Sunday, May 31, 2009

She Can Cook, Too!

I have been trying to decide what to write about today and then it NYC daughter emailed me with a photograph of her first attempt at the Black Bean Pineapple Salad over which I have been waxing poetic...LOL.
Take a look at this! Even her little sister knew what it was!
This is the child who was asking me to add "How to Boil Water" to my blog.
You've made your mama (and your sister) proud, girl...of course, let me know how it tastes!
It just goes to show you that if you will jump into the whole cooking thing, you can do it.'s a shameless next cooking class is scheduled for Thursday, June 11 at 6:30. We'll be at Metro Builders Supply at 53rd and Mingo. Their showroom is beautiful and filled with every appliance you could ever want to see. They have re-designed a number of areas (including the Viking Gallery where I typically teach and cook). The topic will be Entree Salads and Salad Dressings and since the May class was canceled (too many people with too much to do!), I will focus on Knife Skills as well. So it should be lots of fun. Here's what I'm thinking for recipes...Grilled Flank Steak Salad with Blue Cheese over Baby Arugula and Latin-inspired Grilled Chicken Salad with Grilled Avocado and Onions over Chopped Romaine Hearts. My dressings will be made using one of my favorite tools...the Mason jar!
Enjoy the beautiful weather (if you're in this part of the country) and your Sunday wherever you are!
Happy Cooking!!

Monday, May 25, 2009

She can learn!

Happy Memorial Day!
I've spent most of the day on my computer...YIKES! But I figured out how to add food pics to my post! My daughter, Merrin, (the one who lives in NYC) will be soooo proud. Anyway, this is a picture of the Black Bean Pineapple Salad that won the recipe contest. You can find the recipe in one of my first posts (from last week).

Best Laid Plans...

Hello again!
Try as I might and with the best of intentions...a daily tip is just not likely to least, not on a daily basis and then I've kind of defeated the purpose, right? So, to that end, tips will be posted frequently but probably not everyday unless I am truly inspired and not running as fast as I can to stay in one spot. Thank you, Lewis Carroll, I just love that captures our daily lives so often.
And, it is my blog afterall, I can do anything I want to...within reason, of course. Actually, my older daughter asked if I would make one of my tips "how to boil water"...she's still learning!
Here's what I would like to share today...
I was recently reading about the "secrets" that celebrity chefs won't tell you...well, if it's a secret, come on, now! Anyway, one topic had to do with their cookbooks and that you really don't need to buy them because you can find all of their recipes online. Now, that is mostly true. There are a lot of free recipe sites, such as, Food Network, recipeZaar, allrecipes, epicurious, etc., etc. But, really, do you buy the celebrity cookbook because you want the recipes? I don't think so. You buy their cookbooks because you want to know about THEM. And, cookbooks these days are more memoirs and stories than cooking substance, for the most part. So I say...go buy those cookbooks if you think you like that celebrity or you like their restaurant. With one caveat, the celebrity/restaurant cookbooks often have recipes that most (not all) home cooks cannot recreate in their home kitchens. That's where people like me come in. I love to share those little "secrets" with my students in class or online so please let's use this as a discussion forum, question and answer session. Teaching is the best and I tell my students in my "live" classes that I really am trying to put myself out of business by sharing everything I know... anything from knife cuts to the ins and outs of fennel!
Happy Cooking!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Daily Tip - It's all about the grill!

Here comes Memorial Day and many of us feel compelled to buy that first bag of charcoal and fire up the grill after months of cold, ice and snow. To that end...forget about the usual burgers, steaks, and chicken. What about lamb? Something different and delicious. Here is a super easy recipe that you can do on the outdoor or indoor grill.
These can be chops cut from a rack (then they really cook fast!) or the cute little chops that look like baby t-bones. Either way...YUM!

