Archive for March, 2012
It’s entertaining to watch me entertain. This past weekend, we had some of our best friends visit. We met in college and they loved me in spite of my disasters in the kitchen back then. You know, when I couldn’t make boxed brownies or even brown chicken into something edible. So, when they come to visit, a part of me feels this inexplicable need to show off a little and prove I can cook. What? Everyone wins in the end! They get entertained with my kitchen drama and everyone gets to eat palatable food that survives the drama!
I made almond chocolate truffles based on this recipe I found at SimplyRecipes. (Side note, I used the cool tool called ZipList that lets you save the recipe to your own account and makes a shopping list for you. Pretty nice!!) I made the truffles with 1/2 tsp of almond extract and 1/2 tsp vanilla and I planned on chilling them in the shape I wanted rather than roll them into balls. However, I knew they would stick in the mini muffin tins I was using, so I searched three stores looking for silicon muffin liners. No such luck. I cut out a small round parchment paper liner for the bottom of each muffin holder, put a thin layer of slivered almonds on the liner and then used my small ice cream scooper to fill the muffin tin with the chocolate truffle mixture before chilling. When it came time to remove the truffles, I ended up chipping into them before they finally got them to pop out only slightly damaged. Good thing I made 24 truffles! Go on, laugh. It was amusing.
Cornbread is such a versatile side. It can be spicy, sweet, or very savory depending on what you want to do with it. I found a wonderful recipe on allrecipes.com called Camp Cornbread. It had rave reviews and promised to be devoured quickly. Score! I had all of it mixed up before I realized that I didn’t have an 8 oz can of creamed corn, I had an 8 oz can of kernel corn. Awesome. What to do? I settled for replacing the creamed corn with my frozen Green Giant’s Niblet’s in Butter Sauce, cooked half way through. It added the butter flavor and a little texture. I’m sure the creamed corn would have been better, but I got points for resourcefulness!
I had to make my staple: braised pearl onions from Julia Child. She says the easiest way to peel the skins is to drop them in boiling water for 5-10 seconds to let the skins loosen. Then, cut the root ball off and squeeze, they pop out! Well, yes, they pop out a little too easily. Picture the scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts looses control of the escargot. “Slippery little suckers!”
Funniest part of the night? Making sea salted caramel to plate the truffles. First mistake, didn’t look up a recipe. I thought, I’ve made caramel before, I can wing it. Probably some of the wine contributed to this thought. So, I melted sugar until it was amber. I added heavy cream, forgetting to remove it from the heat and go gentle. I’m lucky it didn’t foam out all over my hand. Didn’t add butter. Did add salt. I spooned some on the plates. Instantly, it hardened into an unbreakable crust on the plates. Now picture me and my friends chipping away at it with our spoons because when you did get some, it was very good. My poor spoons never worked so hard. You’ll be happy to know, I made it again the next night, and it was perfect.
We had a wonderful time. Most of the food was great and the company was better. Life should be one big dinner party.
Stuffed Fried Zucchini
(Based off the idea of fried zucchini blossoms, which I don’t have. Messy & greasy, but good!)
Slice 2 medium zucchinis to 1/4″
Mix 1 cup ricotta, 1 tsp lemon zest, and 2 tsps freshly chopped mint
Spread onto zucchini slice and place another slice on top to make a “zucchini sandwich”. Repeat until all is done.
Whisk 1 1/4 cups of flour & 1 tsp salt with 12 oz brown ale for batter.
Dip zucchini sandwiches into battter and fry in canola oil set at 350 F for about 10 minutes each, until golden brown.
Sprinkle with salt and serve hot.
The second part of my story starts with another song from my cell phone. This time it was 6:30am Saturday morning and my cell phone was telling me it was time to get up. Ugh. We had returned from the Magic Kingdom® around 11pm the night before with two tuckered toddlers and three exhausted adults. 6:30am was pretty ugly from my perspective.
I managed to get myself ready in under 30 minutes with no lights as the rest of the party slumbered peacefully. It wasn’t until I was about to walk out the door when my baby girl, Sara, turned on her own alarm clock – a glow in the dark doll that plays lullabies when you press her tummy. The room started to stir, but I closed the door quietly and ran off to the monorail to meet my new friends and get some breakfast!
Did I mention it was St. Patrick’s Day? Our breakfast was an Irish inspired buffet complete with bangers and mash, fried egg with what I remember as cabbage, and my favorite, a little spinach (it’s green!) and egg dish, all served in cocottes. Paired with fresh fruit and pastries and the all important coffee and the day was off to a scrumptious start!
