Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ode to a Global Chef's Knife

What a delight! Dad and Joann gave us three beautiful Global knives. They bought from two of the knives shown here, the 8 in. Global Chef's knives; and a 7 in. Global Santoku knife. My mistake about the two chef's knives. I must have told Joann two instead of one. But, I'll probably get the 5 in. chef's knife in exchange for the extra 8 incher since it would be practical for wee jobs.

We also wanted to buy the matching wall-mountable magnetic knife holder since we're running out of room to put things in the kitchen these days.

When we tried out the knives, as you can see, we were able to slice tomatoes very thinly. The chef's knife also made quick work of the bagels, slicing through them like butter.

I've never owned a knife that didn't require exertion to cut, chop or slice food. These Global knives have completely changed my opinion on knives. Now I know why my pal Sly said all the chefs at the Marriott hotel use them.

They are super light, perfectly balanced and cut like a dream. Plus, they look cool, too! Grade: A for Global knives.

The Lovely Global Santoku

Here's John trying out the 7 in. Santoku on some less-than-optimal mushrooms. Although that's a thick slice there, we were making some paper-thin ones earlier that are under that pile.

The santoku is a little bit lighter weight than the chef's knife, but super sharp. We want to learn the correct way of using it to gain the most benefit.

Our verdict: we love the knives. I prefer the chef's knife and will most likely get a smaller version for lighter jobs.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Getting a Jump on Easter

Yes, it's true. I'm trying to get a jump on Easter this year since I was so wrapped up in the writing/getting-a-new-gig stuff that I was a bit behind on Valentine's Day.

Oh, for those of you who still want to get their sweetie a belated chocolate box, please contact me. For a short time, I will have some still available.

So, here (and at my site) are some photos of fun Easter eggs and Kid's boxes I'm doing again this year. The descriptions on the site give all the detail on the eggs as well as the kid's box (the one with the bunny-on-a-stick).

Finally, if you haven't seen the Williams-Sonoma catalog with the Emile Henry flame top cookware on the cover, please pick one up. It's great. They've added a table of contents (a handy addition), and the photos are as gorgeous as ever.

So, adding to my ever-growing wish list of kitchen ecoutrements, my new dream item is the KitchenAid Professional 600 stand mixer on page 99. In Silver Sage, of course. However, if I were to get the Le Crueset set in Lemongrass, I'd opt for the Artisan mixer in Lemongrass. With the matching silicone spatulas on page 101.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Blogger mix-ups

I'm not sure what is happening with Blogger, but the series of posts below are not in the same order in which I entered them. Nor can I change the order from within Blogger. Grrrr. The top post should be this one.

The humble mini whole wheat pita from Trader Joe's. Alone, just a pita. With pesto, cheeses and sundried tomatoes, it's a yummy snack. Warning: although I used a whole wheat pita, that's pretty much the only healthy thing about this. Yep, it sure is tasty and wonderful, as all grilled cheese sandwiches are, but it's super-high in calories and fat. If you're watching these things in your diet (like I should be), you have been warned.

In Praise of Cheese Sandwiches

One of my favorite pleasures in life is the pairing of cheese with bread. It gets even better when that cheese is melted, whether on a pizza or a sandwich. I can think of numerous ways to prepare a grilled cheese, and it makes me happy just to think about it. It brings back memories of sitting in Dawn's kitchen while she grilled me up a swiss cheese on rye with enough butter in the pan to bring down a horse.

This morning, while checking some of the food blogs, I came upon this post by Kalyn. She objects strongly to a certain food columnist who sees fit to criticize in a pretty unchecked way those of us who blog about food (or anything else for that matter) for the sheer pleasure of it. In a rather sanctimonious way, he is determining the standards of "good" food blogging. While he is entitled to voice his opinion (as columnists do), he does not have the right to dictate how/when I am to blog.

