News For Yous

Dear friends, I’m excited to share three things with you:

1) My bro-in-law of Big City Sandwich in Edmonton is one of four finalists in Ace Bakery’s Best Sandwich Contest in Canada! They’re flying him to Toronto, putting him up in a fancy hotel and giving him (and the charity of his choice!) a cash prize. If he wins, he (and the charity of his choice!) will get some mo’ money mo’ money! Chris Delaney makes some of the best sandwiches I’MNOTKIDDING, and we’re thrilled that he’s being recognized nationally for them. The sandwich that qualified him? Tequila Lime Chicken Sammie. Holy moly. I want to eat it. Now. Follow him on twitter @bigcitysandwich

Tequila Lime Chicken Sammie

2) I’m officially a regular contributor to the LA Family Magazine website, where Josh and I will post a weekly recipe with some step-by-step videos. It’s all thanks to this little blog! I’m positively delighted, and here’s a link to our first article, the Quicknichttp://www.lafamily.com/marriage-and-divorce/quicknic

3) I found a recipe via the Huffington Post from Small Kitchen College for homemade frozen yogurt a la Pinkberry (or whichever pricey Fro Yo joint is closest to you). I’m making some RIGHT NOW. Here’s the recipe. It’s cheap and easy, but you’ll need an ice cream maker. Get that thing out its box/the basement/wherever you’re stashing it and enjoy this cool treat.

Frozen Vanilla Yogurt

This recipe is potentially dangerous. It’s just too easy and affordable to not want to make for dessert every night.

Frozen Vanilla Yogurt (from Small Kitchen College via the Huffington Post)

Ingredients:
3 cups full fat plain Greek yogurt
1/2-3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Preparation:
1) Mix sugar and vanilla into yogurt, then refrigerate for an hour (or stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes if you can’t wait, like I did).
2) Churn and freeze in your ice cream maker for 20- 40 min (the same way that you would ice cream) until you’ve reached the desired consistency.
3) Top with leftover fruit salad, that mango that’s been hanging around the kitchen counter, or the chocolate chips you have saved for cookies.
4) Enjoy your summer addiction.

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Spread A Little Sunshine

Whoa! Life is galloping apace, so swiftly that months have passed without a blog post. I’ve been auditioning, working, cooking (even catered some parties for a dear dear friend, hip hip hooray!), performing a little, hosting family (providing me the opportunity to vacation in my own city), and have found myself knee deep in spring time with something VERY important to share with you.

Spring is indeed here in sunny California, and if the requisite blue skies and blooming flowers aren’t indicators that the season has changed (they aren’t), just look for the MEYER LEMONS! SQUEE! Image

I am beyond nutso for them. I didn’t really know they existed until we discovered some in our bestie Martin’s backyard last year, the lucky jerk. They’re thin skinned and tart (like me!), but with a bit more of a sweetness than a regular lemon, an almost fresh mandarin orange flavor (Just! Like! Me!). I fell so in love with them that last season I made as many lemon-related recipes as I could think of. I also cooked my way through a variety of lemon curd recipes to discover this one by Pierre Herme, my very very favorite, by far. It’s a delicious citrus dream, creamy rather than opaque and it even freezes well, so you can pull it out for a springy hit of seasons past when winter weather approaches. The ingredients are the same as a regular lemon curd, but Pierre Herme puts a little English on the order of operations that changes the game and makes this curd sing.

What to do with this stuff? Make a tart, lemon squares, incorporate it into your homemade vanilla ice cream recipe, spread it between a bisected angel food cake then top with strawberries and cream, spoon it onto scones… my recent favorite is to whip some cream and mix a generous amount of Meyer lemon curd into it, resulting in the most beautifully decadent, yet light and refreshing lemon mousse that you could ever hope for. And yes, of course you can use regular lemons if you can’t find Meyer. It’ll be delicious either way, don’t worry.

I’ve followed this recipe to the letter and nothing could be better. Give it a whirl if you’re a lemon guy or girl and I promise, you won’t be disappointed. It’s sunshine in a jar.

MEYER LEMON DREAM CREAM CURD

By Pierre Herme, from http://www.seriouseats.com posted by Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

Zest of 3 Meyer lemons (a microplane works a treat)

4 large eggs

¾ cup Meyer lemon juice (approx. 5 lemons)

2 sticks plus 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp. (Yep. It’s a lot. Hush. Just do it.)

handy tools:

Reamer

Candy Thermometer

Strainer

Blender

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Preparation:

1) Bring a large pot of water to simmer.

2) Rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers- it feels kinda nice, hunh? Smell it. Dreamy! Whisk in the eggs and then the lemon juice.

3) Place bowl over pot of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water!) and heat while constantly stirring (this is to avoid scrambling the eggs). Your arm is probably gonna get a little tired- we’re aiming for 180 degrees, so have about ten minutes worth of non-stop stirring stamina and patience. The thin, foamy texture will change into a thicker, creamy consistency that will keep tracks in it if you run a finger through.

4) At the desired 180 degrees strain the mixture into the blender. Let it cool for ten minutes, stirring every once in a while. Chuck the strained zest into the garbage bin.

5) Turn the blender onto high and add the room temperature butter a few tablespoons at a time until completely incorporated. Keep blending the cream for another couple of minutes until it’s light and a beautiful buttery yellow (stop the blender intermittently if it starts to overheat, no harm done).

6) Scoop the curd in a dish, place plastic wrap onto the surface of the cream and refrigerate for a couple of hours, because it tastes even dreamier when it’s cold. (try not to lick the blender blade, and if you do, don’t blame me if you cut yourself. But honestly, I challenge you not to lick the blender carafe clean. This stuff is irresistible).

7) Use it up within four days (good luck to it lasting that long), or freeze for up to two months.

*1 recipe will fill a tart shell. A half recipe mixes well into a 250ml container of heavy cream that has been whipped lightly with a little sugar and vanilla for sunshiney meyer lemon mousse.

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Cratchiting and Cooking in Kentucky

it sure is pretty here

Greetings from gorgeous Louisville, Kentucky! 11 days ago I arrived to take part in a splendid production of A Christmas Carol at The Actors Theatre of Louisville. I’m playing Mrs. Cratchit and aside from the fact that I’m missing my fella and my pup like mad, I couldn’t be happier to be here, doing what I love.

Here’s the challenge when I work away from home for any length of time: staying on a schedule, and a budget. It’s pretty easy to let myself go and pretend that I’m away at summer camp with my super swell cast and crew, because, well, it’s actually kinda like that. This is when being in this business is THE BEST. Yes, there truly is challenging work involved, but there’s also seeing other theater in town, late night bourbon, betting on horses at Churchill Downs and doing it all with a fantastic group of new friends. Not bad, right? But guys, I’m totally a grown up. How can I reconcile my desire to stay out late and drink mint juleps with my need to keep some amount of healthy structure in my life? By exercising regularly and trying not to eat like an idiot, of course! My goal while here (aside from BEING THE BEST MRS. CRATCHIT I CAN BE… ah, life!) is to prepare most every meal I eat, save for a weekly blow out dinner at one of the many amazing restaurants that Louisville has to offer. Not only that, but it can’t be just sandwiches and salads and pre-prepared things… I have to cook proper dishes made from real food, and make them meatless (I save the meat for restaurant day. Hey Proof burger, tonight I’ve got my eye on you. Coming to Louisville? Get to Proof, stat. I’ll be devoting a whole post to the fun finds, food and other treasures that I’m discovering in Louisville, so stay tuned!).

