The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

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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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

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 :)

Alisha ~ Magic of Spice

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