The Perfect Fall Brunch

sponsored post image The Perfect Fall BrunchIt’s no secret that I love brunch. And I love cocktails with brunch. But I tend to be kind of choosy about my brunch cocktails. I don’t want anything too strong or too heavy. Not too sweet either, but a little sweet and a little light is good. There’s a reason the mimosa is such a popular brunch drink. Bright, pleasant, bubbly, perfect.

The lovely folks over at St. Elder asked if I’d do a fall brunch and try out some of their favorite fall brunch cocktails. They did not have to twist my arm.

I teamed up with my partner-in-crime Kathy because she is wonderful and she bakes. Baking is definitely helpful.

Pancakes 1 The Perfect Fall Brunch

Friends with sourdough starters are excellent. We knew we had some serious cocktail work to do so we started the meal off with these Sourdough Pancakes with Apple Compote so we’d have plenty of time for tasting. (And photographing.) Pancakes and compote give you plenty of opportunities to throw in seasonal flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg.

We decided to start off with the light and bubbliest cocktails and work our way up.

First up: the Classic Elder Shandy. 

Classic Elder Shandy 1 The Perfect Fall Brunch

Classic Elder Shandy Drink and Recipe The Perfect Fall Brunch

I do love cider, and the Elderflower liqueur gives it a nice herbal tinge that adds depth. Honestly, this is a great year-round cocktail. When do you not want a drink with apple-y sweetness, the scent of citrus, that’s nice and refreshing?

Next on the agenda, the Lemon Flower Spritz.

Lemon Flower Spritz with Recipe The Perfect Fall Brunch

Perhaps the best discovery of this cocktail adventure was Sipp. The Lemon soda was mild and herbal and added great flavors without too much sweetness. Worked so nicely with the prosecco and the elderflower. I want to mix that Sipp with everything. In Boston you can find Sipp at Savin Hill Specialties in Dorchester, Roche Bros in Quincy, and Deluca’s Market on Newbury Street. Live elsewhere? Check here. Or order online here

The Lemon Flower Spritzer was great for spritzer lovers, one of the favorites of the day, a more chic and sophisticated Mimosa. (Yes, there are ice cubes in it. Sorry about that. But I forgot to put the Prosecco and the Sipp in the fridge and I wanted a cold drink, darn it.) And can we just stop to appreciate the adorableness of baby Prosecco bottles? I want to cuddle them. (And then drink them.)

Then we moved into the slightly harder drinks. Pacing ourselves, as you do. Next was the Elder Rum Shandy. 

Elder Rum Shandy with Recipe The Perfect Fall Brunch

Another reason Kathy is handy? She’s the kind of person who already has nutmeg at her house and a new bottle of local rum. I am a sucker for cocktails with fresh grapefruit, I find that it brings something you don’t expect. We sampled this one twice, once before adding the cider and once after. It’s pretty great either way, one as a real DRINK and the other as a refreshing more brunchy drink. Another benefit of the “top with cider” approach to drinks is you can make it heavier or lighter depending on how much you add.

And lastly: the Honey Blossom Shandy.

Honey Blossom Shandy with Recipe The Perfect Fall Brunch

I don’t see many successful whiskey-based cocktails, but using the Hard Honey definitely brought a smoothing note to the sweeter mixers that helped them blend well with the whiskey. This would be a great one for the men who turn up their noses at more girly cocktails.

I’ve always been a fan of elderflower liqueur (I love to add it to my G&T’s) but these were definitely ways of using it I’d never thought of. The cocktails were mostly basic and simple without a need to buy a lot of random mixers. Using the cider was great, I love having cider in the house and it’s a great option for those who want it straight without the cocktails.

Any of these cocktails would be a great option for those hours of holiday food prep when everyone’s around and getting busy but you don’t want anything too hard so you can keep your wits about you near the stove. A great way to lighten up the day and get everyone in the spirit with some seasonal flavors. 

Thanks to St. Elder for putting together an amazing box of goodies and mixers to help put this post together. It was so much fun!

My Mom’s Holiday Rolls

rolls image My Moms Holiday RollsThis year we’re doing our second visit to Kim’s place for Thanksgiving. And as my gift to her, and the rest of you, I’ve received permission from my favorite cook to share her Oatmeal Dinner Roll recipe. My Mom tends to test several different versions of the same thing until she finds the absolute perfect one. This recipe has been a solid favorite in our house for the last decade or so. Mom likes them because they’re easy and everyone eats them. She assures me that even if you haven’t made rolls you can make these, though she cautions new cooks to read the recipe through first, you have one step that needs to happen about an hour before you start.

Happy Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Day Off Work Everyone!

My Mom's Oatmeal Dinner Rolls
  1. 2 cups water
  2. 1 cup old fashioned oats
  3. 3 tbsp butter
  4. 2 (1/4 oz) envelopes active dry yeast
  5. 1/2 c. warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
  6. 1 tbsp sugar
  7. 4 cups all-purpose flour
  8. 1 1/2 tsp salt
  9. 1/3 c. firmly packed brown sugar
  1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan; stir in oats and butter. Boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Remove from heat; let cool to 110 degrees. Stir together yeast, warm water, sugar in a 2-cup measuring cup; let stand five minutes.
  2. Beat oat mixture, yeast mixture, flour, salt and brown sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.
  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top.
  4. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk.
  5. Punch dough down and divide in half; shape each portion into 16 (1 1/2-inch) balls. Place evenly into 2 lightly greased 9 x 1 3/4-inch round cake pans.
  6. Cover and let rise in a warm place 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
  7. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  1. Mom recommends you put butter on your fingers when breaking up the dough into balls. You can add a little flour if it's sticky, but too much may dry them out.
  2. Plan to start the oats an hour before you continue.
Don't Mind the Mess

Quinoa and Tomato Soup from Chef Ming Tsai

sponsored post image Quinoa and Tomato Soup from Chef Ming TsaiSo last week I headed out to Natick with the kiddos to see Chef Ming Tsai do some cooking and demonstrate some of his recipes. Graham was pretty pumped. I don’t think it’s come up, but for the last few weeks Graham has often requested to be addressed as “Chef Graham Bam” after he was bestowed the nickname by one of his babysitters. 

affiliate links pic Quinoa and Tomato Soup from Chef Ming TsaiTo get fully in the mood, Graham wore his chef’s hat, even if it wasn’t quite correctly branded.

 Quinoa and Tomato Soup from Chef Ming Tsai

He wasn’t in the mood to pose for pictures. Sometimes he gets bored of the Mom Paparazzi. 

You can tell Chef Ming has a TV show. He definitely knows how to talk his way through his work. He’s definitely a charmer and shared lots of cooking secrets.

He focused on 3 recipes from his new cookbook that are kid-friendly, including ice cream sandwiches made with Almond Oatmeal Cookies and Chicken-Onion Meatloaf with Sambal-Worcestershire Gravy. 

My favorite was the Quinoa and Tomato Soup, easy to sell to kids who will eat tomato sauce on pasta, quinoa to make it a little hearty, and little touches that work great for adults (sprinkle parmesan on top) that can be skipped for skeptical kids. 

 Quinoa and Tomato Soup from Chef Ming Tsai

These recipes are all in his cookbook Simply Ming in Your Kitchen: 80 Recipes to Watch, Learn, Cook & Enjoy Quinoa and Tomato Soup from Chef Ming Tsai which also includes QR codes you can scan to get videos of Ming demonstrating techniques for the recipes.

And here’s a special treat: the recipe for Quinoa and Tomato Soup, my fave of the night. It’s also a way to get your kids to try quinoa if it’s been unsuccessful before. With it hiding in the soup they won’t be staring at it on their plate, asking you what it is.

Quinoa and Tomato Soup
  1. 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  2. 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  3. 1 tbsp minced ginger
  4. 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
  5. 4 ribs celery, thinly sliced
  6. Two 28-oz cans whole plum tomatoes
  7. 2 quarts chicken stock
  8. 1/4 c. wheat-free tamari
  9. 1 c. quinoa, rinsed
  10. parmesan for garnish
  11. kosher salt
  12. coarsely ground black pepper
  1. Heat a medium stock pot or soup pot over high heat. Add 2 tbsp of the oil and swirl to coat the bottom. When the oil is hot, add the onions, ginger, carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper, and saute, stirring every few minutes, until the vegetables are lightly caramelized, 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes with their juice. Break them up and add the stock and tamari. Bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
  3. With an immersion blender, puree the soup. Add the quinoa, bring to a simmer, and cook until the quinoa is just tender, about 12 minutes.
  4. Transfer the soup to individual bowls, grate parmesan over each, drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Add a few grinds of pepper and serve.
Adapted from Simply Ming in Your Kitchen: 80 Recipes to Watch, Learn, Cook & Enjoy
Adapted from Simply Ming in Your Kitchen: 80 Recipes to Watch, Learn, Cook & Enjoy
Don't Mind the Mess
Thanks to the Everywhere Society for sponsoring this post.

Kid-Friendly Recipe: Rainbow Rice

So technically this is Jambalaya, but since we wanted Graham to eat it we called it “Rainbow Rice.”

Remember all those peppers we used for his rainbow lunches this week? It was a pretty big success so we tried to see if we could expand his dinnertime repertoire by tying in the rainbow peppers. (And if you haven’t entered my Rainbow Giveaway, you need to head on over there right now!)

rainbow rice Kid Friendly Recipe: Rainbow Rice

We normally use a spicy Jalapeno sausage but this time we tapped down the spice and kept the recipe really simple so I could throw it together quickly. (I MADE DINNER. SHOCKING.)

I was hoping that I could call the sausage “hot dogs” and get Graham on board, but his skepticism of meat continues. But he did eat his entire bowl of sausage-free Rainbow Rice.


rainbow rice Kid Friendly Recipe: Rainbow Rice
Rainbow Rice
  1. 4 sweet peppers in a rainbow of colors, chopped into bite size pieces
  2. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  3. 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
  4. 1 can low-sodium chicken broth
  5. 1 bay leaf
  6. 1 1/2 c. rice
  7. 1 lb smoked sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
  1. Combine all ingredients except sausage in a nonstick saucepan. Heat on medium-high until boiling. Add sausage, reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water if needed during cooking.
  1. You can add celery and onion, too for extra veggie power.
  2. We like using pre-cooked chicken or turkey sausage. The hotter the spices on the sausage, the hotter the rice.
  3. For adults, feel free to add cajun seasoning for flavor.
Adapted from Turkey Jambalaya
Adapted from Turkey Jambalaya
Don't Mind the Mess
This was a pretty successful dinner in our house. Graham was reluctant but eventually ate all of his and there was some leftovers for the next day. You have a lot of room to wiggle in this recipe when it comes to spice so adjust accordingly.

Cocktail Hour with Heart of Haiti

Sometimes being a blogger is really hard work. And sometimes, well sometimes you just kick back, sip your cocktail and think that you have it pretty good.

This is a post where two things I love come together beautifully.

IMG 6691 e1363045436147 Cocktail Hour with Heart of Haiti

Don’t just look at the gorgeous drink. Don’t you love that tray? It’s part of a set.

It’s a part of one of my favorite lines: the Heart of Haiti artisan series at Macy’s.

heart of haiti collage Cocktail Hour with Heart of Haiti

(Oh, and hey, whaddya know, they’re on sale right now for $29.99!)

But they weren’t just going to send me the trays to look at and take pretty pictures. They said, “Oh, and by the way, how about you make some cocktails?”

You don’t have to ask me twice.

I chose to make the Goslings Ginger Ale Cocktail by chef Ming Tsai not realizing that it was not just throwing some stuff in a glass. This was an intense recipe. And it ended up being kismet that at the last minute I got together with my friend Kathy to put these together.

Kathy is the kind of person who looked at this recipe and said, “Making my own candied ginger??? Yes, please!” I’m so glad I have her in my life. Because I am not the girl who makes her own ginger syrup. Kathy is the girl who makes it and then sends you home with extra.

DSC 00631 e1363048177447 Cocktail Hour with Heart of Haiti

DSC 0069 e1363048360276 Cocktail Hour with Heart of Haiti

We used Kraken Rum instead of Goslings, as you can see. Because, well, it’s KRAKEN RUM. (And that’s what Kathy had.)

So I didn’t really know what to expect with this cocktail. I’ve had the ginger ale everyone has, that doesn’t actually have *ginger* in it. I’ve definitely never had homemade ginger ale.

Then there were the mixers. Ginger, rum, lime and… orange juice? This seemed sketchy but we followed the recipe right on. Kathy even made some lovely lines of lime zest for garnish to keep the candied ginger company.

IMG 6711 e1363048697583 Cocktail Hour with Heart of Haiti

The moment of truth came. We took a sip and… well, it wasn’t what I expected. It was fantastic.

Light, sweet, sharp. Somehow all the flavors came together to taste like something totally different than the individual ingredients. It may sound strange, but it kind of tasted like cream soda. Like the best cream soda ever.

As a thank you to my fantastic partner in cocktail-making (let’s be honest, she did the work) I left her with these lovely trays. She will make great use of them, I’m sure. And someday when I don’t have tiny children in my house I will do some serious entertaining myself…

This post is sponsored by the Everywhere Society. I was compensated with these trays which made a great gift to pass on to my fantastic hostess and partner in crime.

Thank you to Kathy Day for the first and last pics. They are super lovely.