500 Foods with the "Yoga Mat" Chemical

As many of you have read or heard in recent headlines, popular sandwich chain, Subway, has been under fire for including a chemical foaming agent used to make yoga mats (called azodicarbonamide or ADA) in their breads.  At first, Subway defended its practices by stating that this chemical helped maintain the bread's texture and shape.  Concern for their profit margin however, prompted them to issue recent statements that they will soon remove the chemical from their foods.  Is this too little, too late for Subway's PR staff? How many foods out there contain ADA?  And just how dangerous is this ADA chemical to humans?

Image courtesy of UndergroundHealth.com 


Blueberry Romos: Easy Turnover Pastry!

Love 'em or hate 'em, the Dallas Cowboys and their questionable quarterback, Tony Romo, never cease to keep you on the edge of your seat- usually at their expense.  Just when you think they've got a game in the bag, they upset fans around the world with another notorious turnover and lose the game within the last quarter.  I felt a little inspired to create a meme recipe of sorts, thanks to this hilarious meme that's been floating around the interwebs:

Thanks to ebaumsworld.com for the meme




And these are my version!


Blueberry Romo Turnovers:

Filling (also used in my Blueberry Berzerka Mazurka pastries!)
-  6 oz package frozen Blueberries
-  1/4 cup Blueberry Vodka (Stoli is best)
-  1/4 cup Water
-  2 tablespoons Granulated Sugar
-  1 teaspoon Cornstarch

Pastry
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough, thawed and divided into 6 squares
- 1 egg, beaten, for brushing over assembled pastries

To start, combine all the ingredients for the fruit filling in a medium saucepan, and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally (takes about 8 minutes).  Once you see the filling thicken, and bubbles start to surface, take the filling off the heat, and allow to cool completely.  It will thicken a bit more when cooled.  You can also use the filling as homemade jam!  Set the filling aside until ready to assemble, I prefer to make the filling the day before, and let it thoroughly cool in the fridge for use the next day.  If you don't want to make it the day before, just allow a few hours for the filling to cool completely.  You don't want to melt the butter in the pastry before it bakes!  You won't need the entire batch of filling for these pastries, so feel free to save the rest for toast, ice cream topping, and anything else you might use jam for.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spoon about 1-2 tablespoons of blueberry filling into the center of each square of pastry dough, and gently fold pastry dough over the filling, to create a stuffed triangle or rectangle, whichever you prefer.  Crimp the edges of the turnovers with a fork to seal in the filling.  Use a sharp knife to poke a few slits into the top of the pastries to allow steam to escape.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper, evenly spaced from each other, and use a pastry brush to brush egg mixture over pastries (this creates a shiny brown appearance on the pastries when they bake!).  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry dough appears evenly golden brown and crisp.  Allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes before serving.  Dust with powdered sugar for garnish if you'd like.

Did you notice the yield for this recipe?  I didn't pick six by accident, haha!






Dental Patient Friendly Foods

Most people dread going to the dentist for anything other than routine teeth cleaning, mainly due to the pain and discomfort that can occur before, during and after their procedures.  Maybe the worst part is not being able to eat like a normal human being for at least a week!  Personally, the only significant dental procedure I've experienced is the removal of one wisdom tooth when back in college.  I bounced back quickly though (hooray for youth!), others might not be so lucky...


In fact, I had the challenge of playing nurse to a root canal patient recently.  I remember living off mashed potatoes and pudding cups for a few days back then, and that wasn't satisfying or nutritious!  How could someone with some culinary skill bring back some happiness and comfort in a dental patient's life as they heal?  It's not as difficult as you might think!  It was a challenge I was eager to take on.  All it takes, is some "outside the box" thinking.

Smoothies:

Sounds obvious at first, but remember, they need the best nutrients to heal faster!  Darker berries, for example, hold more nutrients.  Peanut butter packs lots of protein.  Beet juice actually goes well with fruit smoothies too!  But please, use a low-fat frozen yogurt instead of ice cream to make these, you want them to heal, not pack on the pounds.

Custards:

Yes, puddings are custards, but I'm talking about going up a level.  You can bake your favorite pumpkin pie filling in ceramic ramekins instead of a pie crust (and yes, top them with whipped cream!), you can also make flan, chocolate mousse, and even panna cotta, just to name a few!

