Friday, April 23, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution...and a Celebrity Encounter!

On a recent business trip o Huntington, WV, I was having a wonderful lunch with some clients at a favorite local restaurant near Marshall University's campus.  It was a beautiful day, and the food that we were enjoying was scrumptious!  Of course, my food blog and passion for all things related came up during our conversation, so they started telling me about something that celebrity chef Jamie Oliver was doing in town...And about his store that was located less than a block away.  I was intrigued, and they suggested that we walk down to the store after lunch.  I was pumped!

The next thing I know, we're walking down the street and I stop cold in my tracks.  "Are my eyes playing tricks on me?" I was wondering...I thought that I saw Ryan Seacrest....Surely, that couldn't be him, in the middle of Huntington, WV of all places!  But sure enough, there was a flurry of news anchors and camera men near him, and as we walked closer I realized that it really was him.  He was super nice!  He stood and talked with us for several minutes, telling us about the program and how excited he was about it.  He happens to be the Executive Producer of the TV show, and he had just flown into town to see how things were going.  He was happy to snap a few photos with us. 

Here we are!


Jamie Oliver was on-site too!  Although I didn't get the chance to meet him, we did snap a pic of him through the window...He was being interviewed at the time...

Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver in action...


As it turns out, Huntington, WV had recently been named the fattest city in America.  Jamie Oliver was in town trying to make a difference.  He was taking the city by storm and trying to teach folks about the joys of healthy cooking and how important it was to the city's children and adults alike.  He started by working in one of the local elementary schools to teach the lunch ladies how to cook for the entire school from scratch.  Unsurprisingly, he was horrified at all of the frozen, processed food that the school was feeding the children every single day.  I mean, pizza for breakfast....SERIOUSLY?!?   While watching the show, I was equally horrified.  Looking back, we ate the same sort of stuff in the schools that I went to...No one can forget those rectangular squares of pizza! 

Anyways, hopefully you've had a chance to catch Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on ABC network.  He truly is making a huge difference and I admire what he is doing.  The season finale aired tonight...It's actually recording right as we speak onto my trusty DVR.  I'm not sure what I'd do without that thing!  The show has been a joy to watch all season.  And now, Chef Oliver needs our help!  Please take just a few seconds to sign Jamie's petition at THIS LINK.  It seriously only takes a few seconds to help make a difference. 

You can read up on exactly what Jamie has been up to and what YOU can do to get involved at: 

JAMIE OLIVER'S FOOD REVOLUTION

SIGN THE PETITION

"If you care about the health of your children and the food they eat, please sign this petition now."   With Jamie's help, we CAN help make our nation a healthier place to live!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Memphis-Style Barbeque Sauce


***Recently, Brad and I put together a scrumptious meal...Grilled BBQ Ribs with Homemade BBQ Sauce, Mashed Potatoes with Scallions, and Greek Salad...Mmm.  This  BBQ sauce was outstanding!  Plus, it was so wonderful to sit outside on a beautiful night while the ribs cooked on the grill.  I'm so glad that spring is here!

A few days before, I had found boneless ribs on sale at the grocery store...buy one get one free.  We were both craving BBQ ribs, but alas...there was no BBQ sauce to be found in our kitchen.  I wasn't about to let that stop me!  I knew that I had some of the main ingredients on-hand...ketchup, brown sugar, and molasses...so I went to work at whipping up a homemade batch of sauce.  The only two ingredients that I did not have were the chili sauce and chili powder, so those go left out.  I did, however, add a sprinkling of red pepper flakes to add the tiniest amount of heat.

I may never buy store-bought BBQ sauce again!  This recipe was super easy, was packed with flavor, and came together in only about 15 minutes. 

Next time you have the chance, give this sauce a try...It's delicious!

Bon Appetit!***


Memphis-Style Barbeque Sauce
Source:  www.about.com

Ingredients:

•1 tablespoon butter
•1/4 cup finely chopped onion
•1 1/2 cups ketchup
•1/4 cup chili sauce
•3 t o 4 tablespoons brown sugar
•3 to 4 tablespoons molasses
•2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
•1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
•1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
•1 tablespoon liquid hickory smoke flavoring
•1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or granulated garlic
•1/2 teaspoon salt
•1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
•1 teaspoon chili powder
•dash cayenne pepper, or to taste

Preparation:
In a saucepan, slowly sauté the chopped onion in butter until soft and just beginning to turn yellow. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Delicious on chopped pork sandwiches or use with chicken.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wasabi Chicken & Shrimp with Roasted Peanuts



***Chinese food has got to be one of my favorite cuisines.  There's a family-owned restaurant here in town called The Golden Palace.  The husband and wife team that runs this restaurant is so wonderful.  And the food....It's the best in town, in my opinion!

My favorite dish there is the Kung Pao Combination.  I order it with no sauce (to save calories!), and it's basically chicken, shrimp, bell pepper, onion, and roasted peanuts.  It's SO delicious! 

The other night, I decided to whip up my own version of this scrumptious meal for dinner.  The following recipe is what I came up with.  I have to admit...Brad and I were both blown away by how good this meal was.  I served it with homemade fried rice, which was the perfect combination.

