Thursday, December 31, 2009

Briny Pork Chops with Caramelized Pears and Sage-Roasted Potatoes

Other than one meal when my mom visited during December I cannot recall having cooked at home in almost a month. First I was sick (really, really sick) and the little that I did eat was made (read warmed up) by my husband. Then I got busy with work (which, since I am a chef, involved lots of cooking) so I really wasn't up to cooking when I got home (so lots of take-out). Then we went out of town (which is exhausting under the best of cases). I even cancelled delivery of one of my boxes because I knew I would get to it.

I woke up this morning determined to cook. I picked up our box yesterday so I knew I would have lots of delicious new produce to choose from (plus, I still have lots of root veggies, which take much longer to go bad, stashed away too).

After a delicious "ladies lunch" out with one of my best friends and my Goddaughter I stopped by the QFC to pick up some sort of protein. Torn between chicken, pork or lamb I texted the husband for advice. Pork (with applesauce) was the reply (although I knew applesauce was not to be in the husband's future). I considered a pork roast, then a pork loin before spying some thick-cut pork chops in the butcher's case. Alas, they were boneless (and meat cooked on the bone is just better) so I asked the butcher to cut some special for me, bone-in, about 1 1/2 inch thick.

So, pork decided as the protein, I took a look in the fridge and pantry for potential counterparts. I turned up some garnet yams, and some pears (as a stand-in to the applesauce the husband wanted). I snipped a little sage from the herb garden and I was on my way.

Here's the ingredients:

For the briny pork chops:

2 Tablespoon kosher salt
2 Tablespoon sugar
6 leaves sage
3/4 cup water
2 thick-cut bone-in pork chops

For the sage-roasted yams:

1/2 pound yams (garnet or otherwise)
2 Tablespoons or so olive oil
10 leaves sage
3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
salt and pepper
a cast-iron pan (trust me, this is important)

For the caramelized pears:

2 Tablespoon butter
2 pears, peeled and chopped
2 Tablespoons sugar
juice and zest from 1/2 Meyer lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Now, I was cooking everything at once, so these instructions are gonna jump around a bit.

I started by making a brine for the pork chops. I combined the sugar and the sage leaves in a mortar and used a pestle to crush and bruise the sage a bit.

I then put this into a Ziploc bag, added the sugar and the water and shook the mixture until the sugar and salt had dissolved. Then I added the pork chops and tossed the bag in the fridge for a couple of hours (turning it once).

A half hour before I was set to cook, I removed the pork chops from the brine, dried them off, then set them aside for a bout a half hour so the middles of them wouldn't be too cold when I cooked them.

Next I put the potatoes in the oven. Here they are all sliced up and ready to go.

The potatoes were inspired by a blog entry from the Food52 Website. I followed the method just about verbatim so I won't repeat it here (but they took about 45 minutes total). I haven't tried it with regular potatoes (as it is written) but that will be up very soon.

As soon as I put the potatoes in the oven, I heated up a grill pan, then brushed the outsides of the chops with a little olive oil and some salt and pepper. I seared the chops on one side, then flipped them and put them in the oven (alongside the potatoes) until they reached an internal temperature of 150 degrees (yeah, I know, USDA says 160 degrees, but that's just gonna result in dry pork chops). They took about 25 minutes to cook through and they were done before the potatoes, so I just took them out of the oven and covered them with some foil until the potatoes were done too (at least five minutes of resting is important anyway).

Once everything was in the oven I started on the caramelized pears. I started by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. I added the chopped pears and sauteed for about 5 minutes. Then I added the lemon zest and juice, the sugar and the salt and continued to cook the pears until they were golden brown and delicious.

To serve, I plated a few of the potatoes alongside a ginourmous pork chop then topped the pork with some of the caramelized pears, a bit of the tasty caramelizing sauce and a few of the crispy sage leaves.

How was it? Well, basically the whole time I was eating I was saying "nom, nom, nom this is so good". The husband agreed and said that the caramelized pears were way better than any applesauce would be.

This is definitely a case where really simple ingredients, cooked well, resulted in something fantastic.

What's in the Box?

