Monthly Archives: April 2013

Adventure Time

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I’ve been trying not to bite my nails down waiting for the announcement from Fox about my adventure to be on MasterChef. It finally is out with the list of the one hundred home cooks attempting to make it onto the next step.

It was so weird seeing my name and my home town of St. Croix listed to compete. I can’t wait to see how it’s shown because being there, doing it is different from how the cameras may capture it.

One thing for sure. I’m always ready for a cooking adventure. Just watch and see, May 22nd on FOX!

Official announcement is below.

http://www.foxflash.com/div.php/main/page?aID=1z2z2z308z5z8&ID=13408.

Cool Beans

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Image Following one of my regular check-ups for my diabetes I received the news that it’s not under control as it should be and I’ve gained some weight. If you’re wondering, weight gain for a person whose a diabetic and on medication, a little weight gain can and will throw your body rhythm off. Which then raises the sugar numbers, which then causes other complications that your doctor would like to prevent. So, it’s no cheating time and back to what got my numbers down , steady and good in the first place.

Eating healthy and having fun, delicious meals are not opposite ends of the spectrum. Growing up in the islands my parents used a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in such a manner that the plates were eaten clean. I remember my little sister, Maggie, use to hate eating beans until I told her they would grow her boobs! Well. She ate them and now let’s just say she’s not in the itty-bitty committee.

In honor of my sister and my folks I created this cool bean salad that can be eaten at any time. The first time I made it I did pair it with a tasty steak but for me it’s worthwhile just eating by itself. The beans provide the protein, fruit gives you something sweet and vegetables round out the dish.

My cool bean salad consist of red and black beans, tomatoes, corn, garlic and onions. You can use canned or fresh beans, be sure to rinse off the beans if you use the ones from the can. If you are using the dry beans, be sure to soak them overnight and cook them until tender but not mash potato consistence. While the beans are cooking saute some onions and garlic with salt, paprika, pepper and oregano.

After you’ve cooked the beans drain, rinse and cool and place into a bowl adding the fresh tomatoes dice into cubes and corn. Last but not least add the cube mangos with the room temperature seasoned onions. Mix well. Taste the mixture to see if it has the level of flavor you wish. I like a bit more heat, so I always add a tad more finely black ground pepper to the bowl.

It’s so easy and tasty. Enjoy!

Yoga for cooking!

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As much as I love cooking sometimes like family members and friends. It really stresses me out! I am very happy to report – yoga to the rescue! I’ve found thinking and behaving in a yoga way has allowed me to slow down in kitchen and really see, taste and feel what I’m doing. Have you ever struggled with a recipe and can’t figure out why it’s not working? In the past, this use to have me ready to break crockery and sharpen knives. The recipe even chased me in my sleep as I dreamed about what I did or did not do. Now, thanks to my yoga classes I can slow down my mind in the moment and just let it be.

After talking with my daddy I realized I’ve forgotten one of the first things he showed me in the kitchen and that’s to relax and not worry so much about getting everything PERFECT! I’m not sure but maybe I have a type A-personality but I want my dishes to be just right in flavor and look. I want everyone to enjoy every bite and forget whatever was bothering them for that moment. Dad reminded me not everyone is going to like my way of cooking meals. Maybe too spicy, hot in flavor, not pretty on the plate, whatever they believe but it’s their right not to like what ever they’re eating. It’s their taste buds after all.

Yoga is helping me accept that I’m not going to please everyone. It’s bringing an awareness to me that sometimes individuals have misconceptions of what Island food is all about and how it should be prepared. They may even have their own fears of trying something that’s too “exotic.” What it is really folks is simply eating items that you’re not use to eating growing up.  Yoga right now to me is like excercise for the taste buds.

Now, let me get into my standing tree with pot spoon in hand!

Enjoy the Simple Things

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Whirl Magazine

I enjoy essential oils! Did I say enjoy, make that love essential oils! Their pure essence makes it possible to heal and cure the body of ailments. Bring wondrous scents to living space and uplift a dish. Though, I knew some of the oils needed to make a dish blaze like sun through a fog. I wasn’t exactly sure about the usage amount for many of the oils and there’s nothing worse than putting too much in a dish, ruining the taste for all time.

So I was greatly surprised when Whirl Magazine provided a contest to win the “Everyday Cooking with Essential Oils,” cookbook on their website and I won! Now the first thing I tried out was the Red Sangria mixture.

