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Category Archives: Adult beverages

Cooking Light’s Amazing One-Hour Dinner Party

Kat is back in the kitchen. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been MIA is in the blogosphere for a while. I’ll get into the reasons why on another post but suffice it to say, I’m back.

What prompted my return to the kitchen (actually it was my friend Vickie’s kitchen) was her request that I assist with a birthday dinner for our friend Brigitte (of the Kahlua making).

As it happens, last year I picked up an issue of Cooking Light magazine in the check out line after the cover story, Amazing One-Hour Dinner Party, caught my eye. I love dinner parties, especially when there are themes involved. My first ever elegent dinner party took two days of cooking so I wasn’t about to pass up a menu that could be ready in one hour. The timing of this dinner couldn’t really be more appropriate in case any of my readers are trolling the net for last minute ways to impress their Valentine.

The dinner went off perfectly and was fairly amazing, if I do say so myself. Vickie and I had everything for the salad, main course and dessert prepped and ready to go according to the directions in the article. The only one change we made was roasting the potatoes before putting the tenderloin in the oven. Otherwise, unless you have two ovens, I don’t see how both the potatoes and roast were going to cook in one hour. For the record, we roasted fresh red potato wedges on 450° for 15 minutes. We covered them to keep them warm and then popped them back in the oven when the roast was resting.

Another change we would make in the future would be to add a small amount of sugar to the whipped cream. We opted to follow the directions because of the agave nectar that the fruit was marinaded in. In hind sight, one-half to one teaspoon of sugar would be a nice addition.

There were a few things that surprised me:

  1. There was no shopping list in the magazine. I created one here.
  2. Two pounds of beef tenderloin didn’t seem like it would be enough to feed 8 people. Vickie got a 4 pound roast. We fed six ladies and there was plenty left over so maybe I was wrong.
  3. The potatoes call for the addition of truffle oil. At $16.99 a bottle, I now know why I’ve never cooked with it before. I did purchase a bottle from a local olive oil producer for this dinner. Based on the cost, rest assured I will find all kinds of new ways to use truffle oil. In the end, though, I didn’t feel like the flavor profile delivered $16.99 worth of value to the potatoes. Perhaps I’m just a heathen, who knows?

I haven’t blogged about wine tasting here but I am an avid wino…hence the number of bottles I brought for the party. It seems like overkill but at the end of the night, they were all gone. I may have splurged a bit on the number of bottles but cost-wise this dinner came in at about what I would have spent had I taken the birthday girl out for a nice dinner.

My wine budget is typically in the range of $10 to $15 a bottle. Here is what I brought to match up with the courses:

Champagne toast: Titziano Italian Prosecco $10.99 with raspberries dropped in the glass.

Champagne cocktail: We substituted vodka for the gin at the birthday girl’s request. I found a lovely bottle of Dr. Loosen Sparkling Riesling for $12.99 and used this as the base.

Salad course: Kung Fu Girl Riesling. This was one of the specific wines suggested for the menu. I was able to find it at AJs for $12.99. It was crisp for a Riesling but balanced well with the flavors of the salad.

Main course: The Pinot Project Pinot Noir. For $14.99 this is a great medium bodied/soft tannin red that paired well with the red meat.

Dessert: Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Riesling ($8.99). Sweeter wines pair well with sweet desserts. This Riesling is a little softer than the Kung Fu girl and matched well with the berries and cream.

 

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Kat’s Fantasy Elegant New Year’s Eve Dinner

individual beef wellington

Individual Beef Wellington

Alas, there will be no New Year’s Eve dinner for me this year. Things have been quiet in Kat’s kitchen, mainly because I’m still battling a cold and then have had a headache for four days on top of it. When I’m not feeling good I lose the desire to eat anything good for me (except, maybe soup) and gravitate to Christmas cookies and microwave popcorn. This may be a portent of things to come; I’ve heard that the sweet and salty taste buds are the last to go and that’s why elderly folk prefer sweet and salty food. It’s not a pretty thought, sigh!

