Friday, July 20, 2012

Pomegranate Sparkle & Chalkboard China

Salud! Cheers! Salut! Today here at the Cooking with Books kitchen we're celebrating! What are we celebrating? Nothing in particular, and everything all at once! I want to thank each and everyone of you that take time and read my blog. Thank YOU! I'm grateful to have you as readers, and even more so, as friends!

Celebrations don't need more than a grateful reason, and what's even better is being able to create unique drinks and serving them in special glassware to enjoy with your loved ones! When I received a set of flutes from Chalkboard China, I quickly wanted to create a new drink that was tart as well as sweet, and who doesn't love bubbly? Mixed in with Pomegranate Syrup from Skylake Ranch (which I will tell you more about in a future post, but definitely check them out!), this drink has now become a staple in our home!

Designed by Candace Jean and made in the United States, Chalkboard China is a collection of glassware, centerpieces, place settings, and more. The concept behind it is in line with the designer's Southern hospitality, personalizing everyday utensils and making guests feel even more welcomed. They all have a special chalkboard section which you can doodle, inscribe a name, or write well wishes! As you can see, being a newlywed I love seeing our names as Mr. & Mrs. Murray, so that is what I played around with.

The flutes are crafted with smooth crystal, the stems thin and withholding. The chalkboard area wipes clean with a wet cloth and leaves behind no trace of the previous chalk drawings and writings. Their collections also include Martini and Margarita glasses, as well as Carafes and more! Hand washing is preferable for longer durability. I'd definitely recommend these to anyone that regularly hosts parties and dinners, and it's the perfect gift idea for a housewarming, newlyweds, etc. Visit Chalkboard China on Facebook or follow them on Twitter for updates. Cheers!



Pomegranate Sparkle
Enough Celebration for 2-4

1 bottle of your favorite sparkling, either Champagne, Prosecco, or Cava
1 cup frozen green, seedless grapes

  1. The day before: wash and dry green grapes. Place in one layer in freezer and freeze overnight. These will allow your drink to stay cool for longer. 
  2. To serve: pour one tablespoon of Pomegranate Syrup in each flute. Top with sparkling of choice and float a few frozen grapes! Cheers!



Disclaimer: Chalkboard China provided Cooking with Books with items free of charge to make this review possible.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tuna Pasta Salad

One of my favorite dishes to make for lunch when I am not in the mood for a lot of cooking is pasta salad. I've become obsessed with making Tonnato sauce, a tuna based Italian sauce regularly served over veal, but great tossed in pasta salad and one of the stars in this dish.

And honestly, pasta salad does NOT have to be boring. It can be a world of textures and contrast of flavors, satisfying and delicious! The use of different dressings make this salad a simple meal that can be made with whatever you have in your fridge and pantry. Lately, I've been using Eden Foods Ume Plum Vinegar, which I received a complimentary bottle of, alongside some of their oils.

What's Ume Plum Vinegar? It's flavor. It's balance. It's bright! It's what every pasta salad needs in order to stand out from the usual suspects. Here's what Eden Foods has to say about it:
Treasured by-product from traditional pickling of EDEN Umeboshi Plums with sea salt and shiso (beefsteak) leaf. Ruby red, tangy, very salty. Sprinkle over cooked or steamed vegetables, add to salad dressings and dips, and use for pickling.
Added to this pasta salad, it makes the raw vegetables stand out, slightly pickling them as the salad settles and the flavors mingle. Bacon adds that needed salty element and tuna pulls it all together. The Ume Plum Vinegar has brighten up my cooking, were I've also tried my hand in quick pickling some radishes with it. The radishes pickle nicely when sliced thinly and turned a lovely pink color, thanks to the Ume Plum Vinegar.


Tuna Pasta Salad
Serves 4

1/2 pound dry pasta, cooked 
4 strips of bacon, diced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons Sriracha
1 can canned tuna
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 stalk celery, diced
1/4 of a small red cabbage, thinly sliced

  1. Reserve cooked pasta to the side and in a hot saute pan, cook bacon until crisp. Save bacon fat. 
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, olive oil, vinegar, Sriracha and mustard. Incorporate tuna, red bell pepper, celery, and red cabbage. 
  3. Drizzle in bacon fat and bacon pieces. 
  4. Toss together with pasta and adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper. 
Share the Pasta Salad love! What ingredients would you toss in your pasta salad? 

    Saturday, June 16, 2012

    Orange-Poppy Seed Scones

    Lately I've been developing some breakfast pastry recipes for my summer restaurant job here on MV and one of my favorite things to make are scones. But not those dry as sand scones, no sir! These Orange-Poppy Seed Scones, adapted from a CIA recipe, are moist and have a tender crumb structure with some crispy bits on the edges. They're loaded with Vitamin C from all the citrus zest and a healthy dose of Dutch Blue Poppy Seeds.

    Dutch Blue Poppy Seeds, you ask? Well, Virtual Potluck has joined forces with Savory Spice Shop in developing a few new recipes using their products. We each have an entire shop section and mine was seeds; this was were I fell in love with their Dutch Blue Poppy Seeds. I'm the one that goes for the poppy seed bagel 9/10 times at the coffee shop, so it seemed natural I'd bake with them!

    Poppy seeds come from a yellowish brown opium plant native to the Mediterranean. They have been cultivated since the 6th century for the seeds, but also for opium, the narcotic that comes from the unripe seed. These mature seeds do not have narcotic properties. Nowadays these tiny blue gray seeds are mainly produced in Holland and Canada.  Poppy seeds have a nutty tasting flavor and are mainly used in baking. They are popular in breads, cakes, rolls and cookies. Although poppy seeds are difficult to grind, try dry roasting them first, then buzz them in a coffee grinder or spice mill. To make a paste, soak the seeds in water for 2-3 hours and then process in a blender with a touch of the liquid. Refrigerate or freeze poppy seeds to maintain freshness.
    -Savory Spice Shop

    Each Virtual Potluck member had a different set of spices to play with, so make sure to stop by Cookistry and check out the round-up post of recipes and giveaways! More spices, more chances to win!


    Orange-Poppy Seed Scones with Citrus Glaze
    Makes 8 large scones

    1/4 cup granulated sugar
    1 3/4 cup bread flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla salt
    1 cup milk
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1 tablespoon orange extract
    2 tablespoons poppy seeds
    1/4 cup sliced dried apricots

    1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon milk
    to decorate: orange zest, poppy seeds

    1 cup powdered sugar
    2-4 tablespoons milk
    1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
    orange zest

    1. Stir together sugar, flour, baking powder, and vanilla salt. Set aside.
    2. In a separate bowl, whisk milk and lemon juice until it "curdles". This takes about 2 minutes. Add orange extract, poppy seeds, and apricot slices. 
    3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir together. You can do this in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, but using a dough whisk is a faster and easier way to go! 
    4. On a baking sheet fitted with plastic wrap, place dough and naturally form into a circle. Cut into 8 slices and freeze for 4 hours or overnight. I found it easier to cut after 30 minutes in the freezer.
    5. To bake: Preheat oven to 350F and place frozen scones on greased baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with orange zest and poppy seeds. Bake until golden brown.
    6. To make glaze, stir together powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and orange zest. Glaze scones and serve! You can always serve glaze on the side as well. 
     


    Thanks to the generous folks over at Savory Spice Shop, we're giving away a spice gift set for one lucky Cooking with Books reader! It's a fantastic set of spice blends that you can add to everything from popcorn to grilled steak! Entry Guidelines: leave a comment for each action done, as well as a contact email.
    • Tweet: Love Spices? Enter to win a spice gift set via @nella22 & @SavorySpiceShop http://bit.ly/INFblt
    • Head on over to the Savory Spice Shop Facebook page and post on their wall your favorite spice
    • Follow Savory Spice Shop on Twitter
    • Follow Cooking with books blog via Google Friend Connect (right-hand side bar)





    Connect with Savory Spice Shop


    Disclaimer: Savory Spice Shop sent Virtual Potluck members spices to test and develop a recipe with, free of charge. My opinions, as always, were based on product testing and tasting!  US mailing addresses only. One (1) winner will be chosen randomly. Prize will be shipped by Savory Spice Shop. The contest ends Sunday, April 22nd, 2012 at 11:59 pm Eastern time. The winner will be announced on Monday, April 23st via email and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen.

    Tuesday, June 5, 2012

    Country Crock at the Murray Household


    This post is sponsored by Country Crock. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

    You all must be wondering, why is this die hard baker talking about something other than butter? Well, because more than a food blogger, I'm a wife that married into an apparent Country Crock loving husband. Before being married to M, it was rarely something I bought at the store but after almost 5 months of marriage, Country Crock has been a staple at the Murray household.

    The first time we were grocery shopping and he grabs the huge tub, I stared in dismay. He explained it was so much easier to spread, as well a it was a comfort food to him; he grow up with it melted into his veggies and spread on his morning toast. How could I ever go against childhood memories?! And now, it's become a favorite of mine as well, for the best reason is that I love buttered toast and it's SO much easier to spread Country Crock than frozen hard butter early in the morning. Plus, I definitely agree with the homey, comforting tasting.

    Since we're newlyweds and childless, we really don't have to get veggies into the kids, but if you are a Mom or Dad looking for quick and simple tips and recipes to make serving veggies more fun, this is great:  Download the free Clare Crespo Cookbook here for fun and whimsical recipes your family is sure to love! In the meantime, I adapted one of the cookbook recipes and made it as breakfast! 



    Sweet Potato Hash Browns
    Adapted from the Clare Crespo Cookbook
    Makes 2 servings

    1 sweet potato, peeled and grated
    1/2 small yellow onion, peeled and grated
    1 large egg, slightly beaten
    to taste: salt, pepper, Sriracha
    1/4 cup Country Crock Spread

    1. Mix the grated sweet potato, onion, and egg in a small bowl. 
    2. Season with black pepper, Sriracha and salt.
    3. In the Clare Crespo Cookbook, she then makes small mounds and brushes Country Crock over them to bake at 350F until golden brown. Since I didn't feel the need to turn on the oven so early, you can melt some Country Crock in a cast iron pan on the stove top and cook the hash browns until golden brown and cooked. 

      Connect with Country Crock:
      Country Crock’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/countrycrock
      Country Crock’s Twitter page: https://twitter.com/#!/countrycrock  

      Sunday, May 13, 2012

      My Experience with the Cooler Cleanse

      As you all know by my tweets, Instagram pics, and Facebook statuses, I did the 3-day Cooler Cleanse last month and today I'd love to share my thoughts on the cleanse, the flavors, how I felt, and my feelings before, during, and after it. 

      What's the Cooler Cleanse you ask? A cleanse of course, composed of raw, gluten-free fruit and vegetable juices, as well as a few nut milks that provide your body with much needed nutrients, as well as pure energy. It helps rid the body of toxins and gives it a much needed time to focus on itself rather then having to digest endless amount of food. The 3 days were each composed of 6 juices each day, taken every 2 hours or so. Below is an overview of the 18 juices I received!

      Juice #1 "Sweet Greens": As the first juice of the day, it pretty much woke me up. The taste is sweeter than I expected, with and herbaceous flavor under the sweetness.


      Juice #2 "Watermelon & Lime; Pineapple & Ginger; Grapefruit & Mint":  By far, these were my favorite juice flavors and sipping on them inspired new flavors for me to add to my baking list. Watermelon & Lime was a burst of what summer tastes like, the Pineapple & Ginger had a spiciness and tart sweetness, and the Grapefruit & Mint was...minty fresh with a bitter tartness that was actually very pleasant.


      Juice #3 "Essential Green": This is exactly what you'd expect from a green juice. A slight bitterness, it was one of my least favorite but definitely still drinkable. You'll definitely FEEL healthier after sipping on Essential Green!

        
      Juice #4 "Young Coconut Water & Spicy Lemonade": Refreshing and naturally sweet, both of these were perfect mid-afternoon. I felt most hydrated after drinking the Young Coconut Water, and the Spicy Lemonade put a pep in my step! I've had a very spicy lemonades before, and most of them have an artificial lemon candy-like flavor. This was purely what a tart lemon would taste, with a touch of raw agave to balance it out.


      Juice #5 "Essential Red":
      Consider this your early dinner, and it fills you up almost like a regular dinner. It's a hearty juice that blends the sweet apple and earthy beet, with a touch of lemon and the beneficial qualities of carrots.

      Juice #6 "Spicy Hemp Milk; Almond Nut Milk; Brazil Nut Milk": I considered this my treat, my sweet dessert and my reward. My favorite? Hands down the Almond Nut Milk, laced with vanilla bean and blended with dates, it was almost too much to drink! It's thick like a milkshake and I loved it! The Spicy Hemp Milk was a close runner up, with Brazil Nut Milk trailing behind because honestly? Brazil Nuts are my least favorite nuts!



      Three Days Before The Cleanse: I stopped drinking coffee, which meant removing 4 cups of caffeine from my diet. The smart way would be to slowly wean yourself off of it if you drink more than a cup, but I went cold turkey and paid for it the hard way. My first day off caffeine was awful: headaches and flu-like symptoms. The next day was much better, and after that I got used to not having coffee. I eventually didn't have coffee for an entire week. I also reduced red meat consumption, as per suggested by Cooler Cleanse and tried to eat more veggies. Sure, I had pasta the night before, but it was like a good bye moment. 

      Day One:
      As with everything new, it was honestly the hardest day for me. After sipping on the first two juices, I went on a short 30 minute walk and after getting home, felt lightheaded for a good hour. The feeling woudn't shake, plus I started to feel nauseous so I decided I needed solid food. It hadn't even been 24 hours since my last meal! I had some sweet potatoes with cheese, and this small meal would be what carried me through each day. The day continued on, feeling much better after a small meal and my other juices.

      Day Two: Other than a slight headache, this day went smoothly and for my small meal I tossed some canned tuna with greens and avocados. Adapting the cleanse to what my body needed made it work for me. 

      Day Three: By the end of the cleanse, I was ready for solid food! Small meal this day was a salad with more avocados and quinoa, and the juices were being gulped only when I started to feel hungry (more or less every 2-3 hours). 

      Results and Final Thoughts: What did I realize about my body and food intake? First of all, I'm not a mindless eater. I rarely snack much and just really rely on meals. I missed the act of cooking, and realized it was the way I timed my day as to what I was doing and cooking. What surprised me the most was the amount of energy I had, even without the caffeine in my system. I also felt great about what I was putting into my body and could feel it regenerating and taking in the nutrients, which I loved. As for weight loss, I lost about 4 pounds, but for me this was the least important result. The way I felt (after getting used to the juices), was a better result! 


      Thanks to the awesome folks at Cooler Cleanse, we have one 3-day cleanse to give away. If this is something you've always wanted to try, here is your chance! Below are ways to enter, be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry you do, as well as a contact email! 



      Disclaimer: Cooler Cleanse was provided free of charge in order to facilitate this review. No monetary compensation was received. Before doing any cleanse or detox, consult with your doctor. US mailing addresses only. One (1) winner will be chosen randomly. Prize will be shipped by Cooler Cleanse. The contest ends Sunday, April 22nd, 2012 at 11:59 pm Eastern time. The winner will be announced on Monday, April 23st via email and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen

      Friday, May 11, 2012

      Quinoa Ragu Lasagna

      Sometimes, lasagna is all we crave. Layered cheese, creamy sauces, rich meat, and pasta noodles. What else do you need? We made this before leaving for NYC last month and baked it in a loaf pan, since most of our cooking is for two (with leftovers!) Oh and why quinoa? We had some leftover cooked quinoa in the fridge from a previous meal and decided to load up the lasagna with a nutritious grain that not only added health benefits, but provided texture in an otherwise smooth and creamy lasagna.



      Quinoa Lasagna
      Serves 2, with leftovers
      Fresh or Dry Pasta Noodles, 1/2 pound
      large pot of water, salted
      1 cup quinoa, cooked

      2 tablespoons vegetable oil
      1 small onion, chopped
      1 small carrot, chopped
      1 stalk celery, chopped
      1/2 pound ground beef/pork/chicken
      1 cup diced canned tomatoes
      1 tablespoon granulated sugar
      salt and pepper to taste
      2 tablespoons butter
      2 tablespoons flour or cornstarch
      2 cups cream
      1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
      salt and pepper to taste
      1. Set aside the cooked pasta and quinoa. Start by heating the oil in a medium saucepan and saute the onion, carrot, and celery for about 4 minutes. Add the preferred meat and sear.
      2. Add tomatoes, sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 25 minutes, until meat is cooked through.
      3. In the meantime, make a quick Béchamel sauce by making a roux with the butter and flour. Cook for 2 minutes and whisk in the cream. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
      4. When the meat sauce is cooked, fold in the cooked quinoa.
      5. To assemble: Grease a loaf pan with butter or oil. Cover bottom of the pan with 2 tablespoons
        Béchamel sauce. 
      6. Layer with a strip of pasta noodle and then top with meat-quinoa sauce.  
      7. Drizzle bechamel over meat-quinoa sauce and repeat layer of pasta.  Finish with Béchamel sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese. 
      8. Bake at 400F for 15-25 minutes, until cheese and Béchamel are browned. Serve with a salad of greens and crusty bread.

        You can make this gluten free by using cornstarch in the bechamel and using gluten-free pasta noodles. We made fresh noodles using Domenica Marchetti's Pasta Recipe and they turned out great in this recipe. Whenever we have the time, we make fresh pasta instead of using dry pasta. The results are noticeably different; the long noodles soak up both sauces and provide structure to the meal.

        How do YOU make lasagna? Links are welcome, so make sure to share your favorite recipes with us!

        Monday, April 23, 2012

        Thai Iced Coffee

        It's Spring! Not like that's news to any of you, but I just want to be extra excited and happy it's Spring! It means the days are warmer, longer, and the season here on Martha's Vineyard is bustling up with excitement of what's to come this Summer. But before even mentioning Summer, let's stick with Spring and it's daffodils, fresh breezes, and most importantly, iced drinks. 

        Lately I've been browsing Robert Danhi's newest cookbook, Easy Thai Cooking: 75 Family-Style Dishes You Can Prepare In Minutes which Tuttle Publishing sent to me as a review copy. Who's Robert Danhi? Well, in short, the man knows everything and anything that has to do with Southeast Asian cuisine. I had the pleasure of meeting him and attending a demonstration he did at CIA a few years ago about Asian Sauces. Here's an excerpt that I wrote in 2009 about that demo that illustrates Chef Danhi's work:
        When you think about Asian Cuisine, what are the things that come to mind? Beef Teriyaki, Crispy Tangerine Chicken, normally dishes made with a specific sauce. While attending a conference on Asian Sauces at the Culinary Institute of America on November 11, 2009 presented by Chef Danhi reminded me that Teriyaki, Soy Sauce and Hoisin are not the only ones out there.  Chef Danhi has been all over Asia discovering the sauces that make up a cuisine, the sauces the grandmothers make at home.  Starting with the explanation of the how-to process of Soy Sauce, Chef Danhi takes us on a culinary adventure like no other. He is an amazing storyteller, illustrating flavors, developing stories and above all capturing the audience with his words.  His story is of photojournalism that leads him to meet the love of his life, his wife. At the same time of meeting this love consequently he meets his culinary love, Southeast Asia.  He tells of walking down the streets and up dark alleys, finding the old lady that has been cooking squatted down for the last decade; of the amazing smells that slapped him in the face as he walked past street stalls; the colors invading his sight were uncontrollable to him.  
        The Asian Sauces guided tour was an awakening of the senses and started with a snack of Roasted Peanuts with chili and lemongrass flavors swirling around on your tongue. Commencing with the soy sauces and how they are brewed the traditional method. They both had a rich soy flavor which would ideally marinate meats. Moving on to one of my favorites, Plum sauce made from preserved Chinese plums, ginger and chili. It is normally used as a dipping sauce for roast duck and other roasted meats, but Chef proposed trying it over vanilla ice cream. Marvelous! Following the plum sauce was the Oyster Sauce, a unique recipe made from the founder of Lee Kum Kee products in 1888. Tradition says it was a mistake, as with all wonderful culinary discoveries that an oyster soup reduced to a syrupy sauce and this sauce was invented! Oyster sauce is a basic Chinese sauce, used in cooking and also marinating. After these sauces were explored, the trip kept moving on with Hoisin Sauce which can be best described as a spicy-sweet sauce made from selected spices and ground soybeans; Black Bean Garlic Sauce, mostly fermented black beans and garlic; Chili Garlic Sauce, Thai Sweet Chili Sauce and one that graces the tables of our Farq Hall, Sriracha Chili Sauce.
        At the end of this culinary travel, Chef Danhi exhorts foodies everywhere to Question Everything! Ask, wonder, and be curious. A cuisine is not just the flavors but the geography, etiquette, ethnic diversity, history and population. Experiment Everything.
        As you can see, he's extremely passionate about this food and the culture behind it. The book is complete with tips on stocking your pantry with Thai staples, as well as help with planning a Thai Menu. Chapters range from Snacks to Seafood, and one of my favorites, Noodles and Rice. Ending with Desserts and Drinks, I thought it'd be appropriate to share his recipe for Thai Iced Coffee, the perfect Spring 2012 drink!


        Thai Iced Coffee 
        From Robert Danhi's "Easy Thai Cooking"
        Serves 4-6

        1 1/4 cups Thai Coffee mixture "Oliang Powder"
        4 cups water
        1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
        6-8 cups crushed ice
        4-6 straws
        1. Measure the coffee into the filter of the electric coffee maker. Fill the machine with water and run according to manufacture’s instructions. You may also use a French press to make this coffee base.
        2. Stir the condensed milk into the brewed coffee. Chill in the refrigerator.
        3. Fill the glasses with crushed ice, then top with the chilled coffee, it’s best if served with straws.

        Stove top method: Stir the coffee grounds into the boiling water. Brew for 5 minutes. Strain through a
        coffee filter, very fine wire mesh strainer or cheesecloth.

        Hot Thai coffee method: Fill each cup with 3 to 4 tablespoons of condensed milk; top with 1 cup (250 ml) of hot coffee.


        Notes: If you can't find Thai coffee, use any coffee bean you like but make sure it's a dark roast. Also, to keep your iced coffee chilled but not diluted, make coffee ice cubes! Brew extra coffee, chill, and freeze into ice cubes. And last but not least, make your own condensed milk! Thanks to Tuttle for sending me a copy of this book, and you should go out and get a copy for yourself as well!

        Monday, April 9, 2012

        Boston: Kimpton Nine Zero & Good Eats!

        Happy Monday readers! Start your Monday with some coffee, and remember to enter my current coffee-loving illy giveaway! Nothing says Monday like enjoying some coffee throughout the day and these three new illy blends will give you a head start if you win! Good Luck and now for our regular programming...

        Boston just might be my favorite city. It's big enough to keep me busy, but it's not as packed as the bigger cities. We ended our trip to IACPNYC with a stay at the Kimpton Nine Zero Hotel, the perfect spot to relax, have good food, and enjoy amazing customer service!

        The Minibar: Foodie Inspired. An in-room martini bar? Yes please! Offering six different flavors of Stirrings drink mixers and rimmers, crystal glassware for both martinis and wine, as well as some curated snacks, the best spirits, and even a variety of local brews.Coffee makers are available upon request, and of course I needed to request one for my early morning rising. Up to my room, a Keurig brewing system was delivered with a variety of three coffee pods.


        Details & Design are two of the Nine Zero's most prominent aspects and can be found in every corner of the room. Even the soap, wrapped in gorgeous paper is a treat! Entering the hotel through it's red brick structure, you arrive upon a lobby decorated with elegance and finesse, and you'll find sumptuous touches here and there. Riding the elevator up to your room and walking the quiet hallways, a sense of peace surrounds you. Sure, the Nine Zero is pet-friendly, but you won't hear any barking since I think even the dogs commit to the quiet peacefulness. Check out their specials and packages here.


        Comfort is another major aspect of the Nine Zero. Did you know there is a pillow menu available? Catering to your every comfort, the Nine Zero has you covered!

        Nine Zero Hotel features four one-bedroom suites and one penthouse suite on the 19thfloor called Cloud NINE. This ultra-luxurious suite floats dramatically above Boston with floor-to-ceiling windows and an unmatched panoramic view of the city.  Electronic drapes, a viewing telescope, plasma screen television with surround sound, and a steam shower and Jacuzzi complete the perfect cosmopolitan getaway.  Iris identification technology is also offered for keyless access to the Cloud NINE suite. Nine Zero Hotel is the first hotel in the world to use this technology. -Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants


        Connecting with Kimpton - Nine Zero was another perk of our stay. Not only were they in constant contact with me, but they recommended the best place to eat in Boston's Chinatown: Gourmet Dumpling House. A short walk away from the Nine Zero Hotel, Boston's Chinatown is a great source for Asian products and meals.

        We arrived at the Gourmet Dumpling House and decided to start our meal with Kimchi. It was M's first time trying it and he loved it. The perfect amount of spice and the cabbage leaves were a great, crunchy addition. It was followed with Juicy Pork Dumplings, Crab & Cream Cheese Ragoons, Beef with Long Horn Peppers, and white rice. An amazing meal that paired wonderfully with a can of Sapporo beer. Definitely check them out while in Boston!


