REVIEW: Choctal Ice Cream – An exotic journey in every scoop

 

Throw everything you know about vanilla and chocolate ice cream out the door before you continue on. If you’re a naysayer of these plain jane flavors, let me introduce you to something that will shatter your perceptions of chocolate and vanilla: Choctal Ice Cream. Continue reading

Spiced Mexican Hot Chocolate Recipe by Bunkycooks

Spiced Mexican Hot Chocolate (Image Credit: Bunkycooks)

Spiced Mexican Hot Chocolate (Image Credit: Bunkycooks)

Winter isn’t for everyone. However, the season does have its perks and hot chocolate is without question my favorite one. Nothing drives away the winter chill like a steaming mug of delicious hot chocolate. While the warm concoction may make you nostalgic for childhood snow days, hot chocolate isn’t just for kids!

Mix things up this winter with this recipe for Spiced Mexican Hot Chocolate from Bunkycooks. It’s an adult spin on the classic beverage that is easy to make and the perfect thing to sip while snuggling next to the fire with someone you love.

Spiced Mexican Hot Chocolate Recipe

Ingredients

2 cups milk
2 ounces best quality Mexican stone
Ground organic chocolate (Bunkycooks recommends Taza), chopped into small pieces
Pinch of salt
1 generous tablespoon Spiced Honey Crème
Optional: 1.5 ounce shot of fine aged mezcal or rum
Garnish: fresh whipped cream, shaved chocolate

Directions

In a heavy medium saucepan, combine milk, chocolate, pinch of salt and honey crème. Heat, stirring frequently over medium-­‐low heat with a whisk, until chocolate has melted, honey crème dissolves and the milk is very hot, about 10 minutes. Pour hot chocolate into a tall mug or 2 smaller cups. If you like, add mezcal or rum spirit. Top with fresh whipped cream and shaved chocolate. Serve immediately.

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Just One Bite: Satisfying Your Food Cravings

(Image Credit: Masson)

(Image Credit: Masson)

One look at that red velvet cake and your stomach is on the floor and at its mercy. But before you start giving birth to that food baby, what about starting with just a bite? Continue reading

Country Potato Gratin (Image Credit: Bunky Cooks)

Festive Country Potato Gratin Recipe by Bunkycooks

Country Potato Gratin (Image Credit: Bunky Cooks)

Country Potato Gratin (Image Credit: Bunky Cooks)

Everyone knows one of the best times to enjoy wonderful food, family and friends is Christmas. Only second to its food-centered holiday Thanksgiving, Christmas is more than just Santa and sleigh bells. To prove this point, we give you this: Country Potato Gratin. Continue reading

(Image Credit: Dean Hochman)

Would you… try AmazonFresh?

 

(Image Credit: Dean Hochman)

(Image Credit: Dean Hochman)

What is AmazonFresh, you ask? AmazonFresh is a subsidiary of Amazon, and it’s revitalized the way you do your grocery shopping. Launched in 2007 as a beta (it was initially only available to residents of Seattle), the delivery service expanded in 2013 to areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco. The service offers grocery items, household beauty products, and merchandise from nearby bakeries & restaurants. Paired with everything else has you standard Amazon has to offer, including home improvement and kitchen ware products, there’s no reason to head to your crowded supermarket (unless you want to people watch – which can be pretty entertaining, so don’t feel guilty). If you’re wondering whether to take advantage of the service (if it’s available in your area, that is), the answer is a resounding “Yes.” Continue reading

Peanut Butter Marshmallow Recipe by Jenny @ Bake

(Image Credit: Jenny of BAKE)

(Image Credit: Jenny of BAKE)

A few months ago I shared my recipe for s’more cupcakes and my slightly over dramatic sad tale of how I had never had a proper s’more.  Well those days are over! Because quite by chance I found a packet of graham crackers in a Chinese import store of all places, in Chinatown, whilst wandering around central London. Continue reading

(Image Credit: Von Lieres)

Easy On-the-Go Breakfast Ideas

(Image Credit: Von Lieres)

(Image Credit: Von Lieres)

I’m a firm believer that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, I’m starting to realize how easy it can be to skip breakfast when you have to be at work by 8 and you’re still walking around like a zombie at 7:45.

