Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pizza - Diet Pizza 2... Salmon White Pizza with Peppers & Onions

First, the diet update... 

We are in the home stretch... 15 days of the "17 Day Diet " and all is well.  In fact, after three days of static (and even one day of actual weight gain),  powered through the small plateau.  Today I am at 17 pounds loss in the 15 days of the diet.  Baring any more weight fluctuations, I will end the little experiment with at least a pound a day gone..  So, 2 days to go, I feel like I could do this in my sleep.

OK, I am going to repeat my mantra...

This is a quick fix to a lifestyle.  A pound a day weight loss has NOTHING to do with true permanent weight lose.  Jackie and I started this with the sole intention of getting into the pants that make our butts look good in time for a wedding.  True weight loss comes from a combination of a consistent lifestyle change of eating properly and making changes in the amount of calories burned (dare I say an exercise program).  ANYTHING else is just a quick fix at best and more likely, a band-aid over a cancer.  If I want people to be able to continue to see a good looking butt, I have to think about the decisions I make every day.

But at least for today...

Whoo Whoo - My butt looks good in my pants!!!

Just a fast overview of the diet... Unlimited food!  Eat all you want.  Trick is that you have a list of 2 or 3 dozen foods that are allowed.  Everything else is forbidden.  The first 17 days is meant to be a cleansing of sugars, fats and carbohydrates.  So, no bread, no sugary desserts, no red meat, no cheese... No bacon!.  

BUT, chicken, fish, some fruits, most vegetables, seasonings, condiments in moderation are all allowed.  Eat all you want.  So, for the most part, I have never been hungry a single day on the diet.  I was told to eat the amounts I wanted, and I did.

I also thought long and hard about how to arrange the possible combinations to create a dish within the limitations.  Kind of like a 17 day episode of CHOPPED from the Food Network.  Here's a box of ingredients, now go wow the judges...

A couple of packages of Salmon
3 Eggs 
a Vadallia Onion 
2 TBS of my "Not your Grandmother's Herbes de Provence" Mediterranean Herbs mixture.  

Some of you might see a salmon Frittata.  I see a pizza crust!

When I opened the packages of salmon, I was not pleased with the look of the fish.  Just too white.  I had a vision in my head of what I wanted, so I added a TBS of Smoked Paprika to the mix.  This way, I would get a bit darker of a "crust".  When making a faux pizza, always best to keep the look as close to authentic as possible.  Including color.

And OK... There are a few tricks you need to know to take the salmon mixture and create a pizza crust (given the limitations of the diet)...

PIZZA STONE.  It's a must.  Preheat the oven AND stone to 500 degrees.  You want the stone to cook the entire crust to firm.  If you use an unheated cookie sheet, the center will not be evenly cooked (gooey, liquid eggy texture compared to the more firm edge.

I spread the mixture on a sheet of parchment paper.  Makes it SOOO much easier to move from prep area to pizza stone (a pizza peel is now a must for me, again, makes it SOOO easy).

Next is to pre-cook that crust before you add sauce and toppings...

500 degree for 12 minutes.

Sorry, I didn't take a shot of the crust without the sauce and toppings, but this close up gives you an idea... Slightly crisp looking to make that pizza crust look.

OK, the crust is the hardest part of making a faux, diet, carbohydrate free pizza.  But, sauce and toppings equally need to be considered.  Especially picking items that compliment your crust.  Again, no cheese, so the sauce needs work.

I selected a white sauce, again, once that look and taste is decided, the ingredients are easy.  Just heat 6 ounces of fat free Greek Yogurt (my NEW favorite ingredient... tastes like cream cheese, but fat free and filled with flavors).  I added 8 Garlic cloves, finely minced and stirred over medium heat until warm (warning, do not let this get too warm, it will separate).

As to toppings, I just can not get enough of those Vidallia onions.  I cut one into large quarter size chunks and started sauteeing.  I added some small Sweet Peppers, cut into rings with just a TBS of Olive Oil.  Mixed them until they were warm as well.

Spread the warm suace, add the warm peppers and onions on the cooked crust.

Return to the oven, still at 500 degrees and cook fro an additional 10 minutes...

If it looks like a duck (pizza), and It quacks like a duck (has a crust, sauce and toppings)... It must be a just ducky PIZZA!

