Strawberry Margarita Popsicles

Strawberry Margarita Popsicles

Summer is almost gone but there is still time for POPSICLES, especially ones with tequila. These are yummy and refreshing and great for a cookout. I made these for book club, our book was Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen. A fun Summer read whose main character eats a lot of popsicles, so I decided to go with that but jazz it up with a little booze. Be careful when adding tequila or any other alcohol to your popsicles, if you add too much they will not freeze.

Strawberry Margarita Popsicles

6 c Simply Limeade ( found in the produce/juice section of your grocery store)

1-2 T agave syrup ( you could use sugar)

1 t lime zest

1 T chopped cilantro ( optional)

1/4 t salt

1/2 c tequila

sliced strawberries

add all ingredients, except strawberries to a pitcher and stir to incorporate. pour into popsicle molds or small paper or plastic cups. Place in freezer.

Strawberry Margarita Popsicles

Check after about 1 hr and every 1/2 hour after that. When the mixture is frozen to a slushy state. take out and add 2 sliced strawberries to each pop. Push them down with a popsicle stick or butter knife to desired position.(If you add them at the beginning they will float to the top and won’t be as pretty)  Then place a popsicle stick in each pop and place back into the freezer for a couple of more hours. 

Strawberry Margarita Popsicles

 

 

 

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Red White and Blue: Berry Basil Sangria

Red White and Blue: Berry Basil Sangria

This is a light and refreshing sangria that is perfect for summer and the festive colors make it the go to drink for the 4th of July. Want to make a pitcher for the kids, substitute the wine with white grape juice.

1  1.5 liter bottle of Pinot Grigio

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1/4 c basil

1 c white grape juice

1 c strawberries washed and cut into quarters

1 cup blueberries

1/2 liter club soda

Place Strawberries and blueberries in a large pitcher, cover with 1 cup of wine and place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour- overnight.

Basil Berry Sangria

In a small sauce pan add sugar, water and 4 large basil leaves. bring to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves and then turn off heat and let cool. This is a basil simple syrup. It is great for many mixed drinks. I like it with Gin and tonics.

Basil Simple Syrup

Add 1/2 basil simple syrup (straining the leaves out) the rest of the wine, grape juice, and club soda to the pitcher with the fruit.  Taste and add more simple syrup if needed ( This will depend on your tastes and the sweetness of your wine) Add some more fresh basil leaves. Serve over ice. Garnish with more basil and fruit if desired.

Red White and Blue: Berry Basil Sangria, perfect drink for the 4th of July

Book Club: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake Loaf

Let's Pretend This Never Happened- Jenny Lawson

 

This month’s book was a real hoot, laugh out loud funny in fact. A refreshing change from our woman in peril books we often read. This is the memoir of blogger Jenny Lawson, daughter of a taxidermist who lived a bizarre childhood that you could only laugh about. she definitely puts the fun in dysfunctional as she tries to make a life for herself as a mother, wife, friend and now blogger. You can check out her blog here. We had fun with this book club with one of our member even setting a giant chicken (its in the book) on the hostesses doorstep and ringing the bell and hiding. I still don’t know how she found the chicken.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened, Giant Chicken

As for food this was a hard one because Jenny can’t cook except for the microwave and that just wouldn’t cut it at our all foodie book club. I decided to make a chocolate chip “loaf” because she tells the story of when she was trying to sell the house she stuck a whole roll of chocolate chip cookie dough in the oven for the smell, and it started on fire. It was good and even better the next day as all crumb cakes are.

Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake Loaf

Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake Loaf

 

Cake

1 1/4 c flour

1/2 c cake flour

1 stick butter

3/4 t baking powder

1/4 t baking soda

1 c chocolate chips

3/4 c sugar

1/2 c buttermilk

2 eggs

1 t vanilla extract

1/2 T lemon zest

Topping

1 c flour

1 c sugar

1/2 stick hard butter

chocolate chips

powdered sugar

 

Pre heat oven to 350. Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. Cream softened butter in a mixer, add zest, and slowly add sugar. add in eggs and vanilla  and beat until just combined. Add 1/3 flour mixture to mixer, then 1/2 buttermilk, then 1/3 flour, 1/2 buttermilk, and finally lat 1/3 of flour. mix until combined scraping down the sides. Stir in chocolate chips and pour into a greased loaf pan.

