Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Top Chef's Tom Colicchio's Commercial

I'm an avid Top Chef watcher, so even though he's kind of selling out, I got a kick out of this commercial

Friday, August 14, 2009

Remote Area Medical (RAM) Comes to Los Angeles

Health care coverage is the "it" topic these days. What's the best way to cover the most people with the best coverage for the least amount of money? Ya...it might be a while.

A truly impressive effort by Remote Area Medical (RAM) seeks to serve the most underserved, up until now in rural areas.

As 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley reported in 2008, "Remote Area Medical sets up emergency clinics where the needs are greatest. But these days, that's not the Amazon. This charity founded to help people who can't reach medical care finds itself throwing America a lifeline."

A past expedition in Knoxville, TN brought free services to 1,343 people. The 276 volunteers helped provide 504 eyeglasses, extract 1,066 teeth and do 567 fillings for a total value of $235,497.00 in free care.

This week, RAM is serving the Los Angeles area, their first effort in an urban setting where an estimated 22% of working-age adults lacking health insurance. In a few days, they've already treated thousands. If you're curious about their progress, check out their twitter updates at RAM Los Angeles. It's interesting to see how much their accomplishing. And if you're motivated to give, they need donations in the form of people, water, food, and money.

Via Twitter:
If a patient needs glasses,lenses are ground on site and the patient gets to pick frames.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Around the Internet: Food

Fancy Cupcake Wrappers - I don't make cupcakes often, but I suspect I will as MetaBoy starts school. It's a great alternative to a giant cake. And with these precious cupcake wrappers made from recycled paper, I don't think I'll be able to resist. (NOTE: some items on this website are for baking (e.g., liners), but others are to be used as decoration only.)

SOS: Your recipe requests answered - Looking for the recipe to a favorite restaurant meal, dessert, or drink? The Los Angeles Times to the rescue with Culinary SOS!! That said, some things are best left to the professionals ;-)

Cocoa Butter, Raw and Orgamic - I wonder if "orgamic" butter is like buying a Rolecks instead of a Rolex?

Politics of the Plate: Selling the Farm - A heartbreaking story about a 144 year old family farm that has to be sold off because being a dairy farmer is more about going into debt that making a living.
"In Vermont, where I live, that translates to a loss of $100 per cow per month. So far this year, 33 farms have ceased operation in this one tiny state. Meanwhile, the price you and I pay for milk in the grocery store has stayed about the same."
It really makes me wonder what's happening to our food supply when small, productive farms run by families willing and able to work are run out of business.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Recipe: Pie Dough

This is not my great secret on pie dough. This is simply a collection of information and tips that have helped me gather the courage to make pie dough. If you're intimidated, I hope this helps...because it turns out it's not that bad ;-)

I've always been intimidated at the thought of making pies. Not so much by the filling as by the crust. I've tried some recipes, and as someone who follows a recipe with precision, I was always frustrated when the resulting dough seemed so difficult to work with. I've also been dismayed at the time it takes to get a crust ready for use (i.e., chill in the refrigerator before using). That just requires a lot of patience in my book!

But I've been tempted yet again to try my hand at making pies. In reading various cookbooks, it occurred to me to try making a free form tart because
  • it only requires one rolled out circle of pastry
  • it doesn't require a dish (e.g., pie pan, tart pan)
  • you can put as much or as little fruit (within reason) as you like into the tart and it holds up pretty well
So, I went with Michael Ruhlman's Ratio for a sweet pie dough: 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, 1 part water, plus sugar. I mixed 12 ounces of flour with 2 tablespoons of sugar, then added 8 ounces of very cold cubes of salted butter (or use unsalted butter, but add 1/2 teaspoon salt). A pastry blender would keep the butter from warming at the touch of my hand, but I don't have one so I use my hands. To offset the warmth of my hands, I put the diced butter in the freezer for about 10 minutes, then toss it into the flour and start rubbing the butter to mix. The butter doesn't have to be completely blended in. The best description I've heard for the look of mixture is that it should look like damp sand, though it should contain plenty of chunks of butter. I then add up to 4 ounces of ice water. Since one of the tricks in getting the pastry right is getting the right amount of water in, Ruhlman points out that the amount of water required will vary from pastry to pastry because of the weather, humidity, the kind of fat used in dough, etc. So I pour out 4 ounces of water, and slowly added it to my pastry until I achieve the right texture: sticks together, but isn't too wet. I then cut the mass in half, shape each into a disc, wrap them in cling film, and put them in the refrigerator. Chill for at least 15 minutes, though some sources say as long as 1 hour. Something to consider if you have the time.

