Clapping On The Down Beat

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It’s not all gourmet March 28, 2016

Filed under: Meal Planning,Saving Money — clappingonthedownbeat @ 1:56 PM

I hope there is not a feeling out there that everything I make is always some gourmet affair.  I’d like to share with you “leftover night dinner”.  This is where I see that there are some leftovers- but not enough for us all to eat- and I look through the pantry (make sure you rotate your can goods and check expiration dates!) and I dump everything together.

I had left over tater tots, half a bag of frozen corn, a can of chili beans, a can of diced tomatoes, taco seasoning, leftover cook ground bisonand about 1 1/2 c. leftover chicken broth.  At this point we culd have leaned towards a chili- but I went with taco seasoning.


The tater tots broke apart and just look like diced potatoes.


I also had some lettuce to use up and I always have sour cream and cheese.   From here this would make a great filling for enchiladas, or taco lasagna.  We ate it in bowls topped with lettuce, sour cream and cheese.


I had another quick fix dinner this weekend.  I had a bag of red potatoes that I boiled up and then mashed.  We had a mashed potato bar- eat when you are hungry.  And yes, I do have that one child on occasion who decides that they really don’t like whatever I have fixed.  But, I am pretty firm in “this is what’s for dinner”.  If you don’t want to even try it, then there is a banana on the counter.  No one has ever starved  here.  If they are hungry, they eat it.


This is traditionally a  Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes that’s popular in the summer. It includes chunks of soaked stale bread and tomatoes, sometimes also onions and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar.  But for Easter I made a simple spring version.  This could be a meal in itself.

1 loaf seed and nut bread (I found one a Costco-Delicious) this could also be leftover loaf bread

1 Pkg frozen peas

1 bunch pencil thin asparagus- cut off just the top third

1 English cucumber- sliced

1 bunch watercress (usually sold in a package near lettuce section)

1/2 c. Olive oil

1/4 c. red wine vinegar

1 large shallot, minced

2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped


Cube bread into crouton (bite sized) pieces.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and toast in the oven at 375 10-15 minutes.  Should be crunchy all the way through. (I did this the day before)

In a bowl mix olive oil, vinegar, shallot and dill.  Wisk.  Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Drop in peas and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Remove and place in a bowl of ice water (sometimes I cheat and place on a sheet pan and then stick in the fridge)  Repeat with asparagus (this is called blanching- brings the green out and par cooks the vegetables).

When ready to assemble- toss peas, cucmbers, asparagus, watercress and bread in dressing.  Serve.




It’s not fat March 21, 2016

Filed under: Interests,Saving Money — clappingonthedownbeat @ 2:20 PM

I had to take a little writing break because it has been busy.  Three birthdays in the house, and two big catering events.  I have been cooking/baking A LOT.

So here are a few highlights and recaps:

When I can, I like to buy big cuts of meat and break them down myself.  It is cheaper this way and I feel like you get a better understanding of the meat.

I bought a 15 lb cut of pork shoulder.  This is sometimes labeled pork butt.  It is not butt.  It’s from the pork shoulder.  Don’t get me started on meat labeling…..that’s a whole other post.  The shoulder is a working muscle and has a lot of connective tissue.  Therefore, it needs to be cooked low and slow for a long time.


The white “stuff” is not fat.  That is the connective tissue.  I clean as much of that off as I can.  Work the tip of a knife under it, and begin to cut away from yourself.  You probably won’t get all of it, but get as mush as you can see without hacking away at the meat.



Pork shoulder is great in a crockpot (pulled pork), or braised all day in the oven (pork stew).  I made pork rillette.  It is the French version of pulled pork turned into a rich spread.

For Christmas I got some molecular gastronomy chemicals- this takes playing with your food to a whole new level.  I had some time to prep and set up a twist on a caprese salad.


I started by making tomato juice.  With fresh tomatoes, I peeled the skins, seeded them and cooked the liquid down slightly seasoning it with a little salt and pepper.


Then I added sodium alginate to the tomatoe juice and chilled it.  I made a water bath with calcium lactate gluconate.  I then squeezed tiny drops of the tomato juice into the water bath and got spheres or tomato pearls.

Next I made a balsamic and red wine reduction and added agar agar to make a gel.

Then using fresh basil I made a basil oil and turned it into a powder.  My brother got me a 1.5 pound container of tapioca maltodextrin.  I guess I will be making lots of food powder.

I then put it together on a spoon with a small piece of fresh mozzarella.


Lastly, I made one of my favorite desserts.  Baklava.


1 pound pistachios and walnuts, coarsely ground, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
1 cup ground biscoff cookies
2-3 sticks unsalted butter, melted ( I start with 2 and then melt more as needed)
16 sheets phyllo dough (thawed, if frozen)

For the Syrup:

2 cups sugar
1 6 -to-8-ounce jar honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Combine the nuts, cinnamon and ground cookies in a bowl.

Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with some of the butter. Layer 10 pieces of phyllo in the dish, brushing each piece with butter before adding the next (keep the remaining dough covered with a damp towel). Sprinkle a quarter of the nut mixture over the dough. Layer 4 pieces of phyllo on top, brushing each with butter before adding the next; sprinkle with another quarter of the nut mixture. Add 4 more phyllo pieces on top, brushing each with butter, then add another quarter of the nut mixture, 4 more pieces of phyllo with butter, and the remaining nuts.

Layer the remaining 10 pieces of phyllo on top of the nuts, brushing each with butter; brush the top piece with extra butter. Cut into the baklava to make strips, about 1 1/2 inches wide. Then make diagonal slices, about 1 1/2 inches apart, to create a diamond pattern. Bake until golden, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the syrup: Bring the sugar, honey and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat and cook, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice and boil 2 more minutes, then let cool slightly.

Pour the syrup over the warm baklava; let soak, uncovered, at least 6 hours or overnight. Garnish with nuts.  * Note: you may only need 2/3 of the syrup depending on how much it soaks up the syrup.  I start with 1/2, let it sit a little while, then add more.




Leftovers February 29, 2016

Filed under: Meal Planning,Organization,Saving Money — clappingonthedownbeat @ 5:43 PM

I try to get the most out of food.  No sense in throwing it away.  That’s what you’ll learn in culinary classes.  Restaurants can’t afford to throw away food.

I bought a rotisserie chicken on friday night.  Usually all the chicken gets eaten and then I will use the bones to make chicken stock.  But since it was just the boys friday, there was left over chicken.

Chicken and Dumplings.

I always have onions, carrots and celery.


I love the smell of butter, onions and celery cooking.  So in the pot went 1 small diced onion, 2 stalks celery diced and 2 carrots diced with 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp olive oil.

From here you could actually go in a bunch of directions………


In another pot I dumped the leftover chicken and covered it with water (skin, bones meat and all).  I brought it to a boil, then down to a simmer for about 20 minutes.

I added 1 tsp thyme and 1/4 tsp ground tumeric to the vegetables.  Next I poured the chicken broth over the vegetables and pulled the meat off the bones.

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I added about 1/2 c. half and half (or you could use heavy cream- which is the same as heavy whipping cream- I get asked that a lot) I brought it up to a simmer for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile I made the dumplings.

-In college I cooked Kosher dinners for Hillel on campus.  A favorite was chicken matzo ball soup.  The best part- the matzo balls.  Many cultures have a dumpling type recipe and those are always the best part.

1 1/2 c. flour

1/2 c. corn meal

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

Stir with a wire whisk.  Add 1 1/2 c. half and half or milk


With two spoons, scoop dough into soup pot. Give the dumplings a little stir and cover with a lid, simmering about 20 minutes on LOW.

Dinner’s ready!





I got French! January 24, 2015

Filed under: Hot Deals,Interests,Meal Planning,Saving Money,Sharing and Caring — clappingonthedownbeat @ 2:57 PM
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Let me start off that I am writing this in my “house pants”, that is sweat pants.  I have just realized that between culinary school and teaching yoga I spend 5-6 days of the week in elastic waistband pants.  It’s going to be a transition to go back to jeans……

Last week, in A la Carte class,  we were randomly assigned our Executive Chef dates for the Red Room.  I got French Service!  The first half of the semester I will be learning FOH (front of the house) and serving in our student restaurant, The Red Room.  The second half of the semester the class switches and I will be in the BOH (back of the house) cooking or baking in the kitchen.  The Red Room is only open one night a week and it is completely run by the students.  The executive chef is in charge of creating the menu, costing the food, requisitioning and ordering the food, coordinating with the dining room manager, assigning kitchen staff duties and overseeing the preparation and then expediting the food on the night of service.  The dining room manager oversees reservations, designing the menu with the chef, and overseeing the wait staff for the night of service.  This is the capstone class for culinary students.  It ties all the classes together.

I will be Executive Chef of the Red Room on May 6th and Dining Room manager March 4th. What’ s the Red Room? It is the restaurant that is run by students at Collin College as our capstone class. Want more info or a reservation? Email me!

The entire schedule should be posted soon since we just got our assignments. The first service is Feb 4th with English Service. We’ll be open Wednesdays nights from 6-8. I highly, highly encourage reservations. Last service/class is May 13 with a Buffet.


Playing Catch Up January 12, 2014

Filed under: Interests,Meal Planning,Saving Money,Sharing and Caring — clappingonthedownbeat @ 8:31 PM

I feel like a took a vacation from writing for a while.  Always had the best intention to get to the blog, but it didn’t happen.  So here’s what I was going to write about.

I got a new camera to play with.  I am thinking maybe it was easier with my old point and shoot.  Forgive me if my pictures lately are: fuzzy, out of focus, or dark.

Had a wonderful Christmas with my family.  Made a turkey roulade with a fig and cranberry dressing, kale and brussels saute, whipped potatoes, french green beans (haricot verts), and baklava for dessert.

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Before Christmas I tackled a canning project.  I have desperately wanted to learn to can from someone experienced.  I learn better from reading and then seeing/doing.  And since you could easily kill someone by not canning your food right, I was hesitant.

I decided to start with a small batch of salsa.  It seemed to go well.  I bought fresh tomatoes, red and heirloom, then peeled and seeded and chopped them.  I roasted 3 jalapeno, seeded and chopped them, and then mixed the rest of the salsa ingredients and spices into the pot.  I jarred the salsa, processed the jars, and then all sealed.  I would post pictures, but I gave some out as hostess gifts and then the Hubby got into the rest of the stash.

I also fermented a bunch of vegetables over the holidays.  Fermenting is not canning or pickling.  It adds probiotic bacteria into your food.  Think condiment food like sauerkraut, kimchi, cucumbers….



It is Girl Scout cookie season.  This year we preordered our cookies.  Kate has been selling boxes like a champ.


I start back with culinary classes in a week.  I am taking Fundamentals of Baking this semester.  I am hoping to post pics and recipes from class and learn a ton.  I am more of a cook than a baker.  I don’t like to weigh and measure each ingredient.  Strange, since baking is such a science.  After this, I have 2 classes left to go!


Projects May 29, 2013

Filed under: Crafts,DIY,Interests,Saving Money — clappingonthedownbeat @ 8:29 PM

I always get the urge to tackle projects over long weekends.  I have projects I would like to get to all over the house, some small, some large.  I look at them and think “I will get to you one day”.  And I have the best intentions…..

This Memorial Day weekend I went with the projects that needed to be done for sanity.  There are three kids and two adults in this house.  That’s 10 feet.  On average we each have 3 pairs of shoes (actually the adults have more, but I am not tripping over those).  At any given time there are about 12-14 shoes scattered around by the doors.  I have shoes mats, I have shoe boxes in the garage for each child.  But still, shoes are scattered by the doors.

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I have been looking for a better way to store and organize these shoes.  Ikea, magazines, on-line.  You name it.  First I was thinking about a storage system in the garage since that’s where most of the shoes/cleats/ect are.  But It had to be closed since I didn’t want spiders and insects getting in.  Then I had an idea for a dresser.  If I could find a dresser I could use it for shoes, socks, and miscellaneous kid stuff.  I didn’t want to spend a lot.  And it had to have specific dimensions for the area it was going to fit in.

