Monday, December 2, 2013

Homemade Holiday Gift Idea: Coffee Liqueur


I love the idea of homemade holiday gifts, but usually I don't get around to them in time. This year, though, I decided to turn my good intentions into great gifts and busted out a recipe I tried a few years ago: homemade coffee liqueur. It's like Kahlúa, but better. I compared it, over ice, to the store-bought stuff, and I had a hard time stomaching how syrupy and artificial the Kahlúa tasted after drinking my homemade version.

Most "homemade Kahlúa" recipes I've found online call for instant coffee, but I don't touch that stuff, so I wasn't about to include it in my labor of coffee-flavored boozy love. I figured a way around it: I made a stock pot of super-strong coffee (more of a coffee sludge) with freshly-ground beans, and manually filtered it. I mixed the filtered coffee with vanilla extract and sugar, then mixed that with an equal amount of vodka, and let it sit for 30 days.

This recipe takes a little work, and a lot of patience, but the result is an amazing, easy-to-sip coffee liqueur that will last indefinitely — I mean, if you don't drink it all right away.

Homemade Coffee Liqueur 
active time: 1 hour 30 minutes
total time: 1 month, 1 hour and 30 minutes
yield: 128 ounces (16 cups)

Ingredients
12 ounces of a quality dark roast, whole bean coffee
9 cups water
3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons vanilla extract (I prefer Madagascar bourbon vanilla)
64 ounces (8 cups) vodka

Grind the coffee (if you have the option to choose the grind, choose the coarsest possible). Add the coffee grounds and water to a large pot, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. As soon as the coffee begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and let the mixture (the “coffee sludge”) simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, fashion some sort of filter system over a french press or other tall container. I used a ceramic drip cone used for pour overs that I picked up at a thrift store for $2 (you can buy them online and at many box stores and coffee shops). These cones are meant to sit on top of a coffee mug and require paper a paper filter. Since we don’t use paper filters, and I didn't want to go back to the store at 10 pm, I cut an unbleached flour sack towel, and used the pieces as my filter.


Ladle the coffee sludge into the filter. Depending on what you use, it may take a while to filter through, and you'll need to clear or replace your filter a few times before you get through the entire batch. 


You should have muddy grounds stuck in your filter. If not, it's probably getting into your mixture, and you don't want that.


Add the filtered coffee back to the (rinsed!) pot over low heat. Add the sugar and stir until all of the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla and stir well. At this point, you should have about 8 cups of coffee syrup. Let the syrup cool for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Now, you can do one of two things: 1. Add 8 cups of vodka and the syrup to a large jar or bottle. 2. If you’re adding this to individual bottles for gifts, go ahead and fill each bottle halfway with the coffee syrup, then fill the rest of the way with vodka. Either way, use a funnel.


Let your boozy concoction sit in a cool, dark place for 30 days. In the meantime, make tags or labels for your gifts. Give it a shake every few days, when you remember.


I know what you're thinking: "Hey! There aren't 30 days left until Christmas. Why didn't you post this earlier?"

No problem! Just write "Enjoy After ____" on your label or tag. Believe me, people will be happy to drink this on a cold January night or save it until Valentine's Day.

A word of warning: This homemade coffee liqueur is hard to put down, and pretty strong. I drank it the night Kyle proposed to me, and let's just say I'm really glad there's a video of the whole thing.


Have you made holiday gifts?

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Married One Year


Kyle and I got married a year ago today. Sort of. Our wedding was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, technically making our anniversary November 24. But we decided to celebrate "the Saturday after Thanksgiving" with a party every year instead. Today, we're hosting a big pig roast at the new house.


I can't believe it's been a year already. With a job change and buying a house, this year went by so quickly. But I wanted to take a few minutes to remember our super-fun (and beautiful, if I do say so myself) wedding.

Looking back, even though we definitely threw some money at it in the end, our wedding was pretty frugal. It didn't hurt that nearly all of our vendors were friends, including the photographers, bartender, caterer, officiant, and musicians.

And I thrifted. So hard. For nearly a year, I picked up milk glass, blue mason jars, and vintage linens as I found them. In the month leading up to the wedding, my girlfriends and I spent many hours putting together flatware packets, painting frames, making signs, trimming fabric, and sewing boutineers for the groomsmen. For the favors, Kyle made dill pickles, and I made the tags.

Though we had almost a year to plan, the day seemed to sneak up on us in those last few weeks, but everything came together so beautifully. We were so happy that day, I don’t think anything would have upset us. It was icing on the cake that everything ran smoothly. (I do recommend — even for DIY brides like myself — hiring a day-of coordinator to make sure that everything goes according to your well-laid plans.)

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from our wedding day.







Since our first date, Kyle and I have had an ongoing, lighthearted border war in our relationship. I grew up in Missouri, and when I lived in New York and told people I was from Kansas City, I got “Dorothy” often. Eventually, I got the outline of the state of Missouri tattooed on my right forearm.

Kyle comes from the other side of State Line, and has two degrees from the University of Kansas. On our wedding day, he got the state of Kansas tattooed on his left forearm so that ours match up right along the state line.

It’s just coincidence that the barn where we married is on State Line Road (the Missouri side, thank you very much).





We wanted to throw a barn party with a wedding ceremony at the beginning, and we easily agreed upon the venue — a barn in the middle of the city. It wasn’t important for us to do anything the traditional way, including seating, but it was very important to us to have wonderful food, great music, and plentiful booze. We also wanted to be as green as possible, so our save the date and invitation were both postcards. (Having guests RSVP online made it really easy for me to keep track of the guest list.)




Instead of getting one wedding cake, we asked friends to make desserts — whatever they wanted. But we did do the traditional cutting... of an entire pig.






While there were a variety of factors that brought us together, Kyle and I met briefly for the first time on his 29th birthday. I’d written a piece about the then-new band The Grisly Hand for The Pitch (Kansas City’s alt weekly) and he’d seen it. We met briefly at their next show. A few weeks later, he called me up at my office and asked me out. Almost two years after that, he proposed on stage at one of The Grisly Hand's concerts. We had no doubt that we wanted them to play our wedding reception.


Instead of a guestbook, I designed a poster for everyone to sign. It's now framed and hangs in our dining room. People like to look for their names when they come over. After the amount of whiskey that flowed that night, details are hazy for most.




Venue: Alexander Majors Barn, Kansas City, MO / Officiant: The Reverend Ann Kansfield, Greenpoint Church / Ceremony Band: David Burchfield & The Great Stop / Reception Band: The Grisly Hand / Dress: Janay Andrews, Janay A. Handmade / Emily’s Hair: Melissa Van Der Bom, Speak Salon Studio / Drinks: Jenn Tosatto, Hawthorne & Julep / Pig: Bichelmeyer Meats / Sides Catering: Kelli Daniels, Good You / Flowers: Village Flower Company, Arrangement by Sandy Krumm / String Lights: Target / Photography: M & E Photo Studio

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013



This Thanksgiving was a small one — at least as far as the crowd was concerned. Kyle and I hosted at our house, and both of our mothers came, and one sister each. (We both have two sisters, but the others had plans. My dad and stepmom were hosting her parents in southern Missouri, and Kyle's dad is in Sioux City, IA, with Kyle's grandmother.)

When it came to the food, though, excess was the theme (for which we were all thankful, of course). We had ordered an 18-pound turkey from our favorite butcher a while ago, just in case we ended up with a full house. And everyone chipped in with sides and desserts. It's safe to say we'll be eating Thanksgiving leftovers for days. In fact, I had pumpkin pie for breakfast today, and I don't feel bad about it.

Here are a few pictures from our Thanksgiving feast.



Kyle is pretty well known among our friends and family for his beer-can chicken, so this year, he got up before 7 am to start smoking a beer-can turkey on the Big Green Egg. Here's a tutorial.


He even stuffed a homemade herb butter under the turkey skin.




On Wednesday, I picked handfuls of sage from the remains of our little community garden plot. What didn't go into the food made a beautiful, fragrant centerpiece.


Every Thanksgiving, I make a sweet potato and goat cheese dish (called Sweet Potato Not Pie in my cookbook, Casserole Crazy). This year, I mixed it up and made whipped sweet potatoes with ginger and coconut, adapted from this recipe. I just used the entire can of coconut cream and increased the amount of ginger. Next time, I'll probably add a little cayenne pepper, too.





In addition to the sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts (with Kyle's homemade bacon), cranberry sauce, and macaroni and cheese with corn dish, I made my rustic stuffing. See the recipe below.


