Hye Thyme Cafe: January 2013

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Kenya's Toasted Almond Chicken - Take 1

Toasted Almond Chicken : Hye Thyme Cafe

A while back, I made a batch of Kahlua Beef Short Ribs, and Kenya over at Here's the Thing... commented that although her hubby likes beef (and Kahlua), she's not a big beef eater, so she was wondering if the recipe would work with chicken. My thought was that it would probably work great with bone-in dark meat chicken. She also commented that should she make the ribs for her hubby, the Kahlua would give her an excuse to spike her coffee, to which I replied "don't forget the Amaretto DiSaronno!" I love Kahlua and Amaretto together, especially in a Toasted Almond. That's my favorite drink, whether made with milk, cream, or even vanilla ice cream!

I had pulled some chicken out of the freezer the other day on my way to work, not yet having a plan for what I wanted to do with it. My mind returned to Kenya's question while I was driving home, and although the chicken I had pulled out was neither bone-in nor dark meat, I figured what the heck and gave it a shot anyhow.

It was tasty, but I've got some tweaking to do. I was working with less chicken (3 breasts) than what I had when making the ribs, so right off the bat, I should have decreased the sauce - or at least used a bigger pan for more surface area/evaporation. I also knew that unless I was using a slow cooker, it probably wasn't a good idea to cook the chicken for as long as the ribs had cooked - but I did anyhow, just to see what would happen.  

Not bad for a first attempt while knowing I was doing a few things wrong. I think next time, I'll increase the Amaretto (the Kahlua was still definitely the predominant flavor), reduce the amount of peppercorns, and cook down the sauce with the onions ahead of time (maybe with a little sugar and/or cornstarch) so I can glaze the chicken with it while cooking for a shorter period of time. We'll see.  Anyhow Kenya - I'll let you know when I get it "just right," and maybe this will push you go play around with it in the meantime?

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1 T granulated pasilla chilies
1 T whole peppercorns
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large onion, sliced
1/2 c Kahlua
1/2 c DiSaronno Amaretto
1/2 c chicken broth
1 T vanilla
Sliced almonds

  • Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and place in baking dish.
  • Sprinkle the chilies, peppercorns, and garlic over the chicken.
  • Top the chicken with the onion slices, then stir together the liquid ingredients and pour over the top.
  • Cover with foil and bake at 350° for 1'.
  • Remove foil, flip chicken, re-cover with foil and bake for another 1', then flip again and continue - uncovered - for 30".
  • Toss a handful of sliced almonds in a dry pan and lightly toast over medium heat for a garnish.

For sides with this, I made some pilaf for the starch, then did a simple sauté of tomatoes and artichokes in olive oil with a little garlic and Italian seasoning. 

Toasted Almond Chicken : Hye Thyme Cafe
Toasted Almond Chicken : Hye Thyme Cafe

Toasted Almond Chicken : Hye Thyme Cafe

Friday, January 25, 2013

... I Tried to Fly Like Mary Poppins

This post has absolutely nothing to do with food, but I was scrolling through my Google Reader feed and saw a post by Kate over at Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine...with my morning quiet time that read I Sold Beer Out Of My Locker.  Naturally, I had to open the post to see what that was all about!  It appears that Kate did, indeed, once sell beer out of her high school locker, among other things.  You've gotta love that entrepreneurial spirit.  

Anyhow, the post was actually a part of a Finish The Sentence Friday (FTSF) link-up.  That sounded like fun to me, so I couldn't resist but jump fly in.

This week's sentence is:  When I was younger, I tried ... 

What immediately came to mine for me was that when I was younger, I tried to fly like Mary Poppins.  Yes, I'm absolutely serious!  It happened once, so I was certain I had acquired a new superpower and tried for years to do it again!

I was all of 5 or 6 years old, walking home from the bus stop on a rainy and (obviously) very windy day.  I was using an umbrella, and being so little at the time, I was lifted right off the ground!  In thinking back, it was probably only for a foot or two, but at the time, I would have sworn I had flown half way home.

