Food Hunter's Guide to Cuisine: December 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Virtual PotLuck Holiday Party & Barenjager Honey Liqueur

Welcome to our first Virtual Potluck Holiday Party sponsored by Barenjager Honey Liqueur. Produced in Germany Barenjager is made from 70 proof grain alcohol and all natural honey from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.  It was originally created to aid bear hunters by louring the animals out of hiding.

The VP group has come up with some pretty creative ways to use this amazing (and it is pretty amazing) liqueur.  Here's a teaser...feel free to stop by their blogs for the full recipes.





First up is the Colorado Bee Sting, created by Donna from Cookistry.  After making a yummy ham glaze with her honey liqueur Donna realized she wanted more.  Inspired by the classic White Russian cocktail Donna came up with the Colorado Bee Sting.  






Milisa from Miss in the Kitchen is bringing her famous baklava.  Always impressive and delicious the added Baenjager has made them even better. These Barenjager Honey Lemon Bakalava are the perfect dessert to bring to any party.  







Looking for a cool martini to try how about the Barren Pear Martini that Rachel from Not Rachel Ray is bringing to the party.   And in case that's not enticing enough for you how about trying her Barenjager Honey Caramel Sauce.  Sounds perfect drizzled over ice cream.





 

Another cocktail inspired by the legendary White Russian Jay from Bite and Booze brings us the Honey Chocolate Holiday Cocktail.  This holiday cocktail replaces coffee liqueur with Barenjager Honey Liqueur and a dash of chocolate liqueur to create a palate-pleasing, easy drinking cocktail!  Honey and chocolate are a great combination that now have their place in the cocktail world too! 










Heather from Farmgirl Gourmet is bringing this to die for BoozyBarenjager Shrimp Cocktail.  Large prawns marinated in Barenjager Honey Liqueur, Lime & Cilantro, grilled and served with a quick boozy Honey Liqueur Cocktail sauce.  This will make an elegant start to your holiday festivities.








They've been abuzz (and buzzed) all month over Bärenjäger's many uses over at The GrooVy Foody, trying it in drinks, in a Honey Bundt Liqueur Cake and adding it's nectar to a dark toffee sauce for use in Banoffee Pudding. Want the recipes? Visit The Groovy Foody



 
Another awesome cocktail brought to us by Tara the Foodie.  A mixture of Barenjager, Maker's Mark, Midori melon liquor, and juiced cucumber. Garnished with melon balls and a cucumber slice. It's a sweet drink with a fresh taste. It would be great as a digestíve or a drink to sip in the summer. 












How about a nightcap...one last drink before the party is over.  I'll fix us up a few Barenjager Cabin Honey Hot Toddies.  They are perfect for cold winter nights by the fire. (you can find the recipe here)

The Barenjager Cabin Honey Hot Toddy

What does one do on a cold winter night in a secluded cabin in the woods?  Drink Hot Toddy's of course...now what were you thinking??    And what makes this Hot Toddy better than any other you've ever had?  Barenjager Honey Liqueur.   Made with real honey; Barenjager has a pronounced honey flavor that mixes well in different recipes and is even better straight up.

I'm bringing this special Honey Hot Toddy to our Virtual Potluck Holiday Party. Don't forget to stop by all of the other VP blogger's pages to see what they are serving up.



Cabin Honey Hot Toddy


Ingredients
    2 ounces boiling water
    2 ounces Barenjager Honey Liqueur
    3 whole cloves
    1 cinnamon stick
    1 slice lemon
    1 pinch ground nutmeg

Directions

Pour boiling water and whiskey into a mug. Spice it with the cloves and cinnamon, and put in the slice of lemon. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes so the flavors can mingle, then sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg before serving.






Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays From Virtual Potluck!

Join us on Wednesday December 28, 2011 for our very first Virtual Potluck Holiday Party.  We will be celebrating with food and drink featuring Barenjazer Honey Liqueur (this means lots of cool recipes for you). 

You won't want to miss this event so stop by here on the 28th to see what I'm bringing to the party and for links to all of the other VP posts.

Until then Happy Holidays from all of us at Virtual Potluck!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Double Chocolate Fennel Pollen Biscotti

VOTING IS NOW OPEN:  Please head over MarxFoods and vote for my Double Chocolate Fennel Pollen Biscotti.  Voting ends midnight on 12/22.  Thanks Much!!

Biscotti are probably the most versatile cookie out there.   Every Italian family I know has a recipe they call their own and all seem to be different. I’ve seen them flavored with anise (that’s how I make mine), almond and just about everything in between.  Some people make them with butter, some use Crisco and others like myself use a mixture of the two.  Even the size of these cookies vary…short and fat, or long and thin…it really just depends on your tradition.

