Ginger Cardamom Hazelnut Raspberry Apple Crisp

Why I love it: This crisp is easy to make and bursting with great flavors. Both the fruit mix and the topping can be prepared in advance and because it’s a one-dish dessert cleanup is easy too!

Ginger Cardamom Hazelnut Raspberry Apple Crisp with Whipped Cream

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

I’m not a big fan of raw fruit but I am a huge fan of fruit crisps. What an incredible transformation they are. You start with hard, boring apples and tart, twist-your-face-into-a-grimace raspberries and end with a juicy, crispy, warm, sweet and tasty dish of deliciousness.

For this crisp I flavored the fruit with freshly grated ginger and ground cardamom and topped it with a hazelnut streusel. The nuts add great flavor and crunch, so don’t be tempted to skip them. You can make both the fruit mix and the streusel in advance and then keep them in the fridge for several hours. Once you’re ready, you bake the crisp for about an hour and then serve it warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (or indeed both. I mean, why not!)

Ginger Cardamom Hazelnut Raspberry Apple Crisp Dessert

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Ginger Cardamom Hazelnut Raspberry Apple Crisp
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 3 – 4
Ingredients:
  • 2 Gala apples, peeled, cored and cut into ½–inch chunks
  • 12 ounces fresh raspberries
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons rolled oats
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Instructions:
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Toss apples, raspberries, ginger, cardamom, cornstarch and 2 teaspoons brown sugar in a bowl.
  3. Fill into baking pan(s).
  4. Add oats, flour, hazelnuts, 3 tablespoons brown sugar and salt to a bowl.
  5. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter.
  6. Sprinkle the mix over the fruit.
  7. Bake until the topping is golden-brown (about 1 hour).
  8. Serve with whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream.

Food Photography and Styling: Since this is not an elegant but more of a rustic dessert I went with a rustic wood set and kept the styling very casual. The hazelnuts are really important to me in this recipe and you can’t see them in the streusel so I put some whole nuts, some shells and some chopped hazels in the composition. I took the second photo first and really liked it but I thought you couldn’t really see the actual food very well so I took another photo at a steeper angle.

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Espresso Milkshake with Coffee Liqueur

Why I love it: This drink has all my favorite dessert flavors packed into one jar: vanilla, chocolate, pumpkin spice, espresso and coffee liqueur. It’s easy to make and quite refreshing on a warm summer day.

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Espresso Milkshake with Coffee Liqueur

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Happy milkshake season! Nothing better than sitting outside after (or before) dinner and sip a cool, refreshing milkshake on a warm summer day, is there? Personally, I love a drink that surprises me with something different in every sip, which is why I only blended ice cream and milk together here but added all remaining components separately.

It’s a French vanilla ice cream mix that is layered with pumpkin spice chocolate ganache, a fresh shot of espresso and a shot (or more) of coffee liqueur. When you take a sip (or spoonful) you may get vanilla or espresso or chocolate or a pocket of liqueur, it’s a surprise every time. The pumpkin spice flavor (a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, ginger and mace) is subtle but gives the shake a nice complexity.

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Espresso Milkshake with Coffee Liqueur
 
Author:
Recipe type: Drink
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
  • ½ cup milk
  • 10 ounces French vanilla ice cream
  • pumpkin spice ganache (recipe here)
  • 2 shots of espresso
  • 2 shots of coffee liqueur (I used Kapali)
  • whipped cream (optional)
  • cocoa powder
Instructions:
  1. Add milk and ice cream to a blender (or food processor if you don't have a blender) and blend.
  2. Layer ice cream/milk, ganache, espresso and liqueur into two 8-ounce glasses.
  3. Top with whipped cream, if using.
  4. Dust with cocoa powder.
  5. Serve immediately.

Food Photography and Styling: I went back to my tried and trusted bright food, dark shadows lighting setup for this shot and I think that worked well for the drink. To imply action I stuck a straw in the drink (it’s a paper straw I bought from Jo-Ann some time ago) and to tell the reader that there is pumpkin spice in the shake I put some of the individual spices in the composition as well. I tried to add props in the background (like a milk bottle) but they just distracted from the drink and I ended up liking the shot best without them.
 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

This entry was posted in Drinks.

