Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Nut Butters from Georgia Grinders - Inspiring Amazing Recipes!

First off, I should said hello. Hi, it's me. Remember me? I've been away for a short while. But I'm back. 
Jay and I moved into our new home about a month ago and it's been quite an adventure settling in, unpacking, and finding my way back to the kitchen and a little sanity. 
I didn't realize how much Jay likes to organize things until we moved into this house...he's like the ninja organizer. After looking for my kitchen utensils repeatedly, he finally had to walk me through the kitchen and give me a tour of his layout. And it actually all makes sense. This also explains why he is a much better dishwasher loader than me. And you should see the layout he has in the garage....unreal!
I'm still finding my way around.

Getting an invitation to attend a food blogger dinner with Georgia Grinders was the perfect excuse to reacquaint myself with some fun recipe development. All the bloggers were invited to pick out two of Georgia Grinders nut butters, create some tasty dishes, and bring them to share at the dinner. What a cool concept to bring food-lovers together.

Jaime Foster left the corporate world in 2012 to start Georgia Grinders. She wanted to start a food business with a high-quality product that would express her passion for a healthy lifestyle and she began making almond butter in small batches based on her grandfather's recipe from the '70's. 
Based out of Atlanta, the family company has continued to thrive and grow and create delicious new products. They have a wide variety, including several NaturAlmond almond butters and almond flour, peanut butters, cashew butters, and pecan butters. They recently released three powdered peanut butters as well - oh hello breakfast smoothie!
With flavors like Maple Caramel Almond Butter and Cinnamon Vanilla Pecan Peanut Nut Butter how can anyone resist? 
I can't...I eat it right out of the jar. 
High quality, natural and non-GMO ingredients....just some straightforward goodness.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Lunch at Atlanta's King + Duke

Hello. It's me. The birthday girl.
Yep, I just had my birthday and wanted to go somewhere new in Atlanta to celebrate. 
Ford Fry's restaurants are always good, so I decided to check out King + Duke for the first time. The restaurant is located in the heart of Buckhead and is focused on seasonal, sustainable, and smoky goodness. With their 24-foot open hearth taking center stage, cooking "over fire" is what it's all about. And I'm not complaining.

I don't usually order up cocktails during lunchtime, but a girl has gotta let her hair down with me???
No better excuse than a birthday and being thirsty.
Although they had some good-looking libations on the menu with fun names like "Little Speck in Garnered Fruit, Passport to Danger, and A Rose for Emily" - I asked the bartender to create one for me with my favorite....smoky mezcal. That's a Leo for you!
Honestly, I don't remember all of what he put in it, but it was perfect.

I really like the atmosphere of this place. Big windows, lots of light, very cozy seating, unique art, modern, dark wood, cool serving/dish ware. We arrived early for lunch and it was pretty quiet. Within a matter of 10-15 minutes, the dining room was full and had a decent whir of chatter, laughter, and busy servers. It never got too loud though, which was kind of lovely. I like to be able to have a conversation when dining out.

We started with Deviled Eggs with pickled vegetables and herbs. Presentation was really nice. Jay and I could probably eat deviled eggs daily...we like them so very much. These were some of the best.

For our mains, I ordered the Crab Sandwich with avocado aioli, bibb lettuce and "dilly" chips {crunchy little potato chips with dill}. Jay went for the Filet of Fish Sandwich with delicious crispy cod, American cheese, tartar sauce, and dilly chips. 
Both were really good, but I will admit that I liked Jay's just a little bit better. It was the smoky flavor of the cod that caught us both by surprise and left us smiling and licking our lips. The bread on both was soft and tasty.
I watched other diner's dishes coming out of the kitchen and everything looked great. I've got to come back for the Avocado Toast + looked amazing!

Dessert is always a tough call for me. Being a baker and having worked in pastry...I am a pretty discriminating about it. Generally, I am all about contrasts with dessert, creamy and crunchy, hot and cold.
Dessert was pretty good. Not mind-blowing but good. We got the Chocolate Swiss Roll with Heath, cookie crumble ice cream, and fudge. And a candle {sweet}.
Next time I'd love to sample the Sticky Toffee Pudding, that was my second choice.

