Where’s The Beef – Seared Steak with Fig Caramelized Onions

Only dofstoyefsky could dream up a pair like us

-HaHa Tonka
So apparently I have started collecting all of Dogfish Head’s various special brews. Incase I have not yet mentioned it, Columbia fails! Its so sad how excited I get to go to a city that has a Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and/or sells Dogfish Head. Greenville, which is very much smaller than my fair city, not only has my beloved Dogfish Head, but a Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Sometimes life is not fair, unless you live in Columbia, and then its pretty much all the time. Of course I am kidding, absence only makes the heart grow fonder, so when I do get to relish in my oft missed delights I have a tendency to go a little crazy.
While in Greenville for Easter I managed to snag almond meal/four, unadulterated shredded coconut, and two of Dogfish head’s brews. I had to fight the urge to pick up everything they had in stock, instead I grabbed Aprihop, a lovely hoppy apricot brew, and Theobroma, a special brew based on the very first applications of cacao.

Dogfish Head's Theobroma

To be specific, Dogfish describes Theobroma as a “beer is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras which revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilizations to toast special occasions. The discovery of this beverage pushed back the earliest use of cocoa for human consumption more than 500 years to 1200 BC. As per the analysis, Dogfish Heads Theobroma (translated into ‘food of the gods’) is brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs (from our friends at Askinosie Chocolate), honey, chilies, and annatto (fragrant tree seeds). It’s light in color – not what you expect with your typical chocolate beer. Not that you’d be surpised that we’d do something unexpected with this beer!”

Personally, the chocolate flavor was not everything I had ever hoped for and I was very surprised by the lightness of this draft. With that being said, I found Theobroma to be far more drinkable than I ever thought it would be. I loved the subtle hint of spice that mingled with the ancient honey rich base flavor. As always, I highly recommend picking up this offering, as I do with nearly everything the geniuses at Dogfish come up with. Even if you don’t think this beer is up your alley how can you pass up the drink of the gods ?

On to dinner…

Tonight’s dinner was based around the qualifications for the 2011 National Beef Cook-Off’s Dinner Crunch category. To qualify, all you needed is “focus on easy-to-prepare beef recipes for busy weeknight meals using ingredients commonly on hand at home”.

What do I always have at home? Onions, Jam, Red Wine, Cherry Tomatoes, Spinach and Cous Cous. What can you make with all of those random ingredients…I wasn’t sure either.

Until I decided to cook the onions in the jam, and then it was on. Initially I added about 2 tablespoons to the pan, but as I began to incorporate the mixture I noticed that that amount might not be enough to fully saturate the onions with flavor. Ultimately, 1/4 cup became the perfect amount to glaze and sweeten the onions without overwhelming the dish.

Diced Onions with Figgy Jam

I am a little addicted to apricots, there, I’ve said it.

My original plan called for apricot jam, but there was a lonely jar of barely sweetened fig jam just waiting to find the perfect moment for it’s day in the sun. The fig flavor is not overwhelming, is sweet, but not saccharin-ie, and goes great with savory dishes. My plan for the leftover jam is most likely to make a fig, prosciutto and goat cheese pizza. Yum!

While the onions simmered and caramelized in the jam I began to prepare the “special ingredient”. You can’t enter a beef contest without making the steak the star. In order to really show case the meat preparation was simple, just a little salt and pepper on each side.

Mmmmm, Beef!

While I focused on the star of the meal this is what was happening to the onions….

Fig Caramelized Onions

Perfection!

Once the onions were perfectly browned with figgy goodness I added one of my favorite old vine Zinfandels, Gnarly Head Zin, to deglaze the pan. Once the wine is in I added gobs of cherry tomatoes to stew and become wrinkly in the onion base. I have a deep love for slightly stewed tomatoes whose skin resembles a raisin and which provides a delightful pop of acidic flavor to any dish.

Tomatoes Stewing in Red Wine

Once the tomatoes were slightly loosened from their skin and the wine began to thicken I made room for the steak in the pan to sear in the simmering sauce.

Seared Steak Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes

As I chose a thinner cut of meat I only cooked it for about 1 1/2 minute on each side side my steak slices would be rare. Once the steak was done cooking I removed the meat from the pan and placed on the cutting board and covered with a pot lid to let it rest. While the steak rested I added an additional dash of red wine to help wilt a large heap of spinach to add some green to the meal.

Wilting Spinach

Once the spinach was wilted the sauce was removed from the heat while the steak was cut in thin strips. I topped a bed of rosemary couscous with the onion sauce and placed the steak strips over top. Once everything was plated I added a handful of goat cheese crumbles to finish it off.

All Done

When everything came together I was smitten. I am a HUGE sweet and savory fan and the combination of the sweet jam and onions with the tart tomatoes and cheese really fit the bill. All in all, the steak was treated like royalty resting upon a lovely bed of dramatic and deeply flavorful vegetables.

Who knew my pantry held such a bounty? How about you? What creative meals have you come up with the bits and pieces you can find in your kitchen?

Seared Steak with Fig Caramelized Onions

1 chopped large yellow onion

1/4 fig jam

1 cup grape tomatoes

1 cup bold red wine

Steak

2 cups baby spinach

Goat Cheese

Combine the onion and jam in a pan on med-high and cook until caramelized.

Add red wine and tomatoes and stew on medium heat until the tomatoes begin to wrinkle and the sauce begins to thicken.

Salt and pepper the steak. Make a space in the center of the pan and place the steak in the center. Sear on high heat for 1 minute and 30 seconds.

Remove the steak from the pan and cover to rest while spinach in incorporated.

Add a dash more of wine and spinach to the pan. Wilt the spinach till it is fully incorporated.

Slice the steak in to strips.

Place the sauce on top of your starch of choice. Place steak strips on top and sprinkle cheese to finish.

Enjoy!

Win the Way To Your Man’s Heart – Chicken Tetrazzini

Live for yourself and you will live in vain; 
Live for others, and you will live again.

Bob Marley

When I first heard about Susan Mallery’s Win the Way to Your Man’s Heart recipe contest I instantly knew what Esq. would pick. Despite my instantaneous conclusion I asked him anyway, and wouldn’t you know, I was right on the nose! What is this magical dish that is a guaranteed man slayer? Well if you read the title, you would know, but if you don’t feel like scrolling up or breaking your saccadic rhythm this delicious dish could be nothing other than Chicken Tetrazzini.

Esq. is a big fan of casseroles, as I think many men, nay, everyone is. Who doesn’t love lasagna, shepherd’s  pie,  or Santa Fe chicken casserole. It is my best approximation that casseroles derive their high yumminess quotient from the multilayered soup like flavor from the ingredients baking together in a sauce, textural superiority from the crunchy baked top bits and creamy middle, and finally their sheer nurturing made with love essence. I might be reading way too much into casseroles, but as the meal that you bring to loved ones and friends in times of need, is a staple of holiday dinners, and are often a beloved childhood favorite casseroles seem to be one of the best ways to let someone know you care. Ponder on that the next time you sit down to a lovingly prepared squash and zucchini casserole!

Part of this competition required that the recipe be easy to recreate and not overly involved. Well, my normal Chicken Tetrazzini recipe is based around an involved homemade béchamel sauce that is to die for, but has gobs of ingredients and becomes all consuming. To me it is totally worth it to spend the extra bucks and time for this wonderful creamy white wine sauce, but on a Thursday I really don’t have that kind of time and I was nearly positive that the sauce would immediately eliminate me from the competition. Instead of this wonderful fresh, rich, and flavorful sauce I used Cream of Mushroom. Send me to the Gulag!

Well on second thought, please don’t, because the dish actually turned out quite wonderfully, with the difference only abundantly apparent to only the most experienced tetrazzini connoisseurs.

For a chicken tetrazzini of your very own may I recommend starting by thawing frozen peas. How can you not love produce that comes wrapped like a present?

Unboxed and Unwrapped Peas

While the peas are defrosting break your spaghetti noodles in half so that you will have more manageable bites when it comes time to enjoy this wonderful man trapping meal.

Noodles and a Puppy

In another pan, as the noodles cook, I sauteed mushrooms and onions that would help to make up for the flavor that would be missing by using cream of mushroom soup instead of making my own sauce.

Caramelized Goodness

Once the mushrooms and onions had caramelized to a lovely brown I removed them from the pan and threw in some chicken to cook with several traditional  italian spices.

Sizzling Chicken

Once all of the ingredients are cooked and ready to be combined in the the casserole dish it is time to get that crunchy, buttery, herby topping ready. My personal preference is to use panko as opposed to breadcrumbs, because they stay crunchier longer and the chunks are a little bigger. To the panko I added torn parsley, shredded asiago, and butter to the topping mix.

Topping in the Making

Once everything is combined and topped with the panko mixture it is into the oven until the top beings to brown and the sauce beings to bubble…if you can wait that long!

Bake Till Crunchy

This chicken tetrazinni does not come out in the usual casserole square block form when it comes time to plate. Instead we ended up with lovely bowls full of absolutely fabulous pasta delight. Be still my heart.

Make Your Man Swoon Tetrazzini

Enjoy!

Chicken Tetrazzini

1 box spaghetti noodles, broken in half

2 cans cream of mushroom soup

3 medium sized boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tbs oregano

1/2 tbs parsley

1/2 tbs rosemary

10 oz frozen peas

1 medium videllia onion

8 oz sliced mushrooms

Topping

1 cup panko

3 tablespoons hand torn parsley

3/4 cup shredded asiago

3 tablespoons melted butter

Set frozen peas out to thaw.

Preheat oven to 400º.

Boil halved noodles in salted water until al dente. Drain water and set aside noodles.

Saute chopped onion and mushrooms with salt and pepper in a little bit of olive oil until browned. Once browned, set aside in bowl with cream of mushroom soup.

Combine chicken and spices in the sautee pan and cook chicken until lightly browned. Add chicken to the bowl with soup.

Add defrosted peas to the soup mixture and stir until combined.

Mix the soup mixture with with the noodles in bowl or in a greased casserole dish. Spread contents evenly in a the baking dish.

Combine all topping ingredients in a small bowl. Evenly sprinkle mixture across the top of the casserole.

Place the casserole in oven for approximately 35 minutes, or until top browns and the casserole is bubbly.

Enjoy!

My Return to the Blogosphere

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” 
Albert Einstein

And I’m back!

It has been really sad this past week not being able to summon the energy to put a post together. I though it best to give myself a week to recuperate, as I was beginning to have trouble stinging together a coherent sentence. As a natural born introvert, being effervescent and charming all day with strangers really beings to take its toll on me. At the end of the day pretty much all I am good for is a yummy meal, the conversation is up to you. Not to mention now people are trying to make me deal with numbers. If you know anything about me, know this, I don’t do numbers. I can figure out how to leave a tip, deal with cooking related conversion matters, and pay my credit card bill, anything more than that and expect my eyes to glaze over and my mind to wander.

All of this being said, I survived my hell week(s) and I am back. Numbers be damned! I will blog!

There are meals to be discussed from last week, i.e. chicken tetrazzini, that deserve their own post.

Chicken Tetrazzini

But today is a holiday, so I am keeping it brief. I had a wonderful weekend of rest and relaxation spent with the lovely Esq. and family.

First we started in Clemson, SC, probably the best place on earth. We drove up on Friday evening for a baseball game, and despite the cold and overcast weather Clemson couldn’t have been lovelier and there was no place on earth I would rather be.

Where the Blue Ridge Yawns It's Greatness, Where the Tigers Play

I expected nothing less and was rewarded with a Tiger Baseball victory over Wake Forest. While the game was a little slow, with the final score of 2-0, Esq. and I were luckily fortified with the yummy offerings from The Esso, which we hit up before the game.

THE ESSO

The Esso has become legendary as a favorite of Sports Illustrated, ESPN, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, and  Brent Musberger, who makes it a point to stop by anytime he is in town. Esq. and I began to plot our trip and the fried pickles that would inevitably be ordered as we were pulling off the highway, and per usual they did not dissapoint!

The rest of the weekend was joyful spent hanging out with Esq.’s old high school friends and family in Greenville. Funnily enough, the quote at the top of today’s post comes from a surprise easter egg hunt in downtown Greenville. As we were walking down the street from our car to the restaurant I kept noticing little plastic eggs conspicuously place just out of reach in store windows, on top of bushes, and on the sidewalk. After egg number 5, yes, I counted, I couldn’t resist any longer and I plucked my little green egg up from a window cil. I accepted my fate, ether this was going to be a wonderful little surprise or a horribly nasty joke that would explode or disgust me upon opening. Much to my delight inside was a wonderful quote, innocuous, and wonderful that really got my mind in focus. There is a blog to write…and I know how to start it!

Surprise!

The rest of the weekend was spent having scrumptious meals with family and feeling the love of the Esq. clan. I swear, each time I visit Greenville it gets harder and harder to come back to Columbia.

Happy Easter!

Until tomorrow…

Sunday Dinner – The Italian Farmer’s Market Edition

“That’s the scary part. I didn’t know if I should smile, crack up, scream or run.”

– The Wizard of Oz

Sunday made my 7th straight day at work. After yet another long day that left my feet wailing in pain all I wanted was a nice nap on the hammock and to make a lovely, sumptuous Sunday dinner.

This Also Helped

Luckily, Nanner must have been reading my mind, because she returned home from her errands with bags full of fresh produce from a roadside farmer’s market.

Farmer's Market Loot

I had squash, zucchini, onion, corn, and tomatoes to work with. In my sleepy state basic was best. Esquire helped me chop the squash and zucchini to stir-fry with the onion.

Esq.'s Exquisite Chopping

The fruits and veggies were super fresh, as one would expect from the farmer’s market.

Fresh Onion

The onion was most notably so. Part of what I love about fresh, organic ingredients is that they aren’t classically beautiful. The above onion would probably not be the first to go at the grocery store, but it is perfectly lovely, fresh and flavorful. When I cut into it its inner beauty came shining through, literally, I mean have you seen a prettier onion?

Pretty Onion

Next up was the corn.

1st Corn of the Season

Maybe it is just because I haven’t had fresh corn in a good long while, or maybe because it was just so stinkin’ good, but this corn was awesome! No butter, no salt. Just a quick dip in boiling water and the corn was so amazing. LOVE! Love, love love love.

The window cill full of wonderfully ripe tomatoes began to taunt me from across the room I was preparing the rest of dinner.

Killer Tomatoes

With a giant mountain of basil growing in the back yard  I couldn’t help but make a Caprese salad. The bright flavors of tomato, and basil balanced with the mild creaminess of mozzarella, couldn’t be easier and couldn’t be tastier.

Caprese Salad

Last, but not least, the protein. I think I have been in the mood for beef a lot recently, because yet again, beef is what’s for dinner! This time I decided to marinate the steaks in a decidedly Italian fashion with rosemary, balsamic, garlic, and just a dash of worcestershire.

Soakin' It All Up

While everything else was being prepared I let the meat sit, and right before we were ready to sit down they were thrown on to a pan for two minutes on each side. Devine!

My eyes are starting to shut, otherwise I would elaborate,but I will just say this was a dang good Sunday night supper!

Dinner

Moist Carrot Cake Cupcakes & The Cupcake Pen Review

Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.
Charles Dickens

Here it is…the long awaited Carrot Cake Cupcake and Cupcake Pen Review.

TaDa!

I recently spent wayyyyyyy too much time browsing Amazon’s cooking tool’s section. I eventually decided there were two items I could not let pass me by. The Cupcake Pen and a Gnocchi Board. I had every intention of trying out the gnocchi board tonight, but my sweet potato gnocchi turned into, well, just sweet potatoes. I will, at some point, get around to trying out my other new found cannot live with out cooking utensil.

Back to the cupcake pen. While this might be the very definition of a faddy one use item, if you are trying to bake of 200+ cupcakes for competition, I am here to say you can’t live without the cupcake pen. The pen, as it shall be referred to from here on out, is most useful for avoiding drips on the pans from spooning out each individual cup by hand. I have use mini ice cream scoops in the past, but have had a lot of trouble with the spring coming loose and becoming unusable, this time I decided to go another route. In order to really put the pen through its paces I use the chunkiest batter I know, Carrot Cake, to test its batter distribution capabilities.

Personally, if I am eating carrot cake I need it to be moist, full of texture, and have great multi-dimensional flavor profiles. When it came time for me to create my carrot cake recipe my secret weapon was mixed fruit bits rehydrated with rum. If one is in need of a secret weapon, may I recommend alcoholic fruit in tiny cubed form.

Rehydration

Once the fruit plumped up full of flavor I drained off the rum and tossed the bits into a food chopper with the pre-shredded carrots to ensure that everything is brought down to about the same size for consistency purposes.

Chop Chop!

Once you pulse and scrape down the sides several times you should end up with a lovely concoction of tiny fruit and veggie bits.

Chopped Carrots and Fruit

In the mean time, I mixed my wet ingredients on a med-high speed until well mixed and creamy.

The Good, The Bad, and The Wet

Off to the side I combined the dry ingredients in a bowl. The dry ingredients include the flour, baking powder, and multitudinous spices

The Dry Goods

Slowly the dry ingredients were combined with the wet until the batter became a lovely off white color with flecks of brown spices.

Mmmmm Batter!

Once the batter is well mixed and free of clumps its time to add the tasty bits of fruit, carrots and toasted walnuts to the mix.

Crunchy Bits

With the filling fully mixed it was time to pour into the pen. Surprisingly, only a little bit dribbled over the side, as you can see below.

Spillage

For the most part the pen worked great and filled the cups up evenly. I did have a bit of an issue when large chunks of walnut would block the filling from getting out, but it never clogged. All in all I think it stood up to the test, and I am looking forward to using it with a normal, less chunky batter.

The Work of the Cupcake Pen

Once the batter was distributed I threw them into the oven and let bake for just around 10, or until they turned a delightful brown.

Carroty Goodness

While the cupcakes were cooking I whipped up what I was hoping to be a nice light and fluffy pineapple cream cheese frosting. Instead, what I got was a equally delightful pineapple cream cheese glaze that let the wonderful flavors and sweetness of the shine through.

Finished Product!

Once these cupcakes were done I was so thrilled with the results! These are now the best, by far, carrot cupcakes I have ever eaten. I might stick to a traditional frosting in the future, but the pineapple undertones of the glaze really made the cupcakes remain nice and light. I hope you enjoy!

Moist Carrot Cake Cupcakes

2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tbs ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsps ground ginger

1 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

4 eggs

1 1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 cups white sugar

2 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 cups diced carrots

1 cup chopped dried mixed fruit

3/4 cup dark rum

1 cup toasted chopped walnuts

Pineapple Cream Cheese Glaze

1/4 cup shredded pineapple

2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup cream cheese

Preheat oven to 325º

Soak mixed fruit bits in dark rum until pieces have plumped, at least 30 minutes.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Set aside.

In a mixer beat together the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

Add the flour mixture in 1/4 cup at a time.

In a food processor chop the carrots and mixed fruit until they are well diced.

Fold in the toasted walnuts and diced fruit and carrots until fully incorporated.

Pour into a lined mini cupcake pan and bake for 10 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick can be inserted and removed cleanly.

Cellar on Greene Review

“There’s nothing to winning, really. That is, if you happen to be blessed with a keen eye, an agile mind, and no scruples whatsoever.”

-Alfred Hitchcock
Yesterday I promised today’s blog would be all about exceptional carrot cake cupcakes, but I lied. In the two brief hours I had off of work today I shared a wonderful round of small plates and prosecco at Cellar on Green to catch up with the most lovely former coworker come friend, until we were interrupted and I was stolen away. As you might be able to tell I am little bitter. Why you may ask? Answer I shall.
It seems as if work ethic is a foreign idea to many these days, and blowing off work is not just not a big deal, it is par for the course.  This willy nilly approach ends tomorrow. All hail tyrant Cooktestant! Who am I kidding, my title would be more like Queen Passive Aggressive. While I work on my title, please pardon any missed posts as I will be setting both ends of my candle ablaze. Tell my family, friends and loved ones that I will be back soon, there just aren’t enough hours in the day!
It isn’t possible for me not to share the amazing meal I had tonight. You know when you go to a restaurant and the menu looks really innovative and scrumptious and then your meal arrives and 2 out of 3 items are good. There is just always that one thing that really seems to be miss leading (basil cheesecake at Social) or horribly prepared (lobster bisque at Morton’s, so I hear). Tonight’s meal = heaven! It was one of those rare dining experiences where each new item becomes your new all time favorite, until you become so confused you vow to never eat again unless the magicians in the kitchen are creating it.

Scene of the Crime

The Hoff (let me know if you hate your new name) and I met up at Cellar on Greene for girl’s night after trying to come up with a place that neither of us had been to previously. The Hoff cheated as she had been before, but she got a pass as there was no noshing, only drinks.

Not My Hoff

We just happened to hit Cellar on Greene on half off champagne night, otherwise known as Tuesday! Cellar is a wonderful place to sit and chat while you sip on bubbly and ponder all of the enticing options on the menu. The space is small, but welcoming and the seating is plentiful. We chose a spot at the end of a long communal table and caught up while sipping on LaMarca Prosecco. We were both huge fans of this sweet and refreshing bubbly. Thanks to our lovely and patient server for her recommendation!

Fizzy Lifting Drink

When we eventually stopped talking long enough to look at the menu we pretty much immediately knew what we would be ordering. We couldn’t resist three small plates of:

Basil-Dill Hummus with marinated cippolini onions, roasted red peppers, olives and pita

Almond Fried Brie with stawberry jam, bell’s honey and crackers

Seared Rare Yellowfin Tuna Nachos with green tomato salsa, cilnatro sour cream and pepper jack cheese

I so wish I had brought my camera to capture  our yummy order. The humus could best be described as the lightest, freshest, creamiest pesto the world had ever seen, except it was humus. The Hoff and I both agreed that the marinated cippolini onions that came with were amazing in and of themselves. I initaillaly ignored them as I assumed they were more of a garnish, but when the Hoff says something is super yummy you know I have to try it myself! The one downside, which was minor, was that there wasn’t enough pita to go with all of the hummus, and you know we had to make sure every last bite was as good as the one before. The additional pita was $2.

My personal pick of the meal was the Almond Fried Brie. Who got in to the deep, dark and dank caverns of my mind and figured out how to make three of my favorite things even more amazing. Please don’t discount everything I have ever said about food after this comment, but the flavor could be best described as the world’s most amazing Chicken McNugget. That is if the “chicken” was replaced by seductive melted brie and the coating was made from perfectly fried slivered almonds. And just like the McNuggets of my youth there was a honey dipping sauce only local and actually made of honey.

Finally, we had the Hoff’s home run pick, Seared Yellowfin Nachos. This plate was so wrong it was right. Personally, taking my favorite sushi pick and throwing it on a hot plate with cheese sounds a little odd. Oh no, where this dish could have gone wrong in so many ways it boldly smacked me in the face and made me take notice. The plate of chips with melty cheese came out on a super hot plate with cool lightly seared chunks of yellowfin floating on top. I could eat this for every meal of my entire life from now on. Please, please if you live in the Columbia area go get yourself some Yellowfin Nachos at Cellar on Greene. If you need someone to go with you, I am probably not available, but I gladly except doggy bags.