1 Yellow Onions
1 bunch Green Onions

1.25 pounds Purple Potatoes

1 pint Red Grape Tomatoes

1 pound Baby Golden Beets

2 Hass Avocados

1 pound White Satin Carrots

1 Bunch Orange Carrots

1 Cucumber

2 Meyer Lemons

1 Mango

4 Valencia Oranges

3 D'anjou Pears

Friday, December 18, 2009

Screw the Resolutions Hawaiian Feast for LLS

As (hopefully) the final part of my fund raising efforts for my Team in Training event I am planning a "Screw the Resolutions Hawaiian Feast" to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for Jan 14, 2010 at Starry Nights in Kirkland Washington.

I've been spending a lot of time planning the event and recruiting donors and kitchen help. I just want to take a minute to thank all of those who have thus far agreed to generously donate their time and talents to help make my event a success.

I'm still looking for more items to use as door prizes so if you (or someone you know) owns a restaurant, is an artist, or has some other talent they may be willing to share, I would love to hear from them.

Thanks to:
Matt Jones, Starry Nights Catering ~

and all my fabulous donors:
Teresa Ritzhaupt, Executive Home Cleaning ~
D. Ted Harris ~
Bill Reimann, Spotlight ~
Fred Good ~
Jalene Hernandez ~
Jean Avery, Mary Kay ~
Dana Sullivan ~
Brian Vann ~
Vanessa Wilke
Amanda Downing

and all my fabulous kitchen volunteers:
Conni Brownell ~
Jay Delong ~
Cindy Hilliard ~
Debra Lane ~
Betsy Rogers ~
Karen Rosenzweig ~
Tom Rzegocki ~

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What's in the Box?

1 Broccolette
1 Cucumber

2 Hass Avocados
.4 pound Cremini Mushrooms
1.5 pounds Colorado Rose Potatoes

1.5 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes

1.5 pounds Jewel Yams

1 bunch Red Beets

1 Celery Root

1 Red Onion

1 bunch Orange Carrots

2 Asian Pears

2 Pomegranates

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Small-Batch Canning

Over the past few weeks, I have been putting up a bit of my produce. Quite a few people seem to be afraid of canning. But if you follow a few simple rules it's quite safe and relatively easy to do.

USDA has several canning guides available so I won't go into too much detail about procedures. All of the canning that I am doing uses the boiling water method. Since I am mostly working with fruits (and the occasional pickle) which are high acid, boiling water canning works easiest and is perfectly safe. Low acid foods such as meats, poultry, fish and vegetables (except tomatoes) are low acid and require a pressure canner (which is not something I ready to dive into).

The only special equipment that I have is a jar lifter, jar funnel, a magnetic wand (for sterilizing lids) and a rack to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot.

A total investment of about $10. You can buy a special canning pot, but I have found that the stock pot I already own works just fine.

I started with some peaches that were not really good out of hand (they had kind of a weird texture) and some plums that were just starting to go wrong. I hate to be wasteful so I decided to turn them into sauce then can them for later use.

Here's the ingredients for the Spicy Peach Sauce:

5 ripe peaches, peeled and diced
1/2 cup sugar

3 star anise

a few shakes of cayenne

And here's the ingredients for the Spiced Plum Sauce:

5 ripe plums, peeled and diced
1/2 cup sugar

3 allspice berries

2 cloves

1 stick cinnamon

The method was the same for each of the sauces. I combined each of the fruits with the sugar and spices in a heavy non-stick saucepan.



I let each of them cook, stirring frequently for about 20 minutes, just long enough for the sauce to thicken. If I was making jam or jelly, I would have cooked the fruit quite a bit longer (until 220 degrees, which can take up to an hour) but since I didn't need the sauce to gel too much I didn't need to cook it for very long.

Peach sauce

Plum sauce

Next I removed the spent spices from each of the pots. Then, using a ladle and my jar funnel I filled each of the sterilized (and still warm) jars with sauce. It's important to leave about a 1/2 inch of space at the top of each jar. I actually didn't have enough jars for all my sauce, so I just stuck the extra in a couple of Gladware containers and popped them in the fridge to use right away (within 3 weeks or so).

I sterilized each lid in the boiling water for about 10 seconds, putting each on top of a jar as they were done. Next I added the screw lids, then each of the jars went into the pot of boiling water for 10 minutes to process. Once the time had elapsed I removed the jars from the water bath to cool.

