Cinnamon Pecan Butter

When it comes to nut butters, the winner in our household is pecan butter. It has a more unique flavor than peanut butter, and is a little sweeter than almond butter. The thing is, we’ve never been able to find pure pecan butter in grocery stores. It always seems to be combined with other nuts, such as almond-pecan butter or pecan-walnut butter. So we started making this pecan butter from scratch years ago and it has become one of our pantry staples ever since. The optional flaxseed meal makes this spread even more nutritious. My wife enjoys it on sourdough toast every morning with her hot coffee.

Pecan Butter Ingredients

Cinnamon Pecan Butter

Yields 2 ½ cups

Ingredients:

  • 5 ½ cups whole, raw pecans
  • ¾ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup flaxseed meal (optional)
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Natural oils released during blending

Blend the pecans in a food processor until pureed, about 3-4 minutes. When buying pecans for butter, look for pecans that haven’t been on the “shelf” for too long. Bulk sections of supermarkets and farmer’s markets are great places to look for the freshest nuts. The fresher the pecan is, the more natural oils are released during blending, which makes for a creamier butter. Add cinnamon, sugar, salt, vanilla, and optional flaxseed meal. Blend on high until smooth and buttery in consistency, about 5-6 minutes.

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Watermelon Mint Lime Ice Pops

These seasonal ice pops are a refreshing treat on hot summer days, and they’re made with only four ingredients. There’s only so much ice cream you can eat to cool off, so we came up with this recipe for those times when only a cold, icy treat would do the trick. They come together in minutes. Since watermelon is in season, its natural sweetness eliminates any need for additional sugar. Feel free to add in a drizzle of honey if you like them sweeter.

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Watermelon Mint Lime Ice Pops

Yields six 3oz. ice pops

Ingredients:

  • ½ seedless mini watermelon, chopped
  • 1 whole lime, juiced
  • 10 medium-sized fresh mint leaves
  • ¼ cup blueberries

IMG_2537I picked up the fruit at our local grocery store and combined it with a few sprigs of fresh mint from our garden. We have to be vigilant about using some of the mint every week, or it will take over our garden since it grows so fast!

Chop the watermelon and place in blender. Add juiced lime and whole mint leaves. Blend on high until pureed, about 30 seconds. Taste and add honey if desired. Pour into ice pop molds. Drop in whole blueberries as desired. Alternatively, you could blend the blueberries into the juice if you prefer a smoother consistency.

Place ice pops in freezer for 5-6 hours, and enjoy!

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If you have any juice left over after filling your ice pop molds, pour into a cup with sparkling water to make a fizzy agua fresca. You can even add some tequila for a fun cocktail!

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The Beauregarde

I don’t know about you, but I was SUPER bummed to hear about the passing of Gene Wilder this week. My dad was a huge fan of his, so much of my childhood was spent either watching his movies or reciting his countless (genius) one-liners. And since I can only imagine my dad and Gene are having drinks together right now, I was inspired to create a drink in his honor: The Beauregarde.

Based on the movie that first introduced me to Wilder, my take on the classic Moscow Mule (my fav!) muddles fresh blueberries (remember that iconic Willy Wonka scene with Violet Beauregarde turning into a blueberry?) with mint, Meyer lemon juice, Pisco Porton (a Peruvian brandy), and finished with my homemade ginger beer. And to top it off, for Mr. “Candy Man” Willy Wonka: candied ginger.

The Beauregarde

Yields 1 cocktail

Ingredients:IMG_3530

  • ½ oz. Meyer lemon juice (tastes like a cross between a lemon and a mandarin)
  • 5-8 mint leaves
  • large handful of blueberries (about 30)
  • 2 oz. Pisco Porton
  • 6 oz. homemade ginger beer (or store bought)
  • 1 small piece candied ginger

Muddle blueberries, mint, and Meyer lemon juice (lemon or lime will work too) in a cocktail shaker. Add Pisco Porton to shaker with a few ice cubes. Shake vigorously. Pour over ice and top with ginger beer. Garnish with blueberries, mint, and candied ginger.

