A California Girl, in Jersey.

It's easy to get caught up in my head, and my neighborhood.  It's easy to forget that as I am feeling uncomfortable in 50 degree weather, there are places buried under snow.  Spending Christmas in New Jersey, in the snow, has reminded me, I'm (once again) overdue for a good dose of perspective.
The idea of a white Christmas is romantic, especially when we have plane tickets back to the sunshine.  But what if this was my reality?  Could I handle it?  My husband has been outside in the snow for a half hour, shoveling, for fun.  Seriously.  Fun!?  I can't even wrap my frozen head around the idea of that.
As I plan my spring garden I don't have to take into consideration the deer, rabbit and hungry gopher.  Last frost?  We never get a first.  My watermelon could probably make it though December.  I've realized that when it comes to seasons in the garden, I'm spoiled.  I can still go out back and pull some swiss chard and peppers for dinner.  Looking around here in the snow, I couldn't imagine trying to make a living off of the land.  How do you survive the winter months?  What if a freak storm comes along and destroys your autumn crops?  It seems to work out though, since south New Jersey is full of farmland.  They make it work.   I suppose you really appreciate that first sprout, and each spring the first tomato must seem so bright and delicious. Waiting all year for strawberries must make the day they arrive extra special.
And the process of canning makes so much sense out here.  It's out of necessity, and also a sense of history that I sometimes feel disconnected with.  So, what to do?  I'm talking to everyone I that can about their experiences growing food here.  What tricks and what troubles? 
I'm getting some past due perspective.
....And, I'm thankful.....


Pie Pops!

What's keeping me busy these days? 
Besides my totally needy dogs, these adorable little PIE POPS are!
What's a pie pop, you ask?  Think single serving of pie, on a stick....cute!
Holidays are coming and these babies make great office/vendor/neighbor/foodie friend gifts!
I've been busy baking and packaging- $2.50 each or $25 for a dozen. Free delivery on orders over $30., and I can package them to your liking- individual, dozen, 2 dozen, etc.
Seasonal & local produce.
...check in to see what's cookin'!
 Interested?  I completely understand!  Call or email me~
(714) 317-3525, miss.cacciata@gmail.com


 "As the days grow short, some faces grow long.  But not mine.  Every autumn, when the wind turns cold and darkness comes early, I am suddenly happy.  It's time to start making soup again." 
~Leslie Newman

The Day I Killed a Crab.

He was sweet.  
He wasn't threatening me, but I didn't have a choice, really.
Chef's orders.
It's part of learning to cook professionally.  People eat crab.  Not me, but people.  Hell, I didn't eat any animals for half of my life.  What business do I have killing animals?
I've come to terms with the fact that I'm a gather, not a hunter.
And don't get me wrong, I WAS a vegetarian, and am not anymore.  I'd like to consider myself a conscious carnivore though. I don't eat meat for every meal.  I really think about the animal the steak used to belong to.  Local is good, etc etc.
But I digress-
Back to Jonesy.  
Yes, I named him.  That was mistake #1.  He was cute in that very ugly/only a mother could love him sort of way.  And he looked at me, moving his mouth as if I could understand.  It was sad, really.
So, with the chef by my side, we said thank you and goodbye. 
Some American Indian tribes say  "ho, mitaque oeyasin," which translates to  "I respectfully acknowledge you, all my relations."
Dust to dust, baby.
It's pretty ironic that it's a pot of water that killed him.
Water is all he knew- it was his life source.  
And I know what you're thinking.
Yes, I've been called a hippie, and maybe it's true.  I don't care for tie-dye or Phish, but I'd hug that little crab in a second, even if he pinched me.  
So there it was- "the circle of life", so I'm told. But it doesn't make it easier or make it necessary in my opinion. 
In the end I'm glad it was me who put Jonesy into the pot that day.  I don't know if anyone else could have loved that silly little random crab as much as me.  
I loved him so much I ripped his heart out.  
It made me feel like I was 16, listening to the Smiths.
In the end I turned him into a souffle. Poor little guy.  
He fed my classmates well, and for that I thank him.


