Author Archive for: ‘dsimmons’

Beef stew and bread

March 5, 2013
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

On the menu at home this past weekend was beef stew (Sunday was the perfect day for it!) and bread of some type.  The stew was pretty traditional-I used sirloin tip because it’s so lean & gets really tender when braised.  I always put in a lot of onion-typically I brown one medium onion with the meat, and another onion in with the vegetables.  I like to roast the vegetables separately, then add them to the stew.  It’s a little more time consuming, but it gives the stew more depth & adds a little sweetness.  In addition to the onion, I used carrots, celery, turnip & potatoes, along with a snip of fresh rosemary from my window herb garden.

The sauce for the stew started with beef broth, made from base.  I don’t know why bases aren’t available at the retail level like they are for food service.  To me they’re far superior to bouillon cubes (YUCK!) or even the packaged broths that are now available.  They’ll do in a pinch, but you can’t control the flavor & sodium levels like you can with base.  The secret ingredient in my stew is Campbell’s cream of tomato soup.  About 1 can (undiluted) added to a gallon of broth adds great flavor & helps thicken the stew.  Oh yeah, and don’t forget to deglaze the pan you sauté the meat in with a little red wine.

But it’s really the bread I wanted to mention.  I’m embarrassed to admit that, after 30 years in the food biz, I’m afraid of yeast.  I worked with it a little at school, but I don’t think it counts when there are 13 other students making the bread with you.  I’ve shied away from it since, but decided it was time to get over myself & give it a shot.

I searched for a simple recipe online (amazing how many hits you get when you type in ‘simple bread recipe’!)  I absolutely loved the instructions written by The Simple Homemaker (http://www.thesimplehomemaker.com/simple-bread-recipe).  I giggled several times as I read through the recipe.  The part about kneading was very helpful, even though I used a different recipe (I wanted one with a little sugar & oil-hers is just yeast, water, salt & flour):

“Knead until it is as smooth as a baby’s bottom. If you have no baby’s bottom at hand to compare it to, give it the stretch test. Hold the dough up to the light and stretch a portion of it. If you can see light through it before it breaks, congrats! You’re finished”

Being a novice at bread making, it was a simple test I could use to judge whether or not I’d kneaded enough (I didn’t have a baby’s bottom handy).

The rest of the process was pretty simple-let it rise, punch it down, form it, let it rise again & then bake.  There is NOTHING more comforting then the smell of baking bread!  It came out delicious, and I was pretty impressed with myself on the texture of the bread. It was soft inside & had a great crust on the outside.  All in all a great experience for a first timer!  I think I’ll try it again…maybe cinnamon rolls for dads birthday….

Trash Talk – Are your eyes bigger than your stomach?

Feb 25, 2013
Becky Tweedy, Assistant to the President

At MG account Guilford College, we weighed our daily food waste last semester to raise awareness about how much was being thrown in the trash.

Results?
300 pounds of food a day average almost half a pound of food per meal served!

How can you help?

  • Start with smaller portions, & come back for more!
  • Start a ‘clean plate club’, take what you'll eat, eat what you take, spread the word!

Trash Talk – Are your eyes bigger than your stomach?

Feb 25, 2013
Becky Tweedy, Assistant to the President

At MG account Guilford College, we weighed our daily food waste last semester to raise awareness about how much was being thrown in the trash.

Results?
300 pounds of food a day average almost half a pound of food per meal served!

How can you help?

  • Start with smaller portions, & come back for more!
  • Start a ‘clean plate club’, take what you’ll eat, eat what you take, spread the word!

Chocolate Soufflé

Feb 19, 2013
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

I had a friend over for dinner this past Saturday.  We talked about a bunch of different things we could make for dinner, but it came down to Laura (the friend) would make a barley risotto dish she’d been wanting to try for a while, and I would do something to accompany the risotto, with her help (she asked if she could spend time in the kitchen with me so she could ‘learn from the expert’).  When I asked her what she’d like to make, her immediate & rather animated response was ‘a SOUFFLE!!!’  

