We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Linda's Cuba Libre Cocktail

by Linda

"There's naught, no doubt, so much the spirit calms as rum and true religion."
                                                                                       ~Lord Byron

   As we enter into our fifth year of writing Salvation Sisters, we sisters agreed that we would begin 2014 with our now established "tradition" of publishing a cocktail recipe on the last Sunday of the year. For the last several years, I have shared a recipe for one of my concoctions to celebrate ringing in the New Year.
   Among we sisters, I am the sister who is known as the cocktail maker... well, I take that back since Juliette can lay claim to the title because she actually was a professional bartender in her fairly recent past. While I have never made drinks to earn a living,  I do have a definite "penchant" (said by me with a French accent) for experimenting with cocktails at home and on the road. Michelle even refers to me as "The Transporter", because I am in favor of taking cocktails to go, such as our Strawberry Lemon Drop. At home, I love to experiment making various cocktails like my signature Cosmo, The Fort Bragg Blossom, our Fragolino Martini and my Blood Orange Cosmo inspired by a Sistercation in Las Vegas. Upon reflectionour very first post was written by Michelle about our Pineapple Martini, a.k.a "Happy Juice". This was a recipe that evolved from a famous Hawaiian restauranteur, but I had a desire to make it using real vanilla bean and no added sugar.

   So why am I doing a post on a rum and coke cocktail you might ask, since it would seem that there is little left to say on the matter involving such a basic cocktail? Perhaps it is because this classic cocktail evokes images of balmy nights, now that I am in the midst of Winter here in Northern California (I know, I can hear the collective gasps of disgust from those of you from much colder climes). However, cold happens to be what you are acclimated to, and to me, several weeks of nights this past December in the teens constitutes cold! So, here is a toast to Summer, which thankfully is returning, and I do in fact, have a few tips to share for making what I consider to be the best rum and coke ever.
   Happy New Year from the Salvation Sisters! Linda, Juliette and Michelle

Number One: Choose really good rum. I am a fan of Bacardi® Select. It is a premium crafted rum and it tastes better without the huge price tag.

Number Two: I am in the camp of those who think that Mexican Coca Cola tastes better. It also does not have HFCS. Maybe it is all in my imagination, but I think beverages made with cane sugar and no aluminum can just taste better.

Number Three: I like dark rum instead of the traditional light rum.

Here is my recipe:

Bacardi® Select Dark Rum
Mexican Coca Cola® in a glass bottle ( I found mine at BevMo, but they can often be found stocked in Mexican restaurants and on taco trucks)
Fresh lime wedges

Start with a tall glass. Add 2 shots of the rum and fill the glass to the top with coke. Add a lime wedge to the rim of the glass for garnish. When ready to drink, squeeze the lime wedge into the drink and drop into the cocktail.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Visiting Tomales Bay, Hog Island Oyster Farm, Shucking Oysters and Mark's Mignonette for Oysters on the Half Shell

My Traveling Tales by Linda

"As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans." 
                                                                         ~ Ernest Hemingway, from a Moveable Feast

My son Jordan + fresh oysters from Hog Island Oyster Farm = ♥ 
   The summer before last, I moved an hour south from my home of Guerneville, California, to the city of Petaluma. As much as I loved the beautiful environs that frame the funky town of Guerneville, with the move to Petaluma I left the isolation and damp of the river town for the many amenities that one can find living in a small city. One such benefit, is being able to be at the Hog Island Oyster Farm in Marshall, by way of a short and scenic thirty minute drive. If you are planning a visit to California's famous Bay Area, Tomales Bay is well worth making the effort to visit.

Tomales Bay, California in Winter. .. stunningly beautiful and pristine.
   This past year, my son Jordan and I took a trip out to Marshall on the day after Christmas. Off we went on a dazzlingly bright winter's day in his very tall truck (yes... the one that I have such a difficult time climbing into) in search of oysters. Jordan was raised in close proximity to the ocean, and now that he lives in a mountain town far from the water, he was looking forward to spending some time on the coast.

  Oyster farming is the main industry on the bay (although the Giacomini family makes amazing cheese just up the road at the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company), and the oysters that grow here have the benefit of maturing to harvesting size in the clear, clean and cold waters of Northern California. Hog Island's Farm has a seating area with a view of the bay, and with the purchase of oysters, they will provide you with a shucking knife and the other accoutrements that you will need to have for the perfect seaside feast. Reservations are required.

The picnic area at Hog Island Oyster Farm in Marshall, California.

The oyster bar known as The Boat on Hog Island Oyster Farm.

   In recent years Hog Island has built an oyster shack which they call The Boat, where one can purchase oysters, barbequed oysters, cheese and the like. You can now order drinks and let the guys or gals behind the counter do the shucking or grilling while you sip on a cold beverage.

The lay of the land and sea.