No, I never tried jumping off the roof with my umbrella.  That was better left for boys with capes who thought they were Superman.  Seriously, what's up with them?!  Every time it rained for the next few years, I would try and try to duplicate the experience.  But alas, it never happened again. 

You would think I would have learned my lesson about going up against Mother Nature as a result of an earlier incident, but no, not me!  Imagine my 3-5 year old punk little self at the beach getting knocked over by a wave.  Now imagine in my indignation, me turning to the ocean, putting my little hands up and commanding it to STOP!!  Now hear Mother Nature laughing maniacally as she pulls me under another wave.  I'm pretty sure that was the day I learned to swim under water!


Thanks to Kate for the humorous walk flight swim trip down memory lane.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

REVIEW - Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever

I absolutely LOVE vanilla!  Whether it's a candle, perfume, lotion, cookie, cocktail, or oatmeal, I'm all over it, so I was very excited at the prospect of reviewing PURE VANILLA IRRESISTIBLE RECIPES and ESSENTIAL TECHNIQUES by Shauna Sever.  If that name sounds familiar, it's because Shauna is also the author of Marshmallow Madness and writes the popular dessert blog Piece of Cake.  If you love vanilla, and really, who doesn't love vanilla, you need to add this cookbook to your wish list!

My only criticism is that not every recipe has a corresponding photograph.  I can honestly say that, photo or not, there isn't one recipe in this collection that I'm not looking forward to trying.  I actually thought there was ONE recipe I wouldn't want to make - the Vanilla Egg Cream.  That was only until I realized it didn't actually contain eggs.  So it's official; I'll eventually be trying every recipe in this book!

Not only are the recipes great, but Shauna starts out by educating us on the origins of vanilla and all of the different varieties and forms that can be used.  I have certainly used my share of vanilla extract and vanilla beans over the years, even the occasional vanilla powder and paste, but something I have never come across before is ground vanilla - which includes the pod itself.  I'm particularly curious about that now.

Something else I was curious about but hadn't gotten around to looking into is the alcohol used for making your own vanilla extract at home.  I have made it a few times using vodka, having seen a bottle at a home-goods store with a few vanilla beans in it and reading the attached directions to split the beans and fill the bottle with vodka, leaving it to infuse over time.  Since then, I have noticed some Facebook chatter among friends discussing making it with rum rather than vodka.  That got me wondering if my preference for Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla was actually made with bourbon??  Nope - Bourbon, now known as Reunion, is one of the three islands off the East Coast of Africa (Madagascar, Comoros, and Reunion), where up to 60% of the World's vanilla is produced.

Shauna leads us through a brief history of vanilla, beginning with the Totonac Indians, whom the Aztecs discovered as far back as 1519 had already been using vanilla for many years.  In addition to its history, Shauna also enlightens us as to the process of creating the vanilla that we know and love, all of which seems to take a bit of the sting out of some staggering price tags.  You'll have to pick up a copy to read about that yourself.  It's very interesting.

The first recipe I decided to try was Shauna's Vanilla Snaps, which does not include a photograph.  For anyone who knows me, you know I would normally skip right over a recipe with no photo.  Since I can't actually taste the writer's work product, I want to at least know what it's supposed to look like when I'm done!  I made an exception for these and was very glad that I did, although I will admit that when I make them again - and I will make them again - I will include even more vanilla.  

VANILLA SNAPS (Shauna Sever)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg white, at room temp
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil 

  • Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats; have a third baking sheet ready for when it's time to freeze the cookie dough.
  • Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter, sugar, and vanilla extract on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add egg white and oil and continue beating until smooth, about 1 minute more.  Reduce speed to low and gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing smooth.
  • Line a work surface with a large sheet of parchment paper.  Turn dough out onto parchment, pat it into a disk, and top with another sheet of parchment.  With a rolling pin, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick.  Leaving the dough between the sheets of parchment, transfer to the third baking sheet.  Freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.
  • With a 1 1/2-inch round cutter, cut dough into circles, placing them 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.  Place sheets in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
  • Bake until cookies are golden on the edges, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking.  Let cookies cool for 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

The recipe above is as written.  Rather than bothering with a third tray (I've had a few discolor from going in the freezer), I just slid the dough into the freezer between the sheets of parchment.  I also don't have a stand mixer now, so I made them by hand.  Although I didn't actually do this, because the dough is so soft, if you want to re-roll your scraps, you might want to re-chill it before cutting out the new batch.

These cookies were both "snappy" and delicious, and they proved dangerous for me to have around the house because it's usually at night when I'm looking to snack on something crunchy. I certainly don't need to be munching on cookies late at night!  Shauna uses these cookies in the base of one of her cheesecake recipes, as well as in the crust for her Vanilla Cream Pie.  As much as I like a traditional graham cracker crust for cheesecake, I do tend to lean more toward ginger or lemon snaps, so now I can use vanilla snaps too.  Love it!!

As usual, a big thanks to the folks at Quirk Books for providing me with a review copy, which has provided me with lots of inspiration and ideas. And thanks to Shauna for the great recipes!

REVIEW - Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever
REVIEW - Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever
REVIEW - Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever

Here's a teaser sampling of the recipes you'll find in Shauna's latest hit:

  • Big Mama Vanilla Cheesecake
  • Vanilla Bean Dutch Baby
  • Malted White Hot Chocolate
  • Honey-Vanilla Granola Clusters
  • Cherry-Vanilla Shortbread Cake Squares
  • Warm Vanilla-Rum Rice Pudding
  • Vanilla Nougat Candy Bar Bites
  • Lemon-Vanilla Dream Bars
  • Vanilla-Caramel Semifreddo
  • Candied Vanilla Popcorn
  • Golden Pear-Vanilla Jam
Which will be first on your to-do list???

And if you haven't already picked up a copy, as soon as you're done making everything in this book, be sure to check out Marshmallow Madness for a sticky-gooey good time!

Quirk Books provided me with a review copy of the book, as well as the cover photo, but all opinions expressed are strictly my own.

ISBN: 9781594745966
Book Dimensions: 7 1/2 x 8 1/2
Page Count: 180
Relase Date: November 6, 2012

Monday, January 21, 2013

Easy-Cheesy Sweet and Spicy Meatloaf

Easy-Cheesy Sweet and Spicy Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

This particular recipe was borne out of sheer laziness. Well, laziness and the cold. I had some ground beef in the fridge and was thinking about making some form of Asian influenced meatloaf but was too cold and lazy to hit the grocery store for additional ingredients. It pretty much would have just been soy sauce and water chestnuts - not good! I could have made my usual version, but always wanting to play around, I had to veer off course a bit. This one is now second on my list, trumped only by my Taco Meatloaf.  

1 c stuffing mix (I used Bell's)
1/2 c milk
1/3+ c Heinz Hot & Spicy Ketchup
2 T Worcestershire
1 egg
2 t crushed red pepper
1 T Italian seasoning
1/3 c grated Parmesan
1 large rib of celery
1 small onion
1/2 c fresh chopped parsley
2 lb ground beef
4 slices American cheese
1/4 c shredded cheese blend (I used a cheddar/jack blend)

In a large bowl, stir together the stuffing mix, milk, 1/3c ketchup, Worcestershire, egg, crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning and Parmesan. That will give the milk a few minutes to soften up the stuffing and dry herbs while you chop your veggies. I had never used the Bell's before, and when I first saw it, I was afraid that because it was so coarse, it would have a negative effect on the texture, but that was not the case at all.

Mince the celery and onion so that when you cut into your finished product, large chunks won't break it apart. Chop the parsley, then stir all three into the stuffing mixture.

Incorporate the ground beef into the stuffing mixture until well blended, then divide in half and use one of the halves to form a loaf shape on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Press a well into the loaf and layer the cheese in the center, then cover with the remaining half of the meat mixture, pinching to secure the edges where the two halves meet.

