I’ve decided that Mother Nature and I should be friends. After all, she created the Concord grape with its jam-like flavor, beautiful deep purple skin, and sweet aroma. She’s a genius and I want to hang out with her, share a cocktail or two and discuss the Concord grape. So it’s only fitting that I take this beautiful berry (yes, grapes are technically berries, who knew) and turn them into a luscious weekend cocktail to enjoy!
Black Concord Martinis are my ode to this beautiful fruit, a jubilee of grape goodness with a little help from black currant, vodka and lime, all the best party companions. This martini starts by cooking down fresh concord grapes with water and sugar to make the base. A thinner version of quick homemade grape jelly, that when cooled and strained, gives this drink it’s vibrant fuchsia color and sweet grape flavor.
Just a splash of black currant liqueur and a hit of fresh lime make the grape flavors sing. It’s just that simple. No complicated ingredients, processes, or supplies needed. Pure sweet grape goodness just as Mother Nature intended had she liked a having a cocktail or two.
To compliment this cocktail, serve alongside a simple cheese platter. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more fitting companion for cheese than grapes and this Black Concord Martini does just the trick! Enjoy your weekend and happy sipping my friends.
photos by Leah Bergman
- CONCORD GRAPE SYRUP
- 3 cups concord grapes
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 5 oz vodka
- 4 oz concord grape syrup (recipe above)
- 1 oz cassis liqueur (black currant)
- juice of one lime
- small clusters of concord grapes for garnish
- MAKE THE GRAPE SYRUP: In a sauce pan, combine grapes, sugar and water. Cook over medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes stirring frequently until grapes have burst and syrup has become thick and bubbly.
- Remove from heat and press syrup through a fine mess sieve. Discard pulp and refrigerate syrup until cool or ready to use.
- MAKE THE MARTINI: In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine vodka, 4 oz concord syrup, cassis liqueur, and lime juice.
- Shake until well chilled and pour into two glasses.
- Garnish with a small cluster of concord grapes.
- Note: This cocktail tends to be on the sweeter side where cocktails are concerned. You can always adjust the sweetness by lessening the amount of sugar in your Concord Grape Syrup if you prefer.
Little ghouls will howl in delight! Wormy caramels apples that can be eaten? What a fright!
When I was in grade school I used to BEG my Mom to make us “dirt n’ worms.” That childhood favorite that circulated the third grade class rooms every time a classmate had a birthday. Basically it was chocolate pudding in a cup topped with crushed Oreo cookies and sour worm candies. My Mom would roll her eyes, (ok maybe I imagined that) and pack us a healthy snack. I never did have a cup of dirt n’ worms show up in my lunch box. Now as an adult I’ve decided that while a chocolate pudding cup may not be the healthiest of snacks, a nice crisp Granny Smith apple rolled in caramel and decorated with worms might just be the perfectly AWESOME solution to an after-school snack…especially close to Halloween.
To get started, I found gnarled twigs at the craft store which I used as my sticks. Of course if you don’t want to use these or you can’t find them, simply substitute popsicle or cake pop sticks. With a little help from store bough soft caramels, you can forgo the whole candy thermometer nonsense and get straight to the caramel apple eating! Nothing wrong with homemade caramel, I make it on occasion, but let’s be honest…this is way too easy not to try.
Once the caramel is properly melted, simply dip and swirl apples in the golden, buttery goodness. And never, ever dip your finger in that tempting melted caramel. You HAVE been warned.
Now, you could most certainly finish your caramel apples at this step, lovely and regal with a sophisticated air about them. Very “Charlize Theron” in Snow White and The Huntsman, don’t you think? Or you could take the fun, playful route and cover them with sour worm candies. Either way they are sure to be a rotten-good treat this Halloween! Enjoy.
photos by Leah Bergman
- 5 medium Granny Smith apples, washed and well dried
- 1 bag (11 oz.) soft caramels, I used KRAFT
- 2 Tbsp. water
- Using a small paring knife, cut a small hole in the top of each apple to remove stem.
- Insert one wooden twig into hole of each apple, pushing down into the core. Cover plate or serving dish with waxed paper; spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Place caramels in medium saucepan with water. Cook on medium-low heat 3 min. or until caramel bits are completely melted, stirring constantly.
- Dip apples into melted caramel until evenly coated, spooning caramel over apples if necessary. Allow excess caramel to drip off. Scrape bottoms of apples; place on prepared plate.
- Press sour worm candies into caramel while warm. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Remove from refrigerator 15 min. before serving. Store any leftover apples in refrigerator.
If you are craving a simple Halloween pumpkin craft to sink your teeth into (sorry, not sorry for that toothy-pun)…I’ve got just the thing! These creepy-cute Vampire Pumpkin Candles will bring a playful and festive flare to any Halloween table without all of the gore.
It may come as a surprise, or if you have been a reader for a long time common knowledge, that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. But I cringe at the blood and guts decor that most people associate with this holiday. My neighbor’s front porch for example…eek! For me it’s all about fluffy spiders, witches cauldrons and the occasional fanged pumpkin in my house. So break out the candy corn and get to carving these sweet and sinister Vampire Pumpkin Candles.
small white pumpkins
red votive candles
pumpkin carving tools
black Sharpie marker
Let’s get started:
1. Using the sticker base of a votive as a guide, trace a circle on the top of each pumpkin.
2. Cut and remove the traced circle “lid” and discard.
3. Using a small spoon, scoop out the contents of each pumpkin.
4. Cut out two small curved “fangs” and draw on two beady-eyes.
5. Fit each pumpkin with a candle, light and enjoy!
As the candle burns, red wax drips down the pumpkin creating a delightfully creepy effect! I’m curious, do you prefer gore-less Halloween decor like me or does your house turn into a regular fright night for Halloween?
photos by Leah Bergman
If it’s October, it’s time for Hot Toddies! For extra Autumn flavor, today I’m turning to persimmons. I confess I only became familiar with these golden orange gems when we started getting a CSA basket. Thankfully, they appeared in the basket with instructions (this may seem a bit silly, but I wouldn’t have even known what fruit to search for on the internet!). Since then I’ve used them in all manner of cooking and baking projects, but not for cocktails. Let’s change that!
Exotic hybrids and crossbreeds aside, persimmons generally come in one of two shapes, and the shape dictates when it’s ripe and ready to eat. For example, today I’m using what is known as a Nishimura Wase persimmon. It has a round shape, similar to that of a tomato, and you should eat these little guys when they’re firm like an apple. You may very well find the more popular Fuyu type at you store– again, it has a tomato-shaped body: eat it firm. On the other hand, if you have a Hachiya, the shape is more conical, like a giant strawberry. Those conical persimmons should be eaten when they’re super squishy. Are we good on this? Cool, let’s continue.
Persimmons have a mildly sweet flavor that varies on the type you’re using. With my Nishimura Wase, also known as the “coffeecake persimmon” (um, yum!), the flavor has hints of chocolate, spice, and cinnamon that go deliciously with Fall flavors. For the cocktail, I turned this fruit, along with a few added spices, into a flavorful syrup that’s just as good poured on some warm waffles as it is in this drink. Paired with bourbon and a splash of tart lemon juice, this warming cocktail is just what you need in your rotation this Fall!
Do you have a cold weather cocktail that’s your go-to fav of the season? Let us know in this comments section below! Enjoy!
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup persimmon, cubed and seeded
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 allspice berries, whole
- 1-½ ounce bourbon
- 1 ounce persimmon syrup (see recipe above)
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 ounces hot water
- persimmon slice for garnish
- In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine all the ingredients, stir and bring to a boil. As soon as a boil is reached, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat, cover, and let stand about an hour.
- Strain and store in an airtight container.
- In a heatproof mug, combine bourbon, syrup and lemon juice.
- Pour hot water over the mixture.
- Garnish with a persimmon slice.
