Vitamix basics class

There are a few kitchen tools and applicances out there that can change the way you cook, and eat, forever.  They can encourage healthy eating, cut down on prep time, and expand your culinary horizons.  My new Vitamix Ascent series falls into that category.  I’m never turning back!   


To make best use of my new machine and get acclimated with the various settings and capabilities, I attended a Vitamix basics class at the company’s one and only brick and mortar store in Solon, Ohio.  The store manager Michelle, and her team helped a small crowd get to know all the delicious, versatile and healthy creations one can make with this awesome blender.

Attendees were treated to generous samples and invited to help out in executing the 8 recipes demonstrated during the class to have a more hands on experience.  I did a Facebook live during the first portion of the class.  If you’d like to check it out, click here:  Vitamix Basics Class Facebook Live Video


We started with a cocktail, a healthy one made with spinach. Since the class, I have made this at least a dozen times, even putting my own twist on it occasionally, adding things like half an avocado or almond milk to make it creamy. 


Next we sampled and prepared an example of what Vitamix is famous for, smoothies.  This one had beets, strawberries, and cranberries in it.  Since I couldn’t find frozen cranberries in my grocery store I substituted with frozen cherries when I tried this at home, plus I added some of the green beet tops for additional nutrients.  This one is another new go-to for me in the mornings.  Look at the vibrant color on this!  

I don’t know about you, but summer salads are a staple in my lunch box and dinner table, especially with all the lettuce varieties I have planted in my garden this year.  But I am always looking for new bold dressings to spice it up.  The creamy raspberry vinaigrette was a sweet tart punch, that would be beautiful with a nice spinach salad, for example.  I have a bucket full of fresh picked strawberries that are super ripe, so I’m planning to try this recipe with those as well.  

For a “main course” of our class, Michelle demonstrated a black bean soup.  Technically the Vitamix doesn’t cook the soup, but the blades run for five minutes to fully blend all of the ingredients together and the finished product is piping hot.  You can transfer the soup to a pot to cook further, or freeze it if you’d like. It was creamy, spicy and filling.  I can see us making this a great quick-fix weeknight dinner option, or an easy meal to take to friends houses when you’re visiting a new baby or new home.  


This class also helped me think of the Vitamix not just as a blender, but also as a food processor.  It’ll cut down your chop time significantly on recipes like homemade salsa.  I tried it on a pineapple salsa I was making for a TV demo and was thrilled at the results.   

Want something you can make your kids with only two ingredients? Try the raw applesauce.  I love knowing it only has natural sugars in it when I spoon it on to their plates. 


Hummus is anothe recipe people rarely seem to try on their own, but it is so very delicious when made fresh.  The version Micheel made for the demo was creamy and easy, and a perfect make ahead item for a party or healthy option to have in the fridge for the week. 

We made the Vitamix work the hardest when we saw Michelle turn four cups of cashews into homemade cashew butter.  I would spread that on a tire and still want to eat it! To be honest, I was hoping that making it myself would make it a little less expensive.  That isn’t necessarily the case, depending on where you buy your nuts, but it may still be worth it for those who eat it by the jar, or who would appreciate knowing the nutritional content, and controlling it. My daughter now claims she can taste the difference between my homemade peanut butter and store bought.  I actually believe her. It’s that good. 


Can’t believe the machine actually cleans itself out after that, especially with something so sticky.  Michelle shared a great tip too!  On days she makes nut butters, before she cleans out her container, she will make something with the residual product, like a peanut sauce or a peanut butter milk shake.  Great Cheftovers ideas!  

For dessert, we had a refreshing strawberry lime sorbet.  I’ve been picking fresh strawberries and stocking up on beautiful other berries while they’re in season, then freezing them.  Can’t wait to put them to use with a sorbet using my “frozen dessert” program on my own machine.

When I got home from the class, I immediately wanted to start putting all of these great ideas and applications to work.  I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.  But I have been working on some pesto recipes using my Vitamix, like a mint pea and a kale walnut combo. Tell me what you think!

Kale Walnut Pesto

  • 1/3 walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 c. Chopped kale
  • 1 T. Lemon juice
  • 1.2 c. Olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 t. Salt
  • 1/4 pepper

Add all above ingredients except the olive oil into your Vitamix or food processor. Begin mixing and slowly stream=a in your oil until the mixture is smooth.  Add more if it’s too dry.  Taste for seasoning and refridgerate or use immediately.  

Disclosure: I was invited by Vitamix to attend this class free of charge.  All opinions are my own.

Butcher Class at Urban Famer

I won’t shop, cook or cut meat quite the same from now on.  I had the pleasure of attending a Butcher Class at Urban Farmer recently.  They went above and beyond to teach, answer questions and arm attendees with the information and know-how they’d need to select the best cuts of meat, and best utilize less popular, yet more economical cuts.  

Head Butcher and Urban Farmer Sous Chef, Vincent Delagrange, lead the class.  He’s been professionally cutting meat since 2011.  He knows his stuff.  He whizzed through the prepared Beef 101 slides, covering the basics, like “What is a steak?” (2″ thick or under with a quick cooking method) and “what makes it tender?” (It’s inversely related to the amount of work a muscle has to during the life of the animal).  Fat is flavor, and the fattier the beef, the beefier the flavor.  This is an equation I can study. 

Here’s what I learned: 

Delagrange also touched on U.S.D.A. grading, explaining that most meat we see in a butcher shop of the meat counter is Prime (highest designation, less than 2% of cattle) or Choice (less marbling, but widely available), occasionally Select (lean and less available, potentially tough).

And then there’s is Wagyu.  It’s the Cadillac of cows, people.  It has a high percentage of marbling which far exceeds that of USDA Prime. Yes, please. And get this: “Kobe” beef isn’t really Kobe beef unless it is from Tajima breed cows raised in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan, and you’re eating it in Japan.  They don’t export it.  So all those times you THINK you’ve purchased or been served Kobe beef…you were duped. How about that?!


We did a blind taste teste comparing the Prime cuts they source at the restaurant, versus a Choice cut offered at a large (unnamed) grocery chain.  Not a tough call.  

Delegrange was happy to answer all kinds of questions the group had about shopping for beef too.  Like “What day is best to shop for meat?”  Answer: find out which day of the week your local butcher or grocer gets their shipments.  And that’s the day!  Likely Friday morning is good.  For large chains, Delegrange suggests checking their ads.  The first day sales take effect you’re sure to find the freshest product.  And for markdowns…try Sunday evening, or Monday.  What I was surprised to hear was those markdowns haven’t been sitting there for days…only a couple of hours.  So scoop them up, check the freshness or sell-by date and save!

I learned that you can identify high quality meat by look and touch. There should be exterior fat (remember, fat=flavor!).  Press on the side of that fat.  You’ll want it spongey, or to bounce back, not firm.  And you’re looking for a good balance or ratio of interior or marbelized fat to exterior fat.  


Delegrange also suggests secondary cuts to satisfy your beef craving and your budget.  Swap Ribeye for Chuckeye, Tenderloin for Sirloin and Strip Steak for Coulotte.  The idea is to buy a piece of meat that can be grilled and sliced to serve a larger number of people.  The guy has four kids at home.  I trust his advice!  He also favors the flat iron, tri tip, Babette and ribeye cap.     


The group also got a first hand look at how dry aging is achieved and how animals are broken down at Urban Farmer’s in house butcher shop.  And get a lot of their charcuterie program! Meat me, please! 


We were given a handful of great recipes from Delegrange, plus some helpful handouts to help decider between corn-fed, grass-fed and dry-aged beef for the purposes of shopping and ordering at our favorite restaurants.  And BONUS: there were swag bags with “Beefy” t shirts (which I admittedly had my eye on at the hostess stand) plus some seeds to start our garden this season.  


If you’d like to sign up for one of these comprehensive classes, their next butcher class is Saturday, June 17th from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. This one is a showdown between the Carolina’s versus Texas BBQ.  Event details here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/urban-farmer-butcher-class-carolina-versus-texas-bbq-tickets-31904464111?aff=erelpanelorg

Carrot Ginger Soup: Vitamix Recipe

I was recently given the keys to a new car.  Or at least that is what it feels like.  I’m working with Vitamix to spread the word about the power and versatility of it’s newest model, the Ascent Series.

vitamix ascent

I got a one on one lesson from the manager at their Solon retail store about all the cool things this new mega blender can do.  What was most eye opening for me was to see this machine as much more than just a blender, it’s a food processor too.  And I’m really looking forward to experimenting with all the different capabilities of Vitamix’s newly launched product.

The first thing I wanted to do was crank out a batch of my Carrot Ginger Soup.  It’s something my kids and I both crave.  It’s bright, bold and nutrient-rich.  And now, it takes me half the time.

Vitamix settings

Instead of chopping the carrots up and cooking them in a sauce pan along with onion, garlic and ginger, then adding the remaining ingredients for the remainder of the cook time, I just added everything at once, then simply pressed the “soups” setting, which is a 6 and a half minute program designed to heat raw ingredients to a steaming hot soup by using the friction of the blades (which spin at more than 200 mph!).  People, it was that simple.  No pots and pans to clean up.  No hot cook top come the warmer months.  Boom, done.

carrot ginger soup in vitamix

The other programs available on the Ascent Series Vitamix are Smoothies, Frozen Desserts, Dips and Spreads and Self-Cleaning.  Yes, it cleans itself!  And it’s dishwasher safe if you’re so inclined.  The programs are more of a guideline than an “autopilot.”  Think of it like the “popcorn” setting on your microwave.  It’s very useful, but not a fail safe option.  This model also has a bigger blade than the classic Legacy Series blender, which allows for better access into the well to get more product out of the container (wasting less).  In the coming months you can expect additional products for use with the Ascent, like a 20 oz smoothie container and a 8 ounce small batch/chopping container.

