“Easy-to-Make Simple Syrups” Holiday Gifts, E.A.T. #15

cocktails with simple syrups

Time fleets….gift-giving season is here…just a perusal of Etsy or Scoutmob makes it very clear that home-made, hand-made and diy gifts are the “thing”. With that in mind here is a final, very easy-as-this gift idea for all your food friends. Make one or make them all, it only takes an afternoon in your kitchen, and it really will put you in a holiday mood. I promise!

“Beet Juice & Ginger Simple Syrup” chilled with a splash of white rum or drizzled over vanilla ice cream with a sugar cookie? “Cranberry & Orange” with white wine anyone? “Lemon & Thyme Simple Syrup” added to a cup of relaxing hot tea with a slice of lime? Or maybe an “Apple, Habanero & Mint” with Seltzer & fruit ice cubes for a non-alcoholic pick-me-up?

Simple syrups

From Top Left clockwise: “Fresh Beet & Ginger”, “Gala Apple, Habanero & Mint”, “Cranberry Orange” and “Very Lemon Thyme” simple syrups.

The process of each syrup is the same. It is as “easy-as-this”.

Basic Simple Syrup Recipe

1 cup water (liquid) + 1 cup sugar, a 1-1 ratio

“Cranberry & Orange Simple Syrup” – 1 lb fresh cranberries, the peel & juice from one orange, 2 cups water + 2 cups sugar. Bring to a boil, turn to simmer, stirring often until mixture thickens & sugar has melted. Cook for 20 minutes on low heat. Remove from heat. Let cool completely.

Cranberry Orange Simple SyrupCranberry & Orange Simple Syrup

“Apple, Habanero & Mint Simple Syrup” – Using same process as above just add 2 chopped apples,  1/2 tsp. finely chopped Habanero pepper (wear gloves!) & 1/2 cup mint leaves to pan.

Apple, Habanero & mint simple syrupApple, Habanero & Mint Simple Syrup

“Fresh Beet Juice & Ginger Root Simple Syrup” – (I had cooked some fresh beets in water for another recipe..the color was just fantastic, I tasted it and it was really sweet and delicious…a simple syrup came of this happy accident.)  2 cups fresh beet juice + 1/4 cup peeled & sliced fresh ginger + 1 tbsp lemon peel simmered with 2 cups sugar made one really great syrup!

Beet Juice & Ginger Simple SyrupBeet Juice & Ginger Simple Syrup

“Very Lemon & Thyme Simple Syrup” – the peel of 2 lemons, 1 tsp lemon extract or syrup + a handful of fresh thyme. Same process, subtle flavors.

Lemon & Thyme Simple SyrupLemon Thyme Simple Syrup

How to Bottle or Jar:

After syrups have cooled completely strain each through a fine sieve. Wash & dry bottles or jars with lids.

DSC_4856DSC_4851

strained simple syrup

Pour strained liquids into prepared bottles or jars. I, once again, got out my stash of bottles, caps & bottle capper (all from All Seasons here in Nashville) to decant my simple syrups into.

bottles of simple syrups

The apple has a hint of pink, the beet a deep red-burgundy, the lemon light & yellow, and the cranberry a clear red.

It is as “easy-as-that”.

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have fun! life is not perfect.

“Blackberry-Mango Spring Libations”


It’s a Soup! No, No….wait…..

It’s a Cocktail!

It is not often that I concoct a recipe that is a “soup” for one event and a “cocktail” for another. In fact this is the first time ever and  I must confess it gave me a little culinary thrill. It was a coup without intention..a “culinary coup” if you will.

We received an invitation to a neighborhood “Soup Supper” party a few weeks ago. It is usually cold or cool when this yearly event happens. Not this year. The day of the supper party (a pot luck soup supper) it was around 80 degrees here in Nashville. Not exactly hot soup weather. I was hot, I was thirsty, perhaps I would make a cold, thick,  drinkable soup with a splash of rum…I rummaged around in the freezer and found a lovely packet of frozen blackberries from last summer that I had put away and some frozen mango chunks from a few weeks ago. A good base for a cold soup.

Ingredients needed for 2 quarts of  Blackberry-Mango Soup & Cocktail Base:

1 quart of whole frozen Blackberries

1 pint of fresh or frozen Mango chunks

2 cups of Corsair Spiced Rum, Nashville, TN  (or any good Spiced Rum)

2 cups Hibiscus-Orange Flower Ginger Syrup from “The Bang Candy Company”, Nashville, TN (or any other dark fruity syrup)

1 cup simple syrup – homemade or bottled (found at most liquor stores)

Juice of one whole lime & one whole orange

To  Make the Base:

1. Process Blackberries in a food processor until pureed. Strain out seeds over a large bowl. Use a rubber spatula to press and separate pulp from seeds. Discard seeds.

2. Puree Mango chunks until smooth. Do not strain & add to  blackberries in bowl. Stir together until well mixed.

3. To the bowl of Blackberry-Mango puree, add Corsair Spiced Rum, Fruity Syrup, Simple Syrup, lime & orange juices. Mix together. Taste & adjust if necessary.

4. Pour half of the mixture into a glass quart jar, leaving a bit of headroom and freeze until ready to use.

5. Decant the other half into a bottle. This half will be thick but drinkable…a perfect appetizer soup on a hot day.  Serve cold soup with small glasses and berries to garnish.

“Historic Germantown Soup Supper”

As you who follow my blog probably have already figured out, every 3rd Thursday of each month for the past 3 years two friends of mine have hosted “Third Thursday Pot Luck” dinner parties here in Nashville. Nancy Vienneau & Gigi Gaskins have generously opened their homes for this gathering of friends to share & enjoy good food, conversation, drink and lots of laughs. The food is alway plentiful, beautiful, seasonal so I usually make a cocktail for before dinner…time to put the frozen quart of Blackberry-Mango Soup to work!

To create a cocktail from one quart of thawed blackberry-mango mixture:

1. To thawed puree add 1 additional cup of Corsair Spiced Rum & 1/2 cup simple syrup. Stir to combine. Taste & adjust flavors to suit…more rum, more syrups, more lime juice? Decant into a decorative bottle or pitcher. Chill until ready to serve.

To Serve:

1. Serve poured over ice filling glass half full. Top with Ginger Ale and a freshly squeezed orange or mandarin slice.

“April 2012 Third Thursday”

Lil and with my 1st born, Whitney
Sweet Catherine & Wouter
Leah, Wouter & lots of other guests enjoying the beautiful evening.
Blackberry-Mango Cocktail seems to be a hit!
Bill always makes the ladies laugh!
Nancy busily makes sure there is room for every dish.
There are always fresh flowers.
Dusk arrives as we gather around to fill our plates.

It was a “soup”, it was a “cocktail”…..both lovely libations for whatever ails you!

A Toast to the Holidays / “Poire et Jacques, Y’all”

” Poire et Jacques, Y’all”

Thanksgiving really began at our house one week before November 24th. Thursday, November 18th to be exact.

The Third Thursday Potluck was that evening &  called for something special to take along as it was the last Third Thursday Potluck of 2011. A special cocktail/tonic has become my regular potluck dish. I have made many cocktails to take to this wonderful monthly dinner hosted by my friend and fellow blogger Nancy Vienneau (www.goodfoodmatters.com) and my friend, Gigi Gaskins owner and fabulous hat maker at “HatWRKS” (check it out on Facebook).

I wanted this holiday cocktail to contain ingredients that represent my geographical place as well as a Southern based liquor & be wintry. This recipe, which is a Toast to the Holidays and an Ode to Winter, is one I hope you will  try. On warmer fall days like we have been having here in Nashville it was perfect over ice, but as the days become chillier it is very cozy served hot and I am sure it has medicinal properties that will ward off colds & flu during the holidays. I could not think of a name for my concoction….Wouter came up with the perfect name don’t you think?

Ingredients: (for about 2 quarts for a party)

6 cups Pear Cider

2 cups Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey Whiskey

1 cup Pear Liqueur

2 TBSP Ginger Jam or Preserves

Mix all ingredients together in a large container.

Add one or two whole peeled winter pears to a pitcher. Pour cocktail mixture over pears and chill until ready to serve. (Later these pears will make a very nice dessert)

You can make this cocktail ahead of time and keep refrigerated over the holidays to have on hand ready to serve when the moment calls for a relaxing drink with friends. Add a few crispy pear slices and a small teaspoon of ginger jam to each glass whether serving cold or hot.

The remainder of my week between the Third Thursday &  the Fourth Thursday of November was a bit of a blur. This was not due to imbibing to much Poire Jacques by the way!

There were calls to work out-of-town, calls to work in town, shoots booked, cancelled and rebooked, recipe development & testing to be done, a food video shoot in my  kitchen on Wednesday so by Thanksgiving day I had already cooked & styled 2 pork loins with fruit stuffing, baked  some yummy chocolate cookies, Wisconsin cherry scones & cupcakes with a buttercream frosting, pie crusts, pies, roasted red bell peppers and a garden greens saute, and that is just part of the list. We had bid happy holidays to our grown children going to Wisconsin & Knoxville to visit relatives and taken in our grandson’s Jack Russell, Bill to spend a few days with our dog Ella.

