Carrie's Posts

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Energy Packed Snack for Kids

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

I recently had the honor of volunteering at a local elementary school to teach kids about the importance of preparing and eating healthy after school snacks. Of course, when I asked them about their favorite foods, they answered pizza, French fries and macaroni and cheese. I told them that those were my some of my favorites too, but unfortunately, if I ate those foods all of time, I wouldn’t feel very good and wouldn’t want to play with my friends.

Chef Carrie at Prescott Magnet Cluster School

Chef Carrie at Prescott Magnet Cluster School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The theme of the evening was Science Night, so the kids were learning about stretching and exercises as well. As I talked with them, I asked them what their bodies needed in order to do all of the fun stretches and exercises they had just learned. Energy! This isn’t anything new. We all know this. Our bodies are machines and food is our fuel for energy.

The school set up an interactive experience for the kids and their families and decided to have me demonstrate how to make “Ants on a Log”.  If you aren’t familiar with this culinary creation, let me enlighten you. There are only three ingredients: celery, peanut butter and raisins which equal fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. All of this is packed into a quick, fun and easy afternoon snack that the kids can assemble themselves! If there are any nut allergies in the house, try Sunbutter which is made from sunflower seeds.

 

 

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Another cool fact about this healthy snack is that it hits several key notes to a great dish. It has different color, several textures and it is sweet, salty and refreshing. If you aren’t a big fan of celery, try it with an apple instead!

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Ultimately, this experience spoke to me because our mission at The Chopping Block is “to get the country to cook.”  That’s why we offer cooking classes for all ages. It’s never too early to start planning summer camps for the kids. Our camps for kids and teens start June 8th at Lincoln Square, and of course, there are weekend classes between now and then. Check out our calendar!

 

All About that Braise

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

No treble (a.k.a – high temperature and fast) – low and slow is the temp and tone.  Yes, I’m a band geek and often play a game in my head when someone says a random phrase or word. I automatically think of a song with that word or phrase in it and begin singing.  Many of my culinary friends are musicians, artists or the creative type.  It makes sense because we love building or creating things.  This is why I love braising.  Not only do you have to use the proper technique, but you build layers of flavors and transform a tough cut of meat into something decadent and tender.

shortribsOn New Year’s Day, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to cook dinner for a couple of amazing friends.  I say fortunate, because rarely do I cook like this for myself.  Cue the short ribs!  Mmm…. one of my favorite scents in the kitchen is the smell of seared beef.  I automatically begin salivating every time I smell it. Pavlov or Olfactory bulb? Either way, it happens. I was having so much fun cooking that I forgot to take a lot of photos, but I got a few. I chose to make Horseradish and Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs, duck fat and herb roasted fingerling potatoes, broccoli and gougeres.

Horseradish and Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs

Yield: 6 servings

Active time: 45 minutes

Start to finish: 2 hours, 45 minutes

3 pounds boneless beef short ribs

Salt and pepper to taste

All-purpose flour for dredging

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil

2 onions, large dice

1 carrot, large dice

2 stalks celery, large dice

3 cloves garlic, sliced

2 cups red wine

4 cups beef stock

3 tablespoons prepared horseradish

1 bay leaf

A bundle of herbs including thyme and rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons cold butter

  • Season the ribs with salt and pepper to taste. Dredge them in the flour, shaking off any excess.
  • Heat a heavy French oven over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, sear the ribs on all sides until golden brown, and set aside. You will need to do this step in batches to prevent overcrowding the pan.

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  • Add the mire poix to the pan, and cook until lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute.
  • Deglaze the pan with the red wine, and reduce by half of its original volume.
  • Return the ribs to the pot, followed by the stock, horseradish, bay leaf and herb bundle. Season the braising liquid with salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is falling off of the bones.
  • When the meat is tender, remove it from the pan and cover with foil to keep warm. Remove the bay leaf and herb bundle from the pot. Use a blender or hand emersion blender to puree the mire poix into the braising liquid.
  • Pass the sauce through a fine sieve into a small saucepan and return to a simmer. Skim any fat that rises to the surface of the sauce. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Finish the sauce by swirling in the cold butter.

