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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

David Lebovitz's Easy Jam Tart

I have been a fan of David Lebovitz's blog since I started my own.  His food and techniques are so down to earth, but absolutely impressive when the finished product gets to the table.  I've never met the man, but he did help me out once via Twitter when I was trying to find the American substitute for crème épaisse.  (That would be crème fraiche or a good heavy cream according to him, by the way.)  I guess that's the next best thing to meeting him in person!  ;-)

So when I was looking for something different to make for Thanksgiving dessert, my husband and I looked through his blog's recipes.  We were having duck, so wanted something not too rich, but something fruity.  I had bookmarked this recipe for his Easy Jam Tart long ago, so we decided to finally make it.  I can't tell you how easy it was!  I made it the day before, and as David suggests, the flavors really do meld after resting. 

It's a beauty, too.  Make this and take it to your next potluck.  Or make it for your next fancy dinner.  Or just eat the leftovers for breakfast as I did.  It works well in all situations.  The crust comes out like a cookie, so it's easily eaten with a hand, but you could also add a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream (only slightly sweetened) to dress it up on a plate.

But whatever the occasion, you do want to make this.  Now.  I used Bonne Maman Four Fruits jam, and it worked beautifully, but I'd like to try it with apricot next time.  The cornmeal gives it a hefty bite, so if you want something a little more refined, whir the cornmeal in a blender or food processor before using it.  I kind of liked the rough texture, though.  I also made another 1/2 batch of the dough because my tart pan was a little bigger than what David used.  Regardless, even with that little addition, this was a super easy and beautiful little tart to make and serve to your friends.  Or just hoard to yourself.

The recipe can be found at David Lebovitz's blog.  And if you haven't ever read it, take your time and read his other posts.  You can come back and thank me later.  :-)

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Baked Explorations: A Cookbook Review and Grasshopper Bars

Who doesn't love baked goods?!  My family can get quite addicted to them, and I think my husband did a little dance of joy when I started this blog and started taking baking seriously.  I was just telling him the other day that when I started blogging three years ago (!), I wasn't very confident in my baking abilities, but now I feel like I could conquer the baking world with the right equipment.  (I think that Santa might be bringing me a candy thermometer.)  :-)  So, when I saw the cover of Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy.  I mean, just look at that cover! (And it's full of equally enticing photos of equally scrumptious desserts!)

Lewis and Poliafito run the well-known bakeries, Baked, in both Brooklyn and Charleston, but don't assume that the home cook knows everything there is to know about baking.  The cookbook starts with sections on necessary tools for baking (but keep it simple for those of us with small kitchens) and baking terms/brand recommendations/techniques.  The book is built around dessert chapters: Breakfast, Tarts and Pies, Cookies and Bars, Cakes, and Confections and Pastry.  And it helpfully ends with conversion charts for those who prefer to use the metric system.  Each recipe begins with notes from the bakers--all tongue in cheek, but helpful nonetheless.

When I received my copy, I flipped through it first with my daughter.  I told her that we would need to pick one or two recipes to try, so she decided to help me...by bookmarking every page!  I restrained myself from doing so as well, but I felt the same giddiness.  The book is chock-full of recipes for baked goods that Americans would recognize from growing up...just a little more refined.  (I'd highly recommend this book if you are lucky enough to score some gift certificates for Christmas and like to bake!)  We finally settled on making Grasshopper Bars for some guests coming over, but with the caveat that I would make Nutella Scones for Christmas breakfast and the Caramel Apple Cake for Christmas dinner. I'll let you know how that goes after Christmas, but given how good these Grasshopper Bars were, I'm sure that the scones and cake will be delicious.  These bars are rich with chocolate, but the mint provides a refreshing after-dinner quality to the smooth bars.

Grasshopper Bars
Ever-so-slightly adapted from Baked Explorations

For the brownie base:
3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (The original called for 1 tablespoon dark unsweetened cocoa powder, but I couldn't find any at our local shops.)
5 ounces good quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used 60%, but you can go up to 72%.)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the buttercream:
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, but still cool, cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons creme de menthe
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

For the chocolate glaze:
6 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used 60%, but you can go up to 72%.)
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or metal 9x13-inch pan.  Line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter that too.  In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder together and set aside.

