Golden Snitch Popcorn Balls

Golden Snitch Popcorn Ball 4.jpgI don’t think I could even begin to explain the struggles that have prevented me from contributing to Emilie and my beloved Cork and Spoon.  For those that have stuck with us through the years, even this past year of silence, you know I usually begin my own creative process with what is going on in my life…you know, where I am emotionally and all.  Over the last three years, I basically shut down inside and it wasn’t until recently that both I and my shrink discovered the huge why that had been hiding in the shadows of all the whats (two words: narcissistic sociopath.  Sigh.).  Yet that fresh wave of pain earlier this month seems to have begun the washing away of the walls that had risen around me.  The fresh air finding its way through the cracks is feeding that ember of creativity I’ve been trying so hard to re-light for so long.  And boy did  that ember got quite a wind of fresh air when I heard that  October was National Popcorn Popping Month and given a challenge. .

So what was that challenge, you ask? Well,  dress up my popcorn for Halloween of course.  Now how fun does that sound?  Popcorn is actually a big thing in my office. Someone usually has a bag of SkinnyPoP stashed away in their cube lol.   Various health issues have led to a number of my co-workers restricted to gluten and dairy free diets, so popcorn is often the snack of choice.  A Halloween popcorn snack  was perfect since it was naturally gluten free, which meant I could share it with everyone at the office if I made sure to keep it dairy free as well.

So Golden Snitch Popcorn Ball Prep 1.jpghow could I dress up my Halloween popcorn in a fund and new way?

According to Pinterest, popular Halloween themed popcorn treats included bowls of popcorn colored slime green with either melted candy or food coloring, popcorn neatly nestled in cute Halloween themed bags, or the ever popular popcorn stuffed latex glove decorated with witchy finger tips and spider jewelry or Frankenstein stitches.  Well, we all know how I don’t like to do what everyone else is doing.  I felt like my little ember of creativity was losing its spark.

Then inspiration hit just in the nick of time.  I was perusing pins under “Halloween Food” and  came across a pin of a cake pop decorated as the witchs’ spell book from Hocus Pocus and next to it a pin of a Harry Potter butterbeer recipe. Harry Potter, perfect! Especially with all the new releases that are taking place between Broadway’s “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and the upcoming “Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them”. Oh, and of course because Emilie and I are huge Potterheads. I don’t know about Emilie, but I’m sure the Gryffindor scarf my sister knitted for me years ago is packed away with the rest of my winter wardrobe. What if I molded the popcorn into a rectangle and decorated it as the Monster Book of Monsters?

golden-snitch-popcorn-ball-3However, inspiration wasn’t done with me yet.

As I searched Pinterest for ” Harry Potter Monster Book of Monsters” cakes to get an idea of techniques and supplies I might need, a lone non-Monster Book of Monsters pin appeared…If you’ve ever scoured Pinterest for Harry Potter themed food, you’ve probably seen it too: Ferrero Rocher chocolate balls dressed up with wings to make them Golden Snitches. Hmmmm…


…Why not make Golden Snitches out of popcorn balls?

Emilie agreed with my brilliance as it hit the Halloween theme two fold: a classic Halloween party treat (popcorn balls) and a favorite modern-era story filled with Halloween’s favorite archetypes (magic, witches, wizards, creatures, monsters).

Now, I must admit. I had never made popcorn balls before in my life. I knew I needed golden-snitch-popcorn-ball-2popcorn and something to make it stick in a ball shape.  The majority of popcorn ball recipes called for a caramely simple syrup…this meant butter and so did not meet my criteria for a dairy free treat. With not too much wondering, I decided why not go the Rice Krispies treat route and use melted marshmallows and coconut oil instead?

BTW, I’ve never made Rice Krispies treats either. I was in for a kitchen adventure to be sure.

Everything started out great. Calm, relaxing, easy peasy…melt the marshmallows, coat the popcorn in the gooey marshmallow syrup, let it cool…then shape into balls, right?

Ummm, yeah.  I did not realize just how messy this process was going to get or how Golden Snitch Popcorn Ball Messy Prep.jpgfrustrating for this first time popcorn baller. For the life of me,  I could not get the popcorn to stay in a ball shape. After about an hour of frustration, I had to take a pause and analyze the situation.

My initial instinct was that I had used too much water for the marshmallowy simple syrup. Too late to fix that; I’d already poured it all over the popcorn and a new batch would require a grocery store run for another bag of popcorn. I also noted how after forming the popcorn into shape, the popcorn would stick to my hands as I released them into their treat cups. For this I had two  solutions. First, more frequent spritzes of olive oil on my hands.  Second, a olive oil spritzed ice cream scoop helped create a more compact ball that kept its shape better than when I molded them with my hands.

Oh thank goodness when fixes work!

After I had formed all the popcorn into round balls, I placed them in the fridge for some extra firming while I moved onto the final touches that would make them Golden Snitches.

For the color, I tested out two options: gold decorator’s sugar and gold food spray. I really thought the spray would do the trick, but Emilie’s idea of the sugar came out as the best approach to dress these treats in gold. Honestly, you don’t need the gold food spray at all, just the sugar, although I used the spray to get into the nooks and crannies the sugar wouldn’t go.

Golden Snitch Popcorn Ball Drawing Wing Template.jpgLastly, I tried out two materials for the wings (gold cardstock and gold vellum) and two wing templates (easily found using Pinterest or your favorite search engine’s image search).  I preferred the sharper lined wings of the template I chose and while vellum may have worked for the Ferrero Rocher golden snitches, the material was far too floppy to stick into the popcorn balls without any additional support. The cardstock, on the other hand, worked absolutely fine with only a few issues in “too gooey” areas of the popcorn balls.

When I had finally dressed my popcorn into Golden Snitches, I was so excited to share them with everyone.


After all, there’s nothing like seeing something you envisioned in your mind’s eye take shape before you and become a (tasty) reality.

Happy Halloween, guys!


*Disclaimer: Neither Emilie or I received any form of compensation from SkinnyPoP.  This blog contains our own opinions and experiences and all ingredients, supplies, and props were procured with our own, personal funds.


Golden Snitch Popcorn Balls

makes 20-24 popcorn balls depending on the diameter of the popcorn balls.



