Category Archives: Booze

Cocktail Classic: Vodka Gimlet

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It’s Friday, which obviously means happy hour is both necessary and probably well earned/needed after the work week. Of course I am a firm believer in happy hour whenever needed or desired, not just Fridays. I am pretty boring when it comes to such things. Cocktails are not my particular thing – I enjoy a good beer, or a good whiskey on the rocks.

But… I also like trying new things. So if we’re out, I will certainly try a new drink, or a new dish, so long as it sounds tasty. I’m not sure where I learned about vodka gimlets. I think it started backwards – I had vodka and limes, and went on the hunt for a drink that would use both. A gimlet is one of those drinks wherein the real beauty is in its simplicity. You can find various recipes that more or less center around three things: vodka or gin, lime juice, and sugar. Or traditionalists who say the only real things that belong in a gimlet are gin, lime juice, and ice.

I say use whatever tastes good to you: if you like your drinks sweeter, add more simple syrup. If you prefer tart, add more lime juice or simply decrease the sugar syrup. Prefer gin? Use that instead of vodka. Personally, I like a stronger cocktail that isn’t overly sweet but doesn’t just taste like alcohol (if it isn’t good whiskey or tequila). Feel free to use this recipes loosely and tweak it to your own preferences!


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Cocktail Classic: Vodka Gimlet

Yields one cocktail.

2 ounces good quality vodka
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce simple syrup *
ice cubes
lime wheel or lime zest for garnish, if desired

*To make a simple syrup, you need one part water and one part sugar (i.e. one cup of each). Bring the water to a boil then dissolve the sugar into it, stirring constantly. When the sugar fully dissolves, remove the pan from the heat. Allow the syrup to cool completely before using.


Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka, lime and simple syrup.

Shake rapidly for about 20 seconds, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Add the garnish if you’d like.

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Classic Margarita

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A little over one year ago, I shared a recipe with you that my stepson’s grandfather had shared with me.  That post included some details about the adventure in making Leo’s limoncello.  I told you about this incredible man, the living example of love that he is, was, and always will be.   Leo left us today, at 4:45 PM.  He will be incredibly missed by everyone who ever had the honor of meeting him.

In Leo’s honor, I began a new batch of limoncello today.  However, I don’t have some limoncello-related recipe to share.  Instead, I offer a classic margarita and a toast to the exemplary man that Leo Zaro will forever be.

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Classic Margarita

Yields one cocktail.

4 ounces silver (blanco) tequila (100% agave tequila)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 large limes, 3 medium)
1 tablespoon agave syrup
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
thinly sliced lime for garnish


In a cocktail shaker, combine the tequila, lime juice, agave, orange juice, then fill the shaker halfway with ice. Shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker turns frosty. Strain the margarita into an ice-filled glass and garnish with a lime slice.

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2013: My Favorite Recipes


We’re getting close to the end of 2013. I am not one for making resolutions, as I fully believe in working to make myself better year-round, without set deadlines. It’s an ongoing challenge. Of course there are things I’d like to do – change things up here a bit, add new weekly posts, monthly posts. I plan to work out equally as much as the last year, if not more. I hope to maintain balance between business and downtime, as well as decadent recipes and healthier recipes. I plan to be grateful, daily, for this life. But as I said – I don’t make set goals, save for incorporating all of these things into daily life.

That said, to wind up the last year, I’ve compiled a short list of my personal favorite recipes from the last year:

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 1. Summer Corn Salad : I love the freshness of this salad in the summer. It’s super easy to throw together, even at the last minute.

2. Olive Oil Poached Albacore Tuna Salad : My favorite thing about this tuna salad is, hands down, the connections its brought into my life in 2013. I am grateful for the ladies at Sammich, who reached out after reading this post I wrote.

3. Vegetarian Mediterranean Pizza : Its taken a number of tries, but this Mediterranean pizza is the best I’ve made. As far as cost efficiency for feeding my family, this was spot-on, too.

4. Vanilla Bean and Pear Vodka Cocktails : I enjoy the crisp sweetness of this cocktail. Generally I’m more of a bourbon on the rocks kind of lady, but if cocktails are what I’m in the mood for, this is a simple, tasty one.

5. Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese : This recipe was born out of an abundance of pumpkins I was gifted from one of the water polo moms. Pumpkin mac and cheese was a huge hit with the kids and adults, alike.

6. Tomato Potato Tart : I love the simplicity of this tart, which showcases the flavor of ripe tomatoes. Plus the colors are so happily vibrant.

7. Crockpot Yogurt : The best part of this recipe was that it was so much simpler than I expected. I anticipated this yogurt-making to be difficult, but really most of the work happened overnight while I was in bed.

8. Blueberry Nut Overnight Slow Cooked Steel Oats : My husband is a huge fan of overnight oats for a number of reasons. One, the smell throughout our house overnight is overwhelmingly intoxicating. Two, in the morning when I am still sleeping (and also because I don’t generally eat breakfast), he has a filling breakfast waiting. This is my favorite version, hands down.

9. Toasted Coconut Cardamom Rice Pudding with Blueberries : I could eat rice pudding daily. This version is creamy, flavorful, warming, and delicious!

10. Miso Mushroom Ramen with Vegetarian Wontons and Crispy Tofu : Coming from Kaua’i, saimin or ramen, is something I crave all the time. After going back to the islands in August, I got back to Ashland only to wind up super homesick for all the foods I grew up eating. This saimin is a vegetarian version of Hamura’s Special Saimin.

11. Gluten and Grain Free Banana Pancakes for One : I love the ease of this recipe, especially when I am cooking breakfast or lunch for just myself. Plus the pancake is filling without being overly heavy, which I also enjoy.

12. Vegetarian Moussaka : This particular recipe is labor intensive, but the layers of flavor are rich, deep, and delicious. This moussaka pushed my culinary comfort levels in new directions, especially since it’s based on a type of cuisine I know little about. I loved that aspect as much as the final meal.

13. Vegan Chick’n and Herb Dumplings : I developed this recipe to submit for a Field Roast’s Cooks in the Field position this year. Although I didn’t win the position, I was pleased with the outcome of this dish. I don’t typically cook vegan, as I thoroughly enjoy dairy products… But for the sake of this contest, I had to make something vegan and wanted to rely on comfort food, thus this version of chicken and dumplings. I was proud of the effort and care put into this recipe.

14. Spicy Bloody Mary : I know I just told you cocktails aren’t my thing, especially over a good shot of bourbon. However, a good, spicy bloody mary is quite tasty from time to time. And this, this is a goodie.

15. Vegetarian Chicken Sausage with Spinach, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pesto : Although there is a photo in this post that warrants a comparison to cat turds, I was happily surprised with the outcome of these homemade vegetarian sausages and look forward to experimenting with more flavors in the new year.

16. Gluten Free Oatmeal French “Toast” : This french “toast” as a happy experiment I entirely plan on doing again and again…

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving


Alright, we’ve arrived at Thanksgiving week. First things first – where the heck has this year gone? Are we really getting back into the swing of the holiday season? Okay, the shock is wearing off…

While growing up, to my family, Thanksgiving included an all day cooking affair for my parents. The kitchen would be bustling and crowded from early morning hours up until the dinner table was set. We were a family of six, often extended to nine or ten with my Uncle Ronnie and some family friends. The meal most usually consisted of the familiar cast of Thanksgiving dishes: roasted turkey, turkey pan gravy, sometimes oven roasted ham as well, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rice (because what meal in Hawaii doesn’t include rice?!), dinner rolls, green bean casserole with crispy fried onions, a fresh green salad, cranberry sauce (you know, the kind that comes in the shape of the can, grooved lines included), sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, pumpkin crunch…

These days, Thanksgiving dinner has taken a different route for me. We don’t roast a turkey since meat isn’t a staple for us. My favorite parts of this particular meal has more to do with the side dishes than the actual main dish, anyway, so that’s where my focus usually diverts to. The thing is, when people think of a vegetarian Thanksgiving meal, it seems their attention usually goes to what will be missing rather than the potential for an equally enjoyable feast. I decided to research a vast number of recipes to put together a list of vegetarian dishes that would make up a great Thanksgiving meal, or at least offer some options for including vegetarian dishes in your traditional Thanksgiving plans.

Within this post, you’ll find some ideas for appetizers or small courses, stuffing recipes, side dishes of various sorts, fresh cranberry sauces, main courses that don’t include the word Tofurky, dinner rolls, desserts, and cocktails. Hopefully something for everyone, as every one of these recipes would be a great addition to any meal.

With that, here’s to a season of being reminded of everything we have to be thankful for… happy cooking and eating, folks.


Appetizers + Small Bites
1. Roasted Grapes with Thyme and Fresh Ricotta by Alexandra’s Kitchen
2. Roasted Garlic Sage Pesto Pumpkin Soup by Half Baked Harvest
3. Wild Rice Salad with Pomegranate and Pine Nuts by Earthy Feast
4. Baked Artichoke Squares by Shutterbean
5. Moroccan Carrot Dip by A Thought For Food
6. Butternut Squash Ricotta and Sage Crostini by Shutterbean


Stuffing + Dressing
1. Wild Mushroom, Leek and Filbert Dressing by Martha Stewart (use vegetable broth)
2. Pumpkin Bread and Tempeh Stuffing by Vegan Richa
3. Poblano Cornbread Stuffing by Love and Lemons
4. Vegetarian Shiitake Leek Stuffing
5. Southwest Cornbread Stuffing with Corn and Green Chilies by Bon Appétit
6. Apple and Herb Stuffing by Smitten Kitchen


Veggie Side Dishes
1. Coconut Creamed Spinach by Love and Lemons
2. Coconut Roasted Carrot Salad by Healthy Green Kitchen
3. Scalloped Yam Casserole
4. Goat Cheese Basil Mashed Potatoes by High Heels to Hot Wheels
5. Apple Cider Glazed Sweet Potatoes by Oh My Veggies
6. Rice Stuffed Tomatoes by Smitten Kitchen
7. Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy
8. Golden Broccoli Gratin by Williams Sonoma
9. Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Balsamic Vinegar


