Happy Hour: Pinot Noir and Honey Goat Cheese

Welcome once again to Happy Hour. This week was long and there was much grease filled carnage earlier in the week so we decided to tone down happy hour to wine and cheese.  In this my babydoll decided to help me out. 

In his way.

My plan was to do a goat cheese and honey melt.  To put it quite simply you put goat cheese in an oven proof ramekin, drape honey over it and put it under the broiler just long enough for the honey to bubble a little and the goat cheese to soften.  Then you take it out and try not to burn your fingers as you greedily spoon it over crackers.  It is delicious.  I usually pair it with a chardonnay (or any wine with citrusy notes) it is one of those dishes perfect for that evening that has a bit of a chill but followed a warm day.

However before I could go out, my babydoll stopped at the store and picked up a honey goat cheese and a bottle of Pinot Noir. (I mentioned I needed to pick up wine and cheese for the Friday Happy Hour so he helped me out by picking them up for me.)  The goat cheese has honey in it so there was no need to add anything.  This particular one is from the Public’s Deli. I’m guessing that is the brand.

Because the honey was already added and I hadn’t tried this before, we went with the standard unwrap and serve method rather than actually heating anything up.  As a bonus it let me use my Boska Cheese knife.  We picked up a set a while back and I have to say they are really nice cheese knives.  The handle and blade are all one piece so you don’t have to worry about the blade coming loose and they are just so elegantly shaped.

The cheese itself was interesting.  The honey made it lightly sweet but was mixed well enough that the honey did not become cloying. The sweet tamed the kind of goat-y funk that goat cheese can have but it was still in that tangy goat cheese realm. 

Over all it was actually a really good cheese, even if if wasn’t what I was expecting (or what i would serve with this wine). To be honest if I were to get this cheese again (which I would ) I think I would crumble it into a small oven proof dish and sprinkle finely diced jalapenos on it and then heat it up until the jalapenos were fragrant and sinking into the softened goat cheese.  I think a little vegetal heat would go well with this cheese and I think heating it slightly would prove to be beneficial to the melding process flavor-wise even though goat cheese isn’t a great melting cheese.

But that is for another time.

To go with this cheese was the wine my baby doll picked up.  He picked up a Chateau Souverain Pinot Noir 2018.  When I asked him why he chose this wine, he said…

“There was a couple doing the polite public arguing over by the Chardonnay and a couple of people without masks breathing on the bottles in the area so I picked one I didn’t think we tried before and hadn’t been breathed on.”

Not exactly how I usually pick wines, but somedays that is just what happens.

So this is tonight’s wine.

According to the Chateau Souverain website…

Chateau Souverain Pinot Noir 2018 opens with dark red fruit aromas reminiscent of cherry and raspberry. Notes of fresh blueberries are complemented by hints of clove and vanilla. The wine finishes with cleansing acidity and a fruit-driven balance that gives the wine a polished sense of elegance.

Chateau Souverain

I love how wine descriptions and perfume descriptions share so many similarities.  All of the notes mentioned are ones I like, so lets see what actually comes out in the bottle. 

First off, this is a screw top bottle rather than a corked one.  While I generally go for corked I know there is nothing wrong with the screw tops.  I just really like the act of using the corkscrew to open the wine before pouring.  I have had several screw top bottle wines that I did enjoy.  I’ve also had several that I didn’t, although truthfully I could say the same about wines with corks. I only mention it because of the scent.

One thing that I notice happens with a lot of screw top wines is they get a scent.  When you first open them, the scent tends to be bitter and highly acidic and slightly sour. The first sniff makes you think the wine has gone off. I don’t know why, but it seems to happen to red wines with screw tops often enough to be noticeable.  I have also noticed that the initial scent doesn’t have a lot to do with the wine. Usually the wine hasn’t gone off and it is just that initial scent so you have to actually taste it to find out about the wine.  It is best to pour it into the glass and sniff then.  The bitter acidity of that first scent dissipates and then you get the scent of the wine. Perhaps it has something to do with the wine splashing against the metal cap. I don’t know. But this wine had it when opened and lost it once poured.

There is still a slightly acidic scent to the wine in the glass, but it is mellowed with fruit and spice notes. In drinking it, I noticed the clove and vanilla mentioned. The vanilla is a very light hint hiding behind the clove. There was a deeper hint of cherry, but it was more bitter cherry than sweet cherry. It was cherry with a bite.

In a five star rating system I would probably give it a three.  It is nice to drink, but not spectacular.  I would also use it in a beef stew.  I think the fat and heaviness of the beef would actually work well with the flavors of the wine when cooked down. And as it is nice to drink a glass with a portion of the stew would not be amiss. I think that it would actually do really well in a beef stew, especially one that leaned into the sort of warm spices you find in Moroccan type flavors. There the wine would be a distinct asset to the flavor of the stew.

In a happy hour setting, I probably wouldn’t serve this wine with goat’s cheese again, honeyed or otherwise. The goat’s cheese was a little too tangy to suit this wine, even with the sweetness the honey brings.  I would also not go with too pungent a cheese. 

I would probably serve this with a triple cream brie served on baguette rounds and topped with a cherry compote. The cheese is mild and the bread unspiced so it wouldn’t compete with the flavors of the wine.  The cherry compote would bring out the fruity flavors and dim down the acidity.

I would pick up this wine again to drink although I usually prefer something more rounded and less acidic (which is why it only receives a three on my rating system). I think pairing it with the brie and cherry compote would work to bring out the fruiter aspects of the wine and not make it so spice forward. As the store near us carries the wine it is easy to pick up and as it costs $9.99 it is not a break the bank price, so I am fairly certain it will make a return trip to our house sometime in the future. It may not be a special occasion wine, but it is a good solid affordable wine.


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Happy Hour: The Hot Toddy

Happy Friday everyone and welcome to the Friday Happy Hour. Normally there is a food and a drink listed, but to be honest, my babydoll is having massive sinus issues and wasn’t really feeling up to it this week. So instead of a delicate little nibble and a drink from one of the many cocktail books we’ve collected over the years, we are going with an early dinner and ending the night with our version of the Hot Toddy.

It is a pretty basic drink as far as things go, but on on cold night where you feel more like a miserable deck hand than the captain of your own destiny, it is just the thing. The basic recipe is simple and required only four items:

Granulated (caster) sugar

Lemon juice (fresh squeezed is best, but bottled will do in a pinch)

Boiling water

Jameson’s Irish whiskey

The Hot Toddy, a Winter Favorite

Set the kettle on to boil. while you wait mix the sugar and lemon juice in the bottom of the mug. while it can be adjusted to taste I tend to use twice the amount of lemon as I do sugar. (my babydoll does the reverse because he has a much bigger sweet tooth than I do.) So it you have one Tablespoon sugar, use two tablespoons of lemon juice. If you like things sweeter, you can adjust it to suit your palette but this works for me. When the water boils, pour it immediately over the lemon and sugar mix and stir to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved. Leave about one inch of space at the top (more if you want it stronger.) Once the sugar is dissolved top off the mug with the whiskey.

Growing up this was my grandfather’s cold remedy as well as something to drink on a cold winter’s night so I find it very comforting. I like that the lemon and the sugar give you a bit of sweet tart flavor and help to mellow the whiskey so that it isn’t quite as sharp of an alcohol taste. For me the Jamison’s works the best. Or at least produces the flavors I really enjoy with this drink. To be honest it is also what we usually have on hand. While we do experiment with whiskeys Jamesons is sort of our house standard (Just like Plymouth is for Gin), so no matter what we are trying out, there is usually a bottle in the cabinet.

And there you have it, a warm comforting drink on a cold blustery night. As we’ve got an ice storm blowing in tonight as well as sinus issues within the house, this is the perfect drink to snuggle in with. I hope whatever you are doing and who ever you are doing it with, you have an excellent Friday night.


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Happy Hour: Champagne Cocktails and Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

Tonight’s happy hour is a nice and simple one.  I had some raspberries left over from making my tarts and since my baby doll does not like strawberries, in our household it is raspberries and champagne that go together. In the summertime we drink a spritzer that is half raspberry lemonade and half champagne.  This is sort of a February version of the summer spritzer.

