Category Archives: Events

Wherein One Half of Cork and Spoon Moves – to Texas

D.C. to Texas- cookbooks

Earlier this year, right around my birthday Tom forwarded me Buzzfeed’s 101 Reasons You Should Live in Texas at Least Once in Your Life. We had been considering a future move to Texas, Tom’s home state, about 2 or 3 years down the road, and he was using it to help convince me of how much I’d love Texas. Don’t tell Tom, but I think he was right.

I’ve been in Austin, Texas for just over 3 weeks and I can’t find anything to complain about – not even the 100+ temps. Due to some changes at Tom’s job and me getting the first job in Texas I applied for – our plans fastforwarded about 24 months and I started with a great tech startup at the beginning of September. The job is incredibly challenging and will, if I succeed, do amazing things for my career. Plus our new rental is pretty amazing – so much space! Rosie doesn’t have to hide out in cabinets any more, but can stand proud on the counter.

D.C. to Texas - my kitchen aide has a home

While I haven’t had a chance to really start exploring all of Austin yet, I have spent some time getting to know my neighborhood and what it has to offer. Like the Torchy’s Tacos less than half a mile from my house. Austin is a city that lives on breakfast tacos and I am looking forward to trying every single one, but in the meantime, any excuse to walk Abby and get migas tacos works for me.

D.C. to Texas- Torchy's Tacos

I have also rediscovered the joy of the famous Trudy’s Mexican martini; found delicious gourmet burgers right up the road at HopDoddy; and enjoyed a glass of wine with chips & queso while watching Guardians of the Galaxy at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (they deliver more glasses of wine directly to you while the movie plays, its kind of amazing).

All of that pales in comparison to what may be my favorite store ever: Make it Sweet. This store has an entire wall of cookie cutters and more flavored extracts than I knew existed. But best of all I walked in the first thing I saw was an entire wall of bulk sprinkles. When Ruth comes to visit- forget the bats, we’re going to the baking store.

D.C. to Texas-Make it Sweet

As exciting and amazing as everything has been, it has been pretty taxing and stressful. I packed and moved our house in 3 weeks, while still working, and then moved Abby and myself to Texas a full 3 weeks before Tom. His amazing mother and sister drove in from out of town to help me unpack and keep me company a few weekends ago, but it has still be a little hard to get out and meet new people. That has been the hardest part, especially when all you want to do is come home from work and talk about the new job. But Tom comes in from D.C. tonight! He’s almost home! So, in typical Emilie fashion, I baked him something.

D.C. to Texas-cookies

Using my favorite rolled sugar cookie recipe from All Recipes, I created about 2 dozen Texas state shaped cookies that I decorated like – what else – the state flag. It was really nice just spending the day baking in the big new kitchen, and I can’t wait to spend more time in there.

Did I mention they still have hatch chilies in some grocery stores? Yea, Texas is going to be good for me – and hopefully good for you guys too.

“You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas” ~ Davy Crockett

 

Holiday Gifts for Little Foodies

Growing up, one of my top 5 toys was the play kitchen my sisters and I shared. It was a homemade 2-piece set – simple plywood boxes built with doors and painted to look like a refrigerator and stove-topped oven. It wasn’t fancy like the Little Tykes plastic kitchens my friends had, with their attached phones and ironing boards, but it was spacious and more realistic, so I was happy.  We filled it with tons of plastic foods from apples to unidentifiable uniformly brown “meat” products and those awesome Fisher Price milk and juice bottles. It provided endless hours of fun, and while I don’t remember exactly when we got rid of it, that play kitchen is one of my clearest childhood memories.

It was with these childhood memories fresh in my head that I started Christmas shopping for nieces and nephews. After picking out some cool toys for the older ones, I started looking for a soft fruit and veggie sets designed for my niece who is under 2 and I quickly became overwhelmed by the totally awesome and amazing play food toys that are now available. While I may not be in the market for a brand new play kitchen and all of its associated accessories, I had so much fun exploring, I thought I’d turn it into a post for those of you who may have a few burgeoning chefs and foodies in need of their own kitchen set up.

Play kitchens for purchase1)Little Tykes Super Chef Kitchen ($80)  // 2)Kid Kraft Uptown Kitchen($144)   3)2 Step Life Kitchen($93)  // 4)Hape Playfully Delicious Gourmet Kitchen ($87)

DIY Play Kitchens1) Giggleberry Creations DIY Entertainment Center Play Kitchen // 2) DIY Pottery Barn Knock-Off Play Kitchen  // 3) DIY Play Kitchen from Nightstand  4) Play Kitchen From Ikea Parts

Once you have picked out the perfect play kitchen, its time to stock it. The basics for the perfect play kitchen fall under 2 categories. First you need a few basics for cooking up and serving fun and imagination. The 3 sets below are each a great price and will ensure every little chef has everything they need.

