Lemon Thyme and Ginger

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

A few years ago, I offered to bring a dessert for our Russian themed book club meeting. Our theme had nothing to do with the current US and Russian political climate, but was literary based around a love story from a classic Russian novella by Sergeevish Turgenev. At the time, the possibility of Russia interfering with the 2016 election was not even a blip in our imagination. Our job was to decipher the leads told throughout a melodramatic Russian love story and form an opinion if “First Love” was the definitive love story written in the 19th century. The task was not as insurmountable as it sounds, but my bigger concern lay with what should I bring for dessert?

After reading the story, and not feeling enthusiastic about it, I waltzed into researching ideas for a “Russian” dessert. It did not take long to discover a meringue dessert created to honor the Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova. Pavlova is a dessert consisting of a meringue nest filled with whipped cream and seasonal fresh fruit. Each bite is a choreographed dance of sensual textures and flavors. It is soft and crispy, sweet and tart, and as light as a ballerina pirouetting on a cloud.

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

In 1926 and 1928, Anna Pavlova toured with her ballet company to Australia and New Zealand. Her world tours were as anticipated as the Beatles and considered a major event for both countries. Chefs in Australia and New Zealand built on the excitement and honored her by creating and naming a meringue cake in her honor. Both countries have a long-standing dispute over the origin of the pavlova, inspired by the dancer’s tutu. The pavlova turned out to be as captivating as the ballerina’s graceful dancing, growing in popularity around the world for almost a hundred years. There is evidence that neither country created this meringue cake, but they did influence in its legacy. A true love story in its’ own right.

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

How to Make a Pavlova

Unlike other meringues, like my peppermint meringue cookies, that are crispy through and through, a pavlova has a crispy outside and a creamy-marshmallow center. A small amount of corn starch makes this marshmallow middle possible. The luscious contrast in texture is one reason for the dessert’s popularity.

Making a pavlova is not difficult, but like all meringues they are temperamental. The right conditions, cool dry air, and slowly adding sugar to the developing meringue are key to success. Another important factor is making sure your mixing bowl and beaters, or whisk, are clean. Any oil or fat residue will prevent the eggs whites from developing into an airy cloud. A new trick I just learned is clean out your mixing bowl and beaters with distilled vinegar then wipe the bowl and beaters dry with a lint free cloth. This extra step will ensure your bowl is free of any traces of fat.

Once the egg whites are all glossy and fluffy, bake the meringue in a low temperature oven. Don’t peek. Keep the door shut throughout the cooking and cooling process. Like a soufflé, meringue deflates when exposed to air before it is set.

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

Meringues are very sweet, so I offset the sweetness with tart fruit and lightly sweetened whipped cream. Adding extra sweet fruit, jams, fruit curds, or sauces makes the pavlova cloyingly sweet. Passion fruit has a tart flavor and is perfect with meringue. If you can find fresh passion fruit scoop out the flesh and seeds and drizzle it over the whipped cream for a dramatic affect. Otherwise you can buy frozen passion fruit pulp in the freezer section of your grocery store. I made a sauce  with the passion fruit with a little sugar and reduced it slightly. Resist the temptation to add more sugar. The sauce is tart by itself, but combined with the sweet meringue, the tart flavor subsides.

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

Switch it up

For a dairy free option, make whipped cream with coconut cream found in full fat coconut milk.

For a vegan option make the meringue with Aquafaba, chickpea water, and use coconut milk whipped cream. Top with fruit and passion fruit sauce.

For more lemon flavor add 1 TB fresh lemon juice to the finished meringue. Fold it in with the lemon zest, corn starch. Omit the vinegar.

Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of unsweetened natural coco powder for a chocolate Pavlova. Fold in the coco powder with the corn starch until no streaks are left. (omit the lemon zest in this recipe)

My pavlova recipe is adapted from  Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa, Mixed Berry Pavlova.

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Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

