Thursday, August 21, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging

This is the first unadulterated year of my professional culinary life. Even though I know a lot, I'm learning and experiencing new things every day. I will be so happy when I look back next year and say, "Hey, I remember when I cooked..." or "It's time for [enter awesome seasonal product here] again!"


This week, I am participating in my first Weekend Herb Blogging Event.
I know it's not the weekend, but it's close enough. Especially since so many states are taking it down to four-day work weeks.



Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen has been doing this for over three years, which I think is amazing. I'm a creature of habit, but I can't commit to a nail polish color much less an event that takes place the same time every week.

This week, Srivalli of Cooking4AllSeasons is the gracious hostess.


You want to hear it? Here it goes...

I have recently gotten into some lavender.




A fellow blogger was gracious enough to cut some for me and I've been trying to incorporate it into as many things as possible, to bring out it's delicate, unusual scent and flavor. According to my favorite book, Culinary Artistry, lavender pairs well with fruit, ice creams, lamb, rabbit and stew. I'm not ready to dive into the latter three of the group, so fruit and ice creams, it is!



Berries are on my mind because they were on sale at the grocery this week (4 pints for $6) and I don't like them much. I like their flavor, but the texture gives me the willies. It's something I think they call squidgy. If I could just get past the initial biting down, masticating and swallowing thing, I'd be fine. The same goes with shrimp, oranges and rare meats.



I took a few for the team and made a sugar-free/fat free lavender sour cream blueberry ice cream. It was so smooth, creamy and delicious, that I really wish I could get get on the berry train more often.


This craptastic photo was brought to you by: NikSnacks.



::Show me the light, the beautiful light::

Sugar-free/Fat-free Blueberry Lavender Sour Cream Ice Cream
makes a scant pint and a half
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/8 cup Splenda or Z sweet (erythritol)
2 cups nonfat milk
3 Tbsp fresh or dried culinary lavender
1 pkg sugar-free/fat free white chocolate pudding
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
juice of 1 lemon

Put the blueberries, lavender and Splenda, into a medium nonreactive saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture boils and the berries pop and soften, about 3 minutes. Alternatively, use your microwave to produce the same results (I did).

Strain blueberry mixture into a new bowl or puree the ingredients in a blender or food processor and then add back to the bowl. Add the nonfat milk and pudding mix. Whisk until all is incorporated. Stir in sour cream and lemon juice. Taste and add more Splenda or other sweetener, if needed. Refrigerate mixture until chilled (about 30 minutes). Alternatively, freeze this mixture to make a churn-free version of this recipe. Otherwise, after chilling, churn according to ice cream maker manufacturer's instructions. Pack the ice cream into a container and freeze for at least 2 hours, until it is firm enough to scoop.




Next was a lavender chocolate cake. Last fall, I picked up a little square of New Tree Tranquility chocolate from Sur La Table. It's luscious lavender chocolate is lifted with a bit of lime. I saved the box (it's the size of a matchbook) so every time I look at it, I can remember the taste. I read the ingredients, vowing to recreate my own bar of chocolate. The chocolate bar hasn't happened, but cake is so much better than a chocolate bar anyway!


I combined a whoopie pie recipe from my friend, Adam, with my personal chocolate cake recipe to produce some rather moist cakes. I think put too much sour cream and milk. But it's nothing that a little flat icing and a few squidgy blueberries couldn't solve.

Chocolate Lavender Cakes
1/2 cup Smart Balance, softened
3/4 cup Splenda brown sugar blend
1/2 cup Eggbeaters
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup bran flakes
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp culinary lavender
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1 cup fat free sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and Splenda brown sugar together with a hand mixer or by hand, until smooth and creamy. Add the Eggbeaters slowly, until incorporated. In medium bowl sift the dry ingredients: flour, bran, cocoa powder and salt. Stir well until everything is evenly distributed throughout. Set aside.
In a small bowl or sauce pan, stir together milk and lavender. Microwave milk for 3 minutes or bring milk to a boil and remove from heat. Let milk and lavender steep for 4-5 minutes. Strain. Add vanilla and sour cream. Alternate between wet and dry, pour the dry ingredients and the milk mix into the creamed Smart Balance and Splenda, mixing by hand or with a hand mixer until all is incorporated. Drop the batter on the baking sheets by heaping tablespoon full, and leave 2" for the batter to spread out. The done cakes should look like little cakey cookies, and be somewhat firm to the touch. Let cool on the pans for 1-2 minutes, and then cool on wire racks.
Last, but not least: Lavender-smoked white peaches with clover honey





This was a masterpiece. I've been toying with my smoker for a few months now and I've had some disasters, some hits, and more than a few misses. These peaches were right on.
I mixed alder chips with 2 Tbsp dried lavender buds and smoked the peaches for about 10 minutes. In the photo, I put them atop a low-fat sugar cookie and drizzled the clover honey. I just had give myself a reason to use my fingers to eat it!

