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January Things

28 Jan

cherries

Chinese New Year is almost here! As red is the most auspicious of colors, and as you are what you eat during the festival, red fruit is in high demand. Thus, it is time for bourbon cocktail cherries!

While utterly contrary to nature and the seasons in the Northern hemisphere, this is randomly the best time of year to buy cherries and strawberries in China. I used the same recipe as last year, although this time I added a vanilla bean, and used bourbon instead of brandy. I’m looking forward to enjoying these in Old Fashioneds, Aviations, Waldorfs, and more.

seedlings

I’m taking the seed packet instructions at their word when they say “as soon as soil can be worked.” I planted lettuce and mild mustard greens this week, along with some beets and additional kale seedings.

first leaves

My little apple tree seems to have survived its first winter, and put out three sets of these cheery little leaves. Here’s hoping for an early spring!

The bitter(s) and the sweet

23 Jan

bitters

In this chilly winter season, I’ve been making bitters with infusions of herbs and other flavor agents.

Shown here are homemade vanilla and mugwort, plus old favorites Angostura and Peychaud’s in soda water for a tasting flight.

My current favorite are vanilla bitters, which are really lovely in a mug of warm milk before bed.

Vanilla Bitters

In a mason jar or other 500 ml bottle, combine:
2 vanilla beans
1 whole nutmeg
1 black cardamom (green cardamom works too, but use a small one – black are smokier and milder)
3 black peppercorns
500 mls vodka (I use Stoli)

Infuse for 30 days, shaking every day or two. Store in a dark place while infusing. If your vanilla beans are especially awesome, you may find a layer or brown oil floating in your bottle. This is a good thing – just be sure to shake it like a Polaroid picture before every use.

Vanilla Bitters Nightcap

Combine:
1 T of bitters
8 oz warm milk
1 T of honey
…and drift off to sweet dreams.

On Failure

7 Jan

cookie dough failIn the last couple of days, I’ve been thinking a lot about failure.┬áMuch of what I post here are projects that went well, or at least well enough to share. Today, some musings on the parts that go really poorly.

So, failure… Please consider Exhibit A, shown above, the cream wafers. Cream wafers are a Christmas recipe my mom used to make. I loved them when I was little – I loved them like I loved ponies and mermaids and stickers and things that were pink and purple. I was determined to make these cookies for the holidays, and I failed.

I made the cookie dough, popped in into the frige to chill like the recipe said, and then realized I didn’t have a rolling pin. Then some time went by, and it was still in the fridge. There it sat, a sad, incomplete, doughy reminder of great plans unrealized.

Then, dear reader, I accepted my failure and threw it away.

My failure was complete, I no longer felt bad about it, and there was the epiphany – completed failure means 1. acceptance and 2. purging the evidence.

Being surrounded by daily reminders of failure is awful. Completing the failure, purging, and moving on feels awesome. Here’s to failing, better.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

Finnish coffee bread brining kimchi