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 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.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cook's Warehouse Annual Holiday Gift Reveal

There are few things better than a leisurely Sunday brunch especially when someone else is cooking! This was the case this morning when The Cook’s Warehouse hosted its fourth annual Blogger Breakfast or rather Brunch replete with Private Label Champagne from Sherlock's Wine Merchant!

We were treated to cooking demonstrations by Chef Adeline Borra is a French raised and trained chef with a wine and food heritage who is the founder of Atlanta-based Ma Cuisine by Adeline, a gourmet company and cuisine consultancy providing private dinners, catering for special parties, and hands-on cooking classes. Chef treated us to homemade Hummus, delicate Burgundian Gougeres, Quiche Lorraine with a seasonal salad, French Crepes filled with Peach-Rosemary Compote and Raspberry Panna Cotta. A Strawberry Basil soup was a sweet and tangy beginning to our morning and Chef shared her recipe with us:

2 pints strawberries, fresh or thawed
3 - 4 fresh basil leaves, torn
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Juice of 1 lemon

Macerate strawberries and basil leaves in sugar for several hours or overnight. Place strawberries, water and lemon juice in a blender or food processor and process until liquefied and smooth. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with basil leaves and a fresh strawberry slice. Chef Borra also suggests adding a bit of champagne for an elegant cocktail.

We all shared a champagne toast in celebration of The Cook’s Warehouse’s 20th Holiday Anniversary and in between cooking demos, owner, Mary Moore, presented her Top 20 Gifts for the 2014 Holiday Season:

  • Atlanta, Georgia & North Pole 100% Cotton Towels and Aprons by Cat Studio - $19.99 to $31.99 
  • Carry On In-Flight Cocktail Kit - $19.99
  • Spread THAT! or Scoop THAT! - $19.99 
  • Vinnebago Thermos (available in white or black) - $29.99
  • Wusthof 200th Anniversary 8-inch Chef’s Knife - Reg. $165 Sale $89.99
  • The Coravin 1000 Wine Access System - $299.99 
  • HOST Freeze Wine Glasses - $24.99 for set of 2
  • SiftStir & RSVP Chef's Duster by the Everyday Gourmet - $15.99 & $19.99
  • Joseph Joseph Garlic Rocker - $9.99 Black or Green; $14.99 Stainless 
  • BLENDTEC Blenders – $379.99 to $649.99
  • Lotus Grills (Compact & Portable) - $249.99 to $349.99
  • Beautiful Briny Sea Sugars (Mexican Chocolate, Beautiful Dreamer (French Rose), or Spicy Orange Chili) - $17.99 each
  • Darex Work Sharp Knife Sharpening System by Ken Onion- $129.99
  • Delonghi Magnifica XS - Reg. $2,900.00 Sale $1,499.99
  • MINIMAX by Big Green Egg® - $597.99
  • JK Adams Concave Cutting Boards - $36.99 to $86.99
  • Whiskey Wedge by Corkcicle - $14.99
  • Trudeau Laguiole 6-piece Steak Knife Set in box - $99.99
  • GarlicCone Garlic Peeler - $6.99
  • Plant Nanny - $9.99
After the wonderful meal, we had the opportunity to mingle with fellow bloggers as we meandered and shopped making sure to snag some of the hot items suggested by Mary for friends and family. We each received a goodie bag including a GarlicCone Garlic Peeler, a 1/4 –pound bag of Thrive Coffee, a gourmet candy cane from Hammond’s Candies along with other kitchen items. Thanks so much to The Cook’s Warehouse for their hospitality and generosity!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Red Sky Tapas Rainy Day Brunch

It takes a lot to get me out of the house on a rainy Sunday morning, but a brunch at Red Sky Tapas was just the incentive I needed to brave the stormy weather. The restaurant has recently updated their brunch menu and I couldn’t wait to see what dishes they were offering. I started with a Bottomless Bloody Mary; yes, it was THAT kind of day! The adult beverage was expertly made with a tomato juice mix that was neither too thick nor too thin with a good spice, and not too much ice. The fact that it was “bottomless” might present a problem….

While the dinner menu consists of tapas, the brunch menu is a more traditional individual one-entrée-per-person style even though we did decide to share the dishes that were presented for us to sample. First, we were tempted with bacon that had been candy-coated in sugar which was crispy, sweet, salty and smoky all at the same time – Yum!

The second dish to come to the table was a Blackened Ahi Tuna Salad with tuna that was seared yet still rare, served over mixed greens tossed with a pineapple soy vinaigrette, then topped with pico de gallo and a poached egg. The sushi-grade tuna was perfectly prepared and the salad was a wonderful counterpart. Plates of Lobster Cake Eggs Benedict followed the tuna. I was skeptical about the lobster cakes expecting breadcrumb-laden patties with a hint of lobster meat, but was very pleasantly surprised to find the cakes loaded with lumps of lobster and light on the breading. These were topped with an apricot buerre blanc which lended a delicate sweetness to the dish. Next came their version of the Southern classic, Cajun Shrimp and Grits.  This was indeed an impressive dish: large tender shrimp dotted with tomatoes, roasted red peppers, jalapeños and cilantro atop creamy coarsely grounded grits with just the right amount of Cajun seasoning – Nirvana.

