30 September 2015

Cook the Books Club

This is my first post with Cook the Books Club, a book club that reads books about food.  This month the book chosen was Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson.  The book is a memoir about the man who became the youngest chef to receive a three star rating from the New York Times.  He has an interesting story to tell, as he was born in Ethiopia and adopted by Swedish parents when he was young.  The story goes (mostly) up from there, where he has a pretty typical childhood with loving family.

When he finishes his schooling in Sweden, he travels worldwide to learn to cook in various venues.  I would say he is classically trained, given the caliber of restaurants where he's worked.  He ends up in New York City, where he owns Red Rooster Restaurant in Harlem.

My favorite quote in the book is this: “A hundred years ago,” he says, “black men and women had to fight to get out of the kitchen. These days, we have to fight to get in." I haven't had the opportunity to try much food from Ethiopia, but the Chef talks a lot about using a spice blend called berbere.  That's where I decided to get inspired! Berbere is a spice blend made of chili powder, garlic, ginger, basil, and a lot of spices I don't normally use, such basil, korarima, rue, ajwain or radhuni, nigella, and fenugreek.  Say that fast three times!

I searched the internet on ways to use this spice and I was pleasantly surprised at all the opportunities!  Here's what the Food Network had to say about it:

•    Blend a can of tomato paste with honey, salt and as much berbere as you can handle. It makes the best barbecue sauce. Ever.
•    Sprinkle just a bit into the cheese sauce of your favorite mac and cheese. The smoky, spicy change will blow you away.
•    Use it straight up as a dry rub for baby back ribs, steaks on the grill — even for oven-roasted chicken.
•    Sauté minced onions and garlic with vegetable oil, stirring in berbere. Thin with more oil or with broth, then use as a marinade.
•    Blend with softened butter then spread over hot-off-the-grill corn on the cob. Or add minced garlic and use for garlic bread.
•    Add a bit to the pot when browning meat for a beef stew. Or sprinkle just a pinch over a bowl of chicken soup.
•    Mix just a bit into prepared pasta sauce, or mix it directly into meatballs.
•    Add a bit to ground beef when browning it for tacos.

I was very inspired to give this seasoning a try.  Since it is a very spicy seasoning, I thought I would give it a try with eggs, one of my go to ingredients when trying something new.  I threw together this omelet for lunch and it was A M A Z I N G.

3 eggs
1 c. roasted vegetables
1/4 c cheddar cheese, shredded
1 scant teaspoon berbere
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper as needed

Whip the eggs with a little water until foamy.  Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan until warm.  Add vegetables, stir until heated through.  Reduce heat to medium, and add eggs. Salt and pepper.  Gently push cooked eggs toward the center of the pan, inverting the pan so that the uncooked eggs come toward the sides of the pan. Continue this process until eggs are cooked.  Sprinkle cheese onto one half of the eggs, then flip the other half on top of the cheese.  Turn off heat and allow cheese to melt. Sprinkle with berbere sparingly until you know what heat level you can deal with!

Pushing the eggs back.

I like my omelets rustic, not perfect!
I loved the smoky heat that this spice added to my rather generic omelet.  It is something I will be using more of in the future.

Berbere seasoning added at the end.  Smoky, hot, delicious!

I highly recommend this book for those of you foodies who love to hear about what makes a chef a chef.  If you'd like to join the Cook the Books Club, click on this link.  It was very fun to be a part of this group!


29 September 2015

Candy Corn Martini

I first saw this infused vodka on Pinterest last year and really wanted to give it a try.   It is super simple.

Infused Candy Corn Vodka

1 bag candy corn
2 c vodka (I used citrus)

Pour candy corn into mason jar, or any clean jar.  Pour vodka on top, shake to get the process started  and let steep for 3-5 hours.  Filter vodka through cheesecloth to remove any remaining solids.  Chill.

After shaking

After three hours
I then used the infused vodka to make this delicious martini

4 oz candy corn infused vodka
1 oz orange liquor
juice of 1/2 lemon

Shake in cocktail shaker with ice.  Strain and pour into martini glass.  Garnish with candy corn.

Using the citrus vodka gives this drink a little extra punch.  Delicious.

