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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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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bourbon Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

A couple of weeks ago, one of my newfound Kentucky food blogger friends, Judy from The Southern Lady Cooks, posted an awesome-looking recipe for a Bourbon Pumpkin Spice Cake.  I had just bought a beautiful pumpkin from Marksbury Farm and thought, "This would be perfect!  I have all of the ingredients on hand.  I can whip it up this weekend!"  Two weeks later I finally found the time and energy to make it, but when I did, I found that I hadn't held enough pumpkin out for the frosting, that we were down to our last dregs of bourbon, and that my toddler son had finished off the raisins.  Not to be deterred, I forged ahead with what I had, and lo and behold, the cake was still delicious! 

Now Judy calls it a cake, but in my family, it's called breakfast.  We've been eating these mini bundt cakes all week for breakfast, and three days later, they are still moist and scrumptious.  If you want the version with bourbon-soaked raisins and a pumpkin and bourbon frosting, then head on over to the original recipe, but if you're like me and only have the basic staples, this is your cake!

Bourbon Pumpkin Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from The Southern Lady Cooks

1/2 cup bourbon
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup pumpkin puree

Cream Cheese Frosting:
3 Tbl cream cheese, softened
3 Tbl buttermilk
1-1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Place the bourbon in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Reduce to about 1/2 of the original amount.  Turn off the flame and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray your pan with cooking spray or butter and flour it.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, oil and buttermilk until well mixed.  Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, allspice and salt and mix until everything is incorporated.  Add the pumpkin and the reserved bourbon and mix well.

Pour the batter into the mini bundt molds (about 2/3 of the way full) or pour all of the batter into a full-sized bundt pan.  Bake mini bundts for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Bake a full-sized cake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and let rest for about 25 minutes in the pan.  Remove carefully and drizzle frosting over cake(s).

Cream Cheese Frosting:
Whisk the cream cheese and buttermilk until smooth.  Add about one cup of powdered sugar and whisk.  Taste for sweetness.  If you'd like it sweeter, add a little more sugar until desired sweetness.  If it's too thick, add a tiny bit of milk until it's thin enough.  If too thin, add a little powdered sugar until you reach the desired thickness.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut squash is one of those ingredients that I'm learning to love.  I've never liked squash in general (as I've mentioned a thousand times on this blog), but since I get them from my CSA, I have always felt an obligation to keep trying the different squashes so I don't waste what we're given.  Last year, I came up with a soup that my husband and I love and then I froze the rest to be used in quick breads in lieu of pumpkin. 

Last week we received our first butternut squash, and I struggled to suppress a groan.  I know, I know, I'm crazy, but I just haven't been feeling creative in the kitchen over the past couple of weeks.  The slump is due to my crazy busy life, I know, but just thinking about figuring out what to do with the squash was exhausting.  Then inspiration struck...I was going to make some risotto!  I have about ten different rices in my cupboard, and had just been thinking about how to get them into my repertoire more often when the butternut squash crisis happened.

And that's how a delicious recipe and side dish was born out of the ashes of my worn-down self.  Make it...you won't be disappointed!

Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut squash "puree":
1 medium butternut squash, quartered into wedges and seeded
3-4 sage leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Olive oil

1 Tbl unsalted butter
1 Tbl olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cups arborio rice
3 sage leaves, chopped finely
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
Butternut squash puree from one medium squash
4 Tbl grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
Salt and Pepper, to taste

To make the butternut squash "puree":
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Lay the butternut squash wedges in a rimmed baking sheet, skin side down.  Sprinkle the flesh with the sage, salt and pepper.  Drizzle a little olive oil over the squash, and using a pastry brush, brush the oil all over the flesh so that it's completely coated.  Place in the oven and bake for 30-50 minutes or until the flesh is soft.

When the squash is cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.  Scoop out the flesh into a bowl and smash with the back of a fork until it is broken down.  There should be some chunks left.  Set aside.

To make the risotto:
Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan until just simmering.  In a larger pot, heat the butter and oil over medium heat until the butter is melted.  Add the onions and saute until the onions start to wilt, about 5-10 minutes.  Add the rice and sage and stir to coat with oil.  Saute, stirring often, for a couple of minutes, or until the rice starts to become translucent.  Add the wine, stirring constantly until the wine is almost completely absorbed.  Add 1/2 cup chicken stock and stir until it's almost completely absorbed.  Continue adding chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time, until the stock is used up or until your rice is done.  (Risotto should be done "al dente," which means that there should be some chewiness to the rice.  It should not get mushy.)  If you use up all of the stock and the rice is not completely done, add a little hot water until it is done. 

Add the butternut squash "puree" and parmesan cheese to the rice.  Stir well and taste.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot with a sprinkling of parmesan.

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