Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Summer Cooking Basics

A couple years ago I started a series of Summer Cooking posts that I intended to space out over the 12 weeks of summer. I've only gotten 6 posts done! No matter, I will get a full 12 in one of these years.

We are still moving (to be finished for sure by May 4th - we've had too many snags this time) and until I can fully get back to blogging, I wanted to share those summer cooking posts with you. It's been VERY hot here these past few days, nearing 100F daily. Thankfully we haven't had the humidity with it, but it's still been too hot to cook. So, here is a link to all of those posts: Summer Cooking 101

Enjoy - and see you soon!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Veggie Wednesday: Earth Day, 2009

Today is our 39th Earth Day! This is one of my favorite days of the year. I love this earth we live on and I think it's every single earthling's duty to protect our resources and treat this world kindly.

One of my favorite ways to 'go green'.

My personal favorite ways to do that are growing my own garden, walking or using public transportation as much as possible, using cloth bags or re-using other bags when shopping, eating organic and local as much as possible, recycling and Freecycling and teaching my kids about how to do these things for themselves.

The biggest tip I have for everyone when it comes to the Three R's is this: The first R is REDUCE. Recycling is awesome and re-using is great, but reducing what we use is the first and most important R to be vigilant about.

I think sometimes people assume that we are super-poor because the kids use their coats for more than one year (mine has gone on 5 years) and they don't have a different pair of shoes for each day. Guess what? They don't NEED them! We use what we have for as long as we can and then we take it to the awesome recycling center we have here in Bethlehem, Pa to get rid of it wisely.

Here are some green things to check out today:

The Illick's Mill Project: My daughter, Megan, is part of this wonderful endeavor to reclaim and refurbish the old Illick's Mill and turn it into a beacon of environmental learning. These high-school kids are doing everything from building and painting to grant writing and publishing - all in an effort to create an environment where people can come to learn more about - well, the environment! Every function they hold is graced by earth-friendly products like compostable cups and utensils and the kids work so hard to see this dream come to fruition. Check it out and read all about it!

The Bethlehem, Pa Recycling Center: We have one of the best recycling centers around. We are able to take a plethora of items to the recycling center here and are also blessed to have an awesome curbside pickup. This year, in addition to plastic, glass and aluminum, we have been able to leave paper and cardboard at the curbside for pickup. In the first two months of operation, we recycled 490 tons of paper! That's a huge amount and something every recycling Bethlehemite should be proud of. The newest program is a twice a year yard waste curbside pickup - now we can put our Christmas tree at the curb - can't beat that!

The Hydrogen buses run by our very own Air Products. One of the buses was out and about today at Moravian College and we caught a photo or two. The website has lots of info on this truly cool mode of transportation and how the community is getting a look at the buses.

The boy and the bus - note the bare feet.

The Lehigh Valley Food Co-Op is fully operational! Check out the website to order or just to browse the products offered. Local and organic is the way to go and our co-op is ready to help you choose wisely!

Gardenfork.tv - A must-read post and a must-see site! I love Eric and all he's doing to teach others about how to care for the environment at the same time they are caring for themselves.

Aluminum foil is not recyclable - right? Well, check out Reynolds' new RECYCLED aluminum foil. This stuff is super-heavy and takes all you can dish out - no pun intended. If you head over to the website, you can get a free roll for yourself and even enter to win
Eco-Friendly Appliances!

A favorite 'green' recipe.

Stonyfield Farm's new Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt is some seriously good stuff. I used it for one of my very favorite 'green' recipes, falafel pita - organic from the pita to the raita sauce - and it was absolutely delicious. Check out the website to get a coupon and try it out for yourself. Thick, rich, creamy and delicious in 4 flavors.

One of my new favorite magazines is Mary Jane's Farm. The best there is for all-things-organic and feminine. Not that guys can't read it, but it is geared toward the organic woman. I don't miss reading a single page in this publication - I love it cover to cover.

Whatever you do today - remember that no action is too small and each one counts toward keeping our earth green and happy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Book Review: Under the Table

I often receive books for review, not daily, or even weekly, but for a simple food blogger, I get my fair share. I can't say there have been any that I didn't like, but there certainly are a few that I've enjoyed more than the others. Under the Table: Saucy Tales from Culinary School by Katherine Darling is one of the latter.

Ms. Darling takes the reader into the dark underbelly of The not-so-glamorous-as-you'd-think French Culinary Institute in New York City. Her fellow students, all true characters themselves, provide fodder for many a story along with the strict and intimidating Chef Instructors that pervade her life for 6 grueling months as she makes her way from fledgling self-trained cook to full-fledged Chef.

This is a perfect recounting of all that goes on behind swinging kitchen doors; raunchy jokes, adolescent pranks, secrets revealed and spirits broken. There is no stone left unturned and the retelling of it in Ms. Darling's memoir is nothing short of perfection.

It's not necessary to be a budding chef or industry expert to enjoy this book, anyone with a sincere love for food and a desire to learn more about the 'real deal' day-to-day life of a culinary student will appreciate it.

