A few weeks ago when I interviewed Mason Partak about his Chopped Junior experience and some of his future plans, I asked him to participate in a little something I call the Challenge Cream Cheese Challenge.
See, Challenge Butter (and Cream Cheese) sponsored my cookie exchange last year and sent me coupons for more butter and cream cheese than I could ever possibly use. Of course, the butter coupons I made very good use of and currently have about 15 pounds of butter in my freezer. However, cream cheese is not primal or paleo, so I sent the remainder of my cream cheese coupons to Mason Partak and asked him to come up with a recipe that I could publish on my website.
He gladly accepted the challenge, as he is such a great sport and takes advantage of most opportunities that come his way. I present to you his recipe for the Challenge Cream Cheese Challenge:
2 pkg Challenge cream cheese
1 med yellow onion
1 sm red onion
1 lg head of garlic
6 sage leaves
2 springs of Rosemary
1 pkg chives
1 C Italian blend grated cheese
1.5 C fresh grated parmesan
1 C chopped or sliced nuts (we used almonds)
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Quarter the onions and top the head of garlic. Create a wrap around the garlic with foil so it sits up, it does not have to be closed up. Drizzle the onions and garlic with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until soft. Set aside and let cool. Once cool, squeeze the garlic cloves out of their casings. Isn’t itway fun how they pop right out?
Finely dice the chives and place them in a bowl, set aside. Dice the sage leaves and Rosemary. Once your roast onions and garlic are cool (don’t have to be cold, just not hot), place them in the food processor and pulse until they are almost a paste consistency – not quite though. Add the cream cheese, Italian blend, 1/2C parmesan, sage and rosemary and process unit it is all completely mixed. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. You may need to scrape your food processor bowl and mix again to be sure you don’t have cream cheese lumps. Turn the whole thing out on to a cookie sheet being sure to scrape all the cheesy goodness out of your processor.
Form the cheese into four logs or balls and roll in the chives. When you start to run out of the chives, add the other cup of parmesan and coat with that. Do the same with nuts if you want. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
Serve with a French baguette and crackers, it’s delicious!
Mason says if you have leftovers, it adds a delicious layer of flavor to casseroles. The Partaks have also added it to their white chicken chili, it was so good!
Thanks so much for the recipe, Mason! I will be following up next week at some point with my stuffed sweet potatoes (also featuring Challenge Cream Cheese). You can find Mason Partak online here, on Facebook here and follow him on Twitter here and on Instagram here.
On September 27 at 4 pm, a dinner coordinated by the California Pear Advisory Board will take place on the historically-named Dead Horse Island Bridge on the Delta near the community of Walnut Grove. Attendees will mingle with other guests and local California pear farmers while enjoying a scenic view in the heart of one of the largest pear-growing regions in California.
The event will include locally-raised meats, Delta-grown crops such as corn, tomatoes, endive, and, of course pears. The dinner will be catered by Giusti’s Place, a great local restaurant located next to the bridge. An appetizer and cocktail from the Farm-to-Fork Pear Recipe Contest that was held in August will be featured: Grilled Pear Bruschetta from Taste Restaurant and Jay Yoon with Dawson’s Steakhouse at the Hyatt will be serving his House Pressed Bosc Pear Martini (shown below). Delta area wines and local beers will also be served.
Each person will be allowed to reserve no more than four tickets at a price of $125 each. To reserve tickets, please send an e-mail to the California Pear Advisory Board at email@example.com. Please note the event is for people over the age of 21.
The California Pear Advisory Board is a non-profit organization made up of farmers who grow pears in California. The cost of Pear Bridge Dinner tickets is meant to cover expenses only. Any money remaining after costs are covered will be donated to a local charity.
If you’d like to try some special pear dishes at local restaurants you can CLICK HERE to find out what’s being served and where.
We enjoyed this homemade soup (my own recipe) on Saturday night paired with delicious gluten free and vegan sandwiches from Pushkins Bakery. If you haven’t tried their “adult grilled cheese” or “the buzz”, please do. Both sandwiches are vegan and gluten free and are utterly delicious. It was fun to have a completely vegan meal for a change. :)
1 large sweet potato (peeled)
1 large onion
3 to 4 large red bell peppers
1 head of garlic
4 roma tomatoes
1 quart vegetable stock
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp coriander
1 1/2 tsp paprika
salt to taste
1-2 Tbs olive oil per baking sheet
Preheat oven to 385°F.
