Home Brews- Spiced Orange Liqueur

So for my first experiment with making flavored liqueurs I decided to make something similar to the spice blend I dust over my coffee in the morning which uses granulated orange peel, star anise, Ceylon cinnamon, mace and green cardamom.  I got some high proof vodka, placed some of these spices in a jar and then poured the vodka over them, twisted on the lid and let it marinate in a sunny window for a couple of days.

Upon first sampling the scent was intense as was the anise flavor- and the bite from the vodka. so to sweeten things up I added some mashed dried fruit and to balance out the spiciness I added more orange peel. The brew was left to infuse for another day. The smell was heavenly and the flavor much better- though there was still some burn to it so I added some clover honey and let it sit overnight. The final result was like a cross between a really good, mellow orange brandy and anisette.

Liqueur Recipes- Spiced Orange Liqueur

*This liqueur tastes (and smells) like a combination of orange brandy and anisette and can be served like either. If served with ice or cool water this translucent liqueur will turn cloudy like ouzo. Navel oranges are ideal for this recipe although mandarins will also work.

  1. Pour the vodka into a mason jar (preferably wide mouth).
  2. Break apart the star anise and cinnamon and add to the jar along with the orange peel.
  3. In a mortar and pestle coarsely crush the allspice, cloves, cardamom and mace and add these to the jar along with the nutmeg.
  4. Tightly seal up the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then place the jar in a warm, sunny window and let stew for at least 24 hours. 36 to 48 hours is even better. Shake the jar every few hours.
  5. Add the orange juice, raisins, dates, orange zest and 1 tbsp of honey to the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then return jar to the window sill. Let stew for another 24 to 48 hours, shaking every so often.
  6. Open the jar and smell the brew- you should note the anise first and the orange scent second against a spicy, floral background. Taste the liqueur to see if it has the desired level of sweetness. It should have a little bite from the alcohol (like a quality brandy) but it should not burn like moonshine. This liqueur should have a smooth mouth feel so if the alcohol is to strong add a little more honey. It should be semi-sweet, citrusy, spicy and balanced not bitter or like drinking straight orange juice.
  7. Decant and strain the liqueur -preferably twice- through coffee filters or cotton plugs or both. The strained liquid should be a rich, translucent earthy orange- it should not be cloudy. Place liqueur in a bottle or jar and keep tightly sealed. You can drink it straight away but I think it actually improves for weeks after straining. If kept in a tightly stoppered bottle at normal room temperature it should keep for months.

New Additions- September 2018

So we’ve added quite a bit to our selection during the month of August-

For the wine wall we stocked up on some sweet closeout deals including the following:

  • Belmondo Pinot Noir from Italy
  • Louis Bernard, Cotes du Provence Rose from France
  • Cosentino’s “The Rose” from California
  • La Puerta Torrontes from Argentina
  • Vandenberg Chardonnay from California

All $7.99 a bottle! We also have Hunt & Harvest Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc for $8.99; Georges Duboeuf Jolie Saison Gamay for $8.99 a pop and Pouilly-Fuisse at $13.49 a bottle.

Also we now have Nero D’Avola and Pinot Noir from Stemmari of Italy and Copper Ridge White Zinfandel from California.

And for the beer cart we have Royal Jamaican Ginger Beer. This Is an actual beer with alcohol- it is not a soda.

In the spice library we now have:

  • Organic whole juniper berries- great for making bathtub gin- recipes coming soon
  • Organic rosemary leaves
  • Jamaican allspice berries
  • Organic dried minced onion
  • Organic garlic powder
  • Organic whole celery seed
  • Organic whole dill seed
  • Organic Spearmint leaves
  • Organic vanilla extract
  • Linden flowers
  • Ajwain (Bishop’s weed seed)
  • Amchur powder (dry mango powder)
  • Anardana (pomegranate seed powder)
  • Asafetida powder
  • Black mustard seed
  • Sumac -ground
  • Saffron

*We also have Fair Trade/Organic full leaf Darjeeling Tea and Organic Matcha Tea Powder.

Also new:

  • Preservative-free papaya spears from NOW Foods
  • Raw almond flour also from NOW Foods
  • Better Stevia Organic stevia extract powder
  • Appalachian Salt & Cracked Pepper Chips from Rt 11 Potato Chips

Frigerator Pickles

Tired of mushy dill pickles or spending hours sterilizing jars and brining cucumbers overnight? Here are three incredibly easy refrigerator pickle recipes to try out-

And when I say incredibly easy I mean incredibly easy- they require no cooking skills whatsoever- just chop and assemble the veggies then the vinegar, salt and spices do the work. Plus since you can make a jar at a time you can have more variety.

