Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Awkward Situations...Just Hug

So many parties, so many people on the list. I pretend to start my holiday shopping early, but I inevitably forget. Like when you forget to buy lemons at the store. I do that a lot too. And then there's the whole situation of forgetting to put people on the list and those last-minute awkward present exchange situations (where you get something, but have nothing to give in return). Yeah, just smile and hug the other person, it's less awkward that way. Trust me.

Or you can just have some of these babies on hand.
My heaven
Yes, that's infused olive oil. The little gift that I made for every smiling guest at our wedding. I was hoping they would remember this gift in the future in case I ever forgot to buy a holiday gift. It was like a pre-gift.

And if I can make 150 of these in one day, you surely can make 10, have them on hand and distribute as needed. First, you MUST have a pretty (heat-proof) glass container. And then you are off and running

Rosemary Infused Olive Oil
Enough GOOD olive oil for each bottle
One rosemary sprig for each bottle

  • Heat olive oil over LOW heat. You'll be tempted to turn it up, just eat chocolate instead. You want to heat it so you can still stick your finger in there and its warm but not boiling. (I have no way of telling you how to do this so let's just pretend you'll watch it for a bit)
  • Meanwhile place rosemary sprigs in each bottle.
  •  Once oil is heated either using a funnel (a kitchen one please) or a measuring cup (something with a spout) pour the heated olive oil into the containers. This infuses the oil with the rosemary flavor.
  • Wait for the oil to cool and close each bottle. 
If stored in a nice cool place these can last for a couple of months. But let's be honest, you're going to want to take some crusty bread, yummy cheese and dip right in. Don't you think?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cookies Happened...

For a Cause. I love this cause, because of the cause and because there are cookies involved. Are you confused? I'm kinda confused - but that's the norm for me.

So back to it. The Great Food Blogger Cook Swap 2012, or as my brother-in-law likes to call it - cookies from friends on the internet. (Don't worry he ate the cookies). Our lovely friends over at OXO helped us out this year and we all set out to bake cookies, REALLY good cookies, for each other in support of Cookies for Kids' Cancer. And our donations to participate meant that OXO would match dollar for dollar back to the cause up to $100,000. See why I love them so?

It doesn't get much better than that, unless I let you into my little cookie world and let you drool over the creation that came to be. Lucky ladies Hannah over at Blue Kale Road, Rachel over at Williams Kitchen and Adriana over at Food-N-Thought got to taste test my treats. I hope they were good (I tried one, they were kinda delicious).

I took a classic. And by classic I mean anything by Joy the Baker, she's the best, and added my special holiday flavors. These are the distinct tastes that come to mind when I close my eyes and envision the holidays. Chocolate, white chocolate, espresso and orange. (Yes my mind is a little crammed, but I went with it and these cookies did not disappoint.)

Dark Chocolate Cookies a-la Holiday
adapted from Joy the Baker's recipe

10oz ounces good quality dark chocolate , 60%-72%(chopped or in chips)
3 Tablespoons butter (always use Organic unsalted when baking, it tastes better trust me)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs (again Organic and cage-free)
1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped white chocolate (use the good stuff)
zest from one fresh orange

In a double boiler, melt together the chocolate and butter over low heat. Stir continuously until all the chocolate melts.

In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs till they’re thoroughly combined. Add the melted chocolate mixture, then stir in the remaining ingredients, including the chocolate chips, white chocolate and orange zest.

Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets, three if you have them. Drop the cookie dough by the tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheets. 

Bake the cookies for 11 to 12 minutes, until their tops are shiny and cracked.  They won’t crack until the very end, so keep a close eye on them; when they’re cracked all the way across the top surface, they’re done. Remove the cookies from the oven. Wait 5 minutes then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Friends that Send Food

I have a new friend, I've never met her, but she loves food and I think that's all I need to know. Oh and she lives in one of my favorite food cities.

I have a list of U.S food cities in my book, places where I have been and some where I plan to go to get the best eats. These include (in no particular order of course) - Boston, Chicago, D.C. NYC, Seattle, San Fran/Sonoma/Napa, Cinci (I'll explain this one some day), New Orleans and Austin. I love Austin and I love it even more after my new friend sent me some goodies.

As a part of the Austin to Boston Swap, Part Deux a group of bloggers from each city was paired up with a new friend with the promise of a food package in the future. There's really nothing better - friends brought together by food.Oh and did I mention I got the best match - I'm not prejudice or anything - best Austin box ever from Nelly Ramirez over at Analee.