If you’re not a huge fan of vodka-based drinks, try Pisco Porton. It’s smooth enough to sip on its own and sweet enough to contrast the ginger beer.

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Cheers to you, Mr. Wilder.

Homemade Ginger Beer

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My fun drink of choice lately has been the Moscow Mule. They are way too delicious and go down way too easily. So, naturally, I had to learn how to make my own ginger beer. If only I could make my own vodka. Maybe my next culinary challenge… Just kidding. Well, maybe not… if I can get my hands on a distiller. But I digress…

Making ginger beer is surprisingly easy. The process does take a few weeks, but I assure you that the end result is well worth the wait.

Homemade Ginger Beer

Yields 2 ½ liters

Ingredients:

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Tip for peeling ginger: use the edge of a spoon to peel with thin outer skin with ease.
  • cups water, plus 2 liters
  • tsp. champagne yeast (I found mine on Amazon)
  • 3 lb. fresh ginger, finely grated
  • ½ cup granulated sugar, plus additional 4-5 cups
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ½ jalapeño, sliced
(Note: this recipe does produce an alcoholic ginger beer.)

Start by boiling and cooling 3 cups of water. This purifies the water, allowing the yeast to grow properly. To make your ginger beer “starter”, stir the yeast into the water until it dissolves. Stir in 1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger, 1 tbsp. of the granulated sugar, the lemon and lime juice, and sliced jalapeño. Pour the liquid into a non-reactive (e.g., glass) container or jar and cover with a cloth towel. Place the starter in a warm spot in your house — this will help to keep the yeast active. However, make sure the spot is not too hot (yeast will die) or too cold (yeast will go to sleep and slow your process).

Each day for the next week, mix 1 tbsp. ginger and 1 tbsp. sugar into the starter until the sugar dissolves.

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*Plastic bottles are essential in order to ensure the pressure that builds up does not break the bottle!

After one week, strain the starter through cheesecloth into a large, pourable pitcher. While the starter is draining, slowly heat to a low boil 2 liters of water with 4 cups of sugar in a large pot, stirring until dissolved.  Once sugar is dissolved, turn off stove, and cool water.  Using a funnel, pour the strained ginger starter equally into 3 empty plastic* 1 liter bottles.

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Add the sugar-water evenly to each bottle already containing the starter. Test the sweetness of the liquid: it should be sweeter than juice. Don’t worry about adding too much sugar. Over the next couple of weeks as the ginger beer ages, the yeast will eat the sugar and convert it to CO2 and alcohol. Tightly close up the bottles and place back in that warm spot of your house. After two days, slowly open each bottle and release any pressure, close the bottles back up, and store. Continue this step every day for 2 weeks.

 

Final step: ENJOY! It’s finally time to open the bottles and sample your homemade ginger beer. Add any additional sugar or citrus juice if needed.

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If you’re looking to try a new ginger beer-based drink, check out the recipe for my Moscow Mule-inspired cocktail: The Beauregarde!

Fried Eggs

One of the first things I learned in culinary school was that the obnoxious tall white hats with the 100 pleats we wore represented the 100 different ways you can cook an egg. Toque_01b.jpg9f08a6c7-fb60-41f5-badf-e7197161d473Res200Something tells me that Marie-Antoine Carême (the father of French cuisine and reason the toque became the iconic piece of a chef’s uniform) would disagree, but it does make for an interesting fact to share with die-hard foodies. That being said, eggs are quite a big deal in the culinary world.

Another egg-citing thing they taught me in culinary school is that eggs are one of the toughest ingredients to “master”. With varying degrees of temperature, time, and finesse standing between you and that perfectly appetizing egg, it’s no wonder I had to spend weeks standing over a sauté pan with those yellow yolks staring up at me. Maybe they were right about those 100 egg recipes after all. But I’m happy to report that it’s actually not that difficult to cook an egg your favorite kind of egg. And my favorite way to eat them is sunny-side up.

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Golden runny yolk, unturned, and crispy underneath; a sunny-side up egg is great for breakfast, on a burger, over grilled asparagus, or on a salad. The yolk provides that luscious, velvety sauce without adding additional ingredients. (Thanks, American Heart Association, for taking the fear out of eating eggs!)

