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


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.


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:

Thai Basil

(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


“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.


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.

Slow Cooker Pasta

As an Italian who’s grown up eating a wide variety pasta, this is “fine”.  That’s a “fine” that means it’s better than the canned stuff.  But, the texture of the finished product isn’t quite right.  At first, the pasta cooks nicely.  Then, as the cooking process continues and the liquid is absorbed, it takes longer to reach “al dente” than you would imagine.  Keep in mind, I’m using this term very loosely.  One minute the pasta is too hard and under-cooked, the next minute it was too soft and gummy.  Why?  Well, you have to estimate the cooking time.  If you open the lid to stir, you loose a lot of heat.  You need every bit of that heat, to soften the pasta with limited amounts of liquid.

Now, it may be possible to achieve a somewhat more enjoyable texture to the pasta if you knew exactly how long to let the pasta cook after the first or second stir.  But, don’t stir too much or your pasta will fall apart in the dense sauce.

Next time (if there ever is one), it would be wiser to turn this into a slow cooker version of pasta e fagioli.

Slow Cooker Pasta
makes 1 big pot

28 ounces tomatoes with basil leaves
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 lb dried pasta, elbows or other small pasta
Romano cheese, to sprinkle on top

In a powerful blender or food processor, liquify tomatoes and basil.  Pour liquified tomatoes into a slow cooker.  Add 3 cups of water, garlic, red pepper, black pepper, and salt.  Stir to combine.  Cover and set slow cooker to high.  Bring mixture to a boil.  This takes about 1 hour (it may take slightly longer) in my very large slow cooker.  Add elbows.  Stir.  Cover and let cook for about 30 minutes.  Stir.  Taste.  Then, guess whether you’d like slightly hard undercooked pasta at 45 minutes or overcooked pasta at 1 hour.  If I were to ever try this again, I’d test the pasta at 50-55 minutes.

English Muffin Bread — Revised

Looking for an excuse to use my new proofing oven/European (style) convection oven/microwave, this quick and easy breakfast snack bread fit the bill to perfection.  It whips up in a breeze.  And, the above picture was the result of exactly 1 hour in the proofing oven.

…Ok, it was really 57 minutes and 18 seconds in the proofing oven.

Oops, this time I forgot to sprinkle on my cornmeal before the rising.  As you can see, almost all of the cornmeal just slid right off of the top.  Deep dark Italian chestnut honey added a gorgeous brown color to the crust.  And, the interior of the bread was a bit more golden (and seriously delicious).

As usual, I couldn’t resist.  It was still piping hot for this first slice.  After cooling, it slices much more smoothly.  Have patience.  This short wait yeilds a prettier and easier to toast slice.

But, it was no less resistible.  An impatient snacker snatched the bottom edge before I could snap my shot.

English Muffin Bread
makes 1 loaf

3 cups AP flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 TBSP yeast
2 TBSP honey (Italian Chestnut Honey)
1 1/2 cups milk, warm

butter, for baking pan
cornmeal, for baking pan

Sift flour, sea salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, proof yeast, honey and warm milk. Let sit for 10 min. Then, add sifted flour mixture. Stir to combine. Pour into well-buttered loaf pan sprinkled with corn meal. Sprinkle additional cornmeal on top. Let rise for 57 minutes in proofing oven (Temp:  85-90 degrees F).  Bake for 60-62 minutes at 375 degrees F.  Do not preheat oven.

This loaf continued to rise significantly during baking.  This added at least another inch to the final height.


English Muffin Bread

English Muffin Bread

English Muffin Bread
makes 1 loaf

2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 TBSP yeast
2 TBSP honey
1 1/2 cups milk, warm

butter, for baking pan
cornmeal, for baking pan

Sift flour, sea salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, proof yeast, honey and warm milk. Let sit for about 10 min.  Then, add sifted flour mixture. Stir to combine.  Pour into very well-buttered loaf pan sprinkled with corn meal. Sprinkle additional cornmeal on top.  Let rise for 45 min – 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F at about the 40 min mark during the rising.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 60 – 65 min.

Muffin Bread Rising

La Floridita

To friends and family in the North, we’re thinking of you and stay warm!  If you’re snowed in, this cocktail will help the time fly.  Think of us when you sip this lovely taste of the tropics.

By the way, how do you like my new medieval torture device?  Nah, just kidding!  It’s my brand new handy dandy Art + Cook citrus reamer.  This is one serious reamer.  It must be at least a pound of bright, shiny chrome-like zinc.

Love it!

La Floridita
(AKA The Floridita Daiquiri)
makes 2

4 ounces rum
juice of 1 lime
3 – 4 ounces grapefruit juice
1 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
1 – 2 teaspoons Grenadine (for color like a tropical sunset)
2 lime wheel slices

Combine all except for the lime slices in a shaker.  Shake.  Divide between two couple glasses.  Garnish each glass with a lime slice.