May 31, 2010

Monday Sweets: Melting Moments

These buttery cookies literally melt in your mouth. Like Wedding Cookies, powdered sugar coats the just-sweet-enough shortbread, and the consistency crumbles upon bite. What distinguishes Melting Moments is their super light, flaky texture (unlike the crunch of Wedding Cookies), thanks to cornstarch, and their lack of nuts, perfect for those who are allergic or just don't care for pecans.

One taste tester commented that the cookie stuck to the roof of his mouth, obviously a defective "melting" process. Other than that and the tedious task of rolling dough into balls and cookies into powdered sugar, these guys were excellent. The recipe came from Joy of Baking.

May 26, 2010

Tastecation: BBQ Joint Cheese Biscuit

In my 18-month stint living slightly outside the South, the food I missed most was barbecue, namely fall-apart-tender, smoky flavored pulled pork. But beyond pork, what excited me most about returning to Southern barbecue land was not meat or veggie; it was carb. Behold, the Jim 'N Nick's cheese biscuit. It's buttery, cheddary, savory with a touch of sweet, something you have to taste for yourself to truly appreciate. It's much more a muffin than a biscuit.

Jim 'N Nick's is not a grease-only hole-in-the-wall like most good barbecue joints; it serves a good Greek salad, like with dark greens and quality dressing, and has franchised its sit-down restaurant to almost thirty locations, including a few in Colorado (barbecue in Colorado?). But it did start in Birmingham, and I stop being a no-chain-food snob for a cheese biscuit or two or three.

Next step: Try making them myself. I found a recipe . Now I just have to convince the part of me that thinks they'll never be as tasty as the original.

May 24, 2010

Monday Sweets: Fresh Mint-Oreo Light Ice Cream

Fresh mint lends a natural flavor to ice cream more like a stick of Winterfresh gum than the mild candy-like mint of store-bought varieties. It's amazingly refreshing in this light frozen treat and leaves your tongue feeling cool and cleansed at the end of a meal. Oreos add a hint of chocolate and crunch to the mint recipe from the May Cooking Light.

The minty fresh flavor comes from steaming fresh mint leaves in milk.

Then you strain the mint leaves out. That leafy texture wouldn't be so pleasant in ice cream.

The minty milk then gets whisked with classic ice cream ingredients sugar, eggs, and cream before it's all cooked together in a saucepan.

What I forgot to photograph was me unleashing violent beating on Oreos enclosed in a ziplock baggie to get them good and crumbled. I like a mix of fine crumbs to chocofy the white mint cream and chunks to add texture and concentrated cookie flavor like that in Cookies and Cream Ice Cream.

I used Cusinart ice cream maker that makes things super easy. You just freeze the bowl (no ice!) and plug in the cord. It only makes about 4 servings though.

May 21, 2010

Recipe: Spinach-Artichoke Hummus

As a big fan of somewhat sinful spinach-artichoke dip, I was fascinated by the taste of its healthy yet delicious hummus cousin at a beer tasting party several weeks ago, and the one I tasted was packaged product from Costco (impressive, Costco!). So I figured I could recreate the concoction with my friend the food processor to partner with some pita chips.

I based the mine off this recipe from Give Me Some Oven! but chose to sauté my fresh spinach to enhance its flavor like in my favorite spinach-artichoke dip recipe. This version is quite spinachy, so you might cut back on the spinach if you prefer. Some similar recipes contained as little as 2 Tbsp. fresh spinach, but I didn't think that merited putting spinach in the name.

Step 1: Saute spinach. Fresh beats frozen, but frozen would do.

Step 2: Blend everything in the food processor. Easy peasy. Look how healthy this tasty stuff is with lots of veggies and a little ground sesame seed (tahini)

Now that I've mastered black bean and spinach-artichoke hummus, I need to work on my classic hummus skills. Playing with more unusual varieties, like maybe red pepper, walnut, or black-eyed pea, sounds like more fun at the moment though.

May 19, 2010

Food Thoughts: Taste: A Benefit of Aging

"The only thing that really improves with age is your appreciation of food."
I clipped this quote from an from an African elder via an article on Catalonia A.F. Robertson wrote for Gastronomica  [ultimate food/culture/academia nerd journal] and contemplated it on the eve of my birthday this week. Half my life ago, I didn't like most vegetables, and my favorite meal involved boiled chicken and cream of chicken soup—how my appreciation of food has evolved!

Life might bring storms and wear down on the body as you age, but there will always be endless possibilities of food adventure. Although I would argue that wisdom and other things also improve with aging, the prospect of coupling food with all the seasons of life that lie ahead make our culture's detestation of aging seem quite silly.

How has your appreciation of food improved with aging?

