Category: alcohol

Fluffy bourbon vanilla marshmallows.

Bourbon vanilla marshmallows.

Ohhhh, I have been wicked sick. Since December 28th or so, I’ve been a mess. I was on TWO different antibiotics, my head and chest were full of gunk and I could barely taste anything. I went to the doctor twice, got a chest X-Ray, and was given Hycodan syrup to sleep (only after practically begging for it because after 5 days with a total of just 4 hours sleep I was losing my mind). It was bad. To be fair, this was my own fault. Jay was sick in early December, and so was my mom, and then I got sick and just wrote it off as being “just a cold” so I didn’t do much about it. I was told to go to the doctor about 4 or 5 times. I was told it would get worse. I didn’t listen. 

I always do that. Remember when I was in the hospital that time? Yeah.

So it festered and hung around and got worse… and voila! Ended up going to the doctor twice in 5 days. Thankfully, I made it through the holidays. But on New Years Eve I was in a fitful, sweaty sleep on a double dose of NyQuil by 10:30 p.m. I don’t recommend a double dose of NyQuil, by the way. I was just desperate. I’m better now, but a bit of a cough is still lingering, and my head is still filled with gunk. Anyway. That’s the only excuse I have for my semi-absence. Usually, I have some posts lined up, but I was so sick I couldn’t face baking or even standing up for any period of time. Did you know most bloggers (myself included) set up their blogs to post automatically? Yep. Most of my posts are set up a week or so in advance. However, because I was sick, I fell behind. So here we are.

Bourbon vanilla marshmallows.

Coincidentally, though, this post is about marshmallows. And marshmallows tie in to being sick in an interesting way (thanks Wikipedia):

Marshmallow probably came first into being as a medicinal substance, since the mucilaginous extracts come from the root of the marshmallow plant, Althaea officinalis, which were used as a remedy for sore throats. Concoctions of other parts of the marshmallow plant had medical purposes as well.[2] The root has been used since Egyptian antiquity in a honey-sweetened confection useful in the treatment of sore throat.[1] The later French version of the recipe, called pâte de guimauve (or “guimauve” for short), included an egg white meringue and was often flavored with rose water.

The use of marshmallow to make sweets dates back to ancient Egypt, where the recipe called for extracting sap from the plant and mixing it with nuts and honey. Another pre-modern recipe uses the pith of the marshmallow plant, rather than the sap. The stem was peeled back to reveal the soft and spongy pith, which was boiled in sugar syrup and dried to produce a soft, chewy confection.[2] The marshmallow plant’s sap was also used by gladiatorsin ancient Rome. The sap was rubbed on the body in preparation for the fight.

So really, it’s appropriate that I am sitting here, after recovering from being sick, writing about marshmallows. Especially ones that include another cold/flu remedy… bourbon.

Bourbon vanilla marshmallows.

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Cranberry “sangria”- alcohol optional.

Nana & gramps, Christmas.

Did you all have a wonderful holiday? We definitely did. I’m a lucky girl, I’ll say that. I have my family, my friends, my husband, my pets. I’m healthy, happy. I have a beautiful home. I’m lucky! I do miss my family who isn’t with us anymore. But life goes on, no? And I’m still here. And the holidays were beautiful.

Speaking of holidays, do you still have guests stopping by? Do you have guests who still haven’t left yet? Or maybe you’re just looking for something fun to drink on your Christmas vacation. I hear you. I have just the thing.

Cranberry sangria with orange & lemon slices, cranberries and cinnamon. Alcohol optional.

Cranberry “sangria.” It’s really just cranberry juice- or apple cranberry, or cherry cranberry, or whatever you like. Then you just add sliced fruits like citrus (oranges, lemons and limes work) and apples, and cranberries. Add a cinnamon stick or two and you’re good to go!

You don’t have to add anything else, but if you want to you can add sparkling water or seltzer to make it a little bit bubbly.

Cranberry sangria with orange & lemon slices, cranberries and cinnamon. Alcohol optional.

There’s no alcohol necessary, either… however…

Should you want to add some, you totally can. I suggest vodka, spiced rum, red wine, or bourbon/whiskey. Be sure to add it in small increments, maybe a shot at a time, and taste frequently- particularly when it comes to the hard liquors. The red wine is something you can basically add a pretty decent amount of without much guesswork.

This is “sangria” after all. But I’d still taste as I went to be sure.

Cranberry sangria with orange & lemon slices, cranberries and cinnamon. Alcohol optional.

