Cocktail Friday: Pomegranate Moscow Mule

I was out and about for a few hours today. I had to run a few errands, including getting fingerprinted (yep) for both jobs, and picking up the boxes of floor tiles I ordered for the kitchen. Yes, I have a new kitchen floor going in soon! I’m so excited. When my dad and I remodeled the kitchen a few years ago I liked the wood laminate that I originally chose for the floor, but it quickly became apparent that it was a poor choice in the kitchen. The new flooring is a vinyl tile that can be laid and grouted like ceramic – my parents actually have it in their kitchen, and I love it. I can’t wait to get started on mine – as soon as dad can find a free weekend!

While I was out today I took a side trip to TJ Maxx “just to see what they had” and ended up buying a pair of copper mugs, something I’d been wanting to procure for a while. I ended up buying a couple other things, too, but we’re not here to talk about my fabulous new poncho and scarf.

Because with copper mugs come Moscow Mules. Vodka, lime, and ginger beer? Oh, heck yes. When you add pomegranate soda? Even better. The soda cuts the spiciness of the ginger beer and gives the drink a fruity sweetness that makes you forget you maybe shouldn’t drink it that fast, Jenn. But you do anyway, because it’s delicious.

Pomegranate Moscow Mule

2 oz vodka

1 oz lime juice

3 oz ginger beer

3 oz pomegranate soda

Fill a glass (or copper mug) with ice, add vodka, lemon juice, ginger beer, and soda. Stir and serve. And try not to chug it.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

It’s fall, y’all! No way to deny it anymore. The days are shorter, the nights cool and crisp, the leaves have started changing, and I’m fighting with every fiber of my being the urge to turn the heat on in my house until November 1st. The arrival of fall brings with it my most favorite “season” of all…soup season!

Don’t get me wrong, I could(and do) eat soup during a heat wave in July, but there’s just something infinitely more comforting about tucking into a bowl of steaming hot goodness while you’re cuddled on the couch on a chilly autumn afternoon; wearing flannel pj pants, fuzzy socks, and a big cozy sweatshirt; wrapped in blankets while your two purring cuddle monsters perch precariously on your lap trying to see what you’ve got there, momma.

These two. Menace to society, they are. Not to mention a threat to my sanity and glassware.

ANYWAY. Back to soup. I could eat soup almost any day of the year, but I always seem to specifically crave it when I’m feeling under the weather. Which I was after returning from vacation the other week. Those damn airplane germs get me every time. So before I fully succumbed to sinus ickiness I dug out my soup pot and got cooking.

Since I was in the mood for something with Mexican flavors (am I ever *not* in the mood for Mexican? No.), I went with a simple chicken tortilla soup – chock full of fresh veggies, beans, a little heat, and served up with a touch of freshness with some cilantro and lime at the end.

Firstly I baked a couple boneless skinless chicken breasts in the oven, 375 for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through. I don’t like to poach my chicken in the broth, I think roasting in the oven gives a better flavor ( it’s even better when the chicken is roasted over some root veggies with the bone in and skin on, but I used what I had on hand here). Dice the chicken up and set aside.

Now get to chopping all those veggies. Onion, garlic, celery, and bell peppers. Maybe some carrots if you’re so inclined (I was carrot-less this time around). Dice everything up fine and sauté in olive oil over medium high heat until the onions are nicely translucent, the celery has softened, and the peppers have slightly browned.

Seasoning time. Add salt, pepper, onion powder, cumin, coriander, chili powder, and chipotle powder to vegetables. Stir in tomato paste. Cook for a couple of minutes to toast spices and paste in the oil.

Onto the canned goods. I love canned beans for soups and chilis, they’re such a big time saver. Be sure to drain and rinse that liquid off though, it’s a bit salty. Drain and rinse two cans of black beans and add to the pan. Add two cans of diced tomatoes with chilis (Ro-Tel), including liquid and stir. Bring to a low simmer.

