Book Review, Drinks

177

Mint Julep [from The Art of American Whiskey] (V)

There’s something about summer that makes cocktail hour come sooner and last longer. You step out of work, walk into a pub, and order a beer at 5:03 and no one thinks anything of it; in fact, you’re not the first one to arrive– not by a long shot. You walk into a bar on a Tuesday night and you have to squeeze in between the hipsters to get a seat. No one looks at you funny for ordering a second watermelon tequila smash. Or a third. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I’ve been getting very into making festive post-work cocktails lately, so just stay tuned.

Don’t tell anyone, but I think I like developing cocktail recipes more than food ones. Flavor combinations are more delicate. There is the finest line between a good cocktail and a great cocktail. Sure, I can throw a shot of this and two fingers of that and some muddled fruit in a highball glass and it’ll be pretty darn good. Add a squeeze of lime and maybe it’ll be really good. But a great cocktail needs no embellishment, save for a few herbs or citrus peel. Which brings me to my next point: the mint julep.

No, no, I did not invent the mint julep (duh,) but I am using it as a benchmark for my cocktail developing from now on. It’s so simple, but tastes truly amazing. It seriously makes me want to forget the time in my life when I thought a good cocktail was cheap rum mixed with cream soda. Oooof. Anyway, I’ve been digging bourbon lately. Like, having-a-nightly-glass kind of digging it. And when Noah Rothbaum‘s new book, The Art of American Whiskey arrived at my doorstep a few weeks ago, I knew I was about to dive into a full-on love affair. Whiskey is rad. We all know it. Even if you don’t like the taste of it, you know it’s pretty cool. I’ve met many people who claim to be whiskey aficionados –the amount of times I’ve had to listen to mansplaining about which scotch is superior makes my head hurt– but Noah actually knows his stuff. He travels his way through history chapter by chapter, starting with “The Late 1800s and Early 1900s,” “Prohibition,” and “Life After Temperance;” all the way up to “The Swinging Sixties,” “The Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties, aka the Dark Ages,” and “The New Golden Age” (right now.) He details political and economic implications behind whiskey (and liquor in general) during the various decades, as well as how the drinks fit into the social climate of the times. Each chapter features cocktail recipes from various contributors that were originally developed during the corresponding time period. Along the way, he includes images of label art of the top 100 iconic whiskey bottles– easily my favorite part of the book. The recipes take a bit of a backseat to the historical notes, but that didn’t bother me as much as I thought it was going to after the first chapter. It’s definitely much more of a coffee table book than a standard cookbook, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from picking up a copy. Grab the book, make a cocktail, then enjoy it while you read and work your way towards becoming a whiskey buff.

The mint julep hails from the 1800s, and was originally made with the grape-based brandy cognac. But when cognac stock was depleted from pests attacking European grape crops, bartenders were forced to switch to whiskey and gin. I made a julep with cognac after the real thing and it just doesn’t hold up. Try it yourself and see what you think!

Mint Julep (from The Art of American Whiskey, contributed by Allen Katz; makes 1 cocktail)

8 fresh mint leaves + sprig for garnish
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 1/2 ounces bourbon

Muddle mint, sugar, and a small amount of crushed ice in a julep cup (I don’t have one, but this one is now on my wish list. If you don’t have one either, a highball glass or mason jar work just fine.) Add more crushed ice to fill half the cup, then add the bourbon. Stir until the cup becomes frosty, then add more ice to fill the cup all the way to the top. Garnish with mint and drink with a straw (that crushed ice gets everrrrrrywhere.)

NOTE: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. Check out this review on their website too!

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Desserts

175

Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream

I woke up a few mornings ago and walked down to the little playground down the street from my house with every intention of sitting in the sun for a few minutes with my over-microwaved mug of coffee and the Times travel section- because now I can actually read for pleasure again whaaat? But the moment I sat down, the sky got dark and still. I knew the rain was coming and I should pack up, but I just stayed put, breathing in that summer pre-storm smell. Memorizing the grayish blue tint of everything around me.

I’m happy. For the first time in long time, I catch myself smiling about nothing. This sounds silly, I know. Many people probably have no trouble finding things to smile about on a regular basis. But I’ve been like this for a while. I don’t dwell on the good stuff as much as I gulp it down in the moment. And then I’m left with nothing but emptiness until the next good thing reveals itself. I was a fairly serious little kid, always wanting to be a grownup so I could have important things to think about. At family gatherings the real adults would laugh at me as I sat in the corner reading or looking around while the other kids screamed and ran around in the dirt. I wanted to be grown so badly; surely then no one would think my solemnity was so funny. But since I’ve actually “become” one, (air quotes because let’s be real I don’t pay for my health insurance I’m not an adult yet am I?) I’m beginning to understand why they were so serious, and why they found my behavior so funny. Being older is hard. There aren’t a lot of things to smile about. If I’ve discovered that anything is constant over the last few years, it’s that life is bursts of joy and misery. Peaks and valleys and all that. In the past I’ve rarely savored the good moments, and sometimes find myself wallowing in the not-so-good. And then I get stuck in waiting for something better. I was always waiting. And all that waiting only made me more serious. But I don’t need to live that way anymore. I never needed to, really. But there were circumstances outside of my control encouraging that life. The constant waiting. The looking down instead of up. There’s enough horror in this world without dwelling on the mean reds of my own making.

It is easier, of course, to find dignity in one’s solitude. Loneliness is solitude with a problem. Can blue solve that problem, or can it at least keep me company within in? –No, not exactly. It cannot love me that way; it has no arms. But sometimes I do feel its presence to be a sort of wink– ‘Here you are again,’ it says, ‘and so am I.’           -Maggie Nelson, Bluets

I’ve treated a few posts here in the past as little shoutouts to the good and allusions to the bad going on in my life. This is a good one. I haven’t wanted to sit and smile in a while. Some of those smiles are being shared nationwide and some are just for me. Some are for things not quite fit to talk about here and some are for raspberry buttercream, which you’ll learn about very soon.

But there are things to smile about.

Cake (from the Magnolia Bakery)

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water

Preheat convection oven to 375 degrees F. Butter two 8 or 9-inch cake pans. Place a circle of parchment paper on the bottom of each pan, butter the paper, then dust with flour. Whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs, milk, oil and vanilla in a separate bowl. Add egg mixture into the sugar-flour mixture and whisk until combined. Whisk in boiling water just until combined (the batter will be watery.) 3. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Raspberry Frosting (adapted from My Name is Yeh)

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam + extra for cake assembly

Whip the first four ingredients together until light and fluffy with an electric mixer, then add the jam.

Assembly

seedless raspberry jam
sprinkles

Cool cake layers completely (I like to refrigerate mine wrapped in plastic for at least a few hours if not overnight. This prevents the cake from getting really crumbly when you’re frosting it.) If you want to be a real professional, level off the cake domes using a serrated knife. Line a cake plate with three thin pieces of parchment or waxed paper to catch any frosting drips. Place the bottom cake layer on the plate. Dollop a good amount of frosting on top of the bottom layer and spread it out, then add a thick layer of raspberry jam. Place the second layer of cake on top and press it down gently. Form your crumb coat by spreading a very thin layer of frosting all around the sides and top of the cake with an offset spatula- thin enough so you can still see the cake underneath. Put it back in the fridge for another hour, then frost up the rest of this bad boy however your heart desires. Add sprinkles because sprinkles make everything better. If you want to be impressed and/or up your layer cake game, check this tutorial or this one. Feed this to all your friends because in my opinion pie is better but shhhhh.


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Drinks

174

Tahini Date Shake (V, GF)

If you didn’t already know, I’m a big tahini fan. It’s basically grownup peanut butter and it just adds something a little more special to recipes that call for nut butters. Now, I’m not quite ready to whip up any tahini and jelly sandwiches, but I’m very into adding spoonfuls of it to cookie dough, dressing, hot chocolate, and smoothies/shakes! Since it’s now officially summer, I think it’s high time to spend any free moments sitting outside and drinking cold drinks. And that often means cool and creamy tahini shakes. Basically a milkshake for breakfast everybody, get excited! I’ve made a pact with myself to take fifteen minutes every morning to drink one of these (or these) and read a few pages of very important literature and not think about anything else. And then those precious minutes are over and it’s back to writing cover letters and freelance article pitches and crying being excited by the challenge of not knowing what’s ahead.

In other news, Emily and I are currently up to our ears in blue frosting and chocolate chili cupcakes because we got a catering gig! And I must admit, getting paid to chop cilantro and whip buttercream and marinate shrimp is not at all a bad thing. In fact, it kinda really rocks. So general announcement, if you ever are in the market for someone else to make your food for you, drop me a line here because we’re a bargain and the food is slammin, if I do say so myself. And now for some links that made me smile:

A breakfast sandwich crawl sounds like my kind of adventure.

Goals

Food52 featured my Minty Orange Gimlet in a cocktail roundup to toast summer hooraaaay~

Co-owner of Tartine Chad Robertson’s ideas for the future: eco-robotic bread baking. “You can source your grain from a regional economy, you can fresh-mill it, and you can bake 20,000 loaves using robots.” yes ok.

The other owner of Tartine (incidentally, Robertson’s wife) Liz Prueitt has some pretty fucking fantastic things to say about women who want to work and have a family and not be questioned about how they “do it all.” She does not mention robots.

I can’t stop watching this video idk idk idk.

O’Neill’s rant about red velvet cake on OITNB was probably the funniest thing that’s ever happened on the show.

