Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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The Lush Chef
Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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Dec 27, 2012

Spiced Pear Margarita

For New Year's Eve, I'll be in tucked away in a log cabin in Big Bear with a few of my close girl friends.  There will be plenty of champagne and good wine, and of course, a specialty cocktail to ring in the new year.  All of us love our margaritas, so I'll be making this winter version from The Kitchn that uses pear and holiday spices.  If you plan on making this libation, be sure to start preparing the simple syrup a couple of days in advance so the spices have time to steep.  For the pear brandy or eau-de-vie, I used J Pear Liqueur by J Wine Company, which the fine folks at K&L Wine Merchants highly recommended.  Here's to a new year and plenty more Lush Chef treats!

Spiced Pear Margarita
Ingredients for the spiced simple syrup:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 8 whole cloves
Ingredients for the spiced sugar:
  • 1/2 cup fine granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
Ingredients for the cocktail:
  • 1 1/2 oz silver tequila (I used Patrón)
  • 3/4 oz pear brandy (I used J Pear Liqueur)
  • 1 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 oz spiced syrup
To make the spiced simple syrup:
- In a small sauce pan, add all the ingredients, stir and bring to a boil.
- Lower heat to medium-low so it simmers for about 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let cool before transferring to a container in the fridge.
- Let the ingredients steep for 24-48 hours and strain the spices.

To prepare the garnish:
- In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
- Take a chilled coupe and lightly dip the rim in the simple syrup.
- Dip the glass in the spiced sugar and set aside.

To make the cocktail:
- In a shaker filled with ice, add all the ingredients.
- Shake and strain into your prepared glass.

Dec 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Today the Lush Chef is doing some much-needed relaxing with her family, and I hope all of you are as well.  But if you're in dire need of some Christmas cocktail recipes, here are a few of my favorites to sip on.  They're all hot cocktails, so hopefully you're in a cold climate, and even if you're not, they're sure to keep that holiday cheer going.

Eggnog spiked with your favorite cognac, rum, whiskey, bourbon or brandy
- Wassail Punch with bourbon or whiskey
Mexican Hot Chocolate with tequila
- Hot Apple Toddy with Applejack
- Whiskey Chai with rye whiskey
- Hot Pumpkin Buttered Rum with dark rum

Dec 20, 2012

Chocolate Eggnog Cupcakes

Libations used: 1 1/2 tsp bourbon...
Libations left over: Add some bourbon to a warm cup of eggnog...
I have been on a baking spree this month.  Thank goodness I have tons of amazing people in my life to give all these sweet treats too.  My co-workers were the lucky recipients of these Chocolate Eggnog Cupcakes adapted from Completely Delicious.  The cake includes coffee to really bring out the chocolate flavor.  I brewed up a small pot of some French Roast coffee, and actually used a little less in this recipe so the batter wouldn't be too runny.  For the buttercream, I added some of my homemade eggnog, which was already spiced with vanilla bean, nutmeg and cinnamon.  If you can use homemade eggnog, as opposed to store-bought, your buttercream will just have this richer, more complex flavor.  I added in my favorite Bulleit bourbon for a boozy kick, but feel free to use cognac, dark rum or brandy.  To give these cupcakes an added holiday flair, sprinkle a little nutmeg and white sanding sugar on top for spice and sparkle.
Chocolate Eggnog Cupcakes - makes 16-18
Ingredients for the cake:
  • 1/2 cup hot coffee
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup and 2 Tbs sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
Ingredients for the buttercream:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp bourbon (I used Bulleit)
  • 2-4 Tbs eggnog (I used 2)
To make the cupcakes:
- Preheat oven to 350 and line your muffin pan with cupcake liners.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the coffee and cocoa powder until it's smooth.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg, egg yolk and sugar and mix on medium-high speed with the paddle attachment until the mixture is a pale yellow.
- Add the sour cream and mix until well combined.
- Add the vegetable oil and combine well.
- Add all of the flour mixture and mix until well combined.
- Add the coffee and chocolate mixture and combine well, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.
- Fill your cupcake liners about 2/3 full with batter and bake for 12-15 minutes.
- Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

To make the buttercream:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter.
- Add the powdered sugar, salt, nutmeg, vanilla and bourbon.
- Add the eggnog 1 Tbs at a time on medium-high speed, until desired consistency.
- Increase the speed to high and beat for a couple of minutes until it's smooth.
- Frost the cupcakes and garnish with more nutmeg, white or silver sanding sugar, chocolate or snowflake sprinkles (get creative)!

Dec 18, 2012


It's been a rainy couple of weeks in LA and sometimes that can put a damper on one's holiday spirit, but nothing beats a warming spiced drink to turn that around.  I came back from the Sunday farmers' market a little damp and chilled, and all I was craving was a warm mug of eggnog.  This recipe comes from Michael Mina, and once you start making it at home, you'll never want to drink the store-bought stuff again.  It's so much creamier than anything you'd get in the store, and it's rich enough to serve for a holiday dessert.  It would probably also make for some killer French toast.  I think I just drooled typing that.  To Lush Chef this up, add your favorite dark spirit.  I used Rémy Martin cognac, but you can add brandy, dark rum, bourbon or whiskey.
Eggnog - serves 4
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise & scraped
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup cognac, brandy, rum, bourbon or whiskey (I used Rémy Martin cognac)

- In a large pot over medium heat, add the cream, milk, sugar and salt.
- Add the vanilla bean seeds and pod into the milk mixture.
- Simmer gently until the sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes).
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until slightly thick and bright yellow.
- Using a ladle, add about half of the milk mixture a little at a time to temper the egg yolks.  If you do this too quickly, they'll get scrambled...
- Return the tempered eggs back into the large pot and whisk over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  If you feel like the mixture is too thick, you can add some more milk.
- Run the eggnog through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl.
- Add the nutmeg, cinnamon and your spirit of choice.
- Serve immediately and feel free to top with whipped cream and nutmeg.

