Raspberry Mojitos

So this nice little cocktail is something sweet and tasty you can enjoy this Valentines Day. Personally, I made mine virgin (I’ve got school in the morning, plus I didn’t have any rum laying around), but add what you want. I wouldn’t recommend too much though, because they taste so nice on their own.

All you need is:
Sugar
Water
Raspberries (fresh or frozen)
Mint leaves
Sparkling water

First you start by making a simple syrup, which is equal parts sugar and water. I only made two glasses, so I only used a 1/3 cup sugar and a 1/3 cup sugar. You can heat it over the stove, but in a microwaveable container works just fine.

I heated it for 30 seconds, stirred, and heated again for 20. Your times might vary depending on the weather and power of your microwave.

Next, blend or mash your raspberries (I used my handy dandy food processor). For two glasses, I blended 3/4 cups frozen raspberries. I chose frozen because I knew I wouldn’t use up all of them, plus they’re cheaper. And then put equal amounts into each glass.

Next add your mint leaves. I used about a sprig per cup. And bruise them with a spoon (basically just stir and make sure to mush them up some).

There are a couple different methods for dealing with the mint. What I did probably yielded the least flavor. Another thing you could do would be to rip the leaves apart into strips before adding them to the glass. And yet another would be to drop them in before the raspberries with a little sugar and stir them around dry–the coarseness of the sugar will help break up the leaves and give you more oil.

Next squeeze half a lime into each glass, add the simple syrup equally, then top it off with bubbly water and stir. (If you plan on adding the rum, put it in before the bubbly water.)

Procuitto and mushrooms

This one does require a bit of prep work, and is probably the most expensive pizza I’ll post, but it’s definitely tasty. It starts off a lot like the Greek pizza, in that you olive oil up and season the dough, and use spinach instead of a sauce.

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As for the prep work, there’s bleu cheese to shred, tomatoes to cut, and mushrooms to sauté.

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What I like doing with the mushrooms is putting them in a skillet on medium-high heat with enough red wine to cover the bottom of the pan–not too much because you want it to all cook off and absorb into the mushrooms. Garlic and pepper work really well for this too. The mushrooms will darken and soften as they cook, and you can take them out of the skillet whenever you like the taste. Whenever they’re ready, you can just dump them on. But be careful if there’s extra liquid; you don’t want it getting on the pizza.

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And for the prosciutto, you can either cut it up or no. That depends on your tastes. But cutting it up does make slicing and eating the pizza a bit easier.

We kind of stacked everything on there without thinking much about it, but we did finish with the cheese on top.

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Next, bake for 5 minutes at 375.

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After those 5 minutes, don’t take it out of the oven. Just put some mozzarella on top and let it bake for another 5 minutes. It makes it prettier and cuts the bleu cheese taste.

Mead. Yes, mead

I wasn’t able to get off today to go to the Renaissance Festival, so I ended up buying mead instead. I actually saw it a few weeks ago and have been waiting for an excuse to try it out. It was really interesting looking, and it’s made of honey!

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It’s sweeter than white wine, but it’s not juice sweet. And it’s a little thicker. Not like syrup, though. It’s almost as if your mind is tricking your brain into thinking it should be thick because it’s made of honey.

But overall I like it a lot. I do have a sweet tooth, but I don’t think that’s the only reason I liked it. It’s not as harsh as other alcohols either.

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If you want to learn more about mead, you can check out it’s Wiki page or go to Bea’s Sweet’s own site. If you can read German, it might be cool to check out their normal website.

Emmentaler Pasta Sauce

Like I said in one of my earlier posts, Philosophy, I tend to over buy ingredients then have to make a lot with what’s left over. This sauce is a result of that. It’s based off when my mom makes alfredo sauce, but this isn’t quite the same because I used gruyere instead of parmesan.

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All you need is some white wine (optional), heavy whipping cream, cheese (many kinds will do), and whatever else you feel like putting in–seasonings, herbs, garlic… This time I opted for green onions and bacon. The salty of the bacon works well with the cheesy sweet of the emmentaler and cream.

