Happy New Year & Champagne Cosmos

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Since graduating college seven years ago, I feel like each year is busier than the last. 2011 flew by! I’m not even entirely sure why I was so busy. I did work quite a bit and spent some time doing home improvement projects, but that doesn’t account for a whole year. Oh well.

Here are some of my goals for 2012:

In the Kitchen

In 2012, I would like to regularly post two recipes each week. I’ve done alright with it in 2011, but really want to commit for 2012. I’d also like the posts to be bit more balanced – desserts and sweets should not outweigh breakfasts, lunches, dinners and sides. Part of the reason for this is that I find desserts easier to photograph. So clearly, I need to focus on really learning to use my camera better, perhaps making a light box, and taking more time to style and photograph my creations. Think I can keep the hubby away from dinner long enough to do that? 😉

I do have a bit of a bucket list for items I’d like to make, but I’m not going to swear that it’ll get done during 2012. I’d love to make perogis and stuffed cabbage (perhaps on Polish Day, if I can ever pick a date to get some friends and family together for it). Homemade pasta has been on my list for a while (I keep swearing that I’ll steal my mom’s Kitchen Aid attachment). Caramel and tiramisu continue to intimidate me (I’ve failed at both once before), but I swear it’ll happen eventually. If my brother comes to visit, homemade bagels will be attempted, per his request. The list could go on and on. If only I didn’t have to work or keep a clean house…

Off the Bookshelf

In 2009 I had set the following goals for myself (I apparently didn’t do a New Year’s post last year):

  1. Read all of Jane Austen’s works (6  books, 1 short fiction, and 2 unfinished fiction)
  2. Read Gone with the Wind, a book that has always intimidated me a little bit in its length
  3. Read the Lord of the Rings series. I love the movies, I just need to start the books!

I am sad to say that I only accomplished one of those – reading Gone With the Wind, which I finished earlier this year. I’ll be keeping the other two goals on my list for the year. In addition, I would like to read the Eragon series (which I had been putting off until the final book came out) and Paullina Simons’s Tatiana & Alexander books (I’ve read the first, but would like to reread it and finish the trilogy).

Also, like last year, I want to work on reading through and donating the many mystery novels that line my bookshelves. Until I have a bigger house and more bookshelves, I cannot just keep them all! I have to be selective!

Please share! I’d love for you to share your cooking and/or reading goals for 2012. What are your plans for the new year? Leave a comment, but before you go, check out this recipe for Champagne Cosmos, a nice change from your glass of New Year’s champagne. The touch of cranberry-lime-Grand Marnier takes the edge off the champagne and sweetens the drink just a little bit. Love it! We drank four batches of this over Christmas week, and I fully intend on bring some to our New Year’s Eve party tonight.

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Champagne Cosmos

Champagne Cosmos

Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 16
Author Liz

Ingredients

  • 2 bottles of champagne or prosecco
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lime juice from 1-2 limes
  • 1 c. cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1/2 c. Grand Marnier
  • lime curls for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a small pitcher or large (2 cup) measuring glass, combine lime juice, cranberry cocktail, and Grand Marnier. Stir to combine.
  2. Pour a couple tablespoons of cranberry mixture into champagne flute (will be about an inch of cranberry mixture in bottom of the champagne flute).
  3. Top with champagne and garnish lime curls.

This recipe was adapted from Fine Cooking No. 96 p. 62

A Bit of Comfort: The Princess Bride & Hot Cocoa

When things are tough, I usually curl up and lose myself in a book. I burrow under a blanket with tea, hot chocolate, or wine by my side. I let the characters take my problems away. The Princess Bride is one of my favorite books to curl up with. I can read it over and over again. As the weather turns chillier and the blanket comes out (along with this book!), I heat up a glass of hot chocolate and get ready to spend a long afternoon on the couch. The hot chocolate recipe is a new favorite recipe of mine. I’ve given it as a gift, but not going to lie, I kept lots for myself.

One of my favorite food blogs is Everyday Annie (previously Annie’s Eats). It’s the first blog I check in the morning; it’s the first blog I check for recipe ideas. Annie is a full-time doctor, wife and mother. Every time I read her blog, I’m amazed at how much she has accomplished.

Last week, on Thanksgiving day, Annie’s father passed away unexpectedly. As I was blessed with a wonderful day with my parents, in-laws, and siblings, Annie was grieving. Tears come to my eyes as I try to imagine what she must be going through. Annie, I’ve never met you, and you probably don’t follow my blog. But this post is dedicated to you and your family. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

The Princess Bride

By William Goldman

The Princess Bride is a classic. You know the movie? Well, the book is even better.

A father reads aloud to his his sick 10-year old son a story by S. Morgenstern. The story that has everything in it: “Fencing. Fighting. Torture, Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions. Miracles.” (p 9-10) Years later, Goldman gives the book to his own son for his tenth birthday and goes on to discover that S. Morgenstern’s story is not what he thought it was. Goldman discovers that his father only read him the “good parts.” This book is Goldman’s 1973 adaption of S. Morgenstern’s tale, leaving out the boring family genealogies and pages upon pages of descriptions where nothing happens.

Buttercup was a milkmaid and the prettiest girl alive. She falls in love with her “farm boy” Westley, who leaves to make his fortune in America. Not long after he sets sail, Buttercup receives a letter saying that his ship was taken by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never leaves prisoners alive. That was the last Buttercup heard of her one true love.

Buttercup’s beauty wins her a an engagement to Prince Humperdinck of Florin. Just before their wedding, Buttercup is kidnapped. Twice. The next two hundred pages is packed with fighting, plotting, deceiving, and revenge as Westley struggles to rejoin his one true love.

If this story rings a bell, it’s because the movie was pretty true to the plot as well as the dialog. However, like all movies, it’s impossible to fit everything into two hours. Read the book. You’ll learn the stories behind Fezzik and Inigo – how they ended up with Vizzini the Sicilian, what Fezzik’s childhood was like, and how Inigo’s father died at the hands of the 6-figured man. These are the pieces that make me like the characters even more.

Recommendation: Read it. Please.

Grade: A+

And to go with The Princess Bride…. make some of this hot chocolate mix. Give some as gifts or hoard it all. But if you give it as a gift, you should at least hoard a little bit. You’d be sad if you didn’t. And then make it every night with a generous dollop of whipped cream. It’s rich, it’s decadent. It’s grown-up hot chocolate. It’s amazing.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

This recipe was adapted from Gourmet (2005) via Everyday Annie

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. vanilla sugar
  • 3/4 lb. good quality semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 4.5 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 c. Dutch process cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa since I’m unable to find Dutch process cocoa powder)

Place all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until chocolate is finely ground (mixture should be completely combined).

Makes 38 servings (2 Tbs. mix or 1 c. hot chocolate).

Serve: Mix 2 Tbs. mix with 1 c. warm/hot milk or water, stirring until all chocolate is melted.

Storage: Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Blackberry-Mint Water

I’m loving that spring is finally here. I’ve been outside in the sun as much as possible after rain almost every day in April (or at least it felt like almost every day!). While I’m not training for the Susan G Komen walk this year, I’ve still kept up my good habits, walking 2-3 times a week outside instead of being cooped up in the gym. I love that there are more fresh fruits and veggies available, particularly the recent arrival of summer berries. When this month’s issue of Fine Cooking arrived featuring a Blackberry-Sage water, I knew that I would be making it for the weekend’s BBQ with friends.

The water is not what one would expect. The color was vibrant purple, instead of just slightly colored. The water isn’t super-sweet, more minty than anything, but incredibly refreshing. This drink is a staple that I’ll be keeping around the house and adapting throughout the summer.

Blackberry-Mint Water

Adapted from Ellie Krieger in Fine Cooking No. 111 (p. 37)

Yields 1 pitcher

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. blackberries
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 15+ mint leaves*
  • 1 c. boiling water
  • 7 c. cold water, divided

* May substitute sage leaves in place of mint

With a mortar and pestle, crush mint and sugar to release juices and flavor in mint leaves. Pour boiling water over mint and sugar. Stir until sugar has dissolved.

In a food processor or blender, puree blackberries with 2 c. cold water.

With a strainer set over a large bowl or serving pitcher, strain sugar-mint water and blackberry water into pitcher, stirring and pressing solids to release remaining juices. Top with 5 c. water.

Chill & serve.

Amaretto Sour with Prosecco

I haven’t had much amaretto – none in drinks, only in the buttercream frosting of an almond-raspberry cake (recipe next week!). I was pleasantly surprised by this cocktail. With the Prosecco, it isn’t as I imagine a straight-up Amaretto Sour to be.

The original recipe reflects enough for one drink. The quantities in parentheses reflect enough for 4-5 servings, which would use up the whole bottle of Prosecco.

Amaretto Sour with Prosecco

Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. simple syrup (or 1/2 c.)
  • 3/4 c. Prosecco (or 1 whole bottle, 750 ml)
  • 2 Tbs. amaretto (or 1/2 c.)
  • 1 lemon (2)
  • 1 lime (for rimming)
  • Ice cubes
  • 1/4 c. sugar (for rimming)

Simple syrup is made by combining 1 part water and 1 part sugar and boiling until sugar is dissolved. To make enough for 1/2 c. simple syrup, use 3/4 c. of each water and sugar. Set aside to cool.

Prepare the Glasses: Zest lemon and lime. Combine with sugar in a flat dish. In another small bowl, juice the lemon and set aside. Cut the lemon into wedges and rub around the rims of the glasses. Lightly press rim into sugar, fill with ice, and set aside.

Make the Drink: In a pitcher, combine Prosecco, amaretto, splash of lemon juice (use all of it if making the 4 servings), and simple syrup. Stir & serve.

Garnish with a slice of lemon and/or lime, if desired.

Pomegranate Cosmos

A twist on a classic cocktail, this Pomegranate Cosmo recipe makes a pitcher for easy entertaining.

One of my favorite things about visiting my parents is how Mom and I always end up with a drink in hand. Lately it’s been French Martinis, but this weekend, we tried a new recipe from the cookbook I gave her earlier this month (a thank you for hours of painting and yard work at our house). These cosmos were wonderfully sweet. Make sure you throw them in the shaker before serving – we didn’t and they were seriously strong. Enjoy!

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Pomegranate Cosmos

Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 6 Drinks
Author Liz

Ingredients

  • 2 c. good quality vodka I like Grey Goose
  • 1 c. Grand Marnier Contreau or other orange liquor
  • 1 c. cranberry juice
  • 1/2 c. pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 c. fresh lime juice from about 3 limes
  • lime peels for garnish

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients except lime peals in a pitcher and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  2. To serve, fill a shaker with ice and add cosmo mixture. Shake until chilled and serve, garnished with a lime peel.

 

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics