Monday, May 28, 2012

Wine & Cheese {plus a Giveaway!}

If I were to name for you the food items I could never grow tired of - good crusty bread, fresh mozzarella cheese, and roasted bell peppers would be near the top. Served together, it's an appetizer {but also a meal in itself} that's forefront at many of my family gatherings. Yet, any day of the week is occasion enough for me to enjoy them.
Your favorite cheese plate might look something like this, or it may be something completely different - maybe you like to serve cheese with fruit, or nuts? Instead of crusty bread, perhaps you like flatbreads, breadsticks, or just plain old crackers? Regardless of what's on your next cheese plate, if you're like me, you may struggle trying to figure out what the best beverage to serve with it is? The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board has a very simple and fun to use Cheese Cupid Pairing Tool {which is available online, but also as a free iPhone app} that made deciding what to pair with my favorite cheese plate easy.
They've also just released a series of Cheese Cupid Cinema videos, which celebrate everyday life achievements through a Wisconsin Cheese and beverage pairing. This post gives you a small peek at my favorite pairing, but you can visit the Wisconsin Cheese Talk blog to see my guest post in it's entirety, featuring my recipe for Marinated Wisconsin Fresh Mozzarella & Roasted Sweet Bell Peppers.
In celebration of the release of the videos, and to help you get started on creating your own pairing, Cheese Cupid and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board are generously offering one of my readers $25 worth of Wisconsin cheese mailed right to your doorstep, free of charge. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below - your comment will count as two giveaway entries if you share which Cheese Cupid Cinema video you like best! The winner will be chosen at random on Friday June 1st. Please, don't forget to leave your email address in the comment form! Only US residents are eligible for the giveaway.
Disclosure: The Wisconsin Milk Board provided me with a stipend to cover any expenses incurred while creating this guest post for them. However, as always, all opinions and comments expressed here are solely my own.
UPDATE: The giveaway winner is ... Heather (Squirrel Bread) - Congrats to you! Thank you to everyone for participating and for all your great comments!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Clementine Cake

A few Saturdays ago, I spoke at a day long food writing workshop, called Foodstock, which took place at Wesleyan University, here in my home state of Connecticut. It was an immense honor to have been asked to speak there, and the experience ended up being even better than I had imagined it being.
Above all, I had the pleasure of co-hosting my panel, titled Beautiful Blogs, with Ashley Rodriguez of the blog, Not Without Salt. Those of you who happen to be even somewhat involved in the online foodie world might know that she was recently nominated in the category of 'best food photography' for the 2012 Saveur Food Blog Awards. If you take a hop over to her site, you'll soon see why - it's gorgeous.
Our panel was moderated by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, the founding editor of the food website, The Kitchn, which over the past few years has rapidly become the food website I visit more frequently than any other. Meeting them both was a thrill in itself, but I also attended other panels going on throughout the day and getting to hear people like Ruth Reichl, Eric Asimov, and Molly O'Neill speak were some of the other highlights for me.
One of many subjects we talked about during the Beautiful Blogs session was content on our blogs. A question came up about how much thought went into the recipes we choose to feature - Are the recipes we choose deliberate?

