It's no secret that I am inspired by fellow foodies, moms who cook, food swappers and the people I've gotten to meet and know along the way because well, my kitchen has basically turned into my (home--well only) office.
For the 1st time in almost 5 years, I didn't go to the International Housewares Show here in Chicago. It was just a crazy weekend for us with kiddo stuff going into a busy week but I did pay attention to those who did go and posted pictures. And Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars had a few photos that caught my eye. With good reason!
Marisa's new book, "Preserving by the Pint" just came out and I'd already heard some rave reviews so it went into my cart on Amazon.com. And sat, for a day or so. And then she posted a photo from the show of a curious little pot. Very simple, straight forward but very multi-tasking. So I looked it up on Amazon.com added it to the cart. And they both sat. For just about a day if even that.
Well, my package with both arrived on Friday and I've already made one recipe from her book and used the pot for canning said recipe, cooking pasta, fish and chips and it's only Sunday afternoon! And the Kuhn Rikon, 4th Burner Pot is teeny (albeit 12 cup capacity) in comparison to what I normally use (note, my 25 qt pressure cooker is not in the photo) for canning but did the trick!
Marisa's introduction..."When I first started canning, I made huge batches of jam..." hmmm, sounds familiar as well her lament to the sticky mess it makes in the home office. Yes, I know that all too well! And I've always gone on the, if you're going to make a mess, make a huge one and then clean it up mentality. Well, now that I'm in the kitchen experimenting 7 days a week it seems, that doesn't work as well anymore and I needed a bit of a tweak to get me out of that mentality.
I can't say I'm going to give up my larger batch canning projects but as I continue to expand my canning and cooking genre, honestly, I wouldn't have even thought to scale down like this. Rather ironic--expand and scale down but it all makes perfectly good sense! It is also a reminder that my first dinner parties were cooked in a dorm community kitchen with zero budget and zero margin for error and in small apartment spaces in my native SF. No granite countertop, no fancy equipment or pots and pans. Just what one had procured from mom's cabinet or borrowed from a friend. I can thankfully justify every bit of equipment I have gotten over the years from wedding presents to the latest Amazon.com purchase but it's good to be reminded that my love for cooking and food didn't start off with any of it. And no, I am not giving any of it up!
Thank you Marisa for continuing to inspire and to the others who fed my love for cooking as well and yes, do check out her book and this really, awesome not-so-little multifunctional pot. You will not be disappointed!
Happy St. Patrick's Day! I'm not Irish but considering my husband and I met 13 years ago today we always try to do something celebratory. This year I made corned beef and cabbage and for dessert, Guinness Chocolate Cake which was a hit. It was moist, chocolately and the Guinness added an extra richness but wasn't overwhelming.
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's recipe
1 cup Guinness (I used Dark Lager)
1 cup unsalted butter
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
I am officially in love with homemade pasta, especially since I now know how to make it! My little guy's birthday party was a pasta making class. The following week, I took an adult version and learned some of the tricks and tips as well as how to cut pasta into its various forms.
And of course, we now have a pasta machine at our house which we've been putting to good use.
The pasta class I took was at Pasta Puttana which sadly will be closing on March 15th. The owner/chef Jessica Volpe was a spitfire in the basement kitchen of her store as she took 10 of us through a two hour pasta adventure. I came home with a basic pasta recipe, templates for cutting pasta, and what 4 kinds of homemade pasta (the class concentrated on cutting techniques so the pasta was already made) which I thought would last. Oh, yes, I forgot, anything homemade usually doesn't last long at our house and believe me, what I brought home lasted 4 days maybe, if even that. One thing I love about fresh pasta is it takes about a 10th of the time to cook and you can really use your imagination to come up with creative flavors in the noodles themselves, thus elimnating the need for a heavy sauce. Much healthier to say the least!
My little guy immediately zoned in on the roasted garlic pasta, the older one made the fresh parsley his favorite and my husband was just happy to get what he could after the boys had tasted and tested! It was just what I needed to get inspired to start making my own pasta and we've done it several times this week.
More pasta posts to follow but in the meantime, check out their Facebook Page and if you're in Chicago, stop by the store to get the last of their fresh homemade goodies.
My little guy turned 7 last Thursday and as with him, it involved fanfare in the kitchen as only he can create!
We had been debating where to have his birthday party for some time and as we do have three felines at our house (and allergies can always be an issue--note, the irony is he is allergic to cats, just not ours!), that was quickly ruled out. On the way home from the pediatrician one afternoon, we stopped at the Whole Foods in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. We affectionally refer to it as "Disneyland" because it has eveyrthing a foodie could love. It's a huge space complete with a mini food court ranging from burgers to sushi, a huge coffee bar and free indoor parking--just imagine your neighbohood Whole Foods to the n'th degree and well, there you have it!
I didn't realize until we were waiting for the elevator to go to the car that they hosted kids birthday parties in their cooking classroom (the flyer right at the door) since it's not our neighborhood location. No brainer. Game over. For my sous chef, it made the most sense.
I contacted their special events person, Sarah who was an absolute blast to work with. She vetted me on what I wanted out of a class/party and the result was a pasta making class consisting of a group of 13 guests last Sunday ranging from kindergarten to 3rd grade, 10 of which who were boys (my two included in the mix) which admittedly was a bit of a stretch but enough parents offered to stay so we had plenty of zone defense. They made their own pasta from scratch (and I admittedly had a moment when I thought--uh oh, this could go really badly or really well since it requires a bit of patience), assisted in making marinara sauce and decorated their own cookies. Let 13 kids loose with piping bags filled with buttercream and assorted toppings and well, it was interesting to say the least!
But it was a foodie-in-training's birthday party. Last year we went roller skating, this year, we gathered around a large table and celebrated with food. And I suspect celebrating with food in the doldrums of a challenging Chicago winter was the way to go!
Note: All opinions are of my own and I was not compensated by Whole Foods in any way. I do however, if you are in the Chicago area, highly recommend checking out the Lincoln Park store for kid's birthday parties although your local store might offer this option--it varies from location depending on space. Their staff was great, (every step of the cooking process was explained in kid-speak but still on a culinary level) and the kids all left fed, happy and with smiles on their faces. And I do believe several moms got their Sunday grocery shopping done as well!
I'm not shy about admitting that one of the many things I love about food swaps is the inspiration I get from others. And as I had raved about Emily's Blood Orange Sugar earlier this week, well, of course making my own was a no brainer.
I didn't have blood oranges on hand but I did have Meyer Lemons!
Now, what does one do with the sugar once you've made it?
Easy. Cook with it, bake with it. But, keep it away from small children who might be tempted to just eat it out of the jar (that seems to be a theme at our house these days....).
When making pancakes, be it from scratch or a mix, sprinkle some in before you flip them so you get some internal carmelization and hence, eliminate the need for syrup. This is particuarly helpful as I've found when you have a child who has a Wii remote in one hand and a pancake in the other. You get the citrus zest, the sweet and it really makes for a nice combination.
Sprinkle the sugar over cookies before baking--works nicely with chocolate chip cookies and it just adds a little extra something.
The possiblities if you think about it are endless...
3 lemons or oranges or limes (whatever is your citrus of choice)
2 cups of sugar
Zest the citrus of your choice using a vegetable peeler, microplane grater or a zesting tool. If you use a vegetable peeler, try to break it up into as small pieces as you can or do a rough chop after. You want to integrate as much of the zest into the sugar as possible.
Cut and juice one piece of fruit. You will only need 1 teaspoon of juice. Add this to the sugar along with the zest and combine well.
Spread out on a baking sheet and let dry completely (usually an hour or two). Store in an airtight container and use liberally!
This week we made Fleur de Sel Caramels as part of our Valentines teachers’ gifts. I took full advantage of having a jar of Emily’s Blood Orange Sugar on hand so I incorporated that into the recipe. So, hence these really are Blood Orange Sugar Caramels with a bit of Fleur de Sel.
The combination of sweet, salty and zesty made for a very nice combination and Kiddo #2’s teacher was gifted with half the pan (his doing) as well as a jar of Chocolate Raspberry Spread and a few other goodies.
Recipe (Adapted from Ina Garten’s)
Vegetable oil (spray is fine)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons salted butter
1/2 teaspoon fine fleur de sel
1 tablespoon Blood Orange Sugar (or any citrus flavored sugar)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper and spray it with non-cooking spray or brush with vegetable oil.
In a microwave safe dish, the cream, butter and fleur de sel to a low boil (1-2 minutes but times will vary depending on the microwave).
In a deep saucepan combine 1/4 cup water, sugar and corn syrup and to a boil over medium-high heat until medium golden-brown, swirling the pan instead of stirring the mixture. Turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture. It will bubble up quickly and violently. Once the mixture has settled, turn the heat back on to medium low and add the vanilla, stirring while cooking for about 10 minutes until it reaches 248 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Pour the caramel into the prepared pan and let cool to the touch. Carefully press the Blood Orange Sugar into the caramel and refridgerate until firm. When cold, turn out onto a cutting board and cut in half. Starting from a long side, tightly roll each half into a 8 inch log. Cut into bite sized pieces and wrap individually in glassine or parchment. Keep in the fridge untiil ready to serve.
ast Friday, I arrived home with my kids after school pickup to find a large box from USPS at my front door. Inside was a much needed bit of California Sunshine to brighten and warm up what has been the coldest and snowiest winter I’ve experienced in almost 20 years of living in Chicago. I'd ordered the 10lb box of Meyer Lemons from the Lemon Ladies who are based out of Emerald Hills, CA and as a native San Franciscan, I was excited that I could get my hands on a little bit of home to use in my culinary exploits.
Of course, I’d already been debating on what to use the lemons before they arrived and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect as the February Chicago Food Swap was the next day and I still had time to add one more thing to what I was already bringing. Food in Jars' Meyer Lemon Curd recipe was a no brainier.
As I tend to lean towards the savory more than the sweet, I did tweak the recipe a bit and cut back on the sugar a bit and added more juice. But. as Marisa's original recipe states, alghouth you can hot water bath the curd to make it shelf stable, you shouldn't keep it for more than 2-3 months. I don't think it will last that long anway! My kids were eating what was left in the bowl with sweet potato chips: not my 1st choice of an accompaniment but they seemed to enjoy the sweet/savory/salty combination.
Meyer Lemon Curd (Adapted from Food In Jars)
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
4 med Meyer lemons, juiced (or appx 2/3 of a cup of juice)
1 stick of butter, cut into chunks
zest from the juiced lemons
It's been far too long since I've been in this space so I thought a recap of yesterday's Chicago Food Swap would be an apporpriate way to jump back in!
As it is every month, my kitchen two days prior and the day of was a buzz of activity as I planned, ad libbed, and turned into the Tazmanian Devil as I covered every open counterspace with canning jars, lids and goodies in the making.
But in my thought process, how you can you not create a bit of chaos when doing what you love and want to share? The Chicago Food Swap is admittedly a monthly selfish indugence for me to say the least, that brings together a variety of people with various culinary talents. From the small business owners to the home chefs, culinarily trained or self taught, it's the opportunity to gather with others who love food and enjoy sharing it. This month's swap was hosted by Chef Micky and his wife Tess of All Natural Chicago Catering in their spacious downtown Chicago location. Chef Micky trained in Europe, particularly in Basque Country/San Sebastian so I was intrigued as I am part Basque. (Another story for another post...) Tess of course had made her own goodies to swap which I was fortunate enough to bring home: carrot cake jam and pear butter. Yum!
This month, I brought Chocolate Raspberry Spread, Meyer Lemon Curd, Moisurizing Oil (not an edible but food safe item mind you but appropriate with the brutal Chicago winter), and Cider Honey Mustard.
Sous Chef Louie prepping the Meyer Lemon Curd jars to be labeled...
Food swap loot!
This month's swap was one of the larger ones thanks to the size of the venue and we came home with everything from home distilled whiskey to Michelle's granola which we've already started to devour. Not to be missed were the banana chocolate muffins (already almost all gone for breakfast), Jimmy's Vegan Cookies: well, let's face it, none of it was to be missed including Emily's Blood Orange Sugar. This month's swap also re-inspired me...
In looking at all the time going to prep for the swap, not only on my end but also by those who were at the swap that I am fortunate enough to belong to a unique community that allows me to explore my foodie-ness and my creative side in general. And it reminded me why I love being in the kitchen as a mom-chef, doing what I do.
The Chicago Food Swap has become a fixture in our lives. I sign up, the date is on the calendar and then as the date approaches the frenzy begins on what to bring. After all, this is a very food savvy group we're dealing with!
This month's swap was held at The Chopping Block, located in the Merchandise Mart building. This particular location, they have two, is a dream for anyone who enjoys cooking. Subzero fridges, Viking stoves, Subzero Wine fridges, beautiful countertops that are asking to be used, to cook, bake, and create. And it was not only myself that felt this way—my two kiddos were awestruck as well which always get dangerous when I let them loose in the retail section. Sigh.
As always we came home with some major goodies. Emily's cherry syrup, Pamela's Ginger Honey Syrup and Beef Bulgogi Kimbap, Spaghetti Squash and Pumpkin, Gingerbread caramels, Cheesy Garlicky Biscuits…the photo says it all…(all that was left after the ride home that is!)
My contribution to this swap was Sufganiyot, a traditional jelly filled donut for Hanukah. The recipe jumped out at me from the pages of Bon Appetit Magazine and after a few tries, I got the recipe to where I wanted it (I tend to cut back on the sugar and butter if possible while maintaining the integrity of the recipe, and it was a hit! No, our family is not of the Jewish faith but it was yet another opportunity to try something different, especially with Hanukah coming up next week and it is a very easy to follow recipe, especially if you enjoy working with bread.
Recipe to follow tomorrow…