The Food Groupie Club

Hi my name is Sarah and I'm addicted to food. I have been a chef professionally for about 12 years now and am currently teaching cooking classes at a culinary school. I seriously love to cook and eat good food. The problem with cooking and eating like the professionals though is that it can be kind of intimidating for a home food enthusiast. My goal is to bring good food into every-day homes. Anyone can make healthy, good quality, good tasting, and good looking food with the right know-how. So here you made easy by a professional!

I will be featuring some of my favorite chef's recipes in my posts and will note in the post what book was used. Their books that I use will be listed in my must have cookbooks tab.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Whole Wheat Pancakes

In honor of eating healthy natural foods I decided to show everyone how easy it is to make whole wheat pancakes from scratch. {easier than Krusteaz!} ok, not easier, but not too much harder.  Everything I will ever post on this blog will of course always be from scratch with no processed ingredients. I just wanted to do something simple that everyone can do and enjoy.  The best thing about scratch pancakes is that it only takes a few ingredients that you should already have in your cupboard.  These also freeze well, so make a bunch and freeze them so you have a good breakfast even when your morning is crazy.  Just warm them in the microwave or toaster.
You will need:

8 oz. (about 1 3/4 cups) Whole Wheat Flour
2 Tbs. Honey
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 Tbs. Baking Powder
2 Large Eggs
2 Cups Milk
4 Tbs. Applesauce

Makes 12 pancakes

Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until just blended.  DO NOT over mix. Its ok if there are a couple lumps.  They will be tough if you whisk them too much.

Using a 1/2 cup measuring cup (slightly under-filled... about 2/3 full), pour batter onto 350 degree griddle.  
Cook the pancakes until golden brown on the bottom and starting to set up on the sides. Then flip and cook the other side. They should puff up. Do not touch them or else it will deflate. Pancakes should never be flipped more than once. Let them cook until golden brown.

Remember I said to read the labels on the things you eat. Don't forget I have a job, a very tiring job. Its ok to buy some things already made, just as long as you know what's in it..... Like this....
 Check this out: 3 ingredients and you can pronounce them all!

We eat a lot of "food"

Ok.....I'll fess up..... I watch Oprah sometimes. I know her show is over, but there's still reee-ruuuuuns!!! {say that last part like how Oprah introduces her guests....its funner that way.}  Anyways, there was an episode on recently that I have seen before and I'm glad it was on again.  Its about how we eat in our country. It features the movie Food Inc. and Michael Pollan, who is the author of "Food Rules". If you have not read that book or watched food inc. you totally should. This is a subject that I feel is really important so I'm pulling out my soap box. Being a chef I'm around food all day. The number one question I am always asked is "how do you stay so skinny".  I usually just shrug and say that there's no time to eat while you work. That's not true though. I may ruffle some feathers with this post, I may have a lot of people agree with me..... but no matter how you feel on the subject this is something every family should assess and I hope I can at least get you thinking about what you eat.  I totally agree with Michael Pollan that we don't eat real food in this country. Everything is pre-made and processed, including all of the food at your favorite restaurants.  Its become way cheaper and easier to eat "food" {I put quotes around that on purpose} than it is to eat healthy, and that's sad.  I am by no means perfect here either. Sometimes I get busy and too tired to cook and cave to the call of the box or the golden arches. {oh that tempting dollar menu} Look at the state of our country... diabeties {in kids too!!}, heart disease, obesity, etc. are all out of control. And the biggest problem is it seems like we have accepted it as part of life and I feel like we're all just ok with it now.  Its ok that your 5th grader weighs 150 pounds. Its normal. That's not normal. I am by no means what I like to call a "granola" {hippies and vegans}.  I love meat. I love cheese. I believe animals were put here to be in my belly.  But I also believe in raising them right so they are healthy and good for us like God intended and not having to have the traditional dinner of meat/veg/potatoes forming a triangle on the plate for every meal.  The thing about eating real food isn't about giving things up. Its about getting back into the kitchen and making things the way grandma used to. I found a website       that is about a family who took on a challenge to eat only natural foods for 100 days that is pretty amazing.  I encourage you all to check it out. Has a lot of good tips and suggestions for actually making the shift to better eating.  She goes a little too far for me and cuts out ALL sweets though. I don't think there's anything wrong with the OCCASIONAL {not every night as a reward for eating dinner like eating dinner is a punishment} dessert. But make it a dessert that is worth eating. Did you know most ice creams are no longer ice cream? For reals..... read the label...its "iced milk' or "frozen dairy product" fact you should read the labels on ALL food. Its not hard to make your own cake or ice cream or sorbet or brownie or mousse {i can keep going} from scratch.  We set attitudes in our children early on in life about how they feel about food based on how WE feel about food.  Vegetables and fruits should not be made out to be "bad" or punishing.  Saying kids are only willing to eat chicken nuggets shaped like a dinosaur is insane. If that's all they know, of course that's all they're willing to eat.  As adults we don't know what food should taste like because we're so accustomed to the taste of processing. Its sad. People don't recognize good food anymore because our palates are numbed.  Anything that is labeled as "low fat" "sugar free" "low calorie or carb" is not food.   It is OK to eat butter and cream.  Just not everyday for every meal and 5 servings worth.  Everything in proportion! Anyways...check out the movie, book and linked site. You'll be amazed at what you are eating.  { the soap box now!}

