New Hampshire Maple Weekend Is Here!

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The maple sugaring season in New Hampshire is up and running!

Why is this so exciting?

Because all over New Hampshire there are little sugar shacks that produce the best tasting maple syrup that has ever passed your lips.

You can only get it fresh between the months of February and April, so my suggestion is, that although the syrup is wonderful all year, there’s nothing quite like tasting it warm right when they’re making it…so get out there and start sampling!

We visited two maple syrup producers today but there are a total of eight in our county and over 110 state wide.

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Typically they are just little houses or “sugar shacks”.

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Fieldstone Farm harvests the sap from several different locations so we couldn’t see what a tapped tree looks like. But on our way to another town we ran across a small area that was being tapped on someone else’s property. I’ll show you those pictures after we tour the farm.

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This is where the sap starts its journey into the sugar shack. It will be heated to evaporate the water, then boiled, then cooled before bottling…at the beginning of the process the sap only has about 3% sugars and after it has been heated and the water has evaporated, it will raise to about 10%. You can go here to learn all about the process of making maple syrup.

The measurements are so they can tell how much sap is left in the outside tank.

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This is also the sampling room. Little cups of warmed maple syrup…let me tell you, it was delightful. It almost tasted buttery; it was so smooth and rich. Then they brought out the Maple Cream. I had never even heard of such of thing but I’m going to tell you right now, if you have the opportunity to purchase some, do it.

Unbelievable. Think of whipped honey but in the form of maple syrup and much thicker and richer. It’s still 100% maple syrup but they heat it to a high temperature and then have to cool it to a certain temperature. It’s a two day process just to make one pot the size of a large stock pot. It is so good you could easily eat it by the spoonful.

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This is the owner, Dana Ryll, (below left) chatting with friends and customers. I feel like we live in such a remote area compared to where we used to live in the city, so I’m always so surprised to see so many people out and about here. There were tons of people coming in and out. Clearly, the locals and even not so local know exactly where to get their maple syrup and maple cream.

Remember how I’ve been telling you how incredibly friendly people are in New Hampshire? We hadn’t thought to bring a checkbook and had only come with a debit card. We had over $80 in purchases set aside on the counter and Dana’s exact words were, “Don’t worry about it, just mail me a check! We do it all the time, I trust you.” What on earth? When was the last time you heard that from someone who was selling you something? Even though we appreciated his very kind gesture, Tony ran to get cash. Such friendly people. We are enormously blessed to live in this part of the country.

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This sweet kiddo is Austin.

He helps during syrup season and they call him the “Sap Rat”. He’s proudly displaying their delicious syrup.

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This is the boiling room.

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The chimney in the back is where the wood smoke can escape and the steam from the boiling syrup goes right up to the ceiling where there are panels they open so the steam can make its way outside. It’s still winter in New Hampshire (35 and windy today) and this was my favorite room because it was so warm and moist!

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While Tony ran to get cash I headed outside to see Abe the  Buffalo, and his daughter Maybelle. I was chatting and forgot to get a shot of Maybelle. Maybelle is a Beefalo and she was gorgeous. Looked mostly like a cow but had a bit of a buffalo hump and long hair along her neck and her face was gorgeous. When we head back there for more syrup I’ll be sure to get a picture for you.

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This is Harry and his friend whose name I didn’t catch. Harry was adorable and liked to have all kinds of attention. At one point he even had a good taste of my camera strap and my scarf.  The owner’s wife basically rescued them from a goat milk farmer. Evidently since the males don’t produce milk they are…disposed of…when they’re born. I told her I was lucky I didn’t go with her because I’d probably have ended up coming home with way more than two! Wonder what Tony would say when he arrived from out of town to a backyard full of male baby goats?

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Their farm is absolutely beautiful. I need to learn to be more focused when I’m out and about with my camera. I enjoyed the opportunity for social time and neglected to take a few shots of their land. Amazing scenery.

