I know that as April begins, a hot toddy does not seem particularly appropriate for cocktail hour. I apologize for this, but this week's choice was compelled by the hacking cough I have had all week. I have spent the week sipping tea, sucking on cough drops and excusing myself out of meeting after meeting to go cough. Bummer. The only kind of cocktail I could interest myself in is something hot, soothing, and with a little spice to help clear my head. And after an exhausting week something with alcohol was a must. So here is this simple hot toddy with ginger, lemon and cloves. You can really use whatever brown liquor you want, I went with bourbon. I added some honey to coat my throat and presto - instant relief.
Kim Edwards' The Lake of Dreams is a little bit sleepy novel. The story follows Lucy, a young woman who has escaped the pain of her fathers sudden death by traveling the world and staying far away from her family home in the Finger Lakes region of New York. When she finds herself at a bit of a dead end in her life with her boyfriend in Japan she decides to travel home to The Lake of Dreams (the name of the town she grew up in) after her mother is in a car accident. Here Lucy must confront her past and the fact that everyone in her family has moved on from her father's death but her. Staying in her childhood bedroom, Lucy finds some old letters in a cupboard concerning a ancestor who no one in her family seems to know about. Lucy then embarks on a quest to discover more about this long lost relative - Rose - to uncover her families secrets. Lucy ends up finding a connection between Rose, who participated in the woman's suffrage movement, and a famous stained glass artist from the area - Frank Westrum. A large part of the book focuses on a series of stained glass windows that depict biblical scenes from the women's perspective. Hence, these stained glass cookies which I haven't made or even thought of since I was a kid.
Had a bad day? A tiring week? Got some bad news? Got some good news? For any of these situations, what you need is a vacation in glass. This weekend I needed a vacation in a glass. I had my last day at work at one job on Friday and on Monday I start a new job. With only two days in between, instead of a trip to the tropics I decided to take myself there with this drink. Anything with a little pink umbrella in it makes you relax! Here is my version of a Pina Colada which is always my tropical drink of choice because it is so creamy and it truly transports you to "vacationland." With this version I lightened it up a bit by using regular coconut milk instead of creme de coco, which is delicious but filled with added sugar. This Pina Colada is probably less sweet than what you would find a beach side bar in the Bahamas, but it is still yummy and still feels naughty. Now if I could just put my feet in the sand and hear the ocean I would be set... Oh well, we make do with the situation at hand.
Happy Thursday! Here is a pretty quick and easy weeknight dinner that tastes like takeout but definitely is not as greasy. I was inspired to make this when I found some fresh lo mein noodles at a local market for $1 buck. I built the dish around that, to some extent driven to the ground pork based on a truly fabulous ramen dish at local Boston place - for those of you in the area, you must get yourself to the food court in the Porter Square exchange building in Somerville, MA and have the spicy pork miso ramen at Sapporo Ramen. As you can see, this is not ramen but just stir fried noodles and, while I remembered to get the ground pork at Whole Foods, I forgot the miso! I came up with this dish nonetheless, and it has that same porky umami quality, and it took under 30 minutes to prepare, which is great for a busy weeknight.
This week, with Eleanor Henderson's Ten Thousand Saints, I am moving from a young adult book about teenagers who have to kill each other(The Hunger Games) to an adult adult book about teenagers who also end up killing each other, but here it is very real and non part of some futuristic game. The kids in Ten Thousand Saints are not the admirable, brave, loving survivors of The Hunger Games, but rather they are surly, badly behaved and careless. That said, despite this seeming unlikability, Henderson tells their story in way that compels the reader to at least feel sympathy for them. The book revolves around three teenagers in the mid to late 1980's who get caught up in New York's punk/straight edge scene. The book both vividly depicts the wayward youth characters and the place and time they occupy. We as readers follow the three main characters, Jude, Eliza and Johnny as they deal with a horrible loss and try to muddle their way through a very difficult situation (which is entirely of their own making). These baked vegan [sorry for my stupidity, of course the egg wash makes these non-vegan, leave that step out for a vegan version!] samosas are not closely inspired by the book, rather, because some of the characters become straight edge (giving up drinking, smoking, drugging and eating flesh) and are into the Hare Krishna religion, I decided to make something vegetarian and Indian. More about the book and these samosas after the jump.
Continuing the St. Patrick's Day theme for Cocktail Hour this week, here is a fun way to gussy up some Guinness - add champagne! I wish I had heard about this drink - called a Black Velvet - years ago. I am not a big fan of drinking Guinness - I love to cook with the stuff, and loved to drink it when I was sitting in a pub in Ireland, but back here in Boston, I am not into it. It tastes good, of course, but it just feels so heavy. When you add Champagne to Guinness though, it lightens up immediately. This drink is a match of opposites - the heavy, dark, molasses tasting Guinness with the light, sparkling champagne. These two opposite tastes meld together perfectly - each helping the other become something it is not - for the Guinness, lighter, for the champagne, more substantial. And together they create a really thick, delicious foam on the top, like a latte. An easy and fun way to toast St. Patrick, may the luck of the Irish be with you!
Happy Almost St. Patrick's Day to everyone. Although I am far from Irish, St. Patty's Day gets a lot of play here in Boston, since there is such a large Irish-American population here and Bostonians in general like to drink, and for most people, St. Patrick's day means lots of drinking! But for me, in addition to the drinking (a St. Patrick's Day drink will be coming later in the week) it also means Irish-American Soda Bread starts turning up in stores. I know that the soda bread with raisins and caraway seeds is not "real" Irish Irish soda bread, but I love the combination of sweet and salty in the Americanized version. The problem I often have with the store bought variety is that the loafs are so big and dense, only the edges are really good, and the middle is either underdone or the whole thing is a massive dry hockey pock. I thought breaking up the soda breads into little scones would solve this issue when I made some at home this weekend, and it really did help. This are appropriately dense but also tender and moist. I made these with currants and caraway seeds, but raisins would be just as good.
I resisted the hype around The Hunger Games trilogies for a long time. My friend Kerry gave me the first book, I said thank you and then put in at the bottom of my book pile. Although I love the Harry Potter series, I did not want to get into reading Young Adult lit - I don't read Teen Vogue, I am not a Taylor Swift fan, I ignored the whole Twilight thing. Then I thought about the title (knowing nothing about the book) and said - for a blog about cooking and food, I doubt there is any dish I could tie in to a book called The Hunger Games. Kerry was quick to correct me there, telling me that there was actually a lot of food in the book and I would have many potential dishes to choose from when it came time to blog. As many of you probably know, The Hunger Games movie is coming out soon and I am sad to admit that it was the trailer of the movie that inspired me to pick up the book. The trailer showed a story that looked intense, scary and suspenseful without the sparkly vamp, hot werewolf cheesiness of Twilight. So, I picked up the book and was quickly TOTALLY consumed by it. Read the first book in a couple of days, then, like a junkie wanting her next fix, got the next book from Kerry as soon as I could. A week and a half after I started the first book I am through the third book, Mockingjay, and am bummed there are no more books in the series. I get the hype here - these books are well written, contain a unique and compelling story line, and have characters and relationships that you can get behind. The lamb and prune stew above was a dish that came up a lot in the first book. Katniss, the main character of the book, after years of struggling to feed herself and her family, is suddenly provided large spreads of beautiful food when she travels to the Capitol after she is selected to participate in The Hunger Games. Her favorite dish was a lamb and prune stew, which I recreated here.
A little bite of breakfast to tide you over till my next book post (it's a doozy people, last week I became a devotee of the Hunger Games trilogy, plowed through two of the books in one week, perhaps I will be through the third by the time I post!) Here is a quick recipe for people looking to make a healthy breakfast for a bunch of people (or for yourself for a week) with minimal amount of work. And, it feels like a treat since it looks like a pie! I found this recipe on the Whole Foods website and was intrigued. I love oatmeal but hate instant oatmeal, so on busy everyday mornings I find I bypass oatmeal as a breakfast option since I don't have the time. This dish you can make the night before and just heat up in the microwave. It is also a treat because I make my oatmeal with water, and this little oatmeal pie is made with milk and yogurt. I used frozen berries and pecans in this version, but the fruit and nut options are limitless, hell, you could even throw in some chocolate chips! While this is great for everyday breakfast, it also is special enough for a casual brunch (and you could use cream instead of milk to give that special boost).
Obviously, this cocktail is more seasonally suited for the summer. But I bought some basil to make a pasta dish and had some leftover, and was inspired to find a basil cocktail this week. This recipe is from Martha Stewart and is an incredibly refreshing and light cocktail that is perfect for a brunch drink. It was great on a rainy March afternoon and will be even better this summer. Lillet is a French aperitif wine that is a blend of french white wine and macerated citrus liqueurs (mostly from orange peels). Sounds delish, right? It is. This was my first experience with Lillet and I definitely will be drinking more of it just over ice. It blended very well with the green taste of the basil. Martha recommends garnishing this with both a cucumber spear and a cinnamon stick. I just went with the cinnamon stick, and to be honest it seemed to be more decorative than anything else. The recipe for this yummy cocktail after the jump.