Tag Archives: Confectioners Cocktail

Happy New Year’s Eve To Everyone!

December 31, 2012

I’m sure cashiers and retailers will hear this hundreds of times today, “where did 2012 go? It went by sooo fast!” It may seem trite, but yet, here I am repeating the same small talk because it’s sooo true. I still need to acknowledge life’s pace, step back and give 2012 the proper reflection it deserves. I still need to form my thoughts for 2013 into actionable plans. Somewhere between the reflections and resolutions, there is this: a mocktail! “But it’s New Year’s Eve!” you say, “Why a “mocktail?”

Serve Your Mocktails

This is a mocktail post because we who use our hearts and hands to nourish those we love need to remember those who commit to keeping our nearest and dearest safe! These cherished ones deserve more than water or soda. They deserve some attention too! This is a mocktail post because this drink puts my mind and spirit back on an Indian journey (more on that to come). This is a mocktail post because the start of a great cocktail should be a great mocktail! Those staying put or being chauffeured around the town can add whiskey or gin or the spirit of their choice, but here’s wishing a happy and healthy New Year’s Eve to EVERYONE!

Lemon Ginger Soda w/ Basil & Mint

Lemons and Ginger

To reiterate, I am very much of the Grandmother School of Thought when it comes to food & drink preparation, so this “recipe” is all about your taste, your guests’ tastes and approximations. As such, you will need…

Lemons (I used 3 lemons for 4 of us, so go crazy depending on your party list)
*Ginger Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
Seltzer Water
Fresh Basil
Fresh mint
Salt

Ginger and Sucre

*Ginger Simple Syrup

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

Ingredients

1 cup raw sugar
1 cup water
1 thick piece of gnarly, fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

Directions

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add ginger; bring to a simmer.

Remove from heat, and let steep 30 minutes.

Pour syrup through a fine sieve into an airtight container. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

Ginger Syrup

Resolve to be more resourceful! Instead of just discarding the ginger, as many recipes would suggest, I challenge you to find new ways of using it. My mom is planning to use the ginger remains in her morning smoothie. You could also use its final flavors in a stir fry or add a little spike of flavor to your morning espresso. Leave me a note if you have more ideas!

Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

Add Fresh Lemon Juice

Salted Rims and Garnishes

A recent trip in a warm land taught me how refreshing a little bit of salt and citrus can be. I suggest dipping your cocktail glasses in lemon juice and then in salt. You could do the same with extra raw sugar for a sweeter version.

Get Sloshy

To Each His or Her Own Ratios…

Some like it tart, some like it sweet, some just won’t like it. Such is life, but the basic guideline for this is…

1 part fresh, pulpy lemon juice + 1 part seltzer water + ginger syrup to taste + Basil & Mint galore!

If you have all your mixolgoy tools with you (I did not, as I was concocting in my mom’s kitchen), I’d suggest muddling extra basil and mint in each glass for more flavor.

Final Mocktails

Happy New Year’s Eve!

ps: If you live in the Pittsburgh area, the face from the bilboards has lots of info on cabs, designated drivers and smart party hosting, including some coupons and freebies, so venture to the Edgar Snyder Facebook page for more details.

Pumpkin Without Chocolate is Just Pumpkin

November 2012

There are some bakers and eaters and general complainers who begin to grumble early in November and say, “I am over pumpkin!” To which I reply, “but what about pumpkin and CHOCOLATE?!?!” By that point, I am too consumed by the thought of pumpkin and chocolate to listen to the complainers anymore. I’m a baking super heroine with a chocolate force field!

Pumpkin without chocolate is just pumpkin, BUT pumpkin WITH chocolate is…

Whip The Kraken Cream

Ingredients

1 cup organic heavy cream
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons Kraken Rum

Directions

Chill the heavy cream in a bowl in the freezer until it just starts to freeze.

Remove from the freezer. Add the maple syrup and vanilla.

Use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat until peaks begin to form.

Release the Kraken, and add the rum. Mix until combined.

Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake

Ingredients

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing
2 cups organic raw sugar
4 eggs (local/free-range)
1 can pumpkin puree
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons instant espresso powder

Directions

Makes approximately one 9-inch cake for taking to a friend’s and extra cupcakes for you to keep!

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Oil the springform pan, and line cupcake pan with parchment liners (about 6-12 cupcakes, depending on size).

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, eggs, pumpkin, vanilla and espresso powder.

Whisk flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until well combined then transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.

Set aside to let cool then cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar, if you like.

… divine!

An Ode To A Cabin In Autumn: A Batter Resplatter

September 2012

Ambitious retreat.

When I think of the special cabin in the woods, I think of eating, conversing, wandering, sitting, talking, eating, sitting, warming, reading…. With the slower pace and simpler agenda, I consider each meal an opportunity for a brand new creative endeavor. I let the seasons inspire and try the recipes I’ve stored patiently in my arsenal. The meals link other aspects of my cabin memories, so heating leftovers doesn’t seem to do justice to the special cabin (instead we pack the leftovers for our return dinner). I tend to be overly ambitious in my menu planning, but sometimes a small measure can twist a leftover into the new experience I seek to create.

As my special one waffled his way through the large bowl of batter for our first brunch, his hunger and patience proved to be inversely proportional. Since we had plenty of waffles to eat, I saved the batter for a resplatter, in the form of pancakes, the following morn. Granted, this does not make me the Picasso of pancakes or a kitchen trailblazer by any means, but let this remind and with any hope, slightly inspire. With the addition of roasted kuri squash and a new whipping of cream, we had a new meal with half the steps and risked waste less.

“Nothing helps scenery like ham and eggs.”
-Mark Twain

Much like this avocado egg or these harvest nests, these ham cups are a blank canvas awaiting your cravings and creativity. In my case, I used leftover root vegetables from the previous night’s dinner, with a sprinkling of salty cheese, as the secret surprise ingredients beneath the egg top. Mushrooms and leeks would be delicious, par example.

Ham Cups

Ingredients

Organic Maple Ham
Local/Free-range eggs
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Veggies of choice
Cheese of choice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Line each muffin cup with a slice of ham, letting it ruffle up the sides.

Crack an egg into each, sprinkle with a bit of cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the white is set but the yolk is still runny. Serve immediately, on their own on a plate or set in small dishes for extra support.

Who wants a pancake,
Sweet and piping hot?
Good little Grace looks up and says,
“I’ll take the one on top.”
Who else wants a pancake,
Fresh off the griddle?
Terrible Theresa smiles and says,
“I’ll take the one in the middle.”

-Shel Silverstein

Batter Resplatter Pancakes

This Pumpkin Waffle Recipe + Leftover Roasted Red Kuri Squash = A Brand New Pancake!

Whipped Cream

1 cup organic whipping cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
Dash of cinnamon
2 Tablespoons AITA Snap

Directions

Chill the cream in a mixing bowl in the freezer until the cream just starts to freeze. Remove from the freezer. Add the vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon. Use a mixer, on medium speed, to beat until peaks begin to form. Add the Snap liquor and continue to mix until combined. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

enjoy!

