Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Green Mountain Iced Lattes

Upon having a bad dream of some sort, I will promptly wake Seth up and demand that he make me feel better. I tell him my bad dream, he tells me everything is actually okay which, sounds perfunctory, but is surprisingly comforting, and then we all go back to sleep. In my defense, once morning comes, he has no recollection that he had been awakened.

Seth, in contrast, will not wake me up after a bad dream. He refuses. He says that he prefers to let me sleep. 

So to continue along the same selfish path that I have carved for myself, I will drink these Green Mountain Iced Lattes. All by myself.

No matter the way in which I have tried to disguise coffee or espresso with various combinations of sugar, fat, and flavorings, Seth's extremely precise taste receptors ferret out that deliciously bitter coffee part and and subsequently becomes utterly horrified by being in its presence. Not just horrified, but offended.
I, however, have been cultivating a love for coffee and espresso since the first day of college, a rebellious act after growing up in a tea-drinking household. I live on the edge.

These Green Mountain Iced Lattes come in two flavors - vanilla and mocha, and will soon, if not already, found at most major retailers. They are made with real milk, cream, and 100% Arabica beans.

By the way, click here and you can get $1 off coupon at to taste these for yourselves!  It tastes so good to be selfish.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Whitewave Foods, makers of Green Mountain Coffee®. The opinions and text are all mine.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Maple Balsamic Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Now is the time when we take stock of our lives and reflect upon the parts that bring us joy, bring us comfort, enrich our lives - in other words, those things for which we are grateful.

I, for one, am extremely grateful for the existence of whipped cream.

What would our pies do without the stuff?  Our brownies?  Our ice cream sundaes?  Our chocolate mousses?  Our mugs of hot chocolate?  They would be naked, that's what.  They would no longer have their cool, light and airy accompaniment to contrast against.

To show my thankfulness for this edible delight, and to ensure that Thanksgiving desserts would be appropriately dressed, I made a whipped cream with maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and cinnamon.  An edible expression of my gratitude.

1 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a small bowl, stir together vinegar, maple syrup, and cinnamon.  Add cream to bowl of a stand mixer. Using whisk attachment, whip for 30 seconds, then pour in the vinegar mixture.  Whip until stiff peaks form. Serve with whatever dessert you want!  Or just eat it straight up like Max does.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Baked Artichokes with Mandarin Orange, Juniper Berries, Clove, and Whole Grain Mustard

As Max's birthday approaches, I can't help but marvel at his smartness.  Not the, "Wow, my child is way ahead of his developmental milestones," kind of smart.  Oh no.  The kind that knows exactly how to make me angry, repeatedly does it, then watches me get mad and laughs.  That kind.  The kind that I thought didn't happen until the teenage years.  I was so terribly wrong.

This is where your mind goes when making an artichoke.  The prepping gives one ample time to get lost in thoughts.  Between the trimming of leaves, the halving, and the rubbing with lemon juice, and removing of choke, there is little else to do but get immersed in one's own head.  That, and making sure you do not injure yourself with a sharp object.

Then while these bake, one has time to move on to a different set of thoughts.  Happier ones, like amusement at getting Max to say the word artichoke.  ...Then refusing to actually try one (someone has yet to internalize the message of Green Eggs and Ham, despite the frequent readings).

These baked artichokes are made with delicious Maille Whole Grain Dijon Mustard, ground juniper berries and bay leaf, and scented with mandarin orange.  Max may be smart enough to know how to make me mad, but he isn't smart enough to try the artichoke.  He'll figure it out one day.

1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon Maille Whole Grain Dijon Mustard
2 teaspoons ground juniper berries
pinch clove
1 bay leaf, ground
1 sprig thyme
1 tablespoon mandarin orange juice
1 teaspoon mandarin zest
kosher salt
2 artichokes
lemons, for prep

Heat oven to 425.

In a small pot, over low heat, melt the butter, and stir in the mustard, juniper berries, clove, ground bay leaf, thyme leaves, juice and zest, and a generous pinch of kosher salt.  Once melted, remove from heat.

