Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Something New for The Kitchen: Peppadew Peppers

There are so many wonderful ingredients out there and to keep from getting into a rut I am always looking for something new for the kitchen. I thought that this would be a great regular feature to help introduce new ingredients and hopefully encourage others to be a little more adventurous in their cooking.

For dinner last Sunday I decided to make Chicken Scarpariello. The recipe called for Peppadew peppers which I had never heard of before. Of course, I was intrigued. I did a little research and learned that Peppadew takes sweet peppers grown in South Africa and preserves them. The resulting peppers are sweet, tangy and not too hot. (Admittedly, I have a really low heat tolerance.) The best part is that Peppadew has provided jobs for thousands of people in Africa and works to support local farmers.

I was able to find these at my local Whole Foods and they were great in the recipe. Peppadews would be great addition to stir fry, dips or just to add a little kick to your meal.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Paris Wife

Like so many people, I find myself spending too much time focusing on my hectic schedule, work, email and all of the distractions that keep me from doing some of the things that I most enjoy. This year I am trying to refocus my energy, unplug a little more and spend time on things that I love like reading. I decided to set a goal of reading at least 12 books this year.

To start I decided to read Paula McLain's book, The Paris Wife. I got this book at the end of last year and hadn't read it so I figured it was the perfect time. This book is a fictional account of the marriage of Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson. The author based the story on the letters and memoir, A Moveable Feast.

The book imagines the life of Hemingway and Richardson during their time in Paris and their challenging relationship together. Readers get a glimpse at what some of the conversations might have been like between the two and chronicles the inevitable changes that happen as people grow and change.

The book was a great read and I loved the picturing all of the places in Europe that the characters traveled, especially their time in Spain. This book caused me to reflect on marriage and how deeply you can love someone despite the pain and hurt that they might cause.

                                                                   Source: amazon.com via Katie on Pinterest

Monday, February 20, 2012

Best Ever Lemon and Olive Oil Cake

Last Saturday we decided to make paella for dinner and turned it into family dinner night. I was looking for something light and simple to make for dessert and turning to my epicurious phone app. I've had olive oil cakes a few times at restaurants, but had never tried to make one myself. I thought it would be a good balance to the rich and heavy paella. The best part was that I had all of the ingredients at home.

This recipe is so simple and the resulting cake is amazing. Based on the looks of the final cake, I thought that it would be really dense, but it was extremely light. This cake would be great with a berry compote and was delicious with the gelato that Van picked out.

The egg yolks and sugar

The whipped egg whites

The final cake batter

Ready to Bake


Ready to Eat!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Clare's Greek Dip

One of my fabulous coworkers, Clare, found an amazing new job and to celebrate her last day at our office we had a dip party. We all bring different dips and chips and make it lunch. Clare picked out this awesome recipe for me to make and I had to share. I think it is probably the easiest thing I have ever made and it was great. This dip is really light and refreshing and especially good with pita chips.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Creative Clutches from Kate Spade

I couldn't get too far into this blog without discussing my love for Kate Spade. I have been a huge fan for years and have been slowly building my collection. I love the personality, creativity and style of this brand. Kate Spade is always fun, fresh and a fabulous addition to any day.

One of my more recent obsessions are the creative clutches that have debuted over the past few years. It all started with the newspaper clutch. As soon as I saw it, I just knew I had to have it. This bag is almost too real. Every time I open it up, I get comments - "Oh my gosh is that a bag"or "I thought that was really a newspaper". It is the perfect conversation piece and the perfect bag to take to brunch.

                             Source: katespade.com via Katie on Pinterest

My newest obsession is the All Aboard Ship Clutch. I think this would be the perfect clutch for summer and I can just picture carrying this on vacation - in the States or abroad. How cute would this be with a vintage inspired red dress at a summer wedding?

                             Source: katespade.com via Katie on Pinterest

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Comfort Food and One Kick-A$$ Cobbler

After a couple of really long, crazy weeks at work I was seriously craving comfort food. To me, nothing is more comforting than a beef potpie with a cheddar biscuit top and a berry cobbler. So last Friday became family dinner night with the Boys. I have to say it was a huge success since not a bite of potpie was left! And the cobbler? Well it was probably one of the best things I have EVER baked!

Here it is from start to finish. It took about 3 hours to make both dishes including all of the prep and bake time. The most difficult part was probably getting the cobbler crust to come together without adding too much liquid. Overall, these recipes are great for even novice cooks.

The original recipe for the beef potpie is from Food & Wine and can be found here and the cobbler is from the December 2011 issue of Southern Living and can be found here. I have adapted the potpie recipe since the original makes two 9x13 pans my notes are below. Enjoy!