Bee’s Knees Cocktail

Why I love it: This cocktail tastes phenomenal and is just a simple mix of only three ingredients that (I’m guessing) most of us always have in the house: gin, lemon and honey.

Bees Knees Cocktail

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Meet my new favorite gin cocktail, the Bee’s Knees. I was introduced to it during a super fun distillery tour Dan and I went on a few weeks ago. (At the Dancing Pines Distillery in Loveland. It’s a wonderful place, if you ever get the chance I highly recommend you visit).

We love to go on distillery tours, it’s always so inspiring to see and feel the love and passion that goes into these operations. And, of course, it’s equally fun to taste the product. After the tour we sat outside in the sun and enjoyed a Bee’s Knees cocktail and loved it. It’s a mix of gin, fresh lemon juice and honey that tastes sweet, sour, ginny and incredibly fresh, intense, pure and natural. Nothing against gin and tonics, I certainly like them too, but lemon juice and honey have a definite edge over the taste of quinine.

So where is the spice in this recipe, you ask? Well, there isn’t any (unless you count the botanicals that went into the gin). Normally that would rule it out for The Spice Train but I think this drink is so awesome that I felt compelled to share it with you here. :) 

Bee's Knees Cocktail
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 6 tablespoons ice-cold gin (I keep the bottle in the freezer)
  • 5 tablespoons lemon juice
  • lemon twists as garnish
Instructions:
  1. Combine all ingredients and let them sit for 10 minutes to start letting the honey dissolve.
  2. Stir to get all the honey dissolved.
  3. Divide between two glasses and serve with lemon twists.

Food Photography and Styling: This is a very simple cocktail and to reflect that I kept the photo very simple as well. I lit the drink from the back to get a reflection on the surface that made it look shiny, alive and inviting. (As always, I used my strobe to light the set). I needed something to focus my lens on and the lemon twist was the perfect (and really only) candidate for that but I had to meddle with it. I put a fake acrylic ice cube in the glass to prop up the lemon twist so that it would poke through the surface. Now that you know that you can probably see the cube, can you?

I put the gin bottle in the back for two reasons: 1) to give the photo a bit more atmosphere and 2) to imply that there is a lot of alcohol in this drink. (Not quite as much as is in the bottle but quite a bit).

The piece of fabric underneath the glass is one of those 99–cent pieces from Jo-Ann that I cut into a little square. It gave the drink a little more class than a paper napkin or the naked table surface would have done. (Plus, I didn’t have a paper napkin on hand). 

 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/4, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

This entry was posted in Drinks.

Ras el Hanout–Spiced Chicken and Pineapple Fajitas with Pico de Gallo

Why I love it: This recipe is delicious and perfect for busy weeknights because the chicken can sit in the marinade throughout the day and will be flavorful, very tender and ready for the grill pan or skillet by dinnertime.

Ras el hanout-spiced chicken and pineapple fajita recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

I suppose you could call this recipe a Mexican-Moroccan fusion dish. It has all the elements of a traditional fajita, like bell pepper and spicy, fresh pico de gallo (and pineapple for extra juici- and sweetness) but the ras el hanout-spiced chicken adds a north African flavor bent as well. I used my homemade ras el hanout spice mix made with cinnamon, cumin, clove, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, fenugreek and fennel seeds and it goes really well with the rest of the flavors.

I mixed the spices into a yogurt marinade not only to flavor but also to tenderize the meat (that’s really important because I find chicken breast meat can be really tough). The chicken should marinate for eight to ten hours so it’s perfect to throw it in in the morning and cook it at dinnertime. The preparation is very straightforward, you just sear the meat, the vegetables and the fruit on a grill pan or a cast iron skillet and 30 minutes later dinner is served!

