Cheese Sauce

IngredientsFor this recipe, you will need...

  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp regular mustard
  • 2 1/2 cups 1 or 2% milk
  • 2 1/2 cups Fairlife Milk
  • 6 cups (25–26 oz) cheese: 1 package light cream cheese (8 oz); 1 smoked Gouda (7 oz), shredded; make up the rest of shredded cheddar cheese. Set 2 cups of the shredded cheese aside.

 

Method

Melt butter in a large pan and add flour until fully incorporated. Add salt, pepper, paprika, and mustard, and cook a few minutes on mid to low heat. Add milk and stir every few minutes to keep from sticking to the pan. Cook until thickened, 10-15 minutes, and add the 4 cups of cheese and stir in over very low heat.

 

Notes

The base recipe is from Kitchen Treaty, and has been my go-to cheese sauce recipe for a few years now. It’s so good and full of ooey-gooey cheese. I always double the recipe for a 9 x 13 pan, and we eat the leftover sauce.

This is the best version of this recipe I’ve made so far–that or I forget just how good it is each time. This version was made with riced cauliflower, and it was okay. Florets would probably be better, but that’s much more expensive. I didn’t think to get a picture when I was making it, so this image is from another bake with the same base recipe–sometimes I really miss pasta!

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Tones and Filters

The last few weekends, I finally went through and organized all the pictures on my phone–there were hundreds at this point–and reorganized some of my folders, especially filling out my floral design portfolio from 2016–2017. This included some nice art-style close ups, and I’ve pulled a few here. Over the next few weeks and months, I envision going through some of these and posting some of these for the blog.

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This particular image looks rather nice both in the original coloring, and in the nearly grayscale filter below. Which do you prefer?

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Crust of Overcooked Rice Tea

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This tea has an interesting, yet matter of fact name, which definitely caught my attention when I saw the box in the lunch room at work one day last year. While this kind of more savory, grain-based tea is more common in Asian cultures, for many white American women like myself, I imagine this would be very unusual or off-putting. It’s not the type of thing one typically associates with a drink here, but something I was excited to try. I don’t know if it’s actually medicinal, but the profile, to me, seems similar to other more health-related Asian teas I’ve seen, such as barley tea. This one happens to be Korean.

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I know that many Asians relish the rice from the bottom of the pot, which by the end of the day has become browned and toasted. In fact, quite a few cultures enjoy this kind of toasted, crusty rice. In my own experience, even a relatively short stay in the  cooker beyond the cooking time can result in a lightly toasted crust. It’s a rather pleasant variation on rice.

So I was interested mainly in two aspects of this tea: (1) does it taste like toasted, crusty rice, and (2) is it a good flavor for tea? I only got one or two packets of this, and not being a fan of cold rice, opted for hot tea only.

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(1) This does actually taste like toasted rice. It’s not a burned taste, but nicely toasted with the clear and distinct flavor of toasted, savory rice.

(2) I found the tea delicious. The flavor isn’t overpowering, and it makes a light tea with a lighter temperament than either black or green teas, but also not with the pungency or fruity, floral notes of an herbal tea. Yet, it was not quite so light as a white tea, but closer to that than other types I’ve had.

Overall, I enjoyed this tea quite a bit, and only wished I had grabbed more of it at the time. I’ll look for this the next time I’m at the Asian market.

Have you tried any teas considered unconventional for your culture or where you live? what did you think of them? Let us know in the comments–It’s always great to try new teas.

Dried Hibiscus Flowers

One day in December, I went to the local Asian grocery, where they have many inexpensive spices available in the Mexican section. While there, I found dried hibiscus flowers. Needless to say, they came home with me at a low price, and I will find something to do with them. I’ve never seen them in any other grocery store, but they are often used in herbal teas.

Hibiscus is a plant with large, showy flowers which grows in temperate zones throughout the world, and comes in many colors. There are many types in this botanical family. You may also be familiar with the Rose of Sharon, which is usually a type of hibiscus. My parents have a row of these down the side of their house, in both white and pink, so I’m more familiar with them than the larger hibiscus family members. I took these images in the Longwood Gardens greenhouses in August 2018.

The package has a nutritional chart, and contains no other ingredients, so I opened it up and tried them the other day when looking for a garnish for food photos. Opening up the bag, there is an immediate scent of dried fruit with a definite, but not overly strong, floral note. In short, it does not smell like potpourri.

dried hibiscus flowers I was most surprised, however, that the taste isn’t like eating hibiscus tea. While it still has the lush qualities I usually associate with such teas, it is a bit more savory and “dried”, if one can consider that a flavor. It was a bit strong, and one would only want to eat a few at a time, but it is a nice flavor. I’m not sure how many people would like it; DH wrinkled his nose at the scent and will likely

 

Based on the nutrition label, they are rather healthy: the entire bag (2 oz) contains 35 calories, 2g of carbs, and 1g of sugar, and very little else.never try it.

