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September 30, 2014 / sweetsavant

How to make Paella the right way and how the HexxCooker can Upgrade your Grill Game

HexxCooker with perforated wok and wok ring

HexxCooker with perforated wok and wok ring. Our Host Luchi Palermo roasted Roma tomatoes, jalapenos and scallions to make the most delicious salsa. After roasting she blended it all up and served it warm. Delicious!

When I (along with other members of the Atlanta Food Bloggers’ Society) was invited by Ray and Luchi Palermo, creators of the QuadCooker,  to check out a demonstration of their new creation the HexxCooker  I was intrigued (they fed me well for my attendance and this is my honest opinion of the product). (here’s a link to the QuadCooker site for more details) I love my old grill but it never gets as hot as I would like it. The HexxCooker vows to solve that problem. Your normal backyard grill gets to about 550 degrees (maybe…probably not quite that hot) while the HexxCooker reaches up to 900 degrees or more. That high temperature is a result of the  quad rock used to form the crucible of the cooker. The special concrete blend that forms the quadrock holds the heat inside and distributes it evenly while staying  cool to the touch on the outside. Here’s a quick Instagram video of a demonstration Ray did to show the insulating power of the quadrock. The grates on the HexxCooker are made from laser cut, case hardened carbon steel (smoother than cast iron) to stand up extremely high heat. The grate isn’t non stick but when cooking oil spray is used food released easily from the grate. I was impressed with the product and I’m happy to share it with you.

check out the HexxCooker Kickstarter campaign here

After a trip to Spain,  Ray and Luchi  were inspired to develop the high heat cooking HexxCooker after dining on paella. Traditionally paella is cooked over an open wood fire so the rice can absorb the smoke. Once they returned from Spain they began development of a product that would help them recreate the paella they loved. Ray spent some time working on prototypes and came up with the original QuadCooker design. After the success of the original, the QuadCooker creators are now introducing a smaller, more portable version called the HexxCooker. Built from the same materials, the smaller HexxCooker is a powerhouse of heat as well. I must admit, when they said the HexxCooker was portable I gave them a bit of the ole’ side eye. It looks like it should weigh a ton but it really is light enough to bring tailgating or camping.

I was surprised by how light the HexxCooker is.

I was surprised by how light the HexxCooker is.

HexxCooker grilling some pineapple for dessert

Ray Palermo, creator of the HexxCooker grilling up some pineapple for dessert. In the other HexxCooker you can see the coals in the crucible. I thought he was crazy with the grill on top of a wooden table. I thought the whole thing was going to go up in flames but the quadrock insulates so well that the outside of the cooker stays cool.

Our host grilled some steak and sausages for us as appetizers. The high heat of the HexxCooker gave the steak a caramelized crust normally only found in an expensive steakhouse and cooked the sausages quickly while retaining moisture, I was impressed with the results. I wish I’d had an opportunity to cook on the HexxCooker myself to get firsthand knowledge of the product, hopefully soon I can test it out myself. Ray also made fried shrimp in a wok on the HexxCooker, it really is a versatile tool.

HexxCooker steak and sausage

HexxCooker grilling steak and sausages for a quick and delicious appetizer. Just slice and serve on a platter with small appetizer forks and some horseradish sauce and mustard

Grilled steak and sausage make easy and delicious appetizers

Grilled steak and sausage make easy and delicious appetizers

Ray was nice enough to share his delicious paella with us and in turn I’m going to share his recipe (with his permission) with you.

