Great book gift ideas

Still looking for a few great gift ideas for the chef or foodie in your life? I have a few excellent suggestions for you today. This is a very varied mix of books touching on recipes, travel, health and treasures to be found in the pantry.

I have been enjoying every moment spent leafing through these books, testing their theories, trying out recipe and planning a few future seasoning purchases. I am including the main description of the books and a “my-2-cents” paragraph for each. Enjoy!

Yunnan_Cookbook

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Kitchen Remodel

You know, I realize I never showed you all the new kitchen. If you are new to my blog let me quickly explain I had horrible water damages (repeatedly) from the ceiling of my 18th floor apartment. Otherwise it is a perfect place which is why I have been there for 10 years. The kitchen was a victim of some of those damages. You can read more about what happened.

Anyways this time around the owner decided to tear down my kitchen completely (walls too) and rebuild it. YAY! Of course since it is a rental I had no say in the process but I got better then before. I also have the WORSE tiny kitchen ever for a food blogger but I have learned to work in it very efficiently. You know it is one of those lab kitchens about  9 by 7 feet.

The before - both sides

The after side 1

The after side 2

Once the construction done I got a chance to organize things to get even more free space; things like where to place the paper towel holder, I got a magnetic bar for my knives and tried to come up with a more efficiently spice rack solution. I actually made mine but I have to say I am not so happy with it.

Finding a store with a large selection of kitchen spice racks is hard t. But I found a great online store so now I am shopping for one. I don’t know about you but I have WAY TOO MANY spices as it is and I know I will always be getting new exotic ones. What kind of spice rack do you have? Do you have too many like me? How long before you toss them?

I already did not have enough room on my makeshift one so I am shopping for a larger wall spice rack. Wish me luck in my shopping!

A Fruit Mousse your Hips Will Love plus misc food stuff

This is just a quicky weird post for you today.

I am blessed with many friendships from food bloggers around the word but I am even more blessed to know so many from real life right in my city. A few have become very good friends, even if we do not see each other to regularly. Today I will share my version of a dessert my dear friend Claudia posted on her blog Foodessa.

Please go to her site and check out her complete recipe and how to make this treat…of course I adapted it to my taste. Hers is more heavy on the fruit while mine is heavy on light fluffiness. Both make great sorbets IF you have leftovers.

Just so you know my adaptations I used 1/3 of her fruit quantity…the rest I kept the same. I tried it with blueberries. Is was so succulent and perfectly glossy. I got 4 servings out of it and trust me you won’t feel guilty eating this mousse all summer long. Go check out her recipe now and WHIP IT real good…after reading the rest of this post of course.

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I have accumulated a few random pictures that I want to show you. They are more like quick blurbs with a pic or two. Here we go:

Blurb no. 1

Breakfast at the Burgundy Lion Pub includes many British classic I have never heard of, like the Bubble n’ Squeak ??? I had to go for it. So apparently this is ‘the leftovers’ breaky of steak, eggs, and a mash-up of potatoes and cabbage and I chose crumpets to go along with it. Love the concept and all was delicious except for the hard roasted potatoes.

Blurb no. 2

Remember when I had a huge water damage problem in my apartment in May 2010 and then AGAIN in November 2011 which at least finally lead to the demolition and installation of a new kitchen (2 weeks without a kitchen)….to the taste and like of the landlord of course. Well I never did that post about the process but you deserve a before and after pic. I am very happy to say the least with the new kitchen. As you can see it is a tiny lab kitchen yet very functional and now feels a bit bigger.

Out with the fugly Old

In with the new, the walls are now a pastel sunny sky blue

Blurb no. 3

Camellia Sinensis in the Quartier Latin. Wonderful large selecting with top teas from around the world and many little treats to accompany your tea perfectly, such as this Matcha Cheesecake. Really sublime and a calm place. Just go!

