Friday, January 23, 2015

Introducing Georgia Grinders with Peanut Butter Chocolate Truffles

National Peanut Butter Day seems to be the perfect occasion to introduce the recently launched line of hand-crafted “Georgia Grinders” Peanut Butters from Georgia native, Jaime Foster, whose “NaturAlmond” Almond Butters were featured on Oprah’s popular O-List in August 2013. These artisanal peanut butters, available in both Creamy and Crunchy varieties, are made with two simple ingredients, the finest quality NON-GMO, Georgia-grown peanuts, and sea salt. The peanuts are hand selected, slow roasted, and then ground to Foster’s ideal consistency for the ultimate fresh peanut butter experience.

“Living in the peanut capital of the world, I was surprised that there weren’t any other nationally-distributed, hand crafted, small batch peanut butter companies based in Georgia,” says Foster. This sentiment is reiterated by Southern Peanut Growers’ Leslie Wagner, “Given that 50% of the peanuts consumed in the U.S. are grown in Georgia, it is nice to finally see a Georgia-based company selling locally sourced peanut butters.”

To showcase the versatility of her peanut butters, Foster engaged Chef Ryan Smith of Southbound restaurant in Chamblee to craft sweet and savory dishes featuring her peanut creations. The chef met the challenge and offered chicken satay with peanut sauce; steamed spinach goma-ae with sesame sauce; grilled peanut butter and bacon sandwiches with tart jam; and, peanut butter brined pork belly with apple peanut compote to hungry taste-testers. The pièce de résistance, however, were Peanut Butter-Chocolate Truffles rolled in rich, dark cocoa powder. You can imagine, our glee when we learned that Chef Smith would share his recipe with eager samplers. Of course, we must share with you too – just in time for Valentine’s Day!
Peanut Butter-Chocolate Truffles 
1 cup heavy cream
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 lb. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 lb. Georgia Grinders peanut butter
1/4 cup espresso
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a sauce pot, bring the cream, butter, sugar, and salt to a boil over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to low, and then add the chopped chocolate pieces, and peanut butter stirring over low heat to melt the chocolate. Stir in espresso and vanilla before pouring into a dish to cool. Allow to cool completely before forming 1” balls size and roll in powdered sugar or cocoa powder.

Georgia Grinders Peanut Butters, which are sold in 12 ounce glass jars, will be available starting this month in regional Whole Foods, Sprouts Farmers Markets, Central Market Stores as well as gourmet specialty shops. For more information about Georgia Grinders, please visit their website at www.georgiagrinders.com.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Publetters: You Can’t Spell Drink Without “Ink”

When was the last time you actually sat down with a pen and paper and wrote a letter; I mean really WROTE a letter, not just signed a card with a pre-printed sentiment? With email, texting, and of course, Facebook, the art of letter writing has gone the way of the dinosaur. In fact, most children today are unfamiliar with the term “penmanship.” Our own children never lost points on assignments due to poor handwriting even though their writing was often illegible.

By now, you are asking yourself, where is the food in this post? Isn’t this supposed to be a food blog? Okie dokie then! I recently had the opportunity to attend a Publetters' event at Meehan’s Public House on Peachtree Street, a classic tavern just across the street from the America’s Mart where the Gift Show was hosting greeting card companies and their representatives. In a back room of the pub, every table was full and each pint had a sheet of paper next to it with personal scrawls and prose. We chatted and noshed on mini spring rolls and Irish banger corn dogs between paragraphs as we wrote.

What are Publetters? I am so glad you asked. Publetters is a project started by Mike McGettigan of Trophy Bikes in Philadelphia. "It's my contention that anyone can write a decent letter in the space of two drinks," he says. He found the older he got, the more he desired to make authentic connections with people; letter-writing accomplishes that. CasaPapel (also of Philadelphia) are the sponsors of Publetters, providing gorgeous posh stationery and cards at no charge to writers.

