Monthly Archives: May 2013

MasterChef & Ice Cream

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In the hours before the MasterChef 4 airing on Fox. I’ve been reading and writing on FaceBook with some of my fellow MC4 family. You hear the words, “we were like family,” “she/he was really nice,” when in reality “reality” it’s a bunch of bologna and not the good kind. In this incident I can actually say I’m in a circle of MC4 family. We continue to cheer each other on, salute success and lend a shoulder if needed. My time on MC4 is worth just meeting so many great and loud and sometimes quiet personalities. My life is richer thanks to it and my food presentation, combination and ideas receive a good old fashion kick in the pants.

When you watch the show premiering on Fox, Wednesday, May 22nd at 8pm. You will only see a snippet of what everyone had to deal with the day of competition. Trust me folks, it’s not as easy as it looks. During the competition no one was afraid to cheer on the cook on the hot stove. It was great being in an atmosphere of people who were going to give it there all and leave everything on the table. I know I did!

MCpix

The top 100 cooks in the good old United States will be battling it out soon and many of us will be watching to see how it made it to the screen. Editing of course is taking place since they really can’t show all the hours of taping and all 100 cooks! I meet people from a professional acrobat to a fire thrower to even a robot maker. Talk about a cross-section of professions. The personalities were also as diverse. Some may think that all reality people are loud and pushy folks, not saying many aren’t, but they’re some quiet and thoughtful people in the mix as well. I don’t want to go in-depth about the show until it airs so that’s as much of a hint I will give out. I’m just glad the show is airing leading up to the Memorial Day weekend.

Part of my Memorial Day weekend celebration is going to include Graeter’s newest ice cream flavors at Giant Eagle in Wexford on May 25th. Why? Free tasting! Yes. I love getting free tasting of food! It allows me to decide if I want to purchase the item and provides a spring board of ideas on how to use it. I do wish it was sooner so I could eat some for my MasterChef watching. Oh well. Maybe next time. See you after the airing Thursday but remember to watch MasterChef 4 on Wednesday, May 22nd on Fox.

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What’s for Dinner

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lamb dish

Sometimes I don’t know what to cook for dinner and not because I don’t have ideas but having too many. The editing process to limit what’s on the plate and create great flavors is frustrating. A strange way I curb the angst is to dream about the dishes. Somehow, in my sleep I can visualize the full plate and taste. Weird, I know.

The lamb with portabella mushrooms, multi-colored petite potatoes and cauliflower puree plate came to me in one of those dreams. Awake, in my kitchen, I was looking at all the starches and vegetables and couldn’t decide on the combination. Dreamland helped not just in plating but the cooking process as well. This dish is so easy to make and the clean up was a breeze.

Lamb is seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika and garlic with a bit of olive oil drizzled on top. The lamb is then placed into a deep dish with the multi-colored petite potatoes and cauliflower. Cover the dish and bake for at least an hour at 350-degrees, check the meat, flip and cook for another half-hour. Remove the cauliflower and place in blender or food processer with some water and a dash of salt and cumin. Blend until smooth. That’s it! A great dish with all the work being done in the oven.

CATFISH

This other dish – pan seared catfish with portabelle mushrooms and french style green beans was a no-brainer. Getting home after a long frustrating and tiring day this dish was an easy throw together then eat.

The catfish was simply seasoned with salt, pepper, dry parsley and curry then placed into a hot frying pan with a bit of olive oil. The mushrooms were cooked in the same pan while the french style green beans were cooked in a separate pot with a pat of butter and salt.

Healthy and filling meals.. no brainers or dream induced.. try and make it simple.

Cooking Fun

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In Pittsburgh, I live near the Squirrel Hill Tunnels which is one of the main points of getting in and out of the city. Well, it’s under some construction work which forces the traffic down closer to my home one way street. Plus the hammering and beeping of trucks even during the early mornings force me to think of ways not to scream at the workers or drivers blowing their horns when the traffic is stalled like it’s going to move them out of the way. My little kitchen to the rescue of my sanity and voice not to mention all those who are disturbing my beauty rest.

steak dish

I checked with my fellow foodies, friends and family about the combination for my dish experimentation. One of the dish is my turkey meatball with mango relish and spicy sweet potato fries. The other is Onion steak covered in tomato sauce with garlic spinach and popcorn brown rice with black eye peas and black beans. Now, I’ve made all the different dishes before but this is the first time I’ve put them together. I’m always concerned about one flavor overriding another instead of working together to make perfect harmony on the taste buds.

Turkey meat always need a bit of oomph, to me anyway, with some seasoning and a bit of olive oil in the mixture before placing into the oven covered to start to keep in moisture then uncovered for a bit of browning. Sometimes, I’ll start it on the stove top to get the browning and then place into the oven covered until completely cooked to keep that juicy flavor. Depending on the dish. I will sometimes place it in my desired cooking sauce but since I was putting it on my mango relish I didn’t place any sauce on the balls or on the plate.

meatball finish dish

The spicy sweet potato fries are one of my favorites to make but are also a bit time consuming. I work on getting the sweet potato cut into strings but next time I will work on cutting it into steak size bites instead.

After taking off the skin and cutting into desired size and shape, I place the sweet potatoes into a shallow pan, drizzle olive oil over, toss on cajan pepper, salt, pepper, oregano and a bit of parsley. Pop the pan into the oven for at least 45 minutes at 425-degrees. Depending on the texture you desire, you can leave it in the oven a bit longer but I like mine since I cut them small to have a bit of that soft tenderness when biting into it.

Here’s the before and after photos.

mango startmango finshed

My mango relish consist of fresh mango, onion, green pepper, salt, pepper, olive oil and parsley. I combine all the igrendents in a sauce pan over low heat, continual stirring so the mango is broken down but still allow for some pieces to burst with juices in the mouth.

The second dish – Onion Steak with tomato sauce, garlic spinach and popcorn brown rice with black eyed peas and black beans remind me of things my daddy likes to eat. I seasoned the steak with paprika, salt, paprika, cumin, and dried parsley. Then I place the sliced onions onto top of the steaks then into the oven coverered to start then uncovered for five minutes. Topping the steak is the tomato sauce which consists of quartered fresh tomatoes, salt, pepper, dried parsley and olive oil. All combine in a sauce pan on top of low heat. The garlic spinach is the easiest to make with just fresh spinach, garlic, salt and pepper and a bit olive oil. Yes, I love adding olive oil to my dishes that’s a stateside thing I picked up doing since leaving the islands. I start with a boiling pot of water, where I add the olive oil, salt and pepper. Then place the spinach and diced garlic until cooked down. Onto the popcorn brown rice with black eye peas and black beans.

rice cooking

This is actually a two step dish since I needed to cook the black eye peas and black beans with a piece of ham bone then add to the cooking brown rice. Now, you should know if you’re using fresh black eye peas and black beans, you will have to soak them overnight. Then you cook them in a pot with salt, pepper, heavily diced onion and pats of butter and a ham bone. After this combination is cooked you start a pot for the popcorn brown rice, placing olive oil and salt in a boiling pot. Add the popcorn rice, cook, when the grains have begun to soften add the black eye peas and black beans mixture with some of the water it was cooked in. Stir and cover. Check the pot so the rice doesn’t burn or cook out the water without cooking the rice to the consistency desired. My parents, especially my daddy, hated shatter grain rice. This is what he called rice that is cooked but is still too hard.

Here’s to more sleepless nights as construction work continue near me and my little kitchen gets a workout. I’ll let you know what I come up with next.

What I am Thinking

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MCpixI love cooking. I love making something good to eat and sharing it with family and friends. Partly because some of my best memories of growing up in the Islands surround the kitchen and food. Gladly getting up early in the morning during summer vacation while in Antigua to purchase fresh bread, butter and cheese. Hopefully, being able to break a piece off before getting back to the yard. My dad making sour sop jam, fresh bread and Sunday breakfast. Mom making pepper pot, saltfish gundy and brown stewed chicken. Hmm. Just thinking of the food brings back the memories of the smell, the laughter and fun making the dishes still warms my heart.

Reading cookbooks and watching cooking shows is a favorite pastime of mine. So when an opportunity arrived to see what could happen if I made it onto a show, I decided to give it a try. Understanding that the worst that could happen is it would be a very short journey of discovery.

So, in October a couple of months after getting my health straight following thyroid cancer, my bloody third cancer by the way, and falling which placed a hole in my Achilles tendon in my left foot. I decided I will audition for “Master Chef” and made my way to Cleveland for the first audition step. No surprise that a lot of folks showed up on the cold and rainy day at the audition spot with food in carriers waiting for their turn to impress the judges. Now, my left foot was still in a boot and getting around was not an easy task but add carrying the food and my personal belongings. Let’s say it was an interesting day.

Plating my dish, which was drunken goat water, to see if I would impress the judges taste bud and not freaking out to allow my fun personality to shine through was created interesting moments. Plus, the people who were waiting also had interesting dishes and were talkers as well. Not a shy bunch in the group! Of course, I’m slightly on the shy side, hmm, not really but I was allowing my food to do the talking until it was time to open my mouth.

I can’t explain the excitement I felt as I continued to move through each round of elimination. How I tried so many different recipes and cooking styles in hopes I would get the opportunity to put it all on display. When I received the call that I made it to California I screamed and danced around in my living room like a nut. I didn’t even come back to earth when I was informed I couldn’t share the news with everyone as yet. I told my family, some very close friends who helped me through the process and my boss. No one else. Since part of being on a reality show is secrecy I couldn’t share with a lot of people who I know care about me, support me and are just good people. The least amount of people I told made it easier for me to know that what I’m doing will not end up with me being sued. Yes. I did have to sign some papers. So, those of you who didn’t know until the reality show announcement, please forgive me and for those of you who knew and didn’t say anything, thank you.

Now, things didn’t get easy for me after learning I was going to be flown out to California for the show. Oh, no! I learned shortly before getting the call that I had torn the meniscus in my right knee. The swelling that my doctor believed was merely the knee reacting to having to do all the work with the left foot in the boot and from the earlier fall. Turned out to be the torn meniscus and boy did I do a number on it. I had to undergo surgery before Christmas which equaled no family holiday travel for me. Everyone was so disappointed and so was I since I was looking forward to watching some dishes being made. I find watching a dish come together is better for my learning curve than just telling me how to make it. Sigh. The other problem would be healing enough to stand and actually cook and that was quite a challenge but I made it.

In my next post I’ll tell you about some of the very interesting people I spent some time with in California.