Christmas 2014 Top Ten Gifts for An Adventurous Cooking Life

HOLIDAY GIFTSSometimes it’s hard to know what that crazy cook in your life would really like for Christmas. And because of that, since we too are crazy cooks, sometimes we don’t always get our heart’s desire either!

Last year for Christmas one of my sons gave me something truly adventurous to try in the kitchen—a Molecular Gastronomy Kit. That’s a mouthful all by itself. It is a selection of natural texturing agents that can be used to deconstruct any dish or cocktail using molecular techniques. Still don’t get it?  Me either until I tried it out. Lots of fun and adventure here.

So let’s get shopping! There isn’t much time left. Most everything can be purchased online to make gift giving easier for us last-minute people. Luckily “cyber Monday” has become “cyber Everyday ‘Til Christmas!” There are lots of sales yet to be found.

Top Ten Gifts for An Adventurous Cooking Life

10. Cookie Cutters from cookiecutter.com. Yes they have a lot of cookie cutters including for Christmas but also for all the other holidays AND you can have a custom designed cookie cutter made! Now that’s a cool idea! Shipping is free for all orders over $50.

9.  Suzanne’s Specialties brown rice syrup. Traditional rice syrup plus flavored syrup such as chocolate, maple, raspberry and more!  High quality, no sugar, complex carb sweetener with flair. Maybe your favorite health-conscious cook will make you some cookies! You can get a mix and match pack of 4 or 12 of these through Christina Pirello’s website, Christina Cooks. (Yes, I confess, I just bought a four-pack for myself the other day.)  The pricing is good and includes shipping. About $30.

8. Winter Forest Soaps and Lotions from Williams Sonoma. I usually don’t go in much for scented things but this one made with essential oils, Winter Forest, really captures my imagination and it is delightful! It comes in a dish soap, a counter cleaner and a hand lotion. My Hubbin’ gets this for me almost every year!  $12-$42.

7.  The R-Evolution Molecular Gastronomy Kit. This is the one I described. There are several places to order this from and here’s one—Cookswarehouse  About $60.

6. Teavana Perfect Tea Maker. I saw this demonstrated at my local Teavana store and I have asked Santa for one (Pleeeease!) If you love loose leaf teas you know that they can be messy and it’s easy to waste the tea. You can put the tea in an unbleached tea bag, But it is not so easy to reuse the tea for a second cup. If you try to use the tea loose in the tea pot, you have to strain it out and the clean up is tedious as well as wasteful. This little glass teamaker comes in two sizes and is very reasonably priced. Teavana does have a website.  $20.

5. Vitamix on QVC. I always wanted a Vitamix and two years ago I saw it on a great sale on the QVC on TV. They ship it to you when you order and you can make payments. This turned out to be a less painful way for me to purchase—and immediately receive—my Vitamix which I love love love. So if you’re favorite cook has this expensive piece of equipment at the top of his or her list, I highly recommend getting on the QVC website and watching for those holiday sales and easy payments. It is very well worthwhile.  $500.

4.  Back by popular demand! Flavored high-quality balsamic vinegars from Oleaceae. No limit to what an adventurous chef can come up with using these! Cocktails, dessert sauces, dressings and marinades all from vinegar?  Yes! Unfortunately it is too late to get a delivery by Christmas but don’t let that stop you! These are incredible gifts even if late. $20 a bottle.

3. DIY photographic light box. If your chef is also a food blogger, maybe you’ve seen how frustrating it can be to take decent photos of food! Believe me it is really hard to get a good result unless you can control the environment your photographing in—especially the light! What could be more thoughtful than a hand made gift that takes about 20 minutes to make and uses only a few common and inexpensive materials? (Etsy entrepreneurs would also love this.) Learn how to make a light box here.  $10 or so and a little of your time.

2. Personalized Chef gear from Chefwear.  I once got a personalized chef hat and chef pants for Christmas and wore them and wore them. What a fun way to acknowledge the chef in your life! They even have them in kids’ sizes!  $10.95-$32 plus personalized embroidery.

and the number one fabulous gift for the chef in your life . . . . .

1. Every chef enjoys a night off from the kitchen. Or a long weekend. Or even a week! But if your fave chef is very health and natural food conscious, you probably know that he or she has a hard time finding ANY restaurant or resort that serves meals that are up to their own standards. I can tell you that around my city, I’m the best chef I know and I enjoy my cooking better than any I can buy in any restaurant. What’s a hard-working chef to do?

How about a Healthy Cruise!!!!? Now you’re talkin’!  This is the one to take.

Holistic Holiday at Sea March 12-15, 2015  Features macrobiotics, vegan, T. Collin Campbell, seminars, excursions and cruise ship entertainment and amenities. $3,000 – $8,000 or so per couple.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!

