Springing into March and Maple Syrup Time

“March is a month of considerable frustration – it is so near Spring and yet across a great deal of the country the weather is still so violent and changeable that outdoor activity in our yards seems light years away.” – Thalassa Cruso (known as “The Julia Child of Horticulture”, 1909-1997)

While waiting for the March Lion to turn into a Lamb, for the snow to melt and the ground to thaw, consider baking one of the three cakes below (taken from “The Food52 Cookbook” by Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs, 2011).

Maple Yogurt Pound Cake 

maple cakeIngredients:
1/2 cup Grade B Maple Syrup
3/4 cup yogurt, preferably whole milk
3 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1 & 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F and generously butter a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.
  1. In large mixing bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and stir just to incorporate. Add the oil and fold gently until the oil is absorbed into the batter. Make sure not to over mix the batter.
  1. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet in the oven and bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Cut around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Turn the cake out onto the rack, then turn it upright on the rack and cool completely. Serve with fresh sliced strawberries and fresh whipped cream!

maple pound cake

Faulknerian Family Spice Cake with Caramel Icing

Ingredients for cake:
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening (yes, shortening)
3 cups sugar
5 large eggs
3 cups flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground mace (don’t leave this out)
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Ingredients for caramel icing:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions for cake:

  1. To make the cake, heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a tube pan and set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until smooth.
  1. Sift together the dry ingredients, twice. Add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk. Add the vanilla. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, turn out of the pan, and allow to cool completely on the rack.

Instructions for caramel icing:
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and stir in the brown sugar and cream. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth. Return to the heat and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Let the mixture cool, and then beat in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Ice the cooled cake.

Lemony Cream Cheese Pancakes with Blueberries

Ingredients:
1 & 1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs, separated
1 cup buttermilk
6 ounces cold cream cheese, cut up
1 tbsp. melted butter, plus additional for the pan
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Zest of 1 large lemon
1 & 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Honey, maple syrup, or jam, for serving

Instructions:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and buttermilk. Add the cream cheese and mix until it has separated into uniformly small lumps, about the size of large cottage cheese curds. Stir in the milted butter, vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
  1. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then stir to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry; fold them gently into the batter.
  1. Heat a griddle or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles. Lower the heat to medium and butter or oil the pan. Drop the batter into the pan by 1/3 cupful’s, making sure not to crowd the pancakes. Once the batter has spread, drop in the berries. (You might want to drizzle some batter over to cover them.) These need to be cooked a bit longer than you might expect; they won’t bubble as quickly or as much as plain pancakes. Turn down the heat if necessary to keep them from overbrowning and let them puff up their full extent after you turn them, which will take 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with honey or maple syrup or jam.

ATG’s Winter Waldorf Salad

Waldorf salad recipeAs a tribute to the historic Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue in New York City, currently under renovation with plans to reopen with condominiums, we’re featuring our own recipe for a winter Waldorf Salad, along with a few more “official” recipes. A healthy addition to any meal, or even a meal unto itself, we hope you enjoy!

Waldorf Salad

Ingredients for the salad:
1 head of Romaine Lettuce
1/4 – 1/3 cup of Roasted Salted Pecans
1/4 – 1/3 cup of fresh bite-sized chopped Parmesan Cheese
1/4 -1/3 cup dried cherries and cranberries, roughly chopped (we use Mariani brand)
1/2 of bite-sized large apple (we use Cripps Pink or any crisp firm winter apple)

Ingredients for the dressing (Sweet & Sour):
1/2 cup heavy cream or whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/6 cup Colavita Champagne Wine Vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt

Instructions:
Make dressing and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. Prepare salad in a beautiful winter-inspired serving bowl. Pour desired amount of dressing on salad and toss.

Today’s Official Recipe for Waldorf Salad*  (taken from here)

Ingredients for the walnuts:
2 cups walnut halves
1 egg white
1 tbsp. of spice mixture (paprika, cayenne, coriander)
1 cup sugar

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the walnuts and egg white. Add spice mixture and sugar and mix until evenly coated. Spread nuts in an even layer on baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes being careful not to burn.

Ingredients for the dressing:
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup crème fraîche
3 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fresh ground White Pepper
1/4 cup Walnut oil
1/&1/2 tbsp. minced Black Winter Truffles (optional)

Instructions:
Combine the yogurt, crème fraîche and lemon juice until thoroughly mixed. Then add the oil and pepper and truffles, if desired.  Set aside.

Ingredients for the salad:
1/2 cup celery
2 large Granny Smith apples, unpeeled
2 large Gala apples, unpeeled
2 dozen red grapes, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup micro greens or celery leaves

Instructions:
Julienne the celery and apples into matchstick-size strips and gently fold the dressing into the apple mixture. To assemble salad place the apple/leaves mixture on plate and scatter grapes and walnuts and serve.

*Just exactly what the recipe for the original Waldorf Salad was seems hard to come by, but it is attributed to the famous maitre d’hotel Oscar Tschirky or “Oscar of the Waldorf” in 1893. Whatever it was, it seems it was a much simpler salad than what it is today with only apples, celery possibly grapes and a mayo dressing. There are many different versions claiming to be the original.

