chocolate cake

Happy Friendsgiving

 My favorite holiday of the year is hands down, Thanksgiving.  Growing up, my family didn't have many Thanksgiving traditions -- it was a foreign holiday that we never really embraced.  But I'd always dream about what kind of Thanksgivings I'd have when I grew up: the perfectly browned turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole with those nicely melted marshmallows on top, green bean casserole topped with crispy fried onions...the glory! Once I headed off to college and pretty much had to fend on my own, cooking was something that continued to stay constant in my life (Thank you mom!).  So before everyone would disperse for Thanksgiving every year, we'd get together, I'd make an epic Thanksgiving feast, and we'd eat ourselves stupid -- but in a good way. It was my way of showing my appreciation to my friends in the best way I knew how: through food.    Now as the years have passed I still maintain my annual Thanksgiving feast tradition.  I like that, tradition.  It takes a long time for something to become a tradition.

It was our first Thanksgiving feast in our new home this year so I knew I had to make it special.  To prepare a feast for 15 people can often be a challenge so I kept my recipes simple and made sure to start prepping as early as possible.  I created prep lists to keep track of all the tasks that needed to be completed and made detailed shopping lists of what stores and what items I'd need.  I started prepping 3 days before the event and once the big day came I wasn't running around the kitchen like a maniac.  I felt revived after not cooking for so long and yes there were some mistakes but overall the entire meal was a wonderful success.  People went back for seconds and thirds, others passed out from intense food coma, and of course to maintain "tradition" we ended the meal by forcing the cook to perform a piano solo.  (Thank you Jenni)  Apparently there is NO REST for the weary. :)

We had Cajun Turkey, Southwestern Cream Corn, Green Bean Casserole with Maitake Mushrooms, Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage and Apples, Sweet Potatoe Casserole with Marshmallows, Fresh Garden Salad, Roasted Vegetables with Walnut Gremolata, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Peanutbutter Chocolate Trifle, Caramel Apple Pie, Sugar Shortbreads and Peanutbutter M&M Cookies.  I'd like to share two recipes that I think many of you will enjoy during thanksgiving: Maple Corn Bread and THE Chocolate Peanutbutter Trifle. 

I adored this cornbread recipe that I found via Real Simple. It was easy to make and the results was a buttery sweet cornbread with a slightly crisp edge and top.  I wished I had made extra for tableside bread but I actually used this cornbread recipe for my stuffing.  I made the recipe two days beforehand to save time, plus this gave the bread time to dehydrate a little bit before cooking.  I even used some leftover cornbread pieces and used them for croutons on a salad.

I didn't discover the beauty of trifle until I started to date my husband.  Before that my main reference to trifle was through Friends when Rachel made a trifle, messed up the recipe because one of the pages were stuck to Shepard's Pie but hey Joey liked it -- custard, jam, meat, what's not to like?

My first real experience with trifle was through my Aunt Lauri -- she made this incredible trifle of moist cake, custard, cream, lots of was a beautiful thing.  I never was able to shake the memory of her wondrous trifle until the following year when we'd all get to have it again for Thanksgiving.  This time around I thought I'd try a trifle for Friendsgiving.

There were a few problems I'd like to note about my first trifle experience that will help you guys out --

1. Make BIG generous layers.  My problem I made the layers too small so when it came to serving time, all the layers kind of blended together.  I realized when you make big generous layers of every filling, when it comes to serving time, your guests will be able to differentiate the different layers you have going on for your trifle.


2. I originally used gingerbread for my cake layer.  I should've used a moist chocolate cake (which is what I changed the recipe to).  Ginger, chocolate, peanut butter -- not good. Chocolate, chocolate, peanut butter -- REAL good.


