Category Archives: Cocktail

Day 40: Homemade Limoncello for the Holidays

Can you believe we are already at the 40-day mark of the Homemade Limoncello making process?  Today I added some simple syrup (see note below) and more vodka, and then it will sit for another 40 days.  My post for Day 1 was on August 16th, and the lemon peels and 100-proof vodka have since been happily mingling inside a gallon jar. I was excited about the Day 1 post not only because I was able to share a recipe that my Mom has fostered for many years, but the chef who created the recipe, Joanne Weir, read AND commented on my post! Needless to say, I was thrilled that one of my favorite chefs took the time to acknowledge my blog.  In case you missed Day 1, limoncello is enjoyed after dinner and served ice cold – it has a strong, bright lemon flavor steeped in smooth vodka.  It’s an honor to be offered a glass of someone’s homemade limoncello – a sign that you are a welcome guest who will be invited back again.

Note: You probably noticed that my limoncello has an amber color; that’s from the type of sugar I used, which is organic and has a blonde color to it.  The flavor isn’t affected, but it doesn’t produce the golden, clear color you are looking for in limoncello; I would therefore recommend using a white sugar for the proper color.  Every day is a learning experience in the kitchen!  The perfectionist in me is reeling from this silly mistake, but I must move on.

I have again included Joanne Weir’s recipe below, but here is another quick break-down of the 80-day process:

Day 1: August 16, 2012
Add lemon peels and vodka to a covered jar, let sit for 40 days in a cool, dark place

Save the lemon juice for later use; after peeling, cut the lemons in half and juice, pour juice into ice cube tray, freeze and store cubes in freezer bag or container.
Yields about 12 ice cubes; one regular ice cube = 2 tablespoons

Need some ideas for using fresh lemon juice ice cubes? Add to water pitcher for instant flavor, add to sauces, or defrost and use when baking or making vinaigrettes.

Day 40: September 24, 2012
Add simple syrup and more vodka to jar, let sit again for 40 days in a cool, dark place

Day 80: November 3, 2012
Strain, pour into clean bottles and keep in freezer (yields 3 quarts/12 cups)

Good News: If you haven’t started your Limoncello for the Holidays, it’s not too late.

In November, I’ll share the final product with you, when our limoncello will be ready to drink – just in time for David’s birthday, too! Are you planning to give some limoncello as gifts? Stay tuned – I’ll also share some resources for decorative bottles.

Eat well and share the love!

Homemade Limoncello, by Joanne Weir (print recipe)
Limoncello must steep for 80 days
Yields 3 quarts

Ingredients:
15 thick-skinned lemons
2 750-ml bottles 100-proof vodka
4 cups sugar

5 cups water

Directions:
Day 1: Wash the lemons well with a vegetable brush and hot water; pat dry. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemon in long, wide strips. Scrape away any of the bitter white pith from the lemon peel with a paring knife.

Combine the lemon peels and one of the bottles of vodka in a large (at least 4 quarts) glass jar with a lid. Cover the jar and store it at room temperature in a dark cabinet or cupboard for 40 days. As the vodka sits, it will slowly take on the bright yellow color of the lemon zest.

Day 40: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and let the syrup boil for 5 minutes. Let the syrup cool, then add it to the limoncello mixture, along with the remaining bottle of vodka. Cover the jar and return it to the cupboard for another 40 days.

Day 80: Strain the limoncello into bottles and discard the lemon zest.

A nice surprise………..Last week I discovered an aspen tree sapling has rooted itself in my flower pot! I have always wanted my own aspen grove (I love the sound when the leaves rustle in the breeze) but never planted any in our yard. Perhaps now we can.

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Homemade Limoncello For The Holidays

I know it’s only mid-August but now is the time to start planning for some Holiday sipping and gifts with Homemade Limoncello. Yes, that’s right, I mentioned the word Holiday!  This recipe is from one of my favorite chefs, Joanne Weir – it was her cooking class in Tucson that introduced me to the finer points of food, and started me on this path. Her limoncello recipe was featured in Fine Cooking magazine (March, 1997) and is still a winner today.  Limoncello comes to us from the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy and is served ice cold as an after dinner drink or aperitif.  The color comes from lemon peels and the flavor is pure lemon steeped in smooth alcohol.  It’s a special treat to be offered a sip of someone’s homemade limoncello after a meal.  Mom makes this recipe often and thankfully she shares her bounty with us, complete with handwritten labels for a personal touch.  The recipe is super simple to make with only 4 ingredients: Lemon peel, good quality 100-proof vodka, sugar and water (simple syrup).  But you will need to wait for 80 days to let the flavors steep, that’s why you need to plan – or at least start thinking about it – now.