And it does taste amazing!  Garlicky, lots of veggies, the sauce shines and the eggy crust is perfect!

Monday, May 9, 2011

I lost 15 Pounds in 14 Days - Dessert

For those of you keeping track...

Yes, yesterday I was at 16 pounds, today I dropped back (dropped UP???) a pound.  I can honestly say I have not had a single morsel of food not on the "17 Day Diet ".  I feel like those players on the Biggest Loser where they have no real explanation.  I stared at the scale for hours (well, 10 seconds anyway), expecting it to make that click down to at least even with where my loss was yesterday.

But, it's not and it is such a small number (in fact, it is just a number) that I am not going to be upset about it.  Just natural fluctuations in my body.  Listen, better than a pound a day loss during the first 2 weeks is much better than I anticipated going in.  No complaints, energy and optimism is still way up.

Also, it is a reminder that any fad diet is NOT ever going to be a way of life for me.  If you read over the book that was written for "17 Day Diet ", you will see a lifestyle potential for the diet.  Ways to deal with long term loss, and I honestly feel that if a morbidly obese person were willing to take the diet to heart, it is a very valid tool.  

I have shown a few recipes for main dishes, full meals.  Lots of vegetables (asparagus is in season right now, so I use a lot of that).  Chicken and fish abound!!!

But man does not live on chicken, fish, vegetables and fruit alone.


days you want a little snack, or to top a day off with a dessert...

So good, so fast, so easy...

Slice some strawberries and top with either flavored non (or low) fat yogurt (Strawberries and that Boston Cream Pie flavored yogurt is amazing).

In this case, half a container of low fat Greek yogurt, mixed with a squirt (probably a heaping TBS) of honey and you have your sweet tooth satisfied.

It's no chocolate chip cookie, but it is very tasty and satisfying.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Lost 16 Pounds in 13 Days - Onions and Peppers with Steamed Flounder

If you are paying attention, I plateaued.  

Thirteen Miserable Days...

You know the story by now, Jackie and I are trying to quick fix a lifestyle by jumping on the "17 Day Diet ".  

It's to be expected, this ain't my first rodeo.  Dieted before, and I know that my body suddenly woke up and realized... "This is all I get????".  So, with almost 2 weeks down, on my first 17 day cycle, time to have a little introspection.

2 belt loop notches down.  That's how I really want to measure, not the nearly insignificant number on the scale, but how well my pants fit.  I am indeed in the jeans that make my butt look good (with the jeans that make my butt look great almost fitting (they do fit if I don't need to sit down).

Honestly, the first few days of the diet, I was weak.  What was a breeze the week before (I walk for exercise) was a serious effort to continue at the same pace and distance I had built up.  I was not sleeping well and I was not pleased.  But, the other side of my body using calories more efficiently (polite way of saying the weight is going to come off slower), my body is used to getting done what it needs to get done on the food I eat.  So, my 5 mile walk to the store and back in the mornings is now as easy as it was pre-diet.

And another new joy I have found is a return to simple cooking.  On more than one occasion a week (OK, usually on more than one occasion a day), I cook for my blog.  Meaning adding ingredients, techniques and difficulties just to make it look good on the blog.  Be honest, we all do it.

But within the limitations of the diet, the selected foods that you can eat unlimited amounts of, there are not as many opportunities for glamorous complicated cooking.

So, here;s my simple...

Raw tomato, sauteed peppers and onions and steamed flounder...

No trick... The tomatoes are seasoned with my low salt substitute, "Sodom and Gomorrah" Garlic/ Sesame Seed/ Sea Salt  mix.

The onions are first sweated in a saute pan with the lid on set over low medium heat for about 10 minutes.  You will end up with about 1/2 a cup of liquid in the pan.  Add the sliced sweet peppers, mix for just a single minute (so the peppers still have a bit of a snap when served).

the flounder is so thin that it is a simple matter of resting the fillets on top of the onions and peppers for 3 minutes per side.  The steam from the cooking onions and peppers cooks the flounder to fork tender.

I seasoned with salt, pepper and a little sweet paprika.

And one more tip is to make the plate look pretty and filled.  Time to play mind games on your body!

Dieting... it ain't so bad!


Friday, May 6, 2011

I Lost 16 Pounds in 11 Days - Turkey Vegetable Soup

Eleven Miserable Days...

