r

rokzane's Profile

Title Last Reply

At the end of my rope -- please help

MarkC: I'm not suggesting professional cooking schools. Those are insanely expensive and not worth the time for a home cook who isn't going into the profession. But there are many cooking schools for home cooks that provide a very valuable, life-long skill: how to cook for yourself. Very important, and it's worth it to provide healthy, fresh meals for yourself and your family. Nobody knows how to cook anymore. Too many kids and young adults do not how to cook. They didn't learn it from their parents. There's a lot of information to learn about basic cooking, and it can be confusing for many: They don't know how and where to get started. Cooking classes provide focus and immediate results that you really can't get just from reading cook books and experimenting in the kitchen. If you don't know what you're doing in the first place, you can't figure out your mistakes when something goes wrong.

Yes, reading a variety of cookbooks and cooking publications is a really good idea, but focused instruction is needed for many people.

Cooking classes for home cooks are generally not expensive. It's a good investment for yourself and your family.

May 07, 2014
rokzane in Home Cooking
2

At the end of my rope -- please help

Seriously, invest in some basic cooking classes. It will be the best thing you ever did. Basic cooking classes will focus on the very basics of cooking: knife skills, how to saute, roast, make stocks and soups, how to make basic starches like pasta and rice. All the essentials. Every big city has at least one cooking school for home cooks (not necessarily professional cooks/chefs). If you don't have one, see if you can hire a professional cook for a few private lessons. I'm a professional cook, and I've provided this service to my newlywed friends and any neighbors who ask as gifts.

To really great instructional books: Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything."

and: Pam Anderson's "How to Cook Without a Book."

Both of these teach you all the essential cooking skills while preparing simple, yet tasty and seemingly elegant, meals without all the high-end fancy work that require fancy skills that you cannot master until you've learned the basics.

Learning to cook well is easy, you just have to stop focusing on the fancy chefs and get down to the basics.

Good Luck.

May 07, 2014
rokzane in Home Cooking
2

Good peaches in NM, Summer 2013?

The Late Season freestone peaches should be arriving in markets in the next 2-3 weeks. The clingstone varieties (all early season..early June-July types) were all killed in the late April frosts. Freestones are in Season late July through Mid-September.

Jul 24, 2013
rokzane in Southwest

Grass-fed beef vs. Grain Fed beef

I buy a 1/4 steer from the Flying B Bar Ranch near Strausburg, CO every year, 100% pasture raised and grass-finished. It’s the best beef I’ve ever had! They raise certified Angus cattle. Check out their website for how they raise them. They do have their own water sources on the ranch (3 large ponds plus snow pack from the Lower Platte River Valley). They manage their pastures w/ rotational grazing, growing their own hay for the Winter, and reseeding pastures every year w/ all wild, native grasses that are drought resistant and highly nutritional. They call themselves “hay and grass farmers first and cattle ranchers second.” They take the health and quality of their pastures and grasses very seriously.

They also dry-age all their beef for a minimum of 14 days and up to 3 weeks if the customer prefers.

They can also feed supplemental grains for extra marbling if the customer wishes it, but the steer is NEVER taken off of fresh grass and never given excessive grain that would upset the steers PH balance in the rumen (which causes excessive bacterial growth and requires sub-theraputic antibiotics).

I find the meat to be rich, tender w/ a slight chew, and with an incredible beefy flavor that I happen to adore. I love wild game meats and lamb, so gaminess doesn’t offend me, and I *know* what gaminess tastes like. My beef doesn’t have that at all.

Apr 09, 2013
rokzane in General Topics
1

Dining in Santa Fe

One of our lunches in Santa Fe last week was at The Rooftop Pizzeria and Lounge, which is located at the Old Town Plaza. It was absolutely delicious and not too pricey. They have, by far, the best vegetarian pizza I have ever had in my life (and I am not a vegetarian by any means). Our table split the vegetarian pizza and the braised duck breast/mushroom pizza. Both were fantastic. It was a very enjoyable meal in a very airy, bright, comfortable, and cheery dining room.