Grilled Lamb Riblets
4-6 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp fresh rosemary
2 tsp fresh thyme
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 -3 tbsp Kosher salt
¼ cup olive oil
6 – 8 small loin lamb chops (these are the baby t-bone look a likes)

Place first 6 ingredients in food processor and process to a paste. Rub paste onto top and bottom of chops and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Allow to come to room temperature before grilling.

Spray grill with high heat nonstick cooking spray or rub with canola oil (or any other flavorless oil) using paper towels. Heat grill to medium high to high heat until very hot. If you're grilling outdoors, wait for the coals to be white/grey and you cannot hold your hand over them for more than a few seconds. Grill chops for 2 minutes per side for rare and 3 minutes per side for medium rare. Cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 5 – 10 minutes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Daily Tip - Dressing salads

We all have our favorite bottled salad dressing...come on, admit it! Mine was (note the word WAS) Seven Seas Creamy Italian. I ate enough of that dressing to float a boat - no pun intended. When I was in college, I would eat it on anything...well, not on chocolate, but that was about it. Nowadays, so many bottled dressings are filled with much so that you can hardly identify what it really is supposed to be. Then I started making my own dressings a number of years ago. It is not only fast but, once more, you can use your imagination and create so many different flavors. I am going to share my salad dressing "base" with you. Then sally forth (did I really say that?) and add different spices, herbs, ingredients to it...whatever you like or whatever seems to go best with what you're serving. Add fruit, fresh or dried. Add vegetables. I don't think meat would work but who knows...! Try it and let me know!!
Now, you will see a lot of chefs whisk the oil into the salad dressing ingredients. The reason for this is to create an "emulsion" emulsion is a mixture of one liquid with another that it ordinarily will not combine with...such as oil and water or, in this instance, vinegar. You add the oil very slowly and whisk the vinegar quickly so that it binds. This is, of course, the classic way of doing things but sometimes you have to throw classic out the window and get real. My favorite method for "emulsifying" my oil and vinegar is with a small screwtop jar and a little Dijon mustard. The flavor of Dijon has a way of blending into whatever type of dressing you're making or it can express itself, for instance, in a honey Dijon salad dressing. In any event, the mustard acts as an emulsifier and helps the process it cheating if you like but it works like a champ. And, I think most people don't make dressing because of the idea of whisking things. So now no more excuses...get a half-pint Mason jar and go to it!

Candace's Salad Dressing Base (this is purely a jumping off point)
In a small jar with a tightly fitting lid (preferably screw top)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 heaping tsp Dijon mustard
1 - 2 tsp dark brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like it - you can also leave it out completely)
1 tbsp minced shallot and/or 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 parts vinegar to 1 part oil (I like light and not oily dressings)
Place the top securely on the jar and shake it like crazy.

Now you've got salad dressing that is fresh, light, full of flavor and will last in your fridge for at least a week or more...actually, probably not that long because you'll use it so fast! A half-pint of dressing is enough for many, many salad greens but please, do not commit the Cardinal sin of over-dressing your greens. Let your greens shine through...they deserve their place in the spotlight...but that's another tip for another day.
Now just to get you started thinking...
For sweeteners: try honey, maple syrup, light brown sugar, light or dark corn syrup
For vinegars: try red wine, white wine, rice (unseasoned), raspberry, sherry, or champagne
The oil you use will depend on whether you want to taste it...flavorless canola, vegetable, or flavorful olive oils...I wouldn't recommend sesame except as a flavor enhancer in an Asian dressing.
You can use this same theory with mayonnaise-based dressings.
Don't be afraid to's just doesn't care!
The rest is up to you!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Daily Tip - Cry no more! Onions on the grill

My daughter suggested this tip because she loves these grilled onions so much!
It is a great technique if you have, for some reason, purchased a large quantity of onions...maybe when the Shriners were selling Vidalias in the 50 lb bag? These can be grilled inside on a stovetop grill (with ridges preferably) or on an outdoor grill.
Grilled onions are a tasty addition to many different foods and can really liven up your daily meals...add them to sandwiches, salads, pizza, pasta...almost anything! They are also wonderful as a side dish to beef, chicken, pork or seafood. They will keep for a week or more refrigerated...just warm them in foil or allow them to come to room temperature before serving. Whether you grill them inside or out, the grilling brings out the richness and sweetness without the biting characteristic of a raw onion. Any variety works well from red to the huge Maui or Texas 1010s.
So, on to the method:
Peel onions and slice crosswise into thick slices so that you have many concentric rings. Lightly coat your stovetop or outdoor grill with high heat cooking spray and heat over medium high to high heat depending on your equipment (You just don't want them to burn, of course.). Drizzle each onion slice (one side only) with good quality extra virgin olive oil and kosher salt. Place each slice oil-side down on the grill. Then drizzle the top with more olive oil and salt. Allow onions to cook until they have nice grill marks and the edges look ruffled because they have conformed to the ridges on the grill. Turn the onions being careful that they do not fall apart and continue to grill on the other side until they are tender. Also, remember that if you're doing this outdoors, you will have a flare up when the oil hits the fire so don't go crazy with it.
Serve hot or at room temperature.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Daily Tip - Contest Winning Recipe

This is the recipe that won the most recent Cooking Light Ultimate Reader Recipe Contest - Sponsor Brand this case, Bush's Beans was the sponsor.
Even though I call it a is great as a salsa, too, with tortilla chips, toasted pita or veggies! It is especially good during the summer with any Latin inspired dishes. Use your imagination and feel free to make it your own...

Black Bean Pineapple Salad

Serves 8

1 can Bush’s Best black beans, drained and rinsed well
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
½ whole fresh pineapple, medium dice
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 small red onion, small dice
½ red bell pepper, small dice
1 small serrano pepper, seeded, deveined and minced
½ jalapeno pepper, seeded deveined and minced
2 tbsp honey
¼ cup sherry wine vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix first 8 ingredients together in a large bowl. Set aside. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine honey, vinegar and oil; replace lid and shake vigorously until an emulsion is created. Pour over salad ingredients and toss. Do not over-mix. Refrigerate and allow flavors to meld for at least an hour. Serve cool but not ice cold.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Welcome to my blog!

I'm Candace, the girl behind (or in front of?) The Girl Can Cook!
First, a little about me...and, actually, I'm not much of a girl anymore but you're only as old as you feel, right? I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma smack dab in the middle of the country (Yes, we have computers out here in the Wild West even though, it's not very wild and not even very far west!). I am a divorced single mom and have two terrific daughters; one lives with me, the other is following her dreams in NYC.
Like many of us, I began cooking as a means of survival but I always enjoyed exploring food magazines and cookbooks long before it was a celebrity thing. I watched Julia Child on PBS and marvelled at all of the things she could do with a chicken and then, of course, loved Dan Ackroyd's impression of her on SNL. I even watched Graham Kerr, The Galloping Gourmet, before he found religion and stopped getting drunk on his shows.
I come from a long line of talented home cooks (my mother being the best!) and food was always just a part of my life. In my family, you show people how much they are loved by the food you prepare for them.
But I digress...let's just say that I have good cooking "genes". I am primarily self taught but have taken lots of classes (Culinary Institute type) and worked with many other chefs. Last fall, I won a recipe contest that I entered as a lark, sponsored by Cooking Light magazine (the recipe will be posted shortly) and I have created a "Guy Friendly Dinner Party Menu" that will be featured in one of the fall/winter issues of Men's Fitness. I teach cooking classes here in Tulsa at Metro Builders Supply in its Viking Gallery (although they have every series of appliances you can imagine so I'm going to be working my way around the store). And, I love to teach! It's one of my favorite things to do!! My classes are called "Cooking without a Parachute" where I allow people to experiment with different foods, flavors, and ingredients so that they can cook fearlessly.
I look forward to sharing Daily Tips, recipes, "secrets", and my life with you. Oh yeah, I love answering questions and researching food topics so let's make this a forum for discussion and maybe we'll all learn something.
Join me on my journey through food!