Saturday, September 30, 2006

Think Blue!

Well, this has been one heck of a year with my Boys in Blue! I had high hopes for a great year, but never did I expect anything like this, clinching a spot in the playoffs. Now my question is --- what happens next? We are still tied with SD, and are still in the Wild Card spot. Oh Lucy, somebody splain, pleeze! I will have to wait for the LA Times Sports page, either online after midnight, or if I hit the sack early, I will read it tomorrow in print. Whatever happens, I am soooo happy. There's a Rally scheduled at the Universal City Walk on Monday, check the paper for details.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Hat

I mentioned in my last post that after eating at The Hat, I sat down to watch "Cooking Showdown" on KSCI Channel 18. We shared the famous and deadly chili cheese Fries, and I ate half a double dipped pastrami. Let me explain, this is the famous Southern California burger stand pastrami sandwich, not your deli stacked sandwich on rye, which in all fairness is another very good sandwich, just not the same. I've been to a few places outside of So.Cal. and they don't make pastramis anywhere else like they do out here. When Monica comes out to visit, The Hat is first place on her list.

The Hat is one of the oldest burger joints in the area, the original opened in 1951. Chronis on Whittier Blvd. also makes a pretty darn good pastrami, and the best chili dogs, and I must give them credit for still being around. But The Hat is closer to the house, so that's what we chose. My cousin even worked at Chronis through high school. And for the record, Dirty Vegas filmed their video for "Days Go By" at Chronis, the one where the guy starts break dancing out in front of the burger stand. How cool was that to see Chronis on MTV!

Ever since I was a kid, I've enjoyed these juicy dipped pastrami sandwiches, and The Hat makes a good one. They long ago abandoned the denser heavier French roll for a much larger and softer one, and they increased the price to $6.29, but they still serve a very generous sandwich. The freshly sliced French roll is dipped (or not!) into the steaming hot au jus, slathered with mustard, layered with pickle slices, and then thinly sliced lean pastrami is piled on. Anymore, I can only eat half, if I want to enjoy any chili cheese fries and still be able to breathe! I told you this story so you would understand that it really and truly had to be some spectacular food on "Cooking Showdown" for me to even think about any food after a meal from The Hat. It was that good!

locations throughout Southern California
Upland, Temple City, Simi Valley, Brea, Lake Forest and more!
PS---Wouldn't THE HAT pastramis be the perfect ballpark food at Dodger Stadium? It could happen!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bagels That Grab A Woman's Heart!

La Vida Dulce LOVES cooking shows! Some more than others. I also love bizarre TV. Stuff nobody watches but me. Many years ago I got hooked on a soap opera called "Tokyo Housewives" that was followed by a cooking show in which a battle was waged between two chefs over a featured food item, like sea cucumber. It was the original "Iron Chef" now shown on FoodTV. Both shows displayed English subtitles, I loved watching them. It was charming to hear the English and French culinary terms on the cooking show. Then suddenly "IC" was taken off the air. I actually called the local station, Channel 18, and asked what happened. It seems that there was a dispute over the rights to the English translations and subtitles so that was that. Well, I was very happy to see "IC" back on the air, but those cheesy voice-overs are the worst. I rarely watch it anymore, it's annoying to listen to the silly overacting and giggling. Put the subtitles back, please!

Well you can imagine my delight, while scrolling the through the guide, to discover another Japanese food program called "Cooking Showdown" on Channel 18. OMIGOD it is fabulous!! Two teams of spectators who decide the winner, two chefs, two different takes on the same meal item, this week---sandwiches! One team chose to make a fried fish filet sandwich with freshly caught suzuki fish. The other team made a Norwegian smoked salmon sandwich on a fresh bagel. The bagel team called their sandwich the "Jennifer Lopez" and the suzuki team called theirs the "Mariah Carey" which had both teams laughing. Me too! Ask yourself, what would JLo eat? Elaborate preparations were made, they even smoked the Norwegian salmon onstage in a stainless steel smoker that had me envious. These were the most spectacularly executed plate presentations, and both teams of spectators were anxious for a bite of either one. It made me hungry too, and we had just been to The Hat!