The Blue Corn Cafe is also a good spot for a casual, mid-priced meal. All the food we had was pretty tasty, and it’s typical New Mexican food that is done very, very well.

Jun 15, 2012
rokzane in Southwest

Santa Fe: Comments on Coyote Cafe and Tabla de los Santos, please

I had dinner at Coyote Cafe last week and was deeply disappointed in it. It is no longer Mark Miller’s vision and reality. If the new owners are going to completely change the concept, then they need to rename it, because now, it is nothing like what it was in it’s hay day. There were no moles on the menu, no braised pork dishes from Mexico, no tamales, no inspired twists on New Mexico cuisine. It was all run of the mill fine dining dishes, none of it spectacular, with too much seafood on the menu, and overblown prices. I will forever mourn for the Coyote Cafe that I new in my early twenties... :( Thank God for Mark Miller’s excellent Coyote Cafe cookbook so that I can recreate the dishes that I broke my foodie tooth on.

Jun 15, 2012
rokzane in Southwest

New Mexico Ice Cream?

My husband and I were in ABQ last week for vacation, and we stumbled across this wonderful Paletaria on the far east side of Nob Hill. I can’t remember the name of it (Paletaria de “something”) but it’s off Central near Zuni.

Our party of 4 had loads of fun sipping on aquas frescas and gobbling up a variety of house made ice creams and paletas.

Jun 15, 2012
rokzane in Southwest

Does anyone actually put stuffing inside the turkey anymore?

The problem with stuffing a smaller bird (I don’t cook birds over 12 lbs, as the breast meat always overcooks by the time the dark meat is done) is that there is never enough stuffing!!!

So I pack the stuffing into cheesecloth and let it cook in the bird for the first 90 minutes or so, so it has time to soak up all those lovely juices. I also cook the bird upside down for the first half of cooking, barded with salt pork--which the makes the stuffing, and the bird, 10x better!

I pull the stuffing out after the first 90 minutes, let it rest until the turkey is done, then mix it with the rest of my stuffing, and finish it in the oven in a baking dish while the turkey is resting. This ensures that there is enough yummy tasting stuffing for everyone. :)

Nov 24, 2011
rokzane in Home Cooking

Is "Greek" yogurt special?

Fage uses a special bacterial culture for their yoghurt that gives it a distinctive taste and a very creamy texture that’s very different from most other brands of “Greek” yoghurt, especially American brands.

Cook’s Illustrated did a taste testing of Greek-Style yoghurts a few months ago and Fage rated second to Stonyfield Farms (which uses the same type of culture that Fage uses). The losers were The Greek Gods (which I think is bad--very watery and really sour) and Yoplait. Yoplait doesn’t actually strain their yoghurt at all, they add stabilizers and thickeners, which to me just gives the yoghurt a gummy kinda mouth feel.

Sep 05, 2011
rokzane in General Topics

The, Um, Breast Milk in the Fridge

I’m not a mother and have chosen not to have kids for a variety of reasons, but I truly support working mothers who desire to exclusively breastfeed (1: it’s the best food for baby, formula doesn’t compare; 2: formula is expensive and isn’t very economical even for working parents; 3: formula is a processed food and is at risk for adulteration--I wouldn’t take that risk!).

In the state of Colorado, you’re allowed one 15 minute paid break after 4 hours of work. If you work eight hours, you’re allowed one 30 minute unpaid break and two 10 minute paid breaks. Most breastfeeding moms I know take about 15-20 minutes to pump, and they pump once at mid-morning, during their lunch break, and right before they go home. They are not pumping every hour, that’s not needed for most nursing women and is really a silly assumption. Their mid-morning pump break is also not a paid break. They clock-out for it, and some employers allow them to roll their two 10 minute paid breaks together for pumping. One friend of mine that is nursing right now is a salaried office manager. She doesn’t have a set work schedule so can fit pumping in wherever it’s convenient. As long as she gets her work done, management doesn’t care how many times she needs to pump. If she’s being productive and meeting the company’s goals, why should they care? Why would anyone care? She’s not being paid by the hour. This idea that nursing women are “milking” the clock is ridiculous and not fair to them at all.