Our Thanksgiving was a day of walking dogs in crunchy, colorful fall leaves, watching four “Boardwalk Empire’s” back-to-back, going to see “Descendents” at the movies, stopping by to see the progress on an inn our friends John and Liz are getting ready to open here in Nashville, eating big bowls of Perciatelli with MeatBalls & Red Sauce along with some red wine and being thankful for all of this and more.

“A Quick Sweet/Savory Breakfast Frittata with Pears & Blackberries” (for the folks working on the video at my house to enjoy)

Ingredients:

One sheet of puff pastry slightly thawed

4 slices of good sharp white cheddar

2 cups thinly sliced hard pears

1 cup fresh blackberries

4 eggs whisked with 1/2 cup cream, 4 ounces softened cream cheese & 1 tbsp raw or brown sugar

Extra raw sugar for  sprinkling on top

Maple syrup for drizzling on top of servings

Directions:

Turn oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 10 inch cast iron skillet. Line skillet with sheet of puff pastry.

Arrange cheddar slices over bottom of pastry & top with pear slices. Pour egg-cream mixture over pear slices and sprinkle with blackberries & raw sugar.

Bake until puffy & golden brown and until eggs are set in the middle. Remove from oven & let sit for a few minutes before serving. Sprinkle with a bit more sugar. Drizzle with maple syrup.

The crispy-flakiness of the puff pastry along with the naturally sweetness of the fruit, the savory egg & cheddar cheese topped with a bit of sweet maple syrup & the crunch of raw sugar makes for the perfect quick breakfast that is not cloying sweet nor too savory.

“A Little Seasonal Gallery of Fun”

Francis Ann enjoys a Poire Jacques.
Tammy & George’s Kitchen Clock
Melted Cheese-us on Burger
Not sure of the connection?
Table Talk Pie Pan
Bill
Early morning kitchen board.
Ella
…..or Else!

A Month of Mango Madness

I have recently had mangoes on my mind.  Right now they are very plentiful, the prices are at a seasonal low, there are at least two varieties in most local markets from Mexico and  it seems that all the photo shoots I have worked on this month have had mangoes as part of the process. Mangoes in salsa, mangoes in cocktails, mango puree, mangoes as props.

I even took a photo of mangoes while in Mexico earlier this month!

Not one to waste this lovely fruit, I have been bringing home many of the leftover mangoes from photo shoots and working them into all my meals. Last night I added cut up mangoes pieces to a quinoa salad. This morning I simply peeled and ate the perfectly ripe fruit with some greek yogurt. Today with a few of these delicious mangoes remaining on my kitchen counter I felt some urgency to use them before they went from the “just right” to the “not so right” stage of ripeness. I was hot, sticky and tired from doing some yard work and wanted a cool-down drink for lunch. With some cold buttermilk in my refrigerator I concocted a lassi using mangoes & raw sugar.

Mango lassi

Mango lassi is most commonly found in India and Pakistan though it is gaining popularity worldwide. It is made from yogurt, milk or water and mango pulp. It may be made with or without additional sugar. It is widely available in UK, Malaysia and Singapore, due to the sizable Pakistani/Indian minority, and in many other parts of the world. In various parts of Canada, mango lassi is a cold drink consisting of sweetened kesar mango pulp mixed with yogurt, cream, or ice cream. It is served in a tall glass with a straw, often with ground pistachio nuts sprinkled on top.

“My Very Simple Mango-Buttermilk Lassi”

Ingredients:

2 cups peeled & cut up Mango; 1/4 cup raw sugar; 4 cups good buttermilk(I used fresh buttermilk from JD’s Dairy in Russelville, KY); ice cubes; mint leaves for garnish

To Make:

1. Peel and chop two or three ripe mangoes to make 2 cups.

2. Put chopped mango, buttermilk & raw sugar in a blender and puree until very smooth. Taste and adjust sweetness if desired.

3. Fill glasses with ice. Pour mango lassi over ice and add mint for garnish. This drink will cool you down, give you one of your daily fruit requirements as well as a dose of protein & calcium.

As I was drinking my lovely cool-down lassi I thought that it would probably have a very different yum factor with the addition of some dark rum. So be it! With just a few adjustments I created a new cocktail for warm Spring evenings, or late lunches!

“Mango-Rum Lassi Cocktail”

For this you make the mango lassi using the recipe above. You will also need: dark rum; additional raw sugar to rim the cocktail glass, mint and ice.

