Monday, February 28, 2011

The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies.....ever.....of all time....

Crispy. Soft. Super-sized. Bite-sized.  Everybody has their favorite cookie....especially the famed "Chocolate Chip Cookie" (thank you Ruth Wakefield, inventor of said cookie). I have vivid memories of buying chocolate chip cookies during my Jr. High school breaks - 3 to a pack! Freshly baked (still warm, in fact) in a waxed - paper envelope with just the edges peeking out. Slightly crispy on the outside and perfectly soft on the inside. HEAVEN! That, and a cold milk and I was set for the rest of the day. I don't remember how much they cost, but I'm sure they were something like 25 cents. Yes....I'm that old.

Anyway, as I've said before, none of the recipes on this blog are my originals and I have no idea where I found this one so I can't even give credit where it is due. All I can tell you is that for years I made the Toll-House recipe and loved it....until I found this recipe.  Please....come into my chocolate chip cookie world with me.......!  Enjoy!

1 1/2 C butter, softened
1 1/4 C sugar
1 1/4 C packed brown sugar
1 TBL vanilla
2 eggs
4 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 bag (24 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 4 C)

Heat oven to 350. In a large bowl, cream butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt BY HAND ... dough will be very stiff. Stir in chips (if you're not a purist, you can also add 2 C chopped nuts at this point).

On baking sheets lined with parchment, drop dough by TBLS or #40 cookie scoop (this is my favorite way to do it because of uniformity), 2 inches apart and flatten slightly.

Cookies on the right are slightly flattened...

Bake 11 to 13 minutes or until light brown. Centers will be soft. Cool 2 minutes on the sheet, then remove to cooling rack. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Immerse yourself

I LOVE my immersion hand blender. It was a gift from my mom and step-dad. They had won it in a Holiday Gift Exchange and had it for a while and never used it. I have almost worn it out.

Right now it's raining, and one of my favorite things to do when the weather is like this, is to make a big pot of soup. This recipe is from Martha (Stewart.....who else?).  The recipe is ridiculously simple and delicious. I made a salad of fresh greens with a light vinaigrette, and I also roasted some yukon gold potatoes with fresh rosemary, thyme, olive oil and s&p (this recipe calls for ONE small yukon gold, so I always buy a bag of them and roast the ones that are left out of the recipe).

Here's the link to Martha's recipe page:
Martha's Parsnip Soup

I did, of course, make a couple of wee changes. The recipe calls for 3 1/2 C water. I used 3 C water, and 1/2 C chicken stock.  Also, instead of 1/4 C heavy cream, I used 1/2 & 1/2 to bring down the fat content a bit.  To serve, I gave it a short swirl of olive oil and a dash of parsley along with sliced almonds. OH....and the "Immersion" change is this: Instead of taking the soup out of the pot and putting it in a blender......just use your handy immersion blender, right in the pot!

I like to cook a "vegetarian" meal once or twice a week to moderate the animal fat in our diet. I think it's a healthy option for those who don't want to give up completely on beef and chicken. Enjoy!

Olive Oyl

  I was listening to a radio show the other day and the host was discussing healthy eating and the problems of obesity, not only in America, but in other countries too. Twenty years ago, obesity was not a common problem - now it's the norm. A frightening thought really. This is why the "foodie" phenomenon that is sweeping this country is so fantastic. There are so many local farms now that sell to "farmer's markets" in most towns and cities, and also to restaurants, so food is getting tastier and more fresh and organic not only at home but when you go out to eat too.

Most kids have never heard of Olive Oyl and Popeye. I remember watching that cartoon and afterward would crave spinach. I've always loved greens. I cook with olive oil (or as Rachel Ray says, EVOO) every day - I'm thinking I should become an honorary Eye-talian because of the amount of olive oil I use (you'll have to look at "Pasta Fazoo" to understand the last remark).  Fresh spinach with olive oil and a clove of fresh garlic. OH man......there's nothing like it.  Yummy.

People ask me, "How can you EAT like you do and not get fat"?!  Honestly, I believe that eating whole foods, in proper proportion is key. I also believe you can have anything you want, within reason. I know that I gain weight when I eat a lot of starchy carbs. I CRAVE carbs and could easily eat them every day. But I don't. IF I eat carbs, I try to vary them and I try to make them whole grains.

