The One Hair Product I Can’t Live Without

Author: Kirsti Kay, Beauty, Fragrance

Lush R&B 1How does a relatively sane person end up going around to all the people she knows and asking them to smell her bangs? How does a mild-mannered girl from the Valley sit smugly at a concert silently thinking, “You’re welcome,” because we are packed in like sardines and everyone is able to breathe in the intoxicating aroma of her fragrant hair? Is it weird to wake up in the night and smile because your awesome-smelling hair woke you up, and then fall back into blissful dreams of jasmine petals and orange blossoms?

Our story begins on a rainy winter’s day in Portland, Maine. After a wonderful visit, our dear friend Treena dropped my husband and me off at the bus station, where we were catching a bus to the Boston airport. It was gray and drizzly and we were sad that our trip had come to an end. When it was time to queue up for the bus, there was an adorable gal with a service dog in front of us in line. Aaron asked if he could pet her dog, and as we started chatting, I was suddenly overcome with the most delicious scent. I could barely concentrate on our conversation because I was just breathing in this strange, invisible perfume that wafted from this woman, hypnotizing me with its floral majesty.

It turns out she was heading to L.A. with her sweet dog Lula to live with her boyfriend in Sherman Oaks. Wait. Sherman Oaks is about 15 minutes away from where we live! And, you say…your boyfriend works in the entertainment industry? Aaron works in the entertainment industry! Oh, and you’re obsessed with your dog? We’re obsessed with our dog too! And, hey, you smell so good and I happen to love good smells! By the time we got on the bus, we were friends.

I said to Aaron, “Wow, didn’t she smell amazing?”
“I guess,” he said.
I thought about it the whole flight home.

Lush R&B 2

The contents of this tiny tub will Revive & Balance your hair while enveloping you in a heavenly floral scent.

The first time she came over with her boyfriend and Lula, I gave her a hug, and not-so-subtly buried my face in her hair like a woman-starved pirate from a cheap romance novel. “Wow, you smell so good,” I said like an idiot. She casually mentioned it was a hair conditioner from Lush. As I poured the wine, I made a mental note to GET THEE TO THE NEAREST LUSH, ASAP!

The next morning, I went straight to Lush’s website, but they had so many conditioners I had no idea which was the one that had bewitched me body and soul. I was going to have to ask her again. I had anxiety. Some people don’t like to reveal their recipes or the name of their perfume…could conditioner fall into this quagmire of personal secrets? Would I be gauche for asking AGAIN?

The next time we met, I was slightly sweaty with anxiety. But the moment I got into her car and smelled that now familiar floral cloud, I just blurted out, “Please tell me again what that conditioner is!” She laughed the confident laugh of a woman who knows how good she smells and said, “It’s from Lush and it’s called R&B.”

I immediately went online when I got back to my office and discovered that R&B is actually a hair moisturizer, not a hair conditioner. The website also said it’s good for curly or African American hair, which was a little concerning, because I have the finest baby hair in the ENTIRE WORLD. Whatever, it shall be mine! And it was.

Lush R&B 3

Just a dab of this Lush-ious styling cream will tame flyaways and smooth curls.

At $24 for 3.5 oz., it’s not cheap, but a little goes a long way. It is very thick, almost like body butter. At first, I put a little bit on my freshly washed hair as a leave-in conditioner and it was too much for my baby fine hair. The best way to use this product is to apply it to dried hair as a styling cream. If you have wonderfully thick and curly hair, this will cradle each curl in fragrant shine and softness. If you have fine hair like me, rub about a pea-sized amount into your hands and smooth down flyways. I also rub a bit into my bangs since that hair is the closest to my nose. Immediately, I am enveloped in the scent of angels, if angels lived in a hair product inside a mall store. The ingredients are vegan and mostly natural, featuring orange flower absolute, Indian jasmine absolute, and organic avocado butter. And, like all of Lush’s products, R&B is cruelty free.

I’m sure I seem like a ding-dong asking my friends and co-workers to smell my hair, but all of my lady friends have swooned right along with me. I made sure to give everyone clear instructions on how to buy and use it. I’m ready to pay it forward, one awesome-smelling set of bangs at a time.