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Treat yourself on the next cold winter day you have off by putting on some tunes, grabbing a glass of wine or in the words of the great Julia Child “just a little bit of brandy” and get braising. Or sign up for one of our classes like Braising Boot Camp on March 7th if you need help getting started. Either way, enjoy the process and the fruits of your labor!  Call me when dinner is ready, I’ll be right over.

Recipe for a Perfect Date

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Well not that kind of date, but if you have any suggestions, I’ll take them! I’m talking about that little jeweled fruit that is succulent when fresh and candy-like when dried. Fresh dates are typically available in the fall, so you’ll be lucky to find any still hanging out in the grocery stores right now. Perhaps some specialty markets still have them, but dried dates are available all year long.

So when your friends are having a potluck for the holidays and you are asked to bring the dessert, what do you make?  Sticky Toffee Pudding, of course!  This is one of our all-time favorite recipes at The Chopping Block.  I think most of us look forward to the holiday classes and private events in hope that we get to work one that has this dessert on the menu and have the chance enjoy a piece.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Yield: 12-15 servings

Active time: 30 minutes

Start to finish: 1 hour, 20 minutes

 

miseFor the cake:

12 ounces dates, pitted and roughly chopped

2 1/2 cups water

2 teaspoons baking soda

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 stick softened butter, cut into pieces

1 2/3 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

 

 

datesFor the butterscotch sauce:

2 1/4 cups light brown sugar

7 tablespoons butter

1 cup half & half

1 teaspoon brandy

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

1 cup heavy cream, whipped to medium peaks, for garnish

  • Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan and cover the bottom with parchment. Butter the parchment and set aside.
  • Combine the dates and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and gradually stir in the baking soda (mixture will foam up). Set aside.

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  • Combine the flour and baking powder in a bowl.
  • Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the sugar to the butter and cream until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix until combined. Mix in vanilla.

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  • Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture and 1/3 of the dates and water, and mix until combined. Repeat until all the flour mixture and the dates are incorporated into the batter.
  • Pour into the prepared pan and bake about 40 minutes, or until firm and set in the center.

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  • Allow to cool in the pan. Once cool, invert onto a sheet tray and peel off the parchment paper.

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  • To prepare the butterscotch sauce, combine the brown sugar, butter, half and half and brandy in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue to boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  • When ready to serve pudding, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Pour the sauce evenly over the top of the cake. Bake until the sauce is bubbly and the cake is heated through, about 5 minutes.

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  • Cut into squares and serve with a dollop of the whipped heavy cream.

The Chopping Block's Sticky Toffee Pudding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you aren’t charged with bringing dessert, but rather an appetizer, Bacon Wrapped Dates are always crowd pleasers! They are the perfect combination of sweet and salty, made even better with a drizzle of Cream of Balsamic for the sour punch as well. Stuff them with Marcona almonds before you wrap them with bacon and you’ll get a nice texture contrast.

Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Cream of Balsamic

baconYield: 6-8 servings

Active time: 10 minutes

Start to finish: 25 minutes

24 dates, pitted

8 strips of bacon, cut into thirds

Cream of Balsamic

3 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias

  1. Preheat the oven to 375º.
  2. Wrap a piece of bacon around one date, making sure to overlap the ends of the bacon. Use a toothpick to secure. Continue until all dates are wrapped.
  3. Place on a parchment-lined sheet tray and bake for about 15 minutes or until the bacon is crisp.
  4. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with Cream of Balsamic. Sprinkle with the scallions and serve.

Now, you have no excuse/dilemma of what to bring for the last few holiday gatherings. If you need more help, check out Shelley’s video on How to Make Bacon Wrapped Dates.

