Archive for November, 2015

Newest Additions

November 30, 2015

It has been a busy time around here. We have been cooking up a storm for clients, friends and family. We also have a couple of new additions to introduce you to.

Indigo Jones Eats hired a sous chef. His medium is usually plastic food, carefully prepared in a pint sized kitchen, but his cuteness makes up for his limited skills! Can you resist food made by this little guy? We certainly can’t.

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Would you eat a plastic hotdog made by this guy?

Then, after years of pressure, I aquiessed to adding a dog to the family. Meet Winston, a toy Australian Shepherd. Even I have to admit that he is pretty cute. He has been well-behaved so far, but he keeps trying to eat his Pee Pads. He also peed on B’s homework. He is only 3 months old, and weighs just 4 pounds, but he has a lot of energy. Wish me well…I am still a little apprehensive!

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It’s all great fun until someone pees on your homework.

We will try to resume our normal posting schedule this week, amid early holiday baking orders and a few small catering jobs, as well as making sure Winston doesn’t eat the entire house.

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Talking Turkey: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

November 25, 2015

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So you’re roasting the turkey this year. What could possibly go wrong? All kinds of things. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few things that might trip you up when cooking a turkey, and some quick solutions:

It’s getting close to dinnertime, and the turkey isn’t done. Or, you simply didn’t get it into the oven on time. It happens.

Solution: Spatchcock it! Spatchcocking is the act of cutting the bird down the spine, and flattening out the two sides.  It’s similiar to butterflying. Once the turkey is split, it cooks in just a couple of hours.
If the turkey has been in the oven for awhile and still isn’t done, try cutting it up, and putting it back in the oven. The pieces will cook much more quickly than the whole bird. As a last resort, slice it and put the slices back into the oven. The turkey should be opaque, and white or light brown in color for the dark meat. Any translucence, or pinkish color means it isn’t cooked through.

So, how do I know when its done?

Answer: Insert a meat thermometer into the thigh. The temperature should register 165 degrees at the deepest point.

But I don’t have a thermometer!

Solution: Wiggle the legs. They should move freely. If they are still tight, they aren’t cooked yet. Also, the juices should run clear. Any blood in the juices means the turkey has not reached a safe temperature to eat yet.

The skin is too brown / the skin is not getting brown.

Solution: If it is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with an aluminuim foil tent. If it not browning enough, crank up the heat for the last half hour or so. If cooking at 425-450 degrees doesn’t do it, try the broiler. Just be sure to rotate the chicken to get all sides nice and crispy.

The turkey is ready, but everything else needs to be reheated.

Tent the turkey in foil and heat up those side dishes. A big bird holds the heat for awhile before its carved. Also, speaking of carving, let it rest at least 20 minutes before slicing. It allows the juices to settle and will yield you moister meat.

One last thought: There is usually a bag of turkey parts tucked inside the cavity of the bird. (It is usually the livers, neck and giblets.) Make sure to remove it before cooking the turkey. It is a rookie mistake, but one we have all done. Except you. Because now you’ve been warned. You’re welcome!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Heavy Metal

November 24, 2015

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Did you ever wonder why some baked goods have a slightly metallic aftertaste? No, it’s not caused by the pan they were baked in. Its the baking powder that was used that might emit a tinny taste.
Many commercial baking powders contain aluminium, which is the source of the problem. Before you bake those Thanksgiving biscuits, check yours to make sure it is aluminium free. Brands like Bob’s Red Mill, are carried at most large supermarkets and do not add aluminium. We use Trader Joe’s double acting baking powder, which touts being aluminium free right on the label and is inexpensive.

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The Theory Of Pie

November 23, 2015

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It is officially pie season. Pumpkin, apple, pecan…you name it, we’re making it! In past years, we gave you a comprehensive guide to making the perfect pie crust. This time, we are focusing in on what could possibly go wrong, and how to nip that problem in the bud.

So what happens when you followed our directions to a tee, yet the pie crust lost some of it’s shape in the oven? First of all, you eat it. Even the less lovely crusts usually still taste great. Shrug it off and learn from the experience.

