Monday, March 07, 2022

Gluten-free Pumpkin Spicewalla Chai Masala Streusel Muffins

One of the most important things in my kitchen is my collection of herbs and spices. Without them, food would be bland and uninteresting. I have never been brand-loyal--I buy everyday spices that are the most affordable, but once in a while I splash out for a blend that seems too delicious to pass up. I'm always open to trying new things, so I was pretty pleased when Spicewalla offered to send me a selection of their spices to play with. Four were savory blends, but I cracked into the two sweeter items right away. The first thing I did was to make golden milk with their Golden Milk blend (Turmeric, Cinnamon, Ginger, Black pepper, Nutmeg, Roasted Coriander) warm hemp milk, and a dash of maple syrup for sweetness. I like to make a base mixture first, combining a few heaping teaspoons of spices with non-dairy milk to make a very runny paste and keeping that in the fridge. Then when I want a bit of warm golden milk before bedtime, I mix a few spoonsful of the paste into about half a cup of hemp milk and warm it in the microwave, adding a bit of maple for sweetness. (A half cup is plenty, as I don't want to drink too much liquid before going to bed at night.) Spicewalla's blend has all the right elements for a tasty and soothing sweet-savory beverage.

The other spice I used right away was the Chai Masala blend, though not to make chai. (Did you know that since "chai" means tea, saying "chai tea" is like saying "tea tea?") I thought it would be perfect as the spice in some pumpkin muffins. And damn if I wasn't absolutely right! Spicewalla's freshly-ground small-batch blend of ginger, cinnamon, green cardamom, black pepper, clove, and allspice was the perfect seasoning for these ultra-moist muffins. Like pumpkin spice, but with a little bit extra. While plain muffins are nice, muffins topped with streusel are even nicer, texture-wise. I also added chopped walnuts to the batter. Chopped, toasted, pecans or almonds would work as well, or you can omit both the streusel and the nuts. Up to you. 

Did you catch the words "gluten-free" in the title of this post? Since 2019, I've been on a mostly gluten-free diet, which I have found is a big help in losing weight. Sometimes, though, I crave a sweet treat that's not a piece of chocolate (though nothing is wrong with that!), like a cookie, cupcake, or muffin. There are several good gluten-free flour blends on the market, but I am not particularly crazy about the texture of ones that are primarily rice flour; I find it to be gritty. Almond flour makes a tasty wheat flour substitute, but I find that makes things too dense. A combination of GF flour and almond flour is just perfect, and what I used in this recipe. (If you're ok with gluten, you may substitute 1 3/4 all purpose white flour for the GF and almond flours.)

I know, enough talking. Here's the recipe.


Gluten-free Pumpkin Spicewalla Chai Masala Streusel Muffins 

For the muffins:
3 large eggs
1 15-ounce can pumpkin purée
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional, only if your flour blend doesn't already include xanthan gum)
3/4 cup finely ground almond flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Spicewalla Chai Masala spices
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts, optional

For the streusel:
1/4 cup Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon Spicewalla Chai Masala spices
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted

To make the muffins:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease one 12-well or two 6-well standard-size muffin tins.

Whisk together the eggs and pumpkin purée. Set aside.

Whisk together the gluten-free flour (with additional xanthan gum, if needed), almond flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, and Spicewalla Chai Masala spices.

Using a hand or stand mixer, whip the butter until fluffy. Add in the flour mixture and combine until it looks like wet sand. Add the egg/pumpkin mixture a bit at a time, beating well after each addition. The final mixture should be light and fluffy. Stir in the walnuts, if using.

Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, filling each cup to the top. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes.

To make the streusel:
Combine all of the ingredients until it forms crumbs. Sprinkle about a tablespoon onto each muffin, pressing it in so it sticks. 

Bake the streusel-topped muffins for 22 to 25 minutes, until the middle springs back when lightly touched. Let rest for 5 minutes before removing muffins from the pan. 

12 servings

Posted on Minxeats.com.
I received a collection of spices from Spicewalla, including the Chai Masala spices, but I am not being otherwise compensated for this post.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Strega - Sponsored Post

A beautiful yellow herbal liqueur was developed in 1860 by father-son team Carmine and Giuseppe Alberti. Their town of Benevento was a legendary gathering place for witches, so they named their product Strega, the Italian word for "witch."

They used umpteen (70!) delicious ingredients, including Florentine iris, Ceylon cinnamon, Samnite mint, and Italian Apennine juniper, with precious saffron added to create the sunshine hue. The liqueur is aged in ash barrels before bottling.

Strega has been compared to Yellow Chartreuse, and like that liqueur, it's great in cocktails, but also sipped on its own as a digestif. 

Personally, I love the bottle, and wish I had a fancy bar on which to display it. The embossed starburst design and Art Nouveau label invites a closer look. 

Now that I've tried Strega, I want to sample the company's sweets, which include chocolates, torrone (nougat), and pandoro (a holiday bread similar to panettone) filled with Strega cream. Unfortunately, it looks like most of it is only available in Italy, which means I'll have to plan an overseas trip sometime soon. Check out their sweets catalog here.

How do I like to drink Strega? I prefer it in a cocktail. There's one called a Stazione (train station) made with equal parts Strega, Fernet, and sweet vermouth. I swapped out the Fernet for a locally produced amaro flavored with coffee and added a hint of citrus. It's reminiscent of an Old Fashioned, but far more herbal and aromatic. I call it the... 


Baltimore Penn Station

1 ounce Strega Liqueur
1 ounce Baltimore Spirits Company Baltimaro #3
1 ounce Red Vermouth
2 ounces lemon-flavored sparkling water (I used LaCroix limoncello)
Twist of orange peel

Stir the liqueurs together with ice and strain into a glass. Pour in the water and add the twist. 

The coffee of the Baltimaro and the lemon water are reminiscent of an espresso with lemon peel, so now I want to pour some Strega over coffee ice cream. Or concoct an ice cream flavored with Strega.... 

What would you like to see me make? 

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Stonewall Kitchen Feta Spreads - Sponsored

My brother is somewhat difficult to buy for, so when the holidays roll around, I resort to edible gifts. (Honestly, they are the best.) For the past few years, I've been ordering miscellaneous items from Stonewall Kitchens. I have been buying their products for decades, and have always been really happy with them. They have a large variety of goods, and the prices are decent. Best of all, everything I've tried tastes really great. So when I received an email from them touting their brand new products, I just had to request samples. And they delivered: all three varieties of their new feta spreads showed up on my front porch about a week later.

Sadly, I was on Whole30 at the time, so had to practice some serious patience before I could crack open a jar. I am a bit of a feta fanatic, putting its briny goodness on everything from pasta to oatmeal (yes, I said oatmeal), and I gotta admit that the idea of jarred spreads that combine the cheese and other Mediterranean ingredients turned me on. 

Within a few days of saying buh-bye to the diet, I concocted a perfect way to use one of Stonewall Kitchens' feta spreads: as a flavoring agent for a big ol' head of roasted cauliflower. I roasted the veg first with a light coating of olive oil and a big pinch of salt. Once that baby was tender, I slathered it in the roasted red pepper feta spread and popped it under the broiler until it browned a bit. OMG - it was as delicious as I anticipated, and it really made a simple dish something special. 

Plus, it added some much-needed color. Isn't it gorgeous?

Of course you could use the spreads on crackers, as an accompaniment to an antipasto or charcuterie plate, or as a sandwich spread. This morning, I dolloped some in my oatmeal with a little additional feta and a sprinkle of hemp seeds. (If you haven't tried savory oatmeal before, you are missing out.) I'm betting they'd be a tasty addition to pasta, or potato salad, or pretty much anything that could use a little cheesy goodness. Definitely try it with roasted vegetables, as in the following recipe.

Mediterranean Cauliflower
There are several steps to this recipe, but they are all quite simple. The resulting dish is the Middle East on a platter, with elements from Morocco, Egypt, Greece, and Lebanon. None of the elements, mind you, are in the least bit authentic. I do a lot of substituting in my cooking. For instance, I was out of tahini, so used almond butter in the babaganoush instead. And I was too lazy to toast seeds and nuts for my dukkah and worried that I would probably burn the sesame seeds, so I used everything bagel seasoning. It already had the seeds, but also onion and garlic. Additionally, I used ground cumin and coriander, since they are already toasted, and pre-roasted nuts. 

For the babaganoush-style eggplant spread:
1 medium eggplant
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons almond butter
Kosher salt
Lemon juice
Smoked paprika
Ground cumin

For the tomatoes:
1 medium tomato
Kosher salt
Pinch ras el hanout or powdered harissa 

For the dukkah-like topping:
1/4 cup toasted nuts of your choice (I used almonds and walnuts)
1 tablespoon everything bagel seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

For the cauliflower:
1 large cauliflower
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Stonewall Kitchen Roasted Red Pepper Feta Spread
Feta cheese
Flat leaf parsley or cilantro

To make the eggplant:
Preheat the oven to 450F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise. Rub the cut sides with a little oil and place cut-side-down on the parchment. Roast for 45 minutes, until the skins collapse and the interior is very soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. 

Once cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh out of the eggplant into a bowl. Using a fork, mash the eggplant into as close to a puree as possible, breaking up any fibers. Add the almond butter and garlic and stir well. Season to taste with the salt, lemon juice, paprika, and cumin. It should be creamy, bright, and slightly smoky. Scrape into a lidded container and refrigerate.

For the topping:
Crush the nuts and spices together in a mortar and pestle, or, if you don't have one large enough, just pop them in a sandwich-sized zip top bag and bash them into small pieces with something heavy (a meat tenderizer, a can of tomatoes, a brick, etc.). Set aside.

For the tomatoes:
Remove the core from the tomato and cut the flesh into small dice. If you're a neat-freak, remove the seeds. If you're me, leave them in. Scrape into a small bowl and season with salt and a pinch of seasoning. Set aside.

To make the cauliflower:
Turn the oven down to 350F. 

Remove the outer green leaves from the cauliflower and trim an inch or two off the stem. Not so much that the florets start to fall off, but that there's a divot at the bottom of the cauli. Place the cauliflower, stem side down, on a rimmed baking sheet (I like to line my sheet with parchment). Rub the head with olive oil, and pat on a few generous pinches of salt. Roast the cauliflower for 60 - 75 minutes, until nicely browned on the outside and a knife can be inserted easily. 

Preheat the broiler. Remove the parchment from the baking sheet, if using, and replace the cauliflower. (The parchment may burn under the broiler.) Pour a few tablespoons-ful of the Stonewall Kitchen Roasted Red Pepper Feta Spread on top of the cauliflower and rub it around to cover. Broil the cauliflower until the spread starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

To assemble the dish:
Spread about half of the eggplant spread onto a platter. Center the cauliflower on top. Sprinkle with the tomatoes, feta cheese, some of the nut topping, and parsley or cilantro. Serve with the remaining eggplant, red pepper feta spread, and topping. 

Serves 2-3 as a main dish, 4-6 as a side.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, February 07, 2022

Valentine's Cocktails with Ron Barcelo - Sponsored Post

Who's going out for Valentine's Day? Yeah...we're not. We don't usually go out on V-day anyway, so this year will be no different. It's so much nicer to cook dinner together, don't you think? Make a nice surf and turf with something sweet for dessert, and wash it all down with a couple of yummy cocktails.

I am a rum gal and stock my home bar with several brands, some for mixing, others for sipping neat or on ice. I recently was given the opportunity to try Ron Barcelo. Ron Barcelo is from the Dominican Republic; they produce the first rums in the world to be considered Carbon Neutral-- a designation which more companies should strive to achieve, dontcha think? 

Ron Barcelo Imperial Rum has a amber color and a nice smooth rum flavor, perfect for cocktails. (It would be dynamite soaked into a cake, too.) Personally, I think rum goes with everything, but the smooth molasses richness really works in drinks that lean towards the sweet and tropical. Ginger beer is also a great partner. Honestly, good rum, good ginger beer, and a wedge of lime is all you need. (Cola works too, of course.) Consider making his-and-hers drinks this Valentine's Day. For the two I'm presenting here, you need some ingredients that might not be in your pantry at the moment...but there's still time to hit up the grocery store! 

The Heart Beet (Cocktail for Her)

2 oz Barcelo Imperial Rum
1 oz fresh beet juice
4-5 oz chilled ginger beer
Fresh lemon slices
Pomegranate seeds
Mint for garnish

In a shaker add rum, beet juice, and ice. Shake well and strain into martini glass. Top off with ginger beer. Garnish with a lemon slice, pomegranate seeds, and mint.

Serves 1

Papaya Pa Ya (Cocktail for Him)

1 slice of papaya
1 oz lime juice
2 oz Ron Barceló Gran Añejo
.75 oz allspice simple syrup (see recipe below)
Mint and papaya for garnish

Place papaya in a cocktail shaker with the lime juice and muddle or crush with a long-handled cocktail spoon. Add Barceló Añejo Rum and allspice simple syrup and shake well. Strain into a lowball glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a slice of papaya and mint leaves.

Serves 1

Allspice Simple Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon allspice berries
 
Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously until the sugar dissolves. Lower the heat to a simmer, stir in the allspice berries. Cook for 10 minutes, uncovered. Turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature. Strain syrup into a lidded container. Refrigerate for up to one month.

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What do you do with all the rest of the papaya? You can eat it as is, put it in a fruit salad, devour it for breakfast. Or you can continue the tropical rum theme and use it to flavor a simple rice pudding. Rice pudding is a great dessert when you're making a multi-element meal, since it doesn't require tons of attention (just watch to make sure it doesn't boil over!).

Papaya Rice Pudding

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar (divided use)
1/2 papaya, peeled, de-seeded, and diced
1 tablespoon Ron Barcelo rum
2.5 cups cooked rice
1 15-ounce can coconut milk, well-shaken
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Unsweetened grated coconut

Toss the papaya and 1 tablespoon of sugar together in a medium bowl. Add the rum. Set aside to macerate.

Put the rice, milk, cream, remaining sugar, and butter in a saucepot. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Remove pudding from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Eat warm, at room temperature, or chilled, topped with the macerated papaya and a sprinkle of the grated coconut.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

Posted on Minxeats.com.