Irish Whiskey Thyme Sour – Food and Travel in Ireland

Hello March! We have been especially excited for St. Patrick’s day coming up for two different reasons. We took a trip to Ireland last August and can’t wait to show you the photos. The second reason is that it is within one week of our our due date for the next Baby Carlin! We found out two weeks before our trip that my husband Brandon and I were having our 2nd baby. Being pregnant on our trip to Ireland really cramped my drinking style, but luckily we have a Irish cocktail recipe inspired by our trip ready for after the baby arrives!

Here is a look at our favorite parts of our vacation. We ended up doing a road trip around all of Ireland and I have to say, the beauty is undeniable. While driving around, some of it seemed similar to Wisconsin, until there is a castle ruin in the middle of the green landscape and also the scary narrow roads that were sometimes covered in sheep.

Throughout our trip we did some incredible sightseeing. We made it up to Northern Ireland and back down through the Atlantic Way and also toured the Cliffs of Moher. On our last day in Ireland we went into downtown Dublin where we toured the Jameson distillery. The kind bartender there made up a beautiful mocktail for me. Below is a cocktail recipe inspired from our trip, Irish Whiskey Thyme Sour. In the mood for Irish food? Check out this recipe for ST. PATTY’S DAY CORNED BEEF POT PIE Cheers! – Jena and Jim

Irish Whiskey Thyme Sour - Food and Travel in Ireland
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Recipe type: Drinks
Cuisine: Irish
Serves: 1 glass
  • 2 oz. Jameson Whiskey
  • 1 oz ginger liqueur
  • 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small bunch of thyme
  • ¾ oz. simple syrup
  • 1 white of large egg
  • 4 drops orange bitters
  • 3 oz sour
  • lemon wedge
  1. Place lemon juice, simple syrup, and ½ of the thyme in a stainless-steel shaker and muddle
  2. Add whiskey, ginger lacquer, and egg whites with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Tap glass bottom to disperse air bubbles.
  3. Top with sour and garnish with 4 drops orange bitters, lemon wedge, and the rest of the thyme.


Paula | My Common Table - Ireland is one of my dream travel destinations. I only know Dublin and I loved the friendliness of the Irish people. Your pictures capture the magic of the Irish countryside.

Amazing Fried Cheese – Best Super Bowl Party Appetizer


Amazing Fried Cheese - Football Superbowl Party Best Appetizer Ever - Little Rusted Ladle - Jena Carlin Photography -fb

Cheese is as much a part of a Wisconsinites everyday routine as any food available. When it is in melted form, it only increases its desirability. Batter or bread it and deep fry it, and you have what almost every restaurant and bar in the state would be crazy not to have on the menu. Fried cheese curds are salty, gooey, savory, crunchy, and extremely delicious.

Cheese curds are indeed gooey pillows of yumminess. However, it occurred to me that other than curds and of course mozzarella sticks, there aren’t many other flavors of fried cheese available. Yet there are hundreds of delicious Wisconsin cheeses even tastier than the simple curd. Why not cut some of these many delectable cheeses into cubes and batter them as well? That is the purpose of this article.

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When trying to decide what cheeses to use, a few important things are needed. If you are going to batter cheese, it must be able to be battered or breaded. It can’t be too soft and it can’t be too hard. If it’s too soft, it can’t be coated. If it’s too hard or aged too long, it won’t melt very well. Flavor is also important. If you fry a cheese with too strong a flavor, it is less than pleasant to eat, especially in any quantity. So, a semi-soft or firm, meltable cheese with good flavor is what is needed.

The cheeses chosen for this grand experiment were very different. One of my favorite wisconsin cheeses is a fenugreek gouda. It’s sweet, salty and very meltable. Blue cheese is very soft and very strong in flavor, which would normally rule it out as an option. However, when combined with cream cheese, it’s flavor is just right. Form the mixture into small balls with scoops, then freeze them and they are able to be battered as well. Horseradish and chive havarti is very creamy and full of horseradish that cleans the sinuses. Ghost peppers are very popular right now. When they are added to cheese, it makes the cheese much hotter than any other cheese. Call it torturous, but it sounded like a tasty option. The last cheese chosen was a smokey cheddar swiss combo. It’s combination of flavors seemed perfect choice for frying.