Eating breakfast in the morning has many health benefits. It wakes up your metabolism and prepares your body to work throughout the day. It gives you energy and satisfies your food cravings so that you will not be eating away at every hour of the day.

Whether you believe in this breakfast research or not, it couldn’t hurt to add an extra meal to your day if you’re not a regular breakfast-eater. I have found two quick and healthy recipes that have made my mornings a little bit easier.

I discovered The Chew’s oatmeal energy cluster recipe while waiting for an appointment at the dentist’s office. takes less than 10 minutes to prepare the night before, and you have enough to last you for a couple of days (unless you’re like me and have siblings that all decide to eat your food without telling you). The clusters taste almost like cookie dough, and they’re actually healthy for you! (Minus the chocolate chips.) You can add however much you want of each ingredient or switch out the chocolate chips for raisins if that’s what you prefer. I added a pinch of chia seeds to the recipe to give me even more energy so I could try to reduce my caffeine intake.

Another recipe I love is a healthy breakfast sandwich. Instead of egg, ham and cheese, however, I take two pieces of gluten free bread, spread them with some peanut butter and top them with bananas. Now, you don’t have to use gluten free bread, but if you decide you want to try it, I love Udi’s bread. You can also replace the peanut butter with almond butter and top it with any fruit you like.

These two recipes allow me to eat on the go and make it to work just in time. I’m full of energy and ready to begin my day. Hopefully these recipes will make your mornings easier too. Let us know in the comments below!

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Cooking (Image Credit: Laura D'Alessandro)

5 Tips for the First Time Cook!

Cooking (Image Credit: Laura D'Alessandro)

Cooking (Image Credit: Laura D’Alessandro)

Cooking is not everybody’s idea of fun. It’s also not something everyone is good at, especially if it is a new experience. If you are a first time cook, follow these tips to help get you on your way to making meals.

First, make sure you start with the exact ingredients and proper equipment. If your recipe calls for powdered sugar, don’t use regular granulated. Speaking from personal experience, even though it may taste the same, the texture makes a huge difference to the end result. Similarly, if your recipe says to use a certain kind of pan or type of utensil, follow the directions exactly, unless the recipe specifically says another substitute will work. (Butter and margarine are a common example.)  Oftentimes, close enough is not close enough when working with food, and when you are new to the kitchen, it is best to stick to the original recipe until you become more familiar and comfortable with the process.

Second, start with some easy recipes. Something more complex than cereal, but not as difficult as crème Brule. Simple things like macaroni and cheese, box mixes of muffins or cake, or homemade pizza using a packed dough mixture are all good choices. It may not seem like these foods would be good for teaching any cooking skills, but it can be surprising how easy it is to make an error and ruin the food. Boiling the macaroni noodles for too long or not long enough can make or break the dish. Adding too much of one ingredient to a box mix will throw off the whole recipe. Baking a pizza too long or not long enough will leave you with burnt or uncooked dough. Gaining confidence with easier meals is a good stepping stone for beginning your cooking career.

Third, don’t expect to be a natural on your first day. Like learning any other skill or hobby, patience is key. Allow yourself to make some mistakes, and learn from them. Know your limits as to what recipes you attempt, but don’t be afraid to try newer, more difficult ones as you continue to master the simpler ones you try. Starting out with realistic expectations separate from goals you set for the future will keep you motivated, and stop the frustration that comes with doing something unfamiliar.

Fourth, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have friends or relatives with a knack for cooking, ask for some tips. Sometimes, it can be embarrassing to admit you don’t know much about a certain subject. Just remember people like talking about what they know, so your friend or relative will enjoy sharing their knowledge with you rather than using it as an opportunity to make fun of you. If you are too shy to ask, find a time when the person may possibly need help preparing food for an event or family gathering. The person will appreciate the extra hand, and you’ll get extra practice and a free lesson. It’s a win-win.