After an inspiring morning, with more than a few poignant moments, my stomach started to rumble around 11:30am. I’m an early lunch person or perhaps just a person who thinks about eating more than the general public, so I was eagerly awaiting our “A Taste of Disney” lunch.
The lunch was themed around healthy foods from different Disney resorts, WDW Parks, and Disney Catering. The head chef in charge of allergen and healthy lifestyle menus spoke before we walked over to the lunch. He mentioned that Walt Disney World® served 470,000 guests with food allergies last year. That number is staggering. 470,000. No wonder the words gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, lactose free, and more are showing up in more than just food labels these days.
We walked a short distance to the lunch venue, nestled between Canada and The United Kingdom, behind a large gate is a reception venue called World Showplace. Sparkly chandeliers dangled at the entrance, blue lighting glowed from the tables, but eight tables set in the center were the focus of the room. Each pristine white table had multiple chefs greeting us with a knowing smile. (Disclaimer: My pictures for this were poor because I didn’t have my good camera with me, just my little iPhone 3GS with no flash.)
I’m not going to list all the food. I counted 15 different dishes, each with a unique set of ingredients. My favorites included the chicken picatta sautéed in white wine-lemon butter sauce with caperberries, spinach, and whole wheat pasta. The whole wheat pasta had a softer texture than any common pasta I have ever tasted. Usually whole wheat pasta has a bit of a chewy texture which I can’t stand. This was presented by Mam Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano in Disney’s Hollywood Studios®
I also loved the slow roasted bourbon induced black pig heritage pork loin slider with local hydro grown greens and heirloom tomato on golden spelt roll. The greens were picked right on the table from the mini garden the chefs brought with them. This dish came from the Park Event Operations at EPCOT®, basically the event catering team.
However, it was dessert that stole the show. Dear California Grill pastry chef Jeff Barnes, you are my hero. The olive oil infused chocolate truffle mousse with sea salted caramel had my eyes rolling to the back of my head. I don’t know how you created the little crunch on the bottom, but the entire dish was pure perfection. I also enjoyed the mascarpone cheesecake with lavender infused Florida strawberries. The cheesecake was actually light and refreshing. The lavender truly enhanced the strawberries.
Yet, the weekend still wasn’t over. During the afternoon sessions, my name was pulled out of a jar, not a hat, an OXO pop cookie jar I think. I won a 5 speed hand blender from KitchenAid! I never win anything! Ever! Thank you KitchenAid! I am so excited to play with it and all the other swag from OXO, Land O Lakes, and KitchenAid. My kitchen is super stocked and ready to crank out some new dishes for all the Suburban Cooks out there!
Event planning is part of my professional life, so I knew how much work went into this entire weekend. I know the countless hours, nicks, cuts, and curse words, plus all the pulling together of so many parties. From menu planning to staffing, to sponsorship, to speaker engaging, big thanks to the Food Blog Forum, White On Rice Couple Diane Cu and Todd Porter, Steamy Kitchen’s Scott and Jaden Hair, Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes, David Leite, Walt Disney World and finally to Julie Deilly of The Little Kitchen for making that call late on a Sunday night.
It was a Sunday night around 9:45pm. I was so sleepy from hauling the kids around town, visiting family, and those dreaded weekend chores. Suddenly, I heard that familiar guitar music coming from my cell phone. Who in the world was calling me so late? “Hello?” I answered cautiously, sure that it was a wrong number or a prank call. ”Kim? This is Julie. I’m calling to see if you still wanted to go to the Food Blog Forum in Orlando this weekend.”
Was she kidding? Of course I wanted to go! I was sure that this little blog wasn’t ready for blog community socializing and here she was asking me to spend a weekend with bloggers I admired, to learn more about elusive talents like writing and photography, and to do it all at Walt Disney World, one of my favorite places to visit. I gave my husband one of those “Please say ‘yes’ and don’t mind the sudden change of plans” looks.
You see, when you have two small children, a little weekend to Walt Disney World is complicated. It starts with all the laundry. Then there is the packing. You can’t just pack clothes. No, you have to pack snacks for each day, sippy cups, diapers for the baby, books, toys, loveys, movies for the car ride, plus all the clothes. Don’t forget to pack for yourself. Since I was going to a conference, I had to think about notepads, my netbook, pens, business cards, and chargers. I didn’t even have business cards yet! I had 3 days to get them created, printed and shipped to me. My very good friends at work helped me get that done and I owe them big time.
