Brown Sugar Sage Panna Cotta with Spiced Candied Walnuts

I’ve eyed Food52 for awhile now – drooling over their recipes, fawning over their contests, so this week I figured what the hell, I’m going to go for it!

 

So this week the contest was Your Best Walnuts & Sage recipe. “Holidays behind us, we’re ready to return to the pure, clean flavors of winter. We want recipes highlighting the earthiness and muted hues of walnuts and sage – bonus points for thinking beyond pestos.”

 

Okay. I think I can do that!

 

 

Keeping pure, clean flavors of winter in mind, I opted to make one of my favorite healthy desserts – a yogurt panna cotta.  I used brown sugar for a bolder flavor to round out the strong perfumes of sage and used soy and 2% greek yogurt as my base.

To add an element of surprise I made Spiced Candied Walnuts for a nice crunch and playful bite at the end, how else are we supposed to keep warm during these cold winter months?

 

 

So there you have it – Enjoy this Brown Sugar Sage Panna Cotta with Spiced Candied Walnuts. This playful wintry dessert will leave you wishing for more.  Feel free to add honey comb and garnish with a fresh sage leaf for an extra touch of elegance.

 

You can make these a day ahead of time and they can stay stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. To assemble the dish as I have, make sure you layer the candied walnuts under the panna cotta as it serves as a nice crust to the dessert!

 

Brown Sugar Sage Panna Cotta with Spiced Candied Walnuts
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Joy Zhang
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 3 hours
Total time: 3 hours 30 mins
Serves: 3-4
A yogurt and soy based panna cotta with scented with sage and topped with spicy candied walnuts
Ingredients
  • Brown Sugar Sage Panna Cotta
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 cup 2% Fage Greek Yogurt
  • 1/3 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Fresh Sage
  • Honeycomb, for garnish
  • 3-4 small fresh Sage leaves, for garnish
  • Spiced Candied Walnuts:
  • cup sugar
  • 1 cup raw walnut halves
  • teaspoon cayenne
  • teaspoon kosher salt
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, mix the gelatin with the water and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer with the sugar and cook until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the softened gelatin until dissolved.
  2. Whisk in the yogurt until evenly mixed. Add fresh sage leaves. Steep for 10-15 minutes. If you prefer a stronger sage flavor, feel free to increase to 1/2 cup of sage. Strain mixture into a 1 quart measuring cup or large bowl. Divide the panna cotta mixture into 4 4-ounce ramekins and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
  3. To serve, sprinkle each ramekin with candied walnuts and garnish with honey comb and fresh sage if preferred.
  4. ————————————–
  5. In an oven or toaster oven preheat to 350°F. Lay walnuts evenly on baking sheet lined with foil. Bake for 5 minutes or until just toasted. Walnuts have high oil content so be careful to not overcook. Remove from oven and cool in a bowl.
  6. In a medium saucepan, pour sugar and cook over medium heat until it begins to melt. Once sugar is a light amber, pour in the nuts and add the cayenne . Stir with a wooden spoon, making sure all walnut pieces are evenly covered.
  7. Spread them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat if you have one. Use a fork to separate any pieces that are touching and sprinkle with a pinch of Kosher salt. Set aside and cool. Chop into small pieces and place in a small bowl.

 

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Kabocha Squash Cake with Brown Sugar Cream

As I inch towards my late twenties, I find myself struggling with the idea of aging, growing up, whatever you want to call it.  I have all these questions, ones that no one really knows the answers to.  But I guess that’s what life is about: finding those answers.

 

My mother came to visit recently; it’s been a year since I’ve last seen her.  I still always cry whenever she arrives and when she leaves, we both do.  It was nice to have her with me again, the comforting familiarity that places the heart in a warm and calming space is something I often miss when she’s gone.  The more I begin to understand my mother the more I grow to love her.  I wouldn’t have my spirit if it weren’t for her.  I asked a lot about my beginnings while she was here– trying to connect the dots and figure out why I am the way I am.

 

“Did I always like to eat?”

 

“ OHMYGOODNESS YES! You aaaalways sooo hungry, always eating eating eating. When you born in the hospital, they wheel babies into your room and I always hear you cry cry cry.  I know that must be my hungry baby.  Really, you eat a lot!  Why you think I always worry you fat?”

