Smoked Salmon Appetizer

Today I am keeping it as simple as can be. I'm sharing one of my favorite go-to snacks or in-a-rush appetizers. A perfect bite for a busy holiday season.

Perhaps it's a product of growing up in the Northwest where salmon is king (figuratively and literally), but there is something so simple yet elegant about this delightful coral fleshed fish. One of my favorite ways to nosh down on salmon is smoked. Thick hunks of wood smoked salmon are sold just about everywhere here, and each bite packs a hefty smokey punch with a dense but delicate texture. I often find myself fishing small bits out of the plastic package and tossing it into my mouth as if it were popcorn.

When I muster the strength to put my favorite cured fish down long enough to make it into a snack this is one of my favorites. Within minutes I've got a creamy, crunchy, bright, smokey little snack with the power to satisfy even the most serious of snack-attacks. Flax seed crackers are coated with a light spread of whipped cream cheese, dusted with minced sweet red onion, perhaps a caper or two, then crowned with one serious chunk of smoked salmon, and finished off with a sprinkle of lemon zest. The flavors of the northwest explode and come together beautifully in a dish that is perfect for an unexpected guest, perhaps paired with a cold glass of pinot gris.

Smoked Salmon Appetizer

golden plum.

I adore surprises. And presents. The simpler the better. It doesn't take a lot to put a smile on my face, or in my heart. A bouquet of handpicked wildflowers, a jar of backyard honey, or a worn paper sack brimming with harvested fruit from a parents garden. These plums were the latter. One of my most cherished of friends, who lives most of her life Portland (dreaming of Bellingham), surprised me with an impromptu last minute visit this week. She came bouncing through my front door, laughter on her tongue, a wide smile on her face, carrying a soft brown paper bag full of produce from her parents garden. As I unrolled it's crumpled crown and peered inside I was greeted by what appeared to be, sunshine. Globes of golden light. 'My Dad insisted I bring a bag of golden plums from our tree in the backyard', she sang out. What lovely treasures these were. Before I knew it, my darling husband devoured two, three, then four plums. I had to stop him, or within the hour the entire bag of golden treasure would have been completely gone. I knew such a gift needed to be, in part, incorporated into some delightful treat. Don't get me wrong I believe eating fresh, perfectly grown fruit, is a treat unto itself - but rare is the opportunity I get such a delightful gift. So after a few days of hungrily gobbling down on it's fresh flesh I decided it was time to do something end-of-summer-worthy with our leftover lovely little golden plums.

jasmine + golden plum iced tea.

Inspired by a friends recent trip to Victoria, British Columbia, where she enjoyed a cocktail infused with early grey (or was it another black tea?) it dawned on me, I had an incredibly floral Jasmine from Japan patiently sitting in my tea cupboard, and some vanilla bean studded brown sugar in my sugar jar. So I set out to create a fruity, floral, smoky summer sip. An ode to such a thoughtful, surprise of a gift. I made a simple syrup with the leftover plums, brewed jasmine, and my brown sugar concoction. Once it was all stewed and strained I was ready to pour it over a tall glass of ice. Topped off with a splash of sparkling water, it was the perfect, uncommon party on my tastebuds I'd hoped for. . . Sure it's not the most tantalizing of colors, it hardly compares to the stone fruit it originates from, but it is surely delicious. Floral, smokey, sour and sweet. It couldn't get better than that. Bathe in the sunshine, and sip it - relish these late summer evenings friends. They are coming to an end. The falling leaves, and crisp evenings remind us so.

Golden Plum Simple Syrup

Ingredients: 

- 4 super ripe golden plums
- 4 Tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tsp scraped vanilla bean 
- 2 cups water
- 2 T high quality loose leaf jasmine tea

Directions: 

- Pit plums and mix all ingredients in a copper lined pot. Simmer into a thin syrup.
- Strain plum and jasmine solids out with fine mesh sieve. 
- Pour an ounce or two over ice, top with sparkling water and whatever accoutrement suits your fancy (a fresh tarragon or rosemary sprig perhaps?) 
- Enjoy - either watching a salmon colored sunset, or lightning laden grey sky - you never know what you're going to get come the end summer here in the northwest. . .

jasmine + golden plum iced tea.

mimosa coffee cake.

I lied. This isn't quite a crumb or coffee cake. It's more like a generally delightful yellow cake spiked with champagne and topped with a bit of cinnamon oat crunch. I feel this cake would have benefited from swirls of irresistible cinnamon goo. An element I will be sure to add the next time I bake up this Sunday morning treat. 

mimosa coffee cake.

