Thursday, April 17, 2014

Drink Week continues

This was a long week and I think it is because Thursday is the day we to out for drinks but this week I have been experimenting at home so every morning it feels like it should be Friday.

After Sunday's Cucumber Fizz I tried the following.

Lemon Drops are not new but I was given some Meyer Lemons so I wanted to see if there was much difference.  Don't know that there was much difference but they were as good as usually.  What I did do was, before I juiced them I used my ribbon zester to get the peel off and for a final attempt to try and make Meyer Lemon Vodka.  The first time I tried this I ended up throwing it out because I thought it was a bit bitter and perfumy.  Maybe I had too much pith or maybe Meyers don't work.  I'll let you know.  The leftover skins looked so beautiful they were be good as cups, maybe filled with jello or something.  So I ended up using the juice, the pith and I could have used the cups.  I use to think that Triple Sec was just as good but after a side by side test in this type of drink go for the Cointreau, for a Long Island Iced Tea or other fruity mixed drink Triple Sec is fine.

3 shots Stolie Vodka
½ shot Cointreau
½ shot fresh lemon juice (juice from ½ lemon)
½ shot simple syrup

Add to shaker filled with ice, in order given.  Shake.  Serve up in a martini glass.  Garnish with a lemon or orange rind.

Since I had leftover pink grapefruit juice in the fridge I modified my Mango Mule.  Ginger beer is a bit sweet for me so I will try half ginger beer and half soda water next time.

1 -1.5 oz. vodka
4 oz. Ginger beer
Splash pink grapefruit juice
Squeeze of lemon (½ oz.)

Add vodka to a tall glass filled with ice.  Top off with ginger beer, grapefruit juice and a squeeze of lemon.

This was the best new drink of the three which surprised me because I'm not a fan of mint.  This gave my Strawberry Basil martini some stiff competition but best of all since my Spearmint plant survived the winter I now have a use for this herb.

2 lg. strawberry, diced
10 mint leaves
6 oz. Stolie vodka
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 oz. simple syrup

To a large shaker add diced strawberry and mint leaves, muddle.  Add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake.  Strain into 2 martini glasses.

This week I also made two Jalapeno & Cucumber liqueurs (tequila and vodka).  They are both always winners.
Now today is Thursday so we will head out to the local pub for our standard cocktails.  I should give my liver a break next week but I'll have to at least try my new infusions.  CHEERS!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday Sipper: Cucumber Ginger Fizz

Today's drink is what I'm calling a Cucumber Ginger Fizz.  Awhile back I bought some of the Dry Cucumber Soda's for a drink but since I couldn't remember what I was going to make with them I made these.  They were crisp, light, slightly sweet and very refreshing.

4 oz. Absolute Citron vodka
2 oz. simple syrup, flavored
-4 cucumber slices, diced
-5 slices fresh ginger
1 bottle Dry Cucumber Soda

In a shaker muddle diced cucumber and sliced ginger with simple syrup.  Let sit.  Add ice and shake vigorously.  To a tall glass filled with ice, add 2 oz. vodka, 1 oz. of the flavored simple syrup and top off with the cucumber soda (1/2 the bottle).  Makes 2 drinks.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Salt and Pepper Chicken Thighs

Although I didn't do it EXACTLY like he said, I did try Clinton Kelly's Crispy Chicken Thighs.  I didn't use a 1/4 C. of oil or toss them in the bowl to save on dishes but they were tasty.  I just wouldn't call them crispy and although some people thought it was like fried chicken I don't see that at ALL.  I will make them again because on a busy night when all I have to do it cover a cookie sheet with foil, sprinkle the thighs with salt, pepper and EVOO and bake I am golden...and so were the thighs.  Also after 20 minutes I added a bunch of asparagus and within the 45 minutes the entire meal was done, chicken and veg.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a pix of my plate but here is what the thighs looked like.  I'll update the picture when I make them again. 

4 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
-Kosher salt
-Coarse ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.  On a cookie sheet lined with foil, sprinkle both sides of chicken thighs with salt, pepper and a healthy drizzle of EVOO.  Bake 45 minutes.  Let rest 5, serve.

Serving Suggestion:  After 20 minutes add a bunch of asparagus to the sheet pan, sprinkle with salt, pepper and EVOO and finish cooking.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Vegetable Lasagna

Tried a new recipe last Friday.  It has a similar filling to the Ricotta Squash Tart I make only this was layered with noodles instead of sitting in a crust.  One thing you have to know about both of these recipes is that to me they come across a tad sweet.  Not sweet in the since that there is sugar but when you flavor ricotta with lemon it makes it a bit like a dessert.  As I try to put this in writing I'm not sure I'm explaining it well so you may just have to give it a try to see what you think.  I guess the main thing I would say is that it is not savory or rich even though it is a creamy white sauce.  Then with the addition of the nutmeg which I am only a fan of in pumpkin pies it gives it that "hum" thought bubble over your head that people talk about indicating what's that.  I do like the nutmeg here but to me that may be why I think it is more dessert like.

The recipe came from Michael Simon of The Chew.  I didn't change much except that I used the Barilla Oven Ready Lasagne sheets that don't require you to boil them first.  My 9x13 pan has curved sides so I didn't use the entire box but depending on your pan you might.  Just cover the bottom and if there are spaces you can break up the noodle and fill in the bare spots but don't be to crazy about covering it all, bare spots won't hurt .  It is also OK if they overlap slightly.  It made it easier of course, one less step but since I covered it with foil to bake it the top didn't brown even though I removed the foil during the last 10 minutes or so.  This didn't effect the taste only the appearance.  Next time I'll try possibly not covering it with foil to see if the noodles cook or uncovering it sooner to try and brown it or possibly a short broil.

The one thing I learned from Michael is that you need to cook the Béchamel for at least 40 minutes to cook off the flour.  I had always believed that when you cook the flour in the melted butter for 2-4 minutes that is what cooks off the flour taste and so when you add the milk you are only cooking to thicken the sauce.  I need to research this a bit more every cook may have a different opinion.  Either way the sauce turned out great, thick and creamy. In the first picture you can see the slight bubble that you are looking for while it cooks.  Keep an eye on it and stir it every few minutes so it doesn't stick.  The thicker it becomes the more likely it is to stick.

Here you see the final version with the ricotta added.  The sauce is thick and rich

Initially I thought it need more vegetables but more may be too much.  I think the two layers is fine just as long as your eggplant and squash is big enough to make a complete layer.  Since the yellow squash is curvy cutting it into long strips is a bit more difficult.  You can see from the grilling picture how slicing the yellow squash has skin in the middle because of it's curve.  The next time I will try cutting it into long ovals by cutting the squash in two sections and then slicing the sections in slices.  This would avoid having some that are thicker than others.  Maybe the additional layer of pasta is what I need to remove also.

Last thoughts, if you are making for 2 you will want to reduce the recipe unless you want to eat it for several days.  I don't mind having leftovers for another day but by day 4 I am totally over it.

Béchamel Sauce:
4 T. unsalted butter
¼ C. flour
3 C. milk, heated
¾ t. freshly grated nutmeg
3 C. whole milk ricotta cheese
1 lemon, zested
2 zucchini
1 eggplant
1 box of noodles

Melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, stirring to form a paste, like wet sand. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Slowly add milk a third at a time, while whisking to avoid lumps. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally, reduce heat to medium low, maintaining a slow bubble. When it coats the back of the spoon its done, can take up to 40 minutes.  

Slice lengthwise zucchini and eggplant or other summer squash, in half and then into large oval slices, sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 20 minutes to pull out some of the water. Grill 3 minutes per side to create grill marks.

Béchamel sauce, thin layer
Pasta 4-5 sheets, over lapping them slightly
Béchamel, ⅓
Zucchini and Yellow Squash
Béchamel, ⅓
Béchamel, remaining ⅓

Friday, March 28, 2014

Stuffed Pepper Soup, one of my Favorites

I tried Stuffed Pepper Soup for the first time on 5/26/2011 at my sister in laws in PA. This is another soup this CA girl had never heard of before this. I didn’t think I would like it because I'm not a fan of green bell peppers but I did. It is very good, thick like chili and it has turned into a one of my favorite soups.  I starting testing my recipe when I got back from PA on June 1 and after a few modifications this is what I now do.

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
4 bell peppers (2 red, 2 green), chopped
1 T. dried basil
½ t. salt
½ t. pepper
1 T. garlic, chopped
2 T. tomato paste
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
15 oz. can tomato sauce + ½ can water (1 C.)
32 oz. beef stock
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 C. uncooked brown rice, rinsed

In a large stock pot start to brown ground beef.  When it is browned on one side, stir
Meanwhile chop onions and bell peppers.  Ad to pot along with basil, salt and pepper.  Cook till onions are soft. 

Add garlic and tomato paste, saute another minute.  Add remaining ingredients except rice and simmer uncovered on low for 1 hour.  Rinse rice in cold water and add to pot.  Cover and cook another 30 minutes.  Serve.


  • One bell pepper equals a cup of chopped peppers.  When peppers are cheap, chop and freeze.  When you thaw them they will be watery but that is OK just empty it all into the pot with the beef and onions.  I've used both red and green and just red (just red pictured).
  • Garlic:  I've used both fresh garlic and chopped jarred garlic, both work., so it depends on what I have on hand and how much work I want to do.
  • Rice:  I have used white rice and brown rice, both are good.  Brown rice makes it better for you and is a bit chewier which I like. Don’t add more rice.  You may think it isn’t enough but it swells and any more would take up all liquid.  As is, it is very chunky. 
  • Chopped and stewed tomatoes both work.
  • Since this soup is so flavorful beef broth is just as good.

Do Ahead:  

  • Cook the initial hour but stop before adding rice.  Continue before ready to serve.
  • When bell peppers are on sale, chop and freeze for use in this soup.  I freeze the red and green separately but in one bag.  I just fold the zip top bag in half and put the red on the right and the green on the left and freeze folded over so they don't mix.