There is no such thing as too much on a burger!

I’m sitting here about 3 hours ago, my sister in law and her husband came by with some Mongolian bbq for my wife and I. It was fabulous!!
The only down side is that I’m hungry again.
I saw an ad for a burger that was weak. By that I mean with all the crazy burgers that are available out there, why would you promote a burger with the stuff on it that you get from the backyard bbq at your parents house?
I got into the food business by going to a culinary school. But I smoked too much pot in those days and I couldn’t afford to sit in a classroom and still have the life I liked. I wanted to be a chef but I didn’t agree with the instructors and I liked pot.
My first cook job then was with this guy who owned a fish and chips joint in San Bernardino. What a great guy he was. He taught me how to fry fish at a high rate of speed and have a great time doing it.
From there, I went on to work for several burger joints and coffee shops working my way to the place that I could keep up with the heavy hitters.
The most fun I had then and even in the country club/hotel scene was making gluttonous burgers. On my break as a cook, I could eat anything I want as long as it wasn’t real expensive.
I made these burgers with everything like pulled pork, Cole slaw, fried eggs, extra cheese, French fries, tortilla chips, salsa, jalapeños, refried beans, etc. I loved it and since I was skinny as a rail, I didn’t care what I ate as long as it tasted good.
I’ve had friends tell me what kind of burgers they were used to eating. At one of the clubs I was at, we had a special burger that was on the menu for the entire week. Some of the members ordered the additions described above and added fried chicken, nachos and more.
You know, I’ve worked in some really stressful kitchens and in order to lessen the stress, we would talk crap and tease each other but when we cooked for us, we ate some of the most greasy, heart attack producing foods that you can imagine. No wonder I have stomach issues today. There was no keto or paleo or Atkins in those days. We pigged out! It was great!! We worked our butts off and played really hard.
This didn’t help my hunger. I’m going to have to go downstairs and make French fries or something.

Have a great day!!

Life isn’t always cherries

On May 10, I had spinal fusion surgery wher the doctor said he was going to fuse 2 vertebrae. I went to the hospital at 5 am, was taken to the pre op room, kissed my wife and told her I love her and they put me under.
I don’t know how many times you’ve had surgery but it pretty much seems the same. For me, I only have a faint memory of the time prior to the surgery. I was told it would be a quick procedure and that I would be in a room by that afternoon. Little did I know that the surgery took 8 hours and that I wouldnt get into a room until 10 pm and that I wouldn’t see my wife until the next day.
I also didn’t realizes the caliber of the procedure and what they actually did until right before I was released from the hospital. They fused 4 vertebrae in separated locations. I will have more movement in the long run though.
Well, I spent that night alone and eventually saw my wife the next day. She was really upset.
So, I spent 4 days in the hospital in the bed and walking around the hallways. They were trying to send me to a nursing home after. I decided that wasn’t a good idea.
When I got home, my wife got me in a spot where I could relax and acclimate. My wife cleaned the wound and took pictures. It looks like Frankenstein.
I’ve been home for 2 days and I’m just realizing what the recovery process is going to entail. It’s all good because just getting out of bed I’m using muscles that I haven’t used for a long time. On the bright side, I’m gaining muscle mass, on the other side, I’m having to deal with pain and getting tired fast because of pain. If I’d have known, I would have prepared for my recovery process better. Maybe I’m slow or a dreamer but this is going to take a while. Oh well. I’ve got time and if I stay out of projection and do it all a day at a time, it’s doable.
I try to walk around the house and sidewalks every couple hours for a short period of time. I’ve gone from using a walker to a crutch and moving toward no assistance. I have friends who had this surgery and they can’t say enough about it.
I figure I’ll write more as the time goes by and describe my recovery process.

Y’all have a great day!

Who likes hospital food?

On Thursday, I had back surgery. I get to stay in the hospital for a few days and then, possibly, a nursing facility. It’s a different game experience for me and the staff here is awesome.
The food on the other hand is hospital food. Since I’m at LomaLinda University Medical center, the food is predominately vegetarian because they are seventh day adventists. The food is as good as can be expected just because it’s hospital food.
They use what’s called cook chill here where the prepare each item in advance and put the food on plates where the hots are in containers and the colds are just on the tray. The tray then gets placed in a cabinet where it’s plugged in. If you’ve ever been in the hospital, you’ll notice that the hot stuff is in a special container.
Okay, enough explaining. I used to be on the cooking staff of the Veterans Home in Yountville, CA. We cooked 4500 meals a day. Some were what’s called modified mechanicals for specific diets and eating ability. Others were regular and served from the buffet in the main dining room. It was a lot of fun. We had a meat tank that held 1000lbs of meat cooked in a controlled environment. The meats were bagged, seasoned and tagged with the production date on it then put in the tank. The water coming in was hot and when the probe got to 140 degrees, it automatically drained and filled with cold water. We would unload the meat into boxes that went into a giant walk-in refrigerator. We also had steam jacketed kettles where we would prepare all sorts of foods including oatmeal, cream of wheat, scrambled eggs, Swiss steak sauce and more. We bagged and tagged these and the went into an ice bath and into the walk-in. We would cook for 10,000 people each day. It was a production plant.
We also had grills and a specialized salad bar in the main dining room. My view of that was those people fought for our freedom, we need to feed them good food. We had grilled yellowtail, steaks, skewers, and all kinds of goodies.
I think the best thing for me was that there were write ups in their paper about yuppie food and actual cuisine being found in the main dining room.
I loved working there but it was a union shop and most of the union people were really lazy. I’m not used to working with that type of mentality.
I thought I would share a little piece of my history with you. I had a great time!

Have a great day and Bon Appetit!

Quick Korean BBQ Sauce

Did somebody say Korean BBQ?
Well, this is and isn’t about that. My point was to introduce the idea that you can copy or create your own sauce, ingredients and preparation so that you can say it’s Korean or Asian in general. All you have to do I toss in some of those baby corn, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, right?
Well, you don’t have to go overboard. I have a mandolin and I make julienne anything to add to a pan with other veggies, pea pods and meat.
You don’t Evan have to go that far. Got any old oranges laying around that the kids are tired of eating? Throw those in. Add some lime juice with zest. Zest the oranges. Add some lemongrass chopped or even 1” sections so you can fish them out when the flavor is infused.
What meat do you have leftover in the fridge? Dice it and use that. Add some scallions, some broccoli, shred some cabbage, run the diakon radish through the mandolin and make strings. They make an awesome garnish. Got shrimp, fish or pork? Throw that in. You don’t need the chow mein ingredients but if you want them, toss them in.
If you want rice, cook it. If not, minced cauliflower mixed with minced garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper tossed and roasted on a sheet pan make a good substitute. You can also use spaghetti squash. Toss it in and oyster sauce, hoisin blend with tamari soy sauce flavors it really well.
Okay, heat a wok or large frying pan with olive and sesame oil in the bottom until it’s hot. Add the veggies and meat. Heat it until a little soft. Put 1/4 tsp of Chinese five spice sprinkled throughout.
The sauce I usually use is starting with a half empty bottle of sweet chile paste, add 1/4-1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tbsp hoisin sauce, 1 tbsp duck sauce, 1 tsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp oyster sauce and juice of 1 lime mixed well. You can get most of the ingredients in your local grocery store. Some of it may have to be purchased at Ann Asian market, but while you’re there, you can browse the various vegetables, spices, meats, sauces and check out the mochi in the refrigerator. It makes a great dessert.
Add this to the stir fried veggies and serve on 4 ounces of cauliflower rice.
It’s a great meal and it’s filling. The kids even like it.
Try it, it’s a relatively inexpensive meal that will dazzle anybody and have them asking for the recipe.

Have a great day and bon appetit!

Eat more burgers!!

When I’m hungry for a burger, I think of what I really want. I usually want a preformed patty that comes in a freezer pack but sometimes I want to start with a patty that I created with anything in it like bleu cheese, dried onions, scallions, garlic, tarragon, steak sauce and much more. A patty that I have created at that very moment to satisfy a craving that can’t be satisfied with anything bought from the store. I don’t know if you have the same dilemma but every once in a while, I need something different.
There is a lot of emphasis on “the perfect burger” lately and I think it’s a little weird since every year; the tv food channels try to outdo what they did the year before. It’s kind of like some of the companies that have new engineers or designers that want to add something to a product that already works where they think it would be much better if it had an alarm or a different basket. Our dishwasher is one of those items that some new designer thought it would be a good idea to put a beeper to let you know when the dishes are ready. For the life of us, we cannot get the thing turned off. Annoying!
We have been modifying burgers for years. In the 70’s we put eggs, pastrami and Cole slaw on them to name a few. These people put French fries on them-that was done years ago-and add bbq sauce. As the years went by, there was always some new restaurant opening up that had a twist on the burger that brought people eout from miles away to try. There’s always something that is getting added to the already perfect meal.
So, now that we can breathe again, the classic burger is a very simple serving of deliciousness. Whether served on a homemade bun or a store bought bun, it’s totally wonderful either way but I prefer the homemade variety. Clean out the extra bread and stuff it with all kinds of goodies on a home made patty stuffed with dried onions, green leaf lettuce, sauerkraut, French fried onions, thick red onion and 1000 island dressing. That will do for tonight. Tomorrow, I may want to stuff it with soy chorizo and go in a different direction. Either way it’s all yum!

