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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Fast & Fizzy Kimchi

A photo posted by Kolika of Pistachio Bakehouse (@wannabgourmande) on

I'm a big fan of instagram. I use it to promote my business, keep up with my friends, and learn all about exciting new things that pastry chefs around the world are doing. I especially love instagram because of its purity; minimal ads, only 'like's, you only see what you want to see, and it's all in a nice, clean form that's just perfectly streamlined. It's because of instagram that my page gets so many views, and people know about me, in their own small scale. Anyway...

I've talked about fermented foods before in some of my wellness blogs. Naturally fermented foods are so great for your overall gut health and I highly recommend that you--yes, you--start incorporating them in your diet. Something as simple as "eat better" is truly attainable when you introduce more fermented foods  as your 2017 resolution. After all, after the dumpster fire of a year this has been, it's going to be pretty easy for it to be a good year, with the bar being set so low.

One of the staples in my pantry is called a ginger bug. I talked about it on my homemade ginger soda blog, here, some time ago. Did you know that you can use ginger bug to make lots of fermented foods that are super-good for you? Sauerkraut, soda, even making fizzy berries for a feel-good topping over ice cream! (Locally sourced, of course.) So long as you keep your ginger bug alive and well, you can do anything with it.

Ginger Bug

  • Organic ginger(yes, it has to be organic)
  • Cane sugar(no, not coconut sugar, not date sugar, not beet sugar, not honey; CANE SUGAR)
  • Filtered water
  • Clean and sterilized mason jar w/ lid
To make your ginger bug, simply roughly chop your ginger, skin included, and combine it with equal parts by volume, if you please, in a clean mason jar. Simply seal, shake, and allow it to sit in a sunny window, undisturbed, for two or three days. You'll soon see bubbles forming, and that's a good thing. Do not refrigerate, simply feet sugar and water every once in a while, and leave it in a cupboard until you're ready to use it. My own personal ginger bug is at least a year old at this point, and hasn't failed me yet. 

Is this the most-authentic recipe ever? Absolutely not. Is it even remotely authentic? Eh. I mean...it was made by a half-Asian person, and it tastes good. So....does it count as kimchi? By definition, Kimchi is spicy, pickled cabbage. So, yes! Yes it does count as kimchi. (If you want an authentic recipe, though, try this one right here.) This is just a quick-and-easy recipe that your average millenial can do at home to have some nice kimchi in a couple of days. 

My boyfriend saw the cabbage on the counter and sighed deeply before leaving the house; he hates kimchi day
Fast & Fizzy Kimchi

  • 1 medium-sized head organic Napa cabbage
  • 1 small yellow onion, julienned
  • 3 Tbsp ginger, peeled and diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder(I use New Mexican chili powder because it's what I have in the pantry; you can use Korean chili powder, of course! If you like more spice, add it! Please, let's not forget who is eating it...)
  • Strained ginger bug, A/N
  • Kosher salt, A/N
  • 1 cup carrots, julienned(optional)
  • 1 cup scallions, julienned(optional)
Note: Is this the most-authentic recipe ever? Absolutely not. Is it even remotely authentic? Eh. I mean...it was made by a half-Asian person, and it tastes good. So....does it count as kimchi? By definition, Kimchi is spicy, pickled cabbage. So, yes! Yes it does count as kimchi. (If you want an authentic recipe, though, try this one right here.) This is just a quick-and-easy recipe that your average millenial can do at home to have some nice kimchi in a couple of days.

Take your cabbage and slice it in nice thin strips(julienne) and pop it in a large container. Take a generous amount of kosher salt and dump it into the container, then work it in with your hands to make sure the cabbage is evenly coated. Cover with a moist paper towel and let it sit for 1 hour to overnight, undisturbed. When you're ready, remove the paper towel and, using your hands to press down the cabbage and keep it there, tip it over the sink to drain all of that liquid out. There will be lots, so do be patient. 

It's really a stupid amount of liquid that comes out...
In a large glass bowl, combine your onion, garlic, ginger, sugar, chili powder and any other vegetables you've chosen to include with your kimchi. I like to keep it just plain, but some like nice julienned carrots and scallions in their kimchi. Toss everything together with your cabbage and put your mixture in sterilized containers. I prefer glass jars, as they're so easily reusable. I'll put kimchi in anything, even if the label of what it originally was is still attached to it!

Now that you've packed your kimchi, it's time to finish it off! Strain enough ginger bug over your kimchi mixture so that each jar is about 3/4 of the way full with it. Top it with one more pinch of sugar and some (ideally) filtered water. (I've used tap water for years, though, and it's been fine.) Once you've depleted your ginger bug, don't forget to feed it again. Just add back some sugar and water and leave it to grow. Those bacteria are hungry, after all, and they do deserve a little snack for all of their hard work.

Leave your kimchi, undisturbed, in the back of the cabinet(or on top of your refrigerator) for at least two days. By then, it should be fizzy enough to be eaten, but the longer you let it sit, the better. I've kept kimchi, undisturbed, in a cool dark place for up to 3 months and it was still fine. For the sake of safety, though, I'd keep it in the cellar or in the fridge once you've opened it...and toss it when it turns blue or grows hair. 

Eating fermented foods in the dead of winter helps your immune system, too!

This makes me two large jars, so it might make you several small jars.  I have a big, wide-mouthed mason jar and, on the right, is a jar that used to hold coconut oil, but has been washed and repurposed. I'm trying to lead a more trash-free lifestyle, so I'm all about reusing things when I'm able. If you have an odd array of different jars, all the better! Don't conform to sameness; dare to be different. A varied diet will keep your guts happy and healthy, so please don't be afraid to try this basic recipe with other vegetables as well. I don't recommend, however, using porous veggies like squash; stick with the harder stuff, like carrots, onions, bok choy, etc.

As always, if you try my recipes, please let me know in the comments! Happy cooking and happy eating! 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Unofficial Pumpkin Pasties

I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. As a proud Slytherin/Pukwudgie, I raise my freak flag and wave the bejeezus out of it happily. I made some pumpkin pasties, quite recently, under the moniker "Pumpkin Pockets" so I could sell them at my bakery...but I can't legally stop you from calling them Pumpkin Pasties! Here's how I did it:

Pumpkin Pockets

  • 1 (15 oz) can of organic pumpkin puree
  • 1 (14 oz) can of organic sweetened condensed milk(Yes, that's a thing)
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Chinese Five Spice
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Pie Dough/Puff Pastry(A/N)
  • Egg wash(A/N)
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl using a whisk until smooth. Taste for salt, and then bake in a buttered casserole dish at 350 for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool until nice and solid; you can also chill this overnight.

Why are you cooking the filling first? 
  1. It's easier to work with
  2. This filling is too liquidy to be safely contained in a pocket while you fold it!
Can you use this filling as a normal pumpkin pie filling? Absolutely! (But then they wouldn't be hand-held and pocket-worthy, would they?

Once your filling is chilled enough to work with. take your favorite pie dough(or, if you like, some simple store-bought puff-pastry) and roll flat using sugar instead of flour. Yes, sugar! It'll caramelize in the oven and give you a LOVELY crunch on your finished product... You can even roll it in cinnamon sugar for some extra flavor, but I'll leave that up to you.

I rolled mine in squares(less waste) and brushed two of the four edges with egg wash. Using a disher, scoop about 2 oz of filling into my squares and folded over the puff dough. Use a fork to crimp the edges if you like that look, or use your fingers if you like that look! Make sure to poke a couple of vent holes in the top before you bake, or you could get a big mess everywhere. 

Bake at 375 until done, about 20 minutes, and allow to cool. (Seriously, don't eat these fresh out of the oven. The filling gets stupid hot and you'll burn the inside of your mouth, and walk around all open-mouthed and gagging like someone cast Mimblewimble on ya dumb ass.) If they're cool enough to pick up with your bare hands, they're likely cool enough to eat!

The best part about these is that they're hand-held, so you can make lots of them and they can just keep nicely...you can eat them now, make them for a holiday party, or freeze them for a microwaveable treat later!

Happy cooking and happy eating! (Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be weeping bitter tears over gifsets of Jacob Kowalski and Queenie Goldstein. )

Friday, December 9, 2016

Lavender Sugar Cookies

Tis the season, tis the season! Snow falling, pine trees filling our homes, warm apple cider filling our bellies...ah, yes, the holidays, right around the corner. Do you know what else is right around the corner? Mercury Retrograde.

Yep. Mercury Retrograde is right around the corner, a short 10 days away and it spans over the holiday season from December 19th, 2016 to January 8th, 2017. Yay. I can't imagine a better way to send off the absolute garbage year that 2016 has been. What can we do about it? Globally, nothing. In our own personal lives, we can spray the bejeezus of our homes and lives with positive energy and hope for the best.

I chose to become a chef because chefs make everybody happy; they provide good food, they give you an experience, and they do their best, every day, to make sure that the best part of your day is eating their food. Cooking at home using family recipes is also the closest thing you can do to time travel; cook your famed grandmother's dish, and the smell will send you back to her home when you were a child. What's more powerful than that?

Enter the lavender bud, a powerful and well-recognized flower in magical and mundane lives. Everybody knows how relaxing lavender's aroma is, and who doesn't love a good lavender pear vinaigrette? It has a delicate flavor, a gentle aroma, and many magickal qualities(love, communication, sharpening the mind). It is this Kitchen Witch's opinion that there isn't a better counter to Mercury Retrograde than lavender, a plant that's associated with Mercury!

Here's the problem: You can't just take lavender sachets and pop them all over your office at work, or burn lavender buds in the car, or plant them in the dead of winter. As silly as it might sound, you could get in trouble with HR for that. You know what you can do? Bake with them.

These were the designs I used for Samhain/Halloween!
Lavender sugar cookies are almost always at my shop, and they're often featured at the farmer's market when it's in season. They're my absolute favorite way to show off some fun holiday flair, and the recipe for the dough itself can carry you through the year! You can decorate them just about any which way from Sunday, and boy do they look great when they're done...

I was feeling elegant, so I thought I'd try black and white!
Though they have fragrant lavender buds in them, they're still just sugar cookies, so they can be decorated in any way one chooses. Cookies are a big part of the holidays, and I am a fan of working smart, not hard. In other words, I don't see the point in making two separate things when you can combine a big of magick into your mundane life.

These were done for the 4th of July!

Lavender Sugar Cookies
  • 8 oz flour
  • 6 oz butter, room temperature
  • 2 oz powdered sugar
  • 4 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried lavender buds
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
Royal Icing
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
If you'd like a truly magickal cookie, combine your sugars with your lavender the night before and put them in an east-facing window to let the first sunlight hit it when it first rises in the winter sky. The lavender's aroma will also perfume the sugar, which is a good thing for a lovely enhanced flavor.

Another way to make this magickal is by the infusion method. Simply take your lavender buds with the butter and pop into a heavy-bottomed pan. Melt the butter gently and allow to sit and infuse for about 10 minutes before pouring into your mixing bowl, which you should cleanse. Pop your butter in the fridge for about 10 more minutes, just to let the butter set into a solid shape again, and then continue with the recipe.

