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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Chocolate Cheesecake w/ Whisky Toffee Shards

Chocolate Cheesecake with Whisky Toffee Shards for National Cheesecake Day
I'll just go ahead and get it out of the way. YES. I meant to have a layer of smoky Single Malt Scotch whisky-infused caramel sitting atop my creamy chocolat cheesecake. YES. I accidentally cooked my caramel too long and it turned to toffee. YES. The cheesecake and flavor profile was too delicious to abandon all together, so I went with it.

Phew. Now you don't have to wonder.

Now, I the toffee would have been easy enough to just pick up (as in, a solid disc easily lifted off), but after tasting it and weighing it against my time constraints, I decided to just go with it. But it is a tad bit intrusive in the grand scheme of things, so you may want to just leave it off and drizzle it with some chocolate or caramel, top it with some whipped cream, or better yet - just succeed in making a good layer of caramel (ba dum bum).
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Raspberry-laced S'mores

Raspberry-laced S'mores, using homemade graham crackers, homemade Chambord marshmallows, and Theo Raspberry Dark Chocolate
So, I've kinda-sorta taken over Food Fanatic today. But for totally good reason! It's a twofer, complete with boozy, melty, raspberry liqueur-laced homemade marshmallows and the homemade graham crackers to go along with them! And you know as well as I do what marshmallows + graham crackers means, right?

Chocolate and fire are nearby!

In this instance, it's dark chocolate studded with little bits of raspberry, perfectly playing up the Chambord in the marshmallows. They're not just good S'mores, they're CRAZY GOOD S'MORES!
Monday, July 28, 2014

Chiles en Nogada inspired by Like Water for Chocolate | #FoodnFlix

Chiles en Nogada (Chiles in Walnut Sauce) inspired by Like Water for Chocolate for Food 'n Flix
It all begins with a pregnant Mama Elena chopping onions. From inside the womb, Tita begins to cry, and doesn't stop until she is pushed into this world by a torrid stream of tears.  They  overflow from the kitchen table (where she was birthed) to the kitchen floor. The ocean of tears is eventually evaporated by the sun, at which point Nacha sweeps them up and fills a 40-pound sack with them. And, of course, then they're used in cooking for a long time.

Ummm, ewww. While vivid and descriptive, it's actually pretty gross when you think about it. I mean, those tears were mixed with amniotic fluid and who-knows-what else. So, let's not think about it. Let's just take it as the beginning of a very luscious, very sensual, very dark and tragic film.

Tita's kitchen birth foreshadows what will be her life. Bound by an old family tradition, Tita is forbidden to marry. Since she is the youngest daughter, she is not allowed to marry, and it is her duty to care for her mother until her mother's death. So, Tita thrives under the beloved family cook's love and tutelage.
Sunday, July 27, 2014

Grilled Steak Salad w/ Corn Salsa

Grilled Steak Salad with Corn Salsa
You probably don't want to hear me say once again how much I love firing up the grill. So, I won't. Instead, I'll share some must-have tools and gadgets for those who use their grills as much as we do in my house; specifically OXO brand tools. I did receive these tools at no charge, but that doesn't influence my thoughts on them. I was using and loving OXO for many years before I even started food blogging, so please trust that all opinions I share are truly my own.

I want to start by sharing one tool that I have always wanted in my own kitchen. I've mentioned it before numerous times: a meat tenderizer. When we buy skirt steak (which is often), we always ask the butcher to "run it through the machine". That machine would be a small conveyer with numerous tiny and ridiculously sharp blades that pierce the meat as it goes through. OXO's Bladed Meat Tenderizer is a smaller, handheld version that actually fits in my kitchen. It has 50 sharp and durable blades that create air pockets in the meat. This helps to tenderizer less expensive cuts, and reduces both marinating and cooking time.

It has a non-slip grip and the blades lock in place for safety. So, in choosing some steaks adorn my salad today, instead of choosing one of my favorite break-the-bank cuts like tenderloin or NY Strip, I chose Eye of Round steaks, instead. They don't have much marbling, so they benefit greatly from help in the tenderizing and marinating department.
Friday, July 25, 2014

Smack 'n Cheese Pizza + Homemade Pizza Dough

Smack 'n Cheese Pizza for the Revolutionary Pizza blog tour
Pizza. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Seriously. It's a bit of a tradition in our house; we eat pizza once a week. Fortunately pizza is entirely versatile and customizable. Sometimes it's take-out, sometimes it's frozen (there's some good ones out there), and as often as possible, it's from scratch. It's funny, because every person in the house has a favorite crust or topping or combination thereof, so it's rare that we please everybody (entirely) in one meal. Good thing we do it once a week.