Toy dishes1)Children’s Stainless Steel Cookware Set($23) // 2)Toysmith Cooking Utensils ($11) // 3)Kidoozie Dish Drainer Set ($18)

Once you have dishes and silverware, your lil’ chef will need something to cook up and serve. I think its important to start with a amazing basics with multiple uses to stock the toy fridge and pantry. The Melissa and Doug 4 Food Groups play set, number 1 below, is a good all around starter set. If you want a more substantial starting place for you fledgling foodie, I encourage getting separate produce, meat, and bread sets. Really well curated bread sets were the hardest to find. While the sandwich set is a bit more specialized that I was going for, the collection of bakery items was the best out there.

Play Food Starters1)Melissa and Doug Food Groups Play Set – Wooden ($20) // 2)Ikea Duktig 14-Piece Vegetable Set ($8) & Ikea Duktig 9-Piece Fruit Set ($8) // 3) PlanToys Plan Activity Large Scale Meat Set ($16) // 4) Melissa and Doug Felt Food – Sandwich Set ($17)

If your favorite youngster has a well established play kitchen with dishes, produce, and more, you may be at a loss for what to buy. Don’t worry, there are tons of specialty toys for the little foodie who already has it all.

Fun Kitchen Toys for the Establish Kitchen

1)  Fisher-Price Servin’ Surprises Ice Cream Party Set ($19) // 2)  Homemade Felt Sushi Platter // 3)  Melissa & Doug Felt Cookie Decorating Set ($19)             4)  Homemade Felt Cheez-It Crackers // 5)  Hape Playfully Delicious Pasta Set   ($19)  //   6)  Homemade Felt Poptart Tutorial

Holiday Gifts under $75

The $50 to $75 dollar range for gift giving is a rich with amazing, unique, and, frequently, hand-crafted kitchen tools and serving dishes. I love perusing the tabletop section of Houzz.com to find cool things from boutique stores I may never have heard of otherwise. Sure, sometimes people post things that are outrageously priced (seriously, $90 for a single coffee cup and saucer??) but it is still fun way to find gift-giving inspiration.

Kitchen Gifts Under 75- An Elegant Kitchen

1)  Mason Cash Large Mortar and Pestle ($46)  // 2)  Delta Decanting Wine Carafe ($64)  // 3)  Solid Wood Mezzaluna and Herb Chopping Bowl ($60)

I love to give beautiful practical pieces to friends and family for birthdays and holidays. Items like this mortar and pestle or this herb bowl and mezzaluna would be perfect to round out the kitchen of even your most elegant friend.  Mortar and pestles and mezzalunas are items that people frequently don’t think to buy for themselves, but once they own will find themselves turning to again and again. While an extra special wine decanter, like this one from Delta designed to maximize aeration with a stone cap that filters out sediment or errant cork pieces, are great for friends that enjoy a good bottle of wine.

As nice as it is to be able to find a single perfect item to give someone, I actually find it easier to give gift sets at this price range. There are many options for pre-made gift sets on sites like Williams and Sonoma, but I love to search websites and put together my own sets when I can. Below are 2 examples of great gift (one of which I may have already bought for someone on my Christmas list) that you can put together yourself.

Kitchen Gifts Under 75- Cheese SetRectangular Marble and Wood Cheese Board ($58) // Gold Cheese Knives ($29)

I may be biased, but cheese should be an FDA required food group unto itself, and cheese themed gifts are sure to be a hit with about 95% of the public (and that other 5%, well they have to entertain cheese lovers at some point, right?). Marble and slate make ideal cheese boards because they stay cool which helps to keep the cheese at an ideal temperature while it sits on an appetizer table. I am in love with this elegant marble and wood cheese board from Terrain, but am happy to report that you can find an identical one at West Elm for a mere $39! Which is convenient because these gold-toned cheese knives are also from West Elm. Together, the two pieces are $68 (plus taxes & shipping). You can always pick up some lovely cheese samples from your local cheese monger if you want to round out the gift.

Kitchen Gifts Under 75- Salt Block CookingHimalaya Salt Plate ($35)  //  Himalaya Salt Plate Holder ($15)  //  Salt Block Cooking: 70 Recipes for Grilling, Chilling, Searing, and Serving on Himalayan Salt Blocks ($17)

Have an adventurous chef on your Christmas list? The kind who will try to make anything once and loves to own specialty tools like pasta makers and creme brulee sets. Then click the links above  and buy this immediately. Himalaya salt blocks are a unique and fun way to infuse flavors into your cooking, and this gift collection is a great way for someone to experiment with the technique. The salt plate and the plate holder are both from Williams and Sonoma, although The Meadow and other online stores have a wider selection of salt block shapes and sizes. Normally, I would link to Amazon.com for a book, but Amazon is sold out, so order this salt block cookbook from Barnes and Nobel to get it in time for Christmas.

