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Saturday, November 2, 2019

Rituals for the Holidays: Creating a Dao Spa Bath Experience!

Ritual of Dao
I was recently and very happily selected by Tryazon to try a selection of bath and shower products from Rituals: The Rituals for The Holidays "Ritual of Dao" line, and it has been a delightful experience! Earlier this fall I got to try several of the Ritual of Sakura (Japanese Cherry Blossom) scented products, and I loved them, as the scent is divine, and using them brings back wonderful memories of seeing the cherry blossoms in Japan, so I was Very happy to get to try several of the Dao products, which are scented with the light and subtle fragrance of White Lotus, and contain Yi Yi Ren, an herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for skin nourishing and healing, among other things. Rituals products are truly unique, and every Rituals Collection is based on a different philosophy; the Ritual of Dao collection is based on the Chinese philosophy of creating a balance between Yin and Yang, and a "harmonic flow" that relaxes, calms, and reduces stress. I have used Traditional Chinese Medicine for many years for my health, and found it to be truly excellent and reliable- it has 3,500 years of history behind it!- and Dan and I spent an amazing month traveling through China last year, and so this concept intrigued me, and as I could Really use some tranquility in my life right now, the idea of slowing down with a warm, scented bath was VERY appealing! I find fragrance very powerful, and I love to use perfumes, bath oils, home fragrance, candles, and other scented products to remind me of happy experiences! I have to say that the Ritual of Dao bath products do let me enjoy some wonderful and romantic memories of our time in China!
A village on the Yangtze River...

Rituals of Dao

The Dao Gift Box that arrived was lovely, elegant, and "upscale", and it would obviously make a delightful holiday present for just about anyone!  
The four Dao products included in my box that I tried were the Shower Oil,  Foaming Shower Gel, Moisturizing Shampoo, and Body Cream, and together they really do make for a lovely, relaxing "spa" bath experience! 
The Dao fragrance is very light and delicate, and is thus a great gift-giving option; I think that anyone who was gifted with these products would be extremely pleased- I know I was! 

The Ritual of Dao Be Kind To Your Skin Body Cream has the lovely, light, and calming White Lotus fragrance, and I love the richness of the cream. The Rituals Body Creams don't irritate my skin or make me itch like many other creams do, and as I like to “layer” scented products, so the fragrance lasts as long as possible, I use this as a hand cream throughout the day (I keep it in my office), as well as using it as a body cream after bathing.
Since I like to layer scented products, I really enjoyed using the Ritual of Dao Moisturizing Shampoo. The scent is gentle and subtle, and I was Very happy that it's safe for color-treated hair, and free of parabens, sulfates, and silicone. It's enriched with Argan Oil, as well, and makes a creamy lather. As I didn't get the conditioner (yet!), I use a leave-in conditioner after I shampoo, as my hair needs the added moisture...
I LOVE the Ritual of Dao Shower Oil! I had never tried a Ritual Shower Oil before, and I really love this. I have always enjoyed using scented bath oils, and this is a great product to create a true “spa” bath or shower experience! The oil is creamy and moisturizing and leaves my skin silky (not greasy), and the Dao fragrance is delicate and relaxing. I like to “layer” all the Dao products, so I use this and the Shampoo, and then the Body Lotion after bathing. 
The Ritual of Dao Foaming Shower Gel is my favorite Rituals product! Rituals' foaming cream shower gels have become my favorite bath and shower gels, as they are so luscious and creamy and moisturizing! They are really the best shower/bath gels I've ever used. The Dao White Lotus fragrance is light and calming, and this cream gel is the "star" of my Dao Bath Ritual!
As I mentioned, my husband and I were lucky enough to spend some time in China last year, and using these Ritual of Dao bath products creates a lovely "me time" experience that brings back some wonderful memories, especially of a romantic cruise we took on the Yangtze River, and the small villages we visited!
Do you use scented products to bring back memories? 
Let me know in the comments!
On the Yangtze River...

A village on Yangtze River in China

On the Yangtze River in China...

Tongli, a Chinese "Water Town"

Dan and I in Tongli on the water... 

On the Yangtze River...

With the LeShan Buddha...
On the Yangtze River...

Monday, October 21, 2019

Recipe: Fun #Halloween Floating Cocktails!