Monday, August 1, 2011

Angel Hair Pasta

Here's a super easy pasta dish that I actually used to make when I worked a certain restaurant in town {I won't say which because then everyone will want the recipe for a certain popular dish there aka sweet potato fries with jalapeno arugula aioli} I'll probably post that at some point, I'm just boycotting it right now because I have to make/explain that one for so many people.  Anyways, this is a vegetarian dish, but you can easily just add some grilled chicken on top if you need some carnage.  

Angel hair {cappellini} pasta is one of the easiest/hardest pastas to cook.  Its very thin so even though I used dried it still cooks in just a couple minutes. Because it cooks so fast, this is where it gets hard. Its VERY easy to overcook. It goes from perfect al dente to mush in seconds. I prefer to actually cook this less then you think just to make sure its not over done. Basically keep your eye on it and don't walk away from the stove while its cooking and taste it frequently to check the doneness.  I don't really measure when I'm just winging it {not following a recipe} so I can only give guesstimates on amounts here. Basically you have to have a little bit of your own judgement here and add as much as you want of the ingredients.

Also, this recipe calls for Extra Virgin Olive Oil as the sauce.  Pasta cuts are designed for certain sauces. Fettuccine was made to go with Alfredo.  Spaghetti appropriately pairs with spaghetti sauce{hmmm}, and mac or shell noddles begged at creation to be baked in cheese sauce. Because angel hair pasta is so thin, it is commonly just warmed with olive oil because everything else is too heavy for it and would make it just stick and clump.  Speaking of olive oil...... there are different quality levels.  Extra virgin is the first press of the olives and has the cleanest, purest flavor.  It also should not be cooked very much. You'll notice when you read the recipe it says to keep the heat moderately low.  Olive oil burns faster and at a lower temperature than butter. When you go through the grades of extra virgin to virgin to olive oil to pomace oil, that just means the olives have gone through additional pressing and have impurities from the olives in the oil.  All the varieties below virgin will tend to have bitter or sour flavors and are not good for saucing pasta. However, the lower grade olive oils can be cooked with because they don't burn as fast and are cheaper.  Heat breaks down the flavors, you are paying bigger bucks for that flavor in extra virgin, so completely ignoring the whole burning thing, you'll kill the flavor on the good stuff.  Extra virgin is like wine. Every brand will have a slightly different flavor with varying undertones.  Use a good quality one, but you don't have to get one of those crazy bajillion dollar priced ones you can find at the boutique stores.  I picked up some oil at Trader Joe's and it was only $7 for a liter.  It was just fine.  Just make sure what ever bottle you pick up is imported from Italy and is 100% pure extra virgin olive oil.  Just like wine... you get what you pay for sometimes. 

1/2 pound angel hair pasta
1 pound container grape or cherry tomatoes {I used heirlooms.....these are the best!}
4-5 cloves minced garlic
handful of basil cut chiffonade {see explanation below}
3/4-1 C. Extra virgin olive oil
Toasted Pine Nuts 
{optional if you can find them for less then $20 per pound...they are ridiculous right now!}
Goat Cheese as needed {about 4 oz}

This recipe made enough for 2 entree portions and 2 lunch portions.

FYI.......Prep everything before you start cooking! Everything needs to be ready to go because seriously the pasta will be done in 2-3 minutes and the sauce only takes that long also.

Step 1:
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta and if using pine nuts toast them in a 350 degree oven until slightly golden brown.

Step 2:
While waiting for the water to boil, cut the cherry tomatoes in half and mince the garlic.

Step 3:
Chiffonade the basil.  Remove just the leaves from the stems and stack a small pile on a cutting board

Thinly shred the leaves with a sharp knife. {the thinner the better}

 You are officially prepped! {in the industry you would say you are all mise en placed out.... Mise en place means everything in its place}

Step 4:
Warm a saute pan on moderate-low heat. You can now go ahead and add the pasta to the boiling water pot.  Stir frequently so they don't clump or stick.  Add the extra virgin olive oil to the saute pan and let that warm slightly.  Add the tomatoes to the pan.  Season them with a little kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.
 Cook until the seeds start to burst from the tomatoes and they wrinkle a little

Finally add the garlic and let it cook slightly until softened. Turn off the heat.  By this time the pasta should already be cooked and drained. Add the pasta and basil {and pine nuts} to the pan and toss it all together with a pair of tongs.
Plate and top with however much goat cheese you feel is necessary.  I love goat cheese so I'm usually pretty heavy handed with it....just do what you like.

Ta Da!! Dinner in 15 minutes.... suck on that one Rachel. Finished product: