Gin and Blood Orange Sparkler

Does this look refreshing or what??

I’ve never been a big “gin” person, but I recently had a gin cocktail and it was AMAZING.  I think I might be a convert!  Gin is really herbal (I’ve always thought it tasted a little like the pine needles of a Christmas tree), so with fresh herbs (like the rosemary in this cocktail) it’s really delicious.  If you hate rosemary, this is not the drink for you, but it’s easy enough to leave it out!

If you’ve never tried rosemary in a drink, you must – it might sound weird, but it’s awesome.  My first experience with an herbal cocktail was at a friend’s wedding.  Her signature drink was a pear martini with rosemary.  OMG… SOOOOO good.  Maybe that will be the next drink I feature on here, but as blood oranges are “in season” let’s stick with the topic… shall we?

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (~2 sprigs-worth) fresh rosemary leaves 
blood oranges
gin
ice cubes
tonic water (or sparkling water)
Directions:
Combine the water, sugar and rosemary in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer for 3-5 minutes, or long enough for the sugar to dissolve, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let the herbs infuse for 10 minutes. Strain into a jar to cool completely.  This is essentially simple syrup, infused with rosemary.  Easy peasy.
While that’s going on the stove, juice and strain your oranges, you’ll need 1.5 oz of juice for each drink.
To make each drink combine equal parts gin, juice, and tonic water with a bit of syrup and ice. So, 1.5 oz gin, 1.5 oz freshly squeezed blood orange juice, and 1-2 teaspoons of the rosemary syrup in each highball glass. Stir to combine, fill each glass 2/3 full with ice and top off with 3 tablespoons / 1 1/2 oz tonic water. Stir again and you’re set.  This could also be mixed with the ice in a cocktail shaker and strained into martini glasses if you prefer.
Prep time: 5 min – Cook time: 10 min

Caprese "Sandwich"

How amazing does this look…

But seriously… how AMAZING does this look?

After college, my best friend and I backpacked through Central America and Europe together, and when we were in Italy, we feasted like kings.  Every meal was pasta, pizza, and gelato, but one of our favorite things to eat (and make with a few ingredients from the local market) was a Caprese sandwich.

We first had the Caprese sandwich on the island of Capri and we were pretty much hooked.  This recipe is a take on one of our favorite things, and with such fresh ingredients, it’s hard to pass up!  The word sandwich is in quotations because here, we are taking out the bread, and adding in some asparagus – a healthier version of the fabulous lunches we had in Italy.

Ingredients:
Fresh (REALLY ripe) tomatoes
Fresh Mozzarella
Fresh Asparagus
Fresh Basil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Truffle Oil
Aged Balsamic Vinegar (emphasis on aged – the older, the sweeter)
Salt
Pepper

Directions:
Ok – this one is super simple… my favorite kind of recipe.  Set a pan of water to simmer, and toss in a bunch of asparagus.  It will cook quickly – you want it crisp and super green, so don’t let it go too long!  3-5 minutes, max.

As the asparagus is cooking, slice the tomato, and mozzarella.  After the asparagus is cooked, throw it in an ice bath (a large bowl / pot of ice and water) – this will stop the cooking, chill it quickly, and keep it really fresh and perfectly cooked.

With the asparagus cooled, slice it in pieces to match the width of the tomato slices, and start stacking.  Tomatoes, mozzarella, asparagus, basil (whole leaves), tomatoes, mozzarella, etc.  Remember, this is the meal, so do several layers (four slices of tomato high).

Finish it with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic, and truffle oil (the truffle oil is really sinful and delicious!)  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, and enjoy!!

Green Bean "French Fries"

As you know, with our tiny kitchen (and my limited culinary skills), I am all for easy recipes.  With the new year, and the inevitable resolution to try to eat healthier, I wanted to feature an AMAZING recipe from a new blog I discovered!

Dashing Dish is all about healthy alternatives for foods we all love (french fries anyone??) and aside from having great step-by-step instructions, Katie also features nutritional facts for each dish.  Seriously, how amazing is that??  Her site is an amazing tool for eating healthy, she has an amazing story behind this site, and she is the most adorable little thing to boot!

Tonight I am going to try out her Crispy Baked Parmesean Green Bean Fries.

Photo via Dashing Dish

It sounds like the secret to getting these just right is to use the REALLY thin green beans so they end up crispy and french-fry-like.  Keep in mind that they have a lot of water in them, so the bigger the green bean, the more water there will be, and they less crispy (and dare I say it, soggy) they will be.

Also, turning the broiler up for the last few minutes should help – I’m always a fan of cooking at higher temps for shorter periods of time.  You end up with crispier results, and better crusts on things like steak, fish, brussels sprouts… you get the idea.

Check out her fabulous blog, and for details on this recipe, click HERE!!

Cacio e Pepe Pasta Dish

Have you ever had Cacio e Pepe??  It’s a super traditional Italian pasta dish, and incredibly easy to make.  It also happens to be one of my favorite go-to’s because it requires so few ingredients – chances are you have all these ingredients waiting to go in your pantry right now.  
Cacio e Pepe literally means cheese and pepper, so if you plan on making this, splurge for the best ingredients you can, since all the flavors will stand out.
This dish is from Bon Appetit, and will not disappoint!  Enjoy!!

Ingredients:
  Kosher salt
  6 oz. pasta (such as egg tagliolini, bucatini, or spaghetti)
  3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, divided
  1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  3/4 cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan
  1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino
Instructions:
Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.
Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter. Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padano, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve.

Grapefruit and Rosemary Holiday Cocktail

I love me a good cocktail, and as work gets hectic towards the end of the year, sometimes I love me a good STRONG cocktail.
Please meet my new favorite after work friend – the Grapefruit and Rosemary Holiday Cocktail.  You will love me forever once you try!
From Taste of the South, Christmas Cooking Southern Style 2010
Ingredients
1/4 cup crushed ice
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 (1/4-inch-thick) slice grapefruit
1 1/2 ounces vodka
4 ounces seltzer water
Garnish: grapefruit slices and rosemary sprigs
Directions
In a cocktail shaker, muddle together ice and rosemary
Add grapefruit slice, and muddle again
Pour vodka and seltzer water over muddled grapefruit mixture
Strain into a glass. Serve with ice, (if desired), or serve it up in a martini glass
Garnish with a grapefruit slice and a rosemary sprig (to be fancy, of course)
**For whiskey lovers, vodka can be substituted with Bourbon – a totally different drink, but equally delicious.  A lesson I learned when we ran out of Vodka.

The Smells of Christmas

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, I can really focus on getting excited for the holidays!

We don’t have a tree yet, and all our Christmas decor is still packed away in boxes, but it already smells like Christmas at our house!  You know what smell I am talking about… cinnamon, and spice (and everything nice).

Williams Sonoma has mastered this smell – walk into any of their stores and you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Luckily, the recipe could not be easier!

Boil a pot of water, add two sliced lemons, three tablespoons of vanilla, one teaspoon of cinnamon, and half a teaspoon of all spice.  Bring this concoction down to a simmer, and let it go all day (or night) long, adding water as needed!

You can also vary the recipe, and include rosemary (as I do sometimes) for a really fresh, clean scent.

Taking a Shortcut in the Kitchen

You know those days that you are dead tired after work, and cannot imagine putting the effort into actually cooking something?  Well that was me last night.
This last year, I’ve been trying to improve my culinary skills, but having lived on my own for years before moving in with my sweetiepie, my specialty is the semi-homemade meal for one.  AKA – taking something that comes pretty much ready to heat and serve, and making it “fancy” with a few chopped fresh ingrediants. A trick I learned from my dad, and it really helps (if you’ve ever tried his “fancy” hotdogs with cheese, chopped scallions, fresh tomatoes, and diced jalapeno, you know what I mean!)
Well last night, soup was on the menu – this one in particular is filling and incredibly delicious for a canned soup – I highly recommend.  Being on my little diet, the best part about this soup in particular, is that for the full can (two servings) it’s just 280 calories.  Works for me baby!

A cubed avocado, some fresh cilantro, some diced jalapeno, and a dash of red chili flakes later (yes, I like it spicy) my boring can of soup was transformed.  And I was a happy girl 🙂
Any advice for other fancied up shortcut meals??

Healthy Eating: Baked Brown Sugar Chicken Wings With Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce

Dieting sucks.  Let’s just be honest with ourselves.  I love steak with a solid pad of butter on top.  If I could eat the massive burritos from Super Burrito Express II every night I’d be a happy girl (and by the way, don’t judge me… Super Burrito Express II is AMAZING, despite it’s unfortunate name).  The problem is that I associate healthy food with bland food, but I’m desperately trying to change the healthy = bland mantra that I chant (in my head of course) as I watch the girls in my office pretend that they are stuffed after their carrot sticks and hummus.  If this doesn’t work, the next step is hypnosis… I kid… sort of.

In an effort to fit back in my pants eat healthier, I’ve been scouring all my favorite food blogs for healthy recipes, that are tasty (most important) and easy (a close second) – baby steps, right??
This recipe from Domestic Fits for Baked Brown Sugar Chicken Wings fits the bill… and who doesn’t love chicken wings, right??  
The key here is that they are baked, not fried, and all the flavor comes from from the seasoning.  Even the sauce uses goat cheese (one of the most low in fat cheeses… yay) but you could also substitute this with greek yogurt if you aren’t a fan of goat cheese.  I haven’t met a cheese I don’t like, so I can’t wait to smother daintily dip my wings in this sauce…

Ingredients:
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried minced garlic
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbs olive oil
8 chicken legs or wings
1/3 cup roasted red pepper, chopped
2 oz goat cheese
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs sour cream
Directions:
While you preheat the oven to 425, combine the first 7 ingredients in a plastic bag, or a bowl.  Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and rub to coat. Add the chicken to the bag (or bowl) and toss or shake bag until well coated.
Place on a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes, turn the chicken over, and continue to bake until cooked through, about 10-15 additional minutes (depending on the thickness of your chicken).   In a food processor, add the roasted red pepper, goat cheese salt and sour cream, process until well combined.
And… voila!  Easy right??  I love those kinds of recipes 🙂

Easy Appetizers: Watermelon with Balsamic

I love to have easy appetizer recipes on hand because no one wants to be stuck in a kitchen during a party.  Plus, our place is small, so hot appetizers mean a hot oven… which means a hot house.  No thank you!

That is why I am so in love with this Watermelon with Balsamic dish that I found on Show Food Chef.  It’s simple, and easy to make ahead of time, so I’m all about it!

What do you need??
  – Watermelon
  – Melon Scoop
  – Reduced Balsamic

To prepare:
  – Cut the watermelon into one inch cubes
  – Use the small melon scoop to remove the center of each cube
  – Place cubes upside down on a paper towel to remove extra liquid
      (cover with plastic wrap and put in fridge for at least 20 minutes)
  – Remove from fridge, and add a few drops of the balsamic reduction to the centers
  – Garnish with mint or basil (just to make it pretty)

And it’s that easy!!  Maybe I’ll be making this for our next book club meeting!

Healthy Eating – Chinese Chicken Salad

Our trip to Cabo last month marked the end of working out and eating healthy… and let’s be honest… there are just too many yummy looking things on Pinterest!  Damn you Pinterest and your ooey gooey Au Gratain potato recipes and homemade Oreo cookies!

With the holidays coming up, I knowwww I have lots of parties (and lots of food) in the not so distant future, so I need to be dedicated to watching what I eat, and working out.  I am not the type of person to cut out the foods I love the most, so this means that I need to start eating healthy foods that don’t taste healthy.

Last night, I made an amazing (and easy) recipe for a healthy Chinese chicken salad.  They say, you eat with your eyes first, and this dish was as beautiful as it was yummy.

Ingredients:

Salad:
   Cabbage (half head per serving)
   Carrots (one full carrot per serving)
   Cherry Tomatoes (12 tomatoes per serving)
   Roasted Chicken Breast (one breast per serving)
   Bean Sprouts (a handful per serving)
   Chopped Peanuts (one tablespoon per serving)

Dressing:
   Soy Sauce (two tablespoons)
   Apple Cider Vinigar (three tablespoons)
   Grated Ginger (one teaspoon)
   Cilantro (one tablespoon – or if you like more… go all out)
   Olive Oil (three tablespoons)
   Garlic (one clove finely chopped)
   Red Pepper Flakes (one teaspoon)
   Sesame Seeds (one teaspoon)
   Salt + Pepper (to taste)

I’m not going to lie, the dressing was the hardest part to make (not that it was hard), so if you are feeling lazy, pick up some reduced fat Ginger Soy dressing and call it a day, but I swear to you – this dressing is fresh, and spicy, and delicious.

For the salad:
Shred the cabbage and grate the carrots, and mix together in a bowl with the bean sprouts.  Half the cherry tomatoes, chop the chicken into bite size pieces, and chop the peanuts finely.  Add those to the bean sprout, carrot, and cabbage mixture.

For the dressing:
Combine all the ingredients, mixing quickly to get the dressing to emulsify.  If you don’t like spicy (chili flakes), or hate cilantro, leave those ingredients out.

Dress carefully – you likely won’t need the full mixture.  Just save what you don’t use, or double the recipe if you are making the salad for a larger group.

This salad was really yummy, and really filling, and per serving it has just 380 calories.  THAT’s what I’m talking about!!