The best part of the show is a behind-the-scenes look at the featured "Showdown" foods. Cameras were on board the tiny fishing boat that hooked the suzuki, which is one of the most expensive types of fish. We were then treated to a visit to the popular "Bagel Cafe" and watched fresh dough being made into bagels. They made it clear that only imported American flour was used. I was surprised to learn that they didn't boil their bagels for a very long period of time. A longer boil creates a chewier bagel and they said Japanese jaws are not as strong as American jaws! Then the baker announced that these bagels "grab a woman's heart!" --- so help me, that's what the subtitles read! They went on to explain that since there is no fat in these bagels, women love them. The bagels looked delicious, slightly chewy outside, soft and fluffy inside. Customers couldn't get enough.

After the two sandwiches were presented, the spectators voted, and the suzuki fish sandwich won. That meant that the spectators who voted for the bagel sandwich didn't get to eat! All they could do was look on with sad faces and watch the other spectators devour their food, and then the show was over. Bizarre TV indeed, and I loved it. La Vida Dulce can't wait for another "Cooking Showdown" next weekend. I found a cooking show that grabbed my heart!
NOTE: You can watch "Cooking Showdown" in the greater Los Angeles area on KSCI Channel 18 at 8pm on Saturdays.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Basic Biscuit, Cocoa and Playdough Mixes

Here it is, September is almost gone already, and that means it's time to get myself into gear for the holidays. Once a week La Vida Dulce will be posting some of the basic mixes, formulas and recipes we have used throughout the years. It helps to have these on hand, that way we can get moving and be done with one product or gift, then move on to the next. Today we feature two mixes using nonfat dry milk, plus a fun playdough recipe for the kids. Older kids with some basic kitchen knowledge can handle this one, but PLEASE supervise them, accidents can happen, even I have recent kitchen scars. Younger kids can help out with measuring, (a wonderful way to teach math!) but safety comes first. Have fun!

BISCUIT MIX (something like that big yellow box)
2 lbs. or about 8 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups instant nonfat dry milk
1 tablespoon plain salt, not kosher
1 1/2 cups shortening

In a very large bowl stir dry ingredients until well mixed. With a pastry blender or large fork cut in the shortening until well blended. Store in an air-tight covered container, keep at about 70-75 degrees F. Use within one month. Makes about 10 cups.

5 cups instant nonfat dry milk
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup quality cocoa powder,
Ghiradelli or Hershey's Dark are good choices
tiny pinch of salt
Additional flavorings:
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
Whipped cream

Mix nonfat dry milk, sugar, salt and cocoa together in a very large bowl with a whisk. Add flavorings as desired. Store in an air-tight covered jar.

To make 1 quart of chocolate milk or hot cocoa, add 3 cups of plain water to 1 1/2 cups cocoa mix in a heavy saucepan. Heat just to boiling. Lower heat and continue to cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, set the timer. Serve in mugs or large cups for hot cocoa, top with whipped cream or marshmallows, if desired. For a quick cold chocolate milk drink, chill before serving. To make only one cup of hot cocoa, use 6 tablespoons of cocoa mix in a mug and add 3/4 cup boiling water, stir.
NOTE: This mix makes a nice hostess or gift exchange present. Include the directions on a gift card.

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup plain water
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup plain salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
liquid food coloring

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please remember to supervise at ALL times when cooking with children. DO NOT WALK AWAY, PET THE DOG OR ANSWER THE PHONE! Be the adult in charge, not next of kin on the accident report. Seriously.

To make playdough in the desired color, add a few drops of food coloring to water, or add more for a deeper color. Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan, stir with a wooden spoon. Cook mixture on medium heat until it begins to leave the side of the pan, just as with choux paste. Let cool, remove from saucepan, and place in a tightly covered plastic container, or ziplock bag. Place in refrigerator for about 30 minutes before using, it may be too warm for small hands to use. Keep in the frige when not using, and throw it out if it gets too dirty. Will last for about one month. So you know when it's past its prime, write the date playdough was made on a piece of tape and stick onto the side of the container. Make a couple of batches in several colors. Be creative, get out the rolling pins, cookie cutters, wooden sticks, whatever. But if you want to add flavor extracts, remember it may entice kids to eat the playdough. It's up to you. This is great fun to make with your kids or grandkids!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Chef Robert Wemischner Featured On C2C is one of the best places for seriously curious cooks, chefs, bakers, and all who possess more cookbooks than they can remember. Today on the Foodservice Daily page, Chef Bob Wemischner, my baking and pastry instructor, is featured this week with recipes from his book "Cooking With Tea" and he is also the featured chef on the National Honey Board site, click on their foodservice tab. He is absolutely brilliant, a dedicated teacher, knowledgeable, supportive, and he inspired me to continue my studies. I will never forget the day he showed us how to make apple strudel so thin, you could read the newspaper through it. The finished product is on top, covered in confectioner's sugar. Next, Chef Bob is rolling out the strudel dough on to the linen tablecloth I liberated from the Culinary Arts storage room downstairs. Had to promise a slice of strudel to someone in return. That's my bakeshop partner, Elaine, brushing on the eggwash. She is an awesome lady. Good thing I finally learned how to upload these pictures, and good thing I ordered the CD with my double prints! One of these days I will figure out how to link to other websites. (Duh, Mom! I can hear my kids say!) Until then go read about him for yourself on Better yet, check it out on Amazon and go buy his books. Many thanks to Chef Bob!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Seriously Fresh Fruit Cobbler

