Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Raw Cocoa Cookies

Happy first day of summer! Here's to the start of camping, swimming, grilling, and lounging in the shade of a trusty old tree.

Summertime is also picnic time, and every good picnic needs a sweet treat to complete the meal. Cookies are an obvious, easy, and generally crowd-pleasing choice, however, who the heck wants to fire up the oven when daily temperatures are hitting near 90 degrees?

You're already in shorts and a tank top, sweating, and you want to subject yourself to the oven pumping out 350 degrees more heat into the air of your kitchen?

No. Thank. You.

I recommend these:

Raw Cocoa Cookies
You'll need:
1 cup walnuts
1 1/3 cup dates (pitted)
1 sample-sized package of Justin's chocolate almond butter (about 2 T)
1 T raw honey
3 T cocoa powder
1 t vanilla extract
1/8 t sea salt

To make:
1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients until contents looks like potting soil (lovely image, I know.)
2. Dump contents into a gallon ziplock bag and seal. Form 'dough' inside bag into a ball.
3. Grease up a rolling pin with a bit of canola oil. Set up a rolling station using a big piece of parchment paper.
4. Remove dough ball from ziplock bag and place on parchment paper. Roll dough with greased pin until dough is about 1/2 inch.
5. Use a cookie cutter or the mouth of a glass to cut dough into cookies.
6. Roll dough back up and roll out until all cookies have been cut (if you have extra dough, but not enough for a full cookie, roll dough into a couple balls. If you want, you could also do this for the whole recipe.)
6. Put cookies in container, separating layers using cut pieces of the parchment paper you rolled the dough on.
7. Let cookies chill for at least an hour to firm up before enjoying.

Makes about a dozen 3'' cookies.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Copy Cat

I do this all the time.

I go to a restaurant, order a meal, and upon first bite, exclaim: "We could MAKE this!"

I get so excited letting the flavors roll in my mouth, trying to sort out the spices. I examine contents, imagine the method, and make mental notes for later.

A couple recreations include Pearl Street Grill's "Queen City" sandwich: "Portabella mushrooms, caramelized onions, roaster red peppers, provolone, and garlic mayo grilled between wheat berry bread"

My version: Marinated, roasted portabella mushroom cap with sauteed onions and sweet peppers in between toasted wheat berry bread.

That one took a while to make with the mushroom cap and all, but it was worth it.

Another favorite I love to re-create is Merge's "Smothered sweet potato fries" with "spiced lentils, spinach and daiya cheese"

Their fries are crispy on the outside, yet soft on the inside. The lentils are curry spiced and the vegan cheese lends the perfect salty touch.

My version: Spiced, baked sweet potato wedges with curried lentils and wilted spinach. Homemade vegan cashew cheese to top.

Cashew cheese?!?!? Why, yes, it is.
And it's delicious.
And it's super easy.
And it's healthier for you then dairy cheese.

This cashew cheese is creamy and chewy at the same time. It has just the right amount of salt and "cheesy" flavor. I always use it atop my version of Merge's smothered sweet potato fries, but it's also an awesome dip for pretzels, a great spread for crackers and crostini, and (while I haven't tried it yet) I bet it would make a killer grilled cheese.

Cashew Cheese
You'll need:
2 cups cashews
1/4 cup water
2 T nutritional yeast
2 t lemon juice
1 t garlic powder
Dash of sea salt
Dash of pepper

To make:
1. Soak cashews for 2 hours
2. Drain cashews and throw in food processor with all other ingredients.
3. Combine until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally.
4. Store in air tight container, in fridge, for up to 5 days.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

New Growth: Buffalo Style Part 2

Which of these things is not like the other? Mold. Rats. Homeless people. $20 salmon dinner.

One year ago, the first three items were easily synonymous with Buffalo's historic Lafayette hotel; it was rotting and crumbling in streets. Jon and I would walk past the structure every day on our lunch break and wonder what it used to look like when it was in full operation.

The hotel was built with the intention of being ready in time for the Pan American exposition in 1901, however, it was not completed until 1904. Nonetheless, it bustled with visitors and gained huge recognition.

