Spicy Cashew Cheese (Queso de anacardo picante)

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Cupping at San Miguel Coffees in Guatemala (Photo: Stone Creek Coffee)

Well, I have failed miserably at my goal of posting one blog post per week, but I’m back nonetheless. After spending the past two months traveling for work to places like Knoxville, TN, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, I’m full of inspiration and ready to get back into the kitchen.

As I have met new people and seen new places, these past few months have been a time of immense reflection for me.  The very least I can say of this reflection is that I am eternally grateful for all of the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I’ve been able to have in such a short amount of time.

After all, there is nothing quite like traveling out of the country for your first time, or traveling with your partner for their first time out of the country either.  There is nothing quite like tasting a fruit that you never had before.  And, similarly, yet appearing vastly different, there is nothing quite like going to your first coffee farm, or even like having a farmer show you around their land.

Although incredibly different, these experiences all share one thing in common which unites them–they only happen once.  These once-in-a-lifetime moments are momentary, but what we can learn from them is lasting.

However, learning only endures if we share it.

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A view from my friend Chepe’s farm in Chirripo, Brunca, Costa Rica.

 

I don’t feel that what I have learned means very much–at least for me–if I don’t share it with others.  Therefore, in order to grow from what I’ve learned, I’m going to make an effort to share and utilize the things that I have learned, and this blog is one of the many ways that I am going to do that.

 

One of the ways in which I am going to do this is with language.  My recent travels have inspired me to improve my Spanish.  So, at least for now, I’ve officially decided to begin writing my recipes in English and Spanish!

I hope to reach more people and make new friends along the way, as well as open new horizons in food for myself and others. As I work on this, please feel free to share any corrections or helpful suggestions.

That being said,  I’ve got a killer recipe to share with ya’ll to come back with a bang! After months of pushing off trying to make it (partly because I felt bad about cheating on dairy cheese, partly because of the price), I finally decided to try making homemade cashew cheese.

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Spicy cashew cheese on top of a bed of spaghetti squash.

Man, was I missing out! Now that I see how easy it is to make and how simple it is to alter, I’ll definitely be making this healthy, dairy-free alternative to cheese more often!

Ingredients · Ingredientes

  • 1/4 Cup Filtered water / Agua filtrada
  • 1 Cup Raw cashews / Anacardos crudos
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh parsley / Perejil fresco
  • 1/4 Cup Nutritional yeast / Levadura nutricional
  • 1-2 tsp Red pepper flakes / Hojuelas de pimienta roja
  • 1-2 tsp Himalayan pink salt / Sal himalaya
  • 1 Tbsp White wine vinegar / Vinagre de vino blanco
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon juice / Jugo de limón

Instructions · Instrucciones

  1. Soak cashews in water for at least two hours. / Empapar los anacardos en agua por lo menos 2 horas.
  2. Dry off cashews. / Seque los anacardos.
  3. Place cashews and all other ingredients in blender or food processor. / Coloque los anacardos y todos los demás ingredientes en la licuadora.
  4. Blend for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape off sides at least once. / Mezcla durante 2 minutos. Raspar los lados de la licuadora después de 1 minuto.
  5. Remove from food processor and enjoy for up 7 days. Store in refridgerator. Enjoy! / Retirar de la licuadora. Guardar en el refrigerador por hasta 7 días. ¡Disfrutar!

French Toast

I have high hopes and expectations for the breakfasts and brunches that I create, but they often fall short when I’m low on time or ingredients. This French Toast recipe is one of my go-to’s in those times, and it came in clutch this morning when I looked in the fridge and saw less than I had hoped to find.

Forunately, I always seem to have eggs and bread-and perhaps you find yourself in a similar predicament, too. Give it a try and this French Toast will have you thankful for the simple things in life.

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Recipe serves 2-3 (makes 6 pieces total)

French Toast

Ingredients:

  • 6 pieces Italian bread with sesame seeds (use any white or wheat bread that you like)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 Tbsp milk or water (optional)
  • Butter for greasing pantmp_25843-img_20170108_102700_4631067401932

Directions:

  1. Beat eggs in as medium sized bowl.
  2. Add in cinnamon, ginger, and milk (optional), making sure to thoroughly incorporate.
  3. Place a medium or large-sized non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  4. Once the pan is warm, place a small pad of butter on the pan to grease.tmp_25843-IMG_20170108_103421_4812087872579.jpg
  5. Dredge bread through the egg mixture, one piece at at a time, making sure that each side is covered, but leaving any excess behind (do not leave it dripping with mixture).
  6. Place on pan. Heat for about 2-6 minutes, or until golden brown, before flipping to cook the other side for 2-6 more minutes.
  7. Once done, remove from heat.
  8. Repeat process with remaining pieces of bread.
  9. Enjoy plain or serve French Toast warm drizzled with pure maple syrup, warm honey, jam, or preserves. Sprinkle with cane sugar, powdered sugar, ground cinnamon, or ginger for extra texture and flavor.
  10. Enjoy!

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Happy New Year!

The start of this New Year has me reflecting and thinking about my goals for 2017.  And no, these goals are not any kind of resolutions or empty “new year, new me” promises that are bound to fail from the start.  However, they are goals that I have purposefully and mindfully set in order to realize my true potential and become my best self.  They are milestones that I have set for myself to achieve, grow with, and learn from, and I can’t wait to start going down the list and checking them off!   They include, but are not limited to: competing in my first coffee competition, traveling to Guatemala on my first coffee origin trip, taking the dogs for more walks, and visiting at least three state parks with Mike that we’ve never been to before.

All in all, I anticipate that this year will be a year of exploration—and I’m ready for the adventure!  Along with this adventure, this year, my goal is to share at least one recipe (or food/beverage-related blog post) each week.  Although I’ve been notoriously bad about keeping up with my blogging in the past, I’d like 2017 to be the year that that changes.

To kick it off, I’m sharing one of my favorite go-to recipes.  It’s good on its own or topped with goodies, and it’s sure to stick to your ribs—perfect for a Wisconsin winter or a hot summer—it’s Creamy Mashed Potatoes!   These versatile mashed potatoes are quick and simple, and you’ll be wondering why they weren’t in your repertoire sooner.  So grab a few spuds and put some hot water on for mashed potatoes to remember.

And cheers to your best year yet!

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

4 washed large potatoes, preferably russet or yellow

¼ C milk

1-2 Tbsp unsalted butter (can use more or less depending on what you’re looking for)

¼ C cream cheese

1 tsp sea salt (or salt to taste)

¼ tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)

1 tsp parsley flakes

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Directions

To start, thoroughly wash the potatoes, ensuring that all of the dirt is removed from their skin.  Set two potatoes aside.  Peel the remaining two potatoes and discard of their excess skin.  Rinse the peeled potatoes once more.  Cut all four potatoes into cubes no larger than 2 inches.

Bring 2-3qts of water (or enough water to cover the potatoes) to boil in a 4qt pan.  Add a dash of salt.  Place cubed potatoes in boiling water.  Reduce heat to medium-high.  Cook about 15 minutes, or until potato falls off of fork when you poke it.  Turn off the heat on the burner.  Drain the water from the potatoes and return pan with potatoes to the warm burner.   Add the butter, cream cheese, and milk.  Smash with mashed potato smasher or spoon until mixed.   For chunkier potatoes, make sure to not over-smash.   Add salt, pepper, and parsley.  Mix with spoon until blended.    Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to one week.  Enjoy!

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Serves 2-4.

Honey Ginger Snaps

Honey Ginger Snaps

Growing up, baking cookies with my Mom and Grandma was something that I always looked forward to doing each holiday season.   Thinking back, I can still smell all of the sugar and spice, and even feel the sticky dough caught between my fingers and underneath my nail beds (probably one of the reasons my parents called me Messy Jessie growing up).  I always went into a day of baking with excitement, but would quickly grow bored and want to move on to the next task.  Even in the face of my petulant impatience, my mother would lovingly, patiently finish each batch by herself, never complaining that I didn’t help her finish.  Each cookie was and still is baked with love, and this, she has always said, is the secret ingredient—a truth much more profound than I could have ever known as a kid.  It is these kind of memories that I relish in.

Fast forward years later, and I still look forward to it, which is why this year, I decided to come into the season prepared.   After all, there are endless possibilities with cookies, and I wanted to make sure those that I chose to bake were worth it. While I was trialing recipes, I came across this twist on a classic that I won’t exclude from my repertoire again.   Two of my favorite things about this recipe are how easy it is to make and how versatile it is—and for these reasons, I know they’ll become one of your favorites as well. Whether it’s for a holiday cookie gift or not, this cookie is sure to please year-round.  They’re best enjoyed with hot tea (I’d recommend black) or black coffee (I’d recommend a mild, Central or South American coffee.  I’ve been enjoying my batch with some washed Colombian coffee).

Ingredients:

2 C unbleached all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp ground ginger

2 tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground cloves

½ C vegetable shortening (I used 1/4 C with the batch pictured, which is why they turned out more round and less flat, but if you’d like a flatter, more rich cookie, use 1/2 C)

¼ C butter, divided

¾ C sugar

¼ cup honey (I used neem honey for a more robust flavor, but any honey will do!)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper (I prefer parchment).  Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, beat shortening and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Gradually stir in the sugar until it is blended, increasing the speed to high until light and fluffy.  Beat in honey, egg, and vanilla.  Once fluffy, gradually stir in the flour until it is combined.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on prepared cookie sheets 2 inches apart.

Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Let stand for 5 minutes, and then carefully place cookies on wire rack to cool.  Store in airtight container up to one week.

Yields 3-4 dozen

Cornstick Cheddar Garlic Cornbread

When I make homemade cornbread, it often turns out much less exciting and tasty than I would like.  However, once I got a Lodge cast iron cornstick pan [thanks, St. Nick ;)], everything changed.  The shape of the pan allows the cornbread to get incredibly crispy on the outside, while maintaining its springy, moist texture on the inside.  Lightly browning the butter with garlic before incorporating into the mixture adds depth of flavor, while sharp cheddar adds a subtle dimension of lactic acidity, pairing perfectly with the garlic.   Using coarse ground cornmeal makes these cornsticks even more crunchy, but I’d recommend using regular cornmeal if you’re sensitive to rough textures.  You’re sure to enjoy this cornbread by itself or as a side dish to chili, salads, roasts, or soups!

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Ingredients:

5 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped (or 1 tsp minced)

½ tsp salt, or to taste

½ C yellow cornmeal (use coarse-ground if you’re looking for a heartier, crunchier texture)

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp baking soda

1 cup buttermilk (make your own by putting 1 Tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice in a 1 C measuring cup, then fill to top with milk, let stand 5 minutes)

1 large egg

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425*F.  Place 7-stick cast-iron cornstick mold in the oven to pre-heat for at least 15 minutes.  (If you have two pans, pre-heat both).  Melt 4 Tbsp of butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat until it foams.  Add the garlic.  Stir frequently.  Cook for about 2 or 3 more minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk the buttermilk and egg lightly in a small bowl until combined. Punch a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in all of the wet mixture.  Stir just until combined, making sure not to over mix.  Add the butter and garlic.  Add the cheese.  Stir.

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Remove the hot pans from the oven and brush with remaining 1 Tbsp melted butter. Divide the batter among the molds.  Return molds to oven.  Cook 10-13 minutes, or just until golden brown and springy.    Remove from mold and place on rack to cool.  Enjoy!

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Yields 14

Gluten-free, Vegan Pasta Puttanesca

I created my own gluten-free, vegan puttanesca recipe tonight (based on Emeril Lagasse’s recipe found here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/puttanesca-sauce-recipe.html), and it turned out absolutely delicious! I will definitely be making this again soon!  (I made Mike his with regular pasta 😉 and he loved it too!)

Ingredients:

*try to use organic when possible*

6 cloves garlic, chopped or minced

1 28oz. can diced tomatoes, cut in half or separated by hand so that the chunks aren’t too large

3 Tbsp. tomato paste (the store I stopped at didn’t have organic, so I got all-natural, which isn’t the same, but at least there are no added sugars)

2 Tbsp. drained capers

1 4.25 oz. jar of kalamata olives, drained and with olives cut in half

zest from 1/2 lemon

juice for 1/2 lemon

1/2 C olive oil

1/2 sweet onion, diced

1 small shallot, diced

1 tsp. red chili pepper paste

salt to taste

1 8oz package gluten free multigrain spaghetti with quinoa (or use regular wheat pasta if you like)

4 dried basil leaves, crushed

6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions.

In the meanwhile, prepare fresh ingredients.

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat, adding about 1-2 Tbsp. of water.  Add onions and salt and cook for about 6 minutes.  Add chopped garlic.  Cook for about 4 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and the remaining ingredients. Add more salt to taste if necessary. Lower heat to low. Cook for about 30-40 minutes, or until tomatoes are reduced.  Serve over cooked, drained, rinsed pasta.  Enjoy!

Cherry Chard Smoothie

Ingredients:

2 bananas, cut into coins, frozen

1/2-3/4 C cherries, pitted, frozen

2-4 stalks (including stems) rainbow chard

2-4 stalks (including stems) Swiss chard

4-5 pitted dates

1/2 C unsweetened vanilla coconut milk

about 1/2 C water for blending

Directions:

For a layered smoothie:

Put the bananas, dates, and coconut milk (and water, if necessary) into a blender and blend until smooth.  Empty about 1/3 of the contents into a glass.  Add the cherries to the blender and blend again until smooth.  Empty about half of the mixture on top of the first layer.  Add the chard to the blender and blend until smooth.  Top off glass.  Enjoy!