"Black Magic" Cocktails
 In honor of some Very Special Guests at the Elkhorn Inn & Theatre I wanted to make some fun Halloween Cocktails, and "Googling" I found dozens of them (see links below)... and all the Really Cool ones seemed to use Blavod Black Vodka... which I have been trying to find here for years... Blavod is made in the UK, and gets it's cool black color from being infused with the South East Asian herb Black Catechu, extracted from the bark of the Acacia Tree. No one I know has Ever been able to find it in the USA, and putting food coloring in clear vodka did NOT work... so this year I decided to go all OCD about it, and I finally found a few liquor stores in the USA that have it online, but only ONE would deliver to West Virginia! And that one is M & D Fine Wines and Spirits:
Although Blavod is a relatively inexpensive vodka, at $22.99 a bottle, the shipping literally doubled the price! But I said wotthehell and ordered it anyway, had it in two days, and so was able to make some VERY cool Halloween cocktails for us and our guests, the first one being the "Black Magic", floating the Blavod Black Vodka over a mix of OJ and Triple Sec. I wet the rim of the glasses with orange juice and then dipped them in orange sugar (sugar with red and yellow food coloring), and topped it with an orange slice, and they came out so good first time around and were such a hit, that I decided to make a little "tutorial" here to prove that you CAN do this, too! Once you learn the trick of "layering" alcohol over a spoon, the Mixology World will be your oyster!
When I was a kid, I remember my family making layered cocktails with different liqueurs in tiny glasses at a family reunion; they were called "Pousse Cafes", and were so pretty to look at, as well as fun to make! The "trick" is knowing the "specific gravity" of different alcohols (i.e. which ones are heavier, and which ones are lighter), so you will know what to put in first and what to layer on top, so it will float! (If you put the heavy liqueur on top it will sink right into the lighter one...)  In the 1990s when the "B52" shot arrived in bars, that was the first time I'd seen a "layered cocktail" since the family reunion Pousse Cafes of my childhood! Now there are Dozens of layered cocktails out there, and just having a spoon and knowing heavy from light booze will enable you to create your own Mixology Masterpieces! Here are some cool websites for Mixology Inspo: 
"Black Magic" Cocktail
Blavod Black Vodka
Orange Juice (NOTE: Thick orange juice with pulp works better than thin "regular", thin OJ)
Triple Sec (clear orange liqueur)
1 Orange, sliced, for garnish
Red and Yellow Food Coloring (NOTE: you can make Black Sugar using red, green, and blue food coloring...)
Tools: a spoon; a small plate for the sugar; small jar to make the colored sugar; a small pitcher with a pouring lip (optional)

1. Slice the orange and cut the slices in half, as shown, for the garnish. Set aside.
2. Put the sugar in a small jar. Add a couple of drops of red and yellow food coloring, close the jar, and shake vigorously until the sugar is evenly colored. Add more drops of food coloring until you get the color you like. Put the sugar on a small plate.
3. Mix the OJ with Triple Sec in a pitcher. No measurements, as you do this to taste...
4. Dip the rim of each glass in orange juice and then in the colored sugar.
5. Pour the OJ/Triple Sec mixture into each glass.
6. You can pour the Black Vodka directly from the bottle, but it may be easier to pour it into a small pitcher with a pouring lip...
7. SLOWLY pour the vodka, over the back of a spoon, into the glass, so it floats on top of the OJ. See photo.
8. Slice the orange slice half-way so it will hang on the rim of the glass, and perch it on the rim as shown.
9. Serve!
Pouring the vodka over a spoon so it floats on the OJ

"Black Magic" Cocktails!
"Elkhorn Inn Wild Berry Magic" Cocktail
The next night, now back in full Bartender Mode (yes, I was one, a couple of times, in Israel, many moons ago- but in "Dive Bars" where we did Not make "layered cocktails" LOL), I decided to make another fun Halloween Cocktail, this one my of own creation: I call it the "Elkhorn Inn Wild Berry Magic"! I mixed Cranberry Juice Cocktail with the Wild Blackberry Puree that we had made from the wild blackberries we picked in the summer and froze. You could use any fruit juice or puree that strikes your fancy! The only trick is to have a juice that is heavier than the vodka, so the vodka will float on it.
1. Wet the rims of the glasses and dip them in red sugar, made the same way as above, only with red food coloring.
2. Mix Cranberry Juice Cocktail with Blackberry Puree (or other fruit juice or puree).
3. Pour the juice into each of the sugar-rimmed glasses.
3. Slowly and carefully float the Blavod Black Vodka on the juice in each glass, using the "over the spoon" technique described above.
4. Top each one with a Maraschino Cherry on a toothpick!

