chocolate espresso cookies

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Merrrrry December, my little ones! As I type, there is a Christmas tree…thistle? needle? branch?…I think it’s needle…stuck in my number 8 key. So, please pardon any funky symbols. It’s not secret code or anything.

espresso10espresso11My Christmas season thus far hasn’t been too whirlwindy. The past few weekends have entertained a couple of parades, my city’s tree lighting, and the Lights at the Zoo, which is basically that: our sweet zoo covers the place with lights and it’s sort of a South Carolina tradition to spend an evening there during Christmastime. It’s pretty magical, BUT…I am rather partial/biased. I haven’t found too many nights to sleep under the tree yet, mostly because our tree branches this year are practically touching the ground. I think our trembling-causing Christmas excitement forced our bodies to skip the tree-trimming itself and skip right to fun part of popping on those ornaments. But it’s cool. I’ve still found lots of time for music and cleaning (…weird? Prepping the house reminds me of Christmas) and baking.

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Last week, my kitchen was devoted to testing, baking, and sampling cookies for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. It’s basically like a cookie swap party (bake cookies, go to party with cookies, swap cookies with other attendees who baked cookies, come home with an assortment of cookies), except it’s worldwide. Each blogger baked a dozen cookies for three other bloggers and, in return, received three different types of cookies for themselves (I received cookies from Beth’s Blue Plate Special, The Cultural Dish, and Princesss Pea. Thanks, y’all!). The whole event is a great connection tool. Plus, 100% of our sign-up costs went directly to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, an organization that supports research of new and improved therapies for pediatric cancer. So, yeah. Basically, this swap is the bomb. I decided to do a chocolate cookie with a vibrant, yet deep, espresso glaze. Why? I like chocolate. Husband likes coffee. BAM. Winning combo.

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chocolate espresso cookies
yield: 3 dozen cookies

cookies
ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (made with natural cane sugar), packed
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup brewed espresso
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/8 cup dark cocoa powder
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks

glaze
ingredients
1/2 cup unrefined powdered sugar
2 tbsp (or so) brewed espresso

create
Preheat oven to 375º. Using a mixer, beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt together until well combined. Add eggs and beat well. Stir in 1/4 cup brewed espresso until well combined.
Stir the flour, baking soda, and cocoa powders together and gradually add it to the butter mixture. Beat until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks.
On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drop tablespoonfuls of batter a couple of inches apart and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the middle is set. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack.
While the cookies are baking, make the glaze. In a bowl, whisk the powdered sugar and brewed espresso together until smooth. The glaze should thin enough to pipe over the cookies, but not watery. Use more or less brewed espresso to reach the desired consistency.
Transfer the glaze to a piping bag (or a sandwich bag with a very small amount of one of the tips cup off). When the cookies have cooled, quickly pipe the glaze over the cookies in a zig-zag motion.
Tip: Use a wire rack with foil or parchment underneath it. It will prevent mess, help the glaze dry correctly, and save any glaze dripping from the cookies.
Let the glaze dry/harden and store in an air-tight container.

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The espresso I used to bake and glaze these cookies comes from the super-fly (sorry, my 90s is showing), super-knowledgable owner of Loveland Coffee, a coffee company based here in Columbia which focuses on local roasts, ingredients, and the process. The respect of the ingredients and process is the whole idea behind and the whole reason I started Heed the Feed, so I totally appreciate Loveland Coffee’s stance. That being said, I am nowhere close to being a coffee authority (my husband had to make the cookies’ espresso, for Pete’s sake), so I will just let Loveland Coffee describe the espresso to you :

” Our espresso is a blissful union of base, body and aroma that produces an amazingly long lasting crema when extracted properly as espresso. Used in lattes and cappucinos, it offers a strong, smooth chocolate taste. Roasted light, in the Northern Itailian style, as all fine espressos are… it has no flaws to hide by roasting to a crisp.”