Want to make my carrot ginger soup yourself?  Here’s my recipe:

carrot ginger soup

Carrot Ginger Soup

2 cups chicken stock

1/3 of a medium onion

1/2 pinch of ginger, peeled

1 large clove of garlic

3 cups peeled carrots, roughly cut into 1-2 inch pieces

2 t. salt

1/4 t. pepper

Generous pinch of turmeric, (or cayenne if you like it spicy)

1/4 c. heavy cream

Add all the above ingredients except the heavy cream, in the order in which they are listed, into your Vitamix.  (For a vegan version, substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock and use coconut milk instead of heavy cream.)  Press the “soups” setting of your Vitamix.  When the program is complete your soup should be completely blended, smooth and piping hot.  Taste to adjust seasoning if necessary.  Add the heavy cream and pulse, or blend for another 30 seconds.  Serve while it’s hot! Make it ahead for later in the week, or freeze it for another time.

I’ll be attending a Vitamix class in early May to learn to make 10 other recipes with my new machine.  And you can bet I’ll be trying it out with other recipes in my own kitchen. I see gazpacho, almond butter, and hollandaise sauce in my future.  Buy the Ascent before Mother’s Day and save up to $90.

Disclosure: I was gifted a Vitamix Ascent Series Blender, and invited to a complimentary Vitamix class at their retail store as part of an arrangement I made with the Vitamix team. 

 

Our Global Kitchen

Food connects us all, across continents, cultures, economies and generations.  Our Global Kitchen at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History  gives visitors an interactive, comprehensive and stimulating look at what we all have in common-an appetite!

Even before you step in to the exhibit, guests are treated to mouth-watering photos taken by Donna Turner Ruhlman, in Neo-Natural Behind our Local Kitchen.  In her stunning images, food is depicted at it’s source “field, farm or forrest,” and showcases people working to promote sustainability, like Jeremy Umansky and Chef Jonathan Sawyer.

Make your way in to Kahn Hall and you’ll be ushered in to the experience with a movie detailing how, though various degrees of separation, we are all connected globally, through food. Then the origins of seeds and livestock are outlined, along with facts about developing these sources, like how breeding chickens for higher yield grew production of one chicken from about a dozen, to 200-300 eggs per year.

global-kitchen-aztec-market

The portion detailing the ancient marketplace shows what ancient Aztecs grew, ate, and traded for.  Did you know cacao beans were currency at one point?? Yep, you could get a turkey egg for 3, or a whole rabbit for 30!  The exhibit also lays out which nations are the highest importers and exporters of various foods like wheat, beer, maize and soybeans.

Among the many interactive elements of Our Global Kitchen, was a touch screen that shows visitors how things like tuna, lamb and bananas are harvested, preserved and transported across the world.  My daughter’s favorite thing were the “smelling stations” that allowed her to press a button and waft up a scent of something (cocoa, ginger, garlic, popcorn, lemon, etc)

global-kitchen-food-waste

The food waste display was something that certainly struck me, after all….I HATE wasting food.  That’s the whole reason I started this blog.  At this station, guests are shown a visual of what is wasted by a single family of four annually, more than 1,600 lbs of food.

global-kitchen-test-kitchen

To add to the engagement, visitors are encouraged to share food pics on social media with the hashtag #CelebrateFood, and are shown a slide show of such photos.  And there’s a test kitchen that offers up demonstrations from local chefs, and scientific elements, like what your taste buds are and how they work.

For museum purists, there are displays of various peculiar looking utensils, and an eclectic collection of cookbooks that were influential.  I’m proud to say I own a couple of these.

By far the most entertaining element for me was the virtual meal prep.  Through a projector and a touchscreen, guests could see how to prepare tamales, a poached egg with hollandaise sauce, grilled salmon with peaches and a groundmeat soup.  Click here to see my video of it.

The exhibit concluded with an adorable and elaborate kitchen play set from Step2.  My daughter took to it like a food blogger’s daughter would.  She made herself at home and made me ravioli.  In all, a fulfilling afternoon at the museum learning about the thing that we all have in common-FOOD!

 

Cheers to Spring Cocktails!

Time to freshen up your cocktails, people.  It’s finally springtime.  Now, while I firmly believe that a dirty martini and a dry red wine are always in season…mixed drinks and spirits are most thirst-quenching and satisfying when they celebrate the season.  Here are my fresh takes on spring cocktails.  Cheers, everyone!  Thanks to my good friend and fellow blogger, Rachel of @myroaringacres (Twitter) and @roaringacres (Instagram) for her styling and photography talents!

cocktails spring fling set up

The Spring Fling

This is for those of you who are are on the Moscow Mule train.  No copper mug needed here, although, I suppose it would be pretty great in one of those if you own a couple.  Pick up your favorite brand of ginger beer, (NA or with alcohol, whatever you prefer) I used Bundaberg, and try your hand at infusing vodka.  Not hard, I promise.  For the Spring Fling, add thinly sliced cucumber to a mason jar full of vodka.  At my house we’re usually stocked up with Three Olives.  And just let it hang out in the fridge for at least a day, but a couple days is better.  And you can buy simple syrup, or make it yourself (2-1 parts sugar to water) heat until dissolved.  This drink, to me, is an excellent candidate for a happy hour at home.  Slap together a nice looking cheese plate and you’re in business.

