Have you ever tried drinking a shrub? Wondering how that would work, what with all the leaves and pointy bits? Not to worry – I was mystified, too, when I first saw shrubs on a cocktail menu. Fortunately, I’m not suggesting you drink greenery! No, this kind of shrub is much tastier and goes down a whole lot more smoothly. Shrubs are a sweet-tart mixer made by letting fresh fruit sit in vinegar, then adding sugar to the infused vinegar and boiling it all down to a syrup that brings sweetness, acidity and a punch of flavor to your drinks. I love that since shrubs are so full of flavor, they don’t require extra juices, herbs or liqueurs to make them immensely satisfying and drinkable. This shrub, made with fresh blackberries and minty licorice delight tea, is sweet, tangy and also has some tasty herbal notes. I didn’t want to obscure any of those flavors, so I mixed the shrub with sparkling water, and wow. The flavors all came through, and the sweetened vinegar makes them more intense than they would be without that acidic element.
The choice of tea made all the difference here. This was my first time making a shrub with tea, and while I knew I wanted to use an herbal one, I didn’t think a mild tea like chamomile or lavender would stand up to vinegar. Enter minty licorice delight! This is a new tea from Stash, and now that I’ve tried licorice and mint together, I don’t know how I got along with out them for so long. I’ll admit I’m not usually a fan of licorice. But in combination with the mint, it’s light and refreshing, and the perfect herbal complement to the blackberry and vinegar. While the blackberry is what hits your tastebuds first, it’s the minty licorice that lingers and makes you want to take another sip. Next time I’m going to try my shrub as a cocktail mixer – I think it’d pair well with an herbal liqueur like amaro or an elderflower cordial. The possibilities are endless, as is my appetite for shrubs! Have you ever tried making or drinking shrubs? I’d love to hear your favorites! Continue Reading
When you read the word ramen, do you picture a dehydrated noodle block with a packet full of msg? Yeah, me too. Until recently, that is. Ramen shops have been popping up all over the place and the steaming bowls of savory broth and slurp-worthy noodles they serve up are a far cry from the 20 cent stuff. If you like al dente pasta, you’ll probably love fresh ramen noodles – they’re springy and chewy and fun to eat, since you’re supposed to be noisy. Drop them into some homemade broth and you’ll have the most immensely satisfying one-bowl meal you never knew you could make from scratch.
This ramen bowl is vegan (if you take away the egg on top), but you’d never know it. Vegetable broth has a reputation for being thin and flavorless but I’m here to tell you that when you put the right things in it, it’s anything but! I simmered shiitake mushrooms, onions, garlic, ginger and some seasonings for about five hours, so the stock had plenty of time to soak up the hearty, spicy and umami flavors the ingredients have to offer.
Since I gave the flavors plenty of time to meld together, the resulting broth was rich, complex and satisfyingly salty – the perfect backdrop for the noodles, which don’t have much flavor on their own. Now, about the noodles. I’ve always been intimidated by the idea of making my own noodles of any kind. It seemed like a delicate process that might take years to master. Then the kind folks at Marcato sent me one of their pasta makers, and I found out that it’s not difficult at all – it just takes time. It’s not a 20 minute weeknight dinner, but give it a try on a weekend – I promise it’s worth it! Continue Reading
Happy weekend, everyone! I have a lot to be grateful for this weekend and I can’t help but share my excitement. First, it’s almost officially spring! Second, tomorrow is my birthday! I’m not that big on celebrating my own birthday – I’d never throw a real party because being the center of attention like that makes me want to slide under the table and hide. But I am excited about sharing a nice meal with my husband and parents. Oh and last but not least…we finally got a house!!! Our offer was accepted on an old craftsman bungalow not far from where we live now. It’s going to take years and a lot of elbow grease to restore it to its former beauty, but we’re looking forward to the adventure and can’t wait to dive in next month. Lots of DIY posts are on the way!
Back to springtime being just around the corner. These last few months, steeping and drinking tea has become a daily (okay, five times daily) habit. It started out of necessity – my apartment’s frigid temperatures make hot drinks mandatory – but has become a ritual I savor and want to continue as the seasons warm. So, I’ve been playing around with cold tea drinks, like this rose and honey tea latte that’s currently on repeat over here. I pour it over ice, which brings out subtle flavors that would be lost if it were served hot. I love rose, but only in small doses, and steeping rose buds in milk gives the latte a delicate flavor that’s floral but not overpoweringly so. It’s lightly sweetened with a spoonful of my dad’s raw blackberry honey that satisfies my sweet tooth and makes it a little fruity. I highly recommend picking up some raw, fruit-pollinated honey at a farmer’s market if you can – the extra bit of flavor makes all the difference.
My favorite thing about this drink? You can make a big batch ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for later! I’ve been taking a mason jar full of pre-made latte whenever I leave the house because I’m completely hooked, and I’m willing to bet you will be too. Read on for the recipe. Continue Reading
Hello again, at long last! How I’ve missed you, dear readers, and how I’ve missed sharing on my little blog. The last month has been a whirlwind of house hunting, cat sitting and various work projects – including becoming a contributor over at A Beautiful Mess! If another few weeks go by without a new recipe or DIY here at Crafts and a Cat, pop over to ABM and there’s a good chance I’ll have a new post up there. You know, if you’re really missing me (hi mom!). And now, the time is ripe (not sorry) to share an old favorite of mine, frozen chocolate dipped bananas.
I’ve been making these since high school, when the only other things I could make were cheesy pasta and PB&J’s. They’re wonderfully easy – you dip the bananas in melted chocolate, add toppings and freeze. I’ve made them with kids too, and it’s a lot of fun when you (the adult) do the dipping and the kiddos get to go crazy with sprinkles, crushed cookie bits and the like. These toppings are the grown up version: toasted coconut, for my coconut loving husband, simple yet decadent flaky sea salt, and a Greek-inspired one with dried rose petals and chopped pistachios from the Kosmas family orchard in Greece. Yes, I am that spoiled. Next time I’m going to try freeze dried fruit and tiny candied flowers. What would your ideal toppings be? Continue Reading
As I write this post, I am trembling with excitement because P and I went house shopping today and stumbled across our dream home. Eeee!! I’m trying really, really hard not to get my hopes up about the house because everyone we know in Portland who’s bought a house recently has gone through several rejected offers before securing a home. Before we started this process we promised each other we wouldn’t get attached to any houses, but I just have a feeling about this place. I don’t believe in fate, but I do believe that sometimes things align in your life with perfect timing and you know when it’s happening because everything feels right. Do you know what I mean? It’s the same feeling I had when I met P and knew immediately that he was my person for life. Eeeeeee! Now that that’s out of my system, I’m brewing some herbal tea and cutting myself a piece of P’s leftover birthday cake to calm down.
While we’re talking about cake, I’ve been meaning to share this super simple yet incredibly delicious blood orange olive oil cake. It’s airy and moist and not too sweet, with a citrusy zing and the prettiest pink glaze I ever did see. Since it’s made with olive oil instead of butter, the only fats it has are the wholesome, healthful kind. My mom came over and reluctantly tried some – she’s not much of a sweet tooth – and immediately asked for a second slice. Yesterday she called and asked me to make it for her birthday in June. It’s officially a winner! You’ll want to make this one before blood oranges disappear for the winter if you’re like me and you’re currently hooked on everything pink, but even after they’re gone this would be tasty with any regular orange, too. Let me know how it turns out if you try it!