Lavender Hot Chocolate

First off: Lavender is a word that I canNOT spell correctly the first few times around. Someone, please, remind me that there is not an “a” anywhere else in lavender after the initial “a”. It’s not “lavander” nor is it “lavendar”.

WELL. Now that I got that off of my chest…

For Christmas, my parents usually get me a bevy of food-related items, and this year was no different. Besides the new pasta maker with ravioli attachment – oh yes, there will be ravioli on this blog sooner than later! – I was pleasantly surprised to find a jar of edible lavender buds in my package of gifts!

I love eating and drinking items that contain lavender, but I have never created a recipe with it. When looking for inspiration on Google, I found, surprisingly, very little in the way of new ideas compared to what I’ve consumed in the past: I’ve had lavender shortbread cookies. I’ve had lavender-infused cake frosting. I’ve had lavender lemonade. I didn’t want to take a stab at my own interpretations of those.

I didn’t find much inspiration until I had a mug of Swiss Miss* a few nights ago, and then figured I figured out what I wanted to take a stab at!

I don’t make hot chocolate from scratch that often; I love Swiss Miss and you’ll never convince me to give it up. HA! But can I deny that homemade hot chocolate is divine? I cannot deny that. I have a recipe I’ve used for quite a few years when making it from scratch, but the trick was adjust it with the addition of lavender; I wanted the balance of lavender – to – chocolate to be correct without one flavor overwhelming the other. I started small on the lavender side and kept creeping it up a bit until I was satisfied. Drinking multiple cups of lavender hot chocolate for recipe development purposes wasn’t an easy task, but I was up for the arduous challenge!

Lavender Hot Chocolate is a nice addition to your winter drink rotation, and it kicks up your normal hot chocolate routine up a notch. This may take longer than your usual hot chocolate, but the payoff is worth it. It’s a true labor of love! Plus, who wouldn’t love a kitchen that smells like lavender for a few hours? *swoon*

* – Swiss Miss, if you ever want to collaborate on a paid collaboration, I wouldn’t turn you down. Ha! Long-time fan, I love ya!

Lavender Hot Chocolate

(Makes four cups; divide it as you choose. If you want to drink it all and not share, I’m not here to judge!)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups milk (dairy or non-dairy; recipe tested with dairy milk)
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons lavender, culinary-grade
  • 1/3 cup cocoa, leveled
  • 3 oz. semi-sweet or dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used Hu Kitchen’s Simple Dark Chocolate; do not use baking chocolate!)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt (optional)

Before We Get Started…

  • If you have a tea steeping ball or some cheesecloth, allow lavender to steep in milk with those apparatuses. I would have tested this recipe with either of those if I felt like looking for either of those in my kitchen tools. I have no doubts they’d get the job done and save you the straining mentioned in Step #4.
  • This recipe yielded an extremely rich hot chocolate with dairy milk, but if you want to up the ante, use 3 cups milk + 1 cup heavy cream instead of 4 cups milk.

Directions:

1.) In a large saucepan, add milk and turn heat to low. Measure out lavender and place into a small bowl; slightly crush the lavender buds with your fingers to release some of their oils. When the milk starts to simmer, add lavender and continue to simmer for 3 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat, cover, and allow lavender to steep for 30 minutes.

2.) In a small bowl, add cocoa by first pouring through a fine sieve to remove clumps; combine with chopped chocolate and sugar. Set aside.

3.) After the lavender has steeped for 30 minutes, strain lavender by pouring milk through a fine sieve over a large heatproof bowl.

4.) Rinse out saucepan to remove any lavender buds lefts behind after straining; it is fine if some milk residue remains. Add chocolate mixture and 1/2 cup of the lavender milk into the saucepan. Bring heat to medium-low and whisk until chocolate mixture has melted and incorporated into the lavender milk; it should have a ganache-like consistency. Add remaining lavender milk to saucepan and cook over medium heat until warmed through. Add vanilla and (optional) pinch of salt; stir and remove from heat.

5.) Serve Lavender Hot Chocolate hot, as the name of the recipe suggests. Go ahead and add that marshmallow, too. Sip and enjoy!

2020 – Year In Review

Wow, I can’t believe it’s December 32nd, 2020 already!

Wow, that’s not funny…but it sure feels like it. 🥴 I’m yearning for the times of B.C.: Before COVID. Remember friends and physical interactions? Yeah. Me too…barely…

This year has been one of incredible hardship. Being immunocompromised AND working full-time in infection control in NYC has caused me to view this pandemic through an incredibly unique lens. While staying inside, working on a LOT of data (both COVID and non-COVID-related) and attempting to stay sane, the desire blossomed inside of me to return to my – admittedly – neglected blog.

Starting to write again was good for my mind, if anything. It helped me think things through, it helped me pivot, and it helped me feel a creative spark that was momentarily lost.

