Friday, November 28, 2014

World Vision Catalog...Cinnamon Give Away

Many people assume that poverty is a minor problem in the United States, but in reality there are hundreds of poverty-stricken men, women and children across the country. This holiday season you will have an opportunity to help.

The World Vision Gift Catalog allows shoppers to purchase small unique gifts that can make a huge impact on the lives of families throughout the US. When thinking of presents to give this holiday season, consider buying something that will give back all year long. With more than 250 items to choose from you can surely find something for everyone on your list.

Know a friend or family member who loves to bake? How about gifting them a box of Prosperity Cinnamon. Each beautifully-carved cinnamon bark box contains 3 oz. of cinnamon and bears a common Asian character for prosperity. Vietnam's renowned sweet cinnamon is a renewable resource collected from the Cassia tree, sold to benefit generations of hard-working families.

Whether you choose to shop from World Vision or not, I would like to offer this hand carved box of cinnamon as a give away to you. It is considered to be some of the best Vietnamese cinnamon in the world.

How to win:
1. Like World Vision on Facebook and leave a comment here letting me know you did.
2. Follow World Vision on Twitter and leave a comment here letting me know you did.
3. Follow me on Twitter and leave a comment here letting me know you did.
4. Follow me on Pinterest and leave a comment here letting me know you did.

That's it...contest ends midnight 12/5/2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What Makes Cafe du Monde Beignets So Delicious?

By: The Food Hunter

Whenever I travel to New Orleans I always make a stop at Cafe du Monde for their beignets, the popular French-style donuts served covered in powdered sugar. I'm not even a doughnut eater but these little pillows of deep fried dough are hard to resist.

I've had versions elsewhere and have even tried making my own, both from scratch and from the mix boxed under the Cafe du Monde name, but never have they tasted as good as when you order them at the bustling New Orleans cafe.

I had a chance recently to sit down with Burt Benrud, Vice President of Cafe du Monde, who confirmed for me that the box mix you see on store shelves everywhere is the exact same ingredients they use in the cafe. So what makes them taste so good? Benrud says the oil. They use cotton seed oil heated to 380 degrees to fry the beignets at Cafe du Monde and recommend you do the same thing at home. Of course any vegetable oil will work but to get that unique New Orleans taste cotton seed oil is the way to go.

Another thing I learned talking with Benrud is that being open 24/7 364 days out of the year the amount of turnover is so great that there is never a need to change the oil in the fryers. Oil is added on a continuous basis making it much more seasoned than what you would use at home.

Benrud could not give me statistics on the amount of beignets sold or even the amount of powdered sugar used each day, he did say though that the sugar used is grown & milled locally which makes a huge difference in the freshness of the product.

The next time you are hankering for a little bit of New Orleans fried doughnuts at home try these few tricks and see if you aren't immediately transported to Cafe du Mode.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Putting A Home Cooked Meal On Your Table Is Easy With These 5 Tips.

By: The Food Hunter

How often do you find yourself heading home from the office with no idea what to have for dinner? And when this happens do you find that your first reaction is to stop for take-out?  If so here are a few tips that will make it easier for you to put a healthy home cooked meal on your table instead of fast food.

1. Set aside 15-30 minutes each week to put a meal plan together for the following week. When planning be sure to take into consideration what you have going on that week so you can assign easier meals on busier days.

2. Preparing meals in advance, as much as possible, is very helpful. Most veggies can be washed and cut in advance ensuring healthy ingredients are always at your disposal. For those nights when every minute counts you can purchase things like mushrooms, broccoli and lettuce already washed and cut.

3. Make food that can be portioned out and used as the base for another meal that week. I like to cook a whole chicken early in the week and use the leftovers for sandwiches or to top salads for lunches. One night's extra potatoes can be the next morning's breakfast mixed with scrambled eggs and peppers. 

4. Keep your pantry/fridge always stocked with healthy ingredients so you will always have the essentials available when life throws you a curve ball. All it takes is a little forward thinking.

5. Make things like casseroles, stews or sauces on the weekend, when you potentially have more time, and freeze them in single servings. These are great to throw in the oven when you get home and will be ready by the time you finish up your evening chores.

