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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out – well, I hope that’s not wishful thinking. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers. It tells a detailed chronology of its inception, and all the various  parts that had to come together every day, three meals a day, plus some, to make a mammoth food machine run. I have no background in the restaurant biz, but found the story very interesting. Would make a great gift.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius, held captive in a woe begotten prison. It’s about Jewish history, about relationships, and certainly a lot about the starvation and mistreatment (and many died there) of this boat load of people who never should have been sent there. So very sad, but it has bright and hopeful moments toward the end when many of them finally made it to Tel Aviv, their original destination.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then become something else. There is graphic detail here (was it really necessary? not sure of the answer) so if you don’t like that sort of thing, you might want to pass on this – or else skip by those details when you read it. Women have been victims in so many ways for so many centuries, and it’s hard to read that it’s still a common thing in today’s society.

Barbara Delinsky writes current day fiction. Coast Road is really sweet story. Jack (ex-husband) is called away from his career to care for his two daughters when his ex (Rachel) has an accident and is in a coma. Over the course of weeks, he spends time with his daughters (he was an occasional dad). He also spends a lot of time at his ex’s bedside, getting to know her friends. Through them he learns what went wrong in their marriage. I don’t want to spoil the story. I liked it a lot.

Christina Baker Kline has written quite a story about Tasmania. You may, or may not, remember that my DH and I visited Tasmania about 10 years ago (loved it) and having read a lot about Botany Bay and the thousands of criminal exiles from Britain who were shipped there as slave labor in the 1800s. This book tells a different story. The Exiles: A Novel. This one mostly from a few women who were sentenced to Tasmania. There is plenty of cruelty on several fronts, but there is also kindness and salvation for some. Really good read.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

Marion Kummerow wrote an amazing WWII novel. Not Without My Sister. If you don’t like concentration camp stories, pass on this one, but it’s very riveting, much of it at Bergen-Belsen. Two sisters (17 and 4) are separated at the camp. The story switches back and forth between the two sisters’ situations, and yes, the horror of the camp(s), the starvation, the cruelty. But, even though I’m giving away the ending . . . they do get back together again. The story is all about the in between times. Excellent book.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping. This book is about a young man, who is a young father also, loses his beloved wife. He’s barely functioning, trying to get through a day, taking care of his young son. And visiting the cemetery (the one in Montmartre, Paris). There are several peripheral characters (his son, a neighbor and best friend of his departed wife, a good fellow friend too, plus a young woman he befriends at the cemetery). Before his wife’s death she asks him to write 33 letters to her after she’s gone, and to put them in a special box hidden in the cemetery monument. And that begins the story.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

As you’ve read here many times, I marvel at authors who come up with unusual premises for their books. This one Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel of Grace Kelly’s Royal Wedding. And yes, it IS somewhat about Grace Kelly’s wedding, but most of the novel is about a young woman perfume designer, Sophie, who accidentally rescues Grace Kelly from the relentless photographers who hound her every move.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Also a kind of quirky book by Beth Miller, The Missing Letters of Mrs. Bright. Picture a middle-aged woman, slogging through life with a not-very-attentive husband, grown children, and one day she decides to leave. Completely. Packs up and leaves.

Katherine Center’s book, Things You Save in a Fire: A Novel is certainly vivid. There aren’t very many women firefighters out there in the world – this is about one.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

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.

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.

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.

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, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

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.

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Posted in Beverages, Brunch, on September 20th, 2021.

What’s different about this one? Mostly it’s about the lime juice.

A post from Carolyn. For several years now I’ve subscribed to a magazine that, on the surface, if you know me, wouldn’t be one you’d think I’d read – it’s called Garden & Gun. Yes, about gardens and guns. But, the gun part usually comprises one page in each issue, and gardens maybe 4-6 pages. But in between all those other pages are interesting essays on a variety of things South. Everything from an article about a dog, about travel in our Southern states, and certainly some pages of home décor and food. The truth of the matter is that I don’t garden. And I have little to no interest in guns. But those other pages do interest me.

Julia Reed was a venerable icon in the food world. She died of cancer some years ago and has been missed sorely by so many others in the food arena. In a recent issue of Garden & Gun the editor wrote a tribute to Julia Reed, and about why he love-loves Julia Reed’s mother’s recipe of the mixture.  Looking at it – the recipe – it didn’t seem to contain anything very different than any other one I’ve read. I’m surely not a connoisseur of Bloody Marys, but for whatever reason the article prompted me to make them one evening when I invited friends over for dinner.

First off, I needed a lot of limes – so I bought those little net bags of them (3 bags, in fact, about 8-10 in each one) and used all but about 3 individual limes to get enough lime juice (about 3/4 cup) to serve 4 people. What this recipe does contain is a bit more lime juice than most other recipes. You might think it would overpower the drink; it didn’t. Not at all. I’d purchased a “better” brand of canned (bottled) tomato juice. What would make it “better,” I cannot tell you – I did look at the nutrition to see about the sodium in the bottle. None of them were low sodium, but I wasn’t going to buy the run-of-the-mill brand and sought a different label. It was probably $.20 higher than Campbell’s.

