Friday Cocktails: The Pimm’s Cup

Pimms Cup
The Pimm’s Cup

I think the first time I heard about a Pimm’s Cup was reading about the Royal Family in a magazine, probably featuring Prince William and Kate Middleton at Wimbledon.  Ever since I found out about this refreshing and less boozy cocktail that is so popular in England, I’ve wanted to try one. Last weekend when I was shopping for a new bottle of bourbon for my husband for Father’s Day, I saw that the liquor store carried Pimm’s. At $18 a bottle, I figured I had nothing to lose and that I could check something off my bucket list.

Pimm’s Cup is made with Pimm’s No. 1, a concoction made out of “gin with herbal botanicals, caramelised orange and delicate spices”. Doesn’t it sound just delightful? It’s got an amber color that looks just beautiful in a glass.

Still, I was dubious. I sent my British friend Sally a text from the store that said “Is this gross?” and she immediately responded that it was delicious and then gave me some tips on how to make it authentic (“cucumber and mint a must, and orange slices rather than lemon or lime”). She also said that she likes hers with ginger ale rather than lemon lime soda. Done (except I also opted to use lemon slices too).

I stopped at the market for fresh oranges and cukes, and some Fever-Tree Ginger Ale. I like Fever Tree because it’s made with real ginger and doesn’t have artificial ingredients. The taste is more nuanced than other ginger ales, but any brand will do. I have fresh mint growing in my backyard and there are always lemons in my refrigerator. I eagerly set off for home so I could finally try the cocktail that has piqued my interest for so long.

I was very happy with the result, and can understand why it is so popular. It’s sweet without being cloying, and the delicate bubbles are refreshing. It’s also just a beautiful cocktail to look at. My husband took a sip and promptly said “will you make one for me?” He doesn’t generally like a sweeter cocktail, so I was surprised. I gladly poured him his own Pimm’s Cup and the rest is history.

This cocktail is perfect for your summer BBQ or other gathering, as it is refreshing and light on the booze. It’s celebratory but easy to make. And since it’s British, it feels super fancy.

INGREDIENTS:

2 oranges, sliced into rounds 

2 lemons, sliced into rounds 

About six slices of cucumber

2 cups Pimm’s No. 1 

4 cups ginger ale 

6 to 8 large sprigs mint plus more for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a pitcher, add a layer of orange slices, lemon slices, and cucumber slices. Repeat until gone. Pour in the Pimm’s and ginger ale, and mix with a long-handled spoon, making sure to muddle the fruit a bit to release the flavor.  In each individual glass, place a sprig of mint and muddle with the end of a wooden spoon (more or less, depending on how much mint flavor you want).  Add ice and fill with cocktail mixture, placing some of the fruit slices into each cup. Garnish with mint.

 

Enjoy!

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Friday Cocktails: The Classic Dirty Martini

dirty martini

There are some things in this life that just make me so happy. An expertly made dirty martini is one of them.

For those who don’t know, a dirty martini is one in which olive brine has been added. It gives it a salty flavor that can’t be beat. My husband hates olives. which I find so hard to understand. He likes capers, so I feel like eventually, like maybe when he’s 50, he might suddenly realize he actually likes olives too? This is psychological thing that probably isn’t worth pursuing.

Some people shake their martinis, some stir them. Some (like me) order them “extra dirty” which means lots of olive brine. You can make them with gin or vodka (I prefer Tito’s vodka). At any rate, I don’t think I’ve met a dirty martini I didn’t like. They are very simple to make, but quite elegant. If you want to knock the socks off of someone, make them a martini. They will marvel at your sophistication.

Another thing about a simple martini is that it’s free of added sugars. A lot of cocktails have simple syrup or liqueurs which are so tasty and I love them, but they have lots of sugar. If you are trying to cut back on your sugar consumption (which, frankly, is a good idea for just about everyone), then a martini is a really good bet. If you hate olives, you can also just order a vodka or gin martini “with a twist” which means it comes with a twist of lemon rather than olives. You can also order them with onions! It’s like a snack in a glass.

Here’s your basic recipe. It’s already perfection so I don’t recommend messing with it.

INGREDIENTS:

 

  • Ice cubes
  • 2 ounces vodka (I like Tito’s) or gin (I like Prairie Organic)
  • 2 teaspoons olive brine (4 to 5 teaspoons for extra dirty)
  • Splash of dry vermouth
  • Green olives (you can use blue cheese olives if you’d like)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Add vermouth to cocktail shaker first. Swirl to coat the inside. Fill the shaker with ice. Add vodka and olive brine; shake. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lots of olives. ENJOY!

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Friday Night Cocktails: The Watermelon Mint Agua Fresca

agua fresca

Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, it’s a new cocktail recipe! But first, if I asked you what the significance of Cinco de Mayo was, would you be able to answer? If you said “Mexican Independence Day” you’d be…not right. Mexican independence is actually celebrated Sept.16. Instead, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the French forces of Napoleon III on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla. It has really become more of an American holiday excuse to drink margaritas.

Today I would like to introduce you to the Agua Fresca, which is a traditional Mexican drink that when translated means “fresh water”. Aguas Frescas are designed to beat the heat of summer and are refreshing and delicious. They are typically made of fresh fruit, water, and optional sugar. If you want to know more about aguas frescas, click here.

This delicious recipe would be perfect for a BBQ, and I guarantee the kids would love it. To make it “adult”, add a shot of vodka or gin to each serving.

Not for nothing, but watermelon is full of lycopene (actually it has the most lycopene per serving than any fruit or veggie) which is a powerful antioxidant. The lime juice has a good deal of vitamin c and mint is great for soothing the digestive system, which is perfect if you’ve overindulged at the BBQ. If you add just a bit of sugar it makes for a yummy treat that doesn’t include artificial colors, flavors or other additives.

This recipe, adapted from Epicurious, serves about 6.

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves

1/4 cup sugar

5 cups peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped watermelon (from about a 2 1/2-pound watermelon). Make it easy on yourself and buy pre-chopped watermelon if you desire.

1/4 cup fresh lime juice. I( also like prepared lime juice such as this one. I do this about 50% of the time)

Mint sprigs for serving

INSTRUCTIONS

Combine mint leaves, sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a small pot. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar has dissolved. Transfer mixture to a heatproof container and chill, uncovered, until cool, about 30 minutes.

Strain mint syrup into a blender; discard mint leaves. Add watermelon and lime juice and blend until very smooth. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain into a pitcher; discard solids. Add 2 cups water and stir well to combine. Serve with mint sprigs. If bubbles are desired, top off with a splash of soda water.

Aqua fresca can be stored in an airtight container and chilled for up to 1 day.

 

Enjoy!

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Photo credit: Pixabay

 

Portobello “Burgers”

Last night was Sunday, which made it Crappy Dinner Party night. Haven’t read about our weekly CDP? I recommend doing that right away, and then laying plans for your very own regular Crappy Dinner ASAP.

It was my husband’s birthday this week, so we hosted. He wanted to grill burgers and dogs, which are super yummy and yes please to all of that. However, if you are trying to reduce your red meat consumption or are vegetarian or vegan, I find portobello burgers to be a really worthy substitution. (Recent studies seem to show a correlation between eating meat of any kind of your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Studies also show that eating meat raises your risk of cancer and heart disease. This is not to say you have to give up meat entirely, but rather substitute some of your meat choices for vegetarian choices instead. Click here for an explanation and some tips.) You still get the meaty texture when you bite down, and the mushrooms soak up any delicious marinades you throw their way. Top with sautéed onions, a slice of cheese, and pickles and I guarantee you will enjoy your experience!

Here’s the marinade I use to make my portobello burgers.

INGREDIENTS:

4 portobello mushroom caps

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil (avocado oil has a higher smoke point)

1 large garlic clove, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix all ingredients together and pour over the mushroom caps, turning every 15 minutes until time to cook, making sure to pour the mixture into the underside of the mushrooms before grilling. Throw on the grill and cook until desired doneness.

If you’d rather put them in the oven, preheat to 425°, place mushrooms stem side down in a baking dish, and roast for 18-20 minutes.

portobello grilled

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Chicken Apple Sausage and Bean Soup

chicken apple sausage and bean soup
Yesterday, I had a package of chicken apple sausage and a craving for soup. I also had beans, onions and diced tomatoes in the pantry and carrots and celery in the fridge. I had a little bit of pesto that needed to be used. So, I created this recipe for dinner last night, which came together with about 15 minutes of prep and the amount of time it took for my InstantPot to go through the “soup” cycle.
The result was a delicious, hearty and healthy soup that my whole family enjoyed. My 13 year old rarely eats a large portion of soup, but she gobbled this one up. My husband went back for seconds.
The thing about chicken apple sausage is that it’s a great ingredient to have on hand, and it lasts a long time in the fridge. I make this easy roasted sausage and vegetable dish about once every other week because it’s hearty and healthy and SO SO EASY.  I have also used it to make this chicken apple sausage pasta. But it’s fun to try new dishes for the same old ingredients, which is how this soup came to be.
The fantastic thing about this soup is that you can add whatever beans you have, whatever veggies you have (diced potatoes, parsnips, whatever other hearty veggies you like) and any seasonings your family enjoys. This recipe is a loose guide, so do whatever sounds good to you. If you prefer chicken broth over veggie, great! If you hate pesto, no worries. If you are a newer chef, once you get the hang of using recipes, you will start to feel more confident in adjusting them to your tastes.
This soup is full of very good things: beans are a wonderful source of protein and fiber and are a great example of a complex carbohydrate (complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly and supply a lower more steady release of glucose into the blood stream, which help you feel fuller longer). The carrots and celery are high in antioxidants and fiber and contain vitamins and minerals like beta carotene and vitamin B6. Garlic and onions are from the allium family and have been linked to reduced risk for breast and colon cancers, not to mention that garlic is a natural antiviral and onions are anti-fungal.  The tomatoes are high in lycopene which is a powerful antioxidant thought to protect the body against many different diseases like heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. You can feel good about making this soup and serving it to your family, not just because it’s delicious but because it’s nutrient rich.
INGREDIENTS
  • 2 x 15 oz cans of beans, any variety (good choices include white beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans and black beans) drained and rinsed
  • 16 cups water or broth (if using water, see next ingredient)
  • 4 tsp vegetable base (I like Better Than Bouillon)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes in juices
  • 2-4 carrots, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced (to taste)
  • 4 oz prepared pesto (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 package fully-cooked chicken apple sausage (I like Aidells)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive or avocado oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Sauté carrots, celery, garlic and onion on medium high for about 5 minutes in oil, until starting to soften.
  2. Add beans, tomatoes, water, and bouillon and stir.
  3. Add the chicken apple sausage and stir.
  4. Cover and cook on medium low for about 30 minutes, until flavors come together.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in pesto until fully incorporated (pesto is optional)

