Honey Coconut Mojito Popsicles

Alcohol.  It's been happening a lot around here.

mint leaves

Boston's urban spring has delivered a delightful array of sensationalized hue in shades of lilac and lavender, new art installations, illuminous sunlight and visits from friends.  All this to say, it's been a bit boozy.

I love urbanized areas during springtime:  The majestic allure of color, taste, and sound of downtown life seem to perfectly symbolize the new life that's emanated from the cold hard ground, blossoming into a new world.  The crème de la crème.

But I understand that on some days you feel the need to escape away to peace and quiet.  A tranquility away from the hustle and bustle of city life.  That requires a drink.  And as a general rule of thumb, one with alcohol.

Find a place among the woods or out on the water...  You know, say a log cabin, a lighthouse, or a fishing boat.  And bring something alcoholic.  This.  Bring this.

coconut mojito popsicles

I know you're pumped when you get the chance to show off your alcohol tolerance skills.  But since the temperature has ascended and farmers markets are making their debuts, I've been practicing my spotting.  Spotting fresh things like mint between the blocks of aged cheese and overpriced sunflowers.

With all the change evolving outside, I was inspired to make a few changes myself:  Booze, but edible booze.  Hence:  Popsicles, but with rum.  We're getting wacky today.

coconut mojito popsicles

This is what happened:  I minced some fresh, gorgeously green mint and stirred it into a combination of light coconut milk and honey.  But I didn't stop there.  Sour faces, prepare!  I added in a good dose of fresh lime juice.  Pucker up, ladies.

Up last?  Rum.  But you can still drive home and be in bed by midnight.  Rum, mint, coconut, honey and lime juice.  Done.  This one's bookmarked.

And just in time for Mother's Day.  A thank you from all mothers worldwide.

coconut mojito popsicles

HONEY COCONUT MOJITO POPSICLES

(yields 8 to 12 servings)

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup raw honey

1/2 cup fresh lime juice (5-8 whole limes, sliced)

1, 15-ounce can coconut milk

1/4 cup rum

1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint

1/4 cup water (sparkling or tap)

PREPARATION:

Before preparation begins, slice whole limes in half and juice each one until you have at least a half of a cup of juice.  Then, in a medium bowl, whisk honey and lime juice until together until combined.

Add in coconut milk, rum, and mint, stirring to combine.  Lastly, pour in the water and stir until it's integrated with the rest of the liquid.

Divide the mixture between 8 to 12 popsicle molds and set the sticks in place.  Transfer popsicles to the freezer and chill overnight, or until solid.  Freezing time may take longer due to the alcohol.

When popsicles are frozen, remove molds from freezer and run the bottom of the popsicle molds under warm water to dispense.  Serve immediately and enjoy!

coconut mojito popsicles

Chopped Strawberry, Mint & Chickpea Salad

There are a few things that make me really happy.

Chopped Strawberry, Mint & Chickpea Salad

Pristine hiking gear and watching the sun rise.  Sweaters and a large cup of coffee in hand.  The Beatles and Jane Austen novels.  Waffles.  Juicy strawberries.  You get the idea.

So...  Say you bought me a new hiking pack, accompanied to a mountaintop to watch the sunrise, offered me an oversized sweater and a warm cup of coffee, whispered old English literature in my ear, serenaded me in standard Beatles fashion, and hand fed me waffles and really juicy strawberries.  Well, I’d say you'd done your part.

Because those things make me very, very jovial.

Chopped Strawberry, Mint & Chickpea Salad
Chopped Strawberry, Mint & Chickpea Salad

Dinner also makes me really happy.  It doesn’t tend to stress me out because my mind usually goes straight to cereal.  But I understand that sometimes dinner requires a little more effort.  Sometimes simple dinners won’t do.  Sometimes I’m desperate and craving something with mega personality.

Salad is a vegetable and notably healthy.  Chickpeas are a protein and add an element of balance.  Right on.  Mint is the best kind of herb because it's leafy and viridescent.  Strawberries are fresh and fruity and avocado is avocado, which lucidly means it's the super hero of all foods.

So this is what is happening:  Chopped strawberry, mint and chickpea salad is not cereal and makes everyone gleeful.

Chopped Strawberry, Mint & Chickpea Salad

Chopped Strawberry, Mint & Chickpea Salad

(yields 2 servings)

INGREDIENTS:

4-6 cups freshly chopped greens

1 cup chickpeas, divided, drained and rinsed

1 cup chopped strawberries, divided

half of a large avocado, sliced

4 mint leaves, finely minced

juice of 1 lime

PREPARATION:

Wash and rinse lettuce or greens very well in a strainer and chop greens until finely minced.  Add mint leaves to the mixture, mincing together with the salad.