You know the story by now, Jackie and I are trying to quick fix a lifestyle by jumping on the "17 Day Diet".  Whatever you want to say about fad diets, this one does have a few advantages.  First, you should never go hungry.  The Cliff Notes version of the diet is the list of foods that you can eat unlimited amounts.  Most vegetables (but not all, corn for example),  few fruits (no bananas, but apples and oranges), all the fish, chicken and turkey (white meat only (sigh)) are a few of the things you can enjoy as much as you like.  Yogurt (even flavored ones, as long as they are low fat), low fat cottage cheese and green tea are allowed and encouraged as snacks.

Now, something that is missing is a detailed index (actually any index).  The list of foods you can eat is detailed, but their are a few oddities, open to interpretation.  And, there are a few things listed that I am just plain morally opposed to.  This is a NO SUGAR diet.  But the Dr. recommends a natural sugar substitute, Truvia.  Just on principle, Truvia was developed by Coca-Cola, the great fattener of young adults.  It's only a few years old and I have decided to avoid these types of additives in my diet.  So, I actually have no sugar substitute that I use.  Fruit has natural sugars, so I add quite a bit of fruit when needed.  BUT, I have never seen or gotten a good answer to honey.  Is honey allowed???  I don't know, but since the Dr. in his book allows "condiments in moderation" (wow, is that open to interpretation), I have interpreted that phrase to mean a TBS or two of honey a day is a condiment.  It's my own personal bugAboo, but the sugar substitute controversy should be addressed clearer, as well as a sentence about honey (again, without an index, it could just be something I missed).

The reason I am bringing that up, Greek Yogurt with a little honey mixed in is terrific as a flavoring.  Low fat Greek Yogurt is allowed, and I use it often ( See yesterdays post on Marx Foods Morel Mushrooms Creamed Spinach).  With just a little dollop of honey, it is even better!  That's my honey/Greek yogurt dollop in the center of the bowl of soup.  Allowed or not... It was wonderful.

OK, On to the soup...

Yesterday was a great soup day... Rainy, overcast, a chill in the air... Perfect for soup.

Again in yesterday's post, you saw I roasted a turkey breast (why not... As Scrooge said at the end of the book, "Keep Christmas in your Heart all year long").  Slices of turkey served over a bed of creamed spinach and mushrooms was fine, but I try not to repeat.  So just a few slices of turkey as a main course was out.

Let's make soup!

And besides, low sodium chicken broth is allowed, so I assume low sodium turkey broth is as well.  the turkey breast I made was bone in, so I had most of a turkey carcass left to make my own broth. I carefully removed any skin that might have seasonings (salt from the brine I did).  Overnight, I filled my big stock pot with water, submerged the bones, added some carrots, celery and peppers and covered the pot.  I set the burner on a very low simmer so when the lid was on, there was just a gentle simmer.  In the morning, I had lovely stock!

So, once you have the stock and the turkey leftovers, the soup is easy...

A couple of hours before I wanted to serve, here's what I did...

6 cups of Turkey Stock
12 ounces V-8 Vegetable Juice
1 whole bunch of Broccoli (Cut to just the Florete)
6 Carrots, pealed and sliced to bite size
4 stalks of Celery, sliced to bite size
4 Roma Tomatoes, each cut into 8 bite size pieces
1 whole Vidalia Onion, cut into 8 large chunks
8 small sweet Red Peppers, cut into bite size pieces

Get all this to a rolling simmer for at least an hour or two, until the carrots are soft.

Add about 2 cups diced Turkey

Allow that to simmer for just a few minutes, until the turkey is hot

Pick a cold, blustery day and enjoy!
Try it with a dollop of honey sweetened Greek Yogurt!

One more terrific meal down towards my goal of 17 miserable days!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I Lost 15 Pounds in 10 Days - Marx Foods Morel Mushrooms Creamed Spinach

Quick Diet update, despite the impression I may have left with the last two days postings (Cheese Fondue and Fudge (both of which I made and ate every morsel prior to starting my diet), I am still very much in diet frenzy (see my first update for the details).  15 pounds in now 10 miserable days.  Now, I will never recommend diets as a lifestyle fix.  But as a quick fix, goal of fitting into my 1970's leisure suit so I can be the funny uncle at our family's upcoming wedding of the century, this has been an incredibly positive experience.  The weight continues to flow off.  7 more days of this limited ingredient phase before I move to a more forgiving phase 2.