Add six cups of chicken stock and the diced chicken and bring the soup to a simmer over medium heat. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Chop cilantro finely and add to soup (if desired, I know some people aren’t cilantro fans). Serve with desired additions — wedge of lime, shredded cheese, tortilla chips, even a touch of sour cream or guacamole.

Note: This makes a lot of soup. You can absolutely store some of this in the freezer.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Makes approximately 12-14 cups

  • 12-16 oz boneless skinless chicken breast, baked and diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, any color, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with chiles, with liquid
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 can tomato paste
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 TBS fresh cilantro, chopped fine
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • Tortilla chips, shredded cheese, sour cream, fresh lime wedges, and some additional cilantro, for serving.

Saute onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic in olive oil until onion is translucent and vegetables are slightly browned. Add all seasonings and tomato paste, stir to combine, and cook for a couple of minutes to allow spices to toast up a bit. Add drained and rinsed beans and tomatoes and chilis with liquid. Add cooked diced chicken, chicken stock, and bring to a simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add chopped fresh cilantro and serve with desired toppings.

It’s good for what ails ya.

You can also check out some of my other fall soup recipes — they’re all ridiculously delicious and super simple to make.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Creamy Cauliflower Soup (my personal favorite!)

Easiest Butternut Squash Soup Ever

Enjoy! And happy fall!

Cocktail Friday: Up Peach Creek

I’m baaaack! Well, I’ve been back for like ten days but post-vacation blues and subsequent post-vacation illness had me in not so much of a bloggy place. I still feel like I have about five thousand errands to catch up on but I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things. Having a nice long weekend next week will definitely help in this capacity, but I’ve got five long days at both jobs ahead of me before that. Having one of these tonight will help me soldier on.

While in Florida I looked for different cocktails that I’d like to re-create at home, this was one of the first to catch my eye because bourbon, of course. The menu listed a different bourbon used in their version, thus calling it a “Peachy Buffalo” or some such; since I have/prefer Knob Creek Bourbon I’m calling this one the Up Peach Creek.

I haven’t used/drank peach schnapps in ages but the first whiff when I opened the bottle brought me back to the summers of the late 80’s and early 90’s when my parents would have picnics and my mother and all her friends would be drinking fuzzy navels and possibly sneaking sips to me, I’ll never tell. PeachTree is definitely not something I’d use every day but I do like the sweetness it imparts here. It cuts the burn of the bourbon just enough to make this one chuggable (and therefore slightly dangerous) cocktail.

Up Peach Creek 

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz peach schnapps
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 4 oz orange juice
  • orange/maraschino cherries for garnish

Fill a large glass with ice. Add bourbon, schnapps, syrup, juice, and stir. Garnish with cherry and orange slice, if desired, and serve.

Next week: Maybe a post about the trip, definitely a recipe post, and OMG YAY HARVEST FEST. See you then. Have a great weekend. Cheers!

Cocktail Friday: Felix Felicis

I’m writing this post Wednesday night, when I should be finishing up some things around the house, not the least of which is packing.

Because I’m on vacation, you see. For the first time in over ten damn years.

Some time last year I got it into my head that I wanted to go on vacation to celebrate my 40th birthday, and with a stroke of good fortune (not to mention the fact that I’ve been working my ass off at two jobs for the past three years), I was able to book a long weekend with a couple of friends in Orlando, Florida. We won’t have time to do much, since it is just a three day trip, but with regards to Orlando, the only thing that’s on the agenda is the same thing that’s been on my mind for the past…oh, say four years or so?



Because I’m a GIGANTIC DAMN NERD I’ve been dreaming about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida since it opened. After the expansion last year, I figured my 40th would be the perfect opportunity to indulge my inner child/nerd and finally experience the magic for myself.

We booked the trip before the summer even started and now that it’s here it seems like a dream. I’ll talk all about it when I get back, but for now we have a drink to make.

I wanted to make a cocktail inspired by Harry Potter, but I really didn’t want to do yet another version of butterbeer. Been there, done that, made the cupcakes. Besides, I wanted to go to the park and experience the original first before attempting my own bourbon-ized version. Oh yes, there will be bourbon.