Combine the butter flour and sugar for the topping mixing with a fork or your hand until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of the batter and then sprinkle with Chocolate chips. Bake for 40 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar if desired.

Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake Loaf

 

 

The Monsters of Templeton: Stuffed Tomatoes with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

The Monsters of Templeton

This month’s book club selection was the Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff. I admit this was an ambitious piece of literature, family secrets, ghosts, sea monsters, a complete family lineage going back several generations, a student’s affair with her professor, a best friend dealing with a terrible disease, an unwanted pregnancy, and a girl’s search for her father. However this was just way too much information for one book. the main idea was so watered down by the enormous cast of characters that I ended up just not caring about any of  them.It made it a difficult book to read but that also made it a great book for book club. There were many things to discuss and dissect. I think the discussions are always better when everyone doesn’t love the book. (usually I am the everyone, I can be a bit critical)

Some of us even dressed as “The Running Buds, a group of friends that have run together for years and who may or may not be important characters in the book. They were just the easiest costume, headbands, running shorts etc… Unfortunately I don’t have a sea monster outfit in my costume box. The food didn’t jump right out at you in this book but there was a lot of it if you paid attention ( I didn’t really ) I chose to make my version of Tomatoes Farci, Willie mentions this is her favorite dish when her mother makes it for her. We have quite a few vegetarians so I stuffed my tomatoes with goat cheese and mushrooms instead of meat. Another great one was a Huevos Rancheros casserole, Willie’s mom also makes this during an eventful breakfast in the book.

Stuffed Tomatoes with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

10 Campari Tomatoes ( or 4 large for a meal)

1 T olive oil

1 cup finely chopped mushrooms, (I used baby bellas and porcini)

2 T chopped shallot

2 cloves garlic chopped

1/4 c chopped tomato

2 T chopped parsley

1/4 c white wine ( I used Pinot Grigio)

1 T balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

1/4 c panko bread crumbs

1 3 1/2 oz log goat cheese

Core tomatoes and remove seeds and pulp, leaving just a shell.( if using a large tomato, cut top off and scoop out insides, leaving a bowl) In a large pan. Add oil and saute mushrooms, shallot and garlic, until mushrooms are soft and shallot is translucent. add tomato, wine, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add bread crumb, cheese and parsley. Let cool.

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Stuff tomatoes with the cheese and mushroom mixture , place in an oven safe dish and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until cheese slightly browns on top.

Stuffed Tomatoes with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

(oops, so excited for book club I didn’t take a picture of the final product, but they looked the same with a slightly brown top)

Chicken Frito Pie

Chicken Frito Pie

Chicken Frito Pie

As promised here is the recipe for Chicken Frito Pie that I made for Gone Girl Book Club

Chicken Frito Pie

1 T vegetable oil

2 c cooked chicken ( I used a rotisserie, one from my grocers deli)

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 tsp chopped garlic

1 can cannelli beans drained (white beans)

1 can tomatoes with green chilies (rotel)

1 T chili powder

1 2 c bag shredded cheddar cheese

1 bag fritos (not scoops)

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. add oil. Then add chicken, onion, and garlic, saute about 3-5 minutes or until onion is soft and garlic is browned. add beans, tomatoes, and chili powder. Continue cooking until all ingredients are heated through.

Chicken Frito Pie

Preheat oven to 350

Pour fritos into the bottom of a pie pan ( enough to cover the bottom) take the heel of your hand and slightly crush the corn chips so the lay flat. add 1 c shredded cheese, then chicken mixture, then 1 more cup cheese and then cover with fritos. Bake for about 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with sour cream.

