19 October, 2017

Day of the Dead Mexican Chocolate Cocktail, Mocktail or Craft Project

Day of the Dead Cocktail/mocktail recipe
Day of the Dead will start on October 31, 2017 and end on November 2nd.  It's a Mexican custom, but it really serves a need for me to remember those who have passed on.  Bonus: it's one more way to push food on people.

I create an altar and decorate it with a marigold garland, papel picado, and photos of loves ones who have passed.  Little dishes of favorite foods and beverages add to the display.  Thinking and remembering keeps memories alive.  And it's great to have an excuse to create themed treats and invite people of all cultures to share.

This year, I added a craft project where I made marshmallow pops decorated like sugar skulls . A Kraft Jet-Puffed Jumbo marshmallow, some Wilton Candy Melts in white, Wilton Candy markers, pop rocks and lollipop sticks made cute marshmallow pops.

Why?  To dip in Mexican Hot Chocolate of course.  It's actually pretty easy (especially if you give yourself permission to be more creative than perfect with your crafting).  With the recipe below you can customize silky, spicy hot chocolate that will fill your mouth with a dark as midnight, sweet as sin taste sensation perfect for a Halloween or Day of the Dead celebration

Here's the recipe:
Mexican Hot Chocolate: makes 2 servings
Place 2 cups whole milk in a medium saucepan on low heat.  Whisk in  2 Tablespoons white sugar (you could use honey, agave or brown sugar depending on your taste).  I under sweeten a little because the white chocolate, candy coated oversized marshmallows add a lot of sweetness.  5 tablespoons dark unsweetened Cocoa.  My favorite is Hershey's Special Dark because of the depth of flavor and color it gives.  Keep whisking in 1/4 tsp Chili Powder, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/4 tsp grated Nutmeg and a 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract.    Finish with a generous pinch of salt. These are just guidelines.  If you like it hotter, add more chili powder or cloves or allspice or whatever you think tastes best.  Keeps whisking till the milk comes to just a simmer---you don't want to scald it.
Make it a cocktail with Captn Morgan Spiced Rum

Once it's hot and well mixed, it's ready to drink. Pour it into a mug.  Place the Marshmallow Pop in like you would a swizzle stick.  Advise your guests to dunk the  marshmallow pop into the hot chocolate.  If your Marshmallow Pop has been decorated with Pop Rocks candy, audible fizzling and popping will ensue, which makes it more fun..

And speaking of more fun, if you want to add an adult aspect to this, stir in about an ounce and a half of Captain Morgan' s 100 Spiced Rum to each mug.  It takes a family drink to the next level.  Yar!
Marshmallow Day Of the Dead Pops

The Marshmallow Pops were fun to create.  First,  I dipped the marshmallows in white chocolate melts that I had melted in the microwave.  For variation, I rolled the back of some of the marshmallows in Pop Rocks candy for color and flair.

I let them dry overnight.

Then I looked for Sugar Skull inspiration and drew the skulls on the marshmallow puff with edible markers.  They are not perfect but neither am I.  They are, however,  delicious.  When you dunk them in the hot, spicy chocolate, they melt, lose their white chocolate and become heaven on a stick. Ooey gooey over the top sweet and soft.  It's a great counterpoint to the hot spicy chocolate,   I didn't add whipped cream, but that and a dusting of the spices would be tasty too.
Marshmallow pops coordinate with my Day of the Dead decor
  I hope you try this easy fun project and enjoy Day of the Dead.

17 October, 2017

Healthy up your Brunch with #CAStrawberries - recipe and wine pairing #IFBC2017

Easy Strawberry tart recipe
Strawberries are beautiful and delicious, but did you know they are healthy too?  My eyes were opened at the recent #IFBC2017 in Sacramento, where the California Strawberry folks schooled me.

For example, did you know eight gorgeous strawberries will provide 110% of your recommended daily dose of Vitamin C, 5% of your daily value for potassium, plus 3 grams of fiber and antioxidants galore?  And if you're trying to bump up your folate intake with leafy greens and beans, strawberries can also contribute to your efforts there. Deliciously.  Lots of health benefits come from eating just 8
Eight Strawberries a day are a delish way to eat better
strawberries a day.

Look for berries that are red all the way up the berry. Plan to use them right away or if you know you can't,  place the entire clam shell package in the fridge.

That knowledge and a gorgeous package of perfectly ripe California strawberries inspired me to create a tasty and easy brunch treat that pairs well with one of my favorite sparkling wines:  Napa Sparkling Wine (more on that later, but feel free to click the link if you cannot wait---I never can).

It's easy to make.  Basically get frozen puff pastry, your favorite strawberry Greek yogurt; I used Chobani. some heavy whipping cream, an egg, sparkling sugar and of course beautiful strawberries.

Strawberry Yogurt Breakfast Tart
1 package frozen puff pastry
Egg for egg wash
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 5 oz container Strawberry Greek yogurt
Sparkling sugar (optional)
1 tbsp fruit preserves (optional)

First, spread out the puff pastry into a rectangle that will fit on a 1/4 baking sheet.  Score a border of an inch or so across all four sides of the puff pastry to create an inner rectangle.

Score carefully and try not to cut through the puff pastry, but if you do. it's easy to cover that up with the yogurt cream.  Take a fork and pierce the entire area of the inner rectangle that the border surrounds  Leave the border itself  unpierced.  This will let the border puff while the docked area will lay flatter and form a base for the tart filling.

Beat the egg in a small dish and when the yolk and white are completely mixed, brush on the border with a pastry brush,  This will make the border shiny when baked,  I also sprinkle sparkling sugar on the border to make it extra fancy, but you can skip that step if you don't have the sparkling sugar.