Let’s take a looksie here…

Seek Satiation’s Accomplishments in 2020

  • I’ve had a total of eight paid collaborations this year. They consisted of either alcohol or bread, which just seems par of course for 2020: people wanted drinks and comfort carbs!
My #UnquestionablyGoodPairings campaign with Bud Light Seltzer. Don’t sleep on that cranberry flavor!
  • I made a comfortable four-figures in additional income from paid collaborations, recipe development, and creating content for other brands. In 2019, I made about $800 between sponsored posts and recipe development for others, which isn’t bad, but it’s good to strive for more. This year proved that putting in the work is worth it. Look for a in-depth blog post later this month on how I’ve accomplished this! I have a few additional token thoughts regarding this:
    • I create and make additional income off of things that you – the viewer – do not explicitly see on my Instagram or this blog. You have seen my photography in other places that you probably have not realized off the bat! Contracts allow me to say – and not say! – certain things I’ve done, so I’ll leave an air of mystery. 👻
    • Remember: Having “x” amount of followers on Instagram should not = an inability to make an income off of your content creation. As of the moment I type this, I have ~3.7k followers on Instagram. Yet, I have created content for an Anheuser-Busch brand and Walmart this year. Why? I have relatively high organic social media engagement from my COMMUNITY – not just followers! -, a dedicated following on this blog, I produce appealing content, and inject my authentic voice into my copy.
  • Working from home has been stressful, but it got me back into my groove of paying attention to the blog. I fell back on Instagram a lot in late 2018 – 2019 because of ease of use. Come April, when I was a home working but was trying to find an outlet to channel my restlessness through, I remembered, “Oh! Right. I’ve got this website.” I broke out of my comfort zone: I originally only posted recipes on Seek Satiation, but I branched out to post about other things in the wider content creation universe that I love, such as speaking on my personal blogger experience & advice + showing support for local food & drink businesses I adore. This opened up conversations, new connections, and – importantly – increased blog traffic. (Ha! I had to say it.)
  • I learned that “NO” is not a bad word. Saying “YES” to everything is weak, and I used to be that person. I used to take on too many opportunities; namely, I took on too many free opportunities thinking, “This exposure will be good for me!” I realized my worth, but I also realized that you can’t pour from an empty glass. Due to my job and its higher demands during this pandemic, I did not accept any paid collaborations between June and October, and that was a wise decision on my end. I regret nothing!
Me, relaxing and not caring about your collaboration offers. I’ve got a smoothie to finish, circa June 2020.
  • My work with Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen took on extra importance & urgency this year. As many of you know, I’ve been a media volunteer for them since 2018, helping get out the word and raise funds for their annual Farm To Tray charity gala; that pivoted to me becoming a Holy Apostles Hunger Ambassador. This year – in an incredible pivot – the event was fully virtual and a success, despite this pandemic. I joined in on this year’s Fast – A – Thon and fasted in solidarity with all of those affected by food insecurity; many of HASK’s guests eat one meal a day, and I did as they did. Through social media postings and cold calling – or, perhaps, cold DMing – I was able to raise more than $1,500 in 2020 between the two fundraisers, and I was able to make a few contributions of my own. Combating food insecurity is of great importance to me, and I am glad to be in the fight against it. I look forward to working with HASK for a long time to come.
Fighting food insecurity, one finger point at a time, circa October 2020.

Who knows what 2021 will bring? One, I know I’ll be typing “20201” for a while because typing “2021” is something I have to think about now due my my muscle memory. Ha!

This pandemic will not be over until closer to the end of 2021, surely, so I still plan to the usual: Not eating out, not traveling, keeping myself as safe as possible through proper hand and respiratory hygiene, supporting restaurants and food businesses through direct ordering, supporting & promoting my favorite BIPOC-owned businesses, supporting my fellow creatives and especially BIPOC creatives to make sure their voices are heard loud & clear in this oft-crowded social media space, and getting as much socially-distanced fresh air as I can.

Oh, and I’ll continue to grow Seek Satiation. Eh, why not?

Mask up, stay home, stay safe, y’all.

Walking into 2020 like, “Give me the Pfizer vaccine OR the Moderna vaccine, I am not picky!”, circa December 2020.

Italian Cheese Pairings – Review

Italian Cheese Pairings with AOP Agriform

Excuse me for being cheesy, but I enjoy a good Italian cheese!

Well, I love ANY cheese, but Italian cheeses absolutely have a special place in my heart.

A pivot that has come with this pandemic has been virtual food and drink tastings, leaving us food lovers the opportunity to explore and be educated while staying safely at home.

I’ve heard of many Italian cheeses before, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano and Asiago, but I was unaware that there were levels to Asiago, such as Stagionato and Fresco. Not only did I try Montasio and Piave for the first time, I had not even known of their existence prior to this tasting!

A few important points, according to AOP Agriform:

  • All cheeses are PDO (protected designations of origin). According to AOP Agriform: PDO “is a trademark given by the European Union to products whose quality or characteristics depend essentially or exclusively on the territory in which they were produced and therefore cannot be imitated outside a determined production zone.”
  • All cheeses in this tasting are from Northern Italy. For example, “The production area for Grana Padano PDO extends throughout Northern Italy and generally coincides with the territories of the Po Valley region north of the Po river. It covers 5 regions from Piedmont to Veneto and down part of Emilia Romagna.”
  • Each cheese has its own specific timeline for aging. “Asiago Fresco must be aged for at least 20 days at a temperature of around 50-59° F with humidity level of 80-85%” within its region. Asiago Stagionato, on the other hand, can be aged for as few as two months and over 15 months, the aging process broken down into specific levels such as Asiago Stagionato mezzano (4 – 6 months of aging), Asiago Stagionato vecchio (10 – 15 months), and Asiago Stagionato stravecchio (over 15 months).

Chef Carlo Bigi – currently the Executive Chef as Sleepy Hollow Country Club while previously working at The Bowery Hotel, Casa Levar, and Sant Ambroeus – crafted a master at-home tasting experience that’s rather unparalleled to any at-home tasting I’ve had during this past year. His knowledge of the cheese coupled with his mastery of how to match flavors created something special.

His pairings came as follows:

  • Grana Padano with Pumpkin Mostarda & Toasted Seeds
  • Piave with Red Onion Ginger Chutney & Marcona Almonds
  • Montasio with Port Wine Cranberry Compote & Crispy Kale
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano with Aged Modena Balsamic & Asian Pear
  • Asiago Fresco with Spicy Green Grapes & Shiso Leaves
  • Asiago Stagionato with Chestnut Honey & Roasted Hazelnuts

It’s hard to pick a favorite pairing, but if I had to, I’d give it to the Asiago Fresco with Spicy Green Grapes & Shiso Leaves the top prize. I love shiso leaves, often ordering shiso & plum rolls from my local Japanese I find them to be tangy and crisp yet cleansing; pairing it this cheese, which was relatively robust in flavor, was on point. This is a pairing I’d make for myself at home! It’d be a much needed upgrade from simple cheese and crackers. Ha!

Plus, this tasting came with a Negroni that damn near knocked my socks off! She was potent, but that is definitely not a complaint. 🥃😉

Thank you to Chef Bigi for crafting this masterful cheese pairing experience, as well as providing me with some new education about the creation of this PDO Italian cheeses.


Note: This cheese was complementary for tasting and review purposes. Thank you to the team behind Made With Amore + AOP Agriform Team for this opportunity! As always, all opinions are my own.

Jasmine Tea Hot Toddy with Empress 1908 Gin is the winter drink of your dreams!

Well, if you like tea, herbaceous gin, lemon, honey, and hot alcoholic beverages, the above statement is a true statement. Ha! But even if that sounds off to you, I bet I can change your mind.

I’ve long been a tea drinker, ever since I was a little kid. My tastes have changed. I used to be a peppermint tea with four sugars type of gal – thanks, Dad, for making me a sugar junkie as a kid! – but nowadays, I leave my teas sugarless but focus on dynamic flavors. Jasmine, tusli, a variety of mints, matcha, rooibos, you name it. Coming back to jasmine, I find it to be a a tea that’s both invigorating yet relaxing; I can drink a cup to perk myself up in the morning or drink a cup to wind myself down in the evening.

Anything herbal or botanical in my drinks makes me happy, so I was immediately drawn to Empress 1908 Gin. This vibrant gin is the love child of Victoria Distillers and Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. It is micro-distilled in copper pots and colored vibrantly indigo with the addition of butterfly pea flower. It is an absolute delight in its mix of herbal and tea notes, unlike any gin you’ve had before, surely!

This recipe was all on a whim – as are way too many things I create – but the combination of this botanical gin and the jasmine tea were a matched made in heaven! I knew I wanted to create something hot and soothing, and the stars aligned for me the afternoon this all came together. Honest to goodness, I nailed this recipe on the first try and have not improved upon it since, because I think it’s divine just the way it is!

This is a drink that will warm you down to your bones, and it’s great anytime of the day! But, if you are working from home, perhaps drink it during non-working hours only. (But…I can’t stop you, can I?)

Jasmine Tea Hot Toddy with Empress 1908 Gin
Jasmine Tea Hot Toddy with Empress 1908 Gin

Jasmine Tea Hot Toddy

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 bag of jasmine tea of choice
  • 2 oz. Empress 1908 Gin (or botanical gin of choice)
  • Juice of 1/4 lemon (medium to large-sized)

Directions:

1.) In a small saucepan, bring 12 oz. of water to a simmer. Stir in honey until dissolved. Remove saucepan from heat and add teabag; allow tea to steep for 2 – 3 minutes and discard teabag when finished.

2.) In a mug or glass that has at least a 15 oz. capacity, add tea mixture. Top with gin, squeeze in fresh lemon juice, stir, and enjoy!


Note: This original recipe comes as a part of a sponsored Instagram post I created for Empress 1908 Gin in November 2020. As always, all opinions are my own.