Will you be my Valentine?

IMG_4567When I first moved here in July, we had a housewarming party where friends brought gifts of nice bottles of wine and alcohol, flowers and local finds. Detroiters are proud of their heritage and are proud to bring anything that is locally made and I welcome it. Three different friends all brought three different bottles of vodka. One from Two James distillery in Corktown, another from Our/Detroit in Detroit and the other bottle was from Valentine‘s Distillery in Ferndale–all Detroit local vodkas. The Two James bottle was opened right away even before I got a chance to say thanks for the gift. It has a “manly” appeal with it’s old school label and metal embossed logo of two prohibition era-type looking silhouettes, of two men. The Our/Detroit bottle is much simpler and still 6 months later, hasn’t been opened. It looks as if it came out of a pharmacy or chemistry lab with it’s almost medicinal shape and simple handwritten-like font. The Valentine bottle also not yet opened, has a sexy, pin-up girl plastered on the bottle with a seductive look,whispering “Come hither” as she holds her welcoming martini glass. At first glance, I associated the pin-up girl to something cheap and assumed if the bottle looks cheap the vodka must be cheap and not all that good… wow, was I WRONG!!!!  I apologize for judging a vodka by it’s label and now understand that in fact, this lovely “Valentine” is a lot smarter than the other vodkas out there and she’s a reminder of high standards and quality. Valentine vodka has won numerous awards for quality and taste. It received 94 points of some award that I’m sorry I can’t remember, but it beat  Belvedere by 2 points, Ketel One by 3 and with Grey Goose by 4 points!

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Before yesterday’s tour of the Valentine Distillery, the bottle of Valentine’s tucked away in the back of our liquor cabinet had no chance of being opened, but now since the tour I’m dreaming of the next cocktail to serve with it at our parties or just pour a little for sipping as a night0cap.  The two-hour tour flew by. Fifteen of us from the BBNC group- a newcomer group of expats and people who have moved around as much as me, met up at 10:30AM to start our vodka tasting.  A bit early for most of us moms that had to pick up kids at 3, but it would give us enough time to grab some lunch and soak up the alcohol. I don’t think I’ve been to a bar this early in the morning since my World Cup days in NYC following my Brit, “futbol” maniac, obsessed boyfriend, at the time.  Sometimes he’d have us wake-up at 5AM, dragging me to a bar that was open on off hours, just for the match. I was foolish then!  Anyway, I quickly forgot the hour of the day because once inside Valentine’s Distillery, I was transported in time, back to a relaxed speak-easy from the years of prohibition. The building alone has so much history as it’s comprised of many different elements from that era. Everything has been repurposed from the windows to the old Packer Factory to beams from a Micihigan farm and so on. It’s real. I especially loved the tasting area, to me it had a Parisian vibe with the gorgeous velvet red sofas and soft lighting, or maybe it was the French music playing in the background that had me dreaming of quaint Parisian hide-outs. Never the less, we weren’t in Paris, but in Detroit, which was however once called, the “Paris of the Midwest.”

For my complimentary cocktail I focused on an acceptable early-morning drink and chose a Bloody Mary. A perfect choice. The local McClures pickles were spicy, the tomato juice smooth and the vodka wan’t too strong nor too weak.

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After a bit of chit-chat and socializing with the other women, Heather, the very informative bartender started the tasting. We tried each alcohol in little beakers. Our first taste was of Valentine’s original vodka. I don’t normally sip straight vodka but this was wonderfully smooth and not harsh like other vodkas. It was great. Our second tasting was my favorite –a bit more on the sweet side, the Elderberry Flower infused Vodka called White Blossom was delicious. I can’t wait to re-create a drink I saw on their menu with basil,honey and their white blossom vodka!

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We also tasted two kinds of gin–both had strong delicious notes of cardamon, which was a nice change from the typical, harsh Tanguerey or other yulky smelling gins. It was a pleasure to rediscover gin as I swore off from it 10-years ago. Finally the last tasting, the bourbon, which my husband would have loved, but he wasn’t with me so I selfishly went home with my favorite, the White Blossom Vodka. The tour of this local distillery was inspiring and made me proud to see great production, or more appropriately AMAZING production, coming out of Detroit. It was completely worth my little $20 bill and I will never buy mass-produced vodka, again! I definitely found my love for vodka, my true valentine!

http://valentinedistilling.com

http://ourvodka.com/ourdetroit/

http://twojames.com/our-spirits/?age-verified=d69bc16f56

Herb and lemon lamb chops

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Watch my video to see the recipe in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53aHKOvgUt0

 

Lamb chops are easy to make and a great BBQ dish. However, it was too cold to cook outside so I made them in the oven.