Other than that, the fillings were really quick and easy.  I found the peanut butter mousse and milk chocolate pudding via Epicurious  and the salted caramel sauce from Food and Wine.  The peanut butter mousse tasted very similar to the filling in a Reeses peanut butter cup and the milk chocolate pudding was rich and decadent.  I used a gourmet dark chocolate bar I found at my local store for a bolder flavor but feel free to use milk for a milder touch.  And the salted caramel sauce adds the perfect finishing touch and I used whatever was leftover and poured it on top of my Apple Streusel Pie so it became an Apple Caramel Streusel Pie. :)



Holidays are the best time to try your luck in the kitchen.  What better reason to discover your inner chef?  Whatever your drive may be, remember: food is always love.  Even if you happen to have a little meat in your trifle.  Happy Thanksgiving friends.  Best wishes for a wonderful time with family and friends and don't forget to go for extra helpings of dessert :) (in moderation) <--- who are we kidding?



VG Butcher Shop & La Duni

So for the past week artizone has been delivering artisan groceries to my home and let me tell you, a girl can get use to this treatment!  Not only do they deliver groceries to my front door step but the products are better than what you can ever buy at a normal grocery store -- what could be better?  I never really appreciated the convenience of an artisan grocery delivery service til now.  Some days my schedule really is too busy to run to the grocery store, buy products I'm not always thrilled with but are available and not to mention dealing with that asshole mean man that always takes your parking spot.   

The last two vendors I'll be featuring for artizoneare VG's Butcher Shop and La Duni.  If you're like me, nothing is better (or more important)  than a quality cut of meat.  For the past 10 years I've cooked and shopped at grocery stores I never thought of looking for a private butcher, I mean why would I?  All the meats at the grocery stores are already cut and neatly wrapped in packages, the meat glistening a nice red and rosy color, not to mention the awesome price (4 ribeye steaks for $20! I am there.)  But then a voice called common sense sets, why would you get so much meat for such a cheap price?  Why is it that the color of the meat is nice and red on the outside but then you go home and cut into it and inside the meat is a dull putrid brown? WHY???

The majority of meats you buy from large grocery chains are generally poor quality -- you have no idea what conditions the animals are raised in, what they're being fed and how many antibiotics they've pumped in to keep the spread of disease down.  A lot of other stores pump their meats full of a magical combination of CO2 gas and Nitrogen to keep the colors of their meats nice and red for up to THREE weeks -- while the outside of the meat is deceivingly fresh, the inside has been rotting away the entire time.  Bon appetit, that sounds delicious.  NOT.

At VG's Butcher Shop you don't have to worry about ever encountering the scary world of meat production nor do you have to worry about ever receiving a poor cut of meat.  Greg just would never let that happen, he takes pride in knowing where his meat comes from -- like his 120-day corn-fed, dry-aged Nebraska beef, fresh lamb from Colorado, juicy veal from Illinois, free-range chicken from Delaware and all-natural pork from Kansas.  Ranked by Texas Monthly and D Magazine for being one of the best Butchers in Texas, you are always in good hands when ordering meats from Greg.  He cuts steaks fresh to order, to any thickness/thinness you prefer and ALWAYS at a phenomenal quality. 

The first time I had a ribeye from VG's a tear rolled down my face -- it really was that beautiful.  The meat cut like butter and the earthiness and the beautiful aromas while it was cooking was out of this world.  I usually can't eat much meat in one sitting but that night, I finished the entire 8 oz steak to myself.  It made me realize and appreciate the importance of finding good quality ingredients because yes, it really does make all the difference in the world.  Since finding Greg I haven't gone back to buying meats from the grocery store since, why would I?  Who wouldn't want their meats cut by the best butcher in Dallas?  Another plus in buying good quality meat is not having to mask it with some froufrou garnish -- I simply sear mine with a little bit of kosher salt and pepper and serve it alongside some veggies.  I made some Rosemary Honey Carrots and had organic tomatoes and arugula from FM1410. 

Preheat oven to 400F.  To cook the steak, simply heat an iron skillet on high heat, you can test the temperature by adding a couple drops of water to the skillet, if it sizzles then it is ready for action.  Sprinkle each side of the steak generously with kosher salt and pepper.   Drizzle skillet with Olive Oil (I use Ariston from Flavors from Afar) or butter and once the oil is smoking or the butter is bubbling, place the steaks in the skillet.   Allow to sear for 2 minutes or until the steak forms a nice golden brown crust, flip it over to the other side and allow the meat to cook the rest of the way in the oven.  If you enjoy medium-rare cook for 7 minutes. 










Tips on Cooking Steak

  • By generously sprinkling each side of the steak with kosher salt and pepper, the combination of the high heat and butter will form a crust around the steak.  It will have a nice caramelized outside while keeping all the juices inside the meat.
  • Allow the steak to sit for 10 minutes before cutting it, this allows the juices in the steak to redistribute instead of seeping all over your plate.
  • If you do not have a cast iron skillet you can use a frying pan.  Make sure it is at high heat when you are searing your meat.
  • If you like your steak rare, place it in the oven for no more than 2-3 minutes.  If you like your steak medium rare place it in the oven for about 6-8 minutes.  If you like your steak medium place it in the oven for 9 to 11 minutes. If you like it well done leave it in there for 12-14 minutes.  Remember, the steak will continue to cook after you take it out so plan accordingly.

Now, what's the best way to finish a meal?  That's right, DESSERT!!!  MY FAVORITE :) It's the perfect ending to a meal.    A good dessert can warm your soul, it can bring friends and family together, it can even temporarily mend a broken heart -- at La Duni they have all the decadent cakes, cookies, and cupcakes anyone can dream of.  Rated Best Pastry Chef by D magazine, Dunia Borga invites you to taste the delectable treasures from her kitchen inspired from her life and family. At La Duni, the cakes are not just “cakes” but exquisite creations of love. Whether the occasion is for a wedding, baby shower, birthday, anniversary, or even a wake, a cake from La Duni can make any moment memorable.

My favorite item by far would have to be the Cuatro Leches Cake – layered with mantecado vanilla sponge cake, then soaked in cuatro leches sauce and topped with a caramelized Swiss meringue.  This cake is incredible, upon opening the box I GASPED at it's magnificence!  The Swiss meringue topping was toasted to a beautiful perfection, so picture pefect it was honestly hard for me to cut into.  But don't worry the hesitation didn't last long,  nestled beneath the meringue was the moist vanilla sponge cake that was so rich in flavors of vanilla and milk yet so light in texture.  When soaked in the cuatro leches sauce, the cake actually holds its shape instead of disinegrating into a goopy mess -- how do they do it?!?! It must be magic.  The crunchy flecks of the toasted meringue in each bite sent the textures of the cake to another dimension (one that I never wanted to leave from!).  It made me wish that my birthday was everyday because folks, this is heaven in cake form right here. 

For all you chocolate lovers out there, La Duni's Venezuelan Triple Chocolate Truffle Cake was ranked Best Chocolate Cake in America by Food Network's Show "5 to Die For".  You should probably pull out a napkin to wipe off the drool for the description that's coming up -- a moist dark espresso chocolate cake layered with three types of chocolate ganache (white, milk and dark) then studded with toasted hazelnuts dipped in milk chocolate.  This cake causes you to close your eyes and fall into a dream like state, the way the chocolate melts throughout your tongue, the depths of flavors developing across your pallete, it seems as if all attempts of speech has failed and all you're able to mutter is a zen-like hum of "MMMmmmmm". 


OH and the NUTELLA cupcakes, how I love thee.  Shall I compare you to a midsummer night's dream? These tender vanilla cupcakes are generously topped with a nutella based icing and sprinkled with caramelized hazlenuts.  I think the addition of the hazlenut pieces really brings the cupcake together -- they are crunchy, mesmerizing -- the texture is almost similar to that of "pop rocks" how the pieces of nuts just POP in your mouth leaving an intense caramel and nutty flavor, it really brings out the richness of the nutella. 

The beauty of La Duni is perfectly crafted into each and every dessert they offer.  You literally are able to taste the love, experience the wonder and truly understand the importance of a good dessert.  All of their products are made from all-natural ingredients and contain no preservatives or articial colorings.  It's what dessert should always be: beautiful, delicious and comforting.  Make life a little sweeter and invite La Duni to become part of your family’s memories, as they say "Life is short.  Eat dessert first!" :)

Starting next week, you'll be able to order all of these artisan products and more through artizone.  Stay tuned next week for the grand opening!!!