I usually don’t deviate from my family biscotti recipe but when Marx Foods announced its Capricious Chocolate Challenge and picked me to participate my wheels started turning.  With the holiday season in full swing I already had cookies on the brain.  So why not go with that.  The challenge was to create an original chocolate recipe using one or more of the following ingredients supplied by Marx Foods: fennel pollen, dried chilies, coconut sugar, granulated candy cap mushrooms, or  vanilla beans.

 
I thought long and hard about the best flavor combination and decided to do a Double Chocolate & Fennel Pollen Biscotti.  Why fennel pollen?  Well for one thing I’m intrigued by this spice.  Collected from the flower of the fennel plant it’s a highly aromatic spice that will transform just about any dish.  I would highly recommend trying it if the opportunity arises.
 

Double Chocolate Fennel Pollen Biscotti
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fennel pollen
1 teaspoon vanilla (I used 1/3 vanilla bean)
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. grease a large baking sheet.

In a bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, fennel pollen and salt. In another bowl with an electric mixer beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Add vanilla.

Mix in flour mixture a little at a time. Stir in chocolate chips.

On prepared baking sheet with floured hands form dough into two slightly flattened logs, approximately 2 inches wide.

Bake for about 35 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes.

Cut logs diagonally into slices. Arrange cut sides down on baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack.


Double Chocolate Fennel Pollen Biscotti

VOTING IS NOW OPEN:  Please head over MarxFoods and vote for my Double Chocolate Fennel Pollen Biscotti.  Voting ends midnight on 12/22.  Thanks Much!!

Biscotti are probably the most versatile cookie out there.   Every Italian family I know has a recipe they call their own and all seem to be different. I’ve seen them flavored with anise (that’s how I make mine), almond and just about everything in between.  Some people make them with butter, some use Crisco and others like myself use a mixture of the two.  Even the size of these cookies vary…short and fat, or long and thin…it really just depends on your tradition.

I usually don’t deviate from my family biscotti recipe but when Marx Foods announced its Capricious Chocolate Challenge and picked me to participate my wheels started turning.  With the holiday season in full swing I already had cookies on the brain.  So why not go with that.  The challenge was to create an original chocolate recipe using one or more of the following ingredients supplied by Marx Foods: fennel pollen, dried chilies, coconut sugar, granulated candy cap mushrooms, or  vanilla beans.

 
I thought long and hard about the best flavor combination and decided to do a Double Chocolate & Fennel Pollen Biscotti.  Why fennel pollen?  Well for one thing I’m intrigued by this spice.  Collected from the flower of the fennel plant it’s a highly aromatic spice that will transform just about any dish.  I would highly recommend trying it if the opportunity arises.
 

Double Chocolate Fennel Pollen Biscotti
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fennel pollen
1 teaspoon vanilla (I used 1/3 vanilla bean)
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. grease a large baking sheet.

In a bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, fennel pollen and salt. In another bowl with an electric mixer beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Add vanilla.

Mix in flour mixture a little at a time. Stir in chocolate chips.

On prepared baking sheet with floured hands form dough into two slightly flattened logs, approximately 2 inches wide.

Bake for about 35 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes.

Cut logs diagonally into slices. Arrange cut sides down on baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Do you Smorgie?


Smorgie.com
 

Smorgie is a totally free foodie application available both on the web and also as an iPhone app; that will help you remember and share your favorite foodie destinations. Brought to you by the Design and Innovation group at Gannett, the parent company of USA TODAY and over 80 local newspapers you know this Smorgie is going to be around for awhile.

It's easy to create an account on Smorgie and once you do setting up your lists is a cinch. Just give it a name and start adding all your favorite restaurants.   There's no limit to the amount of lists you can make. How about one for each of your favorite cities or your favorite types of foods…it’s up to you how you want to stay organized.  

The best part is that Smorgie allows you to link up with friends and see their lists.  This is a great tool to use when traveling; to find cool places in an unfamiliar city

I'm really glad I found Smorgie; as I can definitely benefit from something to help me stay organized.  I'm looking forward to creating and sharing many lists. So when you sign up be sure to add me as a friend.


This sponsorship is brought to you by Smorgie.com who we have partnered with for this promotion.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gruyere & Cheddar Mac & Cheese & Trader Joe's Cookbook Review

Ever wonder what to do with all the cool food items you see on the shelves at Trader Joe’s?  Wonder no more.  Cherie Mercer Twoky puts an end to your dilemma of what to do with things like Trader Joe’s Satay Peanut Sauce or Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne in her new book I LoveTrader Joe’s Around the World Cookbook

With over 140 recipes this culinary atlas is your guide to making delicious ethnic meals using products from your local Trader Joe’s. It includes lots of color photos and easy to follow directions for everyday go to meals.