My plans are to use the remaining infused vodka to make jello shots for the parents who are trick or treating with their kids.  Parents need a little "treat" too!

Head over to Pam's http://www.greyisthenewblack.com/dry-soda-double-juniper-tipsy-tuesday/ for more cocktail fun!

28 September 2015

Secret Recipe Club

I am so excited to announce that I have become a member of the Secret Recipe Club!  This is where you cook a recipe from another blogger, secretly, then announce on your blog the recipe you made and how it all turned out!  What a fun group to be involved in and I was so excited to be included.

This month I was assigned to the great blogger Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm.  She and her husband are retired police officers (I salute you!) and on retirement decided to buy a small farm.  She's a soul sister (she doesn't know that yet!) in that we both love locally sourced, slow food.  She has her own chicks, though, and I think that is super cool.  We are both big readers, too.

I checked out Wendy's recipe list, and whoa, she's done a lot of cooking!  It was hard to choose, but I am always on the lookout for a great breakfast recipe to share with my family, so this time I chose to try Wendy's Cherry Tomato, Mozzerella and Basil Frittata.  We have a load of cherry tomatoes and basil right now, so it was a perfect match!

You know we are a tailgating family, cheering on those Missouri Tigers, so I was so tempted to give this a go: Corn "Crack" Dip.  My husband has a love affair with sweet corn every summer.  Cannot wait to give this one a try, too!

The frittata was so easy to make.  I love one dish meals!  I served it as a breakfast for myself but it heated up beautifully for dinner.  The flavors are simple but so delicious!

Served with toast, roasted veggies and the frittata: a complete meal!

by Terri Steffes, via Wendy at A Day in the Life at the Farm
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

  • 1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 c. shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 T. heavy cream
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
Mix together basil, cheese and tomatoes in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper. Set aside. In another bowl whisk together the eggs and cream, season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil over med low heat in an oven safe 10" round skillet. Add the egg mixture and stir gently, without scrambling, until eggs begin to set. Add the tomatoe mixture and gently combine with the eggs. Let cook over med low heat until the edges begin to set. Place in a preheated 350* oven and bake until the eggs are set and firm in the middle, about 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve
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Wendy, this recipe was a hit for me and my family!  It is so easy and delicious.  Great flavors and I love that much of it came from within a mile of my house.  Thanks for sharing such a great recipe!

26 September 2015

Herb Disks #Harvesting

My basil was nuts this year and I wanted to take advantage of the surplus by freezing some for winter use.  I found these herb freezing trays from Pampered Chef.  I am a part of a monthly Pampered Chef Club where we each spend $35 a month.  We take turns being the hostess, so we get hostess credits and specials.

So I went out in the morning, and cut out all of the good basil that was left from the bush.  Yep, bush.  It was a banner year for basil!  I brought it in, washed it, dried it, and chopped it up in my Pampered Chef Manual Food Processor.  The chopping was done in seconds. 
I then placed the chopped basil in the basins of the freezing tray, put the lid on them and froze them.  I popped them out of the tray and labeled a ziplock bag and stuck them in the freezer for future use.  I can pop a disk into my pasta sauce or soups to add fresh basil flavor, even in the middle of December.  Fresh herbs are expensive in Missouri in the winter, so this is also a money saver for my family!

I know I am talking a lot about Pampered Chef, but this is not an affliate post, nor did they give me any discount for talking about their products.  I just happen to love them!

24 September 2015

Chocolat Inspired Chocolate Cupcakes #Food'n'Flix

Food 'n' Flix is celebrating their fifth anniversary this month!  Five years of celebrating good films with good food!

Their very first film reviewed was Chocolat.  I saw this film when it came out, but I decided to watch it again, since that was nearly 15 years ago!

I love the cast in this film.  Johnny Depp is sexy and deep, Judi Dench is captivating, and Juliette Binoche is mesmerizing.  Such a great film, with themes of longing and temptation.  And, one of my quotes:

Père Henri: I'm not sure what the theme of my homily today ought to be. Do I want to speak of the miracle of Our Lord's divine transformation? Not really, no. I don't want to talk about His divinity. I'd rather talk about His humanity. I mean, you know, how He lived His life, here on Earth. His *kindness*, His *tolerance*... Listen, here's what I think. I think that we can't go around... measuring our goodness by what we don't do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think... we've got to measure goodness by what we *embrace*, what we create... and who we include.

The cupcakes I made for our cooking school fit perfectly into this post.  Both the frosting and the cake are chocolatey and so good.  

For the cupcakes you need 3/4 c good cocoa powder, 1 1/2 c flour, 1 1/2 c sugar, 1 1/2 t baking soda, 3/4 t baking powder, 3/4 t salt, 2 eggs, 3/4 c warm water, 3/4 c buttermilk, 3 T oil and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.   Preheat the oven to 350.  Line cupcake tin with liners.  Sift together cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  In a mix beat eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil and vanilla.  Scrape smooth, then add flour mixture a little at a time until batter is well mixed.  Fill cupcake cups 2/3 full.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until tops spring back when touched.  Cool completely.

For the frosting you will need 8 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped, 6 c confectioner's sugar, 1/2 pound of butter, softened, 6 tablespoons of milk, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1/4 t salt.  Melt the chocolate on top of a double boiler.  Cool to room temp.  In a large bowl combine the sugar, butter, milk, vanill and salt and beat on low speed, scraping down the bowl.  Increase the speed and beat for 2 minutes.  Add chocolate gradually and beat for another minute.  

I decorated the cupcakes using a decorator's bag and tip.  These were delightfully yummy!  

Our host's first Food 'n' Flix happened to be chocolate cake, too, and you can see it here.  

If you want to join us in reviewing movies and being inspired to cook, join us at Food 'n' Flix.  You view the movie, cook, and post anytime you want during the month of the movie.  The host will create a round up of posts at the end of the month.  It is a lot of fun!  Round up is available now!

22 September 2015

Club Peanut Butter Chocolate Layered Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

This month for #CreativeCookieExchange I wanted to make a cookie for our tailgate party.  These layered bar cookies are the perfect tailgate cookie for my Missouri Tigers!  The black (chocolate/peanut butter) and gold (graham cracker butter) layers are pretty on my tailgating table.

These layered bars are super simple to make.  There is no baking involved!  To get started you need:

1 box of club crackers.  Grease a 9 by 13 pan and lay down a row of club crackers.  Then you need...

2/3 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 stick of butter
1/4 c milk
1 c graham cracker crumbs

Combine these ingredients and boil for 5 minutes.  Let cool a bit and then spread over crackers. Let cool some more and then lay on another layer of club crackers.

Then melt together 3/4 c peanut butter chips and 3/4 c semi sweet chocolate chips over a double boiler.  Cool a bit, then spread over crackers.  Place in the refrig to set.

Cut along the lines of the crackers.  Enjoy!

 Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of our bloggers have made this month:

The theme this month is Layered Bar Cookies--if you like crispy, crunchy, chewy, creamy or gooey layers packed into one cookie you have come to the right place!!

 If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.

 You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes--be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month!

20 September 2015

Top Ten Dinner Ideas for Halloween

It's time for the Top Ten Pumpkin/Halloween Ideas!  Check out the list below of fun activities for your children plus this wonderful post for great dinner ideas for Halloween night!

1.  These yummy looking sweet potato sliders by Barefeet on the Dashboard will keep your trick-or-treaters energized!

2.  What about this adorable Shepards Pie??  Who wouldn't want to eat a ghost before trick or treating?  From The Girl Who Ate Everything.

3.  How about Tentacle Pot Pie?  These adorable chicken pot pies come to us via Babble!

4.  This adorable plate of spaghetti and eyeballs comes to you from Kraft.  This looks eerily good!

5.  How adorable are these pepper jock-o-lanterns filled with spaghetti  pumpkin guts?  Simple to do, but so much fun to eat!  Find the whole recipe at Macaroni Kid!

6.  Look at these wonderful quesadillas!  This is an eat-on-the-go treat!  I love how Kid's Activities Blog made it hands-on fun!  

