Monday, November 9, 2015

Donut Holes with Jam & Creme

A few weekends ago, we went to the apple orchard with some friends. After filling a sac with juicy Winesaps (and taking more photos than we could count), we stopped at the orchard shop and picked up a few extra goodies.  Per our tradition, we chose a couple jams from the monumental display.  This year, we settled on strawberry rhubarb, among others.  For the last few weeks, the jar of SR jam had been staring me down from the kitchen counter, so I finally opened it up.  Instead of smearing it on a slice of trust toast, I wanted something different, something satiating and sweet.  I landed on donuts.

Reminiscent of jelly-stuffed donuts, these simple donut holes are light as air and when swooped through a trail of strawberry rhubarb jam and vanilla creme, they're to-die-for.

Donut Holes with Jam & Creme

1 Tube Unbaked Biscuits
2 C. Vegetable Oil
1/4 C. Strawberry & Rhubarb Jam
Squeeze of Lemon Juice
Vanilla Creme (recipe follows)
Powdered Sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the vegetable oil over medium low heat.

Open the tube of unbaked biscuits and using scissors, cut each biscuit into quarters.  Roll the dough quarters into balls and set aside.  When your  vegetable oil reaches 350 degrees, lower the heat and carefully drop a couple dough balls into the oil.  They will cook very quickly, so be prepared to scoop them out as soon as they turn a golden brown.

Place each golden ball onto a baking sheet.  Once you've fried all the balls, place them in the oven for 4-5 minutes.  Remove the balls when they have cooked all the way through.  (You can test this by cutting one of them open.  You want the dough to be fully cooked).

Dust the balls with powdered sugar.

Squeeze some lemon juice into the jam and stir to thin it out.  This makes dipping easier.  Arrange your plate with smears of jam and vanilla creme.   Place donuts on top of the sauces.  Enjoy.

Vanilla Creme

1 Packet of Vanilla Pudding
2 C. Milk
1 t. Vanilla Extract
1 T. Bourbon

Add the vanilla pudding packet to the milk and whisk for 2 minutes.  Add the vanilla extract and the bourbon and whisk until fully combined.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap so that it touches the surface of the pudding* and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until thick.  Thin with milk as needed.

*This prevents a skin from forming on your pudding.

Christian and me at the orchard.  Does anyone send out Fall cards?  We may have to now...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Summer Corn Salad

This weekend, I ventured to a wondrous farmer's market in Clintonville.  Carts upon stalls upon tents of plump, fresh produce glistened in the morning sun.  Large slabs of local meats and bratwurst contrasted against colorful, country bouquets of wildflowers, sunflowers and poppies, all of which were proudly presented by friendly farmers, eager to share their wares.  I sampled my way through in the true O'Gara way, trying cheeses and dips and even a raspberry dragonfruit soda (a must at my next dinner party).  Christian and I allotted ourselves a whopping $20 and filled our sack with all kinds of goodies, including cherry tomatoes, heirlooms, blackberries and whiskey peppercorn sausages.  With our last $1.50, we even bought a few flowers that are sitting happily on our bar.  We've already decided we're going back again on Saturday.

With our finds at the market, a few stragglers in the fridge and some herbs from our balcony, I made a simple summer salad of corn, tomato, onion, mint & feta.  This summer salad is fresh and bright, healthy and local.  Make this your side dish the next time your grill this season for a delicious, seasonal treat.

Summer Corn Salad

2 Ears of Corn, shucked
1/2 Pint of Cherry Tomatoes, preferably the multicolored kind
1/4 of a Red Onion
1/3 C. Feta Cheese, crumbled
10 Mint Leaves
Olive Oil
Apple Cider Vinegar

Turn on the grill to medium high heat.  

Generously drizzle the corn with olive oil, salt & pepper.  Grill over medium high heat until many of the kernels have turned golden.  Carefully slice the kernels off the cob and into a large bowl, making sure to collect any milk from the cob.  *SEE TIP BELOW.

Halve your cherry tomatoes and toss them in with the corn.  Thinly slice the red onion and add to the tomatoes and corn.  

Add the feta, a drizzle of olive oil and a tiny splash of vinegar.  Quickly toss the veggies and feta in the oil and vinegar, so they are evenly coated.  

Holding the mint leaves in the palm of your hand, clap your other hand on top, smashing the mint leaves between your palms.  This will release their oils and add fragrance to your salad.  Sprinkle the leaves on top of the salad.  


