Friday, April 26, 2013

Mumbai Martini

I have this little habit.  
I shoot pictures of drink menus while in restaurants and bars.
I usually order a glass of wine, or maybe a beer, but rarely a martini or mixed drink while I am out.
It's kind of chancy, ya know?
But my curiosity is often piqued by the interesting ingredients, or names, like Mumbai Martini.
I want to try it, I just don't want to order it.
So, I take a picture of the menu for later reference
It very helpfully includes a general list of ingredients.
It's not really to hard to guess at the ratios. 
Funny how the drink tastes good even if you didn't get it exactly right, huh?

I've made this one twice, for different groups, and both groups loved it.
Sweet, spicy and tangy and refreshing too.
If you don't like spicy, you could leave out the hot sauce, or just add a little bit.

Serves 1-2

2 jiggers citrus rum, or vodka (I tried it with both rum and vodka, it's up to you)
1/2 jigger triple sec
2 jiggers grapefruit juice (pink or white, I've tried both, pink is prettier though...)
Juice of 1 lime (plus some more slices for garnish, if desired)
1 tsp hot sauce, like Tabasco or Sriracha
1/2 tsp curry

Additional curry powder and salt for the rimmed glass.

Add the curry powder and some salt (I used fresh ground sea salt) into a small plate.  Rub some water, or a little lime juice around the rim, and dip carefully into the curry mixture. Set aside while you mix the martini.

Mix all the ingredients in an ice filled shaker.  Shake well. Pour into glass, garnish and enjoy!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Greek Tzatziki- Even Better

I had these great memories of the yogurt from a Greek trip that we took over 20 years ago.
Creamy, yummy and so amazing.  
You could eat it with honey and it tasted like a dessert, or the fantastic Greek condiment that is served with almost everything in Greece, Tzatziki. I lusted after that stuff, and I always thought it was the yogurt that made it so good. That was back before you could get Greek yogurt in the U.S. Early on my blog, I posted a recipe for Chicken Souvlaki and a mini recipe for tzatziki, but it wasn't what I wanted.  Something was definitely still missing, it just didn't taste like what I remembered.

Recently, we returned to Greece and this time, I was bound and determined to make it right.  We ate lunch at a tiny outdoor taverna in the Plaka area of Athens.
OMG... that stuff was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.
What in the world made it so much better there?

Well, this is certainly the best tzatziki I have made, and my friends and family are raving too.  I'm not sure this is anything close to what they do in Greece, but this tastes right to us.
I used half sour cream and half Greek yogurt.  It gives it the thick and creamy consistency that is fresh and delicious condiment on anything: veggies, pita bread, souvlaki, crackers, even your hamburger. 

In the interest in FULL DISCLOSURE,  these photos are from my first attempt of Tzatziki once I returned from the trip. I did it again because:
  • The Persian cucumbers I used were bitter and I wasn't happy with them  I recommend using a basic regular ole' cucumber, peeled. If the seeds are big, remove those too.
  • I chopped my cucumber, onion and garlic VERY finely in my food processor, more finely than these pictures show.  I drained them for about 10 minutes, even pushing down on the mixture to get rid of as much liquid as possible.
  • I used less onion... only 1/4 instead of a 1/2 onion.  It's up to you though.

Makes about 2 cups

1 cup Greek nonfat yogurt
1 cup sour cream
1 cucumber, peeled 
1/4 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
Salt & pepper

 Remember, pulse chop your cucumber MORE finely than I show below.

Drain 10 minutes, squeezing the mixture with a spoon to remove as much of the liquid as possible.

Mix into the sour cream and yogurt mixture.  Season with salt and pepper and let the mixture rest and meld the flavors for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Eat and Enjoy!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Brazilian Shrimp Soup

Another red soup.... but I just couldn't resist. 
I posted my Mexican Spicy Tomato soup not even two weeks ago.
I'm kind of embarassed that here's another red soup.
Oh well, maybe you like red soups too.

