Out and About – Bremen, Ga

I recently visited a new Farmer’s Market in my area: the Sewell Mill Community and Farmer’s Market in Bremen, Ga.  There were several interesting vendors, and I enjoyed looking around, but honestly, I was much more interested in the old part of downtown Bremen where the market was located.  I love small towns – they just have so much character, and often the oldest structures are the ones that catch my eye.  

I often catch myself saying how glad I am that we live so close to Atlanta so that I can get to town for shopping and entertainment, and sometimes I forget how many lovely things there are just down the road.  The Farmer’s Market communities are so friendly and, especially this time of year, there is so much color and liveliness there.  Enjoy the view!

 

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Meyer Lemon Marmalade

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I know I said that I would tell you about the Moonpies from the Baby Shower, but you’ll just have to wait.  See, I was perusing the produce section of my Publix a couple of days ago and I saw a little basket that said “Meyer Lemons, While Supplies Last.”  So I bought them.  Yes, that’s right, all of them.  Every last one.  You can understand, right?  Why I didn’t leave any for anyone else?  I mean, I’ve bought regular lemons masquerading as Meyer Lemons in the past, but I’ve never seen anything I was sure was a real live Meyer before.   These were more orange than yellow, and had a very bright scent.  They were also noticeably softer than other lemons, with a thinner peel.  I loaded them up and ran right home to search my cookbooks for a suitably grand recipe.  I had thought to make lemon-poppyseed bread, since I love it and Jacob wasn’t home to object (he’s not a fan of loud citrus flavors), but when I saw the Marmalade recipe in my Gourmet cookbook I knew that was the way to go.

I’ve never had marmalade before, nor made it, so it was a lot of fun to try it out, especially with such good ingredients.  The lemons had a really great flavor – not overly tart, and sweeter than normal lemons, and with a piney sort of scent/taste.  When they were cooking down, they made my kitchen smell just lovely.  If you’ve never had Meyer Lemons before, I encourage you to give them a try if you see them.  I know they’d be killer in a lemon tart, or meringue pie, but you could also just use a squeeze in a vinaigrette, or over seafood and still enjoy the flavor.

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The marmalade was very simple to make – easier than some jams I’ve made, since there was no mashing, or pureeing.  You do have to soak them for a whole day, though, so be sure to plan your time accordingly.  Other than the soaking time, I had the whole project complete in about an hour, so it’s not a huge time commitment.

 

MEYER LEMON MARMALADE

Gourmet Cookbook

Makes 6 1/2-Pint Jars

Active Time: 1 1/4 hours

Total Time: I day plus 1 1/4 hours

 

1 1/2 lb Meyer Lemons (about 6)

4 cups water

4 cups sugar

 

Halve lemons crosswise and remove seeds, but don’t throw them out! Tie the seeds in a small cheesecloth bag – you’ll want the seeds to cook with the lemons so they’ll provide the pectin. Quarter each lemon half and thinly slice. Combine with bag of seeds and water in a 5-quart nonreactive heavy pot and let mixture stand, covered, at room temperature 24 hours.

After soaking, bring lemon mixture to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to approximately 4 cups, about 45 minutes.

While the lemons are cooking down, sterilize 6 half-pint jars, as well as bands and lids.  (I also put a couple of small plates in my freezer to chill at this point, for checking the doneness later*.)

Stir in sugar and boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, until a teaspoon of mixture dropped on a cold plate* gels, about 15 minutes.

Carefully remove your seed bag and pour the hot marmalade into jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of top. Wipe rims with dampened cloth and seal jars with lids. Process for 10 minutes (for half-pints, longer for bigger jars), then let cool.

Marmalade keeps, stored in a cool, dark place, up to 1 year.

*I’ve never used the cold plate method before, but it worked really well for me.  I put a plate in the freezer when I started cooking down my lemons, so that it would be well chilled.  Then, when you think the marmalade is done, drop a small spoonful on the cold plate and stick it back in the fridge (not freezer!) for a minute or so.  When you pull it out, tilt the plate and see if the marmalade runs – if it doesn’t, it’s done.  If it runs, just continue cooking until it does set.