Also, there is a benefit to meal replacement shakes. I've been using Herbalife products for about 10 years now. I originally lost 17 pounds by having 2 shakes a day and if I find that I'm putting weight back on, I just go back to the 2 shake a day program (1 shake a day is for maintaining, and that's what I do. I no longer buy breakfast food - just my shake and a fat burning tea that Herbalife has as well. I love it).

Ok, back to the original thought for this post. The radio shows guest (I'm sorry I have no idea who it was.....!) was talking about certain foods that everyone should include in the way they eat and I was surprised (sort of) to see that I was already doing that. Here are the foods he mentioned:
1. OILS - Olive, Fish (Omega 3's, Krill  - Herbalife has these and I've been taking them for years - they are very pure - no burping!), Flax, Nuts (specifically walnuts - they are brain food....they even look like little brains) and almonds.
2. Blueberries, and other red/blue berries (Blueberries are the best).
3. Salads (gotta get your greens and fiber!)

Every morning, I make my shake with either blueberries or cherries and about 4-5 almonds.
Every day I cook with olive oil and I always have a salad with dinner.

It makes me so sad that there is such lack of good eating and proper nutrition in this country. I hope that we make a turn for the better and that people will begin to make better eating choices - NO fast food! No frozen food! No pre-packaged food! Come on!! We can all do this!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pasta Fazoo

One of my mother's favorite soups is Pasta Fagioli. Since she is of Swedish descent, and raised in Minnesota, her pronunciation of Italian words can be amusing, to say the least. When I was growing up, we always had a salad made of only head-lettuce with Wishbone Italian dressing. Except that she pronounced it "Eye-talian" which always drove me crazy. I'd say, "yes, I'd like some Eye-talian dressing from Eye-taly". She didn't think that was very funny.

Anyway, my mom calls Pasta Fagioli, "Pasta Fazoo" and I think it's rather sweet. It's the closest thing to Eye-talian I will ever hear her pronounce.

I was visiting my dad and step-mother several days ago and even though they live in the desert, and very close to Mexico (you'd think it would be warm there, right?) it was FREEZING cold. Definitely soup weather. My step-mother made Pasta Fagioli and it was very good. I asked her for the recipe and decided to make it for myself just last night.  I LOVE the changes I made and I am going to post the recipe here. It's not a traditional Pasta Fagioli anymore because I added zucchini and Eye-talian sausage, but it tasted so good to me that I ate THREE bowls full!  I am going to call my creation, "Pasta Fazoo".  Enjoy!

Pasta Fazoo

1/3 C olive oil
2 mild Italian sausages, casing removed (you can use spicy if you like, or add some crushed red pepper to taste)
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, quartered and chopped into bite sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1lb cans Cannelini (white kidney beans)
1 1lb can plain chopped tomatoes (preferably Cento, which are San Marzano tomatoes)
3 C chicken broth
4 C water
1 C tubetti (small salad macaroni)
1 tsp fresh rosemary (dried is ok too)
1/2 tsp dried oregano (I like the flavor of dried here, better than fresh)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 C chopped parsley
freshly grated Parmesan PLUS the rind (get a small piece, grate it yourself and use the rind for the soup)

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add sausage and saute until no longer pink, breaking up sausage as it cooks. Add the onions, carrots, celery, zucchini and garlic and cook over low heat until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the beans and tomatoes. Add the broth and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta, rosemary, oregano, salt and pepper and Parmesan rind. Lower the heat and cook gently, partially covered, until the pasta is cooked, about 15 - 20 minutes.  Stir in the parsley. Serve immediately! (don't eat the's just for fantastic flavor).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Martha Wrap

I have always been a fan of Martha Stewart. Think what you may about her, she is an amazing woman who has accomplished much in her life. When I was growing up, there really was only one source for cooking and that was the Betty Crocker Cookbook. But there wasn't a source for gardening, housekeeping, pet care, baking, crafting and cooking all in one place. So, once Martha came on the scene, I was an avid magazine subscriber and book-buyer. I've gone to her website countless times when I have questions like, "how, exactly, does one fold a fitted sheet"?  MARTHA knows!!

