Thursday, July 31, 2008

Stick A Fork In Chef Debbie ~ She's Done!

A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 31. Stick a fork in me ~ I'm done!.

Today is the last day of my commitment to write a blog a day for a month. I had no idea how difficult this task was going to be.

But. I've heard from lots of people I haven't spoken to in a long time, have gotten quite a few e~mails about the recipes and have been contracted to design two blogs for clients.

This process has forced me to get my writing chops back in working condition. And, to think outside the mixing bowl when searching for topics.

So thank you for reading this blog for the last 31 days. But now I'm off for a long weekend in Canada with sweet husband and it's back to a blog every 7~10 days.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Personal Chef Asks: Waiter Is That A Fly in My Soup?

A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 30. Only 1 more day to go.

By now, everyone has learned the identity of the infamous mystery author of the frightening and disgusting blog Waiter Rant, Steve Dublanica.  A New York Post article discloses his identity as well as revealing a couple of the "lessons" he's subjected his past customers to.

And, surprise of surprises, he's written a book about his experiences as a waiter!

Have you ever read the blog? It's full of the "lessons" waiters teach customers who send food back, are rude, don't look like they'll tip well or whatever.

Of course, it's never the waiter's fault when I had to ask three times over the course of 20 minutes for the same glass of wine that was never delivered but charged on my bill three times.

And, of course, it's never the waiter's fault when I order a medium~rare steak with asparagus risotto and I'm served a chicken with fried potatoes. And, yes, the waiter did deliver the food.

Or, I love this one. It's never the waiter's fault that I had the huge misfortune to walk into that restaurant on that night when the waiter is in a foul mood, has cigarette breath, dirty fingernails, is wearing half a bottle of the cheapest drugstore cologne/perfume and I ask for a different table outside of their service area.

I know the work is hard. And the customers can be rude. And you don't make a lot of money. And you occasionally get stiffed on your tip.

But. DO NOT take it out on me before I even sit down and you've already determined that I'm a lousy tipper because as Waiter Dublancia boasts "It's gotten to the point where I can tell how much money I'm going to make off a customer within 10 seconds of meeting them." Even though he then claims, one paragraph later, "I try not to fall into that (profiling diners based on age, sex and race) trap."


Perhaps the reason you didn't get the tip you "expect" could be because you've treated me like crap, have served me the wrong dinner, have admitted to leaving your personal body fluids all over a customer's food or any multitude of other lovely disease~ridden pranks that you've pulled over the years.

And my friends wonder why I don't like to go out to dinner!

But if I do go out to dinner and receive impeccable, attentive service from a waiter that is knowledgeable about the menu and preparation techniques and has some semblance of personality, then you'll be extremely happy with the tip you earned.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Revisited: Chef Debbie's Food Giggles For The Day

A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 26. Only 5 more days to go.

This adorable classic cartoon appeared in Gourmet Magazine in June 1941 and re~appeared on their website this month. It also is a perfect accompaniment to this Yummy~issimo! blog originally dated July 26 2008.

You can count on me saying something stupid almost every day. Truthfully, it is every day. But that's neither here nor there.

Here are a few of the (printable) misquotes that my buddy, Jeff Gibbs, of Gibb's Cheese (a lovely cheese and deli shop) at Findlay Market has heard recently.

  • Which one of the turkeys has more turkey in it?
  • I want a refund on my pork chops!
  • Why would I pay $3.00 for 1/2 pound when I can buy a whole pound for $5.99?
  • Can I have 1/2 pound of caucasian turkey?
  • Which of these cottage cheeses is made without diary products?
  • Give me 5 garlic franks to dip in my peanut butter.
  • Does white cheese have less calories than yellow cheese?
  • OK. I don't feel so dumb now.

    Yummy~issimo! Recipe for Grilled Lemon Chicken

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 29. Only 2 more days to go.

    In most families, the man is the master of the grill. But in our family unit, sweet husband doesn't cook on the grill any more than he cooks in the kitchen.

    Which means never.

    No problem. I have a big 5~burner stainless steel grill with all of the gadgets. And, best of all, we have a covered back deck which means I can cook outside when it's raining or snowing.

    Yes, I've been known to grill outside when it's 20 below. Or when we have a blizzard and the power's out for 3 days.

    Nope. We'll never go hungry.

    I grill out a lot and it seems that as soon as the big slab of red meat is just starting to get those Yummy! grill marks and the air is starting of fill with the delicious fragrance of a perfectly grilled garlic~rubbed filet, I run out of propane and sweet husband has to change the tank.

    So tonight is a grill out night and here's one of my favorite, super~simple recipes.

    Grilled Lemon Chicken
    Makes 6 servings

    3 large chicken breasts
    1/4c olive oil
    1/4c lemon juice, fresh squeezed
    1 lemon, zested
    2T basil, fresh, chopped
    1t black pepper, freshly ground

    Have your butcher filet the breasts into 6 pieces. Mix all ingredients, except chicken, in small bowl. Place chicken and marinade in large zip~lock bag. Seal and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

    Preheat grill and spray racks with non~stick cooking spray. Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Grill chicken, turning only once, until done.

    Serve with a cucumber and tomato salad, herbed Israeli couscous with sugar snap peas and a glass of your favorite Pinot Grigio.

    Just gotta make sure the propane tank isn't empty before I start the grill.

    Monday, July 28, 2008

    Forget the Mayo: Recipe for Homemade Ranch Dressing

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 28. Only 3 more days to go.

    Yesterday sweet husband Tim went out to the ATP Tennis Tournament with Ryan (of Kristy and Ryan fame). I love when he's gone and I can have exactly what I want for lunch or dinner.

    Don't get me wrong. I love when he's home but if he's out of town and I want spaghetti 4 nights in a row, I'll have spaghetti 4 nights in a row.

    So yesterday I was craving a Tuna Stuffed Tomato. And, although I don't get it, sweet husband is "just OK" about fresh tomatoes.

