macerated strawberries and a farewell to Spring 

macerated strawberries on The Local Forkful

When I was a child tracing the cracks of sidewalks with my tender bare feet I knew nothing of the joy that each season had to offer–I was simply on a mission to find things in the dirt and release them from the soils firm grip. It seems like yesterday Nanny was walking across the decrepit bridge to the garden in search of the overnight harvest. She would pluck a basketful of tomatoes that were tugging at the vines and grazing the moist dirt below. The Serrano peppers would be swaying in the breeze as if wanting to chime like bells on the veranda. It was indeed summer and spring was leaving behind the last of the wild berries that grew up against the fence. The old wooden fence where you could occasionally catch a glimpse of our neighbor’s dog’s eyes glaring at you in the sun. I avoided getting to close to that fence in fear of shrilling barks being directed my way with great force–and laced with disdain and contempt for my existence. That is what I knew of dogs then, not now.

macerated strawberries on The Local Forkful

I remember only having a few strawberries to eat from those bushes because they didn’t produce much fruit and I’m not sure why. But it may have something to do with the local plants in Oak Ridge contaminating our water supply, I kid, we had much supply of vegetables that never lacked the ambition of sprouting forth–only the strawberries. I was a lover of strawberries when I was a child but I was a meticulous eater of sorts, only chasing the lush red fruit and leaving the slightly bitter and tangy hull behind. This relationship was and is still the same with many other fruits today, don’t judge, you simply like what you like and we are who we are.macerated strawberries on The Local Forkful

macerated fruit, strawberries, Delvin Farms, buy local

In my family, I simply can’t recall anyone ever macerating strawberries or fruit. It just wasn’t ‘a thing’ in my family. My mother and Nanny both used the gelatin in a tub when making desserts if Nanny wasn’t putting it in Jell-O mold for a church potluck. My father’s mother was the rinse and eat from the pint kind’ve of woman, and the resident baker, my cousin Carnell would typically bake them into a cake that would be lathered with strawberry frosting. It wasn’t until my mother in-law came into the picture some eleven years later that I would actually know and love the art of macerated strawberries. I’m sure I came across it in some format or another throughout culinary school but nothing that stuck like when the MIL made them.macerated strawberries on The Local Forkful

There’s nothing like strawberries in season that will create a flutter in your heart and an excitement of your palate when you bend down to pluck it fresh from the vine. The experience of that tender bite kissed by sun, releasing that sweet juice into your mouth and without warning the corners of your lips begin to curl up the sides and you’re smiling ‘something serious’ that just can’t be contained. The strawberries you’re feasting your eyes upon in the post today are from the lovely folks at Delvin Farms and some from the folks at Kelley’s Berry Farm. I won’t lie to you I picked both of them up at East Nashville Farmer’s Market because I like to spread the love event though I occasionally have my bias depending upon the product. But I couldn’t fight the urge to have these berries in snacking distance so I sat them in the front seat, and if you know anything about Nashville traffic, it’s a nightmare. I came to an abrupt stop and the berries began to cascade in slow motion through the air and onto my ‘freshly cleaned’ car floor (wink). Well, there was no way I would be able to separate them and I don’t think the berries minded being blended so everyone was happy and now we’re spreading the love for two companies, so win win.

As you all know it’s kind’ve of a pain in the roo to put recipes into a formatted display in which you can just scroll down to the bottom and make it. I’m a talker and I’m going to tell you what to do to have this deliciousness in your mouth sooner than later. Not to mention, I love that it encourages you guys to actually read the content though I know there are those of you who hate it (sorry, not sorry)!macerated strawberries on The Local Forkful

All you need are some fresh local strawberries or some Driscoll’s or whatever store brand you can get your hands on will work. I know that I caught you kind of late with this post because strawberry season has ended for us here but you may be lucky. And be warned that most mass producers pick strawberries before they’re ready so macerating them is never a bad option. Always rinse your strawberries off unless you have a little country in you, like myself, then you eat them in the car on the way home from the market. Cut the berries into whatever size you prefer and toss them in to a couple of tablespoons of granulated white sugar. I recommend two tablespoons of sugar per pint of berries you have. Toss the berries in the sugar to give them an even coating in a bowl that’s not metal. Let them set in the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes occasionally giving them a little stir to insure that the sugar is completely dissolved. Once you have a nice syrup in the bottom and fruit has weeped just a little, you have a perfect bowl of macerated strawberries ready to be devoured. This is great to do with your kids, it makes the perfect topping for a slice of cake or a scoop of ice cream and this process also works well with peaches, plums, pineapple etc. And if you desire to use raspberries or blackberries you’ll want to crush some of the fruit to encourage juicing.

macerated strawberries on The Local Forkful

You can find this recipe on Steller Stories and please follow along for quick recipes and creative happenings in my life. I really hope you guys enjoy and I’d love to hear what you’re doing with your seasonal fruits!

macerated strawberries on The Local Forkful

 

Collard Greens, Pork Belly, Turnips and New Year’s Tradition.