My answer was yes...but, sometimes it's not. In general, the only guideline I follow when it comes to posting a recipe is, it has to be good. But just like the question 'what is beautiful?' rests in the eye of the beholder, so is taste to the mouth. It's a personal thing. So, when I say it has to be good - I mean, good in the minds {and mouths} of as many people as possible, while still maintaining my integrity and beliefs about food.
I try to post a mix of healthy and maybe not so healthy {from what I can gather from my blog's traffic reports, you generally like the unhealthy stuff the best...and if it's sweet, even more so}. But I'm also not going to post sweet, full of fat recipes weekly because that's just not good for you {or my family} and it's also not an accurate depiction of who I am. I'm one of those 'everything in moderation' people. I believe in enjoying life and eating yummy food, but not at the expense of everything else important in life.
I believe what stands the test of time is not a blog, cookbook, or magazine with only beautiful pictures, or epic writing. The ones that continually give you recipes you're going to like are the ones you'll naturally end up reading. And while it's not possible to please everyone, I share what I love with the hope that at least a chunk of my readers can relate.
All of this brings me to the real subject at hand...which is this Clementine Cake recipe by Nigella Lawson. I didn't make it for a special occasion, or because I was dying for a piece of cake, but only because I had an enormous bag of clementines that needed to be used.
A quick Google search yielded this recipe, which immediately caught my attention because it does not contain flour {and it also looked super easy}. I loved the idea of using ground almonds as the base for a cake, especially when I thought about how delicious the combination of citrus and nuts would be.
However, for me - the outcome was so-so. I do love the concept of this cake, and I do believe that for the right person, or purpose {think tea party/luncheon} it would be a hit. My husband really liked it, which I was shocked about because he's not a citrus-flavor-in-food person. This is also not an overly sweet cake. There's a slight bitterness, because the clementines {skins, piths, and all} are finely chopped and added to the batter.
I'm not saying that this will be the most paramount cake you'll ever make, but with a few minor adjustments, I think this could be a winner for some of you. First off, I recommend grinding the almonds as finely as you can. Unfortunately, anyone who's used a food processor to grind nuts before will know that there's only so far you can go before you have nut butter.
After some research on the matter, I discovered that if you add a bit of sugar to the food processor with the nuts, you'll be able to grind them much finer. Which is - if that's what you want. Some of you might like the texture the almond bits give the cake, as my husband did. I, however, found it a bit unappealing. For those of you who would like a smoother end product, I would recommend the sugar trick, or buying a bag of almond meal {Bob's Red Mill makes a great one} instead.
For the photos in this post, I stuck with a dusting of confectioners' sugar instead of making an icing. But a day later, I made a quick glaze by whisking some sifted confectioners' sugar with a bit of clementine juice {just enough to form an icing} - which I drizzled over the remaining cake, and suddenly the finished product was much more to my liking.
If you're reading this post and you've made this cake before, please share your experience! I'd love to hear your thoughts.
If you're interested in a few additional sweet or savory Citrus recipes you might enjoy these - Key Lime Bars | Wheat Berry, Walnut & Date Salad | Grilled Salmon with Blood Orange Salsa | Citrus Rice Salad | Lemon Fusilli with Arugula

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Challah French Toast

Regardless of how much I have on my plate at the moment {and it's not French Toast}, I woke up determined to get this post delivered here in time for Mother's Day. I won't be lounging about, sleeping in, or being served breakfast in bed this year because we're heading off to Boston for a hockey tournament this weekend. If I were, this is what I'd be requesting.
Quite a few years back, when I was frazzled with a new baby and a toddler underfoot, all I wanted was to sleep in on Mother's Day. It was the one day of the year I could count on it - birthdays might land on a weekday, Mother's Day never does. It's strange to look back now and think about just how sleep deprived I really was. Sure, today there might still be a few sleep deprived moments here or there, but there was a time once when sleep was so elusive a concept, the mere thought of getting a full night of it was enough to bring me to tears. Tears of joy...and relief.
On one such Mother's Day, when all I wanted was to sleep, a little red-headed 3 year old tapped me awake at 7:00am to ask me what I wanted for breakfast in bed? So sweet, yet not what I had hoped would happen that early in the morning. As much as I tried, there was no going back to sleep. I ate my breakfast in bed and went about my day, the whole time wishing I had been granted that opportunity to sleep in, and disappointed when I realized I would probably have to wait another year for the chance.
It was that Mother's Day that breakfast in bed orders began being noted the night before, with specific, "do not wake until..." instructions.
Of course, now that my kids are getting older and I'm the one having to wake them up early, sleep isn't the number one Mother's Day request on my list. But I do still love breakfast in bed, and since both my boys love any opportunity they can get to make a mess in the kitchen, they're happy to oblige me.
I remember, as a child, French Toast being one of the first things I learned how to cook on my own. It's easier than waffles or pancakes, because the ingredient list is much smaller and the steps it takes to make, much less. In my case, it was made even easier by the {high tech for the day} griddle section that was built right into our stove at home.
I don't know what's at the top of your Mother's Day wish list, but if anyone should happen to ask you what you'd like for breakfast in bed, I recommend you request this. Happy Mother's Day!
Some other breakfast in bed choices Mom might like - Breakfast Quinoa with Berries & Bananas, Strawberry, Granola & Yogurt Parfaits, Savory & Sweet Waffles, Cherry Pecan Granola, Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins, Strawberry Ricotta Muffins, or Ricotta Pancakes