So when asked if I'd like to be a part of the Revolutionary Pizza book tour, the obvious answer was "psssshh, YES!". This cookbook is all sorts of fun. If you're a traditional pepperoni or just-cheese kind of pizza-eater, this cookbook is definitely too much fun for you. It's for the bold and adventurous eaters, and the daring of mouth! It's for those who aren't afraid to enjoy their meal and their cocktail all in one bite. It's for those who welcome crazy combinations and deconstructed favorites.

And yes, it's definitely for the people who've thrown back a few over the course of the day. Or night.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lemonates Patates (Lemon Potatoes)

Lemonates Patates (Lemon Potatoes) #GreekSummer blog tour
I have a bucket list. It's extremely long. I can think of fewer places that I don't want to visit, than ones that I do. High on that list is Greece. Stark white houses on a hilly landscape against a brilliant blue ocean backdrop. Or the colorful homes jammed into a rocky outcropping. And the food. OOOOHHHHH, THE FOOD!

Well, until I can physically set foot on one its numerous islands, I will have to live vicariously through photographs, books, and best of all food and cookbooks.

Today, the tour stops here on a virtual trip to Greece with Debbie Matenopoulos, via her recently released cookbook, It's All Greek to Me. If you're like me, you'll probably recognize Debbie from shows like The View, The Insider, and Entertainment Tonight (or one of her many others), but what I didn't know was that she comes from a Greek family that instilled in her "a passion for bringing friends, family, and even strangers together over the dinner table for meals made with love". Otherwise termed "philoxenia".
Sunday, July 20, 2014

Barbecue Ribs (simple and tender)

Barbecue Ribs #recipe
One thing that just screams summer in our house is ribs. Come to think of it, the screaming may actually just be my family in the background emphasizing how long it's been since the last time I made ribs. For some reason, I seem to put off making ribs. I don't know why, because whether you know it or not, ribs are actually ridiculously easy to make. Because all it really takes is a good, flavorful rub, some (hands-off) time in the oven, and quick lacquering on a smoky grill.

That's seriously it. I mean, obviously you can go further. But the recipe I'm sharing today produces tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs that are packed with the smoky, barbecue flavor of summer.

I think the greatest thing about these ribs is the advance baking. You can make a ton of slabs up in advance if you're throwing a bbq party, and then glaze and turn them all pretty and sticky in mere moments once everybody gets hungry.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Panmarino (Italian Rosemary Bread)

Panmarino (Italian Rosemary Bread)
It's the 16th, and you know what that means - Bread Baking Babes time! Cathy from Bread Experience is our BBBabe kitchen of the month, and her bread choice was influenced by her Tuscany state-of-mind (after spending time there recently). Can you blame her? Not me. I don't think I'd get it off the brain for years. It's been my numero uno destination spot for as long as I can remember. Her choice: Panmarino, or Italian Rosemary Bread.

Described as a bread that's fragrant with rosemary, with a crust that "sparkled with diamonds", I couldn't wait to pull mine from the oven. It's a fairly simple recipe. Aside from the Biga* that needs to sit for at least 14 hours before you make the bread, it comes together quickly, as well.

The original recipe makes 4 one-pound loaves. That's actually not too much, as I bet neighbors and family and friends would readily welcome one into their kitchen (or you could freeze a couple). But I decided to halve the recipe the first time around.
Monday, July 14, 2014

Orlando Here I Come!

Palm Trees Outside Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando Florida
In a few short days I'll be in Orlando, ready for a weekend filled with amazing food, wine, friends old and new, time spent in a stellar resort, palm trees, and lots and lots of learnin'! Yes, I'm making a list and check it fifty times twice in anticipation of the second annual Food and Wine Conference!

I may be a bit biased since last year's Food and Wine Conference was my first-ever blogging conference...and the fact that it was started by Isabel Laessig, founder of something near and dear to me, the Sunday Supper Movement. Plus, I get to spend an entire weekend with so many of my Sunday Supper family members - some of whom I met in person last year, all of whom I already feel close to since we spend so much (virtual) time together already.

Margaritas on a hot and humid summer evening may also play into my excitement.
Sunday, July 13, 2014

Grilled Brie with Tropical Fruit Compote

Grilled Brie with Tropical Fruit Compote
Funny how you take some things for granted. Take for instance a grill. I grew up in a household that trucked a grill in and out of the garage year round, though especially during the summertime. It wasn't usually anything fancy - burgers, dogs, brats, chicken breasts, the occasional steak. But to this day, the smell of mesquite clinging to the air transports me right back to my 10-year-old self.

