Monday, March 20, 2017

Any Sharp Pro

One of the best things about all the gadgets, gizmos, and gear one can obtain in a kitchen is the fact that you can choose just about any color your heart desires. This means that no matter how many times you move (how does 15 times in 20 years sound?), you can take your favorite little bits of "decor" with you.

With so many moves during my first marriage, there wasn't a lot I could do about the way my kitchen looked from a construction standpoint, but I could sure decorate with my favorite color, red, in all the little extras I bought for that room.

No matter what color was on the walls, the countertop and stovetop were filled with reds of all hues and in all shapes and sizes. Here is a photo of a few of my favorites.

My Beautiful Reds!

Now my newest favorite red gadget is this funny-looking little guy - the Any Sharp Pro Sharpener.

The Any Sharp Pro

This is a brand new type of knife sharpener that you have to see to believe. First of all, it's very compact, which is a Godsend because several of the kitchens I cooked in were postage-stamp-sized. It suction-cups itself to the countertop and is as sturdy as can be. No more hanging onto your sharpener with one hand and drawing the blade with another. It sharpens more than one type of knife, too, even serrated!

Seriously good stuff.

When I first opened the box of the Any Sharp Pro, I really wasn't sure this thing had the teeth for the job, but two single passes through the sharpening tools is more than you'll need. My knives are now sharper than ever in so little time. This tiny powerhouse is really worth it!

The Any Sharp Pro comes in many different colors!
Check out the Any Sharp USA website for the Any Sharp Pro and a few other choice products that you'll want to have a look at. You can purchase the Any Sharp Pro directly from the website, as well.

Disclosure: Thank you to Any Sharp Pro USA and 3D Communications for providing the Any Sharp Pro! All opinions are my own and in no way influenced by free product.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Modern Pressure Cooking

Modern Pressure Cooking by Bren Herrera, Page Street Publishing Co. 2016.

I recall, when I was a child, Sunday's in my grandmother's kitchen. After morning church services we would come home and get changed then play until dinner time, which was mid-day so we would be ready to head back to evening church services. Because our day was scheduled so, there was one other thing I remember: this hiss and rattle of my grandmother's pressure cooker.

Every week, without fail, she would make a chuck roast for dinner, and the only way to get that done in the time span we had was to pressure cook it. The meat was ever so tender and flavorful and it was something I looked forward to each time we visited.

As an adult I didn't have a pressure cooker for many years. I was afraid of them, as many cooks are, and for a time I wasn't able to afford one, either. Once I settled in as a much older adult I was gifted an electric pressure cooker. I was hooked. With 9 mouths to feed daily and busy beyond all with school and life I found it to be my cooking savior. Meats were done in no time and dinner that tasted as if it had cooked hours was now ready in a fraction of the time. Sadly, the very day I received my copy of Bren Herrera's Modern Pressure Cooking (Page Street Publishing, 2016), my electric pressure cooker died.

I decided after a mere year's worth of use that I wasn't going to make that mistake again and bought a trusty old 8 quart aluminum stove top pressure cooker. I'm already in love - and not just with the cooker! This book. Oh, my.

If there is anything at all you want to know about pressure cookers, this is the book to buy. Bren covers everything from which types of cookers are available to all the methods of release there are to international, vintage and gadgets and gizmos for your cooker. After all that? The recipes, oh my.

I made Bren's mother's Famous Cuban Black Beans (recipe below!) right off the bat and they are just to-die-for! I mean, beans from dry to delicious in 40 or so minutes? This is my kind of recipe.

Once I had those beans done, I was hooked. I started throwing everything in that pot with Bren's beautiful book as a guide and created meal after beautiful meal in no time flat. Best You've Ever Had Braised Round Roast? YES. Herbed Chicken Stock? YES. (No more cooking for hours.) And flan? Oh, flan ... Bren is the QUEEN of flan and shares no less than 4 recipes for flan, and with a 13 to 17 minute cook time, what is not to LOVE? I feel a Braised Pulled Pork BBQ coming on this week, and after that I may just keep going until I've made every single recipe.

So, get your own copy, please don't even question this! GO and get a copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM!, IndieBound, or iBooks. You can also find more about Bren at House of Bren.

Now, here is that beautiful recipe and photo, to boot!

Famous Cuban Black Beans, photo: Ken Goodman

Famous Cuban Black Beans
Black beans are Cuba’s most beloved food. They are pedestaled to glorious heights in Cuban homes around the world. You’ve seen and probably made a version of these “Cuban black beans” at some point in your Latin food exploits, but you’ve never made these. This is my late grandmother’s recipe as translated and perfected by my mother for over 40 years. Her beans are the point of query after reconnecting with childhood friends. They are the single food in my family that is still rationed. It’s the one dish that humbles my skill. I can make my mother’s beans, side by side with her, but hers will always exceed triumph. There’s something indiscernibly magical about her touch. I hold this recipe close to my heart, but have waited for over a decade to share it publicly. I hope you love them as much as everyone who’s ever eaten in Mami’s cocina. For your convenience and ease, this recipe does not require any soaking.

