Category Archives: Kitchen Experiments

Mulled Wine & Vin d’Orange

The closer we hurtle towards Christmas, the busier everything gets!

And my life has been intensely hectic — between going to school and working two jobs, it can be tough to de-stress at the end of the day. You’d think that after 14 hours of being on my feet that falling asleep would be easy, but sometimes it’s really not.

This is unusual for me, but I’ve actually been a bit of an insomniac over these last couple weeks despite how physically exhausted I am.

Also, dead serious: I’ve been dreaming of dessert! Not even kidding!

Lately I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, my fading dreams swirling with visions of mince pie and gingerbread and bûche de noël — clearly I’ve got pastry on the brain, even when I close my eyes!

The worst part about it is how I wake up totally starving just because I’ve been seeing all this tasty food in my head, then it’s hard to go back to sleep all mentally overstimulated and curiously hungry (and I refuse to be a midnight muncher — it’s just not good for your health).

Is this an appropriate FML moment?

Anyways, winter time is definitely the best time of year to get’cho bake on — there’s nothing as comforting as a heavy blanket and a warm treat from the oven on a frost-dusted winter night — and it’s also the best time of year to get’cho drink on.

Nightcap of choice: glühwein, also known as: mulled wine — not so popular in North America, but it’s got a really long and rich history over in Europe.

The soothing sweetness, the aroma of spice and fruit, the warm liquid in your tummy… yes, mulled wine is where it’s at!

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Hibiscus Cordial

I became enamored with the idea of homemade cordial during a road trip up to Penticton a few weeks ago.

If you’re ever passing through the Okanagan during summer, definitely stop by the Elephant Island Winery on the Naramata Bench and bust a buck on the gorgeous cherry cordial that they serve (and get a free fruit wine tasting, too)!

Making cordial isn’t even hard — all you need is a few tools and a little patience.

For those of you unfamiliar, hibiscus is a flower with a flavour akin to cranberry, and makes a perfect summer-to-fall “transition” drink. This cordial is slightly sweet, tart, refreshing, and bought to life with a touch of warm spices and a little bit of lemon.

You can mix it up with plain ol’ water for a juice-like beverage, or you can use soda water to make your own fizzy pop — and, if you’re so inclined, you can always drop in a shot of spiced rum.

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Chestnut & Vanilla Bean Shortbread

Sometimes, when I make up a new recipe, I think about what I could call my creation if I were like Jenna from the movie Waitress.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you should — it’s smart, quirky, sweet without being overly sappy, and all stirred up with a dash of dark humor (and it’s totally feminist, too). ♥

Anyways — the main character in the movie, Jenna, despite being a small-town waitress, just so happens to be a pie-making genius.

She can be a little cynical at times, and often to give her pies names that reflect her mood, like, “Naughty Pumpkin Pie” and “Pregnant, Miserable, Self-Pitying Loser Pie” and “Falling In Love Pie”.

It’s so honest and sincere! If I were to name these cookies in accordance with my mood, they would be: “I Wish My Eyes Would Stop Burning Cookies”.

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Ultimate? Chocolate Chip Cookies

There’s been a lot going on in my life these days!

Not only is my work picking up (as an on-call employee, I don’t always get to work 5 days a week), not only did I spend all yesterday getting gussied up and going to my graduation convocation (so borrrrring), but the Vancouver Canucks (♥) have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 17 years, too!

And, in case you’re wondering, I definitely left the best for last on that list.

Because I seriously think that Canucks making it to the series final is more important than my graduation. Hockey is seriously serious business, people.

Oh, but it hasn’t all been serious business.

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Chai-Infused Vodka

Infusing your own vodka is so easy, it’s ridiculous — all you need is a few tools and a little patience!

The idea to infuse my own chai vodka struck me back when I made chai cookies. I love all things chai and I’ve always wanted to flavour my own vodka, especially since I don’t think plain old vodka tastes very good (I’m more of a beer and wine person).

This is why, when I ended up with a bottle of vodka over the holidays, I knew the day had come: the stars aligned and chai vodka totally happened!

So, when it comes to infusing vodka, it’s less about concrete rules and more about guidelines to success. For example…

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Arbutus-Berry Jelly

This project started when my ecological-anthropology professor brought a couple bright red, prickly-looking berries to a lecture. I think she surprised the class when she announced that not only were these berries local and edible, but that she had picked them while on her way to class.

Mystery berries — right under my nose? Awesome!

We were told that the fruits came from a leafy shrub belonging to the arbutus family, more commonly known as the strawberry tree, as the berries were passed around the student ranks. The professor encouraged us to take a nibble, but I noticed that hardly anyone did. Maybe it was because they came from outside, unwashed and unprocessed?

Well, I wasn’t about to let the wild, hand-picked nature of the berries keep me from taking a bite!

Hmm. The arbutus berry’s flavour is difficult to describe without using comparison — to me, it tasted like something between a salmonberry and a huckleberry: tangy, sweet, a hint of a tartness. When I scratched away its soft prickles, I found that it had a scent similar to that of a lychee, only much more earthy.

I mean, it was unusual — but surprisingly palatable!

Later that afternoon I went to where the arbutus shrub was said to be growing, in hopes of collecting enough fruit for a food project.

My first idea was to possibly make a jam, although making jam requires quite a bit of ripe fruit — but for a jelly a meager amount of fruit will do, and it doesn’t have to be as perfectly ripe!

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