Dancing Japanese Pancakes (Teppanyaki Kyoto, Pittsburgh)

September 2012

If “Japanese food” means more to you than sushi, there is a Pittsburgh restaurant just for you! If you like your food to combine fresh ingredients and a little bit of spectacle, there is a Pittsburgh restaurant just for you! If you like your food to encourage sharing…you get the idea! Said Pittsburgh restaurant is Teppanyaki Kyoto, located on the tiny main drag of the Highland Park neighborhood (where you’ll also find me brunching at e2). Teppanyaki (teppan for iron plate and yaki for grilled/boiled/pan-fried) is a style of cuisine centered around the iron griddle.

The faded logo made my chopsticks look unhappy, but luckily, there is an old Japanese remedy for unhappiness, and at Teppanyaki, the happiness syrum arrives in beautiful pottery. It is even purported to slay goblins!

“Goblin Killer” Sake
Warm, smooth and sips so easily. There will be refills!

Seaweed Salad
Pretty straightforward but worth ordering nonetheless.

Takoyaki
Dumplings made of batter and filled with diced octopus

If the more gelatinous preparations of octopus send you to other sections of a menu, have no fear. These little dumplings are amply packed with octopus chunks that still require a bite. I highly recommend this appetizer!

Japanese Pancakes (multiple varieties)
Wheat flour, cabbage, egg, choice of meat, topped with bonito fish flakes and spicy mayo

This is the specialty, and the advantage of eating with several friends is sampling all the different flavor combinations of pork, beef and seafood. The pancakes are really light, so the other advantage of sharing is justifying the number of pancakes that end up on the table. As the plates arrive, a little flutter might catch your eye. No, you are not mistaken. That pancake is dancing! Want to know why…?

Now you’ll be able to impress your dining companions when they behold the magic of the dancing pancake, and you tell them, “it’s simply thermal expansion at work. It’s science!” Be sure to offer your enlightening knowledge before dessert arrives. Studies show listening wanes when green tea mochi is served!

My First Ever Wedding Cake (Part I): Proposals & Preparations

September 2012

Let me tell you about a woman I admire. She is intelligent and dedicated, as exhibited by her collection of degrees from Carnegie Mellon, Oxford, and one PhD from Berkeley in the works. She is disciplined and compassionate, having run multiple marathons for charity. She is sincere. She’s the type of woman who will listen to your woes and give very thoughtful and intelligent advice in return. She wants to make the world a better, more sustainable place. She is creative and talented, and I admire her immensely. Beyond admiration, I have the great fortune to call Renee my friend.

ReneeAndRamseyChristianWeddingImages-1287

Photo by Photographick Studios.

Now let me tell you about a man I know. We used to be neighbors, and he welcomed me to that block of row homes with a glass of wine and a warm heart. He chose to follow creative outlets in his life and put pen to paper in a substantial way.  Ramsey mixes a childlike spirit with an intelligent mind, and he has a way of filling a room with laughter.

Dashing Ramsey

Photo by Photographick Studios.

On one fateful day, these two amazing friends of mine reconnected in my backyard. I knew Ramsey wanted to marry Renee from day one. He couldn’t contain his adoration. It was only a matter of time until Renee saw a life partner in Ramsey as well, and I was so glad to share a small part in such a love story. When the engagement announcement came, I offered my baking efforts in addition to my congratulations. To my utter joy, my two dear friends said they could not think of a better person to bake their wedding cake! So it was I came to fulfill one of my longtime goals for two very dear people, and this is how that cake began.

Renee and Ramsey were the perfect pair for my wedding cake philosophies. They both truly value whole, natural ingredients, and they left the cake details to my creativity. It was a dream experience! I chose a vanilla pound cake accented with flavors of amaretto, brandy, rum and whiskey! I added a peach compote featuring local peaches to appeal to the couple’s love of local, seasonal ingredients. Since Renee and Ramsey are avid wine drinkers, and the wedding setting was a winery, I used a red and white wine combo for the compote. I was pretty nervous about the cake, but most people went back for seconds and supported me so enthusiastically. The memory still fills me with happiness! Thank you again to this beautiful couple for including me in your festivities!

Renee & Ramsey Wedding Cake Recipe
(cut everything in half if you’re not aiming for a 3-tiered wedding cake)

Vanilla Pound Cake
adapted from Cake Love
Makes 3 layers

Dry Ingredients

5 3/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 Tablespoons Potato Starch
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Liquid Ingredients

2 cups (16 oz) Sour Cream (from local dairy)
½ cup local heavy cream (from local dairy)
1/2 cup Brandy
2 Tablespoons Amaretto
2 Tablespoons rum
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 teaspoons whiskey

Creaming Ingredients

1 lb (16 oz)- organic, unsalted butter, at room temp
6 cups raw sugar

10 Large Eggs (local/free-range)
2 Yolks (local/free-range)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all the dry ingredients and whisk to incorporate.

In a separate bowl combine all the liquid ingredients and whisk to combine.

Combine the butter and sugar and use an electric mixer to cream together on the lowest speed for 2-3 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time followed by the yolk, fully incorporating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the dry ingredients alternately with the liquid mixture in 3-5 additions, beginning and ending with the dry mixture.

Move swiftly to avoid over mixing the batter. Scrape down the bowl and then mix for 20 seconds to fully incorporate.

Spray your pan (loaf, bundt,etc) with nonstick spray and then fill 3/4 of the way up with the batter.

Bake a 10” springform pan for 50-55 minutes and smaller muffin size loafs for 15 minutes.

******************************************************************************************************************

Classic Buttercream
Makes 5 cups

Ingredients

2 cups unsalted butter (4 sticks or 1 pound), softened (but not melted!) Ideal texture should be like ice cream.
6-8 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, SIFTED
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
up to 8 Tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Instructions

Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.

Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the sugar doesn’t blow everywhere) until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter.

Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes.

If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add remaining sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk 1 tablespoons at a time.

******************************************************************************************************************

Peach Pinot Compote

Ingredients

10 cups fresh peaches, skinned and quartered
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups white wine
3 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 cup red wine
1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of ground cinnamon

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine the peaches, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and 2 cups of the white wine. Mix well. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Cover, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Stir together the cornstarch and the 1 cup of red wine.

Raise the heat so that the liquid in the pan begins to boil.

Add the cornstarch mixture and stir for 1 minute, or until the liquid thickens and becomes clear.

Transfer to a serving bowl and add the vanilla.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Can be served on cake, on pudding or with whipped toppings.

Fleatique + Piquenique (Tarentum, PA)

July 2012

There is a field where many different personalities gather, on the third Sunday of the warmer months. Some come bearing the collections they have gleaned from old homes, markets, antique stores and other treasure-guarding nooks and crannies. Some come to scour each table and to bargain until they walk away with a new addition to their own collections.

Fleatique is what brings all the personalities to the field, and after last year’s Fleatique, I found a new way to enjoy that third Sunday. There’s something so peaceful about the green, grassy patch of land, under large shade trees, where each table holds an oddity, a curiosity or a trigger for a memory. I extended that peacefulness in the best way I knew how- a picnic!

