Summer Fruity Splash

I never really drank before I met my husband, but he has introduced me to the occasional indulgence that is enough to be relaxing without being too much. I started mixing drinks due to the influence of a brilliant friend of mine (wave Mary) who has an astounding ability to mix drinks. I have posted one of her recent recipes and will continue to do so. Also check out her drink blog which is in my last drink post.

My favorite summer drink has many variations, and I tend to mix and match depending on what I have on hand. The biggest ingredient is fresh orange juice. I start with 1 shot of Whipped Cream Vodka and, at most, 1/2 shot Peach Schnapps. I then fill to the half way line of the glass with orange juice, and top off with Sprite or Sprite Zero.

Variations:

Crushed strawberries- they add to the amazement and if I have some girlfriends over, everyone likes crushing the strawberries in a mortar and mixing their own stuff.

Cranberry juice ice cubes- I occasionally make these and pop them in to all sorts of drinks from my Summer Fruity Splash to lemonade. If you throw a couple of these in- it helps keep the drink refreshing and waters it down a bit as you get to the bottom. Also brings out the beautiful colors that remind me of Spring and Summer!

Grenadine- I add this sometimes, with or without, the Schnapps. A little cherry goes a long way but it does add a bit more sweetness to the drink if you feel it is too strong. Usually a Tablespoon or less as it is strong. Interesting side note: Grenadine is made from pomegranates. Pour some in a coke for a Jolly Roger or in a Sprite for a Shirley Temple.

Friday Nights

My husband and I have been trying to save a few bucks every week like everyone is want to do in this economical climate. Instead of going out with my parents and their friends every Friday night (all are retired and slightly more financially stable than us) we tend to make Friday nights special dinner nights for just us.

With tax season over, I now have a husband again and was pleasantly surprised to find him home early on Friday afternoon. I had texted him about the absolute rotten day I had ( some interesting clients) and was met at the door where he handed me one of my favorite drinks and told me to relax.

I will post the drink in a bit as I have come up with several that have recently been tested and approved by friends. Mostly, I wanted to share the absolute wonderful meal I literally came home to.

During the summer, the grill is uncovered and my husbands inner chef stretches his arms and warms up for superb feasts of season delight. In our quest to eat healthier- grilling has provided a delightful donation to our cause. Admittedly, it is not always healthy what we put on it.

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With our local butcher (and by local I mean 25 miles away) having customer appreciation week, he was able to purchase very nice New York Strip steaks for a reasonable price. All told, after he was done purchasing meat and veggies, our dinner in was still cheaper then a dinner out, and that is without including gas.

My husband never seasons the same way twice, and he cannot tell you what he put in a dish five minutes after he made it because he gets into this creative cooking coma. I certainly do not complain as the results are fantastic.

The strip steaks were marinated in garlic, ginger, wine, worcheshire sauce, soy sauce, balsamic, and “some other random spices I can’t remember” to produce a tender and juicy main event.

The veggies had grated ginger and Old Bay as far as I have been able to deduce- and were spicy without being overwhelming. The tomatoes were a perfect compliment to the steak. He seasoned and wrapped everything in foil and placed on the grill for a “low and slow” preparation. He did like-wise with chopped potatoes, putting EVOO and garlic on them while they roasted. I didn’t really cook anything for this meal, but merely wanted to show you what can happen to make a bad day better. Also, how a man who professes to “randomly throwing stuff together” to get some of the best meals I have ever had. We joke that we married each other for our cooking.

Some of our closest times are experimenting in the kitchen- so learn to combine your love of your spouse/significant other with your love of food, and you can have the best of all worlds!

Cornbread Casserole

When I hear the word “casserole” in a recipe title, I am always a bit hesitant. It always draws up images of leftovers longing to be included in one final culinary adventure before they are either biffed or eaten forever. I usually only make a taco casserole I lifted off a Campbell Tomato Soup can years ago. Years ago, I saw a picture where someone had used a corn bread mix in a crock pot. I know others still have used them in casserole dishes. I looked at a recipe I found on Allrecipes  for about three seconds and decided to make my own with a few tips from the above link.

