Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cooking Class

A recently discovered picture from the Ayurvedic Cooking Class. That's me, Tabetha, on the far left. Good times.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Frozen Tikka Masala?

I used to think frozen food was the Antichrist. It just seemed sacrilegious to me to take a block of frozen food out of a box then stick it in another box, push some buttons and then eat the contents.

Then I became a mother...frozen food was a Godsend. You know the scenario; everyone else has been fed, the dishes are done, laundry folded and the foodie who got left out (that's you) needs some sustenance that is nutritional and somewhat palatable. What to do? I started trying out some frozen options when I could make a single serving of bean and cheese nachos (my new mom go-to-meal) in my sleep.

As I have experimented through the years I have discovered many wonderful optins.

In particular I am really enjoying a series of Indian dishes from Trader Joe's new frozen foods section. The masala is some of the best I have had - rich, buttery, flavorful and fresh. What more could you ask for in a single serve frozen meal?
Not to mention the basmati rice that accompanies the dish is fluffy and moist with the perfect amount of cumin seeds incorporated throughout. Give it a try if your looking for a gourmet on-the-go tasteful delight.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Stuffed & Wrapped - Tabetha's Signature Steak

Steak and mushrooms have always gone together in my mind. So I started this would-be grilled meal by stuffing shitake mushrooms with a cream cheese, crab, scallion mixture. In the future I would use a more substantial mushroom. After the mushroom is grilled with bacon oil splashing on it from the background and the inner filling warm and creamy - the desired efffect is reached.
Allow the filet's to come to room temperature and cut a small hole in the side opening up a bigger hole with a knife to fill with Blue or Gorgonzola cheese. Using toothpicks or skewers wrap and set applewood or maple smoked bacon around your filet. This also seals in the cheese so that you get the desired saturation of pungeant cheese into the steak upon cooking.

A salad of my current favorite lettuce - mache, cubed pink lady apple, honey sesame cashews, gorgonzola, and pepper mustard red wine vinnagrette.

We had grill issues and ended up cooking the steaks on a grill pan then transferring to the cast iron skillet and baking for 15 minutes. This proved beneficial, especially in making sure the bacon was cooked through.

No, this is not a heart healthy meal - this is a happy mouth meal and should probably only to be enjoyed a couple times a year. Very little effort is involved, but you would easily pay $100 for this meal at a nice restaurant. Every last bit is worth savouring. Sorry Martha dog - nothing left for you.

Last Nights Dinner - The Dog Seal of Approval and Simple Salad Rules Revealed

Bacon, bacon, bacon...many a great dish begins with the crispy, salty, heavenly pig fat. As my dining companion pointed out, "Most vegetarians will agree that of all the things they miss from their meat-eating days, Bacon tops the list."I started my four cheese tortellini by cooking three pieces of bacon. I set the bacon aside then removed all but a tablespoon of grease in the pan. Whole baby bella mushrooms went in to the hot ail and were cooked on high heat with salt, fresh cracked pepper and a little pat of butter.
Next went in the tortellini I had made prior to the bacon. I aadded some beluga lentils and tossed to coat the tortellini with all the flavors. Covered and simmered on low for a half hour.

A sign you are doing something right - the dog comes to the edge of the stove and goes into a blissful trance by smelling seductive aromas coming off the pan.

Upon serving - top with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh bacon bits

Finish it all off with my simple salad rules:
1. Good Lettuce - in this case Mache or Lambs ear
2. A fresh or dried frut - in this case fresh rasberries
3. A crunchy nut or seed - in this case sweet and salty dry roasted crushed peanuts
4. Cheese - in this case gorgonzola
5. Homeade Dressing - in this case Rasberry Honey Mustard Balsamic Vinnagrette

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ayurvedic Tri-dosha Cooking Class

(Ayu is life and Veda means knowledge. Knowledge of Life is Ayurveda)

Ayurevedic food sounds kinda healthy, doesn't it? Well it is, but it tastes delicious, fantastcally fresh and flavorful. Plus there's lots of guilt free butter, otherwise called Ghee, in many of the dishes.

Fresh Ginger being expertly prepared.

Ayurevda is a practice dating back over 2,000 years ago and the main idea is to make food that supports a healthy lifestyle in body, mind and Spirit.

"The ayurevedic cook derives his knowledge of herbs, spices, vegetables, legumes and so forth from the Ayurveda, which helps them maintain physical, mental, social and spiritual harmony.
Ayurvedic foods are appetizing, flavorful and aromatic and a way of offering love, becoming healing when served in an inspiring atmosphere. The cleansing of toxins that have entered the body and the electrochmeical vitalizing of the body are main objectives. Ayurvedic cooking thus is an art and science at the same time, when cooking becomes alchemy and food becomes Tantra.
The basic principles of Ayurvedic Cooking are: the five elements, the three doshas, the three gunas, the seven Dathus and the six Tastes. It also attaches a lot of attention to the effect of the cooking method on the quality of the foods, the importance of the vibrations of the cook and the surrounding atmosphere, the compatibility of foods, the right time for cooking and eating, the cycle of the seasons and the effects of foods on consciousness."
Mustard Seeds sauteing in Ghee.

