Happy Hour: Calpis Soda

Good evening my darlings and welcome to another Friday Night Happy hour. I know for many happy hour conjures visions of a crowded bar and laughter with groups of friends. And to be honest, while my babydoll and I do indulge in those sorts of happy hours, typically we go out on Saturday nights instead of Fridays.

The truth is that by the time the end of the week rolls around, putting on a set of comfy clothes, settling in with a delicious beverage and tasty treat often seems like heaven. Saturday night we both feel more social. But Friday has become our night to recharge so that the Saturday social is more fun. Sometimes it involves a cocktail, other times a non alcoholic beverage.

At the moment my babydoll is trying to whittle down his homebrewed beer supply. This year since we weren’t expecting a lot of company, he decided to test several different brew kits to see what he liked the best. while always fun to find the product you like the best, we now have a bit of a storage issue. So he is having beer tonight and I am using this as a change to test the Calpis Soda that came in my Tokyo Treat Box.

As you can see in the photo it is a lavender kind of color. which I find a bit unusual in a beverage. According to the description …

Calpis soda is a soda drink which uses the classic calpis, a condensed yogurt flavor beverage. Here’s a luxurious Kyoho grape flavor, which is one of the most expensive fruit in Japan.

In general I don’t drink a lot of soda, mostly because I am trying to reduce my sugar intake so a soda is just a much of a treat for me as an alcoholic cocktail. Add in a luxurious and expensive fruit and it certainly feels like a treat.

The taste is interesting. It tastes a bit like a Grape Nehi but a lot less sweet. I can’t taste any yogurt flavor in the mix, but it does feel as though there is something fermented in the drink. The yogurt I believe is what is tamping down the sweetness, but it doesn’t taste yoghurt-y.

The drink causes a little bit of a tingling on the tongue. I think part of that is just the carbonation, but I suspect that some of it might be the fermentation in the yoghurt.

All in all I have to say I kind of like it. It isn’t something I would have picked up from the shelf if I saw it in the store, but quite honestly that is one of the fun things about a subscription box like Tokyo Treat (or any subscription box really). You get to try things that you never would have picked up on your own.

I find the pink color a little off putting as it sort of reminds me of Pepto-Bismol, but it is a delicious treat that i would not mind having again. Actually i think it would be really good over crushed ice on a hot summer’s day. As it is, I am having the drink sitting on the couch with my baby. we have a big bowl of popcorn and we will be watching Gretel and Hansel on Paramount+ as part of October fright fest marathon. All month long we will be watching all sorts of spooky shows and movies.

So at our house it is shoes off, fuzzy socks on and feet up on the foot rest. Tonight even the weather has decided to join in as we have a thunderstorm rolling in to provide some extra atmosphere. Tomorrow, we might go out and be social. Tonight, it is good to just stay home.

Happy Hour: Shrimp Ceviche and Cherry Ginger

Tonight is an interesting take on happy hour.  In our house we long ago realized that if I made ceviche as an appetizer for our happy hour, that we would reach the end of the appetizer portion and not really want a regular meal, but instead want more ceviche. 

So as a consequence when I make Shrimp ceviche, I tend to make a dinner time sized portion and we have ceviche with crackers or chips for the main meal.  It is a light summertime meal.  On occasion I will also make some corn tortillas and we will just use it as a taco filling.  Tonight however we went with tortilla chips.

There is a local Mexican restaurant that sells them by the bag full, but only Thursdays. I think during lock down they sold them twice a week.  Either way, we were lucky to get a bag of the chips yesterday so we can use them tonight.  Actually if they just sold their tortillas I would never bother making my own again, but alas, they only sell the chips. 

To go on these chips, we make the Shrimp ceviche:

Ingredients:

1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into a suitable size for your method of serving (if we make tacos I don’t cut them)

1 cucumber, peeled and cubed

1 serrano chili, diced

1 red onion, diced small

1 cup fresh cilantro chopped

The juice of six limes (apx ¾ cup)

The juice of three lemons (apx. ¾ cup)

1 avocado

Salt to taste (I use about 1 tbsp for this)

Pinch of sugar

The hardest part of this recipe is breaking down all of your veg.  There will be a lot of chopping.  The bonus is that once you chop, it is all basic assembly and resting time.

Juice your limes and lemons putting the juice in a bowl.  Add your prepared shrimp.  While the juice of each fruit varies, you want enough juice to submerge the shrimp and post of the veg in juice. You also want about equal parts lemon and lime.

