Peppermint Fizz Review

Peppemint Fizz. A blast from my past repertoire of recipes from years back.

Peppemint Fizz. A blast from my past repertoire of recipes from years back.

Like Ebneezer Scrooge, this Christmas I was reminded back to my past, maybe not by a magical being but definitely to show me something I had forgotten. When I first was interested in the idea of non alcoholic drinks, I did most of my searching through recipe books, and wrote my favourite ideas on index cards which I kept and remembered (sort of). So after some searching I was able to find a recipe that I remembered fondly from my youth: Peppermint Fizz, a Christmas drink using crushed candy canes as the flavouring.

I have no idea where this recipe came from, as I wasn’t big on documenting my sources back then. When I look up the drink online, I come up with a strawberry shortcake character, and a drink that is brandy, peppermint schnapps and lemon juice which isn’t even close to the recipe on my index card. So this Christmas Season, why not review a blast from the past and move the first of my index card recipes into todays world of the web!

This is a great recipe to make with the candy canes Santa brought this year.

Ingredients:
  • peppermint candy crushed
  • 250 ml whipping cream
  • 2-3 large bottles Gingerale or 7-up
Procedure:

Whip cream to a custard consistency and fold in crushed candy. Freeze in ice cube trays. To serve place an mint cream ice cube into a tall glass or wine glass and fill with chilled pop. Stir slightly and serve with a pretty spoon, straw or candy cane to mix drink with.

My Thoughts:

This recipe is for a crowd, or for the whole 12 days of Christmas if you, like scrooge, don’t like to share. When I first remembered this recipe I made a small batch but was in a hurry and didn’t freeze the cream and candy into cubes, instead adding a dollop of whipped cream to the top of a glass of gingerale. The result was not the same, I recommend giving the cream and candy time to meld flavours and the frozen cubes slow the fizz process down, requiring more stirring, and we all found that similar to a float, we could add more pop and keep enjoying the drink.

If you want to make many drinks keep your peppermint cubes to about 2 tbsp of mix, the cubes will blend better with the gingerale and while seconds with the same peppermint cube may not be possible, the initial drink will be delightfully pepperminty.

I served this to some guests who dropped by and got positive reviews from everyone. This is a great thing to have for just that purpose, and I plan on keeping some of these cubes in the freezer this holiday to offer visitors. Merry Christmas!

Kid-o-metre 5/5
Taste: 5/5
Simplicity: 5/5   three ingredient and some patience. That’s it!!
Ingredient finding: 4/5 seasonal only, even up in Santa’s part of the world candy canes are only available at Christmas!

Tastes like Christmas

Cinnamon and orange -

Cinnamon and orange – the recipe calls for cream or Sprite. Above I chose Sprite.

I have always enjoyed Christmas. Our Christmas Tree dominates our living room, the smell of cinnamon candles drifts through the air and holiday music starts playing as early as December 1st.

My decorations both around the home and on the tree have been collected since I was about two, including hand made Christmas decorations my mom lovingly collected from me each year and kept safe. These gems originally hung on my parent’s family tree, along with by siblings creations and the decorations we received from friends and family each year. Now that I have my own family, I received all these treasures and they hang along side those my kids have brought home or received on our family tree. And because I am crafty, there are some new decorations that we have made as a family, hanging amongst the rest.

One of my favourite family crafts at Christmas is to make pomanders. The smell of cloves, cinnamon and orange permeate the air for weeks after and the smell will continually remind me of the festive season, along with pine needles and turkey.

So when I started thinking about Christmas beverages — and wanted to make something new to contribute — my first thought went to orange and cinnamon. The result was tasted and tested for perfection and described as “tastes like Christmas!” by my daughters.

Liquid Pomander Shooter

Ingredients:
Procedure:

Fill a third shot glass with cinnamon syrup. Carefully layer orange juice concentrate over this to fill next third glass. Repeat with whipping cream  (or sprite) for last third of glass to fill. Serve.

My Thoughts:

This is a simple but powerful drink packs a punch. I originally made this recipe with Sprite, wishing to maintain the purity of the pomander flavours of cinnamon and orange. The result was very sweet and too strong for my children.

By adding a layer of cream, the tartness of the concentrated orange juice blends with the cream when you tip the combo back, leaving a sweet but bright taste once done. My youngest still found he cinnamon too strong though, saying she needed water, or more pointing at the water since it seems the drink left her speechless.

Kid-o-metre 3/5 Strong cinnamon taste not appealing to some younger kids.
Taste: 4/5  Most who tasted this liked it.
Simplicity: 4/5 Once you get the hang of layering, this is easy to do. One simple syrup to make ahead.
Ingredient finding: 5/5 All ingredients available, all year.

