Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday Cakes for the Ages

       Everyone knows (and for some reason dreads) the ubiquitous Holiday Fruitcake, but how many of us have ever tried to eat or make one? Why are they so hated and feared? Part of the reason is that many traditional holiday cakes are meant to be preserved and aged. A well preserved cake can be aged for decades, just waiting for an adventurous, some might say 'fool-hardy', relative to open it up and take a bite. 
      For the moment, we'll disregard Hollywood's take on this ancient tradition and take a look at one method of preserving homemade cakes. You will achieve immediate and tasty results while keeping the option of preserving the cake for a rainy day.

Just to make this easy (and to avoid the standard, knee-jerk reaction to any suggestion of fruitcake), I'm going to use my gingerbread recipe; the method works with almost any floured cake, but I'm choosing one that doesn't use any milk or egg, just in case. 


Bake your gingerbread cake and let it cool completely in the pan, then turn the cake out onto a cutting board. Cut a piece of cheese cloth large enough to wrap easily around the entire cake and place it on top of a sheet of foil of the same dimension. Place the cake, right side up, in the center of the cheese cloth and foil. bend the edges of the foil up slightly to create a wide bowl around the cake.

Now that the cake is positioned properly, it's time to add some good old Holiday Cheer! Take 1 cup of your favorite liquor and slowly pour it directly onto the cake. Make sure to saturate the cake as evenly as possible. My favorite preservatives to use are Grand Marnier or Bourbon, but some other good ones are Rum and Brandy

As you are deciding which liquor to use, consider the fact that the objective in preservation is to sterilize and discourage future growth of bacteria. With that in mind, you'll want to choose something with a reasonably high alcohol content. 

Allow the cake to soak up as much liquor as it can (whatever the cake doesn't absorb will be soaked into the cheese cloth), and then gently wrap the cheese cloth around the cake, followed by the foil. Try to make the foil as air-tight as possible to prevent the cake from drying out. If you plan to store the cake long term, be sure to check it periodically to ensure that it is aging properly - look for any signs of spoilage, and if it seems dry, pour another cup of your chosen liquor over the top of it (no need to remove the cheese cloth) before re-wrapping the foil tightly.

From there, you can tie a bow around it and give to a friend, or store it for the coming months or even next year!  I would recommend you store it in a cool dry place, such as the top shelf of you refrigerator. 

Happy Holidays,
Enjoy Your Cake!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cooking as therapy

There are few things in life that bring such immediate satisfaction as sitting down and enjoying a tasty snack. My goal each day in Healthy Cooking for Autism class is to supplement that enjoyment with an understanding of where our food comes from, how it is made, and how knowing what goes into our food can help us to make healthy food choices.

Although the common theme of the classes is learning to prepare healthy food, I maintain the premise that simply being in the kitchen opens infinite opportunities for therapeutic activity: Students apply critical thinking skills to recognize and measure ingredients; basic motor skills are engaged in holding and using kitchen tools; examining the recipe as a group is an opportunity for students to utilize reading skills as well as verbal and social skills. The list of benefits goes on and on and at the end of it all, we are left with not only the gratification of having accomplished a series of tasks, we are able to sit down and enjoy the product of our labors as reinforcement for a job well done.


Holiday favorites
In my mind, nothing heralds the start of the holiday season quite like the smell of freshly baked gingerbread! Something about the special blend of spicy ginger and clove with hints of fragrant nutmeg and cinnamon just makes us feel comforted and warm.  This recipe produces a loaf of moist, cake-like gingerbread.
This recipe is relatively low in sugar, calling instead for black strap molasses. Unlike refined sugars, molasses contains trace amounts of vitamins and significant amounts of several minerals. Blackstrap molasses is a source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron; one tablespoon provides up to 20% of the daily value of each of those nutrients. The fact that this recipes calls for no egg or dairy products also makes it entirely vegan. The addition of it being infinitely simple to make is a great holiday bonus.


1 Cup dark molasses
                ½ Cup brown sugar
                ½ cup Canola oil
                ½ teaspoon cinnamon
                ½ teaspoon ground clove
                ½ teaspoon nutmeg
                1 teaspoon ground ginger
                1 Cup boiling water
                2 ½ Cups Flour
                1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.       In a mixing bowl, blend together the canola oil, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger, brown sugar and molasses.
3.       Stir in boiling water.
4.       Mix in flour.
5.       Dissolve the Baking Soda in 2 tablespoons of hot water and add to the batter.
6.       Pour the batter into a greased 8x8x2 inch baking pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

President Obama's green energy "failure"

I've seen a lot of people refer to the numbers in this study as a means of attacking President Obama's green energy stimulus.