Believe it or not (actually, believe it...), the plate of food above is all diet food, very filling, very satisfying and not a hint of flavorless suffering diet food usually associated with miserable cuisine.  I roasted a turkey (on this diet, unlimited amounts of breast meat turkey and chicken are allowed).  I steamed some raw carrots and glazed with just a ting of honey.

But the crowning jewel of my meal is the Morel Mushroom Creamed Spinach!

See that little beauty in the center of the photo.  That is a Morel Mushroom.  Here's what the good folks at Wikipedia have to say about Morels...

Morchella, the true morels, is a genus of edible mushrooms closely related to anatomically simpler cup fungi. These distinctive mushrooms appear honeycomb-like in that the upper portion is composed of a network of ridges with pits between them.
These ascocarps are prized by gourmet cooks, particularly for French cuisine. Commercial value aside, morels are hunted by thousands of people every year simply for their taste and the joy of the hunt. The American state of Minnesota has adopted the morel as its state mushroom.
Morels have been called by many local names; some of the more colorful include dryland fish, because when sliced lengthwise then breaded and fried, their outline resembles the shape of a fish; hickory chickens, as they are known in many parts of Kentucky; and merkels or miracles, based on a story of how a mountain family was saved from starvation by eating morels (the spelling "merkel" reflects a corruption of the word "miracle" as spoken with an Appalachian dialect common to SW Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky area).  In parts of West Virginia, they are known as "molly moochers." Other common names for morels include sponge mushroom.
So, here's the legal stuff I need to say... A couple of weeks ago, the very good folks at MARX FOODS
traditionally, they were a boutique high-end restaurant distributor). Now, home chefs like you can buy the finest and freshest foods just like the pro chefs who are driving food trends. Our goal is to supply you with the ingredients to make memorable dining experiences … in your home.

Made me an offer I could not refuse.  FREE package of these beauties in hopes that I would spread the word of the gourmet provider of 5 star restaurant quality ingredients.  It took me just a quick look through their website before I knew I wanted to take them up on the offer.  It took me 50 years of life to get passes the common button mushrooms, and I am excited to give these legendary gourmet items a try.

But, as much as I enjoy free, I was a bit concerned about doing these beauties justice given the limitations of my diet.  I made a commitment to my wife to live by the 17 Day Diet.  

After a bit of figuring, recipe analysis, comparing ingredient options, I can now present an original recipe, fits in with all the limitations of the diet plan, and accentuates the taste of the Morel...

Creamed Morel and Spinach -
A "Super Food" Side Dish

There are three "tricks" that make this a unique super food.  

First is the use of low fat Greek Yogurt as the creaming ingredient.

Next is the timely use of Vidalia Onions (fresh real Vidalias in stock right now)!!!

Finally is a bit of a favorite, a Green Onion - Cilantro Sweet sauce used to flavor the dish with a wave of amazing layers of tastes!

And every ingredient fits in with my obnoxious fad diet (but you would never ever know that from the luxurious creamy complex tastes.

OK, here we go...
First up, the Green Onion Cilantro sweet sauce...

1 cup (about a dozen) sliced Green Onions (white and green parts)

1/2 cup Fresh Cilantro Leaves, chopped

1 red Jalapeño Pepper, stems, seeds and white inner pulp removed, minced

1 TBS Honey

1 TBS Dijon Mustard

2 TBS Sweet Rice Wine Vinegar 

Combine everything into a blender and mix until you have a chunky sauce.

Once the flavoring sauce is done, the rest comes together very easy...

1 whole Vidalia Onion, Diced in large (about 1 inch square) pieces
1 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

You need to sweat the liquid out of the onion.  This is very easy, in a large Saute Pan, cook the onions over medium heat for 10 minutes.  The trick for this recipe is to cook them covered.  you want to use the moisture from the onions to help cook the spinach in a few minutes.  So, after the 10 minutes, you have translucent onions sitting in a pool of about 1/2 a cup of water... Wonderfully naturally flavored water.

Add the minced Red Jalapeño Pepper to the onion now and give it a stir to mix well.

Add the Spinach.  Take the time to remove the hard stems from the leaves.

Turn the heat up just a bit and start stirring.  You will see the spinach start to wilt.  Continue gently stirring until the spinach is completely wilted.