7.  These hot dog ghouls are too cute for words.  Dip these in ketchup for a little bloody action!  Complete recipe is found at Midwest Living!

8.  This was originally designed for lunch, but wouldn't it be fun to pack one of these boxes for Halloween night?  Your kids would love it! Check this out over at Freebie Finding Mom.

9.   These kiwi bites might not be a full meal, or maybe for some kids they would be!  So cute, easy and what a great way to get kids to try a new fruit!  Check out Shelley and Gretchen at Two Healthy Kids for more cute ideas!

10.  Ghostly Pizza This adorable pizza from My Recipes is simple enough for a rushed Halloween night.  Sliced mozerella is cut into adorable ghostly shapes.  

And of course, you might want a little dessert, too, so check out these two adorable desserts by Practical Mommy:

Check out the other Top Ten Halloween Lists below!  Now you have all your Halloween planning done in a quick look at these great ideas!

Top Ten Halloween STEM Activities from Crafty Kids at Home
Top 10 Halloween Dinner Ideas from Our Good Life
Top 10 Easiest Halloween Crafts from P is for Preschooler
Top 10 Halloween Games and Activities from Play & Learn Everyday

Top 10 Pumpkin Recipes from Nemcsok Farms

17 September 2015

Creative S'Mores Cakes #BundtBakers

This month for our theme in Bundt Bakers, Laura from  From Gate to Plate  chose Creative S'Mores.  Creative S'Mores are varying combinations from the standard, chocolate-graham cracker-roasted marshmallow variety.  You will see a lot of interesting combinations from contributors below.

Let me tell you about mine.  I changed everything about a S'More in this cake.  The chocolate is replaced by peanut butter, the graham crackers to vanilla cake and the marshmallow is a topping instead of roasted.  Garnished with a little peanut butter chips and candy corn, this cake is a fun fall treat as well!

I start with a basic yellow cake mix.

Graham Cracker Crumb and Peanut Butter Bundt Cake

  • 18.25 ounces plain yellow cake mix (1 package)
  • 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 jar marshmallow topping
  • 1/4 c peanut butter chips
  • 1/4 c candy corn

  • Combine the cake mix, water, peanut butter, oil, eggs and extract.  Beat for three minutes.  Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare bundt ban by spraying with vegetable spray and coating the pan with the graham cracker crumbs.  Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan.  Bake for 33-36 minutes.  Test for doneness by inserting a clean broom straw or a cake tester into the cake.  Either should come away crumb-free.
  • Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes.  Invert onto clean plate.  Cool completely.  Pour marshmallow topping over cooled cake.  Decorate top with peanut butter chips and candy corn.  
  • Go and check out the other Creative S'More cakes out there today!

    #BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.
    Updated links for all of our past events and more information about BundtBakers, can be found on our home page.

    15 September 2015

    Kitchen Conservatory Cooking School: Oysters

    My husband and I attended the Kitchen Conservatory Cooking School in Clayton (MO) on Sunday afternoon and the class focused on preparing oysters.  We love oysters of all kinds and this class really helped us in learning how to prepare them to our liking.

    Bob made two sauces and grilled oysters in the shell.  I got to make chocolate cupcakes.  I don't know how that happened.  Something I can do with my eyes closed.  I did get to use some fancy restaurant style equipment though.  The proper technique for shucking oysters was a highlight for both of us!

    The Mignonette sauce was my favorite.  On the oyster it is a fresh, clean flavor.  We also had an oyster tapenade (delish on grilled bread), a sherry mustard vinaigrette, a caper tartar sauce and an avocado cocktail sauce that was so good!

    We also blanched some white asparagus and Brussels Sprouts.  Served along with oysters on the half shell, it was a perfect side dish.

    These BBQ oysters were delicious.  As were the parmesan oysters.

    This oyster stuffing was amazing.  I don't think I would replace my Thanksgiving stuffing with it, but I definitely would consider making this as a meal in the fall.  So good.

    And dessert, homemade chocolate cupcakes with homemade chocolate buttercream.  Very, very good!

    We love going to the Kitchen Conservatory for classes and if you haven't been, we highly recommend it.  It is a great date, date night, or just to go and learn.  Fun times!