#ArkansasGives: Give Some, Eat Some for Charity

2 Apr

ArkansasgivesToday the Arkansas Community Foundation is rallying Arkansans, who are traditionally pretty charitable anyways, to commit the day to giving extra to nonprofits who do good work right here in our state.

ArkansasGives is a 12-hour online fundraising event happening today from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Arkansas Community Foundation is challenging all Arkansans to make a donation to their favorite charity on a single day, and they are adding bonus dollars and prizes on top of the money that comes in from the public. More than 350 nonprofits are participating, and they’re all driving their donors to give via ArkansasGives.org, where the ACF will be tallying the donations in real-time and posting them on leaderboards.

So, what does this have to do with food? Well, for one, many food-related charities are benefiting. My favorite, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, manages all the No Kid Hungry / Cooking Matters programs in the state, of which I have taught more than a few. Whichever food-related charity you’re drawn to, today is a great day to ensure their operations.

Need more motivation? How about food trucks?

The ArkansasGives event headquarters are at AT&T’s building at 1111 W. Capital, and they have given permission to have four food trucks set up out front during lunch (11 – 1:30). Each of the trucks has chosen a participating ArkansasGives charity they will support with 10% of their proceeds from the day.

Participating trucks will include Southern Salt, Loblolly Ice Cream, Hot Rod Wieners and Katmandu Momo.

So, donate, rally supporters of your favorite charity, and come on out for a lunch that gives!

Diamond Chef Prelim 2015 Live Results

31 Mar
Chef Justin Patterson (right) and sous chef Daniel Rogers plating during the competition. The team won the preliminaries and will compete against Marc Guizol in the final on June 2.

Chef Justin Patterson (right) and sous chef Daniel Rogers plating during the competition. The team won the preliminaries and will compete against Marc Guizol in the final on June 2.

Heat 1: Billy Ginocchio of Pulaski Tech vs. Payne Harding of Cache
Basket: Creekstone Farms ribeye, whole redfish, Cervasi peppered, McCormick Mediterranean sea salt, blood orange, rum, chocolate caramel Chex mix

Winner: Harding

Heat 2: Justin Patterson of Southern Gourmasian vs. Angela Nardi of Superior Bath House
Basket: Creekstone Farms brisket, whole Bronzini, Cervasi balsamic glaze, McCormick rubbed sage, heirloom cherry tomato, Boulevard Pale Ale, Butterscotch oatmeal bar

Winner: Patterson

Heat 3: Elliot Jones of YaYa’s vs. Jason Knapp of The Green Leaf Grill
Basket: Creekstone Farms beef tenderloin, grouper sides, Cervasi Spicy procuitto spread, McCormick smoked paprika, dragon fruit, sherry, chocolate chip oatmeal bar

Winner: Jones

Heat 4: Harding vs. Jones
Basket: Creekstone Farms Flank Steak, whole flounder, Cervasi tapenade, McCormick whole caraway seeds, passionfruit, marsala, Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Peanut Bar

Winner: Jones

Heat 5: Patterson vs. Jones
Basket: Creekstone Farms bone-in short loin, cobia sides, Cervasi aged cheddar, McCormick cream of tartar, kumquat, peppermint Schnapps, Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Almond Bar

FINAL WINNER: Justin Patterson of Southern Gourmasian. He will compete against Marc Guizol of Capital Bar & Grill in the June 2 final at Statehouse Convention Center. Patterson won against Jones by just half a point (162 to 162.5).

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Diamond Chef growing right along with Arkansas’ food scene

23 Mar

The kind folks at the Arkansas Times (hat tip to fellow foodie and new full-time food editor Michael Roberts) allowed me to do a writeup in the venerable Eat Arkansas blog today, talking a bit about Pulaski Technical College’s Diamond Chef competition.

Diamond Chef is important to our local food scene for lots of reasons, including some you may not know. ::Cough community college funding cough:: I hope you’ll read all about it.

Check it out!

Competitors Announced for 2015 Diamond Chef Arkansas

28 Jan

Diamond ChefArkansas’ biggest culinary competition is gearing up for its 2015 season: Diamond Chef Arkansas.

This annual event is a fundraiser for the Pulaski Technical College Foundation and is tied closely with the college’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute, which will host the preliminary competition on Tuesday, March 31, 2 – 8 p.m.

The preliminary event whittles down a large field of contenders in double-elimination style, with a full docket of the state’s best culinary talent (see below). That day’s winner will compete one-on-one against 2014 Diamond Chef winner Marc Guizol of the Capital Hotel in the finale, held Tuesday, June 2 at the Statehouse Convention Center.

