Monday, October 29, 2012

An Apple Drink A Day….

OK, I’m sure having an apple drink a day doesn’t have the same benefits of having an apple a day but they are yummy and with fall here, it’s the perfect time to drink them.

As I’ve said before, I grew up in New England.  Fall was my favorite time of year and I especially loved taking trips to the orchards to pick up a bag of apples and a gallon of fresh cider not to mention apple cider donuts.  Yummmmmm.

Here in Florida we don’t have apple orchards though I do have to admit to being impressed by the variety of apples the do sell here.  I recently started wondering what other kind of apple drinks are out there besides the ever popular apple martini.  I found that there are indeed quite a few and I was impressed by the variety of ingredients used to make them.

One of the first I came across in mulled cider which is popular in New England.  I make hot spiced cider quite often but it rarely occurs to me to add booze to it.  I’ll be remedying that very soon since I only need to add a couple extra ingredients.

Mulled Cider


4 cloves (whole)
1 1/2 oz. gold rum
1 cup apple cider
1 tsp. honey or sugar syrup to taste
Dash  Angostura bitters
Cinnamon stick
Pinch ground allspice
Lemon twist

Heat all ingredients in a saucepan and strain into a warmed mug.

This would be great for a fall themed party.  The ingredients can be easily multiplied and kept hot in a Crockpot then everyone can help themselves.

This next drink is a different twist on an apple martini.

Apple Cart

3/4 oz.  Cointreau or curaƧao
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1 oz.  applejack or calvados

Mix all ingredients with cracked ice in a shaker or blender and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This last drink sounded like it might be similar to what Zane Lamprey and Steve McKenna had at the bar they visited on their show "Three Sheets:  Kentucky."  This would be a great drink to have while sitting around a fire…not that I do much of that here.  This recipe makes A LOT so most people will want to scale down the ingredients….or maybe not!

Apple Pie In A Jar

1 gallon apple cider
1 gallon apple juice
6 (3 inch) cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 cups white sugar, or to taste
1 (1 liter) bottle 190 proof grain alcohol (such as Everclear™)

Place the apple cider, apple juice, cinnamon sticks, and sugar into a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, and discard the cinnamon sticks. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then stir in the grain alcohol. Pour into quart-size canning jars, seal with the lids and rings, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

You can store this in the refrigerator for at least 6 months.

Even though the weather here doesn’t get that nice fall feel, I’m hoping that these drinks will help transport me back to my favorite season in New England.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Slow Cooker Red Beans And Rice

I'm sure it's no surprise that I'm a Food Network and Cooking Channel junkie.  One of my favorite shows is "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."  It doesn't matter how many times I have seen an episode, I'll almost always watch it again.  Some of my favorite dishes to see are Louisiana style dishes...Cajun, gumbo...all that stuff.  My husband had asked a couple of times for rice and beans.  He meant Spanish style but I wanted to try a Louisiana style so I set out searching for a recipe, preferably one for the Crockpot and I was thrilled to find on that wasn't too complicated.  I, of course, tweaked it a bit but it was a hit with the family and since it's budget friendly too, it is definitely going into the meal rotation.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

1 lb. package red kidney beans
6 cups water
2 links smoked sausage, sliced and cut in half (I used turkey)
1 cup, each, chopped onion and red bell pepper
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
2 tsp.  minced garlic
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tbs. or more Cajun seasoning (I used a bit more)
Salt to taste
2 bay leaves
1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce

Hot sauce (how much is up to you!)
1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced
3 cups hot cooked rice

The first thing you have to do is prep the beans.  Kidney beans contain a toxin that boiling will kill but slow cooking will not.  So, before you start, boil your beans for 10 minutes in enough water to cover them by an inch or 2.  Then drain them and they're ready to use.  No need to soak them.

Combine the first 12 ingredients in electric slow cooker. Cook for 5 hours on high (this is what I did) or for 8 hours on low. Discard bay leaves and mash some of the beans.  Add the green onions and hot sauce, and cook for 15 more minutes. Add a little water, if necessary. Serve over the hot cooked rice.  I made some French bread to serve along with it.  The meat can totally be left out if you would prefer to keep it vegetarian.

