Monday, February 28, 2011

Simple, Perfect Indian Rice

   It may seem odd at first that I am writing a blog about rice.  Many people, especially Southern Americans, view rice as "that starch on the plate."  It is one of the main carbohydrate sides.  So yeah... it is that starch on the plate, but it can be so much more!  Americans tend to treat rice as the bed for something else and therefore skip over it when planning the flavors in their menu.  Boiled rice.  Yum.  Other cultures take a little more pride in the side because it is often the bulk of the meal.  So it may as well taste good!  The fragrent basmati rice served in Indian restaurants is my absolute favorite.

   Last week, when planning and shopping for the Indian meal, I stopped by Spice of Indian on Carothers in Cool Springs (Franklin, TN.)  While happily cruising the aisles, I started chatting with the owner.  He gave me advice on my main dishes.  As we were checking out, he asked if I was making all the food.
"How are you doing the rice?"
"Toasting it then boiling it?"
"Let ME tell you OUR 5-step process."
"THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!"
It was the best rice I had ever made!  This process is the most amazing thing I have learned so far in 2011.  I really hope you try this out.  It is not hard and it is so delicious.  Flavorful, yet still neutral enough to pair with just about anything (doesn't even have to be Indian.)  I'm a little confused as to what exactly the 5 distinct steps are.  I labeled what I think they are in the recipe, but don't worry about that too much.  Just follow these directions.
Indian Style Rice
2 Tbsp neutral flavored oil (canola, vegetable, etc.)
1/2 large onion, diced
1 tsp cuming seeds
1 C basmati rice
1 C (plus more) water
salt (1/8-1/4 tsp depending on your personal taste)

  (1) Rinse rice twice under cool water.  (First rinse: removes dirt, Second rinse: removes starch...... his words, not mine.)
   Heat oil in sauce pan over medium-high heat.  (2) Add onion and cumin seeds, fry until lightly golden.  (Stir constantly to avoid burning.)  It will take about 4 minutes.  (3) Add 1/2 C water.  Add rice.  Stir for 1 minute.  (4) Add another 1/2 C water and salt.  Cook 4-5 minutes.  Then add water so it is 1/4 inch over the rice.  (The key apparently is 1/4 inch water above rice for every cup of rice.  EX: 2 C rice=1/2 inch water.)
   (5) Bring to boil.  Cover.  Reduce to simmer.  Cook 20 minutes.
   TIP:  If rice is not done after 20 minutes and all the water is absorbed:  Lightly sprinkle with water, a tablespoon or so, and cook another 3-4 minutes.  This works for all kinds of rice.  (This is the owner's tip.  I tried it and it worked!)
   Serves 4

Friday, February 25, 2011

Coconut Ice

   Last night I catered a book club.  It was small, just four people.  Yeah, it was for my mom's best friend... But you have to start somewhere!  It was an Indian meal because they read....... actually, no clue.  I'll get back to you on that.  I was very excited about this dessert.  The meal itself was loaded with all sorts of different spices so I wanted to finish on a calm, cool, creamy note.  However, breaking out the ice cream machine and making a custard is too much for my schedule right now.  Not to mention that this is a absolute make ahead dessert.  I started mine the night before the dinner, but you could make this 2 or 3 days in advance.  This can be made in a bare essentials kitchen and still pack the punch of a fabulous frozen custard.  (Also, this is a totally vegan alternative to traditional ice cream!  If you care about that kind of thing.) 
Coconut Ice
1 C water
3/4 C white sugar
1/2 C vodka
1 tsp freshly grater ginger
3 C coconut milk (roughly 1 1/2 cans)*
dark chocolate (I used pomegranate dark chocolate.)

   To make simple syrup, heat sugar and water over med-high.  Stir occasionally until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a slight boil.  Remove from heat and cool. 
   Add vodka, ginger, and coconut milk to simple syrup.  Whisk together.  Pour into baking dish that has a lid or cover with foil.  Place in freezer.  Every hour, for the first couple hours, take a fork and scrape ice from sides of dish.  Later, scrape ice and fluff up dessert with fork so it does not freeze into a solid block.  (The vodka will help prevent this from happening.)
   Shave a little chocolate over the top for serving
   Serves 6.

*To get the correct texture, I suggest using a coconut milk that has at least 8g of fat per serving.  Stay away from the lite coconut milks that are very low in fat for this recipe.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Guest Blog Opportunity


   Germany dwelling readers.

