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Chocolate Mint Simple Syrup

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I woke up and lied in bed staring into the ceiling as if it would begin moving like clouds before the rain. I changed my position several times allowing my limbs to find the areas of the sheets that still had just a little chill left. I could hear my neighbor cranking up his F 450 and I was reminded that it was Saturday, the rumble always seemed to beat my alarm clock by minutes, in the annoying way that nature calls moments before your appearance is requested at scheduled event.

I swept the gray elephant laced duvet and comforter back, my wife still curled in the sheets, I placed my bare feet on the cold wood floor. The golden light had begun to make its way through the bathroom blinds, the way it does every morning during the six o’ clock hour. Sometimes I lie and stare into it for several minutes, and it often seems like hours, until the light begins to shift. My mind consumed with what the day will bring, and I begin to anticipate whether or not I will accomplish everything I want to do within the allotted hours. Check lists have never been ‘my thing.’ I like the sound of organization but when it comes down to it – executing the things I set before myself often feels like an interminable task. I was proud of myself for getting my herbs planted this year because last year wasn’t that successful. And my basil died a slow death, and yes, I’m ashamed, but I digress.

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Chocolate Mint Simple Syrup, Nashville TN, Chocolate, Easy Bartender Recipes, Cocktail Mixers, Mint Tea RecipesI’ve been watering my mint for a few months now and I could never seem to find the time to make the simple syrup, despite the fact that the mint was simply thirty footsteps or so away. I’m working on it friends, everyday presents me with the opportunity to be better than the day before. But nonetheless, here is your recipe and its the desire of my heart that this syrup will make its way into your evening tea, top off your backyard cocktails, be drizzled over that ice cream nightcap or just a shot in your morning coffee. I hope that was enough inspiration to pause Netflix and get to work! Let me know your latest herb concoction in the comments or how would use this recipe to bring some joy to your life?

Chocolate Mint Simple Syrup

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup filtered warm water (tap if you must)
1/2 ounce chocolate mint (rinsed, stems & all)
1 tablespoon Nielsen-Massey Chocolate Extract
smidgen of kosher salt

Method

1. Over medium heat, combine the sugar, salt and water, whisk together until most of the sugar dissolves. Add the rinsed mint with stems and leaves, you may chop it up if you like, but not necessary.

2. Bring syrup to a simmer for about 6 minutes or so, remove it from the heat, stir in chocolate extract and allow it to come to room temperature before storing it. I didn’t have some ‘cool bottle’ to put it so I sprung for one of favorite storage vessels, my Weck jars. Order them here.

Note: I stored this simple syrup at room temp in a cool place (but not the fridge) for two weeks and it kept beautifully. Also, try a little bit of this in your Mint Julep for a new twist!

Chocolate Mint Recipes, Chocolate Mint, Simple Syrup, Cocktail Recipes, Nashville TN

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Bulleit Bourbon Banana Curd

 

The first time I made The Faux Martha’s Banana Curd, I knew it wouldn’t be the last time. It took no time to make and it was pure unadulterated joy in a jar if you know what I mean? So this week when I realized the bananas on the counter wouldn’t be consumed in time, it only seemed natural to revisit this recipe again. But I wanted to do something slightly different this time – I wanted to up the ante, so the addition of bourbon only felt right. I enjoy how cooking with alcohol can transform what you’re making into something a little more magical than what you started with. And bourbon is one of the alcohols that I enjoy adding to my desserts. I think you’ll enjoy this addition to an already delicious fruit spread/topping.

I didn’t eat a lot of bananas growing up because they made me itch, but if they were cooked in something, it didn’t seem to bother me as much. I talked about this allergy in the previous grape vinaigrette post, check it out. My most familiar memories of banana creations growing up was my mom’s warm banana pudding. (yes, I said. “Warm.”)


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Do you remember walking in the house as a kid and the smell of something sweet caught your attention with the first squeak of the front door? Your feet landed across the threshold and you knew something good was happening, and you completely forgot that dinner had to precede your destiny with that slice of cake or pan of brownies. Your eyes swelled with anticipation and your nostrils were intoxicated by the heavenly aroma. And sometimes my mom would make me a small separate one with no bananas, just cookies, banana cream, french vanilla pudding and cool whip. Every bite inspired another sigh of joy that it was in my hands and entertaining every taste bud.

