Spinach and Poached Egg Salad with Lemon Thyme Dressing

 An easy, tasty salad for a Sunday night dinner.

An easy, tasty salad for a Sunday night dinner.

I created this salad Sunday night after arriving home from a weekend away. The trip back from Chicagoland had us eating donuts for breakfast and Wendy’s burgers for lunch along the interstate. Both excellent – Home Cut Donuts in Joliet is my favorite donut shop in the world, and if you have to have a fast food joint burger, Wendy’s is a good option. However, I thought it prudent to have something healthy for dinner so I created this salad. I used spinach as the base and tossed in some roasted baby potatoes (you could boil them instead if you wish), blanched asparagus, finely sliced raw Brussels sprouts and a smattering of cooked bacon (ok, maybe this was a departure from the mission to eat something healthy, but it was just a little bit of bacon!). I topped the salad with poached egg and drizzled it with a dressing I made from a tablespoon of melted butter, a teaspoon of lemon juice, pepper and some fresh thyme. Serve with some crusty, hot bread on the side.

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Roasted Tomato Relish

Roasted Tomato Relish

Roasted Tomato Relish

On our trips back to Australia I always enjoy reconnecting with the tastes unique to my homeland. I grew up with a Grandmother who was a prolific producer of preserves – jams, chutneys, relishes and the like. I was fortunate to be left her book of recipes and after a recent trip ‘down under’ I returned determined to replicate the tomato relish found on ham sandwiches, served on toasted Turkish bread with poached eggs and other dishes I enjoyed while in Australia. I found this recipe in Grandma’s book and added the extra step roasting the tomatoes. I found that roasting the tomatoes gives the relish more depth of flavor. I also added the Sriracha, found in the Asian section of the supermarket, to give it some pepper. It is actually pretty quick to make, and disappears pretty quickly also!  If you are making this in Australia, grab some bush tomato flakes and add a teaspoon to the recipe to give it that Aussie bush tomato zing! Bottling the relish, or any preserve, is far easier than some people would have you believe. Wash your bottles, if you have sterilizer use it, but otherwise just wash them and dry them in a warm oven along with the lids. When you bottle the preserve, put the lids on while the preserves are still hot, this will seal the bottles. You don’t need those fancy-pants bottles that cost an arm and a leg, and you don’t need to boil them etc etc, blah blah blah. Continue reading

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Choc-Chip Cream Cheese Filling

Chocolate Cupcakes with Choc-Chip Cream Cheese Filling

Chocolate Cupcakes with Choc-Chip Cream Cheese Filling

These cupcakes may appear daunting, but they really aren’t. They are pretty easy and a huge crowd-pleaser for kids and adults alike. The recipe makes 24, but you can easily halve it if you don’t have a crowd and you think that throwing back 24 of these bad boys by yourself on a Friday night after a bad week/break-up/dye job may be just a little excessive! Continue reading

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Nirvana – A Visit to Pinckney Bend Distillery

Welcome to the Distillery and Tasting Room.

Welcome to the Distillery and Tasting Room.

In keeping with the name of this blog I think it appropriate I relate the story of our little road-trip to my favorite gin maker over the July 4th weekend. As many of you know, I am a gin snob and a few years ago I discovered a new gin on the market that blew me away. http://www.inebriatedepicurean.com/fun-miscellany/the-rise-of-craft-distilleries-out-of-the-bathtub-and-into-polite-company/  What surprised me even more was the fact that it is made in Missouri! Yes, dear readers, my previous favorite gin, Junipero from Anchor Steam in San Francisco, was supplanted by an upstart mid-west gin! Fly-over country indeed! So, on a gorgeous summer day we set off for the town of New Haven.  Back in the early 1800’s Pinckney Bend was a navigational hazard on the Missouri River, located at the 83 mile marker above St Louis. The Pinckney Bend Distilling Company http://pinckneybend.com/ takes its name from this historic location and is based in the town of New Haven in Daniel Boone country.