To those child haters I’ve seen in the comments: Wow, bitter much? No matter how much it might stick in your craw, the family is the foundation for any stable society. Children are every nation’s and everyone’s future. Without children and the family units that rear them, we might as well just call it a day. We wouldn’t have a population to pass the flag to, so to speak. The fact that more and more families are deciding to have less children, or to have no children at all, makes it even more important that we give our future generations the best start that they can get (they are going to have to deal with a lot more challenges than our previous generations), and that foundation starts with breastfeeding and the social and emotional support nursing mothers need.

Both white collar and blue collar moms can nurse on equal terms. I work in a blue collar profession (baking and pastry), and the nursing moms I work with (as I outlined above) have no problem fitting in their pumping with their mandatory breaks. They even *gasp* eat their lunch and pump at the same time! If you can carry a cooler with you and have access to a sink, you can pump. It’s not that difficult. All of the nursing moms that I work with are determined to be successful at their jobs while nursing at the same time. They do this very well. They work hard and efficiently at their jobs, completing all the work they have to do in the times they are scheduled to work. My hat is off to them! Being a working mom is not easy by any means.

Also, the FMLA does not allow for 6 months of maternity leave. It’s 12 weeks only, and many women only take 6-9 weeks because they can’t afford to take 12 weeks or their employers pressure them to come back to work sooner.

I really don’t get the dissenters and the child haters. A nursing mother isn’t any of your business, and if she is getting all of her work done and being productive during the day, why would you care if she is breastfeeding and pumping at work? Again: None. Of. Your. Business.
I do agree that standards of politeness need to be observed. The women I work with don’t leave their pumps out for others to see and work around, and they put their breast milk in personal coolers or in the fridge in a discreet lunch bag, and nobody takes any notice. We have a small part of the break room screened off for them to pump in private, for which they are grateful.

Sep 05, 2011
rokzane in Features

WHY WHY WHY Did My Corned Beef Come Out So TOUGH?!

Pressure cooking is the BOMB. Fine Cooking magazine did a feature on pressure cooking recently that completely sold me on the method. Cooks Illustrated (I think?) also published a recipe for pot roast braised in a pressure cooker that was perfectly tender and incredibly flavorful. It only takes 90 minutes to braise a 3-4 pound chuck roast. Pressure cookers are standard in every Indian household. They make quick work out of making curries w/ tough, cheap cuts of meat. Also, beans only take 15-20 minutes to cook in the PC. A pressure cooker is worth having around!

Mar 16, 2011
rokzane in Home Cooking

What's a Little Water Waste Between Friends

Just walk over and shut off the water when she leaves it running. When she asks why, just tell her, “Money doesn’t grow on trees, and water doesn’t spontaneously renew itself.” Both of you end up paying for it, one way or another. She’ll get the point.

Mar 16, 2011
rokzane in Features

Chefs Are Masochists, Culinary School Is a Scam

Well, jeez. I’m glad I’m a pastry chef and baker! :-D That’s what I trained for. Got a culinary degree for the bread and pastry training; then completed a 6 month paid apprenticeship. I have zero desire to work behind a line. I bake, and I love it. It’s just me, the radio, and my nightly production sheet. Sure, I work graveyard (10pm-7am), but I’ve done it for nearly 9 years now, and I still love it. I am naturally anti-social, so this career path fits me just fine. I don’t make great money, but I make decent pay, and it could be a lot worse. I am making plans now to open my own bakery-cafe in 5-7 years. I don’t want anything fancy--simple and small suits me fine. I will say that the work is physically tiring and can sometimes be hard to deal with it, but the payoff, for me, is well worth it. I’ve worked in the restaurant industry since I was 16 (almost 17 years now), and have never really wanted to do anything else. Once your infected w/ the restaurant bug, it never really goes away. ;-D

I do not recommend going to any big, fancy culinary school w/ a huge price tag. Most large cities have at least one community college w/ a culinary program--for only a fraction of the price! Paid apprenticeships through the American Culinary Federation are also possible.

