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Caprice

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We’re coming to the end of April. But you know that that means… May flowers! Remember? April showers bring May flowers? But those showers also bring spring, and spring means lighter, fruity cocktails. When I think of lighter cocktails I think about gin, vodka and maybe even rum… after all you can’t go through spring and summer without a tiki cocktail or two. That’s where the Caprice comes in.

If you’re a martini fan (which I am, though I usually drink mine dirty) then you’ll probably love this cocktail. Unlike the classic, the Caprice isn’t as clean as the original drink. Yes, it still uses gin and dry vermouth, but that’s where the similarities end. See, the Caprice takes the martini one step further: it adds orange bitters and an herbal flourish thanks to some Benedictine. As I said, I like my martinis dirty (which means I add a splash of olive juice to the concoction), so switching out a splash of olive juice for a splash of Benedictine sounded like an interesting twist on one of my favorite drinks.

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If you’ve never heard of this classic before, that’s okay, I hadn’t either. Of course, since I like to post classic cocktails and I’ve done most of the ones we all know and love, I’ve started to dig deeper. Digging has uncovered some delicious drinks of which the Caprice is just one example. Hyman Gale and Gerald Marco ran Marco’s liquor store in Chicago, where they imported wine and spirits. Being liquor connoisseurs, it’s safe to assume these gentlemen knew a thing or two about booze, which is presumably why they published The How and When cocktail book. While there’s no proof that these two created the drink, since it’s listed in their now out-of-print book, I think it’s safe to assume it’s theirs.

But back to those April showers. Since they do tend to produce so many May flowers as well as plenty of other greenery, the herbaceous nature of this drink makes it the ideal cocktail to take you from the warm breezes of spring all the way through those hot nights of summer.

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The Caprice

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce Benedictine
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • dash of orange bitters

Directions:

  1. Pour all the ingredients into a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until chilled.
  2. Strain into a coupe glass, add an orange twist and serve.

Mapo Pork with Bok Choy

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I have a confession to make: I’m an addict. A food magazine addict. It’s true… I have tons and tons of food magazines. They’re mostly Fine Cooking, but there are also a few Better Homes and Gardens, some Food and Wine‘s as well as two or three America’s Test Kitchens. I’ve used them all and for some reason I just can’t bare to get rid of them, mainly because I continue to go back to them for recipes or dinner ideas.

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One such recipe is this delicious Mapo Pork with Bok Choy. It came from one of my Food & Wine‘s and is utterly delicious. But better than that, it’s super easy to make. All you need is some ground pork, a few heads of bok choy and some Asian sauces.  It’s really just an easy way to have some Chinese food in your home without having to order in.

If you’re worried about where you can get bok choy, you’re not alone. I love bok choy but was never sure where to find it. I had it all the time when I got Chinese food, and I love it on it’s own. I’ve even had it as the main greens in salads. But where could I buy some? There is one vendor at my farmer’s market who sells it. There are Asian markets of course, but unfortunately there aren’t that many near me. Then one day an amazing thing happened. While in the produce department at my local grocery store I spotted a pile of bok choy. A whole bunch! So, now whenever I’m in the mood for sautéed bok choy, this pork recipe or even just a salad, I run to Ralphs and grab some. It’s that easy for me, which means it’s probably that easy for you.

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So, while I have piles and piles of magazines, and a corner of my kitchen that’s covered in recipes, it turns out those piles are actually good for something. They allow me to occasionally flip through the stacks and find new recipes or if I have a specific craving, they let me revisit some of my old favorites. And that’s why I keep all those magazines. They may be from two or three years ago, but they all have at least one or two recipes I love and continue to go back to again and again.

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Mapo Pork with Bok Choy (adapted from Food & Wine)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced on the angle
  • 4 heads of baby bok choy, halved lengthwise

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the cornstarch and one cup of water in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the pork and a generous pinch of salt, and stir, breaking up the meat, until crumbly and browned, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic, hoisin and soy sauces and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the sliced scallions and set aside.
  4. While the pork cooks, add about an inch of water to a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Add the bok choy, cover and steam until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer the bok choy to 4 plates. Spoon the pork mixture over the bok choy, sprinkle with more sliced scallions and serve.

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I love this time of year because all the fresh berries and stone fruits are coming back in season. The first fruit that lets you know summer is coming are strawberries. There are so many different things you can do with strawberries: from eating them right off the vine as a snack to mixing them into cake or muffin batters. But did you know you don’t have to limit yourself to sweets when cooking with strawberries? Turns out they’re great in savory dinner dishes as well.

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While strawberries are perfect for fruit salads and desserts because they’re sweet, it’s actually that sweetness that makes them great for savory recipes. So, you can understand why I was ecstatic to find a chicken recipe from Eating Well magazine that used those bright, red berries and turned them into a delicious relish, which was then spooned over the top of the chicken.

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I really liked this relish because unlike savory salsas or relishes, this one is sweet and really lets you know spring is here. It’s that pop of sweetness, that wonderful berry flavor, that actually enhances the saltiness from the chicken. The fact that the chicken is covered with an herb crust makes this relish even better because it brightens those herb flavors, and ties the whole dish together, turning it into the perfect spring dinner.

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Herb-Crusted Chicken with Strawberry Relish

Ingredients:

  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups strawberries, hulled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Place the olive oil, oregano, 1 tablespoon of the chopped chives, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat.
  3. Place the herb-coated chicken in a roasting pan and roast until no longer pink, 35 – 45 minutes.
  4. While the chicken cooks, make the relish by combining the strawberries, lime zest, sugar, vinegar, remaining chives and a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl.
  5. Once the chicken is done, spoon the relish over the thighs and serve immediately.

