Shopping at King Arthur Flour

Hi!  Alex and I have been running around and away from our computers most of the week.  We have a couple posts coming for you soon, but in the meantime here’s a quickie.

Today we visited King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vermont.  Their on-site store had more baking products than I knew existed.  Not surprisingly, they have a lot of flours.  I mean a lot.  King Arthur has been milling flours since 1790, making it the oldest company in the US that’s still creating the original product it started off with.  I was excited about their high-gluten flour (good for bagels, I think) and their pumpernickel flour.  I was amazed by their European-style, French-style and Irish-style flours (wow…they’re all different?).

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The search for the perfect lunch containers

“For the Working Girl” from coralvintage on Etsy

I try to bring my lunch to school/work whenever I can — it’s healthier, saves me money and typically tastes better (the Berkeley campus food could be worse…but it also could be better…).

Finding the perfect containers to pack lunch in is a big challenge, though!  I want something that is lightweight, won’t break, microwaves, washes easily, fits in my bag and doesn’t leak…even when I put soup in it.  Maybe that’s too much to ask?

For a while I thought I found the miracle containers that met all my needs.  I used them for years and was very, very happy.

And then I learned about Bisphenol A (BPA).  I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure my miracle containers are chock full of it.  On my “wide mouth storage jars” are not specifically identified as containers for food storage.  I’d rather avoid whatever is potentially in my non-food grade plastic containers, including BPA, so I’m trying to phase them out of my life.  I haven’t done it quickly, though, because it’s been difficult to find a great substitute. Continue reading

Tasting craft-distilled spirits at St. George (Hangar One)

Last weekend Teel, Joe, Alex and I headed out into the rain and went to St. George Spirits in Alameda.  (And, yes, we followed St. George with that crazy food bender on Monday…love out of town visitors!)

Alameda Point is the decommissioned military base at the end of Alameda island.  The whole area is amazing.  The base shut down in 1997 and has been more or less vacant ever since.  A few of the former aircraft hangars are leased out, but for the most part it’s acres of asphalt.  One of the hangars is occupied by St. George Spirits, which is most well known for its Hangar One vodka.

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Light and refreshing Green Tea and Mint cocktails for St. Patty’s Day

After my failed attempt at green food dye, I was ready to leave the realm of green food products behind.  Especially for St. Patrick’s Day.  But then I found a leftover bunch of mint in my fridge and I started thinking…

Inspired by my experience with homemade grenadine, I stripped the mint leaves off, gathering about 2 c of mint, and tossed them in my blender.  I added 4 oz of vodka and 2 T of sugar (just enough to add a hint of sweetness, without being particularly sweet), and then blended for a couple minutes.  I let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes, giving the mint a bit of time to infuse through the vodka, and then strained it through one layer of cheesecloth (leftover from the ricotta!).  The straining was little annoying since the cheesecloth had to be cleaned off several times, but maybe that’s the price paid for fresh mint syrup.  From start to finish (including “steeping” time), the mint syrup took about 20 minutes.

With my new fresh mint syrup, I started thinking of cocktails from modern mojitos to lemon-sake martinis.  Eventually, though, I decided to play up the green theme with some green tea (I happened to have a bottle that’s been sitting around from Trader Joe’s, though typically I would steep my own).  So, here’s a fresh and light recipe that’s sure to win over anyone who’s resistant to green drinks on St. Patty’s day.  Like me!

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On a pastry-ice cream-coffee mission in the Mission

This afternoon I pushed aside my books and hit the streets of San Francisco’s Mission district with my sister and her boyfriend, who are visiting from New York City.  Our goal?  To sample as much pastry, ice cream and coffee as humanly possible.  We started at the 24th St BART and headed toward pie.  Here’s an overview:

Stop 1. Mission Pie

We kicked off the day by ordering up one slice of Lemon Shaker (highlight: full slices of lemon cooked in the pie!) and one of Walnut.  Each was selling for $3.14 in honor of Pi day.  Amazing.  I’m looking forward to going back and sampling some of their savory pies.