Revisiting my Favorite Sin!

Hello holidays.  I missed you.  I think about you sometimes; your yuletide awesomeness.  As much as I hate freezing my ass off, I am enjoying an actual season change.  It helps me believe in the whole "white Christmas" possibility.
Can you think of a  better way to welcome December than fattening up a la Ol' Saint Nick?
.....Me either.
I went ahead and got the fat train moving with this little number.
Mac & cheese, deluxe!
Once you have the basics down for a cheese sauce, you can get creative and go nuts, which I did here.  I started the bechamel base with bacon fat, naturally.  But that was out of pure resource- I had just fried bacon, and I wasn't about to waste!
A mix of five cheeses went in, including an amazing 10 year cheddar and brie.  After a little (or a lot) of heavy cream, we were in business.  I baked the whole number, and topped it with a mix of fried onions, panko bread crumbs, bacon and Romano cheese.

 Ding dong.


Drink up!

It's happening.  My worst fears, realized.
The price of coffee is going up, up, up!
Ok, maybe it's not my worst fear, but it's up there.

Let me explain.....
It may not be immediately apparent, but it will be.   
The price of "green" coffee has risen over 50% in the past year.  That means the raw beans are increasing in price,  so expect to see it on the front end soon.  Many coffee producers are already reporting increased prices in single cup and bulk coffee like Tully's, Starbucks, and Folgers. 
So, why is this happening?  Why?!?!
Basically, good ol' supply vs. demand.  Coffee producers are having lower yields, which is partly to blame on the weather.  Also, an increasing amount of people/countries/cultures are reaching for the cup.   Can you blame them?  Eastern cultures are forgoing their tea for a more western way to wake, coffee!

So, drink up, while you can still afford to! 
I can't wait to see the prices of my favorite specialty roasters increase, like Stumptown, Illy, or Intelligentsia.  Currently Stumptown is averaging $15 per 12oz bag.... ouch.
They have already been priced at a premium, but fair is fair, and you can taste the difference.  I guess it's time to really savor the cup, and be a more conscious consumer.  I already have stopped eating and buying cheap-o meat & dairy because I know you get what you pay for.
Check out the news report from NPR on it..
.... or read about it on CNN Money.


Snappy dish towel designs by Dear Colleen.  
Find the here.


Getting into the spirit!

How great are these apple cups?  As much as I like vintage mismatched china, I don't enjoy doing dishes.  Using a fresh fruit cup also means no disposable cups in the trash.
Hop over to the amazing blog, Gimme Some Oven, for step by step instructions to achieve this awesomeness!

Comfort Food.

It's that time of year when comfort food means stews, soups, hot cocoa, cider, and pot pies.
Making a pot pie from scratch is not complicated.  This recipe calls for a puff pastry top, instead of pie crust.  You can go chicken, turkey or even veggie.  If you're doing a veggie version, just substitute vegetable stock for the chicken, and maybe add some potatoes, prepared like the carrots.

1/4 of whole turkey breast, or 2 chicken breasts- boneless/skinless.
1 lg. onion, peel & small diced
2 carrots, peel, small diced & blanched
2 stalks of celery, diced
4 oz. peas, frozen OK
1 tb. of fresh sage, chopped
1 tb. of fresh sage, chopped
2 oz. butter
2 oz. flour
2 cups chicken stock, cold
1/2 cup cream
salt & pepper to taste
1 sheet puff pastry, frozen OK!

1. preheat oven to 425*
2. Saute the onions & celery with the herbs in the butter until soft and translucent
3. Add the flour.  Cook for a few minutes, stirring.  Whisk in stock and cook over medium heat until it thickens and starts to boil.
4.  Add the cream, then turkey or chicken, carrots & peas.  Season with salt & pepper.  Cook until your protein of choice is just about done.
5. Pour mixture into a heavy casserole dish.  Cover with pastry.
6. Bake at 425* until crust is brown, about 25-30 minutes.

Impress, and ENJOY!

Spiced Honey!

