Old Bay cheese crackers at Let’s Give Peas a Chance

Today I wrote a guest post for my friend Ann Marie, another Baltimore-based vegetarian food blogger, at her blog Let’s Give Peas a Chance. As a fellow Baltimorean, I knew Ann Marie would appreciate a snack highlighting everyone’s favorite Chesapeake-region seasoning. Hop on over today to find my recipe for Old Bay Cheese Crackers and say hello to Ann Marie!

Old Bay cheese crackers

Summertime drinkin’ with the Leland Palmer

If there’s one thing I like to do in the summer, it’s going to the park to drink outside and play cornhole. Of course everybody brings loads of beer. But I like to make a big jug of something liquory, but not too liquory; because let’s be real, you’re going to be drinking all day.

My friend Laura posted this recipe on my Facebook wall recently. An adult version of an Arnold Palmer with jasmine tea and gin, with a Twin Peaks-inspired name to boot? Sign me up. She said that she had made it, and that it was delicious! Oh but by the way she substituted Iron Goddess of Mercy oolong for the jasmine, agave for the honey, and homemade kaffir lime liqueur for the limoncello.

So yeah, she totally made a different drink. Which also sounds amazing! But as a fan of jasmine tea and honey, I wanted to make this drink.

However, like Laura, I am a little incapable of trying a recipe without futzing with it in some way. One of my favorite gin cocktails involves lemon juice, honey, and peppercorns; I found myself drifting to peppercorns again when thinking of this drink. That said, I don’t want to rehash the same thing over and over. And pickled peppercorns or black pepper both seem not quite right. Black peppercorns are too bold, pickled green peppercorns are too… pickled. But what about pink peppercorns? Fruity, citrusy, with just a hint of spice?

the Leland Palmer

Aww yeah.

The Leland Palmer
Adapted from The Leland Palmer by Damon Boelte for Bon Appétit

Serves 6

3 cups freshly brewed jasmine green tea (I used 4 teaspoons of DAVID’sTEA Dragon Pearls in 3 cups water) *
1/3 cup honey (or agave nectar for a vegan drink)
3/4 cup gin
1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns
3/4 cup limoncello
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 12-oz can seltzer, chilled
ice cubes, for serving
lemon slices, for garnish
pink peppercorns, for garnish

Stir pink peppercorns into gin and set aside to infuse for at least an hour.

Brew jasmine tea, then stir in honey until fully dissolved. Set aside to cool completely.

In a large pitcher combine cooled sweetened tea, infused gin (including peppercorns), limoncello, lemon juice, and grapefruit juice. Chill until ready to drink.

Just before serving, stir in seltzer. Pour over ice, then garnish with lemon slice and/or a few additional pink peppercorns sprinkled on top if desired (they’ll float).

* If you are using high quality tea, consider making two half-batches of tea with the same leaves (or making a double batch of the cocktail and making two 3-cup batches of tea with the same leaves, which is what I did).

Twelve days of food gifts: basil vodka

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

I’m sorry! I’m sorry, okay? I skipped not just one, but two days of my Twelve Days of Food Gifts. I’m a horrible person.

Honestly, I think this Gchat jinxed me:

Emily‬: oh I meant to tell you
I really like your little 12 days of gifts thing
that you’re doing
me‬: hahaha thanks
Emily‬: you’re so creative/not lazy
I admire you
me‬: haha i don’t know how the fuck i’ve managed
to get this done

But we’ve still got time, right? It’s not Christmas yet. And the two gifts I have left don’t take too much time. Will you let me make it up to you?

With basil vodka?

basil vodkaBasil Vodka

Makes 4 bottles

1 cup vodka (not too cheap, not too nice)
1/2 cup basil leaves

Put basil leaves in a clean glass jar, then pour vodka over them. Let infuse in a cool dark place, shaking at least 2 times per day, for 2-3 days.

Wash and dry your bottles so they are ready to go when needed.

When basil flavor is to taste, strain through a coffee filter to remove the basil leaves.

Decant into bottles. I found that my regular kitchen funnel did not fit in the neck of these bottles, but a tiny flask funnel worked fine.

For Gifting:
woozy 1.7 oz round glass bottle w/ cap
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single 2″x2″ label)
printable (12 2″x2″ labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled bottle, and press firmly in the middle of the label. Then smooth both edges to the sides.

If you’d like to protect the label from potential moisture-related accidents, cover the labels with clear contact paper before cutting them out. I don’t love my friends that much, but you might.

Twelve days of food gifts: vanilla sugar

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

Okay, this is the last infused sugar, I swear.

For those of you just joining, this is my Twelve Days of Food Gifts series. I post recipes and printables, you use them to make gifts. Simple as that. This is day nine. Almost there. Mother of god.

Anyway, this is the easiest infused sugar, because the vanilla beans don’t need to be peeled and they don’t make the sugar all weird and clumpy. Also, if you find that the sugar is not vanilla-y enough and you need to wrap it up and get it under the tree, just put a vanilla bean piece or two inside the bottle with the sugar and pretend you meant to do it that way the whole time. I won’t tell if you don’t tell, because that’s what I did.

What would I use vanilla infused sugar for? Well, what doesn’t taste good with a hint of vanilla? Exactly.

vanilla sugar

Vanilla Sugar

Makes 4 jars

heaping 1 2/3 cup sugar
4-8 vanilla beans (scraped is fine)

Slice vanilla beans in half lengthwise. If desired, scrape out caviar to use in another recipe. Put beans, scraped or not, in a glass jar. Cover with sugar. Shake shake shake.

Let sit in a cool, dark spot for 1 to 2 weeks, until fragrant. Shake at least twice a day.

Remove vanilla beans. Then pack scented sugar into spice jars, adding a vanilla bean (or half of a vanilla bean) to the bottle if desired.

For Gifting:
J.K. Adams 2 ounce Flint Jars
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single 5.25″x2.75″ label)
printable (3 5.25″x2.75″ labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled jar, and press firmly in the middle of the label. Then smooth both edges around the back.

If desired, cover the labels with clear contact paper before you cut them out to protect the label from running if exposed to steam or moisture. But really, who are you kidding. This won’t last long enough in someone’s kitchen to have the label run, because vanilla sugar goes on everything.

Twelve days of food gifts: zesty salt’n'pep

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

Okay, so I’m just getting this in under the wire today. My mister and I threw a cocktail party yesterday. Aside from prepping all the food (which I of course forgot to take any photos of), there was plenty of socializing to be done. Needless to say, I spent today lazing around doing nothing (read: watching Serenity and several episodes of Freaks and Geeks).

But I’m doing it! I bring you day seven of the Twelve Days of Food Gifts.

This zesty salt’n'pepper mix? It’s a quickie. If you want to make it even faster, you can use pre-ground black pepper… but I think it’s worth it to grind it yourself — you can call it an arm workout or something. Or use a coffee grinder or spice mill.

And it tastes delicious on everything.

zesty salt'n'pepZesty Salt’n'Pep

Makes 4 jars

2/3 cup + 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 heaping cup sea salt
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 heaping cup garlic powder

Mix it all together. Put it in jars. The end.

For Gifting:
J.K. Adams 2 ounce Flint Jars
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single 5.25″x2.75″ label)
printable (3 5.25″x2.75″ labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled jar, and press firmly in the middle of the label. Then smooth both edges around the back.

If desired, cover the labels with clear contact paper before you cut them out to protect the label from running if exposed to steam or moisture.

Twelve days of food gifts: orange sugar

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

Another infused sugar! I know. But they’re nice and easy so I made a few. There’s only one more. I swear.

For those of you just joining us, this is my Twelve Days of Food Gifts series. I’m making some edibles, packin’ em up, slappin’ some labels on there and putting them under the tree. And… posting everything here for you so you can do the same.

The orange sugar ended up being my favorite, which I didn’t expect. It infused the fastest, got the least clumpy and annoying, and the flavor is delicate but very distinctly orange.

What would I use orange infused sugar for? Sprinkling on top of cookies or muffins before baking (either chocolate or vanilla would be divine), and sweetening oatmeal.

orange sugarOrange Sugar

Makes 4 jars

heaping 1 2/3 cup sugar
1 orange (organic recommended)

Scrub your orange very well.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off of the orange in strips. Put in glass jar. Cover with sugar. Shake shake shake.

Let sit in a cool, dark spot for 5 to 7 days, until fragrant. Shake at least twice a day.

Pour sugar onto a baking sheet, spread out, break up clumps with a spoon, and let dry. Once dry, sift sugar to remove orange peels and break up any lasting clumps. Then, pack scented sugar into spice jars.

For Gifting:
J.K. Adams 2 ounce Flint Jars
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single 5.25″x2.75″ label)
printable (3 5.25″x2.75″ labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled jar, and press firmly in the middle of the label. Then smooth both edges around the back.

If desired, cover the labels with clear contact paper before you cut them out to protect the label from running. You’re a better person than I.

Twelve days of food gifts: peppercorn vodka

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

It’s day five of the stuffed grapes twelve days of food gifts. If you’re just joining us: Every day I post a recipe, links to packaging supplies, and printable labels so you can go ahead and make some last minute gifts.

Today it’s time for another boozy treat. Obviously.

So, jalapeno vodka, habanero vodka, chipotle vodka… these all sound really tasty, right? But sometimes you want something just a little spicy — not something that will melt your face off. Especially if your face might already be melting off. Since you’re doing shots.

Enter peppercorn vodka. Peppercorns are great for  an understated heat, which I guess is why we use them to gently spice food on a daily basis. They also give a lovely tint to the vodka. And they infuse fast. If you find yourself a couple of days before Christmas and you haven’t started anything yet, you could whip up a batch of this in less than forty-eight hours, including bottling and labeling.

peppercorn vodka

Well? Get to it.

Peppercorn Vodka

Makes 4 bottles

1 cup vodka (not too cheap, not too nice)
1 scant tablespoon dried peppercorns (any color, but I used black)

Mix vodka and peppercorns in a clean glass jar. Seal and put in a cool, dark place. Let it infuse, shaking the jar several times per day, for 1 to 2 days for a subtle peppery flavor — longer for a real spicy kick.

Wash and dry your bottles so they are ready to go when needed.

When pepper flavor is to taste, strain through a coffee filter to remove the peppercorns.

Decant into bottles. I found that my regular kitchen funnel did not fit in the neck of these bottles, but a tiny flask funnel worked fine.

For Gifting:
woozy 1.7 oz round glass bottle w/ cap
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single 2″x2″ label)
printable (12 2″x2″ labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled bottle, and press firmly in the middle of the label. Then smooth both edges to the sides.

If you’d like to protect the label from potential moisture-related accidents, cover the labels with clear contact paper before cutting them out. I don’t love my friends that much, but you might.

Twelve days of food gifts: lime sugar

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

Somehow, I have managed to not fall behind on this… so here’s another installment of my Twelve Days of Food Gifts series. I post recipes, links to packaging materials, and printable labels so that you too can give your friends and family awesome goodies.

Today… well, I told you it wouldn’t be the end of the infused sugars, right?

This lime sugar takes a little longer to infuse than the lemon sugar. Perhaps I should have posted this one first, huh? But besides that, it’s very similar in that it’s low-maintenance — just let it sit and do its thing.

So what would I use lime infused sugar for? Making mojitos, rimming margarita glasses, giving a kick to lemonade, and sprinkling on fresh fruit.

lime sugarLime Sugar

Makes 4 jars

heaping 1 2/3 cup sugar
2 limes (organic recommended)
additional lime (optional)

Scrub your limes very well.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off of the limes in strips. Put in glass jar. Cover with sugar. Shake shake shake.

Let sit in a cool, dark spot for about 1 1/2 to 2 weeks, until very fragrant. Shake at least twice a day.

Dump sugar onto a baking sheet, and break up clumps. Let sit for several hours to let dry. To speed up the process, put in the oven on the lowest setting, and let bake with the door propped open, stirring frequently. Bake for 15 minutes, let cool, and then repeat as necessary. Sift sugar to remove lime peels and break up clumps.

If more flavor is desired, zest in a small amount of lime peel to leave in (rather than sifting out), and let dry. Once completely dry, pack scented sugar into spice jars.

