{Recipe} Black Currant Tea Vodka Cordial

Black Currant Tea Vodka

If you are looking for an easy, last-minute gift or something interesting to bring to a holiday party, have I got the recipe for you! A while back I tried a fig tea vodka my friend brewed. It was delicious and I put the idea on my long to-try list. Last month I gave it a shot, and the results were fantastic.

First, let me give you the recipe.

Black Currant Tea Vodka Cordial

12 oz. of vodka
1 silk sachet of Harney & Sons Black Currant tea
1 oz. (or more to taste) simple syrup

Pour the vodka in a mason jar and add the sachet. Cover and allow to steep for 8-10 hours. Remove sachet and dispose. Add simple syrup to your desired sweetness. Store in a cool, dry place (I prefer the freezer).

Black Currant Tea Vodka

First, a note on the vodka…

While you don’t have to use your Stoli or Grey Goose for this recipe, I would not recommend anything too harsh. Sobieski is my go-to vodka. First, because it’s Polish, and second because I think it’s good quality for a reasonable price.

Second, notes on the tea…

I think it’s really important to use a high-quality tea when making this flavored vodka. You will definitely notice a difference between a cordial made with good ingredients vs. one made with cheap ingredients. That being said, Harney is one of my favorites and I don’t think their prices are crazy. Are they a little pricer than some of the grocery store brands? Yes, but trust me — it’s so worth it. And you don’t have to mail-order them anymore. I’ve seen the sachets at Target and Stop & Shop. That brings us to why I prefer using the tea sachet. I find that the sachet allows you to brew more than just a single cup, so it’s perfect for a “pint-ish” of vodka. I’ve also used the sachet with 8 oz. of vodka and it worked fine, too. I’ve never tried this with loose tea, though I’m sure you could do it. You’ll just have to strain everything out.

Feel free to experiment with other flavors of tea, too. I’ve also made tea infused vodka using Hot Cinnamon Spice and that was really yummy.

Na Zdrowie!

Time for Tea! A Review of Plum Deluxe

Plum Deluxe Tea

One of my favorite ways to warm up on a cold afternoon is with a cup of tea. So when the founder of Plum Deluxe (an artisan tea company based in the Pacific Northwest) kindly asked if he could send me some samples, I didn’t have to hesitate to give an answer.

Plum Deluxe is based in Portland, Oregon and offers a unique variety of tea blends, including flavors like Coconut Macaron, Mindful Morning Tea Blend, and Everything is OK Herbal Tea. Just the names of these teas are great, aren’t they? All of their tea blends are organic, non-gmo, vegan, and free of chemicals and sulfites. Whenever possible, ingredients are sourced from the Pacific Northwest.

Andy Hayes, the founder of Plum Deluxe, explained to me that the company is a tribute to his mother who passed away from breast cancer. As he writes on the company’s website, “My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 59. The subsequent 5 years of her life while she battled the disease were some of the best years of her life. She took the opportunity for self-care days and spa treatments, to keep her spirits up. She went out to dinner parties with friends to celebrate each day, and went to the gym regularly and became very fit. She laughed more. She traveled more – visiting her favorite city, Paris, and finally visiting the town her family was from in Germany. My mom taught me that no matter your circumstances, you can choose to create moments that matter, every day. And some of the most enjoyable moments are the small things – time to sleep in, relaxing in a reading nook, going on a neighborhood walk, or catching up with an old friend over a cup of tea.”

Plum Deluxe Philosophy

When I received my package of tea samples, one of the first things I noticed was that everything was packed with care. Andy’s mission of helping people appreciate life’s little moments came through immediately! As I read the list of ingredients on the tea labels, I smiled. Something that you will find in every batch of tea is love and gratitude. This attention to detail did not go unnoticed.

The fragrances were amazing, too. In fact, my 6-year-old daughter took off with one of the bags just so she could keep smelling it! I was now really looking forward to brewing a cuppa. My expectations were pretty high, and let me tell you, the teas did not disappoint! I was immediately drawn to the Deluxe Pumpkin Spice tea. I added a bit of unsweetened vanilla almond milk and thoroughly enjoyed my first cup of Plum Deluxe tea. It had a great balance of spice and black tea flavor.

