Gelatin-Free Panna Cotta (Chocolate Mint!), A Guest Post from the Fabulous Christine Dionese

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I have such a treat for you guys today! Do you remember the review and giveaway I did of The Best Craft Cocktails and Bartending with Flair a few months ago? One of the co-authors of that book, Christine Dionese, has written a guest post for us today, sharing something new to me: gelatin-free panna cotta! I have gotten to know Christine over the past several months through social media, and I think she is pretty amazing. Not only does she have kittens she is also kind and funny and talented. And here’s some more:

About Christine
Christine is an integrative health specialist, medical journalist and food writer. We are becoming friends over our love of dessert and cats! The garden & kitchen are her domains to help balance the more serious side of her work. She loves hanging out in the kitchen with her family, especially her two year old Milan- Christine likes to tell Milan stories about her great grandparents and what it was like growing up in the kitchen around food with them. She hopes Milan will love preparing beautiful food as much as she loves E A T I N G it!

She sounds great! Bring on the recipe!

Brownie Malt Sundae Ice Cream for Ice Cream Tuesday


If you’ve been following along on facebook, you know that the past few days were full of Cat Trauma. Lester got bitten in the face by a copperhead (he’s fine), and when we were driving to the emergency vet’s to pick him up after his overnight stay, we found a wee injured kitten in the middle of our street, so we scooped him up and took him with us to the vet. I called them to let them know that we’d be both picking up and dropping off. After a few days of touch and go for the little dude, he is with us again as a foster kitten. We already have a beautiful big orange foster in the guest room who refuses to come out from under the couch, so we’re hoping to put the wee kitten, now named Benny, in with Mr. Orange. It’s really hard to tell what his name is since he has been under the couch since he got here.

On Saturday, while Benny was still at the vet and Lester was well enough to leave, we took a quick overnight trip up to Black Mountain, NC to see the brilliant 14-year-old musician Ian Ridenhour play, and also to hang out with the rest of his wonderful family, Jamie, Gwyn and Eva. Ian was opening for a singer/songwriter named David LaMotte, and now I’m a fan of his too. It was a short but great trip. When we got home on Sunday, I was able to go pick up Benny, so the weekend ended on a Welcome Back Benny note.

Since I usually cook up ice creamy goodness on weekends for Ice Cream Tuesday, I was rushing around a bit trying to figure out what to make. I have a whole list of ideas I’ve generated, but I really wanted to make something that I wouldn’t have to go shopping for. No water buffalo mozzarella-galangal ice cream this week, friends. I had to use what was in the house.

And what was in the house was half and half, malted milk powder, and brownies.

Whew! For a minute I thought you were making cat food ice cream. This sounds promising though.

Introducing the Big Smoky Mack Burger for #tbtfood (a day late)

big mac 007-001

For those of you who follow me on facebook, you may have read that things have been very weird around here the past few days. Our cat Lester got bitten in the face by a copperhead (he’s fine now), and on the way to the emergency vet to pick him up after his overnight stay, we found an injured kitten in the road and brought him with us up to the vet. Plus, I’m a little bit sick.

We think the wee black kitten will be okay, and we will foster him through the rescue group we work with, so that’s good. I think that the stress of Lester’s bite coupled with carrying a wee bleeding kitten on my lap for 30 minutes, hoping and praying that he’d at least make it to the vet, was enough stress to make my throat hurt.

I am telling you all this not to get sympathy or attention, but by way of explaining why this is a very short post. And also a day late.

It may be a day late, but it doesn’t seem short so far. Show me the burger!/a>

Chocolate Sesame Brittle Ice Cream from Scoop Adventures for #ICTScoopAdventures


When I found myself helping to organize a special blog tour for Scoop Adventures: The Best Ice Cream of the 50 States, I knew that I wanted to feature the author Lindsay Clendaniel’s recipes. You most likely know from the first tour or from the book if you’ve already purchased a copy, that the ice cream recipes she gathered from around the country are all great. But it bears emphasizing that Lindsay Clendaniel is a maker of fantastic and inventive ice creams in her own right. So for this tour, all of us are featuring ice creams that Lindsay created. Many are sourced from her Scoop Adventures book while others of us turned to her blog, Scoop Adventures, for inspiration.

More ice cream and a giveaway! Yay!/a>

Bittersweet Balsamic Strawberry Swirl Brownies

Bittersweet Balsamic Strawberry Swirl Brownies

I’m going to tell you something about myself. I am one of the most competitive people in the world. I don’t care about sports at all, so I’m not on all the teams or anything. I just like to win. If I’m going to play a game, I want to win it. Decisively.

Here’s another thing about me. I am not a great team player. I have a hard time relying on others, especially if a grade is tied to it. (Am I the only person here who hated group projects in school?) Heck, I don’t even need a grade tied to it, now that I think about it. It’s not like we get graded for playing Scattergories or Pictionary. Or do we? Maybe it’s just that I grade myself. That very competitive side just comes out and wants to win.

You’re kind of freaking me out. I thought there were brownies.

