Wildflower Honey Liqueur

HoneyLiqueurBottle

This honey liqueur is simply delicious. It is an adaptation I made from Jane Lawson’s Snowflakes and Schnapps cookbook. It’s a beautifully done cookbook, rich with food photos and simple, wholesome (and gourmet) recipes. I highly recommend getting yourself a copy, not just for the visual feast, but the way she takes you on a culinary tour of Europe with her recipes.

There’s something about this liqueur that says sweet comfort. It’s full of flavor, and if you’re sipping it neat you can really taste the subtle flavors. Before you make this decide on what kind of honey to use. If you want a more robust, earthy flavor (my favorite) use the darker fall harvest honey. If you would prefer a lighter, more delicate flavor that will highlight the infusion, choose the lighter, spring harvest honey.

HoneyLiqueurInPan

Honey and Saffron Liqueur, adapted from Jane Lawson

Makes 1 Litre

Ingredients:

  • 750ml bottle of good vodka
  • ½C water
  • 1C dark, fall honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ of a vanilla bean, split lengthwise, and finely chopped
  • 10 white peppercorns
  • ¼t freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 pinches of saffron threads
  • 3 strips of lemon zest, white pith removed

Directions:

Put the honey, water, cinnamon stick, chopped vanilla bean, peppercorns, nutmeg, and saffron in a saucepan and bring just to boil. Quickly reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the lemon zest and set aside to infuse for 20 minutes.

Reheat until simmering, then remove from the heat and cool completely. Once cooled, strain through a fine mesh sieve, and add the vodka. Carefully pour into a sterilized airtight bottle and allow to the flavors to infuse at room temperature for a week before drinking.

Serving Suggestions:

  1. Neat (my favorite way) or On The Rocks.
  2. Martini: 2 parts vodka or gin, 1 part honey liqueur. Add a lemon twist.
  3. Whiskey/Scotch/Bourbon: equal parts honey liqueur and spirits, iced or neat.

Vermont Maple Martini

This cocktail combines three of my favorite things: small batch bourbon, organic Vermont maple syrup, and lemons.  Sip it in a chilled martini glass or on the rocks in a double old-fashioned glass. My recipe makes two cocktails because let’s face it, no one enjoys drinking alone. With two drinks you hand one to a friend and it’s an instant party.

The Rowan’s Creek Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey is a new one for me from the Willet Bourbon Whiskey family. It’s a very nice sip with a caramel, honeyed spiciness to it. It’s made and bottled by hand in Bardstown, Kentucky. Wine Enthusiast had this to say: “Amber, with a dark golden cast. Medium-bodied. Reminiscent of pear, lemon, honey, and flowers. Smooth texture. Quite elegant and attractive on the palate. Stunning, velvety mouth feel of delicate fruit and spice elements. Carries forth in a highly fragrant, lingering finish. The Square Deal Farm organic maple syrup comes from northern Vermont.  Square Deal has been farming sustainably since 1997 and are certified organic by Vermont Organic Farmers. They raise Pinzgauer cattle and pastured pigs, grow potatoes, harvest their own hay, and manage their forestland for timber, wildlife and maple syrup production. I buy their delicious syrup and maple sugar from Farmers To You and pick it up with the rest of my weekly order.

IMG_1005 (1)Vermont Maple Martini

Makes 2 cocktails

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. Rowan’s Creek Bourbon Whiskey  (Angel’s Envy rye, Willett bourbon whiskey, or Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey would work well, too)
  • 1 ½ oz. maple syrup
  • 2 lemons, juiced (about 2 oz.)
  • Optional garnish: lemon twist

Directions: If you’re using martini glasses, chill the martini glasses with ice and water while you prepare the cocktail OR do what I used to do and keep the glasses in the freezer ready to go.

Fill half of a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the bourbon whiskey, maple syrup, and lemon juice. Give it one shake and let it sit for 2 minutes to settle and soften the flavors … then go ahead and give it a SHAKE, Shake, shake as hard as you can.  You want that nice icy film on top after pouring.

Strain into the chilled martini glasses or a double old-fashioned filled with ice.

Cheers!

Baked Brie Bites

Need a bite-sized appetizer to serve at your holiday cocktail party? These are perfect. They are crispy, savory and sweet, and bite-sized. Just right for nibbling while you party.

This recipe is lighter than the usual baked brie in puff pastry I  make during the holidays. What I like so much about this recipe is you can make multiple batches with different toppings! I made this batch using raw honey from my apiary, organic dried cranberries and slivered almonds, but a dollop of fig jam on top would be delicious, too. Or maybe an apricot jam with almonds. The choices are endless!

Heading into the oven.
Heading into the oven.

Baked Brie Bites

Ingredients:

  • ½ small wheel of  double or triple cream brie (about 3 ½ oz.)
  • ¼ C dried cranberries
  • ¼ C slivered almonds
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 box of Athens brand mini phyllo shells, 15 per box (in the freezer section). No need to defrost.

Directions: Preheat oven to 350°. Chop the brie into small cubes, small enough to fill the phyllo cups, about ½” pieces. Set aside.

Remove phyllo shells from the freezer.

In a small bowl, combine the dried cranberries, almonds, and honey. Arrange the shells on a baking sheet. Put one piece of brie in the bottom and top with the cranberry mixture. Bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.

yummmy
yummmy

 

Homemade Hummus For A Party

I love hummus. The first time I had hummus I was in college and went to a classmate’s engagement party – I couldn’t stop eating it. My daughters loved the hummus and shredded carrot roll-ups I made them for school lunches. Before I had a food processor, I’d make the hummus in a blender and then spend more time scraping it out than I did making it. Hummus is still a staple in our refrigerator and a go-to snack. It’s garlicky deliciousness is perfect for carrot or pita dipping.

I must admit I’ve been lazy lately and have been buying it at the market instead of making it myself like I used to do. I’ve heard of some new recipes for “super smooth” hummus where the skins are peeled from the chickpeas – NO thanks! Imagine peeling each and every chickpea? Unless there’s some divine angelic choir experience from it, I don’t have time to peel them. I prefer simple, fresh goodness when it comes to hummus. So grab your food processor (or blender) and get going. You’ll make enough for a party.

IMG_9813

Hummus

Makes 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 15oz. cans of organic chick peas, drained with the liquid reserved
  • 1C of tahini, with some of the oil from the jar
  • ¼C EVOO
  • 4 peeled garlic cloves, cut in half
  • the juice from 2 lemons
  • 1½ t salt
  • ½t cumin
  • 2-3 shakes of cayenne pepper

Directions: Drain and rinse your chickpeas, reserving the liquid to add later. Pour the chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper in the bowl of a large food processor and process until smooth, about 5 minutes. You may have to scrape down the side to get it to mix.  With the motor running, slowly drizzle the EVOO into the bowl. Add the liquid from the chickpeas, one tablespoon at a time until you get the desired consistency. Serve with pita chips or vegetables.

My snack-sized Weck jar ready to go with me to work on Monday.
My snack-sized Weck jar ready to go with me to work on Monday.

 

Picnic Time! Pimm’s Cup and Pineapple Chicken Salad

I love summer.  It’s MY time. And, my birthday (and CAKE!) is right smack in the middle of it.

I look forward to summer as soon as the days become noticeably shorter in late October. While some people hate the heat and humidity, I actually like it. Don’t get me wrong, I may occasionally complain if it’s truly oppressive, but the fact that I can throw on a sundress, open all the windows, and head to the beach makes me giddy as a schoolgirl. Since my summers are wide open (I’m a teacher) I spend most of my time outdoors.

Summer food means lighter fare and picnicking outdoors! Summer’s bounty is being harvested, the backyard grills are smoking, and the cocktails are lighter and prepared with in-season fruit. Deciding on WHAT to bring on a picnic is always a dilemma. Should it be a selection of cheeses and wine or salads and cocktails? Fried chicken? Or, should we just go pick up lobster rolls and a bag of chips? In the end, the food tastes amazing when you’re outdoors. Here’s what I brought to an outdoor concert at Castle Hill, along with a selection of hard and soft cheeses. Pimm’s Cup is an old English summer cocktail. It’s refreshing and beautiful. Eat the fruit!

Pimm’s Cup 

Makes a pitcher to share with friends

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of Pimms No.1
  • 2 liter bottle of lemon-lime soda or Ginger-Ale
  • 2 navel oranges, peeled, seeded, and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 pint of organic strawberries, chopped into small pieces (they’re on the Dirty Dozen – buy organic)
  • 1 English cucumber, peeled, and chopped into small pieces
  • handful of fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped

Directions: Toss the fruit and mint leaves in the pitcher. Add the Pimms and give it a good stir. Let sit a few minutes and add enough of the lemon-lime soda to your taste. Refrigerate.  Serve in a double old-fashioned glass (or clear, plastic cup) with lots of ice and a spoonful of the fruit mixture.

Cheers!

Pimms Cup

Pineapple Chicken Salad

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3# chicken breast, grilled, cooled, and chopped
  • 2C cooked wild and long grain rice blend (Uncle Ben’s is best)
  • 1C fresh pineapple chunks (use canned if you can’t find fresh; reserve the juice)
  • ⅔C pineapple juice
  • ½C champagne or white wine vinegar
  • ¾C EVOO
  • 1½t sea salt
  • 1t sugar
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • ¼C fresh tarragon, minced
  • ¾C scallions, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1C slivered almonds

Directions: Cook the rice according to package directions. Cool rice completely. Make the pineapple vinaigrette by combing the pineapple juice, vinegar, sugar, salt and fresh grind of pepper in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle the EVOO to create an emulsion. You can use a blender, hand mixer, or a whisk to do this.

In a large bowl, combine the cooled rice, grilled chicken, tarragon, scallions, celery, and almonds in a large serving bowl. Add three-quarters of the vinaigrette and toss. Season to taste. If you like a drier salad, leave it as is. If you are refrigerating the salad overnight and the rice absorbs all the dressing you should add the remainder of the dressing.

Rice Salad

 

Whiskey Slush

JackDaniels

Everyone should have a party cocktail recipe. Admit it. Your friend invites you over to her house and you secretly wish she’d make (insert favorite cocktail). It might be a special martini or a fruity Red Sangria or something as simple a great bottle of wine, but when you’re invited over you are hoping IT’s there. Many of my friends (always my husband) request this one. Many years ago, I was given the original recipe from a Montessori colleague that grew up in Tennessee. She raved about it being the perfect summer party cocktail. I’ve been making it ever since. This recipe makes a gallon, so invite friends over and share.

You could cut the recipe in half, but really, why would you?

Whiskey Slush

Makes 1 gallon

Ingredients:

  • 7C filtered water
  • 3-4C Whiskey (Jack Daniels®), depending on how strong you’d like it
  • 1 can (12oz.) frozen lemonade concentrate
  • ½ can (6oz.) frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1C superfine Caster sugar
  • 2C strong, Irish Breakfast black tea (use 3 tea bags)
  • orange and lemon slices for garnish

Directions: Brew the black tea (steep for 5 minutes) and set aside.

In a large, freezer-safe pitcher, combine all the ingredients.  Stir to dissolve the sugar, and place in freezer overnight. When you’re ready to serve, take out of the freezer and put the desired amount in a blender on pulse OR let the pitcher sit on your counter for an hour or so until it gets to the desired slushy consistency.

Serve in old-fashioned glasses. Garnish with orange and lemon slice.

Cheers!