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Not just for St. Patrick’s Day, Irish Soda Bread with Tart Cherries is great all year round. Baking soda makes it rise and there is no kneading or waiting!

I have a smidgeon of Irish blood or at least I think I do. My maternal grandfather died when I was very young so I have only one recollection of him and while I’ve heard he was Irish and English I have no proof of that. My niece is doing one of those DNA tests…guess we’ll find out soon!

Still, for the moment I’m sticking with it and as a result I celebrated St. Paddy’s Day with neighbors and made my version of an Irish dinner. Because I am at most 1/8 Irish, I took great liberty with the dishes I made. I’ll be sharing my Chili Pie (like Shepherd’s Pie but with Chili and Guinness topped with potatoes) soon but today simply HAD to get this recipe to you. It was absolutely perfect.

I was initially inspired to make Irish Soda Bread after sampling some at Sprouts Farmers Market last week. Sampling some and then buying two loaves that is! It was unexpected…and sweet. I know I’ve had savory versions but none of them quite hit the mark like their sweeter version. Loaded with raisins and liberally topped with large grain sugar, I just loved it.

When I mentioned to a friend I wanted to make some, she shared her absolute love for the sweet version on her blog; albeit without raisins or the sugar on top. Worked for me and with some slight modifications on my part rivaled what I had brought home from Sprouts. Wait, not rivaled…was even better.

The ease of this bread is a big part of the beauty. I used baking soda as the leavening agent so there is no need for kneading or waiting for it to rise. My kind of bread for sure! I wanted to further mimic Sprouts though so I headed to the pantry for raisins…and had none. I had just purchased these Tart Montmorency Cherries cherries at Costco and could see no harm in this substitution; loved them so much more than raisins.

The other thing Sprouts did was to cover the top and sides with a large grain sugar. While their sugar appeared to be a white granulated sugar, I pulled out the Demerara Sugar I always have in the pantry for my coffee and used it. I don’t think the extra sweetness was required so don’t pile it on too thick, it’s that slight crunch on top that makes it extra special.

What did my company think? They thought they needed two slices each and then the ten year old twin girls gave me that look. I know that look well; it read all over their face, ‘Can we take some home with us?’ As much as I loved this bread, I love them more and sent a big chunk home.

This recipe makes a big loaf of bread and supposedly serves 20. Haha…no way was anyone eating only one-half slice but it sure made enough that five of us had it with dinner and even after parting with some I still had a couple of slices left for my breakfast the next day. I’m going to suggest you really treat yourself and try it with Kerrygold Irish Butterd too. Amazing.

I have to make this again…and certainly will not wait until March 17th of next year. This is going to be a regular rotation in my kitchen and I’ve already made a 2nd variation that I’ll share soon…one made with Guinness, oatmeal, brown sugar and some orange zest. If I hadn’t messed up royally and forgotten the butter (!) I would offer it up on Monday…but I need to make it again and review it with ALL the ingredients. Oops.

Irish Soda Bread with Tart Cherries
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© Creative Culinary
Category: All Recipes

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I love cocktails that use jam and this Figgy Bourbon and Citrus Cocktail is no exception. The combination of bourbon, fig jam, orange, lemon, and honey is perfect!

I had hoped to publish this cocktail earlier today; I always try to shoot for early morning so everyone on my mailing list gets the chance to see a new cocktail for the weekend. And this is one you will love too.

Instead of cocktail making though, yesterday I escaped for the day, the first day out in weeks since dealing with a back injury. I was ready and had a long list of places I wanted to go and people I wanted to see…but no cocktail making I’m afraid. So while a bit late, hope I’m forgiven; this might be a great weekend for such a warming and delicious drink

We’re still completely in winter mode in Colorado and will be for another two months. Sure, we’ll have glimpses of Spring but while most of the world will be exclaiming over their spring bulbs and flowers, chances are we’ll be seeing a late winter blizzard at 6,200′. This Figgy Bourbon and Citrus Cocktail is a great fit for this time of year with the bourbon forward taste more typical in winter drinks combined with the combination of figs, lemon, and orange that lightens it perfectly.

