03 September 2015

Romancing The Chocolate: New Orleans Chef Competition Winner: Macadamia Nut Pineapple Up-Side Down Cake, New Orleans Restaurant Links

Photo by Cynthia Campbell  --  Macadamia Nut Pineapple Up-Side Down Cake by Restaurant R'evolution pastry chef Erin Swanson is the silver-medal dessert at the 2014 New Orleans Wine & Food Experience's Grand Tastings.
       Photo: Cynthia Campbell
Romancing The Chocolate: New Orleans Chef Competition Winner: Macadamia Nut Pineapple Up-Side Down Cake, New Orleans Restaurant Links: From Denny:  Louisiana is fond of food competitions and New Orleans attracts the top chefs who are willing to compete for charity events and industry competition too.  This tasty recipe competed in a New Orleans Wine and Food Experience competition, developed by Pastry Chef Erin Swanson, Restaurant R’evolution, located in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was the 2014 desserts category silver medal winner.  All those lucky tasters were found returning for seconds of this delicious simple cake!...

... To satisfy your foodie curiosity here's what the other medal winners were cooking and the New Orleans restaurants from which they hail are linked so you can go visit and check out their stellar menus: ...
Romancing The Chocolate: New Orleans Chef Competition Winner: Macadamia Nut Pineapple Up-Side Down Cake, New Orleans Restaurant Links

Sleep Majesty King Duvet

Sleep Majesty King Duvet

Sleep Majesty: Restful, blissful, restorative sleep reigns supreme to pump up our attitude to take on a new day!  Easy to coordinate with other patterns!

Visit Denny Lyon Gifts  @ CafePress.com  -  see what's new!  Also note that I leave up all my designs from year to year so you have the security knowing that you can purchase as your budget permits to coordinate a room.

29 August 2015

Labor Day, Football Tailgating: Check Out Some New Drinks, Appetizer Cheesy Zucchini No-Fry Fries with Smoked Paprika Dip Sauce

Associated Press photo by Matthew Mead -- Cutting a zucchini into frylike sticks then cooking them delivers a signature crunch without the deep-frying.
Photo:  Matthew Mead/AP

From Denny:  Ready to try something new for the Labor Day weekend and tailgating season?  Audition it on Labor Day and check out your reviews, and, if all goes well, you have some winners for the tailgating season.  I know.  I know.  The conventional wisdom is that you are not supposed to audition something new on your guests but my crowd likes to review.  Come on; put a little risk into your life!  

I usually cook up standards I know most people enjoy and then introduce a couple of new things for review and comment.  It's a conversation starter and since my friends tend to be as opinionated as myself, well, they enjoy weighing in.  They even make suggestions to kick it up, tone it down or variations that I might not have considered.  Since I value their input it's all done in good fun.  For my guests to take home I also make copies of the new recipes with space for them to make notes while we discuss the food.
The first two drinks up for consideration are old standards with new twists:  a Planter's Punch and a Bloody Mary.  The new twist for the Planter's Punch is that it has some added Camus Cognac with the apple cider, apple juice and pineapple juice.  The new twist for the Bloody Mary is the addition of Lucid Absinthe with the spicy bloody mary mix, worchestershire sauce, horseradish, black pepper, celery salt and garlic salt.  These two drinks come from  Niccole Trzaska at The Liberty Bar in New York City.

This appetizer recipe is from Chef Sara Moulton, one of the busiest TV chefs.  Check out this link to her site for online cooking classes, links to her TV shows and awesome easy recipes.  Sara has enjoyed a long career:  a 25-year stint at Gourmet magazine (which had a run from 1941 - 2009), hosted several Food Network shows for a decade, hosts public TV's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, one of which is "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."  Whew! All while raising her own family.  It's no wonder she specializes in quick and easy food.

Sara developed this tasty zucchini fries recipe as a way to use up all those crazy zucchini multiplying in your garden and on the grocer's shelves at the end of summer.  Sara says, "What if I told you there's a way to transform the whole lot of them [zucchini] into a delicious dish resembling french fries, but without all the calories?"  Well, she has my attention.  How about you?  Sara continues, "The secret involves cutting your zucchini into fry-like sticks, then cooking them in a way that delivers that signature crunch but without the deep-frying."

