Kitchen Kit: The Coffee Press

I know, some of you are thinking, ‘But Mimsy I don’t drink coffee.’ I know, and I got you. I am a huge coffee fan and quite honestly I do love a cup of French press coffee.

And I will admit, I bought my first French Press because I had a cup of French Press Coffee and not only thought it tasted good, I thought it looked cool. and I do love a bit of cool Kit. I have several coffee presses and I will tell you that this is one of my favorites because it comes completely apart for easy cleaning, however the truth is i like the orange.

For those who have never used a French Press, You grind your coffee and place it in the bottom of the glass carafe. You then pour boiling water and let it steep (generally around four minutes) then you lower the plunger. The press pushes the grounds to the bottom while leaving the coffee clear and free to pour. The inside lid of my coffee press has a divot cut out for easy pouring. Most do. it should turn so you can keep the heat in while you brew and then turn to dispense. (at the bottom of the page is a diagram with measurements and timing if you are interested.)

I know, not an earth shattering revelation.

Prior to this I only had drip coffee (this was quite some years ago). I loved that i could play around with the strength of the coffee by altering the time I let it steep and adjusting the grind of the coffee. But most importantly I found i could adjust the flavor by adding things to the grind. I believe a cinnamon stick went first. I remember cardamom pods went second and then the third time i tried it, I combined both the cinnamon stick and the cardamom pods.

I played around with different additives for my coffee and then I finally thought, what about things other than coffee? i started playing around with beverages. There were things that needed to be boiled like blueberry simple syrup. I made the simple syrup, added the berries to the caraffe and let them steep then lowered the plunger. I also made cold things. I took out the plunger added a bunch of fresh black berries, filled the caraffe with gin and covered the top with plastic wrap. I sat it in the fridge for a week, took it out and used the plunger to seperate the blackberries from the gin. I actually tend to make that almost every summer so we can use it for cocktails.

However, once my brain switched out of ‘this is a coffee press’ mode, the world was my oyster. As long as the world fit into the coffee press.

the three pieces of the machine

While I love making coffee with my coffee press, my favorite thing to do is to use the press to adapt store bought stock. Chicken stock from a reputable brand is fine, but often it tastes very one note. It honestly tastes like chicken, which is what it should taste like. And Veg stock can often just sort of taste like salty water that might once have been near some vegetables.

But boiling up the stock and putting it into the coffee press with crushed ginger, a crushed garlic clove, lemon zest and some bruised rosemary turns it into something else.

Once you have let it steep you lower the plunger and keep all of the added bits in the bottom of the carafe while the delicious, freshly infused stock, tailored perfectly to your taste and your dish, is poured out and ready for you to use. You don’t have to wonder if someone is going to bite down on a chunk of ginger or garlic, or suddenly find themselves flossing with a bit of rosemary.(Although rosemary is sneaky, I suggest leaving it on the stem and using the back of your knife to bruise the leaves so they let out the oils into the liquid but stays as a branch.)

In my house we keep a couple of different coffee presses. We have both metal and plastic ones. Part of why we have multiples is that I had a couple and my babydoll had a couple and then when we combined houses we had many. This carafe is glass and the plunger is metal which doesn’t tend to keep flavors and if it seems like it isn’t getting clean enough by hand, we put it in the dishwasher which takes anything off of the metal, especially on sanitation mode. My babydoll thinks that the plastic of the carafe (which I don’t send through the dish washer) I use for stock smells like herbs, so we have a separate one so the coffee is never rosemary scented.

I have had to replace the glass carafe and places like Grosche International do carry the glass carafe separately. They also sell replacement plungers if yours has reached the end of it’s life. I know we had to replace a plunger on another one we have a while back. I keep thinking i will purchase a new one at some point, but honestly they are such a simple mechanism that if you take care of them they will last for a really long time.

Personally, I consider this one of my essential Kitchen tools. While I love it for coffee, it is a true multitasker. even if you don’t drink coffee, I would urge you to look into picking one up and playing around with it. they are fairly inexpensive models out there and they are versatile enough that I think they easily earn a place in even a non-coffee drinker’s kitchen.

Although if you are using your coffee press to make coffee, this helpful image from Grosche International has all the measurements and timing you need.

best french press

The Daily: November 22nd, 2021

Oh my darlings welcome to Monday afternoon. This week I’m afraid there isn’t going to be a lot as far as makeup goes. I am trying to get as much done as possible before leaving town and as I have been asked to bring several delicious treats along with me, there is a lot of cooking and baking going on.

I did get a walk in, but we have a rain storm blowing in this afternoon which may cut off the walking trail tomorrow and Wednesday. But at least I got my walk in this morning. I also managed to make a batch of Rum Balls to take with me. While I won’t be baking the pies until Wednesday, all of the other little treats I am taking down with me will be made ahead of time. The rum balls are from my grandmother’s recipe and have been a part of the family since well before I was born. They are in no way healthy, but they are delicious. Since I’m not listing the daily makeup, I’ll go ahead and list the recipe.

Rum Balls

2 T cacoa

1 Cup white sugar

1/4 cup rum

2 T light corn syrup

2 1/2 cups crushed vanilla wafers

1 cup nuts (sometimes we use pecans sometimes we use walnuts, occasionally peanuts. It just depends on what is in the house at the time)

Powders sugar for dusting.

Traditionally everything gets put in a bowl and it takes a while to mix up, then you form into balls and dust with powdered sugar. This is where my Hamilton Beach Food Processor really shines. I dropped everything except the powdered sugar into the food processor and pulsed (add the corn syrup last). It came together fast and then I just had to make the balls and dust with sugar. It cut the time needed in half.