Back to blogging and the dinner I wish I was cooking…actually I did cook this dinner a few years ago and it was then the culinary highlight of my cooking experience. As background, I joined a local group called Table for Six. The moderator cooked a five course meal for herself and five carefully chosen guests…but she only did this four times a year. I was blown away by the experience and offered to cook a dinner the following month. I’m flattered to say that this was the only time that her group dined outside her home. I still feel all warm and gushy when I think about it. However, after hosting a six course meal I can see why she only did this four times a year. I cooked all six courses from scratch and spent two full days in the kitchen. As a matter of fact, I was still whisking the gravy as the guests were pulling up. I also had to purchase and borrow extra dishes so that I could individually plate each course. Oh, but what a night!

In actuality if I were going to do it again, I would change a few things. Even though I spent weeks researching the perfect pairings, I’ve expanded my culinary repertoire so a few changes might be in order.

Champagne cocktail – I chose a dry champage which, ironically, tends to be slightly sweeter that Brut or Extra Brut. I dropped a raspberry in the bottom of each class for color instead of the lemon wedge.

Appetizer – Shrimp ceviche (served in martini glasses)

Soup – Cream of broccoli soup (served in Grandma’s crystal fruit cocktail bowls)

Salad – Tossed salad with artichoke-Parmesan crostini (served on salad plates)

Main course – Individual Beef Wellingtons, garlic mashed potatoes with green beans amandine to which I added a small amount of diced pimento for Christmas color (served on dinner plates) garnished with fresh rosemary sprigs

Dessert – Chocolate Cavity Maker cake with mint-infused whipped cream (served on dessert plates) garnished with fresh raspberry and mint leaves

Coffee with homemade Bailey’s Irish Cream and port. I had never been a huge fan of port until I had it alongside the coffee and chocolate cake.

It was a great night. Even though I won’t be cooking this year I enjoy reminiscing. Don’t feel too sorry for me though. I am going out tonight with friends where someone else will be serving me.

I hope your New Year’s Eve is filled with good food and good friends.

Cheers!

Kat

 

 

 

 

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Classic Tiramisu

We had an Italian-theme party last weekend for La Mama’s milestone birthday. Although we had the appetizers and main course catered by a family friend, my sister and I elected to do the desserts. My sister makes my mom cheesecake every year. This year she changed it up a bit and did mini cheesecake cupcakes with a strawberry topping. They were quite yummy and I’ll be posting them later this week when I get my hands on her recipe.

In an impulse moment I announced was going to make tiramisu from scratch. Once the commitment was out in the open, there was no turning back. I’d never made tiramisu before and I was a little nervous. I followed the directions on the back of the lady finger package (that took four clerks in my local grocery store to find) and immediately relaxed. I had a mild amount of anxiety over the whipping cream; I’m always nervous that it’s not actually going to whip. Someone told me that the trick is refrigerate the bowl and the beaters which seems to work.

Tiramisu and white russian

Tiramisu, as it turns out, is not really all that hard to make. I elected to build mine in a spring form pan. The good news is that the end result tasted great, my mom was thrilled The pictures honestly don’t do the dessert justice. In the midst of serving 40 people it was really hard to get good photos. Plus using lady fingers meant that the layers were not nice and crisp like they would have been had I used something akin to sponge cake.

I’ve already decided there will be a next time and that I am going to try using a sponge cake cut in half for more even layers. I may even double the amount of coffee liqeure.

Ingredients:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups mascarpone cheese
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream (divided)
  • 2 (3 ounce) packages ladyfingers
  • 1/3 cup coffee flavored liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
  • 1 (1 ounce) square semisweet chocolate
 Directions:
  1. Combine egg yolks and sugar; whip until thick and lemon colored, about one minute. Place in top of double boiler over boiling water. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, stirring frequently.
  2. Add mascarpone to whipped yolks. Beat until combined. In a separate bowl, whip *1-3/4 cup* cream to stiff peaks. Gently fold into yolk mixture and set aside.
  3. Split the lady fingers in half, and line the bottom and sides of a large glass bowl or spring-form pan. Brush with coffee liqueur. Spoon half of the cream filling over the lady fingers. Repeat ladyfingers, coffee liqueur and filling layers. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
  4. Top with sweetened whipped cream. Combine 1/2 whipping cream, 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. Whip until stiff peaks form.
  5. Garnish with cocoa. Use a microplane grater or zester to get nice chocolate crumbles. You can also use a vegetable peeler or garlic slicer to shave the chocolate into curls.