Remove two plates and divide greens evenly.  Layer on each plate chickpeas, fresh strawberries, and avocado slices.  Lastly, squeeze lime juice over each salad.

Easy peasy, lime squeezy.

Chopped Strawberry, Mint & Chickpea Salad

Pistachio Buttermilk Ice Cream

This spring seems to be the most vibrant and animated one I've ever seen.

Pistachio Buttermilk Ice Cream

I've spent most of my time outdoors, roasting things in myriad flavors, brewing iced coffee, and picking flowers from the garden.

I only wish that was all true.  Honestly, I nearly died this winter.  I was cold, wet, and buried in piles of snow.  Now that it's April, I expected to be outside in a bikini.  But the weather has been damp, cloudy and full of bitters...  The non-alcoholic kind.

But spring will eventually spring.  I'm fairly certain March just happened and now all we need to do is fill Mother Nature in one that, procure our spring-like tendencies and grill a hot dog or two.  I'm confident the temperatures will continue to rise and the landscape will ripen into a colorful bouquet of greens, pinks, reds and yellows.

it's time to swap out hot and hearty for cool and creamy.

Cue:  Ice Cream.  It's around all year but now is the time when ice cream really begins to shine.

Pistachios play the starring role, here.  Yes, they're gorgeous.  Next, we use buttermilk.  (Confession:  I love all things buttermilk).  Stir in a little vanilla extract and sea salt and you're welcome.

The only thing better than homemade ice cream with a perfectly creamy texture and rich taste is  pistachio buttermilk homemade ice cream with a perfectly creamy texture and insanely rich taste.

Pistachio Buttermilk Ice Cream

Pistachio Buttermilk Ice Cream

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup skim milk (for a lighter ice cream)

3/4 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup unshelled pistachios, chopped

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

4 egg yolks

PREPARATION:

Heat buttermilk, heavy cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat until almost boiling.  Once almost boiling, remove pan from heat and immediately add pistachios.  Whisk in salt and return mixture to simmer on low.

Whisk egg yolks in a bowl.  Slowly pour a quarter cup of the milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly to combine the two.  Pour egg mixture back into the heated milk mixture, stirring constantly until thickened.

Remove mixture from stovetop and let cool for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, transfer mixture to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for 2-3 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the ice cream maker according to directions.  When mixture is cool, pour into the base of the maker and churn following the maker's instructions.  After 20 to 30 minutes, stop mixing if the maker hasn't done so.  Transfer ice cream to a loaf pan and freeze for 30 minutes before serving.

Pistachio Buttermilk Ice Cream

Sparkling Spiked Lemonade

Warmer days are approaching and I'm super excited about it.  Let's review.

Today is Saint Patrick's Day and can only mean two things:  Bagpipes and Jameson on the rocks.

The first day of spring is in three days and I still cannot fathom the idea of sprouting flowers, bees buzzin' or constant sound of chirping birds.  It all just seems so far away.  But it's not and that makes me very excited.

And in ninety-six days, the first day of summer will grace us with her presence.  Just imagine:  Iced coffees, trips to the beach, weekends spent hiking and farmer's market food.  Now add booze.  Yes.  Booze made with yellow citrus things.  We're calling it Sparkling Spiked Lemonade, but it may as well be called "I'm Sitting On a Patio and Yes I Will Have Another."

If scented emails were a thing, this one would be "tequila."

Sparkling Spiked Lemonade
Sparkling Spiked Lemonade
Sparkling Spiked Lemonade
Sparkling Spiked Lemonade

Sparkling Spiked Lemonade

(serves 2-4)

INGREDIENTS:

4 lemons, squeezed (about 1/2 cup juice)

1 1/2-2 cups sparkling water

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup tequila

lemon slices, for garnish

PREPARATION:

Juice the lemons over a strainer and transfer juice to a large mixing class.  Collect the seeds and pulp and discard.

Mix sugar and sparking water with the lemon juice, stirring well until the sugar dissolves.  Add the tequila and stir well to combine.  Equally distribute the cocktail between 2-4 glasses filled with ice.

Garnish with lemon slices and enjoy.

Sparkling Spiked Lemonade

fried cauliflower rice

I get it.

friedcauliflowerrice

My sense of humor is an acquired taste.  I'm sorry if sarcasm is a foreign language to you, but it's sadly my default status a.k.a. it takes a lot to get me excited about something.

But right now, I'm not being sarcastic and I'm actually super excited.  Because I've found something better than fried rice.  Totally serious.  I know...  You're utterly disappointed.  Boy, this is gonna be fun.