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Savory French Lentil and Barley Soup

This hearty and healthy soup is a perfect meal to quickly pull together on a Monday or Tuesday evening and then eat for the rest of the week.  The taste is best a day or two day after it’s made and the flavors are totally melded.

I make French lentil and barley soup a lot, since all the ingredients are things I always keep on hand at our house.  You’ll notice there are many ingredients used in both this soup and my Hoppin’ John.  In general, my bean and grain soups share several of the same base ingredients, making it easier to shop and keep the pantry streamlined.

If you haven’t had French lentils before, they are my absolute favorite for soups and salads.  They maintain their shape, unlike most lentils, which tend to break down as they are cooked.  I like their firm and chewy consistency.  I also like how they are often available in bulk bins in grocery stores.  At my local grocery store, the French lentils used in this recipe cost us about $1.40.

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Hurricanes for Mardi Gras!

I love using Mardi Gras as an excuse to drink Hurricanes.  Of course, you can drink them at any time of year, but Mardi Gras is mixed up with New Orleans in my mind, and no drink is so quintessentially New Orleans as the Hurricane.

The original Hurricane came about post-prohibition at Pat O’Brien’s, a restaurant on Bourbon Street (which both my grandmothers used to go to while they were in college at Newcomb).  The short version of the story is that, at some point in the 1940s, Pat O’Brien’s ended up with an absurd quantity of rum and developed a rum-passionfruit-lemon drink that was served in a large hurricane glass.  Here’s a comprehensive post about the back story (and while you’re on that blog, check out their Liquor Cabinet tab…holy cow!).

Unfortunately, though, the Hurricane that is widely available today around New Orleans isn’t good.  At all.  It’s insanely sweet and a bright, bright red color.  It tastes a lot like liquid cherry Jello (which is so recognizable that, even though I haven’t had cherry Jello in about 20 years, I knew the flavor immediately!).  Here’s a to-go package of the mix that’s found around New Orleans (amazingly, my friend Sara had this at her house in Berkeley):

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Sunday baking and attempts at naturally dyed frosting

I spent several days working on a big King’s Cake cupcake post…only to flop the frosting (yes, frosting is a bit of a departure from the normal King’s Cake) at the last minute and run out of the ingredients/time to re-do things.  So, here’s what I learned: it is really, really hard to make vibrant frosting colors naturally.  I tried to the make purple frosting with crushed blueberries and green frosting with spirulina powder.  Both came out very Easter-pastel instead of Mardi Gras-bold.  In addition, the green frosting tasted terrible.  I love spirulina in my smoothies, but I don’t think it belongs in cream cheese frosting.

I frosted two cupcakes and gave up.  Until next year!  (Thankfully, this year we still have Hurricanes.)

Now to devour the remaining cupcakes frosting-free…

Homemade pomegranate grenadine

This is one of those must-do recipes.  It takes about 2 minutes of effort and is a ridiculous improvement over anything you can buy in the store.  Your cocktails will taste a bazillion times better (at least!) when you use real grenadine, rather than the red-dyed corn syrup that masquerades as grenadine.

I say real grenadine because the original version of grenadine was made from pomegranate juice, not cherry.  The word grenadine comes from the traditional French word for pomegranate, granade. Somewhere along the way, cherry replaced pomegranate in the most widespread grenadine syrups.  Now there are few grenadine syrups with any fruit in them at all.

Here are the ingredients of Rose’s grenadine: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Red 40, Blue 1.

Yuck, right?  So, let’s make our own.

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Ricotta tossed pasta + spinach salad (with lemon-shallot vinaigrette)

Ever since our adventures in homemade ricotta, Alex and I have been eating more ricotta than normal.  Tonight we threw it into pasta for a quick dinner.

First we cooked about 8 ounces of whole wheat rotini just short of al dente, and then drained it.  In this dish I like the nutty flavor of whole wheat pasta, though you could certainly use any variety of pasta you want.

Next we heated up a tablespoon of olive oil on a medium heat and added about 10 sliced cherry tomatoes.  About 30 seconds is perfect (we are always careful not to overcook them).   Next, add in the pasta and make sure everything is evenly coated with the olive oil.

Now begins our sequence of pictures of food falling through the air!

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