Moose Mixology- a “glass is half full” approach to life!

This morning my dear friend Christine Storch shared the post below on her blog, “Dashing Through Winston- Salem“.

If you don’t follow her blog, please check it out, it has great stories about life, food, fashion and more happening in our city we affectionately refer to as “the Dash”.

Every couple of weeks Christine and I will be collaborating to bring our readers some fun drinks, often cocktails but also some great ideas for kids and more!  I might cover a hot new bar in town or something related, so please keep reading, and enjoy!

Kumquat  and Thyme Infused Gin

kumquats whole

Let me introduce you to a small little treat, key word here small, called kumquats.  Yes kumquats, a little fruit you have probably heard of but might not know much about.  They look like a tiny orange and taste like a bitter orange, sweet at first bite and then sour inside.  Nature’s version of a sour patch kid if you will.  Click here to learn more details about these jewels which are in season primarily in the Winter months.

So, if you know me, I am always looking for fun new culinary adventures and a trip to Trader Joe’s the other week ended with kumquats in my grocery cart, lost amid other fruits and cheeses.  I recalled reading a recipe in the Lee Brothers Charleston Kitchen cookbook for a cocktail using kumquats, so it was straight home to research and then to work.  The result, a delicious infused gin that works magic in a glass over ice with club soda.  Go on, find some kumquats and mix it up today!

kumquats sliced  kumquat thyme gin  gin

This yields a fabulously floral infused gin with such minimal effort I almost felt bad over how yummy it tasted.  My “Mister Mixology” is strictly a bourbon drinker, but he did dip his finger in the jar and even he thought it was good.  I hope you find the simple steps below delicious and easy, too.

1.  In a pint Mason jar or other non-absorbent container, place about one cup of thinly sliced kumquats as pictured above in the bottom of jar.  As you slice you will need to remove the seeds, but no worries, it was an easy task to do as you go.

2.  Because I had fresh thyme to use up, I added 3-4 sprigs on top of the sliced fruit.  Gin, by nature, is herbaceous and I think the combination worked well.  You could leave it out entirely, or substitute other fresh herbs such as rosemary or basil.  Play around, but the mild infusion of thyme was pretty darn good, not sure it could be beat!

3.  Pour gin to cover the kumquats and herbs to the top of jar.  I used Bombay Sapphire, as it is what I had the most of, but use what you enjoy drinking, it will be wonderfully enhanced with flavor after this.

4.  Carefully place the lid on the jar, and set aside for 2-3 days for the flavors to infuse, just on your counter at room temperature.  It’s fun to show off to friends,  it’s really pretty in the jar, just don’t shake it up much!

5.  I poured my Kumquat & Thyme infused Gin over ice and topped with a splash of club soda.  It didn’t need a lime in my opinion due to the citrus of the kumquats, but if I had been serving it to guests I definitely would have fancied it up by garnishing with a sprig of fresh thyme and a slice of kumquat on the rim.

But get jiggy with however you want to mix your drink…and share the love, please, let us know what you concoct as well!

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through my kitchen window

bird

Through my kitchen window, I can hear and see it all.  Birds chirp and sit on branches, waiting for the right moment to come to the feeder, hanging where I can watch.  Tiny and daring, they swoop in and out, grabbing seed and going about their day.  A great reminder to me as I start the morning, filling the coffee pot with water and hurrying about, my mind running a million directions, to simply slow it down a notch.  Pause, and listen to their song.

Through my kitchen window, I hear the dribble in the drive of basketballs and children playing.  Sweet voices, having fun, being kids the old fashioned way.  Remember when life was so simple, not a care in the world?  A beautiful sound, just like those in nature, and one that I sadly realize will not be around forever.  Instead of calling them in, I wait and savor it like a fine wine.

Through my kitchen window I look out into the world, but sometimes I really look into my world to the things that matter.  Sometimes as I look out I am blinded by sunlight, sometimes rain splatters against the window pane and dances on tree leaves.  Cool spring breezes and warm summer nights flow in and out, and on special occasions it is a glance to a winter wonderland.  Always teaching me something, if only I stop to listen.

Through my kitchen window, in the room that I love, I am reminded of why I do it all.  Really, it is a window into life, reminding me to enjoy it as each days passes.  So pause, enjoy the views in your world, too, and the best of food and life.

fill me up, buttercup!

I’m going on a journey, one you can go on with me.  The first of many in a series I am about to take.  When we get back, hopefully we will all have culture shock.  This is the ideal trip, as you only have to travel a few minutes from your home (if you’re lucky enough to live in Winston-Salem), and down the road to the cutest commercial kitchen I have ever seen.  While you may spend as much money as you’d like to, it can cost you as little as $5, plus it will be delicious.  Want to come?

