Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bacon Corn Muffins

As a child I had the luxury of not being fussy.  My family ate meat and potatoes, comfort food-type, meals, but I was never forced to eat to everything on my plate.  My portion size was usually small, and I only chose foods I knew I would eat.  My grandmother would make me take a bite of her weird and exotic vegetables (beets and turnips) but they really did nothing for me, so I tried them, and never had to again. 

Corn meal was also one such food.  In my culture, my grandmother would make "scone" or "frybread", which is a fluffy cloud of fried doughy goodness.  So I was very excited when we were going to a pow wow, I would get to gorge myself on frybread, since it wasn't made that much at my house.  But when we arrived at this indoor event (all the pow wows I had attended were held outside), I knew this was going to be different.  The event being inside was not the only difference, so was the food.  I searched all the booths and found an entirely new type of menu.  My frybread was nowhere to be found.  Instead, my aunt showed me the bannock that this local tribe made.  I was sceptical, but having been taught to at least "try it", I took a bite of the heavy yellow cake.  It wasn't that bad, so I took another bite and another.  I think what I liked most about it was the sweetness of the cake, as frybread was not.  It took about a half hour for the food to disagree with my tiny belly.  Since then, I have stayed away from the evilness of anything corn meal.

But while watching the Food Network, I found a recipe that made me want to try the evil ingredient.  Bacon Corn Muffins!  I mean seriously, how can bacon, its meat and renderings not help? 

Ingredients

For Muffins:
8 strips bacon
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat

For Frosting:
8 ounces kefir
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 bunch chives, sliced
Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Spray a 24-count mini muffin tray with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Cook bacon until crispy brown (you can either bake it in the oven, or cook on the stove top)
Chop into small pieces

In a large bowl combine flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and brown sugar.
In a separate bowl whisk the milk and egg.
Whisk the milk mixture, melted butter and bacon fat into the dry ingredients.
Add 3/4 of the chopped cooked bacon, reserve remaining 1/4 for a garnish.
Fill each muffin cup 3/4 of the way up.
Bake in 10-12 minutes (or use the toothpick test)
Allow to cool before icing.

In a medium bowl, beat the kefir, honey and hot sauce until soft and combined)
Add 3/4 of the sliced chives.
Mix well until combined.
Transfer the cheese mixture to a pastry bag (or sandwich bag with a corner snipped)
Once cooled, ice the muffins.  Garnish each with crumbled bacon and chopped chives.
Stay Hungry my friend!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mmmm...Onion Soup

Looking at a big pile of onions, one wonders how much soup this will make.  While cutting the onions I tried to make the half moon shaped slivers cascade in the pot like they did on the Food Network.  It took some time to figure out how to chop them.  *I also used some frozen turkey broth instead of the beef broth, which made it a tad salty.  It should also be noted that my soup looks a little light.  While cooking the onions down, I put the lid on the pot.  This was a mistake, not allowing the onions to get a pretty brown colour.

Ingredients

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 pounds yellow onions (about 6 medium), halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
8 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as necessary
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup dry white wine (2 buck Chuck works well)
4 cups beef stock or low-sodium beef broth *
2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups cubed ciabatta bread
3 cups grated Gruyere cheese

Directions

In a large heavy-bottom pot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the sliced onions, thyme, salt, and pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the onions become a deep golden brown and very soft, about 30 minutes.  Do not put the lid on the pot, the onions will not have a chance to caramelize and get wonderfully brown.

Add the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the white wine and scrape up any dry bits on the bottom of the pan, increasing the heat to a boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beef stock, and the chicken stock, and allow the soup to simmer for an additional 30 minutes as the flavors develop. Season the soup generously with salt, and pepper, to taste.

Preheat the oven to broil, or turn on the broiler. Arrange the ciabatta cubes on a baking sheet and toast until crispy, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove the thyme sprigs and pour the soup into 4 to 6 oven-safe crocks or bowls. Top with the toasted ciabatta cubes and a generous amount of grated Gruyere.

Place the crocks or bowls under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and begins to brown.
 

Stay hungry my friend! 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

One word - FRYBREAD

For the past month I've been working with the wonderful people of Native Voices and the production of The Frybread Queen.  Every weekend I have been spending time at the theater and my lunch breaks at the cafe having an Indian Taco.  Although I have yet to try making frybread again after my last attempt (they turned out like hockey pucks) after scouring the internet, I have found some new inspiration.  Check out this site for some pretty pics of some Navajo Frybread.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Toad in the hole

If you're in a brunch mood, here's a quickie recipe for an alternative to eggs and toast.  This pic is from a friend's brunch, where I was introduced to "Toad in the hole"!

