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Friday, February 26, 2016

Gardening: Planting Glass Gem Corn

I've realized that I'm more of a Lifestyle blog versus a food blog. But isn't food, arguably, a lifestyle? Not just the act of eating food, but the growing of food and the appreciation of food...isn't that all a big part of it? Eh?

Well, either way, I'm a big fan of growing my own food. I've gotten several different types of seeds this year, and the one I'm most excited about is Glass Gem Corn.

snagged from OurLittleAcre.Blogspot.com!
Isn't that the most-beautiful stuff you've ever seen?? I grew corn last year with some success, but now that I've learned a bit from my mistakes and have a more manageable plot of land, I can more easily grow it. We've had an unseasonably warm and dry winter, so it's been quite easy for me to till and work the land so far. I've been prepping my garden plot for about a month now, adding in mulch, plant food/fertilizer, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc. My ground has plenty of worms in it, so I'm definitely happy about that. As we all know, earthworms are the friends of the garden. Seeing them is a great sign, so please do what you can to protect them: have lots of food(dead leaves) and release your dog often into the yard to chase away the fat robins that threaten to snatch them up.

This is a police sketch of the fat robin in my yard that eats my worms.
I will get him someday. 

Like most of my plants, I start them indoors. I like to use egg shells and seed starters, as they're both biodegradable. For corn, I'm using the egg shells, as corn likes super rich soil. You usually direct sow corn into the plot you want them in, but I'm cheating a bit.

Since I want a lot of corn to take this year, I'm planting little bits of it in several different parts of my yard. I've planted some in the garden plot, some in the side box by my house, some by my fence, and some indoors, in my egg shells. I really want lots of corn this year, so I'd rather have too much than not enough!

To start corn indoors(which you may as well do, since it's that time of year), take egg shells that have been cracked and then peel out the membrane. Allow this to dry for a little(at least an hour) before using, as we don't want mold forming. Fill the shells with your readied topsoil/garden soil and ready your seeds. I'm using the glass gem corn seeds and I like to let my seeds soak for about 10-15 minutes in lukewarm water to sort of start that germination period.

A photo posted by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on

My corn seed's packets say that it has a 105 day germination period, which means it'll take about 3.5 months for me to have any corn. Looking at the calendar, that means I should have corn around the 15th of June. That's quite a long time, so it's a good thing I've got a head start. When planning a garden, you really must plan far ahead. Look at your packets, look at your tables, look at your almanacs online...you really can't have too much information on the subject.

I always do half of my seeds with one seed per egg and then the other half with two seeds per egg. I think it's because I'm curious to see if they all take. If they do, I simply thin them when they're ready to go. I love using the egg cartons because they're great incubators for seeds...simply water, close the top, and leave in a sunny window for a day or so. Once the seeds sprout, open up the top and let the sun do its work, watering when the dirt feels dry. Once the seedlings have actually taken root(takes a few days), go ahead and set them outside, if the weather permits.

I hope you guys enjoyed my blog entry on growing corn. Check out my other Gardening blogs here! Happy cooking & happy eating!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Black Truffle Caramels

I have a partnership with The Tasteful Olive in downtown Overland Park, KS. I sometimes do classes there, but mostly I get swag...in exchange for writing a few recipes using said swag. Considering starting your own business won't turn me a profit for about two or three years, this is a pretty sweet deal(pun intended). I get my hands on fine ingredients and I get to experiment at my secret foodie workshop with everything else at my disposal; this is very fun and I absolutely adore doing it.

Being on a sweets fix as of late, I thought about using this black truffle sea salt(with nice little truffle chunks from Italy) in brownies, but I was afraid that chocolate would overpower their delicate-yet-sock-like flavor. Truffles are that sort of ooky-nasty-umami-ish flavor that you just can't describe, and I wanted it to shine. My favorite ways to have black truffles are with soft-poached eggs or with potatoes, but I truly think that savory ingredients have a good place with sweets. Here's how to make my Black Truffle Salted Caramels.

Black Truffle Caramels

  • 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup plus three tablespoons white sugar(8 oz, by weight)
  • 2/3 cups water
  • 1 tsp black truffle sea salt plus more for the top
  • 2 Tbsp local honey
  • 2 1/2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp truffle oil**
Butter a sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper and line a sheet pan with it. You can use a loaf pan for higher sides, or just a plain old cookie sheet for thin caramel wafers...it's really whatever you like.

