The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

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 shop...how 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 cookbook...talk 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.


Enjoy~
Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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Vegetarian "Meatballs" with 5 Star Flair


It's time for the January 5 Star Foodies group event once more.
This month our theme is..."Meatballs", mine of course contain no "Meat".
But they are packed with flavorful goodness, I promise!


The veggie-balls have a few ingredients that I enjoy together in my veggie-burgers.
For the burgers I generally add a few more items of whatever fresh produce I
have on hand, then spice them up a bit. Today however we have plenty
of flavor going on with our addition of sauces and the grilled endive.


These vegetarian balls have a list of ingredients that reads off like a "some of my
favorite things" list. To start with I had leftover lentils that I wanted to use up,
and some azuki beans hanging out in my pantry just waiting for some love.
Then I decided to add some rice, and although I do not have a minimal
collection of rices, the forbidden popped out and said "pick me!",
and so I did. Then I decided to use up these crimini mushrooms as
 they impart a wonderful texture when processed along with
our rice and legumes.


And since we don't want them to be lonely we have them happily
sitting in boats of Roasted endive.

Then we needed a few extras to set it off a bit, and you may remember
my last post where I promised a few recipes for our parsley root...
Well how about a creamy parsley root purée for our veggie balls
to nestle in...we do want them to be cozy :)

But why stop at cozy, when they can be warm and cozy with
a colorful drizzle of annatto oil, garlic and capers...


Our  herb and spice collection is a bit fun as well. To start with our basil, you may
have noted the smaller leaves. This lovely is a perennial basil that grows in an
upright column pattern. These paler green and tender leaves pack a
whole lot of basil punch.

The spices here are no slouches either, one being the Tellicherry pepper corns.
That I have posted about before, and are a personal favorite of mine.

Next the coriander seeds with their fresh and upbeat "makes me smile aroma".
Coriander are the seeds from the cilantro plant and have a warmly sweet
aroma with a hint of lemon bite to them.

Then we have the Bamboo Jade sea salt, containing organic bamboo leaf
extract. Aside from it's ability to up our dishes a notch as a finishing salt,
this salt boasts and impressive statistic of  having 84% sodium chloride
 versus 99% of commercial table salt. So in essence we get a bit more
 flavor and use out of our daily allotted salt intake.

Now if you noted the coloring in our olive oil drizzle...ah yes, the next
on our list - the Annatto seed. They look like little deep red terra cotta
stones. The seeds are coated with a thin pigment that is used as a dye
within the culinary world. They can be ground or used whole for
the dye itself, as we will be doing today.

Substitutions: For the salt and pepper you can substitute with
your favorites. The coriander can be subbed with cumin or caraway.
And the annatto seeds with a pinch of paprika or a few strands of saffron.


What you will need:
For the veggie-balls
4 ounces lentils, prepared
4 ounces forbidden rice, prepared
4 ounces azuki beans, prepared
5 ounces crimini mushrooms
12-15 small columnar basil leaves
1/4th cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, bruised
1/2 teaspoon tellichery peppercorns, crushed
1/2 teaspoon bamboo jade salt, ground

For the roasted endive
4 endive, halved
olive oil for basting
salt and pepper to taste

For the annatto drizzle
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons annatto seeds, whole
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 pearl onions, minced
2 tablespoons capers, whole

For the creamy parsley root purée
6 small parsley roots, trimmed and peeled
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon raw agave, or honey
4 tablespoons half and half
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Pinch of salt and ground black pepper


Let's get cooking:
For the veggie-balls
Prepare rice and legumes per package instructions. Cool these to the touch (Note:
if prepared ahead of time warm them up a bit). Place into a large mixing bowl
and add breadcrumbs, spices and egg. Mix together thoroughly then place
in a large food processor, adding basil and mushrooms. Pulse several
times until fine but not mushy.

Using a tablespoon measure out mixture, then roll with the palms of
your hands into evenly shaped spheres. Place uncrowded onto
a lined baking sheet. And bake at 350 degrees in a pre-heated oven
15-20 minutes or until slightly firm to the touch.

For the roasted endive
Place sliced endive halves onto a prepared baking sheet and brush
with a bit of olive oil. Salt and pepper if desired. Roast at 400 degrees
about 20 minutes or until just tender. Allow to cool a bit, then remove
the very top section leaves to create a boat (these top leaves can be served
at the same time or reserved for another use).

For the annatto drizzle
Place oil into a small sauté pan and add whole annatto seeds. Cook
 on medium heat until oil has attained a rich golden orange hue and
outer coating has been removed leaving small black seeds. Cool
the strain of seeds. Return to heat adding onion and garlic
until fragrant. Turn off heat and add capers, tossing a bit to coat.

 For the creamy parsley root purée
Cut parsley root into 1/4 in pieces and place
in a steamer once water has begun to boil. Continue
to steam until very tender 15 minutes or so. Once tender,
rinse under tepid running water until cooled to the touch.
Place in small food processor and pulse several times until creamy.
Add lemon juice, allspice, salt, pepper and agave continuing to pulse until
incorporated. Now add half and half, again blending. Slowly
drizzle in oil while the processor is running, adding more if needed
until you achieve a creamy texture.

