Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Baked Avocado Fries with Spicy Yogurt Sauce


I don't know why but I've been dreaming about avocado fries a lot lately. Never had them before today, but been seriously wanting to make them. And yes, they are good, especially with a spicy yogurt dip. Could be an easy appetizer....or in my case they were dinner. 
I couldn't eat more than three though....quite rich. 
Good heart-healthy fats though and loaded with fiber and nutrients! More potassium than banana too.

I love avocado pretty much any way I can get it. In salads, guacamole and chips, on sammies, mixed in breakfast egg wraps, sushi rolls, spread for an avocado toast with toasted sesame seeds, pureed for healthier chocolate mousse, with tuna tartare, and just straight up plain.
These fries would even be good smashed into a sandwich with a hearty whole grain bread, lettuce, tomato, spicy sauce, and maybe some pickled onion.

These are easy to make and if you want to go vegan with them, you can substitute aqua faba (chickpea liquid) in place of the egg during the breading process. 
I think they would be tasty with a honey mustard or lime cilantro type of sauce as well. 
Tip: use avocados that are ripe but still a bit firm. If they are mushy, you'll have a tough time slicing them into wedges without them falling apart.

Baked Avocado Fries with Spicy Yogurt Sauce
Serves 2-4

Two Hass avocados, ripe but slightly firm {I used 1 1/2 avocados}
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Few pinches of cayenne pepper
Two eggs

Sauce:
Small container of plain Greek yogurt
Sriracha, to taste
Salt and pepper
Dijon mustard or Dijonnaise, to taste

Preheat oven to 425F.
Place a cooling rack on top of a half sheet pan and set aside.
Mix together the panko, some salt and pepper, smoked paprika, and cayenne in small bowl. In another small bowl, whisk the eggs together. 
Cut your avocados in half lengthwise and twist to open. Remove the pit with your knife. Holding a half in your palm, gently make three cuts to make three wedges {don't cut through the skin}. Using a spoon, gently scoop out each wedge and place on a plate. Repeat with other avocado halves.
Dip each wedge into the eggs and then gently coat with panko crumbs all over. {It helps to use one hand for the egg and the other hand for the crumbs.} Place wedge onto cooling rack. Repeat with the rest of the wedges.
Place baking pan into the oven and cook for about 20 minutes or until golden, rotating the pan halfway through.
While fries cook, make your sauce by mixing the yogurt with some sriracha and mustard to taste. Season with salt and pepper.
Enjoy.


 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Scrumptious New Fall Menu at Twelve Eighty


I had a "triple delight" kind of evening the other night dining at Twelve Eighty Restaurant in Atlanta.
First, I got to hang with a fun bunch of food bloggers and meet some new ones! Second, my husband Jay tagged along and took some awesome photos for me {he's the best!}. And third, we got to preview delicious food from Twelve Eighty's new fall menu. 
Win, win, win!


I've walked by Twelve Eighty and peeked in the windows many times, after visiting the High Museum of Art. It is situated right there, in the center of the Woodruff Arts Center and is such a pretty, sleek-looking spot. I was thrilled to get an invite to try out their new fall menu and even happier when I realized that my friend and incredible chef Andreas Georgakopoulos is the new Chef de Cuisine there. 


Our group was warmly greeted and seated in the bar. Chef Andreas and Executive Chef John C. Metz came out early on to welcome us and introduce their new fall menu offerings. Knowing Andreas, I expected that the food would be impressive. What I didn't expect was that we got to sample several cocktails from the menu. Woo hoo! After quite the arduous drive to get into Atlanta from my hood, I was ready for refreshment! They did not disappoint....creative, pretty and tasty libations! My favorite was the Strawberry Caipirinha......doesn't it look so good?


Strawberry Caipirinha - Cachaca, Strawberries, Lime


It's kinda funny to see a group of food bloggers together in a restaurant. Everyone is up and down, out of their seats, turning and re-positioning plates to try and get the best food shots they can. 
I imagine that other diners see us and scratch their heads a lot. 
We probably look dorky. 
I'm cool with that. 
I like taking pictures of food. We eat with our eyes first right? If my food picture gets someone hungry and jazzed to try a new restaurant, then I don't mind looking like a dork. 

We tried a lot of dishes and I tried to only take a few bites of each. Good luck with that effort right? Everything was full of gooey, crunchy, savory, sweet, and luxurious flavor. Not licking my plate was a challenge!
Here are a few of the dishes we enjoyed:

Roasted Beet Panzanella Salad with Red & Golden Beets, Brioche Toast, Crushed Burrata, Sweet Onion, Baby Arugula, Caper Berry, and Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette

Ahi Tuna Poke - Hawaiian Style with Avocado, Teriyaki, and Crispy Wontons
"Orchestrated" Fried Green Tomato Napoleon with Old Bay Shrimp, Crispy Green Tomato, Crumbling Goat Cheese, and Spicy Pickled Remoulade
Pastrami Spring Rolls with House-cured Pastrami, Swiss Cheese, Oyster Mushroom, Pickled Red Cabbage Slaw, and Spicy Green Peppercorn Aioli

Seared Jumbo Sea Scallop and Shrimp, Jalapeno and White Cheddar Logan Turnpike Stone Ground Grits, Sauteed Peppers, and Oven Roasted Tomato Beurre Blanc

Monday, October 31, 2016

Hired Guns Dinner at Gunshow with Chef Vivian Howard!


