Coconut Hot Cocoa

coconut milk hot chocolate

It’s official; I’m an old fogie.

I’d rather be curled up on the sofa with a mug of cocoa than partying it up at a bar.

When did that happen?  When did my PJs and a James Bond movie marathon become my idea of a perfect evening?

At some point along the way, a steamy mug of really great hot chocolate eclipsed tequila shots as my New Year’s Eve drink of choice.  And this coconut hot cocoa is about as great as cocoa gets.  It’s incredibly creamy and full of deep, rich chocolate flavor.  But best of all, it smells incredible. The combination of coconut and chocolate is addictive.  And it’s so easy to make!

You could certainly top this cocoa with a dollop of whipped cream or a few mini marshmallows.  But I’m a hot cocoa purist.  To me, whipped cream detracts from the chocolate, and elusive little marshmallows distract me from my chocolate desires. But I do advocate a splash of coconut rum here.  After all, it’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m not THAT old!

Happy New Year!

Coconut Hot Cocoa

Serves 2

1/2 cup low-fat milk

4 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 cup canned lite coconut milk

2 tablespoons coconut rum (optional)

In a small saucepan, wisk together the low-fat milk, sugar and cocoa powder over medium-low heat.  Once the sugar has dissolved, wisk in the coconut milk and heat, stirring, until hot but not boiling.  Add the rum, if using.  Pour into two mugs and enjoy. Great with ginger snap cookies!

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Published in: on December 30, 2012 at 7:33 pm  Comments (10)  
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Fresh Cherry Pie Martini

martini with bing cherries

Has any one else noticed the explosion of flavored vodkas on the market?  Only a couple of years ago I thought myself pretty clever for making my own basil vodka and my own pomegranate vodka. But now, in any corner “Packy” (that’s what we New Englanders call a liquor store) you can find everything from cookie dough vodka to mango vodka.  But I have to say, my favorite find has been toasted marshmallow vodka.  It’s pretty fantastic with just a splash of root beer and certainly lovely in a chocolate martini.

Even better, though, it adds a special something to this cherry pie martini – something that turns cherries and alcohol and graham cracker crumbs into pie.

I have been all about fresh cherries this summer.  My lips may be permanently stained from eating them by the bucketful.  But sometimes a girl needs a bit of variety.  And I can’t actually take the credit here, since Jeff, witnessing my cherry obsession, came up with this lovely drink all on his own.  As a special treat for me.  How sweet is that?

Cherry Pie Martini

Makes 2 drinks

1/4 cup chopped fresh bing cherries

3 ounces toasted marshmallow vodka

1 ounce amaretto (or other almond flavored liqueur)

2 ounces unsweetened plain almond milk

ice

1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

additional cherries for garnish (optional)

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the cherries, pressing with a spoon to squeeze as much juice as possible from the fruit.  Add the vodka, amaretto, and almond milk to the shaker, along with a large scoop of ice.  Shake vigorously.  Meanwhile, moisten the rims of two martini glasses.  Spread the graham cracker crumbs on a flat dish and dip the martini glass rims into the crumbs to coat.  Strain the martini into the glasses, adding a few ice cubes to the glass, if you like extra ice.  Garnish with a fresh cherry or two and enjoy.

Published in: on July 29, 2012 at 5:24 pm  Comments (4)  
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Change, Greek Coffee, and a Greek Frappé

greek boats crete

Life in Greece today is uncertain, to say the least.  And whatever happens in a few days at the national elections, change is afoot.  For better or worse, the landscape is shifting.  Only one thing is for sure – the status quo cannot be maintained.

This is not a political blog.  This is a place where we talk about cookies and soup, burgers and pie.  But sometimes food finds its way into politics.

crete eloundaThe economic crisis was more than evident during our wonderful holiday in Greece.  When we tore our eyes away from the sparkling azure sea, we saw plenty of vacant real estate and protest graffiti. But crisis or no crisis, daily life goes on.  And amid all the unknowns, there are a few things about Greek life that I can guess will never change.

Fishermen will catch firm, white fish to serve right from the boats, grilled and drizzled with buckets of olive oil and lemon juice. Fig trees will grow and flourish. Yogurt will be rich, creamy, and ubiquitous. Tavern proprietors will shout ‘Yiamas’ as they send their guests off with shots of raki. Street vendors will sell koulori (sesame coated bread rings) from shopping carts. Orange juice will be freshly squeezed by the glass. Children will collect honey from backyard beehives. Old ladies will bring their coffee to a boil exactly three times before serving. Old men will sip their dark, sweet coffee as they commiserate about the weather. University students will down their caffeine in icy, foamy frappés at sidewalk cafés.

In Greece, coffee is everywhere.  Sure, there is plenty of drip coffee being served these days.  But each and every cafe, snack bar, taverna, and restaurant offers a cup of the real deal.  Greek coffee is a tiny, sweet, intense shot of caffeine.  Slighty foamy, and a bit gritty, it’s not for everyone.  But if you can get past the grit, slowly sipping Greek coffee is a pretty fantastic time-honored tradition.

Greek Coffee

greek coffee

Greek coffee is made in a briki. This is a briki.

For Greek coffee add to the briki:

1/3 cup of water

1 heaping teaspoon of Greek espresso (ok, I cheated and used a good Italian brand, but you can find Greek brands like Venizelos online at a pretty reasonable price)

two teaspoons of sugar (or to taste)

Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat right away until the foam subsides.  Return the briki to the heat and repeat this process two more times.  Serve in a demitasse cup, grounds and all. Let the coffee sit for a moment to allow the grounds to settle before drinking.

Greek Frappé

coffee frappe

A Greek frappé, unlike the traditional demitasse of Greek coffee, is a modern invention. Well, modern by Greek standards!  Rumor has it that the Greek frappé was invented at the 1957 International Trade Fair in Thesaloninki by a representative of Nestle. It’s vaguely like an iced latte.  But faster, easier, stronger, foamier, and more fun! It’s simply coffee, sugar, and milk shaken over ice.

insntant coffeeAs the Greeks do, I used Nescafé instant coffee for this particular frappé. But Starbucks Via Ready Brew actually works pretty well. You can try simply adding the instant coffee and cold water to a shaker, but I like my coffee and sugar to be fully dissolved, and find that the hot coffee works just fine.

For a Greek Frappé:

1 cup of very strong hot instant coffee

2 teaspoons (or more, if you like) sugar

ice

1/2 cup of evaporated milk (Yes, do try the scary canned stuff.  Trust me, you’ll like it).

Dissolve the sugar in the prepared hot coffee. Fill a small cocktail shaker with ice.  Add the milk to the shaker, along with the coffee.  Quickly put the top on and shake vigorously for about 30-40 seconds.  Pour the contents of the shaker into a glass, including the ice, and serve with a straw. And preferably a little plate of pistachio cookies.

Published in: on June 12, 2012 at 7:34 pm  Comments (5)  
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Spiked Raspberry Chocolate Milkshake Shots

raspberry chocolate milkshake shots

I’d venture a guess that television sales soar on the day before the Superbowl.  This year, we did our part to propel retail sales, and this afternoon, our new 42 inch flat screen was erected in its place of honor in the living room.  With friends coming over, the Patriots playing, and a fancy new tv to boot, I figured I had better step up my game in the kitchen this year.

I adore football food.  We’ve covered my obsession with Superbowl snacks before.  Last year, I made four varieties of gourmet pigs in a blanket and mac ‘n beer cheese soup. But this year I decided to go old school with BBQ turkey burger sliders and sweet potato fries.  Simple, crowd pleasing snacks – but missing something.  A sweet, creamy something.

We have a number of new, trendy burger joints in town.  I adore each and every one.  Juicy burgers, crispy french fries, and sweet, creamy milkshakes.  My favorite local burger spot has started making spiked milkshakes, and they are fantastic.  It didn’t take long for us to realize that we could make our own spiked milkshakes at home.  Of course, for Superbowl Sunday I like everything to be finger food, bite sized and easy to grab from the coffee table.  Which, for milkshakes, translates to spiked shake shots. 

Nothing could be easier – just whir ice cream, milk, liqueurs, and chocolate sauce in the blender and pour into cute shot glasses.  Add a straw (bottom cut off), and a little fruit for garnish, if you like.  These raspberry chocolate shake shots are my favorite, but you could do almost any flavor.  An orange creamsicle shake, made with Grand Marnier, would be lovely.  I dream of a caramel apple shake made with dulce de leche ice cream, apple liqueur and a drizzle of caramel sauce. And we’ve enjoyed a wonderful mocha shake with Kahlua and Godiva liqueur.  The possibilities are endless.

Enjoy the big game!

Spiked Raspberry Chocolate Milkshake Shots

Makes about 8 shots

1/2 cup vanilla ice cream

1/2 cup milk

1 ounce Chambord (or other raspberry liqueur)

1/2 ounce Godiva chocolate liqueur (or other chocolate liqueur)

1 tablespoon chocolate syrup

frozen raspberries, for garnish

In a blander, combine all ingredients except the raspberries.  Whir until smooth and spoon carefully into shot glasses.  Garnish with raspberries and serve with straws with the bottoms cut short.

Published in: on February 4, 2012 at 7:38 pm  Comments (9)  
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Chai Concentrate: Super Last Minute Gift Recipe

chai latte recipe

Christmas still baffles me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas.  Decorating the tree, munching on sugar cookies, hanging out with the family. But not having grown up celebrating Christmas, I will never understand why a day-long holiday manages to last a whole season.  Or why perfectly normal radio stations play painfully festive music nonstop.  Or why some people wait until December 24th to shop for presents.

Elbowing and shoving my way through the mall does not sound like fun to me.  I’d much rather make chai. 

chai tea recipe

I saw this idea last week at The Kitchn and have been playing with spice variations since.  This recipe is quite flexible, so you can adjust it to your taste. The recipe below is the version I’m enjoying now, but it would be nice with a bit of ground ginger, or some cloves too. The basic idea is so simple, and the ingredients are so common you may even have them in your kitchen right now. Just stir together sweetened condensed milk and spices, and you have chai concentrate.  I was surprised at how a spoonful of this concentrate can transform an ordinary cup of tea into something creamy and fragrant.  Just spoon into a jar, tie with a ribbon, and you have an instant holiday gift.

There is really nothing authentic about this recipe, but it certainly is innovative.  And delicious.  I’ve always been a chai tea fan, but being able to enjoy a decadent, cozy cup of spiced tea anytime is fantastic.  I even brought a little jar of chai concentrate to work this week to stir into my black tea.  I like Darjeeling tea best, but use what you enjoy.  And it’s actually pretty wonderful stirred into coffee too!

chai tea recipe

Chai Concentrate

14 oz sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Stir all ingredients together and transfer to an attractive jar.  Store in the refrigerator (it will last a few months).  To serve, stir a spoonful (or more to taste) into a cup of brewed black tea.

Published in: on December 22, 2011 at 9:09 pm  Comments (8)  
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Strawberry Rhubarb Sundowner

Lillet apertif

I love the word ‘sundowner.’ Actually, I love the thing itself even more. The first time my friend Patrick invited me to join him for a sundowner, I had no idea what he meant. But I think that was the night I fell in love with Cape Town.  How could I not love a place that has a word to describe the drink you imbibe while watching the sun set?

Sitting on a terrace, sipping a cocktail, watching the sun go down over the water. Such a luxury. But the ubiquity of the Cape Town sundowner made the beauty of such moments an every day enjoyment. Jeff talks about instituting cocktail hour in our house. Sitting on our deck sipping a sundowner sounds wonderful. We may not have the ocean or mountains of Cape Town, but our back yard will do.

And this cocktail is the perfect spring sundowner. It’s finally strawberry season here in New England, and I’ve been sneaking strawberries into every dish and glass since I went berry picking last weekend. The strawberry rhubarb base here is barely sweet, and slightly tart.  If you haven’t tried Lillet, give it a shot. It’s a French aperitif, slightly sweet, with the flavors of oak, citrus and herb. I really enjoy it on its own over ice, but it marries well with the strawberries and rhubarb for an impressively pretty drink.

With fresh strawberries overflowing from the markets these days, it’s no wonder that so many folks are sharing beautiful berry recipes. Devaki at Weave a Thousand Flavors is collecting strawberry recipes this month, and has a wonderful strawberry crumble cake of her own to share.  Check it out here.

fresh strawberries

Strawberry Rhubarb Sundowner

Serves 4

1/2 cup chopped fresh rhubarb

1/2 cup chopped fresh hulled strawberries

2 tablespoons sugar

8 ounces Lillet

8 ounces seltzer or club soda

additional strawberries for garnish

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is very soft, about 15 minutes.  Cool.  Once the fruit mixture is cooled, in each of four glasses stir one quarter of the fruit mixture with two ounces of Lillet.  Add plenty of ice and top with a splash of seltzer. Garnish with extra berries.

Published in: on June 14, 2011 at 6:45 pm  Comments (22)  
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Pomegranate Week Begins: Pomegranate Vodka

pomegranate vodka

Thanks to the folks at POM Wonderful I am swimming in pomegranates!  Next weekend I’m hosting a pomegranate-themed dinner party, so not to worry, these four dozen (yes!  four dozen!) beautiful crimson fruits will get gobbled up.  But since I’m all about relaxed entertaining, the cooking will get done bit by bit all week long.  So welcome to pomegranate week!

pomegranate vodkaAs far as I’m concerned, a good party starts with a great drink. Around here we tend to think of vodka as a blank canvas.  Remember back over the summer when we made martinis with watermelon juice and basil infused vodka? (If not, check out the recipe here) Well, basil isn’t the only thing we’ve stuck in a bottle of vodka – cinnamon sticks, chili peppers, citrus peels, coffee beans.  You name it, we’ve tried it. 

But the bright pink color of this pomegranate vodka makes it by far the most fun of all our creations.  Pomegranate vodka makes an awesome martini and is fantastic with a splash of orange juice. But I’m thinking that come Saturday evening we’ll just be sipping it chilled from tiny little glasses. In any case, it’s also a beautiful holiday gift.  A nice glass bottle, maybe a little ribbon, you get the idea.

pomegranate vodkaDon’t waste your money on pricey vodka for this.  Actually, I’m not one for pricey vodka period.  In grad school I had a marketing professor who used vodka to prove a point. As if her miniskirts and Russian accent weren’t enough, in-class vodka drinking certainly guaranteed attendance among my mostly male classmates.  We did a blind taste test of more than a dozen brands at various price points and among 150 students not one of us could separate the top shelf from the bottom of the barrel.  All of which is to say that cheap vodka plus pomegranate arils makes for a lovely libation. 

Pomegranate Vodka

2 large pomegranates

250 ml Vodka

Seed one of the pomegranates: slice off the ends of the fruit, score the skin in wedges, and over a bowl of water, open the pomegranate and remove the arils (the seeds).  The arils will sink and the pith will float, making them easy to separate.  Combine the arils with the vodka in a bottle.  Let sit 5-7 days, turning upside down every so often.  Strain the vodka, seed the remaining pomegranate, and combine the arils with the strained vodka.  Let sit again for at least 3 days before straining and serving.

Published in: on November 7, 2010 at 9:02 pm  Comments (16)  
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Watermelon Basil Martini

summer martini on deck

I make fun of Jeff for ordering pink drinks.  I think I’ve given him a complex.  When a cocktail sounds especially girly he even makes me order it for him.  But this is a different kind of pink drink.  OK, it’s still pink.  But it’s complex and flavorful enough that you almost forget the color.

We’ve been making our own flavored vodka for some time now, orange cinnamon, smokey chili… I promise to tell you about those soon.  But I never considered herb-infused vodka. My brother, knowing that I have an extremely prolific basil plant, suggested that basil-infused vodka might be a great way to use up some basil and play around behind the bar at the same time.

watermelon basil martini

Once we had the vodka, watermelon was a natural mixer.  One of my favorite summer meals is a simple plate of sliced watermelon, feta cheese and basil.  Minus the cheese it becomes a fantastically refreshing summer drink.  Don’t skip the basil garnish as the fragrance of fresh basil here really makes the experience. And if you don’t have a fancy juicer and therefore are stumped at watermelon juice here, never fear.  You can simply puree watermelon chunks in a blender and strain out the solids through cheese cloth. 

watermelon basil martini

Watermelon Basil Martini

Serves 2

3 ounces basil infused vodka (recipe below)

5 ounces fresh watermelon juice

ice

basil leaves for garnish

2 slices cucumber for garnish (optional)

In a cocktail shaker combine the vodka, juice and ice.  Shake and then strain into two chilled martini glasses.  Garnish with basil and cucumber. 

Basil Infused Vodka

4 cups vodka

2 cups basil leaves and stems

Combine the basil and vodka in a bottle or large jar, making sure all basil is submerged.  Allow vodka to sit in a cool place, out of the sun, for 1-2 days.  Do not steep longer than two days. Strain the vodka and store at room temperature.

Published in: on July 29, 2010 at 7:00 pm  Comments (26)  
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A Chocolate Malt From Route 66

chocolate and vanilla milkshakes

The Grand Canyon was great.  It really, truly was.  Mind boggling, majestic, picturesque… all of that. 

But it’s not the Grand Canyon that I’ve been dreaming about since we got home.  It’s the chocolate malt from Twister’s 50’s Soda Fountain.  I’m a total sucker for nostalgia, and the town of William’s, AZ was right up my alley.  The main drag is an homage to the Route 66 glory days, complete with poodle skirts and James Dean posters and, of course, an authentic soda fountain.

old fashioned chocolate maltWe were headed back to our bed and breakfast when we saw the sign for Twister’s, and my husband (bless him for knowing me so very well) yanked the wheel hard, crossed two lanes of traffic, slammed on the brakes and whirled into the parking lot. He was rewarded with a strawberry freeze (strawberry ice cream blended with lemon-lime soda).  The freeze was lovely, but there is nothing better than a rich, sweet malt.  Dusty and sweaty from our walk at the canyon, we lounged at the outdoor chrome-top tables, enjoying the sunset and our frosty treats.

And the minute we got home I sent Jeff off to the store for malt powder. And straws. You can’t have a shake or malt without a fun straw. Unless you enjoy your malt from a shot glass.  Yep, a shot glass.  Little milkshake shooters served with a big plate of cookies make for a pretty awesome dinner party dessert.  Your friends will swoon.  And if you go for half chocolate shooters and half vanilla (use regular malt powder, skip the chocolate syrup and add a teaspoon of vanilla extract) you’ll please every last picky guest.

chocolate malt shooters

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Malt

Makes two big servings (or about two dozen shooters)

2 cups vanilla ice cream

2 cups milk

1/8 cup chocolate malt powder

1/4 cup chocolate syrup

1 ounce dark chocolate

Combine ice cream, milk, malt powder and syrup in a blender and whir until well blended.  Pour the chocolate malts into two big cups.  Grate the dark chocolate over the top of each malt.  Serve with straws.

 chocolate malt

Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 4:00 pm  Comments (37)  
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Sangria and a Swap

apricot peach sangria

I hate eating at the mall.  Not that there is really anything wrong with greasy pizza or milkshakes (I kind of love greasy pizza and milkshakes).  But trying on skinny jeans after eating said greasy pizza?  Not fun.

mini frittatas and stuffed mushroomsWhich is why I was thrilled by the hors d’oeuvre spread at our clothing swap over the weekend.  We cleaned out our closets, arranged our wares in pretty piles or hung them on rack like a real store, and went to town.  My friend Diana, our host, even made a make-shift dressing room complete with full length mirror.  And with all those clothes to try on (and the lack of air conditioning), it’s a good thing that Diana stipulated that all food and drink be light and refreshing. 

white sangriaOur spread was lovely.  Mini frittatas, couscous stuffed mushrooms, beautiful veggies, fruits, and cheeses. And, of course, white Sangria.  This is certainly not a traditional Sangria.  But it is fruity and subtle and  perfect for a hot day. In my opinion, it goes with everything.  It’s probably not authentic enough to go with a great paella, but it would be lovely with kebabs at a BBQ, or perfect with salmon tartines at a picnic, or even yummy with some nachos in front of the TV. 

The fruit mixture will keep in the refrigerator for a few days, but once you add the wine and seltzer, be sure to serve right away.

White ‘Sangria’

Serves 8-10

1 apple, peeled and thinly sliced

1 peach, thinly sliced

2 fresh apricots, thinly sliced

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup apricot brandy

12 ounces (about 1/2 bottle) crisp, dry white wine, chilled

1 liter (1 bottle) lemon flavored seltzer, chilled

Mix the sliced fruit with the sugar and brandy and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to two days.  When ready to serve, add the fruit mixture, wine, and seltzer in a pitcher.  Add ice if desired, and serve immediately

white sangria

Published in: on May 24, 2010 at 7:13 pm  Comments (34)  
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