After dinner, and before pie and pumpkin brownies, my sister, Jo, made hand-whipped cream for the first time. Jack watched intently, hoping she'd drop a little on the floor. She didn't, but he managed to help clean a few plates when we weren't looking.



Here’s the recipe for my rustic Thanksgiving stuffing. It’s good any time of year, of course.

1 stick salted butter

3 tablespoons fresh, chopped sage

1 large, white onion, chopped

1 large carrot, finely chopped

3 stalks celery, finely chopped

2 apples, chopped (with skins)

3 cloves garlic, chopped

16 ounces vegetable broth

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 day-old baguette
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter is melted add one tablespoon of the sage, the onion, celery and the carrot. When the onions become translucent, add the garlic, apples, then salt and pepper generously, very generously. After the apples have cooked for about 2 minutes, pour the vegetable broth into the pan, season with the cayenne and more salt and pepper as needed, and let the mixture sauté for 1 to 2 more minutes.

Tear the bread into approximately 1/2-inch squares and place in a 2-3/4-quart casserole dish. Add the cranberries and remaining sage. Pour the wet mixture over the bread. Mix well and bake uncovered at 350ºF for about 45 minutes to an hour. For best results, stir at least once.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Vintage of the... Month: Small Brown Plates

Sometimes I set goals for myself that are a bit unrealistic. Like, keeping up with a blog in addition to a new house, a new recipe development and food styling business, two weekly columns, and a food blog I edit. Or posting a vintage item to Etsy EVERY DAY.

I know some people are good at sticking to things like that, but not me. I hope I can get better at it, because I think I could make a decent income, but listing vintage items is a lot of work. As I get better and faster with a camera (I got a real one!) and Adobe Lightroom, it will get easier.

I'm also beating myself up about all the great stories I haven't posted here over the last few months. But instead of trying to play catch-up (another way to set myself up for failure), I should just pick back up and do what I can as often as I can.

So, here I am with the Vintage of the Day, which is more like Vintage of the Month. I love these brown plates, and not only because it's rare to find a more masculine dish pattern.


Set of six brown 1970s Cloisonne by Mikasa Brown Stoneware Small Plates, Masculine Brown Leaf Pattern: $55 [pyrexandpennies.etsy.com]

Monday, September 30, 2013

Vintage of the Day: Last Pair of Ball Jar Salt & Pepper Shakers


Well, if last week wasn't a total "Vintage of the Day" fail. It was.

Jeff (my business partner, not to be confused with my life partner, Kyle) and I recently accepted a really big project with foodandwine.com. We'll be doing recipe development and photography. We both do the recipe developing, I do the styling, and Jeff takes the pictures.

It's exciting and pretty amazing, but also time consuming. We're doing 100 recipes a month! So, I'm adjusting to this new schedule (and a new space, right behind the new house... more on that later) and really dropped the ball on my Etsy store last week.

It's pretty amazing that as soon as I stopped adding an item a day, I stopped selling an item a day. So I'm back to it. This time, I'm parting with the last of this lot of tiny Ball jar salt and pepper shakers. I've bumped up the price a bit, because these have been my best sellers by far. I hope to get my hands on another lot and relist them soon.

Tiny Ball jar salt-and-pepper shakers: $12. 


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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

S.O.S.

I'm drowning. In work. Which I realize is a good problem to have, but it's keeping me from doing the things I want to do, like update my Etsy stock, or tell you all about the huge recipe development and food styling project my business partner and I will be doing for foodandwine.com. Oh, and I really want to tell you about the vintage sink I bought off of craigslist today. Well, I got the bottom of it. I have to go back for the other half tomorrow because it turns out that a huge vintage sink on a stand doesn't completely fit in a Nissan, Versa. Nor does it fit the idea of the sink that Kyle had in mind. More on that later...

That little steam of half-consciousness, folks, is all I can muster. I realize this is the worst blog post in the world, but it's time for me to sleep. I plan to have sweet dreams of a sweet vintage farmhouse sink on a sweet vintage turquoise stand.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

Vintage of the Day: More Tiny Ball Jar Salt & Pepper Sets

This tiny vintage Ball jar salt-and-pepper set has been so popular I've already sold out of all four I had listed. Luckily, I had a few more tucked away and just listed two more. 

Tiny Ball jar salt-and-pepper shakers: $10. 


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