Kat’s tip: Make the Tiramisu a day in advance so that it has time to set. I made mine the morning of the party and it 9 hours later it seemed a bit jiggly (although everyone loved it). Dust with cocoa immediately prior to serving for the prettiest presentation.

Kat’s second tip: Mascapone cheese is über expensive. As a substitute you can combine 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1/4 cup sour cream and 2 tablespoons of whipping cream and then mix until blended and fluffy.

 
 

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Homemade Bailey’s Irish Cream – Perfect for Last Minute Gifts

Bottled and ready to give away

There is a very good chance I was a bootlegger in a previous lifetime. I’ve come to this conclusion since I *love* making homemade booze. The best thing about homemade Irish Cream (aside from the incredible taste and relative cost savings), is that you can whip it up and serve it immediately. This is in direct contrast to some of the other hootch I make (Kahlua and Limoncello) which takes a lot of prep time and a month or more to age.

There are a number of recipes on the internet for homemade Bailey’s. Many call for light cream or half and half. I opted to use heavy whipping cream because that was what I had in the fridge. The result is a thick, frothy and decadent elixir that can be enjoyed straight up, over ice, or in coffee. I doubt, now, I would make this any other way. I brought a bottle to my cookie exchange and my gal pals polished most of it off. I can hardly blame them. Can you think of anything more fun on a Saturday afternoon than Christmas cookies and coffee drinks?

I love the Grolsch-style self-sealing bottles like the one pictured. You can buy bottles at many big box stores or World Market but the cost of bottles can add up unless you use empties from your kitchen. If you plan on giving the Irish Cream as a gift (and you have time) you can get better deals by ordering bottles online. Because every good bootlegger needs a source for cheap bottles, I use Sunburst Bottle. For years, they have had the best prices I’ve found.

So, if you’re still on the hunt for novel gifts or if you want to be the toast of your next holiday get-together, this is the recipe for you.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup light or heavy cream
  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk (I used fat-free)
  • 1-2/3 cup Irish whiskey (I used Bushmills)
  • 2 tablespoons Hershey’s chocolate syrup (I used fat-free)
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:

Pour all ingredients in a blender and mix for a minute or two.

Transfer to a bottle with a tight seal and refrigerate. Shake gently before pouring.

Drinkable immediately. Will keep in refrigerator for 30 to 60 days (if it lasts that long).

Kat’s Tip: This recipe is perishable. If you do give bottles away as gifts, make sure you add a label with the expiration date and a reminder to keep the bottle refrigerated tied around the neck with some ribbon!

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2011 in Adult beverages, Holiday

 

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Brigitte’s Home Made Kahlua – A Handy Gift for the Holidays

The bottling process

Kahlua is a trade name, of course, for coffee liqeure. Making your own coffee liqeure is sinfully easy. As with most things from Kat’s Easy Kitchen, the prep time is practically nil. The wait time may try your patience, though. Coffee liqeure takes about a month before its good and ready for imbibing on.

This recipe is definitely thicker and more “inky” than ones I’ve used in the past. The amounts provided below result in two 750 ml (fifths) of finished product. What you see in the picture on the left is what happens when you put the recipe on steroids since my kitchenistas and I wanted enough to give bottles away as client gifts for the holidays.

Even though we elected for pretty, clear bottles for our batch, coffee liqeure benefits from being stored in dark bottles to protect it from light. That’s why Kahlua comes in dark brown bottles. Empty wine bottles are a perfect storage device, especially if you soak off the labels first. If you start now, you’ll have a nice batch to enjoy at the holidays or to give away as gifts.