Ras el Hanout Spiced-Chicken and Pineapple Fajitas with Pico de Gallo
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
For the chicken:
  • 1 large or two small boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon ras el hanout (here is a ras el hanout recipe if you want to make your own)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
For the pico de gallo:
  • half a small red onion
  • 3 Roma tomatoes
  • ½ cup chopped, fresh cilantro
  • 1 serrano pepper, ribs and seeds removed (if you want it spicier, leave some of the ribs and seeds in)
  • lime juice to taste
  • salt to taste
For the fajitas:
  • half a red bell pepper
  • half a green bell pepper
  • 4 slices pineapple (fresh or out of a can)
  • flour or corn tortillas
Instructions:
For the chicken:
  1. Cut the chicken breast(s) into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Whisk yogurt, ras el hanout, salt and lemon juice together in a bowl.
  3. Mix in the chicken cubes and marinate in the fridge for 8–10 hours.
For the pico de gallo:
  1. Peel and dice the red onion.
  2. Remove the seeds from the tomatoes, then dice them.
  3. Dice the serrano pepper.
  4. Mix all ingredients together and season with lime juice and salt.
For the fajitas:
  1. Slice the peppers, set aside.
  2. Drain the pineapple if using canned pineapple. Set aside.
  3. Shake the marinade off the chicken, then grill on a grill pan or a skillet.
  4. Grill the peppers and the pineapple.
  5. Warm the tortillas and fill with the chicken, pepper and pineapple.
  6. Serve with pico de gallo.

Food Photography and Styling: I’ve had this skillet for a long time and had only used it once in a photo years and years ago and then never again because I really didn’t like the look of the long, oval shape. And the truth is I’m actually still not quite comfortable with that, I wish the skillet were rounder and more plump so to speak but it’s the only fajita skillet I have so I used it here.

Since I always find it awkward to try to fit tortillas into a composition I grilled and then folded them up here so that I could stick them in between the skillet and the salsa rather than having them sitting around open somewhere in the composition as large, round yellow/white shapes. To make the photo look fresh and summery I used my through-the-doorframe lighting technique with only a very thin white curtain to create fairly hard shadows that looked like late afternoon outdoor light to me.
 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.

10-Minute Pumpkin Spice S’mores Trifles

Why I love it: This super easy s’mores trifle dessert is perfect when you want to serve up the classic burnt, crunchy, gooey, melted chocolate dessert flavors but don’t have a campfire handy. It takes almost no work at all, cleanup is a breeze, and because you eat this s’more with a spoon you won’t get it all over your face.

10-minute pumpkin spice smores trifles recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Memorial day weekend is coming up and that means s’mores season is finally kicking off! S’mores are one of America’s finest inventions, in my opinion. The combination of flavors and textures is wonderful and never gets old. The one minor gripe I have with s’mores is their messiness, there is just about no way to eat them without bathing your hands, cheeks and chin in chocolate and marshmallow goo. How do you get around that? Very simple, you turn the s’more into the trifle that I have here and eat it with a spoon.

The dessert is made up of layers of crumbled graham crackers (mixed with a bit of melted butter and a smidgen of pumpkin spice), chocolate layers that consist of simple hazelnut spread (warmed up a bit to make it easier to drizzle) and marshmallow cream toasted with a torch. I got the idea for this recipe from My Baking Addiction (a blog as beautiful as it is delicious) but left out the strawberries and added the pumpkin spice (because it works great with the hazelnutty chocolate).

One thing is important when you assemble the trifle: don’t use too much chocolate or marshmallow cream because they are both very, very sweet. You want about half of each spoonful to be graham cracker crumbles. (This doesn’t come across in the photo because the marshmallow cream tends to spread to the outside of the glass and hides a lot of the graham crumbles from view).

Anyway, there it is, a very easy, fast, cheap and delicious s’mores dessert that doesn’t get your hands (or face) dirty.

10-Minute Pumpkin Spice S'mores Trifles
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
For the graham cracker layer:
  • ⅓ cup crumbled graham crackers
  • 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
  • ⅛ teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • pinch of salt
For the chocolate layer:
  • a drizzle of hazelnut spread, warmed up for a few seconds in the microwave
For the marshmallow cream layer:
  • marshmallow cream
Instructions:
  1. Mix all the graham cracker layer ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Layer graham crackers, hazelnut spread* and then marshmallow cream* into glasses (it's easiest to pipe the marshmallow cream). Toast each layer of marshmallow cream with a torch.
Notes:
*Don't use too much hazelnut spread and marshmallow cream, both are very sweet and can very quickly become overpowering. You want at least half of each spoonful of this dessert to be graham cracker crumble.

