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Oct 15, 2012

MEATLESS MONDAY: baked sweet potato with grapes

For someone who loves vegetables as much as I do, well, it's a constant endeavor to come up with new, creative ways to consume them. Not always easy: the vegetable palette might be large but, let's be honest, the things we consume the most can probably be narrowed down to 3-5 different vegs that are on constant rotation (at least in my household, I admit): i.e. potatoes, cauliflower (since I discovered how lovely it is when roasted),  broccoli and aubergines for me. Means i have to be pretty creative in the preparation. Or, and sometimes that's the easier alternative, I just opt for a different vegetable. Like this dish: it's kind of a staple in our house for cauliflower. Roasted, dressed up with spiced yogurt and topped off with some herbs. Here, I made the same thing with sweet potatoes and added a handful of halved grapes for fun and fruitiness. There isn't always a need to invent the wheel; a tiny change of routine will do to perk things up.

BAKED SWEET POTATO WITH GRAPES

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 cup grapes, halved & deseeded
  • 1 handful dried cranberries
  • 1 handful cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. ras el hanout (an arab spice mix with cumin and rose petals)
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Maldon sea salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 drizzle lemon juice

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cut the potatoes into sixth lengthwise. Put them in a bowl, add the olive oil and a generous pinch of Maldon sea salt and toss to coat well. Spread evenly on the baking sheet.
  3. Bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until the sweet potato wedges are slightly golden and partially charred. Remove and let cool for a few minutes.
  4. Prepare the yogurt: sweat the ras el hanout spice mix in a frying pan for a minute or two, until a strong nutty flavor develops. Put aside and let cool.
  5. Combine the toasted ras el hanout with the yogurt, a generous pinch of salt, the minced garlic clove and a drizzle of lemon juice. 
  6. Arrange the wedges on a large plate, drizzle the spiced yogurt in the middle and sprinkle with the grapes, cranberries and cilantro leaves.
1 comment

Sep 24, 2012

MEATLESS MONDAY: rainbow chard & pasta



Hello dears! I am writing from London. It's been the second day of my cooking adventure at The Modern Pantry. Let me just say: I am so exhausted... It's like my bones have their own will, they won't want to get off of the couch, ever again. They just plan to sit here, forever, relying on people to take care of me and feed me... 

But also - and that's certainly the more interesting part - I am experiencing so many good things! After only two days, I've learned how to make really good, soaked, nicely shrunk breakfast pleotus mushrooms (the English way) and breakfast tomatoes, inari filled with a fennel mix, fish cakes, potato mash, parsnip mash and a proper salsa verde - the Modern Pantry way. I've watched the chefs closely (whenever possible, in between my fetching, cleaning, washing, chopping, mincing, slicing and dicing job...), and just by watching I am taking so much in. My head is already full to the brim with inspiration... And I slowly get to understand the processes in a professional kitchen (slooooowly). Okay, also, I cut myself (for the first time, and hopefully for the last...). That wasn't so good. But obviously, cuts and bruises and burns are simply part of a chef's life (like Luca, the sous chef, said). 

Stay tuned for more aspirational chef's insights! Ciao for now!

RAINBOW CHARD & PASTA

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium bowl differently colored rainbow chard
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 tbsp. rosemary needles, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 pinch chili flakes
  • 1 tsp. acacia honey
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 pinch Maldon sea salt
  • Spaghetti or any other pasta, cooked
  • Handful black olives, pitted, minced
  • Handful cherry tomatoes, halved

METHOD

  1. Wash and clean the chard. Separate the leaves from the stems. Slice the stems in 2cm large pieces and do the same with the leaves.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic slices and fry for 2 minutes, until golden. Remove and place on some paper towel to soak up the excess olive oil.
  3. Sautee the stems in the frying pan with the olive oil, adding the rosemary, chili, honey and salt, for about 3 minutes, until softened. Then add the chard leaves as well. Cook until soft.
  4. In the meantime, cook the pasta of your liking. Drain and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. If you can, add a bit of the pasta cooking water to the chard pan. 
  5. Put the garlic back to the chard pan, add the lemon juice and season with more salt or pepper to taste. If you are adding no pasta, stop here, and serve the chard as a side dish.
  6. If you want to make a whole meal out of it, continue by adding the tomato halves and the olives to the pan, stir to heat through. Combine the chard with the pasta. 
2 comments

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: unrequited milk maids

There are indisputable clear signs of addiction. They say acknowledging you have a problem is the hardest part. I disagree miserably. It may b the first part, but its nary the hardest. "What about my chances for Diabetes...its not genetically implied for me, so I should be all good right?" I asked feverishly just this afternoon. A question so gnawing, yet still followed by, "just how much is too much....a gallon right?"

Yes, I have a problem. I am aware. Ashamed, on the other hand, that I am not. You see, my sugar dependency (the word addiction inserted here being way too controversial) has manifested itself into a rapidly growing ice cream binge, leaving my former Snickers-smuggling-self in the dust. How did this come to be? Wasn't it I who took the rolve of evolutionary savior just some years ago, storyboarding Youtube PSA's that would bring light to the travesty that is modern milk consumption? Oh yes, you have heard that we shouldn't drink milk right? That momma's boobs doubled our weight in less than two years back when we were infants, and we butcher this ingenious biological design by not only continuing to drink milk, but drinking milk from another mother's boobs. Yuck!

That was me. High on literary enlightenment (can someone say Skinny Bitch) and ready to show up my righteous method. But then this happened: Coldstone Creamery. That son of a bitch. In fact, if I recall, the craving for marble slab custom ordered ice cream came just as I was finishing up my never-to-be-seen faux documentary on unnecessary milk consumption. The ironic hypocrisy is not missed. How I did not connect milk with frozen dairy desserts is beyond me. Fast forward a few years and I'm practically jonesing for a hit. For the last week alone, I've savored a small bowl after dinner like clock work, everything from pad Thai inspired peanut butter to sea salted caramel to drunken roasted plum cheesecake and even goat cheese berry swirl ice cream. Oh yeah, believe it my friends. And not just any old ice cream. Homemade ice cream. I have taken my addiction from abuser to dealer. I'm so intimate with my addiction that I've taken measures to feed my consumption like a vertically integrated Fortune 500. So I ask again, how or when did I devolve into this shameless, monopolizing, wholly obsessed dairy phene?

UNREQUITED MILK MAIDS PART DEUX....coming next week!


What are you addicted to? Comment your sugar addicts anonymous stories below!
1 comment

Aug 27, 2012

fashion ceo: define your personal brand



Branding, what does that mean? In business terms, branding boils down to what you are trying to portray for yourself, your product, or your company. Think about some brands you recognize easily: Coca-Cola; McDonald's; Wal-Mart. What pops into your mind? Whether you're trying to portray tradition, family-friendliness, or value, the branding you choose will make a difference in how you are perceived. It also makes a difference in whether you are remembered!
Personal Brand
Your personal brand is the mental and emotional picture that comes to mind when a customer hears your company's name. If you are an artist, actor, model, or entrepreneur, your product and company is you. What the customer or client sees, is what they think of you. First impressions do matter! One thing you can do to ensure your first impression is strong, is to have professional head shots or entrepreneur portraits completed. Having a professional head shot can mean the difference between getting noticed positively by clients, or having them click past your website to another.
Think about current performers...when you hear the name, "Miley", what do you think of? A few years ago, you might have thought of sweet Hannah Montana from the Disney Channel. What do you think of today? A half-naked girl swinging from a wrecking ball? Yep, her image has changed because she essentially "re-branded". If you were looking for a sweet, innocent performer, the old Miley would have been ideal. But, would you consider the new Miley for a Disney Channel show? Probably not. While her talents haven't changed, her image and the emotions she brings are 100% different. That makes a huge difference to whom she may appeal.
How to Develop Your Small Business' Brand Image
New companies and entrepreneurs need to come up with a plan for branding as one of the first steps in a business plan. Your brand is that first impression. It makes you or your product desirable, or just "ho-hum". You want to stand out! Owners of existing businesses may choose to re-brand, to change an image that is no longer appropriate or applicable. One way or the other, branding is critical to defining who you are to your customer.
In order to come up with a brand image, you need to think like your target client or costumer, and portray yourself accordingly.
Some questions to ask yourself are:
• What is the purpose of your company or product?
• How will a client or consumer benefit by hiring you or purchasing your product?
• Do your clients and customers already have an opinion of you? What emotion does your name stir within potential clients? Are you happy with that image?
• How would you want to be described to others?
Resources for Creating a Small Business Brand
Developing a small business brand sounds simple, but there is actually a lot of consideration to put into the effort. Preparing a headshot and logo, templates, tagline, and graphics are all important considerations. You want to have a professional image that the clients can trust. And, it's critical that you use the branding that has been created consistently.


No comments

Aug 15, 2012

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: why we cook


Every year around this time I have a soul-searching-flip-my-life-upside-down-and-inside-out moment where I microscopically ponder where I am, who I am, goals, dreams, hopes, fears, disappointments, triumphs. They say there's such a thing as seasonal emotions, and perhaps 'they' are right. As soon as the annual spring cleaning time comes and flutters away, I'm left feeling like the little neglected closet in the attic that didn't get dusted, rearranged or cleared out. Maybe, and forgive of course my farm inspired poetic puns of late, but maybe just maybe, like the rain soaked earth and sprouting summer buds, I too am anticipating to emerge as something greater than the sum of my parts. Maybe every year is a chance to plant a seed of growth, renewal and change. Contemplating without over abusing the power of thought. I tend to get lost in myself, making too many plans and dreaming too hard (re: not too high) while burdening myself to even start with any one thing. Through it all though, I feel at peace when I cook.

So you may have already settled into the changes I've made around here. I want this blog to reflect where I am in life. I knew the title for this blog would always be fitting, because this isn't a cookie cutter perfect cooking blog like you read about in Lucky or Saveur magazine, where the pictures are always perfectly lit and the recipes have been tested my elves and the writing is like a future NY Times bestseller and the sidebar has little icons of awards its won from say, oh, Saveur magazine. Its always going to be a bit disheveled, as I slowly grow into who I want or need to be, while relating to you any chance I get. And its you, who I wonder about curiously, that I want to ask a silly little question.

Why do we cook?

I don't come bearing gifts, a giveaway, or a nationally sponsored prize for those who answer the most profoundly. Again, this isn't that kind of blog. But maybe you are twirling your hair at work, maybe you are sinking into the couch with a cup of tea. Wherever you are in the world, garner a thought. Draw out the memory of your first significant moment in the kitchen. What was it like and why do you still get back in the kitchen now?

What I am most grateful for so far while experiencing life as an organic farmer, is that whether its a family farm by definition or not, we certainly are family. And most days, these days anyway, I find that I cook simply to dress the table. I hadn't quite noticed before how prolific this habit is, and how much of a peaceful halo surrounds me as I do it. But the difference between me and everyone else in the farmhouse is that fine line between dinner and communal dinner. If ever there was a time to feel incomplete, it would certainly be me, standing before a table piled high with mail, keys and notes, plates strewn across from nights prior, and not a utensil in sight. You'll find me quietly yet keenly, fidgeting about, removing each unwanted article off the table one by one, giddily replacing them with the choice dinnerware of the night, utensils atop folded napkins, and serving dishes with their matching spoons and spatulas. I stand back, and my eyes are always aglow. Pride. That's the word. Now everyone can come to the table I have set and feel something. They might feel warmth from the welcoming sight. They might feel special, as if they are the only ones at the table. Or even relief, that they themselves would have done the same were it not for how worn down they feel from the long day's work. And then I approach the table with a platter of warm steaming goodness. A pot of summer risotto perhaps, or an Italian style heirloom tomato pasta. Or maybe its brunch on a Sunday and its a fried egg sweet potato hash with spinach. Yes. For me, I cook... just to set the table.

How about you?
5 comments

Aug 13, 2012

MEATLESS MONDAY: white bean roasted garlic hummus

Ooops, I might have forgotten to post a Meatless Monday recipe last week. Lola was already worried, or maybe thought I eloped and will never return, laugh.

Truth is: I had the chance to go on a mini vacation, so I went to Sylt. Sylt is an intriguing northern German island, not unlike maybe the Hamptons (I've never been but been told there are similarities). The stay on the island was too short, but long enough to take in the beautiful nature. Soft green hills, sandy dunes, rose hip with bright purple flowers and heather bushes as far as the eye can see, a dark green sea, strong winds with giant seagulls floating it, deserted beaches, only vivid thanks to the scattered, cheerful blue beach chairs. What struck me most is the beautiful silver light that adorns the island day in day out. It's typical for the island. The conclusion: Sylt is the ideal setting to find the way to relaxation, to listen to the heart more intently and to enjoy being together. More pictures of Sylt can be found here.

Of course, after one lazy week, I'm now also back with a recipe: white bean and roasted garlic hummus. You can use it either as a started, with some flatbread, or in other dishes. I used this hummus in soft tortillas - and it was the divine combination.


WHITE BEAN & ROASTED GARLIC HUMMUS

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup dried white beans, cooked according to directions, or 1 can cooked white beans
  • 1 fresh garlic bulb, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 lemon, juice
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 drop harissa or chili paste
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • fleur de sel
  • sumac, sweet pepper, olive oil, and 3 sprigs thyme, for garnish

METHOD
  1. If you use dried white beans, soak them overnight in water. Drain and cook according to directions (I added an onion, a carrot, one leek and some herbs to the boiling water) for 50 minutes or until tender. Drain and let cool. If you use tinned beans, drain and clean under the running water.
  2. In the meantime, preheat the oven to highest heat. Wrap both garlic halves separately in aluminum foil. Place in the oven and roast for 25 minutes or until garlic is tender and slightly caramelized. Remove from the oven and the foil and let cool. Remove each bulb individually with a fork.
  3. Combine the beans, garlic, tahina, lemon juice, harissa and olive oil in a blender. Pulse until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the yogurt, combine well.
  4. Season with salt and, if necessary, more harissa for spice. Pour in a bowl.
  5. Decorate with sumac, a dusting of sweet pepper and an extra drizzle of olive oil.
  6. Serve with warm flatbread or together with various salads in a tortilla.
    2 comments

    Jul 19, 2012

    chunky monkey business smoothie...

    Most of my mornings start off with fruit these days. Give a girl a new house and boyfriend, and all of a sudden you have a health nut mama bear on your hands. I mean really, I still owe you all tons of updates (did you know I'm a redhead now? just kidding!) and the most important update is that I'm a wannabe nutritionist in training. Maybe its my biological clock. Maybe its the power to afford Whole Foods. Market groceries Maybe its that red meat is starting to me make me sick and Burger King commercials make me puke. No really. I always sneered at Burger King because I knew at least there was Wendy's, but now have you seen their new commercial? Natural cut fries! What the hell does that mean! So before, Wendy's was using something other than potatoes for our fries? Geesh. So yes, I am becoming a pompous health nut, semi-vegetarian, big-mouthed opinionated foodie. Anyone want to join me?

    But I digress. I now wake up to the sound of birds chirping, make my bed, skedaddle to the kitchen, and see what I can do with the array of fruits stocked to the brim in my kitchen. You see I am fond of berries now. But bananas are on the receiving end of my favoritism. And now that I have a new blender, it was only a matter of time before the bananas met their fate with one my favorite creamy delights. Peanut butter of course! Come on people, this is nothing new. Stop gasping. Bananas and peanut butter go together like sugar and butter. Its just that, well, chocolate makes the world go round, makes babies smile, ends war and brings on world peace. So, hell, I chucked some chocolate in that blender too. Now you can gasp.

    But get this. I now plan on sharing all my annoyingly tedious research. I mean you can't assume recipes are healthy. A few minutes of looking ingredients up is all it takes. Turns out, a two tablespoon serving of peanut butter contains 7 grams of protein. Your body uses the amino acids found in protein to build and repair muscle tissue. In addition to building metabolism-boosting muscles, protein-rich foods like peanut butter keep you feeling fuller for longer (woo hoo! portion control!). The protein in peanuts, like other plant proteins, contains an incomplete set of amino acids, so you should have a glass of milk with your peanut butter dishes. Lucky for you, this smoothie calls for milk. And lest not forget, those infamous monounsaturated fats in peanut butter lower your risk of developing heart disease, the number one killer of women these days. Yuck.

    Get it? Got it! This is the perfect sweet treat. No one can say no to sweet and sassy bananas, peanut butter will keep your tush in tip top shape, and chocolate is the perfect indulgence. I use cocoa powder now, because store bought syrups contain that substance we dare not speak of (high fructose corn syrup! double yucky) and of course finding fresh organic milk and yogurt is just what the doctor ordered. Hmmm, although I have much research to do on milk!
    Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
    a.k.a. Chunky Monkey Business

    Ingredients
    2 large bananas (frozen)
    6 ounces plain Greek yogurt
    1 cup milk (soy, whole, or skim...your preference)
    2 tablespoons peanut butter
    2 tablespoons chocolate syrup (I now use cocoa powder instead/2 teaspoons)

    Method:
    1. Slice the bananas, and save four slices (to be used as garnish).
    2. Place the bananas, yogurt, chocolate, milk, and peanut butter in a blender or food processor.
    3. Blend until smooth and creamy. Garnish and serve!
    12 comments

    Jul 2, 2012

    back to regular programming...

    Ahh, have you missed me yet? Scarlett has been doing a killer job seducing you with meatless posts, but I should return don't you think. I know, I know. Every year I disappear and always come back with excuses, yet always bearing gifts. Well this time my excuse is that I am a farmer now. So yeah. I get a break for that one right? Also, I fell in love. Oh and writing a few recipe books to be published starting next year. So enough of that, let's get on to some previews of what's coming this week, because we know all you care about is the food. Hmmfff.
    4 comments

    May 24, 2012

    RECIPE: garlic scape pesto with fusili

    Hey, did you hear? I'm a farmer. An organic farmer. Still! I'm officially ten days in and I have never been in more pain and more bliss all at the same time. This week, I've probably learned more about food and good 'ol fashion hard work than any over-priced culinary school could ever teach me. Since Monday we took to harvesting radishes, scallions, and garlic scapes. The latter, I have never seen or heard of before coming to work at this here farm. Its amazing the variety of edible plants we have in this world, and the supermarkets do nothing to enlighten us to them. But no worries, I'm here to your rescue as always (or maybe you're a bit more ahead of the times than I....already in the know about this finicky curly garlic plant). 

    After harvesting yesterday, we threw around a few ideas. Soup came to mind, but it is a hot spring here in the northern country. So pesto seemed like a fitting spring cum summer option. And let me just say, if you love garlic as much as I have come to love garlic, you will die for this pesto. No wait, you would kill for this pesto. It's so good that it became addictive. To the point where I was seeking any way to get my fix; spreading it on apple slices as early as 10am. Yeah, my breath was poppin. But no more words. Let's cook! Ohhh, right. See, about the pasta. Did I mention how insanely delicious this pesto is? So yeah, the whole taking pictures of the garlicky pasta versus eating it like there was no tomorrow...hmm, well clearly you can see where I am going with this. Don't fret, this will surely be made again soon.
    GARLIC PESTO & FUSILI
    made by my fellow farming gourmand, Jeff Lord


    INGREDIENTS

    • 8 garlic scapes, roughly chopped
    • juice of 1 lemon
    • zest of 1 lemon
    • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
    • drizzle of olive oil
    • 2 tbs Parmesan cheese
    • salt & pepper to taste

    METHOD

    1. Put everything in food processor and pulse until creamy.
    2. To use for dinner, cook fusili pasta according to package directions. Drain. Mix with desired amount of pesto until liberally coated (don't worry, it won't be too garlicky!). We actually quadrupled this recipe, so we made the whole pound package of pasta and mixed in one cup. Do you what you like.
    3. Enjoy!
    1 comment

    May 16, 2012

    my first morning as an organic farmer

    Is this not the most serene way to wake up? My only disappointment is that you miss the magic through the lens, because in person it was a sunrise a thousand times more spectacular. I haven't actually seen fog in years. It was a chilly yet pleasant surprise. Well, I'll be back later after a long day of more weeding, but for now, enjoy this quick breakfast of champions. Here's the deal though. You know how skinny bitches always say their green smoothie is downright delicious? Yeah, well they're downright lying. I've spent hundreds of dollars over the years on green juices, green smoothies, and green diet this and that. They all taste like dirty socks lodged in someone's stinky butt. My green smoothie on the other hand, is the must try for those who have never ventured on the green side or those who have and never looked back. I promise, girl scout's honor, that this is going to be your new staple recipe. It was my first try doing a green smoothie from scratch, and it was shockingly a unanimous winner (see, I even test on a panel of house judges before boasting my abilities to wow you with my culinary genius.) Go forth and conquer the day skinny one!

    GREEN BREAKFAST SMOOTHIE

    INGREDIENTS
    • 1 cup organic spinach (greens of choice, but mixed spinach is subtle and sweet)
    • 2 organic bananas
    • 2 organic apples
    • 1/2 organic lemon, juiced
    • 1 tb organic wildflower honey
    • 3/4 cup almond milk (any nut milk will do)
    • ice, optional

    METHOD
    1. Blend all until smooth. Taste and add additional milk or ice as needed.
    2. Enjoy and carpe diem!
    No comments

    May 2, 2012

    RECIPE: blackberry farm pineapple upside down cake

    It was the party of the year. The tasteful kitchen remodel complete. The living room decked out in antiques from their trip to Greece. The guest list like the who's who of NY Housewives. And a 24 karat, golden encrusted, porcelain cake platter topped with a three-tier beauty baked from box mix and frosted with Betty Crocker.