We are very fortunate have fresh seasonal fruits available in Southern California, especially the wonderful stone fruit. Some of the peaches and nectarines have been spectacular, and many pitchers of white sangria were filled with slices of them this summer. So before they are completely gone, we needed to have one more dessert featuring these delicious stone fruits. I found this recipe about two years ago (gosh I forget where!), and it is one of the best old-fashioned fruit cobblers I've tried, simple, quick and delicious. Canned fruit will make a decent enough substitute for the fresh juicy peaches or nectarines, but seriously, fresh is best. Seriously.

5-6 medium fresh peaches or nectarines peeled and sliced,
the white ones have been exceptional this year
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, Meyer lemon preferred

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, King Arthur is a good choice
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk, use the real deal
ground cinnamon, optional
whipped cream or ice cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place sliced fruit in a medium bowl, sprinkle with sugar and lemon juice and allow to set for about 30 minutes. Pour the melted butter into a 9"x13" baking pan and set aside. In another medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar. Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the milk. DO NOT OVERMIX, gently fold together. Pour batter over the butter. DO NOT STIR. Trust me, yes, you've heard that one before, but you will be rewarded for your resistance to stir. Add the macerated fruits with the juice and again DO NOT STIR. See, you're getting the hang of how simple this is to make. Sprinkle a bit of ground cinnamon over the top of the cobbler. Bake till it gets golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes or until it is done. It will be very moist so no point in checking with a toothpick. Remove and cool in pan for about 30 minutes before serving. To garnish, serve with a spoon of whipped cream or a big scoop of good ice cream.
NOTE: If you are using canned fruit, you need two 15 ounce cans of sliced peaches, including the juice, or use any other canned fruit, same size cans. No additional sugar or lemon juice required. If you are using fresh, be sure to peel the fruits, leaving it on makes the fruit somewhat bitter tasting. Decrease the sugar if the fruit is seriously sweet already.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wow! And You Heard About It Here First!

Check out the L.A. Times food section today, go to and on the front page is the lead article "Wow, what a deal!" My dear friends of La Vida Dulce, I recently wrote about the hot dogs at Costco and an entire post was dedicated to that wonderful fish taqueria, Tacos Baja Ensenada. Can you believe it, seeing these favorites of La Vida Dulce on the pages of The Times? And I was going to include Fosselman's Ice Cream in Alhambra in an upcoming post. Can't get enough of their pumpkin ice cream, available in the fall. Well, you heard about it here first. Keep watching, more good stuff to come!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Back To School

I can't believe it, it's time to get back to school. Good thing it's on Saturday mornings, I certainly don't want higher education getting in the way of my life. (Oh sure, like I have my calendar booked solid!) I still don't know where the summer months went. Seems like last week I was planning on pruning the roses and picking the figs before the birds got to the good ones. Needles, our iguana got the few small figs I picked for him. Yes, and just in time for Russ Parson's article in the Food Section this week about glorious California figs. Gosh, how I love that man! He is one of my food heroes who inspired me to go to culinary school. It was his roasted lamb technique and his snickerdoodles that made me a fan forever. We even used one of his recipes in baking class. That's high praise indeed.

Well, the summer has turned out to be pretty awesome. Except for the loss of my beloved Nikk the Pomeranian, things have been good out here at the old 1950's ranch style house. I'd complain about a few things, but oh big woo! Like who would listen anyway? I am grateful for a whole lotta stuff. Shadow, our seriously injured kitty, has healed up quite well. He's back to his sweet self, acting like the same doofus he was before his unfortunate accident. At this very moment, he's attacking a floral arrangement in the living room. What a guy!

