Monday, July 24, 2017

Cherry Almond Cake #SummerDessertWeek

By: The Food Hunter

This post was created for #SummerDessertWeek! I was sent products to use from the sponsors but as always all opinions are my own.

Welcome to Summer Dessert Week!!

Welcome to the first #SummerDessertWeek event hosted by Angie from Big Bear's Wife. We're so glad that you've joined us for this week long event of desserts and giveaways. You're going to love what we have in store for you. There are 25 amazing bloggers participating in this year's event!

Throughout the week we'll be share tons of fantastic summer dessert recipes with you. With over 70 recipes being shared this week we just know that you're going to find a new summer favorite! Plus, don't forget that we have 6 (six) great giveaways for you this week thanks to our amazing sponsors! Scroll down to take a look!

SummerDessertWeek LOGO

First let me tell you about this delicious cake I made. When you get beautiful, plump, sweet cherries delivered to your door from Rainier Fruit Company, it takes a lot of self control not to eat them all in one sitting. But I knew I wanted to create a delicious cake bursting with cherries, so I ate a few and used the rest in the recipe below.

I love the combination of cherries and almonds so when I came across this recipe on Lemons & Anchovies that showcased the two I knew I had to give it a try.  I changes the recipe slightly to include vanilla and to showcase more cherries, other than that it was perfect as is.

If you need a dessert that is easy to make and sure to impress....this is it! I used fresh cherries from Rainier,  Land O' Lakes unsalted butter, Adams brand vanilla extract and Dixie Crystals brand sugar to make this amazingly delicious cake and couldn't have been happier with the results.

Cherry Almond Cake
( adapted from Lemon and Anchovies Blog)

1/2 cup Land O' Lakes unsalted butter
1 pound fresh Rainier sweet cherries, divided
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Dixie Crystals sugar
1/4 teaspoon Adams pure vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons pure almond extract
1/3 cup whole milk

Preheat your oven to 400℉ and butter a 9-inch pie plate.

Melt the butter and set it aside to cool to room temperature.

Pit 10 or more cherries (I used an OXO cherry pitter to make this easy) and cut them in half. Set them aside for later. They will be placed on top of the cake during baking. Pit and chop the rest of the cherries into pieces to be folded into the cake batter.

Whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and light colored, about 3 minutes. Fold in the almond and vanilla extracts, the cooled butter and the milk with a rubber spatula just until everything's incorporated.

Fold in the flour mixture and then gently fold in the quartered cherries. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.

Bake for 12 minutes then remove from oven. Quickly arrange the halved cherries, cut side down, on the top of the cake. Return the cake to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. If you find the cake browning too quickly, cover lightly with a piece of aluminum foil.

Remove the cake from oven and place it on a wire rack to cool. Serve cold or at room temperature. Delicious with homemade ice cream.

  Check out the amazing #SummerDessertWeek recipes from our bloggers today!  And keep scrolling for the giveaway details!!!

Ice Cream Recipes:
Pies of Summer:
Sweet Summertime Cakes:
No Bake Treats:
Baked Desserts:

Prize #1

Dixie Crystals Giveaway

Prize #1 -- Dixie Crystals is giving one winner a $100 Willimas Sonoma Gift Card OR a $100 Sur la Table! Winner of prize #1 gets to pick which gift card they would like!


Prize #2 -- Rainier Fruit is giving one winner a Pie dish, Cherry Pitter, Serving Spatula, Pinch Bowls, Pie Carrier! Everything you need to make the perfect cherry or blueberry pie!  

Prize #3-- OXO is giving one winner an 8 Piece Glass Bake, Serve & Store Set. OXO Glass Bakeware is made of thermal shock resistant borosilicate glass, which means it can go from freezer to oven without the need to thaw. The OXO 8 Piece Glass Bake, Serve & Store Set is the perfect partner for all of your baking adventures. The Set includes a Glass 3 Qt Baking Dish, Glass 2 Qt Baking Dish, Glass Loaf Pan, Glass Pie Plate, 1 Cup Round SNAP Container, and 2 Cup Round SNAP Container.  


Prize #4 -- Adam’s Extract is giving one winner a Pyrex with baking utensils and 4oz Adams Best, 1.5 oz Pure Lemon, Almond, Peppermint and Vanilla.

Prize #5 -- General Mills Cereal is giving one winner 4 boxes of cereal, 2 Big G Cereal character bowls, 2 Big G Cereal character , 2 “Good Morning” spoons, 2 Cheerios tumblers with straws 1 long-sleeve Cereal Character hooded t-shirt, 1 short-sleeve Cereal Character t-shirt.  

Prize #6 -- Land O’Lakes is giving one winner a branded insulated tote with a stainless steel water bottle, two mugs with cocoa mix, a dish towel and coasters.

Giveaway open to US Residents 18 years or older.. All entries will be verified. No PO Boxes Please. Prizes will be sent directly from sponsors to winners, bloggers are not responsible for prizes. This giveaway runs from July 24th until July 30th at 12AMEST. Winners will be selected soon afterwards and contacted by e-mail. Winners will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. There are a total of 6 (six) prizes and therefore we will have a total of 6 (six) winners. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law. 

Disclaimer: These posts and recipes are part of the week long event, #SummerDessertWeek but all opinions are 100% mine! We would like Thank our amazing sponsors: Dixie Crystals, Rainier Fruit, OXO, Adam's Extract, Land O'Lakes and General Mills Cereal! These wonderful sponsors provided the prize packs for our giveaways and also sent samples and products to the #SummerDessertWeek bloggers to use in their recipes.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Kale, Mushroom & Prosciutto Crostini

By: The Food Hunter

Crostini, like bruschetta, are one of those easily adaptable, fun to eat appetizers that are perfect for parties. The array of flavors, from the kale to the prosciutto, in this particular crostini is a delicious and surefire way to please a crowd. Though long, believe me when I tell you this recipe is worth the the effort.

Kale, Mushroom & Prosciutto Crostini

1 portobello mushrooms, stems removed
olive oil
4 fresh sage leaves, cut into chiffonade
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1onion, diced
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
1 bunch kale, tough stems removed and sliced crosswise into 1/2 inch wide ribbons
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
4 ounces sliced prosciutto, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 leek, white and light green parts only, cut into 1/4 inch thick rings
1 bunch mint, minced
1 loaf crusty Italian bread, cut into slices and toasted

Preheat the oven to 450

Drizzle mushrooms with olive oil, place on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cooled chopped into pieces and place in a bowl. Add the sage and garlic, season, and set aside.

In a 10 to 12 inch saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add the red peppers, thyme, and oregano, and sauté until the peppers are very soft, about 5 more minutes. Transfer to a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the same pan over medium heat until smoking. Add the kale and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the kale is wilted and soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water and stir quickly as it steams and softens the kale, cooking until the water has completely evaporated. Transfer the kale to a bowl, add the prosciutto, and set aside. Wipe the pan clean.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. Add chopped mint to the leeks. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Once everything is cool, combine together and top toasted bread with a heaping tablespoon of the mixture.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

FOUND:RE Is A Breath Of Fresh Air In Downtown Phoenix

By: The Food Hunter

In the midst of this predominately resort focused state, the FOUND:RE hotel in downtown Phoenix is like a breath of fresh air. The hotel offers guests unique artistic elements throughout its floors, rooms with modern industrial details and a community-driven signature restaurant.

There are 105 rooms featuring custom made platform beds, concrete floors, walk-in showers with benches and amazing city views. Guests can also enjoy a fitness center, a pool with complementary yoga on the weekends and lots of community space.

Mike Oleskow, the hotel's art curator, partners with local artist to fill the walls and other areas with unique art-work; all of which are for sale. From a nude painting of Burt Reynolds behind the registration desk

to the green dinosaur out by the pool and the mural of Steve Buscemi outside, there is art featured everywhere throughout the hotel.

My husband and I recently spent two nights at the FOUND:RE and were able to experience not only the comfortable hotel rooms and all their amenities, but also the fabulous cuisine at Match: Restaurant & Cocktails. Match offers approachable food, made from locally sourced ingredients and often cooked in the restaurant's wood-fired oven.

When I think of Match I see more of a neighborhood gathering spot rather than a hotel restaurant. The lounge is ideal for kicking back with friends or co-workers at the end of a long day. You can enjoy cocktails crafted with local spirits, garden herbs and house blended vermouth

while snacking on wood-fired pizzas

 or house-made celery root hummus. (this is to die for)

Items we tried on the restaurant's dinner menu:

A delicious smoked corn bisque topped with pieces of lobster and dried corn.

The roasted beet salad with arugula and orange.

 A seafood crudo accented with fresh pineapple wedges.

We also tasted the Scottish Salmon; which was fabulous.

Chef prepared for us a special plate of beef tartare served with hard cooked eggs, mustard and sea salt. His take on the classic dish was one of my favorites.

Weekday breakfast at Match is served counter style; allowing for a grab-and-go option for those stopping in during their morning commute. Think coffee, pastries and croissants.

Once the weekend rolls around a fabulous brunch is also available starting at 11:00am. We tried the ricotta pancakes with a side of bacon

and the smoked salmon Benedict which was served with a side salad dressed in an amazing vinaigrette.

If you are like me and prefer the city life over the resort atmosphere, I would recommend checking out the FOUND:RE in downtown Phoenix and be sure to have breakfast, lunch and/or dinner at Match Restaurant & Cocktails.

FOUND:RE & Match
1100 N Central Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85003

This experience was provided complimentary, all opinions are my own. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Mario Batali's Pasta alla Norma

By: The Food Hunter

Pasta alla Norma, a traditional Sicilian dish found on just about every menu in Sicily, is a hearty pasta that is easy to fall in love with. It combines the perfect balance of eggplant, tomato sauce, and cheese to create a satisfying vegetarian meal. The version below is from Mario Batali, and I think it is perfect.

Mario Batali's Pasta alla Norma

6 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Red Onion (thinly sliced)
2 pounds small to medium Eggplant (cut 1/4-inch cubes)
Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper
1 pound Penne
Basic Tomato Sauce (see recipe below)
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Cheese
10 fresh Basil Leaves (roughly torn)
8 ounces fresh Ricotta
8 ounces Ricotta Salata (for grating)

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, and add 2 tablespoons salt. Cook penne 1 minute less than the package instructions and drain.

Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions and season with salt. Saute for a few minutes until tender. Stir in the eggplant and allow to cook for 3 minutes without moving. Stir the mixture and then add the cooked noodles and some basic tomato sauce just to coat the noodles. Add freshly torn basil leaves, grated pecorino and a few drizzles of olive oil and toss to combine.

In a medium bowl whisk together the fresh ricotta with a few tablespoons of pasta water to loosen. Serve the pasta with large dollops of the fresh ricotta and freshly grated ricotta salata.

Yield: 4 cups

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped in 1/4-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
Salt, to taste

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve.

This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Hotel Valley Ho: A Mid-Century Modern Hideaway In The Desert

By: The Food Hunter

In the heart of downtown Scottsdale, amidst restaurants & boutique shops, lies the iconic Hotel Valley Ho. Opened in 1956, on what was then the outskirts of the city, the Valley Ho was known as a "Hollywood hideaway," a place where the rich & famous could go to get away from it all. Today the hotel is still a fashionable spot for hip locals and out of town guests.

Mid-century decorated rooms, offering modern amenities, are what gives this hotel it's unique vibe. I recently stayed in one of the "tower rooms." which included a self-catering kitchen, floor-to-ceiling windows that opened onto a private patio, and a separate living space perfect for entertaining.

The hotel has one restaurant, ZuZu, which serves breakfast, lunch & dinner. Chef Russell LaCasce currently leads the kitchen which specializes in innovative small-plates using farm fresh ingredients.

Attached to the main dining room, the lounge is a fun option for food, craft cocktails and live music on the weekends.

During my stay at Hotel Valley Ho, I spent quite a bit of time eating my way through a majority of the dinner/lounge menu at ZuZu. Though every bite was delicious some of my favorites are highlighted below.

The Summer Orecchiette Pasta is light, tasty and perfect for the hot summer nights here in Phoenix. A mix of fresh veggies are sauteed with olive oil and herbs, and served with shaved Parmesan. This is a dish that should not be overlooked. 

The Hudson Valley Foie Gras is uniquely served with five spice brioche french toast and honey poached rhubarb, adding a delicious hint of sweetness to the rich buttery flavor.

Fresh fish at ZuZu is flown in on a regular basis making the Ahi Tuna Tartare truly something special. Bursts of citrus from finger limes and a hint of heat from fresno peppers give this dish an interesting flavor profile.

Another delicious creation from Chef LaCasce is the Baker’s Bacon Chop. A pork loin chop is lacquered in honey, cured and smoked. It's served with a green harissa, some burnt orange, pickled chiles and pork rinds. I'm pretty sure I've never tasted anything so divine.

When it comes time for dessert I would highly recommend giving the Lemon Meringue Posset a try. Not being a fan of lemon desserts, I almost missed out on this tasty opportunity. So I am extra grateful that our server, who said this was his favorite dessert, brought me one to try. I was presented with a large bowl of meyer lemon curd, served with house made chamomile shortbread, fresh berries and pieces of toasted meringue. A treat for the taste-buds!

If you end up doing an overnight at the Hotel Valley Ho, and I suggest you do, one of my favorites on the brunch menu was the California Benedict; a poached egg served with avocado slices, spinach, and tomatoes on a house made English muffin.

If you find yourself looking for a mid-century modern hideaway in Arizona, I would suggest booking a few nights at the Hotel Valley Ho and enjoying dinner & drinks at ZuZu.

Hotel Valley Ho
6850 East Main Street
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
(480) 376-2600

This experience was provided complimentary, all opinions are my own.