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While I’m not usually a big fan of grapes, I’m a huge fan of trying new things, so I couldn’t resist getting some of these “witch fingers.” They are very sweet but otherwise taste pretty similar to other red grapes. They also seem to have a few seeds, although not every grape has a seed, so you never know when you’ll hit one. The shape is mostly a fun visual, but there is something novel about eating an oblong grape.

CocoaLavender

After much agonizing  and many mildly disappointing desserts, we just bought ourselves an ice cream machine. More than excited, we were forced to wait the 24 hours it takes for the cylinder on our home machine to fully freeze, but this morning it was finally cold and we were ready to start plans for icy goodness. During a quick thumb through the included recipes, a dark chocolate sorbet caught my eye, both for sounding delicious and because we had all the ingredients at hand. We had to start the process early in the day, as it needs to rest in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

The first step in a sorbet is making a simple syrup with 3 cups of water, a pinch of salt, and a cup and 2/3 of sugar (we used coconut sugar). After all the sugar is dissolved, we added the 1 and 2/3 cups of cocoa powder, or at least we would have if we had not discovered that we only had a half cup of cocoa left. Since we needed more flavor in the recipe, we decided to spice up the sorbet with a few shakes of powdered chili pepper and, remembering some chocolate lavender brownies we made last week, we added about a tablespoon and a half of crushed lavender. We let the concoction sit in the fridge all day, then strained the mix into the ice cream maker. Twenty minutes later we had a thick and tasty sorbet. Now to wait another 2 hours for it to firm up in the fridge.

For those who just want a recipe:

Chocolate Lavender Sorbet

3 cups water

1 2/3 cups sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 cup cocoa powder

about 1 1/2 tablespoons lavender

crushed chili pepper to taste

Boil water, salt, and sugar until dissolved. Slowly stir in cocoa powder until all of it is mixed in, crush lavender and add, shake on crushed chili pepper. Cover and set in fridge to cool, at least 2 hours. Strain the mix and add to ice cream maker. After the sorbet has thickened, move to a freezer safe container and put in the freezer until it is as firm as you like.

Robert and I attended one day of the recent Just Food conference on March 29th and 30th and we had a great time! While we would have loved to go to the whole thing, we were only able to make it on Saturday, but we still got a lot out of it.

My favorite session of the day was “Curd Nerds: Basics Of Milk Chemisty And Cheesemaking” taught by Sascha Anderson from Murray’s Cheese. I learned so much about how cheese is made and got to taste some great samples, including cheddar curds and one of my old favorites, Parmigiano Reggiano. Interestingly, I found out that cheesemaking requires milk from cows, goats, sheep, caribou or other ruminants, not just from any old mammal!

I also enjoyed “Getting Creative With Cuts: Learning About Whole Animals” by Adam Tiberio of Tiberio Custom Meats, another very informative session, where I learned about how cows are raised and turned into delicious cuts of meat.

Another highlight of the conference was the Good Food Jobs Get Together, hosted by the people behind the Good Food Jobs website, which I definitely recommend for anyone looking to work in the world of food. The event was setup as a speed-networking session, we were asked to find someone new to talk to every five minutes, and given a prompt to discuss to start the conversation. I, unfortunately, am not much of a networker, and tend to end up disappointed with myself for not meeting more people at networking events, but this one was different and I ended up getting contact information from some really interesting people. I also want to add that I emailed Good Food Jobs from their website to let them know how much I enjoyed their event and got an almost immediate response from Taylor Cocalis, one of the founders.

We also enjoyed the keynote address given by Byron Hurt. He discussed and showed clips from his film Soul Food Junkies which I am eager to see in its entirety. It looks like a very interesting examination of soul food, both for its cultural importance, and its impact on health.

Overall, Just Food put on a great event that brought together people from many different parts of the food world, as well as those interested in learning more about food and the important issues surrounding it. I hope we can return for the full conference next year!

Black Cat Big City Cover

We’ve been away for awhile, moving across the country from Phoenix to Brooklyn and working on lots of projects. I’m excited to announce one of our most recent ones, my children’s book, Black Cat Big City has just been released on Storypanda, a great iOS app that lets kids and parents create collaborative stories.

I created the original version at Pratt while studying Constructivism in a typography class. The new version will be interactive and will have an option to create your own version of the story by changing out the words and some of the illustrations. We’re working on a fun promotion for it and I’m writing a blog post for Storypanda about the creation of the book. Robert and I are both really excited about the release of Black Cat Big City and I’ll probably be posting more about it soon.

Hamantaschen

We recently tried out this recipe for hamantaschen cookies. It comes on the can label of Solo poppy seed filling, the most delicious product that can be made with poppy seeds. I like poppy seeds in most things, but I love this stuff. It’s basically just tons of poppy seeds held together with a thick syrup. I’ve been crazy about it ever since I had it as a kid.

Robert had never had it before, and since I had tried this recipe a long time ago and liked it, we made these. They came out great, even better than I remember. The cookie dough is a little like a pie crust, but not quite as flaky. We were even discussing the possibilities of using it for a pie after we tasted the cookies.

Here’s the recipe on their website and below (so you don’t have to remove the label from the can to see what to buy):

Ingredients

2 3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoon milk
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon milk for brushing

Instructions

 To make this Hamantaschen recipe, stir flour, sugar, baking powder, orange peel, and salt in large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add eggs and milk and mix until dough binds together. Knead dough in bowl 5 to 8 strokes or until smooth. Divide dough in half and wrap each piece separately in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease 2 baking sheets and set aside. Roll out 1 piece of dough on lightly floured surface 1/4-inch thickness. Cut dough with floured 3-inch round plain cookie cutter. Spoon 1 teaspoonful poppy filling onto center of each circle. Bring 3 edges of circle together into middle of circle to form triangle. Pinch edges upward to make slight ridge, leaving small hole in center. Place on prepared baking sheets about 11/2 inches apart and brush with beaten egg yolk mixture. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from baking sheets and cool completely on wire racks.

I like making layer cakes, but every time I do I am reminded why they are (or are supposed to be anyway) a special occasion food. They take some time to make, although the steps are not all that hard, and seeing the amount of sugar, oil, flour, and butter that actually goes into a cake can be a bit disturbing. But when the occasion comes up and I can make the time, I always enjoy it. So here’s Robert’s birthday cake. It’s a chocolate cake with coconut frosting.

Chocolate Coconut Cake

I spent hours trying to figure out what kind of cake to make and basically ended up making my favorite cake. I did give him some choices on the frosting though. I also had to scrap the idea of surprising him with an awesome fully finished cake after work when I started the recipe without making sure I had enough cocoa powder. Oh well, I think we ended up having more fun making it together than I would have alone anyway!

Chocolate Coconut Cake Detail

I got the cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which I have been reading a lot recently, and the frosting from Baked Perfection. It worked out well, but if you try the same combination you might want to make a little more frosting. The cake uses 10 inch pans, and the frosting (which was originally for cupcakes) just barely covers it. The coconut flakes covered it up well and it looks pretty good, but if you don’t use them, or you like a heavier frosting coating and filling I would recommend increasing the amount.

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