   I know you are out there.

   Don't deny it.

   Who wants to do a guest blog about their favorite German bar scheduled for about two weeks from now???

   I knooooow you read, *cough* Ben *cough*...................................

   Leave a comment or email me at

PS..... on my version of Firefox, if you google image search "German people", you get pictures of naked blonde chicks and Hitler.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Smoked Rambol

   A few days ago, while vainly searching for smoked mozzarella at my local Publix, I came across this unassuming little cheese.
Smoked Rambol.  I had never heard of it, but there it was.  Nestled between the gouda and brie.  I could tell it was softer than smoked gouda so I bought it.  Wow!  It is incredibly delicious.  Creamy and mild with the perfect amount of natural smoke.  To give you a flavor reference it is like smoked mozzarella had a baby with brie.  Essentially, it is the French answer to smoked cheeses.

   Krista had requested the cheese stuffed meatballs for her house warming.  I was all too happy to make them.  Especially after I found this cheese.  Personally, I think this is the best option for this recipe after trying it.  Gouda is good, don't get me wrong.  Also a little cheaper and probably easier to find.  However, if you can find smoked rambol, definitely give it a try in the meatballs.
Cheese Stuffed Meatballs in Sundried Tomato Viniagrette

  Rambol would probably bake just as beautifully as brie.  I will be sure to try that out for you guys.  But until that happens, here is another great use for it!  Grilled sandwiches and paninis.  I just ate one for lunch, and oh my god.  It may be my new favorite sandwich.

"Italy Meet France" Grilled Sandwich 
(Amounts needed will vary on personal taste and number of sandwiches being made.)
1/2 inch slices of Italian bread
cooked hot Italian turkey sausage
thin slices of smoked rambol
fresh basil
baby spinach
stone ground mustard
light mayo
butter (optional)

   Spread one slice of bread with mayo, the other with mustard.  Add basil, sausage, and cheese.  Spread butter on outside of sandwich if grilling it.  (Don't use butter if making a panini.)  Grill on each side until bread is toasty and cheese is melted.  Open sandwich and add spinach.

Monday, February 21, 2011

It's Better Than A McGriddle

   I would like to preface this post with the disclaimer that I have never had a McGriddle.  Also, I am starting this as I come down from my Sunday night drunk courtesy Krista and Haley.  (Happy House Warming!)  I do not intend to edit what I write in this limbo of alcohol.

   I learned several things last night/this morning.  Firstly, I do not think I will ever learn the rules to Egyptian Slap Screw.... Rat Screw?  (That is not a political statement.)  Also, only a of couple drinks is enough to completely dissolve comprehensional differences between Marvel and Capcom.  Batman is my only real true love in the comic world so it's not like anything else is of much consequence anyway... unless "Rage" was a real comic (Queer as Folk, anyone?)  Most importantly, if your hot friend has a blog topic idea..... GO WITH IT!!!!

   And now we arrive at the food.  Crazy story of how we get here, but it is a good one if you have an afternoon to spend chatting at a coffee shop about ridiculous, vapid shit.  My friend Andrew supplied a blog title..... Sarina and I ran with it! Ninety minutes later we had planned, shopped, and cooked our very own version of the McGriddle!  (To the shock of the entire party, I suppose.  But, hey... that is what I do.)  I really had NO idea how this was going to turn out.  But I think it went over pretty well, based on the scarfing.  (End drunken transcript.)

   Good job... I feel that drunk me may be more eloquent than regular me.  Oh well, whatevs.  This little thing was tasty though.  It was interesting cooking with a range I had never used before, I burned one pancake because 7 on this stove is not the same as 7 on my stove.  That's alright.  It was a very sparse kitchen to say the least... no decent knife, no cutting board.  I attempted to cut prosciutto with a dull pizza wheel.  Craziness all night long.  This recipe sounds really weird.  But a McGriddle is really weird.  This was actually delicious and I will make it again.
Photo by DrunkHeather, haha!  Still... better than some people can pull out.

