Posted in Cocktail Friday, daily, drinks, pop culture musings

Cocktail Friday(on a Monday): Raspberry Beret

Like many people, I’ve had Prince playing on a constant loop in my house and car since Thursday. He was an artist I always enjoyed and admired, and I don’t think we’ll ever see someone like him again, sadly.

I encourage you to tip this one back in his honor.

The Raspberry Beret

  • 2 oz Raspberry Vodka
  • 1 oz. Chambord blackberry liqueur
  • 1 oz. St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • raspberries for garnish

Add vodka, liqueurs, and lemon juice to a shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with raspberries. Play “Let’s Go Crazy” and dance like a lunatic.

 

Posted in daily, food, recipe, salad

“Italian Sub” Salad

Well that was an unexpected absence. The past four months since I last posted have gone by in an absolute blur and I have absolutely nothing to show for it, besides my muffin top.

Stress eating is a hell of a thing.

ANYWAY.

I used to work in the deli department of a small grocery store in the Pocono Mountains. For those of you not familiar with the Poconos (And there’s like ten of you that read this blog regularly, I know you’re familiar with the Poconos. This is for the OTHER ten people that might stumble upon my ramblings and need a little back story, I’m saying.), there is a large population of people that have transplanted from New Jersey and New York to the area over the past 30 years or so  and have made it their home.

With New Yorkers and New Jersians (Jersey-ites?) come New York and New Jersey foods. Excellent pizza, Italian bakeries, bagels, and delis are all over Monroe County, and the deli I worked in was…

Eh, it was alright. It was cramped and the floor was sticky sometimes and it was a revolving door of college-aged losers (OH HAYYYYYYY) that were too young to go to the bars every night but needed money for the movies and Chinese food. We made awesome homemade salads and gigantic sandwiches and sold good cold cuts. I mean the really good ones.

I blame this job for my deli and sandwich snobbery and that pesky 50 lb weight gain after high school. (Hey, it had to come from somewhere, y’all.) To this day, I refuse to buy cold cuts from certain stores, and am very particular about the Italian subs I order.

The subs we made back in that deli were great – meat, cheese, and veggies stuffed to almost bursting on soft, chewy Italian rolls delivered to us every morning. Our Italian subs were my personal favorite – black pepper-coated ham, spicy Capicola ham (or Gabbagool, as my regulars would call it), hard salami, and sharp provolone cheese. I always preferred mine with lettuce, tomato, a couple hot peppers, and lots of oil and vinegar. Oh, dudes. You think Wawa‘s Italian subs are good? PFFT. Wawa ain’t got nothing on these. (But FYI Primo‘s Sharp Italians are pretty close.)

Unfortunately, the store I used to work in burned down a few years back and was never rebuilt. So you may never know the delight that is a Hilltop Market Italian sub made by yours truly. But you can have this salad, which might be a close second.

Gather your ingredients:

Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, red onion, pepper ham, hard salami, capicola ham, provolone cheese, sandwich pepperoni, and jarred hot pepperoncini peppers. For the dressing, a little mayo, white vinegar, salt, pepper, and a mess of grated parmesan cheese.

First, the dressing.

Mayo, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add grated parmesan. Whisk violently.

Okay, maybe not violently. Set aside.

Chop up romaine, slice cherry tomatoes in half, slice onion thinly. Add to large bowl.

Like so.

Prepare the cold cuts by layering the pepper ham, capicola, salami, provolone, and pepperoni on top of each other. Roll the entire thing like a log, and slice.

Thusly.

Assemble your Avengers salad: Place sliced rolled cold cuts on the lettuce mixture, and add sliced pepperoncinis. (Or don’t, if you don’t like delicious hot things. No judgement.)

Yes.

Drizzle with creamy parmesan dressing. Serve.

You can add or subtract any cold cut you desire, use different dressing, add some good crunchy/chewy croutons, etc. It’s kind of hard to mess up a salad, no? Unless you use bad cold cuts. Then I don’t know you.

“Italian Sub” Salad with Creamy Parmesan Dressing

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
  • Sliced black pepper ham
  • Sliced spicy capicola ham
  • Sliced hard salami
  • Sliced pepperoni (look for sandwich or “slicing” pepperoni, not the small slices for pizza
  • Jarred hot pepperoncini peppers

Toss lettuce, tomato, and onion in a large bowl. Stack sliced cold cuts and cheese. Roll into a log and slice. Top salad with rolled cold cuts and pepperoncinis. Top with dressing and serve.

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2-3 Tb white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup grated parmiggiano-reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper.

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl and pour over salad (use more or less vinegar to get desired consistency).

This is so easy and delicious it almost feels wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cocktail Friday, daily, drinks, recipe

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.

Posted in comfort food, daily, food, recipe, soup

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!

Posted in Cocktail Friday, daily, drinks, recipe

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!

Posted in Cocktail Friday, daily, drinks, recipe

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?

hp

YES.

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!

Posted in cake, daily, dessert, recipe

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.