Wednesday, November 22, 2017

This Holiday Season Give Someone Special The Gift of prAna! Save 15% Now With Promo Code: CMFG17 #giftedprAna

By: The Food Hunter

I truly believe the real meaning of the "holiday season" is not the gifts under the tree or the lights in the windows but rather the extra time we get to spend with family and friends. That being said, I also realize there are people in my life that deserve a sign of appreciation for all they do throughout the year.

Since there is no better time to show gratitude than at the holidays I will be sharing some of my favorite products in hopes of making it easier for you to find that quintessential gift for the special someone in your life. All of the items, will be from companies I know, trust, and respect.

One company in particular is prAna! They are a brand that thoughtfully designs quality clothing which are both durable and stylish. Over the years I have acquired several pieces of clothing from them, all of which I love wearing! (Like the Mantra Pants shown here).

These pants might just be the most comfortable pair of pants I've ever owned! But not only are they cozy to wear they are also quite fashionable. They are great to wear when meeting friends for coffee or a casual lunch after a long day of shopping. I am planning to wear them on my next cross-country trip...yes they are that comfortable!

Because a new outfit that looks and feels good is a wonderful gift idea....I have teamed up with prAna to offer you a 15% discount on all purchases you make between 11/22 and 12/20. Use the code: CMFG17 when ordering and get yourself and someone you appreciate something special this holiday season!

If you're a current prAna fan or a soon to be one I would love to hear about your favorite products or a new item you're planning to buy this holiday season!  Who knows there may just be a surprise prAna gift in the mail for one of you!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Sunday Supper Club at Mountain Shadows in Paradise Valley

By: The Food Hunter

Let me introduce you to Mountain Shadows, a newly opened upscale boutique resort with roots in 1950's modernism. The resort boosts a high-tech fitness center, two pools connected by a waterfall feature and stunning views of  nearby Camelback Mountain.

You can choose from a range of guestrooms, most of which feature floor-to-ceiling glass windows perfect for enjoying the premium desert landscaping. Our room included a luxurious bathtub facing Camelback Mountain and a bar-cart fitted with the essentials for mixing your favorite cocktail.

Mountain Shadows' signature restaurant, Hearth 61, serves seasonal fare created by Chef Charles Wiley. Guests enjoy watching the chefs, in the exhibition style kitchen, crafting dishes made with local ingredients .

One Sunday a month, Hearth 61 offers a special 4 course dinner featuring a guest chef, food supplier, winery or distillery. Under the direction of Chef Wiley a savory feast is created and paired with beverages. Sunday Supper Club guests enjoy food, drink, and conversation starting at 6pm.

This past Sunday my husband and I had the pleasure of experiencing first had a Sunday Supper Club event highlighting the wines of Rodney Strong Estate Vineyards.

Our meal began with wood-fired prawns served over beluga lentils & shiitake mushrooms drizzled with a light citrus vinaigrette. This was paired with the Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc, a smooth, bountiful white that played well with the shell-fish.

Up next was one of the most amazing salads I've ever eaten. Organic greens from Duncan Farms were served with thinly shaved persimmons, a roasted campari tomato and balls of fired goat cheese. A pour of the Chalk Hill Chardonnay accompanied this course.

Braised prime short rib of beef was the evening's entree; served with creamy polenta, and braised greens. The Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon complimented the meat beautifully.

This amazing meal was followed by an equally amazing pear and blue cheese tart which was served with a generous pour of the Rodney Strong's A True Gentleman's Port.

Since breakfast is something that should not be missed at Mountain Shadows. If you are thinking about attending an upcoming event at Mountain Shadows I hope you will save room and time for breakfast.

Our early morning fare consisted the baked eggs, a creamy mix of spinach & mushrooms topped with eggs and cooked in the hearth;

 and a simple yet delicious eggs Benedict.

The next Sunday Supper Club will be on December 10th and will be showcasing Mumm Champagne.

Mountain Shadows

5445 E Lincoln Dr, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253
Phone: (480) 624-5400

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Essential Ingredients for the Italian Pantry

By: The Food Hunter

In my house being able to cook a delicious Italian meal whenever the urge arises is important. Having all the essential ingredients readily available is the key to making this happen. When stocking your pantry, an important thing to remember is that better quality ingredients will allow you to prepare better quality meals. Although, most of the products I recommend below can be found at your local grocery store it's a good idea to also frequent a specialty store like DiBruno Bros. in Philadelphia for superior Italian ingredients.

Essential Ingredients for the Italian Pantry

This Northern Italian staple is made from ground corn meal. Polenta has a long shelf life making it an ideal pantry staple. Serve it as a hearty side-dish with your favorite cut of meat or add it to cakes for an interesting texture.

An ancient rustic grain found predominately in Tuscany & Umbria. Farro has a nutty flavor and can be used in most recipes that call for barley or brown rice. I like it best served in soup but have also made it as a side-dish.

Dried porcini mushrooms are full of flavor and when re-hydrated can be added to stews, soups and pastas to enhance both taste and texture. 

This might seem obvious but a good quality pasta is just as important as the sauce it's in. Though I prefer fresh pasta when I can get it I always keep several of dried pasta in my pantry. 

A sweet dark vinegar that can be used to dress salads or drizzled over your favorite meat or veggies to add a hint of sweetness.

Olive Oil
Another essential ingredient when it comes to Italian food, olive oil is not only used for cooking but  is often drizzled over the finished dish for added flavor.

