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Showing posts with label kansas city. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kansas city. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Fermented Habanero Hot Sauce

 



Fermented Habanero Hot Sauce

yields 1 qt hot sauce

  • 1 pint of organic habanero peppers
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 c apple cider vinegar, plus more for after the fermentation process
  • 1 1/2 c unchlorinated water
  • 2 Tbsp organic fresh ginger, finely chopped
Please note: It's actually important to get organic stuff because it's absolutely guaranteed to ferment, whereas it's not always a guarantee with the stuff that's had pesticides. 

I'd like to tell you now, at the beginning of the recipe, that the most important ingredient in this recipe is time. At least 2 weeks is required, but the longer you let this ferment, the better it will taste. You can ferment this for up to 6 months, but I personally prefer a 3-month ferment. You can plan accordingly, now that you know what kind of time table you're about to have on your hands. Are you still interested? Great! Let's continue...

Clean your peppers and set up a cutting board, ideally a flexible plastic one that can immediately go in the wash. I also advise you to use gloves and to make a conscious effort to not touch your face, eyes, ears, or any other sensitive areas until you've washed your hands thoroughly during the hot pepper chopping process. Make sure you also wash your utensils immediately after you do all of this chopping!

To prepare your peppers, simply remove the stems from your habaneros and roughly chop so that they're all the same size. Peel and chop the ginger, quite finely. Add this to your favorite fermenting croc jar and toss it all with the sugar. If you don't have a good lidded ceramic croc jar, use a mason jar that you can have in a place that's away from direct sunlight. Let this sit for about 10 minutes. 



Pour the water-vinegar mixture over your peppers, then stir well with a metal spoon. Make sure that you have enough liquid to submerge your peppers in their entirety, or they might spoil! All that's required of you now is to cover the jar and wait! Do yourself a favor and set yourself a calendar reminder every week, around the same time, to stir and check on your fermentation.


This is my favorite fermentation jar. I made it.


I'm so lucky to have this gorgeous ceramic jar to ferment my goodies in, but it's absolutely fine if you have a few clean mason jars lying around the kitchen to use! If you have a screw-top jar, you're going to want to 'burb' your mixture every few days by unscrewing the top and allowing any gas to escape. You're really going to want to do this. You don't want to clean up an exploded hot sauce glass jar from your cabinet. Just save yourself the trouble. 

Special note: when you check your pepper mixture after a week or so, you may see a sort of white film on the top of your mixture. This is called kahm yeast. It is not mold, nor is it harmful. This is rather sour, though, so you may want to skim it off the top and discard it!


While we're waiting, shall we talk about hot peppers? 

Most every continent has native capsicum, and the Americas are no different. Peppers are actually native to tropical America, which means anything near the equator and south of.  It's actually quite fun to look up all the peppers that are native to where you are from! Peppers are berries, and they're quite easy to grow in warm climates. If you have a cooler climate, you'll really get the best yield out of them by growing them in a greenhouse or inside in containers in a sunny window. I personally have better luck with most peppers by keeping them in hanging baskets by my window, even in winter. Read all about that in my victory garden post!




I'd very much like to take credit for the number of peppers in this particular brew, but it's actually from a dear friend of mine. I'm partnering with my good friend Alicia, and the rest of the wonderful people at the KC Farm School at Gibbs road. This place is a real working and teaching farm with a wonderful example of permaculture to boot. They have chickens, a big greenhouse, and a tall and lovely cornfield. They're dear friends of mine, so please do give them a Like and a Follow, if you can spare one.  They also have this scarecrow that lives in their cornfield, which definitely does not come alive on the full moon to eat naughty children. 

I first met Alicia when I was the head chef of a not-for-profit organization that combated food insecurity in my city. It was my job to feed a few hundred food-insecure people every day, and I learned more than a lot about how food is grown and consumed in this country of mine during that time. One thing I learned is that the biggest obstacle, in my personal experience, is not exactly getting good food to good and healthy food, but rather getting them to try it. 

When it comes to combatting food insecurity and the unhealthy relationship that the average American family has with food, you must understand that we do not have a good work-life balance in this country. I don't know when the ideology of "If you work, you should be able to have a weekend and to be able to afford a house, food, bills, etc.," became an extremist belief, but there you have it. The reality is that many families nowadays don't have the most ideal schedule, especially those with working single parents and multiple children. The hard thing isn't necessarily acquiring good and healthy food, but it's getting everyone to eat it.

Think about your mental capacity and energy throughout the day, and imagine you're a harried single parent in the middle of a pandemic, trying to scrape together every cent to make a living. Would you rather have a fight with your child about doing their homework or about eating a salad that you made? Would you rather spend time cooking an ingredient you're unfamiliar with, then spending more time getting your child to eat it instead of pick around it on the plate? Or would you rather just throw on something that you know they'll eat and then save your energy about the homework fight, or the bathtime fight, or the bedtime fight? Furthermore, what if you didn't grow up in a household that afforded you the education of learning how to cook? 