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Lush R&B Hair Moisturizer
 

Love the Cookie You’re With

Author: Kirsti Kay, Dessert, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Sweets

Tonight I’m all alone. It’s Saturday night and I am supposed to be at a party with my husband. Our pug, Owen, had some minor surgery earlier in the week and still isn’t feeling well, so we decided I would be the one to stay home with him. I was feeling a little sorry for myself—I had a really cute outfit all picked out and I haven’t seen our friends in a while. I watched Aaron leave with a nice bottle of Pinot Noir along with a platter of caramelized balsamic Brussels sprouts and shuffled back into the house in my yoga pants and slippers thinking, “Now what?”

Love the Cookie 1

It’s a beautiful evening, so I had a beer out on the deck. Owen sat on my lap for a while and then lay at my feet, snoring, which was a good sign. I read some food magazines, which is one of my favorite pastimes. I hoard them for the perfect time and the stars were aligned—no one to disturb me, gorgeous weather for sitting outside, alcoholic beverage of choice at the ready…even Owen was giving me a reprieve from nurse duty.

When I read food magazines, I have this system: I read each magazine from front to back, slowly, savoring each page and each recipe—even the ones with ingredients I don’t eat, like meat or tofu—and then I carefully dog-ear the pages with recipes or products or places I want to look up on the Internet and save to Evernote for future reference. I love to be transported to places like Morocco. I can almost smell the exotic spices, and the architecture is so wonderfully different from my Valley neighborhood. I decide I absolutely must buy a tagine and I make a mental note to order nigella seeds. I will also need to figure out a substitute for lamb. Pages dutifully dog-eared. And when I turn to the spread on a rustic wine country dinner in Napa, I can almost feel the breeze on my shoulders (fashionably covered in a cashmere pashmina, of course) as I sit at a reclaimed wooden table artfully placed in the middle of a million grape vines, perfectly set with mismatched china and flowers, lights twinkling above, and taste the ancient terroir in each sip of a single vineyard cabernet.

Love the Cookie 2

I finished my magazines and my beer and got out of my swinging chair (the best place to read) to feed the dog and make myself a sweet potato. I poured a glass of Riesling—’cause heck, there was still some in the fridge from last night—and sat down to enter all my dog-eared stuff into the interwebs for further investigation.

And that’s when I came upon the recipe for the Chocolate Chip Cookie For One.

Hmmmm, the oven was still warm from my sweet potato and I had all the ingredients. The night was definitely looking up. It took mere moments to mix all the ingredients together. The only tools I used were a small bowl, a fork and measuring spoons. When I was done, I had this tiny amount of cookie dough, and something about its diminutiveness made me happy. A sprinkling of Maldon sea salt on top of the cookie and into the oven with this solitary confection. Cookie for one coming right up!Love the Cookie 3

Usually, when I bake there is a mess to contend with that sometimes puts a damper on my baking high, but I washed my few dishes and was back on the computer in no time. I had barely typed “where to buy tagine” in my browser when…COOKIE SMELL!

The pug is resting nicely, the kitchen is clean, and I’ve got a warm cookie and Matilda (one of my favorite movies) on DVR. I guess the song is true—if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with, especially if it happens to be a chocolate chip cookie.

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CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE FOR ONE (adapted from Food & Wine magazine)

Love the Cookie 4Active Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Serves 1

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter*
1 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. granulated sugar
⅛ tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1½ Tbsp. bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks (or any other chocolate you happen to have on hand)
Maldon salt (or other flake sea salt) for sprinkling (optional)

Love the Cookie 5Heat oven (or toaster over) to 350° F. In a small microwave bowl, heat the butter until just softened (not melted), about 10 seconds on 50% power. Using a fork, blend both sugars, the vanilla and a pinch of salt into the butter. Blend in the flour, then stir in the chocolate chips. Gather the dough in your hands and form a ball, then flatten onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (or toaster tray). Sprinkle with the Maldon salt. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool slightly. Get comfy with your most favorite pet (optional) and queue Matilda.

