Thursday, December 1, 2016

12 Days of Holiday Cookies

There is nothing like the scent of vanilla wafting through the house as
the holiday cookies are baking. We have compiled some of our family favorites for you. 
Simply click on the picture to be taken directly to the recipe!






Thursday, November 24, 2016

Complete Thanksgiving Menu Planner

With Thanksgiving only weeks away, we are all in menu planning mode. As one of the biggest, if not the absolute biggest food holiday, we thought we would make it easier for you by compiling a round-up of some of our favorites, old and new. Last year we published a Thanksgiving e-cookbook with some Thanksgiving ideas, but this year we have gone a step further and expanded the list to include 40+ recipes with some morning noshes, turkey tips, condiments, side dishes and desserts. Many of them are healthy and some are a bit more indulgent. We even added a few ideas for what to do with those turkey leftovers.

Morning Treats:
Cranberry Financiers
Pumpkin Chestnut Scones
Mug Muffins
Pumpkin Cranberry Bread
Baked French Toast

Turkey Preparation:
     • Brining
     • Stuffing
     • Trussing
     • Barding
     • Butter-crisped Roasting

Two Cranberry Sauces
Pear Cranberry Chutney
Cranberry Zinfandel Conserve
Chardonnay Rosemary Jelly

Pumpkin Hummus
Cream of Peanut Soup

Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins
Boston Brown Bread

Corn Pudding
Potatoes Fondantes
Bacon-braised Brussels Sprouts
Curried Cauliflower
Swiss Chard Gratin
Roasted Beets
Mashed Potatoes with Love
Broccoli with Lime Dressing
Charred Cabbage
Rice-stuffed Tomatoes
Green Beans Gremolata
Sorghum Caraway Carrots
Cauliflower, Leek & Mushroom Strata

Cranberry Almond Tart
Apple Crostada
Hasty Pudding
Chocolate Pecan Pie
Peach Almond Galette
Gingerbread Cake
Sweet Potato Pie
Bread Pudding
Pineapple Cranberry Cobbler
Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

Bobbie Sandwich
Turkey Enchiladas Verde
Turkey Jambalaya
Matzoh Ball Soup

We are honestly thankful to our all al loyal readers! Enjoy your Thanksgiving Holiday!

Originally posted on 11/15/2015


Friday, November 18, 2016

World Food Blogger Summit - Day 3: Blogging, Judging and Dessert

The final day of our Blogger Summit began with happy eggs! Specifically, a presentation by Jen Danby, Chief Marketing Officer of the happy egg co., who described the differences between caged, cage-free, free-range and pasture-raised. She explained that the happy egg co. is the first free-range egg brand to be Humane Certified™ and give their hens ten times the living space of most other free range brands. Their mission is to spread happiness, from the hens it cares for to the consumer who wants to buy more humanely produced products, and their unique commitment to clarity and honesty in the egg aisle during an insider session with their happy teams. They provide consumers, as well as World Food Championships bloggers and competitors, with high quality, humanely raised eggs.

Next up, a panel of experts including Suzanne Clark, Darie O’Connor and Donna Benner teamed up to get bloggers thinking about how to take our knowledge to an audience beyond our blog space. Suzanne Clark, Lifestyle Expert and Television Personality, shared her strategies on how to approach a TV station with ideas, and how to be invited back on a regular basis. Darie O’Conner, of TryThisDish Radio, whose programming reflects a cadre of international stars of the culinary world and the people she has met in her culinary travels around the world, imparted her strategies for expanding our audiences to the airwaves. Donna Benner, founder of Swoon Talent, with decades of national television experience, gave bloggers some insights into the value of hiring an agent to take our blogs to the next level.

As the primary media partners for the World Food Championships, the kick-off Press Conference for the WFC was a priority. We heard from Orange Beach Mayor, Tony Kennon; President of Gulf Shores Tourism, Herb Malone; Owner of The Wharf, Art Favre; and, WFC President/CEO, Mike McCloud who told the story of how the ultimate food fight came to The Wharf at Orange Beach and how food sport is becoming a worldwide phenomenon.

As bloggers, we tend to be bystanders; reporters of stories, but this Summit gave us the opportunity to participate in the actual process of determining the outcome of the competition. We underwent the official  E.A.T. Methodology training to become certified WFC judges. The acronym E.A.T. stands for Execution, Appearance and Taste, and each dish is judged individually on these criteria. Judges assign scores from 1 (awful) to 10 (spectacular) and the composite of the scores determines which competitor moves to the next challenge. The World Food Champ creates four winning dishes to take home the $100,000 grand prize.

