Friday, December 19, 2014

Festive Homemade Liqueur Recipes

Homemade liqueurs can be as delicious as commercial brands! A snap to prepare and less expensive than liquor store offerings. This season bring along your own ‘house’ liqueur as a gift when you visit friends. To make your gift special, use antique or reproduction bottles to present your creations. 
When vodka is called for; of the various vodka brands, I have found that the really cheap varieties have a distinctly bitter and unpleasant taste, which becomes part of the liqueur. Smirnoff has proven to be a consistently good trade-off point between price and quality.
The following two recipes are cream based liqueurs. They have a short storage life of up to a week and must be stored in the fridge.
Please drink responsibly, do not drink and drive!
Season's Greetings, till next year ...Bon Appetit!

Irish Cream Liqueur ~ Yield: approx. 1 litre
This retro recipe takes me back to the 1970’s! It is an inexpensive way to enjoy the great taste of Irish Cream Liqueur. Store refrigerated for up to one week.
1 can (300 ml) sweetened condensed milk
1-1½ cups Irish whiskey
1 cup table cream
3 eggs
1 Tbsp. chocolate syrup
½ tsp. coconut extract, optional
Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Keep refrigerated and shake before pouring. Store refrigerated for up to one week. 

Chocolate Mint Liqueur ~ Yield: approx. 1 litre
Chocolate and mint are a classic combination in this creamy, smooth liqueur. Store refrigerated for up to one week.
1 can (300 ml) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup homo milk
½ cup Crème de Cocoa
½ cup Crème de Menthe
½ cup 80 proof vodka
¼ cup chocolate syrup
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. pure peppermint flavoring
Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Keep refrigerated and shake before pouring. Store refrigerated for up to one week.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Recipes by Sally Rae ~ from 'Festive Homemade Liqueurs' ~ The Flagstone, October 2009
Photo ~ Christmas Poodles by Sally Rae

Friday, December 12, 2014

Gifts From Your Kitchen

Finish up your Christmas shopping without leaving home! Homemade condiments, jams, baking etc. are always welcome gifts. Especially to those friends or relatives who do not make such things for themselves. If you have a few goodies assembled and packaged, you are never at a loss for a suitable gift for those hard-to-please friends, stocking stuffers, as a hostess gift, or as parting gifts for your guests.
Use interesting or antique bottles and decanters, fancy tins and festive cellophane to package your creations. For a larger gift, assemble a gift basket. Choose a theme; gourmet feast, coffee and biscotti, teatime, breakfast jam basket... the possibilities are endless.
My cookbook, 'For the Love of Food' is a gift in itself and features many of my favorite recipes suitable for giving. In years past, I would bake an assortment of 12 'fancy' cookies and squares. Festive boxes and cupcake papers can be found at Dollar Stores and used to create a beautiful box of assorted goodies. This year I have prepared and packaged; 'Sugar n' Spice Nut Mix', 'Caramel Nut Popcorn', 'Fruit and Nut Bark' and 'Chocolate Truffles' for those with a sweet tooth. And for those who prefer savory; 'Pickled Eggs' (with quail eggs), 'Aunt Stella's Pickles In-a-Pail' and 'Mini Dill Pickles with Garlic'. (These three gifts must be kept refrigerated.)
Mini Dills, Aunt Stella's Pickles, Pickled Quail Eggs

Package and label your gifts in decorative jars with festive fabric or ribbon tied on the lid. For sweet gifts use fancy jars, food safe cello bags or wrap in cellophane tied with a ribbon for the perfect gift or stocking stuffer. These delectable treats from your kitchen are easy and enjoyable to make.
Avoid the commercial madness of the season, go back to the days of handmade gifts that show you care. Friends and family of all ages will appreciate your delicious treats... made with love. 

Until next time... Happy Holidays and Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae ~ Gifts from Sally's Kitchen 2014
*All recipes from 'For the Love of Food'

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Menu Planning

There are two weeks left to plan, shop and prepare for Christmas meals and entertaining ...time to start Menu Planning. 
We will have out of town guests this year, so I am planning meals for the duration of their stay. A menu will be made for each evening meal and ingredients on hand to prepare an assortment of options for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Be sure to check with your guests in advance for any special dietary requirements or restrictions. All menus should be planned with consideration to the equipment you have available and its capacity. Especially the evening meals that usually consist of more components. For example; when a turkey is in the oven, plan to use other cooking methods for side dishes and dessert rather than the oven that may already be to capacity.

In a commercial kitchen, the menu acts as a production sheet which helps organize shopping and advanced preparation days. Once the menu is made, the lists for shopping and prep for each dish are assembled. Prep usually starts two to three days before a party or big dinner. Defrost items one or two days before, depending on when you will be using them. Please be aware, the only safe way to defrost a frozen turkey is in the fridge. Leave it in its original wrapper and place in a pan or tray deep enough to collect any juices that may leak out. Place it in the bottom of the fridge so any leakage will not contaminate anything below. Allow 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of frozen turkey. A 24 pound turkey will take up to 6 days, so plan ahead! 
Vegetables can be trimmed, washed and cut a day or two prior to serving. Most cold sauces, marinades or dressings can be prepared two days in advance and kept in the fridge. Make notes of required cooking times (or times to start cooking each item) on the final dinner assembly list. This will assure all components of the meal are hot and ready at the same time. With the distraction of guests, possibly a glass of wine and cooking, it is much easier to look at your 'cook time check list' than trying to keep it all in your head. Several timers; digital, wind up or on the stove, are also an easy way to keep your cooking on track.

Breakfast menu options can include juices, fresh fruit, hot or cold cereals, egg dishes, muffins or loaf slices, pancakes, toast, yogurt, smoothies, coffee, tea etc. It does not have to be complicated or fancy. Inquire the evening before what your guests preferences are, and prep the night before to save time in the morning. For example; assemble the dry ingredients for pancake batter, defrost muffins or loaf slices that were baked in advance and frozen, set the table. A 'breakfast  strata' (or casserole) is a great way to save time in the morning. It is prepared the night before, kept in the fridge overnight and baked fresh in the morning.

For lunch, different breads and fillings make fast and easy sandwich options. This is where a freezer full of single serving, assorted soups comes into play (see my November 23, 2014 post -'Soup's On'); it is a matter of defrost, heat and serve! Hummus, guacamole and other dips can be made a day or two in advance and work well for lunch or snacks; serve with crudites, tortilla chips, crackers or bread.

Snacks kept on hand can be fresh fruit, nuts, popcorn, cheese, assorted crackers, muffins or loaf slices from breakfast. Again, it will depend on your guests and if they have any dietary restrictions or preferences.
Dinner for Four

A well organized menu along with shopping and prep lists are the key to efficient, on time and smooth entertaining. 

Till next week... Bon Appetit!

Photo by Sally Rae ~ Arts Denman Studio Tour 2010