Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cashew Milk

cashew milk a fresh glass

I recently decided, in an attempt clear my skin and improve my overall health, to eliminate all dairy products, refined sugar and coffee from my diet, and while I initially thought I would fail, as I do most times I get up in the morning and say to myself, "No sugar today, Liz," or, "You can't eat ice cream for breakfast, Liz," etc. etc, this time, I've - so far - managed to succeed.

I have been loading up on dates, raisins, and currants, as my sweet tooth still calls to me powerfully, and though I feel that, ideally, I should cut out such luxuries and convert to stevia (which I have never really liked, unfortunately) and really go sugar-free, I'm taking this one day at a time, and may even get there yet. I'm still surprised that I've made it this far - I thought it would be impossible for me to refrain from tasting all the cakes, brownies, and cookies I make at work. Say no to the cheesecake that always clings to the knife after you've cut it? Don't lick the spoon covered in chocolate ganache? Inconceivable! And yet, just saying "no" has turned out to be the easiest of solutions. Before I always allowed myself to give in, thinking, "Oh, I'll just have a little bit," or "I need to know what it tastes like so I know it turned out." There was no real commitment to not eating sweet things. I thought I wouldn't be able to live properly if I couldn't eat desserts. They're my thing, how could I give them up? I'm pretty sure that most people at my university were convinced that I lived off cookie dough. I can honestly say, though, that this feels like one of the best decisions I've made in a while. I feel so much more in control over my diet and my body, which, ironically, gives me a feeling of relief. Even freedom.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chocolate Nut Spread

just a scoop, or two

The first time I made chocolate nut butter coincided with my first encounter with cannabis, followed by a daylong hangover and a neutered cat.

It involved vodka strawberry smoothies, Risk (in which I lost all of Europe), and My Neighbor Totoro, and then a slightly drunk, possibly high stumble back to my apartment, where I forced my friend who had kindly walked me home to eat my homemade nutella. Which I then ate to get rid of the horrible memory of marijuana from my mouth, throat, and mind, as trying it had made me think that my esophagus was going to shrivel up and die and that, in general, I was losing the ability to breathe.

That was at four in the morning, and I was awoken rather abruptly less than four hours later at 8 a.m. by the ringing of the doorbell, the sound of which always made me feel like I was about to be attacked by a SWAT team. With the questionable use of my limbs, I answered the door to an old lady carrying a cat carrier, because today (or that day) was the day that Dorian was getting neutered.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Peanut Butter Coconut Truffles

There are times when I am gripped with inexplicable urges to bake, or create something dessert-ish, and I so I find myself in the kitchen, agonizing over some ridiculous creation until 1 in the morning, determined to produce something edible, even if it means losing hours of precious sleep before I find myself in a different kitchen, on my feet for another nine hours or more, stewing over some other recipe (my job, I mean).

And so that's what happened this past Sunday. I created, and then I brought them to work, and my coworkers loved them, more than I had expected, so I felt compelled to recall my mad midnight experimentation and share the recipe. I've been meaning to post this all week, but, alas, my habitual laziness, combined with the physical exhaustion resultant of working in a restaurant, and also (more probably) my obsession with finding a nicer blog layout (despite numerous failed html codes, endless googling and confusion), has delayed this post until now.

I hope you won't delay in making these, however, as they really are quite delicious. You could probably even get away with eating them instead of meals, especially if you're doing something like serving in a restaurant, running around like a very confused and very dumb bird, sweating in more places than you feel comfortable talking about, and then getting so desperately hungry that you feel prepared to eat your customers' faces off. Or maybe just their food.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Coffee

I am a coffee fiend. I have not yet reached the point that a day without coffee leaves me shaking, suffering from headaches, or screaming at innocent children and punching old men (although I do hit my father on a regular basis - I'm preparing him for elder abuse for when he gets put in a senior home), but I do love coffee. A good cup of coffee, that is. (Although I enjoy Tim Horton's coffee, which some people consider synonymous with swill.) For the longest time, however, I have been unable to make myself a good cup of coffee, or at least been able to consistently make a good cup of coffee. And more often than not, I ended up making a cup of coffee so strong that it was capable of burning a hole straight to your colon. An image I'm sure most of you will cherish.