Goya and Rancho Gordo dried beans are my go-to brands. To enjoy a very classic experience, ladle about one cup (172 g) of black beans over fluffy white rice and serve with a side of sweet fried plantains.

Serves 8 to 10

3 tbsp (46 ml) canola oil
½ Spanish onion, diced
½ green bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp (1 g) dried oregano
½ tsp ground cumin
16 oz (455 g) dried black beans, picked over and rinsed
2 quarts (1.9 L) water or Simple Vegetable Broth (page 157)
2 bay leaves
3 whole cloves
2 tbsp (30 g) raw sugar
1 ½ tbsp (27 g) kosher salt
1 tsp (5 ml) dry cooking wine
1 tsp (5 ml) olive oil

Heat the oil in the stovetop pressure cooker over high or use the sauté setting for the electric pressure cooker. Make the sofrito: Sauté all of the vegetables and garlic, with the oregano and cumin, until it is fragrant and the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low or cancel the sauté setting. Add all of the remaining ingredients, except the cooking wine and olive oil, to the cooker and stir to combine well. Close the lid.

Stovetop: Set to high pressure (15 PSI) and set the timer for 35 minutes. Cook over high heat. When the pressure point is reached, reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook.

Electric: Set to high pressure (10–12 PSI) and 40 minutes.

When done, remove from the heat or turn off the cooker and allow the pressure to release on its own (natural-release) for 10 minutes, then apply auto-release. When all of the pressure is out, open the lid and top the beans with the cooking wine and drizzle in the olive oil. Allow the beans to rest a few minutes before serving.

B’S COOKING TIP: If you soak the beans overnight, you can save up to 20 minutes with this recipe! Simply reduce your cooking time by 10–13 minutes. Also, these beans can last up to 1 week in the refrigerator and 4 months in the freezer.

All photo and recipe credits to Bren Hererra, Page Street Publishing and Ken Goodman.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Bolete Named One of 100 Best Restaurants in America by Open Table

It doesn't get any sweeter than this! This is no surprise to me at all, and it's not the first honor Bolete has received.

Chef Lee Chizmar’s Bolete Restaurant Named to ‘100 Best Restaurants in America’ by Open Table

Celebrated Chef to Co-Host Philadelphia’s Taste of the Nation in January

Bethlehem, Penn. (December 5, 2016)-- Chef Lee Chizmar’s Bolete Restaurant was named among the “100 Best Restaurants in America” for 2016 by Open Table last week, as the restaurant celebrates its ninth anniversary in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. Owners Chizmar and wife Erin Shea have made their mark on the Mid-Atlantic region by epitomizing farm-to-table freshness with their remarkable daily-changing menu guided by farmer relationships. This nod adds to the handful of high-ranking accolades they have been fortunate enough to receive from the dining reservation service since their opening.

Open Table lists that the awards showcase both long-running and new eateries and features restaurants in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Relative newcomers such as Le Coucou in New York, and Zahav in Philadelphia are among the winners, alongside notable spots like New York’s Gramercy Tavern and Philly’s Vetri.

Having been named to Conde Nast Traveler’s “100 Hottest New Restaurant” upon opening in 2008, Bolete continues to root itself in providing great hospitality and dynamic food. Everything is made fresh in the Bolete kitchen, including stocks, sauces and pastas. Earlier this fall, Chef Chizmar returned for a fifth year to headline the wildly popular open-air feast, Outstanding in the Field, teaming up with Blooming Glen Farm to present guests with a dinner ripe with farm-fresh provisions. Next month, Chizmar will co-host Share Our Strength’s annual Taste of the Nation in Philadelphia, guiding over two dozen chefs to help end childhood hunger in the United States.

In addition to their revered Bethlehem restaurant, Chizmar and Shea launched a new “farm-to-stick” ramen noodle bar, Mister Lee’s Noodles, in nearby Easton, Penn., earlier this year. It offers a fun, nontraditional take on the popular Japanese staple, sourcing ingredients from local farms to make each dish to order on site. As the first premium ramen concept to come to the Valley, Mister Lee’s has earned accolades from the community and sparked interest from main stage foodies, such as the New York City Wine & Food Festival, where Chef Lee did a pop-up in October to present one of his ramen dishes at their “Harvest Party”.

Chizmar, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, developed an appreciation for seasonal, local ingredients at Lark Creek Inn in San Francisco with Chef Bradley Ogden. He then moved to Boston for the opening of Great Bay, under the tutelage of owner Christopher Myers, which was quickly named Best New Restaurant in the Country by Esquire Magazine. It was there that Chizmar and Shea met, and so began their journey of creating one of the country’s future institutions in dining.