Here's my take on those numbers and what they actually mean in context:

I will gladly admit that Obama's plan for stimulating the green energy industry has fallen short, but look at what these companies are up against! The oil industry has ruled the nation for decades, and the only way get their foot off of the neck of projects like the electric car is to invest in new and better green technologies, which is what Obama did. Even if these companies are going bankrupt, they are being BOUGHT by other companies that are working to achieve the same worthwhile goal, and many of the jobs created by the stimulus are safe in the new companies.

Was Obama's way the best way? No.
Did it work the way it was supposed to? No.

But at least he did SOMETHING, and the industry continues to grow. Of the $80 billion in clean energy loans, grants and tax cuts, ONLY 10% have gone to companies that are currently bankrupt or are "circling the drain."

I will tell you right up front that I am not an economist, but I can tell you about one industry that I do know intimately: Restaurants.

86% of restaurants fail within the first 6 months, even with multi-million dollar investments. So why is it a surprise that fledgling companies in an emerging market that hasn't quite caught hold nationwide yet can fail? When a restaurant closes, it files for bankruptcy and turns the whole operation (equipment and often employees included) over to a new owner who opens under a new name and tries something different. This process repeats itself until someone gets it right and the restaurant brings in enough business to support itself.

I understand that food service and the energy industry are not perfect analogies, but I maintain that investing in these companies, even if they go bankrupt and are bought by other companies, was an effective way to grow jobs and make headway in the fight for American energy independence.

I would also like to point out that the Heritage foundation is notoriously biased; to be perfectly honest I don't trust them to give statistics that aren't, at best, specious, and are often, at worst, grossly misleading.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Home-style Tomato Sauce and Eggplant Parmesan


Every summer I get an influx of fresh produce from a local farming commune. The produce gets distributed to our community group homes. The only problem is that many of the staff in the houses don't know how to use interesting things like eggplant and fresh tomatoes to make a meal. 

I've typed up these simple recipes to help the houses turn 200 pounds of fresh farm produce into dinner.

Tomato Sauce
                ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
    2 onions, rough chopped
                3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
                5 pounds ripe red tomatoes, stemmed and chopped
                ¼ cup tomato paste
                3 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1.       Warm the olive oil in a pot large enough to hold the tomatoes.
2.       Add the onion and crushed garlic; cook on medium heat until tender and slightly browned.
3.       Add tomato paste and stir to coat the onions; cook until tomato paste is slightly browned.
4.       Add chopped fresh tomatoes with juice and turn heat to LOW. Stir.
5.       Add seasonings (fresh oregano, sage, basil and thyme, if they are available).
6.       Continue to stir the sauce, allowing it to cook until it has thickened (the longer you let it cook, the thicker and more flavorful it will be).

For smooth tomato sauce, puree the thickened sauce in a blender in small batches (careful, it will be hot).

Eggplant Parmesan
3 eggplant, peeled and thinly sliced
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
6 cups Tomato Sauce, divided
1 (16 ounce) package mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.       Dip eggplant slices in egg, then in bread crumbs. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes on each side.
3.       In a 9x13 inch baking dish spread tomato sauce to cover the bottom. Place a layer of eggplant slices in the sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with the cheeses. Sprinkle basil on top.
4.       Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Autism Awareness

Hi, everyone,

Sorry for the long absence. Events in my life recently have diverted my attention from writing this blog, the most damaging being the death of one of my students.

As some of you are aware, I no longer cook in restaurants. A decade of professional kitchen work has provided me with a wealth of knowledge and experience in catering, kitchen management, food science, health and nutrition, utilization of fresh produce, international cuisines, bread making, baking, pastries, and confections.

It also wore me out and led me to take a hard look at what I wanted out of my life and my career.

A little over a year ago, I was offered the opportunity to take my career in a new direction. I now find great pride in taking the knowledge and skill that I have garnered from a life in the kitchen and using it to teach the clients and staff of Community Support Services, a non-profit organization providing community based support to people with autism and developmental disabilities.

Recently, George Kenton, an individual with whom I had worked very closely, passed away suddenly. The cause was unknown.

I would like to dedicate this post to George, and encourage everyone reading to learn more about the organizations in your area that do work in the autism community. Donations are always helpful, but the best way to support the community is to volunteer. Sometimes the most important thing you can give a person in need is a helping hand, or a patient ear.

Thank you,


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fourth of July BB-Q

Commensurate tidings of the season! 