Using kitchen shears, trim off pointy tips of artichoke leaves. Using a large, sharp knife, cut off the end of each stem. Carefully remove any small leaves attached directly to the stem. Wash artichokes thoroughly under cold water to clean them off, and dry with paper towel.

For this part, you will want to do one artichoke at a time. Take your big sharp knife, coat it with lemon juice from one of your lemon wedges, turn an artichoke upside down, so the stem is sticking up and slice it straight down in half. Immediately rub down all cut surfaces with lemon wedges to prevent discoloration. Take a serrated spoon, or regular spoon, and coat it with lemon juice. Scoop out the fuzzy choke in the center, as well as the inner, purple leaves. Make sure you get all of the fuzzy part out, and liberally rub down the top of the heart with lemon to prevent discoloration. I also try to cut any remaining prickly points off of the inner curled leaves to prevent poking the eater. Repeat for other halves.

Place the artichoke in tin foil with 1/4 of the butter mixture spooned over it, taking care to fill up the cavity left from the removal of the fuzzy choke.  Wrap it cut-side up, and place on a baking sheet.  Repeat for remaining halves.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until heart and leaves are tender.

NOTE: We did not receive financial compensation for this post. We received the Maille mustard for review purposes. The opinions are completely our own.  The mustard is absolutely wonderful.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cranberry Thyme Butter

Cranberries somehow manage to be, paradoxically, both enchanting and mysterious, as well as incredibly unromantic.

On one hand, they are like something from a fairy tale, at least a fairy tale involving fruit.  A fruit that is so gorgeous and ruby-red and jewel-like that it is, if you are the crafty sort of person, strung together to form garland.

And they grow in places called bogs, which sounds mystical and far-away.  Most of us have encountered strawberries or blueberries or blackberries growing in the wild.  One cannot say the same for a cranberry. I think.  I could, perhaps, be projecting, taking my own life experiences and assuming others have had the same.  Maybe everyone else lives near cranberries bogs.

But their elusiveness, while making the berry seem almost unreal, is the same quality that leads to a fruit that one must obtain from an emblazoned package instead of squirreling away into your basket at a farmer's market.  And while I cannot help but be enamored by the joyful ruby spheres, I'm a bit disappointed when biting into one uncooked.  It lures you in with its royal facade, then gives you nothing but sourness.  Max can attest to this duplicity, as he could not help but rip open a package of cranberries as soon as we arrived home from the grocery store, and then was summarily greeted by the overwhelming note of sour. And not even a juicy note.  Just a stiff bite of tart.  Needless to say, he was not pleased.

Luckily, cooking them tames their tart nature and turns them into something luscious.  Here I cooked them down with some sugar, honey, lemon juice and zest, and leaves of thyme.  After the mixture cools, it is beaten with some unsalted butter to make a cranberry butter.  A butter with some sweetness (but not cloying), with hints of thyme and lemon.  A butter that takes on that ruby color from the cranberries. A butter that, I'd like to think, is both enchanting and romantic.

I've been spreading this butter on everything.  Toast, muffins, buttermilk rolls, pumpkin rolls.  It makes tons, so it is good for serving a crowd.  For more cranberry recipes, see this video from Cooking Light - lots of great ideas for using them this holiday season!

12 ounce bag cranberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
generous pinch kosher salt

In a medium-sized pot, add cranberries, sugar, honey, water, lemon juice and zest, and thyme leaves.  Bring everything to a boil, then reduce heat to low.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The mixture will look like reduced, thick cranberry sauce.  Take off heat and let cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the unsalted butter, salt, and the cranberry mixture until combined. Refrigerate.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Radish and Fennel Apple Salad Bites with Anchovy Spread

A few months ago, Seth, Max and I gallivanted around the USS Midway Museum, a naval aircraft carrier cum naval/maritime museum.  A place stuffed with helicopters and airplanes.  And it is near an actual airport so planes can be seen departing and arriving.  And being on a boat, one can also see more boats bobbing in the sea.  Basically, it is a wonderland of transportation.

Max enjoyed it.  He did.  His favorite part, however, was not a helicopter or an airplane or anything that can you move you from point a to point b.

It was the garbage cans.  He was really excited about them.  Granted, they were some nice garbage cans, all big and blue and helpfully separated into recycling and garbage sections.  But still, a receptacle for waste.

