Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Hot Summer Night Panzanella

There are some summer nights that it is just too hot to eat a hot meal; the idea of meat and potatoes is a little repulsive. With the tomatoes, cucumbers and papers rolling in, a simple fresh panzanella seems like just the ticket. This classic Italian bread salad is a cross between gazpacho and bruschetta with juicy ripe tomatoes and cubed stale bread as the key components forming a cool meatless yet filling dish.

The bread should a formerly crusty artisanal type. As we frequently have leftover ciabatta, that’s our go-to. While most of the type, we are trying to keep bread from going stale, in this case you might actually want to speed up the process by cutting the bread into cubes ahead of time and leaving them in an unheated oven to dry out.

When you are feeling your stomach just starting to rumble, start roughly chopping your fresh veggies, assemble your salad and toss with the vinaigrette. The key to this dish is time.

Allowing the panzanella to rest for at least a half hour gives the vegetable juices time to mingle with the vinaigrette, and the bread time to absorb all the flavors. The bread should still be nicely chewy, but not soggy. You can up your game by adding some cubed mozzarella or shaved Parmigiano Reggiano for a little added protein if desired. Oh, and an insider tip: leave the salad out to rest. Placing it in the refrigerator tends to slow macerating process, and while I’ve been known to save leftovers for my lunch the next day, it is NEVER the same as it is fresh!

6 slices of rustic bread (about 2 cups)
2 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 small cucumber, chopped
1 small bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 small clove garlic, minced
Generous pinch of salt
Pepper, to taste
6-8 large basil leaves, thinly sliced

Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes and set aside. If possible do this in advance to allow the cubes to get thoroughly stale. Then roughly chop the tomatoes, cucumber, and bell pepper into bite-sized pieces. This is a rustic salad, so preciseness in chopping in not necessary.

Combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper in in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Toss the bread cubes and chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over top and mix to thoroughly combine. I use my hands here so as not to break up the bread too much.

Let the salad sit for 1/2 hour to an hour. Add the basil chiffonade and toss before serving with a nice glass of chilled Pinot Grigio or a Chianti Classico. Buon appetito!


June 28, 2015

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Croque Monsieur Waffles for Dad (and Mom)

For all those early morning soccer games, swimming practices or track meets that Dad rose early to get you there on time, Father’s Day should be a day of rest and relaxation. We suggest you let dear old Dad sleep late and have a delicious surprise waiting for him when he gets up. Since everyone loves waffles, and what would be a better treat than waffles taken to the next level. The simple addition of meat and cheese elevate waffles to a new breakfast Shangri-La.

Dutch settlers are often credited with bringing the waffle custom to this country. Ever since, they have periodically been in and out of style, yet they remain one of the most versatile and delicious of battercakes. Another traditional breakfast pleasure is the croque-monsieur; a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with béchamel sauce. This classic French snack which is commonly served in French cafés, gets its name from the French words “croquer” (to crunch) and “monsieur” (mister). We have affectionately named the combination croque waffles. To really kick-up Dad’s feast, try adding a poached or fried egg to the top of his savory waffle. Although adding an egg technically makes it a croquet madame waffle, we somehow don’t think Dad will mind! The genius of this recipe is that the batter and béchamel sauce can be made ahead so that Dad does not have to wait very long to indulge on his big day.

1 batch waffle batter
Béchamel sauce
6 large slices of ham (or deli meat of choice)
6 slices of Swiss cheese (or your favorite)
6 eggs (optional)

Make the waffle batter first. Truthfully the batter works better after it has had time to rest. Preheat your waffle iron while you make the béchamel.

Béchamel Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoons salt
¼ cup grated Parmesan (optional)
Freshly grated nutmeg

Heat the milk until just about to boil and keep warm. In a separate saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Turn you flame up to medium and cook for about 6 to 7 minutes until the mixture starts to turn a light, golden color.

Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until very smooth. Allow the sauce to come to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium. If you are using cheese, add it to the pan and stir to thoroughly combine. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat before the sauce reaches the desired consistently as it will thicken some as it cools. Grate a bit of nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set the sauce aside until you are ready to serve. If the sauce gets to thick as it sits. Place back over medium heat and add a bit more milk to thin it.




