June 28, 2007

Review: Jancis Robinson's Wine Course

Netflix: Jancis Robinson's Wine Course

Just watched this 2-disc DVD, and it was very interesting and quite entertaining. It's slightly out of date (pre-sideways, it raves about merlot!) I confess that Jancis grated on my nerves for the first episode, but by the end, I would happily sit down to a glass of wine or twelve with her!

...and I'm lusting after a French Sauvignon Blanc called Asteroïde.
At over $1000 a bottle, I don't think it's going to be a satisfied lust, but hey, if all my dreams were attainable, what would I have to look forward to? Not to mention, I'd happily sit down with it's maker, Didier Daguenau.
yes, he's wearing a spoon on his nose.
20 minutes with a pair of scissors (and maybe a nice shirt? //giggle//) and he'd be teh hotness. How could you not want to spend time with someone who thinks like this:
"I make wine to give people pleasure. I sell happiness. It's a good job to be in. I want my wine to be a good moment in people's lives. It's like good food, beautiful music, a beautiful painting. I think that wine should be considered as art in the same way as painting or music. Unfortunately there are not many who think like that. Often they've inherited their vineyard. It's not a trade they have chosen, or if they have chosen it, it's because they think they can make a lot of money. In my opinion, 80% of growers are thick. Of the 20% that are left are the people that work because they to achieve something good... something well made to please people. Often these people are loners because they upset others because they do something different. But they are the ones that are close to the truth."

Oh yeah, and he says this all in French....swoon...

People wax poetic about his methods, technique and the intensity of this wine. Not bad for a wine varietal that most people associate with cat pee.

June 26, 2007

i can has cheezburger!

YAY! Chef sez i can has cheezburger! KTHXchefjoannaBAI!

IM in UR dux, eatin' teh liverz!

IM in UR kitchenz, makin' UR foodz!

...And there are other styles added to my CafePress store, too. Got any other lolcats-style ideas I should make into a t-shirt?

June 22, 2007

Cooking Podcasts, by Chef JoAnna

So, i've mentioned once or twice that i have been doing what i call "culinary tech support" for a company called ChefsLine.

Well, part of my job with ChefsLine is to do podcasts on subjects that people ask about. Here are a few of my recent podcasts:

I just recorded another one about crêpes, and the lovely and talented Jenn will be editing that beastie into something coherent very soon. Once she's finished, I'll post that link, too.

If you have any questions you need answered, feel free to post them to the ChefsLine blog: http://ChefsLine.com/blog

Last thing I ate or drank: Pizza from Dino's. It's a tradition to get pizza the night before I cater a party, and Dino's in Burbank is really really good. Like, good enough to make me want to cater more often. ha ha

June 16, 2007

Quick romance, tucked in a picnic basket

Over at lifehacker.com they are talking about Picnic Essentials.

I keep a picnic basket for two filled with a bunch of basic non-food things in the car. The weather's nice, so I like to picnic with Kelly at a park a couple blocks away from his work. It's an ongoing thing on Thursdays. Sometimes I bring home-made food, sometimes i pick up carry-out on the way over. Either way, it's a nice break in the day for both of us.

I even took a photo of the contents, just now, since I was putting the stuff back in from Thursday's picnic.

Here's what's in it: You can get all of these at a resale shop, and it can all be tossed in the dishwasher when you get home.

1) two cheap but sturdy GLASS wine glasses
2) one can opener/bottle opener thingy
3) one corkscrew
4) two each forks/knives/spoons (stainless)
5) a handful of paper napkins (it's bad enough i'm gonna do dishes, but i'll be damned if i'm gonna do laundry too.)
6) One Good Sharp Knife (make a cardboard holster if you need to)
7) Two melamine plates (lighter than china!)
8) a cutting board, or a third melamine plate *also good as serving dish, etc.)
9) a few white-plastic-grocery bags, Good for sitting on, collecting trash, then wrapping dirty dishes so you don't have a leaky picnic basket
10) the picnic basket itself!
11) a few babywipes or wetnaps, if you feel like your hands would be dirty.
Bonus: cheapo disposable vinyl tablecloth, if you've got the heebie-jeebies about cooties.

Even if you bought it all new at the dollar store, you'd spend about $10. (except for the basket) I also like these Sterlite containers, because they've got handles! Make sure the one you get isn't too small for a normal sized plate.

I've also been known to do a grocery-store picnic, where i'll buy almonds, cheese, veggies, dip, fruit, crackers, bread and something lunch-ish from the deli. A bottle of wine and a bottle of water, and you're good to go. If you'd consider doing this too, consider stashing a vegetable peeler in your kit.

It's really cool to be able to have a spontaneous picnic... and now you'll be ready!