Fresh Spices and herbs being prepared for Dosha balancing Delights.

More ayurveda...

There is something really beautiful about using fresh, simple and delicious ingredients and really taking advantage of an over 2,000 year old practice of preparing food that is designed to make you feel good. It's so simple and rewarding.

Even if you are just preparing ayurvedic food to cure a hangover, or get through a nasty winter cold - it's worth taking a little bit of extra time to call upon ancient knowledge rather than running to the drugstore to pump your body full of more stuff your body has to process. It seems like less work in the long run to work with the body to help it heal itself.
Steamed apples - a common appetizer in ayurvedic meals. Yes, I did say appetizer. The idea is that the apple is filling, fragrant, and satisfying. Plus you get to eat your fruit with nuts warm spices to allow your body to begin digesting properly and alleviate a tendancy to overeat during your meal. To me, this is the perfect dish for Thanksgiving - to cure what I call the "standing-around-the-kitchen-salivating-with-starvation-because-the-turkey-isn't-done-yet-situation" so many cooks dread.

Best hangover cure ever!

That's fresh baked mashed pumpkin with fresh sauteed fennel - Perfect!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Peanut Butter - Friend or Foe?

If I had to pick one food to live on for the rest of my life, it would undoubtedly be Peanut Butter. I feel a great saddness for people with a peanut allergy. It's as if they have no 6th sense (the ability to enjoy peanut butter and go into a trance).

It's versatility is incredible. It can be enjoyed by the spoonful, as one of three ingredients in a PB&J, or get more dressed up as a main ingredient in rich sauces. My favorite method of peanut butter employment is to simply mix it into a bowl of vanilla ice cream. My current favorite is Trader Joes salted creamy blen

I want to clear up the record right now - Natural Peanut Butter is not bad for you. In fact, eating peanut butter is healthy, when done in moderation. It's a fantastic source of protein and "good" fats. Don't let your mother's warnings fool you, she was just trying to get you to eat your PB&J by making you think it was taboo. It's in 75% of American households for a reason. Enjoy in good health.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Canadian Thanksgiving Casserole

There's a rule in Texas that Thanksgiving just ain't Thanksgiving without some Velveeta in at least one dish. The rule may seem as random as the 1960's add above but there is good reason- If there is a day designated to pigging out - then throw some Velveeta on the menu, because it has absolutely no nutritional value but tastes delicious.

I was invited to a Canadian Thanksgiving so I took one such casserole. It was devoured when we left, which is a good sign, but I was dissapointed. I sauteed onions, green peppers, jalapeno and squash, then poured a mixture of egg, velveta, sour cream, cream of mushroom soup and a little milk over the veggies.

Separately I steamed organic baby carrots and added them to the top halfway through baking. All the ingredients were wonderful, but I fear I slightly oversalted the dish, forgetting Velveeta and cream of mushroom soup already contain lots of salt.

I must say though, compared to the other vegetable dishes at the feast, the flavors of the veggies in my casserole tasted like they were on steroids. It was an obvious contrast that proves the astonishing quality betweem food raised with pride and food birthed into a can. Thank you Three Sisters Farm - for raising food with flavor and integrity.

Flight Night

Ian brought over some brews for a tasting. The Lagunitas was not great and the Rogue was a little bold for my palate. So the winner for me was the Hemp Ale. The only other hemp seed I have consumed is in a granola style cereal Trader Joes makes. It had a subtle nuttiness with a robust blonde color and flavor. If you have seen it at the stores been unsure about giving it a whirl, do - you may just be suprised.

Farmer's Market Food Porn

I decided to go with the "Bounty of the Harvest" basket at the Redlands Saturday Morning Farmer's Market. I pretty much only buy things from the local Three Sisters Farms stand. It is a local family operation right in our very own San Timoteo Canyon.
Why do I only buy from them? Because it's where Roberto Argentina, owner and head chef at The Farm Artisan Foods , buys all his produce for the restaurant. As far as I am concerned, if it's good enough for Roberto then it's good enough for the Pope to eat.

Check them all out and support local agriculture and small businesses. If not because the food tastes better, then because it's good karma.

Maple Smoked Sausage, Goat Cheese, Dill and Granny Smith Apple Quiche

Don't be afraid to make quiche. You can't screw it up if you follow my simple recipe...just take 4-5 eggs and half and half or heavy cream (about half a cup), mix well with salt and pepper - add your favorite meat, a complimentary cheese, a fresh herb or vegetable and put in a prebaked pie crust.