Beat the butter in your standing mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, then add the sugars. Beat this together for about 2 minutes, then scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Add your egg and beat for 1 minute to fully combine. Add the vanilla and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together your flour with the salt and baking powder and spoon in the dry ingredients, in three separate additions, until everything is combined. Remove your dough from your bowl and wrap it in plastic wrap, forming a nice disc, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour, at most overnight.

When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare your work surface. I've got a lovely marble slab that I like to roll out cookie doughs and pie doughs on, but any cool countertop surface works fine. Take a sheet of parchment paper, cut to about the size of your cookie sheet, and liberally lubricate with panspray. I like using coconut oil as my nonstick lubricant of choice, but what you have in the cabinet is just fine, so long as it's a generally neutral flavor. 

Remove your dough from the plastic wrap and pop on your lubricated parchment. Spray the top your dough and lay that same plastic (waste not, want not) on top, nice and flat. Use your rolling pin to beat your dough slightly, just to soften it, then gently roll out from the middle. Rotate the parchment sheet on your work surface to roll it evenly, then remove the plastic wrap, spray your dough again, and cover it again. This time, flip it over so that the plastic is down on your work surface, and peel back the parchment. Spray it again, cover, and roll.  Repeat this process until your dough is about a quarter inch thick.

Why are you doing this? Well...

  1. No messy flour to clean up
  2. Less risk of overworking the dough
  3. You've measured your flour so perfectly...why add more unnecessarily?
  4. No mess to clean up
  5. You can move the dough around more easily when it's on parchment already
  6. No mess to clean up
I hope that clears up everything! Now then... You can cut your shapes now, it's true, and place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, or you can do what I do:

I bake my cookie dough in one big sheet and cut after they've baked, while they're still warm from the oven. Why? So my cookie shapes don't spread out, of course! I'll get perfect lines every time, and I get to eat the scraps. I can also pulse the scraps in my food processor and store them in an airtight jar in the cabinet, and then use them to sprinkle on cupcakes or use to make struesel toppings for pies and muffins. 

To make the royal icing, simply whip the egg whites with the powdered sugar until it hits the right consistency. There are about a million different video tutorials online on how to do it properly, but look for the consistency found in this video below for the best results:

I love SweetAmbs cookies, and get a lot of my decorating ideas from her channel, found here!

You can use all sorts of decorating techniques with corresponding colors to get funky. This can be a great project for kids, or grown-ups, to make their own magickal cookies. You can also just make these cookies for yourself and stuff your face while you watch the world freeze over with the winter snow. They make a great addition to gingerbread cookies, as well as peppermint spritz cookies, for your holiday assortment. (Just make sure to take a photo before everyone gets a chance at them...)

Seriously, I set them down for half a second and these were all that was left when I came back

Happy holidays, everyone! I hope you enjoyed my Lavender Sugar Cookie tutorial for Yule/Mercury Retrograde! Remember to be the change you wish to see in the world, and kill your enemies with kindness. If there's some jerk spouting hate, bake them cookies. It won't be long before everyone around you both sees that you're being nice, that they're being the asshole, and the asshole is soon ostracized by the group for their horrible behavior. See? It's slower to take the high road, but it's much more effective in the end.

Enjoy these cookies and may the Gods be ever in your favor. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Gingerbread Lane 2016

It's not perfect, but it's mine. 
For three years, now, I've been called upon for my skills, here in lovely Kansas City, to construct a colossal confection of ginger and bread for the sake of charity. Holiday seasons are upon us and that means - you guessed it - giving to those less fortunate than you!

June 11th of this year my small bakery, Pistachio Bakehouse,  donated $600 of baked goods to No Kid Hungry as a part of a colossal undertaking to raise $100,000 collectively for the cause of ending childhood hunger in America. My dear friend, Charles Feruzza (formerly) of The Pitch, penned the details here. I was really proud to be a part of such an amazing event, even if my hands got tired from twisting about 200 soft pretzels! You can check out the full album here.

In addition to childhood food insecurity, one charity that's a favorite of mine is the CCVI, or Children's Center for the Visually Impaired, who - since 1952 - have served over 10,000 young children who are blind or visually impaired. The charity raises money to help keep the school running, and they look to the chefs of Kansas City to do so.

The Garney Mansion, 2014
I started out back in 2014 with recreating the Historic Garney Mansion, which had belonged to the Garneys, the family which owned/managed the restaurant I was the Executive Pastry Chef of, that had also tragically burned down earlier that year in March. I was so fortunate to have had the support of the family, who graciously and generously loaned me the blueprints to the original house, but also flat-out bought my gingerbread creation for the sake of the charity. I'll forever be grateful to them.

"Steve", 2015
Last year, I created a sort of Alpine A-Frame(named Steve) which was admittedly less complex, and therefore tragically less stable, mostly because of it's simple design and the fact that it was sitting under the hotter lights during its stay at Webster House, where the houses were on display. As the family that bought my house went out the door, the roof caved in. I came in as soon as I could, repairing what was possible, but alas, alack... I ended up buying a few plastic dinosaurs and putting pieces of roof and whatnot in their tiny plastic mouths in hopes that the people would have a sense of humor about it. (You know, because dinosaurs destroyed and ate their house. Get it? Funny, right? I'll see myself out.)

You can view this, in person, at Webster House! Vote for me for People's Choice!
This year, I added in my semi-newly acquired skills of pulled and poured sugar to the party and created the Winter Retreat house, complete with palladian windows and sugar columns and a lovely colored stone walkway to the lake, where you can enjoy a spot of ice skating.

This is a work-in-progress shot, but I sure do love the way the light comes in! 
I'll be the first to admit that the columns were not easy or quick. I'll also let you know that they burned the dickens out of my hand when I accidentally poured some of the 320 degree sugar syrup on myself. Yeah. 2nd degree burns. I'm typing this with a huge burn blister on my hand right now, because I'm a trooper. So. Consider that your PSA: be careful with hot sugar.

The walls were glued together with homemade marshmallow, and the colored stones and columns were glued together with super stiff royal icing. Do you like the rock path? You can get the chocolate rocks at It's Sugar! on the Plaza, right here in Kansas City. They're addictive, though, let me tell you... It did take some time to do, but anything worth doing is worth doing right, especially for charity. I will say this, though: I can't pipe with a severely burned hand. All of the piping done for the rocks was piped with my left hand, so it took twice the amount of work. Anybody that ends up buying my gingerbread house for the charity can rest knowing that I put some hard work into it, dag nabbit.

I won't bore you to death with all of the details on how to make this gingerbread house, but here's my favorite recipe on how to make your own building gingerbread dough.

Gingerbread House

  • 8 oz shortening
  • 7 oz sugar
  • 0.6 oz baking powder
  • 0.3 oz baking soda
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 8 fl oz molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 38 oz AP flour

This is a basic cookie method; simply cream the fat together with the sugars, add the eggs one at a time, and add in the dry ingredients in 3 additions. Chill the dough while your oven is heating up, and prepare your pattern. For precision, roll out in large sheets, cut your pieces, bake halfway through, then cut AGAIN to trim off the excess! This is how you get razor-sharp edges on your corners, perfectly pristine lines on your walls, etc.

This house took 4 batches of my gingerbread dough to make the entire thing complete!
Royal Icing
yields about a pound

  • 12 oz powdered sugar
  • 2 egg whites

Sift the sugar and set aside. Place the egg white and lemon juice in the standing mixer with the whisk attachment. Add about half the sugar and begin whisking on  medium low until incorporated. Increase the speed and check consistency. Add sugar as needed to correct it!

With this basic dough in hand, you can create any gingerbread house you set your mind to. There are about a billion gingerbread house patterns found on Pinterest, and you - yes, you - can create this, because if I can do it, anybody can.

If you'd like to help the CCVI and donate to the charity, come to Webster House at 1644 Wyandotte Street in Kansas City, MO during normal business hours and find us! You can walk around, visit the shop, and donate to the charity by bidding on the house or voting for People's Choice! Check it out from November 30th until December 3rd...but I can tell you that my own house is sitting there, in the Children's room, right now!

Tune in tomorrow on KCTV 5 in Kansas City to see me on the news, talking all about it!

Happy cooking and happy eating - oh, and a VERY Happy Holiday Season!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sweet Potato Tart with Honey Marshmallow

So Thanksgiving-y, you can hear your drunk Uncle in the background...

Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday. Even though some Pagans/Wiccans celebrate Mabon as their Thanksgiving, that's not going to stop me from celebrating it with the rest of America on the last Thursday of November. 

Thanksgiving is, for me, the quintessential American holiday, where Americns welcomed with open arms the starving, undocumented European refugees and showed them how to survive self-sufficiently on their land. Because of the generous aid of first Americans, the poor, disease-ridden Europeans would have likely starved to death, unable to survive the harsh winter. Why, Benjamin Franklin himself said that the American turkey should be our national bird, and not the American bald eagle. 

wait what?
I know, right?

(Disclaimer: I know that's not a bald eagle. But my boyfriend took that photo of a very distressed-looking bird and I've been dying to use it somewhere.)

Before we delve further, here are some fun facts about sweet potatoes:
  • Sweet potatoes are the official vegetable for North Carolina(yeah, that's a thing)
  • Sweet potatoes are high in fiber(when eaten with the skin on), potassium, Vitamins E, B6 & C, Beta Carotene, and iron
  • Sweet potatoes are found all over Asia
  • Sweet potatoes were grown in Peru as early as 750 BCE
  • First American President George Washington grew sweet potatoes at his farm in Mount Vernon, VA
  • Sweet potatoes can be stored for up to 10 months if left in a cool and dry place
  • Over 260 billion pounds of sweet potatoes are produced globally every year, making it one of the most important crops in the world
Now that we've gotten a bit of fun stuff out of the way, let's get to the recipe!

Sweet Potato Tart
yields 1 11" tart or 2 8" pies

Pie Crust
  • 10.5 oz AP flour(you can also use your favorite GF flour blend)
  • 8 oz(2 sticks) butter, cold, cubed(this works fine with coconut oil, too)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 3 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • Apple cider vinegar, A/N
  • 1 lb(16 oz) sweet potato puree(canned is fine in a pinch)
  • 4 oz coconut milk
  • 7 oz brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 5 or 6 shakes of ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper**
Honey Marshmallow
  • 1 Tbsp(2 packages) unflavored gelatin
  • 3/4 cups water, divided
  • 8 oz sugar
  • 1/2 cup local honey
  • 1/4 cup organic corn syrup(yes, it's a thing)
  • 1 pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 350, and prepare an 11" tart pan with pan spray. You can use store-bought crust, of course, as well as a store-bought graham cracker crust(pictured above). Both taste great, and I'd frankly rather have you eat pie that's freshly made than no pie at all!

Prepare the crust by combining the flour, powdered sugar, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add in your fat of choice(be it butter OR coconut oil) and turn on to stir. The benefit of doing it this way instead of by hand is that the mixture will not be heated up from your body heat. Once the fat has been nicely combined with the flour mixture, add in your egg. If it does not all come together in a (reasonably) solid ball, add just a few drops of apple cider vinegar at a time to allow it to mold together. Tip the pastry onto the marble slab (or countertop if you're not drowning in privilege like I am over here) and wrap it in plastic then refrigerate until you're ready to use it.

