Market Finds

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Bi-Polar Vortex and My Plate

Mother Nature has been going through some severe mood swings over the past several weeks here in Georgia.  Seventy degree and sunny days are interspersed with ice, snow and thick cloud cover. This pendulum of extreme weather leaves me scratching my head each morning as I contemplate my wardrobe for the day.  Boots or flip flops?  An even more pressing decision, is what's for dinner?  One day I am snuggled up by the fire enjoying a hearty beef stew.  The next day, there's the overwhelming urge to sit on the deck and fire up the grill. What's a girl to do when faced with such extremes in wardrobe and dining?  As far as the wardrobe goes, dress in layers and always keep a spare pair of flip flops handy.  As for dressing your plate, perhaps a more subtle approach is necessary.

As a cook, I rely heavily on the seasonality of ingredients.  I would never serve a pot roast with root vegetables in June, just as I would not serve grilled corn on the cob in December.  Cooking during the recent extreme weather has been a bit of a challenge.  This past weekend, the temperature said "spring", but alas, it is still February.  So, as we creep into spring, I thought about food that was still hearty enough for winter, yet hinted at the freshness of spring.  My recipe for this week is a whole wheat orzo dish that can be served warm or cold as a salad.  It keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days, and uses pantry ingredients, along with readily available fresh basil and lemon.

I hope this recipe will help you bridge the gap between winter and spring, as well as putting something on your plate that you can be passionate about.  Enjoy!

Any Weather Orzo:

1 16 oz package whole wheat orzo
1 15.5 oz can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup basil leaves, julienned

Step One:
Cook orzo according to package directions.  Drain and place in a large bowl.  Add garbanzos and peas to the bowl.

Step Two:
In a separate bowl, combine lemon juice, zest, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Whisk to combine and pour over the orzo mixture.  Gently stir orzo mixture to combine and evenly coat the pasta in dressing.

Step Three:
Place orzo onto a large serving platter and sprinkle with feta and basil.  Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Childhood Treat is a Trendsetter for 2014

As the mother of a tween and a teen, I am often reminded about how lame and uncool I am in regards to music, clothing, technology and vernacular.  Fortunately, I have a thick skin and know that despite the good natured jabs I receive from my children, I am fairly adept at staying on top of current trends.  This theory was validated a couple of weekends ago when I attended a session at Food Blog South, on culinary trends for 2014.

Trendologist, Kara Nielson gave a fascinating presentation on where trends start, how they move into the mainstream and what initiates them.  One of her examples was, that as a result of the World Cup being held in Rio de Janeiro later this year, we will see a growing interest in Brazilian food.  She highlighted brigadeiros as a new "it" food to look out for.  I sat silently chuckling to myself, since brigadieros are a ubiquitous part of any Brazilian child's birthday celebration.  This is a treat that enjoyed often as a young girl, living in Brazil and one that I still

Yes! I am ahead of the curve on this one.  So far ahead in fact, that Chef Nancy and I have already done two Brazilian classes at Cook's Warehouse, where we featured brigdeiro inspired desserts.  Traditionally, a mixture of sweetened condensed milk, butter and Nesquick powder are stirred together over medium heat, until thickened.  The mixture is then cooled and rolled into truffle-sized balls and coated with chocolate jimmies.  The warm mixture is also perfect as a topping for  cakes and cupcakes.

This delicious sweet treat has been around for decades and was originally created by the Nestle company as a way to promote their condensed milk and chocolate drink mix products.  Generally speaking, the recipes are all basically the same.  I am providing the recipe that I grew up with, which uses the Nesquick (Nescau, in Brazil) drink mix, but certainly if you wanted to cut down on the sweetness, you could substitute an equal amount of cocoa powder.

I love that an old favorite of mine, has the potential to become the next big thing for 2014, and will gladly do my part to help promote this chocolaty delight that I am still passionate about all these years later.

Brigadeiro used as topping for chocolate cupcakes

1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 heaping tablespoons of nesquick or cocoa powder 
1/4 cup butter
Chocolate Jimmies
Non-stick cooking spray

In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk the condensed milk and chocolate drink mix together.  Add the butter.  Stir continuously until the butter is melted and the mixture has thickened, about 10 minutes.  You want the mixture to be caramel-like in texture.

Remove mixture from heat and pour into a pyrex dish.  Once mixture is completely cooled, spray your hands with non-stick spray and roll mixture into balls.  Place jimmies in a shallow bowl and roll the balls in the sprinkles to cover.

Traditional truffle-style Brigadeiros