Mar 08, 2011
rokzane in Features

Why is White Cornmeal a Southern Thing?

I buy Hodgson Mill whole grain, stone ground, yellow corn meal for cornbread. I use no other flours--just pure cornmeal. It’s just cornmeal, eggs, buttermilk, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Baked in a very hot oven in a hot cast-iron skillet, sometimes with bacon grease if I’ve got some around. The corn flavor is divine! I grew up in the Mid-west, where sweetened cornbread is king, but I prefer the unsweetened version.

Feb 09, 2011
rokzane in General Topics

Cornmeal, Grits, Polenta, Masa: What's the difference?

You don’t need to use lye to treat corn posole. Most processors today use calcium hydroxide, also known as pickling lime. Using pickling lime makes it easy and very safe to treat corn posole at home. I love red corn posole, but you can’t buy it treated, so I’ll often buy it bulk and treat it myself. Treated, it can be frozen for a long time. You can also make your own masa dough for tortillas by grinding the treated corn in a meat grinder first, and then finishing it a food processor.

Feb 09, 2011
rokzane in General Topics

What do you eat for Vegetarian Thanksgiving? And why does media always make it look so unpleasant and overly healthy looking?

Since Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrating the Fall Harvest as well as family blessings, an Autumn inspired menu I feel is appropriate:

Curried Pumpkin Soup

Fall Harvest Salad w/ roasted baby golden beats, roasted strips of acorn squash, fresh pear, candied pecans, stilton, fresh cranberry vinaigrette. (minus the stilton for non-dairy vegetarians)

Stuffed butternut squash w/ Autumn rice pilaf

Braised greens w/ dried dark cherries, pecans, finished w/ balsamic reduction

If the vegetarian guests do not eat eggs, I would make stuffed baked apples wrapped in puff pastry instead of pumpkin pie. If butter is out of the question, then an apple-cranberry bake w/ maple syrup would be lovely for dessert.

I have many vegetarian Thanksgiving meals that were dull and uninspiring for a such a food-focused holiday.

Nov 25, 2010
rokzane in General Topics

Where to buy Chestnuts in Boulder, not in a jar please

I always see them at Whole Foods here in Denver from early November through January. I’m sure the Boulder store will also have them.

Oct 11, 2010
rokzane in Mountain States

If you could only buy one healthy cookbook...?

I really love Mollie Katzen’s books, especially _Vegetable Heaven_. All the recipes are easy and pretty unfussy, and the flavor combinations are unique and satisfying. I’ve been using her books for years (Vegetable Heaven came out circa 1996). I can’t get enough of the Tomato-Fennel Soup and the Cuban Black Beans w/ Mango.

Sep 29, 2010
rokzane in Home Cooking

Oranges: California vs. Florida

I'm a big lover of Florida citrus. When I lived in Indiana, we got Florida citrus. I live in Colorado now, and the only good citrus I can find are honey tangerines from Florida and Texas Rio Star grapefruit. The navel oranges we get here from California are really sad--dry, and sour, and they don't ever seem to ripen up. My favorites from Florida are Honeybells, which only have a 4-6 week season beginning in January, and the super juicy and sweet Red Flame grapefruit. Florida Valencias are amazing as well.

Nov 15, 2009
rokzane in General Topics

Colorado Wine Fest questions

Husband and I are big, big fans of Colorado wine, but we don't go to Wine Fest for 3 reasons: crowds, traffic, and accommodations are too expensive for that weekend. We go to Palisade/Grand Junction at least once a year to specifically visit our favorite wineries, taste a lot of wine, and to buy a lot of wine (last year we bought about $600 worth of wine). We like to go right before Wine Fest, when the best bottlings are just being released and are still in stock! Also if you go in late August through early October you can see the grape harvest underway.

Our favorite producers:

1. Garfield Estates. Their wine maker is from Germany and is well known for his Alsacation style wines. I'll never forget his limited edition dry Muscat Blanc that we were lucky to score a bottle of in 2007.