That's the tough part, which I've found that after a few attempts, is no longer as tough as it used to be. I chill the dough for 30 minutes, or I wrap it up well, put in a zip top bag, and freeze. When I need it, I leave the frozen disc in the refrigerator overnight, and it's ready to use. Since the above proportions give me enough pastry for two discs, I can use one now, and freeze one for later.

Now, here are some random tips I've picked up from here and there:
  • From Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking: "The secret to flaky pastry is to make the butter believe it is solid. The small pieces of cold butter must be left whole and flattened within the dough. They must not be allowed to combine with the flour but should remain intact."
  • Ruhlman says that too much water or kneading will result in a tough dough. But Yard tells us that having a slightly wet, tacky dough is better than a dry one. As in life, it's all about balance.
  • The addition of a bit of acid (e.g., 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar) will help inhibit the gluten proteins, which can make rolling easier.
  • If you mix the dough by hand, all you need is a bowl and a scale (for precision). Though some recipes suggest using a food processor, that's a lot of extra cleaning up!
  • You can buy premade dough that can be rolled out at home (e.g., Trader Joe's frozen pastry circles). Since you still have to roll out the dough for your purposes, you're only saving that first step of mixing everything together, about 10 minutes. Yes, you have to chill it. But you would also have to defrost the frozen dough.
  • If you buy a premixed dough, you can't control flavor (e.g., Ruhlan's savory dough: omit sugar, add 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano).
  • Use good butter. We love Kerrygold Irish butter, which we find at a reasonable price at our local Trader Joe's.
  • If you're intimidated, you'll likely find that after a few attempts, it's actually not that difficult or time consuming. And the end result is lovely. It feels good to make something so basic and versatile.
Some other sources that provide some great tips and insight on technique and recipes for their version of the perfect pie dough:

Cook's Illustrated's Foolproof Pie Dough @ Serious Eats

Pie Crust 102: All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough @ Smitten Kitchen

Perfect Pie Crust @ Simply Recipes

Sunday, August 2, 2009

MetaBoy's Budding Personality

A post from April that I forgot to actually post. MetaBoy has only become more of a character. Good fun!


Found an old group picture of MetaDaddy, me, and several friend, two of whom had babies on their laps. He identified us, and then said "I can't see MetaGirl." I tried to explain that the picture was taken a long time ago, before MetaGirl or even he was born. He just stared at me blankly, mumbled "uh huh," and walked away. Guess it'll be a while before he understands the concept of "time" or "before you were born."

When we drive to places he's been before, he knows it. He says "laundry" when we pick up the dry cleaning and "shopping" when we go to the farmers' market. In fact, all we have to do is make a right on a particular street, and he assumes we're going shopping, which he will consider a good or bad thing depending on his current mood. One day, I was driving us home, but I wanted to finish listening to an interesting piece on the radio. So when we were a block from home, I passed our street so I could drive around for an other few minutes. Well, he went nuts. He was screaming "home, home!!" I started trying to console him saying we were going home, but he didn't calm down until we were physically heading back home. He definitely didn't get my wonky sense of direction, as MetaDaddy would attest to.

He likes sleeping with one of his little dolls. Be it Peter (Rabbit) or Wallace or Walden (Wubbzy's friend), he's never alone. But today he asked to sleep with...a water bottle filled with cold water. Brilliant business idea or pending disaster? TBD.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

August Mayhem

Welcome to August, month of many, many birthdays in the MetaHome.