  • 1 4.4 ounce bag SkinnyPoP Original Popcorn (appx 4 cups popped popcorn)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 ounces mini marshmallows (about 1/2 a package)
  • Gold decorators sugar or sprinkles
  • Optional: gold food color spray


  1. Pour popcorn into a large cake pan or casserole dish. Make sure it is big and deep enough for you to toss and coat the popcorn easily. Set aside.
  2. Melt coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  3. After coconut oil is melted, add corn syrup, granulated sugar, and water to the sauce pan. Raise head to medium high.golden-snitch_simple-syrup
  4. Stir simple syrup mixture until the sugar has dissolved thoroughly.
  5. Add marshmallows to simple syrup, stirring constantly until completed melted.golden-snitch_melt-marshmallow
  6. Pour marshmallow simple syrup over the popcorn and toss with a spatula or spoon. Ensure the popcorn is evenly coated in the marshmallow syrup. Allow to cool a few minutes until the mixture is cool enough to handle.golden-snitch_pour-marshmallow-syrup
  7. Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper. Spritz with olive oil or your favorite cooking spray.
  8. Spray hands with olive oil. Optional: If using an ice cream scoop, also spray with olive oil.
  9. Either with your hands or using an ice cream scoop, form marshmallow coated popcorn into balls about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter.  If using the ice cream scoop, really push the popcorn into scoop with your free hand to mold it into shape. As needed, re-apply olive oil to prevent popcorn from sticking to your hand or the scoop and loosing its shape. Golden Snitch_Shape Popcorn Balls.jpg
  10. Once all popcorn balls are formed, sprinkle with gold sugar, ensuring to approach from multiple angles for the best coverage.  Optional: After finished with the sugar, finish up with a gold food color spray.golden-snitch_gold-sugar
  11. Store popcorn balls in the refrigerator to help firm the marshmallow coating while you prepare the Golden Snitch wings.
  12. Hand draw or use a downloaded template to trace desired pairs of wings on a sheet of gold cardstock. Cut wings out and set aside for when ready to finish the Golden Snitches.golden-snitch_making-wings
  13. When ready for the final touches, transfer the popcorn balls from the baking sheet to gold colored baking cups.Golden Snitch_gold baking cups.jpg
  14.  Carefully fit wings into the sides of the popcorn balls.golden-snitch_fit-wings
  15. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to serve in order to ensure popcorn balls maintain their shape.




Jalapeño Popper White Chicken Chili

jalapeno-popper-white-chili_2418Wow! I can’t believe a season actually caught up with the calendar on time.  The fall equinox (for those of us up here in the Northern Hemisphere anyway) occurred about three weeks ago.  Usually the weather stays warm for a couple of weeks, but BAM! Almost immediately the temperatures dropped from the upper 90s to the cozy 70s. Figures that just as I get my AC fixed the weather would turn and a new HVAC issue with the heating pops up. Oh dear.

Oh, but lovely fall! It’s my favorite season. I love the cool, but still comfortable weather, the cozy scent given off by the wood burning fireplaces of the older neighborhoods down the hill from me. Hay rides, bonfires, and trips to the apple orchards and pumpkin patches are always on my calendar.  And of course I can’t forget how everything becomes pumpkin jalapeno-popper-white-chili_2428flavored and scented and how kitchens begin smelling of warm spices from chili to cinnamon.  Or maybe I just like fall so much because I’m a fall baby.

Anyway, I definitely was not prepared for this sudden chill. My closet still full of summer clothes (I just returned from Florida to boot!), I thought a cardigan and closed toe pumps would suffice…until I stepped out into the 40° morning. Brrrr! At least no one looks at me funny now when I order my 185° lattes?

With the drop in temperature, it is no wonder I succumbed to fall’s siren call for a piping hot pot of chili. I went for a white chili for this first batch since I was craving something creamy. I actually created this recipe last year, making it for my former team-mates as a thank-you for the wonderful going away events (bowling and beer…they know I love being active) and presents they gave me (a Starbucks Verismo complete with pods and syrups…they know I love my lattes) before I transferred to my current office. Boy did it go fast!

jalapeno-popper-white-chili_2421It’ll probably disappear fast from your tables, too! It has all the right fall stuff after all: warm spices with just enough heat, soothing creaminess to offset the heat, and filling late summer and early fall veggies, most of which you can still find at the farmer’s market.

Aren’t you imagining curling up with a blanket or finding a seat by the fire with a bowl of this warm and comfy meal? I know I am!


Jalapeño Popper White Chicken Chili

serves 6
  • 1 lb cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • 1 15-16 ounce can of Great Northern beans (or Cannelini)
  • 1 15-16 ounce can of sweet corn
  • 1 10 ounce can mild rotel style tomatoes
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1 dry pint, about 6 large, tomatillos quartered
  • 3 large jalapeños, diced finely and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 ounce package of light cream cheese
  • Homemade ranch dressing mix
    • 8 ounce envelope of powdered buttermilk
    • ½ teaspoon dried parsley
    • ¼ teaspoon onion power
    • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
    • ½ teaspoon freeze dried chives
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped cilantro + more for garnish
  • Spices:
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt + a pinch
    • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
    • ¼ teaspoon cayenne chili powder
    • ¼ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  1. Heat a large, heavy pot (I use my Dutch oven) over medium heat and melt butter.  Once butter is melted add and saute onions and jalapenos until tender, about 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and cook for another 30 seconds.Jalapeno Popper White Chili_saute
  2. Pour broth into pan then add Great Northern Beans, sweet corn, rotel tomatoes, tomatillos, and all the spices into the pot.  Stir to mix.  Bring to a low boil, stirring occasionally.Jalapeno Popper White Chili_veggies in pot
  3. If making your own ranch dressing mix, while chili is coming to a boil blend all ingredients together in a medium bowl.Jalapeno Popper White Chili_ranch mix
  4. Once chili comes to a low boil, stir in ranch dressing mix until blended.
  5. Add cream cheese to the pot, stirring constantly to melt and blend into the chiliJalapeno Popper White Chili_cream cheese
  6. Once cream cheese has melted, add your spices to the pot, stirring to blend into the chili.Jalapeno Popper White Chili_spices
  7. Add the shredded chicken, lime juice, and cilantro.  Stir to mix and bring to a low boil again. Reduce heat to low and simmer chili for 10-15 minutes.Jalapeno Popper White Chili_shredded chicken
  8. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as desired.  If chili is too spicy, adding additional cream cheese or heavy cream will help. I recommend adding the additional dairy in one tablespoon increments.  If the chili is too acidic, add sugar in one teaspoon increments.Jalapeno Popper White Chili_simmering
  9. Serve with your favorite chili accompaniments such as tortilla chips, shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, crumbled bacon, etc.

Leftovers freeze very well!

Jalapeno Popper White Chili_2416

Key-lime Lavender Ice Cream

lavender-key-lime-icecream-2Well, last week the fall season began, the season of change, letting go, and a reminder that nothing is permanent. For myself, as I say good-bye to summer, I am also saying good-bye to a 10 year relationship that ended on a very bad note and letting go of the pain that has accompanied it.

For those that have been in long term relationships that have ended, you know that one of the most difficult things to overcome in the first few of months is everything that reminds you of your former significant other. Now, I’m a social scientist. From my sociology anthropologylavender-key-lime-icecream-1 background I know that everything has meaning, but only because we attach that meaning to it. That said, we can also remove and change those meanings, which is why I spent most of my summer exorcising demons from the places and things I had shared with Shawn over the past decade. Of course some things are more easily taken care of (i.e. burning pictures, donating left behind clothing), while others, like places, are harder (I’m probably the only person that hates Charleston, SC). I thought I had cleared them all out of the shadows until the other week.

dessertI had joined my family in Orlando and one non-Disney day, while my nieces napped, I was able to escape for a couple of hours. I found myself a nice restaurant, buying myself a tasty, light lunch and a fun flight of wine. Being on vacation, of course I said yes to dessert. When my server brought out a tray of tall shot glasses filled with sweet delights, I asked her for her recommendation.She told me the key lime pie trifle was her absolute favorite.

I visibly cringed.

I love key lime pie, and although Shawn was not the one that introduced me to it, he is the one that made it a regular occurrence in my life. (BTW, I went for the s’mores and chocolate peanut butter trifles.)

So this post is not only about saying good-bye to this sad, sunny summer, but also about letting the past go and reclaiming key lime pie.

Let me tell you, these poor key limes! I can’t tell you how hard I glared at them before key-limestaking a deep breath and adding them to my shopping cart. Of course the limes hadn’t hurt me, Shawn had. They were just lil ol’ limes. I had to do something nice with them.

Instead of making a key lime pie, like the minis Shawn and I made for this post that recently popped up in my Facebook Memories, I decided to re-try a recipe I had written down two summers ago after Emilie and I had visited Seven Oaks Lavender Farm: a Key Lime and Lavender ice cream.

In my opinion, this is a very elegant ice cream with its lightly floral notes from the lavender and the bitter citrus of the key limes. For me, this take on key lime pie made me think of how much I have grown and changed over the past decade. After all, I made ice cream instead of slashing the tires of his brand new blue Ford F150 truck, right? Yes, I am a grown, refined woman who has no need to stoop that low. Instead I’ll keep doing what I’ve always done, and work to leave the world better than how I found it.



Key-lime Lavender Ice Cream



• 1/2 cup 2% milk
• 1/2 cup half and half
• 1/2 cup sugar, divided, plus 1 tablespoon separated
• 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
• 1 12 ounce can evaporated, low fat milk
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons dried, culinary lavender buds
• 3-4 egg yolks
• 1/3 cup fresh key lime juice, about 7 key limes (substitute Persian limes if preferred as key limes have a natural bitterness)
• 1 teaspoon key lime zest
• 1/2 cup crushed graham crackers
• Pinch of sea salt


1. In a saucepan, combine whole milk, evaporated milk, 1/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, vanilla extract, lavender buds, and sea salt. Whisk to combine.
2. Add lavender buds to ice cream base. lavender-key-lime-adding-buds
3. Heat the milk mixture gently over medium heat to 180° Fahrenheit. Tiny bubbles will form around the edge, but do NOT bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
4. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes, allowing the lavender to steep and the ice cream base to cool.
5. While ice cream base is cooling, whisk egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside.
6. Place a mesh strainer over a large bowl.
7. Pour cooled ice cream base through the strainer, separating lavender buds from the base. Discard buds.lavender-key-lime-strain-buds
8. Very gradually add ice cream base into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the eggs and causing the base to curdle. Retain strainer and bowl and set aside for later.lavender-key-lime-making-custard
9. Return entire mixture to the saucepan. Turn stove to medium heat.
10. Stirring constantly, continue cook the ice cream base until it reaches 160° Fahrenheit.
11. Strain the ice cream base again, pouring through the mesh strainer into a large bowl. Discard any remaining solids.
12. Add key lime zest to warm ice cream base and whisk together.lavender-key-lime-adding-zest
13. Cover ice cream base with plastic wrap, ensuring it touches the surface to prevent a skin forming.
14. Place covered bowl in the refrigerator and allow ice cream base to cool, about 20 minutes. lavender key lime covering.jpg
15. After ice cream base has cooled, add key lime juice and whisk to combine.lavender-key-lime-adding-lime-juice

Replace the following steps 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 mixture into the frozen freezer bowl.lavender-key-lime-adding-base-to-churner
2. Allow the ice cream base to churn and thicken into a soft serve like, creamy texture, approximately 35-40 minutes.
3. Add crushed graham crackers to the ice cream base and churn an additional 5 minutes.lavender key lime adding graham crackers.jpg
4. Divide ice cream into freezer safe, air tight containers. Cover and freeze until ice cream is firm, about 3 hours.lavender-key-lime-finish-churn

Be sure to check out my Lighten Up the Churn recipe for other notes.


Resolving to Take Better Care of Myself- Homeopathic Cold and Flu Remedy

Cold Remedy 3Well, it looks like the New Year has arrived.  Hello, 2016.  You got here kind of fast, didn’t you?  What do you have in store for me this time around?  I can ponder these questions right now, because I have been on and off ill since Thanksgiving.  Not much more you can do when you’re buried under a mountain of tissues…I mean blankets…yeah no, tissues (eeewwww).  Between the stress of the holidays and the stress of being on the road for work almost the entire month of December, it is no wonder this bug got a hold and just refuses to let go.  It’s been around so long, that even my mom and sister are like, ummm, maybe you should see a doctor, Ruth??  Did I mention I’ve been on the road for almost a month?  Bah!  However, cocktails of Benadryl, Robitussin, NyQuil, and Advil only work for so long, which led me to finally acquiesce to my sister’s advice of making her favorite homeopathic cold and flu remedy, which I’ll be sharing my version of with you today.

So is it just me or do we spend more effort on treating symptoms rather than getting to the root of our problems?  For example, a friend of mine at work finally got the thumbs up for a back surgery he’d spent nearly 15 Cold Remedy 6years arguing with this military and then tri-care physicians about.  Physical therapy, shots, pills, pain management…over and over and over until he finally got a doctor that listened and heard what he was saying.  Right now my dad is in a similar boat.  For years he has been complaining about back and hip pain and accepting the pain killers offered by his doctors…all the while I am telling him to ask them what is causing the pain!  Right before Thanksgiving he got an MRI…and now it looks like he is going to need both hip and back surgery.  SMH.

I cannot say that I am innocent myself.  Those who know me know how stubborn I can be…of course I can run this half marathon with my IT band syndrome injury…and I’ll do it twice!  (Yeah, let’s not do that again, Ruth).  I need to take better care of myself…especially after how I wasn’t so nice to myself in 2015 and I am feeling it all over.

Cold Remedy 4

     Now, my mother would take that as to me being at the doctor’s office every time I had a sniffle or felt a migraine growing (She keeps bugging me to get an MRI even after my doctor said it probably wasn’t necessary b/c of how I responded to the medication…if it hadn’t worked well then…).  However, I think we all know that taking care of ourselves is more than making and keeping our doctor’s appointments.  It’s about understanding what we can personally take: mentally and/or physically.  We’re not super heroes, even if you have a Captain America or Wonder Woman t-shirt that says you are. 

