Cooking

Fresh Peach Liqueur

Peach Liqueur

I like to think of making fruit liqueurs as just one more type of food preservation. I make jams and jelly with seasonal fruit, so why not preserve some of summer’s bounty in alcohol?

Peach liqueur is one of my favorites. Pretty simple, really. Just combine peaches with vodka (or brandy) and allow the mixture to steep. After a week or two, strain it. After straining out the fruit, I also filter the liqueur through either coffee filters or cheesecloth to get it nice and clear.

Sweetening is optional. Unsweetened, it is called a Peach Eau de vie, which translates into water of life. Got to love the French!!! Sweetened, it is a liqueur.

Poured into pretty bottles, these liqueurs can make fun gifts, too.

Peach Liqueur

10 medium sized, ripe peaches
3 c. vodka or brandy
1 c. sugar syrup – optional – recipe follows*

Peel and pit peaches reserving only the fruit. Place in jar with the alcohol and steep at least a week, shaking several times. You can leave the fruit in for up to two weeks. Strain, squeezing out as much juice from the fruit as possible. Filter through cheesecloth, fine mesh strainer or coffee filters for a clearer product. Add sugar syrup, if desired,  and mature 4-6 weeks. Makes 4 cups.

*Sweetening– Simple syrup is made from 1 cup of sugar and ½ cup of water. Bring to a boil, then cool. You will have 1 cup of syrup. Some recipes call for plain sugar and others for honey. Watch when you substitute honey for sugar, as it is sweeter and stronger flavored.

Homemade Blueberry Liqueur

Blueberry Liqueur

I always stock up on blueberries when they are in season. I end up with a lot of frozen berries to enjoy throughout the year. I was cleaning out the freezer awhile ago, and decided to use some of my frozen berries to make blueberry liqueur.

After steeping for several months, I strained out the blueberries last night.

I ended up with two different liqueurs. One is unsweetened- just blueberries, vodka, lemon zest and a clove. It is sometimes called an eau de vie- French for water of life- or just blueberry vodka.

The other was sweetened a little with a sugar syrup- but you could use honey. That is blueberry liqueur or blueberry cordial. It will be allowed to mature for a couple of weeks.

Both are wonderful.

The color is so pretty and they can be sipped, as is, or used in cocktails.  You can use other berries, if you prefer.

I look forward to enjoying these with friends and family.

 Blueberry Liqueur

4-c. fresh or frozen blueberries
Sliced and scraped peel of one lemon, optional
1 clove, optional
3-c. vodka or 2 c. vodka and 1 c. brandy
1 c. sugar syrup, optional, recipe follows

Lightly crush berries with a fork. Combine with peels and clove and vodka and steep 3 months. Strain and filter and add sugar syrup. Mature 4-6 weeks.

Sugar Syrup

Simple syrup is made from 1 cup of sugar and ½ cup of water. Bring to a boil, then cool. You will have 1 cup of syrup. Some recipes call for plain sugar and others for honey. Watch when you substitute honey for sugar, as it is sweeter and stronger flavored. Better to use orange or clover honey.

Raspberry Tea Bread

Raspberry Tea Bread

This raspberry tea bread is a favorite of mine. It is not too sweet and pairs nicely with coffee or tea, so it can be a breakfast or brunch dish. It makes a nice dessert, too.

The bread is studded with raspberries with hints of cinnamon and vanilla. It can be eaten plain or served up with fruit topping or maybe some whipped cream.  I have used it as the base for a pretty good shortcake. I topped slices of the raspberry bread with ice cream, more berries and a dollop of whipped cream.

Like most quick breads, it is better if you wrap it up in plastic or foil, once cooled, and eat it the next day, if you can wait that long!!

 Raspberry Tea Bread

1 ¾ c. flour
½ t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
½ t. cinnamon
½ c. butter, at room temperature
¾ c. sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
½ c. sour cream, room temperature
1 t. vanilla
1 c. raspberries, fresh or frozen
¾ c. chopped nuts, optional

Grease an 8×4 inch loaf pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. Set aside. In small bowl beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and beat 1 minute. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture until just moistened. Fold in berries and nuts and place batter in prepared pan. Bake 60-65 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack. Makes 1 loaf. Freezes well.

Fresh Tomato Salads

Marinated Tomato Salad

Tomato season is too short around here. I can never get enough of what my mom called “real tomatoes”. The first few tomatoes never made it in the house. Warm from the sun, they were too tempting. We would pick them right off the plant and eat them. Deer have made it pretty impossible for me to grow tomatoes right now. Luckily, local farm markets have many beautiful tomatoes.

I am enjoying eating fresh tomatoes right now. Later in the season, I will purchase enough tomatoes to can and dehydrate to enjoy once the season is over.

I thought I would share a few of my favorite tomato salad recipes with you.

They are pretty simple. I think that is how it should be. When you have something as close to perfection as a ripe tomato, little more is needed.

Marinated Tomato Salad

3 large tomatoes, cut in wedges, or 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
1 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 basil leaves, cut into thin strips
2 T. balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients and serve at room temperature. Serves 4-6.

Tomato and Feta Salad

3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
12 cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil -I used a lemon infused olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, mix the feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, onion, olive oil, and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

Warm Pasta Salad

1 lb. Plum tomatoes, chopped

1 medium sweet onion, chopped

4 oz. Fresh mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ c. fresh parsley, chopped

1 T. dried basil or 1/4 c. chopped fresh basil

1 T. capers, optional

1 t. dried oregano

½ c. olive oil

¼ c. red wine vinegar

3 T. balsamic vinegar

Dash of hot red pepper flakes

Salt to taste

1 lb. Uncooked pasta

Combine all ingredients, except pasta and chill overnight. Cook pasta, drain and toss with tomato mixture. Mixture should be served right away . Serves 6.

BLT Salad

6-8 slices bacon

2 slices rye bread

2 slices Swiss cheese

5 c. torn up lettuce or mixed greens

3 T. olive oil

2 T. apple cider vinegar

1 T. balsamic vinegar

Salt and fresh ground pepper

2-3 tomatoes, diced

Cook bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, drain and crumble. Remove most of the bacon grease from the pan. Make a sandwich with the rye bread and the Swiss cheese. Toast in the skillet over medium heat until golden brown and cheese is melted. Set aside. Place lettuce in bowl and toss with the oil to coat the leaves. Toss with the vinegars and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomatoes and the bacon and toss. Cut the sandwich into cubes and place on the top of the salad. Serves 2.

Note: you can make two sandwiches if you want more bread and cheese in the salad.

Tomato Feta Salad

Tomato Feta Salad

Warm Pasta Salad

Warm Pasta Salad

BLT Salad

BLT Salad

Peach Streusel Muffins

Peach Streusel Muffins

I can’t get enough of peaches these days. I have been eating them fresh, making preserves, freezing peaches and cooking with them. This recipe is one of my favorites.

I hadn’t made them in a long time, so I decided today was the day. Now I remember why I liked them so much. Perfect crumbly texture, not too sweet, and that streusel topping.

They can be for more than breakfast, too. Split, topped with sweetened fruit and ice cream, these muffins make a great “shortcake” dessert.

While they are really great warm from the oven, these muffins are still fine the next day, or even the day after that, assuming they last that long. They freeze, well, too.

Peach Streusel Muffins

Streusel topping:
1/3 c. flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
½ t. nutmeg
4 T. cold butter

Batter:
2 c. flour
½ c. sugar
¼ c. brown sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. nutmeg
½ t. salt
½ c. cold butter- 1 stick
2 eggs
¾ c. half and half or buttermilk
1 t. vanilla
1 c. finely chopped fresh peaches, about 1 large
½ c. finely chopped pecans, optional

Heat oven to 375. Line 15 muffin tins with paper liners or grease them. Set aside. Make streusel by mixing together flour, sugar and nutmeg in a small bowl. Use your fingers, or a pastry blender, to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside. Make batter: In medium bowl combine flour with sugars and other dry ingredients. Mix well. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In small bowl beat eggs and add half and half and vanilla. Stir into flour mixture and fold in until just mixed. Mixture will look lumpy. Fold in peaches and nuts, if using. Scoop batter into prepared tins, filling about ¾ full. I get more than 12 from this recipe- normally about15, but it depends on how full you fill them. Sprinkle the tops with streusel. Place muffin tins on a baking sheet and bake for 20 or until golden brown. Cool a little before serving, if you can wait.

Melon Ball Sorbet

“Melon Ball” Sorbets

I remember making melon balls for fruit salad, when I was a kid. My mom showed me how. It always seemed like a special occasion when we made them. I had to learn how to use the melon “baller” to get pieces that were all perfect little rounds.

I will admit, I haven’t made melon balls in a long time, but I still like the way they look.

I used melon balls at the inspiration for this dish. Funny thing is- there isn’t any melon in the dish. I made three different sorbets- strawberry, mango and kiwi. Each one is meant to resemble a different melon- watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew. You can, of course, make sorbet from melons. I just didn’t happen to do that.

They can be served alone and make a light, wonderful dessert. You can add a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream, if you like.  They can also be served with cake or cookies.  You can even add some to a glass of lemonade or a summer cocktail, just for fun.

This dessert is easy to make and a nice alternative to ice cream. Don’t get me wrong, I love ice cream, but sometimes I want something lighter. Nice for those who are lactose intolerant, too. Once made, you can have them on hand for dessert anytime.

Strawberry Vanilla Sorbet

2 c. fresh or frozen strawberries (allow frozen berries to thaw a little first)

1/4 c. sugar, or to taste

3 T. fresh lemon juice

1 t. vanilla

Place ingredients in food processor and process until smooth. Place in shallow pan and freeze. If you are using frozen berries re-freezing will take only about 1 hour. Up to 30 minutes before serving remove sorbet from freezer and allow to soften enough to break into chunks. Place in processor and blend again until very smooth. Return to freezer until needed.

Mango Honey Ginger Sorbet

2-3 large, ripe mangoes, seed and peeled

1/4 c. honey, or to taste

2-3 t. fresh grated ginger

Place ingredients in food processor and process until smooth. Place in shallow pan and freeze.  Up to 30 minutes before serving remove sorbet from freezer and allow to soften enough to break into chunks. Place in processor and blend again until very smooth. Return to freezer until needed. For an even smoother sorbet, you can blend it another time.

Kiwi Lime Sorbet

6 kiwi, peeled

juice of 1 lime

1/4 c. sugar, or to taste

Place ingredients in food processor and process until smooth. Place in shallow pan and freeze.  Up to 30 minutes before serving remove sorbet from freezer and allow to soften enough to break into chunks. Place in processor and blend again until very smooth. Return to freezer until needed.

To serve the sorbets, use a cookie scoop to make the “melon” balls. I made them as I was serving them, but you can also make the balls and return them to the freezer until ready to serve.

Cinnamon Peach Preserves

Cinnamon Peach Preserves

After getting some peaches from a local market, I decided to make preserves with some of them. The peaches were so juicy and perfectly ripe. They smelled amazing. I knew I would not be able to eat them all. I used a basic preserve recipe, but added cinnamon for added flavor. I also used pectin in this batch.

You can make peach preserves without added pectin, but because these were so ripe, I knew they would set better with the pectin. There is less pectin in very ripe fruit. The end result was just what I was going for. Pieces of peach, suspended in a soft gel, lightly flavored with the cinnamon. I may have to make another batch.

Cinnamon Peach Preserves

4 c. sliced peaches, about 2-3 lbs. of fresh

6 T. pectin

2 T. lemon juice

3-4 (4-inch) cinnamon sticks

7 c. sugar

Note: Before starting the preserves have your canning supplies ready including clean jars, lids, rings, water bath canner, funnel and ladle.

Prepare peaches by scalding in boiling water for a minute. Place in cold water, then slip off the skins. Cut in half and remove the pits and any fibrous parts near the pits. Slice peaches and place peaches and any juices in a large pot. Add the pectin, juice and cinnamon sticks and bring to a boil, stirring often. Add the sugar and cook over high heat, stirring often, until mixture comes to a boil that you can’t stir down. Stir constantly for 1 full minute.

Remove from heat and remove the cinnamon sticks. Skim off any foam, if needed. Ladle hot preserves into clean, hot jars, filling to ¼-inch from the top. Wipe rims and screw on lids until comfortably tight. Repeat until the jars are filled. Place jars in water bath canner filled with boiling water. Water must cover the jars by at least an inch or two. Cover pot. Once water returns to the boil, start timing. Process for 10 minutes, turn off heat and leave jars in pot for 5 minutes longer. Remove jars to counter with a towel on it, or a cooling rack. Keep out of drafts. Allow jars to cool, check seals. Makes about 9 half pint jars.

Adapted from Ball Blue Book

Fresh Peach Salsa

Peach Salsa

This salsa makes a great topper for grilled meats or fish. It is also fun to serve with chips. While salsa may traditionally be made with tomatoes, there are other options. The peaches give the salsa a great natural sweetness. It is so colorful.

I used really ripe peaches, which are tough to peel. To help peel them, I placed the peaches in boiling water for a minute.  Then I put them in cold water. Once they were cool enough to handle, they peeled easily.

I used 5 peaches and ended up with almost 2 cups of prepared fruit. You might need more or less, depending on the size of the fruit.

You can make the salsa as spicy as you like. I added a jalapeno pepper and some hot sauce. I tasted the salsa 30 minutes after I made it and added a little more hot sauce.

Fresh Peach Salsa

4-5 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and diced

½ c. minced sweet onion

½ c. minced sweet pepper

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

2-3 T. chopped fresh cilantro

1t. hot sauce, or to taste

zest and juice from 1 lemon, you could use a lime instead

salt and pepper to taste, don’t be afraid to give this dish a good bit of salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until mixed. Check seasonings. Chill for at least 30 minutes and taste again- you will likely add more seasoning. Serve over grilled meats or with chips.

Cool Summer Dining

Bok Choy and Leftover Rice Salad

It is going to be very hot the rest of the week. Here are some ideas to help you stay cool while cooking and eating. Recipes for some “cool” dishes are at the end of the post.

Some tips to keep you cool.

Buy a roasted chicken at your local store. Now you have a healthy entree and can round out dinner with a salad and some bread. Also the leftovers can make great salads or sandwiches for additional meals.

Use the microwave for cooking potatoes or rice. It will not heat up the kitchen as much as conventional cooking methods and rice and potatoes make a good base for salads. I often steam veggies in my microwave.

Cook once, use twice. Cook a double batch of meat, dried beans, pasta, rice, vegetables, whatever.  Freeze the extra for another day so you don’t have to cook it twice.

Grill whenever possible. It keeps the kitchen cool, is generally a healthy way to cook and let’s be honest, food tastes better when grilled!!

Be a seasonal cook. Market prices on seasonal vegetables and fruits are generally lower and the flavor of fresh produce can’t be beat. Use them in salads, desserts and on the grill. If you or family members have a garden, plan menus around the bounty that nature provides at this time of year.

Re-invent the sandwich. Go beyond peanut butter and jelly on white bread. Use interesting breads like multigrain, pita, tortillas, and bagels. French bread etc.  Then get a little creative with the fillings. Try crabmeat salad, or turkey ham with artichoke. Try grilling a whole Portobello mushroom cap and serving with grilled onions and cheese. You can just pile up vegetables and have a sort of tossed salad sandwich.

Spill the beans. Canned beans are a quick way to make a summer salad more filling, or to make any one of a number of fun dishes. Just drain and rinse for high protein, high fiber and no-cook ingredients.

Pastamania! There are so many new and exciting pastas on the market take advantage and try one of them in an old recipe to dress it up. Pasta cooks quickly and can be cooked ahead of time. Pasta come in many flavors, colors and shapes and can easily add interest to your summer menu. Fresh pasta cooks even faster than dried pasta. You can even make a batch of homemade pasta.

Drink up. With warmer weather comes the need for more fluids. Drink plenty of water, but also enjoy lemonade, iced herbal teas and sparkling fruit juices. Watch out for alcohol and caffeine laden beverages as they act as diuretics and can dry you out. These should be enjoyed in moderation in hot weather and never after times of strenuous activity when your body needs water the most.

Fresh fruit is often the nicest dessert. Fruit salads or kabobs can be served along with homemade sorbets and smoothies.    

Bok Choy and Leftover Rice Salad

4 T. oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2-3 c. sliced bok choy- I used baby bok choy, but use what you like
2 c. cold cooked rice
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
½ of a sweet pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green onion, sliced

Dressing:
1/3 c. rice wine vinegar, or white wine vinegar
2 T. oil
2 T. chopped parsley or cilantro
1 T. sugar
1 t. soy sauce
1 t. sesame oil
1 t. fresh grated ginger
Salt and hot sauce to taste

In skillet, sauté garlic for a couple of minutes, being careful not to burn it. Add bok choy and stir fry a few more minutes, just until bok choy wilts a little, but is still crisp. In medium bowl place the bok choy/garlic mixture, being sure to include the oil used in cooking. Add rice and veggies to boy choy mix. In small jar, with a tight fitting lid, place the dressing ingredients. Secure lid and shake until well mixed. Pour over the rice mixture and stir until well mixed. Chill a few hours or overnight before serving. Serves 4-6.
Note: You can make this a main dish salad by adding a little protein. Cooked chicken or shrimp are great. For a vegetarian version- scrambled eggs or edamame work well, too.

  

Thai Chicken Salad

1 (3 lb.) chicken, cooked, skinned, meat shredded

8 oz. angel hair pasta, cooked and drained

2 T. coarsely shredded fresh mint leaves

1/2 c. chopped cilantro

1 tomato

1/2 c. olive oil

1 garlic clove

1/2 t. red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 T. plus 1 t. soy sauce

1 T. plus 1 t. fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 t. brown sugar

Lettuce leaves for lining the platter

Place chicken meat and pasta in bowl and combine. Mix remaining ingredients, except lettuce, in blender until smooth and toss with chicken mixture. Salad can be served immediately or chilled. Line serving platter with lettuce leaves and spoon over chicken mixture. Serves 4.

Open-Faced Pork and Apple Sandwiches

4 slices roast pork

Salt and pepper to taste

2 oz. cream cheese

2 T. mayonnaise

4 slices rye bread

4 slices Swiss cheese

1 crisp apple, sliced thin

Season pork slices and set aside. Combine cream cheese and mayonnaise and spread on bread slices. Top with cheese, then pork and finish with apple slices. Serves 4.

Italian Bread Salad

1 lb. Loaf, day old crusty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

5-6 plum tomatoes, sliced

½ English cucumber, sliced

1 c. sliced sweet onion

2/3 c. olive oil

1/3 c. red wine vinegar

3 T. balsamic vinegar

¼ c. fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips

2 t. Italian seasoning

In large bowl toss together bread cubes and vegetables. Combine remaining ingredients in a smaller bowl and pour over the bread mixture, tossing to coat well. Be sure that all the bread gets coated. Serves 6-8.

Greek Eggplant Salad

1 medium eggplant

1 large tomato, seeded and chopped

1 sweet pepper, seeded and chopped

1 small onion, minced

1/3 c. olive oil

¼ c. red wine vinegar

1 clove garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Sliced ripe olives and chopped fresh parsley

Broil or grill eggplant until skin has blackened. Cool. Rub skin off the eggplant with a damp paper towel and chop the pulp. Combine eggplant with remaining vegetables in bowl. Combine dressing ingredients in blender until smooth and toss over eggplant mixture. Chill and garnish with olives and parsley. Serves 3-4.

Cherry Almond Sorbet

Cherry Almond Sorbet

I love all sorts of sorbets. I make them all year long, but seem to make more when summer arrives. The basic recipe is simple –  just pureed fruit, some sweetener and usually, some flavoring or herb, to add interest. They are so light and refreshing. The perfect dessert for summer.

So far I have make sorbet from pineapples, mangoes, strawberries, blueberries (with red grapes), peaches, cranberries and coconut. I am sure I have forgotten some of them.

I picked up fresh cherries at the market, so I could make cherry sorbet.

Fresh cherries are one of my favorite fruits of all time. I love both sweet and sour cherries. For the sorbet, I just pitted a pound of sweet cherries, added sugar and some lemon juice. It needed a little something more- so I added almond extract. Really worked well with the cherries. You could easily use sour cherries in this recipe. You might want to add just a little more sugar.

So here is the recipe. Simple and sweet.

Cherry Almond Sorbet

1 lb. cherries, pitted

3/4 c. sugar, or to taste*

3 T. lemon juice – it helps the cherries retain their color

1 t. almond extract

Place cherries in blender or food processor, with the sugar and extract. Blend until smooth. Adjust sweetener to suit your taste. Place in a container with a lid and freeze. Once mixture is frozen, remove from the freezer, break into chunks and place in food processor. Process until mixture looks creamy and smooth. You might have to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor. Eat or return to freezer until ready to use. Makes just over a quart of sorbet.

*Feel free to use other sweeteners you like in place of the sugar. Honey or maple syrup would both work nicely.