Whiskey Sours (And Not A Bottle of Sour Mix In Sight)

Fun fact: today is National Whiskey Sour Day. Not like I really need “a day” for whiskey drinking — anyone who knows me personally knows that whiskey-, rye-, and bourbon-based drinks are my jam — but sadly it’s not just any day that you can find a good whiskey sour.

A “sour” is a family of drinks that includes the Daquiri, Margarita, and Sidecar. The formula to make a sour cocktail is simple: spirit + lemon or lime juice + (the “sour” part) + simple syrup (the “sweet” part). Tequila + lemon and lime juice (equal parts) + simple syrup = margarita. Whiskey + lemon juice + simple syrup = whiskey sour. Easy as that… in theory.

I say “in theory” because one would think a simple, three part recipe should be hard to screw up. And yet I hate ordering whiskey sours at restaurants. Actually, I hate ordering most mixed drinks at most restaurants, with chain restaurants and sports bars being the biggest offenders. The sour and sweet parts of mixed drinks are usually co-mingled in the form of more-sickeningly-sweet-than-sour and nuclear yellow-colored bottled sour mix. Yuck.

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Swedish Meatballs

I started eating meat again earlier this year after almost 14 full years of being vegetarian (or 10 years, if you don’t want to count the fact that I was technically a pescatarian for the past four.) Swedish meatballs have since become one of my go-to dinners. It is a quick and easy to make dish that is delicious when served over egg noodles with lingonberry jam.

If you don’t have some on-hand already, you’ll want to buy a jar of lingonberry jam to serve with. Similar to eating cranberries with Thanksgiving turkey and gravy, the jam adds a nice, sweet-tart flavor to compliment the rich sour cream gravy that goes with the meatballs.

Fair warning: Don’t try to substitute strawberry or raspberry jam. It won’t be the same. If you’re worried about having leftover jam sitting in your fridge for all eternity, don’t worry — you’ll want to make this dish again (we make it a few times a month, it’s that good) and there are plenty of other uses for it, too.

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Pantry Raid: Curried Chicken Salad

Shortly after I started eating meat more regularly, I saw Ina Garten make curried chicken salad on an episode of her show, Barefoot Contessa. My immediate thought was that it looked good (and, duh, her food always looks amazing) and sounded different, but I didn’t immediately put it at the top of my “recipes to try” list, and here’s why.

I took a big pause at the idea of curry and chutney mixed together, really skeptical about how two strong-tasting ingredients like that would taste when mixed together. Also, I was never a big fan of traditional chicken salad. Growing up, my dad and I would go out for sandwiches for lunch on a regular basis. Whenever I ordered chicken salad from a nearby deli or restaurant, it often tasted bland and mushy, with tiny pieces of chicken and not enough crunch from celery and onion to make up for the amount of mayo put in the salad.

Knowing that Ina has rarely led me astray, I gave the recipe a try and was soon obsessed. For a while I made this salad at least once a week, without fail, to bring to work for lunch. It has a totally unexpected flavor on account of the chutney and curry, which do taste good together after all. It’s creamy without tasting like eating a spoonful of mayo, and super-crunchy from the celery and cashews, one of my favorite nuts.

Ina’s Curried Chicken Salad has become a pantry staple recipe; I keep the ingredients on-hand for whenever I’m in the mood to make a quick dinner or lunch for work. Using the original recipe as a guide, here are a few things that I like to adjust when I make it.

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Grilled Orange Chicken

Last year was a big year of canning for me. I made countless batches of jams and jellies, fermented pickles, fresh-pack tomatoes in their own juices, a few batches of applesauce, and other things that are happily at-home in my basement pantry.

What I guess I just revealed to you is this: If the zombie apocalypse comes and in the event that anything happens to me (i.e., let’s hope Darryl rescues me from a zombie hoard and we ride off into the sunset together on his motorcycle), my house is a good location to raid for food.

Anyway... I give away a lot of my canned goods as gifts to friends and family, but one of my favorites that I selfishly held on to was a batch of bourbon and black pepper orange marmalade.

I recently had a craving to do something that involved more than just spreading the marmalade on toasted English muffins with butter — which is amazing, by the way. I was also craving Chinese food at the time and thought a savory application, orange chicken with some steamed vegetables, would be the thing to try.

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Homemade Aioli: Take 1

Hope everyone had a happy and safe holiday! Mine was both productive and relaxing. Steve and I worked in the garden, weeding and spreading top soil, and I continued sorting and throwing away old stuff from the basement, trying to get moving-ready for when the time comes. The day in the city on Saturday with my mom to see Jersey Boys was fantastic, too.

Speaking of the garden, my first purple bell pepper is growing nicely! It was about the size of a kumquat, but it got much bigger just in the past week or two. We also have quite a few blooms on our Japanese eggplant and cucumber plants, sunflowers shooting up and zinnias starting to sprout (two of my favorite flowers), and healthy herb plants. Exciting!

I also managed to knock-off one of my foodie goals for this year during dinner on Sunday (grilled Dundore & Heister hamburgers and hot dogs from Easton Public Market, veggie burgers, and Greek tatzki pasta salad.) I made homemade aioli to go with the burgers, and all-in-all it was a good first attempt. I hit some roadblocks when it came to the flavor, though, but as far as the process? That was a cinch.

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