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Posts from the ‘Beverages & Such’ Category

Branca Menta Chocolate Float

I had some Branca Menta left and I needed to do something with it. I just couldn’t let is sit in the cabinet and just age away. I am a firm believer that you should treat yourself from time to time. With a little chocolate sauce and some French vanilla ice cream, I made the perfect chocolate float by adding a few ounces of Branca Menta. The Italian mint liqueur gives your chocolate float a smooth and sexy taste

Chocolate Float with Alcohol

Branca Menta Chocolate Float

You know you want a sip 🙂 Check out the recipe below to make your own indulgent float.

Branca Menta Chocolate Float

2 Tablespoons Chocolate Sauce
1 to 3 Scoops French Vanilla Ice Cream
2 ounces Branca Menta

ONEIn a small glass that is about 8 ounces, add 1 tablespoon of chocolate sauce.
TWOAdd 1 scoop of ice cream.
THREEAdd 1 ounce of Branca Menta.
FOURRepeat adding the ingredients in the order above until you have a scoop of ice cream on top ensuring you end with a drizzle of Branca Menta.
FIVEAdd a straw and sip with joy!! Happy Summer!!

Celebrating National Iced Tea Month

June is National Iced Tea Month and what better way to celebrate is with a refreshing new recipe. Don’t settle on adding water to a dry mix. Whip out the tea bags to make a batch of fresh brewed tea. Did you know that fresh brewed tea makes the simplest meal taste that much better?

When the weather is hot, I love to snack. Veggies, hummus, crackers, and cheese are my favorite past time munchies. Add turkey sausage with other turkey based cured meats and you can create your own customized charcuterie platter.

Branca Menta

Good Times with Branca Menta

I added fresh fruit and the refreshing taste of Branca Menta. Branca Menta is a Mint Liqueur made in Italy. The smooth herb minty flavor is the perfect addition to fresh brewed iced tea.

Fresh Brewed Tea

4 Mangoes, cut in cubes
1 Pineapple, cut in cubes
8 Black Tea Bags
1 cup Sugar
1 gallon Water
1 cup Branca Menta (optional but suggested)

ONEAdd water to a pot.
TWOBring gallon of water to a boil.
THREEAllow water to cool down for about 5 minutes.
FOURPour water in pitcher.
FIVEAdd sugar & stir until sugar has dissolved.
SIXAdd tea bags to pitcher.
SEVENStir in Branca Menta.
EIGHTPlace pitcher in refrigerator for at least 4 hour or until cold.
NINEServe with fresh fruit. NOTE: To not water down your drinks, serve iced tea with frozen fresh fruit instead of ice cubes.

Branca Menta Iced Tea

Branca Menta Iced Tea

There’s Nothing Like A Cool Drink: Spiked Ginger Beer

I love summertime in Chicago. The weather is amazing. If you live in a cold weather state, you are enjoying as much of the outdoors as you can before another artic blast arrives. Summer is the perfect time for barbecues, get togethers, outdoor parties, festivals, outdoor concerts, lounging on the deck, and all things fun.

With all the fun in the sun, you will want to pack your picnic basket or fill your cooler. You won’t want to miss your chance to drink something cool and refreshing. And you cannot forget about your guests. You will want to serve them drinks they will enjoy. I have a drink recipe that is sure to please you and your crowd. You will need limes, mint, simple syrup, ginger beer, and your favorite clear rum.

A few things for Spiked Ginger Beer

A few things for Spiked Ginger Beer

Spiked Ginger Beer

1 750ml bottle clear rum NOTE: A 750ml bottle is also known as a fifth. 750ml is approximately 25.3 ounces.
4 12ounce cans ginger beer
20 cleaned mint leaves
4 cups simple syrup (see recipe below)
juice from 6 limes

ONEBreak leaves in half.
TWOCombine lime juice & mint leaves in a bowl.
THREEWith a pestle, muddle (press) the leaves to release the natural mint flavor.
FOURRemove mint leaves from the lemon juice.
FIVEIn a large pitcher, add mint flavored lime juice with remaining ingredients.
SIXStir all ingredients to thoroughly combine.
SEVENBest served chilled or over ice.