    Those were the good 'ol days wasn't it? When Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker were always welcome to the after-dinner party in our mouth. Ahh the silky texture of high fructose corn syrup and natural color #14c. Of course key lime icing should be bright green. That just means the cows who made the butter had green spots on them! What's that? Duncan Hines doesn't list butter as an ingredient in their buttercream? Hmm. Ignorance is bliss. These days, the only thing better than using fresh brown speckled eggs from a happily roaming hen and unashamedly fatty butter or milk from a healthy grazing cow, is getting to see those chickens and holsters up close and thank them in person. Little did they know they'd be taking part in one of the most deliciously divine cakes of all time.

    Wait. Listen. Let me see if I can adequately confer how mind blowing this cake is. Because I know you. You'll just sit there, reading, clearly drooling all over your keyboard and never once get off your derriere to make this cake. What a disservice to your belly. This cake is sinfully good. In fact I said a prayer by the time I took a third heaping slice in one night. "God,..." I cooed innocently, "please watch over me, and don't let this go to my ass. Amen." What! World peace as a prayer rarely works.

    So take my word for it and please make this long awaited pineapple upside down cake. I really have been on a roll lately. I don't know what's going on, everything I touch lately turns into gold. Or rather, golden roasted pineapples. Its sweet. Its dense. Oh and it has vitamin c, magnesium, and helps prevent cancer. Thanks to the pineapple, cheers to the chicken and cows.
    ROASTED PINEAPPLE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE
    I never realized this cake is traditionally made in a cast-iron skillet. You can grease the sides to make flip and release easier. And don't let the long ingredient list fool you, this cake is extremely easy. Get your 'mis en place', read through the steps, then knock this out of the park like I did!
     

    INGREDIENTS

    • 1 pineapple, peeled
    • 4 tbs (1/2) stick unsalted butter, melted
    • 1/2 cup organic sugar
    • 1 ts organic cinnamon
    • 1/4 ts organic cloves
    • 1/8 ts organic fine sea salt
    • 6 tbs (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
    • 3/4 cup organic packed light brown sugar 

    • 1 1/2 cup organic flour
    • 2 ts baking powder
    • 1 ts organic cinnamon
    • 1/4 ts organic fine sea salt
    • 6 tbs unsalted butter, room temp
    • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out (or 1 tbs extract)
    • 1 cup organic sugar
    • 2 organic free range eggs, room temp
    • 1/2 cup organic heavy cream

    METHOD

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Position rack to center of oven.
    2. To make the topping, chop the pineapple into chunks. Pour the melted butter into a small bowl. In another small bowl, whisk the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Dip each pineapple chunk in the melted butter then lightly coat in the sugar mixture.
    3. Arrange the pineapple wedges in the bottom of a 10-inch cast iron skillet, making sure they are very close together, overlapping if necessary.
    4. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, until the pineapple begins to brown on the edges. In the meantime combine the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan; cook over medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture becomes smooth. Pour the warm butter mixture over the roasted pineapple and set aside.
    5. To make the cake, in a medium bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and creamy.
    6. To the butter, add the vanilla and sugar, beating until fluffy. Add one egg at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides between additions. Beat in the flour mixture in three additions, taking turns with the cream. Spread the batter over the pineapple topping and smooth with a spatula.
    7. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until it passes the toothpick test. Let the cake cool in the skillet on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.
    8. With oven mitts on, place a dinner plate over the skillet and carefully flip the cake. Pieces will be stuck, so scrape off and add to the cake. Serve warm!
    6 comments

    May 1, 2012

    RECIPE: best ever crusted buffalo macaroni and cheese

    I have a love hate relationship with dairy. On the one hand, I'm completely lactose intolerant with a newly discovered understanding that humans aren't meant to drink milk after infancy, much less the milk from boobs that aren't our mama's boobs. On the other hand...well, I'm still lactose intolerant, but I love milk, cream, butter, and cheese uncontrollably. Gluttonous I know. What can I say, I'm only human.

    It may come as no surprise then, that when it was raining free buffalo sauce samples outside my local Kroger grocery last week, the only thing that made sense was to trickle a couple bottles of it from the door to the kitchen, cleverly staging a fake homicide scene. Well, that and flooding a baking dish with a curious amount of smoky buffalo sauce, pungent cheeses, and delightfully fatty cream in what I like to call the world's best buffalo macaroni and cheese. The thing about dairy that gets me excited like a schoolgirl is that its so sinfully rich, unashamedly fatty, and full of body in any of its many forms, from dense and luscious European cultured butters to velvety lava-like buttermilk and fresh creams. Is there anything better than a slice of artisanal cheese drizzled in wildflower honey paired with a glass of full bodied wine? Sex maybe, but my take on this orgasmic baked macaroni with a crumbly golden crust will have you saying KY who!

    I'm no Mario Batali, and I doubt you claim to be either, so let this recipe be a canvas for you to experiment with hand crafted cheeses from your travels, revered creamery butters touted about in gourmet magazines, or any of your favorite milks and creams at your local market, (so long as any and everything is organic, you want milk not antibiotics with a side of dairy). What happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen. Except of course when it ends up in the bedroom. A girl's gotta have her bowl of after-hour dark chocolate ice cream.

