Monday, June 30, 2014

Ikebana Workshop

Ikebana is a centuries old Japanese style of flower arranging, a marriage of spirituality, humanity and nature. A few weeks ago one of our Japanese UN spouse members coordinated a session with Aiko Nobe, a  master instructor of Ikebana at Sogetsu School to introduce us all to the gorgeous art of Ikebana. 

The first part of the activity started with Aiko demonstrating two types of Ikebana. The first, a low level arrangement with Tulips and straight weedy branches. The second was a much taller, more dramatic version using entirely different materials.

According to Aiko, one of the biggest differences between Ikebana and flower arranging is, in Western culture, much more is added to the bouquet. Ikebana is about less. The beauty of the arrangements lie in their simplicity. One appreciates less more. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Rainbow PRIDE Sugar Cookies

So my favorite celebration of the year is here, next to Halloween and Thanksgiving. We have a full program this weekend, hosting a full day second annual Pridetini/BBQ party on Saturday at our place where revelers have their choice of a rainbow array of martini flavors. On Sunday we will march in the parade down fifth avenue with The Upper Delaware GLBT.

Last year I went all out and made ton of rainbow themed food. This year I just didn't have the time. Instead I summoned the powers of Trader Joe's, bought a bunch of rainbow candy and made these cookies. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Homemade Root Beer Flavored Tootsie Rolls

If you asked me a couple of years ago, why anyone would want to switch up the flavor of tootsie rolls, I would have said, why mess with perfection? Along with Reese's Peanut butter Cups, I used to crave this favorite childhood candy when I lived in Germany. Inevitably, I hoarded both candies in my suitcase on return trips to the States, often sharing them with my fellow American candy deprived US expat friends back in Germany.

If I had known I could make these myself, my suitcase would have been significantly lighter. Now that I am back living in the good old U S of A with unlimited access to Tootsie Rolls (and Reese's peanut butter cups), of course, instead of buying them, I made my own and  just had to mess with the recipe.

Root Beer is another of my favorite American flavors, so I was hoping to have the "You got peanut butter in my chocolate! You go chocolate in my peanut butter!" result of a marriage of two favorite flavors into one. Extra points if you remember that Reese's commercial.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Macaron Monday: Vanilla French Macarons with Honeysuckle Buttercream Filling

Sometimes I think there is a garden genie on our PA property. When we closed on the house in the month of March, I had a long list of what I wanted to plant in the garden. The good Dr. said to just wait and see what would come up first. Wise words. One by one the items I desired got struck off my list as soon as they bloomed or flowered. 

Recently I found myself wishing I had a honeysuckle bush. Less than a day later I found one in full boogie with big fat bees buzzing around it up on the hill on the side of the house. Unfortunately, by the time I got around to harvesting the blossoms, they had gone. 

Then I spied a picture posted by friends living in the next town over of their lovely honeysuckle bush in full bloom and immediately begged a cup or two full of flowers.

Consequently, these macarons are brought to you today by the generosity of friends and the awesome power of social media.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sage Flower Almond Scones

This sage has come back for the third year in a row in our PA garden but this year was the first time it flowered. 

It looked so pretty in the garden I almost left it alone but eventually broke down, cut about half of them and used them to make these scones and infuse vinegar.

Harvesting the flowers is a bit of a tedious process. You have to pull the individual flowers off of the stem and stamen. The sage flowers are less powerful then the sage leaves so the scones had a more delicate sage flavor than if I had used the leaves.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Modern Viennese Cuisine: Tips and Singing to Your Schnitzel with Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner

Attending this demonstration at my local Whole Foods Market at their Bowery Culinary Center was a last minute opportunity. Was it ever a good one.

Sponsored by Gerolsteiner sparkling mineral water (our go to water purchase when we are home in Germany), Austrian Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner was extremely charismatic, engaging and full of wonderful tips as he cooked and served a full modern Viennese menu for everyone in the room. Incidentally, Chef Gutenbrunner has also worked at some of my favorite restaurants in Munich. Just reading his bio made me long for my beloved adopted city. Eating his food made me want to book a return trip to Vienna.

So the evening turned out to be this funny famous German-speaking chef cooking for everyone in the room. Somebody pinch me. 

Chef Gutenbrunner owns four well-known restaurants in NYC. Michelin star Wallsé in the West Village, Cafe Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie museum on the Upper East Side, Blaue Gans in Tribeca and The Upholstery Store, a West Village wine bar currently under renovation.

