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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Rhubarb jam, the quickest jam you’ll ever make.

The easiest spring preserves to make: strawberry rhubarb!

Back in 2011, the very first jam I ever made was rhubarb jam.

My photos weren’t as good back then… so if you click that link, bear with me.

I was really surprised back then at how easy it was. It was my foray into “jamming.” I had no prior homemade jamming experience at that point and it was definitely a pleasant one. And I was so proud of it. It thickened and came together so quickly, and there was no drama. In that sense it’s kind of like cranberry sauce- it just sort of thickens without any extra effort. It doesn’t have a naturally high pectin content but it still maintains a nice consistency. You can cook it down until it’s thicker, keep it loose or even add pectin if you like… depending on how you like your jams.

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Easy to make citrus “finishing” salt.

DIY citrus salt.

Well, if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been seeing this all over the place: citrus salt!

I think every blog out there has made it. Or some version of it. Or at least raved about it. Which is partially why I’ve avoided it for so long. I hate jumping on bandwagons, even if they’re damn good bandwagons. Like the cupcake craze. I love me some cupcakes, so what can I say.

But we’re coming into the season of cook outs, and fishing, and bright summery food. It was a rainy day, and I was sitting on the couch daydreaming. And I thought lemon salt would be amazing with grilled fish. Or wait, what about grapefruit salt rimming a glass? Or lime salt with chips & guac? And so then I deigned to make some citrus salt despite it’s popularity.

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Sour cream-y potato salad.

Potato salad with sour cream!

Potato salad is something that goes with cookouts and barbecues like coleslaw goes with pulled pork. Seemingly, you can’t have burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob & the like without some fresh potato salad.

Being that we bought a brand new grill late last month & had our first cookout, I thought it was time to make something summery.

Potato salad (like macaroni or egg) is so incredibly simple you really don’t even need a recipe- all you need is the basic ingredients. I threw this one together because I didn’t have a lot of mayonnaise, but I had a brand new container of sour cream. However if you’re not familiar with making it, it might seem complex or even daunting, so I thought I’d share my recipe.

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Strawberry jam brioche rolls.

Strawberry jam rolls, brioche-style.

We’re in full-on spring mode now, right? The sun has been out & we’ve been gardening & sprucing up the outdoor areas. And of course there’s tons of sprouts growing in the yard! No more snow on the horizon.

One of the main things that makes me think of spring & summer is jam. Making it, canning it, baking with it. Last year I made a jammy version of strawberry shortcakes, so this year I thought I’d do something new with strawberry jam: a brioche-y type roll filled with it!

Like a jelly roll, but with jam, and individually sized. The dough is incredibly easy to make, the jam can be store-bought or homemade (homemade takes NO TIME at all), and they come together very simply.

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Cherry “surprise” coffee cake (the surprise is cream cheese!).

Cherry cream cheese surprise coffee cake.

Indy and I are best buds. When Jay leaves for work at night, it’s just us. We watch TV, cook (okay, I cook), read, or cuddle in bed, sometimes blogging. He usually naps during those activities. However when I get up he follows me around relentlessly. Even waiting outside the bathroom for me. I call him my shadow. My 100-lb. shadow… & bodyguard.

Consequently, Indy is also my baking buddy.

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Grandma Dotty’s mini honey cakes.

Each year I do a lot of Easter recipes for you guys. Tons of cute little cupcakes & muffins & stuff. But this year, I wasn’t really feeling it. I know for Sunday’s dinner I’ll probably make little bunny cupcakes or flowery cupcakes or something… but in the weeks leading up to it this year, I didn’t have it in me.

Grandma Dotty's honey cake recipe.

It’s probably because of the passing of Grandma Dotty. Its had us pretty down lately. And we’ve been spending a lot of time looking through her photos, going through her things, and reading those hand-written recipes.

So I figured why not make one of her recipes?

The one that immediately jumped out at me with Passover being here was the honey cake. Honey cake is a very popular & beloved item in Jewish cooking. Usually it’s made for Rosh Hashanah, sometimes Purim. Here’s a little more about the honey cake tradition:

Luckily, honey cake is dripping with tradition. Variations of honey-sweetened desserts have existed for thousands of centuries and in far-flung locales, from Ancient Egypt and Rome to China. Recent archaeological discoveries of beehives in Tel Rehov, Israel, also suggest that biblical Israel was indeed a land of milk and honey. According to Stephen Buchmann’s book, “Letters From the Hive: An Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind” (Bantam, 2005), German-Christian pilgrims developed a taste for honey cake on their trips to the Holy Land during the Middle Ages. They enjoyed the dish enough to take it home, where it developed over time into its contemporary form.

Not surprisingly, the first Jewish honey cakes (or lekach, which comes from the German word lecke, meaning “lick”) originated in Germany around this time. During this period, the dessert was primarily eaten on Purim and Shavuot and sometimes served as a treat for young yeshiva students. As Gil Marks notes in “The World of Jewish Cooking” (Simon & Schuster, 1996):

“Honey was smeared on a slate containing the letters of the alphabet and the child licked them off so that the ‘words of the Torah may be sweet as honey.’ Afterward, the aspiring scholar was presented with honey cakes, apples and hard-boiled eggs.”

From Germany, the dish traveled to Eastern Europe, where Jews celebrated with honey cakes at simkhot (happy occasions) and holidays alike. According to Marks, the overall use of honey as an ingredient declined in Eastern European cooking during the 17th century but remained popular in Jewish cuisine.

-Source

Now, the fact that it’s leavened & includes wheat flour & confectioner’s sugar (among other “chametz“) would generally rule this cake out for Passover enjoyment. But since I’m not Jewish by birth nor am I (or Jay) religious in any capacity, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m doing this as a tribute to Dotty, not a religious symbol.

Grandma Dotty's honey cake recipe turned into mini cakes.

If you’re Jewish & you’re obeying the laws of Judaism, you know whether or not it’s okay to eat. Maybe wait until after Passover to try it? Or flex your culinary muscles by altering the recipe to use almond flour or matzoh meal? Alternately, they also make delicious little Easter cupcakes. Honestly they’re really great for any occasion. Even just an average Friday.

I used Langnese, an imported German honey in them, but Golden Blossom would taste great too ’cause of the orange. Just be sure to use a REAL honey. A lot of the honey you find in stores today is just high fructose corn syrup mixed with a little honey.

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