Holiday Cookie Guide

When the holidays come around, I want to give everyone I know something special, but can never think of something to get them. As a young lady, not so fresh out of college, trying to make it on my own, I find it is hard to stay on a budget and get all of my loved ones something they will enjoy. That is, until I realized that all I needed was some sugar!

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Holiday treats are the easiest thing to prepare! It is a fun way for me to get creative and festive, while also stretching my ever thinning dollar. For those of you that aren’t culinary savvy, there are boxed mixes by the hundreds all neatly arranged in a single isle at your local grocer. I find, most of the boxed mixes are even more affordable then making things from scratch.

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I truly love to bake though, so I decided do it the old fashioned way. By doing that I also ensure that the goods I’m making are more wholesome, organic, and don’t have any funny chemicals in them that we all can do without.

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I also love that you can cater to peoples dietary needs so easily these days. I find EVERY party I go to there is nothing for me to eat. It can be really draining because I always stick out like a sore thumb and have to explain why my plate has nothing on it but some dried out crudite thirty times. By bringing holiday treats that are low-key gluten free or vegan (or both!) you are not only helping yourself out, but are helping out those who are on special diets, but hate being the odd man out. I mean, when your dairy-free cookies are devoured, but the butter creme frosted yule log remains, you know your doing something right! You’re also helping others by bringing healthier choices. Talk about giving in the spirit of Christmas 😉

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Without further delay, my holiday favorites! These are truly great recipes. You can also make a lot of these interchangeably with or without gluten and dairy, as I have listed.

HOLIDAY TREAT GUIDE:

  1. Shortbread Cookies. HERE they are gluten free; HERE they are not.
  2. Truffles. A no brainer. Swap out dairy with coconut mylk.
  3. Gingerbread. HERE is gluten free cake; HERE is gluten filled.
  4. Brittle. This version is nut-free.
  5. Ina Gartens Brownies. They are a little more laborious, but amazing. Easily made Gluten Free (because there is so little flour).
  6. Brown Butter Cookies. Swap 1/2 cup of salted caramel into the batter for the white sugar, you won’t regret it.
  7. Dorie & Pierre’s Cookies. Dorie Greenspan is a cookie specialist. She once gave me her book, Baking Chez Moiafter giving her family a quick lesson on how to froth milk. She is a very down-to-earth Connecticutian and her peace cookies are the perfect family recipe.
  8. Madeleines. I have yet to met someone that doesn’t like them.
  9. Salted Caramel Tartlets. Make small ones so people won’t feel guilty diving in.
  10. For those Holiday Birthdays, ANY of Linda Lomelinos Cakes will be both instagram worthy, as well as taste worthy. Fair warning, they are intricate so be prepared to spend a lot of time on them.

 

 

Hope this helps!

Happy Holidays,

Jocelynn 🎄

Summer Garden Casserole

Hey guys, I posted a new recipe on Food 52! Food 52 is an amazing recipe sharing community that I am in love with. If you are looking for something healthy to cook tonight, head over to Food 52 for … Continue reading

Garden Salad

Now that summer is in full swing, it hasn’t been easier to be inspired. Our garden is flourishing and the raspberries are out; as a culinarian I am literally in nirvana!

To make this simple salad, I added the ingredients listed below. If you don’t have a garden, try your local farmers market! This is peak season for New England growers and it is good to support them.

Garden Salad:

Speckle & Green Lettuce (the smaller leaves are more tender and mild)

Fresh Coriander (seeds, flowers, & fronds)

Thai Basil (flowers & leaves)

Traditional Mint

Wine Raspberries

Cucumber (thinly sliced)

Dressing:

1 tsp Raw Honey

1.5 tsp Dijon Mustard

Basil Leaves (about a handful)

3 Tbs Apple Vinegar

1/3 c Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

-Blend dressing ingredients until pureed. Rinse & dry all vegetables and plate neatly. Top with dressing. Garnish with basil & cilantro flowers.

Date Night Dinner

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Gluten Free Spring

So these past few weeks I have really been trying my best to have enough time to cook dinner (or at least eat it). It is a challenge to get home at a decent hour to do so! On my days off, though, I love to make it. It’s considerably my playtime. This past friday I stopped in at Whole Foods and remembered why I oh so adore spring! So many beautiful vegetables! This pasta dish is entirely gluten-free, dairy free, and can easily be vegan without the egg. I used local eggs, all organic vegetables & aromatics, and homegrown herbs.