I was the recipient of a set of gorgeous cocktail glasses with a matching decanter and have been contemplating for a couple of weeks about what cocktail deserved them…and this one was a good choice.  Drinks like this are sippers; they call for a fire and great conversation and are not to be downed quickly. It’s all about the ambiance and these beautiful glasses certainly elevated ours.

PIN ‘Bourbon and Fig Jam Cocktail with Orange Liqueur’ More Favorite Bourbon Cocktails
Yield: 2 cocktails Figgy Bourbon and Citrus Cocktail Recipe
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A bourbon forward cocktail with fig jam, orange liqueur, lemon juice and honey served over ice and garnished with an orange twist.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp fig jam
  • 3 ounces bourbon
  • 1/2 ounce orange liqueur
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
For Garnish
  • Orange Twist
Instructions
  1. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the jam, bourbon, orange liqueur, honey, and lemon juice. Cover and shake.
  2. Strain the cocktail into an ice-filled Old-Fashioned glass, garnish with an orange twist and serve.
© Creative Culinary
Category: Bourbon

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With real raspberries and a touch of chocolate, this Raspberry and Chocolate Valentine Cocktail is a decadent and delicious libation for the day of love.

While I do love making cocktails for different holiday occasions, I admit I might struggle a bit with Valentine’s Day. I’ve done chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate and very much wanted to make something this year that was unique. Quite honestly this Raspberry and Chocolate Valentine Cocktail was try number two.

My first attempt was Irish Cream with Strawberries and I really tried to convince myself it was good. But it wasn’t. It’s simply not a good time for strawberries; the flavor was so ‘meh’ that after my foray I wonder where all the people that proudly display their chocolate covered fruits find them. Mine were simply too flavorless to add enough to a cocktail to be able to share it. I’ll wait until Mothers Day!

When my strawberry idea when bust and I had to punt; I didn’t have other fresh fruit besides apples and pears and that just wasn’t going to cut it for this holiday when either pink, red, or chocolate must appear. Frozen raspberries to the rescue!

I’ve been stocking up on frozen fruits this winter. I only shop once a week and I was too often pitching berries. I always craved a variety but if I purchased an assortment, something was bound to bite the dust before I used all of them so I’ve been trying frozen and it’s been great. Smoothies, on top of cereal and now in this luscious Raspberry and Chocolate Valentine Cocktail.

The raspberries are used to make a syrup that has a touch of raspberry liqueur and then the syrup is combined with half and half, vodka, and just enough chocolate liqueur to flavor it without changing the color. White chocolate liqueur would be good too; I clearly have let my bar ingredients slide that I didn’t have any in the house!

Celebrate your Valentine’s Day with loved ones, whether that is a beau, a husband, girlfriends, or even your adult children; it’s like love in a glass.

PIN ‘Raspberry and Chocolate Valentine Cocktail’

Yield: 2 Cocktails Raspberry and Chocolate Valentine Cocktail
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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Ingredients For the Syrup
  • 12 oz fresh or frozen raspberries (thaw if using frozen)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Chambord Raspberry Liqueur (optional)
For the Cocktail
  • 4 oz half and half
  • 1 ounce white chocolate or chocolate liqueur
  • 3 oz vodka
  • 2 oz raspberry syrup
  • Rimming sugars
Instructions

To Make the Raspberry Syrup

  1. Combine the fresh or frozen raspberries with the sugar in a medium saucepan. Simmer until the the berries break down and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add the Chambord liqueur.

To Make the Cocktail

  1. Chill the glasses in the freezer for at least 5 minutes.
  2. Rub the edge of the glass with chocolate liqueur. Dip into either pink, red, or white crystals or a combination of all three.
  3. Combine the half and half, chocolate liqueur, vodka, and raspberry syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until ice cold. Pour into chilled glasses and serve.
Notes

You will have extra Raspberry Syrup; great on biscuits, English muffins or pancakes.

Pro Tip: When I'm shopping for ingredients like the liqueurs mentioned in this recipe; I often buy the smaller size bottles. Not airplane size; a bit larger than that. I my liqueur stores they are all in their own section so ask customer service if they carry them. There is no need to have a large bottle of specialty liqueur unless you know you will use it again and again.

© Creative Culinary
Category: Fruits

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This cheesy dip is filled with beef, Ranch style beans and tons of cheese; perfect for your next get together whether football in winter or a backyard summer barbecue. It’s cooked in an Instant Pot using the slow cooker function; so almost no work for you!

