Wine Cocktails, Anyone?

Wine Cocktails, Anyone?

Rose with Limoncello?

It’s hot out there. In my neck of the woods, anyway, it’s been hovering around 100 degrees.

(Amazing that it snowed last week in Colorado! WTF, Mother Nature?!!) And it’s not even Memorial Day, which kind of amazes me!  Fortunately, you’ve got a week to plan some tasty drinks to go with your Memorial Day Cookout next week!

Typical White Wine Spritzer over at Martha Stewart

Typical White Wine Spritzer over at Martha Stewart

Memorial Day means to barbecue, or laze around the pool while someone else is barbecuing. When  lazing (or barbecuing), your typical go-to sip might not be the right one in this blasted heat, which is why wine spritzers are Mother Nature’s go-to heat busting drink. (Oh, just go with it, lol!)

There’s the ever-classic white wine spritzer. Tall skinny glass, fill with ice, fill glass half way with white wine (I’d use a nice Sauvignon Blanc or maybe a Chenin Blanc, nothing too pricey); top up with soda water, add a lemon or lime wedge. Easy Peasy. If you want to get fancy about it, toss in a ball of cantaloupe or watermelon instead of the lemon or lime wedge, the way Martha Stewart likes to do.

Sauvignon Blanc and Raspberry Vodka?

Go to Tasty Trials for the recipes!

Go to Tasty Trials for the recipes!

How about some Sangria? No, I’m not talking about the pre-bottled stuff – get that right out of your head! Tasty Trials has several Sangria recipes, but the one that totally caught my interest is the Berry Sangria (and yes, it has Raspberry Vodka in it!).  Doesn’t that look yummy? And how perfect for summer, sipping by the pool!

Go check out Tasty Trials. (I love this site so much I’m giving you 3 chances to find them, lol!) They have several different Sangria recipes that will put the whole ugly episode of that one summer night in the park with the bottle of gas station Sangria right out of your brain cells. Forever. Or maybe that was just me? Whatever…

Kitchen Treaty has a wonderful looking Strawberry Lemon Sangria – go check it out! For your visual pleasure, here’s a photo…

Strawberry Lemon Sangria

However you choose to cool down from the heat, remember to drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you drink. Alcohol and heat do NOT mix; it can be a fatal combination, so please be smart about your intake. Have a great weekend, my friends – stay cool!


Do you have a favorite wine cocktail recipe? Please share!

Baby it’s Cold Outside – Hot Alcoholic Drinks for the Holidays

Baby it’s Cold Outside – Hot Alcoholic Drinks for the Holidays

Mulled Wine

I’m copying an old post on mulled wine here, plus at the bottom there are recipes for other, hot and festive drinks for the holidays. Cheers!


Who “invented” mulled wine? Why? What’s supposed to go in it, and what type of wine should you use?  All the sites I found on the internet seemed to crib off each other. To distill it for you, basically mulled wine has been around as long as wine has been around. It warmed people up in winter (and some people said it was to make bad wine taste better – a winter version of Sangria, I suppose) as well as gave them something “healthy” to drink (because water – well, it wasn’t very clean “way back when”). It can be found in almost every European country, and is often called “boiled” or “burned” wine.  Of course, you don’t want to boil or burn the wine! (Boiling burns off all the alcohol.)


First off, start with a hearty red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel will work nicely. If you’re making enough for a crowd, use two bottles – pour into a non-reactive pan (or hey, use that crock pot you got for your wedding and has that thick layer of dust on it – make sure to clean it first). If just for two to four people, use one bottle. DON’T use the cheapest wine you can find (although if you must, go ahead…); but likewise, don’t waste an expensive bottle. Anything that you like the taste of non-heated should be fine.

Next, add the spices. This will totally depend on your tastebuds. I like two cinnamon sticks – hubby likes only one. I generally put six to a dozen whole cloves, and if I had allspice, I’d toss that in, too. You can add ginger – either 1/2 teaspoon grated, or a small slice; or you could put in 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger (but fresh is much better). I’ve seen recipes that include cardamom pods, star anise, even bay leaves. Experiment!

Your next addition should be another liquid. Amounts kind of depend. You can add up to a cup of plain water, a cup of fresh squeezed orange juice, or a cup of apple cider; many recipes call for adding 4 ounces of brandy (some say cherry brandy).  I started with water; next time, I think I’ll add brandy AND some OJ.

Then comes the sweetener. The amount depends on how much wine you start with. So you can add anything from 1/2 cup of white or brown sugar to 1 and 1/4 cup of honey;  start on the stingy side, and taste as you go. Add more if you need to. My guess is if you’re using Agave syrup or Stevia for your sweetener, you can use them here, too; just be VERY stingy with your amounts until it’s where you want it.

Lastly comes the fruit. Whether or not you’ve already used orange or apple juice, you might want to add strips of orange zest or lemon zest; thin slices of orange and lemon; either in the pot, or in the bottom of the mug.

Let everything sit on low; either on the back of your stove, or in your crockpot. As the day goes on, the spices and the fruit really open up into the wine, and turn it into something magical. Plus, it leaves your house smelling really festive.

Hot Buttered Rum

Here is my version of Hot Buttered Rum.  Put the tea kettle on to boil. In the meantime, get out a couple of heavy mugs that feel good in your hand. Add a tablespoon of sweet, unsalted butter at the bottom; top with 1 to 2 teaspoons brown sugar (to your taste).  Add a shot to a shot and a half of rum. Once the water is boiling, fill the cup with the hot water about half way. Stir briskly with a fork or a small whisk, if you have one (I do).  Add the hot water the rest of the way. Cuddle up by the fire and watch Scrooge deal with some pesky ghosts!

Rachael Ray has her own way of doing things, adding spices and Captain Morgan spiced rum and doing it up with a blender. Go here for that recipe.

Of course, Martha Stewart also has a recipe. It’s a bit more complicated, but still sounds just as tasty. Go here for that recipe.

Other Hot Holiday Drinks

I found a fun spot online called Secret Tips to the Yumiverse, and they have eight hot holiday drinks to indulge you.  Of course, there are the coffee drinks – Coffee and Bailey’s, Coffee and Kahlua, or Coffee and Irish Whiskey – but there are some other, really tasty drinks. Go give Yumi Sakugawa a look-see for some fun and festive drinks.

There you go, my dears. Enjoy this holiday season, be safe, stay warm, and hug your loved ones.  Sending out love and big squishy hugs to you all!  What’s YOUR favorite hot holiday drink?


Too Many Tomatoes in the Garden…

Too Many Tomatoes in the Garden…

…Leads to Dried Tomatoes

At least, at my house this weekend, it did! There are, after all, only so many tomato salads you can eat without getting burnout. I’m not thrilled with canning in this heat, and while it may seem that having the oven on in the heat is the same as canning, let me say that an oven at 250 degrees is not as bad as bending over a hot, boiling pot of tomatoes and canning water.

So – dried tomatoes.

Fresh tomatoes, still warm from the sun. Picked 8/2513.

Fresh tomatoes, still warm from the sun. Picked 8/25/13.

I looked for recipes online, but a lot of them seemed like a lot of work. Well, okay – they called for scraping out seeds and pulp, leaving just the rind and the flesh attached. I like my dried tomatoes with heft, and I didn’t want to do the scraping. So I kept looking for a recipe that would suit me.

The sun-dried tomato recipe looked interesting, but I didn’t have screens I could use, didn’t want to worry about bugs, and didn’t want to be drying tomatoes all week. I had just the weekend.

Martha Stewart to the Rescue!

I found the recipe I was looking for at a Martha Stewart site. Not only did it explain how to make the tomatoes, but it also showed how to store them – in a jar, with olive oil and herbs. (I didn’t have any fresh basil, though – mine is all too little. So I used dried basil.)

So, I picked tomatoes, washed them, dried them, cut them in half (large cherry tomatoes, mostly, and then lots of tiny cherry tomatoes). Then I sprinkled sugar, dried basil, pepper and salt over them, popped them in the oven, and let them do their drying-out thing.

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven! These are the bigger tomatoes, not the cherry tomatoes. Pretty, aren’t they?

As the afternoon went on, my house started smelling like yummy, professionally-made tomato soup. Rich and meaty and tomatoey – oh my! Totally delightful. After several hours – 5 or 6, I don’t remember – I took the trays out. They were browned on the edges, but ooh – tasted like a blast of tomato in the mouth and a little crunchy. Totally addicting. I believe the hubs ate a full quarter of the smaller cherry tomatoes that I’d done.

Not as pretty afterwards...I decided I'll never dry the bright green tomatoes again. Red is so much prettier!

Not as pretty afterwards…I decided I’ll never dry the bright green tomatoes again. Red is so much prettier! These are sliced, by the way, not halved.

I did two – or heck, maybe three? – batches yesterday, and I’ve done one batch so far today (with the other batch still in the oven). I’ve got four jars of tomatoes put up, with more to come. And LOTS more tomatoes still on the vine!

Baby tomatoes in pint jar, waiting for its fellows.

Baby tomatoes in pint jar, waiting for its fellows.

Considering how expensive sun-dried tomatoes are in the store, I think I know what I’ll be doing every summer that we grow tomatoes.

On one of the sites I checked on yesterday (I think it was the Martha site, not sure)  a commenter said they let the tomatoes cool, then froze them on the tray singly before putting the frozen tomatoes in a zip lock baggie. She said they were great to use in stews and sauces (plus you don’t get the oily taste if that’s not what you want). But the hubs wanted that olive oil. I used a Mediterranean mixed olive oil that’s available at Costco – we buy it by the gallon I think, so I have a lot of it, and it’s not super expensive. But I’m willing to bet that after several months, the oil will taste divine, with tomato, pepper, and basil flavors. A terrific base for a salad dressing.

My jars of tomatoes. I'll be getting two more jars done tonight before I sleep.

My jars of tomatoes. I’ll be getting two more jars done tonight before I sleep.

But now, after so many dried tomatoes, I feel the need for something fresh. Like a tomato tart. So as the sun goes down, I’m off to the store for some puff pastry – because that’s something I doubt I’ll ever have the patience to make at home.


Do you like sun-dried tomatoes? Have you ever made your own? What is the most yummy thing you have ever made with tomatoes?

Until next time, cheers – and be good to one another!