Personally, I felt as though it was a refresher course for me. Although my own time spent in culinary school was spread out over 9 months, it was every bit as brutal and relentless, and yet the most satisfying thing I have ever accomplished. It was relieving to me to find that Ms. Darling and I both headed in the same nearly un-chosen direction after graduation, as well. There were so many similarities between our two school experiences that it made the book just that much more enjoyable for me. I can easily see myself re-reading this book every so often as a charming and funny reminder of my own time spent in culinary school.

The recipes throughout are sound in technique and one of the very best parts of the book; something I feel is reason enough to give this one a look. Under the Table: Saucy Tales from Culinary School is available today, April 14, 2009 at the following booksellers:


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Don't Forget About Me

It's been nearly a week since I posted last and I don't want any one of you wandering off in my absence. We are in the midst of a move. Our landlords, who are missionaries in Uganda, are coming home earlier than expected and we've had to find a new place. We've done that, and now comes the really awful part - packing and moving.

I'm just so busy with all of it that I may be MIA from here for a bit. I have several book reviews coming up and a product or two you'll want to read about when I return. In the meantime, check out my older posts and the rest of my site, preferably with a cup of coffee or tea in hand.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Edible Flowers in Aspic

Cheese with Edible Flowers in Aspic
Cheese with Edible Flowers in Aspic

Many years ago I had the chance to host a bridal shower for my best friend. This very easy to do cheese was a show-stopper. It's so simple to do, but so pretty that everyone is wow-ed by it. This is the perfect spring centerpiece.

The best part is, even though it may look expensive, it's actually quite cheap to make. The first one I made was of the whitest cheese I could find, a beautiful goat's milk Gruyere I discovered at the Allentown Farmer's Market. If I recall correctly, that chunk of cheese cost a hefty chunk of change and I decided that from now on, a slightly 'off-white' cheese would do just as well.

This one in particular is a simple Muenster cheese that I trimmed of any orange rind and cut into a round with a 3-inch biscuit cutter. I think the effect is quite nice. The flowers are wild violets - a lawn nightmare for some - and can be found growing almost anywhere in warm weather. I found mine on the edge of the sidewalk on a nearby street. DO NOT pick these if you think they've been treated by pesticides in any way or have been christened by a dog or cat. It's best to set aside a patch in your yard specifically for edible uses. The only other must-have ingredient is Knox gelatin - a single package. The leaves I used for the background were wild strawberry and extra wild violet leaves.

Any edible flower can be used here, the flatter the better, but any size can work if you're willing to take the time to sufficiently cover it with aspic. You can also use herbs or a combination of herbs and flowers. Sometimes the only edible part of a flower is the petals, so the green can be obtained by using a fresh herb.

Here's what to do:

1. Trim cheese to desired shape and place flowers and/or herbs in desired pattern.
2. Remove flowers and/or herbs and set aside.
3. Prepare aspic: Combine 1 envelope Knox gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water or white wine (a blush wine would look pretty with pink-hued flowers). Stir well. Heat another 1/2 cup of water or wine to boiling and add to the mixture. Stir until gelatin is dissolved.
4. Place the cheese on a rack over a shallow pan - or on a plate.
5. Coat once with aspic by pouring a thin coating over cheese with a spoon. Place flowers and/or herbs back in the desired design and coat again with aspic.
6. If using a plate, scoop or gently pour any aspic that has drained from the cheese back into the bowl.
7. Continue spooning aspic over flowers and cheese - as evenly as possible - until flowers are completely encased in aspic.
8. To speed things along, you can put the cheese into the refrigerator between coatings, but be sure to keep the bowl of aspic from setting while you work.
9. Chill until completely set and serve as desired.

Leftover Love

With all that beef last week there was bound to be a leftover or two lurking in the refrigerator. I was given a stipend to create a few beef meals, and in true Anne fashion, I extended that stipend far beyond the intended meals.

Some of the leftovers were just a re-playing of the meal it had already been; we had fajitas twice and extra focaccia sandwiches. I made a soup from one of the leftover cuts and this fried rice from the chili-rubbed roast. The rice was leftover from the chili and the carrots and sno peas left from the Very Veggie Egg Rolls. It made a perfect lunch.

Leftover Love Fried Rice
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

2 cups thinly sliced beef strips
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 cup matchstick carrots
2 cups sno peas
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 small clove garlic - minced
4 cups cooked white rice

Heat a heavy pan on high and add oils. As soon as they start to shimmer, add beef, carrots, sno peas and rice. Stir together quickly. Add garlic and soy sauce and stir to distribute soy throughout rice. Continue stirring until heated through.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Beef: It's What's For Dinner - Winners

I had Random.org working overtime this morning picking winners for the Beef: It's What's For Dinner Giveaway. The random numbers (sorry for no screenshot, I'm having technical difficulties today) chosen were 7, 14 and 19.

One copy each of The Healthy Beef Cookbook will be sent to Topher and Elle! Congratulations, you two!

The $100 gift card and remaining copy of The Healthy Beef Cookbook goes to Kristen. Congratulations, Kristen! I can't wait to see your beef post - I'm sure it'll be fantastic.