Virtual Potluck, asked Marx Foods if they might like to play along with us, and they graciously (and immediately) offered to join in the fun. Marx sent each blogger a box of goodies for us to play with - and no rules.
So of course, we made up our own rules.
The general idea is that we've all been invited to a Thanksgiving potluck party, and we've all been asked to bring something - anything - to share. And of course, we're all using at least one of the Marx items to make our special dish. Or, in my case, bottle.
The box I got included Madagascar vanilla beans, two types of dried mushrooms, two types of dried chilis, and some vialone nano rice. And every time I walked past that box, the vanilla beans kicked me in the head. Whoah. These beans are nothing like the sad little beans you find in the grocery store. Nothing. These are amazing.
So I decided to kick those vanilla beans back. With vodka.
Yep, I'm bringing the drinks to this event. I kept thinking that the vanilla beans would be great in a liqueur.
But vanilla wasn't enough. I wanted other flavors - but at the same time, I didn't want them to overwhelm that wonderful vanilla. And of course, if it was a liqueur, I wanted it to be at least a little sweet. I decided to kill two bees with one stone and use honey for both sweetness and flavor.
You know vanilla beans come from orchids, right? Honey's related to flowers, vanilla beans are part of a flower. I wanted one more thing. But what? I was thinking about lavender, but that didn't seem right. I wandered through the spice cabinet. Juniper berries? Maybe. Sumac? hmmmm... but no.
Then I thought of it - hibiscus flowers - also called jamaica. They're a little tart and turn liquids pink. And they're flowers ... so I've got three flower-related elements in my infusion. So, Tres Flores it is.
The honey I used was from a local honey farm and isn't a clear honey - it's translucent, so the beverage a "frosty" look to it. If you prefer a clear drink, us a clear honey. I also suggest using a light-colored honey rather than a dark one.
2 cups vodka
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup hibiscus flowers
Combine all ingredients in a 1-quart jar. Cover and shake to combine. Let sit for at least a week to steep, shaking daily. Strain and transfer to a clean jar for storage. I liked the idea of leaving the seeds from the vanilla beans in the drink, but if you want to remove them, strain through a coffee filter; otherwise you can simply strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove the flowers.
I'd suggest returning the vanilla beans to the jar to continue steeping and adding flavor to the liqueur for as long as you have it.
If you don't want to leave the beans in the jar, don't waste them. Rinse them, let them dry out, and add them to a jar of sugar. There's enough flavor to scent the sugar and give you a vanilla sugar.
Serve your liqueur over ice, or with sparking water, or come up with your own cocktail. This stuff is pretty darned good!
But the fun doesn't end with drinks!
Time for a GIVEAWAY!
You, too, can play with some Marx Foods samples. I've got a package all ready to mail that has one type of mushroom, two types of chilis, and three amazing vanilla beans. I'm not giving details, so you can be surprised when you open the package.
To enter to win, leave a comment here telling me what you'd do with the vanilla beans if you won them. Contest ends Nov. 27 at midnight and is open to US residents only.
The next four are optional, and you can do them in any order, or skip any. Make sure you leave a comment here for each extra entry, so you get credit for it.
For an extra entry, tweet a link to this contest. Make sure you include @dbcurrie and #virtual potuck in the tweet. Come back here and tell me that you tweeted.
For one more entry, follow @virtualpotluck on Twitter, and tweet a link to this contest with @virtualpotluck and @marxfoods in the tweet. Come back here and tell me that you followed and tweeted.
For one more entry, go to the Marx Foods website and tell me what you'd like to buy there.
For one more entry, Go to my Virtual Potluck roundup post that's right above this one, and then go to one other blog post described there, and leave a comment on that blog. Come back here and tell me where you left the comment.
How about a DISCOUNT?
If you want to buy something from Marx Foods, I can give you a secret code for a discount.
Any time between November 21 and 27, if you purchase from Marx Foods, just enter POTLUCK into the Coupon Code field at checkout for 10 percent off of everything. Might I suggest vanilla beans to start?
And the WINNER is ...
And the lucky winner is Lynn! Congrats. I know you'll enjoy those vanilla beans - and the other surprises, as well!