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The "Good Time"

Monday, September 21, 2009

I love snowballs, you know, shaved ice. My sister lived in New Orleans for years & it was just a short walk from her house to Pandora's in the City Park area. I would go visit her in the summer & would have to make at least one trip to Pandora's while I was there, even as an adult. When you eat a snowball the ice begins to melt & eventually you have a cup of slush, this is what I named the "good time"; it's the best part of the snowball. Well, the term has bled over into many other things, like when you order a pizza & after several pieces have been taken out of the box & there is a huge glob of cheesy goodness stuck to the cardboard, this is the "good time". Or the brown crust at the bottom edge of a pound cake that sometimes wants to break off, that is definitely the "good time". Or when you are eating spaghetti & there is just a little sauce left in the bottom of your bowl & you have a small piece of garlic bread left & you use the bread to sop up the last bit of sauce, that is the "good time".

I imagine you are getting the point. Well, tonight I was actually at home, not cooking or prepping for clients & decided to cook for me & Sean. I made a delicious stir-fry with fresh vegetables & lightly fried tofu. I had not eaten much today so I served myself a very generous bowl of brown rice & stir-fry. Did I mention that I love tofu; really, I eat it straight out of the package. Well, I ate & ate & ate, all the while saving some "good time", which tonight happened to be the chunks of tofu; I wanted to savor them at the end. The problem was that I got full before I got to my "good time". Don't fret, I ate it all; as my assistant, Donna & I say, I made a happy plate (Can you tell I taught preschool for almost 5 years?). But my "good time" wasn't quite as good as it could have been had I not been so full. I have always loved food & loved to eat. I can remember being a child & eating so much that I would be chewing a bite & have to spit it out because I knew that if I swallowed it I would be sick to my stomach. Okay, I admit, that was not healthy! But it does prove that my love of food runs deep & long!

On to my stir-fry, it took me about 5 years to perfect the stir-fry. I have considered getting a job in a Thai restaurant just to learn their techniques & sauces & such. In the early days, I would add too many ingredients to my stir-fry. Then even when I simplified my ingredients, my vegetables would come out overcooked. I have some tricks, which make things much simpler. I admit, I would still love to learn from the owner/chef of Benjarong in Mary Esther, he is the former chef at Royal Orchid in Miramar Beach. His vegetables come out with just the slightest bit of char & his cucumber salad is something I dream about. However, Sean did say tonight that this was the best stir-fry he can remember having in a long time. Here's what I do...


For the sauce:

2 T. sesame oil
2 T. vegetable oil
6 scallions or 1/4 onion, chopped
2 T. minced garlic
1 T. minced ginger
1 1/3 c. vegetable stock
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. sugar (I use sugar in the raw)
a couple pinches crushed red pepper (or to your taste)
2 T. white vinegar
2 T. cornstarch
2-3 T. cold water

Heat oil in skillet, add ginger & onions, saute until tender (if adding mushrooms, add them with the onions & let them soften). Add garlic & saute about a minute. Add stock, soy sauce, sugar, red pepper & vinegar. Mix well. In a small bowl combine cornstarch with cold water & mix to dissolve cornstarch. Add cornstarch slurry to the skillet & stir to thicken. You may need to add a little more slurry depending on how thick you want your sauce.

For the vegetables:

Choose whatever combination you like; my favorites are green beans, mushrooms, cabbage & broccoli. I prefer to just use 2-3 vegetables at a time. Steam your vegetables for a couple of minutes, not until they are done, just until they are crisp tender. Tonight I used cabbage, green beans & mushrooms. Again, for the mushrooms, I sauteed them with the onions. Then I steamed the beans & cabbage together, about 5 minutes. Add your vegetables to your sauce just to heat.

Sometimes we just have a vegetable stir-fry over brown rice, but tonight I added tofu. (For frying tofu, I use extra firm.) I have often read to toss tofu cubes in cornstarch prior to frying. I have never tried this method & decided to try it out tonight. I only used about 1/2 an inch of oil in my skillet & added the cornstarch covered tofu chunks & lightly fried them. The cornstarch did give them a nice crisp exterior that they would not have had otherwise, very nice result. I added this to my vegetables & sauce & tossed it all together. Typically my last step would be to add chopped cilantro to my stir-fry; unfortunately, we are out of cilantro. (Note to self, add cilantro to grocery list.) Even without the cilantro, the stir-fry was delicious! (The lighting wasn't the best for the picture, the colors were much better than they appear.)

I had half a pineapple left over from making a pineapple upside down cake for clients last night; so I decided to make one for us. Of course I had to veganize my recipe. I also added coconut milk & shredded coconut to the cake batter. Just a few minutes ago I went back into the kitchen to get a little bite of the "good time" from the cake--the crusty edge, but the cake was already completely gone! I ate so much tonight that my stomach hurts--just like my childhood days! I guess that's one way to know that dinner was a success!

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posted by Jamie the Foodie
7:07 PM


Cut or twirl and twirl and twirl and twirl?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tonight on Facebook I posted the question "Am I the only adult that still cuts their spaghetti?". Oddly enough, my question generated quite a bit of discussion. I'm not used to this; I see other people's clever posts & the many responses they conjure up & always wish I were so clever! Here's what I found. My cousin's wife reported that he (my cousin) cuts his pasta; so we got to thinking that maybe it was a family thing. Evidently not, read on. One friend admitted to being a cutter until her husband made such fun of her that she quit cutting; now she twirls and twirls and twirls and twirls & then it still hangs out of her mouth & gets all over her face. A mother says that she cuts...for her six-year-old! One oh-so-clever friend told me there is no need to cut when you just break the pasta in small pieces before boiling them. Another, who must have jewel of a husband, says he often cuts hers up for her! (She also admitted to loving it when he does this because it is so much easier to eat! How sweet!) More people admitted to cutting their spaghetti than I ever would have anticipated; not that my "study" was scientific or anything!

I am sure the Italians would have a fit at me cutting my spaghetti into bite size pieces. I don't just half-heartedly cut my spaghetti, mind you; first I cut across really well, making sure to cover all the noodles with at least one stroke of the knife, then I turn my plate 90º & make several more knife strokes, lastly, just to make sure I haven't missed any noodles, I turn my plate 45º and do another round of cuts. This assures nice bite-size spaghetti. This whole discussion got started because I made spaghetti for dinner & as I was cutting mine, I thought how if Sean were home, he would make fun of me cutting my pasta. But as it was, he had a gig & I was eating alone; well, not really alone, if you count my virtual friends. With Sean working I normally wouldn't have made a "real" dinner, but since I have been cooking a lot for clients lately, I haven't gotten to eat as much "real" food, for example, last night's dinner, once I got home, unpacked & relaxed, consisted of a piece of cinnamon toast, so I decided to cook some dinner for us tonight. (Whew, that was a run-on sentence...sorry!)

Eventually Sean got home & was very excited to find spaghetti waiting for him. He thought tonight's spaghetti was especially good. I don't follow a recipe & I never make it the same. However, I will share with you my general recipe for spaghetti sauce. I make ours using TVP (texturized vegetable protein); you can use whatever you like: meat, tofu, beans, mushrooms, what have you. In a glass bowl I mixed 1 cup of TVP with 1 cup of water, covered it tightly with my new friend, Glad Press 'n Seal & heated in the microwave for 5 minutes. Let me make a disclaimer, I very rarely use plastic wrap & even less frequently do I use plastic storage bags; I try to take care of the world we live in the best I can. However, there are occasions, especially in my profession as a personal chef, that I need to use plastic wrap & I must say that Glad has done a great job!

Succulent Spaghetti

1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup TVP, reconstituted
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
small can tomato paste
1 1/2 T.garlic powder
1 T. onion powder
1 T. dried oregano
1/2 T. dried basil
1 t. dill
1 t. white pepper
2 small pinches cayenne pepper
1/2 T. smoked paprika
1 T. sea salt
1/2 t. thyme
2-3 dashes balsamic vinegar
1 T. sugar (I use raw)
1 1/2 T. vegan butter

Saute the onion in olive oil until soft, add the garlic & saute for about a minute. Add the crushed tomato, diced tomato, tomato paste & your "filler of choice"--in my case, the TVP. Mix this well. Add all your seasonings, except the butter. Mix well. Add water if too thick. Let simmer while your pasta cooks. Right before serving stir the butter into the sauce. (Sorry I didn't get a picture tonight; my photographer was working!)

Sometimes I add spinach to this, or I saute mushrooms with the onions. I particularly like serve with broccoli on the side & let the broccoli mix in with the sauce a bit. I always toast a piece of whole wheat bread slathered with vegan butter & a sprinkled with a generous amount of garlic powder. That way, when your bowl is almost empty, you can use the bread to get the very last bit of sauce!

No matter whether you are a spaghetti cutter or twirler, this is an easy, delicious recipe that is less expensive than buying bottled sauce. Enjoy!

posted by Jamie the Foodie
10:13 PM


A Day at the Spa

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Each year for Christmas, my Daddy gives my Mother a gift certificate to Serenity by the Sea, a spa at Sandestin Beach Hilton. My Mother loves going; however, she does not like going by herself. Back in June I was cooking non-stop for clients & there were a couple of days where my Mother came & helped me prep. She really got to see what it is I do as a personal chef (part of it at least, she didn't get to experience where it all comes together in my clients' homes, which is really the magical part). But she did see how much I love what I do, but, also, how hard I work. (She was exhausted at the end of each day!) That week she told me she wanted treat me to a massage soon since she still had her gift certificate. It didn't happen in June, but it did finally happen yesterday.

We met in the parking lot of the spa where before we could go in, I had to trim her toenails! Yes, you read that right! That is a job that has fallen to me, her youngest daughter. I don't love the fact that I have to wear glasses, however, when I have to trim her nails, I am thankful for the extra barrier! I often tell her I am going to invest in a hard hat & a pair of safety goggles! What she told me was that she could not have a massage with toenails that so desperately needed to be trimmed (cut, I should say, trim sounds so dainty, there is nothing dainty about those nails!) Also, she told me she just couldn't bear the thought of walking in the spa without any makeup on, so she applied full makeup before going for her massage, which she would have to wash off before getting her treatment. These are the ways of a lady who grew up in the 40's & 50's.

I hung my robe outside the sauna & left my flip flops there, too. When I came out of the sauna my shoes were still there, but my robe was gone. No problem, except my glasses were in the pocket (yes, I said I don't love having to wear the dreadful things, but I am not fond of contacts, so glasses it is if I intend to see anything.). I checked the pockets of the robes hanging there & we started asking people to please check their pockets. I had a good idea who may have accidentally grabbed my robe. So when I went back to the dressing area, I found her drying her hair...with only panties on! I really wanted to wait until she was finished & dressed, but I was afraid I would miss her & she would throw her (my) robe into the dirty laundry & then my glasses would be lost forever. Don't get me wrong, I am not a prude nor am I overly modest. However, I never took PE past elementary school nor was I invlved in team sports & I don't go to the gym; I am just not used to women hanging out in the nude. I asked the other lady in the dressing area, but they were not in her pockets; I was forced to ask the topless lady. She stopped drying her hair & searched the pockets of her robe, which took longer than necessary it seemed, but sure enough there were my glasses in the pocket of her (my) robe! It was akward for me & my oh-so-southern-belle Mother, but not for the topless lady, interestingly enough!

Our massages were wonderful & we had a fabulous day. And I will encourage my Daddy to continue his tradition of giving my Mother a gift certificate to the spa every Christmas if it means she shares the love with me since she doesn't like to go alone!

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posted by Jamie the Foodie
8:31 AM



Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sean is working on a new website for me. I think my current website is just grand, but as a perfectionist, he is always looking to improve on the exisiting, whether it be his piano playing, his running, his painting or my website. So, this past weekend we went to my hometown of Brewton, Alabama to shoot pictures at the house where my Mother grew up, which now belongs to my aunt & uncle. We chose to take the pictures there because the house was built in the early 1900's & really has a lot of southern charm.

First of all, the house is located on one of the two main roads in the town, so when people ride by & we are on the front porch shooting pictures--people notice! Sean got a good taste of Brewton when a huge truck on "jacked up" wheels came revving by with an enormous rebel flag flying on a full-length flag pole somehow attached in the bed of the truck, with 3 shirtless guys in the front! Mind you, Sean grew up in Kansas.

While there, we decided to take advantage of the kitchen & shoot some cooking video, too. I brought some food with us, but still needed to buy a few things to cook what I had in mind. I needed tofu. Brewton is small; they have about three grocery stores. It was getting late, so I decided I should call & find out if any of the stores carried tofu. I thought my best bet would be Wal-Mart. Here is how the conversation went after the associate answered the phone...

Me: "Hi, I was wondering if you all carry tofu."
Associate: "What kind of food?"
Me: "Tofu."
Associate: "Please hold."
Associate: "What is it you're looking for?"
Me: "Tofu, t-o-f-u. It's a soy product. It is typically found in the refrigerated section."
Associate: "Ohhh, tofu! Please hold."
Associate: "Yeah, we carry tofu. It's in the produce department, so when you come, just head on over to produce."

Wow! What an ordeal; but they had it & were open until 11:00 that night. So I was able to make my scrambled tofu. I was trying to make very simple dishes, nothing fancy.

I guess I had never thought of how difficult it would be to cook while being filmed & attempt for my personality to come across. I am cooking away, lost in my thoughts, Sean is nearby in the kitchen behind the lens of a camera & it is difficult to be chatty, but not too chatty, funny but not cheesy. However, we finally got into a rhythem & got some good footage. Really I just want my potential clients to be able to see me on my website & get a feel for who I am; I have a very outgoing personality & am likable, in my oh-so-modest opinion!

So for just a couple of days this weekend, I was a starlett in my own right! And do you know what? I liked it!

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posted by Jamie the Foodie
2:44 PM