Baked Gouda Cheese Dip with Bacon Jam

Wow your guest during a Super Bowl Party with this amazing dip.

First a warning. This Bacon Jam may just become your newest addiction.
It is insanely good on all kinds of dishes like quesadillas, sandwiches, burgers, breakfast, or served up on a dip. I added an extra step to a traditional Bacon Jam, but it will add a whole new level of flavor to your finished product.

Begin the Bacon Jam by roasting the onions in a flavorful red wine like this Merlot from Silvara Cellars.

Ingredients
3/4 cup Red Wine (I like to use a Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon)
2 tbsp Brown Sugar
1 tsp fresh Thyme chopped
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground Pepper
2 large Sweet Onions, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick.
4 tbsp Butter

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Layer the bottom of a baking dish with the sliced onions. Pour red wine in the baking dish. Top each onion with 1/4 tablespoon of butter, thyme, brown sugar, salt and pepper. 
  • Roast uncovered in oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown, basting once or twice during roasting. Add a small amount of water if red wine starts to evaporate to much. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  • When onions are cooled place them in a strainer to remove excess liquid.
These onions would also be great on a burger, sandwich or pizza.

Bacon Jam

Ingredients
1 pound Apple Smoked Bacon
Roasted red wine onions, minced
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup Packed Light Brown Sugar
1 cup Strong Brewed Black Coffee
1/4 cups Pure Maple Syrup

Preparation Instructions:
Cut the bacon slices into 1-inch strips. Add the bacon to a Dutch oven or frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the bacon, stirring frequently, until the bacon is browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings.

Place the Dutch oven or frying pan back over the medium-high heat and add the onions and garlic. Stir well and reduce heat to medium. Continue to cook for about 2 minutes. Add coffee, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, and maple syrup, stir well.

Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and boil hard for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, stir the browned bacon into the onions and liquid.

Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally to make sure things aren’t sticking, adding 1/4 cup of water if it seems to be drying out. Cook for 45 to 60 minutes until the liquid is thick and syrupy, remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Any left over Bacon Jam can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Smoked Gouda Dip

Smoked Gouda Dip – A quick and easy dip recipe that is perfect for a party. Smoked gouda, cream cheese, thyme and spinach, baked together. Top with finished Bacon Jam and serve with baguette.

Gouda Dip

  • 7 oz Smoked Gouda, shredded
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup fresh Spinach, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Onion Powder
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine shredded gouda, cream cheese, spinach, thyme, worchestershire sauce, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Mix until well combined.
  3. Transfer dip to a cast iron skillet or a pie dish.  Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the top of the dip starts to brown.
  4. Top with bacon jam and serve immediately with sliced baguette or crackers.
This recipe can easily be doubled to serve a bigger crowd.
Enjoy!

Recipe and Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

A Grape Odyssey-Maréchal Foch

“It is the wine that leads me on,
the wild wine that sets the wisest man to sing
at the top of his lungs, laugh like a fool – it drives the
man to dancing… it even tempts him to blurt out stories
better never told.”
― Homer, The Odyssey 

Late last summer I took a road trip from Washington State to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada to share with my son his first wine tasting experience and discover some new Canadian wines.

Although my trip to the Okanagan Valley was hampered by extreme smoke from wildfires, the beauty of the land was ever present.

What once was a huge glacier, the Okanagan Valley is comprised of soils that are mostly sandy, with white clay-silt on top of a gravelly sand made up of limestone, granite and other forms of ancient volcanic gravels. This soil combination is ideal for generating some intensely aromatic wines with layers of mineral flavors and a subtle level of tannins. Being in the 50th parallel, the Okanagon Valley has a short growing season and is most commonly known for its production of Ice Wine.  Although the climate during the growing season is hot, dry and sunny, it is still quite short. To help ripen the red grapes the additional daylight hours in the summer months work in the Okanagan Valley’s favor.

Agriculture has a long history in this region, also known for growing apples, peaches, and cherries, the Valley is now becoming recognized for growing the grapes that produce the regions authentic wines. The wines of the Okanagan are more extensive than would be expected, to include Syrah, Bordeaux Blends, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay to name a few. There is one varietal that I want to focus on from this wine region, Maréchal Foch.