Now comes the moment. Either a vacuum is going to form resulting in a "pop" as the lid sucks down (it's just the best sound when you are canning) or it's not. If the jar doesn't seal, you can try to process it again, but if it doesn't work the second time you can just pop that jar in the fridge and use it right away instead of three months from now.

I used the peach sauce as a topping for vanilla ice cream (I love that spicy sweet thing). I haven't actually tried the spiced plum sauce, but I think it's going to be great on chicken or pork.

Next up, pickled beets.
I've talked a bit before about the husband's love of beets. But even if a person loves beets, sometimes you can only eat so many of them. So, I decided to pickle a bunch of them so we could enjoy them all winter long.

I combined a couple of recipes into the method I eventually used. The pickling liquid is a little sweet, kind of sweet pickle style.

Here's the ingredients for the pickled beets:

7 medium red beets (about 4 pounds)
2 onions, sliced

2 cups vinegar

2 Tablespoon salt

1 cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

6 whole cloves
6 allspice berries

I started by boiling the beets until they were just cooked through.

While the beets cooked, I combined the vinegar, salt, sugar and spices in a stock pot, brought the mixture to a boil, then let it simmer very gently, covered, until everything else was ready.

Once the beets were cool I peeled them then sliced them into bite-size pieces then sliced the onions.

I layered the beets and onions into each of the jars (beets, onions, beets, onions, beets), packing slightly. I strained the pickling liquids to remove the spices then poured the hot liquid into each of the jars, again leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top of each jar. Lids on, bands on, then into the boiling water for 10 minutes of processing.

We took our first try of these after about a week. Delicious. Sweet and tangy. I think if I were to make these again, I would boil the onions for just a minute or so. They were still quite crisp (just a little too crisp) but not enough that they were inedible. They were perfect as an accompaniment when I cooked some of the Bierocks stashed in the freezer.

Finally we come to yesterday's canning extravaganza (a cantravaganza, if you will).

In this week's box I got four pears and two Asian pears. Well, since I hadn't even eaten the pears and Asian pears from the last box I decided to take a preemptive strike and can the pears right away.

I also decided to try using the two week old fruit. They were quite soft so I decided to make them into pear butter (even though the recipes all say not to use soft fruit).

In addition I received a wealth of grapes from someone in my hand bell choir. Two gallon-size Ziploc bags of red, green and purple grapes. With those I decided to make a conserve.

First up the poached pears. Again I used a few different recipes as reference. Most recipes for wine-poached pears use red wine, but since I prefer white wine, I decided to use it instead.

Here's the recipe I came up with for the Wine-Poached Pears:

4 pears (in this case, I think it is important not to use old or soft fruit)
2 cups white wine (I used a chardonnay)

1 cup sugar

1 stick cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon vanilla

I started by combining the wine, sugar and cinnamon stick in a small stockpot. I brought the mixture to a simmer (stirring to dissolve the sugar), then left it on low heat until the pears were ready.

I peeled, cored and quartered each of the pears and packed them into my jars. Two of the jars ended up with 1 1/2 pears, one of the jars only had one pear.

Off the heat, I added the vanilla to the wine, then filled each of the jars with the wine mixture. Lids, bands, then 25 minutes of processing in the water bath.

I haven't tasted these yet since all my jars sealed, but I am imagining using them in a salad with greens, blue cheese, some nuts and a nice vinaigrette.

Next up, the pear butter. I peeled, cored and diced the pears and Asian pears, discarding the really bruised parts.

I followed the recipe for Caramel-Pear Butter from the Epicurious Web site so I'm not going to repeat it here. I did, however, cut the recipe by a third and substitute white wine for apple juice (because I didn't have any apple juice and I had wine open for the poached pears).

I used 6 pieces of fruit and it resulted in 1 1/2 cups of pear butter. Not a lot of product for the amount of effort involved, but it is delicious (and I was going to throw the fruit out anyway). I'm thinking pancakes, with pear butter, next weekend.

