Watermelon Refresco

Watermelon Refresco

I can’t believe summer is over, and school is starting this week.  My older daughter seems to be holding it together quite well right now – I hope it can last.  I know the first day is going to be tough when she shows up at the new school and it really hits everyone that they have been split-up.  Hopefully it is just for two years, and that she will get to reunite with all her friends in high school.  At least we can always hope.

As I mentioned before, I am pretty behind on my postings.  This summer was much busier than I could have ever expected, and it doesn’t look like it is going to slow down any time soon.  At least I was able to take a little break from work and spend some quality time with my family.  It is not often that I am back east when I need to be, but fortunately this time I was.  We will all miss my uncle tremendously.

It wouldn’t be summer without watermelon, and this year I found a new favorite drink thanks to Cooking Light.  I made two versions – one for the kids, and one for the adults – and it was a crowd pleaser for everyone.  And did you see that color?  I am feeling refreshed just looking at it.

Teddy always did love a good drink as he would sit on my mother’s porch overlooking the water.  So Teddy – this one’s for you…cheers.

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 cups chopped seeded watermelon
  • 3/4 cup tequila (optional)
  • 6 tablespoons Triple Sec (orange-flavored liqueur) (optional)
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups club soda, chilled
  • 6 lime wedges

Preparation

Place watermelon in a blender; process until smooth. Pour pureed watermelon into a sieve over a large bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Combine 3 cups watermelon juice, tequila (for adults only), Triple Sec (for adults only), lime juice, and salt in a pitcher; stir with a whisk. Gently stir in club soda. Serve over ice with lime wedges.

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Rhubarb Simple Syrup

Rhubarb Simple Syrup

Stick a fork in me.  I am done.  I am so tired I can hardly see straight – but it has been too long since my last post, and I have a lot of good stuff piling up.  I haven’t been doing as much cooking and baking lately – although it did finally cool down in our part of the world.  Today we had our first real day of rain in over a month.  It was actually satisfying to me, as I hunkered down in my office to try and get through my piles of work.  It doesn’t help that I was so excited for the kids to be done with school, thinking that my life outside of work would relax a little, but then swim team squeezed it’s way into our lives, and our evenings have been even busier.  I keep thinking that things will change, but what I have realized is that this is the new normal.  I liked the old normal…

The other weekend I was at the farmer’s market, and they had the most beautiful looking rhubarb.  I am not a huge rhubarb fan, except for this.  Last year when I made my annual batch, I just couldn’t get the temperature high enough, and I finally ended up canning the jelly before it was completely ready.  I just lost patience.  The jelly still tasted delicious, but it was a little more syrupy than I would have liked.  I decided to try making a drink for the girls out of it – I mixed some of that very soft jelly with some club soda, and it tasted delicious.  The only problem was that there was still pectin in that jelly, which made the drink just slightly thick.  I knew there had to be a better way – and I realized if I just left the pectin out, that basically I would be making a rhubarb simple syrup.

Well, that’s exactly what I did – and what a treat.  It was the perfect remedy for a hot day.  I poured some of that simple syrup over ice, then topped it off with some club soda (or sparking water), and you have a rhubarb flavored sparkling drink that would make anyone feel like they were on vacation.  At this point, I will take what I can get…

Ingredients

  • 4 cups
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar

Preparation

Combine the rhubarb, sugar, and water in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and the liquid has thickened slightly, about 20 minutes.

Set a fine-meshed strainer (or a coarse strainer lined with cheesecloth)over a large bowl. Pour the rhubarb through the strainer until most of the liquid is in the bowl. Press the solids a little with the back of a spoon to extract more syrup.

Carefully pour the syrup into a clean bottle, cover or cork the bottle and refrigerate. It should keep for quite some time in the fridge.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Rhubarb Simple Syrup

Serenity Now

Grapefruit Rye Cocktail

Is it Friday yet?  I know, I really shouldn’t be saying that right now, because technically it is only Tuesday – with Monday being a holiday and all.  But for some reason this week has not been any easier, with the chaos growing just a bit each day, as we get closer and closer to the end of the school year.  This week, I have officially declared it insanity…

Normally you would think I would be looking for ways to simplify my life, but no…that is not me.  If a good opportunity comes up, I can’t just let it pass by.  Even if I am in the midst of complete insanity.  I have always wanted to be a bartender – not for a profession, just for a night.  It is almost like playing a real live video game – you know the ones when you have to get all food in the grocery cart before time runs out, or you have to get everyone out of the spa with their hair done and nails freshly painted?  This time it is about making drinks though, and it is not a game.  Yes, that will be me on June 7th.  My husband and I have been going to this little restaurant/bar now for a couple of years.  We love the place – the food is top quality, and the cocktails are the best we have ever had.  It is our happy place.  And the people who work there have become our friends.  Now, I love to make drinks for my friends – and one night I asked half jokingly when they were going to let me be the bartender.  Be careful what you wish for.

So, for the past few weeks I have been working on my cocktail menu, and having a lot of fun naming the drinks with our friends.  This was one of the first drinks I put on the list – it is my favorite one right now.  The grapefruit is so deliciously sweet in the market, it really makes an amazing drink.  I am really not a huge rye fan, but this combination is a winner. Plus, I think we could all use a little serenity now.  So stop by the bar on June 7th if you can…serenity now, insanity later.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. rye
  • 2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. Lillet
  • Grapefruit twist

Preparation

Add rye, grapefruit juice, Campari and Lillet into a cocktail shaker.  Add ice, and shake for about 30 seconds.  Strain and pour into a cocktail glasses, then serve with a grapefruit twist.

Makes 2 cocktails

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Serenity Now

Spiced Hot Chocolate

Spiced Hot Chocolate

It doesn’t snow in Seattle all that often.  Maybe once a year, if we are lucky, we get a decent storm, and that means only a couple of inches.  And when that happens, the city usually shuts down.  You can basically guarantee that schools will be cancelled if there is any snow on the ground.  Of course on the east coast where I grew up, things were a little different  – and I actually had to learn how to drive in the snow.  Here they don’t plow the roads, and the hills are so steep that it can get pretty treacherous quickly.  So, it is really best just to stay home.

This morning we woke up to a winter wonderland.  Even though there was only a few inches on the ground, it was enough to cancel Sunday School, and for all the neighborhood kids to get outside and have some fun. Of course now most of the snow is already gone, but we still have remnants of a snow man in our back yard.  While the kids were outside, I was inside making pancakes for breakfast, and some special hot chocolate.  I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and I decided to make it kid-friendly, so omitted the alcohol and the chiles.  I knew it would be delicious, but I really had no idea I would get the reaction I did.

The kids were just about to go down the street to play more when I called out and told them that the hot chocolate was ready.  I quickly took them out of these colorful mugs, and put them into some paper cups that they could take with them.  They all grabbed a cup, said thanks and took off.  An hour later when they appeared back at the house – the first thing they said was how amazing the hot chocolate was.  I guess all the neighborhood kids were trying to guess what I had done – they decided it was not ordinary cocoa.  Score for mom!  I think I just need it to snow more often, and I will be elevated to super-mom status in no time…I knew my cooking would help me out eventually.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1  cup heavy cream
  • ⅓ cup  sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate (at least 70% cacao), chopped

Preparation

Combine milk, cream, sugar, and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan; scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add pod. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat, cover, and let steep 15 minutes.

Remove cinnamon stick and vanilla pod; discard. Add chocolate and heat over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove hot chocolate from heat and add serve hot.

DO AHEAD: Hot chocolate can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat and serve.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Spiced Hot Chocolate

Nacho Vidal

Nacho Vital 2

Our city is in a little bit of a frenzy right now – people are dancing in the streets – literally.  I have to admit that even I have a little Seahawk’s fever.  I think today was the first football game I ever sat through beginning to end.  I really wanted the Seahawks to win – for the kids.  They were all dressed up, made signs to cheer them on – even my younger daughter wore a sign around her neck all day with the number “12” on it.  Yes, we were all the twelfth man tonight, and it paid off.

Normally the Super Bowl is a day for me to make lots of fun snacks, and to spend the day in the kitchen.  Of course, nothing like my friend Kristy and her husband Mike over at Eat, Play, Love.  You should check out what they did today – extremely impressive.  11 hours in the kitchen for their annual Chopped Challenge!  What a fun way to spend a Sunday.

Our friends were hosting today, and they assigned us all different snacks to bring.  Mine was French Onion Dip and potato chips.  Yesterday my younger daughter was bored – so I let her make the dip all by herself.  She was very proud, even though all she did was take a package of Lipton Onion Soup and mix it with some Sour Cream.  Hey – everyone starts somewhere right?

I decided to bring a couple of extras – one being this Nacho Vidal.  When I saw the recipe in Bon Appetit for the shrub – I got very excited.  I have been wanting to make a drinking vinegar for some time now.  My husband cannot stand the smell of vinegar, so I waited until he was out of the house to try this one.  The drink came together beautifully – it was a cross between a Nigroni and a Margarita.   It was not too sweet, and you could not tell at all that you were drinking vinegar.  I absolutely loved it – and my neighbor said it was one of the best drinks I have ever served.  Score!!

If you do not drink alcohol, or you would like to make this for kids – you can easily enjoy this drink without the Tequila and Campari.  Just mix everything else together with 1 1/2 cups of Pomegranate juice and 2 cups of sparkling water – no shaking necessary.  It will be a nice refreshing treat.  Here’s to the Seahawks!!

Ingredients

Chile-Lime Shrub

  • 2 limes, halved
  • ¾  cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1½  teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Assembly

  • 2  cups tequila blanco
  • 1½ cups Campari
  • ¾ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup fresh lime juice
  • 8 lime wedges (for serving)

Preparation

Chile-Lime Shrub

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat; simmer until slightly reduced, 8–10 minutes. Let cool, then strain into a jar. Cover and chill.

Assembly

Combine tequila, Campari, lemon juice, lime juice, and shrub in a large pitcher.  Place 1½ cups tequila mixture in a cocktail shaker; fill with ice. Shake until frosty, about 30 seconds. Divide between 2 rocks glasses filled with ice; garnish each with a lime wedge. Repeat 3 more times.

Do Ahead: Tequila mixture can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Nacho Vidal

CHT Melbourne

Susina Sour

Susina Sour

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone was able to ring in the new year with wonderful food and friends.  We had a terrific evening, which started with some appetizers and cocktails at our house, then we made our way down the street where the kids were – and had a delicious prime rib dinner.  It was definitely a special evening.

So – I have been thinking all week about what my new year’s resolution will be this year.  I remember my post from last year (which coincidentally I ended up making last night, and they were amazingly good, again!) where I said that 2013 was the year to simplify – so, as we do at work, it is only fitting for me to evaluate how I did, and decide what my goal will be this year.  Hmmm…I wouldn’t exactly say that I knocked it out of the park.  I tried really hard though, so I am going to give myself a *star* for trying, but no, I can’t really say that I simplified my life too much.  Now the question is, do I try again this year?  Or do I go for something completely different.  I think I am going to with something new – although I will keep the simplifying any way I can.  This year’s focus I think needs to be about energy.  Compared to others, I have boundless amounts of energy, but I know I can be even more productive (without adding to my life – see *simplify*) if I just try to get a little more sleep every night.  That is going to be my resolution this year – more sleep = more energy.  Let’s see how I do…

Last night we came up with 5 festive holiday cocktails to celebrate New Year’s – and I must say – this was definitely my favorite.  I read about it in Bon Appetit – and it just so happens to be from a bar in Portland, Oregon called Nostrana – our neighboring state.  Portland has really become a cocktail haven – the bars there are supposed to be amazing with their craft cocktails – I have only been there once, but I need to go back to do some serious research.  Ok, back to this cocktail.  I loved everything about this – it wasn’t too sweet, with lots of flavor – and the sprig of rosemary with the cherry on the end was just awesome.  Unfortunately I don’t have a good non-alcoholic version of this one – but what I will say is if you don’t drink alcohol – a sparkling apple cider is the best way to go on New Year’s.  You really can’t get any better than that.

I hope 2014 is a great year for everyone, with lots of delicious food, family and friends – and most of all….energy.

Ingredients

Honey simple syrup

  • 1/4 cup clover honey

Cocktail

  • 3 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 oz. Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • 3 oz. slivovitz or other plum brandy
  • 2 oz. gin
  • 4 maraschino cherries
  • 4 small sprigs rosemary

Preparation

Honey simple syrup

Dissolve honey in ⅓ cup hot water. Chill syrup until cold.

DO AHEAD: Honey syrup can be made 1 month ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

Cocktail

For each cocktail, combine ¾ oz. honey syrup, ¾ oz. lemon juice, ¾ oz. Grand Marnier, ¾ oz. slivovitz, and ½ oz. gin in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until shaker is frosty, about 30 seconds. Strain into a Martini or coupe glass and garnish with a cherry skewered on a rosemary sprig.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Susina Sour

Mango Lassi Smoothie

Mango Lassi Smoothie

This hasn’t been the best cooking day for me – that happens every once in a while – but thank goodness it is not often.  I can see how easy it is to get frustrated and stop cooking when you follow a recipe, and it comes out horribly.  My daughters are obsessed with this Pillsbury Halloween Cookbook that I bought years ago – it is one of those little recipe magazines that you find when you are checking out at the supermarket.  Fortunately I don’t get suckered anymore, since I stopped going to markets that actually sell those…which makes this little recipe booklet even more valuable to the girls.  Of course this weekend my older daughter pulled it out and found a recipe for Spider Pancakes, and begged me to make them.  I looked at the recipe, and I was very skeptical, but I knew if I said no to that one, another would follow.

I decided that we would make them for lunch today – at least I wasn’t going to attempt these first thing in the morning.  Now, it could have been the organic canned pumpkin that I got at Trader Joes – but I actually think it was the recipe,  It was horrible.  The pancakes were so thick and heavy, they were just raw inside – and making the spiders were next to impossible.  I managed to make a couple that looked decent, but unfortunately they tasted horrible – so it didn’t matter.  The recipe needed more sugar, less pumpkin, and more liquid to make them less like cupcake batter.

I looked at this big bowl of batter, and didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t want to make anymore pancakes – so I decided to scoop them into muffin cups and see if they would turn out like muffins.  It was looking promising until I actually tasted one.  Wow, it just might be the worst baked good I have ever eaten.  I didn’t even call the girls downstairs to ask what they thought.  You can’t win them all.

Fortunately I had some fresh mangos and was able to redeem myself with these delicious Mango Lassi Smoothies from Cooking Light.  We all drank them down in a heartbeat – they were that tasty.  Now I have to go work on my Halloween recipes, since the spider pancakes were a bust, I owe the girls something else…

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Dash of ground cardamom
  • 2 cups chopped peeled ripe mango, frozen (about 2 medium)

Preparation

Combine first 4 ingredients in a blender; pulse to combine. Add mango to blender; process until smooth.
For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Mango Lassi Smoothie