Now, add the Greek Yogurt.  In U.S., Greek Yogurtt has become increasingly popular because it is richer in texture than unstrained yoghurt, but low in fat; since straining removes water and dissolved salts and sugars, by volume, it has twice the protein of regular yoghurt and less sodium, carbohydrates, and sugar.  Greek yogurt actually tastes closer to sour cream than to "regular" yogurt.  Continue to stir as the yogurt blends to make the cream sauce.

Add the  the Green Onion Cilantro sweet sauce. and continue to mix!

While this makes a fine dish on it's own, to add a gourmet touch, start to add the mushrooms.

The bag I received from Marx Foods was dried.  They needed to be rehydrated.  Simple matter of soaking them in a bowl of water for just a couple of minutes.  I allowed them to drain dry for a few minutes.  I saved 2 pretty ones to use as a tasty accent for the dish.  The remaining mushrooms I sliced into thin circles and added them to the spinach.  Turn off the heat now, as the mushrooms will cook fast.  I only wanted them warmed, allowing more of the rich, earthy, near truffle taste to shine through all the ingredients already added to the spinach.

Serve as an amazing vegetarian main course, or a highlighting side dish that outshines and meat on the plate.  I also sprinkled in just a pinch of smoked Paprika... mostly for the very appealing color contrast!

There are just a few tricks of stunt dieting that I will cover in the next few posts.  But one is quality will shine when ingredients are limited.  use the best you can find.

And thanks to the good folks at Marx Foods, I now have another resource to get lots of amazing quality ingredients.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Black and White FUDGE ala Mary Jane Maffini & The BUSY WOMAN's GUIDE TO MURDER

OK, I see the picture too (I took it and cooked the recipe).  It is not Black and White Fudge, it is actually Black and BUTTERSCOTCH Fudge.  It is either a genius idea on my part or a way to correct a mistake.  I'll let you know in a minute...

JUST RELEASED!Today I am giving a recipe "inspired by" a food item that is heavily talked about in Mary Jane Maffini's NEW book, "The Busy Woman's Guide to Murder"

In my on-going quest to be a completest (as well as support fellow bloggers (I love Bloggers), I picked up the latest murder mystery written by one of my blogging buddies over at The Mystery Lover's Kitchen.  I've said it before, will say it again, I just love this blog.  The Six Merry Murderesses continue to put out culinary themed mysteries, fun to read, filled with recipes and tips.

Mary Jane's contributions to the culinary aspect of the MLK include ... "Fiona Silk, a failed romance writer with no sex life, most recently attempting to write an erotic cookbook (as if).  Too Hot To Handle followed Lament for a Lounge Lizard, and is still going strong, maybe because there are recipes included." (Quote taken from MJ's website... http://www.maryjanemaffini.ca/

Sadly, these two books came out before I started following the site.  I can only imagine the recipes included, and look forward to the next in the series so I can jump on board...

Her Charlotte Adams series (of which, "The Busy Woman's Guide to Murder"  is the 5th in the series) features a feisty professional closet organizer as the protagonist.  Charlotte comes complete with a cast of characters familiar regular readers of the series, but were smoothly introduced to first time readers (like me).  She has a live in almost boyfriend (They share a house, separate apartments), two dogs, Truffle and Sweet Marie, local cops, an attorney and a CANDY STORE OWNER!!!

And that's where the fudge inspiration comes from.  Charlotte is continually buying Black and White Fudge as a gift for others (and a pound for herself).  It sounded so good, I really wanted a pound for myself by the time I was half way through the book.

While I do wish she had provided a recipe, the series concentrates on organizing tips, instead of recipes.  Each chapter begins with a tip on how to get your life and property in order to make your day, week and ... life flow easier.  So, respecting the concept of the series, I hunted and adapted a recipe to come up with something of my own...

But that's coming in a bit, first, let's talk about the book...

I am guessing that this is aimed at a more feminine audience than me.  Lots of talk of cleaning, putting things where they belong and such.  Something my lovely and talented wife and I have come to terms with (she does it (don't jump on me, I contribute my share of things to our partnership).  She is a very talented organizer).  In fact, she was intrigued enough to start reading the book as soon as I finished.