Lastly I made the grape conserve. Here's the ingredients (and sorry, I don't have a photo):

2 gallon-size Ziplocs of grapes, about 8 cups (most grape jelly and jam recipes call for concord grapes, but I just used what I had)
6 cups sugar

2 Tablespoon lemon juice

4 cups walnuts, chopped

A lot of the conserve recipes that I consulted called for cooking the grapes with a small quantity of water for about 20 minutes, then running the grapes through a food mill to get rid of the skins and puree the grapes. Well, I wanted pieces of grape in my conserve. That, unfortunately, meant that I had to peel all of the grapes (yes, you read that right).

Several Web sites suggested freezing the grapes overnight then running the frozen grapes under warm water to get the skins to slip right off. Well, this worked, kind of. I wouldn't exactly say that the skins slipped right off, but it was somewhat easier (except for those purple grapes, those skins stayed tight, grrr). This process took about three hours.

I cut each of the grapes in half (and removed the seeds from the red grapes) then put them in a large, heavy stockpot along with the sugar and the lemon juice. I brought this to a boil and cooked it until it reached a temperature of 220 degrees (this took about an hour). Then I stirred in the walnuts and ladled the mixture into eight 1/2 pint jars (with about 1 1/2 cups left over, but I have Thanksgiving plans for that). Once again, lids, bands then into the boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

This stuff is tasty! I'm thinking this would be yummy on waffles (hmmm, maybe I'll make waffles instead of pancakes for breakfast).

For Thanksgiving I planning on cutting a wheel of brie in half (lengthwise) loading up the middle of it with some of this conserve, then wrapping the whole thing in puff pastry to make a delicious baked brie. I'm really excited about it (and I'll try to get a picture of it before it gets devoured).

If you've never tried canning, I highly recommend it. It's so nice to have so many tasty goods stashed away for last minute guests or for an easy dinner (or breakfast).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What's in the Box?

2 bunch Golden Beets
.4 pound Cremini Mushrooms
1 bunch Baby Carrots
1 Cucumber
1 bunch Red Radishes
1 Hass Avocados
1.25 pounds Purple Top Turnips
1 pound Yukon Gold Potatoes
2 Red Onions
2 Asian Pears
4 Bartlett Pears

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Smoky Potato and Leek Soup

I feel like I haven't cooked in forever (but really it's only been about a week). After training this morning I went out with the team for coffee. A couple of people asked what I was going to do today, and with nothing else pressing to do, the only thing I could think of was "cook".

We met this morning at 8 a.m. and it was only 30 degrees. Even though I eventually worked up a sweat, I ended up chilled to the bone (a weird sensation, to be sweaty and cold at the same time). A nice, steamy bowl of soup sounded like just the ticket for warming up.

Here's the ingredients:

1/2 onion, chopped
2 leeks (white and light green part only), cut in half then sliced
2 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon mustard powder
2 Tablespoon flour
4 cup chicken stock (veggie stock would work too)
2 large yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 kubocha squash, peeled and chopped (while this isn't rally necessary to the dish, I had it left over from the risotto last week, and it did bring a tiny bit of sweetness to the dish)
2 Tablespoon cream (also optional, but it adds a nice touch of creaminess to the soup)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (a last minute addition so it's not in the picture)

To start I warmed about a teaspoon of olive oil in a 3-quart pot. When it was warm I added the onion, leeks and a sprinkle of salt and cooked until they were softened and translucent. I added the garlic and cooked it for about 30 seconds longer.

I sprinkled on the mustard powder and the flour.

Then stirred it for about a minute to make a roux.

Next I stirred in the chicken broth (making sure to get rid of any lumps) then added the squash and the potatoes.

I brought the mixture to a boil then let it simmer until the potatoes and squash were cooked through, then added the cream. I tasted for seasoning, and it was just missing something. Something like bacon. Sadly, there is no bacon in the house (I do not know how that happened). I realized that smoked paprika might just give the soup the bit of smokiness that I was looking for, so I added some to the mix (along with a hearty helping of fresh ground pepper). It worked (and gave the soup a beautiful tint).

To serve, I topped the soup with a few of the pickled peppers (as well as a bit of the pickling liquid) that I made with my chef group about a month ago.

