Cashmere Apron

Low-Carb Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

shake-2Every school morning I wake my daughter up at 6:20 am. And every morning she holds up an open palm begging for five more minutes of sleep. I tell her I’ll be back in five minutes after making my coffee and she whispers, “s m o o t h i e...” This is our morning ritual. I don’t make the smoothie every single morning because I love to make breakfast and this girl of mine will eat almost anything- eggs with fresh basil and sausage, breakfast tacos, a BLT, Brioche french toast, waffle bowls, pasta or leftovers from dinner the night before – pretty much anything – except fruit, yogurt and cereal. Who doesn’t like fruit? Delicious sweet berries, cool watermelon, crisp apples, tangy tangerines, tart cherries, citrusy pineapple, mango and oranges – the flavors and sweetness are endless for mixing into smoothies and making fruit parfaits and Acai bowls BUT not for my girl.

Fueling up this girl's body is no easy task. I love having this smoothie as a healthy protein source.

Fueling up this girl’s body is no easy task. I love making this smoothie as a healthy source of protein and nutrients.

So when I discovered this smoothie and adapted it a bit for her palate, I held my breath when her lips met the straw for the first time. Shockingly, she gave me the thumbs up and it has been a morning or pre-training staple ever since. I love this smoothie because it’s easy to make and a very nutritious alternative. The chia seeds add additional protein and minerals that have deemed it a popular superfood. “Chia” is the ancient Mayan word for STRENGTH. The protein powder adds to the rich flavor while providing the necessary building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. And this smoothie is filling which won’t leave your stomach grumbling 40 minutes later. I do add a touch of whipped cream and drizzle a bit of dark chocolate over the top but just enough to make it look extra appealing and special.

Whipping up this smoothie takes a few minutes and the loud, annoying blender sound is the wake-up call for everyone else in the house (no use going up and down the stairs three times!)

A little whipped cream...a little chocolate drizzle...

A little whipped cream…a little chocolate drizzle…

Ingredients:
2 cups crushed ice cubes
1 cup chocolate almond milk
1 scoop chocolate or peanut butter protein powder (I love ChocoRite brand which is sugar free, and gluten free with 24 grams of protein. I purchase it at my local Albertson’s but there are 12 flavors that can be purchased directly online)
2 Tb organic peanut butter or almond butter
1 Tb unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tb chia seeds (see the benefits here of this tiny superfood)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Optional additions: whipped cream, chocolate syrup, mint leaf

Directions:
Place all ingredients except the whipped cream, chocolate syrup and mint leaf in the blender. Blend for about a minute or until smooth. Spoon into an 8 ounce glass and, if you choose, top with whipped cream, a drizzle of chocolate syrup and a mint leaf.

Smoothie super fuel

Smoothie super fuel

Strawberry Bruschetta

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Don’t you love finding new places that were right under your nose the whole time??? A recent Girls Night Out led us to a charming local wine bar called Rancho Capistrano Winery. Nestled in downtown San Juan Capistrano, the environment is a world away- one of those restaurants that makes you feel like a vacationer in your own town. When the sun goes down the patio is softly illuminated with strands of criss-crossing lights, a large Spanish-style hearth and offers an atmosphere lively with conversation, food and drink. High top wine barrel tables are positioned to give glimpses of the historic Mission San Juan Capistrano.

My gals and I ate and drank our way around the menu and while everything was really good, I went home that night craving another serving of their unexpectedly delicious Strawberry Bruschetta. You know how it is the first time you try something and absolutely love it? You just know that the next time won’t be as good. On my second visit to RC Winery, my taste buds were watering as I sat down and ordered Strawberry Bruschetta for the table. I have to say that reality met expectation. The second time around the delicious appetizer WAS as good as I recalled. I went home and whipped up my own version a few days later. I added avocado and a few other twists and have a new fave to serve when entertaining. Pair the bruschetta with a crisp Rose or Sangria and your taste buds will be humming.

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Pair with a crisp Rose or Sangria

Ingredients:
1 organic tomato, diced
1 1/4 cup organic fresh strawberries, diced
1 mini cucumber sliced, then cut each slice into quarters
1 Tb fresh basil, chiffonade
1 small white organic nectarine, diced
1/2 avocado, diced
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tsp olive oil
Balsamic reduction (link to easy recipe here)
Pepper to taste
1 large French baguette

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Mix all ingredients together gently in a large bowl

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss with pepper and 1 tsp olive oil. Slice the baguette into medium thick slices and brush each slice with olive oil. Put in the oven on a cookie sheet for 5 minutes at 350 degrees. Place crisped baguette slices on a serving platter and top each piece with a spoonful of the bruschetta mixture.

Drizzle the Balsamic reduction and sprinkle additional basil across the top and platter for embellishment.

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The balsamic reduction is so easy to make and adds just a kick to the bruschetta

Organic Strawberry Basil Margaritas With Ginger

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I hit up my local farm stand, South Coast Farms, on my way home from working out on Friday. The strawberries this season have been outrageous, baskets and baskets of pure berry sweetness filling up a large table every day at the farm. When I showed up Friday, the normal “strawberry” table was overflowing with heirloom tomatoes. Strawberry season at the farm ends today and the farm’s “U-Pick” option was the only way I could enjoy a few last baskets of their organic strawberries. So, I grabbed my basket and walked out to the field.

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A few observations from my strawberry picking: (1) There is no match for the goodness of food that goes right from the ground into your hands. (2) I will have a greater appreciation for naturally farmed food and the people that bring it to me, as my back was sore after a mere 35 minutes of picking strawberries. (3) Standing in the field and looking around at heirloom tomatoes on vines and giant bunches of fresh green lettuces and kale, I was inspired to keep shopping/eating/buying local farm stand fruits and vegetables. (4) It is the simple and pure things in life that make me feel good – standing in that field picking strawberries, chatting with people I didn’t know on a relaxed Friday afternoon, watching kids fill their little buckets with strawberries picked with their own little hands, the warm sunshine and cool ocean breeze.

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I decided to kick off the holiday weekend using the strawberries in fresh strawberry margaritas. All of the ingredients listed are organic (I purchased the basil and limes at the farm as well). Happy Fourth of July…Enjoy this “Farm-To-Glass” spirit.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup of organic strawberries, stems removed
1/2 cup Patron Silver tequila
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/8 cup Cointreau
1 Tb organic basil, roughly chopped +extra for garnish
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
*Fills two large margarita glasses or three smaller glasses

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DIRECTIONS
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until thoroughly combined. Pour over ice into Margarita glasses and top with a few sprigs of basil. For garnish, create a mini kabob of strawberries, basil and ginger and rest on the side of the Margarita glass. Serve on a large farm tray with baskets of strawberries as decoration.

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Meyer Lemon Limoncello

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When my mom’s Meyer lemon tree was overflowing with glowing yellow citrus, I found myself the lucky recipient of a giant bag on my doorstep. I started researching all the delectable ways these lemons could be incorporated into recipes. It was an experiment that yielded beautiful cocktails and desserts, and one gorgeous roasted chicken.