It helps to have the cheese shredded before you begin, that way you can pay attention to the wine and cream. The time it takes to do this will vary depending on how much you’d like to be happening at once. I had three pots on the stove–one with boiling water for the pasta, one normal sauce pan to reduce the wine, and one skillet to reduce the cream. For the skillet with the cream, the bigger the better–you want the cream to be spread out thin so that it heats evenly and the cheese melts faster. It’s also less likely to burn that way, as long as you keep an eye on it. Also, I made the bacon in the microwave.

Microwave bacon is pretty easy and you don’t have to worry about flying grease. Just get a dinner plate, like the bottom with two paper towels, put the bacon on that, then cover with another paper towel. The time it takes will vary based on your microwave, but a good start is to check it every two minutes, turning it each time it beeps–unless your microwave already rotates. If you don’t want to do it this way, then I would recommend cooking the bacon before starting every thing else.

Reduce the wine in one pan while you reduce the cream in another. Keep both on a medium heat because you want neither to burn. Stir the cream often and keep an eye on the wine, every once in a while shifting it around. I put in about a cup of wine and it reduced to very little. This is about what it looked like:

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When the wine is done reducing, add it to the cream. As for the cream, once it seems like the whole of it is warm, add a tablespoon of butter. Once that’s melted, it’ll tell you that it’s warm enough to start adding the shredded cheese. You don’t want to add it all at once; drop in a handful, stir until it dissolves, then drop in some more. Slowly you’ll notice it get thicker, which is a good thing. That’s what tells you where you are in the sauce and how close you are to finishing. It has to be thick before you turn off the heat because otherwise it’ll come out watery and not-that great. When you can move the spoon across, and it takes a while for the gap to close up, then it’s good. You can always add more, but don’t add less than what it takes to get there.

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At this point, I threw in the bacon and green onions. Because you don’t have to constantly stir the sauces while they’re heating up, that’s when I cut up the bacon and green onions. I just stirred them in, and then turned off the heat. If you do add veggies when you decide to do this, there are two ways to handle it: either add them early or late. Early will soften the veggies and make them yield their flavor to the sauce more. Whereas late will make them retain their crunch and they will keep a flavor separate from the sauce.

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After, just serve and enjoy! One thing I like to do with pasta after I drain it, is put it back in the pot and add olive oil. That stops it from sticking together and makes it taste good.

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Perry Cider

Speaking of cider…

This isn’t something I’ve made, just something I found at my grocery store that turned out to be really awesome. It’s a cider made of pears as opposed to apples.

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It’s made in California, and they have their own website: Acecider. They apparently have more than just pear cider, but that’s the only one I’ve found. This drink is really tasty, and even though I’ve been drinking it cold, it warms me up. It is alcoholic, so if you’re not 21, then you’ll have to wait, but it is definitely worth it.

It’s fondue time

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When I moved to Texas, one of my apartment warming presents was a fondue set from my mom. Up till now, I’ve only done chocolate fondue because in my mind, cheese fondue would insanely complicated, with tons of ingredients, and the perfect cheeses and whatnot and whatnot. But the other day I saw a cooking show interview a guy whose restaurant is famous for its fondue. Though he didn’t reveal any secrets, from what he did say, I gathered that it wouldn’t be too hard to do. There is a lot of simultaneous action happening, though. But don’t worry, it’s manageable.

No matter which is your fondue containment field, it’s going to have to be warm before the fondue goes in, otherwise it’ll reharden and be less fun to eat. So I’d recommend getting that started right away. Mine is a really simple one; all I had to do was light a candle underneath.

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I also put in a little water (abut 1/8 tsp) to prep the sides to stop the cheese from sticking, then I put the lid on. Next comes the preparation of the cheese and whatever you plan on dipping. I recommend bread and apples. But steer away from your plain old white or wheat and honey. This is fondue! Be creative! I used poppy seed and hazelnut bread and fuji apples. Fruit and cheese work really well, and apples are sturdy enough to withstand the heat and hold the cheese.

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As for the cheese, shredding it takes for ever, but lets it melt faster, while cubing it is the happy medium. I did both, just to show you. I also wanted to show you the two types of cheese I used–Emmenthaler and Gruyere. Emmenthaler has a lighter, almost sweeter taste, and it’s what I wanted for the dominant flavor. Therefore I put more of it in.

