Toast the New Year with Taste-y Cocktails and Hors de ouveres

There’s something about having lil noshes on New Year’s Eve, even if you’re just staying home with the fam, that makes it all feel extra festive. In fact, most years of my life that’s what I’ve done on New Years — stayed home, noshed on little bites and watched the ball drop, kissing my sweetie at midnight.  As a woman who settled down early and took up cocktails late (I was 30! Gasp!) New Year’s Eve never meant much more than Dick Clark and banging pans. There were a few other years where I attended someone’s party or went out for dinner but it was always mostly low-key.

That is until New Year’s Eve 2006. It was the first NYE I ever spent with the love of my life, my hubby,Todd.  We were just dating at the time, but since I had settled down so young the first time around and never experienced what the nightlife and true party atmosphere of NYE could be, he decided to take me out on the town.

Pom Honey Bear (Pomegrante juice, lemon and Barenjager honey liqueur)

We went from venue to venue that night, making our rounds to all the hot spots — drinks and appetizers, dinner, dancing, dancing and more dancing. Dressed in new jeans, boots and a black blouse with sparkly trim, I felt like the hot girl, for once, no small feat for a lifelong chubby gal and bookworm. (The men must have agreed because I got picked up on all night long — even with a date!) It was as if, suddenly, I was transformed into one of those people in the movies who have something to do on NYE — and it was actually something fun! Not the party of a friend of a friend that’s supposed to be, “so awesome,” but turns out instead, to be a total dud.

Brazi Bites -- review coming soon!

The last club we went to, we stayed at for several hours. It was big, 15,000 sq ft, with a HUGE dance floor and two stories. By the time we rang in 2007, it was packed. Filled with people dancing, laughing and having a great time — just like those ultra hip club scenes in the movies set somewhere cool like Miami, NYC or LA (don’t get me wrong, I’d been dancing before, lots of places, but none were as cool and big and packed, as this place was NYE 2006-07.)

To cap it all off, when the crowd finished counting down, they released tons of confetti from the ceiling, followed by bubbles — setting the scene for the most perfect New Year’s kiss in the history of my life. We all returned to our drinks and dancing and by 2am, as the club began to thin out, I was floating on air.

A NYE staple - even the most ardent food snobs swoon in their presence

Since that night, my hubby and I have talked about doing it again, but I have to admit, the night was so perfect, that I fear trying to recapture it could tarnish the wonderful memory. For once in my life, I was the princess (in blue jeans) in my own stroke of midnight fairy tale and I loved every moment of it.

This year, my son is 3 and it will be the first year he’ll attempt to stay awake, banging on pots and squealing, “Happy New Year,” at our hopefully (fingers-crossed) wide-awake neighbors. It will be another first in my life– no less magical than that NYE I spent behaving like the hot ingenue in your favorite party movie — just different.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4uxRmZvzcw&w=640&h=360]

(Two shots of Apple Schnapps! Love that Otis!)

We’ll mix a few drinks (like the cinnamon sparkler above, whipped up by Otis over at Taste and some plain sparkling cider for the tot.) I’ll put together a few bites for us to nibble on throughout the night — some frozen and some homemade — but all delicious. We may even put on some colored wigs and dance around the living room. Tomorrow, we’ll begin again trying to be our very best selves for as long as we can, until it all unravels sometime before, this time next year.

It's a colored wig dance party!

This is the beauty of a new year– a fresh start. The chance to be your very best self — even if, for just one bright and shining moment, before the clock strikes 12.

Wishing you and yours a happy and safe 2012!

VP New Year’s Cocktail Party: Bärenjäger Honey Bundt Liqueur Cake & Banoffee Pudding

The Virtual Potluck gang is at it again and this time we’re serving up the best of Bärenjäger’s honey liqueur for a cocktail party that sure to be sweet! Check out all the posts from the VP gang and really explore what you can do with this key ingredient.

GrooVy Foody Goes for the Gold

Since ancient times, honey’s golden-throated siren song has been beckoning man. This glistening syrup has served as both food and medicine — and also, libation. Bärenjäger’s amber-hued Honey Liqueur, for the uninitiated, is as sweetly scented and sensually flavored as pure honey in the raw, though, it’s not for your average bee. Packing a wallop at 35% alcohol (70 proof) it’s perfect for adding a bit of smooth honeyed flavor to any cocktail or for sweetening your favorite dish.

Long regarded as sacred (it’s been used in religious ceremonies, as well as to embalm the deceased) honey’s use in cooking was once reserved only for the rich — thankfully, today, both honey and Bärenjäger are widely available.

We’ve been abuzz (and buzzed) all month over Bärenjäger’s many uses over at The GrooVy Foody household, trying it in drinks, in a Honey Bundt Liqueur Cake and adding it’s nectar to a dark toffee sauce for use in Banoffee Pudding.

But just what is Bärenjäger? In a nutshell, it’s a mead-like liquor but really it’s so much more. Not just in its rich history with roots in the 15th century but also in its flavor. It tastes great in a straight shot or with seltzer water and lemon but I really loved it mixed with hot tea and lemon for a winter warmer that’s sure to soothe your throat and open up your chest.

Ooooh Honey!