Wine tasting at Quails’ Gate in Kelowna, BC

I was introduced to the Maréchal Foch grape during a wine tasting at one of the first wineries that I visited in Kelowna, Quails’ Gate Winery. Quails’ Gate is a check off your list destination with a beautiful winery and impressive vineyards that overlooks the immense Okanagan Lake. Maréchal Foch is a hybrid grape variety that is grown in parts of the United States and in Canada. Cold hardy and disease resistant, the Foch grape was first developed in France in the 1910s by Eugene Kuhlmann, who crossed GoldRiesling and a native American Vitis riparia-rupestris to create what was then named Kuhlmann 188-2.  In 1946 Maréchel Foch arrived in the U.S., where it was subsequently renamed, Maréchal Foch in honor of Marshall Ferdinand Foch, a distinguished French General in World War I. There is a rumor that this name was given to the grape do to the extensive casualties sustained by Foch’s troops, as Maréchal Foch wines are distinctly noted for their deep, blood-like color.

2015 Quails’ Gate Old Vines Foch

The grapes for this wine are sourced from 37-year old vines planted in a southern most vineyard located in Osoyoos, B.C.

2015 Old Vines Foch, this wine opens with rich aromas of cherry, tobacco and hints of coffee. On the palate you experience smooth dry tannins and notes of tart juicy cherries, dark chocolate, and a lingering smokey vanilla undertone. Decanting this wine for an hour or two before serving will enhance your tasting experience. For pairing try this Old Vines Foch with roasted beef, blue cheese or a sausage and mushrooms pizza.

Foch is a quirky hybridization of native American red varieties (a ripara X rupestris hybrid) with Goldriesling, which is itself an unusual modern cross of Riesling and Muscat. Once commonly grown in the Loire, today the Maréchal Foch grape is limited to a small number of hectares in Europe, it is restricted by European Union regulations because it is a hybrid variety. It’s one of a number of French-American hybrid grapes that were developed, mostly, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the dual purpose of creating new varieties that would be resistant to the phylloxera scourge in France and that would grow well and produce quality table wines in the relatively harsh climates of the Eastern U.S. and Canada.

Little Straw Vineyards-Family Estate Winery in Kelowna, BC

Little Straw Vineyard 2014 Single Vineyard Maréchel Foch

My last tasting was in Kelowna at the Little Straw Vineyard, a wonderful estate winery flanked by vineyards. Little Straw is a family owned established winery which strives to provide the customer with a true Okanogan wine tastng experience. The highlight of the winery was the last tasting of our trip, a 2014 Maréchal Foch. I knew instantly that I needed to bring home multiple bottles for myself and to give as gifts to friends.

This vintage Maréchal Foch has an incredible silky-texture and is deliciously fruit-forward. Jammy notes of blackberry, sour cherry and black currant greet the nose and palate, with subtle hints of smoke and coffee lingering on the finish. This wine is wonderful enjoyed on its own or paired with moderate curries, red meats, or strong cheeses.

“Life is too short to drink bad wine.”

Light and easy to drink the nature of the Maréchal Foch grape is what compelled me to share more about this wine grape. Musky with aromas of dark fruits and vanilla, the wines produced with this hybrid “forbidden fruit” would be a compliment to any wine collection.

Having now discovered the hidden treasure in the Okanagan Valley Wine Country, I am looking forward to another trip to visit wineries not yet explored and tasting wines exclusive to this wonderful region. I hope that you get the opportunity to explore this fantastic Wine region for yourself someday.

Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Blueberry Bourbon Hand Pies with Ricotta & Rosemary

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” David Mamet

Fruity and boozy with hints of ricotta and thyme in every bite.

Today is National Pie Day, an annual celebration of pie which started in 1975 when Charlie Papazian a nuclear engineer, brewer and teacher who declared his own birthday, January 23, to be National Pie Day. Why not celebrate the day by making a pie, full of flavor and fits in the palm of your hand.

For this recipe I used the strained pulp from Blood Orange juice along with 1 tbsp of the juice. Any Orange will work in this recipe.

This recipe yields 8 hand pies.

Ingredients

For the Crust:  Use your favorite pie crust recipe or simply use a store bought  pie crust.

