Sunday, February 1, 2015

Kentucky Beer Cheese Revelation

Most folks don’t think of food when they think of the Wall Street Journal, even though the publication has the largest print circulation in the nation. The “Off Duty” section of their Saturday edition, is the one portion of the paper that we rarely miss.

So when Keith Pandolfi espoused the virtues of beer cheese, lamenting limited access to this traditional Kentucky snack in last Saturday’s WSJ, we took notice. His article noted that beer cheese, the “sharp, spicy, altogether perfect pairing for pretzels, crackers and, of course, beer,” has been around since Joe Allman created the concoction for his brother Johnnie to serve at his Boonesboroug, Kentucky restaurant, The Driftwood Inn, in the late 1930s.

This did indeed seem to be the perfect grub for an afternoon of Superbowl pre-game festivities. I nice spin on other tailgate classics like queso or pimento cheese. We followed the recipe recommended by Pandolfi which he credits to a friend, Rose Maginnis.
Homemade Beer Cheese
1 (12-ounce) bottle lager-style beer, flat
1½ pounds sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
¼ small onion, thinly sliced
1-2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 peeled cloves garlic

Open the beer 24 hours prior to making this recipe to prevent it from foaming up in the food processor.

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Purée until well combined and very smooth. Add kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and more Tabasco to taste, and pulse to incorporate. Serve with pretzels, crackers or chopped vegetables.

The resulting dip was not quite what we had expected. It was thin and well, juicy. We added some more cheese, but it still was not a consistency that appealed to us. So we popped it in the microwave to warm it up a bit. Even heated slightly, it just wasn’t quite right. We then decided to heat it completely. Much better, now it was more like cheddar fondue in which we dipped our pretzels.

I should tell you, however, that about a third of the way through the bowl, Dom asked if I would whip together some dijon mustard and horseradish. Old habits are hard to break. These are the tastes of our youth, of home and hearth; the ones we crave on Superbowl Sunday.

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.



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