Like Vagina Monologues – FOR FOOD?!

San Francisco Premiere @ Rrazz RoomI was also intrigued! When I met Peggy Sweeney McDonald, creator of “Meanwhile, Back at Cafe Du Monde…,” she described her show as follows:

“It’s like the Vagina Monologues of FOOD!”

Right away, I thought, “Wow. That’s sounds interesting – in more ways than one.” Then two very exciting things happened. 1) She told me the San Francisco premiere was in March and 2) She asked me if I wanted to join the list of “headliners!” The excitement of telling a childhood story about FOOD pushed out any nervous voices saying, “uh…this is at the Rrazz Room! uh, you’re not an actor or a stand up comic…uh….SHHHHHH!”

I’m doing it! Come see me and others, including comedian, Michael Capozzola…if you dare (or if you just love good stories about food). Mine will be about my 5 moms and coffee!

Details & tix:

Meanwhile, back at Cafe Du Monde…

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 (doors open at 6:30 pm/Show starts at 7:30pm

Rrazz Room

322 Mason Street

 

For more details and tix:

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=182051501830677

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Hot Ticket: Studio Gourmet Talks to Russell Jackson

Chef Russell Jackson, Lafitte

Studio Gourmet is quickly becoming the hot foodie ticket in town. Founder and host, Brad Lev, takes us into an intimate space with some of the best chefs in San Francisco. Next up is “bad boy” Chef Russell Jackson from Lafitte on Sunday, Feb 20, 2011 at Horatius in Potrero Hill. If you love the San Francisco food scene, then you know Russell Jackson (or at least you might think you do). Pirate chef, notorious, Zeus of the underground dining scene? Perhaps?!

I was very glad to attend the inaugural event featuring the very talented and charming, Chef Martin Brock of Gary Danko (Chef de Cuisine). I’m not sure what I liked more: hearing about him growing up on a farm in Germany; when he received “the call” from Gary Danko himself; or about life as a newlywed. The conversation was great and the food was amazing! Yes, you get food :0).

Studio Gourmet founder, Brad Lev w/Chef Martin Brock of Gary Danko

I’m sure Jackson’s interview will be awesome. For more info, visit:

http://www.studiogourmetsf.com/

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“ONE LOVE” in a cup!

As a coffee lover, there’s nothing like opening a bag of amazing whole beans and taking a long, deep breath! That being said, I was so happy to stumble upon Marley Coffee. My husband is a huge reggae fan, so of course, Bob Marley is king. How do you combine his love of reggae and my obsession with good coffee? Marley Coffee. Yes, this is the real deal, founded by Bob Marley’s son, Rohan.

Artisan roasted, Marley Coffee is organic and sustainably grown. So far, ONE LOVE, is my favorite, but I have a feeling BUFFALO SOLDIER is going to win me over… “roasted sweet, this earthy blend is sultry, smoky and deliciously smooth. The dark chocolate and berry undertones leave a rich, lingering finish.”

Life is good.

Check them out: http://www.marleycoffee.com/

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Top Secret: Interview with BIG TV CHEF!

Guess who is going to be video chatting with one of the biggest chefs in America?!!! I cannot tell you who it is yet, but let’s just say that if your watch Food on TV, you will know and love this person! We’ll be releasing a series of short video conversations, so let me know what I should ask?

Think Mediterranean!

Post your questions here or on our Facebook page: facebook.com/cookingfortheclueless

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New York is for dreams. LA is for fantasies.

My 2.5 days in Los Angeles for the Tasty Awards were so much fun. You know LA gets a bad wrap and I was staying in the middle of it – Beverly Hills – 2 blocks from Rodeo Drive and 1/2 a block from paparazzi stalkers. I wasn’t sure what to expect since I haven’t spent much time in LA, but I was fully ready to confirm all the negativity. BIG SURPRISE! I had a great time and came to one conclusion:

New York is for dreams and LA is for fantasies.

New York teaches you to dream big. You learn how to go for it and along the way gain great work ethic, drive, and a coffee addiction.

Los Angeles is for fantasies – and I don’t mean that in a negative way. In Beverly Hills, everything was beautiful in a fantastical way…hair, make-up and oh the clothes – all exaggerated and alluring, like a forbidden elixir. I may have had a little sip since I had such a good time :0).

