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Candied Pecans, Two Ways

8 Dec

I can’t believe Thanksgiving flew by and now it’s almost time for Christmas! I love this time of year for the gaily colored lights and for the excuse to give in a little to excess. If you don’t know, I’m a seasonal candy junkie. I buy seasonal editions of peanut M&Ms and candy canes like I buy muskmelon and sweet corn in August. But as much as I love eating all that sugar, sometimes I just want a hint of sweet, a snack with more substance. I remember the delicious Nuts4Nuts carts in NYC and how the little packets of just candied peanuts warmed my hands and belly on the subway platform.

Enter the Candied Pecan. Continue reading

Columbus Alive: Cocktail Contest

22 Oct

I am a terrible blogger. I’ve had this draft in its own web browser tab for weeks now. There’s nothing like a direct link from the Columbus Alive to motivate me. HA.

When Shelley Mann (EOC of the Alive) first asked me to do a signature cocktail for the Alive, I was literally panic stricken. Thoughts like “But I make vaguely Southeast Asian themed adult beverages!” and “But I just moved to Ohio a whole thirty six months ago so I’m totally not qualified to make an Ohio themed cocktail!” flew through my head. After some thought (and a little encouragement from the peanut gallery), this was a challenge I couldn’t wait to take on.

First, I brainstormed some classically Ohio and seasonal ingredients: pawpaws, nah, too hard to find; apples, nah, didn’t want to bring out my crutch, the juicer; OYO vodka, nah, too obvious choice. I wanted something that would give taste buds a spin and I knew I wasn’t going to use vodka. Since I have been really loving light and dark rums, and brandy recently, I was halfway there by narrowing down my choice of spirits.

Jim Ellison over at CMH Gourmand has long maintained that Columbus is the “Ice Cream Capital of the World” and that title has always stuck with me. We have a fine selection of local ice creams between Graeter’s, Denise’s, Mardi Gras, and of course, Jeni’s. I ruled out Graeter’s and Denise’s because I knew their ice creams would be too rich (too much milk fat) and none of their sorbets or yogurts appealed to me for this project. My brother and I used this project as an excuse to take a trip to Mardi Gras to sample some of their more unusual offerings. Unfortunately, the flavors at Mardi Gras were a little too delicate and were completely overwhelmed by the alcohol (although, their fig ice cream is PHENOMENAL).

I had heard about a collection of syrups from Bear over at Slow Food Columbus and tracked down this Cleveland company, The Lounging Gourmet, for some samples. I haven’t tried the Lavender or Rose Elixirs just yet, but I knew the Fire Orchid and the Hibiscus was the direction I was heading for this cocktail.

Finally, I stopped by Jeni’s on the way home to peruse their seasonal selections. I’ve always loved the Mango Lassi (and thought it would pair well with the Fire Orchid) and was awe-struck by the floral and tart flavors of the Plum Cassis Lambis Sorbet. Both of those flavors came home with me.

Now, play time! Let me tell you, this experiment was not without fallen soldiers. I learned the hard way: mango yogurt and dark rum are not good friends; you try to get them to play nice but they just make a pukey looking mess and it’s best to enjoy each one separately. I’ll refrain from posting pics of the finished product because Jodi’s pic, hotlinked above (my apologies!!) are FAR better than mine. If you click on the picture, it will link to the Alive article and recipe.

A final note: photoshoot glass was purchased at thrift store on Cleveland Ave., ribbon was purchased from On Paper at High & Buttles, John Glenn button was purchased at Eclectiques Antique Mall in Clintonville on High St.

Chia Seeds!!

28 Sep

After coming back from China, land of meaty snacks and multi-course meals, I’ve really made a concerted effort to eat more plant based products and to be more creative with my protein sources. I started experimenting with chia seeds right before I left for my trip and it was one of the few things I was looking forward to coming home and eating (salad greens and raw veggies were another). On my first few tries, I bloomed chia seeds in too much water which resulted in a bland, vaguely nutty, terribly soupy, “pudding” of sorts. I tried again with chocolate soymilk and that ended up far too sweet for my liking (though it went wonderfully with fresh strawberries). This time, I hit the jackpot: one part chia seeds (by volume), three (up to four) parts cashew milk. Now, I don’t own a Blentec or a Vitamix, just a twenty year old Hamilton Beach home blender. Needless to say, my neighbors hate me, especially when I’m running the damn thing for five minutes at a time on a Sunday morning.

