Musing

lately//january

a month in photos and numbers and food

12//different kinds of holiday cookies emerged from my kitchen (involving these bad boys, obviously. And these too. And several others that were devoured too quickly to be photographed)

2//times I wore my fancy new running shoes before falling and hurting my foot. Perhaps I need a more graceful form of physical activity?

2//bottles of ginger beer (one alcoholic, one not) sacrificed in an attempt to make butterbeer. Someday I will succeed.

3//different fresh herbs -thyme, parsley, and chives- found their way into a new recipe for fresh pasta (stay tuned…)

15//nespresso pods transformed into hazelnut, mocha, peppermint, and almond lattes 

32//ounces of cacao nibs (courtesy of Emily), tablespoons of which found their way into many a bowl of oatmeal, blended in smoothies, and atop a last-day-at-home chocolate cake

1//number of mussels I ate before deciding I’ve been missing out on a really buttery garlicky part of life and will never go back (they were prepared something¬†like this). There were also truffle fries involved. Is it time to join the finer things club?

6//different kinds of chocolate sampled on a tour of the Mast Brothers Chocolate factory…my favorite was their Vanilla & Smoke bar. Also I found out they’re hiring and I feel like this is a post-grad plan I could get behind.

1//Malva pudding, which I tried the first time at Jack’s Wife Freda. Honestly, one of the most incredible desserts I’ve ever had. Needless to say, I was very close to putting it in my purse to take home and study, but I suppose recipes also work? Someone send me a good one!

 hope everyone had a good first month of the new year!

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Desserts, Outside Eats

156

Chocolate Truffles (GF)

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend a truffle making workshop at Roni-Sue’s Chocolates¬†(thanks, Katie!!) where I learned all about the art of fancy chocolate making. Over homemade hot cocoa¬†we learned all about owner Rhonda Kave’s 25-year-long hobby turned successful business. In addition to the truffles we sampled, Rhonda also gave us a little lesson about the different parts of the cocoa pod (she gets hers from Belize, where she spends a lot of time with cocoa farmers). We rubbed the skin off a roasted cocoa bean (think espresso bean, but richer), poked at cocoa nibs, and¬†those of us who were brave enough to sample unsweetened chocolate munched a little bit- not a bite¬†for the Hershey’s Milk-minded, let me tell you. We then got to take over the kitchen and learn to make our own chocolate ganache, which eventually became truffles! This was a really fantastic experience. ¬†It was clear that Rhonda enjoyed her previous career as a professional women’s activist, but her dream was always to work in chocolate. Now, she gets to incorporate chocolate with social activism and community engagement, and it doesn’t seem like she’ll stop anytime soon. She’s a cool lady, read more about Rhonda here.

I rarely find myself in the presence of people who truly enjoy what they do. It gave me quite a bit of hope. If you’ve been reading any of my recent posts, you’ve noticed my not-so-subtle hints about having literally no concrete post-grad plans. But it’s okay. Because I know what I like to do. And no, it’s not watching Netflix- though I’m sure that was your first guess, so good one! I really like making and styling food. Obviously, I’d love to figure out a way to make this blog a career, but the stars would have to align to make that happen. Or maybe I could run into a Saveur editor and convince them to feature me in the Food Blog Awards. But I dream. In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to the clean slate that is coming in May. And yes, I am going to continue to refer to this in a positive way probably until three days before graduation. Then we’ll let the panic attacks roll in. But maybe I’ll get lucky like Rhonda and find a way to do what I love. Here’s hoping!

Among the truffles we sampled: Raspberry (flavored with freeze-dried raspberry powder); Strawberry-Rhubarb with Marzipan and Apricot kernel; Eggnog Ganache with Rum in a White Chocolate Shell. Needless to say it was quite the afternoon. I’m featuring Roni-Sue’s basic truffle recipe today, but maybe I’ll experiment a little in the future and share that here as well! I feel like a Campari and orange truffle could be very interesting, don’t you?

Truffles (yield: approx 50 pcs)

7 oz dark chocolate (preferably 70%) – you can use chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
2 pinches pink salt (or sea salt)
1 1/4 c heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp unsalted butter, softened (optional- it just adds richness!)

Topping options:
Flaky sea salt
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Cocoa nibs
Crushed nuts
Crushed candy canes
Crushed gingersnaps
Chili powder
Ground cinnamon

Place chocolate, salt, and butter (if using) in a heat-safe bowl. Bring cream to boil in a small saucepan over medium high heat, then pour over chocolate. Let sit for about a minute, then whisk until smooth. Refrigerate uncovered until firm, about 1 hour. Spoon 2 level teaspoons-full of the chocolate mixture onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper, then return to refrigerator 15 minutes. With your hands, roll the mounds into balls, then roll or sprinkle with desired toppings! Chill until set, about half an hour.

