Archive for the ‘Beverages’ Category
Fall is in the air, and with summer goes summer harvests. Food lovers will mourn the loss of fresh tomatoes, corn, zucchini, berries, and herbs. But they’re going to be around just a bit longer, so we should hurry up and make those recipes that make summers special.
If you’ve still got all that beautiful mint growing, a great way to use it up is with a refreshing Cucumber Mango Mint Shooter.
Cucumber Mango Mint Shooter
This shooter can be served as a cocktail or as an hors d’oeuvre at a cocktail party. It’s on the border between sweet and savory, so it can even be enjoyed as an after-dinner cocktail.
1 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 mango, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon mint leaves
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon lime juice
¼ cup melon liqueur
4 mint sprigs (optional)
1. Place the cucumber, mango, mint, maple syrup, and lime juice in a food processor or blender. Process until fully pureed.
2. Set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Pour the mixture into the strainer and let it drip through. Press down on the pulp with a rubber spatula to strain as much liquid out as possible. Whisk in the liqueur.
3. Pour into shot glasses, top with mint sprig, and serve.
So I’m in a TJ Maxx somewhere in the South shopping with a friend. We’re having a good time roaming the aisles, chuckling at all the random “doo dahs,” as my friend puts it. Sure, I need a porcelain frog, and a pink, furry miniature sofa, and…whatever that thing is with a spring on top and little rubber hook on the bottom. Doesn’t everyone need these things?
We get in line to pay for the couple of “doo dahs” that we actually do need and I’m checking out all the impulse point-of-purchase merchandise—you know, the stuff that tempts you as your standing there waiting for your turn: candy, chips, and other snack foods. But what was interesting in TJ Maxx is that the snacks are not your typical selection of Doritos, Lay’s, Snickers, and Hershey’ Kisses. It is organic artisanal tortilla chips, lime-flavored popcorn, curried salsa, and raspberry bonbons. I find selections like this fascinating and I always wonder how many sales they actually make on this stuff.
Anyway, as I’m checking out all these “alternative” comestibles, I spot some 4-packs of Dry Lavender Soda. I had never heard of lavender soda before and I had an overwhelming urge to find out what it tastes like. Well, you know me, I had to buy it.
I found out that the Dry Soda Company is based in Seattle, which makes sense. Seattle is known for having a progressive attitude about health and wellness and a natural/local approach to cuisine. DRY Soda uses only four ingredients: carbonated water, cane sugar, natural extracts, and phosphoric acid. They make several flavors—besides the lavender, there’s Wild Lime, Blood Orange, Rhubarb, Juniper Berry, Vanilla Bean, and Cucumber. So what did the lavender taste like? It was basically carbonated water, slightly sweetened, with a very delicate lavender flavor. It was more of a “mouth aroma”—that is, the scent that you pick up as you are swallowing something (yes, I just made that up myself; you get the idea, right?). This is a good thing because lavender can be very perfume-y and I don’t like drinking perfume (which is why I was never crazy about lavender gum).
The bottles have their calorie counts at the very top (see photo), and all of them are from 45 to 70 calories with 11 – 19 grams of sugar versus 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar in the same amount (12 oz.) of Coca Cola. That’s twice as many sugar and calories. (The lavender flavor has 70 calories and 19 grams sugar.) Of course, if you like your soda to have a deeper flavor, then you may not be pleased with Dry Lavender Soda because the flavor is subtle. I see it not so much as soda as flavored carbonated water. But I think that’s a good thing. There’s too much soda drinking going on in this country.
Here’s what I like about best about this soda—NO HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP!! It’s become like a scavenger hunt trying to find products that do not contain high fructose corn syrup, including things that have no business having it. You know that 100% whole wheat bread that you love so much? Well, chances are that it contains high fructose corn syrup. Why? I have no clue, except that maybe the corn industry has made deals with the bread manufacturers. I always look at bread ingredients—there are a few out there without HFS (thank you, Trader Joe’s!). But I digress.
This soda makes a good mixer in place of seltzer or club soda or even other flavored soda. Mix it with rum and juice for a fizzy, lightly floral cocktail. Oh, and it’s kosher. Distribution of Dry sodas seems to be largely in the South and the eastern part of the Midwest but you can also buy it online.
(Disclaimer: I have absolutely no relationship with Dry Soda, so this is not an official endorsement. I just like finding new or unusual products on the market and reviewing them. And I only review products I like because I see no need to blog about stuff I don’t like. I don’t like dissing people.)
I don’t think that anyone would argue that food made from scratch is far superior to anything purchased in a package. Tomato sauce made at home is way better than the jarred stuff; homemade mac ‘n’ cheese blows the box out of the water; and canned soup doesn’t hold a candle to freshly made soup.
Sometimes there are food products that people don’t realize you can make fresh at home. It just doesn’t enter their minds. But there really isn’t much that you can’t make from scratch, including “alternative” milks. One of the things we learned to make at the Natural Gourmet Institute is almond milk. Some people might think that things like almond or soy milk go through some mysterious process, but in actuality, almond milk is one of the easiest things you can make.
Almond milk is naturally dairy free, so it’s the perfect option for people who are lactose intolerant. Soy milk is also dairy free but there’s a lot of controversy surrounding soy. While soybeans are known to have antioxidants, ironically, they also contain estrogen receptors, making it a player in breast cancer. The reports go back and forth, but for those at risk for breast cancer or worry about eating too much soy, almond milk is the way to go. Almond milk has vitamins A, D, and E, calcium, iron, and protein. It helps in maintaining good eyesight, healthy skin, and strong bones and teeth. It’s also low in carbs, making it ideal for weight loss plans
Soaking nuts and seeds overnight add another dimension of health. Nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors, preventing the absorption of nutrients. Soaking releases the enzymes and phytic acid, making the nutrients accessible by the body.
Any recipe you make that calls for almond milk will benefit greatly if you make the milk yourself. You can make it up to a week in advance of preparing your recipe and keep it in the refrigerator. Let me warn you, though, that while the process is a simple one, it does get a little messy. You might find that the ground almonds tend to stray. But it’s worth the little bit of mess to get fresh, rich, homemade almond milk.
Fresh Almond Milk
Makes about 6 cups almond milk
1. Start with 3 cups almonds. The almonds need to be skin-free, so you can purchase blanched almonds or blanch whole almonds yourself. To do it yourself, bring a medium pot of water to a boil; add the almonds and boil for about 5 minutes. Drain. When almonds are cool enough to touch, remove the skin. They should pop out if you squeeze them. (Beware of flying almonds!) Place the almonds in a large bowl.
2. In a clean pot, bring 6 cups water to a boil. Pour it over the almonds, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with a few layers of cheesecloth that has been rinsed and squeezed. Place the sieve over a bowl large enough to catch the milk.
3. Carefully transfer the almonds and water to a blender (do this in two batches if necessary). Puree thoroughly. Pour some into the sieve. Gather up the cheesecloth and squeeze out as much milk as possible. Discard the almond pulp and repeat with the remaining puree.
4. Pour into glass bottles and let it cool completely. Refrigerate.
Fresh almond milk will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.
On Saturday February 25, 2012, I worked my last internship dinner at the James Beard House. I was so excited to get my hours completed so that I can get my diploma and move on. But I walked in there a little sad, too, knowing that it would be my last time, at least as a “student.”
This dinner was with Chef Jason Santos of Blue Inc. of Boston, and his theme was Modern Comfort Food. The idea was to take comfort foods, the kind many Americans remember from childhood, and “adultify” them—that is, to give them a modern take.
So, for example, one of the hors d’oeuvres was miniature corn dogs. But these dogs were made of kobe beef, which explains why I didn’t get that hot dog repeat action when I tasted it. I haven’t had a hot dog in more than 20 years, but the chef de cuisine, Brad, handed one to me after they were cooked, and everyone, including Chef Jason, was standing there watching. I felt obligated to taste it. But it wasn’t bad. Anyway, for that hors d’oeuvre, I cut up the hot dogs and skewered them on lollipop sticks, which I’d split in half for little mini munchies. Although, mixing the batter for the dipping of the dogs was the easiest thing I did all night, the frying was probably the most complicated because the Fryolater decided to be difficult on this night. Thankfully, I was not the one doing the frying.