So many areas in New England are straight out of a Martha Stewart magazine. Exactly like you imagine. Do you know what I mean? As you drive down the treed roads, everywhere you look you see the quintessential New England homes as if they are right out of a New England handbook. Gorgeous wreaths hanging on doors, a wisp of smoke coming out of the chimneys, stacks of firewood off to the side. Places where you wear wool sweaters and adorable boots and cart shiny pails of warm milk and fresh eggs into the house. Places where homemade syrup fills the air and people welcome you right into their farms and homes with open arms.

Heaven on earth.

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You can order their syrup and maple cream and learn more about Fieldstone Farm and Sugarhouse here.

We moved on from Fieldstone Farm and headed north to Boutwell’s Sugar House in Jaffrey.

A much smaller operation, tiny in fact, but don’t let that fool you or stop you from visiting. They too are producing a very flavorful and delicious maple syrup. We purchased their medium amber syrup and snacked on samples of maple sugar candy.

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I threw a stick for this sweet girl while Tony chatted with the owners. You know I have a soft spot for pups!

Who could ignore those pleading eyes?

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From here we headed toward Keene to check out the local farmer’s market. We kept noticing blue tubing on some of the trees on people’s property along the way. We finally realized they were tapping the trees for sap to make maple syrup. Duh! I had Tony turn the car around so I could get a few pictures for you.

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Not at all what I had expected. They are just tiny little taps! They’re all hooked together and converge into one long line that go directly into a sap tank. Probably just enough for the homeowner and their extended families to enjoy for the year.

Cool or what?

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Right there in the middle is where they all converge.

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And here is where they drain into the sap tank. It has to freeze at night and get up around 35 degrees during the day for the sap to flow.

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I’m pretty sure we don’t have any maple trees on our property, but we haven’t been able to do much exploring with all the snow. If we do, I’ll certainly be looking forward to some homemade maple syrup!

From there we got back on the road to Keene and headed to the farmer’s market.

The winter farmer’s market is pretty tiny but we still managed to leave with  four jars of organic preserves and one jar of organic chile pepper mustard from Cheshire Garden  for the BLT’s with avocado that we’ve been loving lately.

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We have been told the farmer’s market grows dramatically when the weather warms up. Can’t wait to see what all of the local farmers bring to sell!

From there we headed to the Elm City Brewing Company for lunch. (photo courtesy of Yelp)

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We feasted on gluten free burgers and fries and I was shocked and pleased to hear they even had three gluten free beer choices for me.

We had a fantastic day and Tony and I both agree that New Hampshire Maple Weekend gets two thumbs up!

Soda Bread ~ Two Ways

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It’s still winter here…but I’ve made a pact with myself just like Miss C. over at The Kitchen’s Garden not to complain about it anymore.

With the weather being so…delightful…I’ve had some time to go through many of my cook books and food magazines. I think I’ve probably bookmarked at least 300 recipes to experiment with.

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The Dried Cherry & Walnut soda bread (on the left) is adapted from a new cook book I found on the book store’s discount table. (Hers called for raisins, allspice,  and is not GF or DF) It’s hot pink and called, “Baking Style – Art, Craft Recipes” by Lisa Yockelson. It’s kind of Martha Stewart-esque. Cool, somewhat fancy recipes, and a lot of tasty things that go well with tea or coffee. I’ve put a little sticky note next to 34 of her recipes that I want to try to de gluten and de dairy, so you’ll no doubt be hearing her name again in the future.

The Raisin & Cinnamon Soda Bread (on the right) with Cinnamon Maple Butter is a recipe that I created. It’s similar to any basic soda bread recipe you’ll find, but of course gluten-free and dairy-free with more moisture added. I like both of the recipes, but if you forced me to choose between the two, I would have to go with the Raisin & Cinnamon. It’s more moist and probably better as a breakfast bread or snack bread and of course… spread with the heavenly Cinnamon Maple Butter. The butter is probably what tipped the scales for me.

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The Mourning Doves like to keep an eye on me when I’m in the kitchen. Right now as I type this there are six of them on the deck along with several Dark Eyed Juncos, a big Black Bird with a blue neck, a Black Capped Chickadee, and a Red Winged Black Bird. I do enjoy the   birds!

