Basil Whiskey Soda

Basil and whiskey go together surprisingly well! This basil simple syrup is easy to make and is a great addition to a gin and tonic or even a glass of bubbles. I like Irish whiskey for its drinkability, my favorite is Powers.

1 C. Loosely packed basil leaves
1 C. Sugar
1 C. Water
Irish whiskey
Club soda

First make the basil syrup. Heat the basil leaves, sugar, and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat. Let the syrup cool completely in the pan. Strain the syrup into a jar and chill. Discard the basil leaves. The syrup can be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks.

To make a cocktail, fill a rocks glass with ice. Pour in 1 1/2 oz. whiskey, 1 oz. basil syrup, and top with club soda. Stir gently to combine. Garnish with a basil leaf.


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Slavic Slaw with Paprika Vinaigrette


My husband loves cabbage.  Weird I know.  Who loves cabbage? “Like” cabbage, yes.  “Enjoy” cabbage, sure. Love it? He also happens to love root vegetables like turnips and radishes, so when I came across this salad in Food and Wine magazine I actually read the recipe out loud to him.  He got pretty excited. Incidentally, my youngest was begging me for leaves of cabbage to munch while I was making this, so I guess it’s hereditary. This is a beautiful salad to serve for guests at a summer barbecue.  Prep and chill all the ingredients ahead and toss with the dressing at the last-minute.  You want cold and crisp for this one. I used a mandolin slicer to do the julienned radishes, apples, and turnips.  You could also use a food processor with the grating attachment, but I liked that using the mandolin gave it a more handmade texture with pieces of all different sizes.  I made a few substitutions, but if you want the official recipe click here. My dressing is a bit sweeter and if I made this again I would add more apple. Serves 4.

  • 1 T. minced shallot
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • juice of 1/2 lemon, about 1/8 C.
  • 1/8 C. white wine vinegar
  • 2 t. honey
  • 1t. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 head of green cabbage, shredded
  • 1/4 head of red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 green apple, julienned (i didn’t peel it)
  • 1/2 C. flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 C. cilantro, chopped
  • 4 scallions, sliced into thin strips, vertically (they curl up in the ice bath)
  • 2 small turnips, peeled and julienned
  • 3 large radishes, julienned

Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside.  Combine the shallot, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, paprika, and olive oil in a jar and shake it to emulsify.  Taste for salt and pepper and season to your taste.  Set aside.  As you prepare your vegetables, place them into the ice bath.  Slice the cabbage, plunk into the ice bath.  Slice the apple, ice bath.  And so on.  All the veggies and herbs can sit in the ice bath until you are ready to serve the salad.  Or, if you are prepping ahead, let them sit in the bath for about 15-20 minutes, drain, and place into a bowl in the fridge until ready to use. The ice bath keeps everything super fresh tasting and crisp.  When ready to serve, drain well and toss with the dressing.




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Easy Coconut Lime Sorbet


I had most of a can of coconut milk sitting in the fridge, begging to be used up.  20 minutes later, sorbet! Serves 4

  • 1 1/2 C. full fat coconut milk, cold (stick it in the fridge for a couple of hours)
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice of 2 limes, or 1/4 C.
  • 1/4 C. simple syrup (I keep a batch for cocktails, it’s just equal parts sugar and water brought to a boil and cooled. Or buy a bottle in the drinks aisle)

If your can of coconut milk separates into half clear liquid and half thick, white cream, just give it a stir before measuring.  Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.  I use a Cuisinart ice cream maker.  This took about 15 minutes to freeze into a sorbet/soft serve consistency. I imagine this would also make a terrific popsicle…

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The Quickest Weeknight Chicken


This is my quickest (15 minutes tops) weeknight chicken recipe.  I keep boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the freezer so that with a little veggie, I can always make a healthy, fast dinner with little to no planning.  You can use a variety of liquid for this dish, white wine is my favorite, but you can also use beer, chicken or veggie stock, or even marsala or dry vermouth.  Serves 4

  • 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 C. white wine, or beer, or chicken stock…some kind of flavorful liquid
  • 2 T. Dijon mustard
  • 2 T. heavy cream
  • parsley for garnish

Split the chicken breasts horizontally so you have 4-6 thinner pieces of chicken.  If they are very thick breasts you can cut them into three slices horizontally.  Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat a large, NOT non-stick skillet, over medium-high heat with the olive oil.  When the pan is nice and hot, place the chicken in the pan.  It should only take about two or three minutes per side to get nice and brown. Resist the urge to turn it over too soon.  If the chicken is sticking it’s not ready to flip.  When it’s nice and brown it will release itself from the pan easily.  If you want to double this recipe, you need to cook the chicken in batches.  Crowding the pan will cause the chicken to steam instead of brown, and you really need those brown bits to make a great sauce. When the chicken is browned on both sides, remove it to a plate, cover with foil, and keep it warm. Immediately add the wine or other liquid to the hot pan.  Let it bubble up for a minute while scraping the brown bits that have accumulated in the pan.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the mustard.  Whisk it in until smooth.  Remove the pan from heat and whisk in the cream.  Taste the sauce for seasoning.  Return the chicken to the pan and turn to coat in the sauce.  Place the chicken on a serving plate, top with the sauce and garnish with parsley. The more you make this dish, the faster you will get.  You can experiment with different liquids and different mustards. You can also use this exact same method with a thinly sliced pork chop or steak.



