Monday, September 20, 2010

Win An $80 Gift Card To

You've heard me talk about them before; well here's your chance to check out for yourself. They are giving one lucky reader an $80 gift card to be used on any of thier products.  Things like dutch ovens or cielings name it and probably carries it.

So here's how we're going to play:

1. Take a look around and come back here and let me know what you would spend the $80 on. This will get you 1 entry.

2. Tweet about this event and come back and let me know you did.  That's another entry.

3. Mention this contest on Facebook...tell me about it and you will be entered again.

4. Sign up for email updates. Oh and don't forget to let me know.

That's it...pretty easy! Contest ends midnight on October 6th. The winner will be contacted by email shortly after that.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Whole Foods Market Turns 30

On September 20, 2010 Whole Foods Market will be celebrating 30 years of providing the public with quality organic food. To help them celebrate two Northern California cheese makers, Cowgirl Creamery and Cypress Grove, have created specialty cheeses that will be available to Whole Food customers throughout September.

Whole Foods prides itself on its large cheese selection; most stores having anywhere from 250 to 1000 varieties of cheeses. Many are organic and none contain any artificial colors or preservatives.

Last week I was given the opportunity to try a few of their cheese including the Cowgirl Creamery’s Buckaroo cheese. Buckaroo is a very mild in flavor, washed rind cheese that is aged only 60 days. Creamy with a slight nutty flavor this cheese melts well and made an excellent grilled cheese sandwich. I would highly recommend trying this cheese while it’s available.

The second cheese I tried was the Robusto, a Dutch gouda style cheese with a nice sharp flavor. This cheese can stand on it's own easily but would also be great as part of an antipasto plate. Unfortunately, when pairing the Cowgirl Buckaroo with the Robusto Gouda the mild flavor of the Buckaroo was lost.

If you’re a Whole Foods fan, like I am, be sure to stop by your local store this coming weekend and help them celebrate. From what I’ve been told there will be special events happening at all locations. While you’re there be sure to check out the cheese shop. Maybe even pick up some of the specialty cheeses to try for yourself. If you do, be sure to stop back here and let me know what you think.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Two Borrowed Recipes.....Eggplant Caponata & Tiramisu Bundt Cake

I made dinner for friends this past weekend and borrowed two recipes from fellow food bloggers.  Eggplant Caponata was just recently posted on  Aglio, Olio & Pepperoncino and Tiramisu Bundt Cake was posted about a year ago on BakingBites.

The caponata was truly one of the best I've ever had.  I chopped everything on the chunkier side which I think really made the flavors stand out.  I also omitted the pine nuts since my husband is allergic and used green olives vs the kalamata.  Although this takes some time to prepare; the finished product was worth the effort.  The recipe below makes a ton and can easily be halved.

Eggplant Caponata
(adapted from Aglio, Olio & pepperoncino)

8 lbs eggplants
1 cup Kalamata or Gaeta olives, pitted
1/2 cup salted capers, rinsed
4 lb celery
3 large onions, finely sliced
4 large tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 fl oz wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
Fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Extra virgin olive oil
Begin by stripping the stringy fibers from the celery stalks, and blanch them in lightly salted water for 5 minutes. Drain them, cut them into small chunks, sauté them in a little oil, and set them aside.

Wash the eggplants, dice them, put the pieces in a large colander, sprinkle them liberally with salt, and let them sit for 30 minutes to draw out their bitter juices. Once the eggplants have been "purged," rinse away the salt and pat the pieces dry.

Sauté the onions in olive oil; once they become translucent, add the capers, pine nuts, olives, and tomatoes. Continue cooking, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the tomatoes are done, about 15 minutes, and then remove the pot from the stove.

While the tomatoes are cooking, heat some olive oil in a large skillet, and fry the diced eggplant. Do this in several batches to keep the oil from cooling down.

When the last batch is done, return the tomato pot to the fire and stir in the fried eggplant, together with the previously sautéed celery. Cook for several minutes over a low flame, stirring gently, then pour in the vinegar and the sugar. When the vinegar has almost completely evaporated remove the pot from the fire and let it cool.

