Category Archives: Food

I like to eat. And cook.

Hot Cocoa Almond Deluxe

During the early part of this year I posted “Hot Cocoa, My Way.”

Here’s the concoction I came up with this morning. It’s more complex, but the basic principle is the same: start with cocoa powder, and go dark.

  • 1/2 c Hershey’s cocoa
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 tbsp Agave
  • 1 tsp Terva siirappi
  • 2 tbsp tar syrup liqueur.
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tiny sprinkle cayenne
  • 1 dash nutmeg
  • 1 dash salt
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 dash allspice
  • 3 cups Silk brand “light” vanilla almond milk.

Put the cocoa, sugar, agave, tar syrup, tar liqueur, and vanilla in a pot with 1 cup of the almond milk. Bring to a slow boil while whisking and stirring with one of these flat sauce-whisk thingies. Start slow so you don’t throw powdered cocoa everywhere. Once everything’s wet, go crazy. Foam is fine. You want it SMOOOTH.

Add the spices, and simmer until the alcohol in the liqueur and the vanilla has boiled off. Ten minutes? Dunno. With the exception of the cinnamon sticks and some foam, the stuff should be very, very smooth. If you have a silicone spatula, you’ll probably want to scrape the sides and whisk that stuff back in.

Mix in the rest of the almond milk, and gently whisk everything together. Let it stand so the cinnamon sticks can steep for a bit. The longer it stands, the cinnamonnier it gets. You can get some real bite to it if you’ve got half a day to kill.

When it’s done, it may be cold. Bummer. You can heat it back up on the stove, or just microwave it a cup at a time.

This stuff is *strong.* You may want to cut it with more almond milk, or even just water if you’re a real light-weight.

If you don’t have tar syrup or tar liqueur, you have my sympathy. I’m almost out of both, and I haven’t yet found anybody importing it (besides my friends from Helsinki.) You might be able to get by with a drop of liquid smoke, and more maple syrup. I know that’s what I might be reduced to in a few short weeks.

Arborianzo Fruit Salad

(I originally called this recipe “Arborio and Bean Fruit Salad,” but that sounded boring. So I did some word-melding, and tried “Garbanzarborio Fruit Salad,” but that sounded dangerous, and silly.)

Arborianzo Fruit Salad

I’m going vegan for a few weeks, and one of the things I need when I’m on any diet is the ability to reach into the cupboard or the fridge and quickly come away with an on-program meal. This usually requires some culinary hedge-wizardry, especially early on, because I don’t have the patience to live out of recipe books and advance planning for long.

My goal with this recipe was to arrive at a delicious fruit salad that had a source of protein, and to do so without chopping or cooking anything. I wanted the entire prep process to be “dump containers into Tupperware and stir.”

I missed that last mark, because I could tell I had too much fruit juice, and I didn’t want to lose it. Here’s the recipe, in “hedge wizard” format, which means you’ll need to come up with the ratios and specifics on your own:


  • Canned fruit in “natural juices” rather than syrup of any kind.  We’re avoiding added sugar, and it’ll screw things up later anyway. I used one can each of mandarin oranges, sliced pears, and chopped pineapple.
  • Canned beans. I suspect garbanzo beans will be best. They’re what I used. One can.
  • Fennel seed.
  • Cilantro. Fresh is always always always best, but I used dried, from a jar.
  • Arborio rice, dry. Probably about a cup. See below.


  • Empty the canned fruits into a mixing bowl.
  • Drain and rinse the canned beans. Dump those into the mixing bowl.
  • Sprinkle fennel and cilantro into the mixing bowl. Both are pretty powerful, but over-doing the fennel is a bigger mistake than over-doing the cilantro.
  • Stir.
  • Strain the mixing bowl into a measuring cup.
  • Put half as much arborio rice into a pot as you have strained fruit juices. Put the juices in, too.
  • Bring the pot to a boil, then simmer on low, covered, for 18 minutes.
  • Dump the pot into the mixing bowl. Stir.
  • Refrigerate.


All the nutrition from those cans (less the bean-water, which would be nasty here) ended up in final product. The juice from the cooked, canned fruit got cooked again, and absorbed by the rice, which is practically a dessert unto itself (but you know this, because when you took the lid off that pot you sampled some, and said “hey… that gives me an idea.”) The garbanzo beans have a mild enough flavor that what you’ll really taste in the fruit salad is the fruit, and the aromatic battle between the fennel, the cilantro, and the citrus. It’s a balancing act, because I think that if any of them actually win, you lose. They should fight in the bowl, and in your mouth, and your brain should argue about what it is tasting.

I don’t have specific amounts because I’ve done this exactly one (1) times, and the fennel seems a bit heavy. Also, I’m going to break the “all from cans” rule and chop cilantro next time. Fresh cilantro can hold its own against bottled fennel seeds. If I want to bring the citrus more fully into the fray I’ll need to actually zest an orange or a lime into this mess, and since I’m in a hurry that would definitely be going too far.

My Best Meal Ever

The title of this post is a stake in the ground, and I recognize that it calls out something that is by definition a moving target. If, at some future date, I enjoy a meal that displaces my Thursday, August 21st dinner at Wild Sage Bistro in Spokane Washington, I’ll write about that meal under the same title.