For the Blueberry Bourbon Filling:

  • 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp fresh orange juice with pulp from the orange
  • 1 tbsp minced candied ginger
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp bourbon 
Any quality Bourbon will work for this recipe, for more bourbon flavor you can add an additional tablespoon.

For Ricotta & Rosemary Filling: 

Combine 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, 1/2 tsp Pink Himalayan salt, and 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary.

The creaminess of the ricotta and the freshness of the rosemary adds something unique and special to this pie.

For the Topping:

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Crystal sugar

Instructions

To make the Blueberry Bourbon Filling:

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium-heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to thicken and coats the back of a spoon, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the blueberry filling to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
  • Combine ricotta cheese filling.

Assembly and Baking:

  • Preheat the oven to 425°(F). place a rack on the middle shelf. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Roll the dough into a large square, about 16″ x 16″.
  • For square pies, use a pastry wheel or pizza cutter to cut out sixteen even squares.  Using a small knife – or small cookie cutter – cut a vent into eight of the squares.
  • Brush a little bit of the beaten egg wash along the edges of each square. Spread a layer of the ricotta cheese mixture on 8 pieces of pie crust.
  • Divide the filling among eight of the squares (or half of the cutouts), using about two tablespoons for each.
  • Top each filled square with a vented square, and press along the edges with a fork or a pie crust crimper. Make sure the edges are sealed well!
  • Brush the top of each pie with the remaining beaten egg, and sprinkle with sugar.
  • Transfer the pies to prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake the pies for 15-20 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and let cool for 20 minutes before serving.
The whole house will smell wonderful when baking these pies.

Baby don’t you cry
I’m gonna make a pie
I’m gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle
Quincy Coleman – Baby Don’t Cry lyrics

I hope that you enjoy this recipe and I look forward to hearing how your Blueberry Bourbon Hand Pies with Ricotta & Rosemary turn out.

Recipe and Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

A Tale of Two Spirits

Walk into any liquor store and you’re likely to see an endless selection of colorfully packaged vodka and other spirits with flavors ranging from “Sour Apple” to “Cinnamon”. These flavors can add a whole new arsenal to your Craft Cocktails. Homemade infusions however, are a completely different story. The infusion process allows the added benefit of letting you control the outcome, and perfect your personal preference. Here are two spirits I recently made, not only to use in cocktails but also as great recipe enhancers.

Homemade Grand Marnier with a Twist

This homemade Grand Marnier recipe combines the peels of four different kinds of citrus, which add dimesion and a flavorful twist.

Homemade Grand Marnier – This homemade orange liqueur is typically mixed into margaritas and other cocktails – it is a staple for any home bar. Serves: 7 cups

  • Ingredients
  • 8-10 Oranges–Here I used two Clementines, two mandarin oranges, four Cara Cara Oranges and one Red Grapefruit
  • 1.75 Liter bottle of Brandy
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups raw sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

Peel oranges into long strips using a vegetable peeler, taking only the rind and none of the white pith. If some of the white pith is on the peels, use a paring knife or a small spoon to scrape it away and discard.

  1. Juice one Orange and pour into jar with Orange peels, a 2 quart glass jar works best, then pour in brandy and stir gently. Cover jar and store in a cool dry place for 4 weeks, stirring once a week.
  2. After brandy mixture has been stored for 4 weeks, Stir together water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, until sugar is completely dissolved. Let sugar mixture cool completely.
  3. In a fine mesh sieve strain orange peels out of the brandy mixture and discard peels. Stir in sugar syrup into the brandy. Line the strainer with a coffee filter and pour the Grand Marnier through the filter. Once all of the mixture has filtered through replace with a new filter and strain again. Repeat this process 2-4 more times until Grand Marnier is clear.
  4. Transfer the Grand Marnier to bottles and refrigerate before serving. Store in the refrigerator or freezer for up to 1 year.
As this was my second batch I only made a half recipe.

The second homemade spirit is my hack of Art in the Age’s Rhubarb Tea Liqueur.

Homemade Spiced Rhubarb Liqueur

Quality ingredients including good vanilla and fresh spices are key to a successful product.

