Cooking In Stilettos...
Friday, February 13, 2009 We've Moved...

Cooking in Stilettos has moved - specifically to http://www.cookinginstilettos.org. New look, new style and new attitude... Won't you come visit for a bit?

We'll put the coffee on...

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Posted by Lys :: 10:48 PM :: 2 comments

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Thursday, February 5, 2009 My Vision of a Dream Kitchen...

If you walked into my kitchen, you'd see that I love the look of copper, oiled bronze and, occasionally, stainless. If I could get all my appliances in either copper or oiled bronze, I'd be THRILLED. The same with my pots. Currently, I have the Jenn-Air Mixer, Blender and Toaster in a copper color and they look amazing. It gives my kitchen a bit of Za Za Zu...

So, you can imagine my surprise when I saw this GORGEOUS Jenn-Air Kitchen while perusing the pages of Fine Cooking this month. You know what picture is definitely going on my vision board, right next to my Loubous. One day, I will have my kitchen - I firmly believe that. (Sorry Williams Sonoma Stove - you've been cast aside)
For now, I guess I'll just have to settle for this OXO Trashcan in Oiled Bronze.




Well, it's a start...

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Posted by Lys :: 9:12 PM :: 7 comments

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Thursday, January 29, 2009 Tried & True: Williams Sonoma Braised Short Ribs

In November, I fell in love - with short ribs - specifically, the Bourbon Blue's Braised Short Ribs.

However, I couldn't necessarily stalk pester their chef for the recipe so this gal had to improvise. And by improvise, I mean review every little recipe I could get my hands on that might be *the one*.

Well, my friends, I think I found one that is striking similar and, even better, I was able to finally use that lovely crock pot that only sees the counter every few months when I have to make those fabulous meatballs for a soiree.

Trust me when I say that while it make take some time, the end result is WELL worth it. I served it over some Asiago polenta (the cupboard was sans Parmesan - I KNOW - bad, Lys, bad!) and the leftovers were even better the next day. I halved the recipe because, unless I was feeding my friends for a week, this wouldn't work and I'd have short ribs for breakfast lunch and dinner. Now that I think about it - really, what's so bad about that...

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Williams-Sonoma Braised Short Ribs

Recipe courtesy of Williams-Sonoma


Ingredients:

  • 4 lb. bone-in beef short ribs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 bottle (750ml) full-bodied red wine
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 to 2 cups beef stock

Directions:

  1. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper.
  2. Spread the flour out on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Dredge the ribs in the flour, shaking off the excess.
  4. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the 3 Tbs. olive oil until nearly smoking.
  5. Working in batches, brown the ribs on all sides, about 10 minutes total.
  6. Transfer to a slow cooker.
  7. Add more oil to the Dutch oven if needed.
  8. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions, carrots and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes.
  9. Transfer to the slow cooker.
  10. Add the wine to the Dutch oven and cook, stirring to scrape up the browned bits.
  11. Add the tomato paste, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf, mashing any large chunks of tomato paste with a spoon.
  12. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until thickened and reduced by half, 8 to 10 minutes.
  13. Add the wine mixture to the slow cooker along with enough stock to come halfway up the sides of the ribs.
  14. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours according to the manufacturer’s instructions, stirring occasionally.
  15. Skim the fat off the sauce.
  16. Discard the herb sprigs and bay leaf.
  17. Transfer the ribs, carrots and sauce to shallow bowls or plates and serve immediately.

Serves 6.

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Posted by Lys :: 7:54 PM :: 4 comments

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009 New Product: Stonewall Kitchen's Pink Hot Chocolate...

Here's a new product alert - Stonewall Kitchen has just added PINK HOT CHOCOLATE to their fab collection of products. Not only do you get the frothy hot chocolate but also marshmallows and the mugs to go with. Now that's something to surprise your sweetie this Valentines day or whenever you want to brighten your day with a bit of pink.

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Posted by Lys :: 10:43 AM :: 3 comments

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Monday, January 26, 2009 A Bounty of Fruits and Veggies...