2. Canyon Wind Winery; and 3. Debeque Canyon Winery are situated in the same land area right at the opening of Debeque Canyon. These wines are of the same quality as Rhone Valley wines. Their vineyards experience hot, dry windswept days and cool nights. The wines are jammy and rich in the mouth. Their Cabernet Francs and Merlots are my favorites, but they also produce lovely Roses. I also love Debeque Canyon's Chardonney: rich and buttery without being overly oaky. Canyon Wind has also recently started to produce Tempranillo, which I was very, very please with (and disappointed that they only had 1 bottle left when I was there in 2008!).

3. Grand River Vineyards. Big, bold, luscious reds are their speciality. Their Meritage is definitely worth $25 a bottle! These reds are worthy of aging.

4. Mesa Grande Vineyards. For seven years this family grew grapes and sold juice to other area wineries. Then they decided to produce their own wines. They produce Cabernet Franc and Merlot only, but, OH, are they lovely! Word in the air though is that the winery and land is currently up for sale. The owners want to retire and move to Florida, and their son, who is also the incredible wine maker, so far hasn't managed to raise the funds to buy the business. So sad really.

5. Reeder Mesa Vineyards. Perched high a top Reeder Mesa, this vineyard grows and bottles Riesling grapes exclusively, but also buys local juice to produce some very lovely and refreshing Roses. My husband is extremely fond of these wines. They are great summer, sipping wines.

6. Carlson Vineyards. These guys produce fine, fun wines with Colorado character. Many wine snobs turn their noses up at sweet reds, but Carlson Vineyards' Sweet Baby Red is a big, happy surprise in a glass. It's a slightly, sweet red that is served lightly chilled and has a serious depth of flavor that is largely not seen in American sweet reds. This is a good wine to go with BBQ and lightly spiced dishes. I am also quite fond of their Cherry wine. God is this good! Slightly dry, with a big, round cherry flavor, I love it with chocolate desserts. Husband loves their Laughing Cat Riesling.

This is just the tip of the iceburg with Colorado Wines. These wineries I just described lie in the Grande Valley AVA, and I haven't even talked about any of the wineries in the West Elks AVA, which we haven't visited as extensively as the Grande Valley wineries (something we hope to remedy next summer). Colorado is quickly becoming know as a premium wine region, and I hope this continues! It's very exciting to see and experience what's going on in Colorado wine country.

Sep 23, 2009
rokzane in Mountain States

Cake Always Falls

I know this post is 2 months old. However, I highly recommend the book "Pie in the Sky" by Susan Purdy. Purdy spent months testing and reformulating a slew of baking recipes at different altitudes (up to 10,000 ft). From her experiences, the advice and knowledge she conveys is far different than the standard high-altitude baking advice you get from County Extension Offices. I live at 5200 ft, and I find her book to be invaluable to my baking. All the knowledge and experience I have gained from that book I have been able to use on other recipes. I am able to look at a recipe and know almost immediately what changes I need to make to the recipe. This is invaluable to me as I bake professionally.

You can't bake at 7200 feet the same way you bake at sea level. For every 1000 feet you rise in elevation, changes have to made to baking formulas. Otherwise at worse your cake will completely fall and fail to set, or at best, it will be dry and crumbly and coarse in texture.

Apr 12, 2009
rokzane in Home Cooking

The best marshmallows of all time - and marshmallow fluff?

This really depends on what kind of marshmallow you want.

Recipes made with egg whites will be fluffier and sweeter, with an almost melt in the mouth lightness. I personally think this style is better suited to marshmallow fluffy rather than marshmallows.

The types with no egg whites, but rely on gelatin for structure are going to be denser and chewy rather than fluffy.

Laura's Marshmallows are the no-egg white style, and they are dense and chewy and are not overly sweet. I happen to like them a lot myself, but it is easy to get a not-so-good box of them (the plastic wrapping easily tears, causing them to dry out around the edges--wish they would find another way to package them.)