I often tell people about this dessert and I see the look of wonder in their eyes at the thought of warm banana pudding, but you shouldn’t second guess it. It’s amazing…well, at least to my family. But I digress, let’s make some boozy curd. If you really enjoy banana desserts, I’m sure this will make it to your top ten of delicious things to make for friends and family, your co-workers if you actually like them? (I, kid! :-)) I’m also contemplating a cocktail to make with this creamy goodness, so stay tuned for that!

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Bulleit Bourbon Banana Curd

Yields: 2 1/4 cups

3 over ripened bananas (smashed)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (Nielsen-Massey)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 egg yolks (large eggs)
1/4 cup Bulleit Bourbon Whiskey

Method

1. Smash your bananas in a bowl using a fork until you obtain a lumpy and creamy consistency. Yes, we’re talking bananas so the contradiction of lumpy and creamy works here. 🙂 Set aside.
2. Whisk your egg yolks in a separate bowl and set them aside.
3. Over medium-high heat in a 1.75 qt sauce pan, melt the butter first, then add your sugar, lemon juice, kosher salt & vanilla. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes until you achieve a smooth sauce and the sugar has fully dissolved.
4. Add your smashed bananas, stirring constantly, allow sauce to cook for about 4 minutes and mixture starts to bubble.
5. Remove about 1/4 cup of the hot banana sauce into the eggs, but you have to whisk it in quickly or else you’ll have scrambled eggs. Then you’ll have to crack more eggs and try it again.Pour the egg mixture back into the sauce pan, once again, whisking quickly to combine the ingredients. Add bourbon.
6. Allow sauce to cook for about 3 to 4 more minutes until the mixture becomes slightly transparent when coating a spoon. Taste to see if the bite of the alcohol has cooked out or if you want it a little on the boozy side, your good to go!
7. Transfer to blender, food processor or use a beurre stick to puree the mixture until smooth. I transferred it to my favorite Weck jars and store it in the fridge up to 3 weeks.

Banana Curd, Bourbon Banana Curd
This recipe would make a great gift for your foodie friends, a baby shower, housewarming etc. A dollop goes great in your acai bowl, granola cereal, oatmeal, a smoothie or nestled between two scoops of your favorite ice cream. The options are endless and I intend on coming back with a cocktail for you so there’s that!

Recipe adapted from The Faux Martha dot com

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Roasted Grape Vinaigrette

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I hated grapes as a kid but I made an exception for them if they were peeled. Yes, I was that kid and it still pertains to some tannic skinned fruits today. I also didn’t like the seeds which just made me all kinds of high maintenance for my mom when trying to get me to eat them – whether it be an afternoon snack or snook into my Marvel comic laced lunch box.5b9e1356-8d89-4234-978c-d4cf317d2f31

aac18d07-cd28-4cbb-970a-25da0a8e3c62And then when I was around 6 or 7, I’m not sure, we found out that I was allergic to everything that bloomed or breathed in nature. It was a rough life as a kid but it was a good life nonetheless, once you find out all the things you’re allergic to, you simply calculate your next move, like chess, and carry-on. There were moments when I’d reach for something and forget to read the label, a few arm scratches later and all my senses were aroused and I was scrambling for Benadryl and a puff of my inhaler. Yes, allergies and asthma is no fun as an energetic youth who had a passion for life the way I did. But I survived and I’m here to tell you all about it.

These days my allergies have somewhat tamed down. I no longer require a weekly visit to get allergy shots and I am able to eat half of the foods I used to be allergic to. So I occasionally enjoy a handful of grapes as long as they’re washed thoroughly – because I learned that with some of my allergies it was about the tree or vine that the fruit itself grew on…interesting huh?3fa33a5e-400a-4597-8750-3ea5fef82c62

I later learned that it was called OAS, Oral Allergy Syndrome, and it happens when one eats  raw or uncooked fruit. You can read more about it here. Once I discovered that it had a name, life became a little bit easier and I was like give me all the fruit pie I can stand! And one frustrating thing about the allergy is that I didn’t always have symptoms – it happened when I was about 7 or 8 years of age. And till this day, there are those days where I all I long for is a juicy peach or sweet gala apple to be devoured in the palm of my hand.

