Tag Archives: Gifts

Chive Blossom Vinegar

Hello all!  It’s been a few days since I’ve ventured out into the sun.  I’ve been in studying prison, and soon I shall return.  However, with two tests down, I thought I’d take a break and do something soothing–i.e. cooking related.  Nothing says spring and fresh summer salads than chive blossom vinegar:

Those of you who have been hangin’ out here for a while know about my herb garden that I started last year.  This year I am really determined to take every advantage of the amazing fresh herbs that are literally on my doorstep–parsley, sage, thyme, basil, mint, lavender, and chives.  Since the garden is already abounding with everything (except the basil, which is still in baby form), I need to get going now to take full advantage.

The chives sprung up really early this year, and are already in full purple blossom.  Gorgeous, by the way, but I had no idea what to do with them.  Does one prune the blossoms?  Leave ’em alone?  Make chive-scented bouquets?  So imagine my joy and surprise when I find a recipe that actually uses the blossoms–to make vinegar!

I was paging though a cookbook my mom gave me last Christmas called Another Savory Seasoning all about cooking with herbs.  In the veeeery back is a chapter entitled “specialties”.  Clearly this is the one I was immediately drawn to–vinegars, jellies, teas, seasoned salt, butter, mustard–all those things that cost a lot of money to buy at boutiques, and I can now make for under a buck!

I love when special things are cheap.  Makes ’em even more special, in my opinion.

This discovery coincides perfectly with my other goal–to make this the “summer of salad”.  This chive blossom vinegar, which will turn a light pink color over the next few weeks and have a “delicious chive aroma”, is touted as wonderful dressing over a light salad.

Yes, please.

Plus, I love vinegar.  I used to like to eat salt and vinegar chips until the roof of my mouth is raw and bleeding–still do, on occasion. 

Okay, that’s weird.  Sorry I told you that.

Chive Blossom Vinegar

  • 16 oz of white distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 2-3 C chive blossoms
  • glass/plastic jar

Here’s an important point–you don’t want metal to touch your vinegar!  If you want to stir it, use a wooden spoon.  If you are using a jar with a metal lid (like my mason jars), cover the top with plastic first.

Pick enough chive blossoms to fill the jar halfway–if you don’t have enough, you can come over and have some of mine!  I have a lot.

Wash them thoroughly, and drain them or blot them ’till they are totally dry.  Fill the jar, and pour the vinegar over the top to fill.

Cover with plastic, then the metal lid, then let it sit for a few weeks, not in bright light (stick it in your cupboard!).  After it’s light pink and pretty, strain through filter paper into containers.

I love the idea of making herb vinegars and oils–they are beautiful and make great gourmet gifts…not to mention the fact that they are dead cheap to make (and I definitely think that matters!).  I can’t wait until I’m ready to use this–I’ll update you then on how it looks and tastes.

My intuition says I’m gonna like this a lot.

In other summer-y news, here’s our pool, turned back to blue after only one day of filtering!  Still needs to be vacuumed, but it’s not quite warm enough to warrant that job yet.  Since our pool was actually black when we opened it last year (eww!), we expected it to take a lot longer to clear up this year.  Guess our new cover did its job!

Hope you have a beautiful, sunshine-y, happy day no matter what the weather is like outside.

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Filed under Sauces

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Mocha Truffles

Hi there!

Tomorrow is my last day of finals week.

(That feels so good to say). 

Tomorrow is my last day of finals week.

(Just wanted to hear it again).

Despite the fact that I have studied more this week than the rest of my life combined, I still managed to find some time to do some cooking.  Actually, I did a lot of cooking.  I may have to take a week off from making food so I can catch up on all the things I want to blog about.

Anyway, today I wanted to make something for Fritz’s dental class (hi!).  They have a big test tomorrow and since it’s Christmas time, I thought it would be fun to try some new really-bad-for-you-but-so-fun-to-make recipes.  Not to mention that these are the guys that you can really trust to brush their teeth after eating all this junk…right?

I didn’t want to make your standard Christmas cookie (I needed a long, challenging recipe for better procrastination purposes), so I settled on these Mocha Melt Truffles.  They literally do melt in your mouth.  It’s pretty cool.

Mocha Melt Truffles (adapted from “Coffee Creams” from A Passion For Chocolate)

  • 2 C sugar
  • 1/4 C skim milk
  • 2 T instant mocha mix (or even just 1 T instant coffee–I just used what we had)
  • 1 T light-colored corn syrup
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 16 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 T Smart Balance

Combine the sugar, water, milk, corn syrup, and mocha mix in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it’s boiling steadily at 234-240 degrees, about 20-25 minutes.  This is the “soft ball stage”.