Lemon Pavlova with Passion Fruit and Kiwi

Pavlova is a sweet, airy and show stopper dessert made with meringue that is crispy with a creamy center. Covered with lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh fruit, a pavlova is a spectacle to see and eat. A very elegant dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. For best results, assemble the pavlova just before serving. This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten, Mixed Berry Pavlova
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 55 minutes
Servings 6 -8
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 5 egg whites about 1/2 cup (125 ml)
  • 1 cup 7 oz/ 202 g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp distilled vinegar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 cup 250 ml heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 TB powdered sugar
  • 1 kiwi peeled and sliced thin,
  • 3/4 cup 185 ml frozen passion fruit pulp, or one fresh passion fruit
  • 1-2 TB granulated sugar if using pulp
  • Berries and fresh mint to garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F /180°C and place the oven rack in the middle position.
  2. Draw a 9 inch (23 cm) circle in the middle of a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover a large rimmed baking sheet. Turn the paper over, and place the parchment paper on your baking sheet. The drawn side is facing down. Set aside.
  3. Wipe your mixing bowl and beaters with some distilled vinegar then wipe dry with a lint free cloth.
  4. Add the egg whites with a small pinch of Kosher salt to a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Turn the speed to medium-high and whisk until the egg whites become foamy and hold soft peaks.
  5. With the motor running add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking between each addition. This will take some time, about 5 minutes, but it prevents the egg whites from deflating. When all the sugar is added, turn the speed up to high and beat until the egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks and all the sugar is dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Test if the sugar is dissolved by rubbing a small piece of whipped egg whites between your fingers. If it feels course, then the sugar has not fully dissolved. If so, continue beating the egg whites or a minute more, but be careful to not over beat the meringue because it will deflate.
  6. Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the cornstarch over the meringue. Add the lemon zest and vinegar then carefully fold the ingredients into the meringue until evenly combined.
  7. Pour the meringue on to the parchment paper aiming for the middle of your circle. Spread out the meringue to evenly fill the circle.
  8. Place in the oven and turn the heat down to 300°F / 150°C Bake for 1 hour then turn off the oven. Keep the oven door closed no peeking. Cool the meringue in the oven for an hour, or until it reaches room temperature.
  9. You can make the meringue a day ahead and store in an airtight container on the counter. A cool oven is a great place to store the meringue overnight. Do not refrigerate.

Passion Fruit Sauce

  1. Pour the passion fruit sauce into a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high and add 1 TB of the sugar. Whisk to combine and bring to a gentle simmer. Taste add another tablespoon of sugar if needed. Remember the meringue is very sweet so keep the passion fruit sauce on the tart side. Whisk to combine and simmer. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken and slightly reduces. Turn off the heat and pour the sauce into a heat proof container. Cool to room temperature.

Make the Whipped Cream

  1. Add the chilled heavy cream to a medium bowl and whip with a hand held mixer, or use a free standing mixer, until just starting to thicken. Add the vanilla extract and sugar and beat until soft peaks form. Cover and keep refrigerated until needed.

Assemble the Pavlova

  1. Just before serving, slowly peel away the parchment paper from the meringue. A thin spatula helps release any stubborn parts. Slide the meringue onto a serving plate, then layer with the whipped cream. Scatter the fruit on top of the whipped cream then drizzle with the passion fruit or some of the sauce. Garnish with fresh mint if using.
  2. Serve immediately with extra sauce.
  3. Once assembled, pavlovas do not keep very long because the whipped cream makes the meringue soggy. You can cover any leftovers with aluminum foil and keep in the refrigerator for one day with the understanding some of the crispiness will subside.

Recipe Notes

Meringues are temperamental to humid condition. Store in an air tight container until needed. A cool oven is the best place to store a meringue, just make sure you don't accidentally turn it on.
You can also make 6 - 8 small nests instead of one big one. Each meringue then gets a large dollop of whipped cream and fresh fruit.

Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi and Passion Fruit Sauce, recipe.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Glaze

Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Glaze, recipe.

Most of us had, and possibly still have, foods we did not, or still won’t, eat. Currently, raw oysters are on my list of undesirable foods, but when I was a kid I disliked peas, mushrooms and Brussels sprouts. Honestly, it is a miracle I overcame any of my childhood food prejudices, especially vegetables. Mom only made frozen vegetables and she burnt them 8 times out of 10. Over time I grew to love all vegetables with Brussels sprouts being the last holdout.

Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Glaze, recipe.

Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Glaze, recipe.

About 15 years ago at a holiday celebration, a beautiful plate of Brussels sprouts was served with dinner. Up until then I did not give this cruciferous vegetable any thought or attention, but out of politeness and curiosity I put aside my childhood opinion and ate them. After one small spoonful of Brussels sprouts, my attitude changed forever. I cannot remember how my sister-in-law made them, but what I do remember was how surprisingly sweet they tasted. Even with the innate bitter components found in all types of cabbages, a tender and sweet flavor emerged. My sister-in-law’s meal tasted nothing like the Brussels sprouts of my childhood.