The best thing is that if you have kids, you don’t have to add any alcohol at all, and this way they’ll feel included in the “drinking.” I know when I was small, every time my parents or my nana had a cocktail or a fancy drink, I was a little jealous. That makes it especially great for New Year’s Eve!

Some ideas (you can mix and match any of these you want!):

  • cranberry juice
  • cran-apple juice
  • pomegranate juuce
  • cherry juice
  • sparkling water
  • seltzer
  • red wine
  • sliced oranges
  • sliced lemons
  • sliced limes
  • cranberries
  • cherries
  • spiced rum
  • vodka
  • bourbon/whiskey

The only limit is your imagination… or taste buds.

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with brandy icing and sugared cranberries.

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

So, hey guys… I made some mini-bundt gingerbread cakes. Cutest little things. And add to them some cute little sparkly sugared cranberries. Ugh. Forget it. Are visions of sugarplums- or sugared cranberries- dancing in your head? It’s Christmastime, folks! I know! So exciting. It’s such a busy time of year, I know, but I hope you all take some time to spend with your families and friends. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget that not only are we all human- but what’s important.

Beautiful things don’t always have to be complicated. Simple is beautiful too. And I promise you that these little mini gingerbread bundts are simple. Don’t be scared by the sugared cranberries!

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

Gingerbread is so Christmas, it’s practically mandatory. If you let a holiday season go by without making gingerbread, it’s almost sacrilegious. I decided to up the ante and add another holiday favorite: cranberries. And let’s not forget brandy, another holiday staple.

So yeah. Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes. They’re so beautiful… and also just plain adorable. But SIMPLE. Just a few ingredients, a little bit of mixing and tossing and whisking and voila. Gorgeous little cakes to serve after a holiday meal. And they’ll make you feel all Martha Stewart-y.

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

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Orange rind & apple brandy cranberry sauce, and a remembrance of things past.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

When I think of past Thanksgivings, there’s a blur in my mind. Particularly the childhood ones. I do remember some very clearly- like the year I was probably around 7, and I was making paper dolls on the living room floor after watching the parade. Or the year directly after that when I was creating some kind of model of Plimoth Plantation (purchased the previous summer while on vacation at Plimoth, obviously). Or the year I was about 14 and after dinner, we left the plates on the table & my father drove us in to see the Christmas windows in Manhattan. I even remember the knit hat and the vintage Levi’s I wore. And the year that I was maybe 18 or 19 and we had dinner at my aunt & uncle’s house, and there’s a picture of me floating around somewhere, an actual tangible photograph, of me wearing a lace apron & blue Doc Martens. And of course I remember last year at my in-laws house, when Jay and I cooked everything for both families all by ourselves. And the year before that, and the year before. But other years, they just blur together to create one large Thanksgiving. One large dinner. One pan of lasagna. One turkey. One memory comprised of all the memories.

And I cannot say I remember any one dish, really. I don’t remember any specific stand-out side dishes, except for the one year I made broccoli and cauliflower au gratin (and I’ve been craving it ever since). However this… this is a stand-out side dish if ever there was one.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

Okay. So, Thanksgiving. If there is one thing I can convince you of concerning Thanksgiving, let it be that you DO NOT NEED TO BUY CRANBERRY SAUCE. I know I say a lot of things about how my recipes are “easy” and how you should be making your own pickles or what have you (and that is all 100% true) but cranberry sauce is THE EASIEST THING EVER. I am not lying to you. There is no need to buy stuff chock full of high fructose corn syrup and additives when it’s so easy to make your own. Plus, this time of year cranberries are everywhere, and they’re usually on sale. Stock up and make some homemade cranberry sauce now, enjoy it later.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

It doesn’t have to be “canned” or processed either, I just prefer to do so because I make a couple of half-pints (or pints) and I would rather keep them in a cupboard than in the fridge, open. That way, throughout the entire season I have fresh cranberry sauce. From Thanksgiving to Christmas and throughout the winter. For all those roast chicken Sunday dinners, I can pop open a new jar. Cranberries cook themselves, really. And they have so much natural pectin that they just gel together like a dream. It’s a beginners dream sauce!

I used Black Dirt “Apple Jack” apple brandy in mine, because brandy reminds me of my Nana and apple brandy is the only kind I had on hand. But you could use a regular brandy too. Or bourbon, or whiskey. Or you can leave it out completely.

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Maple, brown butter & bourbon apple pie… with walnuts.

Maple brown butter bourbon apple pie with toasted walnuts.

Wow. That’s a mouthful and a half, huh? It didn’t start out being all of that. It started out simple: bourbon apple pie. And then I said to myself, let’d add some toasted walnuts. But this finished pie is a result of me letting Jay get all up in the kitchen with me while I was making it. I mean, it’s only fair- it was HIS pie. I don’t eat apple pie.

I know. Blasphemy. I LOVE apples, though, if that counts for anything.

Granny Smith & Ginger Gold apples for a fall apple pie (with maple, brown butter and BOURBON)

I’m a purist. I prefer things to be straightforward and to the point. My cupcakes are never (and never will be) green tea and macaroni and cheese cupcakes with tangerine frosting and Maldon sea salt flakes. I like things to be good, original, sturdy. My apple pies are usually just that; apple pies. I add the spices, sure, and sometimes I’ll throw in some brandy or bourbon, but for the most part it’s a basic apple pie. Jay, on the other hand, likes to throw all kinds of things into his food. He comes up with these crazy (to me) ideas right before making whatever he’s making, or while he’s making it, and it’ll go from a basic brisket or barbecued chicken to something recognizable but yet completely new… with all these ingredients I never would’ve thought to add. And it comes out amazing. So he decided- as I was slicing apples- that it would be fantastic to add brown butter to it. Oh… and some maple syrup, too.

So that’s what I did. And it smelled quite fantastic the entire time.

For this pie, we chose a mix of Ginger Gold (kind of a Golden Delicious variety, a cross between them and an Albemarle Pippin) and Granny Smith, the classic apple pie apple. We decided to make this pie randomly the night before, so we grabbed about 2 1/2 lbs. of apples to be on the safe side. This pie uses 5 apples, which is (usually- unless you have HUGE apples) less than that.

Maple brown butter bourbon apple walnut pie... whew, what a mouthful!

I SUCK AT CRUST. Always. It starts off great, and then I always have some kind of problem, particularly with the top crust. This time, I was all set to make a covered pie, not this garbage-y lattice I have going on. But disaster struck and I was forced to do this. It was a HUGE DISASTER. I won’t even say what it was… but it sucked. And the shitty thing is, it looked pretty decent pre-disaster. *sigh*

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Quick maple whiskey pickled carrots.

Maple whiskey pickled carrots.

I have made pickled carrots before, a long time ago. Four years ago; when my food photography was atrocious and my canning skills were n00b level. I made an adapted version of Molly Wizenberg’s recipe from her book A Homemade Life, which was basically spicy pickled carrots with rosemary. They were good and very much enjoyed by everyone who ate them, but for some reason I never again made a pickled carrot.

Until now.

Maple whiskey pickled carrots.

I really don’t know why I never again pickled carrots, really. I always thought of it when I saw beautiful multicolor heirloom carrots at farmer’s markets. I literally would see them and think, “How gorgeous would those be, pickled up in a jar?” And then I’d promptly move on and never actually do it. I’d probably just eat them in a salad or soup and that would be that.

But I recently had this genius idea. While making Jay his whiskey sour/maple whiskey pickles for the zillionth time, I thought, “Hey wait a minute… maple glazed carrots… maple whiskey pickles… what about using this recipe for pickled carrots?!” He looked at me as if I was insane (a normal occurrence) and then nodded slowly and smiled and said, “Sure…” I think he was just humoring me.

And so of course I just had to try it out. I did not have any fancy colored carrots, unfortunately, just plain old skinny organic orange beta-carotene-filled “normal” ones. However, it really would be lovely to fill up a jar with a variety of colors and sizes of carrots for this. Excellent presentation.

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Hop Pickles, take two!

Black Swallowtail caterpillar hanging out on the dill in my garden.

Ohhhh, summer. The sun is beating down on you relentlessly. Where the caterpillars are crawling all over the dill waiting to grow into butterflies, the heat is stifling… and the humidity makes you want to kill babies.

Maybe its not that bad. But it is pretty bad.

However on the upside the gardens are overflowing with vegetables, the flowers have never looked prettier, and it’s PICKLE TIME.

Cucumber garden harvest- prepped for making hop pickles.

I had a bunch of pickling cucumbers to harvest, of course I had to grab my dill heads and use them before those Black Swallowtail caterpillars ate ’em all! So yeah. It’s pickle time. Better yet… it’s HOP PICKLE TIME.

Yes. Hop pickles. Remember those? I made them about 3 years ago for the first time after learning about Brooklyn Brine’s Hop Pickles. The Brooklyn Brine variety is made with Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA & some Cascade hop oil. Mine are made with straight up beer- this time, a Pilsner.

Hop pickles made with Coney Island Brewing Co. Mermaid Pilsner.

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