Monday, August 19, 2013

{Spam and Anchovies} Wild Cow Edition

Me, Denise Vanessa, Melissa, Sara, Beth, Becca, and Leanne
I love these ladies! :) It has been a couple of months since I have had the opportunity to eat and laugh with this hilarious group of women. Of course this month I was available but my hubs and I decided it would be a good idea to do Whole30.(It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways)...30 days of meat, veggies, fruit, seeds and nuts, and healthy fats. After thinking about a theme to go with Whole30 we decided on a vegetarian restaurant. It is summer time so everyone was all about going out to dinner. You would think I could find all kinds of great stuff to eat at a vegetarian restaurant but I ended up cheating quite a bit that night (I have done well the rest of the month).  

Our adventure began when we all had to look for parking. East Nashville is hipstery and trendy and cool but parking is not easy. After driving around for awhile I finally found a spot next to a building that looked suspiciously like a triplex. I was a little worried that I would come out after dinner and my car would be gone. Alas, all was good and I was able to drive away at the end of the evening. 

Beth and her sweet mother in law, Denise, got to The Wild Cow first and put our names in. It was perfect timing as everyone arrived just as we got to go in. Sara had popped a tire and was on the phone trying to get it fixed but joined us quickly. She was the only one of us who had been to the restaurant before and we were all excited to hear what she though about some of the different dishes. 
 As we were ordering all of our delicious sounding dishes we exchanged concerns about our servers extremely unkempt beard. We were a little weirded out that it was so bushy. It may have been Melissa that wanted to offer him a hairnet. I did order Kombucha because that is something that I can have on Whole30. Unfortunately it never came as they were out. I ended up with unsweet raspberry ice tea which was quite tasty. Each and every one of our meals were delicious. A couple of ladies joked they were going to go across the street to Rose Pepper Cantina. But, the point of cooking club is that we try new things so everyone stuck around and ate vegetarian food. :) We did have quite the range of dishes. I had Beans and Greens which was garlicky kale, pinto beans and garlic aioli over brown rice. I added the avocado and was glad I did. I have to admit I woke up with garlic coming out of my pores.

The Wild Cow has a cool vibe for the area. The servers wear slouchy hats and shirts with the sleeves ripped off. You can see their tattoos and nose rings. They even have cuddly pictures of cows, ducks, and chickens on the walls. You are not eating them so it is fun to see them. We did think it was funny though that some of our conversation was concentrated on which burger places are the best around town. It was a fun place to go but it was really loud in there.
At the end of dinner and post check payage Leanne and Vanessa had a little bit of backwash water and adult beverage left over so they chugged to finish their drinks off. I am not sure who won but Leanne is giving thumbs up to Vanessa. Crazy ladies.

We thought about leaving the Wild Cow and heading over to Jeni's for ice cream but the line was out the door. We just stood around for a little but longer chatting in what could have been a dance off circle, ended with a group hug and went our separate ways. I think I may miss again next month as I am heading to the food blogger conference. Can't wait until October when I get to see all of these fun women again!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Karen's Roasted Tomato Bruschetta w/ Bacon

Every year, for the past 10 years, the quiet little hamlet know as East Nasty/East Nashville has a tomato art festival. They have everything from a redhead contest to tomato throwing and everything in between. People even dye their small dogs red for this day. Apparently it is quite the big deal. I found out through a new blog friend, Amanda (check out her blog! She is incredibly talented!), that there was a recipe contest at Margot. I thought to myself "I should totally enter that contest!" So I did. Even though I had never, ever, attempted to make bruschetta before. Tomatoes, as it happens, are on my list of "I don't eat" foods unless they are in the form of bruschetta. For some reason the combination of tomato and sometimes onion with balsamic vinegar for me is a win. 
Not too long after I signed up we stopped at a Mennonite farm stand and picked up some lovely green and red tomatoes. Of course, as a sometimes procrastinator, and of course rather busy person I didn't start out testing recipes until far too late. And by far too late I mean the morning of. School has started to car rider lines are happening, teaching is still going on, grading papers takes time, you know how it goes.
I decided that I would roast the tomatoes because I had seen that done somewhere before. I also decided I would roast a head of garlic to use as a spread on the bread before adding the roasted tomatoes. The garlic turned out fantastic, the tomatoes did not.