A couple of hours and beers later, we stamped our letters and said goodnight to our hosts. We left feeling lighter after the catharsis of a good writing session. Paper letters are REAL and they last. McGettigan is correct; in the time it takes to empty a good drink, (or two), you can fill a page, fold it, seal a stamped envelope and make someone's day. If you are interested in hosting or sponsoring Publetters in your city, write Mike a note!


Friday, December 19, 2014

Cognac Cashew Curls

With a little cognac, a pinch ginger and some chopped cashews, these crispy and buttery cookies, which are  yummy by themselves, will elevate your favorite ice cream to new heights.. They are much like tuile cookies, with a thin, gooey batter that spreads a good bit during during baking. They can also be folded, rolled, or formed into small baskets to hold custard or ice cream. To shape these into spirals, you have to work quickly to fold them around the handle of a wooden spoon while still more than a little warm!

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ginger, ground
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1/2 cup cashews, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cognac (or brandy flavored extract)

Pre-heat your oven to 375° F. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter, sugars, corn syrup, ginger and salt over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat and mix in the flour and ground cashews until just incorporated. Stir in the cognac and let the batter cool just slightly.

Drop level teaspoons of the batter onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 4 inches apart. I use two spoons because the batter is incredibly sticky. Do not underestimate how much the batter will spread; leave plenty of space between spoonfuls.

Bake until golden brown; about 10 minutes. The cookies will continue to cook a little more when you remove the sheet from the oven, but not significantly. If you want that “brown butter-caramel” crunch, let the cookies get golden to dark brown, not merely blonde. Blonder cookies will be chewier and milder.

If you want to form tubes, quickly wrap the still warm and pliable cookies around the handle of a wooden spoon and let set. If the cookies start to harden before you have shaped them all, return the pan to the hot oven for 30 seconds to soften.

If you choose to leave them flat, cool them on the baking sheets until firm, 6-8 minutes, and then transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. (Slather some Nutella between two of these wafers… just saying.)



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Jolly Holiday Cashewmilk Eggnog

The holidays are not quite complete without tacky sweaters and eggnog. Yet many with lactose intolerance or casein sensitivity cannot enjoy this seasonal indulgence. And, those who have worked diligently through the year to eat healthier foods and lose weight may not want to! Not to worry; you can enjoy your beloved holiday treat without using highly caloric dairy products to do so.

How you ask? The folks at Silk (who originally brought us Soymilk and Almondmilk) have introduced Cashewmilk. Silk Cashewmilk has fewer calories than skim milk and is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D. It is also verified by the Non-GMO Project and provides a lactose-, cholesterol-, soy- and gluten-free, plant-based alternative to milk. Cashews have a lower fat content per serving than peanuts, almonds, walnuts and pecans. They also have a high energy density and lots of dietary fiber. I actually prefer the buttery flavor to that of Almondmilk and find it to have a creamier, smoother texture, which lends itself perfectly to a milk-free eggnog that will not clog your arteries or ruin your diet.

4 cups Unsweetened Silk Cashewmilk
2 eggs
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Since raw eggs should not be consumed by pregnant women, young children, the elderly, or anyone with serious medical issues, due to the risk of salmonella or other bacteria. Using pasteurized eggs reduces this risk to a certain extent. While not a necessary step, this eggnog recipe entails cooking the egg yolks before mixing the other ingredients.

Separate eggs and set the whites aside (refrigerate if you are not using immediately). Pour 1 cup of Cashewmilk into a small saucepan and whisk in egg yolks, sugar and spices. Slowly heat the yolk mixture over low heat until bubbles begin to appear around the edges of the pan whisking occasionally. Remove from heat and place in a large measuring cup or small pitcher.

Add the remaining 3 cups of Cashewmilk to the custard and stir. Allow to chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Before serving, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the cooled Cashewmilk custard, and then use a whisk to fully incorporate the egg whites. This will ad body to the eggnog, but be careful not to over whisk as it will deflate the egg whites and the eggnog will lose its' frothiness.

Serve the Cashewmilk eggnog and top with freshly grated nutmeg. To make your eggnog even more "festive," try adding some bourbon, brandy, or rum. Mix the alcohol in well, chill your eggnog, curl up in front of a fire with your family and friends, and enjoy!