    Goodie! More for me!

    My favorite way of having tuna salad is tuna mixed with homemade Ranch dressing (forget about using mayonnaise or {GASP} Miracle Whip), fresh dill, lots of finely diced green onion, sliced green olives and capers.

    Heaven on a piece of bread. Or, in this case, stuffed inside a big, juicy red tomato.

    And, of course, it must be served on a pretty plate with fresh flowers and garnished with dried dill and organic dried flower petals.  A glass of chilled, crisp Chardonnay wouldn't be bad either!

    Homemade Ranch Dressing
    Makes 1 1/2 cups

    1c mayonnaise
    1/2c sour cream
    1T dill, fresh, chopped
    1 garlic clove, finely minced
    2T lime juice, fresh
    1/4c buttermilk
    1T parsley, fresh, chopped
    1T red bell pepper, finely minced
    1T chives, chopped

    Whisk all ingredients until well blended. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cover and chill at least 8 hours for flavors to blend.

    Keeps well, refrigerated and covered, for 2 weeks.

    Sunday, July 27, 2008

    Chef Debbie's Favorite Blueberry Muffins

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 27. Only 4 more days to go.

    I love blueberries. Big, plump and full of flavor, these little gems are stuffed full of antioxidants so they're really good for you.

    I don't eat a lot of desserts and sweets, but every once in a while I get the craving for blueberry muffins. Not just any muffins, but the double~stuffed blueberry muffins from Ina Garten. Unfortunately, I don't have which of her fabulous cookbooks I got this from. Here's my modified recipe, which is a client favorite.

    Double Blueberry Muffins
    Makes 12

    1/2c butter, room temperature
    1c sugar
    2 eggs
    2t vanilla extract
    2t baking powder
    1/4t salt
    3T lemon zest
    2 1/2c blueberries, fresh
    2c all~purpose flour
    1/2c milk
    2T Demerara sugar, for garnish

    Preheat oven to 375. Line muffin tin with paper liners.

    In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth. Add sugar and mix well. Add eggs, vanilla, baking powder, lemon zest and salt and mix well.

    In a shallow bowl, mash 3/4c blueberries with the back of a fork. Add to batter and mix.

    With the mixer running at low speed, add 1/2 of the flour, then 1/2 of the milk and mix. Repeat with remaining flour and milk. Fold in the remaining whole blueberries by hand and mix well.

    Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full. Sprinkle Demerara sugar over the tops of the muffins. Bake until golden brown, 25~30 minutes. Let cool in the pan at least 30 minutes before removing from muffin tin ~ this step is very important so that the blueberries don't sink to the bottom of the muffins.


    Saturday, July 26, 2008

    Chef Debbie's Food Giggles For The Day

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 26. Only 5 more days to go.

    You can count on me saying something stupid almost every day. Truthfully, it is every day. But that's neither here nor there.

    Here are a few of the (printable) misquotes that my buddy, Jeff Gibbs, of Gibb's Cheese (a lovely cheese and deli shop) at Findlay Market has heard recently.

  • Which one of the turkeys has more turkey in it?
  • I want a refund on my pork chops!
  • Why would I pay $3.00 for 1/2 pound when I can buy a whole pound for $5.99?
  • Can I have 1/2 pound of caucasian turkey?
  • Which of these cottage cheeses is made without diary products?
  • Give me 5 garlic franks to dip in my peanut butter.
  • Does white cheese have less calories than yellow cheese?
  • OK. I don't feel so dumb now.

    Friday, July 25, 2008

    Chef Debbie Designs Logos, Websites and Blogs

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 25. Only 6 more days to go.

    In today's Internet centered world, it's still amazing to me that small business owners haven't developed a web presence.

    As many of you know, I have a background in marketing and graphic design. When I started Yummy~issimo! three years ago, I was worried that I wouldn't have outlets for my creative energy.

    But. New businesses open, move or are ready to upgrade their marketing brand. With my creative background combined with my current culinary focus, moving into a food marketing and design phase seemed like a natural move.

    This is a 4~color, two~sided business card I designed for my personal chef friend, Chef Debbie Burgess, of The Hungry Fox PCS in South Carolina. She is a Personal Chef as well as a Wine Advisor. Boy, does she know her wines! I love to visit with Bacchus ~ so going out to dinner with her and her darling husband, Bob, is always a great experience. In addition to the amazing company and delectable food, it's always an adventure to try the new wines she picks. And, they're always awesome!

    My good friend and best butcher in town, Luigi Berardo of Luigi's Olde World Market didn't have a web presence at all. Marketing Chef Debbie to the rescue. First thing I've done ~ and I haven't even shown them yet ~ is to design the logo which will flow into everything else they're going to have: website, blog, business cards, new signage. Here is the 4~color, 2~sided business card I designed for them ~ one side is for Luigi and one side is for Adam. I've also designed a new blog for the business and am in the process of developing a website for them.

    Another blog I designed this week is for the Master Spice Mixer, De Stewart, of Herbs & Spice at Findlay Market.

    Ah. The creative juices are flowing again and they taste good.

    Thursday, July 24, 2008

    OSU Students Read About Chef Debbie

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 24. Only 7 more days to go.

    With the Internet, you just never know where you name is going to show up.

    I have Google alerts coming to my inbox every day so if any article or blog discusses Chef Debbie, Yummy~issimo! (all versions and misspellings), Personal Chef or Debbie Spangler, then I get an e~mail alert with a link to the article.

    Imagine my surprise when last week's Cincinnati Enquirer article about saving money at the grocery store was mentioned in the U Weekly, the OSU Student Paper.

    Reporter, Sarah Ledford, took some liberties and "quoted" me as saying "Students are also encouraged to avoid pre-packaged foods." Spangler said that purchasing foods and vegetables in their raw form will allow for longer lasting products for less money. “You can save $1.29 or more when you take the time to clean your own lettuce. A head of lettuce lasts much longer than the packaged lettuce.”