Bunny Tail Scones

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When I think of Easter I think of jelly beans, dying Easter eggs, and lots and lots of chocolate. All these things are what the kids look forward to over the Easter weekend. But while they’re thinking about where they’re going to find their next plastic egg, I’m thinking about what to serve for either dinner or brunch. In the past I’ve made Spiced Lamb Kabobs and Scotch Eggs, both of which are great for dinner. But I know that a lot of people serve a big brunch on Easter so they have the rest of the day to hunt for eggs and eat chocolate. For that reason, this year I decided to make something that was more breakfast worthy. Something that’s sweet and goes great with coffee or tea.

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These little scones are super easy to make and would be great for any spring brunch. But what makes them perfect for Easter is the coconut. Not only is it throughout the scone itself, but then some sweet, shredded coconut is sprinkled on top. It’s that coconut on top that turns your basic scone into cute little cotton tails. Because they look like little bunny tails, they’re perfect for the bunny holiday.

Now, I’m not usually a scone person. If I have my choice on a breakfast treat, I usually go for a muffin because muffins tend to be sweeter and moister. They also usually have fruit in them. Scones tend to be on the drier side since they use double the flour. Sure, you can make them sweet by adding a sweet glaze, but they’re just not the same. Well, that all changed when I saw these little scones in a magazine. They were so cute, I just had to try them, especially since they have coconut all through them. (I’m a huge coconut fan.) For those reasons, I was willing to break my muffin tradition and try a new breakfast treat.

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The result was awesome. Yes, they’re still scones which means they’re still on the drier side. But the two different kinds of coconut combined with the lemon glaze on top give these scones a sweet, tart, tropical flavor that’s perfect for spring. So, while they’re ideal for the Easter holiday, they’re really a great addition to any spring brunch, and a scone I’m inclined to make again and again.

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Bunny Tail Scones (adapted from Ralphs)

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and unsweetened coconut. Then, using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until it’s crumbly.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla and coconut extracts. Mix it all into the flour mixture until just combined. Then lightly knead the dough until there’s no flour left.
  4. Divide the dough into 24 pieces and form into little balls. Place each ball onto the cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, 16-18 minutes. Let cool.
  5. While the scones bake, make the glaze by whisking together the lemon juice and powdered sugar in a medium bowl until a thick glaze forms, set aside. Place the sweetened, shredded coconut in a medium bowl and set aside.
  6. Dip the tops of the cooled scones into the glaze and then the shredded coconut, pressing it into place to make sure it sticks. These scones will last in an airtight container for at least 5 days.

The Epilogue Cocktail

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I’m a huge fan of Instagram. Like the thousands of people out there who also use the app, I love taking pictures of my food and posting them to share. But I also like following all my favorite bloggers and seeing what they’re making or where they’re eating. The app has given me some great ideas for dinner recipes or new twists on classic desserts. The recipes aren’t just limited to food, though. There are scores and scores of stunning photos of vintage and new cocktails as well.

One Instagrammer, Mike of @mmydrinks, has done a couple month-long events where several other cocktail Instagrammers create or copy a specific kind of cocktail and post those photos for a certain amount of time. He told me about January’s “Tiki the Snow Away” from @homebargirl, Dani DeLuna, and he picked 12 other cocktail enthusiasts to participate in his version of the 12 Days of Christmas, 12 Days of Cocktails. I not only enjoyed seeing all the creations, but discovering new drink aficionados who are also on Instagram. Well, Mike decided to do another cocktail event and this time he asked if I wanted to be involved. Of course I jumped at the chance, especially when I heard the cocktail was The Last Word.

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I love The Last Word. It’s a delicious classic that’s a perfect bridge from winter to spring because it’s made with gin, lime juice, maraschino and green Chartreuse. See, gin is a great spring and summer liquor because it’s light and goes so well with so many mixers. But it’s also a great winter cocktail since it uses an equal amount of lime juice which is a classic winter fruit. Combine the gin and lime with the maraschino and Chartreuse and you have a luscious cocktail to take you from winter’s citrus season to spring’s gin and cherry season. But that’s the original. Sure, I could have easily remade the original for the Last Word event, but what fun would that be? Instead, I chose to put my own spin on this classic because it’s events like these that really get my cocktail juices (pun intended) flowing.

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Earlier this week I made a macaroon that used both lime zest and dried cherries. They were quite good and proved that coconut, limes and cherries go really well together. So, since the original drink already had lime juice and maraschino liqueur in it, it seemed clear that a coconut liquor would blend quite well, and the only coconut liquor I know of is coconut rum. But I didn’t want Malibu Rum because it’s made with rum and coconut liqueur. I wanted a rum that was flavored with coconut. After doing a little research, I discovered Bacardi’s Coconut Rum is considered a very good coconut rum. It’s not too sweet, but definitely has a distinct coconut flavor and so was exactly what I needed. I chose the yellow chartreuse instead of the green because the yellow is a lower proof and is slightly sweeter so compliments the coconut rum quite well.

How did I come up with the title? Well, I chose Epilogue since an epilogue is the last chapter of a novel or the final speech given by an actor at the end of a play. It’s the final thought; the last thing someone reads or hears. Yes, I changed a couple of ingredients but the essence of the original cocktail remained the same. Hence instead of a Last Word, you have an Epilogue; the two drinks are similar but just different enough.

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Epilogue Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 ounces Bacardi Coconut Rum
  • 3/4 ounce lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce Maraschino liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce yellow Chartreuse

Directions:

  1. Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously until chilled, about 15 seconds.
  2. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a lime-wrapped maraschino cherry. Serve immediately.