I talk about cooking all the time, but I don’t often touch on staying healthy. If you are looking to stay healthy, you really need to check out Health Food Stores in Michigan. There is a great health food store called Alternatives Health Food. They are located in South East Michigan and carry all sorts of bulk spices and organic foods.

Make sure if you stop in you pick up some of these bulk herbs – Tribulus, Burdock, Hawthorne, Maca, Wild Yam, and Golden Seal. You will love the taste that organic herb offer. Alternatives orders all of their bulk spices from the supplier and separates them on site. This makes sure you are receiving the best spices possible.

Whenever I go through Michigan I make sure I stop by Alternatives health food store to get all of my bulk spices and herbs. Great store and they have amazing customer service!

Caribbean Cooking Club

March 8th, 2011

On a cold January night, our cooking club gathered once again. Instead of hearty winter foods to warm us, however, I chose a menu that celebrates the food of the Caribbean. If I couldn’t be there to soak up some rays – I certainly would enjoy the food.

The menu started with spicy shrimp with a sweet pineapple salsa and it just kept getting better with each subsequent dish. Dinner plates were piled high with salty mojo-marinated pork, sweet plantain and sweet potato mash, spicy black beans and rice and citrusy cabbage slaw. Although the pork is a lengthy (3 day process) the recipe below is well worth the effort.

Oh, and for dessert…coconut custard tart. Yum!

Caribbean Cooking Club Plate

Spicy Shrimp with Pineapple Salsa

Caribbean Cooking Club

Coconut Tart

Mojo Marinated Pork Cubano (Lechon Asado)
chow.com
serves 6

For the spice rub:
2 tablespoons whole cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole coriander
2 tablespoons dried chile molido
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon paprika
5 pounds boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt)

For the mojo:
1/2 cup garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup cumin, freshly toasted and ground
1/2 cup coriander, freshly toasted and ground
2 tablespoons jalapeño peppers, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Scotch bonnet peppers, finely chopped
4 cups canola or vegetable oil
7 cups orange juice
1 1/2 cups cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup sherry vinegar

For the spice rub:
In a dry sauté pan, toast cumin, peppercorns, and coriander over medium heat for a few minutes until spices just start to smoke. Remove spices immediately from the pan. Grind smoked spices in a spice or coffee grinder. Mix together with remaining ingredients (except pork).

Trim any excess fat off the pork, discard the fat, and cut pork into six pieces. Liberally massage all of the spice rub into pork pieces. Place pork in a large resealable plastic bag or in a glass dish. Cover and leave in the refrigerator 24 hours.

On the second day, make the mojo.

For the mojo:
Combine garlic, cumin, coriander, jalapeños, and Scotch bonnet peppers in a stainless steel bowl.

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil until hot (approximately 175°F). Pour warm oil over spice mixture and let cool to room temperature.

Simmer 2 cups of the orange juice in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until it is reduced to 1/2 cup. Cool to room temperature.

Combine oil-and-spice mixture, reduced orange juice, remaining 5 cups orange juice, cilantro, and sherry vinegar in a blender and blend until smooth (do this in batches). Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add 4 cups of the mojo to pork, cover, and marinate another 24 hours.

On the third day, preheat oven to 300°F and arrange the rack at the bottom. Place pork in a large baking dish or in a large, heavy pot with a tightfitting lid, and add remaining mojo and enough water to cover pork in liquid.

Cover with foil or a tightfitting lid and place in the oven. Cook until pork is fork tender, about 4 to 5 hours. (Check pork periodically and add a little water if the liquid is reducing too quickly.) Serve.

Saying I Love You

March 5th, 2011

Tulips

Days have been busy busy busy! Cooking club has come and gone again, a winter getaway up North, Febgiving 2011, and, yes, Valentine’s Day.

Let’s start at the beginning — Valentine’s Day.

Tulips 1

As I’ve written before, Kyle and I have a Valentine’s Day tradition. He cooks….I eat….perfect. This year was no exception and he pulled together a great meal of salad, steak, roasted veggies and…drumroll please….espresso lava cakes!

I repeat – Espresso Lava Cakes. Choooocoooolate!!!!