So this dish...  I ate it for three days in a row, and then I ran out and immediately made more.  It's a ubiquitous cauliflower rice thing. 

leeks
leeks

My formula is twofold:  First, choose a vegetable you're crazy about.  Because we're crazy about vegetables here.  Second, season the dish properly so that it’s both savory and spicy.  The result:  Sweet baby Jesus.

Let's begin.  Blanching cauliflower.  You need a pot full of water.  We're being crazy, remember?

Next, texture.  It's super important.  We want rice, not mashed potato pish posh.

Then comes freshly grated ginger, sautéed leeks, and a bit of heat to keep you on your toes.  It's basically the definition of my dream meal.  For the next five minutes, anyway.

friedcauliflowerrice

Fried Cauliflower Rice

adapted from A Cozy Kitchen

(yields 2 to 4 servings)

INGREDIENTS:

1 large cauliflower head

1 large leek, rinsed and sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable stock, depending on personal preference

fresh ginger, zested

2 teaspoons Sriracha hot sauce

olive oil, for cooking

sea salt, for seasoning

PREPARATION:

Set a medium-sized pot filled halfway with water over high heat.  When the water begins to boil, add the florets of cauliflower and cook for 3 to four minutes.  Drain the cauliflower and set aside to let cool for 10 minutes.

When cooled a bit, add florets, one cup at a time, to a blender or food processor and pulse a few times until the consistency is rice-like.  Do not over-pulse or the texture will be mushy.

Meanwhile, heat a large dutch oven or skillet over medium-low heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add chopped leek and minced garlic and cook for 3 to 5 minutes.

When all the florets have been blended, add to the skillet and mix thoroughly.  Add in grated ginger, vegetable stock, and hot sauce.  Turn heat to low, cover and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle with salt to taste.

When done, divide the cauliflower into four bowls and and top with your choice.

friedcauliflowerrice

Serve immediately and enjoy!  Can be stored up to one week in an airtight container

Cocoa Vanilla Bean Pomegranate Waffles

We need to remember what’s important in life:  Loved ones, selflessness, humor, waffles, work.  Or waffles, loved ones, humor, selflessness, work.  Doesn’t matter, but work is always last.
- Leslie Knope
cocoavanillabeanpomwaffles

Snow days.  I love those mornings.  Don’t you?

Starting a day with a quick gaze out the window, only to see a beautiful layer of fresh snow defines a New England childhood.  Those kind of moments encourage time to stand still and allow you to simply be.  And gaze.

On regular mornings, other things creep their way in:  Spilled coffee, late arrivals, to-dos and musts-of-the-day, and the inevitability of computer hunchback syndrome from a 9-to-5 job.  But as the snow falls and a snow day creeps its way in, there is always resistance, a flutter of relaxation in my heart, because one learns how precious that quiet stillness is.

I believe in the value of finding stillness in slow, quiet mornings.  Or afternoons.  Or evenings, if that’s your style.  And sometimes, just sometimes, on days when it snows.

And now, pomegranates…  In waffle form because if I had my choice I’d eat my weight in these waffles every morning.  It’s perfect because it’s really the only way I like to consume these little pink gems.

The waffles are laced with antioxidants and vanilla bean flavor.  The Greek yogurt gives them a delicious light fluff, but the nuttiness from wheat flour and the sweetness of vanilla are totally key.  They’re topped with cocoa nibs and a drizzle of maple syrup.  It makes me feel fancy.

This is what I’m eating today.  Quietly.

cocoavanillapomwaffles

Cocoa Vanilla Bean Pomegranate Waffles

(yields 6 waffles)

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 cups vanilla almond milk

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 egg

scraps of 1 vanilla bean pod

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup pomegranate seeds

cocoa nibs, for sprinkling

PREPARATION:

In a large bowl, whisk the flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt together.

Whisk the egg in a small bowl.  Slowly pour in 1 cup milk, adding more to the batter when necessary.  Stir in the yogurt, then add the vanilla extract.  Combine together, then add to the flour mixture.

Lastly, add in vanilla bean scraps and pomegranates.  Preheat waffle making according to manufacturer’s directions.

Using a small laden, pour batter onto the warmed surface until the waffle iron is lightly covered.  Sprinkle on cocoa nibs and cook the waffle until ready, or until golden and crispy (about 2 minutes).  Repeat this step until all the batter has been used up.

cocoavanillapomwaffles

When all waffles are ready, serve immediately with maple syrup and butter.  Enjoy!

Winter Peppermint Bark

Yesterday's weather:  Cold.

Today's weather:  Colder.

And tomorrow's weather forecast?  Still cold.