Spring Fling

1 tsp. simple syrup + 2 pinches of fresh mint, muddled together with a wooden spoon

Equal parts cucumber infused vodka and ginger beer

Add ice and garnish with fresh cucumber slices (I toss in a couple that have been sitting in the vodka)

 The Tulip

Limoncello is another thing I always have in my liquor cabinet (or freezer).  I only buy Caravella, everything else is too sweet for my taste.  And when I saw a basket of blood oranges at the grocery store the other day, I knew that would be just the “sweet” to the “tart” I was looking for.  Make this pretty spritzer for book club night and your friends will forgive you for not actually having read the book.   

cocktails blood orange

Tulip Spritzer

3 oz. vodka

2 oz. limoncello

Splash of Martini & Rossi Bianco (a light, lemon/sweet vermouth)

The juice of half of a blood orange

Shake in a cocktail shaker full of ice to chill, finish with a generous pour of San Pellegrino Blood Orange sparkling fruit beverage, or sparkling water if you’d rather it less sweet.  Garnish with a slice of blood orange.

The Samoa-Tini

This one’s for you moms who’ve been hocking Girl Scout cookies for weeks, stationed at the grocery store, going door to door, and calling in favors.  You deserve this.  This one is also for those of you who occasionally make the choice to “drink your calories” some days.  No judgment here.  The Samoa is by far my favorite of the varieties sold by those cute little devils…I mean scouts.  Did my best to recreate that decadent flavor.  This one is best done in batches, because you’ll be using a blender.

1 part Disaronno (Italian liquor)

1 part Godiva Chocolate Liqueur

2 parts Smirnoff Kissed Caramel flavored vodka

Splash of Half & Half

Blend above ingredients in a blender, along with ice, until you reach desired consistency

Rim your cocktail glass with Smuckers Salted Caramel Topping then coat with toasted coconut (bake sweetened coconut flakes at 350* until golden brown).  Finish with a chocolate drizzle in a pattern like the cookie.

I’m always up for suggestions.  What are you shaking, stirring and pouring these days?  #toast

 

A Deviled Dozen: 12 varieties of the Easter favorite

Every year I have to make at least two dozen deviled eggs for my in-law’s Easter gathering.  They gobble them up faster than you can say “Peter Cottontail.”  It’s my role and they love it.  I try to challenge myself each time the holiday comes around, to make an innovative and delicious variety of the seasonal favorite. This year I took it to the next level and tasked myself with creating a dozen different varieties.  I came up with 4 new flavors of filling and 8 new toppings.

Start with your basic filling (I use mayo, Dijon mustard, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper blended with a hand mixer) Pipe the filling into your hard boiled egg halves. I spoon the filling into a Ziploc bag then snip off a corner for a make-shift pastry bag.

Then try these:

eggs candied bacon and caper berries

1. Candied bacon. Cook strips of bacon to your liking, then sprinkle generously with sugar to coat, letting the sugar melt onto the bacon. Cool, then crumble to use as topping. Salty, savory and sweet in one bite.

2. Caper berries. I’ve done capers before and loved the bitter bite they add. Top your eggs with the fruit of the caper bush (versus the unopened buds that are the capers), sliced length wise for some interesting texture to boot.

eggs pickled beets

3. Pickled beets. Make your own or buy them already pickled. Julienne them, slice them into thin discs, or dice ’em up. Your call. Gives the eggs a great bite.

eggs, green and ham

4. Green eggs and ham For a salute to Dr. Seuss, add blue food coloring to the yellow filling to achieve the green effect, then top with prosciutto (or chopped ham) I will eat them here or there. I will eat them everywhere.

5. Roasted red peppers.  Another thing I like to make on my own to have around when I need it. (But store bought is fine too!). Blend them into the filling for a different color or dice the peppers up for a sweet topping.

eggs crispy shallots

6. Crispy fried shallots. Slice your shallots about 1/8-1/4 inch thin. Toss them in seasoned flour and fry until crispy. Even better than French fried onions.

eggs pimento cheese

7. Pimento cheese. I’ve spent many an Easter Sunday in the south, where I believe they’d eat a spare tire if it had pimento cheese spread on it. Add a dollop of this southern treat and find out why.

eggs caramelized onions

8. Caramelized onions. Hardly anything makes a kitchen smell better. Before the last couple of onions in that bag go bad, slice them up and take the time to caramelize them. Once I have some prepped I find a way to work them in to as many dishes as possible.

eggs smoky chipotle

9. Smoked Chipotle. Add some of the juice from smoked chipotles in adobo to your base filling, or for more smokey heat, top with chopped pieces of the peppers themselves. Finish with a sprinkle of paprika.

eggs horseradish and chive

10. Horse radish and chives. Spoon in a generous tablespoon at a time into your base filling until you reach the desired level of zip. Top with chopped chives. If ran a steak house, this would be on my Happy Hour menu.

eggs buffalo and whole grain mustard

11. Whole grain mustard. Replace the Dijon mustard in the filling with whole grain mustard to add more depth of flavor and a great texture.  For a ballpark flare, try stadium mustard!