As any good foodie knows, the challenge of trying new things in the kitchen just can’t be resisted for a girl like me.  Part of that is the foodie in me, and if I am honest with myself and you, a larger part of that is the adventure I find in trying new things and going out on a limb.  Isn’t that what life is about?  For years I have made flavored butters, damn good ones at times, but I have never made the butter.  Until now, when I take trip next week down a new road and make cultured butter, hopefully resulting in the culture shock earlier mentioned over creamy, smooth, organic simplicity.  The process is quite simple actually,  don’t be overly impressed.  By adding a culture to a good heavy cream (40% plus milk fat), taking some time and a little kneading, butter will be ready in a couple of days.  And the fringe benefit?  Fresh buttermilk!  For those of you that might not realize this simple fact, buttermilk is the liquid extracted from the cream when making butter.  You see, butter-milk?  Amazing!  I can just taste the hot, flaky buttermilk biscuits with house made fresh sea salt & chive butter, can’t you?

Small batch, premium ingredients, nice packaging, fill me up butter cup indeed!  Enjoying the best of simple kitchen things, one batch at a time…

(This week’s Dinner Pick Up email which will be sent tomorrow will give details on placing an order, but don’t wait long as small batch means, well, small batch.)

journey to a cookbook…

Cookbook

I recently entered a contest to try and win a publishing contract for a cookbook.  Ironically, I had started writing a cookbook before a friend told me about the contest, a cookbook that has our family favorites and the recipes I create.  While I did not make it to the finals of the contest, (ok-or even the semi finals!), I feel like the cookbook I am working on will definitely be a winner.  My mind always seems to be spinning with kitchen ideas, and this is just one of the many I have on the “back burner”, pun intended.

It’s so interesting the paths our lives takes us down.  Like the pieces of a puzzle coming together, you often look back and see how and why they fit together.  For me, cooking is a tremendous part of my life puzzle.  Like a musician who can play by ear without ever being taught, cooking is my art and who I am.  The joy of cooking for me is not only preparing delicious meals, but sharing thoughts, ideas and recipes through writing for you on my blog.   This doesn’t always mean fancy, just good food prepared with good ingredients, shared together.   Sometimes my recipes reflect my Southern roots with delicious Oven Crispy Chicken, Low Country Grits Souffle, and much more!  Sometimes kitchen experience working out West at a ranch is seen in my Tomato Basil Tart, Asian Marinated Cucumbers, or elegant appetizers.

It’s always a journey, and I thank you for taking this journey with me by getting to know my life, my stories, and most importantly, my recipes.  Who knows what will be cooking next!  Enjoy, the best of food and life, and this week that has meant a beautiful Southern snow.  In fact, I wrote a blog last week in anticipation of the snow but never published it, I was afraid I would jinx it.  But the snow brought it all together and the days off cooking for neighbors and friends while sledding are “making memories” as you go.  Enjoy, the recipe below is one I make for dinner pick ups and is one of our family favorites, tried and true!

snow day

Oven Crispy Chicken

This is one my family’s favorite Sunday suppers!  It is a taste of growing up for me, and now it will be for my children.  The crispy skin is what everyone wants, so you might want to allow more than one thigh per person, especially because it is almost as good leftover. 

Ingredients:

2 split chicken breasts                                                    1 teaspoon dried oregano

6 chicken thighs (I use skin on, bone in)                 salt and pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour                                                   olive oil for drizzling

2 teaspoons Adobo seasoning

¼ cup grated Parmesan

Directions:

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan or cookie sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil, and spray lightly with pan spray.  Place flour, Adobo, parmesan and generous sprinkling of salt and pepper in a large paper grocery bag, or two plastic grocery bags.  Using the bags is a neat and easy way to coat your chicken, plus no extra dish to wash.  Combine ingredients with flour by lightly shaking together, but be sure to check bags for holes first!

Next, place pieces of chicken breast in bag, close the top, and shake well to coat chicken.   Remove breasts, shaking off excess flour, and place on cookie sheet.  Repeat process with chicken thighs.  Once all chicken is on the pan, allow as much space as possible between pieces for ultimate crisping.  Pieces should not be touching, and if so, use two pans.  Lightly drizzle each piece of chicken with olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt and a little pepper over the top of the skin.

Bake for 50 minutes, to one hour.  I always find one hour really gives the skin a good crisp while the chicken stays juicy and tender.  Enjoy, and don’t forget to dip your choice of bread in those amazing pan drippings!