Happy Hour: Blue Cheese Bacon Bread

Ah my darlings, Friday is nearly complete. The work week is done and soon the feet will be clad in fuzzy socks and propped up on the footstool. My baby and I will finally have the chance to sit down together and unwind.

Getting back to work after the holidays was especially hard this year as the bad weather hit just as we were starting to get back to the normal daily grind. Even though it was January, we were previously having 70 degree days so ice storms and snow fall took everyone by surprise. It also delayed projects, rescheduled appointments and a host of other things. For both of us this week was all about catching up and getting things back on track. We both had a lot of late nights this week.

Which makes the Friday wind down extra special. Tonight’s treat is Blue Cheese Bacon Bread. Each week I make a loaf of regular bread to be used for sandwiches throughout the week. This week I doubled the recipe used one half to make the regular loaf and the other to make the blue cheese bacon one. The recipe list is the single one with the ingredients for one loaf. This bread does freeze really well though. Just let it cool completely, wrap it in plastic wrap and then add a layer of tin foil and it will keep well in the freezer. when you want to use it take it out and let it thaw completely before using. We tend to take the loaves out in the morning before work and then they are ready by dinnertime.

What I like about the recipe is that it is easy to do when working from home. There is about ten minutes of activity, then a forty five minute waiting period. Then another five minutes of activity, with another forty five minute rest followed by a forty five minute bake. I like to use it to focus on activities. For example i had a couple of tasks I was putting off so I took one forty five minute wait and one task and tried to finish it before I had to go back to the kitchen. Then when I returned I took down another task I’d been putting off. It is kind of a nice way to clear off things i’d been putting off doing. Plus I get a delicious treat at the end of it.

pulling away from the sides in the mixer

Ingredients

3 cups AP flour + pinch

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1 Tablespoon yeast

3/4 cup warm water

1/2 cup milk, room temp (I like to put it in the microwave for 15 seconds to take the fridge chill off rather than leaving it out)

1/2 tsp sugar + pinch

1 Tablespoon Honey

1 Table spoon salt

half a cup of cooked bacon crumbled (you can use store bought bacon bits if you don’ want to cook bacon, just get the ones that look like real pieces of bacon (mostly for texture)

half a cup of blue cheese crumbles

Steps:

piled in the center before folding in.
  • stir the yeast together with the 3/4 cup of water and add the pinch of sugar and pinch of salt to the mix (to feed the yeast) Set it in a warm place until it is foamy (10-15 min)
  • If using a stand mixer, using the dough hook: Add the flour, salt and sugar to the bowl of the mixer. When the yeast is foamy add the entire bowl of yeast mix to the flour, then add the milk, melted butter and honey. Turn the mixer on the lowest speed for 3 minutes while the dry and wet ingredients come together. When it no longer looks like flour will fly everywhere, increase the speed just a little bit (for mind it is no higher than three lines and well below medium speed. You are bringing your dough together not beating it into submission). When it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides, turn the mixer off.
  • If mixing by hand, once your yeast is foamy combine everything except the blue cheese and the bacon into a bowl and bring it together to form a ball.
  • If your dough ball is sticky, regardless of mixer or no mixer mixing, dust it with a little bit of flour and knead it just until it comes together to form a smooth ball.
  • Lightly grease a bowl (I tend to just use a spray bottle of oil on the bowl from my stand mixer) and put the dough in the bowl. Cover and let sit for 45 minutes.
  • After 45 min, come back, take your ball of dough out of the mixer (If making regular bread with no flavorings (i.e. bacon and blue cheese) then just put the dough into a well greased bread pan, cover and let sit for 45 min.) For the blue cheese and bacon bread. put the risen dough on a floured work surface and stretch it out as though you were making a pizza (don’t throw it in the air, just stretch on the table and try not to press too much air out. put the blue cheese and bacon crumbles in the center. fold the sides over the fillings, covering them completely. Knead the dough a few times to work the blue cheese and bacon into the dough. Then you can either put it in a loaf pan or make a free formed size on a greased sheet pan. Cover and let sit for 45 min.
  • Just before the 45 min rest is over, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven.
  • When the 45 minute rest is done, put the loaf in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. When it sounds hollow as out tap it with a knife, it is ready to be removed.
all rolled up, slashes in the top so it looks nice when it comes out

Without fillings, this makes a really good white sandwich bread. The fillings are of course your own choice. Try to go for fillings that don’t have a lot of moisture in them and you can’t go wrong. we often turn this loaf into cheddar and jalapeno bread or walnut and fig. It also makes great cinnamon and raisin bread. If you are going to start adding wet ingredients, reduce the amount of water you use with the yeast to keep it from getting soggy or cook out some of the moisturize from the ingredients. When I use this bread recipe for a mushroom, sage and onion bread, I cook both the mushrooms and onions ahead of time to reduce the moisture so that i can leave the recipe as it is.

the final loaf

Tonight I used blue cheese and bacon and I will pair it with a nice crisp hard apple cider. I find it pairs well with the blue cheese and cuts through the fattiness of the bacon. Sometimes I will even serve this bread with crisp slices on granny smith apple on top. It makes a great snack as well as a happy hour treat. Whatever you do tonight, I hope you take some time to rest and regroup and just allow yourself the space to breath. Have a great weekend.

Creatives to Promote Hint Still

Happy Hour: Hot Chocolate and Butter Cookies

Good afternoon my darlings. I know there was no face mask this afternoon. The truth is I was too sniffily and sneezy to enjoy it. Today my is a day Vick’s Vapor Rub and hot showers that envelope me with enough steam that I feel human again. I thought about a mask but then sneezed four times in a row and decided a face mask might not be the best notion.

Likewise cocktails are being skipped. Admittedly there may be a dram of Peppermint schnapps added to my hot chocolate. The Hot chocolate, if you look closely is a dark chocolate. I generally find the milk chocolate varieties to be too sweet for me so I either go for dark chocolate or Mexican Chocolate.

The Danish butter Cookies are partially because I wasn’t in a place to bake up a treat, and partially because we are still working our way through a lot of the holiday stockpile. plus I really like butter cookies. So many cookies just go over the top. Sugar cookies have to be iced. other treats have to be decadent fudge-y chocolaty creations. Or at least dipped in chocolate. And sprinkles.

The Danish Butter cookies are a rich buttery flaky cookie that doesn’t need to tack on extra flavors. It is simple a good, rich, buttery cookie. I love the texture of it as it crumbles in the mouth and I love the taste. So tonight it is a perfect accompaniment to my my peppermint schnapps laced dark chocolate filled mug. It isn’t a fancy happy hour, but it sort of suits the night. With my cold and the wind howling, bringing ice and snow with it, tonight’s happy hour selection seems just about perfect.



Happy Hour: Cheese plate and planning

Hello my darlings. I know I have skipped a few happy hour posts lately and to be honest the next few weeks these posts are going to be more about more than just treats for myself and my babydoll. With so many gatherings there are treats to take with me to other places and easy entertaining recipes that don’t take a lot of time or money to put together.

Tonight’s happy hour is more of a planning session for me and my babydoll. Not that we both won’t enjoy putting out feet up and having a little treat. Tonight’s treat is a glass of beer that my babydoll made himself. It is quite delicious and quite frankly I chose this glass because everything feels fancier when sipped from it. Plus, I really like the way this particular beer smells and the shape of the glass seems to sort of capture the scent and funnel it directly to the nose, which I really like.

To go with the beer we are doing a simple cheese with crackers (and a few late season cherries. I was quite surprised the store had them and honestly they aren’t the best but I like a little fruit with my cheese so we are using them up.). I like water crackers as they have less of a competing flavor when paired with the cheese.

The cheese is actually a truffle goat cheese ordered from the igourmet cheese shop. They have a really great selection. I don’t think the truffled goat is still available at the moment although they do have quite the selection if you are looking to build a holiday cheese board. Since we will always use the goat’s cheese we tend to order extra and freeze what we don’t use right away. Because of the texture and moisture content goat’s cheese tends to freeze really well.

While we are having it plain with crackers tonight, I love putting it into my roasted beet salad. I roast and peel the beets and then use a mandolin to slice them super thin. Then I layer beets, crumbles of goats cheese, walnuts and a little bit of fresh sage in a small roasting pan, like you are layering a lasagna actually. Then I put it in the over at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes to get the cheese soft and oozy (it won’t fully melt like other cheeses so just look for warm and soft with all of the beet layers warmed through).

The earthy truffle pairs well with the beets and the tang of the goat cheese and fresh herbs help lift it up a bit. The walnuts are both a bit earthy and they have that slightly bitter element as well as adding crunch. It is a bit messy to eat and the cheese does turn a bit pink, but it is absolutely delicious. You can make it sweeter by using golden beets instead of red ones, but I personally like the dark red beets with this.

If you are looking to do super simple entertaining, you can also get pre made holiday platters from igourmet. They have pre made plates if you don’t want to choose your own elements or a selection of elements if you are looking to create your own. Where I live sometimes the foods I want aren’t easy to come by so ordering from a reputable company like this really helps. They also have various food based subscriptions and gift baskets if you are looking for gifts for food lovers. We have never had any problems with anything we have ordered from the, the quality is great, the variety is good and even with all that is going on the shipping has still been really good.

They are actually on the list of things my babydoll and I need to discuss tonight. While we will be bringing several things to other people’s houses as our contribution to the gathering, we will also be hosting our own gatherings in the near future. My babydoll looks at this as a way to get all the delightful treats that we don’t usually indulge in so we will be looking at not only my recipes but things to order in. No doubt there will be much perusing of both the igourmet website and the Vital Source website. (we tent to order our seafood from them and we are running low on salmon at the moment).

there will of course be some debate as the things my babydoll wants are usually about three times as many as we actually need. Tonight however is just the listing of desires. It can be as long a list as he wants to make it. We’ll save the paring down to a non-Friday night conversation. So tonight I will nibble my cheese coated cracker, sip my beer and watch my babydoll’s eyes twinkle at the delicious list for feasting.

Paired down reality can wait for a few days.

I hope whatever you are doing tonight, you are planning to have a fantastic evening and an excellent weekend.



Happy Hour: Calpis Soda

Good evening my darlings and welcome to another Friday Night Happy hour. I know for many happy hour conjures visions of a crowded bar and laughter with groups of friends. And to be honest, while my babydoll and I do indulge in those sorts of happy hours, typically we go out on Saturday nights instead of Fridays.

The truth is that by the time the end of the week rolls around, putting on a set of comfy clothes, settling in with a delicious beverage and tasty treat often seems like heaven. Saturday night we both feel more social. But Friday has become our night to recharge so that the Saturday social is more fun. Sometimes it involves a cocktail, other times a non alcoholic beverage.

At the moment my babydoll is trying to whittle down his homebrewed beer supply. This year since we weren’t expecting a lot of company, he decided to test several different brew kits to see what he liked the best. while always fun to find the product you like the best, we now have a bit of a storage issue. So he is having beer tonight and I am using this as a change to test the Calpis Soda that came in my Tokyo Treat Box.

As you can see in the photo it is a lavender kind of color. which I find a bit unusual in a beverage. According to the description …

Calpis soda is a soda drink which uses the classic calpis, a condensed yogurt flavor beverage. Here’s a luxurious Kyoho grape flavor, which is one of the most expensive fruit in Japan.

In general I don’t drink a lot of soda, mostly because I am trying to reduce my sugar intake so a soda is just a much of a treat for me as an alcoholic cocktail. Add in a luxurious and expensive fruit and it certainly feels like a treat.

The taste is interesting. It tastes a bit like a Grape Nehi but a lot less sweet. I can’t taste any yogurt flavor in the mix, but it does feel as though there is something fermented in the drink. The yogurt I believe is what is tamping down the sweetness, but it doesn’t taste yoghurt-y.

The drink causes a little bit of a tingling on the tongue. I think part of that is just the carbonation, but I suspect that some of it might be the fermentation in the yoghurt.

All in all I have to say I kind of like it. It isn’t something I would have picked up from the shelf if I saw it in the store, but quite honestly that is one of the fun things about a subscription box like Tokyo Treat (or any subscription box really). You get to try things that you never would have picked up on your own.

I find the pink color a little off putting as it sort of reminds me of Pepto-Bismol, but it is a delicious treat that i would not mind having again. Actually i think it would be really good over crushed ice on a hot summer’s day. As it is, I am having the drink sitting on the couch with my baby. we have a big bowl of popcorn and we will be watching Gretel and Hansel on Paramount+ as part of October fright fest marathon. All month long we will be watching all sorts of spooky shows and movies.

So at our house it is shoes off, fuzzy socks on and feet up on the foot rest. Tonight even the weather has decided to join in as we have a thunderstorm rolling in to provide some extra atmosphere. Tomorrow, we might go out and be social. Tonight, it is good to just stay home.

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.

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Happy Hour: Shrimp Ceviche and Cherry Ginger

Tonight is an interesting take on happy hour.  In our house we long ago realized that if I made ceviche as an appetizer for our happy hour, that we would reach the end of the appetizer portion and not really want a regular meal, but instead want more ceviche. 