The class sat at tables topped with large bottles of Gerolsteiner mineral water and printed copies of the recipes with room on each to make our own notes as we followed food preparations. The first course was pea soup, which to be honest, was never my favorite in the past because of the color and the heavy texture. 

His version was made with blanched shelled fresh peas and pineapple mint (which happens to be growing on my terrace.) The gorgeous bight green colored soup was finished with pouring a bit of fennel/mint oil over the top before serving. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Macaron Monday: Mint Macarons with Barberry Spread Filling

An unexpected surprise was recently finding my stash of dried barberries I had picked up at a Christmas Market in Holland this past holiday season and used to make biscotti. Luckily, even after all this time, they were still juicy and bursting with tart flavor so I felt compelled to use them up immediately and not tempt fate or their possible expiration date any further.

Always trying to find an alternative to buttercream to put between two French macaron shells,  I heated the barberries with some water, sugar and cornstarch to form a spread. Instead of pureeing them, I  intentionally left the mixture chunky for a more fun mouth feel.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Japanese Tea Ceremony Workshop

One of the privileges of being a United Nations spouse is, no matter what city you live in, one has the opportunity to interact with people from many different countries and share cultural experiences. This is one of the benefits I enjoy most as a member of the New York City branch of the UN spouse association. 

In the last month, one of our Japanese members organized two wonderful and interesting workshops, one on the art of Ikebana and another on the intricacies of the Japanese Tea ceremony. 

Both events were fun to participate in fascinating to learn about.  
Here is the wrap up on the Japanese tea ceremony workshop.

The flyer for our event described the art best: "The Japanese tea ceremony is a ceremonial way of preparing and drinking tea, also known as chanoyusadō, or chadō and is a choreographed art requiring many years of study to master. The tea is first prepared by the host, and then drunk by the guests. The tea is matcha green tea made of powdered tea leaves, and the manner is called otemae, the art of its performance. Zen Buddhism was a primary influence in the development of the Japanese tea ceremony, and the ceremony became a spiritual experience that embodies harmony, respect, purity and tranquility."

The event was facilitated by students at the Keio Academy of New York and was lead by  lovely woman who is a master and teacher of the Japanese tea ceremony. Students of Keio Academy of New York Tea Ceremony Club practice regularly during the school year, perform at school events and at events outside the school as well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nasturtium Covered Lemon Layer Cake

This was a request to bring a cake for a sit down birthday dinner for 12. The birthday boy is a cake maker. No pressure there.

Said birthday boy and I were recently gawking over this book:

This gorgeous book is my latest obsession from which the Tulip Vodka recipe and inspiration for my Lilac Cashew Baklava came. We just couldn't get over the cover cake.

Since my piping skills are minimal (his are exceptional) I thought I would surprise him with a edible flower covered cake at the party. Easy peasy. No piping.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Dessert Professional's Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America for 2014

This past Monday I was fortunate to be invited to an event at the Industry of Culinary Education in NYC honoring this year's Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America, named by Dessert Professional Magazine. We got to meet and mingle with the chefs, taste their exquisite creations and sip creative cocktails mixed up especially for the occasion.

For a complete wrap up, hop over to Culinary Cues on Deborah Mitchell Associates, Redy for Air. Debbie invited me to accompany her, so it was my pleasure to write a guest post with all the deets about our fun evening!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

TechMunch NYC 2014

To say I had a great time at this conference is a major understatement. So happy I made the decision to ditch my plans to attend BlogHer in Miami and signed up for this conference instead. It was local. It was one day. No schlepping on a plane. More intimate setting. Best of all, no missing out on one of our beloved weekends at our PA house. It worked out perfectly.

The best part (aside from the food and I will get to that later) are the fun and interesting people I met and all the great information imparted.

I have never been to a blogging conference before. It has been on my bucket list for years but the timing never seemed to work out, especially when I lived in Germany.  When I was visiting stateside, the dates were off and the international ones all seem to arrive at a time when my husband was home on leave from the UN Mission in Iraq.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Macaron Monday: Arnold Palmer French Macarons with Lemon Buttercream Fresh Mint Filling

Wow the title of this macaron is a mouthful. Sorry about that. Also I know, this is one more French macaron experimentation that will get me thatmuchcloser to being barred from all patisseries in France permanently.

Last weekend I was cleaning out, prepping, stocking a set of cabinets in the PA house that have all sorts of supplies for our almost weekly barbecues, saw this drink mix and gave into my compulsion to add it to a French Macaron shell.

It's trashy. I know.

However, the flavor was surprisingly good.

I did class it up a bit by filling the macarons with gorgeous homemade lemon buttercream left over from a beautiful birthday cake I will be posting later this week.