9.01.2016

SMASH!


Hide your bourbon, hide yo basil… because once you taste a sip of this cocktail you won’t be able to stop.


I’ve been keeping this recipe from you for far too long. It’s been my summer go-to and with the long weekend coming up, there’s no better way to keep the summer vibes going than by sippin’ on this SMASH.


It’s super easy to make and you can do it two ways – one’s lazier than the other and makes it a little more boozy/bourbony, the other is more of a fancy cocktail so it’s kind of like a choose your own adventure cocktail. Plus, you only need 4 ingredients + ice. Does ice count as an ingredient?! EASY PEASY!


This recipe is easily doubled, tripled, quadrupled (you get where I’m going). I recommend throwing on this song and get to shakin’.


whiskey basil smash
yields 1 drink

quick and easy way (more pronounced bourbon flavor)
2 oz bourbon
handful of fresh basil leaves (about 6 – 8 depending on how big)
splash of pure maple syrup (about 1 tsp), to taste
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice

ice, both crushed and a large rock
1 gorgeous basil leaf for garnish

In a cocktail strainer (or mason jar) add basil, whiskey and maple syrup and muddle for a good 30 seconds to bruise that basil and infuse as much flavor as you possibly can. Fill the shaker up with crushed or cubed ice and top with the lemon juice. Shake that sucker for a good minute. You want a little bit of the ice to naturally dilute the drink which balances out the cocktail.

Strain over 1 large ice cube or regular cubes, or "neat" if you don’t have a big “rock”. Place the basil leaf in the palm of your hand and give it a good smack. This releases more basil essence and it’s just fun. Place slapped basil on top, sip, enjoy, repeat… ahhhh!


fancy way (more like a true crafted cocktail and the bourbon is less pronounced)
2 oz bourbon
1 oz basil syrup
1 TBSP lemon juice

ice, both crushed and a large rock
1 gorgeous basil leaf for garnish

for the basil syrup:
1 c. filtered water
2 c. moderately packed basil leaves (thin stems are ok)
1/3 c. pure maple syrup
ice bath

To make the syrup:
Set up your ice bath. In a small sauce pan, blanch the basil in 1 c. boiling water for 15 seconds. Remove basil with tongs and immediately place in an ice bath. Turn the boiling water off. After 1 minute, transfer the basil to a blender. Place your sauce pan in the ice water to cool it down for about 5 minutes. 

Once the basil infused water is cool to the touch, pour it in the blender with the basil leaves, add the maple syrup and blend on high for 30 seconds. Strain with a fine mesh sieve and pour into a jar and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. It’s most vibrant green right away but can be made up to 2 days in advance. 

When ready to make the cocktail, add the bourbon, basil syrup and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Give it a good shake for about a minute, strain and serve over ice. Garnish with fresh basil.

The lemon juice will start to turn the drink from a vibrant green to a slightly murkier green over time so don’t add the lemon until the very end to keep it purdy. It will still taste good once the color starts to change but who doesn’t love drinking a bright green cocktail?!

improv style:
This cocktail is dead simple to make and is easily substituted. I like to use maple syrup to keep it refined sugar free but you can easily use your favorite sweetener. Use regular sugar, honey, agave – whatever you have on hand!

Speaking of sweetener, I’m not the biggest SWEET cocktail fan. I like it balanced. If you’re more on the sweet side, add more. If you’re anti-sweet, try it with less or without. I find just a touch really balances it nicely though.

Not a fan of bourbon? I wasn’t either last summer. Something changed and now I want ALL THE BOURBON. If you’re not a whiskey fan, this cocktail is amazing with gin, vodka and even white tequila. Whatever you fancy, shake it up!

Basil… delicious. But so are lots of herbs. You could try this with your favorite like sage, rosemary or thyme.

How would you tweak the recipe to make it your own?!

I experimented with infusing bourbon with basil. It worked but didn't really add anything. Muddling is quicker and easier in my opinion.



 my sister came to visit last week and you know we were sippin' on the smashes! 

6.17.2016

brunchin' all day err day

Hi my name is Morgan and I want to have brunch every day of the week. Sadly there’s this thing called work that gets in my way. Ugh, reality.


The reason I love brunch so much is because I’m not a big morning eater. I love food, don’t get me wrong. But I need to be up a solid 1-2 hours before I can even think about putting something into my body. 

Which is means brunch is my ideal time. Because any meal before 10a on a weekend is called BREAKFAST. I also believe that brunch without booze is just breakfast. Amiright?!