Most of the people that know how to cook learned from their parents or grandparents, if not cooking classes later in life. I was incredibly fortunate in that I had a grandmother that knew how to cook, and who cooked with me as a child. My father cooked, my mother cooked...everyone cooked. Everyone also had a good grasp on how to run a home and I benefitted from that by watching them. I tried new foods because they always tried new foods, and as far as I remember I was never a picky eater. The point is that not everybody had that same food-loving family structure growing up, so it's unfair to assume that they did when having a conversation about food going on the table for everyone

After your preferred fermentation period, you're ready to make your hot sauce! Are you excited? Because I am!

Drain the peppers slowly and reserve the liquid. Add the solids of your mixture to a food processor or blender and add about 1/4 cup of the fermentation brine along with another 1/4 c of vinegar. You can use either apple cider vinegar or white vinegar at this point, but I personally prefer the sweetness of the apple cider in this particular application, because habaneros are incredibly hot. Please also note that this will likely explode in a cloud of spice when you pour, so please be cautious!

Blend this concoction on low for 1 minute, and then on high for 30 seconds, or until entirely smooth. You can strain out the solids with a fine-mesh sieve, but I personally prefer a thicker sauce so I don't strain. All that's left now is to bottle it in either a glass bottle or glass mason jar to be kept in the fridge! I love the fermentation process, and the fact that it does continue to ferment in my fridge, so I don't cook my sauce, even though you can cook it to stop the process and intensify the flavor more to your liking. No matter what, this is the stage you'll want to taste it and add salt to your liking. 



And there you have it! A gorgeous, fermented hot sauce for the table that will last you a good long while. Use this as you would use your regular store-bought hot sauce for a little extra zing while you're cooking! I hope you've enjoyed this post. Please feel free to experiment as much as you like with this hot sauce recipe. Don't be afraid to add garlic, dry spices, different kinds of peppers, and more! 

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

#Instagrammable

Do you know what I've been doing since the pandemic started? I'll give you a hint: it doesn't pay in money but pays in kind...

It's volunteering! I work with an amazing non-profit organization called Young Women on the Move.  This organization is all about empowering young ladies in the urban core of Kansas City to reach the highest of their potential. I think that a lot of what is missing in modern city life is a true sense of community. What better way to feel a little more connected than looking for non-profits in your own backyard and spending a little time there?

Full disclosure: I am a very healthy, neurotypical, able-bodied, privileged young woman in a stable financial situation. I have my own car, my own home, and a loving partner. I am willing and able to help my community so I'm choosing to do it. I am not in a high-risk group for Covid-19. I have been wearing a mask faithfully, practicing social distancing with my fellow volunteers and workers, and have been disinfecting and thoroughly washing my hands and checking my temperature faithfully every day. I am able to get out there during this pandemic in a relatively safe manner, so I'm doing it.

Please don't feel obligated to get out there if you don't feel safe doing so. Your health and safety is the absolute number one priority. If you do want to help this organization, however, feel free to donate here!

I volunteer with this organization in the way of teaching. I, along with my good friend Chef Gary Hild, host "Cooking School in a Box" every Wednesday. The videos are, of course, the kids. I was joined last week by Kansas State Representative Sharice Davids! Watch us below as I show how to make a shortbread cookie and a chocolate chip cookie by hand.





This recipe is the same one I gave to the kids. It's a great base recipe that can be easily modified to your preference. (**denotes things that were not shown in the video.)


Chocolate Chip Cookies
yields roughly 2 dozen 1 oz cookies 
  • 6 oz or 1 1/2 sticks butter or vegan butter substitute
  • 7 oz sugar (in the video, we used granulated white sugar, but I had raw sugar at home so that's what I used)
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • **1/2 tsp Mexican vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • A fat pinch of kosher salt
  • 7.5 oz all-purpose flour
    • *You can change this up, depending on the kind of cookie you like...see below!
  • **1 Tbsp semolina flour
  • Chocolate chips as needed, about a cup!
Please Note: These are for crisp cookies!


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and prepare a sheet pan with either parchment paper or a silpat mat


Take a medium-sized bowl and beat your butter with a wooden spoon or a spatula until smooth, creamy, and light in color. Add the sugar of your choice and beat until light and fluffy, which should take about 2 minutes when mixing by hand. Add the egg and stir in, then beat until fully incorporated. You're going to get in a good workout!





Add your flour, baking soda, baking powder, and semolina, stirring gently, just until everything is incorporated. This just means that you won't see a spot of flour, and will only see a beautiful brown dough. If you like, you can stir in some nuts, crushed toffee candies, or white chocolate shavings in at this point, but it's entirely optional. No matter what you do, please don't overmix this dough!


