Friday, December 30, 2011

5 Manly Cocktails Women Should Be Drinking

A few months ago I was at a bar where the hip, mustachioed bartenders were touting their selection of superlative old-school cocktails. So I ordered a Manhattan. My husband turned to me and said, “You know a Manhattan is a guy’s drink, right?”

“No, man, that’s fine,” the bartender interrupted. “You’ve got a woman who knows what she wants.”

Yup, I do. Sure, I like a refreshing mint mojito and a champagne sparkler just like the next gal, but there are times when I crave something stronger, more muscular, like scotch or bourbon.

Since that night I've ordered many a manly drink. I've also asked many a manly man what he thinks of women who imbibe traditional men’s drinks. Everyone I spoke with was OK with it, and many thought it was sexy. But most were quick to add this caveat: “Just not on the first date. You might scare us off.”

They also agreed: Don’t go too masculine too quickly. Want to order an Old-Fashioned? Don’t. Too Don Draper. A Rusty Nail? Too Bob Villa. A Godfather? Too Michael Corleone.

If your current drink of choice is a fruity Cosmopolitan, then don't switch to a bitter Negroni. You might not recover from the shock. So this New Year's Eve, why not be adventurous and try a bolder manly cocktail such as a classic Manhattan or a Tom Collins?

Here are 5 more traditional men’s drinks that women can safely order:

Sidecar: The mixture of cognac and cointreau creates a sexy amber color and leaves a sweet taste on your mouth. You know, just in case he’s got nice lips.

Gin Martini: Ask for a martini, and most bartenders will assume you want vodka. So specify gin and whether or not you want it dirty or with a twist.

Whiskey Sour: As far as sour cocktails go, a whiskey sour is eminently drinkable. Plus, a classically prepared whiskey sour should come with a slice of orange or lemon, and a maraschino cherry which lends a flirty touch.

Salty Dog: If you’re out for brunch, skip the mimosa and order the more playful Salty Dog, a mouth-puckering combo of vodka and grapefruit juice, spiked with salt.

Sazerac: Sazerac is to New Orleans cocktails what gumbo is to New Orleans cuisine. Made with rye, Peychaud's Bitters, and Angostura bitters, this is a heady, spicy cocktail. Purists insist New Orleans is the only place to find an authentic Sazerac, but you can buy Peychaud's Bitters and Herbsaint online. So drink up.

So what do you think about women ordering classic men’s drinks? Do you?

Makes 1
Printable recipe.

The Manhattan was conceived with rye as its essential component, but the consensus is that even if you don't use rye, Manhattans should be made with American whiskey, such as a good bourbon. --Rob Chirico, author of Field Guide to Cocktails.

2 ounces straight rye or bourbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth
Dash of Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry

1. Stir the bourbon, vermouth, and bitters in a pitcher half filled with ice, or shake them with ice; then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Photo credits: FCC; FCC culinarygeek; Susan Russo.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

10 Tips for Baking, Storing, and Freezing Cookies

Baking cookies with Nonna

It's cookie season! Oh, sure, cookies are eaten 365 a year, but is there a better time to celebrate cookies than during the Christmas season? Even the most baking-averse among us can't help but bake cookies in December (though they may just be sugar cookies cut out from a can).

Anyone can make cookies and everyone loves to eat cookies. They're the ideal thoughtful holiday gift, they're perfect for children's little hands, and they're a wonderful way to spend time with family and friends creating memories that will last a lifetime. (I don't remember many Christmas gifts I received when I was a kid, but I do remember marathon Christmas cookie baking sessions with my mom every year.)

So during this Christmas cookie season, I'm sharing 10 tips for baking, storing, and freezing cookies. And if you need some cookie recipes, Food Blogga has several hundred of them that have been submitted by bloggers and bakers across the country for previous "Eat Christmas Cookies" events. Here are links to the 2007 round-up, the 2008 round-up, and the 2009 round-up. From Italian pizzelle to German Spritz cookies, you'll find absolutely every type of cookie imaginable!

baking 2

10 Tips for Baking, Storing, and Freezing Cookies

1. Before you begin baking, make sure you have all requisite ingredients as well as baking utensils, pans and parchment paper (lots of parchment paper). Baking requires precision, so it's a good idea to use the exact ingredients specified in a recipe rather than make substitutions that can adversely affect both texture and flavor.

