Jul 222014
 

Last summer I wrote about making some infused vodka. I didn’t make a ton because I ended up eating MOST of the blackberries that were ripe… Ooops! (One of my goals this summer is to go berry picking…which will be hard because I end up eating more than I pick…) Anyways, I made this blackberry vodka and let it sit for awhile.

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It was easy to make. I picked a ton of blackberries from our yard, combined them with vodka in a mason jar and stuck it in the fridge. About once a week I would turn the jar over to mix it. It sat in the fridge for about two months.

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It was time to take the blackberries out. I strained the blackberries (which weren’t black anymore) and then put the vodka in a clean (and smaller) mason jar.

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Of course I had to sample my creation! I had a teeny sip.  It was very potent. Michael asked, “What kind of Moonshine are you drinking?!” And yes, it was strong like Moonshine! It was sweet, too, which was interesting because I did not add any sugar to it. It wasn’t overly sweet, though.

I gave a small sample to a friend who absolutely LOVED IT and I rationed out some for myself throughout the winter. By spring it was all gone. I started writing this post months ago and then promptly forgot about it in my drafts folder. Now seems like a good time to share it. :)

I tried two different recipes to use the infused vodka and wanted to share them here. Here is the first:

Berryoska Blackberry

From: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/food/cocktails/vodka-drink-recipes-berryoska-blackberry#slide-6

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. Russian Standard Vodka
  • 4 blackberries
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • 3 tsp. sugar
  • Crushed ice

Instructions

  1. Muddle the lime juice, sugar, and blackberries in a glass.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and stir.
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It was potent! I took a sip and added a splash of lemon lime sparkling water and that lightened it up just a tad. It was great!

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The next night I tried a different recipe. When I was making it Michael asked me what kind of “hillbilly concoction” I was making. What is it with him and Moonshine?!?! What does he have against some good homemade stuff? ;) Here is the second recipe:

Blackberry and Basil

From: http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/cocktails/stolichnaya-blakberi-vodka.asp

Ingredients

  • 1 part Stoli Blakberi
  • French or Italian sparkling lemonade (in bottles at specialty food stores) or San Pellegrino Sparkling Lemon Beverage (in cans).
  • Fresh basil to taste

Instructions

  1. Muddle basil with Stoli Blakberi.
  2. Serve on rocks and top off with Italian sparkling lemonade.
  3. Garnish with additional basil leaves.
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I liked this one because in my opinion there isn’t anything better than fresh basil. (In fact, I need to plant another basil plant this year. For some reason I didn’t do that this spring like I usually do…) I used some of the Newman’s Own lemonade — loved it! I need to buy this more often. I used just a splash of it in my drink.

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Of the two recipes, this second one was my absolute favorite. The flavors all balanced nicely and took some of the “bite” off the vodka. It tasted more like a refreshing summer drink than an alcoholic beverage. The minced basil was an excellent touch. I loved the flavor of the basil with the vodka. I am so sad now that it’s all gone. :( Perhaps I shouldn’t have chopped down all our blackberry bushes this year so I could make some more….Anyways, hope you enjoyed this post and give some of the recipes a try. They were really good! Cheers!

 

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Jul 022014
 

We got our first wedding gift!

At first I didn’t realize what it was. It was a box delivered from Amazon and we have Amazon Prime (and use it way too much to order things) so I thought it was just another package. Then I saw it was addressed to me and ran through the list in my head of things I’d ordered…Wait, I didn’t order anything this big…Then I saw it said “gift” on the box. Michael and I debated for awhile on whether to open it or wait. The wedding is a few months away but why would we just have a box sitting in our living room for a few months? We decided to open it.

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It was wrapped in a cute velvety bag and it was huge! It was so exciting! Bella and Fat Kitty were super excited and wanted to be in the middle of it all. I unwrapped it to find one of the things off our registry:

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Woohoo!! A nice, fancy new crockpot! I have an old crockpot that works fine, but I’ve always wished it was one that had a timer. I cannot wait to use this baby! Bella was investigating everything, sniffing and nudging it.