Out running some errands, I happened upon a dresser.  I measured it, saw it was of good quality construction, and I thought, “this may work!”   So I started the transformation.  Something fun and colorful.

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It was a light wood color  with tarnished brass handles.  I rubbed it down with a cleaner to take off the clear coat.

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I found a paint color “paprika” in the Rustoleum furniture kit make-over.  (go figure, it’s a food color)

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After 2 coats of the paint color, then I put a coat of dark glaze over.  It dried over night and then I applied the clear coat.

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I spray painted the hardware in a black metallic finish.  Everyone now has a drawer for socks and shoes and I have a “junk” drawer for all the stuff that gets left on my kitchen counter.

I also bought a dress last fall while we were in Georgia at vintage boutique.  I liked the dress, but wanted a skirt.  I decided to cut off the top and put in elastic.

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I also tackled cleaning out the lint screen on the dryer.  Regularly cleaning out the lint keeps the dryer operating efficiently, takes clothes a shorter time to dry and therefore uses less energy.

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Lastly, this weekend, I decided to see if name brands really matter.  Extra virgin olive oil.  San Marzano tomatoes, Vidalia onions.  Would using specific products make a different in my tomato sauce that I would be able to notice a difference?

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The sauce was good, but compared to other sauces I have made without the brand names, I am not sure if I could tell the difference.


Buyer Beware- Meat February 28, 2013

Filed under: Interests,Meal Planning,Saving Money — clappingonthedownbeat @ 9:35 PM

I have never been a big meat eater.  I just am not crazy about the taste or texture, but give me tofu, potatoes, cauliflower or squash and I could go on and on.  That’s probably why I have been asking SO many questions in class the last two weeks.  Chef’s eyes go wide, his chin drops and he looks at me, “…..yes, a question?”

He has emphasized over and over, that if you are going to cook you need to know meat.  Protein, in this country, is a major factor on the plate.  The more you know, the more valuable you are as a chef.  So without getting into the nitty gritty, here is some good consumer/home cook information that translates well.

(1) What are you cooking?

The type of recipe that you are making is going to lend itself to particular cuts of meat.  For example, you wouldn’t buy a tenderloin to stick in a crockpot to braise all day.  A tenderloin has very little connective tissue, so the meat it tender to begin with.   A tenderloin makes a better roast.  A chuck (pot roast) or brisket which is a muscle that is exercised a lot on the animal is tough and has a lot of connective tissue that needs to be broken down in a  moist long cooking method.

Be familiar with primal cuts (there are 6) from that are the subprimal cuts and then the “commercial” cuts.


(2) Know what you are buying

All meat is required to be inspected.  However, it is inspected only for wholesomeness.  Have you heard of Prime or Choice meat?  Those are grades.  Meat grading is voluntary (and paid for) as a quality rating.




No Roll….other lower grades for processing and canning

In class we butchered a select loin and then cooked it, and compared it to a no roll (no grade beef).  There was a huge difference!  Grading is based on marbling of meat and texture among other things.  The no roll was tough and mealy and really turned me off.

I was at the store yesterday and today and spent some time looking at the meat department.  Here is what I saw:

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This is a grocery store meat aisle.  The USDA choice selection is really small (picture on the far left- 5 packages wide, black packaging), most of the meat was just USDA inspected- no grade (picture on far right, notice white packaging).  So most of the meat people were buying at the store was no grade, maybe select, but I didn’t see that on the package.  Be careful, all the fancy marketing of “Ranchers Reserve” or whatever pretty label the grocery store uses is NOT a USDA grade, but a marketing poly to make you think it is great meat.  MOST meat sold at grocery stores is commercial low grade or “no roll” meaning it was not rolled with a meat grade for quality.  The grade stamp is a shield shape where the inspection stamp is round or rectangular.

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This was at Costco.  ALL the meat was graded as choice.  I was really excited to see that.  At the large stores Sams and Costco the only meat they sell is inspected and then graded choice.  This is quality meat at really great prices.

So the point is, watch what you are buying, pay attention,  and make sure you are buying the right product for the right recipe.

I think I will save the whole types of cattle, cross breeding and how a cow is fed and raised for another post!