Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bourbon and Clove Cider Cocktail [Recipe]

Over the years, I've developed a taste for whisky.  I've figured out where my tastes lie in Scotch (The McCallan from the Scottish Highlands) but I've also had to more closely manage my budget.  There has been a re-birth of whiskey in the United States and I've begun to explore different bourbons.  Some of them are quite good and a great price point too.

This fall, I was at a social gathering sponsored by Farmstr, a local Seattle start up connecting farmers and consumers. You can buy a flat of brussels sprouts or an organic, free-range chicken directly from the farmer and pick it up at a convenient Seattle location.

At this gathering of food bloggers, there was a delightful cider punch. It wasn't cloyingly sweet and there was a delicate hint of cloves and you could feel the warmth of the alcohol trailing on your throat. It was a very nice, subtle way to enjoy the flavors of fall and winter.

I asked the chef for the recipe (cider, bourbon and homemade clove bitters) but didn't get the ratios. And on top of that, I'm not quite cool enough to have clove bitters nor have I gotten into making bitters, but my browser search history was full of "how to make bitters" searches.

While it doesn't seem too hard to make bitters, I decided to experiment and see if I could make a similar libation with ingredients around the house.

I started by infusing some apple cider with cloves and reduced it a bit, because I was side tracked by a family card game.  Then, I tried adding some bourbon until I found a nice balance of sweetness. While I made it as a drink for one, this could easily be served as a punch as it was at the Farmstr party.

So, I've noticed something else about drinking bourbon. I don't drink very much, maybe one alcoholic drink a week, but everytime I've had a bourbon drink with a particular brand of bourbon, I just cannot sleep. Its almost like when you have a strong coffee too late in the day and it keeps you awake. I've not noticed this with all bourbon brands and never with any other alcohol. Does this happen to anyone else?

Bourbon and Clove Cider Cocktail

Ingredients
  • Apple Cider, 1 cup  (I used filtered because that was all my son could find when he was on the grocery run)
  • 8 whole cloves
  • Bourbon

Directions
  1. Infuse the cider with the cloves. Break the cloves in half and add to the cider in a pot on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for approximately 10 minutes or reduced to about 3/4 cup. More reducing will bring out the sweetness of the apples and the cloves.
  2. Filter the infused cider and cool. Or do it in the opposite order. Store it in a closed container in the fridge, maybe a mason jar for some extra hipster points.
  3. When you're ready for a drink, pour 3 shots of clove infused cider and 1 shot of bourbon in an old fashioned glass and enjoy.  I didn't add ice because the cider was cool from the fridge and I prefer my dark alcohol drinks neat.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails [Book Review]

From the Brooklyn based guys that brought you the Mason Shaker, Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails is a beautifully photographed book of cocktail recipes, celebrating the seasons and seasonal ingredients in artisan cocktails.

I was given this book to review and if I have to test the recipes (read: drink cocktails) to do a little work, I'm game.  And these aren't fruity, sweet cocktails either; these are the savory cocktails, focusing on the flavors of seasonal ingredients. With the cover photograph having a sprig of rosemary, I knew this book was for me.

Unlike many other cocktail cookbooks, this book is organized by season. Each recipe uses seasonal ingredients: sage and grapefruit in winter, fresh berries in spring, watermelon and stone fruit in summer and apple cider in fall. Using the freshest ingredients makes for the best flavored cocktails and the recipes were driven by what they could find in their Brooklyn farmer's markets.

Each recipe is beautifully photographed, including the ingredients artfully displayed and the finished drink. After making the Rosemary Maple Bourbon Sour as my tester drink, I passed the book to my wife to choose our next cocktail. She was unable to choose a drink, because "this book is like Instagram for cocktails."

A photo posted by Heather Murphy-Raines/Scouts H (@unitedstatesofmotherhood) on


Something else I loved about this book was that each season included a non-alcoholic drink, still focusing on those seasonal ingredients. I enjoy a cocktail, but more than one or two and I stop enjoying them and just want to sleep.

The book excerpt has a few recipes, so you can check out the drinks and decide if this is the book for your cocktail library. I'm not sure if this book belongs on my cookbook shelf or on display on my coffee table. Its a beautiful book on its own, with wonderful recipes contained inside.



As stated in the review, I received a copy of this book for review from Blogging for Books. Other than the book, I was not compensated. The opinions in this review are my own and I wouldn't have shared it with you if it wasn't a great book.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Varied Musical Tastes

Lately, I've not been happy with the music on the radio here in Seattle. Sure, one station has started off a 2 Minute Promise (only two minutes of ads at a time), but that just gets them back to the mostly cruddy hipster music sooner. My daughter and I got burned a few nights ago: another station's DJ announced "great music right after we come back [from these ads]." It turns out we almost finished our drive home, more than five minutes, before they played some pop song that neither of us liked.

I'm always flipping through the presets in our cars, hoping that the next station will be playing a great song. And you know that the expression the grass is always greener isn't always true.  But every once in a while, I get lucky and find a good song. And I'll turn it up.  Loud.

I've realized that music I like falls into some pretty disparate categories. This dawned on me as I was driving back into my neighborhood with Verdi's Rigoletto playing loud enough that the ladies walking on the street could hear it.


The morning before that, as I was driving to CrossFit at 5:40AM in the dark, it was Simon and Garfunkel's Cecilia. It's got such a catchy beat and did a half-way decent job of firing me up. You've got to be awake for 6AM CrossFit.


Bend Ova by Lil Jon has gotten some radio play of late. The thumping bass, the rhythm of the lyrics, the call and response just makes it ripe for being played loud. Just about everything my Lil Jon makes me want to move and I don't have any moves. Warning, though this the non-explicit version, its pushes quite a few boundaries, so its probably still NSFW. Or when the kids are home. See, that's why I play it loud in the car.


And none of these are my favorites or even fall in the same genre as my favorites. You've got to go pretty deep on the independent radio stations around here to hear any Ministry, KMFDM or NOFX.

What song(s) are you going to turn up when they come on the radio that might surprise even yourself?

Thursday, October 09, 2014

If your shower is longer than two songs...

I've recently come up with a small productivity trick. I guess it can even be called a lifehack. I keep my showers short and sweet in the morning listening to music. Yes, listening to music.

I enjoy music. It really brightens my mood or helps pull me out of a funk. My family can tell when I've had a rough day if they come home and some dark industrial is playing. When I stay up way too late coding, dirty dubstep helps keep me going for the long run. I have a playlist (listen to it on Spotify its loud and probably NSFW) that fires me up on the way to CrossFit. A day doesn't go by without music. With smart phones and streaming audio services it makes it that much easier to get your music where ever you are.

I go to CrossFit first thing in the morning and return home to shower, get breakfast and get ready for my day. It's so easy to step into a hot shower and let the water massage my sore muscles and warm me back up again, as we start to get into cooler weather. I could just stand there (okay, sometimes lean against the wall) and let the hot water course down my back. I could do it until the hot water runs out.

I've started playing music (you might recall this post) while I'm in the shower and found that a shower takes less than 2 songs. So, I use that as my benchmark for shower length. Instead of falling into a blissful state of relaxation in the hot water, it reminds to keep moving.

I've been unable to get any of my kids to take on this practice and I've got kids who can just stand in the shower well after the hot water has run out (or at least that's how long they seem to me). But I think it would be a great tip to keep them on task.

Now, before any of you go out and have your kids start this, I've also figured out how to game my own system. Most of the time, I listen to punk songs, which are on the order of 90 seconds to 2 minutes long. But if I want to take a longer, relaxing shower, most dubstep songs are 4 to 5 minutes long.  So, if they start listening to Iron Butterfly's In A Gadda Da Vida (bewtween 8 and 30 minutes, depending upon the version) or Weezer's Only in Dreams (7:59) as their two songs, you'll know they're playing you.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Paleo Chicken and Waffles

Last weekend was the 2014 International Food Bloggers Conference, where brands and bloggers got together in Seattle to network, learn and enjoy good food.  With breakouts on Food, Writing and Technology, there was something for every food blogger. I had an enjoyable time and actually got to meet some bloggers in real life. Ironically, some of those I met live in my same neighborhood.

What was great about this year's conference was that there were many brands represented in the healthy space, and for me, that means acceptably paleo.  Dinner last night was brought to us by the swag from these brands.

  • The local sausage company, Isernio's, which makes clean chicken and pork (didn't know this before the conference) sausage.
  • Nutiva, which makes coconut products, like coconut oil and flour
  • NestFresh, a cage free, organic egg producer
Almost mis en place!


I had a hole in my tummy that was looking to be filled with waffles, so that's what I decided to make.  After going through my paleo waffle recipes (thank you PaleOMG), I found that they all required coconut milk, of which we had none.

It was almost 8pm and we were getting hungry. I knew that its only an 8 minute trip, one way, to the grocery store. So, yes, I did make a grocery store run for coconut milk and a few add-ons as I dashed out the door.
Paleo chicken and waffles.

 I made PaleOMG's Savory Waffles and topped them with browned Isernio's Chicken Breakfast sausage and some of Heather's spicy (homegrown) ketchup. While the savory herbs in the waffles complimented the sausage, the waffles were dry. Her recipe actually tops them with a gravy and they needed the moisture from a gravy, for sure.

