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: Pumpkin Loaf Cake

Good afternoon my darlings. I know, you are thinking to yourself that something is out of whack. First the face mask for Friday was skipped and now the Happy Hour post is coming in a little early. Don’t worry, there is no day drinking involved.

the reason for the swap is that we have friends who are driving through town tonight. They are only stopping for a little while, but they are stopping. while the drinks will all be non-alcoholic because of the driving, I am making a special Pumpkin Loaf cake for us all to enjoy.

I also spent a chunk of this afternoon doing an emergency company clean so that’s why the face mask zen time was cut. it’s not that the house was a complete wreck, but it wasn’t company clean.

Now it is.

And the Pumpkin cake is on it’s way.

adding the paper to the bottom lets you easily lift it out of the pan to cool

My babydoll calls this pumpkin bread as it is baked in a bread pan, but the truth is, it is really a cake and calling it bread is really is kind of a misnomer. It is baked in a bread pan and it is delicious. There are a lot of ingredients but it is super simple to actually make up. The longest part of this is the baking time though as it does take 80-90 minutes in the oven.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups of AP flour

2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp Kosher salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 large eggs

1 can (15 oz) pureed pumpkin

2 Tblsp freshly grated ginger

1 1/2 cups sugar = a tsp more for dusting the top of the batter

1 cup olive oil

Okay I’m going to break this down nice and easy.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees

  • Take a small bowl and put your flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cloves into the bowl. mix them together so the spies are blended throughout the flour.
  • Take a large mixing bowl and put your pumpkin, grated ginger, and eggs into the bowl. Mix it up.
  • Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar to the pumpkin mix and blend it in really well.
  • With your mixer running drizzle in your olive oil until it is all incorporated and there are no separated oily spots.
  • At this point, put the mixer away and use a spoon or silicone spatula to mix.
  • Fold in half of your dry ingredients from your small bowl into your wet pumpkin mix.
  • Once they are incorporated, fold in the other half. Only mix until you don’t see any more dry bits. Try not to over mix it or it will become stodgy.
  • Take your bread tin and spray it with nonstick spray. Then put in strips of parchment paper so that you can easily lift it out of the pan. It is really helpful. the cooking spray will help the cake release, but the paper to grab hold of and just lift means you get to keep the lovely domed top in tact.
  • Once the paper is in, pour the batter into the pan. smooth over the top with your spatula and then sprinkle the sugar on top. This gives it a great carnalized crunch. You really only need about a tablespoon. However my baby doll came home as I was getting ready to sprinkle and put it in the oven and he decided to add extra. So we now have extra sugar on top.
  • Put your pan into the oven and bake at 325 for 80-90 minutes. Our oven takes 90 but you are going to want to bake it until a knife can be inserted into the center and pulled out cleanly. if any batter sticks to it, leave it in a few minutes more. Don’t forget to rotate your pan midway through the bake so that everything backs evenly.
  • when it comes out, use the paper strips to lift it out and then let it cool on a wire rack until it is cool enough to cut without collapsing.

The waiting is the hardest part. I personally love this recipe. we like the extra spices but if you like things a little less spice filled you can lower the amounts if you want. Or if you don’t have enough nutmeg and cinnamon, add more. This is just the mix we prefer. sometimes I’ll even put a little cardamom into the mix. Once you have the basics, the spices are yours to play with. But now my darlings I must leave you. Company is coming. Have a great weekend, whatever you choose to do.



Happy Hour: Mushroom and Onion Puff Pastry Bites

This week there will be little drinking. My babydoll is still trying to knock out a sinus infection and my allergies are making under eye patches more appealing than cocktails. I generally find that when my allergies are acting up the best thing for them is to drink as much water as possible in an attempt to flush my system.

So tonight’s delightful beverage of choice is from HINT water. While I adore the blackberry, tonight I went with pomegranate and I rather like it. It has a hint of sweet, a hint of tart and is quite refreshing. I also poured it into a stemless champagne flute (Rachel Zoe Collection from TJMAXX if you are interested). It makes any drink feel fancy.