But, as mysteries go, this was terrific.  Plenty of action, plenty of dead bodies to keep interest and move the stories along.  I had the book figured out a couple of times, only to be twisted and turned (in a very fun way) to a surprising and satisfying outcome (that the B&W fudge actually had a hand in).  Here's the basics... Charlotte gets a phone call from an old high school acquaintance.  The "Mean Girls" are back in town and scaring the crap out of the girls that were bullied through out high school.  Have they resurfaced to redeem themselves?  Have they reformed their evil ways?  Are they just setting the bullied girls up for a new more adult brand of meanness?

And a most interesting question, can a mean girl be forgiven???

A series of dead bodies start popping up.  Some directly connected to the mean girls, some not so much (look a likes killed accidentally maybe???).  Misdirection for the police (Charlotte is very protective of her friends).  Everything that makes this a very satisfying page turner.

I absolutely enjoyed this book.  And the organizing tips are a big plus.  Just one, Only keep 5 items on your daily "to do" list, I started following.  I have been known to list more than a dozen tasks I wanted to accomplish in a day.  Breaking those down to only 5 at a time has made my life easier.  It forces me to prioritize my day, and I seem to get more accomplished.  At the very least, I feel more satisfied when i click them off.  Great tip MJ!

Summer is coming up, which means summer reading time!  If you are a reader, head over to The Mystery Lover's Kitchen.  Get to know the bloggers who publish (we all write, but isn't it amazing to see your blogger buddies' names on a book cover).  There is something there to peak any foodies' interest.

And now, the fudge...

Truth is, I tried for white fudge, but my white came out an unappealing cream color.  It looked just fine, but when I added Vanilla to the cooking cream and sugar, it turned a sick yellow tint.  CERTAINLY NOT white.  So, I started pondering...

I decided to embrace the evil.  I decide to make an all new fudge, still loyal to the idea of two flavored fudges in one, but instead of the stark contrast between white and black, I went with the complimentary tastes of BUTTERSCOTCH and CHOCOLATE!!!

MJ, I am sorry, next time I have a few ideas to make the Black and White Fudge work (not the least is to add clear vanilla instead of pure vanilla (which has a color tinge).  I am sorry I was not able to come up with a true tribute to your characters obsession... But consider it a tribute in spirit...

For the "Black" fudge (Chocolate)...

1 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 cup Heavy Cream
2 TBS Cocoa
1 TBS White Corn Syrup
1/2 TBS Vanilla
1 TBS Butter
1 TBS Instant Coffee (really brings out the flavor of any chocolate recipe (a tip i picked up from Cleo Coyle, another one of the contributers to The Mystery Lover's Kitchen).
1/2 cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

Combine sugar, syrup, cocoa and cream. Boil to the soft ball stage (234 degrees F to 238 degrees F on a candy thermometer). add the chips and coffee.  mix until chips have melted.
Add butter and vanilla extract. Beat until creamy.  

For the Butterscotch Fudge...

1 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 cup Heavy Cream
1 TBS White Corn Syrup
1/2 TBS Vanilla
1 TBS Butter
1/2 cup Butterscotch Chips

Combine sugar, syrup and cream. Boil to the soft ball stage (234 degrees F to 238 degrees F on a candy thermometer). add the chips. mix until chips have melted.
Add butter and vanilla extract. Beat until creamy.

Yes, sugar, heavy cream, corn syrup, butter... This has all the heart stopping ingredients in it. But it makes AMAZING FUDGE. If you can't resist the fudge booth at the fair or the fudge shop in the mall, this is it. Just incredible tasting (in moderation... or as Charlotte does, as a gift).

There are many ways to serve this... Layer of chocolate on the bottom, layer of butterscotch over the top, or alternating strips, or as I decided... Marbled.

Just pour a couple of strips into a glass pan while the fudge is still warm. I sprayed the bottom with a bit of spray butter.

And take a knife and swirl until you are satisfied with the mix.

Chill before serving. This is an amazing fudge recipe. Stays soft and creamy for days (if you can resist eating the whole pan for days). This is as good as any fudge I have ever eaten from fair booths or stores!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Garlic and Blue Cheese Fondue ala AVERY AAMES - Cheese Shop Mystery

3 amazing things have happened in the life of Avery Aames this week...

1)... What an exciting time this must be for Avery Aames, author of the Cheese Shop Mysteries.  Just this last weekend, she received the prestigious AGATHA AWARD for "Best First Novel" for the first book in the series, "The Long Quiche Goodbye".