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They aren’t the least bit disturbed by Chloe, either. That probably really irks her.

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Dried Cherry and Walnut Soda Bread

2 Cups Artisanal Flour Blend

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda

1/4 teaspoon Table Salt

3/4 teaspoon Nutmeg

1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar

3 Tablespoons Dairy Free Butter

3/4 Cup “Buttermilk” (measure almond milk and add the juice of 1/2 lemon, let rest for 5 minutes)

1 Large Egg Yolk

1 1/4 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

1 Cup Dried Cherries

1/2 Cup Walnuts, roughly chopped

Raw Sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (I use convection).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sugar into a food processor (or a large bowl and whisk) and pulse a few times to mix.

Add the butter and pulse a few times to distribute. Empty the flour mixture into a large bowl and set aside. Measure the almond milk, add the lemon juice, and let stand for 5 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and stir with a fork.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients (don’t stir yet!), add the dried cherries and chopped walnuts and fold with a spatula just until incorporated and all of the ingredients are wet.

Scoop out onto the parchment lined baking sheet and form lightly into a well domed shape. Sprinkle the top with raw sugar and with a sharp knife, cut a cross on the top of the bread.

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Bake for about 60 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack.

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Delicious with tea or coffee.

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Raisin & Cinnamon Soda Bread with Cinnamon Maple Butter

3 Cups Artisanal Flour Blend

1 Cup Gluten Free Rolled Oats

4 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher Salt

1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon

6 Tablespoons Dairy Free Butter

1 3/4 Cups “Buttermilk” (Measure almond milk, add the juice of 1/2 lemon and let rest for 5 minutes)

2 Eggs

1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

Zest of 2 Clementines

1 1/2 Cups Raisins

More Ground Cinnamon & Sugar For Sprinkling On Top

*Cinnamon Maple Butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (I use convection).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Measure the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and sugar into a food processor (or a large bowl and whisk) and pulse a few times to mix.

Add the butter and pulse a few times to distribute. Empty the flour mixture into a large bowl and add the Clementine zest. Set aside. Measure the almond milk, add the lemon juice, and let stand for 5 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir with a fork.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients (don’t stir yet!), add the raisins and fold with a spatula just until incorporated and all of the ingredients are wet. This batter will be much wetter than the Cherry & Walnut recipe above.

Scoop out onto the parchment lined baking sheet and form lightly into a well domed shape. Sprinkle the top with ground cinnamon and granulated sugar. With a sharp knife, cut a cross on the top of the bread.

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Bake for 70 minutes, remove from oven and allow to rest on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack.

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Slice, and serve warm with the Cinnamon Maple butter.

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Pretending It’s Spring

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There’s not much more we can do, really.

Well, besides maybe whine and complain. But I think we’ve already tried that and it didn’t work.

So all that’s left is…pretending.

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We woke up this morning to eight inches of new snow. Yep.

And we’re supposed to get six to ten more inches before the day is over. It’s snowing heavily right now at 2:30 in the afternoon, so I’m going to assume the weather forecast was correct. Luckily snow is beautiful. Can you imagine if we had to endure months and months of something ugly falling out of the sky every year? See, it’s not hard to find something in this weather to be thankful for. I’ll hang on to that and keep pretending that this will all melt next week and it will warm up to at least the high 50’s so I can start working in the yard.

Today I made Tony and I a colorful lunch to help us get through the pretending of spring.

This whips up very quickly (maybe 10 minutes at the most) and serves two. We had about a cup leftover. Perfect for a bed for an egg “sunny” side up in the morning.

Warm Spring Salad

Organic Olive Oil

1 Chicken Sun Dried Tomato & Basil Sausage (I used Alfresco), sliced lengthwise then chopped

1 Small Organic Onion

About 1/2 Cup Organic Red & Orange Bell Pepper, sliced

About 1 Cup Organic Broccoli Florets, sliced

Large Handful Organic Baby Kale, chopped

Large Handful Organic Baby Spinach, chopped

1 Can Organic Black Beans, rinsed & drained

Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinaigrette

Salt & Pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the sausage, onion, pepper, and broccoli until sausage is lightly browned and vegetables are al dente. Add the black beans, kale, spinach, and toss until kale and spinach wilt. Season with salt and pepper and a few splashes of your favorite vinaigrette.

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Baked Halibut and Sweet Potato Fries

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I only have one photo today of our lunch. Although I’m using it twice.

I took several but evidently something happened between taking them and saving them. When I went to upload, all were just plain white, except one. With all the positives of fantastic technology, also come a few negatives.

The fish was fantastically flaky and delicious. I’m sorry you had to miss it!

My husband has a huge aversion to oil. He hates greasy food and particularly liked this fish because “it gives you the sense that you’re eating something fried but it’s not overly oily”. I would have to agree with him. This meal feels like you’re really indulging, but in reality, it’s all baked and has very little fat. What fat it does have are pretty healthy fats; the mayo is even made with olive oil.

It feels like we’re finally settling in to our new home and getting into somewhat of a routine. The one thing we can’t seem to acclimate though, is dinner time. We’re hungry for breakfast a later time than usual, then end up missing lunch, and are ready for dinner around 2:30. That would be 11:30 Washington time, which I guess is actually lunch… See what I mean about time acclimation? Amazing how firm our inner clocks are set, isn’t it? This is why it appears that we are having dinner for lunch…because we are. It’s probably better that way anyway. Then we aren’t full when we go to bed and we can have dessert for dinner. See how that works out so nicely? Yay!

For those of you who are visiting for the first time, in November we moved almost 3,000 miles away from our home town in Washington State to southern New Hampshire.

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We love the new house, the neighborhood, the surrounding area, and the abundance of fresh seafood. I’ve probably eaten more mussels and clams in the last three months than I have in my entire life.

But I would have to say that the people of New Hampshire are what really have made all the difference and have taken the sting out of what would normally be a rather stressful experience. They are just so nice. I know it sounds odd, and maybe even kind of dorky…and you may think I’m exaggerating, but I kid you not. In the three months we’ve been on the east coast, I can say I have not seen one person in public be rude to another person, I haven’t seen anyone flip each other off in their cars or yell, people actually stop for you to cross the street whether you’re in a cross walk or not and they don’t get angry about it, and they don’t invade your personal space at the check out stand (all things that happen frequently in our home town). They stop and talk to you and shoot the breeze as if they don’t have any thing better in their day to do than really chat with you and find out how you’re doing. And they are incredibly patient people.

And these are the strangers, people we don’t even know!

Just a few days ago I stood in the gluten-free isle at Hannaford’s and talked to a couple from Massachusetts for about a half an hour (we’re only a few miles from the border).  The wife has Celiac and the husband does all of the cooking for her. I would say they were in their early 60’s. They were shocked to hear that we love the east coast so much and when I told the husband that I was amazed by how genuinely friendly people are, the man was taken aback and thanked me and told me that he considered that quite a compliment.

Moving almost 3,000 miles across the country and starting a new life in our mid 40’s has been an adjustment to say the least. But it is also a fantastic adventure and I’m incredibly thankful we were smart enough to set all the “what-if’s” aside and take the leap!

 “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”  

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

And I’m going to have to say, Amen Eleanor! Amen!

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Baked Halibut with Sweet Potato Fries

You can find the recipe for the sweet potato fries here.

You’ll want to start the sweet potato fries about 30-40 minutes ahead of baking the fish, which only takes about 20 minutes.

For the dipping sauces:

Tartar Sauce

About 3/4 Cup Olive Oil Mayonnaise

2 Baby Sweet Gherkins, finely diced

1 teaspoon Maple horseradish Mustard (Dijon would be fine too)

About 1 Tablespoon Gherkin Juice

About 2 teaspoons Fresh Lemon Juice

Dash of Tabasco

Kosher Salt & Pepper To Taste

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to use.

