Bay Lime Cooler

Here’s a refreshing summer cocktail that uses my Bay Leaf Liqueur.  It’s a balanced sweet/tart flavor, fabulously aromatic with bay and lime mint over a base of gin.

Bay Lime Cooler

sprigs of lime mint, fresh from my garden

I love growing scents in my garden — and lime mint is unique, in that it doesn’t smell minty.  Instead it’s more green, limey and herbal.  You may substitute a strip of lime zest if you can’t find lime mint.  Enjoy!

Bay Lime Cooler
(serves two)

3 oz Gin
1 1/2 oz Bay Leaf Liqueur
a big sprig of lime mint, or strip of lime zest
1/2 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
ice for mixing
crushed ice
(bay leaf and lime slice optional garnish)

Give the lime mint a gentle squeeze, and place in shaker.  Add the gin, bay liqueur, lime juice, and ice.  Shake for 20 seconds, or until cocktail is very cold.  Strain into two glasses over crushed ice, garnishing with lime slice and bay leaf, if desired.

Rose Drop

My beautiful Gertrude Jekyll rose is about to bloom — time for a Rose Drop.  This recipe was recently featured in the May 2017 Sunset magazine.  Enjoy!

For me, the garden is a place of deep inspiration for my cooking.  I have a beautiful rose bush* — right now in full bloom with deep pink, fragrant blossoms.  A few years ago, while weeding alongside this righteous proclamation of Spring, I envisioned a cocktail — the Rose Drop.

I imagined the luscious scent of my rose concentrated in one beautiful cocktail.  After a bit of tinkering, I was rewarded with a lovely surprise when I infused the petals of this rose, which I reveal to you in the recipe below.  Enjoy!

Gertrude Jekyll Rose

Gertrude Jekyll Rose

For the Rose infused vodka:
Start by picking 9 – 10 full rose blossoms.  Rinse them and pluck the petals.

Rose petals

Rose petals

Lightly pack all the petals into a large lidded jar.  I used a 20 oz glass lidded working jar.  Add vodka to the brim, then cover and place in the fridge.  Give it a shake after an hour or so.

roses in vodka - the first minute

rose petals in vodka – the first minute

After a couple hours the petals will have been drained of most of their color, and the infused vodka will be a pale straw pink color.  (When this first happened, I was most disappointed, as I was really hoping for the color and fragrance of my rose in my cocktail.  I was stunningly surprised later, when I used this infusion in a cocktail, with the addition of acidic lemon juice — a little food chemistry magic to come.)

rose infused vodka - after three hours in the fridge

rose infused vodka – after three hours in the fridge

rose infused vodka, after straining

rose infused vodka, after straining

Strain the rose infused vodka into a jar and store airtight in the fridge until you’re ready for a cocktail.  Enjoy! (in moderation, of course)

The Rose Drop
(makes two)

4 oz Rose infused vodka (see recipe, above)
1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 – 2 oz simple syrup** (add to suit your sweetness preference)
4 ice cubes

Stir all ingredients together until very cold.  When you add the lime juice to the rose infused vodka the beautiful colors of the rose revert to their acidified state and shine brilliant pink.  And the rose scent blooms in the glass.  Strain into two lovely cocktail glasses, garnish with a rose petal, and enjoy.

* My rose bush, a Gertrude Jekyll Rose, is grown with no pesticides of any kind.  This is very important for using roses petals in cooking — don’t use any roses if you’re not entirely sure that there are no systemic or foliar pesticides that have been used on your flowers.

**simple syrup:  Blend equal proportions by volume sugar and boiling water.  Cool before using.

 

Jasmine Ice Cream

My pink jasmine is in full bloom and its intoxicating fragrance beckoned me to use it in my kitchen.

Pink Jasmine blossoms

Here is my take on a simple, creamy and luscious custard ice cream gently perfumed with fresh pink jasmine.

Jasmine Ice Cream

I use my trusty Cuisinart ice cream maker for homemade ice cream.  It only takes about 20 minutes to churn the cold base into soft serve ice cream.  I store the cylinder in the freezer so it’s always at the ready.  Enjoy!

Jasmine Ice Cream, just after churning

Jasmine Ice Cream
(makes a quart of ice cream)

1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups fresh pink jasmine blossoms, stems and leaves removed
1/8 tsp sea salt
2 egg yolks

Combine cream, milk, sugar, salt, and jasmine blossoms in a medium sauce pan.  Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot but not quite simmering.  Do not let come to a boil, but get it close.   Turn off heat, cover, and allow the blossoms to steep in the hot cream mixture until they are limp – about 15 – 20 minutes.  Strain off and discard the blossoms, and return the hot cream mixture to the pan.

Place the two egg yolks into a heat proof mixing bowl.

Bring the cream mixture to a gentle boil.  Pour a couple tablespoons of hot cream mixture into the egg yolks while stirring the egg yolks.  After the hot cream mixture is incorporated, add about 1/2 cup more, stirring all the while.  Return the pan with the remaining hot cream mixture to the stove over medium heat, and whisk in the egg yolk mixture.  (this is called tempering the yolks, BTW).  Stirring all the time, bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook for one minute.  Strain into a quart container, cover, and chill completely — at least 6 hours.

Freeze the custard base until thick and soft serve consistency.  Store in the freezer for a couple hours to firm up the ice cream.

PB&J Smoothie

Calling all PB&J fans — this is YOUR smoothie!  It captures the taste of a childhood favorite sandwich in a grownup friendly (ie: less sugar) smoothie.

PB&J Smoothie

I love it for breakfast before heading out on a bike ride, as it has a great balance of energy for sustained activity.  Peanuts* are a fabulous source of protein and healthy fats, easy on the environment and the budget.
Probiotic drink
I started with frozen berries, added a Yakult probiotic shot for flavor and nutrition, and rounded it out with peanut butter and lowfat milk for healthy protein and fats.  And flavor?  YES please.  Enjoy!

PB&J Smoothie
(serves one)

1 cup frozen berries (blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
1 heaping TB smooth natural peanut butter*
1 Yakult drink (omit for vegans and dairy-allergic folks)
1/3 – 1/2 cup lowfat milk of your chosing (dairy, almond, coconut, hemp, soy — it’s up to you)
2 packets stevia (optional.  may use honey to sweeten to taste if desired)

Blend all ingredients in a blender until thick and creamy.  Adjust amount of milk to create the texture you prefer.  Enjoy!

*for those avoiding peanuts due to allergies, simply substitute a smooth nut butter of your choosing

Chicken thighs braised with tomatoes and herbes de Provence

Savory, rich, and full flavored chicken thighs simmered with a few key ingredients — just what I wanted on a rainy evening.

Chicken thighs braised with tomatoes and herbes de Provence

Chicken thighs braised with tomatoes and herbes de Provence

Fresh garlic and diced red tomatoes combine with warm herbes de Provence and Parmesan rind to create the perfect simmer sauce for chicken thighs.  Parmesan rinds are just that — the hard outer edge of my wedges of Parmesan cheese.  I save them in bags in the freezer and bring out pieces to add wonderful umami to broth or simmer sauces.

Three key ingredients: fresh garlic, Parmesan cheese rind, and Herbes de Provence

Three key ingredients: fresh garlic, Parmesan cheese rind, and herbes de Provence

I consider this a pantry dish, as the ingredients are either shelf stable, or in my freezer.  Serve this warming dish with crusty bread or polenta.  Enjoy!

Chicken thighs braised with tomatoes and herbes de Provence
(serves 4)

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cans diced tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 TB olive oil
2 tsp herbes de Provence
Parmesean rind piece
Sea salt (start with 1/2 tsp, more if needed)

Heat covered sauté pan over medium heat.  When pan is warm, add olive oil, crushed garlic, and sauté just for a few seconds.  Add all remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until the chicken is very tender.  Check toward the end of the simmer time to be sure the sauce isn’t getting too dry.  Add a bit of white wine or water to add moisture if needed.

Cabbage Salad with Roasted Garbanzos and Spicy Tahini dressing

Crunchy, subtly sweet, mild, savory, and a tasty nutrient powerhouse.  I’m talking about cabbage, of course!  This stalwart vegetable deserves some love, especially in the winter when quality salad greens can be scarce.  But cabbage — it’s there for you!

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I paired mine with a zingy, savory tahini dressing and added roasted garbanzos and pepitas for awesome crunch and a punch of protein.  The spicy tahini dressing is really creamy and zingy — but relatively low in fat, for a dressing.  The secret?  Tahini — which is just finely ground roasted sesame seeds.  Water, an unusual ingredient in most dressings, is important for proper texture in this dressing.

Spicy Tahini Dressing, after a quick blend with immersion blender

Spicy Tahini Dressing, after a quick blend with immersion blender

Using an immersion blender makes the Spicy Tahini dressing super easy to make — but you can use a whisk or regular blender if that’s what you have.  (Consider purchasing an immersion blender.  I use mine regularly for puréed soups and dressings)

Garbanzos, roasted with oil and salt

Garbanzos, roasted with oil and salt

Roasting canned garbanzos transforms these tasty beans into crunchy/chewy nuggets. This is a vegan main dish, full flavored, and easy on the budget.  And I consider it a pantry meal — because cabbage is such a long keeper in the fridge and the other ingredients are pantry basics.  Enjoy!

Cabbage Salad with Roasted Garbanzos and Spicy Tahini Dressing

for the Spicy Tahini dressing:
1/4 cup tahini
2 TB olive oil
3 TB fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 clove crushed garlic
1/4 cup water
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Blend until creamy.  May add more or less cayenne as desired.  The amount I included makes a mildly spicy dressing.

for the Roasted Garbanzos
1 can garbanzos
1 TB olive oil
sprinkle of sea salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Drain garbanzos, and pat dry with paper towel.  Drizzle with oil and toss lightly, then arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 30 – 40 minutes in the oven, until they are browned and crunchy.

To serve the salad:
Cabbage, finely shredded
Roasted Garbanzos (see above)
Spicy Tahini Dressing (see above)Pepitas
cherry tomato quarters

Quantity of cabbage, pepitas and cherry tomatoes depends on number of servings desired.  The dressing and garbanzo recipes double easily for more servings.  Toss the all ingredients together, and enjoy!

Butter Roasted Chicken Breast

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Butter Roasted Chicken Breast

For my meat eating friends — this is for you.  Rich, super simple, and magically savory, this entertainment worthy entrée has just three ingredients:  chicken breast, butter, and salt.  But it has amazingly delicious flavor.

Butter Roasted Chicken

Butter Roasted Chicken Breast, cut to show texture

The right tool is key for this one — an appropriately sized cast iron pan.  A few techniques with time and heat work alchemy on the humble chicken breast, creating all sorts of flavors for a dish ready to impress.

Cast iron pan, chicken added just after the butter melts and foams

Cast iron pan, chicken added just after the butter melts and foams

So get your cast iron pan out, and prepare to be a kitchen star!  This entrée is a rich one — the chicken alone isn’t very fatty, but you’ll be tempted to use that flavorful butter used to roast the chicken on steamed new potatoes or fresh crusty bread.  Enjoy!

Butter Roasted Chicken Breast
(serves 2 – 4)

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 TB unsalted butter
Kosher salt

At least 4 – and up to 24 – hours prior to cooking, salt the chicken.  Use a generous sprinkle of kosher salt on both sides of each chicken breast.  The salt will dissolve and deeply season the chicken, adding both flavor and moisture to the prepared dish.  Store salted chicken breast airtight in the fridge until cooking time.

45 minutes before serving time, heat your oven to 375.  Choose a cast iron pan that is just big enough to hold the chicken breasts in one layer, but not too big.  If the pan is too big there is a risk that the butter will burn.

Heat the cast iron pan over medium heat until the pan is medium hot.  Add butter and swirl to melt, taking care not to let it burn or get very brown.  When the butter has melted, add the chicken breasts and gently sautée for 3 – 4 minutes.  Turn the breasts over, and sautée for 3 – 4 minutes on the other side.  Then place the pan with chicken into the hot oven for 25 minutes.

Remove from oven, and allow the chicken to rest in the pan for 5 minutes.  Serve warm, with the browned butter drizzled over the top.  Wonderful with steamed potatoes or crusty bread to enjoy the browned butter.