Someone buy me tickets to the Saveur cookout for my birthday even though my birthday isn’t for five months plz?

ps- Happy Father’s Day to any dads out there! So glad mine was happy to take me back in after graduation (although I have a sneaking suspicion it’s mostly because I make dinner every night…)

Shake (serves 1)

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup date water)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons chia seeds
1 tablespoon tahini
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 pitted deglet noor dates
1/2 frozen banana
ice
1 teaspoon coconut oil (optional, for added energy boost)
1 shot rum or kahlua (also optional, you might not want to have it for breakfast with this addition) 

Soak the dates in hot water for ten minutes and chia seeds in warm water for five. Combine everything in a blender and really let it rip for a while to break up the dates (unless you’re super lucky and own a Vitamix, in which case the whole thing will take about 20 seconds.) Consume solo or with your favorite breakfast cookies (pictured: Laura Wright‘s Ultimate Breakfast Cookies!)


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Breakfasts, Snacks

173

Zucchini Carrot Muffins (GF)

In the past few days, I’ve realized it’s completely possible to lose hours upon hours in the food internet world. I’m home alone for the most part now, which was an extreme rarity at school. Someone was always around to break up my excessive perusal of food blogs and goodfoodjobs.com and Grub Street and Eater and Munchies and– I think I should stop there. The moment of realization came the other day when I sat down at my computer with a giant mug of coffee at 9 in the morning and was in a media haze until my phone rang well past noon. Not the best. And while baking can break up the day to an extent, even that can get a little cumbersome. There are only so many cookies I can bake before I need to either get a bigger freezer or more friends to help me eat everything (speaking of which, if anyone is hungry and in Montclair, there are at least three brownies or compost cookies with your name on them. I’ve gotten rave reviews by the smart folks who’ve taken me up on this so far, just saying.)

I want to get into more ambitious kitchen projects now that I’m no longer a full-time student. Recipes than don’t have to come together in less than an hour and then are just dumped in the freezer. That always seemed to be the case this past year as I did my best to keep up the blog and an acceptable GPA and some semblance of a social life. I really want to throw a fancy food party complete with lots of unique kitchen experiments and some sort of festive theme (something like this or this. Or this if I really dreamed big/had more than ten square feet of table space.) But planning a food party takes a lot of time and energy. And cleanup. So the few parties we ended up throwing turned out much more akin to a typical college soiree..the only food that was ever present was Jello shots. And one time someone who worked at a bakery in town showed up with freshly baked bread and cookies. As proud as I am of my Jello shot makin’ skills, I’m just dying to tackle a more intense food party. Hopefully this summer I can make it happen. Not to brag or anything, but I do have a very snazzy fire pit in my backyard soooo.

Some things I plan to make for these food parties that may not actually ever happen:

This Fig And Walnut Bostock. Looks like if french toast and bread pudding got together inside a really trendy cafe.

A fluffy, crunchy (two adjectives you didn’t think go together, I bet) Pavlova with strawberry rhubarb cream and pistachios.

I think I’d forget how on the fence I am about tomatoes while making this heirloom tomato tart..it’s just so pretty.

These savory cheddar waffles are also making me question my tomato ambivalence.

I’m 100% invested in learning how to grill and these jerk chicken kebobs are calling to me. As are these shrimp skewers.

Who isn’t a fan of anything cooked in beer? I want to make these mussels asap. They’re also apparently the best thing to serve at a dinner party anyway so I think I’m on the right track.

And also because I’ve spent so much of this post talking about food parties, I think it’s only fair you all watch a few episodes of this, as that is its title. And it is the weirdest, coolest thing ever.

Until I can gather up some people to actually eat all the things I plan to make for these food parties, I’m sticking with recipes that can be easily frozen and defrosted as family and friends want to indulge. Hence these muffins. Don’t be scared by the veggies in the title, cooked carrots are super sweet and zucchini has essentially no flavor alone, and when baked up with sugar and coconut oil and cinnamon it has no flavor at all! Some baked recipes that involve zucchini instruct one to squeeze all the water out of the veggies before adding them to the batter. Not the case here; the water helps loosen up the very thick batter and ultimately makes a more tender muffin. Also, don’t be afraid of garbanzo bean flour. It may seem weird to use a chickpea-based ingredient in a sweet breakfast item, but it’s really just mild and creamy. And it’s full of protein- in fact, it has the same amount as almond flour, so it’s a really great alternative if you’re looking for an alternative to putting nuts in everything, as I’m currently attempting. I also used coconut sugar, which has the same ratio as regular sugar when swapping, but is infinitely better for the body. I felt like they were sweet enough with 1/4 cup of sugar (mostly because I love slathering jam on muffins, which obviously adds a lot of sweetness,) but you do what makes you happy. I also feel like 1/4 cup of cocoa nibs or chocolate chips would be extremely good thrown in here for good luck. Happy breakfasting!