The following two recipes are as close to what could have been the original:

Original Waldorf Salad (version I)

Ingredients:
6 tbsp. mayonnaise (or plain yogurt)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 sweet apples. cored and chopped
1 cup red seedless grapes. sliced in half
1 cup celery, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped, slightly toasted walnuts
Lettuce

Original Waldorf Salad (version II)

Ingredients:
2 celery ribs
1/2 cup red grapes
1/2 cup walnuts
2 apples
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 lemon

The ‘Key’ to Key Lime Pie

best key lime pie recipeThe Key Lime* – different from Persian or Tahiti limes that one typically sees in the grocery store – was introduced to the Florida Keys during the 1830s by Henry Perrine, a diplomat and botanist who discovered the plant in Mexico.

It is little surprise, then, that the combination of refreshing limes and sweet condensed milk, which was also invented around the same time, eventually evolved to become Florida’s State Pie.

In fact, it was only on a recent trip to Florida that I discovered just how many varieties there are to Key Lime Pie – and how delicious the perfect one can truly be. From light and fluffy to a heavier custard-like filling, one quickly develops a discriminating palate for a dessert that is offered in just about every restaurant in the state.

The absolute best Key Lime Pie I sampled was a perfectly textured and flavored whipped cream/graham cracker crust creation at A12 Buoy in Fort Pierce, an all around excellent seafood restaurant. I have been on a mission to recreate it ever since.

In the meantime, the two recipes below are very satisfying. One is made with a graham cracker crust, the other with a flour crust; one with just cream and eggs, the other with condensed milk and eggs. Enjoy!

Also: check out Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe in Key West, voted one of the best Key Lime Pie makers. You can purchase one of their pies online at www.keylimesshop.com along with a variety of other items, such as Key Lime Soap and Key Lime Cookies.

*Key limes are smaller, have a more intense flavor and are considered sweeter than other types of lime. They also have a thinner rind and more of a yellowish color compared to other types of lime. They are sometimes referred to as a “bartender’s lime” because of the enhancing flavor they give to alcoholic drinks such as margaritas.

Key Lime Pie (adapted from several different recipes)

Ingredients for the crust:
2 cups crushed Graham Cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup ground almonds
6 tbsp. melted butter

Ingredients for the filling:
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup Key Lime juice
2 & 1/4 tsp. grated Key Lime rind
1 & 1/2 cups whipping cream

Instructions for the crust:
Preheat over to350°F.  Combine all of the above ingredients and press into the bottom and  the sides of a 9-inch pie plate.  Bake in oven for approximately 8-10 minutes being careful not to burn.

Instructions for the filling:
Mix egg yolks, sugar and lime juice in top of double boiler. Cook over simmering water until mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in grated rind. Refrigerate until mixture thickens, but do not let it become stiff.

Beat cream to soft peaks. Fold into lime filling. Spoon into baked crust and refrigerate, covered, for 24 hours. Serve with fresh whipped cream on top.

Key Lime Pie with a Flour Crust (taken from fine cooking.com)

Ingredients for the crust:
6-3/4 oz. (1-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
½ tsp. table salt
3 oz. (6 tbsp.) chilled unsalted butter, cubed
2 tbsp. chilled vegetable shortening, cubed
2-1/2 to 3 tbs. ice water

Ingredients for the filling:
2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
2 large egg yolks
1 cup fresh lime juice (from about 4 regular limes)
2 tbsp. finely grated lime zest (from about 2 regular limes)

Ingredients for the garnish:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1 lime, zested into thin strips

Instructions:
Put the flour and salt in a food processor; pulse to combine. Add the butter cubes and pulse until they’re the size of extra-large peas (about 10 quick pulses). Add the shortening and continue pulsing until the largest pieces of butter and shortening are the size of peas (10 to 15 more quick pulses). Sprinkle 2-1/2 tbps. of the water over the flour mixture and pulse a few times until the mixture just begins to come together. It should look rather crumbly, but if you press some between your fingers, it should hold together. (If it doesn’t, sprinkle on another 1/2 tbps. water and pulse a few more times.) Dump the crumbly mix onto a lightly floured surface and press the dough into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a round that’s 1/8 inch thick and 12 to 13 inches in diameter. Drape the dough around the rolling pin and ease it into a 9-inch pie pan. With kitchen shears, trim the overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold the overhang under and crimp it to build up an edge. Prick the crust with a fork in several places. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, position an oven rack on the middle rung and heat the oven to 350°F.

Grease one side of a sheet of foil with cooking spray, oil, or butter. Line the pie pan with the foil, greased side down, and fill it with pie weights or beans. Bake until the edges of the crust look dry and start to turn golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and weights; continue baking until the entire crust is deeply golden brown, another 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

Instructions for the filling:
In a medium bowl, whisk the condensed milk, egg yolks, lime juice, and grated zest. Pour into the cooled pie crust and bake at 350°F until just set, about 30 minutes. The center may still be a bit jiggly. (Use an instant-read thermometer to double-check the doneness; the center of the pie should be at least 140°F.) Let the pie cool thoroughly on a rack and then cover with plastic and refrigerate to chill completely, at least 3 hours but no longer than a day.

