An Apple a Day (or in three courses…) Keeps the Doctor Away

I spent part of last weekend exploring a local apple orchard, Boyd Orchards, for the first time with my husband and a few friends. It was a nice excuse to spend some time outside and we ended up getting quite a few apples.

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I wanted to put these apples to good use in my self-designed culinary training. This challenge focused on using apples in an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert for a complete three course meal. The rules were a little different than past mystery ingredient challenges. First, I could shop for ingredients. Second, the no help rule still stood meaning I couldn’t use recipes or the internet for help. So, the recipes for the three course meal to follow were conjured up in my own head and in my own kitchen.

It all started with a few beautiful apples.

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First Course

I made an grated apple and carrot slaw tossed in balsamic vinagrette. I topped this with hand grated gouda. No special measurements here; just make it to your personal taste. One recommendation though, drain it well. The apples made it a little watery. P.S. apples do not grate well, they just kind of turn to mush.

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Second Course

I finely chopped an apple and yellow squash and sauteed them in butter. 

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I added some of the grated gouda to the mixture until it melted and coated the apples and squash. While the cheese melted I butterflied the pork chops.

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I stuffed each porkchop with the filling and closed them for baking. I coated each with some olive oil, garlic powder, and fresh rosemary. I baked them for about 45minutes at 350 degrees.

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My only recommendation is to add more cheese. There is no such thing as too much cheese!

Third Course

I baked bisquick biscuits (I know that recipe by heart!). While the biscuits baked, I cooked sliced apples in butter and brown sugar.

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Next, I used beaters to combine 1/2 confectioner sugar (that was all I had on hand so I had to make it work!) with cream cheese (4 oz or a 1/2 package). Then, I made fresh whipped cream. To flavor the whipped cream, I used the buttery brown sugar mixture the apples had been cooking in and whipped it a little longer (all by hand…what a work out!). I put the cheesecake like mixture on top of the open faced biscuit, topped it with the carmelized apples, and then added the whipped cream.

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HOLY COW. I wish I could eat this dessert every day. I am adding this to the menu for Thanksgiving (and Christmas and every family gathering ever). However, I would like to make the biscuits from scratch next time.

Joe’s verdict: He was not a fan of the slaw and I agree. The stuffed pork chop and dessert are both keepers. The dessert got the highest compliment; he even said that it could sell in a restaurant. Maybe Stella’s would take us up on that?

We still have more apples than we can reasonably use before they go bad so I am going to freeze some. I will likely use them for a childhood favorite, fried apple pies or a crockpot applesauce recipe that I found.

Off to recover from a very filling meal!

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A New Food Truck in Town

Joe and I have always been interested in the food truck culture. In fact, we even had a few fun engagement photos taken at a food truck in Lexington thanks to our good friends Kim and Dave at 522 Photography. Very few people have seen this one…

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Food trucks have been quite the rage lately, and simultaneously quite the controversy in Lexington. There is a great rotation of food trucks like Fork in the Road, Cluckin Burger, and Bradford BBQ featured at local breweries like West Sixth Brewing and Country Boy Brewing.

Tonight, we had our weekly West Sixth Running Club. Next week I’ll earn my running club t-shirt. Woo hoo! After the run, we decided to sample Lexington’s newest food truck: The Athenian Grill. We had “Crazy” Feta and a lamb gyro. It was νόστιμα (Google translate tells me this is the greek word for delicious)!

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If you are one of my blog followers in the Muncie area, get excited! Your first food truck is in progress! Check out Slop on Top.

If you haven’t explored the food truck culture yet, you are missing out on a great culinary experience, wherever you are.

 

Nothing Beets a Good Cooking Challenge After a Long Day

Joe helped me to kick off this week with a new food challenge. You can see beets, horseradish, and a mysterious white package pictured. I got one of Chef Ramsay’s favorites…scallops! Joe also mentioned that part of my challenge was using the beets AND the beet greens. He was also very generous in extending my challenge time to 1 hour and 15 minutes instead of one hour because he’d done his homework on cooking beets.

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Luckily, I had learned how to work with beets and beet greens at a recent Soups On! event where we made roasted beet soup. So, I knew I needed to get the beets started.

First, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees. I cut the ends off of each beat, drizzled a little olive oil on them, and individually wrapped them in aluminum foil to roast. I roasted them for 45 minutes.

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While the beats roasted, I chopped one shallot and minced two cloves of garlic. I sauteed them in olive oil for about 5 minutes. I pulled about one tablespoon of this mixture out and placed it into a second saute pan.

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In the remaining shallot and garlic mix, I added 2 tablespoons of goat cheese and kept it on medium heat until it melted. I set this aside for later.

Then, I mixed up a cajun seasoning mix. I used 1/2 teaspoon of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Then I added 1/4 teaspoon of paprika and cayenne pepper.

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Chop the beet greens into bite sized pieces (avoid using the stems) and put them into the second sautee pan (the one with a tablespoon of shallot and garlic mixture) and a little olive oil. Put them on medium low heat and toss occassionally until wilted.

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Next, it is time to start the scallops. I rinsed them and patted each dry. Lightly sprinkle each side with the cajun seasoning mix. Place them in a third sautee pan in olive oil on medium heat. You will cook for about 5 minutes on each side.

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While the scallops are cooking on the first side, peel the skins off of the beets. Careful! They are very hot! Put the beets and the shallot, garlic, and goat cheese mixture into a blender. Blend until you have a consistency like mashed potatoes.

The final dish is cajun scallops over sauteed beet greens served with beet mash. I added horseradish and cocktail sauce as a scallop garnish and a touch of goat cheese as the beet mash garnish. For future reference: No horseradish or cocktail sauce is needed – the cajun seasoning is perfect!

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The verdict? Judge Joe thought the goat cheese was a nice touch to the beets, agreed with me that the sauces weren’t necessary for the scallops, and that the scallops were cooked perfectly!

Even though we were happy with the results, there are a few other things I’ll do differently. Next time (when I’m not on a time crunch), I’ll roast the beets for an hour instead of 45 minutes and I will try Gordan Ramsay’s scallop method.

I just finished a challenge and I am already excited for another. What’s next?

“Life changing donuts”

A friend’s facebook post about amazing donuts and a great back patio prompted my first (but, certainly not my last!) visit to North Lime Coffee and Donuts.

I’m not sure how long this place has been around, but it must be one of Lexington’s best kept secrets. They have a small selection of their daily donuts and then a donut of the month special. Despite the small selection, the donuts they have are done so well!

I had the strawberry cake donut (front) and my mom had the key lime donut (back). The were amazing! The shop’s website may sound dramatic, but they are not lying when they say “Life changing donuts.”

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I am convinced that they are life changing donuts from both the taste and the large number of people lining up for them early in the morning. I’m looking forward to trying another kind next time.

I’ve never tried making donuts, but in the spirit of fall (today is the first official day of fall!) and being healthier (baked not fried!), I think I’ll try making this recipe for Baked Pumpkin Donuts.

If you try North Lime Coffee and Donuts or making your own donut recipe, let me know how it goes!

Kentucky Bourbon BBQ Chicken and Beer Cheese Pizza

Last week we attended the Olympics of Pizza, the Bluegrass Pizza Bakeoff where individuals and businesses competed on traditional and non-tradtional syles of pizza trying to win a spot in the pizza olympics in Italy. This inspired me to make my own version of a non-traditional pizza.

There are already places in Lexington that do a pizza that is representative of Kentucky: The Hot Brown Pizza. You can find this at Saul Good or The Grey Goose. I still wanted to do a Kentucky inspired pizza, so I thought about those things that are unique to Kentucky. Of course, I thought about tobacco, coal, and horses, but those things would not be very appetizing on a pizza.  =)

Bourbon? Beer cheese? Now these are ingredients I can get down with for this challenge. Because this was a different kind of challenge focused on creativity and not timing or surprise ingredients, these cooking directions will look a little different than my posts about mystery ingredient challenges.

First, before I left for work, I put chicken tenders into the crockpot and let them cook on low. This makes them super tender and easy to shred. 

When I came home, I started the homemade pizza sauce. I sauteed a finely chopped half an onion, Kentucky grown tomatoes (thanks mom and dad!), 2 garlic cloves, and a half teaspoon of oregano in olive oil. I let this simmer for about 20 minutes while I worked on other ingredients.

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I shredded the chicken and tossed it in about one cup of bourbon barbeque sauce. This is not my own recipe, but it is made from scratch. I used Four Roses bourbon because that is what we had on hand.We had it leftover from a wings dinner with friends, and if you’ve been following my blogs, you already know how I feel about repurposing leftovers.

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I did cheat a little and buy a refrigerated pizza crust. Had I made this on a weekend I may have made a pizza crust from scratch when I had time for the dough to rise. I used a new artisan whole wheat crust by Pillsbury.

After rolling out the crust, I pre-baked it for about 6 minutes. Then, I spread Kentucky beer cheese over the entire crust. Someday, I’ll make it to the Beer Cheese Festival.