Better Than McGriddle
2 C Bisquick Mix (Heart Smart preferred)
1 1/4 C buttermilk
1 egg
zest of one lemon
8 large eggs
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/3 C shredded muenster cheese
4 (or more) slices of prosciutto
1/4 C honey
1/4 tsp chili powder
pinch of crushed red pepper flake
butter or oil (amount will vary)

   Lay prosciutto out on a baking sheet and place in a 375 deg F oven for 10-15 min until crisp.
   Combine honey, chili powder, and red pepper flakes.
   Combine ingredients for pancakes.  Cook over medium heat in oil or butter until little bubbles form on the surface.  Flip and cook on the other side until golden brown.  This may be done as large pancakes cut into wedges or as individuals.  If you do large pancakes, the batter will make three ~10 inch pancakes; you can get 6 decent wedges from each.
   Beat eggs and Italian seasoning together.  Cook in butter or oil over medium heat.  You want a soft scramble, do not brown your eggs!  (If they are brown throw them away and start over.)  Just before the eggs are done, mix in cheese.
   Place eggs on pancake.  Break off a piece of crispy prosciutto to top the eggs with.  Drizzle honey over it.  (Heather stole basil off of another bite of food just for the picture.  We did not intend for it to be there.)
   18 hors d'oeurves servings.
Sometimes Thorny is a creeper. <3

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Affair

   I may be a happily married lady, but I have my affairs.  Everyone needs a fling.  This particular whim-of-a-weekend turned into a loving, passionate relationship that has been going strong for two and a half years now.  Smooth, black, and 5 inches of steel!  *Swoon*

   I am talking about my knife.

   My perfectly edged, elegant, curvaceous, ...expensive... knife.
 Just look at how clean those aspargus are sliced!

   I shelled out a healthy hunk of cash for this baby (roughly $120... god, I know....)  But it was worth every penny!  This is the Cutco 5 inch santoku knife.  It will do pretty much anything.  Breaking down a large watermelon is the only task it is not up to (but that doesn't mean I haven't done it.)  The heat resistant high density poly-resin handle is streamline and comfortable.  It is the perfect fit for my hand, reducing the nasty callous just below the ring finger side-effect.  The blade is a high carbon steel with full tang (meaning the metal runs the full length of the handle.)  Because Cutco knifemakers use smithing techniques perfected by the Japanese how ever many thousands of years ago, the steel is much more durable than regular steel and will hold an edge twice as long as any other knife I have used. 

   Cutco is a fantastic cutlery company.  I have a serrated knife that is at least as old I am and it is still the most amazing serrated knife ever.  As sharp as the day my mom got it.  (But that is another post for a later time.)  The only thing about Cutco is they are the door to door type sales company, and have been for over 60 years.  You can order over the phone or request a catalogue.  However, I don't really mind the door to door thing.  And it isn't really door to door... you have to set up an appointment with a rep.  The concept is more Oreck or Mary Kay or Sugar and Spice.  (Oh, yeah.... went there.)  It is nice to feel the weight and shape of these knives before you purchase because they are very different from what you can buy in stores.  This is a company that truly cares about its products and customers.  Clearly evident in the Forever Gaurantee.

   If you are tired of the cheap knives you buy at the grocery store and are ready to upgrade to an adult set of pointy stabby things, I strongly urge you to consider Cutco.  Yes, they are expensive, but they will literally last forever.  (Provided you take reasonably good care of them.)  Quality costs money.  And, once you buy an item from the company, register on the website to recieve exclusive offers on other products.  Often, they have bundle deals going on too, so be sure to check those out!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Frugal Tortellini

   My family has been making this dish for as long as I can remember.  I have no idea what the original recipe consisted of but I assume it is very close to this.  Creator (or at least the person who introduced it to us) was Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet.  He was a childhood staple of mine.  I didn't watch Saturday morning cartoons; I watched the cooking shows on PBS (and the Discovery Channel documentaries.  Side note:  I really miss the old school DC when all they showed was nature docs.)  However, his show was canceled in the last 90s because he allegedly liked to touch the teenage boys.  This is a really simple, fast, and easy meal that won't break the bank.  It can be whipped up spur of the moment from items that are easy to keep on hand.
Frugal Tortellini
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil 
1C chopped onions (half of a medium onion)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 (14 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (12 oz) pkg frozen green peas
1 lb cheese tortellini (frozen is best)
2-3 slices prosciutto
Parmesan cheese

   On a broiler pan, cook prosciutto at 375 deg F for 12-15 minutes, until crispy.
   Heat oil over medium heat.  Saute onions until tender.  Toss in garlic.  Cook for about 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes and peas.  (If using no salt added tomatoes add a little salt.)  Cook until peas have thawed, heated through, and liquid has reduced by half.  About 8 minutes.
   Cook tortellini according to package directions.  Toss with "sauce".  Serve with crispy prosciutto crumbled over the top and a little shaved parmesan.
   Serves 4.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Azteca Bread Pudding