To create the filling, I always make it fresh. Just take a big-ass sweet potato and pierced it a few times with a knife. Let it cook in that 350 degree oven until ridiculously soft and tender in the middle, which is about an hour if you have big ones like I do. Once it's soft and easily pierced all the way through with a fork or knife, remove from the oven and immediately wrap in tin foil. Let it hang out for another 30 minutes or overnight, if you like. Simply harvest the puree by scooping it out with a spoon or peeling the skin away...your choice!

Take your sweet potato puree and pop it into the bowl of your now clean standing mixer with the paddle attachment and beat in the sugar and spices for about 2 minutes. Add in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated, then add the milk and salt. Blend until fully combined and set aside. 

My favorite way of doing pie dough is using parchment paper and panspray. It's no-mess and you won't risk screwing with your dough by adding in too much flour! Simply take two sheets of parchment paper and liberally lubricate. Pop your pie dough in the middle of the bottom sheet, liberally spray the dough, and top with the second sheet. Roll out the dough between the sheets until it's nicely flat and round. Measure the dough by popping your tart tin on top and rolling until it's about an inch around on all sides. Simply peel off the top layer and pop on your tart tin, upside-down, then flip to right-side-up. Now peel away the parchment and boom! Your tart tin is lined!

Fill your lined tart tin and bake at 350 on the bottom rack of the oven for about 30 minutes. Why do we want the bottom rack? To make sure that the bottom crust bakes, of course! Nobody likes a soggy bottom, so let's make sure that gets nice and cooked...shall we? Your custard pie is baked through when you insert a cake tester/toothpick into the tart and it comes out clean!

Evacuate the tart and allow it to cool while you prepare the marshmallow.

This recipe is a modified version of "Puff the Magic Mallow" via Alton Brown's legendary Good Eats. The full episode is on YouTube! 

If you want to just follow the written instructions without all of the science and puppets, though, keep reading...

Combine half of your cold water with the honey, corn syrup, and granulated sugar in a saucepot and cover. Bring it to a boil, reduce it to a simmer, and then remove the top. Pop in your candy thermometer and allow the mixture to cook. I've got one of those super-nifty probe thermometers that has a little alarm to go off when the item I'm temping goes off at the desired temperature, and let me tell you - it's fantastic. I set my thermometer to 240 degrees F, because that's the soft ball stage of candy making, and that's what I want. 

In the very clean bowl of my standing mixer fitted with a very clean whisk attachment, I pop in the remainder of my cold water. I take my tablespoon of gelatin and sprinkle it over the top gently. I don't want it to be lumpy, so this is the part where you just take your time and let it soak. Once everything's been sprinkled, I let it sit until I hear my alarm go off for the magic 240 degrees F!

Once your syrup is up to temperature, carefully bring the pot over to the standing mixer and plop in about a third of the syrup, carefully. Turn on the standing mixer to stir in the syrup, and drizzle in the hot syrup in a thin stream. When all of your syrup is incorporated, turn the whisk on to medium-high for 1 minute, and then turn it to full speed and whip until glossy white and lukewarm, which should take about 10 minutes.

Spray the ever-living bejeezus out of a spatula and tip the marshmallow mixture onto the warm tart. You can also put it in a piping bag and make some neat designs, but that's up to you. Put as much or as little marshmallow on top as you like, and pop any remaining marshmallow into a sheet pan, dusted with equal parts cornstarch and powdered sugar. Dust more on top and set aside.

Leave the marshmallow to set for a few hours, and do the same with the tart so you can safely and cleanly cut it. You can store the set marshmallows in plastic bags for up to one month in the cupboard, but I doubt they'll last that long. As for your tart, you can toast the marshmallow using a torch or under the broiler before serving your guests, if you like! Let's make America great again with awesome pie. What do you say? Are you with me?!

Of course you are.

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Pickled Green Tomatoes

I've had the privilege to become a homeowner within the last couple of years, and as such I've gained a small allotment of land as a backyard. On this five-thousand square feet of my own personal kingdom, I'm the caretaker of three glorious trees: a silver maple, a Chinese elm, and a sycamore. These trees, while beautiful, cause a lot of shade...but that didn't stop me from growing a garden.

I've posted garden-related blogs and 'what to do with produce' type blogs before. Gardening is an integral part of my life and is a huge contributor to my diet. I was so happy to be  able to have one that I could maintain for years and years without having to move and start over from scratch, so you'd better believe I started an asparagus patch! But more on that later... Meet Gloria!

Gloria, the Heirloom Tomato Plant that just won't quit

Gloria was a seedling that I found sprouting in the asparagus patch that I'd transferred from my old house. She was sprouting in late September, likely thinking that it was springtime! I felt bad for the poor thing, so I brought her inside to grow over winter.

Instead of dying, I planted her in the garden that next spring and she grew, and grew, and grew into a 7' x 8' x 4' giant of a tomato bush, producing more tomatoes that year than necessary, I can assure you. I mean, it was pretty obscene.

I mean, look at this nonsense!

I mean, look at that nonsense! Just look at how big she was when we pulled her out!

And Howl, of course, had to get into the action for some kisses...

To explain: tomato plants are tropical and last only two years in X conditions. I didn't want to just let her die horribly and slowly in the frost, so I figured I'd be kind and yank her out on Samhain, the last harvest holiday. We laid her out and she was taller than me! But not before harvesting the last of her green tomatoes...

I harvested quite a few tomatoes from her before I pulled her out to make room for my winter crops, and most of them were green. I had a few that were turning orange, so I left them out for a salad or a marinara. The rest, however? All destined for the pickle jar...