The stages of paella

The stages of paella

Ray Palermo’s PAELLA MENENDEZ SERVINGS: 6

  • 1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 Oz Cubed pork (shoulder or butt)
  • 4 Bnls Chicken Thighs Cubed
  • 1 Sm Spanish Chorizo sliced
  • 1 Med onion chopped
  • 1/2 Lg green pepper chopped
  • 5 Cloves Garlic chopped
  • 4 C Broth (Fish and/or Chicken)
  • 1 C White Wine
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Black Pepper
  • 2 Pinches Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1 Pinch Saffron
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/2 Tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 2 C Short Grain White Rice
  • Shrimp/Calamari/Clam/Mussels
  • 1/2 C Frozen Peas
  • 8 Pcs Pimento pepper
Place the paella pan on top of the pre-warmedQUAD grill top. Add olive oil to the pan. Once oil is heated, add chicken and pork. Stir the meat with a wooden spoon until browned, approximately 4 minutes. Add Spanish chorizo and sauté for another 1-2 minutes. Add onions and green peppers and cook until the onions are translucent.Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add stock, bay leaf, salt,pepper, crushed red pepper, parsley and saffron. Let this mixture simmer for 1-2 minutes. As the mixture comes to a boil, stir in the rice, and then add wine. Cook for approximately 20 minutes, keep checking rice for

doneness. The rice will absorb most of the liquid, stir in additional wine or broth in ½-cup increments if necessary.

Once the rice not quite done but just a little crunchy to the taste (there should still be excess liquid in the pan), arrange the seafood on the surface of the rice. Sprinkle peas and

pimentos over the seafood. Cover the pan with the dome top and allow to steam-cook. Cooking will take approximately 5 minutes. Shellfish should open and shrimp will turn pink when cooked.

Let the paella rest for 5-10 minutes before serving to absorb any liquid.

QUAD SETUP

Full chimney of coal. Hot fire. Quad with the grill and paella pan.

ACCOMPANIMENTS & SIDES

Paella is a meal unto itself; just set the pan in the middle of the table to serve. A mixed green salad would certainly complement the dish.

the finished paella, loaded with pork, chicken, clams, shrimp, scallops

Here’s the finished paella, loaded with pork, chicken, clams, shrimp, scallops, peas…mmm SO good

September 15, 2014 / sweetsavant

When Should you teach your kids to COOK + Great MeatBall and Sauce #Recipe

How old should your kids be when you start teaching them to cook?  I’ve been asked this by quite a few people over the years and my answer is this: Start teaching your kids to cook RIGHT NOW. There are are many lessons you can teach your kids even when they are babies…now, don’t give your toddler a knife…that’s bad.  Here are a few ways to teach your kids about food, cooking and making healthy choices

Take your kids grocery shopping with you, feed them a snack before you leave the house and bring your patience.  Yes, its going to take longer to get through the store but it’s a great time to show your kids all the beautiful produce.  Talk to them about all the colors they see as you stroll down the aisle. Some of my favorite days have been at local farmers markets with my kids sampling juicy, red watermelon or crisp apples in the fall.  If you can take your kids to a farm, even better. Let them see where their food comes from to help foster a love of pure, clean and unprocessed foods.  Teach your kids to wash their hands before (and after handling meat) as well as the produce ) you purchase before they start cooking, food borne illnesses are no fun for anyone (don’t let the water get too hot for their delicate skin. Use separate cutting boards of different colors for meat and produce to prevent cross contamination. A wide,  sturdy step stool is your young assistant’s best friend, your little one may not be tall enough yet to reach the sink or counters.

 

My son icing some pumpkin cookies he made for math class in 6th grade.  They had a project on converting fractions; he  was given a recipe and asked to triple the amounts.

My son icing some pumpkin cookies he made for math class in 6th grade. They had a project on converting fractions; he was given a recipe and asked to triple the amounts.

As your kids get older let them help you make their snacks.  One of the my kids’ favorite snacks when they were small was honey butter bears. With a cookie cutter I let my kids cut a Teddy Bear shape from a slice of whole wheat toast, spread it with a little softened butter and drizzle with honey. Let your kids help you measure ingredients and talk with them about fractions at the same time, cooking is a great way to work on those math skills.  As they get older let the kids increase and decrease recipes for you to teach them how to multiply and divide fractions.

