A Celebration of Citrus

Citrus, the beautiful versatility of these fruits is the result of the combinations of sugar and citric acid, which create the sweet or sour tastes. Eaten alone or used in a variety of dishes, the entire fruit can be used for various culinary purposes. The rind, zest, pulp and juice can add amazing flavor to baked goods, marmalade, salads, meat dishes and cocktails.

“Taste, which enables us to distinguish all that has a flavor from that which is insipid.”
– Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Today I want to share two ways to enjoy the citrus season and to take advantage of this bounty while it is available in the grocery stores and farmers markets.

Bringing some sunshine to the season with a Winter Fruit Salad.

Fresh Mandarin Oranges are usually available in the store starting around mid January.

Winter Fruit Salad with Orange Poppy Seed Dressing

In the winter fresh fruit salads can be made with the last of the Fall Harvest fruits such as Apples and Pears along with year round fruits that are available in the produce section like Raspberries, Bananas and Kiwi. When the height of Citrus season arrives a variety of these citrus delights can be combined to complete a bright and delicious Winter Fruit Salad.

For the Salad start by peeling and chopping 4 Honey Crisp Apples and 2 Bartlett Pears. Place them in a strainer filled with water and ‘Fruit Fresh’ to help the fruit from turning brown for about 15 minutes. Then drain and allow to sit while you prepare the rest of the fruit.

Peel and slice 4 ripe Kiwi, 2 Bananas and put them in bowl. Peel and segment 8 Mandarin Oranges, and 2 Grapefruits. Rinse a carton of fresh Raspberries and allow them to drain. When your fruit is drained of excess moisture, place it all together in a large bowl. One option is to add the sliced Banana and fresh Raspberries when ready to serve.

The addition of fresh citrus to a Winter Fruit Salad adds a taste of sunshine to a cold Winter Day

Orange Poppy Seed Dressing

A mild sweet dressing with a splash of Orange Liqueur.

I added the juice from a Cara Cara Orange and the zest from the fresh Mandarin Oranges, which gives a unique combination of Orange flavors to the dressing.

INGREDIENTS
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed orange juice & Zest of 1/2 an Orange
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ounce Orange Liqueur -Optional

INSTRUCTIONS
In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients together. You may also place the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake well.

The Orange Liqueur is optional but you will be surprised by the added depth that it gives to the Orange flavor.

I like to keep the Winter Fruit Salad and the Orange Poppy Seed Dressing separate and serve the two combined in single serve bowls.

Keeping the dressing separate from the salad allows the fruit to hold up better for a couple of days in the fridge.

“Mindful eating is about awareness. When you eat mindfully, you slow down, pay attention to the food you’re eating, and savor every bite.” – Susan Albers

Blood Orange Thyme Bourbon Cocktail

With the produce section of the grocery store tempting me with Grapefruit, Mandarin and Blood Oranges, my thoughts instantly go to making a delicious citrus cocktail with the fresh squeezed juice.

The key ingredient to this cocktail is the fresh squeezed Blood Orange Juice.

INGREDIENTS:
For 2 cocktail:

1/2 cup fresh squeezed blood orange juice
1/2 cup bourbon
4 tablespoons Thyme simple syrup
Seltzer water
Few dashes orange bitters

For Thyme simple syrup: Add 1 cup water and 1 cup of Raw Sugar in a saucepan bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Add 5 Sprigs of fresh Thyme, cover and let cool for 15 minutes

For cocktail:
In a large measuring cup mix together fresh Blood Orange juice, Bourbon and Thyme simple syrup.
Add ice to 2 short cocktail glasses. Fill each glass half way with juice/bourbon mixture. Top with seltzer and a dash of bitters, garnish with a slice of Blood Orange.

A Cocktail to Celebrate the Citrus Season. Enjoy!

Purchasing your fruits and vegetables during their peak seasons, will not only allow you to enjoy them more, you’ll save money while maximizing their nutritional value.

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

Rum Pineapple Upside Down Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream

“Cakes are like books, there are new ones you want to read and old favorites you want to reread.”
— Ellen Rose

Today I wanted to share my twist on two classic cakes a Pineapple Upside Down Cake and Carrot Cake. This special combination of two delicious cakes will be a hit for any upcoming party, or a scrumptious treat for a quiet weekend at home. The rum infused caramelized pineapple provides a glaze for the moist, classic carrot cake that is bursting with layers of flavor. With the addition of candied ginger and macadamia nuts, there is nothing ordinary about this cake. No carrot cake is complete without a cream cheese frosting, however, the icing on this cake is the addition of a cream cheese whipped cream.

This recipe has an extra step from a typical upside down cake so, give yourself a day to get the pineapple ready and leave it in the fridge overnight so that the pineapple has a chance to absorb the rum flavor.

The day before you plan to make the cake drain your pineapple rings and save the juice. To the juice combine 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 2 shots of dark rum (I used Maggie’s Farm 50/50 Dark Rum), and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Blend the ingredients and pour over the pineapple rings, making sure that all of the rings are in the liquid. Cover and store in the fridge overnight. The next day take the pineapple rings out and put them gently in a strainer to remove any excuse liquid. Reserve 3-4 tablespoons of the liquid. This recipe makes two cakes, you will need 2 cans of pineapple rings.