For this cocktail I took a few very ripe raspberries, put them in a small dish with about a tablespoon of lemon juice and mashed the berries and lemon juice together. I should have strained them, as you can see from the floating bits in the champagne, but I did not.  I suggest you strain them so you don’t have seeds in your drink. A normal strainer will do. 

Then put a spoonful of the lemon raspberry mix in the champagne glass, add the champagne and top off with raspberries on a stick.

Super simple and super fun.

I definitely recommend straining the raspberry seeds out though.

In this mix I used a Ballatore Champagne.  It is my no means high end champagne and for this you don’t need high end champagne.  Ballatore is actually one of my favorite mixing and cooking champagnes.  It is inexpensive and it is sweet without being cloying. 

In this case it goes well with the tartness of the berries and the sharpness of the lemon juice.  For this there is no real recipe because it really does depend on the berries.  If they are really sweet then add a little more lemon juice.  If they are kind of tart, add less lemon juice.  The mix in the dish should make you pucker slightly but not wince.

As for this super simple cocktail?

We went for a super simple treat.  I had some chocolate chips left over from making my mousse so I put them in a microwave safe bowl, put them in the microwave for fifteen seconds, stired, put them on for another fifteen seconds and then stirred again.  I think there were about five sets of stirring.  Why did I not just put them on for a minute and fifteen seconds then you ask?

a quick dunk in melted chocolate

Because the chocolate would burn.  Stirring them after every fifteen seconds (even though after the first fifteen you might think they didn’t need it) helps distribute the heat so there are no hot spots in the bowl. Distribute the heat and then the chocolate doesn’t burn.

And once we had the melted chocolate, we did something super spectacular.  We dipped ruffled potato chips into it, coating half the chip. I like the ruffled chips because of the ridges and because the Ruffles brand is super salty to pair well with the sweet chocolate.  I am a sucker for the salty sweet combo. 

Let dry on a rack for a bit so they are less messy or just dip and eat from the bowl. I prefer them a little dry, my baby doll likes to dip

Pretzels will also work. It pairs especially well with the sweet tart combo of the drink.  I know it is sort of a quick and fun Happy hour treat but since Sunday I am making a serious mal with good red wine followed by a toast with the good champagne.

Something simple and fun seemed just the thing to wind down this week. It utilized left over chocolate and raspberries, an extra lemon I had in the fridge, part of a bag of potato chips and an inexpensive bottle of champagne, but sitting down toasting my baby as we wind down another week, I felt like a million bucks.


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The Daily: February 11th, 2021

Oh my darlings, the rain has returned and the temperatures have plummeted. I should have seen it coming as whenever we get a few warm days in the winter they are almost always followed by a spate of rainy days.

The rain was falling when I first woke up and it has continued all day. I also woke up with the sniffles due to the weather change. I am also feeling a bit bloated and crampy. It made the chocolate a little harder to avoid and I’ll be honest, I didn’t do such a good job avoiding it. There may have been a few more sweets than I actually planned.

So even though my lunch was well calculated and dinner will involve a salad, I’m pretty sure my calorie count has gone out of the window today.

Today I am a blob with no exercise and a skewed calorie count. It is just one of those days. I am going to try to do a little moving around this afternoon, possibly a short You Tube Yoga Video but it isn’t going to be a great weight loss day.

It is a great day for sitting at the desk and doing contracts. Paperwork is kind of designed for a cold wet day such as this. I have my mug of afternoon tea, my reading glasses and a boatload of paperwork to get through. I’m actually drinking a tea called HAPPY that is a combination of raspberry and hibiscus. It is quite lovely as well as a cheery pink color, which is nice on a rather dreary day. Welcome to Thursday afternoon, my darlings. it isn’t glamorous, but it is necessary.

Happy Hour:Oven baked Jalapeno Poppers and Cream Ale

the poppers

Welcome once again to the weekly happy hour.  Here for a short while we can unwind, relax from the stress of the work week and take a moment or two to just enjoy ourselves.  And since it is happy hour at home we can do so wearing comfy clothes instead of anything fit for the general public.  Some days, the benefit of sipping a drink and nibbling an appetizer while wearing fuzzy socks cannot be underestimated.

