Flavor-Infused Vodkas and Cocktails

>> Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Flavor-Infused Vodkas and Cocktails

The spring, the Hungry Lovers started experimenting with flavored vodkas, which are ridiculously simple. You add some fruits, vegetables, herbs, or spices to a jar of vodka or another neutral-flavored spirit like white rum, and wait a few days for the flavor to develop. The result is a fresh, tasty homemade flavored vodka for punches, cocktails, and mixers.

We found that strong-tasting additions like citrus or hot peppers take only 3 or 4 days to infuse their flavor into the vodka. Mild-tasting fruits and vegetables take 7-10 days, and some herbs and spices like vanilla beans, cinnamon, or ginger root take 2 weeks. We kept the jars in the refrigerator as they steeped, shook them occasionally to mix up the flavors, and strained out the additions before we used the liquor.

So, just in time for a Labor Day weekend bash, here are a few recipes. Get started this weekend, and next week you'll have some great drinks for friends and family.

Infused Vodka Recipes

Citrus vodka: Two 14" thick lemon slices and two lime slices in 16 oz. vodka; steep for at least three days. This makes a great cocktail with sodas, a Lemon Drop, or a Citrus Splash cocktail (below).

Cucumber vodka: Add 6 to 8 1/4" slices of cucumber to 16 oz. vodka; steep for 10 days. Great in a Cucumber-Basil Mojito (below) or mix with lemonade for a refreshingly different cocktail.

Triple-Pepper Vodka: Cut one jalapeno in half and remove the seeds. Place it in a jar with 1 tsp black peppercorns and 1/4 cup sliced red bell pepper. Steep for 7 days. This makes a fabulous Bloody Mary or a Mexican Michelada (below).

Red-Hot Cinnamon Vodka: Add 1/4 cup cinnamon red-hot candies to 16 oz. vodka. Steep 4 days, then add to hot chocolate on a cold winter day.

Pear-Coriander Vodka: Slice a pear in half, and remove the seeds. Slice one half in 1/4" slices and add to 16 oz. of vodka. Stir in 2 tsp coriander seeds. Steep for 2 weeks before serving in Pear Martinis or a Lotus Blossom cocktail (below).

Vanilla Vodka:  Split two vanilla bean pods lengthwise, and add to 16 oz. vodka. Steep for one week. As long as you keep this refrigerated, you can retain the vanilla beans and keep adding new vodka to the jar as you use it - the beans will last a long time. This mixes well with cola or fruit juices.

Tangerine Vodka: Peel a tangerine and place 2 2" strips of peel and four fruit sections into 16 oz. vodka. Steep for 1 week. Try this in place of Grand Marnier or orange liqueur for a less sugary cocktail, or spoon some into a glass of champagne.

Cocktail Recipes

Citrus Splash Martini

1 1/2 oz citrus vodka
1 1/4 oz triple sec
3/4 oz lemon juice
lemon twist

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker half-full of ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass. If you'd like, coat the rim of the glass with sugar before pouring the drink. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Cucumber-Basil Mojito
4 basil leaves
1 tsp fine sugar or simple syrup
1 tbsp chopped cucumber
2 1/2 oz cucumber vodka
1 tbsp lime juice
2/3 cup soda
lime wedge for garnish

Place the basil and sugar into a tall cocktail glass and muddle the herbs with the back of a spoon until fragrant. Add the cucumber, vodka, lime juice, and soda and stir. Fill the glass with ice cubes and garnish with a lime wedge.

Mexican Michelada
Sea salt
1 cup Clamato or other clam-tomato juice, chilled
1 tbsp lime juice
1 oz. triple pepper vodka
1 tsp soy sauce
1 cup Mexican lager beer
Lime wedges

Rub the lime wedge around the rim of a beer mug or tall cocktail glass, then dip it in the sea salt. Add the Clamato, lime juice, and soy sauce to the mug and stir. Fill the mug half-full of ice cubes, then add the beer. Stir gently before serving with a lime wedge.

Lotus Blossom

1 tbsp superfine sugar or simple syrup
3 lychee fruits (canned is fine)
1 lime wedge
1 1/2 oz pear vodka
1 oz sake
Sliced pear for garnish

Place the sugar, lychee, and lime into the bottom of a shaker and muddle the ingredients. Add the pear vodka and sake, then fill halfway with ice. Shake well, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a pear slice. 


Favorite Easter Recipes

>> Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I don't know who made this, but would gladly give credit if I did!

Whew! With my new job as a librarian, working with a new art gallery, getting involved in social justice as a ministry, and writing some new fiction, I can hardly believe Easter is in just a few days. I miss the Easters when I was young; waking up to find a huge basket of candy, and wearing a corsage, a pretty new outfit my mom made, and white gloves to church that morning.

Once we had an Easter egg hunt at my Grandpa Williams' house in Royal Oak, Michigan, and he forgot to count the eggs he hid. He found one a couple of months later when he ran over it with the lawnmower. Yuck.

Easter Sunday in Detroit
Easter Sunday in Royal Oak. L-R: Grandma, me, older sister Sheryl, and my Mom.

Wellllll...I love any celebration that involves lots of food, don't you? Here are some of our favorite recipes, from a luscious lamb brisket to a lemony Easter basket bread, as well as the best devilled eggs ever.

Lemony Easter basket bread

Lemony Easter Basket Bread: my mom always made this every Easter, and tucked dyed eggs into the folds before baking.

Braised Lamb

Seder Braised Lamb: Our church group enjoys an authentic Jewish Seder dinner each year, which is a wonderful chance to learn more about the Jewish religion that Jesus lived in. Joe developed this lamb recipe a year ago.

Bacon-Jalapeno deviled eggs

Bacon Jalapeno Deviled Eggs: Devilled eggs taken to the max, from Real Housemoms.

Homemade Reese’s-Style Peanut Butter Eggs

Homemade Reese’s-Style Peanut Butter Eggs: how we love anything chocolate and peanut-buttery. From Natalie of Good Girl Style.


Easy Broccoli-Stuffed Manicotti Casserole

>> Sunday, April 6, 2014

Broccoli-Stuffed Manicotti Casserole

Just like one of our previous presidents, I am not a big fan of broccoli. It isn't just the fact that broccoli is one of those cruciferous (members of the mustard family) vegetables like cabbage or Brussels sprouts, and those veggies make terrible explosions in my stomach. It's just that I don't like the taste too much. When our daughters were young, I used to buy giant cans of cheese sauce to drizzle over their vegetables to encourage them to eat more. I always want to drown my broccoli in a gallon of cheese sauce.

But Joe brought home a bag of large manicotti tubes and some beautiful fresh broccoli, and set about making a quick and easy casserole even I would love. He picked me up from work the other night, and I was dead tired but I could smell a glorious fragrance of pomodoro sauce in his clothes. The end result was a cheap, delicious, and fairly low-fat casserole that only tasted of broccoli in a good way.

Large manicotti shells
Large pasta shells work just as well as large manicotti tubes.


1 box jumbo manicotti or pasta shells
1 1/2 cups broccoli
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dried oregano, or 1 1/2 tsp fresh
1/2 tsp dried basil, or 1 1/2 tsp fresh
3 cups Basic Tomato Sauce or canned pasta sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the pasta according to package directions, on the firm side of "done". Drain and set aside. Grease a 9x11 pan and spread 1/2 cup of tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan.

Finely chop the broccoli and steam in the microwave or on the stove until cooked but slightly crisp, then set aside.

Place the ricotta, egg, Parmesan, oregano, and basil in a thick gallon-size zip-top plastic bag. Squeeze the contents so that the ingredients mix well (if you have little ones around, this is a great job for them to do!). Add the broccoli and squeeze again until well mixed. Then, squeeze the filling into one corner of the plastic bag.

Broccoli-ricotta filling for manicotti
This filling looks blue-tinged because the plastic bag was light blue.

Snip the corner off the plastic bag, then squeeze out an equal amount of ricotta filling into each piece of pasta.  Arrange the filled pasta in the baking pan. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the top, then sprinkle with cheese.

Broccoli-Ricotta stuffed pasta

Cover the pan with foil, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 10-15 more minutes, until the casserole is heated through and the sauce is bubbly.

Serves 4-6.

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