 

*To veganize this recipe, use a non-dairy butter substitute like Earth Balance.

Culture Cache

Author: Kirsten K., Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Savories, Snacks

Culture Cache 1Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to entertain guests who have a variety of dietary restrictions and preferences. You yourself may be gluten-free, lactose intolerant, vegetarian, or vegan. It can be challenging to create a menu of foods to serve that will cater to all tastes and requirements, so you might find yourself returning to the same old standbys again and again. While many people are gonzo for garbanzos, I am sick of chickpea dips, so it’s time to ditch the ho-hummus and try something a little nutty.*

When chef Miyoko Schinner became a vegan decades ago, she focused her culinary talents on creating gourmet dishes without the use of animal products. However, like many people who transition to a plant-based diet, she missed the dairy cheeses she used to enjoy and sought to recreate them in her kitchen. The result is Miyoko’s Creamery: a range of aged, artisanal vegan cheeses that look and feel like they came from the dairy case and have flavors that are reminiscent of familiar favorites.

Culture Cache 2Made from a base of organic cashews and miso, these cultured nut products (labeling laws prevent Miyoko’s Kitchen from referring to its creations as “cheese” on the packaging) have a smooth, creamy texture and a piquant tang. While other vegan cheese alternatives often contain processed soy and long lists of additives, Mikoyo’s Creamery combines wholesome ingredients with a sophisticated presentation that will give you the wow without the cow.

The Fresh Loire Valley variety is wrapped in a wine-soaked fig leaf and brings a soupçon of French refinement to even casual get togethers when served with dried fig and olive crackers and a bottle of crisp Chardonnay. For a bit of dark drama, offer guests a noirish nosh of Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash on a platter of black grapes. The ash imparts a slightly smoky flavor, but for those (like me) who prefer a more intense per-fume, try the Aged English Smoked Farmhouse.

Culture Cache 3The online cheese shop at Miyoko’s Kitchen has an ever-revolving and evolving lineup of flavors, which often sell out quickly. I am fortunate to have a local market that carries a large selection from Miyoko’s Creamery, but those who have trouble finding certain varieties and are adventurous in the kitchen can make their own cultured nut products by following the recipes in Miyoko’s book, Artisan Vegan Cheese.

Whether you or your guests have food allergies, ethical concerns, or simply a desire to reduce your consumption of dairy products, get some culture and squirrel away a cache of vegan cheese from Miyoko’s Creamery for your next gathering of (health) nuts.

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Miyoko’s Creamery

 

Artisan Vegan Cheese can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble , or get an autographed copy from Miyoko’s Kitchen.

 

*Unfortunately, those with nut allergies are still left holding the hummus.

Good Eggs

Author: Kirsten K., Crafts, Holidays

Good Eggs 1Spring has officially arrived and Easter is one week from today, so the time draws nigh when I must dye! No, I’m not starring in an all-female Passion Play, I am speaking of Easter eggs, those colorful capsules that—in a just world—contain chocolate and jelly beans, but, more likely, encase your breakfast or lunch for the next week or so.

When it comes to decorating for the holidays, I’m a traditionalist who likes to stick with the tried-and-true, but I am not a fan of hard-boiled eggs, nor do I relish blowing slimy innards out of a shell (a task I enjoy about as much as hollowing out pumpkins for carving at Halloween). The solution: EggNots.

Good Eggs 2EggNots are ceramic egg alternatives that look, feel, and dye just like real eggs, but are perfect for vegans, those with egg allergies, and lazy people with strange hang-ups (ahem). They are ready to use right out of the carton—no boiling, blowing out, or patching holes required.

I like to scatter a table or fill a bowl with solid-colored eggs in a variety of springtime pastels, but the blank white canvas of these ceramic spheroids inspires a plethora of creative ideas, so don’t put all your EggNots in one Easter basket. You can decorate eggs for any season or reason and use the company’s egg hangers to display your artistry.