1.   Rinse martini or other cocktail glass in cool water. Shake off excess moisture and turn glass with wet rim upside down in a saucer of raw sugar to coat rim. Pour about 1/2 to 1 ounce dark rum into martini glass.Add a few ice cubes. Pour mango lassi into glass to about 1/2 inch from rim. Garnish with mint. (Adjust alcohol according to your taste.)

A perfect cocktail. The ingredients are simple & easy to find. It is lovely to look at & refreshing. The crunchy raw sugar on the rim melds with the mango and rum flavors in a most delicious way.

Spring Green Tonics

“Spring Tonic”

To celebrate Daylight Savings Time, St. Patrick’s Day and the Spring Equinox

On the third Thursday evening of each month I attend a dinner hosted by friends, Nancy Vienneau and Gigi Gaskins. It is appropriately called “Third Thursday” and is a potluck dinner party made up of many folks whose common love of interesting, healthy, local foods is the common thread.

March’s Third Thursday Dinner fell on St. Patrick’s Day. As you can imagine there were lots of dishes honoring “green”. Spinach, green beans, basil, avocado dishes were plentiful. For this occasion I created a “Spring Tonic”.  With cucumbers & lime juice as the main ingredients this “tonic” was the essence of “all things green”.

This tonic is easy to make, beautiful, refreshing, not too sweet and is like drinking a glass of spring.

What you will need:

To make approximately 1/2 gallon of Spring Tonic:

About 8 fresh cucumbers, 5 or 6 limes juiced, a piece of fresh ginger, 1 to 1.5 cups of raw sugar, 2 to 3 cups of your favorite white rum, about 1 cup of Midori liqueur and seltzer water or club soda. (Adjust to taste as you mix.)

Trim and peel cucumbers. Scrape seeds out with a spoon. Cut into chunks and place in food processor. You may have to do this in batches. Process until cucumbers are pureed with no chunks. Pour puree into a colander lined with two layers of cheesecloth or into a fine sieve sitting over a bowl to catch the cucumber juice. Use a rubber scraper to press the puree through the cheesecloth to get out most of the liquid.

When finished you should have about 3 cups of liquid.

This color of green is so beautiful like spring grass.

To make Gingered Simple Syrup: Peel ginger & cut into slices. Place ginger pieces, raw sugar + 1.2 cups of water in a saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a low boil, cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat to cool.

As I was taking my Spring Tonic to a dinner party I made labels for two 1 qt containers to share the ingredients with guests.

To mix Spring Tonic:

Into each 1 quart container add half of the Cucumber liquid, half of the Midori, half of the fresh Lime Juice, half of the Gingered Simple Syrup with ginger pieces & half of the White Rum. Stir mixture in each container until well mixed. Cover and chill until ready to drink.

To Drink: Place ice in a glass, pour in some Spring Tonic & add a splash of seltzer water, club soda or mineral water with gas.

 

 

….. evening of greens….

While concocting your own “Spring Tonic” you could enjoy some music by the band “Tonic”. Check them out on itunes for a listen.

 

Herbal tonic is used to help restore, tone and invigorate systems in the body or to promote general health and well-being.
“get your motor running….drink Spring tonics!”

 

Mellow Yellow Limoncello

Again it is time to bottle up my next batch of limoncello that has already steeped in lemon peel, been strained, had a simple syrup added and has been in a closet for over 3 weeks with the flavors melding! This is my 3rd year for making limoncello. Each batch has been a little different from the last, but they have all been very good. I attribute the deliciousness to the quality of the lemons and the simplicity of the recipe(s) I have been using. I am done much experimenting, but always use as the base recipe the one I found a few years ago in this book….

…La Bella Vita….

The Limoncello recipe in this book is similar to many you can find online or in other cookbooks, but this was the one I ran across when I made my first batch which turned out so well that I have stuck with it over the years. This is the recipe I use……..

Sometimes I use Meyer Lemons, sometimes other lemons, always yummy!

Bottling Day………..

Limoncello ready to be bottled…
Bottles washed, rinsed & dried…….
Filling bottles……..
Full bottles……
Bottle capper & caps….

I got this nifty red bottle capper at All Season’s on 8th Avenue So. here in Nashville along with the bottles & caps. All were really inexpensive and made the process of bottling much more streamlined. No more searching for miscellaneous bottles with matching caps that leaked! I bought this capper with the help of Jennifer who knows just about everything there is to know about bottle cappers and such! She said it would work great and it did. Very simple and easy to use. I felt so professional!

Capped and ready for labels………
Ready to drink and give away.

We like it chilled or frozen & slushy! Salute!