Thursday, August 16, 2012

Frozen Mocha Buzz

I love it when friends play around with my recipes and come up with their own variations.

My food-loving friend, Roberta has been toying with this chocolate sorbet recipe. She tells me that anything frozen is a welcome treat with the current Oklahoma heat.

Roberta uses vanilla almond milk in place of water. Instead of hauling out her ice cream maker, she uses low-tech popsicle molds. She was so excited for me to try out her method that she sent me a special package with these popsicle molds.

My first attempt resulted in chocolate sandpaper. I was too lazy to properly dissolve all the ingredients. The undissolved cinnamon and cocoa made for an unpleasant, gritty lump.

Here's another note of caution, if you're planning to serve the treats to children, be prepared for a serious buzz. Just ask my jittery kids.
My enthusiastic boys before the Frozen Mocha Buzz kicked in. 

Frozen Mocha Buzz
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup espresso
2 cups almond or coconut milk
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Pour everything into a heavy sauce pan.
Stir over low to medium heat until all ingredients are well dissolved. 
When the liquid is cool, pour into popsicle molds.
Let freeze for at least five hours.
To enjoy your popsicle, run the frozen mold under hot tap water and gently wiggle out the treat. 
If you prefer a hot drink, this recipe also makes a delicious Hot Mocha Buzz. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Poached Brain Food: Eggs in an Arrabiata Sauce

My youngest is nuts for eggs. If I served him an egg with every single meal, he'd be perfectly contented. He can eat them fried, scrambled and boiled, anytime time of day.

The humble egg is low-cost source of high-quality protein. It's also good brain food. A couple of weeks ago, my friend chef Tara whipped up a quick and delicious brunch with Alexander's favourite food.

I often duplicate Tara's recipe for breakfast, lunch or dinner. And every time, it makes Alexander a very happy boy.

Poached Eggs in Arrabiata Sauce
Serves 6

6 eggs
1 large can of plum tomatoes
3 Tablespoons olive oil for sautéing 
1 large onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 Tablespoon dried basil 
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 strips smoked ham/ prociutto, diced (optional)
shavings of parmesan cheese (optional)

Arrabiata sauce:
In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Sauté the onions and garlic until translucent.
Add the canned tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes with a fork.
Reduce the heat to low and let simmer.
Add basil, red pepper flakes, sugar and balsamic vinegar.
Stir for another few minutes until the sauce thickens.

Poaching method:
Using a ladle, make four wells in the sauce. Carefully crack an egg into each well.
Cover the pan and let the eggs poach in the bubbling sauce.
Cook for three to seven minutes, depending on how you like your yolks.
Remove the cooked eggs and serve with a generous amount of arrabiata sauce.
Repeat with the remaining eggs.

Serve with chopped ham, parmesan cheese and crusty bread.

If you have any leftover arrabiata sauce, use for a mac and cheese, or as a salsa with corn chips and melted cheese.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Indian Spiced Iced Tea

I opened a jar of cardamom and star anise this morning. I was craving their sweetness and warmth. But I wasn't sure what to do with them.

The fragrant spices reminded me of a warm, generous friend, Roberta. She and her husband paid us a recent surprise visit. They managed to steal time away from their business in Oklahoma City. We gave them a tour of Canada's capital. We ate and laughed, talked politics and travel, traded tales about our children.

Roberta is a finance executive-cum-art history expert. She herself is an artist who specialises in portraits and still life paintings. She has an eye for finding exquisite things and unique gifts. For example:

That's Shakespeare taking a bath in my tea cup. The cup and saucer were from the Van Gogh exhibition at the National Gallery. The Shakespeare cut out came with Voltaire, Dante and Goethe in a set called "Tea Poetics" which Roberta picked up from another gallery in her neck of the woods.
A little chuckle with my herbal tea.

Roberta's artful gifts were the inspiration for my Indian Spiced Iced Tea.

Indian Spiced Iced Tea
3 tea bags
2 cardamom pods, bruised
2 pieces of star anise
1 cinnamon stick 
honey (optional)

Brew the tea and let it steep with the spices for four minutes.
Make sure you put your timer on because a minute longer might make your tea bitter.
Once the tea is ready, pour it into a pitcher full of ice.
Add honey to taste.

If you like Indian flavours, here's a quick rundown on essential Indian spices.