Put about an inch or two of water in a medium saucepan and place a medium bowl or double boiler pan over the water (making sure the water does not touch the bowl) and place over medium heat.  Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl and stir occasionally until they are completely melted and combined.  Turn off the heat, but keeping the bowl over the hot water bath, add both sugars.  Whisk the sugars until completely combined.  Remove the bowl from the pan.  The mixture should be at about room temperature.

Add the eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined.  Add the vanilla and mix until combined.  Do not overbeat the batter.

Pour the chocolate mixture into a larger mixing bowl.  Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate.  Using a spatula (do not use a whisk), fold the dry ingredients into the wet until there is just a trace amount of the flour mix visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top with a spatula, and bake for about 12-15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.  The brownies should be just a little underdone.  A toothpick inserted into the brownies at an angle should contain a few loose crumbs.  Remove the brownies from the oven and let cool completely while you make the buttercream filling.

Making the buttercream:
In a medium saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together.  Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally until the mixture some to a boil and has thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on high speed until the mixture cools.  Reduce the speed to low and add the butter.  Mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the filling is light and fluffy.

Add the creme de menthe and peppermint extract and mix until combined.  If the filling is too soft, chill slightly in the refrigerator and then mix again until it is the proper consistency.  If the filling is too firm, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and remix until it is the consistency of buttercream frosting.  Spread the filling evenly across the top of the brownie layer (once the brownie layer has COMPLETELY cooled) and place the pan in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes.

Making the chocolate glaze:
In a large, non-reactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup and butter.  Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth.  Remove the bowl from the pan and stir vigorously for 1 minute to release excess heat.

Pour the mixture over the chilled buttercream layer and either use a spatula to spread the chocolate or tilt the pan back and forth until the butter cream layer is completely covered and the the chocolate is smooth.  Place the pan back in the refrigerator for at least one hour or until the glaze hardens.

Remove the pan from the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving.  Cut the bars with a warm knife.  Cut into squares and serve immediately.  The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 4 days.

Disclosure: A review copy of this cookbook was sent to me free of charge. I was not required to post about it and received no compensation for doing so. 

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Double Chocolate Snowball Cookies [International Blogger Cookie Exchange]

Last year I participated in the first annual International Blogger Cookie Exchange hosted by Lori at Fake Food Free and Andrea of Food Embrace and loved it so much that I put my name in the hat to participate again.  Instead of actually sending the cookies we make to each other, we send each other recipes to try at home and eat ourselves!  I was delighted to find out that my recipe was coming from fellow Kentucky Food Blogger Tammi from Picture Perfect Cooking.  She sent me the recipe for Double Chocolate Snowball Cookies...and my entire family LOVED them!  These are great cookies to make with kids--easy, but they get to get their hands dirty while rolling the dough around the chocolate chips.  My daughter helped make these, but as you can see in the photo above, it was my son who tried to sneak a bite or two!

I made the recipe as instructed for half of the batch.  The second half, I divided into two parts and tried different fillings.  I had a craving for caramel, so my original idea was to stuff a caramel into each cookie, but my daughter begged to create her own cookie...how could I say no?!  I cut caramel squares into quarters and placed two quarters into each of my cookies.  My daughter wanted to play with hers, so put one quarter of a caramel and two chocolate chips into hers.  Her version won hands down!  The all-caramel cookies leaked caramel all over the pan and came out flat, while hers looked just like the original version.  My husband described my daughter's cookies as tasting just like a candy bar.  I'll definitely be making this again and am excited to try out new fillings: miniature candy bars, peppermint chips...the possibilities are endless!

Double Chocolate Snowball Cookies
Adapted slightly from Picture Perfect Cooking

Recipe Notes: This is the original version of the recipe, but feel free to play around with the fillings and possibly even the dough flavors.  Try substituting other extracts for the vanilla and see what happens!

