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Thursday, April 16, 2009

WHY GOATS? WHY NOT? GOAT CHEESE LOVE IN THE MODERN WORLD



There are events in my childhood that are embedded in my memory.

Why some memories are there and others are completely faded is a mystery.

Often what I DO remember is not particularly important, or it does not seem
to be..

When it comes to food though, my memories tend to be quite "sharp" as though
they were yesterday...(child "foodie" before there was such a thing...)

There is an entire vacation with my family that I have forgotten, but it seems
as though if food was involved, I remember...

When I was growing up, we lived next door to a Jewish family.
We'll call them "The Jacobs" for reasons of privacy..
They were a very interesting family.
Most of their family/relatives were either killed or barely escaped from Germany
during the *Holocaust..

*A fascination and obsession with the Holocaust and everything I could find to
read or see about it, started early in my life.."The Diary of Anne Frank" was read/seen so many times I cannot count...I am one of the few people that I know
who has been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC...Even my friends
who live there will not go..It is a sad, stark, and humbling experience which I
will never forget..
I made my son go as well...they don't really teach these unbelievably horrific
set of events in school..from what I can gather, they barely "touch" on it...

The "Jacobs" were also relatives (nephew/great nieces) of Albert Einstein's.

(This was WAY before Paul McCartney characterized an "Uncle Albert" in any song)

His personally signed photos were here and there around the house.

I didn't know who he was as a child.
I thought that he looked a little creepy.
Come to find out that a lot of geniuses do...
So do those with feeble minds
"Creepy" does not discriminate

Now I LIKE creepy looking geniuses...
I still don't care for creepy looking feeble minded individuals
But then again...that's just me...

I found the "Jacobs" to be intriguing and so different from my own family.
This extended not only to their observing different holidays and customs than
we did, but also to the "everyday" food that they ate.

Their house was the first place that I ever saw a bagel.
They were "Lenders" from a frozen bag...
We weren't in New York.
I thought that the frozen bagels were unsweetened doughnuts...
I couldn't imagine why anyone would be interested in them..

I grew up in a "white bread" mostly Christian middle class suburb in Dallas
in the late 50s'/60s..
"Leave it to Beaver" seemed fairly realistic,(except for the fact that our Mothers didn't wear high heels at home during the day...)

When I spent the night with my friend next door, we had a breakfast that I will
never forget, as it spawned my love for creamy spreadable cheeses to this day,
(as well as ANY food that is found at Jewish gatherings, delis, and the like..
Lox, cream cheese, sour cream in herring, and other Jewish cultural foods and I
are well acquainted and maintain a mutual love and respect.)

Next door the breakfast table was laden with a basket of warm toasted rye bread
and a crock of herb cream cheese...I was in heaven...It was so delicious...

Cream cheese has always been one of my favorites, even the "light" version!

It's also been a "No-No" though, because it IS high in fat and calories..(low
in carbs though, in case anyone wants to know...)

Therefore, I was relieved when in the early 80s', I began to see "Goat Cheese"
or "Chevre" on some of the restaurant menus where I dined.

It was "Love At First Bite"

At that time, the main way it was presented was usually on a plate with whole roasted garlic swimming in delicious extra virgin olive oil, crusty bread, and accompanied by some Greek Olives...
With a good bottle of wine, it was a dinner in itself...

Slowly I began to see Goat Cheese incorporated into more recipes, like tarts,
salads, souffles, pasta, gratins, etc.

In the beginning, one could only acquire goat cheese at places like Whole Foods,
but presently it can be found almost anywhere in local supermarkets...

That's a good thing, because I LOVE to cook with it.

There are SO MANY delicious recipes containing goat cheese, one of which I have previously posted at Foodbuzz, a tasty Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast with
Basil.

Just a good, easy, simple, and straight forward dish.
I've taken a liking to that kind of cookery these days...

This is a good place to insert my number one thought about good cooking/food....

"QUALITY INGREDIENTS YIELD QUALITY RESULTS"

I know that sounds obvious, yet many restaurants/cooks try to get away with using
lower quality ingredients, and you simply can't if you want extraordinary results...

I realize that food products are expensive these days, but I still believe that
if one shops carefully and omits the "junk" and processed or "quick" foods, that good quality ingredients can still be had...

Admittedly though, and unsettling, I see that "junk food" is cheap, and fresh veggies, fruits, and leans meats are ridiculously expensive..

What to do in these times?

