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Sweet-Tart Homemade Lemonade (made entirely by the kids)

21 Aug

My son and niece (8 and 11 respectively) had made some sugar syrup* for me last week – they are pretty good with the stove these days and eager to see how things are done.

I actually used most of it for adult beverages (mango-chile mojitos and passionfruit mojitos), but in return for their help, I promised I would show them how to make lemonade. In fact, while they were squeezing the lemons, I was taking a shower, then we just measured and mixed and that was it.

It was extremely tasty and refreshing and very easy (especially for me, because they did all the work) and looked so pretty in a special bottle! We’ll be doing it again very, very soon!

So easy, why would you buy?

So easy, why would you buy?

Lemonade

½ Cup sugar syrup*

½ Cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 Cups cold water

Mix together and pour over ice

Makes 3 Cups

* sugar syrup: 1 Cup sugar, 1 Cup water, heated on the stovetop till clear and liquid, then cooled. Keeps in the fridge for a month.

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Mango Mojitos With Ancho Chili Salt

15 Aug

It was another summer Friday in the neighborhood and that called for another festive cocktail. Riding high on the success of last session’s passionfruit mojitos, I decided to make mango mojitos. The drink itself followed much the same construction, but the mango was decidedly sweeter than the passionfruit, so I decided that it needed a spike of heat and salt for proper balance.

Assembly line for summer

Assembly line for summer

Ancho chile salt on the rim provided just the right touch.Your lips get hot, your tongue gets salty, then the potent sweetness of the mango and rum drenches your mouth in happiness!

Friday night in the hood

Friday night in the hood

I made enough to take to a Spuyten Duyvil concert at the farm two days later. Once again, big hit (except for the bit about the plastic cups…it is not good form to use one-time use cups in our world, but sometimes it happens; mea culpa)!

Spuyten Duyvil rocking the farm

Spuyten Duyvil rocking the farm

Mango Mojitos with Ancho Chile

3 parts rum

2-3 parts mango nectar or juice

1 part simple syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water heated until clear and liquid and cooled)

Ancho chile salt

1 Tbs ancho chile powder

1 Tbs table salt or salt crystals

Limes quartered

Mint leaves

Ice

Club soda or seltzer

Mix rum, juice and syrup together and place in a container until you are ready to use.

Mix salt and ancho chile powder thoroughly and pour onto a small plate. Rub the rim of your empty glass with lime then twirl the rim in the salt until coated.

Add two or three lime quarters, three leaves mint and muddle thoroughly so you have lime juice in the glass. Add ice, pour the mango mix in and top with a bit of club soda or seltzer.

Savory Spicy Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken

3 Aug

It is too hot for cooking, but the family’s gotta eat, so cook I must.

2015-07-31 11.40.23 slow cooker chickenSo I have employed the slow cooker; it makes for tasty and tender meals and doesn’t heat up the kitchen. Here is my interpretation of Moroccan Chicken; it was a big success with everyone in the house (the spiciness is pretty mild, just enough to keep things interesting) and took almost no effort on my part!

2015-07-31 11.40.51 slow cooker chickenSlow Cooker Moroccan Chicken

1 large onion, peeled and sliced into rounds (1-2 Cups)

2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias (1/2 inch slices, about 1 Cup)

3 large scallions, cleaned and sliced into rounds

Your preferred poultry seasoning or salt and pepper

1 4-5 lb whole chicken, cut into large pieces, or bone-in chicken parts, skin removed

1 Tbs cumin powder

1 Tbs oregano, dry

1 tsp harissa paste

1 8oz can of tomato puree (or Latin style tomato sauce with green pepper)

¼ Cup dry red wine

1 Tbs garlic, chopped

1-2 sprigs thyme

2 15oz cans chick peas, drained

Lay onion, carrots and scallions on the bottom of a large slow cooker. Season chicken pieces thoroughly and add to pot. Whisk together cumin, oregano, harissa, tomato puree, wine, and garlic and pour over chicken. Add thyme and chick peas. Cover slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours, then finish on low for another hour or two. Serve with couscous or rice. May be frozen, but remove bones before freezing.

Passionfruit Mojitos by the Pitcher or Glass

27 Jul

Summer evenings in the neighborhood can be wonderful. Occasionally on a Friday some of us neighbors bring out folding chairs and sit together in one front yard for a bit of happy hour while the kids go mental on someone else’s lawn. It’s pretty much BYO, but we do mix up a pitcher of experimental cocktails sometimes. Or at least I do.