I was again skeptical when a plate of  “Buffalo Chicken and Waffles” arrived. A Belgian style waffle topped with fried chicken tenders tossed in a spicy honey glaze did not sound like my cup of tea. This dish certainly sparked the most commentary. This prompted Chef Brian Kennington to join the conversation as he described the thought process behind the dish. He explained that he worked diligently to concoct the definitive sauce for the chicken that would both complement and contrast with the sweet waffle.

The chef went on to explain his goal of introducing new and unexpected ingredients into traditional dishes. Two other examples of this are his Biscuits topped with Parmesan Gravy and his Jerk Chicken Tacos.  The Parmesan gravy is nothing short of genius and tied with the shrimp and grits as my favorite of the chef’s creations. The jerk chicken soft tacos with goat cheese and mango salsa were well composed and certainly an unpredicted flavor profile. Last, but certainly not least, were heaping bowls of Sweet Potato Hash with cubes of crispy roasted sweet potatoes with a generous spicy kick; another unexpected surprise!

Co-owner Terry Kirby came out to the table to share his thoughts on the menu and the restaurant’s focus on customer service. “We want our customers to feel at home here,” he said sweeping an arm in the direction of the open dining area and well-lighted bar. In addition to their tempting Sunday Brunch menu, Red Sky which is located in Marietta at 1255 Johnson Ferry Road, now offers an expanded lunch menu and plays host to “Dueling Pianos” each Friday and Saturday evening. When you go, don’t miss the shrimp and grits. Seriously.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

SUDIA & Chef Caitlin Present Low-Lactose Black Bean Soup

Over indulging during the holiday season is incredibly easy to do. Cheesy appetizers, creamy sauces, and let’s not forget the ice cream for dessert! Whether it’s a cold glass of milk, creamy yogurt or melty-gooey cheese, dairy foods are hard to resist and offer a powerful nutritional punch. Yet, all those dairy foods, while extraordinarily delicious, can be hard to digest even for those who are not lactose intolerant. Different people can handle different amounts of lactose, and there’s a solution to meet most needs in the dairy case – from lactose-free milk to dairy foods that are typically easier to digest.

We recently had the opportunity to learn more about lactose-intolerance and ways to reduce lactose intake at a Low-Lactose Creations Dinner with Chef Caitlin Steininger hosted by The Southeast Dairy Association, the National Dairy Council and Cabot Cheese. The Southeast United Dairy Industry Association, Inc. (SUDIA), who works with schools, health professionals, retailers, dairy processors and the public to promote dairy foods, has teamed up with Caitlin Steininger, a trained chef and food personality with a unique and inspiring approach to food, to create a one-of-a-kind “pop-up restaurant” featuring nine original low-lactose appetizers, main courses and desserts to promote LI-friendly dishes using real dairy products. It is important for those with LI to include small amounts of lactose in their diets to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Fermented dairy products are made using healthy bacteria to convert some or all of the lactose in milk into lactic acid. As a result, these dairy products are lower in lactose than fresh milk. These fermented dairy products include yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, crème fraîche, and marscapone. Hard cheeses, too, are made only from milk protein and thus contain little or no lactose sugar.

The dinner, held in the beautiful loft-inspired kitchen known as The Third Space, started with the passing of trays of cheddar puffs with tomato jam and Parmesan shortbreads with fig jam. Chef Caitlin then demonstrated how to make her Black Bean Soup made with Greek yogurt and garnished with popcorn (recipe follows). A salad of peaches and green salad with toasted cumin dressing followed. We then sampled two main dishes: Roasted Chicken served atop of Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Arugula Pesto with aged cheese and Cheddar Grits Cakes with Shredded Beef And Red Eye Gravy using aged cheeses. A 3-course dessert round completed our evening with Chocolate Yogurt Cupcakes topped with Orange Marscapone Icing, Georgia Peach Preserve Sundaes, and Oatmeal cookies with homemade Horchata. And, if that wasn’t enough to convince us how amazing a low-lactose diet can truly be, Chef Caitlin made lactose-free hot chocolate and eggnog for the road!

The creamy Blender Black Bean Soup is incredibly easy to make and makes a delicious vegetarian, low-lactose dish:

2 15-oz. cans reduced-sodium black beans
½ cup Greek yogurt, plain
3/4 cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne
Juice of 1 lime
2 cups popcorn, air popped, no butter
Kosher salt

Drain the black beans and add them along with yogurt, broth, spices and lime juice to the blender. Blend all the ingredients together until smooth.

Heat the black bean puree on the stovetop or in the microwave to the desired temperature. Serve the soup garnished with a handful of popcorn and one last squeeze of fresh lime on top to serve. This soup makes a wonderful appetizer served in shot glasses and again garnished with popcorn or freshly chopped cilantro.

Special thanks to the Cooking with Caitlin team and the wonderful folks from SUDIA for a lovely evening of learning and food!

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