Prepare 2 half sheet trays by greasing them liberally with olive oil.
Chop all vegetables into uniform pieces. Place the onion and the sweet potato on one tray. On the other tray, you should be able to fit the chopped tomatoes, peppers, garlic and shallot. Important because the potato and onion will take slightly longer to bake. Bake the vegetables in the oven for about 40 minutes, checking to make sure nothing is burning and rotating them on the pan to prevent burning.
The peppers and tomatoes will be ready to remove from the oven when the peppers blister slightly and the garlic is roasted and tender. From the time you remove the peppers and tomatoes, leave the potato and onion tray in the oven ten minutes longer.
In a blender, begin to blend all the vegetables. There will be more than one blender can hold, so blend a little at a time with the vegetable stock. Since you will be enjoying the soup, add the stock to the consistency you like (I used all but about 1/2 cup of the stock), as thick or as thin. Empty each round of blended vegetables into a very large bowl so that they will mix together.
Then add all of your spices and flavorings. The crushed red pepper, paprika, coriander, and the cumin and salt to taste. Stir the spices in the bowl manually. Then in batches, return the vegetable mixture to the blender and mix until completely smooth. Pour the smooth soup into a new large bowl.
This soup can be made up to a day ahead of time. Just simply ladle into serving bowls and reheat. I’m confident this will be one of the easiest, yet most tasty soups you will ever make! :) We paired the soup with a 2011 Handley Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley and a 2012 St. Rey Celeste, Candyhill Vineyards (Revolution Wines).
Thanksgiving 2014. Last week, Andy and I celebrated a little early because we will be in Mexico for the actual holiday, and I couldn’t resist making something special to pair with Georges Duboeuf’s new release of Beaujolais Nouveau—the inveterate red wine made from Gamay grapes produced in the Beaujolais region of France, that is only fermented a few weeks before being released for sale annually on the third Thursday of November.
Retailing at $10.99 nationwide, the 2014 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau complements an abundance of holiday dishes, from savory roasts to cranberry sauce. Suggested serving temperature for the Nouveau is between 62°F – 66°F, which is just slightly cooler than room temperature, to enhance the aromas and fruit flavors.
Our spread included:
turkey roulade stuffed with shitake mushrooms, shallots, chorizo and bacon, on a bed of carrots, celery, mushrooms and onions
sweet potato latkes
bacon wrapped persimmons and bacon wrapped dates
2014 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau
Thanks to Georges Duboeuf for providing the bottle of Beaujolais!
Now the recipe for the latkes—skip the sweet potato casserole and give these a shot!
Sweet Potato Latkes
3 sweet potatoes
1 yellow onion
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 cup coconut oil (melted)
Preheat oven (425°F)
Peel sweet potatoes and grate them, using the large holes on the grater, into a large bowl—I cheat and use a food processor on the shredder setting.
Grate the onion, too. Then, squeeze out as much liquid from the potatoes as you can and then add the grated onion to the bowl with the potatoes.
Add all other ingredients and combine. Using your hands works best, so keep a towel nearby or work close to the sink.
Prepare two baking sheets by pouring melted coconut oil on them and coating the entire tray.
Then form the potato mixture into 4-inch (or so) discs and place on the baking sheets until you have filled them up.
Brush the tops with a little melted oil and bake to desired crispness. I recommend checking on them and flipping them midway through baking to get both sides crispy.
Remove from oven and drain on paper towels prior to plating/serving.
ENJOY!! Happy Thanksgiving :)
If you never make anything else from this website, make this recipe. It is a spin on an old recipe I used to make called “crack bread”. I call it that because it will turn you into an addict. ;) If you don’t mind eating wheat or sugar, you can look up & make the old recipe here. If you’re ready to have an amazing Primal-friendly meal, (with way less calories) read on:
I came up with the old recipe after tasting an appetizer called Billy Blue Bread at The Owl Grill in Grass Valley. It’s still on the menu there, but since I have cut wheat and sugar from my diet, I wouldn’t dare indulge. Instead, I tweaked my old recipe to make it gluten free and so that no added sugar is necessary! I even ditched the butter in the new recipe and replaced with with an onion “jam” of sorts. There’s so much flavor in the onion “jam”, you won’t miss the butter.