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Coconut Vinaigrette


This dressing is at once both tart and rich.  Creamy and mellow, bright and tangy, all at the same time!  I served it over butter lettuce and it was heaven.  This is a perfect salad to serve alongside an Asian or seafood meal.

Making a vegan salad dressing creamy and rich can be a challenge.  We aren’t vegan in my house, but we often host vegans and try to eat a meatless meal here and there.  The point is, it’s nice to have a recipe up your sleeve that you can serve to vegans that everyone will enjoy and doesn’t require you to obtain ingredients you are unfamiliar with or are difficult to find.

  • 1/4 C. full fat coconut milk (I prefer Thai brands because they tend to be thicker, and before you go all crazy on me about hard to find ingredients, I buy it at Safeway, so there.)
  • 1/8 C. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/8 C. olive oil
  • pinch of salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a jar, cover tightly and shake until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Store in the fridge for a day or two. Shake well before using.



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Cucumber Gazpacho With Shrimp and Mint Oil


IMG_1670This is so creamy you would swear it’s full of dairy, but (as long as you don’t pop a shrimp on top) it’s completely vegan.  Cool, crisp and slightly sweet, this is the perfect starter to any summer meal.  Adapted from Food and Wine magazine. Makes half a pitcher.

  • 2/3 C. olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 lb. cooked cocktail shrimp, tails on
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 English cucumbers (the long ones wrapped in plastic), peeled and chopped
  • 1 1/2 C. green grapes, halved
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 t. white wine vinegar
  • 1 C. cold water
  • pinch of salt to taste

First toss the shrimp in a t. of the olive oil, and a T. of the fresh mint, wrap and chill. Make the mint oil by heating 1/3 C. of the oil over medium heat with the rest of the mint sprigs. When the oil is hot and mint sprigs are bright green, remove from heat and allow the oil to cool to room temperature.  Strain and reserve oil for later.  Discard mint.  In a blender, blend the remaining olive oil, the cucumbers, grapes, garlic, vinegar, water, and salt into a smooth puree.  Pour into a serving pitcher and chill.  This can be done a day ahead. To serve, pour the gazpacho into chilled, frosty cups and top with one of the marinated shrimp and a drizzle of the mint infused oil. Serve ice-cold.





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Betty Draper’s Rumaki

Betty seems to love Rumaki. Last Night’s episode (705 The Runaways) marks the second time on Mad Men that she serves it to guests, this time at a progressive dinner party, where the guests have a different course at each house.  I love to watch Betty act as hostess, it’s like she finally feels like she’s doing something important, she’s almost giddy. I can sort of relate to that actually.

My all time favorite episode of Mad Men is from Season two, called A Night To Remember.  Betty hosts a dinner party for Don’s clients and The Sterlings.  She treats the guests to a “Trip Around the World” with the following menu:

  • Gazpacho from Spain
  • Rumaki From Japan
  • Irish Leg of Lamb with Mint Jelly
  • German Noodles like her grandmother made
  • Bordeaux from France and Beer from Holland

The Betty Crocker Hostess Cookbook from the era has a recipe for Rumaki and introduces it as a Japanese dish.  Rumaki actually originated in California at Trader Vic’s as part of America’s love for all things Polynesian.  My version has a few modern twists.

  • 1 lb. chicken livers, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 t. canola oil
  • 1/8 C. soy sauce
  • 1/2 t. curry powder
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 1 t. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 lb. uncured bacon
  • 1 can, sliced water chestnuts, drained

Combine the oil, soy sauce, curry powder, sugar, and ginger in a shallow dish.  Toss the livers in the mixture and marinate for at least two hours.  Put your bamboo skewers in a glass of water to soak.  This should keep them from burning, although some of mine got a little charred.  Cut the bacon into 2 inch squares.  Skewer one piece of bacon, one piece of liver, and one slice of water chestnut, followed by another piece of bacon.  Place skewers on a rimmed baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Continue skewering until all the ingredients are used up.  You should have enough for about twenty skewers.  Heat the broiler to high heat.  Broil for four minutes, then turn all the skewers over and continue broiling for three to four more minutes or until the bacon is cooked and beginning to brown.  Serve hot.

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