So as a consequence when I make Shrimp ceviche, I tend to make a dinner time sized portion and we have ceviche with crackers or chips for the main meal.  It is a light summertime meal.  On occasion I will also make some corn tortillas and we will just use it as a taco filling.  Tonight however we went with tortilla chips.

There is a local Mexican restaurant that sells them by the bag full, but only Thursdays. I think during lock down they sold them twice a week.  Either way, we were lucky to get a bag of the chips yesterday so we can use them tonight.  Actually if they just sold their tortillas I would never bother making my own again, but alas, they only sell the chips. 

To go on these chips, we make the Shrimp ceviche:

Ingredients:

1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into a suitable size for your method of serving (if we make tacos I don’t cut them)

1 cucumber, peeled and cubed

1 serrano chili, diced

1 red onion, diced small

1 cup fresh cilantro chopped

The juice of six limes (apx ¾ cup)

The juice of three lemons (apx. ¾ cup)

1 avocado

Salt to taste (I use about 1 tbsp for this)

Pinch of sugar

The hardest part of this recipe is breaking down all of your veg.  There will be a lot of chopping.  The bonus is that once you chop, it is all basic assembly and resting time.

Juice your limes and lemons putting the juice in a bowl.  Add your prepared shrimp.  While the juice of each fruit varies, you want enough juice to submerge the shrimp and post of the veg in juice. You also want about equal parts lemon and lime.

Leave the shrimp in the acid until they start to turn white on the outside.  (you want to give them a little bit of a head start before adding the veg – maybe ten minutes).  Then add the salt, cucumber, serrano, and onion. Mix it up a bit with your hands and then transfer it to the fridge.  Leave it sit for about an hour or until the acid has cooked the shrimp enough for your taste.  If you leave it too long, it will get slightly rubbery so check them after an hour and then if you still need more time check every ten minutes until you are happy.

When everything looks ready, slice your avocado into cubes and add the cilantro and the avocado to the ceviche. After mixing it up, taste the mix.  If it is too acidic, add a pinch of sugar to mellow it out.  If it needs salt, add it now and then stir it up.  this is very much a by the taste recipe. Serve cold with chips, crackers, or tortillas. 

I really like this mix.  It is pretty basic so it can be used in a variety of different ways.  It is easy to adjust to taste as well as being fresh and light on a hot summer’s evening.  If you don’t have shrimp you can use fish.  If you don’t eat seafood, try tofu. Go with the firm kind if you are doing that.  Often what I will do if I do substitute tofu is that I will cube it, add a little fish sauce to it and then do a quick pan fry to add some texture to the cubes.  Then I let them cool and then add them to the mix.  If you don’t use fish sauce then maybe go with a vegan soy sauce before pan frying them.  I just like the little difference in texture that the pan gives, but it isn’t a necessity. You can just cube and add them to the veg mix.

This in general is a fun recipe to play around with. When we are finished, there is always some of the juice left over and we end up slicing a couple of extra cucumbers into it, and maybe adding a bit more onion to it.  Then the next day we have that as a side salad for dinner. So nothing gets wasted.  It is one of my favorite summer time treats.

As a drink tonight I am just going simple.  I have my Sour Cherry Syrup that I am still working my way through.  I really like it, but it is a large bottle that takes up a lot of space in the fridge so once opened I tend to lean on it often until it is used up. 

Today I didn’t really feel like alcohol so I made a non-alcoholic drink with one ounce of the sour cherry syrup topped with ginger ale.  Served in a pretty glass it is a perfectly lovely happy hour drink.  My babydoll added an ounce of lemon vodka to his before topping it off with the ginger ale.

It is a relatively simple happy hour tonight, but as it has been a bit of a crazy week, simple is just fine.  While sometimes I like to use Happy hour as a time to try new recipes and be just a little more adventurous, sometimes simple works better. On a day when the thought of turning on the oven or stove and adding more heat to the house is just not pleasant to contemplate, a no cook happy hour that spills into dinner is just the thing. I hope whatever you do to relax and unwind from the week is exactly what you need to let it all go.  I’ll see you back here on Monday, ready to take on another week.  Have a great weekend.

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Happy Hour: Keeping it summertime simple

Today was a hot one. High heat and even higher humidity. In lieu of something hot from the kitchen, our happy hour food featured goat’s cheese on water crackers and some fresh cherries. The cheese actually has truffles mixed into it and is from igourmet (the link will take you to the site for details.) It is quite delish and adds a bit of earthiness to the Happy Hour treat.

The drink actually required a bit more preparation, but it too was summer fresh and fantastic. And once you get the prep work done, it is super simple. While loads of people think watermelon or strawberry once the summer time hits (and trust me, I love both of those) for me Summertime means blackberries.