Muffins (makes 12-15)

1 1/2 cups garbanzo bean flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4- 1/2 cup coconut sugar (depending on how sweet you like muffins)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup finely shredded carrots
1 cup finely shredded zucchini
1/4 cup raisins or craisins (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin with solid coconut oil or cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl combine both flours, baking powder, sugar, salt, and spices.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the melted coconut oil, eggs, yogurt, and vanilla; stir to combine. The batter will be thick, resembling cookie dough.

Add the shredded carrots and zucchini (and raisins if using) and combine. F

ill the muffin tins halfway-3/4 of the way full and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the edges are golden. Devour with butter, honey, jam, date cream, yogurt, or au naturel!

 


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Book Review, Desserts

172

Greek Yogurt Sorbet [from Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner] (GF)

Upon my arrival home from college, I was greeted by a pile of mail. Amid the mountain of credit card offers and magazine subscription renewal queries I found a copy of Janet Fletcher’s Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. !!! Now, this certainly is not a graduation card with a check, nor is it a new pair of shoes, but mannnn was I psyched! Okay, yes, I get just as giddy opening up a new cookbook as I most others do opening up a box a already-made culinary treats, but this book was especially exciting. The only people who truly get how passionately I feel about yogurt are probably my roommates and/or anyone who saw me walking into the theatre building for the past four months. I reallly dig yogurt. Not sure why. It’s kind of a weird substance. But no joke, it made up at least 65% of my diet this last semester of college. Because when one has to get from class on one side of campus at 11:55 to a production meeting on the other side at noon there isn’t really time to sit down and eat -let alone chew- one’s midday meal. It was not at all uncommon for most of the department to see me carrying my standard three tote bags and giant coat and mug of coffee and to-go cup of yogurt on a regular basis. It was a way to live. Not so sure if I can say I miss that…. But I’m getting off topic. You can imagine my joy upon opening Janet’s book for the first time; I’m only bummed I didn’t have it sooner.

The beautifully photographed book is broken down into sections, sweet and savory; including appetizers, meats, soups, veggies, desserts, and drinks– and you thought yogurt was just a breakfast food, huh? Not at all so. There’s even a chapter dedicated completely to DIY yogurt: standard yogurt, Greek yogurt, and yogurt cheese (which is totally a thing- who knew? not I!) Be wary, this does involve buying cultures and creating an incubation situation, but don’t worry, there are extensive instructions and resources detailed in the book. While I have yet to experiment with homemade yogurt myself, since obtaining this book I feel much more comfortable about tackling such a challenge..someday. Maybe. What I’m really looking forward to are the many savory recipes. I didn’t make one for this particular review post, as I was really in the mood for frozen yogurt (and Red Mango is a whole eight minute drive away- the horror!) But I’m really excited about getting into fettuccine with fried onions under a yogurt poppyseed sauce and radish tzatziki with pita chips. Aaaand I’m definitely going to make the warm chickpeas with pine nuts and yogurt sauce as soon as it’s no longer 95 degrees out. In terms of sweets, I’m very intrigued by the Greek yogurt panna cotta- mostly because I’ve never had panna cotta and I am very curious to know if I’d like it. I am, however, certain I’ll love the yogurt pudding with saffron, cardamom, and toasted nuts, so I think that’s going to have to be dessert (or let’s be real, breakfast) very very soon.

In the meantime, let’s have some yogurt sorbet. Which is essentially just frozen yogurt, but has a snazzier name. This was so simple I shouldn’t even include instructions. As long as you have an ice cream maker, you’ll be so set with this. Remember to buy whole-milk plain yogurt, that low-fat/nonfat/1% stuff is fine and good for breakfast if that’s your thang, but for the purposes of this recipe just embrace the added creaminess!

some other things I’m excited about:

Anthony Bourdain did an episode of Parts Unknown in Jersey yessss watch it now. But if you don’t have time/are morally against tv, Eater also put together a comprehensive list of one-liners from the episode, which is almost as good.

Chris Taylor -yes, that Chris Taylor– wrote a cookbook?? and it actually looks really good!

Molly Yeh made cookie salad and that’s all we ever needed, amirite?

It’s over now, but Negroni Week is a really great idea and maybe you should make one yourself and donate your own dollar to a charity of choice!

Amy’s is opening up a DRIVE-THRU.

One of the most original and informative food blog posts I’ve read in a very long while..Josh is making me reevaluate my stance on people who refer to themselves as “bros.”

Who remembers the Rainforest Cafe? Well, the creator of that gem is taking a whack at a Puff the Magic Dragon-themed eatery. I’m just as confused as I am truly jazzed.

Greek Yogurt Sorbet (from Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, serves 6)

4 cups whole-milk plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, sieved to remove all lumps
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I scraped in a vanilla bean because I like the speckles)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (I used vanilla salt, for funzies)

Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl. Chill well, then transfer to an ice cream maker (I use this one) and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a lidded storage container (or loaf pan with some plastic wrap) and freeze for at least 1 hour to firm. If it freezes for longer than a few hours and is too hard to scoop, let it sit at room temperature for ten minutes or so and you should be good to go!

Janet recommends serving this with broiled peaches or apricots that have been drizzled in brown sugar and butter, which sounds a m a z i n g, but I went with fresh apricots and mint because it felt a little more summery. I bet it would be out of this world with a berry compote! It also would only help pies, brownies, and other fruit desserts.

NOTE: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. Check out this review on their website too!


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Breakfasts, Desserts

171

No-Bake Seedy Mocha Coconut Slice (V, GF)

First post back in my trusty Jersey kitchen! I’ve missed it so. The weirdly yellow speckled floors. The full-sized food processor. THE DISHWASHER. I can’t even describe how many times in the past few days I’ve started washing things by hand and then remembered I can just toss it in a thing that will clean the dishes for me!! No more waking up to a sink full of things I was too lazy to clean the night before. Truly a miracle.

As much as I love having certain things back, it sure is weird being in a real house again for the long haul. I realize like four times a day l have yet to turn off all my alarms telling me about work shifts at the museum and production meetings at the theatre. I can’t remember where I left my bag or shoes or iPod or sunglasses because I can’t just throw them into the same corner of my apartment every time I come home anymore (my roommates totally loved me, can you tell?) I’m taking a big risk if I leave my computer plugged in unattended because a certain member of the household likes to sharpen his fangs on electrical cords when no one is watching. On the other hand, it’s a dream come true to be able to jump in the car and be five minutes away from Whole Foods. It’s actually going to become a problem soon. I like grocery shopping way too much, don’t judge meeee. I’m also growing quite fond of this whole waking up to a pot of coffee already brewed thing. And having a big tv instead of my tiny laptop to re-watch all of Mad Men explore important documentary films. I’ll start my summer job soon enough, but until then I’ve really been getting into having nothing to do. And I’ll continue being a big fan for maybe another week, then I’ll start to go insane and probably begin crafting again. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Let’s talk about food. Specifically this recipe. It originated from a recipe by my all-time favorite vegan blogger Ashlae of Oh, Ladycakes. While rummaging in the fridge for dates, I found a container of prunes. And because I’ve been trying real hard to broaden my food-horizons lately I ate one. I was not a fan. Que sera, sera. However, the texture was very promising, as in it resembled a perfectly moist date. Lo and behold, pruney date crust is slammin’! And while I’m not too fond of them on their own, when blended with super sweet dates and nuts and coffee and chocolate, they add a whole new world of flavor. So don’t knock it til you try it, trust me! The greatest thing about this treat is that it’s totally substantial enough to be breakfast, but decadent enough to have for dessert (with a healthy dollop of whipped cream, duh.) PS- if you have a nut allergy, omit the almonds and almond milk; bump up the oats to 1 1/4 cup, the pepitas to 1/4 cup, and swap the almond milk for the water your dates/prunes have been soaking in! Also thx to Emily for being my hand model extraordinaire~

Slice (adapted from Ashlae Warner, via eHow)

1 cup raw almonds
3 tablespoons pepitas
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon coffee grounds
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
heavy pinch vanilla sea salt (or just normal, I won’t tell)
12 deglet noor dates
3 prunes
2 tablespoons cocoa nibs
1/4 cup almond milk (or date water)
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract (optional)

3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons maple syrup

shredded coconut, chopped almonds, cocoa nibs, crystalized ginger, dried chopped fruit, etc. (for topping)

Make the crust: Place the dates and prunes in a bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside for at least ten minutes. Drain, reserving the water to replace almond milk in this recipe (or for adding further deliciousness to a smoothie!) Blend the almonds, pepitas, coconut, oats, coffee, cocoa powder, and salt in a food processor until it turns into a fairly fine meal. Add the dates, prunes, cocoa nibs, and extract (if using) and blend until combined. Add the almond milk or date water and pulse until the mixture forms large crumbs. Press the mixture into an 8 or 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom (or if you’re me and just moved all your kitchen equipment from one home to another, use whatever you have hanging around that vaguely resembles said tart pan; in this case, a spring form pan. See, they’re not just for cheesecakes!) and put it in the freezer to make it bake.

Make the topping: Whisk together the coconut oil and cocoa powder until smooth, it will resemble melted chocolate. Add the maple syrup and whisk well. (Spoiler alert: this is the BEST and easiest vegan chocolate frosting if you’re ever in a pinch.)

Put it all together: Take the crust out of the freezer. Working quickly, spread the topping over the crust with an offset spatula and sprinkle with additional desired toppings! Good luck getting this to last over two days, but Ashlae assures us it will keep in the freezer for up to 6 weeks!


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Breakfasts, Desserts

170

Basic Chia Pudding (V, GF)


I’ve been training myself recently to like foods I’ve been weirded out by in the past. So far I’ve succeeded with mushrooms, the outside (but not insides) of zucchini and tomatoes. Jello too- though does it count if I only consume it when raspberry flavored and mixed with vodka in shot form? Aheh. It’s all because of the texture. I’m not really about gelatinous things, but I’m working on it. Next on the list: chia seeds. How do you feel about these bad boys? I’m okay with them as egg replacers in vegan baking for sure, and recently have come around to throwing a tablespoon or so in my morning oatmeal and granola bowls, where the food gets eaten before the seeds fully gel. Since it’s a huge thing all over the blogosphere, I figured I kinda had to give chia pudding a try. So I did. And I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it. I made it unsweetened first, just to experiment. That was pretty bleh by itself, but very good in oatmeal and smoothies. However, when drowned in maple syrup and nuts/seeds I was a big fan, as it was fairly comparable to rice pudding. But really, what isn’t good with syrup? I also discovered that it’s totally a thing to blend it up, which is much more attractive to me (see above re: texture issues.) I think I’ll try that next time, along with the chocolate. I definitely still have some experimenting to do in this category, so stay tuned. In the meantime, check out these things:

This is everything.

I had a rice burger the other night from a Korean food truck- literally two sticky rice patties filled with spicy pork, kimchi, and veggies wrapped up tightly in an aluminum foil blanket. It was sweet and spicy with a side of sweet potato chips and oh my goooodness it was slammin. From what I can gather on the internet, it’s called a “bob burger,” (no, not because of the tv show..) as rice is 밥 in Korean and was then Romanized as “bab” or “bob.” Is this correct? Someone inform me! Anyway, I could’ve eaten about twelve of them and will be devoting a great deal of my time to making my own in the future. I’m a big, big fan of burgers one can eat with a fork.

Ikea has PLANS for our future and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

I can’t wait to be back home -in 8 days (?!!!??)- purely so I can take full advantage of this quiz all the time.

New Anthony Bourdain cookbook coming soon !!!! sadosidjahuisdoisdpd I’m only a little excited

Wes Anderson designed a cafe, because apparently Milan wasn’t already trendy enough?

PS- Happy Mother’s Day to any Moms reading today!

PPS- I made a Twitter, because one of my post-grad goals is to understand all the social media things. Someone help me learn how to do this!

Chia Pudding (serves 2-4) 

scant 1/3 cup chia seeds
1 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup, honey, agave, etc. (optional)

Whisk up all the ingredients and pour into a jar/your desired vessel. Place in the fridge for at least several hours, preferably overnight so the seeds fully gel (I know- ick) and achieves pudding consistency. Top with nuts, dried/fresh fruit, and maybe even some coconut whipped cream!


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Drinks

169

Coffee Ice Old Fashioned (V)

So yesterday I had my last classes at Smith. The final ten minutes of my very last class consisted of listening to people read a scene from the short play I’ve been working on this semester. I’ve written a lot of short scenes before, for this course and when I took playwriting I two years ago, but I’ve never done a fuller-length piece. I wanted to actually commit to something this semester. I wanted to make something that wasn’t food or a drawing, because I’ve made a whole lot of those and it’s time to try new things already! I wrote a 37-page play, and apparently it was not bad at all! Spoiler: I’m very self-conscious about my writing. About my place as a person who does any academic work, honestly. I guess I know the source of that problem, and I probably shouldn’t let it get to me, but that’s not a story for the blog- at least not today, anyway. This is a meandering way of commenting on how pleasantly surprised I was to hear people laugh at the lines I wrote to be funny; to hear someone actually refer to one of my characters’ actions from a scene read earlier this semester; to listen to my professor’s encouraging comments about words I wrote for the sole purpose of just making something. It was kind of a beautiful way to finish my work here. #feelings, amirite? Class ended and I left the theatre building (geesh, how many times have I done that this year?) and had one of those weird moments where I stopped and realized that was it. I’m done. Okay, technically, I still have to write five more pages of a paper and finish up a few other things, but really, I’m done. Done with college. I honestly don’t know whether to cry with joy or genuine fear. Mostly it doesn’t feel real at all. So while I’m figuring out how to feel about the fact that I graduate in -count ’em- seventeen days and then find my way back to Jersey, let’s talk about this cocktail I made last night.

