April Dinner Club

Given the fact that today is the last day in May, I think its time I fill you all in on April’s Dinner club. April was a difficult theme to choose. We wanted something that was seasonal and reflective of Spring. Early Spring can be a weird time seasonally because all the Winter produce is no longer as good and no one wants to eat heavy meals anymore yet the Summer produce isn’t ready to be eaten yet. Perhaps that’s why Easter candy  is one of the first things I think of when trying to come up with a Spring theme ingredient! We did all finally agree on the theme ingredient mint.

We were chosen to cook the main course this month and mint is not an herb that I find myself using very often; I loved being forced to use it in a recipe that  was not a salad or a dessert. Immediately, lamb came to mind as a good protein to go with mint however I’ll admit lamb intimidates me. I made braised lamb for Christmas this year and I killed it; it was so dry that I think it resembled jerky more than the braised lamb I was going for. After that incident, I haven’t attempted lamb again. I tried to look up other recipes involving mint but kept coming back to lamb.

After finally giving in to the lamb I needed to find a recipe that cooked the lamb in a relatively short period of time, due to the fact that dinner club in progressive, I’d only have about 30 minutes to get everything together. I came upon a recipe for lamb that was marinated and grilled. It got excellent reviews online and seemed very simple, sold. The bonus was that dinner club was scheduled for the week following Easter and I scored a nice cut of lamb on super sale!

This recipe turned out better than I ever could have imagined. Not only was the lamb perfectly medium rare but the marinade had made the meat incredibly tender and flavorful. We devoured the entire thing and all agreed that, it had been the best dinner club to date. The marinade contained some Asian flavors which I’m convinced made the dish especially good. This is the first recipe I made from my new Jacques Pepin cookbook that Eric bought me for Christmas and it was the perfect choice.

Like I said, this dish was beyond easy but be sure to marinate it the day before. Prep all the ingredients including cutting the string mesh from the lamb roast. I had double the amount of meat so I doubled the marinade. Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl and then pour it over the lamb in a large freezer bag.

Turn the bag a few times in the fridge.

The following day, sear the lamb on a hot grill for about 7 minutes per side and then bring it inside to finish in the oven. The recipe calls for the oven to be 170 degrees. I was skeptical at first thinking it was not hot enough, but as I do with all first time recipes, I followed it. I was right, 170 is not hot enough to get the meat cooking more and I ended up turning the oven up to 250 degrees and cooking it another 15 minutes. By then, the lamb was perfectly medium rare.

**Do not cook lamb more than medium, ideally you want it rare to medium rare otherwise the flavor gets weird and its incredibly dry. The exception to this is of course when braising lamb, that can be cooked longer and is delicious but grilling the lamb or lamb chops you want to cook rare-medium rare.**

Here it is in its glory:

While the lamb was cooking, I cooked down the marinade in a small saucepan and poured it over the lamb when it went into the oven. It was SO GOOD!

We all wanted to lick our plates. I served two sides, green beans with crispy shallots and fresh mint.

I also braised carrots and brussel sprouts and tossed them with balsamic vinegar.

These were also a hit. The only thing I had leftovers of was the green beans. The mint was fresh and light in all the dishes, a great theme ingredient.

I won’t leave out the other courses! However, we forgot to take any pictures of those at all this month, sorry! The first course was an amazing Asian spring roll with shrimp and stuffed with rice noodles and mint. They were beautiful, fresh and light; a perfect starter. They were accompanied by strawberry mojitos.

The third course was a chocolate and mint trifle with chocolate shavings on top. It was cool and sweet, not to mention pretty. Chocolate is always a great way to end a meal.

So there you have it, the quick overview of April’s Dinner Club! Now, on to May and hopefully some warmer weather again.

12 Days of Cocktails Wrap-up

I’m baaack! I’m sure you were all wondering what happened to me and the 12 days of cocktails. I have no excuses except to say that last week got really busy, really fast and I found myself in the middle of a cooking and baking marathon on top of all the rest of the last minute wrapping and shopping not to mention a work business trip and doing actual work for my steady and paying job. Somehow the blog was pushed back to place #25 in the midst of all that.