Book Themed Baby Shower

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I’ve been dying to tell you all about this, because, quite frankly, it was awesome.  This is the third shower I’ve hosted with this group of ladies, and we are a great team.  We’ve sorted out our particular talents so that each of us is doing something we’re good at, and also that we enjoy…it really makes for one heck of a shower when you have such amazing co-hosts. The book theme was really fun and easy to work with, and we were able to coordinate all the food, games, and decor with no trouble at all.  My co-host with the Cricut (such an amazing device!  I want one!) made the banner above, as well as the tissue paper Hungry Hungry Caterpillar, and the clothesline for the  gifts was her idea as well.  Another friend (the adorable young man below belongs to her) came up with some children’s book trivia games for us (I didn’t win.  I was actually sad about that, but then, I don’t read a lot of children’s books these days…), and our fourth co-host made us some lovely invitations, of which I have no photo…but they were made to coordinate with our banner (above) and you can rest assured, they were adorable.  Your truly was responsible for the food, and I can’t even tell you how much fun I had with it.  Everything I made was meant to go with one of the books and here’s the list:

Green Eggs and Ham – Spinach and Pancetta Quiche

Goodnight Moon – Homemade Moonpies

Give a Mouse a Cookie – assorted cookies, including Homemade Oreos, Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbreads, Sugar, and Chocolate Chip (not made by me, but I will be telling you about them, because they have a secret ingredient that is Killer)

The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Carrot Cupcakes

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – Baked Chicken Meatballs

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – fruit Kebabs

We also had Lemon-Berry Punch, which was a Martha Stewart recipe and came out quite well.  I’ve already share the meatball recipe with you, and I will be sharing the rest of them over the next week.  The carrot cupcake recipe came from (where else?) SmittenKitchen, and I’ll just direct you over to her site for the recipe.  As usual with Deb’s recipes, they turned out wonderfully – moist, tender, and tasty.  I did pipe wee carrots on top of them, and I was quite proud of how they looked, since I usually have no great gift for decorating.  Please do email, or comment, if you have any questions about any of our decor or the theme, etc.  We had so much fun being creative with it, but it took a few skype brainstorming sessions and quite a bit of time on Pinterest for us to put all of our ideas to solid plans and then to reality.  For now, enjoy some photos of the happy Mama-to-be, and be sure to check back in a day or two for the recipes!

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Chicken Meatballs

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I know I’ve been AWOL for a week or so, but I have a really good excuse.  See, I had to make these meatballs.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I had to cater a baby shower…and these were on the menu. So technically that is true.  As soon as I get my pictures in order I will be posting about the shower, including some other yummy-scrumptious recipes.  But seeing as how I made these twice in three days (they are that good), I figured it was my duty to share them first.  But I feel I should warn you that they are made with ground chicken.

Gasp.  I know, right.

I’ll be honest: I never thought I’d ever buy ground poultry.  I mean, I make fun of folks who eat turkey burgers, because, really, what’s the point of eating a burger (B is for beef, people.  Or possible buffalo. Or bison.  Not turkey.) otherwise?  No judgements here – eat what you want – but for me personally, I like my ground meat red, and previously on the hoof.   So, when I was hunting for a killer meatball recipe, no one was more surprised than me that I chose one with ground chicken.  They also have pancetta, which helped make them more legit – let’s be honest, I’d eat a tire if you put pancetta on it.  And the recipe described them as tasting “cheesy”, even though there is not a single shred of cheese in them.   By that point in my research I was fully on board, and trying to think of which Publix I can go to where no one I know will see me buying ground chicken.

yes, I know that's bacon and not pancetta, but I used it all up in another recipe and had to use it's only slightly less awesome relative in my second batch.

yes, I know that’s bacon and not pancetta, but I used it all up in another recipe and had to use it’s only slightly less awesome relative in my second batch.

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The first batch I made for the shower I didn’t photograph, so you’re seeing my second batch which I made for dinner last night – much to Jacob’s delight.  He claimed they were awesome, and that’s a high compliment for someone who usually just says “Meh.  It’s OK.  I’d eat it again.”  Seriously.  He’s like the least excited eater ever.  Also, almost everyone who attended the shower requested the recipe, so I feel pretty good declaring them the Best Meatballs Ever.  They only take about 20 minutes to put together, and then another 15-20 to bake, depending on how large you make them, so it’s not a huge time investment, and are you really still here?  Why aren’t you out at a grocery store where no one knows you buying ground chicken (unless you routinely use ground poultry, in which case feel free to shop at your usual place).  They really are good people.  They don’t taste very chicken-y to me, more a general savory flavor, and they are very tender and moist.  I made the ones for the shower small, around 25 of them baked for 16 minutes, and the ones for our dinner were larger, only 12 and baked for 22 minutes.  So you can tweak them to suit your needs, but either way, you’ll be glad you tried them.

