Saturday, January 23, 2010

After an Extended Period of Absence...

Wow! Its been a MONTH since my last post! As you can see above, I have been cooking, just not posting... at all. For which I must apologize... to myself mostly. This site is pretty much showcasing my efforts toward learning the culinary arts. I give any prospective employer in food service the address to this site so they can see I actually have SOME ability. But I just have not updated because I have been very busy... which is a great thing.

I continue to search for work... which, if done right, can become pretty much a full time job. And it has paid off. I have had many interviews here and there, and I actually have had a few prospects lined up. One of these still looks very promising, in fact I am pretty much hired, just waiting to hear from the chef about the schedule.

That's right, a job in the kitchen. Hopefully it pulls through. Until then I have also had a few electrical side jobs here and there, and I continue to work at the ongoing project at Dan and Jackie's. 

So as I said, I've been pretty busy. Still, I want to try and keep this up. So now I'll showcase the main dishes I prepared over the past month...

... First I actually want to discuss a new facet to my culinary inspiration: Food Network. More precisely, Alton Brown. This guy knows what he's talking about. Watching his show, "Good Eats," is fascinating. Having never been to a culinary institute, I may not know much about what I am saying, but this show is so packed with valuable information, it seems to me that it is the closest you can get to actually attending without spending loads of money you don't have.

That is, if you can catch all the information that suddenly and quickly flies out of his mouth, right in the middle of and in between recipes. Thank you DVR. Call me cheap, lame, retarded, whatever... but I replay those large doses of information over and over to take notes.

Reading the forward of his book, "I'm Just Here For the Food," Brown admits that although most people are content just knowing how to do something, and not bothering with the why, for him to truly understand how something is done, he must first understand why it works. 

This is very interesting to me, as this is how I have always thought. Once I understand why something works the way it does, I know it will always work the same way, and I also understand (as with flavors and recipes) how I can manipulate the outcome.

So, long story short, Alton Brown rocks. To me, he's a great mentor on the beginning of the road to culinary expertise; Aptly nicknamed "the 'Bill Nye' of cooking."

Alright so I'm going to list no directions today... just ingredients, pictures, and a few remarks for the meals I've made; The first being the Stuffed Tomatoes pictured at the top. I'll leave it to you to figure out exactly how to recreate them... I can't remember. There's just way too much going on.

Stuffed Tomatoes
Olive Oil
Lime Juice
Red Pepper
Bread Crumbs
Ground Beef
Salt and Pepper
Chedder Cheese

Spinach Salad With Bacon

Beef Bacon
Red Wine
Salt and Pepper
Boiled Eggs
Goat Cheese

Lexie Rates this a 9 out of 10. Its pretty simple. Basically you fry the bacon and then fry the onion in the fat. Add the wine and seasoning and then reduce a bit. While still hot, add the rest and pour it over fresh spinach.Top with cheese. Easy.

Now for some corn tortillas...

Corn flour, milk, and salt... rolled into little balls...


as thin as possible.

peel off plastic

no oil...

Don't smash in a fit of anger... try, try, again...

Chopped Steak
Ground Beef
Black Pepper
Arbol Chiles
Lime Juice

Flatten into thin steaks with holes in the middle. Fry onions and bell peppers and lay steaks on top. Leave until cooked. Do not flip patties. They will steam cook through their holes. Lexie gave these babies a full 10.

Sorry, no more pictures. The camera was full. However, I am determined to keep this blog up at least until I have regular employment. So check back soon.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Asiago and Turkey Capsicums

It seems to me that those who are currently jobless can make but one of two choices. Either (1) continue searching for jobs in your local area, unabated, until you find one, or (2) look for jobs in areas with better markets. It can be pretty difficult to come to the right conclusion.

For those that do not have the luxury that my wife and I have been gifted, being able to stop and consider our options for a while, time is of essence. There are a few things I have learned through a bit of experience, but also through a few articles that I have cited. So here are some things to keep in mind.

1. Even though you are out of work, make a schedule for yourself. Set aside a good amount of time, maybe 4-5 hours a day, for job hunting. But also set aside time for other things to keep your mind occupied, and not get depressed. Some suggestions are doing volunteer work, writing a blog about the career your interested in, finishing any projects you may have been putting off (home repair/improvement, novels, music, ect), start your own business, or pursue point # 3.

It is appalling to note that many of the unemployed in America are serious time wasters. According to CBS, 5 out 6 of the unemployed do not even engage in a regular job search.

2. Go over your finances and do not overspend. First, note your assets and take stock of what you do have. advises to use cash for all essentials. Although we'd all like to have "enough cash saved up to see you through the brief period in between employment... [you] need to know what alternative sources of cash you can liquidate or borrow against." Use of credit for non-essentials is a good strategy, as long as you are able to limit your spending to an occasional dine out to lift your spirits. And of course you always want to thoroughly track your spending.

3. It is suggested by many economists to use your time to further your education. In fact, returning to school and riding out the storm may be a much better option than moving to another state, as the economy is effecting the entire United States. According to USA Today, the only sectors that are expected to be hiring for a while are education, health services, and the government. So it may be time to buckle down and train for something new.

4. If you do intend to move, the same USA Today article does admit, "If people can move to find work, they can get back on their feet and spend money more quickly, helping to lift the economy sooner than if they had not moved." But such a move should be only after proper research, planning and preparation has shown that there is substantial work and economical housing in the area.