Easy-Cheesy Sweet and Spicy Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe
Easy-Cheesy Sweet and Spicy Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Slather the top of the meatloaf with additional Hot & Spicy Ketchup and bake at 350° until the center reaches 160°. In my oven, that took 1'10", but the time will vary depending on the tray you are baking it on, how you shape it, etc.

Easy-Cheesy Sweet and Spicy Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Easy-Cheesy Sweet and Spicy Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

When I first checked it, I was happy to see that there were no leaks, but of course by the time it was done, there was a little seepage. More bubble than a leak really, but no biggie either way.

Sweet, spicy, juicy, gooey, comforting, you name it - this one hit its mark!

Easy-Cheesy Sweet and Spicy Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Easy-Cheesy Sweet and Spicy Meatloaf : Hye Thyme Cafe

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cap'n Crunch French Toast

Cap'n Crunch French Toast

Sometimes you just need to feed your inner child. Last week, I was wandering around a Big Lots and a little box of Cap'n Crunch called out to me from an end cap. I just couldn't resist! I haven't kept up on the news, but apparently the Captain hasn't been retired as was heavily reported last year. I for one am glad. I don't eat it often, but I do love me a bowl now and again! The Captain was hardly ever allowed in our house growing up, so I would have to wait until I slept over at my best friend's house. HER Mom even bought Cap'n Crunch with Crunch Berries!! On the other hand, mine would occasionally come home from the grocery store with a box of Quisp, which struck me as Cap'n Crunch shaped like a flying saucer. I'm not quite sure why one was OK over the other, but that's her.

So anyhow, a few years back, I was watching one of Guy Fieri's shows, probably Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and my ears perked up when I heard someone talking about Cap'n Crunch French Toast. I mentioned it to my sister, who immediately went out and got a box for the next time the boys were around for breakfast. It's not something we'd make all the time, but it's definitely a now-and-again type of treat.

I don't recall if they had mentioned any other specific ingredients on the show. You could certainly make this with Texas Toast or some other type of bread, but if I bought a loaf, I'd use a few slices and the rest would sit in the freezer and eventually become bread crumbs, so rather than wasting a whole loaf, I stuck with a hearty country white.

Play around with it and see what you like, but here's what I used:

Country White Bread
Light Cream
Cap'n Crunch - crushed

I beat a few eggs with a splash of cream, some vanilla, and a sprinkling of cinnamon, soaked the bread in the egg mixture, then pressed it into crushed Cap'n Crunch and cooked  it over med-high in a pan sprayed with PAM baking.  

You can use a rolling pin or meat mallet to crush the cereal if you want, but I just threw some in a plastic bag and pressed it with the palm of my hand to crush it. You do want some chunky pieces.

And don't forget, if you're making bacon to go along with it - BAKE IT!!!  For that matter, maybe I'll try baking the French Toast next time and see how that turns out. This was my dinner last night - with just a little drizzle of maple syrup.

Cap'n Crunch French Toast

Cap'n Crunch French Toast

Cap'n Crunch French Toast

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Slow Cooker Beef "Tips" with Peppers and Onion

Slow Cooker Beef "Tips" with Peppers and Onion over Rice

I get so frustrated grocery shopping here! I'll go in to pick up a few things and see something like golden beets, pear tomatoes, mustard greens, or a nice cut of meat and it will inspire me to make something, but that's not what I'm there for at the moment. I'll think to myself "Great, they're stocking golden beets [whatever], finally! Now I can make XYZ." I'll get what I needed that day, then be thinking about what it is I want to make with those other ingredients, go back in a few days, and it's like they were never there! Sigh. I need to learn to switch gears at the moment and just get it when I see because I never know when they'll appear again!  

Even something as mundane as beef tips. That was what I had in mind for this dish, but of course they didn't have any either in the meat section or at the butcher counter when I went back, and the butcher wasn't available to cut any for me. I had to settle with stew beef. I could have cut up a london broil, but that still wouldn't have been what I wanted. I forged ahead, and it turned out delicious, but I'm definitely looking forward to making it again with some nice chunky beef tips for an even better texture! I'm just glad I didn't have a loaf of bread around when I made this or I would have plowed through the whole thing soaking up the gravy!

