Thursday, February 25, 2010

Spring Gardening On A Dime!

It's almost that time again to start planning your spring garden, during my research to find out what's new, what worked last year and what didn't, I came across some really helpful tips on how to save money while turning out the best garden you can. I will definatly be using some of these tips this year in some of my gardens and I encourage you to take a look at them and see if any of the tips can help you save a dime or two. Happy planning!

Grow your own from seed.
Keep seeds back from the previous season from flowers and vegetables that grew in your garden. Allow the seeds to dry (to prevent mildew over winter) and place in separate bags, well labeled. Store somewhere that is warm and dry over winter. As spring gets closer, plant the seeds in seedling trays and keep indoors near a window that gets a lot of sunshine. Water and tend to them regularly and you will get a head start on the new season's plantings.
2Strike cuttings.
If you fancy plants in someone else's garden, ask if you can take cuttings to strike your own. Many gardeners are very pleased to be asked this. Botanical gardens often have mid-winter pruning clear outs in rose gardens, etc. Phone up to ask when this happening and to see whether members of the public can get cuttings from these tidy-ups.
Once the likelihood of frost has cleared, take the seedlings outdoors and continue watering them in their trays. Do this for a week or two, to help them transition from the indoor environment to the outdoor one.
4Create a garden plan on paper.
As with a shopping list curtailing overspending in the store, a garden plan curtails purchasing of whims when you go to the garden center. Draw in the flowers, the vegetables, the ornamentals, the decorations, etc. that you'd like in your garden this year, in their exact places. This plan will guide you on buying "just enough" and no more (and don't forget to combine with the plants that you're growing yourself).
5Keep an eye on garden sales in catalogs.
When the sales are on, this is an excellent time to buy the sale items in bulk. Naturally, only buy what you will use but have an eye for a good bargain, including for updating/replacing, etc. new garden tools, hoses, netting, etc.
6Buy plants that have been reduced due to lack of adequate attention.
In some garden centers, there will be a section of plants that haven't been adequately cared for, going for a song. If you've a green thumb and you can identify the likelihood of successfully salvaging these plants back to health, these can make incredible bargains.
7Make your own garden decorations.
Rather than buying decorative items for the garden, recycle and reuse household items to create new and amazing garden sculptures, feature pieces, water elements, etc. Be as imaginative as you'd like and rope the kids in to help too. They can have great fun making a dinosaur garden with their toys, a fairy garden with their fairies, an animal garden for their pets, etc.
Read more!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Turkey Talk....

I think a lot of people are intimidated be the turkey especially when it comes to cooking that perfect turkey that the in-laws will be critiquing from here to eternity. Truth be told cooking the perfect turkey isn't really as tough as it looks. I use the brining method to ensure moist meat and brush the turkey with bacon fat and herbs to get that crispy skin and that amazing golden brown color. The brining is simple all it is really is a mixture of water, salt and sugar if you desire sugar. The turkey sits in the solution breast side down for 24 hours and then is removed rinsed and seasoned. I then render a few pieces of bacon and reserve the fat. I mix it with my desired seasoning and fresh chopped herbs and brush the entire turkey. I base the turkey throughout the cooking process and that it! Here's how mine turned out! Read more!

Mac -N- Cheese Anyone?

I have tried and tested dozens of recipes for baked macaroni and cheese and I have come across some very good ones, however I wanted to come up with one that give you the most bang for the buck meaning lots of cheese and the perfectly cooked pasta and a awesome mouth feel all around. I think I came up with one that just may fit the bill, I cooked this one for thanksgiving as part of a delightful feast. I say give it a try and if you want to tweek it a bit feel free!

