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Showing posts with label lifestyle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lifestyle. Show all posts

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Chocolate Cake with Fresh Strawberries

I've been focusing a lot on my Instagram lately. It's odd; I always get notifications for new followers, and when I check, the number almost always is the same, or possibly one or two lower than last I checked. I can only guess that - between the hours that I've checked - I've gained one and lost two, or some combination of that. I can't quite fathom why, but I can only assume it's because I don't post as often as a high-follower-having instagrammer might post. Eh.

I love Instagram because I think it's one of the most-pure social media outlets there are. Minimal ads, no add-ons for the interface, just captured moments with a caption, and that's it. You can like it or not. You can follow or unfollow. There's not a huge amount of drama that can happen in that simple space, and I think that's why I love it. It just captures moments and that's it. It's a beautiful way to experience and savor our reality, and I'm 100% for it.

For those of you that may follow me on Instagram, you'll know that my life revolves around three things: my work, my pets, and my garden. Sure, I'll post the occasional style photo of what I'm wearing and what kind of makeup I'm doing(sometimes in my pink wig), but not as often as the food stuff. That being said, I like to think of myself as more of a lifestyle blogger than a food blogger. I try my best to live sustainably and do my best to recycle and produce as low waste as I can. I buy in bulk, for example, and try to make my own sodas. I also compost instead of throwing away biodegradable waste. I'll admit that it's more of a time-based project than anything, but it's worth it when your garden thrives more and more each year you invest in it. That being said, it's still a food blog, and I love food.

I've been on a cake kick lately, which is lucky considering I'm doing a friend's wedding cake come this Halloween. Since the flavor profile was strawberry and chocolate, I wanted to get a little practice in before the event, so I needed guinea pigs. Luckily, the birthday parties of both a dear friend and a soon-to-be sister-in-law would fulfill this need for me.

The first cake I made was this gorgeous strawberry cake. It was bright pink inside(which you unfortunately can't see because of the lighting of the night club we were at) with an Italian Buttercream frosting, a much lighter and more tasty version of the plain old American Buttercream we all might be used to at this point. I learned this amazing new marbling technique for decoration where you smear the sides of the cake randomly with different shades of a certain color and then frost them all together in irregular ways to achieve this effect. I also love the drip cake trend that we've been having lately, with asymmetrical decorations on top. I think it looks so much more organic and natural than anything constructed, which I find so much more appealing.

This cake is chocolate on chocolate, with the fresh strawberries for color and a little contrast in texture. It's insanely rich and dense, and just perfect for a birthday party. This cake makes three nice layers, so you'll get something that's wonderfully tall, which is completely instagram worthy. Oh, and just in case that wasn't instagrammable(is that a word?) enough, it's entirely #dairyfree!

Chocolate Layer Cake
yields 3 8" round cakes
Adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

For the Cake

  • 4 oz baking chocolate(I like guittard dark), broken up in pieces
  • 1 oz cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup strong coffee
  • 6.75 oz vegan sour cream(I love the tofutti products for baking)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 oz brown sugar
  • 7.75 oz granulated sugar
  • 4 oz coconut oil 
  • 4 oz grapeseed oil
  • 10 oz AP flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
For the Ganache
  • 1 lb good quality chocolate, 58% cacao or higher
  • 8 oz coconut-almond milk blend(I like Blue Diamond brand)
  • 0.3 oz coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray three 8" baking pans with pan-spray. Drop in a heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder into the middle of one of the pans and knock it around to spread it. You're basically coating the bottom and sides of the pan with cocoa powder, and then knocking the excess into each of the other pans, so that all three are evenly (and thinly) coated to keep your batter from sticking. This allows easy release from the bottom and a good rise on all sides for the cakes when they bake. 

Put the cocoa powder and broken-up baking chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and pour in your hot coffee, and whisk until everything is smooth. You might have to microwave the mixture to get the chocolate to melt, but cross that bridge if/when it comes. Once that's all nice and together, scrape in your tofu sour cream and whisk to combine, ending with the vanilla extract. Set aside. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a separate bowl. Set that aside. (Yes, you're working with a lot of bowls. Deal with it.)

