Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Vanilla Poundcake Strawberry Peach Trifle

Remember the Poundcakes from the last Weight Watcher Wednesday post that stuck to the paper? Well, I promised a Trifle recipe using them and here it is. Now, technically I believe a trifle is made up of custard or pudding, fruit and sponge cake. I wanted to keep the calories down, and also, I was fresh out of custard and too lazy to make any so figured that yogurt would work in a pinch, and it did! Funny what you can come up with when you start playing around in the kitchen. I previously froze the Poundcakes, so after letting them thaw, and peeling off the paper, I went ahead with the rest of the recipe. You can vary the fruit and let it macerate as long as you need. I let mine sit out on the counter about 1 hour. Make these ahead of time in a pretty glass and let them sit in the fridge, covered with cling film, at least all day. The longer the better since the cake soaks up the fruity goodness. Enjoy!

Vanilla Poundcake Strawberry Peach Trifle
serves 2

1 tbl of orange juice
1 tbl cognac
1 large fresh peach, chopped
2-3 large strawberries, chopped
1 tbl demerara cane sugar
2/3 cup lowfat organic vanilla yogurt
2 Vanilla Poundcakes, sliced into small pieces
2 nice large strawberries for garnish

In a small bowl, stir together the oj, cognac, peach, strawberries and sugar until the fruit is nicely coated. Let sit on the counter to macerate at least 1 hour.

After the fruit has been allowed to sit, gather nice drinking glasses, the yogurt and sliced up Poundcakes. You are now ready to assemble.

You will layer as follows into each glass, so eyeball the quantities: cake, fruit, yogurt, cake, fruit yogurt. See, easy, peasy! Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for several hours. When you are ready to serve, decoratively slice a strawberry for the top, delicious!

Friday, July 25, 2008

My big night out, thanks to Foodbuzz and Veggie U!

I feel I must preface this blog. To get this finished and posted I have been listening to taped interviews, writing, editing, pouring over photos, and then choosing the pictures to insert, for days. So, to you the reader, be forewarned, this is my not usual post. I hope it will entertain you, inspire you, and get that stomach growling! My wish is for this to be one of many reviews, be it of an event, restaurant, festival or any foodie inspired get-together, that I will have the pleasure of presenting. Since there are so may pictures, I will provide a link to my Flickr site where you can view the entire collection. Enjoy!

I had the immense privilege of attending the Culinary Vegetable Institute fundraiser for their not-for-profit organization Veggie U. The goal of Veggie U is to educate 4th grade children across the country with regards to food, nutrition, agriculture and science. Hands on training has been developed by this organization, part of which includes a complete vegetable grow kit. The students get to participate in hands on learning which fulfills their educational requirements and provides important information to help combat the rising problem of childhood obesity. The other bonus for the kids, they get to eat the results! I urge you to go to the links for the sites which I have provided and if you are in the area, get involved with this great program. If are not in the area and within the country, why not help to get this program in your school? My hope it that many of you will be inspired become members of this program.

This was the 6th year for the Food and Wine Celebration. The event featured over 30 chefs from around the country, great wines, food demos and auctions. Believe me, there was a lot to take in! I was sent to cover the event as a Foodbuzz Correspondent. This is a new program being launched by Foodbuzz and I am thrilled to have been chosen. My focus was primarily on the food and the chefs in attendance. I was not able to cover the demos and wine tasting classes, just too much for one gal! I knew that you, the reader, would want to see and read about (I wish you could all have tasted) the unique dishes. I was able to conduct a few interviews as well, when I could snag a chef between food prep, plating and other interviews. I even grabbed the attention of Chef Michael Symon for a quick few questions, before he hopped on stage to emcee the Start Chef Cookoff!

For your reference, if you are wondering when viewing the folks in the photos, yes, it was hot! Summer in Northern Ohio, 90's and humid. The skies opened up and lightly rained, but at that point it was a bit of a relief! No one seemed to really mind, too busy focused on the fine wine and cuisine at hand. Speaking of, let's get on to the good part!