Measure our your sugar, water, vinegar, and black truffle salt into a saucepot. Bring it to a boil. Simply let it cook, without stirring it, if you please, until it turns a golden color. Turn off your burner and swirl the mixture around. The carryover heat will allow you to let it come to a deep amber color with a little less fear. 

Glob in the honey when the color has reached this stage to stop the cooking. Next, pop in your butter and truffle oil, if you're using it, and stir using a wooden spoon. Wood is an excellent tool for making candy, as it doesn't conduct heat well. Stir the bejeezus out of it until all of the butter and oil has dissolved into the caramel and turned silky. Scrape your caramel into the prepared(and well-greased) molds. Sure, you can just dump it onto a silpat mat and shape it using candy rulers, but not everyone has those, so I prefer to use what everyone may have in the cabinets.

Once your caramels are in the mold of your choice, simply let set and sprinkle with plenty more black truffle salt. I used a little less than half a teaspoon on the top, but you can add more. I love a little salty with my sweet, and I simply adore this recipe.

Let cool entirely before you cut into squares! Happy cooking, happy eating, and visit The Tasteful Olive. Oh, and follow me on Instagram.

A photo posted by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Lemon Basil Gingerbug Soda

While I run my own business and work several other jobs to keep the lights on, I've decided to make 2016 the year of living my best life. I think all 20-somethings eventually come to this point in their lives where they realize that growing up means something, and it's not always what you think. As a 27-year-old female Chef in the USA, I feel that growing up is what you make it; it's handling your own business and being grown up to realize that "growing up" doesn't mean "no more fun."

Being an adult just means handling your business; paying your bills, maintaining your house, etc. It doesn't mean going to bed at 7:30 or no more binge-drinking(although you shouldn't binge-anything, to be honest). Being an adult just means taking care of number one and making your own choices about it. I love being an adult, and as an adult with no kids, I get to do literally anything I want, whenever I want to(so long as I get to work on time and feed my animals, of course). 

Part of living my healthier lifestyle is cutting out soda. Now, I mostly drink water and coffee, with the occasional tea drink now and then, but if I want soda, I make my own. When I make my own soda, I ensure that there's zero salt and no sign of excess sugar anywhere, and it's all made through natural fermentation.

Fermentation has been around since about the dawn of civilization, and we basically owe everything to it. Everything we know from ancient Rome's garum to the fermented soy and rice of Asian cultures has been there since the beginning. When water was (generally) unsafe to drink, fermented drinks like beer and rice wine were there to hydrate our early ancestors, and we likely wouldn't have survived to be blogging on the internet about it had we not had it. Natural fermentation is such a wonderfully healthy way to enjoy a fizzy beverage, and you won't believe how easy it is.

First, you'll need a ginger bug. the recipe for which you can find on my blog about ginger beer. It's basically equal parts(by volume) organic ginger, sugar, and water. Oh, and don't use stevia or coconut sugar--it's about the yeast eating, not you at this point. Once that sits in a warm-ish place for a day or so, you'll begin to see fizz forming. You'll want to feed it sugar at least once a week, of course, along with some more water and ginger here and there, but it generally stays alive quite easily.

Image courtesy of some page on Etsy, which was
curiously lacking a Sad Etsy Boyfriend...
Once you have a ginger bug established, you can use it any time to create a soda of your choice. The first thing you need for your soda is a bottle, or some kind of resealable container for it. I use these Geyer Freres glass bottles that are just perfect for this kind of thing. They have what's called a "swing top" that allow you to reseal the bottle and keep a consistent temperature to the liquid inside(glass is an awesome insulator). If you have a bunch of 2-litre plastic soda bottles, though, lying around, I don't see why you can't use those either--because recycling is good! If you have neither, you can get glass swing-top bottles on Amazon for under $20 with little hassle. 

Next comes sterilization, which is as easy as running them through a dishwasher. You can boil your bottles if you have a big enough pot, but I've honestly never had any sort of problem with contaminants in my sodas/gingerbeers yet. Once your bottles are sterilized, you're ready to begin with your recipe.