If making jam or pickles seems like a bug production, try this!
It's very easy, and makes an amazing gift.

(courtesy of the Ball Canning Book, tried & true!)
Makes about three 8 oz jars

1 lemon, end pieces removed, cut into 6 even slices
12 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
2 2/3 cups honey

1. Prepare canner, jars & lids.  See HERE for more on that process.
2. Stud peel of each lemon slice with 2 cloves. Think symmetry- you will see these in the finished jars.  In a stainless steel saucepan, combine lemon slices, cinnamon sticks & honey.  Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Boil for 2 minutes.  *note, when it comes to a boil, it happens quickly!  My first batch boiled over, and was as hot as molten lava.  be careful!*
3. Using tongs, remove lemon slices and transfer to hot jars, placing 2 in each jar.  Add 1 cinnamon stick to each jar.  Ladle hot honey into jars, leaving 1/4 head space.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar. Screw bands down until resistance is met, then increase to finger tight.  Use a towel to help buffer the heat!
4. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid and wait 5 minutes.  Remove jars, space them an inch apart and let cool.
If you don't have a "canner", a big pot will work.  It needs to have a tight fitting lid, and the water should cover jars with a few inches to spare.


Step it up.

Don't even think about serving a can of cranberry sauce this year.  Seriously!  It is SO easy to make a homemade sauce, and it is so tasty too!  Leftovers make a great spread for your turkey sandwiches to come.

I do a simple/standard recipe every year:
Heat 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of OJ.  (I opt for fresh squeezed.)  Bring it to a bowl and in goes a bag of fresh cranberries.  Cook down by simmering until all berries pop, and the longer you let it go, the more it will thicken up.  It will jell a bit more as it cools too.
 Go nuts and add some orange zest in the last few minutes, cinnamon, etc!

Here is a link to many tried and true recipes.
Go for it.  You won't be sorry!


How to save your tomato seeds...

In an effort to preserve what is important, here's a little lesson on saving tomato seeds.  They are about to disappear until the spring, so catching them now is a great idea.  

The key is to save the good stuff.  I went to my local farmer's market, and found a booth filled with beautiful HEIRLOOM tomatoes.  They are CERTIFIED ORGANIC, and LOCALLY GROWN on a FAMILY FARM.  


I decided on three varieties; 
the Yellow Pineapple,  Brandy Wine, and the Purple Cherokee.

Cut tomatoes in half, along the equator.
Gently scoop out, squeeze out, (and however you see fit) get out the seeds.  Try to avoid huge chunks of "meat"....some is inevitable, but less now is less work later.  Seeds should go into a clean glass jar or a drink glass.

Adda few tablespoons of water to the jar, and cover with a coffee filter & rubber band, or plastic wrap with a few holes in it.  You want it to get a little air, but not be totally exposed to it.

Wait.  Wait about 3 or 4 days.  You'll see a shift in the seeds-  Once the fermentation process begins, they will begin to separate...

 Once the seeds have separated, they are ready. Basically you are wanting the enzyme to breakdown that covers the seed- it is a sprout inhibitor, and without this step, your seeds will never grow into anything except a headache.  Skim any mold from the top of the jar, and pour seeds into a very fine strainer.  Use a spoon to shift them around under COLD running water, for about 2 or 3 minutes until they are completely clean.

Once they are fully cleaned, lay them out on a coffee filter, on a plate.  The coffee filter helps absorb the moisture, and they do not tend to stick to it much.  Every day move them around, and put them on a new filter.  After about a week they should be totally dry.  Put them in a paper envelope and store in the fridge until the last frost/spring.

Don't forget to label the jars, drying plates, and envelopes with as much information as you can.  
Save before the holidays for a thoughtful gift.  I know I'd really appreciate something like this, and I'm sure you know someone who would too.
"The gentle art of gastronomy is a friendly one. 
It hurdles the language
makes friends among civilized people, 
and warms the heart."
~ Samuel Chamberlain


If there is such a thing.....