2. In general, cookie dough should be mixed by hand or with an electric hand mixer. Over mixing can lead to tough cookies. Stir in ingredients such as chocolate chips, nuts, and dried fruits by hand.

3. Use sturdy, aluminum baking sheets with or without a rim. Skip greasing the sheets and line them with parchment paper instead. This helps the cookies bake more evenly, makes it easier to slide them onto a cooling rack and allows for quick clean-up.

4. Always preheat the oven. Space cookies at least 2 inches apart; even cookies that don't spread a lot need their space to bake evenly. If your first sheet of cookies spread too much, then chill the remaining cookie dough in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before baking.

5. If possible, bake one sheet of cookies at a time. This allows the oven’s heat to circulate evenly and prevents cookies from becoming too browned on the bottom. If you must bake more than one sheet at a time, then place sheets in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and rotate mid-way through. Never place cookies on a hot baking sheet as they will spread; either let the sheet cool or run it under cold water before re-using it.

6. Unless otherwise noted, transfer cookies immediately to a cooling rack. Just slide the parchment paper with the cookies on it directly onto the rack. Cookies will firm up a bit as they cool. Allow them to cool completely before frosting.

7. Make sure cookies are cooled completely before storing. Metal tins keep cookies crisper and firmer than plastic containers.

8. Store soft cookies like macaroons in a separate container from hard cookies like biscotti. Otherwise, you’ll end up with all soft cookies.

9. Layer cookies between sheets of waxed or parchment paper to maintain freshness and to prevent them from sticking together. Sturdy cookies such as biscotti can be stored without the paper. Use the same storing principles when giving gifts of cookies. Festive decorative tins and cellophane bags are both attractive and practical.

10. Most types of cookie dough can be frozen raw then baked later, though drier cookie dough such as shortbread freezes better. Place formed cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 1 hour. Place cookies in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. There is no need to thaw them; just add a few minutes to the baking time. To freeze baked cookies, place them in single layers separated by sheets of waxed or parchment paper and store in a freezer-proof, air-tight container. Baked cookies can be frozen for up to 6 months and should be defrosted on the counter top before serving.

Oh, and don't forget to leave some cookies for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Next to Cookie Monster, no one loves cookies more than old Saint Nick.

Where Is Santa?

Photo credits: FCC, Sponsellicathyse97, conniefoggles.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Great Cookbooks for Holiday Gifts

There are some people who are so cool, you just wish you could be friends with them. You know what I’m talking about. Is there a woman alive who didn’t want to be friends with Carrie Bradshaw during her heyday? And she wasn’t even real.

Well, guys (and gals) get ready for the best friend you’ll ever have. How do I know he’ll be your best friend? Because he just wrote the book, Brewed Awakening: Behind the Beers and Brewers Leading the World’s Craft Brewing Revolution.

Please meet author and resident cool guy,
Josh Bernstein. With his easy, conversational tone and deep knowledge of all things beer, Bernstein makes Brewed Awakening a fun read for all beer lovers, from newbies to connoisseurs.

You'll learn
 how hops, grain, and yeast work, where to travel for killer craft beer weeks, and how to pair beer with food, which Bernstein affectionately calls, "brew and chew." You'll also be entertained with tales of cutting-edge craft brewing and discover 150 craft beers you need to try. There's a hefty section on home brewing, and if you visit Bernstein in Brooklyn, NY where he resides, you can even take a home brew tour with him.

As a beer-lover I was intrigued by the section entitled, "Women in Brewing." Did you know that ancient Sumerian and Egyptian women commonly brewed beer at home? Or that females are more sensitive to the different layers of flavor in beer? Or that there are gal-friendly beer groups such as Girls Pint Out with chapters in Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, and Texas? That's right, ladies. 
Put your pinot grigio aside, and get crafty with beer.

So if you’ve got a beer enthusiast on your holiday gift list, (everyone does, right?), then get him or her a copy of Josh Bernstein’s Brewed Awakening. And while you’re at it, throw is a six-pack. 

Need more holiday gift book ideas? Several cookbook author friends of mine and I have gotten together to share these great cookbooks for holiday gifts. Below is a blurb about each book, but if you click on the link, you'll be sent to a full post with a recipe. Have fun on your culinary travels, and let me know what you find!