12. Buffalo sauce. I often add Sriracha to deviled eggs, always a hit. So I thought its more “vinegary” cousin, Buffalo wing sauce, might provide equal punch.  I added it to the filling and drizzled it on top but you could certainly do one or the other.

How about your versions? Please add to my list by sharing what creative things you’ve done to your deviled eggs!  Happy Easter, everyone!

Food is love.  And love is food. 

If you’re like me, you like to show love with food. As Valentine’s Day draws near, I teamed up with someone I love, my friend Rachel from Roaring Acres, to create three lovely events aimed at showing those close to us just how much we care. Cozy up with your girlfriends for PJ Potluck, entertain your kiddos with a Valentine’s themed play date, or romance your honey with an enticing sweetheart’s brunch in bed.

lovely events pj potluck setup

Week nights can be exhausting. The idea of cooking for a crowd probably doesn’t appeal to many. Make a few easy things (some ahead of time) and ask your gal pals to contribute the rest, potluck style. Throw what you need in a silverware caddy and dish out sweets in small, portable portions. Trade work clothes for yoga pants, pop in a movie (or three) and indulge in some serious comfort food.  

Take movie night to the next level with tomato and truffle popcorn soup shooters. Saw this recipe in Food Network Magazine and had to give it a shot. I actually used half the recommended amount of truffle oil and found it to be just enough. Make the soup a day or two in advance, then just heat and serve. Garnish with popcorn and share the rest of the bag with easy-to-pass-around tins.

lovely event chocolate penne

I wanted to give local entrepreneurs some LOVE in this post by making an indulgent and (appropriately flavored) pasta dish using chocolate penne from the Little Lakewood Pasta Company.  Recipe follows. 

And I also LOVE friend and fellow TV news veteran, Tiffani Tucker’s, new Bundt cake business. Have a Slice mini heart-shaped cakes were the perfect complement for our Valentine’s Day dessert. She prepares five different flavors that could also double as favors.


Over the weekend, create a no-frills craft and healthy lunch. Served in the middle of the action, the kiddos can help themselves while they decorate cards for the local nursing home, or a children’s hospital. Dig up that heart-shaped cookie cutter and make sandwiches with strawberry jam and almond butter.
Since my little sweeties like to dip things, I roasted some red peppers and added it to homemade hummus, and provided a pile of sweet and crunchy sliced red and yellow peppers. Recipe follows.

For something to sip on that’s also good for the heart, I made smoothies in my daughters’ favorite color–purple. Toss in frozen berries, a banana, almond milk, and a generous splash of this vibrant fresh pressed juice from Restore Cold Pressed, made with raw and organic apples, beets, carrots and lemons. Use a fun glass so they can slurp them up happily.

Dessert doubles as a holiday-themed activity with decorate-your-own mini cupcakes.  More sprinkles ended up on the floor than on the cupcake display…but kids love to be involved in the fun.

lovely events brunch set up

And don’t forget to to treat your honey.  Create a beautiful brunch or breakfast in bed. If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then deviled eggs are the fast lane.


Hard boil eggs and make the deviled filling the night before. (I add mayo, yellow and Dijon mustard, a splash of Worcestershire sauce and salt/pepper) Fill and top them on Valentine’s Day. I painted hearts with Sriracha, sprinkled capers on a second set, then used the remainder of my pancetta from my pot luck pasta recipe for a third variety.

lovely events breakfast stack

To satisfy meat eaters, make this impressive Breakfast Stack with sausage, cheese, sautéed veggies and potatoes. Recipe follows.  This can also be prepped ahead of time to allow for less labor and more snuggle time on this romantic day.

And for a decadent dessert, my go-to is a Chocolate Strawberry Panini, a recipe from my culinary crush, Giada De Laurentiis. I used my Panini press, but if you’ve got a Foreman Grill or a grill pan, those will do the trick too.


Skip the heart-themed setting and create a Valentine pink bubbly by dropping in a few Red Hots for color and just a hint of cinnamon flavor. Or brew up your love’s favorite blend, and finish it with the care and attention of a seasoned barista.

lovely event coffee

A trio of Valentine’s Day menus, delivered. My love to you all!!