Here are some photos from the 2011 Tasty Awards Red Carpet – where I actually had great conversations with all these “fantastic” foodie celebs: Chefs Fabio Viviani (Top Chef, Top Chef All-Stars), Tanya Holland (Food Network/Brown Sugar Kitchen), Nathan Lyon (Food Network) and also Olympic Medalist, Brian Boitano (What Would Brian Boitano Make?), Bobby Bognar (Food Tech), Leslie Sbrocco (Check Please! Bay Area) and Actress Nickie Jurado.

Fabio Viviani (Top Chef, Top Chef All-Stars), Zuzy Martin Lynch (moi)

Chef Tanya Holland (Food Network & Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland)

Bobby Bognar of Food Tech (middle), his dad (left)

Brian Boitano (Gold Medalist Ice Skater/Cook: What Would Brian Boitano Make?

Chef Nathan Lyon (A Lyon in the Kitchen)

Nickie Jurado, Actress

Leslie Sbrocco, Check Please! Bay Area

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Tasty Award Pre-Party Snaps

It was great mingling with all the Tasty Award presenters & honorees at The Crescent Beverly Hills Hotel for the award show pre-party! Here are a few snaps:

Zuzy (me) with Luciene Salomone (WE Tv)
Jolene Sugarbaker of The Trailer Park Cooking Show
Francesca of Valcooks Aprons
Sara O’Donnell of Average Betty

Matthew Bunn, Cooking.com

Chef Nathan Lyon & Bobby Bognar (Food Tech)

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Red-carpet jitters

In 1 day, I’ll be on a plane to Los Angeles to present an award at the 2011 Tasty Awards at the Egyptian Theatre. I know, I know, it’s not like I’m presenting at the Golden Globes, but I’m still nervous and trying to wish my way into being skinny. Re-watching Julie & Julia was definitely inspiring, not in trying to think skinny, but in remembering how two women embarked on a brave journey to follow their passions – not knowing where it would take them and having the courage to continue despite many obstacles. It’s scary to follow a dream sometimes because until your successful…well let’s just say that it can be daunting. Back to Julia Child…did you know that she only began to learn how to cook at age 37?! Thanks again Julie Powell for helping me learn about Julia. There is hope.

If you missed my original review on the movie, check it out here.

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Have a Crab Feast!

It’s a well-known fact that San Francisco is famous for it’s Dungeness Crab. Each year, between mid-November and June, you will find countless amounts of fresh crabs at the Wharf and in the best of restaurants in town. Now, the past couple of years have been really tough, but the 2010/2011 season is looking pretty epic! You can find crabs at local markets for as cheap at $3.99/pound. Awesome! Every year, I get invited over to my friend’s house for a crab feast. It’s tradition and her dad, Nick, has been steaming crabs for a long, long time! Here’s a sneak peek at all the fun we had and check out the full recipe below.

Allow yourself the ability to maximize the crab-eating experience by using all of your senses and making your own crab dinner! Invite a few friends over and follow the delicious and simple recipe below for a night of good conversation, messy eating and the freshest crab around.

Nick’s Famous Steamed Dungeness Crab Recipe

Go to the market (Asian markets are great for crab) and buy 8 live 1-2 pound Dungeness Crabs (serves 4-6 people). It is crucial that the crabs are live and active when you buy them. Add 3-inches of water to a seafood steam pot (16-quart used in this recipe), 6 ounces of vinegar, 10 dried chiles crushed by hand (or Mexican hot sauce), and 4 ounces of Old Bay Spice or Susan’s Seafood Seasoning.

Instructions

1. Bring to a steaming boil and then put half of crabs into the pot. Cover with lid. Do not remove lid for 5 minutes.

2. After 5 minutes of boiling, remove lid and sprinkle 6 more ounces of seasoning on top of each crab

3. Continue steaming for 25 minutes with lid on pot

4. Set the table ‘a la casual’ with newspaper and tons of napkins

5. Roll up your sleeves, pair with a beautiful wine, and enjoy the conversation

Special thanks to Nick Mamczak!

Nick Mamczak is a fantastic cook, classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America. This recipe was inspired by his love of seafood.

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I can’t believe I survived Thanksgiving

On Thanksgiving proper, we were invited to a friend’s for lunch and then over to family’s for dinner, so, no cooking my own turkey. Instead, I offered 2 side dishes, plucked from Real Simple magazine. For some reason, I felt like I was cheating. Here I am, Zuzy, from Cooking for the Clueless, preaching to all novice cooks that they can “do it,” they can cook, “it’s easy.” Yet, here I was not even making my own turkey? Ahh, the pressure we put on ourselves! So, I decided to cook my own Thanksgiving tonight, Tuesday, the day after Cyber Monday as they call it. How did it go? Well, I won’t lie, it was stressful! Before I get into the stress, here was my menu:

My Turkey!

