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Carolyn

Sara

Sara and me

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Just finished reading The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger. Such an interesting book – nonfiction. The author is an ornithologist by profession (and a PhD) and this memoir of sorts is about her Red-Lored Amazon parrot she and her husband own. But no, it’s the parrot who owns her/them. Tiko tolerates Joanna’s husband Mike. Joanna and Tiko bonded. But it took years. This parrot breed mates for life, and Joanna is definitely Tiko’s mate. They acquired Tiko when he was already 30 years old (they live up to age 80 or so), hence it took a long time for Tiko to decide that Joanna could be trusted. This book is just so charming, and interesting. The author weaves into the story lots of facts about parrots in general, this type of parrot, as well as a variety of other birds she has studied. She’s an author of many other books about birds (scholarly works). She’s a professor and world-renowned researcher at Rutgers. I’m not a birder, but I do love books about the relationships between birds and people. If you know someone who loves birds, they’d definitely enjoy this book.

Also finished reading My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. A book club friend recommended this book, I immediately bought it on my Kindle. I could NOT put the book down. I devoured it. Any other “work” I should have been doing was swept aside as I read and read of Resolute’s adventures. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

Finished The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel by Kim Richardson.  It’s a novel about the first mobile library in Kentucky (this is the 1930s) and the fierce, brave packhorse librarians who wove their way from shack to shack dispensing literacy, hope, and ? just as importantly ? a compassionate human connection. The heroine in this book is called a blue-skin, a genetic mutation that causes the skin to be dark indigo blue. In rural Kentucky, most of the blue-skins were shamed and caused fright in people who saw them. The author decided to share this rare condition in the book and it wove its tentacles into many of the relationships the hard-working librarian made.  Partly the book is about library books, booklets, recipes, but mostly as it says above, it’s about the connections the librarian made with remote people who went weeks or more without seeing another human being. Very unusual book about the hardships endured in that time, but the hardship and bravery of the librarians who went out day in and day out, often for 2-3 days at a time to deliver books.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This book was offered as a bargain book from Bookbub, and something about the description resonated with me – maybe because of my Old Testament readings regarding the lives of shepherds back in ancient days. I utterly loved this book. It might not suit everyone – it’s a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being about attending further education and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. He bickers with his father, eventually moves out. One night in a pub with his blokes (friends) he enters some kind of a contest in the pub and realizes he has a lot more knowledge than he thought he did. In time he applies to get what I’d call here in the U.S. a G.E.D (high school diploma), which he does, and then he applies to Oxford, on a whim. And gets in. He graduates. He applies his knowledge to his rural life. He marries, has children, but still, his day to day life is all about his Herdwick sheep although he does have a day job too working for UNESCO. You’ll learn more about sheep than you might have wanted to know. I absolutely loved, LOVED this book. If you are interested, James Rebanks has a Twitter feed, called @herdyshepherd1, and you can sign up to get updates from him about his farm and his sheep. I don’t do Twitter or I would.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. I could hardly put it down. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote. You yearn to hug her, comfort her. Yet she finds eventually happiness and peace. A beautiful book worth reading. Was a book club read.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation. So it is with surprise that she finds in this cold and bitter country the capacity for new love and perhaps even a new home. I just loved this book – could hardly put it down; yet it’s not a mystery. You’ll come away with a desire to find that house by the fjord. I want to go there and have some coffee with the Anna, who was a Brit, yet fell head over heels in love with Norway.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. If you like Hyde’s novels, for the month of September many of her books are available on Kindle at a very reduced price ($1.99 and $.99 each). Go grab them while they’re available. I just purchased 6 of her books. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s. This took place in the 40s, and at the time no women were ever seen on the showroom floors, but these two pretty young women were the harbinger of equality, though none of that comes into play here. They were “runners,” who whisked orders and money to and fro from the salesMEN to the office. They stood in silence near the elevators on the ground floor and waited for a sale to take place. They lived in cramped quarters. They enjoyed everything NYC had to offer them at the time, and they were wowed by an occasional celebrity sighting. Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. No one can seem to solve them, and those who try also get caught in the crossfire. Finally a man is brought in from back East. That’s where the inception of the FBI comes into play, though there was no FBI then. This is a very interesting read, probably sufficient info to do a book club read. A book everyone should read if you know little (or a lot) about the abominable treatment given to the Native Americans over the last several hundred years. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? When I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did. It tells the tale of a 70ish man, a widower, who has been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. He’s a retired physician, knows the scenario of death by cancer, and doesn’t want to do it. He decides he’s going to take a bird hunting trip, east of the mountains in Washington State (Guterson writes a lot about his part of the world), with his two dogs, and he’ll commit suicide. He sets up an elaborate ruse with his children and grandchildren, and heads out. All of this, so far, takes place in the first 10 pages of the book. First he has an accident in his car, and that sets off a cavalcade of incidents. You’ll learn a whole lot about flora and fauna (one of Guterson’s writing attributes). You’ll learn a lot about apple and pear orchards, which abound in eastern Washington (I’ve been there, it’s beautiful, pastoral and full of fruit). Flashbacks of his life story are interspersed throughout, his growing up on an apple farm, meeting his wife, his service in WWII, their reuniting after the war and the life they had. You’ll learn some about his cancer pain, the grief of his wife’s death 5 years prior, and about his resolve to end it all. Please don’t NOT read this because  you’ll think it’s depressing. It is and it isn’t. It’s so much more for the better. And I just read, this book is being made into a movie.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? I marvel sometimes about how authors ever come up with the ideas they do, to create the premise for a novel. And this one is right up there at the top of the list. Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who has a big lack of self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. He discovers she’s blind and needs some help, which he gives her. Then he discovers that there is a lot more to know and understand about this elderly little lady down the hall and he begins a journey to try to find someone for her, the Luis Velez of the title. If you want to use coming-of-age to describe this, that’s partly true. He learns all about himself, the abilities he didn’t know he had, the kindness that lives within him that he never realized was there, and the friends he makes along the way who make some life-changing differences in his young life. He discovers he has some gifts that he can give to others, something most teenagers don’t understand. I can’t recommend this book highly enough – it’s a bit of a tear-jerker, but for every good reason and moral character trait described in the book. It’s there.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes.

Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3)by Francine Rivers.

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

Answer As a Man

Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel).

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. A

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. W

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Beverages, on January 10th, 2020.

aviator_ingred

An Aviator – the insanely delicious cocktail.

Oops, I typed in Aviator – wrong – it’s an Aviation.  When daughter Sara and I were on the cross-country trip, in August, taking grandson John to Virginia, after we’d dropped him off at his new college, we drove to Asheville, NC. On the way there, on a rainy mid-day, we stopped at a scenic overlook. We parked and walked 100 yards to the overlook and while there a woman joined us as we eyed the view and the stormy thunder clouds overhead. We got to talking – where she was going – where we were going – since she knew the area we asked about restaurants in Asheville. She promptly called her friend who lives there, and we were told where we had to go for dinner. I cannot recall the name of the restaurant – tried to look it up. Nothing rings a bell. Anyway, we went early and the waiter/waitress (we couldn’t tell the gender) was very friendly and suggested a drink, a house specialty. An Aviation. See this Wikipedia link to read about the history of the Aviation.

After our dinner there, we hung around near the bar to take a look at the liqueur used – see below. It’s imported from Austria. Hard to find. Sara had to order it online and have it shipped. We live in a hub of shopping, and some other brands are available, but those other brands are discouraged – this one, the Rothman and Winter is the only one to buy.

Now, the picture up above, showing the drink in that Irish coffee glass (wrong glass, obviously!) doesn’t even look appetizing. It’s a variant of a martini, so should be served in a martini glass, of course. I’m pretty sure Sara doesn’t own any of those. Sara liked more of the Creme de Violette in hers, so it’s much darker in color than any I’ve seen on the ‘net or the one we had in Asheville. The liqueur is a beautiful deep purple/lavender color. It’s shaken with ice to cool it, but it’s not served with ice. Sara bought the bottle of Rothman & Winter Creme de Violette for me for Christmas and we enjoyed a repeat of that fun drink.

Luxardo, Gourmet Cocktail Maraschino Cherries – I’d never heard of them until I’d had it in my drink in Asheville. Then I began reading about them in various places. These cherries are “dear,” meaning $$$. Each jar contains about 50 cherries. So a bit under 30-40 cents apiece. Yes, dear.

What’s in an Aviation Cocktail:

  • 1 1/2 ounces gin (we used Bombay Sapphire)
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 to 3/4 ounce maraschino juice (Luxardo brand for cherries and the juice, imported from Italy – divine)
  • 1/4 ounce Crème de Violette (recommend Rothman & Winter)
  • a Luxardo maraschino cherry, for garnish (it sinks to the bottom, of course)

Combine in a shaker with ice (without the cherry) and strain into a martini glass and serve with the cherry. Some folks add a twist of lemon to the glass.

What’s GOOD: oh my – if you like cocktails, yes. If you like a bit of a sweeter cocktail, yes. If you’re a purist when it comes to martinis, then this wouldn’t be for you. Festive. Fun. Delicious. Especially the cherry at the bottom.

What’s NOT: finding the Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

Posted in Beverages, on November 8th, 2018.

amaretto_sours

Oh so delicious – a drink made with Prosecco, a bit of Amaretto and citrus. And the glass rims pressed into zested sugar.

