Friday, May 29, 2009

Borough Market.....I wish I could live there

I had a fantastic time in London, honestly probably my favorite trip over there. And one of the highlights of my trip was going to Borough Market, Thanks to my best friend for knowing that a food blogger would die and go to heaven in a place like this and making it one of our first stops.

Get ready for a Photo Extravaganza because there was just so much going on and I don't even know if I saw half of it.

First I will start with the first thing that we got there Raclette. It was amazing!

Here is the cheese melting looking delicious under the warmth of the flame.

Then they scrape off all of the cheese onto potatoes, pickles and pickled onions. They finish it off with freshly ground black pepper. They just grab it off the heat with bare hands I was in awe.

Finished plate. We got one to share and I wished that we had each gotten one after we started eating, it was fantastic. We went back up but the line was really long much longer than what we had already waited through so we pushed on.

We enjoyed our Raclette in this park/church area right next door and we weren't alone.

While walking back in and passing the Raclette booth I saw that they also made some toasted cheese sandwiches which I was tempted to buy but knew there were other goodies to eat throughout the market.
So we made our way to the area that held most of the produce. It was beautiful all of the colors and varieties of vegetables and fruits.

These tomatoes were fantastic looking, we picked up some yellow cherry tomatoes to take home and they did not disappoint.

I love when carrots have their tops on still and these little beauties were wonderful and still smelled a little like dirt just how a carrot should.

And any type of asparagus you could want, even some very interesting looking skinny asparagus.
And Mushrooms all laid out in a cascading pattern. I was so tempted to buy some but resisted as they were not part of our tapas menu for later in the weekend.

So we moved to what was on the menu, of my favorites. Cheese and lots of it. I was amazed at the huge wheels of cheese and made sure to sample as many as I could.

The most amazing Gruyere, honestly probably the best I have ever had.

Yes that is 4 wheels of parmigiano reggiano cheese you see and there was more where that comes from. I think I tried 20 different cheeses and all of them were good. We bought a Stilton, Parm, a soft goat cheese and a soft cows milk cheese. All of which were fantastic.

I loved seeing all of the different meat and seafood booths just knowing that everything was so fresh and out there for you see and smell.

There were so many types of sausages from all over Europe it was hard to decide what to get.

And how could you pass up a sample of prosciutto that was carved right off of the ham that still had the foot attached!

And Imagine noon on a 75 degree Saturday not being able to smell the fish at all they were so fresh. Honest they smelled like the sea.

And there were so many other items as well, jams, spices, seasonings, tea.

I loved this huge pile of fleur de sel that you just packed up what you needed and they had flavored salts too.

And tons of bakeries with so many different kids of bread, I was really envious of my best friend now because I can't find a bakery with half of the quantity or quality of bread that they had here near me.
And tons of olives, sun dried tomatoes and other oil cured goodies. I think I ate my weight in all of the free samples that they handed out.

And the Strange one of the bunch...........
Ostrich eggs, yes real ostrich eggs that you could buy and cook.

And Last but not least you don't think I would leave out the sweet would you. And there were plenty to be had.

Ice cream, some flavors I recognize and some I don't, but everyone in line seemed to like the finished product!
And this was atleast 6 feet long of these wooden hand carved bowl that were all attached and intertwined filled with different kids of chocolate truffles.

And brownies seemed to be a popular offering as well as cakes and a few cupcakes.

And some baklava which came in, no lie 15 different forms. We bought 2 kinds and they were both good.

And next to the Baklava was something called Turkish delight which was kind of like a gummy candy, but in interesting flavors like rose water and pistachio.

And we were beckoned over to have a piece by a salesman saying "Don't worry I won't kill you" It was very charming :)

And around the corner from the Turkish Delight was a ton of dried fruits and chocolate and yogurt covered goodies.
And I could have gone crazy over all of this but I restrained.
As the sun was going to be beating down on us for a while as we walked around and I didn't want a bunch of chocolate goo in a bag.

And to end a perfect day we stopped at a bar on the way home for a Magners and took in what a great day we had at the Market.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thanks for letting me Appreciate you!

Courtesy of the winners are.............

Here are your random numbers:

2 15 24 7 3

BloggerMaria said...

I love the little jars! Too cute! What a fun giveaway! Thanks!!!

Teresa Cordero Cordell said...

Katie, what a lovely idea! You are so smart. Love to have one of these. Imagine the possibilities!

The Queen of Quite a Lot said...

Those both sound great! Crossing my fingers! Have a good time in London!

Lisa said...

Such a fabulous gift!! I would love to receive it. lisaweddle@msn

Emily said...

Vanilla sugar here I come!
(emily at yarnmiracle dot com)

I had a great time in London! I will hopefully be posting pictures tonight of Borough Market which was fantastic! Thanks for all the warm wishes!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Alittle Appreciation is in Order

Once I started my vanilla extract adventure I started to get really into the idea of making things for people as gifts. I think I drove P crazy with all my possible ideas of what I could make. But for my second venture I decided to make some flavored sugars. I figured this would be easy just like vanilla extract as it just has to sit and take on the flavors of what ever I wanted to flavor it with. So with summer around the corner I decided to make a Lemon Lime Sugar and the ever popular Vanilla Sugar was always in the plans. So I bought a lot of sugar because if you are making some thing like this you might as well make a lot and just surprise people for no reason with a small token of appreciation. And who doesn't like to get appreciated or a gift. I know I love gifts no matter the shape or size. So why not make some flavored sugars and give them to the people who brighten your day or have helped you recently. And since all of you Brighten my day every day and since I have neglected my blog this week and will be continuing to neglect it while on vacation this weekend and into next week while I visit my Best Friend in London I figured why not do back to back giveaways to show my appreciation. I don't worry I will be taking pictures and sharing with you all when I get back! And these will have labels on them that match my super cute vanilla extract labels I just wanted you to see what the sugar looks like.

So I will be giving away 5 pairs of containers of sugar and you get to pick which kind you want! So that means you can have one of each or both the same it is up to you, and if you don't want them labeled so you can pass them off as your own I can do that too! :) All you have to do is leave a comment making sure to leave an email address, or post something on twitter and leave another comment, if you do both so you have double the chances of winning!
This is open to US and Canada only and will close at 5pm Central time on May 26th! So pass it on and Good Luck!

Vanilla Sugar

5lbs of sugar
8 vanilla beans

Pour sugar into an airtight container and place halved vanilla beans into the sugar so that the sugar completely covers them. Wait about a month and you have vanilla sugar, and just like the extract just keep putting more sugar into the container and you will continue to get vanilla sugar for a few years with out changing the beans.

Lemon Lime Sugar

10 lbs of sugar - 5 for lemon and 5 for lime
Zest of 6 lemons
Zest of 10 limes

Zest the citrus and let it sit out for about 15 - 20 minutes to dry slightly. Then mix together with the sugar and let sit out at room temperature for a few hours so that the citrus zest dries out and you won't have clumps of sugar. I think I'm going to run mine through the food processor too so that it can be superfine sugar and can dissolve better into drinks.

Speaking of Drinks, you might be thinking what could I use these for or what could I tell the recipient to do with the sugar. Well I have a few ideas, Both can be used as a sweetener for a multitude of drinks, iced tea, coffee, and mojitos just to name a few! And they could also be used as rimming sugar for glasses, And try using vanilla sugar and cinnamon to make your cinnamon sugar it adds a little something extra! And you can use vanilla sugar to replace regular sugar in any baked good, I would suggest giving them a little more than my small jars if you were going to do that. But honestly the possibilities are endless, so make some already!

Monday, May 18, 2009

And the People who get to Taste my Hand Crafted Vanilla Extract Are.....

Through the wonderful the 3 Random numbers are....... 29, 18 and 8. Congrats I will be sending you some Handcrafted Vanilla Extract!

And Because I hit my 50 people comment mark I picked one more person to win some extract!

So gave me number........ 17!!!!!!!!!

29 -
Megan said...

I would love to try your vanilla!!! And I love the little bottles that you used.
I voted for your risotto. I have a recipe in the contest too but after seeing several of you with votes in the 1000's, I gave up on my poor queasadilla with little 50 votes. LOL O-well!

18 -
Ingrid said...

Oh, hey! I'm crossing my fingers that I win so I don't have to make my own. :)

Good luck on your contest....gonna hop over and check it out now.

8 -
Mary Ann said...

Wait! Sorted it out - you can find the tweet here:

17 -

Miss Isabelle said...

Yes, please!

I tweeted -

And to answer some of the questions I was asked -

I get my Vanilla Beans from Vanilla Saffron Imports.

I got my bottles and basically any jar or bottle I ever get for anything at Specialty Bottle.

