Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Summer of Living Frugally: Brown Bagged Lunches

In an effort to avoid spending way too much money buying my lunch and snacks everyday at work, I'm going to try to prepare a lunch and take it with me. Hopefully I'll be able to see those dollars adding up after a while. (Seriously, I spend at minimum $3/a day just on coffee. That's $60 a month I could be saving.)

And since I make lunches like I'm still in elementary school, i.e- dessert is the most important part, I decided to make a nice big batch of chocolate chip cookies. Although this batch has a special surprise guest.

 I started with a no-fail recipe from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. I cannot say enough great things about this book. Everything I've tried is delicious and super easy. One tip though, read all the way through recipes and make sure to give yourself plenty of time. They ask for a lot of things to chill or rest that I wouldn't expect needed it (like chocolate chip cookies for instance, they want the dough chilled for 6 hours!)
 I started putting my ingredients together when I realized I didn't have quite enough dark brown sugar. A comment on my post about Dave's Coffee Syrup suggested using them to make cookies so to make up for the 1 tablespoon of brown sugar I was missing i added 2 tablespoons of coffee syrup. I also cut back on the white sugar, from a half cup to a third so they wouldn't get too sweet.
 Also, instead of chocolate chips I used a block of Callebaut bittersweet chocolate broken in to chunks.
I think I might have been overly worried about the sweetness. Between the bittersweet chocolate and cutting back on the white sugar these aren't terribly sugary at all. In fact next time i might add another tablespoon of coffee syrup. They are still very good. I think the coffee syrup adds some caramelly undertones which are really nice. And I won't induce a sugar coma half way through my shift.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mexican Inspired Grilled Cheese

I saw this spicy grilled cheese posted a ton of times on pinterest and it sounded amazing. I still had some manchego left in the fridge so it seemed like fate.
 I started by combining a tablespoon of soft butter with a sprinkling of chipotle powder. The original recipe calls for a mix of garlic, paprika, and chili powder which also sounds delicious. But I'm completely in love with the smokey heat of chipotle. I think the slow heat lets me think I'm a spicy food loving badass since it doesn't hit you all at once. Who doesn't love an ego boosting spice?
 Being a good Iowa girl, I always have frozen corn in my apartment. 9 times out of 10 when Jim and I are planning dinners he'll ask "Should we have a vegetable?" and I'll respond "Well, I have some corn..." regardless of what we're making. So the bread has been slathered with chipotle butter and placed open faced on the pan. I added shredded Manchego, corn, and pickled jalapenos (again, I somehow always manage to have these on hand).
Do I get points for getting this far in to the post without using the phrase "It's like a fiesta in your mouth!"
While I love my version, I do think her use of Texas toast would make this even better. I would have liked to add a bit more corn and jalapenos but was afraid my sandwich would collapse under the pressure. Definitely getting added to the rotation!

Horseradish and Chive Havarti

I don't generally go for horseradish cheeses or havarti for that matter. I find that more often that not when people stick spices or herbs in cheese they don't spend enough time worrying the quality of the cheese itself. Somerdale imports a line of cheeses that contradict this theory (Wensleydale with Cranberries, Cheddar with Caramelized Onions, etc) but the one cheese of theirs I don't really care for is Harlech, the horseradish cheddar. But I was given a sample and I've never been known to turn down free anything. So i decided to give it a whirl.
Ostenborg is owned by Roth Kase, the same people who own Emmi (producers of swiss cheeses) and Alp and Dell (producers of giant blocks of orange cheddar). They produce a large line of flavored Havartis including caraway, peppadew, and jalapeno varieties. 

Eaten on its on its very much what you'd expect from a havarti; buttery and unassuming. I couldn't really taste the chives but the horseradish gave a nice little kick. Probably not something I would generally snack on on its own. But I'll give their marketing credit, I really wished I had some roast beef to try it on a sandwich. I never grew up eating harvarti, we were a Kraft singles kind of family. Its not that I find the texture unpleasant, its just not something I'm drawn to. The best word I can think of for it is Squidgy.
Now melt the havarti on a burger and we're good to go. The picture is pre-melt as I was hungry and impatient. It gave enough added flavor that I didn't really feel the need to add many other condiments. And horseradish and chives is a pretty classic pairing with beef for a good reason.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lazy Curry

Actually I'm not sure if you can consider this a curry anymore. It contains curry powder, but for the most part its me dressing up leftovers.