I know I often wax poetic about my food processor. It is handy all year round but now is the time when it really shines. Over the weekend I broke down the last of this year’s pumpkins (cut up roasted and then pureed so they could be frozen and used as needed) and my food processor got quite the work out. At first I thought it was a bit extra, but once I went ahead and purchased it, I found out how fabulous it was. Need to grate butter for a quick rough puff pastry? Freeze it and send it through the grating blades. Same for cheese and firm tofu actually.

the pumpkin I am planning to use in pumpkin ravioli later this year and it would have taken me forever to get it to the right consistency without the food processor. Now when I am ready to make the ravs, I just need to thaw the purees, spice it accordingly (then mix with goat cheese and other elements- I’ll post the recipe when I make them if you are interested) no muss no fuss as the pumpkins are already processed.

Don’t worry, I won’t go into a true Ode to the Food Processor featuring rhyming couplets. Mostly because I don’t have time to write rhyming couplets. I still have chocolate truffles to make and a pot pie to construct with the left over chicken. The pot pie is actually for dinner tonight not travel. we are trying to use up the last of the chicken and some left over veg before we leave and this is one of the best ways to use it up. Quite tasty too. I just have to watch my portion size. I actually end up making several small ones so that I can more easily do it. when you cut into a large chicken pot pie it is really hard to do because the filling just sort of comes out and I always eat more than I anticipate. So I make the smaller ones and what we don’t eat can be frozen.

If you tuned in for makeup, I’m sorry. This week, there is going to be a lot more food than anything as the Thanksgiving prep work takes over. In a way though, it is a good thing. I just unboxed a couple of subscription boxes and new makeup has arrived. With skipping the makeup this week I have all new products waiting for me to try out when I return. If I opened and started testing them now, then I would be tempted to travel with them and traveling with new products isn’t always the best idea. So tried and true for travel and new and unknown once I return. Sounds like a plan to me.

And now my darlings, I am off to mix up a batch of chocolate truffles. Let’s just hope my babydoll doesn’t eat them before we have to pack up and go. He can not be trusted around chocolate. wish me luck with the chocolate preservation and I’ll be back tomorrow. Have a good rest of the day and I will see you bright and early tomorrow morning.



TWE Generic Christmas 2020

Happy Hour: Pumpkin Loaf Cake

Good afternoon my darlings. I know, you are thinking to yourself that something is out of whack. First the face mask for Friday was skipped and now the Happy Hour post is coming in a little early. Don’t worry, there is no day drinking involved.

the reason for the swap is that we have friends who are driving through town tonight. They are only stopping for a little while, but they are stopping. while the drinks will all be non-alcoholic because of the driving, I am making a special Pumpkin Loaf cake for us all to enjoy.

I also spent a chunk of this afternoon doing an emergency company clean so that’s why the face mask zen time was cut. it’s not that the house was a complete wreck, but it wasn’t company clean.

Now it is.

And the Pumpkin cake is on it’s way.

adding the paper to the bottom lets you easily lift it out of the pan to cool

My babydoll calls this pumpkin bread as it is baked in a bread pan, but the truth is, it is really a cake and calling it bread is really is kind of a misnomer. It is baked in a bread pan and it is delicious. There are a lot of ingredients but it is super simple to actually make up. The longest part of this is the baking time though as it does take 80-90 minutes in the oven.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups of AP flour

2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp Kosher salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 large eggs

1 can (15 oz) pureed pumpkin

2 Tblsp freshly grated ginger

1 1/2 cups sugar = a tsp more for dusting the top of the batter

1 cup olive oil

Okay I’m going to break this down nice and easy.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees

  • Take a small bowl and put your flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cloves into the bowl. mix them together so the spies are blended throughout the flour.
  • Take a large mixing bowl and put your pumpkin, grated ginger, and eggs into the bowl. Mix it up.
  • Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar to the pumpkin mix and blend it in really well.
  • With your mixer running drizzle in your olive oil until it is all incorporated and there are no separated oily spots.
  • At this point, put the mixer away and use a spoon or silicone spatula to mix.
  • Fold in half of your dry ingredients from your small bowl into your wet pumpkin mix.
  • Once they are incorporated, fold in the other half. Only mix until you don’t see any more dry bits. Try not to over mix it or it will become stodgy.
  • Take your bread tin and spray it with nonstick spray. Then put in strips of parchment paper so that you can easily lift it out of the pan. It is really helpful. the cooking spray will help the cake release, but the paper to grab hold of and just lift means you get to keep the lovely domed top in tact.
  • Once the paper is in, pour the batter into the pan. smooth over the top with your spatula and then sprinkle the sugar on top. This gives it a great carnalized crunch. You really only need about a tablespoon. However my baby doll came home as I was getting ready to sprinkle and put it in the oven and he decided to add extra. So we now have extra sugar on top.
  • Put your pan into the oven and bake at 325 for 80-90 minutes. Our oven takes 90 but you are going to want to bake it until a knife can be inserted into the center and pulled out cleanly. if any batter sticks to it, leave it in a few minutes more. Don’t forget to rotate your pan midway through the bake so that everything backs evenly.
  • when it comes out, use the paper strips to lift it out and then let it cool on a wire rack until it is cool enough to cut without collapsing.

