Feed Two Birds with One Scone

Early victories in the kitchen were hard-won for me because, quite frankly, I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t know how to bake before going vegan, didn’t seek schooling on how to after, and to this day, I’m still not keen on following recipes. My parents suffered through some truly abysmal creations that could only loosely be described as “food.” One of my first notable successes came in the form of a simple scone, too easy to mess up even if I tried.

Cobbled together from odds and ends on hand, dried cranberries punctuated the rough, triangular biscuits, while thin flecks of orange peel appeared as faint confetti just beneath the surface. Barely sweetened, crisp, yet tender and buttery, I suppose they were special because in a way, they weren’t. There was no mystery, no magic to them, but something made them particularly compelling, both for the maker and the eater. Instant gratification; reliable satisfaction.

My mom, also known as my original number one fan, was effusive at the first bite. (In hindsight, I’m sure she was overjoyed that it was just finally something edible.) It became her go-to request, sometimes taking the form of hearts on Mother’s Day or rectangles arranged to spell out an “M” on her birthday, but always the same, year after year: Cranberry-orange scones.

Having committed the recipe to memory from repeated use, I realized with horror that it never got its fair time in the spotlight here on the blog. Finally, almost two decades later, I’d like to celebrate my mom’s birthday today by doing just that. Happy birthday, mom! As tradition would have it, these scones are for you.

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Once In a Blue Moon

Only once in a blue moon does one find a cookie so fetching, so beautiful and flavorful, so irresistible that it might become a new staple on the highly anticipated annual Christmas cookie platter. Classic recipes passed down across the generation don’t crumble in the face of passing trends. Newcomers try to work their way in at the edges, but they rarely have staying power beyond one holiday season, maybe two at best.

Allow me to introduce your new baking tradition. Almond crescents have stood the test of time, appearing in a multitude of European patisseries under the title of vanillekipferl, migdałowe półksiężyce, kupferlin, and more, depending on who you ask. Melt in your mouth shortbread cookies with a snowy dusting of confectioner’s sugar, there’s no unseating this sweet staple… Until now.

Blue matcha, though actually made with powdered butterfly pea flowers rather than green tea leaves, adds an alluring hue along with subtly nuanced flavor. Placing greater emphasis on the nutty aspects of its namesake, almond butter and almond extract provide a much bolder bite than the typical blend. Anyone who thinks that all shortbread sweets are bland will have to reevaluate their assessment after even a tentative nibble.

A step above the basic butter cookie, the dough couldn’t be more accommodating for any deadline or level of expertise. No chilling, no rolling, no cutting; just mix and bake. Best of all, they can be fully prepared well in advance and stored in the freezer until the time for gift giving arrives… Or cravings strike. Let’s be honest, they’re possibly even more delicious straight out of the deep freeze, with just a touch of refreshing frost lending surprisingly authenticity to the aesthetically pleasing icing sugar.

Astronomically speaking, a blue moon has nothing to do with color. If it happens to looks blue, looming high in the night sky, it’s because of dust in the atmosphere. These treats are made of even more precious stuff than moon dust, which fully delivers on the promise in every regard.

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Sweet Dreams

Tossing, turning, mind churning, sleep doesn’t come easily for the majority of people these days. Everyone experiences the frustration at least intermittently, staring at the clock counting down the minutes until daybreak, unable to force a hard reboot. The importance of a good night’s sleep can’t be overstated, even more so than exercise or even healthy eating. Without a solid 6 – 8 hours of deep sleep under your belt, the simplest tasks become herculean endeavors.

I’m one of those people that’s tried everything. From aromatherapy to prescription meds, striking the right balance is more of an art than a science. Everyone, every body, is different, which makes the path to a proper night’s sleep winding, full of dead ends, and often isolating.

Melatonin has been my only relief, although I’ve built up a considerable tolerance to it over the years. Whereas 2mg is more than enough for most people, it takes 10mg, or more, to keep me peacefully tucked in, even if I’m already tired out. Just like the multitude of factors that join in concert to create ideal sleeping conditions, it takes more than one hormone to complete the cycle. CBD, already a noted daytime supplement in my medicine cabinet, is here to help.

There’s more to CBD than just oils and tinctures, of course. New to me is the concept of a CBD-infused bath bomb, combining the spa-like experience of a relaxing soak with the efficacy of a therapeutic treatment. Your skin is your largest organ, and thus a powerful tool for absorbing cannabinoids. Even if you don’t have a bathtub, a simple foot soak will yield equally satisfying results, instantly assimilating essential oils and CBD like a sponge. A bath bomb is a full-body topical application that allows for unparalleled all-over relief.

What makes the biggest difference in my sleep routine, however, is CBD oil blended with my good friend melatonin, plus other beneficial herbal extracts such as chamomile, valerian root extract, passionflower, cascade hops, and lemon balm. This is the harmonious fusion found in a bottle of CBD PM, which starts doing its magic about 30 minutes before bed.

A light mint flavor helps conceal the more grassy, vegetal notes of hemp, but all I could think about after the first dosage were pillow mints.

It’s no struggle to get this medicine down, but a spoonful of sugar still doesn’t hurt. Soft, sweet, melt-away morsels that actually help settle the restless mind, these pillow mints are classic treats with a tiny modern twist. Using CBD oil instead of mere peppermint oil adds flavor with function.

Smooth and rich like old-fashioned butter mints but even creamier, they won’t dry out like the dusty pellets usually left sitting in the candy dish. Easily double the recipe to make them en mass and have enough to share, or cut it in half if you’re not totally sold on the concept. Try one or two before bedtime, and I promise you’ll become a believer. These are the stuff that sweet dreams are made of.

For the key ingredient, CBD PM, use promo code MOMSMEET to save 15% on your order at cbdmd.com. Offer ends March 31, 2020. Free shipping on all orders.

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All That Glitters

Like a moth drawn to a flame, I find myself irresistibly attracted to all things that sparkle. Once the glint of something reflective hits my eye, all previous tasks go straight out the window. Be it a gemstone or a piece of aluminum foil, it must be examined, admired, possibly even cherished. I’m no magpie, but I do find myself with a conspicuous collection of gleaming metallic platters, shimmery eye shadows, iridescent glasses, and high-gloss nail polishes, just at a glance.

Following suit, I can’t possibly turn down any opportunity to indulge in a pinch of culinary glitter. This one, in the form of organic raw cane sugar, is entirely natural, too.

Coated in sweet crystals that catch the light, the tender bite and gentle, warm spice of soft speculoos cookies will be enough to lure in anyone, with or without a propensity to delight in all that glitters. Spread a thick layer of creamy speculoos frosting on top of that, and sandwich it with a second cookie, doubling down on that earthy golden glow is almost too much brilliance to take… Although, I trust you’ll find some way to manage.

Make space on your holiday cookie platter because these speculoos sparklers are all dressed up and ready to dazzle.

Inspired by the Florida Crystals Blogger Challenge, I’m betting that this recipe will be as good as gold. These sweet sprinkles brighten up countless recipes on their website, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram pages, but nothing quite like this. Making use of standard granulated, brown, and powdered sugars, the cookies radiate an almost effervescent sweetness, inside and out.

Even the word “speculoos” seems to sparkle, but if it doesn’t dance across your tongue in quite the same way, you could just as happily use creamy peanut butter instead. The results will be every bit as dazzling.

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Easy Brie-zy Entertaining

What’s that I hear, off in the distance? Could it be the sound of winter boots storming down the driveway? The staccato knock of knuckles against the front door? The unmistakable chime of the doorbell, ringing out as clear as day: YOUR GUESTS HAVE ARRIVED!?

Ah yes, it sounds like the holidays are here again! Trickling in slowly, gathering in greater numbers with every passing minute, the kitchen swells with sounds of merriment, laughter and banter ricocheting off the walls. Cue the music, crank the oven, and break out the appetizers; it’s time to dazzle with more than sparkling tinsel lining the hallways.

Play your cards right, and one spectacular starter will set the whole party in motion. The pros know that it’s only possible by keeping it simple, prepping ahead, and using the best ingredients. That’s why I’m dropping this show-stopping wheel of homemade vegan brie, supple and soft, crowned with the bold combination of tart raspberries and balsamic vinegar. If that doesn’t kick off the festivities with applause, at least, perhaps you’ve invited the wrong audience.

Buttery, creamy, melting at room temperature, this brie isn’t a dead-ringer for its dairy counterpoint, but it doesn’t need to imitate exactly when it can exceed that experience. Reaching into my pantry for an easy accompaniment, bottles of Alessi White Balsamic Raspberry Blush Vinegar and Alessi Raspberry Infused White Balsamic Reduction inspired this unconventional, yet compelling combination. Melding that tangy, fresh flavor with sweet whole berries in a lightly simmered compote created a heady aroma that no one could resist.

I can count on Alessi ingredients to raise the bar on everyday staples, no matter the recipe or occasion. Family owned and operated for 72 years, these essentials have stood the test of time. They’ve been stocking grocery store shelves across the country for as long as I can remember, that’s for sure. Going straight to the source reaps the greatest rewards, though, since orders over $20 ship free and no where else can you find such a wide section of authentic Italian specialties. As if that wasn’t enough, if you shop directly through Alessi.com and enter the code HANNAHK at checkout, you’ll get 15% off your order! This code is good for 1 use per customer, until December 31.

Both the cheese and chutney can be made up to a full week in advance, so there’s no need to stress on the big day. Just take off the chill as conversations warm and spirits flow. The savory wedges will melt in your mouth, and any extraneous worries will melt away. Now that’s what makes a happy holiday.

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Reign Souspreme

Flawlessly functional, endlessly versatile, the contemporary pressure cooker has come a long way from the formidable stove top contraptions of yore. What was once a fearsome unitasker, just as likely to detonate as provide dinner, is now the must-have appliance in any moderately serviceable kitchen. The category is exploding with models- Metaphorically, of course, because safety seals have evolved and improved over the years as well. Performance varies, and what’s particularly important for those with limited countertop real estate to spare, some are far more capable and adaptable than others.

No mere pressure cooker, the Fissler Souspreme Multi Pot has 18 one-touch cooking programs. You’ve got all your staples, from stews, beans, rice, and beyond, but also the ability to slow cook, make cakes, and steam vegetables, too. What really sets this compact dynamo apart from the competition, however, are the settings for fermentation and sous vide.

Who could possibly resist the temptation to whip up a batch of kimchi at home, from scratch, in three hours? Fully fermented with a satisfying funk, I sped through the concept by hastily dumping a bag of shredded cabbage into the pot, along with fiery gochugaru, roughly torn scallions, and salt. No chopping, no brining, no mess. Seal the lid and walk away; the Souspreme Multi Pot can take it from here. If you can stand to wait longer, your patience will be rewarded with a punchier cabbage pickle, but in a pinch, this can save you from bland bi bim bap, no problem.

Yogurt is another basic essential I had wanted to try for ages, but never had the ideal conditions. It takes only milk, of any sort or origin, and a starter culture to bring in the good bacteria. Keeping it all warm- Not hot, not cold- For 12 hours is the real challenge. Not so in the Souspreme Multi Pot. Once again, just set it and forget it. Walk away, go about your daily life, and come back in for a real tart, tangy, dairy-free delight. I let mine run overnight, so woke up to the most heavenly little pots of maple-sweetened matcha yogurt, made with pistachio milk. Where else are you going to find that kind of combination?

What about that headlining sous vide function, you may ask? Well, now that’s a fun twist that really highlights the precision of this fine machine. The temperature can be set to the every degree from 113 to 194 degrees Fahrenheit. With such exacting control, there’s no need for an immersion circulator. Just vacuum seal your food, pop it in, and dial up the timer for anything between 1 and 24 hours. Though typically reserved for prime cuts of meat or boiled eggs with runny yolks, the same concept is completely applicable for the hardy vegetables that could otherwise be at risk of under-cooking, like whole heads of cauliflower or cabbage.

The new wave of plant-based meats, however, adds an interesting new chapter to this story. I had to find out if the “bleeding” burgers could be cooked in this way, finished with the reverse searing technique. That is, cook the patty to a safe temperature, slowly and carefully, and then set it on a blisteringly hot griddle to immediately sear the exterior, leaving the inside utterly rare, pink, yet ready to eat. Finally, I was able to experience that ideal juicy burger patty that only turns up in culinary mythology. Thick, beefy patties, finished with two planes of golden brown crust sealing in an undeniably prime center. THAT is the experience that can win over any carnivore, any day.

Getting back to basics, the true test came down to a classic little French dish known as cassoulet. Traditionally stewed and baked for hours, if not a full day, some say there are no viable shortcuts for this hearty, comforting dish. Well, I say, they’re wrong! Starting from dry beans in cold water, it takes zero labor and only 30 minutes of cooking time under pressure using the Souspreme Multi Pot.

Crisp cubes of bread are toasted separately and added at the table to stay perfectly crunchy, as opposed to the typical morass of mushy breadcrumbs baked right in. Meaty shiitake mushrooms, also added directly to the Souspreme Multi Pot without any need to soak, stand in for less savory entrails and offal in this modern, meatless revival. Tender yet toothsome flageolet beans, plump and creamy, are the real stars of this show. Although you could substitute white navy beans in a pinch, I’d implore you to seek out the genuine article first. Their texture is unrivaled, and the way they drink in the umami broth, rich with wine and heady aromatics, cannot be beat.

Sounds like a dream-come-true for time-pressed cooks and voracious foodies alike, right? Well, wake up, because this delicious vision is about to become real. You can win your very own Souspreme Multi Pot to get this meal on the table, and still have ample time to play with all 17 other functions afterward, too. Read on to enter and snag the recipe! Trust me; you’ll want to save this one for easy reference.

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