For Gifting:
J.K. Adams 2 ounce Flint Jars
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single 5.25″x2.75″ label)
printable (3 5.25″x2.75″ labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled jar, and press firmly in the middle of the label. Then smooth both edges around the back.

If desired, cover the labels with clear contact paper before you cut them out to protect the label from running.

Twelve days of food gifts: Old Bay vodka

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

So somehow I’ve managed to post three food gifts in a row as part of my Twelve Days of Food Gifts series. If I get through all twelve, that will be your Christmas miracle right there.

But to recap, I’m making awesome homemade edible gifts for my friends and family this year. Then I’m posting the recipes, along with links to specialty packing supplies, and fun printable labels.

And I think I’ve mentioned my love of Old Bay before, right?

Old Bay vodkaThis is a fun infused vodka that I wasn’t really able to find any guidance on the internet about — it doesn’t seem like it’s been done. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work, or if it did technically “work” whether it would be something anyone would willingly put in their mouth.

Who’m I kidding, my friends will drink anything.

Just kidding! Kind of. But it ended up being something I would totally drink. It’s a fun vodka that is not your typical fruity/sweet infusion, but doesn’t go all the way to the other side by being ALL HOT PEPPERS ALL THE TIME. It’s got a bit of a kick to it, but not in a way that burns your lips. A bit of a celery-seedy aftertaste rounds it out.

This would be great for taking shots, as the vodka burn is reduced a little bit by infusing. It also makes a great bloody mary, obviously. But it would be fun to experiment with this in any savory cocktails that you’re into.

Old Bay Vodka

Makes 4 bottles

1 cup vodka (not too cheap, not too nice)
1 heaping teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

Mix vodka and Old Bay in a clean glass jar. Seal and put in a cool, dark place. Let it infuse, shaking the jar several times per day, for 3 to 5 days.

Wash and dry your bottles so they are ready to go when needed.

When Old Bay flavor is to taste, strain through a coffee filter to remove the sediment. You may have to change out the filter a few times — since Old Bay is ground, it gunks up the filter pretty quickly.

Decant into bottles. I found that my regular kitchen funnel did not fit in the neck of these bottles, but a tiny flask funnel worked fine.

For Gifting:
woozy 1.7 oz round glass bottle w/ cap
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single 2″x2″ label)
printable (12 2″x2″ labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled bottle, and press firmly in the middle of the label. Then smooth both edges to the sides.

If you’d like to protect the label from potential moisture-related accidents, cover the labels with clear contact paper before cutting them out. I don’t love my friends that much, but you might.

Twelve days of food gifts: rosemary salt

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

So far we have a least two days of food gifts, as this is my second post in my twelve days of food gifts series for the winter holidays.

Basically, I post recipes, links to specialty supplies, and printable labels so you too can give awesome homemade comestibles to your friends and family.

On the savory end of the spectrum, today I’m making rosemary salt.

rosemary saltThis rosemary was, as is my habit, pinched from my friend’s yard. I’ll actually be sending a jar of this to the person who originally planted the bush. Full circle.

rosemary saltRosemary Salt

Makes 4 jars

1 2/3 cup fine sea salt
4 large (1′ long) fresh rosemary sprigs

Wash rosemary sprigs and pat dry. Make sure they’re fully dry before continuing.

Cut 3 springs of rosemary into thirds and crush the leaves gently with your fingers. Place in a medium pot. Cover with salt.

Heat over very low, stirring frequently, until whoever you live with walks into the room and says “why does the entire house smell like rosemary?” and rosemary is shriveled — about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

Take the last fresh rosemary sprig and cut into thirds, then place in a clean glass jar. Pour cooled salt/rosemary mixture into jar. Shake well and seal tightly. Leave for 3 to 5 days, shaking at least twice a day.

Wash and dry your jars and lids at some point so they’re ready to pack.

When fully infused, sift salt and remove rosemary. Then pack into jars.

For Gifting:
J.K. Adams 2 ounce Flint Jars
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single label)
printable (3 labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled jar, and press firmly in the middle of the label. Then smooth both edges around the back.

To protect the label from running if it is exposed to liquid, cover with clear contact paper before cutting out the labels. I was too lazy to do this, but maybe you aren’t!