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup nuts, crushed or chopped (I used hazelnuts.)
Semi-sweet chocolate chips
Powdered Sugar

In a large bowl, mix the butter, sugar and flour until light and fluffy.  Stir in the flour, cocoa and nuts.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and flatten into a disk.  Chill for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  Unwrap the dough and cut it into about 24 even pieces.  Flatten each piece into a circle and place three chocolate chips into the middle.  Shape into a ball, tucking the chocolate chips inside.  Place on the parchment paper and bake for 18-20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool for about 5 minutes on the sheet or until you can remove the cookies to a cooking rack without them falling apart.  Once they've cooled a little more, roll in powdered sugar.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

How to Make Garlic Salt...and How to Balance Blogging and Life

I don't know how parents stay sane.  Really, I don't.  Between work (whether you have a full-time job or stay at home), extracurricular activities, beginning-of-the-winter illnesses, last-minute work trips, etc., etc., I'm surprised that parents get to sleep at all, let alone have a hobby.  My hobby is cooking and writing for this blog, and it will remain a hobby unless someone wants to pay me to do it.  (Hint, hint...anyone out there want to pay me to write here???)  And as fulfilling and fun as this blog is, it is often the first thing to get cut from my to-do list when duty calls.  Unfortunately, duty has called a lot more recently.  So please forgive my sporadic posts, and please understand that I probably won't be baking 18 different types of holiday cookies to share here.  Not that I don't want to bake all of those cookies and share them with my lovely readers, but the reality is that I'll be lucky if I get to bake one type of cookie this season!  It may seem like I'm complaining, but I'm not.  My family is healthy and happy...just very, very busy at the moment, and I'd like to savor just a little of that time before my kiddos get too old to want to share that time with me.  :-)

I am, however, going to share a great tip today about making your own garlic salt.  For some reason, I'm either always out of the stuff or it's been so long since I used it that it's all caked at the bottom of the jar.  The other day, I realized I was out, but really wanted to use some on baked kale chips.  Then the proverbial light bulb went off over my head...and I made some from scratch!  It takes all of 5-10 minutes to make and really tastes fresh--I guess anything's fresher when it doesn't come out of a plastic bottle!  I made extra to have on hand and stored it in an airtight container in the refrigerator, but it didn't last long.  The garlic salt turned a greenish tint, which although wasn't mold-based, did turn me off from using it.  This should last a few days in the fridge, but it's easy enough to make it on demand whenever you need it!

First, peel and trim your garlic.  I used two cloves for this batch, which made about 1/4 cup.  Roughly chop the garlic and place in a mortar bowl.

Add about a tablespoon of Kosher salt and using a pestle, grind into a paste.

Continue adding Kosher salt until the mixture is no longer paste-like and looks more like salt.

And that's it!  Use it as you would with store-bought garlic salt.  It tasted delicious on the kale chips, but I bet it would also be great on popcorn!

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Lemon Curd [Secret Recipe Club]

Today is the Secret Recipe Club reveal day.  I was assigned the blog Apron Strings, written by Donna and Anne, a birth mother and daughter reunited who have bonded over cooking and created a blog, a cookbook and more!  As busy mothers themselves, I'm sure they'll understand when I only ended up making half of one of their recipe.  I received the assignment about three weeks ago, but in the meantime, my job became temporarily (I hope!) more demanding, my family has been passing around every germ known to man, and to top it all off, we're hosting 15 college students at our house for a Central European inspired dinner today, the day of the reveal, which meant that I spent the weekend preparing for that instead of reading the directions on my chosen recipe.

So enough kvetching already!  Let's get to the recipe!  I chose Lemon Pie Parfait, which looked like an easy version of one of my favorite pies: Lemon Meringue Pie.  I've never made my own lemon curd, so I thought that this would be the perfect time to try it...ha!  I have all the ingredients on hand to make the parfaits, but then last night at 7:00pm when I was making the lemon curd, I read the following horrifying words: "Let cool and then refrigerate at least 8 hours, up to 24 hours."  My thoughts at the moment I read this aren't PG enough to write on this blog.  So I made a wonderfully silky and lemony lemon curd that's not ready for the big time--to be the star of the parfait.  Instead, I'm chilling most of the curd, but tested out a tiny bit in a crepe I was making for tomorrow evening.  Delicious!  I would suggest that if you're going to try it in a crepe that you fold it in with some whipped cream to cut the tanginess of the lemon, but since I love authentic tart lemon flavors, I liked it as is.  And I'm chomping at the bit to finally make the parfaits!