Ehh, ehh (with a little elbow nudge)? Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Heck yeah, it does. Well, here’s your chance to get your hands on some of those carefully-prepared beans. That’s right, Bob, it’s time for Heed the Feed’s very first giveaway! Come on down! (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)

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The Prize: (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)
1. One Pound Whole Bean Northern Italian Style Espresso
AND
2. One Pound Whole Bean Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

How to Enter: (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)
1. Like Loveland Coffee on Facebook and let me know you’ve Liked it in the comments below this post
and/or
2. Subscribe to Heed the Feed!
(You will receive one entry for each task. For example, if you like Loveland Coffee on Facebook and tell me in the comments below, you will receive one entry. If you subscribe to Heed the Feed, you will receive on entry. If you do both, you will receive two entries.)
That’s it!

A Few Other Things I Should Mention: (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)
1. Open to U.S. residents only. Frown. Sorry, international friends.
2. The giveaway will open at 12:00am EST 12/12/12 (cool) and close at 12:00am EST 12/19/12.
3. Winner will be chosen at random and contacted after 12:00am EST on 12/19/12.

Good luck and happy cookie baking!

Loveland Coffee will soon open at a brand new location: 7001 St. Andrews Rd. Columbia, SC 29212. Visit the website at www.lovelandcoffee.com

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cranberry hand pies


If I may, I will now bore entertain you with the list I wrote to my grandmother six years ago of the things I love about my family’s Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

1. The traditional football game between the boys and the girls.
2. Wearing a sweater – even if it’s 73 degrees.
3. Getting out of the car in your driveway holding some kind of food.
4. Walking to your front door and smelling the food cooking.
5. Getting inside and being told it isn’t ready yet.
6. Washing my hands before dinner with 15 other people in the bathroom and only 1 sink.
7. Lisa’s (my aunt) potato salad.
8. Sweet tea.
9. Walking in the living room and seeing all the men and LaLa (my cousin) sleeping on the chairs, couch, and floor.
10. Smelling cinnamon and apples.
11. Going outside when the sun is just going down and feeling the Autumn wind blow.
12. Seeing the brown, yellow, orange, and red leaves.
13. Walking on the grass with leaves crunching under my feet.
14. Taking pictures of everyone preparing the food.
15. Listening to Brandon (my cousin) say the blessing before we eat.
16. And really being thankful for God and what He has given us.
17. Being able to say across a huge table, “Hey, can you pass the ____?”
18. The actual process of passing around each dish of food.
19. More football.
20. And simply spending time with family that I feel like I haven’t seen in months.




cranberry hand pies
adapted from Cynthia Wong’s recipe, as seen in bon appétit
yield: 16 servings

dough
ingredients
3 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup natural cane sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), frozen
ice cold water

filling
ingredients
1 pound fresh cranberries (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups natural cane sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg, beaten to blend
natural cane sugar

create
For the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Using a box grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture and toss together, rubbing any big pieces of butter into the flour with your fingers. Add ice cold water to the mixture one tablespoon at a time until the mixture just comes together. Turn onto a floured surface and knead just a few times until smooth and even. Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a ball and then flatten slightly to form a disc. Tightly wrap each half in plastic. Chill for 2 hours.
For the filling, combine cranberries, sugar, orange zest and juice, cornstarch, and vanilla extract in a medium saucepan. Let stand for juices to accumulate, about 10 minutes, then cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer and begins to thicken, 5-6 minutes. (Some cranberries will have burst.) Let cool completely.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until very thin, about 1/16-inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut out 16 circles.
Brush edges of 8 circles with beaten egg. Place 1 heaping tablespoon filling in the center of each egg-washed circle. Top with remaining circles to form 8 pies. Using a fork, crimp 1/4-inch around edges to seal. Repeat with remaining dough, egg, and filling. Divide pies between prepared sheets; chill for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425°. Working with 1 baking sheet of pies at a time, score dough, forming a small X in the center of each pie. Brush tops of pies with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake pies until crust is golden brown and filling bubbles out of Xs, 17-20 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Repeat with remaining baking sheet of pies.