 

“ -_-“

 

“So was I always a happy baby?  Was I ever difficult?”

 

“Actually you’re pretty easy.  Yes always happy happy, smiling, laughing but when you hungry, oooo you sooo fussy.”

 

“I see nothing’s changed. And how did you get pregnant, was I planned was I an accident?”

 

“NO! Accident?  Mommy plan to have you!  I think to myself – am I ready to be a mom? So one weekend 6 month after we marry,  your father and I go to SuZhou with our friends and we have such the perfect weekend.  We so in love so happy so I knew this was good time to try.  So we did and first time I get pregnant!”

 

And just like that, I began.

 

 

The kitchen is quiet for once since mom has been here.  She was leaving soon in a few days.  What better way to mend a heavy heart than with the perfect dessert?  I pulled out all my new baking toys from the wedding and wasted no time baking away.  I adapted this recipe via Epicurious because I had a couple of Kabochas just begging to be used.  I doubled the recipe to make 6 1 cup  ramekins but the original recipe I am posting makes 6 3/4-cup ramekins.  And the cream?  Yes it’s worth the 15-minute effort.  Ask mom, she ate practically the whole thing to herself.  The textures are similar to light fluffy cake clouds with rustic undertones of all those feel good spices – cinnamon, cardamom, ginger.  Top with generous pillows of the brown sugar cream and it’ll send any soul to the most glorious of dessert heavens.

 

 

Brown sugar cream:

  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 3 large egg whites

Cakes:

  • 2 cups 3/4-inch cubes peeled seeded kabocha squash (from one 3-pound squash)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lager (mild-flavored beer)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For brown sugar cream:

Place 1 tablespoon water in cup. Sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand 10 minutes to soften.

Stir cream and sugar in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add egg whites and whisk until mixture thickens, about 12 minutes (do not boil). Add gelatin mixture; whisk until dissolved. Strain into large clean bowl. Chill until cold. Cover and chill overnight.
For cakes:

Combine squash and milk in heavy small saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Partially cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove vanilla bean. Drain squash. Place in processor and blend until smooth. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray six 3/4cup ramekins with nonstick spray. Place 1/2 cup squash puree in large bowl (reserve remaining puree for another use). Add sugar, oil, beer, and egg to puree and beat to blend. Sift flour, spices, baking soda, and salt over; beat to blend. Divide batter among prepared ramekins.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Cool cakes in ramekins. Turn out onto plates. Beat brown sugar cream to firm peaks; spoon alongside cakes.

*** If you do not have ramekins you can also bake these in cupcake liners.  Reduce the baking time to about 12-15  minutes.

 

 

 

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Grapefruit Negroni

 

As you know I’m not much of a drinker. A genetic mutation causes my body to process alcohol as if it were poison. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t stop me when I’m out at an event, a dinner, or when friends are in town, there are times when cocktails are needed or in this case, wanted.

 

Citrus season is in full bloom here in Texas. Grapefruits, clementines, oranges, lemons and limes are flowing in by the truckloads and naturally the aromas are a playful awakening to the palate. I thought this cocktail would be the perfect celebration for Chinese New Year — the deep red from the sensuously bitter Campari, a sweet bite from the Hendrick’s, finished by the intoxicating aromas of grapefruit —  it’s meant to be sipped opposed to gulped.

This year we celebrate The Year of the Dragon — the only mythical creature out of the 12 signs. It is believed that the dragon possess great power and may even have magical control over the weather and water. We’ll be celebrating with Nian-Gao (Rice Cakes) and Hot Pot tonight as my brother in law was born in this year — Go Carter! I managed to give the house a good scrub to make sure we start off the year free of spirits.

I called my mom today and could barely hear her over the fireworks that were exploding outside her window in Shanghai. Hopefully one year I’ll be able to experience the excitement but for now, I’m more than complacent with my Grapefruit Negroni.  Thank you Esquire for the recipe.

 

 

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Bacon Wrapped Shrimp Toast


Shrimp. Toast. Bacon.

Yes, it’s ridiculously delicious.

Chinese New Year is just around the corner and it’s the year of the Dragon! Apparently dragons love shrimp toast, bacon-wrapped shrimp toast to be exact.

…. or maybe I just made that up.

 

I made these in my toaster oven.

What???

I know, awesome right?

Even better, I utilized an old bag of hamburger buns I had laying around and cut out little circles using cookie cutters.

See? Eco-friendly AND scrumptious. Life is good.

 

Feel free to use old bread like baguettes, white sandwich bread, brioche…you get the idea.

Traditionally you use square shaped bread so you can cut it in 4ths or 8ths to make triangles. But I felt creative today and made them circular, don’t worry, it all tastes the same.

Use leftover shrimp paste for wontons, soups or even sandwiches.  Or simply just make more shrimp toast.

Perfect for parties, these can be made ahead, frozen and baked whenever you’re ready. It’s easy to make and fun to eat!

Now the trick to getting that bacon crispy at the end is baking it ahead of hand.

10 minutes at 450F (in a toaster oven or regular oven) to be exact.

That way when you bake it towards the end you get crispy, heavenly bacon — not the soft and rubbery kind. Because that’s sad.

Seeing that this recipe has been around for more than 100 years, I’m guessing it has to be good.  I just made it better with bacon.

 

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp Toast
Recipe Type: Appetizer
Author: Joy Zhang
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 40 mins
Serves: 6-8
Traditional Shrimp Toast wrapped in Bacon — you can choose to fry them or bake them for a healthier version.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound of prawns
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 2 stalks green onion, thinly diced
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon cooking wine
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 hamburger buns or 8 slices of stale bread
  • 1 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 packet of bacon
  • 24-32 toothpicks
Instructions
  1. Bake bacon in toaster oven at 450F for 10 minutes or until most of the fat has been rendered. (see photo above) Remove from oven and set aside on large plate lined with paper towels.
  2. Peel and devein prawns. Wash under water and pat dry using a paper towel. Chop the 2 slices of bacon and place into a large bowl. Add half of the green onions and mix well.
  3. Place bread into toaster oven or oven and bake until dried. Mince prawns using knife or food processor and mix with seasonings (fish sauce, sugar, pepper, cooking wine, sesame oil) in a medium or large bowl.
  4. Combine mixture with bacon and onion mixture and add cornstarch and eggs. Spread on bread slices or rounds and flatten prawn mixture evenly with a knife (about 1/2 inch thick). Coat with sesame seeds and set aside.
  5. If you are baking them, place toasts into oven at 400F for 8 minutes. Take out of oven and wrap with bacon slices, using toothpicks to hold bacon in place. If you cut your bread into rounds like I have, cut bacon slices in half and wrap rounds with half slices of bacon. Use toothpick to hold bacon in place.
  6. Return to oven and bake for additional 10-15 minutes at 400F, or until bacon is crisp.
  7. If you are frying them, pour oil in hot pan. When oil begins to boil, put in bread slices (or rounds) and deep fry over medium heat until golden. Cut each square into 4-8 triangles (or leave rounds as is). Garnish with remaining green onions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve hot.

Starting on Thursday, January 26, check out other potluck dishes fellow gojee contributors shared. Go to gojee.com and enter “gojeepotluck” into I Crave.  You can also follow #gojeepotluck on Twitter.

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Curried Butternut Squash Soup

“ The nuns taught us there were two ways through life – the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow. Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Like to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things. The nuns taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end. I will be true to you. Whatever comes.”

Mrs. O’Brien from The Tree of Life

 

Too often I find myself struggling to control things that are not meant to be contained – these millions of images that race through my mind, flashing back to moments of time that somehow define the person I am today.

How much easier Life would be if only things happened with a simple command.

 

Winter came late this year. The Northerly winds howled their eerie song last night, ripping off the leaves that remained on the branches. I pray that it doesn’t stay long.

There’s something about the cold that changes me– the way it can slowly seep into your bones – a pain that resonates in every hollow crevice in your body. Constant comfort found in deep mugs of piping hot tea, oversized blankets pulled up to your nose, and the perfect bowl of a soul-warming soup that helps you feel alive again.

 

Few things grow during the Winter, it’s nap time for Nature. But for the few things that are available, they grow strong and plentiful like Butternut Squash and Sweet Potatoes. Cook with the seasons, accept what they offer you and embrace the connection of food to soul.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Recipe Type: Entree
Author: Joy Zhang
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 2 hours
Serves: 4-6
Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Ingredients
  • 1 medium Butternut Squash, seeded, peeled and cut into big chunks
  • 1 Sweet Potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Kosher salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Salt pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. In a large bowl mix butternut squash, sweet potatoes and garlic together. Evenly coat with olive oil and place on large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until squash and potatoes are very soft. Take out and set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Place chopped onion and curry powder and sauté until fragrant and onion is caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add coconut milk along with 3 cups of water, mix well. Add roasted butternut and garlic. Remove from heat. Take hand-held blender and carefully mix all ingredients in pot until smooth (you may also use a normal blender to do this).
  3. Return to heat and add fish sauce and taste with salt and pepper. If the soup is still too thick for your liking, you can thin it out with vegetable stock or water. Add ¼ cup amounts at a time until you reach desired consistency. Serve hot and garnish with croutons and drizzle with high-quality extra virgin olive oil if desired.
Notes

**** If the squash is too hard to cut, place into oven for 10 minutes to soften. This will facilitate the cutting process.
**** When caramelizing onions do not move the onions around too much, stir the pan every minute or so. If the onions are burning too fast, simply lower the heat.
**** To avoid kitchen injuries, never try blending soups when they are piping hot. Allow soup to cool a little before blending.
**** Leftover soup can be frozen and store for up to a month.

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Soba Noodles with Fried Egg

As this New Year begins, I reflect on the goals I hope to accomplish this year. The certain milestones I should aim for. And improvements and lessons learned from wrong turns and experiences.

I plan on renewing my imagination.

Develop a stronger focus.

Reveal a better me, a stronger me, a wiser me.

 

I want to make cooking easier.

Less daunting.

Fun.

Because being connected to our food, makes us feel alive.

It allows us to take some time out of our day to enjoy the simpler joys in life.

So let’s start this year together.

Let’s get back into the kitchen and start with the basics.

Honor ourselves with consciousness and respect.

These soba noodles should do the trick. Buckwheat noodles, fried egg, crunchy carrots and toasted sesame seeds — what’s not to like?

 

Try it a few times and you’ll find your rhythm and before you know it, a healthful, soulful dinner awaits you in just a blink of an eye…

 

Eat well. Eat consciously. Eat to nourish.

 

Let’s make 2012 a fabulous year together, shall we?

 

Soba Noodles with Fried Egg
Recipe Type: Main
Author: Joy Zhang
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 25 mins
Serves: 2
Buckwheat Noodles tossed in a Soy Lime Sesame dressing with Crunchy Carrots and Fresh Herbs.
Ingredients
  • Handful of buckwheat soba noodles
  • 1/2 lime, squeezed
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/2 carrot, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • small handful of cilantro, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 tip of a green onion, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 2 eggs
Instructions
  1. In a medium pot fill with water and bring to boil. Drop noodles in and cook for 4 minutes at medium heat at a gentle boil.
  2. Rinse carrots and herbs and pat dry. Shred carrot and set aside. Finely chop cilantro and green onion and mix with shredded carrots.
  3. Test to see if noodles are semi firm, if so turn heat off immediately. Allow pasta to further cook in the hot water for an additional 2 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the dressing.
  4. In a bowl combine lime juice, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil and sesame seeds. Whisk well and set aside.
  5. Test noodles for preferred firmness/softness and strain. Return noodles to pot and mix in carrots, herbs and dressing.
  6. —-
  7. In a medium pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Crack egg(s) carefully into pan and fry until edges are browned and whites are set (sunny side up). Flip over and cook for about 1 minute for over easy, ~ 2 minutes for over medium, ~3 minutes for over hard.
  8. To serve: Place noodles in a bowl and top with fried eggs. Feel free to add a dash of chile powder or chile sauce for an extra punch!