   

Why yes I was trying to make a play on words because this Nacho Momma’s Beef, Bean and Cheese Tortilla Dip is not my momma’s, or yours or even in some ways…mine. Combining favorite foods from two of my favorite guys made this dip special.

I have the best neighbors and two of them are young men that I just adore. Either one would be here to lend me a hand if I needed it. I can’t remember the last time I had to shovel my driveway or walk and both are great if I need help moving something. Sam helps me get my Christmas tree out of the basement every year and this past season when I apologized AGAIN for bothering him, he told me his feelings would be hurt if I didn’t ask him. I call them the best sons I never had.

Sam told me he makes a dip that is just a combination of salsa and Velveeta cheese and Casey’s wife Amy introduced me to Ranch Beans, something Casey has loved since college; he says they were cheap and yummy…yep, sounds about right for college doesn’t it? I love them now too…my baked beans will never be without a can of Ranch Beans ever again! Anyway, I thought why not combine both ideas together, up the flavor profile just a bit and have something new? Yes, why not right?

So I added some ground beef, onion, jalapeno, and a smattering of seasonings and the result is fantastic…and even better? EASY! The dip can be made in either a slow cooker or an Instant Pot. I used my Instant Pot because of its versatility and was able to sauté the onions, jalapeno, and garlic with the ground beef in the pot before adding all of the other ingredients.

If made in a slow cooker, you’ll have to do the sautéing on the stove first before adding the beef, onion, and jalapeno mixture to the other ingredients in your appliance. Cook time will be the same.

Why not make a big deal out of a Nachos spread for the big game. Whether it be the Super Bowl, a pennant race, the World Series, or more…this is a year round appetizer that everyone will love. A little bit spicy, a little bit creamy and a whole lot of rock n’ roll!

I purposely made this dish with medium spiciness. I served it with jalapeno, black olives, and green onions, so guests could up the heat if they wanted to. I also put out corn tortillas. The taste is my favorite but it’s nice that they’re also gluten free; it makes for a great all inclusive appetizer!

Are you watching the Super Bowl this coming weekend? I’m in that mode of I’ll watch it but have almost zero vested interest. If I do a real stretch I’ll find my way to making the LA Rams my favored team.

Not just because Brady has won enough games (but there is that) but because a few years ago the Rams decided to move to my hometown of St. Louis where Kurt Warner and team won the Super Bowl…so I’ve got that super mini connection…guess it’s Rams for me!

This appetizer is my contribution to Progressive Eats this month where it’s all about the finger foods we love for a tailgating party. A dip might not really qualify except you do use fingers to pick up the chips, right? I just really wanted to make this dip using my favorite guys favorite things as inspiration…hope you love it too!

Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. Each recipe in our menu this month features tailgating Finger Foods, and our host is Colleen who blogs at The Redhead Baker.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats it’s a virtual party. A theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out. Come along and see all of the delicious foods for a tailgating (or really any) party!

Tailgate Finger Food

Appetizers

Main Courses

  • Nacho Momma’s Beef, Bean and Cheese Tortilla Dip – Creative Culinary (You’re Here!)

Side Dishes

Desserts

PIN ‘Nacho Momma’s Beef, Bean and Cheese Tortilla Dip’

Nacho Momma's Beef, Bean and Cheese Tortilla Dip
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 2 jalapenos, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds process cheese (Velveeta), cubed
  • 1 jar (16 ounces) chunky salsa
  • 1 can Ranch Style beans
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • Tortilla chips
Condiment Suggestions
  • Sliced jalapenos
  • Sliced green onion
  • Guacamole
  • Olives
Instructions
  1. In an electric pressure cooker set on sauté, cook beef, onion, and jalapeno over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; add the garlic and simmer for one more minute. Drain if necessary. Turn pressure cooker power to Off.
  2. Stir in the cheese, salsa, Ranch beans, cumin, and chili powder.
  3. Set pressure cooker to Slow Cooker. Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours or until heated through and cheese is melted. Stir; serve warm with tortilla chips.
  4. Serve extra condiments on the side if desired.
Notes

Without an electric pressure cooker that lets you saute and slow cook, simply do step one in a skillet on the stove and then add everything to your crockpot and proceed according to instructions.

© Creative Culinary
Category: Appetizers

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A delicious mix of veggies, tomato sauce and spices topped with a poached egg, Shakshuka with Zucchini and Mushrooms is my take on a classic Middle East dish that is satisfying for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Shakwhata you say? What the heck is that? Well, it’s a delicious one pan meal that typically consists of eggs that are poached in a tomato sauce spiced with cumin, paprika, and cayenne. Still, it has been embraced by so many cooks there are now a million versions…thought I might as well add mine.

I have seen the dish posted occasionally when I’m online but I never really delved into the ingredient list so I was flying blind the other night when deciding on dinner. Honestly if I didn’t just happen to magically have items positioned close to each other in the fridge that give me inspiration on many nights, I would be lacking some great dishes on this blog.

This time was no exception. Mushrooms and zucchini were in the vegetable drawer with a bottle of half empty tomato sauce right above them next to a large carton of eggs. How much of a hint did I need anyhow? Not much; this came to me immediately.

Shakshuka originated in North Africa, and like many great dishes there are as many versions as there are cooks who have embraced it. This one strays from more classic renditions with the addition of Parmesan cheese; so not traditional but so good that I’m glad I thought, why not?

What I love is the versatility. Great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner; shakshuka is easily modified depending on ingredients you want to include; I’ve seen spinach and potato hash versions and both sounded fantastic so it is a place where you can get creative too.

I also had in mind my daughter Lauren; she had just informed me that she was going the Whole 30 meal route this month. Lots of restrictions with that plan but except for the cheese and bread shown in my version, this Shakshuka with Zucchini and Mushrooms is a dish that would be perfect. Hearty and full of flavor but easy to make both Whole 30 and gluten free. I have friends and family on those paths now so I like to accommodate them when I can.

It’s a one-skillet recipe of eggs poached in a tomato sauce spiced onion, garlic, cumin, and oregano (trust me; SO good!) filled with zucchini slices and mushrooms. First you make that sauce, which comes together fairly quickly on top of the stove, then you gently crack each of the eggs into the pan, nestling them into the sauce and then the pan is moved into the oven to finish. I modified the spices a bit; eliminating the cayenne but adding some onion and garlic too…that’s how I roll!

PIN ‘Shakshuka with Zucchini and Mushrooms’

Yield: 4 Servings Shakshuka with Mushrooms and Zucchini
Shakshuka and Eggs in Purgatory...both names associated with eggs baked in tomato sauce. This version has a hint of Italy with some grated Parmesan and fresh parsley. Easy, beautiful and delicious from breakfast to dinner. Healthy too!
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Ingredients
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 12 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 jar good-quality tomato pasta sauce - (24 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
For Garnish
  • Fresh Parsley
Instructions
  1. Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large, ovenproof, skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini and mushrooms and cook just until they release some of their water and it evaporates; another 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in the tomato sauce, oregano, cumin, and salt. Bring to a simmer and let cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. With the back of a spoon, make 4 indentations in the sauce. Crack one egg inside of each, then sprinkle the dish with Parmesan cheese.
  5. Carefully transfer the pan to the oven. Bake until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still soft, 8 to 12 minutes (egg sizes will make a big difference so watch carefully). Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh parsley.
  6. Serve hot with warm naan or pita bread.
Notes

I made my dish using individual skillets; cooking times are about the same, just keep an eye on those eggs!

© Barb
Category: All Recipes

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Garlic Pesto Pasta with Carrots and Zucchini is a one pot meal that is easy to make and immensely satisfying. Serve with chicken or fish or as a standalone vegetarian dish; it’s perfect!


I originally made this dish right after I had pulled up all of my basil and made some homemade pesto. It is amazing what the return is for a HUGE basil plant; I was lucky to get a little jelly jar of pesto from my efforts. It went too fast and I wanted more of this pasta dish so I’ve been using a purchased product and it’s been great too.

While I added zucchini and carrots to my pasta; use your imagination. Know what my imagination led me to? I had both vegetables in the fridge as leftovers…that took them to the top of the list!

