Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Making Some CHEESE!!!

It was recently given the wonderful opportunity to go to Standing Stone Farm in Gallatin, TN for a cheese making class.  I knew this was going to be dangerous because of my obsessive love of cheese but then when they told me that there were also baby goats on the farm who had been born the week prior I knew I was doomed!

This couldn't be good!  I was going to want to take a goat home with me and make cheese for the rest of my life...the path was stretched out before me and I just knew there was no getting around it!

Before we were allowed to go out and actually play with the goats we needed to get down to business.  It was time to get serious with the curds and wey and start this cheese makin' thing, so naturally we all poured our selves a drink and sat down to learn.

She said it was easy....all cheeses were just a various of how to separate the curds from the wey and how long a cheese is allowed to age.  Ok, I can deal with that....just follow directions...I seem to be able to do that just fine!

Then she threw in the game changer, the word I have feared since junior year in college....chemistry.

She said it like it was harmless, like it wasn't the reason I had nightmares about balancing formulas in my chemistry class from high school...like the periodic table didn't speak to me any more than the hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt!

At this point it was time to fish-or-cut-bait....if I wanted to learn to make cheese I was simply going to have to overcome my mental block when it came to chemistry and embrace it in the name of cheese!

Well with Paula Butler at the helm of this expedition I gained confidence that I too would one day be able to make cheese, but she took it a step further...she showed us in her very kitchen how to make mozzarella and ricotta cheese!  It was a success!!!
   
 
 
So naturally I bought my kit and with a sense of pride in our accomplishment, I headed out to the barn to hold a baby goat!

Standing Stone Farm is a wonderful place to try something new, explore different cheese making options and experience the joy of knowing that the cheese you are eating is free of preservatives and chemicals!

All in all it was one of my most favorite days filled with new skills and pictures of baby goats.....Mission Accomplished!

For more information about Standing Stone Farms visit their website here!
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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Bacon and Pecorino


I have my favorite side dishes...everyone does....mine typically include potatoes...and sour cream....and butter.  Ok, ok...I really like mashed potatoes but you know who doesn't....my waist line.  So again, we go in search of healthier options that don't taste like we are eating grass!

Well friends, we had great success with this one!  A great combination of flavors, easy to prepare in advance as I believe raw kale needs to sit in its dressing for a while to tenderize it a bit.  I know this is gonna sound odd, but I even think you could leave the bacon out.

Sacrilege I know but seriously, the salad is packed with so much flavor already that I don't think it really needs the additional bacon.

Try it with it first and then let me know what you think!

Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Bacon and Pecorino
For dressing:

the juice from 2  fresh lemons
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 shallot, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For salad:
4 cups shredded kale
1 lb brussels sprouts, finely shredded using a food processor
3-4 slices bacon, baked and chopped
1 cup roasted almonds
1 cup Pecorino cheese, finely grated

I shredded both the kale and the brussel sprouts in the food processor separately.

Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and mix. (Alternatively, I sometimes throw everything in a mini food processor and let it do the chopping.) Add in olive oil, whisking (or processing) until combined.
Mix sliced kale and shaved brussels sprouts in a large bowl. 

Throw in bacon, almonds, and cheese.
 
Pour dressing over the top and toss salad until all ingredients are distributed throughout.
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Quinoa with Toasted Pine Nuts

I have never been a huge fan of quinoa as I am big on texture and these tiny little grains seemed a bit tedious to me so naturally I have avoided even trying quinoa until I was face with a predicament....the proverbial fork in the road...choosing which path to take...it was all very dramatic.

Actually not at all...I went to a friends house for a dinner party and like any good southern guest, I knew I had to eat everything the hostess served. So that is just what I did and I'll be damned, I loved it! Here is a twist on what we had that evening!

Quinoa with Toasted Pine Nuts
as adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/4 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Rinse and drain quinoa. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots; sauté 1 minute or until tender. Add minced garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. 
Add quinoa; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. 
Add chicken stock and kosher salt; bring to a boil. 
Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 13 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender.
While quinoa cooks, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. 
Add pine nuts to pan; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. 
Combine quinoa mixture, pine nuts, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, parsley, chives, and pepper; toss.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Avocado Hummus

Come on spring!  I know you're out there!  I am doing everything in my power to convince Mother Nature that it is time for spring.  I have cooked with fresh herbs, ordered my copper mugs for my summer favorite, the moscow mule, and even gone so far to put flowers on my dinner table and we are getting NOTHIN!

I have a woken with grand ideas of a beautful sunny day, spent time outside trying to convince myself it isn't freezing when in all reality, it is not freezing....it is 42 degrees and drizzling rain.

I can't handle it anymore!  I need sunlight!  I need spring!  I need vitamin D!!!

One of my attempts to convey this burning need inside of my to Mother Nature was to make a light and fresh appetizer....you know....something that would be perfect with a margarita...sitting by a pool....warm! 

Avocado Hummus

Add the following to your food processor:
1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed
1 avocado, cubed
juice from 1/2 of a lime
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of olive oil (a lower fat option: substitute oil for juice from the beans)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
 
Blend until smooth.... EASY AS THAT!
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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Grilled Shrimp

So you know how I said a few weeks ago that I was going to try and STOP using so much butter?  Well I lied.  I couldn't do it.  Evidently there is an urge I cannot deny and no matter how hard I try I just can't avoid it, but after taking one bit of this amazing dish I just didn't care. 

Run several miles the next day, eat healthier options for other meals, but do not, and I repeat, DO NOT, pass on this delicious treat!

The original recipes calls to cook it on a hot grill, which I cannot wait to do when the weather is a little better than the freezing rain we were working with this weekend, but we simply adapted and put it in the oven to cook.

In an attempt to not make such a mess in the oven like I am prone to do (I really don't mean to but it always seems to happen at my parents house and not in my own oven....why is that?) we decided to put the foil packet in a pyrex dish which worked great but required us to cook everything a little bit longer than it would have taken on the grill.  

It was well worth the wait!


Grilled Shrimp in Foil Packet
1/2 stick butter
1 cup chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper
Juice of one lemon
1 lb. shrimp
red pepper

Place all ingredients in aluminum foil and place on a hot grill for 8-10 minutes.
 
Once the shrimp is cooked we dumped everything, including (and most importantly) the broth, into a dish to serve with toothpicks.
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