Bourbon Pumpkin Custards via Instagram @CulinaryCara

Slow Cooked Meats/Veggies:

Time to bust out the slow cooker and render some proteins into melt-in-your mouth tenderness!  I slow cooked a pot roast with onions, carrots, celery and spices for about 10-12 hours overnight (that's right, this gal can cook in her sleep!), and once it was fork tender, I shredded the pot roast and chopped it down until it was a very crumbly texture.  Then serve the crumbly beef over a bed of mashed potatoes, finely chop some of the slow cooked veggies over that and pour a bit of the cooking liquid over everything.  Makes for a hearty and heart-warming meal even if you're not getting teeth pulled!  You can use a food processor to finely chop the slow cooked meat, but I try to keep my knife skills in check every chance I get, so I do it the old-fashioned way.  Just keep in mind, the chopping will take place of what your dental patient can't do, and that's chew!

Pasta:

A bit overcooked and nothing that requires slurping will do the trick!  Use any small pasta with a puréed marinara sauce, trust me, it's way better than those pasta rings in a can!  You can also add crumbled Italian sausage for some protein, just make sure it's very finely crumbled for easy eating.  If your patient is more of an Alfredo fan, use your favorite Alfredo sauce and finely crumbled ground chicken instead!  Mac and cheese is always a classic, just make sure the cheese sauce is nice and smooth for easy eating.  Steer clear of pesto sauces, by the way, as the small bits of nuts could get stuck in the wounds.  You don't want to send your loved one back to the dentist!

Ditalini is an example of an easy-to-eat, small pasta! credit to SourCherryFarm.com for the image

Salads:

Yup, salads too!  Chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad, even pasta salad (overcooked pasta, that is),  just as long as any proteins and veggies involved are very finely chopped!  Here's a chicken salad I made using a ready-made rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, along with celery, fresh tarragon, mayo, dijon and a little rice vinegar:

Instagram: @CulinaryCara

Miscellaneous:

Should your recovering patient grow weary of the aforementioned dishes, or maybe you have an exceptionally picky eater on your hands, you can throw a few of the following into the mix as well:  Mashed cauliflower, which fools people into thinking they're mashed potatoes more than you think!  Other notables include re-fried beans, tapioca pudding, grits or oatmeal, creamed/puréed soups, creamed spinach and even the Indian version of creamed spinach called Palak Paneer, if they are adventurous.  You might want to take out the cubed cheese (aka: Paneer) since it could be difficult to eat for a healing jaw.


You'll, without a doubt, bring some happiness to their recovery by keeping them well-fed!  A soft-food diet doesn't mean you're left with meager choices.  Got any additional suggestions?  Post 'em!


Kitchen Knife 101

Without fail, just about every social event I attend will have curious cooks ready to pick my brain about various foodie topics.  Knowledge is power, so I love to help in any way I can!  Perhaps the most common question asked is, "What are the main tools I need to have in my kitchen?"  My answer is always, "A few quality knives are first and foremost!"  Knives are perhaps the kitchen tool that most newbie cooks take for granted.  A few excellent knives will make life much easier in the kitchen, and boost your culinary self esteem to chef-like confidence!

Overhead shot of me preparing swordfish with my 8" Shun Classic chef's knife via Instagram

There are four main knives I recommend for your cooking needs, they can cover most tasks with ease:


8 Inch to 9 Inch Chef's Knife:

One of the most common knives used in professional and home kitchens alike.  These knives are generally all-purpose, but are great for cutting through large items like melons and butternut squash.  It's also ideal for chopping, mincing, slicing, and even carving.  If you have smaller hands, I recommend going for a smaller version to better maintain control of your knife, but try not to go shorter than 8 inches.  If you're not quite sold on this one, you could also opt for the following blade:

Santoku Knife:

Also known as a Japanese chef's knife, they are capable of just about anything a standard chef's knife can do, with an added benefit.  See those grooves on the sides of the blade?  That's called a Granton Edge which contains divots to prevent food from sticking to the blade when you're chopping, slicing, etc.  These are becoming more common in household kitchens, as they are shorter knives for easier control, wide blade for scooping and moving prepared foods from the cutting board, and the divots keeping foods off the blade as much as possible.  You can have one of these, or a standard chef's knife, or both like I do (never hurts to have options).

Serrated/Bread Knife:

Serrated edge knives are perfect for more delicate foods, such as tomatoes, bread, pound cake and sandwiches.  Narrow gaps between the serrations are better for tomatoes and delicate fruit, and wider serrations are usually better for breads.  Find a happy medium and you'll be set.  You'll be glad to have this handy blade around so your bread slices won't look like a smashed mess.