For me, some of the things I’ll be doing to take better care of myself is to set flexible goals rather than chiseling them in stone.  For example, I gained over 20 pounds in 2015 (I know I don’t look it, but between the scale and my jeans button trust me on this one). At first my goal was to Cold Remedy 2drop it as quickly as I could…all that did was depress me and cause more weight gain.  Ineasted what I need to do is make better choices for myself, such as  whether to pick up a box of Popeye’s fried chicken on my home from a stressful day work or hit the grocery store for some chicken breasts and veggies.  Also, Emilie, our friend Gil, and I have been talking about running the New Orleans Rock n Roll half marathon since we met up in Austin back in February (Well they’re doing the 10K and leaving me to do the half on my own lol).  I was supposed to start training Thanksgiving weekend…but you already read about how I’ve been sick and on the road…now I have a mere nine weeks to train instead of my originaly planned 14! I can do it, it’s not my first rodeo after all, but I need to understand that I may not achieve a PR (Personal Record).  Instead I need to re-focus my goal and just enjoy the race…it’s supposed to be awesome with great crowds and rockin’ music…it’s New Orleans, c’mon!

That’s just a couple of the things I’ll be doing this year to take better care of myself.  What are you guys pondering?

Cold Remedy 7.jpg

Cold and Flu Remedy


Cold Remedy_Ingredients

  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger root
  • 3-5 large cloves of garlic
  • Half a jalapeño pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Apple Cider vinegar (preferably raw)
  • ¼ – ½ cup honey (preferably raw)
NOTE: I started with a 4 ounce mason jar and couldn’t fit the entire 1/4 cup of honey in it…so I moved to a 7.5 ounce Weck tulip jar…and went for a full 1/2 cup of honey.
  1. Peel and finely mince your garlic cloves and add to your mason jar. Mince as finally as you like depending on how well you like raw garlic. Cold Remedy_Minced GarlicWhy Garlic: Raw Garlic has been used to treat a number of illnesses and disease over the centuries.  In this remedy, it’s anti-microbial and antioxidant properties are harnessed to give your immune system a needed boost.
  2. Measure an inch length of raw ginger root.  Typically the size of your thumb is about the correct amount.Cold Remedy_Ginger Measured
  3. Peel and grate the ginger root and add to your mason jar.Cold Remedy_Ginger Grated.jpgWhy Ginger: Besides its well known properties have easing queasy tummies, ginger also helps with reducing inflammation and improves the body’s ability to absorb needed nutrients.  Not to mention the warmth of the spice is pretty comforting IMO.
  4. Take your half jalapeño pepper and slice.  Remove seeds as needed depending on the amount of heat you can handle.  You will want a few for the sinus clearing properties of a little spice. Dice finely and add to your mason jar. It should measure to about 1 tablespoon.Cold Remedy_Jalepeno Diced.jpg Why Jalapeño:  Did you know peppers have more Vitamin C than oranges?  I didn’t either until my cousin told me about it and I went researching.  Also, the spice of the capsaicin in hot peppers not only help clear up your sinuses (yeah, wow, did it) but this compound is also associated with reducing muscle and joint aches/pain.
  5. Now that all your solids are ready, it’s time for the liquid ingredients.
  6. Add the juice of 1 lemon to the ingredients in your mason jar. Typically you can get about 2 tablespoons of juice out of one lemon.Cold Remedy_Lemon Juice.jpgWhy Lemon: Yes, Vitamin C, but also its antioxidants,bioflavonoids, which  researchers believe are responsible for the health benefits of lemon such as reducing inflammation and improving blood circulation. 
  7. Add one tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar to your mason jar.Cold Remedy_Apple Cider Vinegar.jpgWhy Apple Cider Vinegar:  Though mostly a folk remedy with little scientific research to back it up, this ingredient strangely enough alkalizes our bodies.  Germs apparently prefer to stick around when our bodies are more acidic. Interesting…
  8. Now add the raw honey to the mixture.  Begin with 1/4 cup and add up to 1/2 cup to get your desired consistency. If you want it chunky, use less honey. If you want more of a syrup, use more honey. Cold Remedy_Honey.jpgWhy Honey: Well we all know how this thick stuff helps coat our throats and ease the soreness of a raw and swollen throat, but apparently honey helps keep us hydrated and loosens up congestion when combined with lemon juice or hot water. Also, honey is anti-microbial and contains antioxidants. 
  9. Stir all together and let sit for at least two hours.  No need to refrigerate unless you live in a warm areas, then I would keep it in the fridge just to be safe.  Mine kept for two weeks at room temperature before it started to discolor and look funky.Cold Remedy_Combined Together.jpg





Romanesco Mediterranean Salad – Foodie Fun

Romanesco Salad 3Wow, now where did October go, friends?  Is it really November?  I can’t believe that I’ve been at the new job for a month already, or that I just finished my first graduate school mid-terms, or that my birthday twin is about to turn one year old (That would be my niece, Izzy-bear.  Yes, she was born on my birthday!).  What a packed year and how quickly its end approaches.  Alas, that also means the end to my local Farmer’s Market, which is about to shutdown for the winter.

I hate to admit that I ended up throwing away most of the produce I’d pick up each Sunday at the market (Told you it was a packed year!).  With mid-terms overRomanesco Head Close Up and finals not quite here yet, however, I now have a weekend or two to have some foodie fun and get my kitchen creativity on.  Yay!  Of course, as the weather is cooling down so are the in-season selections, but it also means those spring-time cool weather crops that I missed are making their second appearance like this little, difficult to find beauty: Romanesco.

I can’t believe I actually came across this lovely piece of natural art, but there it was: a bright green mound of fractal florets surrounded by colorful orange and purple cauliflower.  How could I resist?  It was like when I found those fiddle-head ferns.  I couldn’t wait to have some fun thinking up something fun and new.

Romanesco Head Close Up 2The first step, of course, was to taste the Romanesco.  From what I had read, I knew to expect some sort of cauliflower/broccoli blend.  Considering that it is also more often called Romanesco Broccoli than Romanesco Cauliflower, I was prepared for my taste buds to meet something along the metallic flavor I tend to get from broccoli.  To my surprise, I found Romanseco to have the sweeter profile of cauliflower, only nuttier, but still with the slight bite of broccoli.  If you are a cruciferous fan, I definitely recommend this veggie!

So what to do with the two heads of Romanesco I had purchased?  Since part of Romanesco Salad 2this vegetable’s appeal is it’s exotic appearance, I knew I wanted to maintain whole florets.  However, I didn’t want to just steam the Romanesco.  I mean, I was supposed to be having FUN.  So of course I turned to Emilie’s and my favorite cooking resource:  the Flavor Bible.

Now Romanesco is a bit too exotic to have its own entry in this tome, however now that I knew what it tasted like I flipped to the cauliflower entry and perused the suggested pairings…and at the top of the list, in bold type nonetheless, was…anchovies.


Heck, why not? Time to stretch my kitchen skills after such a long hiatus, right? Right!

Romanesco Salad 1Continuing down the list, I determined  a simple, Mediterranean style dressing would be the perfect solution to show off these pretty florets both visually and flavor-wise.  And if I do say so myself,  this Romanesco salad turned out to be quite versatile. I ate it fresh (well, post photo-op) while it was warm, but throughout the week I found myself nibbling on the refrigerated leftovers.  This recipe is readily a main dish, a side dish, and a tapas and can be served warm, room-temperature, or cold. Not a bad deal, I say.

And it was definitely fun.