Chocolate Penne: 1 lb. dried chocolate penne pasta, 1 jar prepared Alfredo sauce, or about 2 cups homemade, ½-1 c. asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces and blanched, 2-3 T. pancetta or bacon cut into 1 inch pieces, 1 Roma tomato, halved and sliced, pinch of nutmeg and cardamom (optional)

Cook pasta according to package directions, 7-10 min. In a sauté pan, fry up pancetta, then set aside. To the same pan, warm sauce and add nutmeg and cardamom. Toss the pasta in the sauce, and then add asparagus. Top with sliced fresh tomatoes and crispy pancetta.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus: 1 red pepper, olive oil and salt, 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained, I lemon, juiced, 1 clove garlic, chopped, 1 T. parsley, chopped, ¼ t. sesame oil, ¼ c. water, ½ c. olive oil, salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425* Coat the red pepper generously with olive oil and salt. Roast in the oven until skin is slightly charred. Set aside to cool then peel the skin and remove seeds and stem. In a food processor, combine beans, garlic, lemon juice, parsley, sesame oil, water, salt/pepper and the red pepper (cut into strips).  Blend until smooth, gradually pouring in the olive oil.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Chill and serve.  

Breakfast Stack: ½ lb. breakfast sausage, ½ c. shredded cheddar cheese, 2 T. each, red and yellow bell peppers, 1 T. white onion, chopped, 1 small potato, shredded, 1 egg, beaten.

Preheat the oven to 350.* Brown the breakfast sausage and set aside. Shred the potato like hash browns and then wring out as much moisture as you can, with a cheese cloth or clean dish towel.  Season and pan fry until golden brown.  Set aside.  Combine chopped veggies, season and sauté until softened.  Generously coat a medium ramekin (about 10 oz. size) with cooking spray.  Sprinkle cheese on the bottom for the bottom layer.  Add a layer of sausage, then veggies, then potato.  Pour  in the beaten egg, making sure it filters through the layers. Finish with a final layer of cheese.  Bake 20-25 min.  Cover with a plate and flip to remove from ramekin and serve. 

A Tater Tot Tribute

While others are adhering to New Years resolutions to eat better and loose weight, I’ve been experimenting with my new deep fryer far more than a person should. 

This weekend I was inspired by my friend, Chef Eric Williams, who appeared on-and won–Guys Grocery Games on Food Network.  He got his start at his Mod Mex restaurant, Momocho.  But he has since made an even bigger name for himself with tasty tater tots and gourmet topped hot dogs at his two Happy Dog locations, and followed it up with Momocho’s sister location, El Carnicero, and pair of Jack Flaps (Urban Breakfast Shoppe and Luncheonette).

I took a look at what I had in the fridge on a cold Sunday afternoon…among the things that caught my eye…a couple of stadium dogs, a bunch of potatoes, couple of jalapeños and the last of a nice chunk of smoked Gouda.  I decided to figure out some sort of tasty topping for the hot dogs, and take a crack at home made cheesy tater tots using the Gouda and jalapeños…in honor of Eric’s appearance on the show. A fromage homage, if you will.

GGG potatoes in cheese cloth

I peeled and shredded 5 small potatoes, then wrung them out using a cheese cloth. To that, I added 1-2 T. seeded and finely diced jalapeño peppers, and 1/2-3/4c. shredded Gouda. To bind it all, I added a beaten egg and 1/2 c. flour. After I seasoned the mixture, I formed it into two 2 inch round logs, on parchment paper, and placed it in the freezer to set.  (I’d give it at least 30 min)

I fired up my deep fryer, set at 350* and sliced the logs into bite-sized pieces, popped them in the fryer a handful at a time and let ’em get golden brown.

While those were working I played around with my hot dog topping.  I sliced equal parts cucumber, red peppers and radishes into matchsticks and made a quick slaw dressing using olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, a smidge of honey and pickle juice. (Heck, pickle relish belongs on hot dogs…right?! Why not play on that?)

I topped my hot dogs with this bright, crunchy slaw and added some Sriracha to ketchup for a great tot dipping sauce. Sweet Thai Chili would be good too!

GGG Chef Eric

Photo Courtesy foodnetwork.com

By the time I poured a drink and plated this at-home bar food, it was time to tune in to the show.  And Eric knocked it out of the part, scoring $16,000 in the prize round and advancing to the finale of this special tournament, (airing Sunday, January 31st at 8pm) made up of All-Stars from Fieri’s other hit show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  For highlights from Chef Williams’ episode click here.
I was proud to witness the success of a guy who works hard, takes care of his staff, and elevates his community.  Best of luck, Chef!

Fabulous Food Show: Cooking Competition, Culinary Gala and an Iron Chef One on One

The Fabulous Food Show is indeed that, a fabulous celebration of good food, celebrity chefs and innovative vendors.  It was an incredibly busy week for me, making good use of time and access to some big players.

fab food show chef michael symon

I got some one on one time with Cleveland’s own Iron Chef, and cast member of The Chew, Michael Symon.  We chatted about how the food show is evolving, his new cookbook (5 in 5 For Every Season) what Cleveland needs to do to continue its trajectory into the upper echelon of the food world, and spoke about the long-awaited Mabel’s, (a sore subject!) Symon’s East 4th St. barbecue joint.  He tells me it is about a year behind schedule and way over budget, but yet still on track to fill a void in the local food scene.  This will mark his 12th restaurant-he has 8 B Spot locations, Lola Bistro, Lolita, Roast (plus 2 Bar Symon locations)  The man is busy but still as gracious, and down to earth as you’d expect.