The waiting is the hardest part. I personally love this recipe. we like the extra spices but if you like things a little less spice filled you can lower the amounts if you want. Or if you don’t have enough nutmeg and cinnamon, add more. This is just the mix we prefer. sometimes I’ll even put a little cardamom into the mix. Once you have the basics, the spices are yours to play with. But now my darlings I must leave you. Company is coming. Have a great weekend, whatever you choose to do.



Happy Hour: Mushroom and Onion Puff Pastry Bites

This week there will be little drinking. My babydoll is still trying to knock out a sinus infection and my allergies are making under eye patches more appealing than cocktails. I generally find that when my allergies are acting up the best thing for them is to drink as much water as possible in an attempt to flush my system.

So tonight’s delightful beverage of choice is from HINT water. While I adore the blackberry, tonight I went with pomegranate and I rather like it. It has a hint of sweet, a hint of tart and is quite refreshing. I also poured it into a stemless champagne flute (Rachel Zoe Collection from TJMAXX if you are interested). It makes any drink feel fancy.

And to be honest our Friday night Happy Hour is more about resting and regrouping together at the end of the work week than it is about having a cocktail. The cocktail is just a nice way to celebrate and slow down. But quite honestly, the Pomegranate Hint Water in my pretty glass is plenty fine for me to sip tonight.

And I get to pair it with a super simple treat that always feels like I spent way more effort on it than I actually did. This is a super easy treat that is just plain yummy. The ingredients list is short.

Ingredients:

One red onion, diced

8 ounces of button mushrooms, diced

1 Tablespoon of fresh sage leaves, minced

1-2 Tablespoons of butter (i use unsalted butter)

1 sheet of puff pastry

salt to taste

Okay are you ready for the cook? First dice and chop all of your ingredients. The melt one tablespoon of butter in a pan and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Use medium heat and cook until they are soft. You can go all the way to caramelized if you want, but I generally find red onions to be sweet enough without caramelizing. If I use a yellow onion I take the onions to a caramelized state.

If the pan is dry add another table spoon of butter and add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook until the are brown and have released the juices.

You may notice that I have used two pans. You don’t need to do this. The onions take longer but you can add the mushrooms in once the onions start to look translucent. I just started my onions in a non-stick skillet by accident. Mushrooms won’t brown in a non-stick skillet. They will cook, but they won’t brown. That is the only reason that i cooked them separately.

Once the mushrooms are almost done, add in the sage leaves. You want them in the pan just long enough to release their oils. If you start them with the mushrooms then by the end they get a little sour and overly medicinal. So just toss them in towards the end and let them just release the oils.

Take out your onion mushroom and sage mix out of the pan and let cool. I put my mix in a strainer so that any excess liquid comes out but really there isn’t much liquid that remains. It is mostly so it cools faster.

Once cooled, cut your puff pastry into squares (or circles or stars or whatever shape you want). Place a spoon of your mix on the pastry and seal it up into a little triangle, or make it like a ravioli, or a dumpling. The shape is up to you, just make sure it is sealed. Then place the parcels on a lined baking sheet and bake at 350 until golden brown and crispy.

my puff pastry got a little warm so my squares are a bit wonky. They may not look perfect, but they taste lovely

While this is a basic recipe, feel free to play around with it. Sometimes we add goats cheese to this mix. Sometimes I’ll make them sweet with a filling of mascarpone and apricot jam. It is one of those super simple tricks that make an easy happy hour treat, or canape for drop by guests. The trick is always to make sure that your filling is not too wet. I also like to use cooked fillings so that all I need in the oven is time to brown the puff pastry.

And actually if you make too many of these, they freeze really well. Just don’t cook the once you plan to freeze. Fill the puff pastry and then freeze them flat. Once full frozen, put them in a bag. Then when you take them out, thaw in the fridge and bake.

Whatever your end of the week looks like, I hope you take a few minutes to just slow down and spend time just to enjoy a few moments of peace.

Save 15% Off All Cookware & Bakeware use code: COOKWARE15

Home Happy Hour: Sweet and Spicy Salmon

Normally this would be a post dedicated to a cocktail and a small pre-dinner nibble. It is usually the indulgence that my babydoll and I have at the end of the week when looking to unwind. Sometimes the cocktail is a non-alcoholic one and sometimes it has alcohol in it. It really just depends on the mood of the day. The point is to take a moment to breathe and just unwind at the end of the week.

Today however is a little different. This evening we have someone coming over to look at the computer (and hopefully fix it’s issues) so we are skipping the happy hour. We will probably have a glass of wine together later, but I thought that I would just post about the quick and easy dinner I am putting together.

I’m guessing since you saw the title you know that it is Sweet and Spicy Salmon. I used to be really intimidated about cooking fish because i was so worried about over cooking it. This is one on those super simple recipes that is really hard to mess up, so if you have that fish intimidation factor, take a deep breath, let it out slowly and let’s begin.

everything but the fish into the bowl once in, stir- easy peasy

Ingredients

2 portions of Salmon

1/4 tsp garlic salt

1 T soy sauce

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 T red pepper flakes (you can adjust depending on how spicy you like your food – the 1 T will give just a mild heat to the fish)

Okay now that we know are ingredients, let’s put together the super simple cook. Ready?