Rum Pineapple Upside Down Carrot Cake

Ingredients for pineapple caramel layer:
Combine 1/2 cup brown sugar and 3-4 tablespoons of reserved liquid from pineapple rings.
4 tablespoons of butter softened to room temperature
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Divide the butter and use 2 tablespoon in each of the two 9 inch cake pans to generously butter the bottom and sides of each pan. Place the pineapple rings in a single layer into buttered pan, 7 pineapple slices for each pan. Divide the brown sugar liquid over the two pans of pineapple rings and top each with equal amounts of chopped macadamia nuts.

INGREDIENTS-
For the double pan carrot cake:
1 cups all-purpose flour and 1 cup wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon rum extract

3 tablespoons minced candied ginger
3 cups grated carrots, lightly packed

INSTRUCTIONS to make the carrot cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
  • In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, applesauce, vanilla and rum extract until fully combined. Add the dry ingredients, grated carrots and candied ginger into the wet ingredients with a whisk or rubber spatula mix until well combined, making sure not to over mix the batter.
  • Pour the cake batter evenly between both prepared cake pans.

Bake at 350°F for 35-40 minutes or until the tops of the cakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center of each one comes out clean. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack, and allow to cool in the pans for about 15 minutes. Once the cakes have cooled, place serving dish on top of the cake and flip the pan, place the cake upside down on the plate. Repeat for second cake.

Have you thought of who you will share the second cake with yet?

While the cakes are cooling start preparing the cream cheese whipped cream. This recipe is enough for both cakes.

Cream Cheese Whipped Cream

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman’s recipe.

8 ounces, cream cheese, Softened
2 tablespoons brown sugar (if you want a sweeter whipped cream double the brown sugar)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the cream cheese, orange zest, vanilla extract and brown sugar in a large bowl. Beat until completely smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Pour 1/4 of the cream into the cream cheese mixture. Beat until completely smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat 3 more times for a total of 4 additions. Beat until smooth.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. If you want the cream cheese whipped cream to be soft, make sure to take out of the refrigerator for about 15 minutes and give it a good whisk before serving.

Add a dollop of whipped cream to each slice of cake and if you like add a little sprinkle of cinnamon sugar.

Caramelized rum pineapple crowns over a delicious carrot cake. Top pieces with cream cheese whipped cream for an indulgent treat.

“No matter what the recipe, any baker can do wonders in the kitchen with some good ingredients and an upbeat attitude!” -Buddy Valastro

Soup Bowl for the Soul


“Soup is cuisine’s kindest course. It breathes reassurance; it steams consolation; after a weary day it promotes sociability, as the five o’clock cup of tea or the cocktail hour.”
— Louis Pullig De Gouy

Today is National Soup Day! A warm bowl of soup regardless of the temperature outside can transform your day. Soup is comfort food at its best and it can go a long way in warming you and your soul. With so many soups to choose from, a creamy bisque, rich chowder, or a savory broth base soup can be a day-long simmering meal or a last-minute dinner. One thing however is for certain, soup will always hit the spot.

When I think of a thick and hearty soups like my Cheesy Potato Corn Chowder I always like to serve it with fresh baked bread. Of course the only thing better than a slice of bread with soup, is a bread bowl to fill with soup.

Havarti Cheese with Dill Bread Bowl

Soup has been traced back as far as 6000 B.C., notably it seems that Hippopotamus was the first known meat used for soups.  In early Greece, Greeks sold soup in the streets of their market places, which means soup could be considered one of the first “fast foods”.  Before soup makers began adding beans and other ingredients, soup was really just broth, the broth was used to pour over or dip bread into.  The bread was called sop, which then became the word we are more familiar with, “soup”.

Havarti Cheese with Dill Bread Bowl

This recipe is an upgrade from a standard bread bowl recipe and incorporates layers of flavor with the addition of Dill Havarti Cheese and Garlic Infused Olive Oil. I used my bread machine to make the dough for this recipe. Also, by coating the shredded cheese in flour prevents the shreds from sticking together in the blending process.

Ingredients
1 cup Warm Water (110 – 115 degrees)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Garlic Olive Oil
1 Tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
3 cups Bread Flour (or All Purpose Flour )
1 Tbsp Dough Enhancer
2 Tsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp (Flour to coat shredded cheese)
1 1/2 cups Havarti Cheese with Dill. Shredded.

1 Egg White and 1 Tbsp Water whisked together for egg wash

Place the ingredients in the order listed into the bread machine (I layered the flour coated cheese between cups of flour to get a more even blending in the finished dough) and run the dough cycle. When finished, lightly knead the dough on a clean and floured surface. Divide the dough into 6-8 equal parts and form into the shape of a ball. Lightly sprinkle cornmeal onto a baking sheet and place balls of dough on top and allow to rise. Let rise for about 30 minutes in a warm place. When dough has risen, brush the top of each ball with an egg wash for a crisp and shiny finish. Bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes or golden brown. Let cool slightly before cutting the tops out with a bread knife or scoop part of the inside out.