Happy Thanksgiving!

pumpkin chai pie

Happy November, my friends! This is a rather important month. I was married in this month. Some kind of national election is in this month. Carolina plays Clemson in this month. And, not to place any discredit by placing it last, Thanksgiving is in this month. When I was in high school, I sent Gowie a rather lengthy e-mail giving her a very detailed list of all of the things I treasured about this holiday. I can’t remember the whole thing, nor do I know if she even still has the list, but I remember a couple of them being simple, yet beautiful things like, “I love Thanksgiving because the whole family sits around the table and we pass the food to the right” or “The cousins leave with grass stains from our annual front yard football game” or “I get to wear a sweater.” That last statement, however, can be translated into a forced sweater wearing on my part, mainly because Thanksgiving in South Carolina is usually still in the 70s. Oh, well.


But Thanksgiving is one of my favorites because of its simplicity. I can picture people screaming, “Simple? What? WHAT?!” I get it. There’s houses to clean. There’s casseroles to prep. There’s turkey to photograph and tea to brew. But in the midst of all that craziness is a reminder to ourselves that we are doing these crazy chores and checklists because we are anticipating the arrival of family. We’re doing these things for others. And it’s beautiful. Holy cow, when did my blog become a motivational blog? Well, now you know how I feel about Thanksgiving. Thank you, Jesus, for a time of year filled with such intense beauty.


Perhaps we can talk about food now, no? I suppose we’ll finish off this year’s pumpkin series (and I’m not promising that I won’t use pumpkin in any more recipes before next year. It’s a good possibility that I will) with the cornerstone of most Thanksgiving tables: pumpkin pie! Pie and pumpkin, pumpkin and pie, the combination is perfect and irresistible. I decided to amp the traditional pie up a little bit and add a bit of chai, another one of my favorite flavors.

pumpkin chai pie
prep time: 90 minutes cook time: 90 minutes yield: 8 servings

pie crust (this is the recipe for my favorite pie crust, from Smitten Kitchen)
ingredients
1 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp natural cane sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small pieces

filling
ingredients
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
1/2 cup natural brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs
2 cups roasted pumpkin purée (I used a white pumpkin, but any baking pumpkin will work)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup chai latté concentrate

create
For the crust, fill a small bowl with water and drop a few ice cubes in. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Sprinkle the very cold pieces of butter into the flour mixture and quickly rub the butter into the flour until it resembles little peas. Add ice water (no ice cubes!) one tablespoon at a time until the mixture just comes together (I think I used almost 1/2 cup of cold water). Gather it up and turn it onto a floured surface. Knead gently and very quickly until it all comes together (Don’t let that butter melt. Those pieces of butter are gonna make a beautiful, flaky crust). Shape into a dish and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350º. For the filling, stir together the sugar, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the eggs and then the pumpkin, milk, and chai. It will be a little thin.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand until malleable. Roll the dough on a floured surface to a 12 inch circle. Transfer the flat dough to a pie plate (I usually roll it around the rolling-pin and then unroll it over the pie plate. This way, it doesn’t tear and stretch). Gently ease the dough into the plate corners. Tip the pumpkin filling into the pie crust and bake for 90 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely and allow it to set before serving.


I told y’all last year that I was going to buy a prettier pie plate than the glass gas station one I have now. Oy. Still haven’t done it. I’m sorry I had to subject you to that once again. But pie plates fall to the bottom of the list when you’re trying to buy a house. Whoops. Secret’s out. Another time, another post, you guys.

whole wheat fettuccine with pumpkin cream sauce

Our little Honda is currently rolling down I-85 as we head back to Columbia from one of the most beautiful places on Earth (the Apps in the Western Carolinas, y’all). Hats off to Andy’s cousin and family for hosting a really great wedding filled with lots of abundant food. That being said, I find it really difficult to write while riding in a car (and it’s really difficult when I’m actually driving…totally kidding). I get distracted rather easily, so it’s kind of like, “Focus…focus…Oh, this is a really good song…Focus…focus…Oh, this is a really bad song…Focus…focus….Dude, that car totally just tried to hit us…less focused…What kind of food do we have in here?…not at all focused …” And that’s about how it happens every time.


So, let me just say that this second recipe in the pumpkin series was an experiment I wanted to try because, as you all know, I really just love pasta. I think I’ve hit you guys with way too many pasta/cream-based sauce recipes, but here’s one more. Picture me timidly sliding it across the table at you as I shrug my shoulders and give you a fabricated little side grin. Oh, well. Bon appétit, anyway.

whole wheat fettuccine with pumpkin cream sauce
prep time: 5 minutes cook time: 15 minutes yield: 4 servings
ingredients
1/2 pound whole wheat fettuccine noodles
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup heavy cream
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups roasted pumpkin purée
1/2 cup parmesan, shredded

create
Cook pasta according to package directions in salted, boiling water. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. In a sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for about 1 minute or until aromatic. Stir in the cream and salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer until reduced and thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin purée and heat through. Add the parmesan and stir until melted and everything is heated and incorporated. Turn the pasta into the sauce and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

And we all remember the benefits of whole wheat, yes? It helps you feel fuller longer, yes? Your body can more easily digest it, yes? It gives you more consistent energy levels, yes? Good. Dismissed.

PS – Kenny: I would give you some advice for your trip/move, but you’re a lot cooler than I am, so I know you already know how to throw it down out West. Have fun.

pumpkin latte milkshakes

If you can sift through all of my ramblings over the past year, you may remember that I once, in a previous post, referred to myself as the real life Linus. I still do. It’s not that I ever believed in (or heard of) the Great Pumpkin as a child, but Linus and I share a strange, almost enchanting, enthrallment with this glorified gourd.

What makes it different from other seasonal, autumnal squashes? The flavor is different, but eh, not that different from, say, a butternut squash. It grows in patches on the ground just like other squashes. What makes it stand high on a pedestal and makes it the ever-loved symbol of Autumn?

I’m really not quite sure of the answer to that, but I will take you back a little bit. The Irish and English traditionally carved scary faces and whatnot into turnips, like, a long time ago. Fast forward a little bit to when people started moving to North America and that’s when native pumpkins started being used for scary carvings. Pumpkins, however, were used for a ton of things long before that and long before people started moving across the Atlantic. Native Americans used them for flour, mats, medicine, you name it. They knew what was up. And they stored during really cold months super well and, in turn, helped early settlers and Native Americans get through winters. They were so important to early North America. So, they were eaten and eaten and eaten and served, most iconically, at the first Thanksgiving dinners. I think after years of them being so incredibly versatile and then being around for early Halloween celebrations as lanterns and then sitting on Thanksgiving tables, pumpkins kind of snowballed themselves into becoming a general Autumn tradition. Plus, who doesn’t love a pumpkin dish with a blend of good spices? And they’re just so darn pretty.

History gets me going. Pumpkins get me going. Mix ’em together and BOOM you’ve got an excitement explosion. I’m sorry I talk too much. But this recipe is inspired by, yes, you guessed it, Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte. I almost feel like that one drink release each year is the ribbon-cutting ceremony to the season (although I never order it. I love chai too much to get mixed up in all that coffee business). Plus, my husband loves it and I knew it would make him happy.

