Food Buzz


Friday, August 27, 2010

Double duty post - Food Rendezvous and Gourmet camping food recipe request!

Everyone, I will be volunteering with my friend and fellow blogger Ellen on Saturday at The Food Rendezvous.  This event is very inexpensive to attend ($10 if purchased in advance, $15 at the door) and should prove to be great fun for foodies, followers of local chefs, and cook book collectors alike!  There will be raffles, a jam making contest, workshops, presentations and book signings, as well as tastings from local artisans.  It should be a great time! 

The event is taking place from 4 pm to 10 pm on Saturday 8/28 at SPARC (685 Venice Blvd, Venice, CA). I will follow up with photos and a story or two after the event.
Photo credit:
On to my next topic...I am planning a camping trip soon and wondered if anyone had some fun, unique recipes that are fairly simple to cook while camping, using a basic camp stove and one or two pots.  I am looking for atypical (not the usual hotdog or the dehydrated stuff they sell at camp supply stores).  So feel free to post your ideas here!  If I use your ideas, I will be sure to mention you when I return from my camping trip and will provide pictures for everyone to see!!

There are not too many summer days left, so enjoy every minute.  Have a fantastic weekend!

Chow for now!  :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hollywood Bowl Picnic - Part 2

Ah, Dave Matthews Band... you did not disappoint.  Oldies, new songs and everything in between.  We had great seats and great people sitting around us.  Couldn't have been a better night.  Unless of course, we had time to picnic before the show....

We left the house at 6:15 thinking we would arrive by 7 latest, picnic while the opening act played and have a nice food and wine buzz by the time we sat in our seats for DMB.  Traffic disagreed.  We arrived at 7:30, and had to wait in multiple lines.  First to park, then to will-call for ticket pick up.  Then we had to wait in line to enter the.  We got to our seats by 8:10 and we were on line just a few minutes later for wine.  We finally sat down and thought we would eat a little before the show started when all of the sudden we heard "Ladies and Gentlemen... Dave Matthews Band!"  So much for eating.  The wine went down like water and we were able to snack throughout but we didn't get the whole picnic experience.  Now we know leave at 3 pm to get to the Bowl.  Lesson learned.

The nice thing was that I had everything packed in ice so the food stayed cold, we had a late night snack after the show and the food lastest through the next day for lunch and dinner.

My menu:
Chicken Caesar Club Sandwich
Quinoa salad with zucchini, red onion and Dijon lemon Vinaigrette
Tomato and mozzarella salad with ciabatta slices
Melon balls
Black and White cookies

Unfortunately since I had planned on taking pics at the show while picnicking, and since it was dark while we ate, I have no pictures of any of my dishes (except for the leftover tomato/mozz salad pic below).  But you can find the recipes for Ina Garten's Chicken Club sandwich here and Martha Stewart's Black and White cookies here.

The tomato and mozzarella salad is so easy and a crowd pleaser.  Here are directions for you:

I cut a bunch of heirloom cherry tomatoes in half and mixed them with a container of mozzarella balls (also know as Ciliegine), about 1 T of good olive oil, 1/2 T of balsamic vinegar, some seat salt and pepper to taste and about 5 large basil leaves, chiffonade.  Taste and see what it needs - you may need to add more vinegar or oil or salt/pepper.  Mix well and store in the fridge until ready to eat.  Stir once more before serving.  You can use slices of  bread to sop up the yummy tomato/olive oil mixture at the bottom of the bowl.

Everything I made was easily stored in Tupperware containers in a bag with lots of ice and lasted very well.  I didn't put the sandwiches together ahead of time because I didn't want them to get soggy so I stored each ingredient in a different container.  It worked out very well.

What are some of your favorite picnic "go-to" recipes?  Feel free to share here!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hollywood Bowl picnic...part 1

Tomorrow, I am going with my great friend, M, to see Dave Matthews Band at Hollywood Bowl.  For those of you who have been lucky enough to see a show at the Bowl, you know it's a great place to picnic prior to a show.  I thought I would come up with a great menu for the day and I'm still working out the details in my head (stayed tuned for Hollywood Bowl picnic - part 2).  In the meantime, I knew exactly what I wanted to make for dessert.... Black and White Cookies!

I have had these cookies in my head since reading a post on Unemployed Eater's blog and rather than visit the bakery he mentioned (although I will some day), I thought I'd make my own.  I've actually tried this recipe before and really like them.  They still don't compare to Country Boy Bakery's cookies, but I'd have to drive 2,800 miles to get those.  Walking into my kitchen to try one of mine is a much better commute.

This recipe is from Martha Stewart.  I think the most important hint I can give you is to take the cookies out just as the sides start to show a little color.  You want them to be soft and cake-like.