1 lb elbow macaroni, cooked - al dente, drained well
2 overflowing cups of sharp cheddar cheese and colby cheese mix, shredded or cut into 1/4-in cubes
1/2 can evaporated milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp sugar
2 eggs, beaten
Season salt - to taste
Fresh cracked black pepper - to taste
Dash or two or three or four of cayenne pepper

In a bowl, mix cooked and well drained macaroni and cheese together.
In another bowl whisk together eggs, milk,cream, sugar and seasoning.
Pour egg/milk mixture over mac and cheese mixture, stir until well incorporated.
Pour into baking dish or tin, cover with foil.
Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.
Remove foil, turn on broiler - broil top of mac and cheese until golden brown and bubbly Read more!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Perfect Roasted Chicken - (in my humble opinion)

I love chicken, mostly because I ate it so much growing up but also because it is so versatile. There are over a million recipes for chicken I'm sure and I'm sure just about as many ways to cook the bird, but the trick is to use the proper technique for each recipe you try. I've roasted countless chicken throughout my time as a cook and I am constantly looking for ways to improve recipes and simplify the process of roasting in general but I have found the classic technique to be the best. This is a dinner I cooked a few nights ago for someone and here's that recipe, try it for yourself and see if it works as well for you!

1 3-4 lb. (approximately) chicken, quartered
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. oregano or marjoram
1/4 tsp. rosemary
2 tsp. fresh parsley, minced
3 cloves garlic
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Wash chicken and cut into quarters.

In a heavy skillet, add olive oil to a depth of 1/4 inch. Add whole cloves garlic and chopped onion.

Measure flour, salt and pepper into a zipper plastic bag. Shake 2 pieces of chicken at a time in the bag until well coated.

Brown the chicken evenly on both sides in the olive oil. There is no need to cook through. Transfer browned chicken and onion slices to a casserole dish or baking pan.

Combine herbs and chicken broth. Baste chicken with broth and a little olive oil, and continue to baste occasionally during the cooking.

Roast chicken for 50 minutes or until tender and juices run clear (depends upon weight of chicken). Breast temperature should be about 160°F. Read more!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Yes You Can! (A White House Victory Garden)

So as I always do I ran across this story about first lady Michelle Obama and her message to the nation about eating healthier and being conscious about why we are eating what we are eating and I thought I'd share it with you!

Rarely has a giant sweet potato, a muddy knee and a stubbornly rooted fennel plant caused such a stir. But when First Lady Michelle Obama led groups of District of Columbia fifth-graders Thursday afternoon in the fall harvesting of the White House Kitchen Garden, much oohing, giggling, cuteness and shutter-clicking ensued.

The students, White House kitchen staff and representatives from Miriam's Kitchen — which feeds the homeless and was the main beneficiary of the vegetable haul — gathered on the South Lawn around picnic tables draped in red-and-white checked tablecloths and topped with baskets of apples.

White House assistant chef Sam Kass divided the kids into groups of three. A trio of girls from Bancroft Elementary School were paired with the first lady, who initiated a contest to see which kids could dig up the largest sweet potato. Obama noted that she and her daughters already had harvested a particularly hefty one. "They're huge," she said, underscoring the size of the potatoes by holding her hands about 12 inches apart. "They're huge!"

The first lady — dressed in jeans, a purple cardigan and purple sneakers — and her team of students — dressed in yellow Bancroft T-shirts — produced a basket filled with impressive tubers, which she presented to the assembled photographers and reporters for documentation.

Obama noted that already 740 pounds of food have been harvested from the garden,
which cost less than $200 to plant.

For fall, in addition to the sweet potatoes, the children gathered wheelbarrows full of carrots, lettuce and enormous fennel plants, one of which required the full weight of the first lady and her team members to extract from the ground. "You're going to eat your vegetables, right?" Obama said in the way in which parents turn a question into a decree.

After all their hard work and before settling in for an afternoon snack of apples and cider, the young farmers gathered for a group photograph, proudly posing with their vegetables, the first lady and her one very muddy knee.

