May 21, 2014

Basil Cucumber Mint Soda

A few summers back I fell in love with this combination of flavors in the form of a Cucumber Martini, and this time around, well it is as a fizzy drink!

This is a naturally refreshing drink with far less calories then a regular soda. I'm talking maybe 60 itsy bitsy little calories per one 12 oz drink. The idea here is that you make your own simple syrup and then add the basil, cucumber and the mint to the melted sugar and let it steep for about 30 minutes. This infuses all of these fabulous flavors into the sugar.

Here's what you will need...

1/2 large cucumber sliced thin
12 fresh mint leaves
6 fresh bail leaves
about 3 cups club soda or seltzer

...and this simple syrup recipe.
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c water

Heat both ingredients in a small saucepan and stir continuously until the sugar dissolves.

Here is what you need to do...

Remove syrup from the heat and then add cucumber, basil and mint and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain the simple syrup into a jar, pressing the solids in strainer. Fill six 12 oz glasses with ice. Add 2 T. of the simple syrup and then add the soda water.
Garnish with cucumber and mint.

And then sit back in your chair by the pool and enjoy!!!


March 1, 2014

New Engalnd Clam Chowder

This recipe was adapted from Cooks Illustrated Cookbook with only minor changes made to the original recipe.

In these colder than cold Arctic days we've been having as of late, the only thing that really warms me up is a hearty bowl of hot soup! Today I decided to make my hubby's absolute favorite potage, New England clam chowder!

This chowder is made with freshly steamed Middle Neck clams, celery, onion, fresh thyme and a smokey bacon, so the base is really packed with flavor! The Yukon Gold potatoes have a moderate level of starch which is released into the mixture during the cooking time. This helps to nicely thicken the chowder. Oh and make sure you pick up a bag or box of oyster crackers to toss in with your piping hot chowda!!!


3 cups of water
Approximate 3 1/3 lbs Middle Neck or Cherry Stone clams, scrubbed (about 35 clams)
5 pieces of bacon chopped fine
2 medium onions chopped
2 stalks of celery chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp of dried
3 T. butter
3 T flour
3 8 oz. bottles of clam juice (choose one lowest in sodium)
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
2 packets of Goya Sazon without Annatto (found near other Goya products in your local supermarket.) 
1 cup heavy cream
3 T minced parsley
fresh cracked peper
pinch of salt if needed

To start heat 3 cups of water in a large pot or Dutch oven, then in a metal basket or strainer steam the scrubbed clams until they are all opened up. Discard any unopened clams, keep the reserved juices and set it aside.

Next, in the same pot, heat bacon for about 6 minutes. Then add celery and onions and let them cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add a little of the reserved juice from the clams if needed, then add 3 tablespoons of butter and let it melt. Add 3 tablespoons of flour and make a roux. Slowly add the reserved clam juice along with the bottle juice and one bay leaf. Let the mixture thicken and then add 1 lb of Yukon Gold potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes.

Once clams are cooled remove them from their shells with a sharp knife and mince. 

At the end of the 20-25 minute cooking time the potatoes should be soft but still have their shape. (The beauty of Yukon Gold potatoes.) Let the mixture cool somewhat and remove the bay leaf. In a blender add the mixture in small batches and blend till smooth. I like my chowder to have some chunkiness so I don't blend all of the mixture. Return the soup back to the pot and heat through. Turn off the heat and pour in 1 cup of heavy cream, or you can cut the cream with a 1/2 cup of milk or Half-n-Half. Then add the parsley and the clams. Let the mixture warm the clams through for a couple minutes and then serve.

Garnish with parsley and enjoy!


February 12, 2014

What's the Fizz?

Do you ever wonder what the difference is between these three clear fizzy beverages? Well I've always been curious. What do you use and when? Why do some people prefer Seltzer over club soda or tonic. How alike or different are they and which one came first?

To start, carbonated water goes back as far as the late 1700's. Tonic water, also known as quinine water, is a carbonated drink which contains c02, sugar and has something called quinine dissolved into it. Quinine is a crystal alkaloid which comes from the bark of the Cinchona tree, indigenous to South America, and possesses both anti-inflammatory and fever-reducing properties.

(Good to know if you ever run out of Motrin.)

Anyhow, back in the early part of the 1800's  quinine was added to the carbonated drink as a prophylactic measure to fight malaria, however it also rendered a bit of a "bitey" taste to it. So in an effort to offset the bitterness, sugar was added and later on gin in order to make the drink more palatable.

Tonic water is the only one of the three beverages which has calories, but fortunately for those of us who have to watch our waistlines,  you can buy a diet version of tonic water.

Tonic water is best used with gin or vodka. If you add lemon or lime to the water it is known as bitter lemon or bitter lime.


 Seltzer is a flavorless naturally effervescent water with no sugar or sodium added. The term Seltzer is actually a generic trade name for carbonated water. It came about in the 1950's when other terms like sparkling water became popular alternative names for carbonated water. The name Seltzer was derived from the German town of Nieder Selters, which is renowned for it's mineral springs.

Hand made Seltzer is often called soda water, and was introduced back in the late 1800's. This makes the original Seltzer the forerunner to today's soda pop. 


Carbonated water or Club Soda, is really nothing more than water into which c02 gas under pressure has been dissolved.

Up until WWII, club soda was called soda water because of the sodium salts it contained. These were added to the carbonated water to mimic the flavor of natural mineral water. The flavor and effervescence of club soda is much milder than that of Seltzer and tonic waters. Of the three different carbonated waters, club soda contains the most milligrams of salt, a whopping 70 mg per 8 oz. serving. Club soda is also the defining ingredient of carbonated soft drinks.

So bottom line...Seltzer and club Soda are virtually interchangeable. But if you happen to run out of tonic water and still have either Seltzer or club Soda lying around, you can make a good substitute by simply adding some lime and lemon juice along with a little sugar to it.

And yes we did conduct out own taste test. Grace and myself liked the tonic water best mostly because of the bright citrus flavor. Michael, on the other hand, preferred the club soda because it was less fizzy than the other two.

I hope this helps a little the next time you are faced with the dilemma of which type of sparkling water to buy!

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

February 7, 2014

Red Velvet Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

I found this recipe on the Internet today and was determined to make it. The first attempt was tasty but didn't quite turn out with the right fault because I under cooked it. The recipe also called for the baking dish to be lined with parchment paper...I didn't have any so I used wax paper...big mistake because the brownie was completely stuck to the paper despite the liberal coating of cooking spray I applied. Also on my first attempt I did not use enough red food coloring so my red velvet brownie was more of a brown velvet ...not the right color. No kiddies will gladly scarf down my "oops" brownies.

Luckily for me I had more of the ingredients needed to create this wonderful treat so I made a second attempt and I AM SO HAPPY I DID!!!

These are really wonderful because they are not too sweet like your regular brownies can be. They have a bit of elegance about them...must be the Red Velvet!

Anyhow this is what you need...

For the brownie layer...

10 T. butter softened
3 0z. dark or semi-sweet chocolate (I used semi-sweet)
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
red  food coloring (enough to make the egg mixture very red)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder

For the cream cheese layer...

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare and 8 X 8 baking dish by spraying it generously with cooking spray.

In microwave soften butter is microwave safe dish and set aside. Do the same with the chocolate and then whisk the two together and let cool slightly.

In separate bowl, mix together the 2 eggs, sugar, vanilla and red food coloring until well blended. Slowly add the chocolate mixture and blend well again.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt and slowly add to the batter, being careful not to over mix. Pour batter into prepared dish and set aside.

To make the cream cheese layer mix all ingredients together until smooth. Pour over the red velvet mixture and with a butter knife swirl the two together.

Recipe from this website ~ Doughmesstic


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December 14, 2013

The Best French Toast Sandwich

This is the ultimate in French Toast! Banana, peanut butter, and honey...what a super combination. Then dip this sandwich into a flavored egg mixture and toast it up!

What you will need to make 2 sandwiches...
4 slices of white or wheat bread with crusts removed
one banana cut in half and then sliced into 4's
2 T. peanut butter
a drizzle of honey

Place 4 sliced of bread on cutting board. Spread peanut butter on 2 of the slices and the cut banana on the other 2 slices. Drizzle the honey over the banana and close up the sandwiches. Then whisk together...

one egg
3 T half 'n half
1 teaspoon vanilla
and if you are making the grown up version, add one T. of spiced rum

Dip the sandwiches in the egg mixture and coat well. Then place them on a hot griddle prepared with cooking spray. Grill until the bread turns a golden color. remove from heat, cut each sandwich in half and serve with maple syrup and fresh blueberries!


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December 4, 2013

Sweet and Crunchy Walnuts

I say that when you have a great recipe then you need to share it! And this my friends is one of my favorites. I have been making these walnuts for almost 20 year now, and every time they get rave reviews. Of course when I started making this recipe walnuts did not cost $6.99 a pound, so these days I will typically make them to give as gifts. The method for making this recipe is very easy, the trick is to cook the nuts on a low oven setting over the period of an hour.

To make this treat you will need...

1 lb walnut pieces
Whites from 2 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted

And here's what you need to do...

Heat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit and have a 15 1/2 inch x 10 1/2inch jellyroll pan ready. Beat the egg whites with an electric hand beater in a large bowl until they form soft peaks when the beaters are lifted. Gradually add the brown sugar and continue beating until the mixture becomes glossy. Stir in the melted butter and then add the walnuts and mix until the nuts are completely coated.

 Spread them out on the jellyroll sheet and place in prepared oven. Bake for one hour or until the mixture is dry, stirring the nuts every 15 minutes with a cookie spatula.

Let them cool completely and then enjoy!

November 15, 2013

Homemade Cranberry Sauce with a Hint of Orange

Growing up we always had the jellied cranberry sauce out of the can with our Thanksgiving dinners, and of course I always loved it. But as I started to do more cooking as an adult, along with my changing taste, I wanted to make more of the canned items I liked as a kid from fresh ingredients. This recipe is unique in the way that it incorporates a little citrus tang to the flavor of the cranberries. Also instead of using all white sugar in this recipe, brown sugar is used to give the sauce a little bit of a richer flavor. Then there is the optional liquor you can add to the cranberry sauce.

1 12oz bag of fresh cranberries
3/4  cup orange juice
2/3 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 T. of orange liqueur (optional)

Rinse off the cranberries and place them in a pot along with the orange juice and sugars. Heat pot over medium high heat and stir. Once the mixture becomes hot you will begin to hear the cranberries pop. Let cook for 15-20 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and add your liqueur. Let mixture cool and store in the frig. The cranberry sauce will jell up as it cools down.

Shred some orange peel for garnish and enjoy!

Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving day!

God Bless!!


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October 24, 2013

A Maple and Candied Walnut Layer Cake

 What better way to celebrate the autumn than with walnuts and maple syrup. I just looooove maple syrup. So when I saw this recipe for a maple and candied walnut cake in my new issue of Taste of Home magazine I fell head over heels for it!

For the cake...

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp maple syrup
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup of buttermilk

To make the candied walnuts...

1 tsp. unsalted butter, 
1 1/2 cups of coarsely chopper walnuts
1 tsp. maple syrup
1/4 tsp. salt

For the frosting...
2 1/2 cups of butter (Salted), softened
6 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp maple syrup
1/4 to 1/2 cup of half-n-half
1 T maple syrup divided

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line the bottom of 3 cake pans with parchment paper cut to fit. Spray the parchment and pans with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter with the brown sugar until blended then add the 3 eggs, beating well after each one. Then add the maple syrup.

In another bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Then alternating the flour and the butter milk, add them to the butter mixture again beating well after each addition. Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared cake pans and bake in the oven for  13-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes our clean. Cool the cakes in their pans for about 10 minutes and then move them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

In a large heavy skillet, melt the butter for the candied walnuts. Add the walnuts to the butter and cook while stirring constantly until nuts are toasted. Add the maple syrup and salt and cook for one more minute. Remove from heat and transfer to  a heat proof bowl to let cool.

For the frosting beat the butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Begin to beat in the confectioner's sugar and the half-n-half, alternation the dry with the wet. Add enough of the liquid until you get the desired consistency for your frosting. Add the maple syrup and beat for one more minute.

Place one cake on your plate or cake dish and spread about a cup of frosting on top. Sprinkle on top of the frosting 1/2 cup of the candied walnuts, then drizzle with 1 T. of maple syrup. Repeat layers. Top with the last layer and then frost the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkling with the remaining walnuts and drizzle with the last of the maple syrup.


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October 21, 2013

A Positively Perfect Pumpkin Russian

Here's another super delicious way of celebrating Autumn with one of my favorite flavors of the season, pumpkin. Only this time it is in  liquid form. Look at that fabulous pumpkin color...don't you just want to pick up the glass and take a sip right now?

This tasty adult treat was made with both pumpkin and coffee liqueurs, plus some pumpkin vodka and light cream.

Here are the amounts you need to make a perfect Pumpkin Russians.

1 part coffee liqueur
3 parts Pumpkin liqueur
1 part vodka
1 part light cream ( I used fat free and it still tastes yummy)

I then put it in my cocktail shaker with some ice and shook my little heart out!. But you can easily mix it and then pour it over some ice...either way it is still scrumptilly-ishes!

You can even go ahead and garnish the drink with a spicy cinnamon stick!

This is definitely on my radar for a very Happy Halloween night!


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October 15, 2013

Super Easy Pumpkin Pancakes

My kids have been on a HUGE pancake kick lately, I suppose it's the cool fall weather making them want something hot in their bellies. Well anyway yesterday I got it into my head that I wanted to make pumpkin pancakes, so I did an internet search for homemade pumpkin pancake recipes. And while I did find a few, when I tried making them they came out really heavy and way too moist. I had to laugh, the first recipe I tried the pancakes were actually orange! I just couldn't get a dang good looking fluffy pumpkin pancake to come out no matter what I did. After numerous tries, almost 2 hours in the kitchen and about half a canister of flour all used up, I though maybe it's time to throw in the proverbial towel!

But hey that simply is not me, and I refused to be defeated by a pancake! So being someone who is typically willing to take a short cut if I can, especially when it comes to baking, (with the exception of always making my own pie crusts) I thought why not just use a boxed pancake mix and doctor it up, and that's what I did!

Make the pancake batter according to the box directions. 
For 6-8 pancakes add the following...

1 tsp Pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 T of pure pumpkin puree, not filling
and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract.

Then just cook the pancakes on your griddle as usual.

To make the Ginger Spiced Maple Syrup do this...

Heat 1/2 cup of maple syrup on the stove just until warm, don't boil. Then add a pinch of ground ginger and stir until dissolved. Test the flavor and add more if desired. Just make sure you add the ginger a little at a time, if too much goes in it will make the syrup way too bite-y. Let cool and store in frig in an airtight container.

A little whipped cream along with some ginger spiced maple syrup, and you have an awesome autumn breakfast!!

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