Last thing I ate or drank: lime fla-vor-ice. I'm 6 years old sometimes, what can i say?

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June 15, 2007

Freezer Flush is BACKFIRING!

So last night i made the sweet & sour stir fry with pork, and that's what we had for dinner. i also baked two pans of cornbread and a giant crockpot of chili. I sent Kelly to work with a container, and i had some for lunch, too. I also cooked the chicken for the cordon bleu pasta.

The goal of this project is that i'm trying to clean out my cabinets and cupboards, and empty the fridge. As i cook chili for example, i'm adding canned tomatoes and cans of kidney beans... so when it all gets done, it gets frozen. When i make the cornbread, that gets wrapped and frozen. when I make the rice for the sweet & sour pork, that gets topped with the veggies and then gets frozen too. So i'm basically re-combining things and putting them in the freezer. So calling this operation freezer flush is quite a misnomer... but i'm using stuff that's taking up space and making edible-in-5-minutes food.

Tonight, I'll be makeing a test recipe of the cordon bleu pasta sauce, to see how it works when using powdered milk. I've also marinated boneless, skinless chicken leg/thigh pieces in sherry, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil and white pepper. That's going to get cooked with celery and cashews for the cashew chicken. I'll serve that over white rice, just for the change of pace.

I can't make more stuff until i see whether i have enough space to freeze it, so the korma and the chhole will have to wait until Monday, i think.

Amazingly, I've been good at keeping up with the dishes i use, because i'm just cleaning one or two big things, instead of a dozen little ones. This project has all kinds of benefits!

Last thing I ate or drank: a blue fla-vor-ice. now i have an attractive blue tongue.

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June 14, 2007

Operation Freezer Flush

OK, so day one wasn't a challenge at all. I had defrosted a package of ground meat (i buy the big packages on sale and re-package in ziploc baggies) so with half of that, i made us each a hamburger served on a bakery roll, also from the freezer, and we ate that with trader joe's salt & pepper potato chips. They're ok, not as good as the kettle brand, but they were $2 a bag instead of $3.50, so i thought it was worth a try.
I took the other half of the seasoned burger mix and made little meatballs, cooking them in the cast iron pan while it was still hot from dinner. They'll go into a soup of some kind later this week. I think.

Also, today was the day i'd designated to make "The Lunches". See, i make a whole bunch of lunches for Kelly to take to work. I take one or two days every six weeks or so and make a large batch of five or six different entrées. I package those up in plastic containers and fill up the freezer, so Kelly can just grab one in the morning before he leaves for work. If he's clever, he takes one & puts it in the fridge the night before so it takes a little less time to defrost. Usually he forgets.

For a few days before the day of cooking orgy, I nag ask him to think of what he'd like to eat. He's either totally clueless, or absolutely definitive and knows exactly what he wants. The former is 99% of the time, and the latter 1% remaining is usually something that doesn't freeze well or is out of season. He tries tho.

Here is what we came up with, with much coaxing from me:
  • Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta This is a combo of grilled chicken and seared ham over rotini pasta with mornay.
  • Chhole an Indian dish of chick-peas and onions in a tomato sauce
  • sweet & sour pork over brown rice I do it 'naked style' meaning i just stir-fry the pork instead of breading and deep-frying it. The sauce & veggies are the same.
  • Chili & Cornbread He likes the chili i make with beans, that's bulked up with bulgur... and i just use the standard corn bread recipe from the box.
  • Korma Jasmine rice, dried fruits, nuts, whatever.
  • cashew chicken He has eaten this three times in the past two weeks, and he saw i had cashews so he asked for it again.

Now, the tricky thing is that we came up with this menu LATE LAST WEEK. Before i opened my big mouth and banned grocery shopping. So, yeah. I have taken the chicken, pork & beef out of the freezer to thaw. I'm a little light on veggies, but i bet I can make it work with what's in the freezer or in cans, but i don't have fresh milk or swiss cheese for the mornay sauce. I have powdered milk i use for baking, and there's some kind of cheese in the fridge. I think. Fact is, typing up this post is a lame attempt at procrastinating the cooking.

Actually, that's not entirely true. It's 90ºf here today, but it's breezy. I don't want to heat up the house, so i took the toaster oven outside and i'm roasting the chicken. I also took the rice cooker out there, and have a big batch of brown rice going. Later, I'll haul out the electric burners and the crockpot and whatever else i need to do to get stage one in motion. I <3 appliances="" my="" p="">
I think i mentioned before that the night of the Challenge was the night i finished my baking. I bake for breakfasts. I had enough bananas in the freezer to make three batches of banana bread. I had also made those 30 or so scones. So those are all in the freezer, wrapped in portions and stashed away to be taken out a couple at a time. I'm not sure if i can get those to last two months, but there are also bagels, English muffins and sliced bread.