I would love to hear what works for you; please share any tips you have in the comment section below.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Featured Mixologist Mat Snapp & The I.G.T. Cocktail

By: The Food Hunter

Mat Snapp is the mastermind behind many of the inventive cocktails found at Fox Restaurant Concepts. From the bold, creatively named cocktails at Culinary Dropout to the health-conscious, invigorating libations at True Food Kitchen, Snapp’s spin on cocktails is creating raving and loyal customers across the Valley of the Sun and beyond.

Snapp has an inherent ability to craft concoctions that mirror all the great aspects of each restaurant’s brand. When the urban, gastro-pub inspired concept, The Arrogant Butcher opened in Phoenix, Snapp designed a contemporary beverage menu intended to appeal to a more varied downtown crowd, capturing the York City, Chicago and San Francisco cocktail culture.

In addition, his commitment to using house-made syrups and infusions to get the desired flavor he’s looking for, led to the creation of a cocktail that mimicked all the distinct aspects of barbeque.

With a wide variety of diverse, original cocktails under his belt, Mat Snapp can be found behind the bar molding the next round of exclusive Fox cocktails.

What was his inspiration behind the I.G.T.?

Mat was introduced to Dimmi Liquore di Milano in 2010 as an “herbal background spirit” and included it in a quick and light cocktail that also featured Aperol and Peroni. It was very refreshing, but the Dimmi got lost in the midst. The idea hit him to learn about Dimmi by trying the Dimmi all on its own during a cocktail class he was teaching in Tuscson.

He went to the expo line and got a side of torn basil, stirred that in. Peeled two zests of lemon, stirred those in; hit the top with Peach bitters because Dimmi has peach and apricot blossoms in it. Then gently poured Mediterranean tonic over it. The Mediterranean tonic has less quinine, less face-smack to it – a subtle elegance even. The result is a light and refreshing Italian Gin and Tonic, which just so happens to have the same initials as the wine classification, Indicazione Geographica Tipica. Seemed like a match made in heaven to him.

The I.G.T.
2                      Lemon Zests
2 ounces         Dimmi Liquore di Milano
2 dashes         Peach Bitters
2 leaves          Basil
Combine first three ingredients in a hurricane glass. Add half ice and give it a quick stir. Add basil and rest of ice. Give it a quick stir. Top with chilled Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Eating Whole Foods: Coconut Cream Cake

By: The Food Hunter

Growing up, my mom was notorious for her coconut cake. Back then it didn't matter to any of us that it came from a box, was mixed with vegetable oil and was topped with canned frosting. It was good that's all we knew.

Fast forward to this year; for mom's 71st birthday, I decided to try my hand at a made from scratch coconut cake. I scoured the internet for a recipe and finally decided on one from Cooks Illustrated. I added my own touches and the cake turned out beautiful. Mom loved the intense coconut flavor both in the cake and in the homemade coconut buttercream. She was happy and I can't ask for much more than that.

****Enter below the spinning cake to win a $25 Whole Foods Market Gift Card****

Coconut Cream Cake
(adapted from Cook's Illustrated)
1 large egg, room temperature
5 large egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup coconut cream (not cream of coconut)
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoon coconut extract
2-1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces), sifted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (6 ounces/1-1/2 sticks), cut into 12 pieces, softened, but still cool

Heat oven to 325℉. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and dust with flour. Beat whole egg and egg whites in large measuring cup with fork to combine. Add coconut cream, coconut milk, vanilla, and coconut extract; beat with fork until thoroughly combined.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on lowest speed to combine, about 30 seconds. With mixer running, add butter 1 piece at a time, then beat until mixture resembles coarse meal, with butter bits no larger than small peas, 2 to 2-1/2 minutes.

Add 1/2 of egg mixture, increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add remaining egg mixture. Stop mixer and scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then beat at medium-high speed until fully combine, about 30 seconds. (Batter will be thick.)

Divide batter evenly between cake pans and level with offset spatula. Bake until golden brown, cakes pull away from sides of pans, and toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then loosen cakes from sides of pans with paring knife, invert cakes onto racks and then re-invert; cool to room temperature.

Coconut Buttercream Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
3 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon coconut extract
4-5 tablespoons coconut cream

Cream butter in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add powdered sugar, coconut extract, salt, and coconut cream. Beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional coconut cream 1 tablespoon at a time.

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