Baked Chicken Meatballs
Adapted from Gourmet via SmittenKitchen

Serves 4 as a main course, or more as appetizers

3 slices Italian bread, torn into small bits (1 cup)
1/3 cup milk
3 ounces sliced pancetta, finely chopped (you can swap in Canadian Bacon if you can’t find pancetta)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large egg
1 pound ground chicken
2 tablespoons tomato paste, divided
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 400°F with a rack in the upper third of the oven. Soak bread in milk in a small bowl until softened, about four minutes.

Cook pancetta, onion, and garlic in one tablespoon oil with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large skillet over medium heat until onion is softened, about 6 minutes. (Alternately, as in “I thought of this after the fact”, I’d bet you could render the pancetta for a couple minutes and cook the onions and garlic in that fat, rather than olive oil.) Cool slightly.

Squeeze bread to remove excess milk, then discard milk. Lightly beat egg in a large bowl, then combine with chicken, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, pancetta mixture, bread, and parsley. Form 12 meatballs and arrange in another 4-sided sheet pan

Stir together remaining tablespoons of tomato paste and oil and brush over meatballs (I had to use a whisk to get it to mix) , then bake in upper third of oven until meatballs are just cooked through, 15 to 25 minutes.

Ding Dong Eight Alarm Chili

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Let’s just start off with a disclaimer:  This is not eight-alarm chili.  At least not the way I made it.  In all fairness, it would have been had I been able to find anything I was shopping for at the grocery store last week.  Let me just say, Publix, that I’m really disappointed in you.  You’ve never let me down like this before.   But I’m over it, because it was still delicious.

I found this recipe on Epicurious a while back (like 2 years, actually).  It was originally published in Gourmet magazine back in 2003, and it’s supposed to be the famous chili from the Cosby show (I dunno.  I didn’t watch the Cosby show, but I hear the chili was like a big deal or something).  I just thought it looked like a pretty good recipe so I saved it, and when I had my little impromptu dinner party last weekend, it seemed like a good time to dig it out.  You can never go wrong with a (mostly) one pot meal that you make a day ahead for a dinner party.  It gives you plenty of time on the day of to do any last minute house-cleaning, dog de-hairing (that’s the technical term for the removal of dog hair from miscellaneous surfaces and/or seating areas), or decorating.   I’ll admit it.  I did all three of those things.

Back to the chili.  Please, please, please don’t buy packaged stew meat for this.  They just like to trim off any random leftover bits from whatever they’ve been working with in the meat department and you never know what you’re getting in there.  Buy a shoulder or a chuck roast and cut it yourself.  It only takes a few extra minutes, and you can be sure of the cut of meat you’re getting.  Also, since you’re cutting it yourself, you can make sure that your pieces are all similar size for even cooking.  Once you’ve done that, you brown your meat – get a good sear since that is where all the flavor comes from.  Set your meat aside and throw some onions and garlic in there, then some spices, then your sauce (we’ll talk about the sauce in a moment), and that’s it.  You cook it down for a while, let it cool, and stick it in the fridge.  Let it sit around for a day or two, then heat it back up and voila’,  chili.  Yummy goodness chili.

Now the reason mine didn’t turn out super spicy is because I couldn’t find the right sorts of peppers.  All my Publix had was jalapenos and “long hot peppers”.  I’m not sure what a long hot pepper was supposed to be, but I tasted it and I’m pretty sure it was just a funny shaped bell pepper.   I wasn’t going to inflict habaneros on dinner guests, so I just used the jalapenos and then added some extra chili powder and aleppo pepper.  It was faintly spicy, but not robustly so, so if you like a good scorching chili, you need to make sure you get peppers with some heat.  Also: the sauce.  When you puree your peppers, etc, the recipe has you add a half cup of cilantro.  When I took the top off my food processor I was immediately hit with the smell of cilantro.  Jacob actually said that I had ruined the chili, because the smell was so strong, and I was a little worried myself that it would be overpowering, but don’t fear.  Add the cilantro!  Once you cook it for a couple of hours, it disappears into the background, leaving just a slight herbal note that you really need to balance out the other heavy flavors.

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This made a great chili that wasn’t overly difficult to make, and turned out to be a good, hearty, warming meal.  If only I had winter weather deserving of such a dish…alas, you can’t have everything.

Oh! Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope yours is going splendidly!

Ding Doing Eight Alarm Chili

2 oz dried ancho chiles (4 large), stemmed and seeded*

6 large garlic cloves, 3 of them finely chopped

1 tablespoon salt, or to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder (not pure chile)

4 lb well-marbled beef brisket or boneless chuck, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces

3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 (28- to 32-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice

1/4 cup canned chipotle chiles in adobo

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1 1/2 lb white onions, chopped (4 cups)

1 tablespoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican), crumbled

1 to 4 fresh serrano or other small green chiles, finely chopped, including seeds (1 is fine for most tastes; 4 is the eight-alarm version)

1 (12-oz) bottle beer (not dark)

2 cups water

2 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans (optional; 30 oz), rinsed if canned

Soak ancho chiles in hot water to cover until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain well.

