Friday, June 24, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
I first enjoyed Little Savannah during Birmingham’s first-ever Restaurant Week (a smashing success), and was blown away by the laid-back atmosphere and outstanding food. I’m about to be their neighbor (a fact I am especially ecstatic about), so I knew I had to at least try their bruch before I committed to eating there every Sunday.
It was love at first bite. Oh, who am I kidding, it was love when they didn’t question the red Solo cups of Prosecco that accompanied us into the restaurant (nothing to see here, folks). It just got better from there.
Our visit, made even more enjoyble by the company of some of my favorite people in town (i.e., the lovely EatBHM), looked like this:
*Clockwise, from Top Left: Farm Egg Frittata with Sausage, Potato & Leek, Wright's Cheddar and Lettuces; Provencal Violet Sparkler; Petite Beef Tenderloin with Fingerling Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, Poached Egg and White Truffle Oil.
True story – one of our fellow diners ordered the Bananas Foster. Little Savannah was out of bananas. :( No worries, dear Nancy hopped across the street to V. Richards and voila! Ten minutes later we were enjoying TWO dishes of the sweet and delicious dessert – free of charge. They also comped our French Press coffee. I’d say we were more than compensated for the purchase of the bananas. Kudos to Little Savannah for going above and beyond to ensure our satisfaction.
My next visit, a mere week later with more of my favorite people, looked like this:
The second visit also included Crab Cake Benedict and repeats of the Farm Egg Frittata and Mimosas. Needless to say, every dish tasted even better than it looked and I will absolutely be claiming a cozy little table for my weekly brunch-fix.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Besides, baking is sexy. ;)
Hazlenut Meringue Kisses
Recipe and photo from MyRecipes.com
Yield: 4 dozen (serving size: 4 kisses)
• 1/4 cup finely chopped hazelnuts, toasted
• 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
• 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
• 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
• 3 large egg whites
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• Dash of salt
• 2/3 cup granulated sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325°.
Peanut Butter Caramel Pound Cake
Recipe from Giada de Laurentiis, photo from foodnetwork.com
Yield: 8-10 servings
• Vegetable oil cooking spray
• 1 (9.5-ounce) bag soft caramel candies, unwrapped (recommended: Kraft Classic Caramels)
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 1 cup flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
• 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 1/4 cups sugar
• 3 eggs, at room temperature
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9-by-5-by-3-inch nonstick, metal loaf pan with vegetable oil cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a 14-by-3 1/2-inch piece of parchment paper. Spray with vegetable oil cooking spray. Line the sides of the pan with a 14-by-7-inch piece of parchment paper. Set aside.
In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the caramel candies and heavy cream over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the candies have melted and the mixture is smooth, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and beat in the eggs and vanilla. With the machine running, gradually add the flour mixture in batches to form a thick batter. Beat in the peanut butter. Transfer half of the batter to the prepared pan. Pour 2 tablespoons of the caramel lengthwise along the center of the batter. Using the tip of a knife, swirl the caramel sauce into the batter. Place the remaining batter on top and pour another 2 tablespoons of the caramel sauce lengthwise along the center of the batter. Swirl the caramel sauce into the batter.
Friday, February 4, 2011
You can’t cheer for the Pittsburgh Steelers without a good ‘ol Philly Cheesesteak. Try this bite-sized version from Guy Fieri- it’s an easy pick-up appetizer that’s perfect for a crowd.
1 lb. trimmed thin cut boneless beef rib-eye steak
1/2 tsp. each granulated garlic, chili powder and dry mustard
1/2 tsp. each dried thyme, basil, kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp. each white pepper and cayenne
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 cup sweet onion, quartered, thinly sliced
1 cup red bell pepper, cut in julienne stips, 1″ long
1/2 cup each yellow bell pepper and Anaheim chile, cut in julienne stips, 1″ long
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1-1/2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 pkg. (8 oz.) KRAFT DELI DELUXE Process Jalapeno American Cheese Slices
96 RITZ Crackers
IN a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers and Anaheim chile and sauté 4-5 min., stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook 1-2 min. Remove to a plate. Heat remaining oil in same skillet. Add steak and cook 2 min. until done, stirring frequently. Add the 1-1/2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and the Worcestershire sauce, stir to combine. Add the vegetables and cook until heated through. Drain excess liquid.
PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Cut each cheese slice into 6 pieces. Place 1 piece on each of 48 crackers, then top with approximately 1 Tbsp. of the steak mixture. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake 5 min., or until cheese melts. Place on serving plate and drizzle with the balsamic reduction. Top each with a second cracker.
Buffalo Wings with Wisconsin Bleu Cheese Dipping Sauce
recipe and photo from www.eatwisconsincheese.com/recipes
2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken wings
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon hot-pepper sauce
1 teaspoon paprika
2/3 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin Blue Cheese, crumbled
2/3 cup sour cream
4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons green onions, finely chopped, divided
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
3 celery stalks, cut into sticks
Preheat broiler. Cut off wing tips; discard. Split wings at joint. Place in 1-gallon resealable plastic bag. Combine oil, hot pepper sauce and paprika. Pour over chicken, turning to coat pieces evenly. Marinate while making sauce.
In small bowl, combine Wisconsin Blue Cheese and sour cream. Stir in vinegar, 2 tablespoons green onions and pepper. Whisk in 1-2 tablespoons milk until sauce is smooth. (Or pulse in food processor.) Sprinkle the top with remaining green onions. Refrigerate if not using immediately.
Broil wings 10-15 minutes, until lightly charred and no longer pink inside, turning occasionally until crisp and cooked through. Remove to platter and sprinkle with a few more dashes of hot pepper sauce, if desired. Serve with the celery sticks and Blue Cheese dipping sauce.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
This year, I spent all month thinking that I would miss the festivities because of being out of the office for a wedding. On Tuesday, I realized that the luncheon was on Thursday (not Friday, as it normally is), and I would, in fact, be here. Blast. Two days to come up with a costume, pumpkin and killer soup recipe. Since my Soup Repretoire consisted only of that One-Hit Wonder from last year's event, I scoured my favorite foodie sites for tips and recipe ideas. I settled on Rachael Ray's Sausage, Pepper and Onion Stoup, which sounded delicious and (more importantly), EASY. I tweaked it a bit (added a few ingredients and adjusted the cooking time) and tested a batch on Husband, who gave his approval ("Yes, but is it CONTEST-WINNING good").
Well, I guess you could say I work well under pressure, because this year I received 1st place for both my pumpkin AND soup! I was shocked. I mean, my pumpkin really was the cutest (is that mean?) but there were many outstanding soups.
This recipe is perfect for the chilly Autumn nights ahead (that I hope and pray will come to Alabama soon). Delicious on its own, it would also be great as a chunky "sauce" over pasta.Italian Sausage and Roasted Pepper Soup
adapted from Rachael Ray
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
½ pound bulk hot pork sausage
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced (or 2 tsp. minced garlic from jar)
2 Anaheim peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
1 12-oz. jar Roasted Red Peppers, drained well and sliced
2 medium sweet onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cups chicken stock
2 15-oz cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 6-oz. jar Tomato Paste
½ cup basil leaves, torn
1 ½ cups shredded Parmesan
Salt and Pepper, to taste
½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1. Heat extra-virgin olive oil in deep skillet.
2. Add sausage and brown about 6-8 minutes, until mostly cooked through.
3. Add garlic, Anaheim peppers, Roasted Red Peppers and onions. Cook until peppers and onions are soft, about 10-12 minutes.
4. Deglaze pan with balsamic vinegar.
5. Stir in chicken stock, diced tomatoes and tomato paste.
6. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until thickened to your liking (about 15-20 minutes).
7. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and red pepper flakes (if desired).
8. Stir in basil leaves and half of parmesan cheese.
9. Set bowl of remaining parmesan on table for guests to add on top of soup.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
I fully realize that it’s hard to mess up a dip with three (you heard me, THREE) packages of cream cheese, so I suppose I should give Philadelphia most the credit. But I digress…
WARNING: This is not your average “powder in a packet” onion dip. Cooked over low heat for about an hour, the sweet, deeply caramelized onions add a new dimension of flavor to this creamy dip. The Havarti doesn’t hurt, either. My family was still talking about how good it was three days later. Serve with Ritz crackers (or some crusty bread- you know how I like my carbs) for your Game Day fun this weekend. You won’t be disappointed!
1 Tbsp. butter
3 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 8oz package Havarti cheese
2 large onions, thinly sliced
Salt and Sugar, to taste
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I always use Hellman’s)
Ritz Crackers to crumble on top (optional)
Melt the butter over medium heat and add onions. Cook the onions for about 10-15 minutes, until softened, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle some salt and sugar (which helps the caramelization process) and stir. Lower heat and cook onions another 30-45 minutes, until deeply browned and caramelized. The trick is to leave them alone long enough to start browning, but then stir before they burn. Just be sure to keep an eye on them throughout.
Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, Havarti and onions, stirring until thoroughly mixed. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Before heating, crumble Ritz crackers over the top. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and bake about 25-30 minutes, until bubbly.
You might just want to make a whole batch for yourself. No judgement here. Enjoy!
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Folks from Jinsei, making the magic happen - Mini Kadoma Tuna
I just have to say how much it made my YEAR when I saw the announcement on Twitter that Birmingham was launching it’s first Restaurant Week. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience the same event in a few different cities, and had literally JUST been thinking to myself, “With all of our amazing chefs and restaurants here, why don’t we have our own?”