Competitors in this year’s preliminaries include:

  • Billy Ginocchio, Faculty, PTC Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute
  • Payne Harding, Executive Chef, Cache
  • Elliot Jones, Executive Chef, YaYa’s Euro Bistro
  • Angela Nardi, Executive Chef, Superior Bath House Brewery & Distillery
  • Justin Patterson, Executive Chef, Southern Gourmasian
  • Jason Knapp, Executive Chef, The Green Leaf Grill

The preliminary event is casual, open to anyone, and free to attend, which I highly recommend if you have even the slightest love for fine food and friendly (albeit heated) competition. Just drop in anytime from 2 to 8 p.m. at the culinary school on March 31.

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Diamond Chef Arkansas Preliminary Competition
Pulaski Technical College – Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute
13000 Interstate 30, Little Rock
Tuesday, March 31, 2 – 8 p.m.
FREE admission, drop in anytime
(501) 812-2860

Historic Arkansas Museum 10th Ever Nog Off Tonight

12 Dec
Overhead view of the gorgeous atrium at Historic Arkansas, during a previous Nog Off

Overhead view of the gorgeous atrium at Historic Arkansas, during a previous Nog Off

It’s time to get your nog on with the “10th Ever” Nog Off at Historic Arkansas Museum, held as part of the 2nd Friday Art Night tonight from 5 to 8 p.m. Admission is free.

As you may know, I was the PR director at Historic Arkansas during the transition from its former name, the Arkansas Territorial Restoration, and the opening of their incredible new (at the time) facility. (Confession? It hurts my feelings to say it’s not so new anymore!)

Back then, which was 12-14 years ago, we had a really great annual staff Christmas party that always included museum director Bill Worthen making eggnog. And this wasn’t any eggnog — it was 100% historically accurate, made exactly from the recipe of William Woodruff, one of the museum site’s original residents in the mid-1800s. Let me tell you, that was some stout stuff that this lightweight couldn’t roll with.

Somewhere along the way, the staff had the amazing idea to open the eggnog festivities to the public, inviting them to enter their own ‘nog for judging and public consumption. Today, a dozen-ish competitors offer their drinks to the attending public, and from last year’s experience, I can tell you that they’re all very palatable. (Well, I can’t say ALL…I’m no lush, you know.)

This year’s competitors include Cache Restaurant, Capital Bar and Grill, Copper Grill, The Empress, Loblolly Creamery, Bridget Fennel Ferris, John Selig and Family and Stone’s Throw Brewing.

10th-nogoff

This year the competition will begin with a ceremonial cracking of the first egg by the first two inducted Nog Emeriti – Louise Terzia, the First (and Second) Ever Nog-off winner,  and David Burnette of South on Main who has won the Nog-off in various categories a record four times.

Visitors can start 2nd Friday Art Night at Historic Arkansas Museum’s 10th Ever Nog-off, where there is plenty of free parking, and later catch the trolley to other participating venues. Shuttle service ends at 8:30 p.m.

While at the museum, check out the museum’s new exhibits: Capturing Early Arkansas in Depth: The Stereoview Collection of Allan Gates and “this is the garden: colors come and go” Works by Rachel Trusty.

10th Ever Nog Off
Friday, Dec. 12, 5 – 8 p.m.
Free admission and parking
Historic Arkansas Museum
200 E. Cumberland St. (Corner with 3rd), Little Rock
(501) 324-9351

Sometimes, you just need a corn dog. #glutenfree #giveaway

8 Dec
Crispy, delicious, gluten free corn dogs. Like whoa.

Crispy, delicious, gluten free corn dogs. Like whoa.

Disclaimer: Yeah, another semi-sponsored post. I’ll write up the killer chicken soup I just made pretty soon, as well as a review of a paleo-style dinner I recently attended. But this is free GLUTEN FREE corn dogs, people. And they’re awesome. And I knew they were awesome before I was contacted about giving them away, and I wouldn’t have put them on here if they weren’t. So there. :) 

Over the past ten years or so, I’ve learned quite a bit.

Eat whole, unprocessed foods to be healthy.

Eat a minimum of sugar, fat and starch if you can help it.

And the best rule of all: Every so often, shuck the rules.

Unfortunately for me, my rules must always include being gluten free, lest I spend the next day or so in the bed or restroom. (Le sigh.) So, when the time comes to totally be naughty, what do I want?

::Cue Spice Girls…I’LLTELLYOUWHATIWANT, WHATIREALLYREALLYWANT::

I want a corn dog. A crispy, salty, delicious corn dog.

