red spinach salad

Marsala: Beyond Chicken

Much like the fortified wine that gives Marsala its name, this tasteful hue embodies the satisfying richness of a fulfilling meal, while its grounding red-brown roots emanate a sophisticated, natural earthiness.

– Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®

Marsala Pantone

The color of the year is inspired by the satiation that can only come from a truly great meal. Similarly, I am continually inspired by the colors at play in the foods I eat (as evidenced here and here). But, I’ve never thought about inspiration traveling in the opposite direction. Could a single color inspire a new recipe?

Marsala Pattern

I was skeptical. Particularly given the subdued hue at hand. Besides the obvious chicken Marsala, the only immediate associations I was making with the restrained color were none-too-culinary, (um, chili dogs, anyone?) Further complicating the issue, this color is really hard to pin down –  is it red, brown, or really burnt sienna in disguise??

And yet, in the thick of winter, I kept finding myself drawn to its warm, inviting nature. It reminds me of a shade you might see dancing on a wooden floor in front of a freshly-lit fireplace. It’s sophisticated and easy. I suppose that’s fitting…just like its namesake, Marsala Italian wine.

And so I embraced the marsala, and found my way to three new recipes featuring ingredients which share its color value…or at least, very close variations. Each one has that same hint of sophistication and ease. In fact, each recipe can be prepared in three steps or less, which is hardly enough time to pour yourself that glass of Marsala wine. But, one can try. My skepticism has been proven wrong before. :)

Here they are. My three new, easy (but deceptively sophisticated) ways to eat marsala:

1. Paleo balls with coconut and carob chips, starring dates and dried cranberries

Ingredients (makes about 16)

  • 1 packed cup dried pitted dates
  • 1 cup nut of choice (almonds, cashews or walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, plus more to roll in
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup carob chips

Directions

  • Process dates, almonds, coconut, honey and sea salt in a food processor. Add a tiny bit of water if mixture gets too dry. Add in cranberries and carob chips at the end for a final blend.
  • Roll into balls.
  • Keep in an airtight container. I usually keep mine in the refrigerator, but this isn’t necessary.

2. Rosemary root vegetable saute, starring beets

Ingredients (3-4 servings)

  • 1 bunch of beets (about 1 lb.) washed and cut into cubes
  • 1 yukon potato, cut into cubes
  • 1 kohlrabi, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into medium slices
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 T rosemary
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F then toss all vegetables in a large bowl with the garlic, rosemary and olive oil until coated.
  • Spread vegetables evenly on a cookie sheet and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  • Bake for 45 minute to an hour, stirring at least once midway through. Serve immediately.

red spinach salad with pomegranate seeds

3. Spinach pomegranate salad, starring red heirloom spinach

Ingredients (3-4 servings)

  • 1 bag of red heirloom spinach (I spied mine at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, cut into medium slices
  • Seeds from 1/2 a pomegranate
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, slightly toasted
  • Salt
  • Red balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Directions

  • Divide spinach evenly into salad bowls. Layer with onions, pomegranate seeds and walnuts. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt.
  • Serve with red balsamic vinaigrette. (Marsala red wine balsamic, if you’re fancy.)

Have any marsala or marsala-ish foods that you love? Let me know in the comments if I left out your favorites!

Oscars Party

Recipe: Oscar Party Pun Food

The Oscars are a great excuse to gather with friends, gawk at gorgeous couture, and maybe win a bet or two with your predictions. For me, I’m also always struck by the sheer amount of people and types of craft it takes to make a movie. It’s an event that is such a juxtaposition – an earnest outpouring of adulation for professionals at the top of their game, and a frilly, bedazzled, sometimes strange ceremony that we basically play Bingo to. So, what to serve at this sequin-worthy occasion?

Enter, pun food. Pun-themed food based on Oscar nominees has been around for a while now, but I never tire of it. Never. With new nominees every year, the pun will never end! (See what I did there?)

So, drumroll please, here are my nominees for best appetizers for punny Oscar food for 2015…

Edamame Dip

Edamame “Dip-Lash” (Edamame dip)

In honor of Best Picture nominee, Whiplash

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces shelled edamame (green soybeans)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1-2 large avocados, peeled, pitted and cubed
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 T chile-garlic sauce (such as Sriracha®)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • Process the edamame, onion, cilantro, and olive oil into a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
  • Add the avocado, lemon juice, and chile-garlic sauce; pulse again.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper. Puree until smooth.
  • Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving. Easy!

Original recipe by AllRecipes.Com


Paleo Banana Bread Muffins

“Bird-Ban-ana Bread Bites” (Banana Bread Muffins)

In honor of Best Picture nominee, Birdman

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • 275 grams almond flour (about 2 1/2 cups. This will keep muffins moist)
  • 1 t baking soda
  • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • ¼ gluten-free chocolate chips
  • 2 T flaxseed

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease or paper a regular muffin tin.
  • Beat eggs with whisk (or stand mixer + whisk on medium-high, but I did it by hand). Do this for 203 minutes until eggs start to thicken.
  • Mash bananas gently with fork.
  • Add mashed bananas and mix until combined. Pour in honey and lemon juice and mix until combined.
  • Mix dry ingredients, including flaxseed, then add to wet ingredients in 2 additions. Mix until combined.
  • Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts, then spoon batter into muffin tin.
  • Bake for 25-35 minutes, until golden brown on the top and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Original recipe by CookEatPaleo.com


 

I loved both of these recipes for their simplicity – you won’t need a whole crew of specialty craftsman to whip them together. I’d say that’s an Oscar win!

But remember, just because these snazzy snacks were served up for the Oscars this year doesn’t mean you have to wait until next year to make them. You can incorporate then into any get together that needs a shot of healthy & special. Just make sure you have your host-of-the-year speech ready. 😉

Lavendar Granola Ingredients

Recipe: Lavender Cashew Granola

Cold days are for baking up warm granola. The smell of cinnamon and toasted oats just wraps your heart in a hug, no matter what the thermostat says. In honor of February & Valentine’s Day, I wanted to make a granola that was both heartwarming and had that special heart-day touch – flowers. I haven’t done a lot of cooking with flowers, but this lavender granola was so simple, my confidence has begun to unfurl. And after eating the delicious results, I certainly feel ready to take on new floral-culinary adventures.

Making Granola

A few tips, courtesy of Healthy Nibbles & Bits, where I found the original recipe:

  • Check on the granola as it bakes, and scoop out any that starts to get too brown (usually on the sides). Over-toasted oats are not so tasty.
  • Flower shop lavender is not the same as culinary lavender. You never know what kinds of chemicals might be sprayed on the sprigs you get from a florist. I found my culinary lavender buds in the spice section at my local Whole Foods.
  • If you like granola clusters (and I do!), stir in a whisked egg white. If you don’t, omit it.

Blueberry Lavendar Yogurt

To turn this crunchy treat into a complete Valentine snack, I used the granola as the star ingredient in a layered parfait. My little lady is partial to blueberries, so I chose those and blackberries for the fruit. Blueberry Greek yogurt rounds out the components for my parfait assembly.

I loved how the subtle taste of lavender played nicely with the boldness of the blueberries. It created a lovely palette, too. And since it’s all fairly healthy, seconds are easy to say yes to. Just like a Valentine’s Day hug.


Lavender Cashew Granola

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats
  • ⅔ cup unsalted cashews
  • ⅔ cup walnut halves
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup (honey works also; add a bit more if you like a sweeter granola)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 t dried lavender
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • small pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg white

Parfait ingredients

  • 1 and ⅓ cup blueberry Greek yogurt
  • ½ tsp dried lavender
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ½  cup blackberries

Directions for granola

    • Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat to prevent burning.
    • In a large bowl, mix all the granola ingredients together except for the egg white.
    • In another bowl, whisk egg white with whisk or electric mixer + whisk attachment until egg white becomes become frothy. Pour the egg white on top of the granola and stir gently.
    • Spread out the granola on top of the baking sheet.
    • Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the granola is browned, rotating once. Let the granola cool completely before breaking into clusters.

Directions for parfait

    • While the granola is baking, mix the Greek yogurt with ½ teaspoon of lavender. Refrigerate the yogurt for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the lavender flavor to set in.
    • To make the parfait, alternate layers of yogurt, granola, and fruit.
    • Store leftover granola in an airtight container in room temperature.
Canvas valentine bag

Valentine Treat Bags

I’ve always been a crafter. From papier-mâché projects in Elementary School (that I took way too seriously), all the way to jewelry-making as an adult. But recently I’ve enjoyed the connection crafting can have to the season we’re in. It can help you be more present. And crafting with kids can teach them that same stillness, while instilling them with pride in accomplishment.

For February, I decided to celebrate the season by adding a new touch to an old favorite – Valentine’s Day cards. I wanted a cute way to package the candy and cards that my daughter will hand out in class – and I wanted it to be simple enough that she could get in on the act. I settled on mini cotton bags as the candy+card vessel, after looking through a lot of inspiration. The Valentine dressing is simple – an intricate heart stamp and ink pad color of your choice.

IMG_7638

I did a few samples first, and then let my daughter take over. We worked on the floor with craft paper over our hardwood to protect it. I think being lower to the ground gave her better leverage to stamp.

 

IMG_7631

It’s such a forgiving craft, too. With the natural fabric of the pouches, a little smudge or lightness here and there just adds to the look. But the best part? My little lady is thrilled to give her classmates a sweet keepsake that she helped create.

IMG_7643

The finished product – ready to be filled with goodies!

Materials:

  • 15-20 pouches (or however many you need for your class)
  • 1 stamp pad in red, or desired color
  • 1 heart stamp

Directions:

  • Flatten pouches. If too wrinkly, you may want to iron them briefly before stamping
  • Stamp each pouch with heart stamp
  • Fill with cards and goodies and gift away!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Strongbow cider table

Cider & Black: A photographic toast to times around the table

Raise a glass! After all, the title Cider & Black is inspired by the drink of the same name. A modest, agrarian drink made with simple ingredients, but not necessarily made simply. It took some time to develop to the right state. It’s a drink that yields a balanced flavor with just a splash of tart-like whimsy, held high to share with friends old and new.

Cider & Black the blog is about celebrations around the table. It’s about being present in the moment, being inspired by the colors and complexities we encounter, and being grateful for people to share it with. With the table as the centerpiece, the celebration never ends.

I was first inspired to start this journey last summer, when I signed up for my first CSA in middle Tennessee. The variety of the weekly bounty I received was invigorating. The sheer quantity taught me how to put vegetables (and by extension, healthy foods) first, and also ensured I always had enough to share. The quirky kohlrabis and joi chois, among other characters, broadened the palate of my Hoosier upbringing. Farm-eating changed my relationship with food. It changed how and what I cooked for myself and my family, and even how I experienced the passing of the seasons.

Time seemed to slow, and I found myself reaching for my camera more and more to document the state of my table. States of solitude, contemplation, creation, fellowship, work and joy.

Orange food pattern

Oranges patterned with parsley, leaves and wild berries from our backyard.

On this blog I’ll work to translate those states into visual stories from the table. Be they stories of color, texture, seasons, recipes, or even travels. Which brings me back to the name Cider & Black.

There’s another, more personal meaning in this blog’s title. Kir Breton is something I first encountered while living in Rennes, France during college. The traditional drink in the Bretagne region is cider, so Cider & Black, or cidre noir, was never in short supply. And France is where my journey with photography really began. So in a way, Cider & Black and photography will always be inextricably linked for me.

white tea rennes

White oolong tea and momentos from my time in France.

I’ve changed since then, and now call Nashville home with my husband and sweet daughter. But my passion for local tastes and photography has only grown. I’m always open to creative opportunities, flavor pairings, or info about the newest tastes in TN (or France or anywhere else you’d recommend getting my passport stamped!) I’d love to hear from you. So welcome to Cider & Black, and cheers!