So can I tell you about my latest brunch obsession? Chilaquiles verde. I legit make these at least once a week and have been doing so for 6 months now. I blame my best friend for getting me hooked. I don’t know how I made it 30+ years without these but she changed my life that day. I’ve been making up for lost time ever since.

This dish is such a perfect thing to improvise. At it’s core, you need eggs, salsa and tortilla chips. The best news?! If you have stale chips, you can use those. It's kind of like the bread pudding of brunch (or breakfast for dinner, I'm not judging).

I like to fancy it up because more toppings = more flavah. I also like mine to have a little texture in the chips, not crunchy but not a saucy mess either. Everyone has their own preference and method but I’m sharing my perfect version with you. How would you change the recipe and make it yours?

chilaquiles 
yields 2 servings

ingredients:
1 TBSP oil (canola or olive oil)
4 c. corn tortilla chips
4 eggs
c. salsa verde
¾ c. shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

to garnish:
cilantro, chopped
green onion, sliced thin
tomatoes, diced 
radish, sliced thin
sour cream
avocado
hot sauce #swag (tapatio is my fav for this dish)

Before you start cooking, I like to shred my cheese and crack all of my eggs into a small bowl. This dish comes together really quickly so mise en place is key. Don’t forget to prep your garnishes too!

In a large cast iron skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add in the tortilla chips and toss around until they’re golden brown and toasted in some places. Dump in your eggs and gently fold them together until they’ve coated the chips and the eggs are 90% cooked. You want to be careful not to break your chips too much at this part (not the end of the world if you do though so don’t panic). 

Next, add in your salsa and again, fold the chips until it coats your chips. You’ll see them start to soften. This is where you might want to adjust the quantity. If you like a crunchier chip, start with less and if you want them softer, add more salsa - it’s up to you! Once the chips are as soft as you like, add in the shredded cheese and turn off the heat. Let the cheese melt a bit, stir and then serve!

I like to make a little toppings buffet and people can dress theirs how they like. Add your favorite toppings and devour. 

improv style:
i’ve made these a million ways. every tortilla chip is slightly different. some are thicker, some are better tasting. my ideal is whole foods tortilla chips but at $7/bag, they’re quite the treat. i’ve used blue corn chips, yellow and white corn - they all work. if it’s a thicker chip, you’ll need more salsa and thinner, less salsa.

speaking of salsa… use your favorite type. i love salsa verde so i use that but you can do red salsa, chipotle salsa, etc… the options are endless. you can also use enchilada sauce or a combo of things.

cheese is another one that is completely flexible. i usually always have white sharp cheddar on hand but you could use pepper jack, monterey, mozzarella, cheddar, honestly, anything besides the blue or swiss family cheese. you can also leave it out if you’re dairy free or not into cheese. if you’re going to do goat i would recommend sprinkling it on as a garnish instead. same thing with cotija if you’re going for a more authentic approach

ok, on to the fun stuff. garnishes are limitless. just trust your gut and use your favs. last week i had leftover kale and some corn salsa so i threw those into the pan with the salsa and it turned out delish. you can add chipotle in adobo for extra smokey flavor.

if you’re vegan you can leave out the eggs and add more salsa. similarly, you can cook it that way and then top it with fried eggs instead. i like it all mixed. probably because that’s how it was introduced to me and it’s SO GOOD.

now that we've gotten ingredients out of the way, let's talk about improv cooking. i like the chips to still have texture but others like them more saturated or more crunchy. this is where you'll have to experiment and figure out how much liquid to add to your chips to make them perfect for you.

can’t wait to hear how you’d change it up! if you try this recipe, be sure to tag @improvkitchen or #improvkitchen so i can see what you're up to. happy brunching.

5.27.2016

burgers all day every day

HALLELUJAH it’s finally grilling season!! 


To me, there’s no better way to kick off Memorial Day Weekend than with a proper grilled burger. I love all types of burgers but there’s something about a classic cheeseburger with special sauce, lettuce, tomato and grilled onions on a brioche bun, mmmmmm. 

Over the years I’ve perfected my secret sauce and well, I’m going to make it not so secret because it’s too good not to be shared! 

I like to make a batch of this and keep it in a mason jar in the fridge so I can have it on hand whenever I get a hankering for a burger. It tends to last about a month but I’m not an expert on these things. I go by the rule of is there mold? No? Does it smell funky? No? Then you’re probably safe. You do what feels right to you but definitely make this sauce for your burgers this weekend.

On an important side note, thank you to everyone who has served or is serving our country. I don't take my freedom lightly and have the most respect to people who have and continue to defend our country. I'm proud to say both of my grandfathers served, one of them even earned a purple heart. This weekend I will be toasting to their memory with a juicy burger in hand. 

secret sauce
yields about 1½ c.

ingredients:
c. mayonaise 
c. ketchup
¼ c. yellow mustard
2 TBSP dill relish
1 TBSP cognac
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder

In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients until fully incorporated. Transfer to a jar and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use. It gets better with time but I let it sit at least 20 minutes before using it. 

improv style:
i’m a fan of creamy things. some people like it less. if you’re one of those people, up your ketchup and minus your mayo game.

i’m also a BIG dill pickle fan, i don’t mess around with the sweet stuff. you can easily swap for sweet relish if that’s more your thing.

no cognac? this my friends is something i highly recommend. it adds such depth of flavor a touch of sweetness. you could leave it out but you could also sub for brandy - just don’t use a flavored one. you could also try a dry sherry. 

onion and garlic powder are often my secret weapon when cooking. they pack a one two flavor punch. you could also try fresh garlic and onion but it will make your sauce chunkier and it won’t last as long in the fridge. if you do the fresh route, i would recommend going easy on the garlic, it can be quite dominant.

i like yellow mustard. there’s something intense about grainy mustard for me. dijon is good but in this it tends to take over a little much. i go more for that creamy background flavor that compliments the beef. you can easily use your favorite mustard here though.

fresh cracked pepper would be a nice addition to the sauce if you’re into it. what do you put in your secret sauce? 


4.15.2016

liquid courage



You guys, I have a confession to make. I’m obsessed. Obsessed with this indie magazine called Cherry Bombe and everything it stands for. It combines two things I’m passionate about, food and feminism. So when I found out they host an annual conference called the Jubilee, I knew I had to go. So I booked a ticket to the conference and went by myself.

 

It was a full day of inspiring women speaking about some really interesting and powerful stuff in a room filled with 300 bad ass women from all walks of life. And something weird happened.

I totally froze up. I walked in like a new girl on the first day of school completely overwhelmed, looking around all doe-eyed hoping someone, anyone would come up and want to be my friend. It was terrifying. Logically it made no sense. I knew that at the core, everyone was here because we have a common interest – A LOVE OF FOOD and this amazing magazine.

It didn’t matter, my brain when into super shy, reserved mode. Which if you know me is not really my style at all. Has this ever happened to you? 

By lunch time I finally grew the courage to walk up to a group of strangers and asked if I could sit with them. I put my big girl panties on and just broke the ice. Shocker, I didn’t die and I met 3 incredible ladies and I’m so glad I pushed past that fear.

If you find yourself in a similar situation soon, try to push past it and conquer that fear. And if you need a little extra push, you can always grab a little liquid courage with this cocktail.


Inspired by Cherry Bombe Magazine, I came up with the idea for this drink. I’ve been super into bourbon & whiskey lately and I wanted to create a strong drink for a bad ass lady. It’s perfectly balanced, not too sweet and not too tart. And it packs quite the punch. The best part? It’s super easy to make.


cherry bombe cocktail
Yields 1 drink

ingredients:
1 oz Rye Whiskey (I like Wild Turkey Rye)
1 oz sweet vermouth
¼ tsp tart cherry juice concentrate
4 – 5 dashes grapefruit bitters
ice
boozy cherry for garnish

In a large mixing glass, combine the whiskey, vermouth and tart cherry juice. Add about ½ c. crushed ice and stir for 30 seconds so that the ice slightly dilutes the drink. Pour over a large rock (ice cube) or crushed ice and toss in a few cherries. Sip, mix and repeat – responsibly of course.

improv style:
don’t like rye? You can use your favorite type of whiskey. Don’t like whiskey, use white rum, vodka or gin. It will be a totally different drink but still a delish cocktail!

Can’t find tart cherry juice or don’t like it? This is a cherry bombe but you could substitute for pomegranate juice concentrate or even acai juice.

Grapefruit bitters is a specialty bitter I have in my cocktail kit. I do believe they make all the difference in this drink. If you don’t want to buy an obscure ingredient like this, try squeezing the peel of a fresh grapefruit into the drink. You’ll get some of the bitter and floral notes that the grapefruit bitters imparts.

Sometimes I like to squeeze an orange peel and drop it into this drink. It’s like a cherry old fashioned without the sugar cube.

If this drink is too stiff for you, try adding in some sparkling water. Lacroix makes a cherry lime flavor that would be so good with this drink. You could also try adding a sugar cube, a splash of honey or maple syrup to sweeten the cocktail if you like your drinks a little less strong/tart.

 

Make it the way you like it! How would you improvise the cocktail?