The housemade ketchup was a flavorful sauce that was definitely a notch up from the store stuff. It was a nice balance of acid, sweet, and tomato flavor, and everyone was treated to a jar on their way out (I made sure to grab one for myself, too). The “pot roast” was actually short ribs, doughnuts were filled with fig jam, and…well, I really don’t know what the foie gras was supposed to represent but it was the focal point of a “PB&J”—it was served with a peanut purée, toast crumbs, and strawberry gelée. The Nutella powder on the seared scallops was another nod to childhood delights but served in an entirely new medium.
One hors d’oeuvre that was not on the menu was the deep-fried eggs. These eggs were soft-boiled, just until the whites were set, and I helped to very carefully peel them. This was a difficult task because they were truly just barely set and, therefore, so fragile that they broke open very easily. The other volunteer rolled them in flour, dipped them in beaten eggs, and coated them in panko breadcrumbs, and laid them out on a sheet pan. Later, they got lowered into Fryolater for a crisping. At that point, the hope was that they would not break in the oil. When diners cut into them, they got a yolky treat. Personally, I’m not a fan of runny yolks, but many people are and (I suppose) that was a delightful surprise for them.
I so wanted to try the pretzel rolls with mustard butter, but they all went like hot cakes. They were served as dinner rolls at the table but were made from pretzel dough, and the mustard was in place of butter. Needless to say, they were a big hit. They looked soooo good, too. Damn.
Probably the favorite part of the meal for most people was the soup course. This was Creamy Tomato–Goat’s Milk Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons and Micro-Basil, which was served in Campbell soup cans. No, really. The soup from the cans was dumped and was replaced with the homemade soup. I made the croutons, which I made really small to fit into the cans comfortably. The idea was to put a whimsical twist on an old favorite; people seemed to enjoy the whimsy.
The pre-dessert (which was a new concept for me) was a real throwback to after-school treats with a strawberry milkshake and jelly doughnut, and the dessert course was a holiday memory made up of Sticky Toffee Pudding with Gingerbread and Eggnog Ice Cream.
His wine director is Tricia LaCount, a really sweet person who mixed up some wild elixirs to accompany the menu. The most intriguing of her concoctions was the Amarena Cherry–Infused Vodka with Amarena Cherry and Peanut Butter Powder, which was essentially a liquid peanut butter and jelly sandwich (with a kick, of course). And the lingering flavor in the mouth really was like I’d just eaten a PB&J. I really would’ve loved to try her other drinks—especially the Chocolate Martini with Giant Marshmallow—but she had set up her bar in the atrium, removed from the kitchen, and I just didn’t have the time to chase anything down, so to speak.
And so went my last James Beard event. I walked out happy, proud, relieved, and sad. I really am proud of my work there and despite moments of sheer depression over things that I’d done not quite right, I think I did most things right. I’m going to look back on this experience fondly and, hopefully, as the start of a whole new chapter of my life.
Kobe Corn Dogs with Housemade Ketchup
Deviled Eggs with Tuna Tartare and Olive Tapenade
Buttermilk-Fried Chicken Fingers
The Anorexic Model — Pierre Ferrand Cognac with Lychee Bubbles, St. Germain, and Berry Garnish
For the Table — Pretzel Rolls and Mustard Butter
Caesar Salad with Crispy Egg, White Anchovies, Crème Fraîche Dressing, and Pickled Onions
Krupp Brothers Chardonnay 2009
Pan-Seared Scallops with Slab Bacon, Tabasco-Soaked Cherries, Nutella Powder, and Maple Aïoli
Krupp Brothers Black Bart’s Bride 2007
Creamy Tomato—Goat’s Milk Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons and Micro-Basil
Krupp Brothers Black Bart’s Bounty Syrah 2007
Foie Gras PB&J with Peanut Purée, Toast Crumbs, and Strawberry Gelée
I Know I Jamm Jamm — Amarena Cherry—Infused Vodka with Amarena Cherry and Peanut Butter Powder
Pot Roast with Carrot Purée, Blue Potatoes, Onion Ring Salad, and Horseradish
Krupp Brothers The Doctor 2007
Milkshake—Fig Jelly Doughnuts with Vanilla Bean Mascarpone
Sticky Toffee Pudding with Gingerbread, Eggnog Ice Cream, and Micro-Celery
Blonde Afro Puff — Chocolate Martini with Giant Marshmallow
August 6 is National Root Beer Float Day, and if you have a sweet tooth, there’s nothing easier than a root beer float. There are some fancy schmancy recipes out there that call for eggs, vanilla extract, and some other ingredients, but the original, and purest, recipe calls for only two ingredients: vanilla ice cream and root beer.