This dish is packed with flavor and is not complicated to make.  It's easy enough for a weeknight meal, but special enough to be served at Sunday dinner.

Bon Appetit!!***

Wasabi Chicken & Shrimp with Roasted Peanuts
Source:  Recipe by Celeste  :-)

Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts; cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 bottle Wasabi sauce (I used Ty Ling Naturals Wasabi Sauce)
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 cup salted peanuts
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, as needed
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Meanwhile, place the chicken and shrimp into separate zip lock bags.  Add enough wasabi sauce to each bag to completely cover the chicken and shrimp.  Let marinate for at least 3o minutes.

While the meat is marinating, place the peanuts in a single layer on a greased baking sheet (I use Pam Cooking Spray).  Place the sheet into the pre-heated oven and roast the peanuts for about 5 minutes, or until they are golden brown and fragrant.  Be sure to watch them closely, so they don't burn!

Now, heat a medium skillet or dutch oven over medium heat.  Add a few tablespoons of the olive oil.  Next, add the chicken and saute until cooked through.  Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a plate near by.  At this point, you may have to wash your pan if the wasabi sauce has started to burn on the bottom.

Into the clean pan, add a few additional tablespoons of olive oil, and then add the marinated shrimp.  Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until cooked through, and remove the shrimp to the same plate as the chicken.

If necessary, wash your pan one more time to remove any burned bits of wasabi sauce.  To the clean pan, add more olive oil.  Add the bell pepper and onion.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Saute for 4-5 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.  Once the veggies are nice and tender, add the chicken and shrimp back to the pan.  If desired, add a little more wasabi sauce, to suit your taste.  Add the roasted peanuts.  Give the mixture a good stir, and cook until the chicken and shrimp are hot again. 

Serve immediately!  This dish is wonderful served with fried rice.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter!!!


I just wanted to take a minute to wish you all a very blessed and fun-filled Easter!  This cake has become somewhat of a tradition around our house...I've made it for the past several years now...this morning included!

Two years ago, I made Dorie's Perfect Party Cake for the first time and fell in love with it.  In fact, my original post can be found HERE.  The combination of lemon and raspberry is a match made in heaven, and this cake is simply scrumptious! 

Happy Easter!!!  :-)

PERFECT PARTY CAKE
Words from Dorie

Stick a bright-coloured Post-it to this page, so you’ll always know where to turn for a just-right cake for any celebration. The original recipe was given to me by my great dear friend Nick Malgieri, of baking fame, and since getting it, I’ve found endless opportunities to make it – you will too. The cake is snow white, with an elegant tight crumb and an easygoing nature: it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen – no fussing when it comes to slicing the layers in half or cutting tall, beautiful wedges for serving; and, it tastes just as you’d want a party cake to taste – special. The base recipe is for a cake flavoured with lemon, layered with a little raspberry jam and filled and frosted with a classic (and so simple) pure white lemony hot-meringue buttercream but, because the elements are so fundamental, they lend themselves to variation (see Playing Around), making the cake not just perfect, but also versatile.

For the Cake

2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream

1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing

2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.


Whisk together the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.


Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.


Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.


Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.


Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.


Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.


Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.


Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean


Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.


Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).


To Make the Buttercream

Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.

The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.


Remove the bowl from the heat.


Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.


Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.


Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.


During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.


On medium speed, gradually beat in more lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.


You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.


To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.

Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.


Spread it with one third of the preserves.


Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.


Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).


Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.


Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.


Serving

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

Storing

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Playing Around

Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Party Cake

If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.
From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours (pages 250-252)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Foolproof Popovers


***Melissa d'Arabian's recipe for "Foolproof Popovers" is just that...foolproof!  These rolls are SO easy, that you won't believe it!  With the help of a blender, these come together in a flash.  On top of that, they puff up while baking and make a really cool presentation.  They puff up so tall, that you'll start to wonder if they're going to topple over.

One great trick that Melissa mentions during her TV show, Ten Dollar Dinners, is her "No Peek Rule."  Once the popovers go into the oven, DO NOT open the oven door until they are done.  That initial burst of steam from pre-heating the muffin tin helps them rise even taller.  You certainly don't want that steam and heat to escape from the oven too soon.

The inside of these popovers is creamy, just like Melissa describes.  They're light and airy, too....sort of hard to describe!  Strawberry jam made the perfect addition to ours.  After 35 minutes, my popovers were perfectly browned.  Try these today...You've probably already got all of the ingredients that you need on-hand!

Bon Appetit!***


Foolproof Popovers
Source:  Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian


Ingredients:
3 tablespoons melted butter, divided
2 eggs
1 cup milk, warmed for 30 seconds in the microwave (should be lukewarm to warm)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt


Directions:
Special equipment: muffin tin


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.


Using a pastry brush, coat 8 muffin cups with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter and put the tin in the oven for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the eggs in a blender until light yellow. Add the warmed milk and blend. Add the flour, salt and remaining melted butter, and blend until smooth. Pour the batter into the warmed muffin tin and return it to the oven to bake until golden, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm.