Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving Menu 2013

My favorite holiday is sneaking upon me. I look forward to this one time cooking extravaganza, when fine ingredients, painstaking cooking and time will pay off with the grandest meal of my year. Yes, I love hosting Thanksgiving. This year I am hosting for 5 people, just the right amount of food preparation before it gets out of hand.

Working full-time and planning a made-from-scratch Thanksgiving meal is another job itself. Every year I take great pleasure in doing some serious search for the perfect menu. Although this year's menu may need more decision making, I narrowed down to the following:

The Bird: Herb-Roasted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy from Gourmet

The choices are limitless, from cornbread and oysters to wildrice. Yet the one thing I don't comprehend is why must there be another meat in stuffing when the purpose of stuffing is to be paired with another meat?

Italian Mother-In-Law Dressing from Bon Appetite
Wild Rice Dressing with Leeks, Mushrooms, and Candid Pecans from Joy of Cooking
Corn Bread Stuffing with Bacon and Greens from Food and Wine

Stuff or not to stuff is another question. Are a food safety police (me, for one) or who-cares-I-just-want-juicy-flavor-stuffing person?

Wilted Brussels Sprouts Bacon and Apples from Joy of Cooking
Sweet Potato Casserole  from Food and Wine
Roasted Brussels Sprout and Apples from McCormick

What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What's the Deal with Pumpkins?

Like many million of Americans, I go crazy with pumpkin during this season. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice cream/shake/custard/pudding, pumpkin seeds... In my pantry, there are 5 cans of pumpkin puree waiting for my next what-can-I-add-pumpkin-to food creation.

People have become so in love with pumpkins that there are pumpkin-flavored everything in the store. Bloggers around talk about their pumpkin obsession and what new creations they have made with pumpkin. Huffington Post has a slide show on what pumpkin products out there. But if you eat a spoonful of pumpkin puree out of the can, it kind of tastes like nothing. Like baby food with a mild distinct taste. Actually no pumpkin flavored food taste like the real deal. Especially Starbucks' PSL. My pumpkin obsession is limited to the real stuff, not some pumpkin spiced chocolate, or even Pumpkin Spice Pringles.

Last year I got a sugar pumpkin from my CSA basket, which I used to make a pumpkin pie. The real deal. It heavenly, made me no longer want to look at a can of pumpkin puree. But let's face it, who has time to make pumpkin puree out of real pumpkin everyday. I would need at least one sugar pumpkin a week.

So what's the deal with pumpkin?

NPR has a article, "Why Americans Go Crazy For Pumpkin and Pumpkin Flavor Stuff", it says that Americans love pumpkins for the sake of farm life nostalgia. I highly doubt Starbucks' PSL lovers think of farm life before they snap a classic picture of themselves holding this signature fall drink.

To me, pumpkin is not only the quintessential ingredient of autumn, but also the start of a cerebration time. Although as a dietitian, I am biased to this super food packed with fiber and vitamins. This bright orange squash of various sizes kicks off the season of eating festivities, of which my  favorite: Thanksgiving.

Whether it's nostalgia or not, pumpkin brings the fond memory of comfort food and cozy sweater. Sound cheesey? Well it is, aren't we all suckers for pumpkins?

Pumpkin Pancake
(Recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction)

1.5 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1 1/3 cups pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, whole milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vanilla.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Stir dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just combined. 
3. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or nonstick frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Cook until surface of pancakes have some bubbles and a few have burst, about 1 to 2 minutes. Using a thin spatula, carefully flip each pancake and cook until browned on the underside, about 2 minutes more. Transfer cooked pancakes to a baking sheet and keep warm in oven. Continue with more oil and remaining batter. If desired, top with additional toasted pecans, butter and high quality maple syrup.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Incredible Food Show 2014

One of Lexington foodie's (me for one) highly anticipated event was the Incredible Food Show last Saturday. To be honest, I was not all too excited about the Deen Brothers as the special guests of the event. That was until a few weeks before the event, the show producer asked me to one of the judges for the show. I was delighted and accepted the challenge as a judge for the savory category. With 37 booths on my list to judge, I thought I was in foodie heaven...until I was sampling the 11th beer cheese and cracker.

Here are some of my favorites from the show:

Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese from Barren County, Kentucky has handmade artisan cheese. It got the Honorable Mention of Savory category at the show. My favorite product of all the samples was their Wheel of Awesome which was a Brie cheese. It was an awesomely and creamy soft cheese that melted in my mouth.

Started by Sylviana Herrin in early 2013, La Petite Sucre is a handcraft macaroon boutique that only cater customs orders for private events. This booth won the Best Booth Display of the show. I think Herrin has not only delivered beautiful presentation, but also perfected these small and colorful French desserts. When I tasted the blackberry macaroon (not knowing this at the time), it was no doubt the ingredients used were the top notch, as well as the painstaking efforts put into making these delicate sweets.

My favorite Kentucky Proud producer, Sadistic Mistress. Her hot sauces are one of a kind. Sadistic Mistress knows her peppers, with a line of 13 hot sauces, each pairs well with various food items. We got "The Safe Word Is" and "She Ain't Pretty; She's Hot". Creative names and spicier than hot sauce, that's Sadistic Mistress for you.

I have a secret. Instead of tasting First Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil with a piece of bread, I drank it. I would drink a cup of this olive oil if I could. It's California blend was named "One of the World's Best Olive Oils" at the 2013 New York International Olive Oil Competition. Their olive oil has a fruity aroma and buttery taste, yet without the overwhelming "greasy" flavor. I can't believe it took me this long to find this.

Nevertheless, I skipped the Dean Brother's presentation..twice. But I was super excited to meet one of my favorite chefs from Bravo's Top ChefChef Edward Lee. His new cookbook "Smoke and Pickles"  blends in Lee's Korean background and a twist of Southern cuisine. From making Korean style pickled vegetables to Kentucky's distinct bourbon and Southern cooking, as well as Lee's stories of growing up and becoming a Chef, the cookbook is worth every penny. Instead of asking him intelligent questions like "How did being on Top Chef help you start your restaurant", I started talking endlessly about Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese. Cheese? Really?

Being a judge at the Kentucky Proud Incredible Food show was a great experience in learning and tasting what Kentucky has to offer. I love talking to the food makers to find how they come about making their products. Although I think it comes to a point when too much beer cheese just starts to taste the same. Even though each beer producer has his/her distinct spin on the cheese, I think Dad's Favorites has the most unique and distinct beer cheese of all.

Besides beer cheese, bourbon this and bourbon that was another trend of the show. Bourbon hot sauce, bourbon barbecue sauce, bourbon salsa... Let's see what else we can add bourbon to and make it more "Kentucky". What's wrong with a good ol' fashion straight bourbon?

I enjoyed this year's Incredible Food Show, I met lots of enthusiastic Kentucky food producers as well as another fellow Kentucky Food Blogger  Rona Roberts of Savoring Kentucky (check out her blog, Rona is an excellent food writer). Till next year, for another stuffed belly.
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