Eggnog and Spirits

Homemade Eggnog
After thinking about it all week, I finally put up our Christmas tree today. Part of the delay came about because I couldn’t decide which eggnog recipe to try. I don’t think I’ve made homemade eggnog since I was little and tried the recipe for it that was in my Betty Crocker cookbook for children. Normally, the only time I drink it is while I’m actually decorating the tree, so in the past, I’ve simply bought a carton from the store.

Sadly, though, I’ve been without eggnog these past two Christmases in the Netherlands, as it doesn’t seem to be sold here. The Dutch have a drink/liqueur called advocaat, but I don’t think it’s the same. Can anyone who has had both eggnog and advocaat tell me the difference in taste (other than advocaat having the alcohol already added in)? Since it didn’t look like I was going to get any eggnog help from the grocery store, I figured this season I would finally make my own eggnog to help get me into the holiday spirit — with the addition of some spirits, of course. I searched foodgawker, looking at all the different variations of the recipe, going back and forth on which one to try. I eventually settled on a combination of a couple of recipes that seemed simple and that didn’t have quite as much sugar as the others. One of the reasons I rarely drank much eggnog in the US was because it was so sweet.

In the end, I was quite please with how the eggnog turned out. The addition of some dark rum made the aroma complete, taking me back to past holiday memories. With eggnog in hand, and Christmas music on the stereo, the tree went up fairly easily. I even got to dance with Lola to Elvis’ Blue Christmas, a tradition that I love to do, but I’m not sure she’s as thrilled with it. Especially when I pulled her off the heater today in order to dance. She had a death-grip on the heater, but I won in the end. I’m sure she’ll look back on it all with a laugh some day.
Merry Freakin' Christmas

Eggnog Recipe
serves 2 decent-size glasses or 4 small glasses

2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1.5 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg or to taste
rum or bourbon to taste

Whisk together eggs and sugar in a sauce pan and then slowly add in the milk and then the nutmeg. Turn the heat on low and continue to stir until the mixture thickens just enough to coat the back of a spoon. When it’s the right consistency, take it off the heat and stir in the vanilla, then refrigerate. You could add in the alcohol before you refrigerate it, or simply add it to the glasses when you’re ready to serve it up. It will take a bit of stirring to combine the alcohol and eggnog, so leave room in the glass. I like to top the glasses off with another light sprinkle of nutmeg.

Cooking MacGyver Style

Creative Cooking
I’ve been getting creative with various household items to get some cooking done recently. I like to call it cooking, MacGyver style. (If you’re not familiar with MacGyver, he was a television character famous for getting out of tight situations with a bit of creativity, some duct tape, and a Swiss Army knife.)

One of my regular improvs is my version of a cooling rack. You see, in the past, it seemed that a cooling rack invariably seemed to come with any house we bought, so I never had to buy one. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring them with me when we moved, and I haven’t seen any on the few occasions I think to look for one here. As a result, when it comes time to cool some sort of baked good, I’ve had to get creative. My go-to way of working these days is to take a handful of metal skewers we have and spreading them out across a plate. I don’t bake in large batches, so this usually fits my rare baking needs. It’s surprisingly effective!
Going MacGyver
It also takes up very little storage space when not in use, so I’m tempted to not bother buying a proper cooling rack any time soon. If I plan to do any larger batches of baking, I could just buy more skewers! One of my favorite tv chefs in the US was Alton Brown, who always insisted that any kitchen tool should be able to serve more than one purpose. I think he’d be proud of my ingenuity!

As for the cupcakes in my shots, they’re not going to be as good as those made by American Baking Company, but they are on the healthier side of the cupcake divide. They’re an old Weight Watchers recipe that I have and now know by heart. They suit my need for a little bit of something chocolate on occasion.

Chocolate Cupcakes
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2-cup brown sugar + 1 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup apple sauce (no sugar added) (I use the individually portioned apple sauce cups)
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar (I tend to just use natural vinegar now)
1 1/2 tsp melted butter (I use the liquid stuff)

First combine the dry ingredients and mix them together well. Then add in the liquid ingredients and stir just to combine. Then spoon the filling into a prepared 12-piece muffin tin and bake at 350F/180C for around 18-22 minutes.

I eat them plain, although they’re also good spread with a bit of Nutella. You can also add in a 1/4 cup or so of chocolate chips/pieces. Or sprinkle some hagelslag on top before baking. I’ve also used this recipe to make regular cakes. They’re not the end-all and be-all of chocolate cake, but they’re not bad when you want something chocolate, but also want to avoid lots of calories.

Southern Food Goes Fancy

Pulled Pork on Corn Cakes
Corn cakes and pulled pork. That’s pretty southern to me. It’s also pretty much heaven on a plate. I love corn and I love the pig in all its many cuts. Recently, while checking foodgawker, I came across this recipe for Mexican Corn Cakes and Shredded Pork. As the blogger herself put it, southern, southwestern or what, it’s a great dish. I couldn’t resist, and since I still had some corn meal left over that needed to be eaten, I figured now was a perfect time to try this dish.

I kept pretty true to the recipe, only subbing parsley for the cilantro, since G isn’t a fan, and swapping out goat cheese for the feta cheese, since I already had some that needed to be finished. I left off the final tomato slices and I swapped out red pepper flakes for the jalapeƱo. I also cut the recipe in half, and served it with some asparagus tips that were on sale that day.

Overall, I was really happy with the recipe. The corn cakes were delicious and now I need to remember to track down some more corn meal either at the Saturday market or at the toko. It’s one of those ingredients that was easy to find in the southern part of the US, but requires a bit of hunting now that I’m living here in the Netherlands. The only thing I would do differently in the future is to maybe add some vinegar to the pork and maybe serve the pork on the side, instead of atop the corn cakes. I’d still keep the avocado and sour cream on the corn cakes, though. I just thought the taste of the pork got lost against the corn cakes and sour cream. Ultimately, though, this is definitely a dish to make again. It looked so pretty, too!

For my vegetarian friends, you could easily just skip the pork part of the dish. As I said, I’d serve the pork (or maybe some shredded chicken) on the side the next time, or just serve it without the meat, as well! It was a nice taste of home and inspired me to make some BBQ pulled pork sandwiches a few days later. Yum! (It should be noted that I made a ketchup-based BBQ sauce, not a vinegar sauce. North Carolina readers will understand.)