Handy measurements:

One 750 ml bottle = one fifth = 25 ounces

One 750 ml bottle = three 250 ml bottles

We purchased 250 ml decorative bottles (in the picture above) so the recipe below netted 6 bottles. These bottles are sold in cases of 12. Doubling the recipe will net you enough to fill one case of 250 ml bottles.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz instant coffee
  • 2 cups boiling water (measured after boiling)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups vodka
  • 1 vanilla bean

Directions:

  1. Boil water on stove top. Measure out 2 cups and place in large bowl or pot. Dissolve sugar to create a simple syrup. Add coffee crystals, stirring until completely dissolved.
  2. Place bowl in ice bath or refrigerator until completely cooled. (Pouring vodka into a hot mixture will burn off the alcohol. Let’s face it, that defeats the purpose!)
  3. Once the sugar/coffee mixture is completely cooled, add the vodka. Carefully transfer the fluid into empty bottles. A funnel is very handy to have.
  4. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise in half. Please one half into each bottle.
  5. Cork bottles and store in a dark place for at least 30 days.

Yield: Two 750 ml (fifths) of finished product

Kat’s tip: We stored our brew in larger containers for one month. When we were ready for the bottling, we strained the mixture to capture the vanilla beans and used a funnel to pour the mixture into the smaller, decorative bottles. To avoid overflow, make sure you leave enough room to drop the vanilla beans back in the bottles as a finishing step before corking.

Kat’s second tip: Vanilla beans come in a number of different flavor profiles depending on where they are sourced. We purchased Grade A Bourbon vanilla beans from Beanilla.

Related articles and recipes (besides White Russians):

Chocolate Cavity Maker Cake

Mini Chocolate Tiramusu Cakes

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2011 in Adult beverages, Desserts, Holiday, Scratch cooking

 

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Limoncello Shrimp and Cous Cous

Scampi-style shrimp with mushrooms and Limoncello sauce over a bed of couscous

I make my own limoncello and am always looking for interesting ways to use it. Years ago I cut this recipe out of the circular for our local grocery store, Basha’s. Credit should go to David Larsen of Scottsdale who won a contest with this recipe. I’ve scoured the internet and didn’t find anything else like it.

I was originally fearful that the combination of lemon zest, lemon juice and Limoncello was going to be overpowering. Cooking the Limoncello actually burns off the alcohol which mellows out the flavor. In fact, I was underwhelmed by the flavors in general. I did skip the “flaming” option in lieu of not burning my fingers which may have made a difference. The dish, as published, was a little bland so I made some adjustments.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cups dried couscous
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can mixed vegetables, drained and rinsed
  • 1 quarter cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 pound shrimp, deshelled with tail off
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of mushrooms (I prefer baby bellas)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup Limoncello or vodka
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Bring the water to boil in a medium pan. Stir in the couscous, mixed veggies and cilantro. Bring back to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  2. Remove the shells and tails from the shrimp. Place in a large bowl, sprinkle with flour and toss to coat. Set aside.
  3. Heat butter in a large non-stick frying pan. Add onion, garlic and mushrooms. Saute for several minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  4. Add the shrimp and stir to combine. Cook for about 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the lemon zest and Limoncello or vodka.
  6. Stir in the lemon juice, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer several minutes until the sauce thickens slightly and the shrimp is cooked/heated through.
  7. Place the couscous on a platter and spoon the shrimp and sauce in the middle. Sprinkle with aged cheese. Garnish with additional cilantro and lemon wedges, if desired.

Kat’s tip: Because shrimp cooks up fairly quickly, you can use raw shrimp or pre-cooked shrimp with equal results. If using frozen, it should be thawed first.

Kat’s second tip: If you’re really daring you can try flaming the shrimp after you pour the Limoncello in the pan; this will burn off the alcohol and leave with you a pleasantly sweet lemon flavor. I didn’t do this because I couldn’t find my grill lighter and I was afraid of burning my fingers using a regular Bic lighter. If you opt to flame the shrimp, remove the pan from the heat. Carefully light the pan to flame the shrimp and wait until the flame has burned out before returning the pan to heat. Make sure there is nothing above or around the pan that could catch fire.

Serves four

Nutritional information – values per serving are approximate:

Calories 471.9 Total Fat 8.6g Cholesterol 209.9mg Sodium 544.6mg Potassium 631.9mg Total Carbohydrate 61.9g  Protein 32.5g

Inspiration: Basha’s Fresh is Best circa 2007 – my compliments to David Larsen of Scottsdale

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Adult beverages, Grains

 

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Mini Chocolate Tiramisu Cakes

Bite size morsels of chocolaty goodness

As long as we’re on the topic of sweets from yesterday’s post…especially sweets that include coffee liqueur (aka Kahlua) here is another tried and true recipe. Since I make my own coffee liqueur this recipe seems to call to me. Prior to signing up with Pampered Chef and getting the 24-cup mini muffin pan in my kit, I actually owned a 12-cup tin. The first time I made this, I cut the batter in half and successfully baked two batches of 12 muffins.

Before proceeding I will say that there were a few minor incidents in the making of the cakes. Incident 1: I didn’t read the ingredients, directions or cook’s tip at the bottom closely enough so I bought a standard size box of devil’s food cake (which is about twice as much as the recipe calls for). Not wanting to waste any, I eyeballed about half and then had enough cake mix to make 2 batches. Although it turned out to be slightly less that what is called for in the Cook’s Tip at the bottom, no one could tell. On a side rant, it irritates me that food manufacturers are shrinking the amounts of food in the packages. Nowadays, a pound is no longer a pound; its 14.5 ounces. More than likely there was a day when the Devil’s Food cake mix box would have had enough in it to make two batches according to the recipe. Grrrr.

Anyway, back to more pleasant thoughts and sweet indulgences. Incident 2 occurred when I followed the directions below and tried to fill a plastic bag with whipped topping so that I could “pipe” it on top of the muffins. FAIL! What a mess that turned out to be. Save yourself the time and effort and just buy whipped topping in a can. One spritz and you have a lovely little topper on each morsel. Incident 2a happened when I got over eager about the whipped cream and added the topping WAY too soon before serving. What started as beautiful little puffs of whipped cream turned into less attractive, albeit still delicious, blobs in the fridge (as evidenced by the photo). Lesson learned…top with whipped cream immediately before serving for the best presentation.

Treat yourself with these decadent mini cakes which are paired with a melt in your mouth filling for an impressive dessert.

Ingredients:

Cakes

  • 1 small pkg (9 oz) devil’s food cake mix
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/3 cup coffee liqueur (see Cook’s Tip)

Filling & Topping

  • 1 1/2 cups thawed frozen whipped topping (from a can is easiest)
  • 8 oz mascarpone or cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp  vanilla extract
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray cups of Deluxe Mini-Muffin Pan with nonstick cooking spray. For cakes, combine cake mix, sour cream, egg, coffee granules and water in Classic Batter Bowl; mix using Small Mix ‘N Scraper®. Divide batter evenly among cups of pan. Bake 8–10 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean.
  2. Meanwhile, place whipped topping into large resealable plastic bag; secure and set aside. For filling, combine cheese, sugar and vanilla in clean batter bowl; mix until smooth using clean scraper. Place filling into an additional resealable plastic bag; secure and set aside.
  3. Remove pan from oven to Stackable Cooling Rack. Press tops of cakes with lightly floured Mini-Tart Shaper to make slight indentations; cool 2 minutes. Remove cakes from pan to cooling rack. Brush tops with coffee liqueur using Chef’s Silicone Basting Brush; cool completely.
  4. Trim corners of both bags. Pipe filling over cakes. Pipe whipped topping over filling. Sprinkle with cocoa powder, if desired.

Cook’s Tips: If desired, 1 2/3 cups of devil’s food cake mix from an 18.25-oz package can be used for this recipe.

To substitute coffee liqueur, combine 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup  sugar, 1 tbsp instant coffee granules and 1 tsp rum extract in (1-cup) Prep Bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 1–2 minutes or until sugar is dissolved; cool.

Yield: 24 cakes

Nutrients per serving: (1 cake): Calories 120, Total Fat 7 g, Saturated Fat 4 g, Cholesterol 20 mg, Carbohydrate 12 g, Protein 2 g, Sodium 105 mg, Fiber 0 g

Source: The Pampered Chef Season’s Best Fall/Winter 200 Recipe Collection

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2011 in Adult beverages, Desserts, Holiday

 

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Chocolate Cavity Maker Cake

Dry ingredients, recipe and bottle of homemade coffee liquere in Pampered Chef Batter Bowl

Yesterday I was writing a post, which has yet to be published, about my inspiration for growing mint. It all started when I was planning a dinner party last winter. My goal was a rich chocolate cake and when I found this recipe, I decided that mint-infused whipped cream would be an awesome addition. On a side note, my family totally disagreed with this and voted for plain, unadulterated whipped cream which is why none of them was invited to the dinner (kidding!)