Dec 13, 2012

Whiskey Chai

I'm all about hot cocktails in the wintertime. It's the perfect way to warm up and unwind after coming in from the cold.  And yes, us Angelenos do get chilly!  It may only be in the 50's here, but our blood is thinner, so cut us a break.  During the holidays, my mom and I love to drink chai, but we've always just bought tea bags of it and never actually made it from scratch.  This recipe from Saveur for Bourbon Chai uses whole spices to make a slightly sweet and fragrant tea that's perfect for drinking on it's own.  I actually had all of these spices on hand because they're frequent ingredients for my cocktail bitters.  I highly recommend going the whole spice route and busting out your mortar and pestle.  You get a much richer flavor as opposed to using ground spices, and it makes the straining process much easier.  I used Tazo's Awake tea, which is a very simple black tea with no overpowering flavor notes.  Instead of bourbon, I opted for Redemption Rye Whiskey because it has a spicy finish that pairs nicely with the chai.  They also make a high-rye bourbon, which I have yet to try.  This recipe makes more than a pitcherful of tea, so it's perfect to serve at holiday parties.  I would recommend letting people add in their own spirit, so you have a boozy and non-boozy option for a warming drink.

Whiskey Chai - serves 8-10
  • 8 bags black tea, paper and strings removed (I used Tazo's Awake)
  • 8 green cardamom pods, crushed 
  • 8 whole allspice berries, crushed
  • 8 whole black peppercorns, crushed
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 whole nutmeg, chopped
  • 2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 6 cups hot water
  • 6 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup honey or agave syrup
  • 1 cup rye whiskey (I used Redemption) or bourbon if adding in beforehand or 1 oz per serving
- In a 4 quart saucepan or Dutch oven, add the tea, spices, ginger, vanilla bean seeds and pod and hot water.
-Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
- Add the almond milk and honey/agave, whisking to combine.
- Return to a simmer.
- Remove from heat and allow it to steep for about 10-15 minutes.
- Strain through a fine-mesh sieve or a cheesecloth (I put a big piece over my pitcher and fastened it with a rubberband).
- Press down on the solids or squeeze the cheesecloth to extract those spicy flavors.
- Add in the whiskey or bourbon and serve.  If you want to get fancy, top with whipped cream and sprinkle a little nutmeg or cinnamon on top.

Dec 11, 2012

Hot-Spiced Bourbon Balls

Libations used: 1/4 cup bourbon
Libations left over: Well, these cookies are like doing a shot, but if you need a festive drink, then make this Wassail Punch...
Last weekend, I was on my Christmas cookie-making bender, and there are always two treats I try to make - my mom's snowflake sugar cookies and Rum Balls.  Those no-bake, booze-laced treats were always a hit at parties and the office.  When I saw a variation on that cookie with these Hot-Spiced Bourbon Balls from, I just had to try the recipe.  Everyone knows how the Lush Chef loves her bourbon and I liked the blend of cayenne pepper with holiday spaces.  For those who don't have a handle on the whole baking thing, then these cookies are your ticket for all those holiday cookie exchanges and potlucks.  There's no oven involved and these can be whipped up in less than an hour.  The hardest part is perhaps rolling the mixture into balls.  I find it's easier to pulse the cookies and nuts so they're a finer texture (I could have pulsed mine a little longer, frankly), and if you feel like the mixture is too dry, then add a tiny bit more molasses and bourbon.  A little trick in forming the balls is to put an entire handful of the mixture into your palm and work it down as some pieces fall off.  If you like more of a chocolate flavor, you can dust the cookies in a mixture of cocoa powder and confectioner's sugar.

Hot-Spiced Bourbon Balls - makes 20-24
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (I used Wild Turkey 101 proof)
  • 2 Tbs molasses, honey, cane syrup or sorghum syrup
  • 1 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar, divided
  • 2 Tbs cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (use 1/4 if you can't handle the spice)
  • 1/4 tsp ground mace (or nutmeg)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 oz vanilla wafers (almost a whole box of Nabisco vanilla wafers)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
- In a small bowl, whisk together the bourbon and molasses until well combined.
- In a large bowl, sift together 1 cup of the confectioner's sugar with the cocoa powder, cayenne, mace, cinnamon and salt.
- Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the bourbon mixture until a smooth paste forms.
- In a food processor, pulse the wafers into fine crumbs.
- Add the wafers and pecans into the bourbon mixture and stir until it's kind of doughy and workable.
- Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and then roll them in the remaining confectioner's sugar.
- Store in an air-tight container on sheets of waxed paper in the fridge for up to four days.

