Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cooking Matters

I’ve had a busy couple of weeks.  Some of it has been relaxing, some busy, some well just overwhelming.

I have been helping my sister with my Aunt’s estate.  Overwhelming – and I only have a small piece of the “pie” so to speak, and so excited that my sister has a cookie in the Pillsbury bake off!  I’m going to bake it, take pictures and post it later on this summer, but I have so many other projects going on in the kitchen. (That news to come at a later date)

This past week I got the joy of volunteering at the KROC Center for the MSU Extensions Cooking Matters.  This particular version of the program is working with middle school teens on the basics of cooking.  Our first week has been organization and getting to know my teens.  And I’ve been told that the numbers could swell to 30 (15 each day)  so I’d best be prepared! 

Every recipe that we work on is a healthy recipe.  And it is important to get these young adults to try the food.  I remember Chef Campbell in culinary school telling us that you have to try a food numerous times, at least 13 to get your palate used to it.  Then you can form an opinion!  It’s hard to explain that to teens whose palate has been formulated by fast foods, boxed foods, and quick and easy.  I bless my mom for teaching me how to cook, and each and every time I work with someone new in the kitchen, I remember how slow and uncertain I must have been.  I didn’t realize it then, but now I do – my mom is a saint!  She had so much patience, and we always thought she didn’t!  What a few decades of perspective brings to the table!

Our teens made Northwest Apple Salad and Hearty Egg Burritos giving them the chance to use knifes, skillets, the stove top and EAT!


Northwest Apple Salad


2 medium Granny Smith Apples

2 tablespoons dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, or currants)

3 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt

1 tablespoon whole, shelled walnuts

1 Tablespoon honey


Rinse and remove cores from apples.  Do not peel.  Cut into 1 inch pieces.  Place in medium bowl.  Add dried fruit and yogurt to bowl.  Mix well.

In a small Skillet over medium heat toast nuts until golden brown and fragrant.  Watch closely, so they do not burn.  Remove from pan and let cool.

Chop cooked nuts with a knife.  Add chopped nuts to bowl and add honey.  Toss and serve.


Hearty Egg Burritos

3 green onions

1 medium red or green bell pepper

1 medium clove garlic

2 ounces low-fat cheddar cheese

1 (15 ½ ounce) can black beans no salt added

1 teaspoon canola oil

4 large eggs

¾ teaspoon ground cumin divided

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

non stick cooking spray

4 (8i inch) whole wheat flour tortillas

1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt

¼ cup fresh cilantro


Rinse green onions and bell pepper.  Peel garlic clove.

Slice green onions.  Remove core and dice bell pepper.  Mince garlic

If using fresh cilantro, rinse and chop leaves now

Grate Cheese

In a colander, drain and rinse beans

In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat oil, add beans, green onions, bell pepper, and garlic.  Cook until peppers are soft, about 3 minutes.  Add ½ teaspoon ground cumin and black pepper.  Transfer mixture to a plate.

In a small bowl, crack eggs.  Add remaining ¼ teaspoon cumin.  Beat mixture lightly with a fork.

Wipe out skillet with a paper towel .Coat with nonstick cooking spray.  Heat at medium-low.  Add egg mixture.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until eggs are firm as you like.  About 3- 5 minutes.  If using cilantro add now.

Spoon egg mixture into center of each tortilla, dividing evenly.  Add beans and veggies.  Sprinkle cheese on top.  If using yogurt, add a dollop to each tortilla.  Fold over mixture and serve.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Vanilla Ice Cream for my Dad


Simple Vanilla Ice Cream, for my Dad

I miss my dad.  He died in September 2009.  He wasn’t one to mince many words, hence the “he died”, not passed away, not went to be with his Lord, not whatever the latest wording should be.  He was a gruff old proud Polish Man, a veteran of World War 2, provider for my mom and our family, hardworking, and in his own way amazing.


When I was 10, I’m sure I didn’t think that!  My dad would do anything that he could for us, but he didn’t really spoil us, not like you see today.  Nope, he expected that we would graduate kindergarten and just go to first grade.  No party there, but when he did allow us to have a party, he was the best host that there ever could be.   I remember my first pool party, we were one of the only kids on the block with an above the ground pool, and he  made sure that there were mounds of “shake n bake” chicken (anybody remember that?), potato salad, towne pop (I got to pick out the flavors!) and my mom’s potato salad.  He also made the most amazing fried sliced potatoes in a cast iron pan, always crisp and tender, no burnt edges, seasoned with salt and pepper – he could mound those in that pan, and never make a mess!
We didn’t celebrate every birthday growing up, not like today, mostly we had a birthday cake, but every once in a while if our birthday fell on a weekend (not Sunday, though!) we could pick the restaurant – and it wasn’t fancy- big boys, A&W, or Stoney Inn.  We thought we were in heaven.