Lava Cakes 3

Speaking of my love for chocolate…

Years ago Kyle went to Switzerland for work. When he returned, I was amazed that he came home without anything for me. I mean, the guy goes to Switzerland and I’m left at home to receive nothing upon his return? I’m not really someone who gets hung up on gifts, but he went to the land of Swiss chocolate and he didn’t even bring me a square???? He claimed he didn’t have time to buy anything (work trip — yadda yadda), and my exact response was…

“Wasn’t there even a chocolate left on the pillow that you could have brought me?”

“I didn’t know you liked chocolate,” he replied. Uh, WHAAAAT? This man, whom I had known for seven years didn’t know that I liked chocolate?

First of all, a broad assumption can be made that most people (I won’t narrow this to just women here) like chocolate. Second, any time I’m asked what flavor I want of something, it’s chocolate — chocolate milkshake, chocolate donut…you get the point. There was also a period of time in my life when I couldn’t pass up a piece of chocolate cake. EVERYwhere I went, I sought out chocolate cake. Simply couldn’t refuse it. Boy do I miss my teenage metabolism…

But to sum it up – I love chocolate.

Note: To give Kyle a little credit — a couple years later he went to Italy and, learning from his prior mistake, came home with some awesome shoes and an avocado green sequined belt for me (that he picked all by himself). If there’s one thing a girl could love more than chocolate, it’s shoes and accessories. All was forgiven.

Lava Cakes 2

But to get back to my Valentine’s Day meal. The kid really stepped it up in telling me he loved me this year — and he did it through chocolate. More specifically, he used these chocolate cakes to tell me he loves me best!

While the title seems to imply that the chocolate will flow like lava, it’s really just a moist cake with warm melty pieces of chocolate mixed in. No lava flowing, but the topper of an espresso whipped cream makes up for that oversight. Of course, bonus points were given when Kyle went off-recipe and added a pinch of Espresso Brava Salt that I had in my cupboard to bring an extra oomph! to the dish. Um, can you say YUM?!?

Lava Cakes

Chocolate Espresso Lava Cakes with Espresso Whipped Cream
Bon Appetit February 2002

1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 teaspoons instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
12 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips (about 4 1/2 ounces)

1 cup chilled whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Sift flour, cocoa powder, 5 teaspoons espresso powder, and baking powder into medium bowl. Place butter in large bowl; add both sugars and whisk until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time, then vanilla and almond extracts. Whisk in dry ingredients. Divide batter among six 1-cup ovenproof coffee mugs (about 2/3 cup in each). Top each with 2 tablespoons chocolate chips. Gently press chips into batter. Cover and refrigerate mugs at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Combine cream, powdered sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon espresso powder in medium bowl; whisk until peaks form. Chill up to 1 hour.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Let mugs with batter stand at room temperature 5 minutes. Bake uncovered until cakes are puffed and crusty and tester inserted into center comes out with thick batter attached, about 30 minutes. Cool cakes 5 minutes. Top hot cakes with espresso whipped cream and serve.

Optional – top with a pinch of Espresso Brava Salt.

Tulips 2

I also love tulips! Thanks Mom and Dad!

Seriously Good Soup

January 23rd, 2011

Mushroom Artichoke Soup 3

My mom loves soup. No matter the restaurant or the menu, she is always curious to know the soup options and, chances are, she will want to order it — especially for lunch.

I, on the other hand, am not as big a fan of soup. No matter how cold the day is or how I’m feeling, I am much more tempted by sandwiches and other entrees, and very rarely consider ordering a soup. Especially not a brothy soup — no thanks!

I wish I was more like my mom. In so many more ways than this, but I do find her love of soup endearing and something I wish I shared. In such cold weather, a big bowl of soup might be just the thing to eat — if only I shared her love of soup.

Mushroom Artichoke Soup 1

There is, however, one soup that we both love — Mushroom Artichoke Soup. And if you tried it, I bet you would, too.

The recipe comes from a cooking school back in my hometown. My mom got the recipe while attending a class there and she passed it on to my sister and me. Now it’s a staple in all our households. In fact, I’ve made it at least five times just this winter! That’s saying something for someone who doesn’t love soup!

It’s such a simple recipe, using fresh yummy ingredients. You start the soup by sauteeing shallots and diced carrots. I like my carrots to be thicker dice (but not chunks) so they retain shape and texture throughout cooking. Toss in a bunch of mushrooms until tender, then add in flour, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and broth. Simmer until slightly thickened, then add artichokes, sun dried tomatoes and bay leaf. Simmer and add cream just before serving.

There are some variations you can make by using different mushrooms, adding more broth to thin it out (like my mom and sister like to do), or omitting the cream. I like the recipe the way it is below — light, but creamy and full of bright flavors. It’s easy enough for a quick weeknight dinner and makes enough leftovers for lunch the next day.

Mushroom Artichoke Soup 2

Mushroom Artichoke Soup
adapted from From the Field Cooking School recipe
serves 4-6

1 lb sliced mushrooms (any kind – I prefer crimini)
1/2 c shallots, thin slice
2 lg carrot, sliced
2 tbsp butter
1-1 1/2 tsp flour
1/4 tsp dried thyme (x2 for fresh)
1 clove garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
1-14 oz can broth (I prefer veggie)
1-14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained & quartered
1/8 c sun dried tomatoes, drained & chopped
1 small bay leaf
1/2 c cream (or half & half)

In a large pot sautee shallots and carrots in butter until shallots soften. Add mushrooms and continue to cook until mushrooms are just tender. Stir in flour, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper and red pepper. Add broth & cook until slightly thickened. Add artichokes, sun dried tomatoes and bay leaf.

Simmer, covered for 15 minutes. Stir in cream and let heat through. Serve with crusty bread for mopping up the bowl.

Summer Cooking Club

January 11th, 2011

IMG_1383_1

Have I mentioned how much I love my cooking club? It’s so much fun to get together with good food, good wine and great friends for an evening. It’s even better when you’re not responsible for providing the whole meal – like our club organizes things!

Two cooking clubs have come and gone in the past six months. The last one I did not photograph, as I was just a few months pregnant and was not feeling up to it. It was held around Halloween, so the theme was a “Goulish Fall Feast” and featured caviar moons, a dark and stormy drink and bbq ribs. Kyle and I were assigned a shrimp and pumpkin bisque, which turned out to be fantastic (if we do say so ourselves). It’s a bit of work to make your shrimp stock, but it is definitely worth the effort! The recipe is at the bottom.

IMG_1327

Before the Fall feast, we held a summer cooking club. This was had a lighter theme “Summer in the Hamptons”, and featured endive boats with smoked salmon, chilled avocado soup and truffled fillet of beef sandwiches.
Cooking Club

I think the next photo (and my favorite dish of the evening) captures it all – a glass of wine and a chilled soup on a summer evening. Ahhh! In the midst of the freezing weather we’re currently having – I could go for that right about now.
Soup

Dessert

Chilled Avocado Soup with Spicy Breadcrumbs
Bon Appetit
Soup
1 large ripe avocado (11 to 12 ounces), halved, pitted, peeled, diced
1 1/2 cups (or more) vegetable broth or low-salt chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Generous pinch of coarse kosher salt

Breadcrumbs
1 4x4x1/2-inch slice soft white sandwich bread with crust
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preparation
Soup
Place diced avocado in blender. Add 1 1/2 cups broth, whipping cream, lime juice, and coarse salt. Puree until smooth. Transfer soup to 4-cup measuring cup; add more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to thin soup, if desired. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD Soup can be made up to 4 hours ahead. Keep chilled.
Breadcrumbs
Finely grind bread in processor. Melt butter in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add breadcrumbs to skillet; stir until golden, about 1 minute. Add paprika, coarse salt, and cayenne; stir until crumbs are crisp, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to small bowl and cool. DO AHEAD Breadcrumbs can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.
Pour cold soup into eight 1/3-cup glasses or other small glasses. Sprinkle each serving lightly with breadcrumbs.

