Food Buzz


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Birthday post and great restaurant discounts!

I am taking the day off from cooking because it's my birthday (happy birthday to me!) and it's too warm in my apartment to turn the stove on!  Actually I did cook a perfect fried egg this morning, and it was good, but that doesn't really count.

I did want to use this post to tell my friends and followers about some great websites where you can sign up to get delicious deals to restaurants, many of which you may not already visit because you can't or don't want to spend the money.  I've taken advantage of these deals often and you should too.  Most of these sites are giving deals in many major cities.  Check them out when you have a chance!

How it works:  Typically you go to the site, provide your email address and closest city name and they email you occasionally with great deals that you can either take or leave.  Not all of these are restaurant/food specific, occasionally there will be great discounts on spa, bowling, movie tickets, and more!  If you can't stand the idea of getting emails almost daily, create an email address just for these.  I promise, it's worth it.

Do you know of any other discount websites that have worked for you and helped you save money?  Please share here!

Chow for now!  :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

When life hands you too ripe bananas...make banana chocolate chip muffins!

Oh, these are too good!  My house smells like bananas and cinnamon and chocolate-y goodness.  The muffins are soft on the inside, have a slight firmness on the outside, melty chocolate chips and delicious banana flavor.  They can be eaten for breakfast or a snack or dessert. 

I borrowed this recipe from who has a great website filled with "all that moms love." This includes recipes, discounts, product reviews, great photos and giveaways (I really wanted to win the Kitchen Aid mixer giveaway...).  Definitely check it out.

But onto the more important stuff at hand.  Pictures and recipe.  Please buy bananas and leave them out today so you can make these this weekend.  It's a really easy recipe!!

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins (

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt (or Greek yogurt or sour cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used minis)

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine the egg, oil, yogurt (or sour cream) and vanilla. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened

Fold in bananas and choc chips.

Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups almost to the top.

Bake at 350 for 22-25 min until toothpick comes out clean
I added 1/2 tsp of cinnamon to the dry ingredients just for another layer of flavor.  I might add more next time.  Experiment and feel free to add chopped walnuts or another nut!
I think I will go have another.....

What's your favorite banana dessert?  Please feel free to share here!

Chow for now!  :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Puff pastry pizza, it's neither puffy nor pastry. Discuss.

I've had a hankering for pizza for the last few days and if you saw my recent post about pizza you would know it hasn't been all that long since I last had pizza...but yet I crave it.  All. The. Time.

I was thinking about my pizza dough making skills (or lack thereof) and realized I didn't have to make my own crust... I could cheat a little and make the sauce and still feel good about it, right?  Right.  As long as I at least bake the crust myself.  I thought about picking up a ball of pizza dough from Trader Joe's but then remembered the puff pastry sheets I had in the freezer.  Couldn't I make the pizza on one of those? Indeed I could.

Drunken Mushroom Pizza
serves 2-3 depending on hunger level

1 puff pastry shell, defrosted
1 tsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch salt
1 ball of fresh mozzerella, sliced thin
3 large basil leaves, chifffonade

for the mushrooms:
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 T butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
5 white mushrooms, sliced
splash of dry white wine (sauvignon blanc works well)

for the sauce:
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes, sodium free
4-5 large basil leaves, chiffonade
salt, to taste
pinch of sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Roll the puff pastry out so that it extends an inch more wide and an inch more long.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese, dried herbs and salt all over the pastry.  Fork the pastry all over, leaving a 1 inch border for the crust to puff up (forking the pastry in the middle fores the middle to stay flat).   Place puff pastry on a piece of parchment paper (or Silpat) on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes until the pastry is lightly browned and crispy.

2. While the puff pastry is cooking, pour evoo and butter into a saute pan over low- medium heat and add garlic.  Saute for a few minutes, watching to make sure garlic doesn't burn.  Add sliced mushrooms and saute until they are slightly brown.  Once pan is almost dry, add splash of white wine and cook the wine down until almost dry.  Pour in a small bowl and set aside.

3. In the same saute pan, add 2 tsp evoo, diced tomatoes, basil, salt and sugar and let it simmer for at least 10 minutes or longer.  (You will have leftovers of the sauce so use within a day or two or freeze and toss with pasta another night!)

4. Spoon about 1/2 cup of tomato sauce onto puff pastry and spread out, leaving a 1 inch border.  Place slices of mozzarella across the sauce leaving about 1/2 inch between cheese slices.  Scatter basil and "drunken mushrooms" all over the top.

5. Bake in the oven for 5-6 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Slice and enjoy!

What is  your favorite pizza topping?  Feel free to share here!

Chow for now!  :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Yummy chocolate chip cinnamon cake for father's day!

On Saturday I was perusing looking for a recipe for my recent purchase of a bag of mini-chocolate chips (hint: never grocery shop when you are hungry) and came across a great blog:  On that site I found a great recipe for a chocolate chip cinnamon swirl cake that looked delicious!  It also inspired me to cook it for my sister's family (new mom, Jenn) and my dad who would be visiting for father's day.

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Swirl Cake

Serves 9

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 350F. In large bowl, cream butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla; mix.

In a small bowl, combine flour, b powder, and b soda; add to the creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Beat well to combine.

Spread half the mixture in a greased 9x9 baking pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Combine cinnamon and remaining sugar and sprinkle over chocolate. Top with remaining batter. Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Serve.
I substituted plain greek yogurt for the sour cream since that was what I had in my fridge.  I also used 1/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup of sugar mixed with cinnamon for the middle layer of the cake and still had some left to sprinkle on top of the cake (along with a scattering of chocolate chips) before I placed it in the oven.  This topping made for a flaky crust which I absolutely loved.  Finally, I used a 9 inch circular pan instead of square.  Voila!

Another hint for this kind of cake... the dough is very thick so it is important when you are putting the top layer of cake over the chocolate chips that you use what I call the "blob" method (very scientific, I know).  This entails scooping the batter out of the bowl and placing on top of the chocolate chips as five or six "blobs" and using a spatula to spread the batter between blobs.  If you just attempt to pour the batter on top of the chocolate chips, you will find it difficult to spread to the sides of the pan without mixing the chips up in the top layer of the cake.

I thought the cake was really delicious... not too sweet, very cinnamon-y and chocolate-y and tasted great with a cup of coffee or tea. After about 24 hours sitting out (but covered), I found that the texture started to get a little hard so at that point the cake tasted better warmed up in the oven.

Did you make your dad something sweet for father's day?  Feel free to share here!

Chow for now!  :)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Recipe finding made easy with!

I don't know about you but I am always searching online for new recipes.  I may have an ingredient I want to use (rhubarb?) or maybe I'm looking for something very specific (banana chocolate chip pound cake, perhaps?).  What bothers me is when I find a recipe that looks interesting but the recipe provider didn't provide a picture of what it should look like. I may be creative with my food but I still want to know how "their" version came out.

Since I began writing my blog, I have been searching my fellow blogger websites for new recipes and have been inspired many times over.  Food bloggers are notorious for taking pictures of their food and posting with their recipes. 

Today, while searching for a recipe to make with chocolate chips, I found a new website that does the blog searching for you!  It's called

You can search by category, date, popularity or (my favorite) random.  Also,  you can type anything in the search box (try "coffee cake"... I promise you will drool) and you will get a selection of blogs/recipes to choose from.  Once you find a picture you like and click on it, a new window opens with the blog entry and recipe.  Easy as pie (or coffee cake)!

Next time you are looking for inspiration, or if you just enjoy looking at pictures of food, try clicking on "random" and see what you get (I just got recipes for brisket, cinnamon scones, dandelion greens salad and bacon wrapped shrimp. 

For the record, I am still not sure what I'm making with chocolate chips... many of the cake-like recipes called for sour cream and I am out.  I am trying to use what I have in my fridge and pantry.  Of course, I will keep you updated!

Do you have any favorite websites for recipe searching?  If so, please share!

Chow for now!  :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Easy, light, spring dinner!

