Monkey 47 Martini

Monkey 47 Martini 1

Traveling is such a gift – getting to explore new areas, having new experiences, but most of all – eating and drinking the local specialties. A few years ago when I was in Paris, I noticed this beautiful bottle of Gin. Ok, so I must admit, I am a sucker for the labels. If a bottle has a nice label, it must taste good – right? Now, I know that is not always true, but since I know absolutely nothing about wine (except that French wines – in France – are my favorite), that is usually how I choose which bottle to buy. Ok, I diverge…so back to this Gin. It just looked interesting, and I had never seen it before – so I asked the bartended about it. He told me it was made in Germany, and then went on to rave about all the botanicals that it was made from. I asked him if I could smell it (not sure if that was completely appropriate, but went for it anyway), and he said yes. He was right, this Gin smelled incredible. The price was a little high for my taste though, so I decided to defer tasting the Gin to another time..

I never forgot about that Gin, but was waiting for the right time to indulge. I looked for it in the US, but they don’t export it yet, so I knew that I had to wait until I was back in Europe. So this summer I was on a quest to try this Gin – but I couldn’t see spending the money on getting it at a restaurant or bar – cocktails in Paris are incredibly high – so I decided I was going to buy a bottle instead. It couldn’t be bad, and if it was, I would figure out a way to make it palatable. I found a liquor store that carried the Gin, and purchased it along with my favorite French vermouth (Dolin). I then waited for the right occasion – Bastille Day – to make myself a martini.

You would think that with all these years of anticipation that I would be let down, but no – quite the opposite. It was better than I could have ever imagined. I was in love. It was the best martini I had ever had. It was wonderfully smooth, flavorful, and if you are not a Gin drinker – you would be after tasting this. Who knew that a German Gin could steel my heart away like this?  That’s what travelling is all about…

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. Monkey 47 Gin
  • 1/2 oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth
  • Lemon Twist

Preparation

Mix together the gin and vermouth in a glass with ice – stir for about 30 seconds or until very cold.  Strain into a martini glass, and serve with a twist of lemon.

Makes 1 cocktail.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Monkey 47 Martini

Monkey 47 Martini 4

Cherry Liqueur

Cherry Liquor

I am writing this with a big smile on my face – I am relaxed and happy – and looking forward to my husband joining us on this adventure.  Oh, and did I mention how VERY THANKFUL I am to my incredible team who is allowing me to have this break?  I swear two weeks in, and I am already a new person.

As you can tell, I haven’t been blogging, but that is because there is so much to do and see here!  Also – if you have followed my blog for quite some time, you know that I don’t love cooking in other people’s kitchens.  Even though we are here for a long time, the kitchen is not mine, and I the supplies are limited.  Another big factor is the heat…it is very hot here, and we do not have air conditioning.  So I am trying to be very careful about not using the stove or oven very much.  We have been eating very simple dinners of bread, charcuterie and cheese – and a nice salad.  I must say, it has been a welcome change.

Before I left though, the cherries were in full bloom at our house.  As with every year, we are always trying to figure out new ways to use them – last year’s cherry butter was a huge hit, but I just didn’t have the time to do any jamming before I left.  Sad as that may sound… This year I have to give the credit to my husband – he came up with the idea to make cherry liqueur, and I thought it was brilliant!  He even found the recipe on Serous Eats, and then I took over.  Fortunately I was able to have a little taster the night before I left – and OMG this stuff is amazing!!  So easy to make, and look at the color – it is screaming cherries.  It is sweet and absolutely delicious. My husband has been enjoying it while we are enjoying our own delicacies – but he promised to save me a bottle so we could experiment with cocktails when I am home.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups Bing cherries, pitted
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken

Preparation

Put the pitted cherries at the bottom of a sealable glass jar and muddle them with a wooden spoon or muddler to release some juice. Drain the juice into a separate container and set aside. Then add the brandy, vodka, and cinnamon stick to the muddled cherries. Seal and shake the jar. Let steep for one week at room temperature away from direct sun, shaking every few days.