Note: Your cookies will be much better if you chill the dough for an hour before baking! If you can’t wait, simply continue below…


Scoop spoonfuls of equal size on to prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. You can use a pair of identical spoons or you can use a 1 oz disher to do your deed. A standard half-sheet tray will fit about 12 1 oz dough balls. Next, is the fun part...


Use what you have! These chocolate chunks work just fine.
Arrange your chocolate chips on each dough ball until you’re satisfied with the amount. Your dough balls should look like little porcupines! Bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes and let cool on the sheet pan for another 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

This is the method for thinner cookies. If you prefer a chewy chocolate chip cookie, simply follow these steps instead:

Even melting only half of your butter will help you get a chewy cookie!
Melt your butter entirely and add it to the sugar. Stir with a whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved, and add your vanilla. Whisk that until incorporated, and then add in your egg. Whisk all of that deliciousness together until entirely incorporated, and then switch to a spatula for your mixing utensil. Dump all of your dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and semolina) into a medium bowl and mix together. If you really chewy cookie, switch the all-purpose flour to bread flour instead! You can follow the usual method of baking immediately, but these get really nice and chewy when you let them chill overnight.

If you want a wafer-thin chocolate chip cookie that will spread... follow the first method only substitute 2 oz of your flour for either cornstarch or tapioca starch, and switch out 3.5 oz of your sugar for honey. I recommend freezing your dough for an hour before scooping and baking, but it's all up to you in the end.




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A post shared by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on

See how thin those are? They were so crisp, almost like a cracker!

Thanks so much for reading, listening, watching, and joining me on this awesome journey. I hope you're staying safe, wearing a mask, and staying healthy. If you'd like to be a little more involved with your community from a safe distance, I invite you to check out Catch a Fire.org, where you can search for virtual volunteering opportunities. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Hickory Nut Cake


Memorial Day is upon us, so I thought it would be fun to dive right in to some American culinary history, featuring one of our many indigenous trees that just happen to produce some delicious nuts. The Americas are home to many different kinds of trees, and the nuts of said trees can be foraged at no cost to you, other than a simple "please" to the owner of the land that you're on. I've got a neighbor that has a hickory tree and an oak tree, so they let me gather nuts and acorns as I please. In return, I like to bake them some cookies every so often, or - if you like - a delicious cake, such as this one. Remember, a neighborhood full of victory gardens is made even better when you share your bounty; so be good and share and share alike!


Hickory Nut Cake
Recipe adapted to be dairy-free from American Cake by Anne Byrd
  • 11 oz all-purpose flour
  • 4 oz tapioca starch
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • A fat pinch of kosher salt
  • 8 oz vegan butter
    • I like Earth Balance, but you can - of course - use dairy butter if that's what you have
  • 14 oz granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 c almond milk
  • 1 tsp good vanilla extract
    • I like this Mexican vanilla from Global Goods Inc. Use code "LFVanilla" to get 30% off!
  • 1 c hickory nuts, chopped
    • If you can't find any, you can use walnuts instead!
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Take a 10" tube pan and butter and flour it liberally. Don't skip this step, and don't be skimpy on the flouring of this tin. The cake batter will rise and will need something to cling to!

Sift together all of your dry ingredients and set aside in a bowl. Separate your eggs, and set those aside. Combine your milk, lemon juice, and vanilla extract into a container and set aside. Grab yourself a large bowl and a long spatula, and set that aside as well. 

Cream the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer on medium for 2 minutes and then on high for another 2 minutes. Lower the speed to medium-high and add your sugar, a few spoonfuls at a time, until all but 2 oz of it are left in your container. Let that mix until sugar is completely incorporated, and add in your egg yolks, one at a time. Scrape all of that goodness into your large bowl and give your mixing bowl a quick wash with soap and water. 

Using your spatula, stir in your flour mixture, alternating with your milk mixture, until everything is just incorporated. Go slow, as you're stirring by hand, and you don't want to overwork it. Take the remaining sugar and your 4 egg whites into your now clean mixing bowl and whip it with a whisk attachment on high until stiff and glossy peaks form and the mixture has tripled in volume. Fold in your egg whites gently in thirds. Fold in your chopped nuts as gently as you can, as you don't want to knock out all that lovely air.

Pour your batter into your prepared mold and smooth the surface. Bake at 350 for 55 - 60 minutes, never opening the oven until the 45-minute mark hits. Then, you may open your oven and rotate your pan once, and let finish cooking. Err on going towards the 60-minute mark, as this cake can be a little doughy if not cooked well enough. You want your cake to be a nice golden-brown, and to have a lovely crack going down the middle of the cake. While we're waiting for the cake to bake, let's learn a little bit about the hickory nut and the history of this cake! 