I ate with Lawrence Schoen, Valerie Green Schoen, Laura Ann Gilman, Barbara Ferrer, and Gail Carriger, so I was in the company of intelligent, articulate people, but more importantly I was in the company of people who know how to appreciate good food. We shared bits of our respective plates with one another, and this enhanced the experience significantly.

I can’t describe flavors the way Valerie, a trained chef, can. I end up using words like “amazing” and “powerful” and “oh my mouth is in love,” which might tell you how I’m feeling about the food, but won’t say anything about the food itself. I’ll try to be a bit more articulate.

I ordered the tenderloin fondue as a starter for sharing, the seared scallops (a chef’s special not found on the Wild Sage Bistro’s menu) as an entree, a side of asparagus for sharing, and an orange clementine pound cake for dessert. At the end of the meal Valerie told me I have a gift for ordering well, but I’m quite confident that I’m merely lucky, and that there were no wrong choices on the menu. Also, Val may have been high on pound cake.

You laugh? I had an endorphin rush from the first bite of tenderloin and pear, and the neurochemical joy kept flowing until we’d finished our dessert. It only abated when I sipped the very ordinary and poorly chosen Kaliber non-alcoholic beer, a beverage I usually enjoy, but which was every last kind of wrong for the meal. I would have been better served by ice water.

The gorgonzola fondue sauce had just the tiniest hint of the earthy, oh-dear-this-has-gone-bad flavor that I adore in bleu cheeses, just enough to remind me of what it was. Everything else going on in that little pot was fey magic of the sort you read about in Tolkien. We ran out of things to dip in that pot before we ran out of its contents, so I began looking for other vehicles by which to transfer the fondue into my maw. I finally settled on my finger. The pot was returned to our server very nearly clean enough to serve other patrons with.

The seared scallops were, as the name suggests, raw in the center. I eat raw scallops at my favorite sushi place all the time, so this was a selling point, and was why I’d ordered them. It was the least of that dish’s exemplary attributes. The sauce, the accompaniments, the thing that might have been garnish but I ate it anyway—I consumed them all, pausing only to share, reluctantly, with our party. Fortunately for me, Gail ordered the scallops as well, so we were able to grant others a taste without too deeply depleting our own plates.

I got one bite of Lawrence’s pork shank. I very nearly declared him the winner at ordering, but that would have been premature.

Valerie and I argued a bit about the pound cake before I ordered it. I thought it seemed like a light dessert, probably subtle, and good for sharing. She thought I must never have been exposed to a proper pound cake, because they’re not light at all. We were pretty full, so I ordered just one to share between me, Gail, and Valerie, and I promised that if they’d help a little, I’d take care of the rest, and I’d lie to myself about how I only had 1/3rd of the dessert.

I did not get 1/3rd of the dessert. I got about a quarter of it. I have never had a pound cake like that before, and neither had anyone else at our table. I don’t have words for it, but that was the point at which Valerie told me I had a gift for ordering well. Also, I decided that I had “won” at dinner, pork shanks notwithstanding.

My Best Meal Ever was a title held previously by a dinner with Sal, Caryn, and Sandra at La Vecchia in Reno. I did not expect that meal to be displaced, because it, too, was accompanied by flavor-induced endorphins. They were spottier, however, and wore off by dessert, which was merely extraordinary.

Once, a long, long time ago, the title was held by a meal of crab legs and key lime pie at a Joe’s Crab Shack franchise. I remember that meal fondly, but I don’t expect to ever return to Joe’s in an effort to repeat that experience. The bar has been raised quite a bit.

Life is too short to always eat the same things. I’ve had some amazing steaks, but I no longer order the steak if there are weird options on the menu. I’m glad I have friends who will invite me out to places where so many of the options are weird.


Shrimp and Grits in 10 Minutes

At LibertyCon I was told that the restaurant did good Shrimp & Grits. I love both shrimp and grits, so I was on board for that, but it turned out that the hotel had no proper kitchen this year during the remodel. I left the convention shrimp-and-gritsless.

The recipes I’ve seen online appear far more complex than the name “shrimp and grits” would suggest. They involve sausage, bacon, cream, a suite of multi-colored bell peppers, and lots more things I don’t have the patience for. Also, they take an hour to cook. I wanted these for breakfast, and breakfast is not a dish I can afford to spend an hour on. I’m breaking fast, not hosting a dinner party.

Here’s my alternative. It’s simple, and like the name of the dish suggests, it pretty much sticks to the “there is shrimp in these grits” theme.

  • 6 medium-large uncooked shrimp, peeled
  • 1/4c Quaker instant grits
  • 1c water
  • 2tbsp butter
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • Zatarain’s Blackened Seasoning
  • 1 green onion
  1. Prepare the grits in the water w/ 1tbsp butter and the bouillon cube. This takes 5 minutes, tops. While that’s working, multitask the rest.
  2. In a separate pan, saute the peeled shrimp in the other tbsp of butter, w/ Zatarain’s seasoning on them to taste.
  3. Chop the green onion.
  4. When the grits are done, remove them from the heat. Toss the chopped green onion into the pot, and then drop the cooked shrimp into the pot. Stir.
  5. Serve.

This is not a big, fancy dish that says “I had shrimp, so I threw a food party and invited all of the shrimp’s friends.” This is a dish borne of “oh, hey… there’s shrimp in the freezer, and nobody is watching. I’ll be done and cleaned up before anybody is the wiser.”