Monday, November 29, 2010

Pumpkin Sandwich Bread, and Voting is Open!

So yes, I did more baking this weekend with more pumpkin!  I just can't seem to get enough!!!  (This actually isn't the only thing I baked this weekend; the other things were non-pumpkin and definitely in the Christmas spirit.  You will probably see them next week. *wink, wink*)  

I thought I would share this bread with you today to try and stretch out Thanksgiving just a little longer, and also to remind you of something important... Voting for Foodbuzz's Project Food Blog Challenge #8 is open today!  Did you see my original post where I made Pumpkin Bread and then used it for Rum Raisin Pumpkin Bread Pudding?  If you didn't see it yet, then just scoot your little butt over here and and take a seat on my couch while I share some comfort food with you.

(Here is a visual... are you tempted yet???  Oh, in case you were wondering, the bread pudding is topped with Butter Rum Glaze and Cinnamon Whipped Cream.  Sinful.)   

I hope you enjoy my entry and that you will continue to support me by voting!  Project Food Blog voting is open until 6PM PST on Thursday, Dec 2nd, so be sure to get your vote in before then.  Each and every bit counts and I have greatly appreciated all of you that have been sharing my posts on Twitter and Facebook.  I have been completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, and each day I am overjoyed to see all the enthusiastic comments and kind words in response to each of my posts.  I wish I could give each of you a big hug to show my thanks!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pumpkin Bread, and Rum Raisin Pumpkin Bread Pudding

***Voting is officially open for this EIGHTH round of Project Food Blog (can you believe it!).  I would love love love your votes, and I appreciate all the support you give me!  If you like this post swing on over to Foodbuzz and vote for me! Thanks friends!*** 

For the first time ever, I will be spending Thanksgiving away from my family.  Oh sure, there was that Thanksgiving in college where my sister and I were both in London and we ate the most expensive turkey dinner ever at the only 'American' restaurant we could find (and trust me, that Hard Rock Cafe dinner was not worth 40 pounds).  I suppose that wasn't really the sort of Thanksgiving meal we were accustomed to, but at least we were together.  Other than that one year, I have always travelled home for Thanksgiving, whether that meant a 3-hour drive or a 2,250 mile flight; the holidays are special to me, and if you have been around here awhile, you know that my family means everything. 

This year, when I realized I wouldn't be able to spare the time away from work to head home for Thanksgiving, I would be lying if I told you I wasn't sad.  The closer the holiday gets, the more I am yearning for white flakes of snow, long conversations catching up with family, and a warm hug.  But though I regret that I will not be at home, I have no intention of wallowing in self-pity.  I will be spending the big day with a wonderful friend and her family, and I will get to play with children and eat to my heart's content.  Also, I might have decided I needed to soothe my sadness with baking.  And sugar.  And fall flavors.  That's a cure-all right?


So here's the crazy thing, I also have advanced in Foodbuzz's Project Food Blog to Round 8 (happy dance, happy dance!) where we were tasked with creating a baked good with pumpkin.  The timing couldn't have been more perfect, and with my longing for home and family and the holidays around the corner, my mind was brimming with ideas.  I was certain I wanted to bake with real pumpkin, and my initial thoughts drifted toward a beautiful spiced layer cake. just didn't quite fit my mood and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get myself invested in the idea.  And then suddenly I realized why I didn't want to make a cake: It just didn't feel like home.    

Once I came to this realization, I knew exactly what I wanted: bread. Lots of it.  I wanted to get my hands into it and knead the bread just like my grandma does.  There is something about putting physical work into make a golden loaf of bread that is so satisfying.  And almost as certainly as I knew I wanted bread, I also knew I craved warm, gooey, decadent bread pudding to comfort me.  I saw no reason to deny myself from this carb-laden pleasure, and no holiday is better for indulgence than Thanksgiving.  I worried that it wouldn't be pretty or exciting enough for you, but I decided to make it anyway.  (Gotta do what feels right, agreed?) 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Mom's Cranberry Relish

Last month, I had planned to make my pocket pies with cranberry pear filling and I wanted to use fresh cranberries.  Imagine my dismay when I realized that I was one whole month too early for the arrival of these beautiful red beauties at my local grocery store.  I put on my best pouty face, grabbed some dried cranberries, and made damn good pocket pies anyway.  (And might I add, these pies would be the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving dinner table!) 