Hope it gets better quickly, and still buy as much of the "good stuff" as you
can..(some of the leading economic advisers came out this week on CNN, to announce
that they think that our economic downfall will be over a lot quicker than they
had originally projected)

Cook more "simply" with less ingredients, but with an emphasis on quality.

Example..try not to buy an "exotic" spice that you are only going to use in one
recipe...OR..try to get only as much spice as you need for a dish (like you can
do at Whole Foods)

Get the Butcher to give you only what portion of meat is needed in an already packaged container, if you don't need the whole lot...
(They WILL do this, even if they are not thrilled by it...I mean, when is the
last time that you saw a butcher "thrilled" anyway?)

Another idea is to try to make the extra time and effort to cook more at home,
(not always possible, but let's face it...most of us waste a lot of time, I
know that I do..Planning ahead of time and having the ingredients needed on hand makes this one a lot easier..)

Off the "Soapbox" (though at times it just FEELS good, doesn't it?)

My Sister is a Teacher, so she gets to do that everyday.
She is VERY GOOD at it...
Practice makes perfect, as I always say...

In my profession, I can only "gently" speak to the smokers with lung disease,
and even THEN, I must be politely professional in my "lectures" to them.

I digress as usual...

I am the type of person that simply must do a little research about anything
that I really like..(though my research about men/relationships has done little
to enlighten me so far...i.e. see poems)

Still, my research goes on, and today it is a little about Goats, and even more
about Goat Cheese.

The reason that I started my research on Goats, instead of just goat cheese, was because of the Goat's picture shown above...

Now take a close look at that...

What's wrong with that picture?
Goats reside in pastures, in rolling hills.......

With "Heidi's" Grandfather in the ALPS!

AND BESIDES...I RECOGNIZE WHERE THIS GOAT IS!!!

WHO KNEW THAT GOATS TOOK LEISURE VACATIONS, "TAKING IN THE SIGHTS" AND DOING A
LITTLE SHOPPING IN THE SOHO AREA OF NEW YORK?

WHAT...THEY GET A LITTLE STRESSED PUMPING OUT THE MILK, WANDERING ON THE SLOPES
OF GRASS?

GOATS THESE DAYS REQUIRE A LITTLE "R AND R"?

HEY I'M NOT MAKING THIS STUFF UP...PICTURES DON'T LIE...TAKE ANOTHER LOOK AT THIS..

I'M JUST THINKIN THAT THE POPULARITY OF THE "CHEESE" HAS GONE TO THEIR HEADS
A LITTLE...THAT'S ALL...

Wisegeek.com filled me in on the following info, (though no mention of travel)

"In the rugged, rocky Mediterranean landscape goats do rather well. They can climb and find food in places where cows would not be able to get to. The landscape used to be rather void of vegetation in many areas because goats would eat everything in sight. Now it seems that those areas are much greener. Does it mean that there are fewer goats?"

No, it means that they're taking vacations and eating at touristy vegetarian restaurants, instead of the landscape...They're bored...They take advantage of
specials on Travelocity and the like...They've gotten "SOPHISTICATED"...

Back to the research...

"All goat breeds share the traits of being very hardy, curious, and intelligent, and they can be very interesting animals to have around, whatever one's use for them might be."

For what?..A shopping companion?
Personally I like to shop alone...

Now onto a bit about ultra delicious and pretty "good for you" Goat Cheese

What is goat cheese? Let's ask "Wisegeek"...

"Goat cheese has been made for thousands of years, and was probably one of the earliest made dairy products. In the most simple form, goat cheese is made by warming goat milk, mixing it with rennet to curdle, and then draining and pressing the curds. Soft goat cheeses are made in kitchens all over the world, with cooks hanging bundles of cheesecloth filled with curds up in the warm kitchen for several days to drain and cure. If the cheese is to be aged, it is often brined so that it will form a rind, and then stored in a cool cheese cave for several months to cure.
Goat cheese is less calorie dense then cheeses made from milk from cows or sheep. Fats in goat's milk and cheese are easier to process in the digestive system, therefore some individuals who can not have other milk products, might be able to have goat's milk and cheese.
It also seems that the cheese from goat milk does not put strain on the heart, as some other cheeses do specifically because of it's lower fat content, and easy digestibility."

Now if that's not good news, I don't know what is! The next time you indulge in something with Goat Cheese, you can say with great confidence...

"I'm trying to eat a bit more LOW FAT...This is VERY Mediterranean, the way we
were MEANT to eat. Please pass more of the Wine, Goat Cheese, and Bread..."


