Kumquat Gin & Tonic/Kumquat Tonic

KumquatG&T

Something I enjoy is creating cocktails and recently I made what I thought was a perfect Gin & Tonic … with kumquats! I won’t say that it is “the” perfect Gin & Tonic, because that all depends on what one is in the mood for and on one’s personal taste. (I, also happen to be a fan of Day Lily Gin Tonics for after working in the garden on a sticky hot early summer afternoon.)

Kumquats are very tart, as are limes, so they are a substitute for a squeeze of lime. But they are also sweet enough to eat, so one can consume them after finishing the drink.

Anyhow, here is what you need:

  • a good gin, one that you really like – I used Caorunn
  • chilled tonic water, one that actually has both fizz and flavor, e.g. Canada Dry in small glass bottles (a tart “soda”, e.g. San Pellegrino Limonata, can be substituted for those who like a slightly stronger sweet-tart cocktail)
  • several kumquats, sliced not too thin and not too thick
  • ice

Place the ice and the kumquat slice in a glass. Stir. Pour in gin to your desired strength (approximately a 1:3 gin to tonic ratio is my preference). Top with tonic. Enjoy! Share with friends over the upcoming holiday weekend! Cheers!

A quick note on tonics: if your tonic is flat or flavorless, it will ruin the drink, as will it if your tonic isn’t chilled because the ice cubes will melt too quickly.

When entertaining and serving cocktails, it is important to have fun alcohol-free beverages as well. For a pleasant mocktail, let’s call it a Kumquat Tonic, skip the gin, use the San Pellegrino Limonata (or something similar); don’t skimp on the kumquats … and use a lime slice for garnish. Very colorful and pleasant for hot weather! Again, cheers!

Either way … a delightful way to kick off summer! Best to you …

 

Blood Orange Lemonade for the Season(s)

I  usually think of lemonade as a summer libation, but we have been having unseasonably warm weather and the citrus fruits at the market have been so good, that making lemonade in the middle of winter seemed like a brilliant idea. So with a bag of lemons and a bag of blood oranges in the ‘fridge, I was all set. Yum, yum! Oh, and it is so pretty.

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Blood Orange Lemonade

1 1/2 c. fresh squeezed blood orange juice

1 1/2 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice*

1 c. raw sugar (turbinado sugar)

4 c. cold water

Pour the juices into a 2-qt. glass pitcher. Combine the sugar and water in a medium size pot and heat, stirring frequently until sugar is completely dissolved. Carefully pour syrup in juice blend.* Stir. Chill until serving. Serve over ice.

*If you are worried about the relative strength or sweetness of your lemonade, you can add the syrup in stages, tasting along the way.

BloodOrangeLemonade

Cheers to you!

In season or not, we’re enjoying Blood Orange Lemonade at The Morning Star today!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Seasons.

Orange Carrot Soup

A light, but flavorful and warming soup to start your new year!

OrangeCarrotSoup

Orange Carrot Soup

4-6 Servings

Ingredients

3 T. extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 c. diced yellow onion

salt

fresh ground pepper

2 T. semi-dry white wine, divided

4 c. diced, peeled carrots

2 t. smoked paprika

1 t. ground cinnamon

4 c. vegetable (or chicken) broth or bouillon*, divided

3 T. honey, divided

1 – 1 1/4 c. fresh-squeezed orange juice, to taste

zest from one of the oranges (use a course-textured zester)

croutons or Greek yogurt, optional

*I use 2 “Not-Chick’n” bouillon cubes dissolved in 4 c. boiling water. “Not-Chick’n” can be found in the organic foods section of many grocery stores.

Directions

  1. Place 1 T. of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion, a dash of salt, a twist of fresh ground pepper, and about 1 T. of the wine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is crisp-tender and translucent. Transfer to a stock pot.
  2. Place remaining 2 T. of the olive oil in the large skillet. Add carrots, paprika and cinnamon. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Transfer to the stock pot containing the onions.
  3. Add enough of the broth to the stock pot to almost cover carrots. Stir. Cover and cook over medium heat until carrots are tender enough to purée but are not mushy, about 15 minutes. Stir in 2 T. of the honey.
  4. Purée mixture with a stick blender – or transfer mixture to a food processor or blender to purée until almost perfectly smooth, then transfer mixture back to stock pot.
  5. Stir orange juice and remaining 1 T. of wine into carrot mixture, then thin soup to desired consistency with the remaining broth. Stir in orange zest. Taste. If necessary adjust flavor using honey, wine, orange juice, or salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for about 10 more minutes before serving to blend flavors.
  6. Stir soup before serving. Serve in small cups as a starter or light lunch – or in soup bowls for a heavier meal. If desired, garnish with croutons or a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Enjoy! Happy New Year!

Happy New Year’s Eve (with a Mocktail & a Cocktail)

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Wishing all of my followers a healthy, happy, and inspiring 2015!

Here is a mocktail recipe and a cocktail recipe as we get ready to celebrate, with thanks, all of the good things in the year that has passed – and to toast, with joy and hopefulness, the year to come.

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Berry Happy New Year (Mocktail)

Place a scoop of raspberry sorbet in the bottom of a Champagne glass. Add 3 fresh black berries. Top with flavored sparkling water.

Enjoy!

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Sgroppino

Place a scoop of lemon sorbet and of limoncello sorbet in the bottom of a Champagne Glass.* Add a splash of vodka and top off with Prosecco. Enjoy!

• Sgroppini are traditionally made with lemon sorbet, vodka and Processco, but since I always make limoncello sorbet around the holidays – when I make homemade limoncello – I like to add a little limoncello sorbet to my Sgroppini. Sgroppini can also be blended for a slushy drink.

Happy New Year’s Eve! Happy New Year to Everyone!

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If you entertain for New Year’s Eve, please make sure that no one who drinks will be driving.

Old Fashioned Christmas (Cocktail)

Inspired by classic bourbon cocktails such as the Old Fashioned, this cocktail has been spruced up for Christmas but still retains a pleasing balance between bitter, sweet, fruity and bourbon flavors. Cheers!

Old Fashioned Christmas

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Ingredients

2 oz. Woodford Reserve or other good bourbon whiskey

1 oz. Pallini Raspicello Liqueur

1 oz. Travis Hasse’s Apple Pie Liqueur

4 dashes Angostura Bitters

ice, for shaking

lemon peel, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add bourbon, liqueurs and bitters. Cover and shake well –  to mix ingredients, to chill the drink and to allow a little of the ice to melt. Strain into a decorative martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel and serve.

Happy Holidays!

Spiced Mexican Wedding Cookies

When baking an assortment of cookies for the holidays, it is nice to have both a variety of shapes and of flavors. Mexican Wedding Cookies are small, buttery, nut cookies, rolled in sugar that provide a contrast to drop cookies and to cut-out cookies in shape and provide contrast to chocolatey and to fruity cookies in flavor. This version, with spices mixed into the rolling sugar is both flavorful and aromatic. I made this batch last night and loved the way that they made the kitchen smell. Added bonuses are that these cookies are easy to make keep well for gift-giving. Enjoy!
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Spiced Mexican Wedding Cookies

Makes about 32

Mexican Wedding Cookies – also known as Russian Tea Cakes, Italian Tea Cakes, Snowball Cookies, and Butter Balls, and probably a dozen other names – are a traditional Christmas cookie  in the United States. They are buttery cookies made with ground nuts, baked, and then rolled in confectioner’s sugar. In this version, aromatic cinnamon and cloves are added to the sugar.

• 1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened

• 2 T. confectioner’s sugar + 1/2 c. extra for rolling cookies

• 1 t. vanilla extract, or almond extract (if using almonds), or hazelnut extract (if using hazelnuts)*

• 1 c. all-purpose flour

• 1 c. pecans, walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts, very finely chopped or pulsed in the food processor to the texture of coarse kosher salt

• 1 t. ground Vietnamese cinnamon

• 1/4 t. ground cloves

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 T. of the confectioner’s sugar and the vanilla extract. On lowest speed, beat in flour and then nuts. The mixture will be very crumbly.
  3. Spoon a small about (about 1 heaping teaspoon) of mixture into one of your palms. Squeeze lightly until the mixture holds together then shape into a ball. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining mixture, spacing the balls well apart on the 2 baking sheets.
  4. Bake for about 11 to 13 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned on the bottom. The tops of the cookies will be very pale. Place baking sheets on wire racks and allow cookies to cool.
  5. Once cool, whisk the spices into the remaining 1/2 c. of confectioner’s sugar. Roll the cookies in confectioner’s sugar mixture until well coated. Once you have rolled all of the cookies once, roll them in the mixture again until you have used all of it. To avoid getting finger prints in the cookies, transfer cookies to a serving plate or a storage container using a fork to lift them.

Enjoy! Happy Holidays!

North Pole Cupcakes

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These festive, chocolatey-peppermint, cheesecake cupcakes are easy to make with a food processor and can be made ahead of time and frozen so that you have them on hand for holiday company or surprise visitors – that is, unless a certain someone in your house likes to sneak into the freezer and eat them as is. You might need to make extras!  Enjoy!

North Pole Cupcakes

An easy to make, festive treat for the winter holiday season!

makes 12

Ingredients

• 12 Mint Oreo cookies (or gluten-free sandwich-style cookies)

• 2/3 c. granulated white sugar

• 16 miniature peppermint candy canes, divided

• 1/4 c. dark chocolate chips

• 16 oz. cream cheese, softened

• 1/4 c. sour cream

• 2 lg. eggs

• 1 T. chocolate liqueur

• 1/2 t. mint extract

• whipped cream for topping (canned is ok)

• shaved chocolate, chocolate sprinkles, sugar pearls, or sugar sprinkles for garnish

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with muffin papers. Place one cookie in the center of each muffin paper.  (The cookies will be a little smaller than the bottom of the muffin cups, but the cookies puff out during baking.)

2. Unwrap 4 of the candy canes and break candy into small pieces (should be about 1 T.). Using a large food processor, process sugar and broken candy canes until they are crushed to a fine consistency. Add chocolate chips and process until the chips are finely crushed. Add cream cheese and process until smooth. Scrape down bowl. Add sour cream and process until smooth. Scrape down bowl. Add eggs, chocolate liqueur, and mint extract. Process or beat until well blended and perfectly smooth. Scrape down bowl.

3. Divide cheesecake batter between muffin cups, filling to the top, but not over the top. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cheesecake batter is puffy and set in the middle. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. (The cupcakes will sink in the middle as they cool and don’t look very pretty until garnished.)

4. Once completely cool, cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. (Once cooled, muffins can be removed from the baking pan, placed in a plastic container, covered tightly, and frozen until shortly before serving. If no one sneaks into the freezer to eat them, cupcakes should keep for about 1 month.)

5. Serve cold. (If frozen, remove cupcakes from freezer shortly before serving – about 15 minutes. When ready to serve, remove muffin papers. Garnish each cupcake with whipped cream, shaved chocolate or other decorations, and an unwrapped candy cane. Enjoy! Happy Holidays!

Variation: Instead of whipped cream, top with chocolate ganache or chocolate buttercream flavored with peppermint.