Food is memorable when it wows your taste buds. When you eat it and you immediately smile, because all the flavors work together like a symphony. And it's even more special when the food is creatively and beautifully plated. Just had this experience last week.
Jay and I just celebrated our anniversary and we treated ourselves to a night out at Kevin Gillespie's Atlanta restaurant, Gunshow. We had been wanting to try it for a while and then we noticed that Vivian Howard was coming as a guest chef for his Hired Guns series! Woo hoo.... super excited to see her collaborate with Kevin!

I have been a fan of Chef Howard since I first watched her television series on PBS, A Chef's Life. The show captivated me from the first episode and I never miss it. It is such an interesting depiction of what it's like to be a female chef/wife/mother and to run your own restaurant in a small southern town, and deal with all the challenges that naturally come with that. I love how Vivian focuses on one ingredient in each episode and tells the story of the farmer who grows and provides that ingredient to her and the community. Then we see her work some culinary magic with it in her own kitchen. There is such a sincerity and a realness to the show and I appreciate Vivian and PBS for producing such a quality program. Her restaurant is Chef & the Farmer and located in Kinston, North Carolina. She also owns The Boiler Room, an oyster bar in Kinston.


Vivian's first cookbook just came out, Deep Run Roots, and I am looking forward to getting my copy. I imagine her book tour is part of the reason she made it down to Atlanta for this Hired Guns event....lucky for us!

So let's talk about Gunshow. I have heard lots of buzz about the restaurant because it has such a unique concept. It is similar to a dim sum restaurant, in that, dishes are rolled through the dining room on carts. You choose what appeals to you and it is all a la carte. The restaurant is really one big room with an open kitchen where you can see the action happening. Fun!
The Hired Guns series of events at Gunshow involves a special guest chef coming to collaborate and show off their style and flavors in dishes, alongside items off the regular Gunshow menu. They mingle with diners and share their personal stories.


What would we be eating? We had no idea. We didn't know the menu until we sat down. It ended up being 10 courses, with two courses from Vivian and one from Kevin. It was very cool to see Vivian and Kevin in his kitchen, working side by side, along with the restaurant's Executive Chef Joey Ward and other talented culinarians. 
A cocktail cart comes strolling by to tempt you with libations {like the "Cierto Verde" above with Mezcal, Carpano, Lime, Ibarra, Falernum, Balsamic, and Salted Basil} or you can order other drinks from the kitchen bar. Jay enjoyed his "Delta Dram" with Pecan Vodka, Coconut Vermouth, Cynar, Spiced Pear, and Orange. Both were so good. Jay said his drink tasted like "Christmas."



Generally you sit at long tables with other diners at Gunshow. We did and as some folks nearby were seated earlier than we were, we sort of got to peep the dishes coming before we got them.
One thing is for sure...presentation is done beautifully and thoughtfully here. 
Ten courses {that Jay and I shared} is a lot of food. After about seven course, I was pretty full - but it was such a varied mix of items and we wanted to taste everything. I had my favorites for sure and I'll tell you the ones I enjoyed the most in just a minute.....

Here was our menu:

  • Down East Shrimp and Catfish Stew {Vivian's}
  • Charred Chicories, Persimmon, Pecan, and Pecorino {Vivian's}
  • Nagaland Style Pork Fritter, Coconut Collards, Ghost Pepper Chutney {Kevin's}
  • Raw Diver Scallop, Green Apple, Wasabi, White Truffle
  • Duck Pate en Croute, Foie Gras, Pistachio, Duck Fat Aioli, Caramel
  • Riverview Farm Pork Belly, Rutabaga, Cheddar, Chestnut, Pear
  • Sunburst Farm Trout, Lentils, Squash, Cauliflower, Peanut, Berbere
  • Pan Seared Fois Gras, Churros, Chocolate, Apple, Almonds
  • Local Radishes, Butter, Pine Nut Cream, Dill
  • Spiced Pumpkin Ganache, Acorn Cake, Malted Milk, Yogurt
And here are the visuals...try not to drool!

Down East Shrimp and Catfish Stew
Charred Chicories, Persimmon, Pecan, Pecorino
Pork Fritter, Coconut Collards, Ghost Pepper Chutney

Raw Diver Scallop, Green Apple, Wasabi, White Truffle


Duck Pate en Croute, Foie Gras, Pistachio, Duck Fat Aioli, Caramel

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 occasionally...you 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 + Lobster.....it 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}.

Cheers!

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 recipe....so 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

Filling:
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}

Topping:
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 too....man 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.