A sour – what is it? As I learned when I searched on the ‘net, they’re a whole family of cocktails – with somewhat the same combination – an alcohol, or two, some sweet and some sour. The trick being the balance of sweet to sour. Ideally, you’d serve this with a cherry in it, maybe, or a slice of lemon or lime. As I was looking around at various recipes for an amaretto sour, I discovered a brand of top-notch cherries used in libations – called Luxardo, Gourmet Cocktail Maraschino Cherries 400G Jar. Just now I’ve added it to my amazon wish list. They’re pricey. But as I read comments from people at amazon who bought them, everyone raves about them. One commenter shared a long conversation about how his wife keeps dipping into his precious jar of Luxardo cherries and eats them straight. They had “words.” She doesn’t want to have one of the cocktails with her husband, she just wants the cherries (if you click on the link above, scroll down to the comments and you can read the very amusing comment). So now he adds 2 extra to each drink he makes for himself and she gets to have the extras cherries. Someone else said they add up to about $.35 apiece.

This recipe, from a cooking class with Phillis Carey, however, uses a slightly different combination of ingredients:

  • simple syrup (common, but this one contains a more sugar-to-water ratio)
  • lemon and lime zest
  • fresh lemon juice
  • Prosecco
  • Amaretto

Did I love this drink? Oh, yes, absolutely. I think I could drink one of these every evening if given the opportunity. On the diet I’m on, the simple syrup would not fit, but it’s not like you’re getting all that much sugar. Perhaps I could try it with one of the fake sugars. I’ve recently tried and really like Swerve Sweetner Granular. Swerve makes a confectioner’s type and regular granular. It tastes more like regular sugar than any substitute I’ve tried, and I’ve tried many. I don’t cook much with sugar at all anymore – occasionally I’ll use a tiny jot of maple syrup in something savory. I don’t bake unless I’m having guests, and then I send all the remaining dessert home with my guests. Phillis gave me a recipe a week or so ago for both a flatbread (made with almond meal) and a chocolate mug dessert, and both are zero or near zero carbs. Haven’t tried them yet, but I will.

So back to this recipe. First you need to make the simple syrup that has double the sugar to water. Cool it and chill. You’ll need some fresh squeezed lemon juice, the zests, as I mentioned above, a bottle of chilled Prosecco (so you’d want to make this when you’re having guests), your handy Disaronno Amaretto on hand and either citrus slices to garnish OR those cherries above. Mix it up in a pitcher and pour the drinks over ice, but into glasses that you’ve rubbed with lemon juice then dipped into sugar and the zests. So very refreshing.

What’s GOOD: the umami flavor of the sweet to sour. I enjoy Amaretto, but can’t say that I’ve had any (straight as an after dinner drink) for years and years. But in this drink. Oh yes!! The drink is incredibly refreshing, and very fancy with the sugared glass rims. Make it in a pitcher for a group. I can’t wait – am thinking about making this for Thanksgiving. You’ve got to make these, okay?

What’s NOT: only that there are a few steps – making the simple syrup, chilling it – juicing and zesting. The rest is easy peasy.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sparkling Amaretto Sours

Recipe By: Phillis Carey class, Sept. 2018
Serving Size: 2

SIMPLE SYRUP CONCENTRATE:
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
AMARETTO SOUR:
1/2 cup sugar — for glass rims
zest of 2 limes — for glass rims
zest of 2 lemons — for glass rims
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Reserve one lemon half to use for glasses
3/4 cup Prosecco — chilled
2 tablespoons amaretto
4 tablespoons simple syrup — from recipe above
Ice

NOTE: This simple syrup is more concentrated (more sugar to water). And you don’t use all of the simple syrup to make these 2 drinks.
1. SIMPLE SYRUP: Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool.
2. GLASSES: Combine 1/2 cup sugar with lemon and lime zests on a small plate. Rub each glass rim with the reserved lemon half, then coat the rim with the sugar/zest mixture.
3. THE DRINK: In a small pitcher, combine Prosecco, Amaretto, lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the simple syrup concentrate. Pour over ice in the prepared glasses and serve immediately. If you want to be particularly festive, buy Luxardo cherries (amazon) and add one to each glass.
Per Serving: 275 Calories; 0g Fat (0.0% calories from fat); trace Protein; 65g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1mg Sodium.

Posted in Beverages, on October 6th, 2018.

fresh_strawberry_margaritas

This time of year is not the time to do strawberry anything. But save this recipe for next spring when really ripe strawberries are available.

It was awhile back that Phillis Carey made these margaritas, and I wrote “fab” beside the recipe, then forgot to write it up and post it for you! This is one very delicious recipe – and so much better than anything you’d order in a nice Mexican restaurant or bar. You may not ever go back to any mix after you taste these.

Start working on this a few hours ahead so the mixture can chill thoroughly. First you need to make the “margarita mix.” See the recipe at the bottom. It will require a LOT of fresh lemon and lime juice. I mean a LOT, but once you make it, it’ll keep in the refrigerator for about a week. This recipe makes drinks for 4-6 people, and if they like them as much as we did, maybe you should double the recipe.

You do rub the rims of the glasses with lime wedges (juice) and then dip in sugar. Set them aside. Then you mix up the margaritas (fresh strawberries, tequila, the margarita mix you made earlier, triple sec, lime juice and orange juice). Blend it then blend again with a specific amount of ice cubes, then pour immediately. DO USE VERY RIPE STRAWBERRIES in this – Phillis warned us that if the berries aren’t at the peak of ripeness, you’ll be disappointed. Duly noted . . .

What’s GOOD: you’ll hear raves – I just know it because there were mmmm’s all around the room when Phillis served these. It’s very refreshing, but packs a punch of alcohol, of course, but the strawberries and the fresh citrus help to temper the strength. Altogether fabulous drink. And it’s not overly sweet. You’d think it would be, but no, it wasn’t. I really liked that part.

What’s NOT: maybe the amount (2 or more lemons and probably 4-5 limes) of lemons and limes you’ll need to make this. Have trees? Use those. Or make these when you can buy lemons and limes at a better price!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Fresh Strawberry Margaritas

Recipe By: Phillis Carey, cooking instructor, 5/2018
Serving Size: 5

MARGARITA MIX: (makes 2 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
MARGARITA:
granulated sugar and lime wedges, for the glass
2 cups fresh strawberries — diced, VERY RIPE ONLY
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/3 cups tequila
3/4 cup margarita mix (above)
6 tablespoons Triple Sec
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
3 cups ice cubes

1. MARGARITA MIX: Combine water and sugar in a large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat and cool completely (to room temp). Can be made ahead and refrigerated. When syrup is cool/cold, mix syrup, lemon juice and lime juice. Cover and chill overnight, if possible. Can be kept for a week, or freeze for longer storage.
2. MARGARITAS: Rub rims of glasses with lime wedges and dip rims in sugar. Set aside. Toss strawberries with sugar, stir and set aside for 15-30 minutes.
3. Place strawberries and any accumulated juices, tequila, margarita mix, Triple Sec , lime and orange juices in a blender and puree until smooth. Add ice cubes and puree until slushy. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.
Per Serving (not accurate because the margarita mix quantity is more than you’ll use in the recipe): 384 Calories; trace Fat (1.0% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 8mg Sodium.

Posted in Beverages, on September 8th, 2018.

watermelon_sangria_blueberry_float

The blueberries have sunk to the bottom, so I don’t exactly know why you’d call it a float when the fruit sinks! But you get the reward at the end of the sipping!

This drink is just so refreshing. Watermelon isn’t on my diet these days, but I ate/drank it anyway. It’s only that most fruit is so high in sugar that it sends a signal to the brain – more, more – so it’s best not to eat too much. Berries are okay and I eat them every day.

You’ll need to make one trip to the market – to buy a bottle of Moscato. It’s a slightly sweet Italian wine. Chill it ahead of time if you think of it. So you combine in a blender 4 cups of cubed up watermelon, the bottle of Moscata, white rum (be sure to use white rum, as dark rum turns this drink brown – not at all appetizing), lime juice and zest plus the tablespoon of sugar and whiz it up. Chill, then serve with the blueberries floating on top if you can get them to do it!cherrie_with_sangria

If you’d rather not have watermelon pulp in your drink, strain it, then chill. Garnish the drink with a slice of lime on the side if you want to make it fancy.

There’s a photo of Cherrie at the cooking class with Phillis Carey, when we were served these drinks. The blueberries in her drink sunk to the bottom too. Oh well, the drink still tasted just lovely. This would make a great drink to serve to a women’s gathering.

What’s GOOD: refreshing for sure. Easy to make. It’ll keep for a day or two as well. But I’ll bet you’ll drink it all down. Do note the low calories of this drink.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Watermelon Sangria with Blueberry Float

Recipe By: Cooking class, Phillis Carey, 2018
Serving Size: 6

4 cups watermelon — cubed
1 bottle Moscato wine — (slightly sweet Italian wine)
1 cup white rum zest of 2 limes
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
lime slices for garnishing

1. In a blender combine watermelon, Moscato wine, rum, lime juice and zest with sugar and blend until smooth.
2. Refrigerate for a few hours to chill completely.
3. Serve in glasses with blueberries floating on top (if possible) and a lime slice.
Per Serving: 136 Calories; trace Fat (7.8% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 3mg Sodium.

Posted in Beverages, on January 16th, 2018.

make_ahead_choc_balls_4_hot_chocolate

Do you have family members who are just nutso about hot chocolate? I do, and when I saw this recipe, I knew I needed to make them to take to my grandson JohnJohn (age 17). I kept two of the balls and they’re in my refrigerator as I write this. They’re calling my name.

Since Chris Kimball was ousted from America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated, he’s started up his own new organization with a magazine (Milk Street Magazine) and also is taping TV shows. I like the magazine a lot and read it cover to cover every month. It’s a similar layout, but lots of color photos and interesting comments about products. This recipe came from a one-page article about the quality of chocolate we’d use for baking. The #1 winner was Ghiradelli’s, both their bittersweet bar chocolate or the chocolate chips (and I have bags of them in my  pantry since they’re my go-to choice for chips for baking or grabbing to eat).

choc_ball_dropping_mugAlongside the review (also acceptable were Hershey’s unsweetened bars, Dove milk chocolate and Hershey’s cocoa powder) was a gorgeous picture of a bunch of chocolate pieces and some chocolate sauce dripping all over it plus this recipe for chocolate balls. It was the photo that sucked me in!

So, these balls . . . they’re something you make ahead and chill, then form into balls (as above), wrap in plastic wrap (and keep chilled), and when you’re ready for a hot chocolate you merely plop one of the balls into a mug of milk and microwave it about 2 minutes, stirring several times until it’s completely melted. EASY! My cousin Gary was visiting over the holidays and we enjoyed the last 2 balls as I was in the middle of writing up this post. That’s his hand in the photo. I topped both mugs with a squirt of whipped cream from the aerosol can.

heavenly_hot_chocThe chocolate concoction is nothing but good quality chocolate chips (yes, I used the Ghiradelli ones), heavy cream and a dash of salt. That’s melted in the microwave, allowed to cool to room temp, then chilled for 2 hours in the refrigerator. Don’t attempt it at 1 1/2 hours chilling time – it needs the full 2 hours. I used 2 spoons to make the each ball (about 2” thick). I put on plastic gloves as it was quite messy. I only got 9 chocolate balls from the mixture, and I thought I was doing skimpy 2” balls.

When you melt the chocolate ball in the milk, in the microwave, do stir it frequently and try to break up the ball a bit (you could cut the ball in half) – it’ll melt/heat better that way. Using a whisk would be good at the end. Top with whipped cream if you really want to make it decadent.

What’s GOOD: this would make a really nice gift for a chocoholic friend, no question about that. Kids love it as it’s different. BUT, I will remind you, the chocolate is rich, so kids might not drink an entire mug. Flavor is marvelous – rich and chocolaty, which is the object, right? Loved the new way of doing it. I’m not a hot chocolate fiend, but I do enjoy a mug or two a year, I’d guess. I had a mug when I took it to my daughter’s family (mostly for young JohnJohn) and thought it was delish and then my cousin Gary and I enjoyed the last 2 balls the day after Christmas. It does need to be kept refrigerated. Shelf life, it says, is 5 days. I think you could get a week out of it. It’s the cream that’s at issue with the freshness, but heavy cream keeps well.

What’s NOT: only that it’s very rich – and not everyone likes bittersweet chocolate. If you have milk chocolate fans in your family make it with that. Am certain it makes no difference in how it’s made. Be sure to keep it refrigerated – wouldn’t be good for a long trip unless kept chilled.

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Make-Ahead Hot Chocolate (Balls)

Recipe By: Milk Street Magazine, 2017
Serving Size: 10

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips — preferably Ghiradelli
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Microwave chocolate chips, cream and salt in a large bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Cool to room temperature and chill for 2 hours until firm.
2. Working with about 3 T. of chocolate at a time (and wearing disposable gloves if you have them) roll the cold chocolate into a round ball about 2″ in diameter. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
3. To make hot chocolate: Pour cold milk into a mug, add a chocolate ball and microwave the mug, stopping often to stir the chocolate, using a flat whisk. Continue to heat milk, about 2 minutes total, watching that it doesn’t boil.
4. Serve chocolate piping hot with a garnish of whipped cream, if desired.
NOTES: Before making hot chocolate, cut the chocolate ball in half – it will melt faster. This can also be made with milk chocolate if that’s preferred.
Per Serving: 243 Calories; 19g Fat (64.0% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 33mg Cholesterol; 66mg Sodium.

Posted in Beverages, on November 7th, 2017.

raspberry_limoncello_prosecco1

A very refreshing drink you could enjoy any time of year.

Sara_375Hi everyone – this is Carolyn’s daughter Sara . . . I’ve always envied Mom for her ability to share her passion of cooking with all of you. I tend to cook for friends and family only; well mostly baking really. So I consider myself a bit of a sugar snob. However, the recipe I want to share comes from a (very) impolite invite of myself to my brother’s house for dinner.

