Product Review: Arctic Chill Stainless Cocktail Muddler

image I just received a great little gift idea for the hostess or cocktail lover on your shopping list!  A few weeks back I was contacted by Rizzi at Artic Chill to do a review for their Cocktail Muddler.  I took a quick look at the product on their website and knew instantly this would not be just another gadget cluttering up my kitchen drawer, but one very useful and uniquely designed tool.  The Arctic Chill’s muddler is made from stainless steel and features a grooved nylon head. Continue reading “Product Review: Arctic Chill Stainless Cocktail Muddler”

A Toast to Health, Happiness and Prosperity

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As many of you know, this blog started as a way to share my recipes with my daughter as she headed off for college.  Six years later, my daughter has graduated and working as an event coordinator; more specifically, wedding planning.  She immerses herself in every detail of planning, discovering unique ideas and concepts to make dreams become reality.  She is following her passion and I so love that for her. Continue reading “A Toast to Health, Happiness and Prosperity”

Raspberry Valentine’s Kiss

Raspberry Kiss

I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing lately.  Mostly, it’s a good thing.  Those cherished memories, secretly stored in my heart, bringing a warm smile and good feelings.   I love to keep those memories close to me.

I remember when I use to blog…frequently….and visit my favorite bloggers.  I remember my little villa on the lake, my fresh start as a single mom….and I remember the challenges and joys of raising kids on my own.  I remember when I had a job, I remember when I freely spent.  I remember the choices I’ve made and still wonder why (?)  I remember memories I learned from, but  don’t really want to keep too close.

Memories of Valentine’s Day have always stayed in my heart.  I’m just a hopeful romantic. Continue reading “Raspberry Valentine’s Kiss”

Chia Hot Chocolate

hot healthy chocolate2If you live in South Florida, quick…make this hot chocolate because by tomorrow it will be warm weather again!  If you live elsewhere, no rush as you most likely have a several more weeks of cold weather.  I woke this morning to a real chill in the air, about 50 degrees!  We get really excited to open our windows and let in the cold! Continue reading “Chia Hot Chocolate”

What Are You Doing New Year’s…New Year’s Eve?

When the bells all ring

And the horns all blow

And the couples we know

Are fondly kissing…..

Wonder what drink

You will be holding tight

When it’s exactly twelve o’clock that night?

Maybe I’m crazy (or giddy with bubbly) to suppose

Out of all the cocktails you’ll receive

Champagne Mojitos be the one you chose…

Rum, lime and mint, a Mojito is one of my favorite summertime refreshing cocktails.  Normally topped with sparkling, fizzy club soda, Champagne becomes the next best substitute!  I’d not recommend Dom Perignon, but a nice priced Champagne, Prosecco or sparkling wine would do just fine. 

May you all have good health, happines, love and joy in the New Year!  Cheers!

Champagne Mojitos

Makes a pitcher enough to serve 12

For the simple sugar:*

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup water

(* or use ½ cup agave syrup)

For the champagne cocktail:

1 ½ cups packed mint leaves, plus additional for garnish

6 limes, cut into wedges

2 cups light rum (or a flavored rum such as mango)

Cracked ice

3 cups Champagne or sparkling wine

To make the simple sugar:  in a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and cook over high heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Cool to room temperature.  Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

To make the Champagne cocktail:  In a large pitcher combine the simple sugar or agave with the mint leaves and lime wedges, muddle well with a wooden spoon.  Add the rum and stir well.  Strain the drink into another pitcher.  The pitcher can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated overnight.  When ready to serve, fill tall champagne classes with cracked ice and pour in the drink, filling about 2/3 full.  Top with champagne, garnish with mint springs and serve.

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine; Lyrics adapted from Frank Loesser,  “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve”

Maple Pumpkin Spice Syrup for Pumpkin Spice Lattes

My sweet baby girl will be starting her first unpaid internship.  She was lucky to have found a paying internship through the summer which in turn made me the lucky mother.  I’m really not complaining here.  She is definitely getting a great opportunity to work as free labor and gain valuable experience.  But how do unpaid college interns afford Pumpkin Spice Lattes?

I’ve told Gina we will work it out.  Thankfully this girl can cook!  Unfortunately, she has other vices.  My clothing crazed daughter will simply need to shop smart for her Fall and Winter 2011 fashions and creatively use what she already has in her TWO walk-in closets!  Cheap thrills, budget entertainment, ladies night and happy hour 2 for 1 drinks will also help this short on cash girl get through these next few months.  But what about those Pumpkin Spice Lattes that just happen to seasonally appear and SHE and I love so dearly???

Answer:  we make them at home!  And not just for less money, but healthier too!  A typical Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte comes in at a nice 380 calories (that’s with 2% milk) and whipped cream while costing somewhere between $3 -$5!

A main ingredient to the latte is the Pumpkin Spice Syrup.  I’ve seen dozens of these recipes out on the internet over the years using sugar and varying the spices.  A batch of this syrup will last in the refrigerator for a month, if it actually lasts that long!

Along with mixing it in my espresso, the uses for this syrup are endless!  Think about swirling it into oatmeal or granola for a sweet pumpkin spice flavor; or as a maple syrup for pancakes and French toast.  And if you’re so inclined for a cocktail; mix with 1 oz syrup to 2 oz vanilla vodka and 1 oz Kahlua for a pumpkin martini! – dip the rim in cinnamon sugar, yum!

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

1 ½ cups maple syrup

4 cinnamon sticks

8 whole cloves

8 whole allspice

1 teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground ginger

3 tablespoons pumpkin puree

1 whole vanilla bean split lengthwise

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer gently, stirring often for about 5-6 minutes until all the ingredients are well blended.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Pour into a glass container and refrigerate overnight to continue to steep the flavors.  Then next day bring the syrup to room temp and strain it into a glass container through a cheesecloth or fine mesh towel.  Squeeze the cheesecloth at the end to get out all the syrupy goodness!  Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Pumpkin Spice Latte or Cappucino

Depending on your preferred sweetness begin by adding 1 teaspoon of syrup for each shot of espresso or strong coffee (about ½ cup).  Add an additional ½ teaspoon for a sweeter cup.

I’ve read many variations on the difference between a Latte or Cappuccino but I’ve always gone on the following:

For a Cappuccino I use equal amounts of espresso or coffee, hot milk or cream and steamed milk foam.  A Latte contains coffee or espresso, hot milk and no foam using either equal or less coffee to milk ratio.  Of course if you’re into Latte Art you can impress everyone with your artistry!  And don’t forget a topping of whipped cream, a drizzle of salted caramel sauce and grated nutmeg to totally indulge all your senses!

Raspberry Kiss

Long weekend getaways always excite me.  Taking a few days to escape from the reality of day-to-day responsibilities refreshes and recharges me.  I try to continue the relaxing momentum for as long as I can before the chores of life kick in.  Memories are the souvenirs I take home with me to tap into when I need a lift.  And probably like all food lovers, the preparation, presentation and taste of the many meals I ate are all mentally noted.

Every evening on our trip we were presented with pretty layered after dinner cocktails.  I excitedly inquired about each drink’s layered flavors and playful names. I love after dinner liqueurs that either replace a dessert or compliment a small treat, such as served with a chocolate covered strawberry, chocolate espresso beans or a small biscotti.  What I also love about these “dessert” drinks is that when I plan a last-minute dinner party and don’t have time to prepare a dessert, having a well stocked bar and a few tried and true favorite recipes, I can easily impress my guests with a fancy fun ending.

The layering of liqueurs does take just a bit of practice and patience to slowly pour clean layers.  The trick is to pour the “heaviest” liquor first, continuing to finish with the lightest.  Basically, alcohol weighs less than water, therefore those higher in alcohol are lighter and float on top.  A specific gravity chart I follow is at this link, http://supercocktails.com/bartending/Layering-Cocktails—Specific-Gravity-Chart

Another important step is in how the liqueur is poured.  The first heaviest liqueur should be gently poured directly into the glass to not “splash” up the sides of the glass.  The next layer should be poured gently over the back of a spoon that is placed in the glass just above the first layer.  This way the liqueur slowly tops the thicker bottom layer.  When there is a larger difference of alcohol (gravity) count between the layers, the more definite the layers will appear.  Finally, carefully move the glasses so that the layers don’t mix around.   Narrow glasses are best to use.

Raspberry Kiss

per kiss…. 1 shot Chambord Raspberry Liqueur, 1/2 to 1 shot Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur, depending on the glass size or layering effect desired

Following the guidelines above, gently pour  the Chambord on the bottom of the glass topping with the Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur.  Sip and enjoy.

The Challenge and a Cocktail….Watermelon Mojito

A few weeks back I was nominated for the Challenge that has been sweeping through the blogs recently.  A challenge to select 7 posts in various categories.  Karen at Back Road Journal had flattered me with this nomination.  Flattered because as many as you know, this blog was just a way to get my recipes to my daughter and family, but now has included so many wonderful new friends!   