Bon appetit and have a great day!!

Bad experiences don’t always have to be bad

Have you ever had a party at your house and you’ve cooked an awesome dish that you know everybody will rave about and at the last minute you find out that it didn’t turn out? Bad experiences don’t always have to be bad. There is hope.

I’ve had that happen a couple of times. Something went completely haywire and it was a disaster. It’s embarrassing and expensive if you have to order out after paying for what your flop.

I personally don’t normally use recipes. Most of the food I prepare is something I’ve seen pictures of in a magazine or saw on a buffet and used the ideas behind what they have in it and modified it; with the exception of baked goods. If you don’t follow the recipe for baked goods, there are serious consequences. I’ve had many of those.

Some of the problem with recipes is that when the person writes it, they are guessing what they put in it or hoping it’s correct. Or in the case of the people from the TV food shows, they have somebody else writing the recipe and it usually doesn’t work. I really wanted a recipe to work that I got off of a TV chef’s website but it didn’t, so I had to improvise. They may or may not have made what is in the recipe before and are putting in ingredients that sound good or are fillers. If I was one of those chefs, I wouldn’t put my name on it unless I tried it and it worked. It’s one thing to have a following but it’s still another to have something happen and you need to make a change and your track record isn’t so good in the recipe department. Then, of course, there is the “okay, I don’t use a recipe. How can I do this and have it turn out good” thing.

I know there are cooks out there that don’t know how to cook and are hoping that what they are trying to cook turns out good. In a lot of cases, it doesn’t, they end up getting crushed and don’t want to try it again. There are cooks who aren’t afraid of making a mistake and cover it up with some kind of sauce.

Then, there are ingredients like salsa or salt. These are the preference of the cook. If you want your dish hot, make it hot. You can always make a cucumber salad to go along with it. Cucumber and cilantro tame the heat in dishes. If you make a salsa and it’s too hot, put more cilantro or cucumber in it and the problem is solved. If you over salt something, you can add potatoes to soak it up or even lemon juice in small quantities.
Lemon juice will actually accent the flavor and make it more pronounced in a sauce.

I’ve read blogs where the writer is a self proclaimed, self taught chef. They come from left field and note that they write recipes where the reader, who may or may not have any cooking experience, may try the dish and hopefully it turns out the way they had hoped for. That’s scary, in my opinion. I wouldn’t want to be a cook who is super excited about preparing something for a party and have it turn out a disaster.

This is one of the reasons I wanted to write a blog about food and what I like and how I like to prepare it. It may sound like I’m tooting my own horn; maybe I am or maybe not. I just hate having people tell me that they got a recipe from a trusted source and it was a lemon.

If there is some dish you want to try out and haven’t a clue how to prepare it, ask me. I am willing to help you all I can. I want you to feel comfortable in your kitchen with preparations that you believe are awesome and others tell you they are! So I’m going to share some of my knowledge so that you truly feel that way.

Have a great day and bon appetit!!!

Are your favorite foods doing you right?

Are your favorite foods doing you right?

I was diagnosed with IBS 20 years ago and since I’ve had a crappy diet for years, it’s gotten out of hand. I’m learning that there are certain foods that set it off and for the most part, I try to avoid them. But sometimes I screw up and I have to pay the price. Most of my problem is that I’m allergic to wheat products and not so much the gluten.

I don’t know if its getting old or that the world is a little more broken than it was or what but things aren’t the same as when I was a kid. I remember when they had white bread that was real and didn’t taste like it was made out of foam rubber and the sheepherder’s bread was not dry like it is today. It also didn’t affect me the way it does today. I have a sneaking suspicion that they add ingredients that aren’t real unless you get it from a reputable source. The mass produced stuff can’t be trusted.

It seems like everything has gluten or wheat in it, including soy sauce. In some respects, it could be very disheartening but to me, it creates an adventure to see if I can make a good product that I can make over and over again and even create variations of. There is no negative today.