 

You must use your best judgement when deciding to allow your children to use a knife and the stove.  Start with soft fruits and a plastic knife when your kids are in elementary school.  Making a fruit salad is a great way to teach knife skills.  Teach your kids to make a claw with their fingers tucked in for saftey when holding the food and give the task their undivided attention.  Turn the television off, no distractions please.  My daughter was about 10 when I taught her how to use a chef’s knife. She’s always been a mature child and has a passion for cooking.  My son, however was not allowed to use a chef’s knife until he was 12. I felt he was too easily distracted and needed to mature a bit more before using such a dangerous tool. They must always have permission to knives or the stove and they must be supervised by myself, my husband or a trusted adult.

 

My daughter loves to bake and she LOVES meringue.  This is the best of both worlds for her.  She wasn't quite ready to use the blow torch to brown the meringue at that time so I did that part.

My daughter loves to bake and she LOVES meringue. This is the best of both worlds for her. She wasn’t quite ready to use the blow torch to brown the meringue at that time so I did that part. Keep dangerous tools out of kids’ reach and out of sight.

Meatballs are a great recipe to use for a cooking lesson. The kids get to crack eggs, dice an onion, measure spices, mix goodies like cheese into the ground meat mixture and form even balls with their clean hands. If they are old enough to use the stove (my kids were about 11/12 when I allowed them to use the stove supervised) they can brown the meatballs and simmer them in sauce until fully cooked.

my daughter and niece making meatballs and having a great time

My daughter and niece making meatballs and having a great time

Meatballs makes about 20 – 2 inch meatballs, you can make them any size you like

1/2 cup diced onion

2 cloves garlic

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds Ground Beef Chuck (80% lean)

2 large eggs, beaten

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon salt

Sauteed onions over low heat in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat, add garlic, stir and let cool.

In a large bowl put ground beef, eggs, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt and cooled onion garlic mixture and mix together. Form into balls and roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until done.

Simmer in tomato sauce (recipe below) and serve with pasta or just eat them for a snack

Tomato sauce

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1-28ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

Saute onion in olive oil until translucent about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add tomato paste and and cook, stirring for about a minute.  Add Crushed tomato, dried oregano and salt cook, stirring for about 30 -40 minutes

September 1, 2014 / sweetsavant

A Peek into My Kitchen

The Sweet Savant kitchen featured in Atlanta Home Improvement Magazine

The Sweet Savant kitchen featured in Atlanta Home Improvement Magazine

Hi Sweets!

My kitchen is featured in the September 2014 issue of Atlanta Home Improvement Magazine.

The multi-level custom countertop was designed for me by my husband and architect Corey Overton (Five Lions Design).  Countertops are a  quartz surface by Cambria Stone in  Cardif Cream (the light colored one) and Oakhampton (the dark countertop color).
The cabinets are from Ikea-Nexus doors in the black/brown finish (discontinued for kitchens) with Korrekt pulls (also discontinued).
I’ll give a more in depth kitchen tour that will cover appliances and other finishes in the near future.
~Much Love
August 27, 2014 / sweetsavant

Celebrate International Bacon Day-Bacon Cheddar Buns Recipe

Bacon Cheddar Buns. Possibly the best thing I ever made

Bacon Cheddar Buns. Possibly the best thing I ever made

The Saturday before Labor Day is International Bacon Day! Is there a better way to celebrate the fruits of our labor than by eating bacon?!…I don’t think so my friends. These Bacon Cheddar Buns are made with the softest bread recipe EVER and rolled with the most delicious Bacon Cheddar spread.  After eating these buns my son gave me possibly the greatest compliment I’ve ever received, he said these buns taste like “PURE LIFE” …now, I don’t know exactly what that means but I’m pretty sure it’s the highest praise he’s ever given to any food item. We’ve taken to calling these “Life Buns”

I have been asked to make these buns once a week. You can refrigerate them for 2-3 days after baking (they won’t last that long but theoretically you could ) they reheat in the microwave in under a minute or in the oven for 5-8 minutes. Great for breakfast or in a lunchbox as well.

For 15 of these buns start with half of the SOFTEST BREAD RECIPE EVER and let the dough rise for an hour.  Make a loaf of bread or some rolls with the rest of the dough…or double the Bacon Cheddar spread recipe and make more buns.  I used my recipe for homemade cured and smoked bacon but you can use bacon from the grocery store.

