Thursday, December 29, 2011

Recipe Book vs Lifestyle Blog

I have received numerous complaints about the fact that I don't give measurements for my dishes. The reason is simple, I am not Betty Crocker.

My goal is for men to get the idea out of their heads that cooking is anything less than manly. Men learn skills best by getting their hands dirty, doing things, not reading the instructions. I want all who read this blog to stop asking, and start doing.

One of the most recent complaints I received was about my gluten free fish and chips
"But how much almond meal do I use?"

Enough to cover the fish, I replied. 

What if I had said how much I used and then their filet was bigger? They wouldn't have had enough to cover the fish and the meal would not have been that great. What if they wanted to recreate fried chicken, would the same amount of almond meal be needed? More? Less?

How many bacon bits do you put in your salad? How many cups of oil do you use to make french fries? How much should a hamburger patty weigh?

Would you tell this woman to wear that bikini?

We know about coverage in areas of our lives with which we are familiar. We all need to get more familiar with different methods, different types of foods. 

Line up a bunch of almonds next to the filet. Make a rectangle slightly larger than the filet. That's how many almonds you should use.

I had to face the harsh realization that I cannot provide a blog post everyday. Thus I cannot give you a point-a to point-b travel guide to even one meal per day. As the saying goes: "Give a man a fish and chips, he'll have fish and chips for a day. Encourage a man to figure out how to bread his own fish, he'll either succeed, or not."

But seriously, if I give you an example of something intricate, like Filet Mignon, scallops, or crème brûlée, I'll be a lot more intricate with my directions. Because broken custard, rubbery shellfish, and overpriced crispy meat are scary. Having to throw away a little almond meal is not.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What you know: Pass/Fail

There are certain pursuits in life that are more suited to a pass/fail approach. These include, but are not limited to: High School Physical Education, The State Bar Exam, the Fosbury Flop, and (BikeSnobNYC taught me this) Bicycle Racing. Let's add cooking for love (of friends, money, and of course, lovers).

No one who cooks at home has a perfect record. There will be at least one dish with at least one thing for someone to find wrong with it. If you cook enough to actually get some attention, some of that attention will have to be negative. But being great isn't about being perfect.

Look at Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox. He had more plating experience than you, in a way. But the best average he could hit was 0.406. Less than 50%, we call that a FAIL in academia. But he was one of the greatest.

Just realize that, in this craft, you ar dealing with a lot of factors: personal taste, emotion (yes, food has A LOT to do with emotion, especially for women, and that's why you're doing this, I digress), seasonings in season, vegetables in season, outside temperature, how much attention you can actually afford to pay to this dish, and the list goes on. Sometimes, you're just off your game. But a man who cooks is a man who cooks. If you are a man who puts barbecue sauce on burned steak, you are not a cook.

Basically, anything above that is what you're shooting for. And remember to focus on your strengths. Babe Ruth hit it out of the park, but that's because he couldn't run. If you can't nail the souffle, dominate the quiche.

Whatever your game, just keep bringing it to the plate.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What You Know: Shopping

You may have heard this tip for saving money: only shop the perimeter of the grocery store.

It will save most people money, but that's not why I do it. That's a symptom. Staying on the perimeter keeps you creative. You get the building materials for beautiful meals. You get opportunities to showcase your skills, your tastes, your personality. Go into the aisles and you'll see flash frozen chicken,  potato chips, crackers. What if you didn't have to think and you could mindlessly munch on crunchy salty snacks from a bag? Perish the thought.

Don't fall for it. You can get all the stuff in the middle delivered to you. Online stores specialize in it. It will save you time. Spend your time getting real ingredients and putting it together in a creative way.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekend Fuel: Builder's Breakfast

Sometimes, you wake up and need real food quickly. That's when I make this:

It's not really a builder's breakfast, but I call it that because it has some substance and it's more than just two eggs over easy with toast and jam. This meal will give you energy and you can do it in one covered pan.

I slice the sweet potatoes first, usually two small, and throw them into a pan on medium-high heat with a little olive oil. The sweet potatoes take the longest to cook, and they need to absorb the olive oil first. One medium to large onion go in next, and they need very little residual oil from the potatoes to release their juices. After stirring around, cover the pan and turn the heat down. When the sweet potatoes are soft (usually after a few minutes, you can figure out how soft you want them) move the onion sweet potato mixture to one side and carefully place two eggs in the vacant space. Cover the pan and turn off the heat.

After another couple minutes, you will be able to scoop your breakfast onto a plate, into a bowl, a to go container, a tiffin box, whatever you want. It's extremely versatile and portable. It's also a great dish for camping.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Deconstructed Classics: Bacon Salad

If you think you are going to take it easy and just throw a salad together, just quit. Go call Papa John's right now and go sit on your couch til it comes.

Salads are an art, just like any other food. Don't write them off as a waste of time just because the salad dressing commercials are so corny and pastel. If you think they are girl food, you are absolutely right. So learn to make them well and you'll attract more.

First of all, salad is eaten with a fork. So make sure the items can be eaten with a fork. Cut the lettuce into small, even shaped pieces. Make all the other pieces the same size. Have you ever seen a woman eat a salad? They meticulously stack each piece on the fork. First a piece of lettuce, then tomato, then cucumber, then they dip in the dressing. They treat it as art, so you should too.

In this case, I kept the bacon whole. Sometimes women do want to rip into a piece of meat, even when eating a salad.

The number of ingredients and color is what makes a salad. I used peaches, tomato, guacamole and bacon. As you can see, it gave it a nice range.

Salads are as boring as you make them. If you hate salad, you probably rely too much on other people to make you happy. Take control, make the salad awesome.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What you know: Choices

Choices are important to people. People fight for choices, they protest and reason and bribe to get a choice. The more a particular society is used to having a choice, the bloodier it is when the power of choice is taken away. The choices you make with your food are a gift.It is also nice to be able to give the gift choice when it comes to food. That's why it's so widely appreciated when someone packs your lunch for you based on things you like.

I have the privilege of having a guest blogger sharing her two cents. Seveerr is a muralist, a craftswoman, an equine afficianado and some other stuff. She is married to me as well. This is something she wanted to share with us all:

It occurred to me on this particular Monday that I had all my lunch,except for one thing- salad dressing. I try to avoid the Cafeteria at work for two reasons- the staff are slower than molasses,and temptation. So I sauntered down to the Cafeteria in order to score a few swigs of salad dressing,once there I realized that the entire soup and salad bar had been replaced by a multitude of pre-packaged donuts in all shapes sizes and flavors- but ALL donuts. Is this what we have to look forward too? Donuts for lunch? I was mortified. Not only was my salad dryer than dirt,but I will never forget my dressing EVER again. Eating healthy requires that YOU NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT ALL OF YOUR FOOD- or do without,because the alternative is DONUTS-and that's NOT good.

I like donuts, but she makes a point. It's a lot like being on open water, adrift. Something so simple, slightly out of reach. It can make even the most savvy traveler go nuts.When you pack lunch for the one you love, you are packing their survival pack. Pack it with care.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weekend Fuel: Waffles

It's good to get to the point when you can make breakfast pastries without measuring. Pancakes and waffles are a mix of flour, eggs, fat, and sweet with a little salt and leaven. In my case this weekend, I was showcasing my gluten free waffles. It wasn't because I was entertaining people with gluten intolerance, I just wanted to show that there were alternative ways to make common breakfast foods to fit your lifestyle.

As I have said before, my wife is gluten free or wheat free for this phase of her eating plan. We went through this a while back too when she was put a completely allergy free diet, and I wanted it to still be enjoyable. If you have to cook without gluten, dairy, nuts and soy, these waffles are a winner.

I had played with rice flour, and I like it for a lot of things. But for items that are supposed to be fluffy and light and bind together, rice flour wasn't cutting it. The bread either crumbles apart or is hard as a rock. That's fine for some things, but unacceptable for waffles. So I used Tapioca flour. I heard it bound well and gave the bread some elasticity.

In the past, I have used a little coconut flour too. It helps make the waffle a little more firm. But my wife is allergic to coconut. Or so she says.

This is

4 parts tapioca flour
1 part rice milk
1 banana
1 tbsp agave nectar*
1/2 tsp aluminum free baking powder*
pinch salt (Iodized)*

*for every cup of flour

In the mixing bowl, add the rice milk and crush the banana into it. Then add agave nectar. Stir it really well.

In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredient while pouring in the flour mixture. Stop when you get to milkshake consistency. Since tapioca flour is so fine, the weather and altitude may affect your consistency. If the batter is too runny, add more flour. Too thick, like peanut butter, add more rice milk.

When you use this in a Belgian waffle maker, you'll see it rise and separate a little. Also, it will be a little chewy. Overall, it's pretty good and not hard like a rock. Our host took this first one from me and immediately started eating it. They are very appealing in appearance.

Be careful when making this for picky eaters, but girls usually like them. Especially girls from the Bay area, Southern California, and probably any metropolitan area where gluten is considered evil. Isn't it awesome when your real dietary needs become a fad?

The runt of the batter
I always get a runt, but this one is the prettiest

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Keeping it Simple: Blueberry Cobbler a la Mode

I wanted a doughnut. Saying that for me is like saying "I woke up this morning." I love doughnuts. Fast metabolisms and cravings for sweets runs in my family.

Doughnuts every day will hurt me, so I made myself a cobbler. You can make this with almost anything, as long as you have some fruit and oatmeal. I had peaches and I could have the used those, but I chose frozen blueberries.

The most important thing about cobbler is to make the filling bubble through the top. This is especially true in a crumble. There is no excuse if you don't get it to bubble through.

I started with a ramekin, such you can substitute any shallow dish like a short coffee cup or ceramic plate, and put in some blueberries, a splash of red wine, and a little water. Microwave for 30 and drink most of the liquid (or pour it out, I was alone).

In a soup cup, I mixed equal parts Irish butter and rolled oats with a dash of cinnamon. Put a little agave nectar in the blueberry mixture and top with the oat mixture.

Toaster oven til bubbly, and you are good to go. I only had cappuccino gelatin, so I made some almond banana soft serve to go on top.

You don't need to impress someone every time you cook. It is good to get used to cooking on the fly.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Deconstructed Classics: Fish and Chips

The smell inside of a good pub is as intoxicating as the unique drafts they serve. The aromas of beer and batter and bread and sticky toffee pudding, they put you in a mood. It's a force so powerful, strong men will break into song, tell stories they perhaps shouldn't, maybe even cry. You can recreate the experience with you lass without giant vats of oil and kegs of ale.

You don't have to be on a micro-nutrient diet to appreciate that the breading and oil on some breaded fried fish has more calories than the fish itself. For a non-pub night dinner, that's a little much. So if you're cutting to show your six pack, you are on a low carb diet, or if your little lady shys away from food that may eventually make her look like that guy Angus behind the bar, this is a good option:

This is tilapia sprayed with olive oil spray (you can brush, but the volume is better with spray), rolled in almond meal (which I made by grinding almonds in my Magic Bullet) and baked. The sweet potato fries are the same as for the deconstructed burger. I served it with some yogurt slaw (red cabbage with yogurt dressing) and my wife said it tasted just like real fish and chips and that the slaw tasted authentic.

I agree, and you can have a glass of wine with it, or you can go with beer. I suppose you can try a light or low carb beer. I tried that Michelob Ultra and it was decent. But Guinness is good for you (they don't say that anymore, and maybe I shouldn't either) and it tastes better.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Personal Care - What you eat

Finding love has a lot to do with what you eat. You are what you eat, so do you want to be totally fake? Do you want to be full of fillers, maybe looking passable on the surface but most likely, worth nothing to anyone who takes you in? You know that feeling you get after having something too processed, too sugary, or too toxic? You don't want anyone to feel like that about you. Not your friends, not anyone you want to love.

So eat well and eat balanced. Know yourself and find out how you thrive. No one thrives on candy bars alone, so cut it out.

This is what I like to eat:

Breakfast: Greek yogurt with blueberries, walnuts and honey

Morning Snack: Apples with peanut butter and Nutella

Pre lunch snack: melon wrapped with prosciutto, Italian dry salami on the side.

Lunch: Cuban black bean, spinach, salsa sandwich on lavash

Afternoon snack: Cottage cheese with peach, spiced toffee almonds, and walnuts.

I also go to the gym every other day and squat, deadlift, row, press, overhead press, curl, extend, and crunch. I would have a hard time keeping weight on me. Others have a problem keeping weight off, and I envy you. I just happen to prefer good food, and it's hard to keep good food prepared for every single meal, every single day. I would rather not eat than eat something absolutely terrible for me (except doughnuts, I reeeaally like doughnuts). So eating less is natural for me. No matter what your life goal is, it will take effort to get there.

If you have to eat less, make sure every meal is awesome. If you have to eat more, make sure every meal is awesome. Embrace a natural love for food.

What You Know - Plating

You take your lady to a nice restaurant and they bring out the food. It looks awesome! All the things the menu said it was going to be and more. It said grilled rib-eye, but this looks like a gift. It's so neatly wrapped in grill marks, and inside, the meat has been coaxed to a cook state, very carefully so the juice wouldn't run away. The vegetables to the side have definitely seen some attention, but they still retain their personality. They crunch and snap like they should, stationed on the plate, ready to perform. And the mashed potatoes? Did they get a Tahitian dancer to whip them by hand? Doesn't matter, this dish has impressed before you even took a bite.

This is what you must shoot for when cooking for love. No matter how good the food tastes, you can make it look like garbage (or worse, leftovers) even though you took all that time to prepare. Like any good finish, your dish should be finished strong.

That's where plating comes in. This is more than piling food on a plate like a Biggest Loser contestant at a buffet. You need to break the foods down to their elements:

The Foundation

The Assistant

The Showpiece

It's like having a trophy, you have to put it on a base or pedestal. It may be a good idea to put it in front of a poster showcasing the victory.

This dish is an example:

The rice is my foundation, the vegetables (yellow squash, yellow bell pepper, yellow onion) are the accompaniment to the main attraction, the seared Ahi. Dipping sauce is on the side, a simple soy agave sauce.

This is just dinner. It's not a special occasion. But every offering should be special. The entire dish took 15 minutes, 45 seconds of that was arranging things nicely on the plate. If you have the principle in mind, you'll know how to plate.

You'll know that barbecue ribs can drape over garlic mashed potatoes next with grilled zucchini and eggplant to the side. You'll know what you want to showcase and how the other parts of the dish support it.

And she'll know you care.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Weekend Fuel - Peaches, Out of Context

The other night, I spent a little time setting up lunch items for my wife. I send similar things everyday so I have time and energy for the extraordinary things I come up with.

Usually, she has two kinds of salad, some dried fruits, nuts and nut butters, Ezekiel 4:9 Bread, and fresh cut fruit. I received a text from her regarding the fruit I just sent. It was shocking to me because I feel my mistake would be with a fritatta or seafood, they being dishes that require timing and specific temperatures with math involved for reheating. But that wasn't the problem.

"Peaches taste like onions."

And that's it. I sent ahi poke as well, but the peaches were a problem. I apologized and suggested maybe she skip those and have one of the other breakfast items I sent.

"I just think that if you're going to post this, the peaches shouldn't taste like onions."

First of all, no one would know. If I tell you to cut peaches and give them to a woman, they probably won't taste like onions and the woman in question will appreciate it more than an untouched piece of fruit. If you take one piece of advice from me and no more, take this: women will appreciate, and often reward, effort.

Secondly, my wife made a mistake and realized she was eating week old fruit. The fresh stuff tasted much more like peaches (plus mangoes!).

Lastly, I felt I should give peaches and onions a good name. They have been served together with pork tenderloin, so I thought of bacon, then I planned breakfast.

This is grilled peaches with toasted almonds and grilled onions. I put a little agave nectar in there, very little. I served it next to a fried egg and natural bacon. My wife thought it was hilarious. Then she tasted it and said it was delicious.

I appreciate hearing ridiculous flavor combinations that I can make work. Best of all, I would have never posted cut peaches. I found a really good reason to do so, and the resulting dish will make you feel like you are having brunch at a beach resort. Maybe better, 'cause I have had some disappointing brunch food in some pretty hoity toity establishments.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Simplicity: On the Go

There are so many meals in a day. Sometimes a few meals need to be on the go. But that doesn't mean they have to kill you (see: fast food).

Many people will skip breakfast if they can't take it to go. That's why frozen bananas and protein powder are so valuable. When I make this shake containing rice milk, frozen banana, frozen blueberries, and protein powder, my wife thinks she's getting a real milkshake. The best part is, it actually makes her day. More energy, more taste, less "ooooh, I really shouldn't have had that milkshake" feeling.

Once again, I don't write recipes, I encourage technique. Tweak the amounts on those ingredients and find the consistency that works.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mimic Takeout: Beef Stir Fry

You can be sure when you see the sign "No MSG" that there are people in the kitchen that still know more about what goes in the food than you do. That's all fine and good, but sometimes it's nice to be able to make your favorite take out dishes yourself.

Maybe you like chicken chow mein, but you would like more chicken. Maybe your kung pao comes out too hot. Whatever the reason, it is possible to recreate the tastes and nuances of takeout food.

This is the beef stir fry I make.

It isn't greasy, but the extra virgin olive oil I add after cooking gives the buckwheat noodles (soba) a good feel. The beef is from grass fed cows (from Uganda, but it was on sale). I used red cabbage instead of napa because I like the color and I prefer its taste.

We sat on our lounge chairs and ate with chopsticks. It fit in perfectly with the type of evening it was. The beauty is that you can keep the noodles and the beef veggie mix separate in the fridge and combine and microwave (or bake for crispy).

Hot wok, hot fat (olive or veggie oil), onions, garlic. Then beef cut in strips once onion if soft, then cabbage. I take half out before I add noodles to the pan. Cook your noodles first, of course.

This dish is also good with all varieties of rice noodle and, of course, chow mein noodle. Season to taste, soy sauce and /or red pepper.

What You Know: Taste

I was talking to a new friend from Holland over the weekend. His wife is an old friend of ours and now she does the cooking. I of course don't hold this against him. He works strange hours and provides for her so that she can take care of a home and enjoy her life in Holland, living behind a dyke.

What was interesting is when we talked about our tomato garden. "I love tomatoes," he began, but then he continued, "They have a light taste, very easy to eat. I can't imagine someone not liking a tomato."

I told him that if he loved a food like that, he would love cooking it too. Tomato isn't just another ingredient in catsup for him, it's an entity. It's a part of his life.

If you are going to cook for someone you love, you should think about foods and tastes you feel passionate about. It is more likely you won't do anything to ruin the taste. Ruining, however, is all in your perspective. When I worked with an accomplished cook in another state with mushrooms, he had a different idea on how to bring out the flavor.

I grill my mushrooms in light oil (not low fat, just light in color). Once it takes the oil into its gills, I add a light seasoning, an herb like rosemary and a spice like sage. Most of the time, cheese gets involved, like swiss or mozzarella. It is a warm, lingering taste.

He doused his in balsamic vinegar, basically acid blanched it. The taste was bright. It popped, then the balsamic stayed for a bit (aged balsamic) then blended in to my palate. I would have ruined it if I went vinegar, because I didn't see it the way he did.

If you like something, say tomatoes, try different things. Grill them. Grill the skin first, then try opening it and grilling the meat. USe tomato paste in beef stew and lentil soup (there's really no other way). Buy sundried tomatoes. Incorporate two styles of tomatoes in one dish.

Think hard about the taste you like, then follow that direction. Learn how your favorite tastes work together.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekend Fuel - Overly Easy Over Easy

Delicious, beautiful things aren't always easy. But this is.

If you are going somewhere after breakfast, it helps to reduce prep time and cleanup. Eat, go to beach, end of to-do list. This dish will not make you feel overfull like pancakes and sausage will. It will give you the fuel you need to tackle your Friday or hit your hotspot on the weekend.

You cut the cherry tomatoes in half, wash the spinach (no need to dry, just rinse really well) while your skillet is getting hot. Do this by sprinkling a little water in it when you put it on the fire. When the water is gone, the pan is ready.

Add a little olive oil, throw in the spinach and stir. When it wilts a little, push to the side. Put tomatoes open side down. Make room for two eggs, then carefully put two eggs in that space.

Turn off the heat. Cover your pan. All that should take 2 minutes. You can make some toast if you want.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Simplicity - Wings

I love wing night! Actually, I miss wing night. Pizza places and and family restaurants used to have wing night that rocked. Sure, there's happy hour, but wings are an afterthought during happy hour. It's not that wings are impossible to find, it's just that they usually aren't good enough for me.

Compound that with the fact that my wife is off of processed foods and simple sugars and we have what we can call a conundrum. So I made these:

In classic happy hour fashion, I served with some celery and yellow bell pepper instead of carrots. The wings are in a mustard sauce made with dijon mustard, brown mustard, apple cider vinegar and agave nectar.*

You can feel free to use regular vinegar, any mustard, honey, sugar water, high fructose corn syrup, whatever you want, but the main thing is 4 parts mustard, 2 parts sour, 1 part sweetener. These are the elements that the good boys from Buffalo conceived in a sauce you can roll meat in and serve alongside a nice lager. Tomato or mustard being the foundation. Try lemon/lime juice and maple syrup mixed into organic tomato paste. Your friends will think you had it delivered from the sports bar while they leech off your dish Season Ticket.

Tell the girls not to be shy when they come for cocktails, these wings have a low glycemic index and no preservatives. Easy on the Cuervo, but have seconds of these wings.

Sometimes, attraction comes from simplicity. Feed the soul while saving the body with this spin on buffalo wings.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Deconstructed Classic: Burger with grilled onions

My wife likes burgers and fries. I think most women do.

"Even the ones that say they're icky?"

Especially the one that think they are icky. Closet eaters, every last one of them. They down half a cosmo' and they're calling to the barman for those sliders! Side of sweet potato fries please.

I think they're great, if done well. That probably goes for most things, but the burger is a long time victim of abuse. Neglect is the worst kind of abuse. Our burger meat has been put out to pasture. Actually, it hasn't been put out to pasture and that's the problem.

There are certain large institutions that have their focus set on real estate more than feeding people. They'll give you stuff to eat, but they aren't feeding you. That's because the little bit of meat that ends up in the patty is taken from parts that you couldn't find at the market. The rest is fillers. "All beef" just means the meat part came from a cow, that's it. The cow itself hasn't even been eating the stuff it was meant to eat: grass.

The reason I say this is that I was on my way home from the gym and I thought about a hamburger. I used to work out, then do one of two things: go to Little Caesar's and get a $5 Hot and Ready pepperoni pizza and the market for one of those big Foster's, or go to The Burger Place and get a Patty Melt Burger no mayo and a maltball malt washed down with a dark lager. Life was great!

Nowadays, it takes a little more care to bulk up properly, so I didn't do either of those things. I made this for my wife and I:

This is a lesson in presentation. My lettuce is cut into square, then arranged. Grilling onions is as much about appearance as it is about taste. Those black edges are crucial for my wife. I can make them any shade of brown for my patty melts, translucent for soups and dips, but the black edges need to be there for this burger. You throw the patty on top. Tomatoes should always be to the side. You can not like them at all, love them a lot, or be somewhere in the middle. That's just one choice I don't like to presume.

The sweet potato "roasts" can be very crispy if you want to give them air while in the oven or cover them if you like them soft. There is yellow and gray squash, also roasted in the corner (gray is Korean).

Altogether it was very satisfying and no one missed the bun. No one missed the terrible, low quality oil either, but one wouldn't, would they?

This takes a cast iron skillet and and oven or toaster oven. Heat both of these things immediately upon entering the kitchen (see: Put the fire on).

Cut the ends off of two medium garnet yams (sweet potatoes), then cut the sides off lengthwise (like you rip wood before you cut it). Lay the yam on its side (the flat one, see?) and cut lengthwise so you have 4 to 5 planks. You might end up getting good enough to get a plank of skin you can toss. Rip those planks into 3 to 5 fry shaped pieces. Put those on foil on a pan for the oven.

Slice your squashes across the grain at an angle, whatever you can bear. The girl(s) you're cooking for probably know you're not Bobby Flay, you'll be fine. Put these on foil an a pan for the oven as well. Drizzle all that stuff that's on foil on pans with olive oil and put it in the oven. Crispy things are not covered and not crispy things are covered. Use more foil, not newspaper.

Slice two onions and throw them into a very hot skillet with a little olive oil. You need the entire round of the rings to be touching the heat, so maybe don't throw them in, place them evenly throughout.

Always buy grass fed beef, always buy it in one pound packs. Take one of those one pound packs and split in in four heaps. pound out four burger shaped patties. This is not the time to be stuffing with ingredients, not tonight.

Now add more olive oil to your onions and flip them. They will be slightly shrunken and blackened on one side. Also, they will fall apart. These are good things.

Get some garlic paste and Worcester sauce out of the fridge. Move the onions over to the side. Place two patties on the pan and put a teaspoon of garlic paste on each, followed by Worcester. The mixture and exposed meat will look bloody, that means it's time to flip. Stir the onions a little when you do. Repeat the garlic and Worcester thing, turn the heat off and cover your skillet.

Two plates, place your lettuce squares (I said that earlier, do I have to walk you through everything?) and cut some tomatoe slices. Mine are little and from the garden so it was easier. Pull all the oven stuff out and spoon the squash on the plate (corner is good). Get two paper towels and dump the sweet potatoes on it. Roll it like this:

Then put it on the plate. Uncover beautiful onions and place them on the lettuce and place the patty on top. Serve with a honey mustard dressing (1/4 c mustard, tblsp ea Apple cider vinegar and agave nectar).

There are some nice gluten free beers and red wines that would go great with this too. You can handle that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Next Leg of a Journey

So I was going to do this series on paying $50-$80 per week on groceries, but then I realized this blog isn't about the money. I'll just tell you I spend between $50-$80 (never $100!) a week on groceries so when you see me using really awesome looking food, you'll know I don't spend more than you. I do make fifty bucks look good.

Also, my wife decided to do the Reboot after watching the incredibly done Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead" a la Joe Cross. I wonder if he knew what the outcome of that documentary was going to be?

The outcome for my wife was astonishing. She doesn't crave chocolate or sweet bread anymore, so I'll have to find something else to bribe her with. She did the 5-5-5 entry reboot, where you move to only micro nutrient foods for the first 5 days, then 5 days of juice only, followed by 5 days of micro nutrients again. She actually did 17 days of juicing, then 7 days re-entry with micro nutrients. I had to revamp the way I cook for her.

Good things came from this journey. I made my first microgreen salad for her. I had to put some grilled veggies next to it because of my natural aversion to leaves:

The dressing is the most valuable thing to come from the first five days. Both vinaigrette and mustard have very low calories and no sugar. Because of this, I developed a honey mustard vinaigrette that would eventually evolve into this:

1 shotglass mustard (brown or dijon work wonderfully)
1 shotglass extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed (it's not more expensive, in fact you can get a little bottle)
1 shotglass organic raw apple cider vinegar
a splash of rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of blue agave nectar
1 inch of ginger, finely cubed

When you whisk it up, it will be golden in color. It will also be delicious.

If you are adaptable, it doesn't matter what the special dietary need is in your family, you can meet it. Don't run for the hills if you meet a great girl and she has Celiac disease, there will be some posts that follow with gluten free dishes. Don't get caught up with gluten free alternatives, there are plenty of foods that are delicious and aren't trying to be other things.

Many people are going vegan or vegetarian because good meat is hard to find. Don't write them off as hippies, or some other kind of granola eating extremist. If you are a carnivore, think back to your meat-eating ancestors. What do you think they ate if they came back without a kill or the livestock was diseased?

Cooking for love isn't all about the flambe and fine wine, it's about the overall technique.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Wifie, you owe me $13,008 and an apology!

Sometimes I would like a break. It's not that I don't like cooking everyday, every meal, to specific specifications and whatnot. But sometimes it seems like I spend hours in the kitchen cutting, slicing, seasoning, braising, browning, sauteeing, steaming, timing, sweating, plating, packaging and cleaning. That's 'cause I do. Like a very high class restaurant chef/owner, I don't always get good reviews.

Fortunately, all I have to do is juice for my wife right now and that is significantly easier. But when I come back to work and everything has to look super appetizing and be appetizing, I will be falling dramatically behind I suspect. So I thought I would check out to see if I could turn my duties over for a month. If you yourself go there and see the "plans", you will see why my post in titled as such. My month off would cost me $1,084 and that is for the cheap one.

Granted, if you spend $600 on groceries every month and eat out for lunch everyday and dinner once a week, this is totally doable. But if you are reading this, it's because you are my friend or you Googled "$50 per week groceries." (To my friends: Hey that's my new series coming up! Stay tuned).

Anyway, I think I'll just be happy with the fact that I can turn $213 of groceries into $1,084 worth of delivered prepared goodness. I even include dessert occasionally!

Wifie, I think we can call it even.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Presentation Nourishes

A crumply brown bag containing several plastic baggies. The preceding is a "run-on sentence" and it is ugly as is the reality of facing a lunch that is poorly packaged and, more often than not, not very nourishing.

Too many people go to work and/or class with bland bologna and mayonnaise sandwiches, potato chips, diet cola, and an underlying depression that no clinical panel will uncover. People think they cover the bases when they have the three elements of a sack lunch: sandwich, side dish, drink. The sandwich will often have a meat, or so you think. Processed meat does not have to meet very many standards and the result is a big package of sodium and stabilizers making its way into you WHOLE WHEAT (*kudos*) bread. Potato chips are called a side dish, but what they are is a filler, like spackle. It covers up empty spaces, but has no structural integrity. Finally, diet cola is like hotwiring your car with bacon. Confused? Me too.

The reason I led with this disgusting image of a crumpled brown bag is because many of us have had one of those waiting for us in the cupboard at Elementary School. Did you salivate over the prospect of ripping open that thin post-consumer recyclables enclosure? Did you expect it to house the freshest of ingredients, the most satiating spread of handcrafted morsels, a dessert that made you look at your friend's Fun Size Candy Coated Chocolate Peanuts like the trash they were? Chances are, if you brought your lunch, you took the cookie out and chucked the rest. At least you could get first in line for handball.

