Cashmere Apron

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.

Cookie Dough Cake Pops

FullSizeRenderLast-minute ideas are sometimes the best. My daughter went off to a gift exchange this afternoon and I wanted to send dessert. I was thinking I would make Oreo ice cream pie, one of my “go-to’s” but when I asked my daughter she said, “cookie dough cake pops.” I went online and found a very easy recipe and, miraculously, I had all of the ingredients. I adapted the recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction but used white chocolate instead of dark.

These cake pops were super easy to make and, after taste-testing, I have determined that the Christmas calories are worth it. I put gold tissue paper in the bottom of a mason jar and topped the lid with a burlap doily. I poked holes in the doily and pushed the cake pops through to create a little bouquet of Christmas sweetness.

A simple Mason jar filled with gold tissue and topped with a burlap doily is perfect for presenting this bouquet of Christmas cheer and sweetness.

A simple Mason jar filled with gold tissue and topped with a burlap doily is perfect for presenting this bouquet of Christmas cheer and sweetness


Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 package Ghirardelli white melting chocolate wafers
1 package Wilton 5 ” Bamboo lollipop sticks

Directions
In a large bowl using an electric or stand mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in milk and vanilla. Add flour and salt and mix on low until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Chill the dough in refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or until firm enough to roll.

Line 1 large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Roll dough into balls, about 1.5 tablespoons of dough per ball. Insert stick into each ball. Freeze balls for at least 20 minutes on 1 cookie sheet.

Melt chocolate following instructions on the package. Remove a couple of balls from the freezer at a time and dip into melted chocolate. Tap the stick against the bowl and let any excess chocolate fall off. Sprinkle with sprinkles of your choice and hold the stick for about a minute before putting down on lined cookie sheet. This will allow the chocolate to set and avoid a flattened top.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

vanilla caramel popcorn halloween cupcakes

Lead HalloweenIngredients
one dozen vanilla cupcakes (use your favorite recipe)
melting chocolate
salted caramel popcorn
caramel sauce
pastry bag or squeeze bottle
melon baller
parchment paper
Halloween cupcake liners

Buttercream Frosting Ingredients
1 lb box of C&H Pure Cane Powdered Sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick salted butter (softened)

Directions
Make vanilla cupcakes and let cool on a rack.

While cupcakes are cooling, melt chocolate and add to a pastry bag (the process would be neater in a squeeze bottle but I didn’t have one on hand). On a sheet of parchment paper, pipe out chocolate spider webs. They are simple to make once you get the hang of it. I used this tutorial from the internet (the example uses white chocolate but the process is the same for dark chocolate). Once you have created your spider webs, leave them to harden on the parchment paper or pop in the fridge until you are ready to use (they harden in about 15 minutes-very quick).

Easily pipe spiderwebs onto parchment paper

Even with my hands covered in chocolate, I managed to create these cute chocolate webs

While your spider webs are setting, take your melon-baller and scoop out a hole in the top of each cupcake. Fill the hole with caramel sauce. Once all of the holes are filled, make the vanilla buttercream frosting.

Scoop out a small hole in the cupcake and fill with caramel sauce

The caramel center is a yummy surprise in almost every bite

To make frosting, add all of the frosting ingredients to a mixing bowl and beat with a mixer for approximately 2-minutes, scraping down the sides. Add frosting to a pastry bag and frost all of the cupcakes in any style you desire. I used a thicker frosting tip to cover the cupcakes thoroughly.

A tray of homemade Halloween sweets

A tray of homemade Halloween treats for every age

Once the cupcakes are frosted, cover the top with the salted caramel popcorn and insert a spider web in the middle. Arrange on a platter and serve for a fun, Halloween dessert.

*Add the popcorn to the top of the cupcakes right before serving so it doesn’t go stale from exposure to the air.

The popcorn adds a whimsical touch to the cupcake

The popcorn adds a whimsical touch and a crunch to every bite of cupcake

root beer float popsicles

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Labor Day almost requires that our toes not leave the sand – summer can’t really be (almost) over, can it? Wimbledon, Fireworks and the Fourth of July had my attention just yesterday it seems. If you’re planning on celebrating and entertaining this weekend, try a fun and easy dessert that’s the epitome of summer and sunshine and kids running through the sprinklers. Below find two types of popsicles – a version for kids and adults (Root Beer float) and one for just the adults (fresh peach and Bellini). With the extra root beer, you can also make mini-root beer floats.

