The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

Clementine, Meyer Lemon and Ginger Juice
with a Happy Chef Knife Sharpener Review

This juice has a couple of my favorite winter citrus these adorable little
clementines and Meyer lemons. Both being less acidic than more traditional 
varieties of both oranges as well as lemons, gives us an ultra-smooth juice,
with just enough tang to maintain a refreshing burst.  

Clementines are a variety of mandarin oranges and are typically seedless. They
have a deep vibrant orange outer peel and typically boast a similar deep color
in the fleshy area. They have a wonderful balance between tart and sweet.

As for our Meyer lemons, they are said to be a cross between the 
mandarin orange and the traditional lemon. The have a rounded body
typically, and a thin smooth outer peel. many times they have a deeper
yellow than the traditional lemon. And like our clementines, are
less acidic than their counter parts, lending them to be far
sweeter than the traditional lemon. 

But before we start our juice, we have a knife sharpener that we recently
review for the people over at Happy Chef. They carry a large assortment
of chefs attire along with a really nice selection of culinary tools. 

The sharpener was sent to us for review, it is a Chef Sharp series, with a
Two Stage Sharpening capability. What this means is there are two different
blade sharpening tools in one. A Carbide that sharpens the edges, and
a Ceramic that finishes the edges.

So we dug up a sorely neglected knife and gave it a whirl...
We were very impressed by the sharpeners ability to bring some
life back into the old guy. And as for our other knives, yes we
have many ;) They are getting a polish up from the Ceramic side.

Both this sharpener along with a selection of chefs knives,
cases and other culinary tools can be found on their
"Chef Knives" page.

We were very pleased with the performance of the sharper
and will not hesitate to check out more items from them. Please
stop over and take a look...Oh, and the prices are unbelievable!

What you will need:
1 1/2 pounds clementines
12 ounces Meyer lemons, about 4
2-3 ounces fresh ginger
Agave to taste, optional

Let's get juicing: 
Start by cutting your citrus in half. Juice the citrus first, then add ginger
pieces cut in half, leaving outer skin on. You can start with a smaller
amount then taste adding more until desired flavor is achieved.
*Note: I used the full 3 ounces.
Makes approximately 1/2 Liter.

And as for our remaining ginger can freeze this for making
teas, or adding to cooking water to enhance the flavor or rices or pastas.
Now for those little empty clementine shells, you can dehydrate or freeze
both the zest and/or peels to use for future purposes. And you can
also freeze the entire little halves intact, then utilize
them as mini bowls for frozen treats...perhaps we shall try this :)

And since we have such a lovely and fragrant juice...Mimosa anyone?

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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Chocolate Truffle and Beet Mousse Candy Cups 
with Red Wine and Beet Juice Reduction

It is time once again for our 5 Star Makeover Groups challenge. And this months
ingredient challenge were beets, as you may have guessed. The challenge
as is every month, is to take a common ingredient or dish, and produce a
5 Star Gourmet dish. And as I just adore beets in just about any form
imaginable, this veggie head was game :)

Then of course comes thoughts of all the glorious ways these organic lovelies
can be dished up. So my thoughts turned to dessert, something I have
never personally tried before. And I mean, never tried before,
 as a dish prepared by anyone.

My thoughts quickly steered towards truffles, and the thought of combining
chocolate and beets was an acceptable idea to me. But then, how can I make
that a creative venture I asked myself? Well then I quickly became a bit lost.

I was however determined to keep my original truffle theme, with all
of the stubborn grit I could muster. So my truffles morphed into
this dessert you see before you :)

And as a side note, the Red Wine and Beet Juice Reduction, may
just be one of the best things I have ever created in a kitchen. I mean
I may be slathering this stuff on my morning's that good!
In fact this entire little candy/dessert is now at the top of
my favorite desserts of all time!

What you will need:

For the chocolate truffle cups
8 ounces of 85% cocoa dark chocolate
1 cup of organic heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
2 1/2 tablespoons red wine

For the beet mousse 
3 medium size red beets
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2-3 tablespoons reserved beet juice
1 pint heavy cream
2 tablespoons agave, halved

For the red wine/beet juice reduction
1 1/2 cups red wine
1/2 cup reserved beet juice
2 tablespoons agave, or  fine grain raw sugar

For garnish
A few tablespoons Aztec cocoa powder,
or semi sweetened coca powder

*You will also need small silicone cups, blender or small
food processor, large mixing bowl and hand mixer.