Finally, be sure to be familiar with kitchen and food safety practices. Certain foods need to reach certain temperatures to ensure they are safe to eat. Invest in a thermometer to ensure you don’t make yourself or anyone else sick. Another common practice to follow is not mixing raw vegetables and meat. Don’t use the same cutting board for these items and be sure to wipe up any liquids or juices that may come out of a certain food while preparing it. When cutting anything, always point the blade away from your fingers and face. Even the best chefs in the world slip and hurt themselves. A quick Google search can provide you with tons of other important tips for keeping you and your food safe.

Cooking is not an easy job. There are many things that could go wrong during the process, but with practice and determination, anyone can learn – Even you!


 

Image courtesy of Laura D’Alessandro
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S'mores Cupcakes (Image Credit: Jenny @ BAKE)

S’mores Cupcakes Recipe by Jenny @ Bake

 

S'mores Cupcakes (Image Credit: Jenny @ BAKE)

S’mores Cupcakes (Image Credit: Jenny @ BAKE)

One summer, when I was about seven and growing up in a small English seaside town, I became completely fascinated by s’mores.  I can’t quite remember which book or show I first discovered them in, but I was obsessed.  There is no English alternative,not even something close, which probably due to graham crackers not being available here.  Every time my Father lit the BBQ, I felt like I was missing out.  That there were thousands of other girls participating in the same summer ritual of charred meat and potato salad, who were being treated to this magical dessert at the end of their meal.

Two decades later and if I am being honest I would love to end this tale by saying I have finally tried my first sticky s’more, mashmallow oozing out the sides with every bite.  Not yet, but on my next trip to the State’s it will be high on my list.  In the meantime I will be more than adequately satiated by these delicious cupcakes.  Turned on their head the chocolate, rather than the cracker becomes dominant, carrying the light and fluffy marshmallow buttercream. Due to the high fat content of the frosting when I tried to burn it a little to give the cupcake the iconic smokey toasted marshmallow flavour it just melted.  I shared these with good friends, sat enjoying the last rays of sun, talking about anything and everything. There was no campfire, but the spirit was the same. Maybe, I’m not missing out on s’mores as much as I think.

S’more Cupcakes Recipe

Makes 12 cupcakes

S'mores Cupcakes (Image Credit: Jenny @ BAKE)

S’mores Cupcakes (Image Credit: Jenny @ BAKE)

For the Chocolate Cupcakes

125g butter at room temperature
2 eggs
115g self raising flour
125g brown sugar
30g cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
50ml milk

Preheat the oven to 175C and line the cupcake tin.

Beat all the ingredients together until well blended.

Divide into the cupcake cases and bake in the middle of the oven for 17 minutes until golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool.

For the Marshmallow Frosting

Adapted from Buttercream Chantilly Factory

60g butter at room temperature
100g (about ½ a jar) marshmallow fluff
190g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 digestive biscuit/graham craker , crushed into crumbs

Beat the butter until light and fluffy then add the marshmallow fluff and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and creamy.

On a low speed slowly beat in the icing sugar until well mixed. If using a stand mixer I find covering it with a tea towel helps to reduce mess.

Ice your cupcakes and sprinkle with biscuit/cracker crumbs.

Previously posted on BAKE 


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Your First Time… Visiting a Farmers’ Market

Farmers' Market (Image Credit: Edsel Little)

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Summer is great for so many reasons, but the abundance of outdoor farmers’ markets is one of my favorite parts. The produce is fresh, the baked goods are made locally, and the food is just generally all around delicious. Before you make your first trip, check out these tips to make your experience even better!

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5 Products Under $100 to Spice Up Your Kitchen

Spice Up

Food is an extremely vital part of life, and cooking can be a love language of its own. It’s no wonder then that so much of our foot traffic is through a kitchen. For a space so dear to humanity, kitchens deserve some fun products to spruce them up. Here’s a list of five budget-friendly products that will add a little fun to your kitchen today. Continue reading

Roasted Pumpkin-Poblano Soup (Image Credit: Yes, More Please!)