Typical of my family, there was amazing food made by all of us. So naturally, I had to come up with something just as spectacular. And since I was a last minute invite, dessert had already been assigned. I had just finished making a batch of Limoncello (recipe by Giada De Laurentiis) so I found this wonderfully refreshing cocktail to serve on a hot California day. It’s light, fanciful and yet had enough tartness that the men drank it too. I absolutely loved it! I did alter it minutely by adding fresh raspberries. I always choose fresh when I have the option.

This drink (from a blog called DamnDelicious) was so yummy that my sister-in-law Karen sent me a picture of them sharing another drink the following day! That’s when you know a recipe is good. When another person (and fabulous cook) makes it.

What’s GOOD: EASY! Portable! A little tart and sweet at the same time. I think all of us who enjoyed it that day will have it again. So, if you have lemon trees, make some limoncello, so you can!

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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Rasberry Limoncello Prosecco

Recipe By: Damn Delicious blog, 2014
Serving Size: 6

3 cups Prosecco — chilled
1 cup limoncello — chilled
1 cup raspberries — frozen or fresh
6 sprigs fresh mint

1. In a large pitcher, whisk together prosecco and limoncello.
2. Serve over raspberries, garnished with mint.
3. Note: alternately, you can just add raspberries to the bottom of a cocktail glass, add 1/4 cup limoncello in each glass, and top off with about 1/2 cup of Prosecco.
Per Serving: 156 Calories; trace Fat (1.8% calories from fat); trace Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 2mg Sodium.

Posted in Beverages, on December 15th, 2015.

fireball_bottles

Truly, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, but I don’t frequent bars, liquor stores, big box liquor stores, and rarely even go down the aisle of wine and liquor at Costco – except to stock up on some Bailey’s now and then.

Then my friend Cherrie mentioned that one night when they were camping with a group of friends somebody brought out the Fireball. Having never heard of it and having heard her rave about it I bought a bottle. I thought it was something you mixed with something – – something – surely you don’t drink it straight? But yes she does. Over ice.

WHAT IS IT? It’s a Canadian whiskey somehow imbued with cinnamon and sugar, I suppose. It is very smooth. It’s also “hot.” It’s like drinking red hots with whiskey. Does that give you a clue? And it’s VERY smooth. It would have to be, otherwise I couldn’t drink it. Trust me on that! I’ve now discovered Fireball. So far I haven’t tried it with anything else – not with Rumchata, or 7-up, coffee, or Coca-Cola. There are websites about what to do with Fireball – other wild cocktails. I just can’t get past drinking it straight over ice.

Over Thanksgiving I casually mentioned it to my son-in-law, John, and to Sara, my daughter, who doesn’t drink hardly anything without falling asleep, and she sounded mildly intrigued. So John made a stop at a store one night I was there and must have asked where it was in the store . . . and said to the clerk “oh yea, I’ve gotta buy my mother-in-law some whiskey.” Anyone who knows me would know that’s so ludicrous because I drink almost nothing. But this Fireball. Well, I won’t say I’m hooked. I have one drink (an ounce) over ice and I’m done. And I definitely don’t have it every night. If I did that I suspect I’d get bored with it. So far, having one every 3-4 days, it’s still a treat and a taste sensation with the first sip.

John didn’t like it, and Sara didn’t like it either. We introduced it to Sara’s in-laws and no, they didn’t care for it. So now I have my own bottle plus the one John bought. In case you’ve not tried it – and in case you don’t like the taste of straight shots. This is more like a liqueur since it has a sweet tinge to it. It’s golden and is smooth. Now I have a drink I can order out. The drink has been around for a long time, but other than hearing the name of it, I’d certainly not tried it. It’s lovely . . . just so you know.

Posted in Beverages, Brunch, on August 23rd, 2015.

cantaloupe_soup_yogurt_mint

While I was visiting in Colorado, one day we visited a wonderful restaurant in Evergreen. I’m going to write that up another day. We enjoyed a delicious honeydew chilled soup, which I’m going to try to re-create. But in the interim, I bought a cantaloupe and decided to make it into a chilled soup, or a fruit delight for breakfast, or just to drink it like a smoothie.

Being just one person, these days to buy a whole melon means serving it to myself as a wedge every day for many days, so I decided to try my hand at making a refreshing summer drink, or a soup. Either one. After the first time eating this as a soup, I poured the remainder into a glass and drank it instead of eating it with a spoon.

Using some recipes I’d found online, I combined several and added in my own twist to things. I knew I wanted to add mint (since I have some in my garden) and yogurt. Other than that, I winged it. I chopped up the cantaloupe (do make sure it’s sweet and ripe otherwise it won’t taste all that great), added a bit of sour cream (light) and a cup of Greek yogurt, some honey, about 2-3 T. of fresh mint leaves, and a dash or two of ground cinnamon and ground cloves. Those spices were miniscule enough that you hardly know they’re there, but enough to wonder what that elusive flavor is. Use your own choice of spices if you don’t like cloves or cinnamon.

This soup or drink is not thick – cantaloupe breaks down to almost a pure liquid with almost no texture. The yogurt and sour cream added little or no thickness to it, either. So what I’m saying is that this soup is a thin type, more liquid than texture. But I loved it. Having read varieties of recipes I just made it up as I went along and I liked it. I did notice that the next day it tasted much better than it did right out of the blender. So keep that in mind. If you wanted to add some thickness, add about half of a cucumber, seeded and peeled.

What’s GOOD: oh, it’s very refreshing. Very low in calorie. It almost tastes like a thin milkshake or a smoothie, but most smoothies are quite thick. This one is not – it’s liquid. Wonderful flavors – providing the melon is extra ripe and sweet.

What’s NOT: nothing really. This was gone in a couple of days – I shared it with my Scrabble friends – and we drank it right down.

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Chilled Cantaloupe Soup with Yogurt

Recipe By: My own concoction
Serving Size: 6

1 medium cantaloupe
1/4 cup light sour cream
1 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or low fat
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
Mint leaves for garnish

1. Cut cantaloupe into small pieces and place in blender.
2. Add sour cream, yogurt, honey, fresh mint, cinnamon and cloves and blend until completely smooth.
3. If time allows, chill overnight. Can be served as a soup (it has a thin consistency) or as a beverage/smoothie. If serving as a soup, garnish with mint leaves. If you prefer a thicker soup you could add half of a cucumber, peeled and seeded, which would give the soup more texture.
Per Serving: 103 Calories; 4g Fat (29.7% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 30mg Sodium.

Posted in Beverages, on December 24th, 2014.

pear_bellini

Want something festive to serve on Christmas morning, perhaps? Or for a Sunday brunch? Or for a nice summer dinner? And so very easy!

This came from the cooking class with Diane Phillips, and I think I’ve made this before, years ago before I wrote a blog – it’s so easy – I just needed to be nudged or reminded about it – that it makes a lovely, light drink.

Diane served this with Prosecco, the very popular Italian sparkling wine (more lightly sparkled than Champagne). It’s nothing but canned or carton pear nectar, Prosecco and some fresh raspberries to make it look extra pretty.

Have everything chilled ahead of time, mix half pear nectar and half Prosecco, drop in the raspberries and you’re done. If you or your guests would prefer a bit more alcohol punch, then use a bit less pear nectar.

What’s GOOD: how easy it is – it’s very pretty, and light. It isn’t all that sweet – it could be if you used a sweeter Prosecco. This one was just right – Diane used Rustico brand Prosecco – she says she finds it all over, for about $12 a bottle, I believe she said.
What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of.

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Pear Bellini

Recipe By: Diane Phillips, author and cooking instructor
Serving Size: 6

1 quart pear nectar — (Kern’s) chilled
1500 milliliters Prosecco — or sparkling wine (chilled) [that’s 2 bottles] Rustico brand if you can find it
1/2 cup fresh raspberries — for garnish

1. Gather 6 champagne flutes on a tray. Drop two raspberries into each glass.
2. Pour pear nectar half way up the glass, then add the Prosecco. Serve.
Per Serving: 275 Calories; trace Fat (0.5% calories from fat); trace Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 19mg Sodium.

Posted in Beverages, on December 4th, 2014.

cranberry_shrub

Know what a “shrub” is? No, not that kind of shrub! The drink, silly!

A shrub: [according to wikipedia] popular during America’s colonial era, was made by mixing a vinegary syrup with spirits, water, or carbonated water. The term “shrub” can also be applied to the sweetened vinegar-based syrup, from which the cocktail is made; the syrup is also known as “drinking vinegar.” Drinking vinegar is often infused with fruit juice, herbs and spices for use in mixed drinks.

Since I like sparkling wine (or Champagne) in almost anything, I knew I’d like this drink. And it was so very festive for Thanksgiving. Everyone who tried it, liked it. I liked it so much I had a second one (but then I didn’t have any wine with dinner).

When I went to wikipedia to look up the origin of the shrub, I read through it all. Very interesting. Here I’ve copied some of it, in case you’re interested in the history (underlining inserted by me):

The early English version of the shrub arose from the medicinal cordials of the 15th century. The drink gained popularity among smugglers in the 1680s trying to avoid paying import taxes for goods shipped from mainland Europe: To avoid detection, smugglers would sometimes sink barrels of spirits off-shore to be retrieved later; the addition of fruit flavors aided in masking the taste of alcohol fouled by sea water. As a mixture of fruit and alcohol, the shrub is related to the punch, however punches were normally served immediately after mixing the ingredients, whereas shrubs tended to have a higher concentration of flavor and sugar and could be stored for later use, much like a pre-made drink mixer. The shrub was itself a common ingredient in punches, either on its own or as a simple mix with brandy or rum. It was also served during the Christmas season mixed with raisins, honey, lemon, sherry, rum and other spirits. The shrub was sold in most public houses throughout England in the 17th and 18th centuries, although the drink fell out of fashion by the late 1800s.

The American version of the shrub has its origins in 17th century England where vinegar was used as an alternative to citrus juices in the preservation of berries and other fruits for the off-season. Fruit preserves made in this fashion were themselves known as shrubs and the practice carried over to colonial America. By the 19th century, typical American recipes for shrubs used vinegar poured over fruit—traditionally berries—which was left to infuse anywhere from overnight up to several days; afterward the fruit would be strained out and the remaining liquid would be mixed with a sweetener such as sugar or honey and then reduced to make a syrup. The sweet-and-sour syrup could be mixed with either water or soda water and served as a soft drink, or it could be used as a mixer in alcoholic cocktails. Shrubs eventually fell out of popularity with the advent of home refrigeration.

The serving of vinegar-based shrub drinks became popular again in 2011 and 2012 in American restaurants and bars. The trend has also been noted in bars in Canada as well as London. The acidity of the shrub makes it well suited as an apéritif or used as an alternative to bitters in cocktails. Unlike cocktails acidulated with citrus, vinegar-based drinks will remain clear when shaken.

Recently I visited a cute little shop in my area called The Mixing Glass. It’s a tiny footprint of a shrub_and_co_cranberry_shrub_mixstore that carries a variety of more unusual alcohol types, drinking paraphernalia (nice gifts) and some mixes. I paused in the store to look around and I spotted this bottle (along with several other flavors, see above photo from their website) of a shrub mix. This one is a cranberry, but the small Berkeley-based company, Shrub & Co. makes a variety of flavors. Just click on the link and you can read all about them, and peruse their recipes. And read about where you can buy this in your area.

There were 12 people at our Thanksgiving dinner, and I think about 8 of them had at least one glass of this. Because the cranberry shrub mix is almost like bitters, but not as concentrated, you must add sugar, so the drink recipe below (provided to me by the shop owner) uses simple syrup. I bought Gloria Ferrer sparkling wine, which is a bit on the tart side anyway, so the drink wasn’t all that sweet. It was sweet, but not so much that people would be turned off by it. This recipe below isn’t on the company’s website, so I can’t give credit unless the store owner at The Mixing Glass came up with it herself. In any case, it’s really lovely.

The cranberry elixir also has Douglas fir in it. None of us could taste the fir or find the scent of it at all. But then, the drink recipe adds a sprig of rosemary to each glass, so perhaps it overwhelmed the Douglas fir. In any case, the drink was a success.

What’s GOOD: if you have the simple syrup made up ahead, chilled, and the bottle of shrub mix chilled, the drink will be nice and cold when you serve pour in the chilled sparkling wine. It’s a lovely, refreshing drink. Not too sweet, and not too tart. Perfect, we all thought. My daughter-in-law, Karen, asked me if I’d bring it to Christmas Eve at their house. So, I will, by all means! The drink uses very little of the cranberry mix (1/2 ounce per glass) so I have a LOT of it left. The mix would make a nice gift.

What’s NOT: only that you’ll likely have the bottle around for a long while – you don’t use much of it in each drink – and it must be kept refrigerated after opening. Fortunately I have a refrigerator in the garage, and that’s where it will stay until Christmas. I don’t know how long the shrub mix will keep – it doesn’t say – maybe forever. Don’t know. Oh, and I forgot to mention – the mix was $22.99.

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Cranberry Shrub with Sparkling Wine

Recipe By: From the owner of The Mixing Glass, Costa Mesa, CA
Serving Size: 1

1/2 ounce Shrub & Co. cranberry shrub mix
1/4 ounce simple syrup
5 ounces sparkling wine — on the dry side, rather than sweet
a sprig of fresh rosemary

1. Prepare simple syrup based on how many servings you’ll want to have available. Chill. [Simple Syrup: 1 cup sugar to 1 cup water – pour into jar with a good tight screw-top, shake vigorously and chill. It is not necessary to boil the simple syrup.]
2. Chill the sparkling wine and the Shrub & Co. cranberry elixir.
3. Into a champagne flute pour the cranberry mixture, then the simple syrup. Add sparkling wine, and a sprig of rosemary. Serve immediately.
Notes: The sweetness of this drink will depend on how sweet the sparkling wine is. The rosemary seems to create some kind of crazy foaming action with the sparkling wine, so add the wine very slowly – much slower than you would usually do with any sparkling wine to a champagne flute. If you add the sparkling wine first, then submerge the rosemary sprig, it will foam up immediately. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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