The Oyster & Bacon Stuffing was a huge huge hit (I used smoked oysters) and I was happy with the rest of the menu too. But, I have to tell you that the damn turkey almost gave me a heart attack! They only had frozen turkeys when I went to the supermarket late the night before and I was stressed about defrosting it. Then, when roasting, I had a leak in the cheapie pan that I used and the oven started smoking. Next, I was worried about opening and closing the oven too many times while cooking the side dishes. Finally, after about 4 hours, it started to look like a cooked turkey. But like most new cooks, I still stressed over possibly poisoning my family and neighbor with an undercooked bird, so I dug into the drawer for my 2 fancy meat thermometers – all this while I cleaned the kitchen, vacuumed, and set the table with fancy things. Our only guest this evening, my lovely neighbor, arrived punctually and after a few minutes of watching me try to put a battery into the fancy meat thermometer, she offered some help. She set the thermometer aside and grabbed a fork. With a couple of pokes, she says, “oh, it’s done!” in her New York Italian accent. She had 79 years of cooking wisdom behind her, so I took her word for it! Thankfully, it turned out pretty good and with good wine and great conversation, I’ll call it a hit!

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Happy Holidays!

 

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Planting & Cooking with Fresh Herbs

Now that Thanksgiving is at our doorstep, everyone is cooking! And cooking with fresh herbs is the best, right? Instead of buying fresh herbs every week at the market, I planted my first garden! Why now after all the plants that I’ve killed? Well, I’ve been inspired, by Annie’s Homegrown Root 4 Kids campaign and by my 1-year old son– to do things better, cook more, eat fresher and really understand my food. Starting a garden is a great step in that direction.

We planted Rosemary, Dark Italian Parsley, Oregano, Tri-Color Sage, Thyme, Marjoram & edible Violas. This time, I decided to get some help from the pros at Sunnyside Nursery. Check out our latest episode on planting your own herb garden.

Their best advice:

  • Move your plants into a planter
  • Use good, fresh potting soil (organic works great)
  • Expose to plenty of natural light/shield from too much wind
  • Water, water, water (soil should “slightly damp”, not too wet)
  • Trim and use often in cooking!

Instead of shopping madness this holiday weekend, why not join Root 4 Kids with me and plant your own garden? Sending you gardening success and a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving Feast at your Doorstep

I’ve been waiting since last Thanksgiving to tell you about Cook! SF’s amazing Thanksgiving Feast. If you want to host your very own, organically scrumptious, homemade Thanksgiving, but want to take some of the hassle out of the process (or you’re a procrastinator like me, which inevitably brings hassle), have Cook! SF help you. They deliver the goods, you cook by following their easy instructions and pre-measured ingredients. Here’s what you will get delivered to your doorstep:

Serving 8-10 Guests

  • Free-range Organic Turkey
  • Real Turkey Gravy From Home-Made Stock
  • Our Famous Corn Bread Stuffing
  • Creamy Organic Red-Skin Mashed Potatoes
  • Sumptuously Steamed Organic Green Beans
  • Organic Spring Mix Salad with Crumbled Blue Cheese (optional), Pears, Walnuts, Dried Cranberries
  • Zesty Orange and Ginger Cranberry Sauce
  • Gluten-free & Dairy-free pumpkin pie
  • Apple pie so good you won’t believe there’s no gluten or dairy!

Check out their video explaining how it works and their website, but don’t delay – ORDERS MUST BE MADE BY THIS FRIDAY, November 19, 2010.

For more information, please visit: http://www.cooksf.com

Facebook lovers: http://www.facebook.com/CookSF

P.S.

If I was hosting my own this year, I would definitely go Cook! I kinda wish we were in our new place, but the relatives locked us in at their place :0)

 

 

 

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Challah with Irving Greisman!

Thanks again to Irving Greisman of Irving’s Premium Foods. He’s known to make the best Challah bread in the San Francisco Bay Area and it really was amazing. I was asked to co-host a challah-making class with him only to discover that he was so charming and such a great teacher that I wanted to adopt him as my grandpa.  The class was hosted by the Young Adult Division (YAD) of the Jewish Community Federation in benefit of the Chicken Soupers. I braided and baked my challah dough as soon as I got home – mostly so that I wouldn’t forget what I learned. Check out my challah below.

For Irving’s Challah French Toast recipe (with a very unexpected ingredient), click here.

Freshly baked 4-braid Challah bread.

Irving’s challah is available in markets throughout the Bay Area.

