Archive for ‘DIY’

December 13, 2013

A few of our favorite things: The Queen’s online gift guide for the foodie in your life!

by Crystal Cook

Gift Collage

(Gift descriptions, clockwise)

1. Pineapple Beverage Dispenser $68.00: If you grew up in the south like I did, then you know that pineapples are THE symbol of southern hospitality. In fact, my mom had more pineapple decor than any one woman should ever have. This pineapple beverage dispenser from Anthropologie, reminds me of my childhood and is perfect for some sweet tea or lemonade!

2. 10-Piece Glass Bowl Set $39.95: Contain yourself if you can! This 10-piece glass set from Williams Sonoma is my favorite! Simple, beautiful and functional, they’re very useful for preparing your mise en place and for storing in small kitchens.

3. Charles Viancin Silicone Food Storage Lid Covers $7.95–$12.95: Plastic wrap be gone! I am in love with this silicone creation that provides an airtight seal, and works with any smooth-rimmed bowl or pot. Oh and did I mention it is dishwasher, microwave AND oven safe?!

4. Personalized Casserole Dish $54.00: The beauty of the casserole dish is its variety. Not just the ingredients you fill it with, but the shape, size, color or pattern of the dish. Go on, girl, get crazy—express yourself! With so many fun hues, sizes and shapes, even on the busiest of occasions or the dooziest of days, placing your meal in a sunny container can change your entire mood.

5. Dotty Match Potholders $12.00: They’re cute! They’re colorful! They’re comfy! And let’s face it… a girl can never have too many pot holders.

6. Jalapeño Corer $10.95: How many times have you removed the seeds from a jalapeño and then neglected to wash your hands before rubbing your eyes? It burns! Oh, how it burns! Never make that mistake again with this gadget gem!

7. Casserole Carriers $38.00: Made from amazing chevron-printed fabrics, these totes make for easy transport and real down-home appeal. They’re chic and sassy! Want to make one of your own? Check out our latest cookbook or this YouTube video and learn how to craft your own!

8. Scalloped Celebration Cake Stand $24.00–$38.00: You worked hard on that sweet treat, so show it off! From a cake to cupcakes, even a big pile of cookies, every day is a special occasion with these adorable stands.

9. The Casserole Queens Make-a-Meal Cookbook: Mix and Match 100 Casseroles, Salads, Sides, and Desserts & The Casserole Queens Cookbook: Put Some Lovin’ in Your Oven with 100 Easy One-Dish Recipes Come on, you knew these would make our list!

10. Custom Heirloom Silverware Jewelry, starting as low as $30.00: Order custom-made, or ready-to-wear one-of-a-kind pieces, from Elizabeth Lyons Designs this holiday season. These unique silverware-to-jewelry pieces make for a very special holiday gift and are so very culinary chic! (Hence the name!)

Happy shopping!

October 24, 2013

Pumpkin, Butternut Squash and Sage Soup

by Crystal Cook

pumpkin shot final

There is something magical that happens in the fall: pumpkin-flavored foods are suddenly everywhere you turn. There are pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin breads, pumpkin beer, and hold on…there are even pumpkin flavored pop tarts!  To all of those things, I say: yes please! I love fall for this pumpkin flavor explosion, so I decided that I wanted to cook something that celebrates the pumpkin in all its natural glory. Behold the glorious Pumpkin, Butternut Squash and Sage Soup, served in a pumpkin bowl of course!

Typical me, I always seem to make things a lot harder than they need to be, so just know that this soup is delicious even without all the bells and whistles (but hello! sage oil and homemade crème fraîche) so it is up to you how crazy you want to get (that goes for the pumpkin bowls too)! But if you want to go all out (and trust me it is worth it!) then know there is some prep involved.

As seen in the previous two posts, the first thing I did was make my crème fraîche and sage oil the day before. This garnish is optional, and you can always buy the prepared product at the store if you don’t want to make it from scratch. I promise I won’t tell.

Now onto pulling out all my soup ingredients! Pie pumpkin, butternut squash, olive oil, vegetable oil, unsalted butter, onions, fresh sage, shallots, garlic, chicken broth, Salt and freshly ground black pepper. Are you hungry yet? You should be.