Leave the shrimp in the acid until they start to turn white on the outside.  (you want to give them a little bit of a head start before adding the veg – maybe ten minutes).  Then add the salt, cucumber, serrano, and onion. Mix it up a bit with your hands and then transfer it to the fridge.  Leave it sit for about an hour or until the acid has cooked the shrimp enough for your taste.  If you leave it too long, it will get slightly rubbery so check them after an hour and then if you still need more time check every ten minutes until you are happy.

When everything looks ready, slice your avocado into cubes and add the cilantro and the avocado to the ceviche. After mixing it up, taste the mix.  If it is too acidic, add a pinch of sugar to mellow it out.  If it needs salt, add it now and then stir it up.  this is very much a by the taste recipe. Serve cold with chips, crackers, or tortillas. 

I really like this mix.  It is pretty basic so it can be used in a variety of different ways.  It is easy to adjust to taste as well as being fresh and light on a hot summer’s evening.  If you don’t have shrimp you can use fish.  If you don’t eat seafood, try tofu. Go with the firm kind if you are doing that.  Often what I will do if I do substitute tofu is that I will cube it, add a little fish sauce to it and then do a quick pan fry to add some texture to the cubes.  Then I let them cool and then add them to the mix.  If you don’t use fish sauce then maybe go with a vegan soy sauce before pan frying them.  I just like the little difference in texture that the pan gives, but it isn’t a necessity. You can just cube and add them to the veg mix.

This in general is a fun recipe to play around with. When we are finished, there is always some of the juice left over and we end up slicing a couple of extra cucumbers into it, and maybe adding a bit more onion to it.  Then the next day we have that as a side salad for dinner. So nothing gets wasted.  It is one of my favorite summer time treats.

As a drink tonight I am just going simple.  I have my Sour Cherry Syrup that I am still working my way through.  I really like it, but it is a large bottle that takes up a lot of space in the fridge so once opened I tend to lean on it often until it is used up. 

Today I didn’t really feel like alcohol so I made a non-alcoholic drink with one ounce of the sour cherry syrup topped with ginger ale.  Served in a pretty glass it is a perfectly lovely happy hour drink.  My babydoll added an ounce of lemon vodka to his before topping it off with the ginger ale.

It is a relatively simple happy hour tonight, but as it has been a bit of a crazy week, simple is just fine.  While sometimes I like to use Happy hour as a time to try new recipes and be just a little more adventurous, sometimes simple works better. On a day when the thought of turning on the oven or stove and adding more heat to the house is just not pleasant to contemplate, a no cook happy hour that spills into dinner is just the thing. I hope whatever you do to relax and unwind from the week is exactly what you need to let it all go.  I’ll see you back here on Monday, ready to take on another week.  Have a great weekend.

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Happy Hour: Keeping it summertime simple

Today was a hot one. High heat and even higher humidity. In lieu of something hot from the kitchen, our happy hour food featured goat’s cheese on water crackers and some fresh cherries. The cheese actually has truffles mixed into it and is from igourmet (the link will take you to the site for details.) It is quite delish and adds a bit of earthiness to the Happy Hour treat.

The drink actually required a bit more preparation, but it too was summer fresh and fantastic. And once you get the prep work done, it is super simple. While loads of people think watermelon or strawberry once the summer time hits (and trust me, I love both of those) for me Summertime means blackberries.

There was a thicket near our house when I was little and you could always tell when the blackberry season was high because I would always come home covered in scratches. Seriously, I looked like I jumped into a sack full of angry cats. Because I knew the best berries were always where the thorns were sharpest.

The scars have faded and it has been quite a while since I picked my own blackberries as we have numerous farm stands that carry them, but as soon as they are ripe I take as many home as I can. We end up with blackberry crumble, blackberries in salads, I even end up ordering elk steaks at least once in season because I have a blackberry gin infused sauce recipe that works so well with elk. It also works well with venison too actually. But that is an entirely different post.

don’t forget to smash the blackberries for extra juice before you discard them

While I eat loads of blackberries fresh, I also make a few pots of jam to use well after the season is over and freeze some for midwinter deserts. I think one of the reasons i like blackberries is that while they are sweet, they have an edge of tartness to them.

One of my favorite things to do with them, is to make a blackberry simple syrup for use in drinks. I’m sure everyone out there knows how to make a simple syrup, but in case it has slipped your mind, you take equal parts sugar and water and pour them both into a pot. Simmer them on medium heat, stirring occasionally to make certain the sugar isn’t stuck to the bottom of the pot. Once they heat up enough that the sugar and water have become one syrup remove it from the heat, pour it into a container to cool and then refrigerate.

If you want to make the simple syrup blackberry (or any other fruit flavor) add the berries to the pot and stir so that nothing burns. Once the sugar and water have joined to make syrup, simmer an extra minute. Then remove the pot from the heat. Use a sieve to strain the berries out of the syrup and then press the berries with a spoon or silicone spatula in order to get as much juice and flavor out as possible. Discard the berry pulp and pour the liquid into a container.

Voila! Blackberry simple syrup.

While I will be using it in tonight’s cocktail, I am a big fan of just stirring a spoonful of it into ginger ale and having it over ice. If you are looking for a summery drinks treat that is non-alcoholic, that is usually a good one. It also works really well mixed in with lemonade. Just mix the two into a pitcher until you have a flavor that works well for your palette and then add a few decorative berries to the pitcher and you have a quick, company ready summer drink to offer.

Simple syrups may be something you think of for your cocktails, but even if you don’t drink, they are fantastic to have around. Plus they actually taste better with bruised or slightly over berries. So if you have some not very pretty fruit that you want to use, but don’t think would be good to serve because it isn’t the prettiest, think simple syrup.

Lemon and blackberries work really well together, in fact when I make blackberry jam or crumble I always add in a little lemon zest to perk it up a bit and brighten the flavors.

And lemon features in our cocktail tonight too. I don’t really have a name for it as it is just a summer time treat we throw together. Add one ounce of your Blackberry syrup, two ounces of lemon flavored vodka and then top with seltzer water. I use my Soda Stream for this. I like to use a tall clear glass so I can see the layers. The glass I am using tonight is a stemless champagne flute from the Rachel Zoe Collection. Personally i think everything tastes better in a fancy glass and I use one of these flutes to convince myself to drink more water during the day. However it looks really lovely with the layered drink in it.

To drink it, you do need to mix it up so it blends, but I like keeping the look until just before I drink it, then I stir it up to drink. My babydoll thinks I’m crazy and shakes the simple syrup and vodka together in a martini shaker before pouring it into the glass and topping it with the soda water.

To each his own.

And so tonight may be a simple Home happy Hour as far as things go, but it is a delicious one. I hope however you end your week, you take a moment to sit and take a breather and let all of the stress of the day drain away. Whether vodka based cocktail or non-alcoholic lemonade, the important thing is the moment spent just breathing. Let the stress go, if only for a little while.



Happy Hour: Fun and Fruity

Good afternoon my darlings and welcome to the Friday Happy Hour. And I am certainly ready for it. Today was so crazed I even missed my Friday Face mask. It’s a definite indicator that it is time for a weekend. Last weekend my baby and I over indulged and with little meal planning this week, well we didn’t exactly get back on the healthy train.

So tonight we went a little bit easy on the end of the week treats. While we both like the little Friday indulgences, it is more about sitting back and taking some time to breath after a long week. So today is a very lite happy hour. The first is the drink. I went non-alcoholic this week. My drink was simply a splash of Sour Cherry Syrup into a glass (8 oz glass) topped with a mini- Canada Dry Ginger ale. If you put the sour cherry syrup in the bottom and then pour the ginger ale over it you get this really neat ombre effect with the dark red at the bottom fading to pink and then finally to gold at the top.

The effect doesn’t last as the bubbles cause everything to mix. The mixing makes it taste good but you loose the pretty look. It still looks nice, especially if you put it in a pretty glass. I went with one of the stemless champagne flutes from the Rachel Zoe Collection.

If you wanted to make this an alcoholic drink you could easily just add something like vodka to it. Personally I really like the ginger mixing with the sour cherry so I would probably go with some sort of ginger flavored alcohol. I don’t know how many of you have every tried the Ginger liquor called The King’s Ginger, but a little of that and then a topping of carbonated water would be nice and refreshing as well. Although the King’s Ginger is great on it’s own. If you are a fan of ginger, I highly recommend checking them out. Today, I am happy with the cherry syrup and ginger ale.

To pair with it, we went for home dried apple slices. I like to slice what apples we have on hand and then sprinkle them with seasonings before putting them in the dehydrator to dry. The spice dusting changes depending on the mood. Today I went with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and a touch of nutmeg. the apples we had on hand were very sweet and drying them just made them sweeter. After they were out, my babydoll added a pinch of cayenne to his to make them a little spicy. I wanted the ginger to shine through more than I wanted heat so I declined the addition.

All told it was a nice light way to kick back and enjoy the evening and unwind a little. while it wasn’t as indulgent as some of the treats I make for Happy Hour, this week, it felt decident because of all of the warm spices and the pretty glass. I’ll admit, the ombre effect didn’t hurt.

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Happy Hour: Salami and Sour Cherries

Once again the week has ended and the office clothes have been exchanged for comfortable pajama pants and comfortably worn t-shirts.  And today, I had no real control over our happy hour.  It was all my babydoll’s doing. 

He has been brewing again as he wanted to get several batches put up before the summer sun started affecting his brewing work space.  So he brewed more in one sitting than usual.  As a result he needed more bottles.  Usually he orders his brewing supplies on-line, but the need for bottles was kind of immediate, so he went in search of a homebrew supply locale.  He found one and secured his bottles.  Tonight he will be a bottling fiend and I am banished from the kitchen while he does so.

However when he found the homebrew store he found out there is an Eastern European Deli in the same shopping complex. 

He went a little bananas.

And so tonight for Happy Hour we are having a Hungarian Salami sliced into thin rounds and accompanied by a pickles from the same company and some pepperoncini’s.  It is a really good mix.  The salami is spiced but not hotly spiced and it has a good fat content for the sausage.  This salty fatty spicy meat pairs really well with the slightly sweet and sour pickled flavor of the Hungarian gherkins.  They have a fairly mild flavor.  Personally I prefer them room temperature rather than fridge cold so that more of the flavor comes out of them.  They also seem to be less astringent when they are room temperature. The Pepperoncini’s are  both astringent and provide the element of heat to the offerings.  They have a slight sweetness too which matches well with the pickles.

 They are not an overpoweringly hot pepper.  They are however full of pickling liquid.  It is why we have them in a bowl instead of laid out neatly on a plate.  When we eat them, we pull out the stem.  I like the heat so I tend to leave the seeds.  You can take them out if you want them milder.  But either way you have to squeeze them over the bowl so you don’t dripple and squirt the peppers all over everything.  It always amazes me how much liquid they can gather inside them.

As for drinks, to be honest I wasn’t feeling like alcohol tonight.  Luckily my baby picked up a bottle of Sour Cherry Syrup while at the deli.  The sourness helps balance the sickly sweet almost cough syrup like taste that regular cherry syrup can have. 

I added a measure to a glass of carbonated water (courtesy of my Soda Stream) and then added just a drop of lemon juice to the mix.  There you have a super simple non-alcoholic beverage to sip along side the platter, or just sitting on the back porch as the heat of the day fades.  It is easy enough to make this alcoholic if you want, I would suggest sticking to your clear liquors though.  Citrus flavored vodkas are especially nice with this. 

The only issue is that it is a big bottle of Sour Cherry Syrup and once opened it needs to be refrigerated. I suspect that because it is kind of taking up prime real estate in the fridge we will be using it often in the next few weeks.  I will have some of my non-alcoholic versions throughout the week and possibly be using it in some of my upcoming cocktail recipes. 

But for now it is a very low key home happy hour and a non- alcoholic beverage to go with it as my baby and I sit back and unwind from the week.  I hope whatever you do to unwind lets you relax and let all the stress of the work week go.  Because you deserve it.

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Happy Hour: Prophecy Rose 2018 and Sweet and Spicy Shrimp

I’ll be honest, I am much more of a red wine person than a rose. For me Rose is a hot weather wine, served very chilled.  And in hot weather I am much more likely to go for a Gin and Tonic than I am a Rose.  On occasion I do like a good rose and we have been looking for a decent, inexpensive summer wine.

I was aiming for a somewhat more expensive Chardonnay to try, however I saw the label and thought it looked interesting so I thought I’d give this a go. 

I am a sucker for label art. I really do like the design work that has gone into most of them.  And I am not limited in scope either.  I like the old fashioned and classy to the wacky and sassy labels.  I think that many of them have just fantastic labels. 

I have bought many a bottle for art’s sake.

Sometimes this has led me to great finds, sometimes the label is the only good thing about the bottle.

This Prophecy Rose was neither.  It is not a stellar wine I would seek out and it is not a wine I would avoid.  For me it falls very middle of the road as far as Rose’s go.  It is not very acidic and it has hints of fruitiness.  I would say the fruit leans more towards strawberry and kiwi notes than anything else. It has that sweet with a slightly tart back note to it that I would associate more with kiwi than strawberry. It is a very drinkable wine as well as an affordable one.  It is priced at $14 which I would say is a fair value. 

It isn’t a terribly memorable wine, but I think it would go well on a hot summer evening when grilling shrimp.  I would give the shrimp a spicy glaze and finish the shrimp skewers off with a hit of lime before serving as I think this wine really does call out to be served with something like that.  It is a wine that would mingle well with smoke and heat and not be offended by the lime citrus.  The wine isn’t overly sweet but what sweetness it has would pair well with the sweetness that you get in shrimp. 

Tonight’s shrimp alas are not being grilled in the great outdoors.  I am merely brushing them with the bottled sweet chili sauce you can get at almost any grocery store and tossing them in the wok until they are cooked, then onto the plate they go with a squeeze of lime just before eating.  It is fewer recipes than a simple nibble.  But it does go really well with the wine.


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Happy Hour: Grape Focaccia and a Bramble

Welcome to Happy Hour my darlings!  Kick off those shoes and get yourself into something comfy. Personally I’ve chosen a pair of pajama pants that are old enough that the black fabric has a distinct greenish look to it.  The color doesn’t bother me when hanging out at home, but taking them out of the drawer I noticed a small hole on the leg.  It is tiny still, but it means a replacement is needed soon. I’ll have to look into that this weekend.  But for now, the comfy pajama pants remain.

The Bramble has made an appearance before and as I very much enjoy it will probably make many returns.  As a recipe refresher my version of a Bramble is:

Bramble

Ingredients:

1 ½ oz Gin

½ oz Chambord

1 oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

You put everything into a cocktail shaker add a bit of ice and shake for all you are worth before pouring it into the glass of your choice.  I went with a coupe glass.  I think this one might have actually come as a promotional glass with a bottle of Bombay Sapphire at some point. It is a nice shape and holds enough liquid inside that one glass is plenty.

I felt the raspberry and lemon notes would pair well with the grape focaccia today.  I thought about picking up a wine to go with it, but the grapes were very sweet tart on their own and I kind of didn’t want anything competing with them.  I think if I had chosen mellower grapes I would have gone with a wine.  As it is the Bramble seemed to have enough of a fruitiness to pair well without really being competition, flavor wise.

I know some of you saw the title and were lifting some eyebrows at the sound of grape focaccia. That’s okay, my baby doll did as well, but then it baked up so sweet and salty that he decided it was okay in the end.  And while I had the Bramble listed above, he ended up having a beer with it because he wanted something earthy to go with it while I wanted something to pair with the fruitiness of the grapes.

There is a lot of wait time, but overall this focaccia recipe is really simple.  It just takes time.  You will need a stand mixer for this.  I’ve written out the recipe for those with stand mixers.  If you don’t have one can always knead the dough by hand.  If you are making this, check your times! While not a lot of this is active time, there is a lot of resting and rising so I generally make this when I know I’m going to be in the house for a while.  It does actually provide some nice breaks to the day if you are working from home.

Grape Focaccia

Ingredients:

6 tsp dry yeast

Pinch of sugar

2 cups warm water

¼ cup (or so) olive oil

5 cups of flour, plus more for dusting

2 tsp kosher salt (more for sprinkling)

12 ounces red seedless grapes (make sure they are seedless)

Parchment paper

It is large but it does freeze well.
  • Put the yeast, water and sugar in a bowl.  Stir to mix and then let sit to get foamy (5 min)
  • Into the bowl of a stand mixer place the flour, salt and foamy yeast mix. Mix with a dough hook until a sticky dough forms and pulls away from the sides (3-5 min)
  • Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Liberally flour your counter top and transfer the dough to it.  It will be stiff to work with but try to form it into a rectangle (ish) shape that is about twice the size as you start it with. 
  • Fold the dough in threes like a letter so that your dough forms a rectangle.  Brush the top with olive oil and transfer it to the center of your parchment covered cookie sheet oiled side down onto the parchment.
  • Brush olive oil onto the top of the dough Cover loosely with cling film and let it sit 1 hour.
  • (don’t worry if your rectangle is a little wonky.
  • After one hour come back to the dough and push it out until it fills the cookie sheet in a flat even surface.  Once flattened. Lightly press the grapes into the top of the dough. 
  • Leave to sit uncovered 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 500.
  • After the dough has rested for an hour, brush olive oil over the dough and grapes and sprinkle with salt.
  • Just before you put the dough into the oven, turn the temperature down to 450 degrees. 
  • Bake for 10 minutes, turn the pan in the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the dough is a light golden brown.
  • Cool 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

While we used grapes in this one for a sweet and savory play, this is my standard focaccia recipe. I forget where I picked it up, but I have adjusted it with rosemary and garlic to go along with roast lamb, mixed it with a variety of peppers and served it with chili, and used it plain as a base for all sorts of toppings.  It is a good basic recipe that really takes well to whatever flavors you want to throw at it.  Just remember not to be stingy with the olive oil.  It may look like a lot, but this bread needs it. It is the only fat this bread has in it. Once you have the basics down, go crazy with the flavors and make it your own.

So that my darlings is our happy hour.  Personally, I like how it turned out.  It also suits the weather this week.  It is surprisingly cool tonight, but I didn’t want anything very heavy.  This has the weight of bread that I like in cooler temperatures, but it is lifted by the roasted grapes into feeling like early spring rather than the middle of winter. And I have to confess, I really do like baking bread.

I hope you enjoy whatever it is you have planned for your Friday night and the weekend beyond.


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Happy Hour: Hummus and Truly Hard Seltzer

Hummus served with cucumber slices

Welcome to the end of the week my darlings. We finally made it. Shuck those work clothes, put on something comfy and prop your feet up.

Today I was feeling the need for something light and summery. Both in food and drink. So I went with a homemade hummus and cucumber slices and a Strawberry lemonade Hard Seltzer from Truly Hard Seltzer.

Now I have a confession. This was my first hard seltzer. I know the shockwaves are felt around the world. The truth is that when I look for alcoholic drinks I go for wine, gin or tequila. It never even occurs to me to look at the hard seltzer. There was something about the strawberry lemonade that just appealed to me so I decided to try it.

According to the label it has 5% alcohol by volume, 100 calories, 1 g of sugar and 3 g of carbs. As almost every muscle in my body is sore from the new workout regime this week, low cal, and low sugar sounded kind of ideal. And I do love strawberry lemonade. I make big pitchers of the non alcoholic variety to keep in my fridge all summer long. while I make the lemonade in the regular way, I leave out the sugar and then make a strawberry simple syrup to sweeten it. Using the simple syrup gets the pulp and seeds out while keeping the flavor and sweetness. You can always choose to add alcohol later if you want but in a tall glass filled with ice it is fabulous on it;s own.

But how did this Truly hard seltzer version taste?

Not bad. It is like a flavored water, the scent being stronger than the taste. In fact if there was no alcohol in it I would consider it a really nicely flavored seltzer water. There is however alcohol in it. Which you need to remember and not drink it like water. For me, putting it in the nice glass helped because I sipped it. I tend to drink liquids fast when i drink them in the can. (sodas, water, V8, if I drink from the can I just drink faster so glasses slow me down). I think it would be a really bad idea to drink this fast.

I don’t know how many of you are new to Hard seltzer, but I recommend sipping. It is easy to forget it isn’t flavored water.

The one issue I had with this is that it made my tongue feel dry. I know that sounds a little strange, but it is true. My tongue could feel the alcohol more than taste it and so my tongue felt dry. It wasn’t a bad thing, just a strange one that I wasn’t expecting.

Luckily, I had something on hand to make me feel a little less dry. And that was tonight’s happy hour snack, homemade hummus served with freshly sliced cucumbers. It is one of the easiest things to make. The trick is to make it the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight so the flavors can mellow. I made mine a little more lemon forward because I like the lemon flavor with the cucumber slices. If serving with crackers I tend to take out a Tablespoon of the lemon juice. When you first make this you will be tempted to try it right away and then you might feel like adjusting the seasoning. Let it sit overnight and then the next day adjust if you feel it needs more salt. To make this, you will need a food processor. if you have one, it is super easy. Ready?

Ingredients

1 can chickpeas, drained

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 and a half Tablespoons tahini

2 garlic cloves peeled

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper.

