Friday, April 24, 2015

Cherry Crunch Pie #fridaypieday

Cherry Crunch Pie #fridaypieday
It's the last Friday of the month, and that means...PIE! My visions for #fridaypieday included not only posts that included new pie recipes, but also some that featured different techniques, pie making tool reviews and recommendations, the occasional pie shop review, and some pie-centered cookbook reviews. So, when I was offered a copy of The Norske Nook Book of Pies and Other Recipes, I accepted.

So, first a little history. The Norske Nook is actually a small-town café that was founded in 1973 in Osseo, Wisconsin by Helen Myhre. Her hard work ethic and sense of family made the farm-style meals and pies attract media attention, which in turn brought tourism to the small town. Jerry Bechard bought the café from Myhre in the late 80's, when she decided it was time to retire and write a cookbook.

The heartwarming story of the start of Norske Nook and the change of hands, and how it grew to its now four Wisconsin locations—the café in Osseo, plus three others in Rice Lake, Eau Claire, and Hayward—is found in the 9 page introduction written by Bechard. I recommend taking some time to sit down and read this intro before you dive into the reicpes. (I think) the insight will put you into the right frame of mind, as well as make Wisconsin a travel destination in your very near future.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Buttermilk Cardamom Beignets inspired by Chef #foodnflix

Buttermilk Cardamom Beignets
Sometimes our Food 'n Flix picks aren't what most people would think of as a typical "foodie movie". They take us out of our comfort zone and make us put on our kitchen thinking cap. That is not the case this month. If you've seen Chef, you know it's a flick that keeps you hungry and induces different cravings from start to finish! It's about as much foodie flick as they get. You'd think this would make heading into the kitchen and cooking up something from it easier. I actually think it makes it harder. I could not decide what I wanted to make. But you know, I figured something out.

From the opening scene, Chef is a sensual experience. The sound of a knife slicing through vegetables, the sizzle of meat hitting a hot pan, the sheer focus on getting prep done for tonight's meal, the excitement of a whole pig being brought into the kitchen—it's scenes like these that make me miss working in a restaurant kitchen. But that's only the first few minutes.

The story of a successful restaurant chef who finds himself going in a direction he never imagined, both professionally and personally, Chef is a feast for the the senses. This isn't a review (though I obviously enjoyed the movie), so I don't really want to go into the story. You can find synopses of the movie all over the web if you look, I'm just here to talk about the food today.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Southwest Salad in a Jar #ChoppedAtHome

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Sargento. The opinions and text are all mine.
Southwest Salad in a Jar
If you were to ask me which one show I'd like to appear on, my answer would be Chopped. It's actually one of the shows my whole family will sit down in front of the tv to watch. It's fun and fast-paced, and best of all, it inspires creativity and banter—in the show and at home. Each person is shouting out what they'd make with the four mystery ingredients for that round. Heck, I shout it out even when I'm watching by myself.

Sometimes I wonder if I'd actually be able to come up with a dish on-the-spot that would please the judges. I'm not going to lie, there are baskets that leave me stumped. My plan, should I apply and be accepted to the show, is to have a handful of easily adaptable, basic recipe ideas in my back pocket. I can customize and enhance the flavors of the basket ingredients once I see them. I wonder if I'd remember any of them in the heat of the moment.

Today, I'm excited to be taking part in a little "Chopped at Home" contest! Sargento cheese challenged me to get creative and make a Chopped-inspired dish right from the comfort of my own kitchen. Just like the contestants on the show, I was given 4 basket ingredients to work with, and free use of my pantry and fridge. But that's not all—YOU can also cook up a Chopped-inspired dish in your kitchen and enter the Chopped at Home contest for your chance to win $10,000!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Garlicky Chard Stuffed Flank Steak #NationalGarlicDay

Garlicky Chard Stuffed Flank Steak
I crave garlic the way some people crave chocolate, so every year when National Garlic Day rolls around, I try to make the most of it by sharing a particularly garlicky dish and inviting my friends to do the same. Since I made dessert last year, I thought I go with an entree this year.

