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Photo by gemmarose

I love any sort of hot drink — coffee, hot chocolate, chai tea lattes… If you add alcohol to any of those things, I am doubly happy. And if you know me, you know I also love wine. So how to put all of my favorite things into one glass? Mulled wine. It’s great for a cold afternoon, and a perfect end to a Thanksgiving day where you’ve eaten way too much and are too tired to chew. So don’t.

It’s super easy to make. Once it’s done, put in a crock pot to keep warm. I love that you can serve alcohol in mugs. (I mean, you can technically drink alcohol out of a shoe…) My husband and I got his/hers mugs for our wedding that say “His Better Half”, “Her Better Half”. I drink coffee every day. My husband doesn’t use his. I tell him that’s because he’s not my better half, I am. (He doesn’t care.)

Anyways, here’s the recipe. Everything is to taste, so tweak it to your taste.

You will need:

  • 1 bottle wine
  • 2 cups juice (I used cranberry, but apple works as well)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 oranges, rind removed, cut up
  • 1 lemon, rind removed, cut up
  • Spices: To taste, of course. 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 tsp whole peppercorns, 5 buds of cardamom, 1/2 vanilla bean, 1 tbsp fresh ginger and 1/2 tsp cloves (Whole Foods bulk spice section is a great place to get the spices you need without buying a ton.)

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients into a pot on stove.
  2. Let boil and then simmer for an hour.
  3. Strain spices out and put in crock pot to serve.  Option: Let everything sit, unstrained, overnight for the flavors to infuse more. Strain in the morning.
  4.  Heat in crock pot before serving in mugs

Enjoy!

~ Dana

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In the summertime, there’s nothing I love more than fresh picked berries. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. There are other things I love. Like drinking sangria outside, and drinking margaritas on the patio, and outdoor wine bars. And there happen to be a million farms that offer berry picking during the summer. We actually used to do this when I was little, and come back and make pies or fruit roll ups, or some other trick my mother had to make sure we weren’t eating processed foods.

So in the spirit of the summer, here is yet another berry tart recipe:

Berry Tart with Ginger-Orange Streusel Topping (from Bon Appetit)

For topping, you will need:

  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 cup sliced almonds

Mix all ingredients together until a coarse mixture is formed.

For the filling, you will need:

  • 3 cups fresh blueberries (17 ounces)
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries (9 to 10 ounces)
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries (5 to 6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  1. Gently toss blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, 1/2 cup sugar, and lemon juice in large bowl.
  2. Let stand 10 minutes.
  3. Mix cornstarch and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in small bowl.
  4. Add to berry mixture and toss gently to coat.
  5. Transfer berry mixture to crust, mounding slightly in center.
  6. Sprinkle streusel topping evenly over berry pie filling.
  7. Bake 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

I subscribe to Clean Eating and I love it because I know I can make any of the recipes in the magazine and not feel guilty. But beyond recipes the magazine also provides reviews of new food products, shopping guides, exercises and all kinds of useful information for people who care about eating and living more healthfully.

The January 2011 edition has a great recipe that caught my eye because I love pears and I love ginger. They are both really good for you. Pears are a great source of fiber, vitamin B2, C, E, copper, and potassium. Ginger is believed to help counter inflammation, ease indigestion and perhaps help reduce fever. But regardless of their potential health benefits, pears and ginger both taste good and the recipe is a tasty way to combine the two. My only problem with the recipe was the Sucanat. I didn’t like the taste – it was too maple-y for me. So next time I will probably just use demerara sugar instead.

Ingredients

  • 4 pears, peeled, halved, cored
  • 1 navel orange
  • 6 tbsp Sucanat, divided
  • 1 ½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 3 tbsp safflower oil
  • ½ cup plus 2 tbsp low-fat buttermilk, divided
  • ¾ cup nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425º F. Cut each pear half into 6 equal slices and place in a large baking dish. Remove peel from orange in thick strips with a vegetable peeler; use a paring knife to scrape off any remaining white pith and add peel to baking dish. Juice orange and add to pears, then sprinkle with 2 tbsp Sucanat. Roast for 40 minutes, turning pears with spatula twice during cooking. Pears are done when a paring knife meets little resistance when inserted and juices have thickened. Remove from over, cover with aluminum foil and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together 3 tbsp Sucanat, flour, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add oil and stir to combine. Add ½ cup plus 1 tbsp buttermilk and stir just until moistened; do not over-mix. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, dust hands with flour and quickly shape dough into a thick circle. Divide dough into 6 equal mounds, about 2 inches wide and ¾-inch high. Place mounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush remaining 1 tbsp buttermilk, dividing evenly.

    The dough, ready for baking.

    Sprinkle with remaining 1 tbsp Sucanat. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center. Transfer biscuits to a rack and cool for 5 minutes.

  3. In a small bowl, combine yogurt and maple syrup. Reheat pears, if necessary. Split biscuits and divide pears and yogurt mixture evenly between pieces. Or, layer 2 biscuit pieces, pears and yogurt mixture as you choose. Serve immediately.

I visited Sweet Cupcakery, located in Harvard Square in Boston. I was wandering around after a meeting, and ran into this cute little place.

I had (sampled, not ate the entire thing…) two cupcakes: the Organic Karat cupcake, and the Molasses Ginger cupcake.

The Organic Karat cupcake was described as a “moist carrot cake with shredded organic carrots and crushed pineapple, topped with classic cream cheese frosting and an edible gold leaf petal.”

Verdict: Sounded ambitious. But it was really good. The cupcake was on the lighter side, which was a great departure from the dense, Magnolia-esque trend that had been going on. I personally don’t love pineapple in my carrot cake, but it was okay, and added some texture. The icing was quite sweet, but still cream-cheesy. It was so sweet that I took the icing off and picked at it. But, if you’re an icing freak, they sell icing “shooters” so you can get a little extra dose if needed.

The Molasses Ginger cupcake was described as “bittersweet molasses cake frosted with fresh ginger buttercream and a crystal molasses sugar crumble.” Um. Yum! Kudos to their marketing department.

Verdict: The icing was not very gingery-y, and seemed a little too molasses-y. It was not too sweet, but had a lot of the rich flavors. The cake was a bit spicy, which I loved. Overall it was a really unique cupcake.

The only thing that was a bit annoying was that I had to have a box for the cupcake. I had to have it because I was walking around, and my cupcakes would have gotten squished. And they charged me 50 cents extra! I get that you have to make your money back, but it seemed a little cheap. My $3.25 per cupcake should have covered that damn 50 cent box.

Anyways, it was a cute spot. Definitely worth doing again!

~ Dana

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