Presentation is everything, so to garnish the cake I purchased raspberries and fresh mint (both of which are enormously expensive in December.) Hence my decision to grow mint. I have a very happy plant on my window sill as we speak.

Fast forward to today when I needed to come up with a creative donation for a bottle auction of my local women’s group. With visions of chocolate cake and mint dancing in my head I decided to create the “basket” pictured in this post. I included the recipe (spelled out below), the dry ingredients and a pretty bottle of my home brewed coffee liqeure in a Pampered Chef Batter Bowl.

The cake was easy to make and totally delicious. As previously mentioned, I served it with mint infused whipped cream (see below). One of my guests brought a bottle of port; the combination of port and rich chocolate cake was somewhat addictive.

Ingredients

  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package dark chocolate cake mix
  • 1 (3.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup coffee flavored liqeure
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, eggs, oil and coffee liqueur. Beat until ingredients are well blended. Fold in chocolate chips. Batter will be thick. Spoon into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until cake springs back when lightly tapped. Cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn out and cool completely on wire rack.

Mint Infused Whipped Cream

  • one pint of heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of mint extract
  • Drop or 2 vanilla

Transfer all ingredients to a bowl. Use an electric mixer with beaters or immersion blender to whip the mint until it stiffens up. Cover and keep cold until ready to serve. Use within 2 or 3 days.

Serves 12

Nutritional information: not provided because I’m pretty sure we don’t really want to know

Source: Chocolate Cavity Maker Cake on www.allrecipes.com

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2011 in Adult beverages, Desserts, Holiday

 

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Kat’s Favorite Sangria

This pitcher of Sangria will undoubtedly disappear fast

My sister and I were out at [insert chain restaurant here] one Saturday afternoon when the waiter suggested we sample their Sangia. Immediately we were hooked. This led to a Sangria taste test, of sorts, while we tried to replicate the recipe. Did we like OJ or no OJ? Pineapple or no pineapple? Sprite vs ginger ale?

A lesson I learned early on is not to cook with wine you don’t like; adding it to a recipe is not going to endear it to you any differently and will just turn you off of the finished result. Case in point, I tried to make white wine sangria with a Gewurztraminer that I didn’t love. Sadly, I didn’t love it any more by camouflaging it with other ingredients. When possible, I use Yellow Tail Shiraz Grenache; the grenache adds a nice sweetness to the Sangria without being overbearing. Be prepared to double or triple this recipe because basically it’s just a (very yummy) doctored up bottle of wine which will go REALLY fast and have people begging for more.

So, after a pleasant number of attempts, I give you what has become hands down the number one favorite recipe for me and my friends.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium all purpose apple, pared, cored and sliced (I used green apples)
  • 1 cup pitted cherries, fresh berries or grapes (whatever is in season)
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks*
  • 3/4 cup brandy
  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle dry red wine
  • 1 (12 ounce) can ginger ale to taste
  • 1 cup orange juice to taste
  • 1 orange – for garnish

Place the apples, berries or other fruit, and pineapple in a pitcher. Pour in the brandy and refrigerate for 2 hours or more (I usually “marinate” mine overnight.) Stir or shake periodically. Simultaneously chill the red wine, ginger ale, and orange juice. Gently crush the fruits with a spoon, then stir in the red wine, ginger ale, and orange juice. Add additional brandy or orange juice to taste. Slice the orange into thin rounds and use as garnish on the glass.

Kat’s tip: I absolutely am in love with my Pampered Chef Pineapple Wedger. Fresh, clean and cored pineapple is only minutes away without the mess and aggravation of using knives to “peel” the pineapple. Let me know if you can’t live without one and I’ll put an order in for you!

Shopping: http://www.pamperedchef.com/ordering/prod_details.tpc?prodId=26431&words=pineapple

Nutritional information – values per serving are approximate:

I’m not going to ruin a pleasant day thinking about calories! Let’s just say that having fruit in your cocktail has to give it some health benefits (wink, wink).

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Adult beverages, Holiday

 

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Limonello di Kat’s Cucina

Finished product bottled in different sizes for gifts.

I have a very happy lemon tree in my backyard. Several years ago I had a fertilizer plug inserted in the trunk and now the tree gives me bushels of juicy lemons every spring. Using up said lemons can be a challenging quest. By making limoncello I have found a way for the fruit to do double duty and solidified my rock star status at dinner parties. I can zest or peel the lemons and then juice the naked fruit.

I first had limoncello at a local Italian restaurant where they proudly only used “backyard” lemons to make the brew. Since my first taste, I knew that I could be using my own backyard lemons so I’ve been making the liquere for several years now. There are only a few steps o the recipe but its not something you should plan on drinking immediately. Limoncello made with grain alcohol is definitely a drink that improves with age.

My sister has a grapefruit tree so I see Pompelmocello (grapefruit liqueur) in my future too. I’ve researched countless websites; the basic recipe to “cello” anything is pretty much the same.

What you’ll need:

  • 15-20 backyard lemons
  • 2 750 ml bottles of vodka or grain alcohol or a combination of the two
  • Containers with lids
  • Sharp peeler
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 cups sugar

Directions:

homemade lemon liquere

Ingredients for Step 1

Carefully scrub and rinse the lemons. It’s better to use organic or backyard lemons because you’re using the peel. Store bought lemons have pesticides and wax buildup on them that are:

  1. hard to remove and
  2. if not removed will end in your drink (eww).
Homemade lemon liquere

Sharp peelers are a must

homemade lemon liquere

Thin strips with as little pith as possible

Some recipes call for peeling strips and some call for zesting the lemon. Personally I’ve had great success using peels. It seems much quicker than zesting and, in the end, less messy. Use a sharp vegetable or potato peeler and peel only the outer zest from the fruit. Be careful not to get a lot of the white pith or it will make the final product bitter. Some white is unavoidable so use caution but don’t fret too much during the peeling process.

Peels and alcohol in self-sealing container

Place the zest in a large jar. Pour in alcohol and seal tightly. I’ve used plastic pitchers and sun tea containers with equal success. Let sit in a dark place (like a closet) for anywhere from 10 to 45 days. I’ve read that grain alcohol will leach the flavor from the peels faster than vodka will. If you’re using vodka, prepare to let the mixture sit for longer. You’ll know the process is complete when the peels have dulled in color and have a “crisp” texture to them. A test strip should snap in half easily.

Now comes the fun part. Strain the peels and discard them. Filter the infused alcohol in a colander lined with coffee filters. Be prepared to filter three to four times or you’ll end up with an ugly sediment in your bottles.

In the meantime, bring the water to a boil and dissolve the sugar. Let the mixture cool completely or you run the risk of burning off the alcohol (which, lets face it, defeats the purpose of the exercise altogether).

Something about adding simple syrup turns this into a creamy delight to behold

When the simple syrup is cooled to room temp slowly add it to the filtered alcohol and watch the magic unfurl. What previously looked like a biological specimen will bloom into a beautiful, pale creamy yellow color. Batches made with vodka produce a more golden color. Vodka based “cello” is not as pretty but it mellows quicker which means you can drink it sooner.

Transfer the completed mixture into smaller bottles and let sit for at least another 2 to 4 weeks. The longer the brew “ages”, the more mellow the liqueur will become. This is good because batches made with 100% grain alcohol can take your breath away (or make you feel like you could light your breath on fire) in the beginning. My lemon tree produces fruit in the spring. If I start the process then that means I’m completing the process in early summer. By the holidays the ‘cello has been sitting for 6 months and has mellowed considerably.

Store Limoncello in the freezer and serve ice cold.

Limoncello links I love:

http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/notes/food/dh_limoncello.htm

http://whatscookingamerica.net/Beverage/Limoncello.htm

http://www.italylogue.com/food-drink/limoncello-recipe-in-pictures.html

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2011 in Adult beverages

 

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