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Life in small town, Colorado

16 Apr

As the subheading of my blog reads “Food, Love, and Life (Not always in that order)”, this post is mostly about love and life. At the end, I’ll post a dynamite chocolate cake recipe that is terrible for the body, but excellent for the soul. It’s my great grandmother Agnes Nolan’s chocolate cake. She was my grandmother’s mother. If you don’t care to read some of my reflections about my family and life, or to see some pictures of the scenery where I am, please feel free to scroll to the very bottom for the cake recipe I made for Easter lunch and for some quick lessons I learned about high altitude baking.

For 2 weeks, I have been in CO staying with my mom and visiting with my grandparents, one aunt and cousins. C flew in for the weekend to spend some time with my mom, and I took him back to the Springs airport this a.m. at 4:15. I saw the sunrise on the way back and decided to stop for some quick iPhone pics, one of them being the feature picture at top.

This town is so “Americana” to me. I grew up in the midwest, and this same small-town feel can be found still in so many places around the U.S. including the one in which my mom lives now. She lives at 3300 feet in the valley of some mountains. On some days here, it is gorgeous and charming, as you’ll see from the pics, below. But, the history here is scary and I can’t seem to get over it. I suppose I shouldn’t be that astonished considering the racist country we started out as, and still are, since the “discovery” of the Americas by white men seeking to bring riches back to their home countries. But, I am astonished. For instance, why were there still wooden chairs in the middle school here in the 1990s that had placards on the back of them that said they were donated by the KKK? Yep, you read it right – the 1990s. There’s a prison museum here, of course, because the town’s main industry is the State of CO’s maximum security prisons. I believe there are 7 prisons, in total here. There’s a big meth problem. And, the pace here is ultra slow and the people here are super inefficient in their daily business – because why are you in such a hurry when you can drive from one end of the town to another in 10 minutes? To some people, this all sounds very bad, and I’m not going to lie and say I disagree. But, with some bad (and very bad) often comes some good.

Here, people still wave at you on the street when you drive by even though they don’t know who you are. They smile and say, “Good morning, how are you today”, as you walk past them on the sidewalk, again even though we don’t know one another. There’s a Carnegie library in a beautiful historic building. There’s a food incubator that helps people start small, food businesses legally. The incubator was started by an amazing middle-aged woman whose politics were too progressive for this town so she stopped running for office and devoted her energies in another way to helping the community and its people make money. The server at Merlino’s (good, aged steak there and even better homemade key lime pie!) calls me “hon” even though I’m at least twice her age, and she smiles and asks questions about my life as my grandmother brags about me being a former-lawyer-turned-chef-who-now-lives-in-Barcelona, even though the server’s busy and has other tables to wait on. My mom’s here. My grandparents are here. I slow down here and have time to reflect on what’s important to me: my family.

I believe if you take time to stop and look around – no matter where you are – you can find beauty (I know I’m a romantic, very blessed, and possibly naive, but I have to believe it’s true to combat all the bad I know of in this world).

Here are some pics from yesterday and today that make me smile…

My husband and me, lying on the floor at Aunt M’s after lunch yesterday (thanks for the picture, cousin A!):

A new friend I stopped to meet this morning as I drove back to my mom’s place:

My new friend in “Americana” landscape on a crisp, gorgeous CO morning:

If you look closely at “brown beauty” (I named her in my early morning fog and haste), she is branded with a heart on her left side.

Sunrise in the mountains (spectacular!):

After relaying some wicked history to C last night (yep, every family and every town has some), I woke realizing that my family, their history – the great, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright horrid -, and my history with them is everything. I am who I am because of my mom and my dad. I am who I am because of my grandparents. I am who I am because of my best friends, who are also my treasured family. Life is too short to hold grudges, to be angry over things in the past you can’t change, to be wrecked over the sad and inevitable things in the future that seem to come too quickly. Live as if you’re dying and you only have a short amount of time to love, to give, to honor and to eat chocolate cake ūüôā Because, you are and you do.