Just before serving, whip the cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread the cream on top of the pie, garnish with the strips of lime zest strips, and serve.

Late Spring, Early Summer: The Perfect Time for an English Trifle

“A dessert typically consisting of plain or sponge cake often soaked with wine or spirits (as brandy or rum) and topped with layers of preserves, custard, and cream.” – Merriam-Webster dictionary

English trifle recipeI can still remember the first English Trifle I tasted years ago. Its soft airy whipped cream, comforting creamy pudding, fresh sweet berries and crumbly texture made for one memorable, heavenly dessert.

Having scoured my cookbooks (this was pre-internet) for an English Trifle recipe, but failing to find one that reflected the culinary vision I had in my baker’s mind, I set out to create my own.

I had just read Frances Mayes’ 1996 memoir Under the Tuscan Sun, in which she shared a Lemon Cake recipe that I had made, served with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Deliciously moist and fresh, I decided to make my first trifle with her lemon cake in place of the more typical ladyfingers and sponge cake that one finds in traditional English Trifle recipes.

After all, there truly is nothing better than using homemade vanilla pudding or even tapioca, fresh whipped cream and a trio of berries – strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.

Refreshing and light, the English Trifle makes the perfect summer dessert for cookouts, barbecues and family get-togethers. It’s also a fun patriotic dessert for the Fourth of July with the layering of the red berries, the white whipped cream/pudding/cake, and the blueberries.

We hope you enjoy!

English Trifle Recipe

Lemon Cake (taken from Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, 1996)

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temp.
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, room temp.
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp. lemon juice
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Instructions:
Cream together 1 cup of sweet butter and 2 cups of sugar. Beat in 3 eggs, one at a time. The mixture should be light. Mix together 3 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and incorporate this with the butter mixture alternately with 1 cup buttermilk, (In Italy, I use one cup of cream since buttermilk is not available.) Begin and end with the flour mixture. Add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and the grated zest of the lemon. Bake in a nonstick tube pan at 200 degree for 50 minutes. The cake can be glazed with 1/4 cup of soft butter into which 1 & 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice have been beaten. Decorate with tiny curls of lemon rind.

Vanilla Pudding (taken from The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, 1931)

Hint: Be patient with the pudding, it takes a lot of time and constant stirring to keep it smooth and creamy and to keep it from burning.

Ingredients:
2/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
3 cups whole milk
3-4 large egg yolks
2-3 tbsp. butter
1 & 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Instructions:
In medium heavy saucepan mix together thoroughly the sugar, cornstarch, and salt and gradually stir in, making sure to dissolve the cornstarch, 3 cups of whole milk and then whisk in the egg yolks, and then the butter. It is important to stir constantly to keep lumps from forming and to keep from burning the pudding. Cook, on medium heat stirring constantly until the mixture just comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low; stirring briskly, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Let cool for several minutes and then place plastic wrap on top to keep the top from forming a film. Let the pudding cool thoroughly before using.

Easy English Trifle recipe

To assemble the trifle:

Ingredients:
The cake and pudding
1-2 cups sliced strawberries*1 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries
Several cups of fresh whipped cream
Raspberry jam
Round trifle dish

Instructions for the trifle:
To begin, cut cake into 2-3 inch squares and spread raspberry jam on one side. Arrange neatly on the bottom of the trifle dish and then begin the layering first with pudding, then berries and then the whipped cream. Continue layering to the top finishing with the whipped cream. Decorate the whipped cream with either cake crumbs or berries. Refrigerate for at least 6-24 hours (I found that it tasted best after refrigerating overnight.)

*You can combine all of the berries together in a bowl for the layering or you can layer the berries separately for a more orderly and patriotic looking finish.

Springing Green With “All Things Asparagus” and Sweet Spring Dream Cookies

“I look forward to the spring vegetables because the season is so short. Mushrooms, edible foraged herbs, wild leeks, early season asparagus.” – David Chang

“The first thing to look at is the tip of the spear or the bud. It should be tightly closed and erect, not open and droopy. The hue of green asparagus should be fresh, bright, and with no hint of yellow. White asparagus should be a clear, even, creamy color. The stalk should feel firm and the overall look should be dewy. Although asparagus, like nearly everything else, is now marketed through most of the year, it is freshest in the spring, from April to early June.” – Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (1992)

Spring, like life, is short.

Celebrate the sprouting of Spring with the recipes below for “All Things Asparagus”, the ultimate Spring vegetable.

For something sweet, enjoy a recipe for Drömmar Swedish “dream” cookies.

asparagus recipes

Fried Asparagus or “Asparagi fritti” (taken from The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan, 1973)

Ingredients:
12 spears of crisp, fresh asparagus
2-4 tbsp. butter
1 egg, well beaten
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
A few squeezes of fresh lemon juice

Instructions:
Snap off the bottoms of the stems of the asparagus, leaving a stalk about 4 to 5 inches long, including the tips. Remove all the tiny leaves below the tips and wash the asparagus thoroughly in cold water. Pat dry with a towel.

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted, dip the asparagus in the beaten egg, roll it in the bread crumbs, and slide it into the skillet, doing just a few stalks at a time so that they are not crowded in the pan. Spring with salt and pepper and a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice. When the asparagus has formed a crust on one side, turn it and when it has formed a crust on the other side, transfer with a slotted spatula to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve immediately. Serve immediately and Bon Appetito!

Cream of Asparagus Soup (taken from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins, 1982)

Ingredients:
4 cups chopped yellow onions
8 tbsp. sweet butter
2 quarts Chicken Stock
2 pounds asparagus
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cream of asparagus soup recipe

Instructions:
Melt butter in a large pot and simmer the onions until very soft and golden, about 15-20 minutes, stirring often.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, trim the tips from the asparagus and reserve.  Cut about 1 inch from the butt ends of the asparagus spears; remove the rough woody ends.  Chop spears into 1/2-inch pieces and drop into the boiling chicken stock, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes, or until asparagus is very soft.

Purée soup in blender and return the puree to the pot, add the reserved asparagus tips, and simmer until they are tender but still firm, 5 – 10 minutes.  Stir in cream and season with salt and pepper.

Asparagus En Croute (taken from The Silver Palate Cookbook)

Ingredients:
12 slices good quality white sandwich bread
1/2 pound Jarlsberg or other Swiss-type cheese
1/2 cup prepared Dijon-style mustard
12 asparagus spears, cooked
4 tbsp. melted sweet butter

Instructions:
Roll slices of bread as thin as possible with a rolling pin; trim crusts. You will have pieces of bread 3-3 & 1/2 inches square.

Lay squares out on a work surface and cover with a damp towel for 10 minutes.

Cut cheese into fingers, more or less the size of the asparagus spears.

Spread each bread square evenly with mustard. Lay an asparagus spear and a strip of cheese on each bread square and roll up. Place seam side down on a buttered baking sheet.

Brush rolls with melted butter. Bake in the upper third of a 450 degree F oven for 10 minutes, or until brown and bubbling. Serve immediately.

Asparagus Champagne Risotto (adapted from Everyday Pasta by Giada De Laurentiis, 2007)

Ingredients:
3 cups chicken broth
12 asparagus spears, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
3/4 cup Arborio rice or medium-grain rice
3/4 cup champagne
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:
In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the broth. Blanch the asparagus in the chicken broth for 2 minutes. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon. Set the asparagus aside and keep the chicken broth at a low simmer.

In another medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallot and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat in the butter. Continue toasting the rice, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes more. Add the champagne and simmer until the champagne has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed by the rice, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. Remove from the heat.

Gently stir in the asparagus, the remaining tablespoon of butter, the Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

Drömmar (Dream Cookies) (taken from the Wall Street Journal, March 2016)

Ingredients:
7 tbsp. butter, room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 & 1/3 cups unbleached cake flour
1/2 tsp. baker’s ammonia (can substitute 1/2 tsp. baking powder plus 1/2 tsp. baking soda)
Salt

Instructions:
Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until light in color, about 5 minutes. Sift flour and baker’s ammonia into bowl. Beat again until just fully combined, about 30 seconds. Be careful not to over beat.

Shape dough into 20 balls and place them on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet or lightly greased sheet. Bake at 350 degree F until cookies puff and crisp but do not color, about 15 minutes. The cookies should have no, or very little, coloration and should crack slightly during cooking. Remove cookies from oven and let cool completely before eating.

Happy Sweet Spring Desserts

“Nothing is so beautiful as Spring…[w]hat is all this juice and all this joy? A strain of the earth’s SWEET being in the beginning…” – Gerard Manley Hopkins from the poem “Spring”

Spring dessert recipesNothing is more perfect than a slightly sweet, light, ethereal dessert after dining on a plateful of pasta at an old-world Italian restaurant on an early spring evening.

You could say that the Italian dessert “Panna Cotta” is like tasting a bit of spring itself in all of its lightness, sweetness and silky, creamy freshness. A simple pudding-like dessert, Panna Cotta (which literally means “cooked cream”) originated in Northern Italy, where “the earliest recipes mention simmering the cream with fish bones (the collagen would set the cream).”

Panna Cotta is referred to as the “purest of the Italian spoons desserts” and when achieving the proper consistency and texture, should be silky smooth and just firm enough to hold its shape when plated (quotes taken from here).

Below are three variations of Panna Cotta to experiment with, along with two other spring dessert recipes, one for Banana Cake and one for a Lemon Cake. Enjoy!

Panna Cotta (taken from Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times Food Editor)

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. powdered gelatin
Oil
2 & 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 & 1/2 cups whole milk
5 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:
Place water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Stir to distribute, and set aside to soften, 2-3 minutes.

Wipe the insides of 8 (one-half-cup) ramekins with a light coating of neutral oil and set aside. Half-fill a large bowl with ice and add enough water to make an ice bath and set aside.

In small saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Remove from heat and whisk in the softened gelatin and the vanilla.

Set the saucepan in the ice bath (making sure the top of the saucepan is well above the surface of the water) and whisk until the mixture is lukewarm. Rub your fingers together – there should be no grit from undissolved sugar or gelatin.

Ladle mixture into the oiled ramekins and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

About 10 minutes before serving run a thin-bladed knife around the inside of the ramekin. Dip the ramekin briefly in a bowl of hot tap water, and then carefully invert onto a serving plate.

Panna cotta recipes

Panna Cotta (adapted from blog.italian-connection.com)

Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
2 heaping tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/7 ounce of unflavored gelatin

Instructions:
Dissolve gelatin in 2 tablespoons water for 2-3 minutes. In medium saucepan heat cream, milk, and sugar and heat gently. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatin and the vanilla extract and stir until thoroughly combined and begins to thicken. Pour into custard cups or ramekins and chill for 3-6 hours.

Panna Cotta (taken from Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything)

Ingredients:
3 cups cream
1 package (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

Instructions:
Put 1 cup cream in a medium saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over it; let sit for 5 minutes. Turn heat to low and cook, stirring, until gelatin dissolves completely.

Add remaining cream and sugar to gelatin mixture and heat gently, just until sugar dissolves; add vanilla and then pour mixture into 4-6 small custard cups. Chill until set, about 4 hours.

Sunny Lemon Cake (adapted from Ann Romney, The Romney Family Table)

Ingredients for the Cake:
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 – 2 lemons
4 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
1 cup buttermilk

Instructions:
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.  In a separate bowl, beat the butter on medium-high for 1 – 2 minutes, or until smooth.  Gradually add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and lemon oil or zest and continue to beat.  Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating well after eat addition and scraping the bowl frequently.  Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour.  Mix until the batter is smooth and well blended.

Spread batter into prepared pan and bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove from pan.  Drizzle warm cake with Lemon Glaze.

Ingredients for the Lemon Glaze:
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. rum (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon

Instructions:
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, water, rum or vanilla extract, and lemon stirring until the sugar dissolves. Drizzle the warm cake with the glaze. Let cake cool completely before serving.

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (taken from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook)

Ingredients for the Cake:
1 stick of butter, room temp.
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs room temp. to be separated
1 cup mashed banana (about 3 med-size banana)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts

easy banana cake recipe

Instructions for the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 9×13 baking dish or two 9-inch round cake pans. Cream the butter and then add sugar and beat until smooth. Separate eggs placing egg whites in bowl to be beat.  Add egg yolks, mashed bananas and buttermilk to butter/sugar mixture and combine thoroughly. Beat egg white in separate bowl until stiff but moist and fold into mixture. Sprinkle chopped nuts on top of batter and gently fold in. Spread evenly in prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool.

Ingredients for the Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temp.
4 tbsp. butter, room temp.
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions for the Frosting:
Combine cream cheese and butter. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar at a time mixing thoroughly, and then stir in the vanilla. Spread on flat 9×13 cake or use to make a layer cake with the 9-inch pans.

See also more light, airy and sweet Spring recipes.

A Weary Traveler, a Pint of Guinness and a Pot of Stew

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings*

Hotel Doolin
“Doolin Ale”

We arrived at the little inn in the tiny village of Doolin*, near the Cliffs of Moher, in the thick darkness of late evening, weary and hungry from traveling all day in the cold, rainy winds of an Irish November. With few options for replenishment, we stumbled back into the darkness, down the narrow road and entered into McGann’s, the local pub whose cozy warmth and Irish hospitality would keep us returning for the following two nights.

With the luck of the Irish on our side, we arrived just before the kitchen closed, sitting down at a table side fire and enjoying a magical, memorable evening of nourishing food (the best Guinness Beef Stew we’ve had), thirst-quenching pints of “Doolin Ale” and soulful live Irish music that one can only expect in a town that has been deemed the traditional music capital of Ireland.

In the spirit of All Things Irish, we share three recipes below to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Sláinte!

*Rumor has it that Doolin inspired J.R.R. Tolkien in the creation of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

McGann's Pub Doolin Ireland

Beef and Guinness Stew (taken from the Simon Pearce cookbook, A Way of Living)

Ingredients:
2 & 1/2 pounds of beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
3 tbsp. olive oil

Instructions:
Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a large stewpot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and brown the beef in batches, adding 1 tablespoon olive oil to each batch, over medium high heat. Using slotted spoon, remove the beef from the pot and set aside.

3 carrots, peeled and sliced (blanch and set aside)

1 large onion
2-3 cloves garlic
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. flour
1 bottle Guinness Stout
2-3 cups beef stock

Add onions and a small amount of olive oil to the stewpot and cook over medium heat until translucent. Once the onions are caramelized, add garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and cook for 5 minutes. Add flour and mix well. Add the browned beef back to the pot and add the Guinness. Bring to a boil and add beef stock. Bring the mixture back to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 &1/2 hours, or until the beef is tender. Add the carrots and adjust the seasonings before serving.