Bolete is housed in a historic stagecoach inn at 1740 Seidersville Road in Bethlehem, Penn., and was designed to be special place where guests are often greeted by Shea herself and can savor fine tastes in an elegant, unhurried atmosphere. Follow them online @eatbolete on Facebook and Instagram. For more information, call 610-868-6505 or visit Mister Lee’s Noodles is located at the Easton Public Market, 325 Northampton Street in Easton, Penn., and can be reached at 610-829-2799 or online @misterleesndls and

Monday, November 21, 2016

Bake it Better with Miss Jones Challenge

What inspires you to bake during the holidays? Bake up a treat of your choice using Miss Jones baking mix and/or frosting, and they will donate $1 to the SF-Marin Food Bank. Just use the hashtag #betterwithmissjones on social media or visit their website for more info at Your creativity is the secret ingredient! Great ideas could include candy cane Christmas cookies, maple cheesecake brownies, chocolate cake waffles, or any other tasty treats you can conjure. Miss Jones also offers tons of inspiration online at  Now, go check it out and get entered to WIN!

It's that time of year again - Baking Season! I was recently introduced to Miss Jones Baking Co. and I want to share them with you, too! Not only are their baking mixes and frostings totally delicious, they're certified organic, non-GMO, plant-based, responsibly sourced, and contain no artificial colors or flavors. That's serious baking firepower! Check out what I made with the mixes I received:

Chocolate Chunk Orange and Gingerbread Spiced Cookies
Chocolate Chunk Orange and Gingerbread Spiced Cookies

 Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes with Marshmallow Candy Cane Frosting Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes with Marshmallow Candy Cane Frosting
Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes with Marshmallow Candy Cane Frosting

Seriously Delicious! The first is a riff on my Orange Gingerbread and Chocolate Chunk Cookies, and the second was totally Holiday inspired and the kids loved both! These were both made with Miss Jones Chocolate Cake Mix which is deep, rich and moist!

Between November 11 and December 23, Miss Jones Baking Co. is holding the Bake-it-Better Challenge, which gives you the chance to win a Grand Prize worth over $1,500—including a $1,000 gift card, the full line of Miss Jones products, a KitchenAid Mixer, William-Sonoma Goldtouch Baking Set, Scharffen Berger Chocolates, and much more!

Plus, every entry means $1 donated to the SF-Marin Food Bank  All of my readers know how close to my heart fighting hunger is, so if for no other reason, please do this very sweet thing for those less fortunate!

It's super easy to participate:

Step 1: Bake something fantastic using a Miss Jones baking mix or frosting. Get creative—ideas like pumpkin cake bars, chocolate and pecan cupcakes, maple and walnut sugar cookies. The Miss Jones website [] has great inspiration, and using one of their mixes makes it super easy (and yummy, obvies).

Step 2: Take a photo of your beautiful treat and post it to Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #betterwithmissjones. If you're submitting via Instagram, be sure to tag @missjonesco, too! If you're submitting via Facebook, be sure to post your entry directly onto the official Miss Jones Baking Co. Facebook page [].

To learn more about the contest, go to:

Disclosure: Thank you to Miss Jones Baking Co. for providing cake mixes, frosting and other goodies! All opinions are my own and in no way influenced by free product.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Pecan Pies in Pumpkin Shells

Many moons ago I had the privilege of working for Disney on several of their websites. This is a recipe that was on in 2008. 

This fun recipe is perfect for this time of year. From harvest time to Halloween to Thanksgiving, these little pies are both cute and delicious. My mother has made them for dinners and she uses the tiny gourds that look just like pumpkins. Gourds are certainly edible, but can be very bitter. Moms were always wonderful, but I've decided to use mini pumpkins for these. Mini pumpkins are available just about everywhere right now and you'll need ones the size of a medium orange for this.

Corn syrup is not so good for us, so I've replaced it with golden syrup, a pure cane sugar derivative that is sold in most stores under the Lyle's label.

Pecan Pies in Pumpkin Shells

Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 1 hour 10 minutes
Serves: 4


4 mini pumpkins - each the size of an orange
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Lyle's golden syrup
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Cut the tops from each pumpkin and scoop out the seeds.
2. Place pumpkins, cut side down, on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
3. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 15 minutes.
4. While pumpkins are baking, get the pie mix together.
5. Combine syrup, brown sugar and eggs. Mix until well blended.
6. Add pecans and extract. Blend.
7. Remove pumpkins from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.*
8. Pour any excess water from pumpkins and pat insides dry with paper toweling.*
9. Fill each pumpkin with pie mix to just below the top - about 1/2 cup for each.
10. Bake for 30 minutes until set.
11. Let cool before serving.

Notes: *These steps are very important. Squash are full of water and baking them brings this out. If you do not let the pumpkins cool and remove the excess water, the pie will not set.