The Lafayette hotel boasted hot and cold water in all bathrooms, a phone in every room, and in it's heyday, was considered to be one of the finest hotels in the country. There were bars made from oak, a crystal chandelier in the ballroom, and skylights - in the early 20th century, this was a huge deal. The Lafayette hotel oozed luxury and swank.

When Buffalo's industry began to decline and people stopped coming to the city, the Lafayette slowly stopped making money and the owners of the hotel (who did not live in Buffalo) kind of 'tucked the building under the rug' and left it to the elements.

There it sat for years, taking abuse from the weather and vagrants. The brick was left to crumble and the windows were shattered and broken. It wasn't until Rocco Termini (a well-known developer in Buffalo) purchased the hotel and set on a $35 million "rehabilitation project" to restore the building to it's former glory.

Jon and I have watched the local contractors transform the exterior of the hotel over the past year and marveled at their speedy, yet intricate work. We could only imagine the kind of magic they were working inside.

Well, Friday we were strolling past the hotel on lunch when I noticed there were people inside the restaurant portion of the first floor...and they were not contractors...they were regular people...and they were sitting...eating lunch! I was curious, so I dragged Jon across the street and poked my head in the open door. A waiter stood in the entrance and invited us inside.
"I was just curious." I told the waiter.
"Come on in! We're having a soft opening for's free." He said to me and Jon. We had just bought lunch from a nearby place and our lunch time was nearly up.
"We have to go back to work." I said with disappointment still straining to sneak a peek at the interior.
"Well, we're having a free dinner tomorrow night." He offered in consolation. I looked at Jon wide-eyed with hope and he agreed it sounded like a cool idea. We made reservations.

Dinner was in the Pan American dining room, and we had complete free range of their menu. Over and over, we marvled this was actually happening: A completely free dinner, whatever we wanted, how much ever we wanted, no strings attached.

We were excited to say the least.

We started with the scallop cakes. They were tasty, but had a tad too much bredding for my liking. The spicy sauce drizzled on top was great, though, and really pulled together the flavors.

For the main course, we both ended up getting the same dish: Alaskan salmon with wild rice pilaf and asparagus.

The portions were delightfully monstorus. The salmon had a smokey BBQ-type sauce on top and it was cooked to prefection - flavorful and juicy without being over-saturated in butter and oil (like salmon dishes so often are).

I wanted to finish my portion, but I knew there was dessert ahead and I should save some room. Boy, was I glad that I did . . .

I got the peanut butter pie (first dessert) and Jon got the Snickerbocker pie (seccond dessert). We devoured both in minutes. . .making sure no chocolate drizzle was left behind.

Afterwards, we settled our bellies by snooping around the hotel exploring the rest of the building.

Obviously, they're still putting the finishing touches on the rest of the building, but it's shaping up nicely.

We even went snooping in the flower shop and the owner gave me a tye-dye rose! I always wanted one, too!

It was a great night, not just because it was all free, but because Jon and I got to experience this historic structure and indulge in our wonder of the city's past.

If you're in the area, I definitely recommend looking up a little history and visiting the newly restored Lafayette Hotel.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Southern Tier Back Burner

Southern Tier Back Burner
9.6% ABV
Light & Dark carmel malt
Kettle hops: Chinook
Aroma hops: Wilamette
Dry hops: Amarillo, Centennial

Brewed and bottled by Southern Tier Brewing Company
Lakewood, NY

Look: Opaque deep copper-colored body with a quickly-dissipating head

Taste: Bitter upfront unfolding into a carmel-toffee malt flavor. Hints of sugarplum and citrus sneak over the tongue, finishing on a boozy note.

Other notes: My taste buds are a little less trained to enjoy the bitterness of this kind of beer, but it was surprisingly enjoyable to me. The bitterness slowly dissipated and became tolerable (to my sugar-loving taste buds) as the flavors unfolded and expanded with every sip. I began to really enjoy and appreciate the taste of this beer towards the end of the glass. If you're into the bitterness of IPAs but are looking for some more sugary fruit flavors, this might be up your alley.

As noted by, "Despite its name, a Barleywine (or Barley Wine) is very much a beer, albeit a very strong and often intense beer! In fact, it's one of the strongest of the beer styles. Lively and fruity, sometimes sweet, sometimes bittersweet, but always alcoholic. A brew of this strength and complexity can be a challenge to the palate."