ImageSpring Pasta Dish: (4-6p)

1 lb. Gluten Free Pasta

1 bu. Asparagus

4-6 Eggs (1 per)

1 Myer Lemon

1/2 bulb fennel (and fennel fronds to garnish)

4 clv Garlic

1 tsp chili-garlic sauce

1/4 c vegetable broth

6 sprigs Thyme

8 leaves Basil

3 Tbs Olive Oil

2 Tbs Vegan Butter

Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper

Mise en Place:

First, get two pots of hot water going for the pasta and the eggs; fill a smaller pot 2/3 of the way and a large pot completely. Wash the fennel and asparagus then slice into 1/4″ pieces.  Zest the lemon and cut in half. Mince the garlic, thyme, and half the basil. When the water (for the eggs) comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and add 2 tablespoons of vinegar. Gently crack the egg into the water once it has dropped in temperature. With a wooden spoon, hold the egg white over the egg yolk gently for about a minute; this is so when the egg has finished cooking it will be more rounded and less flat. Once the white of the egg is 95% cooked, remove it and place on a paper towel. Keep the water heated at a lower temperature to re-heat the egg.

Cook the pasta according to the box instructions. In a pan, combine the garlic, herbs, vegan butter, olive oil and allow to heat, once the garlic starts to perfume, add the Asparagus. Once it starts to become tender, add the Fennel, vegetable broth, and chili. Turn down the heat and add the cooked pasta. Toss the pasta, season with S&P, then allow to cook in the pan slightly (to meld all the ingredients together). Add the lemon zest and a little juice at the last-minute, give it a toss, and plate into a warmed pasta dish. Put the egg on a spoon and re-warm it for 30 seconds in the hot water. Place on top of the pasta. Garnish with the fennel fronds and some of the zest. A little salt atop will finish the dish.

 

Bon Appetite!

Morning Reverie & Routine

Recently, I stumbled upon a Vogue series about how the posh & the beautiful start their days and I realized how important mine is to me & my health. That got me thinking how it might benefit you all to … Continue reading

Caffeine is the fix.

Life has moved so fast for me this winter, it’s hard to believe it is the 2nd anniversary of my blog! I’m so happy with life these days and looking back at all my experiences that I’ve gone through in the culinary world, I am appreciative of these past few years.

To give you a rapid update I went from Arete pop-up restaurant, to Napa, then private cooking, to learning the art of lattes. In one fell swoop, all those things happened.

Fast forward to these past few months, I have been helping open a new cafe in Connecticut as the Manager & Event Coordinator. I have been reeling on the positive energy of the last six months that I got a little too caught up in real life! Though I still cook for personal reasons and I still privately cook from time to time, I have put all of my energy into this new progressive project.

ImageIf you know me, you know how passionate I have been about coffee ever since I went to cuppings at Counter Culture in the District (WDC). I loved getting to know the wonderful guys there and learning about the chemical complexities of coffee. At the restaurant I helped open in the District, we used siphons and amazing single-origin coffees that Counter Culture roasted in small batches every week. Soon, coffee crawls became a daily excuse for me to get out and about. I started spending more time in the local coffee houses, then anywhere else. I became so enamored with how interesting the business was and started to research more.

ImageAfter my time there, I traveled back north to get my BA at the Culinary Institute of America. In that year and a half, I took any and every opportunity to read & write about coffee; it became my new favourite passion. The history behind it, how it brought people together, and the way it enlightened the masses. There are so many factors to it that I knew nothing about as a child. In my mind it was only something that smelled amazing when you pressed the brew button on the coffee pot. As a teen, it was what got me awake at 5:30 every morning. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I truly realized how complex it was. Now, I live for it. Even as I write, I am drinking our Ashlawn Nicaraguan Dark Roast (currently my favourite coffee that we offer).

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As the summer and fall came, I was given the amazing opportunity to learn coffee from a success in the industry, Carol Adams Dahlke. She is a powerful force in the world of coffee. Her small roastery in Lyme produces coffee for more then 45 accounts, including the shop that she appointed me the Manager of this November. As I have been working under her, I have learned an abundance of what goes behind every bag and cup of coffee and it all is absolutely amazing. The amount of detail that goes behind creating the perfect latte and proper roast is incredible and I am still learning more and more everyday.

ImageI can honestly say that I have never been more excited or engaged in any line of work of mine. I hope that my contributions to this project make it a success; that is my priority & goal of 2014. Stay tuned for more updates! I will be posting more about coffee & food. Especially about marrying the two. I will also be progressing my wordpress forward as the year goes on to a different reflection of my life. I hope you all have a wonderful beginning to the year & live bright.