My favorite month of the year has finally arrived and all I can think about is crisp weather, oversized sweaters, pumpkin spice chai tea, and curling up with a good book. In honor of October, I’ve selected a thriller for this month’s Freutcake Book Club read and I have a feeling it’s going to get us all in the Halloween spirit. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison is being called the next Gone Girl, and many critics are saying it’s even better! Those who have read the book say they could not put it down and after reading the first chapter I can see why.
This suspenseful novel tells the story of Jodi and Todd, a couple experiencing marital problems. Todd is described as a committed cheater and Jodi, a woman with nothing left to lose which eventually leads to her murdering her husband. With the story told in alternating voices between the two main characters, readers have access to their inner most thoughts, motivations, and delusions. Figuring out what is going to happen next adds to the suspense and a twisted sense of pleasure.
photos by Leah Bergman
Personally, I can’t wait to throw myself into the dark depths of this psychological thriller and I encourage you to do the same. Mid-month, we’ll suggest a way to incorporate the novel into your own book club meeting and then present questions for discussion as October comes to close. So get your hands on a copy now and join Freutcake Book Club as we read The Silent Wife!
Get the book: The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison
Opa! Grab the Ouzo because it’s time for the big reveal of my updated dining room. If you missed last week’s post (you can read it here) I teamed up with Valspar to use their new premium paint Valspar® Reserve™ to paint a bold accent wall in our little apartment dining room. It was high time I brought some color into the space and Fall felt like the perfect season to do so.
I chose a bold Mediterranean or “Greek” blue called Valspar Azure Jazz. Thanks to the help of my friend Alisa, it took one short afternoon to prep, tape, paint, and style my dining room. Let me tell you, it’s always more fun to paint when you have a good friend to help you out!
I’ve painted dark colors onto white walls in the past and never managed to succeed without at least two, sometimes three, coats of paint. Thankfully, Valspar® Reserve™ is a paint + primer in one and went on quite easily with lovely coverage in just one coat. Plus it’s perfect for a dining room as the paint is completely washable. Thank goodness for easy cleaning!
This gave us plenty of time to finish the entire project and sit down for a glass of wine to celebrate and enjoy the new space all in one afternoon. But enough with my rambling on! See for yourself how we transformed my blank white dining room into a now colorful space.
1. Clear the room of all furniture.
2. Carefully tape off the edges of the wall you are preparing to paint pressing the tape down securely.
3. Working in a “W” shaped pattern, paint the wall leaving a small un-painted border.
4. Using an edge brush, paint the boarders. If needed follow again with the roller to smooth out the transition.
5. Allow paint to dry completely and remove tape.
6. Style your room, re-hang artwork and enjoy!
Styling elements for fall:
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Valspar. All opinions expressed here are my own. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who allow me to continue creating new and colorful content for Freutcake! With Valspar® Reserve™, now the colors you love stay the colors you love. Available exclusively at Lowe’s, find a retailer here.
Today’s cocktail is about transition, because on the one hand, we’ve got the transition from Summer to Fall (or at least we’re supposed to-here in Los Angeles temperatures reached highs in the 100’s! In September!), and on the other hand, we’ve got Leah shifting from Western to Eastern style as she crosses the Pacific for her trip to China. This cocktail tries to embody both of these ideas. So let’s close our eyes and contemplate our seasonal transitions while we sip on a Bitter Eastern Sour.
A pop of red immediately sets this cocktail apart visually from its more mature parent drink, the Eastern Sour. The classic is a fruit forward blend of citrus and sweet almond, but with whiskey as its robust base. To me, those flavors are less summery, and more sweater weather. Using a touch of Campari gives this cocktail a slightly bitter edge that cuts through the sweet and makes it more of a Fall drink.
Plus, watching the red burst of color from the Campari float through the drink is a nice reminder of changing leaves, and, with that, the much cooler temps to come!
Are you guys ready for cooler temps and warming cocktails? Let us know what your go-to Fall drink is in the comments below!
photos by Elana Lepkowski
- 2 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- ½ ounce orgeat syrup
- 2 ounces Bourbon
- ¼ ounce Campari
- lime wedge for garnish
- In a shaker ⅔ filled with ice, add orange juice, lime juice, orgeat and bourbon.
- Shake well for 20 seconds and strain into a large saucer or rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Pour Campari over ice.
- Garnish with a lime wedge.
The power of the flower is strong, indeed! In an interview included at the end of the novel, author Vanessa Diffenbaugh relates the findings from a Rutgers University study that proves flowers increase feelings of enjoyment and satisfaction. Research from Harvard found that people feel less anxious and more compassionate when surrounded by flowers. I don’t think any of these findings are particularly surprising, but my question is, did you find enjoyment and satisfaction from reading about these lovely flowers and the magic they hold within their petals? I know I did. The Language of Flowers has been one of my favorite reads in a long time and I most definitely have a new appreciation for all that grows in my garden. What was your experience like? What discoveries and realizations did you make while reading the novel? Below are some questions to spark a discussion…so leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
photo by Leah Bergman
1. How did you feel about Victoria as a character? Did her resistance to love and happiness frustrate you or did you feel like you understood her complexity?
2. The book alternates between chapters that are set in the past and the present. How do you feel about this type of structure?
3. Some of the novel’s themes include love, family, forgiveness, and second chances. Which stood out as being key to you? What lessons were you able to gather from it?
4. Immense challenges and overwhelming emotions arise when Victoria has her baby. How does becoming a mother ultimately change Victoria?
5. Did the novel open your eyes to some of the realities of the foster care system? How?
Note: Check out Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s non-profit organization, Camellia Network, that supports young people transitioning out of the foster care system. It’s quite compelling and such a beautiful cause.
6. Did you investigate the meanings of some of your favorite flowers? Were you disappointed to find out the negative definitions of some of the most lovely? If you created a bouquet, what would it “say” and to whom would you give it?
You still have time to finish up the novel before the next one is announced next week! So enjoy these last warm days of early fall and prepare to cozy up with our thrilling pick for October.
All hail the first day of fall! I may loose a few friends by saying this, but summer is so overrated. Yes, the popsicles are fun and the occasional beach day is nice, but nothing compares to Fall. It took every ounce of self control to refrain from so much as whispering the word pumpkin until today—somehow I manage.
Pumpkin Spice Monkey Bread is just about as easy and delicious as pumpkin bread gets! Pull apart pieces of doughy-soft bread encrusted in pumpkin pie spice and brown sugar and oozing with caramelized pumpkin sauce. You should have seen Jason’s face when this baby came out of the oven.
Invert the baked bread onto a serving platter and watch all of the caramelized goodness drip down the sides. This recipe creates it’s own “frosting” of sorts and makes for the most beautiful presentation. Serve hot and bubbling out of the oven with a large carafe of coffee and lots of napkins, this monkey bread needs little more. Of course you could top each serving with a dollop of whiskey whipped cream if you were feeling extra indulgent. Enjoy!
photos by Leah Bergman
- 2 sticks (1 cup) butter
- 2 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
- 3 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 25oz bag Parkerhouse Style Frozen Rolls (dough), thawed
- 3/4 cup pure pumpkin puree
- non-stick cooking spray
- Let rolls thaw in a warm place free of drafts or covered in the refrigerator overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray a bundt pan with not-stick spray and set aside.
- Put 1/2 cup brown sugar and 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice in a resealable plastic bag; shake and knead the sugar mixture in the bag until combined.
- A few at a time, place thawed dough balls in the bag with the spiced sugar and shake until coated; brush off any excess sugar and arrange in the prepared pan. Repeat with remaining dough balls.
- Allow dough to rise until doubled in size in a warm place.
- In a sauce pan combine 2 sticks butter, pumpkin puree and remaining 2 cups brown sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring and/or whisking occasionally. Stir in remaining 1 tsp pie spice and remove from heat.
- Pour sauce over the dough balls in the Bundt pan.
- Bake the monkey bread until puffed and deep golden, 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and invert carefully onto a serving plate. Serve hot!