Ingredient shot

Cut pumpkin in half to seed pumpkin, then cut each half in half again (so your pumpkin is now quartered). Rub flesh with olive oil, salt and pepper. Peel butternut squash and cut in half to remove seeds. Cube squash into about 1-2 inch pieces, toss pieces in olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake each on a baking sheet lined with foil for 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

roasting veggie Collage

Melt 6 tbsp. of the butter in a heavy stockpot over medium heat. Cook onions, garlic and 1 cup of the shallots in butter until translucent about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, scrape flesh from pumpkin (I used a melon scoop to do this) and add to the onion mixture. Also add the butternut squash. Cook for about 5 minutes.

saute onion garlic shallots Collage

Add 6 cups chicken stock, 1 tablespoon chopped sage and salt to taste. Bring mixture to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.

squash broth sage salt Collage

If you decided to make pumpkin bowls, here is how I did it, but remember this step is completely optional (but completely adorable). When the soup is simmering, it is a perfect time to get these made! I chose a few smaller pie pumpkins than the size of what we use in the soup recipe – they were more around 2-1/2 lbs instead of 5. I guess you could do 5 pound pumpkins, but you had better be really hungry! All you have to do is cut off the tops of the pumpkin or cut a large circle around the stem of each pumpkin. Remove the lid and scoop out the seeds and fibers. I then coated the inside flesh and outside of the pumpkin with olive oil and then seasoned with salt and pepper. Place the pumpkins and lids on a baking sheet cover with foil and roast in a 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes.

bowl Collage

Using a large measuring cup take batches of soup and purée soup in a blender or food processor until smooth, then return to pot. Repeat as necessary. It is ok to have some chunky pieces. I actually enjoy that texture in the soup!

Puree Collage

Take the remaining ¼ cup of shallots and the 20 sage leaves and fry in 1 cup vegetable oil until crisp (you will see the shallots turn a nice golden color). Drain on paper towels.

fry sage and shallots

Now that your soup is done, let the garnish games begin.  I promise each one counts! First drizzle on some of the sage oil. Just look how lovely that green color is! The drizzle with crème fraîche, and finish with the crispy shallots and 2-3 sage leaves.

Garnish Collage

Now celebrate fall with your loved ones!

Final pumpkin 2

Pumpkin Bowls: (See method in post)

4 or how ever many small baking pie pumpkins you want to make – up to 2.5 pounds each
Olive Oil
Kosher salt & Cracked black pepper

 
Pumpkin, Butternut Squash and Sage Soup

Serves 8

1 small (about 5 lbs.) pie pumpkin, cut in half then quartered
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, cubed
4 -5 tbsp. olive oil for roasting pumpkins and squash
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, chopped + 20 sage leaves for garnish
1 1/4 cups diced shallots, divided
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
6 cups chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup vegetable oil
Sage Oil for Garnish (optional)
Crème fraîche for Garnish (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Cut pumpkin in half to seed pumpkin, then quarter. Rub flesh with olive oil, salt and pepper. Peel butternut squash and cut in half to remove seeds. Cube squash into 1-inch pieces, toss pieces in olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake each on a baking sheet lined with foil for 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Melt 6 tbsp. of the butter in a heavy stockpot over medium heat. Cook onions, garlic and 1 cup of the shallots in butter until translucent, about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, scrape flesh from pumpkin (I used a melon scoop) and add to the onion mixture. Also add butternut squash. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add 6 cups chicken stock, 1 tablespoon chopped sage and salt to taste. Bring mixture to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Using a large measuring cup take batches of soup and purée in a blender or food processor until smooth, then return to pot. Repeat as necessary. It is ok to have some chunky pieces – I actually enjoy that texture in the soup!
  6. Take the remaining ¼ cup of shallots and the 20 sage leaves and fry in 1 cup vegetable oil until crisp. Drain on paper towels, then garnish each serving starting with sage oilcrème fraîche and then the crispy shallots and 2-3 sage leaves.
October 23, 2013

Make Your Garnish Count!

by Crystal Cook

Yesterday we started the prep for garnishes for our upcoming Pumpkin, Butternut Squash and Sage Soup post with learning how to prep crème fraîche, and as promised, today we will make a sage infused olive oil. (Remember folks, baby steps!) And don’t think I don’t know what y’all are thinking! You are thinking I MAY have gone overboard with the garnishes, but I truly believe every single one of the garnishes used in the soup recipe count! In fact, a garnish should always count. If it does not enhance the flavor of the dish, then simply don’t bother.  I am also a big fan of making sure that if I am creating a garnish from scratch, that I have plenty of ideas on how to use any leftover product. I hate to waste anything, so like with the crème fraîche, ideas for additional use are at the end of the post. Besides, when it is this good – you will find lots of ways to incorporate it!