Lemon Curd
from Apron Strings

4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
Zest from one lemon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Place a medium saucepan with about 1-2 inches of water in it on the stove to boil.  Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large glass bowl until it turns light yellow and fluffy.  Place the glass bowl over the boiling water to create a double boiler.

Add the lemon juice and lemon zest and whisk.  Cook over simmering water, whisking frequently, for about 15 minutes or until the curd becomes custard like (almost like a soft-set pudding).

Remove the bowl from the heat and add the butter, whisking until completely melted.  Let cool and refrigerate for at least eight hours, or up to 24 hours.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Slow-Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos

I absolutely love Mexican food!  One of the things I miss most about living in California is not being able to get mouth-wateringly good carne asada whenever I want.  There are good Mexican restaurants here in Kentucky, but they just don't compare to those hole-in-the-wall places I came to love in San Diego.  Mexican food has always been in my cooking repertoire, and it's one of those cuisines in which I feel confident when not using a recipe (except when making tamales!).  I make delicious green chile enchiladas (if I do say so myself), but I don't remember learning how to make them...I just know.

So, enter the humble taco.  I've always made tacos at home using hamburger meat, but last week while taking stock of my freezers (yes, I have multiple freezers), I realized that I have a ton of stew meat that I bought last fall from Marksbury Farm.  I immediately thought that done right, it could make some awesome taco meat...and I was right!  With five minutes of prep in the morning and about 10 minutes in the evening, you can have delicious and healthy tacos after a long day of work.  Who doesn't want that?!

Slow-Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos

Cook's Notes: I used a Porter as the beer of choice, but feel free to use any beer that tastes good to you.  Also, you can find queso fresco in the deli section or Mexican food refrigerated case at your local grocery store or at any Latin American specialty stores.  If you're not sure how to cut an avocado, see my tutorial.

Taco Meat:
2 pounds beef stew meat
1 bottle of dark beer
1 cup fresh or prepared salsa
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Pepper, to taste

Corn Tortillas
Finely shredded cabbage
Sliced avocado
Thinly sliced radishes
Queso Fresco
Lime wedges

To make the taco meat:
Pat dry the stew meat and place in your slow cooker.  Add the beer, salsa, onions, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper.  Stir to mix.  If the meat isn't completely covered by liquid, add enough water to cover.  Set on low and cook for 8 hours.

Once the meat has cooked and is falling apart, remove to a rimmed baking sheet with a slotted spoon.  Taste the meat for any seasoning adjustments.  If you're happy with the texture of the meat, using a wooden spoon, press down on the chunks until the meat is shredded.  If you'd like the meat to be a little drier, place in a 400 degree F oven for about 15 minutes or until the meat is crispy enough for your taste.  If it gets too dry, add a little bit of the slow-cooker cooking liquid.  (When done, toss the remaining cooking liquid.)

To assemble the tacos:
Heat the tortillas on the stovetop (in a pan or on a griddle) or wrapped in foil in a hot oven.  To make each taco, layer two tortillas and add about two tablespoons of taco meat.  Top with crumbled queso fresco, radishes, avocados and shredded cabbage.  Serve with lime wedges to squeeze on top of each taco right before eating.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Chicken, Apple and Gruyère Salad: A Light Meal for Beautiful Fall Days

Last week I was given a basket of apples by some friends.  My kids love to eat them as snacks, but I've been trying to incorporate them into our meals since there are just too many to eat before they start going bad.  This weekend, I was home alone with the kids, and since cooking while rounding up a five year old and an 18 month old can be dangerous, I decided to go simple with a salad.  It was a beautiful fall day...probably one of the last that a salad would be satisfying as a supper.  I came up with this salad with a chicken breast and leftovers in my fridge--the best kinds of meals in my opinion!  Feel free to add other goodies into the salad, but for this version, I kept it simple with lettuce, apples, gruyère cheese and chicken.