The skins came off of the green tomatoes really well but I was scraping to get the red ones off. My sweet neighbor has offered her cherry tomato plants for experimentation so I sent Munchkin next door to pick extra. I ended up roasting another batch to include with the ones pictured above. You might think this was not going too bad but you know things can always get worse. I don't mean to be a pessimist but if you are in a hurry there will more than likely be a comedy of least in my kitchen.

I spread the roasted garlic on the delicious looking french bread (oh yeah, my hubster and I are currently on day 15 of Whole 30 which include no bread in a house of bread lovers) and then brushed on a little olive oil. It is pretty amazing how fast bread can go from almost toasty to blackened edges. At this point I was starting to run out of time and realized I still needed to do a balsamic reduction. I didn't have any more garlic so I started to scrape the black edges of the slightly (haha) overdone bread then I had an epiphany! I pulled out my smallest biscuit cutter and cut out the middle of each piece of bread. I only needed 5 so this I thought would work. 

After mixing everything up and having my kiddos do a taste test I was convinced I had a shot of winning something. My kiddos don't typically eat tomatoes either so for them to like what I had whipped up was encouraging. I packed the tomatoes in a Tupperware, covered the bread on a red Styrofoam plate, and put the balsamic in a sandwich bag, grabbed a pair of scissors and we were out the door. I guess because I had never been to the tomato fest and because an instagram pic posted earlier showed few people I assumed we would park next to the restaurant and go right in. However, my daughter read about the event and said that in 2012 over 35,000 attended. Which tells you why we had to park 3/4 of a mile from the restaurant and practically run to get there on time.
As soon as we walked into the cafe I knew there was zero chance that I would win the recipe contest. There was a lady grating mozzarella cheese over her perfect bruschetta, there was a man with triangles of sun dried tomato focaccia topped with a fried green tomato and an entire strip of bacon, Amanda had hers in adorable little baskets (and won honorable mention!), there was a lady with bacon, lettuce, tomato. There was no shortage of amazing, creative dishes. It was hot in the entryway to that little cafe, my kiddos were patient and waited for me to get done plating and then we were out of there. I will say I held my breath a little bit waiting for the text to come pick up my prize and a little disappointment that it did not come. Of course, everyone that entered got a goody bag with hot salsa, Georgia peaches, tomato jam, and a few more tomatoes. Overall this was a great experience for me to try to create a recipe, even if it wasn't the best one there. It also gave me a much better idea of what to expect if I decide to enter next time. The email said dips so we shall see if that is something I can start testing now instead of the day of.

After dropping off at Margot we were able to roam around just a little bit and take in some of the festival. If you can think of a tomato themed object I am sure it is there. I am trying to find the name of this artist that did this cool tomato sculpture and will post it as soon as I know. We have had a very mild summer but you would not know it that day. The humidity was so high you could swim in it and the temp was in the 90's. I bought the kids a frozen lemonade to share, we made our way through the throngs of people and hoofed it back to the car. Salient was playing at a park in Mount Juliet for Bands 4 Bishop and we needed to get there. Then nice thing about parking so far away is that we were able to jump on the freeway without a problem. :)

Anyway, if you think you would like to try out my recipe, here it is!

