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Sara

Sara and me

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Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

Alan Hlad has written quite a novel. From true life. The Long Flight Home. It tells the story based on family history, of the homing pigeons that were used in Britain during WWII that flew back and forth across the English Channel into German-occupied France. It’s a heartwarming story. Heart-wrenching sometimes. War is an awful thing no matter which side you’re on when it comes to how it affects everyday people. You’ll learn a lot about pigeons, but also about love. Great read.

Riveted to Katie Munnick’s novel The Heart Beats in Secret. It begins in Scotland in 1940. A woman, a single mother. A journey across the sea. Then her daughter’s story, and finally the granddaughter’s story, when she inherits her grandmother’s old cottage back in Scotland. Plenty of mother-daughter dysfunction. But it comes right in the end.

Sarah Vallance has written a book about her devastating brain injury. Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain. What a story. What a saga of her recovery. And how she did it. An open wide sharing of her angst, her anger, her journey. Well worth reading. If you have anyone who has suffered a brain injury, it would be wise reading.

Just love all of Amy Harmon’s books. This one is no exception. Where the Lost Wander: A Novel. A pioneer story of a young woman made a widow on the trail to the west. 1850s. As it was in life, tragedies occur. But there is caring and love too. Loved it.

Read Her Mother’s Hope: Marta’s Legacy Series Book 1 (A Gripping Historical Christian Fiction Family Saga from the 1900s to the 1950s) (Marta’s Legacy) by Francine Rivers. After leaving her childhood home of Switzerland, young Marta Schneider dreams of one day owning a boardinghouse, until marriage and motherhood change her ambitions. Determined to give her family a better life, she vows to raise strong children. But her tough love is often misunderstood, especially by her oldest daughter, Hildemara Rose, creating repercussions that will echo for generations.

Esther Freud’s book The Sea House: A Novel is about a small village on England’s southern coast.  The book is about love found, love lost, love sometimes found again, sometimes not. About how fleeting it can be or seem.

Amor Towles’ book, Rules of Civility: A Novel was quite a read. It’s NYC, 1937. Twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent [Kon-TENT she iterates to many] is in a Greenwich Village jazz bar when a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien. What an adorable book. True story about Stacey’s 20 years with a feisty but lovable barn owl.

Loved The Wedding Officer: A Novel by Anthony Capella. It takes place in the middle of WWII in Naples. A young British officer, Captain James Gould, is sent to Naples to wade through the zilions of applications from soldiers to marry local Italian women (and presumably take them back to England when the war ends).

Reading behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald. So interesting. Jill is  young, with a newly minted degree in library science at a time when the economy was very slow. She accepts a position in a minimum security prison in Ohio.

The Walls of Lucca by Steve Physioc. A novel that takes place in between WWI and II about a weary Italian soldier.

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna. A novel about Croatia in the aftermath of their more recent wars.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

Having read all of Kristin Hannah’s books, I knew I’d read her latest too: Between Sisters: A Novel.  Two sisters, raised by the same mother but different fathers. At a young age a rift occurs and the sisters go their own way.

Just finished Matt McCarthy’s book The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year. It tells the true life story of his first year as an intern at a New York hospital.

Also read Karen Harper’s book The Royal Nanny: A Novel. The time frame is 1890s onward, at Sandringham, when Charlotte Bill (a real person) was hired by the Duke and Duchess of York, to care for their children.

Also read Roger Swindell’s Mendelevski’s Box. It’s an historical novel about the aftermath of WWII in impoverished Amsterdam.

Also read a very quirky non-fiction book: The Perfect Gentleman: The remarkable life of Dr. James Miranda Barry by June Rose. This is a biography about a person who lived in the mid-1800s. He was a surgeon; graduated from Edinburgh Medical School at the age of 14. Joined the British Army as a medical officer then sent off to South Africa and many other tropical outposts during his career.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with her distant heritage.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. It’s about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the breadwinners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt.  You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. 

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania.

One of my book clubs had us read Louise Penny’s novel, A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel). The book takes place at a lovely inn in Canada and Chief Inspector Gamache (he is quite a character – along with his wife – are vacationing there) when a murder occurs.

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. 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.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is 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 regarding going to school 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. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

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. 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.

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.

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. 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.  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. 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? If 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.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who  lacks 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. Sweet story.

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.

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.

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 May 13th, 2020.

masala_chai_concentrate_over_milk

This isn’t a repeat of the last post I did of something similar. I just liked the previous version enough that I tried this new one that’s a concentrate – –  – so you don’t have to make a new batch every time you want it.

