what drives my passion for the food industry

What drives my passion for the food industry? I am not sure if a 700 word essay can truly do my passion justice, however, I am more than willing to give my best effort.  My love for food began at birth.  My father who was a chef at a high end restaurant, instilled what are my now core cooking values today. From de-veining shrimp to cracking eggs, I was a sous chef from the time I could stand on a chair.

As I grew up, so did my love for cooking.  Many a night were spent watching the host from Iron Chef take a bite out of the red apple, and watch master chef after master chef prepare out of this world meals with strange exotic ingredients. One of my goals as a child, which remains today, is to be on the Iron Chef show, and take Bobbie Flay on as a contender. (Hopefully he will still be on by the time I make it.) Not only is my passion driven by the countless Food Network shows that are pre-recorded on my DVR, but also from the self fulfillment enjoyed from watching friends and family appreciate my creative cooking.  Now a mother of two, I have taken my passion for cooking, and unleashed it upon my family. I refuse to buy a jar baby food, and have invested the time pureeing organic vegetables and fruits into fresh baby food.  My Fiance’ has become extremely spoiled with my weekly menu’s, which are planned and shopped for every Saturday of every week. I realized what an accomplishment it was to cook healthy  inexpensive meals, and started a blog, bargainrecipe.com. I now display these recipes to the world. It has been a really fun, exciting challenge to adapt unhealthy meals into collations that can be enjoyed without feeling guilty. As I look to the future, I am excited to broaden my cooking techniques using gastro-molecular cooking, and learn cuisines from different cultures.

 Over the past four years, I have tried to imagine myself in countless jobs and occupations, but nothing has felt right. Not until I recognized that  my passion for cooking, is my occupational calling. After entering the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Academy, I I finally made the right decision. I haven’t been able to stop smiling since I submitted my application and received my acceptance letter.  I realize to some 500 dollars may not be much, but to me, its a month worth of meals, a year of baby food, and acknowledgement that my passion is worth your investment. Regardless if I receive this scholarship, I know in my heart I will make the Le Cordon Bleu name proud.

Take that Rachel Ray!

So I finally did it. I conquered the homemade spaghetti. For some reason, I’ve always thought making tomato sauce from scratch was a secret art form only accessible if you know an extremely old Italian woman who doesn’t speak a lick of English. I, being a Greek German American, know no one who fits this description. I decided that it couldn’t be too hard, I had read what the ingredients were on the back of the glass tomato sauce jars. The typical Italian ingredients: garlic, tomatoes, onions, salt,olive oil, pepper, and of course, red wine. Now, I being the Greek German American that I am, cannot leave a spaghetti sauce with just these basic ingredients. So I adapted what would be considered the traditional spaghetti sauce, and made it more like the nontraditional woman that I am. Cumin, cinnamon, white sugar, ground turkey, fresh basil, and ground red pepper, make this ancient classic a new fusion dish. I had to research the process of making the tomato sauce, and it is for sure a process, but well worth it in the end. My entire family gobbled it up, and I barely had enough to put away for leftovers. (Which is really important as I plan to make chicken parmesan  with the remnants tomorrow!) This meal really hits a home run being an extremely healthy, CHEAP recipe. All together the ingredients come in around $15.00. I hope you enjoy this new classic in our home.

 

Homemade Fresh Spaghetti

Serves 6
Prep time 45 minutes
Cook time 1 hour, 15 minutes
Total time 2 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 4 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 cup merlot wine (I usually try to find the cheapest merlot available when cooking)
  • 4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 fresh basil (whole or chopped depending on how you want to present the dish)
  • fresh mozzarella (cheese can be used in medallions or shredded)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

Note

This tomato sauce, can be incorporated into many different types of Italian dishes. Eggplant Parmesan, lasagna, Chicken Parmesan are just to name a few recipes this sauce can be used in. I chose to make Turkey Meatballs in the oven. Even being served just over pasta, this dish will become a favorite.