Just like my offspring, I too can miss the point.

This month's Creative Cooking Crew Challenge, hosted by Joan of Foodalogue, is to make some sort of appetizer, hors d'oeuvre, or amuse bouche for a Thanksgiving party.  Once the roundup goes live on November 21st, I will post the link here.

Originally, I had sweeping plans to turn root vegetables, root vegetables, and yet more root vegetables into a pre-feast appetizer.

Then it occurred to me that there were two big problems with this -1) while not difficult, the plan was time consuming.  something in short supply on and around Thanksgiving  2) Thanksgiving dinner has an abundance of root vegetables.  maybe the appetizer should be something different, a contrast to the time consuming, heavy meal that lies ahead.

Luckily, I realized this just in time - that the nibbles for a Thanksgiving party should be fresh and light, and something that doesn't take away precious energy from the main event.

Here I made radish circles then topped them with an anchovy spread, a fennel, apple, tarragon salad, and then a pecan piece.  Fun little bites that don't miss the point. Unlike the offspring.

For the anchovy spread:
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
4 ounces cold cream cheese
3 tablespoons sour cream

For the fennel apple salad:
1 fennel bulb, sliced on mandolin
1/4 cup tarragon leaves
1 small granny smith apple, peeled, coarsely grated
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons fresh grapefruit juice
2 teaspoons fresh mandarin orange juice
kosher salt and pepper, to taste

For the bites:
1 bunch radishes, radishes sliced into circles
pecan piece, for each bite

To make the anchovy spread:  Beat the anchovy paste, cream cheese, and sour cream in the base of a stand mixer until combined.

To make the salad:  Mix the fennel, tarragon leaves, grated apple, and grated ginger.  Drizzle with the citrus juices.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble the bites: Spread anchovy mixture on radish slice.  Arrange salad on it, then top with a pecan piece.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hearty Buttermilk Scones with Orange, Star Anise, Chocolate Chips and Coffee Glaze

In NW, Zadie Smith tells us, "Some days have a depressing thematic coherence."  This was one of my recent Saturdays.  Nothing horrible happened.  It was just one of those days in which a couple of irritating events happen and add up to a day that somehow manages to be more annoying than the sum of its parts.

1) I somehow got it into my head that Seth wasn't going into work that day. But indeed he was.

2) One minute my grocery list is in my hand. Next, the wind is carrying it away, intending to take it to the bottom of a hill.  I made the quick decision, that yes, I do need that list more than the bottom of the hill does, because I totally forget everything that I need.  So I dove for it, scraping my knee in the process and ripping a hole in the knee of my pants.

3) Just a few minutes after that, I heard one of those annoying bell sounds from a bicyclist.  She wanted to get ahead of me and Max on the sidewalk.  I, perhaps immaturely, rolled my eyes at this request (being that she should have been in the bike lane), but I did move.   I guess she saw my eye rolling and then proceeded to yell at me, telling me that it was, "unbelievable", and that she was "just" being polite.

 I was most definitely taken aback. Then confused.  What exactly was the polite part of this interaction?  That she used a bell to warn me that she wanted to get ahead of me instead of ramming down Max and me?

4) After returning home, I was able to formulate much better responses to the mean bike lady than the one I had come up with ("bike lane," and pointing at the bike lane next to me).  Then I was mad at myself for not thinking of it on the spot...  Yes, I'm George Costanza...

It became clear that I really needed to change the feel of the day.  So I threw together some scones - scones full of buttermilk, whole wheat flour for some heft and a bit of a nutty taste, scented with mandarin orange and star anise.  And of course chocolate chips are involved.  A pot of tea was made to go along with them.  And indeed, it was just the thing to put an end to the thematic coherence of the day.  That, and a giant hug from Seth once he returned home.  Thematic coherence is overrated.