Originally I'd planned on doing a twist on one of my all-time favorite dishes, chicken with 40 garlic cloves, using beef brisket. Switch out the herbs, use red wine instead of white wine...but alas, I couldn't get my hands on a brisket. I should have known I'd need to order it from the butcher in advance; Texas this is not. I didn't plan ahead, so my plans changed. Staring at the butcher case, I decided to go with flank steak since I can't even remember the last time I ate (let alone made) it. But I didn't want to do the same dish since it's a dish that's better when cooked slowly...and I didn't want overcooked, chewy flank steak.

So, I had some flank steak staring me down. I also had a big, beautiful bunch of rainbow chard in my crisper. Greens and garlic are a match made in heaven, so I decided that combining all three would give me a bang-on garlicky good meal. For one flank steak (I got a good 2 pounder), I used 10 fat cloves. It was odorific! My teenager was out that evening at a sporting event, and when he got home 5 hours after it was made, he said "ooooh, I smell garlic" the minute he walked in the door. Mission accomplished.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Romanian Easter Braid #BreadBakingBabes

Romanian Easter Braid
Today is the 16th, and that means it's time for another Bread Baking Babes reveal!  This month, BBBabe Elle from Feeding My Enthusiasms challenged us to bake up a Romanian Easter Braid. Easter may be over, but I'm pretty sure this enriched loaf would be welcome at any table year-round. The dough itself is lightly scented with lemon from the addition of some finely grated zest, and the filling is a sweet, nutty swirl that be switched up to meet anybody's preferences.

So, Elle told us that according to wiki, this Romanian bread can differ significantly from region to region. Essentially it's a sweet bread that is enriched with butter, eggs and milk, but you can find anything from the lemon zest I used to orange zest, raisins, or rum flavor in the dough itself. The actual recipe the challenge is based on used ground almonds in the filling, but I went with one of the more well-known options, walnuts. Hazelnuts, vanilla, rum, even poppy seeds, raisins, or cocoa powder are other choices.

 I did want to add a little twist to my nutty swirl, though. I liked the thought of adding rum (obviously), but I wanted something a little out of the ordinary, as well. I have a few bottles of flavored rum, and I thought the coconut variety might add a little something special if I also used some fat, dried coconut flakes. I was pretty pleased with the taste of the filling (I had to walk away from my spoon lest there be none left once the dough was ready for it).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Beer Braised Pork Carnitas #BeerMonth

Beer Braised Pork Carnitas
I'm usually pretty traditional in my cooking of carnitas (or literally, "little meat")—pork, salt, and a little bit of water is really all it takes to make the best carnitas you'll ever eat in your life. Be it the traditional stove-top method of combining water and pork lard and simmering chunks of pork in it until the water evaporates and leaves the now-tender meat to crisp up in the lard, or my preferred oven-roasted method that uses the fat rendered from the pork bits themselves to baste and crisp them up. Either way, tender meat enclosed in salty crisp and sticky bits are little morsels of heaven on earth.

But today, in honor of beer month, I decided to step out of my puritanical-carnitas box and do the braising of the pork in a good, amber lager. I also added some spice beyond salt. It's gettin' crazy up in here. Crazy delicious.

Simple, rustic food is what I tend to gravitate towards, and this version of carnitas really fits the bill. A stove top braise in a fragrant beer bath and about 90 minutes is all it takes to achieve a plate piled high with tender pork. Once it is tender, you remove the lid and let the liquid evaporate and concentrate, inviting the whole garlic cloves and strips of lime zest to melt into it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Luna's Larder: Rachael Ray Nutrish #NutrishZeroGrain

Luna's Larder: Rachael Ray Nutrish
Today I'm going to introduce you to Luna, our two year old rescue cat with attitude. I know, I say attitude like it's not a normal cat quality, when we all know it totally is. I guess I should say "with extra attitude". Although Luna came into our lives when she was only about three months old, this is her first featured appearance. I thought it would be fun for her to have her own little feature every once in a while, and I'm calling it "Luna's Larder".

Luna is a member of our family, so it only makes sense that in this spot where all roads lead to the kitchen, at least one of those roads is a kitty-cat road. Hopefully we can bring you a lot of fun cat food and treat recipes, recommendations, tips, and ideas!

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