All posts in Recipes

Currently Loving: DRAM Apothecary

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Since returning to arid Santa Clarita, I have longed for the whispery embrace of deep forests and dense fog. I look for it everywhere — in photographs, in novels, in a patch of shade found along a parched hiking trail. That is why I was ecstatic when I discovered DRAM Apothecary — a Colorado-based herbal apothecary owned and operated by alchemist Shae Whitney.

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Yes, you heard right. Shae is an alchemist — fresh herbs, tinted elixirs, amber glass bottles, the whole lot. She forages and handcrafts bitters, teas and syrups in a small heritage building nestled in the historic ghost town of Silver Plume, Colorado.

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As evidenced by the charming sign, the DRAM flagship was once a bakery. The building attracts Colorado locals and hiking enthusiasts who gather in DRAM’s sun-filled quarters for a quick afternoon getaway before heading out for Colorado’s many hiking trails and ski slopes. DRAM offers a seasonally changing cocktail menu composed of local craft spirits, nourishing herbal syrups and Colorado craft beer to send them on their way.

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I was recently gifted a beautiful amber bottle of DRAM Pine Syrup. Not being a huge fan of spirits, I decided to infuse it in homemade ice cream. Life was never the same again. Only a small dose was needed to bring the thick cream to life with the essence of evergreen forests and brisk mountain air.

Please do note that I used an ice cream maker for this recipe — however, there are several ways to make ice cream at home without using a clunky machine.

Homemade Mountain Pine Ice Cream (Serves 8)

What You’ll Need:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups half & half
1/2 cup raw cane sugar
1/4 cup DRAM Pine Syrup

Directions:

  • For the ice cream mixture: combine all ingredients into a medium saucepan. Gently stir over medium heat. Bring mixture barely to a simmer.
  • Remove from heat. Pour ice cream mixture into a bowl.
  • Chill in the fridge until cold, about 30-40 minutes.
  • Churn according to the directions on your ice cream maker.
Photo Credit: Tremper Design / The Denizen Co.

Lemon Garlic Chicken Soup with Healing Herbs

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It was 4am in Edinburgh. The hostel was unusually quiet for a Saturday night, save for the bleary-eyed transient in the sitting room mumbling to himself while eagerly peeling a hard boiled egg. “It calms my nerves,” he said as he tossed the uneaten egg into the trash and reached into a dirty ziplock bag for another. “Take it easy, Sharky” I said as I walked into the empty communal kitchen.

For the first time ever, the kitchen looked spotless. No green mouldy bread on the counter, no cigarette butts in the sink. The mismatched coffee cups were lined neatly on the plywood shelf, the silver polished and placed neatly in their drawers. “What the hell happened here?” I blurted out. “Oh, Amy came back. She made all the regulars clean up the place. You should have seen the look on her face,” replied Sharky.

“Well, that’ll do just fine,” I said as I smugly poured myself a cuppa and curled up at the corner table. The air hung perfectly still. I could feel the sweet September chill seep in through the floorboards and tickle my toes. I reached for the smelly army surplus blanket. Sharky got up to smoke a cigarette. For the first time in months, I was physically – genuinely – alone.

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It’d been a tough couple of weeks. I was nursing some kind of vague, adolescent heartbreak. Was it a boy? Was it my family? Was it the fact that I hadn’t seen a familiar face in months and it was finally starting to break me? I don’t remember. They haven’t really stopped since – these periodical bouts of depression. Every once in a while, I still fall into the same lonely trance as I did that quiet evening in Edinburgh, in that empty communal kitchen.

That night, I cooked until the sun came up. I pulled out the pots and pans that had been stacked up neatly and spread them all over the freshly cleaned stove top. I chopped vegetables like a madwoman and undid bundles and bundles of fresh herbs, leaving the kitchen smelling like a botanical garden. I made a giant pot of chicken soup for anyone else who might have been feeling down and out, for another lonely traveler who was starting to realize that sometimes, this lifestyle doesn’t set you free – instead, it scalds you and hardens you and leaves you feeling scared and cowardly than ever before. That a journey outward is almost always a journey inward – and at times, during nights like these, you realize that all of this selfish meandering is nothing more than a slow and painful deliberation of your lonely existence in the world.

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This soup is dedicated to those who have been feeling a bit undone lately, to those who can use a little healing and nourishment to ease back into the daily rhythm of their lives. I’ve had a bit of a taxing week, one of those cry-your-eyes-out existential crisis kind of weeks, and my very first instinct was to recreate the soup that I had feverishly concocted that cold September night in Edinburgh. Aside from the silky, heartwarming chicken broth, this soup is packed with a variety of healing herbs, many of which have been hailed since ancient times for their profound abilities to purify the blood and nourish the soul.

