Chef Dubbbs

Foodies, Fatties & Fame ~ A Culinary Journey

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Lost Art of Recipe "Scrapbooking"

A few months back my Grandmother asked my cousin and I to come and help her clean out her garage, OY VEY!  A project I had dreaded turned into a fun filled day of reminiscing over old photos and other keepsakes that our Grandmother had packed away and forgotten about.  One of the best nostalgic items we came across was a collection of her old cookbooks and a binder of recipes that she had written or collected throughout the years.  Of all the professional cookbooks I have, these old cut and paste personal recipe scrapbooks are my all time favorites. For me they are a glimpse into the life of the important women in my life.

Three years ago, we lost my mother-in-law to be, to cancer and of all the precious things I could have taken from her home as a remembrance of her, her version of this recipe scrapbook was the only thing I wanted.  While I have practiced and somewhat perfected the recipes in this scrapbook of hers, I occasionally pour myself a glass of wine and pour over these recipes and think about Rose.  I can picture her sitting and writing out these recipes or planning a special meal from her tried and true favorites.  I like to think of her reading a magazine and coming upon a recipe that she thought someone would like and deciding to cut it out and add it to her collection so that she could make something special for someone the next time she had a party.  I think one of the most special aspects of this collection of recipes is being able to open this book and see "her" recipes written on scraps of paper and just seeing her handwriting  makes me feel close to her, even though she's gone.  Knowing that I am holding a piece of paper that she wrote something special on is truly a gift.  Part of the fun is looking at what these recipes are written on, old company notepads from jobs she held, the backs of letters her sons brought home from school, I even found a fabulous party dip recipe written on the back of her ovulation chart!  Try taking that to the grocery store to use as a shopping list!

When I came across this binder of my grandmother's she couldn't believe how excited I was to find this, she wanted to throw it out!  While she has an I-pad she is not exactly what I call tech savvy and she doesn't realize that this treasure is something of a long lost art.  Now-a-days we are prone to bookmarking a recipe online or now even more current "Pinning" it!  We read our magazines on our Kindles or I-pads so the technique of cutting out a recipe is no more.  When I make a dish that someone loves, and they ask for the recipe, I no longer take the time to write it out, but grab my smartphone and email it to them instantly!  Or post it on my Facebook page!

Since I have the Summer off I decided to have a throwback week of cooking where I picked out recipes from this book that were "retro" and prepare them in the 1950's style of having a theme each night.  I am on Day 3 of this project and though time consuming, am loving every minute of it.  The details are for another blog post another time.  In doing this project it made me nostalgic for a time period in history that I was never a part of.  A time period of stay-at-home moms, Kool Aid, women wearing dresses everyday and pink kitchen appliances!  Going through my Grandmother's recipe scrapbook, picking out recipes, meal planning and going to the market for the week's meals was like taking a step back in time.  I even busted out some aprons that I bought years ago at a flea market. While we are enjoying the dishes, though gravy laden and unhealthy and certainly not calorie friendly I think I am enjoying the process more.

 My Grandmother has no idea what a gift she gave me when she let me take this recipe collection from her.  While I am still lucky to have her in my life and still cooking her special recipes for me, I know that one day a long long time from now, I may not have her around and I will cherish this amazing collection of recipes she collected throughout her life as much as I enjoy the ones of my Mother-in-law to be.  It has also inspired me to start a recipe scrapbook of my own.  I am going to make a conscious effort to write down my special recipes and print out the ones I find on the internet and keep them in a book so that one day when I am gone, someone may want them as a memory of my cooking successes as well as the disasters!  Even people who do not LOVE food and cooking the way I do, can understand how a special dish can bring back a memory of a happy time or a loved one just as much as a photograph can and for me this is one of the most special gifts of all.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Easy Tomato & Cheese Torte

  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 T kosher or sea salt
  • 1 T Sugar
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
  • 6 slices of fresh mozzarella
  • 3/4 C grated Parmesan
  • 1 pkg crescent rolls
  1. In a torte pan sprayed with non stick spray, press the crescent rolls on the bottom and up the sides of the pan, rub 1 T of olive oil on the dough
  2. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees
  3. Pre bake the crescent rolls for ten minutes, it will rise a bit, when you take it out of the oven, make a few holes with a fork.
  4. Cut the grape tomatoes in half, toss them with salt, sugar and 1 T olive oil, in a bowl.
  5. In the crescent shell, layer the mozzarella cheese, then the basil, then top with tomatoes, sprinkle the Parmesan on top of the tomatoes and basil, and drizzle the remaining oil on top.
  6. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until edges are golden brown.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

