Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rejuvenation for Writers

There's nothing like time away, with no agenda, no to-do list, no nothing, to reignite my creative juices.
This weekend, I was blessed to visit a newfound friend (also a writer, director, theater & film person) at the gorgeous Cape Cod vacation spot she scored for free. Joining us were my beau, and another couple (he's an actor/writer, she's an art therapist/writer). Of course, we did share our work, somewhat, but that wasn't nearly as important as just being around other artists.

I don't know about other creative-types, but I often forget how vital it is for us to connect, bounce ideas around, and just generally soak up the artsy vibes. Yeah, I probably sound like the stereotypical bohemian or something...

Off the record: I don't care how freakish it seems. Those 22 hours away reinvigorated me. I came home and enjoyed my creative inspiration for hours- writing, painting, brainstorming, even posting a new blog at Conscious Cow. Ain't nothing like it, friends, this swirl of creativity flowing around me. Undoubtedly, my next post will be about the farm education feature I'm writing for Farming Magazine. Until then, I'm enjoying the moment. Hope you are, too!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Issues Affecting Farmers: Late Blight

I have spent the day writing about Late Blight in Tomatoes for Growing magazine.
This may not be a "sexy," topic, but it's gratifying to know that my work can help farmers throughout the country to produce healthier plants with higher yields. This is good for everyone who eats, actually. (And, honestly, who doesn't eat???)

When farmers succeed, we all eat well! When farmers struggle, we all pay more for lower quality food.

OFF THE RECORD: Support a farmer today! Buy local or buy organic! If you can, buy local and organic!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Strawberry Ice Cream Experiment: part 2

It looks like it, it almost feels like it, and it tastes like it. My daughter had two ice cream cones full of it. I loved it, too. Still...

OFF THE RECORD: we agree, the recipe needs just a little bit of tweaking. A little vanilla powder, perhaps, and more time in the food processor. Or, possibly, I should soak the cashews in water, then blend everything in the Vitamix.

What's a writer doing spending so much time in the kitchen? Well... we do have to eat!

Why blog about it? This writer writes a lot about food, agriculture and the food industry, so it's kind of ever-present in the gray matter. Visit to see samples.

Why blog about it when there's a hot senate race on in my home state?
Because, honestly, with these kind of results, some folks I know will really need SOMETHING to sweeten the day.

Raw Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream

OFF THE RECORD: When my kid came home from school wanting something sweet, I took a break from my research into alternative education for farmers to experiment in the kitchen.

She requested a raw, vegan strawberry ice cream. (Full disclosure, she'd probably prefer the real deal - cow's milk, cane sugar, etc, etc... but that stuff never finds its way into my house.)

So... I whipped up frozen strawberries, cashews, agave nectar and a bit of raw honey in my food processor. The goop tasted great, but the true test is how it will taste and feel on the tongue once it's frozen.

Tune in later today, for the results of our Raw Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream experiment! (and now, back to ag research...)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Raw Vegan Recipes + Chocolates

OFF THE RECORD: Inspired by the Master Chef audition process, I hosted a small dinner party this weekend, where I premiered two recently created raw vegan recipes.

The "cream" of tomato soup was a hit. Jenna, who eats dairy regularly, said that if I hadn't told her the soup is vegan, she would have believed there was milk in it, because of the creamy texture and taste. John described my pesto stuffed portabello mushrooms as "outrageous!" Kip said my macadmia cheez stuffed portobello mushrooms were "awesome".

The kids loved the salad and tomato soup above all, until the chocolates came out.

I spent the autumn perfecting my chocolate recipe and methods, so my friends had tasted them before (actually, they received them as Christmas presents.) Still, they're always a fave.

Here's how I make them:

The whole batch was gobbled up within minutes!

If you'd like the recipes for any of the above mentioned treats, drop me a line or leave your comment below...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Me & Gordon Ramsay, part 6: The Call Back

We met in room 902 of Boston's most elite hotel...

Sounds like the beginning of a clandestine romance, doesn't it?
Actually, my rendezvous was with the Casting Directors from the company that's producing Gordon Ramsay's new reality show, Master Chef.

It was one of those rare occasions when I was the interviewee, rather than the interviewer. Being on the other side of the table, and extremely sleep deprived, was a bit daunting. To put it bluntly, I babbled like a brook. Ah, well...

The good news is, they seemed to like me. After 30 or 40 minutes, we parted, all of us smiling. They thanked me for taking four hours out of my day to drive there and back.

Off the record: I'm just grateful I had the opportunity, and I'm looking forward to taking the next step.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Me & Gordon Ramsay, part 5: the audition

OFF THE RECORD: I'm usually not very cold tolerant. I like to keep my house between 70 and 78 degrees. I dress in layers from October to May, and am always thrilled when summer rolls around. So what on earth was I doing standing in line, in the cold yesterday?

Cold does not begin to describe the temperature in Newton, MA yesterday, where auditions were held for Gordon Ramsay's new reality show. The open call was scheduled from 1:00pm - 5:00pm. Hopefuls were instructed to bring their dish ready to serve, at proper serving temperature. I was glad both of my prepared dishes were meant to be served cold, because I and my food waited outside for about 5 hours before going in.

There were approximately 170-180 people in line ahead of me (and I arrived at 1:30!). Some people tired of waiting in the cold and left without auditioning.
Approximately 100 people waited behind me and I'm not confident that everyone got a chance to audition.
I took this photo (of the folks behind me) about 15 minutes before I was admitted into the building for my audition.

