Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Featured Blog of the Week

Katie at Good Things Catered

Candace choose Katies blog because I love her cooking style as it’s very health conscious and she uses fresh ingredients. She and I have a lot in common with our personal preferences when it comes to food. We have the same straightforward views on Hummus, and Katie also taught me how to make real Lebanese Tabbouleh… for that I will be ever grateful!

Please check out Katies blog and check back on Wednesday for a question and answer with the chef herself.

Q & A Candace

When did you start cooking?

I really started cooking when I was in college. My mother is not much of a cook... She does make one seriously fabulous egg roll, but she never baked birthday cakes or honestly baked anything when I was growing up. When I moved out on my own, I really cultivated my love of cooking and developed my palate. That is what led me to Culinary School.

Who inspires you?

Since I didn't come from a family that cooked, I have no idea where I got my love of cooking and eating. So my inspiration has come from chefs in the limelight. I love Anthony Bourdain, as he is willing to try anything. I'd like to think I would try anything, but Bourdain is definitely more daring than myself when it comes to food!

If you could have lessons from one chef, who would it be?

Hands down, Thomas Keller. He is the Dan Marino, nay… the Michael Jordan of the fine dining world. I've made several of his recipes, and they are so delicate and amazing... just fantastic. He has this knack for taking the most basic ingredients and transforming it into edible art. We're planning a trip to the west coast next year and if I have any say, the timing will be dependent on getting rezzies at his restaurant French Laundry. My (very close) 2nd runner up would be Charlie Trotter.

Favorite thing to cook/bake? Etc

Pastries. The fancier, the better. I also love to make breads... there is just nothing like a fresh loaf of bread, right from the oven. I enjoy cooking in general, but my food passion definitely lies in baking. Unfortunately, breads and pastries are so fattening, I try to limit what I bake. When I do bake something, I do either half or a quarter of the recipe.

Whats one fear you have in the kitchen?

Cutting myself. I was in my 2nd quarter of culinary school and cut the very tip of my finger off. It was in a particular class in which the chef instructor was adamant about no cursing in the classroom. I ran up to him and screamed... I cut the $h%#@ out of my finger. LOL! Needless to say, he wasn’t upset that I cursed in front of him. It was the most painful thing I'd ever imagined. It made me seriously doubt whether I had a high enough pain threshold to have children one day! :)

Whats one fear you had in the kitchen but have overcame?

Broiling fish... I learned how to broil in a professional kitchen, under a salamander. It gets very hot, and broils extremely quickly. You basically broil for just a minute or two. Usually, you would cook 80% in an oven, and then just brown under the broiler. When I tried broiling fish at home, it was different. Sometimes the fish was raw inside, and beautifully browned outside. Other times my fish would be rubbery and have no browning. One time… I’m embarrassed to admit, I actually had flames shooting out of my oven! Apparently that was just a smidgen to long. After that episode, I avoided broiling for years. I've recently started experimenting again, and am proud to say I have mastered it. Now I prefer broiling my fish over any other cooking method.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Featured Blog of the Week

Candace at i shot the chef

Shawnda choose Candaces blog because "I Shot The Chef" is food art at some of its very best. Each dish is beautifully cooked, styled, and photographed. Everything about Candace's blog says, "fresh," which is why her blog has permanently claimed a position on my favorites list.

Please check out Candaces blog and check back on Wednesday for a question and answer with the chef herself.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Question and Answer with Shawnda

When did you start cooking?

I started cooking in my early teens out of necessity. My mom went back to college to finish her degree and my dad... well, my dad's abilities in the kitchen really shine through at the holidays, but his everyday stuff - not so much. We could only tolerate beans & weenies or Spaghetti O's for so long :) As for baking, I grew up covered in three kinds of flour. Working at my parents' bakery was a great way to earn gas money and to use the car, even if it was only to drive a short ways to pick up a 50lb bag of pastry flour. Getting up on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 4:30, that part I could have done without.

Who inspires you?

Grams. To experience my grandmother baking at Christmas is such a treat. I affectionately refer to her as "The OM," (The Original Martha). She seemingly glides around the kitchen, effortlessly tending to no less than 3 batches of Christmas candy at once. She makes the "controlled chaos" look so easy. She peeks at the gingerbread baking in the oven, scoots a errant great-grandchild out of the kitchen, stirs the mixture for fuzzy fingers (her family-famous cookie), and tells a story about my great-grandparents or growing up on the farm with 10 siblings. All while making peanut butter patties.

When I have three dishes going at once, the chaos is slightly less controlled: timers going off, pots boiling over, and food-covered spoons splattering on the floor. All while unknowingly sporting a big ol' smear of cocoa across half of my face.

If you could have lessons from one chef, who would it be?

Rebecca Rather, aka "The Pastry Queen." She spent her pastry chef years in my hometown of Houston before she eventually ditched the big city to open a bakery-cafe in small-town Texas. I am absolutely smitten with her no-fuss Americana approach to cooking and baking - fresh ingredients prepared simply with no-fuss recipes. Plus, I can't think of anything that sounds better than ditching the big city and opening a small bakery and cafe in a sleepy little town in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.
Favorite thing to cook/bake? Etc

I love to bake bread. Sweet, savory, quick, or uber-involved - the yeastier, the better. There's something about the notion of baking homemade bread that makes me feel incredibly domestic and old-fashioned (you know, as I sit at the kitchen island with a glass of wine surfing the Internet on my Mac while the dough is kneading away in my KitchenAid mixer).