In my quest on eating healthier this year, I made a commitment to actually USE the produce I buy.

I am guilty of shopping for groceries sans list, going "ohhh - let me try this" and "Ooohhh, that looks great" and my bags are loaded with produce due to my impulse shopping (and you thought I was bad with shoes - not!). During the week, lately I have been so drained from the 9to9 that when I get home my fingers start dialing for takeout. Not to mention, I really don't have much time to spend at Publix or Fresh Market these days - it's that crazy.

Well, I found out about this great service called Orlando Organics where they deliver a plethora of organic goodies to you and you get to set the schedule for weekly or bi-weekly, all very reasonably priced. In addition to my normal order, I decided to add some extra fruit. The people there are so great, very personable and actually pay attention to what you may not like and try to help you out with your delivery. All in all, I'm thrilled so far. And, now that I have my Lotus system, I'm excited.

So, with that, let's see what I got, shall we?
  • Blueberries (just in time for The Chic Life's Weekly Challenge)
  • Strawberries
  • Kiwi (Have to admit - never tried it but I'm up for a challenge)
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Cherry Tomatoes (roasted tomato sauce for tortellini)
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Winter (??) Squash
  • Avocado
  • Baby Carrots

The cooler was crazy full with a plethora of organic goodies. I felt like a kid on Christmas going "Iron Chef - Ingredient - I dunno!" If anything it spurred the creativity in me and I have some interesting things on the agenda this week.

Now, please excuse me while I am off to learn about all things Winter Squash...

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Posted by Lys :: 7:57 AM :: 4 comments

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Sunday, January 25, 2009 AeroGarden: Week 1...

I have to admit that when I go through my cooking spurts, fresh herbs are a must. However, at the current prices, I can easily spend $15 weekly just on stuff like Italian Parsley, Basil, Rosemary and so on. And, to boot, I have been putting off replanting the AeroGarden for some time. I bought the AeroGarden a couple years ago and haven't used it as often as I should. It's beyond simple to use - just add the nutrients when they tell you to and the AeroGarden does all the heavy lifting.

I finally bit the bullet and planted a round of the Gourmet Herbs: Italian Parsley, Chives, Thyme, Italian Basil, Dill, Mint and Purple Basil. I figure that if I'm really going to start finding ways to save some money, I might as well spend the $$ for a seed kit that will give me 6 mo. worth of herbs and keep my herb buying to a minimum.

So, here's the pic of a freshly planted garden - week 1. What will Week 2, 3 and 4 bring I wonder.



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Posted by Lys :: 10:45 PM :: 1 comments

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Monday, January 19, 2009 Cookin' Round The Web: Saving Some Pennies, One Pantry At A Time…

With our country heading into a new administration, one can’t stick their head in the sand and think that finances are not in the spotlight. Going hand in hand with that effort is the Green movement. I’m learning that sometimes it’s just the best thing to stay home and chill, relaxing with friends and family while shopping in your pantry.

So, for this edition of Cookin' 'Round The Web, I spotlight some posts that can help you channel your inner frugalista while playing in the kitchen...

Obviously, a well stocked pantry is KEY to any perfect meal. The Kitchn spotlighted an article from the New York Times where Mark Bittman gave his suggestions about what is needed in a pantry. Sure, it’s a bit of an investment at first but when you think about it, once it’s stocked, you have less of a headache.

Sarah over at
Pink Shoe Diaries gave a lesson in Foodie Frugality… I’m going to implement the coffee tip – well, once I receive that replacement carafe for the coffee maker. ( I didn’t look where I was whippin’ around in the kitchen and the coffee pot went to pieces. Turns out they coffee maker was discontinued :::sigh::: )

Kathy at Panini Happy gave 5 Money-Saving Panini tips. Quick meals are just a moment away... and leftovers can be totally remade into something fabulous...