Inside, the process was fairly quick and well organized. A casting director separated those of us who had preregisteted and arrived with completed paperwork from those who just showed up with food. Audition-ees were invited into one of two prep rooms, where we plated our dishes and waited for the Food Critic to visit with us.

Fortunately, my sushi survived the 90 minute drive and 5 hours outside. I had wrapped it securely in tin foil but a few pieces did fall over. I spent a few minutes righting the fallen sushi rolls and wiping drips of errant wasabi-almond sauce from the serving plate. I garnished it with fresh cilantro and black sesame seeds, laid out the chopsticks and waved to let the casting director and Food Critic know I was ready.

When the Food Critic arrived, I explained how I had created the raw vegan dish, without rice or fish. She lifted a piece in her fingers and popped it in her mouth. She chewed for what seemed like a very long time while I examined her face for signs of appreciation or repulsion.
Possibly sensing my nervousness, she explained something about her process, and described the taste as unexpected, light and ( music to my ears) REFRESHING. We discussed how the sushi might be served as part of a meal, what other dishes I might include, etc. She asked how I learned to prepare such food (my response: from my family, reading cookbooks, experimenting, and watching cooking shows), and whether I would be willing to prepare cooked food (Yes. I do this for my daughter anyway.)

The fact is, in any other situation, I probably would have gone home after 30 minutes to an hour of waiting outside with temps in the 20s. Something held me there, some feeling that I had gone this far, and needed to get through the process and see if I had a shot. For most of the time, I didn't even mind the cold. In those moments when my body just wouldn't take it, a very nice woman let me warm up in her car. Anyway, it was worth it - I got a call back!

More news tomorrow, after my meeting with the casting directors.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Me & Gordon Ramsay, part 4: preparing for the audition

OFF THE RECORD: I had a little mishap in the kitchen this morning. I realized I had forgotten to buy a cucumber, an essential ingredient in Mystery Dish #1 (and I live 20 minutes from the nearest grocery store). I found a neighbor with a cuke, but when I cut into the avocado, which wasn't even ripe when I purchased it Friday, it was brown. Another "essential" ingredient for Mystery Dish #1 unavailable...

After a few moments of alternating between panic, temptation to give up, and general pissiness, I decided to do my best with the ingredients on hand. Good call, Fraser!
And muchas gracias to my beautiful daughter, who pitched in like a trooper, washing, cutting, spiralizing, and cleaning up in my wake. (...this from a kid who doesn't even like cooking!)

Here's Mystery Dish #1 in progress...

After cutting the raw vegan sushi into bite sizes, I tried a few... delish!

So, I guess there are no "essential ingredients", except maybe the nori wrap.

The prep for Mystery Dish #2 went smoothly, but I was not pleased with the look or taste of it, even though I followed my recipe exactly.

I haven't made this Winter Fennel Salad in a long time, so I guess my taste buds have changed. Still, I brought it along, just in case something went wrong with the sushi during the 90 minute ride to the audition.

Which dish did I share with the Food Critic? Find out tomorrow, when I blog about my audition for Gordon Ramsay's "Master Chef".

Until then, Salud!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Me & Gordon Ramsay, part 3: nuts

Off the record: While I watch my friend's 7-year-old plays hockey, my food is practically making itself!
The Sicilian almonds have been soaked, germinated, & skinned.

Now they're dehydrating. Tomorrow, they'll be crisp and ready for processing.

Mystery dish #1 is in progress.

I am also soaking raw walnuts.

When I return home from my little friend's hockey game tonight, I'll drain the walnuts and purée them with some other ingredients to create the sauce for Mystery dish #2.

The thing about raw food prep is it takes additional planning and a little extra time. There's always lots to do ahead when one is preparing dishes with nuts. But it's worth it!

Okay, back to watching these kids play. More news, and photos, from the kitchen later.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Me & Gordon Ramsay, part 2: shopping

After much deliberation and recipe review, I opted to prepare not one but two dishes for my "Master Chef," audition.
Whichever turns out best is the one I'll bring to the casting directors/tasters.

With that in mind, shopping was easy & quick:
two oranges, fresh cilantro, almonds, yam, avocado...
Wonder what I'm making?

I'll drop some hints during "Prep, part 1" tomorrow.

Off the record: I'm getting excited about this!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Me and Gordon Ramsey

Off the Record: I love FOOD!

OK, if you've read this blog before, you already know that. It's probably why I write for so many food related publications. In fact, today, I spent nearly four hours interviewing professionals in the Maryland/Delaware produce industry. (But I digress...)

I also love to perform. So, when a notice hit my email box from Boston Casting for an opportunity to audition for Gordon Ramsay's new reality show, "Master Chef," I had to check it out. They're looking for untrained gourmands with unusual stories or diets who are willing to put up with some good old fashioned Hollywood abuse all in the name of kick-ass chocolate (or other edible delights.)

Since I've been eating Raw Vegan for four years now, I figured I'd have as good a shot as any... so off I go this Sunday for my audition.

How does one audition for a foodie reality show? Make food and wow the casting directors with it! Yikes. The possibilities are numerous, and I'm not sure which way to turn... Simple and Delish, or Complex and Creative... Sweet or Salty? How about Umami, that elusive sixth taste identified by the Japanese...

Tonight I will choose my dish; tomorrow... SHOPPING FOR INGREDIENTS!