When it reaches the right temperature, remove from heat and cool without stirring until the mixture reaches 110 degrees.  It will look like a thick, sticky caramel.  Add the vanilla and stir until it becomes very thick and starts to lose its gloss.  Immediately shape into balls and place on wax paper.  I used my hands–it cooled down quickly when you stir it!

This stuff is the weirdest texture ever.  It hardens into what looks like maple sugar, but the heat of your hand melts it into a malleable semi-solid, which hardens quickly as soon as it cools.  If you ever used to put cornstarch and water into a baggie when you were a kid and marvel about the weird liquid/solid state, this is kind of like that.

Leave these to harden for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and the shortening together in the microwave (or do it the right way in a double boiler.  Or don’t.)  This sounds insane, but it’s the easiest way to do it (I quickly realized)–scoop some chocolate into your hands, and roll a mocha-ball around in your hands until it’s covered in chocolate.  In a feat of amazing coincidence, the Pioneer Woman posted about truffles today too, and she does it the same way!  Lay back down on wax paper and cool until solid (I left them for a few hours while I did laundry).

If you are anything like me, and you’ve licked clean any surface that came into contact with the chocolate by this point, even the thought of adding more chocolate to these babies is going to make you ill.  But this is the best part–roll the truffles in unsweetened dutch cocoa powder.  Just the tiny bit of bitterness offsets the ridiculous sweetness of the truffles–and it looks awesome.

These were a little time-consuming, but definitely worth it.  Hopefully the baby dentists will enjoy a bit of chocolate/coffee heaven after their test tomorrow.

Before I go, I want to share one last photo.  I think Henry has realized that we are starting to get ready to go to Canada for a while, and that he is going to be left behind.  He doesn’t like that at all, so he’s starting a campaign to try to subliminally get us to want to take him with us:

It’s hard to resist those big green eyeballs.

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Filed under Desserts

Peppermint and Almond Rocha

This is probably one of the best Christmas gifts you will make, taste, give, or receive this holiday season.  The toffee is perfectly buttery, with silky chocolate and either crunchy toasted almonds or cool peppermint sprinkled on top.  Not to mention it looks perfectly imperfect.

Disclaimer: it is not healthy.  But it doesn’t matter–you’re giving it away!  Plus, it’s good for your body and your spirit to indulge in a treat every once in a while.  Just don’t eat the whole batch at once.

I made this over the weekend to give to one of our favorite couples, Bre and Zev, and as soon as they opened it we all couldn’t resist a taste…of both kinds.  It’s so simple to make and even easier to pack in a cute bakery bag, and the best part is that this recipe makes enough for several gifts–with enough left for you to snack on.

The book I took the recipe from is called A Passion For Chocolate, and this is the very first time I have used it since we received it as a wedding present.  Since this one turned out so spectacularly, all of my closest friends and family can expect to be seeing some other chocolate-themed packages in their near future.

Peppermint and Almond Rocha

  • 2 C butter
  • 2 C sugar
  • 2 T light-colored corn syrup
  • 1/3 C water
  • 1 3/4-2 C semi-sweet or milk chocolate pieces (you could also use dark or white chocolate–try anything!)
  • 1 C toppings–I used 1/2 C crushed candy canes and 1/2 C chopped toasted almonds

Line a baking sheet with foil, covering the edges.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in sugar, corn syrup and water, and cook over medium-high heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan (I used a digital meat thermometer) and stir frequently, until the temperature reaches 290 degrees.  Be careful–it’s hot!  This is the soft-crack stage for the toffee, and should take about 15-20 minutes.

Pour the toffee onto the baking sheet, and spread evenly.  Cool for about five minutes until the top is set, then sprinkle with chocolate pieces.  After a minute they should be warm enough to spread over the top.  Sprinkle with toppings and press into chocolate.

Everything you own will be covered in toffee–eat what you can, then soak the rest in warm water.  It’ll come off easily.

Here’s another view of the process:

 

Cool the whole thing for several hours, or until it is fully set.  Break into pieces (the less perfect, the better!), and put into bakery bags or boxes, wrap ’em up, and give it all away!  You will never be more popular!

Don’t forget to save some for your husband, or he may never forgive you.

I’m off to study for tomorrow’s test, but I’m curious–what kind of baking do you like to give away for the holidays?

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Filed under Desserts