I was also an honorary table host at the Cleveland Culinary Awards Gala, which recognized industry leaders and icons.

Culinary Ambassador: Michael Symon

Restaurant Vangaurds: Parker Bosley from Fresh Fork Market, and Sokolowski’s University Inn

Beverage Trailblazer: Paulius Nasvytis of The Velvet Tango Room.

culinary awards menu

I was treated to a four course meal and the company of some of the most creative and delicious dinner companions I could dream up.

fab food show contestants

The “main event” of the weekend for me was a Media Cooking Competition on the main stage, pitting WDOK 102.1 FM personality, Jeremiah Widmer and Chef Matt Fish, of Melt Bar and Grilled against me and Chef Matt Mytro from Flour Restaurant.

fab food show cooking with matt mytro

We were given a surprise “main ingredient” to work with, salmon, plus access to anything in the main stage pantry and fridges.  Which, if I’m being honest, was pretty meager.  It was the last cooking event of the last day of the show.  The cupboards were awfully bare.

The pressure was on.  The judges were Gail Simmons of Bravo TV’s Top Chef, Food Author and Host, Mark Decarlo plus newly minted judges from the World Food Championships.

We had 30 minutes.  The instructions from my partner, “stay busy and entertain the crowd.”  I did my best to assist in our salmon poached in chili oil, with a butternut squash puree and creamy apple/celery slaw… including trying to distract our competitors, and bribing our judges with ice cream.

When time was up, we tasted everything we’d made (the most important key to good cooking according to Mytro) and presented it proudly to the judges.

In the end, team “Euctownninjas” (we’re both from Euclid) came up short.  But even as the loser, I still feel pretty good because I have to pay up on a bet I made with Jeremiah, and participate in their station’s annual charity radioathon, benefitting  UH’s Rainbow Babies and Childrens Hospital.

 FFS panel

To cap off a very busy and productive couple of days, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion about the Cleveland culinary scene.  I got to sit alongside Chefs Michael Symon, Chris Hodgson, Jason Roberts, Izzy Schachner and Rocco Whalen to talk about what the city is doing right, what challenges they’re facing as restaurateurs and what they’d like see next for the local food scene.

fab food show jen and jeremiah

After an eventful week filled with such incredible and talented people , I’m exhausted and hungry for more involvement in the local food scene and beyond.  Look out, world.

Which Friendsgiving style are you?

I am now of the age and stage in my life where I’m participating more in the execution of Thanksgiving. Contributing more dishes, even hosting. It can be intimidating to try and live up to the Thanksgiving traditions of the past.  So don’t! Create your own. 

My dear friend and fellow creative type, Rachel, has helped me come up with three distinctive styles for Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving gatherings. Use any or all of our ideas to pull off a stylish event, with savory and sweet elements, plus cocktails! Just add turkey!

Moody Modernist Menu

These offerings use things I already have on hand in new and tasty ways, incorporating Rachel’s Mid Century Modern décor for presentation. We started with a bold-patterned runner, added metallic candleholders and layered in elements of gold to tie things together. Using a sleek martini glass dresses up the soup and gives guests the green light to go bottoms-up at the table.

Buttercup Squash Soup, inspired by Martha Stewart’s version of butternut squash soup.

Sweet Potato Skins, a nod to the classic candied yams dish, as adapted by me. It scratches the itch without tipping the scales. (recipe below)

Stuffing in a Bundt Pan, Kim’s Healthy Eats and A Spicy Perspective both posted such ideas on Pinterest. I used those instructions to give it a shot, using the recipe for stuffing from Fresh Fork Market. 

Cranberry Ginger Champagne Cocktail, 2 oz. ginger infused vodka (I shaved small slices of fresh ginger and placed them in a jar of vodka in the fridge for about a week), 4 oz. cranberry juice, a generous splash of champagne, and a dash of lime juice.

friendsgiving pecan pie bark

Pecan Pie Bark, like Rachel’s contribution to this blog, the recipe comes from a guest blogger on Wishes n Dishes incorporating all the flavors and a fraction of the effort it takes to get those distinct flavors of the traditional dessert.

Comfort Food Chic Menu

Every dish in this menu incorporates one or more element of leftovers! Great for an evening gathering during the long weekend. Keeping it casual, the packing paper serves dual purpose as a runner and a place for guests to scribble what they are thankful for. Wood, wicker, copper and linen add texture and warmth, while a tiered stand lets the food take center stage. (recipes below)

Sriracha Fried Mac n Cheese Bites take leftover macaroni and cheese and give it new life, and a kick! Served with Sriracha Ranch Dipping Sauce.

friendsgiving comfort food dishes

Stuffing Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms Didn’t polish off all the stuffing at the main event? No problem. Use my version as a starting point and make it your own.

friendsgiving brie and cranberry

Mini Baked Brie Bites, proof that cranberry is a perfect complement to creamy Brie cheese. Take what’s left of the Thanksgiving cranberry sauce and make this satisfying appetizer.

