Friday, March 30, 2012

I've Got a Foodie Penpal!

The Lean Green Bean

When my Triberr tribe member Samantha, of Little Ferraro Kitchen, wrote a post about her experience with the Foodie Penpals Program it sounded like such a good idea, I knew I wanted to be a part of it as well. Foodie Penpals is the brainchild of Lindsay over at the Lean Green Bean, it started from a random idea in September 2011, with about 30 people and has grown to over 350 people in the US, Canada and now the UK! I was lucky, when I e-mailed her to see if I could join in the fun, I just made the cut off date, so I got to be a Foodie Penpal for March.

When Lindsay sent out the spreadsheet detailing who would be sending to whom, I got Lauren, and I could not wait to send her some of my very favorite local Atlanta goodies. One look at her blog full of delicious food and I knew she had great taste in food! I'm happy to report that she loved what I sent, and who wouldn't? ;)

I received my package from Tara Sabo, whose A Daily Dose of Fit has amazing tips for for getting into shape and eating better. She sent me some really neat things.


Crispy, gluten-free almond & rice crackers, shelf stable individual servings of hummus, Metromint waters, whole food bars and 7 grain cereal. I have to say I love the Metromint waters, they aren't sweetened at all, it's just pure water, mint and whatever other flavor is in there, in my case I got a lemonmint and a goodberrymint, which has the flavor of 5 different berries in it. I put it in my fridge right away and found it to be deliciously refreshing when chilled, as advised by Tara. I was surprised by how good the hummus was, it needed a little kick, so I stirred in a few shakes of my favorite Chipotle Tabasco sauce and then it was perfect. I haven't tried the bars or cereal yet, but I'm sure they will be just as good as everything else she sent.

I'm so glad I got a chance to participate in such a fun endeavor, if you would like to become a Foodie Penpal, you can find more information here and there is also a convenient sign up form there as well. I hope if you decide to participate, you will have as good an experience as I did.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ash-e-jow Persian Barley Soup


While I was planning the menu for my Titanic Dinner Party, I went through the original menu course by course, trying to decide what to serve, based on factors like cost, personal appeal, difficulty sourcing ingredients etc. For the soup course, Consomme Olga is veal broth with ground beef or ground veal, which did not sound tasty at all, or Cream of Barley, which sounded about as bland as a bowl of oatmeal. However, when I googled each, looking for recipes, "cream of barley" also turned up a Persian soup called Ash-e-jow. That sounded intriguing.

There were a number of search results return, but the recipe I chose to start from was this one. While searching, I found another version that was cooked in a slow cooker, so that seemed like a good sign. Due to the fairly complex nature of my menu, I was looking to take advantage of any shortcut I could find. The final product was very tasty and took about 5 minutes active time to prepare.

2 qts chicken stock
1 c hulled barley
1 tsp turmeric
1/3 c tomato paste
1 c diced carrots
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste

3/4 c sour cream
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c chopped fresh mint

Combine first 7 ingredients, excluding the sour cream, parsley and mint, in a slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours. Just prior to serving, stir in sour cream. When serving, garnish with parsley and mint.

Serves 8 as an appetizer

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Last Meal to Remember

When I was in Ireland last fall, I was able to visit the Cobh Heritage Centre in County Cork where they had an exhibition on Building the Titanic. Cobh was the last port of call as the Titanic set off on her fateful maiden voyage. It was fascinating to get a glimpse into life on board such a vessel. I, of course, was immediately drawn to the section devoted to dining on board the ship. There is very little information available about what was served, although some survivors of the disaster had copies of menus tucked away when they were rescued. In fact, a copy of a First Class luncheon menu given to a Dr. Washington Dodge, carried to safety by his wife, Mrs. Ruth Dodge, is expected to fetch around $157,000 at auction later this month. There is also in existence a copy of the First Class dinner menu from the night of April 14th.