* Use Thai chilies for heat and cayenne chilies for flavor. If fresh turmeric is unavailable ½ tsp ground turmeric will work. A tbsp of dried, minced onions will work in place of fresh onion or shallots. If want a sweeter version of these add a tablespoon of sugar or a pinch of stevia extract.

Recipe 1:  Frigerator Dill Pickles

  • 1 clean 16 oz wide mouth pickling jar with lid
  • 1 clove garlic sliced thin into chips
  • 1” piece fresh (or frozen) turmeric root sliced into thin chips
  • 2 tsp dill seed
  • ½ tsp coarsely crushed black peppercorns
  • 1-2 dried chili peppers, crumbled (opt)
  • 1 large English cucumber (or equivalent amount regular cucumbers) sliced into chips or spears
  • 1 ½ cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp canning and pickling salt (or to taste)
  • Pinch of alum (opt)

Recipe 2:  Sweet and Spicy Pickled Zucchini

Recipe 3:  Frigerator Pickled cabbage

1 – Place onion, garlic, turmeric and other spices into the jar. Then pack in enough veggies that it fills the jar to just below the lip.

2 – Heat vinegar, water, alum (if using) and salt in a small sauce pot. When solution comes to a boil remove pot from heat and pour solution into the jar. The vinegar solution needs to cover the vegetables- if there isn’t quite enough add a little more vinegar.

3 – Secure lid to jar and shake jar vigorously. When jar is cool enough to pick up with bare hands place it in the fridge. Let veggies inpicklelate for 3-4 days before using. They will keep in the fridge for weeks.


Golden Split Pea and Pumpkin Soup

Autumn is still months away but when I was cleaning out the freezer I realized I still had quite a bit of pumpkin left over from last fall so I figured I would put it to use in an experimental recipe-

I took a basic North Indian Chana Dal recipe and tweaked the spices for a more Autumnal flavor. The caramelized maple scent of the fenugreek seed and bready, savory quality of the nigella compliment the earthy sweetness of the split peas. I use cassia cinnamon in this recipe instead of Ceylon cinnamon as it has a sweeter scent with vanilla undertones (due to it’s coumarin content). The pumpkin marries well with the peas and sweet and savory spices and imparts a rich, golden hue to the soup. This soup goes well with naan, roti or masala paratha.

Peas: Golden Split Pea and Pumpkin Soup

*The Thai chilies give this recipe a little kick- if you don’t like the heat you can skip them. A pinch of stevia extract works nicely in place of the jaggery.

*For a velvety smooth soup take the soup off the heat when the peas are all tender. Remove the cinnamon stick and tej patta and puree the soup (in batches) in a blender until smooth. Reheat and add the amchur and cilantro before serving.

  1. Soak split peas with baking soda in cold water for an hour or so. Drain peas, and rinse in several changes of water.
  2. Melt ghee over medium heat in a pot. Add the fenugreek, nigella, tej patta, cinnamon stick and Thai chilies (if using). When the seeds start to splutter add the onion and sauté a few minutes till onion begins to caramelize. Crush garlic directly into the pan and cook, stirring, until garlic is fragrant and starts to turn golden (do not brown/burn the garlic).
  3. Add the asafetida, chili, garam masala and tumeric powders. Cook, stirring, until the ghee becomes golden hued- about a minute. Add the tomatoes and pumpkin puree and simmer until the sauce thickens- about 5 minutes.
  4. Add peas, a tsp of salt, the sugar and enough water to make a thick soup. Bring to a boil, lower heat and let simmer until the peas are very tender- about 30-40 minutes. If you cook them long enough they will “melt” and develop an almost pureed quality. Add water if it isn’t soupy enough.
  5. Stir in amchur, remove from heat then add cilantro. Serve topped with a dollop of yogurt, green onions, and a dusting of grated nutmeg or extra garam masala.


Sweet and Savory Stewed Kidney Beans

The spice and cocoa blend used in this recipe is based on an authentic Mexican dark red mole recipe I found. The blend of smoky chipotle, sweet cinnamon and savory cumin and herbs compliments the rich, meaty quality of the kidney beans-

Kidney Beans: Sweet and Savory Stewed Kidney Beans

*You can use pre-ground spices instead of whole ones but the flavor won’t be as rich. You should use the thin, papery sticks of cassia cinnamon- the thick bark pieces can destroy a spice grinder. Save the thick pieces of cassia for mulled wine or cider. Thai chilies (or peri peri peppers) will give this dish some heat. If you want something less spice use ancho chilies or cayennes. Also ¼ tsp of stevia powder (or other sugar substitutes) can be used instead of brown sugar.