Arrange by placing a tablespoon or so of the creamy parsley root
into the endive boats. Place desired number of veggie-ball on
top, place on individual plates or serving plate, then
drizzle with annatto oil mixture.
Serves 4



Enjoy~
Alisha ~ Magic of Spice




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11:50 AM

Food of the week - Parsley Root

Posted by Magic of Spice

Parsley Root


As with most root vegetables, we have to look beyond their outer
image, to see their true beauty.

Parsley root is another winter root vegetable that very much resembles
the parsnip, only smaller and paler. They however, are not the same.
A popular root vegetable in Central Europe that is rare in the States.
However cultivation of these root vegetable are found in a few states
here, including California.

Like it's leafy green counterpart, parsley (grown for its leaves),
parsley root has a long history in medicinal/herbal medicines.
The roots are also very popular in Mediterranean Cuisine,
and grown for the edible root. Of the species Petroselinum
 crispum tuberosum and commonly referred to as
Hamburg Parsley, they are said to be one of the most
nutritious root vegetables, generally having higher
concentrations of vitamins and minerals, than
either the leaves or seeds.


Parsley, the herb is something I am sure you are all familiar with. You can
see that the parsley root greens resemble parsley, but at the same
time are unique, with a elongated and more defined leaf structure.

There are two types of parsley grown for their leaves as an herb. One
being Flat Leaf or Italian Parsley, the other Curly Leaf Parsley.
The flat leaf is most commonly used in recipes, as it has a more intense
flavor than the curly leaf. Leaving the latter more commonly used
as a garnish or for decorative purposes.

Parsley root however is grown for the root rather than the leaves or
the seeds. Still if you purchase the roots with the greens attached,
they are indeed edible and can be used in the same way as
parley herbs. Make sure that they are as fresh as possible,
and the younger the better. The flavor is far milder than
that of the flat leaf parsley, and slightly bitter when raw.


These roots have a unique taste that is a cross somewhere between
celery, carrot and parsley. When eaten raw the flavor is both mild,
yet intense. There is a strong after note especially when unpeeled.
Similar to that of more mature unpeeled carrot.

Culinary uses are much the same as any other root vegetable, and
most similar to that of a carrot or parsnip. This firm, dense root
can brighten up soups, stews and even hold their own roasted.
Or perhaps shaved raw added to a lovely winter salad.

In the coming weeks I will be featuring a few recipes
using these wonderful root vegetables :)


Enjoy~
Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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Roasted Root Vegetables with 
Red Current and Herb Dip


Roasted root vegetables are a winter delight...well if you ask me anyway :)
Their natural sweetness just sings when roasted...a cold weather treat to
warm us up during these chillier days. And with our markets and gardens
bursting with a vast variety of organic goodies to choose from, the
options are boundless!


We have a couple of non-root veggies here as well, namely shallots and fennel.
I couldn't resist the addition of these two lovelies. When roasted they has a
sweet mild taste and a wonderful soft silky texture, giving us a hint more
variety in our dish and a bit of a textural playground.


Our "sweet and savory" are accomplished by using some aromatic salt and
 pepper varieties bringing us a large impact with just a few grinds. And
just to give a little zip to our dish we are making a tart and slightly
sweetened dip. Why should only some of our taste buds have fun :)


Then we have our fresh from the garden herb selection that were quite
happy to join in on the festivities. I chose two of my favorites mint
and sage, but most any fresh herb you favor would work well.


And of course we need some garlic...OK, lots of garlic. I chose to mince the garlic
and brush it along with the oil directly on the vegetables before roasting.
But you could also roast the garlic whole along with the vegetables if desired.


When prepping your veggies there are a few things to keep in mind.
I like to have different shapes and textures working, but in order to roast a variety of
vegetables we will need to consider the density of the varieties we are working with.
 With the vegetables here today we are working with both high and medium density
 vegetables. The shallots and fennel are both medium density, so we will be
 leaving these in larger pieces to accommodate their faster cooking time.

Another thing to consider is the temperature we will want to be working with.
Slow roasting at 300-325 F will produce a sweet and very tender vegetable.
For a medium roast we would choose temperatures ranging from 350-425 F,
and produce an even roast with a bit of caramelization  where our
sugar molecules just begin to bond to our protein molecules. And then
there is a high heat roast at temperatures of 450-500 that will produce
a quick roast with a caramelized and slightly crunchy vegetable.

The oil used should also be considered and based against the heat
method we choose. Refined oils typically have higher smoking points,
with avocado oil being the highest at 520 F and unrefined at about
490 F. Making this an excellent choice for roasting. Typically
unrefined oils smoking points are 320 F or lower. While some
nut oils like refined almond have a high smoking point, the higher
heats can destroy their nutty flavors, so mixing them with
another oil is a good idea.


