Flowers in your bubbly: A little something different

Wild Hibiscus in Champagne

Wild hibiscus flowers liven up a glass of bubbly!

One of my favorite things to do is host parties, and over the years, I’ve learned it’s usually the small things that make a get-together memorable. Whether it’s creative party invitations, fun party snacks or curiously carbonated cocktails, it seems like it’s often the little details that will stick in someone’s mind for days afterward. Therefore I’m constantly on the hunt for the strange and unusual, little things — generally of the culinary persuasion — to bring out at my next party to surprise guests with.

So when I heard about these Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup a few years ago, I was immediately obsessed with them. Unable to find them in town, I went online and ordered six or seven jars at once. A few I gifted to friends who also share a love for interesting treasures and the rest I hoarded in my pantry to break out whenever the mood hit.

While they aren’t a new trend by any stretch, these hibiscus flowers are certainly still fun to experiment with. They add a festive detail to any party, and are particularly perfect as an ice breaker during aperitifs. (That sentence made me feel like I just channeled Martha Stewart!) But honestly, even if you’ve grown accustomed to these flowers like I have, they never lose their luster.

And the best part is that they require no more effort than this:

Start with a hibiscus flower from the jar. They feel like a gummy candy crossed with a fruit leather, and they kind of remind me of these piranha plants from Super Mario Bros.

Wild Hibiscus Flowers

Wild Hibiscus Flowers

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(Homemade) Cheese Please!

Homemade Lavender Rubbed Goat Cheese

Homemade Lavender Rubbed Goat Cheese

A year or so ago, my husband bought my mom one of those DIY kits to make goat cheese. While things like cheese molds and citric acid were included, she wasn’t sure where to buy the goat milk necessary for the project. Since Portland has ample co-ops and natural food stores, it seemed like the perfect adventure for her most recent trip down to visit me.

I’ve actually made cheese before….a single batch of paneer cheese in culinary school more than 10 years ago. So, yeah we are far from professionals!

And yet, our very first attempt turned out much better than I could have ever hoped. The kit has directions for two different types of goat cheese, one firm and one creamy. It’s good to keep in mind though that the goat milk used as well as other variables can affect the texture of the cheese. And so the guide tells you “if your creamy cheese is firm, and your firm cheese is creamy, just rename them” — advice I can get behind!

We tried to make more of a creamy cheese but it turned out fairly firm, more of the consistency of feta though less tangy. My husband said this most because our goat milk was raw, instead of pasteurized. But the salt content was right on the mark so we were successful with that aspect at least!

Our batch actually produced two small wheels. We cut one into cubes which were then marinated in EVO, chili flakes and lemon zest. After sitting overnight, we tossed them in a simple green salad for lunch the next day. So good!

The other wheel was cut down the center. One half I rolled in lavender and the other in fennel pollen. I’m not sure which I liked better — they were both pretty fabulous.

Anyways here’s some pictures from our adventure:

Raw Goat Milk for Cheese Making

Raw Goat Milk for Cheese Making

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If the Easter Bunny goes missing… blame me!

Rabbit Pot Pie at Local 360, Seattle, WA

Rabbit Pot Pie at Local 360, Seattle, WA

It’s hard to believe that Easter is looming in the very near future. But considering my work days have been filled with inquiries for lamb, ham and rabbits, it must be true. By the way, if the Easter Bunny doesn’t make an appearance on Sunday, he’s most likely being dished up at a restaurant in Portland or Seattle — and he’s probably delicious!

Anyways, in true procrastinator fashion, I made these adorable candy-filled nests last year…but by the time I got around to downloading and editing the photos, Easter had long since gone. The nests turned out so cute that I still wanted to share them, even if they had to wait almost 12 months for their time to shine.

Chocolate Easter Nests

Chocolate Easter Nests: Melted dark chocolate, crunchy chow mein noodles and, of course, mini Cadbury eggs!

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Additions to the Rumtopf: Perfect Pears

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Sugared Pears for the Rumtopf

It’s been a while since I’ve added anything to my boozy experiment, but don’t worry — I haven’t forgotten it! I’ve got some plums that are almost ready but in the meantime, I just added some perfectly ripe pears. It’s looking quite delightful — can’t wait to get to drink it! (Rumtopf is traditionally eaten around Christmas, so thankfully I don’t have much longer to go.)

Look at that beautiful color!

The Cider Press Rules

Apples, apples everywhere

Did you catch a hint of John Irving in that title? If you did, we must be kindred spirits. The Cider House Rules is one of my favorite books, and every time I started typing anything about cider, it kept popping into my head. I couldn’t shake it.

Anyways, if it were required of me to make rules for a cider press party, it would be a simple task.

  1. Buy apples (basically so many apples that it’s overwhelming)
  2. Invite friends (think like Tom Sawyer, more people=less work for you!)
  3. Make good food (this way your friends can’t blame you when they feel used)
  4. Spend the afternoon drinking beer and making delicious fresh-pressed cider

It’s that easy! And, when you see all of the glorious fresh cider come pouring out, it’s also pretty damn exciting.

Here’s some scenes from my first cider press party, which took place the weekend before Halloween.

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The Obsession Continues… Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

Candy Corn Dreams

Lately, I’ve felt like I’ve been trapped in my own private horror film, something along the lines of Children of the Candy Corn. While I am rather meh on eating them, the sugary little treats that epitomize fall have clearly infiltrated my brain this month. Over the last three weeks, I have painted a candy corn pumpkin and made candy corn krispie treats, and yet still my dreams have been flooded with the colors yellow, orange and white. So last week, in an effort to satisfy the demons, I made some adorable candy corn sugar cookies.

I couldn’t help it! I swear. I had to make them.

On the bright side, they really are adorable. I mean, really. Look at them.

Just don’t look at the wonky one in the back…I have no idea what happened there.

These cookies are the perfect treats to make when Halloween is around the corner. To counteract all the usual chocolate decadence, they are delicate and lemon-y. And, as a bonus, they are small enough that you can eat a couple without guilt.

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