I have always been the one who is "selected" to choose the restaurant, menu, etc. when there is a gathering, because most of my friends/coworkers know that I
know something, (or I think I do), about food, restaurants...

No exception to that rule back in the mid-nineties, for a Holiday Party at a restaurant for the Management team where I worked and was a part of.

I had a budget and a restaurant picked out, and the menu was pre-arranged and
worked out between myself and the "Food Director" at the restaurant...

It was a delicious dinner, if I say so myself. (What a surprise!)

Our first course was a delicious Bruschetta with Goat Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes,
and Basil that was sprinkled with a Balsamic Vinaigrette...really yummy...
It was a big hit...
To this day, I love "Toast" or "Croutons" with a Goat Cheese Topping.

I came upon this recipe a few years later...
I am positive that this is the recipe that the restaurant used...

This recipe hails from the wonderful "Mustards Grill" in Napa Valley.

It is a restaurant that has passed the test of time, and is still quite popular
today.

The "Goat Cheese Toast" was around when the Grill first opened...

It is a wonderful "Showcase" for a good Goat Cheese...

This is one of those recipes that I highly recommend that you try...(it is
especially great for parties...and as I always ask...Does anyone give parties
anymore? My friends "meet" for dinner at restaurants...Well, even if you don't
make this for a "party", try it for a light and delicious lunch/dinner)

First for the "CROUTONS"

THE BREAD-(use an oval crusty Sourdough Loaf, or any good quality French or Italian
baguette, just make sure that it is "good" bread. Even "day-old" good bread will
make good croutons.)

1 French Baguette or Italian Loaf of Bread
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Cut the baguette or Italian loaf on the bias into 1/4 inch slices, brush with the olive oil and toast on a baking sheet in a 325 degree oven or under a broiler until golden brown. Don't try to rush this: croutons need to be cooked slowly as they are crisp all the way through.
Often for soup, they are cut or torn into small pieces, mixed with oil, salt, and pepper, and baked until crisp.
For purposes of the Goat Cheese Bread recipe, you will keep the slices whole.


Mustards Grill's Goat Cheese Toast
Serves 6-12

8 ounces fresh goat cheese (Laura Chenel's Chevre Chabis, if you can get it...If
not, then the best quality that you can find/afford)
8 Tablespoons heavy cream or Creme Fraiche*
2 minced shallots
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons dry sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar
Pinch of Salt
6 Tablespoons light olive oil
12 "Croutons"
1 Tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
6 sun-dried tomatoes, cut into lengthwise pieces
6 Tablespoon chiffonade of Basil
(chiffonade is taking all your basil leaves and stacking them on top of each other...roll the "package" up tightly; it should look like a hand rolled cigarette, then cut it crosswise with a sharp knife, into thin slices ...you will then have "chiffonade"..)

(trying to be "user-friendly")

In a mixing bowl, mix the goat cheese and cream or creme fraiche together with a wooden spoon until it reaches a spreading consistency. Do not chill. To make the vinaigrette, combine the shallots, mustard, vinegar, and salt in another bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil, and continue whisking until emulsified.

Spread the croutons with the goat cheese mixture. Return the croutons to the broiler and broil just until the cheese is warm. (WATCH IT EVERY SECOND)

Place the croutons on a serving plate. Drizzle a little bit of vinaigrette over the cheese, sprinkle with cracked peppercorns, and top with pieces of sun-dried tomato and a little bit of "chiffonade" of basil....
You only need a bit of vinaigrette per toast...
Any leftover is great with a mixed green salad.

*Creme Fraiche

This is so easy to make at home. Refrigerated, it will keep about a week to ten
days. Swirl a little into this or that; or whip it and add a dollop to a soup or
stew. Sweeten it and use it like whipped cream. Tex Mex enchiladas are often
topped with creme fraiche instead of sour cream. Virtually endless ways in which
to use it..

Makes 1 1/4 cup

1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup cream

Thoroughly mix the cream and buttermilk and let it sit at room temperature,
loosely covered, for 8 to 12 hours until thick.
Keep refrigerated after that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

IT TAKES A LOT TO EXCITE A GIRL LIKE ME!!!!!!




I'm so excited...and I just can't hide it...I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I LIKE IT!!!

I am SO excited that I am going to publish my very favorite homemade CHILI RECIPE!!
That's HOW very EXCITED that I AM!
I am EVEN going to GIVE YOU MY SECRET INGREDIENT!!!

Do you have any idea
WHAT HAS:

Put the FIRECRACKERS in my step?
The PEPPER in my PEP?

The ZIP in my zeal?
Me SPINNING on one heel?