I had visited a Spanish restaurant in Cleveland last year were I enjoyed the most delicious red sangria! It was so good, I had more than one tasty glass full. When I asked the server she told me an essential oil was used but she couldn’t tell me which one. No bother now because I have my book and will be making my own.

Now, the book calls for lemon and lime essential oil to be used along with the other ingredients such as brandy, rum and red burgundy. I usually add extracts but the oil provided a different overall taste. Now, don’t make the mistake I did with my first batch thinking if a couple of drops are good, a couple more will not hurt. Uhm! Yes, it will change the taste to something you do not want in your mouth.

This was my mistake again while making the red pepper dip and pineapple orange sauce. Yuck! I will try both again and stick with the recipe amounts until I get a better hang of what to do.

Here’s the thing. If you don’t make mistakes or try to figure out things for yourself along the way, no way will you grow as a cook. Part of the fun and journey is making mistakes but the other part is having chefs, cooks and cookbooks pointing you onto a path to try.

Here’s to tasty and happy mistakes.

Food & Exercise

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cornish hen final

Sometimes it takes a good scare to move you in a different direction or motivate you to do better. I’ve had some scares over the years but tend to slide back into old habits for whatever reason. My latest scare last month of having chest pain is my latest wake-up call to stick with eating good food and exercising.

With that idea in mind I’ve been doing Bikram Yoga. Which is yoga done in a 105-degree room with slow and careful movements. My flexibility isn’t worth a darn! I don’t know what happened to my ability to touch my forehead onto my knees. Now, I’m lucky enough that I can bend over and grab my thighs. I’m determined to stick with this type of yoga for at least 40 days. I’ll let you know when I change to something different. What I will not do is stop working out. However, in fairness. I was doing well until the last cancer surgery, Achilles tendon hole in left foot and knee surgery on right leg.

Part of the doing well for my body thinking now. Is my plan to continue eating food that is cooked well, whether I cooked it or not. How many of us go out to eat and sometimes tolerate okay food? It’s not great, it doesn’t make your tongue sing or make you want to find the chef and get the recipe. Yet, we continue to eat it or worse bring it home because we don’t want to “waste” food. Hmm.

On Sunday, following three days of Bikram Yoga or hot yoga. I didn’t want to cook anything but I had to eat and I didn’t want to order out. So, a simple dish of Spanish Paprika Cornish Hen, corn and a mini corn bread. Now, some people may say or mumble it under their breath that I should have chosen a different vegetable. I like corn and it was quick and easy enough for me to get done.

cornish hen 2done

I did my Cornish hen in foil paper. I didn’t use a dish or oil. Just the Cornish hen seasoned with salt and pepper, oregano, parsley and spanish paprika. I also cooked the corn in foil in the oven but I made sure to place a shallow pan underneath to ensure if any juices escape the foil it doesn’t land inside my oven leaving a mess. In the last twenty minutes of the Cornish hen cooking I place the corn bread in to bake. I love these mini bread pans I found last year. I’ve used them to make mini cakes and block size brownies.

Since the Cornish hen is cooked within its own juices, there’s no added fat but tons of flavor with the seasonings. I use the birds own juices to baste it like a turkey and opened up the foil for the last 15 minutes to allow the bird to brown nicely. It was so tasty looking that I couldn’t wait to take the picture before taking a bite. So, I removed a wing and was happy with the moist and delicious taste. If I do say so myself, and I do.

Spring weather appears to finally have made an appearance and I’m going to do more light and easy dishes. Some from my homeland of St. Croix and my parents of Antigua. Hopefully, my mother won’t disagree too much with how I’ve changed up some of the family recipes.

Give the easy Spanish paprika Cornish hen, corn and corn bread a try. It’s so easy to make and tasty!

Chef Dinner Tasting!

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On April 1st I was invited to a chef dinner tasting by the good folks at City Gourmet. Of course, I thought this was an April Fools joke but too my delight and extreme pleasure it wasn’t.

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The young chef who will remain nameless since the position with the company has not been decided created an enjoyable meal. During the chit-chat hour he presented three distinctive hors d’oeuvres. Pork Rillette with grain mustard and crostini, mini twice baked potatoes with truffle essence and cheddar cheese inside and sprinkled on top and grilled sourdough and Piave cheese with tomato relish. I loved the grilled sourdough and Piave cheese the most. I could easily ate the whole platter by myself. The hint of olive oil and bite of Piave cheese made my mouth oh so happy! I also liked the bite size mini twice baked potatoes. It had a hint of salt and creamy flavor that made me hum along with the music playing in the background.