Mustard

A few months ago, I noticed someone on the local Gluten Intolerance Group Facebook page talking about some amazing new gluten-free corn dogs that were available at Kroger. “Not me!” I silently gloated. “I don’t eat such things.” And I stared. And I really, REALLY wanted one. Slathered with mustard. Mmmmmmmmmmm…….

So the next time I was at Kroger, I looked around. Nobody was looking. I slid some into my cart. BAM.

gf_corndogsThey were Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs. And they were glorious. I found that I liked them cooked a little longer than the package says — baked in the oven, of course, not nuked — for optimum brown crunchy awesome.

So, although I usually tell people NOT to buy a lot of pre-packaged gluten free things, let me just assure you that it will be okay. As long as this isn’t representative of your diet, you’re gonna be fine. A few packages of gluten free Oreo-lookalikes won’t kill you, either. (Omigosh Trader Joe’s, WHY won’t you come to Little Rock??) Trust me, my pantry has its share of occasional treats.

Want to give these dogs a try? Sure you do.

It just so happened that, about a month after I purchased the aforementioned box, Foster Farms contacted me about the same product. I figured I could confess to them that I’d already bought some. And they had a cool offer for my readers who also just really, really wanted a (gluten free) corn dog.

Bite at angle

Mention in the comments how you like to eat your corn dogs. (With ketchup or mustard? Part of a meal or alone? Balanced with fruit and/or veggies or whatevs?) We’ll pick five commenters and Foster Farms will ship you your VERY OWN BOX, you guys. Comments close on Monday, Dec. 22.

I’m like the Oprah of corn dogs.

Oprah of corn dogs

Now that my secret is out, I guess I’ll eat more salad this week.

And some Joe-Joe‘s…

Holiday Tips and Recipes from ‘Tis the Season Class

24 Nov
cheese wafers spicy pecan crackers

Pecan Cheese Wafers from Saveur Magazine. These were the BOMB!

I was a goofy, disjointed mess at Friday’s ‘Tis the Season event at Central Baptist Church in North Little Rock, and that made it more fun. At least for me. I’m blaming my lingering cold, so there.

This annual women’s event includes a potluck the likes of which you’ve never seen (including some Burge hams provided by the church), door prizes, and the highlight: choosing three of nine available classes on topics from hair braiding and games to cake decorating and my class, holiday cooking.

I learned from the event flyer that I was sharing tips and tricks (ha), so I came up with these:

  1. Buy one good chef’s knife and learn how to use it. No need for a huge knife set! Maybe add a paring knife, and you’re set. I showed everyone my favorite santoku knife and said a regular chef’s knife is just peachy as well. Look for one in the $30-50 range for everyday use. I also demonstrated the very basics of knife work and how to cut things up safely.
  2. Take advantage of small appliances when tackling holiday cooking. For this class, we focused on the food processor and the magical things it can accomplish.
  3. Don’t be afraid to make a recipe your own! Take an old family favorite or something new you found online. Look in your cupboards for new ingredients you can use. Or just go crazy and make something up! Once you learn the basics of how ingredients go together (and I can help if you need it), the sky’s the limit.

The first item I made is a cranberry relish I’ve served at several Thanksgiving and Christmas events over recent years, from the Simply Recipes blog. Since it’s not my recipe, just click the link to check it out! This relish is super simple, with just four ingredients, and it freezes beautifully.

At the class I demonstrated in real time what happens if you overload your food processor with this recipe…you get perfectly-sized relish, with huge chunks of apple and orange throughout. Even if you have a big processor like mine, do half of the recipe at a time to ensure better uniformity, pulsing the processor until it’s just right. And if you have a meat grinder, use that instead for a PERFECT texture!

The next item was a pecan cheese wafer from Saveur magazine’s website. This is an innovative twist on the spicy cheese cracker I’ve made before (as here in culinary school), adding a pecan half with an egg white as “glue.” The pecan’s sweetness perfectly balances the salty, spicy cracker. This recipe is easily made gluten-free, too, since there is very little flour used and the low-protein GF flour keeps the crackers light. I used Cup for Cup for mine.

My only complaint about the Saveur recipe as published is the quantity listed. The recipe claims a yield of 2 1/2 dozen, rolling the crackers to 1/8 inch thick. This is actually pretty thick for a cracker, but I went with it since it’s easier to cut and transfer to a baking sheet that way. I QUADRUPLED the recipe and got just around 3 dozen. I imagine the Saveur folks actually rolled them much thinner in their test kitchens, likely 1/16″ or so. If you want to roll it that thin, try rolling it directly onto some parchment paper on the back of a baking sheet, baking it as a solid sheet. Once it’s crisp, break the sheet into “rustic” uneven pieces. (If you were at the class, you’ll get the joke about “rustic.”)