It wasn't just us. My grandparent's actually have a grill cemented right in to a concrete slab off of their patio. If we dropped by an aunt or uncle's house for a visit, charcoal levels were immediately checked. Heck, we even packed food fit for the grill into our cooler when we went camping since all of the campsites had  grills built-in.

Neighbors invited you over for cook-outs. The smell of sizzling meat drifted down the street and snaked through your windows, instantly making the decision of what to have for dinner an easy one: something on the grill. Heck, when I moved into my first apartment, my little grill was camped out on my porch.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tequila Sunrise Ice Pops

Tequila Sunrise Ice Pops
Who says popsicles are just for kids? Not me! I dabble in the art of ice pop making year-round, but come summertime, my friends and family tell me I'm a force to be reckoned with. As soon as the air ceases to drop below 70 degrees or so, no liquid is exempt from the freezer.

Over the years, I've built up quite the collection of popsicle molds - a girl needs options. People always ask me where I get my molds. Some I've purchased online from Amazon, some I've received as gifts (friends, you know me so well), but most are ones that I've spotted in supermarkets and dollar stores over the years.

Keep your eyes peeled for seasonal end caps. When summer draws near, you'll find all sorts of fun props and tools, including popsicle molds. If I see a popsicle mold for a dollar or two or three, I'll pick up a couple. Not only is it fun to have a variety of shapes and sizes of molds at home to choose from, it also allows you to make more at once!
Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cold Peanut Noodles

Cold Peanut Noodles
It's about that time of year again. The time when just the thought of how hot it is makes you start to sweat. Days are spent splashing in the pool, lounging on the beach, playing in the hose, manning the grill, and sprawling out in front of the air conditioner vents. Kitchens are often dashed into and out of as quickly as possible. Anything to beat the heat.

Yes, during the dog days of summer, it's important to have a bunch of recipes under your belt that are good served cold. Sure, they may require a bit of time in the kitchen - but it's minimal. Get in there, cook up a quick dish or two, then throw it into the fridge for later. You know, so you can go run through the sprinkler to cool back off.

These noodles are technically a side dish that goes great at a picnic, barbecue, potluck, or any summer dinner. But I'm not going to deny eating them as a meal, too. Heck, if you have some leftover chicken, shred it up and toss it in. I bet shrimp, or maybe even some chunks of pork, would be good, too.
Saturday, July 5, 2014

Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar Black Peppercorn Jam Tarts

Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar Black Peppercorn Jam Tarts
I'm a sucker for a good jam, preserve, marmalade, or jelly. Pretty jars, intriguing flavor combos, handmade in small batches. I have far too many jars crowding my refrigerator. Although, that's probably because I don't ever want to let the last of it go. I find myself saving a wee bit in the bottom of a special know, for a special occasion or whatever. That special occasion usually just turns out to be a piece of really good toasted bread or a wheel of melty brie.

So, when asked if I would like to try a jar of jam that uses locally sourced (within 12 miles of their kitchen) organic fruit from Department of Sweet Diversions, I couldn't resist. Seriously, I may have even tried. That go me exactly nowhere. With flavors like Strawberry Grand Marnier Liqueur Jam, Pear Vanilla Bean Chestnut Honey Jam, and Orange Dark French Chocolate Jam - can you really blame me?

The flavor that I tried was Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar Black Peppercorn, and I used it in one of my favorite ways to showcase the flavor of a good jam - in a simple jam tart. Normally I make one large one jam tart, but instead I pulled out my smaller tart tins and made some minis.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Duck Salad w/ Grapes, Almonds, & Blue Cheese + 13 more tasty ways to use DUCK!

Duck Salad w/ Grapes, Almonds, & Blue Cheese
A lot of people consider duck a "special occasion" meal, often roasting a duck during the holidays, and not thinking of it again for a whole nother year. While duck does make for a very special holiday meal, it's also great on a Tuesday.

Duck is extremely versatile, and holds up well to bold flavors. Try it with your favorite spice mix or rub. Still not sure when to use duck? Replace the chicken, pork, or beef in a recipe with duck! Try duck in a curry. Use it as a taco filling. Shred some slow-cooked duck legs and combine with your favorite barbecue sauce for a Pulled Duck Sandwich! Season a duck breast, sear it, and serve it over a salad or rice. Use any portion of cooked duck in a duck salad sandwich or wrap (like the one pictured below made by a local catering company that's filled with duck, pecans, pickles, mandarin oranges, and I think there was even rice in there!).