Category Archives: Ninja Gifts

Infused Vodkas

COME VISIT OUR NEW WEB SITE AT: THEKITCHENNINJAS.COM

Make holiday gifts for your drinking friends.This is for you fellow procrastinators. If you are like me, you think once you get through Thanksgiving that you have a fair amount of time before you are handing out the presents. This is an awesome gift you can whip this up in about 5 days. You should keep in mind you may be getting drunk dials from your friends telling you how much they “love you man” after they try it.

I have done a lot of experimenting with infusing vodkas over the years and they make great, homemade gifts that are inexpensive and dazzle the brain of your drinking pals. Who knows, you could eventually launch a career as a mixologist creating new and exciting flavor combinations (which you should share with us).

Here is the Ninja skill info:

VODKA: You don’t need to use expensive vodka when infusing.  I prefer to buy Smirnoff triple distilled as it is a good clean vodka, and you can buy it in bulk. Sometimes it is on sale around the holidays. If you use cheaper vodka than that, I have heard running it through a water pitcher that has a built in filter three times.  I haven’t tried it, but it sounded like good information to share. If you are in a hurry and want to kill two birds with one stone, a good vodka bottle that you can reuse easily is EFFEN Vodka. You can cut the rubber label off quickly and reuse to decant back into. 

GIFTING: Jars and bottles with attached rubber stoppers are great for gift-giving. You can find them at craft stores or at stores like World Market. Mason jars can be found at dollar stores, grocery stores, antique shops, even garage sales and are cost-effective. You can purchase new lids and rubber rings at grocery stores (most of the time). A quick way to finish off the look is by cutting a thin piece ribbon or kitchen string and make a small folded card on some thicker paper.   Handwrite the ingredients you used or a recipe you like to suggest.  Punch a hole through the folded card and tie around the neck of the bottle. Awesome gift giver…check!

DECANTING: With any ingredients you leave in the bottle, once the vodka level has diminished, the ingredients can mold if exposed. Then, it has to be thrown away. It is a better idea to infuse then decant into a new jar for long-term storage.   This will make the vodka last for months or even a year. Pour slow to keep the ingredients at the bottom, or use a fine strainer to pour into another container.

INFUSIONS:

I will spare you the dramatic details of my failures. Some ingredients will work, others do not and require you pour it down the drain.  You should always use ORGANIC ingredients when possible. Especially with fruit and herbs. A good rule is to not use anything that won’t hold shape in water over a day. Don’t try throwing chocolate or cheese into vodka, it isn’t going to be good.

YUCK!

1. Cherries – sounds great but was horrid.

2. Peaches- I added two ripe peaches and there was no peach taste at all. I am convinced that the only way to get peach flavored vodka is to use artificial ingredients.

3. Just throwing in citrus. It looked pretty but the pith made it bitter…so make sure to follow the decanting directions or you will just be back to the drain.

Feel free to post comments on this post with any trials you have created that may have made this list.

YUM!

1. Citrus: lemons, (Meyer or regular) oranges, tangerines, limes and grapefruit. Just make sure they are ORGANIC as you don’t want a bunch of pesticides in

Investing in a quality zester is recommended.

your drink. Seriously, don’t even bother as you would have to heat up the skins to remove all the wax on regular fruit and it is a pain in the buttocks. Always zest the lemon or it will become bitter because of the pith (the white part between the rind and the fruit).  If you use the rind, you can always leave it in the bottle.

ZESTING NOTES: Zest two-three rinds of the citrus of your choice with a potato peeler or zester and add to a large jar.   You can use a lot more if you want just a citrus blend. Choose fruits that have a smoother rind for easier zesting. Buy extra fruit if you want to avoid the pith as it is better to just use another lemon or orange instead of risking the bitterness. Make sure to avoid all the white on the fruit, especially lemons.  You can add other items like cranberries, rosemary or ginger.

2. Raspberries: Black or red work great but you will have to decant as the color is drained from the fruit and it looks like creepy white brains floating about. Lemon works well with this fruit.

3. Bloody Mary (Savory): A combo or alone – Garlic, Bell Peppers (a combo of color looks nice) Horseradish, Onions, Jalapenos and Basil (If you use basil, make it easy to remove as it looks gross after a couple of days. You can use a spice ball or mesh tea ball  If you use a wide mouth jar to infuse your vodka, you can always remove it and leave the rest in if you wanted, just keep in mind the levels of the vodka keep it from molding.