Dec 6, 2012

Pear & Bourbon Punch

'Tis the season for endless holiday parties and if you happen to be hosting one, stand out with a punch. Yes, it's great to have a plethora of wine and beer, but if someone wants hard liquor at your party, then you really don't want to be juggling host/hostess duties with making individual cocktails.  And when the punch runs out, the punch runs out.  It'll save you from having to raid your liquor cabinet or home bar.  This year for Thanksgiving, I made a Pear and Bourbon Punch from a 2010 Tasting Table Thanksgiving menu that was refreshing and perfect for the holidays. The Etienne Dupont Cidre Triple that I picked up at Whole Foods even had a tag saying it was best served with turkey (fate!).  I anticipated some heavy drinking at this outdoors Venice dinner party so I doubled the recipe, but I've posted just one batch below.  Because I like my punch to er...have a punch, I added in more bourbon (their recipe uses just 2/3 cup).  Needless to say, this drink goes down easy, and it's sure to stand out amongst all those holiday soirees.

Pear & Bourbon Punch - serves 8
  • 4 cups cold pear juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup bourbon (I used Bulleit)
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • One 750 ml bottle of chilled, dry French-style sparkling hard cider (I used Etienne Dupont Cidre Triple)
- In a large pitcher or punch bowl, add the pear juice, lemon juice, bourbon and honey and stir until the honey is completely dissolved.
- Add the sparkling hard cider and stir.  Serve immediately!

Dec 4, 2012

Spiced Squash Bisque

Libations used: 1/2 cup cognac
Libations left over: None, sip on some cognac after dinner...
I absolutely love making soups in the winter, and pretty much prepare one every week or two.  They're perfect for those cold days and I tend to pack my freezer with little containers of soup to get me through the busy days.  I have a Butternut Squash Soup recipe that I usually make, but there's no liquor in it, so why would I post it here?  I had saved a recipe from Tasting Table that was sent out last fall for a Spiced Hubbard Squash Bisque that has some cognac and plenty of winter spices that remind me of Christmas.  If you're looking for a healthy soup, then stop reading now.  I mean, it's bisque and be prepared to use tons of butter, milk and creme fraiche.  If you're looking for something hot, rich and comforting for the holidays, then keep reading.  I couldn't find any Hubbard squash at the market and stores, so opted for Butternut instead.  It's a little labor intensive because you have to roast the squash first and deal with a blender twice, but it's worth it if you have time on your hands to prepare a special meal for Christmas Eve or Day.

Spiced Squash Bisque - serves 8
Ingredients for the Bisque:
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • One 5 lb squash, cut in half with seeds removed
  • 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • Salt & freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup of cognac (I used Remy Martin)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 Tbs cinnamon
  • 2 Tbs nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
Ingredients for the Nutmeg Creme Fraiche:
  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 Tbs nutmeg
  • 1 Tbs cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs fresh chives, finely chopped
  • Salt & freshly ground white pepper
To make the Bisque:
- Preheat oven to 375.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the butter until it has melted and begun to brown (about 5-7 minutes).
- Remove from heat and set aside.
- Place the squash halves on a sheet pan and drizzle with 2 Tbs of the olive oil.
- Season with salt and white pepper.
- Roast in the oven for 60-80 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender. Scoop out the flesh and discard skins, when cooled.
- Puree the squash in a blender or pass through a food mill and set aside.
- In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the remaining 2 Tbs of olive oil, onion, garlic and thyme, and cook until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).
- Add the cognac and cook until the liquid is reduced by half (about 6-8 minutes).
- Add the squash and mix well.
- Add the milk, brown butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and reduce the heat to low.
- Cook for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
- Add the vegetable stock and bring the bisque to a simmer.
- Carefully transfer the bisque to a blender and puree.
- Add the bisque back to the pot over low heat, and season with salt and pepper.

To make the Nutmeg Creme Fraiche:
- In a small bowl, add the creme fraiche, nutmeg, cinnamon, chives, salt and white pepper and thoroughly combine.

- Divide the bisque into bowls and garnish with a dollop of the nutmeg creme fraiche and a few chopped pieces of chives.

Nov 29, 2012

Hot Pumpkin Buttered Rum

Halloween and Thanksgiving may be over, but I'm still in the pumpkin mood.  It's only just now starting to feel like fall in LA, so we're a little bit behind on the seasons.  I adapted this recipe for Hot Pumpkin Buttered Rum from The Kitchn for one person, but you can see their version for six people here.  It's buttery, sweet, hot and delicious and perfect for an after-dinner treat on a cold night.  Use a dark rum and feel free to play around with how much hot water you add.  If you really want to dress it up, add some whipped cream and sprinkle some pumpkin pie spice on top.

Hot Pumpkin Buttered Rum - serves 1
  • Just under 1 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Tbs brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1 tsp pumpkin butter
  • 1/6 tsp pumpkin pie spice, plus more for garnish
  • Tiniest pinch of salt
  • 2 oz dark rum (I used Meyers)
  • Hot water
  • Whipped cream, optional
- In a small bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar, pumpkin butter, pumpkin pie spice and salt.
- Combine all the ingredients until there are no lumps of butter and it's nice and creamy.
- Add to a heated mug.
- Add the rum and top with hot water (I used about 4 oz).
- Stir and garnish with more pumpkin pie spice and whipped cream.

Nov 27, 2012

Halibut en Papillote

Libations used: 4 Tbs of white wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with dinner or pour yourself a glass while the fish is cooking...
It's after Thanksgiving and you're probably sick of eating poultry and heavy meals.  It's time for some lighter fare so you can do it all over again during the winter holidays.  And you're probably looking for something fast because you've been spending long hours in the kitchen.  I'd been wanting to try cooking some fish "en papillote" for a while because it's quick and easy.  It means "in parchment" in French, and for all of you out there who are terrified of preparing fish because you tend to overcook it, this might be a great method to try.  I had a huge filet of halibut in the freezer from Santa Monica Seafood that I had been saving, but you can use whatever fish you feel like.

When you're cutting out the parchment paper, make sure you have about 2 inches on each side of the filet so you're able to easily fold the pieces together.  I didn't have enough parchment on hand, so that made things a little difficult.  This is why I try things out for all of you first so you don't make my mistakes!  The ingredients are simple and healthy - lemons, tomatoes, thyme and a little white wine.  I used a variety of fresh heirloom tomatoes from the Farmers' Market — red and black Brandywine and Cherokee Purple, but use whatever you have on hand.  After 15-18 minutes in the oven, it's done and the fish is cooked perfectly.

Halibut en Papillote - serves 2
  • 1 Halibut filet, cut in half
  • 1 medium tomato or 3-4 small ones, diced
  • 1 lemon
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Olive oil
  • 4 Tbs white wine (I had a Sauvignon Blanc chilling in the fridge already)

- Preheat oven to 425.
- Cut out 4 squares of parchment paper that are big enough for there to be 2 inches around each filet.
- Place 2 of the parchment squares on a baking sheet.
- Add a small dollop of olive oil on each square and brush evenly to coat.
- Place a piece of fish on each piece of paper.
- Slice the lemon in half and use one half to squeeze juice on each filet.
- Sprinkle 2 Tbs of wine on each filet.
- Distribute the tomatoes on top of each filet.
- With the remaining half of the lemon, cut 4 slices and place 2 on each piece of fish.
- Put a sprig or two of thyme on top of each piece of fish.
- Oil the other 2 pieces of parchment paper and place them oil side down on top of the fish.
- Bring up the bottom sides and fold twice with the top sides so that they're sealed well.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes.
- Serve filets in the parchment paper, so you can sop up all those yummy juices.

Nov 20, 2012

A Lush Thanksgiving

For the first time in years, I won't be flying home to be with my family for Thanksgiving.  I'm sad to be missing this traditional meal with them and getting the Christmas tree a couple days later, but I'll still be having a delicious dinner and sharing it with people I care about here in SoCal.  I'm sure many of you have already planned out your Thanksgiving menu in it's entirety, and I typically do as well, but this year, the holiday snuck up on me.  Work kept me busy, but I also knew I would only be in charge of one dish and a cocktail, so I didn't need to plan too far in advance.  For those of you still looking for ideas, I bring you a very Lush Thanksgiving, with old family favorites and new recipes.

Preparing such a big meal usually involves getting up pretty early, but you can't make it through the whole day without eating!  Make this Pumpkin Spice Pull-Apart Bread with Rum Glaze a day or two before so you can pop in the oven and serve for breakfast with some fruit on Thanksgiving morning.  

This Roasted Acorn Squash with Amaretto has been on our family Thanksgiving table for about five years now and I don't see it ever leaving.  I mean, there are cookies...and amaretto involved.  It's insanely easy to make and a crowd-pleaser.  There's also barely any squash left by the time we're done with dinner.  

Everyone knows how the Lush Chef loves her bourbon, so why not slather it on your fruits and vegetables?  Go nuts at the farmers' market and gather up some fancy heirloom carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, fennel, apples, persimmons and oranges for a colorful and sweet side dish.    Be creative with your combinations in this recipe for Bourbon, Molasses & Orange-Glazed Fall Fruits & Veggies

If that turkey is still baking and you're just plopped in front of the TV waiting for everything to come together, then shake up this Bourbon, Pear & Ginger Cocktail.  It's one of my new favorites for the fall and is so refreshing.

The only member of my family that loves pumpkin pie is my brother.  The rest of us aren't the biggest fans, so our go-to pie for years has been a Honey Crunch Pecan Pie with Bourbon.  It's insanely rich, but oh-so-good, and is best served hot with a dollop of whipped cream on top.  It's the only time of year I have this pie and I look forward to it each and every time.  And yes, my mom uses Jim Beam in the recipe from a bottle that has probably been above our fridge for a decade now.

Because it's a special holiday, my mom likes to go a bit overboard and bake two pies.  Well, why not?  And if you're having a large group over for dinner, one pie is not going to cut it.  My mom's Dutch Apple Pie is truly my favorite pie ever.  I can't have anyone else's apple pie because it never stacks up to my mom's, and that brown sugar streusel topping is to die for.  I recently started making it Lush Chef style by adding a little brandy.

And if you are a Pumpkin Pie fan, then I highly recommend the recipe from SoHo House in West Hollywood (there's some brandy in it as well).  The filling has a beautiful creamy texture that reminds me more of a pudding than a purée.  You can use your favorite homemade crust or a store-bought one.  And if you prefer your pumpkin pie in drink form, then try this Pumpkin Pie Martini instead!

