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.


Butter Roasted Chicken Breast


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.

Spiced Walnut Cookies

Deeply scented cookies have a crispy/chewy texture and the rich crunch of walnuts.

(I’ve been on a spice tear after reading DUNE).  They are fast and easy to make and your kitchen will smell wonderful as they bake.  The key is the spice mixture:  heavy on cinnamon with three others to lend intrigue:  cayenne, allspice, and nutmeg.

A hint for best flavor is to make sure your spices are fresh. I use whole nutmeg and grind just before using with a nutmeg grinder.  Enjoy!

Spiced Walnut Cookies

1 1/2 cups (11 oz) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) white sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
2 large eggs, room temp
2 1/3 cups (12 oz) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 TB ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayennne pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups walnuts, coarse chop

Preheat oven to 375.  Cream butter and sugars until combined. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Combine dry ingredients, then add to butter mixture. Mix on low until just combined. Fold in walnuts. Place balls of dough (2 – 3 TB per scoop) at least 2 inches apart on your baking sheet. If desired, top each ball of dough with additional walnuts before baking.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until the outer edges are lightly browned but the center is still a little soft. Transfer to cooling rack to cool.

Double Persimmon Napa Cabbage Salad

It’s persimmon month, at least in my house.  I’ve got my first batch of dried Hachiya persimmons ready, and fresh mellow Fuyu persimmons on my counter.  I put the two of them together in a salad with savory, slightly bitter napa cabbage and it was a great combo.

Napa cabbage, bright orange Fuyu persimmons, and dried Hachiya persimmons

Napa cabbage, bright orange Fuyu persimmons, and dried Hachiya persimmons

Persimmon Napa Cabbage Salad

Double Persimmon Napa Cabbage Salad

I lightly dressed the greens and persimmons with a sherry vinegar/olive oil dressing and topped with toasted almonds for a rich crunch.  This salad would work well with finely shredded brussels sprouts instead of napa cabbage.  Savory, sweet, fresh, and crunchy — this is a nice Fall salad for the persimmon lover. Enjoy!

Double Persimmon Napa Cabbage Salad
(serves 4 – 6 for a side dish)

1/2 head Napa Cabbage, sliced thin
2 Fuyu persimmons, peeled and sliced into bite size pieces
2 dried Hachiya persimmons*, diced small
1/2 cup toasted almonds, coarse chop

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 TB sherry vinegar
sea salt to taste
fresh ground black pepper

Assemble the salad ingredients in a shallow, wide bowl.  Just before serving, mix together the sherry vinegar and olive oil with about 1/4 tsp sea salt.  Drizzle over the salad, top with fresh ground black pepper, and serve.

* If you can’t locate dried persimmons, you may substitute golden raisins

Giant Cheesy Goldfish Crackers

These are the Goldfish of your dreams.

Giant Goldfish Crackers

Giant Cheesy Goldfish Crackers

Cheesy, buttery, smiling giant goldfish crackers.  Perfect for a special snack, as they are rich and addictively delicious for the cheese lover.

cookie cutter and straw

cookie cutter and straw

The key to getting the goldfish shape is to augment a diamond ring cookie cutter by elongating the round portion, and adding a dent in the jewel part.  To make the eye of the goldfish, just use a drinking straw.  And for the Gluten Free folks out there, this recipe works well with GF flour.   Enjoy!

Giant Cheesy Goldfish Crackers
(makes about 24 crackers)

8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated and warmed to warm room temp.
8 oz unsalted butter, room temp
12 oz (2 1/3 cups) unbleached white flour or GF flour
1 1/2 tsp sea salt, fine
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper


butter and cheese before blending in food processor

In a food processor, blend cheddar cheese with butter until creamy and uniform.  You will likely have to scrape down the bowl a couple times to achieve the right consistency.

Add the dry ingredients, and combine in food processor using low power pulses until a dough forms.  Turn out the dough onto plastic wrap, flatten into a disc, then wrap and cool in fridge for about an hour.

Roll out chilled dough onto parchment paper, dusting with a little flour if necessary to prevent sticking.

Cut the fish shaped crackers and then place on cookie sheet.  Use a drinking straw to create an eye, and a sharp knife to cut a little smile in the dough

Goldfish, just before going into the oven

Goldfish, just before going into the oven

Bake for 18 – 20 minutes at 375, or until they are beginning to brown on the edges.  Cool just until room temp and enjoy.  Store airtight for best texture.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Warmly spiced, moist, sweet pumpkin cake is a natural choice for a Fall treat.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Pumpkin Spice Cake

This cake is fabulous on its own, or paired with whipped cream or buttercream.  This recipe works equally well using wheat flour or gluten free baking flour, and is dairy free, using creamy avocado oil instead of butter.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Cake
Makes a dozen cupcakes, a 9 or 10 inch round, or two 6 inch rounds.  Double it for a larger cake — it will bake up just a beautifully.

1 cup (5 oz) unbleached all purpose flour or Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves or allspice
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) white sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) avocado oil
1 cup (8 oz) pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare pans by using cupcake papers, or oiling and flouring the pans.

Sift together and set aside the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the sugars, eggs, oil, and pumpkin.  Beat until some air is incorporated into the mixture – about 2 minutes.  Gently stir in the flour mixture, mixing only until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pans, and bake until done.  For cupcakes, check at 25 minutes.  For smaller layers, check at 30 minutes.  For a larger single layer, check at 35 minutes.  Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a baking rack.

Vanilla Cake – Gluten and Dairy Free

This cake is tender, moist, sweet and deliciously vanilla.  Just what any cake should be.  But what makes it special is that it is completely gluten and dairy free.

Vanilla Cake - Gluten and Dairy Free

Vanilla Cake – Gluten and Dairy Free

For folks with celiac and dairy allergies, there really aren’t too many homemade cake options that taste like a traditional layer cake — but I think I’ve created a simple homemade cake that tastes fabulous.  Indeed, when I taste tested this one, I didn’t let on that it was a special recipe until after the first bite, and to a one, my cake testers were surprised that it was a unique recipe and enjoyed their taste.  Proudly serve it to all your guests, whether or not they eat gluten and dairy.  For Samar.  Enjoy!

Vanilla Cake – Gluten and Dairy Free
(makes one 9 inch layer)

4 large eggs
3/4 cup (5 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) avocado oil*
5 TB water
1 cup (5 oz) Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Baking Flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt, fine
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare 9 inch spring form baking pan by lightly oiling the bottom and sprinkling with gluten free baking flour.

Whisk together the gluten free baking flour, salt, and baking powder.  Set aside.

Whip eggs in a mixing bowl using whisk attachment until very light and foamy – at least tripled in volume.  While the beater is still running, on low, add the sugar.  Turn the beater up to high and continue to whip the egg/sugar mixture until smooth, very fluffy, and glossy.  Turn mixer to lowest speed and add the avocado oil, water, vanilla, and flour mixture.  Blend until combined.  Pour batter into the prepared ban and bake for 25 minutes, or until the cake springs back when a finger is gently pressed into the top of the cake.  Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then release the spring form and cool completely.

*Avocado oil is my preferred vegetable oil in this cake because of its neutral flavor and creamy mouth feel.