First, I discussed with my mum what we would put in it. She made the marvelous suggestion of corn. I then promptly forgot it while I was making the dish, but I vow it will make it into the next round!
Usually, when my husband or I try something new, we ask the other what they would change. I got a resounding “nothing” out of my hubby on this one.
I wanted to make it semi healthy- so here is what happened.

I cooked a cup of brown rice according to directions. I opened and rinsed a can of black beans and mixed the two together. To this mixture gastronomic delight I added about ½ cup salsa and 1/ 4 cup taco sauce to make sure it was moist. I used a mixture of mild & medium salsa, do what you like for taste. I spread this over the bottom of a 9×13 greased dish.

Next, I fried some onions and a few canned banana pepper slices in some olive oil and threw in the leftover ½ pound of taco meat I had in the fridge. Once everything was heated I spread this over the rice and bean mixture. I dished a little more salsa on top and threw on a handful of cheese for fun.
The kicker here is the one thing I borrowed from the recipe link above- I mixed about a cup of cheese into a boxed cornbread mix. It was phenomenal! I will add more cheese next time (the original recipe said a bag of a Kraft mix from the store). Spread this mixture on top. I baked 425F for ten minutes, then dropped the temp down to 400F for another ten. I’d say you could do the whole thing for an even 375 to 00F for about 20 to 25 minutes. It’s done when a toothpick in the cornbread comes out clean. I waited until mine had a golden tinge to the top.

The casserole had a tinge of spice without overdoing it, and the sweetness of the cornbread brought it together!
While I was so busy stuffing my face, I forgot to take a picture of the casserole. What follows is when I was packing it away for tomorrow. Since the picture of the leftovers looks so awesome, I figure that the actual picture of the casserole would have been too epic to post here. I have to say that this is one of the best recipes I have ever made, let alone pulled out of (insert term for dark place here), especially for a first try. I followed my gut.

Corn Bread Casserole

(Forget tooting the horn, I think I blew it up)
My hubby preferred it without, but I thought that a dab of fat free sour cream finished the casserole perfectly. We had it with a salad.
Change it to the level of spiciness you like for a tasty and somewhat healthy casserole!

Marinated Pork Chops

Marniated Porkchops

I also made Lipton onion soup potatoes as a side but what really caught me was the asparagus.

Usually, when I make asparagus to go with a meal, I do it the way my mother-in-law taught me, toss spears with generous amount of olive oil, salt, pepper and bake. Tuesday night, I was not paying attention and accidently grabbed the Old Bay seasoning (same can shape as my black pepper) and applied liberally before I realized what color it was. I merely mixed and continued. My husband and I use Old Bay on French fries a lot and it works out wonderfully.

Moving on!
To my normal asparagus mixture, I added about a Tablespoon of minced garlic (for those you who haven’t discovered the squeeze bottles of minced garlic at the grocery store, you are missing out!) and applied a liberal amount of shaved parmesan! I went nuts with it. Mixed it all and baked it at 375 F for about 15 minutes (we like ours with a bit of crunch) and stirred it twice. It was the best! I overdid the salt a tad but I didn’t mind the saltiness- but the parmesan added a lovely roasted cheese taste with a bit of salt added in and it completed the meal very well.

Don’t be afraid to experiment- sometimes the mistakes are better than the original recipe!

Cherry Blossom Festival

It has been a busy week. I went to Washington D.C. on Saturday and visited the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival with some friends to partake of culture, and of course, food.
Combined into that one days schedule for the city were the festival, a ball game, and a parade. Standing room only in a fenced in festival- I admit I was having zombie phobia issues. In any event, we managed to brave the food lines at two of the stalls for about 30 minutes. One stall yielded steamed buns with a spiced meat filling that was very well received. I have a picture below of the buns and the stall. The other stall provided a $12 chicken combo which was the most popular choice there.
Included in this combo were very generous helpings of fried rice, noodles, and an eggroll. Also a very large chicken kabob. The chicken sauce was very tasty but what got my vote was the eggroll. The filling was tasty and sweet and perfectly fried to go with the sharpness of the chicken sauce and the blandness of the rice and noodles.

It is an interesting experience, one best shared with friends. I had fun, you should try it some year!

P.S. No, I didn’t actually see any cherry blossoms.

Steamed

Food Stall where the steamed buns originated

Food Stall Happiness!

Ginger Peach Blossom

So one of my friends has this amazing ability to take the most random of ingredients and create mixed drinks that will suffice for even the pickiest of drinkers, such as myself. I don’t really like to drink in public. I also tend to avoid strong drinks as I have the alcoholic tolerance of a hummingbird on crack. In any event, I was visiting her last night before we jaunted from Lancaster to Washington DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival and she made this drink for me while we were watching Helsing Abridged.

Honestly, this tasted a little like pineapple to me, but I enjoyed it immensely.

1/2 oz. Almond Syrup
grated ginger (1/2 tsp tops)
2 oz. Gin (She prefers the good Amersterdam Gin because it “has enough botanicals to pull it off”
4 oz. orange juice
top off with little bit of ginger ale
add marachino cherry & ice

Simple, tastes good. Very refreshing without being too fruity.

She has been reading the “Drunken Botanist” lately as inspiration. Tis a good book and provides the history of plants used to make drinks.

Check out her drinking blog!

Mary’s Drink Blog!

Irish Scones

Scones. Not terribly prevalent in southwest Pennsylvania where I make my nest, but still available enough to be considered posh at the local Panera Bread. Now, while I have yet to glaze my go-to recipe for scones with yummy confectionaries such as strawberry glaze or orange zest, I have added a few zips to the original recipe.

Now, I have no written version of the orignal recipe, as it was orally gifted to my sister and I while we were on tour in Ireland. We were on a trip and stopped at a pub for a traditional irish Sunday brunch. Towards the ends of a glorious meal, we were gifted with the crowning glory of our feast. Beautiful and humongous raisin scones. Nay, sugar laden hunks of ambrosia!

Each one of them seemingly 6 inches wide & 4 inches tall weighing in at 1/4 pound each (I’m sure my memory has been perfectly clear and not altered in the slightest in my recollection). We went up to the cook and ask her for the recipe. After we received a blank look and the every popular response of “why?”, she then proceeded to recite from memory “one mug of sugar, 4 mugs of flour”, etc ending with “bake until they look good.”

I, having spent a little more time cooking at that point then my sister (she lived abroad & didn’t cook for enjoyment as I did & I had just graduated high school), she put the recipe aside for later perusal while I began to immediately translate into one that I could reasonably create a faximile of the nectar we had tasted that trip. Aside from a wonderful resturant in Iverness, Scotland, it was one of the highlights, culinary-wise.

In any event, I then proceeded to grant myself certain assumptions, mainly that a mug roughly translated into a cup and so on and so forth until I had worked out the “pinchs” and “dashes” of most people who have learned to cook from the book inside their head. I am, unfortunately, not able to do this. And so, I present a rather well traveled recipe for those who have a bit of a sweet tooth.

This recipe is rather simple, and not at all healthy. My father requests these monthly, and has a fit when the recipe is altered, so I have not had much chance to experiment, alas.

Its current reincarnation is as follows:

4 cups of flour, white
1 cup sugar, white
1/2 pound butter (I have substituted margarine for half or all of this before with no noticeable change in taste)
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup raisins (the original recipe called for sultanas, I tend to increase the amount to preference)

Originally, I had prepped this recipe by cutting the flour and margine together with a pastry cutter or my hand. I get great results and texture that way and it is still my preference. However, I have also had wonderful results with my stand mixer. I put in my heavy duty mixer paddle & let it pound the flour, salt, sugar, & butter into oblivion.

So, let the mixer cut the butter into the flour and sugar until it resembles rough sand or grains of rice.

Next, add raisins, then add eggs and milk. Mix this all together for about 20 seconds.

Usually, I have dropped large scoops onto a greased cookie sheet. Then I sprinkle these with a mixture of cinamon sugar.

Recently, I tried putting the dough into muffin tins, and I had wonderful results. The cooking time had to be altered, however. The time that the scones spent in muffin tins would have burnt the drop scones to crisps.

Whatever you choose- I have had good results with 375F for about 30 minutes. Watch them carefully, I put them in at 15 minute or 10 minute intervals. Depending on how cool the butter is, sometimes the scones burn a little quicker.