By Friday morning, we loaded the car and took off. When we arrived, my little boy, Zack, was so excited to see the monorail parked at our hotel. When we entered the Polynesian Resort Hotel, we were greeted with leis for each member of the family. We checked in and proceeded to the room which was fabulous. It was spacious for all 4 adults and both kids. Zack had his own daybed in addition to the two queens that the adults shared. We still had room for the pack ‘n play for my baby girl, Sara. I took off for my welcome reception while my babies napped. Don’t worry, the other three adults napped right along with them.
Here is where excitement turns to shock and awe. Along the patio of the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa Summer House Patio and Sand Beach, there was a display of food to impress even the most distinguished food connoisseur. There were tables filled with immaculate concoctions and a proud chef ready to serve each one.
Shrimp shooters, with the biggest shrimp I have ever seen, beckoned from atop the first table. Below the shooters perched tiny savory cones stuffed with various meats, cheeses, and herbs. Gourmet spoons glinted in the sunlight with gouda, a fruity compote, and a minuscule mint leaf. A trellis chandelier with martini glasses filled with fresh salads sparkled and danced in the wind. Later on, I discovered a white truffle macaroni and cheese bar where you could choose lobster, panko crusted shallots, and pancetta, among other toppings.
The dessert bar boasted cake pops dipped and rolled before our eyes. There was a macaroon tree, chocolate and vanilla creme brulee, and so much more I lost count. Let’s just say I started with a bear claw martini and ate enough to keep me full until our Irish inspired breakfast the next morning.
Possibly the best part of the night occurred about 15 minutes after I arrived. I didn’t know anyone there. I felt older than most, but so much more inexperienced and unsure that those memories of not knowing where to sit on the first day of school in the cafeteria came flooding back. So, I stood at a table by myself when a wonderful girl named Sam came up and said “Hi! You look lonely, can I join you?” Of course I was thrilled to have her join me and soon we had a little table of more lost little bloggers. We kept track of each other all weekend and I’m happy to call them my friends now. Please visit their blogs below!
Sam @Sweet_Remedy - sweet-remedy.com
Jessa @heedthefeed - heedthefeed.com
Jacqueline - beyondnfinity.com
With the weekend off to a good start, I had no idea it was going to get better. But it did. Oh, yes, it did! More to come tomorrow!
I am a girl who loves indulgence. Some people call me a little snooty, but I maintain they just don’t appreciate the good things in life like I do. I love the theater, spas, good books, red wines, gourmet cheese, and chocolate. I will point out that many women like these things so I’m not that strange, but I do love to be spoiled.
My husband offered to make me dinner last night. I was overly anxious and a little depressed from another one of life’s curves, and he thought to spoil me with dinner. I asked for small plates. It’s a dinner we’ll do on occasion that’s a bit indulgent and off the cuff. We throw all the balanced plate thoughts right out the window and just snack on the things we love. Cheeses, really good sausage, breads, and a very sweet dessert make up our small plates paired with a bottle of Pinot Noir or Malbec. I may not grin from ear to ear, but I will always be content after such a meal.
Normally this meal comes with a movie. We nibble and sip while enjoying mysteries and comedies. Last night we chose to watch our college basketball team, Florida State, whip up on Miami during the ACC Tournament. Ok, I fell asleep before the game was over, but the first half was great!
I always look forward to small plate dinners. Last night’s included some of the creamiest fontina and a really neat Cocoa Cardona, a cocoa flavored goat cheese. There was fresh mozzerella and sourdough bread. He sliced sopressata and laid out some crackers. It was all so good and the perfect meal for a Friday night at home.
Last Friday, I saw this article on NPR’s Facebook titled Bloggers Replace Mom’s Recipe Box as Source of Food Knowledge. As a food blogger, I knew there was truth behind the observation. Technology has broken down the borders of suburban kitchens. We are not only introduced to new ethnic flavors, but to ingredients that never graced our mothers’ kitchens.
My mom provided me with a recipe book of our family’s favorite recipes just as I was graduating college. I love those recipes, but I wouldn’t dream of building every meal around them. Nor do I have the time to flip through the 15 cookbooks that line my counter. With my life, I always go to my phone apps or visit my favorite recipe sites in order to get inspired for a dish. Not only do I find recipes, but I usually get to learn something new about preparation or ingredients along the way. Here are my 5 favorite free food apps:
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