Left over wine?  I know, it sounds silly but it does happen.
If you leave it a day too long, it starts to get that vinegar tang.  It's not a great taste by the glass, but don't waste it!  You can cook with it!
Wine has three main uses in the kitchen - as a marinade ingredient, as a cooking liquid, and as a flavoring in a finished dish. If you feel you won't use it right away, freeze it!  Make wine ice cubes, label them with the type of wine, date, and notes on the flavor.  Knowing the flavor of the wine will help you bring it into a recipe/meal easily.  The function of wine in cooking is to intensify, enhance and accent the flavor and aroma of food.
 Here are some hints on how to use wine while cooking:
Young, full bodied wines work with red meat.
Earthy, full bodied red for soups with root vegs and beef stocks.

Dry white wine compliment fish, shellfish, seafood, poultry, pork and veal.  Also cream sauces.
Crisp, dry white is nice in a seafood soup.
Sweet white can go into desserts.

Go Gougeres!

In class last week we made pâte à choux [pah-ta-shoo], a very simple dough that can go many ways.....
It is a tried & true- a chef by the name of Panterelli invented the dough in 1540!

It's very simple to make, compared to pasta dough, bread dough, etc.
What is it exactly?  Think creme puffs, eclairs, and beignets. 
It contains only butter, water, flour, and eggs.  Simple. You probably have everything you need in your kitchen now.
In lieu of a raising agent like yeast, it employs high moisture content to create steam during cooking to puff the pastry.  They are light, airy, and asking to be filled with something yummy.

A gougere is a savory pâte à choux, and I made a batch with parmesan cheese.
I can't stress how simple and lovely there are.  
Take a few minutes (literally), and give it a try.

You'll need:
1 cup flour
1 cup water
8 tbl unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 cup parmesan cheese, finely shredded.

Preheat oven to 400*

1.  Put the water in a saucepan over low heat, add in butter.  Combine the salt into the flour, set aside.
2.  When the butter has melted, increase the heat to bring water to a boil.
3.  Turn off the heat, and stir in all of the flour.  Stir until thoroughly combined, and return to medium heat. Continue stirring for about 2 minutes, or until the mass comes cleanly away from sides of the pan. 
4. Remove from heat and allow dough to cool for a few minutes.
5.  Put the dough into a mixer, and start on low.  Slowly bring in one egg at a time.  Do not add the next until the previous egg is fully incorporated.  Once all eggs are in, mix in the cheese until fully combined.
6.  Put dough into a pastry bag.  If you do not have one, a ziplock bag works too- just cut the corner.  Pipe onto a parchment paper covered baking sheet.  Space them about 1.5 inches apart.  You can make mound shapes apprx 1.5 inches, or eclair shapes....be creative, and see how they look.
7.  Bake at 400* for 20 minutes, or until they are doubled in size, and lightly browned.
8.  Bring them out once browned, and pierce with a fork a few times.  Quickly return to oven for for a few minutes to dry them out.  Cool on a rack.



All of my jalapenos have turned red.  
Why, you ask?  
Good question.
Jalapenos will start to turn red the longer they are on the plant, and the later it is in the season.  Also, the red jalapeno peppers tend to be sweeter and not quite as hot.  Mine started to turn a few weeks ago, and I noticed a grower at the farmers market is only bringing red ones as well. 
The reds are great to pickle, and even stuff and roast.  Yum!

"How Easy Is That?"

I've grown to love Ina Garten.  Especially after learning more about where her culinary fame came from.  She was a pencil pusher in the White House's Dept. of Management and Business......when she got the feeling that she should be doing something "more"......
She ended up buying a specialty foods store in Long Island, ran it for 18 years, sold it, and took her pen to paper and wrote a cookbook.  The story unfolds from there.

Inspired?  Want a chance to meet the Barefoot Contessa?
She is doing a book signing for her newest, "How Easy Is That?"

Maybe I'll see you there....
Maybe I can pick up some moxie via osmosis!

Friday, November 12, 2010
Williams-Sonoma South Coast Plaza
3333 South Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 751-1166


Hot damn! Hot toddies!