I just wanted to post a couple of photos of what I made for dinner tonight.  I was feeling like I needed some greens in my diet (maybe because I ate nothing but carbs since breakfast) ... of course I ended up pairing the greens with pasta but it was Barilla Plus thin spaghetti which is multi grain and has 4 grams of fiber and 10 g of protein per serving.  It doesn't have that... whole grain taste and is the pasta I always buy.
I started by sauteing one halved clove of garlic and about 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil in a saute pan and after allowing a few minutes for the garlic to infuse, I added two large leaves of kale (chopped, tough stem removed).  I also added a handful of pignoli nuts and a little nutmeg (which I always add to dark leafy greens to complement the earthy flavor of the greens). 

Once the kale was wilted and bright green, I added 1 medium sized zucchini (shredded) and cooked it all down until it was sauce like.

After about 5 minutes of cooking I added 1/2 can of diced, low sodium tomatoes and one tablespoon of basil (I didn't have any fresh on hand so I used - and swear  by Dorot brand frozen basil cubes which can be found at Trader Joe's.).

That's it - Once the pasta was done boiling, I added a small amount of the pasta water to the sauce along with the drained pasta and topped it with a little grated Parmesan.  This is a healthy and filling dinner with good nutritional value for a warm spring night. 

I must share a pic of Murphy stealing a piece of runaway thin spaghetti....

Do you have any favorite "go to" spring recipes that you enjoy cooking?  Please leave me a comment!

Chow for now! :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Anthony Bourdain is my hero!

Last night I was lucky enough to see Anthony Bourdain speak at UCLA's Royce Hall with my good friend, K.  I should start this blog off by saying that we had a delicious meal at Glendon Kitchen & Bar in Westwood.... we shared some yummy apps and $5 martinis!  A very cool space with attentive waitstaff and great atmosphere.

But back to Anthony.  I anticipated that this event would consist of his ranting about the various Food TV folks that he dislikes, discussions about weird "squiggly things" he's tried in different parts of the world and a plug for his new book Medium Raw.  And he did not disappoint.  He touched on all of those things but also showed a dare I say, softer side of Tony (if I may call him that).  He has a 3 year old daughter and has admitted to being somewhat of a changed man as a result of her birth.  But deep down he is still the crass, sailor-mouthed chef that we all know and love.

He gave us some of his likes (LA's ethnic "strip mall" food, In N Out Burger, Top Chef, the original Iron Chef, Mario Batali and Jonathan Gold), some of his dislikes hates: Sandra Lee (and her "dead deer eyes"), Guy Fieri (who "needs to grow up and take his sunglasses off of his head"), Hell's Kitchen ("there is no way those people are good chefs"), as well as some people that may not know where they stand: Alice Waters (with whom Anthony had a recent public squabble about her wanting shark fin soup as her last meal ), Rachael Ray (only since she sent him a fruit basket) and Bobby Flay (who he referred to as "smug" but a great chef).

Some favorite lines/moments from the evening: 

Why we watch Man vs Food: A show where the host goes to different spots to eat the largest _____ (fill in large/disgusting/fattening food here):  "We watch Man vs Food for the same reason we watch Siegfried and Roy - because this is the week he might die."

Regarding his 3 year old daughter: "The last thing I wanted to do was raise one of those obnoxious 'foodie' children" then proceeded to tell a great story about a recent trip to France when his daughter, on her own, ate a raw oyster then pointed to a lobster and said "Sebastian" (referring to the animated character from Little Mermaid), and proceeded to eat that too.

Discussing some of the chefs on the Food Channel: "I really like Giada DeLaurentiis - she makes good food.  She does have a freakishly large head."

Favorite question from an audience member (who asked users to help him come up with the best question): Audience member: "Nigella vs Giada in a knife fight... who would win?"  Anthony: (after a moment of consideration): Nigella (referring of course to Great Britain's own Nigella Lawson).

His short list of places to visit before you die: Saigon, anywhere in Vietnam, San Sebastian, Spain, Bahia, Brazil.

