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Monday, October 13, 2014

Apple Cider Cocktails with Caramel Vodka (Warm or Cold!)

In keeping with the glut of caramel recipes which I've posted recently, here's one more!

Did you know that you can buy caramel vodka?  I should have known; I mean, take a walk down the vodka aisle (really! there are so many flavors of vodka that they have their own aisle at one of the local liquor stores!), and there are so many crazy flavors it's overwhelming.  Caramel is a relatively normal flavor, don't you think?  At least it seems normal to me when compared to PB & J, Smoked Salmon or Bacon-(yes, bacon!)-flavored vodkas.

Of course I had to buy the caramel vodka.  

I'm glad it's autumn, because it's the perfect season for me to discover the existence of caramel vodka.  I'm not sure what I would have mixed it with during other seasons, but now, in October, the cider in my fridge was just screaming,  "Pick me!  Pick me!"  

For taste-testing purposes, we prepared these cocktails both hot and cold.  Which means that Mr. Terrific, Caitie and I had to drink each type, for comparison's sake.  It was tough, but someone had to do it!

The verdict? Two preferred warm, one of us preferred cold.  I won't say who picked what, I'll just tell you that it's hard for me to discard my belief that everything tastes better with a stripey straw in it.

Today's Playlist
  • "In One Ear"...Cage the Elephant
  • "The Girl Got Hot"...Weezer
  • "Parallel Universe"...Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • "Learn To Fly"...Foo Fighters
  • "I Wanna Be Sedated"...The Ramones

Apple Cider Cocktails
Printable Recipe

  • Apple Cider
  • Caramel Vodka
For Garnish:
Whipped cream, apple slices, salted caramel, cinnamon sticks

Gather your ingredients.

Add a few accompaniments.

I decided that the warm cider would need cinnamon sticks, and that the cold cocktails would need apple slices and stripey straws.  I also decided that they would all be topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of salted caramel.

You can use your favorite salted caramel sauce, or you can make your own.  You can click here to go to a salted caramel recipe (it will take you to my blogpost for salted caramel cupcakes, just scroll down to find the recipe for salted caramel sauce).

I haven't listed any amounts for the ingredients, because it depends upon how many cocktails you are making.  Let's get started!

You will need 8 ounces of cider for each cocktail.  Pour the cider into mugs if you are making warm cocktails, or glasses if you prefer a chilled cocktail.

If you are making warm cocktails, this would be the time to heat the cider.  Heat each mug on HIGH for one minute in your microwave.

If you are making chilled cocktails, add a few ice cubes to the glasses of cider.
Add one shot (1 1/2 ounces) of caramel vodka to each glass or mug.

Top with whipped cream.

Garnish the cold cocktails with apple slices and pretty straws, and add cinnamon sticks to the warm cider mugs.

Drizzle some salted caramel on top of each.

Yum!  Which do you prefer?



Or one of each?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Frozen Peach Daiquiris

I'm totally in denial about summer's end.  Last week's 85-degree heatwave may have been summer's last gasp, but it gave me the perfect excuse to whip up a batch of daiquiris.

You can substitute any fruit you like.  Strawberries or mangoes also work well.  Use frozen fruit, because it's a frozen drink! But if you prefer to use fresh fruit, freeze the fruit ahead of time and you'll be good to go.

Today's Playlist
  • "Hypnotize"...The White Stripes
  • "Hate To Say I Told You So"...The Hives
  • "I'm Shakin'"...Jack White
  • "What I Got"...Sublime
  • "Around My Head"...Cage The Elephant

Frozen Peach Daiquiris (2-3 servings)
Printable Recipe
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups frozen peaches
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 1/4 cup vodka
Lime slices, for garnish

Gather your ingredients.

Make sure the water is in a microwave-safe cup.  Heat the water on HIGH for 30 seconds.

Stir the sugar into the hot water.  It should dissolve, if not melt completely.

This is my lazy way to make a simple syrup.  It is such a small amount of water and sugar, to get out a saucepan to melt the sugar just seems silly.  

Place the frozen peaches into a blender and add the water/sugar mixture.

It doesn't matter if the water is still hot, it is such a relatively small amount of liquid that it does not cool down the frozen peaches too much.

Blend to combine.

Add the ice, vodka and the juice of half a lime.

Blend one last time.

Pour into large glasses, garnished with lime slices.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Puff Pastry Cinnamon Rolls

All of my kids are huge, okay not huge (poor wording choice), enthusiastic fans of cinnamon rolls. They will happily eat cinnamon rolls of any kind, whether they are homemade or the type that you buy in the dairy department-you know the ones I am talking about, the kind that are in a can.  

These puff pastry cinnamon rolls are a sort of compromise;  the puff pastry is light and flaky so they aren't ooey and gooey like traditional cinnamon rolls, but they sure are quick and easy to prepare.

For me, the hardest part about making these cinnamon rolls is remembering to take the puff pastry out of my freezer so it can defrost!

Today's Playlist
  • "The Denial Twist"...The White Stripes
  • "Short Skirt/Long Jacket"...Cake
  • "Dope Nose"...Weezer
  • "She"...Green Day
  • "My Hero"...Foo Fighters

Puff Pastry Cinnamon Rolls
Printable Recipe

For the rolls:
  • 1 package puff pastry (2 sheets)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (1/4 cup for each sheet of puff pastry)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
flour, for dusting your prep surface

For the frosting:
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons light cream

Gather your ingredients for the rolls.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees

Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the brown sugar and cinnamon into a small bowl.

Stir to combine.  This will be your filling.

Dust your work surface with the flour, to prevent the pastry from sticking.

Unfold one of the sheets of puff pastry.

Sprinkle with half of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Spread it around to evenly distribute it, and press it into the puff pastry with the back of a spoon.

Roll the puff pastry.

Cut the roll in half.

Cut the halves in half.

And finally, cut in half again so that you have 8 rolls!

Place the rolls onto your parchment-lined baking sheet.

Repeat with the other sheet of puff pastry, using the remaining cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Place all of the rolls onto your baking sheet.  Bake in your preheated 400-degree oven for 18 to 21 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and lightly browned.

While the rolls are baking, prepare the frosting.

Gather your frosting ingredients.

Place the confectioners sugar into a small bowl.

Add the vanilla extract.

Add the cream.

Stir to combine.

You may need to add a bit more cream or more confectioners sugar, depending upon how dry or runny your frosting is.

I can't help but ponder why the frosting is too runny or in this case, too dry, when I always use the same amounts of ingredients.

If you do need to add more cream, add it in 1/2-teaspoon increments.

Here is the frosting, 1/2 teaspoon of cream later.  Perfect.  You want it to be thin enough to drizzle, but not watery.

The rolls will be all puffy and the cinnamon will be oozing out when they are finished baking.  You will know the rolls are ready when they are just starting to brown.

Drizzle the frosting over the warm rolls and serve immediately.

If you have leftovers, you can reheat the rolls individually in your microwave; 10 seconds on HIGH and they will be perfectly warm.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Cooking Show: Tailgating, Part II !

We filmed another cooking show last week.  Maureen joined me, and we came up with a few more recipes to add to her tailgating repertoire.  

When we filmed our last tailgating show, we focused on more traditional recipes like chili and wings.

This time around, we focused on recipes that are easy to prepare in advance as well as transport easily.  And since Maureen draws dozens of fans (they may say that they are football fans but I'm betting that they show up week after week because they are even bigger fans of Maureen's cooking), we wanted to prepare foods that can also be made in huge batches to feed a crowd.

(Click on the following titles to be taken to the recipes.)

We started with this and by the time we finished our cooking we were lucky there was any left to photograph!

I think it took me longer to wash and cut up the celery sticks for dipping than it did to throw the dip together.

Oh, my, this is one of my favorite salads ever.  It will be perfect for tailgating because Maureen can prep all of the ingredients in advance, pack each ingredient in its own container and let her tailgaters create their own salads.  And douse it with the yummy balsamic vinaigrette.

We proceeded to top it with vanilla bean ice cream, but for ease of travel Maureen can use whipped cream.

Whether you tailgate or not, I hope you give these recipes a try.  Happy Cooking!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Apple-Bacon-Chicken Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

I think this is the most perfect salad ever.  

I'll give you five ingredients why.  In no particular order:

1. Balsamic vinaigrette.  My most favorite dressing ever.
2. Grilled chicken.  Turns a salad into a meal.
3. Apple.  Love the sweet crunch it adds.
4. Toasted almonds. Love the nutty crunch it adds.
5. Bacon.  Because it's bacon.  'Nuff said.

Today's Playlist
  • "Soul To Squeeze"...Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • "That Time Is Gone"...The dB's
  • "She's A Genius"...Jet
  • "Fell In Love With A Girl"...The White Stripes
  • "Let It Die"...Foo Fighters
  • "Semi-Charmed Life"...Third Eye Blind
  • "It Goes On And On"...The Avett Brothers

Apple/Bacon/Chicken Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette (4 to 6 servings)

Printable Recipe

For the salad:
  • 8 cups assorted salad greens ( I used spinach and romaine)
  • 2 large grilled chicken breasts
  • 1 to 2 honey crisp apples
  • 6 thick-cut bacon slices
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
For the dressing:
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Gather your ingredients.

Prep all your ingredients.

Cut the bacon into pieces approximately 3/4".

Heat a medium-sized skillet or pot over medium heat.  Put the slivered almonds in to toast.  This only takes a few minutes.  Stir them a bit...

you will know they are done as soon as they start to get some color.  Remove them from the pan and set aside to cool.

Add the bacon pieces into the same pan.  Cook them, stirring occasionally, until they are crisp.

While you're waiting for the bacon to cook, assemble the salad and prepare the dressing.

Place the greens into a bowl.  I like to use a combo of spinach and romaine, but you should use whichever type of greens you like best.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.  1/3 cup olive oil...

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar...

1 tablespoon dijon mustard...

and one clove of garlic, crushed directly into the bowl.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and whisk to combine.  Set aside.

Your bacon should be finished now.

Remove the bacon from the pan and onto a paper towel to drain.

Continue with your salad assembly.

Slice the grilled chicken.

You can prepare the chicken in advance using your favorite grilling method.  If you need grilling instructions, here is my favorite grilling method:

-Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, the juice of 1 lime and 1 tablespoon grilling spice (I used McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning---yeah, I know, STEAK seasoning for chicken, but it's my all-time favorite grilling spice)
-Marinate the chicken breasts for 10 minutes, then grill over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until thoroughly cooked

Arrange the grilled chicken slices on top of the salad greens.

Slice your apple.
I simply slice off the 4 sides, throw away the core...

and roughly slice the 4 sides into bite-sized pieces.

Throw the apples on top of the salad.

Sprinkle the bacon on as well.

Then add the toasted almonds.

And finally, drizzle about half of the dressing on top.  Serve the rest of the dressing on the side.