Here's to all the August birthdays out there! If you are celebrating this month, let me know what you did. And did you stretch it out to last the entire month? 
Oh, by the way. We are moving to our new house this week.
Happy Birthday to us big time! {Jay's a Leo too}.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Shepherd's Pie - Spiralized Comfort

The last few months have been stressful. Jay and I have been trying to buy a house and many days it has felt like an uphill battle. One offer after another biting the dust because of multiple bidders. 
Who knew it would be such a challenge? We've both lost sleep and learned a lot of lessons along the way....including when to walk away from each other to take a break and when to soothe and encourage.
And we've needed some extra comfort at the end of many days.

Presenting a very comforting and tasty supper {and one of Jay's favorite dishes}.....Shepherd's Pie. This one is made using my handy spiralizer, which is a fun kitchen gadget used for slicing vegetables and fruits into noodles and ribbons. There were quite a few ingredients to push through the spiralizer for this let's just say I got a bit of a workout from start to finish. 

My friend Samantha gave me this spiralizer last year and it has been a treat to use. I like the Paderno brand - it's sturdy, easy to use and simple to clean. And P.S. - Paderno has a lot of recipes on their website - check them out here!

My husband's favorite use for it is shredding potatoes for his favorite breakfast hash browns {honestly, I kinda like my hash browns in chunks rather than shreds....but let's just keep that our little-happy-marriage secret}.
Hey if you have a spiralizer, I'd love to hear from you. What's your favorite thing to make with it? 

I bought a spiralizing cook book recently so I would be inspired to use my spiralizer more frequently and make sure it doesn't land in the closet of forgotten appliances. This is my first recipe from the book and I think it was a winner. Jay was a happy guy and that makes me very happy. It's great to feed those you love, in good times and in challenging times, right?

By the way - we FOUND a house! We are finally in a contract and should close at the end of the month. So the story has a happy ending {fingers and toes still crossed for a few more weeks}. Hallelujah....whoop, whoop!! 

Shepherd's Pie with Crispy Topping
Adapted from Spiralize Now!

Serves 4

1 yellow onion, ends trimmed
2 carrots, peeled, ends trimmed 
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup hot beef broth
1 Tablespoon tomato puree
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon dried herb mix {I used an Italian blend variety}

2 parsnips, peeled and ends trimmed
2 large russet potatoes, peeled, ends trimmed
4 1/2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

Fit the spiralizer with the 3mm spaghetti blade. Spiralize the onion and carrots, keep them separate.
Place olive oil into a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the ground beef and onions into skileet and cook for about five minutes or until browned. Add the carrots and sprinkle the flour over the mixture. Cook for one minute, stirring occasionally, then add beef broth, tomato puree, soy sauce, and dried herbs. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer, partially covered, for about 15 minutes.

While meat mixture cooks, preheat oven to 350F.

Make the topping: Using the same spiralizer blade, spiralize the parsnips and potatoes. Place them into a pot of boiling water {I did it in two batches} and cook 2-3 minutes, just till tender. Drain and cool slightly. Place in a large bowl and stir in the cheddar cheese.

Transfer the meat mixture to a greased 8x8 square casserole dish {6 cups} and top with the potato mixture. Bake for about 20-25 minutes till browned and bubbly. Dive in!

Friday, July 8, 2016

My Favorite Cornmeal Waffles with Verdant Kitchen Ginger Infused Honey

It's hard to believe I haven't thought to share this recipe before. It's my favorite, leisurely morning breakfast. I first sat down to these tasty cornmeal waffles a few years back visiting my mom in Florida. I love breakfast and when I go visit my mom....she makes sure to whip up something special. Not sure where she discovered this recipe, but it is a hands-down winner. The cornmeal makes the waffles crispy-good and if you add fresh corn kernels to the batter, they are even more delicious.

I keep this recipe on my fridge and make it at least twice a month for weekend breakfasts. There's something kind of magical about getting just the right amount of batter into the waffle maker, closing it, and then pulling out these golden brown lovelies seven minutes later. 
The other day, we tried them with scrumptious Ginger Infused Honey from Verdant Kitchen on top. Some blueberries, mango, and juicy plums oh man, so darn good.