RECIPE NOTE: You can use an Instant Pot for this recipe. Simply follow instructions 1-3, and then put the lid on and set to “soup” setting. If you want to use a slow cooker, follow instructions 1-3 and put on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6.

This recipe should serve 6-8.

 

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Vitamin C Smoothie (Great For Your Immune System)

Vitamin C Smoothie (Immune system)

This week is bound to be super busy and possibly stressful, especially those of us who celebrate Thanksgiving. With increased levels of stress come increased rates of cold and flu. If you’re traveling by airplane, consider your risk even higher (one study published in the Wall Street Journal showed a 20% increased risk). And if you’re visiting family and there are many of you staying in the same house, usually someone ends up sharing germs, too. So how do we navigate the holiday season without succumbing to feeling miserable? One thing we can do is make sure we are feeding ourselves with nourishing and immune boosting foods. Foods high in Vitamin C pack an antioxidant punch, which helps lower your risk of getting sick. Vitamin C also helps regenerate other antioxidants in your body. Fiber is another important nutrient, as it helps lower inflammation. And yogurt, which is a probiotic rich food, helps keep our gut flora in check. Because about 80% of our immune system resides in our guts, we want to make sure it’s always balanced and healthy.

For the past week I’ve been having a green smoothie every day for breakfast. It starts my day off on the right foot and by the time I’m finished drinking it I’ve already had at least three servings of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables. This helps keep me healthy and sets me up for wanting to continue eating healthy throughout the day. Since I know I’ll be enjoying a lot of my favorite foods at Thanksgiving, this is a good way to ensure I’m getting proper nutrition leading up to the long weekend.

Try this Vitamin C smoothie and let me know what you think. Feel free to customize it for your own needs (swap out spinach for kale, for instance).

Enjoy!

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THANKSGIVING

Nourishing Lentil, Ham and Potato Soup

Last week it was our turn to host Crappy Dinner Party, so we pulled out a bone-in ham from our deep freezer to smoke in my husband’s smoker. We were worried the ham might be dry but it was ridiculously good. Since we had some leftovers, we put the bone and the leftovers back in the freezer for another time.

Fast forward one week, and I was craving soup. I checked out my pantry and saw that I had green lentils, potatoes, and onions. In my fridge I had carrots and celery and Better Than Bouillon. I knew I had what I needed to make something really yummy. After reading several recipes and adjusting for what I had, here is the recipe that I created.

NOURISHING LENTIL SOUP

SERVES 12

INGREDIENTS:

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2-3/4 medium onion, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 celery ribs, chopped

2 cup green lentils, rinsed and picked over

12 cups stock (meat or vegetable) homemade, or store-bought. I like Better Than Bouillon

1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 cups cubed ham

1 ham bone, if you have it

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a dutch oven or soup pot, place the soup bone, if you are using, and 12 cups of water (if using Better Than Bouillon) or stock and heat until boiling. Lower heat to simmer for at least an hour (I left mine on for several hours). Using a slotted spoon, remove the soup bone. If you are not using a soup bone, skip ahead to sautéing your vegetables. Add a few tablespoons of Better Than Bouillon if you aren’t using stock. In a separate pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5-7 minutes minutes. To the pot of stock, stir in lentils and softened vegetables and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer at least 10 minutes.

Finally, stir in potatoes and ham and simmer covered until potatoes are softened, at least 10 minutes. This soup can stay on simmer for a long time before serving.

ENJOY!

Ham and Lentil Soup

 

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