Pumpkin and Shrimp Bisque
Epicurious: The Herbfarm Cookbook
1 pound large shrimp (16 to 20)

Shrimp Stock
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup dry white wine
3 cups homemade or canned low-sodium chicken stock
Pinch saffron threads (about 24)
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion (about 8 ounces), coarsely chopped
4 fresh bay laurel leaves, torn, or 2 dried
3 3-inch springs fresh sage

2 cups pumpkin purée, fresh (see Note) or canned
1/2 cup heavy cream
About 3/4 teaspoon salt, less if using canned stock
Scant 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage

1. Shrimp stock: Peel and devein shrimp, reserving the shells. Cover the shrimp and refrigerate. Heat the olive oil in a medium (3-quart) heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat until it begins to smoke. Add the shrimp shells to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until they turn deep orange and are just beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. This step—pan roasting the shells—gives the stock much of its flavor, so take the time to do it carefully. The roasted shells should release a concentrated, toasty, shrimp aroma that will fill your kitchen. Add the wine to the pan, first turning off gas flames to prevent the alcohol from igniting, then boil it over medium heat until all the liquid is evaporated. Add the chicken stock, saffron, celery, onion, bay leaves, and sage. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Partially cover the pan and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine sieve, pushing down on the solids with the back of a spoon to extract all the liquid. Rinse out the saucepan and pour the stock back into it.
2. Soup: Whisk the pumpkin, cream, salt (omit if using canned stock), and cayenne into the shrimp stock. Bring the soup to a simmer, then cook very gently uncovered over low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, taste, and season with black pepper and more salt if needed. (The soup can be made up to this point up to 1 day ahead store covered in the refrigerator. Keep the peeled shrimp in a resealable bag buried in a bowl of ice in the refrigerator.)
3. Finishing the soup: Pour the olive oil into a large sauté pan placed over medium heat. When hot, add the reserved shrimp and sage and cook, tossing often, until the shrimp is just cooked through, pink, and no longer translucent, but not curled into a circle, 2 to 3 minutes. They should still have a tender snap when you bite into them. Arrange the shrimp in warmed serving bowls or a tureen. Bring the soup back to a simmer and then ladle it over the shrimp. Serve right away.

IMG_1378_1

Pathetic

January 6th, 2011

There. I beat you to it. I know I’ve been pathetic writing this here blog over the past year and I’m the first to admit it. Pathetic. Seriously.

Things got pretty busy for me in 2010. Between adding on a new job at the beginning of the year, travel, finding out I’m pregnant (oh yeah – I haven’t mentioned on Camacho Watcho yet, but I’M PREGNANT!!!!), and then becoming an aunt again (x2) to my sister’s newborn twins…I’ve been on the go!

But 2010 was definitely a good year. Certainly one I would do love to live again (minus the pregnancy nausea…ugh!). I can’t wait see how 2011 goes. Not many resolutions for me yet. Just a couple. I want to stay healthy for the remainder of my pregnancy and then to hopefully lose the baby weight in a reasonable timeframe…fingers crossed on that one!

Also, I resolve to start blogging again. Come back again soon, as I am determined to keep this resolution.

That’s all for now. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite photos from 2010. This was taken in the Wisconsin countryside on our way home from a weekend at The (now-closed…sniff…sniff…) Creamery.

Tree

Le Fournil – our best meal in Provence

August 5th, 2010

Le Fournil, Bonnieux

I admit that we made quite a few mistakes in Provence when it came to eating. First, we visited the area during the *slow* days of the week and second, we just didn’t think much to make reservations to eat anywhere. In a sleepy area like the Luberon, it just seemed contradictory to need to plan anything in advance.

I was highly anticipating the food we’d devour for dinners. I had lists of entrees, ingredients and the restaurants in which to find these delectables, but I didn’t have the Provencal mindset to go along with these. For instance, some restaurants are open all days but Monday and Tuesday. Others are open just for lunch on these days but not for dinner, and so on. Information posted in guidebooks (even recent ones) was found to be generally out of date.

Provence

We encountered restaurants that were closed for the evening (despite our previous research) and other restaurants that were “full” for the evening. And while I love the concept of a place being considered “full” at 7:30pm, as there is only one sitting and diners have the table for the night, my heart broke as I looked around the restaurant at all the happy people clinking their glasses. Turning sadly to leave the restaurant, I decided that the next trip would take better planning.

It was time to take some advice. Our inn owner suggested that he call for reservations for us the following evening at a restaurant that he highly recommended. This is how we came to dine at Le Fournil on our final evening.

Le Fournil 4

Le Fournil was on our list of places to try while in Provence. We had, however, previously stopped by for lunch while in Bonnieux, but found it closed (of course). Upon our return the next day for our 7:30pm dinner reservation, however, we found a bustling restaurant that was, thankfully, open. Without a second thought, we both ordered the menu which included an amuse, salad, entree, cheese and dessert.