You’ll also need a 4-quart/gallon glass container with a lid for this homemade limoncello recipe. Joanne Weir’s recipe is listed below, but here is a quick break-down of the 80-day process:

Day 1: August 16, 2012
Add lemon peels and vodka to a covered jar, let sit for 40 days in a cool, dark place
(Save the juice for later use: after peeling, juice the lemons, transfer juice to ice cube tray, freeze and store cubes in freezer bag or container)

Day 40: September 24, 2012
Add simple syrup and more vodka to jar, let sit again for 40 days in a cool, dark place

Day 80: November 3, 2012
Strain, pour into clean bottles and keep in freezer (yields 3 quarts/12 cups)

I will share my progress with you around the 40-day mark, and remind you that there still may be time to make a batch for the Holidays!   

For a vacation-inspiring post about limoncello, read this Rick Steves’ Europe article; the author’s closing paragraph sums up limoncello with finesse: “Take a sip of limoncello. Smell the aroma of the lemon and see the vibrant color in your glass. Close your eyes and you will be transported back to Italy. Hear the rustling of the leaves of the lemon trees as the breeze comes in from the Bay of Naples. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Take another taste and feel the cold liqueur cool your taste buds. Remember how it was such a welcoming finale to your Italian meal. As you drink in the memories and drink in the liqueur, you will find yourself dreaming of your next sojourn to Italy.”

Eat well and share the love!

Homemade Limoncello, by Joanne Weir
Limoncello must steep for 80 days
Yields 3 quarts

Ingredients:
15 thick-skinned lemons
2 750-ml bottles 100-proof vodka
4 cups sugar

5 cups water

Directions:
Day 1: Wash the lemons well with a vegetable brush and hot water; pat dry. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemon in long, wide strips. Scrape away any of the bitter white pith from the lemon peel with a paring knife.

Combine the lemon peels and one of the bottles of vodka in a large (at least 4 quarts) glass jar with a lid. Cover the jar and store it at room temperature in a dark cabinet or cupboard for 40 days. As the vodka sits, it will slowly take on the bright yellow color of the lemon zest.

Day 40: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and let the syrup boil for 5 minutes. Let the syrup cool, then add it to the limoncello mixture, along with the remaining bottle of vodka. Cover the jar and return it to the cupboard for another 40 days.

Day 80: Strain the limoncello into bottles and discard the lemon zest.

*******************************************************************************

A note of remembrance: Yesterday would have been Julia’s Child’s 100th birthday, a pioneer in the culinary field. She left her mark on the world with her groundbreaking talents, passion for enjoying and understanding food, by introducing (and demystifying) French cooking techniques to Americans, and with her cookbooks and TV shows. Now that’s a woman I would have loved to share a dinner table with! Here is a funny, endearing re-mix music video that PBS put together in her honor:

Fresh Corn & Ripe Peaches = Two Tasty Starters

Two highly anticipated crops are finally available from the local Colorado farmers – sweet corn on the cob from Olathe and juicy, super sweet peaches from Palisade. Sure, you can enjoy both the traditional way – the corn grilled or boiled and slathered with butter, and the peach halved and eaten over the sink so the sun-ripened, sweet juices can run down your chin. But my quest here was to create something different that still made your taste buds zing. How about some Peach Daiquiris to enjoy with a delicious Corn, Jalapeno & Queso Fresco Cheese spread? The Daiquiri is super simple to make with the usual suspects: ice, fruit, sugar and rum – I like the flavor of dark rum but light works just as well. And the cheese spread offers up something refreshing and different with grilled fresh corn, buttery queso fresco cheese and spicy jalapeño.

For those who haven’t tasted queso fresco cheese, it is like the Mexican version of ricotta but with a creamy, salty tang. Made from cow’s milk, it is typically used to finish soups, tacos or enchiladas and is one of my favorite cheeses. Serve the Corn & Queso Fresco Cheese Spread with grilled bread slices, or grilled tortillas (cut into wedges after grilled) or your favorite tortillas chips.

So there you have it, two easy ways to enjoy fresh corn and peaches!
Eat well and share the love!

Peach Daiquiris with Grilled Corn, Jalapeño & Queso Fresco Cheese Spread (print recipe)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Prep Time: 15 minutes

Peach Daiquiris – makes about 5 cups, about 4 cocktails
Ingredients:
5 to 6 cups ice
5 small, or 3 large peaches, pits removed and cut into quarters
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
6 oz. (about ¾ cup) dark rum (or light rum)
Garnish: Peach slices on a skewer or toothpick

Directions:
To the blender, add 3 cups of ice and finely chop. If your blender has an “ice” setting, use it to finely chop the ice.

Add the chopped peaches, 1 tablespoon of sugar, rum and 2 cups of ice. Using the “chop” or “puree” setting, blend until the ice is well chopped and ingredients are well incorporated. Taste and if needed, add more sugar or more ice if mixture is too thin.