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Next you need to set up a double boiler system so that you avoid burning the cheese when it comes time to add it. This kind of thing is also good for melting chocolate. If you don’t have a double boiler (I don’t), then you can easily rig one up with two equally sized pans and one or two dishcloths. The cloths need to be wet so as to avoid getting overheated, and also make extra sure that they’re not near the bottom of the pan–near the heat source. Kitchen fires are a terrible thing.

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Keep them separate for now because in one pan you’ll be reducing some white wine (I used Barefoot Chardonnay) and in the other you’ll be boiling some water for when the wine is reduced. That way it’ll be hot and you can add the cheese right away instead of waiting for it. I used about a 3.5 to 4 cups of water and a cup of wine for about a pound of cheese. Reducing is, unfortunately, a process you can’t speed up. It’s best to add the wine with the head at about medium high and wait, every once in a while swishing the wine around. If you leave it on high, like I did the first time, it’ll burn and you’ll have to throw it away. You’ll want to wait until there’s very little left in the pan before you put it on the boiling water; there should be such a small amount that it doesn’t even reach the sides of the pan. Once you get there, you can transfer to the double boiler and start adding cheese.

Like with French fries, you want some test cheese. At first only throw in a little bit, to make sure that the heat is good–not too hot and not too cold. It should take about a minute for it to melt, maybe less. But it shouldn’t be bubbling either. Once you’re sure it’s good, you can throw it all in.

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I kind of like adding the cheese little by little, because it looks nicer as I’m doing it, but it takes longer and doesn’t affect the flavor, so feel free to dump it all in. Make sure to stir as you do all this, because you don’t want it to burn, plus it’ll help the cheese melt. By the time it’s done it should be fairly easy to manipulate, not too thick, but still stretchy. Also, before you add too much cheese, you can add some nutmeg to add a nice extra flavor. Don’t add too much though–you can always add more but most of the time you can’t take it out.

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When it’s the consistency you like, it’s time to put it in the fondue containment field. You’re going to want to pour it all in in one go, keeping the cheese whole. It avoids a lot of mess by doing it this way. Now it’s time to eat!

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Sometimes it’s a little hard to get it to stick to your apple/bread/whatever, and for that i recommend a dip-and-twist technique. You’ll find that with that, you’ll be able to get some on, but you might now be able to break it off where you want. Fondue can be super stretchy, which is part of what makes it fun. Last night, more than once was I able to stretch it out at arms length and still it didn’t break on its own. This is really good for friends or for couples. It’s a very social food–you’ll be surprised at how many people start to squeal when their cheese breaks too soon and how many battles happen as others try to steal somebodies stretchiness. You may not get full, but you’ll have a good time.

Spiced wine

It’s been raining for the past 4 or 5 days here, which brought the temperature down and made me remember that in other parts of the world, it’s not 90 degrees all the time. (I live in Texas.)

So, being cold, stationed across from the beer and wine department at work, I came up with the idea to attempt a spiced wine. This was my very first try and I didn’t look at a recipe. It seemed like a good thing to warm up my insides.

I started with nutmeg, cinnamon, and a cheap bottle of wine. You don’t want an expensive one because you’re going to be cooking it down, so all the subtleties that make it so expensive will be lost.
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I poured about half the bottle in a normal sauce pan and turned the heat on high to reduce it. Then I added about 10 shakes of nutmeg and 1 of cinnamon. It’s going to smell a little bitter and strong as the alcohol cooks off, but don’t worry until you’ve tried it.
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After the color darkened and I could tell pretty obviously that it had reduced some, I went ahead and tried it and discovered that really needed some sugar. I added about 3 tablespoons, maybe (I’m going off of eyeballed measurements), a splash of apple juice and the tiniest pinch of cayenne. You don’t want to add too much cayenne, because it’s not supposed to be spicy–you just want to feel it a little bit when you swallow. It’s just to make the flavor more interesting and is totally optional. I’m telling you about how much I put in, but keep in mind that it’s totally up to you and feel free to taste test–just make sure to cool it off first.

Once it’s the desired consistency and taste, pour and enjoy! I added a little of the unreduced wine to lighten up the consistency a little, but this step is very optional. If you do add some, though, make sure you add only a very little and taste before you add more. For my cup, I added only about a 3/4 tablespoon.

It’s best warm, and ok cool. So just make sure to drink it quickly. I drank it in a sweater, sitting on a pillow and it was so nice. I hope you enjoy!