Special products I used in this recipe include Extra Virgin Olive Oil (everyday variety) made by California Olive Ranch and Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Artisan Flour Blend. I’d like to thank both companies for sending me product samples. If you want to be truly primal, you can leave out the gluten-free flour blend (it contains rice), but I recommend leaving it in the recipe to help give your bread a better texture. It’s a really great product.
Primal-Friendly Gluten-Free Bleu Cheese Pecan Bread with Balsamic Reduction
Before you begin, you’ll want to line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and toast and chop your pecans so they are both ready to use. Also, if you don’t want to hassle with making a balsamic reduction, there are several you can buy to use instead.
For the Cauliflower Bread
2 heads of cauliflower
4 egg whites
1/3 cup almond meal
1/4 cup Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Artisan Flour Blend
1 Tbs California Olive Ranch Olive Oil
Prepare: Preheat oven to 375°. Cook cauliflower either by boiling it or microwaving until it is almost falling apart. Allow to cool and then place in a food processor. Pulse the cauliflower with the eggs until completely smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the almond meal, the flour blend, and salt. Stir until completely blended and spread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in oven until golden brown and bread has set completely. (About 30 minutes). While bread is in the oven, you can prepare the onion jam.
For the Onion Jam
3 large red onions
1-2 Tbs olive oil (I used California Ranch Olive Oil)
1 tbs minced garlic
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
Slice onions and sauté in 1-2 Tbs olive oil. Add the salt. When the onions turn translucent, add the balsamic vinegar. Continue cooking slowly until onions caramelize, then add the garlic at the end. Incorporate fully until the onions are cooked. This should take about the same time the bread will take to bake. When the onions are finished, allow to cool a bit and then place them in a food processor. Pulse the mixture until it turns into a paste or “jam”. Set aside. At this point, the bread should be ready to remove from the oven. Now you’re ready to make the balsamic reduction.
For the Balsamic Reduction
2 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
In a saucepan, heat the vinegar until it is simmering and reduce it until it is the consistency of molasses. This will take about 20 minutes. You will be looking for something thick and viscous that will stick to the back of a spoon.
For the Finished Product
3/4 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
Keep oven temperature at 375°.
Spread the onion jam over the bread, and top with 3/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese crumbles, then sprinkle the pecans over that.
Place bread back in oven, and bake for 10 minutes, allowing the cheese to melt. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Then, drizzle the reduction over the bread. Serve immediately with a big glass of merlot! :) Also, I really enjoy dipping the bread in the Arbequena variety of oil that California Olive Ranch makes.
Today’s recipe is from The New York Times Wine Club website and was brought to you by the makers of Tazah Extra Virgin Olive Oil. We were introduced to Tazah at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. Andy coordinated the product sample at the show, picked the monkfish recipe, and even prepared it for us. I didn’t have to do anything but smile and pose with the bottle of Tazah Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Sometimes I have it pretty easy. The recipe is fantastic and Tazah Extra Virgin Olive Oil is versatile enough to use in a recipe and also use in a salad dressing (which we also did the very same evening).
One of the photos is the monkfish with the marinade, and the finished plate includes one of our favorite sides: parsnip chips, sautéed eggplant (both prepared with Tazah Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and a garnish of kiwi. I was really impressed with Andy’s cooking (he’s above average to start, especially when preparing meat, but this time was a real treat!!). The meal turned out so great! The flavor component that is key is the orange zest. It really amplifies the flavor of the sauce.
To make this recipe completely paleo you can use coconut aminos in place of the soy sauce.
Grilled Monkfish Medallions with Mustard
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 thick slices of monkfish, each about 6 ounces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Grated zest of 1 orange
Combine the mustard, orange juice and soy sauce with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Beat well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place monkfish in a glass or ceramic dish and pour 6 tablespoons of mustard mixture over fish, turning each piece to coat both sides. Set aside at room temperature.
Preheat a grill or broiler.
While the grill is preheating, place the remaining olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden. Stir in the grated orange zest and the remaining mustard mixture. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Grill or broil the monkfish 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Briefly reheat the sauce to a simmer, stir it and spoon it over the fish.
For more information on Tazah, you can call (323) 664-8956 and find them on Facebook here.