Combine the sugars and coconut oil in the bowl of your standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until incorporated, which will take about two or three minutes, depending on how warm your kitchen is. Yes, it'll look crumbly and not that creamy - that's okay! Add in your grapeseed oil in a thin stream as it whisks, and it'll get nice and fluffy...or, at least, fluffier. Add in your eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, leaving at least 30 seconds between each addition, and scraping down your sides between so as well. This takes some time, but trust me - the next part goes fast!

Remove your bowl from the standing mixer and grab a spatula, then alternate folding in your flour and the chocolate mixture, about a third at a time, ending with the dry ingredients. You don't want lumps, of course, but it's okay if you have them, as you don't want to overmix your batter. It should be rather smooth and smell quite chocolatey. 

Using a disher, divide the batter evenly between the three pans. I love using ice cream dishers to do these kinds of things, as the results are always consistent, so plan on investing in a large-ish ice cream disher should you plan on producing layer cakes on a regular basis. Once all of your batter is divided, knock the bottom-sides of your cake pans to evenly distribute your mix and knock out any particularly large bubbles that may be lurking insidiously. Yes, you want bubbles, but you want small and even bubbles rather than large ones. 

Bake for 20 - 24 minutes at 350, or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and springs back when the top is lightly touched. Let the cakes cool, in the pans, for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, make your ganache.

Simply combine all ingredients in a metal or glass bowl over a pot of simmering water and gently melt together. Use a spatula and not a whisk to combine everything, and please be gentle with it. You don't want to create air bubbles in a ganache, lest it turn sandy and the color go off. Once everything is mostly melted together, turn off the heat and let it hang out for about 15 minutes. By this time, your cakes should be ready to come out of the pans and ready to layer up.

Simply take each layer and spread about a third of a cup of ganache between each one, then coating the entire concoction with a thin layer of the ganache before setting in the fridge. Remember, you only want this to set, as you'll be glazing more ganache on top. I personally like the more rustic approach for these kinds of cakes, but you can be as refined as you like with it. I used fresh strawberries, mini meringues (a la Dominique Ansel's book, The Secret Recipes)  and shards of Hershey's special dark chocolate bars to decorate the top of this cake. You can decorate with whatever you want, so long as you play with height, color, and texture. Just make sure to set it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving it, especially if you want nice and neat layers at the end!

Okay so it's not the prettiest picture - that's why it's not on Instagram!
It seriously only took a couple of hours from start-to-finish, and most of that was just waiting on things to bake, cool, or set. There was a lot of Netflix between those times, as well as plenty of time to perfect my party makeup or get a nice outfit together. However you spend your time waiting, I hope you've enjoyed this brief tutorial. Now get out there and share your life! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Spicy Garden Pesto Pasta

I love pasta. I am safely pro-pasta. In fact, if I were to run for President of the United States of America, I'd say "Hello, I am WannaBGourmande, I am pro-pasta, and I am running for president." I'd clearly get elected because there are literally zero qualifications at this point to run the arguably most-powerful country in the world. (I hope I get to look back on this post and laugh.)

I'm an avid gardener, and wannabe homesteader. I sometimes think about changing my name to Wanna B. Homesteader, but that doesn't quite have the fun ring to it as 'gourmande' does. Plus, if my initials ended with "H", I couldn't call myself "Notorious WBG." Ultimately, I don't feel truly right calling myself a homesteader if I'm still living on the grid, but I try every day to live a better, more wholesome life through my food, through the ways I consume products, and the ways I live. I've sort of decided to call myself a lifestyle blogger, without the excessive posts on pinterest and falling into the trope of 'rich girl pinterest'. You know, chia seed smoothies in mason jars with organically-grown kale from the co-op? I want to write about cooking and being a chef and eating well on a tight-ass budget, because that's the truth that I know and have lived. Anyway, on to the eating.

Easy Homemade Pasta

  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • Cool water, as needed

Making your own pasta is rewarding in both the culinary sense and the emotional sense. When making pasta, you can use the dough as a sort of worry stone. You'll have to knead the dough to be quite glutinous(no gluten-free pasta here; sorry, guys) and chewy, so you can use this moment to have your own version of tactile therapy. Go ahead; take the opportunity to imagine strangling your annoying coworker as you work the dough into the counter...because yes, Janet, I'm sure in your day you did just 'deal with it' even though the reality of anxiety and depression is that nobody ever got diagnosed properly, but sure, my generation totally invented mental illness.  But, seriously, there's no Netflix in prison, so just take your frustrations out on the dough and it'll be ready in no time.

