Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Weekly Nightcap - National Tequila Day

in honor of national tequila day (last week - yes, i missed it but better to celebrate late than not at all, right?), your perfect antidote brings us the weekly nightcap featuring, you guessed it, tequila!

I have no idea where I heard of this drink. I know for a fact that I didn’t come up with it, but I can’t imagine this is a real drink anywhere.

I do remember thinking the first time I heard it that it didn’t sound very good. My problem was that I like tequila, but I’m not a big fan of margaritas. So when I heard of this tequila drink with a secret mixer I was a little skeptical. But the truth is it’s a perfect summer time drink for me.

The secret ingredient?


That’s right, the citrus-based soda Fresca. It’s perfect. It’s light, refreshing, citrusy, and…well…awesome.

So I have decided to call this drink a ‘Trailer Park’. Because although I can’t remember where it came from, I wouldn’t be surprised if it originated there.

By the way, when out of Fresca, Mountain Dew is NOT a suitable replacement.

Trailer Park
makes 1 drink

1 1/2 oz Tequila (I like Quervo 1800 - Good Clean Fun likes Patron Citronage)

Fill highball glass with ice. Pour Tequila over ice. Pour Fresca to fill glass. Stir and serve.

check out more from your perfect antidote at

Monday, July 25, 2011

Iced Soft Sugar Cookies

my sister-in-law makes the best sugar cookies - hands down. i always use her recipe and i can never resist one or two or five every time she makes them. they are the roll out kind you cut into fun shapes and then frost. they are perfectly soft with a hint of almond and vanilla and they are crazy addictive.

the other day i had a weird craving for sugar cookies but i didn't want to have to wait while the dough chilled and i didn't want to have to roll it out so i (gasp) tried another recipe. they turned out really yummy. i used K's trick of almond and vanilla extract and frosted them with a basic frosting recipe tinting it yellow and using yellow sprinkles.

of course, they aren't as good as K's and i will still continue to make hers whenever i want to cut them out and decorate them, but these are great in a pinch. plus, the bright, cheery yellow cookies are like little rays of sunshine, you simply can't resist the extra thick, soft bites.

Iced Soft Sugar Cookies
slightly adapted from annies eats
makes about 2 dozen small cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 extra large eggs (or 2 small), room temperature
2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 1/2 tbs unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
3-4 tbsp milk (plus more, as needed)
food coloring (optional)
sprinkles (optional)

preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

combine flours, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. in the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light a fluffy, about 2 minutes. add egg(s) and extracts and beat well to combine. slowly add flour mixture to mixer and mix until just combined. refrigerate dough for 1 hour (i skipped this step for the first batch of cookies and put the dough in the fridge while the first batch cooked. the cookies seemed the same. so, if you can't wait - like me -  no worries.)

roll teaspoons full of dough into balls and place on parchment lined baking sheets. bake for 8-11 minutes. do not overbake! cookies should be just every so slightly, barely light brown if at all. remove from oven and let cool slightly. transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely.

meanwhile, make icing. sift powdered sugar into bowl of mixer and add melted butter. beat until mixture comes together. add extracts and then add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency should not be too thick but not too thin either. add food coloring if desired and frost cookies. sprinkle with sprinkles if desired and let cookies sit until frosting has hardened. store in airtight container.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

5 Things

since it's really too hot to cook, here are 5 things i am loving right now:

corn on the cob
maybe it's the farm girl in me, but i could eat corn on the cob every night for dinner. the key is not over cooking it. many boil it to death, but young, freshly picked corn is perfect in just 3 minutes. bring the water to boil, add the corn and set the timer for 3 minutes. when it beeps, take them out. place on a plate and cover with a tea towel until ready to serve (preferable immediately)! it's also fabulous raw in salads and grilled. yum!

neon colors 
yes i jumped on the neon bandwagon and am loving every second of it. i am crazy about these shocking pink shorts i got from j.crew (psst, they are currently on sale for $21). i like them so much i may or may not have just ordered neon yellow shorts too . . .

ice cream
or sorbet, frozen yogurt, or snow balls, milkshakes, or anything sweet and cold . . . frappuccinos, fruit smoothies, etc. you don't need an explanation why do you?

vinho verde
this young, crisp, light white wine with a touch of bubbles is perfect for summer. it's low alcohol content means E and i can finish off a bottle ourselves if we aren't keeping track.

the tomatoes in my parents garden are finally starting to turn red and i can't eat enough of them. tomato sandwiches for lunch, sliced tomatoes with freshly ground pepper for dinner, loads of tomatoes in my salad, caprese salad - dang this veggie (well, technically fruit) is summer to me. i think about my grandfather, who grew tomatoes and introduced me to the tomato sandwich, every time i bite into one.


it may be obvious from the photos in this post but i am currently loving the instagram photo ap. and yes, i do know this is #6. oh well.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ginger Wasabi Tuna Burgers

in the majority of the country, it is just too dang hot to cook. turning on the oven and heating up the house is just out of the question. the thought of standing outside over a hot grill seems downright crazy, but i actually think it's the best option (other than eating out of course where someone else cooks my food and does the dishes while i sit patiently in air-conditioning).

but think about grilling for a second. yes, you have to go outside, in this heat, but only for minutes at a time. start the grill/charcoal chimney, run inside to AC. put your food on the grill and set the timer, run inside to the AC. turn the food, run inside to AC . . . you get the idea, right? plus, it saves you from heating up the inside and making the AC work extra hard with the oven or a stove burner on and running back inside to the AC feels soooo good!

have i convinced you to grill tonight yet? well maybe this recipe will. it's quick, easy, and healthy. these tuna burgers have just the right amount of heat from some wasabi (you can adjust the amount to your liking). the best part is they only cook 2-3 minutes a side on a hot grill. of course, you can also cook these on a grill pan indoors on the stove if you don't have a grill or i haven't persuaded you to use one.

i like a nice thick slice of tomato and crisp romaine lettuce on the burger nestled between a whole wheat bun. you can even throw some corn or sliced zucchini on the grill while you cook the tuna burgers too. then, viola! you have a complete meal.

Ginger Wasabi Tuna Burgers
adapted from a gwyneth paltrow recipe
makes 4 burgers

1 lb fresh tuna steak, cut into 1" chunks
2 tsp wasabi paste (or 1 tsp wasabi powder with 1 tsp water to make a paste)
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbs fresh ginger, minced
2 tbs garlic, minced
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbs tamari (or soy sauce)
1/2 tsp ground pepper

in the bowl of a food processor, add cubed tuna. pulse a couple times until tuna reaches desired consistency (you don't want it all ground up, just a good texture you can form into burgers). transfer tuna to a medium bowl. add remaining ingredients to processor. process until well combined. pour onto tuna and mix well with a spatula. form into 4 patties and refrigerate for 1-4 hours so flavors can meld.

heat grill (or grill pan) to high heat. grill on each side for 2-3 minutes (i like mine a little rare on the inside) or 3-4 minutes for just cooked through. do not over cook, they will be crumbly and dry.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lemon Scones

i used to have a certain opinion of scones. i think it may actually be a common one. i saw them as a dry, crumbly waste of calories. is that horrible?

the reason i know at least some share this sentiment is due to the reaction i get when people try my scones. it usually goes something like this . . .

"oh i'm not really the biggest scone fan - they are usually so dry. but these have changed my mind!"

you see, these scones are moist, soft, and almost cake-like. even days later, they don't have a hint of dryness and just seem to melt in your mouth. so if you formerly shunned the dry, crumbly, nearly tasteless scones, please try these lemon scones (or these vanilla bean scones if vanilla floats your boat). i have a feeling you will be pleasantly surprised.

Lemon Scones
makes 2 dozen

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup 1% milk
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp lemon extract

preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

in the bowl of an electric mixer mix together flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. add cold, cubed butter and mix on low until butter is the size of peas.

in a small bowl, lightly beat together milk, cream, eggs, zest, and extract. slowly add milk mixture to electric mixer on low. mix until just combined. dump onto floured surface and roll out into a square (about 1/2" thick). cut into 12 squares and then in half into 24 triangles.

place on parchment or silpat lined baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes. bottoms will be just starting to brown. let cool completely.

Lemon Icing

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp lemon extract

whisk together and drizzle over cooled scones. let scones sit until icing has hardened and store in airtight container.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Weekly Nightcap: Key Lime Martini

i bet you thought i forgot all about the weekly nightcap . . . well, it's back and better than ever with the first ever sunday edition!

i have a thing for key lime pie.

there is just something about the balance between sweet, tangy, creamy, and crunchy gets me everytime. each bite makes me feel closer and closer to the beach. i can practically feel the sand between my toes, the salty breeze in my hair, and hear the waves crashing on shore by the time i finish off my slice.

it only seems suitable that key lime pie was my wedding cake. that's right, E and i had pie instead of cake on our wedding day. we still cut it together and enjoyed every bite. (in fact, i would say the key lime pie at the sand bar in anna maria island, fl - our wedding location - is in the top 2 best ever key lime pies!)

perhaps somewhere my love of key lime pie and my affection towards martinis found each other and made this - the key lime martini. yes, my friends, this could be the perfect drink.

you see, i have a little problem of always having to order the key lime martini when i see it on a menu. this has led to unfortunate instances of *gasp* having to endure a bad martini or two. some places just don't get it right. graham cracker crumbs on the rim? no thanks. extra thick and creamy? yuck! super sour? ugh!

fiVe, a martini bar just down the street from us (in lutherville, md) does it right. i am never disappointed by their key lime martini. however, for some reason, i didn't order it when E and i went there friday night. what is wrong with me?! instead, i got an underwhelming lemon drop. needless the say, i have learned my lesson and will get the key lime martini next time.

the other unfortunate side affect of not ordering the key lime martini at fiVe on friday? i have been subconsciously craving one ever since. this leads me to where we are now folks. me, sitting on the couch, 8pm on a sunday night, sipping a homemade key lime martini.

it's not quite as good as fiVe's, but it's pretty darn tasty. that's right - pretty. darn. tasty.

Key Lime Martini
serves 2

4 oz vanilla vodka
1 oz lime juice
2 oz pineapple juice
4 tbs cream of coconut (not coconut milk, try coco real cream of coconut)

combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. shake well and strain into 2 martini glasses. garnish with a lime wedge, if desired.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries

i love sweet potatoes. roasted, maple mashed, sweet potato cakes, you name it, i'll probably eat it. the only problem is, sweet potatoes seem like a fall/winter dish to me. the only way i like them in the summer is fried.

that's right, the sweet potato fry . . . a close contender to my all-time favorite french fry. these sweet, crispy, crunchy sticks give regular potatoes a run for their money.

i have a confession though, i have been unhappy with my sweet potato fries in the past. i like to bake them in the oven instead of frying them and i just couldn't get them crispy enough. if i tried baking them longer, they just burned. ugh!

that all ended this evening though. i finally discovered the method that yeilds perfectly crispy on the outside yet tender on the inside sweet potato fries. i don't even remember where i read to do this, but it is the secret!

that's right, i'm about to let you in on the secret too. put the baking sheet in the oven while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. that's the key! that and super dry sweet potatoes. i pat mine dry with paper towels and let them sit out for a little. then i dredge them in a little flour before tossing them lightly with some olive oil. when the oven and baking sheet are super hot, drizzle the hot baking sheet with a little olive oil and drop the fries on there. you will immediately hear them start to sizzle. that's good. the sizzle is the key. bake them for 15 minutes, turning each fry halfway through baking time. follow these instructions and i can nearly guarantee, crispy, crunchy, can't-stop-eating-them sweet potato fries.

if you are feeling adventurous, toss the uncooked sweet potato sticks with a little old bay, fresh thyme and garlic salt, or a mixture of cumin and cinnamon. yum!

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries
serves 4

2 large sweet potatoes
2 tbs flour
2 tbs olive oil, divided
salt and pepper

wash and dry potatoes. you can peel them or leave them unpeeled (i like them both ways). slice the potatoes into 1/2" thin sticks. lay sticks out on paper towels and dry well. let sit for 10 minutes.

meanwhile, place baking sheet in oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

toss sweet potato sticks with flour and then drizzle with 1 tbs olive oil. toss well to coat. once oven is preheated, remove pan and drizzle with remaining 1 tbs olive oil. drop sweet potatoes onto pan and make sure sticks are well spread out.

bake for 15 minutes, turning each individual sweet potato stick halfway through cooking time (yes, this is annoying, but it's worth it for even crispiness and to avoid burning). remove from oven and place on paper towel lined plate to drain off extra oil. sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste immediately and serve.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bleu Summer Tomato Salad

i have been MIA this past week while E and i spent some time with family, friends, and each other celebrating, relaxing, recharging and doing a whole lot of driving.

the best thing about traveling for me is it truly is a vacation. not only am i not working, but i get a total break from cooking. i don't have to cook for clients and i don't even have to cook for us. the other good thing is when i get back, i'm ready to get back in the kitchen and cook/bake.

the evidence of that may have been the 4 different batches of cookies i baked on saturday. before you pick up the phone and send help my way, don't worry, i didn't eat them all myself - i took them to an assisted living home, our church, and a birthday party. i actually only managed to eat 4, so i was pretty proud of myself:) of course the oreo cream chip cookies were a big hit as always - true decadence!

after baking all those cookies, i needed an quick and easy dish to throw together full of vegetables. this bleu summer tomato salad was the perfect remedy to my cookie overload.

the tang from the bleu cheese really pairs well with ripe summer tomatoes and cool cucumbers. i used crumbled buttermilk bleu because it's my favorite but feta tastes great too it you have a bleu cheese aversion. after i made the salad i thought freshly cut corn on the cob would have been the perfect addition to this salad. but it's great as is too!

Bleu Summer Tomato Salad
makes 4-6 sides

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 medium hot house cucumber (i like these because they are seedless, but any kind will work)
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese or feta
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper

in a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. chop cucumber into bite-sized pieces. toss cucumber, halved tomatoes, and crumbled bleu cheese into bowl with dressing. stir well with a spatula and enjoy!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Strawberry Brushetta

it's dang near the end of strawberry season. i think this calls for a moment of silence . . .

it's going to be a long 10 months till they are back but at least i feel like i got a lot out of the strawberries this year. here's a look back at some of the recipes this year:

strawberry quinoa yogurt parfaits
strawberry margaritas
strawberry-rhubarb martini
strawberry-rhubarb coffee cake
strawberry icebox cake

my final recipe is perfect for those just-going-out-of-season berries. it also happens to be perfect for breakfast - strawberry brushetta. the best part is that i have two different versions. i made them with a nice brioche as the base, but you could easily do these on slices of pound cake and serve them as dessert.

the first has a slathering of mascarpone cheese and a balsamic macerated berry. a chiffonade of basil topped this version of the brushetta and gave it a wonderful freshness. the berry concoction is just a tbs of balsamic vinegar and a 1/2 tsp of agave nectar. stir it together with the strawberries and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

the second version may be a stretch passed off as breakfast but i couldn't resist pairing two of my favorites together - strawberries and nutella. it's quite simple yet oh so good, just nutella and sliced strawberries but this is the one i went back to for seconds.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Avocado Egg Salad

it seems i tend to eat more "salads" in the summer. you know the kind, chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad - the pseudo salads. i have always wondered why these are called salads. is something loaded with mayo a salad?

i think i may have landed on something here. what better way to make egg salad squarely in the salad category than wrapping it with lettuce and filling it with avocado and tomatoes.

this summer salad is light, refreshing, and full of protein thanks to the eggs. the avocado may make the salad an interesting green color, but it's loaded with good fats and gives the creaminess you usually get from mayo.

the next time you hard boil eggs, give this recipe a try!

Avocado Egg Salad
serves 2

4 hard boiled eggs
1 avocado
juice of half a lime
salt and pepper
10 cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
4 romaine lettuce leaves

chop hard boiled eggs. in a medium bowl, mash avocado with lime juice salt and pepper to taste (this will form a guacamole-type mixture). stir in chopped eggs, tomatoes, and celery. spoon into romaine leaves and enjoy.
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