Lemon Squeezey

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Spicy Ginger White Hot Chocolate

Winter is definitely in full swing, it is bitterly cold and pretty miserable outside. However, I don't have a problem with this because a) I can stay inside and watch Friends on Netflix for as long as I want without feeling any guilt, and b) there is every good reason in the world to make hot chocolate. Mmmm, hot chocolate. There is literally nothing better when it looks like this outside:

This is not your typical hot chocolate, especially considering it is white chocolate, which I have never really considered chocolate at all. (No cocoa solids?! MADNESS.) But this is what I dream about when I'm on my way to work, waiting for the bus at 3:30 in the morning and the windchill is -27˚C.  It is rich, creamy and sweet, and the spicy heat of fresh ginger will warm you to your bones.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Classic Chili

Okay. Its been awhile (oops, eight months goes by in a flash... :/), so I thought I'd ease myself in with one of my most favorite recipes - something you've probably eaten if you've had dinner at my house more than once, or if you've been camping with me, or if we've watched the Superbowl together, or attended the same potluck ... you get the idea.

It all started on Superbowl Eve of 2010... No offence to football, but the Superbowl has always been all about the food for me. Buffalo wings, French onion dip, nachos, brownies and chili. Well, on the eve of Superbowl XLIV, without my dad (who makes chili so spicy you wish your face was numb), I was facing my first game day without game day food, and I was very determined not to allow that to happen. Sooo, I found a very promising chili recipe online, made it, loved it and then promptly lost it. That recipe was never to be found again. I spent the next 2 years trying to piece together what I could remember of the ingredients. I fiddled and tweaked and tinkered with it until finally I had some results that I thought were even better than the original. I've been making this recipe ever since. Probably too often if I'm being honest.
This chili is a straightforward, heat and serve operation (it totally qualifies as a weeknight dinner if you have an hour to let it do its thing on the stove), but it does not skimp in the flavor department. In addition to your typical chili ingredients like chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, oregano, garlic, onion, etc., I add a couple slices of bacon. It lends a savory, smoky depth that otherwise couldn't be achieved with such a short cooking time.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Dark & Stormy Caramel Corn, and more importantly Dark & Stormies

The long weekend is upon us! No, I don't mean Victoria Day, and I don't mean Memorial Day ... I'm talking 'bout Bermuda Day! There will be parades, beach parties, barbecues, gombeys, boat raft-ups, and many many drinks. Most of the drinks will have rum in them. Most of the rum will be Gosling's Black Seal. 
My family moved to Bermuda in 1998, and it has felt like home ever since. No matter how long I am away, landing in Bermuda and walking off of the plane, feeling the humidity hit me like a wall and the sun instantly start baking my skin - it is so familiar. Then, getting in a taxi and speeding along the narrow, winding roads (driving on the left side, mind you!), that takes no getting used to. But, finally reaching the top of a hill, the view of that turquoise ocean always takes my breath away. It is truly stunning.
Of course, living there, it wasn't all rosy all the time - I had the same struggles and issues that most kids have growing up, sometimes there are hurricanes, the winter is colder than you would expect, and sometimes Bermuda starts to feel like a teeny tiny isolated rock in the middle of the ocean and you just must get off of it, but I know I was so lucky to experience what this tiny, beautiful island has to offer. The freshest fish imaginable, pink sand beaches, loooong hot summers on the water, sailing, swimming, paddling, cliff diving, and a culture centered on community, togetherness and celebration.

Speaking of celebration, let's get back to this rum we were talking about earlier. Gosling's Black Seal is the national spirit of Bermuda, and it is used for everything from barbecue sauce (yum), fish chowder (yum again) to the many many drinks also referred to earlier. My favorite of the many many drinks is the Dark & Stormy, which is actually the national drink of Bermuda. It is a heavenly mixture of rum (the dark) and ginger beer (the stormy) with a wedge of lime. Its spicy and sweet from the ginger beer, its got lovely dark caramelly notes from the rum, and the lime is there cause why not. It is thirst-quenching, refreshing, and definitely long weekend appropriate. Don't worry, the caramel corn recipe follows. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Homemade Yogurt

Now, I know what you're thinking ...

