Saturday, August 28, 2010

French Crepes with Pecan-Crusted Chicken & Sauteed Peaches

***What inspires you?  Maybe it's a perfect, sun-filled day on the beach with the sand between your toes.  Or, maybe it's your faith, time spent with your family or your friends.  All of these wonderful things inspire me, along with one other obvious choice - food.  Food brings families together after a long day at the office.  A bowl of my GrannyRene's Chicken & Dumplings recipe has the power to put a smile on my face and bring tears to my eyes all at the same time.  That was always her specialty.

Not only is food vital to our existence, but it can be a source of creativity and fun.  To me, an empty plate is my blank canvas.  It's hard to beat the feeling you get when you put a smile on someone's face with a delicious meal. 

Every once in a while, something will inspire me to think up a new and original recipe.  If you're a fan of the TV show The Next Food Network Star, you know that all of the contestants have a specific "point-of-view" (aka P.O.V.) for their cooking.  Their P.O.V. is what describes their food...Some examples might be:  cooking family style, meals on a budget, healthy latin food, gluten-free meals, etc.  In other words, what will the winner's TV show be all about?  Just for fun, I started wondering what my P.O.V. would be.  The answer came to me several months ago, and I've had fun thinking up recipes since then. 

My concept would be the perfect reflection of my cooking:  It would be a fusion of classic Southern dishes and French that combine the two cultures to create new and exciting foods (You know, think about a southern belle's take on french food!)....Let's call it Southern-French fusion.  This recipe for "French Crepes with Pecan-Crusted Chicken & Sauteed Peaches" certainly falls under that category.  This dish is my interpretation of the popular southern combination of "Fried Chicken & Waffles."  It could also be a different spin on "Chicken Georgia", which combines chicken with pecans and fresh peaches.

This dish came out even better than I had imagined.  The flavors were fresh, yet hearty at the same time.  The sweetness of the crepe paired perfectly with the savoriness of the pecan-crusted chicken.  The sauteed peaches added a delightful freshness and balance to the overall dish, and the baby spinach added a pop of color and crunch.  Each bite was filled with great textures and flavors...This is one I'm both excited and proud of.

Brad and I both fell in love with this recipe.  Brad described it as "exceptional," and said that it was worthy of any 5-star restaurant.  Now, he may be a littled biased, but you know that made me smile!  I think that this dish will also put a smile on your face!

Bon Appetit!***

French Crepes with Pecan-Crusted Chicken & Sauteed Peaches:
2 egg whites
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
1 small bag baby spinach
Sauteed peaches, recipe below
Crepes, recipe below

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the egg whites.

In a separate shallow bowl, combine the pecans, bread crumbs, parsley, salt and pepper. Dip each chicken breast in egg white, until completely coated. Dredge in pecan mixture, making sure that each chicken breast is completely coated.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tbsp. butter over medium-high heat. Add both chicken breasts, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until chicken is thoroughly cooked through.

Let chicken stand for 10 minutes. Cut chicken into 1/4-inch thick slices.

***While the chicken is baking in the oven, go ahead and start making the peaches and crepes.

For the Sauteed Peaches:
4 peaches, peeled and cut into small wedges
1/4 cup light brown sugar
4 tbsp butter or margarine
Juice of two large lemons

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low-medium heat.  Add the brown sugar and lemon juice; stir well.  Next, add the peach slices.  Stir until the peaches are completely coated with the sugar mixture.  Continue to simmer over low heat until the sauce begins to thicken and the peaches are perfectly tender, stirring often.

***Once the peaches are simmering over low heat, move on to the crepes.  Keep a close eye on the peaches, being careful not to let them over-cook.
For the Crepes:

***This recipe makes about 9 crepes, so you will probably have a few extras.  I used my extra crepes to make dessert - Nutella & Banana Crepes!  You can fill them with just about any of your favorite flavors...get creative!
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted

In the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat eggs and milk together until combined.  Turn off mixer and add flour, sugar and salt all at once.  Beat until smooth; stir in melted butter.