You can really used any flavored cheese with this recipe or a plain cheese that has been combined with your favorite herb.


“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight. “
M.F.K. Fishe
r

With the Bread Bowl ready to be filled, now is the time to craft the perfect Cheesy Potato Corn Chowder.

I like to add my dry spices to the Mirepoix as it is softening.

Cheesy Potato Corn Chowder

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 cup chopped Celery
  • 1 cup chopped Carrot
  • 1 cup chopped Onion
  • 1 (4 ounce) can Diced Green Chilies
  • 1/2 Tbsp dried Thyme
  • 1/2 Tbsp dried Oregano
  • Dash of Salt and Pepper
  • 4 Cups Homemade Chicken Stock or 2 (14.5 ounce) cans Chicken Stock
  • 3 cups peeled and cubed Russet Potatoes
If you like a little kick then add a Pepper Jack Cheese to this soup.
  • 1 Package frozen sweet corn
  • 1 (2.5 ounce) package country style gravy mix
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup shredded White Cheddar Cheese (or any cheese that you like)

Directions

  1. In large saucepan, melt butter over medium high heat. Add first 6 ingredients with a dash of salt and pepper; cook and stir until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add chicken broth; bring to a boil. Add potatoes; cook over low heat for 20 to 25 minutes or until potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally.
  3. Dissolve gravy mix in milk; stir into soup mixture. Add cheese and corn; cook and stir over low heat until cheese is melted.
A hearty soup, ready in about 35 minutes.

Now your ready to enjoy a Bread Bowl of Cheesy Potato Chowder. Enjoy!

“Soup is cuisines kindest course.”
Virginia Wolff

Tea Inspired Cocktails

“Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.”
Chaim Potok

As much as I love a good cup of tea, sometimes I crave something unique and a little bit stronger. As so much of the United States is recovering from the Polar Vortex, I wanted to share a couple of my favorite tea-inspired cocktail recipes. Let’s face it, the only thing that can elevate a good cup of tea to new heights, is the addition of a great companion, booze.

As some of the country is experiencing 100 degree temperature swings, I decided to share two tea inspirations. My twist on hot Blueberry Tea, and also a cold tea cocktail, a Chai Tea Cream. A great thing about both tea cocktails is that they are completely adaptable to your own taste.

A Blueberry Tea Cocktail is typically made with an Orange Pekoe Tea. At my local grocery store they carry a Private Selection Tea called Blood Orange Rooibos Herbal Tea which was used in this recipe.

In classic bartender guides there really aren’t many blueberry drinks. One exception is the Blueberry Tea Cocktail, which contains no blueberry or blueberry flavored ingredients. It’s one of those cocktail concoctions that draws on a handful of ingredients to transform it into something completely different. Hence, a classic Blueberry Tea cocktail that only resembles the taste of blueberries. 

Blueberry Tea Cocktail

This warm and delicious tea cocktail has Grand Marnier, Amaretto and Orange Tea, which gives off hints of blueberry flavor.

Ingredients for one cocktail

  • 1 fluid ounce amaretto liqueur
  • 1 fluid ounce orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier(R))
  • 4 fluid ounces orange pekoe tea, or an orange tea of your choice like the blood orange rooibos herbal tea used in this cocktail.
I doubled the recipe to make two cocktails.

Directions

  1. Combine amaretto and orange liqueur in a brandy snifter or glass.
  2. Seep Tea bag in hot water and add tea to glass.
This is a great winter cocktail.

The history of Chai tea can be traced back to the mid-1800s in India, and has long been a favorite in cafés and tea rooms. Now drinks are being crafted with the spiced tea as a way to develop more depth to cocktails. Whiskey and Rum are two of the more popular flavor pairings with Chai tea, because of their complementary oak and vanilla flavors. This Chai Tea Cream cocktail is paired with an Apple Brandy to include a mellow apple flavor. A simple syrup has been infused with a cinnamon stick to add an additional level of warmth to the cocktail.

CHAI INFUSED VODKA: place 2 Chai tea bags (I used Twinings Chai) into 1 cup of Vodka. Allow to infuse for at least 2 hours. Remove tea bags and use in desired cocktail recipe, or store in fridge for 2 weeks.

Chai Tea Cream Cocktail

CINNAMON SIMPLE SYRUP: mix 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add a cinnamon stick and remove from heat, cover and let cool for 20 minutes. Pour into a glass jar and cover. Makes about 1½ cups and will keep in the refrigerator for a month.

You can easily add more of any of the ingredients to make the cocktail to your specific taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 oz Chai infused Vodka (see photo with note)
  • 1 oz Cinnamon Simple Syrup (see above)
  • 2 oz Apple Brandy
  • 2 oz Light Cream

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, cover and shake vigorously for about five seconds. Open the cocktail shaker again and add 2 ice cubes. Shake again for 20 seconds.
  2. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with fresh or dried apple slices.
Make sure that you use a good Apple Brandy for this cocktail. I used an Estate Apple Brandy from Wilridge Winery & Distillery in Washington State.

These cocktails are sure to keep you going through all the remaining long Winter nights!

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.