Mission accomplished!

Romanesco Mediterranean Salad


Romanesco Salad Ready for Assembly

  • 2 heads Romanesco Broccoli/Cauliflower
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, about 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 2 tablespoons small capers
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • cooking spray
  1. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and anchovy paste, whisking together until emulsified.  Set aside.Romanesco Salad Dressing
  2. Fill a saucepan with 3/4 to 1 inch of water and insert steamer basket and bring to a boil.  While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the Romanesco.
  3. With a paring knife, carefully cut florets from the Romanesco to preserve their unique fractal shape.
  4. Once the water comes to a boil, place the Romanesco florets into the steamer basket and cover.  Steam 3-5 minutes depending on desired tenderness. When finished transfer florets to a large bowl filled with cool water to stop the cooking process.  Drain and set aside.Romanesco Salad Steaming
  5. While Romanesco is steaming, spray a pan with cooking spray and heat over medium. Once pan is heated, toast breadcrumbs for about 2-3 minutes until golden. Remove from heat.
  6. In a large bowl, combine steamed florets, capers, and redpepper flakes.  Pour in the anchovy dressing and toss ingredients to coat.  Add toasted breadcrumbs and toss one more time to combine ingredients.Romanesco Salad Dressing Salad
  7. Serve at room temperature as tapas or a side dish.

Romanesco Salad 5

Hummingbird Cupcakes and a Tale of Two Crows That Led the Way

hummingbird cupcakes 1Today is All Souls Day, a holy day in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches that honor the dead.  My friends, I have been saving this recipe for over a year now, having been inspired to make these cupcakes from an event that occurred at my grandmother’s burial in May 2014.  I am thinking today is the perfect time to share these Hummingbird Cupcakes with you as we remember and pray for those who have gone before us.

IMG_9038 sm

Jack Jones, my 4th great grandfather and grandson of the patriot Stephen Jones of St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

As I shared with you almost a year ago now in my post, Grilled Salmon Cakes – Saying Good-bye to Grandmaafter my grandmother passed in February of last year the final remnants of winter prevented us from laying her to rest until the weather warmed and the snows melted away.  That May I finally got to see where my grandmother’s family had lived since the late 1700s when American settler’s began pressing westward out of Virginia and North Carolina.  Having roots that deep in South-eastern Kentucky, of course we have a family cemetery filled with generations of my grandmother’s family.  It is out of this cemetery that the story inspiring these Hummingbird Cupcakes came about.

My grandmother’s constant companion for years was my very free-spirited cousin, Shelley.   Of course I was not surprised when my dad’s middle sister  checked in with my dad the evening we arrived in Kentucky and announced that Shelley had set up camp in the graveyard and would not be joining us for dinner. (That of course had my mother worried!)

hummingbird cupcakes 6The next morning after the family caravan wound through back-roads, passing house after house (and trailer after trailer) upon which I read  names familiar from my grandparents’ family trees, we found our way to where my grandfather was waiting for my grandmother under the eves of what  is now the Daniel Boone National Forest.  Shelley stood in front of a shelter  at the top of the dirt road waving at us, barefoot and smiling.  She had a story to share.

Her story began with two crows and ended in a place we thought was lost forever.

The previous evening, after my aunt had dropped her niece off, Shelley was communing with the silence , the trees, and the graves surrounding her when a pair of crows began cawing at her.  Shelley just drank her wine and eventually hummingbird cupcakes 7drifted off to sleep despite her noisy, uninvited companions.  In the morning, those two crows were still there and cawing at her when one suddenly spread it’s wings and flew away.  Shelley relayed that she had felt the need to follow it and so she did, chasing it down the dirt road and out of the cemetery. It came to rest at a small farm down the road where an astonished man was just coming out of his trailer when he saw Shelley come out of nowhere.

Turns out this man and the folks living in the neighboring trailers were distant cousins on my grandfather’s side…not completely surprising as we knew my grandfather’s parents had owned much of the surrounding land and had bequeathed it among a dozen sons and a daughter (never mind that my grandfather’s father was one of nearly 30 children).  Shelley was ecstatic. “Do you know about Barbecue Cliff???” she asked excitedly.

Hicks BBQ Cliff 3

Walking along a stone cropping along the path to Barbecue Cliff

Barbecue Cliff was a place our grandmother had spoken about often during the years of their companionship.  It was a huge gathering place for family shindigs (and I’m sure revivals as my grandmother was descended from generations of Baptist ministers).  Shelley had heard many stories about it from Grandma…but her mother, my dad, and my other aunt did not know its location. When Grandma passed, Shelley feared it was lost to our branch of the family forever.

Of course the man knew about Barbecue Cliff! He pointed over beyond the farm to the trees and hills behind and offered to show her.

“We can all go together and see it after we bury Grandma,” Shelley finished.  The woman who had owned the land previously had left a caveat in her will…no member of the entire clan could be denied access to the area.  We were all welcome.

Hawk Creek Exploring Stones

Exploring family history with my cousins.

I wanted to ask Shelly if she thought Grandma had sent the crows to show her the way…but I knew what her answer would have been.  “Of course!”

So now you know the story of the two crows.

Time for the cupcakes!

Now how did crows inspire these, you might ask.  Well they’re birds, right? LOL!  Anyway, besides the avian influence, I was also inspired by the fact that Hummingbird cake is a Southern favorite and my grandmother was a Kentuckian through and through.  Who would have thought  these pretty treats had started out with a pair of crows, huh?hummingbird cupcakes 2

Hummingbird Cupcakes

makes 2 dozen cupcakes
Dry Ingredients
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
Wet Ingredients
  • 3-4 large, very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, juices drained
  • 3/4 cup dried, shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) olive oil
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting –

Garnish options: shredded dried coconut, shaved dried coconut, whole or half pecans

  1. Pre-heat overn to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Line two standard muffin tins with your desired liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.hummingbird cupcakes dry ingredients
  3. In a large bowl, add the sugar and vanilla.  With an electric mixer on medium, begin streaming the olive oil into the bowl.  Continue beating the oil, sugar, and vanilla until combined.
  4. Add eggs one at a time to the sugar mixture.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and beat mixture until it reaches a smooth, thin custard-like consistency.   Turn mixer off.hummingbird cupcakes oil sugar eggs
  5. Add the mashed bananas and crushed pineapple to the egg and sugar mixture. Turn the mixer on to medium-speed and beat until ingredients are combined.hummingbird cupcakes combining wet ingredients
  6. Turn mixer down to low speed and begin to gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Do not over-beat or the cupcakes will be tough.  If preferred, fold the flour in with a rubber spatula instead of using the mixer.hummingbird cupcakes adding dry ingredients
  7. Fold chopped pecans into the batter.hummingbird cupcakes fold pecans
  8. Divide batter evenly among the lined cups.  Begin with approximately 1/4 cup of batter in each.hummingbird cupcakes filling liners
  9. Place muffin tins in oven and bake 20-25 minutes.  When finished, cupcakes will be golden brown and a toothpick inserted into their center will come out clean.hummingbird cupcakes cooling
  10. Cool completely on wire racks before topping cupcakes off with Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting.hummingbird cupcakes icing
  11. Decorate as desired with shredded dried coconut, shaved dried coconut, whole or half pecans.

hummingbird cupcakes 4

Blueberry Kolaches – From Austin and D.C. with Love

Blueberry Kolache_2Yes, it’s been awhile, hasn’t it, friends?  I know Emilie and I have fallen far from the regular postings you used to get, but please know that we haven’t forgotten any of you.  In fact, we talk, text, and e-mail about you and Cork and Spoon quite often.  That is why today’s post is dedicated to all our friends/readers that have stuck with us all this time.

The last you heard from Emilie, she had moved from D.C. to Austin, TX (For the record, I’m still working on my abandonment issues…).  Well, before she and Tom left, in fact while I was helping them transfer their home into a rented PODS container, Emilie and I decided that I should run a half-marathon in Austin.  Since I had already planned on the “Real Girls Run” November half-marathon in Charlottesville, (injuries down the road put a stop to that) and because Emilie wouldn’t have accrued annual leave before Christmas, we found the perfect sweet spot: the Austin Marathon and Half-marathon, which takes place in February.

Now fast forward to New Years 2015.

I find out that after hearing I was coming to Austin and running a race, another Blueberry Kolache_4dear friend of ours, Gill, was coming to Austin, too.  Yay, reunion time! It had been years since the three of us were in the same place at the same time.  As we started coordinating our itineraries, Emilie sent Gill and I the following:

Tuesday: Ruth arrives around 8 PM

Wednesday: Gill arrives around 4 PM

Thursday-Saturday: FUN

Sunday: Ruth runs a marathon while Gill and I eat kolaches and cheer her on.

Yay, fun! Hey, wait.  “What’s a kolache?”  Neither Gil nor I had heard of such a thing before.

Emilie responded with this article from the NY Times.  It is a Czech, yeasted sweet bread filled with deliciousness like fruit, sweetened cheese, or sausage.  Due to a large amount of Czech immigrants that settled in Texas during the 19th century, these dollops of yumminess have become part of the Texan culinary culture.  Now that I was more informed about kolaches, I reminded the girls that I needed to begin refueling around mile 5 or 6 and hinted at how cool it would be for them to toss me a kolache as I ran by them.  (Don’t you agree?)

Blueberry Kolache_Luckenbach

Well, population 3 unless you count the rooster…

After a fun filled couple of days of hunting down BBQ, tasting Texas wines, exploring the faceted city of Austin, enjoying Deep Eddy cocktails,  and eating lots of bacon (Tom kept it comin’!), tacos, and avocados,  race day finally arrived.  In the dark early hours, Tom graciously drove me downtown and dropped me off while the girls got in an extra couple of hours of sleep.  I walked up and down Congress Ave between the State Capital and the starting line at 2nd St. thinking of how lucky I was to have friends who would get up this early or travel half way across the country to cheer me on.  I told my injured IT band that we could not disappoint them now.

Blueberry Kolache_Hope Outdoor Gallery

At the Hope Outdoor Gallery

Em, Gill, and Tom actually made it to three different points along the course, which took me by total surprise.  If you have ever run a long distance race, you know how much energy seeing your friends/family can pull out of you (Right, Sue?).  Emilie and I also learned about the SNL, “More cowbell!” skit from Gill, because Em had bought a cowbell to clang and cheer with for race day.  (Hey, we’re not the only ones.  I shouted “More cowbell!” at some spectators at a recent race…I don’t think they understood, but they did clang louder!).

Blueberry Kolache_mile 12

Mile 12…the biiig hill. Look at how encouraging Emilie is trying to be as I whine about wanting to walk not run.

Sadly, there were no kolaches for me on the course.  When Emilie accompanied me up the big hill at mile 12, I asked where my kolache was.  She told me to keep running up the hill.  Waaaah, I’m not done yet?

Then there was the finish line.  Yay!  I crossed right at my goal time.  Double yay!

Emilie, Gill, and Tom found me at our pre-determined meeting point.  Between great jobs and proud of yous, Gill mentioned they had had kolaches for breakfast.  Before my face fell too much, she also mentioned mine were waiting for me in the car.  Now how about a triple, yay!

Blueberry Kolache_3Now the kolache recipe I am sharing with you today is a “clean eating” version.  More about that in another post, but basically it’s a style of eating that keeps processed and artificial foods to a minimum.  For example, the typical sweet dough is made with all-purpose flour and granulated sugar.  I swapped these ingredients out for white whole wheat flour and sucanat.  For the blueberry filling, I swapped the sugar for honey.

As you probably know, working with whole wheat flour, even the finer white whole wheat kind, can be tricky business.  Whole wheat bread tends to be denser than bread made with its airier all-purpose cousin.  While the kolaches I had in Austin had a tender, pastry-like texture, these whole wheat versions are denser and more like a breakfast biscuit than a pastry.

Feel free to use whichever flour you like, both versions taste delicious and will compliment your morning coffee or tea quite nicely.

Blueberry Kolache_5

Whole Wheat Blueberry Kolaches


Blueberry Kolache_Ingredients

Sweet Dough
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 4 3/4 cups whole wheat flower
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup sucanat  (may substitute granulated sugar)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • Egg Wash (beat 1 egg with 2 tablespoons heavy cream or buttermilk)

Blueberry Filling

  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • 3 teaspoons cornstarch or tapioca starch
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Sweet Dough
  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sucanat in ¼ cup of milk.Blueberry Kolache_Yeast
  2. Allow yeast to bloom, about 10 minutes.
  3. Fit your mixer with the paddle attachment.
  4. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine yeast mixture with the remaining milk and sugar along with the butter, eggs, and salt.Blueberry Kolache_Dough Mixing
  5. Turn mixer speed to low and gradually blend in 1 ½ cups of the flour.
  6. Change out the paddle for the dough hook attachment.
  7. Turn mixer speed to medium and begin kneading the dough.  Gradually add remaining flour mixture.
  8. Once all dough ingredients are combined in the mixer bowl, knead dough for about 5 to 7 minutes.Blueberry Kolache_Dough Kneaded
  9. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap.Blueberry Kolache_Dough Rest
  10. Allow dough to rise until doubled in size, about 60 minutes.
  11. Punch dough down.  Knead by hand briefly then divide dough in half. Blueberry Kolache_Dough Risen
  12. Form into balls, and let stand for 10 minutes
  13. Flour your work surface.  Roll out one dough ball to ½ inch thick.
  14. Cut dough rounds using a 2½-inch cookie or biscuit cutter.  Combine remaining scraps, re-rolling and cutting additional rounds.  Repeat with the second dough ball.Blueberry Kolache_Dough Cutting
  15. Place cut out rounds on a parchment lined or greased baking sheet(s) about 1 inch apart.  Cover with a towel and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.Blueberry Kolache_Dough Rounds Rest
  16. During this final rise, prepare Blueberry Filling (instructions below).
  17. Pre-heat oven 400°F.
  18. Use your thumb or the back of a spoon to press a deep indentation into the center of each round.  Blueberry Kolache_Indent
  19. Brush kolache edges with egg wash.
  20. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling into the indentation.Blueberry Kolache_Filling Kolaches
  21. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.Blueberry Kolache_Baking Time
  22. Allow to cool then store for up to three days in an airtight container.Blueberry Kolache_Baking Done
Blueberry Filling
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the honey, cornstarch, salt, and cinnamon.  Stir to combine.  Blueberry Kolache_Filling Syrup
  2. Add the blueberries and lemon juice. Blueberry Kolache_Filling Add Berries
  3. Place saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring, until filling comes to a low boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Blueberry Kolache_Filling Simmering
  5. Set aside and let cool.

Blueberry Kolache_1

Venison Stroganoff – Beating Off the Last of Winter’s Chill

Venison Stroganoff 5Is it just me, or is Spring the biggest tease of all the seasons?  I don’t know how the weather looks in your neck of the woods, but here in the D.C. area a day or two of beautiful, sunshine-y, warmish days are followed by sometimes 20 degree drops in temperature with rains and crazy winds.  For example, just a week ago I went for a lovely seven mile run in shorts and a tank-top.  That evening I packed up my winter sweaters…only to pull one out the next morning to shield myself from the wintry chill that arrived overnight.  Brrrrr!  On these early days of spring, when a shiver or two lingers in the air, we can find ourselves still craving a bowl of something warm and comforting.  However,  by this time I am chili and stew tired out.  Time for something new, right? Now last we spoke, I promised to share my new experiences with you.  Well, to break out of the season transition doldrums, I ventured into the “new” territory of…venison!

It is no surprise that I work with a number of hunters and overall outdoors men Venison Stroganoff 1(and women); it’s the military after all.  Monday mornings during hunting season, I’d often hear of  miserable hours of sitting in cold drizzle with no game, see video clips of foraging bears, and lend an ear to the venting of the bad “etiquette” of late-starting hunters scoping out for spots and scaring away the deer.  As the weeks passed on, it  appeared to me that this past season was un-plentiful.  It wasn’t until nearly the very end that one of my friends stopped by super excited to share his catch (as promised) and presented me with a neatly butcher wrapped package of  venison chops.  The catch to the promise, of course, was to share what I thought about my first experience with venison.

Venison Stroganoff_prepping chopsI followed my friend’s recommendation to prepare a small piece of venison in order to just taste the flavor of the meat itself.  “Just a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, ” he said, “sear it in a pan then finish it in the oven like you would a nice steak.” Roger that!  Upon opening the package that weekend, I noticed the deep, rich color of the meat.  Meat doesn’t look that nice even from the higher end grocery stores!  I added checking out the downtown butcher shop to my to-do list so that I could make a comparison some day.   Then I removed a piece of venison from the package, froze the rest for later, and followed my friend’s recommended preparation.  Below is how it turned out.  Now doesn’t that look tasty?

Venison Stroganoff_ready to taste Venison Stroganoff_ready to taste 2

My first thoughts as I chewed that initial bite of venison was, “What’s this “gamey” flavor everyone keeps talking about?”  To me, the venison tasted almost identical to beef, albeit drier and a bit tougher than a piece of beef prepared in the same manner.   My second bite, I took it slower.  I went ahead and chewed and chewed allowing every bit of my mouth to have contact with the venison as I tried to discern that distinct flavor.  Still, I did not notice much of a difference, only this time I did discover a mild, earthy after-taste that reminded me of mushrooms.

Venison Stroganoff 3That slight earthiness of the venison inspired me to use the remaining meat in a Stroganoff, a creamy dish of sauteed beef and mushrooms simmered in sour-cream.  I’d been dying to make some for the longest time (I grew up on Hamburger Helper’s Potato Stroganoff!).  The venison and the incoming spring provided me the perfect excuse and opportunity to bust out of that muddy spring rut I mentioned earlier.  To fight the lingering chill, the venison Stroganoff provided warm and creamy comfort without the heaviness of a fall or winter stews,  while the earthy notes of from the venison and mushrooms gave hint to the coming freshness of spring.

Now c’mon already Spring.  We’re ready for you!

Venison Stroganoff


Venison Stroganoff_packaged chops 1

  • 1 pound venison
  • 6 ounce package cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¾ cup beef or chicken stock
  • 1 large bay leave
  • 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 cup full fat sour-cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Cooked rice or egg noodles
  1. Pat venison dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.Venison Stroganoff_pat salt pepper
  2. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Sear venison in pan.  Use Emilie’s guide to cook venison to desired doneness. Remove venison from pan, setting aside to rest.
     Venison Stroganoff_butter sear      Venison Stroganoff_remove venison
  4. Reduce heat to medium and melt remaining butter in pan and pour in olive oil.  Add shallots and mushrooms, slowly sauteing until soft, about 7-10 minutes.Venison Stroganoff_shallots and mushrooms
  5. Add minced garlic to the mushrooms and cook one minute more.
  6. Pour in stock and add mustard and bay leaf to pan.  Stir, scraping up any bits left over from searing the venison.Venison Stroganoff_mustard and bayleaf
  7. Raise heat back to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer 5 minutes.
  8. While sauce simmers, slice the venison.Venison Stroganoff_slice venison
  9. Stir sour-cream into the mushroom sauce and let sauce warm through.  Be careful not to let the sauce come to a boil or the sour-cream may break.Venison Stroganoff_add sour cream
  10. Fold in venison and parsley and remove from heat.
    Venison Stroganoff_fold venison into sour cream  Venison Stroganoff_ready to serve
  11. Serve Venison Stroganoff over rice or egg noodles.Venison Stroganoff 4

Homemade Maple Coconut Almond Butter – New Year, New Beginnings

Maple Coconut Almond Butter 2Well now, how has everyone’s 2015 so far? I hope it’s been fantastic, because I have never been more excited for a new year in my life.  Why, you might ask? Well, because for the first time ever I am allowing myself to be exited about it. Rather than dread another year and what it could possibly throw at me this time, I am going to be open and receptive to all the new beginnings it might hold for me.  Want to ride along?

Now I can’t share every new beginning with you.  After all, Cork and Spoon is a food and drink blog.  Soooo, you may not see my latest jewelry pieces, hear my current running play-list, or see my newborn niece’s photo-shoot, but you will see any tummy yummy goodies inspired by those experiences. Just to warn you, though, all experiences are fair game: good or bad.  After all, they both teach us something.  My own bad experiences over the past two years have taught me that creativity has healing powers, that it can be the spark that ignites the flame which lights the way out of the darkest pit.

In conjunction with honoring my creative side, another spark for me has been myMaple Coconut Almond Butter 3 running.  As you may recall, I completed my first race (a half-marathon!) last spring.  Well, I’m training for my next one, which is just over a month away.  Besides the various runs and exercises loaded up in a runner’s training plan, another important piece is the “fuel plan” as I call it: how you plan to fuel your training and your run.  For example, once you start getting into Long Runs, meaning a run that lasts longer than an hour, you not only need to make sure the tank’s full when you start, but you’re going to have to re-fuel mid run.  It’s better to learn what works with your body during training rather than find out on race day that coffee gives your the runs or a certain gel gives you heartburn. Needless to say, it’s a pretty good idea to incorporate your race day breakfast and any pre-race snacks and hydration into your training plan.  For me, my race day and Long Run day breakfast has become a bagel (preferably the latest Thomas’ Bagel limited edition flavor) and creamy almond butter.

Maple Coconut Almond Butter 4Mmmmmm, almond butter.  I mean, I love peanut butter, too, but after making the switch I don’t think I’ll go back except as  a treat (Reeses anyone?).  Mostly, I do prefer the flavor, but nutritionally almond butter has just a little bit of a leg up over peanut butter, especially for runners, athletes, and other highly active people.  In addition to having significantly greater levels of the anti-oxidant Vitamin E, almond butter also provides magnesium (supports muscle functions and energy production…and is said to help migraines!) as well as iron (necessary for producing hemoglobin and myoglobin, which are essential for the carrying of oxygen the body). Not to mention almonds are going to be easier on your body on race day. Almonds are actual nuts, while peanuts are legumes…you know…like beans…yeah, chili will not be anywhere on my plate until after the race.  Did I mention my next half marathon is in Texas??

Now what really  bites is that almond butter is typically, at it’s cheapest, twice Maple Coconut Almond Butter 5the cost of peanut butter.  That’s why when my beautiful chartreuse Blendtec (a birthday present to myself) arrived a couple of weeks ago, I already had homemade almond butter on my “to-make” list. Since my favorite almond butter is Justin’s Maple Almond Butter, I decided I wanted to make something similar and it would be a great way to use my maple sugar, which I don’t get to use very often (It’s pricey, so I use it for special recipes).  I also decided to use coconut oil instead of grapeseed oil for two reasons. First, it added a little sweetness without more sugar. Second, it’s winter.

Who in the northern hemisphere isn’t craving a warm beach right now? Lol!

Happy New Year, friends!

Homemade Maple Coconut Almond Butter

Makes appx. 7 ounces (0.875 cups)

IngredientsAlmond Butter Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups raw almonds
  • 4 tablespoons maple sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt (fine not coarse)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (melted for better results, but room temperature is fine).
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)

Tip: To adjust for increased creaminess, add mild flavored oil, such as canola or grapeseed, beginning with 1 teaspoon and increasing until blended almond butter reaches desired creaminess.


  1. Pre-heat oven to 170°F.
  2. Spread almonds evenly on a parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes, tossing almonds halfway through for even roasting. If needed, allow almonds to cool enough for handling, but make sure they are still warm.
  3. Pour warm almonds into your mixer jar or food processor bowl.
  4. Pulse almonds until pulverized into almond meal. Almond Butter PulseNote: Professional grade blenders such as Vitamixes and Blendtecs don’t really need this step, but for less powerful appliances, better safe than blowing out your motor. 
  5. Starting on a low speed and blend almond meal for 15 seconds.
  6. Increase to a high speed for 30-60 seconds, or until you hear the blade moving freely,i.e. your almond butter is stuck to the sides of the jar/bowl and no longer getting pulverized by the blade.
  7. Stop blender or food processor and use a rubber spatula to scrape the almond butter back into center of jar/bowl.
  8. Add coconut oil once the almond meals begins to form a paste.
  9. Repeat the blend then scrape cycle until almond butter begins to flow freely over the blades.  Note: Your appliance’s motor should sound low, as if it’s working to churn that sticky butter. Remember to keep a watch on your appliance’s motor. If the machine gets too warm, stop the process and allow the motor to cool down.
  10. Add maple sugar and salt to the almond butter,  as well as maple syrup  and any additional oil for creaminess if using these options.
  11. Blend 30-60 seconds on high.  Repeat as necessary to reach desired creaminess.
  12. Refrigerate almond butter in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Almond Butter Almond Meal   Almond Butter PasteAlmond Butter Almost Ready  Almond Butter Ready

Maple Coconut Almond Butter 1

Onion Cheddar Beer Bread

One of the hardest parts about moving halfway across the country is making new friends in a strange city. Luckily, the Internet makes it relatively easy to find social groups, volunteer organizations, and more. Within a few weeks of moving to Austin, I started exploring the Austin MeetUp website, where I found several local women’s social groups that appeared to be filled with people I could definitely get along with. Through events these groups have sponsored, I’ve been able to explore Austin while meeting lots of funny, smart, and awesome people who have the potential to become a great group of friends.

Onion Cheddar Bread - cookie swap table

Setting the table before the guests arrive.

I’ve begun to enjoy the people in one group in particular over the past few weeks and wanted to give back by hosting my own MeetUp event for ladies in the group. I decided to host a small Christmas cookie swap for those who were interested as a chance to hang out while also getting a fun collection of holiday treats to enjoy over the coming weeks. As the host, I wanted to make sure I had some salty snacks to compliment the sweets we’d be sampling as well as a little mulled wine for everyone. With so much already on my to do list, I needed make a swap treat that had minimal steps and took little time to bake. Spending hours preparing baking sheet after sheet of cookies seemed like too daunting a task when the floor still needed to be mopped.

Onion Cheddar Bread - finished onion cheese bread

The clear choice for my dilemma was mini-loaves of quick bread. With 3 loaves of bread baked per recipe batch, it would be easy to quadruple the recipe and make the required 12 loaves of bread for the ladies to take home aftewards. I even had 12 cardboard mini loaf pans in the closet waiting to be used! It was fate. A few test runs later, I perfected this super easy, 9-ingredient, savory quick bread. It is perfect with a little butter  or cream cheese served on the side of a smooth tomato soup.

Onion Cheddar Beer Bread
(1) 9-inch loaf bread or (3) mini 4-inch loaves

1 large yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 ounces white cheddar cheese
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
12 ounce bottle nut brown ale or porter

1)     Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan or 3 mini 4-inch loaf pans.

2)     Add olive oil to large heavy bottomed skillet over low-medium heat. Add diced onion and cook slowly to caramelize. While the onion is cooking, shred or roughly chop the cheddar cheese. When the onion has just begun to caramelize, about 10 minutes, remove from heat and let cool so that it doesn’t melt the cheese.

Onion Cheddar Bread - cook the onions

3)     Whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir in onions and cheddar until evenly distributed.

Onion Cheddar Bread - whisk dry ingredients

Onion Cheddar Bread - add chredded cheese

Onion Cheddar Bread - stir in onions

4)     Slowly add beer, stirring to fully combine. The final batter will be thick and you will need to spoon it into baking dish. Bake for 50 minutes for a large loaf or 30 minutes for smaller loafs. Remove from oven and cool completely before storing, airtight, in the fridge.

Onion Cheddar Bread - add the beer

Onion Cheddar Bread - add the beer 1

Onion Cheddar Bread - add the beer 2