The final recipe was my own invention, a “Thanksgiving Dinner in a Bite” canapé (see below). This is the demonstration of tip #3 above, creating something completely different on your own. Using a few simple ingredients and fun techniques, I inventioneered this while planning the class. I couldn’t taste-test due to my gluten problem, but class visitors said it was pretty good! Somehow I managed to not take a photo both times I made it, so you’ll have to trust me. It’s pretty cute.

If you attended, thanks for coming by, and sorry I was a little crazy! But as I said, life is more fun that way, right? Let me know if you make any of these, and let me know if I can help!

***********************************

“Thanksgiving in a Bite” Canapé
Makes 24 pieces

  • One box of frozen puff pastry
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 thick slice of deli turkey or about 1 cup leftover roasted turkey
  • 4 oz. cream cheese (1/2 a standard box)
  • 1/2 cup cranberry relish
  • Optional: 2 T. sour cream or plain yogurt
  • Optional: 2 chives, cut into several 1-inch pieces

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees, and move the puff pastry and the cream cheese to the countertop about 30 minutes before starting the recipe.

The puff pastry should still be cool when you’re ready to cut out your circles. Dust a smooth working surface with flour and unfold the puff pastry onto it, then dust the top of the pastry with flour as well. Using a rolling pin or similar device, roll the pastry out just slightly to smooth it out.

Press straight down into the puff pastry with a 1 1/2″ round or scalloped cutter and move the cut rounds onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. The sharper the cutter is, the easier this step will be and the higher the rounds will puff.

Bake the rounds for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and punch down in the middle with the round end of a wooden spoon or similar utensil. Place back in the oven for 2-3 minutes or until the rounds are slightly browned on the bottom. Allow the baked rounds to cool before filling.

If you would like to lighten up the cream cheese, mix it thoroughly with the sour cream or plain yogurt. (It’s fine without it, just a bit heavier.) Place the cream cheese or the mixture into a piping bag or a freezer bag (don’t use a standard sandwich bag or the seams will burst). Cut off a corner and pipe a small amount, maybe a half teaspoon, into each baked puff pastry round.

Place a small piece of turkey into each round on top of the cream cheese. If you purchased the turkey at the deli, cut it into cubes and smash it a bit so it won’t look so “manufactured.”

Scoop a 1/2 teaspoon or so of the cranberry relish on top of the turkey, and garnish with the chives if you want. Pretty and delish!

Foodie Tool Review: Utensils by The Saucepan Chef (Giveaway)

31 Oct
footer_utensils

The Saucepan Chef utensil set

DISCLAIMER: The marketing team from The Saucepan Chef gave me two sets of their utensils for review and a giveaway. No promise of a positive review was given in exchange for these products. 

If you’re like me, you probably love your kitchen toys. Zesters, blenders, high-tech or basic, these gadgets can make cooking even more fun! I must say that, with professional training, I don’t use them quite as much as I once did. But sometimes there’s just no substitute for what a cooking tool can accomplish.

We’re starting a new series here on Fancy Pants Foodie, the Foodie Tool Review. These reviews may be of a product I already have, or I may accept a sample product to complete the review. Either way, there’s no promise of a good review…I’ll just tell you what I thought.

My first Tool Review subject is a set of cooking utensils by The Saucepan Chef. These utensils are unlike anything you’ve ever seen or used. They’re kind of big and bulky, and a little heavy. And they’re awesome.

The heft and size comes from their unique design. The business ends are a little bigger than average, and they’re at weird angles…more on that in a minute. Made of vinyl, they can withstand high-ish heat (I did rough up the end of one in some super-hot bacon grease). They’re solid black with grooved handles for your thumb, so they look sleek and would probably match most kitchens.

Spoon with rice

The spoon in the set is narrowish and squared off on the end, allowing you to scrape the corners of a pot easily. I also found the flat end helpful when stirring a sauce that might burn or reduce too much if it didn’t get scraped thoroughly while stirring in the pan. When serving a hard-to-grip product like rice, the narrow spoon gets down into the pan easily and scoops it up well, without a lot of spillage.

Spatula collage

The spatula is really wide, curved at the edge, and, most noticeably, and tilted at a precarious angle. I wondered how this would feel while cooking, but my test on a burger patty worked great. Learning to flip at this angle took a bit of brain retraining, but once you get the hang of it, the Saucepan Chef spatula feels quite natural. Later, I used it to cook some bacon pieces and noticed it worked well turned upside down to move the food around. Then I could scoop it up easily with the spatula turned the other way.

Well, yeah, this is where the outer limits of the spatula’s temperature range got tested…when the grease got really hot, the spatula’s edge started to get a bit of a rough texture. But there was no outright melting like you’d see with a cheap plastic spatula.