Pickling is one of those cherished traditions shared by grandmothers and hipsters across the nation. I love that we're adopting it as a trend because it's not only thrifty(good news for us Millenials) but it's satisfying to have a tactile validation of what you did, which is save something that would have otherwise been wasted. Here's my basic pickle recipe, for your using pleasure:

Basic Pickle Brine

  • 1 cup white vinegar(5% acidity)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp sugar
To create the brine, all you have to do is combine all of the ingredients and boil them together in a saucepot. When the mixture has come to a boil, turn off the flame and pour the hot brine over your soon-to-be pickles. Now, here's how you make the tomatoes...

My tomatoes were extremely plentiful, so I packed them as tightly as I could into seven pint jars quite nicely. I put the tinier ones in whole, but I cut the larger ones in half so I could fit more and make sure everything pickles the same way. A basic rule of cooking is that everything needs to be generally the same size when doing preparations like this.

As far as spices and other flavors, this is the stage that you add it. For these pickles, I put in, per jar:

  • A single peeled coin of ginger
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 10 whole peppercorns
  • 2 allspice berries
You can change these around by adding any spices you like. To make a more Asian-inspired pickle, for example, try, per jar:

  • 1/2 tsp schezuan peppercorn
  • 2 ginger coins
  • 1/4 tsp orange peel
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
Either way, put your choice spices in the bottom of the jars before you add in your produce, so that way they won't all float to the top when you add the brine. Pack your jars as tightly as possible, while still leaving some head room to breathe...this means that the threads on the jar's lip should be free of liquid and that little half-inch from the top is where you stop filling.

Process your jars accordingly. If you're using the old-fashioned boiling method, like I do, I let them boil for 15 minutes straight, evacuate, and then allow to hang out overnight on the nice wood butcher's block, undisturbed. Pressure canning takes 12 minutes, but please be careful when operating a pressure cooker, and always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Once your jars are dry, your seals are assuredly tight, and everything looks hunky-dory, label your jars. You can use a dry-erase marker on the top of the lid or print out labels for yourself. I've go these great labels that I use for my apple butter, and you can find the template on most word processing programs if you buy the printer paper at an electronics store...or, of course, online. Even if you simply hand write your label and tie it around the jar's top, make sure you have the date on it. These will hang out just fine for up to six months on your shelf...but please refrigerate once you've opened them.

Happy canning, happy cooking, and happy eating!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Butternut Squash Muffins

Want more pictures? Follow me on Instagram @WannaBGourmande!
Fall is here and my inner Basic Bitch is going bananas. (Follow my favorite tag #basicbitchesunite on instagram) Pumpkin Spice is King during these fabulous months, and his lovely Queen Apple Cider reigns benevolently at his side. That being said, there are more than enough fruits and vegetables to go around during this time of year that you can consume to maintain your seasonal lifestyle.

Things that are in season, in America, this Fall:

  • Apples
  • Beets
  • Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts
  • Cranberries
  • Pears
  • Persimmons
    • Here in Kansas City, you can find the wild ones!
  • Pomegranates 
    • Persephone Returns to her Husband, Hades!
  • Squash of all varieties
  • Pawpaws
    • True American Fruit!
  • Chinese long beans
    • These are AMAZING on the grill!
  • Okra
  • Green beans
  • Quince
    • Important: Cook these for jams and jellies...they are inedible while raw!
  • Sweet potatoes
I personally have found everything except for the pomegranates at my local farmers market. Since I work at a farmer's market, too, I often get the pick of the litter in exchange for cookies or a loaf of bread. Bartering between market stall owners is honestly the main way I get groceries nowadays. I, of course, shop at wholesale stores for my bakery, Pistachio Bakehouse, but I barely go to the grocery store every other week for myself, mostly for toiletries and dog food. Otherwise, I barter with my farmers for produce and I go to The Local Pig(famously local butcher in Kansas City) for my meats and eggs. 

Cooking and eating seasonally is a challenge, and I'd be a jerk to say otherwise. I'm fortunate enough to live in the Midwest, where everything grows. I won't be so lucky in the winter, so I'll have to find alternative methods of finding food, but until then I'm sure I can find a way.

There's been a plethora of butternut squash around me as of late, and I just adore it. Squash is a fabulous food full of potassium and high amounts of fiber, making it a great choice for your heart and bones. You can roast it in chunks, but I find that it's much more versatile in the puree form, especially because this is how you use it for pies, cakes, muffins, etc. Here's how to roast it for puree:

We got these from a local farmer, since mine didn't turn out so great this year...
 Cut your squash in half using a big fukken knife and score in hatch marks using a smaller knife. Scoop out the seeds and, if you're a gardener, too, set aside to wash them free from the pulp and let dry for planting next season. (This does take some work, but it's an investment of time now to pay off later in spades.) I had about ten squash to work with, but simply use this formula:

Per 1 Medium Squash:

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 oz(4 Tbsp) butter, really really soft
  • Two or three nice sage leaves from the garden
Rub the sage leaves a few times between your palms to release the oils. Rub the butter all over the fleshy side of the squash, then rub in the sage and salt. Roast first at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Turn the heat down to 325 and then continue roasting for another 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and then cover with aluminum foil. Let set for about 15 minutes, or until cool enough to handle with your hands. 
dat color tho

Scoop out the squash from its skin and pop it in a blender/food processor, and puree until smooth. You can pop this mixture into mason jars and can it for later use, or you can use some now for muffins! This is makes and exceptionally delicious spice cake and it's just lovely with a hot tea or a cold morning. 