The recipe suggested celery stalks and pickled okra as garnishes. Well, I didn’t want to spend over $5.00 for a jar of pickled okra that probably would never be eaten after that day, so I bought dehydrated okra and put one in each glass (see the one sticking up in the left glass in the photo above?). Once it soaked in the Bloody Mary for 5-10 minutes, it was still crunchy on the inside and semi-soft on the outside. It was good. Not pickled, however.

Making the mixture was certainly easy – adding the tomato juice, the lime juice, a ton of Worcestershire sauce, a little bit of salt (I scanted the quantity), a dollop of prepared horseradish, some pepper plus some Tabasco. And of course, some vodka. My friend Cherrie’s husband Bud did the honors of adding the vodka, pouring and handing out the drinks.

What’s GOOD: what can I say? – I thought it was a really good Bloody Mary. I liked the amount of lime juice – it didn’t make you pucker-up – it was just right. I could taste the Worcestershire, which I liked. Loved the dehydrated okra in it (and the remaining ones will be eaten because it makes a good veggie snack). Altogether good recipe, and yes, if and when I make Bloody Marys again, I’ll definitely use this recipe.

What’s NOT: only that you need to procure the various ingredients (have them chilled).

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Bloody Mary Mix from Julia Reed

Recipe By: Julia Reed’s mother, Judy, via Garden & Gun
Serving Size: 4

3 cups tomato juice — NOT V-8
5/8 cup lime juice — freshly squeezed
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes Tabasco sauce — or other hot sauce, or more if you like it spicy
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt — optional if the juice is high in sodium
1/2 tablespoon prepared horseradish
Cracked pepper
Vodka, to taste
GARNISHES: celery sticks, pickled okra (or dehydrated okra), lime wheel

1. Stir together first 6 ingredients. Add cracked pepper to taste. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 3 days.
2. Pour vodka in each glass, pour in the Bloody Mary mix and top with a stem of celery with plenty of leaves, a piece of pickled okra (or a dehydrated one, submerged in the Bloody Mary) and a wheel of fresh lime.
Per Serving (not including the vodka): 55 Calories; 1g Fat (7.9% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1118mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 43mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 582mg Potassium; 51mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beverages, on September 13th, 2020.

watermelon_cocktail

Want something really refreshing and different? Oh my, were these delicious!

My daughter-in-law, Karen, made these cocktails recently, when I visited with them for a part of a day. They’re really like a smoothie in texture, but they are an alcoholic beverage. So, it’s for sipping on a hot day. You know how I get such a kick out of where recipes come from – this is one of those. I asked Karen if it would be okay to post this on my blog – she said of course – and then she went hunting for the recipe. She said it came from chewy. Say what? Chewy? If you’re not an animal owner, you’ve probably never heard of chewy. Chewy is an online pet food supply company.

shelby_2020I do subscribe to Chewy, so I get an email from them every few days, because I do buy from them occasionally, for my kitty-cat. But what surprised me was how far she (and I) had to drill down within their website to find this. It had to do with hydration. Karen, Powell and grandson Vaughan, own a Bernese Mountain Dog (think: huge, picture at left – and by the way, he’s an AKC champion). He’s a very lovable pet but he’s almost all black, so they are careful about taking him for walks when it’s hot, as the heat can really fatigue him in a hurry. But anyway, Karen was intrigued by the little subtitle regarding keeping your animal hydrated, and it was with watermelon. Once she read their write-up about it, at the end they offered another option – to make the hydration watermelon pet oriented non-alcoholic mock-tail into an adult drink. What fun, huh?

You do need to plan ahead a bit – as cubed watermelon needs to be frozen first, as those frozen cubes become the freezing catalyst to make this a smoothie style drink. Coconut milk (oh, do use the full fat to get the most flavor). Karen used Trader Joe’s brand. Add in a jigger of Malibu coconut rum, whiz it up (but not overly so or you’ll add in too much air), pour into a glass and add the lime juice to taste. Easy.

What’s GOOD: refreshing is all I can say. Lovely texture and flavors all around.

What’s NOT: nothing other than you do need to freeze the watermelon cubes ahead of time, and you need to have the Malibu rum, coconut milk and limes on hand.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Watermelon Cocktail

Recipe By: From chewy.com
Serving Size: 1

2 cups watermelon — cubed, frozen
1/3 cup coconut milk — light or full fat
1 jigger Malibu coconut rum — or more to taste
1 lime — juiced, or up to two

1 Add frozen watermelon and coconut milk to a blender and pulse until it reaches a slushie consistency. Add coconut rum (to taste) and pulse again. Pour into a cocktail glass.
2 Slice the lime in half and squeeze the juice of both halves into the cocktail glass. Taste for the sweet-sour taste and add more lime juice as needed.
Per Serving (excluding the rum, as I don’t know the nutrition info on it): 346 Calories; 20g Fat (46.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 47g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 18mg Sodium; 33g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 68mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 809mg Potassium; 144mg Phosphorus.

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.

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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.

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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.

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