I could use one of those right about now. . .

Show me how you drink and I will tell you who you are.
~Emile Peynaud

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(a beautiful photo of a Cookie’s Cup / Julie Cook / 2014)

Ok, the official count down is underway!
Wedding Alert!!
June 7th!!!!!!!
Lots of “To Do’s” are crossed off the hefty list—yet oddly, as quickly as I check off one “To Do” item, seems as if 5 more are added. Hummmm

And money–let’s just not talk about that. . .
Still praying to grab hold of a Leprechaun cause robbing a bank is just not in my DNA.

By this time next week, I’ll be taking this show on the road . . .but before I can head towards the
Historic Georgia Coast, there are many miles to go here before there’s any thought of sleeping, resting or anything leisure.

And did you know that Springtime in Georgia lasts all of two weeks?
What does that have to do with wedding preparations you ask. . .
Well, it makes for hot work, and since the wedding is further south, an even hotter event.

Just about two weeks, sometime between late March, early April is when we have Spring.
After that little lull known as Spring, when our entire world turns yellow, look out, ’cause it’s full throttle Summer from here on out—as in sometime toward late October even possibly November!!
Summer is more like half the year here in Georgia.
If you like mid 90’s or better, and if you love not being able to breathe the air because the humidity is so thick you could wear it—then I’ve got a place for you!!

Heat, humidity and hazy days (the weather men call it hazy, I call it pollution but I digress)—that’s Georgia!!

So on those days that my nerves need soothing and my body needs refreshing, there is nothing better
than a “Cookie’s Cup.”
“A what?” you ask. . .
A Cookie’s Cup. . .as in my take on the quintessentially British summer cocktail cooler, The Pimm’s Cup.

If you’d like to try your hand at a Cookie’s cup, here’s what you’ll need:
–one bottle of Pimm’s No. 1 (a gin based, essentially British, herbal liqueur)
–One cucumber
“WHAT?!”
trust me. . .
–some strawberries
–crushed ice
–some Gin (I’m excited about Hendricks Gin these days–made in Scotland–a small batch gin, sleeper beverage coming in under the radar, below that infamous smoked peat beverage the Scots seems to love so much–who wants to drink smoked peat bogs??!! I digress)
–either some ginger ale, lime aid or some other lemon / lime flavored drink

–slice and seed a cucumber, or better yet, use a seedless one– then cut into sliced rounds or seeded chunks—I used about 6 little chunks (it’s a British thing, they put them in the original Pimm’s Cup, the big Wimbledon cocktail–and since the Hendricks gin uses cucumbers in their distilling, I figure it kind of all goes hand in hand)
–slice one to two large strawberries (they just look so pretty floating in a crystal glass don’t you think?)
–fill a pretty glass half way with crushed ice
–add the cucumber and strawberries
–add 1.5 oz of Pimm’s
–add 1 oz of Gin (if it’s been a really bad day, throw in an extra once of Gin for good measure)
–top off with lime aid or ginger ale
–Garnish with a mint sprig or slice of lime.

It’s not a sweet sort of drink but very quaffable–a light and easy aperitif. But if you need to sweeten it up a tad–add about a Tbl or two of simple syrup or Agave nectar— but remember the Agave is sweeter than sugar so you don’t need to use as much. The British love to make pitchers of Pimm’s, which in a pretty glass pitcher, can look most inviting. This is light, not a heavy alcoholic drink–and if you wanted it even lighter on the alcoholic side, you could do away with adding the Gin and stick primarily with the Pimm’s.

This is a nice sipping beverage on a hot afternoon when you’ve just looked at your check book and suddenly find yourself thinking of how you could do a better job of robbing a bank than the crooks you see on the evening news—
Bottoms up my friends. . .

Cookie’s stewed apples

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
Martin Luther

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I don’t know about where you live but the temperatures are starting to take a bit of a nose dive. We actually had our first frost last night here in northwest Georgia as the thermometer dipped into the oh so low 30’s. The nightly weather reports have been dotted with the stories of the early snows throughout much of the country—news of such always puts me in the mood to be in the kitchen working on something warm, comforting and heavenly.

I had gone a bit overboard at the grocery store the other day buying, en masse, the beautifully displayed apples. I don’t know if I thought the apocalyptic end was in sight or that I wanted to keep every doctor within miles away but I found myself buying more apples than I really needed.

And there they were this morning, a bevy of beauties sitting all nestled in the bowl on the counter–waiting… waiting for me to do something magical with them….

I know!! Let’s make stewed Apples—Cookie’s delightfully fall stewed apples…talk about a bite of fall in one’s mouth…..

First, let us gather our supplies shall we…..