THEN- now in TRULY "Full Bartender Mode"- I created a cocktail in honor of our Italian guest, Mike: the "Elkhorn Inn Italian Magic": Blavod Black Vodka floating on Italian Pistachio Liqueur, with a black sugar rim!
The "Elkhorn Inn Italian Magic Cocktail"!

Have you made any cool "floating" cocktails? Let me know in the comments! 
Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Recipe: EASY #Halloween "Mummy" Jalapeno Poppers!

Jalapeno Popper Mummies!
I now have a series of posts I am calling "Recipes That Work!" because when I find one that does, with minimal adjustments, I get ALL excited! Others in this series are my posts on making Apple Roses, Zucchini Roses, Tamales, Vietnam Summer Rolls, and Tamarind Paste
The other night, for Very Special Guests at the Elkhorn Inn & Theatre I made Halloween "Mummy" Poppers for the first time, and they turned out great, and were a BIG hit! I also made some fun Halloween Cocktails, and my next post will be about them. 
But first: Mummies!
The recipe I started off with was this:
I read it 14 times, LOL, and it looked like something that even I could do without it becoming a #PinterestFail disaster, so I got Chef Dan to get me the ingredients- but I changed a few things, as I am wont to do...

10 Jalapeno peppers
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (or the melting cheese of your choice)
1 roll of Pepperidge Farm Crescent Roll dough
A bit of flour or Bisquick, for rolling out the dough
1 egg
Eyes: You can use candy eyes, or cream cheese and olive bits, or plastic eyes (that is what I used)
Tools: Rolling pin; sharp, flat knife or pizza cutter; brush for the egg wash; bowls; baking sheet

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Shred the Mozzarella in a bowl (or use pre-shredded Mozzarella), and mix with chopped chives. You can add salt and anything else you like to the filling at this point. The cheese needs to be soft so you can stuff the jalapenos. (The original recipe called for cream cheese, but we prefer Mozzarella...)

3. Slice the jalapeno peppers in half lengthwise. Leave the stems on some, as it's cute!
Halved jalapenos
Crescent Dough cut into strips

4. Flour your rolling surface and rolling pin lightly, and roll out the crescent roll dough. Push the dough together to close up the perforations.  Make rectangles from the dough. You will get 4 rectangles from one roll of dough.

5. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp flat knife (pictured), slice the dough into thin strips. You will get about 10 strips from each rectangle.

Cheese-stuffed jalapenos
6. Fill each Jalapeno half with the cheese mixture, as shown. (The softer the cheese, the easier it is to do this).

7. Wrap each jalapeno with the dough strips like a "mummy", leaving a place to put the "eyes", as shown. You may have to piece together dough strips- it's easy!
Mummy-wrapped jalapenos

Brush with beaten egg...
8. Beat the egg in a small bowl. 

9. Brush the "mummies" with the the beaten egg wash, and place them on a baking sheet.

10. Bake in the oven at 400F for about 10 minutes until they are golden brown.

11. Add the eyes, and serve immediately! (Remove the plastic eyes before eating. Duh!)
Jalapeno Popper Mummies!
They were delicious- and VERY filling- and a BIG hit, and we will definitely be making them again and again! 
Let me know in the comments if you've made them, and any special things you added, or if you changed anything!
Jalapeno Popper Mummies!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

EASY delicious TAMALES - a recipe that works!

When Dan and I were on a cruise that spent a day in Cozumel, we took a wonderful cooking class, with a market visit, at Josefina's Cocina Con Alma After we returned to West Virginia (and added several of the dishes we learned to make to the Elkhorn Inn Dinner Menu), I bought a packet of Corn Husks with the intention of making tamales... and stored them in the pantry and forgot all about them! I found them the other day, and decided Now was the time to teach myself to make tamales! (NOTE: tamales take a LONG time to make- at least a day. Much more fun if you have a "tamale rolling party" like we did in Israel when we made Kubeh...) After lots of "Googling" for recipes and ideas, I used what turned out to be a GREAT recipe by Alton Brown: 
I used his recipe for the dough and cooking instructions (I made a 1/2 recipe), but my filling was made with chicken stewed with fire-roasted New Mexico Green Hatch Chilies and spices... HIS RECIPE HAS 5 STARS AND IT REALLY WORKS! 
The dried corn husks
The first step is putting your corn husks in a pot or bowl of hot to soak- for about 2 hours. They need to be really soft and pliable so you can roll and fold them.
Soaking corn husks...
The next step is to put the cornmeal, salt, and baking powder in a mixing bowl...
Corn meal, baking powder, salt
Add lard and knead it into a dough...
Then you add the lard, and mix it until it becomes a dough with the consistency of "thick mashed potatoes". Then you can cover the bowl with a damp cloth until you are ready to roll tamales...

the Chicken-Hatch Chili filling
I made the tamale filling by sauteing a chopped leek and garlic in olive oil, and then adding Fire-Roasted Green Hatch Chilies, several not-spicy  red    Peppers, Kosher salt, fresh, cracked black pepper, and cumin, and then 2 chicken breasts, and cooking it down, slowly, into deliciousness! I shredded the chicken, and made sure everything was cut up in tiny pieces for the stuffing.   
Then the fun started: rolling tamales!
Take one of the water-softened corn husks and blot it with a paper towel. Spoon the corn meal dough on the side of the corn husk as shown in the photo. I tried to make it as thin as possible. Put about a tablespoon of filling in a line down the center of the dough. Roll one side in, so the dough encases the filling. 
Dough on the corn husk
Filling on the dough....
Roll one side in...

Fold up the bottom of the corn husk...

Then roll it up snugly.

Tie the top with corn husk or kitchen twine
Then fold up the bottom of the corn husk, and roll the tamale up snugly. Then tie it at the top with a strip of corn husk or Kitchen Twine.
Tamales in the pot...

I was So pleased with my tamales!
My pot of tamales, ready to steam!
As I didn't have enough tamales to fill the pot, I added 3 glass Mason Jars so the tamales would stand snugly & stay upright. I filled the Mason Jars with water so they wouldn't float, and then poured the chicken stock (from cooking the chicken) down in the pan until it was about 1" from the top  of the tamales.
Then I covered the pot, put it on high heat, and brought to to a boil- about 12 minutes. Then I turned it down to low, partially uncovered the pot, and let it simmer for 1.5 hours.
When we unrolled and tested the first tamale it was perfect! The corn husk pulled away from the cornmeal neatly, and the tortilla was perfect- firm, tender, hot, and delicious!

It's so great to find a recipe that Really works- Thank you Alton Brown!

Have you made tamales? Do you add spices to the corn meal? What fillings do you use? Let me know in the comments and we can share recipes!

Making Tamarind Paste...

Tamarind Pods...
Make Tamarind Paste!
First, let me state that I love, love, love tamarind! Its unique, tangy, sour-but-with-a tinge-of-sweetness taste is inimitable, and whenever I find anything with tamarind sauce or tamarind glaze- or tamarind anything- I order it! It's Asian, it's Israeli, it's Caribbean, it's Mexican... everyone loves tamarind! My claim to fame, as it were, is having “invented” the Tamarind Colada in Puerto Rico on my day off during a disaster response operation (Recipe: Tamarind Nectar, Coco Lopez, and Rum, in whatever proportions you think wise...), and everyone laughed- until they tasted it. If, like me, you aren't fond of sweet drinks, such as Pina Coladas, a Tamarind Colada may be Just what you're looking for! In Israel, a stand in the Machneh Yehuda Shuk (Market) in Jerusalem sells glasses of Tamarind Drink that I dream about... In Vietnam I had Tamarind Crabs in a sea-side restaurant with my husband, and they were so delicious that I licked the shells clean of sauce, throwing decorum to the wind! And the sour-spicy-sweet Tamarind Candy we bought in the market in Saigon while on the Pho Trailbreakfast foodie tour with Saigon Street Eats(tamarind paste balls mixed with Vietnamese hot pepper & dipped in sugar) was so amazing that I when we got back to the USA I Googled for recipes and managed to make a facsimile of it (see below). (I have found versions of Tamarind Candy in Asian Groceries, and on, but while they're all Good, none of them measure up to the Amazeball candy in the Saigon Market...) And I just found several mouthwatering Brisket with Tamarind Sauce recipes online (see below) that I want to make for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) this year, and Tamarind-Coconut Curry, and one for a Tamarind Margarita...
Basically, tamarind is one of my Five Basic Food Groups, along with Hot Peppers, Sushi, Pesto, and Chinese Dumplings. LOL
I have always bought Asian Tamarind Paste in a jar, or Mexican Tamarind Nectar in a can... but when I saw a little bag of Tamarind Pods in a Mexican Grocery in South Carolina (during another disaster response operation), I had to buy them, to make my very own tamarind paste! And as Rosh Hashanah starts tomorrow, and I want to make brisket or chicken with a tamarind sauce (not to mention a Margarita...), I pulled out my little bag of tamarind pods and set to work!
Making a nice, smooth tamarind paste turned out to be quite easy, but rather laborious, and I'm honestly not sure it's worth the effort... It's certainly easier to just buy a jar of the tamarind paste and call it a day... LOL
The only really positive things I can say for making your own tamarind paste is that you get to plant the seeds and try to grow little tamarind trees, and you get to lick your fingers. LOL
The first thing I did was Google “making tamarind paste from pods” and came up with a number of helpful sites:

8 ounces tamarind flesh, about half of a 16-ounce package
2 1/2 cups boiling water
Place the chunk of tamarind into a large bowl, then pour boiling water over it and let it sit until the water is cool enough to handle. Massage and squeeze the tamarind in the water with both hands so the water and hands rub the tamarind to make a thick concentrate; the pulp and liquid should resemble a thick soup. Strain liquid though a large sieve into a medium pot. Squeeze the tamarind to get out all of the liquid, then discard the solid. Bring the strained liquid to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Store and keep in refrigerator for two weeks, or in the freezer for 6 months.
So to make the tamarind paste I first de-shelled the pods, and removed the big strings from the pulp. 
Tamarind Pods
Then I popped out as many seeds as I could, noting that tamarind is mostly seeds, surrounded by a little pulp... I then soaked the pulp pieces in a bowl of warm water for half an hour. And then I kneaded. And kneaded. And kneaded. I finally manged to work out all the seeds, and then kneaded the pulp into a paste and pushed it through a strainer several times.
And there you have it: my little bowl of Tamarind Paste!
Tamarind Paste!

Lots of Tamarind Seeds...

A total fool for tamarind, I added water to the leftover pulp, heated it in the microwave, mashed and strained it again, and made myself a tamarind drink... and then I licked my fingers and the strainer- it is delicious stuff! LOL

Tamarind Recipes:

Tamarind Syrup Drink, from Pranee's Thai Kitchen:
Nam Chuem Makham น้ำเชื่อมมะขาม 
Yield: 3/4 cup
1/2 cup tamarind concentrate, freshly made or from the can
1/4 cup brown sugar or honey
Combine tamarind concentrate, brown sugar and water in a pot and bring to a boil on high heat. Stir and let it cook for 2 minutes. Strain into a clean jar, when it is cool then store in the fridge for a week or keep in the freezer for 3 months.

Prepare tamarind “sauce”: Take 1 tbsp tamarind paste (available at Asian and Mexican groceries) add about ¼ cup of water. Warm and stir until everything is well mixed. Prepare two glasses with a chili-powder/salt rim. (Adjust chili-ness to your own liking)
To your shaker add:
  • 3 oz tequila
  • 1 tbsp tamarind sauce (adjust to taste)
  • ½ oz simple syrup
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • ½ oz citronage (or triple sec)
  • 1 oz orange juice  (we used blood oranges because we had them)
  • Add ice, shake vigorously and strain into already-prepped glasses.

Brisket with Chile & Tamarind, from Bailey Farms:

Coconut Tamarind Chicken Curry, from BBC Good Food:

Vietnamese Tamarind Dipping Sauce, from The Spruce Eats

Tamarind Candy- recipe from Rachel Cooks Thai: 

What are your favorite tamarind recipes? Let me know in the comments so I can add them to my Great Big File Of Tamarind Recipes!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

EASY Authentic Vietnamese Summer Rolls- Delish!

Vietnam Summer Rolls!
After Dan and I returned to West Virginia from our last trip to Vietnam in 2015, having taking a number of cooking classes and "foodie" tours all across the country, I sourced seeds for Vietnamese herbs online, and began growing them in our garden at the Elkhorn Inn! The herbs and greens we had in Vietnam were truly delicious and unique, and as we don't live anywhere near an Asian Market, growing them ourselves was the only way Chef Dan would be able to make truly authentic Vietnamese dishes- such as his Claypot Ginger Chicken, and Pho- for our Elkhorn Inn dinner guests! And then I began making things like Bo La Lot (Grilled Betel Leaf-Wrapped Meat) and  Summer Rolls! And Summer Rolls are actually easy and fun to make!
An assortment of Vietnamese herbs from our garden...
Some of the herbs we grow are Vietnamese Red & Green Perilla, Chrysanthemum Greens, Tatsoi Mustard, Vietnamese Mint, Garlic Chives, and Coriander, Basil and Holy Basil, Lemon Grass, La Lot, Fish Mint... and the unique tastes and textures of these herbs truly contributes to the deliciousness of Vietnamese dishes! "Table Salad"- an assortment of herbs and greens- is a staple of the Vietnamese table, and without at least some truly authentic Vietnamese greens, a Vietnamese meal just isn't right! If you are lucky enough to live near an "H Mart"- the chain of huge and fabulous Korean groceries that has EVERYTHING- (there is an excellent one in Fairfax, Virginia), you can get all the fresh herbs and veggies in the Asian universe! But we live 6 hours from the nearest H Mart, so if we don't grow them, we can't have them!
Vietnamese Summer Rolls & Dipping Sauce!
The first step to making Summer Rolls is to set out all your ingredients, and get everything set up so you can roll them quickly. You will need a pack of "Spring Roll Wrappers", which are rice paper circles that you soak for 10 seconds before rolling them- and believe it or not, most Walmarts have them! This time I made Summer Rolls with cooked (frozen) shrimp, Vietnamese Bun Rice Vermicelli Noodles (cooked in water in the microwave for one minute), Vietnamese and other herbs and greens (Vietnam cilantro/coriander, Asian Basil, and Vietnam Mint are pretty much musts), and Asian veggies, including water chestnuts (canned), and Chinese Cloud Ear Mushrooms and Lilly buds, which were dried, and which I cooked in the microwave in water for a minute and then cut in small pieces. The herbs and greens (Vietnamese mint, cilantro, basil, and garlic chives, Red Perilla, lettuce, etc.) I tore into small pieces.
You can also add Bean Sprouts, hot Vietnamese peppers, cucumber, scallions, and other herbs and greens...
The next step is to set out a large bowl of warm water. Dip one Rice Paper Wrapper in the warm water for about 10 seconds. Lay it on a plate. Put the shrimp (small shrimp are best- these were large, so I cut them in pieces) and water chestnuts in the center, about 1/3 down, as shown in the photo.                                                 
The ingredients for Vietnamese Summer Rolls
The first step...

Top the shrimp with the herbs and greens, and then with the Bun Noodles, and then with more herbs and greens.
Add herbs...
Add the Bun Noodles and more herbs...

More herbs and veggies...
Top with lettuce...

 Fold the bottom of the wrapper up over the filling, and then fold the sides in. Then roll it up, quick and tight...
Fold up the bottom of the wrapper
Fold in both sides, and then roll it up tight

And Voilà! You have made a Vietnamese Summer Rolll!
Soak the next wrapper and do it all again, and keep doing it until you have run out fillings, and/or wrappers!
They are delicious served with a lemon-y Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce, and while you can make your own from scratch (there are lots of Vietnamese recipes online), Saucey Sauce makes a truly authentic and delicious one:

Have you made Summer Rolls? Any other Vietnamese dishes? Do you grow your own veggies and herbs? Tell me in the comments and we can share recipes!