As we set up our spot, a rather grizzly yet friendly man stopped his white, Ford truck to ask us, “Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?” It made my morning!

Each jam jar arrived ready for a splash of Italian Moscato wine. After partaking in the bubbly, we refreshed with a tart, berry lemonade.

Muddled Blueberries + Lemon Slices + Lemon Juice + Lavender Chamomile Tea + Great Company

When a cake is made with whole grains, wildflower honey, lavender, lemon and almonds, it’s ok to eat cake for breakfast! That’s exactly what we did!

(I will share this recipe in a subsequent post)

Effie’s Oatcakes + Sour Cherry Goat Cheese + Fresh Cherries. There was also fresh cantaloupe in the spread because even if the breakfast cake is on the healthier side, one should still eat extra fruit.

After wrapping the picnic into its wooden cases again, it was time to explore the offerings…

My pal Dino, the baker & music maker, was there selling fresh, warm paczki. The exterior was sweet, and a bite revealed a yellowy, sweet dough with plump raisins. Full from the picnic, these dense delights were reserved for Monday morning, and they made the return to the real world all the better!

*Side note: If they weren’t as delicious as they were, and a surplus mounted, I mused about a paczki food fight. Those donuts could really fly!

Until the next Fleatique… Better safe than zombie!

(stay tuned for the cake recipe)

Table Magazine + Porsche + e2 = “Drive & Dine Breakfast”

June 2012

It pays to join Table Magazine’s mailing list because when you do, you’ll receive emails like the one advertising the “Drive & Dine” event- an odd, yet enticing offer to test drive a Porsche at Auto Palace and then (more importantly in my book) be rewarded with a mimosa AND free donuts at one of my favorite Pittsburgh brunch institutions, e2.  Until Auto Palace decides they want to sponsor local bloggers, this was one of my few opportunities to drive a Porsche, so I recruited a pair of friends, who turned out to be waaaaay more into this than I ever imagined, and zipping and zeppoli-ing we went!

Red is my favorite color!  I think it suits me in its Porsche form, don’t you?

Ever wondered what the world looks like reflected in an expensive, German sports car? Pretty fantastic, let me tell you…!

Look how cute my Porsche loving pair of friends is…!

Rev it…

My test drive supervisor: “So what kind of car do you have?”

Me: “A red vespa… oh, and these two legs.”

Not having a lot of “car talk” to offer, I sought other avenues [intentional driving pun #1] of conversation with my passenger.  What’s the most unusual test drive experience he had had?  He once ended up eating dinner on a test drive. The husband/driver wanted to show his wife the car in question, and she was home prepping spaghetti.  Next thing you know, the three of them were eating dinner together (and probably talking mostly about Porsches).  Too bad it was only spaghetti [this girl ↑ = so judgmental].

↑ That’s me!

Step on that gas pedal a tad, accelerate through the morning [intentional driving pun #2], and next thing you know, we were reading the very Porsche-centric menu at e2.

Really this marketing event had me at free donuts!  Though I never expected to say it, a morning comprised of a Porsche drive followed by mimosas and ginger donuts is quite simply a very happy morning. Damn those rich folks.  They’re onto something with their expensive toys and lavish living!

The Fast Frenchy was my choice for refueling [intentional driving pun #3] with a few sneaky bites of my pal’s Cayman Carbonara.  How could I resist the creamy pasta with plump, sweet peas and chunks of salty bacon?!? As always with e2, the food was so fresh.  The style of the food may seem simple, but the flavors of each ingredient really shine. Even the toast has a complex contrast of textures and flavors- the toast!  Chef Kate has such a way with tomatoes and sauces.  Look at those beautiful reds…they’d match my new ride!

Me: “Heeeeey, Quit playin’.  Give me back my keys! Get back here!”

What’s next Table MagazineBeamers and Beignets? See you soon. Can’t wait!

The End.

Talula’s Garden

May 2012

When in Philly, two lovelies rank highly on my list of friends to visit, and brunch ranks highly on our collective list of what to do when we gather.  On this particularly pleasant Sunday, we found an enchanting garden offering delectables to suit our fancy.

Talula’s Garden
210 W Washington Sq
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Neighborhoods: Washington Square West, Market East

Those warm colors on that rustic wood, the iron and ivy blocking the city while offering glimpses into the magical garden…we had arrived, and I fell in love with Talula’s Garden almost immediately after stepping beyond the front gate. I didn’t know it again, but Philly Restaurant Emperor Steven Starr had lured me in again!

At first there were just colors, but there were so many more rustic charms to discover.

Ordering from the cocktail menu became a very delicious and tipsy game of “What Does Your Drink Say About You?”

Though not at all “outdoorsy,” Heather has been known to head to sunnier regions like Atlantic City (where the sun reflects off gamblin’ money) or Jamaica most recently.  She is most comfortable in a sundress, beams in bright colors, sees the sweeter side of scenarios and always welcomes a bit of bubbly.  If Heather were a cocktail in Talula’s Garden, she’d be…

The Suncatcher 
“Champagne” Cocktail…Bubbles, Strawberry, and Fresh Mint

Quelcy [yours truly] fell in love with the oak barrel, gun slingin’ flavors of bourbon while road tripping through the American south, en route to the outdoor musical festival known to Jesus-sandle-wearing free spirits as “Bonnaroo.”  Though free of her dreaded locks, this full timer is no suit.  Put on her a fast train to a big city, and she’ll be a happy urban hippy.    If Quelcy were a cocktail in Talula’s Garden, she’d be…

The Treehugger
Maple Manhattan… Rye Whiskey, Maple, and Black Walnut

Jess may be petite, but her personality packs a punch!  She’s spicy, feisty, and she’s all style.  She’s a little bit saucy and sassy, and she’s the cure for what ails you.  If Jess were growing behind the bar in Talula’s Garden, she’d be…

The Butcher [Jess]
Spicy Bloody… Tito’s Vodka and Fresh Horseradish

Little Sweet Ricotta Doughnuts, Apricot Jam, and Chocolate-Hazelnut Sauce

Even the waiter knew he was giving us something special as he offered the platter of donuts and its description.  There was pride and expectation in his voice. He was expecting us to be impressed by the flavorful and colorful contrasts at play, the dedication implied by “housemade nutella,” the burst of fresh blackberries and ultimately, the sweet doughy, slightly dense little donuts!  He was expecting a reaction, but more importantly, he deserved a reaction!  The baby donuts were, in fact, so delicious, the plate began to make a sad face as we finished them…

Maryland Crab “Benedict”, Poached Farm Fresh Eggs, Wilted Romaine, and Tomato-Chive Bearnaise

The toast round was nearly impossible to cut.  That was my only complaint, and it’s really difficult to complain when a mouth is savoring every aspect of an entree.  Even the potatoes were masterfully prepared- just lightly crisped.

Berkshire pork sausage patties with roasted apricot, garlic flowers and polenta

This was a special menu item for the morning.  I was quite sold at “Berkshire,” and then the beautiful garlic flowers and fruit accent arrived and dazzled my eye. The floral and fruit notes balanced with the extra spice of the sausage, and the polenta packed more cornmeal texture than the average heap o’ maize mush.

Whole Wheat Pancakes, Lancaster Maple, Sweet Cream Butter, Pecans, and Brûlée Banana

I kid you not when I posit these pancakes may have been the best pancakes I have eaten to date (don’t tell my mom because I really like her pancakes)!  To date!  The texture was so light and fluffy, especially for a whole-wheat pancake.  The inclusion of brûlée in the description was no misnomer.  The bananas and pecans had an extra sweet and crisp exterior, accented by the brown sugar crumble and sweet syrups served in adorably petite jam jars.

Crispy Truffle Scented Duck Confit and Potato Hash, Sunny Side Egg, Sweet Peas, and Duck Hollandaise

What a decadent way to start the morning- smoky, tender duck…I repeat… smoky, tender duck in drizzles of egg yolk accented by the crisp, fresh, sweet flavor of peas.

Apparently my Vietnamese companions were strictly raised to clean plates.  A national value? Jess whispered to me (so the waitress wouldn’t here?), “Quelcy, can you finish these pancakes? I literally can’t.”  Of course she couldn’t!  We had so much delicious food!  It just wasn’t necessary to eat every morsel.  Nor was I willing to be the sacrificial glutton, but I was obviously willing to flaunt their fullness.  Silly little friends.

The horse and carriage awaited should you desire a more romantic getaway after such a beautiful, bountiful brunch.

Place Your Attention (Berry Port Wine Sauce)

May 2012

There were several post-birthday bites of maple mousse pie, but as the birthday treat progressively disappeared, the sauce persisted.  Finding uses for a blueberry and cherry port wine sauce is no grand feat, but finding a quiet, content moment in which to enjoy it, might take a bit more intention.

Sometimes I am so busy with my routines or antsy for my next phase in life, I find myself wishing for such a simple desire as reading poetry in the sunshine.  Then I step back and realize I can ignore the minuscule “obstacles,” pick up my book, sit outside and relish a moment just for me, myself et moi.  In a similar vein, a quiet cup of tea, buttery bread and a dripping drizzle of berries is an experience worth savoring.

What do you wish to experience?

Header_Finest-Bourbon

My Special One’s Birthday: Simple Syrup for Birthday Bourbons

April 2012

April marked another year in my special one’s life, but it also marked the start of a new chapter.  Shortly before his birthday, Jono signed his offer letter, thus accepting an important position at a company that will one day change the world!  The entire world!  It’s also the company that brought us together!  What is that company?  I leave you in suspense.  I spend 40+ hours a week talking about it, whereas, I do not spend nearly enough time talking about whiskey…

Ok…a tad more about my work… part of my job, at the mysterious company, is to make sure the movers and shakers enjoy their jobs, their spaces, represent our values, etc.  A whirlwind brought me into this atypical line of work, and though it’s not my dream job (still figuring out what my dream job is), it’s an amazing opportunity to be a part of something epic!  One of the most inspiring aspects of my day job is being surrounded by passionate, smart people who really, truly love what they are doing.  My special one loves what he is doing, and he worked really hard to get there.  He chalks a lot of his early success up to luck, but I give the credit to that big brain of his.  His foresight and dedication have served him well, and for that I offered a bourbon from the big leagues.  I also offered a silly little bottle ‘o Beam that he may stay humble, stay driven and stay crazy!

I do hope girlfriend privileges will merit a taste of that fancy jockey’s reserve, but for the birthday festivity, I stuck to my own supply.  For a sweet and peppery birthday cocktail, I infused a few extra flavors into a simple syrup.

Simple Syrup for Birthday Bourbons

1 cup water
1 cup turbinado sugar

Fresh blueberries, sliced
Pink Peppercorns
Fresh mint
A drizzle or so of pure maple syrup

Bring 2 cups of cold water to a boil. Stir in 2 cups of turbinado sugar. Turn the heat to low and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves completely.

Remove from heat and add your infusions.  Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Suggested serving:  Bourbon + bitters + simple syrup (on the rocks)

Bon Anniversaire Mon Amour et Santé!

An Epic Brunch of Minis (Part III): The Gathering of Great People!

April 2012

The fickle skies threatened gray, gloom and even little flecks of snow in spite of the calendar, but I had visions of reds and burst of berries.  The dining room was set for a summer festival of friends and fruits and an Epic Brunch of Minis!

I admit it.  I was very nervous when Nina asked me for honey and a chopstick, but she crafted us a beautiful brunch time beverage!  A sip past the honey-sweetened rim revealed a mixture of organic cherry juice, some bubbly and the gift Erica bestowed upon us- Forks of Cheat Winery Raspberry Wine.

Just in time!  A magical appearing act…

Why was this brunch so epic?  I can answer that from left to right!  Aside from completely filling my dining room, these friends fill a good portion of my personal timeline!

Nikkie!  I was so lucky to share many a stoop session with a wonderful neighbor who became such a significant presence in my life!  Nikkie is such a strong, confident, charismatic and loyal, loving friend!  I miss her, but I’m so happy for her new Atlanta life.  I couldn’t believe the great fortune of hosting her at my brunching table during her Pittsburgh visit!

When we were little “nerd birds” in Suburbia, Pa, Erica and I used to pretend to sip fancy white wine [water] at fancy bars [as if we knew what to imagine a bar to be].  We may be farther apart than our Main Street days, but we’re pretty lucky to live in bordering states. It’s a special time whenever she makes the journey from her adopted state of West Virginia!

[That's me...the lucky one in red!!!]

I once dated a man who didn’t make much sense for me in the long run.  When it comes to the ups and downs of the heart, I focus on what I have gained, and in that case, I gained a friend named Dana.  She’s more than a friend!  She’s like my Pittsburgh big sister, and she’s one inspirational tough cookie!

Nina and I suffered and celebrated many an all nighter in Carnegie Mellon’s architecture program.  After graduating, I would make us coffee, like an old fashioned wifey, before sending her to work.  She’s generally a blur of activity!  No one knows how she does it all! I usually try to lure her with brunch, so she’ll slow down for a spell.

That charmer on the end?  He’s the best boyfriend a girl could ask for, so I try to find as many ways as possible to tell him that!

And they’re all a bit crazy too!

And there were still a few more friends to come!

You see?  Epic!

Mini Cherry & Almond Baked French Toast Cups

The phrase, “I baked these just for you” is all the more real when handing over an individually portioned brunch treat (even if the bruncher has more than one- that’s perfectly encouraged and acceptable)!

Beets + Blue Cheese + Broccoli + Black Forest Bacon

You remember those Alliterative Mini Frittatas, don’t you?

Someone was quite the hungry, hungry hippo and started right into those marbles!

More faces!

One of those watermelon faces is Deanna’s.  She’s an animated bundle of talent and wit and lends such a patient, listening ear when needed.  Thanks to Deanna, I now know Kira and Mike!  They’re sincere and gracious- the kind of friends who take the time to sit and appreciate the finer moments in life.  They also know quite a bit about coffee and shared a special brew with the end of brunch crew!  Someday soon they’ll teach me all about vacuum brewing, and I can’t wait!

Every Sunday should be filled with such friends and fun!

The Cake Comes First (Easter, Part I)

April 2012

Around these parts, dessert is a priority, so when it comes to planning a meal, the finale very often comes first! Thus Easter scheming began with this friendly carrot face and a bright orange cakeventure!

I have a love affair with the color orange (as does Pantone this year!), especially when orange comes undiluted from nature.  Easter was the perfect occasion to use my juicing powers for good [cake coloring]!

Easter inspired the carrots.  My chocolate cravings inspired the chocolate.  The beautifully rendered video for Snap inspired the blackstrap molasses, and lastly, the special occasion inspired the layers! There you have it…

Chocolate Gingerbread Carrot Cake!

Chocolate Gingerbread Carrot Cake
w/ Snappy Frosting 

Ingredients

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamum
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup turbinado sugar
5 large eggs (local/free-range)

3/4 cup organic frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup unsulphured blackstrap molasses
3/4 cup organic sour cream
1/2 cup olive oil

2 cups carrot pulp from juicing (or shredded carrot)

1/2 cup all natural, unsweetened raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Filling

Chopped walnuts, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter and line a 13x9x2-inch glass baking pan.

Combine cup whole-wheat pastry flour, almond meal, baking powder, unsweetened cocoa powder, ground cinnamon, ground cardamum, ground cloves, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; whisk to blend.

Use an electric mixer to beat the turbinado sugar and eggs until thick and creamy, about 3 minutes.

Add the orange juice concentrate, honey, molasses, sour cream and olive oil in large bowl until smooth.

Beat in dry ingredients.

Stir in carrots, raisins, walnuts and chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Cool cake completely in pan.

Snappy Frosting

1 8-ounce package Neufchatel cheese, at room temperature
1 cup (2 stick) organic unsalted butter, room temperature

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey
4 Tablespoons AITA Snap
1/4 cup fresh carrot juice
1/4 cup organic powdered sugar

For the Frosting

Use an electric mixer to whip the Neufchatel cheese and butter until creamy. Add the vanilla, honey, Snap, carrot juice and powdered sugar. Continue to beat until all blended and creamy.  *If you want to have a similar two toned cake, reserve some frosting before adding the carrot juice.

Top with a natural sour gummy from your local Whole Foods or natural grocer.

Stay tuned for the rest of the Easter fête!

Once Upon A Sticky Toffee Time in London

November 2011/March 2012

In the back of my mind- in the very back of my mind- I knew he was going to London with his family.  The front of my mind [clearly this post is steeped in "neuroscience"] was focused very intently on escaping my home base, adventuring and feeling very, very far from certain sad gray clouds hovering over me.  I looked at flights to Paris very longingly, but I concluded I owed it to myself to try a new locale.  That’s when London popped into my mind, and once I get an idea like that in my head, all the best to you should you try to stand in my way!

I had already set my idea into motion when the back and front of my mind began working in conjunction again [even more neuroscience].  Oh yeaaaah… he‘s going to London too! The “coincidence” of my destination choice seemed questionable since I had joked about wanting to be a member of his family (whose travel history included a family vacation on the Amalfi Coast!!!  Pick me!!!), but I am sticking to my story- his trip was unrelated to my planning!

The motives of my story became all the more questionable as the two of us grew closer.  At first, we were two friends who happened to be traveling to the same major metropolis at the very same time.  We thought we’d meet up and maybe share some London sightseeing, but as the trip approached, our friendship became something far more significant!  I had unknowingly arranged to travel to London with my SigFig to be and his entire family!

Who does that?!?  This girl!

So it was I came to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in a foreign land with my new boyfriend’s family.  With any other family, this may have been odd or intrusive, but my special one comes from a tremendous family who generously included me in their wanderings and explorations of one of the most captivating cities on earth!

Thanks to the sister/tour guide, who had been exploring London for an entire semester, I came to experience a phenomenon called “sticky toffee pudding,” which isn’t all that sticky, nor is it really pudding.  Oh those Brits!

My first sticky toffee encounter occurred at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub, which is notable for a few reasons:

1.  Its age!  It was rebuilt in 1667 after The Great Fire of London, meaning some semblance of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub existed even earlier than that!

2.  The entrance is quietly tucked away from the commotion of the street, marked by a beautiful sign and surrounded by beautiful brickwork.

3.  To arrive at the cellar requires an acute awareness of one’s body in space, as the winding stairwell is narrow, and the ceilings are quite low.

4.  The rustic wood!  There was wood everywhere, and “rustic” does not do justice to the age in those dark wood grains.

5.  The concept of the British pub is brilliant in general- good drinks and comfort food in a unique and dignified setting!  To eat and drink at a pub is like eating mom’s Sunday dinner in the den of an old fashioned gentleman (It’s the style I channeled for this shoot).

Why, oh why America, do you not adopt such a concept en masse?!?

The sister/tour guide was wide eyed and very nearly drooling as she ordered “sticky toffee pudding” at record speed (try saying it five times fast!).  Her eagerness was intriguing. Beyond my bowl of creamy corn soup (again..such delectable food for a bar!) was the answer to my question, “what is sticky toffee pudding?”  My bite from the shared bowl provided the answer:  warm, spongy cake in a pool of custard with a sweet surface layer.

Part of why I travel is to be inspired creatively and culinarily, and that bowl of sticky toffee pudding sure did inspire!  The special cabin in the woods was the perfect place for my first attempt, and my special one was the perfect partner for sharing dessert.  Not surprisingly, the recipe inspiration came from the delicious photos of one of my favorite blogs, Tea With Me.

Sticky Toffee Pudding
Recipe adapted from Tea With Me. 

Dates!  Who knew?!?  Dates are one of the prominent ingredients in sticky toffee pudding, so it’s really a wonder this traditional dessert did not come to be known as “caramel date cake.”

The sneaky Bear-Pig tried to nab the dates as they soaked, but his attempts were foiled!

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Ingredients

1 cup dates, pitted
2 cups boiling water
1 tsp baking soda

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup organic, unsalted butter
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 egg (local/free-range), beaten

1 Tablespoon AITA Snap

For the Sticky Toffee Pudding

In a separate bowl, pour boiling water over dates and baking soda. Let sit until all or most of the water is absorbed (ideal time for a forest wander).  Add a splash or two of AITA Snap for an extra kick.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Cream butter and sugar until lighter in color and fluffy. Beat in egg gradually.

Fold in the flour mixture.

Add the date mixture.

Mix in the Snap.

Pour in a greased oven proof glass baking dish.

Bake on the middle rack for 250 degrees F for 40 min.