  • Mix all of the ingredients other than the fish, together in a bowl. Taste the marinade and adjust seasonings (pre fish). The salt and spice are just what we use but you can adjust for your palate. If not spicy enough add more red pepper. If too salty add a little more maple syrup.
  • When they are mixed together, put the fish into the bowl.
  • Roll the fish around to cover the fish with the marinade. (then wash your hands)
  • Put the bowl in the fridge for fifteen minutes.
  • After fifteen minutes go back to the bowl, flip the fish over in the marinade and put it back in the fridge for another fifteen minutes. (wash your hands)
  • Pre-heat the over to 400 F
  • Take the bowl with the fish out of the fridge. Lay the fish in a glass baking pan skin side up (if you have skin on your fish) and pour the remaining marinade over the fish
  • Place the pan on a center rack and bake for 20 minutes.

The fish will be cooked at that time, but the skin will not be crispy if you are cooking it with the skin on. If you want crispy skin then you will need to shift it to cook under the broiler for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Watch it though since you don’t want to over cook the fish with the broiler. I tend to like the crispy skin but my babydoll will peel the skin off no matter what level of crisp it has on it. what I have taken to doing lately is when the Salmon comes out of the oven, I have a hot pan waiting. I take the skin off and crisp it in the pan really quickly, then add it back to the top like a cracker. That is when we use salmon with a skin. Often we don’t.

Tonight I am making couscous with peas to go with the salmon. Mostly because we have couscous and frozen peas in the house. This is one of those meals that we make at least once or twice a month at our house. Sometimes I will change it up and add ginger instead of red pepper. It is a really easy recipe to play with. While I like to flip the fish midway through marinating it, There have been times when I have made the marinade in the morning, left it in the fridge all day and then just cooked it that way. If you do that, just marinade it skin side up so more marinade goes into the salmon.

Well our regular happy hour may be missing today, but dinner will be a delight. It will also take very little effort. Just make sure that your salmon is good and it is hard to go wrong.

Premium Wild Salmon Delivered! SAVE 5% On Wild & Delicious Premium Salmon From Vital Choice – Get Free Shipping On Orders $99+ – Use Code: 1VCAF5 At Checkout! Shop Now!

Premium Wild Salmon Delivered! SAVE 5% On Wild & Delicious Premium Salmon From Vital Choice - Get Free Shipping On Orders $99+ - Use Code: 1VCAF5 At Checkout! Shop Now!

Happy Hour: Grape Focaccia and a Bramble

Welcome to Happy Hour my darlings!  Kick off those shoes and get yourself into something comfy. Personally I’ve chosen a pair of pajama pants that are old enough that the black fabric has a distinct greenish look to it.  The color doesn’t bother me when hanging out at home, but taking them out of the drawer I noticed a small hole on the leg.  It is tiny still, but it means a replacement is needed soon. I’ll have to look into that this weekend.  But for now, the comfy pajama pants remain.

The Bramble has made an appearance before and as I very much enjoy it will probably make many returns.  As a recipe refresher my version of a Bramble is:

Bramble

Ingredients:

1 ½ oz Gin

½ oz Chambord

1 oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

You put everything into a cocktail shaker add a bit of ice and shake for all you are worth before pouring it into the glass of your choice.  I went with a coupe glass.  I think this one might have actually come as a promotional glass with a bottle of Bombay Sapphire at some point. It is a nice shape and holds enough liquid inside that one glass is plenty.

I felt the raspberry and lemon notes would pair well with the grape focaccia today.  I thought about picking up a wine to go with it, but the grapes were very sweet tart on their own and I kind of didn’t want anything competing with them.  I think if I had chosen mellower grapes I would have gone with a wine.  As it is the Bramble seemed to have enough of a fruitiness to pair well without really being competition, flavor wise.

I know some of you saw the title and were lifting some eyebrows at the sound of grape focaccia. That’s okay, my baby doll did as well, but then it baked up so sweet and salty that he decided it was okay in the end.  And while I had the Bramble listed above, he ended up having a beer with it because he wanted something earthy to go with it while I wanted something to pair with the fruitiness of the grapes.

There is a lot of wait time, but overall this focaccia recipe is really simple.  It just takes time.  You will need a stand mixer for this.  I’ve written out the recipe for those with stand mixers.  If you don’t have one can always knead the dough by hand.  If you are making this, check your times! While not a lot of this is active time, there is a lot of resting and rising so I generally make this when I know I’m going to be in the house for a while.  It does actually provide some nice breaks to the day if you are working from home.

Grape Focaccia

Ingredients:

6 tsp dry yeast

Pinch of sugar

2 cups warm water

¼ cup (or so) olive oil

5 cups of flour, plus more for dusting

2 tsp kosher salt (more for sprinkling)

12 ounces red seedless grapes (make sure they are seedless)

Parchment paper

It is large but it does freeze well.
  • Put the yeast, water and sugar in a bowl.  Stir to mix and then let sit to get foamy (5 min)
  • Into the bowl of a stand mixer place the flour, salt and foamy yeast mix. Mix with a dough hook until a sticky dough forms and pulls away from the sides (3-5 min)
  • Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Liberally flour your counter top and transfer the dough to it.  It will be stiff to work with but try to form it into a rectangle (ish) shape that is about twice the size as you start it with. 
  • Fold the dough in threes like a letter so that your dough forms a rectangle.  Brush the top with olive oil and transfer it to the center of your parchment covered cookie sheet oiled side down onto the parchment.
  • Brush olive oil onto the top of the dough Cover loosely with cling film and let it sit 1 hour.
  • (don’t worry if your rectangle is a little wonky.
  • After one hour come back to the dough and push it out until it fills the cookie sheet in a flat even surface.  Once flattened. Lightly press the grapes into the top of the dough. 
  • Leave to sit uncovered 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 500.
  • After the dough has rested for an hour, brush olive oil over the dough and grapes and sprinkle with salt.
  • Just before you put the dough into the oven, turn the temperature down to 450 degrees. 
  • Bake for 10 minutes, turn the pan in the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the dough is a light golden brown.
  • Cool 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

While we used grapes in this one for a sweet and savory play, this is my standard focaccia recipe. I forget where I picked it up, but I have adjusted it with rosemary and garlic to go along with roast lamb, mixed it with a variety of peppers and served it with chili, and used it plain as a base for all sorts of toppings.  It is a good basic recipe that really takes well to whatever flavors you want to throw at it.  Just remember not to be stingy with the olive oil.  It may look like a lot, but this bread needs it. It is the only fat this bread has in it. Once you have the basics down, go crazy with the flavors and make it your own.

So that my darlings is our happy hour.  Personally, I like how it turned out.  It also suits the weather this week.  It is surprisingly cool tonight, but I didn’t want anything very heavy.  This has the weight of bread that I like in cooler temperatures, but it is lifted by the roasted grapes into feeling like early spring rather than the middle of winter. And I have to confess, I really do like baking bread.

I hope you enjoy whatever it is you have planned for your Friday night and the weekend beyond.


Shop the 5-Piece Bakeware Set! Take advantage of our best value by bringing home the complete Stainless Steel Bakeware Set. The set includes 2 – 9” Round Cake Pans, Pie Pan, 9” x 13” Bake & Roast Pan and Large Cookie Sheet.

Happy Hour: Hummus and Truly Hard Seltzer

Hummus served with cucumber slices

Welcome to the end of the week my darlings. We finally made it. Shuck those work clothes, put on something comfy and prop your feet up.

Today I was feeling the need for something light and summery. Both in food and drink. So I went with a homemade hummus and cucumber slices and a Strawberry lemonade Hard Seltzer from Truly Hard Seltzer.

Now I have a confession. This was my first hard seltzer. I know the shockwaves are felt around the world. The truth is that when I look for alcoholic drinks I go for wine, gin or tequila. It never even occurs to me to look at the hard seltzer. There was something about the strawberry lemonade that just appealed to me so I decided to try it.

According to the label it has 5% alcohol by volume, 100 calories, 1 g of sugar and 3 g of carbs. As almost every muscle in my body is sore from the new workout regime this week, low cal, and low sugar sounded kind of ideal. And I do love strawberry lemonade. I make big pitchers of the non alcoholic variety to keep in my fridge all summer long. while I make the lemonade in the regular way, I leave out the sugar and then make a strawberry simple syrup to sweeten it. Using the simple syrup gets the pulp and seeds out while keeping the flavor and sweetness. You can always choose to add alcohol later if you want but in a tall glass filled with ice it is fabulous on it;s own.

But how did this Truly hard seltzer version taste?

Not bad. It is like a flavored water, the scent being stronger than the taste. In fact if there was no alcohol in it I would consider it a really nicely flavored seltzer water. There is however alcohol in it. Which you need to remember and not drink it like water. For me, putting it in the nice glass helped because I sipped it. I tend to drink liquids fast when i drink them in the can. (sodas, water, V8, if I drink from the can I just drink faster so glasses slow me down). I think it would be a really bad idea to drink this fast.

I don’t know how many of you are new to Hard seltzer, but I recommend sipping. It is easy to forget it isn’t flavored water.

The one issue I had with this is that it made my tongue feel dry. I know that sounds a little strange, but it is true. My tongue could feel the alcohol more than taste it and so my tongue felt dry. It wasn’t a bad thing, just a strange one that I wasn’t expecting.

Luckily, I had something on hand to make me feel a little less dry. And that was tonight’s happy hour snack, homemade hummus served with freshly sliced cucumbers. It is one of the easiest things to make. The trick is to make it the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight so the flavors can mellow. I made mine a little more lemon forward because I like the lemon flavor with the cucumber slices. If serving with crackers I tend to take out a Tablespoon of the lemon juice. When you first make this you will be tempted to try it right away and then you might feel like adjusting the seasoning. Let it sit overnight and then the next day adjust if you feel it needs more salt. To make this, you will need a food processor. if you have one, it is super easy. Ready?

Ingredients

1 can chickpeas, drained

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 and a half Tablespoons tahini

2 garlic cloves peeled

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper.

  • Put everything into the food processor.
  • blend until a smooth paste forms
  • Spoon into a bowl.
  • Cover bowl and refrigerate over night
  • taste and adjust seasonings and serve with cucumber slices or pita chips.

Seriously, that’s it. It is light and summery. The lemon pairs well with the cucumber slices and with the Strawberry Lemonade Hard Seltzer chosen as tonight’s beverage. My favorite thing about this dip is that i almost always have all of the ingredients in the pantry and fridge so i can easily make this in a hurry without adding a lot to the grocery list. It also works as a great base. You can play around with spices to give it some heat. You can blend roasted red peppers into it. It is excellent on it’s own but it is also easy to play around with. I actually like to use it in sandwiches actually. I’ll spread a layer on my bread and then layer cucumbers radish slices and mung beans on it for an excellent lunch time treat. the veggies give you a nice crisp bite to the sandwich. Sometimes I’ll even quick pickle the cucumbers. I’ll put the cucumber slices in a bowl with a Tablespoon of grated ginger, and then add equal parts mirin and rice wine vinegar. shake them up a bit so the slices are covered. leave them in the fridge for half an hour and then add them to your sandwich. It is fabulously fresh and delicious. It will probably also be tomorrow’s sandwich at my house, providing any of the hummus lasts through the evening. No matter how big a bach I make, it always disappears fast.



Happy Hour: Mushroom Tarts and a Belmont Cocktail

Happy Hour: Mushroom tarts and a Belmont Cocktail

Welcome my darlings to the Friday Night happy Hour.  Tonight the cocktail I decided to make is called a Belmont and it comes from my Savoy Cocktail book.  I have to admit it is one of the cocktails I have been hesitant to try.  There is no real reason except that I always think it’s a little strange when gin is paired with cream.  I’ve had several pleasant cocktails with cream but when I saw this recipe I just wanted to skim over it.  I think it is because there are so few ingredients in it that the cream stood out to me.  Still tonight was it’s night for testing.  And so test I did.  The recipe is quite simple.

I part grenadine

2 parts gin

1 teaspoon cream

Put them all together in a shaker and shake the dickens out of it until it is foamy. Serve in a lovely glass.

It comes out a lovely and festive pink color.  To be honest it comes out tasting a bit like a cherry creamsicle that has been dipped in gin.  The gin comes through loud and clear.  It is a little odd to taste in that first sip.  I tasted the cherry dreamsicle part first and then the gin arrived on my tastebuds. It took a few sips to get used to it.  It was one of those cocktails I don’t mind having once but probably wouldn’t make again.  Nice, but not fabulous. It won’t be making the household repitoire.

But as there are thousands, if not millions of cocktail and mocktail (for the days when I don’t feel like having alcohol) recipes to try out there, I’m sure the list of ones I don’t mind having more than once will continue to grow.

Tonight I chose mushroom tarts to go along with the cocktail.  I’ve made the recipe many times before in both the large and small tartlets size.  Since the cocktail was bright and cherry I thought something earthy would pair well.  And the tart did work well with the drink.  Usually I serve these with a crisp chardonnay or even an Arnold Palmer if going non-alcoholic.  What I love about these little tarts is that they do freeze really well so you can make a bunch and then cool and freeze the ones you don’t eat.  My baby and I each had one and left the other four to cool for later freezing. (I made six). While I made them in small tartlet pans tonight you can make one big tart to serve as a dinner. We tend to eat this as a summer meal with a fresh salad. All of the measurements are the same, you just put them in one container rather than six.

Ingredients

1 pie crust

1 small yellow onion, diced

½ lb mushrooms, diced

Three sage leaves chopped

1 T butter

1 clove garlic, minced

½ cup cream

1 egg yolk

1 whole egg

¼ cup sour cream

Pie weights (I use dried beans)

Tart pan or tartlet pans

  • Cut the pie dough into rounds and press into the pan. 
  • Dock the dough with a fork.
  • Place the tarts on a baking sheet, cover each with foil and put pie weights on the foil.
  • Bake at 375 for 20 minutes
  • Take out of oven, remove foil and pie weights and put back into the oven for another 15 minutes.  They should be golden brown.
  • Set to the side and allow to cool completely.
  • In a sauté pan, melt the butter and add in the onions, mushrooms and sage. 
  • Cook until all of the liquid evaporates (about 10 minutes).  Then take it from the stove and let cool to room temperature.
  • In a bowl mix together the cream, sour cream, egg yolk and egg.
  • Put mushroom mix into the tart shells, pour the custard mix over them and bake in a 325 degree oven until just set and slightly poufy.  (about 45 minutes)
  • Let tarts cool for 20 minutes and serve at room temperature.

This is one of those recipes that seems like it is more complicated than it is because you prepare three things separately and then just bring them together at the end.  It really is very easy and it is something you can make well ahead of time.  You can even make them the day before.  Just let them cool completely then move to the fridge.  When you want to serve them bring them out and let them come up to room temperature. And like I said it makes a really good meal as well as a happy hour treat.




Happy Hour: Choriqueso

Happy Hour: Choriqueso

Good evening my darlings and welcome once again to the Friday night Happy Hour.  While last week I dealt with the ramifications of having the second vaccine shot, this week it was my babydoll’s turn.  While mine was a condensed 24 hours of misery, his was less intense but spread out over a couple of days.  As a result, he spent the week with little appetite.  Now he is feeling better and quite hungry.

For us happy hour is about taking some time together to sit and unwind from the week.  Even before 2020 we tended towards quiet Friday nights and went out on Saturday instead.  That way we could always recoup from the week.  Usually, we take the opportunity to experiment with a new cocktail recipe and try out a delectable little treat. 

This week we are giving the alcohol a pass. It doesn’t mean that I am not having a pretty little drink though. This week I poured seltzer water into a stemless champagne flute and added a dash of grenadine.  We just got new tanks in for our Soda Stream so there are plenty of festive looking bubbles and the color is fun.  It may not be a traditional cocktail, but it is a fun drink to sip nonetheless and quite frankly I can drink almost anything out of these glasses and it feels special.

My babydoll won’t touch them  because he is worried that he will knock them over.  So he has taken one of my Blackberry Hint waters (the sparkling kind) and poured it into a very chunky looking goblet.  I have no idea how or when the goblet got into out cabinets but there it was when he reached for it, and he seems happy with his beverage choice.

We also tweaked the happy hour treat.  Technically speaking I believe this is meant to be a shared appetizer, at least when we had a version of this at a restaurant, that is how it was labeled. As an appetizer you need about six people to eat it and after that I would still suggest a light meal.