Hickory nuts come from - you guessed it - hickory trees. We here in the midwest are more than familiar with hickory wood, as it's incredibly popular to use for BBQ smoking. Hickory also makes beautiful furniture. Their nuts are a little bit of a pain to harvest, and the nutmeats are small, but they're quite buttery and delicious. They grow quite fervently here in America, so you'll likely not have a problem finding a neighbor that'll be happy to get them off their lawn. If you don't have a hickory tree, nor a neighbor with a hickory tree, I highly recommend heading over to Burnt Ridge Nursery, an awesome small business, that has hickory nuts in stock!

The hickory nut cake was specifically a favorite of President James Polk. Although the civil war began years after his presidency, this cake was still popular during that time, where not every township had a proper general store that was able to get regular shipments of walnuts or pecans during the war, and most folks wouldn't mind sending their youngins out to the field to gather nuts and acorns for supper. Through necessity comes ingenuity, and the classic tube cake shape was a great way to ensure a cake was going to rise instead of falling flat in a simple circular cake pan. The civil war is timely now not just because we're in a pandemic and every day feels like an episode of Little House on the Prairie, but because Memorial Day is coming up next weekend and that holiday was established to honor the fallen of the Civil War. You can find all sorts of fun tidbits of information on Memorial Day here. Is it a bit of a reach, just to justify making a cake? Sure; but who cares? You learn something and you get to eat some delicious cake. It's a win-win.

If you are curious, or if you still have a few minutes before your cake is done, check out this fellow here, teaching you all about hickory nuts and what to do with them.



Is your cake done yet?

Remove from the oven and let cool on the rack, right-side-up, for 20 minutes. After that timer's gone off, turn your cake tin upside-down and let cool entirely. Most tube pans have feet that will help give air between the surface of the cake and your counter, but if yours doesn't, you may balance it on a bottle to let it be suspended instead. To serve, run a knife or spatula around the edge of the cake tin. Dust with powdered sugar, and serve!

So light.
This cake is just fine on its own and has absolutely no need for extra glazing or frosting. Have it with a cup of coffee or some green tea. It's light as a cloud, thanks to the tapioca starch, and I know you'll have a great time baking this cake. It makes quite a bit, so feel free to take a slice with you to the grave of a fallen soldier, light a candle, and offer it to them. Remember, Veteran's Day is for those that are here with us that have served, and Memorial Day is for those that have fallen.

I hope you're all keeping your spirits up! If you make this cake, leave a comment below, and feel free to share this recipe around with your friends and family. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Covid19


Good afternoon, all.

I was advised to write everything down as I see it during this quarantine. It's been about five days since then and it's now been called for a stay home order. This means that nobody leaves their home for 30 days, unless it's to go to work and the grocery store. Fortunately, this is meant to include restaurants, so we're going to hopefully be able to be open. I don't know what will happen, but I do know this.

I'm going to be stuck home now, so this means I'll be writing now.

I plan to write more often, with tips and tricks on how to run a house and not lose your sanity during this time.

It March 21st, first day of spring, and I spent the day with my husband, having a picnic out of the back of my car. We drove to Clinton Lake, I saw a bed of land snail shells. We watched the water and ate sandwiches and chips. This is likely the last normal day I'll have in at least 30 days, and I'm sure that I am not alone.

I've learned a lot over my last decade in the restaurant industry, and I want to share what ever knowledge I  can with you about surviving on a razor-thin margin of a budget. Here's what I'll pledge to you now:

Put the recipe first, and then put the story. If you feel like reading that while your stuff is cooking, awesome. If not, just like and comment on my post and tell me what you want to see next.

I'll put whatever survival stuff I can and update when I can.

Stay strong.

You're not alone out here.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Easy Potato Latkes

You can practically hear the sizzle, can't you?
I go to the Brookside farmer's market every Saturday during market season and always get produce from my favorite vendors is Urbavore Urban Farms, run by Brooke Salvaggio, who has become a friend. In the early seasons she has plants as well as produce, but she always has something that I want to buy, usually the eggs from the heritage breed chickens. That being said, I'm a big fan of the later season, when potatoes come up.

While only 200 different varieties of the noble potato grows in Northern America(yes, I did say 'only'), over 4,000 different varieties grow in Bolivia. Potatoes, like tomatoes, pumpkins, avocados, coffee, and chocolate, are an American crop. Why? Because they originate in South/Central America!

Image result for hot tea
This tea is BOMB
Yes, yes, you hear about the miracle crop being tied to Ireland all the time, but a little digging in the world of culinary anthropology will tell you that potatoes originate right here in the Americas. Pumpkins, corn, tomatoes, coffee, and chocolate - yes, chocolate, are categorized under all-American treats. In fact, the only reason that Italy has tomatoes, and therefore marinara sauce, is because of its expeditions to the Americas.

I'm sure that there are some among us that would like to believe that America itself was cultivated from all over the world, but the truth is that they had their own culture and unique biodiversity before Europeans came to colonize and spread syphilis and smallpox and introduce slave labor to the indigenous peoples. But I digress, this blog is not about tea.

