Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Our Iron Chef Competition

This year, as part of our family reunion, we did an Iron Chef Competition.  It was definitely a highlight for me.  Each couple teamed up, with my Dad joining my brother and sister-in-law, and my mom helping watch all the kiddos.  It's a good thing I have two kitchens, because with my Mom's kitchen included, we each had our own space to work in.  And it wouldn't have worked any other way.

We all had an hour and a half to make three dishes/courses. 
The secret ingredient:  Tomatoes!

It was a blast!  And I enjoyed taking pictures of all the food too.  After we all finished and plated our dishes, we described them for each other and then had a tomato feast.  It was fabulous!  And I got full way too fast!

These first three come from my Dad, my brother, and my sister-in-law:

Classic Bruschetta - a delicious mixture of tomatoes, chiles, and other simple ingredients made a perfect topping for these dainty slices.  A perfect way to start a meal.
 Their middle course was a pasta with tomatoes and thinly sliced zucchini.  The zucchini were so thinly sliced, that the heat of the cooked noodles was enough to cook them to perfection. The flavor was outstanding.  This particular dish was the one I got to too late and was so full I only sampled a tiny bit.  But it was superb.
 To finish off their three dishes, was Tomato Cake for dessert.  A mighty creative use of the secret ingredient for sure!  And how did it taste, you might ask?  Well, just ask all the kids - it was their favorite!  Light and similar to spice cake.
 The next three are my recipes.  Todd, while claiming to not be a cook, was an incredible help and made it possible to finish close to time!

Our first course was a Curried Peanut and Tomato Soup, served with Tomato Bread.  I really enjoyed the mixture of flavors in the soup, and it paired nicely with the sour dough rubbed with garlic and fresh tomatoes.
 Our middle course was spaghetti with a Butter and Onion Tomato Sauce, and served with Green Bean and Tomato Salad.  The Tomato Sauce was so bright and delicious.  Something about simmering tomatoes in butter for so long made it extra special.  I highly recommend searching the web (on just about every popular food blog) and trying out this sauce.
 Our final course was Tomato and Corn Pie.  The buttery biscuit crust was heavenly and the filling was so good one could easily eat half the pie and then have a stomach ache!
 These last three dishes were made by my sister and her husband.  My brother-in-law is the most like a REAL iron chef, and these dishes were breath-taking!  Impressive, to say the least.  I wish I had him here making sure I describe these correctly.

First, they served a fried green tomato topped with fried goat cheese and dolloped with a wild mushroom sauce.  It was paired with arugula and fresh beet salad.  WOW!  Have you ever had fried green tomatoes?  I loved them.  LOVED them!  The mushroom stuff was incredible too.
 For the middle course, a BLT was served with Tomato and Cantelope Gazpacho.  The genius in this course, was that the tomatoes in the soup were cold like they are traditionally on the sandwich, and the sandwich was hot, having a hot tomato jam in place of the cold tomatoes.  While the Gazpacho didn't rank high on the favorites list, the tomato jam was incredibly delicious.  Highly recommended.
 The final course of the night was perfectly cooked and sliced steak smothered in a fresh tomato and olive salsa and served with potato wedges with spicy tomato dip and all i oli garlic spread.  I was too full for a whole lot of this either, but the small tastes I had were so amazing.
Can you just imagine the spread we had?  Can you imagine this room full of food and full of people who love food?  It was a great night.  Even if we ended up with three very messy kitchens and a whole lot of dishes.  Thanks to the men, they we cleaned up, making this something I hope we can do again next year!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Strawberry Jam and Strawberry Conserve

I spent my day today with strawberries.  First, I decided to make freezer jam.  It's been my favorite since I was little.  I started with smashing the berries.
 Then I gathered up the ingredients and stirred the pectin into the berries and gave it a good stir off and on for 30 minutes.
 The next part always makes me laugh, more cups of sugar than berries . . . but it's oh so good!
 And in no time at all, I've got strawberry jam!  My kids can hardly wait the 24 hours it takes to set.
 Next up, I made Strawberry Conserve, or whole fruit jam.  I love how this recipe has only three ingredients:  Strawberries, sugar and lemon peel.
 Did you know that lemon peel has a lot of natural pectin in it?  I love learning random things like this.

Once you stir it up, let it sit for two hours, stirring occasionally.
 And it turns into this:
 A little bit of cooking and . . .
 Strawberry Conserve
Good thing I made bread yesterday!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Triple-Layer Lemon Cake with Blueberries and Lemon Curd

The taste of summer and sunshine.  Bright and delicious.
 I used the same lemon curd in this that I made for the Lemon Meringue Cookies.  Wow!  I still am completely in love with lemon curd.  I really could eat it by the spoonful.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fresh Garden Peas

Proof we eat more than just cupcakes around here:

Am I allowed to love these as much as cupcakes in their own way?  Because I do.