Dream. Come. True.
Not only is this an INCREDIBLE opportunity to experience our fine-dining gems, such as Bottega or Highlands, for an amazing price (that was my pitch to Husband, too), but you also have an excuse to finally check out those casual eateries you’ve been hearing about but never tried. With three-course menus offered at $10.10, $20.10 and $30.10, there is no better way to experience our food scene.
As for me, I am currently mapping my “plan of attack” (i.e. dinner at Little Savannah Wednesday, Highlands Friday, perhaps a few lunch dates scattered in the middle) with blog posts to follow. Good thing I’ve been saving up! Now if only I could keep from gaining 30 pounds…
Be sure to check out the official 2010 Birmingham Restaurant Week website for more details and menus from participating restaurants. NOTE: Perusing menus is likely to induce sever bouts of hunger and/or salivating over your keyboard. You have been warned.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
For me, football is yet another way to enjoy great food with great friends. Nothing beats curling up on the couch with some yummy snacks, a cold beer, and a big TV (all the better for yelling, my dear).
Husband and I will be spending Labor Day weekend at the lake with the WHOLE family (bless his heart, he’s the lone Alabama fan), so I’m already planning the delicious food that will accompany our day ‘o football.
Buffalo Chicken Dip
I first made this dip for the SEC Championship game last December. It lasted MAYBE 10 minutes. It’s everything you want in a Game-Day snack - the delicious combination of spicy wings and cool Ranch dressing, without all the mess. There are several great recipes out there, but this version from the blog “Woman, Wine and Song” is my favorite.
Ultimate Spicy Buffalo Chicken Dip
Adapted from Adrienne Bailey, Mary England and Susie Cromer Clements
1 cup Ranch dressing
¾ cup chopped red onion
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded OR one rotisserie chicken, shredded
1 cup of your favorite wing sauce (I like local favorite, Moore’s Buffalo Wing Sauce)
2 cups shredded Cheddar
Tortilla Chips and celery for dipping
1. Saute red onion in butter until tender (about 10 minutes); remove from heat.
2. In a large bowl, combine chicken, hot sauce, cream cheese, half of shredded cheddar and sauted onions.
3. Mix thoroughly and pour into baking dish.
4. Sprinkle remaining cheddar on top.
5. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly.
6. Serve with tortilla chips and celery (and a cold beer!).
Black Bean, Corn and Feta Dip
With temps still in the high 90′s (come on Fall weather…), a cold, refreshing dip is also a great choice for the first Game Day of the season (a nice side for your Labor Day picnics, too).
* Adapted from Martha Reiser, AU Alum website
1 can black beans
1 can corn, shoepeg
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1. Combine black beans, corn, feta, olive oil, sugar and cider vinegar in a bowl.
2. Toss and serve with tortilla chips or Fritos.
*This dip gets better the longer it sits.
Roast Beef and Havarti Sandwiches
This fabulous recipe from Southern Living is a welcome twist on the tried-and-true Ham and Poppyseed Sandwiches. With the creamy Havarti, sweet peach preserves and crunchy walnuts, these are truly addicting (definitely my most-requested hors d’oeuvres!). Bonus: Perfect “make- ahead” snack. Stick a few batches in the fridge on Game Day and heat as needed.
photo from myrecipes.com
*Recipe from Southern Living, December 2008
Yield: Makes 12 to 16 servings
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 (9.25-oz.) packages dinner rolls (I use Rainbo Dinner Rolls)
2/3 cup peach preserves
1/2 cup mustard-mayonnaise blend (i.e. Hellman’s Dijonnaise)
3/4 pound thinly sliced deli roast beef, chopped
1/2 pound thinly sliced Havarti cheese
Salt and pepper (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 325°.
2. Heat walnuts in a small nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant.
3. Remove rolls from packages. (Do not separate rolls.) Cut rolls in half horizontally, creating 1 top and 1 bottom per package. Spread preserves on cut sides of top of rolls; sprinkle with walnuts. Spread mustard-mayonnaise blend on cut sides of bottom of rolls; top with roast beef and cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired. Cover with top halves of rolls, preserves sides down, and wrap in aluminum foil.
4. Bake at 325° for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted. Slice into individual sandwiches. Serve immediately.
Now all you need is some icy cold beer and good company, and you are ready for a full day of football-watching.
Friday, August 13, 2010
But I digress…
I’ve enjoyed the last couple of months so much that I wanted to share some of my FAVORITE things from Summer 2010. I hope you enjoy!