18 comments:

Srivalli said...

Thats great so many ways to cook lavender ..looks great Nikki!

Meryl said...

I rode my bicycle past a lavender farm yesterday. It smelled sooo good.

Lately I've been very into those dagoba dark chocolate with blueberries and lavendar. Lavendar and chocolate is a lovely combination! The cake must be totally delicious.

kat said...

I love lavender in food. I first had it in a scone & in butter at a lavender farm on Maui, I was hooked! You used it in so many creative ways.

maybelle's mom said...

great lavander recipes. The cake sounds particularly good. (And thanks for visiting me.)

Teresa Cordero Cordell said...

Nikki, your blueberry ice cream looks delicious. I'm going to have to try that one, I love blueberries. Herbs, well, what can I say? I've tried growing herbs here in El Paso but our overzelous sunshine cooks everything. I can't even grow flowers in my backyard, They dry up immediately unless I stand there with a hose ( ;) ) in my hand and continuously water it. Looking and sounding good Nikki.

Nikki Miller-Ka said...

Srvalli: Thanks! I didn't want all of the stems to go to waste. I'm glad everything turned out.

meryl: I'm going to have to find some of that chocolate you speak of. The cake really was great. I thought it didn't turn out so hot, but I took it to work and everyone was falling all over themselves to get to it.

kat: I even made an orange, rosemary, and lavender marinade for some pork. I think I'll post about that one tomorrow.

mom: thank you for visiting me. I've been thinking about gooseberries ever since I visited your blog. Tomatillos are as close as I think I'll get. So off I go to the grocery...

teresa: You should try it. It tasted as if I'd made it with cream. I have been making ice cream with Jello pudding all summer and I love feeling guilt free after I've finished a bowl.

Ben said...

All those recipes sound delicious. You've been stumbled :-p

Adam said...

Wow, you've been quite the busy body there Nik. For the longest time I thought lavender was just a light purple color... but it can be used in all sorts of things. You're like the cooking teacher I've never had :)

Two more things:
-Squidgy is in fact a perfect word for the berries... haha squidgy

-The whoopie pie chocolate cake you made sure are moist, but you're right about the blueberries and icing solving it. Could do like a blueberry bread pudding out it too... oh man I'm just crazy now.

Nikki Miller-Ka said...

ben: thanks! I need to get stumbling, too, then.

adam: I can teach you many things, grasshopper, many things ;)
You can have all of the squidgy berries of the world to put on top of that awesome bread pudding I know you'd make. Raspberries are in season now...

Darius T. Williams said...

smoke, peaches, honey, a cookie, and lavender...sounds like a party in your mouth. I want an invite!

Hey, do you watch the food network show 'secrets of a restaurant chef?' Why am i in love w/the host?!?! She's soooo funny.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I love that second photo of your ice cream. The sun has such a cool effect there.

I don't know if I've ever had chocolate and lavendar combined. Your cake is intriguing. Those peaches look great too. A nice simple, light treat.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Wow that ice cream looks awesome! I love cooking with lavender too - such a cool ingredient! :)

Nikki Miller-Ka said...

Darius: it's one of those upscale parties that only an exclusive few get invites :)
I haven't seen that show yet. I didn't like the commercial for it. And to be honest, I'm jealous of everyone who has a show on FN that's not me. But if you're watching her, I might check her out so we can discuss!

Rachel: Thanks! I thought it looked kinda cool, even though it didn't turn out 100% clear.

You should try chocolate and lavender. It really really tastes good. And is different from anything else I've ever tasted.

Heather said...

I love the idea of using lavender in the smoker. Don't be afraid to use it with lamb - if you make a lavender jelly to glaze the meat, your toes will curl.

glamah16 said...

I'm likin all of what I see. I have yet to work with lavender. Im especially interested in the sugar free fat free recipes. Wonderful!

Kalyn said...

So many interesting ideas with lavender! I especially like the idea of smoked peaches, wow. I bet that tastes fantastic.

Nikki Miller-Ka said...

Jenn: It is a cool ingredient~! I never knew how cool it was. I think I like the chocolate best.

Heather: You know, I'm going to get some lamb and use it. Lavender jelly? Hmmm.
I'm still scared though...

Courtney: I'm sure when you get around to using it, it'll be awesome!

kalyn: Smoked fruit is so special. I think next time I'll pair them with something creamy.

Psychgrad said...

I love love love the smell of lavender. I visited a lavender farm and got some lavender pepper - but now I'm wishing that I had picked up more products.

The ice cream looks delicious.