Lemon Basil Soda
  • 1/2 cup strained ginger bug
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp organic honey(ideally local)
  • 5 or six leaves dried basil from your garden(or a scant tablespoon, if using store-bought)
    • You can also use fresh basil--simply crush about 8 nice big leaves with the back of a wooden spoon and add
  • Zest & juice of one large lemon
  • 4 cups water
You can also let the sugar and zest sit together for awhile to really pull out the oils...you know,
if you aren't in a hurry or anything.
Combine the sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, basil, and honey with the water and bring to a boil. Don't worry if any of the lemon's pulp gets into the pot; same with the seeds...you'll be straining it all out later!

Protip: when squeezing a lemon for juice, roll it on your counter to break up the segments within...you'll get more juice than you think possible!

Reduce your liquid to a gentle simmer for about 3 minutes, then remove from the heat. Let the mixture steep for about 40- 45 minutes, then strain. I have a pour-over drip coffee aparatus that I use to make sodas, when set with a wire mesh strainer, but use whatever you can to get the big solids out of your liquid. 

When your liquid has cooled to about body temperature, funnel in your liquid along with the strained ginger bug, into your glass bottles. I use a larger bottle, about 1 litre, for mine, so that fills the bottle up to nearly the top. If you want to make this into more of a lemon-basil-gingerbeer, you can pinch the tiniest amount of dry yeast into the bottom of the bottle, or brewer's yeast, if you have that lying around.

Let your bottle sit on the counter for 3-5 days to allow the fermentation. It won't hurt for you to un-pop your bottle to let out some of that carbonation once per day, either, or things could get...erm...

Yeah. Kinda like that.

While you could put this in the fridge once you're satisfied with the fizz-level, I like to leave it out on the counter and simply pour over ice when I want something chilled. I find that the constant temperature of 70 degrees in my house is just fine for keeping soda relatively refreshing. And, remember, this soda has ZERO SALT in it. When was the last time you looked on your coke can and saw zero sodium on it?

I hope you are now inspired to make your own soda at home! You can use this formula for many flavors of soda...honestly, I've used this sort of ratio to make kool-aid into soda before, with excellent results. But do try to keep it organic and natural, will you? The idea of this is to keep yourself trim without busting your wallet in the process.

Oh, and follow me on Instagram if you aren't already! Happy cooking and happy eating(and drinking)!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Sourdough Boule

Are you getting sick of the gluten-free stuff I've been posting? Are you ready for some gluten-packed stuff? Good. Me, too. Here's how you can make your own sourdough bread, that's excellent for grilled cheese sandwiches, french toast, or just plain with jam.

Sourdough is really time-consuming. Seriously, if you want a bread tonight, try the braided basil bread instead. You'll need some special-ish techniques and ingredients in this recipe, and I've (unfortunately) not found a shortcut for this particular product. Oh, well! Here we go...

A sourdough is traditionally made with what's known as a poolish. A poolish is a sort of yeasty starter that's admittedly time-consuming, but you'll really want to cultivate your own starter if you're serious about baking your own breads in the long-term. I have my own mother dough that sits in my fridge, just sitting in its own fermented juices of deliciousness, waiting to impart some beautiful flavor into any breads I might make. To make your own mother dough, simply follow these instructions:

Mother Dough

  • 300 g all-purpose flour
  • 300 g warm water(body temperature)
  • A pinch of dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp organic honey**
Simply mix all ingredients in a tupperware container and let sit in a relatively warm place for 24 hours, undisturbed. When you check on it, the yeast should have activated and started to bubble and grow. Now, you must feed it, as it is a living thing. 

Feed your mother dough the first time with 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, stirring to combine, and then leaving to set overnight. The next day, feed it with 1/4 warm water and about a teaspoon of sugar. Repeat this process for four days, until you're sure you have a living, breathing, cultivated thing. Store this baby in the fridge when you aren't using it, or it will die.

Sourdough Boule
makes one boule

  • 400 g mother dough
  • 500 g bread flour
  • 25 g sugar
  • 1 free range egg, room temperature
  • 325 g water at body temperature
  • 5 g yeast
  • 8 g kosher salt
  • Cornmeal, A/N
Place your flour, salt, sugar, and yeast into the bowl of a standing mixer and stir to combine all. Make a well in the middle of the flour  mixture and dump in your water, your mother dough, and egg, and then mix everything together using the dough hook attachment for your mixer. The dough will be a little sticky at first, but it will come together in the end. You'll let this knead for about 10 minutes, or until it passes the windowpane test(as depicted in Braided Basil Bread). Scrape up your dough in your hands and drop into a well-lubricated bowl and cover. 