As this year marks the centennial of the biggest peace time maritime disaster, I thought it might be interesting to try to recreate as much as possible of that final supper. When I submitted my proposal to do just that for FoodBuzz's March 24 x 24, I was thrilled to find that I had been selected to participate. 24 x 24 is a group of 24 bloggers worldwide, who all host a creative, over-the-top party on the same day -this month it was Saturday, March 24, 2012, then blog about it. FoodBuzz is generous enough to offer a stipend to help cover expenses for the meal.

I'll be honest, I've never attempted to make and serve a meal with that many courses before, and the process was not without a few challenges, but I was overall very happy with the final result. The last meal was as follows:

First Course
Hors D'Oeuvres
Second Course
Consommé Olga
Cream of Barley
Third Course
Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce, Cucumbers
Fourth Course
Filet Mignons Lili
Saute of Chicken, Lyonnaise
Vegetable Marrow Farci
Fifth Course
Lamb, Mint Sauce
Roast Duckling, Apple Sauce
Sirloin of Beef, Chateau Potatoes
Green Pea
Creamed Carrots
Boiled Rice
Parmentier Potatoes & Boiled New Potatoes
Sixth Course
Punch Romaine

Seventh Course
Roast Squab & Cress
Eighth Course
Cold Asparagus Vinaigrette
Ninth Course
Pate de Foie Gras
Tenth Course
Waldorf Pudding
Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly
Chocolate & Vanilla Eclairs
French Ice Cream

Fruit & Cheese Tray

Because I was serving a group of 6 friends, not 325 people, I decided not to make every dish noted. I intended to serve the seventh course, Roast Squab & Cress, but had to strike it off the list as I was unable to source squab locally and was disinclined to take matters into my own hands and try to bag a few myself. I willingly skipped the ninth course as the thought of eating Pate de Foie Gras with celery immediately before dessert turned my stomach. I made the highlighted menu items, but gave them a little bit of a 21st century update.

To avoid this post being even longer than it already is, I will be posting recipes separately and linking them back to this post. If you don't see the one you want, just keep checking back, I hope to have them all up eventually.

First Course
Hors d'Oeuvres
As the menu was not specific as to exactly what was served, I went online to find out what typical hors d'oeuvres were at the turn of the century. I found a likely candidate in the Century Cook Book - Ham Canapes. These were ham paste spread on fried bread, topped with a bit of cheese and broiled. They were simple, but quite tasty.

Second Course
Cream of Barley
The period appropriate versions all sounded a bit bland and prison-like, but then I discovered the Persian soup Ash-e-jow. A barley soup, but this version is kicked up with turmeric and lime and gets its creaminess from sour cream. This was a real winner as I just threw the ingredients into the slow cooker until it was time to stir in the sour cream and serve.

Third Course
Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce, Cucumbers
I decided to serve this as a canapé as well, just to minimize the amount of food we were all consuming. Turns out Mousseline sauce is amazing, basically a hollandaise with whipped cream folded in. Even though my hollandaise broke due to double boiler issues, when I added the cream in, it became a perfect sauce. I will be adding this to my repertoire.

Fourth Course
Vegetable Marrow Farci
Marrow is a British summer squash, which can grow as large as a watermelon, but I have never seen it stateside, so I substituted it's cousin, the zucchini. Farci simply means stuffed, while I contemplated doing a stuffing of sausage, or perhaps lacing it with bacon, I decided to honor the intention of providing a vegetarian option and instead chose to sautee oyster, crimini & portabello mushrooms with zucchini, tomatoes and basil herbed bread crumbs, to fill my baby zucchini.

Fifth Course
Lamb, Mint Sauce
Creamed Carrots
Parmentier Potatoes

I roasted a couple of lamb shanks rubbed with Moroccan spices including coriander, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, paprika and turmeric. I chose shanks because that way I could please both the rare meat eaters and those who prefer well done, the spice rub added a lot of flavor and went very well with the cilantro-mint sauce.