Heat a 10" skillet over medium heat.  Once it is hot, spray thoroughly with Pam cooking spray.  Using a soup ladle, pour the batter into the skillet, using approximately 1/4 to 1/3 cup of batter for each crepe.  Tip and rotate the skillet to spread batter as thinly as possible. Brown on both sides and transfer to a plate. 
***You'll know when it's time to flip each crepe, when tiny bubbles start appearing on the top of the batter...just like when making pancakes!  The top of the crepe will begin to appear dry.  Once this happens, you know it's time to flip!  Also, if you try to flip the crepe too early, it will break and/or fall apart. Be may take a few practice crepes before you get the hang of it.  Don't give up...You'll be a crepe flipping master before you know it! 

To assemble:
Transfer the crepe to a plate and place about 4-6 large baby spinach leaves on one half of the crepe.  Top with the chicken and sauteed peaches.  Fold the other half of the crepe onto the chicken filling.  Place a few slices of the peaches on the top of the folded crepe and finish it off with a drizzle of the peach sauce from the pan.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies

***Last Friday night, Brad and I got an invite to an impromptu dinner party...What fun!  We were both excited, and of course, I immediately started to think about what I could take along for dessert.  I was in the mood for cookies, but not the same-ole', same-ole' variety.  I wanted to try something new, but using the ingredients that I had on-hand was a necessity.  A trip to the grocery store was not in the cards if I wanted to be on time.  So, I began browsing through cookbooks and blogs for just-the-right recipe.

As soon as I found this recipe for Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies, my search was over.  First of all, you can't go wrong with chocolate chip cookies.  Who doesn't adore an ooey gooey cookie filled with chocolate pieces??  Secondly, Nutella is such a fun ingredient.  I had never even thought to add it to cookie batter.  Its combination of chocolate and hazelnuts is just divine.

This recipe didn't disappoint...The cookies were indeed incredible.  They were simple to make and bake up in only about 10 minutes.  The brown sugar in these cookies adds a wonderful depth of flavor, when paired with the nutella.  I used 60% cocoa Ghiradelli chocolate pieces in these cookies, which are a little larger than regular chocolate morsels.  The best part of these cookies is the fact that they are just as yummy the next day.  These don't get all hard and crunchy like some cookies do (as long as you don't bake them too long!).  The nutella keeps them perfectly chewy.  The trick is to take them out of the oven a tiny bit before you normally would.  I pulled mine out of the oven at around the 10 or 11 minute mark.  They will continue to bake for a few seconds on the cookie sheet.

You'll LOVE these! 

Bon Appetit!***

Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source:  Kirbie's Cravings Food Blog

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup Nutella
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prep baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, the sugar and the brown sugar. Add the eggs and the vanilla until combined.

4. Gradually add the flour until the mixture is combined.

5. Then mix Nutella. Finally add in the chocolate chips.

6. Use ice cream scoop and drop on baking sheets and bake for 9-11 minutes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Restaurant Review: Nabeel's Cafe & Market

(click the link above to see the review in its entirety!)
by Celeste Ward

Happy Monday everyone!

I wanted to share some more exciting news with you  - My first official restaurant review is being featured today over at Wade on Birmingham, as a part of his month-long series "Birmingham's Best Eats!"

I reviewed one of my favorite spots in Birmingham - Nabeel's Cafe & Market.

Here are some of the photos that I took of our food on the night of the review...Is your mouth watering yet?  ;-)

Please CLICK HERE to see the restaurant review in its entirety!

The Bruschetta was one of the highlights of our evening.
Photos by Celeste Ward.

The Moussaka at Nabeel’s CafĂ© in Homewood
is comforting and authentic.

The Greek Salad with grilled chicken tastes
fresh and scrumptious.

The Tiramisu was some of the best that I've ever had!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer Fruit Crostata

***The fresh fruits of summer have to be one of the best things about the season...That is, if you love to cook and eat them, of course!  This crostata from Ina Garten was a fabulous way for me to use up some of the fruit from our local farmer's market.  I loved the combination of peaches, plums and blueberries.  It was perfection, along with the scrumptious homemade pastry that wrapped the fruit up in a warm flaky blanket of a crust!

