Category: mint

Sweet Preservation: mint julep preserved peaches!

Mint julep peaches!

This is my second year being a Canbassador & participating in the “Sweet Preservation” canning event, using stone fruits provided by the Washington State Stone Fruit Commission. On their Sweet Preservation website, they provide recipes, labels & even a Preservation 101 page to get people canning. Last year I received some amazingly beautiful Sweet Dream peaches & Honey Royale nectarines from them, and I made vanilla brandied peach jam, peach & pepper salsa, and nectarine basil preserves as well as made a beautiful crostata from the leftover peaches (& I even froze some). And this year, it’s peaches once again! This time, it was gorgeous Sierra Rich peaches.

No kidding- these were 22 lbs. of the most beautiful fresh peaches you’ll ever see.

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Down south style bourbon peach tea.

Bourbon peach sweet tea!

Truth be told, I’ve never really been a bourbon girl. When I was younger, the only liquor I drank was mixed in drinks like a “Madras” or “Long Island Iced Tea” or a plain ol’ rum & coke or something. I never acquired a taste for Jack Daniels, unlike my female college peers (or so they said- liars). And then later on as I got older (& realized some things do not mix well) I just stopped altogether with any kind of so-called hard liquor, and stuck to either beer or wine. Except for Jameson of course, which is a staple around here. Irish coffees!

But Jay is a bourbon guy and so I’ve come to find that there are a few that I quite enjoy with ice or in a drink, and some of those I even like straight up. There’s always a lot to choose from here (as of the time this post is being written there are no fewer than 24 bottles of bourbon/whiskey/etc on hand), so there’s enough to taste & sample & find out what I find to be good (Russell’s, James E. Pepper, and good old Maker’s Mark) & what equates to gasoline (Old Weller Antique).

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Freshly minted.

Fresh mint! Turn it into jelly in less than 15 minutes!

One of the best parts of having a garden in the summer is the fresh herbs. I use my cilantro in tacos, salsa, guacamole & jasmine rice while the green coriander seeds go into pickles, I use the basil & oregano on fresh pizza, Caprese salad or in tomato sauce as well as drying some, the dill goes into pickles & gets dried for winter soups & sauces, the tarragon goes into flavored vinegar & gets dried, same goes for the sage, etc. Everything gets used, ultimately, whether it gets used fresh… or dried.

Mint is excellent when used fresh. It’s awesome in water or lemonade, or as a garnish on ice creams/sorbets. But if you’re growing mint & not making homemade mint jelly, you’re seriously missing out. Even if you don’t like it you probably know someone who loves to smear it on lamb chops or a leg of lamb, so gift it to them.

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Scenes from the garden, 2013.

My grandpa's 60+ year old rose.

Typically, I update about my little container “Victory garden” a few times during the summer. But because I’ve been so busy this year, I really had to pare down. I didn’t grow anything other than the usual herbs; a few of mine come back every year (chives, oregano, mint) and I bought a few more, like dill, tarragon, rosemary, etc. You all saw my garlic already. So I was going to stick to just herbs, my little garlic shoots & my flowers, but then I bought a cherry tomato plant at the last minute because it felt kinda naked without any veggies. But I swear, I’m stopping at that!  I have way too much going on this summer to have a massive garden.

Anyway, I was inspired by my visit to the Queens County Farm Museum & I thought I’d share some photos with you of my garden, & what I’m growing this year. Even if it’s not a lot of stuff, it’s still beautiful, because nature is always beautiful & interesting. That rose pictured above is from a plant that’s over 60 years old. It was one of the first ones my grandpa planted when he moved out to Long Island from the Bronx, and it’s still the most beautiful rose I have.

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Ye olde Irish dark chocolate Guinness pudding.

Nothing I am about to show you today is traditionally Irish.

guinnesschocolatepudding

Nothing.

