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Manila Polo Club Brandy Julep

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labeled julep

The Kentucky Derby is just over a week away, so this week and next I’m going to be making mint juleps.  But these aren’t your standard bourbon mint juleps. These have a twist. Believe it or not there isn’t one ounce of bourbon anywhere in them. They’re made with cognac instead. If you’re a classicist though, and will only drink a julep made with bourbon, I can still help as I made the original a couple years ago.

But back to this version, which comes from Charles H. Baker. He discovered it in the Philippines in 1926. Then again in ’31 and ’32 and he says he never forgot it.  Because he never forgot it, he chose to include it in his Gentleman’s Companion drinking book so that we could enjoy it today. And let me tell you, it is definitely one enjoyable cocktail.

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While I love the bourbon version, the combination of cognac and rum definitely give this one a tropical feel. But it wouldn’t be a julep without the mint. Thankfully there is plenty of mint in this cocktail. And when it’s muddled with sugar and a little water, that mint permeates through the whole cocktail from top to bottom. You can taste it in the cognac, you can taste it in the rum and you can taste it through all of the shaved ice. It’s that mint flavor that plants this tropical cocktail squarely in the Julep category. Add some cherries or pineapple as a garnish and you have a great cocktail that’s perfect for any day of the week, but especially Derby Day.

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Manila Polo Club Brandy Julep

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3-3/4 ounces cognac
  • 1 ounce water
  • 8 sprigs of fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons of a good aged rum
  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Dissolve the sugar in the water in a silver julep cup. Add half the mint to the cup and lightly muddle them.
  2. Fill the cup with crushed ice. Pour in the cognac. Skewer a couple cherries on a toothpick and add them to the cup. Float the rum on top and add the rest of the mint for the garnish. Add a short straw and serve.

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When I was growing up, every year for Mother’s Day my sister and I would wake up early and make breakfast for my mom, and ideally serve it to her in bed. Yes, it was usually something simple like cereal, but every so often we’d be adventurous and make pancakes. While my own children aren’t yet old enough to make me breakfast in bed, maybe yours are and this creamy oatmeal is not only easy to make, it’s the perfect choice.

Chex

I’ve always loved oatmeal. Yes, it takes a little longer to make than a bowl of cereal, but it’s warm and thick and creamy. That creaminess comes from both the kind of oats you use and the liquid you cook them in. I like the Chex oatmeal but I know those steel cut oats are also very popular. I’ve always boiled my oats with water, but my mother always made hers with milk.  This recipe from Food and Wine calls for cream and almond milk. I’m sure that combo makes it taste amazing, but since I like to try and be healthy whenever possible, I decided to use low fat milk and coconut milk. This combination not only made it healthier, it also made it creamy and gave the oatmeal a subtle coconut flavor. It was delicious!

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Once you have the basic bowl of oatmeal made, you can add whatever toppings you like: butter, nuts, fruit, brown sugar, anything. I always go with brown sugar, butter and sliced almonds.  My mom and dad always add fresh fruit, but I know some people prefer dried fruit. That’s what I love about this breakfast choice though: as long as you have your basic cereal, you can add or take away whatever you like. Maybe for the special day you can cook up a basic bowl of oatmeal and then bring your mom a mini salad bar of toppings so she can choose what to add. However you decide to serve her, this oatmeal will bring a smile to her face and definitely get Mother’s Day started off on the right foot.

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Coconut Oatmeal with Dried Cherries (adapted from Food and Wine)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, soak the dried cherries in warm water and let stand until plumped and softened, about 15 minutes. Drain the cherries and discard the water.
  2. While the cherries soak, combine the milk, coconut milk and water and bring to a boil. Stir 
in the oats, cinnamon, 
allspice and salt. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the oats are al dente and the cereal is creamy, about 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in the cherries, brown sugar and almonds. Sprinkle with a little more sugar and almonds and serve.

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If you’re anything like me you spent plenty of your college days (or nights) at bars pounding your fair share of Kamikaze shots. They were waaaaay better than tequila shots and had the same effect – quick intoxication. But I’ve long since left my college days behind me and with them the shots. I don’t need a quick buzz anymore. With age comes wisdom and these days I prefer to sip my drinks. Since I don’t normally do shots as part of my classic cocktails, you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about the Kamikaze. Well, it turns out this drink wasn’t always a shot.

The Kamikaze is a recent creation (it’s from the mid-70’s!) but it was originally conceived as a cocktail you sipped. While I don’t know how it went from a cocktail to a shot, I do know that the reason behind it’s original form is because it’s a close relative to the mid-century Balalaika. The Balalaika is pretty much the same cocktail as the Kamikaze with one exception: the juice.  The Kamikaze uses lime juice, but the Balalaika uses lemon. Other than that, these two cocktails are identical.

It’s interesting what a difference in flavor a little juice makes. The lime-flavored Kamikaze is definitely more subtle (which is probably why it’s become such a popular shot). That’s not to say that you can’t taste the citrus juice, believe me you can, it just doesn’t hit you over the head the way the Balalaika does. Since lime juice isn’t as tart as lemon juice, the Kamikaze tastes significantly sweeter even though there isn’t an ounce of sugar or simple syrup in there.

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Both are obvious choices during the spring and summer months because of the bright citrus that each uses.  But unlike the margarita or gin rickey (also good spring and summer options) the citrus really shines in the Balalaika and Kamikaze because it’s being paired with vodka instead of tequila or gin. Those other liquors have very distinct flavors which is why the citrus often takes a back seat. But in both the Kamikaze and the Balalaika the citrus takes center stage because vodka has such a neutral flavor.  It’s that neutrality that allows the citrus to be magnified and so enjoyed in a completely different way. And oh, how I enjoy them.

There’s no question, I prefer to experience all those delicious flavors that I was missing simply because I chose a shot over a cocktail glass.  Never again. Try the Balalaika or even the more recent Kamikaze as a cocktail. Like me, I guarantee you’ll never go back.

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Balalaika

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 3/4 oz. Cointreau
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

Kamikaze

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 3/4 oz. Cointreau
  • 3/4 oz. lime juice

Directions:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

Mango Matzoh Brei

Posted by Jenn. Comment (0).

labeled fried matzoh

The first night of Passover is Friday. That means as of sundown no more leavened bread for eight days. So, no bread, no pancakes, no french toast, no crackers, no cereal… you get the picture. While I can make do with matzoh sandwiches over the long week, the one thing that’s always hard for me to get through is breakfast.

I love breakfast. Pancakes, french toast, even a boring bowl of cereal brings a smile to my face. But during Passover, I can’t have any of those things because they all have yeast. Sure, I can fry up an egg or have some yogurt, but that’s not usually enough for me.  I like big breakfasts, especially on the weekend. There’s nothing better than bagels with lox and cream cheese, or a huge stack of pancakes swimming in butter and syrup.  Well, for a week, I have to go without.  So, what do I have instead? Why fried matzoh of course.

I grew up having fried matzoh. Almost every morning of Passover my mom would get up and make us a big batch for breakfast. It’s like a salty pancake and I love it. As a matter of fact, when it comes to matzoh brei (fried matzoh) I only know it as a savory dish.  But Fine Cooking showed me it could be a sweet dish too.

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See, there are so many different varieties of matzoh (egg, salted, thin or plain), you can pretty much turn the unleavened cracker into anything. I’ve tried them all and the plain is my favorite because it’s the most versatile. You can put cheese on it, make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or mash it up and coat a nice piece of salmon.  I’ve done all these things, but I never thought of adding sugar and syrup until Fine Cooking suggested it.

Adding that sugar and syrup opened up a whole new world to me. It made the matzoh sweet. It turned this classic cracker that’s often served with cheese or horseradish into something almost resembling dessert or a sweet breakfast treat. Adding fruit made it even better and excited me to no end. See, now I can go back and forth the week of Passover. Some mornings I can enjoy a savory matzoh brei, while on others I can have a sweet version. This way I won’t get bored and neither will you.

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Mango Matzoh Brei (adapted from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients:

  • 5 sheets unsalted matzoh
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 mango, peeled and chopped

Directions:

  1. Break the matzoh into little pieces. Place the matzoh pieces in a bowl with 1 cup of hot water and let soak for 2-3 minutes until mushy. Drain the water and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, orange juice, sugar and salt until well combined. Add the matzoh and toss to coat.
  3. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the mixture to the skillet and cook, stirring constantly until the eggs are set, about 3 minutes. Stir in the mango and continue to cook patting down into a pancake until the edges are golden brown.  Serve with mint leaves and syrup.

Income Tax Cocktail

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labeled income tax

I have some bad news. Today, unfortunately, is tax day. Yes, it’s the most dreaded day of the year. It’s the day when we as Americans must tally up all earnings over the past year, fill out that awful little (or not so little) form and discover if we’re paying the government or if the government is paying us. Either way, it’s a day that’s definitely about drinking. Or at least it should be.

So, since in all likelihood you’ll be drinking no matter what (to drown your sorrows or to celebrate) I wanted to introduce you to the classic ’20’s cocktail that was actually named after this event. Yes, it is in fact that Income Tax Cocktail.

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Though no one knows for sure who created the drink, it’s believed that the cocktail received it’s moniker because, much like tax season, it holds a few surprises. Similar to the original martini, this drink is comprised of both gin and vermouth. But instead of one vermouth, this drink has two: both sweet and dry. And the surprises keep on coming: there’s also has a healthy shot of orange juice and a dash or two of bitters; ’cause let’s be honest, those tax forms always, always leave a bitter taste in your mouth.

Don’t let the bitters scare you though. Much like the bitter taste of tax season, the bitter taste of this cocktail only lasts a moment. It’s those shots of citrus and sweet vermouth that will keep you coming back for more day after day or in the case of tax season, year after year. Hey, that’s a cool idea. Since we have to do our taxes every year, part of the process should absolutely include mixing up an Income Tax Cocktail or two; because while this event is the bane of everyone’s existence, sipping the Income Tax will make the whole process a little easier to swallow.

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Income Tax Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 oz. gin
  • 3/4 oz. dry vermouth
  • 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 3/4 oz. fresh orange juice
  • 1 – 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Directions:

  1. Pour all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds.
  2. Strain into a cocktail coupe, add a twist of orange peel for garnish and serve.