Cocktail Hour: October Favs

Happy Halloween, Foodies!

Welcome to my first Cocktail Hour! This is something I’ve been wanting to start for a while. A weekly conversational piece to discuss both food and life in general, outside of my recipe posts. Each week I’m going to pick a topic to write about from either my personal list of ideas or ideas that you guys send to me for discussion. I want this to be a loose, fun and open post. No boundaries! Here, I’ll share my thoughts, opinions, and experiences, as well as answer your questions. So send em my way!

I thought for my first installment of Cocktail Hour, we should talk about my October favorites; ingredients, snacks, books, and kitchen tools. So, grab a glass of mulled wine or hot apple cider spiked with caramel vodka and let’s get started!

Watkins Vanilla

Watkins vanilla has actually been a favorite of mine for a long time. It’s the only vanilla my mom keeps in the house and when we moved to Qatar, she brought a bottle with. Part of my love for Watkins has to do with the fact that I grew up in Winona, Mn, that’s where the company had their start. But I’ve experimented and tried all different vanilla extracts and this is by far the best. In fact, the only thing better is a real vanilla bean.

Watkins also has a huge variety of other extracts and spices that are of equally as amazing as their vanilla.

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Photo from Watkins Instagram

Pasta, Pretty Please

If you couldn’t tell by my five-part pasta series, I’ve been on a pasta kick. But that’s because Salty Seattle (Linda Miller Nicholson) came out with her cookbook, Pasta, Pretty Please. It’s all about using fruits, vegetables, and superfoods to make vibrantly colored pasta. You’ll find recipes for every color of the rainbow and how to make multi-colored pasta. She also includes a few different sauces and fillings. I highly recommend it to anyone who’s interested in pasta making.

 

Tacos Recipes and Provocations

This is another cookbook by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman. It’s all about, you guessed it, tacos. But it’s also full of other great salsas and sauces along with a detailed guide to homemade tortillas and nixtamal. This should really be a staple cookbook for anyone interested in Mexican food. Yeah, the recipes might be a little more uppity than what you’ll find at your neighborhood taqueria, but they’re not far off. I think tacos are a fun way to explore new flavors and this book gives you the absolute best recipes to do that with. Not to mention it’s super detailed and full of information about the ingredients in each recipe.

Milkadamia (macadamia nut milk)

I know, this came out like last December or something. I’m a little behind on the trend but I still love this stuff. With a passion, I hate dairy milk for anything other than cooking. Honestly, I just think it tastes bad and the nutritional value isn’t enough to get me to drink it because calcium and vitamin D can be found in so many other foods and supplements.

Anyways, I usually choose unsweetened almond milk instead. It’s the easiest to substitute in cooking and baking and the taste doesn’t bother me. But then I tried Milkadamia, it’s great! Not that I would sit down and have a glass of it with dinner, but it’s really nice stuff. I also wouldn’t normally use it in cooking. I use it in my coffee mostly. Next time you’re at a coffee shop, order a white chocolate mocha with Milkadamia. It’s like drinking a fresh-out-of-the-oven white chocolate macadamia nut cookie. I also like to use it to make ice cream, half Milkadamia, half heavy cream. It just adds a really nice nutty undertone without adding actual nuts (I hate nuts or anything hard and crunchy in ice cream). It’s really high in Vitamin D (25% of daily value) and B12 (50%), and it comes in all sorts of flavors from unsweetened milk to macadamia fudge creamer.

Milkadamia
Photo from New York Times

Savory Granola

A few months back, I actually had a dream about savory granola. Weird thing to dream about, right? I’m not saying I came up with this, I know it’s been done before. But I had never thought about it until that night. Anyways, I finally decided to make it a couple days ago and I’m so glad I did. I used it as a topping on butternut squash soup, but I think it would make a great salty snack on its own. The best part about making it right now is that its pumpkin season, which means pumpkin and squash seeds are everywhere just waiting to be roasted up. It’s super simple to make at home and you can use any flavors you like. Cajun, parmesan, garlic, pizza, ranch, wasabi etc.

My ideal savory granola? Roasted pumpkin seeds, roasted chickpeas, pecans, pistachios, and sunflower seeds with soy sauce and a little wasabi. Keep your eyes out, there will be a recipe post soon.

 

Dutch Oven

Okay, dutch ovens, old news? Yes. Still awesome and worth talking about? Also yes. If you don’t have a dutch oven, go get one right now. If you’re not sure which one to get, America’s Test Kitchen has a great shopping guide. I know everything that needs to be said about Dutch ovens has already been said so I’ll keep it short. These are awesome in the fall and winter. They’re perfect for making soups and hearty chillis, but you can also use them to bake bread. Not to mention they’re the ultimate tool for one-pot dinners which is something we all need during the busy holiday season.

Libraries

Libraries are the absolute best and I don’t just mean for students! The Qatar National Library recently opened and it’s where I spend most of my time here in Doha. It’s a great quiet place to work. Coffee shops can sometimes be noisy and working at home can be distracting. Not to mention, the endless supply of information. I always work in the cookbook section of QNL. I spend a ton of time looking through the hundreds of cookbooks they offer here, getting inspiration for recipe development. But it’s also great to be able to check out a cookbook for a while, find recipes you like, write them down and return the book. I don’t know about you, but most of my cookbooks spend more time closed in a cabinet. I spend $15-$30, make a few recipes that look good, and then forget about them. Then every time I move to a new apartment, or when I’m going back and forth from the U.S. to Doha, I have to drag these heavy books with me. Instead, I got a notebook. Now every time I want a new book, I check it out from the library, write down the recipes I like and return the book.

Kitchen Stories

If you haven’t heard of the app Kitchen Stories, this is me officially telling you to check it out. It’s a totally free app full of recipes, techniques, and other cool features. Every time I’m unsure about how to do something in the kitchen, this app is my first stop. They have recipes in every imaginable category and it’s organized so you can find exactly what you’re looking for in a pinch. They have how-to videos for everything from how to prepare fruits and vegetables for cooking to how to sterilize a jar for pickling or sharpen a knife. You can find weekly meal plans, add to your shopping list, and save your favorite recipes to your own in-app cookbook. The best part? If you have an iPhone, you can add a “recipe of the day” widget.

What are you loving in the kitchen this month? And what would you like to see in future cocktail hours? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

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