I like the frozen crusts available in the canned buiscuit section at the nearest grocery store. Just prebake one in a pie dish, let it cool, add your ingredients and bake at 450 degrees until a knife comes out clean from the center. Some other combos I like are spinach, bacon and feta cheese.
Apples, blue cheese and ham.
Basil, tomatoes and goat cheese.
Artichoke hearts, Tarragon and Parmesean Cheese.

Cooking any kind of pie always makes the house smell great. Go ahead and give it a try...It's a nice filling comfort food for the fall. Also, quiches heat up very quickly in the microwave and last great in the fridge for up to a week.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A little discussion on The best cereal EVAH!!!

If there was a cult to a Honey Nut Cheerios, I wouldn't join, because I am busy worshiping the Wild Mayan Pizza, and wouldn't have time. But I am pretty sure the leaders of the cult would want me to be an honorary member because I have basically devoted at least half of my life to eating this cereal for breakfast, lunch, dinner and occasionally as a midnight or 4am snack.

I can't really explain it...my love of the HNC. It just is what it is. In case you aren't convinced here's some interesting info from WIKI to help you gain a little respect to this tried and true favorite among many...
Honey Nut Cheerios is a variation of Cheerios breakfast cereal, introduced in 1979 by General Mills. As the first variation from Cheerios, it is sweeter than the original, with a honey and almond flavor. While this product used to be made with actual nuts, as of 2006, the nuts were discontinued, and natural almond flavor used instead.
Their mascot is an anthropomorphic bee, designed for the first commercials by Dean Yeagle at Zander's Animation Parlour in NYC. The bee buzzed around without a name until 2000, when Kristine Tong, a fifth-grade student from Coolidge, Texas, won a national contest to name the bee, dubbing him "BuzzBee".[1] The name was later shortened to just Buzz. Buzz was originally voiced by Arnold Stang until around 1992. He is currently voiced by Billy West (of Futurama fame).


As we move into fall and Octoberfest season, I think it's important to talk a little about beer. Not afraid to try anything, and attempting to learn as much as I could about the beer industry to impress my new boyfriend, I must have had over 50 varieties of beer this summer. Including the following:

Franziskaner Weissbier - developed in 1363, no kidding, this is an absolutely refreshing beer from Munich that has stood the test of time for a reason
Alaskan Summer Brew
Hanger 24 - all varieties
The entire Michelob Ultra Collection
Mothership Wit
Blue Moon - the mass produced bother to our local Hanger 24 Orange Wheat brew
Wild Blue - a sweet blueberry ale available at Gerrards
Guinness - the old standard, not bad as a ice cream float on a hot day if I do say so myself
Bud Light with Lime
Full Sail
Shiner Bock - a Texas favorite, brewed within 100 miles of my hometown
Coors Light
Russian River Temptation - a deliciously sour beer on tap at Charlie Jewels
just to name a few...

What I got most out of the experience, was a new found appreciation for the WIDE WORLD OF BEER. Like wine, there are many varieties ranging from sour to sweet, dry to creamy. If you are bored with your usual grown up drink and not afraid to exchange some calories in the form of beer, go out and give some new things a try.

My personal favorites from the summer are the following:
Everyday Drinkability Award: Michelob Ultra Light Cactus Lime
Rich flavor and High Alcohol Content Award: Salty Dog Old East India Pale Ale

Best Local Brew Award(Cuz I like fresh beer - it tastes better): Hanger 24 Helles

Most Balanced Beer and one "I would choose to drink for the rest of my life if I had to" Award:

drumroll please........

Drop Top Amber Ale
Well done Widmer Brothers, well done indeed.

Chicken Fried Steak - God's gift to the Carnivore

Oh, Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy

How I love thee

Your crispy exterior, your soft creamy topping

Seasoned meat encased in love is what you are

C'mon people? This is good stuff. How do you make a steak taste better? How do you make anything taste better?

Yes, you are right - most Americans will agree that frying something (ie. chocolate bars, ice cream, etc.) is the best way to improve the taste of anything.

I don't know if I agree with this concept, as my first and last experience with a fried snickers bar, left me hurting. But in the case of Chicken Fried Steak - I do agree.

Many sources attribute Chicken or Country Fried Steak's development to German and Austrian immigrants to Texas in the nineteenth century. I personally think it was a gift handed down from the Gods and as a child I would look for it on the menu everywhere we went, all over the United States.

The best Chicken Fried Steak I ever had was at a little train car diner in Jefferson Texas. The steak had been beaten thin and the breading around the meat had been fried perfectly crispy, while still maintainig the juiciness of the meat inside. At the young age of 10 I was asking the waitress what was in the gravy that made it taste so damn good! It was then that I learned about Bacon Gravy. And not long after I learned to make the sinful stuff.