If you’ve been a reader of Spices and Spatulas for a while, you’re well aware of the fact that I’m a big fan of coffee. A true caffiend, as I’ve mentioned. While deep down I know that the best way to start the morning is with a big glass of water, I never do it. If I don’t have coffee within the first 15 minutes of being awake, I start to get a little grumpy. If I don’t have more later in the day, I’ll start to get a really terrible headache. Which, honestly, is actually probably really bad and I should work on weaning myself off it a bit. But that day is not today. Today, we will be putting coffee in liquor (again) and everyone will be buzzing out of their skin and it’ll be delicious. PS- I know the brown ice isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but just accept it; it tastes AMAZING. Also, yes, I did I fact use a $1 nip of Jim Beam because I am classy.

Cocktail (serves 1)

3 coffee ice cubes (see below)
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 1/2 ounces Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
2 dashes bitters
orange slice

Make the coffee ice cubes: Brew a strong pot of coffee and let it cool to room temperature. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze. If you’re really on your cocktail game you should make them in this tray; much prettier than the tiny ice. You’ll only need 3 for this drink, so throw the rest in a freezer bag and to cool iced coffee without it getting watery! (and maybe make yourself a frozen mocha or throw a few into a milkshake.)

Make the cocktail: Put a rocks glass in the freezer. Dissolve the brown sugar in 1 tablespoon water and set aside. Remove the glass from the freezer and place 3 coffee ice cubes in the bottom of it. Pour the sugar mixture over the ice, then do the same with the Bourbon/Rye and bitters. Swirl it all together and garnish with an orange slice, adding a little extra squeeze of juice if you so choose. Sip slowly for a mellow but intense buzz, sip fast if you’re tryna get weird. Either way, you just got a bit closer to being this guy.

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Breakfasts

168

Fruit and Grain Breakfast Bowl
(V,GF…but only if you want it to be)

A few mornings ago I woke up and went about my routine as usual. I fumbled around with the coffeemaker, put away some dishes; you know the drill. But the greatest thing happened when I opened the living room door/window: instead of being greeted with the usual chilly 7am wind, there was a -dare I say it- warm spring breeze!! I honesty can’t describe how happy it made me. So, being a weirdo, I dug out my *shorts* from the bottom of my pile of winter leggings and ran around outside for a while with a giant smile on my face (c’mon, let’s be real, running > homework.) And then, to make things even better, when I got to my favorite park, I found that ALL THE SNOW HAD MELTED! Now, I understand that most of the snow has been gone for weeks, I’m not that unobservant. But since I’ve been living in the theatre for the past month, the last time I ran outside was easily back in early March. I couldn’t even see the asphalt path in the park, let alone run on it. So it was a really big moment for me, as you can likely tell. I got back home and realized that I didn’t need a steamy bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. I could have something cold and it wouldn’t even matter! So I gathered up my trusty oats and about a million different fixin’s and set out to make a giant bowl of happy spring food. It’s not really cooking, but I thought I’d share the “recipe” with you guys anyway. Make it with all the things I suggest, or don’t; it’s up to you!

Spring just feels right. Don’t get me wrong, summer is where it’s at -I’m a large proponent of Birkenstocks and cutoff shorts and falling asleep in the sand on a beach- but spring has some kind of weird power. I can’t completely place it, but it’s wonderful. I keep saying this over and over because it’s kind of a revelation. But, y’know, one that obviously happens literally every year and is probably not super exciting to others. It is to me, though. In fact, I was talking about this very feeling the other day. Walking along the Northampton bike path, it was windy and the sun was warm on my face and I just kept feeling that I’d been in that exact moment before, but at the same time it was completely new. The resolution for what exactly spring feels like? It’s deja vu mixed with hopeful anticipation, and perhaps a small side of nostalgia. Don’t you agree? Think about it over a bowl of the following recipe while I go drink this cup of coffee in the sun on my patio.

Breakfast Bowl (serves 1)

1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup your favorite cereal (I’ve been very into this and this lately)
1/2 tablespoon chia seeds
handful dried cranberries and/or raisins
1 tablespoon cocoa nibs
1 large piece crystalized ginger, diced
1 tablespoon roasted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons dried shredded coconut
1/2 large green apple, chopped into tiny pieces
2 tablespoons cooked quinoa
your preferred type of milk or yogurt

things I did not have in my kitchen, as it’s been quite a while since I’ve been grocery shopping, but would be slammin in this: 
banana
grapes
fresh or dried raspberries
strawberries
dried apricots
toasted pepitas
other nuts, raw or toasted

I like to build this bowl starting with dry ingredients and ending with the wet/damp, but you should do whatever your heart desires. Top with milk or yogurt and enjoy, preferably outside!