Guinness Beef Stew Recipe

Oven Roasted Potatoes (taken from the Simon Pearce cookbook, A Way of Living)

Ingredients:
2 pounds small red potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika

Instructions:
Cut potatoes in quarters.  In a bowl, toss potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika. Spread potatoes on a baking sheet in one layer (do not overcrowd). Roast for at least 1 hour in 400 degree F oven or until brown and crisp. Flip twice during cooking to brown every.

Cheddar Chive Scones (taken from the Standard Baking Company’s book Pastries)

Ingredients for the scones:
2 cups flour
1/3 cup Stone-Ground Cornmeal
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, chilled
1 Egg
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
1 & 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese

Ingredients for the topping:
1/4 cup Stone-Ground Cornmeal
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Instructions:
Make the topping by combining the cornmeal, cheese, and pepper and mixing until the texture resembles a course meal. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Break up any remaining lumps with your fingertips. Add the cubed butter and work it into the flour mixture using your fingertips until a few pea-size chunks of butter remain.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and half-and-half. Pour into the flour mixture land, using your hands or a rubber spatula, fold everything together until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Add the chives and cheese and mix until just combined.

With an ice cream scoop, scoop a golf ball-size portion and dip it into the topping mixture to coat. Place on a greased baking sheet with the topping facing up. Repeat with the rest of the dough spacing about 2 inches apart.

Bake in 400 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 12 minutes for even baking. They will be golden brown and feel firm in the center when done. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

McGann's Pub Doolin Ireland

Chocolate Irish Cream Tart
Enjoy with a cup of delicious Irish coffee with baileys!

Ingredients for the chocolate filling:
1 cup plus 1/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
1/8 cup whiskey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. instant espresso powder
Pinch of Salt
3 eggs, separated
1/3 cup sugar

Ingredients for the ganache:
3 tablespoons Irish Cream liquor
3/4 cup chopped white chocolate
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
Bittersweet chocolate shavings, for garnish

Instructions for the chocolate filling:
Set aside the 1/4 cup of chocolate. Place the remaining chocolate in a medium bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is completely melt. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Whisk in the whiskey. The mixture will be stiff initially, but will become smooth as you continue whisking. Whisk in the vanilla, espresso powder, salt, and yokes. Set aside.

In another bowl beat the egg whites on medium speed until they are frothy and opaque.

Gradually add the sugar, beating until the whites are stiff enough to hold a peak when you lift the whisk out of the mixture.

Gently fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula. Fold in half of the remaining whites, then the reserved 1/4 cup chopped chocolate, followed by the remaining whites.

Spoon the filling into the prepared tart shells, filling them 1/2 inch from the top. Place the filled tarts in the freezer for 2 hours, until firm.

Irish coffee with baileys
McGann’s Baileys Irish Cream Coffee

Instructions for the ganache:
In a small saucepan, heat the Irish cream to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the white chocolate. When the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth, transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool.

When the mixture is completely cool, whisk in the butter. Refrigerate for about 5 minutes, remove from the refrigerator, and which again. Repeat in this manner, whisking until the ganache is light and creamy. Set it aside at room temperature.

For the Tart
Use Pepperidge Farms ready made frozen tarts or use a favorite recipe.

Baking and finishing the tarts:
Bake the tarts in a 350 degree F oven on a baking sheet for about 15-18 minutes. Be sure to rotate the baking sheet after 8 minutes, the filling will have puffed up and started to crack. Let tarts cool and then spoon about a tablespoon of the ganache on each tart and sprinkle with chocolate shavings.

Chicken Soup for the Presidential Soul

Life is tough. Whether you are running across the country campaigning for president or running city blocks to the nearest coffee shop early in the morning, the moments of modern day living can sometimes leave one in a spinning, dizzying delirium.

As we come to the finish line of February, perhaps a bit weary from all the running – running to keep up with the 2016 presidential election, running to work, running a business or running a very crazy household – it might do your soul well to sit down for a quiet moment to enjoy a hot steaming bowl of homemade chicken soup. Maybe even contemplate a different perspective, such as what life would be like on Mars or back in the days of our Founding Fathers…

Enjoy below: the Winter Citrus Salad for some refreshment, the Homemade Chicken Soup for some comfort, and the Chocolate Peanut Butter chip cookies for some satisfaction.

Winter Citrus Salad

Ingredients:
2 navel oranges
1 Cara Cara orange
1 firm apple like Cripps Pink or Pink Lady
1 grapefruit
Red grapes

Instructions:
Slice all of the above into bite size pieces and combine thoroughly. You can make a large bowl and keep it in the refrigerator all week to enjoy the ready-made freshness of it all.

