Monday, October 20, 2008

Hairbows and Halloween

Although I like to cook and sew etc., I am not what I would consider crafty. But sometimes I surprise myself.
Some hairbows:
Halloween cards:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Maybe politics and cooking don't mix . . .

I heard about Samak Sundaravej, the prime minister of Thailand, on the radio. Apparently, before he was prime mister he was a famous TV chef, which earned him enough fame to get elected, however that past role is now getting him into trouble. Read here for more info:

While cooking is my favorite hobby and policy analysis is my chosen field of study, it looks like pursuing them simultaneously as professions might be a bad idea.
On a tangently related note, it turns out the Thai food is awesome. I learned to love it on my mission. It is my understanding that Switerzland is the country with the second best Thai food . . . next to England. (That's a bad joke, but there are quite a few Thailanders in Europe) Tonight I made an easy Coconut Chicken Curry:

1 lb. skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut in bite-sized pieces
1/2 medium onion (optional, but I like it), chopped
1 medium red Bell pepper, chopped
1 medium green Bell pepper, chopped
1 can coconut milk (can use light or regular)
Curry paste
Salt to taste

1) Heat some oil (in the pan, you want a thin coating on the bottom).
2) Chop onion, and add.
3) Chop peppers and add. Stir. Cook until onion is getting soft, if it isn't already.
4) While that is cooking, chop the chicken.
5) Add the curry paste (including the salt).
6) Add the chicken. Stir until almost cooked through.
7) Add the coconut milk. (Note: this makes a fairly soupy curry. If you want it thicker, just add maybe 2/3 of the can.) Bring it to a boil, and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.
Serve over rice.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Trying My Hand at French Cuisine

I am a little embrassed to admit that before tonight I have never really delved into the world of French cooking. I mean it seems like it would be an obvious starting place since the French pretty much invented culinary arts. But it took Julia Child to inspire me to give it a try, and . . . WOW!
I found this recipe in a "Cooking Light" cookbook, but I did my best to add the fatting, yet tasty things, back in.
Chicken Francais:
Ingredients: 2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup dry white wine (I used a little apple juice and some dijon mustard for kick)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Combine the eggs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, white wine, lemon juice, salt, hot pepper sauce, and garlic in a shallow dish. Set aside.

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper and pound to 1/4-inch thickness. You really do want the breasts a little on the smaller side for this as the very large breasts will pound out to nearly the size of your skillet! If this happens you'll end up cooking the chicken breasts one by one... Once pounded, dredge chicken in flour and dip in the egg mixture.

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add chicken breast halves (don't crowd the pan); cook about 4 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm. Repeat the procedure with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and the remaining chicken, wiping the drippings out from the pan between each batch.
After the last cutlet has been cooked, melt butter in pan. Add 1/4 cup wine and 3 tablespoons juice. Bring to a boil; cook for 10 or 20 seconds. Serve over chicken.
I served with with a quick and easy arborio rice salad. I just cooked the rice, added a diced tomato, some red onion and green pepper and tossed in some greek salad dressing, thyme and oregano. Also on the side I cooked up some spinach.
For Dessert:
Apple Tart
1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated crescent dough (such as Pillsbury)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (I used rehydrated food storage apples)
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the top:
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
Combine apples and spices. Place in center of dough and bring up edges. Brush with egg and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake in 350 oven° for 15 to 20 min.
You will be humming La Vie en Rose the rest of the evening.
Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Kelsey Nixon the Next Star

Our favorite cook from BYU TV is competing on The Next Food Network Star. Unfortunately we don't have The Food Network. But you can vote for Kelsey,2495,FOOD_20096_67977,00.html .

Friday, May 30, 2008

Cooking Methods Lesson1: Braising

So I'm getting back to the hard-core cooking posts.

In this post I will be discussing the various methods of applying heat to food. Before that it is important to understand how different substances react to heat. Some of this might seem obvious, but it can be very helpful to break down whatever it is you are cooking and consider how each part will respond to the cooking method you have chosen.

Effects of Heat

Fats: Melt (just like butter in the pan and the extra bits of fat in meat) -- also if the fat is allowed to get very hot it will speed up the cooking of the sugars in the foods and make them crispy (like when you deep-fry something.)

Protein: "coagulates" meaning it get firmer. Also it is important to remember that proteins also lose moisture and get smaller.

Sugar: Caramelizes, get brown and a rich dark flavor. This is one the best flavors in cooking. Realize that sugar is present in almost all foods (this is why your chicken or rolls will get that nice golden color when cooked.)

Water: Evaporates. Most foods are primarily made of water and no one likes to eat food that is over-cooked and dry.

Cooking methods -can be broken down into two groups: dry-heat methods and moist heat methods.

Dry Heat Methods include- Broiling, Grilling, Baking, Sautéing, Pan-frying and Deep-Frying. These are great because they get the caramelization going, which adds that great flavor.

Moist Heat Methods include- poaching, simmering, boiling, steaming. The real advantage here is that they add moisture as cook, so you don't end up with a dry finished product.

Braising is one way to get the best of both methods.