Ice cream sodas in general were invented by Robert M. Green in 1874, when he ran out of ice for his sodas and decided to use ice cream instead, hoping it would pass unnoticed. Needless to say, it went over pretty well. Credit for the root beer float is generally given to Frank Wisner of Cripple Creek, Colorado. The story goes that he was drinking a glass of root beer and the full moon illuminating the snow-capped Cow Mountain inspired him to drop some vanilla ice cream into the root beer, which is why it’s also sometimes called a ‘”brown cow.”
So here is a simple, but excellent, recipe for a classic American root beer float.
Root Beer Float
Vanilla ice cream
How much you need of each depends on how big of a float you want.
Place a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream in the bottom of a tall glass. Slowly pour root beer into the glass until the foam recedes and the root beer reaches the top of the glass.
Serve with straws and spoons.
Chicagoans, sadly, have had to say good bye to Trader Vic’s, the original tiki bar palace. The Chicago Tribune reported it on July 6. Victor Bergeron opened his Polynesian-themed restaurant in Oakland, CA, in 1936 and in 1944 created what would become the quintessential, iconic island drink: the Mai Tai.
The tiki concept, wildly popular in the 1940s through the 1960s, began a shame-filled descent into cheese-land and many of the Trader Vic’s locations have closed over the last several decades.However, it seems that tiki-themed restaurants and bars are returning to reclaim their cheesy glory! There are 14 in New York City alone. And for you nostalgia-lovers out there, there are still Trader Vic’s restaurants to be found, from Sarasota, FL, to the United Arab Emirates, and even in Kiev, Ukraine, where it’s called the Mai Tai Lounge. For a list of locations, go to the Trader Vic’s website HERE. And I am not ashamed to admit that I own a copy of Trader Vic’s Tiki Party.
Trader Vic’s Original Mai Tai
- 2 ounces 17-year-old Jamaican rum
1/2 ounce orgeat (almond syrup)
1/2 ounce orange curacao
Juice of one fresh lime
1/4 ounce simple syrup*
- Lime slice for garnish
- Sprig of mint for garnish
Makes 1 serving.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil; simmer until the sugar is dissolved, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
Hey, all. I just wanted to wish you all a safe and happy Fourth of July. Let’s all try to remember how lucky we are to live in a country where we can stand up for what we believe in and demand our rights as human beings. Sometimes it takes a while to get those rights, but nothing can stop us from fighting for them. People in some other countries are not so lucky. In many countries, groups of people are abused and oppressed–women, children, “minorities,” and even entire populations by their own governments.
We have a long way to go in this country but I’m grateful every day that I, as a woman, am allowed to vote, hold office, pursue the job of my choice, can wear whatever I please, and have legal recourse if any of my rights to the above choices are violated. The extent of those rights and the success of any legal action can be argued, but at least I’m not forced to walk around in a burqa.
On that note, have a great holiday. Here are some Fourth of July recipes from
FoodNetwork.com. The one below is for a Watermelon Cooler by Paula Deen. Enjoy!
Yield: 2 servings
- 1 1/2 pounds (4 cups) sliced seedless watermelon, rind removed
- 1 cup lemon sorbet
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1 1/2 cups cold water
- Watermelon wedges and mint, for garnish
In a food processor, blend watermelon, sorbet, and lemon zest until very smooth. Stir in 1 1/2 cups cold water; cover and refrigerate until very cold. Serve over ice and garnish with watermelon wedges and mint.
