and sauté until vegetables are beginning to defrost (if frozen) or just beginning to soften (if fresh). Add chicken stock. Stir all ingredients well, making sure to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the pan. Heat soup until simmering. Add chicken pieces (no need to defrost frozen boneless chicken) and poach in broth until just cooked through. (You may need to adjust heat to keep from boiling. Timing will depend on size, thickness, bone in or out, frozen or not, so keep you’ll need to watch. Do not overcook.) Remove chicken from the pot and cut or shred into bite size pieces. (If you’ve used chicken with skin and bones, remove those from meat, cut or shred the meat.) Add meat back to pot. Heat soup through, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

You’ll be amazed at the good, clean taste and depth this simple soup has (especially if you’ve used a quality or homemade chicken stock). If you want more spice, you can certainly add hot sauce or other seasonings either to the whole pot or your bowl. You might also try adding a teaspoon or two of fresh, minced ginger when you add the garlic for a more Asian-flavored soup.
I ate mine straight. Noah added a spoonful of shredded Parmesan cheese and stirred it through. Gary added some leftover cooked pasta to his bowl first then ladled in the hot soup. If your stock was not very rich, you could stir in a dash of a good quality olive oil to your serving to pump up the flavor a bit. Try lemon oil for a refreshing taste.

Variation: Make it with good quality vegetable stock and tofu and you can have a Green Greens Soup.

25,000 Page View Landmark -- Or a Plea for You to Bookmark Me (Just Kidding about the Bookmark, But Why Not?)

Dear Readers,

I am very proud to announce that sometime yesterday, Blog Appetit passed the 25,000 page view mark (since the counter was installed in January 2006). The actual number is higher, since the blog was started a few months prior to the counter installation.

About 15-25 percent of those each day are from readers who have clicked my way before (thank you, thank you), but many come in response to searches for topics I have written about. My top searches seem to be calories or nutrition in See's Candies, callao soup, Asian soup or lemongrass soup or Asian noodle soup (or some similar combination) and Asian or Vietnamese spring rolls. Seasonal favorites include peppermint bark and pumpkins. If you are on this post because it included these topics and popped up on your search, my apologies. I do write about all these things, please search the blog on the search bar at the top of the page and you'll find them all.

While I am pleased to be an information provider to so many, I really aim to provide a varied, interesting, useful and entertaining content to regular readers who can follow my foibles, adventures and my sometimes twisted train of thought ( I once thought this blog should be called "But, I Digress"). So if you got here because of a specific subject search, I hope you'll take a moment to click here and see what's on my main page today.

If you are reading this as a regular Blog Appetit reader, thanks so much for your patronage. Please feel free to leave a congratulatory message, a rant or rave, suggestions, comments or a link back to your blog (if you have one) as a comment below or email me through my profile.

In the spirit of the award season, I'd like to thank all those you have made this achievement possible:

Gary, Mr. Blog Appetit, for his support and continual interest in what I am making for dinner.
Noah, The Future Pastry Chef, for his willingness to provide copy, go food shopping with me and share my passion for the web and the kitchen.
His Brother, who named the blog and always has good ideas and for pushing me to make the best damn grilled cheese sandwich I could.
My mother, of blessed memory, for inspiring me to be fearless in the kitchen and to stand up straight.
Food Blog Sc'ool for being there when things got tough as a resource, sounding board and for providing a sense of community. And, to the Bay Area food bloggers and all other food bloggers (and blog readers) out there, for making my virtual world almost as rewarding, exciting and tasty as my non-virtual one.

(Cue: Swelling Music to Drone out Overly Long Post)

Blog Appetit exits stage left, tearfully clutching a print out of her counter statistics.

"You read me, you really read me!"