Chicken Frito Pie

Gone Girl Book Club: Crepe-a-Dillas

Gone Girl

This month’s book selection was the suspenseful mystery Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It was the perfect book for book club, lots to discuss, surprising twists, crazy characters and a unique writing style. I liked it a lot, but I may be biased because it was actually my pick. That also meant that book club was at my house so I had to really bring it with the food. Hmm where to start, how about the beginning, on the day Amy goes missing she is makes crepes for their 5th anniversary breakfast. Crepes are not generally a finger food though and since there is always tons of food at out book clubs, the portion size would be too big. So I thought about it and decided to make my own surprising twist on quesadillas, crepe-a-dillas. Individual triangles of crepe-y goodness, perfect for parties.

Crepe-a-dillas

Crepe-A-Dillas

Filling:

8 0z marscapone cheese

8 oz cream cheese (softened)

1/4 c lemon juice

1 tsp lemon zest

3 T honey

10 crepes (you could make your own, but I used pre made ones found in my produce section of the grocery store, flour tortillas would also work)

Blueberry Balsamic Sauce

1 pint fresh blueberries

1/4 c sugar

2 T balsamic vinegar

1/4 c water

For the filling,  mix all ingredients with a mixer  until incorporated. To make crepe-a-dillas lay one crepe flat, spread thin layer of filling on crepe, fold in half and then cut into wedges with pizza cutter of knife.

Crepe-a-dillasCrepe-a-dillasCrepe-a-dillas

Place on a plate and put wax paper or plastic wrap between layers to prevent sticking, place in refrigerator until ready to use.

For the sauce, add all ingredients to a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or until sauce thickens. Place in small bowl and cover. Cool in the refrigerator.

I also made a Chicken Frito Pie, just like the nice woman brought Nick after his wife disappeared which I will share the recipe to in my next post. We also had members bring manchego cheese, chocolate truffles, chili cheese fritos and casseroles, all thematic for the book.

For decorations I really wanted to have live lobsters in a pot (too mean), so I looked for fake ones but I couldn’t find them. I also wrapped a large box in a blue plastic table cloth from the dollar store ( I couldn’t find plain blue wrapping paper anywhere) for the centerpiece. I had a number 5 candle in my crepe-a-dillas. I also thought it would be fun to make some fun quizzes for book club like the ones Amy wrote for magazines.

Caution tape by the front door would have been a nice touch but I thought of that after book club.

I kept a bowl of red jelly beans close by for our discussions so that they could be throw at people for fun if you disagreed with their thoughts about the book. By the way I am still finding red jelly beans in and under my couch. Gone Girl Book Club

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Shrimp Salad

Shrimp Salad

I guess I forgot to post this recipe, I made this for November’s Book Club for the excellent book, This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. It is the tragic but funny tale of a disjointed family that comes together to sit Shiva after their father dies. It was one of the best books I have read in a really long time. It’s already slated to become a movie with Jason Bateman and Goldie Hawn, two of my favorites. Of course in the story friends and family drop by to bring deli platters and lots of bagels so I made a delicious shrimp salad and served it on bagel chips.

this is where I leave you

Shrimp Salad

1lb shrimp peeled and deveined

1 1/2 lemons sliced

1 T plus 1-2 tsp

2 T chopped arugula

1T worcestershire sauce

1/4 c chopped onion

1/4 c celery

1/2 c mayo

1 T lemon juice

I steamed my own shrimp but you can buy them pre steamed from the store. I used the steamer part of my rice cooker, I laid the sliced lemon on the bottom of the steamer and than tossed the shrimp with 1 T of Old Bay seasoning, then turned on the cooker and steamed until the shrimp were opaque and cooked through.

Shrimp Salad

Steamed Shrimp

Then chop the cooked shrimp and add them to a bowl with the rest of the ingredients, including another 1-2 tsp of Old Bay. You could serve as sandwiches or as an appetizer on toasts, crackers or bagel chips.

Frosty The Cheeseman, Performance Food Art

Frosty the Cheeseman

We always have a book club Christmas party, and the stakes are high. Not only can these girls read and have intelligent conversations, they are crafty, gourmet cooks and food connoisseurs. So when choosing a dish to bring you can’t resort to the usual stand bys. Last year I saw a picture of this cheese ball snowman and thought that’s it, food performance art. Now I know culinarily speaking it is not that exciting but it makes up for it in entertainment value.

Frosty The Cheeseman

1 large box and 1 small box of velveeta cheese any flavor

2 bricks cream cheese softened

green pepper

black olives

carrots

toothpicks

cut the velveeta into 3 pieces, like a snowman they should vary in size from large to small, using your hands roll them into ball shapes ( velveeta is like playdoh, its easy)

frost the balls with the cream cheese and stack them using toothpicks to hold them together.

cut arms, hat, and buttons from carrots ( be creative use whatever vegetables you have)

cut a bow out of a green pepper

use black olives for eyes

Heres the fun part, put frosty in a fondue pot or electric fry pan on low, watch Frosty melt into a puddle of goodness, and serve with chips.

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Peanut Chocolate Chip Bars : A Carnival in Your Mouth

 

Book Club Time, and it is Halloween Book Club so that’s always twice as exciting. This month’s host picked Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

A frightening tale about a sinister carnival. A perfectly spooky book for a perfectly spooky party. Costumes were required. I took the easy route and was a Barker (ok I really looked like a ringmaster, but those are only in circuses) This was an easy costume, fake mustache, top hat, vest, bow tie, jacket, and some boots, I already had all of those in my costume box (yes I am a grown adult with a dress up box, I think all adults should have them)

 

So now I need food, I wanted to do something with a carnival feel so I thought these easy bar cookies would fit the bill since they have caramel and peanuts. They are easy to make and very portable, perfect for book clubs or parties. They were such a hit I made them again for a Halloween party the next day.

Peanut Chocolate Chip Bars

2 tubes of refrigerated sugar cookie dough

3 cups salted peanuts

2 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1 cup caramel sauce (ice cream topping)

Preheat oven to 350. Roll out sugar cookie dough onto a large sheet pan, using a rolling-pin sprinkled with four. I used a nonstick liner to make them easier to remove later. I also used a knife to cut straight edges after I rolled it out.

 

Bake dough in oven for about 12 minutes or until it is slightly golden, dough will still be soft in the middle.

 

Sprinkle the top with peanuts and chocolate chips. Then drizzle caramel sauce over the top.

 

Return them to the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes longer or until cookie dough is firm and center begins to bubble. Let cool and cut into bars

Kalamata Olive Aioli: The Paris Wife

Book Club time again, this month’s selection was The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. It tells the story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemmingway’s first wife. I loved it, but then of course historical fiction is my favorite genre, and Paris in the 1920’s intrigues me. It also meant the food for book club would be easy, Paris, Spain, champagne and elegant meals, there was lots to choose from. And did I mention costumes, I do love to dress up and putting together a flapper costume was great fun. The hardest part this month was narrowing my options down. I chose to go with olives as my ingredient. In chapter three, Hadley tries olives for the first time at a greek restaurant in Chicago, she says, “I suppose it’s embarrassing, but I’ve never had olives before.” Ernest replies, “That should be illegal. Here open”. and feeds her an olive which starts their romance. I made an olive plate, but also wanted to actually make something so I made a dip that I also served at my sons chip and dip graduation party.

A kalamata olive aioli, which I loosely based on the Kalamata dip served at Nordstrom’s cafe with their fries (it is delicious, try it if you ever get a chance). It is simple, elegant, and has lots of applications, it is a great dip for crunchy potato chips or raw veggies, a great spread for bread and cheese or chicken sandwiches, and would also be great on roasted vegetables or french fries.

Kalamata Olive Aioli

1 1/2 c mayo

3 cloves of garlic, or 5 cloves of roasted garlic

1/2 c pitted kalamata olives

1 T lemon juice

1/2 t lemon zest

cracked pepper

add mayo, olives, garlic and lemon juice and zest to a food processor, blend until olives are completely incorporated into the mayo.

Add pepper and stir, and serve.