While consulting Pinterest I found this Buzzfeed article highlighting a few different Harry Potter-inspired cocktails. And since the “Felix Felicis” scene in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is probably my favorite scene in all eight movies, I decided to make this simple version of Professor Slughorn’s “Liquid Luck”.

Comedy gold, that is. And a delicious cocktail to boot. The spicy ginger gets mellowed out just a touch by the sparkling wine and simple syrup, combining for a delightfully crisp flavor that bubbles over your tongue.

Felix Felicis (“Liquid Luck”)

  • 1/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • 2 oz ginger beer
  • 4 oz champagne, Prosecco, or other sparkling wine

Combine the lemon juice, simple syrup and ginger beer in a champagne flute. Add champagne to fill and serve whenever you need a little…luck.

See you when I get back!

Italian Cream Cake

It’s my birrrrthday, my buh-buh-buh-birrrrthday!

I know I’m 40 now and everything, but I still can’t help but get a little giddy when September 15th rolls around. Probably has something to do with being an only child and my parents spoiling me (somewhat) rotten as a child, but who likes to speculate?

Yesterday I talked about my birthday game night celebration complete with mini Italian feast, and this cake was the sweetest ending. Normally I bake up a red velvet cake for my birthday because it’s hands down my favorite kind of cake, but I wanted to keep with the “theme” of the evening so I dug up this recipe that I got from an old coworker a few years back. It’s a creamy white cake that’s moist and dense, with the lightest whipped cream frosting.

Absolute heaven. 

Start with your dry ingredients: sift them together in a large bowl and set aside.

Note: for most other cakes you can skip the cake flour and just use all-purpose, but I’d definitely use cake flour here. 

Then onto the “cream” part of the Italian cream cake. Heavy whipping cream. A lot of it. Whip it in a mixer on high until it reaches a stiff peak. Add eggs one at a time and mix until just combined, taking care to not “deflate” the cream too much.

Switch out the the whisk attachment of your mixer for the beater attachment at this point. Add vanilla and almond extracts to the whipped cream mixture, then the dry ingredients, just a scoopful at a time, blending once or twice between each addition. Once all the flour is added to the whipped cream remove the bowl from the mixture and stir until just combined.

Your batter will be very dense.

Scoop batter into prepared cake pans and spread out evenly. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool in pans for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

At this point you can frost the cakes as they are or you can go all out like me and cut each layer in half, to create four layers. Why I do these things to myself I’ll never understand.

For the frosting, whip the softened mascarpone cheese (really softened, keep it out on the counter for a good hour and a half before you use it) in your mixer with some more heavy cream (Cholesterol! It’s what’s for dessert!) and powdered sugar until everything comes to a stiff peak. Frost the cake as you prefer. (Just an aside: I don’t have pictures of any of the frosting process because…well, let’s just say I had “issues” with it the night I made the cake and had to make a new batch right before my company showed up Friday evening. You don’t even want to know the words that were flying in my kitchen Thursday night, let me tell you.)

I actually made a batch and a half of frosting, to ensure there was enough between the four layers and for piping on the fancy rosettes.

You don’t have to do that, it just makes it pretty. Decorate the cake with slivered almonds, or some fresh fruit, or however you prefer.

Happy Birthday to me. 

Also I’m still totally making a red velvet cake tonight, because it’s a celebration, damn it.

Italian Cream Cake

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease and flour two eight inch round baking pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder, set aside. In a large bowl, whip cream to stiff peaks. Add eggs one at a time on low speed until just blended. Add extracts. Gradually add dry ingredients by spoonfuls to the cream mixture until just blended. Divide batter equally between the prepared pans. Gently spread tops to level.

Bake cakes 30-35 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10-15 minutes in pan and turn out onto a rack to finish cooling. If not frosting immediately, wrap in plastic and store in refrigerator.

Fluffy Mascarpone Cream Frosting

  • 4 oz mascarpone cheese at room temperature for at least 90 minutes
  • 2 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar

In a large bowl on high speed, beat mascarpone cheese, cream, and powdered sugar, scraping the bowl occasionally until stiff peaks form. Ice between layers, sides, and top of cake. Decorate as desired. Store in refrigerator, and remove approximately 30 minutes before serving.