Blurb no. 4

Indulge me in 1 cat story from my 2 cats. Most of you loved seeing Mickey sniff out the Terrine. Well 2 days later I saw for the first time, in the 4 years I own him, his hunter instinct…when he saw a pigeon on the balcony. Pigeons don’t come often so this was a unique moment. I was afraid he may jump the 18 floors down if he went for it when the pigeon flew away.

cat foodie turned into a hunter

Tipping the Digital Scale

Holiday countdown is at 14 days. Got hard to find items on your list? CSN Stores have over 200 online stores where you can find anything, and I mean anything you need. Whether it is a pet bed, air compressors, a corner tv stand or a wicker chair you will find it at CSNstores.com.

I must admit I recently bought myself a little present recently for no particular reason. I had been coveting the idea of a digital scale for some time. My online foodie blogger circle is really global so measurements can vary from one continent to another. A lot more recipes I make have the ingredients listed in grams. My old fashion small needle scale with the basket that kept falling off on top just was not cutting it anymore. Let me mention here I really bought this scale in a store with my own money and I really am extremely satisfied with this purchase.

Also I needed a scale that could measure really minute weights, like 1 gram at a time, for molecular gastronomy. Digital was the only way to go. I shopped around for a while and settled on the yellow Escali Primo Digital Scale. And I just love it. This scale is very compact, on the lower end budget wise than most digital scales, and very easy to use.

But what I like best is that I can put a recipient on the scale, subtract its weight, and then add my ingredient to weight in the recipient. That is very practical if I need 2 grams of salt but I don’t want to put salt on a large flat surface which would be hard to pick up after wards. Also you can switch between metric and imperial (grams and ounces).

Another great use for it is weight packages for the Foodie Exchanges I do. I try to keep my boxes under 500 gr to keep the cost of shipping down. With this scale I get an exact reading of how much my box weights and I avoid nasty surprises at the postal counter.

Features:

  • Digital Scale
  • Escali Primo digital scale is compact, portable, easy to store and easy to transport
  • Capacity is 11 pounds and measures in ounces, pounds plus ounces, or in grams
  • Accurately measures in 0.1 of an ounce or 1 gram increments
  • Rated Best Value by a leading independent consumer magazine
  • 5 Year Warranty
  • Comes is a whole slew of colors
  • Material: ABS Plastic
  • Dimensions: 1.25″ H x 6″ W x 8″ D

Copper Wishes

T-minus 16 days to the holidays. Time is flying back way to fast. I just sent out my wish list to the family and got theirs. Not a single gift has been purchased yet? How about you? Have you done all your shopping yet?

I sent my reality wish list of course, not the imaginary one. My imaginary list contains a DSLR camera, a new bed and mattress set, a car, a 1 year trip around the world. Some items on that list are still a little more realistic though but perhaps I will have to save up for them. One such item is pots and pans. I am getting really tired of the set I bought when I moved out of my parent’s house. It still is good but it is below me now lol. A new kitchen battery is a priority. And how I would love a set copper cookware!

Many top chefs say the best pots are formed of a thick layer of copper with a thin inner layer of tin. The copper is know for its ability to rapidly transfer heat and distribute it evenly. But not all copper cookware is made equal. The weight and lining of copper cookware are the important factors to look out for. For optimum performance the copper should be 1/8 inch thick (2.5mm). As mentioned above the favored lining is tin as it is almost as good a conductor of heat as copper. You’ll find a great selection of quality copper pots and pans on the Ruffoni website.

Daring Cooks: Microwave Cheese Souffle

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

Now I came very close to bailing out of this month’s challenge. No not because it is a soufflé…a supposedly difficult French recipe I have never dared tried. I was excited about this challenge. The reason why I almost bailed was because of my kitchen in it’s present state. Indulge me and let me digress a bit! Remember 5 months ago I had major water damage in my kitchen, bedroom, entrance hall and bathroom? Well 2 weeks ago it happened again except the kitchen but they never built my promised new kitchen (I rent btw). Anyways this last event prompted the new kitchen project.