Hi, all. This past week at school we had bean and grain practicum, as well as the Biochemistry of Fats and Oils. That was exactly what it sounds like—a science class. We learned about carbon chains, hydrogen atoms, and double bonds. What does any of that have to do with cooking? Well, that all lead into the construction of fatty acids and what makes them saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated, and what causes a fatty acid to become a trans fat (hydrogenation). Science was never one of my best subjects, so my brain hurt a little bit from all this information. But I can sleep at night now that I know the molecular structure of a trans fatty acid. J
Anyway, a couple of weeks back, a classmate brought in a batch of homemade kombucha, which generated interest in some of the other students. Another classmate got really excited because she’d found a source to get an organic kombucha starter culture (called a “Scoby” and also referred to as a “mushroom” or “mother”) for a really good price. Most starters will run from about $20 to $50. Local Harvest has them for $12.95 each, including shipping. If you’re not up to making your own, it’s also available commercially.
For those of you who don’t know what kombucha is, it’s a “living” beverage made by fermenting tea with sugar and a starter culture. Seedsofhealth.co.uk describes the flavor as “something between sparkling apple cider and champagne.” It’s been around for centuries and is believed to originate in either East Asia or Russia. It’s known to have many beneficial health properties, and two things that it’s considered particularly good in fighting are cancer and candida. Some people have touted kombucha as a miracle beverage.
Once you have your kombucha, you can drink it straight or use it in recipes. Here’s one for Kombucha Banana Strawberry Smoothie, courtesy of DrinkHealthyDrinks.com.
Kombucha Banana Strawberry Smoothie Recipe
- 10 ounces orange juice
- 4 ounces Kombucha tea.
- One piece of fresh Kombucha colony (sized to palate)
- 5-6 large fresh strawberries
- 1-2 large banana
Blend all ingredients at high speed in your blender until smooth.
For more detailed information about the history and health benefits of kombucha or how to make your own, go to
Hi, gang. Well, here it is, August 20, and I’m left wondering where the summer has gone. Despite the fact that this was one of the hottest seasons in recorded history—according to some sources, the hottest—I haven’t complained too much because, all too soon, the freezing cold will be upon us. Well, unless you live in a warm climate, which I don’t.
This week, I was on a lychee kick. An Asian market near where I work had bags of beautiful, colorful lychees and I simply had to have some. But other than eating them straight out of hand, I didn’t know what to do with them. They are yet another food item that I did not grow up with and only became familiar with at the end of some Chinese meals. So, I set out to find some good lychee recipes. But first, a little info…
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Hi, gang. How’s everyone’s summer? I know, I know. Hot. Apparently, it doesn’t matter where you live—it’s just hot. When it gets really bad for you, just remind yourself of the long, cold, bitter winters we’ve been having and maybe the heat won’t bother you as much.
Anyway, if you’ve visited my blog before, you know that I like to pick up random things sometimes and just give them a go. Well, this time it was soda. Specifically, Goya coconut soda. To some of you, it may sound strange. To others, it may sound yummy. It’s kind of both.
This coconut soda is part of Goya’s line of tropical soft drinks, and like other Goya sodas, it comes in a long-neck bottle and has a rather tropical (of course) logo. It gives you (okay, me) the illusion that you’re drinking a beer. It’s clear in color and lightly carbonated.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, but how does it taste? Like carbonated, sweetened coconut water. And like coconut water, the coconut flavor is very light, rather than overpoweringly “coconutty.” For people who like natural coconut flavor, I think you’ll like this. For those who like a strong coconut flavor, it may seem weak. The nice thing about it is that it’s not overly sweet, either.
Don’t misunderstand me. When I say “natural coconut flavor,” that doesn’t mean that it’s a natural soda. Nope. It still has high-fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors. I’m not a big soda drinker and it wouldn’t be the first thing I’d reach for, given a choice of beverages (I’d much rather drink alcohol). But I do enjoy a glass of cola with lime once in a while, and the occasional experiment with something “exotic.” To people in the Latino community, coconut soda is hardly exotic, but coming from a culture (Italian) that doesn’t use coconuts that often in its cuisine, I consider it unusual and different. Next on my Goya list is guaraná and cola champagne.
So, that’s it for this week, my friends. I hope everyone has a great (and comfortable) weekend. Ciao for now.