July 30, 2012

love is the pits: simple cherry crumble

My family cares for people through food.  When someone visits my mom's house, she is not convinced that they're taken care of until they've got food and/or drink in front of them.  Food is how we show concern.  It's how we celebrate.  It's how we connect. 

So when I met and fell in love with my husband, it was crucial that I perfect his favorite foods because I wanted him to know how much I loved him.  On the top of the list: cherries.  He loves cherry desserts every which way: cherry pie, cherry cobbler, chocolate cherry cordials, cherries, cherries and cherries.  One thing that's a must for him is that the cherries appear in their most natural state.  I tend to agree.  Many cherry pie recipes include ingredients like cornstarch or tapioca to thicken the fruit filling, and I find it unnecessary and sometimes unappetizing.    

The first time I made my husband this cherry crumble, I also made him a deal.  If he washed, pitted, and chopped all the cherries, I'd make the crumble.  Cherries are not an easy fruit to deal with and I dreaded cutting away all those seeds by hand.  The pits are, well, the pits.

However, when we registered for our wedding, we found this little gadget and suddenly cherries weren't so daunting.  The OXO cherry pitter is still in frequent use in our kitchen, more than four years later.  In that time, I've gotten the cherry crumble recipe down to just five ingredients and I can whip one up in no time. 

no longer intimidating.

A note on the crumble: my mom's 'recipe' for the crumble mixture is basically to combine equal parts flour and sugar, then add the butter 'until it's right.' I've found success with these ratios, but you can certainly add more/less butter until the mixture is a consistency you're happy with. 

this is what 'until it's right' looks like.

Simple Cherry Crumble

Makes eight servings
2 lbs fresh cherries – washed, pitted, stemmed and cut into thirds
juice of one lemon
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick cold butter, cut into small cubes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare an 8” or 9” square baking dish with nonstick spray.

Mix cherries and lemon juice in large bowl; set aside.
Using a stand mixer*, combine flour and sugar in a large bowl.  Fit with paddle attachment and turn on lowest setting.  Add cubes of butter, a couple at a time, until butter is slowly incorporated and mixture resembles wet sand.  Take one tablespoon of mixture and blend completely into cherries.  Pour cherries into prepared pan.  Top with crumb mixture, using hands crush & sprinkle into pebble-sized crumbles.  Bake until cherries are bubbly and hot, about 45 minutes.  If desired, broil on low to brown the top.  Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.  Top with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

*This step can also be done by hand.  Incorporate butter cubes, a couple at a time, and crush with hands until sandy texture is achieved. 

the humble crumble.
This is a basic recipe that can certainly be adapted to feature different fruits.  Adding oats or nuts to the crumble would be delicious.  I find that fresh lemon juice - regardless of fruit variety used - is crucial to cut the sweetness of the crumble topping.

I had the opportunity to showcase the cherry crumble recipe - and one of my favorite gadgets - on Talk of the Town.  My lucky husband gets the leftovers from the demo. 

OXO is hosting a
Cherry Recipe Contest, and I'm entering this recipe.  The cherry pitter is something I purchased myself, and my testimony for the product is sincere. 

July 23, 2012

Anthony Bourdain to appear at my former home (sort of) + win VIP tickets

I heard the whisper of this news two months ago.  Since then, I've been sitting on it, anxious for the moment it was public knowledge.  Anthony Bourdain is coming to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center - Saturday, November 3. 

I'm proud and excited for this event for reasons that are personal.  I spent seven years working at TPAC, and I'm well aware of the efforts the dynamic staff make to book, promote, sell and facilitate shows and events that range from slam drunk sell outs to risky and unknown.  Bourdain could easily have appeared at any Nashville venue, and the fine folks at TPAC landed the show.  It's a fantastic venue to hear a larger than life personality such as Bourdain, and I'm looking forward to hearing the promised 'uncensored' material at my former work home. 

Anyway, I need not tell you the various accolades of the chef, author and television host.  You already know why you should go to the show. 

There's a presale that starts tomorrow, July 24, at 10 a.m. CST.  Tickets range from $15-65, though there's also a fantastic VIP ticket that includes a private party with the man himself.  Those tickets are $125, and here's what they include:

Premiere seating and an exclusive meet and greet session with Bourdain featuring hors d’oeuvres, a photo opportunity, a limited edition Anthony Bourdain tour poster and a limited edition tour VIP laminate. The meet and greet will be held at The Nashville City Center, featuring a menu by Chef Tandy Wilson of City House Restaurant. Promotional partners Corsair Distillery, Yazoo Brewery and Olive & Sinclair Southern Artisan Chocolates will be providing selections of their specialty spirits, beers and chocolates for all in attendance.

Finally, TPAC is hosting a giveaway for two VIP tickets over on their Facebook page.  All you've got to do is dream up five places you'd take Bourdain for a night on the town in Nashville.  Good luck!

July 11, 2012

brunch for losers: peach oatmeal yogurt muffins & vegetable frittata

With the exception of two d-word mishaps (Doritos and donuts), I've been on the four-letter-d-word wagon for a good while now.  I'm down nine pounds and my stomach is starting to look ever-so-slightly less like a popped can of biscuits.  Except now I want a biscuit.  Oh! I want a biscuit slathered with butter and a drizzle of honey.  I really love biscuits. 

This is how my mind works.  I think about food more than teenage boys think about...you know.  So the four-letter-d-word has never worked for me because I approached it as a means of sacrifice.  Of going without.  Of being unsatisfied and hungry, and therefore cranky.  I was setting myself up for failure.  This time around, I'm eating the occasional donut and still losing weight.  I'm good most of the time so I can splurge when I want.  One of the biggest struggles is the social aspect of eating and drinking.  I don't want to give that up, and I don't want my modified approach to food to keep me from enjoying food and drink with family and friends.  It's a splurge I'm not compromising. 

Enter brunch.  I love brunch.  Doesn't everyone?   Brunch is typically a leisurely, social occasion.  It's more than just a meal.  Cocktails are often involved.  However, brunch foods are typically laden with ingredients that result in the popped can of biscuits waistline (mmm...biscuits). 

I recently challenged myself to create a brunch menu that tasted and looked decadent while keeping me on track.  A visit from my mom provided the ideal opportunity.  I created a menu that provided a healthy balance of sweet and savory, which totaled at less than 500 calories* - mimosa included! 

The peach, oatmeal & yogurt muffins were, in my opinion, a slam dunk.  Though they do include sugar, they're chock full of healthy stuff and almost fat free.  I was happily eating leftover muffins for breakfast three days later.

Peach, Oatmeal & Yogurt Muffins

makes 12 large or 18 small muffins

1 cup oats
3/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup applesauce
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup dark brown sugar (loosely packed)
2 large peaches, peeled and diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease muffin pan using nonstick spray. 

In a medium bowl, stir together oats, yogurt and vinegar until fully combined.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.  Beat eggs lightly in a large bowl.  Add applesauce, vanilla and brown sugar until fully blended.  Slowly add dry ingredients until fully incorporated.  Stir in oat mixture.  Stir in peaches.  Scoop batter into muffin cups and bake 20-25 minutes, until tops of muffins are lightly browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cool before serving.

One muffin has approximately 170 calories and 1.5 fat grams.*

I believe in making quiche only when I have time to make homemade crust, which is never.  A frittata is, in my opinion, a much simpler way to enjoy eggs for brunch, and it's certainly healthier.  I love using a cast iron skillet for this recipe because it creates a crispy edge to complement the fluffy eggs inside.  Any variety of vegetables can be substituted in this recipe.

Vegetable Frittata

makes eight servings

8 large eggs
1/4 cup skim milk
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
1 tsp spicy mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup diced onion
1 tbs olive oil
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
2 cups fresh spinach, stems removed & chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into thirds
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, hot pepper sauce, mustard, salt and pepper.  Whisk lightly until fully combined.  Set aside.  Heat an 8" cast iron skillet over medium heat on the stovetop.  Add onion & olive oil, cooking until onions become translucent.  Add corn and cook until heated throughout, about two minutes.  Add spinach, stirring until it becomes slightly wilted.  Pour egg mixture over vegetables and continue to cook over medium heat about 5-7 minutes, or until eggs begin to pull away from the edge of the skillet.  About two minutes into this process, top with tomatoes and cheese.  Place the entire skillet into the oven and bake about 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the eggs are set.  Allow to rest five minutes before serving.

When cut into eight pieces, this frittata has approximately 145 calories and 9.5 fat grams per serving.*

I rounded out the menu with fresh fruit and blood orange mimosas.  One five-ounce mimosa has approximately 130 calories, which totals less than 500 calories and about 10 fat grams for the entire meal*.  Cheers! Now someone hand me a donut.

*I calculated fat and calories by adding totals from individual ingredients used and dividing them by number of servings.  You should know that I'm not great at math.  This is probably all correct though.  Your results may vary based on serving sizes, ingredients used, etc.