The Italian Dish gave some insight into how to make homemade gnocchi. Think about it – you already have most of these ingredients in your pantry. Considering its $3 - $4 for the vacuum packed gnocchi which, in my opinion, sometimes tastes like glue, this details the recipe perfectly and you can be a rock star at your next dinner…

Why spend a fortune for flavored oils and vinegar when you can make your own. Italian Food Forever gives some great tips on how to make your own…

The Casual Kitchen pointed out 41 Ways You Can Help Out The Environment… Plus, an added benefit that is not only are you helping the environment, but you save some cash too.


Finally, Philly.com spotlighted the state of the kitchen in their article, Home is Where The Food Is

OK, all this finance chatter has made a gal a bit somber... So, let’s spotlight a couple fun ones to round up this Link Round Up…

Erin Cooks! encourages you to channel your inner Peg Bundy and make some homemade bon bons

Food Network Musings has a great discussion on the Food Network Magazine (I’m checking out this new issue this week – haven’t decided if I should buy or not – yet)

And, finally, Forays of a Finance Foodie talked about her experience attending a Food Network Soiree

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Posted by Lys :: 12:33 PM :: 0 comments

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Tried and True: Onion Soup with Thyme and Fontina...

My mom taught me an appreciation of French Onion soup when I was younger. As I got older, I always thought that French Onion soup was daunting and who am I to attempt and resigned to only order it when I was out for dinner.

That was until I was watching Everyday Italian and Giada de Laurentiis made her Onion Soup with Thyme and Fontina. It was like the beloved French Onion but kicked up Italian style. And, it wasn't as complicated as my mind tended to think. Even I could do this!

This soup is in my arsenal. It's super easy to make, always garners compliments galore and is comfort food that is perfect for these cold winter months.

Enjoy!

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Recipe courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis and FoodNetwork.com

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large Vidalia onions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
4 cups beef broth
4 slices ciabatta bread, cubed
4 ounces sliced fontina cheese
Special equipment: 4 (1 1/2-cup) ovenproof ramekins


Directions

In a medium, heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the thyme and broth. Simmer, uncovered, until the onions are soft, about 15 minutes.

Divide the soup between the 4 ovenproof ramekins. Divide the cubed bread among the ramekins. Top each with slices of fontina cheese. Place under the broiler, until the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 4 minutes. Serve immediately.

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Posted by Lys :: 11:17 AM :: 1 comments

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Monday, January 12, 2009 My 2009 Culinary Goals

I'm not a firm believer in "resolutions" as I detailed over at Just Because... However, I am a fan of "Goals" and decided that, in addition to making my "2009 Life Goals", I was going to add some culinary goals to the mix. Of course, you know you'll have a front row seat if I pass or fail. So, without further adieu, may I present some of my 2009 Culinary Goals...

  • Attend the South Beach Food & Wine Festival. Granted, every year I hear about it and every year I whine about how I should have gone. Well, considering that I live in Florida, I bit the bullet last night and I bought a ticket for a day to at least check it out. Yes, it's pricey but to see some of my fave chefs cook i.e. Michael Symon, Sunny Anderson, Ingrid Hoffman, Tyler Florence, Cat Cora, etc. Who knows, maybe next year I'll go for the whole event. Either way, a day at South Beach - YAY!
  • Take a cooking class (or three) at a local cooking school here in Orlando. I found out about Truffles and Trifles through Chowhound and I'm intrigued to say the least. I know the Italian and Cajun ones are on my list. The Williams-Sonoma “demos” aren’t really “cooking classes” per se. While they are good, if I’m going to spend $40+ for a class, I’d rather it be hands on. I learn much better that way.
  • Learn to make fresh pasta. This means I have to do my research on Pasta Machines, find some fab pasta recipes and, for the love of all things Italiano, learn to NOT hit the boxed penne if I fail miserably.
  • With the pasta comes the pizza... Learn To Make My Own Pizza Dough...
  • Finally cave and getting some "good china and glassware." Now, I have some great pieces courtesy of Southern Living, my family and various finds. I still lust after the Vietri line that I first saw on Everyday Italian years ago. So I’m going to work on actually finding pieces I adore at the best price. Seriously, my one wish would be to raid the Food Network “closet” (you know like the Vogue closet with all the goodies). I’d be up to my eyeballs in all things Le Creuset, Simon Pearce and Vetri. *sigh*
  • Learn to make dog food for the pug. The cat is pretty well established with her fave food, treats and whatnot. The pug is a very finicky eater so I'll be researching more on this. Plus, I feel bad for the little guy who is getting sick all the time. Poor munchkin.
  • Finally, a blog culinary goal - Move this blog over to WordPress. Blogger and I are *ahem* cool but I want to really work on making Cooking In Stilettos the best it could be. So, make sure to keep http://www.cookinginstilettos.org in your bookmarks. I’m hoping to get this transitioned by the end of February - maybe sooner. Don’t quote me, though.