Caramel Sauce

1/3 cup organic, unsalted butter
1 cup organic brown sugar
4 tbsp organic heavy cream

For the Caramel Sauce

Melt butter in a pan, add sugar and cream, stirring all the time for about 3 minutes.

Cut a slice of pudding, serve with a dollop of whipped cream and drizzles of caramel sauce.

Snap Whipped Cream

1 cup organic heavy cream, chilled
2-3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1-2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
3-4 Tablespoons AITA Snap

For the Whipped Cream

Combine all the ingredients in a chilled bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until peaks form. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

More To Come…!

I’m not about to offer the sister/tour guide my first ever attempt at sticky toffee pudding, especially since this version reminded me more of my mother’s banana bread than my afternoon at that wooden table.  Thus I see much more sticky toffee experimentation on my horizon.  There is also so much more of my London wanderings I intend to share, so…

Stay tuned!

Post Patty’s Brunch (Frittata & French Toast)

March 2012

While Pittsburgh beer enthusiasts and/or the local “Irish” were clumping into green colored herds to commence daytime drinking and revelry, I was clad in red and very soberly intent on avoiding them. Am I against the holiday?  No, I just have a hard time relating to festivities that revolve solely around intoxication.  Thus I came to celebrate in my own way, which meant a green inspired Post Patty’s Day brunch.  Though there was plenty of Jameson, our holiday acknowledgement notably lacked the debauchery of the previous night’s full fledged festivities.

On the menu for the celebration…

Irish Coffee Baked French Toast
Cheddar & Greens Frittata
Cake in the case of the Birthday Girl
Kiwi & Lime Bellinis (Kiliminis?)

Irish Coffee French Toast

Ingredients

multi-grain baguette
organic challah rolls (4)
1/2 cup organic sour cream
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 cup Bourbon Berries
2 cups organic buttermilk
1 cup Organic Valley hazelnut half & half
1 cup brewed and cooled (such as One Village Coffee)
2 eggs (local/free-range)
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons Jameson whiskey
2 Tablespoons organic brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground cinnamon
ground nutmeg
ground ginger

Directions

Butter a 9×13 glass baking dish.

Use slices of the challah rolls to create a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Use pieces of the multigrain baguette to fill in any spaces.

In a pourable, glass measuring bowl, combine the sour cream, ricotta cheese and maple syrup.

Pour the mixture over the bread layer.

Spread the bourbon berries over the cheese layer and follow with another layer of challah and more multigrain bread chunks as needed.

In a mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk, half & half, coffee, eggs, vanilla, Jameson, brown sugar and salt. Pour the mixture over the bread, making sure to saturate the top layer.

Sprinkle with the spices. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cover with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until top is golden brown.

Serve with Irish Whipped Cream and pure maple syrup.

Irish Whipped Cream

Ingredients

1 cup organic heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2-3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup, to taste
4-5 Tablespoons Jameson Irish Whiskey, to taste
2-3 Tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream, to taste

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a chilled bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until stiff peaks form.

My First Frittata Ever…

Cheddar & Greens Frittata

Ingredients

7 large eggs (local/free-range)
2 Tablespoons organic heavy cream

Olive oil
1 medium sized red onion, chopped
1 organic parsnip, sliced
4-5 brussels sprouts, sliced
1 small organic leek, sliced
Freshly ground smoked black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon Yakima Applewood Smoked Sea Salt
organic spinach (eye it)
1/2 cup Irish Cheddar, grated
Danish blue cheese, crumbled

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a pourable measuring bowl, mix the eggs and heavy cream. Set aside.

Pour a few Tablespoons of olive oil into a 10-inch skillet, over medium-high heat. As the oil starts to shimmer, add the chopped onion.

Once the onion has softened (about 2-3 minutes), add the sliced parsnip and brussels sprouts. Stir frequently.

Once the brussels sprouts have begun to brown slightly, add the sliced leek, and continue to stir.

Add the salt and pepper, and continue to stir. Once the vegetables are stir fried (still slightly crisp), remove the skillet from heat.

Stir in spinach leaves to your liking. The remaining heat will be sufficient to wilt the greens slightly. Add the cheese, and stir to combine.

Pour the egg and cream mixture over the vegetables in the skillet.

Cover the skillet with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes more.

Slice and serve directly from the skillet, warm or at room temperature.

It didn’t dawn on me fully until this Post Patty’s Sunday, but there is a place where I can find inspiration, creativity, humor, craziness, encouragement, passion, advice, knowledge, exploration, activism, insight and so much more!  It’s the brunching table!

Over glasses of green juices and plates of food, Dana commended Nina for her actualization of the venue Dana had once wanted to create.  Assemble is a place where one can engage his or her intrigue through hands on activities about art and technology, through film screenings, happenings, workshops, lectures, and community activities.

Meanwhile, Dana was inspiring both of us with the story of channeling her own powerful cancer survival story into fighting for environmental initiatives and anti-fracking campaigns.  These environmental discussions circled back to a need for more educational programs a la Nina’s involvement with this amazing program to promote girls in math and science.

Those accomplishments certainly merited another toast!

Dana’s response to my request for something green to drink:
Fresh Pressed Kiwi Juice + Lime Juice + Simple syrup (from pure cane sugar) + Prosseco

Nina’s garnish addition:
Green grapes + Fresh Mint

Go team!

Another Nina brunch plate interpretation.  It looks like an army tank?!?  Knowing Nina’s artistic inclinations, it’s probably something on the phallic side of the sculptural world.

Turn a good cup of coffee into an even better cup of coffee with a dollop of the Irish Whipped Cream (recipe above).  Even the coffee cup will be smiling when the coffee is gone.

Nina zipped away in her greenest display of the day- her new mini!  I’m still waiting for my inaugural ride!

As I took a moment to take in the remains of the table, the true power and potential of these friends of mine hit me in the most marvelous way, and I felt truly honored to have brought them together!

Never underestimate the power of brunch!

Brunch For A Babyhood Friend

March 2012

Crazy sisters made somehow crazier by adulthood… looming life questions… the jobs we have worked versus the jobs we expected to have… the broken hearts along the way… the parents we try to understand more and more… the desire to be more creative… these are the occurrences and developments that keep us on the same page, and this was the brunch that brought us to the same table.

Erica grew up in the corner green house.  I grew up in the red, brick house on the opposite corner.  We were neighbors, but we were also like family.  She was the like the little sister I never had, and when we put our heads together, the most inventive adventures ensued!  I won’t wave our crazy flags too specifically, but I figured Jono would be enthused to have a glimpse into my even weirder childhood, hence the three plates.

Salad

Spinach
Mixed Greens
Organic Raspberries
Sliced almonds
Dried Figs
Goat cheese

Vinaigrette

Dijon mustard
Olive Oil
Cabernet Wine Vinegar
Maple Syrup

Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread w/ Bourbon Buttercream
Cupcake Quiches 

It’s not a complete brunch without a little bubbly.

meyer lemon + raspberries + champagne + blackberry juice

Above is what the table looked like as we finished.  Below was what the great outdoors looked like…a turbulent swirl of snow straight into eye level no matter where you walked.

So we went for a snowventure!

Look at the tree all the way on the left.  Notice a peaceful glimpse of wildlife?

From the grays and snow covered grass of Schenley Park, we snaked along curving, sloping roads to the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where bursts of color awaited.

We continued through the blue-gray, snowy blanket to the top of the [Pittsburgh] world- Mt Washington.

As the dark day transitioned to an even darker night, Erica and I returned to the warmth of my fireplace, sipped hot tea and confided in each other as if time had never escaped us. Little did we know how many similar experiences we’d been having.  As I attempted to relay the helpful advice another friend had given to me, I was reminded how truly fortunate I am to have strong, creative, intelligent, supportive friends in my life!  This Sunday brunch and snowventuring was just what Erica and I had both needed.  Never underestimate the power of an old friend, a dining room table, snowy views and cups of tea!

A Cookie For The Kind of Man I’d Be (Snap ‘Staches)

February 2012

If I were male, it’s pretty safe to say, I’d have obnoxious facial hair, channel the Prohibition era in my fashion choices and fantasize about having a dimly lit den, where my male counterparts would gather, perhaps even smoke some cigars (though I generally find this habit disgusting), drink brandy and discuss the world.  If I were male, I’d channel the quintessential high society, manly man (minus the misogyny) of yesteryear.  In a distilled manner of speaking, I’d be one of those Brooklyn hipster types.  If I were that man, these would be my cookies, and this would be my coffee!

Presenting another collaboration between yours truly on the baking/styling front and the ever talented man behind the camera, Adam Milliron, who has now entered the twittersphere!  Three tweets for Adam!  Tweet tweet hoorah!

Strong Black Coffee + Snap Whipped Cream

Strong black cuppa joe, prepared as you see fit (I generally press my beans in the French style)

1 cup organic heavy cream, chilled
1-2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup, to taste
2-3 Tablespoons AITA Snap, to taste
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized, chilled bowl.  Use an electric mixer to beat until peaks form.

Add in heaping dollops to a cup of joe.  Political debates to ensue.

Snappy Gingerbread Mustaches
(Makes about 3 dozen cookies)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups chestnut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamum
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly milled organic smoked black pepper
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup unsulphured molasses
1 large egg (local/free-range)
2 Tablespoons AITA Snap

Directions

Combine the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and brown sugar until the mixture is light in texture and color, about 2 minutes.

Beat in the molasses, egg and Snap.

Using a wooden spoon, gradually mix in the flour mixture to make a stiff dough.

Divide the dough into two thick disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. (The dough can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.)

Position a rack in middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

To roll out the cookies, work with one disk at a time, keeping the other disk refrigerated.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until just warm enough to roll out without cracking, about 10 minutes. (If the dough has been chilled for longer than 3 hours, it may need a few more minutes.)

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick.

For softer cookies, roll out slightly thicker. Using cookie cutters, cut out the cookies and transfer to a baking stone lined with parchment, placing the cookies 1 inch apart.

Gently knead the scraps together and form into another disk. Wrap and chill for 5 minutes before rolling out again to cut out more cookies.

Bake until the edges of the cookies are set and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes.

Cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire cake racks to cool completely.

The cookies can be prepared up to 1 week ahead, stored in airtight containers at room temperature.

The Method To Our Madness & Make Believe

Want to see how obsessive Adam and I are about arriving at the perfect shot?  Here’s a glimpse into our madness.  It may seem petty to some, but finding that perfect spot for a sugar cube really makes our day!  Hopefully, it makes your day in some way as well!

Fin.

How Did Valentine’s Dinner Become Plan B The Morning After?

February 2012

I did put a lot of effort into crafting a special Valentine’s Day Observed dinner.

I did not put all the lemony, minty, chèvre and ricotta filling into the heart shaped ravioli shells.

I did have a lot of egg yolks leftover from making the special Valentine’s Day cakewich.

did not see any reason to leave the cozy house the next, wintry morning (at least I think it was wintry…regardless, I was content to stay put).

I did see a reason to use the previous night’s flavor combinations and leftovers in a new way. You don’t come to look like this without a bit of creative resourcefulness!

Plan Brunch…what did you think I meant?!?!

Lemony Leftover Scramble + Strawberry Lemon Ricotta Pancakes w/ Whiskey Whipped Cream

You might notice the above egg scramble has quite the bright, golden hue.  It’s not the trick of photo enhancement.  No sir.  No ma’am.  It is the trick of an abundance of egg yolks excluded from a special cake batter.  These eggs might not be the poster child for a low fat lifestyle, but they were incredibly, edibly good, as the branding has taught us!

Egg yolks + a few whole eggs (all local/free-range)
Leftover ravioli filling
Speck (leftover from a certain heart shaped charcuterie spread)

Do you have to make the other recipes first, in order to create this scramble?

Nope!

My point is- use your leftovers creatively!  Trust your instincts and take a few risks!  The result may pleasantly surprise you!  These eggs were a one-of-a-time, delicious whim and maybe even a metaphor for life?

As for the pancakes, we started from scratch with the previous night’s flavors still on our minds.  I’m so lucky to have a Valentine who becomes a pancake flipper in the morning light!

Strawberry Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
w/ Whiskey Whipped Cream 

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
3/4 cups organic cornmeal (Bob’s Redmill)
2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
zest from one lemon
1 teaspoon organic lemon juice
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs (local/free-range), separated
1 teaspoon organic almond extract
1/3 cup all natural ricotta cheese
1/2 stick organic, unsalted butter, browned
1 cup strawberries,

extra butter for pan

Directions

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk buttermilk, egg yolks, and lemon zest to blend.

Stir buttermilk mixture and almond extract into flour mixture until evenly moistened. Gently stir in ricotta cheese.

In a bowl, with a mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. With a flexible spatula, gently fold the whites into the batter just until they are incorporated.

Stir in the browned butter.

Gently fold in the strawberries.

[This is the part of the recipe I happily ignore and substitute my talented boyfriend to make up for my flipping inabilities]

Place a nonstick griddle or a 12-inch nonstick frying pan over medium heat; when hot, coat lightly with oil and adjust heat to maintain temperature. Drop batter in 1/2-cup portions onto the griddle and cook until pancakes are browned on the bottom and edges begin to look dry, about 2 minutes; turn cakes with a wide spatula and brown other sides, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes longer. Coat pan with more oil as necessary to cook remaining pancakes.

Serve pancakes as cooked, or keep warm in a single layer on baking sheets in a 200° oven for up to 15 minutes.

Serve with whiskey whipped cream, sliced strawberries and pools of pure maple syrup!!!

Whiskey Whipped Cream

Ingredients

1 cup organic heavy cream, chilled
Generous splash of Wild Turkey
1-2 Tablespoons of pure vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons of pure maple syrup

For the Whiskey Whipped Cream

Combine all of the ingredients in a chilled bowl.

Use an electric mixer to beat until stiff peaks form.

Keep chilled until ready to serve.

As always… Enjoy!