Ingredients:

3 cupsrhubarb, finely chopped (fresh or frozen)

1 ½ cupsEverclear (190 proof)

1 cinnamon stick

1 Tbsp each-pink peppercorn, cardamom seed, coriander seed

1 Tbsp dried bitter orange peel

1 tspvanilla

1 cup rawsugar

1 cup water

Start by toasting your spices in a small frying pan, on medium heat stir spices until you can smell their aroma. Set the spices aside and start simple syrup.

For simple syrup combine raw sugar and water in a sauce pan over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and add toasted spices, then cover with a lid and let seep for 15 minutes.

Allowing the warm toasted spices to seep in the simple syrup will ensure a good absorption of the spice

Place the chopped rhubarb in a large resealable jar (a Mason jar works well) and the cover with spices and simple syrup, replace lid and shake to release rhubarb juices. Let set for 20 minutes. Then add 1 ½ cups Everclear and vanilla, seal jar and shake again to mix ingredients.

Let jar sitfor 2-4 weeks, shaking occasionally, until the color has leached out of therhubarb.

Using afine-mesh strainer or cheese cloth, strain out the rhubarb and spices, pressingthe solids to remove as much liquid as possible.

Bottle the liqueur and enjoy in various cocktails and recipes.

A wondeful melding of flavors will welcome you when you bottle this homemade Spiced Rhubarb Liqueur.

I hope that you have enjoyed this Tale of Two Spirits. Look for upcoming recipes that incorporate each of these unique homemade liqueurs.

Orange Hot Buttered Rum with a Toasted Almond Biscotti

Today is National Hot Buttered Rum Day, celebrating this venerable cocktail.  With documented origins in Colonial times, Hot buttered rum is a mixed drink containing rum, butter, and various spices. A perfect cocktail, served hot to ward off the winter chill.  

Certain Hot Cocktails call for something special and this Orange Hot Buttered Rum screams for a dunking partner.

Toasted Almond Biscotti with Orange Glaze

Toasted Almond Biscotti

·      2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

·      1 teaspoon baking powder

·      1/4 teaspoon salt

·      4 tablespoons 1/2 stick unsalted butter

·      1 cup sugar

·      2 large eggs

·      3/4 teaspoon almond extract

·      3/4 cup sliced almonds toasted and cooled.

Orange Glaze

·      1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

·      1 teaspoon orange extract

·      1 tablespoon butter, melted

·      1 tablespoon milk

·      Pinch of sea salt

Instructions

1.    Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.    In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3.    By hand or using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then the almond extract. Stir in the almonds. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the egg mixture, then fold in until the dough is just mixed.

4.    Halve the dough and turn both portions onto the prepared baking sheet. Using floured hands, quickly stretch each portion of dough into a rough 13-inch by 2-inch log. Place the loaves about three inches apart on the baking sheet, patting each one smooth.

5.    Bake until the loaves until are golden and just beginning to crack on top, about 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.

6.    Cool the loaves for 10 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 325° F. Transfer the loaves to a cutting board. With a serrated knife cut each loaf diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Lay the slices about 1/2-inch apart on the baking sheet, cut-side up, and return them to the oven. Bake, turning over each cookie halfway through baking, until crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a wire rack to cool completely.

7.    For the glaze, whisk together confectioners’ sugar, orange extract, butter, milk and salt until combined. Add more milk if necessary, for desired consistency.

8.    When biscotti is cooled drizzle Orange glaze over one side of biscotti and finish by zesting fresh orange peel over the top of glaze.

If you do not have Orange extract you can substitute with some Orange Liqueur or fresh squeezed Orange juice.

Now that the Biscotti ready, you can start the Orange Hot Buttered Rum.

The compound butter will keep for several weeks in an airtight container in the fridge, and the spices will only get more intense over time.

Orange Hot Buttered Rum (Yields 4 Drinks)

For the orange butter, mix together:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch sea salt

To serve: per mug

  • 3 to 4 Tbsp orange butter
  • 1.5 ounces dark spiced rum
  • 3/4 cup of near-boiling hot water

Add hot water and spiced rum, stir until the butter and sugar melts.

All that is left to do is to sit back and enjoy this orange infused Hot Buttered Rum and Toasted Almond Biscotti.
Cheers!