Bacon Cheddar Spread...you're gonna put this on EVERYTHING

Bacon Cheddar Spread…you’re gonna put this on EVERYTHING. I broiled these toasts for a bit and it was delicious.  This also makes a great hot dip

Then make this recipe for Bacon Cheddar Spread/Dip

8 ounces bacon

1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoon grated raw onion

½ teaspoon granulated garlic

Chop the bacon into ¼ inch pieces.  Place bacon into a cold pan, place over medium heat and cook until the bacon is crisp.  Remove cooked bacon and let cool, reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon fat.

Shred cheddar cheese in a food processor, add all the other ingredients to the processor and process until well blended and spreadable, about 45 seconds.

Bacon Cheddar Buns Recipe

Divide the dough into 15 sections. Roll a section into an oval about 5 by 2 inches and spread with Bacon Cheddar Spread and roll it up. Repeat with the remaining dough sections. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and let rise for an hour. Brush with milk or egg wash and bake for about 20 minutes. Place a sheet of foil over if they’re getting too dark. Let cool on the pan for about 5 minutes then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

 

Spread the Bacon Cheddar spread, then roll the bacon cheddar buns

Spread the Bacon Cheddar spread, then roll the bacon cheddar buns

Brush the Bacon Cheddar rolls with milk or egg wash.  Cutting a vent is the top is optional but I like for a bit of the filling to burst through.

Brush the Bacon Cheddar rolls with milk or egg wash. Cutting a vent is the top is optional but I like for a bit of the filling to burst through.

 

This is what it looks like when you break open the Bacon Cheddar Rolls. Swirls of smokey bacon and sharp cheddar cheese inside amazingly soft bread.

This is what it looks like when you break open the Bacon Cheddar Rolls. Swirls of smokey bacon and sharp cheddar cheese inside amazingly soft bread.

Need even MORE BACON? Check out these posts by my blogger buddies the #BACONMAFIA but let me warn you I will not be held responsible when you drool on your screen. 

This Crab Mac & Cheese with a Bacon Crust by EatLaughCreate.com is to DIE for Click here for the recipe

And then there’s this Bacon, Spinach and Chicken Skillet Pizza by ChewsyLovers.com YUM! Click here for the recipe

I want to eat this Turkey Club with Old Bay Mayo for lunch today! Click here for the  EatStylePlay.com recipe

This BLT Pasta recipe is perfect for a week night meal Click here for the recipe from thegivinschronicles.com 

From MissFoodieFab.com  these Brown Sugar Bacon Cinnamon Rolls will make you faint, get up and faint again! Get the recipe

FoodLoveTog.com hit it out of the park with Shrimp with Cheddar and Bacon Polenta Get the recipe

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August 27, 2014 / sweetsavant

The secret to the SOFTEST bread ever!

A finished loaf of bread.  This recipe makes 3 loaves so you have some to share or freeze for later use. Let the loaf cool on a rack so the bottom doesn't get soggy.

A finished loaf of bread. This recipe makes 3 loaves so you have some to share or freeze for later use. Let the loaf cool on a rack so the bottom doesn’t get soggy.

I’ve got the secret to unbelievably soft homemade bread.  If you’ve ever had bread from a Japanese bakery, you know what I mean. It’s velvety in texture and a little sweet, it really is incredible. So here’s the secret…TangZhong a cooked mixture of flour and water is the simple secret to pillow soft bread.  Adding TangZhong is a simple step that will change your bread baking game for the better. This recipe makes quite a lot of dough so I usually make a loaf, some rolls and some filled buns.  The bread freezes well after baking so you can wrap it well in foil and enjoy it later.

First make the TangZhong and let it cool to room temperature, you can make it a day in advance and store it in the fridge.

TangZhong

1/3 cup flour

1 ¼ cup milk (whole, 2% or skim will all work)

Stir all ingredients together in a sauce pan, whisk until smooth.  Cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 140 °, this should take about 3-5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before use. When finished the tangzhong should be the consistency of pancake batter.

