Archive for the ‘Drinks’ Category

Blueberry-Banana Breakfast Smoothies

September 26, 2011

One positive thing about losing power for a few days was that I was forced to do a freezer-inventory.  There were quite a few things past their prime which were relegated to the trash.  I also made a few nice discoveries, like a container of homemade pesto that accidentally got pushed to the back of its shelf.  I was also reminded that I had a few bags of frozen blueberries we’d picked earlier in the summer.  They are perfect for pancakes and muffins, but also for smoothies!  By adding them to your blender frozen, they provide the ‘icy’ part of the smoothie without having to water down the flavor with actual ice cubes.

What I love most about these smoothies is that they are both healthy and delicious, and when made with Greek yogurt and calcium-enriched orange juice, they pack the 1-2 punch (protein & calcium).  I use fat-free plain yogurt, which is high in protein and calcium, low in sugar, and adds creaminess.  Don’t worry if you’re kids don’t care for yogurt—-it is undetectable when blended with all the flavorful fruit.

Blueberry Banana Smoothies

Makes 2 cups

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 small banana

1/2 cup plain, fat-free Greek yogurt (or substitute plain regular yogurt)

1/2 cup orange juice (I prefer calcium-enriched)

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend for approximately 1 minute, or until thoroughly combined and thickened.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.
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Late Summer Sangria

August 15, 2011

I have vivid memories of sitting at my grandparent’s dining room table, watching my grandfather slice a peach directly into his glass of red wine.  It was his one indulgence.  Just one glass a night, but he always savored it completely.  As a kid I remember thinking it was just one of my grandfather’s quirky ways, like putting salt on his salad, but as an adult I realize he knew what he was doing (on both counts)!

Fruit in wine is a wonderful treat any time of year, but when summer stone fruit is in season like right now, it’s extra delicious.  I made a great big batch of summer fruit sangria for a party over the weekend, and it’s about as simple as it gets.  I sliced up a combination of peaches, plums, an orange and a container of raspberries and combined it with a touch of sugar and three bottles of Spanish Rioja.  I let it macerate all day long, and then right before my guests arrived I added two liters of plain seltzer water to make it a little sparkly, light, and slightly chilled.  The result was delicious, and the perfect accompaniment to my chili-pepper-inspired menu.

Toss together a batch for your next party!

Summer Fruit Sangria

Serves 6-8

1 ripe peach, 2 ripe plums, and 1 orange, sliced thinly

1 small container  blueberries or raspberries

2 tablespoons of sugar

2 – 750 ml bottles red wine (any dry wine is fine, but I prefer Rioja or Temperanillo)

1 liter seltzer

Place all the fruit, sugar and wine in a large pitcher or glass container and allow to sit for several hours.  Right before serving, add cold seltzer, and if desired, a few handfuls of ice.  Serve and enjoy!

 

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

A Lemony Cocktail for Summer

July 11, 2011

I absolutely love all things citrus–particularly in drink form, particularly in the summertime.  Two of my favorite beverages are the Aranciata and Limonata sodas from Italy.  San Pellegrino makes and distributes them here in the US, and they are widely available in grocery stores (usually sold in cans).  The Aranciata is sweet and orange-flavored while the Limonata is lemony and more on the tart side. Both are lightly carbonated.  They are crisp and refreshing all on their own, but also make fantastic mixers!

Lemon and mint are a great summery combination, so I added some vodka to the mix to create a delicious cocktail.  The result is a slightly fizzy lemonade for grown-ups which was recently featured as the Recipe of the Week on SuzySaid.com.   Sip away!

Vodka Limonata with Mint
Makes 2 drinks

2 ounces vodka
1 tablespoon minted simple syrup (see below)
1 can San Pellegrino Limonata Italian soda
1 bunch fresh mint
lemon slices for garnish

Place vodka and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice.

Shake to combine and divide evenly between two glasses.

Top with about 4 ounces of limonata soda and garnish with a lemon slice and a sprig of fresh mint.  Add ice if desired.

To make minted simple syrup, combine 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and add a handful of fresh mint leaves.  Allow leaves to steep in the hot syrup.  Cool completely, remove mint leaves, and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

White Wine Sangria with Mint

June 13, 2011

Inspiration.  It comes in many forms, in varying degrees of intensity, at unsuspected times, and in unusual locations.  While I was in the waiting room of the doctor’s office I was flipping through a food magazine which I had tucked into my purse, anticipating I’d be there for awhile.  As I looked through the pictures, read the accompanying stories, and browsed through the recipes, I was almost giddy with excitement.  All I wanted to do was run out of that office, plan a menu, whip up some pitcher drinks, and invite friends over for dinner.  The funny thing is that I didn’t actually want to make any of the recipes I was reading about—but yet they inspired me to want to go home and cook and create some of my own.  Yes, these are the things that make a food geek tick.

I love entertaining with pitcher drinks (supplemented with bottled beer and some wine) because they are just fun and easy.  It’s too much work to make drinks on a per person basis, so I just pick a drink that goes with the theme of the menu and whip up a big batch.  This particular warm day I decided to make a white wine sangria with grapes, cherries, some orange slices, and my delicious minted simple syrup.  I’m a very visual person and just imagining the colorful fruits swimming around in a pitcher of white wine made me happy.  Who doesn’t love to pour themselves a glass of cheer?

White Wine Sangria with Mint

Makes 1 pitcher –about 6 -8 glasses (double and redouble as needed)

1 – 750 ml bottle white wine (dry is better, but don’t spend a fortune on it)

2 cups of fruit, a combo of grapes and pitted cherries (or other small fruits)

1/2 navel orange, thinly sliced and quartered

2-3 tablespoons minted simple syrup (see below)

1 liter seltzer

fresh mint leaves

In a large pitcher, combine the wine, simple syrup, and fruit.  Allow to macerate for a couple hours in the refrigerator (okay to skip this step, but I recommend doing it!)

Before serving, add seltzer, fresh mint leaves, and some ice.  Serve cold.

(For minted simple syrup, I combined a bottle of purchased simple syrup in a saucepan with a handful of fresh mint sprigs.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and allow to steep while it’s cooling.  Cool completely and strain out the mint before adding to the sangria.  To make this from scratch, combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved, add mint, and allow to steep as directed above.)

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

The Ice Wine Diva

May 30, 2011

I recently received a tee-shirt as a gift which read “Wine Diva” —all in pink sparkles.  My friend said when she saw it she thought of me, which made us both laugh.  Yes, I do drink my share of wine, but a diva I am not.   Not about wine or in general, but I still love the shirt and will wear it with the same enthusiasm that I wear my sparkly Harley Davidson shirt (which is even further from the mark than the diva shirt, considering I’ve never been on one and have zero interest). 

A few weeks back a friend came for a party with a bottle of white wine that wasn’t chilled, so I suggested we pop it into the freezer for a few minutes.  Well, to make a long story short, in the meantime we’d opened other bottles and were drinking my champagne sangria, and completely forgot about the wine.  I didn’t discover it until the next day when I opened the freezer to get some frozen waffles for my kids, and there it was, cork blown straight out, and frozen solid.  I had no idea wine would freeze!  I knew alcohol didn’t freeze, and that many people keep things like vodka and limoncello in their freezers.  Well, I guess wine doesn’t have enough alcohol to qualify as freeze-proof, and my proof was right in front of me.

I defrosted the wine and honestly it was fine (like I said, I’m not a diva about such things).  But as I was sipping my very chilly glass something dawned on me.  What if I made wine-cubes similar to my coffee-cubes, so in summertime when it’s particularly hot and I’m feeling especially un-diva-like I could pop a few of those cubes in my glass and not worry about watering it down?   Maybe it was the wine talking, but I thought it was a stroke of brilliance and pulled out my heart-shaped ice cube trays and filled them up.  Hey, if you’re going to put ice cubes in your wine, they might as well be heart-shaped! 😉

The unofficial start to summer has arrived—and divas don’t do well in the heat!  Soon, when it is 95 degrees and you’re sitting on your patio sipping a nice crisp glass of wine at the end of the day, you’ll be thanking me as your cubes clink together in your plastic wine glass. 

