Limoncello

Limoncello and I go way back. My father used to travel a lot for his job and often found himself working in northern Italy, where he became good friends with his business counterpart in the local office. My mom accompanied him whenever possible (because, Italy), and they’d enjoy a nice vacation on the company dime. This was back in the ’90s when flying wasn’t such a slog, so they’d return with all sorts of goodies, including homemade limoncello, which the ladies in our town really loved. I have to say, it wasn’t really my thing at the time, but I’ve grown to appreciate it over the years. Bright and scented by the sun, with sweetness on a sliding scale according to your taste, it’s an amazing way to use an abundance of Meyer lemons if you’re lucky enough to have a tree, or just a good way to indulge if you want to go the supermarket route.

Please check out Darcie’s post for her personal take on limoncello via Perth, Australia. I don’t know about you, but I get a serious case of wanderlust whenever I read her posts. Her limoncello recipe is so similar to The Kitchn‘s that we simply adapted it for you here.

Remember: Drink responsibly and please designate a driver if you plan to indulge!

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Limoncello 2 - Amy Roth Photo

 

Limoncello

Meal type Beverage
Misc Serve Cold
Bright, scented by the sun, and just as sweet as you’d like, homemade limoncello is a special treat.

Ingredients

  • 10 organic Meyer lemons (washed and dried)
  • 1 bottle vodka (750-ml; 100-proof preferred, or 80-proof)
  • 1-4 cup sugar (to taste)

Note

Adapted from The Kitchn.

Directions

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from the lemons, taking care not to include the white pith. Place peels in a large glass jar and cover with vodka. (The remaining lemons can be used to make lemonade- yum!) Allow the peels to steep for about a month (at least 4 days, but longer is definitely better).
Make a simple syrup by combining equal parts water and sugar. Heat until fully dissolved and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, strain the vodka, removing all peels and sediment. Combine simple syrup and infused vodka until you reach desired sweetness and concentration.
Pour into a bottle. Chill and serve the limoncello on its own, or in a cocktail.

Cranberry-Gin Cocktail

DRINKS WEEK! DRINKS WEEK! DRINKS WEEK!

OK, maybe we’re a little excited about this week around these parts, but it’s a fun one, and we have a beautilicious beverage to kick things off — Cranberry-Gin Cocktail with Candied Cranberries. Darcie’s original recipe has a great sweet-tart kick that’ll keep the party spirits high. And can you imagine a more Christmasy-looking beverage? Another nice thing — since the recipe makes loads of candied cranberries, you can snack on them by the handful, something I’ll personally vouch for, since I didn’t get to sample this drink until AFTER we’d finished shooting for the day. Those candied cranberries sustained me.

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Cranberry Cocktail | Amy Roth Photo

Cranberry-Gin Cocktail

Serves 1
Meal type Beverage
Occasion Casual Party, Christmas
Get festive with this ruby-red cranberry-gin cocktail with candied cranberries. Tart & a tiny bit sweet with the scent of rosemary, it's holiday in a glass!

Ingredients

Candied Cranberries

  • 1 bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

Cocktail

  • 2oz gin
  • 2oz cranberry juice
  • 1 dash bitters
  • Pellegrino Melongrano e Arancia soda (to taste)
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • candied cranberries

Directions

Candied Cranberries
In a medium saucepan, heat 1/2 cup sugar with the water until fully dissolved, then remove from heat. Pour in the rinsed cranberries and allow to sit for 1 hour. Remove the berries with a slotted spoon and drain on a wire rack for 1 hour. Pour the remaining sugar into a bowl. In batches, roll the cranberries in the sugar. Return to the wire rack and allow to dry for at least 2 hours or overnight. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
Cocktail
Mix the gin, cranberry juice and bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour into a glass and top up with Pellegrino soda. Garnish with rosemary and candied cranberries and serve.

Himalayan Pink Salt Scrub

Himalayan Salt Scrub | Amy Roth Photo

While this is a cooking blog, I often reach into my pantry for DIY beauty treatments, so I’d love to share one of them with you today. I don’t know if my skin qualifies as “mature” juuuust yet, but it isn’t the grease bomb it used to be, so I’ve started to cleanse my face with oils rather than soap, especially in winter. As a result, I’ve accumulated a nice array of skin-friendly oils like apricot, organic jojoba, argan and vitamin E which I love to combine with sugar for a quick scrub. But it’s not the prettiest thing in the world, so I realized that changing the basic recipe can turn it into a lovely gift.