The beauty of a crostata is that it doesn't have to look perfect.  There's something charming and rustic about the way this dessert comes out.  The dough is folded over the fruit in a way that looks refreshingly homemade.  It looks, smells and tastes like something you just want to dive into...The perfect ending to a yummy summer meal!

Bon Appetit!***

Summer Fruit Crostata
Source:  Barefoot Contessa at Home, by Ina Garten

For the pastry (makes 2 crostatas):
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) ice water

For the filling (makes 1 crostata):
1 pound firm ripe peaches, peeled
1/2 pound firm ripe black plums, unpeeled
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

For the pastry:
Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and toss quickly (and carefully!) with your fingers to coat each cube of butter with the flour. Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board, roll it into a ball, cut in half, and form into 2 flat disks. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. If you only need 1 disk of dough The other disk of dough can be frozen.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to the baking sheet.

For the filling:
Cut the peaches and plums in wedges and place them in a bowl with the blueberries. Toss them with 1 tablespoon of the flour, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, the orange zest, and the orange juice. Place the mixed fruit on the dough circle, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.

Combine the 1/4 cup flour, the 1/4 cup sugar, and the salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts to hold together. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Gently fold the border of the pastry over the fruit, pleating it to make an edge.

Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the fruit is tender. Let the crostata cool for 5 minutes, then use 2 large spatulas to transfer it to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Peach Clafoutis - Julia Child

***Now, you didn't really think that I would let Julia's birthday go by without sharing a new recipe by Julia with you, right?  I've been curious about what a classic French clafoutis (pronounced Kla-foo-TEE) tasted like for a while now.  They always looked beautiful in the photos that I saw, and I wondered if they tasted as good as they looked.  This dessert has a luxurious custardy filling and tastes perfectly french! 

I knew that if I was going to make a clafoutis, it would be a crime not to begin with Julia's recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I.  The recipe sounded incredibly simple, which it ultimately was.

Traditionally, a clafoutis is made with cherries, so that is how Julia presents this recipe in her cookbook.  Being the southern girl that I am, I decided to substitute the cherries with the freshest, most gorgeous Clanton peaches.  They were superb!  Feel free to subsitute about 3 cups of any fruit that you like.  The only other addition that I made was the cardamom.  There's just something about cardamom in fruity, pastry-like desserts that I adore.  I've included my changes in purple, below.

I did make one big mistake, though...I was in such a hurry that I forgot to sprinkle the second 1/3 cup sugar over the fruit, before pouring the rest of the batter into the pan.  As a result, the finished dessert wasn't quite as sweet as it should be, however, I'm sure my hips will thank me for that mistake later!

Bon Appetit!***

Source:  Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I; by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

serves 6-8

1 1/4 cups milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
3 ripe peaches, sliced
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cardamom
powdered sugar, for garnish

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a blender blend the milk, 1/3 cup sugar, eggs, vanilla, cardamom, salt and flour. Pour a 1/4 inch layer of the batter in a buttered 7 or 8 cup lightly buttered fireproof baking dish. Place in the oven until a film of batter sets in the pan (about 2-3 minutes).

Remove from the heat and spread the peaches over the batter. Sprinkle on the remaining 1/3 cup of granulated sugar. Pour on the rest of the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes to an hour. The clafouti is done when puffed and brown and and a knife plunged in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, serve warm.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Julia Child!

(click this link to see my feature on Julia!)
by Celeste Ward; Featured in "Birmingham's Best Eats"

"Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it."  -Julia Child

This quote by Julia Child is so true...We should all be so lucky enough to find something that we are truly passionate about.  Julia Child certainly discovered her passion for all things culinary all those years ago in Paris, France, and she continues to be a huge inspiration to me.

I was thrilled when Birmingham blogger, Wade Kwon, contacted me about a month-long feature he was doing on his website.  It was to be called "Birmingham's Best Eats," and he was looking for contributers to write articles, restaurant reviews and feature recipes.  I didn't think twice...Of COURSE I wanted to participate!