I find chia seeds to be really weird. I’m not a fan of strawberry seeds (in general) but the texture of this “pudding” is a little like tapioca’d strawberry seeds. I like pairing chia pudding with fruit that mirrors the seed’s texture so figs, kiwis, and strawberries have worked well for me.

Cashew Milk
soak 1 cup (one part, by volume) cashew pieces overnight (at least 6 hours).
rinse and drain.
combine in blender with 2 cups (two parts, by volume) water.
blend at high until smooth (in a conventional blender, at least two minutes).
add 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, 1 tablespoon sugar).
blend again to incorporate.

Chia Pudding
combine 1 cup (one part, by volume) chia seeds with above cashew milk (three parts, by volume).
stir well to prevent clumps.
wait 30 minutes to enjoy, or refrigerate for breakfast the next morning.
yields 32 ounces chia pudding.

Cardamom Catawba Peaches

19 Aug

I’ve been fairly vocal about how expensive the local peaches are here in Columbus. At the farmers’ markets around town, I’ve seen quart baskets for a whole five dollars. O_o Luckily, B is from peach stock. Actually, he’s from Catawba Island (perhaps most well known for a ferry line to Put-In Bay) which is home to golf courses and peach orchards. Last time we were up there, B’s mom had a half peck waiting for us. In one sitting, we went through a good three quarters of the peck. So sweet! So juicy! So summery! Of course we brought almost a whole peck back to Columbus with us.

Cardamon Catawba Peaches
Six ripe peaches
One lime
Quarter teaspoon vanilla extract
Quarter teaspoon ground cardamom
One tablespoon granulated sugar

Cut peaches in half, along the crack, remove stone, and cut into one inch pieces. When all the peaches are cut, mix in the remaining ingredients. Let sit overnight in the fridge to let flavors develop. We put this over yogurt and topped with granola for a tasty breakfast. I imagine it will also be very good over a quality vanilla ice cream.

Maque Choux

13 Aug

A couple years ago, my friend over at Words and Nosh had a beautiful wedding in New Orleans. It was my first time having real Cajun/Creole food and I loved it! More recently, she posted a pic on her food blog of her maque choux and I was just drooling over it. As it happens, it’s sweet corn season here in Ohio and I had everything I needed either in my fridge or on the fire escape (have you seen my urban garden?). I trimmed down a couple different recipes I found online, omitted the cream and most of the butter, and used a lot of herbs.  Click through for the recipe and more pics, including one of the finished product! Continue reading

Pickled Green Beans

3 Aug

Every summer, during green bean season, I like to make a big batch of pickled green beans. These aren’t the canning kind with a water bath process and meticulous measurements, just a quick pick to keep in the refrigerator. They are great for dressing up impromptu Sunday morning bloody marys, diced to throw into an Italian tuna & smashed cannellini salad (new post idea!), or alongside a crudite platter. I like using french beans because their curlicue tails look so delicate and classy! Continue reading

Pesto!!

2 Aug

Pesto is one of my favorite things about basil. It’s garlicky, it’s salty, it’s creamy, and it keeps so well in the freezer. And there are so many uses! On pizza, in soups, in a tomato & mozzarella salad, on a grilled veggie sandwich, and simply on some good pasta.  I always try to ration my frozen cubes of pesto to last through the winter but I always find myself eating lots of pesto spaghetti squash in the fall.

Pesto is also a major PITA for me to make. Mostly because I’m too cheap to buy a food processor (a mixer comes first, creaming butter and sugar is absolutely necessary for the perfect cookie). My blender is trusty but the sporadically spaced ribbed insides makes scraping thick condiments (tzaziki, humus) a chore. Alas, the pay off is supreme.

Pesto is hard to mess up. It’s basically everything you see above. Portions are to your taste.

3 large garlic cloves
3 cups grated Romano
1 cup pine nuts
1 cup olive oil
4 cups packed fresh basil

I omit salt to compensate for how much I love grated hard cheeses. And there’s a little extra olive oil to help the blender along. Super simple: chop the pine nuts and the garlic (in the blender!!), add half the olive oil, half the basil, and half the Romano. Blender-ize it till it looks and tastes like pesto. Repeat with the remaining basil, olive oil, and Romano. I scooped almost the entire batch into one ice cube tray to freeze so I can have portioned cubes for autumn’s squash feast.

For lunch, I scraped down the sides of the blender with my trusty mini spatula, cut three tomatoes, half a log of mozzarella, and mixed it all together. A pinch of salt here, a couple cigarillos of basil, and voila! Lunch for two!