Yummyholic Totoro Cookies

Totoro Cookies

Last month my friend Stephanie came down from Pittsburgh with a delicious surprise — these custom cookies from local artist Jasmine (Yummyholic).

Not only were these Totoro cookies spot on in terms of appearance, when I finally was able to bring myself to eat them, they tasted great! I’m picky when it comes to baked goods, especially cookies, and these were soft and chewy yet firm. Surprisingly, the dough didn’t taste store-bought but instead had a nice, light citrusy touch! These also weren’t total sugar bombs and had a perfectly balanced level of sweetness.

If you ever find yourself in the Pittsburgh area, don’t hesitate to get some treats. Yummyholic’s site is currently expanding, but will be back soon with an online store. In the meantime, check out her Instagram for photos to tide you over.

P.S. Sweets in the background: Fleurir ChocolatesOlivia Macaron

Maple-vinegar Marinated Frenched Venison Racks

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Venison is one of those common, yet rare meats to find. Deer are plentiful throughout the northeastern woodlands and has been an important food since pre-colonial times. But somewhere during the history of America, it became a less common meat and though deer still roam in large numbers, it is hard to find venison in the grocery store or on dinner menus.

Most of my experience with venison has been with the wild kind that has been hunted and meant to feed a family for months. There’s only so much venison jerky you can stomach in the winter months before you need to call it quits. But recently, venison has been making a resurgence in fine dining. I’ve had venison sausage, venison ragu, and most recently venison heart tartare.

That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to receive some grass-fed, free range New Zealand venison from Marx Foods. Venison, like other meats, has unique flavors depending on its habitat and diet. I was excited to compare North American venison to New Zealand venison, especially since it wasn’t “wild” and wouldn’t have the traditional gamey-ness.

Though I created a few meals out of the venison I received, the recipe I am featuring today is from Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking. Since I made this the week of Thanksgiving, I thought it seemed appropriate to reach for a very traditional Native American recipe that was simple and focused on the flavor and quality of the meat itself.

The flavors were kept simple out of respect for the venison and served with a warm roasted sunchoke salad tossed with spinach, quinoa, and a ginger vinaigrette. The meat itself was firm yet easy to chew. Pieces that were more rare tasted grassy with a strong iron after taste while pieces that were more cooked had the texture of pork and a more neutral flavor.

About  the  Venison

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Silver Fern Farms Venison is grass fed and pasture raised in New Zealand’s open fields and rolling green hills.

Farmed venison comes from deer born and raised on lush, green New Zealand pastures and has a fresh, consistent, delicate flavor, whereas game venison comes from hunting wild animals, which provides an inconsistent eating experience and a tough, “gamey” flavor. The animal’s natural leanness means it’s a lighter, healthier red meat option. It has more protein than any other red meat and is rich in iron and full of B vitamins.

Product provided for review.  All notes & opinions are my own.

Thank you Marx Foods for the opportunity to taste this unique venison.

Two-Pea Chicken Salad #MadeWithChobani

Two Pea Pesto Chicken Salad, Made with Chobani

It’s no secret that I am a fan of greek yogurt. I like the slight tang that it offers and the thicker consistency. Even my cat, Leopold enjoys it!

When I received a lovely package from Chobani as part of their #MadeWithChobani campaign, we were so excited!

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We’ve already set to work putting the greek yogurt to use in many ways.

Replacing  Sour  Cream  or  Mayonnaise

Using Greek Yogurt is a great way to make a dish healthier while still keeping the tang of sour cream or mayonnaise. Some ways that I’ve used greek yogurt to replace those ingredients are:

Adding  Creaminess  to  Sauces  and  Soups

Sometimes you need just a little more creaminess in a dish but you don’t want the added fat. I often add some Greek yogurt to my dishes to help emulsify sauces or thicken broths. Recently I boiled some pasta, added some Indian Vindaloo sauce, mixed it with Chobani Greek Yogurt and Voila!.

In  Desserts

Yogurts are a good dairy-alternative in baked goods as well, especially breads and muffins.

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And of course, who couldn’t love an amazing yogurt dip to cool a hot dish or a frozen yogurt?

Other  uses  for  Greek  Yogurt

Check out Chobani’s recipe section for more inspiring recipes using greek yogurt!

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Product provided for review.  All notes & opinions are my own.

An Edible Flower Picnic

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Today is my husband’s birthday! Earlier in the month we received some lovely edible flowers from Marx Foods as part of their Edible Flowers Photography Challenge.

