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)

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

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

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
1 package fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley

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)

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

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)

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

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)

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

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)

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

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)

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

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)

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

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.

Make Bourbon Great Again!

One can never quite know exactly what it is that resurrects something from the past, but bourbon – the famed American whiskey – has risen from the ashes and been “made great again.”

Surely the popular TV series Mad Men has contributed to its resurgence – the “Mad Men Effect” – where men were men who drank manly drinks called the “Old-Fashioned”, but whatever the reasons involved, the rise of the “golden age of bourbon” is an undeniable reality.

Bourbon drinks

The New York Times writes and quotes drinks author Robert Hess: “Like an artifact from a lost, great civilization…‘[t]he old-fashioned has been a touchstone of the cocktail movement [for] the last 10 years.’”

Fortune Magazine reports that, in 2000, there were just 24 bourbon craft distilleries across America; today there are more than 430. “This is probably the best time to be in bourbon since Prohibition”, says Tim DeLong; and Eric Gregory: “Bourbon is not just a drink anymore but a part of [a] culture.”

And The Associated Press writes: “This is a renaissance we haven’t seen in generations, and possibly in the entire history of our signature spirit.”

Perhaps Donald Trump – whose slogan rings “Make America Great Again!” – should travel to Louisville, the heart of Kentucky’s bourbon county, to adopt this most authentic American drink with a rich American history as the official drink of his campaign.

Indeed, as Fortune writes, “people are flocking to Kentucky to experience bourbon in its native habitat,” where it has emerged as a “global force” and become one of the “state’s most prized economic engines.”

It is with this in mind that we share below a recipe for bourbon slush, a recipe with a bourbon-vinaigrette dressing, some interesting bourbon facts and even a bourbon drinking song.

Here’s to making bourbon great again!

Bourbon Slush

Note: We have adapted the below recipe from the recipes from Garden & Gun and Smitten Kitchen.

2 cups tea
1-2 cups bourbon (depending on how strong you would like it)
1/2 – 1 cup of sugar (we used 1/2 cup, however we would suggest more if you tend to like your drinks on the sweeter side)
1 cup good quality orange juice
1 cup Nantucket Nectar Lemonade (or another good quality lemonade)

Bourbon slush recipe

Bring two cups of water to a boil, add two tea bags and let steep for five minutes. Let tea cool slightly and then in glass bowl combine tea, sugar, bourbon, orange juice and lemonade and stir thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and put in freezer. Freeze for 4-5 hours or until it becomes a thick slush. Serve in glass cocktail tumblers with a sprig of fresh mint.

Note: Enjoy your bourbon slush while listening to an old blues song, “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”, written by Rudy Toombs and recorded by Amos Milburn in 1953; the song was made especially popular by John Lee Hooker in 1966 and George Thorogood in 1977.

Spinach Salad with sliced pecans, lamb bacon, Clemson blue cheese and bourbon vinaigrette (taken from Chef Edward Lee’s cookbook, Smoke & Pickles)

Ingredients for salad:
8 ounces Lamb Bacon, cut into small cubes (note: we used regular bacon)
8 ounces spinach
½ cup pecans
1 green apple, cored and cut into matchsticks
1 breakfast radish, sliced into thin rounds
4 ounces Clemson blue cheese or other mild artisan blue cheese, crumbled

Ingredients for Bourbon Vinaigrette:
¼ cup bourbon
¾ cup olive oil
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. maple syrup
¼ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

To make the vinaigrette: start by pouring the bourbon into a small saucepan and bringing it to a boil over medium heat. Be careful, because the alcohol in the bourbon could ignite. If that happens, to tamp out the flame, simply put a tight-fitting lid over the pot – the lack of oxygen will suffocate the flame; remove the lid after a few seconds. Boil to reduce the liquid to about 2 tablespoons. Transfer the bourbon to a ramekin and refrigerate until well chilled.

Combine the olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in the reduced bourbon. Keep refrigerated; bring to room temperature when ready to use.

To make the salad: put the lamb bacon in a small skillet and cook, stirring, over medium-low heat just until it becomes crispy on the outside, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel to drain what little fat will render from the bacon.

Combine the remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl and add the lamb bacon. Toss gently with the bourbon vinaigrette and serve immediately.

Do you know the “Six Standard Rules” for a spirit to be considered bourbon? It must be…

  1.  Made in the Unites States
  2.  Aged in charred white oak barrels
  3.  51% corn
  4.  Distilled at less than 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume)
  5.  Put into a barrel at below 125 proof
  6.  No artificial coloring or flavor

Why does Kentucky make good bourbon?  