How was it? Well I was a little worried about this soup as I was tasting it as it cooked. It just didn't have great flavor. But, the addition of the smoked paprika really turned it into something great. Filled my belly and warmed my bones quite nicely. Delish.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Holiday Treats

As part of my fundraising efforts for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program I will be making delicious holiday treats for purchase. If you live in the Seattle area please consider buying some white-chocolate candy clusters or chocolate-caramel graham crackers. All proceeds will go directly to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Risotto-Style Barley with Kabocha Squash, Caramalized Onions and Sage

This week my Team in Training team started training in earnest. We meet every Monday and Wednesday night (plus Saturday mornings) plus I have hand bell choir practice on Tuesday nights. Well, frankly, I am not used to having to go out in the evening quite so much. So, I have been an extra lazy chef this week. Well, yesterday I had the day off, and nowhere to go in the evening, so I decided to take advantage and make a slightly more complicated meal than I have been making this week.

I wanted to use the Kabocha Squash that was in my box two weeks ago before it started to go squishy. My original thought was to roast it, but I didn't have anything to go with roasted squash to make it a meal. As I looked through the pantry I found pearled barley and decided to use that to make a risotto-style barley (which would make a delightful meal). Whenever I make risotto, I use barley instead of arborio rice (mostly because that's the way the husband likes it).

Here's the ingredients:

1 onion, divided, half diced and half julienned
3/4 of a kabocha squash, diced (I was going to use the whole thing, but it was just too much)
1 cup barley
1/2 cup white wine
4-6 cups chicken broth (veggie stock would work too)
14 sage leaves, divided, half minced and half julienned
2 ounces Parmesan cheese

In a stockpot, I brought the chicken broth to a boil, then turned the heat down to low. In a saute pan I heated a little olive oil and added the julienned onion to caramelize. In a saucier, I heated a little more olive oil then added the diced onion and squash. I let it saute until until the onion was cooked through.

Whew, that's a lot of pots (glad I don't have to do the dishes).

I added the barley to the saucier and let it cook, stirring often, for another minute or so.

Next I added the white wine and let it simmer until it was almost gone. Then I added a ladle of chicken broth and let it simmer until it was almost gone.

I continued this process of adding a ladle of broth, then stirring until gone, over and over. The photo above is at about the 20 minute mark, which is when I added the julienned sage to the onions and the minced sage to the risotto.

After about 40 minutes, the barley and the squash were both cooked through, so I added the Parmesan cheese and tasted for seasoning.

I ladled the barley into a bowl and topped it with some of the caramelized onions.

How was it? Well, this was not one of my finest moments. While the flavor was good, the risotto got really thick as it set and the onions were a little bit over-caramelized (read slightly burned). So, while not an epic fail, things could have been better. Still, a tasty meal for a stormy night. If I made it again, I would add a bit more broth right before serving to held with the thickness problem and keep a better eye on the onions. Plus, I think a little sausage or maybe some bacon would have made this meal really shine.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What's in the Box?

1 White Acorn Squash
1 bunch Orange Carrots
1 Leek
1 Yellow Onion
1 bunch Baby Red Beets
1.5 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 pound Red Thumb Fingerling Potatoes
1 bunch French Breakfast Radishes
1 each Napa Cabbage
.2 pound Shiitake Mushrooms
1 pound Zucchini
3 Asian Pears

Friday, October 30, 2009

Lavaman ... and my dad

Tonight was the official kick-off of the winter Team in Training session. When I first heard about the Lavaman Triathlon, I thought of it as the "what's next" after completing the Danskin Triathlon in August. But in the last couple of weeks, and especially tonight, it became so much more.

I remember being in my apartment, it was a sunny day, my husband was there and the phone rings. "I have cancer" my dad tells me. I don't remember my response, just the fear. I know he told me a lot of details here, what kind of cancer, what the treatment would be, but I don't remember any of it. All I remember is "I have cancer".

For the next several months I would hear updates. Visits became more frequent. It was important to go home for Christmas. Then in January, the visits became almost weekly. As soon as my husband and I would get off work on Friday, we would get in the car (making sure the cats had enough food for the weekend) drive late into the night, arrive early Saturday, spend the day, then head back to Seattle on Sunday. Eight hours each way (if the weather was good) for eight hours with my dad.

I remember Valentine's day, 1996. My dad was in the ICU and wanted to give my mom a gift. I spent hours trying to find just the right card (ending up buying five so that he could pick just the right one).

I remember what I knew in my heart would be my last conversation with my father.

I remember a phone call... "You should come back" (although I knew it would be too late).