My labels - now this was a pain in the you know what. I downloaded every program I could find and nothing would work/I didn't have patience to learn anything that complicated, these were supposed to be easy labels. So finally I used the background image and altered the dimensions to fit the label size and then used Avery's Design Pro software since that was the label brand I was using and set the picture as the back ground. I love how they turned out I just wish I could have figure that out day one instead of day 10! :)

And Don't worry for those of you who didn't win I made some more goodies a few months back and before I leave for London on Thursday I will do another giveaway!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

An Exercise of Patience

I hear patience is a virtue and I have patience to a point. And that point ends every day when I leave work. I'm not joking, after dealing with clients all day long and letting them complain and yell and me and still having to answer them back in a happy voice drains all the patience out of me. So don't even think about calling for tech help after I'm done for the day, cause I can guarantee I will be snippy unless I had a good day at work which those are rare so err on the side of caution! All work complaints aside, I'm normally a patience person but I'm also a big fan of instant gratification. Who doesn't like eating a candy bar on the walk out of the store instead of waiting to go home.

So when I decided to make my own vanilla extract I knew it would be better to wait even though I would want to use it right away. So wait I did, much longer than I probably needed but it was well worth the wait. While bottling some of the extract I could not believe how great it smelled. Honestly the best smelling vanilla extract that I have ever found. And its so easy to make, honestly 5 minutes to make a bottle and then in a little while you have vanilla extract. And if you double the recipe like me you can surprise all your friends with the fantastic present of hand crafted vanilla extract.

So since I consider you all my friends, I will be giving away 3 bottles of my hand crafted vanilla extract to 3 lucky people. So leave a comment or re post on twitter and leave the link to your twitter, or you could do both and up your chances of winning! Please just leave an email address with your comment so that I can get your info after the contest is over. The contest will end Monday May 18th at Noon Central time. Sorry only US and Canada only since it is a liquid product. Good luck and I hope all of you try to make your own extract!

Handcrafted Bourbon Vanilla Extract

For full information please go HERE

What I used

6 Bourbon Vanilla Beans
4 oz Pure Vanilla Extract
2 - 750 ml bottles of vodka - 1 for the starter and 1 to top off once you start using it

In a 1 quart or liter glass container with a screw top lid combine the vodka and vanilla extract. Split the vanilla beans and cut them in half length wise. You can scrape out some of the seeds too and add them in if you want. Then add in the vanilla beans and shake the bottle. Now comes the patience, add in more vanilla beans each month and shake once a week.

Do this for at least 2 months. I left it for a year because I didn't feel like the extract was as dark as it should be and because I shoved them to the back of the cabinet and forgot about them for a while. Once you have waited your desired time, pour some into a container for you and top off the bottle with vodka.

Keep adding more beans and topping the bottle off as you use it and you will have vanilla extract forever. And you can double, triple, quadruple this recipe I would just keep the bottle size the same and have a few bottles going at once.

Please Rate my Recipe HERE. You don't have to sign up for anything just hover over the stars and hopefully I can win my first contest!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Convenience and Taste can you have it all?

I have a love hate relationship with food contests. I love to enter them, they are a lot of fun and break me out of my comfort zone when it comes to food. However, I really don't like to use pre-made products and that is what most of the contests require as they are sponsored by a company. Which I totally understand because the money has to come from somewhere and its not like I never use convenience items myself. Its just I always have left over items because I get all these great ideas for contests and then make some and then I also have to bake for my blog so it gets to be hectic and I never end up finishing all of the products I buy. And I don't normally cook with them so that makes it even harder. So while doing my spring cleaning and getting rid of some stuff in my pantry, I was faced with 3 boxes of corn muffin mix and I knew throwing them out would be the wrong thing to do. So I let them sit there and I thought about what to do with them. They sat there for 2 long weeks, and finally it hit me what to make and boy am I glad I did. This cake was delicious and I had to get it out of the house quick before I ate it all myself. So you really can have it all with convenience and taste in one great dish. This might just be the start to some new baking ideas, but don't get your hopes up I still like doing things the old fashioned way!

Plum Cornbread Upside down Cake

Cake Layer
3 - 7.5 oz boxes of corn muffin mix
1 1/2 cups of flour
3/4 cup of sugar
3 cups of buttermilk
2 tablespoons of vanilla bean paste

Plum Layer
2 lbs of frozen plums, drained and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons of brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl combine the corn muffin mix, flour and sugar, stir to combine. Add in the buttermilk and vanilla bean paste and stir until incorporated and set aside. In the bottom of 2 9 inch cakes pans and 3 mini cake pans (or you could just get rid of the rest of the batter :) ), place 1/2 of a stick in each of the 9 inch cake pans and divide the remaining butter evenly amongst the mini cake pans. Place all the cake pans in the oven to let the butter melt. Remove from the oven once the butter has melted and add in 1/4 of brown sugar to each of the 9 inch cake pans and divide the rest amongst the mini cake pans, stir so that the brown sugar and butter are incorporated. Layer the plum slices in a decorative patter and then cover with the cake batter. Bake the 9 inch cakes for 25 -30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Bake the Mini cakes for 15- 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes and then invert and let them cool completely.

Please Rate my Recipe HERE. You don't have to sign up for anything just hover over the stars and hopefully I can win my first contest!

Good things come in Cold Packages

I love scones. Especially in the springtime but I hate that when you buy scones that they are only really good for that day. The next day they kind of taste stale and cardboardy. So when I make a batch of scones I always end up with wasted ones because I can only eat so many in a day. So I thought why not try freezing them and see if I could just bake them off as needed. So here is my experiment, I made these scones 3 weeks ago and put them in the freezer. I figured 3 weeks was a good time frame to see if they would last a while in the freezer. And then I baked them off, and boy were they good! Honestly you could not tell they had been frozen at all and I only had to bake 2 and the rest are ready for me anytime I want a scone. So if you ever run into the issue of having left over heavy cream like I do, whip up a batch of these scones with whatever flavor you want and stick them in the freezer for a rainy day, you won't regret it. They honestly take minutes to make and people will look amazed as you pull hot scones out of the oven at a moments notice!

Pesto Parmesan Scones

2 cups of AP Flour
1/4 cup of sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
4 oz of cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons of Pesto
1/4 cup of Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add in the cubed butter and stir to coat the butter with flour. Using a pastry blender cut into the butter until they become the size of small peas. Add in the heavy cream and stir to combine.Add in the Pesto and the Parmesan cheese and stir a few times but do not full incorporate the pesto. Once it starts to come together into a dough, turn it out onto a floured board and knead it a few times until it completely comes together. Pat the dough into a circle that is about 1 inch thick and cut as desired. I formed the dough into a circle and then sliced it into 8 triangles. Wrap the whole circle loosely in parchment paper and place in a freezer storage bag. When you are ready to bake, remove how ever many you want from the freezer and bake on for 20 to 23 minutes or until they are light golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and serve.

Please Rate my Recipe HERE. You don't have to sign up for anything just hover over the stars and hopefully I can win my first contest!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Savory Cookies, Ok we can call them Crackers

I know that not everyone loves blue cheese like I do so when I saw Ina Garten make blue cheese crackers three things popped into my head. First, Yum! and Second who can afford to take really good Stilton and make crackers with it. Not me that is for sure if I can afford Stilton I sure as hell won't be using it to make crackers. Third, I could make those with other cheese no problem. So I started thinking about what combinations of cheese and flavors I would like and came up with the crackers below. Or should they be called cookies because that is more what they are like but I think the name savory cookies is kind of strange and off putting to people. So I'll stick with the cracker name even though they are more like cookies than traditional crackers. They were really good and I love that they worked in the freezer because her directions did not talk about that maybe because they were made with blue cheese. But I am all about the freezer and being able to pull things out and make it seem like you were baking all day. So I have a few more freezer staples up my sleeve for another post or two so look out for those!

Parmesan Thyme Crackers inspired by Blue Cheese and Walnut Crackers

1 cup of unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 cups of AP Flour
3 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of ground black pepper
16 oz of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons of dried thyme

Cheddar Paprika Crackers
1 cup of unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 cups of AP Flour
3 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups of grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons of paprika

In the bowl of a mixer cream together the butter and the cheese until smooth. In a bowl combine the flour, salt, pepper, and spice and stir to combine. On low speed add in the flour mixture and mix until combined. You may need to add a little water depending on your dough, start with 1 tablespoon. Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and press into a disk, divide that disk in half. And form each half into a log about 1 inch around. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 days. Or place them in a freezer bag and freeze, then just let thaw overnight in the fridge and 30 minute at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350. Slice the logs into 3/8th inch rounds and place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 -22 minutes until they just start to brown. Cool on a wire rack and serve.

Please Rate my Recipe HERE. You don't have to sign up for anything just hover over the stars and hopefully I can win my first contest!