        Connect with Kimpton - Nine Zero
                                                                            Reserve your next stay on their site: http://www.ninezero.com/ 

        Disclaimer: I was invited by Kimpton - Nine Zero to review their hotel and offerings free of charge. No monetary compensation was exchanged and my opinions are based solely on my personal experience. I've visited the Nine Zero previously before this stay and was just as happy. Read about it here.

        Sunday, April 8, 2012

        Slightly Silent Sunday: Millet & Chia Sandwich

        Still have a few more NYC/BOS posts to share with you, but in the meantime, let's whisper a little about sandwiches. Everyone loves a good sandwich and to me, what makes a good sandwich is great bread. Sure, the spreads are important, cheese, deli meats, and for me, a mix of herbs and greens make the sandwich. Below you'll see a few progressive pictures of my sandwich making. Wonder what bread I used? I'll tell you it's gluten free and delicious, so scroll to the bottom and discover the bread love!






        As a sandwich lover, I had the chance to taste test this Millet-Chia bread by Udi's Gluten Free Foods and below you can read some facts about millet and chia from the Udi's blog:

        Millet
        Millet seed is an ancient grain first cultivated in China around 4500BC.  It is high in protein, fiber, magnesium, and phosphorus, all of which are important for certain functions in our bodies. 


        Chia
        An ancient grain stemming back to Mayan and Aztec cultures around 3500 BC, the teeny chia seed’s name literally means “strength.” This name is fitting, given its concentrated nutritional content.  Chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavor and can be added to a variety of foods to boost nutritional content, such as hot cereal, vegetables, sauces, and baked goods (such as breads and cookies).


        The chia seeds add the perfect texture to this bread, and you feel like you're definitely eating something deliciously healthy. It toasted perfectly on a buttered cast iron skillet, and was strong enough to hold up to various ingredients. Ingredients that I think make one of the best sandwiches:
        • Cheese: One of my favorite cheeses to use in hot sandwiches is mozzarella, because of how gorgeous it melts and it's like the glue that holds my sandwich together;
        • Deli Meat: Another favorite, Honey Baked Ham. The balance of sweet and salty is joy in my mouth;
        • Greens: Have you ever had Pho? One of the things I love the most about it is the herb salad on the side, which I recreated here by tossing some fresh greens with cilantro. This adds a burst of flavor to an otherwise normal sandwich;
        • Spread: Sriracha and Mayonnaise. Go make it right now and try it, it will change you world. Want to add a touch of sweetness to it? Drizzle in a little honey! 
        This sandwich was the perfect lunch using Udi's Millet-Chia Bread. You can purchase it online here and check your local markets as well! If you'd like, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter for updates, new recipes, products, and just an all around fantastic gluten free community.

        Disclaimer: Udi's Gluten Free Products were sent free of charge as samples to allow for this review. No monetary compensation was exchanged. 

        Friday, April 6, 2012

        illy MonoArabica Coffee Package Giveaway

        IACPNYC was a whirlwind of meeting new and old friends; of eating as many calories as possible in one day; of running up and down 8 flights of stairs because sometimes the elevators were full or just didn't come in time. Other than the fact that I LOVED my job at IACPNYC, the one thing that kept me going, walking, running, tweeting....was sipping illy coffee throughout the day.

        On the 8th floor of the Millennium Hotel, the Hospitality Suite catered to recharging our batteries, both literally and physically. A station of illy coffee was set up and ready to serve us as many espressos as we needed during the day, with no judgement (I did excuse myself on the day I had 7 espressos....just because it was getting to be a little TOO much!)

        So it brings me great pleasure to be able to share my addiction passion for illy coffees. Thanks to the generous folks at illy, we're giving away their MonoArabica Whole Bean Coffee Package which includes three (3), 8.8oz single origin, whole bean cans: Guatemala, Ethiopia, Brazil.

        From Top Left: Amanda Hesser enjoying illy coffee; the illy coffee cans; our ever so nice barista; and yes, I sweetened my espresso with @ScharffenBerger Milk Chocolate!

        Single-Origin Arabica Coffees Found in the illy Blend:
        Brazil. Guatemala. Ethiopia.  Escape to far off places that spark the imagination with each sip of new illy MONOARABICA™ coffee. Explore the individual taste and distinct aroma of each single origin Arabica coffee, found in the legendary illy blend, each highlighting the singular style, culture and flavor of these distinctive geographic regions. These sustainably-grown coffees, hand selected and expertly roasted by illy, awaken the senses and satisfy your curiosity while offering you a pleasant escape from the ordinary.

        Click on the giveaway link, like illy on Facebook, and win this fabulous set of illy coffee!
        illy Giveaway
        Details & Disclaimer: One entry per person, must have valid Facebook account to participate. The "Facebook like" is the official entry, there is no purchase necessary, void where prohibited. US mailing addresses only. One (1) winner will be chosen randomly. Prize will be shipped by illy USA. The contest ends Sunday, April 15th, 2012 at 11:59 pm Eastern time. The winner will be announced on Monday, April 16th via email and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. I was not compensated for this post, and am sharing it because I love illy!


        Click on this link to enter (To keep track of entries, please leave a comment below!)
        Enter to win the illy MonoArabica Coffee Package!




        Connect with illy!

        Wednesday, April 4, 2012

        #IACPNYC Round-up!


        "If you saw the tweets, that was me!" - was my tiny elevator speech that would then develop into "food blogger, professional baker, living on Martha's Vineyard..." and so on. Because when at a food conference, people want to know what you do, what you do WELL, and how that can help them connect with you. 

        IACPNYC - an almost week long event, with demonstrations, talks, sessions, networking breaks, festivals and so much more. Hosted by the ever rushing city of New York, it was a fantastic conference that brought together some of the best authors, bloggers, chefs, bakers, and social media personality in the food & beverage industry.

        How I wish I could definitely and fully share with you all of what the conference was, but being that it was SO intense and awesome, I will leave with you a few highlights below:

        Sessions included everything from pitching your cookbook proposal to publishers, to one on one coaching with industry professionals; topics ranged from local ranges to the digital media, and so much more.


        The Food. During the networking breaks and a special cocktail party, we had food from our fabulous sponsors including Voss Water, Driscoll's Berries, Kerrygold USA, and Illy. Oh Illy! I must've drank 8 espressos a day, which definitely helped me keep running and sliding in and out of sessions! (Since I did all the tweets for the conference, I was lucky enough to go in and out of sessions to capture pictures and great messages from each and every one of the sessions!)


        The Opening Party. The best restaurants in NYC, the most fabulous people in the industry, and some fantastic drinks made this night a foodie heaven! Who was there? Well, here's the Twitter list: @BaohausNYC, @ediandthewolf, @FANofLAMB, @WholeFoods, @USApears, @BlueSmokeNYC, @PUBLIC_NYC, @USADPLC, @SeamusMullen, @Tertulia_NYC, @LaEsquinaNY, @OsteriaMorini, @DinosaurBarBQue, @DeliNYC, @MaharlikaNYC , @jimmypotsandpan , @ChefMedinaNYC , @PeanutButterCo, @CabotCoop. 
          
        What was served? Here are just SOME of the delicious dishes:
        • Warm Pork Belly with Corn Crème, Pickled Ramp and Crispy Pork Skin by @ediandthewolf
        • Spring Onion Biscuit with Spicy Lamb Gravy by Commerce using @FANofLAMB
        • Diver Scallop Crudo, Pineapple, Pickled Ramps, Chili & Lime by Market Table
        • Cod Poached in Carrot Butter w/ Chickpeas by The Beagle
        • Beef Ribs with Sesame Coleslaw by @BlueSmokeNYC 
        • Soft Boiled Eggs with Roe and Goat Butter @JimmysNo43 
        • Lentil Salad Summer Roll w/  Pomegranate Molasses Dressing by @PUBLIC_NYC
        •  Raw Tasmanian Sea Trout w/ Piccalilli & Shichimi by @PUBLIC_NYC
        • Grilled Lamb Breast, Creamy Lentils & Cauliflower by @SeamusMullen of @Tertulia_NYC
        • Long Island Black Bass Crudo, Roasted Red Pepper, Lemon & Rosemary by Marco Canora
        • Pasticcio di Coniglio - Rabbit Crostini w/ Parmigiano & Juniper Oil  by @OsteriaMorini
        • Brisket with Jalapeños by @DinosaurBarBQue
        • Sticky Toffee Cake, Dried Mango Biscotti, Dark Rum Crème Anglaise by @DeliNYC  
        • Pulled Pork Slider by Back Forty West #IACPNYC
        • Filipino Surf & Turf - Chicharron Manok w/ Kilawin & Paddlefish Roe by @MaharlikaNYC
        • Tacos de Puerco:  Mexican Chocolate Braised Pork, Chipotle Cabbage Slaw by @ChefMedinaNYC


        The Book & Blog Festival. More than 100 authors came together to meet everyone, sign books, and talk shop! Oh, and most of the were serving some amazing treats as well! As you can see below, a few of the incredible authors I met: @LizWeiss @marisachurchill @andyhusbands and @edibleliving.


        The Culinary Expo. Food Companies, Brands, Kitchen Tools, and so much more, all under one roof! It was amazing to experience all this amazing food at once, and it was great to see everyone come together for the love of food. Displays were creative, treats were delicious! This, as well as the Book and Blog Festival, was open to the NYC public, so it was packed and everyone seemed to have a fantastic time!


        Hoping that this short but intense post helped you take a peek inside this years IACPNYC conference! In summary, I think this is a fantastic opportunity to not only meet your virtual friends, but also meet your favorite authors and really connect with them on a personal level. As a food blogger, you'll also be able to connect with like-minded brands, and as a professional in the industry, you'll be inspired to create more and more in your kitchen.

        Stay connected with IACP via Twitter, Facebook, and the website. Next year, it's in San Francisco and I want to see YOU there!

        Tuesday, March 27, 2012

        #IACPNYC Bound!

        For the next week, we're headed to New York City to attend the IACP conference, as well as spend a day at the CIA, eating our way through restaurants and visiting my former chefs. I'm so excited to get off island and travel to NY with my husband, and we're ready to meet friends and eat some delicious foods!

        I've worked with Jackie of The Diva That Ate NY, in the Social Media Committee, and it's been such a great experience connecting with Twitter friends. Looking forward to meeting both her and Judith, our fearless leader, at the conference! Other friends that will be there are Michelle of Sweet & Simple, Elizabeth of Asian in American, and SO many more!

        Screen Shot of the IACP website

        Looking forward to attending some sessions, as well as the Book and Blog Festival! You can follow the conference tweets by checking out the Twitter hashtag #IACPNYC. I'll be live tweeting and possibly blogging during the conference, so watch my tweets for updates! See you in New York!

        Below I'm adding some of the events open to the public during the conference, so if you're in the area, make sure to stop by and say hello! (Excerpted from IACP Press Release)

        IACP Book + Blog Festival – The country’s largest gathering of leading food writers, cookbook authors
        and bloggers takes place Sunday, April 1, 1:30 – 4:30 pm at 82 Mercer St. Meet leading authors
        including Karen Page & Andrew Dornenberg, Melissa Clark and Alice Medrich, or discover dozens of new
        ones at this festive afternoon of books, music, and freebies. Tickets, $10, available at https://kiosk.eztix.co/kiosk/4891

        White House Chefs Move to Schools Culinary Workshops – Michelle Obama’s initiative to end
        childhood obesity by pairing chefs with schools joins the weekend lineup with Food Network star Ellie
        Krieger and White House pastry chef and cookbook author Bill Yosses hosting half day workshops on
        Sunday, April 1, at 82 Mercer St. Topics range from running a school cooking class on a shoe string, to
        food policy on kids, to funding healthy eating from garden to table to classroom. Tickets, $40, available
        for morning and afternoon sessions, at https://kiosk.eztix.co/kiosk/4984

        “School” Lunch with Chef Bill Telepan - Chef Bill Telepan infuses culinary magic to whip up a luncheon
        feast, using nutrition and budgetary guidelines, to show how good public school lunch can be. The
        fundraiser on Sunday, April 1 at 12:15 pm, at the French Culinary Institute, benefits The Culinary Trust,
        Wellness in the Schools and Future Cooks Initiative. Guests will dine at communal tables. Tickets, $35,
        may be purchased at https://kiosk.eztix.co/kiosk/4984

        Today's Special - One Night Only - The Culinary Trust hosts a pop up restaurant based on Aasif Mandvi's
        feel-good foodie film Today's Special. The menu is planned by cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey, who
        stars with Aasif Mandvi in the film, and will make welcoming remarks. Sunday, April 1 at L'Ecole, 462
        Broadway. Tickets, $150, for seatings at 5:30 and 8:30 pm, may be purchased at https://kiosk.eztix.co/kiosk/4984

        Monday, March 26, 2012

        Etsy Showcase: Paradise Sweets

        One of my favorite things about social media is being able to share new cookbooks, ingredients, and culinary trends. Today is a special day since I am sharing a brand new Etsy shop launched last month (February 2012) by one of my friends, the talented baker Aubrey A'ea. We met while studying at the CIA, and Aubrey was always the detail-oriented baker and you can definitely see that this attention to detail is showcased in her shop, Paradise Sweets!



        Located on the island of O'ahu, specifically in Honolulu, Aubrey crafts these Paradise Sweets with the freshest ingredients available, making sure that the flavors are perfect! And after making the delicate sugar cookie, she decorates each and every one with a sugar icing coating and can personalize them to your liking. Just look at the camera cookies below! Have a photographer in your life with a sweet tooth? These would be perfect gift and can be shipped right to their door!



        "Paradise Sweets products are baked and decorated fresh to order and shipped out from HAWAII! Everything is made from scratch with local, quality ingredients. You will taste sweet sunshine in every bite!" -Aubrey

        Cooking with Books had a chance to catch up with Aubrey and ask her some questions about baking, small businesses, and her favorite cookie! 
        Cooking with Books: What's you favorite treat to bake and eat?
        Aubrey from Paradise Sweets: Favorite thing to bake and eat would have to be... Snickerdoodles. That's what I grew up baking with my mom and grandmothers. There is nothing better than smelling the sweet cinnamon and then eating them hot and fresh! Plus it's a nice trip down memory lane! 
         Cooking with Books: Any advice for bakers wanting to start their own online shop?
        Aubrey of Paradise Sweets:
        • Take pictures of everything you make. Everything. At a brick-and-mortar bakery, you can sell based on smell alone. On the Internet, you've only got pictures and your words. Make it good, then make it LOOK good. 
        • Experiment with what works best. Use natural lighting, interesting backgrounds, and add color if your baked goods are brown or off-white (as most cookies are!). Write down notes when you do things differently, so you can remember. 
        • Do research on what other shops are selling, but be unique. I'll often look around for cookie inspiration but I try to make things different and my own. I'm thrilled when I can't find any inspiration because it really forces me to be creative!
        • Test out your shipping practices. Do research on pricing, then send things out to someone you trust to give you honest feedback. Were things broken? You need more padding. Tasted stale? Use better, air-tight packaging. Looked unprofessional? Consider dressing it up a bit. I sent out test packages to California and NY, noted the time it took to get there and the state they arrived in.
        • Always always always make extra. In case something breaks, doesn't turn out right, or you just *need* to do a taste test. I'll always put in a couple extra cookies.
        • Don't worry if the sales don't start right away. It takes time. Get some local sales under your belt too. Ask people you know to hand out your business cards or spread the word. A lot of my business comes from word-of-mouth. And guess what, that's free!


        Thanks Aubrey for the fantastic tips and we wish you the best in this new venture! And readers, I can vouch for these cookies: they're perfectly decorated, with a sweet icing and a buttery sugar cookie. Oh and they shipped from Hawaii to Martha's Vineyard and not one cookie suffered a break!

        Order some cookies for a loved one today: Visit Paradise Sweets on Etsy
        Connect with Aubrey and Paradise Sweets: Like Paradise Sweets Facebook Page

        Sunday, March 25, 2012

        Silent Sunday: Roasted Grapes

        Roasted Grapes. Sweet globes, enhanced with Niagara Ice Syrup. This post is a short post to tease you into some other recipes that will soon be coming up on here using Niagara Ice Syrup. 

        Before & After
        Roasted Ice Syrup Grapes

        1 bunch of red grapes

        1. Preheat oven to 400F.
        2. Wash and remove stems from the grapes. Pat dry and place on sheet tray.
        3. Drizzle Cabernet Fran Ice Syrup over grapes and toss lightly.
        4. Roast for 30 minutes. Cool and store in airtight container in the fridge.
        5. Uses: toss in salad, serve alongside roasted pork, or better yet, with a slice of pound cake and whipped cream. The possibilities are endless!

        Disclaimer: Post sponsored by Niagara Ice Syrups. No monetary compensation was exchanged. Opinions based on my personal testing and tasting.

        Friday, March 23, 2012

        The Hunger Games: Strawberry Bread

        The Hunger Games. If you haven't heard, read, or lived them, then you must be living on another planet! The Hunger Games are a three-part series of books by Suzanne Collins. The first book, I read in less than 48 hours. The second book, I was wait listed at the library for the longest week of my life and when I got my hands on it, I tried to space it out and read it in a week. The last one...I just couldn't space out and read it in about 3 days. So when I heard there was "The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook" by Emily Ansara Baines, I knew I had to have to, cook from it, and then share with you all!

        Thanks to the folks over at F+W Media, this book reached me just in time to post on the day that The Hunger Games movie premieres in most movie theaters. Of course, living on the Vineyard has its downfall and movies don't premiere at the same time as the entire nation, so I will sadly not be watching this movie today, but hopefully soon enough!

        The book is filled with recipes for almost, if not all, the dishes in the books. Some of the chapters include recipes for:
        • Mrs. Everdeen's Breakfast of Mush
        • Cheesy Meaty Hash Brown Casserole
        • French Bread from the Mellark Family
        • Peeta's Cinnamon Bakery Bread
        • Prim's Sweet Goat Cheese Salad
        • Rue's Roasted Roots
        • Plutarch Heavensbee's Roast Wild Turkey
        • Tigri's Fig Cookies
        After flipping through the book and reading the author's inventive recipe creations, I settled on making the Opportunistic Strawberry Bread, not only because berries have such great meaning in the original books, but because I've never made Strawberry Bread!

        Made with whole wheat flour and no artificial sugars, this bread is fantastic as a breakfast loaf! The fresh berries lace it, creating small pockets of berry explosion. I had some freeze-dried strawberries, which I pulverized and added to the batter before baking to amp the strawberry flavor. It's a rustic looking bread that is a perfect vessel for a slathering of cream cheese or to eat as is, so definitely give this recipe a try!


        Opportunistic Strawberry Bread

        It’s likely that Katniss isn’t the only one aware of the mayor’s penchant for strawberries. In fact,
        Peeta’s father, perhaps recognizing an opportunity to support his family, probably makes this yummy
        strawberry bread specifically to sell to the mayor!
        (The Hunger Games, Chapter 4)

        Makes 1 loaf

        ¼ cup honey
        ¼ cup (½ stick) butter, melted
        1 egg, beaten
        1½ cups whole wheat flour
        3 teaspoons baking powder
        1 cup strawberries

        1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 9" loaf pan.
        2. Add honey and butter to beaten egg and blend.
        3.  Put flour and baking powder in a large bowl and make a well in the center.
        4. Pour in egg mixture and add strawberries. Blend well.
        5. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake about 1 hour. Bread is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 
        6. Cool 10–15 minutes before removing from pan.
        Share with us: Are you a Hunger Games fan?  Tag your tweets with #UnofficialHG and share with @adamsmedia!