Actually… I’m lying. The Guinness is. Other than that, it’s a conglomeration of the Americanization of Irish culture; throw something green in there & it’s automatically Irish! But that’s okay with me, really. Look at how we celebrate the Chinese New Year with orange chicken & fried rice. Or how we go to an Italian restaurant & eat “chicken parmigiana.” None of that is realistic or authentic. That’s just how we roll in America, and as someone of Irish descent who knows better (and corned beef isn’t really authentically Irish either, folks), I’m still okay with it. I like green cupcakes & bagels. It’s fun. Better to be celebrated in that way than overlooked, right? America was built on the backs of immigrants, many of them Irish, so in whatever way we choose to celebrate them, it’s better than ignoring them. Do I wish that it was more to people than just a day to get drunk? Of course. But look at the 4th of July or Memorial Day- most people use them as excuses to have barbecues & get hammered.

And I alone can’t change that. So I keep these holidays in my way, and you can keep them in your way. And I like to keep them in a fun way, even if it isn’t 100% authentic.

And naturally, there’s really nothing that screams ‘SAINT PATRICK’S DAY” in America more than Guinness stout.

Dark chocolate Guinness pudding with creme de menthe whipped cream!

Guinness (pron.: /ˈɡɪnɨs/ gin-is) is a popular Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness (1725–1803) at St. James’s Gate, Dublin. Guinness is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide. It is brewed in almost 60 countries and is available in over 100.[1] 850 million litres (1.5 billion imperial or 1.8 billion US pints) are sold annually.[1]

A feature of the product is the burnt flavour that is derived from roasted unmalted barley, although this is a relatively modern development, not becoming part of the grist until the mid-20th century. For many years a portion of aged brew was blended with freshly brewed beer to give a sharp lactic flavour. Although the Guinness palate still features a characteristic “tang”, the company has refused to confirm whether this type of blending still occurs. The draught beer‘s thick, creamy head comes from mixing the beer with nitrogen when poured. It is popular with Irish people both in Ireland and abroad, and, in spite of a decline in consumption since 2001,[2] is still the best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland[3][4] where Guinness & Co. makes almost €2 billion annually.

Guinness stout is made from water, barley, hops, and brewer’s yeast. A portion of the barley is roasted to give Guinness its dark colour and characteristic taste. It is pasteurised and filtered.[citation needed]Making the product requires knowledge in the sciences of microbiology, mycology, bacteriology, and thermodynamics.[26] Despite its reputation as a “meal in a glass”, Guinness only contains 198 kcal (838kilojoules) per imperial pint (1460 kJ/l),[27] fewer than skimmed milk or orange juice and most other non-light beers.[citation needed]

Until the late 1950s Guinness was still racked[clarification needed] into wooden casks. In the late 1950s and early 1960s aluminium kegs began replacing the wooden casks; these were nicknamed “iron lungs”.[28]

Draught Guinness and its canned counterpart contain nitrogen (N2) as well as carbon dioxide. Nitrogen is less soluble than carbon dioxide, which allows the beer to be put under high pressure without making it fizzy.[citation needed] The high pressure of dissolved gas is required to enable very small bubbles to be formed by forcing the draught beer through fine holes in a plate in the tap, which causes the characteristic “surge” (the widget in cans and bottles achieves the same effect). The perceived smoothness of draught Guinness is due to its low level of carbon dioxide and the creaminess of the head caused by the very fine bubbles that arise from the use of nitrogen and the dispensing method described above.[citation needed] “Original Extra Stout” contains only carbon dioxide,[29] causing a more acidic taste.

Contemporary Guinness Draught and Extra Stout are weaker than they were in the 19th century, when they had an original gravity of over 1.070. Foreign Extra Stout and Special Export Stout, with abv of 7.5% and 9% respectively, are perhaps closest to the original in character.[30]

Although Guinness may appear to be black, it is officially a very dark shade of ruby.[31]

Bottle conditioned Guinness Extra Stout was available in the UK until 1994, and in Ireland until early 2000.[32]

My idea here was that there’s really nothing more fun than a good chocolate pudding. So why not make it a grown-up pudding? I thought of doing Jameson at first, but then I decided Guinness would go so much better with the chocolate. And I had some Lindt semisweet baking chocolate here just dying to be used up. So I really had to make this.

