Lemongrass Chicken & A “Wish it was Summer” Cocktail

Ginger Lemongrass Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs marinated in coconut milk, ginger and lemongrass.

I almost titled this “Mother Nature is a bitch” but I didn’t want to get on her bad side.

See, I’m a summer person; I tend to daydream about sunshine from October all way until June. So it’s no surprise that last week my mind was on white sandy beaches when Portland got buried under 7 inches of snow.

Within the first hour of “Snowmageddon,” most of Portland was in a panic. People left work in droves, restaurants closed and the roads were flooded with cars as everyone tried to make it home before the worst of the storm hit.

I, on the other hand, was simply mad.

Sure snow can be pretty, but come on — I got through all of December and January marveling at how mild the weather was only to let my guard down in February. It was just cruel, and the cruelness continued for three days, ending with a stint of freezing rain that coated the streets in a layer of ice.

And even as the days finally warmed up and the snow began to melt, I continued to give in to thoughts of tropical beaches, palm trees and fancy umbrella drinks. It was not a good mental path to go down when the city you live in is covered in dirty slush.

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Peachy Keen: Creating the perfect bellini Jello shot

Bellini Jell-O Shots

My take on the bellini: Sparkling wine & Peach Jello shot

I have a soft spot for Jello shots. Maybe it’s just my nostalgia for college, I’m not sure, there’s just something so fun about them. But while I have fond memories of “shooting” lime Jello mixed with copious amounts of Jose Cuervo, I like to think that as an adult I’ve upgraded to classier versions of alcohol and gelatin.

About 8 years ago, I made a gin and tonic jelly that I had seen in Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. I was completely smitten with it — it was a beautiful color, absolutely delicious and (dare I say?) even elegant.

Gin & Tonic Jelly

Gin & Tonic Jelly

Triple Layered Fruity Jell-O shotsA few years after that, I did a “cape cod” jelly made with alternating layers of vodka with cranberry and vodka with lime. It was fabulous.

And last year for my birthday I did triple layer Jello shots, putting in as much booze as possible while still allowing for the mixture to set. Yes, there is a science to this.

So when the girls in my office decided to throw a surprise baby shower for another co-worker, I asked if I could bring Jello shots. I think a few people thought this was a little weird (on several levels I’m sure) but my idea of a good party means there should be alcohol somewhere. If we weren’t going to be drinking wine, we should at least have boozy Jello. (In the end we drank wine too, because it was a Friday and we do what we want.)

I figured vodka would be a bit much for the mother-to-be, but since every pregnant lady I’ve known has still enjoyed a glass or two of bubbly while waiting for her due date, it seemed that sparkling wine would be perfect for the occasion. I pondered a few possible cocktail options (mimosas? Kir royals?) before settling on the classic combination of the Bellini — bubbles mixed with peach puree.

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Homemade Nocino: Green walnuts & boozy infusions

Nocchino

Usually when I think about infusing booze with something, it’s fruit. Take last year’s rumtopf experiment for example. But this year my husband convinced me to try something different – a green walnut infusion, known by Italians as nocino.

I’ve had nocino before (from a batch my husband made) and wasn’t too impressed. The flavor was interesting, full of spices and citrus notes, but it was served straight up it and burned like firewater. I like things boozy but I can’t handle things that are that strong. I found out later it was made from Everclear — no wonder!

This time around my husband wanted to make it with vodka instead which was much more appealing to me. He also said he wanted to play around with the finished liqueur, so instead of serving it up we could mix it into ice cream bases or cocktails. Mentioning boozy ice cream is pretty much the way to my heart so it was an easy sell.

A hundred and one green walnuts later, we got to work:

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Using liquid nitrogen to create the ultimate cool down cocktail

Liquid Nitrogen Cocktails

Making a frosty gimlet with liquid nitrogen

Whenever my husband participates in a culinary event, I know it means our fridge will be full of delicious leftovers. Last weekend he was part of Plate & Pitchfork, an event that connects chefs with farmers to help benefit different charities. The chefs use produce from a specific farm and prepare a 5-course meal for around 80 diners. The entire event is held in the middle of the chosen farm, so it usually involves butane burners, a massive grill and some serious dedication.

Because my husband is a big fan of making an impression, every event he does he goes a little crazy. This time, crazy meant grilling up Iberico solomillo, the tenderloin from the exclusive acorn-fed Spanish hogs, and using liquid nitrogen to create a sweet corn ice cream on the fly.

Some awesome pictures of the event can be found here. But, to help entice you, here’s a picture that my friend DB took of the ice cream being made:
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One of the best ideas I’ve ever had…

Malibu Rum, Pineapple and Coconut Popsicles

Malibu Rum, Pineapple and Coconut Popsicles

A few weeks ago, while reading a blog, I came across the idea of making popsicles with coconut water for a healthy, refreshing summertime treat. And although it sounded like delicious concept, it seemed a little tame to me.

Coincidentally I had also seen something intriguing on Pinterest — pineapple chunks soaked in coconut rum, a boozy, refreshing summertime treat.

Aha, I thought, now we’re getting somewhere!

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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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