When Dad wakes up place half a scoop of batter on the center of the waffle iron and lay a slice of ham (we used capicciola) and a slice of cheese (we used provolone) and add another half scoop of batter, and then close the waffle iron. When the waffle is golden brown, remove it from the iron using care so as not to get burned by the release of steam.

Place the croquet waffle on a plate and ladle béchamel sauce over the top. For an added bit of flare, you can run the sauce topped waffle under a broiler to brown the top. If you are adding an egg, it should be placed on top of the sauced waffle.

Any uneaten croquet waffles (un –sauced of course)can be placed in the freezer for later and make handy snacks for hungry Dad’s on the go!

June 15, 2014


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Friday, June 9, 2017

Refreshing Zucchini Soup

The zucchini surplus has begun! This mild and refreshing soup is a cool way to rejuvenate at lunch. It also makes a nice opener for a light summer supper. Garnished with a dollop of sour cream and an herb sprig and it could definitely pass for haute cuisine.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 ½ cup vegetable or chicken stock

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook over low heat until softened, about 7 to 8 minutes.



Add the garlic and zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 10 minutes. Keep the heat low enough that the garlic doesn't brown; you want everything to sweat. Add the stock and ginger, and simmer until the vegetables are very soft, another 10 minutes or so.

Working in 2 batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until the soup is silky-smooth. Taste and season salt and pepper to your desired flavor. Like most soups, this is significantly better after a night in the refrigerator to let the flavors meld. Serve it hot or chilled for an uplifting dish.

June 9, 2015


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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Treat Mom to the Perfect Brunch

Each year, we all do our best to spoil our Moms on the day named just for her. We lay plans to let her sleep late and make her breakfast in bed. This year, why not go a step further and plan a brunch for the whole family replete with breakfast and lunchtime favorites accompanied by cocktails to complement the offerings. If you’re new to planning a brunch and would like to make your own this weekend, here are a few ideas that will make your brunch a treat worthy of Mom.

Eggs:
Eggs are the staple to brunch menus. Whatever you decide to cook, always include an egg recipe as either the main dish or a side dish. However, making eggs doesn't necessarily mean you have to be satisfied with the common scramble. Be creative! There are several ways you can dress up your eggs.

Herbs are a marvelous addition to accentuate their flavor. Parsley, cilantro, dill and tarragon are all good choices. One of the most common mistakes one can make when making eggs is to overcook them. Depending on how you’re making them, the perfect eggs will be creamy and buttery to the touch. A technique you can use for the perfect eggs are to turn off the burner as soon as they appear slightly under cooked  They’ll finish cooking as they rest on the pan. Another trick for better eggs is to add about a tablespoon of water into your egg mixture. This will make them airy and fluffy. Other egg dishes that lend themselves to a brunch buffet are frittatas, eggs benedict, omelets or even a south of the border classic like huevos rancheros!

Meats and Veggies:
Meat always makes an appearance at brunch. Europeans commonly serve platters of cold cuts and cheeses as part of their typical breakfast buffets.Whether it’s bacon, sausage, chorizo, pancetta or ham, meat is always a binding element that brings veggies (like red and green pepper, tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, or onions) and eggs together. Meat and veggie skillets are popular side dishes for brunch, providing a savory and salty contrast.

Crepes, Waffles and Pancakes:
Another component for a successful brunch is to have breads and pastries that will contrast the hearty taste and texture of eggs. Most common brunch ideas for batter-made foods are crepes, waffles or pancakes.

Waffles and pancakes are probably the easiest to make, nevertheless the bad execution of said dishes could make them chewy or tough. A tip to keep batter from becoming dense in the pan or oven is to hold back from over mixing. The more you beat the batter the denser they’ll be, leaving you with thicker but tough pan-fried dough.

Fruit:
There is nothing more spectacular than fresh seasonal fruit to complement any brunch table! Strawberries, blueberries, a selection of melon and even pineapple are delicious on their own or served atop your pancakes, crepes and waffles.