About edible flowers:

  • Nasturtiums – Nasturtiums have a peppery flavor which lends well to just about any savory dish.
  • Pansies – Pansies have a mild semi-sweet wintergreen flavor that pairs well with both sweet and savory dishes.  They float flat in liquids, too, which can make them extra fun to experiment with.
  • Micro Flower Blend – a blend of tiny flowers that varies with what’s freshest at the farm.  This blend typically includes flowers like Micro Marigolds, Sun Daisies, Dianthus, White Mums, Bachelor Buttons, Micro Orchids and/or Starflowers. Some of the flowers in the micro blend can be bitter, but the blend can be used in many ways.

We had a great time visiting the local markets and picking up some artisanal ingredients to pair with these beautiful flowers. We couldn’t settle on just one way to use them so we came up with a few different uses and had an picnic this past Saturday while dining al fresco on our balcony.

Smoked  Salmon  Toasts  with  Edible  Flowers

My first idea was to pair the flowers with jewel-like salmon. I usually don’t like cured or smoked salmon, but I did my research and visited a place that specializes in smoking meats, Neopol Savory Smokery. They had several different types of salmon so we took home the traditional, Thai, and Green Tea smoked salmons. The salmon was layered on top of some toasted rye bread, cream cheese we mixed with chives, and topped with pickled golden beets and edible micro flowers.

Rhubarb  Macarons  with  Edible  Microflowers  and  Lemon  Curd  Filling

I had originally planned to make some earl grey madelines decorated with microflowers, but I could not find my madeline pan anywhere! I must have been crazy because I decided to take a crack at making macarons for the first time ever! I found this excellent resource for macarons on brave tart that not only said I didn’t need to age my egg whites, but had very specific instructions for every step along the way.

After adding a dash of rhubarb syrup to the mix, I piped the macarons and topped them with the flowers before baking. Some didn’t develop the macaron “feet”, but they were all delicious! I filled most with lemon curd but some were extra lucky and were filled with cookie butter.

Aviation  Cocktail

Flowers go extremely well with this crisp, floral, and refreshing cocktail. This drink is easy to make with only a few ingredients, and it seems to be great in the winter or the spring! You can get the recipe, which is from the PDT cocktail book, here.

Earl  Grey  Cake  with  Elderflower  Cream  Cheese  Filling

I wanted to use the larger flowers in an edible capacity as well. I candied some pansies since they have a sweeter profile than nasturtiums. I lined a pan with preserved cherry blossoms and micro flowers then poured an earl grey cake batter over them. Like sweet sushi, I lined the cake with cream cheese filling flavored with some elderflower syrup, then added a layer of fresh pansies. I rolled the cake up and chilled it overnight. After slicing the cake I topped it with pieces of the candied flowers.

I brought this cake into work and everyone loved it! Some were a little wary of the flowers, but some ate the candied flowers whole and even had seconds of the cake.

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Thank you to Marx Foods for sending me these amazing flowers to play with! I am participating in the Edible Flower Photography challenge — voting is through their instagram so head on over to see the other entries starting 5/5!

Product provided for review.  All notes & opinions are my own.

Roasted Merino Lamb Rack with Potatoes

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Lamb is one of my favorite foods to eat, but it’s intimidating for me to even think about cooking at home. I’ve heard people complain that it smells and heard horror stories of too rare or burnt messes.

That’s why I was glad to receive some lamb in the mail from Marx Foods to pair with a tried-and-true simple recipe from someone I know.  I went all in and tried the scariest seeming cut: frenched racks.

This recipe, from one of my favorite chefs José Andrés, comes from his cookbook Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen which is paired with his PBS television show. It only has a handful of ingredients and is very straight forward so that the lamb itself can shine. Finishing with pyramid salt added a nice crunch, especially when paired with a smear of pesto.

The lamb itself was seared to a juicy, caramelized crunch and cooked to an internal temperature of 130°F. The meat, after resting a few minutes, was silky, moist, and lean. There was no off-putting smell prior, during, or after cooking — in fact, it tasted fresher than I ever knew meat could smell.

For those that haven’t tasted much lamb before, it tastes similar to beef, but lighter, cleaner, and less fatty, almost like venison. As the meat cools you can actually taste the flavor of the lamb more.

About  the  Lamb

Now, this lamb is not the same as average supermarket lamb. Alpine Origin Merino roams free on mountain pastures in New Zealand, grazing on grasses & alpine herbs. Because of this, the meat has a lighter, less gamy flavor and is more evenly marbled.


Product provided for review.  All notes & opinions are my own.

Thank you Marx Foods for the opportunity to taste this amazing lamb and to try my hand at making it myself! Stay tuned for a recipe involving Lamb Loin Fillets.