If you aren't familiar with Verdant Kitchen...let me introduce you. They are a Georgia specialty food company and produce farm-to-table ginger and turmeric-infused products. Their organic crops are grown on Lebanon Plantation in Savannah, GA and they have a processing plant in Atlanta. What an interesting range of items they have....from "artillery hot-spiced" ginger ale to "Savannah snaps" gingersnaps, turmeric-infused honey, ginger syrup, candied ginger pecans, and much more. Verdant Kitchen's goods are found at local Atlanta farmers markets, specialty stores and on-line. See all their products here

I love ginger and turmeric, so I'm a fan. It's very cool that these guys decided to start a local company to grow these rhizomes and then come up with wonderfully tasty ways to get them to the consumer.

Now here's the waffle recipe for you to try!

Mom's Cornmeal Waffles
Serves 4

1 cup all-purpose flour {sometimes I use half AP and half whole wheat}
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels {thawed}
Your favorite honey or maple syrup and fresh fruit

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and soda, sugar, and salt. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, and eggs. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Gently stir in corn kernels, if using. Set batter aside to rest for about 5 minutes.

Preheat your Belgian waffle maker. Spray inside of waffle maker with just a bit of pan spray. Stir the batter once and pour into the waffle maker. Let sit for 30 seconds and then close the lid. Cook for about seven minutes. Remove waffles and serve with your favorite syrup and fresh fruit.

Disclaimer: Although I received product samples to review from Verdant Kitchen, all opinions expressed and the recipe/recipe photos are uniquely mine.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Cherry Pie Bars

These bars. I feel I must warn you about them. Indulgent may not even cover it. They are it. 
Addictive and not for the faint of heart. Sugary, buttery, and full of juicy cherries. And a very easy way to get your pie fix with minimal effort.
I made these for 4th of July and happy to have a reason to pull out one of my favorite baking books for the recipe, The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook.
Everything I make from this cookbook is fantastic. Thanks to Cheryl and Griffith for the inspiration and sharing the goods. If you are heading to Savannah in the near future....I highly suggest you get over to the charming Back in the Day Bakery and grab something delicious {and pick up their cookbooks}!

Cherry Pie Bars 

From The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

 Makes 12 large {think I got 15}

Crust and Topping:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Fruit Filling:
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of sea salt
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
Two 16-oz packages frozen cherries, thawed and drained

Grease a 13x9 inch baking pan with butter. Line it with parchment paper, allowing the ends to hang over the sides of the pan a bit.
Preheat oven to 350F.

Make crust and topping: Place all dry ingredients into  a stand mixer bowl. Using the paddle mix on low speed briefly to blend. With mixer on low, add in the butter cubes a little at a time. Mix until the mixture looks crumbly and dry. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of this for the topping.
Press the remaining on the bottom of the pan evenly. Bake the crust for about 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool for at least 10 minutes.

Make the fruit filling: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the eggs and sour cream and whisk till smooth. Fold in the cherries gently.

Pour the filling evening over the crust. Sprinkle reserved topping all over evenly. Bake for 45-55 minutes until top is golden brown and bubbly.

Cool for an hour before cutting into squares.
*Would be lovely served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Artful Dining at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

Recently I was invited to a behind-the-scenes taste of the culinary creations at the Cobb Performing Arts Centre. It turned out to be such a special evening as I joined several local food bloggers from the Association of Food Bloggers and we were seated right in the centre's main kitchen with Executive Chef M.G. Farris. I've never been to the Cobb Performing Arts Centre, so I was really excited to get to see it up close and personal {we got a tour after dinner...woo hoo!}. And what fun it was to sit at the chef's table for all the evening's action.
Our hosts were incredibly gracious, including Food and Beverage Manager Ramin Djaved; Banquet Captain Joseph Abouem; Food and Beverage Director Kirsten Gleaves; and Marketing Manager Karen Caro. I felt like every little detail was carefully planned and gracefully executed.
Chef M.G. Farris and his right hand, amazing Banquet Chef Lillian Diaz were ready to dazzle us!

Our four-course spring dinner was paired with some excellent wines....thank you Kirsten! You can never go wrong starting off dinner with a glass of bubbly and I enjoyed the  Gloria Ferrer Sparkling wine served as we were seated and with our salad course...Petite Organic Lettuce Mix with Truffle Vinaigrette, Steamed Asparagus and Hollandaise Foam. Chef described that by using a foam instead of a traditional hollandaise you have less butter. It played off well with the tender greens and soy in the dressing. Really nice.