What makes Meyer lemons so special? ’Lisbon’ and ‘Eureka’ lemons grow year-round and are most likely the lemons you select whenever you reach for them in the grocery store. The Meyer lemon, named after Frank N. Meyer who discovered it in Asia in 1908, is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin. The Meyer lemon is less acidic and sweeter with a more fragrant smelling rind. The Meyer lemon is seasonal, available mainly from December through May (Costco had bags of Meyer lemons this year, which I just noticed).

Obsessed with Limoncello from my first trip to Italy, I decided to use the Meyer lemons to first make my own Meyer Lemon Limoncello. I let my peels infuse for a month and the result was delicious.
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This Christmas, I plan on making Limoncello again with the Meyer lemons and giving homemade bottles as gifts during the holidays. There is so much you can do with the packaging and suggesting different ways to drink, cook and bake with Limoncello. If you want to try this recipe, any lemons will do, but take advantage of the Meyer variety if you have time.

A thick piece of lemon peel can be tied around the neck of the bottle. Create an "L" out of the lemon peel and glue to a gift tag.

A thick piece of lemon peel can be tied around the neck of the bottle. Create an “L” out of the lemon peel and glue to a gift tag.

Ingredients
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11-12 Meyer lemons, washed and dried
1 750-ml bottle vodka (80-to-100 proof)
2 cups sugar
2, 1 quart Mason jars
Strainer/Collander
Small funnel
Decorative/Sealable bottle(s) of your choice

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Cover the Meyer Lemon peels with vodka

Directions
Peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler being careful to avoid the pith. Divide the lemon peels equally between your two, 1-Quart Mason jars. Fill each jar to the top with vodka and seal.

Fill jar to the top, covering all peels, and seal the lid

Fill jar to the top, covering all peels, and seal the lid

Place the Mason jars in a dark, cool spot and let the vodka infuse anywhere from one week to four weeks. *The longer you infuse the vodka the more lemon flavor you will get out of your Limoncello.

Vodka being infused with Meyer Lemons

Vodka being infused with Meyer Lemons

Once you are ready, place your collander/strainer over a measuring cup that is large enough to hold at least two cups but preferably four. Strain the infused vodka through the collander/strainer. It should yield four cups of vodka approximately. Add your four cups of infused vodka to a large pitcher.

Now you will prepare a simple sugar syrup which you will add to the infused vodka (once it has cooled). Bring two cups water and two cups sugar to a boil and stir. Once all the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and let the simple sugar syrup cool completely.

Once the simple sugar syrup has cooled completely, you will add it to your pitcher of infused vodka and stir. Be sure to taste it and make sure it is to your liking. I used a 1:1 ratio and thought it had the right kick.

Pour Limoncello into a decorative bottle that seals

Pour Limoncello into a decorative bottle that seals

You are ready to bottle your Limoncello. Pour into the decorative bottles you selected using a small funnel or a steady hand! I found the pretty bottles you see here at Cost Plus but am certain any variety and any size can be found online. Chill the finished Limoncello in the fridge or freezer for four to five hours before enjoying. I always keep my Limoncello in the freezer as I like to serve it cold and it will last much longer (up to a year).
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Limoncello Ideas

The Pearl Cocktail

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Cheers to Easter weekend! Despite the increasing maturity of my peeps, now 17 and 14, I couldn’t resist shopping for their Easter baskets this week. Who doesn’t want to wake-up on Easter morning to jelly beans, Reese’s peanut butter eggs, chocolate bunnies and special gifts. I know I’m not alone in recalling how my son was once horrified by the idea of a giant white fluffy bunny hopping through our home in the night. We have moved beyond the egg dying, egghunts and pictures with the Easter bunny which means that Easter Sunday is now a bit more relaxed.

And while I am nostalgic about those early kid days, the upside is that the pace is much less frenetic and we are able to enjoy holiday meals and time spent together and, of course, the holiday cocktail hour (for the adults). I found this recipe in a local culinary magazine and thought it was the perfect Easter creation with shades of lavender and the sugared candy rim. It seems like a perfectly perfect cocktail to sip on this Easter weekend.

Simple ingredients on display

Simple ingredients on display

The ingredients are simple and look inviting displayed on a silver tray. Be sure to have a crushed bucket of ice on hand, a crisp white linen towel for any spills and a silver cocktail shaker.

Ingredients
1 1/2oz Grey Goose La Poire Vodka
2 lemon wedges
1/4 oz Creme de Violette
1 oz Piper-Heidsieck Champagne
Fresh mint

Instructions
-In a cocktail shaker combine vodka, Creme de Violette and juice from squeezed lemon wedges
-Shake vigorously with ice
-Strain into a coupe glass rimmed with turbinado sugar and top with Champagne
-Float a mint leaf on top for an extra pop of color

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This pretty cocktail was originally created in my hometown at the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel, as a Signature Anniversary drink.

love bites

Love Bites CollageIf there is any chance of denying your kids are growing up right before your eyes, it only takes a holiday or two to make it clear that there has been a shift.

My “babies” are only 16 and 12 but gone is the Valentine’s Day frenzy of candy grams, homemade treats for the class and finding the perfect Valentine’s cards for the big exchange. Perhaps its denial but I refuse to “go gently into that good night,” when it comes to my maturing babes and ANY holiday. When they are grown with families of their own, I want them to remember their childhood home as a place of tradition and celebration – no matter their age.

So for the past few years, I have made them their own Valentine’s Day celebration replete with decorations and a decadent amount of treats and sweets. I call this little party, “Love Bites,” because each morsel is filled with love (and of course, you can’t overlook the fact that sometimes, love DOES bite).

Love Bites Menu

The first year I created “Love Bites,” it was a wild-haired idea that came to me about an hour before school pick-up. I dashed to the store and bought heart-shaped cookies, nuts, conversation hearts, caramels, strawberries and whipped cream. It wasn’t a fancy display but I knew from the looks on their faces, it wasn’t about the fancy, it was about making an unexpected and special gesture just for them. Don’t think over the top if you create your own Love Bites table, just keep it simple and real – for whoever you’re loving.

Mini Layer Cakes with Strawberries+Mint

Mini Layer Cakes with Strawberries+Mint

Click HERE for recipe

Palmiers dipped in red chocolate+crushed peanuts

Palmiers dipped in red chocolate+crushed peanuts

 

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies

Click HERE for recipe

Chocolate dipped strawberries with red sprinkles

Chocolate dipped strawberries with red sprinkles

 

Chocolate Tulip cups filled with Vanilla pudding and topped with raspberries & chocolate shavings

Chocolate Tulip cups filled with Vanilla pudding and topped with raspberries & chocolate shavings

 

Chocolate dipped alphabet cookies

Chocolate dipped alphabet cookies

 

Blackberry+Strawberry infused water with mint

Blackberry+Strawberry infused water with mint

 

Food alone won't fill your table - pay attention to the special touches

Food alone won’t fill your table – pay attention to the special touches

Happy Valentine’s Day!

caramelized garlic tart

IMG_5455Whenever I buy a new cookbook or rip through a fresh- in-my-mailbox magazine, I dog ear pages like crazy, making notes left and right. I have a laundry list of creative endeavors I aspire to accomplish. I often find, however, that I get sidetracked – it’s an ongoing problem I call multi-tasking max out.