Asparagus was in season while we were in town, so it wasn’t surprising when a chilled asparagus soup arrived for our starter course. We both were giddy at how asparagus-y it tasted. And while I apologize for my lack of descriptive food writing here, simple food can sometimes only be described that simply. So I’ll say it again: it was the ultimate in asparagus-y. Served chilled, the grassy qualities came forward — a clean and refreshing way to start the meal.

Le Fournil 6

I love how French eat their meals with an abundance of bread to mop up the sauces — not letting a morsel go to waste. I so badly wanted to sop up the rest of the asparagus soup with warm bread and was thankful when the man eating next to us did that very thing. Following suit, we left not a drop on our plates; going through three bread bowls in total.
Le Fournil 5

Following the soup, we each had a salad course; mine a second asparagus course (pictured above). I love asparagus! Following were two of the most amazing entrees — lamb for me and pigeon for Kyle.
Le Fournil 3

And, of course, we mopped these plates clean as well. SO MUCH YUMMY BREAD!
Le Fournil 2

Perhaps we were a bit aggressive to both order the menu with the cheese course. We had no idea that we each would receive a platter for five generous servings of cheese with a salad as well. No matter, we dug into the cheeses, doing as much damage as we could before moving on to dessert — strawberry tiramisu for Kyle and a chocolate mousse for me.
Le Fournil 7

Finally — Our best meal in Provence!

Hanging with Guy Fieri

July 28th, 2010

Hanging with Guy Fieri

Before posting more Europe photos, I wanted share a timely piece that just posted on Heavy Table about my behind the scenes look at Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives while they were filming in the Twin Cities. The production crews of this show are incredible and I had such a great time hanging out with them!

View my Heavy Table article and photos here.

Breakfast in Provence

July 26th, 2010

Breakfast in Provence 4

Earlier this summer, Kyle and I took a trip to Europe. Our initial intentions were to hit northern Spain, but as we got around to actually booking tickets and seeing what was available, our plans changed.
Breakfast in Provence 1

Our final itinerary, which we dubbed Milan to Madrid, had us arriving into Milan, training it to Nice, renting a car and spending several days in Provence, then on to Barcelona and finally out of Madrid.
Breakfast in Provence 6

My next few posts will hit on the fabulous food of this trip. I thought it only appropriate to start with my favorite breakfast, which we had each morning in Provence.
Provencal Stone

Poppies

Our time in Provence was spent in the hilly area of the Luberon. We drove aimlessly through small towns and countryside, taking in the vineyards and cherry groves. At times we consulted a map, but for the most part we just made up our minds as we went along. The countryside is gorgeous — stone buildings created from the rocks that are scattered throughout the fields and the poppy fields were in full bloom. A couple weeks later and we would have been there for lavender season — maybe next time.
Breakfast in Provence 2

Breakfast in Provence 7

Each day we started out with breakfast at our inn. Simple pleasures like toasted baguette and croissants with butter and jam and homemade yogurt served outside made for an idyllic start to the day. And despite the many espressos we enjoyed on our trip, we easily polished off a big carafe of cafe Americano with our meal each morning, ensuring we were fully caffeinated for our days of wandering.
Breakfast in Provence 3

Breakfast in Provence 5

Down on the Farm

July 9th, 2010

Lucky girl! I enjoyed dinner on the farm for the Tangletown Farms Tour de Farm event in June. I photographed and Maja wrote about it for Heavy Table. Maja’s write-up and my photos are here.

Tour de Farm Tangletown

Ringing the Dinner Bell

Tour de Farm Pizza

Hello, Old Friend

July 6th, 2010

It’s been a while. Okay, okay…it’s been a looong while since I’ve posted anything here. Happily, this means that I’ve been busy with work, travel and projects. More on that another time, but for now I’ll just share some pics of a recent dinner.

Caprese Salad

I’ve fallen in love all over again with the simple, yet always stunning, caprese salad. Yum!

Asparagus_Pea_Ragout

This is a recipe from Alice Waters for her pea and asparagus ragout, which I served over angel hair. Next time I’ll toss the pasta with a bit of pesto or a light sauce, but this version topped with chevre was pretty darn tasty. Enjoy!