Paring Knife:

Last but not least, a good utility knife will be your saving grace, and I'm not talking about box cutters.  A paring knife is a must in your culinary blade arsenal.  Although there are a variety of shapes and sizes of paring knives out there, the standard chef's paring knife will be more multi-purpose, which looks must like a miniature version of the large chef's knife.  Paring knives are ideal for peeling and hulling veggies and fruit, sectioning citrus wedges, deveining shrimp, and detail cutting to make infinite culinary sculptures!  Like this fab food floral sculpture:
Credit to theBerry.com (formerly known as SheChive) for the image!
The same inquiring minds want to know, "What brand or style of knives should I buy?"  That's using your noodle, folks!  Remember the tried and true saying:  You get what you pay for.  An entire collection of nifty looking knives will do you no good if you go cheap.  All quality knives are forged (not stamped) from high carbon stainless steel.  Also look for balance in a quality knife by holding the knife by the bolster, or the space between the handle and the blade as shown below:
Photo courtesy of ChefDepot.net
My brand of choice are Shun knives (as you can tell from the examples above), because I'm a huge fan of their quality construction, accuracy/sharpness, and durability.  I currently own 4 blades from their Classic series and I am more than happy with them.  If Shun doesn't suit you, other notable brands to consider would be Wüsthof, Global, or Zwilling J.A. Henckels.  As you might have noticed, Japanese or German cutlery is the way to go!

When it comes to knife storage and care, DO NOT store them loose in a drawer, especially if you like your fingers.  Make sure you store them in a case, or a chef's block to ensure the longevity of the blade, and your digits.  Also, DO NOT put your knives in the dishwasher!  Hand wash them as soon as possible after use with a soft bristle brush and put back in its case or chef's block.

heeding this advice will make your cooking experiences much easier and exciting!  You'll have a new appreciation for the kitchen when you have quality knives in your hands.  Any questions?  Ask away!

This is Why Your Cookies Suck

Face it, you're sitting there with those grocery store bought cookies that taste like cavity-inducing sugar bombs because you suck at making cookies.  Stop buying that garbage and make some awesome treats at home with a few tips and tricks from the master.

Double Peanut Butter Cookie Perfection!


Are you a victim of the following culinary blunders?  I've got solutions!


The Blob:
Thanks to Granger Babies for the photo
You know the type, each cookie is like a snowflake, in the worst possible way.  Not only do blobby cookies lack a uniform appearance, but this also causes uneven baking!  The two spoon approach doesn't work as well as you think it does, and there are a few different solutions for a blob-free batch of cookies.  Don't like getting your hands dirty?  Invest in a disher!  Also known as a cookie scoop, this amazingly handy tool looks like an oversized, spring-action melon baller, and they come in a variety of sizes for small, large, or medium cookies.  A disher is the best way to make your cookies a uniform size and shape, and will also let them bake evenly for a better taste and texture.  Don't want to spend a few bucks on a new kitchen gadget?  The chill and slice method works for a variety of cookie doughs, just make sure your dough is nice and cold before you slice it, or you won't get those near perfect circles.  If you have dull knives that can't get through a dense dough, try fishing wire (unused please) instead.  Not a fan of disc cookies?  You can measure and roll too.  Use a measuring spoon to get a uniform size (most recipes call for each cookie to be about a tablespoon), and then roll each cookie into a sphere and place on a prepared cookie sheet for baking.  Don't let the dough get too warm though, or your creations will become the next cookie catastrophe:


The Salvador Dali, aka: the Melt-Down:

Credit to ExpertPages.com for the image
Pretty sure most of you are familiar with the surrealist art by legendary artist, Salvador Dali, his piece titled, "The Persistence of Memory" in particular.  If not, go read a book, get cultured, and freakin' learn something.  That's what these melted cookies remind me of, but don't think the artistic excuse is going to get you any approval from your taste testers.  You turned what would be an excellent sweet treat into an ugly, crusty ,burnt sugar saucer.  Why they suck:  two fundamental factors cause this malice mishap.  First, you let the butter (or whatever fat you're using in your recipe) get too warm before baking.  This causes premature spreading of the cookie, before the baking soda has a chance to give it some height.  The answer is simple in this case, if you notice your cookies spreading too far, chill your dough for at least 15-20 minutes before you get them back in the oven.  If that didn't work, you're either baking at a higher temp than instructed, or your oven has calibration issues (let's hope it's the former and not the latter).  The first one is an easy fix, just set your temp correctly the first time (pay attention and follow the directions).  The second one, you've got bigger issues afoot that involve a repair guy and your hard-earned moolah.