My daughter lives in Germany and she says the food there is much different. It’s too bad we can’t have a little bit of what they have in regards to food.

My wife wants me to create a carrot cake that’s gluten free, sugar free and low carb. I don’t know if it’s possible but I’m going to work on it. That kind of thing is sold in the store but we’re back to whether it’s gmo or not.

So, when I create it, I’ll post a recipe so that you can try it in your kitchen too. It’s worth a try.

Have a great day and bon appetite!

It’s loquat season!

It’s the season for loquats! If you’ve never heard of a loquat it’s a little yellow fruit that grows on trees that are indigenous to Southeast China. They have two large brown pits in them and they taste like a cross between an apricot and a guava. They are so good! They also thrive in California.

I first tasted loquats in Vista, CA when my parents bought a piece of land on top of a hill. The driveway had a loquat tree growing on it and I tried one and I was hooked. Over the years, I have pillaged various trees in Southern California and Northern California. From what I have read, they aren’t supposed to grow in Northern California. Go figure, neither are avocados but we had one of those trees.
Well, back to my original story.

My wife and I have a loquat tree in my front yard and every year I have attempted to make jam out of the fruit. I have created sauces that had various degrees of thickness but never a jam, until this year. This year, I used my know how from last year’s vast fruit canning and jam making. I cooked it longer and I added a little more pectin. I came out so thick this year! Success!!!

As with every year, I make one batch so that the non-spice eaters will not be irritated but I make one batch with spice, flavor and color that adds to the fruit experience and burns you a little on the way in and the way out. What fun is spice unless it gets you a little bit? I always make sure the spicy one has super flavor. That’s a must.

I found a jar of caramel from last year where we took the reduction of the peels along with some overflow of juice along with sugar cooked down to form a caramel. It’s not sweet but it works for an addition to something else. As confusing as it might sound, it’s the nectar that made this year’s jam a little richer. Yes, the caramel was good. I tasted it to make sure.

So, when the Jr Women’s Club have their jam competition, I’m ready. I have a jar of peach jam, a jar of apricot jam and a jar of loquat jam. I’m hoping to win all the classes. I entered the loquat last year but it was a thickened sauce that had great flavor but no body.
I shared a jar with a lady at my church that is a good critic. I want to see what she has to say about it.
There are still more loquats on the tree so tomorrow I’m going to get a ladder and go after more. I will continue on with my jam experimentation.

I’ll post a recipe as best as I can remember. The peripherals with the sugar, fruit and pectin will be the same but the additions of spice will be hard to judge since I just pour and taste to get it the way I want. I’ll try my best.

Y’all have a great day and bon appetite!

Lamb to die for!

I hope you’re all having a wonderful day!
I made braised lamb as a request for a Passover dinner. I cooked it as close to Kosher as I could without being a rabbi. The rabbi blessed it later.
Since the dinner was for 20 people, I got 6 ounces of lamb per person so that everybody could have at least 4-ounce portion. I always do that because you never know how much they’re going to eat. I have made the mistake of not having enough and having to substitute something else can be embarrassing.
The day before cooking the lamb, I made blonde French onion soup. I used that to braise the lamb. A blonde French onion soup is made with chicken stock and not beef stock. I believe it has more flavor but some don’t; to each his own.
I pulled out my crockpot and got it ready..
I bought boneless lamb roast and took the netting off, washed it and marked it on the barbeque. I do this to give it a little more rustic flavor and to seal the juices in.
I grow most of my own herbs, so I picked some rosemary sprigs to go in the bottom of the crockpot. They will give it a nice flavor and add to the French onion soup.
I cut the lamb into large pieces that make it easier for people to put on their plates. When it’s in big pieces, it’s more of a fight to get the right size piece and then you have the splash factor. This makes it much easier to deal with.
I also did a port wine reduction to highlight the flavor of the meat. A port wine reduction means that I cooked the wine separately in another pan so that I could cook all the alcohol out of it. Some people don’t like alcohol in their food especially when they have children eating it. The separate reduction insures that the alcohol is cooked out. When an alcoholic beverage is added to an existing sauce, the alcohol doesn’t cook out. A lot of the time when reducing wine, I like to add onions and garlic. They absorb the flavor of the wine while allowing the alcohol to reduce. It also flavors the whole mix so that you get the sweet and the tart in one. It also adds to removing the gaminess from the meat.
I loaded the lamb and a good majority of the soup into the crockpot with the rosemary on the bottom and topped it off with the wine reduction.
I set it to high and cooked it for 5 hours and then I reduced to low. I wanted to make sure it’s palatable and not gristly. I hate it when I get a plate of meat and it’s tough and chewy.
It came out really nice and if I had wanted, I could remove the onions and have a lamb flavored French onion soup. It’s another option.
I could have added more lamb in case there were more people but I didn’t. In a pinch, I have a tabletop pressure cooker so it can be cooked in less than an hour. These are pretty nifty to have since they are so convenient and they’re not like the ones we used to have years ago where it had to go on the stove and it had to be just so. I have a whole other story about cooking with tabletop pressure cookers.
We took the lamb in the crockpot to the house where they were having the dinner and only a few people showed up. Everybody loved it and most of them got to take some home. We got to take some of what they cooked home too. I like those kinds of gatherings. We get to hang out with friends, eat some good stuff and have some later when we get hungry again.