What? I did.

Dark chocolate Guinness pudding topped with creme de menthe whipped cream. Originally made for St. Patrick's Day but would also be great for Christmas! Substitute a chocolate or cream stout if desired.

So you’re remembering that ginger cake, or whatever, and you’re sitting there thinking “This bitch really loves Guinness.” And you’d be right. But even if I didn’t, it’d still be an easy to find stout that just works. It’s flavor just lends itself perfectly to baked goods, but it’s reasonably priced and can be found ANYWHERE. However I will say this: a chocolate or cream stout would work just as well. If you’re workin’ with the Irish theme then obviously I’d stick with Guinness. But in theory any rich, dark, thick, sweet stout would knock this pudding out of the park.

DARK CHOCOLATE GUINNESS PUDDING

Ingredients:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons dark cocoa powder (I like Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup Guinness stout (I used extra stout, feel free to use whatever you want… like I said, a chocolate stout would work well too)
  • 1ounce very good semisweet chocolate, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Pour the Guinness into a measuring cup, and set aside. Let sit until the foam subsides.
  2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until light yellow and thick in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium-high speed. On low speed, add the cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring the milk & Guinness to a boil in a medium saucepan and, with the mixer on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the chocolate mixture. Combine well, then pour the mixture back into the pan.
  3. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon, until thickened. If the mixture begins to curdle, remove it from the heat and beat it vigorously with a wire whisk. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate, butter, vanilla, and heavy cream, and mix until the chocolate and butter are melted and fully incorporated.
  4. Strain through a sieve if desired or needed.
  5. Pour into serving bowls or glasses (or jars!). Place plastic wrap directly on the top of the pudding, and chill thoroughly. Serve with whipped cream… if desired, the creme de menthe whipped cream below…

CREME DE MENTHE WHIPPED CREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons good quality Crème de Menthe
  • 1 drop green food coloring (if you want the color brighter)

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the first three ingredients together with the whisk attachment until they’re thickened. Check the taste, add more sugar or Crème de Menthe as needed, by the 1/4 teaspoon.
  2. Continue beating until the whipped cream is the proper thickness, but don’t whip too much… you’ll get mint-flavored butter! Ew.
  3. Add a drop of green coloring to brighten the color if needed or desired.

Dark chocolate Guinness pudding topped with creme de menthe whipped cream. Originally made for St. Patrick's Day but would also be great for Christmas! Substitute a chocolate or cream stout if desired.

The flavor of the whipped cream reminds me of that infamous “Shamrock Shake“- so if you’re not a fan of that, you probably won’t like this. It’s a very straightforward mint flavor. If you’re unaware as to what it is, or you’ve never had it:

Crème de menthe (French for mint cream) is a sweet, mint-flavored alcoholic beverage. Its flavor is primarily derived from Corsican mint. It is available commercially in a colorless (called “white”) and a green version (which obtains its color from the mint leaves or from the addition of coloring, if extract and not the leaves are used to make the liqueur). Both varieties have similar flavors and are interchangeable in recipes, except where the color is important.

Crème de menthe is used as an ingredient in several cocktails, such as the Grasshopper and the Stinger, and is also served as an after-dinner drink and can be used in food recipes as a flavoring (see Mint chocolate).

The traditional formula involves steeping dried peppermint leaves in grain alcohol for several weeks (creating a naturally green color), followed by filtration and the addition of sugar.[1]

I’m a fan of anything mint, especially when paired with chocolate, so I love it. But I will agree that it’s an acquired taste. Another idea is to use peppermint extract & green food coloring, you can also just make regular whipped cream and color it green with just a drop of food coloring. And ANOTHER idea? Make it a Bailey’s Irish Cream whipped cream by substituting Bailey’s for the Crème de Menthe. The pudding recipe can be halved, but it doesn’t make such an exorbitant amount that you’d need to, unless there’s only two of you. Or one of you. I still don’t understand that because I can eat two 16-ounce jars of this all by myself… but oh well.

It would be super cute to tear off little shamrocks from a shamrock plant and use them as garnish for this! Not edible, but sure as hell cute. Damnit. Wish I’d thought of that before.

And Guinness in no way provided me with anything nor did they ask me to write this recipe up. Oh how I wish I was gifted with a gigantic case of Guinness stout! But alas, no. All ideas/recipes/opinions/etc are mine & mine alone, apropos of nothing but years of delicious Guinness imbibery (is that a word?).

Santa Claus is coming to town…

AND HE’S COMING IN 21 DAYS.

(Better pick up that phone…)

;

Wow. So it’s really December! Holy crap, right? Thanksgiving has come & gone. Black Friday is over, as is Cyber Monday (which sounds very dirty to me, sorry I’m a child of the ’90’s when “cybersex” was the big parental fear, not “sexting”). The pumpkins are gone & being replaced with lights. ‘Tis the season of Christmas cookies, Hanukkah recipes & gifts of all shapes & sizes. ‘Tis the season of peppermint everything & mistletoe, snow & fireplaces, Christmas lists & long lines. Toys & sleds. Snow & red noses.

I love Christmas time, but really, it’s enough to make you want to crawl under a down comforter until February. So let’s ease into it all, shall we? How about easing into it with some polka dot cupcakes, and some hot cocoa? Sound good to you? Vanilla cupcakes, with little green dots made from the same vanilla batter. So easy!

(Mugs & plates from Target. And yes, the mugs & plates are small… the cupcakes aren’t huge!)

;

It’s so simple. Here’s what you do:

  1. Just pick your favorite vanilla cupcake recipe, make it, then take about 1/2 cup of the batter, maybe even just 1/4 cup, and put in in a separate bowl.
  2. Tint it whatever color you want (you can also do a few different colors by dividing the batter further).
  3. Pour the plain vanilla batter into cupcake liners, as usual.
  4. Then take the colored batter & spoon it into a disposable pastry bag, snip off the very bottom and carefully pipe “dots” on to the tops of your unbaked cupcakes. Or, you could use a very small round piping tip if you have one. My dots were uneven… what else is new, haha- but once they were baked you couldn’t even tell anyway.
  5. You can do red & green dots on vanilla cupcakes, plain vanilla dots in red velvet cupcakes, chocolate dots in vanilla cupcakes, vanilla dots in red velvet cupcakes, red dots in chocolate cupcakes, etc, etc, etc. The possibilities are endless!

I didn’t frost mine so the dots were visible. If you want, you could probably pipe the dots in layers so that you get polka dots all the way through the cupcakes. Never done it myself, but it’s worth a shot. The liners are from Michael’s, not sure what brand they are. You can definitely get similar red/white polka dot liners at any number of places, though: sweet estelle baking supply, Layer Cake Shop, Bake it Pretty, The Cupcake Social, Sweet Cuppin Cakes. Wherever you like to shop. I think dotted liners in a contrasting color look so cute, but stripes would be adorable too!

And of course… the cupcakes wouldn’t be complete without some hot cocoa!

;

CUPCAKE REHAB’S HOT COCOA*

Makes about 6 servings, depending on the size of your mugs *wink*

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (you can use dark, too)
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • Candy canes, mini marshmallows, whipped cream & peppermint schnapps/peppermint syrup (all optional)

Directions:

  1. Mix dry ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir in the hot water & bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  2. Stir in milk and heat, but do not boil. Remove from the heat & add vanilla. Pour into mugs.
  3. Add a dash of peppermint schnapps, if desired, then add whatever you like on top: whipped cream, mini marshmallows or both. Add a candy cane stirrer (or crushed candy canes on top) & enjoy!
*this hot cocoa also works well with a dash of cinnamon sugar & a pinch of cayenne pepper instead of peppermint schnapps & candy canes.

If you’re caught without candy canes (hey, it’s only the BEGINNING OF DECEMBER!), some hard peppermint candies will, when smashed, work the same way. Or, you can use a squirt of peppermint syrup in the cocoa and skip the crushed candies on top. The peppermint is optional altogether, however, so don’t sweat it. I personally like a little peppermint in my hot chocolate, but this cocoa happens to be good enough on it’s own to stand up without any fancy stuff.

On that note, I look forward to spending another holiday season with all of you. Sláinte!

Playing in the dirt.

I thought I’d do a quick little update on the garden while things were a bit slow around here due to today’s excessive heat & sunshine that’ll blind you.

(Alright, I’m lying. It’s not that slow around here, nor is it that hot – it’s around 91° F, which compared to our 101° temps last week is nothing. I just wanted to do a garden update. Whatever.)

And so I’ll begin this written portion of the program by saying that while every other woman in the country (seemingly) is squealing in excitement for the final film installment of The Twilight Saga and/or reading Fifty Shades of Grey, I’ve been gardening, cooking, baking, canning, beaching, grilling, strolling, sunbathing, and generally enjoying the outdoors. Not that there’s anything wrong with the aforementioned activities. I’m just saying. Summer goes by quickly, folks. Enjoy it while it’s here! The winter is loooong.

But right now, it’s pretty much hotter than hell most days. That sun I photographed above beats down relentlessly (when it’s not pouring rain & thundering, oh the joys of high humidity!) on everything making the sidewalk so hot I could fry my peppers outdoors. This poor little guy was one of the (probably many) casualties of the heat. I call him The Jesus Lizard, because a few weeks prior, I found a lizard laying in quite the same position, and assumed him dead. Yet when I went to brush him off the walkway into the flowerbed (I don’t know why, my version of a lizard burial I suppose) he flipped over and scooted away. This time… however… he was 100% definitely dead. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is that very same lizard. So of course, what else would I call him but the Jesus Lizard? Somewhere, many other lizards are awaiting his second coming. Until then, rest in peace little dude.

The heat is no joke. This is why they tell you to check on the elderly & young’ns and make sure your pets have plenty of cold fresh water. Anyway… let’s get back to something pleasant: my container garden! Prepare for lots of photos.

Cajun Belle pepper

Green Zebra heirloom tomato

SuperTasty Hybrid tomato

Herbs; dill, cilantro, rosemary

Oregano

Variegated oregano

Mint

Rosemary

Lavender (not edible)

Basil

The “Mystery Plant”

So yeah. That’s pretty much that.

The interesting thing is that “Mystery Plant” there. Whatever it is, it’s a plant from last year that I thought was just dead wood. However, I failed to remove it from the pot at the end of the season in October, and the tag that told me what it was went missing over the winter. So I was surprised to see that there was green life coming from the dead-looking brown stalk a month ago, and I decided to leave it and see what came of it. It’s gotten bigger, with more green growing, but I’m not 100% sure what it is. It’s possible it’s my Habanero plant, or it could be a Bell pepper. It’s definitely not a tomato, and I doubt it’s an eggplant. But I guess we’ll see, right?! Whatever it is, it’s a pleasant surprise, and a testament to life and nature. It’s so true what my grandma used to say: where there’s life- there’s hope! Except for Jesus Lizard, that is.

I did have one little casualty. A Cajun Belle fell off the vine prematurely. It was so cute, and so perfectly formed… but so tiny! So I tossed it into the grass for the local bunnies or my friendly raccoon family to nibble on.

My mint is struggling to come back full force, which kinda sucks- I have a feeling by the time it’s huge the season will be over and it’ll be time for me to cut it down and dry it. It’s turning brown slightly on the edges. Blah. I’ll update again once more things start to come around. Basil? For a while it wasn’t doing too well- it seemed to be shrinking. But now it’s better. My cilantro took a nose dive, though. My tomatoes are taking an extra long time, trying my patience, for sure. I lost two buds (one from each) in a bad thunderstorm that lasted over 12+ hours and it took forever for the other teeny buds to catch up. Ugh. Hurry up tomatoes!

At least I hope they get here before Breaking Dawn pt. 2.

Kidding.