This is where you catch the valet parking if desired, but there is usually 
plenty of parking on Highway 1.
Lucky me... lunch is on Jordan at Nick's Cove in Marshall. Merry Christmas to Mom!
   Jordan and I picked up our oysters, and stowed them away in an ice chest to take home. We then headed for Nick's Cove on Highway 1 in Marshall to have some lunch. Nick's is a very short distance from Hog Island Oyster Farm, and it is such a scenic place to have lunch or dinner, that it makes it easy to overlook the sometimes uneven service and pricey food. Let's face it... you are paying for that spectacular and tranquil view, also. Nick's does have a nice selection of local wines, and Jordan and I tried out a tasty Sauvignon Blanc from Jus Soli, which we both thought paired well with our fried calamari and Dungeness crab salads.

"Live to Shuck" is their motto at Hog Island Oyster Farm. This shot was taken at the
end of August on a day when no Winter jackets were needed.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Standing Rib Roast (Prime Rib): At Home for the Holidays

by Linda

"The feeling of friendship is like that of being comfortably filled with roast beef; love, like being enlivened with champagne." ~ Samuel Johnson

The roasted and rested roast is ready to have the ribs removed. You can have your butcher
remove them and tie them back on, but this is an easy step to do at the end
(just before serving) and allows for a more moist and more flavorful roast.

   For many years I preferred to serve a Mexican fiesta-inpired meal on Christmas Day. It is still a great choice, and it is not only delicious, but economical if you are planning to serve for a large gathering. Last year was a game changer, though, and I decided it was time for me to cook my first prime rib roast ever. 
   In truth, I was alway a bit intimidated by cooking a standing rib roast. Prime rib has alway been one of my favorite meals to order when dining out, because I never made it at home. That all changed when I met Mark, who was a confident expert at cooking this King of Roasts.
   Prime rib refers to the king of beef cuts, the standing rib roast, “standing” because to cook it, you simply position the roast on its rib bones in the roasting pan, no need for a rack. 

Jordan and Mark in their Christmas morning hats… a present from moi!
Even the Aloe celebrated by blooming at Christmas!
Since my son Jordan was coming for Christmas and loves prime rib, I decided that we should have a go at serving it for dinner on Christmas Day. I purchased a beautiful three rib roast from my local Whole Foods Market. I think it is worth mentioning here, that it is important to know where your beef is coming from and how it is raised before it goes to market. Know your source.
   Most of the research that I have done, suggests purchasing at minimum three ribs. Otherwise, you are just cooking a very thick steak. A good rule of thumb is two servings per rib.

 A cozy fire blazes on Christmas morning.

My son Jordan, a wildland firefighter Captain in the Plumas National Forest, was finally getting some rest and relaxation after a very long fire season had come to an end.

   When the prime rib was cooked to perfection, and we served it up with uncut horseradish, which made Jordan a very happy man, since he thinks adulterated horseradish is an abomination. The sides were mashed potatoes and green beans. Jordan was so happy in fact, with this memorable feast, that he called Mark for the roasting instructions for Thanksgiving brunch at his home this year (dinner of course, was a turkey cooked by Grillmaster Steve and Nolan at their cabin in the woods that evening). Here you go, Jordan, with love from Mom and Mark… instructions at the ready for future celebrations tucked away in your virtual recipe box.

An orb spider gifted us with this beautiful web on our outdoor Christmas tree.

Standing Rib Roast: Prime Rib

Juicy and medium rare goodness… what a holiday treat!

3 bone Prime Rib roast (aprox. 6+ lbs.)
fresh rosemary and thyme
4-5 garlic cloves
salt and pepper
olive oil

2 carrots
2 celery stalks
1 onion
2 bay leaves
1 cup red wine

Bring roast to room temperature (usually takes about 1 1/2 hours on kitchen counter)
Meanwhile, make a wet paste, or rub with the thyme, rosemary, and garlic and a small amount of olive oil. All chopped finely.
Liberally salt and pepper the roast while it is losing its chill. Apply rub all over the roast and cover in plastic wrap.

Mark made a rub from fresh minced garlic, chopped fresh rosemary and thyme. 
Salt and pepper the exterior well.
   While roast is coming up to temp, pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Chop the carrots, celery, and onions  in large dice and then add to a sauté pan over med-high heat with one tablespoon olive oil and the bay leaves. Sauté the vegetables until glossy and slightly cooked.  Put mixture into large roasting pan.
Chopped vegetables provided a base and added flavor for the roast.
   When meat is ready, put roast in the same roasting pan with the fat-side of the roast facing up. When the oven is hot, put the roast in and cook for 20 minutes to sear the outside of the roast. After 20 minutes turn the oven down to 325 degrees, and roast until the desired internal temperature is reached (see guide below). Cook roast for about 20 minutes per pound or until a meat thermometer reads 120-130 degrees for medium rare. Cooking will carry over after removal from the oven. When at correct temperature, remove meat to carving board with a groove to catch any juices that run out.  Cover with foil and a bath towel and rest meat for 20-30 minutes.
   Meanwhile, pour the pan juices through a strainer and keep warm for serving. Check for salt and pepper before using.
   Carving the roast, which should be rosy and still very tender, will need a good carving fork and a long, sharpened carving knife.  Stand the roast with the bones pointing to the ceiling. While secured with the fork, carefully slice down and against the bones to remove them completely. Set aside for those who love to chew on the bones. Then, while slicing through the top, or fat-side, make slices to whatever thickness you desire. Serve with reserved pan juices.

Term (French) DescriptionTemperature range:
Extra-rare or Blue (bleu)very red and cold~ 115–120F
Rare (saignant) cold red center; soft~ 125–130F
Medium rare (à point) warm red center; firmer~ 130–140 °F
Medium (demi-anglais) pink and firm~ 140–150 °F
Medium well (cuit) small amount of pink in the center~ 150–155F
Well done (bien cuit) gray-brown throughout; firm~ 160–212 °F

Allow the roast to sit with foil and a bath towel (heavy weight and not pictured) for 20-25 minutes. This allows the juices to be reabsorbed into the meat and keeps the roast from getting cold.
The "rested" roasted is ready to be sliced. All side dishes should be finished and ready to go.
You will want to catch the juices to serve au jus alongside the roast.

Stand the roast up with the end of the rib bones pointing up. Slice down along the rib bones.
Set rib bones to the side and save for another use or for a guest who would 
like this serving on the bone.
Cut roast into desired width of slices and serve immediately. Don't forget the horseradish!

My Universalist-Unitarian views embrace all traditions. 
A toast to your health and Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Remembrances of Holidays Past and Our Family's Sugar Cookies

The Memory Keepers by Michelle

"Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were." 
                                                                                                          ~Marcel Proust


   Here I sit in a booth upholstered in red faux alligator pleather, inside a popular restaurant in Tucson. A Grammy award winning song by Adele, that I’ve probably heard a million times, blares overhead. I wish I had a buck for each time I’ve listened to it so I could be a millionaire, too. While I sit and wait for my Chicken Pine Nut Gorgonzola Salad to be delivered to my table, I’m experiencing a rare moment alone to sit and think and contemplate the busy month ahead wondering how I’m going to get everything done for the holidays while working full-time. There are presents to buy, meals to plan, bathrooms to clean, floors to mop, seemingly never-ending loads of wash to process and then fold, a tree to decorate, a limping KitchenAid mixer that needs to be fixed or replaced (really bad timing), a dog to groom, parties to attend, a tradeshow to exhibit at, cookies to bake (without a mixer), a play to attend and among other things new music to be discovered and downloaded. (My daughter said that if she has to listen to Pink Martini’s Christmas album one more time she’ll go insane.)

     I remember very fondly the Christmases spent at my Nana and Papa’s posh home in Redlands, California. Their futuristic sixties house, nestled in the hills, featured floor to ceiling windows that beautifully framed the city below and the lights that sparkled at night. The modern kitchen with turquoise counters and black appliances looked like it was inspired by the cartoon The Jetson’s. The refrigerator was three separate mini refrigerators that hung over a work surface. There was a double oven and a bar. The small kitchen dining area overlooked the rose garden. Every Christmas our family would ooh and ahh over Nana’s decorations and meals, and especially her popcorn balls, individually wrapped in plastic wrap and tied with brightly-hued curling ribbons. Nana would always half-jokingly bemoan the effort, and say by way of lament, “I worked my crock off.” I can picture the dismissive waive of her immaculately manicured hands, nails painted brilliant red, diamond rings flashing.


   What I really want this Christmas is to have my grandparents back. I want to enter their sophisticated and familiar house, while I take in the smell of roasting turkey and marvel at the Asian-inspired, decorated and flocked tree. I want to hear the player piano play old standards, listen to ice cubes jump in a crystal high ball glass, see my parents together, hear my sisters laughing, and hug my cousins. But as we all know, there is no going back. I only wish I appreciated everything more at the time, while we were all together. Now my parents are divorced, and I keep in touch with cousins via Facebook. My sisters stay at their respective houses due to work conflicts, and whatever Christmas gets put together is largely up to me with some help from my husband and daughter.

Hand crafted tin ornaments are popular in the Southwest.

I still have ornaments that Linda made by hand over 30 years ago.

Why have one Christmas tree...

...when I can have two. Scratch that... I really have four!

   My annual holiday battle begins right after Thanksgiving and lasts well into the first week of the New Year. Not only does Christmas need to be unfurled, but Christmas must be sorted and boxed for the next year as well. I remember as a teenager I had the luxury of focusing on one project at a time. I patiently made our family’s sugar cookies every year, cutting the dough into shapes, baking and then decorating with homemade frosting and a variety of sprinkles from sanding sugar to chocolate shavings.

   So, it warms my heart and makes me feel less like a lady Grinch when I see the photos of my daughter in this post that I captured last December. I feel the joy of how she has grown into a young adult over the last twelve months. The braces are off and she cut her hair, donating the ponytail to Locks of Love. Among her accomplishments, Maddie earned her second degree black belt in karate and passed her driver’s test. She’s studying for her SATs. It occurs to me as I sit here in this pizzeria bistro, listening to Don't Turn Around by Ace of Base, that she’ll be off to college all too soon (for my husband and me, that is).  I need to remind myself that I’m creating memories, hopefully cherished holiday memories, which she can happily reflect upon for many, many years to come. But, first, I will need to work my crock off, and apparently while not listening to Pink Martini. Bummer. I for one, really like that cheerful Christmas album.

Our Family's Sugar Cookies
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