We’ve been having some very warm weather of late. And I’ve enjoyed sitting outside in mid-day, and I always have some kind of beverage (ice water most often in my thermal flask) in hand. My iPad (with the Kindle app on it), my phone and I go outside to escape for a little bit of time. I read or talk on the phone which provides a change of scenery. Around my house I have hawks, crows, wrens, hummers, and a very persistent mocking bird that’s still singing to find a mate.

So, when I saw this recipe in a recent Cook’s Illustrated magazine, I whipped it out and made it tout suite.

masala_chai_concentrate_ingredients

It comes together very easily. You do have to whack or crack the cinnamon sticks and star anise – I used the bottom of a big iron skillet to do that. You also crush the cardamom pods, whole cloves and peppercorns too. I used the back of the skillet for that also. The spices are toasted in the pan slightly, then you add water, sugar (I used monkfruit sweetener) finely minced fresh ginger and salt. Those are simmered (in a regular saucepan) for 10 minutes, then steeped for 10 more, then strained. I will tell you, I used a plastic bowl to cool the tea – it’s a light golden color – the tea discolored the plastic bowl. Argh! Perhaps I’ll  use some bleach and water to see if I can get it out. So be forewarned!

tones_peppercornsA month or so ago I was watching an America’s Test Kitchen program and they did a taste test of black peppercorns. Well, they ground them up, but they started from whole peppercorns. Who knew that there could be such a big difference in the taste of peppercorns. They had the studio audience do the taste test too, and it was unanimous, they all preferred Tone’s Whole Black Peppercorns, 2.13 oz. (2 pack). Now, I’d never even heard of Tone’s. Have you? Perhaps it’s a regional thing – I’m certain I’ve never – ever – seen this brand in the West. But, amazon to the rescue, and for a very modest price I might add. So far I’ve used it only in this tea – once my pepper mill runs out of pepper I’ll add Tone’s.

And who would have thought, really, that black pepper ought to be added to masala chai tea, for that matter.

The tea mixture is cooled and chilled, then poured over cold milk with ice – or you can make it for hot tea also. And I suppose you could use alternative milk – almond milk?

On those warm spring days I enjoyed the tea over milk and ice as I sat outside and soaked in the outdoors. I’m very fair skinned, so I always sit under an umbrella, but I enjoyed sipping the tea and reading.

What’s GOOD: the various flavors that roll around on your tongue as you sip this. Altogether lovely. Whenever I get a yearning for more masala chai tea, I’ll definitely make the concentrate. It keeps in the frig for several days.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Takes half an hour or so to make.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Masala Chai Concentrate

Recipe By: Cook’s Illustrated May/June 2020
Serving Size: 8

3 cinnamon sticks — 2″ long
1 star anise
15 whole cardamom — pods
2 teaspoons whole cloves
3/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
5 cups water
1/4 cup brown sugar — packed (or monkfruit sweetener, golden)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — finely minced
1 pinch salt
3 tablespoons black tea — Assam is recommended
Milk, for combining with concentrate

1. Place cinnamon sticks and star anise on cutting board. Using back of heavy skillet, press down firmly until spices are coarsely crushed. Transfer to medium saucepan. Crush cardamom pods, cloves and peppercorns and add to saucepan. Toast spices over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant.
2. Add water, sugar, ginger and salt and bring to a boil. Cover saucepan and reduce heat; simmer mixture for 10 minutes. Stir in tea, cover and simmer for 10 minutes more. Remove from heat and let mixture steep for 10 additional minutes. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove all spices and tea leaves. Let cool completely (don’t use a plastic bowl for this as it will stain) and refrigerate for up to a week.
3. SERVING: For hot masala chai, use 1/2 cup concentrate and 1/2 cup milk; heat over low heat until desired temp (or combine in mug and heat in microwave). For iced masala chai: use 2/3 cup concentrate, 1/3 cup milk over ice in glasses, stirring to combine.
Per Serving: 73 Calories; 1g Fat (11.7% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 29mg Sodium.

Posted in Beverages, on February 4th, 2020.

masala_chair_pouring

Ever make this from scratch? I never had, and am glad I did.

For me, there is something special about sitting down, tray in hand, with a lovely pot of tea and whatever accoutrements you might want – honey, sugar, milk, cream, a pretty spoon, a lovely tea cup or pot too. And a tray. That tray above I purchased in France decades ago and brought it home in my suitcase. I use it often – usually for a platter of cheese and crackers. I’ve been careful about not ever putting anything greasy right on the rattan so it wouldn’t stain. I have several trays that are the right size for tea. The pot is Ralph Lauren (and I have 4 lovely mugs to go with it – one is in the picture) I purchased for a song many years ago at Home Goods. I love this teapot. But then, I love ALL of my teapots. Mostly I’m a coffee drinker, but in the winter I really enjoy tea either mid-morning or mid-afternoon in addition to my morning latte.

Every weekend (during the traditional school year) I attend a bible study about 5-6 miles away, where about 250 other Christian women attend to study for a morning. It’s called CBS (Community Bible Study). It’s a wonderful program and I’ve been doing it for about  8-9 years now. What I like about it is that it makes you think. No offhand thoughts you might pen in 30 seconds. This study makes you refer to other bible passages, makes you read between the lines. To analyze and consider the place and culture of the time. There’s about 60-90 minutes of homework required each week. So this particular day, I made myself the pot of masala chai to sip on as I did my homework. It took a little bit of work to gather together all of the spices needed – some were close at hand, others I had to go hunting for in my pantry (like the cinnamon sticks).  I keep some of the lesser-used ones in a bin in the wine cellar.

Oh my, does that make me laugh. If Dave were here, he’d be all over me with the various stuff I now store in the wine cellar. He’d be telling me to get this stuff outta-there – various pasta, a whole drawer of teas (that’s where I had to go to find plain black tea) and lots of extra herbs and spices. I store my rabbit fur coat down there (the wine cellar is below ground, underneath the garage in my house, has its own A/C system and I keep it at 58°F), and about 3-4 dozen various types of fancy wine glasses too. They’re boxed up as I don’t use them much. That would make him sad. I keep winnowing away at the wines in the cellar. I’m taking a trip in a month or so to visit some wineries in central California. Do I need more wine? Nope. But I’ll probably buy some anyway – maybe some rose and a few whites. I don’t drink white wine, except sparkling, like Champagne or Prosecco, but I need some for guests now and then. What I don’t need is any red wine. I opened a good bottle recently and only had a glass or so out of it. I need to throw out the rest. It’s been sitting on my kitchen counter for at least 2 weeks.

chai_spicesSo, back to chai tea. Here’s what went into the spice mix –  cinnamon, peppercorns, cardamom pods, whole cloves and fresh ginger. I used my pounder and hacked or smashed everything a little bit. All of it went into a small pot and was simmered with 2 cups of water, on my range for 10 minutes. Then the black tea was added and that steeped for 5 minutes. That’s all. Just 15 minutes total (not counting my scurrying around trying to find all the ingredients). Then it was strained and went into my piping hot tea pot (I swished a cup or so of boiling water in the pot first to warm it up) and the cup of hot milk. Onto the tray it all went. I use some kind of alternative sweetener. I’d prefer honey, but I’m trying not to eat much sugar if I can. The recipe came from a blog I read, Cooking with Amy.

I poured out a cup of the tea and enjoyed every bit of that mug-full. The rest of the tea I put in a glass in my refrigerator – I poured it over ice today.

What’s GOOD: loved the subtle-ness of this chai – the stuff I order at coffee places are way too heavily spiced and so sweet. This is not. It’s nuanced. Light. Lovely.

What’s NOT: nothing other than it does take 15-20 minutes to make. If you thought you’d want some, more often, make a mixture of the whole spices and then whack it just before making, along with the fresh ginger. Although, you want an even amount of each spice, so I’m not sure that’s a good idea, on second thought. I think you need to make up the spice mixture each time.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Masala Chai Tea

Recipe By: Cooking with Amy (blog) 2020
Serving Size: 2-3

4 cardamom — pods
4 black peppercorns
3 cloves
1 stick cinnamon
2 thick slices fresh ginger
2 cups water
2 tea bags — or 1 tablespoon loose black tea
1 cup milk — or more to taste (dairy or non-dairy)
Sweetener—white sugar – or honey, or artificial sugar

NOTE: You may also add a little grating of nutmeg to this mixture, if desired, and a tiny little drop of vanilla. As expensive as vanilla beans are, these days, I would not use a vanilla bean in this – that would be too much, IMHO.
1. Crush the cardamom, black pepper, cloves and cinnamon and bash the ginger slices, but do not grind any of it completely.
2. In a pot combine the water and spices. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer over low heat, covered for 10 minutes. Add the tea and turn off the heat. Cover again and let steep for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the milk in the microwave just until below a boil.
3. Into a warmed teapot, strain the tea, add the milk and add sweetener to taste, or allow guests to add sweetener of their choice (or not).
Per Serving: 116 Calories; 5g Fat (32.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 11mg Cholesterol; 67mg Sodium.

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!

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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.

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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.

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