It's time for BB-Q:

Adam’s Barbeque Sauce
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 (10oz.) cans diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 4 oz chili peppers (your choice: chipotle or something spicier)
  • 1 cup ketchup or sweet chili sauce
  • 1 cup Apple cider vinegar         
  • Salt and Black pepper to taste

1.Sweat the onions and garlic in a large pot. 
2.Add tomato paste and brown sugar; allow the paste to brown slightly while stirring.
3.Stir in bay leaves, diced tomatoes and juice, peppers and ketchup. Simmer until sauce thickens and begins to bubble. 

For a smooth sauce, allow to cool and puree by small batches in blender (DON'T FORGET TO REMOVE 


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Moroccan Stuffed Peppers

I promise; this post WILL end in a delicious recipe for Moroccan stuffed peppers. HOWEVER, my research into the Bell Pepper itself was so fascinating, that I just had to share some of it with you!

That means strap in, Timmy, I'm about to engage in
To start off, let's define the botanical traits that allow us to recognize and class fruits and vegetables.

NOTE: Before you respond with some nonsense about how the government says that tomatoes and zucchinis are vegetables, understand that the Supreme Court of the United States has purposefully mislabeled certain fruits SOLELY for tax reasons. 

The ripened, seed bearing part of a plant when fleshy and edible (including tomato, eggplant, cucumber, and zucchini)
The roots, stems, and leaves of any herbaceous plant cultivated for its edible parts (leafy greens, flowers, celery, cabbage, etc., basically any edible part of a plant that is NOT botanically classifiable as fruit)

Those definitions raise all sorts of interesting questions and debates, such as:
"Is potato a fruit?"
You might be thinking, "How could anyone mistake a potato for a fruit?" 

Potato plants DO produce fruit!
But that's not the part of the potato plant that we eat. The fruit of the potato plant is poisonous; the part that we eat is the stem tuber which is indeed classed as a vegetable.

As it turns out, potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, and chili peppers are all part of the SAME family of plants: Solanaceae


Other prominent members of the Solanaceae family include:
(aka: moonflower) 
(aka: mandrake root) 
(aka: deadly nightshade) 
        POISON duh...
(aka: tobacco)

And there you have it: 
Many members of the nightshade family are used by humans as important sources of food, spice and medicine.
However, Solanaceae species are often rich in alkaloids, such as atropine, scopolomine, and hyoscyamine, whose toxicity to humans and animals ranges from mildly irritating, to hallucinogenic,  to FATAL in small doses! In fact, tomatoes, bell  peppers, and chili peppers are among the ONLY plants in the nightshade family that produce edible fruit!


Capsicum is a genus of flowering nightshades in the Solonoideae subfamily of Solanaceae

The part of the capsicum plant that we cultivate, harvest, and eat is the ripened, seed bearing FRUIT of that plant.

What the hell am I talking about? Peppers!

THAT'S RIGHT: Bell peppers are fruit!

Whatever... if you read this far you earned your reward:

Moroccan Stuffed Peppers

  • 1 2/3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 4 medium to large bell peppers, tops cut off and seeds removed
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup golden rasins
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups V8, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (save a few sprigs for garnish)
  • 2 teaspoons orange juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
1. Place the peppers upside down in a microwave safe casserole dish and add about an inch of water; cover with a lid or inverted dinner plate and place in the microwave for 3-6 minutes. Drain the water and turn the peppers right side up (water and dish will be HOT)
2. While the peppers are cooking, brown the ground beef with the garlic powder in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon until it is no longer pink (4-6 minutes). Stir in the raisins, cinnamon, and cumin; cook for another minute. 
3. Stir in the rice and cook for another 30 seconds or so, remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup V8 juice, mint, orange juice, salt and pepper.
4. Spoon the beef mixture into the steamed peppers. Pour the remaining V8 juice into the dish and cover again. Microwave until juice and filling are hot (2-3 minutes). 

Garnish the peppers with mint leaves and serve with the sauce.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sewing the Seeds of Garlicky Love

Has it ever occurred to you to try growing your own garlic plant? If not, hopefully this post will plant the seeds. ;)

If at any point you've gone to the store and bought a bulb of whole fresh garlic and forgotten about it on your kitchen counter, then you may have noticed that after a week or so your garlic will start to grow shoots. 

That's right: Your garlic is alive!

Most super markets will keep fresh garlic refrigerated for at least some period of time over the coarse of delivery and storage, and when the garlic is brought out and begins to warm up it thinks that the spring has come and it starts trying to grow.