We couldn’t have mini bikes – the biggest rage ever back then, but we had a go cart, the only one on the block!  It had STP stickers; we thought it meant “stop teasing pollacks!”  He helped my mom every year with her garden, and we all had to pitch in, moving manure, planting, weeding and harvesting.  If my mom was sick, woe be us if we made too much noise.  He even did the dishes, and would mop the floor on his hands and knees when mom had a miagraine.  In turn we learned how to take care of other people, not by what he said, but by what he did. 
I remember he took me to my first “gig” as a musician, and stuck around all night long, brought me home, and told me I still had to be up to go to church that morning! He did that for many years, until I was old enough to drive, and he trusted where and who I was working a job with. 
   We waited dinner on my dad, no matter what; he worked a service job in refrigeration and would come home late.  My mom would hold dinner, we got to eat if it was approaching bedtime, but she would wait.  I still have dinner with my husband Jeff as much as possible, just because my parents did – they set the example.   A few years ago, I was walking my dogs, and one of my neighbors had a “refrigeration service vehicle” in his drive way, I don’t remember which one and I chatted with him.  Told him my dad did HVAC (proud that I know what the acronym stood for), politely he asked my dad’s name:  George Chmurynski:  to my surprise he said” Good Ole George!  How is he!  Best Freon man ever in the city!”  He went on to say a few more good things.  That was my dad, a hard working guy that tried to do the next the right thing.  
 He was a gruff ole guy!  The service counter at Leatherman’s hardware used to let the “newbee’s” wait on him, if they could survive good ole George, well they had a job!  They even asked me for a picture to hang on the wall when they heard he had died.  It’s there, above the register.  (Thank you Leatherman’s hardware).  To this day when I walk in and I hear:   “George’s daughter is here!”  I always smile.

 When I rescued a Rottweiler named Tiffany we had a tense conversation.  He was sure that I had lost my mind, why his granddaughter could be in danger;  what could I be thinking!  He stormed over, met her with the big brown eyes went directly to the pet store and bought the biggest box of dog biscuits!  The following week, I had a dog house complete with a picture window!  Zoe use’s it today!  He loved Jax and Zoe to, though he wouldn’t admit it! 
He supported me through my divorce, being single, getting married to the best man ever (Jeffery Rees – I love you!) and all the ups and downs of everyday life.
I went to culinary school and was introduced to wonderful foods and ideas: One being simple homemade ice cream, fresh strawberries and aged balsamic vinegar.   I don’t even remember the occasion, we seldom all got together, my two sisters their husbands and us, it just wasn’t a normal thing for our family which seems so abnormal to most other families, though in truth, I bet we are pretty much the norm!
I served vanilla ice cream with strawberries for dessert, got out my balsamic vinegar that I had just bought at Zingerman’s on a road trip – 50 year old stuff and added a few drops to my dad’s bowl.  “What are you doing?  Vinegar??? You are going to ruin it!”  No dad, just trust me, taste it, if you don’t like it I’ll scoop you up a fresh bowl of ice cream.  By the time I was done he had his bowl out in both hands, just like Oliver and said “more please.”

This one’s for you Dad - I miss you


Simple Vanilla Ice Cream

Garnish with Strawberries and the best Balsamic Vinegar you can afford!

1 ½ cups whole milk

1 cup granulated sugar

pinch sea salt

2 ½ cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract


In a medium bowl,  whisk together the milk, sugar and salt until the sugar is fully dissolved.  Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.  Cover and refrigerator for 2 hours (or overnight is better!)  Whisk mixture together again before pouring into the ice cream machine.


Pour the mixture into the ice cream machine, turn your unit on and follow the manufacturer’s direction.  This should take about 40 – 50 minutes.


Garnish with Strawberries and Aged Balsamic vinegar



Sunday, June 2, 2013

Quiona Salad

Quiona Salad

I love Quiona.  It’s a simple and hearty seed.  Complex protein, nourishing, and now it’s a very “cool” new/old food.  I’ve been using it for years. 

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me, as I’ve been fully engaged in my personal/chef catering business the infamous “tuxedo junction catering” and have struck out on my own and I’ve been helping my sister out, with my Aunt’ Mary’s estate

A good friend of mine Wayne, his daughter just got married, and I mean just – last night and I got the privilege of doing the rehearsal dinner.  It was a barbecue out on the pavilion of Tyler Creek Golf Course – so it was a bit rustic, and I wanted it to be as special as I could make it.  The Bride – Tara – told me she loved asparagus and could I incorporate that into something?

Our menu was burgers, brats, and chicken.  I wanted some fresh salads to go with that, (at least a bit healthy before the big day ) and cookies( her favorite are oatmeal raisin) and brownies- oh and some fresh watermelon.


I found out that day that they had been eating left over hamburgers from a bridal party/shower all week!  Boy, I was glad I had that chicken for them!  It was a group of about 30 people, and when you are catering in the country, you want to have everything possible, there isn’t a kitchen to go running to!

To my surprise the hit of the evening:  The Quiona Salad!  It's the one in front!


2 cups cooked Quiona (be careful, the tiny seeds can get everywhere) – you cook it like rice – 2 parts water to 1 part Quiona.

1 14 ounce can black beans – rinsed thoroughly

1 small red onion diced

1 large bunch asparagus – blanched and cut into small pieces

Salad dressing of your choice – I used a fat free tomato basil!



Yes – that was it!  Just a simply easy salad, sometimes it’s the simple that makes it so good.  The funny part – if I didn’t just write this down and someone asked me about it 6 months from now – I’m not sure I’d remember what I put in it.  You can use anything that you like!  garbanzo beans instead of black beans, green beans instead of asparagus, no onion, white onion, almonds, your favorite salad dressing, or make one!  It’s endless.

Trent's Mom Brought beautiful flowers for the occassion!  It was a lovely touch to the buffet table!  Thank you Mom!

I hope you try this New/Old seed.  It’s been around for years, and it’s a complete protein.  It’s a great way to feed a vegetarian/vegan or sneak one of those into the daily meals without anybody knowing, unless the read this blog!