Bottoms Up!

Old fashioned Home Made Eggnog Review

Homemade Eggnog

Homemade Eggnog  Testing. Left to right back row: recipes from Instructables.com, Spice and Foodie & About Food. Front row: recipes from All Recipes.com and A Sweet Pea Chef

My husband tells the story of his childhood in Saskatchewan, where at Christmas powdered eggnog mix was available. He recalls that when made up into a drink the stuff was terrible, but alone on a spoon, as a kid this stuff was heaven.

At Christmas eggnog comes along side the milk and cream in the dairy section, while quantities last, but the drink isn’t really very real tasting. So this year, for the holidays, our family decided to do a comparison of some recipes for home made eggnog from scratch.

The Competitors

I chose recipes using different techniques to see which our family and friends preferred. Three with the basics: egg, cream, milk, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. And two with additional extras.

1. About Food offers a recipe for a cooked eggnog using whipped cream as the frothiness. The recipe says it takes 65 minutes but the actual requirement is to let the custard chill for at least 4 hours, so I would say make it the day before. I found this recipe the most time consuming of the bunch.

2. Spice and Foodie has a recipe called Hubby’s Old Fashion Eggnog that is made cold and then chilled. This is by far the easiest recipe, also the thinnest as it doesn’t use whipped cream, egg meringue or custard for thickener.

3. Instructables.com gives a recipe that combines yolks with milk and spice (booze is optional so we omitted it), and then folds this into beaten egg whites to create a whipped thick nog. The egg whites give a fluffy texture, and add the thickness.

4. All recipes.com used two additional ingredients: condensed milk and salt in an uncooked version of eggnog. This one uses whipped cream for thickening.

and lastly

5. A Sweet Pea Chef adds cloves and cinnamon to the mix in a cooked eggnog recipe. This is the thickest recipe of the bunch, and the most cooked. The addition of the other spices does change the final flavour.

Our Thoughts:

Eggnogs are supposed to be thick. But how thick? The cooked eggnogs create a custard that becomes the thickening factor. I found that the Sweet Pea Chef recipe(#5)  almost too thick, while the Spice and Foodie recipe (#2) could have used some thickening.

As far as taste – the most nutmeg flavour was in the Spice and Foodie recipe (#2) calls for a full teaspoon of fresh ground nutmeg in it’s recipe. The only other recipe asking for the same amount was the Sweet Pea Chef recipe (#5), but there two other spices blend for the flavour profile.

The cooked About Food recipe had a cooked egg flavour reminiscent of tapioca pudding. The nutmeg taste is enhanced with the addition of the recommended garnish, but personally I would recommend doubling the amount in the recipe as well. Others who sampled this found this was their preferred option, saying that for those who do not normally like eggnog, this is the better one. That must be so, because my eggnog hating daughter loved this recipe.

We found the Sweet Pea Chef recipe also very cooked in flavour, and the no one preferred this choice. My husband said the combination of spices remind him of pumpkin pie and that this could be very good mixed with something. My friends suggested it would be excellent on Christmas deserts. For a drink, we gave it a couple days and tried it again, diluted with milk (half and half, or just a bit less milk if we wanted it richer). The flavours had blended and the drink was much more eggnog like.

When it comes to simplicity the Spice and Foodie (#2) recipe wins, but for flavour and thickness the competition is between AboutFood’s recipe (#1), Instructables recipe (#3) and AllRecipes.com (#4). While I liked the cooked version, as a eggnog fan the recipe #3 wins out for thickness and flavour. The addition of egg white meringue makes this recipe very frothy, light and flavourful, while adding whipped cream in recipe #1 and #4 increases the richness tasted in the beverage and competes with the flavour of the nog. Interestingly, the meringue thickened recipe (#3) has the most whipping cream in the recipe of all the five tested! Guess that goes to show what whipped egg whites can do.

_MG_9621The Verdict

The winner of the tasting challenge was #1 with the most votes. The cooked quality was great for all ages, and the taste is preferred by even non eggnog fans.

Second and third go to Instructable.com and Spice and Foodie, each having advantages over the others.

If I was to host a party and look for a recipe to serve, I would go with the recipe from Instructables.com, which is fairly simple to make doesn’t require cooking and cooling, or tempering over time, and has the great frothy look from the meringue.

For giving as gifts? I would choose the safest approach and go with the winner. And for home, just to have and enjoy any time? The Spice and Foodie recipe since it requires little time and no additional ingredients. That being said, I would probably pick up a whipping cream bomb and add a dollop of whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg to the glass and then Cheers and Happy Holidays!

 

After Dinner Mint Shooter

After Dinner Mint Shooter: Liquid candy.

After Dinner Mint Shooter: Liquid candy.

When I was creating layers shooters with the Christmas Holidays in mind, my husband requested I come up with something reminiscent of an after dinner mint.

In researching what was commonly done for this, because this has been done before with liqueurs, I found that the common ingredients were layers of chocolate liqueurs (either white creme de cacao, swiss chocolate almond liqueur, white chocolate liqueur), creme de menthe and baileys irish cream. One recipe suggested omitting the chocolate for a second layer of coffee liqueur called Tia Maria.

Knowing my audience, a stronger chocolate component was called for. Something truer to the original dinner mint. I had three options: cacao nib syrup (made with unsweetened cacao nibs), chocolate syrup (made with cocoa cocoa powder), and drinking chocolate (made with semi sweet chocolate) . Which would be closest to the true flavour of the chocolate candy?

First up: Cacao Nib Syrup. Our thoughts… the Cacao Nib lend a chocolate taste, but also a bit acidic. Not the right fit for this drink.

Next: chocolate syrup. Too strong!

Lastly: Drinking chocolate. Just right.

After dinner mint shooter

This is our favourite of the bunch we tested.

Ingredients:
Procedure:

Layer the drinks in the order above, starting with the mint and ending with the cream. Serve.

My Thoughts:

This was made for my hubby. What did he think. “Just what it should taste like” were his exact words. Seems I got it right. The kids loved it and I think that the more subtle flavour of the chocolate matched the sweet and light flavour of the mint syrup.

Kid-o-metre 5/5
Taste: 5/5
Simplicity: 4/5
Ingredient finding: 5/5

Pumpkin Chai Latte

Pumpkin Chai lattee: Curl up with this on a cold winter day or serve to guests at a holiday soiree.

Pumpkin Chai lattee: Curl up with this on a cold winter day or serve to guests at a holiday soiree.

Earlier this year I found some great recipes for pumpkin drinks, as well as creating my own both, which I blogged around Thanksgiving and Halloween. Recently when researching the recipe for one of my favourite teas —Chai— I realized that the spice combination for pumpkin pie and chai are similar.

According to allrecipes.com, they list equal portions of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger with just a little less ground cloves added. Other sites like the Kitchen Treaty suggests more cinnamon than the other spices but it’s the same four ingredients are in all recipes I found.

Chai Tea is most commonly ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom with the emphasis on cinnamon and ginger. In chatting with a friend recently back from India she mentioned that fennel is also added to Masala Chai. The recipe I used for my spice mix can be found here and ads black pepper to the ingredient list.

But cloves and cinnamon and ginger right? Those three are the same and powerful flavours in both combinations. So, sez I, why not blend the two concepts?

Well it’s been done before – both online by Cookie + Kate and in local coffee shops, but hey that doesn’t need to stop me!

Pumpkin Chai Latte

This recipe is attempting to be as close to a pure latte as possible so milk froth is the key. Without a true frothing machine, this may be more tricky, but not impossible. If you want to push the simple button, and love lattes, I recommend getting a frothed. There are many different options, from cheap at place like IKEA to really high end ones – Tuum Est! (Ha! A shout out to fellow UBC Grads on that quote). Want to do it without any specialty items? Yup you can! Check how to froth with a simple glass jar and whisk here, or with just a lidded jar and spoon (how basic is that?) here.

Ingredients:

2 oz pumpkin purée
1 oz honey
2 oz chai infusion
4 oz whole milk

Procedure:

Heat milk to boiling in pot or frother and froth well, or use alternative method (see above for ideas and links) to make froth. Remove the best of the froth into a separate bowl (for now) and add remaining ingredients and  to hot milk mix again to froth (won’t be as much froth this time) and blend. Pour into coffee cup, top with froth from original milk and serve.

My Thoughts:

This is a complicated recipe but very classy, and if I had any expertise I would add some latte art to this like you can see here in this tutorial. Alas, I could not get the knack for it. There are some great stencils out there too which are simpler, or follow this youtube video for make it yourself stencils if you are totally into DIY projects!

But for taste, the drink is very nice, not too much like pumpkin pie but a little, not exactly like chai either due to the added subtle flavour of the pumpkin, very much like a latte.

Kid-o-metre 5/5 Kids enjoyed this.
Taste: 5/5  Tasty.
Simplicity: 4/5  some work involved in the recipe, but not too much.
Ingredient finding: 4/5 ingredients easy to find, fancy equipment is optional and may take some traveling to get.

Terry’s Chocolate Orange Shooter

Powerful Orange and Chocolate flavours with the smoothness of cream.

Powerful Orange and Chocolate flavours with the smoothness of cream.

Fun chocolate facts: did you know that 16 of the top 20 consuming countries are European? Or that 22% of all chocolate is eaten between 8pm and midnight? Or how about that in winter the more chocolate is eaten than any other season. Yep! So according to the World Atlas of Chocolate if you are sitting here reading this at 9pm on a bleak winter day in Europe your most likely going to be eating chocolate! Hehe.

So with Christmas coming up the idea of working with chocolate just sounds like a good idea. The idea of creating a drink inspired by the Terry’s Chocolate Orange is not a new one, since the chocolate confection was first created in 1931 according to Wikipedia. So, as part of my research the first step is always to see what has been done. Martin came up with a Chocolate Orange Cocktail he says is a hit with women using  Kahlua, Baileys, Grande Marnier and cream, you can find his recipe here. Ian Cameron of the Difford’s Guide tells of a Bitter Chocolate Orange Cocktail using Campri, Dark Chocolate Liqueur, Vodka and orange juice which you can read more about here. And Drinknation has a recipe featuring Creme de Cacao, Grande Marnier and cream which you can check out here.

Two very entertaining kids calling themselves Mocktails4kids even created a non alcoholic version of a chocolate and orange drink featuring orange juice, cream and Fee Brothers Creme de Cacao. You can check out their YouTube video here. I was so impressed with these two kids and decided to try their recipe with my own Cacao Syrup ( Fee Brothers syrup would cost more that I can justify to have it shipped up north) and agree with their dad/producer that doubling the chocolate (or even tripling it) is required to balance the flavours.

What about shooters though? Bar None Drinks suggests a combination of Creme de Cacao and Triple Sec with a touch of cream, and cocktail:uk suggests a combination of Kalhua and Curacao with or without Baileys. But no virgin shooter featuring chocolate and orange flavours. Ok so now there is one!

Terry’s Chocolate Orange Shooter

This shooter features North Canadian Drinking Chocolate I created back in October and a strong orange taste. In order to cream it up, I added a layer of cream as the final layer.

Ingredients:
Procedure:

Pour orange juice concentrate into bottom of shot glass. Spoon (it’s too thick to pour) Drinking Chocolate onto this layer so it floats. Carefully top with whipping cream and serve.

My Thoughts:

This is exactly what I wanted for this drink. Strong chocolate flavour – but true chocolate flavour; and bright orange flavour from the concentrate without the sweetness of a syrup. As someone who absolutely loves orange juice, this is a perfect dessert shooter. The chocolate needs to be room temp though, or you’ll have a problem getting all that wonderful chocolate out of the bottom of the glass.

Kid-o-metre 5/5 kids loved this!
Taste: 5/5 yup yummy!
Simplicity: 2/5 the layering is a bit tricky, and the one layer is more challenging.
Ingredient finding: 5/5 all easy to find locally.

Black forest Magic Tea Review

Black Forest Magic Tea. Add a bit of sweetness and it's  delicious.

Black Forest Magic Tea. Add a bit of sweetness and it’s delicious.

The Black Forest is in wooded mountain range  Baden-Württemberg, southwestern Germany. In history this area was known for it’s mines, hardwood and clocks and chocolate.

While the clocks are still known today for their precision, it’s the Black Forest Cake invented in these mountains by Josef Keller, that is most famous. The blend of chocolate, cream and cherries with Kirshwasser gives the cake it’s name: Schwatzwalder Kirschtorte. According to the Kitchen Project the cake features one of the area’s main crops: cherries, in both the use of the fruit and the Kirsh a double distilled alcohol produced from cherries.

Cocktails, hot chocolates, shakes, martinis and shooters have all been inspired by this cake, some using the original concept of cream, cherry liqueur and chocolate and other blending other ingredients into the mix or choosing alternative takes on each. Most of these use some form of liqueur in the mix.

Mother Earth Living posts a Black Forest Magic iced Tea that blends cocoa powder, cinnamon and tea in an infusion that is blended with cherry juice and served cold over ice. I tried the recipe and found it very interesting but not sweet enough for my tastes. Without a superfine strainer or specialty tea bags I found that the ground ingredients remained in the water, reducing the clarity of the drink.

This is definitely a tea though, with the dominant flavour coming from the tea leaves. So since I like tea with milk and sugar, and since Black Forest Cake calls for whipped cream, I added a splash of milk and an oz of simple syrup to each glass and stirred. The result was an iced tea latte with the original flavour complex of the black forest tea, with a note of creamy sweetness. Yum.

What did my kids think? They were also not big fans of the original drinks, but with sugar the kids enjoyed the flavour.

Kid-o-metre 5/5 kids loved this!
Taste: 2/5 needed the sweetness
Simplicity: 2/5 needs specialty equipment to keep the tea clear.
Ingredient finding: 3/5 in Tumbler Ridge – I had to be creative with the cherry juice.