Now, here's the trick: if you don't mind waiting awhile, let this proof (double in size) in the fridge for a couple of days. I'm not joking; this takes two days, but the result will be an unbelievably complex and delicious flavor, absolutely worthy of being called sourdough. You can also simply cover with plastic wrap and let it sit on the kitchen counter overnight. Its not a dough that's a quick-riser anyway, so you may as well start this the night before you actually want it.

Once your dough has doubled in size, punch it down and shape it into a bowl-shape. You now have a couple of options with your final proof... With the first method: vigorously flour a tea towel and set it on the inside of a large bowl. Now set your nicely formed ball of dough into said towel and let proof until doubled again. (Yes, I know, more waiting.) If you don't have a tea towel, use a vigorously-floured paper towel set on the inside of the bowl. You'll want to do this to get that signature boule shape(which literally means bowl). The other option is that you just let it set in a well-lubricated dutch oven(or large casserole dish) and let proof. The bread is ready to bake when it is gently pressed with the index finger and the dough springs back.

Bread scoring patterns have been used for many
things, such as showing a baker's signature style,
or even marking breads to tell the different types apart!
Heat your oven to a scorching 450 degrees. While that's heating, find a sheet pan that you like. Dust the "top" of your boule with plenty of cornmeal and put the pan over the top. Carefully flip over your boule so that the bowl is upside down on your now right-side-up sheet pan. Carefully peel away your towel to expose the bread beneath. Take the sharpest knife you own and score a few slashes in the top. These can be random, in shapes, or just simple slashes across the whole top.

When you are absolutely certain that your oven is screaming hot, prepare for some magic.

You know how baguettes have that signature crispy-hard crust on their breads? The secret is steam. Some commercial ovens have steam-injection features, but 99% of us poor slobs cannot afford that awesome luxury, so we just have to make due with this little trick:

In your screaming hot oven, chuck a pie-tin FULL of ice into the bottom of the oven, underneath your bread as it bakes. Slam that oven door shut and reduce your heat to 400 degrees and let that bake for about 20 minutes. Once that timer's finished, reduce the heat to 350 and let that continue to bake for another 30 minutes, or until the bread has reached an internal temperature of 200 degrees F. (Invest in a thermometer; they're really cheap on amazon.com.)

Remove your bread from the oven and let cool before slicing into. If you used a dutch oven to cook your bread, remove it form the pan so as not to ruin your beautiful crust while it cools. You'll actually want to flip this and cool it upside down so that the bottom is exposed to the air. If you have a cooling rack, even better. This crust needs air to breathe, and cannot be soggy on the bottom, no sir!

Your resulting bread should be a fantastic creation, a child of patience and an exercise in your will to learn. Like I said, this bread takes a long time, but the resulting product is absolutely worth it in the end. While you could buy sourdough bread, you'll not feel the same kind of satisfaction you do when you make your own, especially for something as time-consuming as this.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sweetheart Brownies

A photo posted by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on

So February 13th is, apparently, National Breakup Day. I don't really know how to feel about that, but it's still nice to learn something, isn't it?

Have a picture of a Sweetheart Brownie, courtesy of my new bakery, Pistachio Bakehouse. If you want to buy some of my stuff, just head to Pistachio Bakehouse's Facebook page and send a message! Thanks, guys, and happy eating!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Gluten-Free Lemon Pudding Cake

When planning a loving night out, or loving night in, the biggest mistake is overeating on such a decadent feast, that you are sometimes too full to *(ahem)* celebrate later with your partner. Instead of a triple-decker chocolate lava cake topped with forty chocolate-covered strawberries, may I suggest a lighter, more refreshing, yet just as tasty lemon pudding cake? This tasty treat is a self-saucing pudding that would make even Mary Berry happy.

As always, this recipe is in grams, because you should really get a digital scale if you plan on baking, and nothing is more comforting than knowing your baked goods will turn out exactly the same because you're measuring properly. This particular recipe is gluten-free but can be made with wheat flour if you like. This is delicious, satisfies the sweet tooth, is so simple to create, and is light enough that you won't feel bloated at the end of the night. Once again, this is a dish that you can create for you and your slew of single girlfriends, or for you and your lover. Or for just you, as you binge-watch The Great British Bake Off on Netflix. I don't really judge.

