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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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