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A Toast to 2012! (and a happy new year!)


I’m sneaking in one last post of 2012!  There is too much to reflect on here in this moment, but for the next few hours, I am celebrating all of what 2012 had to offer…and truly looking forward to an amazing 2013!

Let’s be honest, this particular evening…there is a good chance you have a drink in your hand and you are surrounded by friends and family.  Of course we will be popping a bottle of bubbly at midnight, but we are starting off the evening with one as well, accompanied by some Homemade Cranberry Vodka!

This process began about a month ago, with no recipe but a lot of internet research and it is very simple.

Housemade Cranberry Infused Vodka

1.  Buy cheap vodka.  (seriously, no need to buy the good stuff…the flavors you’ll infuse it with make up for any harshness straight out of the bottle)

2.  Use the extra bags of cranberries you had leftover from an overly ambitious thanksgiving.

3.  Pick through the cranberries to remove any that are soft or squishy and rinse them well.

4.  Toss them in a ziplock bag and use something heavy to smash them and pop them open.  I didn’t bother making sure that every single one had popped.  I gave it a good couple whacks, shook the bag around and whacked them a few more times.

5.  Using a funnel, or parchment rolled into a cone, put all the smushed cranberries into a clean, washed out, old juice bottle.

6.  Pour vodka in the bottle all the way to the top.  Now stash it away in a cool and dark(ish) location.  Shake the bottle at least once a day for the first week or so and then leave to steep for at least 3 weeks.

7.  Once the vodka has turned a deep red color, strain out all the cranberries and any small pieces…cheesecloth or a coffee filter work very well…and pour into a clean bottles, mason jars, etc.  The vodka should keep very well, especially in the freezer.

Now it’s time for the exciting part!

I haven’t settled on an official title for this drink…perhaps a New Year’s Sunset?  I’m open to thoughts and ideas!

Pour 1 oz. of cranberry vodka into the bottom of a flute.

Add in one dropper full of bitters.  We’re currently using Urban Moonshine Citrus Bitters, which was a gift from my brother’s in-laws a year or so ago.

Next…pop the champagne…which was actually a Cava from Trader Joe’s.  There are plenty of reviews out there…and they all say the same thing…a very good bubbly for the price-point.  In fact, the Carte Noire M. Chevalier Brut was recommended to me by a nice older gentleman in the aisle of TJ’s while searching for a decent bubbly for a party that wouldn’t break the bank.  He told a long story of a blind tasting, where everyone settled on this one as their favorite of the evening and were truly shocked when they revealed the bottle and saw the price of $6 a bottle!

Top with Cava and just a dash of simple syrup to even out the tannins in the cranberries.

Put a little twist of citrus on the rim of the glass and you are ready to start the celebrations!

Christmas Eve we created another festive cocktail with our homemade cranberry vodka.

Cranberry Pimm’s Cup
(for 2 short drinks)

2 oz. housemade cranberry vodka
1 oz. Pimm’s #1 Cup
1 dropper full of Urban Moonshine Citrus Bitters
2-3 oz. of Sprite

Shake over ice and pour into two martini glasses!

Cheers to 2012!

Ready or not…Here comes 2013!

(please celebrate safely!)

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Pumpkin Pecan Biscotti


Pumpkin Pecan Biscotti are an annual tradition for us. It would not be autumn without pumpkin cookies and my husband is a sucker for biscotti.  Also…I’m guessing that you’ve got an extra can or two of pumpkin lying around from Thanksgiving.  These biscotti are perfect as it seems just a teensy bit too early for christmas cookies – it’s barely December!

Full disclosure…original recipe comes from my family cookbook and stops a few steps short of making biscotti.   I love the original pumpkin cookie, which turn out a bit cakey and only get better the second and third day.  Feel free to make those as well – only difference is you spoon the batter into dollops on the sheet pan – they end up looking a bit like scones!  We came up with the biscotti idea as Woody prefers crunchy cookies…not cakey ones!

1½ cups brown sugar
½ solid shortening (crisco)
2 eggs
1 lb. canned pumpkin (I’ve gotten away with the 14.5 oz. can)
2¾ cups flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground ginger
1 cup pecans, chopped (or more)

Preheat the oven to 400° F.  Mix sugar, shortening, eggs and pumpkin thoroughly.

Mix dry ingredients and add to pumpkin mixture; blend well.

Chop the pecans and fold in to combine.

I like my biscotti pretty nutty!

Pour and scrape the batter into two logs on a parchment lined half-sheet pan.

Using a spatula, flatten out the batter so the biscotti loaves will cook evenly.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the tops are just beginning to brown.  You want the loaves to be cooked through, otherwise slicing them cleanly will be difficult and gooey, but not so cooked that they will burn when you put them back in the oven!

Once removed from the oven, let them cool completely (they will smell really good…and it will be very difficult to not nibble the edges)!

When the loaves are cool, gently lift onto a cutting board and slice in 1/3 to 1/2 inch slices.

Lay the slices sideways on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 325º for 25 to 35 minutes.  I know that is not very specific, however, this is the part of the recipe that takes a bit of experience to get it right.  You want to dry out the biscotti without toasting them too much – so think low temperature for longer.  Every oven is different and you could probably do this at 250º for much longer.  It is also important to note that they might not seem done when you remove them from the oven, but remember that as they cool…steam (i.e. moisture) is escaping and they will continue to dry as they cool.

Cool the finished biscotti completely before storing them in any airtight container.  Serve up with a steamy cup of coffee and enjoy at all hours of the day!

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-y8Bn8yy5wCo/Tuhhkg81j0I/AAAAAAAAOiQ/1T3fI8mVJMU/s504/IMG_7969.jpg

Okay…now it is on to the next holiday…Christmas, OF COURSE!

 

 

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