Beet Love

When I typed the title of this post I spelled Beer Love, ha! It was funny the first time, so I hit backspace and typed Beer Love, again. Third time I got it right, so here we go, let’s talk about beerts, or beets. Shoo!

Beets have a reputation of sorts and chances are you either love them or hate them. I suspect some of the issues people have with beets stem from a perceived complexity. Really, beets are so easy, you just need a little time to prepare them.  If everyone tasted a fresh organic beet, I think this super veg would fly into mainstream foodie consciousness. Beets are cool, okkkkay, pllrrrp.

Method: heat oven to 400 F. Wash the beets and remove the greens and the root (sometimes I leave the root and peel it off after roasting). Save the greens and saute with some olive oil and garlic or add them to a salad. Wrap each beet with aluminum foil, add a drop or two of olive oil, some fresh herbs, and a little kosher salt,  wrap and roast for 45 minutes or so. Or, set them in the hot coals of a campfire and let them roast away. Once you can pierce the beet through with a knife, they are done. Let them cool and then peel and chop. Watch out for the gorgeous color here, and if you stain your heirloom boos cutting board scrub it with a little kosher salt and lemon until the stain is gone.

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Prep Ideas:
Add roasted beets to a spinach salad with a little goat cheese and some candied pecans
Pickled beets are ah-mazing. Pour a heavy glug of balsamic or apple cider vinegar over roasted beets and let marinate for 30 minutes or so.
Move over the kale chips and whip up some crunchy beet chips.
Make some beet ice cream…what a gorgeous color it would be

Flavor Love:
beets + chives + orange + tarragon
beets + citrus + goat cheese + olive oil + shallots
beets + dill + sour cream
beets + goat cheese + walnuts
beets + pistachios + gorgonzola cheese + vinegar

When you are roasting vegetables for dinner, throw a beet bunch into the oven and keep them on hand to use all week in salads, sandwiches and snacks. A couple of pickled beets on a cheese and charcuterie board will add the right touch of acid to refresh your palate and balance decadent flavors.

 

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Hot Toddy goodness 

Hot toddy: it will cure what ails you. After a long week of feeling under the weather, I’ve discovered this sweet little delight is fun to make. The lemon provides a boost in vitamin c, while the honey soothes a sore throat. 

 

Recipe

Kentucky Bourbon, the good kind, but not too good

1/2 a lemon

1 to 2 tbsp of honey 

1 cup or so of hot water

Fill up the bottom of your tea cup with honey, squeeze in half a lemon, add a slow two count of bourbon (1 annnnnnd 2 annd) and fill with hot water. Give it a stir and you’ve got your toddy for the party. Enjoy while staring blankly at the Christmas tree or watching a marathon of Trailer Park Boys.

Cheers! 

  

Crispy Eggs over Sausage & Ciabatta Stuffing

Throw an egg on top, right? Yes, and start with Thanksgiving leftovers. I created Crispy Eggs over Ciabatta & Sausage Stuffing for Michael,  it did the trick after he rode 60 miles on his bicycle yesterday in cold rainy conditions at the Gravel Grovel. This recipe takes five minutes and is so simple, make it for an easy weekday breakfast or dinner.

I really love this cooking technique, it breaks a few culinary rules. I was taught to cook eggs without any trace of color. French golden rule: No color. Go ahead and break the rules here, get all midwestern, and crank up the flavor profile. The eggs stand up to the hearty texture and herby flavor of the stuffing with soft runny yolks and golden crispy edges.

Start with a puddle of olive oil in a nonstick pan and turn the heat to medium high, add the egg and watch the egg white bubble up around the yolk. Cook until the edges of the egg white are crispy and golden and the yolk is still runny. Flip it over for a quick second or two if you like the yolk cooked a bit more. Slide the puffy eggs over warm stuffing and add a pinch of peperoncino or a dash of hot sauce. Enjoy!

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Classic Sunday Breakfast

Making breakfast for my family happens about once a week. So hey, let’s make it special and keep it simple. This morning, I whipped up a classic full of good fats, bad fats and locally sourced superstars. Just look at the color of those yolks! Thanks Moon Valley Farm.

Bacon, we all love it. Thick cut Applewood smoked bacon is my favorite, the smokiness pairs nicely with the salty richness of the meat. To make it special, I sprinkle hand cracked black peppercorns over each bacon strip while the fat renders slowly over low heat.

Cooking Tip: start the pan on low and increase the heat slowly. Result: less bacon shrinkage.

To balance the intense flavors of the bacon, I love farm fresh eggs, cooked to order. Mikey likes his sunny side up, I like mine over medium.

I also want a few healthy options, this morning avocado was at the top of my list. Scoop a little salsa on top for an added layer of flavor.

To bring it all together, toast up some fresh bread. Pane bello slices spread halfway with Heartland Family Farm’s Red Raspberry Jam are a wonderful addition to the meal. Low in sugar and high in pectin, this zippy jam has an addictive tartness from the ripe red raspberries, I’m in love.

All the flavors go so well together. Dip the bacon in the red raspberry jam, spread the avocado on the toast and dip everything in the technicolor orange yolks. Happy Sunday!

The Crispiest Roast Chicken

A wise woman once said, “Good roast chicken will never let you down.” Lately, these are the words I have chosen to live by, at least once a week I roast a chicken for dinner. Cooking a whole bird is an earthy and pleasurable experience. But what exactly is “good” roast chicken? The following preparation, inspired by Thomas Keller, gives us the essentials and nothing more with crispy skin, good seasoning and moist meat. I love Keller’s simple approach to everyday food. His technique is easy and delicious, virtually fool-proof. This will work beautifully with turkey too, resulting in a juicy bird with dark mahogany skin every time.

A few weeks ago, I prepared dinner for a group of outdoorsy adventure types at a small cabin (shout out to Cabem B!) in the Smokey Mountains. On the North Carolina/Tennessee border, I made myself at home in a bare bones kitchen and roasted a chicken for my friends. Happiness is serving a group of hungry mountain bikers a crispy roast chicken.  It was gone in a snap, rustic finger food at its finest.

The Secret

What’s the secret to the crispiest roast chicken (or turkey) you will ever have? The bird must be dry, bone dry inside and out. The less steam, the drier the heat, the better. Do not add any oil or butter and do not stuff the cavity. Use paper towels to remove all the moisture from the bird, wipe it down a few times if needed. Salt the bird liberally inside and out, so that a salty crust sits atop the skin. Generally, for a 3 to 4 pound bird I use 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Let it come to room temperature before putting it in the oven.

Roast

Place in a 425 degree oven and leave it be. Try not to open the oven, check on the bird through the window. If it is browning unevenly, feel free to rotate it.  Roast from from 60 to 75 minutes.  I turn on the broiler during the last few minutes of cooking time to give the skin an extra boost of crispiness, do not walk away. The skin can burn quickly. Remove from oven. This is the perfect time for the chef and any helpers to enjoy a treat and ceremoniously remove the wings and the oysters (the scrumptious morsels of meat nestled mid-back). Thomas Keller’s favorite post roast treat is the chicken butt, a triangular morsel filled with fat and covered in crispy skin. Try it! Set the bird aside and let cool for at least 20 minutes.

Sides

I like to add root vegetables to the chicken pan, coat in pan juices, scrape the fond and place the pan back in the oven. The chicken drippings will flavor the vegetables beautifully, cook until fork tender. Right now, my two favorite veggies are white fleshed sweet potatoes and carrots. Once the chicken has rested, slather it with butter and serve it with dijon mustard and roasted garlic on the side. If you are feeling fancy, whip up a batch of fresh butter and wow your dinner guests!

Crispiest Chicken Ever

Crispiest Chicken Ever

Bon Appetito!

Taco Night

Tacos are versatile, easy to prepare and fun to eat. Last night I prepared two taco offerings, Quinoa & Sweet Potato and Grilled Citrus Chicken. A relaxed taco party is a great way to unwind and celebrate dinner. Here are my tips and recipes for a taco night to remember!

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Prep Schedule

1. Ambiance: Create a festive space outside, set the tablecloth, put on some party music, bring out the drinks and prepare cocktails.