Spiked Ginger Beer

Spiked Ginger Beer

Simple Syrup

3 cups granulated sugar
3 cups water

ONECombine sugar and water in a medium saucepan.
TWOConstantly stir mixture to dissolve sugar over medium heat.
THREEAllow to cool.
FOURAdd to your favorite cocktail or mocktail.

Beat the Heat with Sangria Pops

A few days ago, I kicked off my celebration a tad early with Beso Del Sol Sangria.

Beso Del Sol

Beso Del Sol

Usually, I can finish off a bottle of wine in one sitting. Keep in mind, Beso Del Sol comes in a box. The box equates to 4 bottles of wine. The foodie in me has to find ways to finish the box.

Since I had an almost full box of sangria and it has been hot outside, I decided to make some have fun. I made sangria pops with fresh fruit. Mangos & blueberries were used in this recipe. Feel free to experiment with any fruit you like.

Blueberries & Mango

Blueberries & Mango

Sangria Pops

2 1/2 cups of sangria
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup of blueberries & chopped mango combined

ONECombine sangria and orange juice in a small pitcher or cup.
TWOAdd fruit to each popsicle mold.
THREEPour sangria & orange juice mixture over fruit.
FOURPlace filled popsicle molds into the freezer until mixture is frozen solid.

Sangria Pops

Sangria Pops

NOTE: The mixture made 6 popsicles. Each mold holds 1/2 cup of liquid.

The Sangria Pop Experience

The Sangria Pop Experience

Strawberry Lemonade: Made From Home Grown

A few weeks ago at a charity event, I had the opportunity to sample Giuliana’s Handmade Limoncello. Giuliana’s Handmade Limoncello is a limoncello created by Chicago’s own CH Distillery & Cocktail Bar. One taste of the sweet, smooth, and creamy sample prompted me to purchase a bottle.

Giuliana's Handmade Limoncello

Giuliana’s Handmade Limoncello

The recipe possibilities for this limoncello is endless. It can stand alone in a glass on ice. Giuliana’s Handmade Limoncello can be used in my favorite lemon dessert recipe.

With the weather warming up, I decided to transform my favorite refreshing drink into a refreshing adult cocktail. With agave nectar, fresh strawberries, and Giuliana’s Handmade Limoncello, I made strawberry lemonade and frozen strawberry lemonade.

Strawberry Lemonade

Strawberry Lemonade

Frozen Strawberry Lemonade

Frozen Strawberry Lemonade

Strawberry Lemonade

2 tablespoons Agave Nectar
1/2 cup Strawberries (fresh, cleaned, sliced)
1 cup Giuliana’s Handmade Limoncello (chilled)

ONECombine agave nectar with strawberries in a bowl and cover. Place bowl in the refrigerator. Allow agave nectar to sweeten strawberries for at least 2 hours.
TWOAdd strawberries to blender. Blend until smooth.
THREEAdd Giuliana’s Handmade Limoncello to strawberries in blender.

NOTE:For frozen strawberry lemonade, freeze the sweetened strawberries. Add sweetened frozen strawberries and Giuliana’s Handmade Limoncello to blender. Blend well & Enjoy!!

My Experience with Giuliana's Handmade Limoncello

My Experience with Giuliana’s Handmade Limoncello

A bottle of Giuliana’s Handmade Limoncello costs $30. This isn’t the cheapest limoncello; but its great taste and rich texture is worth every penny.

Pick up a bottle from CH Distillery & Cocktail Bar at 564 W. Randolph Street located in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. Or you can visit their website to find a retailer that sells CH spirits.

I have added CH Distillery & Cocktail Bar to my list of stops to visit in the near future.

Smoothie Me Crazy: Tips for a Great Smoothie

Detoxing for a week was hard. I set out to detox for seven days but my mind broke down. I must say that I detoxed for 5 1/2 days which isn’t bad at all :-). During my detox, I ate a combination of raw or cooked fruit and vegetable dishes when I wanted pizza, burgers, and wings.