Old-Fashioned All-Butter Angel Biscuits for #tbtfood

All-Butter Angel Biscuits

All-Butter Angel Biscuits have been casually on my radar for a few years now. I love the idea of using both baking powder and yeast to provide the leavening. It’s my guess, but I don’t know for sure, that these were developed to ensure success. If the baking powder didn’t help them to rise, then the yeast would, and vice versa. They’re kind of foolproof that way, but you still do have to use a light hand when bringing the dough together.

Foolproof sounds promising. Show me these biscuits!

Summer Salad with Roasted Envy Apple Vinaigrette #loveNZfruit

Summer Salad with Roasted Envy Apple Vinaigrette

I am not a salad girl. I eat them at restaurants so people won’t know that I’m not a salad girl and get judge-y, but short of peer pressure, I rarely eat salad. Look at my recipe index on Ye Olde Blogge. I don’t even have a Salad category. And if I did have a Salad category, it would be populated with all the potato salads and pasta salads my carb loving brain could dream up.

So, after the fun sorbetto I made with NZ pears last month, I decided to challenge myself to make a summer salad using the lovely Envy Apples. And they are lovely, too. I read over on the Envy Apple site that they are a cross between the best of Braeburn and Royal Gala apples, and NZ fruit people, let me just say that you did a Darned Fine Job coming up with these guys.

Ooh, I love a good apple! Let’s hear about this salad.

Buttermilk Mascarpone Stracciatella with Balsamic Strawberry Conserve for Ice Cream Tuesday

buttermilk mascarpone stracciatella

Buttermilk Mascarpone Stracciatella with Balsamic Strawberry ConserveHello, Tuesday. I’m so glad you’re here again.

Last week, Tuesday brought an outrageously decadent concoction, Triple Chocolate Coffee Peanut Crunch Gelato. I still have a little bit left, and the texture is just as lovely as the day I made it. In case you needed any added incentive to make some. This week, I figured I’d dial back the decadence just a bit.

Buttermilk Mascarpone Stracciatella sounds fairly intimidating, but it’s a very accessible base–easy to make, no eggs, delicious, fairly low in fat, all things considered. The balsamic strawberry conserve is rich and complex, yet it only contains 3 ingredients. 4 if you include salt, which you should. I will admit that adding a brown liquid to red fruit doesn’t yield the most beautiful color result. The conserve is rather a dark brick red. If you want a brighter red color, use white balsamic instead. I love the intensity of “regular” balsamic and was not sad to sacrifice some vibrancy for deep, complex flavor. As the conserve cooks, it gives off an almost chocolatey vibe. If you have one of those fun oil and vinegar stores near you, try making this with chocolate balsamic.

Sounds delicious! Sign me up!

Fried Green Tomato “Burgers” with Herbed Chèvre and Balsamic for Sunday Supper (Monday Edition)

fried green tomato burgers

We went to the farmer’s market yesterday. And not just any farmer’s market. This is the North Carolina State Farmer’s Market run by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. It is huge, and it is open every day. According to their website, there are over 30,000 square feet of space for local farmers to sell fruits and vegetables as well as for nurseries to sell everything from hanging baskets to ground cover to fruit trees. There are also 15,600 square feet of “market shops,” in a climate-controlled (okay, only sort of) building selling everything from grass fed beef and heritage pork to free-range eggs, local milk and cheeses to baked goods and candies and non-food products made in North Carolina.

We had no real plan yesterday other than to find some delicious items and turn them into dinner. I must say our plan was a rousing success!

The best plan of attack that we’ve found is to walk the open building from end to end, sweeping eyes from left to right like Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator as he searched for Sarah Connor. Once the preliminary recon phase is over, we go back through, tasting samples whenever available and talking to the folks manning (peopling) the stalls. Phase III involves standing in line at the Conveniently Located Cash Points ATM to grab some money. Most of the folks do take credit cards and some even take checks, but sometimes it’s fun to pay with Folding Money.

While in line, we discuss the merits of what we have tasted and sampled and remind each other which stalls we’re buying from that day. Once we have our cash, we grab up all our goodies, one stall after another. This week, we came away with 2 quarts of peaches, 7 ears of white corn, 3 large green tomatoes, a pound of shelled pecans and a quart of yellow grape tomatoes. Nice.

I already had plans for the pecans and the peaches, but I wanted to use at least some of all the rest of it in our meal. We debated in the car and decided that fried green tomato burgers would be an excellent plan. After batting around some Roll Ideas, we decided on pretzel rolls. Hearty enough to stand up to a juicy tomato and a bit chewy to lend some texture.

I like where you’re going. Bring on the fried green tomatoes!

How to Do the Creaming Method for Fundamental Friday

How to do The Creaming Method

I have written rather extensively about The Creaming Method before, but I think it warrants revisiting as part of Fundamental Friday. For American-style cakes and cookies, it is probably the most used mixing method.

I taught a cake class a few weeks ago at Whisk Carolina, and I demonstrated both genoise and a 1-2-3-4 cake using The Creaming Method. Several people said that they had no idea that they should cream the butter and sugar for so long, and few were really aware that the temperature of the ingredients is almost as important as the ingredients themselves.

Today, I’m going to go through the steps in detail, making sure to be as explicit as possible. If you can master the creaming method–and I know you can if you haven’t already–you will be able to make a gorgeous cake just with a list of ingredients.

Wait a minute, isn’t it Saturday? Whatever. Show me how to do The Creaming Method.