With our newly minted certifications under our belts, we were escorted to the main event to take our seats in the judges’ tent to judge the first competition of the WFC: Desserts. And, yes, the life of a food blogger judge is tough! We sampled 5 servings of orange crepes in Round 1 and 5 signature desserts in Round 2. I must admit that judging was much more difficult than I originally expected. Knowing that each score that you give affects the competitor’s chances of moving to the next round is quite daunting.

After, another full day, we headed to Flora-Bama Yacht Club to close the 2016 WFC Blogger Summit and welcome the Food Champ Athletes as they prepared to throw down for a shot at the ultimate Food Champ Title. Delicious food, creative cocktails and camaraderie were the order of the evening and a great way to end my first WFC Blogger Summit experience. I’m really hoping it won’t be my last!


Thursday, November 10, 2016

World Food Blogger Summit - Day 2: Tour of Alabama Seafood

Up at the crack of dawn and loaded on a bus headed to Bayou la Batre for the full back lot tour of Alabama Seafood. For those movie fans out there, Forrest Gump headed to Bayou La Batre to fulfill the dream of his fellow soldier, “Bubba” Blue, who yearned to return home to become a shrimper.

After a quick stop to pick up a few more passengers and a few boxes donut holes from Sugar Rush Donuts to satisfy our sweet teeth, we headed to Murder Point Oysters to see an oyster farm in action. Oysters, are a significant part of the economy of the region. Murder Point is home to a Zirlott family that raises oysters from spawning, nurturing the beds, and fostering the oysters until they are ready to be delivered to market. Murder Point oysters are known for their clean, buttery flavor and after tasting a freshly shucked oyster, it is easy to see why!

A short bus trip and we landed at the Graham Shrimp Company, Inc. where Ernie Anderson met our group and led us on a tour of this distributor of headless and head-on shrimp. The company that has direct access to production directly across our dock. The tour of the facility led us through the sorting room where large conveyors sort the shrimp by count (the number of shrimp per pound) prior to being flash frozen and packaged for distribution.

Another quick bus trip, took us to Olympic Shellfish, a family-owned supplier of crabs with more than two decades of experience. John Grevenitis walked us through the processing facility where crabs are brought in fresh to the facility each evening to be rinsed, culled, cleaned, and sorted by hand into lump, jumbo lump and claw meat before being distributed across the United States for 52 weeks a year!

Since our appetites had been wetted by all the seafood we had seen that morning, the Organized Seafood Association of Alabama hosted an old-fashioned Bayou Boil featuring Graham Shrimp Co. shrimp, crab claws from Olympic Shellfish, Murder Point oysters, as well as other members of the Eat Alabama Wild Seafood marketing initiative which was founded in 2002 to promote locally caught and processed shrimp and seafood.

Fully satiated, we embarked on a quiet trip back toward Orange Beach. We stopped at the Homeport Marina to visit LuLu’s Homeport, owned by Lucy Buffett (sister of singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett). LuLu’s is a proud promoter of the FishTrax Marketplace which allows customers to identify not only the area where the fish was caught but the boat and captain that caught it. Brian Ahlers, a graduate student in Marine Resource Management at Oregon State University, was on hand to explain how the Fish Trax program works and its future impact. Executive Chef Dylan Feenker gave an overview of the program’s impact on his kitchen at Lulu’s and David Krebs, Commercial Fisherman (and Founder of Ariel Seafood!) shared his perspective from the standpoint of a ship’s captain. We then got a firsthand look at how FishTrax works as we sampled Lulu’s blackened, fried and grilled snapper which came with a searchable QR code so that we could see exactly when and where our fish was caught.

After our meal, we were invited to tour the Alleluia, a 58-foot Gulfstream and one of the first boats in the Gulf that allows fishermen to weigh fish when caught and immediately ice them in 800-pound bins that lift directly from boat to dock to eliminate handling. The Alleluia, part of the Ariel Seafood Fleet, voluntarily uses cameras to document the sustainability of the fishing methods. A typical trip for the Alleluia is four days with a catch of 8,000 pounds of fish.

After our LuLu’s experience, we headed back to the penthouse of Turquoise Place to chat about the events of the day, watch the election results, and enjoy election-themed cocktails even more food from Hormel!


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

World Food Blogger Summit - Day One: Dr. Oyster, BroTorch Cooking and Food Photography

After an early morning photo session and delicious breakfast sponsored by the happy egg co., we were welcomed to the 3rd annual World Food Blogger Summit by members of Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Tourism Bureau and World Food Championship staff. We were presented with amazing gift bags filled with numerous goodies from WFC sponsors and indulged in hand-picked, hand-washed, hand-roasted coffee from Chef Bryan-David Scott of A Cup of Luxury. This amazing coffee retails for $1200 per pound as was a rare treat to be sure.

Dr. Bill Walton (known as "Dr. Oyster") of the Auburn University Shellfish Lab shared his knowledge about the oyster farming revolution happening across the Southern Coast and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. He showed us how the Alabama Oyster Farming Community is currently adapting new techniques to grow and nurture consistently high quality, world class oysters.