1/2 c flour
1 t salt
1 t black pepper
1/2 t garlic powder
2 T dried oregano
2-3 lb beef tips
2 lg sweet onions
1 each green, red, yellow bell pepper
1 can beef broth
2 T Worcestershire
1 beef bouillon cube
1/3 c Heinz Hot & Spicy Ketchup
1 c red wine (I used a cabernet)
1 heaping T cornstarch
cooked white rice

In a zip-top bag or large glass bowl with a cover, toss together the flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano. Add the beef and toss to coat, then transfer to slow cooker, shaking off any excess flour.

Slow Cooker Beef Tips

Chop the onions and peppers into chunks and add to the pot with the beef, then cover with the beef broth, Worcestershire, bouillon, and ketchup and set on low. I had to resist the urge to stir everything right away because the ketchup was just sitting on top, but leave it alone! You want your beef to start cooking and absorbing the flavors from the dredging flour without washing it off by stirring up the broth, etc.

Slow Cooker Beef Tips

After about an hour and a half, I did give it a stir to make sure nothing was sticking on the bottom. Everything had already started to cook down and settle into the pot. I let it run for a total of five hours on low.

At that point, I stirred the cornstarch into the wine to create a (gross colored) slurry and poured it over the top, turning the heat to high and letting it run for close to another hour. I wanted to give it a chance to bubble and let the cornstarch do its job of thickening the broth into more of a gravy.

Serve up a bowl over white rice, and like I said, hide the bread!! I was very pleasantly surprised by the amount of heat the ketchup added. Not the burn your mouth or give you heartburn kind of heat, just the kind that makes you think Ooh, nice...  

Slow Cooker Beef Tips

Slow Cooker Beef Tips

Friday, January 11, 2013

Lime Ponzu Pickled Cucumbers

Lime Ponzu Pickled Cucumbers : Hye Thyme Cafe

I actually made these pickles back in November and had decided not to post them. It wasn't that I didn't like them but rather that I didn't know how to describe them. No, I still don't really know how to describe them. When doing my post-Christmas ginormous garbage run of broken-down boxes, packing peanuts, and other recyclables, and random miscellaneous stuff remaining in the fridge once the leftovers had been demolished, I came to this lonely jar of pickles, sad and forgotten. Seriously, how many pickles can one chick eat?! I did a pretty good job on them when I first made them, and went back for a few here and there after that, but then they got pushed to the back of the shelf where they sat ... and apparently continued to soak up flavor.

Because everyone talks about refrigerator pickles having a 2-3 week shelf life, I was pouring out the liquid to pitch them that day, and for some reason ate one. I was very pleasantly surprised to note that not only were they still crisp, but the garlic they had been swimming around with had really seeped in. So I ate another one, and then another, and then I contemplated hanging onto them but was nervous about them having been around for almost 2 months, well past their supposed expiration date. They seemed fine to me, and I lived to write about them, soooooooo???

Here's the dilemma - what to serve them with?  I've just been snacking on them, but really, if you fed them to some unsuspecting soul alongside a sandwich or a burger, you might send them into apoplectic fits. You know how gross it is when you eat/drink something you're expecting to taste a certain way only it doesn't? You would be expecting a dill or bread and butter pickle, but your brain would warp trying to explain what was happening. Then I had a thought (knock off the jokes wise guy!) - our crew likes to get together for Japanese Night on occasion. We'll go full out and make the salad, miso soup, rice, sushi, tempura, sukiyaki, sake, and plum wine. No, we don't make the sake or plum wine ourselves. In any event, that made me think of when you go to a Japanese restaurant and they bring you a little something before your salad. I'm not sure if it's meant to awaken your palate or is just a custom, but I'm thinking this brine might lend itself well to pickling thinner sliced cucumbers, maybe some carrot or even broccoli and serving it on Japanese Night!  :)

The Lime Ponzu is pretty much a lime-vinegar-soy sauce, so the pickles hit you first with tart, then sweet, and round out with that sort of umami soy taste at the end. Curious? Give them a try, and aside from just munching on them as a snack, let me know what you come up with as pairing options.

6 pickling cucumbers
1 small onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic
1 t mustard seeds
1 c water
1/2 c white vinegar
1/2 c rice vinegar
1/2 c Lime Ponzu
1 T kosher salt
3 T sugar

Slice the cucumbers into chunky rings and place in a jar or covered bowl, along with the sliced onion, garlic cloves, and mustard seeds.

In a small pot, bring the water, vinegar, ponzu, salt, and sugar to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 3-5".

Depending on how crisp you like your pickles, allow the liquid to cool before pouring over your cucumbers. I like my pickles crisp, so I wait until the liquid has cooled to the point where I can put my hands around the pot without it being too hot. I do want it to have some heat to it to give the garlic and mustard seeds a wake-up call when they're first introduced.

Lime Ponzu Pickled Cucumbers : Hye Thyme Cafe
Lime Ponzu Pickled Cucumbers : Hye Thyme Cafe

Lime Ponzu Pickled Cucumbers : Hye Thyme Cafe

By the way, I did a recent post about covers and lids. This would be another example. I picked up that jar at the Armenian Bakery on one of my trips to Boston (it was full of Tourshi). It had a metal top on it, but I couldn't for the life of me get the thing off and had to bang the crap out of it with the back of a spoon to break the seal. I don't like the metal lids anyhow since they all seem to corrode over time, and I'm very sensitive to touch - don't get me started on microfiber cloths, dry dirt, Syrian bread or even peaches! So I turned to my stash of lids. Turns out the hard plastic top I had saved from a flimsy plastic bucket of Nonni's Biscotti fits perfectly on this jar!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review - Tiny Food Party! by Teri Lyn Fisher & Jenny Park

When first presented with the opportunity to review a copy of Tiny Food Party!, I was very excited.  For anyone who has been reading along with me for a while now, you know that our family Christmas Eve tradition is to serve appetizers and desserts, so I'm always looking for new mini/app ideas.  My sister and I will also on occasion get together with some friends before heading out to a comedy show or giving them a cooking demo or something and will aim for finger foods then as well. This seemed to be right up my alley, yet I found myself putting it down over and over again, dreading this post and hoping I would come back to it with fresh eyes.  I guess I did finally ... sort of.  I have decided that I am just not the target audience for this particular cookbook.  It happens.  

If you're a blogger or have been a "foodie" for a while now, you might want to skip this one.  If, however, you are relatively new to the kitchen or are just getting into party mode, this might be exactly what you need! The book is full of fun tiny treats, and they even mastered one of my favorites that I have completely botched twice and haven't gotten back to again - Mochi Ice Cream Balls.  If you haven't had them before, it's a must!  It's almost like eating ice cream inside of a marshmallow.  I always leave room for dessert at our local Japanese restaurants so I can get them.  I understand that Trader Joe's sells them, but we don't have one here.  {bummer}

You see, as excited as I was to get my flour and egg dusted paws on this book, when I first flipped through it, it immediately stuck me as cliché.  I felt as though I was scrolling through my Google Reader feed for the past two years' worth of other people's blog posts.  Caprese Skewers, Scones, cucumber cups, Mac 'n Cheese Bites ... that's all stuff you can find right here, and a million other places.  Where is the innovation?  What makes this tiny food stand apart from any other?  I have no idea.  Crostini?  We have that on an average night!  If there had been a single cake pop or macaron in this book, I probably would have burned it on the spot!  

I then went completely off the rails and somehow managed to take it personally (as a Bostonian) when faced with Boston Cream Cakes that included whipped cream in the filling and a buttercream frosting, not to mention that it called for using round cutters to cut circles from sheet cakes when there doesn't appear to be a cut edge in the lot!  I know, it's called food styling, but let's keep it real folks.  Chris, put the book down and walk away ...

