Category Archives: drinks

Simple Steps for a Spooky Halloween Feast

Simple, Spooky, Halloween Feast It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Pumpkins for roasting, blood cocktails for toasting and headstones aglow in the yard. You can keep your jingle bells and turkey dinners, give me banshees and the undead any day. Halloween is my thing. The Samhain celebration in our house always starts with a ghoulish feast – no goulash involved. Hosting a ghostly get-together can be scary simple. Here are a few of my go-to tips for creating a Spooky Halloween Feast .   

Tip #1: Hit the Dollar Stores

I love to peruse those pop-up Halloween shops and warehouses, but I rarely buy there. For the most part they’re just totally over priced. Many of the things you’ll find there can be reproduced with thrifty finds from the Dollar Store or even a thrift shop. Save your money for the big scares.

Tip #2: Raid the Good China

That silver service Gran left ya – the one that’s been gathering tarnish (or patina, if you’re fancy) will lend a great vintage-creepy vibe to your tablescape. Using mismatch serving dishes, old candle holders and turning a glass bowl upside down to replace a cloche are free and up the freaky factor. Mix and match some of the cool paper goods you can find at Target with your fancy chargers or good china. These are all easy and CHEAP tricks for creating that scary-chic setting.

Tip #3: A Dish by Any Other Name

 Castelvetrano Olives are a salty Sicilian treat found on many a fancy charcuterie plate. Put them in a brass bowl perched atop a pair of claw hands and their nearly-neon hue makes them instant, “Eye of Newt.” Mashed potatoes and meatloaf, peeled grapes, jelly donuts with dripping raspberry jam, sun-dried tomatoes and cheese baked in puff pastry, pomegranate punch with a splash of lime grenadine, all sound simply delish. Yes? Call them Roasted Brains, Stuffed Intestines, Nosferatu Choux  and Blood Bath Bubbly, and you have devilishly deviant deliciousness.  

Tip #4: Raid the Craft and Supply Stores

Pass by the Halloween displays at the craft store, or only shop them if you have that 40% off coupon, but still go. There are some great finds in the floral, fabric, and jewelery-supply sections. Feathers and Spanish Moss, tulle in All Hallows Eve hues, and baubles like vintage-style keys, cameo charms and crystals of all colors lend a chill to the air of your tablescape. Cheap skulls of all shapes, sizes, and colors carry the theme throughout too.

spooky tablescape on the cheapOn-line science and industrial supply stores are a veritable wonderland of macabre just waiting to happen. Beakers, flasks, and test tubes… OH MY! A Boston Round bottle with a handwritten, “poison label” does great double duty as a prop in Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory. I picked up a 12 pack of test tubes for less than five bucks.  Fill them with dipping sauces. and give them grotesque labels and you’ve got a party. 

Here are a couple of simple recipes to take your spine-chillingly Spooky Halloween Feast over the top.

meatloaf brains a tasty halloween meat treat

Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp Trader Joe’s Season-All
2 tbsp onion (minced)
Your Favorite Mashed Potatoes
1/2 cup tomato puree
2 pastry bags

Prep Time:

Cook Time:
Serves: 6

Directions:
Mix meats with garlic, season-all, onion, egg and bread crumbs. Form into 12 balls about the size of your palm. Roll on a parchment covered surface to get an oblong shape. Press two together firmly, six sets in total. Place on a lined baking sheet in a 450 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. In the mean time prepare mashed potatoes. Be sure they are not too loose.

Allow potatoes to cool until cool enough to handle. Fill a pastry bag with potatoes. Pipe onto meatloaf “brains” in a zigzag pattern. Fill second pastry bag with tomato puree. Pipe onto potato layer inside of the grooves, nooks and crannies. 

Note: Barbecue sauce and steak sauce make tasty substitutions for tomato puree. 

Puff Pastry Cheese and Sundried Tomato - Tasty Intestines

Ingredients:
1 package frozen puff pastry sheets (thawed, but kept chilled)
2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
1 package cream cheese (room temperature)
1 tbsp dried Italian herbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
3-4 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (oil drained and patted off)
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of water)
 

Prep Time: 15

Cook Time: 15
Serves: 6-8

Directions:
In a medium mixing bowl combine cheeses, herbs and seasonings. Dice tomatoes and add to cheese mixture. Set aside.

Roll out sheet of puff pastry on a loured surface till it is a rough circle approximately 10 inches in diameter. It does not need to be a perfect circle, in fact the less perfect the better.
Spread cheese and tomato mixture 1/2 inch in from one side of the pastry dough. Fold over the edge of the dough until it covers most of the cheese mixture. Working from right to left, roll the dough over itself forming a cigar shaped roll. Coil onto a lined baking sheet in roughly the shape of an intestine (yeah, I know it sounds nasty but it tastes good.) Brush the top with egg wash. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve with a sharp knife for hacking into… YUCKY YUMMY!

NFL, Cocktails & a $300 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

Changing leaves are great. Pumpkin spice lattes are awesome. Sending the kids back to school is … sanity saving.  The best thing about fall though is the return of NFL FOOTBALL! From the minute that the first fantasy draft books hit the news stand I start to hope again. Rivers‘ is going to stay healthy and on target. Mathews has at least one more season of greatness in him. We might actually have both a D and an offense this year. Hope springs anew with the first Sunday of the NFL season, the Superbowl is within reach. GO CHARGERS!  When it comes to game day though, I do enjoy a little bit of liquid faith in my team. Craft beers? I’m all about that. However, since 2014 is going to be OUR year, I thought I’d kick it off with a little celebratory cocktail. (also helpful for those inevitable crap calls from the Ref) I spent some time with my Mixology playbook, reached out to a team of experts on the interwebs and came up with two original recipes that pair perfectly with optimism and chicken wings! Cherry Bomb (to the End Zone)

Cherry Bomb (to the end zone)
Serves 1
Dark Cherry and Pomegranate Frozen Awesome, featuring PAMA pomegranate liqueur, black cherry rum, cherries.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 oz Cruzan Black Cherry Rum
  2. 1 oz PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
  3. 1 oz Cherry Juice
  4. splash of Grenadine
  5. 1/4 cup Cherries (frozen)
  6. Ice
Instructions
  1. Place ice in blender (recommend 4-6 cubes). Add liquid ingredients, top with frozen cherries. Blend until smooth.
Notes
  1. Garnish with a frozen cherry skewer. A sprig of lavender adds an aromatic touch and brings out the tart sweetness of the pomegranate. To make a larger batch, simply adjust ingredients to serving size, keeping the number of frozen cherries to 1 cup or less to avoid changing the texture.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/
  For those that like a little pig with their pigskin, we concocted an sweet, salty, aromatic option – because you’ve got to have options in your game plan. I’m a fan of a pass-option, and frankly since Ladainian left and took our kickass, two-back-run-game with him, it really is our best option. All American Apple Back Cocktail

All American Apple Back
Serves 2
What's more American that apple pie? Bacon! This cocktail pairs sweet and salty with an aromatic hit on the back end.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 oz Dr. McGillicuddy's Applie Pie
  2. 2 oz Bourbon
  3. 1 oz Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey
  4. 1/2 cup Tart Apple Sauce
  5. 1/4 cup Maple Simple Syrup
  6. 1 cup Martinelli's Sparking Apple Cider
  7. 2 slices Cooked Thick Cut Bacon
  8. 1 tsp Mulling Spices
  9. 1/4 tsp Fleur de Sel
  10. 1 Green Apple
  11. Ice
Instructions
  1. Place one cup of ice into a cocktail shaker. Add in liquids, and mulling spices. Shake rigorously. Rim highball glass with fleur de sel. Strain over mix over ice into highball glass. Garnish with bacon and green apple slice.
Notes
  1. A sage leaf makes a nice aromatic addition as a garnish.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/
Do you have faith in a winning season for your team? Okay, maybe you’re not quite as delusional optimistic as I am… but YOU could still win. In fact I’m hoping you do… just not on the field against my Chargers. My sisterhood of traveling bloggers, Alpha Blogga Blogga Sisters has put together a great giveaway to get your season started off with a shot at that End Zone… YOU could win a $300 Amazon Gift Card, baby! Our sisterhood made of awesome is not only hosting this giveaway, the also have TONS of ideas to help you kick off your NFL season, from food to cocktails to love-of-the-game kvetching. PLUS endless EASY options for entering to win. See details below, and GOOD LUCK! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here are some other great ideas, inspiration and gridiron chat from my ABB Sisterhood

 



Cocktail Time: Black Cherry Sloe Gin Fizz

A new twist on a old classic, with no actual gin in it.

A well-crafted cocktail can turn any evening into an event. Sometimes afternoons too. Just putting that out there.  Of late, I’ve been getting creative with mixology. The results of which have been, well… mixed. One of the more successful results (per my official taste-tester – the hubby) came in the form of a Black Cherry Sloe Gin Fizz. Which oddly enough, contains no gin at all.

What?!

As it turns out Sloe Gin is neither “slow” nor Gin. This liqueur is actually flavored with a relative of the plum, the Sloe. It garnered it’s false moniker due to the fact that the Sloe was often soaked in gin, it’s juices infusing into the juniper berry flavors of the gin. These days cheaper spirits are often used, but the name stuck.

Okay, History of Hooch 101 is over. Let’s get to the mixing. For this cocktail I chose to take full advantage of sweet, in-season, scrumptious black cherries found at the local Farmer’s Market. After pitting, they went for a spin in my juicer. 

Hey, juicing… that’s healthy, right?!

A traditional Sloe Gin Fizz uses a simple syrup, I’ve replaced that with the cherry juice. If you’re into very sweet drinks feel free to add it back in (4 jiggers for the yield in this recipe.)

Cheers!

Black Cherry Sloe Gin Fizz
Serves 4
A sweet, summery twist on the classic Sloe Gin Fizz.
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Prep Time
4 min
Total Time
4 min
Prep Time
4 min
Total Time
4 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 Jiggers (1.5 fl oz) Sloe Gin
  2. 4 Jiggers Lemon Flavored Vodka
  3. 4 Jiggers Black Cherry Juice
  4. Soda Water
  5. Ice
  6. Cocktail Shaker with Strainer
Instructions
  1. Fill Cocktail Shaker with ice. Add juice and spirits. Shake well. Strain out into your class of choice. Top with Soda Water. Garnish with a sprig of mint or slice of lemon
Notes
  1. A traditional Sloe Gin Fizz calls for a simple syrup, lemon juice, and gin. This version replaces the syrup with cherry juice, the lemon and gin with lemon-flavored vodka.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

You’re Never Too Old for Peanut Butter & Jelly … Martinis

PB and J Martini

Peanut Butter and Jelly – that classic combo nearly every child has adored – has been honored with it’s own day of national recognition. A day on which millions will take a huge bite out of tradition, ceremoniously gluing globs of goo-covered bread to the roofs of their mouths marking the occasion with the pomp it deserves. I, on the other hand, choose to pay homage to this staple of the American lunch box with a cocktail!

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the PB&J sandwich. It could have something to do with the fact that my father once sent me off to school with his own version of the high protein power lunch… Peanut Butter, Jelly & ANTS.

Dear Old Dad mistook the sugar coated carcasses of suicidal insects for strawberry seeds in mom’s homemade jelly. You can imagine how that might sour one on the prospect of ever eating another PB&J. But, I grew up … and found vodka.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Martini

 

  • 1/4 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Strawberry Jelly
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 4-6 Jiggers Strawberry (or plain) Vodka
  • 1/2 Cup Animal Crackers

Combine Peanut Butter with an equal amount of water. Whisk over medium heat until combined. This makes a simple syrup that should be smooth and liquid. Add more water as needed. Set aside and allow to cool. Repeat this process with the jelly.

Place animal crackers in a ziplock bag. Crush them with a rolling pin and pour them on to a shallow plate. Dip the rims of the martini glasses into the jelly simple syrup and roll them in the cookie crumbs to rim the glass. This make for a scrumptious flavor that pays a decant homage to the famed sandwich.

Fill a large martini shaker with ice. Pour in vodka and both syrups. Shake well. Strain out into your rimmed glasses.

pbj martini 1

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Taste Washington” a Food & Wine Pairing Journey

Julia Child Wine

Traveling through the taste buds is the ultimate experiential journey. Few things serve to acquaint you better with a culture or destination than getting to know the culinary landscape. The beauty of this is that you don’t necessarily need to be in the geographical area to experience what it has to offer.

Visiting cultural enclaves like “China Town” or “Little Italy,” in any city can transport you without a passport. Letting your taste buds to the traveling can also be the start of your journey. Fall for a felafel and you may find yourself booking an exotic adventure to the Middle East.

Food is a universal translator, we all speak fluent “Foodie,” no matter what we like to eat.

I suspect the language of food was the the idea behind “Flavors of the World,” a culinary series and adventure launched by Omni Hotels. Last year at the Omni Berkshire in New York I fell in love with Peddlers Noodles – Char Kway Teow, one of the award-winning foods included in the “Simply Street Food,” portion of the series.

Char Kway Teow or ‘Stir-Fried Flat Rice Noodle,’ is a popular dish throughout Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, that was made famous by local street food vendors. Chef Andy Oh of the Pan Pacific Orchard put a modern twist on the dish and it was a featured offering at Omni Hotels. The best part? Chef Oh’s recipe was made available online (check it out here) allowing me to recreate it at home and test it out with several wines.

My favorite? Cashmere by Cline Cellars. A silky, smooth blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Syrah, it paired perfectly with the sweet crab meat and spicy chili paste in the dish.

Watch out Singapore… here I come!

This spring Omni’s latest offering is, “Taste Washington.”  Let your taste buds travel to the Evergreen State with some of Washington’s best wines, hand-selected by the culinary adventurers at Omni, and paired with iconic culinary creations from the region.

“With dishes inspired by local flavors and the indigenous cuisine of Washington State, guests can enjoy: Handmade Washington Cheeses served with fig jam, honey and olives, Dungeness Crab Fritters, Dungeness Crab and Snap Pea Soup, Apple and Fennel Salad, Roasted Salmon served with Wild Mushrooms and Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream.” ~Omni PR

They had me at cheese with fig jam. Honestly it’s a reconnaissance mission, we have so many figs come summer I want to learn how to make jam out of them.

washington figs and cheese

Want to taste a bit of Washington, but your travels are taking you to Dallas, Boston or beyond? March 7, 2014 – May 31, 2014, Omni Hotels nationwide will be serving up the wines and bites mentioned above in their bars and restaurants, as well as offering a “Taste Washington” package. The package includes a Washington cheese plate, Washington bottle of wine and Washington apple delivered in-room upon check-in.

I may be stuck here in Washington, D.C. at the moment, but I’m looking forward to letting my taste buds travel to Washington State. Next stop… Pike Place Market and a Girls Weekend with cookies for breakfast!

 

(The only sponsors for this post were my taste buds. I was not compensated in any way. Though if you stay at Omni for this event I’m willing to take wine and/or figs as a thank you!)