As you may have noticed from the title the drink this week was a repeat one.  My babydoll makes a lovely cream ale and so we almost always have a stock pile of it on hand. And no I haven’t run out of cocktail recipes, tonight’s happy hour was a request.

My babydoll wanted jalapeno poppers and beer for this week’s happy hour.

As he’s had a bit of a rough week, I went along with it. Especially since usually when it comes to our Friday happy Hour treats he is usually just willing to go along with whatever I decide I want to make.  Although it isn’t really a hardship.  I like the cream ale and I am not going to say no to cheesy jalapeno goodness.

While the Cream Ale is from a kit and brewed by my babydoll, I did make the poppers. When all is said and done, they are ridiculously easy to make.

Ingredients

12 whole Jalapenos

½ cup Cream cheese

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

Six strips of bacon (we went with the smokiest we can find since we are roasting them in the oven instead of over a grill)

You will also need a sheet pan, a piece of tin foil and an oven.

That’s it.

To make the poppers:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

slice

Step 1: Slice the jalapenos in half and take out the seeds and pith.  If you like them spicier you can leave in a little of the pith since that is where the heat is, just leave a little room for the cheese.

empty

Step 2: In a bowl mix together the cream cheese and cheddar until it is blended (I like to use a fork for this.

Step 3: line your sheet pan with tin foil.  No matter how well you prepare these some cheese will leak out and trust me that tin foil will make your life a lot easier.

cheese mix

Step 4:  spoon the cheese mix into the hollow jalapeno halves and then put the halves back together to make a whole pepper again (although this time it has cheese inside.)

Step 5: Wrap each pepper with a strip of bacon and place on tin foil covered baking sheet.

fill

Step 6: Bake for 15 minutes or until bacon is brown and crispy. For ours since our jalapenos were enormous and out bacon wasn’t getting as crisp as I like, I baked for 15 minutes and then moved it under the broiler for another five minutes just to crisp up the bacon.  If you do this, keep an eye on it as that broiler can take it from crisp to charcoal.

wrap and bake

When the bacon is as crispy as you want it, remove from the over, place on a plate and enjoy.

Our jalapenos ended up being more or less the size of poblanos so we decided that this “appetizer” would be followed with a dinner salad instead of a larger meal.

For us that makes a good balance. If you have more typically sized jalapenos, you can keep them as actual poppers.  Whatever you use, I hope you enjoy your happy hour as much as we enjoy ours.


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Happy Hour: Bramble and Jaffa Cake

The Bramble – or at least my favorite version

This week my baby and I have an interesting Happy Hour planned.  The drink is one that I have made before and absolutely adore.  It is a take on a Bramble.  The original Bramble was created in 1984 even though it sounds like it ought to be from the 1920s.  I’m certain there is an official version of the drink, but in my house we always make it in the exact same way.

1 ½ ounces of gin

½ ounce of Chambord

1 ounce of fresh lemon juice

½ ounce simple syrup

Put all the ingredients into your shaker, add ice and shake the devil out of it.  I like to serve mine in a coupe glass but you can also serve it in a regular glass over ice.

I really like the balance of sweet and tart in this drink.  Normally, my gin of choice is Plymouth, but for this I generally find the mix of botanicals in Plymouth doesn’t work all that well.  For this I generally use Bombay gin. Its particular mix of botanicals lends itself really well to the Bramble concoction. It isn’t too juniper heavy. While Plymouth is my gin of choice it is really a gin for when I want to taste the gin. This drink is more about balance and the Bombay just balances better with these particular ingredients.

The trick is what to serve with it. To be honest I am always happy with this drink as a stand alone, however even though my babydoll was having whiskey instead of joining me in my bramble, he was looking forwards to something to nibble. even if we don’t share the same drink, we both like the appetizer.

This week I went with a homemade Jaffa Cake or at least a pseudo Jaffa Cake.  I did take a few liberties with it so I hope no purists are offended. This was just a super easy way to make it for me that matched my drink choice for this week’s happy hour.

Ingredients

For the cakes:

2 eggs

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ tsp vanilla extract

the cakes

A few drops of Cointreau

½ cup AP flour

Pinch of salt

Pinch of baking powder

For the gel:

One package of instant Orange jello

my jello would not lift up in rounds so I just mounded it up on the cakes.

