Every year, millions of people celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. It also marks the culmination of the Lenten season, and it goes without saying that this is a very important marker for religious believers worldwide. Easter also occurs during a time in the year when our surroundings are in bloom, which falls in line with the Spring season’s ties to birth, growth and fertility.
Somewhere along the line, Easter Sunday picked up secular associations with a big bunny, egg hunts, candy and an array of pastel colors. When it comes to those long-eared hoppers, you can thank German immigrants who shared old stories of an Easter rabbit who laid eggs meant for children to find and baked cakes shaped like hares. In the 1800s, French and German candy makers fashioned chocolate eggs, which spread to various countries across Europe. Kids were encouraged to make little nests shaped like baskets for the Easter Bunny to leave his chocolate eggs. Today, we continue to follow along with these traditions. In light of imposed restrictions and denials common with Lent, indulging in candy is also a welcome treat for adults.
Tradition is a wonderful thing, but it can be exciting to try something new. Tired of dipping your eggs in dye? How about wrapping them in fresh sausage and cooking them to golden brown perfection? Dress up your Easter eggs with this classic–the Scotch egg. Popular in the United Kingdom, Scotch eggs are often served cold in pubs or cafes or packed in picnic baskets. They used to be the perfect lunch for workers whose wives transformed leftovers into a second meal or travelers picking up portable snacks for the road. Stories vary as to who may have created the first Scotch egg, although the London department store, Fortnum & Mason, claims them as their own.
For a while, Scotch eggs were looked down upon, but lately, they’ve received welcome and deserved recognition. Unlike the basic boiled egg, Scotch eggs combine creamy yolks with seasoned, cooked meat and a crispy exterior. They are a sophisticated blend of textures and flavors. Dip these hot, fried (or baked) eggs into the accompanying tarragon mustard sauce, and you have something very special for Easter Sunday.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! The Emerald Isle is a magical place. If you’ve been there, you definitely know why people love it. The rolling hills, kind folks, hearty food and lively music are just a few reasons the country has such a strong hold on the hearts and souls of many. St. Patrick’s Day is the yearly marker to celebrate the history of the country’s patron saint. This year, put down the green beer, and give this naturally green martini a go.
Thanks to fresh basil and tart key lime juice, this twist on a martini is a strikingly colorful version of a traditional cocktail with an herbal note. Never made your own simple syrup? Just equal parts sugar and water, the syrup is often a main ingredient in a number of drinks, serving as a liquid sweetener that meshes well with everything in the mix. Simple syrup is easy to prepare and adapt in terms of flavors, and yes, colors, if you so choose. Use the leftovers to sweeten other cocktails, tea, or as the base of a summer lemonade. This green, slightly herbal basil martini is my ode to St. Patrick’s Day.
Basil Martini - Serves 2
4 ounces American dry gin
1 ounce simple syrup (see below for recipe)*
5 small or 3 large fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
1 ounce fresh key lime juice
1 cup crushed ice
4 ounces seltzer water or club soda
Pour the gin and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker.
Add basil leaves and lime juice. Muddle until the basil leaves are broken into small pieces.
Add crushed ice, seal, and shake about 10 seconds.
Pour into two chilled martini glasses. Top with seltzer or club soda, and garnish with a sprig of basil.
Smokey Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos
Makes 6 servings
Recipe by Chef Jennifer Hill Booker
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
12 jalapeno peppers
6 slices bacon cut in half thin sliced bacon works better
24 wooden toothpicks
|Preheat grill to 400*F.|
|Mix cream cheese and Cheddar cheese together in a bowl until evenly blended.
Cut a small hole, about the size of a quarter, in each jalapeno. Save the pieces of jalapeno you remove and leave the stems intact.
For a less spicy jalapeno: Use a small spoon, scrape out the seeds and membrane.
Fill each jalapeno with the cheese mixture.
Put the piece of jalapeno back in place and wrap each stuffed pepper with a half slice of bacon. Secure the bacon with a toothpick.
Arrange bacon-wrapped peppers on the prepared grill
|Grill until bacon is crispy, about 10 minutes, turning throughout the grilling process.|
Grilled Jerk Chicken Wings
Yields 8 servings
Recipe by Chef Jennifer Hill Booker
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
1 small onion, peeled
3 scallions, green and white parts
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
4 large garlic cloves
3 Scotch bonnet chilies, seeds removed
¼ cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sea salt
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
¾ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
16 whole chicken wings
Preheat grill to 400*F.
Place onion, scallions, thyme, garlic, scotch bonnet, lime juice, vegetable oil, salt, brown sugar, allspice, black pepper, and cinnamon in a food processor and puree until it resembles a smooth paste.