If you’re stressed about Easter or springtime decorating, don’t lay an egg. Give yourself—and the hens—a break and crack open a carton of EggNots.

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EggNots

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Coffee, Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Spirits

St. Patrick’s Day is almost here, and while I may not be Irish, I like to celebrate a holiday on which people are encouraged to dress in my favorite color. Always having some article of green clothing on hand, I haven’t been pinched yet!

Sweet Dreams 1This year, in addition to the wearin’ o’ the green, I’ll be drinkin’ o’ the Dream. In our Holiday G.I.F.T. Guide, I chose Dream Catcher Legendary Toasted Irish Liqueur as one of my picks, and I’ve discovered that it makes a swoon-worthy Irish coffee. Simply replace the traditional whiskey with an equal amount of Dream Catcher and top with whipped cream. It’s magically delicious!

Serve up a mug with breakfast and you’ll feel on top o’ the mornin’. In the afternoon, you can enjoy a wee nip while you avoid a wee pinch. As a nightcap, the comforting warmth of the coffee and liqueur will help you catch some Zzzzz…and net some sweet dreams.

With luck, there’s still time to lurk in the liquor aisle and trap this treat from the Emerald Isle to enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day. One sip of this toasted chestnut liqueur and you’ll know you’ve found the gold at the end of the rainbow.

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Sweet Dreams 2DREAM CATCHER IRISH COFFEE (adapted from the Food Network)

1 cup freshly-brewed hot coffee
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 ½ oz. (3 Tbsp.) Dream Catcher Irish liqueur
heavy whipping cream and sugar, to taste*

Whip the cream with a beater or whisk until stiff peaks form, adding sugar, to taste (if desired). Set aside.

Fill a footed mug with hot water to preheat it, then empty. Pour piping hot coffee into warmed glass until it is about 3/4 full. Add the brown sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Blend in Dream Catcher Irish liqueur. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and enjoy!

*To veganize this recipe, substitute whipped coconut cream for dairy whipping cream.

 

For a store locator and recipes featuring Dream Catcher Irish liqueur, visit the company’s website.

 

Creams of the Crop

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Holidays, Sweets

Creams of the Crop 1Valentine’s Day is almost a week away. Like many people, I tend to view the Feast of St. Valentine as just another commercial holiday devised to sell cards, candy, and flowers, but if it nets me a box of chocolates and a dozen long-stemmed roses, I’m in. I prefer to purchase my own lingerie and jewelry, and I’m not sure I could keep a straight face if someone read me love poetry, but bonbons and bouquets are the way to my heart. Whether from a lover, mother, sister, or friend, I embrace the cliché, so I swooned when I discovered these fondant creams in Fragrant Rose and Classic Violet from Mr. Stanley’s.

Creams of the Crop 2Readers of this blog know of Kirsti’s and my fascination with floral flavorings, particularly rose and violet. In searching online over the years for confections made with these perfumed essences, I’ve repeatedly come across rose and violet creams sold by companies based in the U.K. These fondant centers enrobed in chocolate are popular across the pond, but can be difficult to find stateside, so I had to do a double take when I spied the lavender and pink gingham boxes on a shelf at my local Lolli and Pops.

The presentation is no-frills—10 plain chocolate discs nestled in a plastic tray—but the flavors of rose and violet are pronounced, blossoming on the tongue with each bite. Brits familiar with such tastes might be blasé about these nostalgic treats, but to this Yank they were bloomin’ delicious. And, despite the word “creams” in the name, they are suitable for vegans.

These old-fashioned floral fondants make a happy couple, so if you’re planning to give your sweetie flowers and chocolate for Valentine’s Day, I propose you marry the two and deliver a pair of boxes from Mr. Stanley.

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Mr. Stanley’s Fragrant Rose and Classic Violet Old Fashioned Fondant Creams

 

Lolli and Pops is a candy store that collects “unique sweets from all over the world.” They have a limited number of locations scattered across the U.S. Mr. Stanley’s Famous Sweets can also be purchased in the states from Amazon.