What’s on your culinary agenda for 2009?


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Posted by Lys :: 8:53 AM :: 4 comments

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Friday, January 9, 2009 The Break-Up: Sur La Table - It's Over.

I rarely, RARELY, ever speak ill of what I regard as my cooking Mecca - that being Sur La Table. However, after what I went through last night, Sur La Table and I are breaking up.

I've disclosed before that when I get their catalogs, I pore over it like it’s the latest issue of Vogue. I bought my Global knives there. I first fell in love with (and later took home) my Caribbean Le Creuset pieces via Sur La Table. Sur La Table has been my "online go to spots" for research here for Cooking in Stilettos. Not to mention, the price difference between here and Williams Sonoma is astronomical. Sadly, the nearest Sur La Table is 3 hours away. They haven't built one in Orlando yet (and, last I heard, it will be QUITE some time). And, when I travel, I always research where Sur La Table is and if I have time to go, often leaving room in the suitcase to store the goodies I find. The Sur La Table in New Jersey knows me well.

I placed a substantial order on their site yesterday, namely being the Lotus Sanitizing System that I've talked about here before, a marble pastry board that I needed this weekend, a donut cutter that Diana @ The Chic Life recommended some great deals on baking sheets and the apron I've been lusting after. I would have added more but I thought "eeeh - I still have the remainder of the gift card that I need to use at WS. I'll perhaps use it on the Breville Cordless Blender I've been eyeing."

The key factor to this drama is that I needed the pastry board for this weekend. See, the Marble Pastry board at Williams Sonoma is $129.00. I was hesitant to buy it but figured I had to. You can't find a good marble pastry board here in OTown at a decent price. At Sur La Table it was on sale for $32. That's a HUGE difference. So, knowing that, I figured I'd upgrade to overnight shipping and have it sent to the 9to5. It was an extra $25 but I felt it was worth it with what I would have spent at Williams Sonoma. I couldn't ship it to my house because we're having problems at our apartment complex with deliveries - namely UPS leaves the stuff on the truck, marks it delivered and we don't get it until 2 - 3 days after. We've complained and UPS gives everyone the same excuse, "We're sorry - it got mixed up with the Disney packages". I'd rather not have ANYTHING shipped there if I can avoid it.

My gut instinct, however, kept bugging me last night and I called Sur La Table to check on the status of the order. I normally would get a tracking number by evening. Williams Sonoma does it. Barnes & Noble does it. Other retailers do it. It was now around 8 and I had received nada, nil, nothing.

By chance, I encountered Charmaine in the call center. All started off okay until she told me "Well, it should be shipped tomorrow.” Wait a minute - overnight means OVERNIGHT! Then she tells me that their overnight is, technically, two days. Well considering that my shipping is about $50, we need to rectify that mess quickly - as in cancel. She told me she couldn't do ANYTHING and that I'd have to do it at 8:00 but there was the chance that the order could be filled and shipped by that time. To make the situation every worse, I found that the woman was rude, condescending and just pissed me the hell off.

Yes, I flipped into cable cop mode whereby I told her to let me speak and then I'll let her speak. Do. Not. Interrupt. Me. She goes 'Well you interrupted me!' Wait another flippin' minute - I paused, recounted the conversation in my head, could not not recall one interruption, refused to put up with her attitude and shut. her. down. The next thing she heard was “Charmaine, I want to speak to your Supervisor - NOW".