2)... And fresh on the heels of that triumph, today is the release date for her latest novel in the series, "Lost and Fondue".  Nationwide acclaim for her first, and the excitement of having an actual series appear on the shelves.  What could be better???

3)... Being asked to guest blog on my little corner of the blogosphere.

Just a brief introduction, Avery is 1/6th of the six merry murderesses from the MYSTERY LOVER's KITCHEN blog.  Six authors who all have published books, each book features culinary themes (Coffee, ice cream, BBQ, etc.).  Each book also is a murder mystery.  Fun reads all, and their blog is always among my favorites (6 competent, competitive women trying to "show off" each week with their best.  I get several of my favorite recipes from their postings).

Thursdays with AveryAvery Aames is the pen name for DARYL WOOD GERBER.  Daryl has a fascinating story aside from her author persona... On the culinary side, this former professional chef excels from Gluten sensitivity.  I say excels, as she makes the best of her sensitivity with terrific recipes and a related websites (you can find her Daryl Wood Gerber website by clicking the blue letters).  On a personal note, I have a family member who has the same sensitivity.  Avery (hard for me to call her Daryl, as I got introduced to her as Avery) was gracious enough to send me a couple of personal emails answering a few questions and giving advice to make a visit more gluten free friendly... her recipes and advice worked terrific!!!  If you read over Daryl's website, you will see some amazing accomplishments, World Traveler, Adventuress (jumps out of perfectly good airplanes), Gardner and Actress (Murder She Wrote, Matlock, Hart to Hart and many more).  Her acting is mostly on stage now, with roles in Nine, Footloose, How to Succeed in Business, 7 Brides for 7 Brothers and Many many more under her belt.

Oh, and a few decades ago, she pranced the sidelines of Stanford University wearing this (and a note to the other 5 murderesses from Mystery lover's Kitchen... You are welcome)...


So, without further ado... 5 questions with AVERY AAMES...

What is your name?
Avery Aames, but some folks like to think I’m Daryl Wood Gerber.  Okay, yes, I’m two people. I admit it. I’m not in therapy, either.

What is your favorite color?
Jade green. It’s a beautiful gem, it a color that goes with my eyes, it often appears in gardens.  It’s lovely and lush.  Second favorite: red. I love a hot red. It sizzles with energy and enthusiasm. It reminds me of roses and Valentine’s and Christmas and fun.

What is your quest?
To be the kindest, most creative person I can be. On days, I fail miserably, but I  persevere. I’d also like to be the best cheerleader to other people.  I like to encourage those around me who are creative to pursue their dreams.

What... is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? 
Hmmm. To begin with, I’d need the kinematic ratios…or at the very least, I’d need to know whether it’s an African or European swallow…and, no, I’m not coconuts.

If you are a fan of Monty Python, you are rolling in the aisles.  
I am a Monty Python fan.  Have you seen The Cheese Shop sketch on youtube.  Laugh out loud hysterical.  “Not much of a cheese shop, are you?” Too funny!

Real first question:
In another life (pre-author days as actress Daryl Wood Gerber), you appeared as an actress in "Murder, She Wrote".  Do you have a story about working with Angela Lansbury?

Angela Lansbury was a consummate professional! I was playing the part of a wicked neighbor whose son’s bicycle was stolen. I had a lovely scene with Ms. Lansbury. When it was my turn for a close-up, she could have gone back to her dressing room and rested while the script person fed me the lines, but she didn’t. She stayed through each take and “acted” on the other side of the camera.  She never dropped her character. She inspired me that day to become the best actress I could.

 Second... Again in your previous life as Daryl Wood Gerber, you were active in theatre.  I happen to love musicals myself, so... Is a secretary a toy?
“No, my boy.  She’s a highly specialized key component of operation unity…a fine and sensitive mechanism to serve the office community.”  Tra-la!  I was lucky enough to sing the closing jazzy number, “The Brotherhood of Man.” That was when I learned how to scat.

Since you have appeared in so many classic theatre rolls (Lend Me a tenor, 7 Brides for 7 Brothers (national tour), Accomplice (my favorite), How to Succeed in Business, Nine, Footloose, and on and on...), you must have a great story.  Anything you can share???  

