Drinking horchata

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Two weeks ago, Chris was in warm New Orleans for work. A week ago, I was in warm Atlanta for work. Saturday we were both home and it was snowing. Yesterday it stayed in the 30s but was sunshine-y all day long. That tricked me into thinking it was actually springtime here. Maybe even summertime? It's been a long winter, ok? I'll take any semblance of warmth I can get.

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In honor of the sunshine, we made our first batch of horchata and then I lost my composure because it was so brilliantly refreshing and delicious. I know it may not sound refreshing because it is a creamy (non-dairy, but still) but believe me when I say that it was positively thirst-quenching. We were inspired by a few minutes of Martha Stewart Living we caught on PBS over the weekend and followed this recipe. It's not too thick or too sweet. You can add a splash of golden rum if you're feeling boozy, or you can have it as is, served on the rocks.

Instead of the cheesecloth, I'd recommend using a nut milk bag to make the straining process easier. We also cut down the sugar by half (using only 1/2 cup).

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And then we made crackers/cookies/biscuits! We took the leftover pulp, about 1 cup or so, added 2 tbsp of coconut oil, rolled it out to about 1/4 inch thick on a parchment lined baking sheet and baked it for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, flipping half way. Pro tip, to flip them we just topped the tray with another sheet of parchment and then stacked a second baking sheet on top and flipped it over like you would to get a layer or bundt cake out of the pan. Quicker than flipping each one over with a spatula. We sprinkled a bit of maple sugar, sea salt and cinnamon on top. They are a strange hybrid baked good, I'm not quite sure how to categorize them but I do know that a smear of chocolate pear jam on top is a good idea.

We also sautéed up some veggies for loaded quesadillas and blasted the Amy Winehouse station on Pandora, because one time a waitress put that station on during a private dinner and I was blown away by its unexpected perfection. Spring weather will be here soon, right? i think so. In the meantime, we are busying ourselves with our very own maple sap harvest right on our city street...

Homemade gift: Sriracha party nuts

Ouy, holiday cheer hangover, huh? Did you all have a nice holiday? I sure did. Vegetable casseroles & Swiss Colony petit fours & presents & homemade cinnamon bread & winter sangria & Big Moose Ale & family time. Just lovely.

The holidays aren't quite over yet because I want to tell you about the tasty holiday treats we made for gift-giving. Yes, in addition to the hundreds of Christmas cookies, we made a few savory and boozy edibles.

First up, these Sriracha Party Nuts. A few food swaps ago, I got the tastiest batch of sriracha spiced nuts ever from Jenna. With that as my inspiration, I searched high and low for a similar recipe. We found this video showcasing a recipe from The Sriracha Cookbook by Randy Clemens and decided to go with it. We made a double batch for Thanksgiving and was encouraged enough by their popularity to make a bunch of them for Christmas gifts.

Yeah, I never actually got a photo of them. Here are the delicious flaky sriracha-sugar crumbs that were left. Trust, these nuts were that good. They are only a little bit spicy (we'd like to kick them up more next time) with a sugary coating. In other words, they are incredibly addicting and awesome.

For those of you that would like the recipe written out instead of watching the video, here it is:

Sriracha Party Nuts

Ingredients

  • 1 lb mixed nuts, lightly salted

  • 1 egg white

  • 1-2 tbsp sriracha

  • 1/2 cup white sugar

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary

Directions

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg white, water & sriracha. Add the mixed nuts and mix until evenly coated.

In a small bowl, mix together the sugars and rosemary. Pour over the nuts and combine until they are all coated with a gooey, spicy, sweet mixture.

Spread the nuts out into a singly layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every fifteen minutes and tasting as necessary :) Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

More treats coming up this week. Basically, I turned circles in my kitchen, clutching the From Scratch Holidays eBook, trying to make every recipe in there. It's that good, people. So anyhow, check back in to hear about my foray into making my own lotion & lip balm along with a post on the merits of infused liquor and a love note to homemade mustard.

Our epic cookie bake-a-thon

If you follow along on Twitter or Facebook, you know that this past weekend was one for the history books. Why? We made 40 dozen cookies. Over 450 cookies.

Sister & I packed up our cookie tins and some baking supplies and drove over to Mom's house in the Berkshires mid-morning on Sunday. We got back home past dinner time. In between? We baked. We baked chocolate mint cookies, molasses cookies, butter cookies, peanut butter kiss cookies, chocolate fruit cake cookies and cowboy cookies. We made a mess. We cleaned it up. We made more messes.

We were a well-oiled machine. Except for, of course, the occasional baking FAIL. Worry not, though: this buttercream frosting was saved and turned out to be absolutely decadent.

We mixed, stirred, whisked, shaped, decorated, baked and cooled all day long, stopping only to... well, stopping to eat, drink, giggle, stretch & generally goof off.

We had to set up a separate cooling and packaging area on a folding table set up in the living room. The cookies began piling up and by the end of it, we were overrun with holiday treats. Which is exactly what I had hoped would happen.

This bake-a-thon will go down in the history books. Even though the northeast is sloshing around in rainy, un-Christmasy weather, this was the perfect way to launch an all-out assault of holiday cheer. Thank you to my lifelong baking partners for yet another set of memories I'll forever keep with me. Also, thank you for ensuring that I'll gain enough weight to survive an upcoming harsh winter. That's so important in today's world, and I'll have 40 dozen cookies to thank for it.

A big shout-out to ShopRite for letting me try out some of their private label baking ingredients! From flour to sugars to spices, we were stoked to test out quality ingredients for our epic, history-making, all-day holiday cookie bake-a-thon. 

Muesli chocolate chip cookies

Yesterday was National Cookie Day. Coincidentally, yesterday was also the cookie-themed food swap! Hurrah. Cookie swaps are a big holiday thing, right? This was my first-ever cookie swap, but there were plenty of pros there who had, I don't know, ten more cookie swaps left this season. Are you a cookie swapper? Yes? Well then send me some of your extra cookies. Do you make really fancy cookies with icing and cut-outs and blood/sweat/tears? I don't. I make wonky little cookies, but they taste good. Especially when you eat them for breakfast.

This recipe borrows from my mom's world-famous Cowboy Cookies, but is modified to include the Maple Muesli mix published in the From Scratch Holidays e-book. So to make these cookies, you'll need to go over there and download your free copy. These are of the chewy and soft variety, because that's the best kind of cookie of course.

Muesli Chocolate Chip Cookies
Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter

  • 1 cup brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup white sugar

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 2 cups

  • Maple Muesli Mix

  • 1 package semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Cream sugars, butter, eggs and vanilla together until fluffy. Stir in the dry ingredients completely, and then add the Maple Muesli Mix and chocolate chips. Drop by a teaspoon on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, removing from the oven when the bottom edges begin to brown. Let cool for 3-5 minutes on the cookie sheet (they also keep baking a little, which is good) and then transfer to wire cooling racks.

Makes three dozen cookies, with enough wiggle room for a few cookie dough tastings :)

And who doesn't love a big glass of milk with a few cookies? I'll tell you who, people who can't tolerate dairy so well. Post-cleanse, I'm finally starting to admit that I may fall in that category. Fortunately, it's not an actual dairy allergy and it's not super severe. This week I'll share with you my Unscientific Non-Dairy Milk Comparison and Analysis! All the non-dairy milks you never knew existed, with taste test results, nutritional comparisons and recommendations for use.