Getting Busy With The Fizzy :: Homemade Cocktails with SodaStream Play

sodastreamIn the latter half of the 18th century, carbon dioxide was introduced into water creating soda water or seltzer. (Interesting food fact – the origin of the name seltzer hails from water that had natural effervescence and came from the town of Nieder Selters in Germany.) Today, anyone can make fizzy water at home and can vary the degree of the fizz and the amount of bubbles in each glass. Personalizing soda water may sound a bit bourgeois, but I liken myself to a soda water connoisseur and find most people have a preference. I like a slight, small bubble. My sister’s family prefers big, round bubbles that explode in the mouth. All five of my nieces and nephews are soda water snobs – slightly flat and they turn up their nose.

I’ve been coveting a SodaStream  for years and finally got my hands on my very own machine. This SodaStream Play comes with the options of wrapping in ‘skins’ of various designs – or you can customize your own skin by uploading an image of your choice. I picked the NY skyline – an homage to my roots and Eli the Seltzer Guy in Brooklyn, who used to deliver soda water to our brownstone monthly – a wooden crate full of handblown glass bottles that were made in the 30s and hail from Czechoslovakia. Incidentally, he fills the bottles at an old seltzer factory in Canarsie, where my father and all of my aunts, uncles and cousins grew up.

This nostalgic feeling likely influenced my choice in first experiment – a chocolate egg cream. Egg creams are a thing of the past, though you can find them in vintage east coast delis. The Townhouse Diner in Honesdale, PA (by my dad’s house) serves them still, with no hint at irony. Egg creams have big bubbles, so I used 6 compressions on the SodaStream Play to achieve a strong, vibrant bubble.

While they’re traditionally made with a heavy chocolate syrup, I made my version with a dark, organic cocoa powder. 2 cups whole milk + 1/2 cup cocoa powder + 1/2 cup vanilla sugar – heat this up over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and cocoa
powder is well blended, then cool completely. For really creamy
soda, make this with half & half.

1 part chocolate milk : 2 part SodaStream soda

chocolate egg cream

Given the autumnal energy in the air, I also decided on a cider beverage of some kind. I was gifted a gallon of TreeTop apple juice in honor of National Apple Month, so decided it was high time to use it. Mulled apple juice pairs well with bourbon, so that was the jumping off point. I wanted to veer from super traditional mulling spices, so opted for lavender – a heavy floral note with an earthy undertone. Once the juice is steeped with aromatics and cooled, the only trick is nailing the proportions. This cocktail was a crowd pleaser – all my girlfriends sat around sipping and singing the praises of autumn. I wanted a soft sparkle here, so I used 3 compressions on the SodaStream Play to achieve a gentle, small bubble.

: Apple-Lavender Fizz :
2 cups apple juice, or cider
3 tablespoons fresh or dried lavender buds
2 thin slices fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon cloves
1 tablespoon allspice
10 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick

Place a small saucepan over medium high heat, and add the juice and spices. Bring to a boil and reduce heat slightly, allowing the apple juice to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Strain the spices, pressing into the solids to release any juice, and serve.

1 part bourbon : 2 part juice : 1 part SodaStream soda

apple-lavender fizz

I also rimmed the glass with “apple powder” – essentially dehydrated apples that I pulverized with a bit of sugar. The moisture gives it a molasses-like consistency, though the apple flavor shines through.

Because I was on a roll and had company over, I whipped up an easy, refreshing non-alcoholic drink using frozen fruit juice as a base. It’s smart to keep a container of this juice around (opt for an organic company, which won’t use high fructose corn syrup) for quick beverages – a good pantry staple. Rather then blending with water, I used SodaStream Play soda water resulting in a light, effervescent drink. You could of course add a splash of vodka. I had some Blood Orange vodka from 3 Howls Distillery and it worked beautifully together.

1 part frozen lemon concentrate : 4 part SodaStream soda

lemon-thyme spritzer

For this lemon-thyme fizz, I wanted major bubble action, (the bubbles have to lift the syrup, which is heavy) so I used 8 compressions on the SodaStream Play. Worked like a charm.

The SodaStream Play comes with a selection of syrups, too, for anyone wanting a pure soda option.I have more experiments going now, so stay tuned for more. There is this pineapple fermentation thing that my friend declared “tastes like colors,” which is a pretty spot on assessment.

[This is a sponsored post. All personal commentary, stories and recipes are original content, written by me at my discretion and whim.]

Homemade Fruit Leathers :: How To Dehydrate Fruit

_MG_3639Dehydrating fruit is a simple and easy task of little effort, though it does take some inactive time. One of my garden clients has an old and poorly pruned apple tree, resulting in knobby fruit that is not pleasant for eating fresh. Cooked down, however, it made a lovely base for cinnamon & nutmeg scented fruit leathers. I am using a food dehydrator, but you can easily do this project in the oven, finishing to dry at room temp should any moist spots on the leather remain. Here is a photo essay of the process, taken quickly as I was cooking the other day. Six pounds of fruit made about 70 four inch square fruit leathers – perfect for a kids snack or pre-dinner sweet. I split the batch with my friends Ronny & Catherine and their 4-year old daughter, Emerson, LOVED them.