By Robin Givhan
The Washington Post Read more!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ahi Tuna with Lemon and Herb Pasta

OK so the same day I grabbed the Halibut that I wrote about in the previous post I picked a couple fillets of some wonderful tuna which i also love. I was kinda playing with the pasta dish and thought this would be wonderful for friends that were coming over for dinner. So I cooked these just a touch pass med rare with this wonderful lemon and herb pasta which I paired wth a wonderful Pinot Grigio and it paired wonderfully and all plates were clean, which is the kind of plating that really matters! Read more!

How about Halibut!

So as you guys know I love fish and I espcially love what I consider to be meaty fish like Escolar, Monk fish or Halibut. I got some this weekend because it was on sale at the local fish shop and decided to play with some flavors like vanilla, nutmeg,lemon and white wine and some chinese five spice. I think the flavors mesh well but I think I'll omitt the five spice in the final rub recipe i'm working on. I plated it with some simple parmesan mash potatoes and some wonderful mixed greens ( swiss Chard, baby spinich, beet greens)from my garden,which I wilted with some bacon and herbs, yup still getting some stuff out of the garden. I'll keep you posted on that rub recipe! Read more!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Back For More!!

Okay so I've been away for a while concentrating on work and school and the summer stuff like my gardens and home projects. I am happy to report that I will be back posting hopefully on a regular basis and with a whole new outlook on food and the Food of Love movement! I hope you all will join me again as I continue to share ideas , recipes and so on! I have missed you all greatly! Here's a picture of my new place in Saint Paul, Minneasota , I'm so excited with all the possibility it has. Read more!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Farmer's Market Weekend in St Paul

I'm so sorry I haven't talk to you guys in awhile , I've been really busy with the opening team of a new restaurant in St Paul, Minnesota as one of the chefs, but I'll tell you more about that in a different post. So last Saturday I had an opportunity to have a day to myself and I took full advantage of that and went to explore the local farmer's market in St Paul. It's a great market because everything there is truly local within a 50 mile radius of the Twin Cities. There was so much to see and smell and taste! I was only there for 15 minutes before i was making my first trip back to the car to drop off two full bags of spring onions, garlic shoots,new potatoes, bok choy, cilantro and on and on. It was truly a very pleasant experience and it was only my first trip to this particular market and I'll definitely keep going back throughout the season! Read more!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Now That's Just Right!

    So here's and article I came across on how to choose the perfect fruit for that next BBQ or brunch or whatever. I love fresh fruit meaning within 2 days of coming from the tree or the vine, I hope this will inspire you to be a little more choosy on your next trip to the store or better yet the farmer's market!


Buy in season. Fruit that comes out of season comes from farther away, and generally lacks the flavor of fruit in season.

  1. Use your senses to pick good fruit at the grocery store. The smell, touch and look of the fruit are all important in determining whether you get ripe, delicious fruit or sour, unripe or bland fruit.
  2. Search for the fruit you want until you have found it. The less popular fruits may not be in season which can mean that they will not be in the store at that time.
  3. Look for mold on the fruit. If you find any do not take it.
  4. Check if the color is what it's supposed to be. For example, don't take a green strawberry.
  5. Look for bruises and spots that indicate the fruit has been roughly handled and damaged.
  6. Smell the fruit. Some fruits have a "ripe" odor, like cantaloupe and honeydew melons. Some fruit may have a sour odor if they are beginning to spoil.
  7. Feel the fruit, but do so carefully. Firm fruits like apples and pears should feel firm, but peaches, plums, and other "soft" fleshed fruits should feel slightly soft. If you test it this way, do so carefully as not to damage the fruit.
  8. Select fruit that is in a bin or open storage box, not in bulk bags or boxes. The old saying, "One rotten apple will spoil the whole lot," is often true, and you will seldom find a large bag of fruit without at least some damaged fruit in it.
  9. Pick the fruit up. If it's heavy for its size, then you have successfully found yourself a good piece of fruit!

  1. Smell them. Do they smell like strawberries? Unripe or unflavored strawberries will not have a very strong scent. Ripe, sweet strawberries smell strongly of strawberry.
  2. Pick ones of the right color. Strawberries should be a deep red all over. If they are a light red or have some green or yellow on them, they are not ripe and they won't taste good.
  3. Taste them. If the grocer allows it, always taste a sample strawberry. This is the single best way to know if you are getting decent strawberries.
  4. Choose the right size. Although those giant strawberries look most luscious, it's the smaller berries which can pack the most flavor punch.
  5. Buy them during the right season. The best season for strawberries is spring and summer. Strawberries at any other time of the year will lack flavor. Strawberries do not ripen after they are picked.

  1. Look at the colors of the grapes and stems. The stems of the grapes should be beige to brown, and drying up. Green, full stems mean the grapes are not ripe and they will tend to be sour or tasteless. Also, look for a slight pale-yellow hue on green grapes, while red grapes should be deeply colored with no sign of green.
  2. Buy in the right season. Grapes are grown year round in different parts of the world. But, you should avoid the imported grapes from Chile during January-April. Eat U.S. grown grapes during the season of July-December.

  1. Smell them. Again, if you walk by a whole bin of peaches or nectarines and don't smell anything, they will be flavorless. A peach should smell like a peach.
  2. Feel them. Peaches should give slightly when you squeeze them. They should not be hard as a rock.
  3. Look. Peaches should be yellow with good amounts of red.
  4. Buy in season. Peaches are in season mid-May to mid-August. You can ripen peaches in a paper bag. According to the fruit devotees at Produce For Better Health Foundation, peaches emit ethylene gas during ripening. This natural ripening hormone speeds up the process of turning those hard-as-rock peaches into sweet-as-candy delights. By putting the peaches into a loosely closed paper bag, the ethylene gas surrounds the fruits, helping with the ripening process.

  1. Thump the watermelon and listen for a hollow sound. Scratch the skin with your thumbnail. Is the rind white just under the green skin? It's ripe.
  2. Observe the colors. Watermelon should be medium to dark green. Light green means it's not ripe. 
Read more!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Using Whole Spices is Like Way Better!

When ever possible I'd much rather use whole spices as opposed to the ground spices you'll find on any store shelf. I usually will go to a spice shop and purchase my choice of whole spices and then grind them or use a micro-plane ( a fine grater) as I need them. Spices have essential oils in them which give them the distinctive flavor that we are after. When they are ground and sit on store shelves for however long it is until you purchase them, they lose a great deal of those oils and along with them goes the flavor. When you use whole spices, those oils are trapped inside and very little is lost when you grind as you go. Another thing I like to do when I grind them is to put them in a little pan and heat them very slowly until you can smell them "Wake Up". This releases the oils even more giving you an even more flavorful spice. Another thing that will preserve your spices is storing them in a cool dry place away from sunlight. Sunlight is excess heat that can also damage those essential oils causing them to dry out faster than they normally would. I know a popular place to keep spices is in that little cabinet above the stove, but again heat is not a friend to spices unless it is the heat of them being cooked. If you think about these few tips when you purchase, store and cook with spices, you'll get the true essence of what using spices is all about! Cheers! Read more!

Monday, June 1, 2009

My Chefs (The People Who Taught Me Food)

So I wanted to show my appreciation, admiration and respect to the chefs I studied under and learned some tough lessons from but some great experiences as well.  First to all my Chefs at Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, Las Vegas and in London, there's way to many to name but I have to name one who taught me the value of patience and listening Chef Wendy Jordan, she studied under Chef Susan Spicer and Emeril Lagasse, she and her husband Michael own the renowned Rosemary's restaurant in Las Vegas, I was privilege enough to have her as a instructor in school. Chef Stephan Marshall, who gave me a externship at the Ritz Carlton while I was still in the middle of school even though that was not their policy to do so, I learned so much from working there about service and guest appreciation, I can't say enough about the experiences and skills I learned with The Ritz Carlton. Perhaps the toughest and in return the most rewarding cooking lessons I learn came from Chef Andre' Rochat and Chef Jacques Van Staden of Alize and Andre's French restaurants in Las Vegas. Chef Andre is a native of France and a life long student and teacher of classical French cuisines and with his Michelin starred restaurants he demanded perfection from his staff and I'm the better for it. Chef Jacques was the Chef de Cuisine for Chef Andre' and brought the same dedication and sense of responsibility to this great profession. I am dedicated to taking the lessons I have learned from these respected chefs and doing my part to continue the tradition of excellence in my life and food. I included their bios for you to take a peek at.

Wendy Jordan


Chef Jordan attended The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, where she not only earned an Associate of Occupational Science degree, but she also met her future husband, fellow chef and restaurant partner, Michael Jordan. After graduation, the two traveled to Europe to explore other cultures and cuisines, forever influencing their style of cooking. In Louisiana, Chef Jordan worked with the renowned chef Susan Spicer of Bayona, and later with another great chef of the region, John Neal of Peristyle, where she went on to assume the role of Executive Chef. The May 1999 Las Vegas opening of Rosemary’s Restaurant was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for owners Chef Wendy and Chef Michael; Rosemary’s has since won awards as well as mentions in many periodicals and television programs and is considered to be one of the finest culinary destinations in Las Vegas. After serving as Chef de Cuisine at Rosemary’s for 5 years, Chef Jordan joined the faculty of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Las Vegas and currently teaches Introduction to Culinary Skills I.

Stephen Marshall


Executive Chef Stephen Marshall oversees the food and beverage of each of the resort’s dining outlets including Medici Café & Terrace, Firenze Lobby Lounge, Galileo Bar and the resort’s pool restaurant and the numerous banquets for which he creates one-of-a-kind menu concepts. His cooking philosophy is to stay true to the seasonal ingredients and protect the integrity of the food by keeping the process simple and not masking the flavor. As a result, he creates dishes with a lighter, healthier approach that use less butter, more olive and infused oils and relies heavily upon the food’s natural flavors.
Marshall is a native of San Francisco. Prior to joining The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas, Marshall was the driving force behind the specialty cuisine created for two annual events at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua including “Celebration of the Arts,” for which he received international coverage on E! Entertainment Television and the annual Mercedes PGA Championship at Kapalua. He is also an alumnus chef for several sister properties including Cancun, Mexico; San Francisco, Laguna Niguel and Marina del Rey, Calif.

André Rochat


André Rochat is Las Vegas' original celebrity chef. Long before Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse and Charlie Palmer arrived in Las Vegas, Rochat was providing the kind of world-class cuisine and sophisticated service that easily satisfied the most discriminating high rollers. And today, although he shares the limelight with some of America's most celebrated toques, Rochat remains the dean of Las Vegas chefs, with three award-winning venues and a dedication to standards as high as the 56th floor perch of one of his grandest restaurants, Alizé, which overlooks the city from the top of the Palms Casino Resort.

Rochat, born in the French Alps, where his family owned a charcuterie in the village of La Rochette. After learning the business—beginning at the tender age of five—and inheriting the gift of cooking from his mother, he left home at 14 to apprentice at Leon de Lyon, the renowned Michelin two-star restaurant in the heart of Lyon, in the region known as the cradle of French gastronomy. Later, he took a job at the Hôtel du Mont-Blanc in Megève, not far from home, and followed that with a military assignment as chef to a French naval commander, a prestigious appointment for a rising culinary star.

In 1965 Rochat departed his native France, arriving in Boston with nothing but $5, a bagful of knives and a head full of youthful dreams. After cooking at several prestigious East Coast hotels including Boston's Charter House and Washington's Mayflower and enjoying a stint as an in-flight chef for United Airlines, he drifted west, eventually landing in Las Vegas—a long way from La Rochette. In 1973 he opened a successful business, Savoy French Bakery, after observing the absence of an authentic French boulangerie in Las Vegas.

In 1980, Rochat founded his cozy French restaurant, André's, which would eventually become one of Las Vegas' most venerable and acclaimed establishments. Despite its location in downtown Las Vegas, word quickly spread that André's, with the rustic ambiance of a French country auberge, was the place for an intimate gourmet dinner in the burgeoning metropolis, and the restaurant gradually expanded to its current capacity of 180. Since 1980, André's has set the standard for culinary excellence in Las Vegas, and even the much-publicized arrival of celebrity chefs from L.A., New York and San Francisco didn't' detract from the restaurant's superlative reputation and immense following. As put it, "Andre's is what people think of when someone says, 'take me to the nicest place in town'."

In 1997, Rochat opened a second location on the Strip, André's at the Monte Carlo, an exclusive 60-seat restaurant with the trappings of an elegant château. And then, in 2001, he opened Alizé on top of the Palms Casino Resort, the hip hotel that has profoundly altered the dynamics of Las Vegas nightlife. With his three highly acclaimed restaurants, Rochat remains at the top of the Las Vegas culinary hierarchy and seems to be a chef truly at peace with his choices in life. Described by his peers as having no ego—a rare quality in a successful chef—he is regarded as a superb mentor to younger talents.

Rochat, a passionate collector, maintains one of the most extensive and exclusive collections of Wine, Armagnacs, Cognacs, vintage Ports and spirits in the world, displayed throughout his three fine restaurants—yet another reason discriminating diners enjoy spending an evening with the legendary chef who put Las Vegas on the culinary map

Jacques Van Staden

Thirty-seven-year-old Jacques Van Staden was born in Pretoria, South Africa, where his passion for cooking was awakened while assisting his Italian grandmother in the kitchen at age seven. By the time he was eleven, he was cooking the family’s big Sunday meals and knew he wanted to be a chef. At 14, Van Staden was learning the craft at a local French restaurant while his father thought he was out playing rugby. After graduating high school, he sold his car to afford airfare to America, where being a chef was considered a more acceptable career goal. In 1990 he arrived in Washington, D.C. and took a job cooking at the South African Embassy while attending L’Academie de Cuisine in suburban Maryland.
Van Staden’s first job as a professionally trained chef was at the historic Occidental Grill, a power-dining venue just around the corner from the White House (Washingtonians refer to it as “the second most famous address on Pennsylvania Avenue”). Next he moved on to Jean-Louis, the restaurant of the late chef Jean-Louis Palladin, a rarefied venue in the famous Watergate Hotel, where he would quickly advance to Sous Chef under one of America’s most revered toques. Beyond serving as a mentor, the gregarious Palladin would become Van Staden’s greatest inspiration in the culinary world. He next worked as Executive Sous Chef under another master, when in 1995 Gray Kunz opened a Washington, D.C. branch of his renowned New York restaurant, Lespinasse. At this bastion of haute French cuisine, Van Staden continued to refine the classical techniques he developed at the Watergate.
In 1996, Van Staden was tapped by yet another one of D.C.’s most influential restaurants, Citronelle, where chef/owner Michel Richard, one of the leaders of the California-French movement, appointed him Executive Chef. This distinguished Georgetown restaurant offered the young chef an exciting opportunity to incorporate contemporary influences into traditional French cuisine. Yearning, however, to own his own restaurant, Van Staden opened a casual Mediterranean establishment called Café Olé, specializing in tapas, and subsequently returned to the Watergate as Executive Chef for the entire hotel, managing 250 employees and a $10 million food and beverage budget.
When the Aladdin Hotel lured him to Las Vegas in 2000 to work as Executive Chef at its high-end London Club, he was in a position to be noticed by André Rochat, who persuaded him to come work as Chef de Cuisine at Alizé at the Top of the Palms in 2003. That fateful decision to sell his car in Pretoria to buy airfare to America turned out to be a wise move for the youthful Van Staden, who has already been nominated for a “Rising Star Chef of the Year” award from the James Beard Foundation. Chef Jacques is now Executive Director of Food and Beverage Celebrity Cruise Lines.

Read more!

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