  • Put everything into the food processor.
  • blend until a smooth paste forms
  • Spoon into a bowl.
  • Cover bowl and refrigerate over night
  • taste and adjust seasonings and serve with cucumber slices or pita chips.

Seriously, that’s it. It is light and summery. The lemon pairs well with the cucumber slices and with the Strawberry Lemonade Hard Seltzer chosen as tonight’s beverage. My favorite thing about this dip is that i almost always have all of the ingredients in the pantry and fridge so i can easily make this in a hurry without adding a lot to the grocery list. It also works as a great base. You can play around with spices to give it some heat. You can blend roasted red peppers into it. It is excellent on it’s own but it is also easy to play around with. I actually like to use it in sandwiches actually. I’ll spread a layer on my bread and then layer cucumbers radish slices and mung beans on it for an excellent lunch time treat. the veggies give you a nice crisp bite to the sandwich. Sometimes I’ll even quick pickle the cucumbers. I’ll put the cucumber slices in a bowl with a Tablespoon of grated ginger, and then add equal parts mirin and rice wine vinegar. shake them up a bit so the slices are covered. leave them in the fridge for half an hour and then add them to your sandwich. It is fabulously fresh and delicious. It will probably also be tomorrow’s sandwich at my house, providing any of the hummus lasts through the evening. No matter how big a bach I make, it always disappears fast.



Let’s get a little Bubly

Anyone who has read my posts for any length of time knows that one of my favorite kitchen tools is my Soda Stream.  Don’t get me wrong, I adore my Hamilton Beach Food Processor.  However my Soda Stream is a next level love. 

As strange as it sounds, one of my blocks to weight loss is my beverage consumption.  Put simply, I tend to drink liquids all day long.  I always have.  I still stick with my coffee in the morning,

However I have been slowly replacing most of the other beverages with water.  One of the first things I realized is that when you drink a lot of it, water feels heavy.  One of the ways I found to get me to drink more water and alleviate that heaviness is to carbonate the water.  I have always loved sparkling water so for me this was a no brainer.

My babydoll and I both grew up in houses where the bar cart had a soda syphon as well and many of the favored cocktails include seltzer.   We picked up the Soda Stream partially to try and have our own ‘soda’s’ at home, because my babydoll is a big soda fan, but mostly for the seltzer water.

My other trick for getting myself to drink more water is to put the water in a fancier glass that makes me just feel special drinking it.  And as water is the essence of life, why shouldn’t it be celebrated?  The glass pictured is from the Rachel Zoe Collection. It is one of the stemless champagne flutes.  It holds 8 ounces exactly and feels really good in the hand. It also looks pretty good on the desk.

When we first picked up the Soda Stream there were soda flavorings that went with the machine.  At that point I had already cut out a lot of the sugar I was used to eating and the mixes were all way to sweet for me.  My babydoll who still drinks soda really likes the Lemon Lime mix, but only uses about half of the recommended flavoring amount to cut down on the sweetness. I will occasionally put in a small drop into a glass, but it really is just the tiniest of drops. 

With the regular soda flavorings I tend to put the drop into the glass and pour the carbonated water over it so that the water mixes itself and I don’t have to stir. As it is sparkling, stirring can sometimes cause issues.

When Soda Stream released the Bubly Drops line I was thrilled. The drops are designed to flavor water so that it tastes like flavored water and not as though it was soda.  Which means it sounded just about perfect for me. 

But was it?

I picked up the Raspberry flavored bubbly drops to try it out. 

It is an unsweetened natural flavor essence with zero calories.  As with the other soda stream mixers, I find it better to put the drops in the bottom of the glass and then add the water.  I noticed if you add them to the water the scent sort of gathers and lingers and I don’t think it mixes in will since the flavor changed half way through.  If I put the drops in the bottom of the glass, the flavor blended into the entire glass with no issues. 

It is a natural raspberry essence with no sugars added so it is not sweet.  You get the taste of raspberry, but there is a slightly bitter note to it.  I actually kind of like the slight bitterness as it makes the water taste a little more like mineral water.  I tend to drink a lot of Pellegrino and it is sort of that same bitter minerally taste. I enjoy that flavor and so I enjoyed the drops.

The issue that you might face when dealing with these drops is that you have to remember that less is more.  The bottle recommends that ¼ tsp (1.2 ml) be added to a 12 oz glass. My glass is 8 ounces and I used about half of that amount.  Yup a 1/8 tsp.  That seemed to be about the right amount for me. 

If you add too much of the essence to the water it will begin to taste a bit medicinal and not very nice.  Restrain yourself and it is a very nice glass of flavored water.  No sugar, no strange flavors.  While I still like my plain water and I do love my occasional bottle of Blackberry Hint, having these drops around is a nice alternative to when you need something just a little different. 

Now that I’ve tried and liked it, I have my eye on a few of the other flavors.  Most notably the grapefruit. I think that might be my next purchase.  Grapefruit is hard to nail in a flavored water and when done right it is one of my favorite flavors, especially in the summer. So I have my fingers crossed that this will provide the flavor I want. For now I have the raspberry and soon, I will test the grapefruit.  I’ll keep you posted.


SodaStream USA, inc

Happy Hour: Mushroom Tarts and a Belmont Cocktail

Happy Hour: Mushroom tarts and a Belmont Cocktail

Welcome my darlings to the Friday Night happy Hour.  Tonight the cocktail I decided to make is called a Belmont and it comes from my Savoy Cocktail book.  I have to admit it is one of the cocktails I have been hesitant to try.  There is no real reason except that I always think it’s a little strange when gin is paired with cream.  I’ve had several pleasant cocktails with cream but when I saw this recipe I just wanted to skim over it.  I think it is because there are so few ingredients in it that the cream stood out to me.  Still tonight was it’s night for testing.  And so test I did.  The recipe is quite simple.

I part grenadine

2 parts gin

1 teaspoon cream

Put them all together in a shaker and shake the dickens out of it until it is foamy. Serve in a lovely glass.

It comes out a lovely and festive pink color.  To be honest it comes out tasting a bit like a cherry creamsicle that has been dipped in gin.  The gin comes through loud and clear.  It is a little odd to taste in that first sip.  I tasted the cherry dreamsicle part first and then the gin arrived on my tastebuds. It took a few sips to get used to it.  It was one of those cocktails I don’t mind having once but probably wouldn’t make again.  Nice, but not fabulous. It won’t be making the household repitoire.

But as there are thousands, if not millions of cocktail and mocktail (for the days when I don’t feel like having alcohol) recipes to try out there, I’m sure the list of ones I don’t mind having more than once will continue to grow.

Tonight I chose mushroom tarts to go along with the cocktail.  I’ve made the recipe many times before in both the large and small tartlets size.  Since the cocktail was bright and cherry I thought something earthy would pair well.  And the tart did work well with the drink.  Usually I serve these with a crisp chardonnay or even an Arnold Palmer if going non-alcoholic.  What I love about these little tarts is that they do freeze really well so you can make a bunch and then cool and freeze the ones you don’t eat.  My baby and I each had one and left the other four to cool for later freezing. (I made six). While I made them in small tartlet pans tonight you can make one big tart to serve as a dinner. We tend to eat this as a summer meal with a fresh salad. All of the measurements are the same, you just put them in one container rather than six.

Ingredients

1 pie crust

1 small yellow onion, diced

½ lb mushrooms, diced

Three sage leaves chopped

1 T butter

1 clove garlic, minced

½ cup cream

1 egg yolk

1 whole egg

¼ cup sour cream

Pie weights (I use dried beans)

Tart pan or tartlet pans

  • Cut the pie dough into rounds and press into the pan. 
  • Dock the dough with a fork.
  • Place the tarts on a baking sheet, cover each with foil and put pie weights on the foil.
  • Bake at 375 for 20 minutes
  • Take out of oven, remove foil and pie weights and put back into the oven for another 15 minutes.  They should be golden brown.
  • Set to the side and allow to cool completely.
  • In a sauté pan, melt the butter and add in the onions, mushrooms and sage. 
  • Cook until all of the liquid evaporates (about 10 minutes).  Then take it from the stove and let cool to room temperature.
  • In a bowl mix together the cream, sour cream, egg yolk and egg.
  • Put mushroom mix into the tart shells, pour the custard mix over them and bake in a 325 degree oven until just set and slightly poufy.  (about 45 minutes)
  • Let tarts cool for 20 minutes and serve at room temperature.

This is one of those recipes that seems like it is more complicated than it is because you prepare three things separately and then just bring them together at the end.  It really is very easy and it is something you can make well ahead of time.  You can even make them the day before.  Just let them cool completely then move to the fridge.  When you want to serve them bring them out and let them come up to room temperature. And like I said it makes a really good meal as well as a happy hour treat.