Beverages:
There are a variety of drinks that will both quench your thirst and enhance your brunch menu. Freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice are popular favorites. These also make delicious mixers for brunch cocktails such as mimosas or grapefruit sparklers. Bloody Marys are another common brunch beverage and our personal favorite is a Creole version:

  • 4 oz. tomato juice
  • 1 ½ oz. vodka
  • 1 tablespoon Creole mustard (we use Zatarain’s)
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce to taste (we prefer Louisiana brand)
  • Lime wedge for garnish
  • Pickled okra (or any of your favorite vegetable condiments)

Combine all liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour into your favorite glass and add lime wedge and pickled okra.

By planning ahead and getting a little creative, you can start Mom’s day with a treat she will never forget!

Originally posted 5/7/2013

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Smoke & Glory for 2 Good Causes

A cloud of delicious smoke wafted toward me as I rounded the corner of Oakview Road on my way to Steinbeck’s to enjoy an all-star lineup of Atlanta's finest pork ribs at the 4th Annual Smoke & Glory Showdown.

Each year, Smoke & Glory puts Atlanta chefs to the test to see who reigns supreme in a Battle of the Beasts cook-off. This year, the chefs were challenged with raw pork spare ribs with one stipulation: the pork must be smoked in some way. Ticket holders devoured entries which included Korean BBQ ribs from Illegal Food, Twain’s Coca-Cola -glazed ribs, Szechuan ribs from Wrecking Bar, Ancho-blackberry BBQ ribs from Seed Kitchen and Bar, and Hampton and Hudson’s Sweet Tea Gojuchang ribs.

Guests jammed to old school R&B and Hip-Hop spun by DJ Keiran Neely as they enjoyed an impressive list of craft brews from all over the Southeast:


• Allagash: Hibernal Fluxus & Hoppy Table Beer
• Ballast Point: Bonita Blonde
• Creature Comforts: Cosmik Debris & Koko Buni
• Founders: Kentucky Breakfast Stout
• Good People: Hitchhiker
• Green Flash/Alpine: GF Sepia Frumento & Alpine Nelson
• Orpheus: Ferryman & Death.Life.Truth
• Scofflaw: Basement
• Second Self: ATaLe & Farmers Fund Saison Service Berry
• Shmaltz: Messiah Nut Brown & Pastrami Pils
• Southbound: Desert Dawn
• Southern Barrel: Damn Yankee & Helles Lager
• Stone: Enjoy By 4.20 & Pataskala Red
• Sweetwater: Grass Monkey & Wookie Down
• Terrapin: T-Time & Sound Check
• The Bruery: Tart of Darkness & Humulus Terreux Mosaic
• Three Taverns: Asylum 7 & Departed Spirit
• Westbrook: Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break
• Wicked Weed: Tropicmost & Hop Cocoa
• Wild Heaven: Watermelon EDB & White Blackbird

Attendees were each given a token to cast their vote for the best ribs in the competition with the winner chosen by a combined tally from the People’s Choice & from our local BBQ professional judges. The winning ribs were the Pastrami Smoked Spare ribs with pickled pineapple from Venkman’s who walked away with the coveted Thunderdome cleaver. Everyone left with full bellies and full hearts knowing that proceeds from the event benefitted the Giving Kitchen and Camp Horizon.

Many thanks to Steinbeck's and CulinaryLocal for a fabulous afternoon of beer and ribs!


Disclosure: I attended this event as a brand Ambassador for CulinaryLocal. While the dishes and drinks I sampled were complimentary, the content and photographs are original and all opinions are unsolicited. #ad

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Beautiful Handcrafted Gifts for Mother's Day & Giveaway

Every year we all struggle to find just the right gift for Mom for her big day - Mother’s Day. Because Moms are the heart of the home, we often look to find a special gift that she can use at home; something as unique and timeless as she is. When the folks at Fennel & Fork reached out to me to review their hand-crafted artisanal serving pieces, I was thrilled to oblige!