OK, deep breaths ... I'm back.  On 9th glance, something intriguing caught my eye; something completely new to me on all levels - Teeny Sweet Corn Ice Cream Tacos.  (What???)  Tiny deep fried corn tortillas (Yum!) filled with homemade Sweet Corn Ice Cream (Ooh?), and topped with Candied Corn (Huh??? Man that sounds good!).  It's killing me not to try this one.  Well, I suppose I could, but I don't have an ice cream maker and corn season here is at the beginning of August, so I'll be eagerly anticipating trying this one over the summer.  Heck, I'll probably make a "practice run" to try out the candied corn with whatever fresh corn I can get in the meantime.  It's a super easy recipe, and they suggest using it on these ice cream tacos in addition to sprinkled on salads and other savory dishes.  My mind is racing already - trying to taste them so I know what I might want to pair them with.

The back of the book offers up teeny cocktail options to accompany your tiny bites.  After that section, I thought I had finally hit gold ... the very last page of the book offered up something new and different - a link to the publisher's website where you could download themed menus, templates for tiny party decorations, share photos of your own tiny food party, join the conversation, and much more.  The problem with that? The menus - eh, the templates - nonexistent.  It's a dead link.  If the book came out in October, you would think someone would have noticed that by now?? The photo sharing is on Pinterest, which is cool - I'm a Pinterest junkie. I see nothing relating to conversation, and I'm assuming the "much more" is a link called More Recipes that is really a link to three of the recipes in the book.  Sooo, if you want to  sample a few of the recipes you'll find in Tiny Food Party!, check out the More Recipes tab at QuirkBooks.com/TinyFoodParty for One-Bite "Onion" Rings, Super-Small Deep-Dish Pizzas, and Mini Homemade Pop Tarts.  Just don't look there for pictures of those things - you'll need the book for that.

By the way, Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park are the ladies behind the popular food blog (of which I'm a follower) Spoon Fork Bacon.  Maybe that's my problem - I'm such a fan of their blog, I had too high expectations for the book??  Sorry ladies!  I'm sure you worked very hard on it, but I just don't get this one.  

Here's a random sampling of the recipes you will find in Tiny Food Party:

Tiny Potato Salad Bites
Roasted Red Pepper Aioli
Baby Bolinhos de Bacalhua (cod fritters)
Beef Empanadas
Miniature Meat Loaves
Little Lamb Sliders
Li'l Stuffed French Toasts
Mini Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches
Li'l Homemade Hostess Cupcakes
Tiny Fried Apple Pies
Itty-Bitty Bloody Marys
Mini Orange Creamsicles
Bitty Ginger-Mint Lemonades

Whether full-sized or bite-sized is your preference, party on foodies!!!

A review copy of Tiny Food Party was provided to me by Quirk Books.  As always, my opinions are strictly my own.  In the event that you ever questioned that, I'm fairly certain you believe it now. Gotta tell it like it is - even when it comes to my own kitchen nightmares.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Cantaloupe-Prosciutto Scones

Cantaloupe-Prosciutto Scones : Hye Thyme Cafe

When stopping by the local distributor to stock up on take-out containers and that sort of thing before Christmas, I noticed that they had a great assortment of dried fruit. Among the usual pineapple, papaya, apricots, etc., I noticed that they had cantaloupe as well. I had never seen dried cantaloupe before, so I was eager to try it. I snacked on some, but I would actually have preferred it if it had been unsweetened. Most places seem to sell sweetened dry fruit, which is one reason I like the local Amish market - you have the option of unsweetened.

Knowing that cantaloupe and prosciutto pair so well together, I decided to try using some of the cantaloupe to make scones. I like them at room temp, but holy cow, when I tried one hot out of the oven, I was shocked by how concentrated the cantaloupe flavor was. What a happy find this turned out to be!!