The other day, I was at the grocery store looking for some foil and I saw a new box on the shelf. It was a pretty "Martha green" color. Funny that. It was called "Martha Wrap"!  I thought, "well, good for her. She's put out her OWN cooking wrap!"  So, of course I bought some. It is a cross between foil and parchment paper - perfect for cooking little fish or chicken packets with veggies.  A VERY healthy way to eat!  I'm sure I will discover other uses for this new little gem, but for now this is how I'm using it.

Last night, I did one of my "what do I have and what can I make out of it?" meals.  It was so yummy. I took a piece of Martha Wrap (foil side out as instructed by Martha) and put some length-wise cleaned and sliced leeks, carrots, parsnips and red peppers with a small sprig of thyme and a half-clove of garlic on the paper. On top of that went a piece of salmon. I drizzled olive oil and a little s&p. Wrapped it up like a calzone and into the oven at 400 for about 20 minutes.   A little glass of Chardonnay went along with it.  Deeelish.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Reflections on "Reflections"

I was visiting the Smithsonian about 10 years ago (I'm not good at remembering exact dates) and came upon a Duke Ellington display. There were all kinds of wonderful photos and memorablia to look at and there was a Duke recording playing over and over. It was haunting.....and I loved it. There was a bench to sit on and I sat there for probably a 1/2 hour listening to this song, over and over. It made me weep. It was just piano - no lyrics. I knew I would never forget that melody.
Several years later I was listening to a cd by the amazing Tierney Sutton and she began the song with an a capella, "oooooh".....and with the first few notes, I knew it was Dukes song! I had only heard it at the Smithsonian and I had no idea what the name of it was.....and there was Tierney....singing it. The name of the song is, "Reflections". Next to "I Wanna Be Loved" by Shirley Horn, this recording is one of my all-time favorites.  To hear the lyrics with Duke's
melody practically made me lose my mind. I haven't been able to find who wrote those lyrics....when I do, I will update this post.
For now.....all I can say is do yourself a favor and get Tierney's CD. It's called "Something Cool".
Here's a link from YouTube with Duke playing....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Going Green(s)

My husband, Lee, LOVES "greens". He is from the South. I am from Southern California. I didn't grow up with greens and had no idea how to cook them, even though I adore cooking and am very adventurous when trying new recipes and unknown foods. The only greens I knew about were head lettuce salads with blue cheese dressing and broccoli that was boiled within an inch of it's life, served with a cheese-like sauce. Oh yes... and green bean casserole made from cans of green beans with cans of cream of mushroom soup.  I love my mother. However, she is an admitted bad cook and maybe it was because of her "out of a can or box" kind of cooking that she did in the 1960's, that I became interested in what real food might taste like.

So, my first try at any kind of "greens" cooking was an extremely simple recipe for Kale Chips. They turned out perfectly and Lee and I ate the whole batch. What a fantastic way to get your green vitamins into you and avoid greasy potato chips at the same time. There are many recipes available online, but my inspiration was from a show I saw on Food Network called "Down Home with the Neely's". They add a bit of brown sugar to the kale and it compliments the bitterness in a salty-sweet, kettle-corn kind of way. 
Here's the link for the recipe:

My second attempt at cooking greens was just last night and again, we ate the whole batch. In an effort to keep both my husband and myself from becoming overweight, sometimes I will serve a vegetarian meal. If Lee had his way, we'd have meat and potatoes every night. But I say, you can eat anything you want in life as long as you don't eat too much of anything.  Back to the greens.
I went to visit my dad this past weekend and my step-mother gave me this recipe (my dad's folks were from the south - Georgia, to be exact) and dad loves greens too. After searching the web for other recipes, I find that they are all somewhat similar, but since Lee knows his greens and gave his whole-hearted approval to my efforts, this is the recipe I'm going to stick with. I made some changes and added one thing that I think made a lovely difference. Below is the recipe. After that I'll explain the changes I made.