 

On a side note, I received an unexpected surprise.  As I was reading Food & Wine’s Top Chef Magazine I found one of my photos I took of Tre Wilcox in there for the Restaurant Wars article!  Can anyone find something funny about the photo?

 

Winner gets a prize 🙂

A 2011 Review

It’s been a good year.

I started my own business.

I made lots of yummy food, mostly healthy with some desserts.

I got married and had a Hallowedding.

I started a garden; though a challenging year, it was still a good one.

I traveled to Costa Rica, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy and Belgium.

I learned more about love  and the many ways that it’s beautiful.

I met some of the best chefs in Dallas.

And even had the chance to try some of their food…

 

 

I went to California and discovered heaven in a tomato and waves of peace in an ocean.

 

I photographed a few weddings and look forward to more next year.

 

I started my first film project — 1-2 Simple Cooking and it was awesome.  Can’t wait to show you guys soon!

 

I became more connected to nature, to food, and most importantly, myself.

I learned the best way to live life is to be yourself – chase fearlessly, choose wisely and always love openly.  Life is too short to live otherwise.

 

Thanks to everyone who made this year so special.  I can’t wait to see what 2012 will have in store.  Happy New Year to you!

Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen

With a new year ahead of us, we’re full of new ideas and changes. We’ve become more curious – especially about our food: pushing to connect to our roots again, striving to find the true origins of our ingredients and living life consciously with good energy all around.

At Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen, Chef Rathbun transforms his food memories into his very own version of comfort cooking – where ingredients are seasonal, local whenever possible, and always crafted with the same kind of love and attention that mom would give you as a child.

This week for Sunday Brunch, Chef Jennifer Newbold and Chef Kent Rathbun share some of their top favorites at Blue Plate Kitchen. Top favorites include the Croque Madam with thinly shaved ham, crusty artisan bread, topped with two sunny side eggs and Mornay Sauce and Grandma Minnies Country Fried Chicken with blue corn waffles and maple syrup.

One of Chef Rathbun’s favorite memories began in the kitchen with his grandmother and mother – “Early on as a child, I’d just remember the smells of home cooking and the celebration of those kinds of dinners. Because my grandmother and mother would cook together, and I’m not kidding when I tell you they would get up at 5 am, cook breakfast for everyone, do the dishes and immediately star cooking lunch. And you know from where I come from, lunch was dinner and dinner was called supper. A lot of the plates from Blue Plate and Jasper’s  are inspired by these memories”

At Blue Plate, they specialize in local farm to table foods, using seasonal ingredients to create plates that make you feel right at home.

“We look for locally grown and produced products that we can find and use purveyors like local herb farmers, 2 to 3 local cheeses, we also source with Chef’s Garden in Clevelandthe seasons serves as inspiration when it comes to creating our dishes mixed with our personal memories.”

“I grew up in Missouri and my grandmother had a great garden, and so the things we enjoyed the most were in season. Memories of good food for me really inspire me a lot and taking those memories and updating them with cool products and different purveyors and different techniques I’ve learned as a chef, then that takes it to a different level, which is a lot of fun. There are a lot of food on this menu, on Jaspers and on Abacus that have all been inspired by cooking with my father, cooking with my mother and grandmother, you know, their names are on the menu at some of the places,” said Rathbun.

Chef Newbold and Chef Rathbun are what you’d call purists. They want to make food that people crave by using the best ingredients they can find – “The better the ingredients we start with the more success we have and you have to do less to it. It’s the simplicity of how perfect the vegetables are and how fresh the fish is – less is more. Simple food is better always.”

 

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Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

During the holidays, one of my favorite things to do is baking.  It’s this beautiful meditation as baking takes a patient heart, a careful eye and most certainly a sweet tooth.  When the weather is cold outside, the kitchen becomes my favorite place of solace — as it’s always been my most sacred spot to relax.  I always believe that homemade gifts are the ones people remember, so what better way to spread the love than baked homemade gifts?  For years I’ve searched long and hard for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, the kind that you can’t stop eating, the ones with just the right about of crunch, chewiness and chocolate.  I’ve tasted some great chocolate chip cookies in my lifetime but never found a home recipe to match.  But ALAS, right in time for the holidays I’ve finally stumbled across the best chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever tasted.