The other challenge? My kitchen. I’ve been put up in a fantastic 100 year old apartment building that’s so charming, I can hardly stand it. High ceilings, gorgeous wood floors, deep tubs- it’s well cared for and delightful and also there’s complimentary homemade baking every so often in the lobby because apparently that’s the way they do in the south. What’s not to love? Well, maybe my kitchen? Nothing! Each unit in this 10 floor structure seems to be a little different from the next, and this year, my kitchen is well, petite. It’s a closet. But I’ve got four burners and an oven, and it turns out, that’s all I need. Yep, I miss my food processor and my mixer, my good knives and my cutting board. I’m missing access to my spice cupboard and various oils and vinegars and the convenience of having my car to get all the things that I’m missing. But I’m discovering that I really don’t need any of it. With simple ingredients and a little time, I’m eating… really really well.

Some things I’ve cooked so far: kale chips, granola, kale salad (I know, I know, I just love kale, leave me alone), mushroom fried rice, french toast, mixed lentil soup… all of it quick, easy and so stinkin’ satisfying. Thanks to Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks for having arguably the best meat-free blog on the internet- most of my cooking while here has been inspired by her recipes. The two I’m going to share with you below are riffs on recipes I found there.

The Simplest Ever Homemade Bread (inspired by Easy Little Bread from 101 cookbooks):

You can do this, yes you can! It’s a sure way to feel like a champ and have the house smell a treat as well. Butter it or top it with goat cheese, use the left over dry pieces for french toast- you’re gonna love this easy little charmer.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups warm water

1 packet rapid rise yeast

1 tbsp. agave (or honey is fine too! I just use what I have kickin’ around)

*2 cups white flour

1 cup oats

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. butter, melted, for oiling the pan

Preparation:

1) Pour packet of yeast into warm water. Once it dissolves, add agave and let sit for 5-10 minutes until a foam forms.

3) Measure flour and oats into a large bowl, add salt. Pour wet ingredients into the dry and mix well with a spoon.

4) Pour the dough into a greased loaf pan, or whatever you have. (I found a small enamel pot and my loaf came out lovely and round).

5) Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for a half hour. Heat oven to 350 and bake bread for 35-40 minute. Broil for an additional few minutes to brown the top.

6) Remove bread from pan to prevent it from steaming, and serve warm, with just a ton of salty butter, if you know what’s good for you.

*The original recipe calls for a cup each of white and whole wheat flour, but my arms didn’t want to carry two sacks of flour home from the ghetto Kroger (the closest grocery store to my apartment, totally fine if a little rough around the edges.) This recipe is simple, forgiving and delicious. GO! Make some bread!

the easiest bread you'll ever make, ever

Mixed Mushroom Soup (inspired by Mixed Mushroom Chowder from 101 Cookbooks)

This is perfect rainy day soup. Leave out the tofu and add cooked barley or rice, leave out the curry powder and red wine vinegar and add soy sauce… I used the things that I had around and you should too. Because, just yum, guys. Just yum to the max.

Ingredients:

4 tbsp. olive oil, or butter, or a combo of the two

1 lb mixed mushrooms, cut into small pieces

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 small red onion, diced

1/2 pkg. firm tofu, cubed

1 tbsp curry powder

6 cups vegetable stock

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp. sesame oil

salt, pepper to taste

Garnish with cilantro and add a scoop of greek yogurt to your bowl, if desired.

Preparation:

1) Heat 3 tbsp. oil in large pot. Add mushrooms, season with a tsp. of salt and cook for 8 minutes.

2) Remove mushrooms to a plate, add remaining oil and sauté onion for 2-3 minutes. Add cubed tofu, season with curry powder, 1 tsp. of salt and pepper and continue to cook for 3-4 min longer.

3) Add stock, more salt and bring to a simmer. Add mushrooms and vinegar and simmer for 10 minutes. Add sesame oil and check for balance- season with more salt, pepper,  sesame oil, and vinegar as necessary.