We were then invited to the beach to participate in the official launch of Hormel’s new “BroTorch Cooking” campaign. Chris and Ethan, two Bros aiming to show the world how to BroTorch enough chili dogs, nachos and potato skins to satisfy your next tailgate party. Summit bloggers were given the opportunity to roast hotdogs using a BroTorch shooting 25 feet of flames. Back in the conference room, renowned Chef, Eric Harland, demonstrated how to cook a surf and turf chili recipe using a torch, a pineapple and Hormel Chili.

Our lunchtime keynote speaker was the man behind the World Food Championships, Mike McCloud who explained the food sport phenomenon in terms of numbers: 1,421 contestants and 430 teams from 48 states and 14 countries. In addition, the WFC has 82 brand sponsors and 794 million media impressions over the last year. The most notable takeaway from the speech, however, is McCloud’s passion for his brain-child and his commitment to the WFC community.

Next up was Ted Wampler, Jr., President and COO of Wampler’s Farm Sausage Company to describe how he has completed 3 solar installations used to power his family’s sausage company. Wampler has also installed the first commercial Proton Power CHyP (Cellulose Hydrogen Power) System in the world.  This revolutionary technology powers his company with cheap hydrogen on demand, and provides byproducts of pure water and biochar which is an amazing soil enhancer that can hold carbon, boost food security, and increase soil biodiversity, and discourage deforestation. Wampler’s is proving how innovative food companies are producing energy for a future power grid.

With the help of food sponsor, Wickles Pickles and the UK’s best food photographer, Michael Sewell, we learned new tips for food photography including improved lighting techniques, changing angles, using varied color backgrounds, and arranging food and props to make it more presentable for blog and social media posts. Then, we put our new knowledge to use as we created our favorite tailgate sandwiches (using the unique sauces of another food sponsor, Saucy Mama), arranged and styled them, and photographed them under the watchful eye of Mike Sewell. Our photos will be sent to Wickles Pickles and Saucy Mama for use across their social platforms.

And, if that wasn't a day full of innovation, expertise and deliciousness, Chef Roc and Chef Sal, representing the great State of Hawaii and their new Goomba Imports, brought a selection of new products for us to sample as we mingled and reflected on the events of the day. After tasting Moretti’s Pasta with VJ's Butcher Block Italian Venison Sausage and Central Formaggi’s Pecorino tapenade, Beck's Final Touch Seasoning Blend, and Wilson Creek flavored champagnes, we headed back to our incredible accommodations at Turquoise Place with samples of Gosling’s Dark & Stormy Rum Cake, and Penotti Cookie Butter to rest up for Day 2!


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Save The Pumpkins Hummus

We never seem to notice the humble pumpkin until holiday time, but really, we should. Their beautiful orange exteriors are the perfect complement to the hues of autumnal foliage that signal the harvest season which we honor on Thanksgiving Day. While all are edible, nearly 95 percent of all pumpkins grown in the U.S. are carved into those hallmarks of Halloween: jack-o-lanterns.

In addition to their decorative colors and sizes, pumpkins boast unexpected health benefits as well. Pumpkins are a high-fiber, low-calorie food that's loaded with nutrients including copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. One cup of cooked pumpkin provides more than 200 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, 20 percent of the recommended vitamin C and more potassium than a banana. Pumpkins also have carotenoids which can help keep skin wrinkle-free and their seeds are filled with phytosterols, which are known for reducing LDL or "bad" cholesterol.

With the current campaigns to reduce food waste trending nationally, perhaps it is time to take those remnants from jack-o-lantern carving and toss them in your morning smoothie or roast them with some cauliflower or broccoli. Roasted pumpkin is excellent when added to rice, mashed potatoes or even macaroni and cheese for an added boost of color and seasonal flavor. If you're looking for a high-fiber snack that's perfect any time of year, just try mixing some roasted pumpkin with some chickpeas to make a super-nutritious dip that's perfect for entertaining.

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
1 cup roasted pumpkin, cubed
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste

Process beans in food processor until nearly smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Add pumpkin, tahini, cider vinegar, garlic and spices and process until smooth, scraping down sides periodically. Tahini adds a subtle sesame flavor and depth to hummus. Don’t have tahini, no worries, you can substitute the nut butter of your choice, add a few drops of sesame oil or leave it out entirely. Once the hummus is full combined and smooth, taste and adjust your seasonings accordingly.