Zest of one orange

Topping

Bitersweet chocolate chips

For the Gel: Mix the jello according to the pkg directions and add in the zest.  Por onto a flat pan with a lip and put in the fridge to set.

For the cakes: Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  Don’t use a stand mixer as there isn’t enough batter for it to work properly.  Use a hand mixer or a whisk. When smooth, divide the batter evenly into a twelve muffin tin.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8—10 minutes. Let cool

the chocolate

When cool: cut out the jello and place on top of the cakes.

For the topping: put the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl.  Put in microwave for 10 seconds, stir and then heat for another ten seconds.  Repeat until the chocolate is melted.

Give your chocolate a moment to cool down (without setting) because if you pour it when it is too hot it will melt the jello.  Spoon it over the jello covered cakes encapsulating the jello if you can.  Leave to set and then enjoy.  I tend to store the extras in the fridge so the jello doesn’t melt into a liquid.

As you can see in my finished cakes, the chocolate was still a bit too warm when I poured it over the cakes do there are a few small holes where the jello is poking through. Because I heaped it up instead of using small disks of gel (mostly because my disks kept breaking because I made them too thin by using too large a sheet pan to set them in) there was more jello than usual on the cakes which meant they weren’t as neat as possible.

I have to say that while I would like them a little neater, I didn’t mind the extra jello. This particular cake recipe makes twelve very small and sturdy little cakes but they can be a bit dry. The jello adds much needed moisture and made them taste better than usual. I really liked that I bumped up the range flavor with both the zest in the jello and the Cointreau in the batter. the big pitfall is adding too much alcohol into the cake batter.

You really only need a few drops to get the flavor you want. Don’t go overboard with it. while not exactly the traditional Jaffa Cakes, the dark bittersweet chocolate and the orange really worked well as an accompaniment to my Bramble this week. My babydoll said it worked well with his whisky as well. I’m not entirely sure that is an accurate pairing or if his love of orange and chocolate trumped any taste issues. I was enjoying my Bramble too much to do taste test with his whisky so I have to take his word for it.

As for the Bramble, the cakes went really well with it.  The dark chocolate gave the cakes a bitter note to offset the sweet and tangy of the jello and cake as well as the drink.  Personally, I think this is a pretty good combo. And I think it is a fabulous kick off to the weekend. I hope you enjoy unwinding from your work week, however you choose to do so.


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Happy Hour: Cream Ale and Fried Mushrooms

Cream Ale

Welcome my darlings, once again we have made it through the week.  Hopefully yours had more good in it than bad. Either way, it is over and we are well on our way to the weekend.  No matter how stressful the week or how packed with chores and other tasks the weekend gets I like to take Friday evening as the week’s pause button. 

Sometimes my baby doll and I go out at the end of the week, have a drink and an appetizer at a local place, but often, even before things shut down. We started taking our happy hour at home.  While I appreciate getting dressed up a bit and going out, there is great pleasure to be found in getting comfortable pulling together a concoction and making something to nibble that suits us both completely.

This week is interesting as it is not a cocktail week.  Oh no.  Tonight we are celebrating the first of my baby’s new batch of Cream Ale. He let me know it would be ready to drink this week and so I prepared something appropriate to go with it.

My babydoll has brewed a lot of things.  Normally I just taste it and then decide what to have with it.  This Cream Ale I have had before.  He uses a kit that he orders from the Midwest Brewing Company for this particular one and he really likes it. I can’t argue with the results as it is a nice cream ale.   The kit is 19.99 and produces four and a half gallons of Cream Ale at the end of it. He likes to make it, and stash it away and then move on to making more stouts and lagers so that in the end the beer cupboard in our converted garage has an assortment. 

Then, while we can enjoy a bottle or two here and there, when family and friends descend we have an assortment. Our stash of his beers is usually empty after Easter visitations and so he starts brewing  again.  This year we didn’t have any visitors so we whittled the stash down throughout the year.  This is the first time he has wanted to brew in a while so I take it as a sign of hopefulness for the future.  Sort of like the groundhog not seeing his shadow.