 

Directions

Preparing Tomatoes
Step 1 Boil Water, enough to cover both tomatoes. Once water has come to a boil, remove from heat, and add tomatoes. After two to three minutes, tomatoes should have a skin that is easy to peel off right around the ends of the tomato. remove all of the skin, and cut tomato in half. Remove as many seeds as you can. Some people like the seeds so if you don't feel like removing them, just don't.
The Sauce
Step 2 In large pot, or deep saucepan, add olive oil and bring to medium heat. Add garlic and onions.
Step 3 Once garlic and onions have had a chance to simmer for a moment, add the tomatoes, and 1/2 cup of red wine, sugar, and spices. Cook on high heat for about 10 minutes.
Step 4 Add tomato sauce, and rest of red wine. Lower heat to medium low, and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
Step 5 Top with fresh basil and mozzarella.

Did someone say Lasagna?!

Hello to Phyllo. I discovered this pastry masterpiece while trying to come up with a new twist to lasagna. It turns out I stumbled across an amazing recipe that will sure to be a hit in any home. (And I won’t blame anyone if they take full credit as this recipe is sure to become a family secret!)  As far as price goes, this recipe comes in at a whopping $15.00, serving up to 6 hungry humans.  Not only is this recipe a tongue/pocket pleaser, it’s also EXTREMELY healthy!  Feel free to adapt this recipe to suite your family, as any of the vegetables can be substituted, including the turkey for chicken. Bon Appetite!

 

Phyllo Turkey Lasagna

Serves 6
Prep time 1 hour
Cook time 25 hours, 25 minutes
Total time 26 hours, 25 minutes
Meal type Main Dish
Occasion Family Dinner

Ingredients

  • 1 Package Phyllo Dough (can be found in the frozen section next to pie crusts)
  • 1 Package Cream of Spinach
  • 1 Carrot
  • 4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 pound Turkey Breast Filets
  • 1 onion

Directions

Step 1 Thaw phyllo dough the night before meal.
Step 2 grease pan lightly.
Step 3 Cook Turkey in pan with canola oil, adding minced garlic and chopped onions. The turkey doesn't have to be completely cooked, as it will continue to cook in the oven.
Step 4 Begin layering the phyllo dough. About 8 layers should be enough for the bottom crust. It's completely up to you on what goes in each layer, as long as there is about 5-8 layers in between each ingredient. ( I put the turkey in the middle, with spinach and carrots mixed together.
Step 5 Before putting in the oven, make sure that the top layer of phyllo dough is thoroughly coated with butter. If not, your supposed to be flaky, tastey lasagna, will be a crispy, burnt mess. :)
Step 6 Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20-25 minutes or golden brown.
Step 7 Let cool, and enjoy!

Improvise with cooking

Food for thought. I just came across this thought and I figured it would be worth sharing. I always see chef’s using a million different types of cookware just to make ONE dish. And I usually don’t have what they “say” it requires. But to be honest, most dishes can be used using simple pots and pans. Do not be afraid to create a meal just because you don’t have everything listed. And the same can be said for ingredients. I personally, do not live in an area where every ingredient you see on tv can be found. Just try to use something you can find. IMPROVISE.  Look up ingredients and you will be surprised to find that it’s family member is probably found in your local grocery store. Cooking doesn’t have to be scary, or hard. Just try to have fun and see what you can come up with!

Caribbean Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes

This is one of my favorite meals of all time. I always have plenty of leftovers when we are done, and not because we didn’t thoroughly over indulge ourselves.  The black beans combined with the sweet potatoes and Caribbean spices, brings an authentic island taste to the table. I always accompany this meal with chopped chicken tenderloins and rice. Sauteed asparagus or green beans makes a perfect side for this wonderful meal. Quick, easy, and delicious.

Caribbean Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4
Prep time 30 minutes
Meal type Main Dish

Ingredients

  • 5 Sweet Potatoes
  • 1/2 Onion
  • 3 cans Black Beans
  • 1 Bottle Caribbean Jerk Sauce
  • 1 Pound Chicken Tenderloins
  • 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Ancho Chile Pepper

Note

Rice is a must with this dish.

Directions

Step 1 Peel sweet potatoes and slice into cubes.
Step 2 Dice onion into fine pieces.
Step 3 Open cans of beans and bring to boil over medium heat in large pot.
Step 4 Add sweet potatoes, onions, spices, and 1/4 cup Caribbean jerk sauce.
Step 5 Cook Chicken with remaining sauce to taste in separate skillet.
Step 6 Serve once sweet potatoes are soft.