 Lets get cooking:

For the chocolate truffle cups
Chop your chocolate, and place it in a mixing bowl. Heat your cream over
medium-low heat in a pot, add the butter, and heat until boiling. Once the cream
 begins to boil, remove immediately from the heat, and put the mixture into the
 chocolate. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes, then stir until fully incorporated.
Now add the wine, stir the chocolate mixture until it is smooth.

Place your mixture in the refrigerator about 30 minutes or so to firm up a bit.
Now take a few spoonfuls of the mixture and press into the silicone cups
like you would a pie crust. Making sure to have an even coating, place
back in the refrigerator for a few hours to overnight, or until set and
the silicone cup can be easily removed and you are
 ready to add your mousse.

For the beet mousse
Gently clean beets with a vegetable brush and trim off leaves and top
 stem to about 1/2 inch, then trim off root end to just expose a bit of the
beet bottom. *Note: typically when boiling beets you do not want to
expose any of the inner portion of the beet. However since we will
be utilizing our liquid, as beet juice, we will be here.

Place beets in a medium to large pot with a lid. Add enough water
to cover beets about 1/3rd of the way up. Place on a medium/high
heat and bring to a boil. Once you reach a boiling point place a tight fitting lid
 on pot, reduce heat a bit to prevent the pot from boiling over. Continue to
boil beets until completely tender, any were from 30 minutes or more
depending on the size of your beets and pan.

Once beets are tender, remove from heat (reserve beet juice) and
place beets under cold running water until cool to the touch. Peel beets and
 roughly chop. Place cooled beets into the food processor or blender,
add 1/2 of the agave, lemon and beet juices. Purée until completely
smooth, adding more beet juice if necessary. Place beet purée in
refrigerator until completely chilled.

Now prepare your whipped cream. Place heavy cream in a large chilled
mixing bowl. Beat with a hand mixer or whisk that has been chilled. Continue
to beat cream until just softly peaked. Add agave or sugar at this point and
 continue to beat until you have just achieved a slightly firm peak.

Once whipped is ready, gently fold in the chilled beet purée,
until smooth. Chill for about 30 minutes or so until you have
the desired creamy mousse like texture.

Assemble by placing generous amounts of mousse into chilled truffle
candy cups. Then sprinkle on a bit of Aztec cocoa powder.
Allow cups to rest for just a minute or so then serve.

Makes approximately 10 candy cups.

I would also like to announce the winner of out Pretty Paris 
Vintage Flatware Giveaway!

Congratulations to Malou!

For more Beet inspiration, check out what the other members
of the 5 Star Foodie Group created! 

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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10:26 PM

What's For Dinner - A Variation on Classic Beef Stew

Posted by Truffle Shuffle

A Variation on Classic Beef Stew

I recently realized that, though I love beef stew, I had never actually made the dish before. So I set out to make a classic beef stew, with a couple of personalized twists. This recipe came out great. It was super flavorful, and the meat was literally falling apart to the touch! Delicious for a cold, rainy evening meal.

3 cups of beef broth or stock
2 large carrots
1 parsnip
3 stalks of celery
2 pounds of beef (top round or another large, inexpensive cut)
3 bay leaves
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium white onion
5 smaller or 4 medium red potatoes (another kind will do just as well)
1/2 cup of flour (plus extra in case)
1/2 cup of red wine (any type)
A few sprigs of rosemary, thyme and flat-leaf parsley
Seasoned salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

Chop your vegetables into nice size chunks. If you like smaller pieces in your stew, you can cut to fit your desired size, but I used large pieces in mine. Just make sure they aren't too large to be bite-sized! Don't be afraid to cut the onion into larger pieces as well, as it will end up entirely soft and translucent after the cooking process.

Set a pot or stock pot to medium-high heat, and place your beef in it. Brown each size until you achieve a nice caramel color. Burnt ends won't hurt at all, so don't be too worried about overcooking. However, the goal here is not to cook the meat through, but just to brown the outside.
Take the meat out and cut it into large chunks, about an inch and a half or so. If you like smaller-sized pieces, feel free to cut them however you like.

Pour the flour into the pot, and deglaze with the red wine. Make sure to scrape up any of the delicious meaty goodness that may have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Stir the mixture, making sure the flour dissolves completely.

Place your meat and vegetables, along with the bay leaves and other herbs, into a large pot or slow cooker. I used a slow cooker for my stew.
Pour in about two cups of the broth, and set the rest aside to add if needed. Add the wine deglaze mixture.