What was neat about IFBC was that these were all products I already enjoyed in my clean eating and I got to meet brand representatives and see some new products (more on that later).

Disclaimer: The chicken and eggs used in this post were some swag from the conference.  I ate this stuff already, so I already thought it was great before I got some free coupons! While I wasn't compensated for this post, I did receive a blogger's discount for attending the conference and this post is meeting a part of what I had to do in return for the discount.

Monday, September 08, 2014

How to Poach Eggs [Video]

I've always enjoyed Poached Eggs. They've always had a special cachet to them - most restaurants don't have them on the menu, unless you get Eggs Benedict, another favorite of mine. And it takes a certain caliber of restaurant to have Eggs Benedict. I used to only make poached eggs when I was making a special brunch, New Years, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day or having friends over for brunch. I have several gadgets and even a special pan with inserts to make poached eggs, which I would leverage quite frequently.
My go to breakfast: poached eggs, mashed sweet potato and bacon. Photo by Heather.

But after some research, I learned how easy it is to make Poached Eggs in just a pot of water. And now, sadly, Poached Eggs have lost a bit of their cachet, because I eat them just about everyday (which makes me happy - a net increase in happiness).  Heather had posted several photos of the breakfasts I make for her with poached eggs, and one of her friends asked how to make poached eggs.  I decided to make a video of the method.

Without further ado, here is my first ever cooking video! Enjoy.


If you give it a try, let me know how it works out for you in the comments, either here or on YouTube. As a teaser for a future post, you can also make poached eggs in the microwave! Think how awesome your breakfast in the office could be!

The rest of this post is about making the video, so if you just wanted to learn about poaching eggs, that's all I've got for you today. If you want to see what I learned about making a YouTube video, read on.

It's not the greatest video around, but it was my first go. In making this video, I learned how easy it is to make videos for YouTube. The YouTube editor is pretty nice for working with multiple clips and provides some reasonable editing capabilities. I shot all this video with my phone, and in fact, the last half was inverted because I held my phone with my left hand, upside down so I could reach the buttons. Little did I know that the display would be right side up, but the video wouldn't be. However, YouTube came to my rescue and I was able to invert part of the clip!

Almost a year ago, I attended the International Food Blogger's Conference and a blogging chef recommended I try out food videos. IFBC 2014 is less than two weeks away, and I've finally done it. Here are a few things I learned while making this video - its probably the quality of what would be turned in for a high school project, but the lessons are still a good foundation.

  1. Shoot in multiple clips. The editor can help you put them in sequence, even if you need to re-shoot a portion, and trim the starting and ending points. You'll notice that the video hadn't started when I was talking about bringing the water to a full boil.
  2. I recorded my audio at the same time as my video. I didn't script it or prepare too much for it. You'll notice I was repetitive at times and stumbled over the words and simultaneous actions. With the editor I can turn off the volume on the video clip and lay an audio track down. That audio track could even be a new video, but it will only play the audio portion. This way you can go sequence everything and even talk through the transitions. I'd plan on redoing this video with a better audio track, with some introduction speech and some voice over the "what you need" picture.
  3. Its easier if you have a helper to actually hold the camera. When it comes to food preparation, there is only so much you can do with one hand. Talk through the shot with them before hand. I didn't tell my son that I'd want to show the eggs right after plopping them in the water, hence the finger pointing.
I thought that this was a fun medium to work with and I plan on making more of these in the future. if there are any things you'd like me show you how to make, just leave a comment!



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

This weekend's fresh eats

This weekend I enjoyed some good food at the hands of my family. As we reduce the amount of junky food in our house, the kids have started to make the things we no longer buy or make for them. They make pancakes and muffins and cookies and sometimes, they even clean up after themselves.

Recently, my daughter has gotten into an ice cream making kick. Her go to flavor has been vanilla ice cream. She has also started exploring coffee and is trying to figure out what she likes, which borders on the super-sweet caramel lattes. Her tastes are still developing. I had a few servings of cold brew coffee in the fridge, which I surrendered to her and she made coffee ice cream!


 It was good ice cream too, coming from a former ice cream man and coffee lover.  I did make sure that I got a few scoops because usually the ice cream she makes is consumed shortly after it is made. Though the kids all make good food, they don't defer any enjoyment.

Heather's green thumb has provided some good things, too.  The tomatoes are finally ripening and I made a delicious tomato salad, with the bright flavors of the cherry tomatoes and the basil that she grew on our counters. With some coarse sea salt and a splash or two of olive oil, it makes for a quick, fresh salad. I used Oregon Olive Mill's Arbequina for its peppery taste.



What did you eat this weekend, that you still relish two days into the week?

Thanks again to Oregon Olive Mill for the olive oil samples and to Heather and Chase for making good food and ingredients available to me!