And here's what I got and pretty much devoured:
  • El Milagro Chips - that's right homemade tortilla chips
  • Torchy's Diablo Sauce - this is the taco food cart that served my pre-flight meal prior to departing - holy carnitas, YUM
  • Goodflow Wild Flower Honey - my new friend knows I live for homemade honey - obsessed
  • Cuvee Coffe - my brother-in-law said it best, I'm a coffee snob and this one is right on par
  • Thunderbird Energetica Bars - okay these are my favorite - so much so that I need to order them asap
  • Butternut Squash - perfect for many of my fall-inspired meals
  • Edible Austin - just like Edible Boston magazine here in town
  • Wheatsville Breeze - this one was so cool, a newsletter from where Nelly shops
  • HER OWN PRESERVES - these I'm actually savoring and saving at the same time, I just don't want to share them with anyone

I can't talk much longer, I'm eating all my treats - thanks again Nelly!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Little Piece of Comfort

In the quiet beach town that we call home there's a little (literally) and new (again, literally) piece of comfort. It comes in the form of a warm smile and homemade eats. And this time it's really homemade. There's no menu and no schedule of favorites but instead this little piece of comfort rolls like the tide (that was cheesy, so I'll keep it in there). And we love every thing about the Acorn Canning Company.

The fact that there's homemade soup one day, fresh spring rolls the next and always seasonal pies gets me every time. And everything is made by one woman (and maybe some helpers) from scratch. This is the "real from scratch." From pie crusts to soup broth to inventive jams - where else can you find Strawberry vanilla jam? So good you want to eat it out of the jar, but you know that's really inappropriate.
My comfort of a lunch - homemade Chicken Noodle

And the best part - the daily selections are written on a large chalkboard outside the shop. So when you drive by you instantly want to cause an accident so you can get a slice of blueberry. It's a simple idea yet one that goes a long way. Do what you know and do it well. Acorn,  you are our little comfort!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Show Some Muscle

Remember that time when Food Beautiful went quiet for a couple months? Yeah, that was crazy and ridiculous. But now we have muscles so it's all good.

Coming in close second to my favorite meal of champagne and oysters is mussels. They are super simple to cook and pretty cheap to buy here in our quiet little town. I'm talking 4 bucks for day-caught mussels which is enough to feed a table of four. Ah happy bellies and happy wallets.
Food and Coaster Courtesy of Our Beach Town

3-4 leeks cleaned and chopped, white parts only
3-5 cloves of garlic, I like 5!
2 lb mussels, prepped
1 cup of white wine, I use sauvignon blanc
olive oil
loaf of bread (day old is even better)

Muscle Prep
Rinse your mussels in cold water in a colander. It's also important to rip off the tiny mussel beard, which looks like the string hanging from each mussel. (This is where you'll need to use those muscles.) Grab the string-like part and pull it towards the back of the mussel or the end that doesn't open. You should be able to rip it right out - this is great for relieving any stress from the day. Note: any mussels that don't close when you tap them should be thrown out.

Quickest Most Decadent Meal Ever
In a large heavy bottom skillet (that has a lid) heat up a couple of tablespoons of oil and 2Tbsp of butter. The mix of the two is key here to get that yummy broth at the end. Next you'll want to add the leeks and garlic and saute until they are nice and translucent, about 5 minutes. (fyi: I'm pretty sure I could eat a bowl of leeks at this point)

Throw in the mussels and add your cup of wine. Stir so everything is incorporated and cover with the lid. At this point the mussels are cooking and will take about 5-10 minutes to cook. The best part is they tell you when they are done - once mussels open they are good to go. Note: Any that have not opened should be thrown out. Remove the mussels from the pan with a slotted spoon and reserve.

Now we create the broth - add salt and pepper to taste to your broth. Keep the lid off and cook the liquid until it's reduced. You can add another 2 Tbsp butter if you like, but I usually just go with straight olive oil at this point. Broth should be done in another 5-10 minutes and you end up with this...
the best dish ever
It's wine and olive oil and garlic all waiting to be devoured with some muscles and good crusty bread.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Birthday Bests

When it's your birthday you should get all your favorites don't you think? I'm a big believer of this, which is why today I will dream about my favorites, enjoy as many of them as possible and try to make my birthday last all week.

Greek wine and flowers

Garden fresh tomatoes

Two scoops of ice cream on any dessert

Greek dips
And my favorite loves
How can you not love a birthday???

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Man, A Truck, A Taco

Down in our lovely little beach town there is one thing missing...anything that slightly resembles Mexican fare. Okay, well maybe there's some guacamole here and there but I want authentic. My partner-in-crime and I spent 2 years living around the block from a family-run Mexican joint with the best (and most authentic) Mexican I've had, and I miss it dearly.

And then I went to Austin and all bets were off. There's Mexican - it's authentic - and it's in food trucks. I think that sentence says it all. The fact that you can arrive late on a Thursday night, find all restaurants have stopped serving food and still be served fresh sea bass tacos on homemade corn tortillas is heaven. It's unpretentious, it's real and boy was it better than good.

At Pecos Tacos on West 6th Street you find an overly generous man who has created this little secret late night eatery. I tried one vegetarian with mushrooms and cheese and one sea bass. When we were told the fish was fresh I didn't exactly believe it, but boy was that the truth. And with only a couple of other added ingredients it was the perfect little late-night dinner.

Doesn't Jill look like a happy food-truck customer!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's Birthday Time

Guess who's 1 year old today??? Food Beautiful!!!