It has excellent quality limestone-filtered water; the state’s extreme weather patterns is also thought to contribute to prime bourbon-making conditions

Bourbon got its name from…

Two men known as the Tarascon Brothers who arrived in Louisville from Cognac (south of France) and began shipping local whiskey down the Ohio River to New Orleans. In the 19th century, New Orleans entertainment district was “Bourbon Street”, where all of the bars were. People started asking for “that whiskey they sell on Bourbon Street”, which eventually became “that bourbon whiskey.”

(Note: the above facts were taken from Smithsonian article listed below)

For further information on bourbon, check out the below articles:

Stirring It Up With Conviction

Christmas time and cocktail time are nearly synonymous, both offering a warm, fuzzy feeling that more often than not leave you wishing for and wanting more.

How fitting, then, that we are in the midst of a cocktail renaissance, which has emerged over the past decade, at least according to several recent news articles:

The Wall Street Journal declares: “That we’re amid a craft cocktail renaissance is without dispute – intriguing new bars and amazing new ingredients surface weekly.”

And the New York Times observes: “We’re living in a Golden Age of creativity for bartenders, many of whom are energetically pushing boundaries in both culinary and scientific ways…”

Indeed, if there has been one thing I have discovered in my reading of the cocktail renaissance, it is just how seriously some people take their cocktail creations.

One such example comes from a neat little cocktail book – Cotton Cocktails* (March 2014)– which offers cocktail recipes with insightful, interesting tidbits of cocktail history, information and anecdotes. In it, authors Peaches and Jeffrey Paige (owners of Cotton Restaurant in the Millyard District of Manchester, NH), narrate the story of a customer who made the waitress cry after she asked him if he preferred his martini with gin or vodka.

“’All Martinis are made of gin with a splash of dry vermouth,’ he responded pulling out his business card on which was written ‘The Exact Way a Martini Should be Made’ on the back, with the saying ‘The Way God Intended’ on the front.”

Liquid Intelligence Cocktail Recipes

Liquid Intelligence (November 2014) is another cocktail book we found to be particularly interesting due to its unusual scientific angle. In fact, the book itself – written by prominent food science writer, educator and innovator Dave Arnold – can at times seem like a classroom science textbook, full of great resources on everything from kitchen equipment to books on apples, coffee, cocktails and stores for ingredients.

Mr. Arnold has previously taught at the French Culinary Institute and Harvard University, founded the Museum of Food and Drink in NYC in 2004, and regularly investigates “temperature, carbonation, sugar concentration and acidity in search of ways to invigorate classic cocktails.” In Liquid Intelligence, he writes:  “A little dose of science will do you good. Think like a scientist and you will make better drinks.”

And he isn’t kidding. The sheer enthusiasm and passion he conveys in his introduction was enough for us to decide to purchase the book. You’ll see why, after reading the below:

“I approach cocktails like everything I care about in life:  persistently and from the ground up.  I ask myself what I want to achieve, and then I beat down every path to get there.  I want to see what is possible and what I’m capable of.  In the initial phases of working through a problem, I don’t much care if what I’m doing is reasonable.  I prefer to go to absurd lengths to gain minute increments of improvement.  I am okay with spending a week preparing a drink that’s only marginally better than the one that took me five minutes.  I’m interested in the margins.  That’s where I learn about the drink, about myself, and about the world.

“I am not unhappy, but I am never satisfied.  There’s always a better way.  Constantly questioning yourself – especially your basic tenets and practices – makes you a better person behind the bar, in front of the stove, or in whatever field you choose.

“I love it when my dearly held beliefs are proved wrong.  It means I’m alive and still learning.”

For further inspiration, insight and information on cocktail creations, as well as a guide to some of NYC’s best new bars, please see the links below:

* Interested in trying out some of Cotton’s recipes? See a few of our favorites, below:

Blueberry Basil Mojito

Blueberry Basil Mojito Recipe
Photo Taken From Cotton Cocktails


2 sprigs Fresh Basil

2 Lemon Wedges

1 Teaspoon Granulated Sugar

2 ounces Cold River Blueberry Vodka from Maine (made with the famous Wyman’s wild Maine blueberries)

1 ounce Cointreau

2 ounces soda water

Fresh Blueberries, to garnish


In a 10-ounce rocks glass muddle the basil, lemon wedges, and sugar.  Fill the glass with ice and add the vodka and Cointreau, then top with soda water.  Stir to mix and garnish with fresh blueberries.

Simple Eggnog (yields approximately 1 ½ cups)


2 egg yolks

1 cup milk

½ cup heavy cream (light cream is just as good)

¼ cup sugar

Pinch of Kosher Salt

¼ cup or less of Brandy (optional)

1 tsp. vanilla

Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste


Mix egg yolk in heavy saucepan and then stir in milk, cream, sugar, salt and brandy (if desired).  Cook over medium to medium-low heat, stirring constantly until mixture reaches 160 degrees F (use a simple cooking thermometer) or for about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into glass bowl and place bowl in ice water to cool (10 minutes or so).  Refrigerate and serve within two days with fresh whipped cream.  Note: This eggnog is dessert-like delicious, so creamy and so easy to make, the recipe can be doubled or tripled etc. for a dinner party. 

Almond Crusted Turkey Schnitzel With Vermont Cheddar and Bourbon Applesauce (served over mashed potatoes)

Turkey Schnitzel Recipe
Photo taken from Cotton: The Cookbook

Ingredients for the Schnitzel:

2 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs (Note, fresh breadcrumbs make a difference)

½ cup slivered blanched almonds, roughly chopped

½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp black pepper

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 large eggs, beaten for egg wash

Four 4-5 ounce turkey cutlets (can use chicken cutlets), gently pounded to even thickness

1/3 vegetable oil (we recommend using half olive oil and half butter instead to sauté cutlets)

Four ¾-ounce slices of Vermont cheddar cheese

1 Recipe for Bourbon Applesauce

2 Tbsp. Toasted slivered almonds for garnish

Ingredients for the Bourbon Applesauce:

2 ½ pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored

3 tbsp light brown sugar

¾ cup Bourbon

Instructions for Schnitzel:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix breadcrumbs, chopped almonds, salt and pepper and place in shallow bowl.  Place flour in another shallow bowl and the beaten eggs in a third shallow bowl.  Dredge each cutlet into the flour, then the egg wash, and finally the almond-breadcrumb mixture.

Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Brown the cutlets until golden brown, approximately 3-4 minutes on each side.  Transfer to large ovenproof platter or sheet pan and top each cutlet with a slice of cheddar cheese and 2 tbsp. of applesauce.  Bake 5-6 min.  Sprinkle with toasted almonds on top and serve immediately on top of mashed potatoes.

Instructions for Applesauce:

In a heavy saucepan, combine the diced apples, brown sugar, and bourbon.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often for about 20 min until apples are soft.  Stir vigorously to mash apples.

For other delicious holiday treats, we recommend you try:

Christmas Baked Brie (1997 recipe)


1 package puff pastry (Frozen Pepperidge Farm), thaw according to directions

1 wheel of a really good brie (do not remove white rind)

About  ¼-½ cup raspberry jam (we recommend: Trappist or Bonne Maman Red Raspberry Preserves)

1 egg and 1 tbsp. water, beaten together


Lay puff pastry flat.  Use one or two sheets depending on size of brie wheel.  If size requires two, wrap bottom first.  Spread jam on top of brie. Fold pastry up and over to seal cheese in.  Flip over again.  Place on baking sheet or ovenproof dish.  Spread egg and water all over pastry.  Bake 400 degrees for about 30 minutes – untie golden.  Let sit about 30 min. before serving.

Note:  We spread a very thin layer of butter on top of brie before spreading the jam on top

Winter Greens Salad with Spicy Walnuts and Cranberry Vinaigrette

Ingredients for cranberry vinaigrette:Winter Greens Salad Recipe

2/3 cup fresh cranberries

¼ cup sugar

½ cup cider vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

¼ cup orange juice

¾ cup canola oil

¼ tsp. salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

Instructions for cranberry vinaigrette:

Combine cranberries, sugar and vinegar in saucepan over med. heat until cranberries pop.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Puree cranberry mixture in blender and pour into bowl and whisk in oil a little at a time.  Dressing should become smooth and emulsified.  Season with salt and pepper and refrigerateuntil needed.

Ingredients for spicy walnuts

1 ½ tsp. butter (melted)

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 tbsp. honey

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Instructions for spicy walnuts:

Combine butter, cayenne, cinnamon, honey, salt and walnuts in a small skillet and toss well to coat.  Cook over medium heat until nuts are lightly browned.  Remove from heat and let cool stirring to keep nuts from sticking together.

Ingredients for salad:

1 head butter lettuce

4 cups winter greens: romaine, endive

1 crisp red apple, sliced into 1/8-inch wedges

½ small red onion, thinly sliced

Instructions for salad:

To assemble salad:  Arrange lettuce leaves on individual salad plates. Combine greens, apple and walnuts in bowl. Toss with enough cranberry vinaigrette to coat lightly. Top with red onion and serve.