This girl is CRAZY. She wants me to make yogurt at home? Why on Earth would I do that?! All I can say is this, I have a curious mind, sometimes it leads me in strange directions. Let me tell you though, this is probably the easiest recipe I'll ever post. It basically requires you to do almost nothing with two ingredients.
I started making yogurt a few years ago, when I began to get seriously interested in food. One weekend (when I was supposed to be studying for an anthropology midterm or something) I went down an internet rabbit hole and came across this blog post describing how easy and awesome making yogurt can be, not to mention how much cheaper it is. Being the olympic level procrastinator that I am, I pushed my text books aside and got started right away. When I woke up the next morning and discovered the pot full of yogurt that had miraculously appeared in my oven, I was amazed. It was like magic. It totally sparked my curiosity about fermentation, and ever since I've been trying to learn as much as I can.
I'm by no means an expert, but I'll do my best to explain some of the science behind the whole yogurt making process ... This is a little bit technical, but bear with me; understanding what happens leads to better yogurt, I swear. On the other hand, if you find this kind of stuff unbearable to read, no worries, like I said above, it works whether or not you know why.
You only need two ingredients: milk, and a tiny bit of yogurt! The most important thing is that you find a plain yogurt (no flavours or sweeteners) with active bacterial culture listed as one of the ingredients. The culture is what will turn the milk into the creamy, tangy yogurt you are after. It shouldn't have much else though: milk, active bacterial cultures, and maybe cream. Yogurt manufacturers often add other things, like gelatin, cornstarch, extra milk proteins, to emulsify and stabilize their products. These things are not really desirable, but I don't think they'll interfere with your yogurt considering we are using such a small amount.
There are two basic steps to making yogurt. The first one is pretty straight forward: heat up the milk until it is almost boiling, then let it cool partially, to about 105-110˚F. With a thermometer and some observation, this step is easy to control. Heating the milk kills any unwanted bacteria that might compete with your culture, it also allows some of the water in the milk to evaporate and gives the milk proteins a head start on coagulation, making for creamier, firmer yogurt.
The second step is the fermentation process. This is when you add your yogurt starter (the active bacterial culture), and let the mixture incubate until it sets. The bacteria that turn milk into yogurt are thermophilic, which means they need heat to do their job. Some people use crockpots or machines made specifically for yogurt to keep everything warm, but that is not necessary. You can use a preheated cooler, a thermos, or you can do what I do: the oven method. This method uses the heat from the oven light to keep the yogurt at a steady temperature for as long as it needs. The incubation temperature has a big effect on how long the yogurt takes to set and the final texture of the yogurt. The higher the temperature, the faster the process. However, a high temperature leads to a coarser, firmer yogurt which will separate more easily. A slow, low temperature ferment results in a creamier, more finely textured yogurt with a little bit more tang. The longer fermentation also allows the bacteria to convert more of the lactose into lactic acid, making it easier for us to digest.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Hazelnut Financiers

So, first things first, I'm sorry for my neglectful ways! I swear there is a good reason. The past few weeks have been a crazy jumble of last minute school projects, presentations and finals - and then, just when I thought I was done, BAM, I ended up going on the trip of a lifetime. Eight amazing (and totally unplanned) days in Paris, with four exceptional friends. 

Not Paris, Texas. Not Paris, Maine. Not Paris, Illinois or Kentucky, or Tennessee. 

Paris, France.

Guys, I had a pain au chocolat at least once a day. I ate cheese. I drank wine. I smothered things with so much butter and devoured countless chocolates. It was wondrous. 

This trip was so last minute, I barely had time to throw things haphazardly into a bag before I was sitting next to Tom on the plane, beyond excited and in utter disbelief. After a 7 hour flight (and 32 hours without sleep), roaming the streets of Paris felt like a dream. Definitely, without a single doubt, my greatest and most spontaneous adventure to date. 

Speaking of adventures ... one of the places I was most excited to visit, aside from all the places you would expect (Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Tuilleries ... all the stunning and magical tourist spots), was a 250 year old confectionery shop, À la Mère de Famille. Well, let me tell you - this pilgrimage led us through a rather shady part of town. Hand in hand, Tom and I walked along the overcrowded sidewalk, passing the questionable tattoo parlours and sketchy looking bars, armed only with our very limited French, and an umbrella. Well, we were determined to get to this place, so we marched on, keeping quiet so we wouldn't draw any more attention to our naive and touristy, English-speaking selves. Having survived this somewhat harrowing trek, we were rewarded with an unimaginable assortment of candy, chocolate, cookies, wines, cakes, and truffles. À la Mère de Famille is a magical place. Imagine Candyland, Paris-style. Antique furniture and crooked mosaic floors creaking under the weight of PILES of caramels and chocolate bars and lollipops and tuiles and sablés, and cakes and glacéed fruits...

And since I was lucky enough to have this experience, I thought I would try and share some of the magic with you guys in the form of these tender, nutty and buttery Hazelnut Financiers from the À la Mère de Famille book, which I am currently obsessed with. Financiers are little brown butter cakelets, named because their traditional shape is like a gold bar. They're similar to a moist sponge cake, and most recipes include almond flour or other ground nuts and lots of egg whites. This hazelnut version is a little different from the classic recipe, but it is deee-licious. Crisp on the outside, soft and tender on the inside, perfect with a cup of coffee, or if you're feeling extravagant, a café crème.