See what i mean? I always joke that if the grid ever goes down, like in an earthquake, I'd open a neighborhood restaurant. Propane, butane, canned fuel... i've got it covered... but i never realized how much food I'd have at my disposal, too.

Well, i've gotta go get some lunch for myself, I've had a pear/ginger scone, half a peach, a plum and an apricot. Then, before i sat down to type this, i had a little slice of banana bread. That did more to pique my appetite than suppress it.

I'll post about tonight tomorrow. I think that's gonna be the best way to chronicle this, because as this progresses, i'm going to have to stretch my imagination a bit.

Last thing I ate or drank: slice of the banana bread mentioned above :-)

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June 13, 2007

Challenge: No grocery shopping for a month.

My husband Kelly and I went to the grocery store last night. Everything we bought was fresh produce, some cotija cheese, and a box of 'bacon ends'
    tangent (Tangent? You've only said one line of blog, how do you tangent already?) I don't use bacon as a breakfast-meat side-dish, I mostly cook with it as a flavor/fat ingredient (lardons, bacon bits) I buy a box of Farmer John bacon 'ends' at $1.25/lb. I package it up into smaller portions with plastic wrap, and toss those portions into a big ziploc, and take out a baconcicle when i need one. so,for that, bacon 'ends' are a way better value than the standard sliced bacon at over $4/lb.
We went up and down every asile in the store, just looking around, making fun of people's photos on the packaging, looking at the horrid food photography, checking out the aisle with the holy candles and incense and Good-Luck-Spray for that santaría stuff. This was in a store called Vallarta that caters to a Spanish-speaking clientele. They've got GREAT produce for really cheap. It's the main draw of that store, but they have lots of other cool things too. Do we need bread? no. Do we need cereal? no. Do we need pasta? no. Do we need peanut butter? Mayonnaise? Beans? Sugar? Rice? No, no, no, no and no.

THEN somebody gets the bright idea of telling her husband, "We don't need any of this stuff. I bet I could feed us for two months with what i've already got in the house.
So he challenged me to actually make it a bet. No grocery shopping for two months.

I mean, I'm not so old that i grew up in a depression... And growing up, we weren't wealthy but we always had enough to eat... so why are my cupboards and freezers bursting with food? Maybe it's just a reflection of my obsession, and of how much i like to cook. For me, it's so easy to be able to whip up a dinner with what i've got on hand, because i've got everything on hand!

It's just the two of us, and we've got a fridge, a chest freezer, a large pantry, another narrow cabinet, and an old dresser that's used just for dry goods storage. I've got meat, eggs, veggies, onions, potatoes, all kinds of grains, all kinds of oils/vinegars/condiments, pasta, and lots of beans. And that's not counting the stuff in cans and jars. Of course, i've also got a lot of esoteric stuff like rice paper, nori, masa, dried shrimp, teff flour... and now i've got 3 lbs of bacon!

So there's the challenge. It's not about saving money, because that money's already spent. Not to mention I'm already cooking Kelly's lunches and freezing them so he can take them to work. It's not about nutrition, since we don't go out to eat often and what we eat at home is actually pretty healthy. I think it's just a way for me to force a little creativity on myself, and plow through some of the stuff already in the house.

I'll be using up the fresh stuff i have first, then raiding the freezer, and finally using up the canned/jarred things, while interspersing the bulk stuff. He said that I could have a $20 allowance after the first month to replace the most basic of veggies and because by then, we'll both be dying for a salad.

I'm not sure what will come of it, but i'll post what's going on from time to time.

Wish me luck!

Last thing I ate or drank: buttered toasted onion bagel and a 1L bottle of Arrowhead water

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June 06, 2007

Chef to the Undead

Chef to the Undead

I requested this zombie art from
http://www.monsterbymail.com Custom made art, drawn by hand, for a pittance.

My very own zombie! Seriously the coolest thing ever.

So....what does the Chef to the Undead serve?

Appetizer: Brainschetta
Salad:Heirloom Brains with Neuron Vinaigrette
Soup: Cream of Brains
Fish: Brains Amandine
Intermezzo: Brains Sorbet
Entrée: Cerebellum with Occipital sauce
            served with Brain Soufflé and Sordid Baby Vegetables (ha!)
Dessert: Blood Poached Brains à la mode, Dulce de Cerebro Ice Cream
Mignardises: Ginger Synapse and Chocolate Covered Brainsins

can't wait for Halloween.

June 05, 2007

What it's like when a party goes well!

I just finished catering a party for 15 people. Oh, my stars, I am so exhausted but everything went well and the client asked for a lot of business cards. And, even though I am really tired, I am really happy that the client was happy, and that he pulled off his surprise, too!