To get that toasted taste and golden color for the breaded zucchini without deep frying, you start by toasting up some panko breadcrumbs in a dry skillet.  Sara also advises to pay attention to which cheese grater you use:  a fine wand-style grater has two-thirds more volume than if you grate the cheese on the fine side of a box grater.  Sara used a wand-style cheese grater that produced 5 Tablespoons of grated cheese in this recipe.  If you use the box grater you will only need 1 1/2 to 2 Tablespoons of grated cheese.  Who knew?

The usual basic breading technique is employed to get the crumb mixture glued to the zucchini sticks:  dip first in flour, then the beaten egg, then the breadcrumbs.  Sara advises that if you skip the flour then the crumbs have a tendency to fall off.  Stick to the recipe and don't deviate on this step.

For entertaining this recipe is a good one because you can stop at the breading stage an hour ahead of time, parking the breaded zucchini on a cookie cooling rack just before dinner or when you want to serve at the party.  The cooling rack keeps air circulating around the zucchini sticks so they don't get soggy.  When you are ready to bake, transfer the zucchini sticks to a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes.

The dipping sauce is a kicked up aioli, a garlic mayonnaise.  Sara added extra lemon juice to cut the sweetness of the commercial mayonnaise and some smoked paprika.  Who doesn't love smoked paprika?  It's definitely a standard at our house.  I can get downright cranky if my local grocer is found to have an empty space on that spice shelf.  Of course, the remedy I've used many times, as I am not one to be denied - is to buy regular paprika and mix it in with what's left of the smoked paprika.  It doesn't take but a couple of days for the small amount of smoked paprika to influence and infuse the regular paprika for a lighter smoked taste.  It's also a way to cut the price of smoked paprika if you are on a budget but still want to enjoy.

So, check out some new cocktails for entertaining and a new appetizer twist on the humble but plentiful zucchini!  Be sure to check at the end of the post for links to more recipe posts...

Louisiana Seafood Reusable Shopping Bag

Louisiana Seafood Reusable Shopping Bag

Check out awesome Louisiana eating: oysters, shrimp, crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya
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27 August 2015

Super Simple Breakfast: Texas Hash, Sausage and Egg Casserole, More Casserole Links

Sausage Egg Casserole

Photo: Sausage Egg Casserole from AllRecipes.com

From Denny:  Going to the beach for Labor Day?  Company coming and you are wondering what is easy to cook up for a hungry crowd?  Here are a couple of easy recipes for breakfast any time of the day.  They are also the kind of flexible recipes that you can add some of your favorite ingredients or seasonings to your taste.

Texas Hash is so simple for breakfast, lunch or a quick dinner.  It's a great recipe for using up pre-cooked rice.  This recipe calls for cooking the rice ahead of time.  If you are going to the beach you could easily pre-cook the rice, package it up to make the dish later so it would not take long to complete the cooking.  This Texas Hash is made with ground beef instead of the traditional leftover roast beef or chuck roast which is also quite tasty.

Just brown up the ground beef - how about ground sirloin for extra awesome flavor? - add a chopped onion to saute.  This recipe calls for browning the onion which I'm no fan of because it tends to give off a really strong burned taste to the dish.  It's better to first brown the meat, turn down the heat and then slower saute the onion until soft and sweet.

Add the can of diced tomato - or take the time to add diced fresh beefsteak tomato.  Season with a packet of taco seasoning.  Of course, I would add extra garlic powder, smoked paprika, cumin and some dried ginger to taste.  We like a lot of spices in this part of the South.  Serve with loads of shredded cheddar cheese or your favorite cheese like maybe some Parmesan or Romano or Asiago or Monterey Jack or even fresh Mexican cheese.

The Sausage and Egg Casserole is a safe bet for company visits when everyone is a bit tired from the trip.  You can make this ahead of their arrival and bake the next morning.  How simple and effortless is that? ...

Funny Dont Bug Me Coffee Travel Mug

Funny Dont Bug Me Coffee Travel Mug

When you are still waking up just let this graphic tell the world not to mess with you

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25 August 2015

Summer Food: Raspberry Almond Cheesecake Tartlets

Photo by Helana Brigman  --  Instead of cheesecake, try Raspberry Almond Cream Tartlets.
       Photo by Helana Brigman

From Denny:  Do you enjoy cheesecake but want an easier way to make it?  Then this recipe is for you.  I like cheesecake too but find it too large for just two of us to eat and too time consuming to make unless I plan on entertaining a hungry crowd.  