This is about potatoes, and specifically the brand/breed of potato called purple viking. Yes, potatoes have different breeds. We've established this, please keep up.

It kind of looks like a dinosaur egg, don't you think?
This is a purple viking potato. It can grow to be nice and large, and has a creamy white flesh. I love the color, of course, and am always a big fan of unusual things. Did you know that the best way to  be healthy is to have a diverse diet? This doesn't always mean entirely different things every day - sometimes it's just trying a different variety of a vegetable/root you already love! Do you love orange carrots? Try white ones, roasted. Try purple ones, steamed. Eat the entire rainbow without every changing around.

Generally, potatoes can be set into two categories: starchy and waxy. A starchy potato, such as a classic Idaho/baking potato, will have a thick skin and will go a sort of pinkish brown if peeled and left out. They're high in starch but quite low in moisture, and are rather fluffy when cooked.

The starchy potatoes are considered to be the best for making french fries and - by some schools - mashed potatoes. The trouble, though, is that from starch comes glue if over-agitated, which is why sometimes your mashed potatoes might go gloopy if you stir them too much. The skin on said starchy potatoes, as well, are best for doing twice-baked potatoes and, in general, being vessels for other things. They don't exactly hold their shape well, however, so it's best if you do not use them for gratins, casseroles, or potato salads. For some reason, however, they're considered to be a classic for latkes by many.

The waxy potato is it's thinned-skined brethren, which are very low in starch and generally hold their shape quite well when cooked. When it comes to nearly every application, I'll take a waxy over a starchy any day of the week. I think that they're much more versatile, and I can whip the ever-living bejeezus out of them when making mashed potatoes and they won't go gloopy unless I screw something up. They're suitable in gratins, fries, and - of course - latkes.

See? CREAMY white flesh!
There are many schools of thought when it comes to these classic Ashkenazi potato fritter, and some will swear that a starchy potato is the best. I assume that this is because it's the tradition, but I find that this isn't true.

When you grate the potatoes, you must soak and rinse them to get rid of as much starch as possible, otherwise the latke will go gloopy. Now, why in the world would I start with an already-starchy product that might not hold its shape so well were I to use a not-so-starchy product in its stead? I tell you, dear reader, that I wouldn't, especially because the purple viking potato only needs one good rinse to get rid of the starch versus the four or five that your standard Russett or Idaho might need.

Many say you can grate in lots of other flavors into the potato - and you can! You can grate in half an onion, some garlic, plenty of herbs, and more. This is your latke and you can decide what to do with it. Yes, it was created by the Ashkenazi peoples (or so I'm told) but everybody can agree that these are delicious and that deep-fried potatoes can and should be for everyone. I like to use a 2:1 ratio if I'm adding in white onion to the fritter. Say, I do two large purple viking potatoes and one medium white onion with just a touch of salt and pepper - delicious! But this is the basic recipe, so just do what you like after you've tried this one.

Nowadays, you would mostly eat this around Hanukkah and serve it with apple sauce and/or sour cream. I like them with breakfast, any day of the week. Sue me.

Easy Latkes
yields 6 fritters
  • 1 large Purple Viking potato
  • 1 egg
  • A touch of salt
  • Neutral oil to fry in, such as canola or grapeseed 
Grate the potatoes using the largest side of your box grater and pop them into a mesh strainer. Rinse them quite thoroughly until the water runs clear, and then ring out the water in small handfuls to get them as dry as you can. Pop these in a medium bowl and season generously. Crack in one fresh egg and mix well, breaking up the yolk and white and coating absolutely everything in that bowl. As mentioned previously, you can add fresh herbs to this - I like parsley and dill, personally, but that's me.

Heat a thick yet shallow skillet with about an inch of oil to medium-high heat. Test the heat by dropping in one or two shreds of the egg-potato mixture. If it floats and sizzles, you're good to go. 

Gently lay in heaping spoonfuls of the latke mixture into your oil and press gently down in the middle to create a flat pancake. Swirl it carefully to just make sure that it didn't stick to the bottom, and then add in another. I can fit up to three latkes at a time in my pan, but don't you overload your oil because it lowers the temperature. 


Protip: You want the oil to be rather hot because things only get greasy when the oil is too cold and the oil seeps in. If it's hot enough, the water on the inside of the item you're frying will turn to steam and create a barrier for the oil to not get into, kind of like it when the footballers of the sportsball team do that head-butt thing at the beginning of the plays. 

Flip them gently with a fork or a pair of chopsticks, taking care not to splash yourself wit hot oil, and cook on the other side. The entire process shouldn't take more than two minutes in total, and the finished latkes can hold in a warm oven while you cook the rest. 

Please also make sure that you save the fat in a jar or a metal can and allow to cool before disposing of. Please don't throw it outside as it's bad for your homestead/garden, and please don't dump it down the drain. You can strain it and reuse it once or twice, but you can just pitch it in your can safely in a garbage bag once it's all used up. 



Serve these with breakfast, lunch or dinner! Latkes are truly a diverse food item and I encourage you to try them using all potatoes. (Just maybe not all at once.) Please also be sure to make an effort to get down to the farmer's market! This is, of course, to get better food, but it's also to get to know your growers. I'm going to let you in on a little secret...

The people that are making an effort against big chain grocery stores and taking food back to basics are the people you want to have a conversation with. Ask them questions, have them tell you the story of that crop. Connection with your fellow human is what the world needs right now, and the fellowship over food is truly what can unite us, instead of divide us.

Here in America, we are dealing with political turmoil unlike any in recent memory. If I have any international readers, I want them to know that we all want this to end, and that we are not horrible bigots. We Americans are loving and welcoming and we believe that immigrants make America great. As someone who's worked in the culinary industry her entire professional life, you would be starving were it not for immigrants and migrant workers. They cook your food, they harvest your crops, they do all of the hard jobs that you don't want to do, often with a smile. I welcome the immigrants and I want them to know that I'm an ally. I am an American, and hatred has no home in my backyard.

Happy cooking and happy eating! 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Triple-Threat Chocolate Chip Cookies

This cookie was my shining star at the No Kid Hungry Bake Sale on October 7th, 2017!
We all need a standby recipe for chocolate chip cookies. This particular recipe is the modified version of my pistachio chocolate chip recipe for smaller batches, which is excellent when I'm baking for just myself. Most chocolate chip cookie recipes can be easily modified, so long as the dough remains consistent and the add-ins are accounted for properly. Baking can be art, so long as the science and chemistry of such are respected along the way.

The No Kid Hungry bake sale was a total success! The bake sale itself raised over $8000 against childhood hunger in the United States. Did you know that 1 out of 5 children in the USA don't know where their next meals are going to come from? Yeah, that's pretty messed up. I work as the chef for a hunger relief network, now, and the amount of hungry people in the United States is pretty staggering, especially considering that 2 out of 3 Americans are considered overweight or obese. What we see is a huge amount of inequality, and you can do something about it.



No Kid Hungry has made it easier than ever to combat childhood hunger. Did you know that you can host your own bake sale in your own community? Just sign up to host your own bake sale!

I realize that I'm a very privileged individual. Yes, I'm a woman of color, and a first-generation American...but I'm also from a good family, have a stable, salaried position, have a group of good friends, have a reliable mode of transportation, and I am a homeowner. I'm also privileged enough to own nice things like standing mixers, scales, fancy equipment and marble countertops, things that the average home baker might not have. In the spirit of checking my own privilege, I'm posting the recipe below in both weight and volume, so everybody can bake these cookies, because everybody deserves to have homemade cookies.

I love this recipe because you can do this one without a standing mixer and only the most rudimentary of tools. Yes, you do want either a food processor or a coffee/spice grinder for the oats, but you can honestly chop them by hand, or throw them in straight if you're feeling lazy. It's 100% cool.

Triple Threat Chocolate Chip Cookies
yield 3 dozen 1 oz cookies
  • 6 oz butter, cubed(Earth Balance butter substitute works great, too, or shortening, for the dairy-free option!)
  • 2/3 cups brown sugar(3.5 oz)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar(3.5 oz)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup flour, sifted (4 oz)
  • 1 scant cup rolled oats (3.5 oz)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers
  • 1/2 cup toffee chips/candies, crushed
Melt half your butter in either a saucepot or microwave, and then pour it over the remaining butter in a separate bowl. Stir gently with a whisk to allow the temperatures to come together nicely in a smooth mass and set aside. 

Meanwhile, blitz the flour and rolled oats together in a food processor (or coffee grinder, if you have one) and whisk them together with the baking soda and baking powder. Take out your ritz crackers and crush them by hand ; stir them right in! Don't worry about getting the crumbs to be especially fine, because you actually want larger chunks dispersed here and there. You can also substitute potato chips for this part, and get a very similar result - I've used original flavor and jalapeno, and both are pretty freaking delicious. I know it sounds weird, but trust me on this - the salty and sweet work!

Now that you've taken care of your dry ingredients, let's continue on the wet side! Whisk in both of your sugars, and add in the vanilla flavoring. Whisk-whisk-whisk until quite smooth and fluffy; yes, you can do this in a standing mixer, but the appeal of this recipe is that you feel okay skipping arm day at the gym after doing these by hand. Also, not everybody has a standing mixer or a hand mixer, so let's check our privilege, okay, Nicole? 

