Lemon Tart with Salted Pecan Crust

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Spring emits feelings of lightness; airy, warm days that bring flowers to our garden and happiness in our lives. Citrus season is here, so in that honor I have whipped up a very easy, wholesome lemon tart. This tart has an incredible nut crust that adds a salty crunch to the music. In the curd, I used Eureka lemons. They are notorious for being extra juicy and tart; exactly what I needed to contrast the crust. The curd is subtle in sweetness, so as to not be overbearing. I find that a lot of lemon curds seem to taste like sweetened custard. Being a culinarian, I like my sweets to have a luscious texture and sharp flavor a.k.a mouth confetti. Every sweet treat should be a cause for internal celebration!

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Lemon Tart:

1/2 c Eureka lemon juice

1/2 Lemon Zested

1/4 c Coconut sugar

6 T Earth Balance

3 Egg Yolks + 2 Whole Eggs

1/4 t cornstarch (or arrowroot)

Crust:

1 c pecans

1/4 c hazelnuts

3 T raw honey, warmed (or maple syrup)

1 t sea salt

1 dash cinnamon

1.5 c olive oil

Grind the pecans and hazelnuts. Add in the remaining ingredients and “rub” the crust together like you would a biscuit dough. If  it is too dry, add more olive oil until it can stick together. Press into the bottom of your tart shell and bake in the oven at 350 until slightly golden, about 10 minutes. Remove.

To make the curd, whisk the sugar, eggs and starch in a pot. I recommend making a slurry with the cornstarch, or sifting it on-top of your wet ingredients before whisking it in to prevent lumps. Once combined, add the lemon. Whisk constantly until it is thick and creamy. Once it starts to resemble a freshly made pudding, remove from heat and whisk in the earth balance. If you wait until it gets too set (too thick) you will overcook the curd. You should be able to coat the back of a spoon with it before removing it from heat. Strain it if you notice it has some lumps, or if you are in pursuit of curd perfection. Pour filling into tart shell. Pop back into the oven and allow the curd to set. About 20 mins.

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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.

Gluten and Dairy Free Outrageous Brownies

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I love baking for my friends. As a teenager, I always brought a little sweet treat along with me wherever I was invited and it was always welcomed. In college, I found myself to be a prodigy housewife of sorts; always baking for my next door neighbors. The look of surprise and delight is enough for me to enjoy doing so. Anyhow, one thing that I made quite often in my younger years was Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies. They were always a crowd pleaser at all the dinners and sleepovers in my youth, as well a personal favourite. Since giving up gluten, I had yet to make the decadent dessert so I decided to dust off the recipe and give it a new twist. I made the recipe without gluten and dairy, which I found was much easier then I had anticipated. I also used only cocoa powder in the mix and semi-sweet chocolate chunks for the chips.

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Jocelynn’s Outrageous Brownies: Makes 12 brownies

11 oz cocoa powder

3 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate

16 oz vegan butter (earth balance)

2 T instant coffee

1 c + 6 T sugar (separated)

2 eggs

3 t vanilla

2/3 c flour (Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free AP)

1/2 T Baking powder

1/2 t Salt

Preheat the oven to 350℉. Melt the butter, 6 tablespoons of sugar, and cocoa powder together in a double boiler. In a bowl, mix together eggs, remaining sugar, instant coffee, and vanilla. Allow the butter mixture to cool to body temperature, then add it to the egg mixture in stages, to prevent the eggs from cooking. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt on top of the chocolate mix, then fold it into the batter. Chop the semi-sweet chocolate into chunks, then coat them in a tablespoon of flour. Fold them into the mix. Pour into a half-size baking pan (a square cake pan) and bake for 15-20 minutes. Check with a cake tester for doneness.

Note: Allow the brownies too cool considerably before enjoying, or they will crumble! I have found this issue to be the same in Ina Garten’s recipe. Enjoy with a tall glass of cold almond milk.

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Seattle Coffee: Best & Worst

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If you know me, you know I have an intense interest in coffee. Always researching, reading, learning and exploring the world of coffee.

I am presently on a school Food, Wine, and Agriculture trip. We spent some time with roasters and sellers, but there were many places outside of the itinerary that I had vested interest in; and I was not about to let the opportunity of being in seattle for a week pass me by. I was determined to make sure I got the most of it so here is the best, bad and ugly of my coffee tour!

Above is an espresso from Roy Street Coffee & Tea. It is a well kept secret of Seattle. It is lemony, sweet and mine came with a complimentary biscotti. Worth dropping in.

Note: you can use Starbuck’s Gold cards here.

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Victrola: Coffee Roasters on Pike

The baristas are relaxed and know their craft. A fun atmosphere, the cafe is light and open. You can peer in the back at the roaster; where they make those beans liquid magic. Ask for a tour! I was short on time, but they might offer them during production.

The Streamline espresso blend is as harmonious as their name.

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Caffé Vita: Coffee Roaster on Pike

I had a lot of fun at Caffé Vita with the buyer, Daniel Shewmaker and their roaster, Wade, showing me around. They are both extremely knowledgeable in their craft. The compaines coffee is in so many local shops, including the ports nearby. I had at least one cup of their coffee everyday when I was in Washington state.

The espresso has serious appeal to; came highly recommended by Daniel.

Note: They also sell really tasty gluten free treats which is always a plus.

WORST!

The original Starbucks. Yes, I was shocked too. I like Starbis! It’s good for a quick pick me up on the go, sometimes it can’t be all about quality, you know?

I was particuraly shocked at how terrible the espresso shot was that I had. Very watered down, no crema. I was told by the lady upfront that this is the only Starbucks that hand pulls all their espresso. They have a beautiful La Marzocco machine too, but did not use it wisley.

Not worth the wait, no matter how particularly Seattle it is.

A few other places that I hear are really wonderful, but didnt get the chance to pop in:

http://www.espressovivace.com/

http://lighthouseroasters.com/

http://b-oespresso.com/

I’ll be writing more food/coffee/cocktail reviews so be on the lookout!

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Cheating on the classic Trifle

Every once in a while its good to cheat! I made these great, berry cupcakes and it took me very little time and effort, but the payoff was fantastic.

I spent most of my weekend running errands and spending time with my family so baking from scratch was on my ‘not to do’ list. I had some berry compote leftover from the previous day, though, and I wanted to bake it into something to see how it would come out. By using the compote I didnt have to use any added fat to these cupcakes and they were very moist. The only trade off is that they have simple carbohydrates in them (sugar and non-whole grain flour mix) but they have a lot of antioxidants from the berries and are a great sweet treat. A great trade off from eating a walloping piece of trifle cake with whipped cream; less fat and sugar by far, but just as satisfying! I also sprinkled some chia seeds on-top for added omega-3’s.

I used Bob’s Red Mill gluten free vanilla cake mix for this recipe, you can use any of your favorite vanilla cake mix recipes, just nix any fats or oils & 1/3 of the sugar.

To prepare:

1/2 pint of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries (you can add strawberries in as well!)

3 T of honey

2 T of lemon juice

Cake Mix

3 eggs (or whatever your mix requests)

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The night before wash all of the berries really well in cold water. If you use strawberries as well, cut all of the tops off and quarter them. Mix berries with lemon juice and honey until they are beginning to macerate. It is important that they do this so that they end up having 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of liquid. Put the compote in a sealable plastic bag, in the fridge, until tomorrow.

Preheat the oven at whatever teperature is recommended by the cake mix recipe. Add the berry compote into the vanilla cake mix. Lightly beat the eggs and add them in as well. As you can see, my cake mix ended up being a really smooth consistancy, if you feel yours is too thick add in some applesauce or just a splash of almond milk to smooth things out.

Spray your cupcake tin with fat free spray (you can easily find this at your local grocer) and pour mix into baking cups. Using an ice cream scoop is the best way to keep them consistently sized. Sprinkle some chia seeds on top, or perhaps some flax if you have them.

Bake until the edges are lightly browned (**use a cake tester to make sure they are not gooey in the center).

My dad liked them hot out of the oven with a little butter (or earth balance). Lemon icing would be great as well. I personally thought they were very sweet and moist so they were perfect on their own with a mug of coffee.

Let me know what you think!

Bittersweet Chocolate Almond Cookies

I wasn’t sure, at first, how this recipe was going to turn out. I was trying to create an uncomplicated cookie recipe that was low in carbohydrates, low in fat and sugar, but tasted really great. Most gluten free desserts are extremely high in fats and carbohydrates, and are usually very complicated. Gluten free recipies normally include several different types of flours as well, which can take too much time and effort for a busy college student like me!

This recipe is great because it has none of that complicated mumbo-jumbo and requires less effort then making basic chocolate chip cookies! I used some of the idea of my chocolate almond torte recipe when making this. Using almond meal greatly lowers the amount of carbohydrates and adds the benefits of calcium and iron. The cocoa and bittersweet chocolate as well add iron and lots of antioxidants which is great for your skin.

I used 85% dark from Godiva. It was a little strong in the cookies so if you are not a bittersweet lover like me, I suggest a 70% chocolate or lower. I recommend adding 2 T of agave to the recipe as well to increase the balance of sweetness.

I added Bob’s Red Mill gluten free ap flour to add a little depth to the cookies. If you prefer not to add ap flour, try bumping up the almond flour. If you wish to make these cookies vegan, omit the eggs and use a replacer. I recommend adding oil as well if you do so.

Bittersweet Chocolate Almond Cookies:

1 c. cocoa

1 1/2 c. almond flour/meal

1/4 c. bob’s red mill gluten free a/p flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

2 eggs

3 T of almond milk

1/2 c. cane sugar

1 oz of bittersweet chocolate

Heat oven on Convection Bake at 325. Chop up chocolate into chunks & reserve. Sift together cocoa, cinnamon, ap flour, baking powder and salt. Beat eggs with sugar and milk. Combine sifted mixture to the egg mixture. Fold in almond meal and chocolate chunks. The batter should be somewhat wet, but not runny. If it is runny add more flour.

Spoon drop batter onto an ungreased sheet pan. Bake the cookies for 8-11 minutes. Make sure to not over-bake them or they will turn out very dry!

Enjoy with a glass of almond milk. A perfect treat for a cold, wet day like today.

 

the love part of my cooking

Whenever I am asked as to how I was inspired to go to culinary school images of my grandmother and mom cooking in her kitchen flash into my mind. I remember peering over the breakfast counter, pulling myself up with my little fingers and my mouth watering at the smell of garlic and tomatoes stewing. After my grandmother passed, I would relive those memories over the stove with my mother. She taught me how to cook pasta and tomato sauce, beef stew with mashed potatoes, and just about everything in between. Cooking has created a strong bond between us.

My mother is a huge part of my life and sometimes I wonder how I would be able to function without her. I don’t go a day without talking to her or asking her for advice. Her determination and work ethic has been my inspiration to keep pursuing my career and to keep broadening my horizons. She works very hard alongside my dad and still manages to get dinner made and all of my siblings where they need to be. Not to be cliché, but could call her superwoman. I hope one day to be just as wonderful as she is when I have my own little family to raise.

Happy Mothers Day to all of the mothers out there and to my beautiful mother who truly is like no other!