Braising is a great way to cook larger, tough cuts of meat, like Roasts and Ribs. Lately, I have been discovering how great braising is for chicken, which is what inspired this post Braising is very similar to what you are already doing in your crock pot; however, most of us are skipping the first and maybe most important step.

Here are the basic steps:

1. Season the meat and brown in a sauté pan with a little fat. (Dry seasons like salt, pepper, garlic salt, and rosemary work well because when you coat the meat and then when you brown the outside the sugars in the meat, the fat and the seasons create a delicious hard shell around the meat that keeps all the juice inside. Also dredging smaller cuts of meat in flour with seasonings can create the same effect.)

2. Finish the meat by simmering it in a liquid or sauce. You do this by transferring the meat to a crock pot or deep baking dish or pan. You can simmer on the stove top or in the oven. Braised meats should be tender. For large, tough cuts of meat the simmering stage could take 3-4 hours, but for smaller and tenderer cuts, like chicken, 30 minutes may be all you need.

Simple, right? Here are some ways you can try it out.

Here is a recipe for Cafe Rio's Pork Barbacoa

This is a great recipe, but before you put it all in the crock pot, rub the dry oregano, ginger, chili powder, garlic powder and dried onions all over the raw pork and brown it in a sauté pan on medium high with a little bit of oil. Transfer the meat to the crock pot, then "deglaze" the pan (fancy cooking word for using a liquid; classically wine, but you can use water, stock, vinegar, juice; to get all the delicious browned bits and flavors left in the pan after you brown something.) Pour what you have in the pan over the meat in the crock pot and follow the rest of the recipe.

One more recipe:

This is a very yummy Cranberry Chicken I made on Wenesday.

Do everything this recipe says, but before topping the chicken with the cranberry/Catalina dressing sauce. Shake salt, pepper, garlic salt and dry rosemary (not too much) on the chicken and brown (the chicken should not be cooked through because you will finish that up in the oven) in a sauté pan (deglazing is less important in this case because the recipe calls for onion soup mix, which has about the same flavor. If you don't have the soup mix you can sauté some onions with chicken and then deglaze with stock. Also, I added a bit of Dijon mustard to the cranberry-catalina sauce, which added a nice little punch.

Good luck!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's Day Strawberries

Several weeks ago I ran into Josh and the other counselor in hall at the church (since he's been put in the Bishopric, we don't really attend church "together"). Josh started asking me if chocolate dipped strawberries would be hard to make and prompting me to affirm that they were.
Josh:Janae, don't they need some kind of special, expensive chocolate? Wouldn't that be really hard to do?
I excitedly responsed: No, they are super easy. Are you guys going to do that for mother's day? I want to help."
And today we handed out two chocolate strawberries to each woman in our ward. Here's the process from raw berry to decadent delight.

We melted two huge bricks of milk chocolate.

We dipped about 150 berries. On Saturday Josh and I were at the mall and saw chocolate dripped strawberries on sale for $2 each, so we firgured that we made $300 worth of strawberries for around $25.

Veva, the first counselor's wife, had the great idea to drizzle white chocolate over the finished strawberries. I think that made them look very fancy. Good thinking Veva!

Friday, April 18, 2008


Josh and I have decided that I have made a total of three funny jokes during our married life, one that ocurrred just last night. I make up for my lack of prolificacy by reliving these rare moments often. Here goes. . .

Several years ago, Josh and I were walking down the street talking about what kind of job I should get after I graduated with my bachelor's degree. We saw one of those Schwan trucks with the little freezer compartment on the back.
Janae: Maybe I could work for them, you know deliever ice cream and frozen chicken cordon-bleu.
Josh: I guess so, but what would you be called? I have only heard them refered to as "Schwan-men"
Janae: "Schwan-princess"
Josh and I went to Europe last summer and Josh packed Ainslie all over Italy in a baby bjorn. At St. Peter's Basilica in Rome they have these huge JumboTron screens set up where they broadcast the Pope's addresses. When I saw the three of us show up on the huge screen I exclaimed "Look, we are on the Vati-cam."

Last night I was helping Josh study for his up-coming exam in Trusts. He was explaining what makes a trust viable and I was asking questions about it.

Josh: It is illegal to pass on defective property through a trust.

Janae: Why is that?

Josh: Well you can't give something to the beneficiaries that wouldn't benefit them.

Janae: Oh I get it, if you gave them something bad it would make them "Nega-ficiaries."

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Growing. . .

I promised an update on these herbs. The basil is huge! The rosemary and chives are coming along a little slower but still progressing. Can't wait to start cooking with these, but I guess I'll just need to have patience . . .

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sushi and Coconut Shrimp

I went to my parents' tonight and my brother Jordan announced that we were going to make sushi. We had so much fun! Together we made philadelphia rolls with cream cheese and cucumber and coconut shrimp. It was all delicious, thanks Jordan!