Avery's acting photo from Lend me a Tenor

Yes. Okay, this one’s fun.  Accomplice (also one of my favorites) was my first theater experience when I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. My son, pre-teen, was an aspiring actor and wanted to come. Well, Accomplice can get quite racy. Not to give anything away, but my character kissed a man, made love to a man on stage (very campy), killed a man, and kissed a woman. I prepared my son for each moment because I didn’t want him to feel “mom” was straying in any way. It was fiction. I didn’t prepare my husband for the twists and turns and sensual surprises, so needless to say, he was stunned. Boy, did my son have a laugh at that.  I earned rave reviews and that show opened all sorts of doors for other theatre parts.  Also, during one of the performances, the city decided to raze a building.  Guess when it came down? You guessed it.  Right at the end of the campy love scene.  Talk about an audience howling with laughter!! Heaven.

Third... (this is assuming that you got your start in magazine publications... something small) The first time you were paid to be a professional writer... What did you do with the money??? 
I didn’t get my start in magazines; I got my writing start in television. The money went into a college fund.  But I did publish a short story wherein my character killed a former coworker. I was paid five dollars. Big whoop. I spent the money on chocolate.

Fourth... Do you deduct your cheese purchases from your taxes???  
I am able to deduct cheese purchases. But the most fun is the research. Going to the cheese shops, tasting cheeses, trying out recipes, and mixing it up online with other culinary mystery authors. I love that!!  Oh, and writing.  I love to write. I love to spend time with my characters.

Fifth… I read you went to Stanford and you were in the band.
Actually, I wasn’t “in” the band. I was a pom-pom girl known as a Dollie. We were under the auspices of the band.  And for anyone who hasn’t seen the Stanford Band, don’t miss it. I’m sure there are youtube videos. The band is irreverent. The players wear fedoras instead of tall plumed hats. They do a scatter formation instead of “marching” in lines. And they are a hoot!  The music is incredible. All the arrangements are done by the band or musical director. Great rhythms! One of the highlights of my college life.

Final question... OK, cheese expert... What's your ideal cheese board to celebrate the release of your latest book?  I need not only the cheeses, but any additional items like salami or apples or single malt scotch... What would you serve?  Any tips for a successful board?

Best tip: keep it simple. Put things on the platter that you yourself would like. Fruits and nuts or jams and honeys, three to four cheeses of different color, texture, shape.  The larger the cheese platter, the better. It’s easier to slice the cheeses, and they won’t mix flavors.  And you’ll want to use different knives for different cheeses, again so the flavors don’t mix.  I’ve posted a number of platter ideas on Mystery Lovers Kitchen.  They can all be found under the Avery Aames tag on the right hand side of the blog.

I prefer wine or champagne with my cheese but that’s because, being gluten-free, I don’t find all that many good wheat-free beers.  

Favorites for me: Taleggio (soft cow’s milk), Manchego (firm sheep’s milk), Humboldt Fog (goat cheese). Add a nice prosciutto, slices of melon, grapes, figs!!!  A twist of honey (that goes oh so well with the Taleggio and a slice of fig and prosciutto).  Crackers or small toast (with no added flavoring like sesame and such).  [If you crisp up the prosciutto in the oven, like a bacon, it’s delish!]

The Pom Pom, Lend me a Tenor and Cheese Platter photos above were provided by and used with permission of Avery Aames.  They are hers again after today, although I believe the Mystery Lover's Kitchen should make one of these available as a screen savor.

As a final treat...

Avery provided me an advance peek at one of the recipes featured in her new book, "Lost and Fondue".

Blue cheese and garlic Fondue...

2 ounces Point Reyes Blue Cheese
1/2 cup Half and Half
1 YBS Tapioca Flour
2 Cloves garlic

Cut garlic in half.  Rub garlic around the inside of the fondue pot.  heat fondue pot to medium heat.  Add half and half.  Add cheese and stir until it is all melted.  Add the tapioca flour and stir again so there are no lumps.  This all takes 5 to 7 minutes.

Serve warm in a small crockpot with cut vegetables like broccoli florets, celery sticks, carrot sticks and asparagus.  It also may be served with crackers and or bread cubes.


Thanks Avery, you were a great sport for my little blog.  I made this recipe the night before I started my diet!  IT WAS AMAZING!  If the new book is as good as this recipe, you have another well deserved award coming your way!

And best of luck with the new book... Heading over to order my copy of "Lost and Fondue" now!!!