With cocktail in hand, I sat myself down to ponder my posts.  But first the drink.  One of the things I like to do is take some of my freshly purchased fruit and macerate it in either rum or vodka in either my cocktail shaker or glass pitcher.  Adding in either fresh mint leaves when using the rum or basil when using the vodka.  I place it in the fridge and then by the weekend I can simply strain it out to make a cocktail.  It’s along the lines of flavoring rum or vodka.  Plus the alchohol keeps the fruit “preserved”! 

It hardly seemed like a blog worthy idea, but the other day I spotted Juliana’s post at Simple Recipes on Infused Strawberry Martini using a similar concept.  Greg at Rufus Guide to Food and Spirits also posted a watermelon cooler with a kick early this summer too. 

Since moving toFlorida, Mojitos have become a favorite of mine.  I like the simple refreshing taste of the mint and began trying out different fruits to flavor the rum.  Instead of a simply syrup I use agave. And after the liquid has been all used for the drink, I can enjoy a slushy, tipsy fruit treat!  (You can find the recipe following my challenge results at the bottom of this post.)

And now the Challenge and my 7 picks:

The most beautiful post.  I guess it would be my Dulce de Leche Ice Cream Cake.  The layers of ice cream and chocolate covered strawberries always get the most oohs and aahs when its presented and served!

The most popular was clearly my Blueberry and Basil Vodka Lemonade.  It made Freshly Pressed and overwhelmed me with the most comments and “likes”!

For the most controversial, I will have to pass on that one as of yet, I’ve not posted anything to cause controversy!

My most helpful post is for Ghee and actually does not have any comments, however, it is one that I always refer to when family or friends are at my home and ask about the “butter” I am using.  It adds such a unique nuttiness and intense flavor to my dishes.  It’s also dairy free and can stay out on my counter for weeks which always takes my friends by surprise!

The most surprisingly successful was my Guava and Cheese Quesadilla.  I posted this as a reminder when I saw the ballet of Romeo and Juliet, a simple quesadilla with a simple filling but surprisingly drew alot of interest!

The post that did not get the attention it deserved was my White Wine Soup.  I adore this soup.  It’s so uniquely flavored and a classy soup to serve to guests. 

The post that I am most proud of is my mother’s Italian Easter Egg Cookies.  I really never ran into anyone else who had made these outside of our family.  Among my sister and cousins we all tried to recreate the recipe our mothers made every year never quite getting it right.  This recipe posted was my successful tweaked version from the vague notes she had written.

And now for a drink!

Watermelon Mojito

Makes 2 drinks

For the Watermelon Rum:

2 cups chopped watermelon

4 oz rum….or more

4 fresh mint leaves

1 teaspoon agave or more to taste

1 quarter of lime

Combine all in a sealed container, mashing well and refrigerate overnight or 2-3 days. 

 For two Mojitos:

12 fresh mint leaves

2 quarters of lime

2 oz club soda

 For each Mojito:  In a tall glass crush 6 mint leaves with a lime quarter to release their oils.  Fill glass with ice halfway up.  Shake the watermelon rum mix and Pour in 2 oz of strained watermelon rum into the glass.  Top with 1 oz of club soda.  Garnish and serve!

Don’t Swim and Jell-O Shot At The Same Time

Warning:  These little shots are powerful!!  I’ve made them three times now, first using tequila instead of the vodka….way too much kick!  I then switched to vodka, so much better but used too much lime juice.  Last try, Citron Vodka andChambord, oh my…..

They are super easy to make and super easy to go down!  When I entertain I like to include little surprises, something fun and unexpected.  One of these refreshing, cool blue jiggly shots starts conversations and laughter flowing.  Two or more really gets the party dancing!

Blue Curacao and Citron Vodka Jell-O Shots

Adapted from Jello Shot Kitchen

¾ cup Citron Vodka

½ cup Blue Curacao

1/3 cup Chambord Liquor

2/3 cup water

2 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin

1-2 tablespoons Agave, adjust to your sweetness preference

Pour water and Agave in a saucepan and sprinkle on the gelatin to soak in a few minutes.  Gently heat the water and stir to completely dissolve the gelatin.  Remove from the heat and add in the vodka, Curacao andChambord.  Pour into an 8×8 greased pan or a silicone brownie pan.  Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight to fully set.  Release from silicone or cut into squares.  Makes about 24 shots.

For an after dinner shot, try these Espresso Martini Shots!