I experienced my very first Farmer’s Market at Pepper Place in May, and instantly fell in love. I know, so dramatic, right? But it’s true. Even though I had known about Pepper Place for years, it was the first time that my eyes were really opened to the amazing local farmers that we have right here in Alabama, producing some of the finest cheeses, herbs, fruits and veggies that I’ve ever seen/tasted. It’s got a cool vibe, with live music, chef demonstrations and people everywhere (dogs, too!). I loved wandering aimlessly around all of the booths, daydreaming about whatever recipe I would make with my goodies when I got home. I look forward to many more weekends at Pepper Place as the summer months come to a close, and anxiously anticipate the Harvest Market in the fall.
Speaking of goodies from the market, I developed a newfound appreciation for my oven when I made a batch of these:
Slow-roasted tomatoes. I’d never roasted anything in my life (at least, not intentionally). Who knew that a hot oven and a couple hours could produce such a heavenly flavor? I’ve roasted many things since then (particularly loved some eggplant that I purchased at the Urban Cookhouse market), but nothing beats that first day, standing in front of the oven, impatiently waiting for the tomatoes to be perfectly caramelized, then standing over the counter and eating them one after another right off the pan, savoring the sweet, intense flavor (and not caring that I burned the roof of my mouth). They also make an easy and fabulous appetizer. Just roast some fresh garlic with the tomatoes and serve with crostini and fresh basil. Simple, but SO delicious.
Ok, so this is really two of my favorite things- my new favorite sandwich (everything good about summer rolled into one- local tomatoes, buttery avocado, Applewood Bacon and lettuce with mayo and classic white bread) and my new favorite restaurant, Urban Cookhouse (actually, make that three – I crave their fresh Strawberry Lemonade on a daily basis!). The restaurant started off with a bang and has been packed ever since. I love to see Birmingham supporting restaurants that are totally committed to the “farm-to-table” approach of serving food, and I partly credit UC with igniting my own passion to buy and eat local (hence telling Husband that we are never eating at “chain” restaurants again and him looking at me like I’d lost my mind). As their menu says, “Buy Local. Eat Urban.”
This creamy and delicious cheese from Wright Dairy Farm in Alexandria, AL is the perfect addition to your pre-dinner cheese tray or hors d’oeuvres menu. Better yet - pair it with a glass of wine and enjoy it for lunch, which is what I did (and not ashamed to admit I almost ate the whole block in one sitting. My sister helped).
This is the quintessential summer cocktail. It’s cool, minty, refreshing, delicious, pretty…need I say more? Oh yeah, it’s on special at Jinsei every Monday night. So you can get two.
I could go on, but I haven’t eaten lunch and I’m afraid that drooling over the keyboard cannot be a good thing. So it’s your turn! What are some of YOUR favorite things from this summer? Share with me!
Thursday, August 5, 2010
I’m bringing dessert to a cookout tonight and in true “Southern Soiree” fashion, I have only just begun to think about what to bring. Naturally, this leads me to what I like to call a ”Carrie Bradshaw” moment (say it with me) – I couldn’t help but wonder, what are some of the best quick and easy desserts to pull together for summer entertaining?
Enter the Banana Pudding. Some say its boring, I say dependable (which is totally different than boring. Totally). My standard go-to recipe is this low-cal version that my Aunt Dianne introduced me to (it makes me feel so much better about eating the entire bowl by myself), but it’s also fun to experiment by changing just a few ingredients. Use small cubes of pound cake instead of Nilla Wafers. Add some Nutter Butters to create the taste of a PB&B sandwich (a fave from my childhood…and maybe adulthood). For a more grown-up version, add a splash of Banana Liqueur to the pudding, or take it one step further and cook the bananas in Rum and Brown Sugar, “Bananas Foster” style. See? Not so boring anymore. And if you have a few extra minutes on hand, take the presentation up a notch by serving the dessert in individual glasses. I love the look of these parfait glasses featured in Southern Living. I like to serve mine in stemless Cosmo glasses (easier to eat out of).
*Photo from myrecipes.com
This dessert doesn’t necessarily scream “summer”, but we serve Chocolate Eclair Cake at the lake a lot and it ALWAYS disappears quickly. It’s easy, light and great for a crowd. I like the recipe on the Kraft Foods website; although, sometimes I cheat and use canned chocolate frosting. Ssshhhhh……
*Photo from kraftrecipes.com
Of course, you CAN’T have a summer dessert in the South without using our delicious Chilton County peaches. When you’ve already got the grill fired up, why not use it for dessert, too? This recipe from Epicurious is a favorite of mine – Grilled Peaches with Fresh Raspberry Sauce. You can make the Raspberry Sauce ahead (provided you are not a procrastinator extraordinaire, like yours truly), and the rest only takes a few minutes. Serve it over ice cream or pound cake for a simple, but impressive dessert.Pick up some fresh peaches at the farmer’s market this weekend (Pepper Place, East Lake or Urban Cookhouse/Homewood are my personal faves) and try it out!
And just in case you are wondering, I’m going with the Grilled Peaches tonight.