It is possible my attitude changed because now I tolerate bitter flavors. Whatever the reason, Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables during the fall and winter seasons. The key to delicious and sweeter tasting Brussels sprouts is cooking them properly. What I learned over the years is, they taste their best with fast cooking methods because the longer they cook the more bitter they taste. The cooking method that retains the most amount of nutritional benefits is steaming them. This is true for all vegetables. Yet, I like to sauté, braise or roast Brussels sprouts. Each technique creates a caramelized sear on the sprouts that add contrasting color and flavor. They are not as quick to prepare as green beans or asparagus,, but like most green vegetables they finish cooking within 20 minutes.

Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Glaze, recipe.

How to Cook Brussels Sprouts

This recipe uses two cooking methods. I first sear them in a hot skillet. Once they are nicely browned I add garlic, shallots and add some hot red pepper flakes then sauté them with the Brussels sprouts. For this recipe, I add the garlic after I sear the Brussels sprouts because I do not want the garlic to brown or burn. Then, I braise them in stock or water until they are just tender. I believe the steam from the liquid cooks them faster than they would if only sautéed. Plus the liquid gives the Brussels sprouts a nice coating for the pomegranate glaze to adhere to. Once they finish cooking, I add a glaze of butter and pomegranate molasses over the tender sprouts. It is just that simple.

The pomegranate molasses has a bitter-sweet taste adding just a touch of acid to brighten up the flavor. You can find pomegranate molasses at specialty markets, like Middle Eastern markets or Asian markets, or online.  Or, you can make it. I recommend store-bought pomegranate molasses because it has a long shelf life. You can also use pomegranate molasses in a variety of recipes like, Muhammara.

There are so many variations for additions and garnishes for this meal. I added pomegranate seeds for a pop of color and compliment the pomegranate molasses. A touch of acid like lemon juice brightens the meal, but too much lemon juice, or any acid, will change the color to a drab green.

Other nice additions are crispy pancetta or fried prosciutto. Anything salty like cured meats or anchovies will cut out some of the bitter flavor. If you use anchovies, omit the pomegranate molasses.

Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Glaze, recipe.

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Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Glaze, recipe

Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Glaze

Brussels sprouts are gently seared until golden brown then braised creating Brussels sprouts that are very tender and delicious. A glaze of butter and pomegranate molasses lightly coats the Brussels sprouts giving them a luxurious sheen. You can substitute the butter with extra virgin olive oil for a vegan meal. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, lemon zest or nuts like salted cashews or pistachios. Serve immediately. Special equipment: For 1.5 lbs (750 g) of Brussels sprouts you need an extra large skillet or sauté pan, 12-14 inches (30 -36 cm)
Course Vegetable Side Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs (750 g) Brussels Sprouts
  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt plus more to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 cloves shallots thinly sliced in half moons
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 - 2/3 cup (125 - 150 ml) chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 tsp pomegranate molasses
  • Fresh ground black pepper to Taste
  • Garnish with pomegranate seeds or fried slices of prosciutto, or crispy pancetta (optional)

Instructions

  1. Wash and dry the Brussels sprouts. Cut off the bottom stem then slice the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise. Remove any loose outer leaves that are not in good shape.
  2. Add 2 TB of extra virgin olive oil to a very large skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the olive oil starts to shimmer add the Brussels sprouts and lay them cut side down. Sear the Brussels Sprouts until golden about 2-3 minutes. Once seared to your desired color, stir them around then add the minced garlic and sliced shallots. Cook until the shallots start to soften, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the stock or water, cover with a tight fitting lid and cook until the Brussels sprouts are tender in the middle, when pierced with a fork. about 7-9 minutes.
  4. When the Brussels Sprouts are tender, remove the lid and cook off any remaining liquid in the pan.
  5. Once the pan is just dry, add the butter, or 1 TB olive oil for a vegan dish, and pomegranate molasses, stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Garnish with pomegranate molasses, lemon zest, and or crispy prosciutto.
  7. Serve immediately

Recipe Notes

If you are cooking for a large crowd, roasting Brussels sprouts is the easiest way to prepare them. Coat them in extra virgin olive oil and roast in a 400°F / 200°C oven for about 35 minutes on rimmed sheet pans. Turn them over from time to time during roasting. Add the pomegranate molasses immediately after they finish roasting with extra olive oil or melted butter and salt and pepper to taste. 

Nutrition Facts
Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Glaze
Amount Per Serving (4 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
How to cook Brussels sprouts . Brussels sprouts are seared in a skillet then braised until tender. They are finished with a glaze of butter and pomegranate molasses.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways, recipe.