Butternut Squash Spice Muffins
Adapted from Quick Breads by Liz Franklin


  • 320 g Cake flour
  • 1 tsp Baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 200 g brown sugar
  • 100 ml Maple syrup
  • 50 g coconut oil
  • 50 g olive oil
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp Rum extract(optional, but yummy!)
  • 150 g butternut squash puree
  • Strusel topping, if desired
Strusel Topping
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, soft
Make your strusel first by combining all ingredients in the bowl of your standing mixer and blending with the dough hook until it all comes together when you take a handful and squeeze it in your fist. You can set this aside in a separate container, in the refrigerator, for up to a month. Make sure you write the date using a piece of tape and a sharpie! Organization will set you free...

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. 

Combine your dry ingredients (flour, spices, baking soda, salt, brown sugar) in the bowl of the standing mixer and mix to combine with the paddle attachment. Add in your fat and stir for about a minute, until the mixture is sort of crumbly-looking. Add in your liquid ingredients(maple syrup, extract, eggs, and squash) all at once and stir until everything comes together, but do not over-mix. It's 10000000% okay if the mixture is lumpy, just be sure to scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl once more before popping it in your mold.

This recipe makes a very nice loaf cake for your eating pleasure, but I much prefer to have them in individual muffins, lined with paper. The reason I don't just spray the bejeezus out of a muffin tin and pop in my batter? Well, there are a few...

This recipe is what is known as a quickbread, and therefore "rises quickly." In order for it to get a nice top, the batter has to be able to climb the sides and stick to them so it expands as it bakes. If I were to spray the pan, my batter would release easily from the sides after baked, sure, but they'd be sadly short and muffin-top-less. If I have a loaf pan, I'll simply spray and then flour, so that it'll both be easy to release but the batter will have something to cling on to as it rises, resulting in lovely, even bubbles and a light, fluffy muffin. 

Here's a little naughty Chef's trick: After I've panned my batter(put it in the pans), I let it sit for about 5 minutes while the oven gets up to temperature. Quickbreads are meant to be quick, yes, but baking soda is activated by both moisture and acid. Since this is a fairly low-acid recipe, you have a little leeway to let those flour granules soak up some of that lovely moisture from the eggs and squash. Sugar is also highly hygroscopic, so the high amount in this recipe helps you keep this muffin moist anyway....but why go halfway when you could go all the way by letting it rest?

Once my batter is panned and rested, and my oven heated, then go ahead and sprinkle on that yummy strusel topping, if you're using it, and bake. Set your timer for 25 minutes and then check them with a toothpick. If you're super-precise like me, you should temp your cakes/breads/quickbreads at about 200 degrees F with a thermometer. Mine took about 27 minutes in my oven at home, but your oven will likely behave differently.

Allow the quickbread to cool for about 15 minutes before removing from the pan, and then cool completely before cutting into it. Enjoy it with some warm apple cider and an infinity scarf while you drag your boyfriend Jeremy to the apple orchard.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Snowy Mountain Cupcakes

A photo posted by Kolika of Pistachio Bakehouse (@wannabgourmande) on

I had an idea about hidden design cupcakes: Can I actually do them, or are they just going to be a huge pinterest fail?

It turns out that I can, and it's not as hard as I thought they would be.

I had the idea of doing a rainy day cupcake because of the recent flooding that happened in Westport, a neighborhood in Kansas City. The cupcakes sold really well at the farmer's market, and - in an attempt to blog more often - I've decided to show you how I did it!

Take your favorite white cake recipe(boxed is fine, if  you prefer) or use mine here as the base. This will make 24 nice cupcakes. I've modified my own recipe to become dairy-free by using coconut milk and coconut oil instead. I've also made a very simple coconut oil buttercream for these particular cupcakes, but as long as your buttercream is white, it'll work.

Rainy day cupcakes! I couldn’t bake real rain into a cupcake, but some blue food coloring and sprinkles almost do the trick! To make your own, just add a couple drops of blue food coloring or food gel to 1/3 of your favorite vanilla cake batter....
Find the "how to" here
The original idea was to recreate this picture, but I couldn't find the blue jimmies at Prydes. I went with these wonderful white, all-natural sprinkles and chose to do a snowy storm scene instead. I'd keep the white cake batter plain and use that as a sort of snowy field/mountain, and then have a gray sky with white snowdrops/raindrops.

I took a rounded teaspoon of white batter and popped it into each of my cupcake liners. I chose a shiny, royal blue liner because - hey - it's Kansas City, and I left the dollop sort of rounded and peaked because I wanted it to look like a mountain.

The remainder of the batter got a tiny schmear each of Wilton royal blue and Wilton black gel dyes. Swirled together, it created a cool, stormy gray. I folded in lots of the white sprinkles. The all-natural ones are likely better for you, but they honestly didn't show up in the batter as well as your typical sugar-coated sprinkles found at the grocery store might. I would have liked them to have shown up more, but I'm honestly not heart-broken about it, as the end result turned out quite well!

When baked, the cupcakes had a handsome dome top. As always, you should allow to cool completely before icing.

To create the rounded 'cloud' icing, simply fill a disposable piping bag with your white buttercream(or coconut oil frosting) and snip off the tip to create a flat, round, medium-sized opening. You can also use a medium-to-large round tip for this application if you have a cloth piping bag...just use what you have available!

Simply make large dots at random on the top of the cupcake to make it look like a cloud. You can be free and creative at this point, as clouds don't always look the same. When you cut open your cupcake, you'll have a snowy mountain scene, sure to delight your friends! You could even organize a bake sale to raise funds for the Baton Rouge flood victims and do some domestic help, and bake these for them...you know, ironically?

As always, thank you for reading. Happy baking and happy eating!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Eating Better Broke

Hi, friends!

Since I've been the literal worst with publishing posts regularly, I figured I could get back into the swing of it with something easy:

A lifestyle blog entry!