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon mandarin orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons coffee
1 teaspoon mandarin orange juice
1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
1/4 cup chocolate chips

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons coffee
1 tablespoon milk

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk flours, baking powder, sugar, salt, zest, and star anise in bowl. Use a fork or pastry blender to fold in the butter chunks. The mixture should resemble a coarse crumble. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, coffee, and the fresh orange juice. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the liquid into the center. Stir the mixture until a dough forms, adding more liquid or flour as necessary. Place dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a circle about 1 inch thick, then run a knife through the dough to make 8 wedges. Alternatively, you can cut out small circles from the dough. Place on baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, until it has cooked through and the top is golden brown. To make the glaze, whisk powdered sugar, coffee, and milk until the mixture has come together. Let cool, then brush with glaze.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pan Fried Tofu with Green Apple Slices, Scallions, and a Soy Sesame Dressing

I find myself not only rebelling against societal norms and pressures, but also those I set myself.  Sometimes, I am indeed my own worst enemy.

One of the ways I find myself dealing with those feelings is by doing something random.  Something different. Something that breaks up the monotony that can settle into the crevices of every day life.

Feeling constricted by the confines of the schedule I personally have laid out?  Throw it all out the window and declare it book day, my self-declared roving holiday celebrating books.

Too much stuff to get done and not enough time to get it done?  That would be the perfect time to start learning the 1920's Charleston.

Making too many staid purchases like cat food and paper towels?  Make sure that the dish brush is a whimsical pink elephant.

And after telling myself that I'm just not into tofu, I found myself throwing a package into the grocery cart.

Here I pan fried slices of tofu, drizzled them with a soy-sesame-apple sauce, and then served with scallions, sesame seeds and slices of granny smith apple.

Rebelling against yourself can lead to a surprisingly delicious dinner.  Being your own worst enemy can bring you full circle into being your greatest ally.

Need some more ideas for tofu?  Cooking Light has you covered with this recipe slide show!

For the soy sesame sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 minced garlic cloves
1 teaspoon grated ginger on microplane
1 teaspoon chile oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon sesame paste
1 tablespoon grated apple
stir together

For the tofu:
1 package extra firm tofu
canola oil
roasted sesame seeds
chopped scallions
granny smith slices

To make the soy sesame sauce:  place everything in a bowl and whisk.

To make the tofu: Take the tofu out of the package and blot with a paper towel to remove the moisture.  Slice the tofu into slices about 1/2-inch thick. Heat canola oil in a saute pan (I used my trusty cast iron) over high heat.  Add tofu slices.  Brown one side, then flip and finish browning the other side.  Remove from pan, serve with the soy sesame sauce, some slices of apple, and a generous sprinkling of green onions and sesame seeds.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Spiced Apple Cider: The Bed of Beverages

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

    -From How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Poetry seemed like the best, most effective way to illustrate the immensity of my love.  My love for bed.  

The place that provides refuge from the storms.  Our very own private boat to get us through the oceans of life. The place where snuggling is not only tolerated, but encouraged.  The place that welcomes Seth and me, a pig cat a puff cat, and occasionally a Maxwell into its fold.  The place brimming with warm comforters.  Or, at least my side of the bed has multiple comforters... 

I suppose my love for bed developed during college.  The years when Seth and I lived in Philadelphia.  The bedroom had the one air conditioner.  The sweltering summers became somewhat tolerable if one stayed in the bedroom.  Thus began our marathon TV watching from bed, Chinese takeout eaten in bed, fort building on the bed.  Incidentally, it was also the place that felt safe from the roaches and mice that also enjoyed living in the apartment.  Seth eventually started calling me bedbug because of my growing affection for this piece of furniture.

Apple cider is the bed of beverages.  Here, apple juice is boosted with cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, and star anise.  Clementine juice and peel and ginger boost the flavor.  Serving it with pomegranate arils gives a pop of color.  So warm and comforting, a quaffable private boat.  He may start needing to call me ciderbug...

25.4 fl oz Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Cider *
2 cinnamon sticks
juice and peel from half a clementine
4 slices from a knob of ginger
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 star anise
pomegranate arils, for serving

*note:  The cider loses the bubbles when heated, but I like the nice clean apple flavor of this juice.  Feel free to use another apple juice!

Put in everything in a medium pot over medium low heat.  It will take about 15-20 minutes to get nice and warm and fragrant.  Once heated, ladle into mugs and serve with a spoonful of pomegranate arils - They add a pop of color, taste great, and are fun to eat with a spoon!
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