White Chicken & Green Chili Enchilada Casserole

  • 6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Cutlets
  • 5 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 1 15 Oz Can of Green Enchilada Sauce (Medium)
  • 1 7 Oz Can of Diced Green Chilis
  • 1 16 Oz Container of Sour Cream
  • 3 T White Flour
  • 3 T Butter
  • 4 Cups Shredded Cheddar or Monterrey Jack
  • 2 packages of Corn Tortillas (18 needed) 
  • 1 Cup Rice
  1. In a skillet with a tight fitting lid, combine chicken, 2 C of chicken broth and the entire can of enchilada sauce.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and let cook one hour. 
  2. Remove chicken from pan, put in a bowl and cover.
  3. In the same pan as you cooked the chicken there should be remaining liquid, add about another cup of chicken broth and the rice, bring to boil, reduce to simmer cover and cook until rice is tender.
  4. When rice is done, grease a casserole dish, begin with a layer of tortillas, then layer, rice, chicken (shredding chicken as you layer), cheese, 3 layers, ending with a layer of tortilla.
  5. Pre-heat oven to 350.
  6. In a sauce pan, melt butter and whisk the 3 T of flour, add in the remaining chicken broth until it begins to simmer and get thick, add in entire can of chilis, stir until well combined, turn of heat and whisk in sour cream.
  7. Pour entire mixture over layers of tortillas and chicken, etc.  I made a few holes in the top for the sauce to soak in.  Reserve the rest of the sauce
  8. Bake for one hour , uncovered, until top looks crispy, remove from oven, let sit for 20 minutes before cutting, serve like lasagna with remaining sauce, reheated.                               **This can be made in the crockpot, by layering it the same and adding all of the sauce in and cooking it on low for 4 - 6 hours.                            

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mr. Curmudgeon and Thoughts About Food.

A few months back, my cousin, who we will call Mr. Curmudgeon, in order to protect his identity, asked me "How many times a day do you think about food?".  This was fueled by my constant posts on FB about restaurants I have been to, dishes I have created, culinary classes I have taught at work etc... I thought this to be such an interesting question that I decided to actually keep track of it the following day.  The next day, armed with a small notebook and a pencil, I began to track how many times a day I actually DID think about food.  By mid morning when I got up around 50 times, I decided to stop tracking, I had my answer.  I texted Mr. Curmudgeon and told him and his response was "ya, that's normal" (insert sarcasm font).  Now for those of you that know me personally, you know what else was coming, but for those of you that don't, there was a well suited fat joke inserted after the comment, cause one could describe me as being .............FAT.  Not, remove me from my home on a forklift kind of FAT, but big enough to warrant buying the smallest size at the big lady store kind of FAT.  For those of you that know me, I am very open to making jokes about my fat, as I often maintain my plus sized weight based on the age old adage to "Never Trust a Skinny Chef" and "MANY things taste as good as being skinny feels".

So before you come down on Mr. Curmudgeon, know that while I accepted the joke in good humor, the comment about thinking about food that much as being odd, was what really ruffled my feathers.

  I can see that for a normal person, thinking about food 50 + times a day may be excessive, but for a person in the business of food, it doesn't seem like that much.  I should have prefaced the fact that Mr. Curmudgeon is also a very successful professional in the restaurant business.  Which is why I was so surprised by his sarcasm and criticism about my thoughts.  That being said, 50+ times.....hmmmmm. this got me thinking, how many times a day do non-food based people think about food in a day.

To me, it seems that most people think about food ALOT without even realizing it.  Think of the scenarios, someone at work tells you they attended a wedding, one of the first questions asked, is, what kind of food did they serve?  Someone tells you they are having a birthday party, one of the first questions asked is, what kind of cake are you having?  Most mothers responsible for the daily meals, think a lot about what they are going to make for dinner, what are they going to make quickly for breakfast, what is going to go into the kids lunch boxes, or do they need to be sent to school with money to buy lunch.  I bet that if they average person tracked how many times a day they thought about food, it wouldn't be so far away from as many times a day that I think about food.  For those in the food industry, I can see it being in the hundreds.  Especially people that are creative with their food choices and their preparation.  While Mr. C is in the food business he operates a national chain, so there really isn't any room for creativity, but even so, isn't one thinking about orders, quality control, or is a menu item selling, or even, I am so sick of eating soup for lunch everyday, should I have something different today?

Being in the food industry,I am constantly thinking about food, how can I make recipes more accessible for the non-cookers, could I incorporate the salad I had for lunch into a new sandwich recipe, what do I need to take out of the freezer to thaw for dinner.....and so on.

In my opinion, based on this generation of NON - Cookers, people don't think ENOUGH about food.  Gone is the day of weekly meal planning, and this has led to a huge decline in the importance of family meals and caused poor eating habits to explode across our country.  I feel that food  for as long as humans have been on Earth has been the basis behind everything we do.  The pioneer people worked all three seasons, just to sustain themselves through the winter months, their entire existence centered around growing, hunting, and storing food, so that they wouldn't starve to death in the winter months.  I can remember as a child, going off to school and my mom telling me what she was making for dinner, and looking forward to it, if it was one of my favorites, all day.  There was nothing like coming home to delicious smells of a nice dinner being prepared with love.  This is one of the things I miss most about being a child and probably why I am such a fan of the crock pot now.  There is nothing like coming home to a hot meal, even if it is one you prepared yourself.  We as a society focus most of our special moments around a meal, and many times, the way we identify ourselves is by telling someone what our favorite thing to eat is. The fact that we have gotten so far away from the importance of family meals, or home cooked dinners should be alarming to all of us and we should all try to think about food a little bit more.

I am known for food, so of course I would think about it a lot.  Most people associate me with a special dish I  have made, or a dinner party I have hosted, if thinking about food 50+ times a day makes me an odd duck, well than quack quack.  Get back to cooking people, buy yourself a cheap and easy cookbook and start experimenting!  Do not steal these great memories from your families or children.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Journey Into Blogging

So here it goes.....for several years I have toyed with the idea of starting a blog about all of my culinary experiences yet have never taken the leap.  I figured, who really cares what I have to say and I didn't want to join the ranks of pseudo foodies that jumped on the Julie and Julia bandwagon after the movie came out.  I have always been one to explore new neighborhoods in search of different ingredients, and new restaurants, especially here in my hometown of Chicago, where you can travel to a different part of the world often times just by walking a few blocks in another direction.  Recently I changed careers after 16 years and I am now doing what I love, and have begun to really experience the culinary world from within.  It is now time, I decided, to begin blogging, not so much for others to read, but for me to keep a journal of my culinary experiences so that one day I can look back and say, well I might be broke, but I go to work everyday doing what I love.  

It seems to me that everywhere you look nowadays people are talking about food, whats wrong with food, whats right with food, who's not getting enough of it, who's getting too much of it.  With the recent invention of the "celebrity chef" attention on the culinary world has increased a hundred fold.  In my new career, my colleagues talk about chef's and restaurants with the same enthusiasm as most people talk about their favorite athletes and stadiums.  I always think someone needs to invent Chef trading cards, and sell them like baseball cards, but then again, I'd probably be the only one to buy them......

I have found , that when people find out that you are a Chef, or work in the food industry, their eyes light up and suddenly you become the most important person in the room. I think there is an old quote out there, that says something like "he who can cook well, will always have friends", or something like that. Whatever the quote is, the meaning for me is true.   I recently started a fan page on Facebook to share my recipes because I was tired of re-typing recipes for things I have made that people love, now I can tell my friends, "it's on my fb page" and ever since, have become the "go to girl" for anything to do with food, or eating or drinking and I LOVE it.  It has motivated me to expand my knowledge even further and I have taken on the lifelong project of learning all I can about food.  Where to buy it, how to grow it, how to make it, the best places to eat it, and on and on.  So here we are, my first blog, love it or hate it, its mostly for me to keep track of my life experiences but if you care to be an active participant, please feel free to continue to follow me through my culinary journeys.