I had pulled this pasta together midday and by evening some of my favorite kids had showed up at my door. I don’t kid myself; while I know they like me OK, it is the beauty of a room in my house that they can all escape to from their individual homes that draws them here and OK, sometimes maybe the food.

It’s usually Lee from across the street and Zoey and Lily, twins who live up the street, that arrive as a pack. These three have been friends since all of us moved onto this street at the same time five years ago and it’s cute to see them together. Lily and Zoey are not identical and their personalities are SO different and Lee is a great buffer; he likes them both.

Lee is also the pickiest eater of the three. I have managed to get him to try some new things that he used to make faces over and that’s a nice reward. As is getting him to stop with the faces and comments. He would tell you now, ‘Don’t yuck her yum!’ as I have preached enough they get it; you don’t have to eat it but you don’t get to make faces or disparaging comments either…a good life lesson, right?

So, when I asked if they wanted some of this pasta that I had on the stove, two of them begged me to remove the veggies. I do know when to pick my battles so agreed to that and served all of them a dish with some garlic bread on the side. What was the verdict? OMG…the love was amazing! Lee, who is so hard to please, said to me almost verbatim that this was the best pasta he had ever had in HIS LIFE and made me promise that I would get the recipe to his mom!

The promise was made and then…the holidays hit and life got wacky. I never forgot that I had made this, but I sure didn’t find time to post it for you either and there is no time like the present. I loved the basic flavor and yes, I added carrots and zucchini but honestly, add what you have or what you love. I could see mushrooms and peas or broccoli instead of the zucchini. In summer try it with some garden tomatoes…I can’t wait!

I think the key to the success of this simple dish is cooking the noodles in broth; they are so flavorful. Reminds me a bit of this One Pot Tomato and Basil Pasta but this has a lighter sauce. Both are fantastic…and EASY!

PIN ‘Garlic Pesto Pasta with Carrots & Zucchini’

Yield: 4-6 Servings Garlic Pesto Pasta with Carrots and Zucchini
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Print
Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced (about 1/2 of a medium onion)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 Cups of chicken stock (Use vegetable stock to make it vegetarian)
  • 1/2 pound thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta
  • 2-4 Tbsps Basil Pesto
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced and cooked (I had leftovers that had been roasted but steamed are fine too)
  • 1 cup zucchini, sliced and cooked al dente
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedges for Garnish
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, combine the oil and butter and melt over medium low heat.
  2. Add the onion and cooked until translucent (about 5 minutes) Add the minced garlic and saute for 1 - 2 minutes more until garlic is fragrant (watch carefully, it should not brown).
  3. Add the chicken stock to the pot, raise the heat to medium-high and cook until the stock comes to a boil; add the noodles to the boiling broth.
  4. Cook the pasta according to package directions; the pasta will absorb almost all of the broth.
  5. When pasta is cooked through, remove it from heat and add the basil pesto and heavy cream and mix in gently. Mix in the carrots and zucchini. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve and garnish with a wedge of lemon.
© Barb
Category: All Recipes

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A real treat straight from the chefs at Nordstrom’s Cafe; a lemon bar on steroids with both coconut and mascarpone cheese. They are quite simply the BEST!

Not that any of you have lost sleep wondering where the heck I’ve been but I realize today as I edit this post that I haven’t posted since before Christmas. What the heck, Barb? Well, I have been busy, maybe just not cooking so much?

I moved into my home five years ago on 12/31. An easy day to remember because it was a ridiculous day to move. I had lived with friends for 8 very long months before this house was ready and those five years seem to have flown by. I have said too often the past couple of weeks, ‘FIVE YEARS!’

Still, it’s true and I’m not even done with things I thought would be complete years ago. Blame it on the garden. I left a beautiful garden, breathtaking even. I had devoted untold hours to it for many years and it was that place that melted away my stress and anxiety and I knew I would miss it but I thought I was over the backbreaking labor. Especially since my move was predicated by a knee injury that made gardening more difficult.

I was nuts; If you are a gardener and need both the beauty of a pretty landscape and the work that goes into it; you can’t just stop. I know that now. I moved into a brand new home with one tree in the front yard and a couple of totally wrong bushes against the house.

