melting points…

all cheeese!

We all have melting points, children and adults alike.  What is your trigger?  I have to say one of my melting points is not being able to find something that I know isn’t lost, just misplaced.  It can really make me come undone!

The melting point I am talking about today is so much more fun, the kind you actually want.  It’s all about cheese, the melting point of cheese and a fun demonstration last week called “Cheese Meets Heat” at Whole Foods.  Each quarter Whole Foods will host this and I hope you will put off your shopping until one evening to take advantage of yummy samples and creative recipes.  Last week the samples were:

Berliner and Gruyere Mac and Cheese a great “grown up mac”, but don’t be fooled, my daughter devoured it!

French Onion Crostini with Balsamic Cipollini Onions and Melted Gruyerebest described as a deconstructed French Onion Soup appetizer.  Better yet, you can purchase the fancy sounding balsamic cipploini onions already prepared in their olive bar, just make (or buy if you must) the crostini’s and melt some Gruyere cheese on top and serve.  Throw some flour on your shirt and you’ll look like you’ve been slaving all day!

Fried Halloumi with Olive Oil and Black Pepperwho doesn’ t love warm, easy to eat cheese?

Alpine Extra Cheese on Potatoes with Cornichonsa surprising and interesting flavor combination!

Yummy, right?  If you’re hungry now and wishing you could have it for dinner, then please see below for the recipe for mac & cheese and a recipe for the fried halloumi, courtesy of their awesome in house cheese monger in action!

cheese monger

Berliner and Gruyere Mac and Cheese

Kosher salt Vegetable oil 1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi 1 quart milk 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 12 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (4 cups) 8 ounces Berliner der Kase, grated (2 cups)

6 ounces fresh chevre 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cook macaroni according to package directions.  Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyère, Berliner, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish. Dot the top with goat cheese, poking some down in the noodles. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

berliner cheese

Fried Halloumi

8      ounces (225 – 250g) halloumi

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil for frying, plus 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil for dressing the fried cheese

a few generous grinds of black pepper

big pinch of red pepper flakes

  1. Drain the halloumi and cut it into cubes; slice the slab in half horizontally, then cut the cheese into batons and slice them into cubes. Pat the cubes very dry with paper towels.
  2. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the cubes of halloumi and cook for a few minutes without stirring, until the bottoms are well-browned.
  3. Turn the halloumi cubes with a spatula, and brown them on the other sides. They don’t need to be perfectly browned on all sides, but they should be a nice golden brown color for best flavor.
  4. Transfer the fried halloumi cubes to a bowl along with any oil in the pan. Grind black pepper over the cheese, add the red pepper flakes and the remaining 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Stir well, and serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Enjoy the best of all the cheesy things life can bring you!   Julia

Advertisements

exhilarating…

“ex-hil-a-rate: verb; to make cheerful and excited, to refresh, stimulate”

Fall sweet potatoes & pumpkin

Fresh wet grass.  Late summer produce.  The hum of school buses and the fast pace of schedules.  The glorious days of September that melt into cooler days of October.  Working regularly again.  All, completely exhilarating.  I find these days amazing, something to be so thankful for.  We are all busy bees running around through our days.  It’s amazing we find time for it all.  The truth is, we all have twenty four hours in a day, so prioritize & organize to help fit more in, and call that friend you have been thinking about.

This time of year I can barely keep up with the thoughts running through my mind.  Not in a stressful way, but more of the “kid in a candy store” mentality.  New menu’s, recipes, catering ideas, plans for the holidays, blogs, and more blogs.  I have learned to keep a notepad by my bedside table for the nights I wake up with an idea in my head.  Lucky for me I have my work to help me implement all of the ideas and events I look forward to.  Fall, for many reasons, is simply exhilarating.  So without further “mom-o-logue”, here are my top six favorite things (in no particular order) about Fall in the South, particularly Winston-Salem:

The fair, the Dixie Classic Fair.  This is like a symphony of  the senses, so take your pick and add some to the list!  The aroma of kettle corn and cotton candy; grilled onions and sausage; roasted corn and smoked turkey legs, smoldering fires in Yesterday Village.  The screams from the thrill of the rides, music, the buzzer of the games, the animals in the exhibit halls.  The irony of wanting to wear jeans and a jacket but the reality is that you will be sweating.  One of my favorite things during the last week of September/first week of October, is stepping outside at night to listen to the echo of the sounds of the fair bounce off neighborhood homes.  A taste of Dixie, a classic for sure.

Football & tailgates.  Living on Tobacco road has so many advantages.  Are you a Wolfpack, Tarheel, Deacon, or Blue Devil?  Perhaps you’re running toward other Southern end zones… Clemson Tigers, Game Cocks, Bull Dawgs, Terrier or Wild Cat.  Tailgates with fried chicken and friends, deviled eggs and kids running around, and pimiento cheese  and a cold beverage in hand, how could we ask to live in a place that could offer more?

Fires and fleeces.  Every year I feel like  broken record talking about how happy it makes me to put back on jeans and boots, and my old fleeces.  Key word, old fleeces.  Yes, I have many new fleeces, but my favorites are the old school Patagonias.  Black vest, anyone?  I think mine will make it another season.  Last year I had my boots completely reconditioned, so I am good to go there.  And fires, real fires.  The crackle and pop of wood burning, building a fire in the fireplace or fire pit outside, that can not be replaced.  Fat wood, folded newspaper and good dry wood, it’s the simple things in life, right?