I don't know why more people don't serve creamed carrots, as it was an excellent preparation. I simply boiled them with a few knobs of ginger, then tossed them in a béchamel sauce that I made extra rich by adding heavy cream as well as milk. They were so good! I think that next time I may try roasting them instead of boiling them to bring out all of their natural sweetness.

The starch options served on board seemed a bit on the bland side, I knew I wouldn't be serving boiled rice, but the Parmentier Potatoes, 1 cm diced cubed potatoes fried in butter, had potential. That still seemed a bit boring, until I found a recipe that added chopped fresh parsley, cilantro and mint, with lemon zest and juice. That went much better with my take on the menu.

Seventh Course
Punch Romaine
Punch Romaine was served as a palate cleanser, this drink has been around since at least the mid nineteenth century, and possibly even earlier and once I tasted it, I knew why. The combination of icy bright Ciao Bella Lemon Zest sorbet, chilled rum and champagne, topped with creamy Italian meringue is delicious! I can see this becoming a summer time favorite at my house.

Punch Romaine

Eighth Course
Cold Asparagus Vinaigrette
I simply roasted some asparagus in a hot oven with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. One of only two dishes I prepared the day before, the ice cream being the other, this was a snap to serve as I decided to top it with the same cilantro-mint sauce used on the lamb, to delicious results.


Tenth Course
Chocolate Eclairs
French Ice Cream

My first attempt at eclairs turned out surprisingly well, although the recipe I used would have left them burned beyond recognition, I had experienced kitchen help who encouraged me to pull them out early, thus averting disaster. They were stuffed with Patron XO Cafe and honey laced whipped cream and topped with bittersweet chocolate ganache, thanks to my friend Brooke who jumped in and finished them for me.

The Five-Spice ice cream I found on Epicurious was a great complement with its warming blend of dried orange peel, black and pink peppercorns, star anise and cloves a nice contrast to the creamy cold custard. My friend Dan's fabulous ice cream maker did a great job freezing it into the perfect consistency.

Cheese Course
I tried not to go overboard with the cheese course, although I love cheese, so went with a brie, some herbed goat cheese and a nice piece of Parrano. Perfect with some grapes and dried apricots, they got nibbled on as we sat around the table sipping champagne and talking late into the night.

I am so glad that FoodBuzz helped me bring this wonderful dinner party to life. It was one of the best meals I have ever cooked and I think all of my guests would agree with me when I say that it was incredibly delicious. You certainly couldn't eat like this every day, but it really wouldn't be bad to have as your last meal on earth.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Feastie Photo Potluck #EWR12

I'm sure by this point, you, my loyal readers are getting tired of hearing about the joys of Eat, Write, Retreat, the food bloggers conference I am trying so diligently to win my way into. Never fear, the end is almost in sight, after the feastie scholarship (see below), there is only one more coveted spot being given away. So at most, after this post, you will only see one more post on it, unless I actually manage to win a golden ticket, in which case you will get to read all about my experience after I get home =).

Feastie is a fun new site that let's you search top food blogs in different ways, like by ingredient - which is great when you are staring into the fridge, trying to decide what to make with what you've got on hand. Or, if you don't have what you need to make a recipe, feastie even helps you create grocery lists from the recipes you are looking at! As if that wasn't enough reason to check them out, they are also offering a scholarship to Eat, Write, Retreat by hosting a photo potluck and allowing you to choose your favorite photo. If I make it to the Top 10, which will be announced on March 14th, 2012, I hope I can count on your support to help me make it into the number one spot.

The hardest part about this was that we were only allowed to submit one photo for consideration, that's like asking me to pick my favorite dog! I considered using a photo from my latest post on Greek lamb and olive empanadas, because I like how that turned out, but in the end, I kept going back to shots I took at No. 246. Those shots are truly some of the most appetizing I have ever taken, especially the one of the prosciutto, although the fried mozzarella is a close second. Every time I see it, it makes my mouth water and I want to reach into the screen and take a bite! I hope you'll agree with me and help vote me the winner of the scholarship.