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I used my new purple immersion blender to blend the pizza sauce to a smooth consistency.

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Last, spread the pizza sauce on top of the beer cheese, added the bourbon BBQ sauce chicken, green peppers, mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese. I popped this into the oven until the crust edges were golden brown, which took about another 8 minutes.

This is my non-traditional Bourbon Chicken and Beer Cheese Pizza!

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Kentucky Bourbon – A good ingredient to keep around!

We’ve found several uses for bourbon in cooking since we’ve moved to Kentucky. I make bourbon balls each Christmas and I recently started using a bourbon and balsamic vinegar marinade on steaks that is amazing (thank you Pinterest)!

Last night we had a dinner date with our good friends Jon and Amy. We decided to have wings with various dipping sauce, veggies, tater tots, and watermelon. My contribution to the meal was a barbeque sauce made from scratch (my first attempt ever!). Of course, this was not something I could do without a little internet help. I found this receipe for Bourbon Barbeque Sauce.

It had great reviews, and I must add my great review to it as well. Even though I normally like a little more kick to my sauces, it was very flavorful. A great balance of sweet and tangy. .

There were a few things I did differently and a few things I will do differently next time. First, I was missing one ingredient; I did not have liquid smoke at home. I skipped the liquid smoke. Second, I was worried that the recipe called for cider vinegar and I only had apple cider vinegar; turns out they are the same thing! Third, I included about a half a cup less of ketchup to avoid too much tomato in the taste. Everything seemed to work out well.

What would I do differently? Next time I’m adding chopped jalapenos to give it a little more kick and I’ll blend the sauce to make it a little smoother.

Another great adventure in the kitchen and I’ll work on developing my own signature sauce now that I’ve got the basics down!

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Orange you glad you are following my blog?

Today was grocery shopping day. While I shopped for our normal needs, Joe shopped for my challenge needs. He has been working on learning Spanish for a few months using a site called Duolingo and recently started a free Spanish class at the public library. My guess is that his ingredient selection was inspired by his recent interest in Spanish and our recent trip to the Festival Latino de Lexington, which inspired a previous blog called “A Taste of Lexington’s Latino Culture.”

This week’s ingredients included salsa, red onion, jicama, oranges, and chorizo.

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Joe has done it again…jicama?!?! As you know, my challenge rules don’t allow for me to use the internet for help. It looked like a potato, so I treated it like a potato.

To turn this set of ingredients into dinner, this is what I did. First, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees while I cubed half of the jicama and put the cubes into a single layered, olive oil coated pan. I lightly sprinkled black papper and chili powder on the cubes and put them into the oven. This was also the moment when I decided to make two dishes: dinner and a dessert. While pulling the black pepper out of our lazy susan, I noticed a box of instant vanilla pudding.

While the chorizo and about 1/4 cup of red onion into a large skillet fried, I decided to use the vanilla pudding for a dessert. I of course wanted to do something to put my own spin on it and to add cohesion between the dinner and the dessert. I used the zest of one orange and 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder to add to the pudding mix (I only used half of the mix because I only had enough milk for 1 cup when the full recipe called for 2 cups). I whisked this together for about 2 minutes, added zest to the top and put it in the refrigerator to chill.

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I cut the orange in half and squeezed half of it into the chorizo and onion mixture. I let it continue simmering.

Next, I used avocado, a very small amount of red onion, about a half teaspoon, of cumin, lime juice, and the juice of a quarter of an orange to make my own version of guacamole. I’m sure there are other ingredients in guacamole, but I coudln’t remember them without the internet. Turns out there is garlic, tomato and no cumin (Guacamole Recipe).My version was still very fresh and tasty!

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The final step in the meal was heating the flour tortillas we had in our refrigerator left over from another meal. I spread a small amount of butter on one side of the tortilla and heated it in a skillet flipping them once. The final meal was orange infused chorizo tacos with orange guacamole, a side of salsa topped jicama, and the chocolate orange pudding.

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Joe and I agreed that, overall, it was a good meal. The only thing that didn’t really appeal to me was the jicama. Even though I baked it for 55 minutes (it was the very last thing I plated!), it still never got tender like potatoes would and the skins got chewy. Although the salsa on top helped with the flavor, it was sweeter than I had imagined. Next time, I will try taking the skins off, slicing even smaller, and baking longer at 425 instead of 400 (when I’m not on the clock!).

We still have a half of a jicama left, so I looked around for a different recipe to try. I think I’ll try a shrimp, mango, and jicama salad sometime this week.

What do you like to do with jicama?