          Wednesday, March 21, 2012

          Marshmallow Madness!

          After you make your first homemade marshmallow, you will NEVER go back to those artificial ones that come in a plastic bag! And after you get your hands on Shauna Sever's new cookbook all about marshmallows, you might spend endless weeks making marshmallows in all shapes, colors, and flavors! 

          Marshmallow Madness!, recently released on Amazon and bookstores in your city, is by Shauna Sever and printed by Quirk Books; she is best known for her delicious blog "Piece of Cake".  Her approachable personality and simple recipes create confidence in first time bakers. She'll bring you in with her casual and knowledgeable voice, and take you step by step, in this case, in making the best tasting marshmallows you've ever tasted!


          When I received my review copy of Marshmallow Madness!, my hands started squishing the puffy book. Creatively bound in puffy material and a book cover filled with colorful mallows, it invites you to peruse its pages and find just the right recipe for you. I decided to recreate her Key Lime Pie Marshmallows, light green mallows with bright lime flavor and added crunch with a sprinkling of graham cracker crumbs.


          A dessert all in itself, these marshmallows are the type of creative genius you'll find in her book. Other recipes I'll be trying: Malibu Marshmallows, Maple-Bacon Marshmallows, and her Mango-Chile-Lime Marshmallows! Also, you can check out #marshmadness and see what other bloggers made!

          Thanks to the generous folks at Quirk Books, today I'm sharing Shauna's Classic Vanilla Marshmallow recipe, a great starting point for those making marshmallows for the first time. Mastering this recipe will let you experiment with more flavorings by adjusting the extracts you add! But that's not all! Like I said, Quirk Books are really generous tweeps and are giving away THREE puffy copies of Marshmallow Madness to three Cooking with Books readers. Scroll down to enter!

          Classic Vanilla Marshmallows
          Reprinted with permission of Quirk Books from "Marshmallow Madness" by Shauna Sever, 2012
          Makes: About 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch mallows

          THE BLOOM
          4 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
          1/2 cup cold water

          THE SYRUP
          3/4 cup sugar
          1/2 cup light corn syrup, divided
          1/4 cup water
          1/8 teaspoon salt

          THE MALLOWING
          2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
          1/2 cup Classic Coating plus more for dusting

          Lightly coat an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

          WHISK TOGETHER the gelatin and cold water in a small bowl and let soften for 5 minutes.

          STIR TOGETHER the sugar, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup, water, and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 240°F. Meanwhile, pour remaining 1/4 cup corn syrup into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Microwave gelatin on high until completely melted, about 30 seconds. Pour it into the mixer bowl. Set the mixer speed to low and keep it running.

          WHEN THE SYRUP reaches 240°F, slowly pour it into the mixer bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes. Increase to medium-high and beat for 5 more minutes. Beat on the highest setting for 1 to 2 minutes more and beat in the vanilla; the finished marshmallow will be opaque white, fluffy, and tripled in volume. Pour it into the prepared pan, using an offset spatula to smooth it into the corners. Sift coating evenly and generously over top. Let set for at least 6 hours in a cool, dry place.

          Use a knife to loosen the marshmallow from the edges of the pan. Invert the slab onto a coating-dusted work surface and dust it with more coating. Cut into whatever size pieces you wish (a pizza cutter works great for squares). Dip the sticky edges of the marshmallows in more coating, patting off the excess.

          Variation: Super vanilla-ize these mallows by adding a scraped vanilla bean or dab of pure vanilla bean paste along with the vanilla extract.


           Marshmallow Madness Giveaway!



          To enter, leave ONE comment on this post telling me your DREAM marshmallow flavor. The comments are the official entry, there is no purchase necessary, void where prohibited. Three (3) winners will be chosen randomly. Prizes will be shipped by publisher. The contest ends Sunday, March 25th, 2012 at 11:59 pm Eastern. The winner will be announced on Monday March 26th. 

          Disclaimer: Quirk Books sent me a review copy of this book, but I was under no obligation to review or host giveaway.

          Tuesday, March 20, 2012

          Tex-Mex Butternut Squash Soup

          Today's post is short and sweet because I want you to get out and enjoy the FIRST DAY OF SPRING!! Can you tell I'm extremely excited?! It's cause I am. I'm ready to say goodbye to winter, and this soup is the farewell. It might just been the last comforting, warm soup you'll see on the blog for a while. I'm ready for cold soups, salads, sandwiches, and lobster rolls! I'm ready for feeling gritty sand between my toes and the warm sunshine on my face. So, are you ready to say goodbye to winter with me? Keep reading!

          This soup fulfills that craving, layering sweet potato, earthy squash, constant heat from dried habanero, and starts off with a great mirepoix. You can use homemade stock or store bought, whichever you have on hand. Why Tex-Mex? I have no clue. What makes a dish Texan-Mexican? Just because I added hot peppers, corn chips, hot sauce...it might not be real Tex-Mex, but it's close enough for me!


          Tex-Mex Butternut Squash Soup
          Makes 6-8 servings
          2 tablespoons olive oil
          1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
          2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
          2 celery stalks, chopped
          2 liters stock (chicken, beef, or vegetable)
          1 dried habanero pepper

          1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
          1 small sweet potato, peeled and chopped
          salt & peppers to taste

          Garnishes: Cheese, Blue Corn Chips, Hot Sauce

          1. In a medium sauce pot,  heat olive oil and add onions, carrots, and celery. Make sure they are consistent in size, but shape does not matter, as everything will be pureed. 
          2. Cook until onions are translucent. 
          3. Add stock and dried whole habanero pepper (you can omit this for less heat). Simmer for 10 minutes, until it comes up to a slow boil. 
          4. Add squash and sweet potato. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Taste! Remove the dried habanero. If not, it will get pureed and be overwhelming in the soup.
          5. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree the soup while hot. Transfer back to pot and slowly simmer until ready to serve. Re-season if needed.
          6. To serve: Serve in deep bowls and top with your favorite cheese, blue corn chips for color and hot sauce for another layer of flavorful heat. 

          Share with us: How do YOU say goodbye to winter?