Archive for the Food Category

Shortbread Experiments

Posted in Food on November 13, 2011 by Jaym Gates

For some reason, I’ve considered shortbread to be an insurmountable wall. I have no idea why, because I don’t think I’ve even looked at a recipe until last week. Even then, I was just looking for another cookie recipe to play with.

These are damn near foolproof. I can whip these up without looking at the recipe, which is amazing, because I’ve been known to ruin those Pillsbury crescent rolls. It’s kind of like my ability to kill bamboo: damn near a superpower.

They are also quite amenable to experimentation, being somewhat blank-slate cookies. I’m posting the basic recipe, and then the variations.

Cream 1 stick room temperature butter and 1/4 cup sugar.
Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1 tblsp milk or cream and a pinch of salt, mix thoroughly. If you are using flavorings, add now.
Mix in 1 and 1/4 cup flour.
Roll into logs of desired size, roll in sugar until lightly coated. Wrap in tinfoil, freeze for 30-60 minutes, or until solid enough to slice easily.
Preheat oven to 350. Slice cookies, bake for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned on bottom. (They won’t spread very much at all, so they can be put close together.)

Let them cool. Quickly give them to all your friends so you don’t eat them all. No, seriously.

Now, variations:

Lavender-Pepper
1/4 tsp fresh, or 1/2 tsp dried lavender flowers, ground.
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Earl Grey-Orange with Brown Sugar and Almonds
2 tsp Earl Grey tea
1 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup dry-roasted almonds, chopped.

Substitute brown sugar for the white. Soak tea in 2 tablespoons of warmed milk. Add with vanilla and salt. (the tea soaks up enough milk that it will be too dry if you only use 1 tablespoon)
Add almonds at the very end.
Roll in coarse brown sugar instead of white.

Jasmine-Green Tea with lime and black sesame

2 tsp jasmine tea, prepared according to the directions above.
1/2 tsp lime zest, divided in half
1/2 cup black sesame seeds

Mix tea and 1/4 tsp lime zest into batter according to the directions for the Earl Grey. Instead of rolling the dough in plain sugar, sprinkle a mix of sesame, lime zest and white sugar for each log. Absolutely beautiful cookies. (The sesame is a strong flavor, so use sparingly.)

I’ve got all sorts of other ideas up my sleeve, involving whiskey, chocolate, saffron, orange-flower water, cumin…the list is endless. I’ll post new variations as I find them. Enjoy!

Easy as Quiche

Posted in Food on April 20, 2010 by Jaym Gates

I’ve never made a quiche before last week. Always thought that they were pretty hard. Then work asked me to come up with something that would be easy enough for our food demo program to do, and still understandable and delicious for the public.

I was supposed to find a recipe. Predictably, I forgot, and ended up experimenting. The resulting recipe is nearly foolproof, takes about 10 minutes to throw together, and turns out delicious. This recipe is for a crustless quiche, but you could easily throw it into a crust for something even better!

4 eggs
1 cup milk (2% for lowfat quiche, whole otherwise)
1 cup shredded cheese
Salt
Pepper or seasoning blend
Additions of your choice

Whisk eggs, add milk, salt and seasoning. Stir in cheese and additions. Pour into greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 until set and golden on top.

That’s it!

Suggestions for additions: Asparagus, goat cheese or swiss and ham. Spinach, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, olives. Green chilies, cheddar or pepper-jack, cilantro, tomatoes. Mushrooms and swiss. Broccoli and cheddar. Anything you want!

Recipe: Mango Madness!

Posted in Food, Uncategorized with tags , , on February 28, 2010 by Jaym Gates

Tried some mango on sticky rice last week, and was underwhelmed. Then again, I eat with the perpetual thought “I could do this better.” See, I don’t need to go to culinary school, I’m already as snooty as a chef!

I had to be fair in my challenge to the product, however. It was prepackaged and insta-eat. Soo…I had to make something easy and phenomenal.

I love my job. I get to experiment on my coworkers! (I work at Trader Joe’s, and I spend a lot of my time working in the demo program. This accounts for all excess weight, as grazing is damn near a job requirement.)

So, being bored, and having the human sharks gnawing the counter, I made Mango Madness. And my coworkers renewed their vows their undying love. (I exaggerate not, they very literally do vow undying love over food. Bachelors are so easy!) Also, I know it worked because the former chef, the half-French gourmet cook, the caterer from Sonoma and the particular manager all loved it. I cannot speak highly enough for this dish!

This is made with four ingredients, and all can be found at your local Trader Joe’s!