So I had very little to do with the drinks.  That means this week I concentrated on the food for happy hour.  I went with fried mushrooms.  I made a beer batter, using his beer.  If you want to do a version with no alcohol you can substitute soda water or seltzer, just make certain it is unflavored.  I tend to use my Soda Stream as my water supply for carbonated water when not using beer.

The basic batter recipe is super easy and very versatile.  I use this basic recipe for most things I fry, although truthfully I don’t dry a lot. I think the last thing I fried was fish for homemade fish and chips. This worked really well with fish.

Basic batter

1 and ½ cups of flour divided

1 cup beer (or seltzer water)

Pinch of salt pinch of pepper

Seasonings of choice.

Now, for those of you wondering how to divide flour, it is simple.  In this case you put ½ cup in a bowl and set it off to the side.  In another , larger bowl you put the 1 cup that remains.  Voilà! Divided Flour. To the one cup of flour add the salt and pepper, your seasonings (I chose garlic powder and dill for this one) and then add you beer.  Mix until it is a thick batter.  Don’t try and make it too thin or it won’t stick very well.  In this instance gloppy is kind of good.

The beer will foam when you pour it into the flour so make sure your bowl is big enough to contain it.

So you have your ½ cup flour for dredging and your batter, the rest is pretty simple.

You need something for the batter to go on. While I use this batter for a whole bunch of things, tonight we are going for mushrooms.

So I picked up one carton of unsliced mushrooms.  I like leaving the mushrooms big for this as it feels more substantial.  Since we planned a really light dinner, I wanted a more substantial Happy Hour food. The whole mushrooms feel substantial, plus I find when I don’t cut them smaller I use less batter.  And the batter and the oil is where you are getting the bulk of the calories.

For the oil, put canola oil about three inches deep in a deep pan.  I know you will be tempted to use a really wide pan so you can have maximum visibility.  If you what to that is fine, just make sure it has high sides. I use a smaller pan so that it doesn’t take as much oil to reach the three inch depth.  I also like that the smaller pan forces me to cook one at a time. It lets me set up my system. 

The process is simple.  You dredge the cleaned mushroom in flour, then put it in the batter.  Once coated you put the mushroom in the 350 degree oil. It will turn a golden brown quickly.  Use a slotted spoon to flip it in the oil (try not to splash) so that both sides get cooked.  When they are both golden brown put it on a rack with a pan or a paper towel under it to cool and hit it with a pinch of salt. I like to set up a relay system.

I dredge one mushroom in flour and put it in the batter then place another in the dredging flour.  Then as soon as the batter covered one goes into the oil the flour one moves to the batter and another mushroom moves to the flour.  By then it is time to flip the cooking mushroom. It goes fairly quickly once you get into a rhythm and the results are delicious. 

And because I used my baby’s cream ale in the batter, it is the perfect accompaniment to his home brewed concoction. It is a little heavier than I normally make my Home Happy Hours, but we decided to have a salad dinner so in the end it balances out.

As my baby has an aversion to eating anything like this without a dipping sauce, we ended up simply using Russian Dressing as the dipping sauce.  Well he did, I skipped the dipping sauce.  I tried it and while it went well, the sauce overpowered the garlic and dill in the batter.  If I had thought about it I probably would have made a tzatziki sauce for dipping as I think it would go really well and not be as heavy as the Russian dressing. But I was not thinking about sauce and he likes the dressing.  I’m fine without, so it works.

So now we are going to settle in and celebrate the first new batch of the year with a bowl of fried mushrooms and a cold Cream Ale. I hope however you are winding down your week you take a moment to just hit the pause button and take a little while down to just enjoy yourself.


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Happy Hour – January 8th, 2021: The Martini and Mini Cheddar and Chive Popovers

Welcome to the first (of what I hope will be many) Happy Hour Posts. While each week my baby doll and I try to eat healthy and I at least am trying to lose weight, Friday night we tend to indulge just a little. I know many of you dieters out there are surprised by the indulgence and maybe even repelled by it.  But let me take a moment to explain.

My dieting is not about cutting out vast swaths of the world of food. I have no demon categories.  Mostly because if I knew I had to give up one category it would end up creating a craving.  Well before my dieting began, my babydoll and I would only go out to eat about once a month and the rest of the time, I cooked.