Yes, it's that time of year.  For the lucky folks who live anywhere besides southern California, the leaves are changing.  Regardless, the air is brisk, I'm wearing boots again, and there are jack-o-lanterns lit.
More importantly, it's toddy time!
Who doesn't like a warm boozy drink? 
I sure do.  Especially one that has been used for more than fore score to fight a cold or flu. Tried and true! So, since I had the flu I figured now is a good time....and hey, it helped!  Not sure that it healed, but it numbed... and that works for me!
(unless you're reading this in the early a.m....get yourself together!)

Pour a "shot" of Scotch/Whiskey into a cup or mug, add boiling water to it. Add a spoonful of honey or sugar. Add a half slice of lemon, 2 cloves and, if you have one, a cinnamon stick. Let it brew for 3–5 minutes.
Depending on preference, you can remove the cloves and cinnamon stick before drinking, although leaving them in is often said to make a toddy even better for clearing a blocked nose and relieving a head cold....

KICK IT WAY UP and use apple cider instead of water, or through in a tea bag while it brews.   We went with the apple cider since it 'tis the season!


*Artichoke in Bloom*

I've been lucky enough, twice this week so far...
Growers have brought these artichoke in bloom to the Anaheim (Thursday) market, and the Newport (Sunday) market as well.

The whole globe artichoke we are familiar with is considered the flower of the plant.  The individual florets are purple, and is what you see in the photograph.

So, after much reading, this is what I've learned.....
 The edible portion of the buds consists primarily of the fleshy lower portions known as the "heart"; the mass of immature florets in the center of the bud is called the "choke". These are inedible in older larger flowers.  
This diuretic vegetable is of nutritional value because of its exhibiting aid to digestion, strengthening of the liver function, and to gall bladder function.
 Cynarin, an active chemical constituent in Cynara, causes an increased bile flow. (pardon!)  The majority of the cynarin found in artichoke is located in the pulp of the leaves, and in the dried leaves and stems of artichoke.
And, for all of us that like to eat artichoke with butter, 
it can help to raise of HDL/LDL ratio. This reduces cholesterol levels, which diminishes the risk for arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease.  Cheers to that!

 I pulled the following recipe ideas for using artichokes as medicine.....
Let me know if you give it a try.  I know I will! 
The artichoke tea: The infusion is made from one spoon of mashed leaves scalded in 500 ml of water. The tea should be left for 15-20 minutes in order to become an infusion. The former mug of tea should be drunk in the morning on an empty stomach. The latter mug is to be drunk in 2 stages, namely one half of mug before breakfast and then before dinner. The treatment is to be made in 21-30 days cures with 30 day breaks. 
The Artichoke tincture: It is made from 20 grams of mashed artichoke leaves macerated in 100 ml of 70 degree alcohol for 15 days. 5-15 drops should be taken 3 times a day. The tincture shall be diluted with water or with tea whenever taken..."


From the heart.

Nothing makes me happier than learning more about John Lennon.  Seriously.
He embodied a certain spirit, and I can't always find the words to describe it.

David Sheff's interview with Lennon, 2 days before he passed in 1980, have been recently re-released as an e-book.  In it, there are stories from John about his love of baking bread.
 I wasn't sure it was possible, but my crush with a Beatle (who passed away weeks before my birth) just got bigger.  He goes on the share the feeling of becoming closer to his family, and the importance of the decision to slow the party.

In the interview, John describes how the new and strong feelings he got from joy in the kitchen helped to inspire his music.  The burst of creativity made way for  Double Fantasy and Milk and Honey.
 “All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono” by David Sheff  is published by Macmillan as an ebook ($4.99 at Barnes & Noble and Amazon’s Kindle Store). The paperback published in 2000 is out of print. 

Again with the cute....

My prayers have been answered. 
Yes, it's a half pound gummi bear, on a stick.
Enough said.
Get yours....here.


Because they're cute.

Dirty ol'  Williams-Sonoma, you've done it again!
Halloween pancakes anyone?
I know I can spend my money elsewere, but these babies are cute!  $19.95
Soften the blow......15% off until Oct. 15th.
Enter code: Halloween15 at check out
Visit, if you dare!


I Live Chocolate, too.

I've met a few very stellar people lately, including Patricia Tsai, of ChocoVivo.

I LOVE chocolate, who doesn't?  Although I am still learning to love a bitter 85% cacao, I can sure appreciate a good thing when I see it and taste it.
Patricia makes her rich dark chocolate from bean to bar, which only about 18 manufactures in the US do, including Hersey's.  She's the real deal....and fun too!
She has plenty of amazing and creative flavors like Coffee & Vanilla bar, and the Shangri-La that uses roasted sesame and goji berries.  The Mayan Traditional is a knock out, using guajilla, chipotle morita, pasilla negro, almonds and ceylon cinnamon sticks!
So, I was curious.  How does one start to make their own chocolate and create a successful business from scratch?  Here's what I found out.
Foodeater:  How did you begin making chocolate?  Introduction to it?
Patricia:  It was a five year journey from idea to product. I was truly inspired by chocolate in Oaxaca, Mexico. I quit my corporate CPA job and went to Oaxaca on a culinary tour and soon decided I wanted to learn to make traditional chocolate using old world Mexican stone ground methods. With no idea what chocolate was all about, here was this great educational trip! So I found a teacher in Mexico who would teach me the process from resources to machinery. Within a week of training I discovered I was conned out of my capital. However, I met a cacao grower during the process. While in a restaurant dining with the woman I was training with, a local man, an acquaintance of hers, joined us for lunch and we began talking about cacao and chocolate manufacturing. Needless to say, my “teacher” was very uncomfortable with it. But, after having already exhausted all my previous resources, an international relationship was born with this man who would become my cacao grower and mentor. This grower, who is a trained engineer, built my first stone grinder.
FoodEater:  Do you have any chocolate heros?
Patricia:  Scharffen-Berger, although they got bought out my Hershey’s, they were the largest artisanal chocolate maker in the US at the time that introduced Americans to Bean-To-Bar chocolate and helped pave the way for smaller micro-artisanal producers of chocolate that have opened doors for people like me. 
FoodEater:  Do you have any chocolate advice (for the novice, milk chocolate lover)?
Patricia:   I use to be a lover of milk chocolate.  Realize that milk chocolate has a lot of sugar inside and is very processed.  You aren’t getting the true taste of chocolate from milk chocolate, because it’s masked up by all the other stuff.  Start eating dark chocolate that has more sugar and as your palette becomes use to less sugar, start increasing your cacao content.  Not all dark chocolate is the same as dark chocolate can have just as much crap as milk.  But soon you’ll begin to appreciate the taste of true chocolate. 

FoodEater: What markets are you in?  Where can you find your product?
Patricia:   The link where you can buy product is here and the list of the farmers markets are below:
Tuesday – Culver City:  2 PM – 7 PM,  Main Street between Culver & Venice Blvd, 90232
Thursday – Yamashiro Garden Market:  5:00 PM – 9:00 PM, 1999 N. Sycamore Ave., Hollywood, 90068
Friday – Venice:  7 AM – 11 AM, Venice Way & Venice Blvd, 90291
Saturday – Playa Vista:  9 AM – 2 PM, 6400 Seabluff Drive (in Playa Vista, across from Home Depot), 90064
Saturday – Torrance:  8 AM – 1 PM, Charles H.Wilson Park, 2200 Crenshaw Blvd, 90503
Sunday – Palos Verdes:  8 AM – 1 PM, Peninsula Shopping Center, Rolling Hills Estates, 90247
Sunday – Mar Vista:  9 AM – 2 PM, 12224 Venice Blvd, 90066
Sunday – Malibu:  10 AM – 3PM, 23519 Civic Center Way, Malibu, CA 90265

Here products are also available Foodzie
You can find more at www.chocovivo.com or on facebook here.
Don't settle for bad chocolate!
Viva ChocoVivo!