Collard Greens with Red Onions and Bacon (8 servings)

1/2 lb bacon (8 slices) cut crosswise into quarters
3 medium red onions, coarsely chopped (4 cups)
1 1/4 C chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1/4 C cider vinegar
2 TBL packed brown sugar, or to taste
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tsp salt
4 lbs collard greens, thick stems and center ribs discarded, leaves and thin stems coarsely chopped

Cook bacon in two batches in 6-8 qt heavy pot over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but about 3 TBL of fat from pot. Cook onions in fat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Using slotted spoon, transfer onions to bowl.
Add stock, vinegar, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, salt and half of bacon to pot and simmer, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Add half the collards, tossing until slightly wilted, then add remaining collards, tossing until wilted and combined. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.
Stir in onions and simmer, covered, until collards are very tender, about 30 minutes more.
Serve topped with remaining bacon.

MY changes:
I had one bag of Trader Joes Mixed Greens which had collard, mustard, turnip and spinach greens). This bag was only 1 lb (next time I will buy two bags) which meant I needed to quarter the recipe. I used 4 slices of Trader Joes Apple Smoked Bacon (SO yummy) and cooked it in one batch until just crispy. I took the bacon out and left ALL the fat in the pot (fat is flavor!). In went the onions (I used yellow because that's what I had). When the onions were translucent, I added about 3C Trader Joes Chicken Broth, 1 TBL cider vinegar, 1 tsp brown sugar, and a dash of pepper flakes. Then I added MY SECRET INGREDIENT: a dash or two of Smoked Paprika. Then I dumped the whole bag of greens in the pot and after about 5 minutes, I put the bacon back in the pot. I let that simmer for about 45 minutes while I made some cornbread. NOW comes the most important part! (according to Lee). When you have eaten the greens and have some juice in the bottom of your bowl, you must break up a piece of the cornbread into that juice (the Southerners call it "Pot Likker"), mash it a bit and eat it with a spoon.
It was heavenly.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Easy, Elegant, Ina.

I love Ina Garten. I love that she is a bit messy in the kitchen. I love that she makes it look so simple and, in fact, her recipes usually are. I love that she sticks to the basics - the "Less is More" theory.  I guess I'm full o' love because yesterday was Valentine's Day too.

The recipe I'm going to share with you here, is one that I have made many many times and it always turns out perfectly. It's very impressive and I've served it to guests, and brought it to pot lucks as well.

The recipe is Ina Garten's French Apple Tart. It's in her cookbook entitled, "Back To Basics" which I highly recommend.  As I've said, none of the recipes here are mine, I just want to share the wonderful treasures I have found through the years.

She suggests making a crust from scratch, which doesn't scare me and I love to do, but she also has an even FASTER and EASIER way to make this and it is SO delicious and easy that it is the only way I make it now. She suggests using Puff Pastry dough (you can find it in the frozen foods area - Pepperidge Farms is the only brand I've ever seen). Take my advice and DO it that way.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Love and Chocolate

Most people like chocolate. Some people LOVE chocolate and since Valentine's Day is coming, I thought I'd post a recipe I found for Flourless Chocolate Cake.  Now for those of you who are skeptical about a cake that is flourless, imagine a cake that is not too sweet, very chocolatey and extremely moist (almost like a brownie but not as dense). Even for chocolate "likers", this cake will knock your socks off.

This recipe comes from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food Magazine. I have made it countless times and it always comes out perfectly!  The only piece of equipment you must have for this is a 9-inch spring form pan. Oh...and a word of advice: It will puff up beautifully when it's baking, and then fall like a cartoon when you take it out. But don't worry! It's supposed to fall....and it tastes like heavenly chocolate.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Speaking of music...

Since this blog is called, Treble Clef Chef, I thought it was time to write about music. I've been asked many times, "What is your favorite song"? and until I heard the song I'm going to tell you about, I didn't think it was possible to answer that question. There are so many genres of music that I like and that make me happy, although I can't sing all genres. But this song....(I'm listening to it right now and getting very distracted) to me, is the epitome of the best combination of lyrics, singer, arrangement, ability - the whole package.

The song is "I Wanna Be Loved". It's an old song, recorded by the Andrews Sisters in the 40's, and I'm sure other people too, but I don't know of any others. I have listened to the Shirley Horn recording countless times. It moves me every time. The rhythm almost has a bit of a purposeful lag at the end of each bar, but yet it is perfectly in time. Such beautiful fluidity between the musicians. Shirley's phrasing tells the story - a particular pet peeve of mine with other singers. Well, I should say, modern singers. That may be why I'm attracted to the music of the 1940's - the songs were simple but told a story and singers like Frank Sinatra and Elle Fitzgerald were the stellar singer/phraseologists (is that a made-up word?) of their time.

Here's the link (because I still don't know how to add these things directly into my posts!) for Shirley Horn's "I Wanna Be Loved".   Enjoy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The recipes for Treble Clef Chef

Several years ago, I decided to make a cookbook of my favorite recipes to give as Christmas gifts. It was something that has turned out to be one of the best gifts ever, and I am so glad I did it. At that time, I had no idea how to use a computer so to say that typing all of them was challenging, would be a grand understatement! I got card stock for the covers, and bound them myself. It truly was a labor of love.

I was just coming into my love for cooking (not my love for food!) and compiled recipes that I had already tried, and others I hadn't. After making some of the "un-tried" recipes after Christmas, I was disappointed to realize that they just weren't all that ....yummy. 

So, I have decided that I will only write about recipes I have already made and tasted for posting here at Treble Clef Chef.

Here is the preface for that cookbook:

Dear friends,
As you know, I'm not a shy eater - never have been. This always made my mother very happy. One of my favorite snacks when I was a toddler was a cup of frozen peas and corn. My mom was mystified. I was content. When I was in elementary school, the only kind of sandwich I would eat was white bread, REAL mayonnaise and a big hunk of iceberg lettuce....again, mystification.
I used to name my clothes after the foods they reminded me of. Let's see....there was the bacon dress......and my cherry dress.....

Thankfully, my palate has matured and I believe that eating good food, whether fancy or simple, is one of the greatest pleasures of life. So, I would like to share some of my favorite recipes with you. Most of these have come from cookbooks or TV or the newspaper. Some of from friends. However, there are a few that actually come from my pea-brain (a food reference, of course) and I hope they will be pleasing to you as well.

with love

p.s. you will be pleased to know that I did NOT include
the lettuce sandwich recipe.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chicken and White Bean Chili

Every recipe I will post here, will most likely be from another source. Although this blog is entitled, "Treble Clef Chef", I am not a chef. I am a cook. I'd be in the back of the kitchen, sweating away over the stove, taking orders from the true chef. Or maybe I should think of myself as a "sous" chef.  Regardless, I like the name of my blog, and I'm stickin with it.

This recipe is from Epicurious. After making it several years ago, I decided that it was so deliciously satisfying that I never wanted to search for or make another chili recipe....ever again. AND it's very easy! One pot. I love that.

I have made four changes to the original recipe and am very happy with the results. Instead of 3 1/2 TBL of regular chili powder, I use 1/2 TBL SPICY powder (it has red pepper flakes) and 3 TBL of regular. I use ROASTED tomatoes (you can find them anywhere), 1 tsp of unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 TBL Smoked Paprika which, in my humble opinion, is the SECRET INGREDIENT for this recipe.  Enjoy~

If only a picture could also show the amazingly smoky and delicious smell and flavor of this chili!

1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/3 cups chopped onion
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 1/4 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I use kitchen shears for quick cutting!)
3 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 TBL SMOKED Paprika
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 15- to 16-ounce cans white beans, drained, juices reserved
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

2. Add chicken; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until chicken is no longer pink outside, about 5 minutes.

3. Mix in chili powder, smoked paprika, cocoa powder, tomato paste, cumin, and oregano. Add beans, 1 cup reserved bean juices, and canned tomatoes. Simmer until chicken is cooked through and chili is thickened, about 25 minutes. If chili is too thick, add more bean juices by tablespoonfuls to thin. Season chili to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in cilantro and serve.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Creating the Blog

I have decided to create a blog about two of the things I love and enjoy most in life: Food and Music. Knowing what I want to write about and seeing the ideas in my head is the easy part. Learning how to navigate and create a blog is not. I never enjoyed school and finding my way through all of the tabs and pages and settings and options, etc etc, makes my head hurt like it did when I was younger. I always wondered why I had to take Science and Algebra when all I wanted to do was sing a song. Maybe those things would've helped me navigate through the creation process here.

Regardless, here I am and I feel a wonderful anticipation about creating this. Maybe I will only have a handful of people reading...and that will be fine with me. I just want to talk about food and music.

This is my first post. Hopefully, they will be much better than this one. Everybody starts somewhere!