When he developed high blood pressure and his doctor told him to cut out as much sodium as possible, most of the prepackaged foods we kept in our home went out the door. And I made baking a loaf of sandwich bread a Saturday morning routine. I was personally shocked by how much sodium was actually in store bought bread.

But I digress.

My dieting was always about portion control and exercise. It wasn’t about cutting out all of the things I love.  Once of the things I love is the Friday night happy hour.  This is the Friday night ritual in our house.  Sometimes we would go out with friends, but mostly it was just me and my baby unwinding after the week with a drink and something nice to nibble.  Sometimes the drink is a glass of wine and the nibble is a good cheese or even charcuterie. Sometimes I will see a hors d’oeuvre recipe I have to try and we will scour the cocktail manuals to find something to accompany it. Other times I will pick up one of the small bottles of liquor in the store just because it looks interesting and we figure something out from there.

I get drawn in by liquor bottles just as much as perfume bottles. Although sometimes the alcohol is just a left over.  I picked up a small bottle of Chambord because a desert recipe required a few tablespoons to macerate some berries and now we will find a cocktail to help use up the left overs.

Our basic bar tools, A shaker a jigger with two sizes for easy measuring and a long bar spoon to stir right down to the bottom of the shaker when we don’t want to shake

When going out became a masking event, my baby and I delved deeper into our collection of cocktail books.  We have a collection that ranges far and wide. And of course there is the internet as well. Our weekly Happy Hour became more of a mental relief than usual.

However wide we range, I decided to start off this series of posts with my standard favorite, The Martini.  Not only is it my go to drink and the standard by which I judge bars and bartenders, but it is a good example of restrained indulgence.

And as silly as it sounds, just holding the glass makes me feel civilized.

The Martini was born in the United States. Some claim California and some claim New York.  I will not argue for either and just thank them both.  It is at first a relatively simple cocktail, but nearly everyone has a different way of preparing it.  In fact there is an old joke about a man being thrown out of a bar for ordering ‘just a regular martini’ instead of putting his own spin on it.

While I don’t think that is grounds for ejection from an establishment today, there are still many different camps.  There are two quite famous ones, one fictional and one real.  James Bond liked his shaken and not stirred and Winston Churchill suggested just bringing out an unopened bottle of vermouth and waving it at the gin.

With all due respect, I disagree heartily with both.

Shaking gin ‘bruises’ it, to use my grandfather’s phasing.  It tends to make it cloudy and while that isn’t a big issue, it does actually change the taste a bit. With so few ingredients, the taste of each matters. You may not mind the change in taste or you may not notice a change in taste.

I notice and I don’t care for it, so I don’t shake my martinis.

You may feel free to shake yours, I won’t report you for abuse.

As for Mr. Churchill, a martini with the vermouth waved at it is a glass of gin with a garnish.  There is nothing wrong with it there have been many a summer evening where I forgot to pick up tonic water and just had a glass with gin over ice and a twist of lemon.  It is a lovely way to sit on the back porch and watch the summer sun go down (just make sure to light the citronella candles or you risk becoming the happy hour bar for the local mosquito population). It is however a glass of gin and not a martini.

Again you can feel free to disagree.

my 3 oz martini glass

I know there are all sorts of martini recipes out there so I will just quickly give you mine:

One part Vermouth

Two Parts gin

A splash of olive juice

Add all to a shaker, stir with a bar spoon add as large an ice cube as possible atrain into a martini glass and add an olive.

Sounds simple really, doesn’t it?

For those of you wondering why I put one part and two parts instead of actual measurements, that is because glass sizes vary greatly, especially in the world of martini glasses.  I have seen delicate ones and ones that look like they could actually hold a liter of liquid in their confines.  I always find drinking out of any glass with a rim bigger than my face a bit daunting.

a jigger to make measuring a snap

My set of martini glasses is in keeping with my theme of restraint, although I picked them up in a thrift store mostly because I liked the look of them.  The martini glasses I use are from a set from the 1950s.  They have the traditional stem with a triangular shape and some rather sweet little etchings on the side. They can also hold (at a maximum) three ounces of liquid.

the unstuffed olive. I picked up the reusable skewers at a Home Goods Store a while back

By contrast my martini shaker is enormous, I know.  I keep meaning to pick up a smaller shaker mostly because the amount of liquid that goes into the shaker for my week’s end martini looks rather sad in the large one. The reusable cocktail stick was one of a set I picked up quite a few years ago. They are really nice not only for drinks but for small appetizers as well. they have seen a lot of use since purchasing. However with a lot of use and several moves this is the last of the set remaining in my drawer so when i seek out a smaller shaker I will look for a replacement for them as well. Thus far I haven’t found a set that I like.

