Friday, November 30, 2012

These are a few of my favorite things: kitchen gadgets that make great gifts

After reading an article called “Hot Stuff for Real Cooks” which highlighted current kitchen trends and must-have products, it got me thinking…what are “a few of my favorite things” that make creating in the kitchen more enjoyable?

(Cue the Sound of Music Soundtrack):

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

(c’mon, sing along, you know the words):

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

(all together now):

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

(and the chorus):

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad”

Many of us have drawers full of kitchen utensils, some useful, some just taking up space. Here are some of my favorite go-to kitchen gadgets. And the best part: all three are under $20!

(If I were Oprah, this would be where my “helpers” would come out from behind the stage and hand each of you all of these items.)
Mandoline with ceramic adjustable blade- great for slicing potaotes super thin, radishes, onions, even hard cheeses. And the blade stays super sharp.

Kyocera Microplane- perfect for citrus zest, fresh nutmeg and cinnamon, shaved dark chocolate, or Parmesan.

Chef’n salad dressing mixer- pour in your favorite oils, vinegars, herbs and citrus juices to make a dynamite home-made salad dressing in a heartbeat.

Please know, I am not receiving any perks from the companies that make these kitchen gadgets. I just really love having each of these items on hand and appreciate the individuals that gave them to me as gifts.  

Question: What is your favorite kitchen gadget?
until next time... 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower with Parmesan, Almond and Panko Topping

I recently purchased a head of cauliflower bigger than a bowling ball. It reminded me of the pictures you see of the blue ribbon winning gigantic squash in a state fair competition.  It was an enormous beauty and I knew I had to do something special with it.

Roasted Cauliflower with Parmesan, Almond and Panko Topping is a lovely side dish with a mellowness and simplicity of roasted cauliflower in a bit of olive oil and Parmesan. But what makes this dish special is the added crunchy topping with garlic, almonds and panko. In fact, this topping is yummy enough to serve over fish, mashed potatoes, or atop steamed green beans.

Before you go...There is still time to enter the GIVEAWAY for the newly released "America's Favorite Food" cookbook. Check out my last blog post (by scrolling down or by clicking here) to enter.

Roasted Cauliflower with Parmesan, Almond and Panko Topping

  • 1 large head cauliflower (Veggie Boy Produce, Benton, IL)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. salted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
Cooking Directions
  1. Rinse and cut cauliflower into small pieces.
  2. Drizzle olive oil over cauliflower and sprinkle on cheese.
  3. Roast in 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, melt butter in skillet, saute minced garlic for about 1 minute.
  5. Turn heat to low, stir in almonds and breadcrumbs, cook until golden brown.
  6. Sprinkle almond breadcrumb mixture over roasted cauliflower to serve.

until next time...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving Thanks with a {Giveaway}

This is the time of year that we give thanks and count our blessings. In the world of food, there is much to be grateful for when it comes to the sustainable food movement and those that are instrumental in building momentum in what some are calling a “Food Revolution”.

This month’s 25th Anniversary issue of Cooking Light highlights 20 Food Heroes making significant differences in changing our current food system.  There is also an article on Chef Sean Brock who recently won the “Culinary Preservation Award” for his mission to preserve and restore some rare heirloom varieties of vegetables through seed-saving, and reintroduce local and unusual ingredients that were once mainstays. Then there are inspiring stories about a few American food artisans and sustainable growers, true champions of slow food (pages 217-223).

Articles about individuals such as these make me so appreciative of their hard work, grateful for their efforts and THANKFUL for their dedication!

With THANKS{GIVING} in mind, it’s time for another GIVEAWAY! I am excited to offer a copy of a great new cookbook by MyRecipes called America’s Favorite Food. It is a compilation of 200 top-rated recipes from America’s favorite magazines such as Health, Real Simple, Cooking Light and Southern Living. This cookbook offers a unique “Scan-it/Cook-it” technology allowing readers to download the app on their mobile device then have access to how-to videos, meal planners and shopping lists.

To enter to win this fun America’s Favorite Food cookbook, simply click on the Rafflecopter below. Feel free to complete as many entries as you would like. This giveaway ends Monday November 26th at 11:59 p.m. (EST) and is only open to U.S. citizens.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
until next time…


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It’s About Thyme for Biscuits: Lemon and Thyme Biscuits with Warmed Honey Butter

I am in love with these biscuits! But I must admit, the relationship started out a bit unsavory. The first time making these biscuits was a disaster. Apparently the self-rising flour that I had on hand had been lurking in my pantry for an indefinite amount of time. The resulting biscuits tasted bitter and inedible, certainly grounds for leaving this recipe forever.
But I had faith that this recipe was worth giving a second chance, so I set out to the market for fresh self-rising flour and carbonated beverage.  This time, as an alternative to the lemon-lime soda, I purchased Trader Joe’s Sparkling Lemonade.

The second batch was love at first sight and taste. These biscuits were so pretty they looked like they required all day to prepare, but actually only took about 10 minutes (and 12 to bake). The biscuits were so light and fluffy, making my heart skip a few beats. The added black pepper, thyme and hint of lemon flavor paid a perfect compliment to our hearty dinner. And the warm biscuits melted the honey butter and my heart.

On a little side note…I hope you’ve noticed a few improvements on my blog…I think my photos are getting better and I am super excited about it! It’s a great feeling to snap a pic and the image actually looks good!

Two things were instrumental to these improvements.  One is the Tasty Food Photography e-book written by a successful food blogger. This e-book is specifically geared toward food photography and contains lots of great tips and tricks of the trade. If you are a fellow food blogger and want to improve your food pics, I highly recommend the Tasty Food Photography e-book

Taking a basic photography class with StLPhotoArt was also very helpful. The class was held at the St. Louis Zoo and although it was only a 3-hour session, I learned a great deal about the basics of working my DSLR.  

Lemon and Thyme Biscuits with Warmed Honey Butter (adapted from Woman's Day Nov. '12)

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 Tbsp. honey (Bekemeier's, Neosho, MO)
  • 3 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 tsp. course black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 3/4 cup sparkling lemonade or lemon-lime soda
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
Cooking Directions
  1. Heat oven to 400 F. In a small bowl, combine butter and honey. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, pepper and thyme. Gently stir in the sparkling lemonade and heavy cream, mixing until incorporated.
  3. Roll out dough with a floured rolling pin; cut into squares or any shaped cookie cutter.
  4. Place on parchment lines baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with honey butter mixture.
until next time...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Whiskey Glazed Sweet Potato and Apple Bake

It is few and far between when both of our kids have other plans, leaving my hubby and I “child-free” for the evening. This past weekend, our teen was attending his first high school dance and our tween received a last minute invitation to go bowling with a pal. With both kids away, we knew there was only one thing to do…break out the whiskey!

Seriously, I often come across amazing sounding recipes that I would love to try but realize they won’t go over too well with the kids. With just the two of us home, we knew this was would be an opportunity to make dinner with recipes that have a more adult focus rather than the usual kid-friendly fare.

This was a perfect night to try Whiskey Glazed Sweet Potato and Apple Bake. I knew we had sweet potatoes and apples on hand, and agave and the spices in the pantry.  But we so seldom imbibe hard alcohol I wasn’t sure if we had whiskey in the house.  Thankfully we had a nearly empty bottle stashed far back in the pantry, just enough for this tasty dish.

Rather than preparing as a casserole, I made individual servings in ramekins. The individual portions cooked faster and were a nice presentation for just the two of us. The cayenne gave just enough kick to balance out the sweet. And the whiskey pecan sauce…oh yeah! It is so good, I can see this drizzled over ice cream, or waffles, served with baked pears and granola, or with Greek yogurt.

Question: what's your favorite "grown up food"?

Whiskey Glazed Sweet Potato and Apple Bake (adapted from Food Network Mag., Nov '12)
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Peel sweet potatoes and apples and thinly slice, preferably using a mandoline.
  3. Spray a light coat of cooking spray to the bottom and sides of 8 ramekins. Layer apple and sweet potato slices in ramekins.
  4. Meanwhile, lightly toast pecans in a saute pan over medium heat, being careful not to burn, about 3 minutes. Add butter, melt, then add agave, cinnamon, nutmeg and cayenne. Simmer 3-4 minutes. Slowly add whiskey, simmer 3-4 minutes more.
  5. Pour whiskey pecan sauce over each ramekin; cover with aluminum foil, bake for 15 minutes, remove foil, bake about 10 minutes more.
until next time...
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