Header_I Like You

Valentine’s Day Observed: The Dinner With My Valentine!

February 2012

It was time to put all the Valentine’s Day plans onto one table, for one meal, with one special Valentine!

I washed off the beet stains [as best I could], dusted off the flour, crafted some skewers, set the table in a brand new way and somehow managed to shower and put on a dress before the designated dinner time. Our Valentine’s Day Observed was about to begin!

The Menu

Heart Beet Ravioli
Charcuterie Plate
Heirloom Wheat Bread 
Heart Beets Salad
Chocolate Hazelnut & Cherry Cakewich

Lots of wine!

Beets Are Red & Cheese Are Blue:  A Charcuterie Plate 

Danish Blue Cheese Hearts
Roasted Beet [Heart]
Speck & Honey Maple Ham
Fig Hearts
Cranberry Orange Chèvre
Raspberries

*The fig, blue cheese and raspberry combined best with a drizzle of honey on a slice of the heirloom wheat bread.

Heart Beets Salad

Roasted Red Beets
Endive
Radicchio
Blood Orange Segments
Honey Toasted Pecans
Raspberries
Fresh Mint
(play it be ear…or by heart… or by bad puns?)

Dressing
Olive Oil
Dijon Mustard
Balsamic Vinaigrette
Maple Syrup
(mix to taste)

Remember I said “Lots of Wine?”  I wasn’t kidding!  We first gave a proper toast and a “sip”…

Then we gave proper attention to the food on the table.  We both really appreciate good food, and that shared interest means a lot to me!

Then we just acted weird because we do that a lot… (I guess the photo only makes me look a little weird, but don’t let him fool ya…look at that stare)!

The libations theme for the night was wine, but the theme for Valentine’s Day gift giving was Let’s Learn To Mix More!  I couldn’t resist throwing in a little Black Velvet and that cool southern style (via Canada), plus an infographic to teach us much, much, more mixology  I’m looking forward to a wee baby cocktail in one of those little chocolate cups.

There’s just one more element to this Valentine’s Day Observed series- a very special finale.

Stay tuned (and please excuse my handwriting… I had a lot going on)!

It’s Still Winter. Might As Well Be Cozy.

Another Adventure with Root!
February 2012

More and more, I prefer a cozy winter weekend.

The more nestled I am under a blanket with a certain someone special… the better the weekend. The more the fire flickers and sends warmth my way… the better the weekend. The more time spent working our way through Twin Peaks with a projector… the better the weekend.

As the weather oscillates oddly between seasons over the course of days, one has to make the most of the cold snowy times that can otherwise be so demotivating.  It’s best to dwell on how those snowy days justify cozy weekends.  Furthermore, those snowy times lengthen the egg nog season! I am quite an egg nog novice, since that combination of words repulsed me when most kids were forming their first nog mustaches.  Little did little me know, egg nog is the delicious equivalent of a melted milkshake!  Why didn’t the adults tell me?!?

While I long for sunshine, bare shoulders and warmth like the next vitamin D craving lass, I embrace these remaining wintry days with a glass of egg nog and something sweet.  To make the cold beverage something worthy of a cozy weekend, you need a “heat” source- enter the magical pipette and one’s volitional release of the “warmth” of one’s choice!  In my case, I turned to one of my favorites… Art in the Age Root Liquor.

Since my photographing phenom friend Adam Milliron is a seasoned egg nog aficionado, this venture into drinks and dessert pairing was the perfect opportunity for another collaboration!

Root Nog

Ingredients

4 egg yolks (local/free-range)
1/3 cup organic brown sugar, plus 1 Tablespoon
1 pint organic whole milk
1 cup organic heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 egg whites (local/free-range)
Cinnamon, cocoa, nutmeg garnish
+ Pipettes of Root

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color.

Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved.

Add the milk, cream and nutmeg and stir to combine.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat to soft peaks.

With the mixer still running gradually add the 1 Tablespoon of brown sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

Whisk the egg whites into the mixture. Keep chiled.

Serve with a dusting of spices and a pipette’s worth (or two…or three) of Root.

There are multiple benefits to pipetting the alcohol into the egg nog.  You can add one full splash of Root (or two or three…no one’s counting), refill the pipette one last time and then submerge it into the beverage.  Should you be so inclined, you can slowly release the alcohol as you drink, creating a higher concentration toward the last sips.  More importantly, it’s just plain old fun using “science” for non science purposes, especially if, like moi, you are surrounded by scientists and engineers during the day job hours.

And of course, Root Nog is better with a Chocolate Root Cake!

Chocolate Root Cake + Orange Root Infusion + Chocolate Root Buttercream

Root Infusion

Ingredients 

1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup Root
Organic orange peel

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid begins to thicken slightly.  Set aside.

Chocolate Root Cake

Ingredients

2 cups cream soda (Virgil’s)
1 cup dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup organic unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs (local/free-range)

Directions

Preheat even to 325 degrees F.

Spray the inside of a 10-inch round pan with nonstick cooking spray, or butter generously and dust with flour, knocking out the excess.

In a small saucepan, heat the root beer, cocoa powder and butter over medium heat until butter is melted.  Add sugar and molasses and whisk until dissolved.  Remove from heat and let cool.

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

In a small bowl whisk the eggs until just beaten.

Whisk the eggs into the cocoa mixture until combined.

Gently fold the flour mixture into the cocoa mixture.  The batter will be slightly lumpy, but don’t over beat the batter or the cake will be tough.

Pour the batter into prepared pan and cook for 35-45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking until a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Use a fork or a skewer to poke several holes in the surface of the cake.  Remove the orange peel, and pour the Root reduction sauce over the cake, spreading it over the entire surface.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely then loosen edges with a butter knife and turn out onto a cake plate.

Chocolate Root Beer Frosting

Ingredients

3 ounces 86% cacao (Ghirardelli), melted
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Root
4 ounces Nefuchatel cheese
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
¼ cup Root Nog

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using an electric hand mixer, beat softened butter and cocoa powder.

Once combined add the melted chocolate, salt, Neufchatel, Root, maple syrup and Root Nog.

Beat together until smooth.

Spread on top of cooled cake.

Garnish

Organic orange slices dipped in melted dark, dark, dark chocolate with a splash or two of Root!  Once dipped in rich chocolate-y goodness, set on a piece of wax paper to harden.

Best enjoyed while cuddling with someone special, under blankets, by the warmth of a fire, awaiting the impending plot twist!

Baking, Mixing and Styling by With The Grains.  Photography by Adam Milliron.  Edits conceived from our collaborative vision!

Art in the Age of a New Age: Ushering in 2012 (Addendum)

January 2012

The last bits of the NYE weekend included an all out dive into the deep end of Twin Peaks, while snuggled in front of the fireplace, with one last cocktail in hand.

We were in the Appalachians after all, so we found inspiration in this concoction…

Mmmm… this one is a winner!  Tastes like a delicious milkshake!

I could have stayed on that couch, watching that madness and drinking that deliciousness for a lot longer, but reality was reaching for us.

Alas, bring on 2012!