The SPITTING of my words? (I'm trying not to face anyone directly...)
The ACTING like a NERD?

The RHYMING like a clown?
The UP instead of down?

GUESSES?

#1.FINALLY...THE "MAN OF MY DREAMS" OR EVEN THE ONE I JUST WROTE A POEM ABOUT?

GOODNESS NO!

(Let's be realistic my friend..or did the Tooth Fairy visit you this year?)

#2.SOMEONE HAS OFFERED TO PAY FOR MY BOOB JOB AND EYE LIFT?

BINGO!..and then they're taking me to Paris for dinner..yeah..

#3.THE AMERICAN LITERARY SOCIETY IS INTERESTED IN PUBLISHING MY POEMS?

Sure..right after they publish the memoirs of Paris Hilton

NO MORE GUESSES....

After 6 long wretched, ravaged, wronged, ridiculous, and redundant? months, I have found A,

drum roll paleese...

FULL TIME JOB!!!!!

Yeah, that's right...the kind with, you guessed...BENEFITS!!!!

And just when you thought it was almost too good to be true...
THERE'S MORE...
That's right...If you order in the next 2 minutes,

Wait a minute..

HEY...where is this going?
I was telling all of you about my job...
How do I get into these jams anyway?
Far too ambitious..I HAVE tried to settle down but...

Back to my new and hopefully improved way of living...

I am working in a hospital that is only 150 beds, so if I get lost, it will not be
for long...

It is a Neurological and Surgical Center with an amazing reputation, therefore a
"feather in my cap" (not that I wear one..)

There is no Emergency Room..(Oh this really IS too good, isn't it?)

It's night shift with a mostly MALE STAFF (this is looking better all the time..)

AND...because it is a part of a huge Governmental Medical Center...

I AM WORKING FOR THE STATE AND THEY ARE PAYING FOR MY INSURANCE!!!!!!!!!!!!

There are other "goodies", but that one killed me...

Someone is going to pay for my medical insurance?

Pinch me....Wake me up....

If I wake up and find out that this is yet another one of my long and laborious dreams,
I am going to be "most upset"...(see how I CAN control what I say sometimes?...I
usually just don't want to...)

Damned thing is...I was SURE it was going to be a waste of time to interview...

The boss is someone that I worked for many years ago...

I was almost POSITIVE that she did not like me...

I was wrong..(Did I ever tell you that being wrong is not always a bad thing?)

She literally greeted me with open arms..
(did she just forget perhaps? We used to have..ummmm...."intelligent debates" about clinical differences and policies)

I never thought that it would take me this long
I am happy that for now, this search is over...

Now for my favorite Sirloin Chili...

Am I from Texas and does the chili contain BEANS?

Of Course...and whoever made up the "rule" of
"there ain't no beans in chili from Texas",
obviously resided elsewhere,
cause in Texas...
"We do what the hell we want, and MY chili has not one but TWO kinds of BEANS!"

SULTRY SIRLOIN CHILI
(wow...what a name! I'm lovin it!)
Serves 6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup flour
Salt and Pepper (to season sirloin)
2 pounds sirloin, bite size chunks
2 large onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell papper, seeded and chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped (unless you want heat, then don't seed them)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
12-ounce bottle of ale
2 cups low sodium beef stock
4 cups crushed tomatoes
2 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 to 1 ounce milk chocolate with or without almonds, chopped (to taste)
Garnish: Shredded cheddar, red onion, scallions, cilantro, sour cream, lime wedges

Heat oil in large heavy pot over medium high heat.
In a pie plate combine salt, pepper, and flour with a fork.
Toss sirloin cubes with flour to coat.
Shake off excess flour.
Brown sirloin in pot on all sides and remove meat to a plate.
If necessary, add more oil to pan and add onions.
Cook onions over medium heat until they begin to soften.
Stir in green, red, and jalapeno peppers and cook for 3-5 minutes.
Add chili powder, cumin, and oregano.
Return browned meat to pan and pour in beef and beef stock.
Bring to a a boil and cover and reduce heat to a simmer.
Cook for one hour or until meat is tender.
Add crushed tomatoes and cook for 30-45 minutes.
Stir in black and kidney beans and chocolate, and gently simmer for 15 minutes.
Serve topped with the garnishes of your choice.

I like to serve this with cornbread and a crisp green salad, but sometimes...
We just break open the saltines, pour up a bowl of red, pop a beer, and say
"WOW...DONCHA JUST LOVE CHILI?"