But now, Thanksgiving is finally upon us and the season for fresh cranberries is officially here.  For me, seeing these cranberries means it is really the holidays.  They smile at me with their bright crimson faces and give me the red light to fully immerse myself in Thanksgiving and Christmas preparations.  So prepare yourselves.  I might get a little crazy.

This is the best nutmeg grater ever.  It is the same one that my grandma uses, and she got me mine from Amish country in Ohio; this nutmeg grater from Norpro looks exactly the same (and is less than $5), and also has the small compartment on top for storing the nutmeg like mine does.  LOVE it.   

Seeing cranberries also makes me think of my mom.  No, she isn't small, red, and round, but she makes me happy too.  Mostly I think of my mom because I grew up eating her cranberry relish every year at Thanksgiving and I loved it.  Excuse me, saying I 'loved' it makes it sound past tense - I love it, as in I swoon over it each time I make it.  When I still lived at home, we would fight over it and eat it on/with everything, or just by itself.  It is cranberry greatness.

And really, the recipe couldn't be more simple.  In my book, the perfect way to worship cranberries is to marry them with a heady mix of spices and just the right amount of sugar; not too much sweetness as to disguise the cranberry, but just enough to dull the sharp tart taste.  One of my other favorite components of this recipe are the big golden raisins and the crunch of the chopped pecans.  I like my applesauce chunky, and my cranberry relish even chunkier; it lets me know there are real ingredients in there and it is not over-processed.  If you like your relish smooth, I would normally just tell you to go ahead and throw in a blender or food processor, but frankly, that is blasphemy in my eyes so we will just pretend I didn't even mention it. 

Instead, I will just leave you with this lovely, crimson, traditional Thanksgiving recipe, and tell you that I hope you love it as much as I do.  And you can thank my mom for the recipe, I make sure to thank her each year when I make it myself.     

My Mom's Cranberry Relish

3/4 cup apple juice
1/2-3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
3 cups fresh cranberries (12 oz.)
1/2-3/4 cup light or golden raisins
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans

Combine the first four ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.  Add the cranberries, raisins and cloves, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat.  Cook until the cranberries pop, then add pecans and stir to mix.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly before serving.  Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for 1 week. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pomegranate Persimmon Salad, and How to Remove Pomegranate Seeds

So today I am going to tell you about a salad that has two of my favorite full-bodied fall fruits (try saying that five times fast!).  But first, lets get some formalities out of the way.

Project Food Blog is still going strong, and in fact, voting for Round #7 is currently underway!  And what kind of dedicated gal would I be if I didn't make absolutely sure that you got to see my video entry for this round.  Have you seen it yet?  I hope so, but if not, be sure to check out my original post, or go directly to the Foodbuzz website (where you can vote for me, wink wink).  I made a delicious dessert for you and tied it all up with a pretty bow, and I hope you enjoy it.  If you like it, don't forget to vote for my entry!  Voting is open through Thursday, Nov.18th, 6pm PST, and I truly appreciate ALL your support. 

Now then, shall we get on to this salad?

This salad is extremely easy to make with just a few seasonal ingredients such as pomegranates and persimmons.  Pomegranates are an amazing fall fruit, and their health benefits are extraordinary; they are a rich source of B vitamins as well as vitamin C, and their seeds contain extra fiber and also heathy oils.  But about those seeds... it seems many people are in a quandary over how to actually get the seeds out of the pomegranate without looking like they were the victim in bad horror movie.  Pomegranate seeds have a lot of juice, and when you open it up and try to remove the seeds it gets everywhere!  So let me show you an easy, mess-free way to remove the seeds from a fresh pomegranate.

See, wasn't that easy?  I hope that quick demo will encourage you to go out and buy a fresh pomegranate to reap all its health benefits and its fantastic taste.  And just so that you know, once you remove the seeds from a fresh pomegranate, if you keep them refrigerated in an airtight container, you can enjoy those little jewels over the course of several days. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Homemade Ladyfingers, and a Pomegranate Charlotte

As I may have mentioned already (possibly several times, I am SO excited), I am still in Foodbuzz's Project Food Blog, and this 7th round I am sharing my first ever VIDEO on this blog!  (Yes!  It is finally here!!!)  I definitely wouldn't say that I am camera shy, but I was initially nervous about making a video due to my complete lack of any experience with filming or editing video footage.  Seriously, I had never even opened iMovie previous to last week.  But now that the project is finished and here for your viewing pleasure, I can say that I have had a blast making it and I will definitely be doing it again!  I can't promise how soon you will see more video footage on The Cilantropist, but keep your eyes peeled in future for my smiling face; for now, I would really appreciate your support in this round by voting for my entry on Foodbuzz!  