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You’ll notice the base will be: Apple Cider, and of course we need Calvados or any good Apple brandy; I had some leftover coke, why not; the juice from an orange, cinnamon, my delicious cinnamon simple syrup, cardamon–pods crushed or the powder; nutmeg–freshly grated; Vermont Maple Syrup (I order mine each year from Taft’s Milk & Maple Farm in Huntington, VT –talk with Mary–she is a wonderful person http://www.vtmaplesyrup.com ), honey (my son’s fiancĂ© brought me a jar of Beekman’s Vanilla Creamed Honey–talk about decadent…it is laced with vanilla seeds and is truly heavenly–use sparingly as it’s just too good) Plus about 7 or 8 nice size apples. I mix varieties as some will turn to mush as they cook and others will hold their shape…providing a nice variety which is great for the “stew”….

I used a naval orange but you may use any type, even a tangerine—I’ve been known to use a lemon if I didn’t have an orange–you just want a little citrus….
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Now you know I’m not one to measure so this may really throw some of you more exact folks out there a big curve–I measure with my eyes and my tastebuds…it’s from being the art teacher for all those years—eyeballing things just took over. And here is where I throw my Jessuit friend William, over on teilharddechardin.wordpress.com, a curve ball as to whether I am a type A or type B personality—-but in the kitchen my “little bit of this and a little bit of that” just works…..

Using a large deep saucier or soup pot, pour in probably about 2 cups of the apple cider, probably 1/2 to 3/4 cup Calvados, part of the left over Coke-if you don’t have a Coke or don’t want to open one for this, don’t–it’s not crucial. Squeeze half or both halves of the orange, pour in approx 3/4 cup maple syrup–we’ll probably need more later. Pour in 1/2 cup of Cookie’s cinnamon simple syrup if you made it, if not just add more ground cinnamon and maple syrup. Several shakes of ground cinnamon, cardamon, a couple of gratings of the fresh nutmeg– bringing it all to a boil–now reduce to a simmer while you prepare the apples.

Wash your apples—I like to spray them with “Fit”–it is a fruit and vegetable spray/wash that helps to remove that waxy business the producers like to coat the fruit and veggies with….yuck…. Spray with the Fit, rub all over, rinse well.

Next you may use an apple slicer which makes this little chore rather effortless or you can simply cut into 8ths. I do not peel my apples as the skin adds such a nice textural quality to the end product but if you want to be a purist, peel away.

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Once the apples are sliced, place them in the pot of simmering deliciousness. Your house is smelling really good right about now…..

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Bring the mixture, complete with apples, to a boil, stirring to coat the apples with the liquid as we don’t want them turning brown. Reduce the heat, cover (don’t fret if the lid doesn’t fit all the way down yet, the apples will shrink down)–allow to simmer about 20 to 30 minutes…stir ever so often. After about 30 minutes taste the liquid as the apples will now have released their heady juice—here is where you may need to add some more Maple syrup or honey. Just keep adding a little, tasting until the level of sweetness works for you.

At this point you can cut off the heat, allowing the apples time to ‘sit in their juices’ as it were–breaking down and absorbing flavor. I usually let them sit on the stove until later when everyone wants a bowl– I will then heat them back up, as serving them warm just seems best. You may certainly use them as a side if serving some sort of pork or on their own as a desert. I’ve been known to heat a bowl for breakfast or ladle over oatmeal…so versatile, healthy and oh so heavenly divine.

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Serve them warm in a bowl topped with vanilla ice cream or a little whipped cream, or serve plain….this is what the doctor ordered on a chilly day…can’t get much better than this……

Simply simple

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
Confucius

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“Oh dear, she’s at it again”—and yes, I can hear you.
No this is not another batch of Cookie’s vanilla extract, but I must say that it has come to full maturation and I have been incorporating it into my baking—you may not realize it, but you are sorry you never made your own.

Today however we are looking at something so simple and yet so important that it’s almost frightening. And no, you are not beholding jars of moonshine. I know what you’re thinking, “She’s in the deep South isn’t she, don’t they all have a still or two out back?”

Lord no honey, the Revenue man came years ago and smashed that thing to bits.
You can trust me, I don’t know anything about moonshine which reminds me of Prissy in the movie Gone With The Wind when she lamented to Captain Butler “I don’t know nothing bout birthing no babies”. The rumor was, when I was a little girl, moonshine would make a person go blind because it was often distilled through an old car’s radiator. Who makes things that people consume from old rusty dirty car parts?? Those on a slippery slope I suppose. I did, however, once partake of a sip back in my college days.

Seems some stupid fraternity boy I was dating at the time thought it would be something to have a bottle of genuine Georgia Mountain mash. I have no idea how he came by this particular jar as moonshine was illegal to make and / or possess. It was indeed in a mason jar and it was clear and he seemed quite clandestine about the whole thing.