"So... do I name it, or what?"

Whether or not you want to name your new pet garlic plant is up to you, but at this point you should be thinking to yourself, "Hmmm... if Fred wants to grow, why not let him grow?"

To keep your new friend happy simply plant it in an area without to much direct sunlight, and water it periodically. In a few short months you'll be harvesting your reward of fresh spring garlic, garlic scapes (the curly top buds that form in the springtime, and are DELIGHTFUL) or even try your hand at curing and storing your own garlic. Heck, go out in the back yard and plant a whole row of them so you can make one of those big, fancy wreaths of garlic!

Or you could just curse it for a pipe dream and lightly roast the budding cloves in olive oil over a very low heat until they are as golden and tender as butter (times will vary, just make sure you don't burn them) and then proceed to smear them across a slice of toasted Italian bread.

The choice is yours... as long as you remember that the choice exists for you to make. (Cue "The more you know..." PSA theme)

Friday, May 18, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons...

I'm not usually a big fan of lemony cookies, but these turned out pretty good. They've got a short bread cookie base that's nice and crumbly and the custard filling isn't too tart (which is my peeve with lemon pastries). I researched a few different recipes before I settled on one that I could work with.

I very rarely take recipes word for word from other sources; either because I disagree with the method, or because I'm working with different core ingredients. There are very few basic recipes out there that I haven't made first hand in the line of duty, so when I research a "new" dish all I'm really looking for are the basic components.

In this case, we're baking a short bread crust into the bottom of a pan and then pouring a lemon custard on top and putting it back in the oven to set. Couldn't be simpler.

Lemon Squares


1/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1/4 cup (remaining 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Zest and juice from 3 lemons
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat together the shortbread ingredients; the batter should be light and fluffy. Scrape the batter out into the prepared pan and smooth it evenly across the bottom.
3. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, until the crust turns a light golden color and is just firm to the touch.
4. Make the filling while the crust is baking; beat together the eggs and sugar until they are light and fluffy. Beat in the melted butter, lemon juice and zest; when those are fully incorporated, sprinkle the flour and baking powder on the top and mix thoroughly.
5. Remove the pan with the crust from the oven and pour the filling on top. Tap the pan on the table a few times to remove any air bubbles and replace it in the oven for 35 minutes. The top will brown slightly and the filling will be firm (no jiggling) when completely cooked. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool slightly before slicing. Dust a bit of powdered sugar on top while the bars are still warm and allow them to cool completely before removing them from the pan.

Not only did my students like this one, the recipe got passed around the office.


Monday, May 14, 2012


Lentils are very possibly my favorite thing to eat. They're rich in fiber and protein and you can fit, like, ten thousand of them on a plate.  You really just can't go wrong by having a sack of dry lentils sitting somewhere in your cupboard.

Because guess what? Who the 'F' makes lentils? Chefs, that's who. 

Not only are they nutritious and E-Z to cook,  they're also


How to Cook Lentils

Start off your saute with some basic flavor enhancers:


Saute your aromatics and then add a cup of well washed lentils. (These legumes are very small and it will be necessary to examine them closely before cooking to make sure they aren't just tiny pebbles, which has been known to happen!) 

At this point in the cooking you will need to make the choice of whether to use some type of broth, or just plain water to cook your lentils. Either is acceptable and any liquid will eventually get the job done, but be aware that the presence of salt in your cooking liquid will increase the time needed to fully cook your lentils. 


My favorite spices to use with lentils are bay leaf, coriander, and turmeric, but the possibilities are literally endless. Mess around until you find something you like. The average authentic Indian dish has somewhere around 50 different spices in it, so you REALLY can't go wrong, even if you just put a little bit of everything into your stew!

Main Tips:
1. Saute aromatics THEN add the lentils and liquid. (2:1 liquid to dry lentils. If your liquid is gone and your lentils are still hard... add more liquid.)
2. Bring the liquid to a BOIL for at least 3 minutes before lowering to a SIMMER (aids digestion).
3. Season the lentils after they are cooked tender (about 30 minutes) and stir in a few tablespoons of some type of fat; Butter, yogurt, margarine, whatever. It gives the lentils a nice creamy mouth feel. A few drops of Worcestershire sauce can be nice as well.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Prepackaged Foods

Go to the cupboard and look for a can of ravioli, or a box of prepackaged mac and cheese and bring it back to the computer... I'll wait.

If you couldn't find one then give yourself a pat on the back.

If you did find one, take a look on the back label and read the nutrition information; you'll be looking for sodium content.