So, after all this hype, you are probably wondering what my video is about!  Well, Foodbuzz originally asked us to make a recipe from our archives 'come alive' through video, and I knew right away that I wanted to show you how to make ladyfingers.  In my original post from May of this year, I described how I made ladyfingers from scratch, and then I later used them to make a beautiful Lemon Berry White Chocolate Trifle for a good friend's bridal shower.  I got such a great response to both of the posts, and many said they had no idea how easy it was to make these delicate savoiardi at home.  Specific comments from readers about how they enjoy ladyfingers as a simple pleasure with coffee, or how they share them with small children (low sugar, soft texture, and easy to hold with little hands), definitely warmed my heart and made me realize ladyfingers can be used for so much more than just tiramisu.

In fact, after my first ladyfinger post, but before I revealed my Lemon Berry Trifle, I asked my readers to guess what dessert they thought I would use the ladyfingers for.  Many suggested tiramisu, one guessed correctly with a trifle, and one reader even thought maybe I should use them as hotdog buns (Joking, of course.  Love you Jill!).  But, more than a few readers thought I was going to use them to make a Charlotte, also known as a Charlotte Russe Cake.  At the risk of embarrassing myself (though I will surely do that anyway with my video below), I will fully admit that I had no idea what a Charlotte was; I knew I couldn't continue living in dessert ignorance, so I did some internet searching and was surprised to find a gorgeous vision unlike anything I had seen before.  I knew I had to make it.

Traditionally, a Charlotte is made by lining a mold with spongecake, biscuits, or ladyfingers, and then filling the mold with fruit puree, custard, mousse, or some combination of several components.  In the case of spongecake, the mold is usually a bowl, which produces a dome shaped dessert when the Charlotte is turned upside down and released from the mold.  For a ladyfinger Charlotte, the look is much different, since the savioardi are commonly placed standing upright around the edge of a ring mold, to form a border that holds the filling inside.  Often, when the dessert is complete, a ribbon is tied in a bow around the charlotte; it seems some say the ribbon gives extra insurance that the dessert holds together, but I think it just amps up the beauty factor (either way, I wasn't skipping the bow). 

And so, with out further ado, let me properly introduce myself and show you how to make your own ladyfingers from scratch, and tell you how you can use them to make a beautiful Pomegranate Charlotte dessert!

I hope you enjoyed my video and that you feel inspired to make your own ladyfingers at home!  You can use the written recipe below, or just follow the instructions from the video.  (And since voting is now open, head on over to Foodbuzz and show my video some love!) 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Foodbuzz Festival: The Food

Hi there friends!  Can I offer you an apology?  I seem to have been completely absent from my blog for almost one and a half weeks now, ack!  So sorry to have left you all alone, but not to fear, I am alive and well, I have not been gobbled up by a woman-eating monster, and I have a few reasons for being away.  First, I was completely caught up making my video for Project Food Blog (yesssss!  I did advance to the next round and will share my next VIDEO entry with you this week!) and I am SO excited about it.  I can't wait for you to see it!  Immediately after finishing my video, I jetted up to San Francisco for a weekend of eating, socializing, and general debauchery at Foodbuzz's Second Annual Food Blogger Festival. 

The weekend was filled with events (and of course my tummy was filled with food) and I got to experience it all with both new and old friends.  I have loads that I want to tell you about, but I thought I would break it down into The Food and The People.  And really, for The Food, I just want to tell you about the Taste Pavilion from Saturday afternoon (I may have been too preoccupied with those aformentioned People on Friday night to take any real notice of what I was eating) and share some details about several amazing new food vendors and local food craftsmen that I discovered.   

The Taste Pavilion was located at City View at the Metreon, and the venue couldn't have been more perfect.  The space indoors was large enough to so that all 350 of us bloggers could comfortably weave around and eat to our hearts content, and then outside there was ample space to breathe in some fresh air, bask in the sunshine, and take in the scenery.  

Foodbuzz did a fabulous job of organizing a variety of excellent vendors and local food craftsmen for the Taste Pavilion, and I think there were only a few that I might have missed out on.  Almost all the food and wine I got to sample exceeded my expectations (and I am a tough critic!), but I had a few favorites that I just had to tell you about.