 

History in the Making

Author: Kirsten K., Dessert, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Sweets

History in the Making 1Readers of this blog know that I’m a chocolate lover, but I am simply carrying on a long-standing American tradition. Cocoa trees have been grown in the Americas for thousands of years, although it wasn’t until Cortés observed the Aztecs drinking chocolate in 1519 and introduced the custom to Europe that it began to take on the form we enjoy today. Brought to the east coast of North America in the 17th and 18th centuries by British colonists who imported it from Europe, chocolate was a favorite drink of the Founding Fathers, including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. At the birth of our country, these men all had a connection to Williamsburg, Virginia, and it was on a visit to Colonial Williamsburg several years ago that I first came across American Heritage Chocolate.

History in the Making 2Created using authentic recipes from the 1750s, American Heritage Chocolate includes spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, orange, vanilla, and even chili pepper. Naturally, my curiosity was piqued, but when I saw that the chocolate was produced by the MARS candy company, I was a little dubious. I associated MARS with the kind of chocolate typically found at 7-Eleven, not with pricier artisan brands, but I was intrigued enough to purchase a block of it. I’m glad I did, because this is a truly unique—and uniquely American—product.

History in the Making 3

Illustration by Melissa Elliott

The chocolate comes in sticks, bites, and blocks, or finely grated to make a hot beverage. The sticks and blocks, which are lightly dusted with cocoa powder, have a look and texture that is best described as “rustic.” The flavor is fruity up front and finishes with a slight kick from the pepper, but the consistency is somewhat coarse and chalky. Part of the charm of this chocolate is that it’s made using 18th-century methods, so it doesn’t have the glossy sheen and smooth texture you expect from modern production techniques. For this reason, I feel that American Heritage Chocolate is best enjoyed in the colonial manner, melted in hot water for a traditional, full-bodied drink or mellowed with the addition of a little milk (or coconut milk), but I have snacked on the bites and taken a chip off ye olde block to use in recipes calling for semisweet chocolate. For a treat that’s an American original in more ways than one, chop the block or sticks into chunks and use them in chocolate chip cookies.History in the Making 4

It is often said that everything old is new again. The Historic Division of MARS was formed in 2006 “to educate consumers on the history of the Americas through the unique lens of chocolate.” While others are taking chocolate into the 21st century with additives like bee pollen, espresso powder, and craft beer, American Heritage Chocolate is looking to the past to give modern-day palates a taste of history in the making.

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American Heritage Chocolate

 

Visit the American Heritage Chocolate website to scroll through an interactive History of Chocolate and to find a merchant near you, or purchase directly from the Williamsburg Marketplace.

See more artwork by Melissa Elliott and read about her process on her blog, The Slipcover.

Barn Praising

Author: Kirsten K., Philanthropy

The Gentle Barn 1For the past few years, my sister Heidi and I have made a regular practice of sending each other cute pictures and videos of animals: dogs and cats snuggling, foxes jumping on trampolines, rats sleeping with teddy bears, pigs wearing sweaters. Who knew that owls like to cuddle? Or that hippos enjoy massages? Heidi and I joke about the increasingly large piece of property we’ll need to accommodate all the animals we want. Whenever I come across a video of a cow playing with a ball or a baby elephant taking a bath, I’ll think, “We’re gonna need more land.”

The Gentle Barn 2

Gettin’ our goat at The Gentle Barn

Long before my nephew brought home a baby goat named Orbit to look after for a friend, Heidi and I were swooning over all things hircine. Based on the number of goat videos I come across online, we’re not alone. From baby goats in pajamas and miniature stampedes to Buttermilk Sky and fainting breeds, goats are having a moment. A couple of weeks ago, I said to my sister, “I need to pet some goats!” So she drove me a short distance from her house to visit The Gentle Barn. Located 40 miles north of Los Angeles in Santa Clarita, California, The Gentle Barn is an animal sanctuary housing horses, cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, dogs, sheep and, yes, goats. While there, we also saw a llama, a donkey, and a peacock named Jewel who likes to bed down with the pigs.