Black and White Cookies


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
2 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add granulated sugar; mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk.

2. Roll tablespoons of dough into balls (or use a 1/2-ounce-capacity ice-cream scoop); place them 2 inches apart on lined sheets. Bake until bottoms turn golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool.

3. Whisk confectioners' sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, remaining 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl until smooth. If necessary, add more water (icing should be a bit thicker than honey). Transfer half to a small bowl. Stir in cocoa; if necessary, thin with water. Spread white icing on half of each cookie's flat side, and cocoa icing on other half; let set 30 minutes.
I followed the recipe verbatim... Martha says this recipe makes 4 dozen cookies. I think it might be a typo as I came out with about 2 dozen using her tablespoon measuring method.  Also, I could have used a little more icing so next time would add maybe an additional 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and add to the other ingredients as needed to the icing mixture.
Also, I didn't make mine "perfect" like Martha did.. I like my food to have some character. :) 
These cookies taste better after 24 hours of resting.  Of course I couldn't resist trying one just as it was iced and it was delicious.  Can't wait til tomorrow night!
What's your favorite picnic dessert?  Feel free to share here.
Chow for Now!  :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Get your kids to eat healthy food!!

photo by Jennifer Zappia
I knew that title would get your attention!  I have been helping out my friends with their toddler since he was born; babysitting, hanging out with and from time to time, cooking for the family.  One of the most difficult dinner time issues has been to get him to eat more vegetables.  Fruit?  No problem.  Cookies?  More, please!  Spinach?  EWW!  No way!  So, I thought I'd pick up a book to help me with some healthy recipes that would change his mind, or at least trick it!

The Sneaky Chef is a series of books written by Missy Chase Lapine, a woman who has had plenty of experience making two or three different meals each night since her kids wouldn't eat any of the healthy options she prepared.  I picked up "Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals." The beginning of the book would make anyone dealing with a picky child feel better, confirming that you aren't alone in dealing with picky eaters.  Combining foods that kids like (white pasta, cheese, hot dogs) with foods that are good for them (rolled oats, beans, green veggies) will get your kids to eat more healthy meals!

The author does a great job telling us which fruits and vegetables we should buy organic (basically any fruit or vegetable that has an edible skin).  She also tells the reader what staples are important to have in the house (various meats/fish, produce, cereals, rice/pasta, canned goods, dairy, nuts, oils ,etc).  The first 92 pages before the recipes are truly informative.

I loved the author's idea of using visual decoys to make food look FUN.  Who wouldn't want to eat a bowl of tomato soup if their name was written on it with a pureed vegetable mixed with cream?  I also thought calling smoothies "breakfast ice cream", for kids who don't like to eat fruit, was genius!

I can't wait to dive in and experiment with some of the recipes.  She breaks them down into "make ahead" recipes (like purees and juices), healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners, snacks, treats and drinks.

If you can't wait until I write about my kid friendly recipes, check out Missy's website and check out her tips, recipes and her regularly updated blog.

Have you ever pureed spinach with blueberries?  What about adding wheat germ to your turkey meatball recipe? How about adding cauliflower, sweet potatoes and carrots to mac and cheese?!  What are some of your favorite ways to "sneak" nutritious foods into your kids' diets?

 Chow for now!  :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Craving the salty, crunchy goodness of chips? Why not try kale chips!

I know, I know what you are thinking: "Kale chips?  Really Lisa?  I don't think so."  But as I sat in front of my computer trying to get motivated to write some copy for my new website (stay tuned!) I glanced at my twitter page and noticed a post from a fellow Food Buzzer and food blogger about making kale chips!  I've heard of them and people swear by them but I had to try them myself.  I was not disappointed!

Kale is a highly nutrient dense vegetable - and so it is quite good for you.  It's high in calcium, iron, vitamins A, C and K, and contains lots of cancer fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals.  Trust me, it's one of those vegetables you pass by in the grocery store but instead you should consider making a dish with kale one of these days. It tastes good roasted with garlic, raw in a salad, as a topping on pizza, and more.

I decided to follow A Thought For Food's idea and took her recommendation of changing the spices to those I new I would enjoy.  I took a bout 2/3 of a head of kale, washed and dried it and ripped up into bite sized pieces.  I then drizzled a little olive oil and added fresh ground pepper, some sea salt and some garlic powder and mixed everything around in a bowl.  I spread it out on some tin foil on a baking sheet (it's a good idea to spray the tin foil or the sheet with spray oil or use parchment paper on your baking sheet so that the chips don't stick).  I baked them for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F and out came some tasty and nutritious chips without the guilt of fried potato chips!

The oven dehydrates the greens so they become crispy but the leaves are so thin that when you put them in your mouth they are really brittle and crunchy.  The spices make a big impact on your taste buds - even more so than the kale flavors which are much more subtle.  I really like them and would probably play around with different spices to see what  I like best.