Mini root beer floats to go with the popsicles

Mini root beer floats to go with the popsicles

You can easily make these popsicles ahead to ease last minute rushing and preparation. Pass these popsicles around, kick your feet up and savor the last bites of summer.

Ingredients
4 1/2 cups A&W root beer
1/2 cup vanilla bean ice cream (softened)
1 Hershey’s milk chocolate bar
popsicle mold
cupcake liners

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Directions
Slowly pour 4 1/2 cups of root beer into a large bowl. Once the fizzing has subsided, gently add 1/2 cup of softened vanilla bean ice cream to the bowl and stir slowly until melted into the root beer. Pour mixture into popsicle molds using a measuring cup with a spout (if possible).

The mixture will fizz a little bit more when poured into the molds due to the carbonation in the root beer. Once the fizzing has stopped, drop a few very small pieces of Hershey’s milk chocolate into each popsicle mold. The chocolate will float to the bottom and be in the first bite once these tasty treats are served.

Before removing frozen popsicles from their mold, cut a tiny hole in the bottom of the cupcake liners. Once the popsicles are out of the mold, push the popsicle stick through the cupcake liner to add a mini “drip tray.”

Arrange popsicles in a decorative ice bucket filled with ice and serve immediately. You can also place the popsicles on wax paper on a large dinner plate, stacking them into a few layers with wax paper between each layer and put into the freezer until you are ready to serve.

 

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Also easy to make ahead – scoop vanilla bean ice cream into small mason jars and freeze. Load them on a tray when ready to serve and add the root beer and whipped cream.

fresh peach and bellini popsicles

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Ingredients
2-3 large peaches, peeled and diced
2 cups+2Tb cranberry juice
1, 8 1/2 ounce bottle of prepared Bellini (find in your grocery store’s chilled spirits section)
fresh mint leaves
popsicle mold

A hint of mint

A hint of mint

Directions
Place peaches in a blender and add 1-2 Tb of cranberry juice. Blend until the peaches are pureed into a liquid – 30 seconds to one minute. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the 8 1/2 ounces of prepared Bellini and 2 cups of cranberry juice and mix with a large spoon.

Pour mixture into popsicle molds slowly using a measuring cup with a spout (if possible). Add a few fresh leaves of mint to every popsicle. The mint will float on the top but once the popsicle stick is inserted, the mint will be pushed further into the popsicle mold.

Freeze popsicles. Before removing frozen popsicles from their mold, cut a tiny hole in the bottom of cupcake liners. Once the popsicles are out of the mold, push the popsicle stick through the cupcake liner to add a mini “drip tray.”

Labor Day poolside dessert

Labor Day poolside dessert

Arrange popsicles in a decorative ice bucket filled with ice or pass around on a large tray with fresh mint leaves decorating the platter. Serve immediately. You can also place the popsicles on wax paper on a large dinner plate, stacking them into a few layers with wax paper between each layer and put into the freezer until you are ready to serve.

Garnish with fresh mint and serve on a large platter or in an ice bucket

Garnish with fresh mint and serve on a large platter or in an ice bucket

burrata and pesca ‘peach’ salad

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My mom passed this scrumptious recipe on to me after attending a cooking class last weekend. She filled my inbox with a stream of images from the yummy dishes they were sampling and raved about this particular recipe so I couldn’t resist making it for myself.

As usual, my mom was right. The Burrata and Pesca is a blissful combination of “light and fresh,” ideal for the blazing hot days of August. Served on a simple white platter, all I can think of is “summer on a plate,” with the vibrant color, drizzles of flavor and variety of tastes. I loved the salad so much, I made it twice this week and it’s already on the menu for the weekend. Enjoy!

Ingredients
1 round of Burrata cheese (sliced)
2 fresh yellow peaches
1-2 Tb toasted Hazelnuts
1-2 Tb balsamic reduction (see easy recipe below)
4 cups wild arugula
2 Tb olive oil (1/2 to marinate the peaches and 1/2 to drizzle over the Burrata)
Black pepper and salt to taste
3 Tb lemon olive oil (2 Tb olive oil and 1 Tb fresh lemon juice combined)

Balsamic reduction, olive oil, and fresh lemon juice swirl together in a perfect touch of flavor

Balsamic reduction, olive oil, and fresh lemon juice layer in a perfect pattern of flavor

 

Directions
Cut the yellow peaches into wedges and marinate with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. In a flat griddle or non-stick saute pan, sear the peaches for a few minutes or until golden brown.