Canned Tomatoes
When it comes to Italian cooking its crucial to have canned tomatoes always on hand. They are the base for pasta sauces, soups and stews. The Neapolitan San Marzano are a variety highly preferred by most Italians.

I received product, coupons or compensation for this post. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Strawberry Filled Vanilla Layer Cake with Whipped Mascarpone Frosting

By: The Food Hunter
We celebrated my mom's 74th birthday this past weekend with our close family and friends and this delicious vanilla layer cake. If you are ever in need of an impressive cake for a special occasion but don’t want to slave in the kitchen all day this cake is the one to make.

I stumbled across this cake months ago on the Life, Love & Sugar blog and I immediately saved it knowing my mom would love it for her birthday. And I'm so glad that I did because it was a huge hit with the entire party.

Since strawberries are my mom's favorite I decided to fill the moist vanilla cake layers with a delicious homemade strawberry jam. What really takes this cake over the top is the light and fluffy mascarpone frosting.

Strawberry Filled Vanilla Layer Cake with Whipped Mascarpone Frosting

For the Vanilla Cake
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup water
Strawberry Filling
1 package strawberries
3 tbsp water
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch

Whipped Mascarpone Frosting
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
1 1/4vcups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
16 oz mascarpone cheese, chilled

Cake Layers
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C) and prepare one tall 9 inch cake pan or 2 short ones with non-stick baking spray and parchment paper in the bottom.
2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
3. Combine the milk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and eggs in a medium sized bowl and combine.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and beat until well combined.
5. Slowly add the water to the batter and mix on low speed until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Batter will be very wet
6. Pour the batter evenly between the prepared cake pan(s) and bake for 1 hour (if using tall pan or 30 minutes if using short pan), or until a toothpick comes out clean.
7. Remove the cakes from oven and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling. Use a cake cutter to split the tall cake into two layers.

Strawberry Filling
8. Add the strawberries and water to a food processor and puree until smooth.
9. Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Stir in the strawberry puree.
10. Cook over medium heat, stirring consistently until mixture thickens and comes to a boil, about 8-10 minutes.
11. Allow to boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Refrigerate and allow to cool completely.

Frosting and Assembly
12. Add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl and whip on high speed until soft peaks form.
13. Add the mascarpone cheese and whip until stiff peaks form. Allow to set in the refrigerator.
14. To assemble the cake, use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the cakes.
15. Place the first layer of cake on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round. Pipe a dam of frosting around the outside of the cake.
16. Spread the berry filling evenly on top of the cake layer, inside the dam. It should fill the dam.
17. Spread a thin layer of mascarpone frosting on the top of the berry filling and spread into an even layer.
18. Add the top layer of cake
19. Frost the outside of the cake, then use an icing decorator to add a striped pattern to the sides.
21. Finish off the cake with some swirls of frosting and fresh berries.
22. Refrigerate cake until ready to serve. Cake is best for 2-3 days.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Meatless Bolognese

By: The Food Hunter

Often used as a substitute for meat, mushrooms are a cook's secret weapon for slimming down any dish, by drastically reducing calories and fat counts. Mushrooms are also a good source of dietary fiber, protein, amino acids and vitamins and have great healing properties.

Chef Lisa Dahl, executive chef and owner of Dahl & Di Luca and Cucina Rustica in Sedona, uses mushrooms instead of meat in many traditional dishes. Her go-to meatless Bolognese sauce is loaded with Portobello and crimini mushrooms, and tops many of her pastas and fills the layers of her meatless lasagna.

Portobello Paradiso (Meatless Bolognese)
(Recipe Created By Executive Chef Lisa Dahl and can be found in her cookbook: The Elixir of Life: Finding Love and Joy in the Passionate Pursuit of Food)

2 cups red bell peppers, cut in ½ inch squares
1 cup onions, cut in ½ inch squares
8 ounces Portobello mushrooms, with stems
12 ounces button or crimini mushrooms, with stems
 ½ cup olive oil
 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
 ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
 ¼ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
 ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
 1 cup white wine
 4 cups of Marinara sauce
 ½ cup water (optional)
 ¼ cup minced fresh parsley

Combine peppers and onions in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they are finely minced, but not watery. Place them in a bowl.

Put the Portobello and button (or crimini) mushrooms in the food processor (no need to wash the bowl) and pulse until they are coarsely chopped. They should resemble chunky, irregular, coarsely ground meal when they are ready. Set them aside in separate bowl.

Put ¼ cup of olive oil in a heated saute skillet. When the oil is smoking, put the minced peppers and onion in the pan and saute them cautiously, so as not to burn them, until they are evenly golden.

Add the minced garlic. Continue sauteing on medium/low until the garlic is softened and golden. Drizzle in a bit more olive oil as you go if needed to keep the mixture coated.

Add the ground mushrooms and allow to cook over a medium flame to draw out their liquid. It should have a meat-like consistency. Add salt, pepper, crush red chiles, oregano and thyme. Stir. If it starts to stick, use the remainder of the olive oil to keep it moist.

Raise the heat, and add 1 cup of white wine. The mixture should be juicy. Slowly reduce until all of the wine is absorbed but the mixture is still slightly moist.

Add marinara. As you continue simmering, it should be fairly hearty in thickness as well as robust in color.

Lower heat to allow the sauce to simmer slowly. Add the water and parsley. Simmer gently approximately 1 ½ hours on very low heat until flavor is concentrated and your palate goes WOW! Just before serving, check the seasonings for correct salt and desired spiciness.