Saturday, September 14, 2013

Dakota's (Amazing) POP Parlor!

Photo property of Chef Madeleine Dee
"Tart N Peppa", a blend of raspberry, lemon, dark chocolate, almonds, & black pepper. My favorite flavor!

I am a huge Top Chef fan. I actually own most of the seasons, and I put the show on whenever I'm working at home. Something about the sounds of passionate chefs facing ridiculous challenges in the background of my tiny place helps me stay focused on my work.

Recently, I've made Chef Dakota Weiss from Season 9 (Texas) something of a pen pal. From Hollywood to Louisville, KY, we've been in contact a few times. When I first saw her name in my inbox, I squeaked. Out loud. Don't judge me.

Anyway, she's really cool and extremely talented. Recently, she opened a gourmet popcorn business called "Dakota's Pop Parlor". When I get to a certain number of fans on my Facebook fan page, I'm going to give away some of her popcorn to a lucky liker. In the meantime, Dakota sent me some samples to, well... sample. :)

Photo property of Chef Madeleine Dee

LOTS of samples. Opening the box was like Christmas morning, complete with polka-dotted tissue paper. (!)

Photo property of Chef Madeleine Dee

That beautiful lady sent me a sample of each flavor, 13 in all. The combinations inside each bag were whimsical, fun, and intriguing. This popcorn is art.

I had a mini party this weekend with some close foodie friends so that we could sample Dakota's work. We were all truly impressed.

Someone with a sweet tooth will be more inclined to love every flavor because they are ALL sweet, even the savory ones like "Curried Pig" and "Sunday Supper". Everyone had different tastes, of course, but each of us LOVED "Candy Crushin", which simply sang with notes of orange and ginger. It was the group favorite.

Below are the flavors. My ABSOLUTE favorites are "Buzzed Nanuts" and "Tart N Peppa". The former is an incredible combination of espresso, chocolate, banana, and hazelnuts. It is the perfect sweet treat. The latter was a total surprise - initially, I just wasn't sure about the combination of lemon and raspberry with black pepper, but this popcorn is a dynamite powerhouse of flavor. The fruit flavors are perfectly sweet and impeccably balanced with the subtle bitterness of the dark chocolate and the savory bite from the pepper. "Tart N Peppa" is flat out addicting and AMAZING.

But those are MY favorites! Scroll down to discover what your own faves might be. :)

The Flavors
(* = my favorites)

Curried Pig
Madras Curry Toffee, Smoked Pistachio, & Bacon

Perk N Pop!*
Espresso Toffee, Toasted Coconut, & Macadamia Nuts

Malt in Your Mouth
Chocolate Malt Toffee, Maraschino Cherries, & Candied Jalapeno

Sweet Heat Wave
Honey-Lime Toffee, Cashews, & Ghost Chili

Peanut Gallery*
Peanut Butter Toffee, Marshmallows, & Roasted White Chocolate

Buzzed Nanuts*
Hazelnut-Chocolate Toffee, Banana Chips, & Chocolate Espresso Beans

Holy Mole
Chipotle-Chocolate Toffee, Toasted Sesame Seeds, & Cinnamon

Tart N Peppa*
Lemon-Raspberry Toffee, Black Pepper, & Marcona Almonds

Pumpkin Hatch
Pumpkin Pie Toffee, Hatch Chili Pumpkin Seeds, & Pinon Brittle

Sunday Supper
Roasted Chicken Toffee, Fried Sage, & Waffle Cone Pieces

Napa Nirvana
Cabernet Toffee, Golden Raisins, & Rosemary Crackers

Candy Crushin*
Orange-Ginger Toffee, Pink Peppercorn, & Pecans

Truffle Shuffle
Truffle-Honey Toffee, Black Pepper, & Parmesan

To order some of this amazing popcorn, please visit:

A few snapshots of my 2 favorite flavors:

Photo property of Chef Madeleine Dee
"Buzzed Nanuts"
Photo property of Chef Madeleine Dee
"Buzzed Nanuts"
Photo property of Chef Madeleine Dee
"Buzzed Nanuts"

And some more artsy, self-indulgent photos:

Photo property of Chef Madeleine Dee
"Tart N Peppa"
Photo property of Chef Madeleine Dee
"Tart N Peppa"
Photo property of Chef Madeleine Dee
"Tart N Peppa"
Go order some of Dakota's popcorn NOW! 
It would be a truly unique and memorable gift. :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Homemade Bread for Impatient People Like Me

Property of Chef Madeleine Dee
Chef Madeleine Dee's 90-Minute Olive Oil Bread with Fresh Rosemary
     I'm not a very good baker. I don't usually like to measure ingredients, I have zero patience, and following instructions makes me itchy. I have a few recipes for desserts that I've developed and I use them on a regular basis because they don't require a great deal of time, measuring, or patience.