So, here’s Great Grandma Nolan’s chocolate cake recipe, courtesy of my mother who grew up on a corn farm in Iowa and who made this cake for me countless times when I was growing up.

Great Grandma Nolan’s Scotch Cake

1) Sift together in a large bowl: 2 c. AP flour, 2 c. sugar
2) Bring to rapid boil in heavy saucepan: 1 stick butter, ¬Ĺ c. shortening, 4 T. cocoa powder, 1 c. water
3) Pour over flour and sugar. Mix well.
4) Add ¬Ĺ c. buttermilk, 2 eggs (slightly beaten), 1 tsp. baking soda and mix well. Bake in greased 10×16 pan at 375 degrees F.

1) Start making 5 minutes before cake is done baking.
2) Bring to rapid boil: 1 stick margarine, 4 T cocoa powder, 7 T milk.
3) Remove from heat and add roughly 3/4 box, sifted confectioner‚Äôs sugar. Add in slowly so that it doesn’t clump. Follow with 1 c. unsweetened coconut flakes and 1 c. chopped pecans. Spread over cake while still hot.

Let cake and icing cool until icing becomes a bit firm on top and cool enough to cut without melting.

Chef’s notes:

1) I know this recipe calls for margarine and that’s very bad for your health. But, it’s what they had growing up in the 50s, so, if you substitute butter, you’ll likely need to make adjustments on other ingredients as well.
2) I know this recipe will probably make some bakers cringe, as the mixing of certain ingredients and in certain orders flies in the face of conventional wisdom on how to make a proper cake, but this recipe works. I’ve made it several times. The cake batter will look weird, and the icing will too, but both the cake and the icing will have great textures in the end.
3) At 3300 feet above see level, the adjustments are: a) bake at 400 degrees F (conventional wisdom on high altitude baking says to bake at 25 degrees higher), b) use 1-2 T. more flour, c) use slightly less baking soda as you don’t want it to rise too quickly and then fall (although I used almost a full teaspoon), and d) use slightly less sugar in your cake batter (I used 1 3/4 c. sugar instead of 2 cups. The chocolate cake is so rich anyway, I think even sea level bakers might consider using less sugar – you don’t miss it!).

Happy eating!

Stuffed salmon for dinner, a different “dinner” for breakfast, and some nutritional healing

3 Feb

After a full day of packing, I went up to S & F’s for dinner. MMMMMM! We had stuffed salmon, grilled eggplant Thai-style, roasted vegies and a cauliflower “risotto” (riceless). Fred stuffed the salmon with sundried tomatoes, basil, feta, onions, and roasted red peppers. Then, he sauteed the stuffed salmon in butter, brown sugar and lemon until it was brown and crispy on each side. ¬†Wow, what a killer salmon and so easy. ¬†Nice and moist and just barely cooked in the middle. Perfect!

Shannon has been experimenting to try to recreate the eggplant from Spices restaurant in Honolulu.  Her eggplant was pretty darn close and simple to prepare!  If you like eggplant with a little sweet-heat/herby topping, this is the recipe for you.   She thinly sliced small Japanese eggplants and then grilled them with a little oil on them.  Then, when they were almost done, she mixed the sweet chili sauce with 1/2 c. fresh mint and 1/2 c. Thai basil, both minced, along with some sauteed onions as well as fresh white onions, both minced. The use of both raw and cooked onions makes for a great contrast in textures, as well as provides a bit of fresh onion flavor from the raw onions.

Here are picture of the plates, first without the eggplant (we forgot it, but I like this pic as it shows the full cross-section slice of the salmon), and then with the eggplant in front:

Delicious dinner!