Greek Lamb and Olive Empanadas

Lately I've been feeling a bit jaded about food, which is odd, since food is one of my favorite parts of being alive. It just seems like I'm in a food rut, I have my go-to meals that I make at home and the things that I order when I eat out. I think I realized I had a problem when I had dinner with a friend at a local restaurant that I hadn't been to in over a year, and the server didn't even allow me to order, he just asked if I was having the Crepas Poblanas. I was. That's the only thing I ever order there, even when I went several times a month. Eventually I got to the point where I'd eaten them so many times, I didn't want to see another one, so I stopped going.

All that is just a rather long-winded way of saying that I need to re-invent food to keep it interesting to make and eat. I don't think I'm the only one that feels that way, look at molecular gastronomy, that's really pushing the way we think about food. Or all of the new fusion cuisines that are popping up - there is a Asian-Mexican food truck in Atlanta. I figure if they can make Korean BBQ tacos, there isn't any reason why I can't make Greek lamb and olive empanadas.

I have been playing around with recipe ideas ever since I saw that Lindsay Olives was sponsoring a scholarship to attend Eat, Write, Retreat, a food blogging conference I have mentioned here before. It is an incredible opportunity to meet other food bloggers, work on writing, photography and styling skills, and even get a personalized dossier with feedback on every aspect of your blog. The most important criteria of judging was creative use of olives, so I didn't want to just make a pasta dish or tapenade, even though I love using olives in both of those (my meatballs are amazing, in large part because they are FULL of chopped olives, which gives them incredible flavor!). But those have all been done before. I decided to think out of the box and combine two of my favorite kinds of food Greek and Mexican. I think they make a fabulous pair and my recipe turned out delicious!

UPDATE: Even though Lindsay olives did not pick me for the scholarship last year, I'm giving them a second chance to realize how tasty they are and am entering them in the Kitchen Play Lindsay Olives Wild Card Progressive Party 2013, fingers crossed I have better luck this time!

Greek Lamb and Lindsay Olive Empanadas
1 tbs olive oil
1 lb ground lamb
3 small cloves garlic, chopped
3.5 oz can of Lindsay California ripe pitted olives
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese
3 tbs chopped fresh oregano
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 pack refrigerated pie crusts
1 tbs olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 375 and remove pie crusts from the refrigerator. Heat 1 tbs olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add garlic. Let cook until just translucent, then add lamb. Cook until no pink remains, then remove from heat and using a slotted spoon transfer to a medium sized bowl, avoiding the fat in the bottom of the pan. Add olives, feta, oregano, and vinegar to the bowl and stir just to combine. Roll out pie crusts and cut them in half. Fill the bottom half of each pie crust semi-circle with one quarter of the meat mixture and fold top over. Crimp edges with a fork and brush tops with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Bake on a non-stick baking sheet until golden brown on top, approximately 15-17 minutes.

Greek "Salsa"
3/4 c medium diced cucumber
3/4 c medium chopped tomatoes
2.25 oz can Lindsay California sliced olives
1/2 c crumbled feta
1 tbs fresh oregano
1 tbs red wine vinegar

Combine all salsa ingredients and serve with the empanadas.

You can also serve these with tzatziki sauce in addition to, or instead of the Greek "salsa". I think next time when I make these, and there will be a next time, I may use phyllo dough instead of pie dough, to see how that changes the taste and texture. I'm also considering doing them in an appetizer size and frying them.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

#SundaySupper Ultimate Roast Chicken and Vegetables

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When I was invited to join the Around the Family Table tribe on Triberr, I hadn't actually heard of Triberr, so wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. But I'm no dummy, I know a good thing when I see it. I have really enjoyed being part of a Food Blogger community that is genuinely supportive of one another, in a way that I have not seen before. It has made me work harder and post more often, something I struggle to do in my busy life. One of the things that has helped me be more involved in blogging is #SundaySupper, a twitter party created by Isabel of Family Foodie, her crusade to try to bring families back to the dinner table.