I had to smile when the wine for the second course came out. It was Nobilo Icon Sauvignon of my favorite Sauv blancs. In fact, I had a bottle waiting in my fridge that same night. Our second course was artfully plated and delicious....Steamed Black Bass with Orange and Cumin Braised Carrots and Quick Candied Lemon. I teased the chef that as much as I loved the fish, I could have eaten an entire plate of those amazing braised carrots and been perfectly content. So good. Maybe I was a rabbit in a former life??

Thursday, May 5, 2016

An Exquisite Dinner with Chez Montier and Leaning Ladder

I had the distinct pleasure last week to attend a fantastic spring media dinner at Leaning Ladder in downtown Woodstock, GA. Our featured chef for the evening, Juan Montier, of Chez Montier, blew me away with his culinary creations and generous personality {more about him in a moment!}.
Melissa Pelkey Hass, of The Front Porch Gourmet, was the ultimate hostess and event planner for our evening, and she sprinkled her own bit of magic wherever she went.
Chef Montier greeted us with his refreshing "Saketini" drink, garnished with lychee fruit and honey ginger balsamic vinegar, while Melissa gave us a tour of Leaning Ladder and their incredible array of flavored balsamic vinegars and olives oils. Wait till I tell you about some of the olive oil and vinegar pairings....little bursts of happiness in your mouth.

To say that Chef Montier is infectious is a bit of an understatement. He is like a big teddy bear wrapped around a tall glass of effervescent champagne. His cooking chops were evident throughout the evening, as he deftly took on the task of creating an upscale dinner incorporating Leaning Ladder's premium olive oils and vinegars {and even making items gluten-free for one of our bloggers}. And, well, he made us laugh and smile a lot throughout the evening, like we were old friends sharing a dinner in his home.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Caramel Cake

This is a cake for someone special. For yourself. For sharing with friends. For celebrating. For having a really bad day.
I made this last weekend for a birthday girl. She appreciates the divine nature of caramel as much as I do. One of my all time favorite flavors in the history of my pastry-loving life.

It's funny that I never made a caramel cake before. I think it might be because I always heard that making the icing was a beast and finicky...and you had to get the candy thermometer out....blah, blah, blah.
So, I decided I needed to make one anyways, damn all the rumors. 
I turned to a trusted source, America's Test Kitchen, for my recipe and away I went!

Happy news...this cake batter is really easy to make and comes out really moist {don't overbake it}. It stayed moist for days, which was delightful.
And the caramel icing? It was also very approachable and there is no candy thermometer required. Woo hoo! Sometimes caramel icings can set very quickly, making it a race to get the cake iced. Not this one. It was smooth, didn't set right away, and tastes.....ah, wonderfully deep and rich. And sweet.

Here's the recipe. Thank you America's Test Kitchen. Perfectly easy and divinely good.
If you like recipes that are sure to turn out right.....a subscription to ATK is well-worth it.

Easy Caramel Cake

from America's Test Kitchen

1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, c
ut into 12 pieces and softened
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

1. For the cake layers: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Whisk buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla in large measuring cup. With electric mixer on low speed, mix flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined. Beat in butter, 1 piece at a time, until only pea-sized pieces remain. Pour in half of buttermilk mixture and beat over medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Slowly add remaining buttermilk mixture to bowl and beat until incorporated, about 15 seconds.

2. Scrape equal amounts of batter into prepared pans and bake until golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks. Cool completely, at least 1 hour.

3. For the frosting: Heat 8 tablespoons butter, brown sugar, and salt in large saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear around perimeter of pan  4 to 8 minutes. Whisk in cream and cook until ring of bubbles reappears, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in vanilla.

4. Transfer hot frosting mixture to bowl and, with electric mixer on low speed, gradually mix in confectioners’ sugar until incorporated. Increase speed to medium and beat until frosting is pale brown and just warm, about 5 minutes. Add remaining butter, 1 piece at a time, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

5. To assemble: Place 1 cake round on serving platter. Spread ¾ cup frosting over cake, then top with second cake round. Spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake. Serve.