So, I went on a run this gorgeous Hawaii morning and then came back feeling like I needed some salt. Before I went to culinary school, I would have a problem every once in a while where I would feel faint because I have low blood pressure (except when I’m driving in Hawaii – people, the accelerator is the pedal on the far right!), and then I would need to eat some salt. Thank goodness FCI cured me of this issue, since there was never a point at which I could get away with using little salt ūüėČ

So, to get my salt fix in, I decided to have “dinner”, or a savory meal, for breakfast. I don’t like eating rules, much, so this fits in line with my eating philosophy. I made a Greek-inspired salad that was incredibly satisfying (and I threw in some braised tofu for good measure). I topped it with just a splash of peppery EVOO and sherry vinegar. Lots of salt in the feta. Perfect! Then, I followed it up with a sweet apple banana and a cup of Kona. Sounds weird, but it was perfect after my run.

Here’s a pic of the salad in my favorite bowl (thanks for making the Hampig bowl Jeff and Ca!):

The reason I love Greek salads is because I think they are a “cleaner” form of a chopped salad, without lettuce, at least the way I prepare them. I definitely love lettuce, but there’s something about just vegetable chunks without the abundance of lettuce in my usual salads that sometimes overshadow the other vegies. That said, I’m a fan of all kinds of salads. I try to eat at least one salad a day, and many times 2. I think it’s a really simple way to get in an array of fresh vegies (the possibilities for vegie and fruit salad combos are endless), which is what most nutritionists say is important for health (don’t just eat one type of vegie, but mix it up during the week and use lots of variety, including dark leafy greens).

One thing I read the other day in a nutritional healing book is that romaine lettuce has some great nutrient qualities to it. If you’re in a rut with dark, leafy greens or are getting bored of eating mixed green salads, try going back to a salad with a base of romaine. Romaine is an excellent source of Vitamins A and K, and a very good source of Vitamins C and Folic Acid (an important B vitamin for heart health). If you eat 2 cups, you’ll get 167% of the U.S. recommended daily intake (“RDA”) of Vitamin A, 120% of the RDA of Vitamin K, 37% of Vitamin C and 32% of folic acid, according to a few sites. See Plus, I love that I can feel really full after eating a bunch of romaine, as it has a high water content. And, who drinks enough plain old, good water these days? I’m pretty sure I don’t.

One final word on nutritional healing for the day. I think I have ulcers and I’m going to blame that on being a stressed lawyer for a few years, although devouring extra spicy and acidic foods ever since I was little probably has something to do with it. No matter, I was on the hunt for some herbs or food that would help aid in repair of the problem. I don’t like people telling me what I can’t do, so any “diet” that says I can’t eat x, y and z, just isn’t going to work for me at this point in my life. And, I don’t like defaulting to western medical pills as the first resort. I have been accused of being a hippy at times, and sometimes I do believe I was born in the wrong era (yes, I romanticize the upheaval of the 60s and 70s in the U.S. and the change that was spurred by those years), but I think automatically defaulting to prescription drugs is not the way to go – hippy or not. Try healthier food, try alternative medical remedies, and go exercise for god’s sake! These are not hippy thoughts; these are common sense. Okay, enough proselytizing.

So, I did a bunch of research and came upon something that I think works for me. It’s called Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice Root extract, or “DGL” as it is often labeled. It’s essentially a concentrated form of licorice root. I have been eating a tablet 20 minutes before each big meal and I think it’s helping. The theory is that that the licorice coats the stomach, by increasing mucous and decreasing acid in it, and helps to prevent new ulcers from forming. So far, I have less stomach pain.

A word of caution and a disclaimer: I am not pushing this supplement, nor am I giving advice on the subject. My writing on the topic is really a chronicle for me as I journey into some aspects of herbal remedies and nutritional healing. Do your own homework and ask your doctor before you embark on any supplements, especially if you have any medical conditions and/or you are taking medications.

Read more about the benefits, drawbacks, potentially scary med interactions, and potential side effects. One site I went to see about these is co-sponsored by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, at Another is a University of Maryland Medical Center page at

Back to packing! Then, off to Michele’s with Mom2, Sabrina and Jim tonight. Fine dining on the water….doesn’t get much better! I just looked at the menu and I think I’ll try something for dessert that looks very scary to me: “Strawberries Foie Gras Forever”. Description: Ripe Strawberries Flamb√©ed With Brown Sugar and Balsamic Vinegar, Foie Gras & Cognac over Vanilla Gelato. Check back tomorrow for an update on this one.

Coconut Peanut Butter. Yep, that’s right. Yummmmmm

12 Jan

I’m in love…again and again…with all kinds of new food, almost every time I try something that surprises me. That sounds very “American”, I know – always wanting more and new food.

My new love? Yep, the picture says it all – Coconut Peanut Butter. Truth be told, I don’t love peanut butter, and in fact if there’s any other type of nut butter in my fridge, I’ll go for that. But, oh this coconut peanut butter. It does it for me.

Mom and I went country yesterday as I had some business up there. I was early for an appointment and so we stopped at the old Waialua Sugar Mill. The owner(s) now use it as a place to house a farmer’s market as well as process and sell Waialua coffee beans and soon chocolate, which I understand they are in the process of making from their own cacao beans they are growing up there. Inside part of the mill is a little shop that sells all kinds of jams, jellies, coffee beans, shave ice (why isn’t it “shaved ice”, past tense?) and a lot of other stuff made locally. The coconut peanut butter caught my eye. Just coconut, peanuts and local honey.

My breakfast this a.m.: coconut peanut butter toast with a side of fresh Maui pineapple and cup of 100% Kona. It doesn’t get much better than that for a lady who has quite a sweet tooth.

After the mill and my appointment, we headed to Haleiwa Joe’s which is quite a tourist trap and the food is really mediocre at best in my opinion, but it’s a tradition for mom and me, as well as for Busaba and me, to go get their fried calamari. The calamari comes out nice and crispy with a very light breading, and they serve it with their version of a sweet chili dipping sauce, much thinner and lighter than the bottled stuff. It’s pretty darn good.

So, mom and I got our usual, along with coconut shrimp which, to my surprise, was outstanding (and I wasn’t even that hungry, so it really was good), and a spinach salad. Then, we went home and embarked on another yearly tradition: watching Christmas Vacation. I know it’s well past Christmas (but who defines when the Christmas season should end? My dad left his Christmas tree up until June one year), but that movie is hilarious any time of year. We’ve been watching it since it first came out in 1989. It’s Chevy Chase and Randy Quaid at their best. My favorite line: “If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet,I wouldn’t be more surprised.”

Comfort food – stuffed meatloaf and egg nog bread pudding

11 Jan

My mom grew up in the midwest and she loves midwest comfort food – meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn, salad and bread pudding. So, last night she made meatloaf and bread pudding. Busaba, Bev and Ian supplied the potatoes, salad and bbq’d corn.

But, unlike some of the food in the midwest and especially traditional midwest meatloaf made with ketchup (gross!), mom’s meatloaf and bread pudding are excellent.

Janet’s meatloaf recipe starts with a standard lean ground beef and ground pork mix. She does 50-50 pork to beef, and last night it was 6 lbs of meat total. I should note that this recipe makes 2, 3 lb loaves, so it feeds a lot of people. To the meat she adds 2 diced and browned onions, 1/2 head of sauteed minced garlic, 1/2 cup of bread crumbs she makes herself, oregano, salt, pepper, and 4 eggs. For the stuffing, it’s 1/2 lb. of shredded mozzarella, thin slices of good deli ham, and lots of blanched spinach. She rolls the meat around the filling and shapes the loaves. On top, she puts 1/2 strips of thick cut bacon and cherry tomatoes cut in half. Then, she bakes the loaves at 350 degrees F for about an hour, and then broils the top to brown it at the finish.

Here’s a closer look at some slices:

It’s absolutely stunning, isn’t it? ¬†And, I can’t believe I just called meatloaf stunning. ¬†At any rate, it was delicious. ¬†Mario Batali, eat your heart out!

Even though we were all stuffed, we had to eat Janet’s famous bread pudding. Whenever she makes this, people ask for the recipe. It’s so utterly simple, yet it pleases every time. ¬†She calls it her Egg Nog Bread Pudding.