 

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Musing

2015 Detox

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, 2014 was a weird year. A lot of hard moments led to a¬†whole host¬†of really unhealthy choices on my part, mostly to do with food. But at this point,¬†I feel like I’ve gotten to a place where my diet has never been healthier (if my apart-mates are reading this they’re probably scoffing, as they see me walking around the living room with a jar of almond butter and a spoon more often than not). Honestly, my relationship with food is constantly evolving. There have been moments where I really don’t care¬†about what I put into my body, then spend following days regretting the poor choices I’d made. Then there have been stretches of time¬†where I’ve been extremely health-conscious, to the point where I begin to alienate those around me without even realizing it. Neither is really a productive way to spend time. As I spend more time paying close attention to food, I’ve realized it’s such an important indicator of what kind of place one is in, physically and mentally. It can require¬†a lot of thought, or¬†no thought at all. It has the ability to make one feel good and terrible. It makes some embarrassed, secretive, guilty; others satisfied and proud. The fact that one everyday experience has the power to affect people so intensely is something I¬†find truly extraordinary. That’s probably why I spend so much time talking about it.

I’m not a big fan of new-year-new-me posts, but the beginning¬†of anything does¬†feel fresh and exciting.¬†The start of a new year is always full of affirmations. Everyone around me is swearing¬†to get fit, to quit caffeine, to spend more time outside. I haven’t made any resolutions yet, and I don’t think I will. Other than to continue posting here, because I think it’s a nice way to organize my thoughts. That feels very doable and not nearly as horrifying as something like, “I will switch to decaf”. But, for those of you who have resolved to eat well, there are a lot of really awesome (read: healthy, flavorful, filling, not all parsley and spirulina-oriented juice) cleanses out there, like the Bon Appetit Food Lover’s Cleanse. Buzzfeed also puts together a lot of really great links. To bring this post full circle, I thought I’d share my own roundup of healthy and tasty meals, none of which are too difficult to make as long as you possess the right ingredients! You don’t have to be as obsessed with food as I am¬†to know that putting good things in your body will make you feel a little better. Some things just make sense!

Shopping List:

Basics Рused in many of the recipes listed below and/or lasts a long time
quinoa (buy it in bulk to save ca$h, but rinse it well in a fine mesh sieve before cooking)
rolled oats
almond milk (in cartons like thisРunopened they apparently last 7+ months)
almonds/walnuts/pistachios
cocoa powder
cans of coconut milk
bananas
black rice pasta/pasta of choice
pitted deglet noor dates
Check specific recipes for other ingredients

breakfast

Pumpkin Oatmeal

Kale and Cheddar Egg Scramble 

Morning Glory Muffins

Vegan Breakfast Quinoa Porridge

Granola Breakfast Bowl (go 100% homemade with Smitten Kitchen Granola)

salads (great as sides or on top of a pile of greens)

Greek Couscous Salad

Red Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Warm Couscous Salad with Olives and Pine Nuts

Curried Chickpea Salad

Corn, Avocado, and Red Pepper Salad

sturdier  meals

Summer Rolls

Fish Tacos

Black Bean Quinoa Burgers

Chickpea Cauliflower Burgers 

Gluten Free Turkey Meatballs

Black Rice Pasta Salad w/ Broccoli + Carrots

snacks
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Chocolate Pistachio Larabars

Energizer Bunny Smoothie II [Veggie Edition]

Energizer Bunny Smoothie 

ABC (Almond-Banana-Chocolate/Coconut) Smoothie

Muesli Cookies

desserts

No-Added-Sugar Brownies

Peach Almond Crisp

Avocado Chocolate Pudding 

Almond Chocolate Mousse + Coconut Whipped Cream

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Desserts

155

Tahini Cookies

Tahini is currently my favorite¬†condiment. It’s very similar to melted peanut butter in texture, but much stronger and not sweet, so one jar seems like it will last forever. If I find myself unable to make peanut sauce at dinnertime because I finished the jar of Jif last night in bed with a spoon (it’s happened before), it’s okay, I can just swap in tahini and a little honey/maple syrup and there will be virtually no difference. This entire past semester I’ve used it¬†every chance I can get. I make this dressing in bulk for salad days; I’ve made several adaptations of this meal¬†at least tri-weekly (minus the goji berries because¬†when I drop $39.95 at Whole Foods it’s going to be on fancy cheese/pink salt, srynotsry) because it’s so simple and chopping things is soothing. I also realized¬†this recipe of mine got instantly better the moment I put a spoonful of tahini in the dressing. I got super excited when I saw Molly Yeh put tahini in *wait for it* hot chocolate.¬†Yes. It’s amazing. And I thought two tablespoons of Nutella was pushing my luck with hot chocolate- SO glad I was wrong.

In other news, I joined the YMCA in my town for the past month so I could continue to run as winter progresses. Although apparently¬†Jersey thought 47 degrees was okay for late December, so I obviously¬†would’ve been fine outside. At least the past several days have been freezing, so I¬†will make the final days the membership worth it. Emily even taught me how to use the weight room! Which was a funny joke Now I’m totally an athlete!!¬†As if. I think I look much more graceful (a relative term) while running outside. The track is so tiny it’s actually¬†pretty hilarious. I think 33 laps = 1 mile..geesh. I feel like a dog chasing its tail, which must present me as an incredibly coordinated individual. But it’s all worth it when I get to come home and eat cookies. However, this may be the last batch of the¬†seemingly endless collection of holiday cookies to emerge from my kitchen this season. What a sad revelation. I think I should probably make more to tide me over for the next week, don’t you?