Holiday Gifts under $30

Sure, Christmas decorations and wrapping paper sets have been on store shelves for a month already, but in my family, the tradition has been to put up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. That makes today the official start of the Christmas season as far as I am concerned. This year, Ruth and I thought we’d share some of our favorite gift options in case you need a little inspiration.

We are kicking off this series today with some great under $30 items. This list is really great for any price-capped Secret Santa exchanges you may have coming up, or for a small gift to give on one of Hanukkah’s 8 nights.

Christmas Gifts Under $30 - Kitchen Gadgets

1) Three Tier Stacking Salt Box by Rachel Ray ($25)  // 2) Wine Pearls ($25)  3) Ad-N-Art Flavor It Glass Water Bottle ($14)

1)     I think we can all agree that holiday gifts should not be useful and enjoyable, but not overly practical – unless of course someone actually asks you to buy them a vacuum for for the Christmas, vacuums are never gifts. Many people would see something like this beautiful acacia salt box or the BlissHome Nigella Lawson Salt Pig ($29) as unnecessary or extravagant, which makes it the perfect gift for the cook in your life. It is beautiful and once they start using it, they will fall in love with how convenient it is,  just like Ruth fell in love with hers.

2)    These wine pearls, much like whiskey stones ($20) are a great way to keep your beverage chilled while keeping it from watering down. I like these pearls because the smooth unique design is perfect for delicate wine glasses because it creates an elegant presentation in the bottom of your glass while not scratching the surface. If you are shopping for a wine novice, this wine accessory kit ($24) is a good option for helping them foster their burgeoning love of vino . It includes a foil cutter, cork screw, bottle collar, stopper, and more.

3)  We should all be drinking more water, and with this nifty glass bottle with built in fruit infuser, there is no reason not to! It come in a variety of colors from grey to red and you can even pick up 2 yellow or blue ones from Overstock.com for $35 in case you want one for yourself. For the hostess in your life who always always has a pitcher of water on her perfectly set table, this  infusing pitcher ($25) had both the basket for holding fruit and re-freezable ice tube to keep the water cold.

Kitchen Gifts Under 30- Gourmet Samples

1) Peet’s Major Dickinson Coffee and Tea Sampler ($30) // 2) Fancy Mayo Trio from Empire Mayo ($21) // 3) 6-bottle mini wine sampler ($25)

1)     I was first introduced to Peet’s Coffee a decade ago, when I visited my friend in San Francisco for a week. For years after that, she would send me freshly roasted Major Dickinson’s Blend – my favorite – every year for Christmas. I can now get Peet’s coffee at the grocery store, but it is never as good as the freshly roasted beans I used to receive. Coffee from a local roaster makes, such as M.E. Swing Co. in D.C., also make great gifts.

2)     Artisanal or local specialty foods always make a great gift, whether from your city or not. A sampler of gourmet mayos like these form Empire Mayo are a perfect gift for sandwich lovers, while an olive oil dipping set ($22) for those who love great bread or haven’t experience great olive oil yet. Pickles from Gordy’s Pickle Jar, a D.C. favorite, can be ordered for $10 and are a really delicious gift.

3)     I have not tried the Tasting Room’s personalized wine bottle service, but I love the idea of it. The company is a membership club for wine lovers that sends subscribers bottles of wine based on their individual wine profile. To put together the profile, the Tasting Room sends you 6 mini-bottles of wine, that you then rate online. Your opinion of each bottle of wine is used to assemble your wine profile. For just $25, you can gift the 6 bottle sampler and the wine profile to a friend, and if they love it, they can then chose to subscribe to the service.

Kitchen Gifts Under 30- Kitchen Decor

1) Bamboo & Acrylic Folding Cookbook Stand ($17) // 2) Kitchen conversion print ($18) // State Themed Dish Towels ($15)

1)     When gifting a cookbook stand, look for one that can fold flat when not in use, to protect precious counter space. I selected the bamboo & acrylic one featured here because I love that the acrylic panel holds the pages still while protecting the pages from accidental splatter.  This  Joseph Joseph Folding Cookbook Stand ($30) folds up like a book and stores neatly right next to the cookbooks.

2)     Kitchen prints and artwork are great gifts, especially for friends or family who are still new to being out on their own and setting up their own kitchen. When buying decor like this, be sure you have an idea of the receiver’s aesthetic, otherwise it may fall flat. If they have a less modern tastes, this classy seasonal fruit and vegetable poster ($18) may be more to their liking.

3)     I first saw these fabulous state themed kitchen towels at Hill’s Kitchen here in D.C. and immediately snatched up several for family and friends who are a bit obsessed with their home states. If state themed towels don’t meet your needs their are other fun and beautiful dish towels, such as this cocktail themed one from Uncommon Goods for $14. BONUS: a pretty dish towel can be used as creative gift wrapping for another foodie themed gift.

 

Rinker Orchards – A Hidden Gem for Pick-Your-Own Apples

Apple Bushel Bag ShotI woke up last Sunday with this crazy desire to slip on a sundress and just get in the car and go!  After all, I had been super good all week after being forced home by the government shut down. Upon seeing that  Secretary Hagel was re-calling us back, I needed to do something to shake the furlough funk.  How better to do just that than to go apple picking? Yes, apple picking was the perfect outing to refresh my mind-set.

Recalling lessons learned from previous years, I pulled out my tablet to check the pick your own availability at the orchards I was familiar with. Nittany tree shot“We have few apples left,” “No more pick-your-own,”…oh, no! No, no, no, no!  After searching and searching for any other Northern Virginia orchards to know avail, I started  searching for Virginia orchards in general.  Two hours away, three hours away…my spirits began to sink.

It was Virginia Tourism to the rescue! Their Apple Picking site lists 21 apple orchards across the state.  If I wasn’t going to find a place on this list, I probably wouldn’t find one anywhere. The list did not disappoint. An orchard popped up…and it was only 20 minutes further out than the orchard clusters of Markham: Rinker Orchards in Stephens City.   After checking out their website and then their Facebook page I had a feeling Rinker would not disappoint. Off I went.

Golden Delicious BranchesStill, I was wary as I approached the ladies manning the sales booth. Would it be like previous years where I was barely able to fill a peck sized bag?

The ladies greeted me with smiles and were absolutely lovely.  After assuring me there were plenty of apples, they asked what I was hoping to do with the apples I pick so that they could point me toward the right trees.  “Hmmmm, apple jelly, apple sauce, apple pie…you name it!” I declared.  I told them about Cork and Spoon to help explain my ambitious list.  Excited, they handed me a flier for the Rinker & Friends Cookbook, a 43 year anniversary project collecting photos, memories, and recipes.   “I can definitely share!” I said, as they handed me my 1/2 bushel bag. Waving to them, I headed down the lane towards the trees.

Rome Apple Branches 2I stopped dead in my tracks the minute I hit the first row of apples.  I swear my jaw hit the ground.  The trees were just dripping in beautiful fruit! Row after row, completely laden with fruit.  I had definitely hit the jackpot here at Rinker!  I probably could have filled my bag in 15 minutes, but I spent a little over an hour at the orchard picking Nittany, Golden Delicious, Rome,  and Ida Reds (I seriously debated buying another bag to fill. I didn’t even get to the Fuji and Red Delicious trees!).

Even with rambunctious children weaving in and out of the trees, I often Rinker Fruit Landen Treesfound whole rows of apples all to myself.  So unlike the uber crowded orchards I had been to before. I enjoyed aimlessly wandering the orchard, my bag swinging with each step.  Afterwards, I stopped by the sales booth to pick up a Cider Pop, a popsicle frozen from Rinker’s own apple cider. What a refreshing treat after spending an hour in the sun.  They even give you a paper towel to keep stickiness under control as the Cider Pop melts. Now there’s customer service for you!Rome Apple Branches

Rinker has definitely become my favorite apple orchard.  Just a few minutes further west, and the vibe changes from the fast paced, sardine packed NoVa vibe, to one of  friendly neighbors stopping by for a cup of sugar.  Brief, but sweet, and always welcome to stay just a little longer.  I definitely plan to visit again next year.

Apples and Cider PoP

Lighten Up the Churn – Creamy and Lite Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream

light chocolate hazelnut ice cream 1

 If you did not know, July is National Ice Cream Month.  Thought I would let you all know before the month was totally gone.  After all, what kind of person would that make me if I deprived any of you of a legitimate excuse for chasing after the ice cream truck with the neighborhood kids?  And what perfect timing to christen my brand new ice cream maker, too.  The heat index has been soaring to about 105° Fahrenheit over the past couple of weeks.  Who wouldn’t want a reprieve from the heat with a  bowl of cool and creamy chocolaty deliciousness?  Yes friends, it’s time for some homemade churn!

Have you ever hand cranked ice cream?  I have not myself, but a late friend of mine (God rest) grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania and hand cranking is how they did it!  It was the 60’s and 70’s after all.  Apparently, it is a lot of work!  Can you imagine churning and churning for at least half an hour if not more?light chocolate hazelnut ice cream 2  You are probably going to need more than one set of arms to get the job done!  My friend had a few siblings to assist, luckily, and it was typically a family activity as everyone would get involved with first making the base then setting up the churn with ice and rock salt, and finally taking turns churning until the ice cream had set.  Only those that helped got a taste…which is exactly how it should be, right?  Up until a couple of years before she passed, she and her sons were still hand churning ice cream with the churn her family had used growing up.  Sadly the crank mechanism broke.  She was never able to find a replacement.  Whenever I go antiquing with friends, I still keep an eye out for one.