Here is her recipe (yield: 9 small pieces, from an 8×8 pan):

3 eggs
3 egg yolks
3/4 c. white sugar
2 c. half and half
1/4-1/2 cup light rum (amount depending upon your taste)
1 tsp vanilla
nutmeg to your taste
1 loaf good crusty bread

Beat eggs and egg yolks. Add in cream and then beat in sugar a bit. Add rum, vanilla and nutmeg. Mix all together, then, cut the bread into 1 inch squares and soak in the egg-cream mixture for 1/2 hour to an hour. Bake at 350 until done, which was about 35-40 minutes last night, plus a quick broil to brown the top at the end.

She always pairs it with a good vanilla bean ice cream, although last night we forgot the vanilla at our place, so we used Busaba’s haupia. It was still delicious!

Butterfish, sashimi plates and another fine sunset

10 Jan

Oh how I love fresh sashimi. We went to our old standby last night – Yanagi. There are better places in town but Yanagi serves up consistently fresh sashimi, the service is excellent and fast, and it’s kind of a tradition the night or two before Carnet flies out somewhere. So, mom, Carnet and I went to see another fabulous sunset first (below) and then ate WAY too much food.

The pic above is not even all of the food we ate. We were ridiculous, I know. I am going to note that we had a few leftovers for breakfast to make myself feel better. I love the pic of my mom, below. She looks like she ate the cat!

I captured a series of funny faces she made while eating sushi, but this gives you an idea. She is a very expressive lady and she makes me laugh. One of the great things about her is that she loves to laugh, as well, and we’re both very good at laughing at each other and ourselves. So, cheers to you, mom!

Today’s lunch: I made bison burgers with red peppers and onions and then stuffed each with a nickel size of stinky blue cheese. I put them in lettuce wraps with a honey mustard smear. Perfect contrast of crunchy lettuce and creamy blue cheese, and a good lean/fat ratio between the bison and cheese. Now, off for a midday swim to burn some of it off. Hopefully, it will all stay in my belly, as I’m not adhering to the rule that you should stay out of the water for an hour after you eat. Wish me luck!

Another fun and fab dinner, and a friend’s new food business

9 Jan

I love eating with friends who make it so relaxing, fun and full of laughter. Last night, we started out with a scotch tasting. S & G picked up the scotches on their recent U.K. trip. Although I was excited to do my very first scotch tasting in which we compared 5 scotches, the analysis confirmed that I do not appreciate scotch. I tried hard to want to like it, but I guess I’m just not that refined. I would much prefer a glass of spicy red or Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose any day.

We indeed have Champagne with Gigi’s first course – a delicious mushroom soup. We also added in a glass of the Champagne to the mushroom soup at the last minute prior to service and it really made the soup pop. The rest of the meal, minus green tea mochi for dessert, is shown in the featured pic above. Gigi is famous for her lamb, and I love lamb. She marinated her chops in elderflower cordial. Sensational! I need to get a bottle of that. It had this beautiful, faint flower scent to it, and it married well with the one sprig of rosemary that did not overpower the elderflower. And, Gigi broiled it to a perfect rare-med rare. ¬†Simple perfection.

This is Gigi and me in her kitchen:  

I really want to post the hilarious picture of Carnet and Suzanne – Carnet in the massage chair and Suzanne on a couch – blissfully napping after dinner in the glow of the fireplace. But, I’m not sure either of them would appreciate me posting a picture of them napping, although they both look very sweet.

What a delightful meal and a good nap for the two of them!

Changing gears, I just found out that one of my good friends who moved to CO from HI last year started a food business! Her business is Nokaoi foods and she makes healthy and organic desserts.  Check out her delicious desserts at

She just started her business with another fitness guru friend and I’m wishing them much success! ¬†Lora loves to eat tasty food, so I know her healthy versions will be sensational – especially the flourless chocolate tort that has coconut milk in it!

