Orange Soda, without the extras

orange soda 2

I’m not a big soda drinker, in fact, we buy it only a few times a year.  When we do, I make sure some orange soda is included, something about that stuff is just so darn good!!  What isn’t good?  All the extra crap that goes in it.  I’m not some huge health fanatic (obviously not, look at some of the recipes I post) but I do try to be a little conscientious of ingredients, especially now that I have the twinadoes.

Sitting on the counter were some oranges, limes and lemons that needed to get used up.  I could have made my crispy orange beef or something on those lines, but I wanted to try to make some orange soda since I had been craving that for a few days.  I add flavors to seltzer water all the time, and normally love it, so I thought why not all this citris.  I’m glad I did…and as a side note, the lemon/orange infused simple syrup would be great with mixed drinks (the adult kind).

orange soda 1

For the Recipe: (makes two drinks)

1 c. water

1 c. sugar

zest from one orange

zest from one lemon

1 c. fresh orange juice

4 tbsp. fresh lime juice

In a saucepan heat the water, sugar, orange and lemon zests.  Make sure it gets hot enough to melt the sugar, then remove from the heat and let every thing steep together.  I did this the night before so the flavors would have enough time to really develop.   You will have extra of this simple syrup, but you can keep it in your fridge for up to a month.  In a glass, add 1/2 c. orange juice, 2 tbsp. lime juice, 2 tbsp. of the simple syrup.  Mix together and add ice.



Sausage and Lentil Soup

lentil soup

Before this year I was not a slow cooker kind of person.  I had one years before, but got rid of it due to me just not liking it.  I still don’t use it for everything like a lot of people seem to do, but I now do more than just let it sit.  Some soups take longer to cook, and this is one of them, so rather than be tied to the stove (or at least near it) for the day I decided to use my Crock Pot.  Sure glad I did!!!  The lentil soup I normally make has more of a curry flavor to it, but I had some lamb sausage that seemed like a good fit for this type, a good fit it was!!

For the Recipe:

2 tbsp. tomato past

1 tbsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. salt

2 tsp. ground pepper

1 tsp. thyme

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (more if you want a bit more kick)

1 onion, chopped

1 carrots, chopped

1 ribs of celery, chopped

1 c. lentils (I used French lentils but any would work)

1/2 lb. sausage (I used lamb sausage, but any would work)

4 c. chicken stock

Place everything in the slow cooker, mix well and cook on low for 7-8 hours.  Yup, that about does it…


Chocolate Salted Caramel Panna Cotta, You Gotta…

finished panna cotta

Panna cotta is such a simple dessert to make, yet it gives off a feeling of being difficult.  For a long time I would see it at restaurants or in pictures and think there was no way I could make that.  Then one day I finally took the two seconds and read the recipe.  I thought for sure I was missing part, there was no way it could be that simple…oh but it was.  The basic recipe calls for heavy cream/milk,, sugar, vanilla, gelatin and water, and from there you can use your imagination to create whatever you think might make your toes curl.  I love David Lebovitz’s Perfect Panna Cotta recipe, it’s great as is, but I wanted to be a little creative and try chocolate salted caramel.  So I adjusted how I did the sugar and added in a little dark chocolate, I’m definitely happy with the results.  The twinadoes were occupied so I tempted fate and decided to try my hand at making decorative sugar sticks to put in the dessert…I need to keep practicing.

For the Recipe:

4 c. heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, scraped

1 oz. dark chocolate

1/2 c. sugar

2 packets gelatin (about 4 1/2 tsp.)

6 tbsp. water

In a saucepan heat the cream, entire vanilla bean (split lengthwise, seeds scraped), and chocolate over medium low heat.  Cook enough to melt the chocolate, then remove from heat and let steep for about 30 minutes so the vanilla bean has time to infuse the cream with flavor.  In a heavy bottom saucepan, that is big enough to accommodate the cream mixture, heat the sugar.  You want the sugar to melt and become a nice amber color.  Do not stir!!!  If you need to, swirl the pan a little to even out the sugar, but again, do not stir.  While the sugar is melting put the gelatin and water in a large glass Pyrex type measuring cup (I used an 8 cup).  You want it to have a spout for easy pouring into your dessert bowls.  Once the sugar is at a nice amber color strain the cream mixture into the sugar saucepan.  It will spit and splatter, no worries… but this is all very hot so use caution.  Toss whatever is left in the strainer, and give the cream/sugar mixture a good whisking.  If some of the caramel (that would be the amber sugar) hardens, just let it warm up a bit and it will go back to a liquid form.  Now you can pour this mixture over the gelatin, whisk well to break up the gelatin.  You don’t want any globs of it left behind, that would not be a pleasant bite…  Now you are ready to pour the panna cotta into your desired dessert cups.  You can do several different things.  If you want to present it in it’s molded shape, lightly oil (with a flavorless oil) your desired cup so that when it is ready it will slide out.  You can also just pick a nice dish and serve it as is or decorated.  Next time I would put them in little shot glass type cups.  This is just so rich that too cmuch can be a bit overwhelming.  Maybe that’s just me.  I put one of my cray cray looking sugar decorations in it for fun.  You would put a little cocoa powder, a sprinkling of sea salt or whatever idea you come up with.


Blog That Makes Me Go Hhhmmm…..

I’ve been doing a lot of blog reading and not a lot of blog writing lately, but that’s just how I roll.  I have a few that I read quite regularly, some that I check in on every so often and others that I only read when I get an update that looks really interesting.  One blog in particular, which shall remain nameless, has kind of become a little lower on my radar due to a few things.  Now first off, I know we all will annoy people at some point, and I get that.  Not everyone is going to be our biggest fan at all times, or sometimes ever, and again, I’m ok with that.  But this particular site was all about frugality and living on an extremely low amount of money each month.  It really intrigued me.  I wanted to see how someone could pull it off, and with some creativity and some interesting ways to count their tally each month it was done.  But then it seemed like overnight this frugal tightwad decided it was just a tad too hard to live in such a manner and wanted to ease up on the purse strings.  I don’t know why, but how they did it just kind of bugged me.  They started talking about their high end this and that, their upper middle-class lifestyle and how they needed to keep up certain appearances.

Maybe what got to me was reading about this person’s last minute weekend trip to Europe mixed in with their complaint about having to spend more than $60 at Costco.  I know there is always two sides to every story, they probably scrimp to manage their weekend getaway trips to Europe, and all that… yes, I get that.  I could just stop reading it all together, but now I like to see the trials and tribulations of this person to live in a high end, high maintenance world while keeping a frugal edge.

Now don’t think that I’m one of those other side of the fence overly envious people that just hates on others that have stuff.  Nopes, not me.  I’m simply stating an opinion I have on a blog.

Candied Pecans

candied pecans finished

Only finished the title of this post before I had to run and grab a few more candied pecans…yes, they are that good.  I have my quickie version that I use for walnuts and pecans when I’m rushing, but this one… it’s so stinking good!!!  I’ve been seeing so many recipes for candied pecans and walnuts, and they always seem to add some cayenne for some kick to offset the sweet, if you are looking for that, stop now and look up another recipe.  No cayenne here, sorry.  No chili powder either.  I’m a big fan of cardamom so I wanted to see if it could be used in a candied pecan recipe, and it can.  I’m still munching on these things, I think I should have made more.

For the Recipe:

3 c. pecans

1 c. sugar

1 tsp. cardamom

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 c. water

1/2 tbsp. butter

sea salt for sprinkling

Toast pecans in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes (don’t forget about them, they will go from being nice and toasty to burnt quite quick).  Once you take them out, lower the temperature to 300 degrees F.  While you are toasting the pecans, in a heavy saucepan add the sugar, cardamom and cinnamon and mix well.  Add the water and butter, heat over medium heat.  The mixture will start to boil and get syrupy looking, takes about 10 minutes to get to this point.  Let it bubble away for another 5 minutes.  This is awful, but I do not use a candy thermometer, I just go by the way it looks and it works for me every time, but you basically want the soft ball stage, 235 degrees F – 240 degrees F.  Add the toasted pecans to this mixture and cook another 5 minutes.  Put a layer of parchment paper on a baking sheet and spread the pecans in a single layer.  Return to the 300 degree F oven and bake for 30-35 minutes.  They will be bubbly when you take them out, which means super hot so use caution.  Sprinkle with the sea salt and let cool.  Once cooled, break them apart and store in an airtight container.



ethiopian food

Food in my family is definitely not just meat and potatoes.  We enjoy food from many different cultures, countries, you name it.  We are lucky that so far we have not encountered any food allergies, honestly, I can’t imagine dealing with the restrictions that come from them.  Last night I made my imitation of a dish we get at one of our favorite Ethiopian restaurants in Seattle, Awash.  It comes on the huge planter, each half mirroring the other.  You get lamb, chicken, okra, greens, eggs, lentils, a potato, carrot, cabbage mixture, cheese, and that lovely injera bread that you use to eat.  It’s a beautiful presentation, no frills, but still beautiful.

They use a spice mix called berbere and it’s very addictive.  I get cravings for it, and absolutely nothing will satiate my taste buds except for my beloved Ethiopian food.  Meals are nice and slow (hence the reason we don’t go with the twinadoes), so unless we go without the shorties I make it at home.

In the immediate vicinity of my home there are no Ethiopian stores to purchase the injera, so when I know I’m heading to Seattle I will plan on making Ethiopian food since that’s where I get mine.  I’ve seen the recipes to make injera, but it’s very labor intensive and takes practice.  The berbere can be purchased online from many spice companies if you are unable to find a local market.  The rest of the ingredients are pretty much all things you could find at your local grocery store.  Normally I also make chicken, but I didn’t last night.  Something I like to include that isn’t on the plate of the one from Awash is shiro wot, or chickpea stew.  It’s made from ground chickpeas and some of that delicious berbere.  The recipes I use come from a co-worker who was born and raised in Ethiopia.  He would write down the recipes on the back of old patient orders and scraps of paper.  Being the sentimental person I am, I saved them all, had them laminated and keep them with the rest of my treasured recipes.

My next treasure hunt will be to find a large round platter like the one they use in the restaurant.  It perfectly fits the bread and is just so lovely.  For now, I’ll keep using my plain white platter.

I’ll write a post with the recipes I use, and I hope it will inspire you to try this delicious food.  But be warned, it’s addictive!!!


Bourbon Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel Sauce….

bourbon bread pudding complete

Did I mention bourbon?  I have been wanting to make some bread pudding, other than the chocolate that I’ve made for years (but seriously so delicious), so I picked up a loaf of brioche while at the market the other day.  I scoured the internet for some recipes, but as usual, none of them really jumped at me.  So what to do, what to do… pick the best parts of several and make the perfect RHOS bread pudding.  Just in case you didn’t get it from the name, there is bourbon in this recipe so not a child friendly recipe.  What I’ve realized with bread pudding recipes, they are all pretty much the same building block, it’s what you add to them that make them unique.  All of then have the bread, milk, cream, eggs, but then people get all creative and start adding the real flavor.  One thing you will NEVER find in any bread pudding I make is raisins.  I HATE raisins that have been cooked.

If you don’t have bourbon (and I can’t imagine a home without it…) you can use cognac.  I know, you are probably rolling your eyes thinking, “if I didn’t have bourbon you really think I have cognac”.  I get that…just saying.  And to be honest, you could easily make this without the bourbon and have a nice bread pudding.  I just really like that extra kick of flavor the bourbon adds.

For the Recipe:

Bread Pudding

1 loaf of brioche (about 16 oz.)

1 1/2 c. pecans, toasted and chopped

5 eggs

1 c. heavy cream

4 c. half-n-half (if you don’t have this you could substitute whole milk, but not non-fat)

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

3/4 c. brown sugar

1 tbsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. bourbon

butter for the baking dish

Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Scant 1 c. sugar

1/4 c. water

1/2 c. heavy cream

1/2 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. bourbon

Use the butter to grease a 9×12 baking dish.  Cut the brioche into cubes and add to the baking dish.  Sprinkle the pecans over the bread, making sure you do it evenly.  In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs and give them a good mix.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Pour this mixture over the bread cubes and nuts, let sit until the bread is completely soaked in the creamy mixture, about 45-60 min.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  You will bake the bread pudding in a water bath (bain marie) for about 50 minutes, the top should be nicely browned, the rest might seem a tad moist, not runny though, you want that.  Take extreme caution when removing from the oven, the water it was baking in is HOT!!!  It will set up when it cools.  If you cook it until it no longer looks moist you will end up with dry bread pudding.  Let cool for 20 minutes.  I serve the bourbon caramel sauce (directions for making are below) on the side along with some fresh whipped cream.

To Make the Bourbon Caramel Sauce:

In a saucepan, add the sugar and water, cook over med-high heat.  The sugar will melt then begin to bubble.  Let cook until the mixture turns a deep amber color, about ten minutes.  This is not the time to walk away or get distracted, this will go from a nice amber to burnt in mere moments…. Take off the heat and stir in the cream, it will bubble up on you so don’t freak, it’s totally normal.  Add the salt and bourbon.  Let’s remember that bourbon is VERY flammable, so take caution around an open flame. The caramel will seem a little runnier than a normal caramel sauce, totally ok, it will thicken once cooled.  FYI, you might want to make two batches….

NOTE:  You can reduce the bourbon for a less punch of alcohol.  I like the flavor so the more the merrier…