   Still haven't decided on dessert for tomorrow evening?  (Tomorrow is Valentine's day if you didn't know.  I almost forgot.)  Valentine's Day to me has always been "my parent's wedding anniversary".  Now that I have the love of my life in my life (no, not Johnny Rzeznik, sadly), I like any excuse to do extra romantical things.  But seeing as the hubs is in Afghanistan, I'll be spending V-day with one of my battery operated friends a pile of fabric and pizza.  (I am on a very good roll with these costumes by the way.)  However, I hope you do something special!  If that something special is making dinner for your loved one, I highly recommend this unexpectedly sexy dessert.
 Heather, omg, I'm sorry this is so bright! The ladies I served this to were like hounds on meat.

Azteca Bread Pudding
1 8-10oz loaf of stale bakery bread (like a baguette)
3 eggs (large)
1 C  milk (any variety except skim)
1/2 C half and half
1/4 C brown sugar
1 1/3 dark chocolate chips
2 Tbsp butter
2 tsp cinnamon (I suggest roasted Siagon cinnamon)
1/8 tsp clove
1/8 tsp nutmeg
dash of cayenne (a scant 1/8 tsp)
dash of salt

   Cube bread into 1 inch pieces.  If it is not very stale, put the cubes in a 300 deg F oven for 7-9 minutes.
   Whisk together eggs and milk in a large bowl.  In a double boiler, melt 1 C of chocolate chips with butter and half and half.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.  Very slowly whisk chocolate into the egg mixture.  Add spices.  Fold in bread cubes and reserved 1/3 C dark chocolate chips.  Allow to soak for at least 1 1/2 hours.
   Pour into a greased 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish.
   Bake at 325 deg F for 45 minutes covered.  Bake another 15 minutes uncovered.
   8 servings.  (Caramel sauce or Dulce de Leche ice cream would be perfect with this!)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It's Not Just "Chicken or Steak?" Anymore

   We've talked about MY wedding reception.  Let's talk about yours.  I'm sure the dresses and suits, THE dress, the flowers, the favors, the DJ... I hope the man/woman... are all in place and good to go.  People often find it easier to focus on the look of the wedding as opposed the the feel.  Visual cues can go a long way in relaying your theme and mood you want to set for the evening.  But have you thought about the food?  I mean, seriously thought about it?  The menu is just as important as picking the right song for your first dance.  The food can say "upscale and sophisticated soiree" or "back yard pool party"; it truly is the finishing touch to a wedding.  Think of your menu as the perfect pair of earrings to complete an outfit.

   There is a terrible misconception that wedding food is bad food.  Not true.  Most wedding food is unmemorable food.  A bit of fluff that simply fills a time slot of the reception and puts a dent in empty stomachs that are gearing up for the dance floor.  You might as well serve Power Bars for fuel if you aren't going to put any thought into the food.  If you have a great caterer, your wedding will stand out in people's minds and set your special day apart from the rest.

   My lovely friend over at The Glamourist is getting married in a few months, and she requested that I go over some topics about picking out the perfect caterer for the perfect day.  I love that.  I had almost forgotten the ordeal I went through trying to find a caterer!  It took months of searching to find someone who would do a custom menu.  So here are some things to mull over privately before you venture out to procure your food vendor.

1.  Time of day.  I know that you have your time in place.  Morning or evening, you've made your choice.  Brunch weddings are much cheaper because the ingredients used for breakfast are often cheaper.  Eggs, cheese, and fruit?  Maybe a little smoked salmon and some bagels?  That is a lot less money than filet mignon and lobster.  What if you are having a mid-afternoon wedding?  Think about serving heavy hors d'oeurves instead of a full meal.  It keeps cost down and most people don't want to eat a lot of food at 4 or 5 pm.

2.  Seasonality?  Not all items are available year-round.  Produce is more limited in the winter and certain meats are best in spring.  You will save money if you stick with the food that is in season.  Also, think about it... do you really want to serve something like beef wellington in the middle of July or ceviche in January?  Go with your season!

3.  Plated meal or buffet?  A plated meal screams "fancy!"  However, they are significantly more expensive than a buffet because of the timing and wait staff that is involved.  Also, there is more room for error on the caterer's part.  If plating is not timed properly, the food may not be consistent in temperature.  Of course, for someone who knows what they are doing this isn't an issue, especially with smaller gatherings.  Buffets allow guests to have more control over their meal.  It is much easier to feed a very large group of people with a buffet.

