Mulled Wine Poached Pears

Well, Christmas is over. And so begins that terrible part of the year where the rest of winter drags on without any of the festive holiday stuff. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Just because the holidays are technically over doesn’t mean we can’t keep enjoying some of the things that are typically reserved for December. And by “some of the things,” I mean mulled wine. Obviously.

So, is leftover mulled wine a thing? It tends to be for me, but I suspect that might just be thanks to my insistence on making it in such large quantities. If you have some too, then great! Use it up with this. If an elf snuck in and drank all your wine, or if you never made it to begin with, you can just make a new batch with the recipe below.

You also probably have some extra pears hanging around from a giant box a long distance relative sent you, right? I’ll assume yes. Here’s a great use for them.

Continue reading Mulled Wine Poached Pears

Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

So, I know Thanksgiving is still a couple days away. And yes yes, most of you have the whole thing about not “skipping over a whole holiday” and doing Christmas too early. But excuse me. Target has had Christmas stuff out for like a month and a half now, and I spend about half my life at Target. So, yeah, I’m ready for Christmas.

And you know what the best part of Christmas is? The cookies. Although I would also have accepted family, gifts, lights, music, hot chocolate, fireplaces, drinking or general merriness, if only that had fit into what I’m building to here. That’s right, gingerbread! Continue reading Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

Caramel Apple Cider Bread

Almost exactly 2 years ago, I posted a recipe I created in order to use up extra hard cider, and to satisfy my love of bread. I would still recommend you try that recipe, since it remains one of my favorites. But I have now updated it with a sweeter variation, fitting of the candy-centric Halloween holiday.

I once again worked with the wonderful Marie Teckmyer of Happy Hour Collection to bring you a collaborative food and cocktail pairing. We wanted to do something to combine the ideas of candy, apples, and a fun, darker element that would really work well for any Halloween parties you may be hosting, as well as for the fall season in general. Both of our recipes begin with the same homemade caramel sauce.

Continue reading Caramel Apple Cider Bread

Smoked Maple Bacon Popcorn

Happy International Bacon Day! In honor of this magical day for people around the globe, Marie Teckmyer, owner of Happy Hour Collection, and I have collaborated to bring you recipes utilizing this much beloved icon of the pork world.

If you’ve ever made caramel corn, you know that it’s easy to make and that, more importantly, it usually yields a ton. The caramel itself can be a little tricky if you’ve never made it before, but this recipe skips that step, making it even easier. Thanks to the sugar found in maple syrups, you can actually substitute it for the water and the sugar (and typically vanilla) you would usually use for a caramel. It will still look and taste like traditional caramel corn, except it has the additional subtle flavors of maple and, in this case, smoke. 

I got the syrup I used in this recipe from Marie’s store here in Cleveland called Happy Hour Collection. If you’re from the area I would definitely recommend going in to pick some up, because you’ll probably find several other things you didn’t even know you needed in your life. At least, I always do.

If you aren’t close to Cleveland you can still buy the syrup online here. I quickly became a little obsessed with it and have been trying to use it in everything lately.  Marie actually has a recipe for a bacon old fashioned on her blog that uses this syrup. She also has a great explanation of fat-washing alcohols, so if you’ve never tried that before check out her post to find out how to do it. Fat-washing is pretty easy and gives you a lot of room for creativity in your cocktail making. Continue reading Smoked Maple Bacon Popcorn

Chocolate and Smoked Chili Ice Cream

For once, the food kick I’m on is actually timed well seasonally. In fairness, though, it might have something to do with the combination of my huge sweet tooth and my unfortunate lack of air conditioning.

Today (June 7th) is actually National Chocolate Ice Cream Day, conveniently. (Don’t worry, there’s also a less specific Ice Cream Day in July) So let’s take this opportunity to kick off the beginning of ice cream season.

This recipe uses cocktail bitters to add a subtle warm depth to traditional chocolate ice cream. Bitters doesn’t show up in food recipes too often for some reason, but it’s pretty useful for bringing a wide variety of new flavorings to things that extracts can’t. This particular flavor is the Smoked Chili Bitters from the brand Hella Bitters. I’m sure if you can more easily find a similar flavor from another brand it would work just as well.

As with all of my ice cream recipes, this does not require a machine or any churning. You’ll probably see me using the same base for several more ice cream recipes this summer. It’s becoming a popular one, and it is a good one to know, since you can adapt it so easily.

Continue reading Chocolate and Smoked Chili Ice Cream

Cucumber Mint Cooler

As usual, the recipes I share are based around the ingredients I have been hung up on lately. This time, it is the humble cucumber.

You know how cucumber water is somehow like a thousand times more refreshing than normal water? I’ll assume you do. I wanted to make a spring/summer cocktail with that same freshness, but of course with the important inclusion of alcohol. Summer cocktails are right up there with watermelon and barbecue in my book.

I will admit that this isn’t the simplest of cocktail recipes. That, for the most part, is because I only halfway believe that muddling is the most effective way of incorporating flavors into a drink. So instead of just squishing a chunk of cucumber around in a glass, this recipe does require a puree. That said, it still takes around 5-minutes to make, it just won’t be ideal for guests to have to make themselves at any grilling parties.

The minimal effort is also well worth it, when you can sit back and beat the heat with cool cucumber and a refreshing fizz to your cocktail.

You will need:

  • 1/3 cup chopped cucumber (peeling is up to your preference)
  • 1 Tbs lime juice
  • 1 Tbs simple syrup
  • Around 6 mint leaves
  • 3 oz cucumber vodka*
  • 8 oz club soda

*Due to my aforementioned cucumber obsession, I actually own a huge bottle of cucumber vodka. If you’re interested, I use the Effen brand. If cucumber vodka isn’t something you want to commit to, you can always just infuse vodka with a few cucumber slices for a few hours, or even just use plain vodka.

The quantities in this recipe, like in a lot of my recipes, don’t need to be followed exactly. Drinks at home are pretty easy to eyeball or to adapt to different quantities. These quantities are for a large glass like the one in the photo.

After you’ve chopped up your cucumber, add it, the lime juice, simple syrup and mint leaves to a blender. I’ve also found that it saves me the trouble of washing my entire blender if I just use my immersion blender and a separate cup. Blend until smooth, then strain to remove any solid bits. You should be left with roughly 2 oz of liquid.

If you were to make these for a party, you could just increase the amounts and      do this part in advance. You could just fill a pour bottle with the cucumber liquid and include it and a little instruction card at your bar. Although, do people, really have cocktail parties with a “house cocktail” anymore? Or is that just something cooking shows and magazines have convinced me is something real adults do? Either way, you do you.

For the cocktail assembly, add 2 ounces of the cucumber mint puree to a glass, followed by ice, the vodka and the club soda. Since the club soda is fizzy I usually don’t see a need to shake or stir the components together; it kind of does it on its own.

You’ll see in the photo that when I make this drink I like to add even more cumber in the form of extra slices and a garnish. Extra sprigs of mint also make for nice-looking garnishes.


P.S. That pulp that you strained out of the puree? I used to just throw it away, but if you are a stickler for food waste, you can add some olive oil to it and use it as a sweet and tangy cucumber mint salad dressing.