Cover and cook on low for about nine hours, or until the stew has thickened nicely and the meat is falling apart.
Check the stew for consistency every hour or two. During the latter half of the cooking process, you may add broth as needed if there is not enough liquid to cook the vegetables. On the other hand, if the stew has not thickened to your liking by the last hour or so of the cooking process, add some extra flour to help the thickening process.
When the stew resembles a proper stew, you may add some salt and pepper to taste. I used seasoned salt. Don't add salt too early, as cooking over time can bring out the salty flavor in the stew, and it's easy to add too much. Remember, you can always finish with salt after, but you can't take it out!

Note: if you don't care for parsnip, you can use two or three more carrots in place of the parsnip.

Remember to fish out the bay leaves, and serve with warm bread. Enjoy!

Also, if you haven't already, don't forget to enter our current giveaway!  Click HERE for more information.

Posted by Truffle Shuffle
Photo credits: Magic of Spice

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A Chat with Pretty Paris and a
 Custom Vintage Flatware Giveaway

Some things are just beautiful aren't they...I mean the types of things
that make us feel warm and cozy, and maybe just a tad more special.

Things like warn old sweaters and boyfriend jeans, or maybe an old
book that you read over and over, but still can't put down.

Today we have a special honor of chatting with Heather Tarp of Pretty Paris.
She is going to tell us a little bit of what is behind these beauties.

Pretty Paris Logo

TAE•Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind Pretty Paris?

Heather*I just love anything old, worn, chippy, or shabby! I can look at a box of
 beautiful vintage flatware and see the beauty in it like most people would look at a
 box of jewels. They are gorgeous to me…the patterns, flowers, and scrolls are so
 unique. I never thought I could fall in love with vintage flatware
…but I have!

Most importantly I am a mom to twins and I wanted to stay home with them
 while still fulfilling the creative side of me. The part of me that is not just "mom"
 ....but the part that is still "me". Pretty Paris was created from a love of many
 different things...but mostly from the love of my family.

TAE•I noticed that “vintage” is a key word on your page. 
Tell us a bit about the materials you use and why?

Heather*I use vintage ( 1910's to 1950's) silver plated flatware. There is such beauty
 in the patterns from that time frame. Plus the silver plate gets such a nice patina to it
...especially when it is left outdoors. I think it is just lovely!

TAE•You mention recycling efforts as well. Can you explain a bit
 about your efforts in this area?

Heather*I was once told there is over 4 billion pieces of vintage flatware in circulation.
 Not sure how accurate that number is but I am sure it has to be close. Vintage
 flatware has a huge market and can be quite valuable...but like anything else
...condition plays a huge roll in this. Plate loss, scratches, and dings can drive the
 price down and unwanted pieces can end up in our landfills. I try to find a use for
 the vintage flatware I purchase no matter what condition it is in. I love to use the
 especially worn pieces for my garden markers. I think it gives the pieces such
 a unique character and makes each piece a one-of-a-kind.

I also use shipping envelopes that are 95% recycled content. I use recycled tissue
 paper when needed. I also try and re-use as much shipping materials
 from the shipment I receive.

TAE•I recently featured a few spoons that I had ordered here on TAE, can you 
tell us a bit more about what is available in your line?

Heather* I have lots available to choose from. I mainly stamp spoons, forks, serving
 pieces, cake servers, pie servers, and spreading knives. I feature wedding fork sets
and servers for the couple's first bite of cake. Spoon garden markers for the garden.
 Custom pieces for home decor, housewarming gifts, wedding gifts, and much more!

TAE•Your flatware is individually stamped and chosen at the time of the order. 
This of course makes them highly personalized, but is there a maximum count 
on letters/words or is it based on the individual piece?

Heather*Yes, there is only so much I can fit on each piece. The forks are the trickiest
 and really look best with 8 characters or less. Spoons have much more room and I
can get quite a few words on those. I can also use different sized spoons to
accommodate more words. Plus, there is always the option of using multiple pieces
 if the phrase is particularly long. I have not had to turn anyone down yet because of
length of wording. I always figure out a way to make it work out!

TAE•For our readers outside the US, is shipping available worldwide?

Heather*Yes, I am happy to ship worldwide.