Lemon Pudding Cake
Most glassware can be used to bake in for single
portions! Isn't that exciting?
Adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe, serves 6(or just one big one)

  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • 150 g (about 3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • Zest & juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup/8 fl oz whole milk(you can also use cashew milk, if you like)
  • 28 g butter, melted
  • 70 g (1/2 cup-ish) brown rice flour
  • 1 fat pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp citrus liqueur(Cointreau, etc.)**
  • Fresh berries for garnish
  • Powdered sugar, as needed, for dusting
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and decide what kind of containers you'd like to use. I used these cute little tumbler glasses from IKEA for my personal portion puddings, smeared with a little butter or coconut oil. I also had this big souffle dish that I love to use for this kind of thing, so just one big one of those is perfectly fine. Next, you'll want to set up a water bath for these, so find a baking pan that has at least 2" high sides that you can set your dishes in. (Don't worry, I'll explain how to do a water bath for these a little later.)

Place your egg whites and about half your sugar into the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment. Meanwhile, take the remaining sugar, the egg yolks, the lemon zest, lemon juice, liqueur(optional) and whisk together in a separate bowl until light and lemon-colored. Add in the flour, stir to combine(it'll be difficult with the whisk, but will be okay) and then about half the milk to make smooth. You want a really smooth paste at this stage before adding the rest of the milk. Don't worry about overmixing too much, because it's all rice flour, so no gluten! 

The batter is going to be really thin. That's okay!
With your butter melted, go ahead and stir that in using the whisk, trying to get that as evenly distributed as possible. If you like, you can set this batter in the fridge to let the rice flour granules soak up that moisture, until you're ready to bake. This is a very easy recipe to make ahead, which might be fun for a date night idea or activity to do with your friends.

Whip your egg whites to a stiff peak. This means that you whip, using your whisk attachment until the mixture has about tripled in volume, is very shiny, and holds a peak when turned upside-down. You've over-whipped it if it's dry, and sort of breaks apart, but it's easy to fix by just whipping in one more egg white until smooth and shiny.

See how shiny that is? It's holding it's little "hills" in the bowl, which tells you it's time to check it.

Ooooh, do I have a stiff peak? Yes, I do!
When you have a very nice stiff peak, as shown above, go ahead and mix about a third of that into your very-very-very wet batter. Start off with a dollop at first, and just whisk in, to lighten it. Then take a spatula and fold the rest in, about a third at a time, just making sure that you have minimal white streaks.

It's going to seem like an impossible task to thicken up this mixture when your batter is so wet, but it'll turn into a very light and delightful little batter when it's all done.

With your batter all together in one big bowl, pour it into your chosen baking vessels. I made a double-batch, so I chose to do both. In nine little cups from IKEA, I evenly distributed my batter to about two-thirds of the way full, and then poured the rest into my big souffle dish. You can do it all in one big dish or in many small dishes, depending on your preference. This batter is very pourable so you shouldn't have an issue at all. 

When you've got your batter in your baking vessels, you're ready to make your water bath. Place your baking vessel into a larger vessel that has somewhat high sides. Then open your oven door and place the entire apparatus into the middle rack of your preheated oven. Take some water and pour into the larger vessel, so that the water level comes up to about halfway up the sides of your cake vessel. Close the oven door then let bake for about 25-30 minutes.

When done, turn off the oven and crack open the door. Let that sit open for 5 minutes, then remove from oven entirely and let sit on the counter, out of the water bath, for another 5. 

SAFETY NOTE: If you're cooking using glass, please be careful of sudden temperature change. Do not sit your glass containers on a cold countertop, as it may shatter. Set it, instead, on a pot-holder, a warm towel, a cutting board, etc., and try to keep any cool surfaces away from it. 

I love this recipe because it's a perfect party food to serve to guests with dietary restrictions that are likely tired of tasteless cakes. Everybody loves lemon-flavored cakes and treats! You can serve this warm, or let chill in the fridge until you're ready...but be aware that it might sink just a little if cold. To serve, run a knife or small offset spatula around the edges to release and put a plate over the top. Flip over to let the pudding fall onto the plate, and then you've got your beautiful self-saucing pudding, ready to be garnished with fresh berries and powdered sugar.

Of course, eating this plain is just fine with me, too. Happy cooking and happy eating!