    Huh. I reread the Enquirer article and I'm pretty sure it doesn't mention anything like that ~ and I haven't spoken with Ms. Ledford.

    So. I don't know if fresh fruits and vegetables in their raw form will last longer than their counterparts that are pre~packaged. I do know, however, you can save $$$ with fresh versus prepackaged.

    I never have a problem saying what I think, however, don't put words in my mouth that I didn't say and certainly can't back up.

    Wednesday, July 23, 2008

    Chef Debbie To Be Aunt Debbie

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 23. Only 8 more days to go.

    I've got to learn how to make homemade baby food.

    No, not for me ~ thank Bacchus! Although, I suppose Bacchus is what got her into this situation...

    Anyways, it is my duty as Chef Aunt Debbie to give mommy a little break, give baby a healthy choice of fruits and veggies and to give daddy ~ what?

    What to give daddy?

    I know! When the little one is ready to pop out, I'll fill the freezer with a month's worth of dinners. That way, he can devote his time to diaper duty.

    So to my friends who are reading this and want to know who's pregnant. Guess you'll just have to wait and see who gains a lot of weight in the next few months. Back to the photo at the beginning of this blog ~ she tells me this is the baby photo.  I'll have to take her word for it.

    If you're interested, here are some websites I've found that have recipes for homemade baby foods.

    Wholesome Baby Foods

    Homemade Baby Food Recipes

    Garden and Hearth Baby Food Recipes

    Andres' Homemade Baby Food Recipes

    Recipe Goldmine: Baby Food Recipes

    The Vegetarian Resource Group Recipes

    This will be a whole new tasting experience for me.

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008

    There Are No Tears In The (Personal Chef's) Kitchen!!!

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 22. Only 9 more days to go.

    Have you been watching this season's Next Food Network Star on the Food Network? The contestants are so weak, I'm amazed the judges ~ two executives from the FN, Bobby Flay and a rotating celebrity chef judge ~ haven't sent all of them home and began again.

    The show this last Sunday is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. The final three contestants ~ Lisa, Adam and Aaron ~ were in Las Vegas. The first challenge was to memorize a couple of lines and be able to walk and talk at the same time. Evidently it's pretty tough to do.

    Now, I sometimes have trouble doing 7~8 things at once but that's only after I've visited with Bacchus for a while. As Personal Chefs, we have to multitask. We can have three burners going at once, two different items in the oven and still have enough brain power and dexterity to roll out pastry dough.

    As my chef friend, Debbie, said the other day "I'm breaking my arm patting myself on the back!"

    So it's been with great interest that I've been following the thread on my Personal Chef's message board and realized I'm not quite a bitchy as I thought.

    Well, maybe I am. But that's a different blog entirely!

    I may say it under my breath (sometimes Bacchus makes it louder) but putting it in writing is not my style. That can come back to bite you. And I do enough stupid stuff that I don't need to actually write it down!

    Here are some of my favorite comments:

  • Is it just me or is everyone on the show a no talent hack? I'd send them all home. None of them is competent in the kitchen or in front of the camera. Either the field of contestants was very thin, they had terrible judgment in the selection process, or they looked much better in the interview process. And could they POSSIBLY cry more? Geez! There's no crying in kitchens!

  • Even the men cry! I think it must be a pre-req during auditions.

  • And they brought them all back. Must be because they couldn't send them all home. "You all stink equally so I guess we have to bring you all back...".

  • I thought the same thing, trying to figure out who I would vote off. I wouldn't watch any of them. Of course I wouldn't watch that whacked-out-french-inspired-mom that won last season either.

  • And two of my favorite quotes:

  • My husband says he can't look at Lisa without thinking of Vulcans.

  • "Name blocked to protect the innocent" thinks of Japanese cartoon characters ala Speed Racer or Pokemon when she sees Lisa.

  • And the winner is:

  • I think a Vulcan mated with Sandra Bullock.
  • Wow! Talk about bitchy. True, but bitchy ~ and I love it!

    I'm looking forward to this Sunday's "finale" when somebody is crowned and given the golden whisk. Imagine the tears!

    Monday, July 21, 2008

    Chef Debbie's Favorite Pork Tenderloin Recipe

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 21. Only 10 more days to go.

    This adorable classic cartoon appeared in Gourmet Magazine in December 1949 and re~appeared on their website this month.

    One of my favorite client appetizer recipes for pork tenderloin can also be served for dinner. Serve with fresh fruit salad, your favorite fresh vegetable and a nice glass of crisp Pinot Grigio.

    Port Marinated Pork Tenderloin
    Serves 4

    1/2c soy sauce
    1/2c honey
    1/2c Port wine
    4 garlic cloves, peeled, minced
    2" fresh ginger, peeled, minced
    4 green onions, thinly sliced
    2T Dijon mustard
    1T mustard seeds
    1 pound pork tenderloin, whole, trimmed
    Garnishes: fresh diced pineapple, mango~jalapeno salsa, fresh chives, or your favorite honey mustard

    Place all ingredients except tenderloin in large bowl and mix well making sure that honey is mixed in well. Place marinade and pork tenderloin in large zip~lock bag and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

    When ready to cook, strain marinade into large saucepan and bring to a boil. This sauce will increase in volume with heat so keep an eye on the pot so that it does not boil over. Reduce heat and gently boil until reduced by at least one half.

    Spray grill grates with non~stick cooking spray and preheat grill to medium~high heat. Reduce heat to medium and grill tenderloin about 20 minutes or until medium.

    If serving as an appetizer, let stand at least 20 minutes to cool. Place tenderloin and reduced marinade in zip~lock bag and refrigerate until cold (the tenderloin is easier to thinly slice when it's chilled). When chilled, slice into paper~thin slices, serve with reduced marinade on the side and garnish with fresh pineapple, mango~jalapeno salsa, fresh chives and~or honey mustard. This appetizer can be served warm, cold or room temperature.