Entertaining: Birthday Game Night, Italian Style

So someone around here is celebrating a birthday this week.

Spoiler alert: It’s me.

Tomorrow I turn 40 years old. How in the crap is that even possible? It feels like just yesterday I was in middle school, high school, graduating from college, buying my house. Even though I am 40, I don’t feel like I’ve aged much. Sure, I definitely look older than I did when I moved to the Lehigh Valley, but I feel as if I’m still figuring things out. I see friends my age and people I attended high school with on Facebook talking about their kids going to middle school or high school, and most days I don’t even feel responsible enough to have two cats. Adult Level: I honestly have no idea what I’m doing.

Looking back on my life, there are many things I’ve missed the boat on: a “normal” college experience, finding my life’s true calling, a rewarding and fulfilling career, marriage, kids…you get the picture. I don’t really feel like my life is missing anything, but to know that I’m sort of at my midway point and haven’t accomplished as much as many of my peers, I feel…I suppose inadequate is one way to put it? Only sometimes. Other times I’m damn proud of the things I’ve done and who I am.

But I’m not trying to live my life in comparison to others. I’m not that insane. And when the hell did this post get so deep?

Right. Anyway, birthday! We celebrated Friday night with food, beverages, and our usual game of Cards Against Humanity.

Because we’re terrible people. 

Since a couple of my friends were scheduled to run in a marathon this weekend I figured they would want to carb-load to prepare (or whatever it is those runner types do), and I was in the mood for Italian, so pasta was the perfect choice. I made this recipe for a penne with vodka sauce that I saw on Barefoot Contessa a couple weeks back. I have my own version of penne with vodka, but the way this sauce was made intrigued me – cook the onions and garlic, add one cup of vodka (dang, Ina) and cook down, add crushed tomatoes, then roast the sauce in the oven for 90 minutes before adding the cream and pasta. It was pretty damn tasty, but I honestly don’t know if the additional roasting time made that much difference in the end.

I wouldn’t not make it again, I just don’t know if I would go to all that trouble every time I want penne with vodka sauce.

In addition to the mountain of pasta I made (because of course I doubled that recipe, because my mother and her mother and her mother’s mother would disown me if I didn’t cook for double the amount of people I was hosting), I served a simple garlic bread (roast a whole head of garlic in the oven, blend with softened butter, add parmesan cheese/salt/pepper, spread on bread, bake until crispy)…

and a caprese salad with store made pesto instead of the normal fresh basil. Seriously, if you don’t have a ton of homegrown basil at your disposal, get the pesto from the Mediterranean bar at Wegmans. It’s totally banging.

A squeeze of bottled balsamic vinegar glaze makes it perfect.

To finish off the meal I baked an Italian cream cake and I’d go into detail but this beauty totally deserves a post of its own.

Perhaps tomorrow. Look at that, it’s my birthday, and you’re getting the gifts!

Cocktail Friday: French 77

When it comes to adult beverages, I’m a fairly simple (if basic) girl. I like whiskey or bourbon with Coke or ginger ale, vodka with anything sweet, non fussy margaritas, and those drinks that most bars call “martinis” but are anything but.

I know, I’m terrible.

The past couple of years, however, I’ve been introduced to (and really enjoy) St. Germain, a sweet and slightly floral elderflower liquor that has been popping up in bars and trendy speakeasies all over the place. I’ve found the simplest yet most enjoyable way to imbibe St. G is with a French 77. It’s light and fresh, and adds just a touch of fanciness to your Friday night.

French 77

  • 2 oz St. Germain elderflower liquor
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 oz champagne or prosecco
  • lemon twist

Fill a martini glass with ice to chill and set aside(optional). Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add St. Germain and lemon juice and shake. Remove ice from glass and pour St. G. and lemon mixture. Pour champagne into glass and add lemon twist.

Chin chin, darlings. Enjoy the weekend.