Collard Greens & Southern New YearI’m not a superstitious person to say the least, but I can’t fight tradition. For as long as I can remember my family has eaten the southern staples every New Year for the first twenty years of my life and then I may have fallen of the bandwagon a few times between twenty-one and thirty but who’s counting?

It simply goes without saying that I’m a sucker for comfort food and the first of the year is just a really good reason to gorge on all of my favorite southern eats. Excuse me while I get sentimental for a moment, if you follow, you’re used to it. If not–you’ll learn. Imagine for a moment sitting on a worn in sofa, you know the one where it’s the only place you’ll take a nap despite the piercing spring you feel on your hip bone. There’s a quilt draped across the back side for easy access when the sudden urge to nap consumes you. The smell of crispy pork bits are filling the living room with a light smoke that dances beneath your nostrils. Lids are trembling from steam fighting through the pots of collards and black-eyed peas. The sizzle of butter around the sides of the cast-iron work its magic on the cornbread and in that moment–your heart is full and your stomach overwhelmed with anticipation.

See, back then New Year’s resolutions were but a thing of some other culture. It was never spoken of at our house. It was more about the blessings of being alive another year, surviving the trials and tribulations that life had brought us the previous year. Reliving the joyous moments of life events and looking forward to what the year would bring. If memory serves me well, I believe collard greens brought ‘good luck’ and I could say without hesitation that a bowl of potlikker and a hot piece of buttermilk cornbread would be a perfect last meal contender.  And anyone graced with a bowl should consider themselves none other than lucky…or blessed. There’s nothing quite like it when you talk about southern foods.Collard Greens, Pork belly, Turnips and New Year's Tradition

 

But moving on, these collard greens are so easy to make that it’s a perfect side dish to accompany various meals. And I made them the way my great-grandmother used to with a nice slab of pork belly, but you may also use a ham bone or bacon if you please. I can even recall there being some ox tail in there a time or two, so as you wish. First, I pre-heat the oven to 450° and cook off the pork belly, skin side down for about twenty-minutes to render some of the fat off and get a nice sear. While that is cooking, I simply take three bunches of collards – I rinse them under cold water to remove any residual dirt that may be hanging around. I cut the stalk out of the center because it can be annoying to chew on, well at least for me, but hold onto them. Layer the greens, roll them, and cut them into 1/2 inch ribbons. Then take one quart of water and two cups of chicken stock or three bouillon cubes for two cups of water, the stalks and bring it to a boil. Throw in a couple teaspoons of kosher salt and Texas Pete…or Tabasco. Once the liquid begins to boil, remove the stalks and add the greens, cover the pot. I usually let the greens cook for about an hour and a half before I peel, chop and my turnips. If you put them in too early, they will turn to mush and that’s not acceptable. Allow the greens to cook for about two hours or so, though there are those who believe that they should be cooked twice as long, not I.

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You can tell that the greens are done when you can penetrate them with a fork with ease, and they are tender. Not to mention, your eyes may involuntarily roll back into your head and your toes may curl. You’ll see what I mean. I love to eat greens with a hot pan of fresh made cornbread or lace hoe cakes, but my grandmother also ate them with a slice of white bread when the mood hit, so as you wish. This year has already been filled with so many changes and I’ve learned some new things about myself. Things that need improvement and things I didn’t even realize were there. Either way, I’m excited about making improvements for the better. I want 2015 to be a year filled with more ‘I dids’ instead of ‘I didn’t’s’. And I’m wishing the same for you this year. Discover something new about yourself and find ways to improve or maybe just enjoy what it is you discovered. But in the meantime, sit down and enjoy a hearty bowl of collard greens and pork belly, you deserve it.

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Peanut Butter Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies & The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

Peanut Butter Chocolate Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies More than the perfect chocolate chip cookie filled to the brim with chocolate-y goodness, a crispy rim and a chewy center is a chewy center. This has always been and always will be my favorite part of any cookie. So you crispy cookie people may want to move on. As a child, I endured the crunchy rim and saved every last moist bite of the center until the very end. The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap was the perfect opportunity for me to flex my cookie making abilities and create this idea cookie that had the perfect chew.Peanut Butter Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies

But enough about my love for chewy cookies, let’s talk about the cause! The Food Blogger Cookie Swap was created by Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen to benefit Cookies for Kid’s Cancer. I’m beyond flattered to be apart of such an awesome cause seeing as how my father-in-law and wife both fought cancer and live to tell the story. It’s a beautiful thing when my love for dessert can be used to fuel research for such a life-threatning illness. And not to mention, the thought of receiving three dozen of cookies is a no-brainer, yes please!Peanut Butter Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies & The Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap

I was thrilled like many other bloggers to receive my holiday inspired cookies and I’m already looking forward to next year. I mean, who doesn’t want cookies in their mailbox?Below, I have shared a photo of the cookies I received with a link to the blogger from whom it came from as well as a recipe for cookies! So I hope you enjoy and think about participating next year, you won’t be sorry.

 

Peanut Butter Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 sticks butter softened
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup Tucker’s Nut Butters (Cashew Butter)
2 eggs (room temp)
1 teaspoon Nielsen Massey vanilla
2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces %67 Olive & Sinclair Chocolate (chopped)
3 Tablespoons Honey Roasted Peanut Butter

Method
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a non-stick cookie sheet or silicone mat.

In a standing or electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together until fluffy. Add in the cashew butter and peanut butter to the mixture, beating until well combined. Beat in eggs one at a time and vanilla.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking soda and kosher salt. Add it slowly to the wet ingredients along with the chopped chocolate. Mix until just combined. Scoop onto a silpat or lined Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

In a stand or electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy. Break up the almond paste and add to the mixture, beating until well combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Slowly add to wet ingredients along with the chopped chocolate. Mix until just combined. Scoop onto a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet with a medium cookie scoop. You can make your cookies larger or smaller if you like but remember to change cooking temp accordingly. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they are just a light golden on the top and outside and slightly undercooked in the center. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. And try to contain yourself, they are ridiculously delicious straight out of the oven, not that I’d know or anything…

Chocolate Peppermint Blossoms via The Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap
Peppermint Blossoms via @stracciatellabella. You can visit her at http://www.stracciatellabella.blogspot.com
Butter Cookies via The Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap
Butter Cookies via @kelly_ldbaking. You can visit her at http://www.longdistancebaking.com

 

Gingerbread Cookies via The Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap
Ninja-bread cookies via @norhang. You can visit her at http://www.frommetovuu.com

 

Torched Marshmallow Pumpkin Pie with Olive & Sinclair Chocolate

Torched Marshmallow Pumpkin Pie with Olive & Sinclair ChocolateI feel as though the holidays snook in the back door on me this year. There I was mowing the grass and lounging at farmer’s market sorting through summer’s harvest and before I knew it, it was time for windbreaker’s and flu shots. But nonetheless, I love the holiday season and the first sighting of fiery leaves are an indication of warm family gatherings, the crackling of fire places and bottomless eggnog and hot chocolate. Check!

If you’ve been following along with me here at The Local Forkful long enough, then you know I’m a believer in eating dessert first, no shame necessary, because my sweet tooth is insatiable and we won’t discuss my gummy candy addiction, at least not in this post. Today, I made you a dessert that embodies the spirit of the holiday season to me–I mean, chocolate, pumpkin, graham cracker and marshmallows…how can we go wrong? (we can’t.) So dive head first into this delicious little holiday pie infused with some Olive & Sinclair goodness!

Torched Marshmallow Pumpkin Pie with Olive & Sinclair Chocolate

Thanksgiving is all about family, friends and delicious food. Luckily, the food blogging community is all about these things as well. To celebrate the holiday, Meghan from Cake ‘n’ Knife and Susannah from Feast + West are hosting Blogsgiving Dinner. There are 20 awesome blogs sharing 52 recipes

The idea is based on the old-fashioned progressive dinner party, in which you’d eat each course at a different guest’s home. Each blogger is bringing one or more dishes to the party on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of this week, so be sure to stop by each one and get some ideas for your own Thanksgiving meal. Be sure to check out today’s recipes for entrees, salads and side dishes.

We’ll be posting to social media with the hashtag #blogsgivingdinner. Hope you can join us!Blogsgiving Dinner 2014

Torched Marshmallow Pumpkin Pie with Olive & Sinclair Chocolate

2 cups roasted pumpkin or squash (pureed
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
smidge of kosher salt
2 eggs (room temperature)
2 tsp. Nielsen Massey Vanilla
1 cup miniature marshmallows

Temper Chocolate

1.5 ounces %67 Olive & Sinclair Chocolate
1 tsp. vegetable oil

Graham Cracker Crusts

1 1/2 cups crushed graham cracker
3 tbsp. AP flour
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 ounces unsalted butter (melted)
smidge of kosher salt

method

1. Using your fingers, combine graham cracker, flour, salt, sugar together and add butter one tablespoon at a time until mixture holds ball form when squeezed, set aside. Meanwhile, whisk together salt, pumpkin, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla and eggs in a bowl until smooth; set aside.

2. bring a small pot of water to a rolling simmer. chop the chocolate up and place it into a non-reactive metal bowl with the oil. stir chocolate with wooden/plastic spatula until chocolate is smooth, remove from heat and set aside.Do not leave unattended.

3. Heat oven to 375°. Place 3 tbsp of crust mixture into the bottom of a cupcake pan and using your fingers press the mixture around the sides and leave a pool in the center to pour the pie mixture into.Pour filling into crust; drop a dollop of chocolate into the center and swirl a toothpick around to create a design, bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle, but avoid piercing an area with chocolate. about 20 minutes.

4. Turn your oven on low broil or whip out your blow torch and go to town. While waiting for the oven to come up to temp, strategically place marshmallows on the top of the mini pies. Place under broiler with the door cracked and wait, do not walk away from the pies, once they are a light brown, remove and let cool to room temperature before serving. And I always recommend a scoop of ice cream.

 

Here is the rest of today’s menu. Go check out what the other bloggers are providing for your holiday feast!

Dessert

Grandma’s Pecan Pie from The Wetherills Say I Do

Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting from My Cooking Spot

Gluten-Free Apple Berry Crumble from Twin Stripe

Paleo Pumpkin Pudding from Wit Wisdom Food

Cranberry Almond Coconut Bars from Love & Flour

Torched Marshmallow Pumpkin Pie with Olive & Sinclair Chocolate from The Local Forkful

Poached Pears with Salted Maple Caramel Syrup from Home at Six

Sweet Potato Pie from Think Fruitful

Nutella Pumpkin S’mores Tart from bethcakes

Gluten-Free Acorn Squash Spice Bars from I Cook. I Eat. It’s Life.

Drunken Pecan Pie Bars from The Speckled Palate

Torched Marshmallow Pumpkin Pie with Olive & Sinclair Chocolate

 

 

Herbed Roasted Chicken & Vegan Spiced Apples & Potatoes

IMG_2896.JPGYou know those dishes that you create without any plan and you find yourself surprised at how well they come out? Well, needless to say this is one of those dishes. And yes, despite being trained to know how to cook, chefs indeed have those moments of ah-hah, that’s delicious. It’s not like the roasting of chicken is a complicated process that requires the need of bells and whistles because it doesn’t. And that’s why we flock to it as our go-to meal when there is minimal time for fussy dinner preparation. Not that I make fussy meals or anything, cough.

Over the summer my wife and I visited Asheville, NC for the Food Blogger Forum. An event where food bloggers gather and discuss our passion for food, blogging, and the art of creating community. I received a little jar of what was labeled vegan spice. At first, I had no idea what the heck the stuff was or how I was going to properly utilize it to fit into our meals, but one night I saw the spice while in the midst of trying to decode what we were going to eat for dinner based upon the scant selection of ingredients in our fridge. If there’s anything I hate more than folding laundry, its trips to the grocery store once I’m already home for the evening.

I looked in the fridge and there it was staring at me, a whole bird, two sweet potatoes, three new red potatoes and some Mutsu apples from Chattanooga that I had just purchased at Whole Foods Market. Before I knew it, I had reached for the cast-iron skillet on the shelf and I set the chicken in the pan. After a brief moment of hesitation I placed the chicken back onto a cutting board and proceeded to cut it in half after realizing we probably won’t eat the whole thing. I turned the oven to 425 degrees. I seasoned both halves of the chicken with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, finely minced thyme, oregano and I tucked two pats of unsalted butter beneath the skin, set it aside. I rinsed the potatoes and apples, removed any eyes from the potatoes that didn’t look edible and cut them into chunks. Just in case you were wondering I cored the apples. I tossed the potatoes and apples in two teaspoons of the vegan spice, one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, and a smidge of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste.

I put the chicken in the center of the cast-iron skillet and nestled the potatoes and apples around it but being careful not to completely cover the skin, because crispy skin is the key to the perfect roasted chicken. I walked away and began to write this post while I waited for it to cook and for my wife to come home. The cooking time is somewhere between 45 min to an hour, of course this is subjective based upon your oven, so properly temp your chicken for a internal temperature of 165º. There may have been some Parks & Recreation in the backdrop, laugh-out-loud, because that show slays me! I’m so grateful for Netflix…sigh. But any-who, I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as the wife and I did. I’m already in need of ordering more of that vegan spice because I’ve been using it so often. You can order it here. Enjoy and I’d love to hear about some of your ah-ha dishes that turned out un-expectedly well.