The flavors are all here. Bursts of bright orange zest mingling with the bubbly bite of prosecco, all mixed up into a soft yellow cake and crowned with an earthy oat, brown sugar and orange zested crumb. Surely nothing to turn ones nose up at on a grey Sunday morning.

Mimosa Coffee Cake
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adapted from Martha Stewart's NY Crumb Cake

Cake 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup champagne
2 teaspoons cara cara orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Prepare a 9x9 baking dish with a bit oil or butter and a light dusting of flour. 

2. Sift dry ingredients together; flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. In a small bowl whisk the egg, zest, and vanilla well. Pour champagne into this mixture and whisk lightly to combine.

4. Gently fold wet ingredients into dry using a rubber spatula. Pour batter into prepared baking dish. Top with crumble (below). 

5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating half way through to prevent crumble burn.


Crumble
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cara cara orange zest
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

1. In a medium bowl combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and orange zest. 

2. Pour melted butter over dry ingredients and stir (I like to use my hands for this) until you get a good crumbly texture. 

3. Sprinkle over cake batter.

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Devour, alongside a giant pot of piping hot dark coffee, or perhaps a glass of a champagne.


mimosa coffee cake.
backyard jenga.

Prepare yourselves.

Prepare yourselves for the amazingness that is giant backyard Jenga. Prepare yourselves to view way too many photos of it (because it's just that cool). Prepare to question how your summers ever existed without this fantastic, yet oh-so simple to create game. Prepare to be blown away.

backyard jenga.

You need three simple things to make this game a part of your life:

1.)  5  2x3 boards (stud sized planks) - we bought ours from Home Depot at $2.29 a piece.

2.) A table saw, or other wood cutting appropriate machine (some stores may even cut it for you).

3.) Medium grit sand paper.

I know, right? For under $20 this giant block of fun can be yours too. Imagine how impressed your friends will be, and with something that took so little cash and time to create. I mean, seriously, can you think of a better backyard barbecue game?

And here's the best part, I'm about to do all the math for you. All you need to do is mark, with a pen or pencil, every 8 inches on each board. You'll get 12 pieces from one board, for a total of 60 giant Jenga pieces. Cut straight through at each mark, then sand all the edges nice and smooth. Viola! You. Are. Done. What'd I tell you, the easiest, no?!

backyard jenga.

Now get to stacking. 3 pieces at a time, alternating direction for each layer (as seen above). That's it.
And you're ready to play.  .  .  .

backyard jenga.


backyard jenga.

backyard jenga.

backyard jenga.

backyard jenga.

backyard jenga.

backyard jenga.

backyard jenga.

backyard jenga.


backyard jenga.


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I adore May. In May we truly begin to emerge from our winter shells here in the Northwest. Even on it's first day, May brings promises of long evenings, sun filled skies, and air heavy with the sweet scent of blossoms budding. The rains have gone, and with them the dark dreary days of winter have finally passed. While all that is positively delightful, there is another reason I so look forward to the beginning of this marvelous month, Cinco de Mayo. Any excuse to sear cumin spiced meat over hot coals, dip salty crisp corn chips in vegetable studded avocado, and sip tequila spiked with fresh lime is a day to look forward to in my book. This year Cinco de Mayo falls on a Sunday, a Sunday that, according to the weatherman, is going to reach nearly 80 degrees. This is nothing short of a miracle in my little corner of the world. Considering I've celebrated many a fourth of July with temperatures in the 60's, a truly warm, sunny Cinco de Mayo is even more reason to rejoice and celebrate - and what better way to kick things off than with a perfect margarita.

I've tried tequila every which way and I've come to the conclusion that you just can't go wrong. Palomas, with their distinctive mix of grapefruit and lime are delightful. Straight up with a Corona chaser, brilliant. And you can rarely go wrong with just about any form of margarita. For this version, I created a simple twist on the classic mix of lime and tequila by adding a splash of rose simple syrup to the mix. The combination of tart lime, peppery agave, and sweet floral rose is quite unexpected but simply perfect for Spring.

So don your favorite sundress, soak up that sunshine, breathe in those savory fumes tumbling off your barbecue and mingling with the scent of your neighbors freshly cut grass - and enjoy the first few sips of this delightful little margarita.


ROSE + LIME MARGARITA

serves 2

- 4 oz or 1/2 cup 100% agave silver tequila
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 2 ounces rose simple syrup

Stir all ingredients into a small pitcher, pour over two glasses filled with liberal amounts of ice.