Whenever I make Chocolate Pots de Creme or other custard dessert, I have a lot of egg whites looking for a purpose. For years I would throw out the unused egg whites until I learned egg whites freeze well. Now, I freeze the egg whites and pick a time to make one of my favorite desserts, mousse, dacquoise, or meringue cookies. During the winter, I especially enjoy peppermint meringue cookies with their pink swirls and minty flavor. These light and crispy cookies have just enough peppermint flavor and taste as good dressed up with peppermint candies or white chocolate, or as is. They are festive cookies, perfect for the holidays and make a great hostess gift.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 ways, recipe

Peppermint Meringue Cookie: 3 Ways, recipe.

It is not difficult to make peppermint meringue cookies, but there are a few factors to keep in mind.

  1. Eggs are easier to separate when they are cold, but room temperature egg whites get more volume. Separate the whites from the yolks when the eggs are just removed from the refrigerator. Make sure there are no traces of yolk in the egg whites. Leave the whites on the counter for 30 minutes to come up to room temperature before making meringue.
  2. Use clean beaters and bowls. It seems like an obvious statement, but any trace of water, soap, egg yolk, or other proteins will hinder your success at getting silky and airy meringue with lots of volume.
  3. Add the egg whites and acid or Cream of Tartar together, then whisk the egg whites. Acid, like lemon juice, white vinegar, or Cream of Tartar, are stabilizers and help with the structure of airy meringue.
  4. Slowly add the sugar to the whites one tablespoon at a time. If you add the sugar in too quickly the egg whites will deflate.
  5. Pipe the meringue and bake the cookies immediately after you stop whisking the meringues.
  6. Cool the meringue cookies in the oven after baking. Unless you need the oven to make dinner, it is a perfect air tight space to cool the meringue. I often make meringue at night because meringue take so long to bake, then I keep the meringue in the oven overnight. Once cool, store the cookies in an airtight container on the counter. Meringues do not like moisture and will sweat or get sticky when left out in the air.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways, recipe.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways, recipe.

How to make the red swirls or stripes on the meringue cookies:

  1. Method 1 as suggested in the recipe: add drops of red food coloring to the finished meringue in the mixing bowl. Do not mix. Then spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a ½ inch (1 cm) tip. Press out the air and secure the pastry bag. Pipe the meringue in a spiral motion and make a 1½ inch (4 cm) circle. This produces meringue cookies with swirly pink lines in each cookie. No two cookies look the same. As pictured in this blog post.
  2. Method 2: use an artist’s paint brush and paint 3 evenly spaced lines of red food coloring inside and up the length of the piping bag. It will look like three straight candy stripes in your piping bag. Carefully spoon the meringue into the piping bag fitted with a ½ inch (1 cm) tip or your choice. Press out all the air and twist and secure the top of your pastry bag. This method produces uniform looking meringue cookies with evenly spaced vertical red lines.

Personally, I like the first method because I love the pink swirls in each cookie, and I don’t have to worry about messing up the painted lines while I am spooning the meringue into the piping bag. If you don’t own piping tips and a pastry bag, plastic bags work just as well. See recipe description for instructions.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways, recipe.

 Toppings for your Peppermint Meringue Cookies

  1. Make the cookies as the recipe states without extra decoration. The peppermint flavor is pronounced, and the meringue cookie is light and crispy.
  2. For a little extra crunch, add crushed peppermint candy to the meringue cookie batter. And/or sprinkle crushed peppermint candy over the meringue cookies before you place them in the oven.
  3. Dip the bottom or top of cooled meringue cookies in melted white chocolate, then coat the white chocolate bottoms with crushed peppermint candy or coconut flakes.

There are endless possibilities for decorating and personalizing your meringue cookies. If peppermint is not your thing, fold in a couple of tablespoons of freeze-dried coffee granules into meringue. The coffee granules will create a subtle swirly pattern of coffee-colored meringue in each cookie. The coffee meringue will also taste great dipped in white chocolate. Or flavor with lemon extract, orange blossom water, or rose water and minced pistachios.

This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit.  I use their piping technique, but I slightly changed the ingredients. These cookies are great as is, but I love the peppermint meringue cookies dipped in white chocolate and peppermint candy. The white chocolate adds a creamy texture and taste against the crispy and minty meringues. These airy cookies are a real crowd pleaser.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways, recipe.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways, recipe.

 

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Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways, recipe.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways

Peppermint meringues are crisp and airy cookies with a bright mint flavor. Decorate the meringue cookies with crushed peppermint candy, melted white chocolate and or unsweetened shredded coconut. These cookies make great hostess gifts for the holidays. You do not need a pastry bag to make meringue cookies. Fill a gallon size plastic bag with the meringue and shape it into a corner of the bag. Twist the bag at the top of the meringue to get a cone shape. Snip off the corner to make a 1/2 inch opening to squeeze the meringue through. To crush the peppermint candy, place the candy in a zip lock bag and pound the candy with a meat mallet until they reach the desired size.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes
Servings 40 cookies
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 2/3 cup (152 g) granulated sugar*
  • 1/8- 1/4 tsp real peppermint extract
  • 12 drops red food color

Optional Decorations

  • 12 oz (342 g) white chocolate, melted
  • About 1/2 cup (125 ml) crushed peppermint candies
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 200°F/ 93°C
  2. Fit a ½ inch (1 cm) tip into a pastry bag and set upright inside a tall drinking glass. Fold the edges of the pastry bag over the glass rim. Set aside.
  3. Prepare two rimmed sheet pans. Cover each sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  4. Add egg whites and vinegar to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk the egg whites at medium speed until they are light and foamy with soft peaks, about a couple of minutes.
  5. Turn up the speed to medium-high and add the granulated sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking the whites for a few seconds between additions. It will take around 6 minutes to add all the sugar.
  6. Once all the sugar is added, turn the speed up to high and whisk the meringue until glossy and stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.
  7. Optional: If you want crushed peppermint candy in your meringue cookies, using a rubber spatula, fold in 2 Tablespoons of finely crushed peppermint candy into the meringue before you add the food coloring.
  8. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and add 12 drops of red food color scattered about the meringue. Do not mix.
  9. Spoon the meringue into the pastry bag, or gallon size Ziploc plastic bag, without stirring the meringue. Once all the meringue is added, twist the bag closed and squeeze down on the bag until the meringue is down to the tip without air pockets. If using a Ziploc bag, snip off the tip of a corner making a ½ inch (1 cm) opening.
  10. Using gentle, squeeze the meringue out of the piping bag and make a 1½ inch (4 cm) circle in an upward spiral, and space each meringue cookie about an inch (2.5 cm) apart.
  11. Bake in the oven for 2 hours, or until the meringue is dry.
  12. Turn off the oven and cool the meringue cookies in the oven. Once cooled, remove the meringue cookies and decorate, or store in an air tight container. Meringues do not like damp conditions or humid weather. Keep them out of the humidity or air long as possible.
  13. Decorate as you wish.

Optional Decorations

  1. Break up the white chocolate into pieces and place in a glass bowl. Melt the chocolate in the microwave. Microwave on high heat for 30 seconds. Stop and stir the chocolate and access the progress. Repeat, melting the chocolate in the microwave in 20 second intervals then stirring, for as many intervals as needed until the chocolate is mostly melted.
  2. Take the chocolate out of the microwave and add the remaining white chocolate to the bowl and stir the white chocolate until all the chocolate has melted.
  3. Place crushed peppermint candies on a plate, and/or the coconut flakes if using. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  4. Dip the meringue cookies in the melted white chocolate, either the bottom or top, and turn the cookie around to get an even coating. Let the excess chocolate drip off, then press the chocolate coated cookie in the peppermint candy or coconut flakes. Place each meringue cookie on the prepared sheet pan until dry. Repeat until all the cookies are coated in chocolate.

Recipe Notes

* When making meringue, super fine sugar works better than granulated sugar. It dissolves faster and is not as dense. I cannot get super fine sugar in my grocery store, instead I process the granulated sugar in a food processor, about 5-6 pulses. If you don't have either option, granulated sugar works, but make sure you add it into the meringue slowly.

Peppermint Meringue Cookies with three ways to decorate them. Use white chocolate, crushed peppermint candy and or shredded unsweetened coconut. A fun and delicious holiday cookie recipe.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Spiced Cranberry Vodka Cocktail

Spiced Cranberry Vodka Cocktail reicpe

After you make Triple C Cranberry Sauce, you will have extra cranberry juice that needs a purpose. You could drink it plain for breakfast. Crantini’s are nice cocktails. Or, infuse the juice with herbs and spices for a festive signature cocktail. The latter is my choice, especially since I love martinis made with fruit  juice muddled with fresh herbs and spices. Spiced Cranberry Vodka Cocktail takes its inspiration from the classic Cosmo Cocktail and is perfect for entertaining.

Spiced Cranberry Vodka Cocktail Recipe

There are many fun cocktails for the holidays, but my inspiration came for the need to use up some leftover juice, and a request from Joe, “If you’re going to make a cocktail, make a vodka cocktail.” How could I refuse? Vodka has a clean alcohol flavor which mixes well with many fruit juices. I am not a fan of flavored vodkas, they just taste artificial to me. It is also less expensive to flavor the vodka myself then buy 3 different types of flavored vodka. All you need to get the flavors of herbs and spices in your drink, is to add a small herb sprig or fruit, and muddle it to release its oils. Then add the remaining ingredients and shake away.

The scents and flavors of my cranberry sauce got me thinking about new ideas for a vodka cocktail. Many herbs pair nicely with cranberry and I started dreaming about adding rosemary, ginger and orange bitters to cranberry juice. I tried steeping rosemary, ginger, lemon peel and allspice into the cranberry juice. Unfortunately, after 36 hours the juice tasted no different. I am going to work on this some more, but until then a cocktail shaker and a muddle gets the job done.

Spiced Cranberry Vodka Cocktail recipe

When we drink cocktails, vodka is our preferred libation. Though I am not remiss for trying other beverages like tequila for a Classic Margarita, and stout in a Guinness Stout Float. Even cooking with spirits is fun like, Chocolate Stout Cake

I am particular about my drinks, because I prefer them on the dry side. Many cocktails are too sweet for my tastes. Yet, I recognize some drinks need a touch of sugar for the flavors to balance out. There is a fine line of how much simple syrup to add before it gets too much, but it does make a difference. Spiced cranberry vodka cocktail needs just a pinch of sugar to offset the harsh vodka and tart cranberry juice. It is amazing how even a small amount can change a drink from good to wow.

Spiced Cranberry Vodka Cocktail recipe.

Granulated sugar does not dissolve in cold beverages, but simple syrup does. Imagine that layer of sugar at the bottom of a glass of iced tea and you’ll get the picture. No one wants that slurry in a cocktail. That is why simple syrup is used. Depending on how sweet your juice is, you may or may not need the simple syrup. The first time you make it, taste as you go to figure out how much simple syrup you need to reach your desired balance of flavor. Simple syrup is a good option to have at your disposal, whether you want a cocktail or a non-alcoholic beverage.

Spiced cranberry vodka cocktail is a remake of two classic drinks, Crantini and a Cosmo. The fresh herbs and spice from the ginger make this cocktail a festive and refreshing beverage. It would also taste great in a non-alcoholic beverage using the herb infused cranberry juice with seltzer or ginger ale.

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Spiced Cranberry Vodka Cocktail recipe.

Spiced Cranberry Vodka Cocktail

When cocktails are made to order, everyone gets exactly what they want. Although this recipe takes its inspiration from the classic Cosmo cocktail, it has more herb and spice flavor without being sweet. I like my cocktails on the dry side and usually with some fresh herbs. In this cocktail, a touch of rosemary and ginger add a layer of welcomed flavor with the cranberries. You don't want to add too much rosemary, or it will taste medicinal. A few drops of orange bitters and simple syrup round out the drink nicely.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 cocktail
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Spiced Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup 125 ml water
  • 1/2 cup 125 ml sugar
  • 1 1/2- inch 4 cm slice fresh ginger, sliced thin
  • 1/6 tsp pinch ground allspice, or 3 allspice berries

Spiced Cranberry Vodka Cocktail

  • 1 inch 2.5 cm piece of a rosemary sprig
  • 1 thin slice of fresh ginger
  • 2 oz 60 ml vodka
  • 2 oz 60 ml cranberry juice
  • 2-3 dashes of orange bitters
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Less than 1/2 tsp of spiced simple syrup

Instructions

Spiced Simple Syrup

  1. Add all the ingredients for the simple syrup into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. When the sugar is dissolved, turn down the heat to medium low and simmer for two minutes. Stir the whole time you are cooking the simple syrup, and gently pound the ginger with a wooden spoon to release its flavor.
  2. Turn off the heat and cool for twenty minutes.
  3. Pour the simple syrup through a fine mesh strainer resting over a glass container. Store in a glass container with a lid in the refrigerator. Simple syrup will keep for two weeks, stored in the refrigerator.

Spiced Cranberry Vodka Cocktail

  1. Add the rosemary, sliced ginger, into a cocktail shaker and muddle the herbs to release their flavors.
  2. Fill the shaker with ice, then pour the vodka, cranberry juice, lemon juice, simple syrup if needed, and 2-3 dashes of orange bitters. Cover and give it a good shake.
  3. Pour into martini glasses and serve.
Spiced Cranberry Vodka Cocktail Recipe

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

My Favorite Stuffing Recipe

My favorite turkey stuffing recipe.

Every Thanksgiving I cherish a vivid childhood memory of making stuffing with Mom. After all, this special occasion only happened once a year. Helping Mom with the dinner prep had two advantages. First, getting the turkey quickly in the oven meant the rest of our day was free for outdoor playtime. The rest of the day’s activities was on hold until the turkey was ready for roasting. My parents held Thanksgiving dinner in the early evening to allow for a full day of being outside. Traditionally, we either hiked along the Marin Headlands, or played touch football at Cronkite Beach. None of that was going to happen until the turkey was prepped, stuffed, and then popped in the oven. Not even breakfast.

Mom made a standard stuffing and it was delicious. Any little helpers got to “taste test” the mix, just to make sure the seasoning was perfect. Nowadays, the FDA discourages consuming food with raw eggs, but in the 60’s and 70’s no one thought about it. I loved her uncooked stuffing just like I love eating raw cookie dough. Together we mixed the stuffing, then tasted it a couple of times, “Just to be sure.” Slyly, I sneaked in as many nibbles as I could get away with. With the savory flavors from rich stock and aromatics cooked in gobs of butter, what’s not to like?

My favorite turkey stuffing reicpe.

My favorite turkey stuffing recipe.

My Favorite Stuffiing for Turkey recipe

Fast forward to 2017, the spirit of my childhood Thanksgiving’s traditions is ever-present, especially when I make stuffing for our holiday turkey. Faithfully, I work to replicate the flavor memory of Mom’s stuffing. It is not as easy as it sounds because my stuffing is an entirely different beast. As a small seasonal side business, Joe bakes delicious sourdough bread. His bread is my staple ingredient, along with homemade stock and lots of add-ins.

I have nothing against the store-bought bread cubes. They make consistent and delicious stuffing. Yet, I have a freezer full of Joe’s Dough Artisan Bread, and I believe you use what you got. To be honest, it is more challenging using artisan bread for stuffing, and the results are less consistent. My theory is, the airier the bread the less stock you need. To get consistent results, it is more important to pay attention to how the bread soaks up the stock, then religiously follow a recipe. The first few times I made stuffing with Joe’s bread, the stuffing was either too wet or too dry. It took me several tries to figure it out. Fortunately, my mistakes and some extra research taught me a few tricks.

My favorite turkey stuffing recipe.

Three tricks for successful stuffing

First, when toasting the bread cubes in the oven, don’t let them get too brown. They should be just starting to brown. You are not making croutons here, just drying out bread for stuffing. The browner the bread the less stock it absorbs. It seems counter intuitive, yet keep the bread cubes light in color, but completely dried out.

The second and third tricks are interconnected. Add the stock in stages and give the bread mixture time to absorb it. At first, add half the stock then let it rest 10 minutes. Then, gently toss it about and see how wet it looks. This wait period makes a huge difference in understanding how much stock you need. I remember the first time I made stuffing with Joe’s Dough Bread, I only used half the stock required in the recipe because the bread cubes appeared to be swimming in stock. Unfortunately, the stuffing baked very dry and I was disappointed. Had I waited a few minutes, I would see the bread soak up the stock. Artisan bread has its own temperament that varies from day-to-day and year to year, no matter how consistent the baker is.

If you like your stuffing on the wet side, add more stock. If you want your stuffing moist but not wet, add less stock. Keep in mind how dense your bread is as well. I am still testing this theory, but the denser the bread the more stock you need. It takes some time to figure everything out, but eventually you will get to know the look and feel of the bread and stock ratio to get consistent results.

My favorite turkey stuffing recipe.

Do you need a gluten-free pie for Thanksgiving? Try Double Coconut Pie.

Great appetizer idea for Thanksgiving: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways

Stuffing variations

If you looked at stuffing recipes from around the country, you would see regional food trends and traditions. Each region uses ingredients that are abundant in their local area and lifestyle. I have a freezer full of bread, so it is my choice for stuffing. Additionally, in the Hudson Valley locally grown apples are easy to come by, and I love their sweet taste with savory herbs and aromatics. Other regions use local ingredients that are abundant in their area, like corn, oysters, sausage, wild rice, or cranberries.

Stuffing is so easy to adapt to suit your personal preference. If you want sausage, add about one pound of crumbled cooked sausage or bacon. Substitute fennel for the apples, or dried cranberries or raisins. You can also omit the apples altogether. If you do add dried fruit, soak it in some apple cider to soften it up. Also, leeks are a great substitute for onions, or use a combination of the two. Anything goes, just adjust the amount of ingredients accordingly.

My favorite turkey stuffing recipe.

In my opinion, Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without stuffing. I love it paired with gravy and cranberry sauce. The turkey may be the centerpiece of the meal, but I think it is the foundation for all the bright and savory flavors of the other side dishes.  It’s all good.

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My favorite turkey stuffing reicpe.

My Favorite Stuffing Recipe

This stuffing has great depth of flavor from good quality bread, rich homemade stock and lots of aromatics like mushrooms and apples with the traditional celery and onions. A compliment of fresh herbs like sage and rosemary, add another savory dimension. If you want to replicate the flavor of old fashioned stuffing, use turkey stock to develop a taste like stuffing cooked inside the turkey. Use the recipe as a guide and add the stock in increments. Also, allow time for the bread cubes to absorb the stock before adding more stock. Use your discretion to determine the amount of stock you need, based on how moist or wet you like your stuffing. If you desire, there is a long list of substitutions to add to your stuffing. Add 1 lb of cooked and crumbled sausage, or 1/2 lb of cooked and chopped bacon, sliced fennel, leeks instead of onions, or dried fruits. Keep in mind the herbs in your stuffing should compliment the herbs used in the other side dishes in your meal.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes
Servings 10 -12 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb (750 g) loaf artisan quality bread*
  • 10 TB (141 g) butter divided, plus more for greasing pan
  • 12 oz (350 g) mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 medium onions finely chopped
  • 4 celery stalks finely chopped
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt divided**
  • 1 large crisp apple like Granny Smith chopped
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) dry white wine
  • 4 stems of parsley roughly minced
  • 6 sage leaves minced
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme minced
  • 3 eggs
  • 3-4 cups (up to 1 liter) vegetable, chicken or turkey stock**

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F / 150°C and place the racks in the upper and lower third of the oven.
  2. Slice the bread in even one-inch slices, then tear each slice into pieces smaller than an inch. Divide and lay the torn bread evenly across two rimmed sheet pans. Place in the oven and bake until dry, but not browned, for about 25 - 30 minutes. Rotate the pans from top to bottom half way through the baking time and turn the bread pieces over. It is ok if it the bread cubes turn very slightly brown. When done, remove the toasted bread cubes from the oven and cool. Once cool, slide the bread into a large mixing bowl. If making ahead of time, store in an air tight container for a couple of days, or freeze up to one month.
  3. Raise the oven temperature to 350°F / 175°C and move the rack to the middle position. Butter a 3-quart shallow baking dish. (More surface area gives you more crispy pieces on top.)
  4. Melt 2 TB (28 g) butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until the liquid is released and evaporated. Remove to a small bowl or plate and reserve for later.
  5. Add the remaining 8 TB of butter (1/2 cup / 113 g) to the skillet. Once melted add the chopped onion and celery. Stir to coat. Season with up to 1/2 tsp of Kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh ground pepper. Cook the onions and celery until they are very soft, about 12 minutes. Add the reserved mushrooms and chopped apples and cook until the apples are starting to get tender and no liquid is in the skillet, about 5 minutes. The vegetables should be very tender, but the apples still have some bite left in them.
  6. Add the wine and scrape up any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Cook until wine has evaporated.
  7. Turn off the heat then add the prepared herbs to the cooked vegetables. Add the vegetable mixture to the toasted bread cubes and gently toss together. Let the mixture sit and cool for 10 minutes.
  8. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and 2 cups (500 ml) of the stock.
  9. Add the stock mixture to the bread. Add 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, (if your stock is salty add less), and 1 tsp fresh ground pepper. Stir until everything is evenly combined. Let the stuffing mixture sit and absorb all the stock for 10 - 15 minutes. Give the stuffing a good toss to help the stock get absorbed in the bread.
  10. Slowly add the remaining stock, as needed, to the stuffing mixture a cup (250 ml) at a time. Stir to get evenly mixed. Let the stuffing rest for a few minutes and stir again. Add more stock as needed. This rest time allows the bread to soak up the stock. Let it rest a few minutes more if more stock needs to get absorbed.
  11. Pour the stuffing into a prepared baking dish. Cut off a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover the baking dish and smear butter over the dull side. Cover the stuffing with foil, butter side down, and bake in the oven until the stuffing is hot all the way through. Instant read thermometer should read 160°F (71 °C), 30-40 minutes.
  12. When the stuffing is cooked all the way through, remove the foil and turn the oven temp up to 425°F (220°C). Bake the stuffing until golden brown, and crispy on top, about 30 minutes more.
  13. Stuffing can be made one day ahead up to the first half of baking. Toast the top of the stuffing after you reheated the stuffing, before serving. Keep in the refrigerator in an air tight container for up to two days or freeze up to one month.

Recipe Notes

* The amount of stock you need will vary depending on the type of bread you use. Use your discretion to determine the total amount of stock. **If you use store bought stock, look for low salt or no salt stock.

My favorite recipe for turkey stuffing .

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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