I’ve spent five years changing that with several trees and even more bushes and perennials. A deck went on in 2017 and a large flower/vegetable garden went in last year and I honestly might almost be there. Sadly I’ll never completely achieve the same nirvana; houses here are too close and others don’t really care like I do but I’m trying to create my own little oasis here in this southern metro neighborhood of Denver, Colorado.

These photos are from this past summer and I must admit; summer without my garden pots of herbs would not be the same. I don’t plan a huge vegetable garden but herbs and flowers are my friend!

So now that I have the garden almost to the point of only requiring maintenance, I’ve started to delve more into the work I wanted to get done inside. In the past couple of months I have completely changed my office with a new desk, filing cabinet, chair and fun cocktail photo and I’ve worked on the soft furnishings in my bedroom. Next in my bedroom? I’m painting the dark furniture…wish me luck!

It’s not really finished but it’s a nice change from the taupe, lavender and sage soft goods I had been using for probably a dozen years. Anyway, because of all of these projects my time has been stretched VERY thin. Then along came the holidays. Holidays for a food blogger are like retail; our sites get a huge part of their traffic with readers looking for a favorite holiday food or beverage. So in the midst of that period of crazy, I had an opportunity to paint my kitchen.

Now with my home only being five years old, you might think that silly to consider except for one thing. I did not put in cabinets I loved; I put in cabinets I could afford. I always knew I would be painting them; I did not know it would take me five years. I was presented with a great offer and decided to do it. In the month of December. Yep, it was nuts!

Granted I wouldn’t be painting them myself but still; it took me several full days to find the perfect color and hardware and talk about down to the wire? I do an annual Christmas party and this year it was scheduled for the 22nd of December. My cabinets were finished and the hardware installed on December 19th. Whew yes, but SO worth it, I just love the difference they make. New stove is next; I’ve never loved it either!

Once the kitchen cabinets were in I could finally start thinking about what I would make for my Christmas party. My neighbors all bring a dish but I still try to have at least an appetizer and a dessert. My favorite appetizer is this French Quarter Cream Cheese Spread. It is beyond delish but also not hard to make.

Some onion is grated and added to cream cheese along with other savory touches and the whole thing is topped with a brown sugar, butter, and mustard topping. It is literally devoured each year and while I love to mix things up; I know everyone expects to find this appetizer on the table.

While I would normally spend a full day making an outrageous cake, I simply did not have the time this year. Besides that, one of my closest friends is Amy and she tries to avoid gluten. She does not have celiac disease but gluten and her thyroid are not friends and she can tell if she eats it. So I try to make things I can revise to work that everyone can enjoy.

I recently made my favorite old fashioned Lemon Bars using gluten free flour and they were fantastic so I decided to mimic that effort and do the same with another favorite lemon dessert that we love. My daughter Lauren worked at Nordstrom’s in both high school and after college and we met often in their cafe for lunch. One day she was interested in something sweet and spied Lemon Bars on their menu so we ordered two of them.

Lo and behold, they were not the Lemon Bars we expected; I think they are even better! Toasted coconut is included in the crispy base and after the lemon curd filling is baked and cooled, they are topped with a combination of whipped cream and mascarpone cheese and finished with lemon zest and more coconut. These are truly divine little morsels!

Best of all? The chef was happy to share his recipe with me. So I’ve made these for big occasions and a holiday party seemed most fitting. This recipe makes a LOT which is why I love having it for parties but if your needs are not as great, just cut the ingredients in half and use a smaller pan too…they’ll be just as good! The little lemon slices on top are not an absolute but I absolutely love them!

PIN ‘Nordstrom’s Cafe Lemon and Coconut Bars’

Nordstrom's Cafe Lemon and Coconut Bars
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Print
Ingredients For the Crust
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups coconut - flaked, toasted, cooled
  • 4 oz. butter, cubed and chilled
For the Filling
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
  • Zest from two lemons
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
For the Whipped Mascarpone Topping
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
For Topping and Garnish
  • 3 cups coconut - not toasted
  • 1/2 moon lemon slice for each bar (optional)
Instructions
  1. Make the crust by pulsing all dry ingredients in food processor. Add the butter and pulse until a grainy dough forms. Press into a papered, buttered, floured pan (be sure to use parchment paper or it's difficult to remove from pan). Bake crust at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until light brown.