Monday: kitchen demolished

Friday: painted, new walls, waiting for new cabinets

As of Friday night I was expecting new cabinets early in the week. And see how I said before this last water damage was not in the kitchen? Well wouldn’t you know it Sat morning I heard dripping on the new ceiling. Investigations lead to the source really being the roof of my building (not pool, at least that is what they are saying today). Well the new wall and ceiling put up this very week got chopped up last night to get to the leak. So no new cabinets yet early this week I assume.

Saturday night: new whole in brand new ceiling

Anywho, I had a few pre-cooked things but if I need to cook something or find dishes well I had to rummage over or under the kitchen table or in the bedroom right now.

So you can see I was justified and bailing out of this challenge. BUT I found a microwave recipe. I do have maze-like-walking-to-access to my microwave. I knew it would probably be a flop (pun intended) but I could not resist. I did this microwave soufflé recipe during the day while the construction workers were here. I have no counter to work on, not even a kitchen table. So my couch was my working surface. I beat my eggs whites standing in the middle of the living room holding the bowl in my hands. The soufflé was no longer my challenge. Making a soufflé under my CONDITIONS was the challenge.

Microwave Cheese Souffle from ifood.tv

Ingredients:

5 egg whites
Butter or margarine
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard (I had none and used curry powder instead)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Dash cayenne pepper
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Directions:
  1. Bring egg whites to room temperature, about one hour.
  2. Butter a 1 1/2 quart, heat-resistant, non-metallic souffle dish or a 1 1/2 quart, heat-resistant, non-metallic, straight-sided casserole and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
  3. Place the 3 tablespoons butter,  in a large, heat-resistant, non-metallic mixing bowl and heat, uncovered, 1 minute on full power , or until butter is melted.
  4. Blend flour, flour, mustard, salt, pepper and cayenne into melted butter.
  5. Gradually add milk, stirring until smooth.
  6. Heat sauce mixture, uncovered, on roast for 4 minutes or until thickened and smooth. Stir occasionally.
  7. Add the 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, stirring to mix.
  8. Heat on roast for 1 additional minute or until cheese is melted. Stir.
  9. While making the sauce, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff, but not dry. Set aside.
  10. Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon colored. Add egg yolks gradually to sauce mixture. Beat well.
  11. Mix about 1/4 of the beaten egg whites with the sauce mixture. Work quickly and lightly, taking care not to break down the egg whites.
  12. Fold remaining egg whites into sauce mixture.
  13. Carefully spoon souffle mixture into the prepared souffle dish.
  14. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese on top of the souffle mixture.
  15. Place the souffle on the center of the turntable in the microwave oven and heat, uncovered, on DEFROST for 15 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the souffle comes out clean.
Microwave Cheese Souffle
I actually had a lot of fun doing it. The final cooking time was way off as I had to cook it on defrost well over 30 min. You know it did not look half bad actually until I cooked it a bit too long and it flopped. It certainly was not as beautiful as an oven one but it was still worth it. Also one you remove it from the microwave it totally deflates.  It kept an airy texture but looked more like a thick omelette. I served my construction workers a little bowl each and they both enjoyed it. They even posed for the camera and gave me permission to post the pic! They are great hard workers and I feel bad for them when they arrive Monday and have to redo the ceiling in the kitchen again.

Marco and Gaston enjoying the Cheese Soufflé

This DC was quite an adventure. Hopefully things will be normal by the next challenge!

1 Stop Best Kitchen Shopping

One way to save a few bucks though is to thoroughly price shop your appliances and also analyze what is the best option for your needs. Here is a great site to do this: a Kitchen and Dining Products Buying Guide. You can choose an array of kitchen appliances and see what are the pros and cons of each.

Lets take a look at a example: lets look up the Pots and Pans Buying Guide. If you click the link you will see a list of feature to consider: size, style, material, handles, and optional features. Below you have pictures of the most popular styles. Next there is a list of specialized equipment. Finally you see any related items that can be purchased as well.

OK so you know what you want. Click on your item. Lets say you looked at blenders and chose a counter top model . If you click a model it will then give you a list of the best prices and link you to the shops where they are sold. It is truly a great site for the shopping savvy looking to educate themselves and find the best price.