Apple Pie on the Rocks This seasonally spicy sipper will even satisfy the vegan in the crowd. Source: Vegan Yack Attack

friendsgiving pumpkin roll ice cream sandwich

Pumpkin Roll Ice Cream Sandwich A scoop of butter pecan ice cream smooshed between two thin slices of my favorite fall dessert, with some fall sprinkles for color.

Friendly Farmhouse Menu

friendsgiving friendly farmhouse table

To me, this collection makes for a great brunch menu, perfect for those hosting out of town guests during the holiday. No matter the time of day, always include fresh floral on your table. We threw sunflowers in a grey pitcher to complement the ticking stripe napkins. Stacked plates and a silverware caddy let guests grab what they need without interrupting a busy host.

Sausage Stuffing Quiche created in individual “minis” or bake a large one to slice up at brunch. The “stuffing as crust” idea courtesy of a post on Food.com but, like I did, you can use whats around to add to the egg.

friendsgiving sweet potato chips

Sweet potato chips with garlic aioli, the recipe for the dipping sauce came from a fellow blogger, Our Life Tastes Good. I deep fried the thinly sliced-sweet potatoes, but you could bake them instead.

friendsgiving green bean casserole cups

Green Bean Casserole Cups (this could also make use of leftovers). Take your family’s version of the thanksgiving staple and serve it in a new way. For step-by-step instructions courtesy of Pillsbury, click here.

Apple Cider Mimosas, make the bottomless brunch beverage more seasonal by swapping OJ for cider.

friendsgiving candy bar cookies

Loaded Halloween Candy Cookie Bars, a childhood friend and fellow food blogger, Michelle, of  The Secret Ingredient Is helped me out with this one.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving please share your creations with us @cheftovers @roaringacres #friendsgiving #thanksgiving.

RECIPES:

Sweet Potato Skins

Ingredients: 4 yams or sweet potatoes (baked ahead of time and cooled), 8 T. melted butter, pinch of salt, 2 T. Brown sugar, ½-1 tsp. each of ginger and cinnamon, ¼ t. nutmeg, marshmallows

Directions:  Slice potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out about half of the inside. (Careful, as the skins of these are more delicate than russet potatoes). Melt the butter in a small sauce pan and add brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Stir until it forms a syrup, then remove from the heat. Brush the mixture over the potato skin and place in the oven to broil on HIGH for about 5 minutes, until the edges start to get crispy. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with mini marshmallows. (5-7 per potato) Place back under the broiler, on LOW, for 2-3 minutes, until marshmallows are toasted.

Sriracha Fried Mac n Cheese

Ingredients:  Leftover mac n cheese, flour (seasoned), 1 egg (beaten), Sriracha hot chili sauce, panko bread crumbs, salt and pepper, blended oil, ranch for dipping

Directions:  Place spoonfuls of mac n cheese onto a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper or foil. Put the tray in the freezer for at least 25-30 min. Heat a deep skillet (cast iron if you’ve got it) to medium high and pour in about 2 inches of oil. Remove tray from the freezer and dredge each mac n cheese pile in flour. Add 1 T. of Sriracha (more or less depending on how hot you like it) to the egg, and coat the floured bites in the mixture. Finally, cover each one in panko bread crumbs. Fry the bites in the oil until golden brown, turning once. Place on paper towel to drain. Serve with ranch for dipping. (Add a dollop of Sriracha to that too if you so desire.)

Mini Baked Brie and Cranberry Bites

Ingredients:  Frozen puffed pastry (sheets or squares), leftover cranberry sauce (preserves, like blackberry, can also be substituted), Brie cheese (wedge or round)

Directions:  Preheat oven to 400 (or the temperature listed on the baking instructions for the puff pastry, if different). Thaw frozen puff pastry dough for 20-25 min. Cut the pastry into 2-3 inch squares. Place a pastry square over each cup of the mini cupcake tin and gently push them down, so as not to tear the dough. Insert a cube of cheese into each one, about 1-2 inch squares. Gather the corners of the squares to the center.  Some of the cranberry will still be exposed. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Cool for 3-4 minutes, then gently pop each bite out with a butter knife.

Stuffing Stuffed Mini Portabellas

Ingredients:  Mini portabella mushrooms (washed, stems removed), leftover Thanksgiving stuffing (the kind with sausage is the best!), grated fontina cheese, truffle oil (optional), extra virgin olive oil

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place mushroom caps upside down on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff each mushroom with a spoonful of stuffing (about a tablespoon, depending on the size of the mushroom). Fill it up and pack it tightly. Drizzle a bit of truffle oil on top (optional). Sprinkle cheese on top to cover. Bake for 25 min.