You can find Pretty Paris on Etsy here.
Facebook here and Twitter @prettyparis

Screen shot on Pretty Paris Etsy Store

Heather has graciously offered a set of 2 vintage spoons just like
the ones you see here in my photos...with your personalized engraving.
To enter please leave a comment below and the winner will be
chosen at random. *The giveaway is open worldwide :)
The giveaway will be open until Wednesday 2-22 at midnight PST
 and the winner will be announced her on TAE Thursday 2-23.
*This giveaway is now closed.

Please join me in thanking Heather for taking the time to help us
get to know both she as well as Pretty Paris a bit better. And
for her generous giveaway offer!

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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4:58 PM

What's for snack time? The Organic 9 Veggie Juice

Posted by Magic of Spice

The Organic 9 Veggie Juice

Juicing is a fun and healthy way to eat your veggies...and a great way to
use up some produce hanging around in your fridge.

There is an endless variety of fresh vegetables that can be substituted here.
Use your favorites that are available in your local markets.

For some flavor alterations you can try spicing it up a bit by adding a
bit of fresh chili peppers or some horseradish perhaps.

What you will need:
2 pounds heirloom tomatoes
5-6 medium carrots
6 stalks celery, include leaves
4 medium parsley root
1-2 ounces parsley root greens
(or parsley)
4-5 large radish
4 small cucumber
4 ounces spinach
4 ounces upland cress
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, optional

Let's get juicing:
Scrub all root vegetables and radishes with a vegetable brush and trim off a small
 amount at the base of each. Cut root vegetables and radishes in half, or smaller
 pieces if your juicer requires.

Wash all leafy greens including parsley root greens, and pat dry. Remove
stems from tomatoes and cut in half or quarter depending on the size
of mouth opening on your juicer. Cut cucumbers in half.

Juice vegetables in sections according to type. Once all vegetables have been juiced,
stir with a wooden spoon and place into a pitcher. Note: you can run juice
through a mesh strainer to remove foam top, but typically if you stir again
once you have poured your juice into individual glasses it will disparate.

Serve chilled or slightly room temperature immediately.
Serve individual glasses with salt and pepper if desired.
Makes approximately 1 Liter.

All this good veggie pulp can be to to other uses so don't discard...
Try adding some of your other vegetable and fruit odds and ends and
prepare a wonderful base for stock. Note: If your radish greens are
young and tender they can be used as well :)

Check out these other recent juice recipes:
green lemonade | juicing for health ~Gourmande in the Kitchen
Mean Green Juice Recipe~Ana Helena Campbell
Home-made juices~The Telegraph
Pineapple Ginger Mint Juice~ComoWater

And if you have not signed up yet, don't forget to enter our giveaway here
for a 20% Discount t sneakpeeq boutiques and your chance to win a gift card!

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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3:07 PM

Sneakpeeq a New Way to Shop ~ and a Giveaway

Posted by Magic of Spice

Sneakpeeq a New Way to Shop~
 and a Giveaway

Have you heard? There is a new and interactive way to cool is this :)
Sneakpeek is a Facebook App that allows you to shop for unique and favored items
while sharing your finds...yes there is an App for that! If you are not a social
butterfly and are not signed up for Facebook, do not fret, all you need is an
 email address, a desire for unique finds and a 20% discount can't hurt!

This giveaway is being sponsored by our friends at Sneakpeeq.

When it comes to The Ardent Epicure/sneakpeeq giveaway, everybody wins! sneakpeeq is giving away 20% off your next purchase just for entering, plus a chance at the Grand Prize: one winner will receive a $25 gift card to use on your favorite food, style and home products—that goes a long way in sneakpeeq’s amazingly low-priced boutiques!

Come see all the things you love but haven’t discovered. sneakpeeq only has
 New Products that you have never seen before!

*Enter the giveaway and to qualify for the 20% Discount
 by clicking on the image below:

The giveaway is open to US residents only and will close
Monday at Midnight PST 02/13/2012
Winners will be chosen by random by TAE and  announced on TAE
 Wedensday 02/15/2012!  
*Note: You must be a new member of Sneakpeeq to qualify 
for the discount and gift card.
(comments have been temporarily disabled-please click photo above to enter)
*Update:The giveaway is now closed

Happy Shopping~
Magic of Spice

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9:50 AM

Picture-Perfect Meals: Little Book of Appetizers

Posted by Magic of Spice

Picture-Perfect Meals: Little Book of Appetizers
Citrus Marinated Olives and 
Puff Pastry Cheese Straws

Over the holidays I received a copy of this about timing!
The book is created by Cheryl Beverage Barnes and photographed by her
husband Adam Barnes, both of the wonderful site Picture Perfect Meals
whose subtitle is "Changing the way you look at food".

picture-perfect meals: Little Book of Appetizers

The opening statement on the first page reads "Your go-to collection of
irresistible bites and welcoming nibbles featuring both classic and contemporary
favorites that are not only easy to prepare, but are made with ingredients free of 
high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, added MSG and hydrogenated oils." 