Winter citrus salad recipe

Homemade Chicken Soup

For the chicken stock:
1 Roasting Chicken
3-5 carrots
1 white or yellow onion
3 stalks celery
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Sprig of fresh rosemary

Roast the chicken according to directions. When done remove meat from bones and set aside. Place the chicken carcass into large stock pot and cover with water. Add all of the ingredients above and let simmer all day on low on stovetop. Give it a stir a couple of times throughout the day. At end of the day let it cool, strain and refrigerate until ready to make the soup.

homemade chicken soup recipe

For the Chicken Soup:
Homemade stock (see above)
Chicken meat from roasted chicken
3-5 carrots, sliced in small pieces
1 white or yellow onion, chopped
Fresh parsley, minced
Italian Seasoning
Lemon Juice
4 tbsp. butter
4  tbsp. flour
4 tbsp. Sour Cream
Salt and Pepper
Egg Pasta Noodles

Place the strained chicken stock that was cooked the day before into clean soup pot for a clear broth. Add carrots, onions, chicken meat, salt and pepper, the lemon juice from 1/2 lemon (or more if desired), a couple of sprinkles of Italian seasoning and let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare flour/butter paste by combining, in large shallow bowl, the flour and butter and then the sour cream and stirring into a smooth paste. Pour about 1/3 cup of hot broth into the shallow bowl with the paste and using a whisk combine until smooth and creamy and then swirl into the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings as you go. Add about 2 cups of egg pasta noodles and sprinkle parsley on top and let simmer for 10 minutes or so on low and then turn off heat so noodles don’t become overcooked and mushy. Serve steaming hot!

Please note: you can cut the flour/butter paste to 2 tablespoons of each for a mere hint of creamy texture.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup Hershey’s or favorite Cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 & 1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 & 2/3 cups Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips

Chocolate peanut butter chip cookies recipe

Ingredients:
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. In separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa. Gradually add dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Combine thoroughly. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes in 350 degree F oven.

Celebrate Royally with a Creamy, Spicy, Lovely & Sweet Valentine Dinner

Celebrate Valentine’s Day royally with some creamy, spicy, lovely & sweet Valentine’s Day recipes. Enjoy a royal beginning with the cocktails below, followed by dinner and dessert:

Valentine's day dinner recipesRoyal Godiva (taken from Cotton Cocktails by Peaches and Jeffrey Paige, 2013)

Ingredients:
1 ounce Smirnoff Vodka
1 ounce Chambord*
1 ounce Godiva Milk Chocolate Liqueur
Fresh Raspberries, To Garnish

Instructions:
Using a Boston shaker, fill the pint glass with ice, add all ingredients except garnish, and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with fresh raspberries.

*Chambord is made in France from red and black raspberries and has been produced for more than three hundred years.  The Godiva is a milk chocolate liqueur that is delicious on its own, but combining it with the other ingredients makes this a decadent dessert martini.

Passion Fruit Martini (taken from Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Family and Friends by Pippa Middleton, 2012)

In a pitcher, mix together 1/2 cup vodka and 1/4 cup passion fruit juice, together with 1 & 1/2 ounces of pineapple juice and the juice of 1 lime.  To serve, shake hard in a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes, strain and pour into chilled martini glasses.  Serve with a garnish of a few passion fruit seeds.

Moscow Mule (taken from Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Family and Friends by Pippa Middleton, 2012)

In a pitcher, mix together 3/4 cup of vodka and the juice of 1 lime, 2 tablespoons of Turbinado sugar and 4 dashes of Angostura bitters. To serve, pour into 4 tall glasses with a wedge of fresh lime and some slices of fresh ginger. Stir together, add ice cubes and top with ginger ale.

Valentine's day recipes

Easy and Elegant Company Chicken in Mushroom Cream Sauce

Ingredients:
6 thinly sliced boneless chicken breasts
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup*
1 & 1/3 cups of whipping cream
Garlic powder
Kosher salt
Pepper
1 package fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley

Instructions:
Lightly salt chicken breast and place in large glass baking dish.  Sprinkle desired amount of garlic powder over chicken.  Combine mushroom soup and cream thoroughly and pour over chicken and sprinkle with pepper. Place in 350 degree oven for 20 – 30 minutes or until slightly browned and bubbly.

While chicken is baking, sauté fresh sliced mushrooms in olive oil and butter increasing heat as you go to brown nicely.  It always takes two batches of sautéing in large skillet.  Half way through baking spread sautéed mushrooms on top of chicken being sure to stir some of the mushrooms into the gravy and finish baking. Sprinkle freshly chopped parsley on top before serving.

*Homemade mushroom sauce can be substituted for Campbell’s Mushroom Soup using cream, chicken broth and a flour/butter paste.

Valentine's Day dessert recipes

Spicy Chili-Rice Casserole (taken from Park Avenue Potluck: Recipes from New York’s Savviest Hostesses by Florence Fabricant, 2007)

Ingredients:
1 cup long grain rice
Kosher salt
1 cup sour cream
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
2 & 1/2 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup or more of pickled jalapeño peppers, diced
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Instructions:
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and stir in the rice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to low. Cover the pan and cook about 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender.  Be sure to give it a stir once or twice. When done, transfer the rice to a bowl, fluff with a fork, and allow to cool to room temperature.

Mix the rice with the sour cream and grated Monterey Jack. Season to taste with salt. Stir in the jalapeño peppers until evenly distributed and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top. Dot with butter and bake in 350 degree F oven for about 25-30 minutes. The mushroom gravy from the chicken dish is yummy with this rice.

Italian Cream Cake

Ingredients for the cake:
Italian Cream Cake Recipe2 scant cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 egg yolks
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup Bakers Angel Flake Sweetened Coconut (optional)
6 egg whites, room temp.

Instructions for cake:
Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat at medium speed until well-blended. Add egg yokes one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine 2 cups flour and baking soda in separate bowl. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stir in pecans, coconut (if desired) and vanilla extract. Beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form (do not over beat). Fold egg whites into batter and pour batter into two greased and lightly floured cake pans.  Bake in 350 degree F oven for approximately 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pans thoroughly before turning out to ice.

Ingredients for cream cheese frosting:
1 tbsp. butter
8 ounces of Cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese
1 box of powdered sugar sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions for frosting:
Cream butter and cheese on high speed until fluffy. Add sugar and blend either by hand or on low speed until well blended. Add vanilla and mix well. Spread icing on top and in between layers and around the side and sprinkle finely chopped pecan lightly on top along with sprinkles of pink colored sugar for a touch of Valentine loveliness.

easy Valentine's day cocktails

February: Cold Hands and Warm Hearts

NYC Storm Jonas“Why, what’s the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?”
– William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

The storm of a new year and all of January’s hopes, promises and resolutions have now settled into the mid-winter reality of February – a snow flurry of 28 days when daylight lingers just a little longer. Outside the window one can feel the cold frosty silence of winter’s expanse; inside one searches for warmth – a heater, fire, wool sweater or hot steaming cup of liquid to help ease the midwinter chill.

And so, if you have “such a February face” that is full of frost and storm and clouds, try one of the recipes for spirit warming drinks below. They are sure to warm your hands and heart and bring a little Valentine-red to your winter cheeks!

winter cocktail recipes

Espresso Martini (taken from Cotton Cocktails by Peaches and Jeffrey Paige, 2013)

Ingredients:
1 shot of Espresso (1 ounce)
1/2 ounce Bailey’s Irish Cream
1/2 ounce Stoli Vanil Vodka
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
Winter drink recipes1/2 ounce Kahula
1 Espresso Whole Bean, to Garnish

Instructions:
Brew a shot of espresso and allow to cool. Using a Boston shaker, fill the pint glass with ice, add all ingredients (including the espresso shot) except garnish, and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with espresso beans.

Glogg (taken from Snow Country Cooking by Williams and Sonoma, 1999)

Ingredients:
1 bottle dry red wine
1 & 1/4 cups brandy
12 whole cloves
6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1/2 cup sugar
4 orange zest strips, each 3/4 inch wide and 2 inches long
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup blanched almonds

Instructions:
In saucepan over medium heat, combine the wine, brandy, cloves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the sugar and orange zest. Divide the raisins and almonds among 4 warmed cups or goblets. Pour in the spiced wine through a sieve and serve.

Glogg Recipe

Cabin Fever (taken from Cotton Cocktails by Peaches and Jeffrey Paige, 2013)

Ingredients:
2 ounces Cabin Fever Maple Whiskey
1 ounce Bailey’s Irish Cream
1/2 ounce Frangelico liquor
Maple Candies, to garnish

Instructions:
Fill an 8-ounce glass with ice, add all ingredients, and stir with a straw. You can garnish with maple candies on the rim of the glass, if you wish.

Bourbon Port Punch* (taken from Cotton Cocktails by Peaches and Jeffrey Paige, 2013)

Ingredients:
Strawberry Mojito2 ounces Maker’s Mark Bourbon
1 ounce Sandeman Ruby Port
1 ounce orange Juice
Maraschino cherry and orange slice, to garnish

Instructions:
Fill an 8-ounce rocks glass with ice, add all ingredients except garnish, and stir with a straw. Garnish with half an orange slice wrapped around a maraschino cherry on a toothpick.

*A cocktail with some of the darker spirits that is more suitable for winter: bourbon to warm you, ruby port that tastes like maple syrup, and a little orange juice to provide that much-needed Vitamin C in the winter months.

Spiced Red Wine (Ypocras)* (taken from Food52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook by Kristen Miglore, 2015)

Ingredients:
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. ground mace or grated nutmeg
1 & 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 & 1/2 tsp. ground grains of paradise (or substitute an equal amount of freshly ground black pepper)
1 bottle fruity red wine, such as Merlot

Instructions:
In a nonreactive bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon, mace or nutmeg, cloves, and grains of paradise (or black pepper). Add the wine and stir well. Leave for 10 minutes then stir again to dissolve the sugar fully. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature of 1-2 days.

Strain the wine mixture through a strainer lined with a double layer of cheesecloth into a bowl. A brown deposit will be left on the cheesecloth. Rinse it off and strain the wine at least once more through the cheesecloth to clarify it as well as possible. Store the wine in an airtight container or original bottle, at room temperature. It will keep for up to 1 month.

*Ypocras is a wine that is never cooked (and so retains the alcohol content), infused with spices and sugar and kept at room temperature. An ancient method (from the 1300s) of preserving wine before bottles and corks, it is a cozy mulled wine for snowy ski weekends.

Irish coffee

Keep your hands and heart warm with our three recipes for “just right” oatmeal porridge.