Friday, May 30, 2008

Chef Keem's Best Recipes To Die From, Ever!

Everyone is talking about "healthy recipes". Low-fat, low-calorie, low-carb - these are today's buzz words. I'll offer a different approach, for a change. How about great recipes to die from? Rich, tasty dishes - designed to make you feel happy and satisfied in spite of clogged arteries and troubled digestion. There's always a good schnapps to help with the latter!

From heart-attack-inducing Tres Leches Coconut Macaroons to Potato Salad a la "Lipid Ore" and Bohemian Sauerkraut; from Obatzda to Wiener Schnitzel to Triple Chocolate Cream Truffles - the selection is tasty and the choice is yours. You shall have the last word. Ever. Did you say - brownies?

Here are the top 5 reasons to consider browsing my new page "Chef Keem's Best Recipes To Die From, Ever!":

  • They're easy to execute - and they'll execute you easily.
  • They've caused more heart attacks than any other recipes.
  • They're suitable even for diabetics. Especially for diabetics!
  • They'll facilitate everybody's favorite way "to go": quickly.
  • They'll provide a scrumptious "last meal".
Go take a look if you're feeling suicidal already...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Channel Your Granny

Ah! Farmers markets! Imagine a piece of vegetable still with some dirt attached, yet fresh and firm and brightly colored. A tub of freshly-made cheese with herbs - sold in a simple plastic cup with a hand-written description on the label. A cryovaced package of deep-red lamb chops with a thin white rind of fat. Baskets of peaches so fragrant you don't even have to bend over to catch their scent. Innovative specialty food products by artisan micro manufacturers offering soups and salsas, jams and pickled goodies, natural sweeteners and uber-healthy crackers.

These are some of the many beautiful impressions you get at a local farmers market. Millions of Americans have re-discovered the benefits of clean, fresh, and local foods: it contains more nutrition, flavor, and natural life force. It nourishes us much better than weeks-old supermarket produce that's been transported for thousands of miles, sitting in storage houses, exposed to extreme temperatures - after a premature harvest and a hefty spraying with enhancing chemicals. "Enhancing" what? The looks, the shelf life - but at what expense? We're fed a sub-prime food with added chemicals that make us sick in the long run.

Is it really cheaper to buy at the local WalMart? In my opinion, it's more expensive! Do we really believe the corporate propaganda that tries to tell us they provide jobs to our communities? The truth is they take away our beloved small local businesses and replace them with a small fraction of low-wage labor. They get rewarded by our moronic government entities with tax relief and other incentives. They get rich by destroying our neighborhoods. And who pays for all that? We do.

Shouldn't our money go to our own communities, furthering our own prosperity? It's a social and political no-brainer - it's much better for all of us to "buy local". Let's seek out the farmers and their markets in our neighborhoods, let's find the newly emerging small neighborhood groceries providing an outlet for our local food artisans. Let's help ourselves and get healthier along the way!

Dr. Kracker co-founder George Eckrich posted a wonderful article on his blog. It begins:

"In my opinion, Michael Pollan is one of the most important food writers of our generation. His reports on cattle feedlots and grass fed alternatives have deepened our understanding the food supply chain from farm to table; he’s influenced where we shop and what we buy in our grocery stores; and he has highlighted the importance of farmers’ markets, and aided the efforts of so many people who work to encourage the support of local foods."

"I very much enjoyed Pollan’s latest book: In Defense of Food. Its two big themes are the processing and industrialization of food and the errors the U.S. government has made in its food recommendations, particularly the lipid or fat hypothesis. I’ll leave the discussion of the latter theme for another time. In this post, I want to focus on that first theme, and Pollan’s arguments and recommendations that so closely echo my own strong beliefs."

"In Defense of Food begins with very simple advice: ” ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’ That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy.” (pg. 1, first paragraph). I consider Dr. Kracker very much to be part of this admonishment to eat real food!"