Place chicken wings in a large Ziploc bag and coat with the marinade. You can save any unused marinade in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Just make sure it doesn’t come in contact with the raw chicken or anything (including your hands) that has touched the raw wings.
Seal bag and refrigerate overnight to 24 hours.
Remove chicken from the refrigerator and allow to temper for 20 minutes at room temperature.
Place wings on the hottest side of the grill and cook until well browned on all sides, about 3-5 minutes.
Move chicken to cooler side of the grill, cover with lid or an aluminum pan, and continue to cook until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes more.
Remove from grill, allow to rest for 5 minutes and enjoy with a cold drink!
Spice up your Holidays!
Try this Simple & Delicious Spiced Wine Recipe.
Rich full-bodied wine, fragrant spices and fresh citrus makes this Spiced Wine a real holiday treat!
Yields 6 healthy servings
1 bottle full-bodied red wine
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 orange, zest only
1 lemon, zest only
3 black peppercorns, crushed
2 cardamom pods, crushed
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup kirsch
12 cinnamon sticks
In a large saucepan, combine the red wine with the sugar, the orange and lemon zests, peppercorns, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and cloves.
Over moderate heat, slowly bring the wine to a very low simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Remove from the heat, strain out the zest and spices; and stir in the kirsch.
Ladle the spiced wine into heatproof glasses, garnish with cinnamon sticks, and serve hot.
Here are few tips from chef and author of Southern cookbook, Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent, to help make your Thanksgiving turkey your BEST yet!
Prerequisites for Cooking the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey
Number One: The temperature in your oven has to be accurate.
You might want to test your oven before the big day by simply preheating it to 250° and testing it with a cooking thermometer. Start your turkey out uncovered in a 425*F oven for 30 minutes. Cover the breast with aluminum foil and drop the temperature down to 325*F for the remainder of the cooking time. This is guarantees a turkey that is crisp outside and juicy inside.
Number Two: Your turkey has been safely and totally thawed and cleaned. The only safe way to thaw a frozen turkey is to place it in the refrigerator. Other methods such as running cold water over it or placing it in a microwave oven are not safe because of the chance of bacterial growth and food borne illness. So place your frozen bird in the refrigerator at least 2 days before the big day.
Number Three: Be sure to remove the neck and giblets from the inside of the turkey! Don’t laugh! People have done this, so check both the top AND the bottom of your turkey for them. There is nothing quite as anti-climactic is carving the Thanksgiving turkey and having the bag of giblets pop out.
Number Four: Know the actual weight of the turkey. Knowing this number guarantees that you cook your turkey the right amount of time and end up with a turkey that’s golden brown, juicy, and delicious. It also helps plan the timing of your side dishes as well. A good rule of thumb to figure out when to start cooking your Thanksgiving turkey is to back track from the time you want to have it on the table.
Number Five: Add your dressing last. Stuff your turkey with dressing once the turkey is totally done and has an internal cooking temperature of 165*F. NEVER stuff a raw turkey-the dressing will absorb the turkey’s uncooked blood and juices and can lead to food borne illness.
Custom Made Knives by Heartwood Forge
Great food is a result of many moving parts like quality ingredients, talented cooks and the right equipment, all working together to create an unforgettable meal. I’ve found that people here in Georgia are pretty savvy when it comes to knowing how our food is grown and where it comes from. And thanks to popular cooking shows, they also know how to properly cook and present that food! But I wonder if they’ve ever given much thought to how their pots, pans and their knives are made? Well I did, so I took a journey to Jefferson to find out.
photo by Will Manning
Nestled in the woods right off Potters House Road is Heartwood Forge, where designer and knife maker Will Manning creates his practical works of art. Hoping to answer my own question, I spent the day making knives with Will. Which admittedly, from the outside looking in, seemed more like Will making the knives while I just watched. What I learned was this: Will is very skilled and passionate in what he does. He uses repurposed metal from places like Monticello to make his knives; salvaged wood from trees like pecan, box elder and maple or white tailed deer antlers to make the handles; and reclaimed brass for balancing the handle with the blade of the knife. I also learned that his goal is to put his knives in the hands that will use them, and for that measure he has a virtual store front where you can browse and buy your knives. If you’re thinking you want something more a bit more personal, like a custom made knife, then you’re in luck, because as it turns out, Will makes those too!
Photos by Jennifer Hill Booker
Let’s Welcome Our Culinary Explorer!
Chef Jennifer Hill Booker
Chef Jennifer Hill Booker is a Georgia Grown Executive Chef, Atlanta based cookbook author, and culinary educator, and believes that “food should taste like food.” Jennifer has spent her 20-year culinary career educating people about food, nutrition, and healthy cooking practices.
As a working mother, she knows that quick, easy, and delicious is the name of the game when making meals for her family and makes a point of sourcing out the tastiest seasonal produce to cook at home.