He gave his rules for traveling and eating well: 1) If you are lucky enough to travel, make the most of it. 2) Have an adventure (don't get your picture taken in front of the Starbucks in Taiwan), 3) Don't worry about "dirt" (try new foods, even if it is from a shack on the street) and 4) Observe local customs, do what the locals do and be polite.

He touched on his new "Softer side" and how he used to just care about how food tasted and nothing more.  He now cares about where it comes from and how it's going to affect his child. He plans his business trips around visits with his in-laws in Italy.  He buys organic at Whole Foods.  His priorities may have shifted, but he still swears and drinks and talks about his peers.  He is Anthony Bourdain and he's so cool, even Ron Jeremy was a member of the audience last night. 

My final thought from last night is a quote:  There has never been a better time to be cooking, there has never been a better time to be a chef."  I hope this is true.

Are you a fan of Anthony Bourdain or does his snarky attitude rub you the wrong way?  Any other favorite "celebrity chefs"?  Feel free to post them below!

Chow for now!  :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Another Giada DeLaurentiis recipe is a hit!

I am still hanging with my family (including my niece who turns 3 weeks old today) and a few days ago I decided we needed a celebratory dinner since my dad and mom were in town at the same time.  We also needed an excuse to open the Piper Heidsieck Rose Sauvage.  YUM!  Being somewhat limited in my protein sources, (my sis doesn't eat meat but does eat fish) I decided to make Giada DeLaurentiis' Cioppino and her red pepper aioli with garlic toast.  It was a HIT!

Cioppino (recipe courtesy Giada DeLaurentiis)


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 large shallots, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 5 cups fish stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound manila clams, scrubbed
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed, debearded
  • 1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 1/2 pounds assorted firm-fleshed fish fillets such as halibut or salmon, cut into 2-inch chunks


Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, shallots, and salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and 3/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and saute 2 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste. Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, fish stock and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.
Add the clams and mussels to the cooking liquid. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels begin to open, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and fish.

Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through, and the clams are completely open, stirring gently, about 5 minutes longer (discard any clams and mussels that do not open). Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and red pepper flakes.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

I substituted vegetable broth for the fish stock which didn't make a difference in my mind because the major flavor in the broth is fennel.  It is so fragrant and licorice-y delicious. I also used 3 1/2 lbs of fish and shellfish (mussels, snapper, salmon and shrimp) instead of 4 1/2 lbs.  We had more than enough for four hungry people!

After brushing them with a little olive oil, I toasted some Italian bread in the broiler and rubbed a little raw garlic on each slice.  I roasted a red pepper on the stove top, put in a bowl to steam for a few minutes, peeled the charred bits off, and placed it in a food processor.  I added mayo, salt, pepper and garlic to the red pepper and blended until smooth.  This was A DELICIOUS topping to the bread and a nice compliment to the soup.  Thank you Giada!

Are you a fan of the Food Channel and specifically Giada DeLaurentiis?  Do you have any favorite recipes of hers that you would like to share?  I have had the best luck with her recipes...

Chow for now!  :)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

They used to call me Lisa Pizza...and I know why.

Because I LOVE PIZZA.  If I was told I'd only be allowed one meal to have for the rest of my life it would be pizza.  Specifically NY style (thin crust, sweet salty tomato sauce, gooey mozzerella cheese, slightly browned top, with a crust that tastes amazing on its own).  Those who know Gino's in Long Beach, NY would understand exactly what I crave.

I've tried in the last year to make pizzas from scratch.  I used to do the Boboli crust, jarred sauce, packaged mozzerella which will do fine when you want pizza but I want PIZZA.  When I want good pizza, I make a homemade yeast crust and a homemade sauce, and get some delicious bococcini or other mozz soaking in water, and I saute mushrooms and garlic and add fresh herbs and spices and good olive oil.  And it tastes... pretty good.  More often, I go to my sister, Jenn and brother in law Nat's house and bring wine, lots of wine, and Nat makes a pizza that I have not figured out how to recreate.

This week while staying at their house and hanging with the new baby, we started discussing pizza.  Nat jumped at the chance to cook dinner for a change and made two really delicious pies.  One was all veggie (spinach, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes), no sauce, no cheese (but lots of amazing flavor!), and another with lots of cheese, sauce and prosciutto.  Both were amazing PIZZAS. 

I don't know what he does to make it so good, maybe it just comes with practice but my crust never tastes as good as his.  Some pics of the amazing pies:

My stomach is growling just thinking about it. Do you have a good recipe for pizza dough?  What about a favorite pizza joint that you love to visit?  Please share!

Chow for now!  :)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bittersweet endings...but mostly really sweet

Last night was my last night of cooking in my Culinary course.  I am sad to leave for many reasons... this class has been a place where I could guarantee "getting my cooking on" for a few hours twice a week. Although class time was ten hours a week, it went by very quickly. It was what I looked forward to doing again when I was in the hospital.  I really enjoyed my team and appreciated Chef's knowledge and opinions.  Hearing her story about how she began was inspiring and has motivated me to move forward with my own career choices.

I learned a lot in the class, even though it was technically an introduction to cooking.  I learned how to share in the kitchen (mom can attest that I've been known to "hog" the kitchen at Thanksgiving).  I learned a lot of new french terms including sautoir, chinois, batonnet, and about the early chefs who created the idea of restaurants and french classical cooking.  I took on new cooking techniques including deep frying and succeeded, even at home!  I cooked and tried foods I never prepared or ate before (duck kidney, scotch eggs) and enjoyed the process of "trying new things."

I will miss this class but my education is far from over.  As time permits, I plan on taking other courses.  I'd love to take another nutrition course because I learned a lot and unlike when I went to college the first time (ahem) , I actually did well with the science side of the course.  I guess I don't have as many distractions now as I did in 1991. :)   I am awaiting my score on my ServSafe exam which I took last week but I am confident I did well.  This will allow me to tell clients that I have a food safety certification. I would definitely like to continue taking courses where I can be challeneged and motivated to prepare the best food.  I look forward to the fall schedule coming out this summer.

Last night was the only night all semester that we were to cook on our own - no team projects at all.  We had to choose a fish recipe from our text, mise en place (prepare, chop ingredients etc) everything at home, but cook the dish in class and present a finished, attractive and tasty plate to Chef for a grade.  I chose to make Jumbo Lumb Blue Crab and Langoustine Cake with Citrus Vanilla Sauce and Rhubarb Preserves.  It's a long name, and it had many steps and ingredients.  I did a practice run at home which took two and a half hours so I was glad that I could prepare most of the sauce and chop all the ingredients at home so that the in-class preparation was not too daunting. I have to say, I was proud of the result at home and also with the cakes I made in class. 

I was also proud of my team and of the class as a whole. Every dish I tasted was really good - it shows we all wanted to to a great job for our final cooking day.

I tasted and salted and tasted again.  I ladled the citrus sauce, laid the crab cake gently in the center of the plate and spooned small amounts of rhubarb preserves along citrus band.  I wiped the edge of the dish so it was clean and attractive.  I drew a toothpick through the small circles of preserves to shape them into hearts.  The cake was crispy on the outside and soft and tasty on the inside.  This was a good great dish.  This dish could lift me from an "at home" cook to...dare I say it... a GOURMET chef. 

When I presented the dish to Chef, I had to explain what I did at home and in class and any ingredients that I substituted (for instance, I replaced the langoustine with white shrimp and in the rhubarb preserves, I used Cabernet Sauvignon instead of port wine). Chef loved the presentation.  She tasted the citrus sauce.  Sampled it again with a smile and said "Lisa you rocked the sauce."  Then she tried the preserves... Smiling wider.  Tasted the crab cake and said "Lisa, wow you really rocked this. Again. Everyone will be able to sample this one - I hope you have extra sauce."

Tickled pink.  Proud and happy.  And I am sure she was happy too, knowing she took part in my education.  I probably wouldn't have tried preparing this dish six months ago.  Ah, maybe I would have but I don't think I would have been so meticulous.

The finished product:

So here's to chef and my other educators - thank you for an amazing sixteen weeks.  I look forward to working with you again.

What will I do with an extra 10 hours a week?  Probably cook.

Chow for now!  :)