It's been quite the year with lots of tasty treats, new food flavors and all of you to share it with. Below is a (not so good) picture of the birthday cake that started it all. I think chocolate and flowers are a great combo.

And now I throw out a request to all of you to help celebrate our first year - cupcakes, need I say more. I'm looking to throw away all the rules, change the game and create a different kind of cupcake. So throw out your ideas and I'll be testing some of the best in the next couple of weeks.
Oh and I'll probably need some taste testers for those of you who are local too! Keep those ideas coming and I'll let you know my progress along the way.

Happy 1 year Food Beautiful!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bread & Cheese

Oh simplicity - sometimes I forget how wonderful you are and pass over you for something more extravagant. But don't worry I learn my lesson and come running back. Bread, cheese, veggies - that's it, that's all I need.

There's something so comforting, so relaxing and even quite indulgent about fresh grilled veggies, rustic bread and simple Parmesan cheese. There are nights when I want something that feels special yet doesn't involve a trip to the grocery store or much prep time. That's when I turn to panini - using up all the old veggies in the kitchen, taking scraps of cheese and putting that baguette to use.

A couple of tips to the perfect veggie panini
  • Grill the veggies separately until they have a tender bite
  • Use a mix of colors - hey, it just looks prettier!
  • Toast the bread first to create extra crunch (no more soggy panini)
  • I love adding something unexpected like sundried tomatoes, capers or a non-sandwich herb (sage, cilantro, etc.)
  • Create your sandwich first, smush (yes technical term!) down with your hands and then either use a panini press, grill pan or a a skillet. The smushing helps the panini stay in tact. If using a grill pan or skillet place another skillet on top with a bag of flour and you'll get the same effect.
  • Cut the panini in half so you can see all the flavors and colors melded together
Panini, glass of wine and your partner-in-crime nights are the best.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cookie Monster

Did everyone enjoy my little hiatus? I do that so you crave more Food Beautiful and then when it happens there's smiles all around!

So let's talk cookies. I've been over this before and this won't be the last time, but I'm not a cookie lover. Sure I'll eat one (or many) but my heart isn't as attached as it could be. So if I blog about a cookie recipe that I dream about and would really enjoy making every weekend you know it's something special.

Miryam over at Eat Good 4 Life basically saved me from my own procrastination and provided me with cookie love. It was 2 hours before a party and I didn't have any butter softening at room temperature. (I'm a big fan of only making baked goods when I have real room temperature butter - trust me it makes a huge difference.) So I searched online and came across Miryam's healthified - and delicious - Ultimate Healthier Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Let me start here and end here....they use olive oil instead of butter! Genius, simply genius. We all know how I love olive oil and the more I can incorporate it into any cooking - and baking - the happier I'll be. I made a couple of adjustments to her original recipe and the results were outstanding. The cookies are so moist, really chocolaty and you don't feel bad eating more than one! Whenever you bring "healthy" desserts to a party and they are the first item to be devoured you know it's success. 

Can you guess what we'll be having for Valentine's Day dessert???

Ultimate Healthier Oatmeal Chocolate Chip  Cookies - adpated from Eat Good 4 Life

Yields 30 medium-large cookies

1 1/4 cup organic can sugar
1 1/2 cup olive oil
2 eggs
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray cookie sheets with olive oil cooking spray.

In a bowl, with a wire whisk, mix first 4 ingredients. Add oatmeal, flour, baking powder, wheat germ and chocolate chips. Combine until all of the ingredients are mix thoroughly.

Drop tablespoons of cookie batter onto prepared cookies sheets. Flatten them out with the palm of your hand slightly and bake for 13-15 minutes.

Cool cookie on cookie sheet for 2-3 minutes and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Little Italian Easy

It's a slow, cold, yucky Tuesday today. But don't worry, I've got a little piece of Italy comfort resting over on Sutch a Delight. Go ahead and check out my guest post and I think you'll find we can turn this blah little Tuesday into a whole plate of warmth.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What the...

Shucked! As we all know I have a love of oysters. Okay maybe it's more of an obsession, but that obsession is shared by others (thank goodness!) in the new documentary Shucked. This quick read follows Erin Byers Murray's year at Duxbury's Island Creek Oyster Farm. My favorites oysters of all time.

Erin quit her day job (and quite a great day job at that) and somehow convinced Skip Bennett and others that she'd be great for a year of work. Nope, not office work but real oyster farming work at Duxbury Harbor.

Now we all know that oysters are my favorite and Island Creeks are top of the list, but this read provides more than that. Sure you get great knowledge of oyster farming (for nerds like me), but there's also tasty recipes and a deep sense of appreciation for where our oysters come from. More than that it's about life changes, hard work and beautiful beaches. After reading, I think many people would be scared far from a job in oyster farming, but for me it somehow has proved that I need to live closer to that world - some day folks, some day!

Buy it here!
In the meantime, read away and gain a greater appreciation for your next shucked oyster...yum.