Place the peaches in a metal bowl and add the lemon olive oil and arugula and mix together gently. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the salad on a nice platter, making sure to display the peaches. Place the Burrata across the top of the salad. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and the balsamic reduction. Top with the toasted hazelnuts.

Toasted hazelnuts lend a subtle rich nuttiness to the light and fresh flavors

Toasted hazelnuts lend a subtle rich nuttiness to the light and fresh taste

Easy Balsamic Reduction
Combine 1 cup Balsamic vinegar and 1 Tb sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The liquid will reduce by about half.

Remove saucepan from heat and sauce will thicken as it cools.

What do you do with the extra balsamic glaze? Whatever you want! Drizzle on vanilla bean ice cream, on fresh heirloom tomatoes, on salads, on fresh fruit; especially strawberries or as a finishing glaze on chicken, steak and seafood.

The presentation couldn't be more appealing - summer on a plate

The presentation couldn’t be more appealing – SUMMER ON A PLATE

Recipe compliments of Canaletto Restaurant, Newport Beach, CA.

slow cooker chicken curry

Delicious combination of flavors from hours of slow cooking

“It’s a delectable combination of flavors from hours of slow cooking”

Mid-week is here again and this is the perfect quick recipe for a crazy week and an unusually chilly day here in Southern California. The prep time is nothing (10 to 15 minutes) and it will be so relaxing to pull in from an afternoon of carpooling and smell the scent of this yumminess wafting through the house. My husband seems really doubtful about the “yum” factor of this meal as he’s not a big fan of curry (guess I missed that memo; it’s only been 21 years). However, the curry powder is far from overpowering and simply enhances the overall flavor of the dish.

The original recipe, which I stumbled upon, came from the luscious food blog The Lemon Bowl. I changed my version up just a bit but the sauce base is essentially the same and works well in lending creaminess to the dish while accommodating your own “food edits,” such as adding different veggies, substituting shrimp or tofu in place of the chicken or adding it alongside the chicken for extra protein, flavor and creativity.

Ingredients
1 package organic boneless, skinless chicken breast (equals about 1.5 to 1.7 pounds)
1 onion thinly sliced (my mandolin made this a tear-free one minute process)
1, 15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 package pre-cut sweet potatoes (I cut the sweet potatoes into smaller pieces but they were already peeled which made my prep fast)
1 1/2 cups cauliflower florets, broken into small pieces
1 cup broccoli florets, broken into small pieces
1 can Dole crushed pineapple
3/4 cup light Coconut milk
3/4 cup Swanson’s chicken stock
1, 15 ounce can tomato sauce
2 Tb melted butter
2 Tb curry powder
1/2 tsp Red Curry Paste (if you like spice-optional)
1 cup of green peas, frozen
1 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lemon
Optional toppings: crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, parsley, toasted coconut or crispy chow mein sticks

A bowl of healthy and delicious comfort

A bowl of healthy and delicious comfort

Directions
1. In the bottom of your crock pot combine the coconut milk, chicken stock, tomato sauce, melted butter, curry powder, curry paste and salt. Stir until thoroughly combined.
2. Add the chicken breasts, onion, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, cauliflower florets and broccoli florets.
3. Gently mix ingredients together so everything is fully coated with the sauce.
4. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
5. Once finished cooking, remove chicken breasts to cutting board and shred or cut into bite-sized pieces. Return to curry mixture and stir.
6. Add peas and lemon juice and stir. Let sit for 5 to 10 more minutes.
7. Add the Dole crushed pineapple to a small sauce pan and warm over high for 5 minutes.
8. Add cooked white rice to the bottom of each individual serving bowl.
9. Add a small layer of the cooked pineapple (optional).
10. Spoon chicken curry mixture on top.
11. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, parsley, toasted coconut or crispy chow mein sticks.

*This flexible recipe can be made with tofu and veggies for a vegetarian option. If you’re not a fan of white rice, serve the curry mixture over quinoa, gluten free noodles or completely on its own if you are watching your carb intake.