With love & fire,

                   Jocelynn Neri

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*Final photo by Jules Lesinski Photography 2013.

The Culinary takes on California

Recently, The Culinary Institute of America has developed a very modern semester away program for students at the Hyde Park campus in New York. This program allows Bachelor students to connect with their food and learn from well-known chefs, like Larry Forgione, on how food systems work. After an interview with Chef Forgione this past winter I had California on my mind. I decided to make the trip out to the Greystone campus in Napa to see just what this program entailed.

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After a rigorous interview process, these students were accepted into the semester away program in either Farm-to-Table studies or Advanced Wine, Beverage, & Hospitality Management. Upon arrival in May, the students immediately began a demanding schedule. Every week, the students volunteer up to nine hours of their time on the CIA farm and are required to attend BPS classes, like Business Planning and Wine Studies of Napa Valley. Wednesdays, they have Advance Cooking class, where they spend six hours preparing dishes that go with a specific theme arranged by Chef Forgione. Fridays and Saturdays are a different story, however. The students have to prep and manage a restaurant, named The Conservatory, that they helped open this past May. They collaborate with Mr. Bath, Crystal, and Chef Forgione to create a nine course menu with wine pairings, a wine list, and three specialty cocktails.

This venture is not for the faint of heart, but for determined and motivated individuals, such as Brooke Maynard (pictured above). Brooke is a leader in the CIA community, was the captain of the ACF team this year, is a competitor in culinary contests worldwide, and a philanthropist in many organizations. Students who take on leadership roles and who immerse themselves in the CIA culture, like Brooke, are the kind of students that have become a part of the program. After staging, observing, and finally eating in their restaurant on separate occasions, this has been my conclusive realization. Student leaders like Zach Hoffman, and avid writers for CIA, like Yosef Sahler, take on this program like a job; a part of their career. Each and every student brings one hundred percent to the table and put their best foot forward at all times. Whether they are pulling weeds out of gardens in the Napa heat or reading 600 pages about vinifera, these students take their tasks on with passion.

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Though the students in the wine program have many separate classes from the students in the farm program, their week is equally as demanding, if not more. Where the wine program lacks in laborious farm work and long days in the kitchen, it makes up for it with a constant stream of intense reading and writing about all things wine related. After talking to the Director of Wines Studies, Crystal, I am amazed at how intense the wine classes really are. The students value every minute of their work, however, which is a refreshing outlook to see in college students. As I hear Sophia Martinez and Lindsay Borenstein chat about their upcoming week of papers, projects, and heft of readings, my heart patters in remembrance of what it was once like to be in the BPS program. It amazes me that these students are able to pull it off and I am proud to know them as such hard-working individuals. Once their studying and classes are finished for the week, they also have to devise a plan for their wine menu on Friday and Saturday, as well as take on a specific job in The Conservatory.

The front of the house divides the students into a brigade: Manager, Captain, Back Waiter, Barista, Sommelier, Expo and Food Runner. They each hold several responsibilities of which the FOH Professors monitor, but they allow the students to take on each position as if they were a paid, rather than a part of a learning environment. This gives the students opportunity to learn the importance of self-management, a factor that is imperative in hospitality. The BOH is similar in this regard. Chef Forgione gives the students the guidelines and tools to manage their stations, but they take ownership of them. The cooks divide into groups of two and discuss ideas before presenting them to Chef. They collaborate with Chef Forgione mid-week, as well as Christian, the school farmer, to discuss what would work for the menu. They always keep in mind the vegetables and fruits that are growing in the gardens, first, then what they can get at the farmers market, and finally outsource from local purveyors. They create a menu and come in Friday afternoon ready to work. The teams divide by courseline: Amuse, cooked egg, pasta, fish, meat protein, and all of the dessert courses. Chef Forgione acts as a teacher, mentor, and executive chef, but the students manage their menu items and take on all the prep that is involved.

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Throughout my time spent with these students, cooking, farming and exploring California, I have developed a great respect for what they are doing. They are preparing themselves for what lies ahead in our industry. They take on this semester away with gusto and, because of it, have already achieved excellence and acknowledgements of their forward thinking. I see great things for their futures and for the future of food. It is like Elizabeth Meltz of the Batali & Bastianich Restaurant Group had once said to me, “[…] the future of food is going to be in the hands of people like you […] you, who are going to take it to the next level.”

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