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Desserts

167

Four & Twenty Blackbirds Grapefruit Custard Pie

Attention, everyone: spring may actually be on it’s way. Which means that the time for picnics and beers outside is so soon. One might even say it’s nigh. However, it also means that the winter dessert season is coming to a close. We’re moving away from the pumpkin-spiced, the powdered sugar-dusted, the holly-garnished. We’re entering the land of fresh berries and cream and torn basil, grilled peaches and balsamic. POPSICLES. Using your shorts for a napkin because you’re eating on a lawn and couldn’t possibly spend a minute not lying on a blanket in the sun. Yes, I am in fact very excited. But before I get too into spring and summer (!!) recipes, let’s take a sec and enjoy the last licks of winter with a good custard pie. One with grapefruit. And Campari.

I know what most of you are thinking. Grapefruit custard? Is that even a thing? Well, I’m here to tell you it is. A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to get my hands on the Four & Twenty Blackbirds cookbook. If you’re living under a rock or perhaps an underground apocalypse cult (can you guess what’s on my Netflix account lately?) and have not yet heard of Four & Twenty Blackbirds, they’re a sister team turned pie shop empire in Brooklyn and they really get it when it comes to pie. Pie is so much more than apple or strawberry rhubarb. It’s a blank pastry canvas for any kind of experimentation. Please tell me how one could put an unlikely combination of equally tasty ingredients in a buttery crust sleeping bag and not yield a truly wondrous dessert experience. That’s what these Blackbird ladies do: mint, bourbon, and chocolate pie; apple rose pie; salty honey pie; I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. Experiment with your pie, people- it’ll be well worth the flour on your nose and beet-stained fingernails.

So, I give you the Four & Twenty Blackbirds grapefruit custard pie, coming from the winter pie section of the book. Which is a genius idea, because as tasty as paprika peach pie sounds, it’s kinda tricky to find a nice peach in say, February. So you just flip a few pages and see that citrus is the way to go. If I make this one again, I want to try it with blood orange. Can you imagine the color? I know. In the meantime, find yourself a copy of this book and get cracking!

Also, some links to change your day:

3-D printed ice cubes because technology is..not (?) unbelievably intriguing/scary..

stop everything you can hard-boil eggs IN THE OVEN 

charoset ice cream! charoset ice cream!!! too bad it’s only available in Israel..guess I should just make my own, even though I did kinda miss my Passover window

Pie (from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book)

For the crust (9-inch pie)
1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into½-inch pieces
½ cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ cup ice
*
one egg white

For the filling
1¼ cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs 1 large egg yolk
1 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (~2 grapefruits)
3 tablespoons Campari liqueur
1 cup heavy cream
Dash orange-flavored cocktail bitters (optional)

Assembly
Make the crust: Stir the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter and toss lightly in the flour mixture using until coated. With a pastry blender or cold fingers, cut the butter into the flour mixture (work quickly!) until the majority of  pieces of butter remaining are pea-size (a few larger pieces are okay; it’s better not to overblend). Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture to the flour mixture, and mix it in with fingers/bench scraper/spatula until fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, using the bench scraper or fingers to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining. Bring any extra bits of dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture if necessary (I didn’t find this needed) to combine. Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.

Make the custard: In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, salt and melted butter. Whisk in the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, blending well after each addition. Whisk in the grapefruit juice, Campari, heavy cream, and bitters, if using.

Prebake the crust: Roll out the crust on a well-floured work surface to about 1/8-inch thickness. Roll the crust onto the rolling pin and onto a 9-inch pie pan. Crimp the crust any way your heart desires (go down the rabbit hole) and refrigerate crust for at lease 30 minutes. Use a fork to prick all around the bottom and sides, then move the crust to the freezer. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Whisk together the egg white and and one teaspoon of water and set aside (this will act as a moisture-proof bottom/side sealant.) When the crust is frozen solid (~10 minutes,) line lightly with foil and fill with pie weights/beans (I use dried chickpeas.) Place the pan on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until the crust’s edges are set but not brown. Remove the crust with the baking sheet and lift out the foil/weights. Let cool for a moment or two, then use a pastry brush to coat the bottom and sides of the crust with the egg wash. Return the pan and baking sheet to the oven and bake for another 3 minutes. Let cool completely on baking sheet.

Put it all together: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Make sure the the prebaked pie shell is still on the baking sheet. Strain the filling through a fine-mesh sieve directly into the pie shell (or strain into a separate bowl and then pour it into the shell.) Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 50-55 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees when the edges start to set (~30-35 minutes through baking.) The pie is finished when the edges are set and puffed slightly and the center is no longer liquid but still wobbly. (Don’t overbake! The custard can separate if heated for too long; it will continue to cook and set after the pie is removed from the oven.) Allow the pie to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours (good luck.) Serve at room temperature or cool with a coffee (the only time the coffee + grapefruit combo is not awful) or a get crazy decadent and make yourself a negroni to embrace the Campari in the pie. The pie will keep refrigerated for 2 days or at room temperature for 1 day.

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