TangZhong mixture, once thickened and cooled, is ready to use.

TangZhong mixture, once thickened and cooled, is ready to use

bread dough doubled in size

Bread dough doubled in size

SOFTEST BREAD RECIPE EVER

5-5 ½  cups ap flour

¾ cup sugar

½ cup powdered milk

2 envelopes (about 4 ½ teaspoons) active dry yeast

2 eggs

All the TangZhong from the recipe above

¾  cup warm (not hot) milk-about 100-110 Degrees

1 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) soft butter, plus a bit extra to butter a bowl, the pan and your hand

Start with 5 cups of flour,  add the additional ½ cup of flour if your dough has not formed a ball. Combine all ingredients except butter and knead in mixer for about 3 minutes on low.  Slowly add soft butter about a tablespoon at a time. Knead for an additional 10 minutes.

Butter a large bowl and butter your hand as well. With your buttered hand, transfer dough to buttered bowl and cover with buttered plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Punch the dough down and divide dough into 3 sections for 3 loaves of bread or divide into 36 sections or smaller for dinner rolls.

For Loaves of Bread

Butter 3- 8 ½ inch loaf pans and line the bottom with parchment paper.  On a clean counter press a section of dough out into a square about 8 inches.  Roll the dough into a tube and place the dough into the loaf pan. Repeat with the other sections of dough.

Let the dough rise for another hour. Brush the tops of the loaves with milk or egg wash. Bake loaves for about 30-35 minutes at 350° Let cool for 5 minutes in a pan, then remove the bread from the pan and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing.

These soft rolls have risen and are ready to bake.  You can bake them with more space between each roll if you want the crust to go all the way around.

These soft rolls have risen and are ready to bake. You can bake them with more space between each roll if you want the crust to go all the way around.

For rolls

 

Divide dough into 36 rounds and place on a baking tray. Let the dough rise for another hour.  Brush the tops with milk or egg wash and bake for about 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes then remove rolls to a rack to finish cooling

August 20, 2014 / sweetsavant

Here’s a taste of Taste of Atlanta

The offering from The Spence-Risottto and Morcilla Arancini.  Nothing like a little blood sausage to start a conversation.

The offering from The Spence-Risottto and Morcilla Arancini. Nothing like a little blood sausage to start a conversation.

The Taste of Atlanta is a food festival that’s worth the trip (according to Oprah… and me) and its coming soon.  October 24-26 to be exact.  Over 90 restaurants are expected to participate in this year’s Tech Square events; There will be live cooking demos, an Iron Chef Kids competition, a silent auction  benefiting Cooking Matters and TONS more good stuff. During the silent auction last year we bid on a video game truck to come to the house for a party and won.  We got it for much less than the going rate and helped a good cause in the process.

The pictures in this post are from Taste of Atlanta 2013.  The line up of restaurants may change from year to year but you’re bound to find more than a few tasty treats to enjoy.

If you’re on a budget, start looking around for contests and giveaways for this event early and enter to win; I won Tickets from Miss Foodie Fab last year so it was a cost effective, fun day out with the family. Its also cheaper to purchase tickets online in advance than it is to purchase them at the gate the day of.  For event pricing or to purchase tickets to Taste of Atlanta visit this link.  You receive “taste coupons” with your paid entry fee and you exchange these for food.  You can purchase additional taste coupons during the event.

Watershed Fried Chicken and biscuit with hot sauce...of course

Watershed Fried Chicken Thighs and biscuit with hot sauce…of course

The food at Taste of Atlanta varies from the Southern style and barbecue which you might expect, to more exotic stuff like Morcilla, the blood sausage in the risotto arancini from The Spence.  The Taste of Atlanta is a great opportunity to try a little taste of something new without committing to a full entree.

Bacon for Ford Fry's restaurants, just hanging there looking delicious

Bacon for Ford Fry’s restaurants, just hanging there looking delicious

Lamb sausage over potato salad from One Flew South

Lamb sausage over potato salad from One Flew South

Ri Ra Irish Pub fish and chips.  The favorite dish of the day according to my kids.  The batter on the fish was super light and greaseless.  Fries were great, tasted really fresh

Ri Ra Irish Pub fish and chips. The favorite dish of the day according to my kids. The batter on the fish was super light and greaseless. Fries were great, tasted really fresh

Yeah Burger and Gluten Free Onion Rings

Yeah Burger and Gluten Free Onion Rings

Ribs from Fox Bros BBQ

Ribs from Fox Bros BBQ. One of the best things I ate from Taste of Atlanta 2013. Perfectly seasoned and the perfect amount of smoke.

Wear comfortable shoes and get there early to get the most out of the festival.  This is a good event for kids with the Family Food Zone but it can get very crowded so keep the kiddies close to you and have a plan in case you get separated.  Kids 13 and under enter the festival for free with a paid adult, but you need to purchase “taste coupons” in order for them to sample food.

Most of all have fun and wear stretchy pants.

Selection of desserts from Ford Fry's restaurants

Butter Mints, Peanut Butter Cones and Caramels and  from Ford Fry’s restaurants

August 10, 2014 / sweetsavant

Zeal Modern Eatery-East Cobb

 

Zeal Modern Eatery is a good restaurant in an area with quite a few really good restaurants.  Zeal Owner/General Manager Scott Sawant invited the Atlanta Food Bloggers’ Society, of which I am a member, to dine for free at  his cozy East Cobb eatery in exchange for our honest opinions.  Scott is gracious host and hands on manager whose passion for service was evident.  In general there are a few kinks to work out in this 8 month old spot but it has a lot of promise.

Zeal Exterior

The exterior of the strip mall in which Zeal is located is under renovation. Hopefully Zeal’s facelift will be done soon.

We started our evening with super fresh oysters in honor of National Oyster Day.  The starters here are the stars of the show for sure.    The Tandori Chicken and Lamb Skewers were a big hit at the table.  The Charcuterie, with meats from Heywood’s Provisions, ( I’m going to have to give them a visit, they’ve got some good stuff)  was fantastic and the Fried Green Tomatoes with Fig Goat Cheese were popular among the foodie bloggers as well.

High West Manhattan

I had a High West Manhattan with High West Double Rye to start the evening off right.

The oysters are fresh, delicious and topped with a bit of micro greens

The oysters are fresh, delicious and topped with a bit of micro greens

Charcuterie at Zeal. Meats from Heywoods Provisions

Charcuterie at Zeal. Meats from Heywood’s Provisions

Fried green tomatoes with fig goats cheese

Fried green tomatoes with fig goat cheese

 

For the entrees I had a perfectly cooked, if a bit under-seasoned, grilled pork chop.   One of my table mates ordered the NY Strip and was very happy with it.  Another ordered the Tenderloin topped with blue cheese and was equally as happy.  One diner in our group had a chicken breast that was a bit dry.  Zeal’s owner, Scott, seemed genuinely interested in our constructive criticism so I have very high hopes for this restaurant.

Zeal's grilled pork chop, very juicy but a tad bland

Zeal’s grilled pork chop, very juicy but a tad bland

Blue Cheese Tenderloin with Wild Mushroom Risotto

Blue Cheese Tenderloin with Wild Mushroom Risotto

And then for dessert

cheesecake

One of two cheesecakes on the Zeal dessert menu

Trio of "Tarts"  Strawberry, Coconut/Lime and Chocolate Turtle

Trio of “Tarts” Strawberry, Coconut/Lime and Chocolate Turtle.  You can order all three or however many you would like.  More of a mousse than a tart but delicious none the less

The interior

Zeal interior

The interior at Zeal has a small gallery near the entry, a “Living Room” with tabletop shuffle board and a well stocked bar

 Zeal Modern Eatery is worth a second look, I’ll be back to see how they progress and to give the pork chop another try.

 

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