Jacques Torres, Mr. Chocolate himself was kind enough to share his chocolate chip cookie recipe via the NY Times.  Thanks to the Master Pastry Chef, this recipe will now become a family tradition for me and I can hardly wait for the memories that’ll surround these cookies.  I’m not sure if the magic lies in the combination of cake flour and bread flour in the dough, or that it HAS to be refrigerated for a solid 24 hours — but whatever it is, don’t change a thing.  I haven’t tasted a better masterpiece.

(If preferred, you can add a whole vanilla bean in place of the extract as I’ve done.  Just simply scrape the seeds and mix into the dough!)

The best part about cookie dough is it’s simple to make and you can portion ahead.  What I did was quadruple the recipe, freeze overnight, slightly defrost the next day and portioned out around 75-65 3 ounce cookie balls using a cookie scooper.  Then I refreezed for an hour and placed half a dozen to a dozen in individual ziplock bags.  Don’t forget to write the date!  Then you can simply bake a batch whenever needed as they take only abou 10-12 minutes in the oven and VOILA!  The best chocolate chip cookies will be ready for delivery :).  Whether its for a party, a gift for family or friends — this recipe will leave any loved one with a happy tummy and full heart.  Thank you Jacques Torres for the genius recipe and NY Times for sharing the love.  Happy Holidays!

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The Number Four

When it comes to alcohol, I’d be what people would call a “weenie”.  I almost wince at the sharpness of most liquors, sometimes to the point of tears.  But let’s quit the dramatics and get down to business.  I love this drink.  I love Angus Winchester.  And for those of you who don’t know who he is, he’s pretty much one of the big honchos in the world of bartending.

 

This drink actually came off The Cedars Social cocktail menu and it sounded too good to pass up — with a blend of gin, honey syrup, cracked cardamon pods and black pepper, this is one of those cocktails I could drink for hours.  HOURS. The honey adds just the right amount of sweetness, the cardamon really adds that perfect touch that accentuates all the spices in gin, and the black pepper gives it the nicest bite at the end.  Genius Angus, pure genius. It’s smooth, whimsical and I feel kinda sexy when I drink it.  Give it a shot, share your thoughts : )

Now I’m not 100% sure what the exact Angus recipe is so please adjust the flavors to your liking.

In a highball glass, fill half way with ice.  In a shaker pour 3 oz of gin, 1 oz honey, a crushed cardamom pod, and a couple freshly crack black pepper corns. Stir until honey is mostly dissolved and pour into glass. Serve immediately.

 

**** It may help to heat up your honey a little to make it more liquid and easier to mix.

 

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Holiday Berry Champagne Cocktail

It’s hard to believe we’re already in December.  Where did this year go?  As the days quickly approach towards the Holiday season, we’re filled with urges to celebrate — Ugly Christmas Sweater Party! White Elephant! Holiday Potlucks! Whatever your reason may be this year to celebrate, what’s a party without the booze?

For the next few weeks I’ll be posting some holiday cocktails for you guys to try this season — this week I’m featuring this elegant Blackberry Champagne Cocktail.  As you know, I’m not the best drinker…my bar tab is usually under $15 before things start looking hazy.

So I usually gravitate towards “girly” drinks.  Seeing that most girly drinks usually mean some type of fruity flavor with TONS of sugar — I wanted to remake a drink that gave me the fruity touch I needed but without the sweetness.  Plus anything with champagne makes everything a bit more fancy don’t ya think?

Feel free to use other types of berries and fruits, strawberries, pomegranate, and orange would work well here.

Holiday Berry Champagne Cocktail
Recipe Type: Drink
Author: Joy Zhang
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 25 mins
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 pint blackberries, cleaned
  • 1 750-ml bottle chilled Lindeman’s framboise
  • 1 750-ml bottle chilled brut Champagne
Instructions
  1. Stir sugar and brandy in medium bowl. Crush about 10 blackberries; add to brandy mixture. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature, then strain. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover; chill brandy mixture and remaining blackberries separately.)
  2. Divide brandy mixture among 6 Champagne glasses. Add 2 blackberries to each glass. Fill halfway with Framboise and the rest of the way with Champagne; serve.
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