Serve in a pretty bowl and drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil and top with some toasted pepitas. A dusting of paprika also makes a gorgeous and colorful garnish.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Concentrics Celebrates Harvest in Spectacular Fashion

We were very excited to be invited to Concentrics’ Harvest Dinner featuring seven amazing chefs serving six seasonal courses perfectly paired with exceptional wines. The mood was festive and the camaraderie palpable as we entered ONE.midtown Kitchen where signature cocktails and tantalizing starters like lobster hushpuppies and fried porcini ravioli were being passed to guests. Longtime host Bob Bost rallied diners to be seated and the feast began.

First up was a Hamachi Crudo created by Chef Chris Maher, Co-Executive Chef of One Midtown Kitchen. The beautiful spiral of Hamachi served with Uni, crispy Fresno Chili, Furikake, Cilantro, Cured Egg Yolk, Puffed Rice and a Black Pepper Yuzu and paired with a crisp Italian Viticoltori Raetia Pinot Grigio.

A silky White Gazpacho served with Autumn Fruits, Osetra Caviar, Almond, and a crispy Rye crumble by Chef Tyler Williams of Tap Gastropub which was matched with a Legado Del Moncayo Garnacha Blanca from Spain was a decadent second course.

Chef Michael Bertozzi of Two Urban Licks presented a Rigatoni topped with a Duck Ragu, Wild Mushrooms, tiny dried Currants and a Foie Cream partnered with Hobo Wine Company’s Folk Machine Pinot Noir.

Next a gorgeous Roasted Striped Bass rolled in Spinach and plated on Cauliflower Sabayon with Mussels and Black Truffle Shavings was crafted by Executive Chef Stuart Tracy of The Brasserie at Parish and paired with a California Chardonnay from Stuhlmuller.

An oversized Braised Veal Shank with an Apple Cider Demi and dusted with Pistachios served family-style was accompanied by dishes of Saffron Risotto and Smoked Carrots and Butternut Squash designed by One Midtown Kitchen’s Co-Executive Chef Matt Weinstein was complemented by Chateau de la Selve “Palissaire” from the Rhone Valley of France.

Last, but certainly not least Pastry Chefs Danielle Smathers of One Midtown Kitchen and Breanna Kinkead of The Brasserie at Parish shared their Sweet Potato Crème Brûlée with Honeycomb Candy, Spiced Pepitas, and toasted Marshmallow Fluff matched with a Kopke 10-Year Tawny Port.

Thanks to Concentrics' owner Bob Amick and his partner Todd Rushing and his fantastic team of chefs, mixologists and servers for an incredible evening of food, wine and frivolity!



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pennsylvania Dutch Pineapple Pie

Nearly 25 years ago, Dom and I headed to his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio for a very busy Labor Day weekend. We were there for a christening at which Dom would become a godfather for the first time. We arrived on Friday to find Dom’s Aunt Phyll cooking frantically. Stepping in to help, I learned to make cannelloni at her side from the delicate, nearly transparent crepes to the lightly sweetened pomodoro sauce. After noshing on some homemade antipasti and dago red, we hopped in the car and went visiting some other relatives before heading to the Canfield Fair for the evening. The Canfield Fair is one of Dom’s favorite events of all time; rides, animals, music and hot sausage sandwiches… what’s not to love.

The next day after a cruise through Mill Creek Park, we headed to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to the oldest Amish settlement in America which is still flourishing while relying on horse and buggy transportation and no electricity. Their gift store was a treasure trove of handmade items. We bought a quilt (which hangs over our bed) and a pineapple pie. Neither of us had ever had a pineapple pie before, and we thought it would be the perfect hostess gift for the family we were staying with. We walked in the door with the pie and even though dinnertime was drawing near, our host, Lou, immediately dove into the pie saying that it was his absolute favorite!

Upon Dom’s receipt of a great medical report, I glanced at a fresh pineapple sitting on the counter and thought what better way to celebrate than with a pineapple pie. If I had known how easy it was to make, I would have made one much sooner.

2 ½ -3 cups pineapple, cut into pieces
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 tablespoons rum
2 Pie crust 9-inch

Mix some of the pineapple juice with the cornstarch to make a slurry. Place the pineapple with the lemon juice, sugar, salt and cornstarch slurry in a pan, cook until the mixture has thickened and is no longer cloudy, but clear (about 3 to 5 minutes). Remember to keep stirring so the mixture doesn't scorch. Stir in butter and rum before removing the filling from the heat to let cool to room temperature.

Heat oven to 425 ° F. fills the pie crust mold, and put up another crust on top, pressing to close it. Make a small cut with a razor or sharp knife. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown and filling shows a bit in the cut. Remove and let it cool completely.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Prepare your pie shell. If working from scratch, fit dough into a 9 inch pie plate without stretching and let edges hang over. Pour the pineapple filling into pie shell.

Prepare the top shell. While a basket weave is very traditional, I used an apple corer to make holes in the top for a polka dot-style top. Brush top with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 40 - 45 minutes until top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve with vanilla ice cream!

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