Obviously, I did not hand churn this ice cream, as you will see, but I was still channeling my friend.  You see, when I knew her, she had a willowy figure.  Turns out she had spent most of her adult life a bit heavier.  When she showed me older pictures, she was probably in her late 30s, the transformation wowed me.  The only thing that remained the same was her radiant smile.  Needless to say,  my friend was very aware about what she put in her body.  I chose, then, to make a lighter ice cream.  Although not as low calorie as some commercial brands,  this version allows you to use natural ingredients, bypassing all those funky sounding ones.  A delicious treat,  sans the body image guilt.  I am sure my friend is looking down at me with approval. Though truth be told, though, she preferred vanilla :).

 light chocolate hazelnut ice cream 3

Creamy Light Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream

makes 4 cups ice cream, appx 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole milklight ice cream ingredients
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided in half
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1  12ounce can evaporated low fat milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved and seeded
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 3-4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dark chocolate
Directions
  1. In a saucepan, combine whole milk, evaporated milk, 1/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, and sea salt.  Whisk to combine.light ice cream evaporated milk
  2. Next add the vanilla seeds and pod to the milk mixture.
  3. Heat milk mixture over medium heat until it reaches 180° Fahrenheit.  You’re looking for tiny bubbles around the edge, NOT a boil.light ice cream 180
  4. Remove from heat and set aside for at least 10 minutes.
  5. While milk mixture is cooling, whisk egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl.light ice cream beating yolks
  6. Once egg yolks and sugar are combined, gradually whisk in the cocoa powder into the beaten eggs.light ice cream cocoa added
  7. After milk mixture has cooled at least 10 minutes, begin to gradually add milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the eggs.light ice cream combing milk and egg mixtures
  8. Return entire mixture to the saucepan. Turn stove to medium heat.
  9. Stirring constantly,  cook the ice cream base until it reaches 160° Fahrenheit.light ice cream 160
  10. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes. Either place pan in the ice cubes or poor the ice cream base into another mixing bowl and set over ice.light ice cream over ice
  11. Allow ice cream base to cool, about 20 minutes.
  12. Pour the cooled ice cream base through a fine mesh sieve.  Discard the vanilla bean pod and any other solids.light ice cream sieve

Replace the following with the instructions that came with your particular ice cream maker.

  1. Turn on the ice cream maker and carefully pour the ice cream base into the frozen freezer bowl.light ice cream into maker
  2. Allow the the mixture to churn and thicken into a soft serve like, creamy texture, approximately 35-40 minutes.light ice cream starting to freeze light ice cream ready 1

     

  3. Add chopped hazelnuts and chocolate during the last 5 minutes of the churning.
  4. Divide ice cream into freezer safe, air tight containers. Cover and freeze until ice cream is firm, about 3 hours.light ice cream freezer ready

Notes:

  • With a heavy cream based ice cream, this typically takes 15-20 minutes.  This lighter version took about 35 minutes  to get to the right consistency.
  • During the churning process, I noticed that the ice cream started tolight ice cream paddle note “stick” the the freezer bowl paddle.  You want the mixture to touch the freezer bowl surface or else it won’t freeze, so I used  a spatula to help move the ice cream away from the paddle and against the freezer bowl.
  • According to my calculations, this recipe totals out to 194 calories a serving…and one serving is 1/2 a cup! leave out the nuts and you’ll shave off another 30 calories.
  • Next time I plan on using either dark chocolate cocoa powder or melting dark chocolate to get a richer chocolate flavor. As is, this recipes produces more of a milk chocolate flavor.

Cayenne and Lime Watermelon Wedges, a Recipe from The Kitchn

CLM 5 So what do you get when you put a Political Science major and an International Affairs major in the same room on Independence Day? Lots of fireworks…figuratively and literally! I’m telling you, it gets quite interesting discussing the latest headlines when you add in our sprinklings of Psychology, Sociology, Privacy, Jane Austen, and the wisdom of bartenders. Our conversation about Chick-Fil-A was definitely worth being a fly on the wall for.

Anyway, with all that has been going on, Emilie made it perfectly clear that I would not be permitted to sequester myself for the holiday. I had to agree with her. If Pat Summit (see my last post) can keep on living her life to the fullest despite the Alzheimers, I have no excuses not to do the same. So rather than spend Independence Day having left over pancakes with Death, I chose to fill the holiday weekend with joy, friendship, delicious food and drinks, the laughter of children, minions (eeeeeep!), and of course amazing fireworks.

“It is what it is, but it becomes what you make it.” I chose to make it scrumptious!