And to be honest our Friday night Happy Hour is more about resting and regrouping together at the end of the work week than it is about having a cocktail. The cocktail is just a nice way to celebrate and slow down. But quite honestly, the Pomegranate Hint Water in my pretty glass is plenty fine for me to sip tonight.

And I get to pair it with a super simple treat that always feels like I spent way more effort on it than I actually did. This is a super easy treat that is just plain yummy. The ingredients list is short.

Ingredients:

One red onion, diced

8 ounces of button mushrooms, diced

1 Tablespoon of fresh sage leaves, minced

1-2 Tablespoons of butter (i use unsalted butter)

1 sheet of puff pastry

salt to taste

Okay are you ready for the cook? First dice and chop all of your ingredients. The melt one tablespoon of butter in a pan and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Use medium heat and cook until they are soft. You can go all the way to caramelized if you want, but I generally find red onions to be sweet enough without caramelizing. If I use a yellow onion I take the onions to a caramelized state.

If the pan is dry add another table spoon of butter and add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook until the are brown and have released the juices.

You may notice that I have used two pans. You don’t need to do this. The onions take longer but you can add the mushrooms in once the onions start to look translucent. I just started my onions in a non-stick skillet by accident. Mushrooms won’t brown in a non-stick skillet. They will cook, but they won’t brown. That is the only reason that i cooked them separately.

Once the mushrooms are almost done, add in the sage leaves. You want them in the pan just long enough to release their oils. If you start them with the mushrooms then by the end they get a little sour and overly medicinal. So just toss them in towards the end and let them just release the oils.

Take out your onion mushroom and sage mix out of the pan and let cool. I put my mix in a strainer so that any excess liquid comes out but really there isn’t much liquid that remains. It is mostly so it cools faster.

Once cooled, cut your puff pastry into squares (or circles or stars or whatever shape you want). Place a spoon of your mix on the pastry and seal it up into a little triangle, or make it like a ravioli, or a dumpling. The shape is up to you, just make sure it is sealed. Then place the parcels on a lined baking sheet and bake at 350 until golden brown and crispy.

my puff pastry got a little warm so my squares are a bit wonky. They may not look perfect, but they taste lovely

While this is a basic recipe, feel free to play around with it. Sometimes we add goats cheese to this mix. Sometimes I’ll make them sweet with a filling of mascarpone and apricot jam. It is one of those super simple tricks that make an easy happy hour treat, or canape for drop by guests. The trick is always to make sure that your filling is not too wet. I also like to use cooked fillings so that all I need in the oven is time to brown the puff pastry.

And actually if you make too many of these, they freeze really well. Just don’t cook the once you plan to freeze. Fill the puff pastry and then freeze them flat. Once full frozen, put them in a bag. Then when you take them out, thaw in the fridge and bake.

Whatever your end of the week looks like, I hope you take a few minutes to just slow down and spend time just to enjoy a few moments of peace.

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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: A night out

I know that here is where I let you know what delectable edibles and cocktails (or mocktails) my baby and I will be trying for our Friday evening wind own. However we have been invited to a small barbeque tonight to kick off Memorial Day weekend. So our personal cooking plans were put on hold and we are going to socialize with actual people (us and four others for a total of six) who have all been vaccinated. We will be outside on a very large porch. So everyone is safe and we can ease back into occasionally spending time with people who don’t live with us.

Which will be nice.

Don’t worry, the Happy Hour will return next week. Friday night is usually a day we collapse from the week and have our treats wearing comfy clothes. Even pre-pandemic. We always went out Saturday night if we were going out, so that we could be refreshed from the week before socializing.

So that is a long way to say no happy hour post tonight.

I am taking memorial weekend off so I will be back Bright and Early Tuesday Morning with my regular posting schedule. I’ll see you then. Until then, have a great weekend.

Happy Hour: Choriqueso

Happy Hour: Choriqueso

Good evening my darlings and welcome once again to the Friday night Happy Hour.  While last week I dealt with the ramifications of having the second vaccine shot, this week it was my babydoll’s turn.  While mine was a condensed 24 hours of misery, his was less intense but spread out over a couple of days.  As a result, he spent the week with little appetite.  Now he is feeling better and quite hungry.

For us happy hour is about taking some time together to sit and unwind from the week.  Even before 2020 we tended towards quiet Friday nights and went out on Saturday instead.  That way we could always recoup from the week.  Usually, we take the opportunity to experiment with a new cocktail recipe and try out a delectable little treat. 

This week we are giving the alcohol a pass. It doesn’t mean that I am not having a pretty little drink though. This week I poured seltzer water into a stemless champagne flute and added a dash of grenadine.  We just got new tanks in for our Soda Stream so there are plenty of festive looking bubbles and the color is fun.  It may not be a traditional cocktail, but it is a fun drink to sip nonetheless and quite frankly I can drink almost anything out of these glasses and it feels special.

My babydoll won’t touch them  because he is worried that he will knock them over.  So he has taken one of my Blackberry Hint waters (the sparkling kind) and poured it into a very chunky looking goblet.  I have no idea how or when the goblet got into out cabinets but there it was when he reached for it, and he seems happy with his beverage choice.

We also tweaked the happy hour treat.  Technically speaking I believe this is meant to be a shared appetizer, at least when we had a version of this at a restaurant, that is how it was labeled. As an appetizer you need about six people to eat it and after that I would still suggest a light meal.

When I make this Choriqueso I make the full batch and we tend to use it as both happy hour delight and the main meal of the evening.  We certainly aren’t eating anything after this. When we do this we typically only eat about half, let it cool and put the other half away.  It reheats well in the oven and it does freeze well.  It is one of those dishes that I find easier to make in the full batch because of the size of the pan I am cooking it in and the measurements.  Plus it is something I know won’t go to waste even if we do end up freezing half.  It was also what my babydoll requested for his post pseudo flu hunger pangs.  How much will be left over is anyone’s guess. I suspect some might make it to the fridge overnight, but I doubt we will be freezing anything.

Although it seems like a bit much once you get everything together it comes together in a snap.  The only thing to remember is that you need to rehydrate your ancho chiles about half an hour or so before you begin cooking.  The only extra equipment other than a stove and oven with a broiler that you will need is a blender.  It really is the best tool for the job. If you don’t have one, you could try chopping the ancho pepper really finely and then whisking it and the other ingredients in a bowl but you won’t get the same smooth paste. It will still taste fantastic but it won’t be as smooth a paste. A food processor helps for quick cheese shredding, but it is optional.

To rehydrate the dried anchos put the chillies in a glass bowl. Pour boiling water over them and leave them to soak until they are plumped and soft. Drain, remove any seeds and use the chilies as directed. 

Ingredients

2 ancho chilies, seeded and rehydrated (see above note for rehydration)

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

¼ cup water

Half of a medium sized yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, chopped

½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp Mexican oregano (if you can’t find Mexican regular oregano will do)

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cayenne

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

½ lbs ground pork

1 lbs Monterey jack cheese shredded

Warm tortillas for serving

  • Do all of your prep work first.  This is one of those recipes that comes together quickly so dice, shred and measure ahead of time to save yourself some stress. As all the spices go in at once you can just put them all in the same bowl as you measure.
  • Put the anchos, vinegar and water into a blender. Blend until smooth then add the onion garlic, salt, and all of your spices (cumin, paprika, oregano, cinnamon and cayenne).
  • Again blend to a smooth paste.  If it is too thick then add a little water a tablespoon at a time. Don’t make it too liquid though.  You want it just loose enough so that everything blends into a homogeneous mix with no straggling chunky bits (think heavy romesco).
  • Place a large, broiler safe skillet  on the stove.
  • Add the vegetable oil to the skillet and turn on medium heat. When  it is warm pour the chili mix from the blender into the skillet.  Heat for about 1 minute to wake up the spices. 
  • Then add the ground pork to the skillet. Mix it in with the sauce until the meat is covered.
  • Cook the pork (medium heat) about 10 minutes or until no pink is showing, stirring occasionally.
  • While the pork cooks, move the oven rack about six inches below the broiler and let the broiler come up to temperature. 
  • Once the pork is cooked, check the seasonings and adjust the spice level if desired, then layer the shredded Monterey jack cheese over the meat mixture covering it completely. 
  • Shift the skillet from the stove top to place it under the broiler.  Keep it there until the cheese is melted and lightly browned (approximately 2-3 minutes)
  • Serve it hot in the pan with the tortillas (we just spoon it onto the tortillas and eat that way, you can, eat it with tortilla chips if you wanted to make it more of a dip than a meal)
adding the cheese to the top

A couple helpful hints.  If you want to shred cheese in a hurry with your food processor you can put the block of Monterrey jack in the freezer for about five minutes (no longer).  It will firm up enough for the machine to shred, but not do any damage to the blades or the cheese. 

My Hamilton Beach Food Processor has the plate that allowed for easy shredding (and makes me love the machine so very very much), just make sure your cheese is cut into pieces that can fit into the feeder tube on the machine before you freeze it.  My block needed to be divided into three sections.

I personally like glass carafe blenders as they don’t stain and don’t retain any odors from previous blending, but that is a personal choice.

With the ancho spice mix, the dish tastes like it took hours to prepare even though it took almost no time at all.  We occasionally like to use this mix on pasta in place of traditional red sauce or just as something to smear on a baguette.  It is a great and super easy burst of flavor.  Just don’t forget your minute on the heat with it because that is what really wakes up and melds the flavors. 

It is a great sauce to have in your flavor arsenal. And until you add the pork to the skillet and top with cheese, the ancho spice mix is actually vegan. When we have vegan, vegetarian or even just lactose intolerant friends over, the spice mix comes in really handy used in ways without the pork or cheese of course.

The one thing we have to watch is the spice level.  There are several places to control it.  You can leave in or take out the ancho seeds.  You can also adjust the cayenne.  In our house, since we grow paprika peppers and dry and grind our own paprika each fall, our paprika is what we have to watch.  It is really hot in the fall but towards the spring it mellows out a bit. It still has more of a kick than most store bought paprika though.  I used the spring paprika measurements for this dish, you might find you want a little more heat depending on what paprika you are using so don’t forget to taste and adjust.

So tonight our happy hour is rolling into dinner and out cocktails are non-alcoholic just to be on the vaccine reactions safe side. Still with a pretty glass filled with cheery bubbling liquid and an absolutely delicious choriqueso on hand, it is in no way a hardship. In fact, it feels quite luxurious and like the perfect way to unwind after a rough week. Happy Friday my darlings and I hope you have a fantastic weekend.



Happy Hour: Cream Ale and Fried Mushrooms

Cream Ale

Welcome my darlings, once again we have made it through the week.  Hopefully yours had more good in it than bad. Either way, it is over and we are well on our way to the weekend.  No matter how stressful the week or how packed with chores and other tasks the weekend gets I like to take Friday evening as the week’s pause button. 

Sometimes my baby doll and I go out at the end of the week, have a drink and an appetizer at a local place, but often, even before things shut down. We started taking our happy hour at home.  While I appreciate getting dressed up a bit and going out, there is great pleasure to be found in getting comfortable pulling together a concoction and making something to nibble that suits us both completely.

This week is interesting as it is not a cocktail week.  Oh no.  Tonight we are celebrating the first of my baby’s new batch of Cream Ale. He let me know it would be ready to drink this week and so I prepared something appropriate to go with it.

My babydoll has brewed a lot of things.  Normally I just taste it and then decide what to have with it.  This Cream Ale I have had before.  He uses a kit that he orders from the Midwest Brewing Company for this particular one and he really likes it. I can’t argue with the results as it is a nice cream ale.   The kit is 19.99 and produces four and a half gallons of Cream Ale at the end of it. He likes to make it, and stash it away and then move on to making more stouts and lagers so that in the end the beer cupboard in our converted garage has an assortment. 