4.   Custom or standard?  Most caterers you find have a set menu.  You pick two items out five from several categories.  That is fine and often they have decent prices, but where is the creativity?  When I see a standardized pick-and-choose menu that has no wiggle room, I see a business person who lacks passion.  If you know you want a BBQ reception or a steak and chicken meal, go with the standard menu.  My personal choice is custom all the way!  A good caterer will sit down and discuss the options with you.  (I was a little bossy with mine... I knew what I wanted, and I just told them to make it!)

5.  Do you have a righteous vegetarian friend?  Don't invite them.  Just kidding.  The vegetarians/vegans I know are very considerate of us meat eaters and wouldn't cause a scene or complain.  It never hurts to have a huge salad on the buffet and several side-dish options (by that I mean, don't offer only green beans or only potatoes) for those who aren't digging the main.  Go a little adventurous!  All your guests will thank you.  Our salad had tropical fruit like mango and kiwi mixed in.  The sides were black beans and rice, roasted vegetables, and baked plantains with cheese.    

6.  Just because you like it....  This is trying to consider everyone's food preferences here.  I love fish.  It had to be at my wedding.  However, I know many people don't like seafood so I made sure to have a second protein choice that was very different (we did roasted, pulled pork... Southern friendly with a Central American twist.)  Also, as much as I love things like tongue and goat, I would NEVER even consider serving such items to a large crowd of unassuming people (in America.)  It sounds like common sense, but you'd be surprised at the bat-shit crazies out there.

7.  Have a favorite restaraunt?  Ask if they will cater your event!  Many places will, all you have to do is ask.

8.  Caution!  Be wary of venues that require you to use their in-house caterer.  (Recipe for distaster.)  However, do ask your venue if there are recommended caterers that they have dealt with in the past.

Questions to Ask
1.  Do they have an ABC card?  Hiring a separate bartender can be pricey.
2.  Do you need to rent anything?  Plates, silverware, glasses, or extra large chafing dishes?
3.  How much will this cost?  Before you finalize a hire, get a quote!  It would be stupid not to.
4.  Cake discount?  If a caterer has a baker on staff (or some one equally as qualified to make you a fabulous 3 tiered confection), they will sometimes give you a really good deal if you order your cake though them as well.
5.  Are they familiar with your local?  Some venues have kitchens, some don't.  That makes a pretty big difference when it comes to planning and timing the meal.
6.  Can I get a sample?  The only way to know if the food is good is to try it!  Many places will set up a tasting menu for a small fee.
7.  Testimonies.  This isn't a question, I know.  Testimonies from previous clients are invaluable to gauge reliablity, consistency, honesty... all those character traits that are important.  Then after your experience, write a testimony.  Good or bad you are helping the public in their future decisions.

As a satisfied client of both cake and food from my wedding, I highly recommend both companies I used!
Cake:  Flour Girls

Friday, February 11, 2011

Triple Chili And Roasted Pork Tamales

Tamales.  Yuuum.  This was the first time I ever made them.  They were really good, but do have some kinks to work out.  That is my introduction.=D  (Warning, I got picture crazy.)
Triple Chili and Roasted Pork Tamales
4 oz dried corn husks
     Cover with water in a large pot.  Place a plate on top to weigh down the husks.  Bring water to boil.  Boil 10 min.  Turn heat off, cover with lid let stand 3 hours-overnight.

2 C masa harina
1 1/2 C fine ground grits
2 1/4 C hot water
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
     Combine dry indredients.  Add hot water.  Mix into a paste-like consistency.  Keep covered with a damp cloth while working so it does not dry out.

2.5-3 C shredded garlic roasted pork
1 large dried ancho chili
2 dried New Mexico chilies
(~1 C very hot water)
1 chipotle in adobo
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp pasted garlic
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp clove
1/8 tsp cayenne (optional)
     Remove stem and seeds from dried chilies.  In very hot water, soak ancho and New Mexico chilies until tender and pliable (about 30 minutes).  In a food processor (the immersion blender food processor attachment works just as well)  puree reconstituted chilies and chipotle with about 1 Tbsp of the chili water.  Add all other ingredients except pork.  Pulse food processor to mix.  Pour over pork and mix to evenly coat.