Ingredients:

6 slices bread (sourdough is a nice option)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
6 eggs

Directions:
Preheat a large skillet to a high heat.
With a small cookie cutter remove centers from bread (next time I think I'll try a different shape than round).
Butter the bread on only one side.
Grill bread until lightly toasted.
Crack an egg into each bread hole (be careful not to break the yolk).
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cook until eggs are cooked to your desired consistency.

Stay hungry my friend!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Roasted Beets and Goat cheese

I usually spend the early mornings of the weekend watching the Cooking Channel, searching for inspiration (and something easy and doable).  For a while almost every show had something about roasted beets.  Each seemed messy and too much trouble.  That, and I'm not really a big fan of beets.  Sure I've tried those diets where they say to eat beets, which I tried from a can.  But cooking them myself seemed more daunting.  That was, until a trip to the farmers market and I just had to try.  That and you add goat cheese to the recipe (which is a favourite cheese)!

Ingredients

2 medium beets, leaves trimmed, or 1/2 pound roasted beets from deli or salad bar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-ounce log goat cheese
1 small bunch chives, finely sliced
1/2 lemon, juiced

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

If using raw beets, wash them clean of sand and dirt. Set aside to air dry or dry well with a towel or paper towel. If using roasted beets, proceed to the chopping step. 
Toss the beets in a mixing bowl with oil, a few pinches of salt and pepper (I put a nice coating of pepper).
Place beets in a foil and roast until fork tender, about 40 minutes.
Remove beets from oven and set aside to cool.
Remove and discard the skins from the beets.
Handle carefully so you're not beet red at the end.  Use a paper napking to remove the skins from the beet.
Cut beets into quarters.
Dump the blended beets into a serving bowl.
Crumble the goat cheese into the beets and add the chives and lemon juice.

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese salad
 Stay hungry my friend! 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Drinks!

I love St. Patrick's Day!  Not that I look great in the colour green, but it's a holiday that conjures up thoughts of food and drink.  In college, March 17th was filled with glass upon glass of green, flat beer.  Now that I'm older, my palate has matured a tad.  So you'll have to let me know how this grown up shake tastes, as well as the Irish Redhead!

Irish Redhead
Ingredients

1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey (Don't even think of wasting Jameson's on this)
6 ounces Mountain Dew soda, code red (get it? Irish RED head)

Directions
Stir Mountain Dew and whiskey in a collins glass filled with ice cubes.
Serve

Adult Shamrock Shake
Ingredients

1 cup whole milk
1 pint mint chocolate chip ice cream
1 teaspoon pure mint extract
3 tablespoons dark rum

Directions
Put milk, ice cream, mint extract and rum into a blender. Mix until smooth.
Pour into chilled glasses and garnish with a sprig of mint.

For a non-alcoholic drink, leave out the rum.

Stay hungry my friend!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

St. Patrick's Day food

I love that week in March, right before 03/17.  Our local grocery store stocks up on Corned Beef and I go there everyday and buy the maximum I can.  Yes, I love me some Corned Beef.  The first night it's cooked per this recipe, but I use the leftovers to make sandwiches and enjoy the meat as a morning snack.  This recipe was fun to make, as I've never added beer to my St. Pat's delicacy.

Follow this link in case you want to learn more about St. Patrick's Day!


Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (4-5 lb.) Corned beef brisket, trimmed of fat (with packet of spices)
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup Beef broth
Water
2 tablespoons Honey
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 head Green cabbage, cut into 4-6 wedges
4 large Onions, peeled, cut in half
2 cups of baby carrots
5 large Potatoes, peeled, chopped into 1 inch pieces
8 ounces lager

Directions
Heat a large pot on medium-high heat.
Add olive oil. Sear meat on all sides.
Reduce heat to medium.
Add garlic, stir to prevent burning.
Deglaze the pot by adding the beef broth.
Add the spice packet to the pot.
Fill the pot with enough water to cover the meat half way up the sides. Add honey, mustard, cabbage, onions, carrots and potatoes. Partially cover the pot with the lid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 hours.
Taste for salt, add as needed.
Add lager and continue to cook for another 40 minutes to one hour.

Stay hungry my friend!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fiesta Chicken and Rice Bake

Well, I needed a recipe that used rice, because P2 bought a HUGE 10 pound bag of basmati* rice (it came in a really cool reusable bag).  So for next while, I'll be using A LOT of rice. 
 
