During the holidays my mother would always make a “special” drink for us kids. It was basically sprite (which was a treat in itself) mixed with rainbow sherbert aka the sugar bomb. I have many fond memories of slurping copious amounts of this down while gaining many pink and orange mustaches over the years. To this day, she will still make this on special occasions, just now it’s for the grandkids and sometimes I will sneak a sip in for old times sake. I think this might be what got me started with craving bubbles in the first place during the holiday time. There’s just something about a glass of sparkly goodness that makes this girl happy. This year, I am making these slightly sweet and tangy Pomegranate Ginger Sparklers –– a not-so-big sugar explosion but still full of flavor. Don’t worry this cocktail is both adult and kid friendly, as I’ve included how to make the non-alcoholic version in the recipe below. This is the officially kick-off to the festivities and cheers to you!
Use the back of a spoon to peel ginger easily.
Smash, muddle, or squish those seeds into the ginger mix.
Place a small pan over high heat. Add in water, sugar, and ginger and bring to a boil. Continue to boil while stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the mixer is reduced by half. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
Once cooled, place 1/2 of the pomegranate seeds into the mixture, in a separate bowl if necessary, and mash together until most of the seeds are popped. Strain mixture into a small pouring pitcher.
To assemble drinks. Pour 1-2 ounces of the ginger mix into each serving glass. Slowly add in sparkling wine (or water/sprite if making non-alcoholic version). Leave a little room at the top, sprinkle in a few pomegranate seeds and serve.
While my holiday food frenzy has already begun, for most, the holiday hoopla begins next week. You have your mind elsewhere (and that’s ok), or really, your mind is everywhere because it can all be a bit overwhelming. Well, I am here to help (hopefully), while you are busy planning that perfect turkey brine or fry time, picking out all of your vegetable friendly side dishes, cranberry sauces, rolls, cocktails (!), and of course pies, don’t forget to make something to keep everyone out of the kitchen: appetizers. I always recommend easy ones or the make ahead type, because frankly, who’s got time? Try this easy Pumpkin Seed Pesto Crostini. Blend it all together just before your guests arrive or make the pesto ahead of time. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the top of the finished pesto (pressing down) then cover the dish with a lid, or squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the top to keep it’s lovely color over night, then cover with a lid. Toast the crostini the day before and you are good to go. Want more starters for your feast? Below I’ve added a few more ideas for you to try. Keep the wine close and happy cooking!
Here are a few other great appetizers to pull together this season:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor add pumpkin seeds, olive oil, parmesan cheese, garlic, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Pulse until well combined and set aside.
Slice baguette into 1/4"-1/2" rounds, place onto a cookie sheet and toast for 4-8 minutes or until slightly golden in color. Remove from the oven and top each slice with a heaping teaspoon of pesto and serve.
Note: If making ahead of time, place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the top (pressing down) then cover the dish with a lid, or squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the top to keep it's lovely color over night, then cover with a lid. Toast the crostini the day before and you are good to go.
We have been huddled in the house for the last couple of weeks with some sort of virus — blah. First it was my youngest, followed by my oldest. These boys are very needed when they are ill too — geesh! Don’t get me wrong, I love them and enjoy all of the extra cuddling but it certainly made these last two weeks seem very long. I have come to realize thatwith this “cooler” weather and steady stream of boys lingering around the house I am finding my own comfort in two spots of warmth. One, I never realized just what I was missing until now that I have a car with seat warmers. Yay, for modernconveniences. They are truly amazing and have helped me with all of those mad dashes out into our 30 degree mornings for our under the weather supplies or school runs. Two, my other favorite way to warm up is with soup (or maybe a hot toddy, but that’s another post) and more specifically this Creamy Eggplant Soup. Creamy, spicy goodness in a bowl of warmth making days at home not so bad after all.
Watch the video here and/or grab the recipe below:
Place a heavy duty pan over medium high heat. Add in the butter, garlic, eggplant, potatoes, celery, and onion. Stir together well and let cook until everything is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Once tender add in the cumin, red pepper (if using), parsley, salt and pepper and stir together well and cook for another 5 minutes.
Next add in the vegetable stock and stir together until well combined. Cook until soup starts to thicken -- about 30-40 minutes. Finally, turn off the heat and slowly stir in the cream. Once well combined, serve soup.
I believe I have an aversion to the cold. I am not sure exactly when it all started. I remember a time when I loved the snow –– the magic of the holiday lights glowing on frosty, white dunes, sled-riding down our neighbors hilly driveway, and bundling up in so many layers of clothes that you could hardly move. Then, coming inside, slightly sweaty but rosy cheeked and slurping up as much hot coco with marshmallows as I could –– these were good times. Now, I am a complete wimp when it comes to the cold weather. Is it an age thing? or just living in the southern half of the states for so many years thing? I am not sure. One thing that I do know is that these “colder” days require more oven time. The oven not only helps to warm up the kitchen (and the house) but it’s great for making hearty fare even if you don’t leave your house all day due to the weather conditions. Who me? This Butternut Squash + Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie will warm you up right down to your very soul and on the (super) plus side you can eat it inside your cozy house. Stay warm my friends.
Place a large pot over medium high heat and add in potatoes and butternut squash and enough water to cover them by about a 1/2". Bring to a boil and cook until softened throughout -- about 10-12 minutes. Once softened drain off all of the water well. Add in heavy cream, egg yolk, honey, and salt and mix together until well combined and fairly smooth and set aside.
Place a heavy duty pan over medium high heat and add in ground meat and garlic. Stir and cook until meat has browned and cooked through completely. Drain off any excess oil, stir in green onions and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degree. In a small pan, add butter and flour and place over medium high heat. Whisk together until smooth and butter has melted completely. Next add in water and Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Stir until well combined and sauce is smooth. Pour mixture over the cooked ground meat and stir together well.
Place meat mixture into the bottom of a pie pan or 9" dish oven safe pan and spread out evenly. Next, top meat mixture with the butternut squash and sweet potato mixture and spread out evenly. Place into the oven and cook for 20-30 minutes or until cooked through and slightly golden on top.
Remove from the oven and serve.
We had dinner not that long ago at laV –– a gorgeous, modern French restaurant here in town with an impeccable kitchen staff. I don’t usually order chicken when I go out to eat but I had heard only good things about the one on the laV dinner menu. Juicy, wood-oven roasted chicken for two, served with Brioche croutons, tomatoes, arugula, and green olives … oh it was amazing. The good news was that we had eaten so much before the entree actually arrived, that when it finally did, we were almost full and I had to save room for dessert(s). This was perfect, for you see, it left us enough to take home and enjoy for lunch the next day. Ever since this meal, I have found myself craving those green olives. With red peppers and sweet potatoes at the markets, I decided to try a marriage of the flavors. Mediterranean Sweet Potato Stuffed Peppers swirling with feta cheese and a combination of black and green olives made for a dish hearty enough to satisfy us all minus the awesome kitchen staff. Anyone want to do some dishes? Will pay in food.
Serve these beauties as a main course, side dish or appetizer …
Preheat oven to 350 degree.
After grating or shredding the sweet potato be sure to dry it well with a towel by squeezing any excess water out of it.
In a large bowl combine sweet potato, eggs, feta cheese, olives, green onions, rosemary and black pepper. Mix together until well combined.
Once combined, spoon mixture into the red pepper halves and place onto a baking sheet. Place into the oven for 20-30 minutes or until peppers are tender and lightly golden on top. Remove from the oven and serve.
Some days you just need a cake. Am I right? I guess it was all of the Halloween-ing that got me in the mood for a sweet treat, but a homemade one at that. I mean there’s only so much Halloween candy one can eat. Don’t get me wrong, I have been known to indulge in a chocolate peanut butter treat (or two, or ten) but we haven’t had a cake in a while. We haven’t even had a birthday party to go to in a few weeks to partake in even the standard store bought one. So, with cake on my mind and the ideas of all things holiday bobbling around the back of my brain, I went for a sweet treat hinted with brandy and pecan flavors in this Buttermilk Brandy Pecan Cake with Maple Cream Glaze. There’s just something about the combo of hearty pecans, brandy, and maple in a cake form that makes me want to grab a big slice, a good book, a cozy blanket, and sit by a fire. This cake would be a great thing to show up with at your next gathering or holiday event or just on a good ol’ Monday. So eat cake, I say, no matter what the day.
A rich thick and rich brandy batter starts the cake.
Top with a pecan crumble.
Bake and let the house fill with heavenly smells.
Drizzle over the maple cream glaze.
Now you’ve got cake.
Buttermilk Brandy Pecan Cake with Maple Cream Glaze
Preheat oven to 350 degree. Butter and flour a Bundt cake pan and set aside.
In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and mix together well. Next add in the butter using two forks, knives or a pastry cutter and mix together until crumbled butter forms throughout. Measure out one cup of this mixture and set aside into a medium bowl.
Next add buttermilk, brandy, and egg into the large bowl of flour mixture and stir until well combined. Once mixed, pour into prepared Bundt pan evenly.
In the medium bowl, add in the brown sugar and pecans and stir until well combined. Using a spoon or your hands sprinkle the pecan mixture over the cake batter evenly. Place into the oven and bake for 45-55 minutes or until lightly golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool.
In a small bowl combine confectioners sugar, maple syrup, and brandy and stir until well combined and lump free.
Once cake has cooled completely, flip over and out onto a plate (best done over a clean towel), then flip back carefully onto a serving dish and top with any remaining pecan crumble that fell into the towel.
Finally, drizzle with maple cream glaze and serve.
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