The slotted spoon functioned pretty much as expected, if a bit sturdier than usual. And I honestly haven’t used the “spork” just yet, although it does look like it would be handy at lifting heavier meats. The leaf-shaped “knife” was handy, however, at breaking up ground meat in a pan.

Ladle

Okay, so this blackeyed pea concoction looks a little gross in photos. I liked it!

I’m saving the ladle for last. It’s magnificent, my daughter says. She’s not wrong.

I mean, why haven’t ladles always had corners? Some do have a slight edge, but I’ve never seen a large ladle like this. The corner directs the flow of what you’re pouring. Right. Into. The. Destination. It’s a thing of beauty. My husband’s cheese dip will never be the same. (And by never being the same, I mean I won’t have to scrub it off the countertop anymore.)

The Saucepan Chef utensil set retails for $39.95 and is sold exclusively on their website at this time.

I would say it’s worth it. I’ve seen high-end spatulas alone retailing for $15 or so, and this is a whole set of tools that will last you a long time. (I mean, if you’re smart enough to not dip them in boiling grease.) Plus, there’s a 30-day guarantee on full sets and a one-year guarantee on individual utensils.

And how do I prove that they’re great? A giveaway! I’ve got an extra set of Saucepan Chef utensils that you can win, just by commenting with what you’d make with them. Do so below, and on Friday, Nov. 14 we’ll randomly pick a winner.

Root Café’s Award-Winning Coconut Curry Collard Greens

29 Oct
Root Cafe's Coconut Curry Collard Greens

Our sampling of the glorious greens from last week’s Food Day event. (I went in for more later.)

And can I get an amen?

This holy manna makes an appearance just about every day (although sometimes in different forms, depending on what greens are available) at The Root Café in Little Rock. Even if you don’t think you like greens, you’ll probably dig these.

People dug them pretty hard at the 2012 Arkansas Cornbread Festival, where this recipe won “Best Side Dish.” And to our knowledge, the recipe hasn’t been published anywhere…until now.

Root Café owner and chef Jack Sundell prepares the restaurant's Coconut Curry Collard Greens with Dr. Meenakshi Budrahaja.

Root Café owner and chef Jack Sundell prepares the restaurant’s Coconut Curry Collard Greens with Dr. Meenakshi Budhraja.

Root Café owner and chef Jack Sundell served as a panelist on last week’s Food Day event at Pulaski Tech’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute, giving insight on how restaurateurs can commit to using local ingredients. (Hint: It takes a lot of planning and networking.) After the panel, Sundell made this recipe for the audience, which included culinary students, middle schoolers from Conway, and members of the local food community.

Hope you enjoy as much as we did!

*********************************************

The Root Café’s Coconut Curry Collard Greens
Serves 4-6

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 2 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. best quality curry powder
  • 2 pounds collard greens or kale, washed and stemmed (should give you about 1 1/2 pounds ready to use)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. salt and more to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Sweat onions with salt until softening, about 5 minutes. Add curry powder and cook one minute, then add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant.

Add half the greens, lower the heat a little bit, and stir occasionally until the greens have mostly wilted.  Add rest of greens, coconut milk, stock, and 1 tsp. salt, cover pot, and reduce heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until greens are tender, 25 – 30 minutes.  Avoid over stirring.

Remove lid and increase heat to medium-high. Cook until most liquid has evaporated and broth has thickened, about 5 minutes. Watch carefully as not to scorch the greens.  Remove pot from heat, stir in one tablespoon each olive oil and lime juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pulaski Tech hosts Food Day to discuss community, health and economy

22 Oct

Food DayPulaski Technical College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute will host a Food Day panel discussion and food demonstrations with chefs, farmers and doctors on Oct. 23 to discuss how food choices affect the community, environment, economy, and public health.

The discussion begins at 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, in the Celebrity Chef Theatre at the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Institute, 13000 Interstate 30.

The panelists are Jack Sundell, chef/owner of The Root Café; Jody Hardin, a farmer for St. Joseph Farm and Farm and Food Innovation Center; Dr. Meenakshi Budhraja, gastroenterologist and nutrition educator; and Chef Suzanne Campbell, a culinary instructor at Pulaski Technical College.

The discussion will focus on food safety, health, seasonal cooking, and food preservation. Questions will be accepted from the audience, and the panelists will provide a cooking demonstration using locally grown products.

The event is being held in conjunction with Food Day, a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. The event is free and open to the public. To reserve a seat, contact Kendal Haycook (501) 812-2860 or email khaycook@pulaskitech.edu

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