Her supervisor, Theresa, and I had a "Come to Jesus" talk. It was more than the shipping confusion (a normal definition of overnight vs. their definition) or the need for this pastry board. The reason for the "The Break Up" is and forever will be the crappy customer service exhibited by Charmaine. Theresa assured me that she would address Charmaine's issues immediately and that she would do what she could to cancel my order. However, to be safe, I should call Customer Service in the morning. She did everything she could on her end to try to help the situation which, thanks to Charmaine, escalated well beyond what should have been done. She was beyond pleasant - DID NOT INTERRUPT ME and understood that I seriously was seeing red. While I can get cranky, this was worse than when I shut someone's cable off and they called me the "C" word. (They were stealing cable - where does that make me the bad guy for doing my job, right?)

This morning, I had a quick break from the daily duties where I could give Sur La Table a quick call to make sure the order was cancelled. I wanted that money refunded stat. I resigned myself to the fact that instead of using that Williams Sonoma gift card for a portion of the Breville blender or the Emile Henry Pie Plate or other goodies I wanted, I HAD to spend it on that pastry board and then take a hit for an additional $100.

Well, Sur La Table's rep, Jessica, answered the phone and I told her to cancel the order. She told me I'd receive it on Monday and I told her "No. Just cancel the order." She talked to her supervisor and again asked what she should do. Again, I had to tell her to CANCEL IT! She told me that if it had been placed at 1:00 EST it would have been sent but I placed it around 3:00 EST. OK - where does it say that on the website? It doesn't. While I admit that I am blond, I do tend to notice these things and, if I had seen it, I wouldn't have placed the order. Plain and simple and Sur La Table and I would have been fine. The continued lack of following a clear and explicit command was astounding. What part of CANCEL THE ORDER does Sur La Table not get? No part of explanation by a CSR on their part can override Charmaine's actions. That's the main issue.

Long story short, due to Charmaine's actions, I just can't support Sur La Table anymore. So, it's my decision that until further notice, I'm not going to recommend them, feature their products here on Cooking in Stilettos, give them any link love on either of my sites and their catalogs will go unopened. The two new Sur La Table cookbooks I was planning to buy will not be purchased. I will buy only from other online retailers i.e. Fantes, Cooking.com, Chefs, Jacobs Kitchen, Dean & Deluca, etc. I will purchase that Lotus System through Chefs. I will send customers locally to Le Gourmet Chef, the Premier Outlets, Crate & Barrel and Williams-Sonoma. What was Sur La Table's loss is now other culinary retailers' gain.

Sur La Table not only lost a substantial sale, but a long time fan and customer. Quite simply, I am heartbroken because they truly were my favorite store.

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Posted by Lys :: 12:27 PM :: 7 comments

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009 Tried and True: Rachael Ray's "You Won't Be Single For Long Vodka Pasta"

I know, I know - flog me now. I'm recommending a RR Recipe. However, I have to say, this vodka pasta is super simple, flavorful and just straight out rocks. Now, I know you are all going "Lys, you made it and you're single. The title says won't be single for long. What's up with that?" Quite simply, I have never used it on a special guy - just my friends and fam. However, if I did whip out this recipe for a certain someone, trust me, it would make him cry tears of contented happiness.

This recipe is one that you can put in your arsenal and don't worry, I won't tell anyone that it's courtesy of Rachael Ray. It will be our little secret.

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Recipe courtesy of FoodNetwork.com and Rachael Ray

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan in a slow stream
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 cup vodka
1 cup chicken stock
1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)
Coarse salt and pepper
16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate
1/2 cup heavy cream
20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn
Crusty bread, for passing

  1. Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan, 3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup. Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.
  3. Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta.
  4. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves.
  5. Pass pasta with crusty bread.

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Posted by Lys :: 9:07 PM :: 1 comments

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