A springform pan is an absolute must to make a proper cheesecake - and the patience of a saint to leave the oven door cracked open as it slowly cools down for hours so you can hopefully avoid it cracking straight down the middle like an ugly scar.  Usually, I've been pretty lucky over the years.  Of course, when I wasn't lucky it was evident that a wonderful fruit topping like blueberry or strawberry could hide a multitude of sins just like gravy on a screwed up dinner. :)

Well, this recipe from food writer Helana Brigman is for the cheesecake challenged and the impatient.  You make this cheesecake in mini tartlets pans that are individual portions in just bite sized pieces rather than a huge honking slice of 6,000 calories like you get served at the Cheesecake Bistro.

What's involved in this recipe is to first make a simple graham cracker crust you crush up in your food processor or blender.  If you don't have that available then resort to the manual method of crushing graham crackers between two pieces of waxed paper using a pastry rolling pin.  

If you are really desperate just use a heavy jar of applesauce or canned "something" to roll over the waxed paper.  Yes, I have been wildly creative over the years, especially when the weather was too yucky to run out and get an ingredient that was missing or the electricity went out.  During hurricanes it's easy to get bored so you start working on what you can for a meal until the electricity comes back on to finish it.

The cheese filling could not be simpler:  cream cheese, vanilla, sugar and lemon zest.

The fruit glaze is made with fresh ripe strawberries, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice that you heat up in a nonstick pan.  If you don't like nonstick pans like I don't then use a double boiler.  Just place medium high heated water in bottom pot that is turned down to a slow simmer and place a smaller pot or even a pasta bowl on top to heat your ingredients.  Just be careful as you remove the cooked fruit glaze from the bottom pot because the steam can burn you.

Assemble by lightly spraying your tartlet pans with oil or rub with a little soft butter.  Press the crushed graham cracker crumb mixture until you line the sides well.  Bake the crust.  Make your cheese filling and spread over the cooled crusts.  Make your fruit glaze, cool it, and then spread onto the tartlets.  There will be leftover fruit glaze you can enjoy on your pancakes or ice cream.  Rinse your raspberries and arrange in the center of the tartlets with sprinkles of sliced almonds all along the outside edges in a ring.

Now contain yourself and any sticky fingers in the house!  Chill the assembled tartlets for three hours before serving.  If you plan to keep them overnight - or if they survive that long at your house - then be sure to cover with plastic wrap to prevent them from losing moisture or absorbing any possible refrigerator odors.

Yes, you can enjoy making cheesecake at home with this easy recipe!  Try it with different fruits like blueberry or peaches...

Keep Calm, Really? Potholder

Unleash your funny inner emotional diva!
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Keep Calm Really? Queen Duvet

Keep Calm Really? Queen Duvet

Unleash your funny inner emotional diva!  Design also available in twin and king sizes with pillow cases, pillows, t-shirts and more products.
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23 August 2015

Breakfast: Easy Simple French Toast Casserole

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Gourmet Galley, French Toast Casserole
        The Advocate photo: HEATHER MCCLELLAND 

From Denny:  Whether it's the holidays, a busy summer when the kids are out of school or company came to visit, we all need something fast and simple to put together that's a crowd pleaser.  This simple easy to assemble breakfast casserole fits that bill!

All the ingredients required are a loaf of good French bread, a full 8 ounces of your favorite brand of cream cheese, milk, maple syrup, butter, sugar and eggs.  Add fresh fruit to serve and it's that easy!

Usually when a recipe calls for sugar I often substitute agave syrup or brown rice syrup or even molasses.  If you don't like or can enjoy cow's milk why not substitute almond milk?  When butter is in a recipe I choose to clarify it just because we love the extra boost of flavor at our house from browning and filtering out the milk solids - as well as the added health benefits.  You could use margarine in this recipe as a substitute too.  And, to gild the lily, why not add a few shakes of nutmeg and/or cinnamon, some chopped pecans or walnuts before baking?  Yeah, Flavor Town is the name at our house...

Sports Blue Soccer Queen Duvet

A blue abstract background with bold lettering declaring your love of the sport from Louisiana artist Denny Lyon.  Available in twin and king sizes and on other products too!
Visit Denny Lyon Gifts  @ CafePress.com  -  see what's new! 

Sports Blue Soccer Woven Throw Pillow

Sports Blue Soccer Woven Throw Pillow

A blue abstract background with bold lettering declaring your love of the sport from Louisiana artist Denny Lyon.  Available on other products too!
Visit Denny Lyon Gifts  @ CafePress.com  -  see what's new! 

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