Aperol Mist

A misty day on Lake Lanier…

In the distance, the mist is like a watercolor fantasy.  Up close, the land is vivid and alive.

Have you ever read The Mist by Stephen King?  The 2007 movie version is more than a little bit creepy, too.  But, the book will really get to you.  It’s dark, moody and ripe with vivid imagery.  Read it on a misty day.  We’ve been having a few of those lately.

Aperol Mist
makes 2

2 ounces lemon juice
2 ounces Aperol
2 American pale lager
(Dream Machine, Magic Hat)
lemon weges, to garnish

In two chilled tall glasses, add one ounce of lemon juice and one ounce of Aperol to each glass.  Top with beer.  Is there beer left in your bottle?  Drink it!  Then, go chill with a friend as you sip your cocktails.

Cheers!

(Cocktail recipe from Bon Appetit, July 2014)

This was a beautifully surreal day.

The First Day of Spring Is Right Around The Corner

Apricot Blossoms

They’re always the first to bloom in our back yard… maybe we need a cherry tree, too.

It’s a fleeting beauty.

Today, half of those petals carpet the floor and new blossoms take their place.

What’s that?

This scraggly little thing is our little blueberry bush.  Finally, it’s big enough to qualify for bush status.  We’re just happy to see that it’s still alive and kicking.  The raspberry sprouts have grown nicely and they’re sprouting leaves.  Several blackberries are sprouting leaves, too.  We’re really happy to see that so much plant life made it through the winter.

The white princess peach is budding.  But, it’s just too early for peach blossoms.

Roasted Broccoli With Garlic

A Gorgeous Broccoli Display At Our Local Whole Foods

I love broccoli.  But, it takes a little bit of love to make it properly.  You can’t just throw it in a pot of boiling water and forget about it.  Well, actually, i suppose you can.  But, you won’t enjoy the results.  Give it a little bit of love and you will be rewarded for your efforts.

Roasted Broccoli With Garlic
about 4 large servings

1 head of broccoli
4 cloves garlic, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
5 Tablespoons butter
red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
about 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to your taste
1 lemon, halved
1 teaspoon lemon zest, if desired
1/4 cup pine nuts

Wash broccoli.  Cut off woody end stalk, if necessary.  Slice into long strips.  Blanch in boiling water for about 3-5 minutes in a large dutch oven filled with boiling water.  Drain and place in a large bowl of ice water.  Return dutch oven to the stovetop.  Add about 1/2 cup water and 5 Tablespoons butter.  Melt butter over low heat.  Add garlic, pepper, and salt.  Drain broccoli and toss in the butter mixture.  Then, spread broccoli pieces flat on a baking sheet.  Roast at 425 degrees F.  After 15 minutes squeeze lemon over broccoli.  Top with pine nuts and a delicate sprinkle of lemon zest.  Roast until golden edges appear.  This will probably take 25-30 minutes depending on the size of your pieces.  Broccoli should be very tender touched with golden brown edges.

Serve with grilled or roast chicken (or salmon).

Raspberry & Cranberry Jam

It’s almost spring.  That means it’s time to start cleaning out the freezer.  As usual, there was a leftover bag of cranberries and a couple bags of frozen raspberries (I love a raspberry and mixed berry smoothies.)  So, I tried combining the two.  It’s a winning combination.  From start to finish this took about 15-20 minutes.  I love washing, prepping and freezing fruit for smoothies.  It makes life so easy.  Now, I have another great use for those ready to use bags.

This jam is absolutely incredible on a sliced chicken breast or smoked turkey sandwich.  And, tomorrow, it will be the condiment of choice on a grilled cheese (brie) sandwich.

Just  a couple stirs and the raspberries begin to melt away.

Cran-Raspberry Jam
makes just under 4 cups

12 ounces cranberries
12 ounces raspberries
2 cups sugar
1 cup water

Combine water and cranberries.  Bring to a boil.  Add sugar.  Simmer until cranberries start to pop and break down.  Add raspberries.   Simmer gently until the mixture reaches the consistency you desire.  Pour into a large bowl, crock and/or containers of your choice and refrigerate.

(It’s disappearing at light speed.  We’ve been spreading it on roast chicken, smoked turkey, and roast beef sandwiches galore.  And, we’ve added more than a few big, artfully swirled schmears to a couple cheese plates.  And, we’ve topped more than a few bowls of Greek yogurt with a little spoonful, too…instant breakfast!  We’ve managed to find uses for it… breakfast, lunch, and dinner.)

To be exact, it made just over 3 2/3 cups.

Psst… They don’t call it a spoon sweet for nothing.  Warm up a couple of spoonfuls and serve over a little scoop of vanilla ice cream and top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Effortless weekday dessert… divine!

Bee’s Knees & My Garden Prep

Springtime is right around the corner.  It’s almost time to plant!  In honor of the coming spring, here’s the perfect garden brunch cocktail.  (Well, I think it’s a great one at least.)  To keep this cocktail light and fresh, you’ll want to stick with a mildly floral gin.  For this cocktail, I like St George’s Botanivore Gin.  It has a healthy citrus kick already.  So, you’ll want to carefully add lemon juice to your taste.

Bee’s Knees
makes 2

4 ounces St George’s Botanivore Gin (Or, your favorite fresh & floral gin)
1 1/2 ounces Tupelo honey syrup
1 ounce lemon juice, or to taste

Garnish

1 inch piece of lemon peel, no pith

Combine all ingredinets in a mixing glass with ice.  Stir to combine.  Pour into a chilled coupe glass.  Garnish with lemon peel.

Cheers!

Tupelo Honey Syrup
makes 1 cup

1/2 cup Tupelo honey
1/2 cup bottled water

Combine room temperature water and honey in a pourable, glass container.  Let sit for a couple minutes.  Then, stir to combine.  Cover and chill.  Store in the refrigerator.

And, It’s Garden Prep Time!

First things first, I’ve planted my alpine strawberry seeds along the tree line.  And, I’ve topped all of the healthy plants (blackberry bushes, blueberry bush and rosemary)  in the hill area with finely ground mulch.  The raspberry stalks appear to be very healthy.  (We’ll be keeping an eye on them for the next few weeks.)  The wall planters need to be replanted.  Lavender, viola and/or chamomile?  Probably.

Other than that, my plans are still in the making.  But, I will definitely be planting an assortment of herbs:

Basil
Thai Basil
Cilantro
Parsley
Tarragon
Dill
Chives

(Greek oregano, sage and mint are still thriving beautifully.  The common thyme and silver thyme might need replanting.  It’s a bit too early to be sure.)

One sickly peach tree might not make it.  If so, we need to plant at least one new fruit tree.

The rest is TBD at a later time.

Pâté, Pickles, & Bavarian Style Mustard

Butter mellows the powerful flavor of the chicken livers and adds incredible richness to the dish.  The key to this dish is to carefully cook the chicken livers.  And, it’s best served at room temperature.

Chicken Liver Pâté

1 lb chicken livers
6 ounces butter, soft
1 bay leaf
1-2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 Tablespoons brandy or cognac
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice, finely ground
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, finely ground

melted butter, as needed

In a sauté pan, add butter and bay leaf.  Melt butter.  Add chicken livers and garlic.  Cook gently until the centers are cooked through, but still pink at the center.  Remove pan from the heat and discard bay leaf.  Add brandy and spices.  Stir gently.  Set aside for about 5-10 minutes.  Then, pour mixture in food processor and pulse until smooth.  Divide among serving dishes.  Top jar, terrine or ramekin with melted butter.  Serve with pickles, mustard, and soft pretzels (or baguette or grilled rustic bread).

For a full meal, serve with crudités platter, pickled vegetables, and/or cheese plate.

Sweet Bavarian Style Mustard

This mustard makes a lovely companion for a crispy, buttered pretzel.  Or, add a schemer to a roast beef sandwich on rustic German bread.

…or a cheese plate

…or a tray of grilled baguette slices, pickled veggies and pâté

Sweet Bavarian Mustard
makes 1 cup

1/4 cup water, bottled or filtered
1/2 cup malt vinegar
1/2 cup yellow mustard, powdered
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon honey, or to taste
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/2 teaspoon allspice, ground
1/2 teaspoon cloves, ground

Combine all ingredients in a glass measuring cup.  Stir to combine.  Taste.  Season to taste.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours to mellow.

Grainy Mustard

This mustard may be easily adapted to any taste.  Use wine instead of vinegar, if you like.  Or, add a mix of wine with a splash of vinegar.  Or, if using wine, after the initial 8 hour soak add a splash of verjus.  Then, add any additional herbs, spices or seasonings that you enjoy.  Garlic (or shallots with wine) would make a lovely addition.

Grainy Mustard
makes about 1 cup

1/2 cup mustard seeds
1/2 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

2-3 Tablespoons brown sugar, to your taste

Combine mustard seeds and vinegar in a glass measuring cup.  Stir.  Then, cover and let mustard seeds soak and soften in vinegar over night (about 8 hours).

The next morning add 2 Tablespoons brown sugar.  Taste.  If desired, add another tablespoon of sugar or honey.  Taste.  If desired, add honey, herbs and/or spices to your taste.  For a German style grainy mustard, add an additional tablespoon of honey and a pinch of black pepper, allspice, and clove.  In a glass measure or mustard crock, cover and chill for at least 24 hours before the first use.  This allows the mustard time to mellow.

After 24 hours, if desired, pulse once or twice in food processor.  Or, leave mustard seeds whole.  This creates a unique texture of soft mustard seeds that will pop gently in your mouth.

My Honey, A Frog, & A Goldfish

Hmm…

“What?  I’m just making a new friend…”

Rosie Schapp wrote a great piece for the New York Times (“How To Build A Solid Drinking Library”).  After taking a peak at “The Goldfish” (Adapted By Gary Regan), I knew I had to make one.  And, I will make one as soon as possible.  I just need to get my hands on a bottle of Goldwasser.

The Goldfish
(Adapted by Gary Regan)
makes 1

2 ounces gin
1 ounce dry vermouth
1/2 ounce Danziger Goldwasser

Stir all in a mixing glass. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass.

I have an interesting array of adult beverages.  But, I don’t currently have a bottle of Goldwasser.  Inspired by the above photos, I thought I’d make a twist on this cocktail recipe and call mine The  Tadpole.  Alas, that name is taken.  What to do… what  to do…  I guess I’ll just call this makeshift version “My Goldfish, Oscar”.

My Goldfish, Oscar
makes 2

4 ounces Boyd & Blair Vodka
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce Goldschlager

In a mixing glass with ice, combine vodka and vermouth.  Strain and divide equally between two frozen martini glasses.  Float 1/2 ounce of Goldschlager in each glass.

Cheers!

And, a Happy Oscar Weekend to you!

Dark Chocolate Nutella

So, once you taste the liquid heaven that is Nutella + dark chocolate.  For your own safety, it must be turned into something you can’t devour in one sitting almost immediately.  Visions of me, my little jar of dark chocolate heaven and a spoon still dance in my head.

Dark Chocolate Nutella
makes about 1 cup

1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 heaping cup 85% dark chocolate medallions
1 Tablespoon butter

In a 2 cup measure, place Nutella, chocolate, and butter.  Microwave for about 30 seconds.  Let sit for a couple seconds.  Then, microwave for another 20-30 seconds.  Stir briefly.  Let warm nutella melt the chocolate.  Stir once or twice every 10 seconds or so…. until silky smooth and creamy.  Place in pretty glass jar and serve while still warm with rustic bread or brioche toast.

Nutella Toast
makes 1 slice

1 slice of bread, preferably brioche
1 thin sliver of butter
Dark Chocolate Nutella, as you wish

Toast brioche to a light golden brown.  Spread one tiny sliver of butter over the brioche.  Drizzle on the warm dark chocolate spread.  Devour immediately.

Dark Chocolate Nutella Bark
makes about 30 pieces

Dark Chocolate Nutella, warm
feuilletine, corn flakes, rice krispies, bran flakes, hazelnut granola

Combine warm dark chocolate mixture with as many of the crispy things as you like.  I added about 3/4 of a cup (or about 3 big handfuls).  Pour onto cold marble to chill.  Break into pieces when the chocolate is rigid enough to snap.