Mexican Coffee (Café de Olla)

two mugs of Mexican Coffee

Today’s Musings:
I’m tired of fighting the good fight for a bad man.

I’m sick of men who use their hands, their fists – on walls, on me. Did my father hit?  No, or at least I have no recollection.  He threatened.

“I’m gonna knock your teeth down your throat.”

He was four times larger and ten times older…and I believed him.  A 5-year old child doesn’t understand hyperbole.  I’m tired of these hot-blooded men who loom and intimidate and, conversely, men who shut down and pout, childlike, when boundaries are set. I’m over guys who are incapable of verbalizing their emotions and equally fed up with those who lack feelings to emote. I have no room for strutting narcissists or men with fragile egos, which, on the balance, are two branches of the same tree anyway. I’ve paid my dues tip-toeing on my share of eggshell roadways to nowhere. 

I refuse to spend another minute with someone who lies. I’m done with men who willingly cheat on their partners in exchange for a moment with me and I’m equally tired of boyfriends who unhesitatingly cheat on me for another’s piece of ass, another notch on the bedpost. I won’t waste another minute on available men who flirt but are petrified to make a move, looking towards me to orchestrate each assignation. I don’t have time for men who sacrifice nothing while expecting me to forfeit my dignity, my work, my security, my happy life, in the name of ersatz Love.

What use have I for a man who doesn’t even attempt to appreciate my hobbies or interests or a partner who entertains no passions or interests outside of me?

I’m fed up with men who tacitly insist they own my body, refusing to accept “no” means no, pushing their seed in anyway, and enact laws that steal options for dealing with the aftermath, men who believe women are incapable of informed choice, convinced they must “help” us decide.  I refuse to play nicely in this patriarchal sandbox any longer.

– Dedicated to my own Good Man.

Today’s Recipe:
Raised in Southern California, I grew up steeped in a brew of Mexican flavors, so I was surprised to learn about a traditional Mexican drink I’d never experienced – Café de Olla, a.k.a. Mexican coffee.

When you are served “Mexican” coffee here in the states, it’s a simple combination of regular coffee flavored with a bit of cinnamon.  On my recent stay in Baja, however, I was introduced to traditional Café de Olla.  Traditional Mexican coffee is made in an earthenware pot (an Olla de Barro – hence the name) and is a sexy and complex alchemy of coffee, citrus, and spices. Each morning of my two-week stay, you could find me at 7:00 a.m.  laptop open and a steaming jarrito (a traditional clay mug) of this elixir within arm’s reach.  The hotel even made a “Julie Recommends Mexican Coffee” sign at our daily breakfast and a few coworkers and customers were asking me where I could get a cup (eschewing the ubiquitous Starbucks on property for this exotic blend).

Traditionally, this spiced drink is served very sweet and very black, but I usually drink my morning cuppa unsweetened with just a bit of cream so, in the version below, I’ve dialed the poloncillo way back to allow the coffee and spices to shine.  This recipe may seem like a lot of futzing in this age of pod-coffee; it’s worth the added few minutes – especially on a chilly and rainy weekend morning like this one. 


Mexican Coffee (Café de Olla)

Rich, spice-ladened coffee lightly sweetened with caramelly piloncillo – this updated recipe uses much less sugar than traditional Café de Olla.


Ingredients

  • 4 cups water, divided
  • ¼ cup piloncillo (or dark brown sugar)
  • 4 3” strips orange zest
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick, slightly crushed
  • 1 star anise pod
  • ⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 rounded tablespoons ground coffee (Mexican origin preferred)
  • milk or cream (optional)

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup water, piloncillo, orange zest, cloves, cinnamon, and star anise. Bring to boil and stir until piloncillo is fully melted. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes.
  2. Bring remaining 3 cups water to boil. Spoon coffee into a French press and add vanilla. Strain spice syrup over coffee, add boiling water, let steep 3-4 minutes and then press down filter. Pour into mugs, lighten with milk or cream, if using, and serve with a cinnamon stick.

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Italian Hot Chocolate – Cioccolata Calda

A mug of Italian hot chocolate with freshly whipped cream

TODAY’S MUSINGS:
Yes,  I know, it’s been ages since you’ve heard from me, but I have a legitimate reason for the silence and, no, my “reason” isn’t that I’ve been lazy.  If you are reading this post for illumination on where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing these past three months,  I’m sorry to disappoint, but I’m saving that story for another day.  Stay tuned.