Once of the biggest problems is shrinkage. It isn’t good for clothing or, ahem other things, but it is also a problem for pastry. With all that butter or shortening, the crust is bound to shrink a little. Here are a few tips:

Carry the Weight: Prebaked, or blind baked crusts suffer the most. The filling seems to keep it in place somewhat, even when it wants to shrivel. Make sure that crusts that require pre-baking are properly wieghted.  Cover the pie with foil or parchment paper, and then fill it with pie weights or beans. Bake it for the prescribed amount of time, and then gently remove the weights and the lining, and place it back into the oven to brown. Be careful not to pull the liner off too quickly, taking a hunk of hot, partially baked crust with it.

Prick It: To avoid the crust bubbling up, prick it in multiple places with a fork. This will allow the air to escape, and keep it from getting soggy in the process.

It’s A Stretch: When rolling the dough and placing it in the pan, don’t stretch the dough to fit. Instead, cut the rolled dough larger than you need it to be, settle the center part into the bottom and sides of the pie plate, and then give a little nudge towards the center before trimming off the excess. The dough is slightly elastic, and if it is stretched, it will eventually snap back. Tucking the excess under and crimping it, or adding a decorative border will give it some heft and keep it from shriveling.

Give It A Rest: Let the dough rest in the pan for a bit before trimming and baking. This lets the gluten relax and reduces the shrink factor. Don’t overwork the dough. Gluten, the protein which gives dough it’s elasticity and strikes fear in the hearts of trendy eaters everywhere, is activated when the dough is manipulated. Heavily kneeded doughs, like pizza crust have more gluten than you want your pie crust to have. Handle the dough gently, and minimally to keep it from becoming tough. ( Yes, even the most gently handled crusts have some gluten in them, if they are made of wheat flour.)

Just Chill: Just like us, the dough needs to relax and chill. In this case, it should be done in the refrigerator. Think about butter, one of the prime components of a pie crust. It expands when it is warm and soft, and contracts when it is cold and hard. Chilling the crust allows the butter to solidify. We often make our pie and tart shells a day or two in advance to allow the dough to be firm and cold when we bake them. You can even wrap them well and freeze them for a couple of days. There is no need to thaw them before baking.

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Sweet Dreams Are Made of These

November 17, 2015

There is very little that is more annoying than not being able to sleep. Sleep effects our mood, our energy, our focus and even our weight. Contrary to popular belief, tossing and turning is not a workout!

Sleep issues effect over 40 million people in the United States. If you are one of them, you know how debilitating it really is.

In honor of National Sleep Comfort Month, our friends at Casper, the mattress experts, sent us this handy guide to getting a good night’s sleep, so we thought we would do our readers a solid and pay it forward. Sweet Dreams!

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Infographic: Courtesty of Casper

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Talking Turkey: Countdown To The Big Day

November 12, 2015

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Thanksgiving is the Olympics of cooking ( and eating!). If you approach this event as a marathon, not a sprint, you and your guests will enjoy it more. We wouldn’t want to head into the big event without doing some advance work, and you shouldn’t either.  Since the holiday is just two weeks away, its time to do some serious planning. If you are preparing the entire meal from scratch, it is virtually impossible to do it all in one day, or to just “wing it.” Grocery stores sell out of key ingredients at the last minute, and the crowds make the shopping experience more stressful than it needs to be. While some people cook ahead and freeze it, I prefer to make everything fresh within the last day or two leading up to the holiday.

Here is a a schedule of what needs to be done so that you can plan a low-stress, delicous and fresh feast for Thanksgiving.

Two or more weeks ahead:(that means NOW!)

Invite guests

Plan the menu

If you are doing a potluck, assign guests specific dishes to bring to avoid duplications or holes in the menu. If you are doing it yourself, start a file with all your recipes in it. This can be digital or paper, but it helps to have everything in one, convenient place, rather than pulling out cookbooks and magazines. Photocopy the pages you want, and put the books away.

Order your turkey from the local farm or butcher. We get ours from Dipaula Turkey Farm and they are far superior to any frozen bird you will find. It costs more, but it is well worth the splurge.