100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love
By Jill Silverman Hough

Chock-full of delicious, creative, and easy-to-make recipes for everyday cooks, 100 Perfect Pairings makes food and wine pairing easy and approachable. With recipes organized into twelve chapters by wine variety, simply turn to the chapter for the wine you want to serve, make any of the entrees you find there, and enjoy it with your wine. It’s that easy. Be it Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir, a big dinner party or a simple meal with friends, “100 Perfect Pairings” promises wonderful recipes that make every pairing, well, perfect!

Jill Silverman Hough is a cookbook author, food and wine writer, recipe developer, and culinary instructor whose forte is making food and cooking simple yet special. On Jill’s blog: Tortilla Soup from Almost Meatless

By Joy Manning & Tara Mataraza Desmond

Ideal for today's conscientious carnivores, Almost Meatless is a timely new book featuring 60+ tasty recipes that go light on the meat.  Without compromising flavor or protein, these dishes maximize health benefits while minimizing the grocery bill and impact on the planet.

Co-author Tara Mataraza Desmond is a writer, cookbook author and recipe developer focused on food for health and wellness, pregnancy and parenthood.

On Tara’s blog: Yogurt Chicken with Yogurt Chutney Sauce from 100 Perfect Pairings

By Patricia Tanumihardja

Asian grandmothers—whether of Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, or Indian descent— are keepers of the cultural, and culinary, flame. Their mastery of delicious home-cooked dishes and comfort food makes them the ideal source for this cookbook. The 130 tantalizing dishes assembled in this tome comprise hearty food, brightly flavored, and equally good to look at and eat. Plus, all the recipes are translated to work in modern home kitchens.

Pat Tanumihardja is a food and travel writer currently based in the Washington, D.C. metro area and blogs at
On Pat’s blog: Chickpea Curry with Tomato and Mango from Roz Cummin’s blog.

By Joshua M. Bernstein

Brewed Awakening is Joshua M. Bernstein’s definitive take on the craft beer revolution. The book is the deeply reported story of the wild innovations and passions driving craft beer, focusing on the tales of the risk-taking brewers, bar owners and the dedicated beer drinkers across the globe. There’s a story in every pint glass, and Brewed Awakening gives voice to each one.

Josh Bernstein is a Brooklyn-based beer, spirits, food, travel and bicycling (phew!) journalist, as well as an occasional tour guide. 
On Josh’s blog: The Jucy Lucy Burger from The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

By Susan Russo

How do you keep a Dagwood from toppling over? How did the Hero get its name? And who invented the French Dip? Discover these answers and more in The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches—a chunky little cookbook dedicated to everything between sliced bread. You'll find recipes for every sandwich imaginable along with fascinating regional and historical trivia. From the humble Sloppy Joe to the chic Nutella sandwich, from the iconic Po 'Boy to the fresh-faced donut sandwich, The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches will satiate sandwich connoisseurs everywhere.

Susan Russo is a San Diego-based cookbook author, blogger (Food Blogga), and freelance writer specializing in food and lifestyle. 

By Andrea Lynn

The ultimate one-stop shopping guide, The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook finally offers starving college students a welcome relief from fast food fiascos. Designed to help shoppers recognize the best finds and reap the fruits of Trader Joe’s smart buyers, many recipes utilize TJ’s signature products to create unique meals like olive focaccia, frito pie, pulled-pork sliders, and fish tacos, among other things.

Andrea Lynn is a NYC-based food writer and recipe developer who has tasted almost every product Trader Joe's has to offer. On Andrea’s blog: Ravioli Lasagna and Baked Macaroni with Ricotta, Spinach and Mint from Parents Need to Eat Too

By Debbie Koenig

Give a new parent the gift of sanity! Parents Need to Eat Too makes it easy for new moms and dads to take care of themselves as well as they're caring for baby. Every recipe has been tested by a group of more than 100 moms, and every recipe also includes instructions for turning that dish into baby food. The book goes on sale in February, but author Debbie Koenig has created a special holiday offer, available now: She'll send a free signed, custom-made bookplate and holiday card to anyone who pre-orders the book as a gift.
Debbie Koenig is a Brooklyn-based food and parenting writer and blogs at Words to Eat ByOn Debbie’s blog: Olive Focaccia from The I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook

By Roz Cummins

Roz Cummins is a Boston-based food writer who specializes in sustainability. She also loves tea and baking. She has worked as an editor, a teacher, and an arts administrator. She is currently working on an e-book called Golden Afternoons: The Official Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of Ladies' Afternoon Tea. Visit her website:

On Roz’s blog: Steamed Meatballs with Tangerine Peel from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook