Fruit Cordials

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See all that yummy juice at the bottom? Relaxation in a jar.

Sometimes I think about those cordial glasses. I wish I’d kept them. We came across the colorful collection of tiny glasses while cleaning out the my husband’s grandparent’s house. The glasses were tiny and dainty, stemmed, widely hued, on a little tray .

I didn’t drink cordials. Bleck! Overly sweet stuff. The cordial glasses were odd and fun and I thought about keeping them.

But I was trying to be restrained and practical. The pack rat in me wanted to take every treasure from that house and stuff it into every every nook and cranny of my house “just in case” I needed it sometime in the future. I’d already acquired a sewing machine and dining room ensemble, china and funky green mixing bowls, plus a myriad other things from their 90 years of life.

So I put the cordial glasses in the “to sell” box, so as not stuff them into some nook and cranny of my house. How I wish I kept them “just in case,” because just in case has come.

About 2 years ago in the middle of winter a friend gave me a small glass of strawberry cordial. I took it to be polite since Bleck! cordials are overly sweet alcohol.

It was the best drink I ever had.

Despite the chill outside, I could feel the June sun warming the straw-covered field, the scent of strawberries in the air.  I was hooked. The best part was she made the cordial herself.

Since that fateful day, I’ve been making fruit cordials with summer’s bounty. I just made my first batch of strawberry cordial for the year and I’ll be making more. Last year, the strawberry cordial never even made it to the liquor cabinet. Upcoming will be peach, blueberry, raspberry and cherry cordial.

Once you see how ridiculously easy this recipe is, you’ll wonder why you never made this before.

Strawberry Cordial

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Ingredients:

  • Strawberries
  • Sugar
  • Vodka
  • Large wide-mouth jar

Directions:

1. Wash and hull strawberries, then slice in half or quarters. If the berries are small, no need to cut them.

2. Place a layer of strawberries in the bottom of the jar. Sprinkle sugar over top. Layer more strawberries, then more sugar. Repeat until you get to the top of the jar.

3. Pour vodka into the jar slowly until it reaches the top of the jar. Put lid on tightly and store in a cool dry place for 2 weeks.

3. Strain out the strawberries and put in freezer for future use (more on that in the next post). Enjoy the cordial. If the cordial is too sweet, stir in more vodka. If the taste is too strong on the alcohol side, add more sugar.

There are no quantities for this recipe because you can do this with any size jar and any amount of fruit, be it strawberries, peach, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or any other fruit you want to try.

Last year's collection of cordials in the works: peach, strawberry, blueberry and raspberry. Sadly, they are all gone.

Last year's collection of cordials in the works: peach, cherry, blueberry and raspberry. Sadly, they are all gone.

A Seuss-ish Celebration

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The Whacky Waffle Cake

It was a whacky day, a whacky day, indeed,
As we celebrated the 6 years of life of our little prodigy.

A birthday, yes, a birthday for a girl learning to read,
Who discovered the magic of Dr. Seuss’s rhyming scheme.

So her Momma decide this day could not be ordinary,
But needed flair and fun and something quite extraordinary.

While papa sat reading Happy Birthday To You! at the family breakfast table,
Momma was in the kitchen baking waffles and getting syrup of the maple.

And while Papa read these silly, funny words of the Seuss,
Momma was preparing a cake quite obtuse.

Because a Seuss-ish celebration deserved more than a cake,
It deserved a whacky, wonderful waffle cake
That only a whacky wonderful Momma could make.

Okay, enough rhyming already!

Yes, it was birthday time at the Newquist household..yet again. We’d been celebrating since Sunday with dinners and gifts. My 6-year-old, who is learning how to read, has taken a liking to Dr. Seuss, so I thought a Seuss-ish celebration in order.

Side view of the Whacky Waffle Cake

Side view of the Whacky Waffle Cake. The image is blurry because the cake is probably falling.

The best part was the Whacky Waffle cake I conceived–not well, I might add, because it kept falling over. But no one cared. It was made with frozen waffles (cooked, of course), whipped cream (from a can!), plus strawberries and pomegranates.

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My read husband his childhood copy of  Happy Birthday To You! by Dr. Seuss.

The Great Birthday Bird came by…

The Great Birthday Bird has quite the hooked beak, you know.

The Great Birthday Bird has quite the hooked beak, you know.

And delivered a few gifts, such as a new pet. We didn’t have time to go to the Official Katroo Birthday Pet Reservation. Plus, with dogs and cats and fish and turtles, I really didn’t think we had the room to house a pet from the Katroo Birthday Pet Reservation, not the smallest nor the tallest. So instead we went for a new Littlest Pet Shop horse.

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We didn’t make it through the whole story because the cake kept falling over and the kids really just wanted the whipped cream out of the can (I never buy that).

My 6-year-old thought the Seuss theme, plus her own digital camera (which is now making a living record of our lives) made it the “Best birthday ever!”

Honestly, though, I can probably save myself a lot of time and effort next year by giving her some gifts and a spray can of whipped cream to eat on everything!

Whacky Waffle Cake

Ingredients:

20 frozen waffles (yes, frozen. Save yourself the trouble of making them.)

4-8 wooden skewers

1 can whipped cream

fruit, such a s strawberries, blueberries or bananas (as garnish and to claim this breakfast is actually nutritious)

Directions:

Bake waffles according to package directions.

Stack a few waffles haphazardly.

Plunge in wooden skewers in different directions.

Pile fruit on top of waffles.

Slide more waffles onto skewers haphazardly.

Embellish with more whipped cream than necessary.

Quick! To the table! Before it falls over! Don’t impale yourself on skewers trying to save the cake. Better yet, trim the skewers if you have time.

Watch the whole thing topple over.

Eat off the table with hands like heathens (more whipped cream, of course)

Serves: A bunch o’ whacky waffle eaters from Katroo or Easton or Macungie.

*****And remember: Just a few more days for you to leave a comment to be entered to win prizes from Red-Tail Designs!*****

Spring Fever

If horses could talk, he'd say: "Less petting, more carrots."

If horses could talk, he'd say: "Less petting, more carrots."

Seems like I took a little break from blogging, didn’t I? Not purposeful, but deserved. My Christmas season was busier than ever, in a good way. I made many, many pieces of custom horse hair jewelry that people in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Nevada are now wearing (you can view some of them over at Flickr).

vanilla2hotchocolatemix12maddiechocolate1I also whipped up a few Christmas gifts for family and friends.  Family got bottles of the vanilla extract I’ve been working on for months. The hand-drawn labels at a special touch.

Instant hot chocolate mix was also a favorite, since my 5-year-old could help make it. My dog thought one jar pf hot chocolate under the Christmas tree was for her and she tried to open it. Or maybe she was just auditioning for the new reality show “When Dogs Attack.”

Last week was c-c-c-cold here in Pennsylvania. I know that 6 degrees F is nothing compared to what folks in North Dakota and Alaska see, but for us thin-skinned types, it’s just too much. We rush inside to hunker down under fuzzy blankets and barely move. That leads to a little cabin fever.

We relieved those symptoms by heading to the Pennsylvania Farm Show. The kids had a blast.

Little people meeting little chickens.

Little people meeting little chickens.

They petted horses and saw chickens hatch.

Ducklings scoot up the ramp and then slide down the other side.

Ducklings scoot up the ramp and then slide down the other side.

They watched baby ducks slide down their duck slide and saw all sorts of handmade items like Gingerbread houses and quilts and honey.

We even saw a tractor square dance. I’m not a vehicle aficionado (I like that things with wheels get me places faster and that’s about as far as I my love goes), but I was very impressed with their precision tractor driving. It was worth seeing.

We also visited “our farm” last week and signed up for our CSA (community sustained agriculture). All this agri-minded-ness has me thinking about spring and wanting to buy seeds and flower. We still have a long way to go until Spring, but one can dream!

Let the celebrating begin!

Maddie and her good friend Red Ball.

Maddie and her good friend Red Ball.

Sigh. Yesterday I shipped out my last custom piece due for Christmas. What a relief! It’s been a busy few weeks of making lots of Christmas gifts for customers.

After the run to the post office, I treated myself to a celebratory cappuccino, then sunk into the sofa with Three Cups of Tea. Imagine that! Reading a book in the middle of the day! I intend to do it again today.

Up above my dog is celebrating her victory:  The beginning of Red Ball Season. What? You’ve never heard of Red Ball Season? It often coincides with the beginning of winter, during the first decent snow.

Red Ball was a gift from Maddie’s “grandparents” many years ago. The plastic is really hard so the dogs can’t pick it up in their mouths and the humans can’t kick it (very painful if you do). Maddie loves this ball. She pushes it around with her nose, eats the snow off of it, gets it stuck behind rose bushes. It’s the most fun any yellow Labrador retriever can have.

My German Shepherd finds the thing a nuisance since he can’t pick it; red ball makes him very angry.

Once upon a time, Red Ball Season was year-round. That lasted about 3 minutes. My single-minded Maddie bowled over every single flower, attacked rose bushes that “stole” red ball and dug up the yard because red ball escaped behind the grill (she’s not a digger).

So Red Ball has been relegated to winter, when snow and ice safely ensconce all manner of precious vegetation. Despite being 11 years old and ready for the geriatric ward, Maddie chases this ball like she’s a puppy.

Gluten-free Scandinavian Almond Bars

Gluten-free Scandinavian Almond Bars

The other tradition we love around here right now is lots o’ cookie making. I’ll leave you with a great cookie recipe that is a family tradition among my husband’s Swedish relatives: Scandinavian Almond Bars. These are incredible. Bake them just until the edges are brown and you get a very chewy cookie, which is out of this world. The icing is not necessary, but adds another almond kick. Even better, I was able to easily translate this recipe into a gluten-free version, courtesy of Bob and his Red Mill. Enjoy!

Scandinavian Almond Bars

  • 1 1/2 c. Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • milk (to brush dough)
  • 1/2 c. sliced almonds
  • Almond icing (below)

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a large mixer bowl, beat butter until soft. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg and almond extract and beat well. Add flour mixture and beat well. Divide dough into fourths. Flour hands and then roll each lump of dough into 12-inch roll. Place 2 rolls, 4 to 5 inches, apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten to 3 inches wide. Repeat with the remaining rolls. Brush flattened rolls with milk and sprinkle with almonds. Bake at 325°F for 12 to 14 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. While cookies are still warm cut them cross wise at a diagonal into 1-inch strips. A pizza cutter works well for this job. Cool. Drizzle with almond icing. Makes approximately 48 cookies.

Almond Icing

Stir together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract and enough milk (3 or 4 teaspoons) to make icing of drizzling consistency.

Hot Chocolate

My version of a mocha: coffee with 3 scoops of hot chocolate mix.

My version of a mocha: coffee with 3 scoops of hot chocolate mix.

We interrupt the tutorial on making handwarmers to bring you a recipe for hot chocolate mix.

It was a must today.

Snow, yes S-N-O-W fell on us today at the busstop. Not just flakes either, actual snowballs. It’s still 2 days ’til Halloween!

While this isn’t unheard of here in eastern Pennsylvania, we like to keep our snowfalls around the holidays and into the New Year. We were surprised, to say the least.

So in honor of the snow I needed hot chocolate and low and behold we had none. So I whipped up 2 more batched of hot chocolate mix.

This recipe is based on Tyler Florcence’s hot cocoa and homemade marshmallow recipe. The flaws with his recipe are 1) My kids think the cinnamon makes the hot chocolate “taste funny.” That really is for the adult palate. 2) Four ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate. Really. If there’s 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in bar form in my house, it’s likely in my mouth. I use chocolate chips, which end up half melted on the bottom of the cup. Bonus! At the end of the drink you eat them with a spoon.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

3/4 cup vanilla sugar* or granulated white sugar

3/4 cup powdered milk

1/2 cup best unsweetened cocoa powder you can afford

1/4-1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Stir all ingredients together in a big bowl. Store in an airtight container.

To make the hot chocolate: heat 1 cup of milk (always use milk unless the cow ain’t givin’, then water is okay) and stir in 3 to 4 heaping teaspoons of mix.

*Vanilla sugar is plain white sugar that’s been sitting in an airtight dish with vanilla beans. It gives the sugar a nice vanilla note.

The hot chocolate mix makes a nice gift around the holidays. This winter I intend to try Tyler’s marshmallow recipe, too.

Enjoy!

A Pale Shade of Pink

Leave some of the peel in the apple sauce turns it this pretty pink color.

Leave some of the peel in the apple sauce turns it this pretty pink color.

I’m feeling like a chipmunk! These last few weeks have been a flurry of canning, freezing, drying and generally storing away as much food as I can for the winter. I forgot that summer isn’t about sitting back to enjoy the sun and margaritas, it’s about storing as one season of fresh fruit and veggies melds into the next.

Since the hurricane apple-picking, I’ve been making dried apples and applesauce. I wanted to share an ultra-fast recipe for making applesauce in the pressure cooker.

My little apple washer.

My little apple washer.

With my two tools of choice–a pressure cooker and a crank apple peeler–I can make 2 quarts of applesauce in 30 minutes.

The key to getting the pretty pink color is to leave some of the peel on the apples. The last step will grind up any peel.

This dojiggy peels and slices all with a crank of the handle.

A peeler/corer/slicer like this is "in season" at many grocery and kitchen stores right now. Or search on Amazon.com.

1. Peel, core and slice apples. Apples should be same size for even cooking.

2. Fill pressure cooker about 3/4 full of apples (there should be a line on your pressure cooker). Add 1/2 cup water.

The apples after cooking in the pressure cooker for about 10 minutes.

The apples after cooking in the pressure cooker for about 10 minutes.

3. Cook until pressure regulator begins to rock gently. Remove from heat and cool under cold water.

4. Run applesauce through food processor to smooth out the lumps.

*******Update: This process works with just about any fruit you want to make into sauce. The options I’ve tried:

  • Applesauce
  • Peach Sauce
  • Apple-plum Sauce
  • Blueberry-peach sauce
  • Rhubarb sauce
  • Peach-plum sauce
  • Strawberry-rhubarb sauce
  • Pear sauce

They’ve all been good. Anything tart, like rhubarb, plums or not quite ripe peaches, may require 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar. *******

There’s a French Fry in My Soup!

Just a quick post to share with you a great addition to soup: french fries.

Rather than plunking peeled potatoes in the pot to cook alongside with the beef, mushrooms, barley and other veggies today, I roasted the potatoes in the oven while I cooked the soup up top. The potatoes joined the soup in the bowl just before serving. Yummy! They add a nice crispness to the soup, almost like croutons. Way better than mushy soup potatoes.

Beef barley and mushroom soup with roasted potatoes

Beef barley and mushroom soup with roasted potatoes

Just wash the potatoes (no peeling necessary), dice and toss with olive oil and salt (a little pepper and basil or thyme if you’re feeling really wild). Roast at 400°F until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside (about 20 – 30 minutes).

The inspiration for this came from a recent visit to a new restaurant in center square. I had a pork, shrimp, beef mix like a stew with roasted potatoes. It hit the spot.

Sorry about the photos. I think these are the worst photos I’ve ever posted. They beg the question: Can I write off a kitchen rennovation as a business expense because the lighting doesn’t let me take good photos for my blog?