Homemade Valentine’s Day Gifts!

Here is a fun little video, highlighting two of my favorite treats to make for my Valentines! Chocolate covered bacon takes the place of the normal chocolate covered strawberries and the brownie bouquet is a fun gift that gets the kids involved! Your Valentine is sure to know how much you love them when you present them with these gifts this Valentine’s Day!

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Colored Deviled Eggs!!

Add this simple step the next time you make deviled eggs and you are sure to “WOW” all of your friends and guest!


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Sea Salted Caramel Tart!!

Yes, it tastes as good as it looks!! And, is super easy to make, so it’s basically perfect!


Crust Ingredients:

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, diced (dice it before it comes to room temperature and it’s easier to cut)

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened coco-powder

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon good Bourbon (you can use vanilla extract, but I always like to use Bourbon instead! I also usually use more than a tablespoon, and I won’t tell if you do the same!)


Carmel Filling Ingredients:

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 heavy whipping cream


Chocolate Ganache Filling

4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1-2 tablespoon sea salt (depending on your level of salt love!)


Crust Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Pulse the butter and powdered sugar in a food processor until it has a crumbled texture, just a few seconds should do it. You can also cut the butter into the sugar with a form to for a crumbled mixture, if you don’t have a food processor.
  • Add in the rest of the crust ingredients to the sugar butter mix and stir or pulse until they are mixed. This may not form a pastry ball, but should stick together between your fingers when pressed.
  • At this point, you are ready to press into your tart pan. If you don’t have a tart pan, a pie pan or really any shallow baking dish will do, you just may not be able to remove your final product. I like to spray my cooking vessels with oil before pressing in the dough, to help release it when I’m done.
  • Press your dough evenly around your pan and up the sides. This particular dough should not puff up in the middle too much, but if you want to add baking marbles, do so when you are done pressing in your dough.
  • Bake for 15 minuets and cool on a rack.

Caramel Filling Directions

  • While your tart crust is cooling, add sugar and water to a large, heavy bottom, pot. On medium-high heat, allow the sugar to dissolve into the water. You should not need to stir the solution at this point. The sugar water will become translucent as the sugar melts into the water.
  • After some time (in some cases as long as 20 minuets) your mix will darken to a beautiful caramel color. If you feel like your mix is coloring too quickly and may burn, turn your heat down to medium. You should not need to stir the mix, but if you want to run a spoon around the pan every once and while to ensure even melting of the sugar, that is fine.
  • Once you have a mix that is the color you desire (in this case, a medium brown), add the butter, stirring to mix it in evenly. Be careful for this part, because occasionally the caramel might pop with the addition of the fat.
  • Once your butter is melted, remove from the heat and again, carefully, add your heavy whipping cream.
  • Stir in and return to medium heat. Continue to stir as the mix thickens, for about 5 minuets.
  • After the thickening happens, let this mix cool for a few minuets.
  • At this point, you can pour your caramel into your cooled crust and refrigerate for about 3 hours, allowing the caramel to set.


Chocolate Ganache Topping

  • Break up your baking chocolates in a medium, heat proof bowl.
  • Heat your heavy whipping cream over medium heat until it starts to simmer, stirring constantly, so that it does not scorch.
  • Once it begins to simmer, pour the heavy whipping cream over your chocolates and let it sit for about a minuet.
  • After it has sat, stir until the chocolate and heavy whipping cream are completely mixed together.
  • Remove your tart from the refrigerator and place on some parchment paper or other type of paper to protect your counter from the chocolate you are about to drizzle over it!
  • Using a fork, dip it in the chocolate and drizzle over your tart, using a slow right to left movement. You can pour the chocolate over the top of the tart for complete coverage, but I like the look of the drizzled chocolate, so it’s up to you.
  • Once you have the chocolate coverage you desire, sprinkle your salt evenly over the top and pop back in the refrigerator for about an hour to let the chocolate set.
  • Remove from the refrigerator about half an hour before you are ready to serve and allow it to come to room temperature.
  • Wow all of your dinner guests and enjoy!





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Apple Cardamom Toddy!!


We are snowed in and the drinking shrubs were getting a little jealous from all the attention the bitters and tinctures were getting, so I had to make a drink featuring them! I have chosen to use the Apple Cardamom shrub from 18-21 Bitters. You will remember them from my previous posts. If you still need to order from them, or need to restock, check them out here…

Let’s get started!

Apple Cardamom Toddy   Makes 2 Toddies (Because a Toddy is better when shared with a friend!)


  • 2 Cups Water
  • 4 Tbs. honey
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (more if you want to garnish with them!)
  • Juice from 2 Lemons
  • 2 shot Apple Cardamon Drinking Shrub
  • 2 shots of good bourbon
  • Apple slice with cinnamon to garnish, if you choose (I always choose!)