Mex food night and a quick braised greens recipe that’s awesome

8 Jan

The other day when I said 2012 food has not been that exciting so far, of course I meant with the exception of going to Shan’s for Mexican night! Above, her lovely table and the food. The menu: Likikoi margaritas (the best I’ve ever had) rimmed with li hing mui; marinated and grilled tuna on corn tortillas; grilled chicken skewers; Mex rice; a salad of black beans, hearts of palm and mango; and chili rellenos. Below is a closer look at the rellenos. Shannon loves to fry, and she’s great at it. She never uses a thermometer and her fried food always comes out stunningly crisp and not greasy. There’s no magic here, just lots of experience. She knows her stove temperatures and when to drop the items in and take them out.

I loved her really simple salad of black beans, hearts of palm and fresh mango. It was dressed with a hint of lime and cilantro. The sweetness of the mango worked with the marinated hearts of palm really well.

Onto a recipe from last night’s meal… after a beautiful sunset and Mai Tai at the Elk’s Club (below):

Last night, I topped the gumbo a la Rachel with some braised kale (1 bunch green, 1 bunch purple). I’ve always been a fan of kale, collards, and chard. After so many years of preparing them, I’m trying to find new ways to enjoy them. Have that bottle of Martinelli’s left over from New Year’s eve? This recipe is a great way to use it! Any apple cider will do, but preferably one with no added sugar as you don’t want to overdo the sugar.

Here’s the braised greens recipe (serves 4): Take 2 bunches of your favorite cooking greens and throw them in a large pot along with 2 cups of apple cider, 1 cup chicken stock, and a large pinch of salt if your chicken stock has no salt (otherwise, you don’t really need the salt). Turn the burner on high and steam/braise the greens for a few minutes until wilted, but not “dead”. You want to preserve some of the great vitamins and fiber in them. Take them out with tongs and place on top of your favorite stew or protein, or use as a side. E voila! The sweetness of the cider compliments the earthiness and slight bitterness of the greens. So easy and delicious.

Up to Gigi and Suzanne’s tonight for dinner. Gigi always makes these individual chocolate molten lava cakes that are to die for. Can’t wait for dessert!

Hangover food and 3 rounds of chicken

6 Jan

Isn’t this sandwich beautiful? I am a bit of a sandwich queen, despite my attempts at eating Paleo which has provided Carnet with much success in how he feels and looks. There’s something so satisfying about 2 really good pieces of bread housing a fantastic sauce or sauces (the gooey-er the better in my book), and your favorite vegies, fruits and/or proteins. Before culinary school, I thought about doing a sandwich truck, but the math didn’t work out for me as I’m stubborn and wanted to serve only all natural, pricier proteins, and organic grains and vegies. I don’t think people in Hawaii will flock to buy a $15 sandwich over and over, no matter how delicious or packed with good calories and fats (in large part, people in Hawaii want lots of food for their money and they’re addicted to fat, usually bad fats. Spam musubi and plate lunches….need I say more?). In defense of Hawaii, over the last 5 years especially, we have seen a movement by the 30s and 40s crowd to source and serve better food, source locally, engage in nose-to-tail cooking, and “try” to bring more CA-style eateries into being. There’s still room for improvement, however, and hopefully in a few years that’s where I’ll come in ūüėČ

But, I digress. Back to my sandwich. So, my cranberry-walnut-whole wheat bread sandwich is perfect hangover food. How do I know this? Not saying. Anyway, I toasted the bread, slathered it with soynut butter (non-gmo, if you believe the label but I don’t since I’m pretty sure Monsanto owns the whole corn and soybean world – boooo!) and inserted slices of local apple bananas and turkey bacon. The sweet, the salty, the crunchy and creamy from the soynut butter…ahhh. It seemed healthier than many other combos I could have opted for, but it had lots of fat and salt that did cure me. That, with a piping hot cup of 100% Kona coffee. Wow! I suppose it’s an ode to Elvis, as everyone says he liked peanut butter and banana sandwiches, but this one is really an ode to my mother. We have been laying into bacon and banana sandwiches since I had my first tooth. I think this would have also been great with almond butter, which I’ll try next time.

