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Guest Post: Thanksgiving Thoughts (and a recipe!) from Chef Madison

This is a guest post by Madison Cowan, a chef, author, restaurateur, husband, and hands-on dad to his daughter. In 2010, Madison become the first ever Chopped Grand Champion on Food Network. Visit Madison's website at www.madisoncowan.com. Madison is regular guest contributor to The Father Factor and he shares this post and one of his delicious recipes as part of The Thankful Campaign.

I constantly give thought over to what I’m most thankful for, which may suggest I have massive amounts of time on my hands. To say the least I am quite grateful for many things in my life, most notably time spent round the supper table with family and friends. This time-honoured tradition seems a bit of a lost art nowadays, with working households and the continual reliance on convenience. During my days on the streets, thoughts of proper and ample food to eat, along with daily survival, was a definite source of motivation. Simply sharing a meal not only promotes gratitude but encourages a sense of community as well. Moreover, while it’s fashionable to engage in the spirit of charity with others less fortunate during the holiday season, it is imperative to be mindful throughout the year.

Whilst commemorating this Thanksgiving, I remain cognizant of numerous ways and opportunities to give. Enjoy the following recipe for an easy alternative to traditional sweet potato pie and let’s all keep in perspective the true expression of gratitude.

“Who does not thank for little, will not thank for much” ~ Red Cloud


Sweet potato panna cotta & orange caramel sauce

For the panna cotta:
Sweet potato 1 medium, alternatively use 1 cup Libby’s pure pumpkin & ¼ tsp each ground cloves & ginger
Gelatine 3 sheets or 1 tbsp powdered
Half & half 2 cups
Raw cane sugar 4 heaped tbsp
Vanilla pod 1, split in half & seeds scraped out
Cinnamon stick 1
Fresh nutmeg generous dusting or ¼ tsp ground

For the sauce:
Raw cane sugar 1 cup
Water 2 tbsp
Butter 2 tbsp
Heavy cream ¼ cup
Orange liqueur ¼ cup
Macadamias 1 handful (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 400F. Wash and score the sweet potato and bake on the center oven rack over a baking sheet until soft, about 45 – 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Soften the gelatine sheets in a bowl with 1 cup of cold water for 3 minutes (sprinkle 2 tbsp water over powder and stir to dissolve. The gelatine will become spongy).

2) Place the half and half, sugar, vanilla pod and cinnamon stick in a heavy based saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

3) Next, slice the sweet potato lengthwise and scoop out the flesh. Stir well into the hot cream mixture to combine.
Pass through a fine sieve into a bowl or jug, discard the vanilla pod and cinnamon stick.

4) Squeeze the water from the gelatine leaves (leave the powdered gelatine sponge as is) and add to the mixture along with the nutmeg. Whisk until the gelatine has dissolved and check the seasoning.
Pour the mixture into small ramekins or dessert cups and leave to cool. Refrigerate to set at least 3 hours or overnight.

5) To make the sauce, bring the sugar and water to boil in a small saucepan over medium high heat until it just begins to caramelize (the key here is to bring the sugar to a light golden brown. Caramel continues to cook when removed from the heat and is bitter the darker it becomes).
Remove the caramel from the heat and add the butter, one at a time, stirring to melt. Pour in the cream and liqueur, stirring after each until smooth. Set aside.

6) Toast the macadamias, if using, in a dry sauté pan over medium heat, cool slightly and crush or roughly chop with a large knife.
Remove the panna cotta from the fridge, slightly warm the sauce over low heat, if needed, and spoon over the pudding. Garnish with macadamias and a light dusting of nutmeg. Serves 6

© 2011 All Rights Reserved. Madison Cowan, LLC

Chef Madison Cowan Helps Dads Get Fit2Father with his Modern Age Pie

Food Network's "Chopped" Champion, Chef Madison Cowan gave us his thoughts on cooking with kids for Fit2Father Week Four!

As a crumb snatcher coming up during the early 70s, pork pies, cheese and onion pasties and (my personal favourite) codfish patties were weekly staples round my yard. These quick snacks, warming in the oven, created a comforting aroma that met you at the door after school. Cheap, delicious and loaded with fat and preservatives but nonetheless spot on when nothing else was ready to hand.

Nowadays when time is limited and funds are short, my daughter and I pop round the shops for fresh ingredients to make quesadillas. Well balanced and nutritious, they’re the perfect meal for a family of any size. Start by heating a dry, non-stick pan over medium-heat, place a multigrain or spinach tortilla in the pan and sprinkle on a large handful of grated, low-sodium cheddar. Spoon 3 tablespoons of the following vegetable mixture over half of the tortilla:

Scallions 3, chopped
Fresh coriander 1 small handful, chopped
Scotch bonnet chili 1 small, seeds removed and finely chopped
Tinned black beans 1 handful, rinsed and drained

Finish it off with tinned tuna (drained and flaked), cooked chicken strips, cooked shrimp or thinly sliced medium rare skirt steak. When the cheese starts to melt, fold the quesadilla in half and toast both sides until golden brown. Remove the quesadilla from the pan and cut in half. Serve with a side of salsa or guacamole and enjoy.

The good thing is they're as wholesome as they are fun and effortless to make. So round up the lil’ ones, get cooking and eat well without breaking the bank.


It's not too late to get Fit2Father! Pledge today!

Get Outdoors With The Lil’ Ones This Summer (And Don’t Forget The Nosh!)

This is a guest post by Madison Cowan, a chef, author, and restaurateur. In 2010 Food Network selected him as a contestant for their hit Primetime series, Chopped where he competed and won three consecutive episodes to become the first ever Chopped Grand Champion. He currently appears as a judge on Food Network's new show Extreme Chef. Most importantly, Madison is a hands-on dad to his daughter. Visit Madison's website at www.madisoncowan.com. Madison shares his suggestions for outdoor cooking as part of NFI's campaign to help dads "Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids This Summer."

Summertime in the city! And everywhere else for that matter. Absolutely nothing beats getting out in the fresh air, whether a back garden, rooftop, stoop or in a kiddie pool with a water hose over your head. Wherever you decide to take in the lovely weather be sure to bring along a bit of sustenance. I can honestly say, without question, one of my favourite ways to relax with the family is hanging out down at the beach dining alfresco.

The thing is, knocking up a picnic lunch doesn't require much planning or effort. Throw a few salad leaves together with grilled peach halves, blackberries, prosciutto, crumble over a bit of blue cheese and lightly drizzle on both olive oil and honey. Salt and pepper to taste, done. Or whisk up a quick Thai sauce of peanut butter, soy, toasted sesame oil, red wine vinegar, chopped garlic and ginger and dried chili flakes. Then pour over cold soba noodles with cooked chicken pieces and blanched broccoli florets, season to taste and garnish with thinly sliced spring onions and sesame seeds for a perfect meal in the park under the stars.

Short on time? Pop round the shops for ready made sandwiches, fresh cut vegetables, sparkling wine and a seasonal berry tart. We caught an outdoor movie recently where takeaway sushi, homemade popcorn and a few bottles of bucks fizz was the order of the day. Alternatively, you can't go wrong with a crusty baguette, cheese, fruit, chocolate and a libation of choice (juice boxes for the young'uns of course). And by all means, use what you have to hand. So shut down the computer, put away the video games, pack up the kids, sunblock, the dog and some sport equipment....nature is calling. Above all else these simple pleasures give our children an abundance of lasting memories and a love of the great outdoors for the ages. Isn't that what matters most?

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