Yikes!  I was thinking roasted vegetables, or maybe a salad…even some type of simple dessert.  Definitely NOT thinking soufflé!  I’ve made them, but it’s been about 26 years-since I was in the Escoffier Room kitchen at CIA-just one class before graduation.  The E Room kitchen chef instructor was a stereotypical old-school European chef. I won’t go into gory details, but suffice it to say I was scarred for life by his screaming at me that if I put too much salt in the chocolate soufflé, he would make sure I never set foot in his kitchen again (I think he MAY have been joking…but it was hard to tell with him screaming at me & his face turning from red to purple).  Since I did graduate (and have the diploma to prove it), the seasoning of the chocolate soufflé was good, and I was able (tho not necessarily willing) to set foot in his kitchen the next day…and the next…and the next…

I think most people think of chefs as ‘experts’ who never fail, or who never have a dish that isn’t perfect…or edible.    I’m here to tell you that we probably mess up just as much as the next person (well, may not quite as much-we do have a good bit more practice-hopefully!)  The difference between a chef, or professional cook, and an inexperienced cook is that we know how to fix our mistakes. We can taste a dish & determine what it needs to make it truly excellent.  Except for baking…baking you have one shot, and if you mess it up, either you throw it out & start over, or mix the mess together & call it something totally different (maybe for my next blog post I’ll tell you the story of my first black forest cake…which was actually served as ‘Krumel Krugen’. Not sure my spelling is correct-it’s the name, given by our German exchange student, to the mess  after it slid off the plate, onto the counter, and a spatula was used to scrape it into a bowl.  Topped with copious amounts of whipped cream to cover the fact that it looked like it had been hit by a train, it ended up being rather tasty!).

But I digress…this is the story of the chocolate soufflé from this past weekend.  I looked online for a recipe suitable for 2 people.  It seemed rather easy…much more so than I remembered it being.  I even had all the ingredients already, except for 3 ounces of great quality bittersweet chocolate.  We gathered our mise en place, read our recipe & dove in.  The mixture looked pretty good as it was being gently spooned into the pre-buttered & sugared ramekins.  We set the time for 18 minutes & went back to the living room to play cards, so we wouldn’t be tempted to open the oven door & peek before the timer went off.  When the timer did go off, we opened the oven door to the sight of two beautiful chocolate soufflés.  They were incredible!  Light, airy, super chocolatey & delicious!  It appeared that my soufflé demon had been exorcised!  Thanks for pushing me to make them, Laura!
 

 

Tune up, turn down

Feb 12, 2013
Becky Tweedy, Assistant to the President

  • Tune up your furnace and you could save 335 pounds of carbon emissions per year. (for gas furnace, you could save 252 pounds per year.)
  • Turn down your thermostat at night or when no one is home. For each degree, you save about 1% on heating costs & carbon emissions.

Think about it! Will you take a small step to help?
Source: The Green Book

The perfect brownie

Feb 5, 2013
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

We all know we’ve been in pursuit of it for some time now.  We do have several recipes in Cheftec that are awesome & easy-Chef Shea’s Bangin’ Brownies, Chocolate Syrup Brownies & Farm Basket Brownies  are three that are among the best.

I came across the recipe below on a tumbler of ‘Nutella Recipes’.   There were several recipes that sounded tasty, but these brownies looked absolutely amazing!  I decided this weekend would be a good opportunity to try them-I could take them to a Super Bowl gathering, vs having them around the house.
I followed the recipe for the most part.  I deleted the espresso powder & added some pecans.  I’m not overly fond of hazelnuts, so I was a bit concerned the Nutella would add too much hazelnut flavor to the brownies, but it’s nearly undetectable.  The result is one of the best brownies I’ve ever had-fudgy, moist, dense & thick and super easy to make!
They were a huge hit at the Super Bowl party…which was actually more of a Puppy Bowl party…Go MARTA!  Puppy Bowl MVP!  All the puppies & kittens are winners-as are the rescue groups who were highlighted.  
Try the recipe-you’ll LOVE them!

Nutella Brownies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup Nutella
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
10 ounce package Hershey's Milk Chocolate Baking Melts (or chocolate chips)

Directions:
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x13 baking dish.
In small saucepan over low heat, melt butter completely. Stir in sugar and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not allow sugar mixture to boil.
Remove from the heat and stir in the Nutella until well combined.
Pour butter mixture into a large bowl or stand mixer, beat in cocoa powder, eggs, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla extract. Mix until well combined.
Stir in the flour and baking melts until just combined.
Spread into prepared pan (batter will be very thick and sticky) and bake for about 30-35 minutes, until a tester comes out mostly clean. The edges should be set and the center should still look slightly moist, but not uncooked. Cool on a wire rack.

Image source: completelydelicious.com

Trash Talk – Making a case for laptops…

Jan 21, 2013
Becky Tweedy, Assistant to the President

If you’re planning to buy a new computer, consider getting a laptop or notebook instead of a desktop.

  • Laptops require fewer materials and less energy to produce than desktops
  • Laptops use a fraction of the electricity to run – you’ll save an average of 220 kilowatt-hours per year, and about $20 on your annual electric bill.
  • If one in twenty-three households made its next computer purchase a laptop instead of a desktop, the energy saved could seriously (positively) affect the ‘power grid.’

Think about it!   Will you take a small step to help?

Source: The Green Book

Trash Talk – Making a case for laptops…

Jan 21, 2013
Becky Tweedy, Assistant to the President

If you’re planning to buy a new computer, consider getting a laptop or notebook instead of a desktop.

  • Laptops require fewer materials and less energy to produce than desktops
  • Laptops use a fraction of the electricity to run – you’ll save an average of 220 kilowatt-hours per year, and about $20 on your annual electric bill.
  • If one in twenty-three households made its next computer purchase a laptop instead of a desktop, the energy saved could seriously (positively) affect the ‘power grid.’

Think about it!   Will you take a small step to help?

Source: The Green Book

Hot Tamales

Jan 7, 2013
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

I’ve mentioned before that since I’m not cooking as much at work, I’m really enjoying cooking at home much more.  I had the opportunity to prepare several meals over the holidays.  My favorite by far as tamales!

This was the first time I’d made them, so I did some experimenting.  Every traditional tamale recipe I found used enchilada sauce as a base.  The sauce is just ground red chiles, garlic, oil, flour, water & seasonings.  Basically you make a roux with flour & oil, then sauté the chiles in the roux, add the garlic & water and simmer until the consistency & flavor you desire.   My dad asked my uncle in Colorado to send us some good ground chiles. I was excited to try the sauce, and was very disappointed.  It turned out incredibly hot & bitter, with no real flavor.  I doctored it a good bit, then mixed some of it with braised, shredded pork for the first batch of tamales (the sauce by itself was inedible and hit the trash).  We decided it was the type of chile used in the chile powder.  I’ve ordered a ristra (a string or wreath of dried red Anaheim chiles).  It’s due in tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to trying the red sauce again next weekend.

The next major component of a great tamale is the masa.  Since there is a large Latin population near where I live, my local grocery store carries masa harina.  The recipe on the bag called for lard.  I just couldn’t bring myself to use lard, so I subbed shortening (any opinions on which is less unhealthy?  Animal fat or hydrogenated vegetable fat?).  The recipe itself is simple-beef broth (I used chicken), masa, shortening & seasoning.  You cream the shortening with a little broth until it’s light & fluffy, then whip in the masa, remaining broth & seasonings.   I had decided, in addition to the pork & red sauce tamales, I would make some with seriously sharp white cheddar cheese.  I wanted to do some of these with diced green Hatch chiles mixed in the masa, and some with plain masa.  

The rolling party was fun-we used tin foil instead of the more traditional corn husks-mostly for simplicity.  I let them all steam for about 45 minutes.

They turned out delicious!  The masa was perfect-light & fluffy with that wonderful corn flavor tamales are famous for.  The two types of cheese tamales were equally good, and the pork & red sauce were very tasty-in spite of the bad sauce!  

I had to buy a 5lb bag of masa, so I’ll need to make more tamales.  I think I’m also going to try to make tortillas.  I’ll let you know how they turn out!

 

Trash Talk – Balancing health & sustainability!

January 4, 2012
Becky Tweedy, Assistant to the President

Homeopathic vs. Manufactured Pharmaceuticals – manufacturing synthetic drugs emits more than 177 million pounds of untreated pollutants into air, water, and soil each year. Any homeopathic remedy would be a savings!
Prescriptions – never flush unused or expired meds down the toilet or drain to contaminate the waterstream (fish, plants & animals).
Vitamins – consider taking a multivitamin vs. separate bottles of individual vitamins. The average American vitamin user spends over $100 each year on vitamins and supplements. If 25% of these people reduced their purchases by 1 bottle per year,
the estimated total savings would be $592 million, and an amazing amount of plastic packaging ...

Think about it!   Will you take a small step to help?

Source: The Green Book

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