Cranberry Sauce
1. Cranberry Apple Pear Sauce
2. Cranberry Ginger Chutney by Saveur
3. Bourbon Maple Cardamom Cranberry Compote by Ginger and Toasted Sesame
4. Mary Bogue’s Outrageous Cranberries in Cabernet Sauvignon by Foodista
5. Ginger Orange Cranberry Sauce by Oh My Veggies
6. Caberet Cranberry and Blueberry Sauce by Averie Cooks


Rolls + Breads
1. Cheesy Herb Pull-Apart Bread
2. Wheat Germ and Honey Dinner Rolls by Vegetarian Times
3. Soft Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls
4. Sweet Corn Cheddar Spoonbread by The Bojon Gourmet
5. Sweet Honey Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Biscuits by Half Baked Harvest
6. Sweet Potato Biscuits by Kate Ramos at


Main Dishes
1. Butternut Squash Lasagna
2. Mushroom + Stout Pot Pies with Sweet Potato Crusts by The First Mess
3. Glazed Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf by Oh She Glows
4. Seitan Roulade with Oyster Mushroom Stuffing by VegNews Magazine
5. Double Herb and Cheese Stuffed Crust Veggie Pot Pie
6. Vegetable Wellington Redux by Vegetarian Times


1. Pumpkin Tiramisu by Foodie Crush
2. Dad’s Perfect Sweet Potato Pie by Joy the Baker
3. Pumpkin Roll with Cream Cheese Filling
4. Spiced Apple Cranberry Pie
5. Salted Honey Pie by A Sweet Spoonful
6. Hawaii Style Pumpkin Crunch from Ai Love Baking


Cocktails + Beverages
1. Vanilla Bean and Pear Vodka Cocktails
2. Hot Bourbon Apple Cider by Pastry Affair
3. Honeycrisp Apple Sangria by Nutmeg Nanny
4. Winter Sun Cocktails by Two-Tarts
5. Honey Sage Gin Fizz by How Sweet It Is
6. Fall Spiced Pear Sangria by Stephen Phillips at HGTV

Peanut Butter Bourbon Brown Butter Brownie Cookie Cups

photo 1Some days require chocolate. Other days require chocolate and peanut butter. Sometimes a girl is simply in need of cookies. Bourbon? Hell yes, there are those days, too. Then there are those times when a person requires all of the above. This is no laughing matter. Serious business here! One must not take those times lightly, mind you. So here you’ll find the perfect solution to days that call for chocolate, peanut butter, chocolate cookies, brownie batter, and bourbon.

When I was in middle school, I had a mini cheesecake that came in a cupcake liner, whose crust was made from a Nilla wafer, which was topped with cheesecake filling, baked then topped with canned pie filling. This blew my mind at 11 or 12 years old. I quickly became a master at baking these mini cheesecakes. I decided to try other cookies. Oreo cookies were often present in our house, so those seemed like the next obvious “crust” choice. Topped with cheesecake? Oh yes. Topped with brownie batter? Oh yeah.

In the oven, the cookies soften under whatever batter you’re using, just enough to add a curiously delicious layer of flavor in whatever you’re baking. Back in those days I relied on boxed brownie mixes. Now that I am nearing 30, I rarely rely on boxed mixes because I think they’re overpriced for what you’re getting. Plus they’re often filled with things that don’t need to exist in most recipes. For the following brownie cups, I used chocolate cream Newman O’s, which are the healthier alternative to Oreo cookies. They add a cream filled crust to the bottom of these brownies, which also house a peanut butter center. The brownie batter itself contains brown butter, bourbon, and hopefully good quality cocoa. This adds a decadently rich element to the final product. I suggest eating these while they’re still warm out of the oven, but they’ll last for 2-3 days in an airtight container.

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Peanut Butter Bourbon Brown Butter Brownie Cookie Cups

Yields approximately one dozen standard sized “cupcakes”.


1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces good quality bourbon
12 chocolate cream filled Newman O’s (Oreos if you prefer)
6 teaspoons creamy peanut butter (I used Justin’s… so good!)

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with liners.

Melt the butter over medium heat, in a small saucepan. Stir occasionally, until the butter begins to turn golden brown. The butter will get really frothy on top. Continue stirring constantly, paying close attention. (Golden butter goes to burnt butter very quickly!) The golden butter should start to smell semi nutty. Keep stirring until the butter reaches a dark golden hue. Remove from the heat and immediately whisk in the sugars. Once the sugar is fully incorporated, whisk in the eggs, one at a time (continuous whisking is important here – nobody likes scrambled eggs in their brownies!).

In a small bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Carefully stir in the vanilla and bourbon until well incorporated.

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Place one Newman-O in the bottom of each lined muffin cup. Place a half teaspoon of peanut butter on top of each cookie, right in the center of it. Fill each muffin cup with brownie batter, spooning it over the peanut butter and cookie, until the cups are about three quarters of the way full.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each brownie comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow the brownies to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Store in an air-tight container. If you have any leftovers, of course!

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