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Cranberry Old-Fashioned Cocktail

An Old Fashioned Cocktail enhanced with a dash of orange bitters and cranberries #cocktail #old-fashioned | mjskitchen.com

 

During the holidays we met some friends at a local Irish pub, Two Fools Tavern.  While the rest of the party ordered local brews, I ordered the seasonal Old-Fashioned which, because it was December, was a cranberry flavored old-fashioned. For me it was the perfect cocktail – slightly sweet, use of a good bourbon, and a little fruity.  I liked it so much that I made it a goal to recreate it for the new year. Here’s my version of a Cranberry Old-Fashioned Cocktail.

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Spiced Chocolate Atole

Spiced Chocolate Atole: Chocolate almond milk with atole (blue corn flour), red chile and other spices | mjskitchen.com

 

One of my favorite breakfasts when I was a kid was a pop tart and a glass of chocolate milk made with Bosco.  Now that I’ve grown up a bit, I still like my chocolate milk, but I’ve made the switch from Bosco to chocolate almond milk and instead of pop tarts, I prefer a slice of banana bread or cranberry bread.  Also, instead of just plain chocolate milk, I whisk in a little atole (toasted blue corn flour), a dash of ginger, and a few other spices, for a spicy hot beverage that is quite satisfying on a cold morning.

This Spiced Chocolate Atole is a version of champurrado, but is lighter (not as thick) than most champurrado recipes and is also lighter than my winter atole smoothies I shared back in 2013. It is also much easier to make.  Nothing to blend, just a little whisking.  In the winter, I like it hot, but it can also be served cold for a summer beverage.  Just make it the day before and refrigerate.

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Hibiscus Simple Syrup, Soda and Tea

Pink Hibiscus flowers, dried and used to make hibiscus simple syrup and tea. mjskitchen.com

 

The hibiscus flower is widely known for its beauty, but there is more to this flower than meets the eye.  The dried flowers are used to make a variety of beverages from hot tea to chilled Agua de jamaica (“ha-ma-ike-ah”), sparkling drinks to cocktails. And they have some health benefits as well.  I’ve been playing around with these dried flowers for a couple of years now and today, I’m sharing with you a few of my favorite ways to enjoy them.

Dried hibiscus flowers make a delicious simple syrup that is both sweet and tart.  The syrup can be added to sparkling water for a refreshing soda or used to make a hibiscus cocktail with sparkling water, vodka and lime.  It can also be poured over vanilla ice cream and who wouldn’t love that?!  Following is a recipe for making Hibiscus Mint Simple Syrup.  Since I normally add a sprig of mint to just about any summer drink, I decided to also add some mint to the simple syrup.  However, you could choose to eliminate the mint all together, or even replace it with a small piece of ginger or a stick of cinnamon.

You can purchase dried hibiscus flowers from a variety of sources online, some herb or tea shops or a local organic/health store.  I buy mine at the local La Montanita co-op.

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Spice it up with Fiery Chocolate Shots

Chocolate shots with ginger, chile, and Baileys Irish Cream #chocolate @mjskitchen mjskitchen.com

 

Chocolate shots might not be the best name for this chocolate delight, because “shots” are normally drank all at once, in one shot.  That’s not what you’ll want to do here.  This sweet and spicy, chocolatey beverage is best sipped so you can enjoy all of its goodness several times over.  These Fiery Chocolate Shots are made with chocolate, milk and cream, a bit of ginger, urfa biber chile powder, and Baileys Irish Cream.  A great after dinner delight for date night.

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Cranberry Rooibos Chai

Rooibos chai brewed in cranberry juice, topping with whipped cream and ginger mjskitchen.com

 

Do you have tea time?  A time during the day to just stop what you’re doing, relax, and enjoy the moment? If you work from home or are retired, it’s relatively easy to get into a tea time habit. Ours is usually between 3 to 4 in the afternoon. In the warmer months, I usually make us iced chai, and in the colder months – hot chai.  Since it is mid-afternoon, I require a caffeine free chai, otherwise I’m up until 3 a.m.  My favorite caffeine free chai is a Rooibos chai which I normally brew in hot water, but when I have cranberry juice, it’s a real treat to use hot cranberry juice in place of water. So for today’s tea I’m serving up a Cranberry Rooibos Chai, a tangy sweet delight. It’s great with a little honey or sugar, but if you really want to get decadent, top it with some whipped cream and a sprinkle of ground ginger.  YUM!