The Gentle Barn 3

Addison loves carrots and having his head and ears rubbed

We were able to pet several goats, in addition to Addison the donkey, a massive pig named Zeus, and three different breeds of cow, but many of these animals have come from situations of extreme abuse and neglect and can be wary of people. Volunteers on the premises advised us as to which animals were shy about being approached or having their heads touched. Some animals need to be cordoned off from the crowds on visiting days, because they are in the process of being rehabilitated and are still fearful of humans. When you look into the eyes of the animals or pet their soft fur, it’s difficult to imagine that anyone could bear to harm them.

The Gentle Barn 4

Three’s company in the hog house.

Fortunately, the caring and dedicated staff at The Gentle Barn are there to give them a second chance at a happy life. The well-being of the animals is their top priority, and this extends to the community at large. One of the missions of The Gentle Barn is to teach children empathy through interaction with animals. Their At-Risk Youth program offers young people the opportunity to identify with these animals and benefit from their unconditional love and acceptance in an effort to break the cycle of abuse.

The Gentle Barn 5By the time Heidi and I made the rounds of all the animal enclosures (and she nearly had her skirt eaten by a baby cow named Sage), we’d worked up an appetite, so we stopped by The Frankenstand for some veggie dogs. Afterwards, having satisfied both our hunger and our goat quota, we headed home to our own beasts, grateful that we were raised to love and respect animals and fortunate to have had them as cherished family members throughout our lives.

If you want to get your fix of wet noses, wagging tails, soft feathers, and playful grunts, make a “gentle note” to visit this wonderful sanctuary.

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The Gentle Barn

 

The Gentle Barn has locations in California and Tennessee. To assist in its efforts to care for these rescued animals, The Gentle Barn has set up a sponsorship program. You can visit the Virtual Barn on their website to see pictures of the animals and read their stories, then sponsor one for as little as $5 a month. If you live in the area, you can also help by becoming a member or a volunteer.

 

Flowing Smoke

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Recipes, Savories, Snacks

After a hot, dry October, fall finally arrived in Southern California this past week and I smelled wood smoke in the air for the first time on my nightly walk. The aroma instantly brought to mind cozy nights at home in front of a crackling fire with a mug of hot cocoa warming your hands. But even though the season for hearth fires is short here in the southwest, I enjoy the pleasures of wood smoke year-round in my kitchen.

Flowing Smoke 1I have been crushing on liquid smoke for a while now. Just a few drops of this versatile seasoning lends a rich, earthy flavor to sweets and savories alike. From the now-defunct smoky black beans at El Pollo Loco (bring them back!) to the swoon-worthy Smoked Chocolate Chips from Hot Cakes, I have long had a fondness for the fume. Since most of us don’t own or want to fuss with a smoker, liquid smoke makes a delicious and convenient alternative.

There are many different types and brands of liquid smoke on the market, but my current favorite is Cedar House Natural Hickory Liquid Smoke. I have added it to black and baked beans, sprinkled it on pizza and eggs, and mixed it into hot chocolate and ice cream (try it with salted caramel). You can also add a dash or two to melted chocolate and pour it into molds for your own smoky chocolate bar. Top with a toasted marshmallow and sandwich between two graham crackers and you’ll be singing Kumbaya in no time. Campfire Girls, eat your hearts out!

By far, my favorite way to enjoy liquid smoke is in buttery popcorn tossed with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese. Any way you like it—alder, hickory, mesquite—experiment and have fun. You just might discover an indispensable addition to your culinary repertoire…and that’s not blowing smoke!

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Cedar House Natural Hickory Liquid Smoke

 

Flowing Smoke 2SMOKY PARMESAN POPCORN

Ingredients:
3 Tbsp. canola or coconut oil*
½ cup popcorn kernels
3-4 Tbsp. butter or Earth Balance spread†
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese†
liquid smoke
salt and pepper

Directions:
Pour the oil in a 4-quart stock pot and heat over a medium flame for about a minute. Add the popcorn kernels and shake the pot slightly to coat them with oil. Cover pot with a lid, leaving a small opening at the edge to vent the steam. When the kernels begin to pop, move the pot gently back and forth over the flame in a continuous motion until the popping slows down to several seconds between pops. Immediately take the pan off the stove, remove the lid, and empty the popped corn into a large bowl.