Cookies (from Bon Appétit)

1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c pine nuts
1/3 c powdered sugar
1/3 c tahini
1/4 c unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp black sesame seeds
2 tbsp raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring often. Place all ingredients except sesame seeds and raw sugar in a food processor. Pulse until a smooth dough forms a ball around the blade. Mix sesame seeds and raw sugar in a small bowl. Form the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in sesame seed/sugar mixture. Place cookies on parchment-lines baking trays about 2 inches apart from each other, flattening slightly. Bake 20-25 minutes.

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Desserts

154

Chocolate Peppermint Thins

Happy 2015! I can’t believe it’s January again. This was an incredibly fast year. I think this is mostly because at school the days and weeks seem to blend together to the point where a new¬†unit of time is created. I have no idea what I ate for dinner two days before, let alone who I was with or what we spoke about or which paper I worked on¬†that night. It’s¬†just “school-time”. Classes seem long, but semesters end unbelievably quickly, leaving me feeling bewildered about whether I’ve actually done anything concrete in the previous months. Yet, time seems smooth there. It’s very different¬†when I come back home. Every corner, cafe, and movie theatre presents itself not in its current place in time and space, but where it existed a year ago. And the year before that. And the year before that. Flashes of conversations come back so vividly it’s really quite frightening. Everything I do (brown garlic for my¬†favorite dinner, walk down the street hoping for snow, drink¬†a gin and tonic) I’ve done before. And I can’t decide if it was better then or now.

I’ve always been that person who needs to know exactly what is coming. I make to-do lists. I plan for things. I write blog posts talking about what I’ve “learned” from the careful plans I’ve made. I very easily could continue along that carefully laid out path this year, but I didn’t apply to grad school, as I originally considered. It’s not because I’m lazy, I swear! I think I really just need to take a break from planning for everything. Embrace the come-what-may, as it were. Maybe it’ll work out terribly and I’ll go right back to planning everything out, and that’s okay. But in the meantime, I will spend the afternoon making cookies and not working on costume sketches¬†like I originally planned, and everything will be fine. In fact, I’ll enjoy it!

Cookies (from the New York Times)

1 c + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 ¬Ĺ¬†sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
¬Ĺ tsp kosher salt
1 egg
1 tsp peppermint extract (or if you’re me and went looking for the #1 holiday flavoring¬†on Dec. 23, only to find the rest of the world bought every single bottle of¬†peppermint extract in the tri-state area, peppermint flavor works too)
1 ¬Ĺ c all-purpose flour
¬ĺ c unsweetened cocoa powder

Chocolate Coating

About 16 oz bittersweet chocolate
¬ľ – ¬Ĺ tsp peppermint extract
¬ľ tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp coconut oil
8 to 12 candy canes
¬ľ – ¬Ĺ c cocoa nibs

Cream sugar and butter together in a mixer until fluffy, at least 3 minutes. Add salt, egg, peppermint extract and 1 tablespoon water, and mix until smooth. Mix flour and cocoa together, then add to the batter¬†and mix until combined. The dough will be very stiff (and in my opinion it was easier to work with after being left in the fridge for a day to get even stiffer). Heat oven to 350 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon out rounded tablespoons of dough¬†and roll into balls. Place 3 inches apart on baking sheet. Use the bottom of a glass to flatten each ball into 1/8-inch thick rounds. Dust the bottom of the glass with cocoa¬†powder every three cookies or so (which may¬†give the impression that your cookies have burned when they come out of the oven, but this is a trick! don’t buy into it! they’re just fine!)¬†Bake about 15 minutes until the cookies are firm and beginning to crisp. Remove from cookie sheets and let cool on wire racks. Don’t throw away the parchment paper.

When the cookies have cooled completely (several hours or overnight), make the coating.¬†Place the candy canes in a thick¬†freezer bag¬†and use a rolling pin to get out all aggression pulverize them into a mixture of¬†candy-cane dust and little red-and-white bits. Set aside in a cool place. Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over barely simmering water. When smooth, stir in ¬ľ¬†teaspoon of each extract and the coconut oil. Taste and add more peppermint extract if needed. Keep chocolate warm over the hot water.

The Times recipe recommends fully submerging each cookie one at a time in the chocolate, but when I realized I had 5 dozen cookies and a solid seven minutes yielded three finished cookies, I changed the plan. Place the cookies (still on wire racks) on top of the parchment-covered baking trays. Situate near the warm chocolate. Working one line of cookies at a time, drop tablespoonfuls of chocolate onto the cookies and then smooth flat with an offset spatula. Repeat. After about 15 minutes, when the chocolate has mostly set, sprinkle cookies with candy cane bits and cocoa nibs. Store in the fridge in airtight containers, in layers separated by parchment paper. Try to only eat four at a time.

 

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