The first idea that came to mind was Julia's birthday...surprise, surprise.  I thought it would be perfect to write an article to celebrate what would have been her 98th birthday. 

The article was published this morning, over at Wade's website, "Wade on Birmingham."

Please visit THIS LINK to see my feature on Julia Child!!!

In the words of the beloved Julia, "Bon Appetit!"

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Julia Child on The David Letterman Show

With Julia Child's birthday approaching, I couldn't help but share this classic video of her appearance on The David Letterman Show.  As always, she was hilarious and quick on her feet!  It's impossible not to love her, especially after watching something like this!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sugar & Spice is Featured on The Cooking Channel's Website!

I am so incredibly excited to announce that my little ole' food blog is currently being featured on The Cooking Channel's website.  You may even recognize the cover shot in the article...Yep...That's my Strawberry Tart that's featured!  :-)
Strawberry Tart Recipe

Take a look at the article here:
Kicking Off a Week of Julia Child

Julia Child's birthday would have been on August 15th, so The Cooking Channel is celebrating the culinary legend all week long.

If you've been a reader of my blog for a while,  you're well aware of the fact that Julia has been, and continues to be, such a huge inspiration to me.  Her cookbooks and TV shows continue to influence the way that I cook.  After reading her memoir, "My Life in France," I really began to relate to her.

Help me celebrate Julia this week by visiting The Cooking Channel, and maybe even by getting your dose of Julia at:  Julia Child on Sugar & Spice.

Of course, you can also expect a few more Julia surprises this week!  Stay tuned!!!

Happy Early Birthday, Julia!!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

It's Been a Busy Wedding Season @ Jim Little Photography!!

Over the past couple of months, you may have noticed that I haven't been blogging quite as much as I usually do....I've missed it very much, however, I have a very good excuse!

I was thinking the other day, and I realized that I've never shared our wedding photography with lovely food blogger friends.  So, I am very excited to share some of the photos from our latest wedding.  Brad and I both work as Associate Wedding Photographers for Jim Little Photography, in Birmingham, AL.  We've been blessed to have a very busy spring/summer wedding season this year, on top of our regular full time jobs!  The wedding business keeps us busy on the weekend, and my job at Armstrong Relocation (which I also love!) keeps me busy during the week. 

However, things just wouldn't be the same without finding time to cook a delicious meal for my hubby each night.  So, I've also got a lot of food blogging to catch up on, including a FABULOUS birthday cake that I made for my sisters...Stay tuned...That post is coming very, very soon!

Without further ado, I'd like to share some wedding photos from our last wedding.  Blake & Katina tied the knot on June 19th, with a gorgeous ceremony! 

If there is a wedding in your future, please visit us at:

We would LOVE to capture every moment of your special day!!!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread...Not Your Mama's Recipe!

***Here in the south, cornbread is a staple...and this recipe from Ina Garten spices things up a bit...literally! 

If you're tired of the same ole', boring cornbread recipe, then you should give this one a try.  With the addition of cheddar cheese and sliced jalapenos, this isn't your mama's cornbread!  Ina gets it perfect here...Your tastebuds will be greeted by cheesy-goodness right from the first bite.  And just when you think it's safe, your tongue is slapped around a bit by a chunk of jalapeno!

Brad was a huge fan of this is the perfect mix of spicyness and comfort food.  Make this recipe tonight...You'll definitely spice things up!

Bon Appetit!***

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread
Source:  Barefoot Contessa at Home, by Ina Garten

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups milk
3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to grease the pan
8 ounces aged extra-sharp Cheddar, grated, divided
1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts, plus extra for garnish, 3 scallions
3 tablespoons seeded and minced fresh jalapeno peppers

Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter. With a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved. Don't overmix! Mix in 2 cups of the grated Cheddar, the scallions and jalapenos, and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking pan.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with the remaining grated Cheddar and extra chopped scallions. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and cut into large squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.