To slice the kernels off the corn cob, place a small bowl upside down in a large bowl.  Stand the corn vertically on the base of the small bowl.  Carefully, slice down the side of the cob, letting the kernels cascade into the bowl.  Then, take the back of your knife and scrape the cob in a downward motion, to collect all of the milk left in the cob.  Remove the small bowl and voila!  You've got a bunch of fresh corn in your bowl and a clean station.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Breakfast Tacos

Despite it being the most important meal of the day, I rarely get hungry early enough to enjoy breakfast.  Except, that is, on the weekends.  I love waking up lazily, when my body has rested of its own accord.  I'll boil some water on the stove (we don't have a microwave in the new apartment), grind some coffee beans and brew a cup of joe before heading out to our balcony.  It's truly the perfect way to greet the day.

In contrast to my tardy appetite, moments after Christian wakes up, he's ready for breakfast.  So, once that coffee has trickled through my veins, we pillage the fridge for eggs, breakfast meat and whatever else we can whip into a worthy meal.  Breakfast tacos have been a recent favorite.  Quick, versatile and flavorful, these breakfast tacos are a great way to transform those last bits of ingredients in the fridge into a simple, delicious meal.

Breakfast Tacos

The Tacos:
4 Small, White Corn Tortillas
1/4 lb. Spicy Breakfast Sausage
4 Eggs
1/4 C. Chihuahua or Feta Cheese
Crema (Recipe Follows)
The Green (Parsley or Cilantro)

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Cook the breakfast sausage, breaking it into small crumbles until it's brown and crispy and cooked through.  Remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel.

Over an open flame, carefully heat your tortillas to give them that authentic char.  Flip with tongs so both sides brown.  If you don't have a gas range, just warm them up so they're pliable and don't crack when you fold them.

Cook your eggs any way you like.  I like mine over-medium.

To assemble your tacos, place an egg on each tortilla.  Sprinkle with the crumbled sausage.  Spoon the crema over each taco.  Top with cheese and the green.  Serve with rice.

The Crema:
1/4 C. Sour Cream
1/4 C. Tomatillo Salsa
The Green (Parsley or Cilantro)

For the crema, blend together the sour cream, salsa and the green.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Modern Speakeasy & The Wasabi Deviled Egg

Several months ago, I had the pleasure of working with the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation to produce a fundraiser that raised money for pediatric cancer research.  It was a whirlwind project that we completed in January and it was a TOTAL success!  The event raised more than $600k to help kiddos with cancer.  In addition to giving back, this event was a grand party to celebrate the NHL team, the city of Columbus and to blow people away.  And it did.

It all took place at the Columbus Athenaeum where we created a pop-up speakeasy called The Crease, where Being Bad Does Good.  Guests entered a dark, empty lobby and gave a password to a stoic bouncer, who surreptitiously ushered them in.  Guests navigated through the backstage entrance where performers readied themselves in front of giant mirrors, vocalists warmed up, dancers practiced their moves.  There were even a few sharks playing cards before their debut on stage.  This greeting was definitely not what guests expected.  It set the perfect stage for a night of wonder, disbelief and whimsy.

Guests were invited into the actual party by none other than Johnny DiLoretto, The Crease's proprietor for the evening.  The lights were low, the music was loud and guests were immediately catapulted into full swing party mode.  The decor was a purposeful hodgepodge of glitz and glamor and rustic, comfy chairs.  A golden dance floor reflected the moody lights and a giant bar flooded guests with unique and old-fashioned libations inspired by Columbus' own Logan Demmy.

Creative talent sang and danced the night away.  From Maiya Sykes, to dance performances choreographed by Leigh Lotocki, to... wait for it...yes, even a fire eater, this event had it all.   Oh, and Sara Bareilles showed up for a surprise concert at the end of the night.  All in all, this event was a huge success.  It unveiled the creative side of Columbus' philanthropy that I think has set a new bar for future fundraisers and good-doers.

Now, no party that I've ever been to is complete without food.  This was no exception.  I had the pleasurable task of working with the chef at the Athenaeum to create the menu at The Crease.  Inspired by the 1920's, Moulin Rouge and a little bit of Circus, the food at The Crease was marvelously fitting.  We opted to go with heavy appetizers and finger foods, much like you would have seen at cocktail parties back in the day.  Deviled eggs and artisan toasts were given a modern twist.  Exotic curries and Peking wanton cups brought intrigue. Even London broil lollipops made a whimsical appearance.  This party had so much to offer.  The food was the cherry on top.

Wasabi Deviled Eggs

All of the food at The Crease was top notch, but I thought it only fitting to share the recipe for our client's favorite dish:  the Wasabi Deviled Egg.  Who would have thought that wasabi would taste good in an egg?  Well, trust me.  It does.  These deviled eggs are easy, impressive and over the top, with a modern, spicy punch.  Bon Appétit.  

