Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Whiskey Pucker Up (Whiskey Lemonade Cocktail)

Whiskey has always been my husband's "thing", more than mine. Sipping it, especially with his friends, and researching the different varieties are almost a hobby for him. He especially likes the kind that he says tastes like diving face first into peat moss.... and he means that in a good way! As I've discovered over the years, having a dram of scotch is a pre-dinner tradition for his family. The refrain through the house at 5pm is like a clock ringing "Scotch? Scotch? Scotch!".

Since my other half is a Canadian, he also has a soft spot for Rye Whiskey. I've always shied away from whisky in the past, thinking it was too "macho" a liquor. An amber colored drink that was for tough guys and Clint Eastwood-esque cowboys. But, I do love a good mixed cocktail. Hmmm..... maybe a hard lemonade? A touch of mint? A nice swig of fiery whiskey, all served over ice? I'm there.

Here comes one of my new go-to summer drinks, the Whiskey Pucker Up!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sous Vide Beef Prime Rib

Hello everyone! I know I've been silent for... well... a long while, if I'm honest! A combination of three young kids, a bad back, and a potent flu season, had me completely out of commission. There is some good news, though: even with the lack of online cooking presence, I have still been working at developing new recipes, and discovering new techniques. I hope this newest post makes up for my absence.

I think (well, I hope!) many of us can relate to the chaos that goes on before a big holiday dinner. A two page grocery list, frantic polishing of silverware, much time slaving over the stove, followed by that last-minute panicked trip back to the market for the ingredient that was NOT marked on the gigantic list. This year's winner was kosher salt; how could I forget SALT?! The frenzy of preparation, combined with herding children, and - eventually - even spending time enjoying your friends & family, can feel like a Sisyphean task. It's always worth it once everyone is gathered around a beautifully laden table, but what a feeling of relief once it's actually done! It's over! We made it! ...Pass the wine!

This year we had a large Passover dinner, and it felt like it would be more of the same kind of frenetic buildup. Add in a bad back, a broken crock-pot, and about four hours before dinnertime - no water (this ended up being a plumbing issue that resulted in a lot of confused repair people, an excavator, and lots of big holes in my yard). Sure. No biggie. Aaaaaggggghhhhhhh!

Did you hear that "Aargh"? My freaked out yell scared birds six blocks away. Still, even with all of the craziness, the one thing that was easy-peasy: Cooking the main dish. No mess. No watching. I could focus (translation: "panic") over other elements, but no concern over the star of the meal. We cooked the most flavorful, tender, and gigantic, rib roast in our fantastic new sous vide machine. It was a life saver, and is literally the easiest method of cooking that I've ever tried.

Sous vide literally translates to "cooking under vacuum". It's so simple, but the results are stunning. You vacuum seal your food, place in a container of water, then use a heated water circulator (sous vide machine) to gently & consistently heat the food at a constant temperature. In our case, the end product was a delicious, unbelievably tender, and evenly cooked rib roast, cooked to the exact temperature I wanted all the way through. This technique is easier than using a crock-pot, and has completely changed my everyday dinners and party preparations.

You. Need. This. Machine. This, along with a proper set of sharp knives, and a Kitchen Aid mixer, should be the essential tools in your kitchen. We've used it to make lots of different proteins, and it is stunning. Sous vide salmon is buttery and delicious, sous vide chicken is soft and juicy, and sous vide steaks are always cooked to a perfect temperature and then you just lightly sear to serve.

It's amazing.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Potato Gnocchi with Late Summer Vegetables

One of the more frequent blog-related questions I get asked is: "how do you feel about shortcuts?". You know what I'm talking about... Cream of mushroom soup as a base, frozen casseroles, boxed cake mixes, or powdered potatoes. As much as I believe there is a time and place for these time savers (you can pry my boxes of Kraft Dinner from my cold, dead hands!), I feel that if you have the patience and just a few minutes, you can make so many convenience foods from scratch. In most cases, the "real" thing takes only a step or two longer than the short cut.

Take, for example, gnocchi; pillowy, bite-sized pasta that is easily found in the frozen foods section of any grocery store. Or, that's at least how I always found them. I wouldn't ever imagine making these impressive little bites fresh at home, that is, until my husband did just that.... And they were delicious! And easy! My husband went from cutting board to plate, in under 20 minutes with this potato gnocchi. To say I was impressed is an understatement!

With a couple of experiments, and a few seasonal ingredients for the sauce, this Potato Gnocchi with Late Summer Vegetables is a perfect dish for the time-constrained, but gourmet minded home cook. Soft potato pasta is smothered with a sauce of blistered tomatoes, shallots, basil and fresh corn. You'll never want to buy frozen gnocchi again after making these!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Red Raspberry Jam

As the summer draws to a close, I find myself grasping for as many warm weather moments as possible. Even though I hear school buses rumbling down the street each morning, and Halloween displays are already out in the markets, I don't want to give up the beautiful golden glow of the late summer days. I don't want to stop enjoying being outside, or run out of fresh sweet raspberries from the berry patch.

Sadly, these are inevitabilities; Autumn is coming - the gold leaves that are slowly scattering across our yard prove it. There is a way to bridge the seasons, though, while the summer raspberries are still abundant.

This year I'm taking a cue from my jam-making mother-in-law, and preserving the best sweet red fruit that the late season can provide. Homemade Raspberry Jam is delicious and simple to make: A big basket of raspberries and a few cups of sugar create the best cure for the end-of-summer blues!

This jam is delicious on toast, as an add in to creamy Greek yogurt, or baked into your favorite cookie.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Watermelon Basil Margarita

I want to think of myself as a "put-together" sort of person: I schedule my hair appointments months in advance. I make lists. My hall clock runs fast so I can get out the door to the boys' school early (genius!). I even have what we affectionately call the "command center" in the kitchen - a combination huge calendar/bulletin board that maps out our daily commitments and work schedules, all in bright Crayola-approved erasable marker.

With this in mind, about two weeks after having my third baby, I got around to reserving the kids' summer camp sessions (early!). Check that one off the list, easy-peasy. Well, fast forward to the first day of camp, and the kids are excited... I'm excited too! Because, really, how often do get to have six hours of undisturbed quality time with your bed or ipad.... I mean... errr.... new baby?

With their backpacks stuffed with multiple towels & bathing suits, lunches made, and sunblock applied, we head out the door. We even arrive ten minutes early (Huzzah! The hall clock system works!). I drop the kids off calmly to their respective camp groups, feeling a great sense of, "I got this three kid thing down", and head home for a much anticipated cup of coffee & cuddle with baby. When I get... THE CALL.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

G & Tea (Gin & Green Tea Sour)

Spring has finally arrived, and thank goodness for that! My hopes for velvety green leaves, blue sunny skies, and the buzzing of honeybees were almost dashed due to a dreary start of the season. Very fortunately, it is now the perfect time for afternoons on the deck and - once the kids are asleep - cocktails enjoyed in the warm evening breeze!

With that in mind, I went searching for inspiration for a fun new sipper. Having spent the last ten months on a total alcohol ban due to pregnancy (and even now, it's very limited), I was itching to create something new. Gin is a favorite of mine, even though it gets a bad rap. The thing is, you have to be specific and find a gin that fits your tastes. Mine is the smooth & lightly herbaceous goodness called Hendrick's Gin.

After much experimentation, and a very willing tipsy taste tester in the kitchen (my husband gets all the perks!), we found a winner. We went through several iterations to find that certain something that would make this drink different... to try linking it's past as a Prohibition-Era libation, but also put on a modern twist.

A classic gin sour is a cocktail that screams speakeasies and jazz bars. Typically there are only three ingredients; gin, lemon juice, and sugar syrup. It's simple and classic. After starting there, I wanted to incorporate the refreshing and floral flavors of green tea, along with sweet elderflower liquor. This was more in line of the 'gentleman's gin cocktail'; something to drink in your top hat and tails. The one where you sidle up to the countertop and say "I'll take a G & Tea please, bartender", with a wink and a nod so they get the pun.

Presenting the Gin & Tea, if you please.