May 17, 2010

Monday Sweets: Pound Cake with Strawberries

Dessert Math:

Pound Cake {homemade by someone else}
+Sliced fresh strawberries {sweetened with powdered sugar}
+Reddi Whip
Easiest, Freshest Standby Summer Dessert
This particular pound cake-berry combo was a particular winner because I used local strawberries—possibly the most succulent I've ever tasted—atop bake sale sour cream pound cake. Thank you, East Lake Strawberry Festival.

May 13, 2010

Recipe: Capo's Chicken Diablo

I usually find chicken breasts, like most poultry, bland. This dish is the exception. The breast is flattened and rolled up with a mushroom-cream cheese-spice filling and then topped with a savory, sweet mixture of brown sugar, Dijon mustard, and pecans. 

The recipe came from Capo's Cafe, an Atlanta restaurant my parents talked about but that closed in 1998, which tragically was before I really appreciated good food. Fortunately, the recipe lived on and was published in the newspaper a few years later. I've been hooked on the recipe since my aunt served it at our Christmas Eve Egg Knock throw down.

Serving Option 1: Nutty wild rice to balance out the richness of the chicken, plus a simple green veggie such as broccoli.

Serving Option 2: Served with rice pilaf, herb yeast rolls from Fresh Market, Oriental salad, and Chardonnay. This lakeside, candle-lit outdoor dinner was quite romantic, or as romantic as a meal with three girlfriends in their pj's gets.

Behind the Scenes 1: The wonder mixture: cream cheese-spice mixture with sauteed mushrooms.

Behind the Scenes 2: Get those fingers gross and roll up the stuffed breasts. It gets ugly, but you hide it a pan and cover it with sauce (no worries!).

May 10, 2010

Monday Sweets: Mississippi Mud Cookies

{Monday Sweets: I already post a dessert about once a week, so I decided to make habit bringing a little sweetness to the most blah day of the week.}

These babes are the cookie cousin of chocolate-marshmallow Mississippi Mud Cake. The cookie is soft and chocolatey, with melted and solid chocolate chips mixed into the batter, and you place mini marshmallows on top of the dough for a s'more-like taste (minus the graham cracker). I found the Southern Living recipe while looking for a something new to share with my grandparents and with which to congratulate a friend who mastered public administration, and this one more than earned its spot in my cookie repertoire.

Notes: I left out the pecans. It seemed best to mush the marshmallows into the center of the dough ball. On the first batch, they were too close the the edge, and the marshmallow run-over stuck to the cookie sheet and caused a few cookies to crumble (and hence require an immediate consumption intervention).

May 7, 2010

Recipe: Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes

Picture a lemon poppyseed muffin in pancake form, with just enough sweetness. Now throw some macerated fresh strawberries on top. Sound wonderful? It is. So wonderful maple-loving me had no second thoughts about pulling out the syrup. These pancakes are fruity and refreshing, perfect for spring or summer, and a nice change of pace in the breakfast realm. There's plenty of lemon flavor from zest to make them taste great plain. In fact, good luck not snacking on them if they are just sitting around helplessly.

After discovering the recipe on and returning multiple times to salivate over it, I brought them to life for a Breakfast at Tiffany's potluck for a birthday girl who shares a her special day with Audrey Hepburn, darling. The pancakes made their debut on a buffet of cheese grits , blueberry French toast casserole , fruit, zucchini bread, hash browns, and selection of juices and champagne  nothing less than you would expect from a bunch of girls who edit lifestyle magazines. The occasion even made an appearance on a blog to which one of the party goers contributes. 

May 4, 2010

Recipe: Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits is my all-time favorite Southern dish. Maybe it's because most others are fried or clobbered in mayonnaise, and this is a fresh sauté of veggies atop a cheesy, creamy grits. The dish combines wonderful summery foods: fresh shrimp, mushrooms, green peppers, garlic, and green onions, along with a bit of bacon for signature Southern flavor. Remembering the taste of the dish makes me day dream of eating it in sunshine while sipping a mimosa with good company.

I've had quite a few restaurant versions, but this homemade one wins for taste, hands-down. The recipe came from a Chapel Hill, NC, establishment via the kitchens of Southern Living.

Shrimp and Grits

May 1, 2010

Recipe: Bourbon Balls

Just when I thought butter+sugar+chocolate couldn't get more sinful, I discovered Bourbon Balls, which add a little whiskey to the mix. The bourbon buttercream-and-pecan-filled chocolate ball is way rich, like a truffle. You definitely taste the bourbon, but there was enough sugar involved that I truly enjoyed for the taste of whiskey for the first time...ever.

I might not be watching the Derby today (shameful me, for some reason crawfish+concerts+rain won out), but this taste of Kentucky was quite satisfactory. After promoting Derby recipes all week like it was my job (because it is my job), I couldn't help but make something from Southern Living's collection.

(Pre-chocolate dunking balls are on the left.)