ROSE SIMPLE SYRUP

- 1 cup sugar
- 1 water
- 1/3 cup rose water (can be found at Mediterranean markets)

Mix water and sugar in a small heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and stir in rose water. Cool before use. I store my leftovers in a small sealed ball jar in the refrigerator.



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hendricks

Cocktail hour in our little grey house is a ritual unto itself. A ritual I relish in, each and every part of the process. It begins with choosing our musical stylings for the evening, which is matched to either the mood in the house, or whatever will go best with our evenings sips and nibbles. As the music wafts out from the large old speakers in living room I begin to prep the space. First, I fill and light the numerous candle holders in the kitchen, being sure not to forget about plugging in the vintage grey and navy dress form in the corner of the kitchen, whose heavy metal base is covered in little white twinkling lights. Between her and the candlelight we're provided the perfect cocktail hour glow. Once the house is bathed in music and candlelight I move onto picking out my glasses and dishware for the evening. Sometimes I know exactly what I want to use, others I just stand in front of our heavy midcentury hutch, eyes scanning, just waiting for the perfect pair of glasses or enamel bowls to grab me. And they always do.  

candle light

Then I move onto prepping in the kitchen. Ice fills our cocktail shaker, plates are set out, glasses readied, garnishes and ingredients prepped. Alcohol poured over ice, shaken with a soft linen towel so fingers won't stick to the icy metal exterior - then poured, equally split, into their respective glasses. The sound of ice shifting, liquid rushing through the strainer. Glasses clinking. Then, that first perfectly cold sip. A moment that's been anticipated since the first tealight was lit. At this point, the husband and I take our respective seats around the kitchen table, nibbles and cards sat in front of us. Cocktail hour begins. Talking, laughing, sipping, noshing, shuffling cards, winners and losers, all in the glow of a music filled kitchen. For me, this is life at it's simplest and it's best. 

It's fitting then, that we really kick things off here at A Feasted Life with the cocktail hour series. Each 'cocktail hour' post will feature a different cocktail and a simple little nibble on the side, with a game or music pairing thrown in the mix. This little tradition of ours is a morsel of life I absolutely adore. It's the perfect excuse to turn off the computer, the television, leave work at work - sit and enjoy one another over a delightful sip and nosh. To me it harkens to simpler times, and you'll come to realize, I'm simpler times number one fan.

I wanted to start the series with my hands down favorite cocktail, ever. Trust me, you shouldn't be taking that statement lightly. I love a good cocktail, and I'm quite fond of many, but this one takes the cake.

The Bees Knees.

The name itself is devestatingly charming, no?  

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It's a straightforward libation with only three ingredients required. The most important element to this drink is that you prepare it with the absolute highest quality ingredients. This will make a world of difference in your experience. I'm a firm believer there is no reason to drink, or eat for that matter, if you're not going to use the best ingredients, and this lovely little drink is proof of that. First, the Gin. Hendricks is the only Gin for this girl. Truly small batch Gin made in Scotland, with strong notes of rose and cucumber. Floral, herbal, and fresh. No other top shelf Gin even comes close to comparing to the complexity and love that goes into a bottle of Hendricks. Second, the honey. Just as important as the Gin. My favorite without a doubt, particularly for this drink, is Black Sage Honey. It's sweet, with a distinctive woodsy smoke to it. This compliments the flavors of the gin, and bite of the tart lemon incredibly well. As for the lemon? Well, just be sure they're heavy and full of juice!

iced

Those shards of ice floating around the top of a just poured cocktail are the signs of a well shaken drink, and a downright delight to sip on. With that in mind, I wanted to experiment in making this particular batch of bees knees all sorts of icy. With sno-cones on the brain but not sno-cone machine, I put some ice in my food processor and viola! Instant snow! Pretty incredible. Scooping a few tablespoons of snow into each glass, I then shook up the bees knees and poured it atop the piles of white ice. It made for a perfectly cold, ice-shard heavy libation. Thinner than a blended drink, but icier than a shaken one. Perfection.


fini

The Bees Knees
serves two

4 ounces Hendricks (room temperature)
1 Tablespoon Black Sage Honey
2 ounces fresh squeezed lemon juice

1. Mix all of your ingredients in an ice free shaker and stir gently until the honey has all but dissolved.
2. Fill shaker with ice, and shake vigorously.
3. Pour into glass and sip away! 

bon mamman jam

Now, onto the nosh. While sipping a freshly shaken cocktail is definitely a treat alone, it's nice to round out a cocktail hour at home with a little bite. I like to keep it uncomplicated when my goal is to sit, sip, and enjoy the company of my husband or guests. Which is why this little nosh has become one of my go-to's. It's three simple components, just like the drink, and I've yet to meet a person who didn't enjoy it. Rosemary raisin cracker crisps, sharp chive and onion studded cotswold cheddar, and a little dollop of apricot preserve. It delights the tastebuds with it's crunch, bite, salty, sweet and nutty flavors. The best part? All you need to do is put our a jar, a spoon, a hunk of cheese and a smattering of crackers. Viola! An instant lovely little nibble, with no work involved. 

Diptic

For a wonderfully rounded out cocktail hour at home I suggest you pair the bees knees, your crackers and candlelight with the musical stylings of Duke Ellington or Edith Piaf and a nice deck of cards.

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Chin chin, friends! 



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Weekend mornings are sacred in the 1313 household. Sundays even more so. They're guaranteed days off. No work. No school. No worries. The only things to bother with are which comfy pants to wear all day. Coffee or tea. Cream or black. What to make for dinner. Movies on Netflix, tv catchup on Hulu or maybe gameboards in the kitchen. Life is good come Sunday morning.

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My favorite part of Sunday morning? Breakfast. It doesn't matter if it's something as simple as warm croissants from the little french bakery down the road dripping with soft butter and apricot preserves, or, homemade eggs bennie. I love it all. Throw in a newspaper, some caffeine, a few candles and some soft sunday music and I'm as happy as a little northwest clam in salty ocean waters.

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So, what in the world could be better than a lazy Sunday morning at home? Well, a sunday morning on a relaxing vacation, of course! Case in point, our recent New Years trip to Iron Springs Resort in Copalis Beach here in Washington. A family trip in celebration of my mothers recent wedding. Iron Springs has a lot going for it (more on that in later posts), but one of the most surprising was it's quaint general store at the entrance of the resort. This store houses just about anything you could ever want or need, from cold medicine to beechers macaroni and cheese (oh yes, I just typed that, beechers macaroni and cheese) - they also offer these lovely little tinfoil rounds filled to the brim with soft, gooey, chewy cinnamon rolls, in honor of the original resort proprietor Olive Little. Out of that quaint little general store, Olive used to serve up her famous homemade cinnamon rolls, alongside a pot of chili. When guests arrived Olive wouldn't ask if you wanted cinnamon rolls, she only inquired, 'how many'? It was befitting then that we buy a batch, now made in Seattle bakery and shipped over to the resort, for breakfast our first morning. Be warned, they do not come with the lovely homemade vanilla bean cream cheese frosting you see pictured here. That my friends, was stolen from leftover wedding cake my mom had packed along with her and her new husband. It was so worth robbing that chunk of white wedding cake of it's silky frosting coat, because it took these beautiful cinnamon rolls from good, to incredible.

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You must let these little rolls rise, on the counter or in the oven overnight. So we left them at my mothers cabin, knowing we only had one good nights sleep to wait until we were able to enjoy their goodness. Come morning, the husband and I threw on our Sunday finest of sweaters, long johns, flannels and boots, and with the pugs in tow headed down to my mothers cabin. There we drank black coffee next to the fire, while we watched the ocean roar and the sandpipers deedle along the edge of the surf, as we all (dogs included) patiently waited for those little cinnamon gems to bake up nice and slow.

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As the air thickened with the smell of cinnamon and pastry, we knew the moment for breakfast was soon at hand. With the impending meal upon us, more black coffee was poured and little maple pork sausage links were carefully fried up to a golden brown perfection. We each took our seats around the heavy wooden slab of a table, dogs laying about at our feet (jealous no doubt) and served up what we had all been eagerly awaiting the entire morning.

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Olive knew her stuff. Cinnamon rolls were the little crown jewel of these cozy oceanfront cabins, roaring fires, and lazy mornings. After breakfast, we spent hours exploring the beach, dogs in tow. Which left me wondering, could a sunday morning be any lovelier?

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Welcome

welcome to a feasted life. a place to savor all the delicious morsels this life has to offer. from a scrumptious plate of food, to an intoxicating handcrafted libation. a splendid soiree, to an arousing adventure on the road. it's the little details in life that make it so worth feasting upon. follow me, as I devour and share all the little pleasures this life has to offer.

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