The Crowder:

From Eleni Drinks Tea
So you thought that adding a few extra servings of cookie dough would save you oodles of baking time, or maybe you have no concept of distance and measurement.  Either way, these terrible ideas make your cookies suffer!  I understand, people are busy, and on the go, but let's not forget quality over quantity.  You might be the person that brought the cookies to the bake sale early, but you'll be the person that brought the ugly ones that don't get sold.  You eat with your eyes first, after all.  Don't rush them, geez!  If you're not a victim of rushed and crowded cookies, then you might have an issue with the concept of space.  Use a ruler or measuring tape if you have to, the average 1 tablespoon of cookie dough should be spaced apart about 3 inches apart to allow for spreading without crowding.  If you still get perfect that technique, there are some no-brainer cookie sheets with spacing guides that do the placement for you.  Now that you're cookies are shaped like perfect circles of deliciousness, you might look underneath to find the next confectionery faux pas:

The Fanny McBurntbottom:

Image courtesy of Downtown Dish 

Nothing says "womp, womp," like the notorious burnt-bottom cookie!  I can tolerate eating any of the previous dessert disasters, but biting into that charred crust is anything but appetizing.  Many novice bakers have come to accept this as normal, but don't give in!  The number one reason that many discouraged cookie monsters face is rack height.  The oven rack, that is.  When you bake cookies, move your oven rack to the highest, or second to highest grooves (before you pre-heat the oven of course).  This pulls the cookie sheet a bit further away from the lower heating element and significantly lessens the risk of overheating your pan, which burns your cookies.  Another way to prevent the scorched nightmare is to use a lighter colored cookie sheet.  The darker the color, the more heat it retains (which will over-bake/burn the bottom of your cookies before the top part has a chance to bake from the ambient heat in your oven).  If you're not looking to expand or re-do your cookware collection, no worries, I always use aluminium foil over my cookie sheets, and it must be shiny side down to prevent excess heat reflection to the cookies.  Sometimes I use parchment paper to line my cookie pans as well.  It also makes for easy clean up!  If you're environment-conscious, you can always invest in a silicon baking liner.  It's a win-win.  Still getting burnt cookies?  Check your oven temp.  If it's too high, lower it.  Most cookie recipes fall between baking temps of 325-375 degrees, so make sure you're reading the recipe carefully.  If it's still too hot, you might have temperature calibration issues (refer back to the melt-down cookies for reference).

Just remember these techniques and details in your baking process and you'll have those picture perfect cookies that will make everyone jealous!  Pay attention and stop rushing, and your cookies won't suck..

Food Network Drops Paula Deen for Racist Language

Food Network (but not for long) Celebrity Chef, Paula Deen makes headlines once again.  Many remember her last media swarm when she announced she had diabetes last year.  After news of the iconic southern chef's admittance of using racial slurs and comments, the network confirmed that they will not renew her contract, which coincidentally expires at the end of this month.

Food Network Drops Paula Deen
Photo courtesy of CNN.com

Earlier this week, news of a lawsuit against the unofficial queen of Southern cuisine surfaced, from none other than her former restaurant manager Lisa Jackson.  Jackson alleges Paula and another employee committed acts of racism, discrimination, sexual harassment ,and even assault in the workplace.  Once the Food Network caught wind of the situation, they made a serious decision to not renew her contract when it expires at the end of June.  This decision comes just as Deen revealed a public apology on YouTube.  She is well-known for her suggestive language in various forms of media, but apparently the star gets too loose with her words off camera.

If her health doesn't fry her career, her words will.

Update:  Popular home shopping channel QVC is also reconsidering their cookware advertising agreement with the, now infamous, Southern chef, and do not plan to have her on their network in the near future until they come to an official decision.

Not all fans are jumping ship, thousands of fans have collected on a Facebook group supporting Paula.

Free Taco when Spurs Win!!

That's right, the folks from Taco Cabana have jumped on the Spurs Win Freebie bandwagon.  During the 2013 NBA Finals, when the Spurs win, you can get a free bacon and egg taco the next morning during breakfast hours!  Must have coupon for your victory taco:

Free Taco Coupon!

Go get you some!!