 

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Challah-making class

I’m getting really excited for next week’s Challah-making class (Oct 21st) with the one and only Irving Greisman of Irving’sPremium Challah. Irving is known as “the” best challah-baker in San Francisco. I was asked to help host the class as Irving’s student, asking all the questions anyone would want to know. Aside from loving good challah and butter and challah french toast, I’m most excited about learning from a great teacher. I met Irving earlier in the week and he reminded me of my grandpa – very welcoming, very intelligent, great teacher.

The class will benefit the JFCS Adults with Disabilities program. For more information, see event invitation HERE.

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Glorious Pumpkins

What is it about these magical vegetables that makes them so awesome? Is it their color, their size, their weird shapes? Maybe its our memories associated them? I could sit and write a poem about pumpkins right now, I’m so in love with them. Then again, I just came from yoga class, so I am definitely in a creative and calm mood :0). Here’s a great recipe from one of our favorite Cooking for the Clueless Facebook Fans, Lynnee Bedard Jimenez of Chica Circle:

Great Grandma’s Pumpkin Pie – Perfect blend of spices & not too sweet

  • 2 cups pumpkin
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice

Beat all ingredients together 2 minutes. Bake @ 475 for 15 min and then @ 400 until done (can cover crust edge with foil to stop the burn). That’s it!!

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How much food do YOU waste?

I’m always trying to find statistics to help me prove my theory that we NEED MORE HELP in the kitchen – so that I don’t feel like I’m alone, you know? Well, this is a big one.

According to the Department of Agriculture, we (Americans) waste 27% of our food! This means we throw it out, let it go bad or just don’t know what to do with it?

Aside from a big stat, this study links wasted food with wasted energy…something that all of us are thinking about these days.

Check out the article here!

Also, Jonathan Bloom has a great blog on how to waste less food! www.wastedfood.com

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Meeting Jacques Pépin

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Jacques Pépin during one of his 75th Birthday Year celebrations!

His birthday isn’t until December, but I like a man who knows how to celebrate. I picked up his memoir and national bestseller, The Apprentice, before heading over there so that I could grab an autograph and I was so glad to have chosen his memoir. If you don’t have a Jacques Pépin book yet, grab some recipes off the internet and invest in the memoir. From the little I’ve read so far, it’s a beautiful and real history of the man behind the legend. I love memoirs because they give some insight behind the celebrity haze.

Here are a couple of great pictures from the event at The Left Bank in Menlo Park. If you’d like to meet him yourself, be sure to check out other events celebrating his 75 years of life. For the KQED fans, I also met Chef Martin Yan of Yan Can Cook. He and Mr. Pépin were both very nice!

What’s next for Jacques Pépin?

Mr. Pépin is currently filming 26 episodes of his new series, The Essential Pépin in San Francisco! The new serieswill air in Fall 2011. I’d love to be as vibrant as him at 75!

Bon Anniversaire Jacques!

..And a BIG THANK YOU to my friend and mentor, Charlene Rouspil of the Dacor Design and Culinary Center for being my date!

Chef Martin Yan of Yan Can Cook

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Now That’s a Good Meatball!

I am so lucky to have my grandma in town for 2 weeks! She’s 85 (looks 75) and fantastic. I think I’ve mentioned before that she’s an amazing cook? That being said – she’s also partly to blame, for me being clueless in the kitchen. Instead of teaching me how to cook, she opted to “spoil me.” In her eyes, she wanted to cook for me and not have me doing work in the kitchen. Obviously, I appreciate her so much and am learning from her now in my 30’s!

So today, we’re making MEATBALLS! The perfect, protein-packed, easy to eat comfort food for any adult or a 1-year old. The meatballs are really for my son. They are so easy to make. Here’s the quick recipe:

  1. Take 1/2 pound of ground beef (80/20%) and 1/2 pound of ground pork. Grab a bowl and use your hands to mush the ground meat together.
  2. Once mixed, scramble 1 egg in a separate bowl and then mix into your meat. Again, use your clean hands to mix.
  3. Next, slowly add about 1/2 cup of Italian or seasoned breadcrumbs. Mix well.
  4. Start rolling your meatballs in the palm of your hand (about 1-inch thick). Roll them well so the meatball is packed firmly. Then sprinkle more breadcrumbs over the meatball before setting aside.
  5. TO COOK: Add the meatballs to a stewing pot and add enough chicken broth to cover. Add fresh garlic and a pinch of salt.
  6. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes over medium heat. You’re done.

Side dish: Simmered Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes. Slice your sweet potatoes into 1/2-inch thick circles, simmer in 1/2-cup of water. Add 1/4-cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Simmer until tender.

Fancy Serve: Place 1 meatball atop of each sweet potato slice. Add some greens for color!

Note: 1-pound of meat yields about 2 dozen average size meatballs.

Happy 1st day of FALL 2010!

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Exciting Catch-up News (Green Grocer Book, Talk Show, Classes)

This is a little ridiculous, but I have a few fun things to tell you I’m just going to list them since I would lose you if I talk (write) too much! It’s bad enough that I haven’t blogged about my jamming and canning class at the JCC :0). Can I blame it on my sweet little baby boy taking up all of my time? Yes. Definitely. Onto the juicy stuff:

Joe Carcione, Green Grocer

1. Do you remember The Green Grocer, Joe Carcione? I used to LOVE watching his segments on the local news years back. He was so cute (in an older Italian man sort of way) and a man ahead of his time and the “eat green” revolution. His son, Pete Carcione, is releasing The New Green Grocer Cookbook in October! The new edition is written by Joe, the father, and edited by Pete.

What’s more exciting? Cooking for the Clueless (moi) is a contributor to the new edition! I am very honored to be a part of it. Stay posted for more launch details and check out their website here.

2. Have you heard of Studio Gourmet? Hopefully you will very soon! Studio Gourmet, launching this Fall, is a San Francisco-based live talk program focusing on big chefs and on all things food. Events will bring the city’s best chefs to an intimate setting (a la Actor’s Studio) where they will share stories, secrets and food to a live audience.

Even more exciting? Cooking for the Clueless is partnering with Studio Gourmet and all guests will receive a copy of our fantastic DVD along with their ticket price :0). Become a FAN (you know “LIKE”) on Facebook to get launch info.

3. The Jewish Community Center (JCC) has great cooking classes in a beautiful building. Most of them run $50, $55 for non-members. This is where I took my Jamming & Canning class. It was great and SO EASY! Click here to see their upcoming FOOD classes (i.e. Italian Economico, Mouthwatering Burgers, Great Wines for less $20)

4. My CSA update: I just finished my 4th week of receiving amazing and weird veggies from Canvas Ranch (the only CSA that delivers to Marin County…as far as I know). This past weekend, I made brunch for 5 and used my goodies to make Summer Squash, Tomato & Fontina Frittata, Plum, Apple & Blueberry Salad washed in lightly sweetened lemon water with a splash of fresh mint and a Warm Beet & Chevre Salad over greens with a homemade Blackberry vinaigrette. I want to say that I impressed myself, except, I just used what arrived in my CSA bag last week – so I don’t think I can take credit. I do, however, feel much LESS clueless since I’ve started receiving my weekly bag of farm fresh veggies and strive to use everything before the week is up!

P.S. Went to the SF Underground Market a couple weeks ago and will be going to the Homegrown Marin Market in Sausalito this weekend. These are fun. My only comment: If 7×7 is promoting the Underground Market in their weekly eblast, is it really underground?

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Love & Potatoes: My New CSA

I picked up my bag of veggies from my new CSA (Canvas Ranch) this week and it was so exciting. I had no idea what I was getting and not sure what I was going to do with it, so it felt like an adventure. I walked to pick up my bag of goodies with my little boy, Craig, and started thinking about how FRESH food is so romanticized these days. It was an interesting string of thoughts. There I was, walking with my 10-month old sleeping quietly in his super stroller as I passed all the pretty trees and looked into the hills of Marin County all while I was supporting a local farm. All I needed was a little music and it would be a great scene in a movie, I bet.

The romance side tracks me…anyway, I arrived to grab my veggies and on queue, the baby starts screaming, the wind blew cold and there I was with no jacket and 2 miles from home.

Finally, we get home and I spread out the goods on my kitchen table. The excitement came back! I didn’t know what everything was but it looked so pretty and fresh and colorful. I picked up something that looked like parsley and smelled and picked off a leaf. “It doesn’t smell like parsley,” I thought. It tasted so different – like a candied orange…how strange! Canvas Ranch solved the mystery with their weekly newsletter explaining everything: Lettuce, Rainbow Chard, Golden and Chiogga Beets, Collards, Radicchio, Yukon Gold Potatoes, Scallions and Cilantro!

It was cilantro! I’ve had cilantro before, but not like this. It was so different and extra delicious. Oh, and the potatoes! I sliced them like steak fries and baked them with olive oil and a little Old Bay seasoning…so good that I didn’t use ketchup – and I’m a ketchup fanatic.

