Sunday, April 20, 2014

Cold Brew Coffee

Cold Brew Coffee is my new favorite thing. I had it bottled from La Colombe and fell in love. But it's ridiculously expensive for what it is. Luckily it is super easy to make at home and so much more cost effective. It's a strong brew & a lot of people recommend diluting the coffee before drinking, but I love it just the way it is. It's so smooth and less acidic than regular hot coffee and is so good iced. I also love that one batch can last a few days, so I don't have to brew everyday. Coffee can't get any better.

La Colombe's Corsica has been our go-to coffee for years. But we've recently found a new favorite. One Village's Artist Blend. It's a blend of light and dark roast beans and is perfect for our cold brew needs.

Fresh, coursely ground beans make all the difference.

For every 1/3 cup ground beans, add 1 1/2 cup cold filtered water.

Stir and let sit in room temperature for 12 hours. 

Filter coffee, refrigerate, and enjoy!

 Ways to enjoy your cold brew:

• Ice cold, just the way it is!
• With a splash of milk, and a teaspoon of either maple syrup or raw honey ~ for a boost of antioxidants
• Shaken up with a scoop of vanilla protein poweder ~ for a frothy, cappucinno-like energy boost

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Chocolate Cardamom Pear Cake

Yesterday I had an idea to steep some heavy cream with ginger that I intended to turn into a ginger whipped cream (recipe below). I think the inspiration for this cake came with that bowl of ginger infused cream sitting in my fridge. This cake actually came together with a bunch of leftovers I had sitting around in my kitchen. Left over heavy cream from making caramels last week, an almost empty jar of pear butter, & a few pods of cardamom that's been sitting in my spice cabinet for forever. 

This super moist and yummy cake is so easy to whip up and as good for you as cake can be. It's a basic cake recipe, with a few tweaks and a lot less sugar. All of the ingredients that I used were already in my kitchen but can be easily substituted with more accessible ingredients. Whole wheat pastry flour & almond meal can be substituted with all purpose flour, coconut oil with butter, and cardamom with any other spice you'd prefer. This recipe is very forgiving. It's perfect for a mid-afternoon pick me up or as a quick breakfast treat the next day.

Lightly adapted from this recipe: Pear, Chocolate and Cardamom Cake

// Chocolate Cardamom Pear Cake Recipe //

6oz unrefined coconut oil
1/2 cup cane sugar, plus extra for dusting
2 eggs
2 tbsp pear butter, optional
1/2 cup ground almond meal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 Tbsp cardamom, freshly ground
1 ripe pear (I used an organic Packham)
4oz good quality dark chocolate, chopped (I used Lovebar's 82% single origin chocolate)

1. Preheat Oven to 325F and line a loaf pan with parchment.
2. In a small bowl, whisk to combine almond meal, whole wheat flour, and cardamom.
3. In medium bowl, beat coconut oil and sugar until creamy.
4. Whisk in eggs one at a time until completely incorportated.
5. Whisk in pear butter.
6. Incorporate flour mixture, in 4 portions until batter is smooth.
7. Pour half of the batter into the pan. 
8. Arrange half of the pear on top of batter and sprinkle on half of the chocolate.
9. Pour remaining batter into the pan, spread & smooth out batter with a rubber spatula.
10. Bake for 15 minutes.
11. Carefully remove from oven and arrange the rest of the pear and chocolate on top of the cake. Lightly sprinkle with sugar.
12. Return to oven and bake for an additional 35 minutes.

// Ginger Whipped Cream //

1/2 pint whipped cream
6 slices of fresh ginger 
confectioner's sugar

1. Simmer heavy cream and fresh ginger over low heat for 10 minutes.
2. Turn off heat and allow mixture to steep and come to room temperature.
3. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.
4. Strain mixture over medium bowl and discard ginger slices.
5. Whisk in confectioner's sugar until you've reached your desired sweetness.
6. With a hand mixer, mix at medium speed until you have soft peaks. 
7. Serve or store in refrigerator in an airtight container.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Almond Plum Galette

Now that Allan is back on rotations, we no longer have days off together. Which sadly more weekly hiking trips. Being that my "weekend" is during that middle of the week while everyone else in working, I suddenly have a bunch of free time to myself. Which also means....I'll finally be able to play around with all the recipes that I've been wanting to try. 

Red plums were on super sale this week at Iovines, 2lbs for $1, so I couldn't help but stock up. I was really hoping to make some plum frangipane tarts, but realized that I no longer had my tart pans. Since I had my heart set on making little plum desserts, I decided to make plum galettes instead. I had a few recipes that I had pinned a while back and took components from each to create my own recipe. My first batch was good but a bit too tart. I had cut back on sugar for every component and it just wasn't worth it. So for my second batch, I upped the sugar and I'm pretty happy with the final result. The rosette arrangement is my sister's signature for fruit tarts. It doesn't look as pretty in a galette, especially when done in the mini size but that could just be a flaw in my craftsmanship. Anyway, I had a lot of fun making these and they'll make great -just because-  gifts!

Almond Plum Galette adapted from these two recipes: Plum & Peach Galette & Mini Stone Fruit Galette

Frozen cubes of fresh unsalted Amish butter.

Cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles course crumbs. Add enough ice water until dough comes together. Careful that it doesn't become too sticky!

Portion dough into slightly flatten disks. Wrap each disk tightly in plastic or
stack in between layers of parchment. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. 

Cut Plums in half. Remove Pit, and slice into 1/8" thick slices. 
Lightly toss with lemon juice & sugar. Refrigerate & drain.

Toasted blanched almonds freshly ground & combined with sugar and flour. The almond mixture gives the galette a nutty flavor and helps to absorb any excess moisture from the plums. 
No soggy bottoms!

Assembling the galette.

Before baking.

5" Galettes,  fresh out of the oven.

Mini 3" galettes.

Little galette packages.

//Almond Plum Galette Recipe//

For the Pastry Dough
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup ice water

1. Cut butter into small cube.  Place cubes on a plate in a single layer and freeze.
2. Combine pastry flour, almond meal, sugar, and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl.
3. With a pastry cutter, cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles course crumbs.
4. Add ice water, 1 tsp at a time, until dough starts to come together without being too wet or sticky. It may not be necessary to use all of the water.
5. Gather and form into four balls for 5" galettes (or 8 balls for 3" galettes). Slightly flatten and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refridgerate overnight.
6. Roll out pastry dough between two sheets of parchment. Rotating the dough frequently for even thickness. Roll out to about 1/8" thick.
7. Return pastry dough to fridge to rest.

For the Plum Filling
2 large plums
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice

1. Slice plums in half. Remove pits. Slice into 1/8" thickness and place into a small bowl.
2. With your hands, gently toss plums with sugar & lemon juice.
3. Cover & Refrigerate for 20 minutes
4. Pour fruit mixture into a sieve and set over a large bowl. Let as much liquid drain off as possible.

For the Almond Mixture
1/4 cup ground almonds
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp flour

1. Ground almonds until finely ground.
2. In a small bowl, mix ground almonds with sugar and flour.

For the Egg Wash
1 egg
1 Tbsp water

1. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg and water together.

1. Spoon almond mixture into center of the pastry dough. Spread mixture out, leaving a 1.5" border.
2. Arrange plums over the almond mixture.
3. Fold edges over.
4. Brush the edges with egg wash
5. Sprinkle edges with sugar.
6. Place galette in fridge.
7. Preheat oven to 375
8. Once the oven is preheated, bake galette for 25 mins (for 5" galette) or 20 mins (for 3" galettes) or until edges are browned. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

NYC lost its glitter

I was at the NY NOW Show earlier this week for work. I used to look forward to going to these trade shows and spending the day in Manhattan. And up until recently, I was pretty infatuated with the city, trying to plan trips up as often as possible. NYC in my opinion was always the perfect place for a last minute mini vacay, perfect for when I needed a quick getaway. But my love affair with the city is now over.

I don't know what it is. Maybe it's the four hour commute I endured on this last trip or the $8 I spent at a coffee shop for just an espresso and a lousy macaron. Or maybe I finally realized that NYC is just like any other major city... except everything is double in price and the sidewalks are forever mobbed with people who all think they're more important than they really are! That's not to say that I never want to spend another day in NYC. I still love going to Broadway shows and eating my way through all the different neighborhoods. But I'll be happy with just taking the occasional trip up for fun, maybe just once per year.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Hiking: Glen Onoko & Broad Mountain

After months of talking about going on a day hike together, my sister and I finally made time and planned a hike with the boys at Glen Onoko in Jim Thorpe. Allan and I came across Glen Onoko last year when we were searching the area for hikes with waterfalls. We were pretty excited about this hike. Jim Thorpe is only about an hour away from Philly but for some reason, we never made a trip out there. There wasn't much trail info on Glen Onoko but we imagined it to be similar to Ricketts Glen and thought it was going to be a quick and easy hike. Turns out, we were so wrong!

We found the parking lot and trailhead with no issues. We made our way to the base of the waterfalls and began to make our way up. Unlike the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen, the Falls Trail at Glen Onoko was not maintained very well and was very much eroded. We were essentially rock climbing alongside the waterfall. After a short sweaty hike to the top of the falls we began to make our way up the mountain on what we thought was a trail to the view points at the top. 

We were making our way up pretty quickly when we started to realize how steep the "trail" was becoming. By then it was pretty evident that we weren't on a trail at all but actually climbing up the side of the mountain. We had already gained too much elevation and because it was so steep, turning back would have been dangerous. We decided to continue going up and crossed our fingers in hopes of finding a clear trail. Lucky we did because we eventually did find a trail! 

The rest of our way up involved a lot of getting lost and going back and forth. Somehow we made our way back on track every single time and we eventually made it to the top. The views were gorgeous and made our treacherous hike completely worth it. 

After taking in the views for about 1/2 an hour, we started to head back onto the trail to make our descent. Somehow we took a couple more wrong turns but after finding our way out of an area full of thorny bushes and acquiring a handful of cuts on each leg, we found steps that took us down through the woods back to the starting point. We were practically running down the mountain when all of us stopped dead in our tracks. We all heard a low, deep, groan and our first instincts told us a bear was close by. It was probably the scariest moment during the entire hike. We all stood frozen and after a quick scan of the area, we practically flew down the rest of the way. It was the happiest I've ever been to finish a hike. 

Overall, Glen Onoko and Broad Mountain was probably the most fun and challenging hike I've ever been on. It was also the most unprepared hike we've ever taken. Because of this hike, I will always make sure I carry ample supply of water, food, and a first aid kit. I'll also probably have to invest in some bear spray for future hikes next Spring/Summer!

Taking a mini break by one of the Falls. 
Views of Jim Thorpe in the distance.
Views over the Lehigh River. We made an elevation gain of 971 feet.
Pictures don't do justice to the beautiful panoramic views we had at the top.
Views over Oxbow Bend from the top of Broad Mountain. It was a gorgeous day. The skies were blue and quiet and at 1500ft up, we could still hear the rushing waters of the Lehigh River below us.
The peaceful and serene views inspired us to do some yoga.
In retrospect, balancing so close to the edge was not a very smart idea!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mini Road Trip: New England

I took a mini road trip with Allan and Heidi this Fourth of July weekend. We had four days, Thursday-Sunday to see as much of New England as possible. We did so much in the four short days that it almost seems like it never happened at all. Our trip came together pretty last minute, partially planned with room for just a bit of spontaneity. I had been wanting to go to Maine for a couple of years now, and I'm so glad we finally made the trip up. A lot of it was spent on the road, but I think we broke it up enough so that it didn't seem too bad. New England makes for the perfect (long) weekend getaway. I love all of the quaint little coastal towns, the amazingly fresh seafood, and the gorgeous scenery everywhere. New England was exactly as I imagined.

Total Miles Traveled: 1,254 (In Allan's '02 used 'Toyot' Camry)

We left Philly at 3AM and drove 6 hours straight to Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The drive was easy and we made it there just when the parking lot was opening up. I'm glad we got there when we did, the lot was fairly small and filled up fast! It was an absolutely beautiful day for the beach and we couldn't have picked a more perfect beach to be on. Wingaersheek is located right on the Annisquam River with crystal clear waters, white sands, a small stretch of huge rocks for climbing and views of the bay and Annisquam Lighthouse in the distance. It really was picture perfect.

Our post, right next to the dunes

Wingaersheek Beach. Gloucester, Massachusetts

After spending a good part of the day at the beach, we left Wingaersheek for a two hour drive up to Portland, Maine. Our first stop was dinner at Gilberts Chowder House. The food was overpriced, overcooked, and overall, just a huge disappointment. It was not at all what I expected my first New England meal to be and I will always think of shitty food when I think of Portland, ME. After dinner, we were hoping to take a ferry ride around the Casco Islands, but missed the last ferry of the night. We ended up walking around the Old Port and waterfront areas, which is actually pretty cute with narrow winding cobblestone streets and old brick buildings housing a mix of shops and restaurants. We got amazing ice cream at Beal's and afterwards decided to end our night early. 

Cobblestone Streets of Old Port

Beal's Ice Cream Storefront

After an early breakfast Friday morning, we set out at 8am for a 3 hour drive up to Bar Harbor for a day of hiking at Acadia National Park. Just before reaching Bar Harbor, we had our first roadside lobster roll. It totally made up for the pathetic sandwich Gilbert's was trying to pass off as a lobster roll. After our yummy pitstop, we headed to the Park info center, got our parking pass and headed out for our first hike. We had researched and planned on hiking the Precipice & Gorham trails but when we got there we found out the the Precipice trail was closed for the falcon nesting season. We ended up hiking the South Bubble trail, with a detour down to Eagle Lake for a total distance of about 3 miles. The views at the top of South Bubble was beautiful with forest views and views over the Bubble Pond.

On our way to Gorham trail, we saw signs for Cadillac Mountain so we decided we would save time, hike Cadillac and not drive to the other side of the island for Gorham. We took a turn onto a road up thinking it would take us to the parking lot of the trailhead but we quickly realized that the road was not to the trailhead but to the top of the mountain! The views at the top were breathtakingly gorgeous, with the Atlantic Ocean to one side and Frenchman Bay on the other. We felt a bit guilty, like we cheated out of our hike for these views but I am so glad we ended up driving up. Cadillac would have been a 4.5 mile hike up and another 4.5 miles down, we would have been exhausted! It will definitely be a hike I'll have to do on future trips to Bar Harbor.

We ended our day of hiking there. We got only a bit of hiking in and spent most of our time hanging out and just taking in the amazing views. I could easily spend a week (or more!) at Bar Harbor and hiking Acadia, one day was definitely not enough time spent there.

Eagle Pond

At the top of South Bubble

Bubble Rock 

Cadillac Mountain - Views over Frenchman Bay

Cadillac Mountain - Views of the Atlantic Ocean

After our day in Bar Harbor, our next stop was Manchester, New Hampshire. We decided to take a detour to stop by a famous Lobster Roll place along Route 1 in Wiscasset, ME. Along the way, we stopped at about 2-3 lobster roll shacks. Each establishment had their own take on the lobster roll. We had one served with olive, some made with a mayo dressing and some butter or both. They were all good but the best lobster rolls were the ones we specifically detoured for. In my opinion Red's Eats and Sprague's Lobster tie for best lobster rolls I've ever had. Both stuffed their rolls with huge CHUNKS of lobster meat. It was definitely worth driving out of the way for. We also had steamed lobsters at Spragues and crab cakes from Red's. This was the best meal we had on the entire trip.

Red's Eats in Wiscasset, ME.

Across the street from Red's, Sprague's Lobster. 

Our dinner in Wiscasset.

We had the perfect spot by the side of the road, a table overlooking the bay. 

Our dinner views.

The only way to end a lobster dinner -- have lobster ice cream for dessert!

The only things I have to say about Manchester, NH is that it's a depressing, smelly, and boring city full of bums. It's mean to say, but that's how I feel. We stayed Friday night into Saturday afternoon. Our hotel was a disappointment. They did not have the room we booked available, so all three of us had to share a bed. There were no interesting stores open downtown. Everything seemed closed, the parks were full of bums and the streets smelled like garbage. There was absolutely nothing to do. We walked around, took a few pics and decided it was all a waste of time. We had set aside more time for Manchester but figured it would probably be better spent in Boston, so we left and I hope to never go back!

Boston was our last and final stop on our mini road trip and has easily become one of my favorite cities. One of my favorite things about this city was the hotel we stayed at, the Liberty Hotel. The hotel once served as the local prison but has been beautifully restored and transformed into a gorgeous, contemporary hotel. This hotel was exactly what we needed after all the traveling we had done. We felt so pampered from the second we pulled up to the valet until we finally left after requesting two late check outs. Spending the extra money for a more luxurious hotel for our last stop was the best decision we made in planning this trip.  

We spent our first day there taking a little walking tour through all the neighborhoods around the downtown area. From our hotel, we walked through Beacon Hill, had a picnic lunch at the Public Garden, walked through the Boston Commons, into the theatre district, through chinatown, across to Fan Pier and back, up to the North End, down through the Government Center and back to our hotel. After spending some time walking around, we had dinner, gelato, and cannolis in the North End, but it was nothing spectacular. Along the way, we experienced so many wonderful and unexpected things. We walked through an African festival with people selling crafts and ethnic foods, passed a public fountain full of little kids screaming and playing, sat on the lawn of the waterfront park for a moment and watched a street performer play his guitar and sing for a small crowd.  Boston has such a warm and homey vibe, I really felt like I knew the city in just a few short hours.

The next day we had a fancy brunch at one of the restaurants in our hotel. It was one of the most expensive brunches I've ever had, but it was so worth it, and definitely added to our experience in Boston. After brunch, we explored Beacon Hill and did a little bit of shopping. Beacon Hill is an adorable hilly neighborhood full of old brick buildings with a ton of character. If I were to ever move to Boston, I would have to wait until I can afford a place in Beacon Hill! For the rest of that afternoon, we rented complimentary bikes from our hotel and rode along the waterfront. Before hitting the highway for our trip back to Philly, we stopped by Maria's Pastry Shop and got a neapolitan, and 2 cannolis. They turned out to be the best cannolis we've ever had! It was really, the perfect way to end our road trip!

Public Garden

Boston Chinatown Gate

View from Fan Pier

Listening to a guitarist play and sing at Waterfront Park

Beacon Hill - Beautiful old buildings

Beacon Hill - Gate & Lamp

Beacon Hill - Alley

Biking along the waterfront