Serves 6. 

Adapted from Cajun Delights

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

When Life Hands you Lemons…Add Alcohol!

Before I even moved to Florida, I had a lemon tree.  Well, to be exact it’s a Meyer lemon tree.  My next door neighbor in CT had one she kept in a pot and it actually produced lemons so when I learned that I could buy the same type tree from Williams-Sonoma, I ordered one right away.  I kept it in the house during the winter and on our deck during the summer.  When I found out we’d be moving to FL, I was thrilled that I would be able to plant the little tree in the ground and it would have a chance to grow into a REAL tree.  So, imagine my disappointment when all the leaves fell off it the second we got here.  Luckily, that was only a minor setback.  The leaves grew back and the tree is now in the ground.  We had started to think that it would never produce any lemons but lo and behold, we have about 10 of them on there right now waiting to ripen.  We still have a ways to wait but that hasn’t stopped me from finding new cocktails that I can eventually make with lemon juice from lemons grown right in my own yard.

My go-to lemon drink is the Lemon Drop martini.  I know some people prefer the lemon drop shot but, well, I’m not into shots the way I used to be so I like the drink better.  This drink does pack a punch though so drink with caution. And for heaven’s sake, ONLY use fresh lemon juice…none of that bottled crap!

Lemon Drop Martini

3 oz. vodka (or lemon vodka…homemade is best)
1 oz. simple syrup
2 oz. fresh lemon juice(I lemon)
¼ oz. Cointreau
1 slice of lemon

Rim a chilled martini glass with sugar.  Combine the vodka, simple syrup and Cointreau in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously.  Strain into the rimmed glass and garnish with the lemon slice.

Another popular drink that uses lemon juice is the Bloody Mary.   But I prefer the Mexican version of that drink…the Bloody Maria which uses tequila in place of vodka.  Some versions call for lime juice rather than lemon juice the version I like uses lemon juice.

Bloody Maria

1.5 oz. tequila (I like blanco)
6 dashes of Tabasco (more or less to taste…I like mine SPICY)
6 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch of celery salt
1 pinch of pepper
1 tsp. horseradish
2 tsp. lemon juice
7 oz. tomato juice

Rim old fashioned glass with lemon juice and dip into a back pepper (or you can use celery salt).  Build ingredients and stir with a bar-spoon.   Garnish with thin strips of celery.

This last drink is one I haven’t had in a while but I need to add it to my list of things to make this summer.  I’ll be honest, I like the name more than the drink itself!

Between The Sheets

3/4 oz. brandy
4 oz. light rum
3/4 oz. triple sec
1/2 oz. lemon juice
Lemon twist for garnish

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.  Shake well.   Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the lemon twist.

So there you have it…when life hands you lemons, add some alcohol and make yourself a drink!

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Honey Of A Drink

This post was originally featured on the Drinking Made Easy site here.

One of the perks of living in Florida is having farmers markets all year round. The prices are so much better than the grocery stores and of course, everything is fresher.  Another perk I discovered was cheap honey.  A local apiary has a booth at the farmers market we go to and the prices are just great.  I can get an almost 3 pound jar of local, raw honey for $11.  Heck, those little bear squeeze bottles cost around $5 at the grocery store and it’s not even local honey.

I use the honey in my tea and in Greek yogurt, mostly.  But recently I was looking at my big jar and I wondered what kind of drinks I could make using it.  So, off I went to search out some new drinks using the awesome local honey.

I am a big fan of Absolut pears.  I think it makes a GREAT Cosmopolitan so naturally, this drink caught my eye immediately.  It doesn’t hurt that it has plums in it either.  They’re one of my favorite fruits.

Absolut Smitten Pears

2 1/2 part(s) Absolut Pears Vodka
1/2 part(s) Plum Diced
3/4 part(s) Honey
1/2 part(s) Lemon Juice
3 slice(s) Ginger

Muddle the plum and ginger together. Add Absolut Pears, honey, a squeeze of lemon and ice.  Shake and strain into martini glass.

Ballylickey Bait

2 oz. Irish Whiskey
Sparkling Water (Cold)

In an old-fashioned glass, muddle the honey and a little water until it dissolves. Add ice cubes and whiskey and fill with sparkling water. Stir gently and garnish with a lemon peel.

And this last recipe is very refreshing on a warm, summer night.  To me, rum goes hand in hand with summer.

Bee's Knees Cocktail

1 1/2 oz. White Rum
1/4 oz. Lemon Juice
1/2 oz. Honey

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

So, if you can find local, raw honey I recommend getting some.  Not only is it said to be good for helping allergies, it makes one heck of a drink too!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Turkey Caprese Sliders

I got this idea from watching "Giada At Home."  Giada made regular sized burgers using beef but as soon as I saw the show, I thought it would be a great idea to make them with turkey and turn them into sliders.  And great they were!


20 oz. package of ground turkey (I used 93/7)
1/2 cup of pesto (I used store bought but you can make your own)
2 tbs. grated Parmesan
1/2 ball of fresh mozzarella (about 8 oz.) cut into 1/4 inch slices then cut in half (you need 12 small slices) and patted dry
Salt and pepper to taste

Pesto Mayonnaise:

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tbs. pesto
12 slider rolls (I actually used dinner rolls)
2 or 3 Roma tomatoes (depending on size) sliced into 12 slices

Note:  Giada recommends freezing the cheese for a bit to make it easier to slice.  I have found a serrated knife cuts it just fine right out of the fridge.

Combine the turkey, pesto, Parmesan, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Form the mixture into balls slightly larger than a gold ball and press into patties.  With your thumb, make a small indentation in the middle of the patties.  This will keep them from puffing up in the middle.  here are several ways you could cook these.  You could cook the burgers on a grill, over medium high heat,  in a pan or, like I did, on an electric griddle (a la Alton was raining).  I had the heat at about 350.

Cook the burgers approximately 4 minutes in the first side.  Then, flip them over and top with the halved slices of mozzarella and cook another 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove the burgers from the heat and allow them to rest for about 5 minutes.

While the burgers are resting, mix the mayo and pesto in a small bowl until smooth.

Now, if you want, you can grill or toast the buns (I didn't).  Spread the pesto mayo on one half of the roll. Add the burger and a tomato slice.  Add the top half of the roll and serve.

These were a hit with my kids.  Hubby said they were a bit bland but I disagree.  With football season approaching, I think I'l be making these again soon.

Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Spicy Shrimp and Grits

I have always loved Southern food and since moving to Florida, I have been surrounded by it.  Yes, I know a majority of it is awful for you so I stay away from most of it.  But my family is a HUGE fan of grits and a dish I had been dying to try was shrimp and grits.  So, I went on a search for recipes.  It took a while but I did find one that wasn't too bland or complicated.  You know, me I didn't follow the recipe exactly but I did stick pretty close.  This recipe fed my family of four perfectly but the amounts could easily be adjusted up or down.

For the grits:

1 1/2 cups quick cooking grits (Yes, I know Alton Brown would have my head but it's what I had on hand.)
4 1/2 cups of chicken stock (I use low fat/low sodium.  I'm sure you could also use water)
1/2 cup of shredded cheese (I used low fat Mexican but you could use whatever you like)
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Shrimp:

1 lb. shrimp (I used 31/40's)
3 carrots, chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 of a small sweet onion
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 cup white wine (I used chardonnay.  Beer or stock would work too)
Olive oil
1 tbs. parsley, chopped
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Spice mix:

1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (You can adjust this to taste)
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (This can also be adjusted to taste)
1 tsp. salt.

In a medium sized saute pan, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom.  Heat the oil over medium high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the carrots, celery, onion and jalapeno.  Season with salt and pepper.

After about 3 minutes, reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic and saute for 2 or 3 minutes more.

 Add the spice mix.

Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes to toast the spices being careful not to let them burn. The onion should be translucent and the other veggies should be soft.

While the veggies are cooking, you can start the grits by heating the stock in a saucepan over high heat.

As the stock heats up, add the wine to the softened veggies and bring to a boil.

