"A good meal is like a present, and it can feel goofy, at best, to give yourself a present. On the other hand, there is something life affirming in taking the trouble to feed yourself well, or even decently. Cooking for yourself allows you to be strange or decadent or both. The chances of you liking what you made are high, but if it winds up being disgusting, you can always throw it away and order a pizza; no one will ever know." (Jenni Ferrari-Adler)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Status update

Recovering from a cold and from holiday food coma....
unfortunately there was no much time to update the blog during this past week as for i was on Nyquill from monday thru thursday, and then friday and Saturday, only taking a break from wednesday night thru friday so i could function and prepare my extensive menu without zoning out every 30 min.....

Anyway, thanksgiving line up suffered a couple changes, i'll be discussing that as soon as i get the pictures from my sister (had no time to photograph anything either).

In addition to thanksgiving's meal T and J had a little family  sunday brunch to close out the thanksgiving celebrations.... we prepared eggs benedict and eggs florentine i was encharged of the hollandaise sauce, it came out outstanding, will check if i can get my hands on those pics as well or else.... we'll just have to eat them again one of these sundays.

The wine selections was UNFUCKING REAL.... so happy!  I gave my self a high-five, and performed the happy dance in the kitchen LOL. As a result i'll probably be encharged of the wine selection for all future family functions, YEY. 

No black friday shopping for me, thou black friday insisted to come to across the street from my apartment,  some girl setup shop in the intersection and guess what..... i cannot let go of a good deal and this one was just fabulastik...... Queen size1500 thread count egyptian cotton sheet set for $35  bucks, bought 2. These sheets normaly go for 300-600 bucks at Macy's.

And what do you do when all you do for an entire week is  eat, cook and sleep? thats right,, you cook some more....Red Onion and Zucchini Jam, wooohoooo, very very good! Brought them to work today to get feedback from my  coworkers so here is the picture.... sorry the resolution sucks... i love my "Tironossaur BBcurve-x " its needs to be put to rest soon.
left to right: Tomato (by my mom), zucchini and red onion
Trying to catch my breath as i type this post and inhale lunch at my desk :)

How about your thanksgiving? any yummy dishes you'd like to share?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

4 days to go- Counting downt to TG

4 days to go till thanksgiving, as usual i tend to procrastinate a little thought this time I'm kind of proud of feeling ahead of the game for the 1st time.

So we've got between 20-25 people coming over to my parents.  Mom has ordered the turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and king cake (she is out of town till wednesday).

The wine has been picked, got 11 bottles (the math about 22 adults @ 1/2 bottle each +/- ladies and non-drinkers)

White
2 bottles 2006 Reserve Chateau Saint Jean Chardonnay
1 bottle 2008 Hogue Rieseling

Red
3 bottles 2006 Stags Leap Merlot
1 Bottle 2006 Grgigh Hills Merlot
1 Bottle 2006 Gundlach Bundschu Merlot
1 Bottle 2003 Chateau Fonroque St Emilion 
1 Bottle 2006 Colonial Estate Etranger Cabernet Sauvignon
1 Bottle 2007(?) Cult Cabernet

I'm quite proud of the selection. Hopefully all the education and research has paid off.

Kept budget under $300 thanks to a 60 dollar coupon.... how about that for savings?


As far as the foods is concerned this is the tentative menu (I keep on making changes to it.... can't seem to decide.

So here it goes:
1. Eggplant and Spinach Terrine
2. Mashed potatoes with goat cheese and caramelized onions
3. Spinach Gratin
4. Brussels Sprouts with pomegranate and pecans, tossed in vanilla butter and pomegranate molasses (a revelation at 11:30PM on a sunday, thanks Bobby)
5. Salmon Mousse
6. Roasted potato and radish salad with black mustard
7. Spinach and roasted pumpkin salad
8. Rice (just thought of it.... another revelation at 11:30 pm)

and maybe:
Heirloom tomato and mascarpone tart which most likely will be replaced by red onion jam and goat cheese tartlets..... or maybe I'll skip this one all together.

My sister is getting the desserts together.... TBA

Still thing its ridiculous the amount of food... but oh well.... will be bringing my doggy bag for sure ehehhehe.