This type of food blog snobbery does not go unchallenged. Especially when it comes to his rant about cheese sandwiches and their place in the food blog world. It is for that reason that I fully support Kalyn in her efforts and have made a grilled pita cheesey snack that I chronicle with photos below. Please visit her site and read about the controversy. Support her effort by having cheese sandwiches of your own.

Next, I sliced the pita in half and spread a nice, thick layer of Trader Joe's peston on both sides of what would become the insides of the sandwich.

On top of the pesto and the sundried tomatoes, I put a slice of smoky-flavored provalone. You know what my brother Jorden always says, "If we can't prov together, we most prov alone." Of course, that doesn't work as well if you pronounce it the authentic Italian way -- prov a lone ay.

Just to give the irony police a hearty laugh, I added part-skim mozzarella. This is far from a low-calorie snack. I'm going to exercise right after I eat it.

Oil. Must have more oil. On top of the pesto, I added Trader Joe's julienne-sliced sundried tomatoes (packed in oil and spices). They're perfect on pizza, by the way.

Hot pan sprayed lightly with either olive oil or canola. John and I forgot which we put into which new oil sprayer. Oh well.

I like mine a bit charred, and most certainly gooey. Between the oil in the pesto and the sundried tomatoes, I probably need not have any fat until Monday.

Just because I believe wholeheartedly in truth in advertising, as it were, I separated the two layers to show you how lovely this snack turned out. It tasted even better than it looks! Next time, I'm going to make it open-faced and put some pine nuts on top, then toast it in the toaster oven. I may even shred some parmigiano cheese on top of the nuts just because it sounds good. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Pete Wells.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Blizzard, Schmizzard

Welcome to the blizzard of 2006. It really wasn't as bad as the succession of storms we had last year. Those news people really sensationalized it. Although it did take John 3x the time it normally takes him to get to work. He's such a smart guy. He took the series of photos the follow below all during the storm to capture what had happened. Prior to the storm, we'd been reading at the NOAA site about "thunder-snow". What could that be? Well, we found out. Imagine a big thunderstorm, but with heavy snow instead of rain. While it was happening, we cleaned the house, John tied flies, I baked some baked ziti and fruit bars, and we watched the olympics. Oh, and I visited that Join Bode site, and it's a colassal waste of time unless you're a big Bode and Nike fan. I am neither. However, I will cheer for Sean White! Yay! Don't those medals look like they're wearing CDs? Cheesy. Bring back the real medals!


This is just a hodgepodge of images John took of the snow. There's me in the lower right standing next to John's car. I'd been shoveling snow off of it.

It wasn't quite done snowing yet by the time John had taken these shots. The photo of the deck in the upper left shows how much of a drift we'd gotten. The wind had the snow coming down horizontally much of the storm.

John did an excellent job moving the snow to the limited places we could put it. In the upper right photo, you can see my neighbors' kid up to his shoulders in the big piles.

At the end of it all, after we'd cleaned off his car and John shoveled out the driveway and sidewalks (the job of our association, by the way), the piles of snow were huge. See the pile near the top of the photo. It's nearly obsured the trunk of the tree. That's after I'd packed it down by playing in it a while. Oh, you would too!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Different Meme

This one tags anyone who reads all the way to the bottom of it, so in the true spirit of Meme-ing, here's my replies:

1.Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, and find line 4:
Well, the nearest book to me is the Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. It's a tome, to say the least. Line 4 on page 18 is the last portion of the definition of "acoustooptics" -- tic, a-cous' to-op'ti-cal, adj. --a-cous'to-op-ti-cal-ly, adv. (The definition, by the way is "the science and technology of the itneractions between sound waves and light waves passing through material media, esp. as applied to the modulation and deflection of laser beams by ultrasonic waves. Aren't you glad you know that now? What a conversation starter!)

. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can and see what you touch: The Swingline stapler or the caller ID unit.

3.What is the last thing you watched on TV? The opening ceremonies of the XX Winter Olympics last night.

4.Without looking, guess what time it is: 10 am.

5.Now look at the clock. What is the actual time? 10:09 am.

6.With the exception of the computer, what can you hear? That's it. The house is quiet and it's quiet outside.

7.When did you last step outside? What were you doing? I was outside less than 1 hr. ago. I was giving my pal Sly a lift to work.

8.Before you started this survey, what did you look at? The blog where this meme originated (The Schell Cafe).

9.What are you wearing? It's chilly, so I'm wearing my flannel-lined pants and a few layers on top. And I'm still a bit chilly.

10.Did you dream last night? Yes.

11. When did you last laugh? Earlier this morning.

12. What is on the walls of the room you are in? Right in front of me is a wall calendar, a photo of John and me, a really pretty dried flower "Debra" sign Dawn made a few years ago, a poster from the Penta New York International Sabre Tournament from March 1989 (I was a timekeeper), little works of art, a photo collage that John made from our trip to Ecuador, and a Shaker mirror that used to be in the kitchen bathroom in Dawn's Dad's old house in Montclair.

13. Seen anything weird lately? Well, one woman's weird is another's normal. So, no.

14. What do you think of this quiz? It's not the most interesting meme, but it's different than the ones making the rounds.

15. What is the last film you saw? The Chronicles of Narnia.

16. If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy? Wow! Is that ever a big list! I'd definitely buy John the Airstream he wants and a good hybrid truck to haul it around. The "real" house with everything we'd want is definitely near the top of the list. And, a hybrid or hydrogen car for me and a Shelby Cobra for fun. A Mr. Peabody dog. Then, all the cool cooking gadgets -- the bread maker, the Le Crueset wok, the 14 in All-Clad frying pan, a really small panini press, and a chocolate tempering machine. That's enough of the list for now.

17. Tell me something about you that I don't know. I'm not sure what you know and what you don't. It's a tricky question. However, if you are a visitor and not a friend or family member, something you wouldn't know about me is that in college I served an internship at CNBC doing audio and camera work. I worked on Dick Cavett's show, Morton Downey's insane show, and the daily news shows in the morning. I usually started my day working the non-robotic camera on Neil Cavuto and Cathleen Campion's The Money Wheel. I'm amazed at how famous Cavuto's become. After that, I worked as a recording engineer and editor in NY in an antique studio on the upper west side. Boy! I could tell you stories.

18. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do? I would clean house in all the governments and put in folks who were altrusitic and really didn't want the job.

19. Do you like to dance? Yes. Even if it's the geeky white girl's dance club.

20.George Bush: Did you see the Impeach Bush rally on CSPAN 2 the night of the State of the Union Address?

21. Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her? No kids for me, thanks. I'm driving.

22. Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him? Same reply here. However, when we get a dog, John wants to call him Mr. Peabody.

23. Would you ever consider living abroad? Definitely. I did live in Germany for a few weeks one summer when I was a teenager. I'm truly grateful for the opportunity. It does broaden one's sense of the world.

24. What do you want God to say to you when you reach the pearly gates? Did you eat yet? Here, you can eat all the stuff you couldn't while you were on earth--and, you don't gain any weight, get sick or suffer negative consequences. I know you've been missing those almond horns, and I know you wanted to try your own chocolates, so here you go...

25. 4 people who must also do this meme in THEIR journal: anyone who reads this far, consider yourself tagged! Just please track back to me so I can see what you wrote! Thanks!

Friday, February 10, 2006

A really nice testimonial from Jackie Damian

Today, I had the nicest surprise in my email. Jackie, an extremely handy editor, had received a box of chocolates she had ordered from Deb's Delectables and had written a glowing testimonial on her blog.

The backstory to this is that when I found out I was leaving the day job, I'd reached out to some editors for some work between jobs. Jackie's boss, and my longtime friend, Patrick threw me a bone, and I was given a great opportunity to write an article that made a few waves for a couple of weeks in early January. Jackie is the very talented copyeditor who made my original copy read like the expose' it was. So, for that, I am indebted to her. I am even more grateful that she likes my chocolates so much that she wrote about them at length on her blog!

It's nice to know that people think I'm a good writer, especially since I enjoy it so much. But a great deal of credit must go to the copyeditors and editors who really make the stories fit together seamlessly. I've sat on both sides of the table -- as both an editor and a writer. While I enjoy writing more, there is definitely an art to editing that is akin sculpting. It is satisfying to be able to shape something that is not quite there into something much more valuable.

Anyway, a good editor is truly an asset. If you need one, contact Jackie. She impressed the heck out of me.

Taco Night

Yes, it's TACO NIGHT! We like taco night. There was a sale at the Stop&Shop on Ortega taco stuff, so it was time for taco night. While I'm not a vegetarian any more (hence all the shrimp and fish nights below and in the archives), I still make veggie tacos for me. John, as you'll see below, uses chopped turkey meat for his to keep them lean and tasty. What follows is a typical representation of taco night at our house. This one took place last night.

John's turkey browning for the tacos.

The lovely carmelized vidalia onions and three small organic mushrooms.

This is my homemade refritos (refried beans). I used organic pinto beans, a variety of spices, a teaspoon of olive oil and about half the liquid that the beans had in the can. First, I mashed the beans with an avocado masher, then I mixed in the spices and oil before setting it on a very low simmer with the top on the pot for about 15 minutes. I heated and stirred the beans a few more times before I finally added them to the tacos. Far superior than canned refried beans.

We love our toaster oven and use it often. Last night we used it for two purposes: 1. to heat the white corn taco shells, and 2. to warm the plates. The top of our toaster oven can sit two of the small pottery plates perfectly. Warm plates keep food warmer longer.

Browned turkey meat waiting to be drained...

Here's John using our newest kitchen device, the pan strainer. Unfortunately, the 12 in All-Clad pan weighs a ton, and John had a tough time of it. The strainer worked well for this application, though.

For mine, I wanted something with a bit more substance than just the beans, so I sauteed some fake chicken strips in with the onions and mushrooms. Well, I tried. They stuck to the pan and I had to ask John to help me deglaze with some water. It worked well, and everything turned out fine.

After we added the seasoning packet and about 2 oz of the mushroom and vidalia onion mixture to John's turkey meat, he said it reminded him of Manwich. (For those of you outside the U.S., we call it Sloppy Joe, normally, and Manwich is Sloppy Joe in a can.)

The chopped turkey tacos for John were a great disappointment to him. He said that he Ortega taco mix had virtually no flavor. However, the shells and the sauce he used (both from Ortega) were fine. By the way, these are the small plates from the pottery set.

This was the vegetarian version (not vegan, though), with salsa, spinach, the onions and mushrooms mixed with the psuedo chicken strips, my own refried beans, and a little havarti cheese at the bottom. Poor John, while I made what I thought were the best tacos yet, he really didn't like his. Next time, it's Old El Paso for John.

While you lovely people get the pleasure of tasting my gourmet chocolates and handcrafted candies, this is where I get my sweet on. Well, sort of. I'm working my way through the slim pickings of sugar-free, fat-free desserts that don't use some kind of nasty sugar alcohol as a sweetener. Here's the latest, albeit scary, version of pudding. Normally, I have the vanilla and it's pretty darn good for what it is. I tried the butterscotch, which was downright awful. When I opened the package, the stuff was white. As soon as it hit the milk, it turned this bright mint green color. The photo does not do it justice.

Here's a close-up of the package versus the actual pudding. It is indeed a scary color of green, and tasted far more like almonds than pistachios. It wasn't bad, and I added some Trader Joe's pistachios of my own to the little dish. I have to say, though, I really like the font they used for the flavor "Pistachio".