2012 has not been a really exciting food year for me yet. It’s mainly been about making simple, nutritious food for the family. Carnet and I made 2 beer can chickens (yes, free range, organic chickens if you believe the labeling) the other night, which is a great way to have leftovers for at least 2 meals. Super simple recipe will be posted at the bottom of the page. And, you don’t even need to use beer cans. I only had one can of Asahi, so I used a can of ginger ale for the other one. Last time, I used a can of pineapple juice. It all works. It’s about the steam more than the actual flavor of the liquid.

Anyway, 1 chicken fed 4 of us, along with roasted root vegetables and cauliflower rice. Then, dinner #2 out of the second chicken was a sliced chicken, apple, spinach salad, with a few left over vegies from the fridge topped with a simple balsamic, mustard, and olive oil dressing.

Meal #3 will be a kind-of gumbo, but not really. I’ll shred the rest of chicken #2 and throw it in with some fire roasted tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, onions, fennel, celery, red bell peppers, chicken broth, a Thai chili or 2, andouille sausage and scallions. Again, this one is about cleaning out the pantry and using up vegetables in the fridge. We won’t put it over rice, as that’s not in Carnet’s eating regimen at the moment, but it will be a good stew, nonetheless.

Here’s the beer can chicken recipe I use:

Beer Can Chicken

 1 (4-pound) whole chicken

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons of your favorite dry spice rub (if it doesn’t have salt, also rub chicken with 1 tablespoon salt)

1 can beer

Remove neck and giblets from chicken and reserve for gravy making. Rinse chicken inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels. Rub chicken with oil and then rub inside and out with dry rub and salt. Set aside.

Open beer can and take several gulps (make them big gulps so that the can is half full). Place beer can on a solid surface. Grabbing a chicken leg in each hand, plunk the bird cavity over the beer can. Transfer the bird-on-a-can to your grill or an oven roasting pan and place in the center of the grate or oven. The bird should be balancing on the can uniformly.

On Grill: Cook the chicken over medium-high, indirect heat (i.e. no coals or burners on directly under the bird), with the grill cover on, for approximately 1 1/4 hours or until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees F in the breast area and 180 degrees F in the thigh and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

In Oven:  If you do it in an oven pan, you can also throw in vegetables to roast with it in the bottom of the pan about 30 minutes prior to the bird being done. I use carrots, celery, onions, parsnips and sweet potatoes cut in big chunks. If you cut them too small, they will be too mushy.  Cook at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes to start browning and crisping the skin, and then lower temp to 350 until temp registers 165 in breast.  Let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

* One chicken will feed about 4 people. Use two chickens if there are more people or leftovers for 2 more meals!

** If you want crispy skin, you’ll need to baste the outside of the chicken with olive oil or butter a few times while it’s cooking.

Graduation and End of 2011 re-cap

3 Jan

Graduation was on December 20. ¬†What fun! ¬†Above is a pic of our whole class on Dec. 19 with our final exam judges. ¬†Below are a few shots of us in different groups. ¬† My mom flew out from CO and Carnet flew in from Japan. ¬†Carnet was a super champ, as I made him go out to dinner at Sons & Daughters for an 8:45 seating. ¬†Dinner was fabulous, so for anyone who is in SF, I recommend Sons & Daughters. ¬†You need to have some time to dine, as it’s a price fixe dinner and they space out the courses. ¬†It wasn’t overly long, but you’ll need to plan a good 2 1/2 hours, especially if you want to speak with the somm about some wines. ¬†Carnet picked out some great wines to accompany the courses!

From left: Chef Jeremy, Ian (congrats, Ian, on best project, you sous vide king!), Anne, Bobby, me, Mark and Tomas.

Chef Peter and me.

The day after graduation, we threw a little cocktail party in the SF apartment. Bobbie and Mark helped me cooked appetizers: kibbeh with carmelized onions; flatbread pizzas with roasted mushrooms, pecorino romano, mozarella, roasted garlic oil, and arugula in balsamic on top after it was baked; smoked salmon on cucumber rounds with creme fraiche and dill (classic, but always good); and a meat and cheese plate with fig jam and fresh fruit. ¬†Many thanks to the boys who basically did most of it, as I was busy doing something I can’t remember at this point.