We were fortunate to have a tour of the distillery by Distiller’s Apprentice, Keith Meyer, who is pictured here with the very first still. Original StillAnyone stumbling on the facility back then would have been justified in mistakenly thinking they had stumbled upon a meth lab…well it is rural Missouri! Pinckney Bend started producing craft gin about 4 years ago with the goal “to produce premium quality, hand-crafted spirits worthy of their heritage, one small batch at a time.” They have succeeded magnificently and now boast several international gold medal winning spirits as well as their American Craft Gin, including American Corn Whiskey, Three-Grain American Vodka and Rested American Whiskey. Their newest product, Classic Tonic Syrup, takes the gin and tonic to a whole new level. There is no way I can ever go back to a garden variety tonic after this sublime take on a very classic syrup.

The New Shiney Still

The New Shiny Still

My husband Scot, the brewer in our family, was enamored with the gorgeous still which replaced the original! It really is a thing of beauty!   If you have read my previous posts regarding small businesses built from passion such as family wineries you know I am a huge supporter of these enterprises. Pinckney Bend is such a business and we had a very enjoyable visit to the tasting room and were lucky to not only taste superb spirits but to spend time with people who love to share their passion for a product, traditions and a classic craft.

Classic Pinckney Bend Gin and Tonic

Classic Pinckney Bend Gin and Tonic

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Coal-Roasted Eggplant

Roast the eggplant directly in the hot coals.

Roast the eggplant directly in the hot coals.

Coal-Roasted Eggplant with Tzatziki

Last year we had an abundance of eggplants from Scot’s vegetable garden. It seemed that as the summer wore on more and more of the bulbous beauties would appear on the kitchen benches. What to do with this bounty of aubergine? I happened upon an article extolling the virtues of roasting the eggplant directly in the coals. Not on a grate over the coals, but in the coals. The first time I admit to being a bit anxious – the idea of building a hot fire in the Weber and just throwing the eggplant in was a bit confronting, but hey, it was not like we didn’t have eggplants aplenty! After the first time, there was no going back. The flesh is so silky and smokey, it is the only way we eat eggplants now. I did the first one this summer last weekend and served it with fresh ciabatta bread and tzatziki.  It was divine. Just build a hot fire in your Weber and place the eggplant in the coals, as shown, turning it after about 5 minutes. The eggplant is done when the skin chars and the flesh appears to fall in on itself – about 10 – 15 minutes.


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Apple and Rhubarb Pie

 I made this pie this past weekend to take to the neighbor’s for dessert. They had kindly invited us for dinner and then proceeded to pour alcohol down our throats, making my Sunday less than productive. We were not completely blameless in this exercise as Scot came home to retrieve a bottle of Bundaberg Rum Master Distiller’s Collection , 280 – a gift from a friend in Australia (thanks, Gary!) and a particularly precocious rum distilled in whiskey barrels from Kentucky, just down the road from here! So, how did I start a blog piece on pie and get to drinking fine rum in shots so quickly? Check the name of the blog, people! Enough with the rum, let’s talk pie. This pie crust I have shared with you previously in my Rhubarb -Strawberry Pie recipe http://www.inebriatedepicurean.com/desserts/rhubarb-strawberry-pie/. What is essential to a successful pie crust is to use the best quality butter. Do not use the watery excuse for butter you find in most U.S grocery stores, use Irish, European or Amish butter – yes, Amish, there was that Harrison Ford movie with Kellie McGillis in it, remember? I can’t recall if they made butter in that movie, but Amish butter is good. Australian butter is generally pretty good unless the quality has deteriorated since I moved to the U.S. Pony up the extra $$$$ and buy the good stuff. I made this pie on Saturday morning, while Scot attempted to read the paper in our breakfast nook. A task made difficult due to my decision to pretend I had my own baking show. I narrated my process – admonishing my audience to always use good butter, and reminiscing about that awesome British show “Two Fat Ladies” – those crazy British broads who cooked with lashings of butter and cream and drank gin……kind of my role models/heroes. Continue reading