The recipe begins with me wanting to make a vegetable curry for myself and Jim the other night. I used Seeds of Change Jalfrezi sauce on butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and purple cauliflower. But I overestimated how many veggies the sauce could handle and ended up just coating the vegetables. I like a bit saucy so for the left overs I added the following:

1 sweet onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can tomatoes paste
1 knob of ginger

I let this all simmer for about 10 mins and then I added the leftover vegetables. The Jalfrezi already had tomato in it, but this obviously made it pretty. Its a totally different flavor but its a lot saucier, which I prefer. I'd love to eventually learn to make the curry from scratch, but it takes a LOT of spices I don't keep on hand. Maybe if I could find another way to use fenugreek seed...

The problem with cookies...

Not a statement I ever thought I'd utter, but I have discovered a design flaw in these cookies. 
This picture refused to turn horizontal
 Since I spend all day in a grocery store I pretty much refuse to shop anywhere else. So there are some foods that I've always loved that Whole Foods won't carry so I've had to find replacements.These are one of the easiest foods to transition from conventional (ie-Oreos) to a Whole Foods brand. You can definitely taste the difference in the filling. The cane sugar frosting melts on your tongue and doesn't leave that sort of filmy feeling you get from other brands, major points 365! The cookie part tastes almost identical.

Building on the recent theme of me having weird food hang-ups, I simply cannot eat sandwich cremes without first dunking them in milk. Like, if I run out of milk I wont eat them. The design flaw with this particular cookie is that the vanilla cookie gets soggy at a different rate than the chocolate cookie. "Que horrible!" I can practically hear you shouting through the screen. Yeah, tough life...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Manchego and Quince

Jim always makes fun of me because at any given time I will have 4 to five open jars of jam/jelly/preserves in my refrigerator. But they all have very specific purposes. Blackberry for my PB&Js, Roasted Garlic and Onion for my cheddar, orange marmalade for my toast, etc... So I've actually been trying hard NOT to buy the Quince spread because it also has a very specific purpose in my mind; to be combined with Manchego  to make a gooey grilled cheese. 

To make matters even more finicky, I only like young Manchego if I'm going to melt it (I've mentioned briefly my aversion to hot/melted sheep's milk cheeses. I have no good explanation). But if I'm going to snack on Manchego just by itself I actually prefer the older, raw milk version. 

This quince spread is probably sweeter than if you're used to a traditional membrillo paste, but it's meant to spread and thus is easier for my purpose. It has just the right amount of tartness to cut the rich sheep cheese without overpowering the milder version. This company makes about a million kinds of spreads and I've yet to taste one I don't like, so I tend to trust anything in these little glass bottles.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Strawberry Glaze Pie

For the Crust:
10 graham crackers
1/2 cup almonds
2 tablespoons of butter

Pulse the graham crackers and almonds in a food processors. Melt the butter and mix together. Pat down in a pie dish and bake at 350 degrees for 7 min. Let cool.

For the filling:
5 cups of fresh strawberries sliced
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup of water
4 tablespoons of gelatin
2 tablespoons Gran Marnier
2 tablespoons honey

Bring the water, cornstarch, gelatin, gran marnier, and honey to a boil for one minute. Fold in the strawberries and pour on top of the crust. 

For the ganache:
1/4 cup dark chocolate (I used Mast Brothers Brooklyn Blend 73% cocao)
2 tablespoon milk

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and add the milk. Drizzle over strawberries. 

Let cool before serving.