Today,  you’ll find me sitting at a dining room table, swaddled in a bright orange down comforter in a chilly, yet cozy cabin just off the main road in Angels Camp, CA.  Outside my window, sun-spattered rolling golden hills dotted with majestic live oaks belie the chilly temperatures outside my door.  Yesterday, an unexpected “bomb cyclone” made for a grey, cold and wet day  – and fevered conversations about hot chocolate steaming away on the camp stove.

Let’s face it,  American hot chocolate is insipid at best – lackluster, brown-colored Swiss Miss® water at its worst.  We are not celebrated for our chocolate beverage prowess in the States.  The Spanish, with their thick chocolate and churros, are world-renowned for their rich, dark, dippable rather than drinkable, chocolate and they stand proudly at the apex of the hot chocolate pyramid of deliciousness.  Not far behind them are the French and their “chocolat chaud,” The rich beverage available for sipping on chilly Parisian streets.  Christmas mornings, my sister combines copious quantities of Ghirardelli Double Chocolate cocoa powder,  a smidge of sugar, and an equal ratio of whole milk to heavy whipping cream in an effort to recall her memories of the decadent beverage sipped in the City of Lights. Her final result?  Satisfying, but not quite mind-blowing.  I must admit, however, until last night,  I was entirely in the dark when it came to Cioccolata Calda, Italy’s version of the drink.  I’ve been fortunate to visit Italy and, during my travels, study, as well as indulge in, its cuisine.  Accordingly,  I’m familiar with Italian espresso, various wines and their regions, amaro, limoncello, nocino, grappa, and the early evening Aperol spritz, leaving nary any room for something as seemingly innocuous as hot chocolate.  Oh, what have I been missing?!

Last night, with my first (scalding) sip,  my hot chocolate world expanded. I could use poetic words like “decadent,” “rich,” “silky,” and “fudgy” to describe this ganache in a mug,  but today I’ve decided to be straightforward – the Italians can call their hot chocolate what they like, but it is, in essence, a mug of warm chocolate pudding before it has been allowed to set – milk, cream, cornstarch and dark chocolate…the makings of a most excellent creamy dessert – and damn indulgent hot chocolate.  It would be made only more satisfying with crisp biscotti for dunking.  This Christmas,  I’ll be taking the reins on the morning beverage; step aside, Sis.

TODAY’S RECIPE:
Forgive the less than professional photo – and the inartfully dolloped cream.  As mentioned above,  my inaugural recipe was created over a camp stove; the cream “whipped” in a vigorously shaken plastic container.  Nevertheless,  the results did not disappoint, possibly even made more delicious by our rustic surroundings. The Spanish may have Chocolate and Churros; we had Patagonia and Cioccolata Calda.

Tip:  You don’t want the hot chocolate to boil (212° F), but you need to heat it to a temperature of 203° F for the cornstarch’s thickening properties to activate.  Don’t rush the process by turning up the heat – be patient, heat it slowly, and stir often.


Italian Hot Chocolate

This ultra-thick, rich and not overly sweet elixir will change the way you think about hot chocolate. This recipe should make two servings, but I find it so decadent (even for me!) that it can easily stretch to 4 servings. With the addition of coffee, this belly warmer also makes a five-star mocha.


Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk, divided
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • 4 ½ oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • Tiny pinch salt (optional)
  • Lightly sweetened, freshly whipped cream

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk together ¾ cup whole milk, heavy whipping cream and sugar until small bubbles begin to form around the edges (don’t boil).
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the remaining ¼ cup milk and cornstarch. Set aside.
  3. Once the milk is heated, add the cornstarch mixture and whisk for 30 seconds to combine. Add dark chocolate and salt and continue whisking for about 7 minutes until the chocolate has fully melted and the mixture thickly coats the back of a spoon (similar to a thin chocolate sauce). Pour into 2 coffee mugs (or 4 demitasse cups if you want to show restraint). Top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Careful – since this hot chocolate is so thick, it holds heat better than your regular brew; sip carefully.

New Year’s Mulled Wine

Today’s Musings:

 “Hush, hush, keep it down now, voices carry…” – Aimee Mann

My subconscious, whispering in my ear, played that loop over and over.  How foolish I was to disregard the implications.
I will not be silenced.

Siblings, secreting our history, provide a whitewashed version.
I will not be silenced.

Lovers, patronizingly deciding they know better, advise me not to post it.
I will not be silenced.

Confidants, with murky glimpses of my tale, admonish me for whom I tell.
I will not be silenced.

Childhood memories, keenly recall the consequences of talking back.
I will not be silenced. 

I will speak my truth, I will write my story, I will shout at the top of my lungs, because, finally, whether you choose to believe me or not, I will not be silenced. 

Today’s Recipe:


New Year’s Mulled Wine

I’ve been making mulled wine for years, but my family declared this particular recipe “the best” ever.


Ingredients

  • 2 cups apple juice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 24 whole allspice berries
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 2 whole star anise pods
  • 1 bottle dry red wine

Directions

  1. Combine apple juice, sugar, orange, lemon and spices in a medium pot. Simmer until sugar has dissolved and spices have steeped, about 15 minutes. Do not boil.
  2. Add wine and heat until hot.
  3. Pour through a small sieve into mugs with an orange slice or cinnamon stick in each.

Bakewell Alexander Cocktail

Two Bakewell Alexander cordials
Sunday, my guy and I binge watched five hours of Better Call Saul, not leaving the couch, not getting out of our PJ’s – entirely guilt free. This is the new normal in the midst of COVID-19 and a shelter-in-place quarantine.

Another result of my self-quarantine is creative recipe concoctions using only on-hand ingredients. Friday, during lockdown, I cleaned out my liquor cabinet and found a number of bottles, barely used, from last year’s various cooking and baking recipes (How did I accumulate THREE different kinds of Sherry?). I gathered up the most promising flavors, experimented a bit, got tipsy in the process, and came up with this winner.

Stay healthy everyone!


Bakewell Alexander Cocktail

  • Servings: 1 cocktail
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Rich and creamy chocolate almond cherry cordials – taste like dessert in a glass.


Ingredients

  • 1 part whole milk or cream
  • 1 part chocolate liqueur (such as Mozart brand)
  • ½ part almond liqueur (such as Disaranno)
  • ½ part Kirsch
  • Good-quality maraschino cherries (such as Luxardo)
  • Freshly-grated nutmeg

Directions

  1. Pour a bit of the syrup from the maraschino cherries in the bottom of a glass.
  2. Combine milk, chocolate liqueur, almond liqueur and kirsch in a shaker with crushed ice. Shake well and strain over cherry syrup.
  3. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and freshly grated nutmeg. Serve.

Summertime Sangria

Red Sangria

I have no issues leaving family behind for most holidays, traveling to far-flung destinations (Christmas in London anyone?), but there are two holidays that keep me home each year. The first is Halloween, which guarantees a few hundred local kids banging on my door, screaming “trick or treat” through the screen. It gives me instant flashbacks to my own unsupervised childhood wilding nights of All Hallows Eve a few decades ago.

The second is July 4th, a day and night punctuated with a cacophony of illegal fireworks that makes neighboring Disneyland’s nightly display both superfluous and ineffective. It’s a surround sound and visual extravaganza that reminds one of a middle-East war zone.

This 4th, I combined forces with my neighbors for a street party BBQ. For libations, Don and Carlos brought 4 flavors of homemade limoncello, Susie made white sangria and I brought out my go-to red version packed with oranges, lemons, apples and strawberries.


Summertime Sangria

  • Servings: 12-14 glasses
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During the warmer months, this is my fruity and refreshing go-to alcoholic beverage to quench a thirsty crowd.


Ingredients

  • 1 – 1 ½ oranges, cut into ¼ inch slices and then cut crosswise into chunks
  • 1 lemon, cut into ¼ inch slices and then cut crosswise into chunks
  • 1 apple, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup fresh orange juice
  • ½ cup Triple Sec or Cointreau
  • ¼ cup brandy
  • 2 bottles red wine
  • 1 ½ cups frozen strawberries
  • 1-2 cups lemon-lime soda (7-up or Sprite)

Directions

  1. Combine orange, lemon, apple, sugar, orange juice, Triple Sec and Brandy in a large container. Stir for a few minutes until sugar is completely dissolved. Add red wine and refrigerate for at least six hours and up to 12.
  2. Add frozen strawberries (to act as ice cubes) and lemon-lime soda and serve over additional ice, if needed.