     A couple weeks ago, I wanted bread. No, I NEEDED bread. And I didn't want to wait. So, I got out my flour and I made some. I cheated quite a lot on typical bread technique, and I expected it to be awful. But what came out of the oven (despite literally making up the measurements as I went) was beautifully browned, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. It was really good! And you know how Italian restaurants always serve warm bread with olive oil for dipping? Well, this is just as good because there's olive oil already inside the bread! It wasn't the most gorgeous loaf ever (the shape is a little different every time), and it's not going to win any competitions against handmade baguettes in France, but for what it is, it's AMAZING. :) Also, it's incredibly inexpensive to make and you know exactly what's in it, unlike most bread from the grocery store. And it only took an hour and a half from mixing to eating. (!) I know, right? Yeah. Want the recipe? Scroll on down, buddy.

Property of Chef Madeleine Dee

Chef Madeleine Dee's 90-Minute Olive Oil Bread

1 tbsp. FAST RISE yeast
1 tbsp. light brown sugar
1.25 cups luke warm water
3/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus a little extra for sprinkling over the loaf
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing onto loaf
2 tsp. finely-chopped FRESH rosemary, optional (only use 1/2 tsp. dried if you don't have any fresh)
3 cups All-Purpose flour,  plus about 1/4 cup extra for kneading
Parchment paper, for baking
A pastry brush or a folded napkin/paper towel

1. Preheat your oven to 400*F. In the bowl of your stand mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment), combine the yeast and the brown sugar with the luke warm water on low speed until well incorporated. Turn off the mixer and let the yeast bloom for about 5 minutes, or until it foams and the color of the mixture is a tan/khaki shade.

2. Turn the mixer to a low setting and mix in the 3/4 tsp. salt, the finely chopped rosemary, and the olive oil. Letting the mixer run, add in the 3 cups AP flour 1/4 cup at a time. Don't take too long - just scoop, add, scoop, add, etc. As it mixes, it will gather around the paddle and pull away from the sides. When it's smooth and all the flour has incorporated into the dough, immediately turn it off. Scrape the dough gently from the paddle and scoop underneath of it so that it isn't sticking to the bottom of the bowl. Cover quickly with a cloth or towel.

3. SUPER FAST BREAD PROOFING: Microwave about 1.5 cups water in a glass measuring cup with a handle for 5 minutes. Immediately (and carefully) remove the cup, put your covered dough inside as quickly as you can, and shut the microwave door! Let proof for 15 minutes.

4. Once proofed, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it lightly with cooking spray or olive oil. Sprinkle a clean countertop with the extra 1/4 cup flour, then turn the dough out onto the counter and gently knead only 2-3 times. Shape into an oval (or get fancy - I don't know what kind of bread-shaping magic you have up your sleeve), and carefully lay the dough onto your greased parchment. Lightly coat the loaf with olive oil and sprinkle it all over with a couple pinches of salt. Use scissors or kitchen shears to cut 3 or 4 shallow slits in the top.

5. Bake for 30-33 minutes. It will be golden brown, it will smell amazing, and it will sound hollow when gently knocked with your knuckles. Remove from oven and let rest on a cooling rack for about 20 minutes before serving.

It's best warm and definitely best eaten right when you make it. 
However, it makes great sandwiches the next morning/afternoon. 
It's especially good with a fried egg on top and bacon. :)

Consume within 24 hours for optimum freshness (it gets stale pretty fast), 
but I seriously doubt it will last past dinner.


Property of Chef Madeleine Dee

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Madeleine Dee's Italian Pesto Pasta Salad

Property of Chef Madeleine Dee
Chef Madeleine Dee's Italian Pesto Pasta Salad

 Chef Madeleine Dee's Italian Pesto Pasta Salad
Serves roughly 4-6

1 cup plus 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 lb. penne rigate
Zest of 2 lemons
2 oz. crumbled blue cheese
2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/3 cup basil pesto
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1 large head broccoli, chopped and lightly steamed
1/2 fuji apple, raw and cubed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
10-15 bocconcini (mini balls of mozzarella)

1. Marinate the chicken breasts in 1 cup balsamic vinegar for at least 1 hour, then brush lightly with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, sear on both sides, place in a baking dish, pour the marinade back over top, and bake at 350*F for 30-33 minutes depending on size. You can also grill the chicken. Set aside to cool.

2. Boil your pasta according to package directions (usually 9-11 minutes) in a large pot of salty water. Meanwhile, grab a large bowl and gently combine the red pepper flakes and a little salt and black pepper with the lemon zest, blue cheese, Parmesan, garlic powder, pesto, walnuts, broccoli, and apple chunks. 

3. When the pasta is cooked to your liking, remove it from your pot of water with a slotted spoon and add it directly (and quickly) to your bowl of ingredients. Stir gently but thoroughly, then season to taste with salt and pepper. 

4. Once it's no longer piping hot, add in your sliced chicken, the remaining 2 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar, the bocconcini, and some chopped parsley. Toss gently and adjust seasoning as needed.

5. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Your guests will pass out with delight. :)

Property of Chef Madeleine Dee
Chef Madeleine Dee's Italian Pesto Pasta Salad

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Healthy Summer Wraps w/ Avocado & Apple

Property of Chef Madeleine Dee
Chef Madeleine Dee's Healthy Wraps with Avocado and Apple

It's getting to be perfect picnic weather again, so I'd like to share a quick, cool, & delicious wrap that is sure to please!

Chef Madeleine Dee's Summer Wraps

4 large tortillas (I used some sun-dried tomato ones)
1 avocado, halved and sliced into long strips
1 lb. deli sliced chicken or turkey
8 slices Muenster cheese
8 romaine leaves, washed and dried
1 fuji apple, sliced very thinly
Salt and pepper
Olive oil mayo
Wax paper

1. Spread a tablespoon or two of olive oil mayo on one half of each tortilla, then add 1/4 of the chicken or turkey, the romaine, the cheese, the apple, and the avocado.

2. Sprinkle the tops with a pinch of both salt and pepper, then roll the tortillas tightly over the filling (like enchiladas).

3. Wrap each sandwich in wax paper, taping the seam shut and the ends closed like a Christmas present.

4. Cut in half with a sharp knife, peel back the paper, and have a picnic! :) 

Property of Chef Madeleine Dee

This sandwich would be excellent with a big, icy glass of lemonade.

Property of Chef Madeleine Dee 
Looks pretty inviting, huh?

Property of Chef Madeleine Dee


Saturday, May 11, 2013

5-Minute Ganache Frosting

Property of Chef Madeleine Dee
Luscious ganache frosting on yellow cake. :)

It's no secret that people adore chocolate, and ganache has become a household name in recent years. It's shiny, deep, dark, and full of all the delightfully chocoholic flavors that you know and love. So, why not thicken it up a bit and make a frosting to pour over your treats or to dip your favorite bonbons into? 

You can in less than 5 minutes. 

Here's how:

Chef Madeleine Dee's Easy Ganache Frosting

2 cups semisweet or dark chocolate chips, plus extra for thickening
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Place 2 cups chocolate chips into a 4-cup plastic measuring cup with a handle. Pour the heavy cream over the chips. It should just barely cover them.

2. Microwave for 1 minute, then let it rest for 30 seconds. Microwave for 1 more minute.

3. Carefully remove from microwave and immediately whisk in the salt, blending to combine completely. Once totally mixed, add in extra chocolate as needed, whisking well after each addition, until you have a shiny, beautiful, thick frosting.

4. Pour over a tart or cake for extra decadence, or dip cooled cupcakes and other treats directly into the frosting for a shiny shell of ganache goodness.

5. Enjoy. ;)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Easy Blue Cheese au Gratin Potatoes

Property of Chef Madeleine Dee
Blue Cheese au Gratin Potatoes

Blue cheese. It has many uses, and it's very versatile. To be honest, I used to hate it. But that was before I made this scrumptious side dish. Whether you spell it "bleu" or "blue", these creamy spuds are guaranteed to hit the spot. It's a little time consuming, but it's extremely easy and goes well with just about anything. The starch from the potatoes slowly thickens the sauce during baking, so all you have to do is slice, whisk, and bake. I do insist upon using a very particular brand name product (Philadelphia Savory Garlic Cooking Creme), but I am not being paid to do so - it's just an awesome product and this side dish isn't nearly as good without it. Enjoy, my dears. Enjoy.