Carnet, Jan and I flew back home to HI on Dec. 22, and on Dec. 24 we were at our favorite Christmas Eve dining spot – more out of tradition and view than anything else. We went to Orchids in the Halekulani Hotel. Here’s a pic at sunset of Carnet and me (and some random guy off to the right), and then another one of me after Busaba, Ian and Bev made me wear a bakers cap with “Iron Chef” labeled on it – hilarious!

On Christmas day, we went over to Busaba’s and cooked there. Prime Rib is Carnet’s domaine, so he was in charge of that. ¬†In trying to stick as much as possible with Carnet’s paleo eating (with a few blips here and there), I made a parsnip and celery root puree that mimicked mashed potatoes and was sooo much more flavorful and healthy. ¬†Here’s the quick and easy recipe:

Celery Root and Parsnip puree (serves 8-10):

Ingredients: 10 parsnips; 1 large celery root; 1/2-1 cup cream; 3 Tablespoons butter; minced parsley; salt in boiling water

Directions: Think of this preparation as similar to mashed potatoes but sweeter. 1) ¬†Peel parsnips and celery root and cut them into even size chunks. 2) Put in 2 different pots with enough water to barely cover each. ¬†3) Salt each pot of water heavily so it tastes like sea water. 4) Cook each until fork tender. 5) Strain both, reserving the parsnip water. ¬†6) Add cooked parsnips, celery root, 3 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup of parsnip water, and 1/2 cup of cream in a cuisinart or really good food processor or blender. ¬†7) Puree, adding more of the parsnip water as you go until the mixture is creamy, like mashed potatoes. ¬†You can also add in more cream if you’d like, but the parsnip water adds in a lot of flavor and vitamins from the cooking water, and saves a bunch on calories and fat. ¬†8) Pour into serving bowl and mix in minced parsley. ¬† E voila!

New Year’s Eve we spent at the Rachel and Carnet casa, made a few appetizers, and drank way too much champagne and 21 year old Glen Livet with family. ¬† I need to get my butt in gear and start planning some more for Spain. ¬†Hawaii has a way of making you slow down, enjoy the sun and sand, and just want to be. ¬†Tonight – up to Shannon and Fred’s for what will surely be remarkable Mexican food. ¬†Shan is a whiz in the kitchen and my learning continues every time I go to her house!

Day 119 – Last day prior to the final, some fun with the boys, and a new knife!

17 Dec

I love my new Kikuichi slicer! It was a present from Bobbie and Mark. Ahhhh, so nice of them. But, you’re not suppose to gift knives because it severs the bond between the knife and the knife owner. So, I had to give them each $1 in exchange for my Christmas gift. The knife is so sleek and beautiful!

So, last night instead of playing with my knife all night, I decided we should go try a new BBQ place in the Mission – Southpaw BBQ. As Mark said, “no bueno”. It was terrible. Super dry ribs, mediocre-at-best pulled pork, lots of sauces none of which were spectacular, and Bobbie didn’t like our server as she didn’t know anything about Bourbon. The restaurant was packed with hipsters who apparently know nothing about BBQ or Bourbon according to my Kentucky friend. And, they didn’t have Woodford Reserve. So, that was a bust. But, I still have a beautiful knife!

Hopefully, today we’ll find some much tastier morsels in Napa/Calistoga/St. Helena. We’re going wine tasting and then lounging at my favorite place to stay. It’s a beautiful, sunny Saturday in Norcal and my life is amazing. I’m blessed.

Update to my last blog: The bread “stuffing” balls that Chef Udo made are called Knodel. There’s suppose to be an umlaut above the “o”. Thanks for the correction, Chef Udo!

Monday is reckoning day. Hopefully, our relaxing weekend will translate into a not-as-stressful-as-I-think Monday!