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Fat Kitty was more excited about the box it came in. He immediately jumped inside and started playing with the box. I love these goofy fur babies.

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The gift was from our friends Tiffany and Chris (she’s from the former blog “Carbzilla”–and I’m so glad we became friends in real life!) So we had received our first gift for the wedding. It felt really exciting. I know we’re adults and all, but it was kinda like Christmas morning. :)

I decided to test it out. I found this recipe awhile ago and wanted to try it but the weather changed and it was really warm and sunny out and the idea of soup didn’t appeal to me. Which was weird because I typically eat soup year round! Unfortunately the recipe wasn’t great and definitely wasn’t photogenic. So trying a different one! I LOVE the new crockpot. It’s so shiny and pretty. :) I like that it’s oval shaped; that makes it easier to store in the kitchen cabinet. The timer part worked great. I set the timer for 7.5 hours. After that time is up, it goes into “Warming Mode” for up to 4 hours. I love this feature!

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

Prep Time: 14 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours

Total Time: 4 hours, 20 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Calories per serving: 385

From: http://www.foodiecrush.com/2013/10/slow-cooker-thai-chicken-soup/

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 2 12 ounce cans of coconut milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • cilantro for garnish
  • cooked white rice

Instructions

  1. Mix the curry paste, coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar and peanut butter in a 4-1/2 to 6-quart slow-cooker bowl.
  2. Place the chicken breast, red bell pepper, onion and ginger in the slow cooker, cover and cook on high for 4 hours.
  3. Add in the peas and cook for 1/2 hour longer. Stir in lime juice and serve with cilantro and white rice.
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If you use light coconut milk you save about 200 calories. If you use the regular the calories for this dish is closer to 600 per serving. I added some chopped carrots and also some mushrooms (for Michael). I like how versatile these types of dishes are. You can add pretty much any vegetable you want and you can easily make this vegetarian.

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I’m also glad I read through the comments on the blog post. Lots of readers had tested the recipe and had some alterations.The big one was not adding the coconut milk at the beginning. Lots of readers had curdled soup. Gross! So I followed their instructions and added the coconut milk about 30 minutes before it was going to be done. Also, I’ve never cooked chicken on high before and most crockpot chicken recipes cook around 4-6 hours tops on low so I put my crockpot on low and kept checking on it to make sure it was ok.

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I skipped the frozen peas and didn’t have cilantro but that’s ok. I don’t think cilantro makes or breaks a recipe (except maybe salsa). I added the coconut milk around 30 minutes before it was going to be ready. It didn’t curdle or separate like some of the readers complained about. I debated about adding the second can because the first added a lot of liquid and it seemed “soupy” enough but it had some kick to it so I figured the second can couldn’t hurt.

While the soup was finishing up, I soaked some Pad Thai noodles in warm water per the instructions. I know this recipe said to serve with rice but I didn’t really feel like rice. I wanted more of a soup and the pad thai noodles are rice noodles and gluten free so that worked perfectly!  Once the noodles were properly soaked and softened, I added them to the crockpot, added the lime juice, stirred it up and dinner was served!

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The flavors were so rich! I liked spice that it had. Because I added that second can of coconut milk, the original heat was diluted so I was going to add just a bit of sriracha sauce but I didn’t need to. It was still pretty spicy–but in a pleasant way, not super spicy. I let Michael have all my mushrooms. :) He said the mushrooms were fantastic in the dish. I’ll take his word for it.

One thing I didn’t like–the red peppers were annihilated. I added them around the 2 hour mark thinking that would be okay (the recipe called for them to be added at the beginning). They were too soft and squishy. Next time I would make this and add the red peppers when I add the coconut milk so they stay a little more firm. Also, the chicken was great so cooking it on low for 4 hours was the right move! I got 7 servings out of this recipe and I had plenty for lunches.

All in all I loved this recipe and would definitely make it again. I think it’s a delicious recipe, it’s low in calories, and I can see it being a hit at a dinner party. This will definitely become a regular in this house!

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