Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Special delivery

Over the weekend I drove to Orange County with a friend of mine and went to a Patchwork Show -- the edible edition. The two day event was a gathering of chefs, bloggers, authors and, dare I say, foodies exploring for eating, learning, tasting and shopping.

On top of a big vendor fair filled with handcrafted wares and artisan foods, free food classes were offered to those in attendance. We attended a tamale making class, went to a DIY kimchee class and learned how to make goat cheese. While all of that was fun and games, there was one thing I walked away I was really excited about.

I signed up for a zero-obligation delivery of a box of fresh, organic produce. This is something that I have known friends to do, but had never found one in San Diego. Although I was in Orange County, the company offering the box happened to make deliveries in San Diego too. How perfect.



Today, at the very early hour of 3 a.m. I got my first delivery from Farm Fresh to You. Waking up to a box of goodies waiting on my doorstep felt like Christmas morning. What would be inside when I opened the package? It takes a certain type of someone to get so excited about produce. It also takes a certain type of lazy to get produce delivered. I happen to be both of those.


When I opened my regular mix (both fruit and vegi) box, touted as being for two to three people, I found:
2 Delicata Squash
1lb Russet Potato
4 Gala Apples
4 Green Bartlett Pears
1 Pomegranate
2 Eureka Lemons
1 bundle Baby Broccoli
1 bunch Carrots
1 bunch Dino Kale
1 bunch Romaine Lettuce

I think I was most excited about seeing the Delicata Squash, the first time I'd seen one since last winter. Immediately I decided I had to make a Steamed Broccoli and Delicata Squash with Tahini Sauce recipe that I'd made earlier in the year during a Martha Stewart Whole Living Magazine cleanse I participated in.


I thought about cooking all day during work and boy was the end result worth the wait. So delicious. The zero-obligation sell has me sold. I can't wait to get my next box of goodies. If you should be so inclined to try out this delivery service for yourself, you go online to www.farmfreshtoyou.com and if you enter promo code 6164 as well as my first and last name you will get $10 off your first box, not to mention that I get a little discount off my next delievery.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

It's my birthday, I'll eat bacon if I want to


For anyone who knows me, or for those of you I've never met but whom have read posts from this blog, you know that I have no shame in admitting how much I love bacon. I get bacon gifts from friends, e-mails about bacon from co-workers, even my parents like to tease me about my obsession with bacon. It's my love of bacon that stopped me dead in my tracks in the middle of a Sur la Table while Christmas shopping with my parents this year.

There it was in what seemed like big, bold letters: "Better with Bacon" on the store's cooking class schedule slated for none other than my birthday. It was at that moment that the heavens opened and the angels told me this was destiny. Ok, well maybe that was not exactly how it went, but it sure felt like it. I mean, come on: "Better with Bacon" on the day of my birth?! I immediately snapped a picture of the calendar and sent it out to my friends, saying "Too bad I have to work, this would be an awesome way to spend my birthday!"

Fast forward to the week before my birthday. I hadn't really thought about the cooking class much after that fateful holiday shopping day, when I get a text from my beau asking what time I had to work until on my birthday. "8p.m." I replied. To which the return text said, "Hmmm...looks like I'll be cooking bacon alone." Apparently I picked a good guy who actually listened to my plight of going to bacon cooking class, just one that forgot my work hours.

After much pleading with coworkers and my boss to help me get to cooking class, I finally found someone willing to change days off, giving me my whole birthday off of work. The persuasive powers of bacon worked as I promised to bring in something I learned how to cook in exchange.

Now that this is already a long blog post, I'll get to the goods: The actual "Better with Bacon" cooking class. I'm not actually going to post the recipes they gave us because I feel like that would be stealing from Sur la Table, but here's how the night went. And maybe if I cook the recipe at a later date I will post it.


There were about 13 people in our cooking class. We were split into small groups of 3-4 people and each group was given its own cooking station. Chef Justin was leading the class and made it abundantly clear that he LOVED bacon and, like me, made sure he got out of his other job so he could teach this class.

Chef Justin with his bacon jazz hands.
First on the menu, preparing dessert. Yes, bacon belongs in dessert, too. We sauteed up some apples with brown sugar in the fat from cooking our bacon. Then we added some Bourbon and cooked some of it off. An ooey, gooey mix to make our apple, Bourbon, bacon rustic pie. Since our dough had to chill, this mixture was whisked away to the refrigerator to be used later in class. (I liked the fact that we had our own little cleaning elves who came and picked up after us while we were cooking.)

Preparing dessert. Can't we just eat now?!
Next we started on a side dish of baked beans with bacon. Normally, I'm not a big fan of baked beans (because I don't particularly enjoy red or pinto beans), but what the heck, there's bacon in here, so it can't be too terrible.
Baked beans simmering on the stove.


Then came our green chile, apple and bacon chutney. This was by far the most fragrant thing we cooked in class. The mixture seemed a bit bizarre and probably wasn't the prettiest of the food we cooked, but if it was as good as it smelled, I was game to try it.

Chutney mise en place.

Finally we did a little molecular gastronomy by using bacon fat and maltodextrin to create bacon powder. Yes, an actual bacon powder that we later sprinkled onto a starter salad.

After a break where we took a stroll through the store, drooling at all the wonderful kitchen gadgets we couldn't afford, we returned to class to put everything together for the main meal.

Here's where I got the biggest whammy of the class. In the only other cooking class I have taken (it was not at Sur la Table), we just got little bite-sized samples of what the teacher prepared in front of us while we all sat and took notes. In this class, however, we ate a full-on dinner. It started with the salad and bacon powder, which yes, the powder tasted like bacon, but at first had a bizarre texture that took me by surprise. The baked beans were our side dish; delightful, yes, but I couldn't get past the red beans, so this was probably my least favorite part of the meal. The main dish was a grilled pork chop (of course more pig) topped with our chutney. The flavors here were incredible. Just the right amount of sweet and spicy to go with the chop. Finally, and my favorite part of the meal, the pie. The dough had just the right amount of flakiness, the apples had the right amount of sweetness and when both were topped off with a hit of bacon it was the perfect dessert combination to end the night.

Pork chop with bacon, chile, apple chutney with baked beans in the background. I forgot to take a picture of the salad with the bacon powder.
Overall, this was an amazing night. I got to cook my favorite food with my incredibly sweet boyfriend, added a few more recipes to my repertoire and got out of work for the day. Chef Justin was a fun teacher, keeping things light yet educational, making sure we weren't going to mess up our bacon dishes. I highly recommend taking a cooking class such as this if you haven't done so before. It was great for people of all skill levels. I had a very swine birthday that will not soon be forgotten.

Happy after a successful night of cooking (and eating) a lot bacon.
PS: I have to add the fact that we learned a new word (this may have been the highlight of the boyfriend's night) in class, in case you were wondering what it was in the chutney photo caption.  
Mise en place: a French phrase which means "everything in place", as in set up. This is the act of pre-measuring or cutting ingredients before you start cooking, so that all you have to do is add them to a pot or pan.

PPS: This is my 100th post! It only took me five years to get here, but I'm happy to say this milestone occurred hit when the topic was bacon.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Nutella fudge

Where did the time go? It feels like just yesterday that I was making turkey place settings and cooking Thanksgiving dinner and all of a sudden, Christmas is already over with. Since I obviously lost track of time during the holiday season this year, I wasn't able to fit much baking into my schedule. I was, however, able to whip up a couple of new recipes that took practically no time at all.

For holiday gifts for coworkers, this year I made a candied pecan that was as simple as tossing the nuts in two different gallon-sized bags, once with an egg mixture and the other with a cinnamon and sugar concoction then baking for a an hour at a low heat. To accompany these small packages, I made cinnamon ornaments. The recipe suggested baking the ornaments, which I did, but I also let a handful air dry. If you have the time available to air dry, I thought they turned out much nicer. These simple ornaments made my apartment smell absolutely divine!

