Strawberry Basil Infused Vodka

How to infuse vodka for cocktails, baking, and cooking.

I need to get a little science geeky here for a moment. Did you know there are flavour compounds in food that you absolutely, positively cannot release unless you hit 'em with alcohol? It's the truth. There are two reasons for this: Volatility: You know how you can smell whiskey or another strong alcohol right when you open the bottle? It's because alcohol evaporates so quickly and the molecules carry the essence of the flavours straight to your nose. Versatility: Alcohol bonds with both fat and water making it the perfect vehicle to grab every water soluble flavour (basic salty, sweet, bitter, and sour) AND every fat soluble flavour (aromatics like garlic, herbs, spices, and other seasonings) and combine it into one perfect umami bomb. You just can't get that kind of performance from anything else. You can't fully TASTE food unless you can smell it, and alcohol binds to those aroma receptors that are otherwise only dissolved in fat unlike anything else. That being said, you'll understand why I say it's crucial that you try making Strawberry Basil Infused Vodka this summer. CRUCIAL, I SAY! Why? Because strawberries are both sweet AND aromatic (see geeky moments above) and you haven't experienced the true glory of strawberries unless you've hit them upside the head with vodka. Ditto on the basil. We've had this strawberries-plus-basil discussion before, right? Here and here, for starters. Basil is also highly aromatic. Are you seeing my pattern here? Taking … {Read on...}

Toffee Brownie Crackle {Crispy, Crunchy Brownie Wafer Cookies}

Toffee Brownie Crackle {Crispy, Crunchy, Brownie Wafer Cookies} from

There are a lot of foods I like. Duh, right? No seriously, work with me here. The list is extensive. In fact, I'd say I like more food than I don't like... I don't naturally have a sweet tooth. It's pretty easy to go overboard on my sweetness quotient. I prefer foods  a little further on the savoury or bitter spectrum. There is one GIANT, HUGE, ENORMO exception, though. Brownies. Uhmuhgush, people. I'm a brownie maniac. I eat them all. I eat fudgy brownies, cakey brownies, blondies (I know, maybe that's stretching the category a bit), BROWNIES. All of them. I like brownies made with pounds of butter and sugar, fake-you-out brownies made with black beans or beets (Yes, those are things. They're pretty darned good.) I could eat my weight in brownies, and I'll take all the edge pieces, thankyouverymuch. Crispy edges forever! Having this little piece of knowledge in your kit should keep you from being surprised when I say that I fell in love with some crispy brownie snacks provided at a conference I attended a couple of weeks ago. They're made commercially and sold pretty widely. By pretty widely, I mean Wegman's and other well-stocked grocery stores have them. BUT PEOPLE. Wegman's and other well-stocked grocery stores are at least a half an hour's drive in either direction for me AND there's one other problem. I'm cheap. When I say I'm cheap, what I mean is that I look at a package of something and size up just how much it would take me in raw materials to create … {Read on...}

The Evil Genius Smoked Barbecue Chicken

The Evil Genius's Soked Barbecue Chicken. #CookingWithEngineers Two-stage smoking and grilling process.

My husband can cook, people. He is an engineer, so his cooking endeavours often include terms like "matrix", "schematic", "equipment", and "sequence". While the terminology might not be what I would use in the kitchen, his food speaks the universal language of YUM, so I always get excited when he's inspired to make our meal. Last weekend, he made a run into town for lawn tractor parts and called me after leaving Farm & Family to say, "Hey. Do you have anything planned for dinner tonight? I was thinking of grabbing some chicken and trying something. I think I'll make Smoked Barbecue Chicken. I want to do a two-stage cooking process. I'll start by smoking it to render out some of the fat and infuse it with smoke, then I'll switch it over for stage two and grill it and brush it with sauce until it's done. What do you think?" I'm no dummy; I said, "Sounds GREAT!" It's a pure entertainment to watch him work. He's one part Nutty Professor with seasoning salt flying like flubber and one part Emperor Palpatine tapping his finger tips together with a  "Good. GOOD. It's all going according to plan!". Exhibit A: Stage one of his two stages. This is our charcoal grill. He removed the grate on the far end of the grill to make room for his chimney starter with a grill basket positioned over it to hold wood chunks. The idea was that the chimney starter would hold the hot coals to one side, directing the heat upward and toward the soaked hardwood chunks generating a … {Read on...}

Playing games in good taste: FarmVille to Table

Strawberry Freezer Jam with Balsamic and Thyme from #FV2Table #FarmvilleCookbook #ad

Are you a fan of FarmVille? Boy do I have some fun news for you! What do you call it when the game making powerhouse Zynga decides to release a game chock full of recipes featuring the bounty of summer harvested, fresh, home-cooked foods? Well, first you call it delicious and fun! Then you call it FarmVille 2: Country Escape, Zynga's latest mobile game. I don't often get excited about games, but this one has my attention! A game that rewards you with real recipes? Oh my, yes please! What I LOVE about this is that players can enter their own recipes in the game. And what's even more fun is that Zynga is calling all cooks for the chance to be featured in the first ever FarmVille to Table cookbook. With tens of millions of people playing the game each month, and over four hundred million people having played the game total, that's a lot of eyeballs that could see YOUR recipe. How's THAT for a food happy captive audience? Zynga's excellent culinary team will be selecting and testing, preparing and photographing the top submitted recipes for inclusion in the FarmVille to Table cookbook. Your recipe could appear alongside my Strawberry Balsamic Thyme Freezer Jam and be seen by those millions and millions of FarmVille players. I chose this recipe because it's the only strawberry jam I make for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is it's the tastiest I've ever had. Oh sure, it's EASY, and that doesn't hurt the case for it at all, but OHMYWORD people. It's like a … {Read on...}

Evil Genius, Sr.’s Slathering Barbecue Sauce

The Evil Genius Sr.'s Slathering Barbecue Sauce smoky, tangy, sweet, and perfect for brushing layer after layer.

When it comes to barbecue sauces, I'm going to admit I have a bit of a neurotic streak. Big surprise, right? When I learned how easy it was to make my own all these years ago, it was hard to walk into a store and pay mucho deniro for the cruddy bottles of glorified ketchup they were selling. Honestly, the first or second ingredient in almost every single brand was high fructose corn syrup. GACK. And then, when higher end barbecue sauce became available, I still couldn't pay for it because I knew how tasty my homemade stuff was. (There is one notable exception, and that's the Dinosaur Barbecue Sensuous Slathering sauce, but I digress...) Important sidebar: My husband recently went on a business trip to Georgia. While there, he was able to spend some time with his dad and eat a couple of meals at his home. His dad -a phenomenal cook- made two extremely memorable meals for him. One of grilled lamb chops and one of smoky ribs. My hubby, The Evil Genius, raved about the rub on his dad's ribs. He raved about the SAUCE on his dad's ribs. He raved. Naturally, I called his dad to ask for the recipe. His dad explained that he usually makes a thinner, more North Carolina style sauce for his ribs, and rattled off his list of ingredients for me. He gave me quantities on four or so of the ingredients and told me to add the rest in the quantities in which I liked them. Yes, sir. I call that license to play with my food. Because I intended to make the barbecue sauce for chicken, and … {Read on...}