2015-07-24 17.23.34 mojitoThese Passionfruit Mojitos (which I call “Monrojitos” after our street) were very pretty and tasty. I brought over a cooler with the rum mix, lime wedges, mint and ice, and we muddled each drink individually, which made it festive, somehow. Individuals can adjust lime if they want it a bit more tart.

2015-07-24 17.54.47 mojito passionPassionfruit Mojitos

(This recipe gives general proportions. For a pitcher, measure by the Cup; for individual servings use ounces)

3 parts white rum

2 parts passionfruit juice or nectar (nectar will be sweeter)

1 part sugar syrup (put equal parts water and white sugar in a saucepan, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until slightly thickened; 1 Cup of sugar and one of water will yield about 1.5 Cups of syrup)

OR

1 part agave syrup

Mint leaves (you’ll need at least three per glass)                                                                             

Limes, quartered (at least two quarters per glass)

ice

Club soda or seltzer

 Mix rum, juice and syrup in a pitcher or bottle you can close tightly and keep chilled. When you are ready to serve, place mint and lime in each glass and muddle (squeeze and press so tha the juices come out). Add ice, pour desired amount of rum mixture and top with a bit of club soda.

Sweet Pea and Leek Soup

13 Apr

It’s been a busy Spring at our house and although I have been rather out of touch, there HAVE been delicious things going on in my little kitchen. This was our soup for our Easter meal and since it is lovely and simple and seasonal, I knew I would eventually get to sharing it with you! It is almost like a bisque, because the texture is that creamy, but there is no cream or milk!

This was a delightful starter for our Spring meal!

This was a delightful starter for our Spring meal!

Enjoy, and happy Spring!

Sweet Pea and Leek Soup

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs butter

2 Cups leeks cleaned and sliced, white part only

1 Tbs fresh thyme

1 Cup frozen peas plus ¼ Cup set aside

1 quart good vegetable stock

¼ tsp nutmeg

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black or white pepper, fresh cracked

In a soup pot heat the oil and butter at medium high. When the foaming subsides, add leeks, stir to coat and lower heat to medium. Cook the leeks, stirring occasionally, until very soft, adding the thyme after about 5 minutes.

Add the peas (setting aside that extra ¼ Cup) stock and nutmeg, Bring to a steady simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the peas are very soft.

Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add the remaining peas, salt and pepper and serve with croutons, if desired, or a dollop of plain yogurt.

Two New Natural Easter Egg Colors

1 Apr

New colors for naturally dyed Easter eggs!

2015-03-30 20.56.53 easter eggsA couple of years ago we started coloring Easter eggs the natural way, with vegetable and spice colorings that can be teased out in a few minutes of boiling, steeping and straining. Our first colors were beet-derived pink, turmeric yellow, and blueberry purple-blue.

This year we added two more to our palette: red onion, which gives you a sort of earthy khaki color, and yellow onion, which tints the eggs a marvelous glowy yellow orange.

2015-03-31 08.57.32 easter eggsHere’s how:

Save the papery bits of red onion and yellow onion until you have a generous handful (the papery skins of a two-pound bag of onions should do it). Place each color in its own saucepan with 2.5 Cups water and a teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a lively simmer for 10 minutes. Strain into your dipping container, stir in 2 Tbs white vinegar and you are ready to dip! (For perfect hard-boiled eggs, click here)

And in case you missed it, here are the original three:

Three pots, each filled with 2 Cups water

HOT PINK – 1 large beet, chopped (peel can stay on)

YELLOW 4 Tbs turmeric

VIOLET BLUE – 12 oz frozen blueberries

2 Tbs white vinegar per color

crayons or wax pencils

Put one coloring ingredient in each pot. Bring to a boil, turn off and let steep five minutes. Strain into three separate bowls (removing chunky bits*). Add 2 Tbs vinegar to each bowl. Start blending, dipping and cross-dipping until you achieve the colors you like. Dry in the egg carton and add any decorations you see fit.

 

Vinny’s Brown Sugar Bacon

27 Mar

We recently had a wonderful weekend out in the wine country – Long Island’s North Fork is one of our favorite places to go…farmland, vineyards, the bay and the sound on either side and dear friends we’ve made over the years.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

I had a baby shower to go to, so after a bit of lunch at Love Lane Kitchen with our friend Ashley and a little wine-tasting (me) and Scrabble (them Exhibits A and B) across the street at the Roanoake Tasting Room, I took Leandro to our friends Vinny and Carolyn’s  to hang out while I met Ashley back at the joyous shower at Paumanok Vineyards.

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

The bacon theme seems to have started at dinner for them, as they ordered him bacon mac and cheese at the Blue Canoe.

This is how morning breaks in the North Fork

This is how morning breaks in the North Fork

And then the next morning it was bacon again, but this time Vinny upped the flavor profile, introducing us to his decadent Brown Sugar Bacon, which he says is a simplified adaptation of something he had elsewhere.

Vinny shows his style

Vinny shows his style

It is barely a recipe, more of a seasoning, but the results are salty-sweet, crispy and juicy and I will be doing it here at home this weekend.

How it looks going in...note the relative quantity of sugar (this is a recipe you eyeball more than measure)

How it looks going in…note the relative quantity of sugar (this is a recipe you eyeball more than measure)

I am hooked. Mind you, with hospitality like that, it’s a wonder Vinny and Carolyn ever get rid of us!

And voila! Special bacon....

And voila! Special bacon….

Vinny’s Brown Sugar Bacon

Rashers of thick-cut bacon, preferably smoked

light brown sugar (not dark brown, as it won’t crisp)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the desired number of strips of bacon flat on the paper. Sprinkle generously with sugar. Place in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes or until you start to smell that bacony smell. Turn and cook another ten minutes or until you reach the desired crispness. Serve with whatever breakfast food you like!

KID IN THE KITCHEN: Banana Nut Maple Mini-Muffins (Simplified)

6 Mar

(Don’t forget to vote for my Watermelon Mojito story for a #2015EDDY award for food and beverage writing. Vote daily till March 15. Thanks!)

Today was yet another snow day in a winter that has been the coldest in decades and during which we’ve been snowed on an awful lot. Most of us are well sick of the disruption and the winter coats and gloves and hats and the shoveling and the slush.

The bakers did very well!

The bakers did very well!

But there are small pleasures with unexpected days off…like sleeping in and — if your seven-year-old shuts up long enough to allow you to complete a thought or a blog post or pay a bill or anything for the love of God — finishing little tasks you wouldn’t have time for otherwise. And then there’s baking, because the best defense against the bad weather blues is a house that smells like sweet, warm, doughy things.

The muffins were not all exactly the same size, but that's part of the charm of home-made!

The muffins were not all exactly the same size, but that’s part of the charm of home-made!

So I decided to try a simpler version of our Banana Walnut Maple muffins with my little man and his friend from across the street after they’d been playing in the snow for a couple of hours (remember when you considered that kind of thing fun?) and I had actually completed one report.

Cute, no?

Cute, no?

It was a great success, both the making and the fragrant baking and the tasting, plus being able to send the neighbor home with muffins for her family and having muffins for the guy on the corner who cleared the driveway with his snow blower and for the sweet couple in their 90s across the street. Mini-muffins go so much farther than standard size muffins!

And we still have plenty left over for lunchboxes!

And we still have plenty left over for lunchboxes!

Banana Walnut Maple Mini Muffins II (simplified)

2 Cups all-purpose flour (or 1 Cup all-purpose and 1 Cup whole wheat)

1.5 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

4-5 overripe bananas

1 Cup light brown sugar

¾ Cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 large eggs

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

¼ Cup maple syrup

¾ Cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375˚F and grease or line with cups 2 standard muffin tins (12 muffins) or 4 mini-muffin tins (48 muffins) plus be ready to do an additional six standard muffins. This makes a lot.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda and salt. In another, mash the bananas, then add the sugar and mix well with a fork. Add the melted butter, egg, vanilla and beat well. Fold in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the nuts and maple syrup gently with a rubber spatula. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins to fill about halfway.

Bake 12 minutes for mini-muffins and 20 for standard muffins. Allow to cool for a minute before planning them on a rack to cool further or just serve warm. These store well in an airtight container for about three days and also freeze well. I take them out of the freezer and pop them into my son’s lunchbox frozen and they are good to go by snack time.

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup

1 Mar

(Reminder to vote for my piece on Watermelon Mojitos for an #EDDYS2015 Award by clicking here! Vote daily until March 15!)

Here on Long Island we are having one of the coldest winters on record. Since you can’t reasonably spend the entire winter drinking hot toddies all day — as much as the idea appeals –, the second best, more sensible and certainly more sustainable response is soup.

Light winter lunch

Light winter lunch

Here is an easy-peasy soup recipe that is warming and light, inspired by my dear friend Deborah Rivera Pittorino’s matchless soups at her restaurant La Cuvee Seafood & Grille in the heart of Long Island’s North Fork wine country. She shares some her recipes on her blog, The Seasoned Fork, by the way.

This recipe adds a little nuttiness (nutty flavor, not crazy person nuttiness) by dry roasting the cauliflower for 10 minutes. This amount makes four appetizer servings or two meal-size bowls and reheats really well in the office microwave for lunch!

Office lunch

Office lunch

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup

3 Cups cauliflower (stems and florets, trimmed)

1 Tbs olive oil

1 Tbs butter (salted or unsalted)

3 Cups leeks, white and pale green part, carefully cleaned and sliced into ¼ inch rounds

1 Qt veggie stock (if using store-bought, choose low sodium and season accordingly)

¼-1/2 Cup milk (optional)

1 tsp mild curry powder

salt & pepper to taste

On a baking sheet or in a baking pan roast cauliflower at 400˚F for about 10 minutes (I do it in my fancy, full-service Breville toaster oven) until getting browned at the edges.

In the meantime, heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot at medium. When the foaming subsides, add the leeks. Stirring occasionally, allow the leeks to get very soft (5-10 minutes). Add the cauliflower, stir and cook a minute or two. Add the stock, bring to a boil, then add curry, lower heat, add milk and simmer for at least 30 minutes, until cauliflower is falling apart. Using an immersion blender or (in batches) a blender or food processor, blend until you reach the desired smoothness. Season to taste and serve, topped with a dollop of plain yogurt or croutons if you like.

 You might also like

17 More Warming Winter Soups!

 

KID in the KITCHEN: Wild (Center) Whole Wheat Pancakes

28 Feb

(Reminder: I am a FINALIST for an EDDY Award! You can vote for my Edible Long Island piece on Watermelon Mojitos  every day until March 15, 2015. As always, I deeply appreciate your support!) 

If you Google National Pancake Day, you will find a variety of dates, from September to Shrove Tuesday (before Lent) to this coming Tuesday, March 3, as declared by IHOP (International House of Pancakes). So I hereby declare that Natalia National Pancake Day shall be any day that I don’t have to be up at 5:30 a.m. and out by 7 for work and that my son wants to make them and I have the ingredients.

Yes, it is many degrees below zero and we are on a ski lift...am I smiling or grimacing?

Yes, it is many degrees below zero and we are on a ski lift…am I smiling or grimacing?

Those stars aligned during the recent winter break from school. We spent the first part of the break with dear friends Adriana and Micaela at Adriana’s sister and brother-in-law’s in the Lake Placid area (because it wasn’t cold enough downstate at -7ºF so we went for -27°F? Eek!). It was a terrific weekend of learning to ski and snowboard and snow shoe (and becoming almost casual about jumping the frozen battery of my car) and actually enjoying winter.

Barred owl at Wild Center (We literary folk thought it was the poetical "bard", but biology tends to be a bit more prosaic)

Barred owl at Wild Center (We literary folk thought it was the poetical “bard”, but biology tends to be a bit more prosaic)

But one day we decided to go to The Wild Center at Tupper Lake, a beautifully designed nature museum full of Adirondack flora and fauna that you could admire in the sunny and well-heated indoors. Funnily enough, they had recipe cards, one of which was for whole wheat pancakes, which the little man decided he wanted to make when we got home.

Independent!

Independent!

The original recipe was for 14 pancakes, so we halved most (not all) of the ingredients, keeping the cinnamon and vanilla at full-strength, and adding homemade cranberry-blueberry jam.

The original recipe card Nice, right?

The original recipe card Nice, right?

The little guy has really graduated to following a recipe, measuring and cooking on his own, except for the odd difficult pancake flip and one mild burn, so that was very cool.

Proud!

Proud!

We really liked the almost cake-like lift that the baking powder gave them. Not too sweet and very cinnamon-y, these were pancakes we will be making again and again.

Hungry!

Hungry!

Whole Wheat Pancakes (adapted from The Wild Center, Tupper Lake, NY)

Makes 9 pancakes

1 Cup whole wheat flour

2 ¼ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp sugar

1 large egg

1 Cup milk

1.5 tsp vanilla

(optional 1-2 Tbs of smushed berries or berry jam)

butter for cooking

Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add wet ingredients and mix until there are no dry spots, then stop right away. You can swirl in a couple of tablespoons of berries or jam at this point, or do it after you’ve made some plain ones, then add the berries to change things up.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and melt a knob of butter. When the foaming subsides, spoon batter into skillet ¼ Cup at a time, leaving plenty of room for each pancake. The surface will start bubbling. When the bubbling settles and the edges look set, it’s safe to flip. Cook till the edges set again, remove and stack on a warm plate and start another batch, adding butter to the skillet as needed.

 

 

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