I have seen recipes that vary the amount of sugar used as well. The only way to find out what type you like is to try several different recipes. Some recipes are fluffy and sweet, some are fluffy and not so sweet. Others are denser, chewy, and sweet; others are not.

Personally, I prefer dense and chewy marshmallows, especially in hot chocolate because they don't melt as fast.

Apr 12, 2009
rokzane in Home Cooking

Question on cooking broccoli

You don't need to pre-blanch or pre-cook broccoli to saute it. The only reason for the pre-blanching is to preserve it's bright green color--which is the desired outcome in a professional kitchen. I love stir-fried broccoli, which is really a hot saute, with curry spices. I never pre-cook the broccoli first.

Broccoli cooked until it turns into an olive-drab mush? That's gross--both in looks and flavor. Broccoli cooked with good technique should be deep green, tender to the bite with just a bit of crunch. Florets should be in tact, not mushy.

Apr 12, 2009
rokzane in Home Cooking

Question on cooking broccoli

Any cooking method other than boiling is fine, just as long as you don't overcook the vegetable. An overcooked vegetable is a dead vegetable. You should also be eating a good variety of raw and cooked vegetables, as any type of cooking will destroy compounds that are heat sensitive. I personally don't like microwaving fresh vegetables as it is very easy to overcook them in a microwave. You have to have a microwave with variable power settings to cook veggies well, and my microwave has only one power setting: ultra-high!

I prefer a quick steam on the stove or a fast, hot stir-fry.

Apr 12, 2009
rokzane in Home Cooking

Problem cooking with cast iron skillet

I have had this same problem with cooking pancakes on the stove, no matter what pan I use. I resorted to getting a good electric griddle, which I use for pancakes, french toast, tortillas, and flat breads. Works much better than the stove, and since I have a larger surface area to cook on, I can make more pancakes and french toast in one shot than in a pan.

Apr 12, 2009
rokzane in Home Cooking

Favorite Quick Breads

I love Irish Soda Breads, and there are so many variations you never get bored with them. My favorite that I love to serve with hearty soups and braised dishes is just a tad sweet and has currents and caraway seeds in it with a generous dash of salt. It's a great balance of sweet and savory.

Cooks Illustrated, in their Best Recipes of 2009 magazine, has a Beer & Chedder quick bread loaf. It is very very tasty and easy to make. I can see that as a very versatile savory loaf. It would be great with eggs, soups, stews, braises, and cheese boards. I made this for the tea shop I work at. We toasted slices, spread them with a light herbed, cream cheese spread and then topped them with a soft poached egg. Served with a small green salad, it made an amazing light lunch.

Apr 12, 2009
rokzane in Home Cooking

Need help with my ham!

oh, I also tack on about an extra half hour to the baking time, just in case the weight is off a bit or my oven is heating a little cooler than normal...

Apr 12, 2009
rokzane in Home Cooking

Need help with my ham!

I've got a bone-in spiral sliced Cook's Ham and it says 275 degrees and 10 minutes for every pound--so mine will take about 3 hours to heat to 140 degrees.

I just put mine in a roasting pan and cover tightly with foil. Heat for 2 1/2 hours, remove, and smear my glaze on. Leave the foil off for the last 30-40 minutes of cooking.

The center of the ham should be 140 at serving

Apr 12, 2009
rokzane in Home Cooking

Surprise! I'm at Your Door

I assure you, Viperlush, I am not friendship deprived, but all of my friends and family are courteous and respectful of each others' personal time. It takes 5 seconds to call someone to see if they have some free time for a visit. I often call up girl friends a day or a few hours in advance to invite them over for tea or a light lunch. If I have at least a few hours to prepare for a visit, I feel much calmer and more open with my friends, and I can enjoy their company more. I am also very greedy about time with my husband, and I don't appreciate unexpected guests barging in on our time together.

Jan 14, 2009
rokzane in Features

Surprise! I'm at Your Door

For the record, even Miss Manners asserts that it's rude to drop in on someone unannounced. I consider her a better authority on good manners and courtesy than Helena Echlin ever will be.

Jan 14, 2009
rokzane in Features