Sassy Water

Looking for a way to jazz up water? My friend Betsy prepared this ‘Sassy Water’ which comes from the Flat Belly Diet. It has a nice tang and is said to help with digestion!

Sassy Water
recipe from Flat Belly Diet

2 liters water (about 8 and 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium lemon, thinly sliced
12 small spearmint leaves.

Directions Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and let flavors blend overnight. Drink the entire pitcher by the end of each day.

Note: The ingredients in Sassy water aren’t just for flavor: the ginger helps calm and soothe your GI tract.

Holiday Cranberry Apple Citrus Punch

Holiday Cranberry Apple Citrus Punch

original Joelen recipe

1 2-liter bottle ginger ale or lemon lime soda

1 64-oz bottle of cranberry juice
1 frozen tube of apple juice concentrate
apple slices for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a large punch bowl and stir.

Martini Mixer Adventure Round Up!

For this month’s TGIF Happy Hour event, I hosted a Martini Mixer paired with Swanky Snacks. This was such a great night with friends… but then again, you can’t go wrong with some delicious martinis. We set up our “Martini Room” with a whole assortment of fun ingredients for martinis including:

Fruit juices:
Peach, mango
Flavored liqueurs: Apple Pucker, Papaya Schnapps
Mixers: Raspberry Vodka, Triple Sec

Fruit juices: Pineapple, pear, strawberry
Flavored Liqueurs: Blue raspberry, Mango, Double Chocolate, Mint Chocolate

Flavored Liqueurs: Grand Marnier, Godiva
Mixers: Gin, Vermouth, Vodka, Rose’s lime juice

Accompaniments: Limes, lemons & maraschino cherries
Olives: Garlic stuffed & Blue cheese stuffed

salt, Lemon Drop, Pomegrante, Chocolate

To pair with our fabulous martinis, we had a feast of appetizers and bite sized eats. Here’s what we noshed on while we sipped our martinis:

Camille’s Smoked Salmon Cracker Rounds
topped w/Creme Fraiche & Dill

Linda’s Shrimp Canapes

Linda’s Cucumber Cream Canapes

Betsy’s Cucumber w/Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade

Howard’s Phyllo Quiche Cups

Nelson’s Salame & Marinated Mushroom Plate

Yumi’s Onion Veggie Dip w/Crackers

Joelen’s Chicken Gyoza

Ruby’s Tabbouleh

Joelen’s Spinach & Ricotta Rolls & Crab Rangoon Rolls

Naveen’s Chicken Kabobs

Tricia’s Pate & Water Crackers
Carrie’s Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Susan’s Toffee Bars

Harvey’s Nutella Ravioli

To join in the fun, my fellow bloggers have submitted their favorite martini drinks and appetizer recipes! As I do with each blogging event I host, a lucky blogger receives a giveaway related to the food theme. This event’s winner is Cara of Cara’s Cravings! Cara has won a wine markers and a martini recipe book. Congratulations Cara and thanks to all that participated in the blogging event! Read on to check out the recipes submitted by my fellow bloggers…

Stina of Eat Something

from Tennessee
The Disco Duck & Pecan Bars
Stina joins us to share two fab things – The Disco Duck martini and Pecan Bars using pecan liqueur. You must check out Stina’s blog for details and the recipes… who knew orange juice could taste so good and pecan liqueur existed?!
Becke of Columbus Foodie
from Ohio
Roasted Chioggia Beets with Feta
Are you a fan of beets? If so, great! If not, this recipe for Roasted Chioggia Beets with Feta that Becke shares with us just might make you change your mind. Aside from the rich color, this dish is sure to be a hit… especially with a nice martini to wash it down. Check out Becke’s blog for the recipe!
Courtney of Cook Like a Champion
from Florida
Roasted Chicken Purses
Courtney joins us for her first blogging adventure and she chose an awesome recipe to share! Her Roasted Chicken Purses had a bit of Florida flair by using Mojo seasoned chicken. To check out how she did it and for the recipe, click on her blog link and give them a try!
Jen of Beantown Baker
from Massachusetts
Bacon Wrapped & Goat Cheese/Almond Stuffed Dates
Isn’t it true that bacon makes everything better?! Jen proves my point with her Bacon Wrapped & Goat Cheese/Almond Stuffed Dates. I’m seriously craving them and the combo of goat cheese & almond sounds so amazing. Check out her blog for the recipe and the step by step guide to prepare!
Karen of Loves to Eat Weblog
from Florida
Grapefruit Martini
Karen joins us with a fabulous martini – the Grapefruit Martini! She has quite the advantage by having some fresh grapefruit to use, coming from the Sunshine State. Check out how she learned about the Grapefruit Martini and the recipe in her blog!
Jess of Cooking Up Memories
from Wisconsin
The Gambler-Tini
Jess’s husband gets into the action by concocting this martini with both their favorite liqueurs, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and Dr. McGuillicuddy’s Cherry SChnapps. Check out Jess’s blog for the recipe and serve this up at your next get together!
Cara of Cara’s Cravings
from Massachusetts
Nutty Pumpkin Pie Martini
Cara is an inspiring person and friend of mine for many reasons… and on top of that, she is quite a fan of pumpkin. I’m so glad she’s participated in this event by sharing her Nutty Pumpkin Pie Martini. It’s a perfect martini to enjoy in the fall, especially during the Halloween and Thanksgiving seasons. To serve this up at your next fall party, check out Cara’s blog for the recipe!

Margarita Adventure Round Up!

My friends love their drinks… especially when I’m hosting my monthly TGIFriday Happy Hours! This month we celebrated all things Mexican with margaritas and their delicious cuisine. For the event, I provided a margarita bar. Actually, it was more like a margarita room because there was so many things involved to create it that it took up a whole room.

For my margarita bar, I provided the following for my guests to have free reign to experiment and whip up some custom margaritas. Everyone had so much fun creating some fun margarita flavors!

Blender, Shakers, ice
Liquors: 2 kinds of tequila, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, Papaya liquor, Bacardi rum
Juices/nectars: pineapple juice, mixed berry puree, pear nectar, mango nectar, peach mango juice, sweet & sour mix, sweetened lime juice
Wines: red & white
Beers: Corona, Malt Goya
Sodas: misc assortment
Condiments: rimming salt, rimming sugar, limes To pair with our margaritas, we feasted on a fabulous spread of Mexican inspired fare. Here are pictures of the event and unfortunately, not everything was pictured: And to end our event with a bang, our friend John brought a special treat… a pinata! It was a blast to give the ol’ pinata a whack after a long week. It was seriously the pinata that would not break open. Here are pics of our pinata whacking…

Lisa of Lime in the Coconut
Firecracker Shrimp & Fiesta Peppers
Lisa joins us to share 2 fabulous Mexican inspired recipes for Firecracker Shrimp & Fiesta Peppers! Both look wonderul and so colorful. Check out her blog for the recipes and learn where she found them!

Bahama Mama Punch Bowl

The following recipe was shared at my Caribbean dinner event. You can read about it and get additional Caribbean recipes from the event HERE.

Bahama Mama Punch Bowl
shared at the event by Joelen
recipe HERE (made for 20 servings)

1/2 fluid ounce rum
1/2 fluid ounce coconut-flavored rum
1/2 fluid ounce grenadine syrup
1 fluid ounce orange juice
1 fluid ounce pineapple juice
1 cup crushed ice

Combine regular rum, rum with coconut flavoring, grenadine, orange juice, pineapple juice and crushed ice in an electric blender. Blend until the drink’s consistency is slushy.

Tropical Sangria

The following recipe was made and shared at my Tapas party. You can read about the event and view links to the other recipes shared HERE.

Tropical Sangria
1 bottle of reisling wine (750 mL)
2 cups guava juice
1 cup diced mango
1 cup pineapple tidbits
1 cup sliced strawberries
1-2 shots of coconut rum

Mix all of the ingredients together and serve well-chilled or over ice.
Top with additional diced fruit.
(With my various sangria, I chopped up a few different fruits that my guests could add to their glass including diced pear, apple, orange, lime, and peaches.)

Getting "Ginny" With It!

Ah, booze. Many of us have fond and not so fond memories of booze. Well, this month I created a new event series with my group called, “TGIF”, Thank God It’s Friday. With my TGIF events, I highlight a specific liquor or spirit that we learn about, mix drinks with and well, celebrate the start of the weekend.

I hosted my first TGIF event tonight and the booze du jour was Gin. I wasn’t exactly sure how I was to structure this event, because really, I just wanted to hang loose. Some of my events are very structured where there is a definite education aspect but tonight I winged it…. and I’m go glad I did. Rather than boring folks with the history and details about gin or providing demos of how to make certain drinks using gin, I opened it up for folks to experiment.

I provided 3 types of gin & a vermouth, carbonated beverages, fruit nectars & juices and ice. It was a chance for folks to get hands on and concoct their own drinks and play with ingredients they may not have had the chance to try on their own.

To start everyone off with a drink, I made this drink on the fly, which I’ll call Joelen’s Gin Refresher:

1 part Tanqueray Rampur
2 parts mango nectar
highball filled with ice
ginger ale

Fill highball with ice. Combine gin & nectar; stir.
Pour mixture over ice and top with ginger ale.

For dinner, we had a hodge podge of eats that folks brought in and some of which I prepared:
Crab Canapes from Yumi:
Dip/Spread Trio of Goat Cheese Olive Tapenade,
Cilantro Cream and Blue Cheese Spread

from Louis (aka Joelen):
Pumpernickel Cucumber Squares from Curtis:
Fresh Pita & Hummus from Ruby & Joe
and Baba Ganhoush from Teresa:
Dubliner Irish Cheese Platter from Ann:
Sauteed Veggies w/Truffle Salt from Joelen:
Garden Salad from Joelen:

Broccoli Quiche from Charity & Garrett:
Vietnamese Shrimp Salad from Linda:
Cheese Tortellini w/Vegetable Ragu from Joelen:
Chicken Alfredo Bake from Joelen:
Baklava Platter from Ruby & Joe:
Cherry Tartletts from Joelen:
Chocolate Ganache Tart from Harv:
Strawberry Angelfood Cake Salad from Nancy:

After dinner we played a round of Foodie Fight and awarded the prize of the night…

And we rocked out the end of the night with some Guitar Hero on the Wii!

Rice Pudding Rescue

How often do you throw food out? Weekly? Daily? For me, I just can’t do it if at all possible. In fact, when I made some horchata recently, I was left with a few cups of processed rice. To prevent throwing it out, I decided to make rice pudding. Initially I was hoping to find a unique recipe to liven up the usual rice pudding recipes. One I contemplated was a pina colada rice pudding, however I got a bit lazy and resorted to a simple recipe. In fact, I used Ina’s recipe below, from the Food Network. I ended up doubling the recipe since I had so much rice to work with. It was good for some simple but I think I’ll try playing with it by incorporating some additional flavors for next time.

Here’s Ina Garten’s recipe for Rum Raisin Rice Pudding:

3/4 cup raisins (I omitted)
2 tablespoons dark rum
3/4 cup white basmati rice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 cups half-and-half, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 extra-large egg, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In a small bowl, combine the raisins and rum. Set aside.

Combine the rice and salt with 1 1/2 cups water in a medium heavy-bottomed stainless steel saucepan. Bring it to a boil, stir once, and simmer, covered, on the lowest heat for 8 to 9 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed. (If your stove is very hot, pull the pan halfway off the burner.)

Stir in 4 cups of half-and-half and sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, until the rice is very soft. Stir often, particularly toward the end. Slowly stir in the beaten egg and continue to cook for 1 minute. Off the heat, add the remaining cup of half-and-half, the vanilla, and the raisins with any remaining rum. Stir well. Pour into a bowl, and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Serve warm or chilled.

Horchata Hankerings

In our house, we don’t drink any sodas. We usually quench our thirst with water, fiber rich fruit juices (Odwalla or Trader Joes brand), ice teas, etc. But when our fridge had nothing but water to drink, I decided to make an alternative beverage.

Over the weekend I hosted a Mexican ethnic tour, however I missed out on something. Horchata, a sweet rice milk with a hint of cinnamon, is my drink of choice when I eat at a Mexican place. So since I didn’t get a chance to try the restaurant’s horchata last weekend, I made my own.

Taking a look at a few different recipes (like this one) and what I had on hand to work with, here’s my recipe for Horchata:

2 cups uncooked white long-grain rice
10 cups water
2 3-inch sticks of cinnamon
2/3 can of condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla paste (or extract)

Pour half of the rice and half of the water into a blender; blend until the rice just begins to break up, about 1 minute. Pour rice and water into a large pitcher. Repeat with remaining rice & water.

Add cinnamon sticks to the pitcher and let rice and water stand at room temperature for a minimum of 3 hours.

Strain the rice water into a pitcher and discard the rice and cinnamon sticks. Stir the condensed milk and vanilla into the rice water. Chill and stir before serving over ice.

Sweet & Savory Memories: Avocadoes

Most people will associate avocadoes with savory dishes such as guacamoles or mixed into various salsas. However growing up, I always have thought of avocadoes as a fruit used for sweet shakes and desserts. Maybe this comes from Filipino background and how my parents have used it.

I have fond memories of my mom picking up some avocadoes during the summer months, scooping out the creamy green flesh into a bowl and adding evaporated milk with a tablespoon of sugar. This was such a treat for me! The creamy sweet avocado was so rich and simply prepared this way. As I got older, I was exposed to guacamole and I was hesitant about it at first. I never thought of using avocadoes as a savory ingredient!

So this post is in honor of my sweet memories of avocado. I’ve updated my mom’s preparation of avocadoes by making an avocado shake. It’s not all that unusual as I’ve seen avocado shakes on a few menus, especially at boba tea shops. Here’s my recipe for an Avocado Vanilla Shake:

1 medium ripe Haas avocado
1/2 – 3/4 cup 2% milk
3 tablespoons raw sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
1 – 1 1/2 cup ice cubes

Add ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
If its too thin, add more ice.
If its too thick, add more milk.