My Bums are in first place right now. Maybe we won't have to wait till next year. Hey, it could happen! Regardless of the outcome of the playoffs, it's been a relatively good season. It could have been worse, and it has been much worse. So I keep praying and THINK BLUE---Go Dodgers!

We have tried out some new desserts, and a few new ingredients. My baking buddy George says the new Nestle Chocolatier makes some pretty darn good tasting cookies. It was his idea to make the Chocolate Covered Cheesecake on a Stick. Thanks dude, you're amazing, what a treat! Unfortunately, like Shakira says, the hips don't lie. They scream out the number of calories in every wickedly delicious bite! So it's a good thing we can share with our neighbors and Lauren's family.

More good news, Chef Gordon is recovering from surgery and I am looking forward to seeing him soon. I also heard from Elaine, and hope to see her as well.

Nope, didn't get the new food processor, postponed the Vegas and San Diego trips for a couple of months, and forget about St. Louis this year. And Hawaii. It also would have been nice to visit NYC and go with Calvin Trillin on the Chinatown Walking Tour. There will be another time for all that travel, just not right now.

Michael says he'll upgrade my computer for me, so that will save a ton of money. And he's looking for a decent cheap digital camera. A good food blogger needs to display the wares, show off the goods, and make dazzling presentations.

Alice was kind enough to organize a beautiful memorial for my nephew, on what would have been his birthday. It was touching to see how much he was loved by so many of his friends. I loved hearing the stories about him, all the fun he had with his friends back in the old neighborhood where he grew up. That's the way I'd like to remember him, happy, playing the guitar, singing for everyone. And of course the food we shared was outstanding. Antipasto salad, garlic bread, pasta, pizzas, cupcakes and ice cream, what a feast! My nephew would have loved it when we lit the candles on our cupcakes and sang happy birthday to him. Rest in peace.

We have a new baby in the family this summer and another baby is on the way in the fall. That makes me a Great-Auntie three times in about a year! Monica is well and happy, my beautiful son-in-law Jim is too. Michael is busy with work and his computers. And Lauren. My life, this Vida Dulce, yeah, it really is pretty sweet. Can the Gingerbread Houses, Holiday Cookies, Rum Cakes, Tamales, Pozole, Turkey, Standing Rib Roast and Ciabatta Stuffing be too far away? Nah, thank God!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Frozen Cheesecake on a Stick

It's time for the Los Angeles County Fair again! And time for more food on a stick. I've seen some strange ones, some messy ones, but this summer the idea of cheesecake on a stick caught my interest. Combining chocolate, a dense cheesecake, and the convenience of a portable dessert, it's nearly perfect. If you want, you can go ahead and bake your own cheesecake, but my kitchen gets around 90 to 95 degrees these days, with no end in sight. Melting the chocolate only requires a few minutes on the stove, placing a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan with hot water. This dessert makes good use of the frozen cheesecakes sold at Trader Joe's, one of Michael's favorites. Thanks to George for mentioning this dessert.

Cheesecake on a Stick

1 (8-inch) frozen cheesecake (Trader Joe's is best for this)
1 (12 ounce) package milk chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1/2 cup chopped nuts of your choice
or toppings like brittle chips, jimmies, mini chips
8 Popsicle sticks

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Cut cheesecake into 8 equal wedges.
Make a 1/4-inch horizontal slit in the center back of the crust of each
slice of cheesecake with the tip of a knife. Insert a wooden craft stick
through the slit, halfway into each slice. Place the slices on the baking
sheet, cover pan completely with plastic wrap, and freeze overnight.

Melt the chocolate chips and shortening in a bowl set over simmering water, on low heat, stirring constantly. Remove bowl from the heat and spoon over the cheesecake slices, holding the wedge of cheesecake carefully over the bowl by the stick, coating completely and allowing the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl. Before the chocolate hardens, sprinkle 1 tablespoon nuts or toppings over the top of each and return to the baking sheet; freeze for 1 hour, or until the chocolate and cheesecake are frozen. Makes 8 servings.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Nestle Chocolatier

There's a new chocolate on the shelf. Visit to view the new products from Nestle. There are a few recipes on the site, but I expect to see a lot more. Just what I needed, more chocolate!