For more apple-y projects, please check out my APPLE Cookbook, which was released this past September. It has great DIY projects like a Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar or Homemade Apple Juice. As a side note, I recently returned from a trip to see my cousins in Croatia and my 2-year old cousin, Otilia, would often ask for “compote”, which is essentially homemade apple juice in a bottle. My cousin leaves out the sugar, just like the recipe in the book, making it a healthy option for kids. Continue reading

5 for Friday :: Brandon Gillespie

I have the great providence of being surrounded by inspiring people. 5 for Friday questions will be asked of artists, farmers, curators, creators, innovators, entrepreneurs etc – all of the people that I find interesting. Everyone gets the same five questions.

Brandon GillespieToday we feature Italian-food loving, NYU business school graduate and Capitol Hill resident Brandon Gillespie. I came to know Brandon many moons ago when I was producing the radio show for Tom Douglas. Tom ate at Brandon’s restaurant in West Seattle (the now-closed Beato) and LOVED it. When Tom Douglas loves something, that’s saying a lot! From there, Brandon Continue reading

International Food Bloggers Conference 2014

This is first year I will attend, legitimately (as opposed to sneaking in for a session or two here and there) the International Food Bloggers Conference, being hosted by Foodista.com and held in Seattle. This conference is an excellent resource for food lovers (they have SO many brands represented and on display all weekend), food bloggers (a weekend packed with technology sessions and information), media types (unfettered access to active bloggers) and businesses seeking to commiserate with food experts. While the conference is ONE WEEK away, there are a few spots left! Sign up here and let me know you’ll be coming. Continue reading

Preserving Plums

Together, plums and cherries make a happy marriage of texture and flavor: plums break down easily in cooking, and cherries hold their shape. They are both stone fruits, and maintain a slight almond essence that can be highlighted with a splash of brandy or kirsch. Plums are excellent fruits for both sweet and savory preparations. Broken down into a luscious sauce spiked with Asian flavors, they are easily manipulated into a silky condiment. The sauce also comes together quickly and will take little more than an hour to make and jar, resulting in the perfect jar of preserves for gift-giving. Continue reading

5 for FRIDAY :: Cle Franklin with Half Pint Ice Cream

I have the great providence of being surrounded by inspiring people. 5 for Friday questions will be asked of artists, farmers, curators, creators, innovators, entrepreneurs etc – all of the people that I find interesting. Everyone gets the same five questions.

Cle FranklinI ran into my old pal Cle at the Urban Craft Uprising event a few weekends ago. I was there signing copies of Fresh Pantry and nearly EVERYONE was walking by with a cone or cup of ice cream. I needed one. Turns out HALF PINT ICE CREAM was there scooping and by the end of the day had run out of over half her flavors! (If you’ve never been to this event, mark your calendar for next time – it was awesome.)

Cle started her farmers market-based ice cream business several years ago. She makes all of her ice creams by hand, offers fresh seasonal flavors and is available for private events! Hire her and her team to come scoop! Meet Cle Franklin……..

1. What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
A smoothie with blueberries, bananas, almond milk, oats, yogurt and maple syrup.

2. What is one thing you do EVERY day, by choice?
Drink coffee.  I can’t remember the last time I went a day without it.  I don’t drink a ton, but I always have one or two cups in the morning.  I go to bed at night excited for that steamy cup of coffee the next morning.  I almost always share that time with my fiance, Ben.  It’s a really nice quiet moment in the morning before we go our separate ways for our respectively crazy days.

3. If you had all the time in the world and no budget restrictions, what one project would you take on just now?
I just bought my first home. If time and money were no object, I would spend my days making it into the most perfect house I can imagine!

4.Where is your ‘happy place’?
Either curled up on my couch, with a knitting project, a bowl of popcorn and a TV show or in my home kitchen, baking.

5. What is your signature dish – something you make well and consistently? 
Pizza.  In our house we have homemade pizza probably once every week and a half or so.  I’ve got my dough recipe down and we’ve got our favorite topping combos figured out pretty well.  I just started grilling my pizzas and I don’t think I’ll go back to oven-baking them!  Grilling makes the BEST crust.

 

Continue reading

HOW TO :: Tomato DIY – Pruning & Trellises

Come summertime, when the air is hot and the sun is high, everyone comes down with a little case of tomato fever. I’m not sure how this plant grew to such epochal proportions as to measure the success of a home gardener, but it has. Today we present tomato tips and tricks, from pruning for maximum yield to easy DIY trellises.

Pruning Those Suckers
Tomato suckers are the small sets of leaves that grow between the main stem and a leafy branch of a tomato plant. These suckers, if left to grow, become additional flowering and fruiting stems for the plant. That’s good, right? Not quite. If allowed to bloom and fruit, these additional tomatoes will ultimately compete for nutrients from the plant. Over time, this lessens the overall chances of all the fruit coming to delicious maturity. Cooler and shorter seasons (like in the Northwest), cannot support such prolific tomato production — but regardless of your temperature, all tomatoes do well with a little pruning.

Pruned tomato vinePruning, in this case, refers to snapping off those little suckers. When the stems are new and short (say, 3 to 4 inches) you can snap them off with your fingers by bending them back quickly. If you let them get much larger, it’s best to use a set of shears so you don’t tear the main plant stem in the process. Starting in early August (after the plants have some good strong growth and the weather is consistently warm) I snap off suckers — no hesitation, no regrets — from the top half of the plant. (If you planted a smaller tomato variety or cherry tomato plant, leave more suckers on the plant. Because cherry tomatoes are smaller, they ripen faster and the plant can support more production.)

In addition to trimming suckers, now is a great time to prune about 30% of the green leaf stems from the tomato vine. This sends the plant’s energy into fruit production, rather than upward growth. This also allows for air to pass through and for sun to shine on the fruit, which helps develop sweetness. More practically, pruning also allows a gardener to clearly see when tomatoes are ripe.

pruned tomatoesBe aggressive and fear not — pruning will seldom cause damage to the plant or overall tomato production. Our “job” as home cooks and gardeners is to produce the most luscious tomato for our table. Keep that in mind, and you won’t have a problem getting rid of suckers and excess leaves. One last note: some people (like me) find the leaves of tomato plants highly irritable to their skin, especially on prolonged contact. For this reason, I always, always wear gloves and long sleeves when dealing with tomato plants.

DIY Trellises
A structured tomato trellis offers support to climbing or tall plants and is perfect for maximizing and managing your space — they keep tomato stems from breaking and allow for pruning. I know everyone loves tomatoes, so now is the time to get in the garden and focus on building tomato supports, if you haven’t already!

DIY Fence TrellisPerhaps you’re one of the many who purchase tomato “cages,” but find that the plants are growing well over the confines of the cage and dragging it down. I’ll be honest and admit I am not a fan of tomato cages. Instead, I build a support system of bamboo in all of my tomato beds. DIY trellising is uber-efficient and less expensive. It also allows for easy pruning, good air circulation, and good fruit maturity, as it allows sun to sit on individual tomato fruits, ripening and sweetening them up. There are lots of other options for trellising, as well – re-using a fence, for instance. If you have supportive items like this around, use them. If not, build your own.

Tomato trellis

To Build: You need 5 lengths of 6-foot bamboo. Crossing two pieces of bamboo, tie string about 5-inches down, creating a small “X” at one end. Once tied, splay the bamboo apart, making a large “X” – these will act as the foundation for the trellis. Do this twice and position the the bamboo legs about 5 feet apart in the bed. Position the remaining piece of 6-foot bamboo across the frame and voila! A super durable, strong trellis in which to trail over vining plants.

To Support Tomatoes: Use garden twine and loosely make a knot around the main stem of the tomato, winding the string up to the top of the bamboo and tying off. Do this in one or two places along the main stem, gently twisting the tomato plant around the string for extra support and VOILA. Tomato support!

Watering Tomatoes
For heat-loving tomato plants, it’s smart to water in the morning before you leave for work. Watering in the morning leaves time for plants to soak it up before the heat of day and evaporation take over. Watering in the evening results in a drop in soil temperature which these heat-lovers do not appreciate. You wouldn’t like to go to sit outside in wet socks at night time, would you? Same, same.

Keep me posted on all of your tomato successes and failures. Have a great tip? Be sure to post it in the comments.

[One last note -some people (like me) find the leaves of tomato plants highly irritable to their skin. For this reason, I always, always wear gloves when dealing with tomato plants.]

Garden to Glass :: An Evening of Botanical Cocktails & Herb Inspiration at Swanson’s Nursery

Hey Seattle – do you have plans this Thursday?!! The weather has been so lovely and summer is here in all her glory, so it’s time to get outside and get growing in the gardens. Come join me this Thursday at Swanson’s Nursery for an exclusive INVITE ONLY EVENT, where I’ll be shaking up a refreshing & herbaceous beverage and signing copies of Fresh Pantry! Get your personal invite here.

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 9.32.04 AM

Over the years, interest in urban gardening has continued to grow and I’m thrilled to be part of a movement that gets people out in their gardens and into their yards to grow their own food. Even more thrilled when they love to cook with it! Come learn how to maximize your herb garden and make use of those prolific perennial plants.

This Thursday, join me, Swanson’s and the distillers from Sound Spirits for a festive evening event, Garden to Glass. This evening of botanical cocktails features cocktail demonstrations, botanical infused waters, an herb planting station and several of Seattle’s delicious food trucks.

The Garden to Glass event will be an opportunity for people to:

  • Learn more about planting & using herbs
  • Get inspired & learn a few cocktail recipes
  • Relax on the gorgeous and peaceful grounds of Swanson’s
  • Shop for your home garden

This event is 21 and over and you must RSVP HERE, so Swanson’s can send you a super VIP invite!

You can find us here on Thursday from 6-9pm:
9701 15th Avenue NW