2. Light the charcoal and cook: It takes 30 to 40 minutes for the charcoal chimney to work its magic. In the meantime, I cooked the quinoa and sweet potatoes, marinated the chicken, grabbed the Sriracha and prepped the cilantro, avocado, fresh lime, chili and queso fresco.

3. Serving outside: To save time, I keep a stack of trays and cutting boards close by to transport drinks, food and serving pieces outside. We dine outside almost every night and the trays keep me organized, making clean up a breeze. Before heading outside, I stacked every item I needed on two trays. I placed the tray full of fresh toppings on the dining table, before heading to the grill with cutting board and tongs.

4. Grilling: Once the charcoal was dumped and spread evenly, I waited for the grates to warm up and then grilled the chicken. Once finished, the chicken rested on the cutting board under a tent of aluminum foil. I placed each corn tortilla on the grill for 10 to 15 seconds per side.

Recipes : Quinoa & Sweet Potato Tacos – Serves 4

Quinoa

  • 1 cup of organic red quinoa, rinsed
  • 2  1/4 cups of water
  • 1 cracked garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup of cilantro
  • 1/2 of a lime, juiced

Add quinoa and water to a medium sauce pan, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, keep covered and cook for 10 minutes. The grains will crack slightly and soften. Turn off heat and discard garlic clove. Stir in cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Let cool.

Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rinse and peel potatoes, cut into large dice. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 35 minutes, tossing once halfway through. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Mix quinoa and sweet potatoes, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with warm corn tortillas and fresh toppings.

Grilled Citrus Chicken Tacos – Serves 4 

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 lemon – juice and zest
  • 1 lime – juice and zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper

Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire, around 375 to 450 degrees F. Pound chicken breasts to 3/4 of an inch, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour juice and zest over chicken and coat, marinate for at least 30 minutes. Grill 6 to 8 minutes per side, first searing the meat and then moving it to a cooler spot on the grill if needed. When fully cooked, the internal temperature of chicken should be 165 degrees F. Anticipate some carry over cooking once the chicken is removed from the grill, let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Squeeze fresh lime over the chicken and slice thinly at the table. Serve with warm corn tortillas and fresh toppings.

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Local ingredients : Bloomingfoods East is my go-to store for buying organic and local ingredients. Currently, they are offering organic Miller Farm’s Amish Chicken, along with local sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

Drink pairings:  Michael enjoyed a beer with his tacos, New Belgium’s Rolle Bolle. This summer seasonal ale is brewed with soursop and monk fruit and is slightly tart and citrusy. I chose Hudson Vineyards Grenache Rose. The wine is fruity, with floral notes and a touch of minerality. It was great with the grilled chicken.

What is your favorite taco?  Grains, beans, pickled vegetables and fish are other exciting options for Taco Night. Please share your favorite taco ingredients with me in the comments.

Styling ::: Local Flowers

A big bouquet of fresh flowers, what’s not to love? Flowers make people happy. Just yesterday a lady called me a “picture” as I carried an armful of flowers through the Farmer’s Market. My love affair with local flowers began about five years ago. I started a catering company and ordered flowers weekly for tastings and events. Every Wednesday I would wait for the flowers to arrive, happily close my spreadsheet, forget my email and immerse myself in beautiful blooms. Using local flowers allowed me to create a steady revenue stream for my business, support local farmers and delight clients.

Fresh local flowers from Heartland Family Farm

Fresh flowers from Heartland Family Farm

This weekend, I had the pleasure of styling a wedding reception for a beautiful couple. I selected a hippy-chic theme full of eco-friendly elements, reflecting the bride and groom’s love of music, local culture and family.

Early Saturday morning I stopped to see my flower guru, Sara McGee of the Heartland Family Farm. Sara has been my local flower supplier for over 5 years, bringing me buckets of lush ruffled peonies, fragrant bells of ireland and everything in between. Sara’s flowers are beautiful and fresh. I also procure flowers from Harvest Moon Flower Farm. Linda Chapman is an amazing artist and I swoon over her arrangements every Saturday. Linda took me on a tour of her farm a few years ago. If you ever have a chance to take a tour, do so! The farm is breathtakingly beautiful.