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Atole – My Cold Weather Smoothie

In New Mexico atole is toasted blue corn flour used to make a hot drink

 

Atole (uh-TOL-ay) is little different in different countries, but in general it is a hot masa-based beverage normally served for breakfast.  In New Mexico atole also refers to the toasted blue corn flour use to make the beverage of the same name.  The atole is cooked with water and milk into a thick beverage or an even thicker porridge and then sweetened to taste.  In Mexico, atole is a similar beverage made with toasted masa (hominy corn flour), a sweetener (usually piloncillo), cinnamon and vanilla. Add chocolate and you have a drink called champurrado. Both atole and champurrado are the traditional drinks for the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos or the Day of the Dead.  However, because it is a hot beverage, atole is normally drank during cold weather, but by some, year round.

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An Old Raspberry Vinegar and Sparkling Raspberry Soda

Raspberry Vinegar and a Sparkling Soda. @MJsKitchen

 

You know how some recipes just never die and we’re so glad they didn’t? This raspberry vinegar is one of them. It’s a raspberry vinegar recipe from 1900 that I found in the New York Times a while back.  It looked so easy to make and, how could it not be good if it’s still being made over a century later?  Now that I’ve made it a few times, I’ll probably never use another raspberry vinegar recipe again.

To make this vinegar, raspberries are first macerated in red wine vinegar for 3 days, strained to extract the  juice, then cooked down with some sugar.  Depending on how long you cook it down, you could end up with more of a raspberry syrup that can be poured over ice cream or used for raspberry vinegar sodas. By decreasing the cook time you could make a thinner vinegar that works great in any vinaigrette that you want a little bit of a raspberry flavor.

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Watermelon Coolers

Watermelon juice with mint and lime

 

A couple of weeks ago when I went back to Louisiana to visit family, I bought a watermelon for my mother and aunt because I know how much those ladies love their watermelon! During watermelon season my mother would eat watermelon all day, a tradition that I have carried on to this day. 🙂  As we were sitting there eating, these two lovely ladies starting talking about all the things they use to make with watermelon.  Of course watermelon rind preserves came up, as well as watermelon sorbet and watermelon juice. Apparently, they use to juice watermelons and then freeze the juice for later.  I guess when you have acres upon acres of watermelon, juicing a bunch of watermelon becomes a necessity because it’s something you can do quickly then freeze.  Personally, I’ve never made it a habit of juicing watermelon because I just love eating it too much.  However, when I do get one that isn’t very sweet, I will juice it.  The juice is usually sweeter than the watermelon itself, making it more enjoyable.

The conversation about watermelon got me thinking about a watermelon drink, one that could be made with or without alcohol like my Sweet Cucumber Drink. So one of the first things I did when I got home was to go out and buy another watermelon for the sole purpose of juicing it and coming up with a watermelon cocktail. Thank goodness the watermelon I bought ended up being one that I would have juiced anyway. It wasn’t very sweet until I juiced it. The juice had just the right amount of sweetness for the drink, so no additional sweetener was needed.

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Thai Tea Apricot Smoothie

Thai Tea Apricot Smoothie with Mango, maple syrup (if needed), and yogurt. mjskitchen.com

 

Now that it’s spring I’m really focused on getting last year’s produce out of the freezer to make room for this year’s. A couple of weeks ago I used some of the corn and a roasted bell pepper in my Braised Red Chile Chicken and Vegetables, and then finished off the roasted bell peppers in the Roasted Bell Pepper Cheese Spread.  For several weeks I’ve been working on the abundance of frozen apricots from last year’s prolific crop.  One of the things I’ve been making is the smoothie:  apricot smoothies, apricot banana smoothies, apricot peach smoothies and my favorite – Thai Tea Apricot Smoothie.

Several weeks ago I came across a simply delicious Thai Iced Tea recipe over at my friend’s blog  – Wok with Ray.  I immediately ran out and bought a one pound bag of Thai tea, the smallest size bag the Asian market sold.  With all that tea Bobby and I have been able to mix up our afternoon tea time with Chai tea and Thai tea as well as play around with other uses for Thai tea. When developing this Thai tea apricot smoothie, I went with the orange color of Thai tea and selected apricots and mango as the fruits.  What a delicious way to get your vitamins and morning caffeine all in one drink.

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