Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hey There, Sweet Thing

The apartment next door is undergoing some serious remodeling, and you know what that means:

1. Noise, noise, and more noise

Not the best morning ever. I shot this quick video and then skedaddled to the coffee shop down the road!

2. Paint fumes and other unpleasant smells that waft in through windows thrown open to catch the warm California spring air.

To combat the first, I turn to music and earplugs. To exorcise foul odors, I turn to… the kitchen!

First, chai tea. The days may be warming up nicely, but it's still blanket weather in the evening. Thankfully, chai works seamlessly in both situations. Make a giant pot, pour it into glass jars, pop it in the fridge, and drink it chilled or warm it back up. You can't go wrong.

Chai spices, all neatly arranged

Mmm... spicy, smooth, versatile

What goes well with tea? Baked goods! How about lavender scones? I know, I know, they sounded weird to me too, but I can't stop eating these. (Recipe at the end.)

I like 'em warm with butter and jam, but there's no reason you couldn't enjoy them with…

…some homemade nutella! You ever get that feeling that the world is just getting more and more complicated every damn day? I get that all the time. Take, for instance, the morning a few weeks back: I was casually sitting at the table, perfectly innocent, just having some toast, when I started reading the ingredients on a jar of Nutella. Ingredient number one: sugar (perfect start to a healthy breakfast, obviously). Number two: palm oil. Because every needs to start their day with a side of rainforest destruction and dead orangutans.

Throw some hazelnuts, cocoa powder, maple syrup, and vanilla in the food processor, though, and you've got a relatively guilt-free, vegan, and considerably healthier alternative. Here's the recipe, courtesy of Steph Chows.

If all that isn't enough to make your home smell like a little corner of paradise, it's time to pull out all the stops. LEMONS. Lots of them. Fresh from the farmers' market. Sure, you could disembowel them (erm, I mean, juice them) and make lemonade, but c'mon. We're grownups here. Why not make something with a little more pizzazz? Limoncello should fit the bill quite nicely.

Lemon stripes

A few notes on that recipe: first, you should use organic lemons. That should be a no-brainer, since you're using the peel. I'm also only making a half-recipe; I'll assume you can do the math there yourself.

The fruits of my labor. (Ouch, ouch, pun...)
Unfortunately, limoncello takes some patience. Once you zest the lemons and combine zest+vodka, the mixture's gotta stew for a good week or two at least. I'm assuming this recipe is solid, but we'll have to wait until next month to know for sure. 

All the recipes in one place: Chai   ~   Nutella   ~   Limoncello

Lavender Scones
Adapted slightly from The Cookie Book by Catherine Atkinson, Joanna Farrow, and Valerie Barrett

1.   Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
2.   Sift together 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 Tbsp baking powder.
3.   Use a pastry blender to cut in 1/4 cup (half a stick) of butter.
4.   Stir in 3 Tbsp sugar and 1.5 tsp lavender blossoms.
5.   Pour in no more than 3/4 cup milk (cow, soy, almond, whichever).
6.   On a very, very well-floured counter or cutting board, use your flour-coated hands to pat the dough about 1/2" thick. Flip the dough over every few pats and add flour as needed to keep it from sticking.
7.   Use a round cookie cutter to stamp out some scones, and plop 'em on a greased baking sheet. Yield will vary depending on the size of your cutter; I got 8 scones out of mine.
8.   Brush the tops with milk (use your fingers if you don't have a brush. It's okay, really) and sprinkle each scone with a pinch of lavender.
9.   Bake for 10-12 minutes, until they're golden brown or you just can't wait anymore.

(Alternatively, you can make this in a food processor. Pulse the flour and baking powder briefly to mix, add the cut-up butter and pulse 4-5 times, mix in the sugar and lavender, then slowly pour in the milk with the motor running.)

P.S. Allow me to have a proud mama moment: Look! My seeds are sprouting! Look at the wee little cilantro sprouts!

Gotta love those cotyledons

Even my parsley celebrated the solstice yesterday and started perking up! Aw, look, it's still wearing its little seed party hat…

Parsley periscope


  1. You updated! I love all of these recipes, and I especially love how you write about food. I definitely will be trying out your delicious lavender scones. How has living in California vs Arizona affected your cooking (if any)? Are there foods you enjoy more in AZ than CA? Personally, I liked the strawberries better in AZ because they came from Mexico, and I'm more apt to eating avocados in CA than AZ.

    1. Thanks! The scones are all gone now... time to make a new batch. I definitely notice a difference here with baking: since there's actually humidity, I can leave a batch of cookies of scones of a loaf of bread on the counter to fully cool and they don't get rock hard! It's great! For foods I enjoy more... hmm, I don't know. The farmers' market here is infinitely better than the dinky one in Tempe, and I've found some great fresh spring greens there.

  2. So glad you made some nutella! I love that stuff! Those lemons are making me crave baking something lemony :)