    BAKED BUFFALO MACARONI & CHEESE   
    adapted from Food Network 
    serves 6-8

    INGREDIENTS


    • 7 tbs organic unsalted butter, plus more fro the dish
    • salt
    • 1 pound organic elbow macaroni
    • 1 small organic onion, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves organic garlic, minced
    • 3/4 cup hot sauce (I used Frank’s because they were free!)
    • 2 tbs organic flour
    • 2 tsp dry mustard
    • 2 1/2 cups organic half-and-half (or mix equal parts milk and cream like I did)
    • 16 oz organic sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
    • 8 oz organic pepper jack cheese, shredded
    • 2/3 cup organic sour cream
    • 1 cup panko crumbs (I used Parmesan herb, but you can use plain and add two tb of fresh parsley)

    METHOD

    1. Preheat the oven to 350F and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain.
    2. Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
    3. Add two more tablespoons butter in the saucepan and stir in the flour and mustard with a wooden spoon until smooth. Whisk in the half-and-half, hot sauce and stir until thick, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, then whisk in the sour cream until smooth.
    4. Spread macaroni in the prepared baking dish and pour the cheese sauce evenly on top.
    5. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted. Stir in the panko. Sprinkle over the macaroni and bake until bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
    image via Gilt Taste Dairy

    2 comments

    Apr 27, 2012

    RECIPE: roasted sweet potato apple soup

    During a global warming induced late April summer, the last thing you're craving is a big warm bowl of soup. To those cynical bouts I say, "open your mouth and swallow".

    But don't be fooled, as the irony is not lost on me that in fact, I was craving a vegetable dish without having to see my vegetables front and center. So what's a girl to do but revert back to her ignorant childhood bliss and purée the damn thing until it resembled a saturated luminescent puddle of mush. Ahhh, baby food. Actually, that's how simple this dish is. As simple as baby food (say it enough and it might catch on). A little chopping here, little sprinkling there, shove it in the oven, play hide and seek with your fine china, and serve. Easy peasy. Well, unless of course you're like me and hate the art of washing, peeling, chopping, and altogether struggling with a knife the size of a femur bone. But that's why God invented snazzy kitchen tools. Or at least he invented the man that invented the kitchen tool. Whatever your belief, with a little help, this can be ready in no time. Needless to say I got a healthy dose of beta carotene, fiber, and other unpronounceable nutrients without ever having to acknowledge I was devouring veggies. Surprisingly, it was quite filling too, with no oversized Olive Garden bread bowl in sight. And while sweet potato's autumn cousin, butternut squash, is delicately more sweet and revered, my summer version of this soup is worth its weight in gold. And whatdya know, it looks like it too. That's what I call an accomplished lunch hour.

    ROASTED SWEET POTATO APPLE SOUP

    INGREDIENTS

    • 1 tbsp. butter
    • 2 leeks, sliced thinly
    • 1 large carrot, sliced thinly
    • 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
    • 2 large apples, peeled and diced
    • 5 cups broth
    • freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1 cup light cream
    • salt and pepper
    • fresh chives or cilantro, to garnish

    METHOD

    1. Preheat an oven to 400ºF.
    2. In a bowl, combine the carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, olive oil, salt and pepper then toss to coat. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake until the carrots are tender and golden around the edges, 35 to 40 minutes.
    3. In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and sauté, stirring, until tender 5 to 10 minutes. Add the roasted vegetables, broth, nutmeg and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
    4. Puree the soup mixture and strain. Return the soup to the pot add cream and season with salt and pepper.
    5. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish to your liking. Serve immediately. Top with sour cream or yogurt if you like. I did!
    2 comments

    Apr 23, 2012

    RECIPE: carrot soufflé

    So I'll start my Blackberry Farm Cookbook week with the most underwhelming recipe of the bunch. I know a few of you are dying for the sweet stuff (cough, AJ, cough...) and bare with me, the cakes and crumbles are coming. But I feel less guilty eating three heaping servings of sugar coated apples after I've had a spoonful or two of some nutrient rich carrots and the like. Now don't storm down my front door, I did of course enjoy this light and fluffy dish, if for no other reason than it gave a simple, rather untalented, wannabe home chef such as my self the right to tout around her alleged souffle success. No one has to know the ingredient culprit was farm fresh carrots instead of the more notorious and beloved silky smooth French chocolate. Give a girl a break. I made my first souffle and I rocked it! The only problem? Well, even a whopping one pound of carrots makes enough for only four people (at least in a gluttonous house like this one) so I much prefer individual ramekins to give off an air of sophisticated presentation and slow savoring. And also, I was frowning like a two year old who dropped her ice cream cone when I found out the red onions I added stayed crisp even after baking. I would have preferred a smoother texture throughout, so perhaps I might butter them up in a saucepan quickly next time. All in all, it was a pleasant dish, not too much trouble (hmmm, if you don't mind peeling and tedious work like that!) and I hear that its a great way to trick kids into eating veggies. Nothing beats a quick dish that mom can use to blindly bribe her children, am I right?

    BLACKBERRY FARM'S CARROT SOUFFLÉ

     

    INGREDIENTS

    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for baking dish
    • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
    • Coarse salt
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 1 cup saltine cracker crumbs
    • 3/4 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
    • 1/3 cup very finely chopped onion
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 3 large eggs

    METHOD

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish; set aside.
    2. Place carrots in a large pot and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Generously salt water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender and easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 10 minutes.
    3. Strain carrots and transfer to the bowl of a food processor; process until pureed. Transfer carrot puree to a large bowl; stir in milk, cracker crumbs, cheese, onion, butter, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
    4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk eggs until foamy. Whisk eggs into carrot mixture until just combined.
    5. Transfer carrot mixture to prepared baking dish and bake until puffed and light golden brown on top, 40 to 45 minutes; serve warm.
    5 comments

    Apr 22, 2012

    FOOD FOR THOUGHT: an earth day photo story

    Want to know a secret? I've been journaling lately. A habit that's had a decade long hiatus since my teenage years. But not just any kind of journal, a gratitude journal. I couldn't pass up the chance to support a small artist that did a limited edition collection of hand-bound journals for Squam. The collection featured one serene beachfront view, a starry galaxy, and baby mushrooms poking their fuzzy heads from the soil. Needless to say I bought all three and saved two for gifts later on. So there I sit, each night before bed, journaling about all that I am grateful for. It doesn't take religion, or rebellion, or even political policy to sometimes feel grateful for so much that the ground and sky provides us. So what have you been feeling grateful for lately? Is it that perfectly shady tree you call your secret spot, or campfires under the warm summer sun, or the clean taste of grass-fed beefy hamburgers that your dad grills just for you? Don't be shy, a lucky commenter might just receive one beautiful journal I have as a giveaway. Happy Earth Day.















    To enter my humble little Earth Day giveaway, simply comment below. To see the prize, click the link above.

    images here, here, here, here, here, here, and here
    9 comments

    RECIPE: blackberry cobbler

    Just dropping in quickly to share this recipe from the Blackberry Farm Cookbook that I blogged about below. This is one I haven't tried or don't plan on trying anytime soon (but starting tomorrow I will be posting a handful of the insanely scrumptious recipes I did try) because I can't get farm fresh berries and the ones at the grocery store look diseased to say the least. But sharing is caring right! No reason why you can't try it and let me know how it goes. And seriously, it has a southern-style biscuit crust. Do you really need more motivation than that?

    Blackberry Farm’s Blackberry Cobbler
    Serves 8

    Ingredients:

    • 8 cups fresh blackberries
    • 1 1/4 cups sugar
    • Zest and juice of 1/2 lime
    • 1 Tbs. cornstarch
    • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
    • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled
    • 1/4 cup buttermilk

     

    Directions:

    1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F
    2. In a large bowl, toss together the blackberries, 1 cup of the sugar and the lime zest. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and cornstarch until smooth. Drizzle the lime juice mixture over the blackberry mixture and toss to combine. Scrape the blackberry mixture into a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and set aside.
    3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Use you fingertips to rub the butter into the flour mixture until it is the texture of coarse meal. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour the buttermilk into the well and stir with a fork until the mixture comes together. Crumble the dough evenly over the top of the blackberry mixture in the skillet.
    4. Bake the cobbler until the blackberry filling is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Let the cobbler rest for 10 minutes before serving. 
    image courtesy of  beall+thomas for Blackberry Farm Cookbook
    4 comments

    Apr 21, 2012

    COOK THE BOOK: blackberry farm cookbook

    You know, there are a few times in life I've found myself envious. I believe once there was a tangible evil glare I'd always give one particular "fashionista" in new York because she was inexplicably and without fail always dawned in the hottest designers while on a Ramen noodle budget (I would later learn this was called runway renting, who knew). And there possibly may have been an incident where I might have allegedly instigated a cheeky rumor back in high school about a girl who would always arrive to school in a limo (I had to take two trains and a bus, what gives!). But I'm older and wiser now and have let such frivolous source of envy fall to the wayside. Instead you can find me vehemently envying Sam Beall. Why? Oh, I'll tell you why. Sam's father started Ruby Tuesdays, but that is just a minute detail in comparison. It was this now famous restaurant chain that led Sam's father to pack up his family and move every few months or so. While most kids would find this sorely inconvenient for their social life, boy would I have reveled in the chance to see the many facets of an entire country at such a young age. I imagine I'd be quite the hippie actually. Well, finally Sam settled down and did the typical traditional course of attending culinary school, working for gastronomic giants like Thomas Keller of French Laundry in California, then onto renowned vineyards and even a creamery for godsakes. But even after such a jealousy-inducing journey, nothing comes close to the fact that all the while, Sam had this miraculous and other-worldly gem called Blackberry Farm that would be awaiting his return. What a gift it must be to come home, or call home rather, a place where the seasons are as vivid as a Matisse canvas, the harvest more bountiful than any chemical crop could produce, and the region like a patchwork of kindred spirits all engaging in a like-minded hub of artistry, reverence and tradition. So can you blame a girl for being a teensy weensy bit envious?

    The Blackberry Farm Cookbook is a monster of a book. I'm not being facetious, I literally mean this book is bigger and heavier than my imaginary Japanese knife drawer (seriously have you seen the prices at Williams-Sonoma? It's like a car down payment for one knife! I thought Japan was a land of child labor, hmm). But as they say, the bigger...the more to love right. If you can get over the grief of dealing with this massive book that's suffering a coffee table identity crisis, the seasonal recipes, anecdotes, and extremely warm tone of Sam's thoughts on what makes for a desirable food system and lifestyle are sure to have you captivated by the inevitable magic that is Blackberry Farm.


    In an effort to embrace what it must be like to be a stay at home mom (a current political controversy if you can believe it) I decided to cook two meals a day for one week that was enough to feed this mansion-like abode that's currently housing me. The Blackberry Farm cookbook was the perfect aid. I set out to answer whether the average family could maintain a seasonal, produce-heavy diet (diet here simply meaning chosen foods) and the answer is a resounding yes. While the cookbook itself offers no more false encouragement than Animal, Vegetable Miracle where Barbara Kingsolver takes a year off to start a farm with her monetary riches, what it does do beautifully is highlight the simplicity of dishes that prosper purely from the farm fresh ingredients that go into it with a sprinkling of ignited passion for cooking and eating that everyone should be equipped with.