There was a thicket near our house when I was little and you could always tell when the blackberry season was high because I would always come home covered in scratches. Seriously, I looked like I jumped into a sack full of angry cats. Because I knew the best berries were always where the thorns were sharpest.

The scars have faded and it has been quite a while since I picked my own blackberries as we have numerous farm stands that carry them, but as soon as they are ripe I take as many home as I can. We end up with blackberry crumble, blackberries in salads, I even end up ordering elk steaks at least once in season because I have a blackberry gin infused sauce recipe that works so well with elk. It also works well with venison too actually. But that is an entirely different post.

don’t forget to smash the blackberries for extra juice before you discard them

While I eat loads of blackberries fresh, I also make a few pots of jam to use well after the season is over and freeze some for midwinter deserts. I think one of the reasons i like blackberries is that while they are sweet, they have an edge of tartness to them.

One of my favorite things to do with them, is to make a blackberry simple syrup for use in drinks. I’m sure everyone out there knows how to make a simple syrup, but in case it has slipped your mind, you take equal parts sugar and water and pour them both into a pot. Simmer them on medium heat, stirring occasionally to make certain the sugar isn’t stuck to the bottom of the pot. Once they heat up enough that the sugar and water have become one syrup remove it from the heat, pour it into a container to cool and then refrigerate.

If you want to make the simple syrup blackberry (or any other fruit flavor) add the berries to the pot and stir so that nothing burns. Once the sugar and water have joined to make syrup, simmer an extra minute. Then remove the pot from the heat. Use a sieve to strain the berries out of the syrup and then press the berries with a spoon or silicone spatula in order to get as much juice and flavor out as possible. Discard the berry pulp and pour the liquid into a container.

Voila! Blackberry simple syrup.

While I will be using it in tonight’s cocktail, I am a big fan of just stirring a spoonful of it into ginger ale and having it over ice. If you are looking for a summery drinks treat that is non-alcoholic, that is usually a good one. It also works really well mixed in with lemonade. Just mix the two into a pitcher until you have a flavor that works well for your palette and then add a few decorative berries to the pitcher and you have a quick, company ready summer drink to offer.

Simple syrups may be something you think of for your cocktails, but even if you don’t drink, they are fantastic to have around. Plus they actually taste better with bruised or slightly over berries. So if you have some not very pretty fruit that you want to use, but don’t think would be good to serve because it isn’t the prettiest, think simple syrup.

Lemon and blackberries work really well together, in fact when I make blackberry jam or crumble I always add in a little lemon zest to perk it up a bit and brighten the flavors.

And lemon features in our cocktail tonight too. I don’t really have a name for it as it is just a summer time treat we throw together. Add one ounce of your Blackberry syrup, two ounces of lemon flavored vodka and then top with seltzer water. I use my Soda Stream for this. I like to use a tall clear glass so I can see the layers. The glass I am using tonight is a stemless champagne flute from the Rachel Zoe Collection. Personally i think everything tastes better in a fancy glass and I use one of these flutes to convince myself to drink more water during the day. However it looks really lovely with the layered drink in it.

To drink it, you do need to mix it up so it blends, but I like keeping the look until just before I drink it, then I stir it up to drink. My babydoll thinks I’m crazy and shakes the simple syrup and vodka together in a martini shaker before pouring it into the glass and topping it with the soda water.

To each his own.

And so tonight may be a simple Home happy Hour as far as things go, but it is a delicious one. I hope however you end your week, you take a moment to sit and take a breather and let all of the stress of the day drain away. Whether vodka based cocktail or non-alcoholic lemonade, the important thing is the moment spent just breathing. Let the stress go, if only for a little while.



Happy Hour: Fun and Fruity

Good afternoon my darlings and welcome to the Friday Happy Hour. And I am certainly ready for it. Today was so crazed I even missed my Friday Face mask. It’s a definite indicator that it is time for a weekend. Last weekend my baby and I over indulged and with little meal planning this week, well we didn’t exactly get back on the healthy train.

So tonight we went a little bit easy on the end of the week treats. While we both like the little Friday indulgences, it is more about sitting back and taking some time to breath after a long week. So today is a very lite happy hour. The first is the drink. I went non-alcoholic this week. My drink was simply a splash of Sour Cherry Syrup into a glass (8 oz glass) topped with a mini- Canada Dry Ginger ale. If you put the sour cherry syrup in the bottom and then pour the ginger ale over it you get this really neat ombre effect with the dark red at the bottom fading to pink and then finally to gold at the top.

The effect doesn’t last as the bubbles cause everything to mix. The mixing makes it taste good but you loose the pretty look. It still looks nice, especially if you put it in a pretty glass. I went with one of the stemless champagne flutes from the Rachel Zoe Collection.

If you wanted to make this an alcoholic drink you could easily just add something like vodka to it. Personally I really like the ginger mixing with the sour cherry so I would probably go with some sort of ginger flavored alcohol. I don’t know how many of you have every tried the Ginger liquor called The King’s Ginger, but a little of that and then a topping of carbonated water would be nice and refreshing as well. Although the King’s Ginger is great on it’s own. If you are a fan of ginger, I highly recommend checking them out. Today, I am happy with the cherry syrup and ginger ale.

To pair with it, we went for home dried apple slices. I like to slice what apples we have on hand and then sprinkle them with seasonings before putting them in the dehydrator to dry. The spice dusting changes depending on the mood. Today I went with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and a touch of nutmeg. the apples we had on hand were very sweet and drying them just made them sweeter. After they were out, my babydoll added a pinch of cayenne to his to make them a little spicy. I wanted the ginger to shine through more than I wanted heat so I declined the addition.

All told it was a nice light way to kick back and enjoy the evening and unwind a little. while it wasn’t as indulgent as some of the treats I make for Happy Hour, this week, it felt decident because of all of the warm spices and the pretty glass. I’ll admit, the ombre effect didn’t hurt.

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Happy Hour: Salami and Sour Cherries

Once again the week has ended and the office clothes have been exchanged for comfortable pajama pants and comfortably worn t-shirts.  And today, I had no real control over our happy hour.  It was all my babydoll’s doing. 

He has been brewing again as he wanted to get several batches put up before the summer sun started affecting his brewing work space.  So he brewed more in one sitting than usual.  As a result he needed more bottles.  Usually he orders his brewing supplies on-line, but the need for bottles was kind of immediate, so he went in search of a homebrew supply locale.  He found one and secured his bottles.  Tonight he will be a bottling fiend and I am banished from the kitchen while he does so.

However when he found the homebrew store he found out there is an Eastern European Deli in the same shopping complex. 

He went a little bananas.

And so tonight for Happy Hour we are having a Hungarian Salami sliced into thin rounds and accompanied by a pickles from the same company and some pepperoncini’s.  It is a really good mix.  The salami is spiced but not hotly spiced and it has a good fat content for the sausage.  This salty fatty spicy meat pairs really well with the slightly sweet and sour pickled flavor of the Hungarian gherkins.  They have a fairly mild flavor.  Personally I prefer them room temperature rather than fridge cold so that more of the flavor comes out of them.  They also seem to be less astringent when they are room temperature. The Pepperoncini’s are  both astringent and provide the element of heat to the offerings.  They have a slight sweetness too which matches well with the pickles.

 They are not an overpoweringly hot pepper.  They are however full of pickling liquid.  It is why we have them in a bowl instead of laid out neatly on a plate.  When we eat them, we pull out the stem.  I like the heat so I tend to leave the seeds.  You can take them out if you want them milder.  But either way you have to squeeze them over the bowl so you don’t dripple and squirt the peppers all over everything.  It always amazes me how much liquid they can gather inside them.

As for drinks, to be honest I wasn’t feeling like alcohol tonight.  Luckily my baby picked up a bottle of Sour Cherry Syrup while at the deli.  The sourness helps balance the sickly sweet almost cough syrup like taste that regular cherry syrup can have. 

I added a measure to a glass of carbonated water (courtesy of my Soda Stream) and then added just a drop of lemon juice to the mix.  There you have a super simple non-alcoholic beverage to sip along side the platter, or just sitting on the back porch as the heat of the day fades.  It is easy enough to make this alcoholic if you want, I would suggest sticking to your clear liquors though.  Citrus flavored vodkas are especially nice with this. 

The only issue is that it is a big bottle of Sour Cherry Syrup and once opened it needs to be refrigerated. I suspect that because it is kind of taking up prime real estate in the fridge we will be using it often in the next few weeks.  I will have some of my non-alcoholic versions throughout the week and possibly be using it in some of my upcoming cocktail recipes. 

But for now it is a very low key home happy hour and a non- alcoholic beverage to go with it as my baby and I sit back and unwind from the week.  I hope whatever you do to unwind lets you relax and let all the stress of the work week go.  Because you deserve it.

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