*I just pureed the raisins with the tomatoes. Other dried fruit like prunes or dates would also work.

*For a non-vegetarian version ground beef (lightly browned) would work well in this recipe. I would add it after the beans have become tender as they take quite awhile to cook. And on that note make sure to simmer/boil the beans for at least half an hour- kidney beans contain phytotoxins that can cause gastric upset (think extreme wind breaking). Thouroughly cooking the beans destroys these toxins. Pre-soaking them with baking soda also helps.


  1. Soak beans at least overnight (24 hours is even better) in cold water with baking soda. Drain beans and rinse in several changes of water
  2. Grind cinnamon, cumin, allspice, oregano, peppercorns, thyme, cloves, nutmeg and Thai chilies (if using) into a fine powder in a spice grinder. Place in a bowl and mix in cocoa and chili powders. Set aside.
  3. Melt butter in the large pot over medium heat. Add onion and bay leaves and sauté until the onion softens and begins to caramelize.
  4. Crush garlic and add that to the pot. Sauté the garlic for 30 sec or until fragrant and beginning to turn golden. Do not brown/burn the garlic.
  5. Add raisins, tomatoes and ground spice mixture to the pot and simmer for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until gravy is thick.
  6. Add beans, water to cover (and a little extra depending on how soupy you want this dish), a tsp of salt and the sugar.
  7. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer 40-60 min or until the beans are very tender. Mash a cup of the cooked beans into a fine paste and return them to the stew. Continue to simmer, uncovered for about 20 min until stew is very thick. Remove from heat, add salt to taste and then stir in the cilantro.
  8. To serve, spoon over rice, add a dollop of sour cream and mix thoroughly. Garnish with shredded cheese, jalapenos, green onions and a dusting of ground cumin, cinnamon, chipotle and some freshly cracked black pepper.


New additions

We’ve been very busy putting together our new selection of organic dry goods and exotic spices, herbs and teas!

Our Pantry area boasts a variety of hard-to-find flours and grains as well as gluten-free baking mixes, organic dried beans, rolled oats and whole wheat flour. Our shelves are packed with items such as:

  • Organic corn meal, garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour, flax seed, millet flour, sorghum flour, brown rice flour, whole wheat flour, rolled oats, bulgur wheat, red quinoa and amaranth
  • Unsweetened and unsulfered organic shredded coconut and non-alkalized organic cocoa powder
  • Organic dried black beans, Fava (broad) beans, dark red kidney beans, mung beans, navy beans and pinto beans
  • Non-GMO chickpeas and yellow split peas (chana dal)
  • Sun-dried tomatoes, dried porcini and dried portabella mushrooms
  • Arrowroot starch and gluten-free baking mixes
  • Pot pie squares and Israeli-style (pearl) couscous

The fridge is packed with dried fruit and nuts including preservative-free dates, sun-dried Turkish apricots and California walnuts. We store them in the fridge to keep them very fresh.

And we now have a spice and herb library!

We’ve amassed quite a collection of exotic spices and herbs you can’t find nearby, with everything from aniseed to turmeric, whole green cardamom, black cardamom, ceylon cinnamon, fenugreek seed, kasoori methi, Nigella, tej patta and dadag phool (black stoneflower). And our selection will be expanding in the near future.

Most of these are organic and very high quality, very fresh and very fragrant.

We also have a variety of dried herbs and flowers like German chamomile, lemongrass, hibiscus and pink rosebuds which are excellent in tea and powerful enough to be used in potpourri. The rosebuds are great in spice blends like garam masala and ras el hanout to.

And in the freezer we have whole turmeric root, galanga (galangal) root, whole Thai chilies, lemongrass stalks and makrut (kaffir) lime leaves.

We’ve also expanded our selection of gourmet oils and vinegars to include organic canola and sesame oil and Chinese black vinegar. We also have a few international items like coconut milk from Thailand, tahini (sesame) paste, tamarind paste and Chinese cooking wine.

Visit us soon and check out all of our new inventory! We’ll be holding an Open House on August 18–details to follow.