Make shopping lists. Go through all of your recipes and make a list of what you need. Inventory your pantry items to see if you need to add any of the basics to the list.Don’t forget aluminuim foil and plastic wrap! Then, break the lists down by perishable and non- perishable items. The sooner you can pick up the non-perishable items, the better. Just do it, and get it out of the way. I tend to buy different types of things at different stores, so I list things by where I will need to get them.

One Week Before:

Make pie crusts and freeze them. Pie crusts are one of the very few things that I freeze. If you are planning to make several pies, it pays to do this in advance. The crusts benefit from a good chilling before baking to avoid shrinkage, and they don’t need to be thawed beforehand.

I also freeze rolls or biscuits unbaked and pop them in the oven at the last minute. Getting these messy items out of the way are a big help.

Inventory your serving dishes, tableware and linens and see if there is anything you need to buy, or take care of. Don’t wait until the last minute to iron 30 napkins, or polish the silver. Do it ahead of time. You will be glad you did.

Two Days Before:
If you are serving soup, now is the time to make it. It will stay nicely in the refrigerator and some will actually taste better once they have had time to sit. If there is any excess fat, it will rise to the top and solidify, making it easy to skim off.

If you have time, make the cranberry sauce and any dessert items that won’t get stale, such as chilled cakes, or cookies.

Pick up the rest of the groceries. At this point, I buy everything but any seafood I might want for appetizers, and the turkey.

The Day Before:

Pick up the turkey.

This is the day I try to go all out and get as much done as possible. I make the sweet potatoes, cranberries if I didn’t do it already, and clean all of the vegetables I will need for the salad and side dishes. I bake the pies and any other desserts and wrap them to keep them fresh. I even toast the bread for the stuffing, since the drier, the better. I make salad dressings or any sauces that can be prepared in advance. Mis en plas is your friend.

Set the table, or better yet, get someone else to do it for you. Bring in all the extra chairs needed.

Lay out the serving pieces. I serve the main meal as a buffet, so I line up my bowls, platters and serving pieces along the buffet, and put a post it note by each one assigning it to the item it will hold. This not only ensures that I have what I need when I am scurrying around at the last minute trying to get the food out, but also that I don’t forget something. I have opened the refrigerator many times at the end of the evening only to discover an item I forgot to serve, or a garnish I didn’t remember to use.

The BIG Day: 

Prepare the stuffing and make the turkey. Never stuff the bird until you are ready to cook it. This promotes bacteria growth that can make you and your guests sick. Wait until you are ready to put it into the oven before stuffing it. Also, be sure to remove all of the stuffing before storing the turkey for the same reason.

Wipe down the bathroom, sweep the floors and make sure the dishes are done and the dishwasher is unloaded.

Right before the guests come, get any other last minute dishes ready, and begin to slowly reheat anything you made in advance.

Bake the rolls or biscuits.

Toss the salad, make the gravy and anything else you couldn’t do in advance.

Have a glass of wine with your guests, and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Gucci Gucci Goo

November 11, 2015

When Gucci’s new creative director Alessandro Michele debuted his collection last fall, I admit I was a little puzzled. The much heralded departure from the sleek, sexy look that the label had been known for under the direction of Tom Ford and later Frida Gianinni had been replaced by a more eclectic, dare we say frumpy chic look? The first collection erred on the side of ill fitting, and unflattering. Despite the obvious, the fashion flock hailed Mr. Michele the second coming, reminding us of a modern twist on the Emperor’s New Clothes. While that might make for some interesting street style from everyone’s favorite fashion victims, the question remained whether or not we would see it”in real life.” or on the red carpet. That burning question was answered last weekend, when the star-studded LACMA event took place and Gucci seemed to be the label of choice.

( Full disclosure: In my opinion, the second collection, while playing to the same theme, felt more wearable, appeared to be better cut than it’s predecessor, and is serving to provide a much needed shift in the world of fashion.)

Without further ado, here are some celebs sporting Gucci on the red carpet. What do you think?

Dakota Johnson getting her Pilgrim on in a squash colored frock

Dakota Johnson getting her Pilgrim on in a squash colored frock

Salma Hayek in a pepto pink dress

Salma Hayek in pepto pink

A more youthful take from Saoirse Ronan

A more youthful take from Saoirse Ronan

Britt Marling wears the pants in this crowd!