What you will need:
For the roasted vegetables
1/2 pound baby potatoes
1/2 pound young carrots
1/2 pound parsnips
1 large rutabaga or turnip
2-3 large shallots
1 large fennel bulb
1/4 cup avocado oil, unrefined
1 garlic bulb, minced
1 teaspoon herb salt, ground
 2 teaspoons flower pepper, ground

For the red currant dip
2 1/2 ounces fresh red currants
1-2 teaspoons raw sugar
1/2 lemon juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil


Let's get roasting:
For the roasted vegetables
I chose the medium heat method that I discussed above but you can
choose another based on your personal preference.

Make sure that your vegetable are patted dry after washing
as moisture will cause a steaming effect we do not want here.
To get an heaven cooking pace cut the vegetables as so.
Carrots; slice in half vertically. Parsnips; quarter slice vertically and
remove the woody like center portion as it will not soften.
Potatoes; slice in half vertically. Shallots; slice in half vertically.
Fennel; quarter slice vertically. Rutabaga; coin slice diagonally
into 1/2 inch slices.

Mince garlic and place in a small bowl along with oil. Place
prepared vegetables onto a parchment covered baking sheet
in a single layer (not you may need 2 baking sheets). Brush
vegetables evenly with oil and garlic mixture. Then sprinkle
with salt and pepper.

Bake in a re-heated oven at 400 degrees F checking after
about 25 minutes, add more oil if necessary and continue to bake
for approximately 10 to 15 more minutes or until just about
5 minutes before they are done.

Remove baking sheet from oven and lightly brush with your
red currant dip. Continue to roast an additional 5 minutes or so.
Serve hot or at room temperature along with dip.

For the dip
Place red currants in a small food processor or blender, add
lemon juice and pulse a few times. Add sugar and slowly
add oil while processor is running. Note: the dip
will be thick, so add a small amount of water to
dilute if desired.
Serves 4

Update: For the engraved spoons please visit  Pretty Paris on Etsy.
You can choose any personal engraving and the type of dinnerware you like :)


Enjoy~
Alisha ~ Magic of Spice


This is going over to The Super Bowl Dipstock

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Truffled Mac n Cheese with Shitaki 
Shrooms and Spelt Egg Noodles


I know, I know...It's barely past the holidays and I am offering up a foodies
drug of choice. No not the Shrooms silly, they are not those kind...
Mac n Cheese. Known to many as the ultimate comfort food, and I
 even upped it a bit by truffleizing it.. OK, so that's not a word,
yet, but it may be soon :)


These lovely organic Shitaki mushrooms were a new find for me. Not the type
nor the organic part, but these babies were huge! I mean huge, they had an
approximate circumference that one would expect to see with a portabella.
I tried to find a more common size just to pair it against, but the smallest
I could find at the market was the one in the foreground of the
 photo, and that one was a bit large as well. I mean just look at it,
 sitting there just waiting to attack that truffle cheese.
Which is nearly a pound itself, see what I mean? 


And for our pasta I chose organic spelt egg noodles. Spelt is an ancient
wheat that has a light reddish brown color. This particular spelt pasta is
made from the whole grain and is said to be high in protein as well
as a good source of both iron and fiber. This pasta also has
a soft texture and mild flavor compared against other whole
 grain pastas. And added together with the unique color, makes
this a rather fun choice for our mac n Cheese.


What you will need:

For the mushrooms
8 ounces Shitaki mushrooms
2 tablespoons truffle oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh pepper, ground
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, ground

For the mac n' cheese
16 ounces spelt egg noodles
12 ounces truffle cheese, grated and halved
3 tablespoons truffle oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup half and half
1 teaspoon fresh pepper, cracked
Your sautéed mushrooms
Truffle salt as garnish


Let's get cooking:

For the mushrooms
Start by preparing your mushrooms, cleaned and dried. Then slice
mushrooms into 1/4 inch strips. Place oil into a heated pan and sprinkle
with salt and pepper. Note: the salt will help to sweat the mushrooms to remove
 more water. Sauté mushrooms until tender, about 5-8 minutes depending on
pan size. Set aside to be layered into the mac n cheese.

For the mac n' cheese
Prepare pasta as directed, al dente typically about 5 minutes.
Add prepared pasta to a large mixing bowl and add oil, butter, half and half,
 and pepper. Mix until well coated. Now layer half of this pasta into a baking dish,
then layer on the 1/2 of the grated cheese. Now add the mushroom sauté, then
 more pasta. Now top off with the remaining cheese.

Bale in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes, or
until cheese has thoroughly melted.
Serves 4-6 as a main dish, 8-10 as a side.

Side Notes: There are a couple of fantastic Foodie things I would
 like to point out to you.

The first is a wonderful article with recipes, that if you have
 not yet seen, you should. Here as seen on Everyday Health
 10 Fall Recipes Inspired by the White House Garden
This is a must read for anyone looking to experience and
support the Earth to Table life.

Next is a fantastic discovery I recently came across... Cook 'n" Scribble,
a fantastic site that offers up a variety of courses on writing for Food Bloggers.
Oh, cool is that! The courses begin with The Hungry I: Food Memoir
from January 11th – February 29th, 2012. You have to check it out if
you are a blogger and/or food writer.



Enjoy~
Alisha ~ Magic of Spice


YBR January 2012

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