Once the sugars are fully incorporated, whisk in the egg until fully blended. Now, let's get rid of that whisk and grab a spatula (unless you want to be dealing with a club of cookie dough). Gradually add the dry mix in thirds, alternating with the chopped chocolate and toffee bits, until everything is incorporated. You can proceed two ways from here:

  1. You can scoop out teaspoons of your cookie dough onto prepared cookie sheets(as in, they've either been greased or lined with parchment paper) and chill them in the fridge by the batch 
  2. You can cover the whole bowl and chill the dough all at once
Either one of these you choose is fine; I prefer option two, just because it takes up less space in my already-crowded fridge. Also, waiting to turn on  the oven to 325 degrees F will give you no choice but to chill your dough. So, hey! Turn on your oven and heat to 325 degrees F while you're waiting.

Bake your cookies for 11 minutes, or until just brown on the outside, and let cool for at least 10 minutes before eating. I know, I know, it's torture, but trust me on this one - if you don't wait, this wonderful cookie will crumble and fall apart into a big gooey mess. You'll want to wait, so you can dip this in an ice-cold glass of almond-coconut milk blend.

If you wait even longer, to let them cool completely, you can wrap them in groups of five in cellophane packages, instagram them with a special hashtag, and sell them for your own bake sale endeavors. It can be to end childhood hunger, to donate to the ACLU, or even to show your own child how to run a business.


Please comment below if you try it - and tell me all about the results! Oh, and I'm hosting my own bake sale soon...follow me on Instagram to learn details!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Vegan Tea & Cherry Shortbread Cookies

Note: The cookies made for the No Kid Hungry Bake Sale were made with dairy butter,
but I make the ones at home for me using vegan butter substitutes.
Before we start, let's just establish this:
Vegetarian means no meat, no animal flesh. All cookies are vegetarian.
Vegan means to meat, no eggs, no dairy, no honey - no animal products, whatsoever.

I am not a vegan or vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have quite a bit to thank the vegans for. It's because of the vegans that I have such wonderful substitutes for cheeses, sour creams, and - of course - butters. Most East Asian people are, in fact, lactose intolerant. My darling partner, B., is highly lactose intolerant, and we've since purged all dairy products from our home. We've been living a dairy-free lifestyle for a little over a year and a half, and I must say that adjustments have been made with much more ease thanks to our vegan friends.

When a friend of mine, a spritely lass called Gina Reardon, approached me to help her do a repeat of last year's No Kid Hungry bake sale, I couldn't say no. I didn't have my bakery in full-scale anymore, since I'd moved on to working for a hunger relief network here in Kansas City, but I still wanted to help. The noble shortbread came to my rescue, along with triple-threat chocolate chip cookies and pumpkin spice cakes. These three recipes are phenomenally easy to make, rather cheap, and rather appealing and inoffensive to the timid palette. They're not threatening cookies - they're your friends!


Shortbreads are simple cookies. They're not frilly or fancy, but rather plain-looking butter cookies that pack a subtle and familiar flavor, almost like the cookies in the tin at grandma's house. You know, the one that she saved to keep all of her sewing supplies in? These aren't piped butter cookies, of course, but these rolled-and-sliced cookies aren't any less spectacular, and you'd be surprised at how easy they are. They don't necessarily look like the most-appealing thing in the world, to some, but I think the simplicity of the shortbread cookie is a fabulous thing, especially when made vegan. But what is a shortbread?

Long story short, British folks call it "short" because the glutens in these cookies are not long. They're not stretchy, they're rather crumbly. Perhaps if you watch The Great British Bake-Off, you'll hear the phrase "shortcrust" pastry? That's what they're talking about when they say 'flaky pie dough.' The gluten strands are short, so they crumble delightfully all over your pants and down between your boobs when you eat them. Isn't that wonderful?

Vegan Tea & Cherry Shortbread Cookies
adapted from Thomas Keller's Shortbread recipe

  • 180 g vegan butter substitute (I love Earth Balance!)
  • 90 g granulated sugar plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 g baking powder
  • 270 g AP flour
  • 120 g dried cherries, chopped
  • 2 tea bags(I love chai, but I've used Earl Gray before with great success)
Tear open the tea bags and pour them into a small sauce pot along with half the "butter"and gently melt it to steep the tea. While that's going, put the rest of the butter into a medium-sized bowl. Oddly, I prefer mixing these by hand, so leave the standing mixer alone, unless you want to use it instead. I'll be whisking the butter and sugar by hand, but if you want to use the standing mixer, by all means break out the whisk attachment. 

Once the butter is melted with the tea, you can let it hang out for a few minutes to let it steep, but it's not 100% necessary. This is all to your preference, and I prefer to keep it light and fragrant versus terribly strong. Once you're ready, though, pour your melted butter into the bowl where your solid butter is and whisk gently to combine. You're basically whipping it to cool down, and when all of the fat is at a same-texture consistency (meaning that it's smooth without lumps), add in the sugar and whisk the bejeezus out of it until the sugar has completely dissolved. This may take several minutes, and you might feel the need to cuss; that's okay, you're allowed. 

