A baby shower and Hickory Farms Feast

Not long ago, I came home from a very long day and found 2 boxes in front of my door.  Not expecting anything I was really excited!  I opened them to find 2 boxes FULL of Hickory Farms crackers, cheeses, mustards and different kinds of sausage. What fun!  I had completely forgotten that I had signed up to be part of the FoodBuzz Tastermaker program.  You get to sign up and test out products from different food related companies.

The boxes were so FULL and I knew there was no way I could eat that much cheese.  I was in need of a party-  a party with lots of people who liked cheese.  I tried to get together with some of my girlfriends but work and life got so busy this season that plans fell through. Thankfully, I had another party I could bring them to.  A baby shower!  My sister and brother in law are having a baby!  They live in Seattle, pretty far from Washington, D.C., but I was able to skip out of town during the busy holiday season last weekend for her shower.


As I suppose is expected for Seattle in December, it rained pretty much the entire weekend.  It rained a relatively hard, warm rain called "the pineapple express".  I thought that was just the name of a movie but as it turns out it is also what a storm coming from Hawaii is called.

What do two sisters do when it's raining?  Bake!  We make gingerbread "little boy and little girls" and my grandfather's famous cheeseballs.  I usually publish all my recipes but my grandfather's cheeseball recipe has to stay in the family.  I'm sure if you search cheeseball you can find a recipe that is pretty close to what we used.  Cheese (sharp cheddar preferably), flour, mustard powder and butter.  That's it!  Shred it, mix it and chill it.  Just like cookie dough.


The Hickory Farm cheese grated nicely and definitely made great cheeseballs!


Check out the savory spread we had!  Homemade cheeeseball, gingerbread boys and girls.  Humus, olives, carrot sticks, Hickory Farms summer beef and turkey sausage, cranberry and regular mustard, AMAZING northwest salmon that my brother in law's mother brought.. and other goodies!


Look at the adorable cucakes my brother in law's mother made!  She even brought the great cupcake stands!


(tag cute monkey flower arrangement in the background)



Despite the rain we all had a great time!  It's hard to go wrong with cupcakes, cheeseballs and humus.


The holiday parties are wrapping up at the restaurant which now gives me time to think about parties at my house!   I hope everyone is having a great holiday season!



Plum Brandy Finale- bottling!


Three months really do fly by!

When I started my plum brandy project back in September, winter, the holidays and cold weather were all just a foggy memory left over from last year.  For some reason it's hard to remember what wool sweaters and gloves feel like when there is a seemingly perpetual mugginess in the air.  With work and life at full speed, the September heat and humidity quickly turned into a December chill.  While I was surviving the October event rush at the restaurant, my plums were gently befriending the brandy they were swimming in.  While we celebrated Thanksgiving and watching the leaves turn colors, the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean were enveloping the fruity flavors with a warm spicy tone.  Now that country has begun its unusually long holiday celebration, it's time to bottle and taste what has been working away all these months.


After gently rocking the large jar back and forth one more time to make sure all the flavors were evenly distributed before they are poured into their own individual bottles, take a ladle and gently remove the swollen plums and put them in a separate bowl.  I am freezing mine to make "brandied plum sorbet or ice cream!  The cinnamon stick has opened up and looks more like the bark that it really is than a dried spice.  The vanilla pod, completely saturated with juice and brandy oozes out its precious seeds.  I took it and put it in a jar with sugar to make vanilla brandy sugar.  I just couldn't bring myself to throw away the pod.  The fruit, stick and pod look pretty, glistening with all the sugars that have been marinating for several months.

IMG_0509.JPGI bought small bottles online, washed them out and then poured boiling water into them to make sure to kill anything that might have called them home in the store.  This isn't the boiling that is necessary to can or jar but I the alcohol in the bottles will kill anything else.

IMG_0511.JPGDon't these bottles all lined up remind you of the Jean Paul Gaultier ad for his cologne  Maybe it's just me.

http://cdn2.ioffer.com/img/item/157/303/289/6lbJLCASocK8Cek.jpgsource: http://www.ioffer.com/si/fragrances

Strain the brandy to remove any bits of plum that might be floating around.

The mixture won' t be completely clear unless you use cheesecloth (which I do not have) but that's ok.  It will taste the same.


Pour the mixture into the bottles that have dried and cooled off by now, label them, and you are done! Unless you plan to spend MANY nights watching movies and drinking brandy, these dark red bottles can makes great gifts for your family and friends



Spiced winter brandy for the cold months to come.