   1.  Take a large corn husk.  Spread a rounded Tbsp of dough into a 3x3 square on one edge of husk.  You will  need to use your fingers.
   2.  Add about 2 tsp of filling to center of dough.
   3.  Roll corn husk to bring edges of dough together, sealing in the filling. 
   4.  Fully roll up the corn husk and fold edges up and together.
   5.  Secure by tying a strip of corn husk around the wrapped tamale. 

Makes about 3 dozen.  (Freeze at this point, thaw completely before steaming.  Or refrigerate up to 1 week, then steam.)

Add about 2 inches of water to a large pot.  Place in steamer basket (water should not touch basket.)  Layer extra corn husks around steamer basket.  Add half of the tamales to basket.  Cover.  Bring water to a boil, turn down to med-low.  Allow to steam for 45 minutes if there are several layers of tamales.  Only 25 if there is a single layer.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Just so you know.... I love you. Really.

  As much as I want to blog every day, it is not possible at the moment.  This morning I was approved for my townhome in North Carolina and I have a shit-ton (that's metric) of costumes to make by the end of March/April.  I promise I will blog when I can, but between moving 700-ish miles and sewing like a crazy person it may be sparse for the next 6 weeks or so.  My goal is at least 2 blogs a week... two post about something.....  Just wanted to let you know I love you and I am not abandoning my blog in any way, shape or form!
Keep Eating Well and Cooking From Your Heart!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Garlic Roasted Pork Shoulder

   This is a really simple recipe that can be transformed into countless other recipes.  Pozole or other soups, BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, tacos, nacho or salad topper... I roasted my shoulder for use in tamales!  About a month ago, my mom had her book club meetings at our house.  For one, I made a Mexican meal.  We really wanted to make tamales.  It was the first time I had ever even attempted such a thing.  They turned out well, but it was an interesting experience to say the least.  They do need some tweaking to be perfect, but these were pretty damn tasty.  Once this season of the Tennessee Renassaince Festival is over, I will have time for a lot more in depth cooking.  However, I know many of you will like this, most of the upcoming recipes will be really fast and/or incredibly easy dishes!  (The ones that aren't fast are probably stock piled from last month.)
Garlic Roasted Pork Shoulder
1 5-lb pork shoulder
8 garlic cloves (large-ish)

   Trim excess fat off top of shoulder.  There should be a thin layer (about 1/4 inch) of fat, but most cuts will have about 3/4 inch fat cap. Cut garlic cloves into chunky slices (long ways, tip to root).  Make 1 1/2 inch deep incisions all around the pork (top, sides and bottom).  Stick garlic slices into incisions.  Liberally salt and pepper.
   Place on a roasting rack in a pan (lined with foil to make clean up easier.)
   325 deg F for 3-3 1/2 hours.  Until pork is tender and pulls apart easily.

Tomorrow... tamale recipe! 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bunganut Pig (Franklin)

   Sorry for the lapse!  My incredibly awesome weekend got in the way.  Starting Friday night, it was a whirlwind of excitement.  Sarina and I kicked off the weekend by going to see our friend Hannah (band: 10th Floor) perform at the Bunganut Pig in Franklin.  We had decided to dress up 80's, because..... well, why the hell not?  In full 80's glory, Sarina and I had dinner at Bombay Bistro before heading down to the Pig which is an little, practically underground, hole in the wall bar.  My parents use to take me and my brother there when we were little.  Why did they take their very young children to a bar?  I don't know.  But we loved it.  We thought we were fucking rock stars getting to eat in a place that you had to walk down stairs to get into.  (We were weird kids.)

   Obviously the first thing we did when we got there was order a drink.  We got Hog Wilds.  Some ultra girly fruity delicious thing of vodka, melon, pineapple, cranberry and 7Up.
   Under the shooter section there was something called the Red Headed Pig  that was Jager, Peach schnapps, and Cranberry.  It is usually called a Red Headed Slut.  I've had a red headed slut and I do not remember it tasting like this.  However, the person who made it for me was also very drunk... she sometimes just makes shit up with whatever is around when she is drinking.  It is actually very amusing but definitely hit and miss.  You never know what you will get.  But I digress.  Right, so that combo sounded both revolting and intriguing.  I couldn't resist and had to try it.  Surprisingly tasty.  The flavor was very holiday-ish for me.  Fruity cranberry with a hint of herbaly, spicy licorice.  The balance was just right which is the key with this.  I feel like all hell could go wrong with different proportions of the jager, peach, and cranberry.
I thought "shooter" meant shot... I think I was wrong.  Look at that thing!

   Many nights of the week, there is live music.  And if you love drunk middle-aged people as much as I do, you will have a blast at the  Bunganut Pig!  Also, if you see 10th Floor on any listings, go see them!  They are really good.
1143 Columbia Ave--Franklin, TN 37064


Friday, February 4, 2011

Double Mustard Dipping Sauce

   I had to wake up early today to take my cat to the vet and I have to wake up early tomorrow for TN Renaissance Festival auditions.  (I'm only costuming this year and will be there Memorial Day week as guest cast, but heeeell yeah!)  AND tonight, I know I am staying out late to see the lovely Ms. Hannah Phillips perform at the Bunganut Pig in Franklin!  (9 pm, if you wanna come!)  The point of that explanation is to tell you why this post is totally phoned in.

   Mustard.  Germanic and English.  No getting around that.  Had to be in Very Potter Menu.  I wanted a veg tray because we all need our veggies when drinking, so I made a double mustard dipping sauce for our vegetables.  Most people had the reaction, "Oh, this is spicy.... but it is good!"  It is not burn-off-your-taste-buds spicy.  It is horseradish spicy which is very different and it is not a building heat.  Very nice with a sweet carrot or tomato.  Also, fast, easy, and unexpected.  This would also be good with chunks of grilled meat for a party or just smeared over a roasted chicken breast for dinner

Double Mustard Dipping Sauce
1/4 C light mayonnaise
1/2 C plain yogurt (or light sour cream)
2 Tbsp stone ground mustard
2 tsp Colman's mustard (or other prepared English mustard)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
cracked black pepper
dash of salt (if needed)

   Mix everything together.
   Almost 1 C.  Enough for vegetable tray for 8-10 people.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Roasted Tomato Chutney

   More recipes from A Very Potter Birthday.  Oh, by the way.  If you don't understand the "Very Potter" references, which I am sure most of you do, go watch StarKid Productions' A Very Potter Musical and A Very Potter Sequel right now!  They are great way to spend your would-be-productive mornings.  Ok, roasted tomatoes had to be worked into the menu somehow.  This was my solution after Krista expressed her craving for an Italian tomato bruschetta.  (By the way Krista, you were Harry but you showed the blond half of your head in the picture.  WTF, man?  If Harry were a scene kid, maybe?)

Roasted Tomato Chutney on Toast
4-5 large vine ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 small onion, diced
2 medium cloves garlic
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp sea salt (a healthy 1/4 tsp...)
1/8 tsp cracked black pepper
1 baguette, sliced into 1/2 in slices
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 C white cheddar, shredded

   On a baking sheet, toss together tomatoes, onion, garlic cloves (still in skins), oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  Toss twice during cooking.
   Remove skins from garlic and paste.  Mix with roasted tomatoes.
   Spread a little butter on each slice of bread.  Put in 350 deg F oven for 4-5 minutes.  Top with tomato chutney and sprinkle a little cheese over each one.  Return to oven for 6-7 minutes, until cheese is melted.
   15-20 depending on the slices of bread.
*Planning a get together?  The chutney can be made two days in advance and then assembled/toasted right before the party.

You better believe we went out in public like this!  Yeah, we are THOSE people.
You can't really see my amazing black wig in this picture. However, this pic does accurately sum us up.  (This isn't quite everyone.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Super Awesome (Adult) Birthday Cake

   Last Monday (a week and a half ago), Rachel and I went to surprise Heather at lunch.  It was a lot of fun walking into Cracker Barrel with a giant 4 layer cake.  As soon as we walked in, people immediately began asking for slices.  Jokingly, of course, but little did they know we would actually offer them a piece!  There were only four of us at the table.  Did they really think 4 tiny to regular sized girls could devour that whole thing?  I didn't want to take any home, because that is just a hassle.

   When it came time to cut, we didn't even have to offer it to anyone.  Staff and patrons alike would casually sidle up to our table, cautiously asking about the cake, obviously wanting some.  A few of the staff members, once they caught wind of the free cake, would just stand there and grin stupidly.  I am always more than happy to give my food away.  I really wish I had business cards that day to pawn off on the eaters.  It only took us about 15 minutes to get rid of all the cake!

   I know that Heather isn't a huge fan of your traditional cakes.  Neither am I, so I tried to do something a little more creative than just a cake and frosting.  It is generally an interesting experience telling strangers what they are eating so that they are not shocked and disgusted when it enters their mouths.  I said, "salted chocolate cake with raspberry jam and whipped cream cheese cardamom frosting" more times than I can remember.  The expressions were priceless.  They ranged from, "Holy fuck, I'm about to eat something gooood!" to "What have I gotten myself into?"  The feedback was all positive though.  So, classy cake with awesome pink Gaga-bolts from crappy store bought "decorating" icing!  (Why do they make that stuff so difficult?  I can decorate a cake, I did it professionally for 2 years.  But the purchased stuff is junk.  Oh well.  The cake kicked ass.)
Dark and decadent!  The jam kind of melts into the cake.

For the Cake:
Salted Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Jam
Your favorite chocolate cake recipe (2 9-inch rounds)
1/2 C finely chopped dark chocolate
1 tsp sea salt
about 1 1/2 C good raspberry jam

   Add chocolate and salt into cake batter.  Lightly spray the cake pans.  Bake according to recipe directions.  Allow to cool completely.  Slice each round in half to get 4 rounds.
   Spread about 1/2 C of jam between layers of cake.
   Ice cake with whatever you like.
   12-16 servings, depending on how you slice it.

Cardamom Scented Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8-oz package light cream cheese, softened
3/4 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
2 C cream

   Beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar, and cardamom.
   Whip cream into stiff peaks.  Gently fold into cream cheese mixture.  Frost cake.
   (Enough for a cake made of 2 9-in rounds)
"Happy B-day Lil' Monster!"  She's a big Gaga fan.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Mince Meat" Pies

   Mince meat is delicious for those of you who have not eaten it.  However, the idea of it is scary to a vast majority of Americans.  Because of this, Christmas is the only time mince meat is available and those little jars don't hang around in the grocery store for very long.  My first intorduction to mince meat was in cookie form.  My aunt made them for Christmas one year and my cousins and I snatched them up before we even knew what the heck they were.  I knew it was fruit of some sort but I had no idea what kind.  Later I found out it was mince meat, was a little disgusted, then got over it.

   For Heather's Very Potter Birthday, I decided to make mince meat pies.  But not with real mince meat, I made up my own version using items that are readily available in my grocery store.  Actually, it is just mince meat inspired.  I didn't want to bother with pastry dough, so I used pizza dough.  Really, they are like sweet and savory hand-held sandwiches
"Mince Meat" Pies
1 recipe whole wheat maple dough (below)
1/4 C raisins
1/4 C chopped dates
1/4 C chopped figs
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/3 C rum or brandy (or stock)
1 lb lean ground beef
1 C diced onion
3/4 C diced carrot
2 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp garlic
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp hot paprika (optional)
1 bay leaf
1/4 C smokey BBQ sauce
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
oil, salt and pepper

   Combine dried fruits, cinnamon, nutmeg, and rum.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds.  Let stand for at least 10 minutes.
   Heat a little oil over med heat.  Saute onions and carrots until tender, 5 minutes.  Add ground beef and some salt and pepper.  Brown.  Add garlic, herbs, and worcestershire sauce.  Cook about 1 minute.  Add fruit with rum, BBQ sauce, and vinegar.  Turn heat to med-low.  Cook/simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  It will become sort of like paste.  Adjust seasoning to taste.  Cool.
   Divide dough into about 20 pieces.  Work into a 3 in circle.  Add about 1 rounded Tbsp of meat filling.  Bring dough edges together and crimp with a fork.  Place on a lightly greased pizza pan (or baking sheet).  Poke a small vent hole in the top of the pie and lightly brush with oil or melted butter.
   Bake at 375 deg F for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown.
   Serve warm or at room temp.
Whole Wheat Maple Dough
1 C better for bread flour
1 pkg active dry yeast
2 tsp maple syrup
1 3/4 C very warm water
1/2 tsp salt
1 C whole wheat flour + about 2 C more
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

   In a large glass or ceramic bowl add better for bread flour, yeast, and syrup.  Slowly add water, working out lumps.  Let sit for 5 minutes or until small bubbles form on the surface.  Add 1 C wheat flour and salt.  Combine.  Add whole wheat flour 1/2 C at a time until dough is not longer sticky and can be handled.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic. (It will take 6-8 minutes.)  Form into a ball.
   In the bottom of a clean large glass or ceramic bowl, add oil.  Turn dough in oil until evenly covered.  Place a warm damp towel over the bowl and let rise until double in size in a warm spot.  (I preheat my oven to a very low temp then immediately turn it off.)