There are a few things I might change next time. I'd add a tiny bit of sugar to the crust to help it bind better. And I'd probably skip the gran marnier in the glaze, maybe save it for the ganache. The short time its boiling doesn't really give it enough time to cook off the booze. But otherwise this is pretty damn yummy for something I threw together without a plan going in to it.

Goat Cheese Truffles

I've made several incarnations of goat cheese truffles during my time in the cheese department, but this round might be my favorite. They are super easy to make and so versatile you can add basically anything you already like to pair with your goat cheese.

Top to bottom: Raw honey and marcona almonds, dill and pink peppercorn, unsweetend valrhona cocoa powder
 These are in fact so simple they don't warrant a written recipe. Mix equal parts good quality goat cheese and cream cheese in a mixer. I used Capricho de Cabra goat cheese from Spain, its mild and creamy and has a similar consistency to cream cheese. I also used Smithfield Cream Cheese which is an Amish brand which means no funky stabilizers, just creamy goodness. For the truffles I wanted to coat I put the mixture in the fridge for a while. For the truffles I wanted to mix flavors in I added the mix-ins and then let chill.
My favorite combination, both visually and taste-wise
Don't kid yourself, rolling these will be a messy process. I had my chefs whites covered in cocoa powder almost immediately (full disclosure, I am messier than most). But they look so cute and are such a crowd pleaser that they are totally worth the clean up.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lots of Mozz

Narragansett Fresh Mozzarella and Divina roasted red tomatoes on ciabatta bread 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Once Upon a Time...

Proving that sometimes judging a beer by its label can be a brilliant idea, I discovered how amazing Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project when aimlessly browsing the beer departments shelves. Their labels are all gorgeous and bizarre. I've made it my mission to try every new beer they put out, and I've yet to taste anything that hasn't been stellar. This time I went with X Ale, 22nd February  1945.
This is one of two historical brews produced. They were produced by the same London brewery 107 years apart under the same name. Apparently the 1838 version contains a lot more alcohol. But in general Mild ale tends to be a dark beer with less alcohol per volume. This one is a 2.8%, which makes it a really nice beer to pair with dinner. It has a really toasty flavor. I drank mine cold, which I later read is a terrible english ale sin, so I might have missed some of the more complex flavors. But this is just a really nice, really subtle beer.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dave's Coffee Syrup

One of the greatest things about my job is getting to try new things I would never even think to try. Coming from Iowa, I had never even heard of coffee milk before. But the people of Rhode Island can't seem to get enough. And what could be better than combining two of my greatest loves; coffee and sugar!
Ernest, my coffee buyer, built this display today. No sooner could he put bottles on than they would disappear

 Dave's Coffee is a local Rhode Island coffee roaster who producing small batch coffee. Its also a roaster full of genuinely nice and super passionate people who just make you feel good about supporting their company. One of my favorite things about both this product and Dave's in general is how much thought and care goes in to each product. We received a sample bottle of the original coffee syrup and sent notes back. Dave (the man himself) replied to our notes and talked about the coffee concentration and the desired viscosity and how he envisioned the product to be used and was just so thorough and thoughtful.
Dave's have really mastered the art of adorable packaging. 
Dave's cold brews Brazilian coffee for 18 hours then combines it with pure cane sugar. The mixture is heated until the sugar caramelizes and the starts to reduce. This produces a mild clean coffee flavor with a bit of caramel in their too. You can definitely tell there is nothing artificial in there.  
While it makes a delicious drink, over ice cream might be my favorite way to enjoy Coffee Syrup

The Rhode Islanders in my department told me coffee milk (combining coffee syrup and milk like you were making chocolate milk) was created for children. Now why someone thought that children weren't getting nearly enough coffee in their diet is beyond me, but far be it for me to question such a delicious cultural heritage. It retails for $8.99 for a 16 oz bottle. Considering Dave's suggest 3 tablespoons per glass of milk its a damn good price as well.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Seeing this post on Cypress Groves facebook reminded me of the Humboldt Fog cheese "cake" that Michael made for the 4th of July last year.

 Gorgeous, right? Isn't it nice when pretty things can also contain cheesey goodness?