Did you find it? Is it around 600 mg? Are you surprised?

Ok, maybe it's not so bad after all. I mean, the recommended daily intake of sodium for a normal adult is about 1500 mg, depending on who you ask.

But wait... the value on the package says, "Per serving"... take another look.

How many servings does that package contain?

Most prepackaged "single serving" entrees contain at least 2 servings per container.

A little quick math gives us 1200mg of sodium per container, more than half the recommended daily intake for a healthy adult.

Who opens a can of ravioli and just eats half? Nobody, that's who.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Have you ever just needed to get rid of some turnips? Well I have. My kitchen is occasionally graced with some locally grown produce and this time they gave me an enormous harvest of Brassica Rapa that had been completely forgotten about and overgrown with weeds.

"But, wait... Turnips come in the fall, don't they?" Well, technically yes, Timmy, fall is the best time to harvest this particular tasty root vegetable.... but if you just plumb forgot that you planted them, anytime is the right time. 

Here's a delicious way to get in touch with your roots:

Low Carb Root Vegetable “French Fries”

                1 pound fresh Turnips, washed, stems cut off
                1 Tablespoon olive oil
                1 Tablespoon garlic powder
                1 Tablespoon onion powder
                1 teaspoon paprika
    1/3 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
                1 teaspoon salt
1.       Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
2.       Peel the washed and de-stemmed turnips and cut into “French Fry” sized sticks.
3.       Place the turnip sticks into a mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil to coat thoroughly.
4.       In a separate bowl combine the salt, garlic and onion powder, paprika, and parmesan; sprinkle in the oiled turnip sticks and toss to coat with the seasonings.
5.       While shaking off any excess seasoning, transfer the turnips sticks to a non-stick baking tray; make sure to spread them out so the tray is not too crowded.
6.       Bake the turnip fries at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, until they are golden brown and the insides are tender and the outside is crispy.
7.       Serve immediately.

Toss some catsup on these bad boys and your kids will never know they're eating TURNIPS! 



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Summer Quinoa Salad

As promised, here is my recipe for a delightful cold salad with Quinoa!

Summer Quinoa Salad

2 cups Water or Vegetable Stock
1 cup uncooked Quinoa
2 cups cherry tomatoes, corn, cucumber, red peppers, etc.
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped parsley
1.       Combine water and quinoa in medium sauce pan; bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cook until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and allow it to cool.
2.       In a serving bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, reserving the chopped parsley; season with salt and pepper.
3.       Toss in the cooled quinoa and parsley.
Serve chilled, or at room temperature.

You may have noticed that I was a little vague regarding the vegetables... that was on purpose. Be creative! 

Quinoa goes great with stone fruits, roasted zucchini and summer squash, roasted butternut and acorn squash, diced green tomatoes, spring garlic... take a look in the produce aisle (or your backyard garden) and GO NUTS!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Quinoa: What the hell is it?

Quinoa is member of a species of perennial, herbaceous flowering plants known as goosefoot. Harvested for its seeds, it is classed as a pseudocereal due to the fact that it is not a true grass, or grain, as with wheat.The plant itself is more closely related to beet, spinach, and tumbleweed.

The Incas held Chisaya Mama (mother of all grains) to be a sacred crop until the Spanish Conquistadors landed and forced them to grow wheat. The Christian invaders claimed that the tiny seeds were suitable only as fodder for animals and savages, and worked to suppress the religious harvest ceremonies associated with it.

Today, quinoa has seen a renaissance in the world of healthy eating as a "super grain." Quinoa is gluten free and  is an excellent source of protein, folate, vitamin B6, and arganine, all of which have been shown in studies to be essential to mental health and proper nutrition in children. Individuals with attention deficit disorder have also been shown to benefit from increased intake of B complex vitamins and L-arganine.

In my next post I'll be showing how to cook and serve this "wonder grain," so check back often!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Yes! More Photos!!

This one from David Brown who tried out the Pineapple Jerk Chicken with Coconut rice.

Looks GREAT! Thanks David!

Indian Chapati Bread

I love Indian food. 

There are an endless number of different cooking styles around the world, but few can compare to the marriage of simple method combined with delicious complexity that is the hallmark of Indian fare. The dishes range from fiery curries to cooling yogurt sauces; bitter greens to sweet fruit chutneys. There is something to please just about any palate and if you've never tried it, you are definitely missing out.