I recently rifled through the robustly colorful cookbook, PLENTYnamed by Amazon Editors’ as a “Favorite Book of the Year” for 2014. The award winning chef and food writer, Yotam Ottolenghi has been described as “the man who made vegetables sexy.” I wanted to find something scrumptious to make for a Labor Day party and this tart was the ticket. While there are PLENTY of steps to making this light puff of a pastry, the process is simple. Just allow enough time for preparation and avoid cramming it in between Sunday Church, football, laundry and walking the dog.

A Beautiful Cover Always Grabs My Attention

A beautiful book cover always grabs my attention

With Thanksgiving looming, the versatility of the Carmelized Garlic Tart can double as an elegant #thanksgivingappetizer or #thanksgivingvegetariandish. The tart can be made a day ahead and then reheated before serving. I love recipes that allow for something special and beautiful on the plate without requiring you to sweat it out in your heels and party clothes minutes before your guests arrive.

Ingredients
13 oz all-butter puff pastry
3 medium heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 Tb olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
¾ Tb sugar
1 tsp chopped rosemary
1 tsp chopped thyme, plus a few whole sprigs to finish
4 ¼ oz creamy goat cheese (such as chevre)
4 ¼ oz hard, mature goat cheese (such as goat gouda)
2 eggs
6 1/2 Tb heavy cream
6 1/2 Tb crème fraîche
black pepper

Directions
Have ready a shallow, loose-bottomed, 11-inch fluted tart pan (I bought a new pan from Bed, Bath & Beyond by Wilton). Roll out the puff pastry into a circle that will line the bottom and sides of the pan, plus a little extra. Line the pan with the pastry. Place a large circle of greaseproof paper on the bottom and fill up with baking beans or pie weights. Leave to rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the tart pan in the oven and bake blind for 20 minutes. Remove the beans/weights and paper, then bake for 5-10 minutes longer, or until the pastry is golden. Set aside. Leave the oven on.

A light and golden crust ready to be filled with scrumptiousness

A light and golden crust ready to be filled with scrumptiousness

While the tart shell is baking, make the caramelized garlic. Put the cloves in a small saucepan and cover with plenty of water. Bring to a simmer and blanch for 3 minutes, then drain well. Dry the saucepan, return the cloves to it and add the olive oil. Fry the garlic cloves on high heat for 2 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, rosemary, chopped thyme and ¼ teaspoon salt. Continue simmering on a medium flame for 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the garlic cloves are coated in a dark caramel syrup. Set aside.

 

Garlic caramelizing with fresh herbs, sugar and balsamic vinegar

Garlic carmelizing with fresh herbs, sugar and balsamic vinegar

To assemble the tart, break both types of goat’s cheese into pieces and scatter in the pastry case. Spoon the garlic cloves and syrup evenly over the cheese.

Carmelized garlic+syrup+cheeses make the filling

Carmelized garlic+syrup+cheeses make the filling

In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, creams, ½ teaspoon salt and some black pepper. Pour this custard over the tart filling to fill the gaps, making sure that you can still see the garlic and cheese over the surface. Reduce the oven temperature to 160 degrees and place the tart inside.

After light, whipped custard is poured into the shell with the filling still showing through

The light, whipped custard is poured into the shell with the filling still showing through

 

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Warm from the oven, browned and golden

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the tart filling has set and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little. Then lift the bottom of the tart pan away from the side and trim the pastry edge if needed. Lay a few sprigs of thyme on top and serve warm.
As a reminder, the tart can be made a day ahead and reheated before serving.

Slice and serve

Slice and serve

Recipe from PLENTY, by Yotam Ottolenghi.

spider web elixer

Black Widow LeadHalloween morning has broken with fluffy gray clouds and temperatures more in line with fall. Here in Southern California, it has not been below 74 degrees since May. I heard that stat on the news yesterday and couldn’t believe it. I am soooooooooo ready for boots, scarves, jeans and hats. I am going to enjoy this micro dip in temps and ignore the forecast which takes us back into the 80’s next week.

We are celebrating in the neighborhood tonight on Christi’s very long driveway. Our beach chairs are out and the ping pong table is set-up with mounds of candy ready to be thrown into pillowcases of trick-or-treaters big and small. We have a “gourmet” menu planned of pizza, salad, apps and spirits. I am looking forward to a RELAXED and EASY Friday night Halloween as we pump up every kid in the neighborhood with their annual sugar fix.

If you are in need of a Halloween themed drink, whip up a pitcher of our favorite “Spider Web Elixer.” The drink is simple to make and can be creatively styled with black licorice and candy corn or orange and black jelly bellys. Happy Halloween 2014. Wishing you a GHOULISH good time! ♥

Ingredients
3 parts vanilla vodka
1 part black anise-flavored liqueur (recommended: Sambuca)
1 part espresso
Black licorice and candy corn for garnish

Directions
In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients except the licorice with ice and shake to mix. Serve in a cocktail martini glass with a black licorice straw.

 

Recipe from Sandra Lee

blooming onion pizza bread

Blooming Onion Pizza Bread LeadFootball Sunday is here. So is Football Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Take your pick. When we find a free Sunday, it’s so much fun getting together with other families to hangout, watch football, eat, drink and chat the afternoon away.

The next time you head out to someone’s house or they head to yours for the same type of merriment, this “Blooming Onion Pizza Bread,” is a great #appetizer to serve. The pizza bread is simple to make, easy to serve and goes a long way – plus it’s appealing to all age groups.

Ingredients:
1 unsliced round loaf sourdough bread
12-16 ounces mozzarella or Provolone cheese, thinly sliced
1 (3.5 ounce) package pepperoni, halved
3 Tb butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 Tb Parmesan cheese
Pizza/marinara sauce for dipping
Blooming onion pizza bread #02

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bread lengthwise and widthwise without cutting through the bottom crust. This can be a little tricky going the second way but the bread is very forgiving. Place bread on a foil-lined baking sheet and insert cheese slices and pepperoni between cuts. Combine butter, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. Drizzle or brush mixture over bread with a pastry brush. Sprinkle bread with Parmesan cheese. Wrap bread completely in foil and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Unwrap the bread and bake 10 more minutes, or until cheese is melted and pepperoni is a little crispy.

mother’s day spirits (our mom’s faves)

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Christi and I were both blessed with amazing moms who are there for us no matter what. They are our biggest champions, friends, confidantes and aren’t afraid to keep us on track when we act sassy or grumpy (yes…who knows your mood better than your mom). We will each be celebrating our mom’s tomorrow on Mother’s Day. We thought it would be fun to highlight their favorite cocktails on Cashmere Apron this week (Nina’s fav is the Blue Cheese and Bacon Martini and Mary’s is the Grapefruit Basil Martini – both recipes follow).

Cheers to Nina and Mary – the best of the best. We love you – Happy Mother’s Day!

BLUE CHEESE & BACON MARTINI (Nina’s favorite)
Ingredients

2- 1/2 shots Gin
1/2 shot of brine from cocktail olives
1/8 shot extra dry Vermouth
Blue Cheese stuffed olives for garnish
Bacon crumbles

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CHRISTI & HER MOM, NINA VISITING NYC

Directions
Fry bacon until very crisp and chop up very fine. Rub the rim of your chilled martini glass with butter and roll the edge of the glass in the bacon crumbs. Shake all martini ingredients together with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into glass. Garnish with a few olives. Makes one drink.

 

Grapefruit Basil Martini Lead
GRAPEFRUIT BASIL MARTINI (Mary’s favorite)

Ingredients
2 ounces Freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
1 ounce Vodka
1 diced fresh Basil leaf plus additional for garnish

Mother's Day 01

 

Directions
Add crushed ice to a Martini shaker. Pour in the freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice and vodka. Add the diced fresh Basil leaf. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass. Top with a fresh  Basil leaf for garnish. Makes one drink.

bite-size chicken and waffle appetizer

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So you may be asking yourself, “chicken and waffles……. is this something I would like”? The answer is…….”absolutely, yes”! I know this dynamic duo may seem a little far fetched, but just think about a salty and sweet culinary masterpiece in one bite. I very seldom order this when I see it on a menu because it is just too much food. On occasion, I will meet my sister at The Blue Rooster in Sarasota, FL, and we will splurge and share this delicious showpiece of a meal.
This chicken and waffle recipe is sublime because you get the combination of salty, crunchy chicken with a sweet, warm waffle, but the chicken is baked instead of fried and is a much smaller portion. It is a unique appetizer for a dinner party or brunch gathering. I love to see people’s reactions when they spot it on my food table. There is much controversy over this dish and where it originated.  John Edge who is the director of the Southern Foodway Alliance and author of Fried Chicken: An American Story says, “it’s a dish most popular among expatriate African-American Southerners”. He adds, “a dish most popular among Southerners now living in urban areas whether that be the urban South or urban West, in the case of Los Angeles, or the urban North, in the case of New York”. Edge suspects this delicious pair probably has been a part of America’s culinary repertoire for a long time- since the nation’s earliest days when Thomas Jefferson brought a waffle iron back from France. He believes the recipe originated in multiple places including the South.
If you are like me and would like to know the history of a recipe, check out www.thehistorykitchen.com.  Tori Avey explores the story behind the food we eat and how recipes of different cultures have evolved.
PicMonkey Collage

Ingredients:
12 chicken breast tenders, cut in half crosswise
3/4 cup nonfat buttermilk
1- 1/2 cups panko crumbs
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
Cooking spray
24 mini waffles
Maple Syrup

Directions:
Stir together chicken and buttermilk in a medium size bowl. Chill 30 minutes. Place a large baking sheet in oven, and preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place panko crumbs in a shallow bowl. Stir together garlic powder and next three ingredients. Remove chicken from buttermilk, and pat dry, discard buttermilk.

Sprinkle chicken evenly with spice mixture; dredge in panko. Remove baking sheet from oven; coat with cooking spray. Immediately place chicken on hot baking sheet; coat chicken with cooking spray.

Bake at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is crisp and lightly browned.

Arrange toasted waffles on a large platter and top each waffle with a pice of chicken. Secure chicken to waffle with a decorative pick. Drizzle warm maple syrup over top. Serve immediately. Serves:24

Recipe compliments of The Slim Down South Cookbook.

superbowl bloody mary bar

Bloody Mary Bronco Style

Across America this weekend, Superbowl Sunday is sure to be filled with scrumptious gut-busting food and lots of beer (can’t wait for this year’s commercials). In honor of Sunday’s “big game,” we veered off the beer path and created a Bloody Mary Bar that pays homage to each football team. I love the Bloody Mary because there are no rules. Start with a base of tomato juice or Bloody Mary mix and vodka and layer in your creativity from there. I used Mr. & Mrs. T’s in regular and in a Bold and Spicy version. Create your own specialty Bloody Mary or stick with the traditional – you really can’t go wrong with this festive cocktail that personifies a relaxing Sunday.

Colorado and Denver are known for a lot of things in the way of cuisine, especially good meat and spicy food. Our “Denver Broncos” Bloody Mary features Mr. & Mrs. T’s Bold and Spicy Bloody Mary mix, Greygoose vodka, a crisp piece of center cut bacon paired with a sliced yellow pepper, a mini vine-ripened orange tomato, a crisp celery stalk and then lightly sprinkled with a pinch of black Alder Smoked salt.

Bloody Mary Denver Broncos Style

Bloody Mary – Denver Broncos Style

Washington and Seattle are known for equally delicious food traditions with the focus falling on seafood. Our “Seattle Seahawks” Bloody Mary features Mr. & Mrs. T’s regular Bloody Mary mix and Greygoose vodka which is then garnished with a green tomato, Pacific Sea salt and a mini shrimp corn dog (so yummy and easy – mini shrimp corn dogs are carried by Trader Joe’s). Serve a side of Sweet Chili dipping sauce with the mini shrimp corn dogs.

Bloody Mary Seattle Seahawk Style

Bloody Mary – Seattle Seahawks Style

Bloody Mary Basics

Whether you choose to theme your Bloody Mary bar or not, there are some basic Ingredients to include:
Bloody Mary Mix or Tomato juice
Vodka
Crushed ice
Tabasco
Hot sauce
Horseradish
Garnish of your choice: fresh cut celery, cornichons, pickles, stuffed olives, pickled green beans, lemons, limes, capers, small tomatoes and salt
Stirring sticks
Large wooden toothpicks
Straws

Final Bloody Mary Collage

eggstraordinary deviled eggs

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Traditional Deviled Eggs

Ingredients:
7  large eggs, hard boiled and peeled
1/4 cup Hellman’s Mayonnaise
1 tsp yellow mustard
2 Tb sweet pickle, chopped fine
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sliced olives for garnish

Directions:
Halve the eggs lengthwise and scoop out the yolk. Place the yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork. Stir in mayonnaise, mustard, pickle. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Mix well.

Spoon the yolk mixture into a small zip lock back and cut off a small  corner from the bag. Pipe the yolk mixture into each egg cavity. Garnish each egg with an olive slice.

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Deviled Eggs with Candied Bacon and Dill

Ingredients:
1- 1/2 Tb light brown sugar
Cayenne pepper
Pinch ground cinnamon
1/8 pound thick-cut bacon (4 strips)
8 large eggs
1/4 to 1/2 cup Hellman’s Mayonnaise
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tb finely chopped fresh dill, plus some for garnish
1 Tb cider vinegar
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 scallions, minced
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, a pinch of cayenne and the cinnamon. Place the bacon on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle each slice of bacon with some of the spiced sugar and bake about 10 minutes. Flip the bacon, sprinkle with the remaining spiced sugar and continue to cook until crispy, about 10 more minutes. Remove the bacon from the oven and allow to cool. When the bacon is cool, chop it up very small and set a quarter aside for garnish.

Put the cold eggs in the bottom of a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil for 3 minutes then remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan with a lid and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain the eggs and rinse with cold water. Let the eggs cool for a bit then peel. After they are peeled, you can store them in the fridge.

Mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, dill, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 tsp. cayenne, the scallions and the minced bacon in a medium bowl. Season with salt.

Slice the eggs in half lengthwise. Gently remove the yolks  from the eggs and add to the mayonnaise mixture. Mash together using a fork or a hand held mixer.

Put the mixture into a zip lock bag. Cut one end off and pipe the filling into the egg white cavity. Sprinkle with left over chopped bacon.

Recipe courtesy of: Kelsey Nixon 

 

cake and cocktails, american hustle style

Lead CakeWith the People’s Choice Awards just past, the Golden Globe Awards scheduled for this Sunday, and that special man “Oscar” not far behind,  Tinseltown’s Awards Season is in high gear. And with that I say, “TIME TO ENTERTAIN.” What better excuse to host a group of friends for food and drinks. One of my personal favorites nominated for “Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical” this year is American Hustle. You can’t beat the setting, the cast or the era – 1970’s New Jersey with Bradley Cooper in perm rods, Amy Adams as the sexy mistress and cunning business partner to the bloated, side-hair parted Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence as the crazy wife and Jeremy Renner, the do-gooder politician with Mob ties.

What better way to celebrate the Golden Globe Awards than with cake and cocktails. And what better representation of the 1970s than the Harvey Wallbanger. Invented in the 1950’s but wildly popular in the 1970’s, the scrumptious base of ingredients includes orange juice, Galliano, and vodka that can be easily baked into a moist and yummy cake or shaken into a crisp cocktail. My mom was over and helped me “sample” the cocktail. We laughed as she remembered the Harvey Wallbanger era and how every hostess gift she received was a bottle of Galliano because she once mentioned that she liked it at a party. The cake was devoured by my family (it goes great with fresh berries for breakfast) and the cocktail…well, that was taken care of too!

You don’t need to always feel compelled to serve a full meal. Host a fun Golden Globe Awards party or Oscars party and do a Cake and Cocktail theme, with each person bringing an item in the theme of one of the “Best Nominated Movies of the Year.” My take on American Hustle and the 1970’s is apparent…disco and gold baby!

Cake Collage Final

Harvey Wallbanger Cake
Ingredients

One package yellow cake mix (16.5 ounces)
1 (3.5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 fluid ounces Galliano liqueur
2 fluid ounces vodka
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one 10 inch tube/bundt pan. Combine cake mix and pudding mix in a large bowl. Blend in eggs, vegetable oil, 4 ounces Galliano, 1 ounce vodka, and 4 ounces orange juice. Mix batter until smooth and thick and pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes then remove and place on cooling rack. Spoon glaze over cake while it is still warm.

To Make Glaze: Combine the remaining 1 ounce Galliano, 1 ounce vodka, and 1 ounce orange juice with the confectioner’s sugar and blend until smooth. Spoon glaze over warm cake.

Harvey Wallbanger Cocktail

Harvey Wallbanger Cocktail
Ingredients
3/4 oz vodka
1 1/2 oz orange juice
1/4 oz Galliano
orange slice for garnish or
maraschino cherry for garnish

Directions
Pour the vodka and orange juice into a Collins glass with ice cubes. Add the Galliano. Garnish with an orange slice or maraschino cherry.

IMG_0782

 

 

A toast to 2014

photo-12

Brad Paisley said it best, “tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book, so write a good one”!
Cashmere Apron raises our glass to you, to wish you and your loved ones a year filled with good health and happiness, surrounded by those who you hold dear. Soon, 2013 will  be behind us and while we want to treasure those memories that were created, we look forward to what 2014 has in store for us. Cheers!

Ingredients:
1 bottle of your favorite champagne ( just like James Bond, we fancy Bollinger Champagne)
1- 10 ounce bottle cranberry juice
1 package fresh mint
1 small package of fresh raspberries

Directions:
Gently tear up the mint and place it into 6 of your favorite champagne flutes.  Fill the flutes with the champagne and top with a splash of cranberry juice and three fresh raspberries. Serves:6

photo-10

soppressata and cheese in puff pastry

Soppressata Lead PictureIt’s the day before Thanksgiving which, in my house, means we are probably ordering Chinese take-out or indulging in Mexican food. If you have a house full of guests, you might have the same idea. Or, you may want to serve something quick and easy, curl up in front of the fireplace and have a movie night.

I’ve made this dish several times and it’s always delicious. Cut the pieces smaller and you have an appetizer. Cut the pieces a little bigger and you have a main course. Serve with a side of tomato bisque and create the perfect comfort meal.

Ingredients
1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, such as Pepperidge Farm, defrosted
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
12 thin (not paper thin) slices soppressata salami (3 1/2 inches in diameter)
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Soppreseta collage

Directions
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan.

Lay one sheet of puff pastry on a floured board and lightly roll into a 10-inch square. Place it on the sheet pan and brush the pastry with all the mustard, leaving a 1-inch border. Arrange the soppressata in overlapping layers on the mustard and sprinkle the grated cheese evenly on the soppressata, also avoiding the border. Brush the border with the egg wash.

Lightly roll the second piece of puff pastry into a 10-inch square. Lay the pastry directly on top of the first square, lining up the edges. Brush the top with the egg wash, cut three large slits for steam to escape, and chill for 15 minutes.

When the pastry is cold, trim the edges with a very sharp knife to make a clean edge. Bake the pastry in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, turning once while baking, until puffed and brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes, cut in squares, and serve hot or warm.

Serves 8 for cocktails or serves 6 for main course

WOW4

Recipe from 2010, Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?

 

pancetta crisps with goat cheese and pear

Pancetta Pear Lead

Two days and counting…I love to picture all of the homes across America preparing for Thanksgiving. Different traditions…different ways of preparing the big bird…different homemade “favorites” that make our mouths water. Although the Thanksgiving meal itself eliminates the need for any appetizers, we always feel compelled to serve something “light,” to kick off the occasion. It’s part of our custom to have a fun little cocktail hour – sparkling crystal glasses, whimsical cocktail napkins, a snazzy drink, football on in the background and that special holiday feeling in the air.

This appetizer looks gorgeous on a beautiful tray. The crisps are airy and flavorful with a hint of sweetness from the lightly drizzled honey. We paired a decorative platter of Pancetta Crisps with Grapefruit Basil Martinis (click for our recipe) made from freshly squeezed grapefruits picked right off the tree. Champagne always works too. Enjoy your holiday cocktail hour!

Ingredients
12 thin slices pancetta (about 1/3 lb.)
1 Bartlett pear
1/2 (4-oz.) package goat cheese, crumbled
Freshly cracked pepper
Honey
Fresh thyme sprigs for garnish

Pear Pancetta 2

Directions
Arrange pancetta slices in a single layer on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 450° for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a paper towel-lined wire rack using a spatula. Let stand 10 minutes or until crisp. Core pear with an apple corer. Cut pear crosswise into 12 thin rings. Arrange on a serving platter. Top evenly with pancetta and goat cheese; sprinkle with pepper. Drizzle with honey just before serving. Garnish, if desired.

Created by Sheri Castle, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Southern Living
November 2007

grapefruit basil martini

Striving for Tommy B’s perfection…Christi and I visit the California desert together every year for the big tennis tournament held at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. We are fortunate to be the guests of a dear friend who offers us her beautiful guest casita in Indian Wells. We never say NO (who would?) and we seem to follow the same patterns every year. A visit to Tommy Bahamas is always in order. We love the vibe. We love the food. We love the Pink Grapefruit Basil Martini. We spend every year trying to emulate that drink. Maybe its the ether of the desert or a few days of complete freedom from routine and responsibility but that drink is one of the best cocktails ever.