 

Sunchokes: It’s a Tuber

Friday, November 28th, 2014

My students at The Chopping Block always ask me what I like to cook at home. My usual answer is tacos, grilled cheese, or something quick and easy. But every so often, I treat myself. I really enjoy cooking with seasonal vegetables because they taste better when they are in season, and you only get certain vegetables for a limited time each year.

If you are already getting tired of the fall “go to” butternut squash, I’ve got something for you to try. The sunchoke, a.k.a Jerusalem artichoke is a late fall and winter vegetable that is fun to play with. It’s a tuber.  At first glance, they look a little like ginger or galangal, which are rhizomes. If these happen to be side by side at the grocery store, break a little piece off and smell them. The ginger will be obvious.

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Sunchokes can be compared in flavor to jicama or fresh water chestnuts; slightly sweet with white flesh. You can eat them raw in a salad or they can be roasted, boiled or sautéed. I prefer to make a puree out of them.

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Think fancy mashed potatoes. They pair well with cream, garlic, ginger, hazelnuts, parmesan cheese and lemon. I peel them, cook them until tender in heavy cream and a little salt.

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Once tender, I strain them, reserving the heavy cream. Simply place the cooked sunchokes in a food processor and blend until smooth. I add small amounts of the cooking liquid until I get the consistency that I like.

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You do have to be careful not to over process. Sunchokes have a high starch content, like potatoes, so the puree can become gummy if over mixed. I recently made this puree and served it with garlicky green beans and seared pork tenderloin. Delish!

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Don’t be afraid of weird looking vegetables like Sunchokes or Celery Root. Be brave. Try something new!

A Spicy Sauce for Everything

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

I love all “South of the Border” flavors, but one sauce we make in The Chopping Block’s Too Hot to Handle class gets me every time. It’s a dipping sauce that’s made with Aji Amarillo paste and jalapenos.

What is Aji Amarillo paste? Blended Aji Amarillo peppers!  Well, there is a little bit of a process to it, but peppers are the only ingredient. In the class, this sauce is served with fried plantains. Yum!

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I made this sauce at home last week, and I’ve put it on just about everything I’ve eaten since. I initially made the fried plantains along with seared Jamaican spiced pork tenderloin. That was a great combination. A couple of days later, I made flank steak with poblano peppers, onions and roasted fingerling potatoes. The next day, I had leftover flank steak and veggies, so I made myself a wrap with the sauce.

Making this sauce and utilizing it in so many ways reminds me of our Sauce Boot Camp and French Sauce Workshop classes. Once you learn the basics of how to make a sauce, you can elevate any dish and make subtle changes to make it suitable to almost any cuisine. You definitely need to sign up for one these classes!

Here is the inspiring sauce recipe:

Peruvian Aji Amarillo-Jalapeño Dipping Sauce

Yield: 1 cup

Active time: 15 minutes

Start to finish: 15 minutes

sauce2 jalapeños, including seeds and ribs, cut into rounds

1 to 2 tablespoons aji amarillo paste (can be found at South American grocery stores)

10 sprigs fresh cilantro leaves and stems, roughly chopped

1/4 cup queso fresco, crumbled

1 clove garlic, rough chopped

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

1/2 teaspoon cava vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Salt to taste

Lime juice to taste

1/2 cup mayonnaise

  1.  Place all of the ingredients, except for the mayonnaise, in a food processor and puree until very smooth.
  2. Add the mayonnaise and pulse until incorporated.

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Carrie finally found her culinary niche as a Chef Instructor for The Chopping Block in May 2008, but only after a hilariously traumatic demonstration interview (of which you will have to attend one of her classes to hear about). She gets a thrill of sharing the things she’s learned about food and cooking with others and the memories and experiences around food that have made her who she is today. Her hope is to take away the apprehension people have of cooking by pouring on her southern hospitality and charm and having fun in the kitchen. When she isn’t cooking, you can usually find her at a concert, a neighborhood restaurant or just hanging out with friends and enjoying their company.