Honey Bundt

I love a good rum cake during the holiday season but most recipes call for a boxed cake mix and Bacardi rum. The second I tasted Bärenjäger I knew it needed to be used in a dessert. That’s when lightning struck and I thought, “Oh, I need to make a honey liqueur cake!” But I didn’t want a crummy boxed cake mix screwing up my delusions of grandeur — so I sought out the best vanilla cake recipe I could find, one that was moist and had a great crumb but that could still hold up to being soaked with a butter liqueur syrup.

After trying quite a few cake recipes, I settled on Andie’s Perfect Yellow Cupcake Recipe, from Can You Stay For Dinner? (one of my fav food bloggers.) Hers is an adaptation of Cook’s Illustrated’s yellow cake recipe but I think much easier and to great effect for this recipe. It’s truly decadent and the sweetly hued honey flavor is out of this world and of course, the alcohol gives it just the right holiday kick! Perfect for any New Year’s celebration you may be planning and SO simple. (Recipe below.)

Yum!

Honey-Toffee Banoffee Pudding

The last minute entry came by way of whipping up something tasty for my mom as a little holiday gift. My mother is a HUGE fan of bananas. The whole of my life, I have watched my mother’s passion for bananas – go well, bananas! She loves a perfectly ripe banana on its own but, most especially, she enjoys banana cream pie and Southern Banana Pudding. My mom likes bananas so much, that her grandkids call her “Nana Banana” instead of Grandma — nuff said.

Anyway, when I was in the UK several years ago, I came across a dessert called Banoffee pie, which is very much like a banana cream pie but with the addition of toffee (great idea!) and since my mother is also a fan of caramels, butter brittles and toffees — I thought — perfect match!

So, I set about to make something for mom that would incorporate the Banoffee, the cream pie and her most treasured Southern Banana Pudding and then inspiration truly struck — “I’ll add some honey liqueur to the toffee.” I made the crust from Nilla wafers, homemade banana pudding (you can use vanilla, if you don’t wish to go bananas), ripe bananas, fresh whipped cream and honeyed toffee.  The effect was dazzling and I’m happy to report mom was over the moon about it.

Hot Honey’d Lemon Tea

  • 80z brewed green or black tea (even decaf works!)
  • 2 shot glasses of Bärenjäger’s Honey Liqueur
  • Juice of 1/2 a Meyer lemon

Add lemon juice and honey liqueur to hot tea, stir and serve in a mug with a slice of lemon on the rim. Breathe deep and enjoy!

Bärenjäger Honey Bundt Liqueur Cake

Perfect Yellow Cake (adapted from Can You Stay for Dinner?)

1 ½ cups flour

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup sour cream

2 large eggs , room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Butter Liqueur Syrup

1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

3/4 cup Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil or non-stick spray a bundt pan (no need to flour.)

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a standing electric mixer. Bring eggs and sour cream to room temperature and mix together or whisk them together in a bowl set inside another bowl of warm water to bring them to temp. Add butter to flour mixture and mix until all the butter is incorporated. Then add the sour cream and eggs, followed by vanilla. Beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no clumps of flour are visible.

Pour into bundt pan and bake for 20 to 22 minutes.

While cake is baking, melt butter in pan and add sugar and water — bring to a boil. Boil for five minutes then, remove from heat to stir in liqueur, then return to the heat and bring just to boil again before removing and setting aside to cool a bit.

When cake springs back to touch or checks with toothpick inserted into center, remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Then pour over a third of warm butter, liqueur mixture. Let the cake sit in pan until the liquid is absorbed and cake pulls away from sides of the pan. Then invert onto a serving plate and poke the cake with a fork all over. Then spoon over the remaining syrup, a bit at a time, so as not to flood the cake and plate. Let sit until syrup is absorbed (about 10 minutes) before sliding onto your serving platter. Reserve any sauce that did not absorb to spoon over cake slices.

Honey-Toffee Banoffee Pudding

Crust

  • 1 box of Nilla wafers (run through the food processor)
  • 1 stick of butter (softened)

Mix butter and Nilla wafers in processor line the bottom and sides of a deep casserole pan with this crust and bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Pudding

  • 4 cups milk (or 2 cups milk 2 cups cream)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 roasted, mashed banana (roast skin-on in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes)
  • 2 fresh ripe bananas, sliced for layering
  • Whipped cream for topping

In a saucepan over medium heat, heat milk/cream until bubbles form at edges. Meanwhile combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a bowl and set aside. When milk has reached proper temp, whisk the dry ingredients into hot milk, a little at a time, until dissolved. Continue to cook and stir (with a wooden spoon) until mixture thickens. Do not boil. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, mashed banana and butter. Pour warm pudding into casserole dish, which at this point has been lined with Nilla crust, then a layer of sliced fresh banana and toffee. Add fresh banana slices on top of pudding and cool down in the fridge before adding whipped cream. Once the pudding is cool. Whip fresh cream and spread over the top of the pudding obscuring it from view. Drizzle cooled toffee sauce in designs on top and chill to set completely (at least 3 hours) before serving.

Honey-Toffee Sauce

  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsp (85 g) butter
  • 1/2 cup and 1 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur

This recipe is adapted from the one I regularly use for caramel sauce. Brown sugar gives this sauce its toffee quality without using sweetened condensed milk. Follow the caramel recipe and then remove the sauce from the heat when complete and add the liqueur and return to the heat, stirring to incorporate the liqueur, bringing just to a bubble and then removing it to cool.

Disclosure: Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur is 35% alcohol by volume (or 70 proof ), please drink responsibly.

All Virtual Potluck members were provided with the Bärenjäger for review, but all opinions are our own.