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Lemon Garlic Chicken Soup with Healing Herbs

What You’ll Need:

1 cup cubed onion
1 cup coarsely chopped mushrooms (I used a combination of brown and crostini mushrooms)
1 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cups water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast

Directions:

  • Heat oil in a pot over medium heat.
  • Add minced garlic and onions, stirring frequently until translucent, 7-8 minutes.
  • Add water, mushrooms, celery and chicken breast. Bring to a boil.
  • Stir in rosemary, cilantro, and parsley.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 50-80 minutes.
  • Add the lemon juice and sea salt. Simmer for another 10 minutes before serving.
Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

For the Winter Months: Pepper Jack Cottage Pie

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There is nothing quite like cottage pie. After all, it’s a heartening marriage of two go-to comfort foods – beef and mashed potatoes – sandwiched in a single pot and slowly baked to perfection. What more can one ask for? Last night, I decided to add a sexy twist to this winter classic by substituting cheddar with a block of pepper jack and adding Russian garlic to the mashed potatoes. Death by happiness.

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Pepper Jack Cottage Pie (Serves 6)

What You’ll Need:

4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1/4 cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese
salt and pepper to taste
5 carrots, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ketchup
3/4 cup beef broth
1 clove Russian garlic, crushed
1/4 cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese

Directions:

  • Boil potatoes in salted water until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain and mash. Mix in butter, crushed garlic, finely chopped onion and 1/4 cup pepper jack cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.
  • Boil carrots in salted water and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain, mash and set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add onion and cook until clear. Add ground beef and cook until well browned. Pour off excess fat, then stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add ketchup and beef broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Spread the ground beef in an even layer on the bottom of a 2 quart casserole dish. Next, spread a layer of mashed carrots. Top with the mashed potato mixture and sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

 
 

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

Breakfast for Dinner: Pesto Risotto with Sundried Tomato

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There is nothing more glorious than slow, Sunday mornings. I love letting the pale sun lure me out of the covers. I love being hugged by the aroma of dark roast coffee. I love having the time to cook a mean breakfast, complete with wholesome carbs and a heaping dose of TLC.

In fact, I love Sunday breakfasts so much that sometimes, I like to replicate them for dinner during the weekdays. Especially on those days when nothing seems to go right, when Lady Luck has seemingly turned her back on you – that’s when I like to sit down in my pajamas, wrap myself up in a cozy blanket and eat Sunday breakfast for dinner whilst relishing in the fact that these last remaining hours of the day are, in fact, mine.

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With a full heart, I present you with a most flavourful breakfast-for-dinner candidate: Pesto Risotto with Sundried Tomato. The pesto will surely whet the appetite as the creamy risotto melts your troubles away. If you wish to get into the true ‘breakfast’ spirit, top it off with a fried egg.

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Pesto Risotto with Sundried Tomato (Serves 4)

What You’ll Need:

1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
3 table spoons homemade or store-bought pesto
1/4 cup grated mozzarella
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • In a medium saucepan, bring the broth and water to a simmer.
  • In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat and add the onion. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the rice to the pot and stir until it begins to turn opaque, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until the wine has been absorbed.
  • Add the sun-dried tomatoes and about 1/2 cup of the simmering broth to the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until the broth has been completely absorbed.
  • Continue cooking the rice, adding broth 1/2 cup at a time and allowing the rice to absorb the broth before adding the next 1/2 cup. Cook the rice in this way until tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Stir in the salt, pepper, pesto, and mozzarella. Serve the risotto with additional mozzarella.

 
 

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.

For the Winter Months: Triple Mushroom Cream Soup

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Winter is the season of waning suns and dying leaves, of plants and animals succumbing to the laws of nature. Winter is the season when the glimmers of life slowly cultivated during the spring and summer months are abruptly taken and returned back to the earth. Winter was when I experienced homelessness. Winter was when I longed for a familiar face in a foreign country. Winter was when I experienced my first heartbreak. To me, winter is a season that requires extra care and nourishment to restore the body and replenish the soul.

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With a full heart, I present to you the Triple Mushroom Cream Soup. It is a most indulgent dish stocked rich with flavours from white onion, Russian garlic and three different types of mushrooms. Some say it is so flavourful, it could count as a meal in itself. I recommend it served with a light side dish, such as an arugula salad or a piece of sourdough bread.

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Triple Mushroom Cream Soup (Serves 6)

What You’ll Need:

8 ounces fresh mushrooms, three varieties (I used a combination of brown mushrooms, chanterelle mushrooms, and cauliflower mushrooms for added texture.)
2 tablespoons white onion, chopped
1-2 cloves Russian garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 tablespoons flour, separated
2 cups chicken broth, low sodium or home made
1 cup light cream or half cup sour cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Cut the mushrooms into slices.
  • Melt butter in a large sauce pan. Add in onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Cook until onions are soft.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of flour and stir.
  • Add the chicken broth and heat until slightly thickened while stirring frequently.
  • Add cream with additional 1 table spoon of flour and salt to taste. Heat to thicken while stirring frequently.
  • Garnish with sprig of rosemary or freshly ground pepper.

 
 

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Photo Credit: The Denizen Co.