End of Summer…

Hello Again!  I realize that my last post was back in June.  Since then, summer was full of friends, family, volunteering, and I was revving up my blogging brain for new and exciting content.  I can scarcely believe that we are going back to school soon.  I am sitting at my desk today to catch up on life and get the calendar ready for fall and all that it includes.  I plan to eat well, do some design work, and well, enjoy life.  I am sad to see the summer go, but happy that a lot of busy-ness is past me. The fall will be full, but back to balance, which will include some reading, exercising, great food and music, and the usual fun friends, who are my extended family.

So, good-bye summer and hello “fall” (in Texas, fall is really a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but who’s watching).  Photo above is my dog, Harley, showing a very sad face, that beach time will be limited in the coming months.  See you back here soon with more posts on new fab restaurants with great food and design, and more surprises.

Au revoir, Summer!

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Kitchen essentials…

So many people who cook have their own opinions about what tools are invaluable in the kitchen. I don’t think it’s about gadgets, but really good quality basic pieces. I have found that living with less and learning to be creative with more is smart, practical, and resourceful. What works for one, may not work for another. Here’s what works for me:

Knives: 8” chef’s knife, serrated bread knife, a thin boning knife, 4-6 inch paring knife, good set serrated steak knives, washable kitchen scissors

Pots: I really don’t believe in non-stick. You can’t really use them at high temps as it will compromise the teflon finish. I think stainless steel (inside and out) is best. You need at least: 8” frying pan, 10-12” saute pan (with straight sides and a lid), small sauce pan, large sauce pan, dutch oven. Shop locally for what you want, what fits you best and is the right weight (if you can’t lift it, it’s not right for you). Buy the best you can afford. Shop online for the best prices as there are many suppliers out there.

Storage: Good set of stackable plastic, long-lasting containers that you can use in the dish washer, freezer, refrigerator, and microwave.

Cutting boards: have one that’s small and one that’s larger. Good to have one with a groove for catching juices. Must be able to put one in the dishwasher. I like a small plastic one, and a larger wooden one for carving meat.

Mixing bowls: 4 sizes, plastic or metal, from small to large, set of 4 Pyrex “pudding cups”

Utensils: wooden spoons (large and small), whisk, rolling pin, silicon spatulas, thin and flexible spatula, masher, grater, sieve, strainer, good sharp vegetable peeler, spreader, meat tenderizer/pounder, slotted spoon, garlic mincer, lemon reamer, ice cream scooper (the kind with a lever), sets of measuring spoons and cups, 2 and 4 cup Pyrex measuring cups, a roll of parchment paper, regular and heavy foil, good quality plastic wrap (don’t skimp on this), stainless steel scrubbies (they are effective on pots, gentile on china, and dishwasher friendly).

Salt and Pepper Grinders: It’s essential to have a pepper mill with an adjustable grinder. Also, you need a good salt grinder for sea salt. It’s also good to have a lidded pot of salt for measuring.

Appliances: small food processor (2-4 cups), strong blender with many speeds, hand mixer

Additional: 2 heavy-duty sheet pans with silicon mats, roasting pan, smaller baking pans, large cooling rack and smaller cooling rack (good for hot pots), silicon oven-mits. Grapefruit spoons are wonderful for scraping seeds and pulp from the inside of produce, adjunct refrigerator (if you’re lucky to have one).

I believe this list is fairly comprehensive. To my loyal readers, chime in and add anything to the list you see fit. Most items are multi-purpose. Be creative. You will find that you really need less than you expect, for a fully functional kitchen. I have thoughts on the edible pantry, which will come later, so stay tuned.

Image courtesy of Pinterest (from http://www.weheartit.com)

 

Hooked on Quinoa…

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It’s too hot to eat anything warm after a long day at work. With it so hot out, I have started to make salads that are easy to make, keep in the refrigerator, low in the bad stuff, high in the good stuff, and easy on the purse. Quinoa is an amazing grain (pronounce it “keen-wa”).

While it is considered a whole-grain, it is actually a seed. It takes very little time to cook (similar to rice). It’s very high in protein and amino-acids, as well as gluten-free. It will absorb any flavor you add to it and will keep several days in the refrigerator. To cook, use 1 part quinoa to 2 parts liquid. In 1/3 cup of this prepared wonder-grain there are 160 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein (no, really).

Here is a great recipe that I just made courtesy of the NY Times, via Martha Rose Shulman, who writes wonderful cook books on the Mediterranean diet.

Spicy Quinoa, Cucumber, and Tomato Salad

1 cup quinoa

3 cups water

salt to taste

2 cups diced cucumber

1 small red onion, finely minced

2 cups finely diced tomatoes

1 – 2 jalapeno peppers or to taste, finely chopped

½ cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon red wine or champagne vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 avocado sliced, for garnish

1. Bring the 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add salt (1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon) and the quinoa. Bring back to a boil, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and translucent; each grain should have a little thread. Drain off the water in the pan through a strainer, and return the quinoa to the pan. Cover the pan with a clean dish towel, replace the lid and allow to sit for 10 minutes. If making for the freezer, uncover and allow to cool, then place in plastic bags. Flatten the bags and seal.

2. Meanwhile, place the finely diced cucumber in a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Toss and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Rinse the cucumber with cold water, and drain on paper towels. If using the onion, place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes, then drain, rinse with cold water and drain on paper towels (this reduces the pungent onion flavor).

3. Combine the tomatoes, chiles, cilantro, vinegar, lime juice and olive oil in a bowl. Add the cucumber and onion, season to taste with salt, and add the quinoa and cilantro. Toss together, and taste and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with sliced avocado and cilantro sprigs.