Once again, I am kicking myself for not taking pictures, but I will be going again, and again, and again once life regains a bit of normalcy. See you there!


 

For My Personal Enjoyment – Asian Marinated Steak

Make your piece with history
A blessing from a curse
State your peace
Blow it wide open did you find you an oyster pearl

-Hootie and the Blowfish

I feel like apologizing for not blogging with in the past few days but then I remember adopting a new dog, taking a tumble out of a tree that bruised my ego and pinkie toe, and the intense desire to let a general feeling of ennui wash over me and I know no excuse is needed.

Climbing trees is officially for the dogs. Remember how much fun it was to scale behemoth magnolias and the like? Fact: When you are over the age of 18 you have no business in trees! While my tumble was a mere three feet the fact that my opposable thumbs were defeated by a cockapoo is a wee bit embarrassing. Lesson learned, no harm (except for a tender  pinkie toe) no foul.

On to more exciting things…PUPPIES! Nanner and I went to Bark in the Park, an annual festival that welcomes dogs, vendors, and rescue organizations to Columbia’s city center park, and  reunited with a long lost family member. We recently lost our beloved, cantankerous Lhasa Apso, Moxie, and had been feeling a bit of a puppy void. Immediately upon walking into the festival with the remaining members of our puppy pack in tow it seemed as if the seas parted and in the back of a tent 50 yards away I espied the most precious doe eyed dog. Needless to say, after obsessing about him all day, we presented our best low pressure case to the potential puppy papa. After one full day it is hard to imagine life with out Baxter.

I pretty much had to pull myself away from fawning over him all night, and occupied myself by making a lovely dinner for one as Esq. was still on his way back from the final round of the Masters, it’s a hard life he leads.

I ran to the store and picked up some great filets that were on sale, a few handfuls of fresh Brussels sprouts, and goat cheese. I wasn’t exactly sure what my final intentions were, but with those ingredients I was guaranteed a happy tummy.

First thing when I got home, after a moment of Baxter adoration, was to pull together a marinade and throw in the steaks. I personally love a spicy/sweet flavor and a healthy dash of Asian never hurt anyone. The base ingredients of my marinade were Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar, and Sriracha.

Sweet + Salty + Spicy = Go To Marinade

Once I combined the three I started to hunt around the cabinets for additional ideas and ultimately threw in some mustard and lemon juice.

The Marinade

I combined everything in a ziplock bag, added the steaks and it was fridge time to sit for 20 minutes flip and repeat while I prepped the rest of dinner.

Chillin' Out

Next it was time to trim the stems of the Brussels and chop in half. Instead of frying them in the pan I was feeling lazy so I topped with olive oil and salt and into the oven they went.

There is no doubt, I like a good sprout!

I copied my rosemary feta orzo from a recent post, but instead added goat cheese for a creamer texture. To die for!

My Favorite Food

Once the Brussels Sprouts were in the oven and the orzo was cooking I pulled out the steaks and threw them on to a pan with 1 tablespoon of sizzling butter.

Not Quite Sizzling

I cooked the steaks for about 2 minutes on each side so I had a nice sear on the outside and a bright juicy red inside.

MMmmmmmmMMMMmmmm

While I got my plate ready with a lovely bed of balsamic dressed spinach, I let the steak rest. Letting meat rest, sit for five minutes under tin foil or similar covering, is crucial to locking in the juice that will keep your meat nice and moist.

All and all a terrific dinner that took minimal time/effort and had stupendous results.

I Die!

I saved all of the hard work for later when I made some killer carrot cake cupcakes with pineapple cream cheese glaze. You will just have to wait until tomorrow for the recipe and a review of my new Cupcake Pen!

Enjoy!

Loco Coco Pie

This light looks good on you
Morning came early
Sitting on a park bench
That’s older than my country

– Minus the Bear

As I mentioned yesterday I I made two pies. I thought I shared with you my favorite that would be a lock for yummiest pie ever made. This just in, if you let a coconut pie sit overnight it goes from good to AWESOME! While I am totally stoked that I now have two killer pies in my repertoire now I have to decide which one is the winner.

The Loco Coco pie is a creamy coconut pie with a few bells and whistles, namely espresso powder and chocolate chips. This pie is based off of my favorite guilty pleasure Starbucks concoction: Grande Coconut Coca with half syrup. Next time I order I might just have to ask if they have a pie shell on hand.

For this pie I highly recommend a deep dish pie crust, whether you make the crust or you buy  it is up to you. What isn’t up to you is putting a cookie sheet under the pie while it is baking. Trust me, you want, no you need the cookie sheet to catch excess liquid as this is a runny pie until it is fully baked, even then it takes overnight to fully settle and not be runny.

Burned Spillage

Because I was trying to get the pies completed at a decent hour last night I stopped by the grocery store on my way home and didn’t drive around town trying to remember where I had seen unsweetened coconut flakes. While the unsweetened variety would probably be closer to my caffeinated inspiration, the easy to find standard coconut flakes will do just fine.

I combined all of the ingredients in a large bowl and stirred until everything was incorporated.

Coconutty Goodness

Pour the ingredients into an unbaked deep dish pie crust and place in the oven.

Loco Coco

It is almost hard to comprehend how easy this recipe is, actually it isn’t hard at all, because its easy! I think the hardest part is actually letting the pie sit overnight until it is ready to eat. When I made the pie we cut into it nearly immediately and it was a little soupy, but letting it sit developed the coconut flavor and all the juice had time to absorb.

Pre-Absorbtion

Love, love, love it! I will take the pie over the drink any day. My slice today was heaven on a plate, and totally worth the extra day.

I think I am still leaning towards the Mocha Nut pie for contest entry, but let me know what you think. Which pie would you choose?

Loco Coco Pie

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup shredded coconut

2 eggs, beaten

3 tablespoons flour

1 tbs butter melted

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 tablespoons espresso powder

1 cup semi sweet chocolate morsels

Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine all ingredients in bowl. Stir until all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour filling mixture into an unbaked pie shell.

Cook for 40 minutes. Cool overnight.

 

Mocha-nut Pie

You can’t live with ’em, you can’t live without ’em. There’s something irresistible-ish about ’em. We grin and bear it ’cause the nights are long. I hope that something better comes along.

-The Muppets

When we last left off actually talking about food there were two pie competitions looking for entries. Not only did I attempt a pie for these contests tonight, I attempted two!

Maybe it has been the long days recently, but I was really craving a coffee influence in the pie I created for contest. I thought about the seasonality of a pie for entry into a contest in April and ultimately decided that coffee is a year round beverage that is a foregone conclusion at the end of a meal, so why not create a decadent pie?

Have I ever mentioned that having a Starbucks located in the lobby of my place of employment, which is probably one of the worst things ever to happen to me? If I had failed to mention that, let me just take the time to explain how hard it is not enjoy a wonderful caffeinated beverage when every time I step out of my hidey-hole office the scent of fresh coffee smacks me in the nostrils. Actually, I don’t think I even have to really explain this phenomenon. When you are tired and need a break and there is a Starbucks in your face constantly you are going to develop a nasty coffee addiction.

I have a usual, Grande Red Eye black, in layman’s terms a coffee with two espresso shots, no cream, no sugar. When I am looking for flavor over caffeine I usually tend to go for a grande coconut mocha with half chocolate and coconut syrup. What I end up with is a delightful Mounds like beverage that can cure a caffeine headache and sweet tooth in a hot second.

When it came time to create a pie I couldn’t help but try to recreate my favorite drink in pie form. I had two divergent ideas that eventually lead to two different pies, wonderful in their own little ways. My personal favorite was the Mocha-nut pie which if you continue reading you will learn all about.

The Grand and Glorious Mocha-nut Pie

I knew I wanted a blend of a derby and/or pecan pie with tons of chocolate and coffee flavor, however, I was more than willing to loose the gooey layer associated with both pies and replace it with more textury goodness.

Pie Time

I started with a frozen pie crust, yes, I am fully aware I am a horrible cheater, but come on, who has time to make a pie crust for an experimental pie. Yes, I know how to make a pie crust, but if I am not even sure its contents will be edible I will save the homemade pie crusts for the important pies in life.

If you to want to be a cheater like me, but make your pie look a little more homey, ditch the preform crust waves and instead pinch the top of the crust between your thumbs. Instantly your pie will go from store bought to made with love. See below!

Homemadish Pie Crusts

To make the pie filling I combined two slightly beaten eggs, 2 tablespoons of espresso powder, one cup of brown sugar and a half cup of melted but not en fugeo butter.

The Makings of a Yummy Pie

Once combined add one and half cups of toasted pecans. While it would be very easy to skip the toasting process (5 minutes at 350°), DON’T!!! Toasting brings out a much more developed and pungent flavor than you would ever get with your standard untouched nuts.

Toasted Pecans

Additionally, add one and a half cups of semi sweet chocolate morsels and 1/4 cup of corn starch to the mix. Stir until combined and pour into an uncooked pie shell.

Magic

Let the pie cook for about 45 minutes, and now this is the hardest part, let cool for at least 30 minutes.

Patience

Once cool you will have a to die for pie that takes your standard pecan or derby pie to the N-th degree. Espresso power not only adds the wonderful aromatic flavor of coffee, but also enhances and develops the chocolate flavor.

Died and Gone to Heaven

It would be hard for me to truly express how much I love this pie, other than to say it is my new favorite that I would gladly trade for my morning Red Eye for a slice.

I also made a Mocha Coconut Pie, but it isn’t quite perfect yet so I will have to put of sharing until at least tomorrow. This coconut pie is no slouch and is no doubt going to be worth the wait.

Enjoy!

Mochanut Pie

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter melted

2 tablespoons espresso powder

2 eggs slightly beaten

1 1/2 cups toasted pecans

1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup corn starch

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Toast evenly distributed pecans on a baking sheet for five minutes.

Combine sugar, butter, espresso powder, and eggs in a bowl.

Once combined add pecans, corn starch and chocolate chips.

Pour mixutre into uncooked pie shell. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream for a to die for treat.

 

 

What I Am Drinking

O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! that we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!  ~William Shakespeare

I have shared what I am eating and what I am listening to, but as of yet I haven’t shared what tasty beverages I have been pairing with them.

Normally, I am a red wine kind of girl. With the onset of spring I can’t help but get in the mood by switching it up with a nice bright white, or when I am feeling really frisky, a glass of bubbly.

The Cooktestant Hits the Sauce

Currently, Gnarly Head Chard. is really tickling my fancy.

Gnarly Head

It is a lovely, lightly fizzy chardonnay with a hint of sweetness. I am really loving it because currently it is about $3.30 off at Publix and you can score a bottle of this delicious treat for under $10.00.

You might notice a trend, if it isn’t over $12, I am probably not buying it. I have mentioned it before, but it bares repeating, according to recent studies knowing the value of a bottle of wine determines how much you will enjoy said bottle of wine, and yes, that includes you sommeliers. Having said that, let’s continue.

Did I mention bubbly… Why yes I did!!! About a year or so ago I fell in love with Barefoot Wines. Barefoot specializes in yummy crowd pleasing wines that won’t break the bank. Barefoot makes a killer moscato and cab., but they also are dominating the sparkling section of your favorite wine retailer as of late. Remember that moscato I love…yes? Well, Barefoot now makes a Spumante. Big, big, big fan of Barefoot.

Yummy Bubbles

Speaking of carbonation, I have mentioned my love for Dogfish Head, but now I am back with more information. It seems that now anytime I travel outside of Columbia I can easily find Dogfish Head’s Occasional Rarities which have quickly become my favorite souvenirs. Last weekend when my family traveled down to Kiawah we made a quick stop by Newton Farms, a to die for combination of Fresh Market and Whole Foods. Low and behold, DOGFISH HEAD! I picked up the two occasional rarities they had in stock Red & White and Chateau Jiahu. I, as always, was completely enamored with the complex and unique flavor and the compelling story behind the brewing process.

Best Brewery Known to Man

Because I can’t do it justice, here are Dogfish Head’s descriptions of the two:

Big Fan

Red & White is a malt beverage brewed with coriander and orange peel with Pinot Noir juice concentrate added with 11% aged in Pinot Noir barrels and 89% aged on oak barrel staves.

Biggest Fan!

Chateau Jiahu is similar to a beer brewed in China some 9,000 years ago, Chateau Jiahu used a recipe that included rice, honey, and grape and hawthorn fruits. The formula was obtained from archaeologists who derived it from the residues of pottery jars found in the late Stone Age village of Jiahu in northern China. The residues are the earliest direct evidence of brewed beverages in ancient China.

If Dogfish is my favorite supplier of luxe beer, my two favorite get it nearly anywhere with a decent bar beers are Highland Brewing’s Oatmeal Porter and Magic Hat #9.

Highland’s is a wonderful brewery located in Asheville, NC whose beers can be found and nearly every NC/SC watering hole of merit. Oatmeal Porter is not only my favorite in their impressive cannon, but it is probably my all time, hands down favorite. Oatmeal Porter is robust, dark, rich, malty, with hints of chocolaty goodness. While Oatmeal Porter is my favorite, I also recommend Gaelic Ale, Esq.’s personal favorite.

You Can't Deny It...That's A Good Beer

Magic Hat #9 has rooted itself deep in my heart  due to its bright and fresh hint of apricot that screams spring! Magic Hat is a new arrival as I can find it’s alluring hint of  apricot most places I go. Sea Dog Apricot, with it’s more pungent fruity flavor has recently been replaced by Magic Hat simply because I  don’t have to search and scour to find it.

Apricot = Beer's Best Friend

I have a few other favorites, but for fear of waxing a little too poetically for a little too long about my favorite intoxicants I think I shall draw this post to close. I hope you enjoyed! Let me know what your favorites are, as I am always on the lookout for something new and exciting.