What about the batter? A standard beer batter would normally be the choice, but a lighter batter is a better choice so the cheese doesn’t get dominated by a thick coating. A tempura style batter gives a crunchy but light flavor. Instead of all-purpose flour, rice flour was used. It eliminates the gluten as well as making for a tasty alternative. The recipe is very similar to the fried sage bundles that are in our new cookbook called Herbs For Flavor, Health and Natural Beauty. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon here. Instead of ice water, I did use beer, but a light one. Any pilsner or ale will do. To add extra flavor, fresh herbs were added to the batter. Parsley, chives and thyme was used, but feel free to use whatever herbs you prefer.

Amazing Fried Cheese - Football Superbowl Party Best Appetizer Ever - Little Rusted Ladle - Jena Carlin Photography - Web-22

The last detail was coating the cheese with plain rice flour and freezing the cubes so when they are fried, the cheese doesn’t melt too quickly. All that’s left is to batter the cheese, fry it and eat it up. Be sure to use a good electric fryer and do your frying outside. Otherwise, your house will smell like a fried food stand, which may be fine now, but won’t be as pleasant when the feast is over. All the varieties of cheese were great. I mean come on, bad melty cheese, Really? The only negative was that the ghost pepper cheese was hard to pick out of the pile, so if you picked the wrong piece, you were greeted with a blast of molten fire. Kind of a russian roulette kind of choice.

So tomorrow, when you’re trying to decide what to make for the big game, maybe some fried cheese is a good way to start the show. Pick any cheese you like. If it doesn’t work, you can always eat it cold. Either way, you’ll be eating cheese. Preferably from the dairy state. The recipe will be posted tomorrow. Until then, cook with love and live to cook.

Jim & Jena


Battered Cheese
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Pillows of gooey cheese, enrobed in a crunchy batter.
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 30 pcs.
  • 2½ cups Rice flour, divided
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 2 lg. Egg yolks
  • 1 cup light beer
  • 1 tbsp. Parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Chives, chopped
  • 8 ozs. Cream cheese, softened
  • 4 ops. Blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 lb. Assorted cheese cubes of choice
  • 1 cup Ranch dressing.
  1. Pre-heat 1 gallon of vegetable oil in a large electric fryer and pre-heat to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine 2 cups of the rice flour and the next 5 ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese and blue cheese.
  4. Scoop the mixture into 1" balls with a small scoop and transfer the balls to a foil lined sheet pan. Freeze for 2 hours or until firm.
  5. Transfer remaining ½ cup flour into a resealable plastic bag. Add frozen blue cheese balls. Roll around balls until well coated. Set aside.
  6. Add remaining cheese cubes to the bag. toss in the bag until cubes are well coated. Set aside.
  7. Transfer 4-5 pieces of the reserved cheese balls and cubes into the batter. Stir them around to coat them completely. Using a wooden toothpick, transfer cubes one at a time into the hot oil.
  8. Fry for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown and cheese starts to melt out.
  9. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Serve with a side of ranch dressing.


Karly - I can’t act like I wasn’t totally committed at Fried Cheese, but I’ll still say that I am totally obsessing over this post. Cannot get over how good these look!

Herbs for Flavor, Health and Natural Beauty – A Sneak Peak

Rosemary Mac & Cheese from our new herb cookbook -


In a little more than a month, LRL’s new cookbook titled Herbs for Flavor, Health and Natural Beauty will be hitting the shelves of bookstores near you and websites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  We are really excited about it, because it will be our debut as co-authors.  The entire book was written, developed, styled and photographed by Jena and I, and we did it in less than 4 months.  Now don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t by choice.  It had everything to do with spring and our desire to have it available for the coming herb season.   After all, we’re going to be ready for the new growing season and all the fresh herbs that will go with it.  Why not enjoy some beautiful, delicious herb recipes while you’re waiting for those wonders of nature to start popping?  To get your mouth a watering, Jena and I decided it was a good idea to give everyone a sample recipe and a few photos to go with it to show why we are so excited about our debut book.

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Since it’s still January and there are still a good two months left here in Wisconsin before we will have temperatures warm enough to start thinking spring, and another two months after that before those delicate herbs will be able to be safely planted, why not tempt you with one of my favorite recipes from the book.  Rosemary Mac & Cheese.  This outstanding version of the classic mac and cheese recipe, uses rosemary in more than one form.  First we cook large macaroni noodles and make the sauce right in the pan using chicken broth, gobs of goat cheese and of course rosemary.  Then, we fold in some juicy rotisserie chicken and top it all off with an incredibly flavorful rosemary panko crumb topping.  It’s loaded with rosemary flavor and really easy to make.  What better way to get through the cold and snowy days of winter than with a cheesy, gooey bowl of homemade mac and cheese?

Rosemary Chicken Mac and Cheese - Herbs for Flavor, Health, and Natural Beauty - Little Rusted Ladle - Jena Carlin Photography -

We will be taking advance orders for our book very soon, so be sure to keep an eye out for the notice.  There is a limited run of books, so make sure you get your copy early.  The book contains over 225 full color pages.  Each recipe and herbal beauty project is displayed with Jena’s beautiful photography.  We hope you enjoy this teaser recipe while you wait for the book to arrive.  Don’t forget to cook with love and live to cook.


Jim & Jena

Herbs for Flavor, Health and Natural Beauty - A Sneak Peak
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This grown up version of the classic Mac & Cheese is loaded with the fresh flavors of rosemary, goat cheese, and rotisserie chicken.
Recipe type: Main Dish
Serves: 4
  • ½ cup Fresh rosemary leaves, chopped, divided
  • ⅓ cup EVOO
  • 2 cups Chicken stock
  • 2 cups Water
  • 2 cups Heavy cream
  • 3 cups Large elbow macaroni
  • 3 cups Rotisserie chicken, cooked
  • 4 ozs Goat cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp. Rosemary oil, see above
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  1. For Rosemary Oil Combine ¼ cup of rosemary and olive oil in a blender and blend on high for 1 minute or until rosemary is finely ground. Strain oil into a bowl with a fine strainer. Set oil aside while you make the pasta.
  2. For Pasta Pour chicken stock, water and cream into a large dutch oven or saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, then add macaroni. Stir with a rubber spatula to prevent pasta from sticking. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring mixture occasionally until pasta is al dente and liquid has thickened. Fold in chicken, goat cheese and remaining rosemary. Cook 2-3 minutes longer or until goat cheese has melted into sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off heat and let rest for 2-3 minutes.
  3. For Crumb Topping In a small skillet over medium heat, toast panko crumbs with 2 tsp. of reserved rosemary oil for 2-3 minutes or until crumbs are golden brown, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool while you dish up mac and cheese.
  4. To Serve Spoon macaroni mixture into shallow bowls or large mugs. Spoon 1-2 tsp. of reserved rosemary oil over macaroni.
  5. Top with toasted rosemary crumbs. Serve.

Rosemery Chicken Mac and Cheese - Herbs for Flavor, Health, and Natural Beauty - Little Rusted Ladle - Jena Carlin Photography - Web

sharron - ***** Brilliant recipe

Lori Rice - Congrats! Can’t wait to see it!

Co - Cannot wait for this and congrats to you both!!👍🏼👏🏼❤

Kristen - Yum! I can’t wait to buy your new book. Congratulations!

Joan - Congratulations on the new book – how fantastic! This recipe and images are over the top gorgeous and as a WI resident myself, this is PERFECT Mac n Cheese weather!

Watercolor and Marble Cookie Decorating with a Toddler


We love the family time leading up to the holidays! Here is a recipe for some beautiful watercolor and marble snowflake sugar cookies that even a toddler can help with!


We started by making white marshmallow fondant at home. Roll out the fondant and water down some food coloring to paint it with. We chose shades of teal and blue to keep it simple. While the fondant is tacky we added shades of blue sprinkles and cut out a variety of sizes of snowflakes.


Then we worked on the sugar cookie folding teal food coloring in the dough until we had the color and marble look we wanted. Roll it out and cut out more snowflakes in a variety of shapes. Cook and cool sugar cookie. adhere the cookie and fondant together with white icing.




Marshmallow Fondant
Cuisine: Dessert
  • 8 ounces marshmallows (4 cups not packed) (make your own)
  • 1 pound powdered sugar (4 cups), plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tbsp water
  1. Place the marshmallows and water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute, until the marshmallows are expanded.
  2. Stir the marshmallows until they are smooth.
  3. Add powdered sugar and stir. It will become too hard to stir.
  4. Scrape mixture out onto a powder sugar dusted work surface. Knead the fondant mixture like bread dough until smooth.
  5. It is ready to be used and rolled out or cover with plastic wrap until you are ready.






Homemade Coffee / Cocoa Syrups – It’s so simple….syrup that is!


Go to any coffee shop on a given day and what will you find on the menu of coffee offerings? Flavored coffee. Salted caramel, white chocolate mocha, candy cane machiatto, etc. Heck, look at the hype every fall when Starbucks releases their pumpkin spice latte. You’d think it was the best think since, well, sliced pumpkin pie. In reality though, all those yummy sounding flavors are just artificially flavored syrup added to coffee. Add a catchy name like snickerdoodle or coconut almond truffle, and it makes you really want one doesn’t it? Well, guess what? We are here to tell you that you can make your own syrups and you’ll know what’s in them, where they are made and they will be better for you at the same time.

Coffee syrups are really just simple syrups. What is simple syrup? Exactly that, simple. It is half granulated sugar and half water, cooked until the sugar melts into the water. Basically sweet water. Simple right? This simple syrup is used in coffee syrups, coffee creamers, flavorings for mixed drinks, ice cream toppings, and many other store bought products. Just look at the ingredient list. If the first two ingredients are sugar and water, chances are it’s a simple syrup base. Well, while creating the hot cocoa party and trying to come up with ideas for how to jazz it up, Jena threw out flavored syrups as an idea. After a little research on The Google, which is jokingly what I call it now thanks to a dear friend of mine, I decided to give it a whirl. Think about it. If syrups are the base for creamers and both are used extensively to make awesome tasting flavors, why not spruce up other beverages this way? Why only flavor coffee? Why stop at all. Coffee, tea, hot cocoa, egg nog, Apple cider, martinis, shakes, floats, sundaes or just plain milk could be jazzed up using a homemade syrup. I must say, it is kind of fun to bring out bottles of homemade coffee syrups or creamers when friends come over for coffee clutch, and say “these are some homemade creamers I whipped up for you”.


When starting the process of making our own syrups, the one thing that needed to be changed was the ingredients. simple syrup is usually made with granulated sugar and water. For ours, we decided to use raw, unrefined and coconut palm sugar to make them a little healthier. After all, both are better for you than granulated sugar because it’s not processed or bleached with chemicals like granulated sugar. Did you think white sugar came that way naturally? Nope. As a matter of fact, most granulated sugar in the stores these days is made from sugar beets rather than sugar cane. Unless the package says pure cane sugar, chances are it comes from sugar beets. Also, because of the refining process, granulated sugar contains zero nutrients and a lot of empty calories. We’re not suggesting that our homemade syrups are good for you. We just wanted a better alternative for those who like a nice flavored beverage with a tasty dessert name once in awhile like yours truly.

Since the basic syrup was only raw and coconut sugars and water, it was going to require some additional flavors to achieve the end results we wanted. So, for a salted coconut caramel syrup, we made a homemade coconut caramel sauce using coconut sugar and coconut almond milk, which is fabulous on it’s own, then added it to the simple syrup. For a cran-raspberry syrup, we cooked down fresh raspberries and cranberries, strained the mixture keeping only the liquid and added chambord liquor and a little heavy cream. For Irish cream, we added some instant espresso powder, heavy cream and Irish whiskey. The recipes are below. You can make it a lot easier by simply adding flavorings instead of making them all from scratch, but what’s the fun in that? Besides, if you want to know what’s in your food, the only way to do that is by making it yourself. Feel free to simply add prepared caramel sauce, drained frozen raspberries, or skip the alcohol.


Want to make your own coffee creamers? Just combine half and half or heavy cream in equal proportions with the finished syrups. Create your own Rumchatta or Baily’s Irish Cream by adding more booze and cream to the syrups. Want a great after dinner frozen drink? Combine the cran-raspberry syrup with ice cream and more Chambord in a blender. Spoon it into a glass and top it with whipped cream and drizzle with more syrup. Yum! The world is your syrup, so try your own versions. Until next time. Remember to cook with love and live to cook.

Jim & Jena


Homemade Flavored Syrups
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Create your own delicious flavored syrups and use them in everything from coffee, chai tea, hot cocoa or eggnog to martinis, frozen drinks or sundaes.
Recipe type: Beverage
  • 4 cups Organic, unrefined cane sugar
  • 2 cups Coconut palm sugar
  • 6 cups Filtered water
  1. For Basic Syrup Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes or until sugar dissolves completely and is reduced by ¼. Let cool to room temperature.
  2. For Salted Caramel Syrup In a small saucepan, combine ½ cup coconut sugar and 1 Tbsp. of water. Cook over high heat for 4-5 minutes or until deep brown in color. Add ½ cup coconut almond milk and cook over medium heat until sugar is melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in 2 Tbsp. heavy cream and 1½ tsp. kosher salt. Stir in 2 cups of the cooled cocoa syrup and 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract. Cool to room temperature. Pour into bottles, cap and refrigerate until needed for up to 4 weeks. Makes 2½ cups.
  3. For Cran-Raspberry Cocoa Syrup In a small saucepan, combine ½ cup of water, ½ cup of fresh raspberries and ½ cup of prepared cranberry sauce (preferably homemade) and 2 Tbsp. heavy cream. Boil over medium heat for 10 minutes or until liquid is reduced by ⅓. Strain mixture into a bowl with 2 cups of reserved cocoa syrup. Add 2 Tbsp. raspberry liquor such as chambord. Strain mixture into a bowl, then pour into bottles cap and refrigerate until needed up to 4 weeks. Makes 2½ cups.
  4. For Irish Cream Syrup In a medium saucepan, combine 3 cups prepared hot cocoa syrup, 1 cup heavy cream, 1 Tbsp. instant espresso powder, 2 tsp. cocoa powder and 1 cup of Irish whiskey. Bring to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Stir in vanilla. Pour into bottles, cap and refrigerate until needed up to 4 weeks. Makes 3 cups
For dairy free versions, substitute almond or soy milk for the cream, or eliminate the cream altogether. For kid friendly versions, eliminate the alcohol.

Homemade Raspberry Creamtinis
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These creamy martinis are a great way to start or end a dinner party.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 3 cups
  • 2 ozs. Cran-raspberry syrup (see above recipe)
  • 2 cups Almond milk
  • 3 ozs. Chambord or raspberry liquor
  • 2 ozs. Brandy or cognac
  • Ice
  1. Combine syrup and next 3 ingredients in a small pitcher. Add ice and stir. Let sit for a few minutes. Strain into martini glasses. Top with whipped cream and drizzle with syrup if desired.
  2. Serves 4
For a non-alcoholic version, eliminate the alcohol and increase the syrup(made without raspberry liquor).


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