Well, I am a long way off from Jefferson Texas, but I have to tell you that I am fortunate enough to have a superb version of the old Texas classic, right down the road from my home in Redlands. That place is Martha Green's Eating Room.

The steak is done just the way I like it, crispy on the outside and juicy and well seasoned on the interior - but the best part about their dish is of course, the sausage gravy smothered all over the top. You can actually see large pieces of their breakfast sausage dotted throughout. If it's good enough for a self-proclaimed Texas raised CFS expert, then it's worth giving a try yourself. If your dissapointed, well, then you don't really know what CFS is to begin with. :-)

Portobello Carmelized Onion Goat Cheese and Grilled Chicken Pizza

People say, "Tabetha, where do you come up with these recipes?"
I say, "In my head." It's from years of expiramenting with flavors, imagining what they will taste like in my mind then taking the risk and going for it.
This recipe worked - all the flavors melded together well. I had marinated the sliced mushrooms in a dijon based vinnagrette, so they added a nice acidity that played well with the smooth texture of the goat cheese and sweetness of the onions. Balance was achieved and that's what I am always striving for.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Taquito Burrito - Prepare to be Dazzled

I know I have been tooting my own horn a little, but I must say, this was one of my best culinary ideas yet. I thought of it in a yoga class. Instead of focusing on my breath, I was thinking about what I would have for dinner after class.

Last week my mind was blown when I heard a guy at Cuca's order french fries instead of rice in his bean burrito. Unfortunately I had already ordered, so I had to go back the next day and give it a try.

I was dissapointed. The fries were soggy even though I ate it within minutes of it being made. I think the texture of food is as important as flavor and because the fries were soggy, they were indeterminable.

The burrito needed something crunchy that would last from creation to consumption. I couldn't solve the delimma and I almost gave up. I had resigned to just get an order of chicken taquitos instead of a burrito. Eureka!If you can put fries in a burrito, why not taquitos?

I was so proud when I ordered because my friend and long-time employee Nacho paused, looked at me and said, "No one in the history of Cuca's has ever ordered a taquito burrito."

Was it good? Did it stay crunchy? Will I order it again? Yes, yes and YES! Take a look below for the cross-section and ordering details.

"I would like an order if chicken taquitos in a burrito, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, lettuce and all. Please only put two taquitos inside instead of three and just charge me for a regular order of taquitos. Oh, and by the way, Tabetha sent me in for this very special taquito burrito. She's a badass and you should pay her for advertising your restaurant all the time on her FB page and her fancy new blog."

Coffee Meatballs with Pancetta and Parpadelle

This was sort of an accident and a risk, all rolled into one.

As my hero Anthony Bourdain said, "I've long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we're talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime 'associates,' food, for me, has always been an adventure" — Anthony Bourdain (Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly) The sauce is started with cubed pancetta, the meatballs have cumin, parmesean, coffee, oregano and some other secret ingredients I have been encouraged not to share. They were freakin' amazing. The coffee gave the meat an earthy flavor that was utterly complimentary to the rustic tomatoes. I never could have imagined this would work out so well, but then the brilliance continued...
See the pretty noodles above? I mostly just picked them up because I noticed they were full of protein (8 grams/serving). The flavor and texture is rich, buttery and sustaining and that's before having put anything on them. I can only imagine the possibilities of this pasta in future dishes, but for now - them and the coffee meatballs are married as far as I am concerned. Bon Appetito!

My Morning Ritual

So this is how I roll - I put about two tablespoons of coffee, a tablespoon of Sugar in the Raw, and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon in "THE ORGINAL FRENCH PRESS by BODUM". Add boiling water, cover, wait four minutes then PRESS! Alorha - questa e propio bene.
Best part is, that the clean up is easy and the coffee is pure and unburnt. Perfecto!

Pear Pie - Don't be afraid

I will be the first to admit, that I am no baker, but I think I have come up with a fool proof plan for making an abundance of fresh fruit (in this case, pears from Big Bear) into a nice warm vehicle for vanilla ice cream to take a ride into my tummy.
Basically, all you need to do is keep things simple. The fruit is perfect in it's plain form so don't get all crazy with ingredients. Just get yourself a premade pie crust, cut up the fruit to your liking, add a mixture of flour, sugar, egg, lemon zest and juice (most important, so don't skip), salt, cinnamon and love. Throw it in the oven for 45 minutes at 425 degrees and serve warm with Dryers Slow Churned Light Vanilla.

If you have never tried this ice cream, you are missing out. This stuff is amazing, especially if you have any aversions to traditional heavy cream ice creams. The intense rich flavor is fantastic alone or a perfect mix for crunchy frozen berries, or my favorite, peanut butter.