Personally, I tend to dislike the mainstream lifestyle blog scene. It's all about juice cleanses(which have been debunked) or detoxing or taking vitamin supplements or veganism saving the planet...and while I think it's all well enough, I don't think it's a reputable practice that actually does any good for you. Here's a few quick facts:

  • Detoxing isn't a thing. Your body does that on its own just fine.
  • Liquid diets don't cleanse your colon--your colon cleanses your colon just fine already
  • Bloating is a real thing and is caused by a number of factors
  • Taking vitamins for deficiencies are great, but taking them just because isn't
    • Your body pees out any excess vitamins it doesn't need, so if you're fine...you're literally pissing away your money on those things
  • Veganism is great, but it's not THE end-all/be-all for the planet, although it would certainly help if more people adopted a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle, at least a few times a week
Another thing I tend to dislike about the healthy eating/mainstream lifestyle bloggers is that it's completely unrealistic for, say, your average millennial to keep up with, financially speaking. I've rambled on about the economics of eating healthier in several blog posts, but here's the big thing:

A salad costs $7 and a cheap-ass burger full of fillers and preservatives costs $0.99. 

Please don't write another article on obesity in children or general American obesity until somebody fixes this. Eating healthy is expensive, and the American economy isn't great right now. Until then, here are some ways that you can eat better for free(or for cheap AF)...

Grow a Garden
Tomatoes, in all shapes and sizes...
Sometimes, you'll get weird
Mickey-Mouse potatoes.
Seriously, you can do this. Even if you live in an apartment, invest in a window box. Salad greens will grow year-round indoors with a fair amount of sun from a window and a fairly temperate climate. Greens such as beets, kohlrabi, spinach, etc. actually prefer cooler climates, and that's why they're known as winter crops. You can also grow tomato plants indoors or on a balcony, as well as potatoes. Seriously! There are many ways to do potato towers in tubs, and you can do it in tiny spaces!

I realize that it may not be a sustainable idea for many, but for the parts of the year where you can just snip out a quick salad from your salad garden box for dinner will save you so much money. There was a point earlier this spring where I didn't go to the grocery store for over two weeks, and we were eating almost exclusively everything that came out of the garden. 

Now that summer's going and winter is upon us, we're eating a lot of potatoes, all grown in a 2'x2' space. Potatoes are like weeds--they'll grow anywhere and they'll grow abundantly. 

If you have more space, try things like corn, beans, squash... You'll eat for free, and you'll eat well. You'll also be able to say that you grew that yourself, and have the satisfaction of doing it. I cannot express how easy gardening can be, and how satisfying it absolutely is, especially if you have young children to sit in the garden and help you out with it. 

If you can grow pumpkins, you can even carve the ones you grew for Halloween!
Gardening is a fantastic outdoor activity for children, especially for the brand of those that just love playing around in the dirt. Another fun thing I've discovered about gardening with children: it almost negates picky eaters. I've found that those which are picky eaters are more afraid of what the food is because they don't understand it. If a kid nurtures and loves a cauliflower plant to harvest, it's way more likely that they'll eat it!

Visit a Farmer's Market

Most farmer's markets take cash and card at this point, and you'll be able to get quite a bit from them. The vegetables that farmers grow are so much cheaper than at the grocery store, and you know where they came from...locally. Most farmers are glad to tell you their places of operation, and you'll actually get to see the faces of those you're supporting. Win!

Another great reason to visit a farmer's market is that you can talk to people that know about the food, who will also tell you how to cook the food, which is a struggle that many deal with. Most of the vendors that come through the market I work at will want to buy healthy ingredients, but hardly know what to do with it when they get home. I'm a chef, and I'm constantly learning.

One of the farmers at my market traded me some Chinese Yardlong beans for a few of my muffins, and I honestly had no clue what to do with them. My instinct was to stir-fry it, but he told me to try them grilled... Surprise! They're fantastic when grilled! I never would have thought to grill that particular vegetable, but I'm really glad that I did. 

That particular bunch of yardlong beans were free, but I could have had those for $2, and it was a lot of them. You can get a ridiculous amount of produce for under $10, and if you learn to pop together a few quick things in the right ways, you'll eat much better.

Switch Soda for Water...or Make Your Own!

Ginger Bug soda is chock-full of naturally fermented probiotic goodness, and is really great for your health... I've talked about it before, and even blogged about it. Learn how to make your own ginger bug soda here and here!

Fermented foods are good for you. Pickles, sauerkraut, natural soda...it's all good for you, and here's why:

Your gut bacteria is unique to you. People only share 1/3 of their bacteria with others--as in,  you have 2/3 gut bacteria makeup that is 100% unique to you, sort of like a fingerprint. The reason you crave sugary foods is because you, likely, have the gut bacteria that makes you crave it.

Yeast bacteria crave sugar, so when you tend to eat a lot of sugar, the bacteria that love that stuff will grow. They'll be happy, living in your gut, and send signals to your brain that say: "Hey! We're hungry! Send down some more M&Ms!" I realize, of course, that it's an extremely trite anthropomorphized version of what actually goes on, but that's how I explain it.

Long story short, your guts will crave what you feed them. If you starve your gut bacteria of excess sugar,  you'll stop craving it after a few days. If you feed them veggies and leafy greens instead, however, you will probably hate your life for the first three days, but after a week you will crave all of that green goodness. I'm not joking. Canned sodas made with corn syrup and carbonation make me queasy now, and I once had a friend make me feel better from a horrible tummy ache with a pile of steamed broccoli. Yes. That's a real thing that happened to me. 

Oh, and this ginger soda? It's better for you, and cheaper than what you probably pay in the grocery store already.