4. Cranberries: Great addition to the citrus flavors or by itself.

5. Ginger – This makes a great cocktail with seltzer water and lemonade. You can buy the crystallized ginger at places like Trader Joe’s, World Market and Whole Food’s.

6.  Some other combos are Vanilla and Cardamon, Beet and Horseradish and a great list at Martha Stewart’s web site with the number of days to infuse the vodka flavors. I haven’t tried any of these, but they all look amazing, especially the Cardamon, Anise and Chile recipe.

MMM. Vodka.

MATERIALS:

(makes 3 gift bottles or 4-6 jars depending on the size)

  • Large sealed container or containers to infuse the vodka
  • Sterilized jars or clean bottles to decant your finished vodka into
  • Ingredients you want to infuse
  • Large bottle of vodka such approx 1.5 liters

DIRECTIONS:

1. Add vodka to large container or divide if using multiple containers

2. Add ingredients you want to infuse

3. Let sit in a dark cool place for 4-5 days unless you are using a recipe that requires less time

4. Decant into clean bottles

5. For gifts, decorate for a nice finishing touch and include recipes of ways to use the vodkas if they are really unusual combinations
6. If for yourself, a cool way to display on your holiday table check out this additional craft at Martha Stewart on vodka ice blocks made with juice containers. If you use the napkins like she shows, don’t use cranberries as they stain like mad. I like the greenery and oranges…very beautiful.
Drink Responsibly. Do not spill this!

Savon de Mersailles (homemade soap that rules.)

Happy Holidays, AKA. the time of year you panic about what to get everyone.

Besides being a kitchen ninja, I am also crazy crafty.  I consider this the handmade version of the gift certificate.  It “fits” everyone no matter what the age, religious belief or how well you know them…everyone bathes.

I have experimented with soap making for a few years now.  So, I am sharing it with you in the spirit of the holiday season. I must get the message across quickly, IT IS NOT HARD TO MAKE.

WHY MAKE YOUR PRESENTS?

It is A. ALWAYS better to give a gift that you make,  B. It is fun to make things even if they turn out ugly (your mom will still think it’s awesome) C. Again, more points for giving gifts you made, and finally, D. This is cheaper to make than a gift certificate (unless you are really cheap and give $5.00 gift cards). I have people actually requesting that I make this again for their holiday gift. Unfortunately for me, the “gig is up” on the process. Now, I have to figure out how to do something else for gifts this year. See how much I love my readers?

The Real Deal

SOAP MAKING: Spare me. I know you made soap as a kid (probably ugly soap balls too), but this is GROWN-UP soap with fancy ingredients.

This recipe is for Savon de Marseilles (say-von-dew-mer-sigh). Marseilles is a region in France, and the soaps they produce are so lovely on the skin. It can be a bit pricy for importing the real deal, but as we are using French clay, it is technically the same thing! I just got back from visiting the south of France, and the photo is of something I picked up in a farmer’s market in Nice. They really are into making soap down there, and it is all fantastic. The percentages are usually how much of it is of oil. I would love to get my hand on the stamps they use, but short of making the reverse in clay and firing them, I don’t know how else to get the special stamps. Stick with simple stamps.

If you want to make this before (INSERT HOLIDAY YOU CELEBRATE HERE), order your French cosmetic clay right now as it will take a bit to receive (give it a week).  Besides, you will procrastinate on the making process, as that is the nature of the holiday. Once you get it all together, it is FUN and easy. I am going over everything just to be clear, but it really isn’t difficult to do.

Unless you drink a bunch of champagne and can’t read these instructions.

MATERIALS NEEDED:

  • Double boiler or electric skillet with a small pot/pan inside
  • Molds
  • Designs for imprinting into the top of the soap
  • Knife
  • Pointy object such as tweezers for pulling off imprints
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Paper towels
  • Glue dots: if you want to make labels for them

Notes on Materials:

MOLDS: Quart milk cartons make excellent molds for the larger blocks. However, make sure to cut a piece of the milk carton out and put it at the bottom that is the same size as the carton itself. As the carton has a fold in the bottom which will be your soap’s top.  Also, mark the inside with a pour line so you can make sure your mold will be as square as possible. You can only use these molds once so start saving up. If you just want to invest in plastic reusable molds that make individual bars, you can go to a craft store such as Micheal’s and go to the soap making section.