Plum Deluxe Tea

Plum Deluxe Tea

The next tea I tried was the Autumn Orchard black tea. I was finishing up some editing work and wanted a little lift. I was really impressed with the amount of dried apple in this blend — there were so many nice chunks that plumped up as the tea steeped. A bit of honey brought out the wonderful, comforting flavors.

Plum Deluxe Tea

Plum Deluxe Autumn Orchard

My final test tea was the Oregon Breakfast Black tea. I drank it with a splash of milk while having my cranberry oatmeal. It had a wonderful, full flavor that I have to say brightened a rainy, dreary morning.

Plum Deluxe Tea

Finally, I want to tell you about something that I think really makes Plum Deluxe stand out: their monthly tea club! Unless you live under a rock, you know that monthly subscription boxes are all the rage. For as low as $10/month, you get one ounce of one of Plum Deluxe’s unique blends each month, plus a special second sample. Members also enjoy a discount on purchases, membership in a private Facebook community just for tea lovers, a monthly tea reading, and a few other benefits. There is nothing like getting a happy surprise in your mailbox! (Plus, wouldn’t it make a great birthday or Christmas gift?) 

I want to extend a special thank you to Andy and Plum Deluxe for introducing me to these wonderful teas. If you enjoy blends that aren’t run-of-the-mill, and are packaged by people who put thought into every step of process, you have to check them out. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Creamy Crab Rangoon Dip with Wonton Chips

Creamy Crab Rangoon Dip

My two favorite treats when we order Chinese food are hot & sour soup and crab rangoons. A couple years ago I created a hot & sour soup recipe that I am quite happy with. (It’s on my old blog — I’ll have to move that post over here!). But crab rangoons always seemed like they’d be fussy (and fried — and I don’t really like to deep fry food in my kitchen). After browsing several recipes for crab dip, I cobbled together a recipe for crab rangoon dip! It is so easy to put together and was a big hit when I brought it to a girls’ night out dinner (my friends are the best recipe testers).

Creamy Crab Rangoon Dip

Last night I made it again, just to make sure I had everything right (not because I wanted to lick the bowl or anything, LOL!). My family also raved about it, including my picky son who remarked, “Actually, it’s not bad!” Trust me — that was a compliment. This is a dip that I think will go into frequent rotation around here!

Creamy Crab Rangoon Dip with Wonton Chips
An easy, cheesy, yummy dip. Perfect when you have a craving for those delicious crab rangoons from your favorite Chinese restaurant!
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Ingredients
  1. 6-oz. can of crabmeat
  2. 4 oz. softened cream cheese.
  3. 1/3 c. mayonnaise
  4. 1/2 tsp. Worstershire sauce
  5. 1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
  6. 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  7. 3-4 scallions, chopped
  8. 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  9. won ton wrappers
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. TO MAKE THE WONTON CHIPS: Take a stack of wonton wrappers and cut on a diagonal so you have piles of triangles. Arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for about 5 minutes -- just until the wontons are crispy.
  3. Using a fork or a hand mixer, combine the crabmeat, cream cheese, mayo, Worsterhire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Stir until the ingredients are well combined. Add the scallions and mozzeralla cheese and stir to incorporate into the mixture.
  4. Transfer dip to a shallow, oven-safe dish and bake uncovered for approx. 20 minutes until the dip is hot and bubbly.
  5. Garnish the dip with additional scallions if desired. Serve with wonton chips for dipping.
Notes
  1. Ovens vary, so be sure to keep an eye on the wonton chips to avoid burning them.
  2. To create an elegant appetizer, line mini muffin tins with the uncooked wontons, then fill with the dip. Bake for approx. 10 minutes or until dip is bubbly and wonton edges are crisp.
  3. No wontons? No problem! Simply substitute tortilla chips.
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Frozen Lemonade Pie

Frozen Lemonade Pie

Holy cow, is it hot out there today! I was looking through my old recipes and came across Frozen Lemonade Pie, a delicious dessert I haven’t made in ages. It’s just perfect for a blazing summer day like this one. While the lemonade flavor  is my favorite, I’ve also tested this using orange juice concentrate and limeade concentrate — both are fantastic as well! Hope a slice of this will help keep you cool.