Last night I served this with some creamed spinach on the side, but you will also see I have served it with asparagus and lemon wedges. I’m not huge on starches, but you could add a starchy dish-potatoes anyway, coucous, or even polenta would be delicious.

Turn oven on to 350

Recipe for 2 people: 6 lamb chops

Rind of one lemon

4 sprigs of Rosemary chopped

6 sprigs of Thyme (if you have it) chopped

7 cloves of garlic chopped

Coat both sides of lamb with the herb and lemon mixture. You can add 1/2 cup of bread crumbs to this if you want and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Place in a pan and in the oven.  Cook for 10 minutes at 350. Turn broiler on high and cook each side for 3 minutes for rare.

Enjoy!!!!! IMG_3057

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Salmon Cakes

I will write more detail when I can, but here is my youtube video.  The salad is not featured nor is the yogurt sauce on the side…. more to come.

If you have any questions, please comment on this blog and subscribe to my youtube channel.

Thanks for your support and love for food!

Ok here we go the ingredients and recipe!

2lbs salmon ( I think this would also be tasty with Tuna or swordfish)

1 big bunch baby spinach

2 eggs

1/2 cup Panko-japanese-style bread crumbs-alternatively you can use Italian bread crumbs, cracker crumbs etc.

2 big spoons of yogurt-full or non-fat

1/4 chopped red onion

3 dashes of garlic salt

3 pinches of regular salt, I added a bit of sesame seed salt mixture too

1/4 cup feta cheese

After making this recipe up I would change a few things.

Chop 1/4 red onion and chop the spinach loosely.  In my video I overloaded the mixer and tossed everything in-got overcrowded and feel the texture of the salmon could have been improved. Which is why now, I would also hand chop the salmon for better texture.

Put salmon in a bowl, add the yogurt, salt, garlic salt and bread crumbs.  Add the two eggs and mix well. Toss in the chopped fresh spinach and red onions and feta cheese. Make sure it’s all incorporated.

Now it’s time to make the patties.  If your patties aren’t sticking well together, add a bit more yogurt.  You can directly freeze the raw patties or cook them right away.

I cook this with a bit of olive oil in a skillet.  I used my hot pepper infused oil, which made it really too spicy.  So I served my salmon cakes with some yogurt on the side to dull down the heat!~ Make sure both sides are well browned and crispy. I would say about 4 minutes aside depending on your taste.  Think about timing on how you like your hamburger cooked.  You can alternatively grill this on the BBQ or broil them.

I would serve this with the remaining spinach leaves and make a nice little salad.  I didn’t make my dressing, I used a Japanese Sesame dressing.  However, I think a citrus vinaigrette would taste great.

Citrus vinaigrette:

Juice of one lemon

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

 

Holiday Cookies-simple chocolate chip

yummy cookies

baked chocolate chip cookies

It’s that time of year again when cookies swaps, sweets and overeating is the name of the game. The time actually begins for me at Halloween when it’s late at night and my son’s plastic Jack-o-Lantern filled with candies is calling for me. The scales start to tip and then it’s followed by Thanksgiving feasts filled with candied this and candied that.

But at Christmas time for me, it’s all about the cookie.  We leave some for Santa along with a few carrots for the reindeer.  I used to kill myself making cookies and treats for my son’s teachers–not for just one, but he wanted to give a gift to everyone –the principal, the music teacher, the drama teacher, the gym teacher, his 2nd grade teacher, the assistant, the janitor…. the list went on, then there were neighbors.  I didn’t make complicated cookies and stuck to the basics like :chocolate chip cookies, Mexican wedding cakes, chocolate truffle and something else.  By the time I was done putting all these treats in little gift bags, I was done! I realized making the dough was the easiest, it was the baking part that was a bit long and I would inevitably mess up a batch by forgetting them,being too far to hear the timer go off. So this year, I’m stealing my sister-in-laws idea and making the dough and freezing  individual cookie size balls. Some do the creative layering of ingredients in a mason jar, but I’m not going to make them work, plus you can’t give them butter on the side to complete the recipe. So frozen cookies it is.

Check-out my video and see how to make them.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbPrWCdA8BQ

Ingredients:

1/2 cup softened butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white granulated sugar

1 big tablespoon real vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 bag of chocolate chips-16 oz of cut up chocolate

You can also add in nuts-macadamia/ walnuts/ peanuts/ pistachios… whatever you like.

lots of pinches of nice quality salt- my favorite is fleur de sel or Maldon Salt flakes-adding more salt gives an extra mouth watering zing and a great contrast for sweet and salty.

Bake for 9-12 minutes at 350.  Set on a cooling rack. Or make some cookie balls and put in the freezer for up to 3 months.

YUM!!!

 

The first November snow


 

The anticipation of snow from a 9-year old is as intense as waiting to see if you’ve been accepted on a bid for a future home or seeing if you get upgraded to business class, ok maybe not, I just can’t decribe it.It’s Santa, the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny all wrapped in one. The snow to Seb is still magical, we’ll see how he feels 4 months from now.  Seb spent most of his life in Los Angeles, California. His early years in Tokyo showed a few flurries and in Italy, he experienced the real snowy alps, but he was too young to really remember. This is my son’s first winter living in Detroit and his excitement turned a quiet, dark sleeping house into one of chaos. He set his alarm for 6AM to see the snow. As a matter-of-fact, I had told him it would begin snowing at 6AM not knowing he’d actually set an alarm. Lucky I didn’t really tell him my Iphone showed 3AM. 6AM this morning to me felt like the worst Jet-lag where your brain is foggy and body  dizzy and weak as if you are about to pass out.  Getting that Nespresso puck into the machine as fast as possible with the belief that caffeine will erase a sleepless night is my morning ritual after nights like this one. For the most part caffeine helps me until I’ve had one shot too many, kind of like alcohol. But the effect isn’t as the fun as the rambling, nonsensical conversations from one glass too many.  It’s more like a stressful, nervous feeling with thoughts of a true panic attack or could it be early signs of a heart attack until you do your yoga breathing or meditative thoughts to realize it’s just too much caffeine. At least that’s how I get when I ask for the triple grande non-fat latte after I’ve already had a few nespressos at home. I call the triple grande, nonfat latte the “molto complicato” my friend and I giggle about it as we seem to be always on the phone talking to each other when at least one of us is at the Starbucks counter shyly asking for our strange and complicated, high maintenance order while the other listens.  The best is to get the friend in conversation and while they are talking, quickly press mute and spit out your order.  However this can back fire as they always ask for your name. I say Karine, and what kills me is my phone call is thwarted when they ask me how to spell it. Dam, my friend stopped talking. I say,  “k, a,r, i,n,e” ” You’re at Starbucks! ” my friend exclaims on the other line. She and I both lived in Italy and are embarrased by our new Americanized coffee habits. In Italy it was straight forward, no skinny this, half caf that, etc.  Capuccino, espresso, doppio, machiato or doppio machiato. The closest thing to complicato was the Maruquena which had chocolate drizzled in the cup before the espresso would drip down and whipped cream on top, but this was only on special occasions. Pumkin spice brulee toasted nut latte, peppermint dream cream and all of that or in the summer, frazle dazzle berry go nuts… I don’t know the actual names of the coffee drinks would be fun to have a job to name them. They don’t exist in the real word other than the land of Starbucks.  Another annoying thing about coffee is getting it for others or even making it for others. Yes, I seem to be a bitch but you all know what I’m talking about.   I would ask my collegues when making an afternoon coffee run if they wanted coffee I’d be crossing my fingers behind my back in hopes they’d decline, not because I’m cheap, I’m just impatient. Well sometimes I was on a budget and just had enough after their order to get the plain drip-short, not even tall, grande or venti.  The worse is when you get an order of 4 or more exclusive “molto complicato” drinks.  First it takes about 10 mins to write down the order, you loose the paper then call the person while standing at the counter with 5 people waiting impatiently behind.  “What did you want? A tall, what?  Oh a grande, skinny, half caf decaf, with a shot of vanilla? Anyway, kids are lucky.  They wake right up and are alive. Seb was ready to go this snowy morning.  The thrill of him seeing the snow brought back my own happy childhood memories of building snow jumps, tunnels, sledding till your face is red, blue and pink with no feeling.  My sister and I  were lucky, we had the best hill on the block, in Leverett, Massachusetts.  All the neighbor kids would congregate on our hill. We played for hours till we had no more feeling in our toes and fingers. I even remember being sick and stuck inside watching everyone from the bathroom window by standing on the bathtub to catch a peek at my friends and sister playing in the snow.

But today snow can’t even make me feel alive, I’m tired. I want to go back to bed.  Our night last night went a bit like this…. Seb  finally asleep at 9:30 just before Paul got back from Los Angeles.  Paul and I had a small dinner at 10PM- we are Spainyards at heart… we watched TV till 11 or 11:30. Paul put Lilly, our puppy in her crate for the night. 3AM my son wakes, he’s thirsty, actually so am I, we aren’t used to the heaters in the winter. Lucky the Iphone was wrong and it didn’t start snowing yet or Seb would have never fallen back asleep. Seb got back to bed, but then Lilly woke. Paul and I argue about whose turn it is to take Lilly out by trying to win the war on who is more tired. I loose and take Lilly outside. At 6AM Seb’s alarm goes off and we start again the argument of whose turn it is to wake-up. I win and get to be horizontal for just a few more minutes.  This is how I feel every morning….see photo 😉IMG_2821