He screwed off the top and handed me the jar. It had a strange sterile aroma of rubbing alcohol and cherries. Now I have always been known to be adventurous when it has come to trying new things. I do draw the line however at the eating of scorpions on a stick or noshing on a handful grubs, or any other sort of insect… thank you very much Bear Grylls. Nor am I up for trying what my dad tells me his mother use to serve him as a young boy…eggs and brains. I suppose it is true what they say about eating all the parts of a pig, but I do have my limits and I am digressing.

I gingerly brought the jar to my lips, barely allowing the liquid to come into contact with my mouth or my very worried tastebuds. It was very stout I recall, as in very heavy on the alcohol end of things. I think it would probably have been a better antiseptic than a sipping cocktail. All I can say is that I tried it.

I found it not very different from the 190 proof bottles of golden grain alcohol the college boys would buy enmass, pouring into giant plastic trash cans, topping off with can after can of HI-C Hawaiian fruit punch…..dubbing the brew “hunch punch”—it was served at every fraternity’s “social”–aka, party. One’s date would go with cups in hand and dip cup after cup into the giant liquid filled trash cans. I now look back on those days with dismay and wonder how in the world I survived and give thanks that I am not blind, deaf or dead. What were we thinking!!?? Obviously we were not……

And at least moonshine is not bathtub gin—but then that sounds very similar to hunch punch…..oh the perilous concoctions Prohibition must have created…..

But my jars here are not mixtures of home-brewed spirits but rather a mix of mere water, sugar and, on this occasion, cinnamon sticks.

Behold, the simple syrup!

Simple syrup is just that, simple. But why bother to write about and / or share a recipe for something seemingly so simple you ask…..because it is a blank canvas waiting for you to get creative.

Over the weekend I was privileged to host a bit of a retirement shindig for one of my dearest friends. As this is the Fall of the year, it just seemed fitting to offer some sort of Fall inspired libation. What comes to mind when you think of Fall? Apples that’s what!! Of course…Apples. I made a pitcher of what I christened Cookie’s Apple Heart Warmer and boy were they good. A lovely smooth amalgamation of Apple cider, cinnamon, Amaretto, Bourbon, lemon and cherries. One of my friends took one sip and sweetly cooed “oooo, this tastes just like Fall!!”

My concoction required that I fist make a simple syrup. The easiest ratio for this is to use one cup water and one cup sugar—or in my case I used 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar. Put water and sugar in a pot or deep sauce pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir as it comes to a boil, making certain all the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar dissolves, remove the pot from the stove. Here is were I added my cinnamon sticks. You could add a vanilla pod, star anise, whole cloves, sliced ginger, a couple of chili peppers, thyme sprigs, basil leaves, rosemary sprigs, cardamon pods (not all together mind you)—whatever your heart desires depending on the flavor you’re going for and what you want to mix it with later.

As I was making an apple concoction, I wanted a cinnamon flavor, hence the brown sticks you see above. Once the liquid is cool you may transfer it to a glass jar or bottle. You must keep it in the refrigerator. It will last a couple of weeks. If it should start to turn cloudy, it’s time to throw it out.

Simple syrup may be added to ice tea. I made a large pitcher of tea, added sliced lemons, oranges and a handful of fresh mint and enough cinnamon simple syrup to taste. I’m not one to measure, just pour and taste until the ratio seems just right. I also tend to not like my drinks overtly sweet so I tend to be a bit conservative with my pouring. Perfect for a warm summer evening out on the veranda—as everyone thinks all southerners all have verandas.

The apple beverage consisted of 20 oz of apple cider (Simply Apple from the grocery store’s juice section is perfect) 16 oz bourbon (Bulleit or Makers Mark is nice), 4 oz of Amaretto (you could just use 20 oz of bourbon if you prefer but I think the Amaretto helped to produce that oh so smooth taste), 4 oz of fresh lemon juice (I used the bottled Key West All Natural Lemon juice which is pretty stout but if using real lemons, you may need to adjust the amount), 4 oz cinnamon simple syrup, and an entire bottle of all natural, no dye, Maraschino cherries with the juice, plus a handful of cinnamon sticks. Here is were you need to taste and adjust. If it’s not sweet enough, more simple syrup–I also threw in some more Amaretto and a little more cider.

I served it in sugared rimmed flutes. To sugar the rims pour a little lemon juice in a shallow saucer and then a mix of sugar and cinnamon in another saucer. Carefully turning your glass upside down, dip the rim of the glass in the lemon juice, let the drips fall back into the saucer, then dip into the cinnamon sugar, allow to dry. Garnish with dried apples chips. I did dry my own apples but you can easily buy a bag of dried apple chips at the store.

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I think this beverage would be even better heated as a heart warming hot toddy savored by a crackling fire. I just hope you enjoy—my little gathering of friends surly enjoyed as they polished off 3 pitchers…hummm, must have been the cherries. And speaking of, one of my friends even carried home the cherries that had been at the bottom of the pitcher…hummmm