I based the recipes in my pumpkin series last year on roasted pumpkin purée, a simple mash-up of cooked pumpkin flesh. To get a refresher or to get the recipe, visit my archives from September 2011 or click on the link provided.

pumpkin latte milkshakes
total time: 5 minutes (assuming your pumpkin purée is prepared) yield: 2 servings 
ingredients
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin purée
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of allspice
1/4 cup brewed espresso
1 pint good vanilla ice cream

create
Add pumpkin, spices, and espresso to a blender and blend until smooth and completely combined. Add ice cream and mix until creamy and ice cream is fully incorporated. You may add more or less espresso depending on how thick or thin you like your milkshake. Serve immediately.

“…Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored,
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before,
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?

Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin,—our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!

Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better
E’er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine,
Brighter eyes never watched o’er its baking, than thine!
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie!”

-excerpted from John Greenleaf Whittier’s “The Pumpkin”, 1850.

braised chicken with lentils

I’m a little short on words today, mostly because I’m currently sitting in one of my favorite places in Columbia and they just plopped a pesto turkey sandwich on French bread with tomato soup right in front of me. If you’re ever in the area, try the Gourmet Shop. Le best.

Before I check out and start beasting on this hit-the-spot meal, I wanted to give the run down on lentils. The little pea-like, bean-like round things we eat are actually the seeds of the lentil plant, which grow in pods. They are inexpensive and, boy, are they crazy about the health of humans. They are packed with protein, fiber, iron, and lots of vitamins and minerals. Plus, they are excellent tummy fillers and soak up the good flavors of whatever you’re cooking them in.

braised chicken with lentils
prep time: 5 minutes cook time: 1 hour yield: 4 servings
ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds skinless chicken thighs, bone-in
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
a touch of cayenne pepper
2 tbsp prepared yellow mustard
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup lentils

create
Preheat the oven to 350º. Season the chicken with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. In a large, oven-proof skillet that has a lid, heat the oil on the stove over medium heat (no lid is needed yet). Add the chicken and cook, turning to allow both sides to sear, about 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Lower the heat to medium-low and add the sliced onion. Add a little cayenne to taste. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes, and then stir in the mustard.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in 2 cups of the chicken stock while scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the lentils, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Cook the lentils for about 10 minutes.
Return the chicken to the skillet. If the liquid has evaporated while cooking the lentils, add more stock until it covers the chicken about half-way (I found I had to add about 1 cup more at this point). Cover with the lid and transfer to the oven. Cook, turning once, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 160º, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately. If you find that your lentils still have a little bite to them, just remove the chicken and heat the lentil mixture on the stove until it reaches your desired texture.

Someone at the table beside me, and I know this is random, just said, “I know that it’s a good thing, I just can’t see it yet.” I have no idea what she was talking about, but I thought it was beautiful. Sometimes eavesdropping is a blessing.

happy birthday, heed the feed!

Today marks the one year anniversary of HTF’s first post! This year has been filled with learning, more learning, fun, lots of blessings, and, um, yes! More learning! Thank you to my encouragers and thanks to my new friends and readers!

Happy Birthday, Heed the Feed!

These pictures are taken from a recipe from the archives: Mama’s Birthday Cake, October 7, 2011

gouda macaroni and cheese

We have this place in Columbia called The Whig. The Whig is, well…hmm. It’s a bar, but not a bar. It’s a restaurant, but…not really a restaurant. Unless you were walking past the State House and just happened to slip on the sidewalk down its stairs into the basement-like alley lined with one door adorned with no signs that looks like the backside of a New York City fish market, you’d probably never know it was there. You would, of course, know it was there if you were at least a bit cooler than the rest of the city or, strangely enough, if you were a bit less cool than the rest of the city. What I mean to say is, if you wear one shoe untied and drink craft beer and listen to vinyls while riding your bike, you’d love the Whig. On the other hand, if you’re just a tad quieter and love to listen to conversation and need to feel a bit disconnected from the normal Columbia, the Whig is a nice haven to quench the crave for a bit of quirk. Plus, they have excellent food at really frugal prices.

One of my favorite dishes of theirs is the Gouda Mac N Cheese. It’s actually listed in the starter section of the menu, but it arrives at the table in a huge rimmed bowl filled with a simple combination of pasta and sauce. It’s so generously goopy that each piece of pasta is smothered with the rich blend of gouda and cream. It’s not baked like some mac and cheeses. One could never ever describe this as being dry. The dish almost reminds me of a plate of pasta with alfredo, just amped up a bit. Lawd, it’s delicious.

gouda macaroni and cheese
inspired by The Whig’s gouda mac n cheese in Columbia, SC
prep time: 5 minutes cook time: 15 minutes yield: 6 servings

ingredients
12 oz whole wheat elbows
8 oz gouda
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz heavy cream
salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste

create
In a large saucepan, bring about 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Stir in the elbows and cook for about 10 minutes or to desired tenderness.
While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Shred the gouda and set aside. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in the heavy cream and add salt and pepper. When it starts simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce thickens and reduces by about half, about 10 minutes. Add the gouda and stir until completely melted.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Pour the gouda sauce over the pasta and stir until thoroughly combined. Serve immediately.

We had my sister’s bachelorette party at the Whig. The party consisted of a whopping three people with quite a few others there in spirit, but it was perfect. I’m guessing the tiny venue used to be a bank because they have a little cave in the corner that I believe was probably a safe at some point. Its three walls are lined with very worn, slouchy couches and dusty vintage lighting dimly brightens the space and stuffed animals (no, not Teddy Ruxpin, like foxes that were once alive and are now stuffed) chill next to the ceiling. It provides a very private atmosphere (appropriate for girly bachelorette gifts), but you can still hear the music and order pizzas and sandwiches and drinks. The whole place is just smokin’ with vibe and jives and the eel’s hips, my man. Legit chillin’.

chai latte concentrate

CHHHAAIIIII.

Oh, my love affair with chai. I am on and off addicted to it. Hmm. No. Let’s be honest. I am always addicted to it. I just sometimes go through indulgent spells and sometimes decide to be responsible and not gulp down lots of sugar in the morning or try to challenge my body’s caffeine capacity. I am, however, most of the time indulgent and consider it my happy thing of the day. I actually don’t drink coffee. You wouldn’t believe it looking at my countertop, with an espresso machine and unground beans and some other machine that makes a lot of noise and some stick looking thing with a bulbous cup on the end of it. No, I’m actually not coffee literate at all and just happen to be married to the trendy coffee/beer/wine guy. He’s actually the one who introduced me to my beloved iced chai latte when we were dating. That’s what the boyfriend’s gotta do when he wants to go on a coffee date and his gal doesn’t like coffee. My first sip of the cool, spicy drink turned into an instant, “…uhh. *cough* Yeah, uh…can we make this a venti?”

Chai, traditionally from India, is a word for tea and is steeped with various spices, giving it a very aromatic and in-depth flavor profile. There isn’t a right or wrong way to create chai, really. It’s mostly based on several core spices and can be changed and modified based on taste. The major players are cardamom (a spice actually in the ginger family), cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.

chai latte concentrate
prep time: 5 minutes cook time: 20 minutes yield: about 4 cups
ingredients
4 cups water
10 black tea bags
20 whole peppercorns, lightly crushed
10 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
5 whole cloves
1 inch piece fresh ginger, lightly crushed
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup unrefined brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract

create
In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the tea bags, peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar, honey, orange zest, lemon juice, and vanilla extract and let steep another 10 minutes.
Pour the tea through a fine mesh strainer (to remove the whole spices) into a one quart container. I used a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Allow the tea to cool before sealing it completely. Store chilled.
To enjoy a chai latte, mix equal parts chai concentrate and milk. Heat the mixture on the stovetop to drink hot or, for my favorite, pour over ice.


As stated in the recipe, a chai latte can be enjoyed hot or cold. As much as I love hot chocolate and cider and, not surprisingly, hot chai, hot drinks tend to give me headaches. So, I try to stick to the chilly versions of things. The hot drink headache, however, doesn’t compare much to the I’ve-decided-to-give-up-caffeine headache. Oy. But enough about headaches. It’s giving me a headache just writing about headaches. And writing about headaches makes me want a…chai. Erg. Addiction.

 

plum upside-down cakes

One of the first houses I lived in was a little one-story brick dwelling with black shutters and a side yard made up of a cement pad that my grandma made with her own hard-workin’ hands. She would mix up each small batch of cement in her wheel barrow with a garden hoe that had the handle broken off and would call my sister and me over to help her scrape out the mixture into her two-by-four square frames she was working in. I felt like she was making that cement patio for the first 16 years of my life. That’s not real. It didn’t take her that long. She had muscles. But I remember in the summer we’d take a break and walk to the front yard where our plum tree lived and she’d flick a branch and we’d run around the bottom of it catching fruits as if the tree were a piñata. And we’d sit on our railing-less porch with our feet dangling and eat those plums like we didn’t know anything different. I used to be afraid of the skins. I remember peeling the skins off and throwing them in the grass. Don’t listen to my child self. The skins of plums are really good and the whole fruit kind of tastes like a giant grape.

Plums, along with other stone fruits like peaches and apricots, love this time of year and taste best right about now. The category of fruits called stone fruits is called that because of the pit in the middle. The seed is really hard, like a stone. And, in addition to them tasting good, plums have lots of fiber. Ah, yes, now you remember. Prunes=dried plums. Haha. Prunes. That word just makes me laugh. Feeling clogged up? Try eating a plum before reaching for that prune juice….pbbb, prune.

I decided to make a version of a Martha upside-down cake I found on her website. Hers are way prettier than mine, but I wanted to use some little pans I recently inherited from my family’s bakery, which, unfortunately, no longer exists. My great grandmother and her husband opened the first one in Myrtle Beach in the 1940s and they made some really neat, intricate cakes and, according to my dad, some awesome doughnuts. After seeing Martha’s recipe and remembering these cute, little, family-enriched pans, I decided to make a few individual plum upside-down cakes.

plum upside-down cakes
adapted from Martha Stewart’s nectarine, plum, and apricot upside-down cake
prep time: 30 minutes cook time: 30 minutes yield: 36 small cakes

fruit enhancer
ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp dark rum
2 cups light-brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp coarse salt

cake
ingredients
2 pounds black plums, about 10
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups natural cane sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

create
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the fruit enhancer: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, maple syrup, dark rum, light-brown sugar, vanilla extract, and salt until well blended.

Grease pan of your choice. You can make one big cake or multiple small ones. I used small tart pans (about 5”). Divide fruit enhancer evenly among pans and spread to make smooth. Slice fruit into 1/4-inch wedges. Arrange fruit slices in a fanlike, circular pattern on top of fruit enhancer.

Make cake: Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then beat in vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until combined after each addition.

Divide the batter between the pans prepared with the fruit. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until the cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, loosen sides of cakes with paring knife and invert onto plate or cake stand.

I have another little brick house plum tree story. My sister and I had a good friend who lived across the street named Pedro. We did everything with Pedro. We had Power Ranger marathons, I saw my first Coolio music video at his house, and I’m pretty sure we purposely made mud pits in his back yard to play in. One day we decided we wanted to bury a box in the ground with our most precious valuables enclosed so the future explorers of the world would dig it up and learn of the vast history of the time and we’d become famous long after we’d already passed. I’m pretty sure I just placed a plastic Barbie shell bracelet in the shoebox and I know we all signed our names with the date on a piece of paper. We dug a hole under the plum tree and scooted the dirt over the box with our hands. It is still there. We never dug it up. I’m actually impressed. There have been several families that have lived there since we left and I’ll bet none of them were aware of the shell bracelet beneath the dirt, but I’m sure they enjoyed those oh-so-good plums every summer. To those families: you’re welcome.