To Make the Filling:

  1. Place filling ingredients in the processor and blend. Pour filling over hot crust and bake at 350 degrees until slightly brown and set, 25-30 minutes.
  2. Freeze to set firmly and cool before proceeding.

To Make the Whipped Mascarpone Topping:

  1. Whip cream to stiff peaks. Add vanilla and powdered sugar. Fold in mascarpone. Spread over the chilled filling.
  2. Top with coconut. Freeze, unmold and cut into 2 by 3 inch bars.
  3. Garnish with 1/2 lemon moon.
Notes

This makes a lot; we used a large, rimmed cookie sheet and were able to get almost 65 pieces from it. Cut it in half and use a jelly roll pan if you want less portions.

© Barb
Category: Cookies, Brownies and Dessert Bars

The post Nordstrom’s Cafe Lemon and Coconut Bars appeared first on Creative Culinary.

        
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For a really unique glass of holiday cheer, you have to try this White Chocolate Mint Eggnog Cocktail; it’s rich and creamy with a subtle touch of mint.

 

I love making a new eggnog cocktail for the holidays but this year I was a bit stumped; I’ve added a lot of the usual suspects; rum, kahlua, espresso, and more. So honestly? I took my inspiration from these new glasses I bought last week.

I love these glasses; they’re the traditional Spode Christmas Tree design that’s been around forever so when I saw some at HomeGoods I did the deed; even if I have enough glasses already to outfit a small bar! Plus I knew that any current version on display today would look exactly the same and cost three times as much; at least that was my excuse for purchasing four of them.

Still, they needed the perfect cocktail and I knew that darling tree would look best with eggnog in it but nothing was coming to me. Until one of those middle of the night moments, when you can’t sleep but solve the world’s problems or in this case my cocktail problem…why not white chocolate with some fresh mint? I’ve seen something similar with peppermint but it’s never been my jam, I wanted the aroma of spearmint, not peppermint; for me there is a huge difference.

I’ve garnished the cocktail with mint leaves and sugared cranberries but in truth, I had the cranberries ready for a dessert I’m making and thought they would be pretty so you don’t HAVE to make them. Although they are so good and a bit addictive! If you decide to forge ahead, the recipe is on this page for a Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Sugared Cranberries.

I melted my white chocolate in some of the eggnog and then added fresh mint leaves to the warm mix and let it steep for a few minutes before mixing the strained white chocolate and mint mixture with the rest of the eggnog and vodka; a quick blend to get it frothy and into the fridge it went to get nice and cold. I’m having my annual holiday party tonight and it is taking everything I’ve got to not take another sip, or ten. This is a real winner; definitely eggnog but with the white chocolate and mint it’s elevated to something else.

Need a mocktail too? Make the mixture and just add vodka as you prepare each cocktail; leaving it out for those wishing to have a non-alcoholic beverage; either way it’s absolutely intoxicating!

Cheers and Merry Christmas to all!!

PIN ‘White Chocolate Mint Eggnog Cocktail’

Yield: One quart White Chocolate Mint Eggnog Cocktail
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Print
Ingredients
  • 1 quart eggnogg
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • One package of mint or several sprigs (I used about 50 leaves to flavor enough for a quart of eggnog)
  • More mint leaves for garnish
  • Sugared Cranberries are totally optional!
Instructions
  1. Pour one cup of eggnog into a medium saucepan and add the white chocolate chips. Heat to just simmer and stir until the chips are all melted. Turn off the heat.
  2. Add the mint leaves to the eggnog mixture and let steep for 15 minutes; strain the mixture into a measuring cup with a pour spout.
  3. Pour the remaining eggnog into a blender. Turn blender on low and run while adding the white chocolate eggnog mixture. Scrape the white chocolate from the measuring cup if necessary; it will want to harden once it starts to cool off.
  4. Blend on high for just a minute; this is to thoroughly incorporate the white chocolate into all of the eggnog mixture.
  5. Pour into ice filled glasses and garnish with a mint sprig.
Notes

About those sugared cranberries; I honestly already had them ready for something else and thought they would be pretty but they are not absolutely necessary for this drink.

© Barb
Category: Friday Cocktails

The post White Chocolate Mint Eggnog Cocktail appeared first on Creative Culinary.