As a culinary educator, she is in a prime position to demonstrate the ease, affordability, and importance of cooking and eating seasonally, and has shared this information in the classroom, cooking stage, her original published recipes, and in her first cookbook – Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent, (available at Pelicanpub.com).
In addition to being a mom and a chef, she also enjoys being a contributing food writer for Georgia Magazine, a guest blogger for Produce Bites, and sharing innovative recipes, cooking trends, and fun kitchen gadgets on her own website: YourResidentGourmet.com.
Tomato & Bell Pepper Relish
Summertime in Georgia means lazy days by the pool, picnics at the park, and gardens, gardens, gardens! For all of you avid gardeners, it’s time to reap the rewards of all of the hard work you’ve put into your gardens this year! Not a gardener? Not to worry, there is enough seasonal bounty to go around! I’m talking about crisp bell peppers, spicy onions, sweet and juicy tomatoes, and everything in between.
With tomatoes and bell peppers in season, this canned Tomato & Bell Pepper Relish recipe is the ideal way to capture summer in a jar! It’s delicious now and the perfect way to preserve summer vegetables and enjoy them all year round. I also LOVE the fact that this recipe is extremely versatile. My family enjoys it on hotdogs, over peas and beans (pinto beans are my favorite), and even as a zesty addition to Southern style potato salad.
So the next time you harvest veggies from your garden or make a trip to your local farmer’s market, be sure and take a copy of this recipe with you and pick up everything you need to make Tomato & Bell Pepper Relish. And be sure to take a peek at all of the fresh and inviting recipes listed on ProduceBites -You’ll be glad that you did.
Tomato & Bell Pepper Relish
Yields 8-10 pints
- 4 cups onions, rough chopped
- 1 large cabbage, cored and rough chopped into ¼ inch pieces
- 4 cups green tomatoes, cored and rough chopped
- 4 cups green and red bell peppers, rough chopped into ¼ pieces
- 6 large garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup pickling salt
- 6 cups sugar
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup Pickling Spice
Pickling Spice Ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
- 2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons black pepper corns
- 1 teaspoon dried mace
- 1 tablespoon cardamom
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried ginger
- 2 dried bay leaves, crumbled
- 2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
- 6 whole cloves
To Prepare Picking Spice:
- Add all ingredients to a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.
- Seal tightly and shake to combine.
- This spice mixture will last about 3 months when keep in a cool dark place.
- In a large bowl, combine the onions, cabbage, green tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic and salt.
- Cover with a clean cloth and let stand room temperature overnight or at least 12 hours. Transfer vegetables to cheese cloth lined colander or sieve and drain well. This may take up to 2 hours.
- Place vegetables in a large stainless steel stock pot and add sugar, vinegar, water and Pickling Spice.
- Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Pack into hot sterilized pint jars, wiping the rim of the jars clean.
- Seal and process in a pot of boiling water, making sure the water covers the jar tops with at least 2 inches of water, slowly bring water to a boil, and process for 5 minutes.
- Remove pot from heat and allow jars to cool to room temperature while in processing water.
- Remove from water, wipe dry and make sure all jars are tightly sealed. You know that they are sealed when you are able to press the center of the lids without getting any bounce back.
- Store unopened jars in a cool dark place for a year or more-so long as the jar remains tightly sealed.
- Enjoy on hotdogs and burgers, over beans and greens and even in potato salad!
For other delicious & seasonal recipes, go to ProduceBites, A Blog For People Who Love Georgia Grown Fruits And Vegetables.
Photo credit to Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
I was writing a menu for a cooking class, and looking for a chocolate pots de creme recipe that didn’t require any cook time- and I found it!!
This recipe is adapted from The Pioneer Woman’s (Ree Drummond), recipe. She had the right idea and I just added my personal touches to it. So get your blender ready and prepare to fall in love with this Rich, Decadent, and Ridiculously Easy chocolate pots de creme recipe!
Chocolate Pots de Crème
Yields 8 servings
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chip
6 ounces dark chocolate chips
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper
8 ounces (1 cup) very hot strong coffee or espresso
1 cup heavy cream, cold
2 tablespoons sugar
Place the chocolate chips, eggs, vanilla, salt and the cayenne pepper into a blender.
Pulse 5 to 7 times or until the chocolate chips are pulverized.
Turn on the blender on low speed and carefully pour the very hot coffee through the top of the blender lid, in a steady stream. The coffee will melt the chocolate turning it into a smooth mixture.
Blend until smooth and creamy.
Pour the mixture into small mason jars, wine glasses or demitasse cups and place in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours, or until firm.
Whip the cream with the sugar together with a wire whip.
Add a spoonful of whipped cream to each pot de crème right before serving.