This one was so easy to make with things I have in the pantry or the freezer, so I figured it might work out for you too.  It's a bit like my Jambalaya Soup, but a bit more exotic with the addition of the coconut milk.

(Whoops, I didn't photograph the chicken stock and the cilantro/parsley)


Makes about 6-8 1 cup servings

2 tablespoons olive, or vegetable, oil

1 onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped (or 5 mini bell peppers)

 3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup long-grain rice, uncooked

 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

1 3/4 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (one 15-ounce can)

5 cups water, or chicken stock

1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk

1 1/2 pounds small or medium shrimp, (about 2 cups frozen)

1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

1/2 lemon, or lime, juiced

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

I chopped my veggies very finely in the food processor, but even a dice mixture would be good.  It's up to you. 

In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes.

Add the rice, red-pepper flakes, salt, tomatoes, and stock/ or water to the pot. 
Bring to a boil and cook until the rice is almost tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Stir the coconut milk into the soup. Bring back to a simmer and then stir in the shrimp. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are just done, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the black pepper, lemon juice, and parsley.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Scottish Shortbread

I had cookies for lunch, I am kind of embarrassed about that.
Yep, cookies.
Does it help that I had a large bag of raw veggies and a green apple?
No... probably not.
Well, at least it was balanced. Right? Well....

My Mom made me some shortbread at Christmas, and it was HEAVEN.
Buttery, crisp goodness, not too sweet.
When I asked her about the recipe, she made me guess the secret ingredient.
Yeah, I nailed it.  I knew it was corn starch.  It makes the cookie tender, but with all the buttery goodness.  I have to say, I really shouldn't make shortbread. 
I love it too much.  
Which I guess is why I hadn't tried this version myself until it reached out and really got my attention with my Mom's gift.
This recipe tastes just like the famous Walkers Shortbread. I lived in Scotland in the early 80's for a year, and YES, Walkers shortbread is as famous in Scotland as it is in the USA.

This is a very easy recipe to make, and turns out beautifully too.  Don't skimp on the dough kneading part, it makes a stronger cookie that won't crumble all over the place.  I used one of those thin cutting boards to mark my lines for cutting into "Walkers" like bars, but  you could easily use cookie cutters instead.  I used a large meat fork to make the pokey holes.  I think that it adds something to the allure, don't you.  Little holes are... well, wimpy little holes.

I was surprised that these cookies did seem to expand a bit bigger than I expected so be sure to leave at least 3/4" inch between each.  These cookies kept their crispness beautifully for many days afterwards.  Next time, I might try to dip these cookies in white, or dark chocolate.

Makes about 36-48 rich, yummy cookies
2 cups butter (I used salted butter... use what you like, but I think it needs a touch of salt)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
Cream butter and brown sugar. Add 3 to 3 3/4 cups flour. Mix well.

Sprinkle board with the remaining flour. Knead for 5 minutes, adding enough flour to make a soft dough. Roll to 1/2 inch thickness. Kneading it is the important part, it makes it tough enough to pick up and enjoy with crumbling all over you, but the corn starch keeps it tender.  Tough AND tender = Awesome.

Cut into 3x1 inch strips. I used my thin little cutting board as a guide when I cut it, but you can see it is not a perfect science, so you can do it any way you want, even cookie cutters.

Prick with fork (I used a big tinged meat fork) and place on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 20 to 25 minutes.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spicy Mexican Tomato Soup

It rained all weekend. 
And... I... mean... ALL... weekend. 
You know what they say about April showers right?
Yeah, they suck.  
Hahahaha, sorry about that.  
I just wanted a little warmth and sunshine.
So I made my own.... soup is warm and brightens anyone's day.

I dreamed this up on the way home from a Sunday shopping trip to Ikea.  Yeah, nerves were frazzled as we drove through the rain in our big ole' beater truck,on our way home with more DIY projects than anyone should take on in one trip. Hungry, and borderline crabby, we needed some lunch pronto!

Full disclosure...
Soup is my favorite food group.
Tomato is the top of that list.
Spicy is on the top of every food group list.
The perfect trifecta for my family.. I  mean, me.