I created a fabulous bacon-wrapped, cream cheese-stuffed shrimp for the appetizer themed #SaucySuperBowl #SundaySupper and have tried to add pictures of my Sunday meals to the stream as often as possible. This Sunday, Isabel has asked us to post recipes that best represent Sunday Supper. To me, nothing is more perfect for Sunday Supper than a golden Roast Chicken, it's homey comfort food at its best. It's easy to prepare, inexpensive, and delicious enough to bring your whole family to the table. I chose to bring back my Roast Chicken post from last year, as opposed to writing a new post, because, honestly, there is nothing I would change about this post. Please try it and let me know if you agree!

I first met Julie from the little kitchen at Food Blog Forum in Atlanta, she had driven all the way from Florida to attend. She is one of those people you just immediately like because she always has such a big smile on her face and she is genuinely nice. We have maintained a Twitter friendship since then, although I sometimes struggle to keep the green monster in check as she wins things like a years supply of KerryGold dairy products from the #BHF10PP.

Anyhow, when I had the good fortune to win a KerryGold gift pack myself on Facebook, not as a blogger, just luck of the draw, I immediately told Julie my exciting news. Over the course of our twitter chat, a gauntlet was thrown down, and a challenge was issued. You make think I'm crazy to take on someone like Julie, who has had months of KerryGold products delivered to her doorstep to practice with, but I think I'm up to it. I admit that at first I was tempted to use one of the fantastic recipes from the booklets KerryGold sent me, but I decided to be a bit more original and ended up with a truly delicious meal.

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Roasted Asparagus Salad
1 lb asparagus
1 tbs olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tbs KerryGold unsalted butter
4 farm fresh eggs

1/4 c KerryGold Reserve Cheddar, shaved
1 tbs Crema di Balsamico

Preheat oven to 425. Wash asparagus and remove woody ends by snapping where they naturally break. Place on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile heat a skillet to medium heat, then add butter and fry eggs sunny side up or over easy. For each serving plate asparagus, then top with one egg, a quarter of the cheddar (I shaved mine with a vegetable peeler) and a drizzle of the balsamico. Serve immediately as you want the yolk to stay runny and create a sauce for the plate.

Serves 4 as an appetizer

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KerryGold Roast Chicken and Vegetables
5-6 lb roaster
8 tbs KerryGold unsalted butter
1/4 c chopped fresh basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 parsnips, peeled
1/2 lb baby red potatoes
1/2 lb purple potatoes
1/2 lb baby carrots
1/2 lb brussels sprouts
1 large fennel bulb

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Preheat oven to 425. Combine the butter with the basil and massage under the skin of the chicken in the breast area and the legs. Wash and chop vegetables into similar sized pieces, I left my baby carrots whole, quartered the parsnips and chopped into 3" pieces, halved the brussels sprouts and red potatoes, cut the purple potatoes into 1/2" chunks and cut the fennel into 8 wedges. I scattered the vegetable in the bottom of my roasting pan, then placed the rack above them and set the chicken breast side up in the rack. I used the convection setting on my oven, so the chicken roasted in about 40 minutes, but if you have a conventional oven, it may take up to an hour and a half, depending on the size of your roaster. You want the temperature to be 165 when the thermometer is inserted in the thickest part of the breast, without hitting the bone. When the chicken is fully cooked carve and serve with the roasted vegetables from the bottom of the pan.

Serves 4

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Please be sure to check out Julie's entry for our KerryGold Throwdown here and let me know who you think won the challenge =)

I won the KerryGold gift pack on facebook not as a blogger, but as a random lucky winner. They have not asked me to blog about their product, nor have they compensated me in any way, nor are they affiliated with this post. This Throwdown was entirely my idea because I like their products and thought it would be fun.