    In the end, do I think this lofty sixty dollar tome is worth the dough? No, not entirely sorry to say. The photographs, while brilliant, are not the modern over-styled pieces of art so many gourmands are spoiled with today. The size is severely inconvenient as a functioning cookbook. I found myself thinking the glossy pages were too precious to have near my dirty bustling kitchen but then not useful enough when all the way on my coffee table sitting pretty. And who really wants to photocopy their own cookbook just to prep a meal? That's hardly kosher (read eco-friendly). But make no mistake, while I originally was going to tell you that you'd be hard pressed not to find another clean food, farm-to-table, 365 seasonality inspired cookbook that did a better job than Sam Beall's...the truth is that as I sit here even now, ravaged by my late-night dessert cravings as always, the aroma of crisp tart apples baking up in a delectable casserole downstairs, the truth is that when you need a flawless recipe that delivers, this cookbook is quite the charmer. But seriously, enjoy it at a library, bookstore aisle or borrow from a richer, more enviable friend!


    PS- Let that friend be me. I'll be posting tons of recipes from my experiment of cooking the book for the rest of the week. Roasted pineapple upside down cake, carrot souffle, and sweet corn pudding anyone?

    Blackberry Farm image by the lovely Coco of Roost
    3 comments

    Apr 11, 2012

    RECIPE: poached pear rice pudding

    I hate pears. I hate peaches. I hate fruits that aren't pink and red, which leaves me with just enough worthy candidates to have four fruits per year. Ruby red grapefruit in all its glory sprinkled liberally with sugar and salt. Perky grapes fresh from the vine. Cherries sunken to the bottom of my Shirley Temple cocktail. Now that is what I call fruity. So what is with this pear business? Why are they dangling from trees over my head and rearing their ugly stem at the farmer's market? I had no idea, but it was about time I found out. Last night, while tossing and turning in bed, treating my cookbooks as a soothing lullaby to aid in coaxing me into a restful sleep, I came across a recipe for rice pudding with a pear purée. The culprit? Miss Sophie Dahl herself, teasing me with British inspired seasonal concoctions in her inaugural cookbook, Miss Dahls Voluptuous Delights. Another model turned alleged chef, Sophie who is undoubtedly beautiful, was trying to convince me with peachy words that rice and pears go together like chocolate and my tummy, or cheese and macaroni if you will. Just one problem. I've never had rice pudding in my entire life (please don't gasp so audibly, I'm aware this fact is offensive) and the one time I did have pears it was clear I hated them and condemned them along with olives and anchovies (things I later would fall in love with, go figure). What was a experimental girl to do but dim the lights, sleep like a baby, and wake up bright an early at 1:30pm to make a fabulous brunch I was sure to hate! Sounds like an ideal humpday to me.



    Do I really need to say it? Okay, yes....pears....are....orgasmic! I was salivating while actually eating. Just like a rich and creamy slowly churned ice cream, I couldn't wait for each next bite to reach my mouth, so naturally I inhaled the bowl. Which was second best to an IV drip being set up. I urge you to try this if you are either a) yet to experience rice pudding for yourself b) love rice pudding and never considered it for breakfast or c) pretty much despised pears or fruits in general, never getting your daily serving, and refuse to believe that things grown on trees could ever equate to sinful deliciousness. And as for the cookbook that coaxed me to sleep, its a beautiful tome of wonders, but the recipe below is all my own. Just the way I like it!
    SOY RICE PUDDING & POACHED PEAR SYRUP 
    serves 4  

    INGREDIENTS

    • 2 pears, peeled & cored
    • 2 cinnamon sticks
    • 1 cup organic sugar (I used brown, but you can use palm or cane)
    • 1 cup arborio rice
    • 4 cups soymilk
    • 1 ts cardamom
    • 1/4 cup apple juice
    • honey or maple syrup to taste
    • crème fraîche (optional)

    METHOD

    1. In a saucepan big enough to fit 2 pear halves, place one cinnamon stick and the sugar in 4 cups of water. Heat, stirring, over high heat until all the sugar is dissolved, then bring the heat down to low. 
    2. Place the pear halves into the simmering liquid, cover and poach until tender, about 15 minutes. 
    3. Once the pears are done, remove from the liquid and bring the heat back up to high; reduce the liquid until it starts to get all syrupy and amazing-looking. Also, your kitchen should smell beautiful right about now, but keep a look out and don't let it burn!
    4. Meanwhile, bring milk and rice to a boil in a saucepan placed over high heat. Give it a good stir, and reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for about 25-30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Once it’s ready the rice will be tender and the liquid will have thickened somewhat so that it’s silky in texture.
    5. In another small pan, boil the apple juice and then add the remaining pears (be sure to slice them beforehand). Sprinkle with cardamom, add the cinnamon stick, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until tender. Once ready, throw in a blender and puree.
    6. Serve the rice pudding hot, topped with a poached pear half and plenty of syrup or topped with peach puree and creme fraiche. Amazing!
    THE VERDICT: Oh, how I miss this little section from recipes past. I shall bring it back as this recipe marked a life changing landmark for me, one where learning and pleasure where a perfect marriage. So what did I think of this masterful creation? Well, pretty much that rice pudding is all that the hype claims it to be. When cooked to the precise timing necessary, the frothy and creamy texture is like oatmeal's little sister, beating it out slightly thanks to the array of rice options one can use from Japanese black to Indian basmati. Yum!

    WHAT I LEARNED: First things first, that syrup will burn to a stinky mess if you don't keep an eye on it. Which is what happened to me. Buggers. So I scraped some toffee off the bottom of the pan to top my bowl, redeeming my failure. Second, more milk means a creamier texture so adjust to your own liking. Be sure that any leftovers are heated up with more milk, whether in a pan or microwave, because I went back for seconds and was sad to see a dry clumpy rice bowl looking up at me. Moo.
    6 comments
    © Beconing Lola • by Maira G.