Here are 3 of my favorite details from the reception :

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1. Arranging the flowers : I worked on a picnic table and my supplies included: 11 large ball jars, a pair of sharp scissors, one overstuffed bucket of fresh local flowers and water.

Technique : Fill the jars with water halfway before placing the flowers. Snip off the ends of the flowers if need be. Start with a focal point flower, here I used the peony. Work in circular pattern adding blooms as you slowly turn the bouquet. My flower style is organic and free form, striving for lush arrangements that aren’t too perfect. The goal is to let each bloom shine.

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2. The table decor : A mixture of tapestries were set as tableclothes. So many beautiful colors and patterns adorned the tables and the designs worked beautifully with the flowers.

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3. The drinks : An infused water bar provided mint & lemon water and blueberry & strawberry water. For more ideas on infused water, see my post here.

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If you have a chance, stop by the Farmer’s Market and pick up a BIG bouquet of flowers. Spend a little time arranging the blooms and spread the arrangements around your house. Flowers are a great way to bring fresh positive energy into every space, delight the senses and make people feel special.

Tonight : Clips Beer & Film Tour in Bryan Park

Step right up to the hottest ticket in town as New Belgium takes over Bryan Park! The Clips Beer & Film Tour is part beer tasting, carnival and film screening, The event starts at 8pm with free admission and a chance to sample 18 “esoteric” brews, buy a 3 oz. sample for $1.25 and 12 oz. beer for $5.00. Once the sun goes down a screening of short films, handmade by New Belgium fans, will be projected onto an inflatable screen. Bloomington is the smallest city on the Clips tour, so come on out, feel the love and drink some handmade beer. All the proceeds from the event will be donated to the Center for Sustainable Living.

New Belgium tasting with Adam at Big Red. Mikey likey the La Folie.

New Belgium tasting with Adam at Big Red. Mikey likey La Folie.

Last night we had a little brew preview at Big Red Liquors with Adam Gonzales, the Indiana New Belgium Beer Representative. Adam led us through a tasting and gave us the scoop on where to find unique New Belgium ales on draught right now, you can find them at The Tap and Crazy Horse. Our tasting began with the Plout Ale. A plout is a hybrid fruit of plum and apricot. This beer pours light golden and has a funky fruit character with just a hint of malt and spice. It’s strange and delicious! Next up was the La Folie, this beer is made of Oscar ale that has aged on french oak for one to three years. Once aged, the beer is combined into one batch at varying proportions and the result is a sour beer that is complex and delicious.

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To close National Bike month with an awesome New Belgium event just blocks from my house is cause for celebration. If the rain skips town, we may have a picnic with a few friends beforehand. Don’t forget to ride your bike to the event. Cheers!

Infused Water

Infused water is a super fresh alternative to sugar-laden juices and soda. What a great way to up your H2O intake! Add fresh herbs and citrus to your water bottle and enjoy throughout the day. An Infused Water Bar is a great way to create a memorable experience at your next backyard soiree or reception. Combine fruits, vegetables and herbs with fresh filtered water and enjoy immediately or let sit for a stronger flavor.

My first experience with infused water happily occurred at the Southwestern spa, Ten Thousand Waves. After a dip in the local spring, I enjoyed cucumber water and fell IN LOVE. Since then, I have found some wonderful flavor combinations and I keep track of them on my Pinterest board. I prefer to use clear glass pitchers, enjoying the beauty of the ingredients is half the fun.

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Mint & Lemon Water

Mint & Lemon Water

This is a classic combination and for good reason, so refreshing, light and perfect any time. This is a great way to use all that extra mint from the garden!

1 organic lemon, 4 large organic mint sprigs

Fill a glass pitcher with cool, filtered water. Thinly slice lemon into wheels. Gently bruise the mint leaves and place in the pitcher, add lemon wheels. Enjoy over ice, if desired. Refill pitcher with water throughout the day

Basil & Cucumber Water

The herbaceous flavor of the basil leaves is subtle allowing the flavor of the cucumber to shine through.

1/2 organic english cucumber, 5 large organic basil leaves

Fill glass pitcher with cool filtered water. Thinly slice cucumber. Gently bruise basil leaves and place in pitcher, add cucumber slices. Enjoy over ice, if desired. Refill pitcher with water throughout the day.

Here are a few of my other favorite ingredients :

  • Berries (of any kind)
  • Fresh herbs (lavender, rosemary, chocolate mint, lemon verbena)
  • Watermelon
  • Pineapple
  • Edible flowers (nasturtiums are my favorite, a bit peppery)

Come up with your own Infused Water combinations using your favorite flavors! Please share with me in the comments.

March Madness ::: Game Snacks

Homemade Chick Fil A inspired Nuggets

Homemade B-Ball Game Snacks ::: Chick-Fil-A inspired

Enjoying a special homemade snack is an essential part of the IU experience in my Sports Basement. Add a craft beer or cocktail and we have a party! Yesterday, I was inspired by one of my very favorite snack foods, the chicken nugget. I have LONG enjoyed chicken nuggets and I fondly recall my parents using them as a bribery go-to when I was a wee one. Hmmm, it has been a long love affair.

These days I avoid fast food unless I get a McDonald’s French Fry and Coca Cola craving, then I indulge. As for fast food nuggets, those days are long gone. Remember the pink slime image that showed the world the real chicken nugget ingredients? After that it was no more fast food (except fries and a coke) for me. Truth be told, I will splurge on an In and Out burger when I am on the West coast, a Shake Shack burger on the East coast and a Hinkle cheeseburger every once in a while. Yum!

The BIG IU game today seemed like the perfect opportunity to create the nugget experience at home. I love using healthy ingredients like free range chicken and whole wheat flour. Baking the chicken makes this a heart healthy recipe to boot. I paired the nuggets with a few of my favorite custom sauces for dipping, Salt & Pepper Sriracha Ketchup and Honey Mustard Horsey Sauce.

Try this recipe for the next IU game, it pleases a crowd.  There are two surprise ingredients, test the palates of your guests and see if they can name them.

Chick-Fil-A nuggets with Salt & Pepper Sriracha Ketchup and Honey Mustard Horsey Sauce

Homemade baked chicken nuggets with Salt & Pepper Sriracha Ketchup and Honey Mustard Horsey Sauce

Homemade baked chicken nuggets with Salt & Pepper Sriracha Ketchup and Honey Mustard Horsey Sauce

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup pickle juice (sour dill is my favorite) *surprise ingredient
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar *surprise ingredient
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2  teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon dried basil
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil for brushing about 1/4 cup

1. Cut the chicken in 1 inch by 1/2 inch nuggets

2. Marinate in 1/2 cup pickle juice for 1 hour

3. Pre heat the oven to 400

4.  Beat the egg and milk in a bowl

5. Dip the chicken pieces each into the egg on both sides, then coat in flour on both sides, dust off excess flour

6. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet, you could also use a wire rack.

7. Brush the nuggets lightly with oil

8. Bake 4 minutes on one side and turn, brush other side with oil

9. Bake 4 more minutes

10. Place under a high broiler for 1 to 2 minutes and WATCH VERY CLOSELY! This creates the crispiness and the nuggets can burn easily if you leave them under the heat for too long.

**this recipe is loosely based on the Chick-Fil-A copy cat recipe from the Hilah Cooking website

Salt & Pepper Sriracha Ketchup

  • 1 cup ketchup – I like organic, without High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked peppercorns
  •  small pinch of kosher salt

Place the peppercorns under a clean kitchen towel and use a rolling-pin to break them up. Mix them with the rest of the ingredients and pour the sauce in a cute bowl. Reserve a few of the peppercorns for garnish.

Honey Mustard Horsey Sauce

  • 1 cup non fat Greek Yogurt – super healthy substitute for mayo or sour cream, I like to use organic
  • 1/2 teaspoon local honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish, more if you like it HOT
  • 1 teaspooon Dijon mustard

Mix all ingredients together and add a pinch or two of salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste, pour the sauce in a cute bowl.

Serve the nuggets piled high on a serving tray.

Go Hoosiers, beat Temple!