Combine the reserved cherry juice, sugar, and water in a pan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool. Once the syrup is cooled, add it to the steeping jar, seal, and shake. Then let it steep for an additional 2 to 5 days. Strain through fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into glass jar or bottle. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Cherry Liqueur

Celery Tonic

Celery Tonic 2

As I am writing this today, I am listening to my family agonize about what is going on with the Seahawks.  I am not much of a football fan, but I am a big Seattle fan, and anything that will make the city happy, I am in favor of.  My older daughter, who does happen to love the game is upstairs doing homework (she is a little superstitious), while my younger daughter has been lured downstairs to watch the game with her father.  They are going nuts right about now…

New Year’s is always a great time to try out new drinks, and I am finally getting around the post the fan favorite.  I remember seeing this cocktail in Bon Appetit and thinking that it looked very interesting – but I didn’t like that it was not green.  I knew if I was going to make this, I needed a really good muddler – to really extract out all of that delicious celery juice.  Fortunately for me the folks at Artic Chill had sent me a muddler to review months ago – and I was really hoping it would come through for me.

This muddler made it so easy to make this drink – and so easy to ensure that there was plenty of green celery juice for this drink.  This will now be my muddler of choice – it sure beats the end of the wooden spoon that I used to use. Ok, excuse me while I go downstairs to see how this ends…hopefully I will be making another round of these tonight to celebrate.

Ingredients

  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ounces gin (substitute for tonic water if non-alcoholic)
  • Lemon twist (for serving)

Preparation

Muddle celery with sugar and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker, 1 minute. Add gin, fill shaker with ice, and shake until outside of shaker is frosty, about 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with a lemon twist.

Servings: Makes 1

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Celery Tonic

Autumn Sangria

Autumn Sangria

There is both an art and a science to turning lemons into lemonade.  I may not be a glass half-full type of person, but for some reason, when it comes to food – that is my specialty.  At work. people often joke about my motivational speaking.  But still, they keep drinking the lemonade and showing up each and every day.  It is what keeps me going, and puts a smile on my face – even if the lemonade wasn’t as sweet as we all wanted.

I never really thought about it like this, but for me – turning lemons into lemonade is similar to turning wine into Sangria.  I love a good glass of wine, but it is not what I look forward to on a Friday evening after a long hard week.  It is a well balanced cocktail that really puts a smile on my face.  Last weekend I was invited to a party and was asked to bring mixed drinks.  I was right in the middle of an extremely busy weekend – if I wasn’t driving kids from one place to another, I was in my office on the computer.  There was not a lot going on in the kitchen this weekend – and I had these drinks hanging over my head.

I could have just brought some bottles over to the party and mixed drinks a la minute…but I wanted something easy.  Something that was already prepared, and that people could just pour for themselves.  It finally hit me – it was time to turn lemons into lemonade.  Maybe it was because I was thinking about my upcoming business trip, or because I was looking at all the apples and pears on the counter – but I knew that Sangria was answer.  I went right back to the computer, and started searching for the perfect recipe.  I wanted something with fall flavors – something not too heavy, but perfect to go with a meal.  I found this recipe on NeighborFood Blog and it was exactly what I was looking for.  This Sangria was probably the best I have ever made, it just oozed of fall flavors.  The cinnamon was incredible, with all those apples and pears – it was like a pumpkin pie in a glass.

So the next time you are looking to turn lemons into lemonade, I have a better idea…turn wine into Sangria.  Then invite me over for a drink.

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle of pinot grigio (see below for a non-alcoholic version)
  • 3 cups apple cider + ¼ cup maple syrup whisked in (the maple syrup part is optional)
  • 1 cup club soda
  • ½ cup bourbon (see below for a non-alcoholic version)
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 2 pears, chopped
  • 2 plums, chopped

Instructions

Mix all the liquid ingredients together in a BIG pitcher and stir it up really well. Drop in the cinnamon sticks and fruit, give it another good stir then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Give it one more good stir before serving.

Note:  if you do not drink alcohol, or want to make a version for kiddos, use a bottle of sparkling cider instead or wine and bourbon, and add the cinnamon sticks and fruit.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Autumn Sangria

Watermelon Refresco

Watermelon Refresco

I can’t believe summer is over, and school is starting this week.  My older daughter seems to be holding it together quite well right now – I hope it can last.  I know the first day is going to be tough when she shows up at the new school and it really hits everyone that they have been split-up.  Hopefully it is just for two years, and that she will get to reunite with all her friends in high school.  At least we can always hope.

As I mentioned before, I am pretty behind on my postings.  This summer was much busier than I could have ever expected, and it doesn’t look like it is going to slow down any time soon.  At least I was able to take a little break from work and spend some quality time with my family.  It is not often that I am back east when I need to be, but fortunately this time I was.  We will all miss my uncle tremendously.

It wouldn’t be summer without watermelon, and this year I found a new favorite drink thanks to Cooking Light.  I made two versions – one for the kids, and one for the adults – and it was a crowd pleaser for everyone.  And did you see that color?  I am feeling refreshed just looking at it.

Teddy always did love a good drink as he would sit on my mother’s porch overlooking the water.  So Teddy – this one’s for you…cheers.

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 cups chopped seeded watermelon
  • 3/4 cup tequila (optional)
  • 6 tablespoons Triple Sec (orange-flavored liqueur) (optional)
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups club soda, chilled
  • 6 lime wedges

Preparation

Place watermelon in a blender; process until smooth. Pour pureed watermelon into a sieve over a large bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Combine 3 cups watermelon juice, tequila (for adults only), Triple Sec (for adults only), lime juice, and salt in a pitcher; stir with a whisk. Gently stir in club soda. Serve over ice with lime wedges.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Watermelon Refresco

Rhubarb Simple Syrup

Rhubarb Simple Syrup

Stick a fork in me.  I am done.  I am so tired I can hardly see straight – but it has been too long since my last post, and I have a lot of good stuff piling up.  I haven’t been doing as much cooking and baking lately – although it did finally cool down in our part of the world.  Today we had our first real day of rain in over a month.  It was actually satisfying to me, as I hunkered down in my office to try and get through my piles of work.  It doesn’t help that I was so excited for the kids to be done with school, thinking that my life outside of work would relax a little, but then swim team squeezed it’s way into our lives, and our evenings have been even busier.  I keep thinking that things will change, but what I have realized is that this is the new normal.  I liked the old normal…

The other weekend I was at the farmer’s market, and they had the most beautiful looking rhubarb.  I am not a huge rhubarb fan, except for this.  Last year when I made my annual batch, I just couldn’t get the temperature high enough, and I finally ended up canning the jelly before it was completely ready.  I just lost patience.  The jelly still tasted delicious, but it was a little more syrupy than I would have liked.  I decided to try making a drink for the girls out of it – I mixed some of that very soft jelly with some club soda, and it tasted delicious.  The only problem was that there was still pectin in that jelly, which made the drink just slightly thick.  I knew there had to be a better way – and I realized if I just left the pectin out, that basically I would be making a rhubarb simple syrup.

Well, that’s exactly what I did – and what a treat.  It was the perfect remedy for a hot day.  I poured some of that simple syrup over ice, then topped it off with some club soda (or sparking water), and you have a rhubarb flavored sparkling drink that would make anyone feel like they were on vacation.  At this point, I will take what I can get…

Ingredients

  • 4 cups
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar

Preparation

Combine the rhubarb, sugar, and water in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and the liquid has thickened slightly, about 20 minutes.

Set a fine-meshed strainer (or a coarse strainer lined with cheesecloth)over a large bowl. Pour the rhubarb through the strainer until most of the liquid is in the bowl. Press the solids a little with the back of a spoon to extract more syrup.

Carefully pour the syrup into a clean bottle, cover or cork the bottle and refrigerate. It should keep for quite some time in the fridge.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Rhubarb Simple Syrup

Serenity Now

Grapefruit Rye Cocktail

Is it Friday yet?  I know, I really shouldn’t be saying that right now, because technically it is only Tuesday – with Monday being a holiday and all.  But for some reason this week has not been any easier, with the chaos growing just a bit each day, as we get closer and closer to the end of the school year.  This week, I have officially declared it insanity…

Normally you would think I would be looking for ways to simplify my life, but no…that is not me.  If a good opportunity comes up, I can’t just let it pass by.  Even if I am in the midst of complete insanity.  I have always wanted to be a bartender – not for a profession, just for a night.  It is almost like playing a real live video game – you know the ones when you have to get all food in the grocery cart before time runs out, or you have to get everyone out of the spa with their hair done and nails freshly painted?  This time it is about making drinks though, and it is not a game.  Yes, that will be me on June 7th.  My husband and I have been going to this little restaurant/bar now for a couple of years.  We love the place – the food is top quality, and the cocktails are the best we have ever had.  It is our happy place.  And the people who work there have become our friends.  Now, I love to make drinks for my friends – and one night I asked half jokingly when they were going to let me be the bartender.  Be careful what you wish for.