Fried Eggs

Yields one serving

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp. avocado oil (or your favorite oil)
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Add oil to non-stick saucepan on medium-high heat. When oil is almost smoking (try the oil test from my tomato compote recipe!), add the two eggs. Add salt and pepper to the top. Cook for 1 ½ minutes, or until edges are brown and whites are opaque. Want over-easy or over-hard eggs? Cook eggs on one side for 1 minute, then turn over and cook for additional 30 seconds for over-easy, additional minute for over-hard.

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Weekend Breakfast

Heirloom cherry tomatoes, red onion, eggs, and herbs

I have always been a strong advocate for the “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” philosophy. Unfortunately I, like many others, don’t get the luxury of enjoying a gourmet breakfast during the week. Between early alarms, a three month old baby,  and attempting to make myself professionally presentable when I can barely open my eyes, my weekday breakfast typically consists of nothing more than oatmeal made in a matter of minutes that is washed down with as much coffee as digestively possible. That being said, when the weekend rolls around, breakfast becomes less of a means of fuel and more of an experience. I am my father’s daughter, after all: a devout “Sunday brunchist” whose area of worship was at the Sunday morning brunch buffet. Needless to say, we take breakfast seriously in my family. And to me, there is nothing better than eggs, fresh homemade sourdough, and seasonal roasted vegetables. Don’t get me wrong: I would never turn down pumpkin pancakes or croissant French toast with berry compote; but there really is nothing better than a few simple yet quality ingredients cooked in the comfort of my own kitchen as the sun comes up. (Yes, unfortunately I don’t sleep in on the weekends either. But at least there’s always coffee).

So here it is: my entrance into the blog stratosphere with my favorite “most important meal of the day.”

This recipe was created back when I was first dating my wife, and it has maintained its position at the top of the breakfast favorites list ever since. The beauty of this recipe lies in the crispy, sunny-side up eggs, homemade sourdough toast (recipe for sourdough starter and bread to come!!), and a chunky sauce made from roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes, caramelized onions, and herbs. What makes this seemingly simple dish so delicious is the use of those seasonal cherry tomatoes that pack a mighty punch of flavor when roasted.

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Compote

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Yields 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • ½ pint of cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters
  • ¼ red onion
  • ½ sprig of rosemary
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 4 tbsp. avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

‘Tis the season for tomatoes, so be on the lookout for heirloom ones! (Thanks, Mom, for the homegrown tomatoes!) Otherwise, cherry tomatoes from your local store will be just as delicious. Roast the quartered cherry tomatoes for 15 minutes in a 375°F oven (or on the toast setting in a toaster oven), until slightly browned on edges. I prefer to roast the tomatoes as opposed to just sautéing them in a pan. Roasting preserves the composition of the tomatoes and dries them out just enough so that the tomatoes create more of a chunky compote instead of sauce. Plus the browned edges elevate the final flavor even more.

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While the tomatoes roast, julienne the red onion and mince your herbs.

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In a saucepan, heat your oil on high heat until almost smoking. (Tip: throw a droplet or two of water into the oil to test the heat. If the oil spits back at you, it’s ready!) Turn down the heat to medium-low and add your onions, herbs, a few small pinches of salt, and black pepper to the pan and sauté, stirring constantly to avoid burning.

IMG_3123 As you slowly cook your onions, the sugars will begin to caramelize. In order to avoid burning the onions and keep that delicious “fond” (the brown buildup on the bottom of the pan), add a few tablespoons of water to deglaze the pan as needed. Don’t rush this step. The slower the onions cook, the more natural sugars are released.  The process does take time but the end result will produce a sweeter, melt-in-your-mouth texture. When the onions are brown and soft (10 minutes), add the balsamic vinegar. Cook for 1 minute, then turn off the burner and set aside.

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Once the tomatoes are roasted and the onions are caramelized, add the tomatoes and their juices to the sauté pan of onions. Turn the burner on low and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. This last step will bring all of the components together and reduce the juices to create a thick, slightly syrupy consistency.

The compote is ready to serve! Our compote is served with fried eggs and homemade sourdough toast.

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