Fresh out of the kiln 5/03/18

My first batch of pottery made with brown stoneware clay have finally been glazed and fired-

For this batch I applied an underglaze of Amaco’s Satin-Matte White and top coated that with their Satin-Matte Clear Glaze. Upon firing the white and clear glazes melded beautifully creating a creamy, grayish-white hue. The underlying khaki color of the brown stoneware clay really gives a wonderful depth to the finish. My favorites from this batch are these vaguely sea sponge-like luminaries which all miraculously survived.

Unfortunately only one of the bivalve-shaped napkin holders survived, and it shrank so much I think it works better as a sponge holder. The pieces I specifically intended to be sponge holders turned out nicely though.

All of the soap dishes survived- and I especially like how the clam shell-shaped ones turned out with the creamy white glaze.

A couple of serving bowls. The lip of these bowls undulates which gives them built in spoon rests.

Some oyster shell shaped spoon rests- the glaze looks perfect on these.

A cluster of miniature flower bud vases.

Some larger vases-

While these may seem purely decorative and very delicate these ceramics are both functional and quite sturdy.

Finally framed

My first batch of winter landscape studies are finally framed and up on the walls-

“Winter Forest Late Afternoon”- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 8″ x 10″. C. 2018-



For this piece I went with a distressed, dark pine frame I made from raw boards. The texture I gouged into the edges of the moulding compliment the expressive brushstrokes and texture in the paint surface.

“Snowbound Forest at Sunset- 1/15/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 13 1/2″ x 10 1/4”. C. 2018

For this painting I went with a walnut frame that I parcel gilt with composition leaf on the front surface. The bright gilt surface of the frame really makes the golden hues pop in this piece.

A clean, elegant walnut frame joined with keys and parcel gilt with composition leaf.

“Winter Forest at Morning- 1/15/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 8″ x 10”. C. 2018


The warm metallic gray of the silver leaf in this frame warms up the highlights in the painting and helps to tone down the blues of the shadow areas.


The rich dark brown of this frame helps to warm up this piece and compliment the purplish gray ground. The texture of the olivewood veneer blends in nicely with painterly tree trunks. This is the only frame in this bunch that I did not make myself.

“Winter Forest in a Snowstorm- 1/15/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board. 14″ x 10 1/4”. C. 2018


“Snowbound Forest- 1/16/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 10″ x 14 3/4”. C. 2018


For this piece I went with a simple, “bump” profile moulding. The grain of the oak plays off the movement of the snow covered trees and winding grape vines. The rich, golden color of the finish cools down up the warm gray hues in the painting.


“Snowy Winter Forest- 1/19/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 7″ x 10”. C. 2018

For the last two paintings I went with a very clean museum profile that was painted black and gilt on the top surface with aluminum leaf. The cool silver tones of the aluminum leaf make the cool whites of the painting seem warm by comparison. The depth of the moulding and the contrast between the flat black of the sides of the frame and the gilt front surface really makes these pieces pop off the wall.


“Snowy Winter Forest- 1/16/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 10″ x 7”. C. 2018

Back in the game

So after a couple months hiatus I managed to have a very productive weekend of sculpting-

Luminaries, vases and napkin holders made from a light brown stoneware clay

In this batch I have made a variety of kitchen implements and vessels with a new stoneware clay that should come out a dark beige color. *If* they survive I’m thinking I’ll coat them with a distressed layer of warm white glaze and over top that with a clear layer which should give the appearance of antique ironstone pottery.

Two spoon rests and a soap dish.

This pieces in this collection, like most of my work, has a very organic look to it. The spoon rests and napkin holders look vaguely like seashells.

The napkin holders remind me of ancient brachiopod fossils.

My favorites from this batch are the luminaries which resemble primitive sea sponges-

A trio of very organic looking luminaries.

I really hope the luminaries survive as they were very time consuming to make. Each little hole in them is a potential starting point for cracks. With any luck these pieces will survive the slow drying process over the next couple weeks and then it will be time to glaze them.


Experimental Forms

I had a few scraps of stoneware clay so I decided to try sculpting out some physical forms of the vague shapes that had been floating around in my mind-

Macaroni vase A potential macaroni vase[/caption]

I had seen a macaroni vase in a recent issue of Better Homes and Gardens and decided I would try to make one using a flat slab of clay instead of a a wheel-since I do not have a throwing wheel. I rolled out some leftover clay, cut an hourglass shape out and rolled it up. Then turned up the openings and molded the lips a little.

Two incense holders and a strange cornucopia shaped dish Two incense holders and a strange cornucopia shaped dish[/caption]

I really hope the vaguely cornucopia shaped dish survives- it brings to mind some of the fossils I’ve found of primitive sea life.

IMG_5303 A slightly different view-