Monday, December 29, 2008

My New Year's Foodie Resolutions


I saw someone else do something like this on their own blog - instead of coming up with resolutions that involved giving things up after the excesses of the holidays, they would plan positive resolutions based on all the food related activities they enjoy - and decided to do the same. I've never been one for making, or keeping, resolutions, so maybe a more positive spin on it will help keep my focus.


1. Go to as many local Farmer's Markets as I can find. Try something new every time. Consider non-local markets, as well (road trip?).
2. Make 1 new recipe a week, whether from the Cookbook Cook-Along or not.
3. Do an olive oil tasting - buy a bunch of different oils, then try them all in one sitting. Keep notes. Try in different ways - fresh, over salad; as a base for a sauce; for cooking; etc.
4. Make my own herbal-oils and vinegars.
5. Make my own wine.
6. Make a batch of Lemoncello.
7. Once a month, make a stew, roast, etc. and freeze it in serving-sizes.
8. Read more cooking magazines / blogs / books.
9. Watch more Food Network shows. There's still much to be learned.
10. Play with all of my kitchen gadgets!
11. Go to 1 restaurant per new city I visit, whether famous or not. Order food I wouldn't normally order.
12. Cook a meal completely from what's on hand once a week.

I figure a dozen is enough...let's see how many I can accomplish!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Job Seeker Resume Tip

Job Seeker Resume Tip: Be Precise
When writing your resume, be as precise as possible to give employers a clear picture of your skills and accomplishments. The better an employer understands what you've done, the more likely they are to consider you for the position. Choose the exact words that describe your experience and skills. For instance, look at how you've described your previous job. If you've written something like, "Responsible for ordering, responsible for dinner service, responsible for other employees," you're not being clear enough. You want the person reading your resume to get a good idea of what you can do.Take a minute to consider the daily details of your job, and write a list for yourself. Did you take inventory, keep costs low, source local products, or develop relationships with vendors? Did you plan menus, develop recipes, cook on the line, or plate foods? Did you train new cooks, schedule employees' hours, or hire staff? How many employees did you manage? Once you take stock of all you do, you'll find it easier to write a precise resume using your list. And a precise resume will make you more attractive to employers.

from www.starchefs.com

JobSeeker Interview Tip

JobSeeker Interview Tip: The Second Time Around
So you've had your first interview and you nailed all the questions and felt a real rapport with your prospective employer. Great! But that's not the end of the selection process - you still need to ace that follow-up interview, and that's a little bit different. You know you're in the top tier of candidates if a manager or restaurant owner asks you back, so that means your competition is stiffer. The employer knows you can do the job, and now they're figuring out whether you'll fit into their team. Get ready for more specific questions about your work history, skills, and goals. You might even be asked to cook if you're applying for a kitchen position, so be sure to have a recipe or two in mind so you can put a dish together on the fly. The follow-up interview is also your chance to see whether you really think you want the job. Take note of the work environment and atmosphere. Do the current employees seem like people you'd like to work with? Do they seem to like working there? Does the cuisine mesh with your style? Is there room for advancement? Can you see yourself there in 5 years? Keep in mind that the second interview is often the last step before an offer is made, so take some time to go over the pros and cons of the position after you get home. In your thank-you note, you should affirm your interest in the job or gracefully withdraw yourself from consideration.

from www.starchefs.com

JobSeeker Interview Tip

JobSeeker Interview Tip: Keep Cool Under Fire
Everyone feels a little nervous going into an interview - it's perfectly natural. The key is to keep calm despite your nerves so you can focus on the interview. Employers will ask you certain questions not only to find your answer, but also to gauge how you respond to a stressful situation. That's not to say they'll grill you about your references or quiz your knowledge of knife sharpening techniques. They're just looking to see whether you can give a clear answer when they ask you standard questions like how you describe yourself, why you're leaving your current position, what you had for dinner last night, or where you see yourself in 5 years. Think about what you'd say to these questions before you go in, and take a 5-second pause before you answer. Then you'll be able to at least appear cool and collected no matter how nervous you feel. And keep in mind that your interviewer is probably nervous, too. If that thought doesn't calm you down, at least you know your nerves are in good company.

from http://www.starchefs.com/

Jobseeker Interview Tip

Jobseeker Interview Tip: Are You on the List?

A few days before your interview, take out a blank sheet of paper and draw a line down the center. On the left side, write a list of what the employer is looking for, based on the job ad and anything they mentioned when responding to your application. On the right side, list your qualities and experiences. Read the lists over and make sure you've got at least one solid work experience on the right side to fit each requirement on the left. Do your skills and experience match with what this position requires? Make a realistic assessment here. If your two lists aren't lining up and you still want the job, be prepared to explain why they should take a chance on you. If your lists even out, you'll be a good fit for the job. And more importantly, you'll be able to give specific examples of why you're a good fit. Knowing the job and your strengths and how the two match - and being able to present that in an interview - will help move you to the top of the short list for the job.


JobSeeker Resume Tip

JobSeeker Resume Tip: Get SchooledOne of the standard, unmovable pillars of a good resume is the Education section. Employers look here to see whether you've gone to college or culinary school, and if so, whether you graduated or earned any honors or awards. Certainly a formal education looks good on a resume, but what if you developed your skills outside the classroom? You don't need to leave the education section blank. Instead, title it "Educational Experience" and list various jobs, internships, and stages you've had, and give a few concrete details about what you learned at each. If you spent a summer cooking at a lobster shack in Maine, then you've learned about a regional American cuisine, and the relationship between fisherman and chef. Time spent as a commis in a traditional French kitchen means plenty of practice picking herbs and chopping vegetables, as well as an intimate understanding of the kitchen management hierarchy. Remember, all experience is education at the core, and you just need to show employers that you've taken every opportunity to learn, whether in a kitchen or a school.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

JobSeeker Resume Tip

JobSeeker Resume Tip: Get Schooled
One of the standard, unmovable pillars of a good resume is the Education section. Employers look here to see whether you've gone to college or culinary school, and if so, whether you graduated or earned any honors or awards. Certainly a formal education looks good on a resume, but what if you developed your skills outside the classroom? You don't need to leave the education section blank. Instead, title it "Educational Experience" and list various jobs, internships, and stages you've had, and give a few concrete details about what you learned at each. If you spent a summer cooking at a lobster shack in Maine, then you've learned about a regional American cuisine, and the relationship between fisherman and chef. Time spent as a commis in a traditional French kitchen means plenty of practice picking herbs and chopping vegetables, as well as an intimate understanding of the kitchen management hierarchy. Remember, all experience is education at the core, and you just need to show employers that you've taken every opportunity to learn, whether in a kitchen or a school.

from www.starchefs.com

JobSeeker Cover Letter Tip

JobSeeker Cover Letter Tip
It's often handy to have a general-purpose cover letter to send out with inquiries and applications that fit your skill set. But be careful about using that cover letter too often. If you send a one-size-fits-all cover letter to a job that's a little bit different from the ones you usually try for, it might seem like you're not giving it your best effort. Or the employer may not think you understand what makes the position they're offering different from the rest. And let's face it, in the culinary world, one chef or general manager position is usually wildly different from the next. A generic cover letter might even make an employer think you got confused and applied for a job posted next to theirs. So look sharp and tailor your cover letter for each job!

from www.starchefs.com

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Jobseeker Interview Tip

Jobseeker Interview Tip: Are You on the List?
A few days before your interview, take out a blank sheet of paper and draw a line down the center. On the left side, write a list of what the employer is looking for, based on the job ad and anything they mentioned when responding to your application. On the right side, list your qualities and experiences. Read the lists over and make sure you've got at least one solid work experience on the right side to fit each requirement on the left. Do your skills and experience match with what this position requires? Make a realistic assessment here. If your two lists aren't lining up and you still want the job, be prepared to explain why they should take a chance on you. If your lists even out, you'll be a good fit for the job. And more importantly, you'll be able to give specific examples of why you're a good fit. Knowing the job and your strengths and how the two match - and being able to present that in an interview - will help move you to the top of the short list for the job.

From www.starchefs.com

Jobseeker Resume Tip

Jobseeker Resume Tip: Just for Reference
Everyone wants to have an impressive list of references to hand out to any prospective employer who asks. So of course, you should put down everyone you've worked with, right? Well, maybe not. Your reference list should contain people who worked with you, preferably your superiors, who had direct daily contact with you and can speak honestly about your character and work habits. Never ask anyone to lie about you, since that will only cause you more trouble when the truth comes out. Before you include them in the list, you should always ask whether you can use someone as a reference. Most people will say yes, but be prepared with a back-up choice if someone declines. If you don't ask, you risk having that employer call a reference who's surprised by the call - at best. Ask a boss or supervisor to be a reference for you just before you leave a job, and make sure you're leaving on good terms. If you're applying for a new job and haven't spoken to a few people on your list of references in over a year, take a few minutes to call them and let them know you're applying for jobs and they can expect a few employers to call. This is also a great chance to make sure you still have the correct contact information for them. You'll look unprofessional if your references can't be reached, and yes, employers really do check references! Include a minimum of three references on your list, but not more than five. For each reference, give a phone number where he or she can be reached, their employment information, and a statement of how you know them.

From www.starchefs.com

Jobseeker Cover Letter Tip

Jobseeker Cover Letter Tip: Sell Your Story
In today's chilly economic climate, it takes an extraordinary application to warm an employer's heart. That's why developing a strong narrative in your cover letter is so important: it helps the employer see you as a real person with pertinent experience, and helps keep you in mind. Come hiring time, the narrative of your career will make a much more convincing case than your resume. You've got to show that you own your experience, that you've digested what you've learned, by presenting it as a narrative. This is a time-honored tip from successful advertisers and brand managers, who know that in order to sell a product, they must first create a compelling narrative for the brand. To get started, think of three specific events that drive your career story. Did you win a mixology competition, receive an unusual compliment on your béarnaise, succeed with a tricky charcuterie recipe, develop a new pastry technique, or travel to an exotic location for your craft? Then jot down one thing you learned from each of those events, and how it's made you a better candidate for the job. Then any prospective employer who reads your cover letter will have an immediate sense of who you are and how you work, and they'll be sold on your story.

from www.starchefs.com

I like good cooking...

"I don't like gourmet cooking or 'this' cooking or 'that' cooking. I like good cooking." James Beard

Jobseeker Career Tip

Jobseeker Career Tip: Hold On to What You've Got
The economy is shaky these days, and job losses are high - but you don't need us to tell you that. You already know that those of us whose companies are weathering the storm are lucky. If you have a job right now, even if it's not your dream job, you might want to consider keeping it a little longer than you originally planned. And since employers looking to cut budgets and increased competition from the recently unemployed can threaten your job security, you'll have to work harder to stay hold on to your job. But you'll also have to work smarter to prove you're still the best person for the job. Think of ways to make yourself indispensible to your restaurant or hotel. Take the lead in a guerrilla marketing campaign, develop cost-conscious recipes, control spending, reduce food waste, step up service - anything that shows you understand the economic situation and will strive to make it through. Not only will you be more valuable than ever, you'll also be taking real steps to ensure your company stays solvent. Don't be shy about your accomplishments, either. Tell your boss what you're doing, and ask if there's anything else you can take on to boost the company. True, times are tough, but if you act wisely, you can hold on until the economy is steady again.

from www.starchefs.com

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Food allergies

Food allergies: Challenges and opportunities for foodservice
Whether you operate a fine-dining establishment or an institutional foodservice, your success comes down to one thing: providing your customers with good food and friendly service. Addressing the needs of people with food allergies offers a great opportunity for fine-tuning customer service and building repeat business. Learn helpful tips and strategies for putting an effective food-allergy plan in place.

http://www.ciaprochef.com/foodallergies/

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oye!

Well, I am getting settled into my apartment...finally. It's been a long process, and it's not entirely over - there is still lots of sorting to do - but at least I am to a point where I can comfortably spend time in the apartment without feeling like I am living in a storage unit.

I've gotten most of my books back in place on the shelves, which means my cookbook collection is out and about, as well. I am reviewing a few different books to be used as the third for the cookbook cook-along, and will post here when I have decided which to use.

As for when I will resume my serious cooking and posting - I plan to do so soon. However, I am leaving town for a week starting in three days, so it will most likely be when I return from vacation. Obviously, if something changes, I will post here...

Until then, have a Merry Christmas. Ba-Humbug.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Confessions

Written 11/1/08...
I have a confession to make. I am obsessed with books. Most recently, that obsession has found root in cookbooks. I can’t even walk past a bookstore without stopping to see if they have any cookbooks deals. I wandered into Wonder Books last week. An hour later, I stumbled out with six more books for the shelves and $60 less in my pocket. Some are mere discounted copies of modern day cookery. Others are long-out-of-print copies of recipes from days gone by. All find a spot on my bookshelf. Unfortunately, this obsession is starting to cut into the funds reserved for things such as skydiving, eating lunch throughout the week and paying for gas for the car! I need to real in the spending on nonessential items and concentrate on those things that are most important to me.

With regards to my cookbook cook-along, I may have to alter my plans a bit. Now that the divorce is moving along, the house is about to sell, and I am moving into an apartment, I doubt I am going to be able to cook my through the grilling cookbook. Most apartments forbid grills on balconies or inside apartments…and since it will be stored in a storage garage that’ll be a few miles away, it won’t be easy to just light it up and have a cookout. Alas, I feel compelled to keep the number of cookbooks under scrutiny at three, so I am thinking I will have to substitute one. Unfortunately, right now, most all of my cookbooks, apart from the ones that have recently been added to my collection, are in boxes in that storage garage, until the apartment is mine. I will write more when I have chosen a suitable substitution.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pleasure...

“It was the French who alerted me to the fact that pleasure is both something to be discovered, there for the taking, and something to be cultivated through my own efforts. Its pursuit, as it turns out, is not a mindless slide into debauchery but a science, rigorous and exacting, discriminating between the merely good and the sublime. The thing about pleasure is that it immerses you in the moment. The present becomes more compelling than the future or the past. There is no better cure for heartache.” Brubach, Holly. “In Pursuit of Happiness.” Gourmet. September 2008. p 130.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

JobSeeker Interview Tip

JobSeeker Interview Tip: Put Time on Your Side
When you schedule an interview with a prospective employer, agree to an interview time that is good for both of you. Try to pick a time when you know you'll be at your best. If you're not a morning person or you're unsure of the travel time, do not schedule an early morning interview. If you're unsure of your availability, tentatively accept a time, but arrange to confirm the appointment at a specific future time. Make sure you aren't going in during the restaurant's lunch rush or towards the end of service. You want to be at your best, but you also need to make sure the employer isn't too tired or distracted to give you their full attention.

From www.starchefs.com

Friday, October 3, 2008

A New Helping of Food Magazines

A New Helping of Food Magazines

Publishers Crowd Kitchen in a Tough Ad Climate, Relying on Big Appetite for Recipes
By
SHIRA OVIDE and EMILY STEEL

A new batch of magazines is about to test America's appetite for more food publications.


In recent years, an increase in the number of home chefs -- or at least people armed with gleaming All-Clad pots and good intentions -- has prompted a flurry of magazines and Web sites devoted to cooking, recipe swapping and epicurean lifestyles. There will be 336 such magazines published this year, nearly a third more than in 2003, according to the National Directory of Magazines. Many of those titles have shown brisk circulation growth.

Now, the category is about to get even more crowded. In its first foray into food, Hearst Corp. recently started the Delish Web site in partnership with Microsoft Corp., and next month, Hearst will launch a test of the Food Network Magazine. Rodale's Prevention magazine is adding a new brand called Cook!, and Hoffman Media, publisher of Southern Lady, will roll out a magazine tied to TV cooking personality Sandra Lee.

In addition to lots of rivals, the new magazines will be up against a gloomy ad market. In the first half of the year, magazine ad pages fell 7.4% from a year earlier, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Stalwarts in the food category haven't been spared: At Condé Nast Publications' Gourmet, ad pages fell 18.5% in the first half. Time Inc.'s Cooking Light and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia's Everyday Food were off about 14% each.

U.S. ad forecasts for this year have already been lowered several times. And that was before the current crisis on Wall Street, which many economists predict will have a profound effect on corporate and consumer spending.

Many publishers believe that as long as a new title has a distinctive point of view, there is enough consumer interest and ad dollars to go around. But not everyone is so sanguine.

"There is a lot of food content available, and there may not be enough magazine advertising support for all," says Robin Steinberg, director of print investment for MediaVest, a media-buying firm owned by Publicis Groupe.

Though advertising from food-related companies has held steady, the food magazines aren't necessarily benefiting. The travel industry, which has been hurt by the cooling economy, is Gourmet's top advertiser. And the housing slump is hurting Cooking Light, which has 100 fewer advertising pages this year for paint, building materials and other housing-related items, according to publisher Chris Allen.

While the ad market has been hurting, food magazines have been buoyed by other factors. Tighter budgets are encouraging more people to cook and entertain at home, feeding demand for recipes and advice. Everyday Food's newsstand sales rose 8.9% in the first half of the year, while sales of Everyday with Rachael Ray gained 6.2%, and Gourmet was up 3.5%, even as overall newsstand sales for consumer magazines fell 6.3%, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Consumer interest in food information on the Web also has been holding steady. Overall U.S. traffic to food sites grew to 42.9 million unique visitors in August, up 6% from a year earlier, according to comScore. Sites with interactive and community features -- such as those allowing consumers to create their own digital recipe boxes or find a dish that uses ingredients already in their pantries -- are growing at a faster clip.

To increase their odds of success, some of the new cooking-related titles are linking up with an already successful brand: the Food Network. Food Network Magazine, the new publication from the Scripps Networks Interactive cable channel and Hearst, plays on the chef-as-celebrity theme that has served the cable channel well. The line "Cook Like a Star," graces the cover of the first issue.

Hoffman Media, which already has a hit with Cooking With Paula Deen, the Food Network chef known for her liberal use of butter, hopes for a repeat with another TV personality, Sandra Lee, whose Semi-Homemade magazine is slated to launch early next year. (Cooking With Paula Deen increased its ad pages 31% in the first half.

In light of the tough economic climate, some publishers are hedging their bets. Prevention, a magazine about fitness and other healthy pursuits, is introducing Cook as an insert in the magazine and as an arm of its Web site and book-publishing business. Hearst also is proceeding carefully. It has committed to just two issues of Food Network Magazine.

Write to Shira Ovide at shira.ovide@wsj.com and Emily Steel at emily.steel@wsj.com

From http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122272773230187907.html?mod=dist_smartbrief

Customer satisfaction

"There are lots of chefs like this... - chefs who are waiting for medals and aclaim, but don't give enough attention to anything to do with the customer. But it's really all about the customer. No one should ever forget that, no matter how great their sauces are." Ramsay, Gordon. Roasting in Hell's Kitchen. p 260.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Stuck in the middle...

How pathetic is our society?!?

I'm sitting here, at the station, watching Food Network. The usual. Then a commercial for a new show comes on. The Chef Jeff Project.

Apparently, this chef is going to take a crew of misfits landed in jail, kids stuck in juvie, that sort of thing. People way down and low. K, cool. Then he's going to give them a culinary experience on par with cooking school, turning them all into chefs. Nice.

Here I am. A Master's Degree. Decent salary. But not enough to pay for my own culinary education. But because of the degree and the salary, I don't qualify for assistance either. Nice.

So basically, society likes to award those that do nothing with their life, yet punish those that have stayed clean, done their best and just want to change. Gee, why am I doing the "right" thing, then? Pathetic. I should just go rob wally world or something, so I can land in jail and get the training I want...for free!

Sorry, had to vent...

Bone Broth Benefits

Natural Medicine: Bone broth for better flavor and health

Broth is an ingredient used in kitchens all over the world to create delicious soups, sauces and gravies, and to add flavor to cooked grains or beans. While broth can be made from meat alone, it is traditionally made from leftover bones. Although this practice may have originated as a way to extract more value from a commodity during scarce times, it also extracts flavor and nutrients from something that might otherwise be thrown away. The result is a tasty, nutrient-filled liquid that makes an excellent addition to many recipes.

Properly made bone broth contains measurable amounts of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium and other minerals, as well as collagen, gelatin and amino acids. These nutrients are beneficial for bone and joint health, for muscle strength and action, and for maintaining connective tissues and the gastrointestinal tract.

The gelatin in bone broth has been shown in some studies to stimulate digestion and protect the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. It also is thought to improve digestion of milk, beans, meat and gluten-containing grains. The gelatin also contributes texture to the broth, lending what chefs call "mouth-feel" to any dish.

Making bone broth is simple, though time-consuming. Bones can be purchased fresh at the grocery store meat counter, or use leftover bones from chicken or beef. Place bones in a pot, cover with water and a splash of vinegar (or lemon juice) and slowly bring to a simmer. The vinegar helps leach more minerals from the bones.

Allow the broth to simmer uncovered 2-4 hours, skimming the top of the broth throughout the cooking process. When the broth is done, strain it through a fine sieve. Discard the bones but save any meat for another dish. The broth will keep for three days in the refrigerator, and for several months in the freezer. One substantial batch of this broth, safely reheated to boiling, will enhance the nutrition and taste of several future meals.

-- Carol White, B.A., and Debra Boutin, M.S., R.D., associate professor with the School of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University

From http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/health/380797_bastyr29.html

What Does the USDA Organic Label Really Mean?

October 1, 2008

USDA has standards for organic foods

You've decided to make our Baked Apple recipe. Should you buy conventionally grown apples or organic? Both supply vitamins, minerals and fiber, and both have no fat, sodium or cholesterol. The conventionally grown apples cost less, but the organic apples have a label that says "USDA Organic."

But does the term "organic" mean anything, and are organic foods safer or more nutritious?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's organic certification program requires that food labeled "organic" be grown, harvested and processed according to standards that include restrictions on pesticides, hormones and antibiotics.

- Food labeled "100% organic" must have no synthetic ingredients and can use the USDA organic seal.
- Food labeled "organic" must have a minimum of 95% organic ingredients and can use the USDA organic seal.
- Meat, eggs, poultry and dairy labeled "organic" must come from animals that have never received antibiotics or growth hormones.

There is no definitive evidence that organic food is more nutritious than conventionally grown food.

Expect to pay 10% to 100% more for organic foods. More expensive farming practices and lower crop yields drive prices up.

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization protecting public health and the environment, says peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes are most susceptible to pesticide residue.

Papayas, broccoli, cabbage, bananas, kiwifruit, frozen peas, asparagus, mangoes, pineapple, frozen sweet corn, avocadoes and onions have the least pesticide residue.

One thing nutrition experts do agree on -- eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whether they are organic or not. The health benefits far outweigh any potential risks from pesticide exposure.

HEART SMART is a registered trademark of the Henry Ford Hospital Heart and Vascular Institute. Darlene Zimmerman, MS, RD, is program contact; for questions about today's recipe, call her at 313-972-1920, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays.

From http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081001/FEATURES02/810010328/1027

Irony

As I sit here at home, alone, watching the sun set out the front window for the umpteenth time, I am struck by the irony of my situation. My soon-to-be ex-wife and I are selling the house. Most everything is packed up, and most of that is in a storage garage, cluttered and inaccessible. Yet, I am happier with the house now than I have been in the past four years of owning it. It seems all of the reasons for selling the house, apart from the divorce, have become null and void. We used to hate the distance. While she hasn’t been home in months, I am spending every free night there…upwards of 5 nights a week. The yard used to be too big. While it hasn’t gotten any bigger or smaller, we decided to not mow the entire field, but rather to just mow the front and let the rear yard grow au natural. The interior of the house never quite suited our needs, lacking a fireplace and a dishwasher. I now find comfort in doing the dishes every night after having cooked myself a less-than-stellar meal, watching the natural “fireplace” as the sun sets behind the mountains. It all strikes me as odd. Perhaps it was all of the materialistic possessions that had made us feel uncomfortable…

I intend to test this theory at the new apartment, too. I will move the bare minimums in – furniture, pots and pans, toiletries. The required items. Then, I will slowly go through every box at the storage garage and only items I deem worthy of my new life will travel to the apartment. If it stays in the garage, it will be boxed and marked for future sale or gift. We’ll see how this suits life.

Some good has come from all of this mess, though. Having nothing else to do, I have been forced, arm behind back, to read more. (haha) Currently, I am about three-quarters of the way through Gordon Ramsay’s “Roasting in Hell’s Kitchen,” an autobiographical piece that relates, thus far, the toils of his youth to why he is the way he is now. While it’s not mind-blowing material, it does put an interesting twist on my view of him. I’ve seen the first two seasons of “Hell’s Kitchen” from TV, and at that point, I thought of him as some pompous bully in the kitchen, trying to prove he’s the best. Granted, I think he’s a fantastic cook – I’ve seen the reviews, I’ve watched him cook on television, and I will one day dine at one of his establishments. Having read most of the book, I now see that there is so much more behind him than just a hellish façade. A very interesting read for those that like to know the life outside of the restaurant.

Another fantastic read, as far as my lowly opinion is concerned, is the September 2008 issue of “Gourmet.” It’s a collector’s issue, focusing on Paris restaurants. Having been and longing to go back, this issue has become a laundry list of places to go, things to see, and menus to taste. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, I highly recommend ordering a back issue. I know it’s got me planning my next trip across the pond.

So for now, I sit here in loneliness, reading my foodie books and mags, and wondering what the future has in store for me…at least I have something constructive to keep me occupied.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Update...

Life is still hectic. The divorce finalizes in November. I miss her so much that it hurts to even see her. The house should settle the end of October. Which means I have had to pack up everything I own, put most of it in storage so that the house would sell easier, and then try to FIND a new place to live. As it looks, I am most likely going to be in an apartment again (gag). I will be able to save some money, pay off some debt, and hopefully get my life back on track.

I had been looking at some townhouses, feeling that owning would give me a better sense of self-worth, but they are expensive, and my parents are right - I don't know that I want to lock into living in this area for the long-term. Who knows what might come to be. However, cheaper living arrangements DOES mean there should be extra money for buying food...so I expect my cooking to pick up drastically once I get settled into the apartment.

I will be more active here when things have settled down. Until then, keep those knives up.

Monday, September 22, 2008

CIA Open House

What an interesting day I had this past Friday. I spent most of the day driving...NOT the interesting part. However, the 5 hours I spent in between the 4 1/2 hour driving sessions was the best in a long time.

I arrived at the Culinary Institute of America about an hour early, so I drove around campus. The photos in the brochures don't do the campus justice, at all. Absolutely gorgeous.



After signing in, there was a light lunch served - samplings of some fine foods prepared by CIA students, I'm sure. I didn't know lunch would be served and had eaten already, so I only sampled a few of the offerings, but I didn't hear a single negative - and it all looked like artwork.

The required welcome speaches and promotional videos followed. Standard fare. But after that, we split into groups for campus tours. This was the best part of it. I wish I remembered our tour guide's name, but she was a wealth of knowledge. She was able to give minute details about the campus, the school, and even about the different degree programs. Highly informative, and cute to boot!

After the tour, we regrouped in the admissions building for a cooking demonstration. It was amazing - a simple dish, a short demo, but it was a taste of life as a CIA student. That concluded the Open House and the group dispersed. Camera in hand, I wandered around the main part of campus - Roth Hall (pictured above), Anton Plaza (in front of Roth Hall above), and the Colavita Center (pictured below). Absolutely beautiful architecture, and what a learning atmosphere! When they say "we do food" they ain't kiddin'!!!



Walking around campus, I started to day dream about being a student there. Rushing across campus, knife set under arm, to get to class on time. Sitting with friends in Anton Plaza, discussing the day's lessons. Swimming or playing basketball at the gym. Ahh, what a day dream. But alas, finances keep me in reality. But it does give me a goal. Hands down, I want to attend the Culinary Institute of America. No questions about it...

Friday, September 5, 2008

T-shirt quote

"Order what you want; Eat what you get." - Seen on the back of a t-shirt on "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" from The Food Network.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Update

Haven't been eating anything substantial lately, therefore, haven't been cooking. Need to sell the house, pack everything, move everything, finalize the divorce, and find a new place to live...then maybe I can start thinking about food again. Oh, and I need to find 2 more jobs to PAY for everything.

More to follow...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Updates Schmupdates...

Ok, so I lied. You didn't miss anything. No recipes came and went while I was gone. I've been busy.

Life has been fairly, uh, unpleasant, lately. My wife and I have decided to divorce, so I've spent a week, now, doing paperwork, doing some planning, trying to pack and clean the house so we can put it on the market to sell it, and, in the meantime, still trying to go on with my daily life in a way that will make life a tad easier to continue after the shock of all of this is over.

I have been reading the Mario Batali book though. It's amazing. Not only is it a great cookbook (granted, I have yet to cook from it...) but I love the way Mr. Batali (yes, he deserves Mister Status...) writes and organizes this book. He begins each section with a page on the culture of Italy, or the history of a region. Then, in the recipe section, he puts personal notes, tips for substitutions, and even cultural notes about a certain dish. It makes for more than just a cookbook, but for knowledge-building enjoyable reading. Wonderful.

That said, I have picked out a bunch of recipes from his book, and have plans to try my hand at cooking a few of them in the coming weeks - money allowing.

JobSeeker Interview Tip

JobSeeker Interview Tip: Ask not what your employer can do for you...Ask what you can do for your employer!
Employers are always looking for problem solvers - people who can improve their operation with hard work and great ideas. Before you go in for an interview, do a little research into the restaurant or hotel (internet searches are great for this) and get an idea of their cuisine, style, and areas they might want to improve. Make a list of at least three things they need that you can bring to the job. So if you're applying as a chef at a hip but poorly-reviewed bistro, you'll want to stress how you can help the quality of their food match their décor to get great reviews and fill seats. Maybe you can even stop by for a drink or meal to gauge service and presentation and think of ways you could help. Remember to be constructive and positive when you present your ideas! You don't want to give the impression you think poorly of their restaurant and want to change it all. You want to make sure they know that you are already thinking of how well you could work together.
From www.starchefs.com

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I love pasta...

What is it about pasta that I love so much? It's not a friendly food. It sticks to the plate. It slips off the fork. It lashes you in the face and then whips sauce across the table. There's little taste - just the starchy wonderfulness that is pasta.

Now, it does come in playful shapes and sizes. It even comes in cool colors - brown, green and red! It's easy to cook (I've been doing it since I was 8). It's tough to get wrong, although there are "better than other" moments. You can eat it alone, with sauce, with meat, with gravy, with butter, with whatever you have laying around. (I once ate a bowl of pasta with olive oil and chopped chives...the only two things I had left prior to moving. And it was wonderful...) And I've never met anyone that downright hated pasta.
I do wonder why we add salt to the pot of water. It just makes the water boil over. Does it add flavor that I can't taste? I am nearly immune to salt, though - the product of my parents letting me put salt on my food myself. Imagine heaping sand dunes of salt atop my steak. Thankfully, I have grown out of that stage...although, I'm sure the damage to my arteries has already been done.

These are the thoughts that go through my mind when I'm waiting for food to cook and have nothing else to do...aren't you glad you joined me today? hehe

Project Cook-Along: Cowboy Spaghetti

I've always thought that I was born in the wrong time period, that I was meant to be a cowboy. And after having Cowboy Spaghetti ("Express Lane Meals" by Rachael Ray, pp.60-61) I am quite certain this must be true.


Revisions to the recipe:
1. I used 2 cloves of garlic, instead of 4. I didn't want a vampire-fearing repeat of last week's recipe.
2. I used 6 slices of bacon, instead of 3. I like bacon. And I cooked the whole package up so that it wouldn't spoil, so why not throw some extra in.
3. I only used half of a large onion, instead of 1 medium onion. Makes no difference, I like onion, but I didn't want it to be overpowering.
4. I had no sharp cheddar cheese to put on top. What can I say, I need to pay better attention to the shopping list when I'm in the store! But I substituted some left over freshly shredded mozzarella from last week's recipe. It worked out nicely, but I think the cheddar would've been better.

Lessons learned:
1. Fire off, fire-roasted tomatoes ROCK MY WORLD! I have never had these before, so I sampled a little before I added them to the skillet. Wow. I could taste the wood-stove taste. I could feel the heat. They were phenomenal. I might not use regular tomatoes ever again!
2. Scallions are over-glorified chives. And I love both. I didn't put a ton on top of the dish, but there was plenty there to have a slice or two with every bite. What a difference they make in the overall flavor of the dish, too. I might have to add scallions to next year's list of vegetables to plant in the garden.
3. I learned from last week that I need to prep everything prior to turning the stove on. With the exception of the scallions, I did that this time. I researched how to chop garlic last week, after the fiasco. I chopped and diced everything up, and then was bored out of my mind while the meat browned and the bacon cooked up. I suppose that's the way it's supposed to be though, right? Who woulda thunk it?!? It took about 45 minutes to prep the food and cook the meal. Not quite "express lane" times, but still doable at the end of a long day. And at $11.88, the price is well within the "tight budget" framework.
4. I need to find some alternatives to these fresh foods I keep buying. I know, contradictory to everything the entire world is preaching right now, but listen and I will explain. I bough fresh scallions. The smallest amount I could buy was a bunch - it had about a dozen stalks on it, all about 6-8 inches long. I used one stalk. Now, because I will be out of town all weekend, the remainder of that bunch will most likely be unusable. While the cost was not significant ($0.50 for the bunch), it feels wasteful to use so little and throw out so much. Surely, there are freeze-dried variations that I can use over time, without fear of wasting, right? Or maybe I'm being overly paranoid about throwing out some herbs and vegetables and should let the world keep on turning. You choose.

My final thoughts on the subject are that I can't wait for lunch today! I liked this meal that much.

Coming soon! Umm...not so certain. This weekend is my duty weekend, so I don't know if I'll be cooking or not. If I do, you can be sure it'll be here...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Holupchi

Got that? Yeah, my reaction was the same. Translation is "Stuffed Cabbage", or something similar. And boy, oh boy, is it ever good!

Basically, a concoction of rice, beef, pork, onion and spices, cooked together, then wrapped in steamed cabbage leaves, and cooked again.

I have to admit now, I didn't cook them. Yet. But my wife's Great-Aunt Helen did, and she's a great cook! We feasted on these, along with lots of other home-cooked goodies, most of the weekend. She gave me the recipe, and I will try them in the hopefully-near future. When I do, I will post the recipe (unless I am told that it is some long-kept family secret...) and some pictures.

Coming Soon! Cowboy Spaghetti.
Another Rachael Ray "Express Lane Meals" recipe (p. 60-61), this one looks to be a bit more involved than the last, and has some of my favorite flavors in it, so I am really looking forward to it. Obviously, I will post my notes after the fact...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Project Cook-Along: Spaghetti alla Ceci

AKA Baby Barf. Well, that's what it looked like, anyways. Thank goodness it didn't taste like that!

Last night, I prepared the Spaghetti alla Ceci, from Racheal Ray's "Express Lane Meals". Here are my thoughts on the subject...

Overall, the dish was interesting. There was a nice kick to it, thanks to the red pepper flakes. I think I used a bit too much garlic, which had a taste-altering effect on things, but it was unpleasant and I would most-definitely eat it again (with a few variations, of course...). It was extremely quick and easy - although, in the book, it is made to seem like you can cook the main dish while the pasta is cooking. This may be true if everything is prep'ed and chopped as needed prior to starting the pasta. I was in a hurry, didn't pre-plan well, and ended up having the pasta sit on the stove for a good ten minutes before the rest was done. Cost was minimal - I had a lot of the ingredients on hand, so my total cost was $9.86. Not bad for a meal that would feed three or four people. I added a couple slices of Five Cheese Texas Toast, and half a bottle of a nice red wine from a local winery, and dinner was served.

Lessons learned:
1. Garlic. I love it. But I realized last night that I know nothing about how to use it! How to peel it, how to get the freggin' cloves off the bunch. What constitutes a clove (I think I used twice as much as suggested!). How to chop it without getting it everywhere, including in my hair (don't ask!). And how to get rid of the smell once dinner is over. Yeah, I have some research to do before I will venture down that road again. But it sheds some light early on, too. While I am comfortable in the kitchen, and can make-do with just about anything, this opens my eyes to the fact that I am merely an amateur and might need to research techniques, skills and practices prior to attempting a new recipe.
2. Chick peas have an earthy taste to them. That could've been because the food processor I used ground them to a paste-like pulp, instead of just chopping them as suggested (hence the baby barf appearance...) or maybe I just didn't rinse them well enough.
3. I substituted the crushed tomatoes for diced tomatoes, simply because I forgot to buy the crushed ones. It worked out ok. However, if I were to do this again, I would not strain the tomato juice off and then just use a smaller amount of the chicken broth. That should give the sauce more of a tomato flavor, something I personally enjoy.
4. Patience is a virtue I need to keep working at. Even if I'm in a hurry, I need to take the time to prepare all the ingredients prior to starting to cook, unless told specifically to do differently. This will save time in the long run and help ensure that nothing is over-cooked. It's very easy to overlook the pan on the stove while preparing the next ingredient.
5. Along those same lines, I realized that if I am going to do much chopping at all, I need to either get some non-slip material to place under the cutting board, or I need one of those nice cutting boards with the rubber on the corners. Every time I went to chop, the board would just move across the counter, making it nearly impossible to get even cuts.

All in all, not bad for my first trip down the cookbook express way. But vampires beware - I can still taste the garlic!

Coming soon! Cowboy Spaghetti.
I am going out of town this weekend, but I will be sure to get back to the stove next week...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Interest: The Raw Side

Lately, I have been more and more interested in the raw side of things...meaning sushi. I have been eating sushi for a long time now, and have liked most everything I have tried. It never occurred to me that it could be prepared at home! I was watching "Dinner Impossible" on my favorite tv channel, and one of the dishes being prepared was a sushi platter. The sushi chef stopped his work to show the star chef some sushi prep tips, and it dawned on me that I could do that!

Embracing my love of technology, I immediately set about researching on the internet...but you can only believe so much of that. I've gotten a couple books, and found a few blogs, so I'm feeling fairly read-up. And surprisingly, it doesn't seem nearly as difficult as I had thought it would be. It looks like an art form, and it truly is...but it's one that also is easy to break down into doable pieces, so that someone like me can learn to do it! I just might have to give it a try one of these nights.

Project Cook-along: The Rules

Catchy name, huh? :-)

Well, tonight I am planning to cook the first of many recipes from my cookbook collection. Before I do, let's lay down some ground rules. But keep in mind, all rules are created to be broken, and I am well-known for breaking them. :-)

The Rules:
1. Recipes do not need to be selected in any specific order. Random selections is acceptable. Selections can be made for ease, for a specific ingredient, for cost-effectiveness that utilizes what's on hand, or by closing my eyes and opening the cookbook to a random page. Basically, anything goes.
2. Recipe must be followed as closely as possible. Rare ingredients will need to be searched for. If an item is out of season, it may be substituted with a reasonable replacement, or the recipe should be put on hold until the item is in season again. Just because I don't like an item is no reason to not include it, either...this is not kindergarten.
3. When listing a price for an item that could be used in multiple recipes, the price will only be given when it was purchased, with subsequent recipes listing it as "on hand". For example, if a spice was purchased for a recipe yesterday, and I need it for a recipe today, the price will only be included in yesterday's recipe. Confused yet?
4. Time to prep and cook will be listed whenever I remember to keep track. These times will include "learning curve" times, as well...with a notation stating what was learned. I'm not afraid to admit my failures.
5. I will also include my ratings as far as ease of cooking, whether I had the proper tools on hand, and of course, any comments about the finished product.
6. No recipe from a published book will be included in this blog. That wouldn't be fair to the author, since they wouldn't be earning money from it. And I'm pretty sure it's illegal, too. Besides, I don't have the time to type all those recipes into here. Go buy the books.

Coming soon! Recipe #1: Spaghetti alla Ceci
To do something different than my norm for my first meal, I have chosen Spaghetti alla Ceci from Rachael Ray's "Express Lane Meals" (page 24-25). I've never had chick peas, so far as I know, so this should be an interesting meal.

Monday, July 28, 2008

JobSeeker Resume Tip

JobSeeker Resume Tip: Speak Their Language
When you're writing your resume, you need to use the keywords specific to your profession to signal to employers that you know the industry inside and out. Look at a variety of help wanted ads for the type of position you want, paying attention to the tasks, responsibilities, and requirements for each job. You'll notice that these ads will often use the same wording. For instance, chef ads usually specify experience needed in terms of covers per night, food production costs, expedition, plating, health code compliance, culinary degree, supply requisitioning, menu development, and back-of-house management. Make a list of these job requirement keywords and compare that to your skill set and current job functions. In your resume, describe your skills and experience with those keywords. Then you'll be speaking their language, and employers will want to listen.

From www.starchefs.com

Friday, July 25, 2008

Job Seeker Resume Tip

Job Seeker Resume Tip: Be Precise
When writing your resume, be as precise as possible to give employers a clear picture of your skills and accomplishments. The better an employer understands what you've done, the more likely they are to consider you for the position. Choose the exact words that describe your experience and skills. For instance, look at how you've described your previous job. If you've written something like, "Responsible for ordering, responsible for dinner service, responsible for other employees," you're not being clear enough. You want the person reading your resume to get a good idea of what you can do.Take a minute to consider the daily details of your job, and write a list for yourself. Did you take inventory, keep costs low, source local products, or develop relationships with vendors? Did you plan menus, develop recipes, cook on the line, or plate foods? Did you train new cooks, schedule employees' hours, or hire staff? How many employees did you manage? Once you take stock of all you do, you'll find it easier to write a precise resume using your list. And a precise resume will make you more attractive to employers.

From www.starchefs.com

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Project Cook-Along: My Selections

After some review, I have picked my books to cook through. At least for now. I am choosing to use three books, each with a different style, so that I won't get bored of one type of food. So, to start this project, I am selecting "Molto Italiano" by Mario Batali, "Boy Meets Grill" by Bobby Flay, and "Express Lane Meals" by Rachael Ray. I figure these three books should give me something for any occasion, from a quick after-work meal to a nice, sit-down affair with friends.

Making this selection was actually a lot harder than I had thought it would be. First, I have about three or four Bobby Flay books, all of which are untouched by me and each look wonderful. "Boy Meets Grill" was one of his first, if memory serves me, so I will start my "Bobby Flay experience" from his beginnings and we will grow together - even if only figuratively. I love the grill, and plan to use this book for weekend barbeques, whether just for me or for a group.

I chose Rachael Ray's book with simplicity in mind. I want a cookbook that is less intimidating, less detailed, than others, and more about the ease of quick meals, something Ms. Ray has become famous for. This book will come in real handy on those busy week nights when time is short and appetites are dangerously high.

Mario Batali has been a long-time idol of mine, from his whimsical attire to his fabulous creations in the kitchen. Admittedly, I absolutely love watching him on Iron Chef America. I plan to make his book the backbone to my cooking, using it for family meals, parties and anything where a more formal meal is required. But I wonder if I need the orange Crocks to be able to cook like him...

These three books could change. I selected them based on certain criteria, but if that criteria changes, or if my situation changes, I might have to revise the list. For now, I will start with these, and only these. That's not to say I won't be cooking anything BUT recipes from them, but I won't go off and start mass-cooking from a different book. I plan to keep track of the money spent on each recipe, the ease of cooking it, the taste factor (of course), and hopefully a critique on the author's presentation of the recipe in the book - namely, if the description matches, if the instructions are clear and easy to understand, etc. I will post each review here, but I will refrain from retyping the recipe itself. After all, I wouldn't want to give away each chef's recipes for free and take away from their book sales!

So, until the cooking begins...keep those knives sharp.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Project Cook-Along: Cookbook plans

So I came up with an idea last night. Well, ok, truth be told, I didn't come up with it, I read about someone else doing this. And I'm sure there are plenty of people out there doing the same thing. But I digress. The idea is this. I plan to take a cookbook, start at page one and cook my way to the end of the book. I figure that'll be a great way to find new favorites, a lovely way to experience the author's point of view, and a better use of all these wonderful tomes of knowledge sitting here on my bookshelf.

But it raises a few questions, too. Do I take one book, and not move on to another until all recipes have been tried? If I do this, I run the risk of getting sick of a certain style, a certain cuisine. For example, if I take a Mario Batali book and cook my way through it, and only it, will I be sick of Italian food at the end? Or do I perhaps take two or three, and cook my way through them simultaneously? That might be a better mix of things, but it will also take a lot more time accomplish. Might the reward be worth the extra effort? One proposal I came up with was to take two or three different books, to cook at least one recipe per book each week. That way, I get a good variety, I try two or three new recipes every week, and I still leave time between styles so as to not get sick of any of them. And if issues arise about cooking from front to back of the book, I could always just check off the recipes in the Index or Table of Contents as I cook them. That would give me some flexibility as far as finding the right ingredients in season, or taking into account mood swings and taste changes, but it will also complicate things a bit because someone will have to decide what to cook then.

I'm thinking that for the first round I might use a Mario Batali book, a Bobby Flay book, and perhaps a Rachael Ray book. Good mix, all good cuisines. And, of course, I'll be sure to post my findings and my favorite recipes here.

EDITED TO ADD:
Wow, just after I posted this, I was looking at some old emails, and came across this website article...about Cook Along Blogs - the exact thing I just commented on doing. Interesting. See, I knew I wasn't the first to think of it! It's a good story, here's the link if anyone's interested...

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121193539466324749.html?mod=dist_smartbrief

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JobSeeker Interview Tip

JobSeeker Interview Tip - Don't forget to interview them back!
The job offer itself is rests on what the employer thinks of you, but the success of the job lies in what you think of the employer and position. If you care about the company and your work there, odds are you'll do a better job. Before you go to the interview, make a list of a few things that are important to you in a job. How friendly do you get with your coworkers? Do you like cooking the same things every day or are you excited by changing menus? How long a commute are you willing to make? Do you like to manage your own time and tasks, or are you more productive when someone else handles the scheduling? What kind of compensation package do you want? Once you're in the interview, ask about all of those things. You could even ask to for contact information for the person who last held the position to get a more in-depth idea of what the job entails day-to-day, and what the work environment is like. It's better to find out as much as possible about a job before you accept it than to open yourself to unpleasant surprises.

From www.starchefs.com

JobSeeker Career Tip

JobSeeker Career Tip: Follow Your Idols
Like most culinary professionals, your career idols are probably famous chefs, writers of engaging cookbooks, and savvy restaurateurs. How did they get such cool jobs? And, more to the point, how do you get a job like that? Read up on these extraordinary chefs (lots of info at StarChefs.com and in the Chefs to Know book), focusing on their early career and education instead of their fame and accolades. There you'll find inspiration for your own career path. By looking at the steps your idols took on the way to their great careers, you can begin to see the kind of jobs, research, and independent experience you'll need to explore on your way to the top. If you can plan where you want to be and map the steps it takes to get there, it won't be too long before you're an idol to someone else.

From www.starchefs.com

Don't Char the Meat

Backyard barbecuers realize the danger of undercooking meats. But they may not know that eating beef, chicken, lamb, pork, or fish grilled until it's overcooked, or burnt and charred, might increase the risk of developing certain cancers, according to some research.

Such grilling can transform amino acids and other natural substances in the foods into compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. Some studies suggest that ingesting these and other compounds might affect food safety by increasing the risk of breast, colon, pancreatic, prostate, and stomach cancer.

It's not yet known how much HCAs might increase cancer risk in people, says an official at the National Cancer Institute. But experts we consulted suggested ways to limit your exposure:

Turn the heat down.
Whether you grill, pan-fry, or oven-roast meats, cook at a temperature below 325º F, the surface temperature at which HCAs begin to form. Flip burgers once a minute to cool the surfaces and prevent HCA formation. And use a meat thermometer to make sure you kill harmful bacteria by cooking poultry to an internal temperature of 165º F; ground beef, lamb, and pork to 160º F; beef and lamb steaks and roasts to 145º to 160º F; and fish to 145º F, according to government food safety guidelines. If you like your meat well-done, there are ways to reduce the formation of HCAs. Immediately before grilling, microwave hamburger patties or chicken breasts for 1 to 2 minutes at a medium setting (longer for larger cuts) and pat the meat dry. Microwaving can help inhibit HCA formation, but it might make some meats less juicy.

Marinate the meat.
Marinating food before grilling can greatly reduce HCA formation, research shows. A marinade including cider vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, and spices reduced certain HCAs by 92 to 99 percent in chicken breasts grilled for 10 to 40 minutes, compared with unmarinated breasts.

Don't cook directly over flame.
Fat or marinade dripping on briquettes or gas flames creates flare-ups that contribute to HCAs and form other potential carcinogens that stick to the surface of food as char or ash. To avoid flare-ups, distribute briquettes to the sides of a charcoal grill, or turn off one side or the middle burners of a gas grill. Take those steps even if you've microwaved the meat, and trim any charred parts.

http://www.consumerreports.org/health/healthy-living/news/2008/8/grilling-basics/overview/grilling-basics-ov.htm

6 Steps to a Great Steak

6 Steps to a Great Steak

• Use fresh beef that you've just bought or have refrigerated for up to three days. Do not use meat that has been frozen.

• Preheat your gas grill on high for at least 10 minutes. Clean and oil the grates. Remember to keep the lid closed during preheating and as you cook.

• Trim excess fat from the steak. Then season the meat with freshly ground pepper and kosher or coarse salt, using a little more salt than usual since some will drip off during cooking.

• To get steakhouse-quality grill marks, place one end of the steak diagonal to the grates facing left (pointing to 10 o'clock). Then, without flipping the steak, move the end so that it now faces right (pointing to 2 o'clock). Flip the steak and repeat the previous two steps.

• Grill a boneless steak, such as rib-eye or sirloin, 1 to 11/2 inches thick, for 90 seconds for each step if you prefer rare meat. Grill a bone-in steak, like a porterhouse, for 2 minutes per step for rare. Add 30 seconds per step for medium-rare. Cook for 3 minutes per step for medium-well. Remove the steak from the grill.

• A meat thermometer should register 145º F for medium-rare, 160º F for medium, and 165º F for medium-well, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

You might have heard that charring your food can lead to the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. It’s not yet known how much HCAs might increase cancer risk in people, but there are ways to limit your exposure. Read "Don't Char the Meat" for more details.—Steven H. Saltzman

http://blogs.consumerreports.org/home/2008/07/tip-of-the-day.html

Monday, July 21, 2008

Find the right wine for fish

Find the right wine for fish
July 17, 2008

In the summertime, grilling and barbecue rule. With our warmer weather, grilling fish is popular as it offers lighter cuisine. In selecting a wine with fish, the old adage of white wine with fish and red wine with meat has been updated. Lighter styles of both red and white wine work well with seafood.

This column will focus on pairing seafood with chardonnay, as this represents an ideal pairing.
Chardonnay also pairs well with corn on the cob with lots of butter. Unfortunately, some winemakers were a little over the top with barrel aging, resulting in overpowering oakiness which did not appeal to many consumers.

Chardonnay has appealing flavors of butter, butterscotch, vanilla and tropical fruit. This varietal is heavily influenced by the climate and wine making process. In the cooler climates (France), the grape juice is lighter and leaner in style and is aged either in stainless steel vats or in oak barrels that impart a lightly oak flavor. In the warmer climates (California, Australia), chardonnay juice is more hearty and full bodied and can benefit from oak barrel aging. Barrel aging transforms chardonnay into a richer, creamier and more complex beverage.
Recently, California winemakers have been adopting the French style of white wine making, by aging its wine in stainless steel vats. This creates a lighter style that does not overpower the delicate flavors of foods.

Food pairings
In general, chardonnay pairs well with seafood, as it is a low acid wine and seafood is slightly acidic. Chardonnay, with its buttery character, is complex, which compliments the straightforward flavors of seafood. A chardonnay aged in stainless steel pairs better with delicate white fish. The chardonnays produced from warmer wine regions tend to be bigger in style and pair well with rich seafood such as lobster or seafood in cream sauces.

Bill's picks
All my picks are of a lighter style of chardonnay with minimal or no oak aging - with suggested retail prices.
Toad Hollow Chardonnay (Mendocino, Calif.) $11.50
Four Vines Naked Chardonnay (Santa Barbara, Calif.) $12.50
Sanford Chardonnay (Santa Barbara, Calif.) $14.50
Verget Chablis (French Chardonnay) $16.

Bill Garlough is a Level One Master Sommelier and part owner of My Chef Catering of Naperville, the 2007 recipient of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Small Business of the Year Award. He can be reached at www.mychef.com or bgarlough@mychef.com.

http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/beaconnews/lifestyles/1059193,2_5_AU17_WINE_S1.article#

JobSeeker Networking Tip

JobSeeker Networking Tip: Stay in Touch
Whenever possible, stay in touch with people you've worked with in the past. You need to do this for obvious practicalities - getting letters of reference, record of employment, tax documents - but there are also some fringe benefits. Maybe it will occur to you a few months after you leave that you need a client's phone number, or you'll want a recipe, or advice on tabletop purveyors. Just drop a line every six months or so to keep the communication channels open. It will be much easier to contact your former place of work when you need something if you make sure they still remember you. And if they remember you, they'll be more likely to recommend you for any interesting projects or jobs they hear about. Keeping in touch with past employers also makes you more attractive to prospective employers. First, they'll see that you're friendly, stable, and take your job personally, and they can expect that you'll keep in touch with them when the time comes for you to move on. The thing to remember is that when you change jobs, you don't change contacts. And of course, you know you can always stop by when you're in the neighborhood for a friendly chat and maybe even a free drink.
From www.starchefs.com

8" Chef's knife

Up until very recently, my 8" Chef's knife had not served its true purpose. It had been used as a butcher's knife once or twice, but otherwise, it just sat on the counter in the knife block looking nice. That changed this weekend. I cooked and prepared a whole feast of food this weekend...steak marinated in a peppercorn sauce, chicken breasts marinated in a southwestern sauce, fresh green beans, corn on the cob, potatoes quartered and sautéed with olive oil and some Mrs. Dash seasoning, leafy greens salad, and fresh fruit salad. The fruit was the most labor intensive, especially with regards to cutting. At first, the large knife felt cumbersome and awkward. I'm not sure it ever lost those traits, I just got used to it. But I know I had no real speed to cutting, and no uniformity. Something to work on, I think. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to hold the knife, either. I've tried a few different hand holds, but none of them feel better than another. Ultimately, I know it is just a matter of practicing with it, getting used to it, and making it do what I want it to do. Practice makes perfect, and thankfully, practicing is fun and tasty!

Monday, July 14, 2008

JobSeeker Interview Tip

From www.starchefs.com

JobSeeker Interview Tip: Please and Thank You
Many job seekers are afraid of seeming formal or old-fashioned in today's fast-paced online job market. But some things never go out of style, like sending a personal thank you letter after an interview. It's like dressing up for an interview - a formal gesture that shows the employer how much thought you've put into the application process, and what their time means to you. Keep your letter short and start by thanking your interviewer for meeting you. Then reinforce your interest in the job and your qualifications based on what you learned during the interview. Finish with a suggestion for future correspondence. You can also use this letter as an opportunity to ask further questions about the job, clarify a response given during the interview, reiterate why you're the best candidate, and anything you may have forgotten during the interview. Send the thank you letter the day of the interview if possible, or the day after. Your prospective employer will appreciate the courtesy and will be more likely to remember you. Though a paper letter is the most formal choice, it's fine to send this letter by email in most cases. After all, you want to show that you have modern computer skills as well as classic manners and style.

JobSeeker Interview Tip



JobSeeker Interview Tip: Please and Thank You

Many job seekers are afraid of seeming formal or old-fashioned in today's fast-paced online job market. But some things never go out of style, like sending a personal thank you letter after an interview. It's like dressing up for an interview - a formal gesture that shows the employer how much thought you've put into the application process, and what their time means to you. Keep your letter short and start by thanking your interviewer for meeting you. Then reinforce your interest in the job and your qualifications based on what you learned during the interview. Finish with a suggestion for future correspondence. You can also use this letter as an opportunity to ask further questions about the job, clarify a response given during the interview, reiterate why you're the best candidate, and anything you may have forgotten during the interview. Send the thank you letter the day of the interview if possible, or the day after. Your prospective employer will appreciate the courtesy and will be more likely to remember you. Though a paper letter is the most formal choice, it's fine to send this letter by email in most cases. After all, you want to show that you have modern computer skills as well as classic manners and style.

JobSeeker Resume Tip

From http://www.starchefs.com/

JobSeeker Resume Tip: Format Matters
Most employers these days accept email or online applications to their job ads, but they don't always require the same format. Often, you'll be asked to upload a resume, send it as an email attachment, or paste it in the body of an email. Read each ad thoroughly for instructions as some employers can only accept certain formats like MS Word, and some do not open attachments. As always, remember to include a cover letter. You should always put this in the body of the email to make sure the employer sees it first. You've put a lot of thought into your application and it would be a shame for an employer to miss out because of a simple formatting issue.

JobSeeker Resume Tip



JobSeeker Resume Tip: Format Matters

Most employers these days accept email or online applications to their job ads, but they don't always require the same format. Often, you'll be asked to upload a resume, send it as an email attachment, or paste it in the body of an email. Read each ad thoroughly for instructions as some employers can only accept certain formats like MS Word, and some do not open attachments. As always, remember to include a cover letter. You should always put this in the body of the email to make sure the employer sees it first. You've put a lot of thought into your application and it would be a shame for an employer to miss out because of a simple formatting issue.

JobSeeker Cover Letter Tip

From www.starchefs.com:

JobSeeker Cover Letter Tip: Your Resume's Best Friend
If you've been following the JobSeeker tips from the start, you probably have a clear and concise resume written by now. That's half the battle - but you still need to get the employer's attention with a great cover letter. The two documents work hand-in-hand in the application process. Some employers won't consider candidates who don't include a cover letter, so make sure you send one with every application. This serves as your introduction to a future employer, so keep that in mind, and be personal but respectful. This isn't a quick email to an acquaintance, so make sure you use proper spelling and punctuation. Tailor the letter for each job, and when possible, address it to the person who posted the ad. Mention your immediate background, what about the job interests you, which skills you can bring to the job, and suggest meeting to discuss your qualifications. A great cover letter makes the employer want to read your resume, so remember to keep them together. After all, it'd be a shame to split up this winning pair.

Confidence

"You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through." Rosalynn Carter, former First Lady.

JobSeeker Cover Letter Tip

From www.starchefs.com:

JobSeeker Cover Letter Tip: Vocation Location
If you are planning a cross-country move, or find a great job opening in another state, your job application process takes on a new dimension. In every job search, you have to convince the employer that you are the best candidate for the job, but for long-distance applications, you'll have to work even harder to prove your worth. You will be competing against many local candidates, and unless you make it clear from the beginning how well-suited you are for the job and how much you want it, they might pass over your application. Address the distance issue in your cover letter. You should always customize your cover letter to each application to show your interest in the company and your willingness to take that extra step. In this case, you'll need to mention why you are interested in the job, whether you already have plans to move, and which specific qualifications or accomplishments make you the best choice for the job. Often, employers will specify in an ad whether or not they are willing to help a new hire relocate. That information can help guide your search, so if you see a line that reads "local candidates only," keep looking. When you find an ad that specifies the employer will help the right person relocate, send in your tailored cover letter and resume, and start packing.

JobSeeker Tips



JobSeeker Cover Letter Tip: Vocation Location

If you are planning a cross-country move, or find a great job opening in another state, your job application process takes on a new dimension. In every job search, you have to convince the employer that you are the best candidate for the job, but for long-distance applications, you'll have to work even harder to prove your worth. You will be competing against many local candidates, and unless you make it clear from the beginning how well-suited you are for the job and how much you want it, they might pass over your application. Address the distance issue in your cover letter. You should always customize your cover letter to each application to show your interest in the company and your willingness to take that extra step. In this case, you'll need to mention why you are interested in the job, whether you already have plans to move, and which specific qualifications or accomplishments make you the best choice for the job. Often, employers will specify in an ad whether or not they are willing to help a new hire relocate. That information can help guide your search, so if you see a line that reads "local candidates only," keep looking. When you find an ad that specifies the employer will help the right person relocate, send in your tailored cover letter and resume, and start packing.


JobSeeker Interview Tip: Please and Thank You

Many job seekers are afraid of seeming formal or old-fashioned in today's fast-paced online job market. But some things never go out of style, like sending a personal thank you letter after an interview. It's like dressing up for an interview - a formal gesture that shows the employer how much thought you've put into the application process, and what their time means to you. Keep your letter short and start by thanking your interviewer for meeting you. Then reinforce your interest in the job and your qualifications based on what you learned during the interview. Finish with a suggestion for future correspondence. You can also use this letter as an opportunity to ask further questions about the job, clarify a response given during the interview, reiterate why you're the best candidate, and anything you may have forgotten during the interview. Send the thank you letter the day of the interview if possible, or the day after. Your prospective employer will appreciate the courtesy and will be more likely to remember you. Though a paper letter is the most formal choice, it's fine to send this letter by email in most cases. After all, you want to show that you have modern computer skills as well as classic manners and style.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Appreciation and excellence

"Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well."
--Voltaire,French philosopher

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A New Twist...

As I research all these culinary interests that I have, one I have currently become engrossed with is gardening, greenhouses, hydroponics, etc. I will be adding more information involving these topics as I find the time. Also, I plan to add a separate "Garden Links" section, to separate them from the "Culinary Links" already in place. I have also added a new Blogs listing, listing a few of the blogs that I enjoy reading. I hope you enjoy them, as well.

My Fish


A Trip Home

Some updates. The Thursday after my last post, the wife and I talked briefly. She seems interested in making it work, although I have yet to truly see the fruits of that labor. We'll see. I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt, since I am currently 700 miles away. Next week will be the "truth or dare" time.

As I said, I am in Michigan, visiting with my parents. It's been a wonderful trip so far - very relaxing, very calming, almost a tad boring! Dad and I went fishing out on the Saginaw Bay on Tuesday. What a great day! There wasn't a cloud in the sky, a nice breeze, waves weren't too bad, and the walleye seemed only to be biting our lines! We caught easily more than a dozen fish - 5 each is the limit. I caught a catfish and threw it back - neither of us were interested in taking the time to clean and cook it properly. And I caught a VERY nice walleye that measured 27 1/2" and 6 pounds 5 ounces. We took a pic or two and set it free - fish that big don't taste as good as the smaller "high teens" fish. But what a day. All that fish got me to thinking of good recipes for cooking. Of course, dad cooked the fish today - slightly over-grilled, but with a nice Rosemary seasoning and a bit of Mrs. Dash, I think. Fantastic feast.

I haven't worked up the nerve to let them know I want to go back to school. Not sure how to bring it up, and not sure how it would go over. We'll see. It might be better to wait until I get home and just talk on the phone about it. Dang, I'm a chicken, aren't I?!?

I've been re-researching all of my lost recipes, files, etc. Mostly I've been going to the internet for the ones I knew came from there. I still have a good 20 or 30 recipes that need to be re-typed. I'm not really looking forward to that part of it. Maybe I won't re-type. Maybe I'll just type an "Index Sheet" that lists the recipe and the source, and just keep all the mags around like cookbooks. It could work. A xerox might work, too, though. We'll see. More to follow...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Freedom or not?

Last night, the wife and I had a discussion that turned to an argument. Needless to say, it wasn't pleasant. We left each other on bad terms. Twenty minutes later, I got this text. "I just dont thnk it shud be so hard & forced just to get along w/ each other. I HATE arguing! I hate ur temper & yelling, & ur stubornes like u hate stuf about me."

My reply was simple. "Yer rite. I'll go 2 the court house tomorrow and get the divorce papers. Sorry I've wasted so much of your life."

No reply.

I'm not sure how to feel. Part of me was relieved. Part of me cried. Part of me couldn't breathe. Part of me was jumping for joy. I have never felt so lonely and confused as I have the past two months. Maybe separating will let me figure out who I am once again. I don't know anymore.

Mediocre decisions

"I'd served numerous people chips I knew very well were burnt, that I myself would leave on the plate had they been served to me. I decided to do this. Why had I given them something visibly inedible? Wasn't this a question of morality? It was wrong. I knew it, I did it anyway. Wasn't this the very kind of decision that defined a mediocre cook?" Ruhlman, Michael. The Making of a Chef. p 142.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Quality

"In a calmer moment, he said, 'Quality is a journey, not a destination. I used to think that was corny, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense... You're never gonna get good enough, you're never gonna know enough, you're never gonna be fast enough.' " Ruhlman, Michael. The Making of a Chef. p 127-8.

More back peddling

I sent out five or six resumes last week, applying for some entry-level positions in kitchens to see if it was something I really wanted to do. I found out last night that they were all "Returned to Sender" due to lack of postage. Apparently postage went up...by ONE CENT. One freggin' penny, and the government is ramming me up the rear again! How pathetic.

So I need to re-print the envelopes, and since it's been over a week, I want to re-print the Cover Letters, so the date is closer to reality. It just seems I can't catch a break anymore...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Disaster strikes

So I've developed a habit of typing recipes into MS Word when I find one in a magazine I really like, or I copy-clip them from emails and the internet. I've accumulated a nice collection, many of which I was really looking forward to preparing someday. I keep them all on a thumb drive, a little USB-powered piece of plastic with a computer chip inside it. It usually works flawlessly, and because of its small size, I can put it in my pocket and take it with me everywhere I go. Until today. Last night, I had it plugged into my laptop, working on other things. It seemed to be working just fine. This morning, I plugged it into my work computer, to get some of those files. But alas - nothing. I tried a different USB port. Nothing. Went to the car, fired up the laptop, and tried it there. Nothing. Disk not formatted. Checking the properties of the disk, it shows that over 55% of the disk is "full", which means the info is still there. I just need to find someone who can access the stored info. I hate technology.

On a different note, I have started looking into hydroponic gardening. I saw a special on Disney World's restaurants last night, and they have a massive hydroponic greenhouse that grows most of their vegetables, herbs, etc. They didn't show a lot of detail on the show, but they had glorious tomato plants, huge bunches of herbs, and lots and lots of other things growing. My vision for the future is expanding - beyond my site picture, I am sure - to include a restaurant that grows its own fruits and vegetables, offers classes on gardening, or something similar. The possibilities are endless, really. I am still trying to find some more info on Disney's greenhouse, though. More to come, I am sure.

Chemical Makeup

"Adam was a cook, I began to think, in the very best and most unusual ways. It wasn't a matter of desire alone, or ability, I began to realize, but rather something in one's chemical makeup and psychological wiring that made this so. In my notebooks I wrote down something Adam said that revealed an elemental part of himself. He said, 'I can be having a bad day, a really lousy day. But as soon as I get into this kitchen I get a boost; it all changes.' " Ruhlman, Michael. The Making of a Chef. p 99.

That's what I hope I have in me, this chemical makeup. I hope I am not "desire alone". Only time will tell, of course.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Quotes

"A big part of financial freedom is having your heart and mind free from worry about the what-ifs of life."--Suze Orman, American finance expert

"It's never too late to give up your prejudices."--Henry David Thoreau, American author

"Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."--George Orwell, English author

"As long as you're going to be thinking anyway, think big."--Donald Trump, American businessman

Decisions

While nowhere conclusive, I think I have decided what I want to do. As much as I really do want to be a paramedic, I think I want to be a chef even more. And ultimately, if I become a chef, then I can move back here and get my medic and run part-time with that. I know, ridiculous. It really doesn't matter, since I don't have the funds to do either.

But the more food magazines I read, the more internet sites I visit, the more Food Network shows I watch, the more I want to be able to wear the Chef Whites with the knowledge and expertise to back them up. I want to know not just how to cook a certain dish, but the chemistry, the science behind it. Why does one technique work better than another, what options for getting to the final result are there, that sort of thing. I want to be able to go home to my parents, to make them a superb gourmet meal without having to look at a cookbook every five minutes. I want to know how to correctly use all the tools of the trade. I want to create great works of culinary art, to be able to put a dish in front of someone and have them say it's beautiful and wonderful without even tasting it. I want to cook a meal for my family that amazes them, shows them new foods, new techniques. I want to be somebody of note. I am scared to death of being a nobody my entire life, of dying insignificant and inconsequential.

Like I said, nowhere near conclusive, but it's a start. And you can't get anywhere without starting.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Potatoes

"There was no fancy sauces, no tricky seasonings, no admixture with other ingredients - just small cubes of potato cooked in such a way that the surfaces were delicately crisp and crunchy and the inside, rich, smooth, and flavorful. One was simultaneously aware both of exquisite texture and marvelous taste. The lesson it taught me was that the chef hadn't used the potato as a basis for displaying flashy, flamboyant skills, but had placed his skills as an artist in the service of the potato." Ruhlman, Michael. The Making of a Chef. p 7.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fear

My newest quirk to overcome: fear.

I'm afraid to end my marriage, even though I am convinced that is the only way I can be happy again. I am afraid to venture back into the world, single and alone, trying to find someone worth my time.

I'm afraid to commit to a new career. There was a time when I believed that architecture was what I wanted to do forever. I'm not such a believer anymore. I still love architecture, the beauty and the lines, but I don't know that I love *DOING* architecture.

And the worst fear of all, I am deathly afraid to tell my parents that I want to go back to school to be a chef. I don't know why, my parents aren't overly intimidating or anything. In fact, they were both teachers before retirement, so they tend to be quit approachable. Part of it, I think, is that I have always lusted after their support, their approval. I know that my wife won't be supportive of this decision. She rarely is, unless it benefits her directly. But my parents, being my parents, should be supportive, no matter what the decision, right? And most likely, they would be. But I know how much they sacrificed to get me through architecture school, and to just up and quit like this...well, I'm sure it won't go over too well. And the last thing I want to do is disappoint my parents. I feel my life has already disappointed enough.

And the unknown factor involved in all of this has me terrified.

We will see, I suppose. I am planning to go home for a week of rest and relaxation at the end of June. We'll see how they react...or if they react. They may just pass it off as one of my "dreams" that will get washed away with the next good rainstorm. God knows I've had my share of those, too. Maybe that's why I am so nervous to do this - because I'm not sure if it's just a fad or if it's something I really want to do. And I'm not exactly sure how to distinguish between the two, either.