Roasted Pumpkin-Poblano Soup Recipe by Yes, More Please!

Roasted Pumpkin-Poblano Soup (Image Credit: Yes, More Please!)

Roasted Pumpkin-Poblano Soup (Image Credit: Yes, More Please!)

I have been a vegetarian for about two-and-a-half years, and I am always game to try a new dish (meat-free of course). Soups, in particular, have always been a favorite meal of mine, and I get excited when I find new vegetarian recipes in cooking magazines, on the menu at restaurants, or in the aisle at the grocery store. Who doesn’t love warm, flavorful, colorful soup at the end of a long day?! Continue reading

Blood Orange and Cardamom Cake Recipe (Image Credit: Jenny @ Bake)

Blood Orange and Cardamom Cake Recipe by Jenny @ Bake

Blood Orange and Cardamom Cake Recipe (Image Credit: Jenny @ Bake)

Blood Orange and Cardamom Cake Recipe (Image Credit: Jenny @ Bake)

I am a spring baby so in some ways I have always identified more with this time of year.  More likely that that, I probably have some sort of subconscious preference, because not long after daffodils start brightening up the garden I receive presents.

Spring in the English countryside is a wonderful time of year.  Fields that have been brown and barren for months become a vibrant and vivacious green.  Rapeseed, which is commonly grown where I live, shines gold for as far as the eye can see.  The air is full of bird song, and residential streets are lined with trees heavy with candyfloss coloured blossom.

This cake sums up spring for me.  It has the bright citrus flavours I crave as soon as the sun starts peeking out through the clouds, and warm comforting spice from the cardamon to combat the fresh wind whipping through the trees.  The simple orange glaze in place of frosting means it packs well, and makes for the perfect accompaniment for a flask of tea, and a long walk to appreciate this glorious time of year.

Blood Orange and Cardamom Cake Recipe

Based on a recipe from Cake Days | Makes 1 loaf

Blood Orange and Cardamom Cake Recipe (Image Credit: Jenny @ Bake)

Blood Orange and Cardamom Cake Recipe (Image Credit: Jenny @ Bake)

For the sponge:

190g unsalted butter plus extra for greasing

190g plain flour plus extra for dusting

1 tbsp finely grated blood orange zest

190g caster sugar

3 large eggs

60g ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

25g plain yogurt

1 tsp vanilla essence

6 cardamom pods – seeds ground

For the glaze:

Juice of 1 blood orange

50g caster sugar.

Directions:

Blood Orange and Cardamom Cake Recipe (Image Credit: Jenny @ Bake)

Blood Orange and Cardamom Cake Recipe (Image Credit: Jenny @ Bake)

Preheat the oven to 170C, then butter and line a 2lb bread tin

Cream together the butter, zest and sugar till pale.

In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients.

Whisk a tablespoon of the dry mixture into the butter and sugar, then slowly incorporate the eggs.

Add the dry ingredients to the mix in two stages then beat in the yoghurt and vanilla essence.

Pour into the tin, and bake in the middle of the oven for 50-60 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

When the cake is nearly completely baked, heat the orange juice and sugar in a pan until the sugar dissolves.

Remove the cake from the oven and repeatedly prick with a cocktail stick until it’s covered in little holes.

Slowly pour the syrup over the cake, trying to get an even coverage.

Enjoy!

Previously posted on BAKE

 


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Brunch (Image Credit: Basheer Tome)

What’s the big deal about…brunch?

Brunch (Image Credit: Basheer Tome)

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Brunching has always been a thing. Maybe I’ve just been living under a rock, but it seems like its popularity has shot up recently. All of a sudden, Sunday brunch with the ladies has become a necessity among the twenty-plus crowd, and for good reason. Here are some justifications for taking up brunching A.S.A.P.

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