Food Photography and Styling: To me, this dessert is all about starting the outdoors season and I thought plastic spoons would be very appropriate for that so that’s what I used. The surface is a new antique wooden board I found in an antique store this weekend and I thought it worked perfectly here. The blue provided great contrast to the brown chocolate and the rustic look added to the outdoorsy feel of the shot. As usual I used my strobe to light the set and made sure to have a lot of shadows and highlights in the scene to make it look like a sunny afternoon.
 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.

Herbed Roasted Cauliflower Rice with Coriander and Grilled Zucchini

Why I love it: This vegan dish is very easy and quick to make, tastes delicious and is also quite healthy with the fresh herbs, coriander, lemon juice, vegetables and olive oil. It works equally well as a warm side dish or a cold side salad and is a perfect fit for any grilled meat and seafood. Happy summer!

herbed roasted cauliflower rice with coriander and grilled zucchini

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Grilling season is almost here – yay! I love grilled meat and seafood and one of my favorite side dishes for anything grilled is cauliflower rice. Have you made cauliflower rice? It tastes really wonderful, has a texture very similar to actual rice but is much less dry. I absolutely love it. It’s also very easy to prepare, you just briefly pulse cauliflower florets in your food processor, toss the “rice” with olive oil and your favorite seasoning (I use ground coriander), spread it out on a baking sheet and roast it for about ten minutes. Done! In the recipe here I mixed the rice with grilled zucchini for extra texture and a bit of smokiness and fresh mint and cilantro for summery freshness. It’s a wonderful side dish that you can serve warm or cold. If you like you can also sprinkle a few chopped raisins in for a little sweetness.

Herbed Roasted Cauliflower Rice with Coriander and Grilled Zucchini
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Side
Serves: 4
Ingredients:
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • ½ cup chopped raisins (optional)
Instructions:
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut the individual florets off the cauliflower and cut larger ones in half so that they are all approximately the same size.
  3. Working in batches, pulse the cauliflower florets in the food processor until they have the consistency of rice.
  4. Toss the cauliflower with the oil, the coriander and the salt and spread onto a rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Roast for 10 minutes.
  6. While the cauliflower is in the oven, thinly slice the zucchini and grill on a grill or on a grill pan.
  7. Toss the cauliflower rice with the grilled zucchini, the lemon juice and the herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. If you're adding raisins, mix them in.
  9. Serve warm as a side dish or cold as a side salad for grilled meat and seafood.

Food Photography and Styling: I wouldn’t necessarily call this side dish ugly but it is definitely visually uninteresting so I created a lot of story and atmosphere around it to support it. To me this is a summer dish so I wanted to show freshness and a grilling season/summer time feeling. I did that by putting lots of green herbs in the composition (to me green says “summer”) and since mint is an ingredient in this recipe that made overall sense as well. The lighting (as always I used my trusty strobe) is coming from a low angle and is fairly hard with lots of highlight and shadow interplay to give the photograph an outdoorsy feel.

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.

Chai Latte Dry Spice Mix

Why I love it: This chai latte dry spice mix takes only a few minutes to make and doesn’t require any grinding of spices. Because all ingredients are dried the mix can be kept in a jar in the cabinet and is ready for use with a simple tea strainer anytime.

Chai Latte Drink

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Dry Chai Spice Mix

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

I love a good chai latte. In fact, I never even sit down at my desk in the morning any more without one in my hand; the drink gives me comfort and makes me feel ready to face the day. In case you’re not familiar with it, what we call chai latte here in the U.S. is a hot, slightly sweet drink that consists of milk and black tea flavored with a combination of spices (I use cardamom, clove, black peppercorns, ginger and cinnamon).

It’s very simple to make fresh at home and there are actually a number of different ways to do it. You can make an “instant” version – a powder of ground spices, dried milk and sugar that you stir into hot water or milk. Alternatively you can make a chai concentrate by infusing brewed tea with your mix of spices and keep that in the fridge until you’re ready to use it and then just heat it with milk.

What I do is this: I buy all my chai spices dried (but not powdered), add loose black tea to them and keep that mix in a jar in the cabinet. It keeps for a long time and when I’m ready for a chai latte I steam milk and submerge the spice/tea mix in a tea strainer in it. (If you don’t have a steamer you can certainly heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove top but I personally like the taste of steamed milk in this drink). To sweeten I use honey, it complements the warm flavors wonderfully.

Chai Latte Dry Spice Mix
 
Author:
Recipe type: Drink
Ingredients:
  • 20 whole green cardamom pods
  • 14 whole cloves
  • ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1½ tablespoons dried cracked ginger
  • 1½ tablespoons cinnamon chips
  • 2 tablespoons loose black tea
Instructions:
  1. Add all spices to a mortar and crush very lightly with a pestle.
  2. Mix the crushed spices with the tea.
  3. Store the mix in an airtight container.
  4. To make a chai latte, add about 1 tablespoon of the mix to a tea strainer, then steam* 6 ounces of milk, drop the tea strainer into it and let it steep.
  5. Sweeten to taste with honey.
Notes:
*You can also just heat the milk on the stove top or in the microwave.

Food Photography and Styling: While delicious, this drink is a bit on the boring side as far as looks go. Its only interesting feature is the foam surface and to make that surface look nice and sparkly I lit the drink from the back. I didn’t hold my steam wand perfectly in the milk as I steamed it and that’s how I ended up with these huge bubbles you can see. But the thing is, I thought they added character so I was actually quite happy with them (even though I know a professional barista would probably scoff at them). Since the drink is brownish in color I picked a dark blue surface and dish for contrast and since the recipe is not just for the drink but also for the spice/tea mix I photographed it separately in a tea strainer to properly show the reader what it looks like.

Chai Latte Dry Spice Mix
This entry was posted in Drinks.

Almond Orange Mousse with Anise

Why I love it: This gourmet dessert has a complex and sophisticated flavor but the recipe is very easy (foolproof really) and the preparation is quick (~20 minutes, plus about an hour of chilling).

Almond Orange Mousse with Anise Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

I got the idea for this flavor combination from a biscotti recipe I saw recently. While I am not a big fan of biscotti I did like the sound of almond, orange and anise together so I used them in this dessert. It’s a very creamy, light and fluffy mousse that is a perfect finish for a gourmet dinner. I built the mousse on an egg yolk and sugar base that I flavored with orange zest, almond extract and ground anise seeds. After that I folded in whipped cream and whipped egg whites and stiffened the whole thing with gelatin. It’s a dessert that tastes like a lot of work went into it but in reality it’s very easy to make and just about impossible to mess up. I suggest you eat it by taking a bite out of an orange slice, then follow up with a spoonful of mousse and repeat.

Almond Orange Mousse with Anise
 
Prep time
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 6
Ingredients:
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • ¾ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground anise
  • orange slices
  • finely chopped almonds
Instructions:
  1. Whip the two egg whites to stiff peaks. Put in the fridge.
  2. Whip the cream with 1 teaspoon sugar to stiff peaks. Put in the fridge.
  3. Add gelatin along with 3 tablespoons of cold water to a saucepan. Let sit for about 4 minutes.
  4. Whisk the egg yolks with ⅓ cup sugar, orange zest, almond extract and anise in a bowl until creamy.
  5. Heat the bloomed gelatin just until dissolved.
  6. Whisk the gelatin into the egg yolk mix.
  7. Fold in the cream.
  8. Fold in the egg whites.
  9. Cover and chill in the fridge until set (about 1 hour).
  10. Scoop the cream onto individual plates and serve with orange slices and chopped almonds.

Food Photography and Styling: I think of this dessert as very fancy so I wanted to create a modern, elegant look. The dish is my matte black candle holder and the surface is just a plain black poster board. Even though the spoon is antique I thought it worked here because of its elegant shape; I liked how its pointy tip mirrored the tip of the piece of orange slice. I “glued” the spoon in place with tacky wax, without it it kept falling over on its side. To follow the rule of thirds I made sure to place the spoon on the right vertical line that divides the frame into thirds.
 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/7.1, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.