 

 

Grilled Lamb Chops

Grilled Lamb Chops

Ingredients

  • 1lb Lamb Chops
  • 3 tablespoons Fresh Basil
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 teaspoons Black Pepper
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 11 Freezer Ziploc Bag

Directions

Step 1 Put all ingredients in Ziploc Freezer Bag. Marinate in fridge for 3-5 days. Grill to taste.

Rutabaga and Zucchini Fries

Rutabaga and Zucchini Fries

Ingredients

  • 1/2 rutabaga
  • 1 zucchini

batter

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 garlic powder
  • 2 cups vegetable oil

Directions

Step 1 Peel vegetables. Cut into thin slices. (French Fry Style). Pat dry and flour. Heat oil on medium heat in large deep pot.
batter
Step 2 Add all ingredients and mix,
Step 3 Coat vegetables with batter and begin frying in heated oil. Should take approximately 5 minutes or until light brown. Serve hot.

Sauteed Green Beans

Sauteed Green Beans

Serves 4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 25 minutes
Meal type Side Dish
simple but great flavor. Rich in vitamins.

Ingredients

  • 1lb Fresh Green Beans (cleaned)
  • 1/2 cup Butter or Margarine
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Seasonings

Directions

Step 1 Melt butter in medium saucepan. Add fresh green beans
Step 2 add salt, pepper, and Mrs. Dash. Add water. Cover and steam for 5 minutes apprx. Cooked when bright green in color.

Sauteed Asparagus

Sauteed Asparagus

Serves 3
Prep time 15 minutes
Meal type Side Dish

Ingredients

  • 1lb asparagus
  • 1/2 stick margarine
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Step 1 Add butter and Salt to saucepan. Heat butter until melted. Add Asparagus. Cover and stir occasionally.
Step 2 When asparagus is bright green in color, add lemon juice and pepper. Increase Heat.
Step 3 Cook to taste. Some like it crunchy, but I like it semi soft.
Step 4 Serve and enjoy!

Stuff It!

I believe almost every chef has moments where they just don’t know what to cook. I personally, experience these moments all the time. My mind is overloaded with recipes I have seen, heard, read, and remembered that it becomes so overwhelming you just think to yourself,  “I have no idea what to do for dinner tonight”. Well, thank goodness I came up with this recipe, because it was a lifesaver for me one overwhelming evening, and I hope it can help out someone else who just doesn’t know what to do. Chicken Stuffed Peppers came to me as I was rummaging through my fridge. There are 4 main ingredients to stuffed peppers, and it’s really up to you on what to use.  First and foremost, is the pepper of course. I used red peppers, but you can use any type for this dish. Second, rice. Every stuffed pepper I have ever had that was worth a darn had some rice in it. Doesn’t matter if its brown, red, yellow. Rice is rice.  Third, Meat of course. Must have meat. any kind, as long as its shredded or finely chopped. And lastly,  CHEESE.  I would stick to a cheddar, pepper jack, or mozzarella cheese, as they brown nicely. I chose the ingredients listed below, but you can easily substitute any canned vegetable for the black beans. I always add onions to a meal if I can so its up to you on whether or not you want to use onions. Approach this pepper with caution, and try to let it cool off before you dig into this delicious dish.

Chicken Stuffed Peppers

Meal type Main Dish
Misc Gourmet, Pre-preparable
Occasion Casual Party
Chicken Stuffed Peppers are a great family dish, and a very simple meal to throw together. You can easily use any ingredient that suites your family in place of the stuffing ingredients listed.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Chicken Breast/Rotissarie Chicken (chopped/shredded)
  • 1/2 Onion (minced)
  • 1/2 can Black Beans (drain)
  • 1/2 can Diced Tomatoes w/ green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Ancho Chile Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Adobo Powder
  • 2 cups Water
  • 2 cups Rice

Directions

filling
Step 1 Cook rice as normal. Set aside to mix for filling
Step 2 Shred or cook chicken in pan. If cooking chicken, add minced onions 2 minutes prior to removing from heat.
Step 3 Drain canned Black Beans and Diced Tomatoes w/ chiles. Pre-Heat oven to 450 F.
pepper
Step 4 Hollow out peppers. Boil 4 quarts of water and add peppers. Boil for 3-4 minutes.
Step 5 Mix all filling ingredients in large mixing bowl.
Bake
Step 6 Stuff Pepper. Top with slice of pepper jack cheese. Bake 20 minutes.
Step 7 Remove from heat and cool. Enjoy!