You can combine this dough in the bowl of a standing mixer or do it the old-fashioned way, which is what I prefer. Simply pile your flour in the middle of your impeccably clean counter and make a well in the middle. Dump your eggs and oil in the center of the well, and use a fork to sort of break it up and beat it together. Using a dough scraper and your hands, fold the flour over and over each other to mix, then knead. Knead this for a solid five minutes, and remember that it's totally okay that you skipped arm day at the gym because of this.

Wrap your dough and let it rest for about ten minutes. If you have a pasta machine, take the time to set it up now. If you don't, you can easily just use a rolling pin to create long sheets of pasta and cut tagliatelle strips with a knife that you've rubbed with flour. Otherwise, once your resting time is up, roll and use your pasta machine as needed. Don't have these neat beechwood pasta racks? You can use plastic coat hangers(no seriously) or just pile them in 4 oz nests like these for easy portioning. If you don't intend to use them that evening, simply allow them to dry overnight, pop them in plastic bags (with a silica gel pack if you're feeling fancy), and then store them for up to 6 months in your pantry.

Green Garden Pesto
(rough estimates; use what you have!)
  • 2/3 fresh basil
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup nasturtium leaves
  • 8 sprigs parsley
  • 7 cloves of garlic
  • 9 small hot chile peppers, pan-roasted and seeded
  • 1/3 cup raw pistachio nuts, shelled
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
So here's the only bit of cooking that you have to do for this recipe: blister the peppers. I have so many tiny cayenetta peppers from my hanging basket planter, it's not even funny. You can wait until they turn red or use them green(which I like to do for this recipe), but be advised that they are spicy, so use with discretion if you're sensitive to that! I like lots of peppery bite, so I used plenty. This is easy: just take a saute pan, heat it up - without any fat in it, mind you - and blister the skin of the peppers. Just cook them until they're soft inside, and then remove the seeds by popping off the tops and just squeezing the insides out, like you might for a tube of toothpaste. 

This is the easiest pesto ever - just pop everything in a blender and blitz until smooth. You can add more mint, more basil, more parsley, whatever! I like lots of spinach in this because it gives such a nice sweetness and a bright green color to it. The nasturtium is used because I have lots of it, and it has a nice peppery bite to it. I've got more mint than I have basil, so I used that, as well, but not too much as to prevent it from overpowering anything. You can substitute the nasturtium for tarragon, chives, or olive oil instead of coconut/grapeseed. Use what you have; this recipe is meant to be easy!

For this recipe:
  1. Cook your pasta in boiling water. (90 seconds for fresh, 7 minutes for dried)
  2. Drain your pasta.
  3. Toss your pasta in a spoonful of pesto sauce and a dab of butter.
  4. Serve.
Thats. It. 

I served mine tonight with a center-cut pork chop, and some braised swiss chard with corn and leeks. It was a simple meal, and the only thing I really had to buy was the pork chops, which were from a BOGO(buy one, get one free) sale at the Hen House down the street. You don't even need the extra stuff; just a few shaves of parmesan or even a poached egg will do for a light dinner.  This, obviously, can be very easily made vegetarian, and even the most-discerning guests will appreciate something that you grew and made by hand!

A post shared by Kolika of Pistachio Bakehouse (@wannabgourmande) on

In reality, I spent about $5.49 for a nice meal for two people, considering everything else was already available in my home and garden. I know you won't be able to buy a house with that kind of savings, but you can certainly splurge on one more avocado toast at brunch when you're only spending roughly $2.25/per person, per meal, in your own home. The only real investment here made was time, which took - roughly - 40 minutes from start to finish. It might take the average home cook a hair longer, but it's still a simple meal that's economic, has a teeny-tiny carbon footprint in comparison to going out to a restaurant, and is very tasty. 

Oh, and you don't have to have a big garden to grow the herbs in this recipe; a sunny window box with mint, basil, nasturtium, etc., in it will do just fine. You can garden. I believe in you. You can empower yourself and homestead in a tiny apartment, in your own quiet way. Happy cooking 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.