Bake according to puff pastry directions or if there are none for 12-15 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  After the tart shell has cooled,  whip about 1/4 cup of the the cream into soft peaks.  You can add sugar and/or vanilla or not; I usually do.  Open the yogurt container and stir to loosen it up and makes it smooth and consistent. Lighten the yogurt with the whipped cream by folding the whipped cream gently right into the yogurt container.  If you want to avoid cream, you can skip this step and just use strawberry yogurt. Go ahead and carefully slice the strawberries into 1/8 inch slices.  You can be super careful if you want the tart to look perfect or less so if you, like me, prefer the rustic "Yes! I did make this myself" look  Once the tart shell is cool, spread an even layer of the yogurt cream onto the tart.  Then layer the strawberries in a tight pattern on top.  You can microwave a few teaspoons of preserves with water for 20 seconds to create a glaze you can brush onto the strawberry slices or serve immediately as is.
Either way, serve immediately. Served warm, the crispy. puff pasty cuddles the lightened yogurt and sliced strawberries  It cools quickly and takes on an almost custardy texture. So have your sparkling wine chilled and ready to pop open.

Speaking of sparkling wine.  I would recommend a sparkling wine with a touch of sweetness and generous fruitiness.  NV Cuvée M, Mumm Napa, California ($24) This wine itself has a lovely color--pale gold warmed by peach.  With a touch of creaminess in the mouth feel, it's a great match for the yogurt cream. I get flavors of strawberry, stone fruit and a hint of toast. These act as bridge ingredients for both the strawberries and the puff pastry.  The residual sweetness (RS) is listed as 3% coming from a dosage of a proprietary blend of late harvest wines.  The sweetness is a good match too.  

After the fires, things are settling down, but the beauty of Napa wine will not be diminished.  NV Cuvée M can be ordered here and is widely distributed via Wine.com and BevMo.  Of course nothing beats seeing for yourself in person, so feel free to plan a visit with your brunch and bubbles loving gal pals here

This is the second of my three required posts for the International Food Blogger Conference
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07 October, 2017

The Second Annual Sonoma Extra Virgin Festival or "We olive olive oil"

B. R Cohn 2nd Annual Sonoma Extra Virgin Olive Oil festival - It's on!
Editor's Note: Our hearts go out to the many affected in the recent Wine Country fires.  One of the best ways to show your support is to visit and support tourism in Sonoma and Napa.  We have every hope that this great festival will go on and we will see you there.

When I think of California agricultural products the first thing that pops into my mind is wine grapes, because yeah, I'm a wine blogger. But let us not forget California olives, which according to the California Olive Oil Council, have been experiencing a renaissance in the 21st century. One of the best ways to learn about California Olives, and olives from Sonoma in particular, is to attend the Sonoma Extra Virgin Festival, which will take place November 4th and 5th, 2017 at the B. R. Cohn winery in Glen Ellen. I attended last year and was impressed with the number of producers and the large variety of olives grown in CA. Plus, there is food, wine, music and a blessing of the olive harvest. Her is where to find more information about the festival:

B.R. Cohn Winery—one of America’s premier producers of premium wine and extra virgin olive oil—announces the 2nd annual Sonoma Extra Virgin Festival (All Things Olive) will be held at the property on November 4th and 5th, 2017.

 A hallmark of the olive oil harvest in Sonoma Valley, the weekend event will commence with a hand harvest and blessing of olives from B.R. Cohn’s 160-year-old heritage trees. The olive harvest typically begins after the grape harvest concludes, leaving one more cause for celebration before the holiday season starts.

A winegrowing estate in Sonoma Valley founded in 1984, B.R. Cohn is also a leader in ultra-premium olive oil production in California. Since its launch in 1990, the B.R. Cohn Olive Oil Company has produced extra virgin, organic, unfiltered and flavored olive oils, sought after by professional and home chefs alike. B.R. Cohn’s Olive Hill property includes nine acres of Picholine olive trees, the largest collection of its type in California. The B.R. Cohn Olive Oil Company also produces a range of distinctive wine vinegars.
Most recently, B.R. Cohn’s olive oils and vinegars were recognized with gold, double gold and best of show awards at the 2017 Sonoma County Harvest Fair.

“We are blessed with a climate that is ideal for not only winegrowing, but for producing high-quality olives as well. It’s an honor to host this collaboration between local olive growers, producers, purveyors and artisans and showcase the best of what our region offers,” commented Debra Eagle, B.R. Cohn’s Estate Director.

Numerous olive oil vendors include B.R. Cohn, Coldani, Figone’s Olive Oil, Frantoio Grove, Gloria Ferrer, Grumpy Goats, Lucchetti Family, Olive Don, Olive Press, River Road, Petroni, McEvoy, Stone Edge and Wild Groves. In addition, confirmed food vendors will be available at the festival, including: The Fig Rig, The Baker Bread Co., Trader Jims, Oysters from Michael Watchorn (founder of Hog Island Oysters), Drums and Crumbs, Sweet Scoops Ice Cream and Cousins Maine Lobster.

The weekend will showcase educators and cook book authors, including Maria Teresa’s Kitchen, chef and cookbook author, Sally James, Sonoma Syrup, Olive Don and Carol Firenze, all of whom will explain the marvels of this ancient fruit. Live music from The Butterdishes, People of Earth and singer songwriter and guitarist, Clay Bell, will also be available during the Sonoma Extra Virgin Festival.

Event tickets will include a one-day admission to the festival and a glass of wine from B.R. Cohn’s premium range of wines. Tickets may be purchased here for $20 and the festival will run from 11:00am-4:00pm on November 4th and 5th. For more information, visit: http://www.brcohn.com/sonoma-extra-virgin-festival