At its most basic, a scrub can be nothing more than salt or sugar plus oil, which you can then build on to your heart’s content. I kept this one simple, blitzing a cup of Himalayan pink salt in a spice grinder, mixing it with an equal amount of apricot oil, then adding a few drops of one of my favorite scented oil blends — Morocco, from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. But you can change up the base oil to the others I’ve mentioned here or pull some from the cupboard — refined coconut oil is wonderful for the skin, olive oil works well if you don’t mind the scent, and even canola oil works in a pinch! Add honey for a skin soothing effect. Instead of scented oils, you can go without or substitute essential oils — peppermint (energizing), lavender (relaxing), frankincense (a natural toner), geranium (improves skin elasticity), myrrh (a strong anti-inflammatory), and the list goes on and on. This site has a lot of great information on essential oils, if you’d like to explore the topic further. You can even add tea leaves — I think I’ll add some ground chamomile leaves in my next scrub for a nice, soothing scent.

So play around with the recipe and make it your own, then package it in a pretty jar tied up with a nice ribbon for a gift.

Be sure to check out Darcie’s post to learn more about the properties of salt scrubs and how she and her daughter enjoy their own beauty products.

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Himalayan Pink Salt Scrub

Himalayan Pink Salt Scrub is easily DIY-able and makes a lovely gift.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Himalayan pink salt
  • 1 cup oil(s) of your choice (see associated post for suggestions)

Optional

  • a few drop essential oil (see associated post for suggestions)
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Note

Choose from any number of skin-friendly oils — apricot, jojoba, coconut, argan, or vitamin E, just to name a few — alone or in combination.

Directions

Process salt in spice grinder. Finely ground salt can be used in a facial scrub, so if that's your intention, really blitz it!
Mix salt together with remaining ingredients in a bowl. Adjust the amount of oil to your liking.
Pour into clean jar and add ribbon and a tag for gifting.

Cheddar-Bacon Dog Treats

Crunchy Cheddar-Bacon Dog Treats

Darcie and I are both dog lovers, so today’s post was a given for this year’s Advent Calendar. Gil and I adopted Ru (aka Rufus T. Firefly Roth) nearly nine years ago and, while we’ve always kept him active and never go crazy with his food, we don’t hold back from giving him treats he enjoys. Darcie’s family adopted a gorgeous puppy named Artemis this year who is every bit as active as you’d imagine a puppy to be! While Ru and Artemis may differ in age and temperament, they’re unified in their approval of these bacon-cheddar dog treats. Make a batch for your own pampered pooch or as a gift for the dog-lover in your life. We promise they’ll be gone in a flash!

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Bacon-Cheddar Dog Treats

Ingredients

  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 pieces cooked bacon (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

In a food processor, pulse the oatmeal until floury, but still slightly chunky. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until well combined and evenly distributed.
Form dough into a ball and roll out about 1/4 inch thick. Use cookie cutters to form shapes as desired.
Bake for 30 minutes at 400°F (200°C), or until browned and crispy. Let cool, package and distribute to deserving pups!

Sichuan Party Mix

We started yesterday with sweet, and move on to spicy today with this savory and tongue-tingling Sichuan Party Mix. Check out Darcie’s post for a little backstory involving her days in Shanghai, which provided the inspiration for this terrific recipe!

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Sichuan Party Mix

Allergy Peanuts, Wheat
Meal type Snack
Misc Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
This Sichuan Party Mix couldn't be easier to make — toss everything together, then bake!

Ingredients

Sichuan Party Mix

  • 1/2 cup pretzels
  • 1/2 cup soup crackers
  • 1/2 cup sesame melba rounds
  • 1/2 cup salted, roasted edamame
  • 1 cup salted, roasted peanuts

Seasoning Mix

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried, sliced Asian chilies
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

Directions

Sichuan Party Mix
Toss all of the nuts and crackers together (feel free to change up the mix according to your taste).
Seasoning Mix
Melt the butter in a microwavable bowl and stir in the spices until well combined.
Pour seasoning mix over the party mix and stir to coat. Spread the mix on a baking sheet and toast in a preheated oven at 350°F (280°C) for 10 minutes, until fragrant. Allow to cool, then arrange in gift bags or boxes.

2016 Advent Calendar — Brigadieros

Assorted Brigadieros

Hello, it’s nice to see you again! I thought I’d jump back into blogging with both feet, so welcome to this year’s Advent Calendar, a joint effort with my friend and local food stylist, Darcie Hunter. In addition to her beautiful styling work, Darcie’s an excellent cook and a recipe developer, so we thought it’d be a lot of fun to collaborate on the calendar for this trip around the sun. For the next 25 days, you’ll get holiday posts, recipes and gift ideas when you visit either of our websites.

We’ve decided to break up the month into weekly categories to bring a little more organization to this endeavor than you’ve seen in years past. Today through Sunday, we’ll have gift ideas for family and friends (including those of the four-legged/furry variety). Starting next Monday we’ll bring you seven days of drinks, followed by a week of small bites, then a strong finish for Christmas week with sweet treats to enjoy while waiting for Santa.

So let’s get started, shall we? Our first gift to you is a recipe for Brigadieros, little Brazilian candies with a caramel base that can be customized to fit your tastes. These are fun to make with the kiddos and package well in a small tin for thoughtful, homemade gifts.

We hope you enjoy them. For the rest of the Advent Calendar, you can follow along here for my daily posts and check out Darcie’s posts at her website, Gourmet Creative. We’ll also be sharing to our Instagram feeds, @amyrothphoto and @darcie_hunter, so there will be no shortage of ways to find us each day.

Now, let’s get to cooking! We’ll see you again tomorrow.

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Brigadieros

Allergy Milk, Tree Nuts
Dietary Gluten Free
Meal type Snack
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable
Occasion Christmas
These Brazilian caramel candies are simple to prepare and make a beautiful packaged gift.

Ingredients

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa per batch (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon gingerbread or pumpkin spice (optional)
  • sprinkles, chopped nuts, coconut flakes, cocoa powder (optional)

Note

I've listed a few suggested flavorings and coatings as optional in the ingredients, so pair up the ones that sound good to you — cocoa with chocolate sprinkles, coconut extract with coconut flakes, etc. — or make up your own! And if you find a great combination, please be sure to let me know in the comments section.

Directions

Pour the sweetened condensed milk and butter into a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 10-20 minutes, stirring continually to avoid burning. The mixture will thicken and darken. You will know it is ready when a spoon dragged through the mixture separates the caramel for a few seconds.
Remove from the heat and stir in flavorings as desired. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, scoop out small spoonfuls and roll into balls. Immediately coat in toppings such as sprinkles or nuts. Place finished Brigadieros in small candy cups and serve, or package in cute boxes for gift-giving.

Grilled Catfish Tacos with Avocado Remoulade

When you come from a town that celebrates catfish with its own annual festival, you develop a particular love for it that can be a little hard to explain to someone who just thinks of catfish as a bottom-feeder (and maybe has only eaten the imported stuff). The best fillets IMHO are small and fried, served with tartar sauce and maybe some fried oysters as well. You’re already eating a fully fried meal, after all — throw caution to the wind!

Whenever I visit my parents, they send me back with bags of frozen catfish fillets and shrimp — all local and all delicious. The only problem is that I hate frying; it’s funks up the house and then you have to worry about what to do with the oil, so the catfish tend to sit in my freezer for a while before I do anything with them. But earlier this week, just in time for Cinco de Mayo, I was craving fish tacos and thought I’d give catfish a whirl.

To avoid the issue of frying and having a fishy smell permeating our house, I took indoor cooking out of the equation altogether and fired up R2Eat2, our new gas grill. (Thanks to my sister-in-law’s mother for the fantastic name suggestion!) I marinated a pound of fish fillets in the juice of one lime, with a hefty four-fingered pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. After 15 minutes, I spread them out on a sheet of heavy-duty foil and sprinkled the tops with paprika for a little color and grilled them on the foil with the grill lid down till the fish flaked easily, around 10-12 minutes.

I like to keep accompaniments simple for fish tacos, so I sliced some Napa cabbage thinly and tossed it with baby arugula and more lime juice and salt. But the real star here was the remoulade I made instead of salsa.

Cajun Remoulade with Avocado | Minimally Invasive

Remoulade recipes vary a lot based on location; the original French versions are typically mayonnaise-based with lots of herbs while Cajun and Creole remoulades are shot through with heaps of minced vegetables and are more piquant, as you’d expect. They’re usually either mayonnaise- or oil-based, but wanting neither one, I thought that avocado might be a delicious and healthier alternative.

I based the remoulade on Emeril’s recipe, substituting an equal amount of avocado for the oil, and doubling the cayenne pepper because I like it spicy. I thought of adding some capers at the end, but decided against it because the remoulade was perfect just as it was. You can knock Emeril all you want, but I’ve never been disappointed with any of his recipes. I made the full amount of remoulade and we were left with a lot, but it goes well with all sorts of dishes, not just seafood. I grilled hamburgers the next day and topped them with a good slather of remoulade and it was a marriage made in heaven.

So even if you’re not in a fish taco mood, give this remoulade a try — you’ll love it.  I gar-on-tee.

As you can tell, I’m not always so active on this blog, but I am a fool for Instagram. Follow along with our daily exploits here.

 

For the Love of Tri-Tip

Feast or famine: Ain’t that always the way?

Not so long ago, my business was in famine mode with few clients or projects as the year wound down. I wasn’t too concerned about it, because that seems to be the case for me each year around that time, and sure enough, as January rolled around, things picked up to such a degree that I was always busy planning for or shooting a new project. Which is awesome! I love being in demand (and the money doesn’t hurt either), but it left me with little time or inclination for cooking.

So I’m working on finding balance in my life now and I’m rediscovering my love of cooking in the process. The fact that it’s grilling season doesn’t hurt.

Rummaging through the freezer a couple of weeks ago, I found a tri-tip from Lone Mountain Wagyu that was just begging to live in my belly:

Tri Tip with Rub | Amy Roth Photo

Preparation was simple; I followed the same steps I did when we last had tri-tip, except I opted for the Santa Maria Rub from Simply Recipes instead of the simple salt/pepper/garlic powder rub from the first time.  It was delicious — OF COURSE — though I’m not sure I needed to go to the extra effort of making the Santa Maria Rub. I mean, it had great flavor, but this wagyu tri-tip is a fabulous cut of meat that would shine in any circumstance, so it felt a little like gilding the lily. That said, I do love a good, vinegary chimichurri with fattier cuts of meat just for the bracing counterpoint. It’s a match made in heaven here, IMHO, so give it a try.

See the original ti-tip post here. Find the recipe for a fantastic chimichurri here. And enjoy grilling season. I know I will.

A Cheery Citrus Salad

When the dark days of winter come around, I love to supplement my braise-heavy diet with liberal amounts of citrus, but sometimes straight fruit can be a little too sugary. This is certainly the case now that I’ve cut extraneous sugar from my diet. These days, fruit feels like an indulgence, a treat for a job well done. So I’ve been hooked on savory citrus salads, like the one pictured above. There isn’t even a real recipe because I use what’s available at my local grocery store, but here you see baby spinach leaves, sliced clementines, thinly sliced fennel and pomegranate arils with a light ponzu dressing, which is nothing more than one part tamari, two parts ponzu sauce and three parts olive oil. It’s excellent with grapefruit or pomelo instead of clementines, or with oil-cured black olives, avocado, and/or thinly sliced red onion added to the mix. Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong with this basic format: Citrus + salad greens + savory/salty element. Give it a try!

What are your favorite ways to dress up citrus?

Leave a comment below so I can expand my lunch choices!


One of my goals for this year is to diversify my photography offerings. In hopes of doing just that, I recently entered a contest sponsored by Minted in conjunction with West Elm to find a new generation of photo prints to sell in stores and online. Voting opened yesterday and will end next Wednesday, February 11th at 1pm ET. I’d love it if you could pop over and vote for any (or all) of my submissions if you like what you see. Clicking on the images below will take you to their corresponding pages at the Minted website, where you’ll have to register before voting. And have a look around while you’re there: you may find other submissions you’d love to see for sale at West Elm!

art prints - Assorted Peppercorns
art prints – Assorted Peppercorns

art prints - Spooning Peppercorns
art prints – Spooning Peppercorns

art prints - Three Cheers for Chilies
art prints – Three Cheers for Chilies

art prints - Wall of Citrus
art prints – Wall of Citrus

art prints - Eat Your Beets
art prints – Eat Your Beets

art prints - Rustic Eggs
art prints – Rustic Eggs

art prints - The Nosy Greyhound
art prints – The Nosy Greyhound

Primal Check-in

Hi again. Just checking in with more Primal recipes from the past week. Gil’s birthday was this weekend, so we celebrated with lunch at Mistral Restaurant in Princeton Saturday afternoon. I’ve been dying to go back ever since the photoshoot I did there over the summer and am happy to report that time didn’t cloud my memory at all; the food was just as fantastic as I remembered.

But even with the extravagant dining, I made the smartest choices I could — cheese plate for dessert, no bread or anything with wheat explicitly listed on the menu — and walked out without feeling cheated in any way.

I mentioned our love of Thai food in my last post. Specifically, there’s an amazing warm coconut milk and peanut butter salad dressing that our new favorite local Thai restaurant (Thai Jasmine in Bloomingdale, NJ) makes, and I decided I needed to have a go at it. Extensive online searching didn’t turn up anything that sounded quite right, so I turned to my copy of Real Thai: The Best of Thailand’s Regional Cooking and found just the thing! I used a full can of coconut milk instead of just one cup as directed in the recipe, but found the balance of the rest of the ingredients — sweet, salty, sour and spicy — undiminished. It topped a simple salad of shaved Napa cabbage, baby spinach, cilantro and lime juice.

Salad with Peanut Dressing | Amy Roth Photo

But man does not live by salad alone, so I made a rich carrot soup to accompany it. You can see from the photo at the top of the post that it was vibrant enough to ward off even the grayest day. Again, the key to Thai cooking is balancing the various flavors and even though this recipe isn’t in any way traditional, I think I did a pretty good job of it. I roasted the carrots to heighten their sweetness so I wouldn’t have to add sugar to the dish, added some cauliflower to keep the texture smooth and velvety and spiced it up at the end with a judicious sprinkling of dried Thai red peppers. Check out the recipe at the end of this post.

Chili | Amy Roth Photo

After being cooped up in the house for the better part of a week, 15 degree temps were NOT going to keep us from our regular Sunday morning greyhound hike. We were all going a little stir crazy. While doing about four miles bundled up will keep you from freezing in place, it still took several hours (and a long nap) to warm up once we were home. This chili took the last of the edge off. I made it with grass-fed beef and about a cup of smoked brisket that came home with us after the Christmas holidays. To amp up the nutrition, I added lots of carrots and celery, then finished it off with mustard greens and baby spinach leaves. Grass-fed cheese and pickled jalapenos added creaminess and a vibrant pop of flavor.

Baked Sweet Potato | Amy Roth Photo

And then we went really basic for lunch today. I microwaved two sweet potatoes and topped them with some grass-fed butter and sautéed garlicky leftover greens, featuring the undressed leftover salad from above with mustard greens for flavor. And for such a simple lunch, it was packed with flavor. Definitely a winner and something that can be put on the table in less than 30 minutes.

I’m really happy with the way this challenge is going. In fact, I’ve decided to join the official Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge that started at Mark’s Daily Apple today!

Thai-Spiced Roasted Carrot Soup

Allergy Fish
Dietary Gluten Free
Meal type Appetizer, Lunch, Main Dish, Soup, Starter
This gluten-free/dairy-free soup relies on roasting the carrots for extra sweetness, then balancing them with sour, salty and spicy elements common in Thai cuisine.

Ingredients

  • 1lb organic carrots (scrubbed)
  • 5 teaspoons olive oil (divided)
  • 1 Medium yellow or white onion (chopped)
  • 3 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 2 stalks celery (chopped)
  • 2-3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 head cauliflower (broken into florets)
  • 1 roasted red pepper (chopped)
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • water
  • 1 lime
  • 1-2 tablespoon fish sauce
  • salt (to taste)
  • dried Thai red peppers

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss whole carrots with 2 teaspoons olive oil and arrange in one layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and bake for 45 minutes to one hour, or until a knife can be easily inserted into the thickest part of the thickest carrot. Cool, then coarsely chop carrots.
In a large pot, heat remaining 3 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. When oil shimmers in the pan, add chopped onion, garlic and celery and sauté until softened. Add Thai curry paste and turmeric, mix well with sautéed vegetables, and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add carrots, cauliflower, roasted red pepper and coconut milk to pot and stir well. Add water to come about 3/4 of the way up the vegetables and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to keep at a simmer until cauliflower has softened.
In a high speed blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth and creamy. Wipe out pot and pour soup back into it. Season with lime juice and fish sauce to taste and add salt, if necessary. Garnish with dried pepper flakes.