Egg Nog

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The first time I tried egg nog I thought it was disgusting. Perhaps it was the thick custard texture followed by a weird nutmeg flavor. My grandparents always had a half gallon of it in the refrigerator during the holidays. Everyone else in the family seemed to love it especially when bourbon was being added into it. A few Christmas’s back, my cousin asked me to grab him the bottle of Wild Turkey that was in my Grandfathers liquor cabinet. When I handed it to him, he began to slowly add it to a glass of egg nog. He assured me that if I didn’t like egg nog plain, to try it with a little Wild Turkey and it would change my life. Mind blown.

Egg nog only comes around during the holidays as far as I know. I don’t drink a lot of egg nog but when I do I add bourbon to it. If you read the label on eggnog the ingredients are: high fructose corn syrup (surprised?), sugar, egg yolks, 2% non-fat milk, nutmeg, and annato (for color). If you enjoy egg nog, you will most likely enjoy the at home quality better from making it from scratch with a lot healthier whole ingredients. I recommend adding in bourbon to your recipe, it adds an awesome flavor. You can keep the alcohol out and just add it into your drinking glass in case there are children around that you will be sharing this beverage with.

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Active Time: 5 Minutes

Total Time: 30 Minutes

Serves: 12

Mise en Place (Ingredients):

-6 Large Eggs

-2 Egg yolks

-3/4 Cup Maple Syrup

-4 Cups Whole Milk

-2 Cinnamon Sticks

-4 Ounces Bourbon (optional) I used Jack Daniels in this recipe

-1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract

-1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg (Pumpkin spice works well if you don’t have nutmeg)

Other Tools:

-Whisk

-Mixing Bowl

-Sauce pot

-Mesh strainer

Method of Preparation:

-Whisk eggs, yolks, and maple syrup in a large saucepan until combined. Whisk in milk, one cup at a time, blending well after each addition. Add in cinnamon sticks. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until custard thickens, approximately 25 minutes. (Should coat the back of a spoon)

-Pour custard through a sieve into a large bowl. Remove cinnamon sticks.

-Stir in liquor if using, vanilla, and nutmeg.

-Place in refrigerator and allow to cool until well chilled. Cover and hold in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Enjoy!

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**If your mixture curdles from overcooking the eggs, just take the (pudding like) mixture and blend it together in a vitamix or high speed blender until smooth then strain.

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Snazzy Gourmet Products

I recently just celebrated my one year blog-anniversary, meaning I’m only one year into blogging. I started this blog as a hobby to share my love for food with other passionate food and beverage connoisseurs. Due to the fact that I am not a full time blogger, I have a goal of trying to post at least 2 times per week. I hope through my progress on moving forward with this blog that year after year I will develop a good fan base and be able to work with many people and other companies who will sponsor me and who I can help to sell their products to benefit everyone.

I was very excited to get an e-mail a month back from a man named Reid Edgar who is the manager of an online high end gourmet food store called Snazzy Gourmet. Some of the products sold include: Olive oils, sauces, rubs, jellies, curries, pilafs, and more. This site has a good amount of excellent products at an inexpensive cost. Here’s a few of his products I sampled that I really enjoyed:

Coconut Soup:

-There are simple directions on the back of this pouch that include how to cook the soup and what to add into it. I took my favorite curry recipe and just substituted this soup instead of using panang curry. I cooked off a pot of rice and served that with this soup and it was yummy! Or you can just eat it as a soup 🙂

Pickled Okra:

-One, I love okra. Plain, fried, and pickled. There is nothing southern about me except my love for okra and friend bologna sandwiches which by the way this okra is fantastic with. I’ve also added this okra into stir frys, used as a garnish, and eaten them in tacos. There are a lot of possibilities with this product. My absolute favorite of the samples! See below my fried bologna sandwich with the okra

Sweet Onion Petals:

-This is the final product I sampled. A nice sweet onion that goes wonderful on a burger or on a pizza. The texture and taste reminds me of caramelized onions and they are very easy to eat with just about anything savory.

Take a few minutes and check out the Snazzy Gourmet website. If you’re interested in trying something before you purchase it you can always ask Reid to send you a sample. Also, if you’re impressed with some of the products and would like to purchase anything from Snazzy gourmet, please make note that you were recommended this site by Driven2eat. I appreciate it!

Enjoy!

-Any questions you have regarding these or other products from Snazzy Gourmet please e-mail me at: Agres12@yahoo.com

Spicy Black Bean Veggie Burger

Have you ever been asked what your favorite food is? People ask me this question all the time especially when they hear that I’m a Chef in training. My answer to the favorite food/thing to eat would have to be black beans. I absolutely love black beans for many reasons. My top two reasons are: They’re cheap (most cans cost under $1) and they’re very versatile. You can add black beans to just about anything and they don’t clash.

I”m obviously not a vegetarian, however I have been eating a lot less meat and focusing more on consuming whole grains and vegetables to make up most of my diet. Black bean burgers are my favorite kind of burger and simple under 30 minute meal. They are stuffed with vegetables, and have a delicious kick to them (if made my way). You don’t need to worry about cooking this burger to a specific temperature, you can make them from scratch in 10 minutes and they only take an additional 10 minutes to cook. Throw on your favorite condiments and fixins and enjoy a delicious and healthy meal!

Active Time: 10 Minutes

Total Time: 20 Minutes

Yield: 4 Burgers

Vegan/GF/Vegetarian/Dairy free/Nut free

1 Year Ago: Peppermint Meringues

Mise en Place (Ingredients):

-1/2 Yellow onion, small dice

-1 Jalapeno, small dice

-1 Carrot, peeled, cut small

-3 Garlic cloves, cut in half

-1 Sweet potato, peeled, cut small

-1 150z can Black beans, washed and drained

-1/2 Cup Rolled oats

-1/2 Tablespoon Cumin

-1 Teaspoon Cayenne

-S&P, TT

-Condiments and toppings of your choice (optional)

Additional Tools:

-Round cutter/mold

-Frying pan

-Food processor

-Spatula

Method of Prep:

-In a food processor combine: onion, jalapeno, carrot,  sweet potato and garlic. Blend for 10 seconds.

-Add in half of the Black beans.

-Pulse for about 20 seconds or until mostly combined.

-Pour mixture into a small mixing bowl. Add in the remaining black beans, spices and oats. Mix with hands until combined well. Taste a small amount of the mix and adjust seasonings if needed.

-If your using a round mold like I did, take a small handful of bean mix and press down into the mold to form a nice evenly sized patty. If you’re not using a mold just form a patty in your hand to preferred size.

-Heat up a pan on medium heat. Add in a small amount of vegetable oil.

-Place patty in the pan and cook for 5 minutes on one side. Flip over to the other side and cook an additional 5 minutes.

-If using cheese, place one slice of cheese on top of the burger and allow to melt, approximately 3 minutes.

-Serve on a bun or by itself with your burger toppings.

Enjoy!

Recommended Toppings:

-Brown mustard

-Pickled onion

-Pepper jack cheese

-Lettuce

Thanksgiving Menu Inspiration

“The meal is not over when you’re full, the meal is over when you hate yourself” -Louis CK

As Americans we get 1 acceptable day a year to be gluttons. My family always has appetizers of a cheese and chacueterie platter accompanied by crackers and chutneys to start and once dinner is ready there is bread, 20 different side dishes, salad, a 15 pound turkey, 2 different gravies, 2 cases of wine, loads of beer and soda, not to mention 5 different pies and other sweet confections for after the meal. Who can eat all this shit?!? I’m definitely one of those people that loads up my plate and can never eat half of it. Everything looks so good and I just want to try it all, my eyes are way bigger than my stomach.

Thanksgiving is just another holiday for me as I carry on with my career in the hotel industry serving others is my highest pleasure. Just because I cant go up north to be with my family doesn’t mean I cant still have a small feast here with Brandon. If your feel stressed or don’t know what to serve for thanksgiving, I’ve got a few ideas on hand that may help you. My family usually has the same menu every year (depending on who is cooking). I like to switch things up and go a different route once in a while. Some of these ideas might give you something new to add to your menu. I hope this guide is helpful. Have a wonderful and safe holiday! 🙂

Breads:

Whether you choose to eat one of these breads at the beginning as a small bite or during your meal, spread some butter or pumpkin butter on it for additional flavor.

Beer Bread Use a blue moon in this recipe to add a honey and light wheat flavor. This bread is fantastic on its own, or dipped into your turkey gravy.

Apple Honey Challah Bread: One of my favorite breads. Adding a nice chutney or creamed butter on top wouldn’t hurt it.

 

Side Dishes:

So many possibilities!

Cuban Fufu: This is a great alternative to the traditional bread stuffing. It’s made from ripe plantains which gives it a sweet taste and is gluten free/vegan.

Butternut Squash Risotto: This should automatically be on your menu, but if it isn’t you should put it on. This is the perfect addition with pureed butternut squash and crispy bacon..you will be getting seconds of this. Or you can eat it by itself as your main course if your not a turkey fan 🙂 This is my personal favorite recipe. Another Gluten free/vegan (if you omit the bacon) option.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi: This can also be served as a main dish. If you have a lot of heavy items on your menu this might not be a good choice to add due to it being a little time consuming but it’s still a delicious dish I couldn’t resist not sharing it.

Sweet Potato and Apple Hash: Have this as a side dish. Just do it.

 

Stocks/Sauces:

Chicken Stock: This is a good recipe to have on hand because you will need stock in your risotto, more than likely your stuffing/dressing, and gravy! Make your stock from scratch, trust me, you will appreciate cooking much more.

Sage Cream: This is a fantastic cream sauce that goes great with the gnocchi dish. If you don’t make the gnocchi I suggest using it for your turkey instead of gravy. The sage is a great fall/winter herb.

 

Dessert:

I have wayyy too many good fall desserts not to share. If you have enough room in you after your meal, eat a little bit of all of these.

Almond Joys: There is nothing seasonal about almond joys, however they are a healthy alternative to pie and if you’ve had too much to eat but have a craving for something sweet, this is the perfect substitute. One small bite size candy wont hurt!

Pumpkin Roll: This is the classic Libbys canned pumpkin recipe. I’d choose this roll over pie any day. I switched it up a bit by adding 1 mini airplane bottle of makers mark into the cream cheese filling. When your whipping the cream cheese together, add in the bourbon and whip until cream cheese if silky smooth. Approximately 10 minutes on high speed. The bourbon makes this roll unforgettable!

Apple Chips: This is one of those kid friendly recipes. If your trying to avoid giving your kids lots of sugar after a heavy meal, they will enjoy these cinnamon flavored apple chips!

Pumpkin Granola: Mix in some Greek yogurt and fresh sliced fruit for another healthy option.

Spiced Carrot Cake: This is my FAVORITE dessert recipe next to the almond joys and pumpkin roll. The addition of fresh grated ginger makes this carrot cake the best I’ve ever had. Another cute way to serve it if you don’t want to make a whole cake is to pour the batter into a cupcake pan and have carrot cake cupcakes. YES!

 

Beverages:

Thanksgiving isn’t complete without a seasonal wine with dinner and a cup of coffee after with dessert.

Beaujolais Noveau: If your not a wine freak, you may not have any idea what this wine is. The 2012 vintage has finally arrived. This is the best wine to include at your thanksgiving meal, the perfect compliment to turkey. This light bodied red wine made from the gamay grape, has hints of red berries and has a fruity almost jammy taste. These two bottles are sold between $8 and $10. Go Buy a bottle now!

-If you enjoy wine but are unsure what bottle to get with your meal, this picture might be helpful:

Pumpkin Spice Creamer: Avoid buying the processed creamers from the store and make your own for much less that what you would pay. This creamer is perfect for coffee and works well in tea. Pair this coffee with a slice of pumpkin roll or carrot cake.

 

Happy Thanksgiving and Cheers Enjoy!!

 

Chicken Stock

I always feel like it’s a slap in the face to my career as a chef every time I use the store bought chicken stock. If I can avoid buying it, I will. A lot of my recipes don’t include chicken stock but every now and again I’ll get a craving for something such as risotto that requires the use of chicken stock for half the recipe. If I don’t have it made then sadly I’m forced to buy it from the store. The best part about making chicken stock at home is its very little effort to make and you can freeze it for as long as you want until you are ready to use it. I love making chicken stock just for the fact that it makes my house smell fantastic and the taste is much better. To get a decent amount of stock you need quite a lot of chicken bones. I’ve been saving my bones for a few months now from the few whole birds I’ve roasted or the chicken thighs I’ve braised so that I can indeed make a large batch of stock. You can hold the chicken bones in your freezer for a few months until your ready to use them. I’m not saying you have to eat chicken every day to get a good amount of bones, but you should probably include a whole chicken into your dinner once a week.

I only had about 2 pounds of bones, so to up the amount of scraps, I purchased a pack of 10 whole chicken thighs (with meat and skin attached) and added that into the stock. Most people toss their chicken scraps at the end of the stock process, I like to keep the meat (if there is any) so I’m not wasteful in my product. I got a full size freezer bag of chicken meat from this stock and I wasn’t about to just toss it. Save it and add it into your salads for lunch, make tacos or chicken noodle soup or freeze it for when you want to make something with chicken.

Active Time: 40 Minutes

Total Time: 4.5 Hours

Yield: 1 Gallon

Mise en Place (Ingredients):

-5 Stalks of celery, cut into medium chunks———————————————————>

-5 Medium Carrots, peeled, cut into medium chunks———————————————> Mirepoix

-3 Medium Yellow onions, Peeled, cut into medium chunks———————————->

-5 Pounds Chicken Bones, roasted (This also include the package of chicken thighs)

-3 Bay leaves

-1 Bunch Thyme

-1 Tablespoon Whole Black Peppercorns

Additional Tools:

-Sheet tray

-Roasting rack

-1 Gallon stock pot

-Mesh strainer

-Vegetable oil

-Ziploc bags or holding containers for stock

-Cheese cloth

-Salt and Pepper

Method of Prep:

-Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place roasting rack over sheet tray. Lay chicken bones and thighs on roasting rack (If you don’t have room, you’re going to have to cook in separate batches). Lightly cover with oil, salt and pepper.

-Place in the oven until thighs and bones are a golden brown to dark brown color. Approximately 40 minutes.

-Cut up mirepoix (onions, celery, and carrot) set aside.

-In a cheese cloth, place bay leaves, peppercorns, and thyme. Pull sides together and tie tight.

-Once chicken and bones have the brown color, remove from oven and let cool completely.

-Place bones and sachet of herbs inside the stock pot. Fill up to the top with cold water.

-Place on the stove on medium high heat and bring to a light simmer. Once stock begins to simmer, reduce heat to low. DO NOT let stock boil at any point, this will make your stock cloudy if you go too hard. Let lightly simmer for 2 hours. (if water begins to reduce, gradually add more)

-At the two hour mark, add in your mirepoix. Bring back up to a light simmer and continue to cook for a remaining 2 hours.

-Strain your stock into another large pot or pitcher (save chicken scraps if you want). Let the stock cool in the refrigerator uncovered. Once cool, separate into holding containers or ziploc bags. Label and place in the freezer until ready to use.

Enjoy!