It may seem odd to those of us living in the Western world, but in many cultures around the globe the concept of eating with utensils such as forks and spoons just never caught on. Because of this, cooking styles in these regions have developed such that large chunks of roasted meat, thick stews, dipping sauces, and spreads are dominant. The most common method of successfully getting these tasty items into your mouth is to scoop it up with another tasty item; bread.

The following recipe will produce one of the most common flat breads of the South Asian region: Chapati. There are many different incarnations of this flat bread, based on where you look (Turkey, China, Tanzania, Kenya and many other countries have there own versions), but this particular unleavened delight will resemble the favored style of the Indian sub continent.

Indian Chapati
1 cup All-Purpose flour
1 cup Whole Wheat flour
1 tsp Salt
2 Tbs olive oil
3/4 cup boiling water
A few Tbs Ghee (butter will suffice if you can't find Ghee)


1. Combine the flours and salt in a large bowl.
2. Using a wooden spoon incorporate the oil and hot water into the flour to make a loose dough that is slightly stretchy; when the water is fully incorporated, turn the dough out onto a well flour surface and knead it until the dough is smooth.
3. Divide the dough into 10 equal parts; meanwhile heat up a large flat skillet with a small amount of oil.
4. Use a rolling pin to flatten the portions of divided dough into thin flat rounds; when the pan begins to smoke, place the flattened dough, one piece at a time, into the pan and let them cook until the bottom begins to form brown spots (about 30 seconds depending on the thickness). Flip the bread over to brown the other side.
5. As you remove the bread from the pan slather a small amount of ghee on the them and lay on a plate until ready to serve.


This bread is the perfect companion to stew, curry, yogurt dips,  hummus, rice, or mango chutney.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

First photo submission!

Congratulations to Katie Reedy (Katie's blog) for trying out my marinated shrimp and pico de gallo soft taco recipe and for submitting the first picture response on my blog!


Looks tasty; keep up the good work!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tofu: What the hell is it?

Tofu (Bean Curd) is the product of coagulated soy milk. 

The process of making Tofu is actually very similar to that of making cheese from cow's milk. Soy milk and regular milk are both just stable emulsions of protein, water and oil.

In order to make cow's milk cheese, the proteins in the milk (curds) must be separated from the water (whey). Once the curds have been separated and the whey has been drained off, you are left with the solid protein portion which can be pressed into blocks giving us the foundation for every single type of cheese imaginable.

The same process can be applied to soy milk; that is the mysterious secret of Tofu.

Now I can hear you saying, "That's great, Adam, but what the hell do I do with this mysterious bean cheese?"

I'm glad you asked. The following recipe is a very simple example of substituting Tofu for meat. The result is a surprisingly satisfying vegan snack, featuring a crispy outside and a pleasingly chewy, chicken nugget-y inside.

This recipe, and many others, call for the Tofu to be "pressed." 

How to press Tofu: Open the package and drain the liquid; wrap the block of Tofu in several paper towels, or a clean kitchen towel, and place on a cutting board. Place an unopened soup can, or other slightly heavy object, in a bowl with a flat bottom and rest it on top of the block of tofu for 15 minutes. The object of this process is to squeeze out as much excess water as possible. This is especially important for recipes where we want the tofu to remain firm. 

Breaded Tofu Nuggets

                1 package Extra firm Tofu, pressed
                ¾ cup bread crumbs
                1 teaspoon dried parsley
                1 teaspoon garlic powder
                1 teaspoon onion powder
                ½ teaspoon black pepper
                1/3 cup soy milk
                2 Tablespoons mustard
                Olive oil for pan frying
1.       Slice the tofu into chunks and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
2.       While the tofu is chilling, combine the bread crumbs and seasonings in a mixing bowl; in a separate bowl whisk together the soy milk and mustard.
3.       Remove the tofu from the freezer and dip each piece into the milk and then into the bread crumbs to coat thoroughly.
4.       Fry each piece of tofu until golden brown.

I served this to my vegetarian class with a little bit of ketchup and it was a big hit. Even the clients who usually don't go for my veggie recipes came back for seconds!

These nuggets can also be baked for 30 minutes at 350 degrees if the frying doesn't appeal to you. 

Anyway... this is far from the only way that Tofu can be enjoyed. After pressing the Tofu you can marinate it in a little bit of soy sauce and bake/fry/stir fry/mold into the shape of a turkey/throw at your little sister (or brother)/dice it up and put it in a salad or simply enjoy it by itself.

I like to cut my Tofu into meaty slices and sprinkle a little kosher salt and fresh black pepper over it, then drizzle some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top: Delicious.