For our pre-fireworks cookout, I was assigned fruit duty…more specifically CLM 4watermelon duty. Now you all know me, I couldn’t bring just watermelon. No, no, no that would not do at all. Okay, so how to make something already completely delectable on its own even more yummy? Enter The Kitchn’s Twitter feed and this seriously refreshing and mouth watering recipe posted by Emily Ho. I quickly shot Emilie a text. The decision was unanimous and this delightful dish found itself on our July 4th menu.

You must try this dish the next time you bring home a watermelon! The combination of spicy cayenne and zesty lime with the cool and sweet watermelon is amazing. You will not lose the flavor of the watermelon at all . Instead the salt, lime, and and itty bitty kick of spice accentuates the refreshing nature of the watermelon. Trust me on this one. It’s sure to become a staple in your summer cookout repertoire.

Cayenne and Lime Watermelon Wedges

based on a recipe from: The Kitchn

Ingredients

CLM Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt, such as kosher or sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cayenne
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon honey mint julep syrup*
  • chopped mint for garnish (optional
  • 1 (10-pound) watermelon, cut into wedges
*Remember to leave out the bourbon and ice!
Directions
  1. Combine the salt, cayenne pepper, and lime zest in a mortar and pestle. Grind together until combined into a nice powder. (Trick: pour into an empty spice jar for easy sprinkling.)CLM mortar pestle
  2. In a small bowl or jar, combine lemon juice with the honey mint julep syrup.CLM lime and honey
  3. Arrange the watermelon wedges on a serving platter. Drizzle with the sweetened lime juice then sprinkle a light dusting of the cayenne mixture on top.CLM lime and honey juiceCLM sprikles
  4. Serve with a garnish of chopped mint leaves if desired.CLM 1

Note: You can serve immediately…but chilling it overnight brings a whole new dimension with a sneakier kick from the cayenne. Emilie and I discovered this munching on leftovers after our Independence Day cookout. Although both ways are delicious and refreshing, I prefer the “leftovers” version myself.

A New Orleans Vacation – Lots of Food, Not Enough Pictures

It’s been a long time everyone! After a nearly 3 week hiatus, I am back from vacation and promise to try real hard to get back to posting regularly. It was my first real vacation in several years, and it was absolutely amazing! I spent 3 days in New Orleans and about 2.5 days in San Antonio (after the flying time). Most of our time in San Antonio was spent recovering from New  Orleans – where we ate too much, drank (nearly) too much, and slept too little.

This was an amazing street performance troupe on Royal Street, New Orleans. They also had 3 dogs with them!

Royal Street, New Orleans is home to many amazing street performance troupes, like this one and their 3 dogs. It was busy, but not nearly as ridiculous as Bourbon Street.

This was my first trip since starting Cork and Spoon with Ruth, and I have to admit, I am not that great about remembering to take pictures of all of the amazing food and drink I consume, but I did get a few, so I thought I would reward our awesome readers with what I did get.

Cornstalk fence topper

It’s no secret New Orleans is known worldwide for its food, and it even shows up in its architecture! This awesome fence shows up both in the Garden District and, here, in the French Quarter.

Tom and I checked in to our hotel in New Orleans around 11:30 am and immediately headed out to begin our vacation. It was about a half mile walk to the French Quarter from where we were staying so we wandered down to Decatur Street, right off of the water. After some ooo-ing and awww-ing over the sites,  we decided to stop at New Orleans’ landmark Cafe Maspero for our first drink and a bite to eat. 

Cafe Maspero on the corner of Decatur Street and Toulouse Street.

Cafe Maspero on the corner of Decatur Street and Toulouse Street. I was too hungry and overwhelmed to remember to get pictures of the food – sorry!!

At Cafe Maspero, I ordered a glass of red wine, nothing fancy, and Tom and I split their fried seafood platter with shrimp, catfish, oysters, and calamari. While the whole platter was pretty good, the two of us were practically fighting over the catfish, which would end up being the best I would have while in New Orleans. The meal also came with a side salad, which, by itself, was nothing remarkable, but it came with the best blue cheese dressing I have ever tasted. Made in house using a Greek recipe, the dressing was so good I went back on Saturday and just ordered a small house salad so I could have some of the blue cheese dressing. 

After wandering around for several more hours, Tom and I headed back to the hotel for a nap, stopping along the way at another bar, whose name escapes me, for another drink (come on, it was New Orleans after all!). I decided to try a locally brewed beer by the Abita company called AndyGator. I mean, how could I turn down a beer named after gators? So I asked Tom to order me one while I dashed to the bathroom. When I got back, in my spot was the largest beer I had ever seen. Tom had ordered me a stein of beer instead of a traditional pint glass and it took me a while to finish it. Mostly I think he was just looking forward to laughing while I drank from the enormous glass. The beer ended up being pretty easy to finish. It was full of flavor, but not too heavy or filling.

Emilie and her stein of beer

Before this vacation, I am ashamed to admit I had never had crawfish, which happened to be in season while we were in New Orleans. So, when we were struck by the delicious smell of the crawfish boil coming out of the French Market Restaurant and Bar later Friday evening, we knew we were going to have to split an order. After Tom showed me how to eat the little buggers (“break their backs and rip their bodies in half” – eating crawfish is a violent process), I scarfed down more than half the boat. Even though I loved the boil seasoning, I did notice a slightly dirty flavor under the sweetness of the meat, which Tom told me was likely the result of the crawfish not being rinsed well before cooking. Learning about new foods is definitely one of the best parts of a vacation.

Crawfish boil

Of course I had to play with my food first :) Crawfish battle to the death....

Of course I had to play with my food first :) Crawfish battle to the death….

The highlight of my day Friday was my 3 hour tour of Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 and the Garden District. I used the Free Tours by Foot company for my tour and great enjoyed the experience. The guide did an amazing job of explaining  burial styles and traditions in New Orleans and showing us amazing examples of different tombs, like the society tombs. I also loved ogling the huge ornate homes in the garden district and learning about their history, although I felt that the tour did focus a bit heavily on showing the homes of various celebrities, such as John Goodman and Sandra Bullock.

Society Tomb of the Jefferson Fire Company No. 22

Society Tomb of the Jefferson Fire Company No. 22

A beautiful example of Italianate architecture in the Garden District.

A beautiful example of Italianate architecture in the Garden District.

A tree covered in beads along the most popular Mardi Gras parade route in the Garden District.

A tree covered in beads along the most popular Mardi Gras parade route in the Garden District.

It wasn’t until Saturday that I had the chance to go to the New Orleans institution, Café du Monde. The French Market coffee stand, operating since 1862, is infamous for its beignets, or 2-bite squares of fried dough similar to donuts, and coffee, which are all it serves. After standing in line for about 20 minutes, I finally made it up to the takeout window where I got one order of beignets and their coffee with chicory. Chicory was first added to coffee by the French during their civil war, allowing the short coffee supply to last longer while adding depth and robust flavor to the brew. The beignets, covered in what must have been a half cup of powdered sugar, were great, although not much different than any other fried pastry I’d had. It was the black coffee with chicory that really made the wait worth it.

Cafe du monde coffee and beniets

Cafe du monde beniets

I definitely enjoyed a ton of great food while in New Orleans, and this post barely skims the surface of it. I won’t promise that I’ll do better documenting my culinary explorations during my next vacation, but whatever I do capture, I’ll be sure to share with you. Until then, here’s one final photo of the French Quarter!

French Quarter home

Chocolate Cherry Kiss Martini – A Valentine’s Day Cocktail

Chocolate Cherry Champagne Martini 1As you saw in Monday’s post, chocolate and cherries create a beloved classic combination of flavors, especially at Valentine’s Day.  (That’s tomorrow, by the way).  What is more awesome than chocolate covered cherries? Okay, maybe chocolate covered strawberries, but today is Humpday and that usually means Happy Hour here at Cork and Spoon.  Not a problem, seeing as I love to make fun cocktails and I have been DYING to try out chocolate vodka!  Why you may ask. Well,  I find it a perfect,  lower calorie option for chocolicious flavor  in place of a cream based chocolate liqueur.  Enter this beautiful, ruby red gem, which is a delightful blend of chocolate vodka, black cherry juice, and the delicious fizz of dry sparkling wine. It even looks like Valentine’s Day! I think it will be perfect whether you are celebrating tomorrow’s holiday with a candle lit dinner or with an ex’s effigy burning!

Chocolate Cherry Kiss Martini

serves one 7 ounce martini or two 3.5 ounce martinis
Ingredients
  • 1.5 ounces chocolate vodka + 1 teaspoonChocolate Cherry Martini Ingredients
  • 1 ounce black cherry juice
  • 1.5 ounces sparkling wine or enough to top off (use Proseco if you prefer sweeter cocktails)
  • 1 ounce dark chocolate
  • ice cubes
  • frozen black cherries (optional)
Directions
  1. Place dark chocolate on a small, evenly surfaced plate with 1 teaspoon of chocolate vodka. Heat in microwave at 50% power for 20 second intervals until chocolate is melted. Stir to create an even Chocolate Cherry Martini Melted Chocolate Glass Rimand smooth chocolate sauce.
  2. Take a martini glass and hold it at an angle. Dip edge into chocolate sauce and slowly twist glass until entire rim is coated in chocolate.  
  3. If using frozen cherries, place one in each glass.  Set glasses in refrigerator until cocktail is ready.
  4.  Add ice to your cocktail shaker and pour in the remaining chocolate vodka and black cherry juice. Close shaker and give it a shake until surface is chilled.  Pour into martini glass(es).Chocolate Cherry Martini Filling Cocktail Glasses
  5. Top off each martini glass with the sparkling wine.
  6. Toast to love…or to shooting Cupid in his bare behind. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Cherry Champagne Martini 2

Molten Lava Lovers Cake – A Perfect Valentine’s Day Dessert

Molten Lava Lovers Cake Cut 4Quick, what’s the difference between a Lava Cake, a Molten cake, and a Pudding Cake? 15 seconds, go! What, not ready for a quiz today? Eh, it’s okay. It is Friday after all.  I’ll go ahead and give you the answers…or what my answers are.  There is no difference between a Lava or Molten Cake.  Sometimes you may see the names combined as Molten Lava cake.  They are typically chocolate cakes, to include white chocolate,  with a liquidy, runny or oozing center that pours out like lava from a volcano when you dig in. Pudding Cakes are different and come and two forms: a pudding centered cake or a pudding bottom cake.  Unlike Lava/Molten cakes, they do not have a center that pours or oozes out.   Pudding  Cakes have jiggly insides or bottoms; they’re a little more solidified. Think  Jell-O Pudding cup topped by or enclosed by cake. Non chocolate “lava” cakes are often really pudding cakes.

Now for those of you who have been following Emilie and me for awhile, you may remember my little obsession with Archer brand frozen lava cakes last June during my residence course out at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.  Those little babies were just too easy to heat up and devour during late night brief
building and exam studying.  I think I may have practiced several presentations with my mouth full of lava cake lol.  Anyway, ever since last summer, I’ve been Molten Lava Lovers Cake Cut 7dying to try and make my own.

Emilie’s and my “New Year” dinner was the perfect opportunity.  After all, we were going for a  let’s go a bit budget crazy decadent.  As you saw, we made a pretty fancy feast…one I think would be a great menu should you and your Valentine decide to stay in next Thursday.

S0, you already have our crab souffle and endive salad recipes. Now here is your dessert!  I definitely recommend making the entire recipe rather than halving it just because it is hard to divide three eggs and the results just don’t come out quite the same (still yummy, though!).  Keep the extra cakes you don’t eat in the fridge unbaked and covered for up to a week.

Molten Lava Lovers Cake Cut 8

Dark Chocolate Molten Lava Cake

serves 4
Ingredients

Molten Lava Lovers Cake Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter + 1 tablespoon for custard cups
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour + 1 tablespoon for custard cups
  • 6 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • pinch sea salt salt
(If halving recipe, use 2 eggs)
Directions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425° Fahrenheit
  2. In a small bowl, whisk cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon of flour and set aside.Molten Lava Lovers Cake Whisking cocoa and flour for cups
  3. Chop chocolate into chunks or shavings. Set aside.Molten Lava Lovers Cake Chopped Chocolate
  4. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium low heat.  Be sure to keep an eye on it to prevent accidental burning.  Once melted, reduce heat to low.Molten Lava Lovers Cake Butter Melting
  5. Use about 1 tablespoon of melted butter to brush the inside of four oven safe custard cups. Molten Lava Lovers Cake Brushing Butter Custard Cups
  6. Divide cocoa powder among the custard cups and give each one a thin dusting.  Discard any access and set custard cups aside.Molten Lava Lovers Cake Cocoa Flour Dusting
  7. Add chopped chocolate to the remaining melted butter and stir until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat to prevent chocolate from burning or breaking (and to keep from scrambling eggs later on!)Molten Lava Lovers Cake Adding Chocolat to Melted Butter
  8. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and sugar together along  with a pinch of salt.Molten Lava Lovers Cake Blending Egg and Sugar
  9. Fold cooled melted chocolate into the egg mixture until fully incorporated and then fold in the flour to form the final batter.Molten Lava Lovers Cake Adding Chocolate to Eggs
  10. Divide matter among the four custard cups. The cakes will not rise significantly, so do not worry about how close the batter may come to the edge.
  11. Place filled custard cups on a baking sheet and bake in oven for 12-15 minutes.  The outside should be set and inside should be full of melty chocolate.  If you bake  the cakes too long you’ll end up with a pudding cake or a fully cooked cake without any “lava” inside. (They will still taste delicious, though!)
  12. When finished baking, remove from oven and allow to cool 5-8 minutes.
  13. Invert a plate over each custard cup when ready to serve. Be sure to use oven mitts if cups are still hot. Carefully flip custard cup and plate at the same time so that the custard cup is now inverted on the plate. Molten Lava Lovers Cake Inverting Plate Over Cake
  14. Lift custard cup. Cake should slip out on its own.Molten Lava Lovers Cake Released
  15. Serve warm. Garnish with mint, berries, caramel, vanilla ice cream, etc…and red wine!Molten Lava Lovers Cake Uncut 1

~Ruth