Then, while we can enjoy a bottle or two here and there, when family and friends descend we have an assortment. Our stash of his beers is usually empty after Easter visitations and so he starts brewing  again.  This year we didn’t have any visitors so we whittled the stash down throughout the year.  This is the first time he has wanted to brew in a while so I take it as a sign of hopefulness for the future.  Sort of like the groundhog not seeing his shadow.

So I had very little to do with the drinks.  That means this week I concentrated on the food for happy hour.  I went with fried mushrooms.  I made a beer batter, using his beer.  If you want to do a version with no alcohol you can substitute soda water or seltzer, just make certain it is unflavored.  I tend to use my Soda Stream as my water supply for carbonated water when not using beer.

The basic batter recipe is super easy and very versatile.  I use this basic recipe for most things I fry, although truthfully I don’t dry a lot. I think the last thing I fried was fish for homemade fish and chips. This worked really well with fish.

Basic batter

1 and ½ cups of flour divided

1 cup beer (or seltzer water)

Pinch of salt pinch of pepper

Seasonings of choice.

Now, for those of you wondering how to divide flour, it is simple.  In this case you put ½ cup in a bowl and set it off to the side.  In another , larger bowl you put the 1 cup that remains.  Voilà! Divided Flour. To the one cup of flour add the salt and pepper, your seasonings (I chose garlic powder and dill for this one) and then add you beer.  Mix until it is a thick batter.  Don’t try and make it too thin or it won’t stick very well.  In this instance gloppy is kind of good.

The beer will foam when you pour it into the flour so make sure your bowl is big enough to contain it.

So you have your ½ cup flour for dredging and your batter, the rest is pretty simple.

You need something for the batter to go on. While I use this batter for a whole bunch of things, tonight we are going for mushrooms.

So I picked up one carton of unsliced mushrooms.  I like leaving the mushrooms big for this as it feels more substantial.  Since we planned a really light dinner, I wanted a more substantial Happy Hour food. The whole mushrooms feel substantial, plus I find when I don’t cut them smaller I use less batter.  And the batter and the oil is where you are getting the bulk of the calories.

For the oil, put canola oil about three inches deep in a deep pan.  I know you will be tempted to use a really wide pan so you can have maximum visibility.  If you what to that is fine, just make sure it has high sides. I use a smaller pan so that it doesn’t take as much oil to reach the three inch depth.  I also like that the smaller pan forces me to cook one at a time. It lets me set up my system. 

The process is simple.  You dredge the cleaned mushroom in flour, then put it in the batter.  Once coated you put the mushroom in the 350 degree oil. It will turn a golden brown quickly.  Use a slotted spoon to flip it in the oil (try not to splash) so that both sides get cooked.  When they are both golden brown put it on a rack with a pan or a paper towel under it to cool and hit it with a pinch of salt. I like to set up a relay system.

I dredge one mushroom in flour and put it in the batter then place another in the dredging flour.  Then as soon as the batter covered one goes into the oil the flour one moves to the batter and another mushroom moves to the flour.  By then it is time to flip the cooking mushroom. It goes fairly quickly once you get into a rhythm and the results are delicious. 

And because I used my baby’s cream ale in the batter, it is the perfect accompaniment to his home brewed concoction. It is a little heavier than I normally make my Home Happy Hours, but we decided to have a salad dinner so in the end it balances out.

As my baby has an aversion to eating anything like this without a dipping sauce, we ended up simply using Russian Dressing as the dipping sauce.  Well he did, I skipped the dipping sauce.  I tried it and while it went well, the sauce overpowered the garlic and dill in the batter.  If I had thought about it I probably would have made a tzatziki sauce for dipping as I think it would go really well and not be as heavy as the Russian dressing. But I was not thinking about sauce and he likes the dressing.  I’m fine without, so it works.

So now we are going to settle in and celebrate the first new batch of the year with a bowl of fried mushrooms and a cold Cream Ale. I hope however you are winding down your week you take a moment to just hit the pause button and take a little while down to just enjoy yourself.


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