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Eggs Benedict New Orleans Style

Eggs Benedict New OrleansSunday morning is our sleep in and cooked breakfast morning. I sometimes struggle to come up with new and interesting ways to serve eggs and am always on the lookout for something a bit different. We usually swim or cycle on Sundays so I don’t get too precious about the calories! This morning I made a New Orleans style Eggs Benedict using a crab cake instead of ham or Scot’s preference of spicy sausage. I used the same hollandaise recipe as I did for Eggs Scot http://www.inebriatedepicurean.com/uncategorized/eggs-scot-a-variation-on-eggs-benedict/ . I cheated and used crab cakes I bought from one of my favorite local grocery stores.  Ok, time to go swim off this delicious bad-boy!

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An Inebriated Epicurean’s Taste of NYC

NYCWe love NYC. Every visit we discover new places to enjoy, some courtesy of our friends, others we stumble upon. This last trip we found some great new bars, restaurants and just places to hang. One of these is The Jeffrey, “a bespoke craft beer, cocktails and espresso bar combining two storefronts in one under the Queensboro Bridge on East 60th St http://thejeffreynyc.com/ The draft beers were a collection of hard-to-find brews and we enjoyed these as well as some yummy eats. The Red Beet Devilled Eggs were fantastic! Among the brews we enjoyed were the Jolly Pumpkin Fuego, which had a nice hit of heat, and the Virtue Cider, a nice tart little number on a chilly afternoon. This trip we also made a visit to an old favorite, Zabar’s http://www.zabars.com/  the best ever gourmet kosher deli located on the Upper West Side. We indulged in bagels and smoked salmon before trekking across Central Park to The Jeffrey. Also on the Upper West Side is Luke’s Lobster http://lukeslobster.com/ a lobster shack you can easily miss if you are not looking for it. There are other locations in NYC and it is well worth seeking this little gem out. Speaking of seafood, we also made the trek to the East Village to partake of a couple of our all-star favorites, Upstate – an oyster and craft brew bar http://upstatenyc.com/, and Zum Schneider http://www.zumschneider.com/index.htm, Scot’s must-do for pork knuckle. The last couple of visits to this establishment we have been treated to brews on the house. Nice! They must like us! On this trip we also discovered that one of our favorite oyster bars, Grand Central Oyster Bar, has an outpost in terminal C at Newark Airport. We usually fly in and out of terminal A which is a rather sad and pitiful part of the airport with no decent food choices. There is a shuttle from terminal C to A every 5 minutes and it leaves just down from the oyster bar. Easy! We had a fabulous clam chowder and a cheeky sav blanc for lunch before heading to our flight on our journey home. All in all another great trip to NYC. Next up: Quebec City for my birthday so I am sure I will have some great food and wine stories from there.

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Eggs Scot (A variation on Eggs Benedict)

Eggs ScotI first made this breakfast for my husband Scot’s birthday. I asked him what he would like for breakfast and he suggested this – Eggs Benedict but with hot patty sausage substituted for the ham. It is fantastic! Don’t be intimidated by the Hollandaise sauce. Make the vinegar liquid mix the night before to streamline things and just breathe. You do need to ensure that the bottom of the pan/bowl does not touch the simmering water while you are adding the butter and do it nice and easy. If you are really celebrating, a Bloody Mary goes nicely with this! Continue reading

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Fennel and Vodka Risotto

Fennel and Vodka RisottoThis is perfect for the Inebriated Epicurean! The vodka is added at the end of the cooking process and provides a nice, boozy, bite to the elegant risotto. The key to making a good risotto is to ensure the liquid is added gradually and each addition is absorbed before you add the next. Once all the liquid has been added and absorbed you should be able to bite one of the rice grains in half and see a pinprick of white in the middle. Your risotto is perfect! Of course, drinking a glass of wine while making risotto is key to a successful outcome! Continue reading

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