My wife is picky. After one day of phoning it in as described above, she would probably run to an overpriced coffee shop and pay $5.95 for a $1.69 sandwich and a big iced caramel macchiato. I'm not being mean and I don't blame her. Those sandwiches look like they have real meat in them and the iced macchiato makes me feel like I'm drinking an upside-down grown up root beer float (delicious!). But it's not ideal for daily life.

But this is:

Www...WOWEEE! What is that? Did you do that with magic?

Is what my wife asked me. Not really, but that's how I choose to remember it. I usually like a little mystery, but I put this together in a little showy, provocative fashion with a little lace holding it together. Shoelace that is.

Bottle of Prosecco to the first one to comment about the mustard on the container. I know it's bad form, okay. This is popped potato chips and nectarine accompanying an Italian dry salami sandwich on naan with avocado, lettuce, tomato, and mustard. She likes jalapenos on the side, so there they are.

This is a well balanced lunch. You'll notice there is more than one color to it all. There is a compliment of nutrients in this spread, as opposed to simple carbohydrate, simple carbohydrate, indigestible meat product.

Packaging sandwich and chips to look like a meal is an art. It is worth the effort because a meal that is enjoyed is a meal that lasts. You have to feed more than your belly during your precious breaks. When you derive pleasure from providing this pleasure, everyone wins.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Place Order Here

Of all the things I ever really wanted to write about, cooking is by far the strongest of my passions. But I don't like to just talk about recipes, because lots of people do that. There are plenty of recipe websites. I want to talk about some key aspects of being a man who cooks, quite honestly, for love.

Why do it?

Cooking is a woman's job, right? I am really glad that myth is pretty much over. If you're still hanging on to it, you're probably just scared of failure in the kitchen. Don't worry, it can be simple and enjoyable. You just need to take your time and learn from your experiences. Once you get a good rhythm, the results will be fantastic.

Professional kitchens are expensive.

Yes they are.

Who cares about the difference between sauteing and frying?

I don't. You don't have to be a food geek. Also, it's better not to sully good food with cockiness. You'll develop your own style quicker if you don't sweat the vocabulary.

How do they make food look so cool?

Practice, and a lack of fear. You will have to try a lot of different arrangements, but it will eventually come naturally.
In addition to examples and stories about how to cook for the sake of a woman's attention, I'll also be throwing in some ideas for meeting fitness goals.

I am what they call a hardgainer or ectomorph. I have to cook a lot of food and keep it interesting so that I want to eat. I also know how to keep calories down (for you or your significant other).

Basically, whether you are trying to cook to impress women, you are cooking for someone you love, or you need to cook for yourself healthily, which is a huge factor in attracting others in itself, my posts should help.

But remember, the smell of fresh baked bread won't cover up serious personality flaws. If you are still eating alone after a while of cooking, there might be some other factors.

Lunch for my wife:

There was a time when I was interested in impressing women in general. Cooking really came in handy for that. Now I can show others the results. I continue to cook for my wife and it gives me a good challenge. I think too many people get complacent when they get married and lose a little passion. I say take advantage of the fact that she's seen all your tricks and let it drive you to come up with new ones.

I like to pack tiffin boxes, bento style. My wife's came from a shop called Plastica. It's a great product because it allows variety in an easy to carry package.

Tier 1:

Turkey sandwhich:

Smart Bagel
Red Onion

Make sure you dry the lettuce well.

Tier 2:

Fruit salad

Belgium endive with Smoky Peach Salsa
Key Lime, split and topped with salt

Cut the cubes relatively the same size

Tier 3:

Three sauces with dipping veggies

Salsa Queso, smokey peach, and bleu cheese

vegetables can be celery, endives, etc.

Also topped with hot fries for crunch (crispy foods may get soggy if they share a compartment with veggies, if it's going to sit a while, you can wrap them in plastic).

The point of all of this is that my wife had something visually appealing that made her think of me and fed her appetite for food. She was happy because, frankly, it was ll delicious. We are both happy because these were all good food choices.

It's easy to get sloppy with lunch. Throwing a bologna sandwich in a brown bag is easy, but it may just make you crave a Big Mac. When you put thought into the meal you are preparing or about to prepare, you make it easier for the one you are serving to love the food and fall in love with you.