Archive for March, 2012














I’m starting to realize that I’m pretty blessed.  This cooking thing has been so simple, and support has just been magically coming in.  I’d always heard that doing the things you love can be so difficult, so much work, but somehow I’m missing that part, and only getting the fun.

So I had the chance to cook for two very special birthdays over the past few weeks.  A party of eleven for my friend Nikki, which I hosted at my place in Downtown Orlando; and a party of six this past Saturday at my parents’ house for my brother Kyle’s 35th.  Nikki’s party was the first I’d hosted and Nikki is literally the hostess with the mostess, so the prospect of cooking for her party was intimidating.  Plus it was a dinner that would be kind of a prequel to the parties I’ll be hosting for my friends for actual payment.  I volunteered as a way to impress my friends…to show them that this cooking thing was a big deal, and that it’s not just another random project to keep me busy.  That I’m actually good at it, and it will be worth it for them to part with obscene amounts of their money over the next few months in order to taste my amazing creations (ok, not obscene…actually I’m charging a rather modest $15-20 per person).

I made quite the meal…started with some Midnight Moon goat cheese, crackers, nuts and fruit, then moved on to pan-seared scallops topped with a cucumber-cilantro sauce.  The main course was Guinness braised beef over crostini and linguine with kale pesto (the kale pesto is from another blogger…in pursuit of more), and for dessert black & tan brownies (also made with Guinness).  It was a pretty incredible meal, and everyone had a great time.  The guest list added a couple when my roommate and her boyfriend joined us, but there was plenty of food, and everything got rave reviews.  As I sat on the balcony with Nikki in the last minutes of the party, I heard my friend tell me she was proud of me.  That she could see that I was happy with myself and that this cooking thing really fit me.  Those words were pretty powerful for me.

So my next meal was a week later, at my mom & dad’s.  My brother came in from Brooklyn for his 35th birthday, and I asked to cook for him.  There’s something special about cooking a meal for your big brother’s birthday.  Something incredibly adult, but still innocent about it.  It’s like you revert back to being in kindergarten drawing a picture or gluing macaroni to a piece of paper in the shape of his face…but of course your using incredibly sharp knives, ovens, and drinking wine.  The process is all wrapped up in love and thoughts of our growing up years…he’s one of the first people I ever met and the only person who has known me my whole life (other than my parents), so all of this emotion is rolled up into the meal.  Memories of watching Star Wars over and over again every summer; running for my life after I’d done something to really piss him off and he was chasing me toward my room with what I thought at the time was absolutely lethal intent; crying with him in his room after our first horrible day of school in a new city.  And now, as an adult, sharing a bottle of wine with him and ringing in the end of his 35th year with a pot roast, Brussels sprouts, scalloped potatoes, rosemary sriracha aioli and chocolate souffle.  I think it is one of the best times I’ll ever have in my life.  And it makes me realize that I’m doing the right thing by cooking for the people I love.

I’m glad that Nikki and Kyle were the first people I got to share this with.  They are important people in my life for very different reasons.  Kyle, for having been by my side through a lifetime of growing up, and Nikki for being supportive of me and truly being one of the first people to understand what I’m doing here.  Explaining to each of them that by cooking for them I was starting to find my place, my purpose, was a wonderful thing.

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what’s in it

1 pound sea scallops (u-10 or larger is best, these were u-15)

2-3 tablespoons of butter

salt & pepper to taste (divided)

1 cup plain, non-fat greek yogurt

1 1/2 cups low fat or fat free mayo

1 peeled cucumber, grated on cheese grater

3/4 cup of chopped fresh cilantro

red pepper flakes, to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or use a little fresh garlic (like 1/2 a clove, crushed)

how it comes together

clean the scallops under cold water, pick any grit out that you can see, and pat dry with paper towels or a bar cloth.  dust with salt and pepper.  to cook, heat large skillet over medium-high heat.  drop the butter in and melt it.  put the scallops on when the skillet is very hot, but butter has not yet started to burn.  sear the scallops for about 90 seconds per side.  if they’re super stiff, they’re over-done.  they should still have some give in them and look just slightly translucent in the center.

to make the sauce (you can make it ahead), combine yogurt, mayo and remaining ingredients in a small bowl.  set aside in the fridge to serve with the scallops.  you’ll have extra most likely.  this sauce also tastes delightful with grilled artichokes (healthier than drawn butter).  so make some before you do the scallops and you’ll have plenty of ways to enjoy this sauce.  it’s totally worth it.

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mini chocolate souffle cakes










what’s in it

cooking spray

4 1/2 tbs granulated sugar, divided

1 tbs all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tbs dutch process cocoa

2 tbs fat-free milk

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg white

1 tsp powdered sugar

how it comes together

preheat oven to 350

coat 2 small ramekins with cooking spray and sprinkle each with 3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar

combine 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, flour, cocoa and milk in small saucepan over medium heat (it makes it much easier if you sift the cocoa a bit before putting it in).  cook 2 minutes, stirring until smooth.  Spoon mixture into a medium bowl.  cool 4 minutes and stir in vanilla.

place egg white in a medium bowl.  beat with mixer at high speed until soft peaks form.  add remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, a little at a time, beating until soft peaks form (to avoid over-beating, I just used a whisk instead of the electric beater at this point).  gently stir 1/4 egg white mixture into prepared dishes.  sharply tap dishes 2 or 3 times to level the mixture.  place dishes on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until puffy and set.  sprinkle each with powdered sugar.

add your favorite sauce to this, or make your own.  i added a hot caramel sauce to it and it was very tasty!

i didn’t make this one up either…it’s from the april 2007 issue of cooking light magazine.  

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yum some-oh

what’s in it 

3 tablespoons shredded sweetened coconut

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

2 cups bite-sized chunks of peeled, sectioned grapefruit

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped, roasted, salted peanuts (optional)

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped shallots

2 teaspoons dried chili flakes

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint and cilantro

how it comes together

toast the shredded coconut in a small, dry skillet over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, tossing often, until most of it turns a soft brown.  set aside to cool.

in a medium bowl, combine the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar and stir well to dissolve sugar and form a smooth sauce.  add the grapefruit, nuts, shallots, chili flakes, mint and cilantro and toss gently to combine.  transfer to a platter and top with toasted coconut.  

by the way…i don’t make this stuff up.  this recipe is from quick & easy thai by nancie mcdermott

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So my Saturday nights have changed drastically in the past year.  They now serve a single purpose…to make Sunday mornings better and last longer.   I actually skipped out on drinks with an old friend on Saturday night just to prep what promised to be a truly great meal.  

I make food for The Cross on Sundays.  And this week, as always, it was completely worth staying in on Saturday night!  kwaytio phat si-yu, a Thai dish that is this delightful combination of soy sauce, honey, fish sauce, noodles, beef and greens…wonderful things (well except fish sauce…that stuff is truly vile, but somehow when it is mixed with other things it tastes soooo good).  And yum some-oh.  Seriously, Thai people have a way of naming things.  A dish with a name like that has to be tasty.  Sounds much better than “pink grapefruit with toasted coconut and fresh mint”.  And of course, for my vegans, a golden grains salad with barley, cous cous, brown rice, orange juice, stone ground mustard and veggies.  

The reason I love Sunday mornings so much is that all of the elements of my Sunday mornings seem to work together to give me a glimpse of the life I was made for.  A life where I have creativity, meaning, purpose and community.  A life where the heartaches, the mourning, the disappointments just don’t matter, or cease to exist entirely.  I listen to beautiful words that were inspired by a God that literally wants to give me everything I ask Him for, I hear music that feels as if it was written just to keep me going.  I see people beautiful people, kind people, small people, quiet people, all of whom absolutely delight me.  And to top it all off, I get to feed these people who have inspired me the entire morning…I get to figure out what they like, what they don’t like so much, what they’re allergic to or makes them gag, and what they make for themselves when they’re at home.  How cool is that?  How could I not want to make that feeling last just a little longer?  I can’t wait for Sunday to come around again next week.

Enjoy the recipes if you’re interested…they’re located in the recipe category (yeah I know…not as creative as Thai people with naming things).

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So I’m back to my cooking class…back to worrying about middle-schoolers cutting themselves with sharp knives, slipping in water on the floor of the kitchen, keeping their hands clean while they handle the food, fighting with each other, running with scissors, or much worse than all of that: being completely bored and hating the food and me.  Turns out as always I had nothing to worry or be nervous about.  Well, the knife thing keeps me on my toes, especially with certain kids.  But like with any adventure, the nervousness beforehand is instantly replaced with the pleasure of doing something you love once you get into it.  We started out hand-picking some items from the garden that the kids tend with the help of my dear friend Wendy.  We washed and shredded carrots and sweet potatoes, wrung the moisture out of the potatoes (PS – my white bar towels are now orange), chopped green onions, rosemary and fennel, and mixed all of it together to form flat little cakes…all in the space of about an hour.

Here’s what I learned…always test the recipe before you teach the kids to cook it.  The Rosti never really got crispy in the oven like it was supposed to.  Also, try not to cook something that you have to leave for any length of time because the kids are going to completely lose interest and head outside to play with their friends.  By the time the Rosti was done, I had maybe one or two kids interested in coming back inside to taste it.  Though this was probably a good thing as I don’t think they would have liked it.  I thought it was pretty tasty, but I’m definitely going to tweak the recipe before serving it to others.

Here’s the tweaked recipe, in case you’re curious…

2 peeled sweet potatoes, shredded thin in a box grater or something similar (once these are peeled, put them in a towel and wring them out over the sink to get rid of the water in them)

1 peeled red potato, shredded (this is a tweak…I think it would add some needed starch to the recipe, and help the Rosti stay together)

2-3 shredded carrots

2-3 finely chopped green onions

2 small fennel bulbs, chopped and sauteed for about a minute in olive oil

1 teaspoon or so chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix all ingredients together and loosely form small flat cakes (about the size of a silver-dollar pancake).  Spray on both sides with olive oil spray and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until they’re crispy.  You can also put them in a fry pan, but that kinds of makes them unhealthy, which is what I’m trying to avoid.

And for my next adventure…jeez I’m not sure yet.  I’m still recovering from Tuesday.

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