Saturday, April 19, 2008


Hi Everybody: are you as shocked as I am at the rise in food costs? Can you believe the price of staples like bread, milk, etc. On a recent trip to the super market I noticed a huge (percentage-wise) increase in baked goods prices, and other essentials. I can only imagine the struggle it presents for entire families to budget for decent nutritious foods. Now more than ever one has to use sales, BOGOS, coupons, etc. to stretch our food budget and still eat well. Somehow we manage, especially those of us used to "home ec", making do with what we have. Be sure to buy seasonally, too and in addition to having variety, you'll automatically get food that's better priced. And here's my answer to food prices I object to: DON'T BUY THEM! Seriously, find another alternative. I have a suspicion that some of these prices have been passed along to us simply because they could be; unfortunately, the basics are just that: things we don't feel we can live without. Try to think outside of the box: do you really need that loaf of white bread for $5 or can you use pita or rye krisp bread this time (which mysteriously have retained much lower prices though they too contain wheat)? Or be really radical, and don't buy any bread at all. Bring out that bread machine and start using that again. A friend and I recently figured out that simply using a machine, even if he has to buy one, he'd make up that money in one month. But start baking quickly as the cost of flours is also rising. Keep the flours and yeast in your fridge or freezer, too, they'll last longer. Another friend divides women into two categories: princesses and pioneers. I assume I know which one you'd WANT to be , but realistically today, which one SHOULD you be (we can go back to being royals after the recession!)

Write me with any baking questions/problems you have
Chef D

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Making Soup from a Stone

This past weekend my husband got sick with a cold. When he's sick, all he wants to do is veg out. So naturally, my thoughts turned to veggies too -- vegetable soup. Within ten minutes we had a pot of split pea soup bubbling away on the stove and in an hour we were enjoying a nice hearty bowl of soup together. Steve between sips said "nobody makes soup anymore" and I found this hard to believe since soup's one of the first things a chef learns to make and that was my job when I worked banquet service at the Westin Hotel. From my Chinese studies I learned to make soup from (literally) nothing, or more honestly, from just about anything you have on hand. You just need to know some basics, and have on hand some pantry items, and soup's really very simple to make. Not to mention the obvious health benefits, it just feels good to eat home made soup. So the question now is: does anybody make soup anymore? Do you want to learn how? Stone or otherwise.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Spreading the Joy

If you like a food item, I can think of almost nothing more enjoyable than sharing it. A longtime friend and neighbor going through some hard times was telling me her woes (they're very real) and looked sad while recounting them, but her face completely lit up when she again thanked me for some walnut/raisin bread I recently gave her. Just for a moment, she seemed happy, smiled broadly and little did she realize in doing so she made my day -- and all it took was the alchemy of some wheat flour, raisins, walnuts, yeast, etc. and the most precious ingredients love and time. Share what you love.
And write me your comments! (I'll give you the bread recipe if you want it; you don't need a bread machine).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Making Life Easier while Saving Money

Hi everyone: from time to time I'll post (and hope you do too) ways we can improve our food lives and save money, something we're all about today. Today's tip is a product by Reynolds-- a food sealer. Yes, I know, the late-night infomercials-- BUT WAIT! this one's actually useful and available in your local Publix. The sealer looks a bit like a one-hand can opener, but with the suction cup and battery operation it sits on a handy shelf in my kitchen, lightweight and ready to use in a second. Plus, the bags come in different sizes (also available in Publix) and are reasonably priced. If you've ever owned a sealer, you know buying additional bags was expensive and inconvenient. Reynolds' bags can also be re-sealed, not an option with other types of sealers. For those of you who don't think you need this: I bought lemons about three weeks ago and sealed them: opened a bag last night and they were pristine. Vacuum-sealing (sous-vide in French) is a no-brainer for stockpiling fresh or cooked foods in freezer or fridge during upcoming hurricane season. Sealer costs under $10, bags between $3-$4.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

When I Fell In Love With Food

When did you first discover you liked food? I mean REALLY liked it, were turned on by it, not just ate to live? One of the first food revelations for me, apart from my grandmother's cooking, was in a home economics class in junior high school. The dish the teacher showed us was simple enough, but later on I would learn that that simple white (cream) sauce was loftily called in french cuisine a bechamel, and even when humble frozen mixed veggies were mixed in with a handful of grated parmesan cheese for flavor this sibling of master sauces would lead me to constantly discover new ways to stretch its definition. And when my Cuban mother tried my version of this simple creation she, too, was impressed since she never made sauces herself.
Together we were off on a lifelong culinary journey.