 

 

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A Day in Corrales and a Vegan Lunch

My husband picked a beautiful day to take us to Corrales, New Mexico where we took a tour of artists’ studios.

New Mexico is chock full of artists and while you’ve probably heard about the art colonies in places like Taos or Santa Fe, every New Mexican town—large or small—has a cache of wonderful local art. Corrales, or should I say “Corraleans” call their place a village. I suppose with only 7300 people that is true.

The tour included 75 artists which was more than we could manage to visit in one day. As we drove through the village, we saw Villa Acequia, an historic building circa 1862 on Corrales Road. There they had a sampling of all the artists’ work so you could decide which ones to visit. We didn’t want to be that organized. We just wandered around all day but we did stop into this Villa. It was shaping up to be a very warm day.

We’re flirting with summer over here in New Mexico. ENTRANCE TO VILLA ACEQUIA I was fascinated with these shadows on the front walkway of Villa Acequia. Inside was beautiful too. The owner recently restored this historic building and isn’t sure yet what he’s going to do with it. I thought it would be a beautiful place for a wedding or an event. Inside was all the art and a lot of information. I didn’t photograph art but I did photograph a lovely easel I found inside. EASIL This is not an unusual objet d’art, I know, but it was inviting me to come try my hand at painting! I also took several photos of this: BATHROOM SLASH WINE CELLAR   wine in the bathroom This is the restroom/wine cellar.  Ladies, did you bring your corkscrew when going into the facilities?

We really only got around to seeing about a dozen of the seventy-five artists. We found several that we truly admired including a family of photographers, a glass infusion artist, and wonderful potters.  My Hubbin’ bought me a beautiful pottery serving plate made by Sandy Lipka. You will see more about that when I feature it in a cooking post!

Of course, we got hungry. We went to one of the small, gourmet restaurants in the village (there are many) called The Indigo Crow Cafe. Indigo Crow Cafe is by no means a vegetarian or vegan restaurant but they do feature several suitable choices on their menu. More and more restaurants are doing that these days.

My Hubbin’ opted for Sunday Brunch and I chose a portabello mushroom sandwich which was excellent! Unlike most I’ve had, they do not smother it with cheese and it was not in the least bit oily so the mushroom and vegetables actually stayed in the sandwich instead of sliding out of the multi-grain ciabatta.. PORTOBELLO SANDWICH 1   This was perfectly refreshing and satisfying! FLOWERING CACTUS It was a lovely day in Corrales!

Rainbow’s End

Traveling is always a challenge for anyone who is on a special dietary program or just wants to eat well. I have been on the road and in fact, I’m still on the road and after almost three weeks of scrounging for something I’m willing to eat and hopefully something I actually want to eat, I’m doing pretty well.

Usually on the road I rely heavily on my Super Blue Green Algae products to see me through. They are mineral rich, whole, organic and they are the greenest of green foods. But you know how it is, at least a few times you’d like to find a nicely prepared meal that you can sit down to and enjoy.

You might even say you’re looking for that pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.  And I happened to find that in Las Vegas, Nevada where I’m working. A friend told me about Rainbow’s End Health Food Store and its Veggin’ Out Café at 1100 East Sahara Avenue and it turned out to be my little pot of gold for dining.

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but around where I live there are no independent “health food stores.”  There are the big chains such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and something called Sprouts that is really only semi-health food oriented. When I walked into Rainbow’s End I thought of stores I used to go to in the 70’s and 80’s.  And being a hippie at heart, I really liked this store.

For one thing, I found a lot of lesser known brands and local products that looked very interesting—especially in the health and beauty section. Maybe some of the things I saw are readily available on the west coast but they were new to me.

Indie Tea.  Interesting blends with psychedelic labels.

Indie Tea. Interesting blends.

RAW HONEY

The Veggin’ Out Café promised vegetarian, vegan and raw selections of dishes made from organically grown food. See what I mean? It was quite a find! And even more so because the menu was varied and interesting.  (And if you have a meat eater in your party, they offer something for them too.)

Very nice little place!

The Veggin’ Out Cafe is a very nice little place!

My first meal there was Quinoa and Vegetable Soup and a Green Machine Smoothie made with bananas and pineapple & coconut juice. That was such a satisfying lunch after weeks of making do with almonds, whole wheat pita and packaged hummus and veggie wraps featuring mostly lettuce and tomatoes plus some regular restaurant food. I ate with great relish and without stopping to take a picture. (Sorry)

I enjoyed that lunch very much and went back for more meals there. The food is flavorful, not overly salty, very reasonably priced and attractively served.  No bland, intolerable tofu dishes. The chef knows what she’s doing here!

I also met the owner of the store, Sam Friedman, who was working the counter quite incognito and very personable.