Serve your caponata at room temperature, garnished with fresh basil.

Tiramisu Bundt Cake

The Tiramisu Bundt Cake was an interesting take on a classic dessert. A coffee and Kahlua filled cake topped with Kahlua spiked mascarpone cheese; what's not to like.  This cake came together easily and went over really well with my guests.  I'll admit I added slightly more coffee than the recipe calls for but that was just my preference.

Tiramisu Bundt Cake
(adapted from baking Bites) 

 3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup espresso or very strong coffee
1/4 cup Kahlua

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract. Working in two or three additions, alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk ending with an addition of flour, and mixing just until everything is incorporated.

Remove 1 cup of the batter into a small bowl. Remove another cup of batter into a second small bowl. Add espresso to one of the small bowls and whisk until well-combined. Add Kahlua to the second small bowl and whisk until well combined.

Pour half of the plain batter into the bundt pan and spread into an even layer. Pour the Kahlua batter into an even layer on top of the plain batter. Pour espresso batter on top of Kahlua batter. These batters maybe slightly thinner, but do not mix or stir them. Carefully spread all remaining plan batter into the bundt pan.

Bake for 55-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let cake cool in pan for 15-20 minutes, then turn cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Kahlua Mascarpone Frosting
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
4-oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup Kahlua
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl and beat at medium-high speed until very smooth and fluffy. Use a butter knife or spatula to apply the frosting to the bundt in a thick, even layer.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Chicago Eating Frenzy

I can honestly say that this past weekend I ate my way through Chicago and I loved every bite of it. Here's a quick lookof what I enjoyed in the windy city.

Two appetizers from Cafe Spiaggia (which by the way changed thier resturant format; a bit dissapointing but they still served delicious food)

Roasted Sicilian almonds, chickpeas and fava beans.  Duck rillette with balsamic onions and  grilled ciabatta bread.

Two pastas from Vivere. Yes, there were two. I couldn't decide on one so the waiter brought me both.

Homemade pappardelle pasta with wild boar ragu.  Homemade saffron infused taglietti pasta with braised rabbit, zucchini and ricotta salata.

My first Chicago style Italian beef sandwich from Portillo's.

I got it wet with hot peppers and no cheese.  It was good but I like Philly style Italian beef much better.

 Ham egg & cheese from The Billy Goat Tavern.

This place was hard to find but I'm so glad we did. Atmosphere alone was worth it.

Salad and pizza at La Madia.

Bresaola topped with argula, shaved fennel, sweet peppers and Parmesan cheese. Perfect in every way.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Labor Day Weekend in Chicago Promises Some Good Food

This weekend officially marks the end of summer and in most places that means cooler weather is on it's way.  Unfortunately, here in Arizona we have quite a few more weeks of heat ahead of us.  So I've decided to take advantage of the long holiday weekend and head to Chicago; hopefully to cool off for a few days.

Ok, I'll admit...I'm a foodie and that's the real reason I'm heading to Chicago. (oh and the fact my husband's there on business helps too) While I'm in the windy city I'm hoping to have my first Chicago style Italian beef sandwich. I haven't quite narrowed down the venue yet but I'm close. It will be interesting to see how these compare to Philadelphia Italian beef.  I'm also planning to get some good pizza.  Not deep dish (it's not my thing) but thin crust.

No trip to Chicago would be the same for me without a visit to Cafe Spiaggia.  This is my all time favorite dining experience in the area. So I was happy when I got reservations.  I'm currently on a waiting list for the Girl and The Goat and I'm hoping to also get into the Purple Pig.  Both of these new restaurants were written up in Food and Wine magazine.

A recommendation from a friend has me checking out the Billy Goat Tavern for a hearty breakfast sandwich before my much anticipated architectural boat tour. I plan to end the weekend with dinner my last night at Gage; where I'm looking forward to trying a Scotch egg and some venison carpaccio.

Off to bed now.  I have to wake up at 4am to catch my flight.  Chicago here I come.  Hope everyone has a great Labor Day weekend!