When I make this Choriqueso I make the full batch and we tend to use it as both happy hour delight and the main meal of the evening.  We certainly aren’t eating anything after this. When we do this we typically only eat about half, let it cool and put the other half away.  It reheats well in the oven and it does freeze well.  It is one of those dishes that I find easier to make in the full batch because of the size of the pan I am cooking it in and the measurements.  Plus it is something I know won’t go to waste even if we do end up freezing half.  It was also what my babydoll requested for his post pseudo flu hunger pangs.  How much will be left over is anyone’s guess. I suspect some might make it to the fridge overnight, but I doubt we will be freezing anything.

Although it seems like a bit much once you get everything together it comes together in a snap.  The only thing to remember is that you need to rehydrate your ancho chiles about half an hour or so before you begin cooking.  The only extra equipment other than a stove and oven with a broiler that you will need is a blender.  It really is the best tool for the job. If you don’t have one, you could try chopping the ancho pepper really finely and then whisking it and the other ingredients in a bowl but you won’t get the same smooth paste. It will still taste fantastic but it won’t be as smooth a paste. A food processor helps for quick cheese shredding, but it is optional.

To rehydrate the dried anchos put the chillies in a glass bowl. Pour boiling water over them and leave them to soak until they are plumped and soft. Drain, remove any seeds and use the chilies as directed. 

Ingredients

2 ancho chilies, seeded and rehydrated (see above note for rehydration)

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

¼ cup water

Half of a medium sized yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, chopped

½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp Mexican oregano (if you can’t find Mexican regular oregano will do)

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cayenne

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

½ lbs ground pork

1 lbs Monterey jack cheese shredded

Warm tortillas for serving

  • Do all of your prep work first.  This is one of those recipes that comes together quickly so dice, shred and measure ahead of time to save yourself some stress. As all the spices go in at once you can just put them all in the same bowl as you measure.
  • Put the anchos, vinegar and water into a blender. Blend until smooth then add the onion garlic, salt, and all of your spices (cumin, paprika, oregano, cinnamon and cayenne).
  • Again blend to a smooth paste.  If it is too thick then add a little water a tablespoon at a time. Don’t make it too liquid though.  You want it just loose enough so that everything blends into a homogeneous mix with no straggling chunky bits (think heavy romesco).
  • Place a large, broiler safe skillet  on the stove.
  • Add the vegetable oil to the skillet and turn on medium heat. When  it is warm pour the chili mix from the blender into the skillet.  Heat for about 1 minute to wake up the spices. 
  • Then add the ground pork to the skillet. Mix it in with the sauce until the meat is covered.
  • Cook the pork (medium heat) about 10 minutes or until no pink is showing, stirring occasionally.
  • While the pork cooks, move the oven rack about six inches below the broiler and let the broiler come up to temperature. 
  • Once the pork is cooked, check the seasonings and adjust the spice level if desired, then layer the shredded Monterey jack cheese over the meat mixture covering it completely. 
  • Shift the skillet from the stove top to place it under the broiler.  Keep it there until the cheese is melted and lightly browned (approximately 2-3 minutes)
  • Serve it hot in the pan with the tortillas (we just spoon it onto the tortillas and eat that way, you can, eat it with tortilla chips if you wanted to make it more of a dip than a meal)
adding the cheese to the top

A couple helpful hints.  If you want to shred cheese in a hurry with your food processor you can put the block of Monterrey jack in the freezer for about five minutes (no longer).  It will firm up enough for the machine to shred, but not do any damage to the blades or the cheese. 

My Hamilton Beach Food Processor has the plate that allowed for easy shredding (and makes me love the machine so very very much), just make sure your cheese is cut into pieces that can fit into the feeder tube on the machine before you freeze it.  My block needed to be divided into three sections.

I personally like glass carafe blenders as they don’t stain and don’t retain any odors from previous blending, but that is a personal choice.

With the ancho spice mix, the dish tastes like it took hours to prepare even though it took almost no time at all.  We occasionally like to use this mix on pasta in place of traditional red sauce or just as something to smear on a baguette.  It is a great and super easy burst of flavor.  Just don’t forget your minute on the heat with it because that is what really wakes up and melds the flavors. 

It is a great sauce to have in your flavor arsenal. And until you add the pork to the skillet and top with cheese, the ancho spice mix is actually vegan. When we have vegan, vegetarian or even just lactose intolerant friends over, the spice mix comes in really handy used in ways without the pork or cheese of course.

The one thing we have to watch is the spice level.  There are several places to control it.  You can leave in or take out the ancho seeds.  You can also adjust the cayenne.  In our house, since we grow paprika peppers and dry and grind our own paprika each fall, our paprika is what we have to watch.  It is really hot in the fall but towards the spring it mellows out a bit. It still has more of a kick than most store bought paprika though.  I used the spring paprika measurements for this dish, you might find you want a little more heat depending on what paprika you are using so don’t forget to taste and adjust.

So tonight our happy hour is rolling into dinner and out cocktails are non-alcoholic just to be on the vaccine reactions safe side. Still with a pretty glass filled with cheery bubbling liquid and an absolutely delicious choriqueso on hand, it is in no way a hardship. In fact, it feels quite luxurious and like the perfect way to unwind after a rough week. Happy Friday my darlings and I hope you have a fantastic weekend.



Happy Hour: Pinot Noir and Honey Goat Cheese

Welcome once again to Happy Hour. This week was long and there was much grease filled carnage earlier in the week so we decided to tone down happy hour to wine and cheese.  In this my babydoll decided to help me out. 

In his way.

My plan was to do a goat cheese and honey melt.  To put it quite simply you put goat cheese in an oven proof ramekin, drape honey over it and put it under the broiler just long enough for the honey to bubble a little and the goat cheese to soften.  Then you take it out and try not to burn your fingers as you greedily spoon it over crackers.  It is delicious.  I usually pair it with a chardonnay (or any wine with citrusy notes) it is one of those dishes perfect for that evening that has a bit of a chill but followed a warm day.

However before I could go out, my babydoll stopped at the store and picked up a honey goat cheese and a bottle of Pinot Noir. (I mentioned I needed to pick up wine and cheese for the Friday Happy Hour so he helped me out by picking them up for me.)  The goat cheese has honey in it so there was no need to add anything.  This particular one is from the Public’s Deli. I’m guessing that is the brand.

Because the honey was already added and I hadn’t tried this before, we went with the standard unwrap and serve method rather than actually heating anything up.  As a bonus it let me use my Boska Cheese knife.  We picked up a set a while back and I have to say they are really nice cheese knives.  The handle and blade are all one piece so you don’t have to worry about the blade coming loose and they are just so elegantly shaped.

The cheese itself was interesting.  The honey made it lightly sweet but was mixed well enough that the honey did not become cloying. The sweet tamed the kind of goat-y funk that goat cheese can have but it was still in that tangy goat cheese realm. 

Over all it was actually a really good cheese, even if if wasn’t what I was expecting (or what i would serve with this wine). To be honest if I were to get this cheese again (which I would ) I think I would crumble it into a small oven proof dish and sprinkle finely diced jalapenos on it and then heat it up until the jalapenos were fragrant and sinking into the softened goat cheese.  I think a little vegetal heat would go well with this cheese and I think heating it slightly would prove to be beneficial to the melding process flavor-wise even though goat cheese isn’t a great melting cheese.

But that is for another time.

To go with this cheese was the wine my baby doll picked up.  He picked up a Chateau Souverain Pinot Noir 2018.  When I asked him why he chose this wine, he said…

“There was a couple doing the polite public arguing over by the Chardonnay and a couple of people without masks breathing on the bottles in the area so I picked one I didn’t think we tried before and hadn’t been breathed on.”

Not exactly how I usually pick wines, but somedays that is just what happens.

So this is tonight’s wine.

According to the Chateau Souverain website…

Chateau Souverain Pinot Noir 2018 opens with dark red fruit aromas reminiscent of cherry and raspberry. Notes of fresh blueberries are complemented by hints of clove and vanilla. The wine finishes with cleansing acidity and a fruit-driven balance that gives the wine a polished sense of elegance.

Chateau Souverain

I love how wine descriptions and perfume descriptions share so many similarities.  All of the notes mentioned are ones I like, so lets see what actually comes out in the bottle. 

First off, this is a screw top bottle rather than a corked one.  While I generally go for corked I know there is nothing wrong with the screw tops.  I just really like the act of using the corkscrew to open the wine before pouring.  I have had several screw top bottle wines that I did enjoy.  I’ve also had several that I didn’t, although truthfully I could say the same about wines with corks. I only mention it because of the scent.

One thing that I notice happens with a lot of screw top wines is they get a scent.  When you first open them, the scent tends to be bitter and highly acidic and slightly sour. The first sniff makes you think the wine has gone off. I don’t know why, but it seems to happen to red wines with screw tops often enough to be noticeable.  I have also noticed that the initial scent doesn’t have a lot to do with the wine. Usually the wine hasn’t gone off and it is just that initial scent so you have to actually taste it to find out about the wine.  It is best to pour it into the glass and sniff then.  The bitter acidity of that first scent dissipates and then you get the scent of the wine. Perhaps it has something to do with the wine splashing against the metal cap. I don’t know. But this wine had it when opened and lost it once poured.

There is still a slightly acidic scent to the wine in the glass, but it is mellowed with fruit and spice notes. In drinking it, I noticed the clove and vanilla mentioned. The vanilla is a very light hint hiding behind the clove. There was a deeper hint of cherry, but it was more bitter cherry than sweet cherry. It was cherry with a bite.

In a five star rating system I would probably give it a three.  It is nice to drink, but not spectacular.  I would also use it in a beef stew.  I think the fat and heaviness of the beef would actually work well with the flavors of the wine when cooked down. And as it is nice to drink a glass with a portion of the stew would not be amiss. I think that it would actually do really well in a beef stew, especially one that leaned into the sort of warm spices you find in Moroccan type flavors. There the wine would be a distinct asset to the flavor of the stew.

In a happy hour setting, I probably wouldn’t serve this wine with goat’s cheese again, honeyed or otherwise. The goat’s cheese was a little too tangy to suit this wine, even with the sweetness the honey brings.  I would also not go with too pungent a cheese. 

I would probably serve this with a triple cream brie served on baguette rounds and topped with a cherry compote. The cheese is mild and the bread unspiced so it wouldn’t compete with the flavors of the wine.  The cherry compote would bring out the fruity flavors and dim down the acidity.

I would pick up this wine again to drink although I usually prefer something more rounded and less acidic (which is why it only receives a three on my rating system). I think pairing it with the brie and cherry compote would work to bring out the fruiter aspects of the wine and not make it so spice forward. As the store near us carries the wine it is easy to pick up and as it costs $9.99 it is not a break the bank price, so I am fairly certain it will make a return trip to our house sometime in the future. It may not be a special occasion wine, but it is a good solid affordable wine.


Save up to 46% OFF on select Coravin Systems. No Code Needed. Limited Time Offer!