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Product Profile: Herb Keeper

May 9, 2011

Most home-chefs love cooking with fresh herbs.  They add fantastic flavor, color and freshness to any dish.  The only problem is that there is almost always some left over, and those left over herbs tend to end up in the garbage after rotting in your fridge for a week. 

This exact issue led me to develop a Connecticut cooking class teaching students how to select, store, chop, and use fresh herbs in a variety of recipes.  Although I tend to store many of my fresh herbs in ziplock bags, I decided this was the perfect time to test out an “herb keeper” I received as a hostess gift.  I’m not much of a gadget-girl, but I have to say I’m very impressed with this product.   There are a few different brands on the market available at a variety of stores (including Target, Amazon and Sur La Table), but mine is from Cuisipro and was purchased at Crate & Barrel.  It is approximately the size of a 2 liter soda bottle and has a removable top.  You simply fill to the indicator line with water, insert your herbs (stems down) into the canister, close the top, and place in your refrigerator.  It creates the perfect environment for your leafy herbs to stay fresh and green for weeks (provided you change the water every few days).  This bunch of mint lasted over three weeks (pictured)!

You could create a homemade version of this by using a drinking glass filled about an inch high with water and a plastic bag.  Simply place the herbs, stems down, into the water and loosely place the bag over the leaves.   However, this herb keeper is a great product, creates no waste, and truly does it’s job.  

Now, what to make with all these left over fresh mint leaves?  My Cape Cod Mojitos!  It’s almost summer, after all!

Champagne Sangria

March 28, 2011

I was hosting a celebration at my house, so champagne was definitely in order.  I thought about making my Pomegranate Champagne Punch, a recipe I’d created for one of my corporate clients, Bigelow Tea.  However, as I walked through the aisles of my favorite wine shop, I had a lightbulb moment…what if I made sangria with champagne?   I thought I was really on to something here, and couldn’t wait to get home to start mixing. 

The first thing I did was Google “champagne sangria”.  Sure enough, Giada had already beat me to the punch (no pun intended).   I used her recipe as inspiration, made a few adjustments, added a little of my flair, and the result was both pretty and delicious.  I was so excited about my drink that I even ran out and bought this glass dispenser for the party.  Well,while  the drink was a huge hit, the dispenser gets a ‘fail’ because the pulp from the juice clogged up the spigot after pouring about five drinks, so I had to switch to a pitcher.  Oh well, it looked pretty while it lasted.

Put some bubbly into your sangria….it’s the perfect celebration cocktail!

Champagne Sangria

Serves a crowd!

2 bottles sparkling wine or champagne (I used Cava, but dry Prosecco would also work)

1 1/2 cups minted simple syrup (see below)

3/4 cup limoncello liquor

1 cup orange juice

1 cup strawberries

1 lemon, zested and sliced

1 lime, zested and sliced

fresh mint leaves

Put all ingredients into a large pitcher with a couple handfuls of ice, stir, and serve immediately!

(For minted simple syrup, I combined a bottle of purchased simple syrup in a saucepan with a handful of fresh mint sprigs.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and allow to steep while it’s cooling.  Cool completely and strain out the mint before adding to the sangria.  To make this from scratch, combine 1.5 cups water and 1.5 cups sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved, add mint, and allow to steep as directed above.)

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Skinny Cape Cod Cocktail

August 11, 2010

Drinking Cape Cods on Cape Cod.  The last two weeks I was living a cliché for sure, but who cares?  A Cape Cod is simply vodka, cranberry juice, and a lime.  But whenever I order one it seems to be mostly high-calorie cranberry juice.  Awhile back we were out with a couple and the wife ordered a long-winded version of a Cape Cod that was right up my alley.  Citron Vodka and seltzer, with just a  *splash* of cranberry, and a lime.  It’s light, refreshing, lo-cal, and pink and green which just screams Chatham right there.  It immediately became my drink of choice.  The only thing I don’t like is that it takes a long time to explain to the bartender what I want.  I mostly hate saying “a splash” because it just sounds so fussy.  But when I say a splash I mean a splash, not a half glass full.  Okay, so I guess I am fussy.   What I’m getting at is that this drink needed a name.  I’m christening it the Skinny Cape Cod.   Maybe someday it will catch on and instead of sounding fussy I’ll just sound skinny.

Skinny Cape Cod Cocktail

Put a shot (or two) of citron vodka in a highball glass, filled part way with ice.  Add seltzer (I like the lime flavored variety) to fill almost all the way, and top off with a splash (and I mean a splash) of cranberry juice.  Garnish with a lime wedge.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

In Season: Blueberries

July 19, 2010

I love berry-picking season.  We usually try to get out for both the strawberry season and the blueberry season, but this year strawberry season passed us by, so we headed straight to the blueberry patch.  My favorite place to pick blueberries is something of a worst-kept secret spot.  You have to hike through sometimes treacherous terrain to get to the patch (at least treacherous for a three-year old who loves to run!), but once you reach the mountain-top clearing with its gorgeous view, you’re happy you made the trek. 

We picked about two quarts (don’t forget you also have to hike out!), but I’m pretty sure my daughter ate about a quart during our outing.  When we got home we decided to freeze about a third of the blueberries, eat another third, and make something with the last portion.  My six-year-old was intent on making a blueberry drink, and we decided on blueberry lemonade.  After everyone got their fill of  the pink drink, I decided to play around with it as a mixer for a cocktail, and the Blueberry Lemonade Martini was born.  Delicious, refreshing, and perfect for summer.

Blueberry Lemonade & Blueberry Lemonade Martini

1/2 cup of fresh blueberries

1 quart lemonade

Place the blueberries in a mini-prep food processor with about 1/4-1/2 cup lemonade.  Puree until smooth.

Place a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl or large measuring cup and strain the blueberry puree through it to remove the skins.  Use the back of a rubber spatula to press it through and get out ALL the juice.

Add the bright pink blueberry liquid to the rest of the lemonade and stir to combine.

To make a martini, add 1 oz vodka (I used Citron Vodka) and 2 oz blueberry lemonade to a cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Shake and pour into a martini glass.  Garnish with a few whole blueberries.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Citrusy Summer Drinks with a Kick

June 28, 2010

I’m a sucker for summery cocktails.  Mojitos with mint from my patio, iced tea that packs a punch, or pretty much anything with citrus in it is right up my alley.  A few weeks ago friends had a party and served what they called “Shime”, which was a lime-flavored punch made with vodka and beer.   It was deliciously dangerous.  The next day I mentioned it to another friend who said she makes the exact drink but lemon-flavored, which they fondly called “the lemonade sh*t”.  Then a recent college grad told me they made the same concoction at parties and called it “Skippy”.  Whatever you call it, it is yummy and refreshing (although can be a tiny bit troublesome because it is easy to put back far too many).  I served it at a party over the weekend and couldn’t believe how quickly it disappeared.  One couple proclaimed it was their new favorite summer drink…and I couldn’t agree more.  Drink up!

 

 

Summer Lemonade (or Limeade) Punch

Makes 1 large pitcher

1 -12 oz can frozen lemonade or limeade concentrate

12 oz vodka (use the lemonade can to measure)

3 – 12 oz bottles light beer

ice

1 lemon or lime, thinly sliced (optional)

Pour the frozen concentrate, the vodka, and the beer into a large pitcher and stir thoroughly until combined.  Let the foam from the beer settle for a couple minutes, add ice and citrus slices and serve immediately.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.