Category: unique

Hard cider jelly… yes please!

Jelly made using Woodchuck hard apple cider.

When (if ever) is it appropriate to quote Destiny’s Child when posting a jelly recipe? Just asking for a friend.

“I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly”: A few months ago, the folks at Woodchuck Hard Cider asked me to create some recipes with their ciders. They sent me a bunch of different ones to sample & create with, and when I got them it was so hot out I couldn’t even think of cooking. So, I made a cocktail. And it was delicious.

But now that it’s fall, and it’s apple-time, I started thinking about those other ciders. And I thought, “Why not make a hard cider jelly?” I did it with champagne, Guinness, and tea (twice! No- three times!), so why the hell not use a hard apple cider?

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Simple summer cocktail: Woodchuck shandy.

Keep it cool with a Woodchuck shandy!

When I was asked to try some summery recipes involving Woodchuck Hard Cider, I couldn’t possibly say no. Hard cider is one of my FAVORITE drinks. I could drink hard cider all day long & never get tired of it! However I usually associate it with autumn or the colder months.

Which I’ve now learned is a really silly idea, because Woodchuck has some amazing spring & summer ciders!

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Martini pickles, Mr. Bond? Shaken… not stirred.

Martini pickles (yes, really).

A couple of years ago, I made Molotov cocktail pickles with vodka. Before that I made maple whiskey/whiskey pickles & hop pickles. There was also a grilled pickle recipe I made a while back. Maybe I’m kinda known for making odd or unique pickles at this point.

So when the idea struck me for these I don’t think anyone was surprised.

See, in Russia, apparently it’s a thing to serve pickles with vodka. Not only that, but it’s a big process with shots of vodka, dill pickles & a piece of pumpernickel bread. I didn’t know this, which maybe I should considering Jay is part Russian. And very Russian at that: his great-grandfather fought in the Russian Army in the 19-teens.

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Pink velvet hot cocoa for you & your Valentine.

Yep, it’s February. That means time for Valentine’s Day- get over it. It’s  freakin’ cute. Stop being so goddamn cynical and enjoy the loooooove.

Loooooove. Not love. Loooooove.

Pink velvet hot cocoa! Insanely easy and insanely pretty.

So yeah, you can hate on Valentine’s Day. But nobody can hate on hot cocoa. And this here just happens to be some PINK velvet hot cocoa. Thanks to A Beautiful Mess for the recipe idea!

Plus, how BEAUTIFUL does it look? Wouldn’t this be a perfect Valentine’s Day dessert beverage? I think so.

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Hearty spent grain French bread.

Just a few days ago I posted about bagels, now it’s bread. I know, it’s crazy. But winter time is time to bake a lot of warming, comforting things. And bread is definitely one of those, don’t you think?

Back in August I told you all about my friend Pete, and his home-brew supply store, Homebrews & Handgrenades. I told you all about how he gave me a ton of spent brewing grain to bake with, and I made that bread.

Well things have been a bit busy around here since then. I remodeled almost the entire place, had no appliances, and then there was Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. It hasn’t been conducive to insane recipe experimentation like is required when you get something brand new, like spent grain. So whatever I haven’t used yet is sitting in jars in my freezer, waiting for me to decide what to do.

What is spent grain?
Spent Grain is a byproduct from brewing process. The chemical composition of wet spent grains is given below:
- Water, 80%
- Protein, 5%
- N-free extract, 9%
- Fat, 2%
- Cellulose fibres, 4%
- Minerals, 1%

- source

Spent brewing grain, drying in the oven (click through for cracker recipe).

First, I dried out a bunch of the grain by laying it out on a cookie sheet and baking it at my oven’s lowest setting (170° F) for 7 hours or so, basically “overnight.” This was important because the grain was wet when I got it, and I froze it immediately. That means there was a lot of moisture trapped in there!

Once it was dried (and a little toasted, ’cause I raised the temperature a bit for the last hour), I let it cool completely. Then I used my KitchenAid grain mill attachment to grind it into a flour. I used a somewhat medium grind, it wasn’t too fine but not too coarse. And then- voila- I had spent grain flour! Which, by the way, you can store in your pantry in sealed container for as long as you like.

Spent brewing grain French bread.

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DIY tree stump rustic candle holders.

Yes- this post is ALL about those tree trunk/tree branch candle holders you’ve seen at places like Terrain or on Pinterest or Etsy. It’s really easy to make them yourself, at home, if you have some basic tools.

DIY rustic tree stump/tree branch candle holder.

This idea all started when I asked Jay to make me & my mother some old fashioned Pagan-style Yule logs for Christmas.

The Yule Log started out, we believe, as part of Norse Winter Solstice celebrations. Back then, the longhouse would have a huge fireplace, and the flooring would be either stone or packed earth. Tradition says that the Yule Log began as a huge log, big enough to burn for the entire twelve-day festival. One end would be pushed into the fireplace, and as it burned away, you’d push it in some more until it was entirely consumed.

With fireplaces being less and less common these days, the practical Pagan has adapted. Some choose a small log, some twelve or sixteen inches in length, flatten it along one side to make a base, and drill from one to three holes into the top, suitable for the insertion of candles. The candles are generally (but not always) “fire” colors, with red being the most common. The log is decorated with greenery, sometimes real, sometimes artificial – pine, spruce, fir or other evergreen boughs, holly and mistletoe are a few possibilities – and the candles are lighted at sunset on the Winter Solstice. Tradition says they should burn through the night; but given safety considerations, most only allow it to burn so long as someone is around to keep an eye on it.

-JingleBell Junction

Pagan-style refers to how it’s a log with holes for candles, instead of a large log you burn in a fireplace. It’s also a more modern version. My dad made one when he was a kid out of a log with three holes on top. It isn’t just Pagan’s that use that style- lots of Christians have Yule logs in that way- but if I’m not mistaken, they started it.

So I had some wood in the garage that had been cut from branches that were hanging too low on trees in the backyard over the summer. I was saving it for our fire pit, but then the summer ended and the weather got too cold & they were shoved into the garage & forgotten. Then my mother mentioned she wanted a Yule log, and I realized I had the perfect pieces of wood for it. And then I decided I wanted one, but with tea lights instead of taper candles. I realized they’d look great with my winter tree!

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Gingerbread cake with marshmallow snow & paper trees.

For some reason, as I was writing the title of this post, I thought of the lyrics from Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Odd.

Anyway, gingerbread is one of my favorite holiday treats. I love the cookies, I love it in a spicier form like pfeffernusse and I love gingerbread cake. I don’t make it nearly enough, though, even around the holidays. I have a favorite gingerbread cookie recipe & a favorite Guinness ginger cake recipe, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy trying others. So I thought that this year, I’d make a plain gingerbread cake- no Guinness, no chocolate- and top it with some fluffy white snow.

And trees. Gotta have trees.

Gingerbread cake with a marshmallow "snow" and paper cupcake liner trees. And elves!

For the trees, I got the how-to from The Cake Blog. Pretty self-explanatory, but still. It’s a fun & easy way to make cupcake or cake toppers.

It’s so retro-looking, isn’t it?

Cupcake liner Christmas trees!

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