Please continue reading on George's blog...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Chef - what's your secret ingredient?"

I've heard this question many times: "Chef - what's your secret ingredient?" Or: "I used the same recipe but your stuff tastes much better!" Adding: "I guess that's why you're a chef and I'm not."

Maybe so. But maybe I'm not following the "same" recipe always to the letter. To be honest, I never follow any recipe exactly how it is written. I always change something.

One of my "secrets" is the following principle: I always add a little more of the good stuff - sugar, butter, yolks, vanilla, cream, booze, etc. Not too much, though - I wouldn't want to distort the proportions.

You can't write something like that into a recipe - it's intuition, love, play, passion, cooking music - whatever you want to call it. You are in the "zone". Something deep inside of you communicates with the developing dish. It's not rational. You kind of get out of the way, let the dish take over and influence your actions - adding, stirring, folding-in, baking time, heat, seasoning, and a few other aspects. Whatever you do, you stay "connected" with the dish until it's done. (If you can't get into the "zone", just add 10-15% more of the ingredients your doctor warned you about.)

And then there is the talk about adding "love" to the food. I believe that concept to be real - caring energy transforming the molecules of the dish. It's basic metaphysics, as I understand it: everything is energy transmuted into matter by our perception. I literally "create" a great meal - with my mind as well as with my hands.

When I'm in the "zone" I project a variety of thoughts and emotions into the foods I'm preparing. There's pride in my profession, in my skills, and in my knowledge. I'm focused on doing the best that I can to cook a great-tasting meal. I want to impress the eaters with flavors and proper preparations. My goal is to satisfy their appetites, to still their hunger, and to provide them with a profound sense of well-being and comfort. I truly care about my guests.

And when I see pleasure-filled faces, and when I hear "oohs" and "mmhs" and "aahs" - I forget the hard work and the meager pay - I'm happy.

Did this answer your question?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Obatzda. Huh? (Cheese that kills but tastes so good!)

Oh, come on - you live only once per reincarnation! Eat good while you can. This cheese preparation is so rich and so yummy, it will take you to Heaven. On Earth, or otherwise.

"Obatzda" is a favorite cheese spread - from Vienna, Austria in the East to Munich, Germany in the West. This artery-clogging specialty is often made at home and every Hausfrau has her own secret mix of ingredients. When you consume vast quantities of beer and schnaps, you need to have a solid coating of fat on your stomach lining. Who wants to get drunk from the first 2 liters, already? The trick is to keep the alcohol from entering the blood stream too quickly. And the best way to do this is with a hefty meal before you start drinking.

Here is my version of this deliciously rich and creamy concoction called "Obatzda".

8 oz Camembert or Brie, ripe
4 oz Limburger, ripe and steenky ;-)
2 oz Cream Cheese
2 oz Butter, soft
1/2 cup Onion, small dice
2 Tsp Fresh Chives, finely chopped
1 Tsp Mustard, grainy, sweet
1 tsp Paprika
Salt & Pepper to taste

Mash all ingredients with a fork and pile it on good crusty bread or whole grain crackers.

Don't forget to take your cholesterol-lowering pills!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ingredient and Medicine: Lavender!

Lavender - versatile, potent, adventurous, beautiful!

No matter what the calendar says - it's summer time in Texas. That means, mosquitoes are here. And if you don't have your very own personal pet bat circling you at all times, that means also: you'll get bitten, poked, sucked, the whole painful shebang.

Enter lavender! Or better, lavender essential oil. A drop of it on that mosquito bite bump and within 2-3 minutes you have forgotten the critter landing, the poke/slap/curse, and the pain. It is like none of that has ever happened. I love lavender!

Same with a burn. I'm a chef, I get burned. Not as much as during my practicing alcoholic years, when I spent many contemplative moments on figuring out mysterious blisters and scars, never quite remembering their originating events from days (weeks?) past. But still, every now and then a splash of hot oil finds a suitable spot on my exposed lower arm skin. Ouch! My very first First-Aid is a drop of lavender oil, gently rubbed onto the reddened patch. In many cases of lighter burns, the skin heals perfectly back to its normal appearance without any blisters or scars for life.

Most everyone knows about lavender as an ingredient in soap and perfume production. But did you know that lavender is on the FDA's GRAS list (Generally Recognized As Safe) for food additives? Whether you use the flowers or the essential oils - lavender has amazing benefits in addition to it's beautiful aroma. Ambiguously, it soothes or stimulates your system, depending on your needs. It's well worth it to learn more about lavender.

For many centuries, lavender has been used as an ingredient in French cuisine. They even let their baby lamb graze in lavender fields so the meat will be tender and fragrant. Candied lavender flowers for desserts or champagnes, dried blossoms added to stews and sauces, lavender essences for flans or sorbets - the possibilities are endless.

My own specialty food product, Agasweet flavored agave nectar, features a lavender-flavored variety. Many of my customers use it to flavor and sweeten their teas, especially green tea.

There is a whole new industry emerging around the Texas Hill Country - lavender fields wherever you look! The annual Lavender Festival in Blanco, TX draws hundreds of thousands of visitors into this beautiful area of Central Texas, home to the famous LBJ Ranch and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Chef Keem's Big Bang #1 "Tres Leches Coconut Macaroons"

One of my most successful specialty food products over the last 5-6 years has been my "Original Tres Leches Coconut Macaroon". Weighing in at around 385 calories per 3.5 oz cookie, these sinful treats come with a price tag attached that might say "run an extra mile, tomorrow!". However, as I tell my farmers market customers - my Agasweet healthy sweetener is "food for the body", my Tres Leches Coconut Macs are "food for the soul"! Gotta have balance, baby. So, here's my first big bang for this new blog o' mine: I'm going to reveal my "secret recipe" for the very best coconut macaroon you've ever had. My dear friend, Margaret Schaut, has become the latest groupie of my macaroon fan club, and I sent her the recipe so she can make them for herself whenever she feels the urge. That gave me the idea of sharing my "secret" with the world, before I say my last good-bye. I certainly wouldn't want to take it with me into my grave, and leave you poor souls without my legendary pastry until I return for another run - who-knows-when. (Not so) Secret Recipe for Chef Keem's Original Tres Leches Coconut Macaroons 2 - 14 oz packs of sweetened coconut flakes 1 - 14 oz can of condensed milk 2 tablespoons of sour cream ("secret ingredient") 2 tablespoons of heavy cream 1 teaspoon of Mexican vanilla Combine in mixer (paddle) or by hand with a spatula until well blended. Use any size ice cream scoop to make half spheres on a parchment-lined baking sheet, 1 inch apart. Bake at a moderate (325 degrees F) temperature on the middle rack in the oven, until you see dark brown tips on the top of light brown macaroons, about 10 minutes. They should be "underbaked" in the center - there's no ingredient that needs to be fully cooked. These things are incredibly good the way they are, but if you want to go overboard - and I think you should - dip them in dark chocolate. The best way to do this is with a good-quality dipping chocolate. You will find relevant information on this and some other great chocolate ideas on my Squidoo lens "Molded Chocolates".

The story of The World's Best Kracker

Ladies and Gentlemen!

May I introduce to you - the Doctor! Doctor Kracker, that is.

It was in 1997, in Schwabach, Germany, when Dr. Klaus Karg began experimenting with cracker recipes, right in his own grandfather's bakery. His goal was to bridge the gap between austere Swedish flat breads and flavorful specialty breads. Through a long period of trial, error, and inspiration he created several flavor combinations such as Emmental Cheese Pumpkin Seed, Seeded Spelt, and Klassic 3-Seed Krackers.

That same year, Austin, TX master baker George Eckrich set out on a mission of his own: to find the most wholesome cracker of the Old World and to bring it back to his homeland, the good old US of A. This quest ultimately sent him to Germany, where a mutual friend introduced him to Dr. Karg, who was immediately impressed with George's trustworthiness and enthusiasm. A partnership was formed.

The company Dr. Kracker was founded in Dallas, Texas in 2003 by George Eckrich, Dr. Klaus Karg, Carsten Kruse, and a fourth partner, Danny Kelly, an expert in special bakery equipment.

In 2007, Dr. Karg sold his interest in the company to George, Carsten, and Danny. Today the company employs 25 people all committed to the same mission: to make the best-tasting and most nourishing crackers possible.

Dr. "George" Kracker says:

"In our quest to bake a nutritious and delicious, artisan flat bread Kracker, we have always insisted that our recipes use only the best ingredients and maximize the whole grains. We want our flavor profile to emphasize the flavors of the grains and seeds and the caramelization that naturally occurs during the baking process rather than the addictive power of sugar and fat."

"Specially selected, organically grown wheat, spelt and oats are the first step. To our Spelt Krackers we add extra bran for flavor, nutritional power and an extra crisp bake. Flax seeds go into all the doughs to enhance the basic texture. Our Graham Krackers use organic creamery butter and a thin coating of raw sugar and cinnamon to recreate the Graham Krackers as they were originally baked."

"All of our ingredients are organic and add important fiber, Omega-3 essential fatty acids, lots of vitamins, minerals and trace elements to the diet. Our Krackers offer substantial nutritional value, especially when compared to crackers, chips and other snack foods, and they celebrate the best flavors that a bakery can offer."

"It is one thing to emphasize and discuss the nutritional benefits of our Krackers, but in the end we are discussing food and not medicine. I hope that you come to love our Krackers as much as I do simply because they taste great!"

See my Squidoo lens "Crackers" for in-depth info and recipes with Dr. Kracker crackers.

Friday, May 9, 2008

You might want to know...

Agave syrup has a low glycemic index rating (32), which means it absorbs slowly into the blood stream and does not cause a "sugar rush".

It is 1.4 times sweeter than sugar. 1 cup sugar = 1/2 - 2/3 cups Agasweet. Save calories and carbs!

Agasweet retains its sweetening power in cooking and baking and provides moisture retention properties. It has a long shelf life (3+ years), and no refrigeration is necessary. It will never crystallize.

Our top-quality flavoring ingredients create a simply divine taste experience. You will find that our well-balanced flavors add a whole new dimension to your dishes.

Many savory recipes address only some of your taste buds - usually salty, bitter (pepper), and sour. With Agasweet, you add "sweet" to the flavor profile of your dishes combined with enhancing citrus, stimulating mint, soothing cinnamon, or adventurous lavender. You'll awaken all taste buds simultaneously, and the result is a flavor explosion in your mouth!

The wild agave plants for our base syrup are grown on small parcels of privately-owned, strictly controlled Indian land in Mexico.

The nectar is harvested from the core of the mature plant and cooked into a light syrup. For more in-depth info on the agave plant, harvest and production methods, please see my companion lens: Agave Nectar

The purity of our syrup is ensured through regular USDA Organic certification by BioAgriCert.

Welcome to my kitchen!

Short and sweet - Hi, everybody! Here's what we're going to do: We'll be talking "food". We'll be talking "food" lenses on We'll be talking "the best in food" lenses on! Of course, we'll be also looking at resources outside of Squidoo - great food blogs, fantastic recipes, cooking instructions, books, and rare food finds. I will mention "Agasweet" quite frequently. It's my baby, my creation, my specialty food product. Agasweet is the best-tasting healthy and all-natural sweetener available in today's organic market place. And it is so much more than just a low glycemic sweetener: It's a wonderfully versatile condiment, even for most diabetics! So, welcome to Chef Keem's Squid Kitchen. Don't be shy - but leave your comments in a kind and considerate manner. We want to create a win/win situation for everyone involved. Sounds good? Great! Let's get started...