What better way to celebrate our nation than with this American Trilogy cocktail?  It's a fall twist on the Old Fashioned and is one of my go-to cocktails during this time of year.  It's the perfect after-dinner drink, and the simplicity of it means you won't be playing bartender all night for your friends and family.

Nov 15, 2012

Pumpkin Martinis & Pie

Earlier this week, I attended a pie-making class at SoHo House in West Hollywood (no, I'm not a member...sigh) with a friend.  Not only did their delightful pastry chef lead us through a class on how to make a pumpkin pie, but they also served a small group of us Grey Goose Pumpkin Pie Martinis.  Brand Ambassador Ron Patric shook up some tasty libations that smacked of autumn. It was like dessert in a glass and could easily get one quite tipsy if you weren't too careful.

SoHo House's pastry chef mixed up the pumpkin pie purée while we sipped our cocktails.  She exclaimed there would be no healthy substitutions in this recipe.  If you're going to have pie, then you have to go all the way, which means eggs, heavy cream, sugar...and some brandy.  The crust she used was a Speculoos crust, which I unfortunately don't have the recipe for yet (I'm working on it).  If you haven't had Speculoos before, then go find right now.  It's a spiced cookie that hails from the Netherlands and is finally making it's way to the states in cookie, waffle and butter form.  And it's heaven!  Now, I'm normally not the biggest pumpkin pie fan because of the texture, but I loved this recipe - the pureé is really smooth and creamy.  Maybe it was because the chef used fresh pumpkin pureé (she recommends using the white or lighter-skinned pumpkins) and not the stuff from a can.  Either way, this is a great recipe to bust out just in time for Thanksgiving.  Oh, and be sure to make these cocktails while that pie is baking in the oven...

Pumpkin Pie Martini
  • 1 1/2 oz Grey Goose La Poire
  • 1/2 oz Allspice Dram
  • 1/2 oz Licor 43
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup
  • 1 heaping tsp of pumpkin butter
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • Cinnamon sugar & dried apple chip, for garnish
- Dip your finger into the simple syrup and rub along the outside edge of a martini glass.
- Run the top of the glass in the cinnamon sugar.
- Add all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake.
- Strain into the glass and garnish with the apple chip.

Pumpkin Pie - serves 8-10
  • 1 pre-baked and cooled 10" pie shell
  • 2 cups pumpkin purée
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 oz brandy
  • 1/2 cup dark Muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground mace
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 325.
- Have pie shell ready to be filled.
- Combine the purée, eggs, egg yolk, cream and brandy in a large mixing bowl.
- Whisk until smooth.
- In a small bowl, combine the sugar, ginger, cinnamon, mace, pepper and salt.
- Whisk the sugar and spice mixture into the pumpkin mixture until smooth.
- Pour into your prepared pie shell.
- Bake for about 50 minutes, or until set and lightly browned around the edges.
- Place on cooking rack to set before slicing in!

Nov 13, 2012

Bourbon, Molasses & Orange-Glazed Fall Fruits & Veggies

Libations used: scant 1/2 cup of bourbon...
Libations left over: Make yourself a cocktail like this fall-inspired American Trilogy while everything is cooking...
This past weekend was the first chilly one in LA where I had to turn on the heat and don a hat and fingerless gloves.  Yes, us Angelenos have it pretty easy.  I feel truly blessed to have such an amazing farmers' market close by that always has a wonderful selection of fruits and veggies, no matter what time of year.  Sunday's visit produced a cornucopia's worth of produce.  I just kept adding more to my bag without really thinking about what I was going to do with everything.  After spreading everything out on the table, I decided to do a fun medley of roasted fruits and veggies using a bourbon, molasses and orange glaze recipe from an old Thanksgiving Tasting Table guide.  I had picked up some beautiful purple, yellow and orange fancy carrots from Weiser Family Farms, so I had the base for the recipe, but wanted to jazz it up.  I ended up using a mini butternut squash, a couple of Fuyu persimmons and two heads of fennel, but feel free to get creative.  You can use a couple of apples if persimmons aren't handy, a couple of sweet potatoes instead of the squash or add some parsnips.  If you're looking for some Thanksgiving side dish ideas, this is a perfect one to serve because it's relatively fast to prepare and will pair really nice with that turkey!

Bourbon, Molasses & Orange Glazed Fall Fruits & Veggies - serves 8
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 bunches fancy (young) carrots, peeled and halved
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 heads of fennel, sliced (not too thin)
  • 2 Fuyu persimmons, sliced (not too thin) 
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • Scant 1/2 cup bourbon (I used 101 Proof Wild Turkey)
  • Juice from 2 medium oranges, plus 1 Tbs of orange zest
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs chopped parsley
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- In a dutch oven or medium sauce pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the carrots, squash, fennel and persimmons.
- Season with salt and pepper, and cook everything for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the brown sugar.
- Remove the pot from the heat and add the bourbon.
- Return to the stove and cook for 2 minutes longer.
- Add the molasses and orange juice and cover.
- Cook the fruits and veggies for about 8-10 minutes, or until crisp-tender.  Also, make sure there is enough liquid in the pan by checking every few minutes.
- Remove the lid and reduce the liquid until it becomes syrupy.
- Add the butter and stir to coat everything with the glaze.
- Season with more salt and pepper, if needed, and transfer to a serving dish.
- Sprinkle with the orange zest and parsley.