DESIGNS FOR IMPRINTING: Micheal’s craft stores had some basic soap molds. However, I think a lot of them were cheesy but bought them anyway. I liked two enough, so I decided to make smaller batches and just reuse the ones I liked. I also had some interesting metal objects someone gave me. You should secure these down with glue dots as they shift when you pour unlike the rubber stamp ones. In fact, if you use anything that isn’t a soap mold, secure it with something from underneath as it can float up inside if it isn’t heavy and you’ll end up having to dig it out.

DOUBLE BROILER: The good thing about this is it is easy to clean up after this as it is already soaped. I prefer using an old electric skillet with some water in it in which I add the pan into. It is portable that way as well as easily controlled for temperature and never will burn. A double broiler will work (a big pot with some water fitted with a smaller pot inside it which prevents the heat from directly touching the pot inside the big one) just make sure to watch your heat and keep it LOW.

INGREDIENTS NEEDED:

Olive oil-based soap from a craft store.  You can also used cucumber, Shea butter or avocado based soap if you want to have a variance of the actual colors. It doesn’t effect the smell that much. Michael’s sells it in the soap section and each package makes about 12 small bars of soap depending on how you fill your molds. As around the holiday’s it may be hard to get the supplies you want, it is okay to get a few varieties. If it is cloudy or milky in its original form, it only turns greener during the process because the clay is green.

Essential oils – You can purchase these at Whole Foods or health food stores. If you want to order them online, you can buy them from the same folks who I buy my soap from at Mountain Rose Herbs. I found grapefruit, lemon, sandalwood, teatree and rose to be good starter oils. Cinnamon and clove oils are very masculine but should be used super sparingly!
French green clay. I bought mine from Mountain Rose Herbs.  I only bought one pound and it has lasted me three years making aprox 15-20 regular bars of soap each year.
Himalayan Sea Salt (fine) – can be purchased at a health food store such as Whole Foods and is good to use instead of regular salt…good investment
Warm water – If you want to be really French, get a big bottle of Evian as it is from France!
Base oils – such as jojoba, almond, hazelnut and extra virgin olive oil.

Optional mix ins: Uncooked oatmeal, lemon zest, orange zest, fresh rosemary, lavender, cinnamon and dried flower petals. For each, add to your liking but most likely at least a teaspoon PER BAR you plan on making. Keep in mind, extra ingredients usually act as exfoliates.

DIRECTIONS:

Mold facing up towards you!

1. Prepare your molds & imprints. If you are using rubber stamps, make sure to put them so you can see them inside the mold as you want it to make the imprint goes into the soap. Sounds obvious, but we all are susceptible to forgetting. If you forget, you can always melt it back down. If you are using objects, make sure they are mostly flat on one side and do not have negative space all around…you need to be able to pick out the mold.

2. Your oil soap should break into sections. Break them up into manageable pieces that will easily fit into your pot. I would suggest doing a half package for each batch so you can vary your scents. Heat the double broiler over medium heat.

3. In your double boiler, melt a block of olive oil-based soap. Adjust the heat to make sure the soap doesn’t melt. Stir it to make sure it doesn’t burn.

4. Once the soap is melted, turn off the heat to prevent the scent from burning off add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon essential oil per pound of soap base.  If you want to use multiple oils, test them beforehand as it can be quite stinky if you combine the wrong ingredients.  Add a teaspoon of French green clay per pound of soap. Add a teaspoon of base oil.Add any add-ins you want. Stir with a wooden spoon.

5. Divide the melted soap mixture by pouring into your molds.  Heights may vary depending on what you are using for a mold or how much soap you have melted. Allow the soap to set until it is cool and hard, at least 20-30 minutes. You can pop out the soap onto a towel and allow for further setting.

6. Add 1 tablespoon fine sea salt and 1 cup warm water and warm in a pot. Wash the soap bars in this salt-water solution, smoothing any sharp edges from your molds or imprints. Dry the soap completely, then rinse it in plain warm water.

After you are done, you can download my labels to print and cut. Secure the labels around the soap with a glue dot and you are golden! I suggest printing on nicer paper such as linen that you can purchase at an office supply store. You can write the “flavors” on the backs of the soaps with a nice pen.

Enjoy! Send me photos or post comments on your experience!


%d bloggers like this: