The Easiest Hot Chocolate Mix

by Anne Maxfield on January 29, 2015

Accidental Locavore Hot Chocolate MixIt’s taken the Accidental Locavore almost two years to de-tox from excessive amounts of hot chocolate. However, this year, it seem like I’m ready to get back into it. This recipe was on Smitten Kitchen (which I will forever think is Smitten Kitten…) and since I had the food processor out…Makes about 1 ½ cups of mix (which will give you about 9 cups of cocoa) and takes longer to assemble the ingredients, than it does to toss them together.

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup cocoa powder (like Droste, or Scharffen Berger)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until powdery. Store in a jar or airtight container.

To use: heat a cup of milk in a small pan or microwave (about 2 minutes) until steamy. Add 3 tablespoons of the mix and stir really well until it’s melted and combined. Serve with marshmallows, whipped cream or just plain and enjoy!

My verdict: On first taste, the resemblance to Swiss Miss (or any other commercial cocoa mix) was pretty good—which in my book, is not a glowing recommendation. If that’s how you like your cocoa, go for it! I want mine richer, with darker chocolate and not so sweet. If you’ve ever been to Angelina’s in Paris, you’ll know what the gold standard is. What’s good about the recipe, is that you can easily tweak it. Next time I’ll be sure to use bittersweet chocolate (or the super bittersweet I just bought) instead of semi-sweet and I’ll cut back the sugar to 1/3 cup or less, since you can always add it back in if need be. And since I’ve been buying chocolate in 4 ounce bars, I might just toss the whole bar in. If you wanted, you could add some instant espresso, mint or chilles, just don’t try to sneak it by me, ok?

Update: Second batch used bittersweet chocolate and a better (darker) cocoa powder–much better!

 

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The Accidental Locavore Dines at Tavern on the Green

by Anne Maxfield on January 26, 2015

Accidental Locavore Tavern InteriorWhen the Accidental Locavore’s friend Laura mentioned that her besties were getting together at Tavern on the Green, the thought that went through our heads was what a waste of a meal. However, a week later I was begging her to let me cash in my honorary membership and join them.

What changed? The opportunity to see, early on, if the legendary Jeremiah Towers could make this a destination restaurant for the food as well as the scenery. I don’t know how much influence  he has had on the menu yet, but all of the food we had was well-prepared, with enough good dishes to make one not dread going back and a couple of real surprises (in a very good way).

The biggest negative this time was not with the food but with the patrons. It has never crossed my mind before in a restaurant that there should be some screening for parties with children. However, after sitting next to a rambunctious toddler, I would happily pay extra to be seated in an over-21 room! Kicking and thrashing neighbors aside, the meal that we had on a busy (Santa-com, mass protests) holiday weekend was easily the best I’ve had there.

Accidental Locavore Tavern Caesar SaladFor appetizers: mussels, Caesar salads and scallops made their way around the table. Both the Caesar salad and the mussels were big bowls, probably too big for one with an entree, but easily shared. The mussels had what was advertised as breadcrumbs but were more like croutons, which were helpful in soaking up the flavorful sauce. My only complaint would be the size of the mussels–let’s just call them dainty…. Not so dainty was the Caesar salad, with big leaves of what was billed as little gem lettuce, but which from a distance could easily mistaken for kale. And, while I can only guess at the overhead, $15 for a bowl of lettuce with dressing and a crouton?

Accidental Locavore Tavern Lamb ShankThe main courses were where the surprises lay. Feeling adventurous, I ordered the lamb with a red curry sauce. It was a well-braised shank, with the meat removed from the bone, in a slightly spicy Thai red curry sauce with chick peas and green beans that some poor commis, had to macramé into a love knot. Since the light at the table was dim at best, sadly, his knot tying skills almost went unnoticed. The best dish I tasted was the one I would be least likely to order, especially at someplace like Tavern – the (free-range) chicken. It was tender, juicy and tasting like it had been in the wood-burning oven. Totally delicious – definitely the best dish of the night! The pork chops looked good, and were fine, but not outstanding, and the strange combination of tuna with what was essentially pork and beans, remains questionable.

Accidental Locavore Tavern KitchenWe split a few desserts, all good, but no real standouts. Tavern could actually become a place to go for the food, but it’s walking a very fine line, and Jeremiah Tower has a tough job ahead of him. It’s possible that like my chef friend Pete surmises, that he could have been hired just to turn the place around, garner some good reviews and then disappear into the sunset leaving us with yet another Betony  overrated restaurant. We’ll see.

 

 

 

 

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Lamb Shanks in Thai Red Curry

by Anne Maxfield on January 22, 2015

Accidental Locavore Lamb Shanks in Thai CurryAfter eating at Tavern on the Green, recently, the Accidental Locavore had the idea to make my own version of lamb shanks in red curry. This is an easy slow-cooker dish that served two with leftovers, but you can easily scale it up.

  • 2 lamb shanks
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (more to taste)
  • 1 Thai red chile, seeded and finely sliced
  • 1 can coconut milk (not low fat)
  • ½ can bamboo shoots
  • Green beans (about a handful, trimmed and cut in half)
  • Cilantro for garnish

Accidental Locavore Lamb Shanks and Bamboo ShootsIn a Dutch oven large enough to hold the lamb shanks, heat the olive oil over high heat. Salt and pepper the lamb shanks and add to the pan. Sear on all sides until well browned. While the shanks are browning, add the curry paste and coconut milk and stir to mix well. Add the lamb and pan juices, the chile and bamboo shoots. Cook, covered, on the high setting for 6 hours, until the meat is tender and falling off the bone. About ½ hour before serving, add the green beans. Serve over jasmine rice and enjoy!

My verdict: A work in progress. I couldn’t find the red curry paste so used a massaman curry instead. It’s a little milder and was good, but a different flavor than the red curry. I also took the meat off the bones when I added the green beans, so it would be easier to serve. Japanese eggplants, potatoes, or straw mushrooms would all be good additions, depending on what you were in the mood for. If you don’t have a slow cooker, just add the curry, coconut milk, etc, to the lamb in the pan and cook, covered for about 2 hours on a very low heat or in a 200° oven for about the same amount of time.

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The Accidental Locavore Gives Scrub Daddy a Try

by Anne Maxfield on January 19, 2015

Accidental Locavore Scrub DaddiesWhile the Accidental Locavore is waiting for GIR to get it right with sponges and scrubbies, I decided to take the Scrub Daddy for a spin around stacks of dirty pots and pans. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a smiley face emoji turned into a scrubby sponge. It is also the most successful Shark Tank product to date.

What’s interesting about it, is that it changes its scrubbing ability depending on the water temperature. In cold water it’s much firmer, and in warm water it gets softer. Depending on your squeamish factor, you can thrust your fingers through the “eyes” and use the smile for cleaning both sides of spoons (something you never thought about, right?).

All kidding aside, this is actually works much better than the traditional scrubby sponges. It’s not quite as hard-core as the stainless steel scrubber I resurrected recently, but it’s close and can be used on non-stick cookware. It easily zipped through two of my messiest jobs—the grill from my smoker and the container I boil milk in for yogurt, winning itself a spot sink-side.

It was only after I bought a couple more to give as Christmas gifts, that the Scrub Daddy’s shortcomings showed up. Although the packaging says dishwasher safe, it was a Sad Daddy that came out. Slack of jaw and looking more like a Pac-Man relic than a cheerful emoji, Scrub Daddy had met his match in the dishwasher.

Accidental Locavovre Sad DaddySince it was only a few weeks old, I thought that its demise was a little premature. I sent the photo to Scrub Daddy, who got right back to me. They said that the life-span was supposed to be 4-8 weeks, depending on usage. That seemed a little lame to me, as most sponges last at least a couple of months, and while I cook a lot, I don’t think I generate an excessive amount of scrubbable cookware. Anyway, they offered to send me the Heavy Duty version to try.

Not as cute as the original, the Heavy Duty Scrub Daddy is a big yellow block. With my small hands, it’s a little awkward for day-to-day kitchen duty. However, when I made a huge mess on my butcher block, it’s size shape and flexibility cut through all the sticky bits of flour and dough in no time! So it gets a space on the kitchen counter, making a good base for its smiley-faced side-kick.

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