Here's the recipe for coconut shrimp:
1 package cooked frozen shrimp
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
2 cups flake coconut
pinch salt
enough water or milk to make batter the consistance of pancake batter
use a fry pan with two-three inch deep oil on medium high heat
  • thraw the shrimp by running it under warm water
  • mix batter together
  • dredge shrimp in flour and then in batter
  • fry shrimp until golden brown

These are really good dipped in apricot jam.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Today's Excitment

Lately, I haven't really had much interesting going on to post about. But today was kind of exciting for me. I have two prospective internships for the summer, both working as a grant writer for nonprofit organizations; one is creative arts program for under-privileged kids and the other does microfinance and medical services to South America. Both are part time and will let me do the majority of work from home. I feel really good about the prospect of doing meaningful work for a cause I'm excited about but not having a huge full-time commitment. I'm meeting with both organizations Friday, so I'll let you know how it goes.

Second, the professor I work with said today that he wants to get the data analysis and research paper I am working on published. It is so exciting to think of something I've written being published in a real journal. My work is still quite a ways away from that but the idea is exciting.

I just reread what I wrote and realized how boring my exciting news sounds to most people.

Oh well, it makes me happy and I know you, as my dear friends, will be happy for me regardless :) ( or at induge me by pretending:)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Herb Garden

To celebrate the coming of spring I've decided to start a little herb garden. Historically, I haven't had the "greenest" thumb, but I got this mini greenhouse and seeds for basil, rosemary and chives.

Then . . . they sprouted . . .and they are growing!
I'll keep you posted on how this goes.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Love, Sweet Love

Who dosen't want a little something sweet for Valentine's. . .

I decided to dip these shortbread cookies in dark chocolate and white chocolate dyed pink. Then I wrapped them up to look like boxed chocolates.

To make them special, I drizzled a few drops of the contrasting chocolate on the cookie using on a piping bag. Then I took a bamboo skewer and swirled it into a fun design.

Friday, February 1, 2008


I have a confession to make. I made Spanakopita this week and I followed the recipe to the letter -- that is so not like me.

Spanakopita is a delicious spinach pastry Josh and I fell in love with while we were in Greece last summer. We loved everything about Greece, the historical sites, the paradisiacal weather, the olive trees (as seen to the right), the lovable people, and most definitely the famous food. I haven’t wanted to try to recreate it for fear that I would totally blow it and ruin the memory. However, when I saw this ginormous container of Feta, I just had to give it a try.

Here's what I did:

I made the phyllo dough by hand because I wanted the authenic feeling. While I was rolling dough over and over again with my mom's hand crank pasta maker to make paper thin sheets, I had Ainslie at my feet, and I told Josh I felt like a real Greek woman.

So if you are adventous here's the recipe:

8 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of raki (or white vinegar)
2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/4 - 1 1/3 cups of hot water
flour for work surface and hands

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix by hand until it holds together.

On a floured surface, knead by hand for 10-15 minutes until soft and malleable, with a smooth feel. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight before using.

To make phyllo sheets for pastries, run it through the pasta machine (with settings from 1-10, with 1 being the thickest), gradually working it down to setting mark 9 on your machine.

But really I would suggest just buying the phyllo dough premade in the freezer section.

By the way, it turned out amazing! I'm sitting here consuming the last piece with flavors that take me back to a warm Grecian evening, wandering around the Agora, beneath the glow of the Acropolis. I am surprised by how well the mint, spinach and feta flavors taste together. I never would have thought of that. So, I guess it is good to follow a recipe, every now and then.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Garde Manger Lesson 1: Chicken Salad

My favorite class in Culinary School was called Garde Manger. The most useful thing I learned in that class was how to make salad dressing. Nearly all cold sauces (i.e. salad dressing for green, pasta and potato salads, dips for chips, veggies or fruit, and even marinades) are composed of three basic things:

  • A fat (most often oil or mayo, more creative examples are sour cream, cream cheese, or yogurt)
  • An acid (commonly vinegar, sometimes lemon or other fruit juice or wine)
  • Seasonings (salt, pepper, sugar, herbs, vegetables, etc.)

The secret to a good cold sauce is a balance of fat and acid-- this combination was something our ancestors brought from the old world and we can't get enough of it. Stop and consider some of your favorite foods. I'm willing to bet if you pull apart the ingredients you'll find a fat and acid at the bottom of the flavor.

Some of my personal favorites: Fries and Ketchup(fries= potatoes and frying oil, ketchup= tomatoes(highly acidic) sugar (seasoning) and vinegar(classic acid). Even PBandJ gives you the fairly fatty peanut butter and the tangy tart juicy jam.

So about Chicken Salad, here are the guidelines:

  • Chicken (you can boil uncooked chicken, I like using canned chicken because it make it so fast)
  • Some crunchy things for texture (Waldorf Version --celery, apples, and cashews, as seen above. Also consider taking a southwestern approach using onions, corn and peppers or oriental with toasted almonds, chow mien noodles and grapes.)
  • The Basic Sauce--mayo, a little bit of vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper. (Now try to add in something that will pair well with your crunchy things. I added celery salt, a bit of mustard and a little bit more sugar to match with my celery and apples. If you do southwestern maybe add some cumin or chill pepper. If you are doing oriental use sesame oil or curry to make it Asian fusion.