Chicken, Apple and Gruyère Salad
Serves 2 as a meal

1-2 chicken breasts (depending on how much you'd like to eat)
1 cup apple cider
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 Tbl red wine vinegar
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbl olive oil
Lettuce, enough to fill a medium or large bowl (I used Red and Green Leaf, but use your favorite here.)
2 small apples, chopped
2 oz. gruyère cheese, shredded

Honey Mustard and Apple Cider Salad Dressing:
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 Tbl apple cider
2 Tbl red wine vinegar
8-9 Tbl olive oil

In a large ziploc bag or in a shallow dish, combine the apple cider, dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, garlic salt, thyme and olive oil until completely incorporated.  Add the chicken breast(s) and completely coat with the marinade.  Place in refrigerator for at least two hours, but up to overnight, turning the breasts a couple of times to marinate well.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Heat an oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat and spray the skillet lightly with oil.  Add the chicken breasts and brown on both sides.  When the chicken is browned, cover the skillet lightly with foil and place in the oven for about 5-10 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken breasts), or until the breast is done and reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.  When the chicken is done, remove from the oven and place the chicken on a cutting board to rest and cool for at least 10 minutes.

While the chicken is cooling, combine the lettuce, apples and cheese in a large bowl.  Make the dressing by whisking the mustard, honey, salt, pepper, apple cider and red wine vinegar until they are completely combined.  Drizzle the olive oil slowly while whisking.  Taste.  If it's not sweet enough for you, add a little more honey.  If it's not tart enough for you, add a little more red wine vinegar.  If it's too tart, add a little more olive oil.  The flavoring on this dressing is up to you!

Toss the salad with the salad dressing until it is lightly coated, reserving a little dressing to drizzle over the completed salad.  Split the salad between the plates.

Slice the chicken and lay it nicely on each salad.  Drizzle with a little more salad dressing.  Serve immediately.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Kentucky News

Did you miss me?  I know I've been MIA for a couple of weeks, but I've just been too busy to cook, let alone blog.  There are several Kentucky-related pieces of news and events I wanted to let everyone know about, though, so this will be a quick post dedicated to that.  Hopefully, I'll get back to blogging about food next week!

The first item up is to let you know that there was a great article written about the Kentucky Food Bloggers Association in this month's issue of the Chevy Chaser Magazine.  Go check out what the bloggers are saying about food, blogging and our community!

Secondly, I wanted to let those of you in the central Kentucky area (or those of you who would like to visit!) know that the Kentucky State BBQ Festival is happening this weekend in Danville, Kentucky.  If you're in the area, come check it out!  Pitmasters from all over the country will be here, and from what I've heard, this is one of the only BBQ contests where you actually get to taste the food being cooked.  It looks like it will provide fabulous food and entertainment for the entire weekend!

To enter, go to Only One Kentucky!
And finally, a non-food-related bit of news, but still Kentucky-related: The Kentucky Department of Tourism has kicked off its newest marketing campaign with the theme "Kentucky: There's Only One" with a Twitter contest that will run through November 23rd.  Just check out the website daily and tweet what you love about the day's Kentucky attractions.  Winners will be chosen daily to win prizes from t-shirts to an iPod Nano to a Nook Color.  I've already won a t-shirt and am hoping to win even more!

You have your homework now, so get to it!  :-)

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Baked Spiced Chickpeas [Secret Recipe Club]

This is my third month as part of the Secret Recipe Club, and I love it!  I've met new food bloggers and have been challenged to make new food.  This month was a challenge, but a fun one!  I was assigned Gretchen's blog Veggie Grettie.  A Certified Nutrition Specialist, Gretchen has been vegan for years because of health issues and also cooks gluten free because of her daughter's allergies.  Because my family is neither vegan nor gluten free, I thought that choosing a recipe that we'd like was going to be difficult, but it turns out that choosing a recipe was difficult because there were so many great ones to choose from!