Nov 8, 2012

The Spicy Cider Mill Cocktail & Apple Shrubs

I'm still working my way through all the apples I picked back in mid-October from my trip to Oak Glen.  I've been baking with them, making apple sauce, apple bitters (pictured on the below photo at left) and more. A fantastic way to preserve seasonal fruits is by making a shrub or drinking vinegar.  Shrubs, along with house-made syrups and bitters, have had a resurgence thanks to the craft cocktail community. There are a couple of origin stories for shrubs, but basically folks found that by infusing fruits with vinegar over a period of 3-5 days was a great way to preserve them without refrigeration.  The fruits were then strained out, and a sweetener such as sugar or honey was added.  Shrubs were especially popular during the Colonial times and would be added to water for a nice, cooling beverage.  It was also discovered that shrubs tasted pretty darn good when you added them to liquor - it kind of cut down on the acidity of the shrub or masked the potency of moonshine you were mixing up in your tub.

Food52 recently posted a recipe for a Fresh Apple Shrub, which can be used in cocktails, soda water (for you non-alcohol drinkers out there), vinaigrettes and marinades.  I let mine infuse for 5 days, but feel free to let it go a little longer if you want a stronger apple flavor.  I was on a time limit because a friend of mine was having a birthday BBQ this past Sunday and I was tasked with bringing something Lush Chef-inspired.  Because I was working a huge event over the weekend, I knew I wouldn't have time to cook or bake anything, but I'd have time to pour a bunch of stuff in a pitcher!  He's a big bourbon fan, so I had at least two components down.  Ginger seemed like the natural third choice, and I wanted a fizzy drink to pair with whatever meats he'd be grilling on a hot November afternoon.  I ended up choosing Reed's Extra Ginger Ginger Beer, so it could cut through the vinegar taste.  I prefer having more of the bourbon and apple shrub taste, so feel free to adjust.  I brought a couple extra bottles of ginger beer so folks could add a little more to their cocktail, which I've named the Spicy Cider Mill!

The Spicy Cider Mill Cocktail
  • 1 1/2 oz bourbon (I used Bulleit, of course)
  • 1 1/2 oz apple shrub (recipe below)
  • 4-5 oz ginger beer (I used Reed's Extra Ginger)
- Add all the ingredients into a glass filled with ice and stir.

To make a full pitcher of this, I used 2 cups of bourbon, 2 cups of apple shrub and 5 cups of ginger beer.

Apple Shrub - makes 2-3 cups
  • 3 medium apples (I used Rome)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup sugar
- Shred the apples on a box grater and add them to a glass jar.
- Add the vinegar and sugar and stir.
- Close the jar, give it a good shake and store it in your fridge for 5 or more days.
- Strain out the apple using a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth so you can get all that juice out.

Nov 6, 2012

Chicken in Garlic-Almond Sauce

Libations used: 2/3 cup dry sherry
Libations left over: serve some with dinner as an aperitif...
I recently decided to have some girl friends come over for an impromptu Sunday dinner.  All of us live by ourselves, so it's nice to come together on that traditional family dinner night and share a meal.  I'm all about making dishes that aren't going to require you slaving over the stove while your guests are around.  Bon Appetit published this recipe for Chicken in Garlic-Almond Sauce in their October issue.  It's a Spanish braised chicken dish and uses dry sherry or white wine.  I absolutely love making meals in my Dutch oven when guests are around.  It makes meats incredibly tender and requires little attention.

I actually started working on this dish a little early so I could get the sauce all prepared and blended.  I started browning the chicken about 20 minutes before my guests arrived, so it could then be transferred into the Dutch oven to finish cooking.  I served it with a light salad using Maggies' Farms Spicy Mix, persimmons, goat cheese and walnuts with a champagne walnut dressing (store-bought, but I maybe I should try making one!).

Chicken in Garlic-Almond Sauce - serves 4
  • 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds
  • 2 cups 1/2" cubes of crustless white bread
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup dry sherry
  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • 4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 Tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley

- In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat 3 Tbs of the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the almonds and stir until golden brown, for about 3 minutes.
- Transfer the almonds to paper towels.
- Place 1/3 cup of them in a food processor or blender and set aside the remaining for garnish.
- Add the bread cubes and garlic to the same pot.
- Cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the bread is golden brown and crisp.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bread and garlic to the blender with the almonds.
- Add the broth, sherry, 1/2 tsp of pepper, saffron and a pinch of salt.
- Process until smooth and set aside.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
- Heat the remaining 1 Tbs of olive oil in the same pot over medium-high heat.
- Add the chicken to the pot and cook for about 12 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown on all sides (you can also turn the heat down a little, if needed).
- Transfer the chicken to a plate.
- Add the onion to the pot and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is caramelized on the edges.
- Add the sauce and chicken to the pot, making sure the chicken is submerged in the sauce.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer, cover and reduce the heat to low.
- Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Garnish each serving with some parsley and toasted almonds.

Nov 1, 2012

Breeders' Cup Cocktails

Like many of us food bloggers out there, we have full-time jobs and somehow manage to squeeze in the cooking, baking, cocktail making, writing, research and photography on the side.  My friends aren't quite sure how I find the time to do everything and I often wonder that myself.  It all comes down to impeccable planning, but sometimes, I honestly don't have time to make enough food and drinks for two postings a week.  This coming weekend, I'll be working the Breeders' Cup — two full days of thoroughbred horse racing at Santa Anita Park and the culmination of the season.  It's full of high fashion, high stakes and plenty of cocktails flowing.  If you can't make it out to the track this weekend, you can watch the races on Sunday at 5:00 pm PT/8:00 pm ET on NBC.  For those viewing at home or throwing a party, there are plenty of official GREY GOOSE cocktails to stir up.  Here are a couple libations that I hope to try this weekend (after I'm off the clock, of course!).

Down the Stretch
  • 1 1/2 oz GREY GOOSE Original Vodka
  • 1/2 oz Blue Curaçao
  • 1/2 oz Grenadine
  • 2 oz lemon-lime soda
  • 1 squeeze lemon wedge
  • 1 lemon slice & blackberry, garnish
- Add all the ingredients in a Collins glass filled with ice.
- Stir vigorously.
- Put the lemon slice and blackberry on a toothpick and place along top of glass for garnish.

Zenyatta, the legendary and recently retired thoroughbred racehorse won 19 out of 20 races during her career, so of course she gets a drink named after her (jealous).

  • 1 1/2 oz GREY GOOSE Le Citron (their recipe called for a 1/4 oz less vodka)
  • 2 1/2 oz pink lemonade (yes, pink - this needs to be a girly color)
  • 1 mint sprig, garnish
- Fill a glass with ice and add the vodka and lemonade.
- Stir and garnish with mint sprig.

Oct 30, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Libations used: 2 tsps bourbon
Libations left over: None, but you can make this Bourbon, Pear & Ginger Cocktail while the bars bake...
Halloween is tomorrow, so I'm in total pumpkin mode right now.  Heck, I've even been putting it in my cocktails, like in this Midnight Pumpkin libation.  I've been telling my co-workers that I would bring in a Lush Chef treat, so on a warm fall afternoon, I threw open my door and turned on the oven to start baking.  I love all of Joy the Baker's recipes and her style (Joy, can we be friends?  We both live in the SaMo/Venice area?), and I had been waiting until October to bust out her recipe for Pumpkin Pie Bars.  I'm not the biggest pumpkin pie fan, because it's just too much pumpkin, but I love these because they're bite size and the filling has a lighter pumpkin flavor with the cream cheese and egg added to it.  The crumble bottom and topping also adds a nice texture and breaks up the filling.  There are a couple teaspoons of bourbon in this recipe, but you can always leave it out...oh, but wait...why would you do that?  I topped mine with butterscotch chips, but you can also do chocolate chips if you desire.  The co-workers obviously gobbled these up and were in a sugar-high heaven by noon.

Pumpkin Pie Bars - makes 24-28 bars
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 15 oz pumpkin purée
  • 1 Tbs pumpkin pie spice or 1 tsp each of cinnamon, walnut and ground allspice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsps bourbon (I used 101 proof Wild Turkey)
  • Butterscotch or chocolate chips to sprinkle on top

- Preheat oven to 350.
- Line a 13x9" baking pan with aluminum foil, with the ends of the foil folded over the sides.
- Grease the foil with shortening.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, 1/4 cup of sugar and brown sugar.
- Cut in the butter and combine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. You can use a pastry blender, but I just like to use my hands.
- Stir in the oats and walnuts.
- Reserve 1 cup of the oat mixture.
- Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the pan.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a stand mixer or large bowl, add the cream cheese, eggs, pumpkin purée, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract and bourbon.
- Mix until well blended.
- Pour over the crust.
- Sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture and butterscotch chips on top.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- Let cool about 20 minutes before transferring the bars from the pan to a wire rack.
- Let cool completely before cutting up.

Oct 25, 2012

Midnight Pumpkin Cocktail

Halloween isn't until next week, but everyone I know is going to start celebrating this weekend.  I've been doing a ton of apple cocktails so far this fall because of the large bounty of apples I picked.  For this holiday though, I really wanted something with pumpkin in it.  It just seemed more fitting...

The Rundown recently posted a couple of Halloween cocktail ideas by Stacy Nikkila at The Swizzle.  I opted for the Midnight Pumpkin, which is essentially a pumpkin-flavored margarita and has a beautiful festive orange color.  Note to self - this could totally work for Thanksgiving as well! Unfortunately, I didn't have any reposado tequila on hand, so I just used some Patrón Silver.  I think next time I make this, I'll opt for the reposado because it has that spicier finish and complements the light flavors from the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar.

Midnight Pumpkin
  • 2 oz tequila (preferably reposado)
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 oz pumpkin purée
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg & sugar, for garnish
- Rim a glass with cinnamon and sugar and fill with ice.
- In a shaker filled with ice, add the tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and pumpkin puree.
- Shake and strain into the glass.
- Sprinkle some nutmeg on top.

Oct 23, 2012

Beef & Ale Stew

Libations used: 2 cups of ale
Libations left over: None, but you can always crack open another bottle of beer while the stew is on the stove...
Last week I was battling a little bit of a sore throat and stuffy nose, so even though it was hot outside, all I wanted was some soup...and an easy soup at that.  Jamie Oliver's recipe for Beef and Ale Stew uses ingredients that you typically have in the pantry.  I used Murphy's Irish Stout because it's what I happend to have in the fridge, but use Guinness or whatever brown ale or stout you have on hand.  All I had to do was run out and get some stewing beef.  There's also very minimal work involved — just cut up some veggies, throw everything in the pot, and let it go!  Even though the ingredients are simple, this stew packs a ton of flavor.  I mean, you can't beat meat stewing in some ale, right?  I'll definitely be making this again very, very soon.

Beef & Ale Stew - serves 4
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, halved lengthwise & chopped
  • 3 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb stewing beef, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1 heaping Tbs all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups brown ale, Guinness or stout
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- In a dutch oven over medium heat, add the celery, onion, carrots, bay leaves and a couple glugs of olive oil.
- Cook the veggies for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the meat, flour, beer and tomatoes.
- Stir and add in a tsp of salt and a couple grinds of pepper.
- Bring the stew to a boil.
- Cover and simmer over low heat for 3 hours.
- Remove the lid for the last 30 minutes of cooking.
- Feel free to add water or some beef broth if the stew is looking dry.
- Discard the bay leaves before serving.

Oct 18, 2012

Bourbon, Pear & Ginger Cocktail

The temperature keeps see-sawing here in Los Angeles, so it's not Hot Toddy weather yet.  If you're looking for a simple and cooling cocktail that embodies the flavors of fall, then try this Bourbon, Pear & Ginger Cocktail.  Yes, it's from Garden and Gun Magazine (best magazine title ever, BTW) and it's southern boy Hugh Acheson's favorite tailgating cocktail.  I have a different recipe for ginger simple syrup from Cocktailia that I like to use, which includes some black pepper to give it another spicy layer.  Hugh also recommends making this drink with peaches, so it's perfect to adapt for the summer.

Bourbon, Pear & Ginger Cocktail
Ingredients for the ginger simple syrup:
  • 2 oz ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tsps whole black peppercorns
Ingredients for the cocktail:
  • 3 oz bourbon (I used Bulleit)
  • 1 Tbs ginger syrup
  • 2 oz club soda
  • 2 pear slices

To make the ginger simple syrup:
- Combine the ginger, sugar, water and peppercorns in a small sauce pan over medium heat.
- Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
- Continue simmering for 30-40 minutes.
- Let cool completely and then strain through a fine sieve.
- Transfer to a bottle and refrigerate.

To make the cocktail:
- In a glass with ice, add the bourbon and ginger syrup and stir.
- Top with club soda and stir.
- Add the pear slices.

Oct 16, 2012

Apple Gouda Oatmeal Cookies

Libations used: 1 Tbs dark rum
Libations left over: None, but you could make yourself this Apple Hot Toddy with rum while those cookies bake...
This past weekend, I went apple and pumpkin picking with a few friends in the Oak Glen region.
It's about 90 minutes away from Santa Monica and it gives me a little taste of fall and memories of home — the leaves barely change color, but they change nonetheless!  I always pick about half a bushel or more so I have plenty of apples to eat and cook with during the season.

We spent a sunny afternoon plucking Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Rome and sneaking some Granny Smiths from the trees at Los Rios Rancho.

Afterwards, we scarfed down chili dogs at Oak Tree Village and listened to a lone cowboy singing some country tunes on stage.  The smell of apple pie seemed to waft everywhere.  It was so tempting to buy one (I mean look at that crust!), but considering we picked so many apples, we decided it would be best to actually bake one ourselves.

Our last stop was Snow-line Orchard for apple cider and fresh, sugared donuts.  Besides immediately whipping up a batch of applesauce when I got home, I also really wanted to bake some cookies.  Namely, these Apple Gouda Oatmeal Cookies from The Kitchn.  I'd been promising my new co-workers for months that I'd bring in a Lush Chef treat, and I finally felt the baking bug.  They're slightly sweet and slightly savory and perfect for any meal.  In fact, they make an excellent breakfast — oatmeal, fruit and some cheese?  I mean, you can't go wrong!  I used one of the Rome apples I picked and happened to find an apple-smoked Gouda at the store.  They'll keep fresh for about five days if you keep them in an airtight container, although you and your friends will probably polish them off before that!

Apple Gouda Oatmeal Cookies - makes 20-24 
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs dark rum (time to bust out my trusty Myers's "Pirate" Rum!)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 medium-sized apple (1 1/2 to 2 cups of shredded apple)
  • 4 oz Gouda cheese, finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- Whisk the olive oil and egg together in a glass bowl until thoroughly combined.
- Whisk in the rum.
- In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, ginger, baking powder, salt and oats.
- Stir in the raisins.
- Peel and core the apple, and using the coarse side of the grater, grate it into the flour mixture.
- Stir in the Gouda.
- Add the olive oil and egg mixture into the large bowl and stir until everything is moistened (the dough will be loose and clumpy, so don't fret!).
- Drop in large spoonfuls on an ungreased baking sheet.
- Bake for 17 minutes, or until the cookies are golden.
- Make sure you let the cookies cool for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.