I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

Souper Bowl Weekend

It was painful to watch the Carolina Panthers get whipped like egg whites destined for meringue during the NFL playoffs against the Arizona Cardinals a few weeks ago. As loyal as I know I should be to my home team, I was torn that night between Jake Delhomme and Kurt Warner {I mean, seriously, could there be any two hunkier NFL quarterbacks?} so it's no surprise who I was cheering for during Super Bowl XLIII.

My week started out with no firm plans on what to do for Super Bowl weekend. I knew all of the sports bars would be loaded with screaming, smoking, drinking fans so I resigned myself to staying home and watching the game on my brand new 46" flat screen Samsung TV that I just indulged myself with. But as it seems to be lately, my social schedule is subject to change at a moments notice. My friend Mary called on Friday to invite me over. Standard Super Bowl party attendance rules applied....bring food and beer. So, with a cheeseball and my drink of choice in tow, I headed to Mary's late Sunday evening.

In order to make a whole celebratory weekend out of this who the heck would pay $3 million for 30 seconds event, I invited my friend J. over for dinner on Saturday. We were introduced by my realtor and J. has been super nice to me - dinners, movies, flowers, basketball games and I felt it was high time that I returned the favor. My offering to him wasn't nearly as fancy as the steak and lobster dinner he prepared for me all by himself a few weekends ago but my theory is to start simple and then there's no place to go but up. Since the weather has been sort of chilly, I felt a pot of simmering Santa Fe soup was just the thing. I paired it with Dorie Greenspans's Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins. These muffins were a recent feature on TWD and the perfect accompaniment to the soup because the combination of chili powder, cilantro, and jalapeno perfectly mimicked the zesty flavors of the soup. Visit Ezra Pound Cake blog for the recipe and decide which camp you're in when it comes to opinions on cornbread.

And speaking of meringues, do these pillowy clouds look good enough to eat or what? I love the way meringues look just before they go into the oven. I was a little extravagant with dessert, but isn't that the way it's supposed to be? While my photo isn't as pretty as the one that Food & Wine used to showcase these Cranberry and Orange Pavlovas, my dessert was just as tasty. The recipe as written makes 12 servings, but I made extra large meringue bases so we could share one dessert.

Super food, super friends, but so sorry you won't be going to Disney World Kurt :( Maybe a bowl of soup and dessert will make you feel better?

Santa Fe Soup

2 lbs. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 (.5 oz) pkgs. Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
2 (1-1/4 oz) pkgs. taco seasoning mix
1 ( 16 oz) can black beans, undrained
1 (16 oz) can kidney beans, undrained
1 (16 oz) can pinto beans, undrained
1 (16 oz) can Rotel tomatoes, undrained
1 (16 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (16 oz) cans white corn, undrained
2 cups water
Garnish: sour cream, shredded Cheddar cheese, sliced green onions, cilantro

Cook meat and onion together until meat is browned and then drain. Stir ranch dressing mix and taco seasoning mix into meat. Add remaining ingredients with juices from all. Add water. Simmer for 2 hours (if mixture is too thick, add additional water.) Use garnishes if desired and serve with tortilla chips.
Makes 4 quarts.


Cranberry and Orange Pavlova
Food & Wine, December 2008

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2 large navel oranges
1 1/2 pounds cranberries (6 cups)
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Mint sprigs, for garnish

Make the meringues: Preheat the oven to 250°. Arrange racks in the lower and middle thirds of the oven. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt at medium speed until soft peaks form. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat in the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the meringue is stiff and glossy, about 6 minutes.
Using a large spoon, dollop 6 mounds of meringue onto each baking sheet; spread the mounds into 5-inch squares and make an impression in the center of each. Bake the meringues for 1 hour and 45 minutes, until the outsides are firm but the insides are still slightly soft; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the meringues cool completely. (Alison's note: this time seemed sort of lengthy to me so I took mine out after an hour and I really think I should have taken them out after 45 minutes).

Meanwhile, make the topping: In a large saucepan, combine the granulated sugar and water. Scrape the vanilla seeds onto a small plate and add the pod to the saucepan. Using a vegetable peeler, remove 2 long strips of zest from one of the oranges and add them to the pan. Halve the orange and squeeze the juice into the saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cranberries and cook over low heat just until the berries are softened but still intact, about 8 minutes. Let cool completely. Discard the vanilla bean and orange zest and refrigerate until chilled.
Finely grate the zest of the remaining orange and transfer it to a food processor. Using a sharp knife, peel the orange, removing all of the bitter white pith. Working over the food processor, cut in between the membranes to release the orange sections into the food processor. Pulse until chopped.
In a clean bowl, using clean beaters, whip the cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla seeds until firm. Add the chopped orange and its juice and beat just until combined.
Arrange the meringues on plates and spoon the orange whipped cream into each one. Using a slotted spoon, top with the cranberries. Drizzle with some of the juices, garnish with mint and serve right away.

Make Ahead
The cooked cranberries can be refrigerated overnight. The meringues can be made up to 8 hours ahead (on a dry day) and kept at room temperature

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