The original at Tommy Bahamas

The ORIGINAL at Tommy Bahamas, Palm Desert

After much experimentation, our version follows:

This recipe makes a single serving

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 2 ounces freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons Agave nectar (Trader Joe’s carries our favorite organic raw blue agave)
  • 2-3 fresh basil leaves
Our version served poolside, of course

Our version served poolside, of course

Muddle a few of the fresh basil leaves with the Agave nectar in the bottom of a martini shaker. Add the other ingredients plus a small scoop of crushed ice. Shake until very cold and pour into a martini glass. Float a basil leaf on top of the drink.

Serve and enjoy

Serve and enjoy

 

 

a classic cocktail from a page in history

Lead Willard CocktailMy girlfriend and I recently had the good fortune to accompany our husband’s on business to Washington, D.C. While they were working during the day, she and I explored the city. Located just two blocks from The White House is The Willard Hotel. It has a storied history dating back to 1820. Charles Dickens was a guest in 1842. President Franklin Pierce lived there at one time and “Mr. Lincoln’s  [temporary] White House” was used to conduct business while renovations were being completed on The White House. Ulysses S. Grant stayed at The Willard four times while in command of The Union forces in the 1870s. President Calvin Coolidge called The Willard home at one time and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Inauguration was hosted there. Mark Twain and Walt Whitman graced the hallowed halls of The Willard Hotel. I could go on and on about this living treasure of American history that has been illuminated by luminaries for almost 200 years.

The first day in town, we strolled down Pennsylvania Avenue hoping to sink into plush high back chairs and indulge in High Tea at Peacock Alley. Unfortunately it was a Monday and High Tea is a Friday to Sunday kind of thing. So we opted for the bar instead. We were a bit early and ran into the bartender, Jim. He was an engaging man who let us bend his ear about our day’s plans. He provided suggestions for sightseeing, one of which was the original Post Office Pavilion. The building is worth the visit as the Clock Tower boasts a stunning 360 degree view of the city. Apparently, Donald Trump has acquired the building with plans to make it a grand hotel and city center for political events.

Round Robin Collage

After a few hours touring the sights, I dragged my girlfriend back to the Round Robin Bar. Very early afternoon is fine for cocktails, right???? There were two other patrons in the bar which validated that we do NOT have a problem. We talked to Jim a bit more and learned that he has been working at the Round Robin Bar for 27 years. Jim Hewes has been written up many times over the years and has a drink to represent each of our 44 presidents (he put his own twist on the Blue Hawaiian to represent our current president). Imagine the people, the political deals and the history that have graced the Mahagony Walls of that bar. Kentucky Senator Henry Clay was visiting Washington, D.C., in the Eighteenth Century when he originated the Southern Mint Julep at the Round Robin Bar. Chocked full of fresh mint, powdered sugar and Maker’s Mark Bourbon, it is not for a weak palette. I tried Jim’s recommendation, The Willard Cocktail. I figured it was a true classic made by the man who created it. He gave me the recipe which you will find below.

Ingredients
1 part Gin
1 part Apricot Brandy
A dash of fresh lime juice
A dash of Rose’s fresh lime juice
A dash of Triple Sec

Directions
Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a cherry, lemon peel and a lime wedge.

The Willard collage

If you visit Washington, D.C., you must visit The Willard Hotel, The Round Robin Bar and the affable Jim Hewes. The magic is in the history and all who carry its torch – past, present and future.

 

parmigiano crisps with chocolate & sea salt

Parmigiana Crisps LeadTomorrow night we are invited to an intimate dinner party at our neighbor’s home for a “Pre-Thanksgiving,” Thanksgiving meal. Last year they treated us to a homemade Oktoberfest dinner but October schedules this year were insane for everyone so we switched gears and rolled our tradition into November.

As my neighbor and I chatted in the street one evening, we talked about their native Michigan and a wonderful cooking school she and her husband attended several times. The cooking school gained so much popularity that attendees can now only register for one class per year. When the Thanksgiving themed course came to their attention, there was only one spot available and the husband took it immediately. My neighbor painted a mouth-watering picture of a golden turkey so divine we will be begging for the recipe. They have used that coveted cooking school recipe time and again. And, the rest of the menu is apparently just as amazing. Needless to say, I will be starving myself all day tomorrow so I can indulge tomorrow night!

I am bringing the appetizer and this recipe came to mind. I found it a while back on The Whole Foods website and love it. The recipe is simple to make but is sophisticated and looks so elegant on display. The Parmigiano Reggiano Crisps marry the salty and sweet in a flavorful crunchy bite. The crisps aren’t heavy so everyone will still have room for the feast. Serve the crisps with a good bottle of Prosecco and you will have the ideal starter for any dinner party (especially during the holidays). And if you are looking for a unique homemade gift during the holidays, wrap these up in wax paper in a decorative box and give them along with the Prosecco.

Ingredients
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Parmigiano Reggiano
6 Tb finely chopped dry roasted whole almonds (skins on)
4 ounces good quality semi-sweet or dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 scant teaspoon vegetable oil
Sea salt for sprinkling

Parmigiana Crisps Collage

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss cheese and almonds together in a bowl. Form 12 mounds of cheese mixture on each lined baking sheet, spacing them 3 inches apart. Using the back of a spoon, press down on each mound to form a 1/4-inch thick circle. Place one baking sheet at a time on middle oven rack. Bake rounds 6 to 8 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and let crisps cool on baking sheets.

Once crisps are cooled completely, line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Toss chocolate with vegetable oil in a small bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Dip about one-third to one-half of each crisp into melted chocolate, hold a few seconds above chocolate, then place on the lined baking sheet. Immediately scatter a tiny bit of sea salt over chocolate. Let chocolate set before serving. You can put crisps in refrigerator or freezer to speed setting.

This recipe is from Whole Foods

 

the black widow

Black Widow Final Lead

It’s a week of spine chilling spirits, ghoulish garb, spooky tricks and lots of treats. If you are hosting the neighborhood this Halloween, set-up a fun “spirits” bar for your ghostly guests. You can easily turn your favorite drinks into festive Halloween versions of themselves using printable labels. At last year’s neighborhood party, Christi and I draped a large countertop with a black tablecloth and placed a few different sized boxes underneath to create height and dimension. Add skull-shaped ice and gummy eyeballs to your bar to go with a bevy of beverage choices such as the “Dark & Spooky,” “Zombie Tonic,” “Bone Juice,” and our favorite, “The Black Widow.”

Ingredients
3 parts vanilla vodka
1 part black anise-flavored liqueur (recommended: Sambuca)
1 part espresso
Black licorice, for garnish

Directions
In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients except the licorice with ice and shake to mix. Serve in a cocktail martini glass.

 

Recipe from Sandra Lee

 

antipasto platter

Antipasto 2The Thanksgiving meal is pretty straightforward. Each family has their traditions and their favorite way of cooking the meal. But what about the rest of the holiday season? The number of potential events in the name of “The Holidays” are endless. What happens when you host? Are you a begrudging entertainer shamed into hosting an event? We’ve all held our breath during the pregnant pause or burned a hole in the ceiling with our eyes when the question is thrown out year after year, “What are we having for__________?” “Whose house will ______________ be at this year?” Maybe you are an enthusiastic volunteer and then you are left with another question, “WHAT AM I GOING TO MAKE?” My goal, which has yet to be achieved, is to be so prepared for an upcoming evening of entertaining in my home that I have an entire hour to get ready while casually sipping a glass of bubbly.

This Holiday Meal for 10 is designed with my procrastinating planning skills in mind. Almost everything can me made in advance with the final touches being added right before your guests arrive.

Yesterday’s post featured Holiday Brie with a Spicy Raspberry and Syrah Preserve for a starter. Today we present the dinner course which includes a colorful Antipasto platter, The Best Caesar Salad by Our Friend, Brenda and an Organic Heirloom Tomato Marinara Sauce served with pasta. Tomorrow, we feature the dessert course.

Antipasto Platter Ingredients
20 slices Capicola (this Italian meat has a bit of a kick but is a creative alternative to salami)
20 slices Provolone
small container of marinated artichoke hearts cut into quarters or halves
6 Dolmas cut in half with a serrated knife (grape leaves stuffed with rice, mint, pine nuts. Purchase in a high-end grocery or specialty store)
mixture of pitted Italian olives
small container of red hollow peppers
small container of large marinated Italian beans
one container of mushrooms, cleaned and cut in half and marinated in Italian dressing 1-2 hours before serving
Italian breadsticks
Butter lettuce and arugula for garnish
mini artichokes for display
large silver platter
assortment of small bowls

Antipasto Lead

Antipasto Platter Directions
Use individual small bowls for marinated artichoke hearts, Italian olives, red hollow peppers, Italian beans, and marinated mushrooms.

Separately roll up the Capicola and Provolone. Place the Butter lettuce in the middle of the platter and the mini artichokes on top to begin your display. The Butter lettuce adds a little height and dimension to the display. Arrange all the ingredients around the center of the artichoke display, making sure to add variety with the small bowls and the food not in bowls (Capicola, Provolone and Dolmas). Once your platter has been arranged to your liking, fill in empty spaces and the perimeter with Arugula and Butter lettuce. Place breadsticks in a brightly colored basket next to your platter.

holiday brie+spicy raspberry syrah preserves

Holiday Brie 2
I discovered the Spicy Raspberry Syrah Preserves in a local wine store recently. It was LOVE at first bite. There are different blends to try but I love the slight spice of the chipotle chili against the tartness of the raspberries that make up this particular preserve.

This is an extremely simple and eye-catching appetizer that looks beautiful on any table any time of year but especially during the holidays.

Ingredients
One wheel segment of creamy Brie
One 11 ounce jar of Spicy Raspberry Syrah Preserves by Black Sheep Gourmet
One package of Lesley Stowe Raincoast Crisps (now available in wheat-free varieties)
One package of organic plump raspberries
Fresh herbs of your choice (basil, rosemary, sage)
Decorative plate (the one you see here is 30’s era depression glass from my grandmother)

Holiday Brie final collage 2

Directions
Place wheel segment of Brie on a decorative plate about 25 minutes before serving. Drizzle 2 to 3 teaspoons of the Spicy Raspberry Syrah Preserves over the top of the Brie but don’t cover all of it. Top with a few leaves of fresh herbs (I chose basil) and add a raspberry.

Surround Brie with Raincoast Crisps (there are many varieties to select from; I used Cranberry Hazelnut but all of the varieties are delicious) and fill in the rest of the plate with fresh raspberries. Place decorative plate on a natural wood cutting board and scatter a few leaves of the fresh herbs and raspberries on the board for added effect.

touchdown sweet chicken and bacon skewers

tailgate
Food, Fun, Friends and Football! They all go hand in hand. The tailgate food featured this week at Cashmere Apron includes our “Bump and Run Baby Bells” and our “Touchdown Sweet Chicken and Bacon Skewers.” Most of your tailgate food can be made in advance and finished up at your tailgate (check out the amazing array of inexpensive portable grills by Coleman). Our last tailgate menu featured the above two appetizers plus beef sliders with caramelized onions and melted cheese, roasted corn and feta guacamole with tortilla chips, beer, margaritas and mini cupcakes. Talk about a food coma! Happy Football Season!

Ingredients
1-1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. package sliced bacon
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tb chili powder

Chargers 1

Directions
Preheat grill to medium high heat.

Cut chicken into 1-inch cubes.

Cut each bacon slice so that it is big enough to wrap around each piece of chicken.

Wrap bacon around the chicken cubes and secure with a wooden tooth pick.

Stir together the brown sugar and chili powder. Dredge the wrapped chicken in this mixture. Put these into a sealable container and keep cool until ready to grill.

Coat grill rack with oil and place chicken on the grill rack. Grill for about 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked and the bacon is crisp. Makes approximately 20 appetizers.

Chargers 2Chargers 3

“bump and run” baby bells

IMG_3692Tis the season of Gridiron Glory! I’m living in a football playbook with talk of play-action-pass, shotgun formations and red zone percentages (and that is just the tip of the football iceberg). Don’t get me wrong, I love it. Sundays in the fall are the BEST.

For many die-hard football fans, tailgating is a ritual that is pushed to new limits with every coming season. There are specially designed grills, portable power contraptions, recipes, drinks, contests, rankings, and magazines all dedicated to the Art of the Tailgate. There are grilled meats with fancy rubs, homemade breads, flower arrangements, table settings, pop-up tents, candles, music with surround sound, cloth napkins and actual cutlery all in the name of the tailgate. I applaud that type of enthusiasm and dedication.

We tailgated last year at two different San Diego Chargers games. Our approach was straightforward, paying close attention to the menu. It is hard to beat good friends, football and pitchers of margaritas and food right off the grill on a crisp fall day.

Our “Bump and Run Baby Bells” can be made in advance at home and then heated on a portable grill during your pre-game festivities.

Follow Cashmere Apron this week for some tried-and-true Tailgate Gridiron Grub!

Ingredients
16 baby bell peppers (depends on the size of peppers)
3 tsp olive oil
1 package (8oz) cream cheese, softened
1 package (4oz) of crumbled feta cheese
1 tsp  Tapatio
Ground black pepper
Non-stick aluminum foil
Tongs

IMG_3684

Tailgate Directions
Preheat a grill to medium high heat at home. Cut the tops off of the bell peppers and carefully scoop out the insides. Lightly oil the bell peppers by tossing them in a bowl with some olive oil. Place the peppers on a hot grill and cook until they have grill marks and are soft. Transfer peppers to a baking sheet to cool.

Place the cream cheese, feta cheese, Tapatio and black pepper in a bowl and mix with a hand mixer until creamy. Test the cream cheese for flavor. If you like, add  salt and/or more Tapatio.

Put the cream cheese mixture into a large ziplock bag and using scissors, cut a small corner of the bag off. Carefully pipe the cream cheese mixture into each of the hollowed out baby bell shells. We recommend adding a drop of Tapatio into the peppers before stuffing them with the cream cheese mixture.

Carefully place stuffed baby bells into a Tupperware for transport, making sure they are touching. Once you arrive at your tailgate destination, preheat your grill to medium high heat. Line the grill with a few pieces of non-stick aluminum foil. Place baby bells on foil for about 8-10 minutes or until warmed. Be sure to rotate the baby bells at least once (be gentle when you rotate so the cream cheese mixture doesn’t ooze out).

Tailgate Collage 1

Directions if making to eat at home
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Follow the same directions as above through the step of stuffing the baby bells with the cream cheese mixture.

Place the stuffed baby bells on a foil lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 8 minutes or until heated through.  

This recipe makes 16 stuffed baby bell peppers.

 

watermelon margarita

Watermelon Margarita Lead
Christi and I both love to entertain (hence the origination of Cashmere Apron). The question that always brings a slight panic to my mind after inviting people over is, “What to serve? What to serve? What to serve?” Through trial and error (mostly error), I have to come to learn that advance preparation is key. It seems like no matter how much time is set aside on the day of the occasion, there are never enough minutes. I’m usually wildly texting my husband, who is already out with my last-minute list, just to add more items to the last-minute list.

The two recipes that follow today on CA, are a festive drink and individual-sized appetizers. Both items can be made in advance, and when served together, require nothing other than some light dinner fair (a grilled lime chicken salad, easy taco bar, steak quesadillas – check out our recipe archive)…

Ingredients
Watermelon cubes, (if desired)
Kosher salt
3 cups Triple Sec or other orange liqueur
2 – 3 cups tequila
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup superfine sugar or powdered sugar
5 cups seedless watermelon, chopped

Watermelon Margarita 2

Directions
If desired, freeze cubes of watermelon on a waxed paper-lined tray for 1 to 2 hours or until firm. Place salt on a small plate. Rub rims of eight glasses with one of the lime wedges. Dip rims of glasses in salt to coat; set aside.

In a pitcher combine Triple Sec, tequila, lime juice, and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour 1/4 cup of tequila mixture into blender or food processor with chopped watermelon (working in batches if necessary). Cover and blend or process until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Combine watermelon juice with remaining tequila mixture. Stir. Chill until ready to serve.

Place frozen watermelon cubes, if using, in salt-rimmed glasses. Pour tequila mixture over watermelon cubes. Garnish with remaining lime wedges.

Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

 

mini-me 7-layer dip

lead 7-layer dip image
I recently hosted a small get together and wanted to serve up an unexpected appetizer. I know my mom has been making 7-layer dip for years but changing it up into individual servings and plating on a large wooden tray added a different element. Easy to make ahead of time, these “mini-me 7-layer dips” pair nicely with watermelon margaritas (which can also be made in advance; see CA archive for recipe).

Ingredients
2 cups Iceberg lettuce, shredded
2 cups Mexican cheese blend, shredded
2 cups guacamole
2 cups light sour cream
4 tsp Lawry’s Taco Seasoning
2, 16 ounce cans Rosarita traditional refried beans
8 scallions, washed and diced
1 package grape tomatoes, rinsed and cut into thirds
1 bunch fresh cilantro
Tortilla chips
Clear, plastic, 5-6 ounce tumblers

Directions
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together sour cream and taco seasonings. Spoon refried beans into a mixing bowl and stir with a fork until smooth. Place all ingredients in front of you in order for easy assembly.

In each plastic tumbler, layer sour cream mixture, beans, guacamole, tomatoes, scallion, lettuce and cheese. Garnish with a sprig of fresh cilantro and serve with tortilla chips and a small appetizer spoon. Pass to your guests using a large decorative tray.

Makes 16 to 18 individual cups.

 

peanut butter and banana smoothie

IMG_2575

I played tennis last week with a friend that is 5-months pregnant. She was telling us about her crazy infatuation with Noxzema (YES, the facial cream). She said she dreams at night of bathing in it. We all laughed knowing how pregnancy can make you desire the most peculiar things. Her comment reminded me of my obsession for peanut butter while I was pregnant. I remember craving it so much that I would eat spoonfuls out of the jar and would  go “nuts” if we ever ran out!

In honor of National Peanut Day this Friday, we are posting some deliciously tempting peanut butter treats. This smoothie is a favorite in my house. We used to make it with peanut butter but recently discovered Peanut Wonder and are hooked. If you have not tried this tasty product then you need to immediately! You will not believe how fantastic it tastes with only 100 calories and two grams of fat per serving. I guarantee you will love it and no longer have to feel guilty over that occasional PB&J. This smoothie is also made with flax seeds which are an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids and heart healthy dietary fiber. Get your blender out and start whipping up some healthy peanut butter and banana yumminess.

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup vanilla fat-free yogurt
1 Tb Peanut Wonder Original (or peanut butter)
2 Tb ground golden flax seed
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 ripe banana, sliced

Directions
Place all ingredients along with some ice into a blender; process until smooth. Serves 2.

IMG_2625

layered cheese appetizer

IMG_5570

The first time Christi and I had this dip, it was simply divine. We were on vacation in Indian Wells at a friend’s beautiful home. We were lounging poolside under a late afternoon sun, overlooking the golf course with “goblets” of wine in each of our hands. Our friend brought this dip out on a silver tray and we all sat and chatted and devoured the entire thing. If you’re looking for a sure thing, this is it.

We have served this dip several times since that beautiful afternoon in the desert. The recipe came to us from our dear friend who had received it from another dear friend, and it has made its way around the appetizer circuit. This layered cheese dip is ALWAYS a hit with everyone and has become a “go to” when we need something special. The presentation is elegant and it is easily made ahead so you’re not sweating it out at the last minute. With Labor Day just around the corner, this is the perfect appetizer to have on hand.

Ingredients
1- 8 ounce package of cream cheese
1- 8 ounce feta cheese
1- 7 ounce container Trader Joe’s pesto
1 cup oil packed sun dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted lightly
1 Tb sherry or vodka to taste
3 dashes of tabasco

Directions
Bake the pine nuts in a low oven at 250 degrees until slightly browned.

In a Cuisinart, combine the cream cheese, feta cheese, sherry or vodka, and tabasco. Blend until smooth.

Line the inside of a medium-size round bowl with plastic wrap.

Cover the bottom of the bowl with the pine nuts. Next, layer the sun dried tomatoes over the pine nuts; pat down lightly. Layer the cream cheese/feta cheese mixture over the pesto sauce.

Cover with plastic wrap, pat down and chill overnight.

To serve this appetizer, invert onto a serving plate and garnish. Serve with crackers.

asian lettuce wraps

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Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. peanut oil or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped small
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds ground turkey
1/2 cup Asian peanut sauce (we use Bangkok Padang Peanut Sauce)
1-1/2 Tb hoisin sauce (we use Hokan)
2 Tb soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 seeded and minced jalapeño pepper
1 can rinsed and drained water chestnuts, chopped small
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
12 large iceberg lettuce leaves
1 cup julienned carrot
1/2 cup chopped salted peanuts
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup Hot House cucumber peeled, seeded and diced

Optional dipping sauces:
Maggi’s Sweet Chili Sauce
Sirancha Hot Chili Sauce

Directions:
Heat the peanut oil in a large heavy skillet over med-high heat.  Sauté the onion and garlic in the hot oil for 3 minutes or until the onion begins to brown.  Add the turkey and sauté for 7 minutes or until brown and crumbly; drain.  Stir in the peanut sauce, hoisin sauce, 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, lime juice and jalapeño chile.  Add the water chestnuts and chopped fresh cilantro.

Cook this mixture until heated through, stirring frequently. This can be prepared and then heated back up before serving.  Serve the turkey mixture in cool crisp iceberg lettuce cups with the carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts, and peanuts. 12 servings

 

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