When Fennel & Fork founder, Abhinav Sawhney, went in search of high quality, beautifully designed, and affordable home décor reminiscent of products found in his home country of India, what he discovered was a multitude of basic mass-produced kitchen wares that look dull after minimal use, or pricey designer-labeled items that are too precious to use. After a year of searching for a solution, he partnered with select craftsmen from India to create beautifully-designed and affordably-priced serveware. He feels that the pieces used to serve food should be as natural and unique as the food served in it.

We received a salad serving set from the Willow collection. With its narrow leaves and dense stems, these silver-finished, stainless steel servers have a classy design that are nicely weighted, and comfortable to hold and use. They add a note of elegance to any salad and will look beautiful on the table for your Mother’s Day brunch!

To celebrate Mother’s Day this year, Fennel and Fork has released a special collection of products. When you order from the collection, Fennel & Fork will gift wrap it, attach a custom handwritten Mother’s Day card, and then ship it to your mom, grandmother, aunt, wife… in time to arrive for Mother’s Day.

And to help celebrate Mother’s Day, Fennel & Fork is hosting a giveaway! Each week between April 8th and May 6th, they will give away products from our website and on the final day, one lucky winner will receive a $100 VISA gift card. Enter below for your chance to win!




Fennel and Fork Mother's Day Giveaway

Disclosure: While we received complimentary products for review purposes, the opinions included herein are honest and unsolicited.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Kitchens that Makes Meals Look Better

Compensation for this post was provided by Premier Surfaces to promote the opening of their new location in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Have you ever purchased a new appliance, such as a new washing machine, and thought to yourself, “this washing machine is going to make doing the laundry enjoyable?” Maybe you got the latest vacuum, and you got a little excited to clean your family room? Surely, you have bought a new outfit or pair of shoes and instantly felt a surge of confidence? A new look can give us a whole new attitude. It changes us somehow and makes us look at things differently, as if through a new prism. We experience a paradigm shift. Things we once disliked become likable, chores we might have loathed become bearable, and features commonly hidden we suddenly flaunt with confidence.

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The same can be true for your home. Take for instance when you paint your walls a new color, it makes the whole room more inviting and fresh. There are so many changes, small and large, which can renew a home. Alterations can be made in steps and stages, making the entire process more manageable from a budgetary standpoint, but also more rewarding. You also get to enjoy the sweat equity and embrace each adjustment.

The kitchen is considered the heart of the home and is the primary gathering place for family and friends. Your countertops are highly visible and something use every single day. Envision your morning routine, stepping into the kitchen and reach for your favorite coffee cup. You idly stare at the coffeemaker as it spills out your liquid energy. Your thoughts and eyes wander, darting through the kitchen - the refrigerator, the cabinets, the sink, and the countertops - you may not even register the appliances and the kitchen layout in which you are so comfortable. It is mundane and regular, and therefore all the details fade into the background.

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Now imagine that you have brand new countertops. Does your coffee taste better? Likely not, but given the juxtaposition of your old countertops, you have a little more pep in your step when you go to the office. You are aware that when you return home, you will get to bask in the beauty of your updated kitchen. One simple change will make you enjoy your time in the kitchen even more.

Natural stone countertops elevate the aesthetic of your home, and they can also increase the property’s value. Granite offers the greatest long-term value, but Marble is a timeless and classic option. Soapstone, Limestone, and semi-precious stone countertops provide a unique design twist on the common desire for stone countertops, plus they are considered an upgrade for most homes.

Premier Surfaces is the leading countertop company in the Southeast with four showroom locations in Birmingham, Alabama, Huntsville, Alabama, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and its newest showroom in Alpharetta, Georgia, just north of Atlanta. They sell a wide variety of unique, luxury countertops, but they specialize in natural stone countertops like granite, quartz, semi-precious stones, and marble. Premier Surfaces has earned its sparkling reputation for by offering superior products and top-of-line service.

When you trust the professionals of Premier Surfaces, you can rest assured they are delivering the highest quality product and expert-level craftsmanship. Premier Surfaces stands by its products and its people, offering a 100% limited warranty on all craftsmanship. They even use Slabsmith Perfect Match Technology which is the newest, most advanced technology available to the countertop industry. It allows the countertop installers to take high-resolution images of a natural stone slab and then digitally render 3D images depicting how the countertop will appear in your kitchen. Slabsmith Perfect Match Technology is only available at one Atlanta-area natural stone countertop fabricator, Premier Surfaces.

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Eric Tryon leads the company as the President and CEO. Eric promotes a positive and honest work environment for his employees and customers. His foresight, innovation, and leadership have earned him numerous accolades. Premier Surfaces was named one of the “Top 20 Best Places To Work” by Atlanta Magazine in 2009 and 2015, it was named a Top Place to Work by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2015 and 2016, and it was also nominated in Wall Street Journal’s Top Small Workforces.

Premier Surfaces has all the technology, trained and capable staff, quality products, and integrity to give your kitchen a complete makeover with one simple change - new countertops. Stop living in a figurative black and white kitchen and add color and life to your kitchen by contacting the professionals at Premier Surfaces.

We are a website that needs compensation to operate like any other website. Sometimes we receive consideration for our reviews, yet we only recommend the most reputable companies to our readers. 


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Friday, March 31, 2017

Championship Grilled & Saucy Chicken Wings

Just like tailgates and Superbowl parties, nothing says March Madness like chicken wings which are always on our menu for the Championship game! If only they weren’t so – well – fried. So how can you enjoy your favorite game time food and still be health conscious? Baking is always an option, but usually requires added oil and doesn’t result in the crispy skin that makes chicken wings so irresistible. Solution: grilling which is so much easier to prepare without the need to deal with splattering oil and messy clean up. We all know that saturated fats, like butter and lard, are bad for us. One of the best ways to avoid eating excess fat is to grill your proteins. Grilling adds flavor to meat and allows you to bypass the addition of oil.

Grilling also allows for the natural fats to drip off and cook away. Grilling is a great option for feeding the family on those busy nights. Not only will grilling make it easy for you to consume less fat and sodium, but it’ll also hold in more of those nutrients that our bodies crave. Throwing some healthy protein and seasoned vegetables on the grill is quick, and those chicken wings will lose less of their nutritional properties due to the short cooking time for most meats on the grill. And as an added bonus, you can get nice crisp skin. The key is getting a good char on them, and using a great sauce at the end like Moore’s… Did you know that the traditional recipe for wing sauce is hot sauce and butter? More fat. Moore’s Buffalo Wing Sauce has only 1.5 grams of fat per serving, is gluten free and certified Kosher.

Grilling up some wings also gave us the chance to try out our new toy from TNK Brand. The Stingray BBQ multitool is a spatula, tong, toothed tong, fork, launch control, bottle opener which sits up when put down, to prevent your countertop from getting dirty. After washing in the dishwasher, it can be locked to be put away safely. Because wings are small, they can be hard to turn and move on the grill. The stingray made it easy to maneuver those little buggers without burning our hands. Looking forward to a summer of easy grilling! Now back to those wings…

10 whole chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
1/2 cup Moore’s Wing Sauce (of your choice)

Rub your grill racks down with some oil or cooking spray and ready your grill. You want to cook the wings at about 350ºF.

Put the wings in a single layer on the grill directly over the heat and grill for about 20-25 minutes. We start by leaving them in one place with the lid closed, for a few minutes. Because some tend to cook faster due to hot spots on the grill, keep monitoring and flipping as they brown. If a few wings seem to get dark before others, shift them to a cooler part of the grill. They'll keep cooking but not browning.

After about 18 minutes of flipping and moving them around as needed, use an instant read thermometer in the center of a few wings to make sure that they've all reached 165ºF. If some aren't quite there, give them another 5 minutes. You are looking for wings that are nicely charred on all sides and cooked through.

Using tongs, transfer the cooked wings to a bowl. Pour your favorite wing sauce (like Moore’s) over the wings and toss. Add more sauce to achieve your ratio of sauce to wings. Serve with plenty of napkins!


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