Gifts that keep on giving: Booze Baskets

Finding a perfect gift for someone is difficult, getting the right size or color or worrying if the receiver already has one etc… I recently got a new neighbor and was wondering what to get her. I knew what colors she likes and we were already friends so I kind of knew her tastes but still had no idea. Then I remembered that she said her new house would have a signature cocktail…mojitos. Well what could be better than all the ingredients for her new house drink. I always save my Christmas gift baskets, you know the ones that different business send out with stale nuts and cheap chocolate, the basket is probably the best part. I found one in my closet that would fit all of the needed supplies. For the Mojito basket I put white rum, club soda, a muddler, limes and a mint plant. I also made a batch of simple syrup and filled a glass jar with it.

Simple Syrup is easy to make and a great addition to mojitos, iced coffee and iced tea. I actually made a double batch so I could keep some for myself.

Add equal parts sugar and water to a pan, bring to a boil and remove from heat, let cool and store in the refrigerator.

To keep all the contents from falling out, I used some clear shrink-wrap, which is now available at my dollar store and tied a bow on the top. Voila, gift giving made easy. This basket could easily be done with a different drink theme. Margaritas, cosmos, martinis. Now I can’t wait to join my new neighbor for happy hour by the pool once she gets settled.

Pappardelle Pasta with Peas, Ricotta, and Mint

This is a quick, easy, and light pasta dish. Delicious as a weeknight dinner, a great addition to a brunch or terrific meatless option. If you want to please your meat eaters, try adding, crispy bacon, ham or prosciutto at the end.

1 package pappardelle pasta ( or your favorite shape)

1/2 to 1 c reserved pasta cooking water

1 1/2 c ricotta cheese

1 c frozen peas

2 T fresh mint

1 T fresh lemon juice

1/4 t black pepper

1/2 t salt

crumbled ricotta salata or shaved parmesan for topping

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions, reserving 1 c pasta water before draining. Add ricotta, peas, mint and lemon juice to a food processor and pulse until combined, stir in salt and pepper.

Toss ricotta mixture and pasta together, add reserved cooking liquid 1/4 cup at a time until sauce is desired consistency. Serve topped with crumbled ricotta salata or shaved parmesan.

Popsicles!: Cantaloupe, Lime, and Mint

Who can resist a tempting, colorful, icy treat ? Not anyone in my house. These low calorie, all natural, no sugar added, ice pops are perfect for after dinner of after school treats.

1 cantaloupe cut into chunks, seeds and rind removed

1T fresh lime juice

6 half lime slices

1t fresh chopped mint

Put the cantaloupe and lime juice into a food processor puree until smooth, add mint and pulse until chopped and incorporated.

Pour mixture into a measuring cup with a spout, fill popscicle molds almost to the top.

Put one half slice of lime into each mold ( not necessary but looks pretty)

Insert stick and freeze overnight.

Eat and enjoy this guilt free treat.