Holidays.   Take your pick!  Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, which is technically winter but we start thinking about it now.  Decorating, shopping, , buying tricks & treats, dressing up, planning menu’s and celebrating with family and friends.  Children out of school, excitement, days off, travel.  Can life get any better than this?

Old Salem.  Truly a step back in time and one of my favorite places.  My mom took me here often as a little girl, and I can remember a loaf of bread fresh out of the oven at Winkler Bakery, strolling through the gardens, Candle Teas, Love feasts and more.  Today, the Cobblestone Market on Saturdays lasts well into Fall, and so many amazing activities abound.  Often it is easy to forget to take advantage of the things in our own back yard, but a visit to T. Bagge merchant anytime will make you come back for more soon.  To find out more about upcoming events click here.  In the same category, Reynolda Gardens is bustling with activity at all of the merchants and fun food and beverage joints.  Pane e Vino, owned by the Dioli’s, is one of my favorites.  Just a walk around the property makes me proud to be from NC, and in particular a born and bred ‘Camel City gal’.

Fall Foods.  I’ll end on my strong point, and my passion.  Every change of season represents new foods, new flavors, ingredients of the season.  What’s your favorite?  Apples, kale, pumpkin, okra, sweet potatoes, fresh nuts, figs and persimmons.   And of course the start of oyster season and the end of shrimp season, gifts of the sea.  They sound so good simply listed together, which is no accident, as when we use what we are naturally given it all makes more sense.  Soup season begins, warming the heart and soul.  Comfort foods are back, new recipes making stories that have no end.

So thus the end of my thoughts on Fall, I hope it has brought a smile to all.  The changing of the seasons is a little gift from above, don’t let it go unopened.  Enjoy, the best of food and life, one season at a time.

 

Sweet Potato Biscuits…

a recipe for you, from me, to welcome Fall!

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 heaping tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter

2 to 4 tablespoons milk (depending on the moisture of the potatoes)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate, large bowl, mix the sweet potatoes and butter. Add the flour mixture to the potato mixture and mix to make a soft dough. Then add milk a tablespoon at a time to mixture and continue to cut in. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and toss lightly until the outside of the dough looks smooth. Roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place the biscuits on a greased pan and coat tops with melted butter. Bake for about 15 minutes. (Watch your oven: If the biscuits are browning too fast, lower the temperature.)  Great served plain, or with honey butter.  I serve these delicious as ham biscuits, too!

putting yourself out there…

Last week I used a service to send hundreds of people a survey about Julia’s Take Away Gourmet and Catering.  I have to admit I was very proud of myself for designing and merging all of this technological stuff all on my own, quite a task for someone like me who is much better in the kitchen than the keyboard.  I also have to admit it was a little daunting to ask people for their honest and anonymous feedback.  I am pleased to say that the results were very positive, with a few “no opinions”, so I was very relieved by the end of the day!

For those of you who are regular customers, occasional customers, or just “holiday” customers, thank you for your thoughts.  Here are the results of the survey questions:

  • 82% of you find Julia’s TAG either extremely or very convenient to use, 15% moderately convenient, 2% slightly convenient (I’m hoping that 2% simply wants to be able to come by every day all day!)
  • combined, 83% of you like Wednesday pick up days.  Some of you want longer hours and I will try to accommodate this at Holidays in particular.  For the 18% of you who want to switch to Thursday, please remember I make everything fresh and you can always have your dinner ready for the next day!
  • Thankfully, 67% of you responded you are extremely satisfied with the meals at Julia’s TAG!  25% are moderately satisfied, so if there is any specific feedback on this please let me know what would make it better.  8% didn’t have an opinion, and luckily no one that answered the survey was dissatisfied.  (phew…)
  • Christmas was the Holiday you said you wanted the most help with, even over Thanksgiving.
  • Fresh meals “ready to bake or serve” at home is the overwhelming favorite, followed by freezer meals and then a handful of you prefer “no orders needed days”.  I will continue to provide a combination of all of these, and don’t forget I am always just a phone call away for any special requests.
  • A majority of respondents showed more interest in healthy meals.  I will continue trying to offer healthy options and will try include a few healthful sides, in combination with offering casseroles and side dishes that was requested by over 40% of you.  I always try to switch it up and make sure there is something for everyone at one point or another!
  • This question is tricky: 56% of you prefer servings for 4, while 43% prefer servings of 2.  Please know if you want to order a menu item but only need it for 2, please ask if that can be accommodated- I try to when possible.
  • 63% of you said you would utilize online ordering service, 25% said maybe, and 11% said no you wouldn’t use this.  I think it would be a good option and especially as business grows, I will be looking into this for the future.  You can always order and pay the old fashioned way…
  • Last but not least, 66% of you who responded follow my blog, 22% do not, and 11% said they were going to start but have not yet.  I would love your encouragement in this area as a lot of my newsletter subscribers do not follow my blog.  I wonder if they think it is the same information?  So, do me a favor and the next time I write a post or share a recipe you think sounds good, share it with your friends or on face book and help me grow.

Putting yourself out there can be scary at times, but hearing your feedback and thoughts were well worth it!  I am very humbled at how pleased you are, and so glad that I can share my love of cooking with so many of you.  It is such a joy to see customers walk into the kitchen with a smile on their face and leave feeling relieved about having dinner ready.  All of you help me to enjoy the best of food and life, one customer at a time.  Thank you.