On Friday, I will have one, or if it has been a long week whose passing needs celebrating, two. Which given the size of the glass, is still a relatively small amount and an acceptable indulgence for the calorie conscious.

I personally like my martinis dry and dirty.  The dirty refers to the splash of olive juice. With olives, I recommend getting ones that are not stuffed with anything so that the stuffing won’t affect the flavor. For the dry, I go with dry vermouth instead of sweet. Mostly because I like the taste.  My vermouth choice is Noilly Pratt. I have occasionally tried other vermouths, but thus far none of them have been able to replace the slim green bottle. It is my tried and true.

With gin, my favorite is Plymouth (just be aware there is Plymouth gin and Navy Strength Plymouth gin when you go shopping. The Navy is significantly stronger and can easily get you into trouble if you aren’t careful). I do change out gins periodically.  I have in fact tried quite a few that I enjoy. Each has its own botanical arrangement and most of them go well with my favored vermouth. I love tasting the variety of herbals that go into gin. I do get in the habit of stocking Plymouth, but I am trying to remember to branch out and sample other gins.

But what is happy hour without something to nibble (besides the olive of course)?

My choice this week was mini cheddar and chive popovers.

Popovers are composed of a thin batter that you bake in muffin tins.  They pop up and are a hollow shell that is crunchy and delicious. I use a mini muffin tin to keep them small. The batter is quite simple.

½ cup AP flour

Pinch of salt

¾ cup milk (room temp)

1 egg (room temp)

1/2 tablespoon melted butter

The rest is flavoring.  For my flavoring this week I went with cheddar and chives, but I often make them with blue cheese crumbles.  I just really liked the sharpness of the cheddar and the herbal bite of the chives with the gin. plus I am overwintering a pot of chives in my sunroom and need to snip them periodically to keep them healthy throughout the winter.

To make the batter you mix all of the (non-flavoring) ingredients together, whisking to make sure there are no flour lumps.  Then you heavily grease the muffin tin (whether mini or regular sized).  I use a spray oil for this as you need to get every nook and cranny of the tin. Put the batter into the greased tin, filling each cup only half way up. 

I took the picture before I sprinkled the chives

Then take your flavorings and drop them in the center.  For this I used less than one ounce of really sharp cheddar cut into really small squares and placed them in the center of the batter then sprinkled with chives. You really don’t need much.  In the over the cheese melts and coats the inside of the popover so you get the flavor in every bite. The trick to these is in the baking.

Start off with a 450 degree F oven (220 C) place the pan on the center rack and bake for ten minutes.  DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR.  After ten minutes drop the temperature of the oven to 350 F (180C) and bake for another ten minutes or until browned on the edges.  You can either eat them hot right away or pop them out and set them on a napkin to cool and then eat later. (the napkin absorbs the grease.  It isn’t a problem with blue cheese but it is with cheddar.  Also the chives help cut some of the fat of the cheese.

I personally like them hot.

popover

I know some of you are tempted to open the oven door mid bake.  Try to resist.  My baby doll is one of those people who has to open the oven door to peer in to see how things are going. If you do this the popovers will not pop.  They will fall flat and while still delicious, they will be more muffin like.

So this is the Happy Hour my baby doll and I will be enjoying this week.  Given the state of the news, I expect this will be a two martini week.

As we don’t have any planned cocktail for next week (and are going grocery shopping tomorrow) while we sip martinis we will get out one of the cocktail books and flip the pages to find next week’s indulgence and figure out what snack to have with it. I can’t wait to see what we come up with.

Whether indulging in your own happy hour or just unwinding from the week, I hope you have a fabulous Friday night and an excellent weekend.