As always, BE CREATIVE! As long as you enjoy the results, there is literally NO wrong way to prepare a meal for yourself.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Marinated Shrimp and Pico de Gallo Soft Tacos

I don't get the opportunity to cook seafood at home very often because my wife doesn't eat it, but I did this dish at work the other day and it went over very well with the staff and clients.

Question: How do you know how many shrimp make up a pound when they come in all different sizes?

Answer: Shrimp of different sizes are separated into weight classes based on how many individual crustaceans it takes to make a pound. For example, in this recipe I used 21/30s; in a 1 pound bag I can expect 21 to 30 individual shrimp. Larger shrimp have more meat, but smaller shrimp tend to be a bit more flavorful. 

Regarding roasted peppers: Roasting peppers at home is actually very easy; set your oven to 500 degrees, wash the peppers, rub them with olive oil, salt and pepper, wrap it in foil and toss it in the oven for 20-30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil package from the oven and unwrap the peppers into a mixing bowl. cover it with plastic wrap (or the foil you used to roast it) and let it steam for 5-10 minutes. When the peppers have cooled, unwrap the bowl and with a clean kitchen towel rub off the skin which will have blistered and separated from the meat of the peppers. Scrape out the seeds and stem, and you are left with a lovely roasted pepper!


1/4 lb. 21/30 tail off shrimp
3 Tbs olive oil
1 medium sized red onion, julienne (if you don't know what that means, "Wikipedia")
1 Pablano (Fresh Ancho or Pasilla) pepper, roasted, seeded, and julienne
3 red Roma tomatoes, cored and julienne
1/4 bunch of cilantro
2 cloves fresh garlic
3 Tbs lime juice
1 avocado, sliced
Small flour tortillas (I used whole wheat and corn blended tortillas)

Toss the julienned onions, peppers and tomatoes in a mixing bowl, add a pinch of salt and pepper; set aside.
Mince the garlic and cilantro; combine in a bowl with the oil, lime juice and (thawed) shrimp. This mixture should be allowed to marinate at least 5 minutes.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat; toss in the marinated shrimp and sear.
Add the julienned veggies to the pan and cook for another 2-5 minutes; the veggies should be warm, but not completely soft.
Remove the pan from the heat.

Warm the tortillas; this can be done either on a grill, in the oven, or by just putting the whole package in the microwave for 30 seconds (tortillas are basically water, flour and lard so they will soften and be more pliable when warm).
Place a warm tortilla on a plate and spoon a generous amount of the shrimp and pico mixture into the center.
Place a few slices of fresh avocado on top of the whole pile and unceremoniously shove the first one whole into your mouth (don't forget to salt the avocado).
Suddenly remember that you have company and finish plating the rest of the food.

Someday I'll have pictures, but until then just imagine the possibilities!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Learn to cook? Cook to learn.

This post isn't about recipes. It's about what it really means to live and love the kitchen.

Cooking is a language just as intricate as English, Russian, Spanish, or even mathematics, computer programming, or ballroom dancing. It has grammar and syntax; it uses formulas, if/then loops, and particular movements and rhythms that come together in individual styles. 

True cooks sing; they speak two or three different languages, and they secretly play an instrument. They dance; they compulsively count the steps when they walk up and down stairs and they make up little songs that follow the beat of their knife-strokes on the cutting board. 

They have scarred hands, and maybe a slight limp from favoring one leg or the other during the long hours standing over a prep table. They have sore joints in their wrists, and Popeye-like forearms from whisking thick sauces and tossing heavy steel saute pans.

Cooking itself isn't hard; you just have to figure it out. You won't get calculus unless you've studied algebra first, so start small; make an omelet. Now, omelets aren't exactly easy if you want to get technical, but most people can make them almost instinctively.

If you take the raw eggs for that omelet, place them in a bowl over a double boiler, whisk in a teaspoon of lemon juice, a tablespoon of tarragon vinegar, some white pepper, and 3 tablespoons of boiling water; stir it until it thickens: you got yourself Hollandaise sauce.

Ok, so maybe there is a recipe in this post; I guess I just can't help it.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Banana Bread

This is one of my rainy day recipes that I pull out when I'm short on time and ingredients. It's dead simple to prepare and my students love it. Very versatile (try baking it as a cake and icing it with butter cream) and an essential entry in any respectable home-maker's repertoire.