4) Serve up a bowl with a tbsp of greek yogurt and bit of fresh cilantro, if that floats your boat. Eat with above Simplest Ever Homemade Bread and be happy!

mixed mushroom soup

Spooky Supernatural Tricks and Treats

Happy Halloween! I’ve got a couple three quickies (YOU know what I mean! Ungh!) for you to try out. One that will basically absolve you of any guilt that you might be feeling regarding that package of “fun sized” peanut butter cups that you purchased a week early and then proceeded to polish off before the trick or treaters knocked on the door, forcing you to to turn the lights out and go to A Frame for dinner and rationalize that no kid is going to find your funny little back house anyway. Another recipe, well, because I made some this morning and am always smugly pleased with myself when I do (but you’ll need a food processor). And a cute third recipe. I like cute things a lot (have you met my dog?) and I could forever live off of all the things that go into this assemblie (I’ll call it that: it’s not really a recipe). None of these three have much in common except that they’re just so speedy to put together. And they’re all sorta kinda a little bit guilt free because of how super natural they are. Booooooooo.

Kale Chips! (the guilt absolver)

I like salty snacks. These snacks make me feel like a champion. They taste great (for reals, yo), and there’s just nothing bad to feel bad about when you eat them. Get ready for some rocket science.

Ingredients:

1 bunch of kale

2 tbsp. olive oil

salt, to taste

Preparation:

1) Preheat the oven to 350.

2) Wash and dry kale, then remove tough center rib and tear into bite-sized pieces.

3) Toss with oil and salt.

4) Spread on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, until edges begin to brown.

5) Allow to cool, then dig in. Kale chips! Crrrrrunch!

*you can jazz this up with some chili flakes, soy sauce, whatever seasoning floats your boat.

Peanut Butter

Right? So easy! You just need a food processor.

Ingredients:

1 pkg. peanuts, salted or dry roasted or plain or whatever

2 tbsp. peanut oil (I use grapeseed, it’s always in my kitchen)

a squirt or two of agave or honey, to taste

Preparation:

1) Dump peanuts into your food processor and turn it on. It’s noisy folks! Just bare with it!

2) Drizzle oil then agave through the top while the peanuts get smooshed up. Let’er rip for as long as you like, the longer, the smoother. (It won’t get perfectly smooth, but I don’t mind a bit of texture).

3) Done. Spread on everything. Homemade buns. Your husband’s buns (zing!). Works great in cookie recipes.

Cute Little Cocktail Caprese Salad

Bring these to a party! Or just make them and throw a little party, for your mouth.

Ingredients:

Cute skewers (those bamboo ones with the little knots at the end are good)

Cute little balls of bocconcini in oil and italian seasoning (if you can only find the kind in water, drain the water, pour olive oil over top and add some basil and oregano, fresh or dried)

Grape Tomatoes

Basil leaves, washed

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation:

1) Toss tomatoes with bocconcini and oil. Season with salt and pepper, fairly liberally, since this will be where most the the flavors come from.

2) Skewer alternately a tomato, a bocconcini ball, a basil leaf (fold it accordion-style and stab it with a skewer), another bocconcini, another tomato.

3) Serve and eat ’em up. Yum yum, gimme some.

A visa, some pizza

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I have obtained another coveted 3 year 01 visa. It wasn’t easy to get. I’ll save the song and dance for a proper catch up face to face with wine!, but needless to say, I’m back in Los Angeles. The timer started 11 days ago. I figure I’d better make the next 3 years count.

Here’s an interesting statistic: auditions since returning- 0. Catering gigs (for my best buddy, so it only barely counts)- 1. I might love food more than what I came to LA to do. To act. I definitely love food more than twiddling my thumbs and waiting: for auditions, jobs, to grow up, have babies, to figure it all out. I love cooking with and for my fella and friends, and I’ve had the happy pleasure of guest blogging about it for my dear chum Jewel at Happy Opu (Yes yes, that Jewel. Sci-fi babe and actress extodinaire. Girls, guys, believe the hype. She’s your dream, I promise. She cooks like Betty, orders and eats like Veronica and does it all with a wine in her manicured hand and a cocker spaniel nipping at the scraps by her Jimmy Choos.) She’s been the best cheerleader a girl could have, let me tell ya, and among many other things (all involving wine), she’s inspired me to write this blog.

Tonight, we, the Dean Team, made pizza for dinner. Dear god (Martha Stewart), thank you for your pizza crust. Why? Because it’s just the fastest and easiest food processor recipe you could hope to whiz together. Top that good ol’ good ol’ basic dough with some leftover stinky blue, mushrooms and prosciutto from your best pal’s bon voyage soiree and Thursday night becomes a little Visa pizza party for two. In the mouth region.

Dough Recipe (Martha Stewart):

1 c warm water

1 pkg active dry yeast

1/4 tsp sugar

2 & 3/4 c flour (I used 1 & 1/2 c wheat and 1 & 1/4 c white)

1 tsp salt

1 & 1/2 tbsp oil

Preparation:

1) Whiz the flour and salt together in the food processor to combine.

2) Sprinkle yeast and sugar into warm water, stir with a fork and allow it all to bubble bubble toil and trouble for 5 minutes.

3) Pour oil and yeasty water over flour and pulse together until a ball is formed in the machine. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, knead 4-5 times, and form into a smooth ball.

4) Lightly oil a bowl, put dough inside, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, approximately 40 minutes.

5) Punch down, knead 4-5 times, and return dough ball to plastic wrapped bowl for another 40 minute.

6) Punch down again, divide dough in half, cover one for a later use (like a half hour after you digest the first pizza, you glutton) and let other half rest for five minutes before rolling into your  crust shape.

BBQ Blue, Mushroom Visa Pizza

Some olive oil

1/4 lrg onion, finely diced

Some more olive oil

1/4 lb of your favorite mushrooms (we used a combo of shitaki, diced portabella, and plain ol’ button)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

a splash of white wine, whatever you plan to drink

salt and pepper

2 pieces proscuitto, cut into strips

1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded

healthy handful arugula

4 big basil leaves, torn

Preparation:

1) Get Josh to light up that grill and let it get hot (the grill guys, the grill… keep it clean! For now).

2) Saute onions in a generous glug of olive oil until translucent and cooked through. (you could spend a half hour and caramelize them, yum, but we were too hungry to wait).

3) In a different pan, saute mushrooms and garlic over medium heat for 5ish minutes. Splash in the wine, make sure it boils or the pizza’ll taste all boozy, let the mushrooms absorb, season with salt and pepper, add chopped proscuitto. Cook another minute, then remove from heat.

4) Bring onions in oil, blue cheese, mushroom mix, mozzarella, arugula and basil out to the grill area.

5) On parchment paper, roll dough to a size that will fit on your grill. Bring rolled out dough, still on its paper, outside.

6) Remove paper (look ma, it doesn’t stick!) and place on hot grill, but turn it down to medium right away. Tss! (that’s the sounds it’s gonna make). Cook dough for approximately two minutes (until you see happy grill marks, but not too deep or dark), then, using tongs, grab a corner and flip it onto the raw side.

7) Work fast now! Spread onion and oil mix on crust, followed by blue cheese, mushrooms, mozzarella, arugula and torn basil. Close the lid of the Q for a few minutes- the time it takes for cheese to melt, crust to crisp, and also to run inside and grab a big cutting board or plate.

8)Remove pizza from grill onto cutting board, have your partner carry it in while you grab all the pans and bowls from prep.

9) Get Josh to cut the pizza while you clean the kitchen faster than a tornado.

10) Pour yourself a glass of Demetria Chardonnay, turn on the Edmonton/Minnesota hockey game, and enjoy your Visa Pizza with the one you love. Let it get hot.  Bedwise.