Ingredients

1 (10.75 ounce) can Campbell's Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
1 cup Chunky Salsa
1/2 cup water
1 cup whole kernel corn
3/4 cup uncooked regular long-grain white rice
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
paprika
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

 
Directions
Mix soup, salsa, water, corn and rice in 2-quart shallow baking dish. Top with chicken and sprinkle with paprika. Cover.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes or until done. Sprinkle with cheese.
Plate and serve.

*Basmati Rice originated in India.  The grain is harvested once a year during the summer and aged a minimum of 12 months.  Basmati is an aromatic long grain rice and when cooked, extends the length of its grain to approximately twice its original size!

Stay hungry my friend!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Baked Black bean dip & Guacamole

Getting ready for the Superbowl and trying to eat healthy is a difficult thing.  My prep, for my little party, including not buying the typical junkfood that I normally would, but a ton of vegetables.  I did make the exception of including some tortilla chips, but I omitted the queso.  Instead I decided to make this black bean dip.  I am also always looking for something to do with my fruit inspired Le Creuset.


Baked Black Bean Dip

Ingredients:

1 can (16 ounce size) black beans, drained
1 cup Kefir
3 tablespoons salsa
1/4 cup organic lime juice
1 tsp organic garlic
1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 chopped red onionscallion

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a blender or food processor, combine beans, kefir and salsa with lime juice until smooth.
Pour into an 8-inch square pan coated with nonstick spray.
Sprinkle with cheese and scallion. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.


Guacamole
 
Ingredients:
2 Ripe Avocados
1 Clove garlic -- Mashed
1 tablespoons lime juice
1 Roma Tomato -- seeded and chopped
1/2 Small Red Onion -- chopped fine
Pinch of salt

Directions:

Halve and pit avocados and scoop flesh into a large bowl.
Mash avocado with a fork and stir in remaining ingredients, combining well.
Chill covered with plastic wrap for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Stir guacamole well and serve with tortilla chips.

Stay hungry my friend!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Building a target audience

Locating and building a target audience is one of the biggest challenges for businesses pondering to take the plunge into the social media world. While building any audience is easy, it offers little value unless it's 'well-targeted' and willing to engage with your business. You may be about to launch the next big-game changer
campaign, but unless you have a target audience that it caters to, it is likely to fall flat.
 
As a social media expert and influencer, I realize and appreciate the importance of a business being able to locate its target audience with social media. In this this week's tips, I present 5 simple yet effective steps for a business to locate and build its target audience in the social media world.
 
1) Do your homework first!
 
I often say that social media isn't a shortcut route for businesses to succeed. It was never meant to be.  However, if you are prepared to work hard and act smart, the odds will be stacked heavily in favor of your business to succeed. So, now that you've made up your mind to have a social media audience for your business, how do you start?
 
Identify the kind of people that you want to associate with. What kind of people would be interested in your products and services depending on geography, age, sex, income etc. If you don't know who your target audience is, how can you locate them?
 
Typically, a business might be interested in connecting with one or more of the following:-Existing customers
  • Potential customers
  • Partners
  • Affiliate businesses
  • Industry Experts
  • Thought leaders
 
2) Keywords are the key!
 
Determining the best-suited keywords and key phrases for your business is often a good starting point. Make it a point to have at least couple of primary keywords and a handful of secondary ones including your products, services, industry terms, competitive keywords and anything else that will match you with your potential audience.
 
3) Advanced Search
 
Both Facebook and Twitter offer comprehensive search functionality.  Twitter offers an advanced search feature that lets you find users based on keywords and phrases. The regular search on Twitter is a good way to quickly fire queries to know who's saying what about the topics you're interested in.
 
Facebook is quiet search-friendly as well, it allows you to search people by company (yours or competitor business) and by email as well.
 
4) Tools
 
One of the biggest USP of social media is that "If there's something that you find difficult to do, there's a tool for that". I'm especially fond of Buzzom to locate my targeted audience as it lets me scan through bios of millions of users in quick time. Further, I can send a mass follow request and get instantly connected with a large number of people in a matter of seconds.  A word of caution - there are thousands of free and paid social media tools, so make sure you don't over commit and rely entirely on tools.
 
5) Lists and Groups
 
Human beings are social animals and it's understandable that they love to socialize - be it real life or in social media circles. The community aspect is a crucial part of all social networks. While Twitter thrives on lists, Facebook groups are increasingly gaining traction. It's a great idea to use keyword searches to find Twitter
lists and Facebook groups to gain access to a bunch of people who might be interested in your business offerings.  These five ways of locating and building target audiences with social media have worked wonders for me. If you've used any other ways to find people and locate your target audience with social media, I'll be glad to hear from you.
 
CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF THAT SAYS, "IT'S LONELY AT THE TOP";
IT'S LONELY AT THE TOP ONLY WHEN YOU FAIL TO TAKE OTHERS ALONG.
 
PASS THIS TO AT LEAST 10 PEOPLE YOU KNOW WILL BENEFIT FROM IT.
 
REMEMBER TO ASK THEM TO VISIT  Smedio.com TO SUBSCRIBE TO THEIR
COPY OF THIS Weekly Tips NEWSLETTER.
 
To your success!
 
Douglas Idugboe
Founder, Smedio.com


QuickSuccess Marketing, 235, 3545 32 Avenue N.E. Suite 719, Calgary, AB T1Y 6M6, Canada

Deviled Deviled Eggs

I had a crazy craving for Deviled Eggs.  Why I don't know, but I just had to have 'em.  I have a nifty little Krups egg cooker, where all I have to do is put a hole in each egg, set the timer and wait for them to cook.

Ingredients:
7 hard cooked eggs (because that's how many fit in my cooker)
1/3 fat-free mayo
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon of hot sauce
Salt to taste
Directions:
Cut eggs in half and remove yolk.
Place yolks in bowl and mash. Blend in remaining ingredients.
Scoop the yolk mixture back into the egg whites.

Stay hungry my friend!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What is Brandy?


Snoop and Cognac

When I think of brandy, I picture a large bowl of a snifter cupped gently by someone wearing a smoking jacket, much like the pic of Snoop (technically he's sipping Landy Cognac in this pic).

Brandy is a spirit made by distilling grapes to a higher proof than they achieve as wine, usually between 35%-60% alcohol by volume.

The name "Brandy" comes from brandywine, derived from the Dutch "brandewing" which means burnt wine.  When referring to Brandy, it usually denotes grape brandy, if the type is not otherwise stated. 

While most brandies achieve their colour from the addition of caramel colouring (to imitate the ageing effect), some others are aged in wooden casks, which impart a natural taste and colour to the distilled wine.  
Mini Distillery

Brandy has been a popular drink for hundreds of years and is most often enjoyed as an after-dinner drink.  Some suggest that it should be warmed slightly, usually using a candle or a small flame before drinking it.  Warming the spirit causes the vapors to become much stronger and the alcohol to become more viscous.  Many connoisseurs recommend treating brandy like any other wine and drinking it at room temperature  (16 °C (61 °F), where it has a more pleasant aroma and flavor. 

American Brandy includes popular brands like Christian Brothers, Coronet, E&J, Korbel, Paul Masson and J. Bavet.

Fruit brandies are made from fruits other than grapes.  Peaches, apples, apricots, plums, raspberries and blackberries are the most common fruits used.  Unlike grape brandy, it is usually colorless and is drunk chilled over ice.  

Grappa, an Italian variety of brandy is made using the seeds, stems and residue pulp left over from pressing grapes in juice for wine. 

Now what is Cognac? 
Cognac is just brandy.  But this brandy can only be labelled Cognac if it is produced in Western area of France, known as Cognac.  The growing area, also known as the Charentes region grows three main grape varietals: Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Folle Blanche.  The terroir
What does all that labelling A.C., V.S.O.P. and X.O. mean? 
  • A.C.: aged two years in wood.
  • V.S.: "Very Special" or 3-Star, aged at least three years in wood.
  • V.S.O.P.: "Very Superior Old Pale" or 5-Star, aged at least five years in wood.
  • X.O.: "Extra Old", Napoleon or Vieille Reserve, aged at least six years, Napoleon at least four years.
  • Vintage: Stored in the cask until the time it is bottled with the label showing the vintage date.
  • Hors d'age: These are too old to determine the age, although ten years plus is typical, and are usually of great quality.
A Votre Sante!

Grilled Chicken pockets

No these aren't the typical pockets you're thinking of, instead the pockets refer how they are cooked.  Gather up foil and start the bbq. 











 
Ingredients:
3 medium unpeeled baking potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium red bell peppers, chopped
1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced fireroasted tomatoes, undrained
3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast
Directions:
Heat coals or gas grill for direct heat.
In large bowl, mix potatoes, bell peppers, onion, and tomatoes.
Stir in flour, 2 teaspoons of the chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.
Spoon mixture onto double layered aluminum foil (or large heavy-duty aluminum foil bag)
Arrange chicken on top of vegetables.
Sprinkle remaining 1 teaspoon chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt over chicken.
Double-fold open end of bag.
Slide foil bag onto grill.
Grill on the top rack for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender and chicken is no longer pink in center.

Stay hungry my friend!