Finally, however, I have mastered the Damn Good Cup of Coffee, using this little gadget my brother gave me for Christmas three years ago. Yes, three years ago. In my defense, I didn't use it very often. But since being back home, I've gotten the hang of this thing. I highly recommend purchasing this doohicky, especially if you're a student like me, with limited funds, a year of late nights looming before you, and very likely campus coffee that tastes like it was filtered through the lunch lady's hairnet.

So I bring you aeropress coffee, perfect for sipping on a Sunday afternoon whilst reading a ridiculously large novel, or any time of day, really. Because, as far as I'm concerned, whenever one has a cup of coffee, it should be good. Especially should you find yourself awake at some ludicrous hour of the day, when most sane people are sleeping, and your brain is struggling to remember the order in which you put on your clothes, or what day of the week it is. It's those times that demand a cup of coffee like this.

Damn Good Cup of Coffee
Coffee Beans (whole or ground)
Hot Water

1. Coffee quality is crucial here - I generally buy Just Us coffee; I especially like their dark roasts. I find that, with this method, it produces a very rich tasting coffee, so you can really taste the coffee bean flavour. So go ahead and splurge on coffee (if you're snobby like me) - I guarantee you'll taste the difference.

2. If using whole bean coffee, measure out (using the aeropress scoop) two scoops of beans into your coffee grinder, and grind for about 10 seconds. If using ground, scoop the coffee directly into your aeropress tube.

3. While assembling your aeropress and grinding your coffee, boil some water. Right before it boils, take it off the heat or (if using an electric kettle) turn it off. You don't want the water to be boiling temperature when you add it to your aeropress, as that will kill some of the flavour. The recommended temperature for making coffee is 195 - 205˚ F (92 - 96˚ C). Once your aeropress is ready to brew, and your water is at the right temperature (I always just guestimate, but feel free to use a thermometer if you want to be exact) pour the water over the coffee grounds until it reaches the number that corresponds to the number of scoops you used.

4. Using the stir stick, stir coffee grounds and water together for about ten seconds. Then take your plunger, insert it and push down gently (Aeropress recommends for about 20 seconds).

5. Once you pushed all the water out through the filter, you're left with espresso (minus the $1000 a machine would cost you). To clean up your aeropress, just unscrew the filter cap and, using the plunger, pop the puck of coffee grounds into the compost. You can compost the filter as well, or reuse it (each one is good for at least 3 cups of coffee).

6. You can now either enjoy your espresso as is, add milk and heat it up for a latte, or, as I do, add boiling water for American style coffee and then add your fixings.

7. Savour and delight in the joy of a damn good cup of coffee.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Breakfast, or What to Do with Leftover Hummus

Well I'm back from university, freshly graduated with a BA that's good for hanging on my wall but not much else. I suppose when the weather gets hot I can fan myself with it, but the fact remains that I am, once again, living in my parents' house, surfing over adult responsibilities like rent, utilities, and grocery bills. But, while I may be stuck in a town that is so deep in the middle of Nowhere, Canada that the nearest Tim Horton's is a three hour drive away, I also have access to a fully stocked kitchen and pantry, so that, when I'm not obsessively watching tv or refreshing Facebook in a vain attempt to simulate a social life, I'm in that kitchen, attempting to concoct edible things that I can pawn off on parents, dinner guests, coworkers, and the few friends of mine who return to this desolate corner of the earth.

And then there's the ultimate pawn-off event that, fortunately, crops up during the summer more than any other time of year: the potluck barbeque. The appearance of such an event in the rather bleak calendar of my summer life is always a cause for celebration. Not so much for the event itself, necessarily, but because it generally means one very important thing for me: I can make an excessive amount of food, guilt free. I can make something, like a cake, and not be haunted by its overwhelming presence in the fridge or freezer. I will not be burdened with an excess of leftovers, or, even worse, have to curtail my future experiments because I've already occupied so much space in the fridge or freezer - or, crucially, not have to worry about potentially eating all or most of what is probably made of butter and sugar and chocolate and risk spiraling into a pit of despair. Or diabetes.