Frozen Lemonade Pie

1 12-oz. container of frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 14-oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1 8-oz. tub of whipped topping
1 prepared graham cracker or shortbread pie crust

In a large bowl, mix the lemonade concentrate and condensed milk. Carefully fold in the whipped topping. Pour the filling into the pie crust being careful not to overfill.
Freeze the pie for at least 6 hours before serving.

Cretons (French-Canadian Pork Pate)

Cretons (French-Canadian Pork Pate)Many years ago, when my husband’s French-Canadian grandmother was still alive, I remember my mother-in-law serving something called cretons at the holidays. Initially, I was put off by this strange pork pate. It was eaten cold, either on crackers or toast, and contained what I (at that time) considered “sweet” spices. I couldn’t wrap my head around how it all worked together.

Flash forward a few years. My husband and our two boys went on a vacation to Quebec while I stayed home with our teeny baby. The hotel served cretons as part of their traditional breakfast and D. fell in love with it all over again. I decided I was going to try making a version.

Over the years I’ve tweaked a bit here and a bit there, and today I’m sharing the version I make. It is authentic? I can’t say — I’ve never tried the real thing! D. assures me, however, that it is pretty darn close. My favorite way to enjoy cretons is spread on top of a buttered, toasted English muffin. Toast will do nicely, too. But you need to have the butter — it just adds a little extra something. So please, just take it from me and try this! I think you’ll agree that it’s a delicious treat.

Cretons (French-Canadian Pork Pate)

Cretons

1 lb. ground pork
1 med. onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

Brown pork in a large pan along with the chopped onions and garlic. Add the salt, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Stir to combine and cook for 1 minute. Transfer pork mixture to a food processor and pulse until the meat reaches an extremely fine consistency.
Return the pork mixture to the pan and add the milk and bread crumbs and cook for 3 minutes over medium heat. Stir well to blend everything together. Reduce the heat to LOW, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is very tender and most of the liquid is evaporated, about 30-40 min. Remove the lid and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and all the liquid is evaporated. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, to taste.
Transfer to a bowl and smooth the top with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate until well chilled and firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Adventures in Fermentation – Pickles

Polish Dill Pickles

There’s nothing like a good pickle. Am I right? A crunchy, tangy, sour pickle is the perfect companion to a lunchtime sandwich. I’ve made various types of pickles before — the quick-pickled “overnight” pickles and vinegar-brined pickles that were then canned for storage. But despite all of my attempts, none ever seemed to compare to the delicious Polish dill pickles my Babci used to make.

Ogórki kiszone (oh-GOORR-kee keeSHOH-neh) was a summertime staple in our house. My uncle had a huge garden and every summer my grandmother would make jars of garlicky pickles from the buckets of cucumbers that were harvested.  The kiszone recipe was simple: cucumbers, dill, garlic, salt, and water. You add everything to a jar, let it sit on the counter, and after a while you magically had delicious pickles!

Back then I didn’t realize what the magic was, but I now know that it’s simply fermentation. So when my husband gave me a Kraut Source gadget for Valentine’s day, I knew that this summer I’d be making my own version of Babci’s pickles.

Kraut Source

A couple weeks ago I finally decided to give it a shot. The batch took all of 10 minutes to put together, and the Kraut Source airlock lid was really easy to use. Could this possibly taste good? It’s way too easy, I thought. But I figured it was worth trying.

Polish Dill Pickles

I set the jar on the counter and went about my business. A few days later, I checked on the pickles and started to worry. I had a few concerns.

  1. My fermented pickle brine looks cloudy. Is this normal? Is it supposed to look like that?
    — After a little research I learned that the answer is YES! A cloudy brine is normal and is to be expected. It’s due to the growth of lactic acid bacteria and it’s a sign that fermentation is occurring.
  2. There are white flakes or white specks at the bottom of my jar of fermented pickles. What is it? Are they still safe to eat?
    — I was reassured to learn that the white bits are again, due to the lactic acid bacteria. Nothing needs to be done.

Whew! It was all going to be OK.

A week after I started the process, I decided to crack open the jar and have a family taste test. You understand, I live with some of the world’s most discriminating pickle connesiours. So you can only imagine my excitement when my husband and all three kids started fighting over pickle pieces and declared them “AMAZING!!!”

Hot damn, it worked! I’m not going to say that they were as good as my Babci’s, but they were definitely close.

Polish Dill Pickles

Ogórki Kiszone (Polish Garlic Dill Pickles)
6-8 pickling cucumbers, washed and dried
4 cloves peeled, smashed garlic
1 stem dill with seeds (or 2 Tbsp. dried dill weed)
1 bay leaf
2-3 Tbsp. kosher salt, sea salt, or pickling salt (do not use table salt)
2 cups water

      Bring 2 cups of filtered water to a boil. Pour into a bowl and dissolve the salt. Allow the brine to cool completely.

 

      Trim the blossom ends off the cucumbers. (This helps them stay crunchy). You may leave the stem end on, if you like.

 

      Add the garlic, bay leaf, and dill to the bottom of a wide-mouthed quart-sized canning jar. Pack in the cucumbers.

 

      Cover the pickles with the cooled salt brine until it reaches about 1” above the shoulder of the mason jar. It is important that every bit of vegetable is covered with water, so trim the cukes down if necessary.

 

      If you have a KrautSource, follow the directions to secure it on the lid. If you don’t have the gadget, no problem. Loosely (may I stress loosely?) close the jar with a sterilized cap. Do not secure it tightly – the carbon dioxide that is produced during fermentation needs to escape.

 

    Store the jar out of direct heat (on the countertop should be fine) and check on your pickles every few days to make sure they’re still covered with water. After 7 days, your pickles should be ready to eat.

I can’t wait to experiment further with fermented pickles! For my first batch I used dried dill, but I know the flavor would be a lot better with fresh dill, so my next batch will definitely include it.

Blueberry Dutch Baby Pancake

Blueberry Dutch Baby

I first read about Dutch Babies years ago. I am pretty sure I clipped a recipe out of a very old “Taste of Home” magazine and filed it away. I never got around to making it. Last weekend we were watching an episode of “Bob’s Burgers” and somehow Dutch Babies were involved. My husband laughed  and thought that a Dutch Baby was some sort of joke. I explained that it was for sure a real thing! There was no no question: I was finally going to make my Dutch Baby. I looked through several recipes and finally settled on one to use as a base.

A Dutch Baby is sort of like a pancake, sort of like a clafoutis. It’s light and custardy and (as I would soon learn from my family) is not for everyone. While I thought it was heavenly, the kids were not as impressed. They probably would have preferred regular pancakes or a blueberry coffee cake. Nevertheless, I thought it was delicious and will make it again — even if it means I have to eat it all by myself!

Blueberry Dutch Baby
Inspired by: Everyday Food Magazine

  • 3 Tbsp. room-temperature unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a medium-sized cast iron skillet. (I did this by simply putting the skillet in the oven while it heated up. Just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn!)

In a blender (or large Magic Bullet cup), combine eggs, milk, flower, vanilla, salt, and 1/2 cup of sugar. Blend until the ingredients are well-combined and the batter is slightly foamy.  Remove the skillet from oven and add the blueberries. Then pour the batter into the skillet. Bake for about 20 minutes until the panacake is puffy, slightly browned, and the sides have slightly pulled away from the pan.

Dot the last tablespoon of butter onto the top of the Dutch Baby and sprinkle with the tablespoon of sugar. Slice into wedges and serve.

Blueberry Dutch Baby