Blonde French Onion Soup
4 lbs onions, peeled and sliced
1-1/2 gallons of water
1 cup sherry, not cooking sherry
1 cup brandy
Chicken base. I add enough to season it without making it salty (trial and error) if it gets too salty, add the juice of 1 lemon
3 tbs Butter
Corn starch slurry (3 tbs corn starch to 1 cup water mixed)

Heat a large pot, add onions. Cook until opaque stirring constantly so they don’t burn.
When the onions are opaque, add the sherry and the brandy. Reduce to cook out the alcohol.
Add water and reduce 1/3.
Add the butter and the chicken base.
Cook a few minutes

**When cooking this soup to eat, add the cornstarch slurry.
This will make it a little thicker. I like thicker soups.
**If you are using this soup as an additive to meats, don’t slurry it. It will get too thick in the crockpot or whatever you’re cooking it in.

For service as soup, put a toasted baguette about an inch thick in the bottom of a bowl or cup, add the soup and place a slice of swiss or other tart cheese on top. Melt it in the oven and serve. It’s a great appetizer or addition to whatever you’re serving.
Bon Appetit!

Have a great day and happy cooking!!

I just love spring!

For some of us, spring is here. That means there are new fruits and vegetables available at the store and the farmer’s markets. Although some of you live in the east and it is still snowy but spring is still here and in a short time, summer will be here along with corn and peaches.
I love it when the new fruits and vegetables arrive in the stores from the local farms. The stuff that comes from other countries doesn’t trip my trigger like the local stuff.
I remember when I was a kid and it was difficult to get oranges at Christmastime and how excited I would get when the strawberries became ripe in May. It was a whole different food world. We would go to the store and I would get to taste the fresh, ripe fruits. It was awesome!
I grew up in China Lake, CA in the middle of the Mojave Desert. We had two seasons, hot and cold. Although when the wildflowers bloomed in the spring, and they were beautiful. There were a lot of people there who grew all kinds of fruits. We had peaches, apricots, plums, mulberries, nectarines and apples to choose from. My friends and I knew which houses had the best fruit and we would ask to pick some. I climbed fruited mulberry trees and would eat the berries until I got a stomach ache. It was a good time and I think it was the best place to grow up anywhere.
When I was in high school, I needed an elective and I chose home economics because there were girls in the class. Little did I know that it would be the precursor for my career. The teacher’s name was Mrs Novascone. I really liked the class and she told me that I might have a chance of getting into the culinary field if I played my cards right. She showed me who the world’s greatest chef at the time was. I was enthralled and wanted to know more. I had previously decided I wanted to be a marine biologist but after her class, I decided I wanted to be a chef. The rest is history.
Today, when this time of the year comes about, I remember those days and go out and find some of the fruits that I had when I was a kid. There is a fruited mulberry tree on the golf course where I play and some of the other golfers get upset that my cart sits on the fairway with me in the tree eating the fruit. Some things never change.
I have expanded my fruit and vegetable tastes to exotic stuff like dragon fruit, passion fruit and a whole lot more. I love Asian cuisine and rustic American cuisine. I like cruising the markets here looking for ingredients that I can add to my menu. It’s so exciting.
I started this entry to share how much I like the seasons coming up but it turned into a little reflection of where I came from and what I used to love to do. Don’t get me wrong, I played baseball, swam and hung out with my friends but the fruit trees were something I looked forward to every year.
Have yourself a great weekend and have some adventure in whatever you’re creating!

The Good Stuff