Karen’s Roasted Tomato Bruschetta

o   Tomatoes
o   Garlic
o   Fresh Basil
o   Olive Oil
o   Balsamic Vinegar
o   Salt
o   Pepper
o   Sugar
o   bacon

·         Roast 1 head of garlic:
o    Slice off the top
o    drizzle with olive oil
o   place in a muffin pan and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees
·         Roast tomatoes ( I used green and red from a Mennonite farm stand and a few cherry tomatoes from the backyard)
o   Slice in half, remove seeds, sprinkle with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and sugar
o   bake for 20 -30 minutes or until they start to wrinkle
·         Bake bacon in cold oven for 20 minutes at 400 degrees
·         Slice up tomatoes and mix with 1TBSP olive oil, fresh basil, and 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
·         Mix in Pearl Mozzarella and cooled crumbled bacon
·         Top slices of French bread with roasted garlic, sprinkle with olive oil and bake until toasty
·         Top with Bruschetta and more fresh basil

·         Enjoy!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Almost S'mores Cupcakes

In week two of one of the classes I teach we talk about collaboration. My students are required to work in teams on several assignments throughout the five weeks of class so I do a fun activity in week two to hopefully help them understand why it is important to work together. They have to build the tallest house of cards and follow certain rules to win. To sweeten the deal and up the competition I tell them the winning team gets to choose the dessert they want me to bring for week five. I usually take Blondies or Swedish Visiting Cake in week 1 so they already have a taste of baked goodness. :) Past winning teams have chosen cheesecake, chocolate cake, and cookies. My class that ended Thursday chose cupcakes. They didn't give specifics...just cupcakes.

Wednesday was insane, I taught for 4 hours picked kids up from my friend Betsy, went to preview day at the elementary school, went home for an hour, and then back to teach for another 4 hours. School started Thursday so I dropped one kid at elementary, then the other at middle school, sat on my porch and talked to a neighbor who had dropped her kids off, turned around and started the pick up process. Yikes!

I searched through my recipes to find a good cupcake recipe. I have to be honest, I don't think I am a great cupcake baker! So this challenge worried me a bit. At last I found a chocolate cupcake recipe in my collection. We have had this recipe for years and I don't know where I got it only that the page is covered in water spots and cocoa powder and my kiddos have made it by themselves several times.

1 1/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
3 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature (or zapped in the microwave for 10 seconds)
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract (or a splash)
1 cup 2% milk

Directions Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line your muffin pan (plus two extra in another pan).
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, and salt.
In a seperate large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition.
Stir in the vanilla.
Alternately add in the flour and milk starting and ending with flour mixture. If you are using a mixer throw a towel over the mixer to avoid covering everything in your kitchen with cocoa power.
Fill the muffin cups 1/2-3/4 full. This should make 12-14 cupcakes.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick or thin knife comes out clean.

The cupcakes were a cinch to throw together however my kitchen...and my clothes....were covered in cocoa powder because I did not have a towel handy to throw over the mixer. As they cooled I started to make the frosting. I called my hubster and asked him to bring home Hershey bars. Then checked the cabinet for graham crackers, didn't see any, and sent him a text to get those too. He got the text when he got home.

This frosting is amazing! I think it tastes delicious even if it is a bit time consuming to make and even if I did do something rather stupid in the process of making it. The frosting is from and is a marshmallow frosting. It requires a double boiler which I do not have. I found a bowl that would hold all of the ingredients over the rapidly boiling water. Unfortunately, the bowl I chose was glass. Fortunately only the outside of the bowl cracked and it didn't shatter. Ingredients were able to be transferred to a metal bowl, a complete inspection of the inside of the cracked bowl was made and it was determined that only the outside cracked and the rest of the frosting making was able to commence.

Oh yeah, and we had a plumber here and no water. I had to send my girl to a neighbors house to get water for the bottom of the double boiler and I was out of sugar and had to ask another neighbor because the plumber was here and I could not leave.

The plumber got done replacing a cartridge in our downstairs tub and the valve that sends water to the house and a washer on our outside hose spigot just as I got done using the kitchen torch on the marshmallow frosting. Thankfully the company takes payments because I couldn't pay the entire amount that day. I did give him a cupcake as we sent him on his way.

The payoff in this whole saga? My students loved the cupcakes! :) I had one who said he was going to be made at himself for eating it because he works out all the time but he ate it anyway and said it was good. :) The cupcakes were not pretty but they were tasty!! :)