Once the wine comes to a boil, add the shrimp, lime juice and parsley.  Stir until the shrimp and incorporated.

Lower the heat to medium low and cover.  While the shrimp cook, slowly whisk the grits into the stock.  Lower the heat to medium low and cook the grits for 5 minutes.  Add the grated cheese at the end of the cooking time and stir until melted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the grits into a bowl and serve the shrimp and sauce over the top.

I was surprised at how easy and good this recipe was.  It was a hit with the entire family and it will definitely go into the meal rotation.

Adapted from My Husband Cooks.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Put The Lime In The….

The original version of this post was published on the Drinking Made Easy site here.

A couple years ago, my husband and I bought a lime tree.  Last spring, it bloomed fairly heavily but given my luck with my Meyer lemon tree, I didn’t get too excited.  I figured maybe we would have a handful of limes and we’d have better luck the next year when it was more established.  Well, I was wrong.  We ended up with more limes than we knew what to do with and I was getting pretty sick of mojitos, daiquiris and fresh made margaritas.  So I hit Google to find other libations that used fresh lime juice.  This year, we have even MORE so there may be a part 2 of this post in the future!

One of the first drinks to pop up brought me back to being under 21 and drinking in a club that wasn’t so great about checking ID’s.  Our drink of choice was the kamikaze shot although I am pretty sure back then I had no idea what was even in them.  I made a mental mote to make a couple rounds the next weekend.  Well, wouldn’t you know, that very weekend I attended a party where the host was a former bartender.  Without me even saying anything, he busted out the shaker and made a couple rounds of kamikaze shots.  Ahhh, I was back to my youth.

Kamikaze Shots

1 oz Vodka
1 oz Triple sec
1 oz Lime juice

Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into an old-fashioned glass over ice cubes, and serve.

If you’re so inclined you can look for the recipe to make this into an actual drink rather than a shot.  Those are just as good.

This second recipe caught my eye because of the South Beach reference.  At the time, we were thinking of South Beach as a destination for our anniversary.  Even though the trip didn’t pan out, the drink recipe stuck.

South Beach Martini

2 oz Orange vodka
2 oz Absolut Citron
3/4 oz Cointreau
3/4 oz Lime juice
Twist of Orange peel

Shake well with ice. Strain into large martini glass. Garnish with twist of orange peel.

Now this last drink sounds, well, odd but at the same time, refreshing.  I would LOVE to have an avocado tree but we don’t really have room for one.  I like to think this drink borders on healthy…it gives a dose of vitamin C as well as a dose of good fats!

Avocado Daiquiri

1/4 medium Avocado
3/4 oz fresh Lime juice
1 cup crushed Ice
1 1/2 oz Light rum
1 wedge Lime

Crush ice in blender. Add rum, lime juice, and 1/4 medium avocado in blender. Blend until thoroughly mixed and smooth. Pour into glass and garnish with lime wedge.

Like I said above, the tree has even MORE limes this year so stayed tuned for more lime recipes both drinking related and not!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Few Of My Own Recipes

I've shared a couple of my, well, made up recipes in the past.  I always get nervous doing it because I don't exactly measure, etc.  But I have a couple of family favorites I would like to share.  I'll give my usual warnings that measurements are approximate.  And feel free to do what I do with recipe which is change it to make it your own.

This first one I came up with this past weekend.  It was a pretty cold weekend by Florida standards and I thought soup would be a great idea.  Hubby grew up eating his grandfather's "greens and beans" so this soup is a bit of a spin-off from that.

Sausage, Kale and White Bean Soup

1 package of turkey sausage (5 links...feel free to use regular sausage)
1/2 pound of kale, chopped (you could also use escarole)
2 cans of white beans (I used Great Northern beans)
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups of chicken broth (I use fat free sodium free)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Brown the sausage in a bit of olive oil.  Remove from the pan, take off the casing and slice the sausage.

Add a bit more oil to the pan and saute the onion and garlic until translucent.  Add in the kale until it's all wilted down.  Add the sausage back in and then add the chicken broth.  Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer and let cook for about 15 minutes.  Season to taste.

Even the kids liked this (well, my youngest wouldn't eat the "seaweed" but she ate everything else).  I threw in some leftover orzo too.  It's great with a nice crusty bread.

The next recipe I've changed a few times before I got to the "recipe" I use now.  I made these for Valentine's Day last night.  They're always a family favorite.

Chicken Quesadillas

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 medium onion, sliced
1 pablano pepper, sliced (or you could use a regular pepper or a couple of jalapenos)
Juice of 2 limes
1 tsp. pureed chipotles in adobo (use more or less depending on taste)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 to 1/2 cup of canola or vegetable oil (depending on how limey you want the marinade)
salt and pepper to taste
1 package of Shredded Mexican style Cheese (this depends on how cheesy you like them)
6 Burrito size flour tortillas (you can use smaller ones if you like)
Cooking spray

Put the chicken, onion and pepper in a shallow dish or resealable bag.  Whisk together the lime juice, chipotle, garlic, oil, salt and pepper to make the marinade.  Pour over the chicken and veggies and marinate for at least half an hour but not more than a couple of hours.

Cook the chicken and veggies in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through and the veggies are a bit tender.

Now, how you make the quesadillas will depend on what kind of equipment you have on hand.  I use a Foreman Grill but you can do it in a skillet or on a grill as well.

Spray one side of a tortilla with cooking spray and place on the pan or grill, sprayed side down.  Sprinkle the tortilla with a bit of the cheese, spreading it evenly over the tortilla.  Add a layer of the chicken and veggies (not too much...a nice single layer is good) then top with a bit more cheese.  Spray the second tortillas with cooking spray and place on top of the first, sprayed side up.  Let the quesadilla cook for about 5 minutes on one side.  If using a pan or grill, flip the quesadillas over (this can be tricky) and cook another 5 minutes or until the tortilla is a bit browned and crispy.  Repeat the process with the other 4 tortillas.  You can keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.  Let them cool a bit before cutting into wedges (I cut mine into 8 wedges using my pizza cutter).  We top ours with salsa and sour cream.

When we're eating healthy, I use whole wheat tortillas and reduced fat cheese.  I've also make them with steak.

I hope I got these recipes right!  If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Drive By Steak Post

I'm going to apologize in advance for the short post.  I do have another one in the works but I need to try all the recipe first so it will likely be  LATE Super Bowl post.  But hey, you can use the recipes for next year!

I recently tried this steak recipe after my friends Wendy and Bill turned me back on to London broil.  I have NOT made it as a salad.  I just use all the marinade for the steak and serve it with roasted potatoes and a veggie.  I imagine this marinade would work great for flank steak too.

Grilled Thai Beef Salad


1 pound top-round London broil or flank steak, about 1 to 1 1/2-inches thick
3 tablespoons lime juice, divided (I don't divide it...I throw it in all at once.  I don't get why she says to divide it)
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons red curry paste or chili-garlic sauce (I use chili garlic sauce.  Sriracha would also work)
1/2 head red-leaf lettuce, torn (about 6 cups)
3 shallots, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup), divided, for garnish
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, rinsed and dried
1 cup basil leaves, sliced into ribbons

Rinse and pat the meat dry. Place in a sealable plastic bag or small glass dish. In a medium bowl combine 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, soy sauce, canola oil, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and red curry paste. Pour half the mixture into the bag with the meat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice to the bag. Seal tightly, and marinate meat in refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight, turning occasionally. Reserve the rest of the mixture refrigerated, to dress the salad.

Spray grill or grill pan with cooking spray and preheat. Grill steak until medium-rare, about 5 minutes per side, depending on desired doneness. Let rest until room temperature then slice thinly against the grain.

Combine lettuce, sliced shallot, cilantro, basil and beef in a salad bowl, reserving a few shallots for garnish. Add the reserved dressing and toss to coat. Divide salad among 4 plates and garnish with reserved sliced shallots.

One of these days I will make it as a salad.  This marinade is SO good and the longer you leave the steak in, the better.
I PROMISE you a post next week with the Super Bowl recipes I tried...well, unless they suck but I doubt they will!  GO GIANTS!!!!