    If serving for dinner, have the butcher trim the pork tenderloin and slice into medallions, marinate and grill as directed. Remove from grill and let rest 5~10 minutes before serving.

    Sunday, July 20, 2008

    Chef Debbie Goes to a Party

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 20. Only 11 more days to go.

    Last night there was a birthday party for my dear friend, De Stewart of Herbs & Spice, thrown by his lovely and adorable wife, Susan.

    Last year I was invited to cater the event and this year I was lucky enough to be invited as a guest. I had no idea how much fun a party is when I don't have to work so hard!

    The food was amazing and the company sparkling. And the wine wasn't bad either...

    Many of you know I have a background in marketing and graphic design so when De asked me to design a blog for him, I jumped at the chance. Be sure to check out his blog when it's fully up and running. They'll be coupons, announcements about tastings and special events, recipes and tons of other good information.

    So to De and Susan ~ thank you so much for inviting sweet husband Tim and me to your party. We are privileged to be a part of your lives and we are fortunate to call you our friends.

    Happy Birthday De!

    Saturday, July 19, 2008

    Personal Chef Would Rather Eat at Home

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 19. Only 12 more days to go.

    Sweet husband Tim and I went out last night. Now most people probably go out for dinner once in a while. Not us. Sweet husband offers to take me out to dinner almost every night.

    But I almost always say no for a myriad of reasons ~ it's too expensive, the wine is marked up at least three times retail, it's not as good as I can normally make, on and on and on.

    So I agreed to out "for happy hour" with our friends Tom and Vicki. I should mention though, that happy hour can sometimes turn into happy hours when the four of us are together. We went to In Cahoots in downtown Blue Ash. They have a great happy hour with a nice sized glass of wine at only $3.95/glass and they pour a very decent drink.

    Dinner, however, was hit and miss. We've never had a problem before. Every item we've ordered ~ from angus burgers to beef stroganoff to curry chicken salad to smothered chicken ~ has been cooked and seasoned properly and plated beautifully. It always happens. You take somebody to a restaurant they haven't been to before, tell them it's good, and they end up having a less than stellar meal.

    Sweet husband had a smoked top sirloin steak which was very good. Vicki had salmon. Again very good. Tom and I, on the other hand, ordered the "house favorite trout." Ugh! It was just plain broiled trout. No seasonings. No sauce. Overcooked, dry and flavorless.

    Now I'm not shy but apparently Tom is. Two bites into the fish and I called our server, Stephanie, over. Absolutely no problem to switch the trout for the smoked steak. Tom muddled through his trout while I happily gnawed on smoked red meat.

    And the best part? For the inconvenience, they bought me another glass of wine. Cant' beat that!

    Friday, July 18, 2008

    Personal Chef is The Tomato Queen

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 18. Only 13 more days to go.

    Have I ever talked about my tomatoes?

    Every year, I swear I'm not going to grow tomatoes again. It's too much work. I don't have time to water. I can get great tomatoes from the farmer's market. Yada, yada, yada.

    And, yet, every year I eagerly await May 1 so I can scour the nursery for the exact plants I want. I'm very particular (I bet you didn't know that about me!!) about my tomato plants.

    They must be Beefsteak plants. The plants must be a least 8" tall. They must be organic. On and on and on. For the first few years, the folks at the nursery would run and hide every time I came in. It must have been my sparkling personality....

    For the last few years, whenever I walk into the nursery they go into the back and pull out a full flat of Beefsteak tomato plants for me to look through, pick over and ask about. Guess they remembered me from year to year.

    Last year I planted the tomatoes in my front yard. Yeah, I know that sounds strange. And it is. But with the number of trees around us it was the best place for them. And my tomato plants were the talk of the neighborhood. They were over 7' tall! Taller than sweet husband Tim. They looked like trees. Needless to say it was a great Beefsteak tomato year. And it was a mild fall and I had fresh tomatoes well into the middle of November.

    So, again this year I got the tomato bug in April. We had a really cold spring and my plants didn't go in until Memorial Day weekend. And this year I moved the plants into the back yard. I'd had a lot of trees cut down in the back so there is full sun from noon until the sun sets.

    And I'm pleased to brag that my tomato plants have gone absolutely nuts this year. Even in new soil that hasn't been composted and mulched for several years ~ and with a very cold, wet spring ~ and with my not taking very good care of them. Right now, the plants are as tall as me and they are LOADED with tomatoes with some already larger than my fist.

    I'll ask now. Send tomato recipes. Lots and lots of recipes.

    Every year I freeze tomatoes, I make gallons of spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce and ketchup. But you can never have too many tomato recipes.

    Thursday, July 17, 2008

    A (Crappy) Day in the Life of a Personal Chef

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 17. Only 14 more days to go.

    Yesterday was not a good day. After dealing with clients who think that I might purchase some of their menu items from flea markets (see Blog dated 07/16/08), I was feeling pretty low.

    Then the Yummy~mobile died.

    I had an appointment downtown and drove back up to my end of Yummy~world. I stopped at one of my favorite butcher shops, Luigi's Olde World Market, and went in to get something to throw on the grill. I decided it was a good night to visit Bacchus and gnaw on a big hunk of red meat.

    Got into the Yummy~mobile, ready to go home and visit with Bacchus on the back deck, read my book and occasionally talk to the hummingbirds before I had to start the grill and get on with dinner.

    Well, the Y~mobile had other ideas.

    As in it didn't want to go anywhere.

    So I had to carry the steaks back in and ask them to keep them in the case until I kicked the truck back into working order.

    The kicking didn't work. Go figure.

    Sweet husband Tim was the first call. Yeah, I know. It should have been AAA. But it wasn't. It was sweet husband. And he came right away to help me ~ sad damsel that I was.

    Yep. Feeling pretty sorry for myself about now.

    My wonderful friends at Luigi's all came out to see if they could help. Nope ~ not the battery (it's brand new). Nope ~ not the electrical system. Nope ~ not the spark plugs. Nope. Nope. Nope. You name it, that wasn't the problem.

    Sweet husband arrives to the rescue. Turns out, it's probably the fuel pump. Since everything else has been replaced in the last year or so, the fuel pump is the only thing that's left that's not brand new. Damn. That sounds expensive!

    Today has to be better. No. Let me rephrase that. Today WILL be better!

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    Personal Chef, Debbie Spangler, In The News Again!

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 16. Only 15 more days to go.

    Half way through my month of blogs. Wow this has been difficult!

    Did you read the Enquirer this morning? Life & Food Section? Did you see me smiling out at you above the fold?

    A couple of months ago, Polly Campbell called and asked if I had some tips for saving $$$ at the grocery store. You betcha! I never say no to Polly.

    The concept of the article was to give the average Jane Shopper tips to stretch her food budget money.

    So the article Savvy Shoppers Do Save finally appeared with a 4~color smiling moi top right corner of the article. My photo isn't in the online link, but you all know what I look like. It's not like I'm subtle or shy about promoting myself.

    The line "Debbie Spangler, a personal chef who shops every day, sometimes bargains for her food ~ at flea markets" is in the first paragraph and implies that I purchase a lot of my client food at flea markets.

    Let me clarify this a little. While I do occasionally shop at flea markets for bulk produce, I don't make a habit of it like the article makes it sound. I do, however, shop at flea markets when strawberries, tomatoes or corn are in full season and I can bargain and buy tons of bulk produce.

    For sweet husband Tim and me. Never for clients.

    Some of the other tips that were overshadowed by the flea market idea:

  • Avoid prepackaged fresh foods. For instance, fresh lettuce is less than a dollar a head. Washed and torn lettuce in the bag is $2.99 (or more) for 10 oz.
  • Do look at frozen veggies in place of fresh. Broccoli this week is $1.99/pound for crowns. A bag of frozen broccoli is $1.19/pound. If you're using broccoli in something like a stir~fry or any cooked casserole, frozen will work just fine and you won't lose any nutritional value or taste.
  • Look for alternative vendors. I shop at Findlay Market for lots of items that I could get at the grocery store. For instance, a pound of sharp cheddar cheese at Gibb's Cheese is $5.99 so I'll buy what I need and shred it myself. Depending upon the type of cheese, you can save $2.00 or more a pound by shredding cheese yourself.
  • Rethink your cuts of meat. Instead of buying boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $5.99/pound buy a whole young fryer and cut it up yourself. Watch the sales and you can save $3.69/pound.
  • Don't buy bulk unless you need a large quantity. Why buy an entire bottle of whole nutmeg for $7.99 when you can purchase just one piece of whole nutmeg for .59/each at Herbs & Spice at Findlay Market. It could take the average cook years to use an entire jar of whole nutmeg.
  • You can save grocery money. Shop smart. Look for sales. Don't purchase more than you have to.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    Other Things To Do With Food Besides Eat It

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 15. Only 16 more days to go.

    I've gotten several e~mails in the last few weeks with tips and tricks of things you can do with food other than eat it. Some of these I've tried, some I haven't and some sound so weird I wonder who in the world came up with them!

    Tips I've tried and they've worked:

  • Peel a banana from the bottom and you won't have to pick the hair off of it.

  • Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store and they won't ripen as fast as if they stay in a bunch.

  • To keep squirrels and rabbits from eating your plants, sprinkle the plants and the ground around them with cayenne pepper. It won't hurt the plant or the animal.

  • Before you pour a sticky substance in a measuring cup, fill the measuring cup with hot water. Dump out the water but don't dry the measuring cup. The sticky ingredient comes right out.

  • Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it but can't digest it so it kills them. Repeat if it rains before all of the ants are gone.

  • And my favorite tip: To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass and fill it with 1/2c apple cider vinegar and 2 drops of dishwashing liquid. Mix well. The fruit flies will be drawn to the cup and not your fruit.
  • Tips I haven't tried but sound like they'll work well:

  • Swish a shot of vodka over an aching tooth. Allow your gums to absorb some of the alcohol to numb the pain. (Swallow vodka. Depending upon your pain, repeat as necessary.)

  • Heat leftover pizza in a non~stick skillet on top of the stove and heat on medium~low until warmed through. This keeps the crust crispy.

  • To make mess~free deviled eggs, place egg yolks in zip~lock bag, seal and mash well. Add remaining ingredients, reseal and keep mashing until thoroughly mixed. Cut the bottom corner off the bag and squeeze into egg whites.
  • And, how do they come up with this stuff?

  • Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating. Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking. Huh?

  • Leftover Snickers bars... OK stop right here. Who has leftover Snickers bars?

  • To make scrambled eggs or omelets really rich, add a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream and heavy cream before beating. Then call 911 for the heart attack that's sure to happen.

  • And my favorite "Are You Freaking Nuts" Tip: To cure foot odor, wash your feet with vodka.

  • Monday, July 14, 2008

    A Recipe for Steak au Poivre on Bastille Day

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 14. Only 17 more days to go.

    Today is Bastille Day ~ a national holiday in France commemorating the storming of the Bastille, which took place on July 14, 1789 and marked the beginning of the French Revolution. Yawn.

    I had to take a French lit class at Miami and most of it centered around the French Revolution, the writings of Balzac and a bunch of stuff I can't remember. Now the "yawn" is due to the fact that this was an early morning class. As in 8:00 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That in and of itself wouldn't be too bad, but add in the drive from Blue Ash to Oxford every day and I yawned my way through a lot of those classes that semester.

    One thing you won't yawn about is one of sweet husband Tim's favorite meals ~ Steak au Poivre (Filets with Port Peppercorn Sauce).

    Steak au Poivre
    Modified from
    Serves 2

    1 1/2T mixed peppercorns ~ black, red, pink, white, green
    2t green peppercorns, in brine, drined
    2 ~ 6oz beef tenderloin filets
    2t vegetable oil
    2c ruby Port wine
    1/2c shallots, minced
    3T ginger, finely minced
    3T butter

    Finely chop all peppercorns in food processor. Rub peppercorn mixture over both sides of each steak.

    Heat oil in heavy medium skillet over high heat. Season steaks with salt. Add to skillet and cook to desired doneness ~ about 2 minutes per side for medium~rare. Transfer steaks to plate and tent with foil.

    Add Port, shallots and ginger to skillet and boil until liquid is reduced to a thin syrup, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Strain into bowl. Return sauce to skillet and boil until thick syrup forms, about 2 minutes. Whisk in butter and season with salt. Spoon sauce around steaks and enjoy with a glass of your favorite red wine.

    Sunday, July 13, 2008

    Sake Bombs for Dessert

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 13. Only 18 more days to go.

    Last night we went out with two of my favorite people ~ Kristy and Ryan. Now it's a good thing we planned this several weeks ago, because after the week I had I would have cancelled and spent the night in my comfy chair watching the flat screen.

    So we went out for sushi at Soho. We had two large platters of sushi, salads, veggie tempura and soup. Oh. And drinks. Lots and lots of green tea martinis, red wine and, of course, the obligatory sake bombs at the bar after dinner. I think the guys call them "dessert."

    Kristy and I didn't sake bomb, however, our server Tina always joins the guys for one. I'll stick with green tea martinis.

    So, thank you to Kristy and Ryan. I'm glad we planned a night out. I'm glad I didn't cancel and sit in front of the flat screen. And I'm really glad we're friends.

    Saturday, July 12, 2008

    National Ice Cream Month

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 12. Only 19 more days to go.

    I'm a little behind in reading my food magazines.

    OK, I admit it. I have 4 full shelves full of magazines full of glorious recipes waiting for me to try. But when I received the August 2008 Bon Appetit Magazine, I was practically salivating before I could rip off the plastic cover.

    July is National Ice Cream Month and I can't tell you the last time I had a scoop. Ice cream is one of those foods that as long as I don't start, I won't over~indulge. But if I start, Katie bar the door because it's like an obsession.

    When I do give in to the ice cream urge, I go all the way and nothing will satisfy except for a big scoop of Graeter's black cherry. Or caramel. Or cherry vanilla. Or peppermint. Or cinnamon. Or peach. Or mango sorbet. Wait. That's not truly an ice cream, is it? Who cares! It's cold, creamy and oh so good!

    OK. Now it's official. I have the ice cream urge and nothing is going to satisfy it until I have a scoop.

    Unless it's a glass of a deep, full bodied, spicy, peppery zinfandel.

    Oh by the way. Did you know that you can get a FREE SCOOP of Graeter's ice cream on your birthday? True! Take your driver's license and get any scoop you want.

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    On Air with Keith and JD at WGRR

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 11. Only 20 more days to go.

    I'm a third of the way through the "blog a day for a month" month.


    Survived the week from hell but had to get up extra early this morning to get downtown to WGRR and be on~air with my buddies, Keith and JD, at 7:30. Yes, that's 7:30 IN THE MORNING! Keith and JD have guilted me (JD's words ~ not mine) so that when I actually go into the radio station, I make a tray of food for them.

    Today it was red wine marinated pork tenderloin and dilled potato salad. Not a gourmet feast by any stretch of the imagination, but when you've been up since 3:30 a.m., just about anything will taste good!

    These two are great guys! Really funny, extremely quick witted and just as nice as can be. If they could cook, they'd be just about perfect. Oh, wait. Keith DOES cook. So I guess he's just about perfect. I wonder if his wife knows this?

    Look closely in the left corner of the photo ~ they've stuck Angie Irick in the back corner far away from the food.

    Thanks Keith and JD. It was a blast this morning and I can't wait to see you again in August. I'll bring food again and I promise some good desserts for JD this time!

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    A Chef Debbie Photo for the Ages!

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 10. Only 21 more days to go.

    Yesterday I was exhausted after the big party of the evening before but had a big client cook day to get through. I love this client ~ but they certainly can be a challenge to cook for.

    So, of course, today was the day that the Cincinnati Enquirer was sending a photographer to take photos of moi for an upcoming article. With the hazy, hot and humid day full of rain and wind making my hair do things that it should never do, my dark baggy eyes and a lovely tomato sauce splotch on my right boob, I'm sure this will be a photo for the ages!

    The photographer, Michael Keating, however, was seriously cool. A 30~year veteran of the Enquirer, he runs a photo website that is a must see for anyone who takes photos ~ amateur, professional or somewhere inbetween. Michael is supposed to send me a photo that he took for me to put on my blog. I'll post it ~ if it isn't too hideous, and if he doesn't forget to send it.

    Yesterday I also received a copy of an article written for the regional Angie's List magazine with a brief Q&A of 3 personal chefs in Cincinnati. And, yes I was one of the PCs interviewed. Thank Bacchus that I didn't have to have another bad photo taken.

    It's been a very hard week this week and a visit with Bacchus is definitely in order as soon as I'm finished today.

    Wednesday, July 9, 2008

    Lick the Platters Clean!

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 9. Only 22 more days to go.

    This blog a day stuff is getting really difficult to keep up with.

    Last night I had a big appy party ~ well the number of guests was small ~ but the amount of food they wanted was huge! And they ate it all! Unbelievable!

    The normal amount of appy bites I should have needed last evening was around 144. They went through over 200 pieces. And they could have eaten as much again.

    There was 3 pounds of beef tenderloin ~ my world famous bourbon glazed BT ~ so much that I had planned to have a nice big piece left over for the event planner as well as a nice piece left for sweet husband and me. Nothing left. Nada. Zip. Zero.

    Same with the salmon ~ sesame dill salmon bites and sweet and spicy salmon bites. Both served on bruschetta toasts with herbed cream cheese. Gone. Bye bye. See ya.

    Spicy garlic sesame chicken, creamy caviar dip, chocolate dipped strawberries, espresso chocolate mousse, veggie tray with herbed onion dip, fruit tray with kaluha dip. It looked like the platters had been licked clean.

    But. Seeing people enjoy my food is the greatest high in the world. It's a whole lot better than the feeling I'd have if they didn't like it!

    Tuesday, July 8, 2008

    CIA French Bootcamp

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 8. Only 23 more days to go.

    I've signed up to attend a CIA Bootcamp with my Personal Chef buddy, Debbie Burgess.

    When I first told sweet husband Tim about this, he had a blank look on his face. Huh? CIA? Bootcamp? The CIA?

    I've found that most everyone has the same reaction. Do you really think the government's version of the CIA would want a 50 ~ almost 51 year old ~ short, dumpy, mouthy female as a secret agent spy? Hardly!

    So. To set the record straight.

    In my world, CIA stands for Culinary Institute of America. And instead of spying on the French, instead I'll attempt to weasel their cooking secrets out of them.

    And the "Bootcamp" part of this experience? Well, it will be like the sort of bootcamp you're thinking about. Our day will start at 7:00 a.m. and won't end, many days until well after 11:00 p.m. And, we'll be subjected to potential physical torture ~ from knives, whips and beatings ~ and I'll certainly arrive with a sense of insecurity and trepidation.

    The biggest difference? Why, the food, of course. We'll be eating on campus at restaurants run by CIA chefs and sampling gourmet foods and wines.

    Yep. It'll be rough!

    Monday, July 7, 2008

    Hang On ~ This is Going To Be A Wild Week!

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 7. Only 24 more days to go.

    Today is the start of a really tough week. Two clients on Monday. A big party on Tuesday. Wednesday's clients gets 9 different entrees while Thursday's client will have only 5 entrees, but adds on soup, salad and breakfast muffins.

    Yikes! That's a lot of food that I'll have to sample (sigh).  Here's some of what's on this week's menus:

  • Tandoori Chicken with Mushroom Curry

  • Spicy Meat and Spinach Lasagna

  • Maple Chili Glazed Pork Medallions with Cinnamon Glazed Carrots

  • Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas

  • Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Spicy Mango Couscous

  • Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Asiago, Roasted Red Peppers and Asparagus served with Anna Potatoes

  • Fruit Trays with Kaluha Dipping Sauce

  • Veggie Trays with Roasted Onion Dip

  • Bourbon Glazed Beef Tenderloin served with Horseradish Aioli

  • Tobiko Caviar Dip

  • Sweet and Spicy Salmon Toasts with Herbed Cream Cheese

  • Sesame Chicken Tenders with 3 Mustard Dipping Sauce

  • Mini Greek Pizzas

  • Gruyere and Prosciutto Pastry Pinwheels

  • Chocolate Covered Strawberries

  • Espresso Chocolate Mousse in Mini Fillo Shells

  • Roasted Salmon with Ancho~Honey Glaze

  • Salmon Baked with Tomatoes, Lemon and Capers

  • Chicken in Peppercorn Cognac Sauce

  • Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Roasted Red Peppers and Asparagus

  • Salmon Stuffed with Zucchini, Leeks, Garlic and Spinach

  • Dover Sole en Papillote with Julienned Vegetables

  • Veggie and Brown Rice Stuffed Butternut Squash

  • Veggie and Bulgar Stuffed Red Bell Peppers

  • Chicken Parmigiano with Garlic Bread

  • Turkey and Broccoli Alfredo Casserole

  • Pot Roast with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

  • Ginger Glazed Chicken with Spicy Wild Rice

    Yikes! And, then on Friday ~ my day off ~ I'm going to get up early to take food down to my buddies Keith and JD at WGRR while they're filling in for Chris and Janeen while they're in London.

    What a week! After just a taste of every one of these items, I'll be stuffed!

  • Sunday, July 6, 2008

    Hold the Mustard!

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 6. Only 25 more days to go.

    Most people celebrate the 4th of July with hotdogs and hamburgers. That seems to be an all~American tradition.

    But some people just see the line, cross over it and keep running.

    Take Joey Chestnut, defending champion of Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. Please take him.

    For the first time in history, the contest went into overtime.


    Yep. Seems said champ and six~time champion (110 pound weakling) Takeru Nobayaski of Japan, were tied at the end of the 10 minute contest. They had each eaten 59 hot dogs.

    So. On to a sudden death (no pun intended) 5~dog eatoff.

    Can you imagine the shame of it all had Joey not won this contest? Thank goodness he spared us the indignity and embarrassment of losing by just stuffing down five more hot dogs.

    Whew! I can sleep better tonight knowing the trophy is safely here in the US for another year.

    Saturday, July 5, 2008

    Yeah. What Charlie Gibson Said!

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 5. Only 26 more days to go.

    Yesterday, World News Tonight with Charlie Gibson had a segment about Dinner In The Sky, a new dining concept where chefs and guests dine 15~20 stories in the air.

    With nothing under them!

    In case you haven't heard about this yet, it's the newest ~ and most expensive ~ dining craze (or is it crazy) that's sweeping the rich and bored.

    Their website doesn't have pricing, however, it does state that infrared heaters are 750 euros a pop. That's just for the heat. So, my guess is that if you have an extra $500K USD laying around then you, too, could have Dinner In The Sky.

    Gotta tell you ~ there isn't enough wine in the world to get me up there! And then I'd have to go to the bathroom.

    Charlie Gibson ended the segment with a personal comment. "With all due respect, that's just nuts!"

    Yeah. What Charlie Gibson said!

    Friday, July 4, 2008

    Food, Glorious Food!

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 4. Only 27 more days to go.

    Unbelievable! I found a great Food, Glorious Food video with the characters from "Ice Age" on YouTube just yesterday and today it's already been taken offline. Here's another one.

    I don't have any recipes for lions or any other wild game, but here's one a a flavorful grilled chicken.

    Grilled Jerk Chicken
    Serves 4

    1/3c olive oil
    2T sesame oil
    2T hot chili oil
    2 green onions, thinly sliced
    1T ginger root, grated
    4 garlic cloves, finely minced
    2T white balsamic vinegar ~ can substitute red wine vinegar
    1T honey
    1/4t nutmeg, freshly grated
    salt and pepper
    1/2 lime, juiced and zested
    3T orange juice
    1/4t red pepper flakes
    4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    2T cilantro, for garnish
    1T sesame seeds, toasted, for garnish

    Place all ingredients except chicken, cilantro and sesame seeds in food processor and process until almost smooth. Pierce chicken breasts with fork all over. Place chicken breasts in large zip~lock bag and add marinade. Seal and refrigerate 24~48 hours depending upon how intense you want the flavor to be.

    Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Preheat grill and grill chicken, turning once, until cooked through. Garnish with chopped cilantro and toasted sesame seeds.  

    Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

    Thursday, July 3, 2008

    Happy Almost 4th of July! - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 3. Only 28 more days to go.

    Tomorrow is the 4th of July a time of family cookouts, fireworks and friends. Instead of the same ole boring hotdogs and dried out, overcooked hamburgers on the grill, try this easy recipe that's full of flavor guaranteed to be the hit of the party.

    Garlic Marinated Chicken Breasts
    Serves 4

    4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    1 bottle Kraft fat~free Italian salad dressing
    3 garlic cloves, finely minced
    2 large shallots, finely minced
    1/8t cayenne pepper
    1t dried oregano

    Place chicken breasts in large zip~lock bag. Whisk together all marinade ingredients and pour over chicken. Seal bag and refrigerate at least 8 hours.

    Remove chicken from marinade and pour marinade into saucepan. Grill chicken, turning once, until done. You should not have any grill flame~ups since the marinade is fat~free. While chicken is grilling, bring marinade to boil, reduce heat and cook until thickened. Serve as a dipping sauce with chicken.

    Have a happy and safe 4th and remember ~ alcohol doesn't mix any better with fireworks than it does with driving!

    Wednesday, July 2, 2008

    Extra Wine? Not in My Glass (Unfortunately)!

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 2. Only 29 more days to go.

    A couple of days ago there was an article in The Los Angeles Times discussing a study published this week in the journal "Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research" claims that alcoholic drinks served in bars and restaurants are often larger than the standard size and contain more alcohol. The study went on to claim that the average glass of wine served in a bar was 43% larger than standard.


    First, I'd like to know who really reads that journal. Then I'd like to know which bars and restaurants they studied and where they're getting their glasses of wine!

    I went out the other night with Sandee for a cocktail after work and I can guarantee that my glass of wine was certainly not almost 50% more than a standard glass of wine. Now granted, it was happy hour. And my glass of wine was $1 off the regular price. But it sure looked like instead of serving the regular glass of wine for $1 less than their standard price, they served $1 less of alcohol and charged me $1 less.

    When a bar/restaurant can charge $8/glass for a bottle of wine that retails for $16, food prices rising over 20% in the last year alone, a Bear market on the horizon and gas averaging over $4.25 nationally a little extra wine would really help dull the pain.

    Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    I Get A Glow From Zinfandel

    A Blog A Day For A Month: Day 1. Only 30 more days to go.

    I get a lot of e~mails from friends sending jokes, cartoons and other funnies that make me smile. Here's Maxine, one of the greatest cartoon characters of all time, and it's scary how many of her witticisms apply to my life.

    While you may find it hard to believe, I do like to visit with Bacchus every once in a while. OK. I admit. Visiting time is normally around 5:00 p.m. Every day. But it's important to keep in touch with friends.

    So back to Maxine. I love this cartoon ~ it's so me! I don't "do" the sun. Unlike Sweet Husband Tim who walks out into the sun and turns a deep dark golden brown, when I sun all I do is burn, turn red, peel, burn, turn red, peel, repeat process.

    So if you want to get your glow on with Zinfandel, here's a Yummy! recipe to get you started.

    Zinfandel Cioppino
    Modified from
    Serves 6

    1 large fennel bulb and 3" of stalks, diced, reserve 4 fronds for garnish
    1 large onion, diced
    1/2c celery, thinly sliced
    1/2c carrots, small dice
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    2 bay leaves
    1t dried thyme
    1 pinch red pepper flakes
    1/4t Old Bay Seasoning
    salt and pepper
    1 ~ 28oz can diced tomatoes
    1/2c vegetable stock
    1 bottle Zinfandel ~ divided use
    8oz clam juice ~ can use Clamato Juice
    1/2 pound halibut, cut into 2" pieces
    1/2 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined
    1 pound mussels
    8oz clams, canned, do not drain

    Open Zinfandel, measure 1c and set aside. Pour a glass of wine and enjoy while cooking.

    Heat oil in 6~quart soup pot over medium heat. Stir in fennel, onion, celery, carrot, garlic,bay leaves, thyme, red pepper flakes, Old Bay Seasoning and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until vegetables begin to soften ~ about 4 minutes.

    Add tomatoes with their juices, vegetable stock, 1c reserved Zinfandel and clam juice. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.

    Check your wine level. Pour another glass if needed. Stir in seafood and cook, uncovered, until seafood is just cooked through and mussels open wide, approximately 5~6 minutes. Discard bay leaves and any mussels that remain closed after 6 minutes.