What are you planning for thanksgiving this year?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Holiday season is finally here and all of a sudden invitations start flooding your email box to the point you'll be triple-shifting 5 nights a week in order to keep up with the social agenda... because you know.... out of sight out of mind, and you don't want your friends to delete you from their Facebook page if you don't show up.... worse yet.... how would life be if you are not tagged in any of the pictures?

This is also double scores for those of us living the single life..... we get to eat for free at our family/married friend's house for 1 month! Yessssss!!!! And as long as you can endure some of the derogatory comments about how you are getting older, and how these are hard times, and how you should just settle for some loser douche bag, because you know.... its really hard out there and you are not getting any  younger...., than I promise, you'll be fine! Just mentally repeat to yourself "free booze, doggy bag" again "free booze, doggy bag". 


Well this year the joke was on me and my sister, as our mom will be out of town the week before thanksgiving and the 2 of us will have to organize and cook for 20 people.  Thank God mom will make it back to take care of the turkey hehehehe. Turkey the real true time consuming pain  in the ass this year will be courtesy of the Kosher market YEY! 


T. and I are pretty good in the division of labor. She bakes cakes and desserts, i'm encharged of all savory sides and vegetarian dishes and of picking up the wine.

As soon as we get the whole menu down i'll be posting it here.

How exciting!!!! forget accounting this is what i should be doing for a living! I love partying!

Spinach, Pomegranate and Candied Walnuts Salad with Orange Moscato Vinaigrette

recipe comming up soon

Parsnip Wholegrain Mustard Soup

Ingredients
1 Medium Onion (chopped)
2 Garlic Cloves (minced)
2-3 Tsp Olive oil (or butter)
1 1/2 lbs (650gr) Parsnips
4 cups of vegetable stock (low sodium)
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup of cream
2 Tsp of wholegrain mustard
Salt & Pepper
Parsley to garnish


Preparation
1. In a sauce pan, saute onion and garlic into olive oil , until golden.
2. Add parsnips, peeled and coarsely chopped, vegetable stock and allow it to cook in medium heat for about 25 min until parsnips are fully cooked.
3. When cooked, process the soup in batched in a food processor. Allow it to cool off until about 10 min before serving
4. Return soup to the pan, and slowly reheat it  to about 175F (80C). Fold in Milk and Cream, ensuring liquid does not reach the boiling point.
5. Add wholegrain mustard and stir it lightly until completely incorporated.
6. Taste for seasonings and add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
7. Place soup in individual bolws  and garnish with chopped fresh parsley.


Thermomix (bimby)
1. In the TM cup add quarted onions, garlic and olive oil and program 5sec/speed5. Be sure to lower all contents from the cup walls  before proceeding to the next step.
2. Program 4min/100/1, and allow onion and garlic to golden, but not cook entirely.
3. Add parsnips and stock and program 20min/100/2
4. Puree soup by programing 20sec/5-7-9. (test for velvety consistency)
5. Allow soup to cool. About 10 min before serving, reheat soup to 80C.

6.Then program 4min/80/spoon, add milk and cream using the cup opening and finally add wholegrain mustard. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Place soup in individual blows  and garnish with chopped fresh parsley.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

The joy of cooking

This year was hard year for most people I know.

It was like God fell asleep and the devil made a hostile take over of the world.

in 2010 alone I lost one of my good friends to a stupid car accident, my best friend in the whole world had to leave, my great-grand-father was hit by a car again (he has fully recovered  :D), my sister walked away on us, and I had a 20K pay cut in salary woohooo. The icing on the cake?....having to fight depression without having financial means to afford a shrink.  In a nutshell "M.F. 2010 sucked big ass fat droopy ugly blue balls".

However before I went completely crazy I decided to buckle up and fucking help myself out. I picked up yoga and meditation, underwent a cleanse and locked myself at home until my energy level was revived. I also cooked my fucking way out of depression! And this was the victory of all victories! The best thing I've ever done. It was like reconnecting with a part me I forgot it ever existed.

I've always loved to cook. and yes it always made me happy. But really if you really think about it, it makes all sense in the world why picking it up again  would help me thru these hard times.  You know when you had a horrible day at work followed by seating in traffic for 2 hours and you feel like you just need to kill someone? What a better way to release all that negativism than through chopping, and pounding and punching and cutting..... beef, vegetables, chicken, etc? eheh (just imagine that chicken is the bitch that makes your life a living hell at the office, the one who gets everybody in trouble, you know who i'm talking about......! I'm sure you do, we all work with that naggy B).

Today, I realize all crazy shit I went through in 2010 served a purpose, and I'm even thankful for all experiences and lessons learned. The most important lesson being that true happiness comes from within and begins with finding balance and inner peace. Only we are responsible for our own happiness, if you can't control something, release it. Find a passion, something you absolutely love to do, and surrender to it with reckless abandon. Forget about the world, just enter your zone and recharge your batteries. You'll then find to have become a better lover, a better friend, a better parent, a better child. You'll finally have something positive to contribute to the world .

This is what cooking has done in my life. It helped me reconnect, find my center, find a meaning, It helped me heal, it mended my soul, and made me a stronger, happier human being.

How about you? how do you cope with hard times? any passion that helped you through hard times?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Diner for 10 - Menu ideas

Organizing a dinner party for 10? Are you on the verge of a heart attack, thinking about selling your chanel 2.55  on craigslist to help finance the party? well don't!

Here is a sample 6 course menu you can follow. All these recipes have been tested and approved, and the budget kept under 100 bucks.
 
1. Parsnip and wholegrain mustard soup

2. Spinach, pomegranate, candied walnut salad, with moscato-orange vinaigraitte

3. Pear, walnut, gorgonzola risotto

4. Lemon sorbet (palate cleanser)


5. Sea bass in a fennel and orange reduction

 6. Strawberry-vanilla white tea Flan


All recipes to follow

Master Cleanse - 1 month follow up

 Hello everyone,

Hope you are having a wonderful Wednesday. I'm all re-energized for the holidays. There's so much going on in our little corner of the world.  Goods vibes are finally returning to this side of town!

As the end of the year approaches, we start making lists (some of us mentally) of what our New Year's resolutions will be. Usually weight loss, getting healthier and quitting smoking, drinking etc are all the way on top of the priority list.

For those of you planning on going on the Master cleanse to jump start the new year, DO IT! I've been getting emails with questions about the cleanse, and whether or not I recommend it,  how have I been felling, did I gain any weight etc. So I've decided to do a follow up of what life has been like 1 month after the cleanse.



I have not gained any weight, and if you read here, you'll know I didn't do it to lose weight either. So far I've been feeling great. My body has been rejecting some foods and I've discovered what foods to avoid. Cheese for instance, I'm completely obsessed with cheese.  However after the cleanse I noticed cheese is the reason my skin breaks out, thus it should not be eaten  in industrial quantities.  I've replaced all hard liquor for wine. Have not had any Cosmopolitans or Gin Tonics since the  cleanse ( I know! pretty amazing, right? =D).  Coffee does not taste the same to me either, so Starbucks now is an after thought rather than a craving.  Another thing I've noticed was an increase in energy.  For someone who was constantly tired, I have way too much energy to the point of not knowing what to do with myself.  I also crave more fresh foods, and tho I was never a "sweet tooth" person, now I care even less for desserts and sweets.

You can read more about the 10 day Master Cleanse Journey here. Feel free to ask any questions you may have regarding the cleanse,  and if you decide to go thru it, feel free to drop me an email or message if you need to vent out or need some encouragement......Your secret will be safe... Trust me, i know how these 10 days can be a bitch! But hey if I could do it, You can do it!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Apparently I'm not healthy......



Crazy lady approached me at Wholefoods as I stared at their 200 thousand spice selection looking for cardamom....

Crazy Lady: how do you prepare sugar free hot chocolate?
Me: 1 glass of hot milk, 1 bar of dark chocolate and let it melt
Crazy Lady: Oh you can buy packaged hto cocoa, they sell this really expensive one at Gelsons
Me: then go to Gelsons and get it
Crazy Lady: Well but it still has carbs...

Me (in my brain) : REALLY???? NOH! YOU'RE KIDDIN' RIGHT?
Me (to the lady): Well, you know, everything has carbs, just make sure you stick to non-processed ones (smile)

I assumed her goal was to loose weight, she looked like the could lose at least 30 pounds

Crazy Lady: I don't eat any carbs. How about protein? what do you have for protein?

Me: Meat, eggs, fish, bacon

Crazy lady: YOU EAT BACON? OH I THOUGHT YOU EAT HEALTHY!!!!!UGH

The lady rolled her eyes, turned around and walked away mumbling some obscenities .... WTF?
- - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - -- - - - -- - - - - - - - -- - - - - -- - - - - -- - - - - -- 

Why are overweight people such haters? 

I too once weighed 45 pounds more than i weigh today but never took it out on no one. I was fat because I restricted myself to only eating things i hated like broccoli and chicken breast and baked potato. For about 4 years i did not eat red meat, or brie, or fries or had red wine with dinner every night.   

Please don't hate me for one day having decided i would not refrain from eating only the things i love. 

To me BAD FOOD is like BAD SEX..... you're better off not getting any. Perhaps this is the secret to being healthy :D
Do you agree?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Green Tea Flan

Don't forget to vote for this recipe here

Green Tea Flan

Pudim de Cha Verde de Gorreana dos Azores (Green Tea Flan from Azores)

My best Non-pie Thanksgiving Dessert

One of my best childhood holiday memories was by far dinner at Gramma's. The apartment was very small, and always packed with people, it was noisy and loud and it smelled like home.  And very important.... gramma always had her special treat ready for us, her historical unmatched classic, no one could ever replicate her beautiful golden Flan.

This recipe is not mine but rather a Traditional Portuguese Recipe that dates back to the 17th century Convents where nuns developed and mastered dessert making and baking techniques and gave birth to what are still known today as "Doces Conventuais" or Desserts from the Convent, a Portuguese tradition that have stood the test of time.

This is also a recipe that illustrates the Portuguese contributions to our Global Village, combining sugar (from the Americas), tea (from china) and European baking techniques in one classic signature dish.

Enough blabbing for now. I really hope you try it this holiday season! Don't worry if you think you suck at baking or dessert making. I do too.... remember my failed attempts at baking? But this one came out perfect the first time I tried it.

Hope you enjoy!

GREEN TEA FLAN


 Ingredients
12oz (350gr) of Sugar (4oz +8oz)
16oz (500ml) of Whole Milk
3 Tsb of green tea leaves
15 egg yolks


Preparation

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).


In a medium sauce pan over medium low heat melt 4oz (125gr) of sugar until liquefied and golden in color. Pour hot liquid into a round baking dish,  turning the dish to evenly coat the bottom and  sides (you may use glass or ceramic, just make sure it can withstand the oven temperature). Coating the dish is a struggle, so don't get discouraged! It may take some practice, just make sure at least the bottom is covered.


Heat up milk to about 180F (80C), add green tea leaves and let it rest covered for about 10min.Use a strainer to separate milk from tea leaves. Reserve milk.


In a bowl whist egg yolks, then add remaining sugar and slowly incorporate the milk. Mix until smooth.  Pour egg mixture into the sugar coated baking dish. Cover dish with aluminum foil and oven bake it in a double boiler for about 60min.(see notes bellow).

Allow Flan to cool to room temperature and place it the fridge until ready to serve. 

To serve, flip it over a serving place deep enough to accommodate all liquid

And here is a slice for you



Notes: On baking the Flan. there are a couple different methods you can use for this.The most common being oven baking.  My Gramma sometimes instead of oven baking the flan speeded up the process by using a preassure cooker (I do not not recommend this method if you are not familiar with using pressure cookers, as I've had friends unleash explosions in their kitchens. Also instead of a glass dish you shoud use something closer to a cake dish with a lid).  this Flan was baked in a steamer for 60min (make sure your steamer can accomodate the baking dish). A dishcloth was placed on  top of steamer to help absorve some of heat and humidity. This will free up the oven for the turkey =D

The holidays are upon us - my weekend resolution

What a beautiful morning  in LA, we are back to fall temperatures and the Holidays are in our minds. Countdown for Thanksgiving has started and the spirit of the season can be felt everywhere from the mall to the grocery store. Everyone seems more festive, more giving  and happier. Like a new hope was born! Maybe it was the result of last weeks election, maybe its just the return of the sunshine to our lives.

This weekend so many good things happened. I am very blessed to have so many beautiful people in my life. Two eventful days surrounded by great friends and great food!

Last week I  successfully replicated a traditional Portuguese Flan  Recipe, inspired by memories of my childhood (my Grandmother was the Flan MASTER, forget any Iron Chef). This was the effort and collaboration of 3 very special people, My lovely aunt Mimosa, who hand me down the recipe I then tweaked, my friend Luis Andrade who shipped me some Gorreana Green Tea from Azores and my Girl Vanda Lopes who had delivered directly from portugal a Flan mold just like the one my  gramma used to cook her flan. If not for these 3 special people in my life, this Flan would never have come to be.

I've also decided that  I need to get some balls and submit a recipe to the Food52 cookbook recipe contest. Have nothing to lose. I owe it to myself, to my aunt, to my friends to went out of their way to help me get this together, and specially to my Gramma who now rests in peace, The Best Flan maker in the world.

So Ladies and Gentleman, this one is for you!

wish me luck!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Is Starbucks making a dent in your wallet?

Dear friends, fellow blogger and new readers,

I do confess to be guilty of having spent way over $1,000 USD of my annual income in the year 2009 consuming food and beverages at Starbucks.  I spent more money at Starbucks than I spent on a Round trip ticket, Beach front hotel and car rental for a week in MAUI.  This is not a joke, though I wish it were.

Well this year, after having suffered a HUUUUGGGGEEEE cut in my paycheck and in order to being able to live and save some dough, I decided to make a few changes on my life style... and the result?  I'm happier, healthier and wealthier than last year.

One of the things I did was ditching my daily Starbucks fix. I still go to Starbucks to hang out and do drink coffee there, I just don't spend the equivalent to a 1 months rent there.

And here is how you can do it too:

Rule# 1 Learn to brew your own coffee
Get a small coffee machine from a local CVS store for 10 bucks. 
Get a coffee grinder,  buy coffee beans and grind it at home
You can even get a bag of Starbucks Coffee beans at Target for under $7.00, this way you can't complain about it being store bought. You'll be using the same coffee and it will be freshly ground.

Rule# 2 Do not refuse a free coffee.
So if that guy from IT keeps on asking you out for coffee just say yes. He will have a chance to use his 20 Starbucks gift cards his aunt Sarah has been sending him for Christmas for the past 20 years, and you get the coffee.

Rule# 3 Drink your morning coffee at the office because "Shitty coffee is better than no coffee"
Well if you are still employed and you are lucky enough to work somewhere where with free coffee is provided, by no means refuse it.  Remember Rule#2.

Rule# 4 Drink more Green Tea
Green tea contains the same caffeine as a cup of coffee. Plus is filled with antioxidants, you'll look younger.  A box full (about 20-25 bags) should be under 4 bucks.  Also you can brew a couple cups with the same tea bag.  Bonus points if you get your tea from an Asian Market your 4 bucks will be able to afford you tons of tea.

However, if you absolutely still crave for that espresso or that "tall-non-fat-dry-soy-cap", then my friend, you are in luck...... because you can reproduce the same coffee at home for a fraction of the price. And here's how:

What you'll need:

A Nespesso Machine (got this one from Amazon.com for 149.00 USD, free shipping). The machine comes with a couple coffee samples. Additional capsules can be bought online (prices range from 40-60 cents a capsule)
A frother (got this from William Sonoma @ $20, and still got to try their apple cider, orange butter and pumpkin bread for free ehheheheeh)



Step 1: Prepare Coffee 


This is the most amazing coffee I've ever tasted in the US, and trust me i'm an avid coffee drinker, one of those who don't  need sugar or cream, my favorite being the Ristretto


Step 2: Prepare the froth


Pour some Milk (Regular, Soy, Almond, etc) in a cup.  Froth it to desired consistency. This frother does not heat up the milk, you can get one that will do it for $100, or use the microwave for 15sec and save the $80 dollars to get you more coffee)
Step 3 : With the help of a spoon add milk and foam to your coffee.  
Top it with some cinnamon or cocoa powder


The Nespresso machine is kind of pricey, is it worth the investment?
Well that depends on you.  For me it was worth every penny, just based on my annual consumption of coffee, and here is the math to prove it (I can't help it, accounting has taken over half of my brain):


Now the million dollar question.... what are you going to do with these savings?.... hmmmmmm
Well, you can pay your internet connection for 1 year, or get a couple massages, get your hair done, buy some nice shoes, donate the money to charity, or if you are really desperate and have nothing else to do pick up a book go seat at Starbucks and enjoy a nice cup of coffee.



Note: I do not get paid to advertise on this blog and do not endorse any products, brands, or services I do not use or believe in.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Eggs in a Cup

On my last post I blogged about last Sunday's Brunch. From the feedback you left on facebook it would only be fair to share this not so secret recipe :)

I found this recipe at Cafe Fernando's  one of the food blogs I follow religiously. And my only regret was not having discovered it earlier.

If you've been following this blog from the beginning,  you probably know I'm not very good following instructions. So I and ended up changing this recipe accordingly to accommodate whatever ingredients were in my pantry as well as added some additional herbs and spices for an extra kick.

So here is it, Natty's version of Eggs in a cup


Ingredients
(serves 2)
2 Slices of prosciutto 
Olive oil
2 Tomatoes
1 Garlic Clove (minced)
1 tsp of oregano
Salt & Pepper
2 eggs

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350F (180C)

Oil 2 muffin tins and lay Prosciutto slices, making sure the entire surface is covered 


I used olive oil cooking spray for this, if you don't have it then use regular oil

Oven bake prosciutto for about 5 min until it begins to crisp.  The picture bellow is an illustration of how it looked like after it was cooked.



Don't worry if if does not cover the entire surface. It turns out Prosciutto shrinks and also because the slices were so thin it was hard to make it keep the cup form while baking.  (maybe next time i'll try placing dried beans on top of cured meat, i've seen some people do this to their pie crusts in order to make sure these come out with a perfect cup shape)

Meanwhile prepare the tomato sauce.  Remove all seeds from the tomato and squeeze out all juices. 

Chop tomato in small pieces ( the smaller the faster it will cook).  In a sauce pan add about 2 spoons of olive oil and minced garlic. Allow it to cook in low heat until garlic softens. Add chopped tomatoes, oregano and season with salt and pepper ( remember cured meats are packet with salt so you want to go very light on this). Cook it for about 3 min or until it reaches this consistency:



Remove muffin cups from the oven, add a Tsp full of tomato sauce on top of baked prosciutto, followed by an egg white. Place muffin cups back in the oven for another 5 min (until egg white is wobbly). Then add another Tsp of tomato sauce, and finally the egg yolk on top. It should look like something like this


Place it back in the oven for another 5-10 min (until egg yolks achieve desired consistency. 

Finally remove it form Cup (Don't worry it is not stuck and you be able to get it out with the aid of a spoon). 

I served it on top of chive and garlic flat bread with marinated mozzarella and a cucumber salad.

For the cucumber salad dressing I used the juice from the tomatoes squeezed in the egg recipe, Olive oil and vinegar.

Hope you try this recipe soon, let me know how you liked it.

Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sunday Brunch


I love Sundays
Sundays are my happy day.
After a week of running around it feels good to have time for oneself. I mean Girl/lone time. Time to get my nails and hair done, Time to slow down. Time to stroll as opposed to rushing everywhere, time to breathe deeply, to close my eyes and dream.  Time to smell the flowers and watch the rain.

And best of all, Sundays are the perfect day to prepare a brunch feast worthy of a queen and spoil myself rotten.

My sister and hubby were supposed to come over for brunch, but got tied up in their move, so i decided to give myself the gift of a lifetime.....  Do you want to know why? Because i deserve it. Because even when we eat alone, we should always eat in style.

You should try t his next time you wanna feel like a million dollars, satisfaction guaranteed :)

Recipe will follow :)
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