The pièce de résistance, though, was a salted, Nutella fudge. I made three batches of this simple-to-make candy and people loved it. I put some on trays throughout my office and packaged some up for small gifts (and maybe a few managed to make it into my belly before I could even get them out of the door). On the third batch I made, I was very tempted to warm about a 1/3 cup of peanut butter and swirl it into the fudge, but at the last second decided not to mess with what was already established as being delicious.



The recipe I found on Pinterest and it came from the Tasty Kitchen blog. Here is the recipe:

Chocolate Nutella & Sea Salt Fudge

Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 8 Minutes
Servings: Depending on how large you cut the pieces, 30-42
Difficulty: Easy


Ingredients
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter, For Greasing Pan
  • 1 can (14 Oz) Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 8 ounces, weight High-quality Bittersweet (60%) Chocolate Chips
  • 1 cup Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut Spread), Room Temperature
  • 3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Room Temperature, Cut Into 1/2-inch Pieces
  • ½ teaspoons (approximately) Sea Salt
Preparation Instructions

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overlap on the sides.

In a medium glass or stainless steel bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, bittersweet chocolate chips, Nutella, and butter.

Form a double-boiler by setting the bowl over a medium pot of gently simmering water. The water level should be low enough that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth, 5 to 7 minutes.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, spread the top smooth with a spatula, and sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate until the fudge is firm, at least 2 hours.

Once the fudge is chilled, run a knife under hot water, dry it off, and run it around the edges of the pan to loosen the fudge. Using the overhanging parchment paper, lift the fudge out. Peel off the parchment paper. Cut the fudge into 3/4-inch squares. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil.



Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkey gobble day

It is a rare occasion that I even get to have Thanksgiving off from work and even more rare to be able to take a week of vacation surrounding the holiday. I made it my goal during my vacation to spend some time cooking and crafting while relaxing.

As part of the relaxing phase of my vacation I was watching the Today show the other morning with my mom with Giada de Laurentiis had a segment about Thanksgiving cooking. While the lemon and thyme didn't appeal to me, the adorable Oreo turkeys she had caught my eye. And appropriate to my vacation goal it was both a food and craft project.


What you need to make six candy turkeys:
12 Oreos (I found that the Double Stuffed version worked the best)
     Note: Six of the Oreos will need to have one side of the cookie removed
36 Candy corns
     Note: The white tip will need to be taken off from 6 of the candy corns to be used as a beak
6 Malt balls
6 Reeses miniatures
3/4 Cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2-3 Tablespoons of red frosting

Carefully insert five candy corns, white tip down, around the top of each of the Oreos. It's best to hold steady the Oreo near the top while pressing the candy corns into the creme filling as to not separate the cookie.


Place the chocolate chips into a glass or stainless steel bowl. Place over a pot with a small amount of simmering water and stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted. Dip the large end of the peanut butter cup (I actually used Christmas chocolate bells) into the melted chocolate and place that end against the bottom of the cookie opposite of the candy corns. The chocolate will act as a glue.



Once the peanut butter cups are in place, repeat with the malt balls and place them between the cups and the candy corn making the head of the turkey.


Finally, dip the white portions of the candy corns that were broken off into the chocolate and place it onto the malt ball as the beak of the turkey. Once you have assembled all of the turkeys, place in the refrigerator to set for about 10 minutes.

While the chocolate is setting, take time to color your frosting with food coloring. In the case of my turkeys I used Betty Crocker's Cake Icing which came with piping tips rather than having to put frosting into a plastic bag to pipe on to the malt ball as the turkey's beard.

Once this is finished, place the Oreo's with the attached candy onto the frosting up cookie to use as a base that will allow the turkey to stand up right.

Note; These are not the most sturdy of decorations, so try not to move them around too much after they are finished. To reinforce the base a little more, you could always try using a little of the extra chocolate on the base and refrigerating them again for a few minutes. These made lovely name cards by attaching a piece of paper with someone's name to a little toothpick and placing that into the creme of the base cookie.