This soup was ready to go in under 20 minutes, and I served it up with some english muffins topped with melted cheese.  Yes, the classic combination. 
All was right with the world again.

One more NOTE, I have labeled this soup as Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free but I have shown it with grated cheese and sour cream.  Clearly, if you want Vegan or Dairy free you will need to omit that.

Makes about 7-8 cups, serves 4-6

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 28 oz can of tomatoes
4 cups chicken, or vegetable broth
1-2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
Salt & pepper to taste (I used smoked salt...)

Overr medium high heat, saute the diced onions in olive until they start to caramelize and get a little brown color.  Add the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes. 

Then add the cumin and chili powder, heat until fragrant about 1-2 minutes.  Careful not to inhale too much, gets kind of spicy!

Add broth, tomatoes, chipotles and all the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.  Let cool a bit, then blend until smooth with a stick blender, or in a regular blender.  Be sure to cover your blender with a towel, because hot liquids tend to "expand" when you blend them, and you really, really do NOT want this to fly all over the place.

Return to the pot and adjust seasonings to your liking.  It may need a bit more salt, or even chili powder if you like it spicy.  Re-heat to serve at once, or chill for another meal.  It's a great make ahead soup, and perfect for lunches too.

If you like SOUPS, especially SPICY RED soups, please check these out.  They are some of my favorites:

Albondigas, Mexican Meatball Soup
Egyptian Red Lentil Soup
Jambalaya Soup, Easy 

Lasagna Soup with Spinach Ricotta

Mediterranean Tomato Soup
Pork and Chorizo Soup
Portuguese Linguica Sausage, Bean and Kale Stew 

Southwestern Seafood Chowder

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Sargent MacGregor- Gimlet Martini

It was a great birthday this year.  
Lots of surprises and fun high jinks.
One of the biggest surprises was coming down stairs to a kitchen still dirty from the party the night before... OH... whew.  The party was worth it though. Even if that dirty kitchen was giving me a headache.  It was the dirtiness, nothing else.  Hahaha

But the biggest surprise was still to be discovered.
I had a bunch of wine gift bags that didn't get unpacked the night before. 
Which is kind of surprising considering the amount of 'dead soldiers' on the counters...
Anyway, I started on loading the dishwasher, and unloading the wine bags.
Well, well, one of them wasn't wine!  
It was St Germain Elderflower liqueur!  
Some of you may remember that I did some grousing of the cost of this liqueur when I made the French 76 Cocktail!  Two of my friends remembered that. This newly created cocktail is dedicated to my friends with last names of MacGregor and Sargent.  I was so thrilled with their surprise that my husband suggested the name for the cocktail, "the Sargent MacGregor".  It's something that makes you stand up and take notice, just as these friends can't help but naturally command when you hang with them.  
Love ya gals, thanks for the surprise!  
Sorry this post is so late after my January birthday...

Note:  Remember- a jigger is about 1-2 oz, but any like size measuring cup would work, like a 1/8 or 1/4 cup. It's the ratios that are most important.

FYI, a Gimlet is nothing more than vodka mixed with Rose's lime juice with a lime twist on the rocks.  Awesome...

Makes one BIG martini

2 jiggers vodka
1 jigger St. Germain
1 jigger Rose's Lime Juice
Squeeze of Lime, Lemon
Sparkling water, lemon lime flavor, to taste

Pour all ingredients (except the sparkling water) into a beverage shaker filled with ice.  Shake, shake, shake and pour into a martini glass.  Top with a float of sparkling water and garnish with a twist of lime, or a lime slice.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix- Make ahead

I've always liked the Uncle Dan's or Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing, but frankly, was always amazed that the mixes cost so much!  
So let's see.... you want me to pay that for something I have to add my own ingredients to AND make at home.  I'm thinking that's not such a great value...

So this recipe is for a Homemade Ranch Seasoning need to pay $1.70 a packet anymore! It was really good, and I loved having it in there ready to go. Once you've combined the dry mix,  I would suggest making your liquid dressing and letting it sit for 15-20 minutes.  If you eat it too quick after combining you will totally have crunchy dehydrated onions.

One thing about the dried buttermilk mix.  It's in the grocery store with the baking supplies and/or with the rest of the dried/canned milk.  Usually they are together. It's been fun to have buttermilk (instant) on hand to make biscuits or pancakes.  I think it was about $5.

Something funny about the big containers of spices, I asked someone, who shall remain nameless, to buy them at Costco for me.  I said "Granulated Garlic" and "Chopped Onion".  I got two versions of each, four total for just garlic and onions.... that's a whole lot of spices.  Prepare yourself to see more dried stuff in my recipes... hey, if you got it, cook it!

(forgot to show the black pepper!)

Makes about 1/2 cup, enough for 2-3 batches

1/3 cup dry buttermilk
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried onion flakes
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

To make dressing, add 2 heaping Tbsp  of the Ranch mixture into the following:
1/3 cup sour cream, or yogurt
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup milk 
OR whatever mixture you like, I also did nonfat Greek yogurt and milk for a 'diet' version. 
Let sit for 15-20 minutes, then serve with veggies, salad or anything else you like to dip in Ranch dressing.

Here's what it looked the like the next time I made it.  My written "post it" says 2 Tbsp with 1 cup yoghurt/mayo.... NOT two cups.  Didn't want any confusion.

Monday, April 1, 2013


Baklava is something I have been making for many years, thanks to my Mom.  Her baklava was always a hit when she did catering or dinner parties.  I thought eveyones Mom made baklava, hahaha, that seems really funny now.

Honestly though, Baklava is not hard, or expensive to make, but it is something that seems to impress people.  The hardest part just may be remembering to buy the frozen phyllo dough a day or so ahead of time to thaw in the fridge.  Don't try to thaw it doesn't work and will make you crazy! I usually prep the day before by putting the phyllo in the fridge, making the clarified butter and the honey syrup and chilling those too. I recommend clarifying the butter.  It cuts down on potential sogginess by removing the milk solids from the butter.  See my notes at the very bottom of the post.  It's very easy to do.

Phyllo dough itself can be a bit fussy as it is ultra-thin and can dry out and fall apart on you.  Work fast and keep the phyllo covered with a barely damp cloth while you are working and you will do fine. 

About the syrup, you don't have to use honey in it, many recipes just call for a sugar water syrup and some spices.  I like the honey in mine, hence the recipe below, but my Mom and sisters seem to use the sugar version.  

One more hint...I've been told by Greek's and Turk's that you always pour cold syrup on HOT baklava out of the oven.  It stays crispier even after pouring all that syrup on it.

Makes a 9x13 pan with about 30 pieces

1 pkg (16 oz) of phyllo dough, thawed
1 lb nuts, walnuts or almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter, clarified (see note at the bottom on this)

3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
Juice of a small orange, about 1/4 cup (optional)
orange rind (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 inch pan.

First, make the sauce, let it simmer for about 5-10 minutes until it’s a bit thickened.  Don’t boil it.   Remove the orange rind and discard. Let it cool.

Chop nuts, 1/3 cup of sugar and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. I use the food processor and make it quite fine.

Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly using a pastry brush. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. 

Sprinkle 2 - 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go, until you are out of nuts and almost out of phyllo. The top layer should be about 6 - 8 sheets deep. End with more butter.

Put it in the fridge to chill, which makes it much easier to cut. Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts.I use a whole clove in the center of each piece for more flavor and it kind of holds it together too.  Don't eat the clove's kind of spicy.

Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.

Remove baklava from oven and immediately drizzle about half the sauce over it. Let it sit and soak for a while, then add the rest. Let cool. You may need to cut again to ensure it was done all the way earlier. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.

To clarify butter, add 1 1/2 cups (3 cubes) into a glass bowl.  Microwave until melted. Chill until hard again.  Remove the firm top and discard the milky solids at the bottom.  Reheat until melted. As you can see here, I don't even bother to remove the wrappers, saves a little time.