For those of you who checked back each day only to be disappointed with the same old blog post, I’m sorry but thanks for checking back! I can’t express how grateful I am for dedicated readers. Today, I’ll give you 3 last cocktail recipes that hopefully you can use this weekend for New Years! And give you a small update on our Christmas party which is scheduled for Friday. Yup, 4 days away and getting less each second.

Let’s start with cocktails. I saw this one in the paper this weekend and thought it sounded great! I have not made this one before but am considering making it for the party. It comes from Sweden and is made annually when they celebrate St. Lucia. It is similar to the German Gluhwein but packs more punch with the addition of stronger spirits, probably because it is so much colder there in the winter. This recipe feeds a lot of people and I found it on Epicurious.com:

Cocktail # 10: Glögg

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle tawny port
  • 1 bottle Madeira
  • 1 bottle medium dry sherry
  • 1/2 bottle dry red wine
  • 15 cloves
  • 15 cardamom seeds
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1/2 pound lump sugar
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup blanched almonds

Preparation:

Combine all ingredients except the sugar, brandy, raisins and nuts in a heavy saucepan and heat slowly. When the wine mixture is hot, place a rack on top of the saucepan so that it covers half of it. Arrange the sugar cubes on the rack, warm the brandy, pour it over the sugar and set it aflame. Ladle the wine mixture over the flaming sugar until sugar is dissolved. Serve in 8-ounce mugs, garnished with the almonds and raisins.

Cocktail number 11 is a nod to all things Mad Men. I’m loving the resurgence of all things from the 1950s & 1960s. Here is a classic Manhattan cocktail recipe from Bon Appetit.com, this recipe makes 1:

Cocktail # 10: Manhattan
Makes 1
Ingredients
  • 6 tablespoons rye whiskey
  • 3 tablespoons sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 maraschino cherry or an orange peel

Preparation

  • Mix rye, vermouth, and bitters in a cocktail shaker. Add 2 large ice cubes. Stir to blend, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a cherry or an orange peel.

The 12th and final cocktail recipe is the punch that I will be making for our party this Friday. I got it from December’s Bon Appetit Magazine, The Long Hello. It looks like great flavors and I’m even going to attempt to make the ice ring that sits in it.

The Long Hello

I hope this will last us all night.

Cocktail #12: The Long Hello

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups Calvados or other apple brandy
  • 1 cup St-Germain (elderflower liqueur)
  • 10 dashes bitters, preferably Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters or Angostura
  • 1 750-ml bottle Champagne, chilled
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Special Equipment:

    One 12-cup Bundt or tube pan; 1 punch bowl

Preparation

  • Make and freeze ring mold with pears and apples according to our ice mold directions. DO AHEAD: Ring mold can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and keep frozen.
  • Stir Calvados, St-Germain, bitters, and 1 cup water in a punch bowl. Add ice ring, then Champagne. Ladle punch into glasses and grate nutmeg over.

There you have it 12 new cocktail recipes, just in time for New Years! I hope you can find one or two new ones to try. You don’t have to go out to get a good cocktail!

Speaking of going out or…staying in…I’m in full party planning mode. With 4 days till our big bash, I’m feeling the heat. Last night, I was making lists and pulling recipes and trying to eliminate complicated recipes. I tend to bite off more than I can chew with parties so I’m making an effort not to go overboard and kill myself this week.

Here’s my party planning schedule:

Tuesday – Grocery Shop
Make Punch Ice Ring

Wednesday – Make Cream puffs
Make 2 dips

Thursday – Make dough for rolls
Assemble Cream puff tower

Friday – Assemble Veggie plates
Assemble All Appetizers
Bake Ham
Fix Punch

Party, Party, Party!!

Tomorrow I’ll fill you in on my menu choices. Oh and cleaning of the house has to be worked into the schedule, too but I think Eric will be helping a lot with that one. I’m sure he can’t wait.

12 Days of Cocktails – Days 8 & 9

Sorry for the delay in these two cocktails, I was on a business trip  and thought I’d have time to write up some posts, but didn’t. So I’m cramming 2 in to this post.

I’m also planning to bake some more cookies this afternoon. This will be my first attempt at gingerbread men! Fingers crossed that things go well. I’ll update you on that tomorrow.

And speaking of gingerbread, that is the inspiration for the next cocktail!

Cocktail # 8: Gingerbread Cocktail

This recipe will take some time but it will taste just like gingerbread!

Here’s the recipe:

Gingerbread Cocktail
Print
Author: Giada De Laurentiis
Prep time: 24 mins
Cook time: 5 mins
Total time: 29 mins
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • For Syrup:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole cloves
  • Espresso:
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons hazelnut liqueur (recommended: Frangelico), optional
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) Kahlua
Instructions
  1. For the syrup: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool, about 20 minutes. Remove and discard the ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.
  3. For the espresso: In an 8-ounce glass measuring cup, whisk together the boiling water, espresso powder, and liqueur, if using, until the powder is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
  4. Combine 1 cup syrup with the espresso/hazelnut liqueur mixture in a large martini shaker. Add the Kaluha and shake to combine. Pour over ice-filled glasses and serve.

 

This next cocktail is beautiful and simple not to mention delicious, but then what champagne cocktail isn’t delicious? It combines the iconic flavors of strawberries and champagne.

Picture of Grand Champagne Cocktail Recipe

Here’s the recipe from foodnetwork.com:

Cocktail # 9: Grand Champagne Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 4 shots orange-flavored liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier)
  • 4 teaspoons honey
  • 4 fresh strawberries, tops trimmed
  • 1 bottle Champagne, well chilled
  • Special equipment: 4 chilled Champagne flutes

Directions

Add the orange-flavored liqueur, honey and strawberries to a food processor and process until smooth. Fill the chilled glasses halfway with the strawberry mixture and then fill the rest of the glass with Champagne.

12 Days of Cocktails – Day 7 A Partridge in a Pear Tree Martini

If you enjoy fruit flavored martinis then look no further. This pear martini is sure to knock your socks off. The combination of pear and St. Germain in this drink makes for a match made in heaven. St. Germain calls is the Pear Tree Martini but I edited the name to reflect the season. This drink is perfect for a night in with the girls or a night on the town.

I make this recipe often and always have these ingredients on hand. This drink is a no-fail, I promise! The picture and recipe are from St. Germain.

Here’s the recipe:

A Partridge in a Pear Tree Martini
Print
Author: St. Germain
Prep time: 5 mins
Total time: 5 mins
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 1½ PARTS Pear Vodka
  • 1½ PARTS St-Germain
  • PART Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 1 DASH Angostura Bitters
Instructions
  1. METHOD: Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a slice of D’Anjou and a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg.

 

 

12 Days of Cocktails – Day 4, 5 & 6

We’ve made it, 1 week ’till Christmas! I spent my afternoon in front of Home Alone 2 wrapping gifts for under our tree. Things are starting to look very festive indeed!

I missed Friday’s post so I’m packing alot of cocktails into this one! We’re making up for the last few days. These cocktail recipes are sure to spice up this week before Christmas, whether you find yourself in need of an after work cocktail with a friend or you’re hosting a family gathering or a party all of these recipes are winners.

Cocktail #4: NOG!!

Egg nog

Here’s a wonderful recipe for home made egg nog that I pulled from Epicurious.com:

12 Days of Cocktails – Day 4, 5 & 6
Print
Prep time: 15 mins
Total time: 15 mins
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 pint cream
  • 6 ounces bourbon
  • 6 ounces spiced rum
  • 1 whole nutmeg, for grating
Instructions
  1. Beat the egg yolks well until they turn light in color, adding 1/2 cup of the sugar as you beat. Add the milk, cream, and liquor. Then beat the egg whites with the remaining sugar until they peak. Fold the whites into the mixture. Grate the fresh nutmeg over the drink.

Cocktail #5: Cranberry Champagne Cocktail

Not only is it delicious, but its incredibly simple to make and elegantly beautiful to serve. Perfect for any holiday gathering, large or small. Photo and recipe from Bonappetite.com:

Cranberry Champagne Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons Cointreau, chilled
  • 12 teaspoons frozen cranberry juice cocktail concentrate, thawed
  • 1 750-ml bottle Champagne, chilled
  • 8 fresh or frozen cranberries

Preparation

  • Place 1 tablespoon Cointreau and 1 1/2 teaspoons cranberry juice concentrate in each of 8 Champagne flutes. Top with Champagne. Drop 1 cranberry into each cocktail and serve.

Cocktail #6: Perfect Turkey

One of this cocktail’s ingredients is vermouth, a liquor that, I think, is rarely used outside of bars and restaurants. For some reason people just don’t buy it for their home bar. Do yourself and favor and branch out this holiday season and try something new! This drink is bound to convert you to a vermouth lover. Picture and recipe from bonappetite.com:

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Wild Turkey bourbon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet vermouth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry vermouth
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice and nutmeg
  • Orange peel

Preparation

  • Shake bourbon, sweet vermouth, and dry vermouth with ice in a cocktail shaker. Serve in a Martini glass with a spice-sugared rim (mix sugar with ground allspice and nutmeg). Garnish with orange peel.

Hope these cocktail will liven up the end of your weekend! Look out for more good cocktail ideas tomorrow as we continue our 12 days of cocktails!

12 Days of Cocktails – Day 2 Sangria Flora

My obsession with St. Germain liquor is no secret here. (Read more about it in this post.) I love the stuff! This cocktail is a recipe I used last year at our Christmas party for a “punch” and it was a BIG hit. I kept having to make more and I was making it by the pitcher! It’s really simple and deliciously light and sweet, plus kind of beautiful because of all the fruit.

This is not a traditional sangria that will take time to make, you can whip it up easily for any party or if unexpected guests show up at your door. I love that you can make a whole pitcher and save the time it would take to make individual cocktails.

To make, simply combine all the ingredients from the recipe and stir. Add in fresh fruit and keep serve cold.

Here is the recipe:

 

12 Days of Cocktails – Day 1 German Gluhwein

It’s officially 12 days until Christmas, you better get those halls decked, packages sent, cards stamped and cookies baked. There is no more time to procrastinate. In honor of these last 12 festive days, Red Velvet is going to feature a new cocktail recipe each day.

I hope that these recipes will help to make family time a little more bearable, and keep those cheeks warm and rosy this holiday season. The first cocktail I’m going to highlight is one that Eric and I discovered in Germany a few Christmases ago.

We were enjoying a bustling Christmas market in the town of Speyer which smelled of bratwurst and baked goods.

We noticed that lots of people were holding ceramic mugs filled with something hot. I could see that it was not hot chocolate and immediately wanted to find out what it was. We quickly learned that it was a hot spiced wine called Gluhwein, see the sign below.

We did not get any at the Christmas Market but were able to order some at a restaurant later in the trip. It was served nice and warm and with sugar packets. Eric and I both loved it and upon returning, I set out to find my very own gluhwein recipe.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can use any cheap red wine. The spices you add will contribute more flavor to make the wine taste great. I also love the idea of an alternative to hot cider. Simply combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and heat on low until just simmering and allow to steep for about an hour before drinking.

Here’s the recipe:

12 Days of Cocktails – Day 1
Print
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour 5 mins
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • A 750ml bottle of inexpensive dry red wine
  • 2/3 cup of raw cane sugar or white sugar, or non-artificial sweetener of your choice
  • Juice and peel of one small lemon
  • 2 cardamon pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
Instructions
  1. Combine all in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until just simmering, but do not allow to boil.
  2. Steep at that temperature for about an hour.
  3. Serve in small mugs, straining out the ingredients.

Lindemans Kriek – Beer Review

As women, I think it’s safe to say that if you choose to drink alcohol you’ve probably heard of Lindeman’s Framboise beer. It’s the sweet raspberry beer that is usually served in a pretty glass and is in fact pink.

Product - Lindemans Framboise

It’s one of those stereotypical “girl” beers and for good reason, many women really do enjoy it! But something most people fail to realize is that Lindeman’s makes other flavors of this tasty lambic. Apple, peach, cassis and kriek (cherry) are also flavors of this popular elixir.

Eric and I are big fanatics of all things cherry, you can read about that in this post or this post, so when he spotted a cherry lambic while purchasing some other beer, he couldn’t pass up the chance to try it.

He poured it into two glasses at home and the color was so pretty and Christmasy, being so red.

Once you pick up the glass to drink, you smell a sweet and very cherry aroma but the beer itself is not overpoweringly sweet. I find the raspberry one to be just a little too sweet for me to drink a whole lot of it, but the cherry was a nice balance.

If you’re a fan of cherries and looking for a drink that embodies Christmas Spirit, look no further than Lindeman’s Kriek. It will not disappoint!

Speaking of Christmas Spirit, can you believe its less than 2 weeks till Christmas?! Yep, I freaking out a bit this morning considering I haven’t even purchased cards to send out or wrapping paper, or finished shopping, but I did finally finish decorating the outside of the house! Hopefully Santa won’t miss it now.

How are your holiday plans coming, anyone else feel like Christmas has snuck up on them this year?

The Montparnasse

It’s been a long week for me both personally and at work. I’d like to finished out this week with a delicious Fall cocktail recipe that is sure to enhance your enjoyment of both the season and your weekend. This is another St. Germain cocktail, read more about St. Germain here; it may be time to admit that I’m addicted to the stuff.

I first tasted this cocktail at Cochon 555 when we took our weekend trip to Chicago (read about that here) and love the apple flavor as it mixes with the St. Germain. The other reason I love this cocktail is because of the name: The Montparnasse. Montparnasse is a neighborhood in Paris and also happens to be the neighborhood where I went to school while studying abroad during college.

To make this cocktail you will need a few ingredients:

  • Apple Brandy
  • St. Germain
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Fresh Lemon Juice
  • Apple
You will also need a cocktail shaker and ice.
Mix all the ingredients together in the cocktail shaker filled with ice and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a wafer thin slice of floating apple.
I hope that all of you and I get a chance to relax this weekend! As they say in France, Bon Weekend!
Here is the complete cocktail recipe from St.Germain:

1½ PARTS Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy, Calvados or Clear Creek Apple Brandy
¾ PART St-Germain
½ PART Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
½ PART Sauvignon Blanc

METHOD: Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish by floating a wafer-thin apple slice. Resist temptation to regale guests with “wafer-thin” Monty Python impersonations.

Red Velvet wine?

In keeping with the unplanned alcohol theme for this week, I’d like to share with you all that I have indeed found a Red Velvet Wine. While on a recent trip to the liquor store, that is conveniently located next door to my office, I was in the mood to try something new. As I scanned the shelves something caught my eye:

In case you can’t see the name of the wine, its Red Velvet! The brand is Cupcake Vineyards; it is a red varietal blend. I must admit, initially I was a little disappointed because this means that Red Velvet wine is already taken so now I can’t buy a vineyard of my own and begin producing wine, but considering the fact that the possibility of that scenario actually happening is very slim, I gave in to my excitement and purchased a bottle based purely on the name and the cute label. (I do really wonder how many women buy Cupcake Wine simply because of the name and the cute label.)

We brought the wine over to dinner with friends that evening and while the men drank beer the ladies opened Red Velvet. The first sip was a little lackluster, I must admit. I prefer bolder wines with a lot of flavor and depth, like a nice Italian wine but Red Velvet was lighter and less complex. Then I began to take another sip and another and it grew on me. In the end, I enjoyed the lightness of the wine and felt it paired well with our pork bbq dinner. Eric was less “in” to the wine than I was, he tends to be a little more snobby when it comes to wine, but I plan on purchasing some Red Velvet again in the future.

So there you have it my friends, Red Velvet wine does exist and I say, try it! After all it is wine and I never met a wine I didn’t like.

Anyone else tried a wine based purely on its label and name and actually enjoyed it? OR worse, hated it?? We did have an adventure with Bulls Blood wine once, but I’ll leave that for another day. Happy Friday everyone!