Cherry Vodka

I normally make a couple of batches of Limoncello to share at the holidaze; but this year, I came across a recipe from the book “From From a Polish Country House Kitchen” by Anne Applebaum & Danielle Crittenden for cherry infused vodka, and it put me in mind of a cocktail I enjoyed in New Orleans last fall.

So, this year, we’ve shared this lovely red spirit with friends and family instead.

And it was a keeper.

Wicked simple, too, which is always a good thing when it comes to holidaze preparations. I used frozen cherries, a bag  each of red tart and dark sweet. You can stir in a tablespoon or two of sugar at the end, but I liked the bite of the vodka with the cherries.

•1.5L vodka
•12 oz tart cherries
•12 oz sweet cherries

Cut the cherries in half and add to a large pitcher, then pour the vodka over and stir.

That. Is. It.

Cover the pitcher tightly and stash in a cool, dark place for at least one week (my first batch) – though it is better after two weeks (my second batch) to one month.

Note: at my husband’s suggestion, I added one whole vanilla seed to the cherries and vodka. I will post a Parfait! update when we sample it, probably at a gathering at friends’ later on this month.

When ready to decant, place a strainer over a large bowl and pour the vodka through.

Allow the cherries to sit for about an hour, dripping all the vodka and cherry goodness into the bowl.

You might could press on the cherries with the back of a spoon to press additional liquid out of the fruit.

As you can see, I got enough for a full bottle to give, a mostly full bottle to share at home, and, bonus!, vodka soaked cherry halves to use for…

Oh, and that NOLA cocktail? Two ounces of cherry vodka (or, gin, gin works, too), one ounce of Maraschino cherry juice, lemonade, and a bit of Sprite or ginger ale – or – sparkling water – all over ice.

Stir, serve, and enjoy; I certainly did.

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Deviled Eggs

Happy New Year!

These eggs were a hoooge hit over the holidaze, and lots of folk were asking for my recipe, so, here we are.

I should note that I used my own, home made pickle relish, and Sherry Peppers Sauce, which, long time readers will know, I put in just about everything I make; and which also gives these eggs just a bit of a kick. Feel free to swap out ingredients to suit your taste and your pantry.

•10 hard cooked eggs
•3 to 4 tbsp mayonnaise
•3 tbsp relish
•2 tbsp diced celery
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1/2 tsp dry mustard
•1/4 tsp Cayenne
•1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1/4 tsp Kosher salt
•Black pepper
•Paprika (as a garnish)

Note: I used peeled hard cooked eggs from my market’s dairy section. If you happen to have a multi pot, here is a pressure cooker method for hard cooking eggs that are easy to peel.

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Cut the eggs in half and mash the yolks with the mayonnaise, relish, Sherry Peppers Sauce, dry mustard, Cayenne, Aleppo, and black peppers, and the salt.

Note: start out with mebbe three tablespoons of mayonnaise and check the consistency. I think that four tablespoons (1/4 cup) was a bit too much for ten eggs.

Stuff the egg white halves with the yolk mixture and stash in the fridge until ready to serve, sprinkled with paprika.

And oldie, yes, but most certainly a goodie!

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Mexican Street Corn – at Home


Is this a side dish? An appetizer? A snack?

“All of ’em, Katie!”

This wicked simple (and wicked tasty) take on the corn on the cob you can get from street vendors here in Chicago (and, I am guessing, Mexico – hence the name) works perfectly as all of the above – on a plate with dinner, on a cracker, or just snarfed out of the fridge when you’re feeling, well…


The original recipe, from Marcela Valladolid, called for cooking corn on the cob and then trimmings the kernels.

How much easier to buy a bag of frozen sweet corn, add the butter and seasonings, and ‘wave it?

Worked a treat, and this was a pretty popular side dish/salad/munchie around about these parts this holidaze season.

•3 cups frozen corn kernels
•2 tbsp unsalted butter
•1/4 tsp chili powder
•1/2 tsp salt
•2 tbsp mayonnaise
•2 tbsp sour cream
•1/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Toss the corn with the sat and chili powder, then add the butter and cook according to package instructions.

Toss to mix, then set aside to cool.

Whisk the mayonnaise with the sour cream, then stir into the cooled corn along with the Feta cheese.

Try this, along with pickled avocado and mebbe some smoked salmon spread for your next gathering.

I think you will be more than pleased.

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Rice and Asparagus Salad

I came across this recipe as a side dish to a Food Network recipe for ham steaks with a chive sauce. Thing is, I like the side so very much more than the main course, even to including it in my Christmas feast menu, along side a tasty pineapple, honey, and brown sugar glazed ham.

Note: I wanted a blend of white and wild rice, so used a Near East blend.