I won’t even tell you about how heartbroken I was when tomatoes got thrown in to the mix…le sigh. Any who, I’m done depressing you about my allergy problems, let’s get to the roasted grape vinaigrette. I really hope you all will give this a try. It’s really delicious and I believe that it would be great on/in a variety of things from salads, wraps to your yogurt bowl (yes, your yogurt bowl).2de95a07-f590-422b-8f58-8bb9f9e19256

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Roasted Grape Vinaigrette

1.5-2 lbs seedless grapes
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (optional)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp kosher salt (to taste)

Method

1.Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Remove your grapes from the vine, rinse them thoroughly and pat them dry. Place them in a bowl and toss them in 1 tablespoon oil, and sprinkle a about a teaspoon of salt making sure that everything is coated evenly. Pour onto a sheet pan and roast for about 16-20 minutes, or until skin begins to wrinkle and juices begin to caramelize on the pan. I used my Williams-Sonoma Gold Touch non-stick pan for easy clean up.

2. Once the grapes are room temp or completely cooled, transfer them into a blender with the oil and puree until smooth. There is no need to stream in your oil. Scrape down the sides and once your puree is nice and smooth, add your vinegar, sugar and a little salt as you go until it is seasoned to your liking.

3. Transfer your vinaigrette to an airtight container and keep it in your fridge, it will keep a little over a week if you let it last that long.

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Roasted Radishes & Garlic Aioli

radish recipes, roasted radishes, garlic aioli, personal chef, caterer, Nashville TN, food photography, vsco photosThe winter entered through the back door a little prematurely. Autumn was slowly taking steps backward to make way for the hues of blue, the last leaves to fall away from the branches of soon-to-be withered trees. You know, the ones that cast shadows behind the street lights at night. I’ve become used to hearing the wailing of those who lament winter’s arrival; grumbling  about how their desire for summer to come back because the spring time wreaks havoc on their allergies.

Roasted Radishes : The Salted Table dot com

 

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Roasted Radishes : The Salted Table dot comAs a child I had both allergies and asthma, two diseases that still bring me grief today. But I still have an appreciation for every season because the details are different; and the arrival of spring blooms versus the color change of the leaves in autumn are all things to be appreciated. And winter’s vegetables are some of my favorite to consume. The vibrant shades of cabbage nestled against the neutrals of potatoes and a splash of hearty greens all ready to be made into delectable soups, stews and pickled things if you’re skilled enough to take on the challenge.

Roasted Radishes : The Salted Table dot comI was a strange kid if you were to inquire from the right family members. I was a lover of all vegetables with the exception of okra, it had to be fried and practically burnt for me to find it palatable. Of course, I’ve since matured and adore it fried or pickled, but still slightly burnt (old habits die-hard). But enough of memory lane, lets talk radishes. My only familiarity with radishes growing up was at church potlucks on crudités platters and they were always the last thing left, along with celery. They were more oft than not left behind on salad bars and strewn to the side of the plate like the family member you wanted to avoid at all cost due to lack of personality. In culinary school we carved them into flowers during garde manger, shaved over salads as an a la minute need for a burst of color. I’ve only ever known them to be the red-headed stepchild of the cruciferous family…tis a shame.

Roasted Radishes : The Salted Table dot com

 

Roasted Radishes : The Salted Table dot comThe recipe I’m sharing with you today I hope changes your mind about these guys…or gals. I rather enjoy introducing radishes to my clients in this format and I have yet to see anyone shy away from giving them a try. It’s so simple and yet so rewarding-ly delicious – just a little bit of olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground black and you’re in business. This same method works well with carrots, rutabagas, parsnips and other hearty veggies as well.

You simply give your radishes a little rinse to remove any dirt that may be still hanging around. If your radishes have the greens attached, don’t trash them, simply give them a little rinse as well and saute them with a little salt, pepper and oil for a snack or toss them in your next salad. Place your radishes in a mixing bowl, roughly about two cups worth – that have been rinsed and quartered depending upon their size, you may want to cut them in half if they are the bigger ones. And I know that there is a plethora of radishes out there on the market so use your best judgment on what size you want to cut them. Just make sure that they are uniform so that they cook evenly. So place them in your mixing bowl with two gracious tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and a healthy dousing of cracked black pepper. Roast them on 425 for 20-35 minutes, or until the skin begins to wrinkle and you see a little caramelization start to take place on the white flesh. You may want to stir them around with a wooden spatula halfway through cooking. Once they’re finish, let them hang out for a moment or two before you eat them.

Roasted Radishes : The Salted Table dot comI decided to make a little garlic aioli to eat them with and used the cheaters guide to make this rather quickly. I cracked and peeled three cloves of garlic and sautéed it in a skillet with a tablespoon of olive and a little salt and pepper until the garlic was aromatic and began to caramelize a little. Once I got a good amount of color on the garlic about two minutes on medium heat – I set that mixture to the side to let it cool. I pulled out my food processor and put three heavy tablespoons of Duke’s mayo in there with two dashes of Texas Pete hot sauce, a squeeze of lemon juice (1 tbsp), the garlic with the oil that it cooked in and a dash of Worcestershire. I flipped the switch and let those ingredients come together, scraping down the sides once or twice to incorporate all the ingredients. Once I was happy with the consistency I tasted it for salt and pepper.

The rest is history friends, you have your delicious roasted radishes and a delectable condiment to dip or slather them in and all is right in the world. I hope this inspires you to give it a try next time you’re at the grocer or have some hanging out in the fridge.Roasted Radishes : The Salted Table dot com

A Trip To Stouffer’s Test Kitchen: ‘Kitchen Cupboard’ Commitment

Stouffer's Open Kitchen: Travel Blogger

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What is it about the combination of sweet and savory tomato sauce dancing around with a blend of rich nutty cheeses intermingled with a joyous melody of herbs and spices that make you feel like you’re a kid again? Lasagna to me was like the Super Bowl of meals because my mom didn’t make it often. So when we saw that box of lasagna sheets setting on the counter, we knew it was happening and the anticipation began to build. But I won’t lie to you and pretend like there were always gourmet 3-course meal at my dinner table growing up – there wasn’t, but we ate pretty well if you consider the fact that both of my parents worked full-time jobs. And it seems that we often want to give frozen foods a bad wrap as though they haven’t made their way to our kitchen tables, t.v. trays, or even the comfort of our beds a few times.

I recently received an invitation to visit the Stouffer’s Test Kitchen in Solon, Ohio to get a behind the scenes look at how they create some of the best frozen meals on the market. We also learned that Stouffer’s would be launching a campaign called the ‘Kitchen Cupboard Commitment‘, which vows that they are using the same ingredients that you would find in your pantry at home. Did you hear that?…no preservatives or unnecessary additives folks! And they are starting the process with their beloved lasagna. So you can pick their product out of your frozen food section without batting an eyelash. How sweet is that? I mean, talk about having a piece of mind when purchasing groceries for yourself and loved ones.

Stouffer's Open Kitchen: Travel Blogger

It was an eye-opening experience into the passion and commitment that goes in to getting these meals onto your table. We were treated like royalty on this two-day trip and the food provided by the Test Kitchen Chefs was nothing short of fantastic. And I’m pretty critical when it comes to what I eat, well, if you exclude my penchant for gummy bears and chocolate (wink). We got the opportunity to work side-by-side with the chefs to see how they prepared the lasagna, and the best part is that we broke off in to groups to make the different types of lasagna and then we got to try them all – win!

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We also learned the history of the Stouffer’s family and did you know that it all started with a small coffee shop where they sold sandwiches and buttermilk? Not to mention, we accrued a handful of fun facts and stories about how the brand grew to what is today. After spending some time asking the staff questions and hearing the stories of how they came to love the product and brand; it was clear that Stouffer’s is more than a boxed meal on a frosty shelf. It is apart of people’s lives and every box is connected to a memory.

Stouffer's Open Kitchen

On day two, we had the honor of learning a some food photography skills from some of my favorite people in life, Will and Susan of House of Brinson. If you aren’t familiar with this uber-talented duo of food/life-style photographers then you should make some French press and head over to their website (Thank me later!).

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I know you might be thinking, “Yeah, yeah. You were paid to say these things.” And while yes, the entire trip was paid for by Nestle, this is indeed a product and company I don’t mind recommending to you, the reader. The marketing and branding were as transparent as they could be with answering our questions. And please believe we questioned everything from GMO to salt and fat content in the products. And I always encourage people when purchasing new or old products – to always flip it over and read the ingredient list, google the words you don’t understand, write letters to the companies of whose products you consume. The products that you have to choose from are direct result of what we as the public are asking for, so if we don’t demand higher quality then we won’t receive it. And I’m telling you that your fears of being fed unhealthy  products is being challenged by companies like Stouffer’s.

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If you are a part of the demographic whose never experienced a frozen Stouffer’s product, consider this a prompt to give their lasagna a try, or maybe some enchiladas. When you find a product that you enjoy – you too, will become a part of the family that Stouffer’s has created worldwide. Did I forget to mention that they sent me lasagna on my birthday? Yeah, talk about a happy guy! You can find more info about their products here and check out this video below of the Open Kitchen Event, you may see a familiar face.