While chiles soak, mince 1 whole garlic clove and mash to a paste with 1/2 tablespoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon cumin, and 1/2 tablespoon chili powder. Pat beef dry and toss with spice mixture in a large bowl until coated.  Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wide 6- to 7-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown beef in 3 or 4 batches, without crowding, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes per batch (lower heat as needed; spice mixture burns easily). Transfer beef as browned to another bowl. (Do not clean pot.)

Purée anchos in a blender along with tomatoes (including juice), chipotles in adobo, cilantro, remaining 2 whole garlic cloves, and remaining 1/2 tablespoon salt until smooth.  Add enough oil to fat in pot to total 3 tablespoons, then cook onions and chopped garlic over moderate heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits from beef, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add oregano, remaining tablespoon cumin, and remaining tablespoon chili powder and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add chile purée and 1 chopped serrano and simmer, stirring, 5 minutes.

Stir in beer, water, and beef along with any juices accumulated in bowl and gently simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally and checking often to make sure chili is not scorching, 2 hours.

Taste sauce, then add more serrano if desired and continue to simmer, partially covered, until beef is very tender and sauce is slightly thickened, 1 to 2 hours more. (If chili becomes very thick before meat is tender, thin with water as needed.)  Coarsely shred meat (still in pot) with 2 forks and cool chili completely, uncovered, then chill, covered, 1 to 2 days to allow flavors to develop.

Reheat over low heat, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until hot, about 30 minutes. Add beans (if using) and simmer, stirring, 5 minutes

* I think it’s safe to say that if you can’t find dried anchos, or any of these specific peppers, the world will not end and the chili gods won’t rain hellfire down on you.  Just use whatever chilies you like, or whatever suits your taste heat-wise.

Birthday Cake: Dobos Torte

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Check out my cake!  I wish I could share a slice with all of you!  Technically it’s not a cake, I suppose, but a Torte.  A Dobos Torte to be exact.  I’ve had my eye on this particular confection for several months now, and I figured what better way to celebrate my birthday than to make a multi-layer cake covered in chocolate?  And also, I was assured by a very reliable source that despite it’s impressive layer count and showy chocolate coating, it’s really very simple to make.  I got my recipe and instructions from SmittenKitchen, and I’m referring you to her lovely site if you’ve any inclination in making this, since, despite not requiring much exertion, the instructions are kind of long, and um, I have a cake to eat, folks.  I will tell you that it’s a simply divine cake and worth the couple of hours it takes to put it all together (relax, it’s a leisurely couple of hours).  And when you’re through and you have this cake in front of you and you take the first bite, you’ll be all “Wow.  I turned a carton of eggs into this”?

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Garden of the Future?

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The lovely folks who previously owned our home were serious gardeners.  Serious.  In our front yard there are herbs of all kinds, greens (arugula, spinach, kale, and several as yet unidentified varieties), strawberries (!!!), eucalyptus, azaleas, hydrangeas, etc.  There are concord grapevines in our side yard, and in our backyard almost a quarter acre of garden.  Of course it’s pretty forlorn looking now; I mean it is the dead of winter (if by dead of winter I mean 62° and sunny).  Anyway…I have a lot of planning to do if I want to live up to the expectations of my new abode.  I have big plans for peppers, tomatoes, corn, okra, squash, and melons.  Problem is I don’t know all that much about it.  I did pretty well with my tomatoes last year – I did grow a 14 ft tall cherry tomato plant (for real!), and a 1 lb 9.2 oz tomato, but I didn’t have to plan anything to do it.  I mean I stuck those suckers in the ground, watered them regularly, fertilized them semi-regularly, and picked them when they were ripe.  It’s probably not as complicated as I think, but I’m still a little intimidated by the thought of a garden with so many different plants.  And grapes??  How in the world do you take care of them?  Apparently it’s kind of complicated and you have to prune them back just so in order for them to grace you with a crop.

Oh, who am I kidding?  I’m so excited I can hardly stand it.  It’s going to be a lot of work, for sure, but the rewards will be Awesome.  With a capital “A”.  I’m hoping to can, freeze, pickle, or otherwise preserve a significant part of my crop so that I can cut down on my grocery bill and enjoy the fruits of my labors through next winter.  Wish me luck!