Banana Bread

3-4 bananas, mashed
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
2. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl
3. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla
4. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in
5. Add the flour last, mix until just combined
6. Pour mixture into a large, greased, loaf pan
7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until top is browned and the center is firm
8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
9. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

Cooking Times
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Inactive Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

The bananas should be slightly over-ripe.
The amount of sugar used can be reduced to 3/4 of a cup without affecting the taste.
Makes a great breakfast when toasted and served with butter.
3/4 of a cup of any type of chopped nuts may be added to this recipe
Bananas can be replaced with any type of semi-soft fruit, including squash, apple sauce, or soft pears.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Case for Herbs

Fresh herbs can make a wonderful addition to any dish, but how do cooks know which herbs to use? 
Most characteristic 'flavors' that we recognize can be broken into 1 of 2 broad categories: taste and aroma.
The key difference between those 2 attributes is this: some flavors you recognize with your tongue, and some flavors you recognize with your nose. The range of flavors that humans recognize with our tongues is fairly limited ('salty', 'sweet', 'bitter', 'sour', 'savory'), but the receptors in our noses are capable of identifying literally thousands of unique aromas!  
Aromatic plants have been used for thousands of years by every culture since the beginning of time to transform the most basic foods into mouth-watering meals. Just as artists mix shades of color to achieve eye-pleasing masterpieces, cooks use herbs and spices to color their culinary creations. The right herbs can add excitement to even the most boring meals. Entire encyclopedias have been published on the subject of herbs and spices, so I will simply list some of my favorites here:

While thyme is a very powerful herb, it blends well with other flavors and is often used in stocks and herb mixes such as herbs de provence and buquet garni. It has also been widely used as a medicinal herb, containing antiseptic compounds as well as being extremely high in iron (10 times as much by volume compared to other green vegetables). It is often paired with meats such as beef and poultry.

This herb is closely related to oregano, but with a slightly sweeter taste and a hint of citrus. Containing such chemical compounds as camphor and pinene, this herb can have a cooling effect on dishes and add a bit of earthy zing. Marjoram pairs well with food containing spicy capsicum flavors, and is wonderful with fish. 

A member of the salvia genus, sage has a slightly peppery flavor and is found in many dishes involving fatty meats such as pork. It is not commonly used in French cuisine, but Middle Eastern and Italian dishes make wide use of this versatile herb. In the Middle Ages, sage was considered a holy herb and was thought to ward off the plague (hence the latin name salvia salvatrix: sage the savior). Some studies have even found various chemical compounds in sage to be an effective treatment for mild Alzheimer’s disease.  

The leaf of the bay laurel tree is often used to flavor soups and stews. They are sold dried as they do not reach their full flavor potential until several weeks after they are picked. The leaves are almost always removed from the dish that they are used to season because the leaf itself is bitter when eaten alone and can be abrasive to the digestive tract. 

The full chapter will probably include more, but I won't make everyone read it here. Just get out there and try using some herbs!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pineapple Chicken with Coconut rice

Recipe #1:

I came up with this recipe for a dinner party and decided to try it out at work. I ended up making it for lunch every day for an entire week because it was so popular. The original incarnation involved 3 whole chickens, and instead of canned pineapple I used a whole pineapple which I peeled, cut into thirds, and stuffed into the cavities of the birds before roasting. If you can't find Caribbean Jerk seasoning at your local grocery, you can easily make your own by mixing:

2 tablespoons dried minced onion
2 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Jerk Pineapple Chicken with Coconut Rice

4 Chicken Breasts
¼ Cup Honey
2 Tablespoons Jerk Seasoning
1 Can Sliced Pineapple
2 Cups Rice
1 Cup Shredded Coconut

1.       Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees.
2.       Wash the chicken and trim any excess fat.
3.       In a mixing bowl, combine the honey, jerk seasoning, and chicken breasts.
4.       Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish; Open the canned pineapple and pour it over the chicken in the baking dish; place in the oven and bake for 30 - 45 minutes, or until the centers are no longer pink.
5.       While the chicken is roasting in the oven, cook the rice according to the package directions.
6.       Spread the shredded coconut on a baking tray and place in the oven for 5 - 8 minutes, the coconut should be toasted brown, check often to make sure it doesn't burn; remove the coconut from the oven and fold into the cooked rice.
7.       When the chicken is done, pull it from the oven; the baked pineapple slices may be chopped and stirred into the rice OR served over the chicken breasts.

Cook book

Ok, I'm finally doing it; I'm writing a cook book. I'll be posting a new potential recipe addition each day, so check beck often for updates!

Here's what I need from you guys: I'm planning on crowd sourcing testimonials and phoodographs. If you like the recipes you find here, try it out at home, tell me how you like it in a comment, and send me a pic of the finished product!

~Chef Addy