Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Food For Thought: Julie & Julia

This past weekend, Stef and I went with our friend Amy to watch Julie and Julia in the theater, which is something I’ve wanted to do since first hearing about the movie earlier this year. I really don’t know the last time that a movie really struck a chord with my actual life: so many times we transport ourselves to actually “be” in the movie, but it’s different when the movie actually IS your life! So, in the grand scheme of cooking and blogging, I decided that writing about this movie and how it affected me was just as much in line with the blog as anything else.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my job and I love, absolutely love, the people that I work with. I can’t remember a time when I truly enjoyed the people that I work with as much as the people I work with now. I have an absolutely amazing family, we have fantastic friends, a church that we believe in and love serving at, we live in the mountains, we recently got another puppy (which makes 2 perfect pups that we have now), and we have a home that we love. We are truly, truly blessed, but I still can’t help feeling sometimes that there’s something missing. I feel as though I’m still not pursuing the thing I love to do, the gift that God has blessed me with, the passion that I love sharing with others. And, just like Julie in the movie, I know that even if everything goes wrong, at the end of the day cooking is what brings me back to simply loving life. Food, although there are millions upon millions of recipes, cooking methods, and styles, is really very simple. There’s no right or wrong, it just is what it is.

Another thing that I really identified with was Julia Child’s desire to learn more about the art of French cooking. I have wanted for so long to attend cooking school, but (thanks to the almighty dollar) I have not yet had the chance to go. I felt so encouraged by the fact that she didn’t go to cooking school when she was a teenager or even in her 20’s. I think that so many times we try to get all of our schooling and learning and experience when we’re young, as if that’s going to help us just skate through the rest of life carefree. If there’s anything I’ve figured out in the past (almost) 26 years, it’s that there will always be a curveball, and we’ll never be at a point where life is just easy. But the great thing about life is that complication only makes us stronger, which is something I really appreciated about the portrayal of Julia Child in Julie and Julia.

My dream is to one day be able to encourage and love people through the medium of cooking and food. It’s something I love, and I think that finding that thing is the start to a joyful life.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Barbecued Texas-Style Beef Brisket - Review

Labor Day 2009: Nate and I wake up craving the kind of smoked brisket we left behind in Texas when we moved to Colorado; slow-smoked, falling-apart tender, and with so much flavor that you only use barbecue sauce if you just like to have sauce. We woke up Monday morning with that hankering for a brisket, but first things first: we had to get a smoker! Off we ran to Walmart for a smoker, and, as it turns out, September is the month to buy all things summer on the cheap! We left Walmart with the smoker, charcoal, wood chips, and lighter fluid (Tim "The Toolman" Taylor's man-grunt comes to mind) and ready to embark on the flavorful journey of smoking our first brisket ever! We chose Emeril Lagasse's Barbecued Texas-Style Beef Brisket recipe:


  • 1 (4-pound) beef brisket, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Mesquite wood chips

Set the brisket on a large sheet of plastic wrap. In a medium bowl combine the dark brown sugar, chili power, paprika, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, cayenne, dry mustard, and cumin thoroughly. Rub the mixture onto the brisket and wrap tightly in the plastic wrap. Place on a baking sheet and let marinate refrigerated at least 6 hours or overnight. Remove the meat from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature.

Soak mesquite wood chips in a large bowl of water for 1 to 2 hours. Remove, drain and set aside.

Remove the meat from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature.

Prepare a smoker with charcoal and the wood chips according to the manufacturer's instructions to 180 to 200 degrees F. Place the water pan in the smoker and add water to the fill line, about 2/3 full. Place the unwrapped brisket on the lower rack off the direct heat, close the lid, and cook, regularly stoking the fire and adding additional chips, until an instant-read thermometer registers an internal temperature of 140 to 145 degrees F., about 4 to 5 hours. Remove the meat from the grill and let rest for 20 minutes before carving the meat against the grain.

(Alternately, prepare a stove-top smoker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Place the unwrapped brisket on the rack over low heat. Close the lid and smoke for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Remove the meat from the smoker and wrap in a large sheet of heavy aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet and roast until tender and an instant-read thermometer registers an internal temperature of 140 to 145 degrees F., about 2 to 3 hours. Remove the meat from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes before carving the meat against the grain.)

Serve with Barbecue Sauce on the side for dipping.

Fast forward 6 hours: I'm eating a phenomenal brisket, full of flavor from perfectly blended spices, meat, and smoke, and not even thinking about barbecue sauce. The flavors were amazing, and although it was a little overdone for my taste, it was tender and juicy and flavorful and completely satisfied my hankering for brisket!

A very productive Labor Day indeed!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pureed Root Vegetable Soup

(photo courtesy of Kitchenography)

Pureed Root Vegetable Soup

4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
4-5 ribs of celery, washed and chopped
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped (should equal a little over 2 cups chopped)
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed (don’t have to chop since the soup is pureed)
1-2 cups of potato flakes (I just used a Garlic Mashed Potato mashed potato mix)
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 cups water
½ tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Toss the squash and onions with 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Spread in one even layer on a large baking sheet, and roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway, or until the onions have started to caramelize and the squash is tender. Let cool.

In a large pot, heat remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat. Sauté carrots and celery until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in garlic cloves, and sauté another 3-4 minutes, or until garlic is tender. Pour stock and water into pot, add basil and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are very soft.

Pour the soup (veggies and all) into a blender (better done in batches while it’s hot) or food processor, and process until it’s at a desired consistency. I like mine to still have some texture, but not chunky. Pour back into soup pot, add one cup of water and potato flakes. Stir for 2 minutes to check consistency. Add more water or flakes if needed to adjust soup to your desired consistency. Serve hot and enjoy!

This recipe freezes really well, which makes it super convenient. It’s also great for all seasons, but I recommend making it in the fall because that’s when the squash is at its best.

High cholesterol and high blood pressure tends to run in my family, and I’ve been trying to come up with several recipes that are high in flavor and low in fat and cholesterol. This is definitely one of those recipes! I’ve been eating it by itself or with a whole wheat pita with some melted provolone cheese on it for lunch, and it keeps me full all day. Let me know what you think!

(side note: the above picture is not actually what the soup will look like in color - it's more of an orange from the carrots and squash - but I love how that picture portrays the consistency!)