Now let’s get back to the sage olive oil and the heart of this post.  Just think about it…a simple drizzle of good quality olive oil is both delicious and elegant, add a gorgeous herb like fresh sage – and you have magic! With that said, be sure to spring for a good quality olive oil for this recipe. It only has a few simple ingredients, is really easy to prepare and just requires a little forethought.

sage oil ingredients final

With that said, the first thing is to take a cup of good quality EVOO and place it in the fridge to chill for 1 hour. (That’s all the forethought you need folks!)  Once chilled, take about a cup of fresh sage leaves (leaves only) and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the leaves until they are very fine and coarse. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the chilled olive oil.

Sage Oil Collage

When all of the olive oil has been incorporated and the mixture is a bright green color throughout, pass through a fine sieve and discard the solids. Finish off by seasoning with kosher salt to taste.

discard and salt

Store the olive oil in an airtight container of your choice and keep in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. We purposely made this in a small batch so that you can easily find uses for it. Aside from garnishing our pumpkin, butternut squash and sage soup, here are some other ways I love using this:

  • Drizzle this over your favorite mushroom pizza to make it sing! Bada Bing!
  • Dress up your favorite cheese or pumpkin ravioli by tossing it in this flavorful oil along with some shaved Parmesan cheese. And guess what? You can do the same with risotto!
  • Goes great on earthy creamed soups such as a cream of mushroom, butternut squash or potato leek soup.
  • Simply splash on roasted root vegetables to pick up a subtle hint of sage.
  • Rub it onto chicken or turkey breasts before cooking, and it will taste like Thanksgiving!

Note: The refrigeration will cause the oil to become a bit cloudy and slightly solid. It will return to its liquid state once removed from the refrigerator and placed on the counter for a few minutes. Give it a quick whisk before use.

October 22, 2013

Crème Fraîche: The Fancy French Cousin.

by Crystal Cook

I used this crème fraîche as a garnish for a Pumpkin, Butternut Squash and Sage soup that I made this weekend. Originally I was going to incorporate the method into the soup post, but since I also garnished with some olive oil that I infused with sage, I thought it might be nice to teach you how to make these separately. That way you can go ahead and make them to have on hand!  Besides, if I put all of that in one blog post it would become more like a small novel. You know I couldn’t just stop there! I also had to make some crispy sage leaves and shallots, then I served the entire darn thing in a pumpkin bowl! It was amazing, but it took some time! So, since the crème fraîche can be stored for up to 10 days, let’s start here — and then tomorrow we can tackle the sage oil — and then head on to the soup in a pumpkin bowl! Baby steps….

So what is crème fraîche, you ask? Well, crème fraiche is sour cream’s thinner, more sophisticated cousin from France. Aside from the accent, it also has a smoother taste and won’t break as sour cream does when added to sauces. (Show off!) While crème fraîche is becoming more and more available in supermarkets, it is actually really easy to make at home. The only thing sour cream has going for her is that crème fraîche doesn’t develop in a hurry. Crème fraîche will make you wait. 24 hours to be exact.

Cream Collage

It only takes 3 simple steps to make — the waiting is the hardest part! Simply pour 1 cup heavy cream in a jar, add 1 tablespoon buttermilk, cover and shake. Leave covered at room temperature, stored in a dry place and away from sunlight, for 24 hours. It is ready when it becomes thick, and don’t worry about the cream spoiling; the benign live bacteria in the buttermilk will multiply and protect the cream from harmful bacteria. You know, science stuff. After 24 hours, place in the refrigerator. It will continue to thicken and take on a tangier flavor as it ages. Crème fraîche will keep in the refrigerator for up to 7–10 days.

In closing, here is a teaser shot of the crème fraîche on my soup. Oh, and some other clever uses for it! It really is pretty amazing on about anything.

  • Great on black bean and other creamed veggie soups, too!
  • Mix into mac and cheese for something completely decadent.
  • Stir into marinara to make for a creamier pasta sauce.
  • Spoon it in place of whipped cream over chocolate pudding, or on top of your favorite cobbler.
  • Make an elegant appetizer by dolloping it onto smoked salmon and rye bread, topped with fresh dill.
  • Make your morning brighter by serving alongside your morning scone.

Final pumpkin 2

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