I can’t wait to cook and eat these up during the week. Do you have any favorite CSAs (community-supported agriculture) that you love. And please, tell me about any fruits or veggies that have surprised you lately.

Off to a canning & jamming class…

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Women Entrepreneurs Radio Tonight

Tonight, I’m being interviewed on Women Entrepreneurs Radio by Deborah Bailey! Deborah is the host of Women Entrepreneurs – The Secrets of Success,” a weekly internet radio talk show that provides candid discussions with today’s top entrepreneurs, authors and industry experts such as former CNN anchor Daryn Kagan and inventor and QVC personality, Lori Greiner. Deborah is also author of the book, “Think Like an Entrepreneur: Transforming Your Career and Taking Charge of Your Life.”

Needless to say, I’m very excited to be among many awesome women being interviewed! I’ll be sharing many of the BIG secrets behind Cooking for the Clueless. LOL. Well, maybe just a few – but mostly delving into using creativity, resources and pure gusto in following your dream on the path of entrepreneurship.

Listen today or via archive anytime: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/CoachDeb

Check out other fun Cooking for the Clueless press here.

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The Oprah Dream: What happened?

As most of you know, I auditioned for Oprah’s contest to have my “OWN” show on her new network, OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network). It happened on a Friday afternoon in May, when Oprah talked through the TV to ME and said, “Do you think you have what it takes to have your own show? Do people tell you should be on TV?” “Yes, and yes, totally” I said back to her! So, my hubby and I scrambled and filmed a short audition before time slipped away.

Quick segue: When we produced, Cooking for the Clueless, our DVD to help people who are super frustrated in the kitchen, our intention was to sell it in the big stores – you know, Crate & Barrel and Bed Bath & Beyond for all the newlywed shoppers that realize they can’t cook after “I do” and Target for all the 30-something smart shoppers in our “target audience.” What really happened was that C&B and BBB & Tar-jay said, “great concept, but you’re a nobody kid – we can’t carry your DVD!” Ok, so they didn’t use those exact words, but they said if I had a show, it’d be a different story. Thank God for Amazon. They love us. Anyway – just a little reality background for our die-hard fans.

The more I promoted the DVD, the more TV (morning shows) I did and got more comfortable in front of the camera and people would say, “What a great concept for a show!” I always felt it was but started to believe that other people agreed. Oh and the best confidence booster happened at the Tasty Awards – do you remember when we won the Tasty Award for best food DVD? (see acceptance speech here :0). After the show, a big-time producer from TLC (produces Cake Boss) came up to me and said, “call me, I like your energy.” That was awesome – but so far nada. And then there came Oprah, the grande mama of all hopes for almost every woman in America. My audition got 18,364 votes! Out of 465 online cooking entries, I finished in the top 25 or 30, I think. Not bad huh?

Finish the Oprah Story already…

Ok, so the voting closed about 10 days ago and in a delusional state, I thought I may have a chance for a call back, then I read that out of 10,000 people, only 35 were getting called for a second round of personal interviews. That deflated any hopes, especially since the only person calling me was my grandma. ” Oprah didn’t call?” she asked in Spanish. As if it were a given. You gotta love your grandmas!

Thanks to EVERYONE who voted for me on Oprah! It was truly appreciated and I love all of your support! Stay tuned for more local stories on the challenges and perks of moving from clueless to cooking in the kitchen. :0)

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Big trees, No Wifi, Great food

How many of you could handle a week without cell phones, TV or internet? No really…none of them. If you think you cango without technology for a week and you like the outdoors, I highly recommend trying one of San Francisco’s “best

kept secrets” for families – Camp Mather up in Yosemite National Park (technically just outside the park in Groveland, CA). Oaks, Cedars and Ponderosa Pines canopy over tiny cabins that keep you

warm at night. For many, the family camp has been a San Francisco tradition for generations. This Jersey-girl fell in love with Yosemite at first sight, so it was a no-brainer for me.

Aside from being in pure nature and doing things out of your normal city element – like taking an archery lesson, one of the best things about Camp Mather is that you don’t have to worry about your meals. You get 3 delicious fresh meals a day served to you by perky college kids working hard during summer break – old-fashioned style – in a mess hall, with dinner bell and all! OK, this is starting to sound corny, but it’s just great and the food was really good. Of course, I had to tour the kitchen and get the scoop on how it is they manage to serve 90,000 meals a summer (500 people a week x 3 meals a day).

So how do you feed an army of 500 people 3 times a day all summer long?

