Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Aviation Cocktail

Aviation Cocktail with Maraschino Cherry Garnish, Black Background

Celebrating Flight’s Romantic Past

Traveled by air lately?  Not really an inspirational experience, eh?  After spending what seems like forever going through security (where you have to remove your shoes, and maybe have security people poke you with a handheld scanner), you finally get to board an overcrowded plane.  Assuming your flight hasn’t been cancelled, of course.  If you get hungry, good luck.  Maybe they’ll sell you some stale peanuts.

Harried travelers may find it hard to believe, but flying once seemed daring and romantic.  When the Wright brothers made their first flight at Kitty Hawk in December 1903, they unleashed the imaginations of would-be adventurers everywhere. 

The Aviation Cocktail was invented not too long after that — perhaps to celebrate humanity’s conquest of the skies.

The drink has a clean, sophisticated flavor that evokes a glorious past. And unlike air travel, it still seems fresh and exciting. Not to mention civilized.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chocolate Pepper Cookies

Chocolate Pepper Cookies with Milk on Black Acrylic

These Spicy Chocolate Beauties Are Perfect for the Holidays — or Anytime    

These cookies originated in Austria, where they are called Wienerstube.  But we find it easier to pronounce their Anglicized name:  Chocolate Pepper Cookies.  One taste, and you may decide to just call them “My New Favorite Cookie.”

These are a bit less sweet than some other cookies, and their spicy, complex undertones make them perfect for grownup occasions (though kids like them too).  Their sophisticated combination of chocolate and pepper isn’t spicy hot, but you definitely notice a bit of a tingle on your tongue.  And they’re equally at home with a glass of milk, a cup of tea, a cocktail, or a glass of wine.

We often make these as a Christmas cookie.  But they’re great anytime you’re craving something chocolate with a bit of oomph.  Best of all, you can freeze the dough, and then just cut off a bit and bake a few cookies at a time.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Roast Brussels Sprouts

Roast Brussels Sprouts in Oblong Ramekin, Overhead View on Black

For People Who Think They Don’t Like Brussels Sprouts 

You probably know how to eat Brussels sprouts, right?  Just politely push those little cabbage cubs around your plate.  Then pretend to forget them.  

Well, good news:  You can stop playing with your food now.  Because Roast Brussels Sprouts are actually edible.  Delicious, even. 

I know you may find that hard to believe.  But that’s probably because the only Brussels sprouts you’ve encountered have been overcooked.  As in, boiled to death.  And the truth is, if you cook Brussels sprouts too long, they turn into a stinky mess.  Nobody wants to eat a vegetable that’s been so badly mistreated.

Unlike lengthy boiling, roasting brings out the best in Brussels sprouts.  Roasting deepens and concentrates flavor, highlighting an inner sweetness that boiling obscures.  And roasting reveals hidden depths of flavor that most people find irresistible.

It’s a good thing Brussels sprouts are plentiful and inexpensive in the fall and winter, so you can indulge in your new favorite vegetable.  And with Thanksgiving later this week, they’re a great green veggie choice for your festive dinner.

Roasting is one of the easiest ways to cook this healthy and nutritious vegetable.  And they taste so great, even your most finicky eater will be asking for seconds.  Maybe thirds.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Mint Garnish in White Ramekin, Overhead View on Black

Ditch the Canned and Discover Real Flavor

Cranberry sauce is a staple of Thanksgiving tables.  And why not?  Cranberries in their natural state may be too tart to take, but adding sugar mellows their flavor into something seductively good. 

Plus, cranberry sauce combines so well with those other Thanksgiving standbys:  turkey, gravy, and stuffing.  And for many people, it’s an obligatory ingredient in (or at least, accompaniment to) day-after turkey sandwiches. 

But when was the last time you made your own cranberry sauce?  Maybe never, if you’re like most of us.  It’s so easy to buy the commercial canned stuff.  And because cranberry sauce is often a supermarket loss leader at this time of the year, the cans may actually be a pretty good deal — at least from a financial standpoint. 

How about from a flavor standpoint?  Well, let’s not even go there.  Instead, I’ll just tell you how quick and easy it is to make your own cranberry sauce at home.  (Hint:  15 minutes, tops.  Plus time to chill in the fridge.)

The only drawback is, you won’t have those little groove marks from the can. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Microwave Popcorn

Microwave Popcorn on Black Acrylic

Quick, Easy, Healthy, and Tasty — the Best Way to Make Homemade Popcorn

Look in the “snack aisle” of your local supermarket and you’ll see package after package of microwave popcorn.  You know, boxes filled with sealed paper bags designed to be nuked at home.  Most stores stock several brands, and they usually offer a wide variety of flavorings.  It’s convenient, and microwave popcorn really is good stuff.  But look closely at the list of ingredients on the box, and you may wonder whether those are things you really want to ingest.  If you’re like me, you’ve probably had your fill of weird-sounding additives whose names you can’t pronounce.

Way down on the bottom shelf, you’ll generally find popcorn in bulk — the kind that’s meant to be cooked the old-fashioned way.  It’s not as convenient as the packaged microwave popcorn, but it has no added ingredients.  And it’s much cheaper than the “convenience” brands.

And guess what?  You can pop that bulk popcorn in your microwave.  You don’t need to buy the specially packaged “microwave” varieties.  Just find an appropriate container — I use a brown paper sack — and you’re in business.  And you can flavor the popcorn with your own tasty (and natural) ingredients.  No mystery chemicals needed.  The result is much better flavor.  Plus you’re saving money! 

Try this method of making popcorn and you’ll never look back.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Ward Eight Cocktail

Ward Eight Cocktail in Cocktail Glass with Orange Slice and Maraschino Cherry Garnish

The Perfect Drink to Celebrate (or Mourn) an Election

Here in the US, we have a big election coming up Tuesday, November 6th.  We’ll be voting for President, not to mention other federal, state, and local offices.  Many people are heartily sick of the whole process by this time (turn on the TV in “swing” states and it’s wall-to-wall political commercials).  But we’re all curious to learn the outcome, so many of us will tune in to see the election results.  And some people may even make a party of it.

Mrs. Kitchen Riffs and I certainly will be watching — and may elect to enjoy an adult beverage while consuming the political news. 

Well, why not?  Elections and booze have a long, cozy history.  Politicians used to routinely ply treat voters with intoxicating liquid refreshment in order to buy win their votes.  And remember those smoke-filled rooms?  It’s not lemonade they were quaffing in there.

So let me introduce you to the Ward Eight, a cocktail devised to celebrate a 19th century election.  It’s a smooth drink with nice tart undertones, perfect to celebrate your candidate’s win (or mourn his loss).