I finally settled on her Baked Spiced Chickpeas Snack.  My family loves chickpeas, and I've seen recipes like this floating around and have made several mental notes to try one.  This one is great because it's sweet and spicy and salty all rolled into a crispy chickpea.  What's not to love?!

Baked Spiced Chickpeas
Adapted from Veggie Grettie

2 cups (or one can) cooked chickpeas
1 1/2 Tbl olive oil
3 Tbl spice mixture (below)

Spice Mixture:
2 tsp dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp Kosher salt

To make the spice mixture:
Mix all spice mixture ingredients well and place in an airtight container.

To make the chickpeas:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Rinse the chickpeas.  Place the chickpeas on two layers of paper towels and then top with a third.  Rub the top layer of paper towels over the chickpeas gently to dry.  Remove the paper towel and discard any skins that have become loose.  Let air dry for a few minutes.

Place the chickpeas in a bowl and add the oil.  Mix until the chickpeas are well coated.  Add three tablespoons of the spice mixture and mix well.  Place the chickpeas on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper in a single layer.  Place in the oven and bake 40-60 minutes until the chickpeas are golden brown and crispy all the way through. 

Eat immediately once they've cooled.  These do not remain crispy if stored in a container.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to Make Fresh Pumpkin Puree

I have never bought a can of pumpkin.  Before I started this blog, I just had never cooked with pumpkin, and when I did start using it in baking, I had nice, fresh "potirons" available to me in the French markets.  I learned how easy it was to make my own pumpkin puree and have never looked back.  Every fall, I stock up on pumpkins, make the puree, and then freeze it in one-cup portions to use in baking throughout the winter.  I love fresh pumpkin for its taste and vibrancy, so I thought I'd share how I make my own puree here.

You need to start with a baking pumpkin, not a carving pumpkin (which can have a bland flavor).  Cut your pumpkin in half.

Scoop out the seeds and membranes.  You can save the seeds to roast if you'd like.

Place your pumpkin halves cut side down on a baking pan.  I like to line the tray with foil since the sugars in the pumpkin can get kind of messy when roasted.  Place your pan in a 350 degree F oven and bake for about 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of your pumpkin. 

The pumpkins should get a little browned on the skin side.  You'll know they're done when a sharp knife slides easily into the flesh.  Take the pan out of the oven and let the pumpkins cool.

Scoop the flesh out of the skins and place in a food processor.  Blend until completely pureed.

Depending on your pumpkin, the puree may be watery.  If that's the case, layer a sieve with cheesecloth or coffee filters and spoon the puree into it.  Let drain over a large bowl, covered, in the refrigerator for several hours until your puree reaches the desired consistency.

Once you've pureed the pumpkin, you can freeze them in freezer bags, freezer-safe plastic containers or freezer jars.  Just defrost what you need when you're ready to use it!

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Kentucky Food Bloggers Association Inaugural Networking Dinner

Way back when I started this blog, I thought that the only people who would care what I was cooking up was my mom and maybe a friend or two.  I quickly realized that this food blogging thing was bigger than I ever imagined.  It's a whole community of people willing to cook and share and help whenever possible.  I was lucky enough to meet a fellow food blogger, Lori at Fake Food Free, in the infancy of my blog.  I was living in France and she in Brazil, but we connected over food and the fact that we were both ex-pats.  I returned to Kentucky and a few months later, she moved to the small town bordering mine.  Crazy! 

Last spring, we started to realize that there were quite a few food bloggers in Kentucky.  She knew Melissa at My McDonald Meal, and I knew Sami from A Teenage Gourmet.  We started talking about organizing a group of Kentucky food bloggers...because surely, if there were four of us in Central Kentucky, there would be more.  Sixty (yes, 60!) food bloggers later, we have a strong and talented group.  (Go check us out on Facebook if you haven't already!) And it doesn't stop there!  In the spring, Alltech, a Kentucky company, approached Lori to see if we would be interested in hosting a dinner sponsored by them.  Of course, we were!  And that dinner finally happened last Friday night.  At Jonathan's at Gratz Park nonetheless.  And there was food.  And swag.  And raffles.  And tickets to the Incredible Food Show.  And laughter, always laughter.

From left to right: Carolyn from Bourbon & Beans, Lori from Fake Food Free, and Jessica from Urban Sacred Garden.
Jonathan Lundy and his staff created an amazing menu for us, featuring Alltech products.  And man, was it good!  We started with a little appetizer of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale Beer Cheese on Fried Cornbread.  Beer Cheese is something I had never had before moving to Kentucky, but I love it!  A cheese spread with a kick to it...what's not to love?!

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale Beer Cheese on Fried Cornbread
The next course was a Pearse Lyons Reserve – Molasses Marinated Alltech Angus Flank Steak with Arugula & Crispy Sweet Potatoes.  I love arugula and I love steak...and now I love crispy sweet potatoes!

Pearse Lyons Reserve – Molasses Marinated Alltech Angus Flank Steak with Arugula & Crispy Sweet Potatoes
The next course scared me as I'm not a huge fan of shrimp.  Weird, huh?  But I ate this Shrimp Corn Dog (Kentucky Ale Beer Battered Fried Shrimp) with Hot Mustard down to the tail.  And if I could have licked that mustard off of the plate, I would have.  The sauce was amazing!

Shrimp Corn Dog (Kentucky Ale Beer Battered Fried Shrimp) with Hot Mustard
Now, I mentioned earlier that I was a steak girl, and the next course fulfilled my every steaky desire.  The Grilled Alltech Angus Ribeye with Horseradish Creamed Collard Greens was done to perfection, and I wish I could have taken a tub of those collards home with me.  This steak was so huge that none of us could finish it...but we had to save room for dessert, right?!

Grilled Alltech Angus Ribeye with Horseradish Creamed Collard Greens
And what a dessert it was!  Jonathan served us a Bluegrass Sundown Chocolate Pot Pie with Jonathan’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.  It was so pretty that I didn't want to break into it, but once I did, the crusty chocolate cake was filled with gooey chocolate filling.  It was messy and rich, but I managed somehow to finish the whole thing!

Bluegrass Sundown Chocolate Pot Pie with Jonathan’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
I came away from the whole experience with a renewed sense of food, blogging and just being with people who love the same things I do.  We're a diverse group, from college students to moms to professional chefs, but we're all in it together.  And I can't wait for our next get-together!

From left to right: Me, Carolyn (Bourbon & Beans), Megan (The Art of Homemaking), Amy (Pappardella), Fiona (Crazy Englishwoman Cooks), Candy (Candy Girl), Cavan (ManCaveCuisine), Sarah Jane (BraveTart), Melissa (My McDonald Meal), Stella (BraveTart), Danielle (A Day in the Life), Meagan (Meagan's First Kitchen), Lori (Fake Food Free), Jessica (Urban Sacred Garden), Jennifer (Kentucky Foodie)
We were also lucky enough to receive a signed copy of Jonathan's cookbook Jonathan's Bluegrass Table from Alltech, "swag" from Kentucky companies, and quite a few raffle items.  I can't wait to try all of this out in the kitchen!  (This picture is minus the beer cheese, which I ate before taking the picture!)  :-)

A big thank you to all of the organizations and companies who sponsored and supported this event:

Jonathan's at Gratz Park
Incredible Food Show

Bourbon Barrel Foods
Bauer's Candies
Herb'N Renewal
Weisenberger Mill
Whole Foods Lexington
Howard's Creek Authentic Beer Cheese
Elmwood Inn
Holly Hill Inn

Raffle Items:
Whole Foods Lexington
Lexington Chocolate Company
Marksbury Farm
Lori Rice
Kentucky Cutting Boards
Bleugrass Chevre

Disclosure: The foods and products reviewed in this post were given to me free of charge. I was under no obligation to post about them and received no compensation for doing so.

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