On to the first course of a nice petite salad that was okay. I was hoping to taste a bit more of apple cider in the vinaigrette but didn’t get the kick promised in the description. It was nicely plated however. Second course was roast chicken with bacon, cauliflower and potato puree, brussels sprouts, turnips and carrots with a natural chicken jus. I didn’t have to fight to get the chicken off the bone, it cut nicely and was not dry. The puree benefited from the bacon bits but what meal doesn’t improve with some bacon. I like a bit of seasoning on my food and found the dish to be a bit on the bland side. I did enjoy it however and so did the other dinner guests.

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My only let down for the chef dinner tasting meal was dessert. I am such a sweet freak that anything falling short of making my sweet taste buds stand up and take notice just leaves me flat. The chef provided french toast with caramelized apples, pecan, vanilla creme fraiche and sherry maple syrup. Now this dish has everything I enjoyed expect it wasn’t sweet. Not. At. All. Darn! The toast was raisin bread. It wasn’t sweet. The sherry maple syrup believe or not was not really sweet. Really. And the caramelized fruit didn’t say hello or even I’m here on my plate. It’s a smart dish that I’m sure if the sweet part is pumped up, it will be a winner.

After each course and at the end of the meal, the young chef took the time to come out to the diners and talk with us about the dining experience. No one was cruel or nasty with their assessment. Everyone gave feedback about the dishes they liked or didn’t with an honest opinion. The young chef accepted the feed back, acknowledged some mistakes, was thankful for what we enjoyed and promised to improve. What more can you ask of a chef.

If this young chef doesn’t get the job, I hope he continues to find himself a home to provide the community with great meals. Happy eating!

Cooking! The great relaxer!

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Tamarind Crusted Ham

On Tuesday, March 26th I was at my desk working at my television job when I started having pains on my left side. It started in my arm then moved under my arm into my chest and up the left side of my neck into my jaw. Of course, I didn’t realize I was having the signs of a possible heart attack. It wasn’t until I was talking with the Allegheny County 9-1-1 dispatcher supervisor Ms. Battle that I thought maybe something more was taking place. Ms. Battle while I was on the phone getting information on a story and telling her how I was feeling sent the medics to check me out. I didn’t want her to do so at first, thinking it was just some pain that will go away soon but she insisted I needed to be checked out. Long story short – I ended up at Mercy Hospital where they kept me for a couple of days, providing me with morphine for the pain and scheduling a stress test among other tests.

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Heart monitor

The doctor informed me that chest and jaw pain along with the arm pain are signs of a heart attack or stroke and with my health history. I could never be too careful. It’s when you ignore the signs and don’t take care of early warning signs is when you run into trouble. I must say the doctors, nurses and technicians at Mercy Hospital took great care of me, never making me feel like an idiot and always letting me know what was taking place and explaining what they were doing.

Following all the tests, I was informed I did not suffer a heart attack or stroke. Great news. The not so great news. They still don’t know what’s causing my pain or what’s wrong with me. Apparently, ten other things mimic the heart attack symptoms, so I have to go through a battery of tests to figure out what it may be. In the meantime, one of the things that may cause the pain and other symptoms is good old fashion stress.

Now thanks to having knee surgery in January 2013 on my right knee and putting a hole in my achilles tendon on my left foot August 2012. I have not been able to work out as I usually do to remove any tension from my body. The doctor pointed out I needed to do more to get myself in a relaxed frame of mind.  I may think I have stress under control but my body is definitely saying otherwise. So, until they (doctors) figure out what’s taking place with me I need to do what I can to reduce my stress levels.

When I arrived home from the hospital, I still had some morphine in my system and was still in an unmanageable level of pain so all I wanted to do was sleep. Saturday afternoon with some other pain medication in my system and a beautiful ham. I set out to make my tamarind crusted ham.

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Sauce on before being placed in the oven.

Cooking is my oasis! A place of beauty, fun and positive energy! Even when things are going to hell in a hand basket! Ha! I actually felt myself not thinking about my health scare, the fact I still don’t know what’s wrong or how I was going to move forward with my cooking dreams.

Getting into that kitchen it was all about having fun and seeing the end result of something that I made in my mind and seeing how it turns out. My tamarind crusted ham was a three hour slow process. And oh my, so very worth it! Even the bottom of the ham crusted over and the inside also had that sweet and biting taste. Yes, I added a bit of garlic and pepper to the ham.

Now, if I can only keep many of my friends from raiding my kitchen I may be able to enjoy a bit more than I usually do of dishes I create. Then again, if it’s all gone, it will be a good excuse to get back into the kitchen again!