2 1/2 c flour
5 t baking powder
4 t sugar
2 lg eggs
3/4 stick of butter
3/4 c heavy cream
1 c chopped dried cantaloupe
3 oz pkg prosciutto, diced

Normally, when making scones, I'll combine the dry ingredients, cut in the butter, then add the cream and eggs, followed by whatever add-ins I'll be using. Then I pat out the dough and use round fluted cookie cutters to shape them. For some reason, last night, I just threw everything but the cantaloupe and prosciutto together in the food processor and gave it a spin, turned it out onto my work surface and quickly kneaded in the cantaloupe and prosciutto. If you over-work the dough, the scones will be tough.

I decided to go with the more rustic approach of patting the dough into a disc and cutting it into wedges for a change. I used a pizza wheel to cut them. Bake at 350° on parchment-lined baking tray until golden, 30-35".

All I can say is that I hope I can find the cantaloupe again. I'd hate to think this will be the one and only time I get to have these! They were that perfect combination of sweet and salty, with a flaky tender center and slightly crisped edges. I suppose I could dry my own cantaloupe ...

Cantaloupe-Prosciutto Scones : Hye Thyme Cafe
Cantaloupe-Prosciutto Scones : Hye Thyme Cafe

Cantaloupe-Prosciutto Scones : Hye Thyme Cafe
Cantaloupe-Prosciutto Scones : Hye Thyme Cafe

Cantaloupe-Prosciutto Scones : Hye Thyme Cafe

Cantaloupe-Prosciutto Scones : Hye Thyme Cafe

Friday, January 4, 2013

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili with Great Northern Beans

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili with Great Northern Beans : Hye Thyme Cafe

When my oldest nephew was in college, he had my sister and I come out a few times to do cooking demos for him and his buddies. It was really more about us getting to know everyone and feeding them than their actually learning anything, but we were all good with that.  

On one such trip, we learned that one of his buddies, Liam, made an awesome Chicken Chili, so of course we made sure to get the recipe before we left. We have been eating variations of it ever since.

I never had a slow cooker of my own. It's not as though it's a huge expense or anything - I just never saw myself using one. After using my sister's to make a cheater version of an Armenian dish, Harissa, I started re-thinking that. I then made Oatmeal, Root Beer Pulled Pork, and even a Pot Roast in a slow cooker. As one of my Christmas presents this year, I got one of my very own. Thanks sis! So it was only natural that I christen it with a batch of Chicken Chili, the making of which I had thus far left to her.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lg onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 t better than bouillon chicken stock paste
32 oz chicken broth
small can diced chilies
8 oz salsa
2 cans Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
12 oz Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
Optional Garnish: Avocado, Tortilla Chips, Cilantro, Sour Cream

If necessary, start by trimming your chicken of any excess fat, etc., then cut each piece into three, so you're starting with big chunks.

Toss the chicken into the slow cooker along with the onion, garlic, and stock paste, then cover with chicken broth. As it turned out, the whole carton was more than was necessary, so I ended up ladling some out later. According to the directions for the slow cooker, the pot needs to be half full, so you can decide for yourself whether you want to start off shallow or reduce it later.

Cook on low for several hours until it's basically tender enough to start falling apart. I don't like the idea of going to work with something cooking without me all day, but people do it all over the world, so if that prospect doesn't give you heart palpitations, by all means, turn it on when you head off to work - I'll stick to weekends when I'm around. I don't mind running out for coffee or a quick errand, but that really does make me nervous.

OK, now that your chicken is uuber tender, go ahead and use two forks to shred it like you would with pulled pork. If it's easier, you can take the pieces out and shred them on a plate and pour it back in so you don't miss any.

Add the chilies, salsa, and beans to the pot to let the beans heat through and the new flavors to seep in, then (reduce the stock if necessary) stir in the cheese just before serving.

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili with Great Northern Beans : Hye Thyme Cafe

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili with Great Northern Beans : Hye Thyme Cafe
Slow Cooker Chicken Chili with Great Northern Beans : Hye Thyme Cafe
Slow Cooker Chicken Chili with Great Northern Beans : Hye Thyme Cafe

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