Yield: Serves six.

Advance preparation: The quinoa freezes well, and the assembled salad will keep for a day in the refrigerator. The leftovers will be good for a couple of days.

Nutritional information per serving: 236 calories; 14 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 25 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams dietary fiber; 12 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during cooking); 6 grams protein

Martha Rose Shulman can be reached at martha-rose-shulman.com.

Kitchens for DecoFoodies…

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Can we talk? Kitchen design is a very intimate thing, if you’re a cook. Whether your budget is $100,000 or $10,000 for your remodel, DETAILS MATTER. You know your style, whether it’s sparse, slick and modern, or rustic with copper pots and baskets hanging from the ceiling, or somewhere in between. All us cooks know what we want in a kitchen (and dream about it). We obsess over details, like the location of the drain for the sink, the appearance of the front of the refrigerator, the distance from the stove to the sink, hardware, the style of the bar stools. All of these things matter (to us). To put the sink or stove on the island, big question. We discuss and draw and configure, lay out the pieces on graphs paper as if it’s a wardrobe. So, we DecoFoodies obsess over design details, but then also the practical applications of location of appliances and (OMG) storage space (or lack thereof).

So, as much as we obsess over the details of food and kitchen design, I’m here to tell you (without a 12-step program), that it’s ok. Keep dreaming of your kitchen, because one day you will pull the trigger and you will be so happy. No matter how much grief it causes you, it’s all still worth it, even if it does go out of budget and takes twice as long. Write me if I need to talk you off a ledge or encourage you to spend a little extra on the sink of your dreams.

Photo courtesy of Courtney Hill Interiors, Houston, Texas

Uptown Ribs with my special BBQ Sauce…

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Every Labor Day weekend, it’s become a tradition for me to make ribs (one of my dad’s favorites).  My version uses short ribs.  Meaty and gelatinous, they are knife and fork warm-weather food.  The day before, I braise them, low and slow, for about 4 hours, till they fall off the bone.  I remove the bones and transfer them to a canister, the juice separate, but reserved.  When ready to serve, you can leave the ribs whole, or pull them, adding the sauce, and use on buns or on flour tortillas for breakfast with eggs (oh baby).

I love tweaking recipes that I find.  I generally cook “freehand” (pinch of this and a handful of that).  I’ve been criticized for not being able to reproduce what I’ve made before.  I see the kitchen as a blank canvas.  Embrace the difference each time!  BUT, I managed to get down the perfect BBQ sauce recipe and everyone loves it.

While the ribs are braising, I make the BBQ sauce.  I know, I know, you’ve read a thousand recipes for sauce before, but this one is special, I assure you. It’s not too icky-sweet, and not too spicy, JUUUUST right.  You are hereby licensed to take liberties…(you just have to report back with your results = deal).

The day of the event, I remove the ribs from fridge and let them sit for a couple of hours, becoming room temp.  Once room temperature, I dip them in the sauce and reheat at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.  It’s chic and yummy. Serve with slaw and tater salad (is there any other way?).

Here goes:

Saute one large sweet onion, till caramelized and medium brown.  Set aside to cool.

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 cup ketchup

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce

3 big cloves garlic, minced

pinch of Cayenne pepper (or to taste or eliminate)

In a blender add the cooked and cooled onion.  Add all other ingredients. Blend well.  Refrigerate.  Make ahead; it will taste better the next day.

Photo courtesy of Tom Bohannon, one of my mates at Foodie.com. It just made my mouth water to see this.

The heart of DecoFoodie…

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I often wonder why it is that the home and food are so important to me. I think it’s that they both “feed” and nurture us (at least they do for me).

To me, design gives a house more than just a pretty picture to others. It should be a reflection of who the users are. I say users, because not all of us own our places of living. I love to travel, but I love to be home, in my bathrobe, at peace. I feel secure and comfortable where I am. There’s no view or spectacular landscape. My place feels and smells like me. It’s familiar and a respite for me when life is icky. It’s a wonderful space to entertain a few friends. I am flattered when someone feels comfortable enough to take their shoes off and put their feet on the coffee table, or plump the pillows on the sofa to fit their own bodies, as if they are in their own home. I think we all like a sense of place and belonging.

Food nurtures our souls and hearts, not just our bodies. Granted, some take it to extremes, but the passion and effort many make to eat well for health and enjoyment is amazing. On the average we spend 13% of our income and 10% of our time eating and drinking. That’s quite a lot of effort made to fuel ourselves. Of course, I certainly eat to thrive, but I also love to cook and dine. For me, it’s part of the art of life and enjoyment of living. The process of cooking, taking something and turning it into art and sustainment is so fulfilling.

They say we “eat with our eyes first”. A lovely place to eat where you feel comfortable, eating good things, and in the company of loved ones, surely must be one of the best things we can enjoy.

Mangia!

Photo courtesy of Outstanding in the Field, which, if you haven’t enjoyed one of their events, well, you just haven’t lived. Learn more HERE.

Pinterest

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I have fallen (become obsessed, really) with Pinterest.  If you don’t know what it is, it’s another social media site, which enables you to share photos that interest you.  Since we are all visual here, you will appreciate it’s ability to stimulate the ocular senses.  Nearly anything you want to see is displayed, so don’t by shy about what you search for.  You can also share your own images with the world by uploading them to the site.  Share your joy and follow “friends” through other social media sites you might be engaged in.  There are smart phone and tablet apps available, so you can carry your new-found addiction to Pinterest anywhere.

You can check it out HERE.  You can “follow me”  and “repin” what I post: decofoodie

Happy Pinning!

P.S. Please don’t hate me because this is wonderful…  Lines at the grocery store were never so fun!