untitled-3009-Edit_finishedsoup

Farewell Winter – Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
– John Steinbeck

The first day of Spring is a classic metaphor for new beginnings. But it’s also the end to the season of heartiness and perseverance. In Winter we huddle around the hearth. We tend to nest inside. We focus inward. And when Spring blossoms forth, we follow. Bursting with the energy pent up the long, cold months.

To pay tribute to this day of transition, I wanted to find a dish that captures the balance of the heartiness of winter with the fresh zest of Spring. I found it in Tom Kha Gai, a traditional Thai soup made from chicken, ginger, coconut milk and mushrooms. Soup by its very nature embodies the wintry sense of comfort, while the ginger and lemon epitomize the bright promise of Spring. I found my inspiration recipe from She Wears Many Hats and got to work.

untitled-2980-Edit_lemonzest

I’m still a Thai cooking novice, so I was nervous taking on a traditional dish like this. But, it turned out to be much easier than I thought; and now I’m ready to face the new season by challenging myself to make even more exotic dishes.

untitled-2979-Edit_TCS_web

Here’s my Tom Kha Gai recipe, completely Paleo, and fairly effortless…

Thai Chicken Soup (Tom Kha Gai)

Ingredients

1 lb of Cooked chicken, shredded (I used light and dark meat)

  • 3-4 Peeled carrots, sliced into coins
  • 3 T Cilantro, fresh leaves
  • 1 1-inch piece Ginger, fresh
  • 1 T Lemongrass, dried
  • 8 oz Mushrooms
  • 6 c Chicken stock or broth
  • 1 can of Coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 2 T Fish sauce
  • 3 T Lime juice
  • 1/2 t Red pepper flakes
  • 1 T Olive oil
  • Lime wedges
  • 1 c cashews

Directions

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook carrot coins for about 4 minutes, stirring often. They should still be fairly firm. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In same saucepan, add ginger and lemongrass, stir to toast until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir for another 2 minutes.
  3. Add chicken stock, lime juice and pepper flakes; bring to a simmer and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add chicken and simmer for about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Whisk in coconut milk, fish sauce, and cilantro; lower heat and allow to mingle for about 10 minutes before serving. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Toast cashews in toaster oven for about 4 minutes. Be careful not to burn.
  7. Top individual soup bowls with cashews. Garnish with cilantro leaves and/or lime wedges.

untitled-3012-Edit_thaisoupbowl

Easy, right? Can’t think of a better way to finish out Winter. Enjoy and Happy Spring!

20151201-IMG_9262-Edit_higherres

Winter Beer Bread

Winter can be a time for cocooning and hearth-huddling, at least for me. I think it’s the combination of frigid temperatures outside combined with the dawn of a new year. It is a season ripe for introspection and solo activities, preferably someplace warm. Which is why it’s the perfect time of year for baking.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to try out and shoot a beer bread recipe for Edible Nashville. I have loads of experience with quick breads, but my loaf bread skills are still a bit underdeveloped. Undaunted, I told myself a new year is for trying new things, so I forged ahead.

20151201-IMG_9291-IngredientsGrowler

This beer bread recipe comes from Tennessee Brew Works, and is a lot simpler than you might think. The most difficult part is allowing yourself time to wait at the different dough-proofing stages. But hey, while you wait, you can pour yourself a glass of Southern Wit – the star ingredient for the bread. Southern Wit is a refreshing Belgium White Ale with pear and honey notes. Yum.

But even if this had been a difficult recipe, I would still be extolling its virtues here because – ohhhh my – it is some of the most delicious bready goodness I’ve ever had! And don’t get me started on its aromatic properties (your house will smell like a gourmet bakery). But that taste – I tell you it somehow tastes better when you make it yourself.

It’s a new year. Go for it! Here’s the original recipe over at Edible Nashville.

20151129-IMG_9239-Edit-2

Southern Wit Beer Bread

Ingredients (makes 1 large loaf or 2 mini loaves)

Starter

  • 1 c. Southern Wit (warm), or other Belgium beer
  • 1 c. bread flour
  • 1½ t. active dry yeast
Dough
  • 1¼ c. warm Southern Wit (warm), or other Belgium beer
  • 4 c. bread flour
  • 1 T. yeast
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 2 T. butter (melted)
  • 1 T. salt

Directions

  1. Make starter by combining beer. flour and yeast in a large bowl. Let stand in a warm place (above the oven is usually a good choice) until mixture is foamy and doubled (about 20 minutes).
  2. Add remaining ingredients and mix in a stand mixer until combined. Using dough hook, beat until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Pour a little oil over the dough and place in the warm area to proof until doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes. Then, punch dough down and knead about 5 minutes.
  3. Shape the dough into a narrow baguette shape and place on a baking sheet (or place in a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan). Brush with a little melted butter and let rise in a warm area for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake about 40 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow to the touch. Place on a cooling rack and let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing.

20151201-IMG_9253-DoughBall

Your dough should look a little something like this ^ for your first kneading. If it’s too wet, add in a little more flour.

20151201-IMG_9262-Edit_higherres20151201-IMG_9268-Edit

In the last step before baking, hand roll your dough into a baguette shape like I did, or you can place the dough into a loaf pan.

20151201-IMG_9321-FinishedLoaf

Did I mention it smells fantastic?

20151201-IMG_9330-SlicedLoaf

20151201-IMG_9309-LoafwithCheese

Your final loaf pairs well with Gouda, pecans, pears and of course, beer. It’s great for mid-winter entertaining. But just as great as a simple, warm snack for cocooning on your own.

Jen

untitled-2392-Edit_NewYears2016_blog

Happy 2016!

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been”
— Rainer Maria Rilke, poet

untitled-2381_SingleProseccoGlassNYD

Happy 2016! I’m looking forward to the new year and the opportunities it brings. It also marks one year anniversary of this little blog, ciderandblackblog.com and Cider&Black on Instagram. What started out as an experiment has turned into a gratifying creative outlet and even side business. I’m so thrilled to be at the one-year mark, and couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities a new year brings.

As a thank you to my readers, I have a special cocktail recipe to ring in the new year – Prosecco with red currants.

Prosecco with Red Currants

Ingredients (makes 1 cocktail)

  • 1/2 c. chilled Prosecco
  • 2 T. currant nectar or cassis
  • 1-2 slices of starfruit
  • 1-2 small bunches of red currants

Directions

  • Pour the currant nectar or cassis into a wine glass.
  • Pour Prosecco over the cassis.
  • Garnish with starfruit and mini munches of red currants.

untitled-2372-Edit_NewYearsCocktail_12-31-15

Thanks for reading, and cheers to 2016!

IMG_8257_EggBakeonTable

Baked Eggs with Sweet Potatoes and Harissa

Winter will always be baking season to me. It’s the season to warm yourself around the heat of an oven, whether you’re making cookies, pies or a simple dinner. The latter is what I was after – I wanted to branch out to find a new  recipe for a family meal time that was hearty, healthy and maybe a bit more exotic than a typical casserole. Eggs are a standard crowd-pleaser in my house, so I started with them as the first ingredient.

untitled-1516_Eggs

In researching recipes, I came across one that had just the right blend of healthy and exotic – Tunisian Shakshuka. This baked egg dish has many variations, but the basics are the same – eggs, onions, other vegetables, Italian parsley and harissa paste. I decided to make mine with green beans and sweet potatoes.

IMG_8246_ItalianParsley

I found that it wasn’t too difficult to pull together, especially if you prep and cut your veggies beforehand. And I was entranced by the rich, earthy aroma that filled my home while it was baking. Best of all, my family loved it! The warm, gooey-ness of the eggs mixed with goat cheese and the veggies was irresistible. One modification there, I held the harissa for the portion that went to my little lady. So keep that in mind if you don’t like that kind of warmth!

Baked Eggs with Sweet Potatoes and Harissa

Ingredients (makes 6-8)

  • 8 eggs
  • 2–3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ pound green beans, ends trimmed and snapped in half
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • ⅓ c. heavy cream
  • 1 c. harissa sauce
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • Handful of spinach
  • Fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

IMG_8282-Edit_EggBakeIngredients

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Rinse and chop all vegetables.
  • In a large cast iron skillet, mix sweet potatoes, onion, bell pepper and string beans with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You may also mix them in a large bowl and then portion out into 6 single-serving skillets.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until potatoes are just tender. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  • Pour the cream evenly over the vegetables, then spoon in the harissa and goat cheese. Sprinkle torn pieces of spinach on top.
  • Then, gently crack the eggs into the skillet (or skillets) and season again with salt and pepper. Return to the oven and bake another 8–10 minutes or until eggs are cooked to your liking.
  • Remove from oven, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

egg bake in cast iron skillet single serving

I definitely recommend trying this if you’re looking for a new dish to spice up your baking routine. Although I served it for dinner, it could also be the star of a holiday brunch with friends. After all, this is the time of year to share the warmth. Enjoy!

fruit and cinnamon sticks

Share a Glass of Autumn’s Perfect Cocktail

As the days grow short and a chill settles into the air, I find myself drawn toward food and drink that share an essence with Autumn. Foods that are simple, golden-hued, and perhaps, have a bit of bite – just like the crisp morning wind.

As Thanksgiving approached, I wanted to find an encapsulation of the season that would be the perfect accompaniment to all those harvest dishes. In other words, I was on a quest to find the perfect Fall cocktail. To help me in my journey was my talented friend and fellow blogger from Five Dishes. Together, we researched the classics (mulled wine, hot toddies), the overdone (sorry, pumpkin spice anything), and finally found a drink that seemed completely fresh, but traditional enough to play well with the requisite turkey and cranberry sauce (or truly, whatever Fall’s bounty graces your table this year.)

Spices and Fruit

Our chosen cocktail is earthy, fragrant and has a color like a sugar maple in fall. And yes, it has a lovely, subtle bite thanks to the spiced rum. But the best part of all? It was unbelievably easy to make.

Apple rum punch ingredients

Autumn Punch

Ingredients (makes 2 cocktails)

  • 2½ oz spiced rum (we used Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum)
  • 4 oz fresh unfiltered apple juice
  • 2 big pinches of Chinese 5 Spice
  • 2 long threads of lemon peel
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 bottle of quality hard Pear Cider (apple cider would pair well, too)

Autumn apple rum punch making

Directions

In a shaker half-filled with ice-cubes, combine the rum, apple juice, and Chinese 5 spice.  Shake well and pour in a glass. Top with the pear cider and garnish with a cinnamon stick and twist of lemon peel.

Autumn Apple Rum Punch Close

The recipe is for two, so you can make sure to enjoy with a friend. I can’t think of a better way to toast this holiday of sharing. Cheers!

IMG_1086-Edit_twopeachhalves

Summer Peaches: Two Ways

IMG_9802-Edit-marketpeaches-7-15-15

It’s Labor Day weekend and I can’t think of a better way to honor it than a salute to one of the sweetest, most Summery fruits: the peach.

Peaches have a way of going from your mouth straight to your heart. Their warm, bright taste just seems to emit love. In fact, Renaissance artists used the peach symbolically to represent the heart. So today I share not one, but two recipes from my heart to yours – Gluten-free peach-banana muffins and Peach-mint smoothie-sicles.

1. Gluten-free peach-banana muffins

IMG_1087-Edit_twopeaches

Ingredients (makes 12; adapted from Carrots ‘N’ Cake)

  • 1 1/2 c. almond meal
  • 2 T unsweetened coconut, plus 1 T more to sprinkle
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 ripe peach, large, diced
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 T. chia seeds

Directions

  • Mix dry ingredients in large bowl.
  • Mix wet ingredients in medium bowl.
  • Add wet mixture to dry.

IMG_1090-Edit_peachbananamuffins_9-5-15

  • Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners. Scoop spoonfuls of batter into prepared cups.
  • Sprinkle with additional coconut and a dash of cinnamon.
  • Bake at 350F for 15-18 minutes.
  • Enjoy!

IMG_1101-Edit_bananapeachmuffins_9-7-15

2. Peach-mint smoothie-sicles

IMG_0446-Edit_PeachPattern_8-6-15

Ingredients (makes ~6 molded popsicles)

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 ripe peach, large, diced
  • 1/2 c. plain, nonfat yogurt
  • 1/4 c. almond or coconut milk
  • 2 T honey
  • 1/4 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t. cinnamon
  • 5 mint leaves, finely chopped

IMG_0467-Edit_popsiclecloseup

Directions

  • Add bananas, peaches and yogurt to a blender. Blend for 1-2 minutes (it will still be lumpy).
  • Add all remaining ingredients except mint. Blend until smooth.
  • Stir in mint.
  • Pour into popsicle molds and freeze overnight (at least 5 hours).
  • Serve with blackberries and fresh peach slices.

Peach popsicles

Hope these peachy recipes find a way into your heart – just as they did mine. Happy Labor Day!

Fresh-picked raspberries from my family's yard - ripe and ruby-pink. Little jewels of the earth swaddled in my shirttail, sparkling with sundrops.

Travel Journal: Seattle

Switters was actually quite fond of Seattle’s weather, and not merely because of its ambivalence. He liked its subtle, muted qualities and the landscape that those qualities encouraged if not engendered: vistas that seemed to have been sketched with a sumi brush dipped in quicksilver and green tea. It was fresh, it was clean, it was gently primal, and mystically suggestive.
― Tom Robbins, Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates

Seattle – that queen of the Pacific Northwest with the quietly ominous mountains and sparkling Sound – does have a mystical air about it. The rain, the fog, the evergreen cloak it dons…all of these things fuse together in a gumbo of tastes and feelings that express themselves as pure effervescence.

I’ve been to Seattle a dozen or so times now and I never tire of its majestic landscape and “ambivalent weather.” There’s something about inhabiting this land, locked in an embrace with the Pacific Ocean, that has a way of re-energizing the soul and of course, awakening the palate. This June, I got the chance to stay there for a week with some family and absorb as much as I could of the culture, climate and of course, food. Afterwards, it occurred to me that the experiences I’d absorbed had directly inspired the meals my family and I prepared. I know, it sounds obvious, but it wasn’t something I’d planned!  These experiences have now lodged themselves into my brain – and have altered my way of thinking about my meals now that I’m back in Nashville. I wanted to share these visions of the Queen City and perhaps, help us all bring a little piece of that effervescence into our daily lives, no matter where we live. So here are my Seattle experiences, and the snacks and meals they inspired, in no particular order…

1. A complex taste for a complex history…

On Seattle’s underground tour, we got to see firsthand the city that once was, and hear the tales of how this logging, outlaw-ish town grew to be a thriving metropolis. It truly has a “layered” history in every sense of the word.

UndergroundSteps-6-24-15

Steps descending into Seattle’s historic underground near Pioneer Square.

What can match a complex history better than a complex cheese? We headed to Beecher’s Cheese for a sample. We came away with a local English-style cheddar and an herbed goat cheese and immediately paired them with fresh, west coast figs. Complex, dark, rich. Just like those logging barons. :)

IMG_0223-Edit-BeecherCheese_forweb

Goat and cheddar cheese from Beecher’s with fresh figs and thyme.

And what’s better than a good cheese with a good brew? How about a beautiful view of the sun over the Sound? Luckily we found both.

IMG_9993-Edit-Edit_DowntownHef_forweb

This Hefeweizen from Whistling Pig is as clear and bright as the Summer sky.

2. Contemplative and cultured

IMG_0079-Edit-Totem_forweb

Totem in Pioneer Square, Downtown Seattle.

There’s a solemn stillness that permeates the environment here in the Summer. Maybe it comes from the mouth of the Sound, which breaks and halts the wild ocean. It’s also present in the soft echoes of a cultured past made of native peoples and wild pioneers. Whatever it is, I wanted to try to capture that stillness.

IMG_0191-Edit_SoundFishing_forweb

A man fishes in the Sound near Seahurst Park, just south of Seattle.

IMG_0063-Edit-Edit_shadowdock_forweb

My little lady walks on the docks of Pier 50, Downtown Seattle.

Figs seem somehow fitting with just such a contemplative mood, with their reputation as “forbidden” and a cultivation record reaching back to ancient times. They’re the perfect snack for long days lost in thought…

IMG_0034-Edit-Edit-FigShadows

Fresh market figs, waiting to be devoured.

FigsAndHoney-6-22-15

Grilled figs with drizzled honey and fresh mint leaves.

3. Farm fresh

IMG_9847-Edit-PikesPlace_forweb

Pike Place Market is the proverbial middle of your Seattle culinary Bingo card. Can you truly say you’ve been to the city if you haven’t visited it? Yes, it’s overcrowded and touristy. But, those willing to push past that surface will be rewarded with a truly delicious bounty. I’m talking the freshest choice seafood of scallops, salmon and crab and the ripe fruits of your dreams like Washington cherries, blackberries and of course, figs. Check this landmark off your list first, and then explore further. There are plenty of other local markets that may yield even greater riches.

IMG_9894-Edit-Edit_cutcherries_forweb

Market cherries on the chopping block. They’ll make their way into a salad of fresh greens, goat cheese and walnuts.

IMG_0125-Edit-FigCherryPattern_blog

Market figs, cherries and blooms form a charming pattern.

IMG_0022-Edit_blackberries_forweb

Local blackberries and fresh mint await their dinner treatment.

One such local treasure is B & E Meats & Seafood, which has been serving up the freshest local Copper River King salmon since 1958. We grabbed some fillets and grilled them in olive oil while a fresh blackberry compote bubbled on the stove. We topped off the salmon with the blackberry concoction, added in some local asparagus, and dinner was served.

IMG_0046-Edit-SalmonAsparagus_forweb

Copper River King salmon with blackberry compote and a side of asparagus.

4. Sea-bound

IMG_0164-Edit_LeealBeach_forweb

My little lady treads lightly toward the gently breaking waves of the Sound near Seahurst Park.

Ultimately, the Puget Sound inspires so much of the beauty and cuisine in Seattle. The food is so brim-full of freshness and light, like a bay-skimming breeze, that it often needs no additional adornment.

IMG_9995-Edit_Oysters_forweb

Fresh oysters at the Athenian, a downtown institution overlooking Puget Sound. The Athenian is as famous for its seafood as it is for its role in a little movie called Sleepless in Seattle. ;)

One final meal of inspiration based on this simplistic approach: scallops. Straight from the sea, purchased from Pike Place and prepared the same day…this might be what heaven tastes like. Fresh indeed.

IMG_9911-Edit-Edit_scallops_forweb

Blackened, pan-seared scallops, served with simple avocado slices.

I hope I’ve carried home some of the sensibilities of my food finds in the Pacific Northwest. I’d like to incorporate even more freshness and depth into what I make here in Nashville.  In the meantime, I raise a frosted glass of Whistling Pig and say, cheers to you, Seattle. You’ll always be a queen of a town to me.

Tropical Pattern

Food Palette: Tropical Sunshine

Here, in middle Tennessee, the earth is bright green, the air is fragrant with magnolias, and the temperature is in the 90s. And so, Summer is in full bloom. The sunshine this time of year, too, seems to be fuller. It changes ever so slightly from the lilting, angled light of Spring, to the dauntless pure rays of Summer. I wanted to find a color palette that captured that special sunshine. To do so, I turned to the fruits of the tropics.

Mango Salad

A fruit salad with mango, mandarins, coconut and pomegranate seeds was the perfect inspiration. Topped with a bit of honeyed ginger, it has just the right balance of simmer and sparkle.

Tropical Mango Palette

The resulting palette is bright and lush, but not overbearing. Just breezy enough for lazy Summer days. Enjoy!

Butterfly pair

Butterfly Canvas Craft

On a recent trip to the Smoky Mountains, I was lucky enough to capture this moment of two Pipevine Swallowtails sipping up a drink of Summer.  Their calm beauty inspired me to try a new craft with my little lady when we got home: a mixed-media canvas that is simple, Summery, and of course, butterfly-sweet.

Materials:

  • Patterned paper
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun
  • Canvas panel (like these)
  • Kids craft paints
  • Small craft paint brushes

craft canvas

Directions:

  • Paint a setting onto your canvas panel. Set aside to dry.
  • Pick different pieces of patterned paper and cut into a few 3-inch strips. Fold strips in half crosswise.
  • Draw a half-butterfly shape onto the underside of the paper so that the middle of the butterfly will be on the paper’s fold. Cut out butterfly shapes.

Butterfly stencil paper

  • Check to see if paint is dry. Once it is, take your paper butterflies and test where you might want to place them.
  • Once you’re sure about placement, glue the butterflies to the canvas using the hot glue gun. Take care to only glue their centers so you can achieve a pleasing 3-D effect. (I let my little artist to all of the steps except for this one.)

hot glue butterfly

  • Remove any stray glue strings.
  • Hang and enjoy!

Butterfly canvas

Hope you enjoy this simple way to craft your way into Summer!

Mango Mojito overhead

Welcome Summer with Mangoes and Goat Cheese

Memorial Day weekend is here, and with it comes the brightest and boldest of seasons. There’s something about the sunshine this time of year that makes colors more saturated and alive. I want to absorb that feeling; to eat it and drink it. So I set out to capture the season’s vivacity in two new recipes.

To stay grounded in the season, I took two warm-weather staples – chips and cheese dip and Mojitos – and recast them with vibrant ingredients. First, the appetizer.

Goat Cheese Pomegranate detail

Seed Crackers with Goat Cheese, Apricot Thyme Jam and Pomegranate Seeds

This is almost too easy to call a recipe! But it’s so good that I just had to share. 😉

Ingredients

  • 30+ seed crackers (I like Mary’s Gone Crackers brand)
  • 1 log goat cheese
  • 1 jar apricot jam
  • 1 t fresh, minced thyme
  • Pomegranate seeds

Directions

  • Spread goat cheese on crackers, followed by a dollop of jam.
  • Sprinkle minced thyme.
  • Top with 3-4 pomegranate seeds.
  • Enjoy!

Goat Cheese Pomegranate Snack

For a refreshing Summer drink, I looked to the Mojito. There are myriad fruit Mojito recipes out there, but the bright, sunny taste of mango fit my definition of “summer in a drink” best. I tried a few variations, and ended up with a simplified version that can be whipped up relatively quickly in a pinch. Just remember to keep extra simple syrup and mangoes on hand!

Mango Mojito

Simple Mango Mojito

Ingredients

  • 2.5 oz of white rum (mango rum would be even better!)
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • 1 oz of simple syrup (or to taste)
  • 6 mint leaves
  • Soda water
  • 1/4 a mango, cubed
  • Ice cubes

Directions

  • Muddle mint leaves with 2-3 mango cubes.
  • Shake rum, syrup and soda water and ice cubes in a shaker.
  • In an empty glass, add mint leaves and non-muddled mango cubes (Note: you may also freeze the mango cubes to act as ice cubes. Freezing them also ensures you always have some on hand!)
  • Pour rum mixture over fruit.
  • Garnish with a lime wedge and extra mint leaves, if desired.

Hope you enjoy these little tastes of sunshine as much as I did. Happy Summer – and cheers!

Jen

Mango Mojito detail