If you find yourself in Las Vegas and looking for a meal, I highly recommend the Veggin’ Out Café at Rainbow’s End!  Check out their menu here.

Rainbow's End on Urbanspoon

Guest Post: Healthy Traveling — It Can Be Done!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for this blog (besides the chocolate mousse quest) was to make the blog more interactive by having six guest posts.  I had one guest earlier and it is now time for another, Cole Millen!

Cole Millen

Cole Millen

He introduced himself and offered me a post on eating well while traveling. Perfect for vacationers or business travelers!  Cole describes himself as an avid traveler and foodie who never forgets that life’s best memories are made through real life apprehension of legitimate “experiences.” Follow his blog at Cole’s Mill.

Thank you, Cole, for your contribution!

HEALTHY TRAVELING — IT CAN BE DONE!

The horizon is looking sunnier for the health-conscious traveler. Hotels and resorts are always looking for revenue-boosting schemes, especially as the traveling dollar of the average tourist becomes harder to get. They are designing more nutritious business banquets, restaurant fare, room service menus and min-bar options. The popularity of special diets is pushing much of this change as more people go paleo, gluten free and vegetarian. Smaller portions are becoming the norm on more hotel menus, and some hotel chains brand themselves around using locally sourced or organic foods.

When Flying

Flying has always been tricky for travelers watching their weight. The food options in airport terminals relied on coffee, pastries and chain burgers. Flyers trapped in the terminal faced few good options. Experienced travelers learned to eat a healthy meal prior to going to the airport, and packed their own healthy snacks for when they get a craving. Airports are doing a better job at offering healthy food options but it is still important to find the grilled chicken and salads whenever possible. Travelers intent on maintaining their weight and health should stay active during delays and layovers. Walk in the terminal, do some stair climbing or otherwise burn some calories. Avoiding alcohol in-flight is a good way to avoid calories. Drink water throughout the flight rather than soda or juices to curb hunger and dehydration. Skip the in-flight meal and pack a healthy meal of a sandwich, fresh veggies and a bottle of water instead.

Finding a healthy Hotel

Stay at a health friendly hotel if possible. A little online research during the trip planning stage saves calories and pounds. Read the hotel description on-line before booking a room. Usually the restaurant menus and other items are available on the website. Some also list nearby restaurants, so research the dining options that will be available. Often time’s hotels are misleading in their services and offerings. I recently found a great and informative site that made finding the right hotel easy. I was looking for hotels and found a great site that listed reviews for Las Vegas hotels called Gogobot. The site listed reviews regarding not only the hotels amenities and services, but also regarding the restaurants in the surrounding area as well as things to do. This made is so simple to not only find the right hotel but also to plan out the restaurants and things we could do and maintain our healthy lifestyle while away.

At your Hotel

Once at the hotel, travelers have the option of refusing the mini-bar key. This will help prevent those late night raids that are costly to the wallet and the waistline. Bring along packages of instant soup or oatmeal and plastic spoons. These meals can be made by heating water in the coffee maker and mixing the meal in a coffee cup.

If ordering room service, specify low fat or healthy cooking methods, and order the healthiest meal available on the menu. Select fruit, yogurt and whole grain cereal or toast at breakfast rather than a raspberry cheese Danish. Stay away from vending machines, unless they contain healthy food choices. Most hotels are surrounded by restaurants ranging from fast food to gourmet fare. Avoid the all-you-can-eat buffet and the fast food places. Pick somewhere with a varied menu to get a healthy meal. Utilize the hotel’s booklet of nearby restaurants and peruse the menus before leaving the room. Have healthy snacks such as fruit in the hotel room to take the edge off pre-meal hunger.

Finally, use the exercise room provided at the hotel. Take the stairs if it is reasonable to do so. Swim some laps in the hotel pool before taking a dip in the hot tub. Find the in-room yoga channel and complete a routine between the business meetings and the banquet meal. Take advantage of the exercise opportunities offered rather than using business or vacation travel as an excuse to leave the diet and exercise regimen behind.

Eating Out

At a restaurant, look for healthy words such as baked, boiled, broiled, fat free, fresh, grilled, high fiber, light, marinated, multi grain, roasted, steamed, stir fried, vegetarian, vinaigrette, and whole wheat in the menu descriptions. Avoid any food listed as stuffed, smothered, loaded, breaded or fried. Choose leaner cuts of meat and eat vegetables instead of simple carbohydrate side dishes. Use basic dieting and weight management knowledge at a restaurant and at home.

Having a Bright and Merry Christmas

Even the most enthusiastic cook likes to have a day off from the kitchen. And lucky me! My husband treated me to a special Christmas mini-vacation.

Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe was a beautiful spot for a Christmas getaway for two.  And Oh! The food!

Watermelon Salad

Watermelon Salad was out of this world!

The halls were decked all around–inside and out!

A New Mexican style Gingerbread House

A New Mexican style Gingerbread House at the historic La Fonda Hotel.  Check out the little luminarias!

I loved this hotel's unusual holiday decor.

I loved this hotel’s unusual holiday decor.

There was shopping . . .

Native American jewelers selling their wares

Native American jewelers selling their wares

And music . . .

Wheelchair harp player on the Plaza

Wheelchair harp player on the Plaza

And of course, there were Christmas Lights!

Magical Christmas Lights

Magical Christmas Lights on Santa Fe Plaza

More lights on the Plaza

More lights on the Plaza

We are enjoying a wonderful Christmas and I hope you are having a bright and merry holiday too!

Much love, Patty

Roasted Pumpkin Seed Oil, Georgia O’Keeffe and Inspiration

No matter where I go, my cooking life is easily inspired.

My husband and I took a little 24-hour vacation this weekend and went to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  If you haven’t been there, it is nestled about an hour north of Albuquerque and has an altitude of about 7,000 feet which makes it a cool relief on a hot weekend.  Being true blue to you, my blogging friends, I always have my eye out for something good to write about and I certainly found some things!

I can always count on Santa Fe to surprise me!  Last time I was there on a warm, spring weekend, this happened:

But this time, we were surprised by one of the Santa Fe shops we found instead of by the weather.  We discovered a shop called “Oleaceae” which sells olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sea salt from around the world.  Not much of an inventory you say?  Think again!  This store had dozens and dozens of plain and flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

The oils were incredible extra virgin olive oils and the flavored ones were infused with wonderful things that sent my imagination out-of-this-world with culinary ideas.  What would you make with Blood Orange Olive Oil?  Olceaceae suggests using it as a substitute for shortening in brownies and cakes or to pair it with Cranberry Pear, Dark Cocoa, Pomegranate or Fig Balsamic Vinegar.  Or how about making your hummus with Harrisa Olive Oil that is infused with cumin, coriander and garlic?

All the oils were available for tasting and the staff at Olceaceae can suggest the most outrageous pairings of oil and vinegar for you to try.  I found an oil there that was not an olive oil and it is one I have only heard of but never found available anywhere:  roasted pumpkin seed oil!  This was a very intense, rich unrefined seed oil made by roasting pumpkin seeds and then crushing them to extract the oil.  This is the one I purchased!

I understand that pumpkin seed oil is used in Austria on just about everything and I will be experimenting with my precious find and sharing what I come up with.

All the balsamic vinegars were aged for at least eighteen years and all imported from  Modena, Italy.  There were two main types:  dark and white balsamic vinegar.  And these came in a myriad of flavors!  My favorite dark balsamics were Lush Black Cherry–which you could actually drizzle on ice cream or mix with sparkling water with a slice of lime; the Cafe Expresso Balsamic, and the Blackberry Ginger.  Even the plain dark balsamic vinegar was divine and it was so sweet and delicious, you wouldn’t even need oil in your salad dressing.  And it could definitely be an ingredient for either savory or sweet dishes.

The white balsamics–which I’d never tried before–were wonderful too!  Mmmmm . . . what could you do with Island Coconut Balsamic or Fragrant Oregano Balsamic?  Tasting these was better than any wine tasting!  I know I have a whole new world of variations ahead of me using these beautiful condiments.

The Oleaceae Oils

The Oleaceae Vinegars

This company does mail order through their website, which is Oleaceaeoliveoil.com.

Having tasted more than a dozen oils and vinegars, we wandered out to the Santa Fe Plaza and decided to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.  I hadn’t known much about Georgia O’Keeffe before, except that she spent quite a lot of time in New Mexico painting the mountains, mesas, flowers and desert landscape.  The museum was very worthwhile and included a great selection of her work as well as fascinating insight on her philosophy of life.

She said, “I simply paint what I see.”  And she said, “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.”

Of course we went into the gift shop and having been thoroughly impressed with the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe and the fact that she lived at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico for years communing with nature and painting it, I was drawn to two particular photos of her.

In her kitchen, of course, where I imagine she was also quite creative.

Making Stew at Ghost Ranch

Pouring Tea

When the day was about over and we sat in the historic Santa Fe Plaza as the shops began to close, we met the apparently extremely popular “mayor” of the Santa Fe Plaza.  He was very friendly and very hip at the same time.

Motion, Mayor of Santa Fe Plaza

Back home, I’ve already opened my toasted pumpkin seed oil and savored the aroma again and again.  I’m dreaming of roasted vegetables with pumpkin seed oil, a lovely quinoa whole grain summer salad and a pumpkin seed with lemon zest dressing for tomato salad.  You will be the first to know!