First I peeled and sliced the parsnips, carrots, onion and garlic for the potpie. The original recipe for the potpie doesn't call for garlic, but the first time I made it I felt like it was too bland so I started adding 2 cloves of garlic. I also chopped the rosemary and added the fresh thyme to a small bowl so it would be ready. I also use at least one full tablespoon of the herbs instead of half for one 9x13 pan.

Sliced Parsnips, Carrots, Onion and Minced Garlic

After I finished the prep for the potpie, I preheated the oven and made the crust for the cobbler. This dough barely came together for me and I ended up adding about one extra tablespoon of milk. I think that if you have a large food processor it might be really helpful to use to combine the crust.

Once I had the dough together, I divided it into two and rolled out half the dough. Wrapped the other half of the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. I used a pizza wheel to cut the dough into strips and placed them on a slightly greased baking sheet. I baked the strips of crust and then placed them on a rack to cool.

While the crust was cooling, I turned my attention back to the potpie. I used my Le Creuset to melt two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of olive oil. Then I added the veggies. I cooked the veggies about 7 minutes until they were soft and then added the beef and herbs. It is really important to use very lean ground beef for this recipe. I use 90 / 10 or 93 / 7. I tried using 80 / 20 and it didn't turn out as well.

Cooking the Beef with the Veggies
After cooking the beef, I added 2 tablespoons of flour. Then slowly I added the chicken broth and milk. I use about 3/4 cup of milk and 3/4 cup of broth. I find that each time I do this part I end up changing the amount of liquid and flour slightly to get the right consistency. At this point, I add a little less than a half of a 10 oz bag of frozen peas and less than half a 10 oz bag of frozen corn. Corn isn't in the original recipe, but I like adding more veggies where I can.

At this point, I add salt and pepper and make sure that I taste the mixture. Based on how things taste and the consistency, I make any adjustments to seasoning or cooking time. Once everything is just right, I add the mixture to a 9 x 13 baking dish.

Potpie Ready for the Biscuit Top
Then I make the cheddar biscuit topping. I add 2 cups of flour to a bowl and used my pastry blender to cut in 3/4 stick of butter. When it is the consistency of coarse meal, I add 1 cup of shredded cheddar. I add 1 cup of milk and stir until the dough comes together. I add golf-ball sized rounds of the dough to cover the top.

Ready to Bake

If you are baking the potpie after the cobbler crust, make sure that you have increased the oven temperature to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the potpie in the oven to bake for 40 minutes. If you are worried about the liquid in the potpie spilling over, place the pan on a jelly roll pan.

Next it's time to finish the cobbler. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into strips. Then add the frozen berries to a large mixing bowl. I used two 10 oz bags of blackberries and one 10 oz bag of blueberries. Then I added just under two cups of sugar with the flour and lemon juice and combined.

Berry Mixture
Add half of the berry mixture to a greased 9x13 baking dish. Break apart the pre-baked strips of crust on top and then add small pieces of butter on top. Cover the crust pieces with the rest of the berry mixture. Use the strips of dough that were just rolled out to form a lattice pattern over the top of the cobbler. Place the remaining butter in between the lattice and sprinkle sugar on the top of the crust.

Ready to Bake
Wait until the potpie is finished cooking and cooling to lower the oven temperature for the cobbler. Place the cobbler in the oven to bake for 50 - 60 minutes. The cobbler should be finished baking right about the time you are done eating dinner. Let the cobbler cool a bit then serve with ice cream or Cool Whip. Of course, we had both.
My Instagram Photo of the Finished Cobbler

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Soup Season

There is nothing better than a bowl of soup on a winter day. Last week I dove into my Lee Brothers cookbook and made their delicious Rosemary Butternut Squash soup. This soup is exactly what the Lee Brothers focus on in their cookbook - Simple, Fresh and Southern (admittedly, I added extra ham). Honestly, the most difficult part of this is peeling and cutting the squash.

To make this soup, I sauteed ham, rosemary and garlic in a pan. Then I added the squash and simmered it in 3 cups of water for about 7 minutes. I used my blender to puree the soup and that was it - ready to eat. I added freshly ground pepper and two tablespoons of buttermilk for garnish.

This soup would be a great way to start a meal, but I used it as an easy to reheat dinner after a late night at work. The really nice part about this recipe is that it made the perfect amount for about 4 or 5 servings so we didn't end up eating this soup for a week.

Simmering the Squash

Pureed Soup

The Finished Product

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Booze with Bows

A few weeks ago, the Boys had a Stock the Bar Party and the obvious question was what to bring. Of course, Van had the perfect answer - Hendrick's Gin.

Not familiar? Let me introduce you...

Hendrick's is a gin that everyone can love. It is infused with cucumber and rose petals and thankfully lacks the I-just-poured-Pine-Sol-in-your-drink profile of many other gins. What make Hendrick's even better is the beautiful bottle and overall design, not to mention that their website is awesome.

Paired with a grosgrain ribbon this bottle makes the perfect gift for your host or hostess.

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