So, for the past few weeks I have been working on my cocktail menu, and having a lot of fun naming the drinks with our friends.  This was one of the first drinks I put on the list – it is my favorite one right now.  The grapefruit is so deliciously sweet in the market, it really makes an amazing drink.  I am really not a huge rye fan, but this combination is a winner. Plus, I think we could all use a little serenity now.  So stop by the bar on June 7th if you can…serenity now, insanity later.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. rye
  • 2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. Lillet
  • Grapefruit twist

Preparation

Add rye, grapefruit juice, Campari and Lillet into a cocktail shaker.  Add ice, and shake for about 30 seconds.  Strain and pour into a cocktail glasses, then serve with a grapefruit twist.

Makes 2 cocktails

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Serenity Now

Spiced Hot Chocolate

Spiced Hot Chocolate

It doesn’t snow in Seattle all that often.  Maybe once a year, if we are lucky, we get a decent storm, and that means only a couple of inches.  And when that happens, the city usually shuts down.  You can basically guarantee that schools will be cancelled if there is any snow on the ground.  Of course on the east coast where I grew up, things were a little different  – and I actually had to learn how to drive in the snow.  Here they don’t plow the roads, and the hills are so steep that it can get pretty treacherous quickly.  So, it is really best just to stay home.

This morning we woke up to a winter wonderland.  Even though there was only a few inches on the ground, it was enough to cancel Sunday School, and for all the neighborhood kids to get outside and have some fun. Of course now most of the snow is already gone, but we still have remnants of a snow man in our back yard.  While the kids were outside, I was inside making pancakes for breakfast, and some special hot chocolate.  I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and I decided to make it kid-friendly, so omitted the alcohol and the chiles.  I knew it would be delicious, but I really had no idea I would get the reaction I did.

The kids were just about to go down the street to play more when I called out and told them that the hot chocolate was ready.  I quickly took them out of these colorful mugs, and put them into some paper cups that they could take with them.  They all grabbed a cup, said thanks and took off.  An hour later when they appeared back at the house – the first thing they said was how amazing the hot chocolate was.  I guess all the neighborhood kids were trying to guess what I had done – they decided it was not ordinary cocoa.  Score for mom!  I think I just need it to snow more often, and I will be elevated to super-mom status in no time…I knew my cooking would help me out eventually.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1  cup heavy cream
  • ⅓ cup  sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate (at least 70% cacao), chopped

Preparation

Combine milk, cream, sugar, and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan; scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add pod. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat, cover, and let steep 15 minutes.

Remove cinnamon stick and vanilla pod; discard. Add chocolate and heat over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove hot chocolate from heat and add serve hot.

DO AHEAD: Hot chocolate can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat and serve.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Spiced Hot Chocolate

Nacho Vidal

Nacho Vital 2

Our city is in a little bit of a frenzy right now – people are dancing in the streets – literally.  I have to admit that even I have a little Seahawk’s fever.  I think today was the first football game I ever sat through beginning to end.  I really wanted the Seahawks to win – for the kids.  They were all dressed up, made signs to cheer them on – even my younger daughter wore a sign around her neck all day with the number “12” on it.  Yes, we were all the twelfth man tonight, and it paid off.

Normally the Super Bowl is a day for me to make lots of fun snacks, and to spend the day in the kitchen.  Of course, nothing like my friend Kristy and her husband Mike over at Eat, Play, Love.  You should check out what they did today – extremely impressive.  11 hours in the kitchen for their annual Chopped Challenge!  What a fun way to spend a Sunday.

Our friends were hosting today, and they assigned us all different snacks to bring.  Mine was French Onion Dip and potato chips.  Yesterday my younger daughter was bored – so I let her make the dip all by herself.  She was very proud, even though all she did was take a package of Lipton Onion Soup and mix it with some Sour Cream.  Hey – everyone starts somewhere right?