I wish I didn't have to talk to you about icy sidewalks and sloppy winter mixes.  I wish I could just talk to you about chocolate sprinkled with peppermint;  about how it makes up for the cold weather outside and snowed-in cars and how it makes everything all better.

Because it doesn't have to end with tomorrow's snowy forecast.  It can end with Frank Sinatra, two types of melted chocolate and big honkin' flakes of peppermint bits.

Translation:  Where are my sweat pants?

Peppermint Bark.jpg

Winter Peppermint Bark

(yields about 25 pieces)

INGREDIENTS:

7 oz (200g) dark chocolate

7 oz (200g) white chocolate

About 3/4 cup (3o pieces) peppermint candies, crushed

PREPARATION:

Place wax paper on a large sheet pan and set aside on counter top.  Bring a pot filled about halfway to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and place a glass bowl on top.  Place dark chocolate in the bowl and melt, stirring occasionally until the mixture becomes very smooth.

Remove chocolate from the heat and pour onto the prepared wax paper.  Spread evenly and refrigerate for 20 minutes or until set.

While the first layer sets, bring the same pot of water to a boil and reduce heat to simmer.  Place the white chocolate pieces in the glass bowl and set on top of the pot to heat.  Stir until completely melted and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, place the peppermint candies in a food processor and pulse 5-10 times or until broken into tiny pieces.  Set aside.  Remove dark chocolate from the refrigerator.

Pour cooled white chocolate over top and smooth out with a spatula.  Sprinkle with peppermint candy pieces, gently pressing them into chocolate so they stick.  Place the sheet back in the fridge to harden for another 20 minutes.

Peppermint Bark.jpg

When ready, break apart and serve.  Enjoy!

It has always seemed strange to me…

The things we admire in men:  kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system.  And those traits we detest:  sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success.  And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second.

J. Steinbeck

Pistachio Mascarpone Sweet Bread

I often think that the hardest part of writing starts at the beginning. 

It doesn't always have to do with length or content or style, or surprisingly, with a fear of exposure or of judgment, although those thoughts do cross my mind on occasion.  It really has to do with what I decide to write about in order to start my creative flow.

Truthfully, I've always found this to be the most difficult choice to make because a chosen topic can either lift up your creativity or sink it to the depths of the darkest parts of the mind.  What to choose:  Discoveries, nostalgia, sports news, favorite brunch spots, moments of peace, politics, gratitude, or perhaps sarcasm.

Similarly, I could argue the same sort of process goes into the decisions I make in regards to food development:  For me, the hardest part about creating a recipe is less about the execution and more about understanding where to start - what type of food to make, what ingredients to use, and sometimes it even revolves around which utensil I feel like cleaning.  Sugar?  Salt?  Pepper?  Cheese?  No cheese?

In my personal experience, no good decision ever started with "I think I should use less cheese".

So let's get started.  Because now I know where to start:  Cheese.  Mascarpone, specifically.

A good loaf of bread just can't be faked.  Flour must be measured, eggs beaten, yogurt stirred, and the loaf must be baked in such a way that leaves the outside with this perfect crispness and the inside with just the faintest touch of soft decadence.  It’s a science…  But it’s not a science at all.  It’s just bread…  But it’s important to know how to make it well.

As previously stated, once you feel settled with the establishment of prelim components, the development of an idea allows you to create something truly great.  I couldn't have thought to pair mascarpone and pistachios together, but there I was at the very beginning with these very two ingredients.  And it couldn't have been more perfect - this combination just works.  It always works.  Because it's science.

And we all know that if you start something with cheese, especially a cheese that is sweet and creamy, it's the right thing to do.  That's been established.

Pistachio Mascarpone Sweet Bread

(yields 1 loaf, 10 slices)

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup mascarpone

3 tablespoons light butter, melted and cooled

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 large egg white

1/2 cup pistachios, finely chopped

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, level with a knife, then combine both in a large bowl.  Add the remaining five dry ingredients, then stir well with a whisk.

Add the egg white to a small bowl and lightly whisk.  Combine mascarpone, Greek yogurt, and butter in bowl and mix well until all is combined.  Add mascarpone mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.  Stir in pistachios.

Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and transfer batter over.  Bake for 40 minutes or until lightly browned.  Slice and serve once cooled.

adventuring

i personally cannot think of a better way to welcome the new year than adventure with close friends and family to one of the quaintest and most scenic places in massachusetts:  rockport.

this little gem is full of color, little streets, ice cream parlors, ocean views, fresh seafood, art studios, rock outlooks, fudge dwellings and hidden overpasses.  it is not for the taffy haters or hot apple cider skippers.

the day was epitomized by chilled bones, creamy chowder, hot coffee and lobster vibes.