Switch to a spatula and combine the remaining ingredients and stir until it becomes a solid dough. Cover and let chill for at least 10 minutes. Once chilled enough to handle, turn out onto a layer of parchment paper (or a layer of plastic wrap) and roll the dough into a single log. This may take some doing, but if you work quickly, it won't be so bad. Just do your best to make sure that the log is even and you've packed it all quite tightly and that there aren't any air bubbles. Freeze this log for an hour, or chill in the fridge overnight.

When you're ready to bake, heat your oven to 325 degrees F and sprinkle a handful of white sugar out onto your counter. Take out your dough and unwrap the log, then roll the log in the sugar so that you have a nice, even coating all around the outside. (This is an optional, but recommended step!) Using a small, sharp knife, slice discs from the dough log and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. I like quarter-inch thick cookies, but you can do thicker or thinner to your preference. If you like, you can sprinkle even more sugar on top of the cookies to give them an extra bit of crunch, and it makes it look very pretty. 

Bake at 325 for about 11 minutes, or until the cookies are just golden on the outside. You want them to be quite pale, and they will be quite pale, considering the low sugar content. I've also used this recipe with coconut sugar and date sugar with success, but it does affect the color slightly. I think the light color is the appeal of these cookies, but that's just me.

Enjoy with a cup of coffee, or make these for a bake sale to end childhood food insecurity in America, selling them in little cellophane bags tied with ribbon. 




Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Dubliner KC


I've been exchanging some tweets with The Dubliner, a pub in Power & Light District in Downtown Kansas City over the passed few days. As you can see from above, they asked if I'd ever given them a try before, and the answer was no. This is our story...

I, admittedly, don't tweet a lot on my personal life. I spend a good portion of my Instagram time promoting my business and my life as a chef, and my twitter is basically reserved for Foodiechat Mondays. I'm frankly having a rough time balancing personal and business time, considering I'm burning the candle at both ends. This is why I cherish the time I get to spend alone with B., and be out and about having fun.


I tweeted at The Dubliner, telling them to gird their loins, at about 5:45 pm on a Thursday night. When we entered, the place was completely empty, save for an adorable blonde server that took care of us promptly. We sat up in a booth, away from where the crowds would likely be, so we could enjoy our meal and conversation. Eating out is sometimes difficult, as B has a pretty severe intolerance to dairy, We tend to stick to most Asian places when we eat out, as it's almost a guarantee that dairy isn't on the menu anywhere except for crab rangoon. That being said, we found something to eat.

Between the time it took for us to place our order and get our food, the Dubliner filled up to the rafters, and our poor server was running around like a madwoman - not surprising, considering she was the only one on the floor. We later found out(after a 30 minute wait for our food) that the manager had sent the other two servers home, thinking that they wouldn't be busy on the Thursday before First Friday. Unfortunately, all of the Downtown office scene had decided to stop in for a post-work drink and some food. Oh well. Such is life.

Remember: in the UK, their chips are our fries, while our chips are their crisps.
B ordered the Fish & Chips, and got it with malt vinegar, only because I told him to try it. The fish was moist, the chips were good, and the portions were nice. All and all, it was a really solid fish and chips. I liked how it was served on a nice plate, yet still seemed 'homey' and 'bar food'y. Yes, there's a great bit of virtue in those gastropubs that I'm such a huge fan of, but it was certainly refreshing to just have a real honest-to-goodness regular pub meal.



Chicken & Rashers was my meal of choice, and boy howdy was it good. It was a hair underseasoned, and the cream sauce was barely reduced and tragically runny, but the roasted carrots and potato puree was very good, and the meat itself was nice. Oh, and in case you didn't know, a 'rasher' is just Irish bacon! Super good, house-cured, and decently executed. I have to say that, again, it was nice to skip the 'gastro' and just eat the 'pub.' The portions were great, filling, and pretty good. I imagine that if I were drinking, this would be an excellent drunk food for me.


The dessert was a yummy apple cake with vanilla ice cream on top, which was super sweet, and very stick-to-your-ribs. I know that the butterscotch sauce was made in-house because it was really grainy; this happens if you stir the sugar at the wrong time during cooking, and is an easy mistake to make, especially since one often doesn't go into a pub for something sweet. It's 100% understandable that they wouldn't have a dedicated pastry chef, and put this on the pantry cook's shoulders, so I'll absolutely give them a pass on this.
The Dubliner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
All in all? A pretty solid meal. I'm not a big drinker, but I can see the appeal of being at a nice, solid Irish but after work. I saw a ton of young professionals from offices nearby in downtown, meeting for an after-hours drink. The Dubliner has its demographic down, and make no apologies about it. Honestly, it's sort of nice to see something un-ironic nowadays.

I won't say the Dubliner is great, but it's good. It is a solid, good pub, that makes no apologies about what it is. Will I be by again? Possibly, since I don't drink often. If I am bumming around downtown, however, I'll absolutely stop in for a sandwich or some sort of lunch.

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
Filling
  • 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!