        
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The Bourbon and Orange Brûlée Cocktail is a wonderful combination of bourbon, orange liqueur, and ginger syrup with a brûléed orange for garnish; a nice garnish but also a sweet treat to eat.

Every once in awhile, I crave a more sophisticated cocktail; one similar to the classics and not quite as dressed up as some of the fun cocktails I’ve devised for this space. When that happens it’s usually bourbon that comes to mind; I absolutely love the scent and taste of bourbon above all others. Well, OK, maybe tequila does tie for that spot but I will always think of it primarily as a summer sipper and seldom stray far beyond margaritas.

This Bourbon and Orange Brûlée Cocktail is a riff of sorts on an Old Fashioned. The Old Fashioned and Manhattan’s were my mother’s favorite drinks and while I never drank one with her as a kid, I can still picture her sipping from a glass with a liquid gold beverage in it and either a beautiful maraschino cherry or a twist of orange. I was of the Shirley Temple set; the fruit were a sign of something special!

This cocktail is a bit sweeter than either of those but make no mistake, it is absolutely bourbon forward, so make sure you use something you love. For this drink I used Maker’s Mark; it’s very much my house brand. I almost opened a bottle of Knob Creek but with four open bottles of bourbon already open in my bar, well, that can wait. I need some drinkers over here…who’s coming to help?

I made this same Bourbon and Orange Brûlée Cocktail a couple of weeks ago using blood oranges and it was gorgeous too but for this post, I wanted to brûlée the orange slices, not just candy them and I doubted it would show on the dark red of a blood orange; but switch it up if you want; both are equally delicious.

I can’t deny one of the best parts? That orange slice is entirely edible. A candied orange slice that has been browned a bit with a torch and then allowed to rest in a bourbon and liqueur mixture. Oh my…I need to make more of those pups!

I got a new toy recently and I love it but the results of it are well hidden in these photos today. I never use refrigerator ice for my cocktails that I photograph; those half moon white blobs are distracting and not attractive at all. So I buy my ice from Sprouts; it’s clear and square and looks nice in almost any cocktail.

Still, I wanted to make some of those big ice balls that are so popular in cocktails like this. I’ve tried the small forms that make them and while they do freeze the right shape, they are also cloudy white. I know there is a reason and I know this…I would need a separate machine to be able to achieve what I want and I haven’t been interested enough in clear ice to plop down $500 so I keep trying.

Filtered water is not the answer by the way, neither is boiling it. But I just purchase something new a couple of weeks ago and it does the best job of all I’ve used without totally breaking the bank. The results were good, not perfect but really very good. These are not just pretty but really serve a purpose for cocktail; the ice melts much slower than small cubes; they’re perfect for a sipper like this Bourbon and Orange Brûlée Cocktail.

The unit comes with a container that hold the forms that make the ice round and it’s frozen with more water surrounding the freezing orbs. What I found was that the top two-thirds of the ice really was clear but the bottom still had some of the dreaded white ice. Not a lot though so while I would wish for super clear, these are the best I’ve made and I’m pleased with the rsults; you can see through them!

If you’re a bit of a fanatic about ice too; you might want to check out the Perfect Ice Ball Maker over on Amazon.

Yield: 2 Cocktails Bourbon and Orange Brûlée Cocktail
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Print
Ingredients
  • 1 medium navel orange
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 medium navel orange, sliced crosswise, 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 3 ounces bourbon
  • 1/2 ounce orange liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce ginger liqueur or ginger syrup (or substitute morel orange liqueur)
Instructions

To Brûlée the Orange Slices

  1. Slice the orange into approximately 1/8" slices. In a medium skillet, combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Add the orange slices and cook over moderate heat, turning them occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a thin syrup and the orange slices are translucent, about 20 minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer until the syrup is thick and the slices are tender but still intact, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. Transfer the orange slices to a rack to cool. Reserve the syrup for another use.

To Make the Cocktail

  1. Combine bourbon, orange liqueur, and ginger syrup in a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice cubes. Stir enough to chill the mixture. and strain it over ice into two rocks glasses. Place an orange slice in the glass. Serve.
© Barb
Category: Bourbon

The post Bourbon and Orange Brûlée Cocktail appeared first on Creative Culinary.

        
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