New Year Fresh Start

>> Thursday, December 31, 2009

My body is mad at me. I have been stuffing it with sugar, fat, junk and cheese. Cheese, cheese, cheese and cheese. Mmmmmm. I love cheese. I've been planning for a while to start the new year off with a gift for my cranky, abused body. I am going to do a riff on Gwyneth Paltrows GOOPY detox diet. The recipes are there if you're interested, if I adapt them, I will make a note here. I make no promises but I am planning to blog about my progress daily. I have done (bad) detoxes (master cleanse) before, and though I expect this diet to go much more smoothly since it's a lot healthier, I know that it helps to be able to vent and have some forced accountability so I am going to put it all out there and up here. I encourage anyone who feels inclined to join me and share your experiences and gripes.

I plan to start this whole dealy bob on Saturday Jan. 2. Why not start on Jan. 1? Because you HAVE to eat black eyed peas on New Years Day and detox friendly black eyed peas are not taste bud friendly. The more peas you eat, the better your luck so to ensure the best of luck I will be drenching my peas in yummy vinaigrette and mixing them up with shallots, corn, tomatoes, red peppers and jalapenos and eating them with CHIPS and CREAM CHEESE! Mmmmm. I can taste the luck already!

The gist of the detox is no gluten (obvy), no dairy or soy, no red meat, no alcohol or caffeine and limited salt and sugar. I am hoping that if I start being nice to my body with the diet, gym and yoga time and a massage, I can start the new year with energy, vitality and positivity that will propel me into 2010 and the new decade! LETS DO THIS!

Here is the plan for Day 1:

Wake Up - Glass of room temperature lemon water
AM - Herbal tea
Breakfast - Blueberry and Almond Smoothie
Mid AM - Coconut water
Lunch - Salad with Carrot and Ginger Dressing
PM Snack - A handful of mixed pumpkin and sunflower seeds
Dinner - Broccoli and Arugula Soup

*The inspiring pictures in this post were taken on my grandparent's property in Missouri this fall. Look at my little dog. She's the cutest.


Crispin Pears

>> Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sometimes my sous chef calls things by weird names. He likes to nickname pretty much everything and for the past few weeks he's been referring to Christmas as Crispin. Whatevs.

That name turns out to be perfect for a dessert I made last night. The dessert is literally: crisp... in... pears. It's ridiculously easy to make but the rich flavor of the pear makes it taste both homey and luxurious. Another bonus is that it doesn't dirty a million dishes and it's easy to make just one serving so you don't end up gorging on the extras or leftovers. We had it for dessert but it would also make a great breakfast or brunch treat for a cold weather day.

Serves 2 (easy to double or triple)

- 1 ripe Bartlett or Anjou pear peeled and sliced in half down the middle
- 1/4 cup gluten free oats
- 2 Tbsp chopped roasted pecans
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2-3 Tbsp brown sugar
- small pinch kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp warm water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together oats, pecans, butter, vanilla, sugar and salt and set aside.

Once your pears are peeled and cut in half, use a melon baller or strawberry huller to remove the seeds
and carve out a nice sized nook for your crisp ingredients to nestle in.

Cut a small disc of pear off the back of the pear so it can lie flat on your cookie sheet without wobbling. Set the pear halves on a cookie sheet with the hollowed out core areas facing up. Mix honey and warm water and stir to thin out the honey a bit. Brush this mixture liberally all over the pear with a pastry brush. Spoon crisp mixture into the hole in the pear and mound it up so you have a good amount of crisp in/on each pear half.

Bake for 25-35 minutes or until pear is turning just golden at the edges and the crisp is a nice, dark golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes then serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Adapted from Acquired Taste

PS After all my whining, I got a new camera! I used Crispin money to get myself a Canon Rebel XS. Now I just have to learn how to work the sucker! 


Asparagus and Prosciutto Frittata

>> Sunday, December 20, 2009

You may notice some disparity between the photo quality of this and previous posts compared to that beaut of an apple cranberry crisp recipe. This is because I borrowed a SUPER fancy (read: expensive) camera from a very nice (read: trusting) friend. Those of you who know how clumsy and accident prone I am know how much trust was involved in letting me babysit a camera worth more than my refrigerator and oven combined. I normally shoot the pictures on this blog with a decent point and shoot camera but the more I compare my blogs to others out there, the more I covet their beautiful, magazine worthy photo spreads. My kitchen is teensy and has zero natural light whatsoever. That is my excuse and disclaimer for the pictures of this recipe which don't quite stack up to the stunning, Pioneer Woman inspired pictures of my last creation.

Now that that's over with, on to the food! After determining that my kitchen was simply bereft without a sturdy, seasoned cast iron skillet, I went on the hunt for an affordable but durable one and found my match at Target for about $18. I scoured the internet for recipes that would make the best use of it and decided that a frittata would be just the ticket. I had been sitting on a gorgeous bunch of asparagus from a local farmers market and I knew that it would be perfect with the addition of some salty prosciutto and a nice nutty cheese. Here is what I came up with. It was delicious and seeing it slide right out of my new skillet was a real thrill; not quite as thrilling as putting the skillet away after just a swipe of a paper towel and NO WASHING! Gotta love that cast iron!

- 7 eggs
- 2 tbsp mascarpone cheese
- 1/2 clove or 1 small clove of garlic finely chopped
- 1/2 yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 lb asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1/4 cup sharp gouda cheese (I used Rembrandt) shredded
- 2 slices proscuitto cut into thin strips

Pre-heat oven to 300.

Heat canola oil in a 9"-12" cast iron skillet over medium heat and add onions.

When they start to soften add the asparagus and cook until bright green and just barely tender.

Add garlic and sautee 1-2 minutes more.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together mascarpone and eggs until thoroughly combined.

Pour egg mixture over the asparagus, onions and garlic. Sprinkle with a substantial pinch of salt and the gouda cheese then top with the strips of prosciutto.

Place the skillet in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes to brown the top. Remove, let cool for a couple of minutes then sprinkle with chives and more shredded gouda.

Slice and eat. Goes great with a simple green salad with balsamic vinaigrette!


Cranberry Apple Crisp (and a sappy story)

>> Wednesday, December 9, 2009

When I was a kid growing up on Caledonia Circle, I was lucky enough to have some excellent cooks in my midst. Sadly, being the picky little bugger that I was, I didn't appreciate most of the culinary talents of the grown-ups in my life until I moved to LA and started work on becoming one myself (a culinary talent, not a grown-up.) My block was home to Italian grandmas that treated me like one of the family and showered me with food and love, a Jewish family next door whose vegetarian feasts tended to clash with my uber-picky tendencies, another Italian family across the street whose patriarch kept me filled with homeade sweet bread, bean soup and PIES, PIES, PIES. Topping of the list of neighborhood folks who attempted to feed me were my long suffering parents.

My mom and dad figured out early on that there was no way I was eating that, thus they taught me how to make iceburg lettuce salads with ranch and buttered noodles with parmesan cheese and we all went on our merry ways; me avoiding most meats, greens, nuts and above all , the dreaded ONION and them enjoying the gastronomic delights of our culturally diverse neighborhood. There was one aquired taste that I enjoyed, even as a kid. I shared this prediliction mostly with my pet rabbits and my habit was fed by my neighbor, the Pie King (side note, he is now the organizer of our small town's annual pie contest!) I loved (and still love) apple peels. The Pie King would stop by our house when he was making a batch of pies and bring with him a big plastic bag full of curly tendrils made from granny smith apple peels that were ostensibly for our rabbits. I was always amazed at how long they were; he usually managed to get the entire apple disrobed in one piece. I would accept the bag of peels on the bunnies behalf and then eat the entire bag, sucking up each peel like a giant spaghetti noodle until my stomach hurt. Only then would any scraps be delivered to the hutches of Razz or Pepper or Honey (getting a theme here? We're food people.)

Last week I decided to use my leftover bag of Thanksgiving cranberries to make a gluten-free (of course!) cranberry apple crisp. This is the first time I have ever peeled an apple like the Pie King used to. I didn't manage to get an entire apple peeled without any breaks in the spiral but I the corckscrews I made and munched brought back a lot of warm memories.

This will be my first Christmas away from this family and I wish I could be there with them to show them that I've overcome my pickiness (mostly) and also to eat and cook with them and learn from their infinite culinary wisdom. This recipe is for them, especially my fellow gluten-free warrior!

Gluten Free CranApple Crisp:

- 5 crisp, tart apples (I used a combo of 1 honeycrisp,  2 arkansas black and 2 granny smith) cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 1 bag fresh cranberries (take out two cups to cook, leave the rest whole and uncooked)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 1 Tbsp sugar

- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Biscuit and Baking Mix
- 1 cup gluten free oats
- 1/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter
- pinch of sea salt

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees

Cook 2 cups of fresh cranberries in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar over medium heat until the berries have all popped and the mixture has slightly thickened. Set aside to cool.

Mix cooked cranberries with whole cranberries, vanilla, lemon juice and zest and sea salt.

Add apples and sugar and allow mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes so the juices and sugar mix.
Mix dry topping ingredients with a fork. Melt butter and add to maple syrup then add the liquid mixture to dry ingredients, still mixing with a fork.

Place fruit in baking dish and top with the topping ingredients, spreading the crisp mixture evenly across the top so that no large holes remain.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the juice begins to bubble up through the crust and the crust is browning at the edges.

Serve warm with ice cream. This is a tart treat that is perfect for chilly weather!


The Picky Gourmet Gets Schooled

>> Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hi ho, Picky Gourmet here (Kermit the frog style.) Those of you who know me in real life have surely heard (incessantly) about the fact that I enrolled in a professional series at a local cooking school. Those who don't know me in real life are hearing it now! In September I started a 20 week course outlining the basics of professional cooking in the traditional french style.  There are 12 students in the class, all of them sweet, smart and supportive and a teacher and a teacher's aide. The class meets once a week for about four hours and I LOVE it. It's given me new confidence in my cooking.

My teacher is a tough cookie but she has imparted so much knowledge and, even more importantly she has hammered home the concept that there are some rules to cooking but there really are no exact recipes (we're talking cooking here, not baking. Let's not go crazy), the trick to cooking is to make it taste good and if the recipe says 350 degrees for 40 minutes and it comes out burnt, cook it less or at a lower temp! If the recipe calls for an 1/8 tsp of salt and that doesn't bring out the flavor, add more! Breaking free from following a recipe to a tee, separated the cooks from the chefs. And I want to be a chef when I grow up! SO without further ado I would like to unveil my NEW blog (don't worry, this one isn't going anywhere.) If you'd like to glean some of the recipes and know-how I've absorbed in class, visit

I hope to see you there!


Inside-Out Potato Skins or: My Masterpiece

>> Monday, November 23, 2009

First, I should make note that my blog does seem to be a bit bacon-centric. I will not apologize for this as I know I am not alone in my love of bacon. Just this weekend I heard a bacon joke on SNL that reminded me that adoration of salty, savory pork is universal (kind of.) This brings me to today's recipe. I did not invent this treat from the heavens, it is the creation of chef Amy Jurist. I was lucky enough to attend a cooking demo at Surfa's where Chef Jurist demonstrated bacon recipes and this one really took the cake

Most bacon lovers enjoy a good potato skin but share the same complaint: why is the potato to bacon ratio so skimpy? This recipe answers the question with a question: what if the bacon was the potato and the potato the bacon?! We start with a bacon cup that mimics the potato skin, holding in all the gooey, cheesy goodness. Next we add crispy hashbrowns, sweet grilled onions, sharp gruyere cheese then top it off with the mandatory sour cream and the optional (they call me picky for a reason) chives. TA DA! This dish is a MAJOR crowd pleaser. I must have made 30 or more of them for my small party and they disappeared in mere seconds.

The bacon cups can be made a day or two in advance and since these get popped in the oven to melt the cheese at the last minute, you can really do most of these steps an hour or two before your party. I hope all my readers out there who discovered me through my candied bacon post will give this recipe a try, it is a bit more time consuming but 100% worth the effort.

- 1 Lb of regular (not thick cut) bacon
- 1 package Roschti Potatoes OR a 12 oz bag of frozen hash browns
- 1 Medium yellow onion, minced
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 lb Gruyere shredded
- 1 bunch chives or green onions minced
- salt and pepper
- 3-4 Tbs olive or Canola oil

Cut the bacon into 2" - 3" strips. Using three pieces per cup, place the bacon into muffin tin cups in order to make small cups. Be aware that bacon will shrink down but don't let bacon overlap the edge of the cup or it will stick.

Cook the bacon cups in the oven until they are firm. After 20 minutes check the cups and push the bacon back toward the bottom of the cup, unsticking any pieces that are stuck to the rim.  Careful not to let the bacon burn. Total cooking time is usually 30-35 min.

When cooked and slightly cooled, remove cups from the bacon tin and place them on paper towels so they can drain off fat and cool more. Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Store in muffin tins being careful not to break.

Fry up or crisp potatoes according to package directions and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large sautee pan over medium high heat, then add the onions and sautee until they are slightly caramelized about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 375.

Fill cups with a tsp of potatoes, a sprinkle of onion and a tsp of gruyere cheese. Bake the cups at 375 for 3-5 min to melt cheese.

Remove the cups from the tin with the aid of a trusty toothpick and place on a serving plate.

Put sour cream in a squeeze bottle and squirt on top or dollop with a spoon if you don't have a squeeze bottle. Sprinkle with fresh chives and serve to the drooling masses!


Chewy Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

>> Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gluten free cookies can be tricky. In general, gluten free baking is a horse of a different color; it takes some major adjustments and a whole lot of trial and error. Even if you follow the recipe to a T, you still don't always end up with something that tastes good and you rarely come out with something that a person who CAN eat gluten would enjoy. This recipe is different.

When I first cut out gluten, my mom sent me a link to a King Arthur Flour recipe that she had tried and loved and that happened to be gluten free (ironic, right?) I tried it and loved it too but it was really rich and I felt like it was missing something. I made the cookies again and this time I made an oreo style filling and turned them into sandwich cookies. They were SOOOO good but still a tad rich so for round three I whipped up a marshmallowy filling more like what's in a whoopie pie that was a little less sugary sweet. To. Die. For.

These cookies give you options. You can make the fudgy, chewy cookies and eat them on their own, or try one of my two filling options. You can add flavors like mint or peanut butter to the filling for totally different tastes. This recipe is practically foolproof and you don't need to go out and buy a mess of gluten free flours like you do for most g free baking. Try these and let me know what you think!

- 2 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp espresso powder
- 1 cup cocoa powder (Dutch Process preferred)
- 3 lg. egg whites
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow fluff
- 2 tsp vanilla extract or  1/2 vanilla bean

Filling - OREO STYLE
- 1/2 stick of butter, softened
- 1/4 cup shortening
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla OR 1/2 vanilla bean

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
Mix all cookie ingredients with a hand mixer (or a sexy pink Kitchenaid if you are lucky enough to have a sous chef who knows how to buy the perfect b-day present.)

Dollop in 1 tsp drops onto parchment lined cookie sheets.

Cook about 8 minutes until cookies spread and cracks start to form on top.
Let cookies cool. THIS IS IMPORTANT, if you try to take them off before they cool, they will break.

For filling, mix all ingredients with hand mixer. Put into a piping bag, if desired.

Flip one cookie upside down, pipe or spoon filling onto cookie and top with another cookie.


Feast minus wheat

>> Monday, October 26, 2009

A few weeks ago I hosted a gluten free canape and cocktail party to test some recipes and demonstrate some of the skills I'm picking up in cooking school. I was still cooking (frying, actually) throughout the night but I had a great time and my guests seemed to enjoy the spread. I don't think anyone would have noticed the lack of gluten had I not shouted from the rooftops that every last dish was GLUTEN FREE! Here is the menu from the magical evening:
Arancini with Spicy Marinara

Bacon Toffee
Otatop Sniks (inside-out potato skins)

Truffled Goat Cheese Deviled Eggs

 Mom Style Strawberries (strawberries with sour cream and brown sugar)

Hummus and Veggies
Mini Frozen Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecakes

Chocowich Cookies

I will post the recipes for each of these items in the next couple of weeks. My photos are not so hot for these recipes; there is only so much multi-tasking a girl can do!

If you're anxious to see any of these recipes ASAP, let me know. I'm planning to re-make most of these dishes so I can get better pics for you.