The book is filled with an assortment of delightful recipes and stunning photographs,
that will instantly create a desire within you to fill your home with guests and the
warming aromas of such appetizers as "Crab Cake Bites with Spicy Rémoulade"
featured on their site here

I chose two appetizers based on what I had on hand at the time. I did have to
make just a couple of adjustments as I had meyer lemons and clementines,
and my puff pastry was whole wheat.  I also had a few snips of garden herbs
that I wanted to use up, so added them to the cheese straws.

One of my favorite things about the book, aside from it's easy to follow
instructions, is that at the end of each recipe we are offered a set of
tips that the author provides. The tips come in three categories to
assist your entertaining experience a bit further. The categories are
Planning, Product Purity and Presentation. 

Recipe from picture-perfect meals: Little Book of Appetizers
What you will need:
For the Citrus Marinated Olives
12 ounces mixed gourmet olives
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, crushed
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
(I added some sage and thyme)
2 bay leaves
Zest of 1 orange
(I used 2 clementines)
Zest of 1 lemon
(I used 1 meyer lemon)
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Let's get cooking:
For the Citrus Marinated Olives
Put olives and other ingredients into a mixing bowl, toss to
thoroughly coat. Then place olive mixture onto a large sheet of foil.
Folding the edges over one another to create a pouch.

Bake at 350 degrees in a pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes
or until heated through.
Serve warm or at room temperature
along with some orange and lemon slices.
Serves 8-10 as an appetizer

Now onto these delicately flaky cheese straws that I served with
a bit of pesto that I also received during the holidays. The dipping
sauce is just a small amount of prepared basil pesto with some
extra virgin olive oil added to thin it a bit.

You can serve these with a dipping sauce or oil, but they are
perfectly wonderful on their own :)

As I noted above I did make a couple of adjustments here as
well. First I again added some fresh chopped herbs of
sage and thyme. Another adjustment was that my puff pastry
was whole wheat and a different brand, so my sheets were
not the same size or shape. You can adjust this recipe
easily if needed to fit your pastry sheets.

Recipe from picture-perfect meals: Little Book of Appetizers
What you will need:
For the Puff Pastry Cheese Straws
2 sheets frozen all butter puff pastry, thawed
(I used wheat all butter puff pastry)
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
(I used Aged English Coastal Cheddar)
1 cup Parmesan, grated and divided
(I used Parmigiano Reggiano)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, divided
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided
(I added fresh sage and thyme, finely chopped)
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Let's get cooking:
For the Puff Pastry Cheese Straws
Line your work surface with parchment paper, lightly floured.
Roll out puff  pastry sheet to 1/16th inch thickness, trim sheet
to about a 16x18 inch rectangle. Transfer the dough along with the
parchment paper to a baking sheet.

Now spread all of the cheddar and 1/2 of the Parmesan onto the
puff pastry sheet. Sprinkle 1/2 smoked paprika and 1/2 cayenne over
the cheese mixture. Note: if adding herbs, use all of the herbs here in
the same manner of the spices.

Roll out a second sheet of pastry into the same dimensions as the
first. Place the second sheet evenly on top of the first sheet,
pressing lightly to seal.

Lightly brush the top pastry sheet with the egg was, then add
remaining Parmesan, smoked paprika and cayenne.
refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Using a sharp knife cut the dough into 24 8 inch strips.
Remove the dough from the baking sheet and replace the
parchment paper with a clean sheet.  Twist each strip into
a spiral shape like in the photo below, and transfer to a
prepared baking sheet. Press each spiral down at the tips.

Bake in two batches in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees F,
for 20-25 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Makes 24 appetizers
(Note: if using different size sheets as I did, adjust to the
number of puff pastry straws that you will yield from 2 sheets.)

Both of these appetizers were a delight, and will be made again I assure :)
The book makes a wonderful kitchen companion and would make an equally
wonderful gift for any one at any level of cooking skill.

picture-perfect meals: Little Book of Appetizers can be purchased and
 previewed here on
Picture Perfect Meals  and here on Create Space.

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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