Tonight, at our Team in Training kick-off, we heard from someone who is a blood cancer survivor. She praised not only the doctors and researchers, but also the people who do Team in Training events to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). The money raised by LLS directly helped to fund research that not only made her treatment easier than it would have been in the past, but ultimately saved her life. All I could think was "if only this could be my Dad's story..."

So, "what's next" is the Lavaman Triathlon on the Big Island of Hawaii on March 28, 2010. Five months of training, six days a week (in Seattle weather), so that I will be able to complete a 1-mile swim, 25-mile bike ride and a 6-mile run. I want to do this, not just for me, not just in memory of my dad, but for all the dad's out there who could have a fighting chance of beating this disease.

Please make a donation to support my participation in Team In Training and help advance LLS's mission. Absolutely any amount will be appreciated, it all adds up!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Carrot and Fennel Soup with Tarragon Cream

This is, quite possibly, the best soup I have ever made. 'Nuff said.

Here's the ingredients:

1 bunch carrots, peeled and chopped
2 head fennel, julienned

1 onion, julienned

3 clove garlic (not pictured because I forgot them)

2-3 cups chicken or veggie stock (not pictured because the husband had not returned from the store yet)

1/2 cup cream

1 bunch tarragon, chopped fine

To start I heated the oven to 450 degrees and lined a baking sheet with aluminum foil (the foil isn't necessary unless you're lazy like me). Once the oven was heated, I tossed the carrot with a little olive oil, salt and pepper then put them on the sheet in the hot oven to roast for 10 minutes (I just wanted to give them a little head start).

Next I tossed the onion, fennel and garlic with a little more olive oil, salt and pepper, then added them to the pan. I returned this to the oven for another 30 minutes.

While the veggies cooked I added the cream and tarragon to a blender and gave it a whiz for a few seconds. My thought was that this would chop the tarragon, but it didn't do as good a job as I would have liked. So, when I make this again (notice the when, not if) I will chop the tarragon before adding it to the cream. However, I would still whiz it in the blender for a few seconds because it thickened the cream ever so slightly, which was nice (just don't let it go for too long or you'll end up with butter).

Once the veggies were soft I put a few of them into a blender and added just enough broth to cover them (not too much, because you can always add more later it you need too).

I put each batch through a mesh strainer (the fennel was really fibrous, so the texture before straining was not so nice) into a sauce pan for a little reheating. When it was time for dinner I ladled up a little soup and topped it with the tarragon cream.

Best. Soup. Ever. Maybe a little more labor intensive than I like my soup (I did after all have to get out a blender instead of using my stick blender) but totally worth it. I'm going to make this again and again and again ...

Liqueurs and Infused vodkas

Last Thursday the Puget Sound Chapter of the United Stated Personal Chef Association got together to make liqueurs and infused vodkas. The idea being that if we started them now, they would be ready before the holiday season begins.

In all, we made five different infusions.
Limoncello (which will get it's simple syrup added in about a month)
Apple-Infused Vodka
Pepper-Infused Vodka (which should be excellent for Bloody Mary's)
Coffee Liqueur (because I love a good white Russian)
Cranberry-Infused Vodka

One of the group also brought a bounty of peppers to pickle (along with some delicious tomatoes to nosh on). Here's Tom doing pickled pepper prep.

Wendy sliced apples for apple-infused vodka while Anita zested a million (okay 15) lemons.

Here's Anita adding Lime and Orange Zest to the jar in preparation for the apple-infused vodka while Tom packs jars with peppers.

Jars of packed peppers ready to be topped with hot vinegar.

Here's Betsy "helping" while the rest of us work.

Just kidding. Here's Betsy working on the cranberry-infused simple syrup. The recipe actually called for chopping up the cranberries in a food processor but we decided to pop them open in the simple syrup instead.

I made coffee liqueur and then took over stirring the simple syrups (we were stirring them to try to get them to cool faster).

Here's the limencello, apple-infused vodka, and pepper vodka.

It was Anita's Birthday so Sadie (who I managed to not get one picture of somehow) made the most delicious caramel-topped brownies.

All of the liqueurs and vodkas and now safely resting in my pantry. Each day for the next few weeks I'll be giving them a shake for optimal infusing.

It's true what they say, the waiting is the hardest part.