What is your go to nutritious snack when you are craving something not so healthy?  Feel free to share here!

Chow for now!  :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

My diet could use a healthy change. How about some quinoa and vegetables?

After a weekend of more home made breads (french loaf for one house, rolls for another and blueberry almond ricotta muffins for both) I was definitely in need of a healthy dinner.  I have lots of vegetables from the farmers market this weekend and wanted to get them in my body!  And with the heatwave in LA, I wanted to make something that didn't require too much heat in the kitchen.

I started perusing my recently purged cabinets and found a bag of quinoa that I hadn't opened yet.  Quinoa is one of those grains that has become popular in recent years... it is used a lot of vegetarian and gluten free diets because quinoa has lots of fiber, vitamins (especially thiamin, folate and B6), minerals (especially iron and magnesium) and protein that can sometimes be lacking in specialty diets.  When you combine quinoa with some fresh diced vegetables and a delicious low fat dressing, you've got all you need for a great well-rounded dinner.

While the quinoa was cooking, I searched around my kitchen to see what I had to add.  Cucumber, cilantro and carrots sounded like a nice combo.  I made a southwestern dressing of olive oil, lime juice, minced shallots, cumin, Spike and salt and added all ingredients to the quinoa. What a great concoction! Next time I make this, I would add avocado for another layer of flavor, color and texture and maybe even some black beans and corn to let the southwestern theme shine through. 

Quinoa, brown or wild rice, farro, and really any grain can be the base for a healthy dinner as long as you add a variety of vegetables and herbs/spices.  Play around with flavors and let me know what you come up with!

What kinds of foods are you trying to add to your meals to give you a more well rounded diet?  Feel free to share here.

Chow for now!  :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

These pretzels are making me thirsty...

Well, after a week off, I put my bread machine back to work.  Yesterday, I made soft pretzel dough and baked some pretty amazing pretzels!!  Puffy, light and just enough salt, these pretzels were very good as is, with a little honey mustard and even dipped in spaghetti sauce (believe me - it works!).  I think they'd also be great as sandwich bread, especially if eaten on the day they were made when they are light and fluffy. 

Bread Machine Soft Pretzels

*Follow your bread machine's instructions... mine calls for putting wet ingredients, sugar/salt then flour/yeast.

1 1/4 c water  (80 degrees F)
1 egg yolk (don't throw out the egg white as you'll use it as a glaze later)
1 T oil (I used canola)
2 T sugar
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
3 1/2 c bread flour
1 T active dry yeast OR 2 tsp bread machine yeast

1 egg white
1 T water

1 T kosher salt
1 T sesame seeds (optional)

1. Place ingredients into bread pan in the order requested by your bread machine's instruction manual. Choose the "dough" setting.

2. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into 16 even pieces.  Flour your hands and form each piece into a 16 inch rope.  Cross the ends of the rope to make a loop; twist the crossed ends once and fold across the loop. 

3.  Place pretzels on a greased baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Whisk egg white and water together and brush each pretzel with glaze and sprinkle with topping(s).  Let rise until double in size, about 30 minutes.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.

They came out really light and fluffy:  I had a difficult time getting the pretzels to form a 16 inch rope - they were more like 12 inches which is why my pretzels came out so puffy but I didn't mind that.  You could also try other toppings a la Auntie Anne's (cinnamon/sugar with butter, hot pepper flakes and chopped pepperoni, Parmesan cheese....). 

I wrapped mine up with wax paper which was a mistake - this morning the salt had melted away.  Will have to use tupperware or even parchment next time.

What topping would you put on your soft pretzel?  I think I might make a ham and cheese sandwich on mine.  Yum!

Chow for now! :)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Easy summer dishes a la Katie Lee

I stumbled across this video of Katie Lee from today's morning show on CBS - poor Harry sliced his finger on her mandolin, but even blood and gore didn't divert me from Katie's task at hand - to provide three great no-cook dishes to serve in the summer time!

The three recipes (and the mandolin video) can be found on Katie's website but are also below.  With sweet corn, ripe red tomatoes, zucchini and peaches in full summer season right now, you must try these recipes - all are great for a picnic or a summer BBQ or an easy weeknight dinner for your family.

I really like her first recipe, which is quite similar to the one my friend Tina shared with me earlier this summer.  Feel free to add cut up mozzarella and red pepper flakes and add those in to make it your own!

No Cook Tomato Basil Pasta Salad

1 pound fusilli
1 pound ripe tomatoes, diced
Handful fresh basil, chiffonaded
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons Parmesan, grated

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve 1 cup pasta water.

While the pasta is cooking, in a large bowl, combine tomatoes, basil, garlic, oil, salt, and pepper. Add pasta and pasta water and toss to combine. Top with Parmesan and serve.

Those of you who follow me regularly know that zucchini has been my go to summer vegetable.  It's really versatile and so good for you.  This recipe looks fun - just don't slice your finger on a mandolin! (you can make thin slices with a regular 10" knife pretty easy, or even use a vegetable peeler for long thin slices).  You can easily replace mint with basil or other fresh herbs of your choice.

Zucchini Carpaccio

1 zucchini
1 teaspoon fresh mint, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Use a mandolin to slice the zucchini paper thin. Arrange zucchini pieces, each piece slightly over-lapping the next, on a serving platter. Scatter fresh mint over the zucchini and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until serving.
Fresh corn is so sweet and inexpensive right now.  Feel free to add cilantro for amazing southwest flavor!!

Raw Corn and Black Bean Salad

4 ears of corn, cut from the cob
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, minced
1 jalapeno, minced (seeds removed if you want it less spicy)

Lime vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper

In a large bowl, mix corn, black beans, bell pepper, onion, and jalapeno. Toss with vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make vinaigrette: whisk all ingredients together until emulsified.
This dessert is simple and can be enjoyed on the porch in the early evening... I would probably use less sugar if the fruit is really ripe and in season.

Ice Cream w/ Stone Fruit

2 peaches, peeled and sliced
2 nectarines, sliced
2 plums, sliced
1/4 cup sugar
Vanilla ice cream

In a medium bowl, combine fruit with sugar. Refrigerate for two hours, until the juices from the fruit have become syrupy. Serve over ice cream.

Do you have a farmer's market near you?  Consider trying a new fruit or vegetable and getting to know the local farmers.  You may find a new favorite summer treat!

Chow for now! :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Me love cookie!

Yes, as an homage to Cookie Monster and to national Chocolate Chip Cookie Day (thanks @Foodista !) I decided to make some chocolate chip cookies.  I scoured the internet yesterday looking for "the best" chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I've made the Nestle's Toll House, the Neiman Marcus and the Joy of Cooking recipes, but this time I decided to try one of The Food Network's experts: Alton Brown.  He is the mad scientist of the channel, teaching all of his followers why food works the way it does.  If he doesn't know how to make the best chocolate chip cookie, I don't know who would!

His recipe was different from others for a few reasons.  One - he uses melted unsalted butter instead of room temperature butter (which dissolves the sugar while creaming it, making a smoother batter), and he uses bread flour which makes a chewier cookie.  Also, as the recipe recommended, I placed the mixing bowl with batter in the freezer for 5 minutes before spooning the cookies on the tray.  I imagine this is to help keep the cookies from spreading to wide while baking.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 11-14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Makes about 40 three inch cookies
After making these myself, the results are in... this may just be the best chocolate chip cookie out there! It's sweet but not too sweet, they are chewy but still have crunch on the outside.  They are versatile enough that I could have added nuts and I am sure they would have come out great.  I'm certainly not going to say no to another cookie offered to me, but I think I'll stick with this recipe in the future.

Do you have a go to recipe for cookies?  Do you eat cookie dough raw? Please feel free to share your cookie stories here!

Chow for now!  :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hi. My name is Lisa and I'm a carboholic.

So, I spent the last few days perusing through bread machine cookbooks.  Some recipes are asking me to buy gluten as an ingredient and I haven't found it in the grocery store yet so I am sticking to the cookbook that came with my Breadman becuase they keep things simple.

On Saturday I made foccacia to bring to my sister's place.  Nat was going to barbecue for dinner and we decided on a tomato salad with bread for lunch.  I brought over a 13x9 pan of homemade foccacia thinking they would have leftovers for the week.  Not so much.  Apparently bread goes very fast when we are together.  Here is a picture of the final product, before we gobbled it up. 

I baked the bread with a mixture of fresh basil, minced garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes and grated Parmesan cheese.  It was light and fluffy on the inside (to help soak up the juicy, freshly picked tomatoes from the garden) and crispy with great garlic and herb flavor on the outside.

Today, I looked through my book again and thought about trying another dough recipe in the Breadman.  Bagels!  I've lived in LA now for over four years and have yet to find a good bagel place.  I've found decent ones, those that will do when needed, but nothing like the bagels I love from NY.  I've heard it's the water, or the lack of humidity in the air.  Well, either my house is damp and my water is correctly filtered, or I have just figured out the secret to amazing bagels!  I decided to make plain and cinnamon sugar.  They came out really delicious.  They were soft and doughy on the inside with a nice brown crunch on the outside.

What are your favorite breads?  As you know I am a bread freak - I'd like to try some new ones... Feel free to share some of your favorites!

Chow for now! :)