Red Sauce

1/2 Cup Olive Oil Mayonnaise

3 Tablespoons GF Ketchup

1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika

1/4-1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder

Dash of Kosher Salt

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

For The Fish

Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

1 Halibut Steak, skin removed and boned

(This will depend on how many people you are feeding, you can also use any other type of firm fish that you like)

About 1 Cup GF Bread Crumbs

A Generous Pinch(s) of Kosher Salt

About 1 Tablespoon Dried Oregano

About 2 teaspoons Garlic Powder

About 1/4 Cup Dairy Free Butter

About 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Baking Sheet, Cooling Rack, Aluminum Foil

Remove the skin and bone from the halibut if necessary, this will leave you with four pieces. Dry each one off with a paper towel and set on clean paper towels.

Place the bread crumbs, salt, oregano, and garlic powder in a shallow dish and stir with a fork until completely combined. Set aside.

Melt the butter and olive in a shallow dish in the microwave for about 30 seconds, not until it’s boiling, just melted.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and top with a cooling rack.

Take the fish and roll it in the butter, then roll and cover completely in bread crumbs. Set on rack and repeat until all of the fish are dipped and covered in bread crumbs.

Next, take any remaining butter and olive oil mixture and drizzle it with a spoon over the breaded fish. Sprinkle a little more bread crumbs over the top.

Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Don’t over cook or the fish will become rubbery. You want it to flake nicely with a fork.

Serve with the sweet potato fries, lemon wedges, and a dollop of both dips.

Crumb Cake

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Guess what we woke up to this morning?

More snow. And I’m told there’s 8-12 more inches on its way.

Normally, I wouldn’t mind because snow is gorgeous when it’s falling from the sky and blanketing the trees.

But I really only love it during the months of December and January.

Now it’s just getting kind of annoying.

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One plus, is that my husband’s flight to DC was cancelled. Now he’s able to stay home all week. Although, he still works from his home office, it’s still nice to hear him clunking around upstairs.

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Looks like today will now be a baking and house cleaning day.

Happy Snowday…I mean Wednesday!

~ April

Crumb Cake

For the topping:

3/4 Cup Artisan Flour Blend

1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, packed

1/4 Cup Gluten Free Oats

1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice

1/2 Cup Dairy Free Butter

For the cake:

1 1/2 Cups Artisan Flour Blend

3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

1/4 Cup Dairy Free Butter, plus more for greasing pan

1 Large Egg

1/2 Scant Cup Almond Milk, plus 1 heaping Tablespoon Almond Milk Yogurt 

1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter an 8 inch square baking pan. Make the crumb topping by whisking all of the dry ingredients and then crumbling in the butter with fingers. Work it in gently until it resembles medium-sized crumbs.

Next, make the cake. Whisk all dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Blend all wet ingredients except the butter, and add to dry mixture. Add butter. Fold with a rubber spatula until just combined and spread evenly in buttered pan. Top with crumb mixture and bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick poked in center comes out clean. Start checking at 25 minutes.

Serve warm with a dollop of butter on top.

Vodka for lunch anyone?

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I believe I’ve finally figured out how to make it through the remainder of winter.

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Tangerine Cocktails

3 Tangerines, zest one and then juice all three

1 More Tangerine For Garnish

About 1 1/2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar

1/8 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

Ciroc Vodka, made from fine French grapes

Simple Syrup, one part sugar one part water

Squeeze of Fresh Lemon, about 1 Tablespoon

Spoon sugar, cinnamon, and zest onto a small plate, reserving about 1 teaspoon of zest. (Make sure the plate is large enough to fit the rim of your glass.)

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Mix gently with a fork until it comes together.

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Run a wedge of lemon or tangerine around the rim of the glass and dip the glass in the sugar mixture, twirling it around to cover the rim evenly.

Next, in a cocktail shaker, add 2 ounces of tangerine juice, 2 ounces of vodka, 1 ounce of simple syrup, and a little pinch of the zest and about 1 tablespoon or so of fresh lemon juice. Add a few ice cubes, place the lid on tightly, and shake until there’s a frosty sweat on the outside of the shaker.

Pour into sugar rimmed glass, garnish with a slice of tangerine

…and watch winter fly right by.

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