I decided to bring a couple of extras – one being this Nacho Vidal.  When I saw the recipe in Bon Appetit for the shrub – I got very excited.  I have been wanting to make a drinking vinegar for some time now.  My husband cannot stand the smell of vinegar, so I waited until he was out of the house to try this one.  The drink came together beautifully – it was a cross between a Nigroni and a Margarita.   It was not too sweet, and you could not tell at all that you were drinking vinegar.  I absolutely loved it – and my neighbor said it was one of the best drinks I have ever served.  Score!!

If you do not drink alcohol, or you would like to make this for kids – you can easily enjoy this drink without the Tequila and Campari.  Just mix everything else together with 1 1/2 cups of Pomegranate juice and 2 cups of sparkling water – no shaking necessary.  It will be a nice refreshing treat.  Here’s to the Seahawks!!

Ingredients

Chile-Lime Shrub

  • 2 limes, halved
  • ¾  cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1½  teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Assembly

  • 2  cups tequila blanco
  • 1½ cups Campari
  • ¾ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup fresh lime juice
  • 8 lime wedges (for serving)

Preparation

Chile-Lime Shrub

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat; simmer until slightly reduced, 8–10 minutes. Let cool, then strain into a jar. Cover and chill.

Assembly

Combine tequila, Campari, lemon juice, lime juice, and shrub in a large pitcher.  Place 1½ cups tequila mixture in a cocktail shaker; fill with ice. Shake until frosty, about 30 seconds. Divide between 2 rocks glasses filled with ice; garnish each with a lime wedge. Repeat 3 more times.

Do Ahead: Tequila mixture can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Nacho Vidal

CHT Melbourne

Susina Sour

Susina Sour

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone was able to ring in the new year with wonderful food and friends.  We had a terrific evening, which started with some appetizers and cocktails at our house, then we made our way down the street where the kids were – and had a delicious prime rib dinner.  It was definitely a special evening.

So – I have been thinking all week about what my new year’s resolution will be this year.  I remember my post from last year (which coincidentally I ended up making last night, and they were amazingly good, again!) where I said that 2013 was the year to simplify – so, as we do at work, it is only fitting for me to evaluate how I did, and decide what my goal will be this year.  Hmmm…I wouldn’t exactly say that I knocked it out of the park.  I tried really hard though, so I am going to give myself a *star* for trying, but no, I can’t really say that I simplified my life too much.  Now the question is, do I try again this year?  Or do I go for something completely different.  I think I am going to with something new – although I will keep the simplifying any way I can.  This year’s focus I think needs to be about energy.  Compared to others, I have boundless amounts of energy, but I know I can be even more productive (without adding to my life – see *simplify*) if I just try to get a little more sleep every night.  That is going to be my resolution this year – more sleep = more energy.  Let’s see how I do…

Last night we came up with 5 festive holiday cocktails to celebrate New Year’s – and I must say – this was definitely my favorite.  I read about it in Bon Appetit – and it just so happens to be from a bar in Portland, Oregon called Nostrana – our neighboring state.  Portland has really become a cocktail haven – the bars there are supposed to be amazing with their craft cocktails – I have only been there once, but I need to go back to do some serious research.  Ok, back to this cocktail.  I loved everything about this – it wasn’t too sweet, with lots of flavor – and the sprig of rosemary with the cherry on the end was just awesome.  Unfortunately I don’t have a good non-alcoholic version of this one – but what I will say is if you don’t drink alcohol – a sparkling apple cider is the best way to go on New Year’s.  You really can’t get any better than that.

I hope 2014 is a great year for everyone, with lots of delicious food, family and friends – and most of all….energy.

Ingredients

Honey simple syrup

  • 1/4 cup clover honey

Cocktail

  • 3 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 oz. Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • 3 oz. slivovitz or other plum brandy
  • 2 oz. gin
  • 4 maraschino cherries
  • 4 small sprigs rosemary

Preparation

Honey simple syrup

Dissolve honey in ⅓ cup hot water. Chill syrup until cold.

DO AHEAD: Honey syrup can be made 1 month ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

Cocktail

For each cocktail, combine ¾ oz. honey syrup, ¾ oz. lemon juice, ¾ oz. Grand Marnier, ¾ oz. slivovitz, and ½ oz. gin in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until shaker is frosty, about 30 seconds. Strain into a Martini or coupe glass and garnish with a cherry skewered on a rosemary sprig.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Susina Sour