  • In a sauce pan, combine water, honey, cinnamon sticks, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and let then turn the heat down to a simmer. Let simmer for about 5 minuets, letting the beautiful aroma fill your house!  (You can make this in larger batches and keep in your refrigerator for about two weeks. Heat before serving)
  • Divide the heated liquid between 2 mugs and add bourbon and shrub. Garnish with apple slice.
  • Enjoy!
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Ginger Basil Gimlet


We are in Kentucky and about to get pounded with what we consider to be an enormous amount of snow (7-8 inches, not a lot by most standards, but it basically shuts our town down!). My Mom is here with me, and we are preparing. By doing cocktail testing! We are not planning on leaving the house for the next few days and while everyone else was out stocking up on milk and bread, we were buying alcohol for us and diapers for the baby! We are all set to spend this weekend stuck inside next to fire, drinking great cocktails and watching PBS, while the baby entertains the dogs. It’s a win win for everyone. To be honest, I am looking forward to all of the snow and can’t wait for it to get here!

I have been playing around with hot toddys lately and gave a great recipe for one a few days ago. It offered a little inspiration for my favorite drink so far from tonight’s experimenting. I wanted to do something that wasn’t too heavy, but still offered some comfort. That’s how I came up with the Ginger Basil Gimlet! It’s a super easy drink to make and enjoy. The honey syrup that is mentioned is basically just equal parts honey and water boiled together and cooled. You can make a large batch of this ahead of time and store it in the fridge. It will keep for about two weeks, but I can’t imagine it will last that long! I like a lot of lemon tang in my drinks, but if you prefer a sweeter drink, cut back on the lemon and add more honey syrup.

Here goes nothing!

Ginger Basil Gimlet        Makes 1 drink


  • Juice from one lemon
  • 5 leaves of fresh or  two pinches of dried basil (if you use fresh, break it up in the bottom of the glass with a muddler or something to bruise it, but not cutting it. You want the flavors to escape. Bruised leaves will offer their flavors, while cut leaves tend to hold them in)
  • 4 shots of honey syrup
  • 2 shots of Gin
  • 4 drops of 18-21 Bitters Ginger Lemon Bitters (If you don’t have this, you can order it here. If you want to make this drink now and order these later, you can ommit the bitters and have a perfectly nice Basil Gimlet without the Ginger. You can use ginger powder, or infuse some ginger in your syrup if you like, but it doesn’t offer a huge pop of flavor like the bitters do!)


  • Muddle basil if using fresh. Add ice to glass with basil. (Dried basil can be added later)
  • Juice lemon directly into glass
  • Add syrup (you can play with the tart and sweet elements and get a mix that works for you!)
  • Add dried basil (If you are using dried instead of fresh)
  • Mix in Gin and Bitters (if using)
  • Stir together and garnish with a lemon peel if you like! (I always like 🙂

I hope you enjoy this drink and a hot toddy if you are snowed in this weekend like us!



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How to make the perfect cheese board for National Cheese Lover’s Day!!!

Cheese Lover

Since today celebrates all of us who consider cheese a staple in our daily diet, I thought I would take a moment and let you guys in on what I consider a perfect cheese board.

It can be very daunting to go into a cheese shop or peruse the gourmet cheeses at your local grocer. There are so many varieties and different types within those varieties. Many are turned off by the Blues and Stiltons, because they are often nicknamed the “Stinky Cheeses”. While they do have a more pungent smell than others, they should not be avoided all together. In these situations, it helps greatly to ask the person behind the counter. Let them know what your preferences are and more than likely they can steer you in the right direction, because they have probably tasted everything in the case! They can be your best friend when trying to make a cheese board. They will also give you some samples, if you ask nicely 🙂

Next, you need to know your crowd. If you are hosting a business dinner and the feel is a little stuffy, you may want to stay safe with some predictable choices like Cheddars, Provolones, Americans and maybe a Swiss. Mostly soft cheese that can be easily cut and absent mindedly eaten. If you are having some friends over for a wine night, go a little more wild in your selections. Try some of your stinky Blues and some triple cream goats milk cheeses. If you are buying from a local cheese shop, they more than likely sell wine as well and can point you in the right direction for pairings.

After you get comfortable with cows milks cheeses, you can spread your wings into the sheep and goats milk choices. I personally like both sheep and goats milk cheeses a lot! Often times they are fairly mild and are great vessels for homemade jams or candied nuts. If you are curious, but don’t want to dive all the way in, most places will cut you very small blocks to take home and experiment with. I also recommend going to a cheese class if you ever have the opportunity to. You can try so many varieties and learn more about our favorite dairy product!

As far as variety goes, I like to have at least one Blue or Stilton on the tray, mostly because I really like them! After that, I try to have a Brie of some sort (I really like a sheep’s milk Brie!), a Cheddar and one hard cheese, like a Parmesan or something similar. Unless you are serving an incredibly large crowd, you are probably ok with about four choices. Always remember, you should keep a few safe choices on your board, because many people won’t want to be incredibly adventurous with cheese at a dinner party!  If you know your guests, and know that several like the Blues and Stiltons, put an extra one out. If you are serving a large crowd, and have a lot of cheese, put some out and keep some back for later. Some cheeses sweat after being at room temperature and can become unappetizing looking (even though they are still delicious!) Just replenish every so often to keep your guests happy and enjoying your selections!

This brings us to amount! This is where you are going to want to make friends with the guy behind the counter! They can help you figure out about how much you will need for the amount of people you are having and what type of party you are hosting. If this is a dinner party and the cheese course is just for a little nosh before dinner, you won’t need much at all. If this is a cocktail party and the cheese will be out all night, you will want a little more. In my experiences, you will need less than you think and the seller is probably more than happy to cut you a quarter of a pound of several choices, because they don’t want to waste either! While many of these make great grilled cheeses the next day, I really pride myself on reading my crowd and trying not to have too much excess. Besides, I want fresh cheese for my sandwiches!

Now for the accompaniments….I like a variety if this is for a cocktail party. Not so much if you are just putting cheese out for guests to have as they arrive before everyone sits down to dinner. In that case, I would have the cheese, a little fruit, and maybe some nuts, if I had candied some and wanted to impress my guests! For a cocktail party, I go all out. I like candied nuts, jams, honey, dried fruit, as well as fresh fruit. Most of this is pretty reasonably priced and looks great on a tray! I like to have my jams and honey in small dishes with small spoons for serving and small tongs for the fruit. I never want my guests to have to touch the food on the tray with their hands. If you have apples and pears, slice them so that they can act as a vessel for the cheese. Strawberries can go on whole or sliced, it’s your choice. Candied nuts and dried fruits are always great, because they are easy to eat and pair well with most cheeses. Crostinis are also a great choice, but not necessary. Some people like cheese and bread, but don’t fret if you don’t include them, if you have everything else. However, you can usually get them cut at your local grocer and they are filling and cost effective!

Your harder cheese will need a knife stuck in them to keep them stable while your guests cut off what they want with another knife. Softer cheeses are usually pretty easily cut and only require one knife. I like each choice to have their own knife, because some people are very opposed to certain varieties of cheeses and cross contamination may deter them from enjoying your beautiful cheese board!

I’m pretty sure I’ve covered most of the high points of making show stopping cheese board, but if you have any questions, please let me know!!

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Popcorn and a Hot Toddy!!!

popcorn toddy

Since it’s National Popcorn Day (yeah, I had no idea either, until I saw it on social media!) and it’s freezing outside, we are celebrating with Everglades Seasoned Popcorn and a Ginger Cinnamon Hot Toddy. Both are super simple to make and will be great enjoyed next to a roaring fire on your next cold evening!

For the popcorn….

I can’t get enough of the Lekue Popcorn Bowl, and if you like popcorn as much as we do, you have to have one! Order your on Amazon here.

Once you’ve made your popcorn, obviously you are free to put whatever toppings you want on it, but today, I am challenging you to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Tonight I went with a flavor that my Mom has loved on popcorn and in general cooking for years, Everglades Seasoning. If you don’t have a bottle of this in your kitchen, run out and get on now! If you aren’t lucky enough (like me!) to have relatives in Florida to get you some at the local Publix, you can order some here. Try more than one flavor… I promise you won’t be disappointing!

After making my popcorn with butter in the bowl while it was popping 🙂 , I sprinkled my Everglades Seasoning on liberally and enjoyed!

For the Ginger Cinnamon Hot Toddy

First, I boiled 2 cups of water together with chunks of fresh ginger, 3 tablespoons of honey, two squeezed lemons, and 2 cinnamon sticks. Bring mixture to a boil and then turn down and cover. Let it steep for about 5 minuets.

Next, I added cinnamon sticks and 4 drops of 18-21 Ginger Lemon Tincture (if you don’t have this particular tincture, check out 18-21 Bitters here and order some! In the mean time, don’t worry, you can add some extra squeezed lemon and ginger powder at the end if you need a more intense flavor.)

Strain the boiled mixture into two mugs. Add desired amount of good quality Bourbon and finish with a lemon peel!

These two pair perfectly together and will bring some warmth to your night!


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