It's Product Review Time! A week or so ago, I was on my way up to visit Dad, when I stopped at Whole Foods in Montclair. It used to be Fresh Fields when I lived in Montclair, but now it's Whole Foods. In the dairy/nondairy section, I found this yogurt. It does not have sugar added, so I thought I'd give it a try. First, it's delicious. Of course, I've been eating non-fat yogurt lately, so a little fat is lovely. However, it's 2 grams of saturated fat. There's less saturated fat in Cheetos! To sweeten it, they use apple extract, which is probably just fructose because I'm getting that warm feeling I typically get with sugars. Oh well. It tastes great, so go try it if you don't have sugar problems.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Just a reminder, get your Valentine's Day orders in soon for delivery for Valentine's Day --! Any special orders, please contact me directly at

Our recpie for last night's date night comes from Savoring Southeast Asia, a Williams-Sonoma cookbook by Joyce Jue that I received as a gift about 4 years ago. We decided that we would use a very simple Thai fried rice with shrimp dish for dinner. We were glad we did because it didn't take all that long to make and it was tasty. The prep work just took a while. Here's how it went...

Here are the directions.

Here are our raw, previously frozen shrimp, ready for the cooking. We prefer this "tiger" variety.

These are the ingredients and their measurements.

Prior to the fried rice recipe, I boiled up a few shrimp for cocktail sauce. We made our own -- John prefers ketchup with horseradish, while I made mine from tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, horseradish, white vinegar, and tabasco.

Here's John and his artistic chopping of the green onions. Joann said she would get us new knives. I know that will make him very happy. Sorry the photo isn't clearer, but I was standing on the dining room table to get the shot into the kitchen.

Here's John measuring the basil before he chopped it. To the left, you can see a custard cup with his finely chopped green onions. He really is the best sous chef a girl could want.

I made the brown rice (Lundberg's, Jubilee variety) ahead of time so that it would cool adequately before we did the stir fry. The original recipe calls for long grain white rice, but I try to go the healthier route when possible.

This is the rice after I rinsed it well. I'm glad I did rinse it because brown rice is tough to make fluffy as it is.

The recipe called for two serrano chiles, and I assumed she meant fresh. These were the best I could find, so I broke them up and deseeded as much as possible since the seeds make it spicier. We let them sit with the shrimp before adding them to the pan.

The only liquid other than the oil in the recipe came from soy sauce and fish sauce. I didn't have fish sauce, so I substituted worcestershire sauce. It does include some very similar ingredients, but if you need to quibble, please feel free to do so. I prefer the low-salt version of San-J's tamari, but this is what I had on hand.

For comparison, here is how Ms. Jue depicted the end product of the recipe. Ours came pretty close. Check the photo below.

This is the finished dish of fried rice, sans the fresh coriander (cilantro). We both rated it a high B, although we thought it needed some salt or something. Probably would have been solved by the astringent flavor of fresh cilantro or coriander had I been able to find some yesterday. Nonetheless, it made for a very tasty and healthy date night dinner. We didn't intend on watching a movie because the first two seasons of Rocky & Bullwinkle arrived on DVD, but after three shows or so, we turned on the TV and there was a silly Christina Applegate movie on called Just Visiting. A lot of famous actors in it, and it was light enough to be entertaining. Back to R&B, though, in the very first episode of Sherman and Mr. Peabody, we learned how Sherman became his boy. Pretty cool! We also saw how the animation changed in the first three shows from sloppy to more polished. It seemed as though Jay Ward spent a lot more of his time and effort on the Fractured Fairy Tales and the other "friends" of R&B. What we wanted to know was if it was on weekly, daily or what originally, since there are a whopping 52 episodes in the first season. Anyone know?

Like some of my tulips in the garden, this vidalia onion thinks it's spring. *&%$ global warming.

This piece of the Polish pottery had been on backorder -- the cutting board. I will most likely hang this on a wall until we have company and will use it for the company. It measures about 9 in from the top of the ring across and about 6 in tall. A nice size for cheese service.