Here is one more article with some great insight into unemployment by US Print it out and read it over dinner. Lexie's rating it a 9. Sorry... no final pic this time. I'll try to add one later when I make it again.

Asiago and Turkey Capsicums

 Stuffed Capsicums:
1 lb ground turkey
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup bread crumbs
½ onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ cup cooked rice
1 tsp tabasco sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 egg
2 green capsicums (peppers), cored and halved

Asiago Sauce:
4 tbsp butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
¾ cup white wine
½ cup sour cream
½-¾ cup asiago cheese
½ tomato, chopped
1 tbsp dried cilantro

 Preparation Instructions:
 1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Combine all the ingredients except the for the capsicums in a large mixing bowl. Knead the combination with hands until thoroughly mixed.

3. Stuff each half of capsicum with equal portions of the mixture.

4. Place each capsicum in a very lightly oiled baking dish and bake for one hour.

5. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add onions and stir-fry until slightly softened. Then add wine and bring to a boil.

6. Lower to low/medium heat and stir in sour cream a little at a time. Continue process with cheese. Continue to stir until completely melted.

7. Lower heat and simmer. Add tomatoes and dried cilantro. Continue to stir for a few minutes. Remove from heat and cover.

8. When capsicums are fully cooked, serve on top of rice or pasta and drizzle with asiago cheese sauce.

Serves 4

Friday, December 25, 2009

Chicken Cordon Bleu Over Noodles with Bacon Sauce

Despite being unemployed I am an extremely busy individual with a very full routine. Thus I have fallen waaaay behind in posting. So today I will post a recipe I cooked a few days ago. After this I will only be behind by one. The meal has been the banner on my site for some time now, and is one that I consider to be my best. 

My mother was a full-time worker, as most mothers are today. I can remember many an evening when, after returning from a hard day’s work as a school teacher, she would open a can of cream of mushroom soup and pour it over a few chicken breasts with salt and pepper. She would cook some egg noodles and a vegetable, and that would be dinner. I loved it. 

So when I started cooking for myself, I would many times find myself in the same situation, and I would make the same meal. However, I would always try to improve upon it. One time with cheese, another time with sour cream. Adding this, adding that, until one day I had a revelation (one that probably would have come to any other intelligent person a long time ago). Why not make the soup from scratch? No... Why not make the make the soup from scratch, add bacon, and make the chicken into chicken cordon bleu? So, that is exactly what I did. 

It may not be a quick meal anymore, but at one hour to prepare and cook, its not too bad... Lexie gives a 10 out of 10 to...
Chicken Cordon Bleu Over Noodles with Bacon Sauce 

Chicken Cordon Bleu:
4 chicken breast fillets
4 slices of provolone cheese
4 slices of ham
1 egg, beaten
½ cup plain dry breadcrumbs
½ cup corn oil
all purpose flour, for coating

Bacon Sauce With Egg Noodles:
2½ tbsp butter
1 tsp lemon juice
4 spring onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp thyme
3 mushrooms, sliced
½ tsp white pepper
7 strips bacon, precooked and chopped
chicken trimmings (from cordon bleu)
1 tbsp all purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
pinch celery seeds
chicken trimmings
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp all purpose flour (to thicken)
3 cups of egg noodles, boiled

Preparation Instructions:
1. Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat and then fry the garlic, onion, and thyme. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add the lemon juice, mushrooms, white pepper, and some salt. Continue to stir occasionally.
2. Cook until the mushrooms just begin to brown and soften. Add the bacon and chicken trimmings and then cook for a minute or two longer.
3. Add the first tablespoon of flour and stir. Let cook for one minute more.
4. Simmer and begin to add the stock slowly while stirring gently. Next add celery seeds and bring to a boil. Continue to stir.
5. Reduce heat and stir in the cream. Mix the the remaining flour with ½ a cup or less of water at room tempterature and add to sauce.
6. Return to low medium heat and stir occasionally until sauce thickens.
Season with salt and pepper and serve over chicken cordon bleu and egg noddles.

Serves 4

Pea and Lentil Chowder

So I forgot that one recipe actually had no pictures at all. That is this delicious recipe for pea soup. 

After Jackie made ham one night (the same night as the poached pears), we had plenty of leftover ham. In fact we still have some in the freezer. So I boiled the ham bone and crafted this recipe around traditional pea soup, but a little better. Lexie gives it an 8.5.

Pea and Lentil Chowder

 1 ham bone
1 cup ham, chopped
4-5 cups of water
4 carrots, chopped into 1 inch lengths
3 bay leaves
5 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion
1 cup chicken stock
pinch of celery seeds
2 cups peas, fresh or frozen
1 cup fresh cilantro
2 cups lentils, cooked and strained
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon white pepper

Preparation Instructions:
 1. In a large saucepan over medium heat,  saute the ham bone, half the onion and half the garlic until soft.

2. Add water, carrots, bay leaves and celery seeds and broil to a boil. Cook for 2-3 hours or until you have about 2 cups of ham stock in the pot.

3. Remove the ham bone and add the chicken stock, peas, white pepper, and the rest of the onion and garlic. Cook about 15 minutes or until the peas are soft.

4. Remove the bay leaves, puree the soup in a blender with the cilantro, and then return the mixture to the saucepan over low heat. Next, add the lentils, ham, and cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes more and then serve.

* This is delicious over mashed potatoes.