Chef Madeleine Dee's Blue Cheese au Gratin Potatoes
Serves atleast 8 people, unless they fill their entire plates with potatoes, which they may do

10 medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes, washed and unpeeled
1.5 tsp. salt, divided
1/4 tsp. black pepper
4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1 container Philadelphia Savory Garlic Cooking Creme
2.5 cups heavy cream
Zest of 2 lemons
Cooking spray
Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat your oven to 375*F and grease a rectangular baking dish with cooking spray. Slice your potatoes thinly and evenly, discarding the ends, then layer them in your greased baking dish and toss them very well with 1 tsp. salt. This will result in well-seasoned and super moist potatoes. Allow them to rest and get to know the salt while you perform the next step.

2. Bring the heavy cream, 1/2 tsp. of salt, the black pepper, and the zest of 2 lemons to a boil in a tall pot on the stove. As soon as this mixture boils and starts to rise, turn off the heat to prevent the cream from boiling over and making a mess.

*If you're watching your sodium, you can omit the 1/2 tsp. of salt here. It won't make your mouth sing as much, but it will still play a beautiful tune on your taste buds.

3. When you turn off the heat, very quickly add in the blue cheese and the Philadelphia Savory Garlic Cooking Creme, whisking until smooth.

4. Pour your smooth, beautiful sauce over the potatoes.

5. Make sure all potatoes are submerged and that they are in an even layer.

6. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and make a small slit in the center of the foil so it can vent a bit while it bakes.

7. Bake for 1 hour at 375*F, then remove the foil and bake at 400*F for another 45 minutes to an hour, or until it's golden brown on top and the potatoes are tender. Let rest for about 10-15 minutes to let the sauce thicken, then serve sprinkled with fresh chopped parlsey.

When finished, it should look like the pictures below.

Property of Chef Madeleine Dee

Property of Chef Madeleine Dee

Property of Chef Madeleine Dee

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Easy Cheese and Mushroom-Stuffed Chicken

It seems like everybody is looking for quick and easy dinner ideas. Here's one of my favorites - Cheese and Mushroom-Stuffed Chicken!

You'll have to touch raw chicken, but somehow, I think you'll live.

Madeleine Dee's Easy Cheese and Mushroom-Stuffed Chicken
Serves 2-3 (2 if the cook happens to devour the third while preparing dinner...)

1.5 to 1.75 lbs. raw chicken breasts (about 3 individual breasts)
1 cup mushrooms, sauteed w/ salt, pepper, garlic, & lemon zest
1 generous cup shredded cheese (mozzarella, mild cheddar...)
Salt and black pepper
Olive oil cooking spray
1 cup breadcrumbs (I use roasted garlic ones)
2-3 large eggs
Aluminum foil
Fresh parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat your oven to 35O*F. Lay your chicken breasts on a clean plastic cutting board (never use a wooden board when handling raw proteins) and trim off the fat and various other "icky" parts. Be sure each breast is equally sized for even cooking.

2. With a sharp knife, slice evenly into the side of each breast to make a pouch. Do not cut through the other side or through the still-connected ends.

3. Stand your chicken breasts up so that the pouch you just created forms a boat. Yes, a chicken boat. Best kind of boat if you ask me. Now that you've got your chicken standing up with flat bottoms and open tops, season liberally with salt and pepper, then fill the breasts with cheese and top with the sauteed mushrooms.

4. Get out two medium-sized bowls and fill one with your breadcrumbs and the other with your eggs.

5. Beat the eggs well, then use your hand to coat only the chicken (you don't need to worry about the filling).

6. Shake off the excess egg and coat the chicken lightly with breadcrumbs.

7. Shake off the excess breadcrumbs and gently transfer the chicken breasts to a large, greased, foil-lined baking pan.

8. Top with some extra cheese. Be messy about it.

9. Spray liberally with olive oil cooking spray, sprinkle with salt and pepper,  and bake at 350*F for 35-40 minutes, or until cooked through. I won't judge you if you cut into a breast to make sure there's no pink left, then eat all of it.

When finished, your chicken should look like this.

This chicken goes very well with pretty much anything. Below, I served it with white wine risotto, mushrooms, and sugar snap peas.

And you know what's super awesome? When you got all messy with that final cheese sprinkling, the cheese made thin, crispy sheets out of itself in the bottom of the baking dish. (!) They can (and should) be used to garnish your chicken.

Enjoy, my dears! :)

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Executive Chef and Owner of No Place Like Home in Louisville, KY. Writer, actress, chef, professional cook and professional eater.