Daiquiri’s can be made 1 to 2 hours ahead of time; keep daiquiri mixture cold in the refrigerator or freezer and re-blend before serving.  
Serve with a garnish of peach slices on a skewer or toothpick.

Grilled Corn, Jalapeño & Queso Fresco Cheese Spread – makes about 1 cup
Ingredients:
1 corn on the cob (or if out of season, ½ cup frozen corn – defrosted)
Olive oil or vegetable oil
4 oz. queso fresco cheese (either regular or Ranchero style)
2 to 4 tablespoons milk or half & half
1 tablespoon finely diced jalapeño
Pinch of salt of pepper
Grilled bread slices, or grilled tortillas wedges or tortilla chips
Garnish
2 to 3 thin slices of jalapeño
¼ teaspoon corn kernels
2 teaspoons thinly sliced green onions
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

Directions:
Heat grill to medium. Remove the husk and silk from the corn, brush the cob with olive oil (or vegetable oil) and lightly season with salt and pepper. Place the corn cob directly on the grill and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, turning corn often, until corn has slightly softened and grill marks appear. Remove from grill and let cool. When cool, remove kernels from cob: place cob lengthwise on cutting board and using a long knife, slice kernels off one side, turn cob 90 degrees and continue.

In a medium bowl, add the cheese and break up with a fork. Add 2 tablespoon milk and mix well until cheese is smooth and mostly lump-free; add more milk if too thick. Add the corn kernels, jalapeño and pinch of salt and pepper and mix well. Garnish with a few slices of jalapeño, some corn kernels, sliced green onions and some sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Serve with your choice of grilled or toasted bread slices, grilled tortilla wedges or your favorite tortilla chips.

Cocktail Hour: Brandy Old Fashioned & Bacon Grissini Sticks

A cocktail rather than a drink, that’s what I had in mind this week. A cocktail that’s a bit more sophisticated and feels like a grown-up drink, one that you can savor on the back patio while discussing the events of the day with your loved one or friends.  Our friend’s, Holly and Kurt, first introduced me to a Brandy Old Fashioned and it is one of my favorite cocktails; I don’t have it often but recently discovered it is easy to make at home.  This retro cocktail is made with a sugar cube, bitters, Sprite (or 7-Up), cherries, brandy and finished with an orange slice.  True mixologists will add a “flag”, a skewered orange slice with a cherry in the middle.  Bing cherries are in season so I used them instead of the maraschino cherries.  A Brandy Old Fashioned has a refreshingly sweet and light flavor and is an elegant way to transition the week into the weekend.  It’s always fun to nosh on something equally as delicious while enjoying a cocktail, and Bacon Grissini are perfect with this cocktail.  They are basically candied bacon on bread sticks.  Yes, please!

Wrapped and ready to be cooked…….I always thought they looked like candy canes at this point.

Grissini sticks came from my catering days.  Instead of the 8 that I made for the two of us at home, it was a production line of 60 to 120 grissini sticks!  They were always the appetizer that was gobbled up; the servers could barely get around the room before the platter was empty.  After the bread sticks are wrapped with a bacon slice and almost cooked, they are coated with a spicy sweet brown sugar mixture that caramelizes around the bacon after more oven time.  They are a sweet and savory treat with a crunchy texture from the bread stick.  It takes some practice to wrap the bacon around the sticks without breaking any (some days I would break about twenty percent of them, usually just at the end of wrapping) so take it slow and try to keep slight tension on the bacon piece as you wrap it around and down the bread stick.  If you can find thinly sliced bacon, with more meat than fat, it will make it easier.  You won’t need the whole slice of bacon so cut off the last quarter and save for later (freeze in a Ziploc bag for 2 months).  They take about 30 minutes to bake and are so worth the wait.  If you’re looking for more bacon candy, check out my post on Bacon-wrapped Dates.

Ahh, a Brandy Old Fashioned cocktail and some Bacon Grissini Sticks…….. It’s a better week already.  Cheers to you and yours! 

Eat well and share the love!

Brandy Old Fashioned Cocktail & Bacon Grissini Sticks
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
(cocktail adapted from Kurt Bergman recipe)

Serves two foodies

Brandy Old-Fashioned – makes one drink
Ingredients:
1 sugar cube, or 1 teaspoon sugar
4 dashes bitters
Sprite
1 cherry (pitted Bing or organic maraschino)
1 ½ ounces Brandy
Ice
Orange slice – garnish

Directions:
In a cocktail glass add the sugar cube (or sugar) and bitters.  Add a splash of Sprite and the cherry and muddle until the cherry is slightly mashed and the sugar is dissolved.  Add the brandy, the ice and top off with Sprite.  Garnish with an orange slice, or a “flag”: an orange slice skewered with a cherry in the middle.  Repeat process for two cocktails.

Bacon Grissini Sticks
Ingredients:
Sugar Mixture:
1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder
Grissini Sticks:
8 pieces of thinly sliced bacon, cut off about 2” (a quarter) from end of bacon
8 Grissini bread sticks (thin)

Directions:
Heat oven to 375 degrees F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper (this keeps the grease off the bread stick ends and helps contain the mess). 

Sugar Mixture: 
Add all ingredients to a small shallow pan that is longer than your bread sticks.  Mix well and set aside.  Cover with plastic wrap until grissini sticks are ready so the sugar stays moist.

Grissini Sticks:
Starting at the top of the stick, place one end of the bacon piece and hold with your fingertips.  With your other hand, start rolling the bacon around and down the bread stick.  The bread sticks break easily and it takes some practice so go slow and gentle.  Keep slight tension on the bacon piece while wrapping.  It’s helpful to have a few extra bread sticks on hand.  When finished, place the wrapped bread stick on the sheet pan and continue wrapping the rest.

Cook for 18 minutes, turning sheet pan 180 degrees halfway through the cooking process, until the bacon is just starting to firm up and get a little golden. 

Using metal tongs, roll the grissini sticks in the grease to make sure the sugar has something to stick to.  Transfer two sticks at a time to the sugar mixture and gently toss to well coat the bacon.  Place back on the sheet pan and coat the remaining sticks.

Return sheet pan to the oven and cook the grissini for another 8 to 10 minutes until bacon is golden and crispy. Let cool about 10 minutes and serve. 
(Grissini sticks can be made up to one day ahead: Cook as directed, transfer to airtight container and refrigerate.  Reheat at 375 degrees F on sheet pan with clean parchment paper for 10 minutes.) 

An old leather serving tray I found at an antique market, complete with a cigarette burn mark on the “Manhattan” recipe

Happy Hour: Cinco de Mayo

¡Cinco feliz de Mayonesa! or Happy Cinco de Mayo!

A happy hour is in order to honor the day.  Last week I shared with you my recipe for carne seca (along with some interesting history behind the celebration) and today I have the perfect cocktail and appetizer to enjoy before dinner.  Beer margaritas and homemade guacamole are on the menu.   We have made these margaritas for over 20 years (hard to believe it’s been that long!) and first starting making them at our infamous Halloween parties.  Unfortunately, we can’t remember where the recipe came from (no, it’s not because we’re old and forgetful…..I wasn’t obsessing as much about food back then) and fondly call them the Schenker Margaritas.  I know it sounds weird to have beer in margaritas but it gives them a unique and tasty flavor, and it makes them quite memorable.  It also has the normal ingredients: limeade and tequila, which balances out the beer flavor.  The recipe is super easy to make so start chilling your glasses.

As for the guacamole, fresh ingredients are the way to go in my opinion.  I add onions, cherry tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, cumin, chipotle pepper powder (dried jalapenos) and salt and pepper.  I love chipotle pepper powder because it has a wonderful earthy flavor that adds a little zing in the background.  I forgot to add tortillas chips to my store list so I just cut some fresh corn tortillas into wedges and baked them in a 400F degree oven for about 8 minutes until crispy. 

Cheers!  If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my earlier post which gives you some historical significance about Cinco de Mayo and a delicious slow-cooked recipe for one of my favorite Mexican meals: Carne Seca.

Eat well and share the love!

Schenker Margaritas
Recipe: David Schenker/Foodie for Two
Makes a half pitcher for two foodies

Ingredients:
6 ounces limeade (half of can)
6 ounces light beer (half of bottle)
4 ounces tequila (1/2 cup)
1 ¼ cups crushed ice
Lime wedges for garnish

Directions:
Add all ingredients to blender, cover the top with a towel to catch any spills, and puree until smooth.  Serve in chilled glasses with a lime wedge.

  • No crushed ice on hand?  Place ice cubes in a large Ziploc bag and smash with a rolling pin or mallet

 Guacamole
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies

Ingredients:
2 ripe avocados
3 tablespoons diced white onion
3 tablespoons diced tomato
1 teaspoon diced jalapeno
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/8 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of chipotle pepper powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions:
Slice avocados in half and remove seed.  Add avocado to a bowl and mash slightly with a fork and add the rest of the ingredients.  Mix well and serve with tortilla chips.

  • If you don’t have any tortilla chips: Heat oven to 400F degrees.  Cut 6 to 7 corn tortillas into 8 wedges, spread out on an ungreased sheet pan and sprinkle with salt.  Bake in oven for 8 to 10 minutes until golden and crispy.  Turn tortillas wedges over halfway through cooking time.  Let cool and serve with guacamole.
  • Tip for easily getting avocado out from skin: after halving, simply squeeze skin in half with fingertips to remove the avocado.