Worked a treat.

Chive Sauce:
•1/3 cup mayonnaise
•1/3 cup sour cream
•1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
•1 tbsp whole-grain mustard – I used my fave zippy and sweet blend of equal parts Dijon, yellow mustard, and honey, blended with some Aleppo pepper (full recipe here)

Rice and Asparagus Salad:
•1 cup long-grain white rice
(see the above note)
•1/2 tsp Kosher salt
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1 tbsp unsalted butter
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 box frozen asparagus spears, thawed and cut into 1-inch pieces
•1 tbsp lemon juice

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Stir the chive sauce together in a medium bowl, then stash in the fridge in a covered container until need.

Prepare the rice (or white and wild rice blend) according to package instructions, adding the Kosher salt and black pepper if you are not using a mix. Do add the unsalted butter and the Sherry Peppers Sauce (if you’re using) to the rice as you cook it.

Note: I used my rice cooker; the rice mix, seasoning packet, called for amount of liquid, plus one tablespoon each of unsalted butter and Sherry Peppers Sauce.

Allow the rice to cool completely, then toss in a bowl with the sliced asparagus spears.

Stir in the lemon juice and about half of the Chive Sauce (use more of the sauce if you’d like a creamier salad). Toss to blend well, then cover and stash in the fridge for a couple of hours 0r, always more better, overnight, to allow the rice to soak up the sauce and the flavors to blend.

Nice salad!

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Whole Duck in the Pressure Cooker

This being the season for excess, I could not resist when my market had a special on free range, nothing added whole duck –  “Ingredients: Duck.”

I do love me a bit of pan-fried duck, but the actual wrangling of getting the duck into pieces is kindofa pain, so, I thought I’d try leaving it whole.

And doing it in the pressure cooker. Thing is, I couldn’t find pressure cooker duck recipes.


I consulted my chicken in a pressure cooker recipe and made a few, minor changes – mostly replacing the white wine with Cointreau, because, who does not like orange and duck? I also substituted almond flour for all purpose when thickening the sauce, making this recipe perfect for duck loving but gluten intolerant folk.

And the thing is – it worked a treat! I think that next time, I will bump up the pressure cooker time to 30 minutes, but, other than that, this recipe is a keeper.

•1 whole duck
•1/4 cup juice from a jar of peperoncini (or, just use white vinegar)
•1/2 tsp salt
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1 tsp paprika
•1 tbsp veggie oil
•1 cup diced sweet onion
•2 cups sliced peppers
•8 oz sliced ‘shrooms
•1 cup thinly sliced carrot
•3 cloves garlic, minced
•1/2 tsp dried rosemary
•2 tbsp almond flour
•1/2 cup Cointreau
•3/4 cup chicken stock
•2 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•2 tbsp unsalted butter

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Remove the giblets and neck from the duck, then rub the peperoncini juice inside and over the duck.

Set aside to rest for ten minutes.

Pat the duck dry and season inside and out with the salt, black and Aleppo pepper, and paprika.

Set your multi pot to “Brown” add the oil, and then the duck, breast side down.

Cook for four minutes, then flip the duck (I am not gonna lie here – this can be tricky) and cook for another four minutes; until both sides are nicely browned.

Transfer the duck to a platter, then remove all but one tablespoon of cooking fat from the pressure cooker.

Add all the veggies, except for the ‘shrooms, and cook for ten minutes, until tender.

Stir in the Cointreau, scraping up any browned bits that might be stick to the bottom of the pan, and cook for a few minutes, until the sauce has thickened a bit.

Stir in the chicken stock and the Sherry Peppers Sauce, then place the duck, breast side up, in the pot.

Lock the lid in place, and set your pot for high pressure.

Note: I did my duck for 25 minutes, but think it might could’ve done with a bit more time, so I would go for 30 minutes.

Once the cycle is complete, turn off the pot, quick release the pressure (mind the steam), and transfer the duck to a (clean) platter, cover with foil, and let rest.

Set your cooker to “Sauté” and stir in the almond flour.

Cook for about five minutes, then add the ‘shrooms and continue to cook on the “Sauté” setting until the sauce has thickened nicely.

Carve the duck and serve with the Cointreau gravy over rice.

I will be honest, this was not Rich’s favorite dinner, but he does not like duck as much as I do, so I am gonna just tell you to make this duck; it is wicked good!

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Pickled Avocado

Stop right there.

No, this is not a recipe to “preserve” avocados by canning the suckers and stashing ’em on a shelf in your pantry.

This is, however, a wicked tasty way to add a big punch of flavor to your average avocado, and to make your (holidaze) cocktail spread all that much more festive and interesting; so, fergettabout the guacamole and let us pickle us a couple of avocados or four.

Yeh. I think at least mebbe three; but four could be good, too.

Note: these pickles need to rest in the fridge for at least six hours (or, always more better, overnight) before serving; and will last for about one week in the fridge.

Unless you eat them all at one sitting as I came close to doing with this jar.

And I am not a huge avocado fan. Trust me, these will be on my table this season.

•1 cup champagne vinegar
•1-1/3 cup water
•1 tbsp Kosher salt
•2 tbsp honey
•1 tbsp black peppercorns
•1 tbsp dried crushed red pepper
•4 or 5 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
•2 or 3 firm ripe, avocados
•1 sprig rosemary
•1 thinly sliced lemon, halved

Note: I used champagne vinegar, which I can get at my local markets for between $7 and $10 per jar. Feel free to use white vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or white balsamic vinegar.

Stir the vinegar together with the water, Kosher salt, and honey in a sauce pan – I added a few Tellicherry peppercorns, too – and bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring until the salt has dissolved into the pickling liquid.

Remove from the heat and set aside to cool completely.

Add the black peppercorns, crushed red pepper, and sliced garlic to a quart sized canning jar.

Cut your avocados in half, remove the pit, then slice and add to the garlic and peppers in the jar.

Pour the cooled pickling liquid over the avocado in the jar, then add the rosemary and lemon slices.

Tightly close the jar and stash in the fridge for at least six hours or…

yeh, you know the drill.

When ready to serve, remove from the fridge and spread on bread or crackers with assorted cheeses and mebbe blue cheese stuffed dates wrapped in duck bacon?

Just a thought.

Worked fine for us at lunch today.

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Parfait! Dirty Martini Cheese Spread

You need this recipe to help you get through the holidaze.

Cream cheese, olives, a dab o’ mayonnaise, a few other tasty bits, and then…


What part of martini did you not get?

Though, I guess you might could substitute gin, or mebbe go all Geronimo (my all time fave martini) and add both.


Just pausing to contemplate a Tito’s and Bombay Sapphire martini this sunny Friday morning…

Anywho, you also could skip the liquor entirely (I call this the “church” version), and you will still end up with a mighty fine cheese spread.

•8 oz cream cheese, softened
•1 tbsp mayonnaise
•1/4 chopped green olives
•2 tbsp olive juice
•1/4 tsp black pepper
•1/4 tsp garlic powder
•1/8 tsp celery salt

Vodka (and/or Gin) Version:
•2 tbsp vodka and/or gin
•1/4 tsp additional olive juice
•1/2 tsp olives

Church Version:
•1 tbsp additional olive juice

Stir the ingredients together and stash in the fridge overnight to allow the flavors to blend.

When ready to serve, pile into a nice martini glass  or two and serve with flat bread and crackers.

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Cranberry Cocktail Meatballs

Ah yes, ’tis the season for gathering together and spearing small balls o’ meat with toothpicks while sipping sparkling cocktails.

Sounds like a plan to me!

Now, these meatballs are bit different; none of that grape jelly stuff – we are goin’ full-on holidaze with jellied cranberry sauce!

As an added bonus, you can make these guys gluten-free by using G-F panko crumbs – check your local market.

•1-1/2 lb meatloaf mix
•1/2 cup Panko crumbs*
•3 cloves garlic, minced
•1 egg
•1 tbsp chili sauce
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tsp Italian seasoning
•1 tsp ground ginger
•1 tsp sea salt
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper (optional)

•1/2 pint hot pepper jelly
•3/4 cup chili sauce
•14 oz jellied cranberry sauce
•2 tbsp brown sugar
•1 tbsp smoked brown sugar (or just use another tablespoon of regular brown sugar)
•2 tbsp lemon juice

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Just use two tablespoons of chili sauce.

Heat your oven to 350º.

Whisk the chili sauce, Sherry Peppers, Italian seasoning, ginger, sea salt, black and Aleppo peppers into the egg, then stir in the Panko crumbs until blended and set aside to rest for 15 minutes.

Add the minced garlic and the meatloaf mix and mix well. I tried using this ground meat mixer my sister had, but ended up just going with my (clean) bare hands.

A note on meatloaf mix: in my area (northeastern Illinois), meatloaf mix is usually ground beef and ground pork. In my sister’s neighborhood (Maryland), ground veal is added to the mix. Whichever blend you come across will work fine – you might could even consider adding some raw minced shrimp to the mix.

Line a rimmed baking pan with foil and measure out your meatballs – I used a two tablespoon scoop measure and ended up with 30 nicely sized meatballs.

Arrange the meatballs on the baking pan and pop into the hot oven for ten minutes.

Turn the meatballs over and return to the oven for another ten or 15 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and mebbe just a bit crispity in places.

Set the meatballs aside to cool.

Note: I made these meatballs and the sauce a day ahead so that all I would need to do on the big day was to pop ’em in a slow cooker on the sideboard and let folk graze at will.

To make the sauce, stir the ingredients together over low heat until the cranberry jelly and the brown sugar have melted and you have a nice, thick sauce – about 30 minutes in total.

If you plan on using it all right away, go ahead and pour the sauce over the meatballs in a large pot and simmer for one hour or so.

Or, go with the make a day ahead and then do the slow cooker thing.

Works a treat!

So, put that grape jelly back on the shelf and grab for the cranberries!

‘Tis the season!


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Vodka Pie Crust

So, yeh, I came across this recipe, and I was intrigued.


In a pie crust?

Turns out, it works a treat! Tasty, and oh! so flaky! You are gonna want to make you this pie crust!

Note: this recipe makes enough dough for two open pies, or one covered pie.

•2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, chilled
•1/4 cup cold vodka
•1/4 cup ice water
•2-1/2 cups flour
•1 tsp salt
•1 tbsp sugar*

*Not making a dessert (sweet) pie? No worries! Skip the sugar and go forth with your quiche plans.

My sister keeps her vodka in the freezer, which worked out perfectly for making this dough, which requires ice cold water, vodka, and butter.

Cut your butter into small chunks and stash in the fridge until needed.

Add the flour, salt, and sugar to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse until nicely blended.

Add the cold butter cubes and pulse three or four times, until the butter is incorporated into the flour mixture.

Add two tablespoons of the vodka and one tablespoon of water to the flour and pulse a couple more times to blend in.

Pinch off a bit of the dough and give it a good squeeze. If it comes together, you’re good to go. If it’s still a bit crumbly, add an additional tablespoon of vodka or water (your choice) and pulse until it is worked in. Test the dough again.

Note: depending on the weather and other conditions in your kitchen the day you are making the dough, the amount of vodka and/or water needed for the dough to come together will vary.

Divide the dough in two, flatten into discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and stash in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Want to make the dough in advance? You can store the discs in the fridge for up to five days, or in the freezer for up to two months. Thaw completely before rolling out.

Keep the dough cold until you are ready to roll out.

Note: I find it easiest to roll out pie dough between two sheets of waxed paper. If you have another method that works for you, go forth and roll out your dough.

Roll the dough into a rough circle and transfer to a pie plate or (if you are making a galette) to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Fill and bake as directed by your pie and/or galette instructions.

Since my sister and I were prepping for Thanksgiving, we made a pumpkin pie and an apple and cranberry galette.

Both were pretty terrific, but I should confess that we let the dough for the galette get a bit warm before filling and baking, and so it came out of the oven in a bit of a mess.

Still tasted pretty darned wonderful.

So, here you are; a pretty terrific take on pie dough that is tender, flaky, and perfect for baked treats sweet or savory! If making a quiche or two, skip the sugar and consider mebbe working a bit of crumbled port wine cheese into the mixture in the food processor. You’ll be rewarded with a lightly pink marbled dough that will have your friends and family wondering what, exactly (in a good way) you’ve been up to!

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Zippy Asparagus Pickles

I really wanted to make a batch of these nicely spiced pickles to bring to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving, but, asparagus was kinda pricey and the warehouse-sized mega market I happened to be shopping at was out of jalapeños!


How does this even happen? Still, I soldiered through, buying frozen asparagus spears and canned sliced jalapeños and you know what?

They still turned out just fine!

Zippy, with just a touch of heat and, as an added bonus, because I had to trim the spears a bit to fit in the pint jars I was using, it just so happens that those trimmed ends make for one fine jar o’ pickles, too!

So, two bags of frozen asparagus spears yielded me three pint jars of spears pickles and one pint jar of (just as tasty) end trimmings pickles.

•2 bags frozen asparagus spears, thawed
•1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, per jar
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper, per jar
•1/2 tsp mustard seeds, per jar
•1/2 tsp dill seed, per jar
•1 whole garlic clove, per jar
•2 slices fresh jalapeño, per jar
•5 cups white vinegar
•5 cups water
•1/2 cup pickling salt

Trim the spears to fit in pint canning jars, placing the spears in three and the ends in a fourth jar. Or, if you want to share the wealth, mix the trimmed ends in with the spears to make four combo jars.

Add the seasonings to each jar, then, in a pot over medium heat, bring the water, vinegar, and canning salt to a boil, stirring until the salt has dissolved.

Pour the vinegar mixture over the asparagus in the jars, cover, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Nice pickles!



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