  1. Prep a day ahead with enough hands on deck. Delegate.
  2. Plan a good variety between vegetarians, kids and everyone else.
  3. Serving cafeteria style vs. family style keeps the food hot and fresh.
  4. Keep the bears out of the kitchen! They get in sometimes :0)

Thanks to Chef Mike Cunnane and Cook Allison Murnin for the tour and inside scoop behind Mather’s beloved Dining Hall secrets. My favorites were Thursday night’s hearty Eggplant Parmesan and delicious Tilapia a la Murnin and the freshly baked breads and dessert and every breakfast, oh and the sweet cantaloupe…thank goodness for the gazillion hiking trails that kept us going in between meals :0)

Can’t wait till next summer already.

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You CAN eat locally, organically & on a budget!

The title of last night’s sold out food lecture, sponsored by The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, “How to Eat Locally on a Budget” was sure to draw a crowd given that our society is both obsessed with the economy and eating better/more consciously these days. We all know that eating organic and locally is better for the environment, but it’s easier said than done if you’re not used to cooking. There is a sense of elitism in the media surrounding those that can afford to eat like we should be eating. The all-star panel of published experts on the subject told us we had it all wrong and that this negative perception was only just that – a perception. The panel included:

Deborah Madison, Author, What We Eat When We Eat Alone
Leda Meredith, Author, The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Locally on a Budget
Jessica Prentice, Author, Full Moon Feast
Temra Costa, Author, Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat – Moderator

I went to the event curious and somewhat skeptical as to whether or not I would get realistic and doable tips from the experts. Going organic and local is a great goal to strive for, but if you’re not used to cooking and you don’t really understand food, you may have to take a few (fulfilling) steps before it becomes a lifestyle. I’m happy to say that there was so much important and useful information packed into the 1-hour panel discussion. Let me get right to the best advice:

  1. Buy in PEAK Season: it’s good to wait for things to be in-season, but prices are higher at the beginning. If you wait till PEAK, prices drop by as much as 50% and taste is perfect!
  2. Walk the Farmer’s Market: Walk the entire market BEFORE buying. Often prices will differ throughout. Don’t be afraid to ask “why?” Price may be higher because a farm is organic-certified which costs more to run.
  3. Grow things Yourself! Understanding food can start with a little garden that is all yours to nurture and use. Ask for help at your local gardening store or get to researching on the web. Here’s a great article to get you started.
  4. Volunteer for FREE Food: Many CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) – you know where you order a box of veggies and/or meats/dairy from local farms and they get delivered to you or a local spot in your hood…provide a free box of goods in exchange for some volunteer hours from you every week. Many intangible benefits come with this idea (aside from free food).
  5. Eat Beans & Rice: Beans and rice have been a staple food of many native populations for a good reason – good nutrition, low-cost.
  6. Join a Freeze or Canning Party! Canning or freezing foods in bulk will save you time and money in droves. But it’s not very fun to do this by yourself. Join a party or host a day in the kitchen with some friends. Eating organic, local and sustainable is very much about community. Join the fun!
  7. Start a Farm. Urban farming is on the rise. Yes, we’re talking raising farm-yard animals even in the city. Read my Novella Carpenter post for some insight on the first time I ever heard of urban farming: Urban Farming: we’re talking bees, chicks & piggies
  8. Buy the WHOLE Chicken: buying skinless/boneless is more expensive. If you buy it whole, you can roast once day and stew the next.
  9. Go Mutton: Ok, I have to admit, I never heard of mutton until last night! Apparently, it’s the same as lamb, but where lamb is sheep 12 months or younger, mutton is 2 years and older having a stronger taste and less tender – but cheaper!
  10. Don’t Cook like it’s the Holidays Every Night! Sometimes having a filling bowl of soup and a crusty piece of bread is enough for dinner. Why torment yourself with making 3,4,5-course meals every night? Rethink the menu. Get simple and save the holiday-style meals for special occasions or company.

Ok…according to blogging “rules” this post is way to long – but there was so much good information to pass along. I’ll be taking some of my own advice and starting a garden (never thought I would ever) when I get back from Yosemite! Happy 4th of July!


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Don’t Call it a Latté

Cuban coffee

Cafe Bustelo con la cafetera

“Isn’t a café con leche the same as a latté?” asks my gringo husband – this mind you after listening to countless stories about my grandma’s famous café con leché and tasting it on multiple occasions.

“No, No, No” I say with a Cuban accent. “It’s definitely not the same. How can you say that?!”

Growing up, I would have a café con leché, which simply translates to coffee with milk, first thing in the morning or anytime I walked into my grandma’s house for a visit. Mind you, first thing in the morning went all the way back to when I started school – like pre-K. Yes, Cubans give their small children strong coffee…with lots of evaporated milk and sugar. To this day, I can have coffee any time of the day and night and fall right to sleep. Grandma (abuela) helped build an immunity to the well-known effects of coffee.

Bustelo, the brand I’ve seen in my family’s cupboard for ever, is “strong and powerful” as described by the family who has been producing it since 1865. Mixed with evaporated milk and organic brown sugar (these days), it is so delicious. The main difference (aside from pure taste) between a Starbucks-style latté and a Cuban café con leché is that a latté, you take on the run, while the café con leché means we’re about to sit down and talk, converse, gossip or just enjoy laughing over something silly.

The best of these conversations is always with my abuela. “Fulano” (fulano means so-and-so in Cuban slang) is coming from Cuba, graduating from college, getting a dog, having a baby…whatever the family gossip was at the moment, it would be discussed over a piping hot, sugary sweet, unforgettably scented café con leché. On better days, it was accompanied by toasted Cuban bread and melted real butter.

I haven’t made café con leché for myself in a while, but yesterday, I found a spunky-looking cafetera (Cuban espresso maker) at Marshall’s for $5.00! The Bustelo was already in my pantry, waiting for its partner in crime – la cafetera. I just made some for me and some company – que rico!

Get yourself a cafetera and give it a try. Here’s a good step-by-step on how to make it the authentic way. They sell Bustelo in most grocery stores. Just don’t call it a latté!

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Indian/Mexican Fusion? Really?

What happens when you’re trying to get over being clueless in the kitchen and your schedule is crazy, you’re planning a move, your running a business and raising a beautiful 8 month old (among a few other things)? Well, you have at least ONE GOOD EXCUSE why you’re not cooking as much as you should this week. When this happens to you, ask the food gods to guide you in the best direction for take-out or dine-in.

How lucky am I that I decided to google “best family restaurant, Sausalito” while somewhat craving Italian, and here pops up Avatars. “Avatars, what’s this? Indian/Mexican fusion? What’s that?”

Intrigued, we decided to stroll over there with the baby. The owner greeted us with a beautiful warm smile – happy to see the baby (and not annoyed), before we knew it, he told us to close our menus and trust him to bring over something amazing. Oh – and when we asked about the beer menu, “do you like dark, lager, or ale?” Why aren’t more restaurants like this? As for dinner, Rock Shrimp curry, tandoori, chutney flavors all in one, the veggies were a perfect complement with a firm texture and irresistible flavors…I was at a loss for words. The only thing I could think, then and now, was that my mouth was very happy!

So glad this Avatars crossed our path. We’ll be back! Definitely check it out if you’re in the area (or not). It’s worth the trip.

http://www.enjoyavatars.com/ (Read their history section!)

P.S.

Organic & caters to all diets

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Amazing Grass!

Living in San Francisco and saying that I found “amazing grass” can certainly be confused for a few different things! But now that I’m cooking more, eating healthy has become a bi-product of what I crave. I’m becoming more and more comfortable in the natural food stores and craving foods that are fresh and natural. I have to say, the first time I walked into Rainbow Grocery, I was very intimidated. Everyone knew what they were doing and shopping “in bulk” and for all sorts of strange ingredients. I was pretty scared, being that I came from a “clueless” place. Now that I’ve been to quite a few “health” or natural food stores – I love that they have so many more options than the small “organic” sections at the big grocers which always seem a bit out-of-place – as if the marketing department at HQ said, “let’s get an organic section up asap.”

Back to that “amazing grass.” So, I was visiting Nature’s Food Patch on a visit to Clearwater, Florida looking for a healthy shake mix to get me started in the mornings and I found the most YUMMY mix ever. It’s called Amazing Meal (Chocolate Infusion) and it’s made by Amazing Grass, a San Francisco-based company! Ironic that I found it on the opposite coast when it’s made in my backyard. I mix it with almond milk and add 1/2 banana sometimes and although I love it because it tastes great, here are a few extra perks: it’s organic, raw, vegan, dairy free, non-gmo, gluten-free and soy free.

Check your local natural market or visit them at http://www.amazinggrass.com/ or in the Facebook world of course.

P.S.

Speaking of vegan…by matter of pure coincidence, my brilliant cartoonist & comedian friend, Michael Capozzola, emailed his latest FOOD cartoon creation to me today. Enjoy and check out more of his work at http://www.capozzola.com/ or at the Chronicle.

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