Whats one fear you have in the kitchen?

Undercooked meat. I've sent many a slab of meat to a rubbery, over-cooked grave because I'm terrified of serving under-cooked meat. Our new oven has a temperature probe on it and I'm finding that it's incredibly therapeutic to use.

Whats one fear you had in the kitchen but have overcame?

It's embarrassing - mousse. I don't think I was really that educated on what mousse really was or how incredibly simple it was to make. I ignored it for years. I whipped up (literally) my first batch this year - a dark chocolate mousse spiked with a little Chambord. Airy, light, and fabulously easy.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Featured Blog of The Week

Shawnda (duchess281) of Confections of a Foodie Bride

Elly choose Shawnda's blog because she loves the variety in it. She has some fantastic looking appetizers, main courses desserts...pretty much anything you want, you will find. Her pictures are fantastic and I really enjoy her writing style. She tells great stories before moving onto the food--and I think sharing the stories and other things associated with the food is just as important as sharing the cooking itself!

Check out Shawnda's Blog!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Question and Answer with Elly

When did you start cooking?

I started cooking around the age of 10. Acouple nights a week, my mom would be working late and I would often be on my own for dinner. I would start making recipes from the sides of pasta boxes (like macaroni bakes) and experiment with things like that. I lived a block away from the grocery store so I could always pick up extra ingredients. I got a lot more daring and interested in cooking when I was in college, though.

Who inspires you?

I am the stereotypical Greek. My whole family is involved in the restaurant biz! They all inspire me to some extent. I would say my grandpa is my biggest inspiration. He came here from Greece and built a great, sucessful restaurant...with the best beef stew made every Monday :)

If you could have lessons from one chef, who would it be?

Probably Anthony Bourdain. I absolutely love him, and he is a trained chef who has traveled the world experiencing new foods and cooking techniques.

Favorite thing to cook/bake?

My favorite thing to cook is probably soup. There are a million different combinations you can make and there are few things more gratifying and comforting than homemade soup. I don't bake all that often but I think muffins would be my favorite thing to bake.

Whats one fear you have in the kitchen?

Yeast! I definitely plan on making my first bread this fall/winter though! Whats one fear you had in the kitchen but have overcame? Hmm, egg tempering. Sounds so silly but when I first started tempering eggs to make things like avgolemono (lemon rice) soup, I would end up with soup and scrambled eggs. :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

WC Featured Blog of the Week

Ally choose Elly of Elly Says Opa! For “Blog of the Week” for a few reasons. First of all, she frequently updates with mouth-watering recipes that I have often put on my “to try” list. Her presentations are eye catching and beautifully put together. The variety of her recipes on her blog also motivated me in my decision. Her posts not only include diverse cooking techniques, but the range of ethnic creations, and regional dishes are intriguing. The sides and delectable desserts are a bonus when one is looking for recipe ideas. Lastly, Elly has participated in a few blogging events, which I have been meaning to do, but I am to sluggish to attempt. I check her blog frequently, and have got numerous ideas for recipes of my own. So for her outstanding blogging effort along with her skill in the kitchen, Elly is more than worthy for blog of the week!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Question and Answer with Ally

When did you start cooking? I started cooking when I was about 5-6. I used to make little sandwiches for the attendees of my tea parties especially my special guests (my brothers). I loved to be in the kitchen to cook with my mother whenever she would allow me to join in. When I was 10 my mother took night classes, and that is where I learned many techniques and recipes by trial and error.

Who inspires you? My mother, father, and grandfather (Jiddy) are my cooking inspirations. Growing up, my mother's lasagna was famous in the neighborhood. She was always freezing portions of it and giving it away to our neighbors. My father and my grandfather have brought an ethnic influence and a grilling expertise into my life.

If you could have lessons from one chef, who would it be? I grew up in New Orleans, and I love the food. With his experience and knowledge of many types of cuisine, I would choose Emeril.

Favorite thing to cook/bake? I love to cook/bake it all. However, I do not eat many baked goods. I just don't have a sweet tooth. When I do bake, I give the goodies away.
I will say that the one thing my friends and family request over and over are empanadas. I really love making them because they are so versatile. With the right fillings, they can please anyone!

Whats one fear you have in the kitchen? Over cooking a prime cut of meat, what a waste!

Whats one fear you had in the kitchen but have overcame? Making a gumbo roux. It took lots of practice and a whole lot of patience.

Monday, October 8, 2007

WC Featured Blog of the Week

Ally of Culinary Infatuation

Chelley chose Ally because of the wide array of foods that are represented in the blog. I love being able to find breakfast foods, casual dinners, baked goods, ethnic food, and much more all in once place. The pictures are great and the instructions are a huge help!

Check out Allys blog, browse through all her wonderful recipes and leave a few comments if you have time.