A few weeks back, with book in hand, I headed over to my local Trader Joe’s and spent some time browsing the shelves…picking up ingredients to make Palaver Chicken and Moroccan Sweet Potato and Squash Stew.  While I was there I got a bit side tracked; which seems to happen to me a lot. I found myself browsing at the cheese selection focusing on the Gruyere and Cheddar mix.  This blend sounded perfect for macaroni and cheese.

Now I'll be honest...I've never actually made mac and cheese but for some reason this cheese was calling out to me so I said what the heck I'll give it a try. Hence my version below. 


 Gruyere & Cheddar Mac and Cheese

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups grated Trader Joe’s Gruyere Cheddar mix
1/2 pound elbow macaroni

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk.
Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper and 2/3 of the cheese.  Set cheese sauce aside.

In the meantime fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer's directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Baked Pasta with Spinach & Sausage for Nelly's Big Day

“And …I said YESSSSS!”
It happened one November midnight, in Twitterverse, we saw the above tweet from our dear Nelly @nella22. Without missing a beat, we all knew Nelly had “said YES” to her beloved “M”, as she sweetly calls Brian Murray, her fiancé.

If you don't know Nelly from Cooking with Books, you should.  She's a wonderful person and writes an exceptional blog.  Well today is her Virtual Bridal Shower. While I've been to many real bridal showers, this is my first virtual one. How does this work?  Basically a bunch of Nelly's blogger friends will be posting recipes today to help her celebrate this special occasion.  Be sure to check out everyone's post to see what they're bringing and don't forget to stop by and wish Nelly well.




Baked Pasta with Spinach & Sausage

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic minced
1/4 cup vodka
28 oz canned crushed  tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 lb penne pasta
10 oz baby spinach
12 oz sausage
8 oz mozzarella cheese (4 oz cut into 1/2 in. cubes and 2 ounces grated)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese                                      

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 

2.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, stir in garlic.  Remove sausage from casing and crumble. Add sausage to oil and cook until brown.  Remove pan from heat and add vodka, return to heat cook until almost evaporated about 1 minute.
 
3.  Stir in tomatoes and oregano, cook about 10-15 minutes.  Add cream and cook until warmed through about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

4.  In the meantime cook pasta in the boiling water until al dente.  Add spinach and cook just until wilted.  Drain and return contents to pot.

5.  Add tomato sauce,  sausage and cubed mozzarella cheese to pot.  Toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour mixture into a baking dish.

6.  Top with  grated mozzarella cheese and parmesan.  Bake until browned and edges are crisp 20-30 minutes.



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Treats Truck Baking Book Winner Announced....

The lucky winner of The Treats Truck Baking Book by Kim Ima is Patsy from Family Friends and Food. Be sure to stop by her blog when you have a chance and congratulate her.

I've got lots of great things planned for you over the next few weeks and more chances to win. So stay tuned.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pasta with Bella Sun Luna Sun Dried Tomatoes & Roasted Zucchini

Several weeks back I was contacted by someone at Mooney Farms to do a review of their Bella Sun Luci sun dried tomato products. Little did I know when I accepted the offer that besides two bags of dried tomatoes, I would also get two jars of oil packed tomatoes and two jars of sun dried tomato bruschetta. The possibilities for using these products seemed endless and I couldn’t wait to get cooking.

First let me tell you a little bit about Mooney Farms. They were a small family owned business based out of San Francisco around 1987. Their Bella Sun Luci brand brought them much notoriety; with the winning recipe for sun dried tomatoes. In 1994, to meet their growing demand,  they moved to a bigger facility in Chico, California.  To this day they continue to use the original sun dried tomato recipe which has been handed down over many generations.

Over the past few weeks I've been experimenting with all of the sun dried tomato products I received.  Who knew that cooking with these little gems could be so much fun. Unlike other brands the Bella Sun Luci tomatoes are very moist and tender...able to be eaten and enjoyed right from the package. In other words there's no re-hydration needed as with most similar products.

So far I've used the tomatoes to enhance salad dressings, add dimension to crostini spreads and bring some basic dishes to a new level.   My recipe for Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes & Roasted Zucchini is now a new favorite at our house.  Try it and let me know what you think.



Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes & Roasted Zucchini

2 medium zucchini, trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
2 garlic cloves, left unpeeled
olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/4 pound pasta, cooked, drained, 3/4 cup cooking liquid reserved
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
4 Bella Sun Luna jarred sun dried tomato halves, chopped
grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss zucchini and garlic with some olive oil in a bowl. Spread on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 30 minutes.

When the zucchini is tender remove from oven.  Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat add sun dried tomatoes, zucchini and red pepper.  Squeeze roasted garlic from shell and saute with the vegetables until everything is heated through. 

In the meantime cook pasta according to directions on box..  When still al denti add to pan with the vegetables; also adding some pasta cooking liquid.  When pasta is well coated add the fresh basil and serve sprinkled with grated cheese.