Britt Marling wears the pants in this crowd!

Chloe Sevigny takes a more decorated route in her conservative gown.

Chloe Sevigny takes a more decorated route with a questionable array of snakes, strawberries and tigers adorning her yellow gown.

Gwyneth shows some leg in her sparkly teal number

Gwyneth shows some leg in her sparkly teal number

Only Rosie Huntington- Whitely, who would likely be gorgeous in a garbage bag, takes the sexy bridesmaid dress to the ball!

Rosie Huntington- Whitely, who would likely be gorgeous in a garbage bag, takes the sexy bridesmaid look to the ball!

On a similar, yet unrelated note, do you think Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy secretly hates Kim Kardashian? Some of her absolute worst looks, including her Met Gala disaster during her last pregnancy were designed especially for her by her supposedly dear friend Riccardo. Here is what she wore to the LACMA party:

Well it certainly isn't what I might call matronly! Is Riccardo Tischi off giggling somewhere at his latest Joke?

Well it certainly isn’t what I might call matronly! Is Riccardo Tisci off giggling somewhere at his latest joke? Real friends don’t let their friends go out looking like this! Or upholster them like a lumpy sofa as he did in the past.

Let us know what you think of these looks in the comments. Sometimes it takes a little while for our eye to adjust to new proportions, but if I was walking the red carpet, I know I would want to be in something a little more flattering than these!

Photos via Harper’s Bazaar

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Talking Turkey: Thanksgiving Portion Planning

November 10, 2015

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When planning Thanksgiving, it is always difficult to figure out just how much to make of each item. With so many delicious side dishes stealing the show, how much of each is the right amount? We did a little research, and came up with the calculations, so you don’t have to.

Hors d’oeuvres: I struggle with this every year, as I hate for people to fill up on appetizers when the real deal is coming right up. You do need something, so that people aren’t sitting around starving and worse yet, getting drunk before dinner. Consider 3-4 bites per person, or about 3 oz. each for a dip or spread. I often serve shrimp, and some kind of cheese straws or crackers and some spiced nuts to nibble on. I try to keep the preparation simple, since I am already spending two days in the kitchen getting the main meal ready, and don’t want to fuss with appetite spoilers.

Soup: We love to start with a butternut squash or pumpkin soup. The rule of thumb is to make one 8 oz. cup per person, since there is a heavy meal to follow. We serve our soup course in delicate antique teacups and find that is just enough as a prerequisite to the big event.

Turkey: Figure about 1 to 1 -1 /2 pounds per person. Since quite a bit of this is weight comes from bones, this amount should ensure that everyone is well fed and leave you with the requisite leftovers. If the breast meat is the most popular in your home, consider a smaller turkey, and an additional turkey breast to make up the difference. If you buy a boneless breast, consider 8 oz. per person the magic number.

Gravy: Everyone we consulted cautioned against running out of gravy. The Food Network recommends 1/3 cup of gravy per person, and an extra cup for every six people. That means about three cups for every 6 guests.

Potatoes: The quantities varied on this one, so err on the high side if you have potato lovers in the group. Suggestions ranged from 1/2 to 1/3 to even 3/4 pound of potatoes per person. It is probably best to just go with one potato per person regardless of weight. For those giant sweet potatoes and yams, figure 1/2 per person. If you are making both sweet and white potatoes, take that into consideration and err on the smaller amount, as people will likely take a bit of each.

Cranberry Sauce: Our homemade cranberry apple compote, aka Cranberry Jones, is always a hit. Figure 1/3 to 1/2 cup of cranberry sauce per person. We can’t attest to how much of the jellied kind that comes out looking like a can might be consumed.

Stuffing: Figure about 3/4 cups of stuffing for each person. We like to cook some inside the turkey and another batch cooked separately in the oven. People tend to for one or the other, as the consistency is different. The stuffing cooked in the bird is moist, and the other tends to be crisp. To each, his own!

Rolls and biscuits: Go with about 1 1 /2 rolls per person, unless they are homemade, in which case I would consider 2 per person. I usually round it off, depending on the yield of the recipe. For 10 people, 18 rolls or biscuits should be fine.

Salad and Vegetables: With everything else going on, this category seems to get left behind. I always make the mistake of dressing a large salad, only to toss it at the end of the evening. Where I would normally figure a large handful of greens per person, with a couple of extras for good luck, others recommend just one ounce of greens should do the trick. For other vegetables, the magic number seems to be about 4 oz. per person. That means a pound of green beans will feed about 4 guests.

Pies and Cakes: While one pie yeilds about 8 slices, this is the time to aim high. My daughter always requests an extra pumpkin pie for the next day, when she and her grandfather eat it for breakfast. I usually offer a few desserts, but the pies seem to be the highlight on Thanksgiving. For 8-10 guests, make sure to have 2 pies.

With all the dietary issues people have, take that into consideration when planning. The vegetarians won’t touch the turkey, but they will likely consume more of the side dishes. Gluten free types won’t be indulging in rolls, pie or stuffing, but they may make up for it in by eating more of other foods. It is easy to be accommodating, if you plan ahead. While there is plenty to eat regardless of your diet, and I don’t think additional dishes are necessary, it is nice to use vegetable broth in the side dishes instead of chicken broth, if you are hosting vegetarians. One year, I took a scoop of every side dish as I was cooking and made that portion vegan. The guest was very grateful and able to enjoy the foods of the season and feel like they were part of the festivities. Nobody is expecting gluten free pies and breads, but the bulk of the side dishes should be edible for the gluten free crowd. Consider using corn starch instead of flour, or setting aside some gravy before it is thickened to accommodate their diet.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Mushroom Soup

November 9, 2015

Even though the weather in New York has been balmy, I have been craving soup. It might be about seeking comfort more than warmth, but soup has been on my mind for a couple of weeks now. My mother sent me a recipe for mushroom soup that she had recently made, and I thought I would give it a try. That is, until I read it. The original recipe called for adding 10 tablespoons of flour and a whole stick of butter to the pot, to get a creamy texture without the cream. Thinking there was no way I was going to add a stick of butter to my soup, let alone all that flour, I set out to adapt the recipe to make it a bit cleaner. While I don’t know if it resembled the original, it definately tasted good enough to share.

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Pureed Mushroom Soup:

Dice one onion, a couple of ribs of celery and a carrot or two. Clean and slice about 1 1/2 pounds of mushrooms. I used all conventional mushrooms, but next time I will try to mix in some shiitake and crimini mushrooms for a deeper flavor profile. Saute all of this in a little olive oil until slightly browned and the mushrooms have released all of their liquid, about 5-8 minutes.

Add about 10 cups of chicken or vegetable stock to the pot, and bring to a boil. Simmer, with the lid partially on for about 45 minutes. Add a few sage leaves and puree the mixture until smooth. Return the soup to the stove. Make a paste using a little of the hot soup and a couple of tablespoons of flour adding more liquid until it is smooth. Stir this into the pot of hot soup, and gently boil until it starts to thicken. I added just enough to get a silky consistency, but you can add more if you prefer an even thicker soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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The Big Chill

November 4, 2015

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We are no strangers to workout related aches and pains around here. In fact, B and I could probably employ our own sports medicine expert to help us through our near constant parade of pulled “thises” and super tight “thats”. Almost everyone I know who is serious about their fitness seems to go hard most of the time, and suffer the consequences later.

Submerging your body into a bathtub filled with ice is one way athletes have dealt with the situation, but the treatment sounds way worse than the symptoms it is designed to treat.

Enter cryotherapy, which rapidly deep freezes the body and proports to not only rid one of those nagging aches and pains, but also to improve sleep quality, increase metabolism, slow aging, reduce inflammation, and even cure cellulite, all in the space of three short, albiet agonizing minutes.

At New York City’s KryoLife, adventurous souls step into a liquid nitrogen chamber or cyrosauna, that is minus 264 degrees, causing the body temperature to drop to as low as 32 degrees. The effect on the body mimics hypothermia, without the risk of frostbite. A three minute session costs $90, which supporters claim is well worth it.

At this time cryotherapy is not approved by the FDA, and the medical community has not endorsed it without further study.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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