(Actually a nice glass of Cabernet is my favorite accompaniment, but the other
idea sounded so much better, and is probably what most people do!)

Later...Nicole





















Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"NOT THROUGH" (A POEM OF TRUTH AND SHAME)




"NOT THROUGH"


i know that you're out there
reduced now to lurking
you could have been here
with a love that was working

decisions are difficult
morally driven
but you've only one lifetime
to enjoy what i've given
to you and you only
though carelessly tossed
away like the garbage
a treasure you've lost

if you are still listening
to what i have said
just give me some sign
so i'll know you're not dead

and i don't mean "dead"
as in "perished", for good
i would be more careful
with words, if i could

it's not smart to write
about you,
don't you know?
i'll answer no questions
from friends or from foes

the last words
he said to her
"My Heart Is Yours"
has left her
with feelings
reminiscent of whores

your thoughts were seductive
your words filled my heart
you made me feel lovely
and desirably smart

"you ought to know better"
the critics agree
who listens to critics?
about films...
but not ME

can't you find a way
to still let me know
or were promises made
that won't let you go?

i cannot give up
what was almost mine
give me an option
show me a sign

begging is pitiful
won't do for me
but turning away
is too final, you see

i rarely have feelings
so utterly strange
so wrong, so forbidden,
unlikely to change

not easy to leave me
and yet all the while
you've made your decision
to live in denial

once there were two people
their love fraught with pain
pursuing a dream
of together
in vain

nicole 4/14/09

Monday, April 13, 2009

RENAISSANCE WOMAN POSTS A POEM AND A PIE


I worked with a guy this weekend, that is a former co-worker and friend
He didn't know that I wrote poetry or was interested in cooking/recipes...
He said "Wow, I guess that you're a "Renaissance Woman", aren't you?"
I thought...Yeah..I suppose so...
Hence the title to this blog

No matter how long you work with people in unfortunate circumstances, once in
awhile you come upon a patient that "stays" with you after you come home..
Keeping your "distance" is an important part of the health field
I have always felt that others were better at this than I am...

NOWHERE
(for Kerin)

They say she was "Something"
Good looking
Lots of friends

HORROR like this
is surely no way to end

Strong winds threw you wildly
down the stairs one day

and life as you knew it
was taken away

Now you open your eyes
but you no longer see

And silent screams cry
"What has happened to me?"

I know you don't speak
but it's clear in your face

that you're desperately living
in a far away place

A pocket of space
that won't let you break free

Where death has escaped you
and life's a memory

You might just remember
a few things from your past

When I called you "Cat Woman"
you responded at last

It's not like you spoke to me
I'm told it's not new

Though I saw just a glimpse of your smile
It's true!

There's not much that's left of you
Tragic, unfair

Too young to leave us
Hearts sink in dispair

Can't leave you there frightened
I must take you home

Spilling all of my feelings
on this unsuspecting poem

Strong winds picked her up
and threw her down stairs

Then took her to live
In the land of NOWHERE

Nicole 4/14/09



PIE, OH MY...HOW I LOVE PIE...

A recipe so simple, you won't believe how delicious it is...
Takes no time to make, just has to be planned...
This pie needs to chill for at least 8 hours
More is better...overnight is perfect, but not required
Think "Simple is Good", and you will "Get it"

LIMEADE PIE

1 can sweetened condensed milk (Eagle Brand)
1 small can of frozen limeade (defrosted)

Mix those two together until well blended

FOLD in:
One carton (15 oz to 18 oz) size of "Cool Whip"(defrosted)
The word "fold" is important here, and YES I said Cool Whip...

Spoon filling into a premade graham cracker crust ( I like Keebler best)
If you must make your own that would be perfectly acceptable (just don't come
crying to me when you miss your much needed "quickie" nap..)

Use your microplane if you have one, but if not finely grate some lime peel all
over the top of the pie..(then ask yourself why you don't have a microplane, as they are not expensive and the best tool created in YEARS!)

Not only is this recipe step attractive, it very much adds to the lime "punch" of the pie...

Put in fridge for at least 8 hours..

This pie literally took me about 5 minutes to make and is sensational!

Little trick I picked up from Food TV, concerning the cutting of the first
piece...
IF you do use the premade crust that is in foil.. cut the pie piece, then
actually cut the foil with scissors where the first cut piece is( top to bottom on the side of the pie...two cuts....)
Love that trick...

Hope you understand, if you don't, then just cut the first piece as you always have, and who cares if it is not the most attractive?
When a pie is THIS good it matters little...