6 Eggs
1/4 C. Mayonnaise
1 t. Wasabi Paste
Pickled Ginger (like you'd find at a sushi restaurant)
Toasted Panko, for garnish
Parsley, for garnish

Place 6 eggs in a pot and cover them with water.  Turn on the heat to high and bring the water to a rapid boil.  Boil for 15 minutes and remove the pot from the heat.  Let it cool for 5 minutes.  Run the eggs under cool water until they can be handled.  Crack and remove the shells and slice the eggs in half.

Pop out the yolks into a medium bowl. Add the mayo and wasabi. Season to taste with more mayo and wasabi.

Fill each egg white with a tablespoon of the wasabi mixture. Top with a piece of ginger and sprinkle with panko and parsley.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Quick Cashew Slaw

This weekend, the weather was so pleasant that Christian and I spent the day cleaning up the backyard and planting a plethora of herbs, flowers and other greenery.  By the end of it, we wanted to enjoy our sprucing, but couldn't handle grilling a feast.  So, we kept it simple with good old wieners, green beans and coleslaw.  Stupidly, we forgot to buy coleslaw dressing.  So, we pivoted and got creative in the kitchen with on-hand ingredients.  And what do you know - the coleslaw turned out better than most of the ones I buy in the store anyway.  Below is our concoction for Quick Cashew Slaw.  It's bright and tangy, with a hint of sweet heat and a satisfying crunch.

Quick Cashew Slaw

1 Bag of Shredded Veggies (cabbage, carrots, etc.)
1 Green Onion, thinly sliced
2 T. Cilantro, chopped
Handful of Salted Cashews

1/3 C. Mayonnaise
Juice of 1 Lime
2 T. Brown Sugar
2 T. Asian Sauce such as Szechwan (or, pinch of red pepper flakes)
Extra cilantro and cashews, to garnish

Toss the shredded veggies, onion, cilantro and cashews.  Set aside

In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, lime juice, brown sugar and heat.  Taste and season accordingly.  If you like more heat, add more spice.

Spoon half of the sauce over the veggies.  It's better to toss as you go so you don't end up with a slaw that's too wet.  Use as much sauce as you want.

To garnish, sprinkle with extra cilantro and cashews.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Irish Colcannon & Apple Cupcakes with Whiskey Glaze

This weekend, we celebrated St. Patty's Day with a number of close friends. It started as a casual afternoon get-together and somewhere throughout the course of the evening, the living room exploded into a raging dance floor. Leave it to us to help the Irish celebrate with some damn good song and dance. Luckily, we had filled up on Irish favorites earlier in the day, including bangers and Colcannon, and apple cupcakes with whiskey frosting. Give these recipes a try for an easy jump start to your St. Patty's Day! 

Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes stuffed with cabbage. My version uses kale and green onions along with thyme butter. It's hearty and comforting and a perfect way to kick off St. Patty's day. 

8 Russet Potatoes, skin on
1.5 C. Kale, stems removed
1 T. Olive oil
6 green onions, diced
3/4 C. Sour cream
1 stick of Butter, at room temp
1/4 C. Milk
2 T. Thyme

Place the potatoes in a large pot filled with enough water to cover the potatoes. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a rapid boil. When a fork can easily be inserted into the potatoes, carefully remove them and transfer them to a large boil. 

Bring the pot of water back to a boil and add the kale. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the kale is a bright green. Remove from the heat and drain. 

In a small boil, combine the butter and thyme. Set aside until ready to serve. 

Using a potato masher, crush the potatoes until they are a smooth consistency. (Don't use a hand mixer or you'll end up with gummy potatoes). 

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Drizzle with olive oil and when it glistens, add 3/4 of the green onion. Sauté until lightly browned. Add to the potatoes, along with the sour cream and kale. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. 

To serve, form a nest with the colcannon with a well in the center. Add a tablespoon of thyme butter into the well and allow it to melt. Garnish with the remaining green onion. Serve with bangers. 

Apple Cupcakes with Whiskey Glaze

Your favorite white or yellow cake batter (shh...I used a box)
1.5 apples, cored and diced
1 T. Cinnamon
1 pinch of nutmeg
2 C. Powdered sugar
3 T whiskey

Preheat the oven to 350.
Add the apples, cinnamon and nutmeg to the cake batter. Toss to combine.
Fill the cupcake pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing the cupcakes from the pan.
In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar and whiskey. Stir with a fork until smooth. You may need to adjust the amount of sugar or whiskey. Just remember, a little bit of liquid goes a looong way!
Drizzle the cooled cupcakes with the glaze. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ohio Nachos with Blue Alfredo

One of the first foods I tried after moving to Columbus, Ohio, was "Ohio Nachos."  Unlike typical nachos, the Ohio version uses potato chips and a creamy blue cheese sauce. My version includes colorful vegetable chips and smoked blue cheese. Crunchy, smokey and bright, this dish is a unique, easy, scrumptious, happy hour snack. 

Vegetable chips
8 oz. of your favorite Alfredo sauce
6 oz. smoked blue cheese (creamy is best), divided
2 T. Fresh Parsley
Pinch of nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350.  Place the chips on a cookie sheet, place in the oven and warm briefly.
Add 4 oz. of the blue cheese to the Alfredo sauce.  Stir to combine.   Warm the sauce over low heat on the stove or in increments of 30 seconds in the microwave until the sauce is bubbly and the blue cheese has been incorporated.  Add the parsley and nutmeg.  (The nutmeg helps cut the richness).

Plate up your chips and carefully pour the blue alfredo on top.  Sprinkle with the remaining blue cheese.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Roasted Corn Pancakes with Bourbon Pulled Pork & Slaw

Dear fellow foodies, please help me in celebrating Natural Sugar's 100th post!  On such a special occasion, I thought I'd share a recipe with you that brings back one of my best memories from 2014.  Back in September, Christian and I threw a little dinner party.  It was meant to be a quiet dinner for 6 of our close friends.  It bloomed into a dinner extravaganza of 14 to celebrate the end of summer.  It.  was.  fantastic.  Great company combined with delicious food and wine plus wonderful conversation made it a total success.  

Today's recipe is the entree we served at our party:  Roasted Corn Pancakes with Bourbon Pulled Pork, Fresh Veggie Slaw and Spiced Popcorn.  It's a mouthful, literally.  It has several components and takes some time, but I promise you it's worth it!  This dish is whimsical, satiating and full of robust, fresh flavors.  The Roasted Corn Pancakes are soft and savory, the perfect pillow to catch the drippings of the sweet and smokey Bourbon Pulled Pork.  The Fresh Veggie Slaw adds bright flavors and the Spiced Popcorn finishes the dish off with a fun crunch.  Give it a try on a day when you've got time to spend in the kitchen.  You won't be disappointed.  

Roasted Corn Pancakes

1 C. Fresh corn, off the cobb (or frozen)
Olive Oil
Your favorite pancake batter

Preheat the oven to broil.  Spread out the corn onto a cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with S&P.  Toss to coat.  Broil until corn is golden brown.  

Fold the roasted corn and S&P into the pancake batter.  

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Ladle a spoonful of the pancake batter into the skillet.  Cook the pancake until bubbles form or until the bottom turns golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Flip and cook until the other side is golden, about 1 more minute.  Remove from heat.  Repeat with all pancakes.  

Bourbon Pulled Pork

1 lb. Pork Tenderloin (flavored is fine - go for teriyaki or garlic)
Olive Oil
1/2 Red Onion, sliced
1/2 C. Bourbon, divided (I like Bulleit)
Scant 1/4 C. Brown Sugar

Heat a medium skillet over high heat.  Drizzle olive oil.  When it glistens and the pan is very hot, add the pork tenderloin.  Sear on all sides.  Transfer to a slow cooker.  Add onions to the skillet with about 1/8 C. of the bourbon.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Transfer the onions and bourbon juice into the slow cooker.  Add the remaining bourbon, brown sugar and S&P.  Cook on low for 5-6 hours, or until the pork is cooked through and pulls apart easily with a fork.  Do not overcook.

Fresh Veggie Slaw

1/2 Yellow Pepper
1/2 Red Pepper
1/2 Red Onion
1 C. Fresh Corn
Cilantro, chopped
1 T. Vinegar (optional)

Thinly slice the peppers and onion and transfer to a medium bowl.  Add the corn and cilantro, S&P and vinegar.  Toss to combine.  

Spiced Popcorn

1 C. Popped Popcorn
Sprinkle of paprika
Sprinkle of cinnamon

To serve, top the roasted corn pancakes with bourbon pulled pork, fresh slaw and popcorn.  

Corn Three Ways:  Roasted, Fresh & Popped

Deepest apologies for such a long delay since my last post.  Since August, my life has completely filled up!  Huge back-to-back work projects + wonderful boyfriend + weekends chock full of fun = no time to talk about and take good pictures of food.  These great pieces of life continue still, but it's about time I jumped back into talking about, eating and photographing one of my favorite things:  FOOD!