My first stop was with the Executive Chef of the Hartford Club in Hartford Connecticut. Chef Leo Bushey III. This was his first year to attend the event. His feature dish was inspired by his visit to the Chef's Garden. "We did the farm tour and had the chance to find all these beautiful things to create this food". His dish, Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho w/Cucamelons, Golden and Green Pea Tendrils with a Parmigiano-Reggiano Cracker. The Cucamelons are just one of the unique vegetables offered by the Chef's Garden, and were perfect for the gazpacho. Here is a picture of yours truly with Chef Bushey, the Gazpacho and the table. For those that are curious, a cucamelon is a cross between a cucumber and a melon. They are green, about the size of a grape tomato and are in the bottom of the picture on the right.

My next stop was withKalahari Resorts, Sandusky, Ohio Pastry Chef, Ann Blackwood. Her offerings were over the top. I believe we counted 12 items! I personally sampled the Mini Chocolate Martinis, Squash Blossoms with Jalapeno Chocolate Ganache, Goat Cheese Panna Cotta in Baby Squash and Grilled Baby Pineapple with Lemon Pound Cake Vanilla Sauce and Bittersweet Chocolate. Wow, all so good, especially the squash blossom. When asked about her signature ingredient, her response was "chocolate of course, They don't call me Coco for nothing!" Of her many offerings for the event, she pointed out the Mexican Tarragon Panna Cotta as a unique addition.

Just some of Chef Blackwoods goodies!

Plating her tastings, Chef Rachel Speith, Three Birds Restaurant, Lakewood, Ohio. Chilled Tomato Soup, Avocado and Cucumber Salsa, Basil Garnish and Cilantro Oil. Citrus Crab Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms with Baked Lemon Compote.

Chef Paul DelFavero, Mesa Grill, Las Vegas, Fried Green Tomato with Chipotle Crab Salad.

Chef Christopher Lee, Gilt, New York, New York, Chilled English Pea Soup with English Pea Falafel and Cucumber Yogurt.

I spoke with Chef Anna Kim from Sans Souci in Cleveland, Ohio, asking here how they practiced Earth to Table. "We are big supporters of Chef's Garden", said Kim. "Being only about and hour away, a lot of products that we get in the morning will be used for dinner service that day. We are fortunate to have a facility like Chef's Garden so close to us".

Cleveland native, co-owner of both Lola and Lolita, Food Network Iron Chef, Chef Michael Symon was the guest emcee for the Star Chef Cook-off. I was lucky enough to catch a quick interview with him. He explained that this was the first year he had a chance to get to the event and that he had "worked with Lee for the past 15 years". I asked him what he thought of the food blog world. "It's interesting", said Symon,"things have changed a lot because of bloggers. It used to be just newspapers and magazines, but bloggers have introduced a new realm in which you can be talked about, some bad, some good, some indifferent. It's changing the way people talk about food". I explained to him a bit about what I do and asked him, "other than posting this interview with you on my blog, what interesting food trends do you think I should write about"? "Things like Veggie U", he answered with enthusiasm,"the biggest trend there is, is farm to table, taking food locally and respecting the earth by practicing sustainable cuisine. That will always be a trend". "Last question", I said, "Lake Erie Perch or Walleye"? "Walleye, always", he answered with a smile. Thanks for the interview Michael and for posing for this photo!

Okay, so that was pretty cool! But enough of that, back to the food (and wine)! Every guest at the event is handed a Veggie U wine glass when they enter. Just present your glass to the nice wine booth folks and they are happy to give you a taste, and plenty of great information.

Fresh Linguini with Mahi Mahi, Italian Sausage, Chef's Garden Black Cherry and Lemon Drop Tomatoes in action with Chef Michael Delligatta, Michael Anthony at the Inn, Versailles, Ohio.

From the North Hills Country Club, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, Chef Jeff Slough brought a melt in your mouth Spinach Arugula, Veal Cheek Lasagna, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Truffle Oil and Micro Arugula.

If I had to pick a favorite (please, don't make me), I think it would have to be the Manchester Farm Quail, Bacon, Carrot and Mustard Cress, by Chef Aaron Deal, Tristan, Charleston, South Carolina. The "wow factor" was huge on this one!

I will end this post by paying homage to the city I was born, as well as my all time favorite frozen treat, by featuring a few pictures from Jeni's Ice Cream, Columbus, Ohio. I loved the Sweet Corn with Blackberries, and, okay, maybe I did go back for the Back Yard Mint, and yes, I admit to tasting the Strawberry Buttermilk. Jeni, thank you, you are the Ice Cream Goddess!

That brings this post to an end, at least here. Please visit my Flickr gallery. There I will post all of the pictures along with titles and descriptions (just give my a little time after I post this to get them uploaded). If you have any questions regarding anything you have read, please feel free to leave a comment.

I would really like to thank all of the chef's for taking the time out to talk with me. I wish I could have featured all of you, but that might constitute a foodie version of "War and Peace".

I leave with this last picture of the wonderful, cheerful, helpful, knowledgeable volunteers who made this event a real pleasure. My hat's off to you!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ina's Smoked Salmon Spread

This week's Barefoot Bloggers recipe was chosen by Ashley of Spicy Skillet. I was happy to make Ina's Salmon Spread. I knew it would be a quick savory spread, perfect for a light summer meal.

To accompany the spread I put out water crackers and sliced English cucumbers. I was hoping to get by hands on some baby pattypan squash. The plan was to slice the tops off, scoop a small bit out, lightly roast in the oven with oo, s&p and then fill with the salmon spread. Unfortunately I was not successful with my search, so we will leave that for another day. If you have any other suggestions, please leave a comment!

We had the spread, crackers and cucs as a starter while the grill heated up and the corn was steaming. I had some asparagus wrapped with prosciutto, which we then grilled.

As for the corn, today was the first day Hahn's Farm began selling their sweet corn. Let me tell you, we got there first thing to pick up a bag. Around here you know to get there early, before they sell out for the day. If you have never had any, I pity you. It really is the best sweet corn you can get. They sell a bag this year for $6.00, and the amount you get varies. You ask for a dozen ears and never get just that amount. Yesterday I hit the jackpot and got 17 in my bag! Whoo hoo! Just steam and eat (and eat and eat!).

This was the perfect summer meal, no utensils needed. It was a bit chilly last night with a north breeze blowing off the lake, so we fired up the chiminea and ended the evening with smores made with Trader Joe's old fashioned cinnamon graham crackers, marshmallows and dark chocolate, ummm.

Back to the the recipe. I used light cream cheese and light sour cream to save a few calories, and fresh picked dill from the garden (no thanks to the bee that stung me while cutting the dill). Try to use fresh dill if possible, there is something so wonderful about fresh dill and salmon together. I was not able to get my hands on Norwegian Salmon, as Ina suggests. Must be due to the fact that I live in a small town on Lake Erie and not the Hamptons. It was very good all the same.

Ina's Salmon Spread
yield: 1 1/2 pints

8 oz. light cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 tbl lemon juice
1 tbl minced fresh dill
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish, drained
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound (4 ounces) smoked salmon, minced

Cream the cheese in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until just smooth. Add the sour cream, lemon juice, dill, horseradish, salt, and pepper, and mix. Add the smoked salmon and mix well. Chill and serve with crudites or crackers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Vanilla Poundcakes with Peach Ginger Sorbet- WWW

Doesn't that look good, a cool, creamy, peach sorbet nestled in a vanilla poundcake? What if I told you that you could have this treat guilt free? Well, you can! This is my entry for this week's Weight Watcher Wednesday. I found the recipes on the site (don't worry, links will be provided). Okay, so I had my recipes, now I wanted an occasion to serve them. Again, no problem. This was my week to host the neighbor gals S&B. For those unfamiliar, that stand for Stitch n Bitch. We get together at the home of one of the group, have a nice little treat, provided by the hostess, then continue on knitting and "chatting". I was lucky to be able to have everyone site outside on the patio surrounded by the garden since we meet early before the heat gets too bad. I served these treats along with a glass of vanilla rose sun tea, only the best for my girls. We all agreed, hands down, this was delicious!

I have to admit, I had a bit of a snafu when baking the cakes. The recipe calls for spraying the baking pan. I decided to make individual cakes, in muffins tins with baking papers, and did not spray. You can probably guess what happened, they stuck. So, I made a second batch, sans the papers, and baked them in tins that had been sprayed. Much better. I saved the first batch and came up with a yummy trifle, that will be another post.

Back to the WW post. The Vanilla Pound Cake can easily be made in advance. It kept nicely, wrapped in cling film on the counter. Any longer and I would wrap and freeze. The only changes I made were to use my vanilla sugar and I baked them in muffins pans (thus the name, poundcakes). If you bake them in the tins, adjust the cooking time to 25-30 min.

I made no changes at all to the Peach Ginger Sorbet. The sorbet ingredients were assembled the day before, then I processed in the ice cream machine just before our meeting. It was done in 25 minutes, then I gave it about 30 more minutes in the freezer. At this point it was still fairly soft and creamy, which is the texture I wanted. I did take the advice in the article and place the mix and dasher in the freezer for 5 minutes before placing in the machine. I have no doubt that you could vary the fruit and seasoning, this seems a reliable recipe.

Vanilla Poundcakes
makes 12 poundcakes
POINTS® Value: 4

2 large egg(s)
3 large egg white(s)
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
8 oz light cream cheese(room temperature)
3 1/2 Tbsp butter(room temperature)
1 1/3 cup vanilla sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
white sanding sugar(optional)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat 2 regular muffin tins with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, vanilla extract and almond extract; set aside.
In a separate bowl light mix the sugar, baking powder and salt until blended.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese and butter until blended.

Beat in flour and egg mixture, little by little, beginning and ending with flour.

Pour batter into prepared pans, sprinkle with the sanding sugar and bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 25 to 30minutes.
Cool cake in pan on a wire rack.

Peach and Ginger Sorbet
makes 8 half cup servings
POINTS® value per serving: 2

1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
2 tsp dried ground ginger
1 1/2 pounds fresh peaches, pitted and quartered
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt

Combine the water, sugar, corn syrup, and ground ginger in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; boil 1 minute without stirring. Set aside 5 minutes to cool.

Pour the sugar mixture into a large blender or food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Add the peaches, lemon juice, and salt. Blend or process until puréed. Pour into a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

Place the mixture and the dasher (the plastic piece that aerates the sorbet in the freezer for 5 minutes prior to processing in the machine. Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tequila Lime Shrimp- WWW

I found a new blog site, Weight Watcher Wednesday, which I am going to try to keep up with. The site is the idea of Em at The Repressed Pastry Chef and as she says, "Let's show everyone that great tasting, beautiful food doesn't have to be a diet-buster". So here I go with my first entry.

I found this recipe on the website. I had a bag of Trader Joe's shrimp in the freezer, and borrowed the tequila from neighbor Sue (technically she gave it to me, it will not be returned). This is a very easy dish to put together. I served it over a bed of lettuce, from my garden and freshly dug and roasted beets, also from said garden. Light, spicy and delicious, perfect for the hot summer weather!

Tequila Lime Shrimp

serves 4

1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 Tbsp jalapeno pepper(s), minced (don't touch seeds with bare hands)
1/2 tsp chili powder, chipotle-variety (I just used plain chili powder)
3/4 tsp sugar
3/4 fl oz tequila
1/4 cup cilantro, fresh, chopped, divided
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium garlic clove(s), minced
1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste (plus some for garnish)
1 1/2 pound shrimp, jumbo-size, shelled and deveined (or leave tails on for a nicer presentation)

In a small bowl, combine lime juice, jalapeno, chili powder, sugar, tequila and 2 tablespoon of cilantro; set aside.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and salt; cook, stirring, until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add shrimp; sauté, until shrimp turn pink, about 4 minutes. Remove shrimp to a serving plate and cover to keep warm.

Add lime juice mixture to same skillet and place over high heat. Cook until alcohol burns off, stirring and scrapping sides of pan, about 2 minutes; pour over shrimp and garnish with remaining cilantro and more sea salt, if desired. Yields about 3 ounces of shrimp per serving.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Chocolate Chip Vanilla Bean Sammies

Whew, what a weekend! It started with a little get together we hosted on Friday that coincided with the 3 Day Riverfest, followed by a late night by the fire with neighbors and a trip to Lakeside on Sunday to view the wooden boats and Plein Air Painters. For us, that's a whole lotta party!

We live just a few blocks away from the festival locale which meant for a busy weekend of tourists and locals coming to check out the fun. Our party was a blast and our guests were treated to a fireworks display, courtesy of the Riverfest folks at the end of the evening. Now, I had planned on posting a complete party menu but well, you know the "best laid plans", etc.I photographed most of the food prep and none of the final product, save for this little frozen treat. So, if you will forgive me, I will post some of my prep and leave the final outcome to your culinary imagination.

I did most of the cooking the day before the party. If you can do this, it makes for a much more relaxed and organized day of the party for you. I made the Chicken Wings with Red Hot Honey Glaze and Blue Cheese Celery dip found on my post from the 4th of July. They can be served at room temperature and the flavor of the sauce is better when they sit a day.

Also made the day before were the brats. I did this is 3 steps. Step one: heat up 2 bottles of beer in a large pan with 2 sliced large sweet onions to which you have added a bit of salt, pepper and a fat pinch of ground cloves. When the onions begin to simmer, lay on the brats. I had to do mine in batches since I made 15 of them.

Cover the brats and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn them, cover and simmer 5 more minutes. You can then remove them from the pan, let cool and refrigerate. The next day, bring the brats almost room temp, pop on a moderately hot grill and cook about 10 more minutes until nice and browned.

Step two: back to the onions. After removing the brats, take the onions out of the pan with tongs. Place them in a bowl, let cool and in the fridge they go. Next day, cook them on the grill till nice and golden in a pan made for the grill. Yum!

Step three: back again to the pan. Now, add to the beer a bag of fresh, drained sauerkraut. Bring this to a simmer and cook til most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Same as above, let cool and chill. Serve the next day at room temp. Let me tell you, this is a delicious trio!

Another recipe to note was Ina Garten's Herb Dip. You can go to the link for the recipe. I did not use the blanched crudites, instead I used fresh vegetables. I chose golden and regular baby cut carrots, sliced cucumbers, a selection of heirloom cherry tomatoes and celery. I did use fresh herbs from the garden and lightened up the recipe with 1/3 fat cream cheese and 0% fat greek yogurt. Again, I made this a day in advance and it was great with the veggies.

In addition, we had chips, salsa, hummus, and potato salad as well as a selection of beer, wine and pop.

For dessert, I served these cute little ice cream sandwiches. First, I made half the recipe of Tollhouse Cookies, sans nuts. Prepare them a day or so ahead and keep under wraps.

For the filling, I prepared an adaptation of Ina's Vanilla Ice Cream (recipe to follow). Let the ice cream harden in the freezer at least 2 hours, then place in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes to soften. To assemble, first match up your cookies into similar size/shape pairs. Then, working quickly, place a small scoop of ice cream between the cookies and place on a wax paper lined pan. Place the pan in the freezer until the sandwiches have frozen solid, then again, working quickly, wrap each sandwich in saran wrap, place in a large zip lock bag and freeze until ready to serve. I piled them in a bowl and let them sit in the fridge to soften a bit. It's a great party treat, everyone gets an individual serving, complete with a wrapper to hold it with.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
makes 1 quart

2 cups half & half
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup vanilla sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds

Heat the liquids, sugar, vanilla, vanilla pod and vanilla seeds in a small saucepan only until the sugar is dissolved. Be sure the sugar is dissolved - you will no longer feel any grittiness from the sugar if you rub some liquid between your fingers. Strain into a bowl, cover, and chill very well. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer's directions. This may take a bit longer since you are using milk and not all heavy cream. Spoon into a freezer container and allow to chill in the freezer for a few hours. Allow to soften before serving.

I chose to not use the heavy cream as in the original recipe after reading the posted reviews and to save a few calories. I also cut the vanilla bean in half because it was so darn expensive and used the vanilla sugar I always have around. This is a great recipe if you are into vanilla bean ice cream. One taster said it reminded them of Dairy Queen softserve, which is soooo good.

Hope you enjoy these recipes!