To learn more about Silk and Cashewmilk, sign up for the Silk eNewsletter at silk.com/signup to get updates and an instant coupon! For recipes and ideas, be sure to visit the Silk Cashew Milk Pinterest Board and the Silk Facebook Page.

While this post was sponsored by Silk, the opinions and text herein are my own.



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Puttin' on the Schnitz' in Sandy Springs

Imagine my surprise to learn that there was an entire restaurant devoted to schnitzel! And, no, schnitzel is not a pop culture alternative to profanity; it is a boneless cutlet, pounded thin with a meat tenderizer, dredged in flour and beaten eggs, coated in breadcrumbs, and then fried. The perfect schnitzel is hot, crispy on the outside and moist on the inside just like those found at Atlanta’s 7 Hens restaurants.

Recently, 7 Hens held the Grand Opening of their second location in Sandy Springs where we were invited to learn the art of making schnitzel with owner, Michael Gurevich. Similar to the French dish escalope, schnitzel is actually quite popular in many countries, including Michael’s home of Israel where schnitzel is one of the most celebrated street food items. His goal is to establish chicken schnitzel as a mainstream food item as an alternative to burgers, pizza and burritos.

7 Hens uses locally-sourced, all-natural chicken from Mar-Jac poultry in Gainseville, Georgia whose chickens are humanely raised with no GMO, no steroids and no antibiotics; it is also Halal which is an significant distinction as well as an homage to Michael’s homeland and culture. “We believe in honest food and use the finest ingredients including trans-fat free canola-based oil, making our all-natural schnitzel quite healthy,” he adds.

Wikipedia lists 41 different ways in which schnitzel is enjoyed all over the world. Michael actually knows over 200, but he offers seven standard flavor profiles in his restaurants: American, Mexican, French, Italian, Chinese, Indian, and German. A rotating monthly special features schnitzel from other countries such as Greece, Thailand and Jamaica.

Making schnitzel is not complicated. There are, however, some important factors that affect how crunchy your schnitzel will be. The crunch defines the schnitzel so understanding how to make a crunchy schnitzel will help you achieve the most satisfaction:

1. The thinner the chicken cutlet, the crunchier the schnitzel. By pounding out (and tenderizing) the chicken, the more breading per bite relative to meat, thus more “crunch.” Over flattening your cutlet will cause the flavor of the protein to be lost. While pounding out the chicken sounds like an easy task, it took several attempts before I had achieved the “perfect” technique.

2. The breading mix matters. A supremely crunchy schnitzel begins with panko breadcrumbs. 7 Hens uses a proprietary bread crumb/panko mixed with a secret ingredient which, they believe, creates the ultimate crispy texture.

3. There is an art to coating the cutlets. First they are dragged through seasoned flour, and then quickly dredged in an egg wash before lastly being coated in the magical breading mixture.

4. Proper frying is essential. Obviously, the longer frying time, the harder the crunch is. Color is the best indicator; you want a beautiful, dark golden brown schnitzel. Not yellow, not orange; Golden Brown. There is definitely a learning curve to cooking schnitzel; my inclination was to pull the schnitzel out of the oil before it was done. Patience is key.

5. There is a trick to cutting the schnitzel for your sandwich. The cutlets are not a uniform size or shape depending on the lobe of the chicken breast and how it was pounded. Look for the best way to cut the shape to achieve two equivalent halves. This ensures that you have equal amounts of meat on both sides of the sandwich. Once your bread with its sauces and toppings are ready, the cut pieces are placed in the sandwich cut-side facing inward.  The sandwich is rolled in paper before being cut in half to keep all the fillings inside.

6. Eat it while it is hot! Schnitzel loses its crispiness the cooler it gets. Besides, it looks and smells so good you will want to devour it immediately!

We had so much fun and learned quite a lot. Special thanks to Michael for being such a gracious host and for his sharing his expertise in making the perfect schnitzel. With his passion and skill, there is no doubt that schnitzel will gain its place in the hallowed halls of American foods.

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