Mango Madness

1 tub rice pudding
1 package pre-sliced mango
1 cup crumbled ginger thin cookies
1/2 cup crushed sesame-honey cashews

Rice pudding goes on the bottom.
You can either leave the mango as-is, or dice, but put a little bit of sea-salt on it. (Really, this makes ALL the difference! Lime would be good, too, or orange juice, but that’s frosting.) Spread mango over rice pudding.
Mix crushed cookies and cashews together and sprinkle over the mango.
Add whipped cream, if you so desire.
Serve cold.

This would be an ideal summer dish. Very light and refreshing, not at all too sweet, and fairly unusual. It is an odd combination, but the heat of the ginger plays off the sweet mangoes and cool rice pudding.

Of course, I can’t do things the easy way, so I’m all fired up to try the hellishly-complicated, gourmet version of the above dish. I’ll make that on Wednesday, probably.

What is it? Homemade sweet coconut-milk curry risotto with mascarpone, cooled and molded. Top that with chili-mango-lemongrass chutney and spiced whipped cream. Garnish with cashews and sesame seeds.

My crew think they love me now? Most of them don’t know that I’ll take this dish in for them to eat. Mwahahaha.

Lessons Learned Yesterday: Sugar Cookie Edition

Posted in Food with tags , , , , on October 13, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Lesson: No matter what the recipe does or does not say, use parchment paper under your cookies.

Result of lesson: Sugar cookie crumbs will make a GREAT crumb pie topping.

Lesson #2: Sometimes, you really DON’T want to know what is in a cookie. Sugar cookies are a prime example.

Result of lesson: Make your own sugar cookie recipe for the holidays, ya lazy bum!

Lesson #3: Sugar melts. Butter melts. Sugar hardens when cool. Sugar burns easily. Butter burns easily. Therefore, cookies should NOT be left in the oven for as long as the recipe says.

Result of lesson: Glazed cookie sheets soaking in the sink for three days to remove brulee’d crust of cookie.

Yes, the sugar-cookie debacle is a prime example of my usual baking results. They turned out more like sugar candy than cookies, but that’s the recipe. Eating two cookies made my stomach hurt, and the rest are crumbs. Next time, I’ll take the basic idea and make my own recipe. It can’t be any worse after all…

To make up for that disappointment… There is a crockpot of tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil and marsala wine simmering downstairs, a prime component of the lasagna that will follow later!

Chili Rellenos

Posted in Food with tags , on September 10, 2009 by Jaym Gates

One of the best things you can order in a CA Mexican restaurant is this little delicacy known as a chili relleno. Basically, it’s a poblano or anaheim chili that is roasted, stuffed with cheese, breaded, and deep fried. Then it gets slathered with a pepper and tomato sauce. Both my mom and grandmother order this every time we go to Tortilla Flats or Durango’s or any other restaurant out there.

But I’ll be damned if we can find them out here at all.

And hey, there were some beautiful, big, crispy poblano peppers at Whole Foods. What better birthday dinner than a homemade classic?

The issue with chili rellenos is that the cheese can be pretty damn heavy and textureless sometimes. So, here’s a new recipe. It’s not authentic, but it’s sure damn good.

Chili Rellenos

2 whole, fresh poblano peppers
1/2 cup black beans
1/2 cup canned corn (not creamed)
1 cup shredded cheese (pepper jack or cheddar)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp rubbed sage

Remove seeds and stalk from chili, rub it with olive oil and pan fry it until softening and charred. Let cool, slice down one side and make sure all seeds and membrane are out.

Mix all other ingredients and divide filling between chilies. Tie off with string to keep chilies closed.

Batter

1 c ww flour
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Whisk all ingredients together (it is pretty thick). Roll peppers in batter. Fry on medium-high heat in 1 cup canola oil until batter is puffy and browned.

Sauce

3 roma tomatoes
1 lime
1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 cup cilantro
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin

Saute onions and shredded garlic with the olive oil until browned. Add all other ingredients, stir to warmed. Pour over chili rellenos, serve with a spoonful of sour cream.

Serves 2

Health and Writing

Posted in Food with tags , , , on July 1, 2009 by Jaym Gates

I posted a tidbit of this a while back on the Fifthwind Forums. But, it bears remention.

Several of my friends are involved in outdoors sports and activities (sometimes to a bit of an extreme, IMO!), and so we discuss fitness regimes and such. One friend runs 4+ miles a day. Another one runs half that… On Northern California hills, which probably equals about ten miles!

And then there’s me, sitting at my desk all day, exercising only my fingers. And recent discussions have gotten me thinking about health again.

Any writer faces the risk of losing health and strength because of a focus on writing. It’s easy to set aside exercise and nutrition in favor of progress on that WIP. And we end up paying for it if we ignore our bodies. Hand and wrist problems, weight issues, lack of stamina, lack of energy. Getting sick. All easy to do, and I know I notice these things starting to creep in when I forget nutrition and exercise.

Recently, with my mother being out of work, it’s been easy to find excuses. We’re doing something else. She’s using the machine. I’ll do it later. And it’s been months since I’ve been on the treadmill. The weather is another excuse. There is no way in hell I am going to even walk to the corner in this humidity!

Now that she’s back at work, my excuses are gone. I woke up this morning, munched on a pita and hummus for some quick energy, and then jogged a 1/4 of a mile on the treadmill, with a 3.5 grade. I can just hear the fitness buffs laughing. I used to be able to run a mile without more than a hitch of breath.

Breakfast was a grapefruit, yogurt–with almonds, walnuts, flax-seed, pecans, sesame and cranberries–and herbal tea. I do have a bad habit of either snacking through the day, or only eating two meals a day, so breakfast needs to be filling. But the difference in my focus and energy is notable. I’ve burned off the fizzy energy I have when I don’t exercise, and the food isn’t heavy enough to make me tired. Even the heat isn’t bothering me as much. Instead of coffee, I drink homemade chai tea, which is loaded with spices and pretty much sugar free. I don’t have a sugar addiction, thankfully, but I do have a truly southern-worthy love of things fried.

Before I go to bed, another cup of tea and a 20 minute routine of stretches and strengthening exercises. This is a mix of yoga, old-fashioned stuff like push-ups, and a few things my physical therapist used to have me do. Before long, I should be riding and training horses again too, which is an incredible work-out. Of all people, I should know better than to be lazy. My body is too whacked to neglect that.

None of that is hard to do. The only hard part is sticking to a strict schedule. Once I get back into the routine, I’ll up the treadmill to a mile of walking and a mile of jogging. Cut down on the amount of food and work on spreading it through the day. Make it part of my routine to take time away from the computer and look outside the house.

Exercising is usually, for me, mindless. So instead of reading or watching tv while I run, I turn on the headphones and brainstorm for the day’s writing. Or think of blogs, or plan what I need to do. At night, it gives me valuable decompression time to stop thinking about writing, to put aside the stresses and worries of the day.

Food is another important consideration. Plenty of foods taste great and improve cognitive function. Flax, nuts, fruits, grains, yogurt, vegetables, olive oil, all of those are good for you and easy to fix. It might not be as satisfying for the first few days as a steak or cheese sandwich, but after that, it’s easy to eat less and feel better afterwards. A simple mix of rice and beans is a complete protein, and can be dressed with chicken, avocados, cilantro and sour cream for a wonderful summer lunch.

Writers aren’t usually sportsmen (or sportswomen, as the case may be), but we need to care for ourselves as well as anyone who competes. Running, hiking, riding horses or bikes, playing soccer, anything that gets the butt out of the chair and moving is beneficial.

It leads to longer life, better brain function, better health and better quality of life in general. We need to worry about feeding the body as much as we worry about feeding the imagination. One does lead to the other after all.

Pictures! Food Porn!

Posted in Food with tags , , on June 19, 2009 by Jaym Gates

By the by, I have bought FOUR orchids this week. I don’t know how my mother can still love me. But there’s something about getting just one to rebloom… And that’s some news! The paphiopedilum (say that 5 times fast!) has a lovely big purple bloom on it. I shall post pictures of the new bloom later. I did buy another paphio last night, as I seem to have luck with them. Lots and lots of water is the secret, almost a cup a day in spring.

So, for the time being, here is food-porn.

Sunshine Soup. Squash, wild rice, turmeric, coriander, curry. Nothing makes it so easy to appreciate California as having dozens of fruits and vegetables available in December. This was Christmas Eve dinner for my vegan family. PC240324

Strawberries and blueberries macerating in Merlot wine to become jam. P5311260

Aforementioned Strawberry/blueberry/Merlot jam. P5311267B

I’ve been ‘helping’ in the kitchen since I was a little girl, whipping up some of the scariest concoctions. But one of the things I’ve become known for in my little circles is salsa. Fresh, fiery, crunchy salsa. P5301251

Just a snip of what we got at the Farmer’s Market a few weeks ago. The variety is amazing, the prices wonderful, and the quality about a dozen times better than the store. P5301228