My search for recipes containing hibiscus flowers mostly yielded tea recipes. However, I did find a hibiscus cranberry relish I’ll likely try. It’s also likely I can find quite a few toiletry recipes containing hibiscus, so I might try some of those later, as well. If you have any experience using hibiscus, please let me know in the comments.

 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes

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Pumpkin pancakes with chocolate chips, dried hibiscus flowers, and an aesthetic lime.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flower
  • 4–5 Tbsp stevia
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk
  • cinnamon
  • allspice
  • mace
  • chocolate chips

Method

Mix flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt with a whisk. Add egg, milk, and butter, and whisk gently to combine. Add half a regular sized can of pumpkin puree and whisk. Finally, add spices to taste and more stevia if needed to compensate for the pumpkin.

Cook on a griddle, adding chocolate chips as desired to the top of each pancake when first put on the pan. Serve hot with butter, syrup, and jams as you prefer.

Yield: About 10 medium size (4–5 inch) pancakes.

Notes

This is modified from the basic pancake recipe in The Joy of Cooking; about 2/3 of that recipe in measurements, and adding the pumpkin, spices, and chocolate chips.

Use any sweetener you like, I currently have a powdery lower-end stevia. My husband prefers sweeter pancakes, so I usually use more than given in a recipe.

Review

I’m generally not into pancakes (or waffles)–they’re more something to eat syrup on or put raisins, chocolate, or blueberries in. However, DH likes them, and once in a while I’m inspired to make them. We were supposed to get a lot of snow and ice this weekend, so church was cancelled, and he mentioned pancakes this morning. Recently having cleaned out the pantry shelf, I knew we have 2 cans of pumpkin puree, and it inspired these pancakes.

With the added pumpkin and spices, they were moist and didn’t actually need a lot of syrup. The mixed white and whole wheat flours have it a heartier flavor, as well. It was’t overly heavy on the stevia, pumpkin, or spices, and I will definitely make these again. Should probably actually teach DH to make them.

There isn’t any lime or citrus in this, but the cutting board was sitting there (the plates were all syruped up at this point), so I used the lime to take up space on the board. I do like a pretty picture, and hopefully am getting better at it! I did try one of the hibiscus flowers, but they, too, weren’t part of the meal. Post on them to come.

 

Do you like pancakes? What are your favorite customization? Please let me know in the comments.

 

Reading Roundup 2018

As we head toward the close of the year, I’m thinking about what I want to read next, likely after Christmas. There’s a shelf and a half of to-read books, and the library. On top of that, I’ve started 3 books in the last year which I’m not sure I want to finish. The most recent one is old and quite dry, and I’m not sure how long it’s going to hold my interest.  I know I’ve read quite a bit the second half of the year, especially in October when I wasn’t writing in preparation for novel writing month. Floral and cookbooks are not included, as they are more instructional.

 

Fantasy: 18

  • Ink Exchange (Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr)
  • Fragile Eternity
  • Radiant Shadows
  • Darkest Mercy
  • The Frog Princess, E. D. Baker
  • Castle in the Air, Diana Wynne Jones
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
  • The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Rick Riordan)
  • The Last Olympian
  • The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, Rick Riordan)
  • The Son of Neptune
  • The Mark of Athena
  • The House of Hades
  • The Blood of Olympus
  • The Demigod Files (companion book and short stories)
  • The Throne of Fire (The Kane Chronicles, Rick Riordan)
  • The House with a Clock in Its Walls (John Bellairs)
  • Peter and the Shadow Thieves (Dave Barry)

Fiction: 7

  • Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Biography
  • Marika, Andrea Cheng
  • Cleopatra’s Daughter, Michelle Moran
  • Madame Tussaud
  • High Rhulian, Brian Jacques
  • Eight Cousins, Louisa May Alcott
  • The Valley of Amazement, Amy Tan

Nonfiction: 1

  • My Life in France, Julia Child

Total: 26

 

Looking at this list, I’m sure for some people–like me before I wrote so much–this isn’t very much. Just two books a month. However, it’s hard to do both. Overall, this is a good year for me in the reading department. I’m happy with both of these two things: (a) my main reading material is still fantasy; (b) these days I read non-fantasy, as well, for a more rounded approach.

For the next read, I’m thinking either the next Kane Chronicles (which I have), or a stand alone book.

What’s your next read?