Melt the butter in a small pan on the stove or in a microwave. Add a few drops of liquid smoke to the melted butter and stir to blend. (I like a lot of liquid smoke and give the bottle a few good shakes into the butter, but you may want to start with a small amount and add more to your taste.) Pour the melted butter evenly over the popcorn and toss until popcorn is thoroughly coated. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and add salt and pepper to taste, then toss again to mix well. Grab a large stack of napkins and enjoy!

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*I prefer the crispiness of popcorn popped in oil, but you can make yours in an air popper or other popcorn maker, if you prefer. Just follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

†You can veganize this recipe by replacing the butter with Earth Balance and the Parmesan cheese with ¼ to ½ cup of nutritional yeast. Earth Balance is sold at most supermarkets. Nutritional yeast can be found at many natural foods stores and vitamin shops.

Going Native

Author: Kirsten K., Coffee, Dessert, Food, Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Recipes, Sweets

Going Native 1I rarely consume dairy milk, but I wasn’t crazy about most of the alternatives until I discovered the wonders of coconut milk. I’m not talking about the highly diluted version sold in Tetra Paks that you can find on store shelves next to the almond, soy, and hemp milks. I mean the thick, creamy coconut milk sold in cans that is located in the ethnic foods section of most supermarkets.

I found my way to canned coconut milk when I was looking for a natural, non-dairy creamer to use in my morning coffee and brewed chocolate. I like to control the amount and type of sweetener I add, but all of the soy and coconut creamers I’ve come across contain sugar, and the milk alternatives are too light to replace creamer. When I decided to try canned coconut milk, I went…well…coconuts!

Going Native 2Over the years, I’ve tried many different brands and grades of coconut milk, and Native Forest is, in my opinion, the best of the bunch. It comes in three varieties, but I’ve only seen the Classic and Light versions at my local market. The Light Coconut Milk has a beautifully smooth texture and a mild, sweet flavor that mixes well with coffee and tea. It can be thinned with water and poured over cereal or used in any recipe that calls for milk. I use the full-fat Classic Coconut Milk to make non-dairy ice cream and whipped coconut cream. Melt a bar of dark chocolate in a pan of hot coconut milk for the most swoon-worthy cup of hot chocolate you’ve ever tasted.

All of Native Forest’s coconut milks are organic and come packaged in BPA-free cans. Once opened, the milk should be consumed within four days, but I get around this by freezing it in ice cube trays. I just pop a few cubes out every couple of days and let them thaw in the fridge until I need them. The cans are shelf-stable for years, so I always keep several on hand.

This past week, I saw Native Forest coconut milk at Trader Joe’s, where they were selling it for half the price I normally pay. Previously, I’d only found the brand at health food stores and high-end markets, so I asked an employee about it. He said that Trader Joe’s is repackaging its own coconut milk and sourced the Native Forest brand to offer as an alternative in the meantime. I have no idea how long the situation will last, so I suggest you look for this fantastic deal and milk it for all it’s worth.

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Native Forest Organic Coconut Milk

 

Native Forest coconut milk is sold at Whole Foods and some health food stores. It is available at Trader Joe’s for a limited time.

 

Update 7/20/16:

Native Forest Coconut Milk PowderNative Forest now offers a convenient Coconut Milk Powder. Just like their canned coconut milks, the powdered version is vegan and gluten-free. It dissolves instantly in hot water, making it ideal for use as a non-dairy creamer. It also comes in a resealable pouch that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, so it’s great for travel or if (like me) you don’t have a fridge at work. Mix with cocoa powder and a little xylitol for a quick and easy sugar-free hot chocolate. That may not sound appealing in the midst of this heat wave, but fall will be here before you know it, so enjoy your summer vacation and be sure to take the powder when you take a powder.

Native Forest Coconut Milk can be purchased at Sprouts, the stores mentioned above, or online from AmazonEdward & Sons, and Thrive Market.