During my detox days, I decided to drink smoothies rather than drinking juices. I drank smoothies to ensure I received the maximum benefits of eating raw fruits and vegetables without having to eat each fruit and vegetable individually.

I learned a lot about making smoothies during my detox. Let me share some tips with you.

ONEBuy the freshest produce possible. When you use fresh ingredients, fresh is the difference between a good smoothie versus a great smoothie.

TWOMix fruits and vegetables. Adding green leafy vegetables increases the amount of essential vitamins and minerals in a glass.

THREEDo not shy away from fresh or dried seasonings. Fresh mint, fresh or ground ginger, and ground cayenne pepper are great additions to any smoothie for you to add extra flavor.

FOURIce is not essential to smoothie making. I didn’t use ice for not one smoothie. Instead of ice, juice, or water, I used coconut water.

FIVEThoroughly clean your produce. The worst thing that could ever happen while sipping on your smoothie is for you to crunch into a dirt ball of any size. YUCK!!

SIXIf you choose one tip to adhere to, pay close attention to this tip. An awesome blender is essential to making a great smoothie. My counter top blender failed to deliver a smooth drink that didn’t consist of rough bits of fruits and veggies. I had to pull out my immersion blender to get my smoothies to the texture I desired.

I used the following ingredients in various combinations to create a different smoothie each day:

Ground Cayenne Pepper
Ground Ginger
Fresh Ginger
Flax Seed

Smoothie Me Crazy

Smoothie Me Crazy

Grown & Sexy Ice

The subzero weather here in Chicago increases my anticipation for warmer temperatures. With that said, I decided to go into the kitchen and whip up some adult freeze pops (made with liquor). After two days in the freezer, the mixtures failed to freeze hard into freeze pops. I couldn’t waste good alcohol (and fruit) so I decided to pour the mixtures into storage containers and place them in the freezer.

By day three, it hit me. I created my 21 and over version of Italian ice. I combined alcohol, fruit, agave nectar, and spices to stumble upon the perfect warm weather treat, Grown & Sexy Ice.

Ginger Peach Buzz (l) & Piña Colada (r)

Ginger Peach Buzz (l) & Piña Colada (r)

Ginger Peach Buzz
1 16 ounce can Peaches in light syrup
1 tablespoon Candied Ginger
1 cup Peachello

Piña Colada
1 fresh pineapple, pealed & cut into cubes
1/4 cup Agave Nectar
1/2 cup Guava Nectar
1 cup Coconut flavored Rum

ONEAdd agave nectar, fruit & spices to the blender. Pulse about 3 to 5 times to not purée the fruit.
TWOPour fruit into a freeze safe storage bowl.
THREEStir in alcohol & fruit juice.
FOURFreeze bowl for at least 4 hours.
FIVERemove from the freezer. Scoop out with an ice cream scooper and place in your favor bowl, cup, or glass.

You may ask, Why do you use fresh fruit in one recipe and canned fruit in another? Due to the season, I am able to find fresh juicy pineapple; but I am not able to find fresh juicy peaches. NOTE: When using with fruit in a recipe, it is best to use fruits that are in season. Also, Buying specific fruits that are in season is cheaper than buying the same fruit out of season.

My mind is spinning with the possibilities: Mango Mojito, Key Lime Martini, Lavender Lemonade, Orange Crush, Watermelon Mint, Corn Ball, Hard Rock Apple Cider, and the list goes on and on.

Trust me Spring is coming and Summer is around the corner. Drink and eat happy!!

Please drink responsibly.

For the 21 and over: Warm & Fuzzy

These cold Chi-town nights are absolutely no joke. It is nice to be able to curl up on the sofa with a cocktail that makes you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. I have a drink for you that literally makes me feel warm and fuzzy 🙂

While at Binny’s Beverage Depot (my favorite wine & spirits store in the Chicagoland area), I ran across Peachello when I was searching for Limoncello. Pallini, the makers of my favorite Limoncello, brings you Peachello. The Peachello isn’t as crisp and smooth as the Limoncello; but the Peachello gives you a taste of Summer served in a glass. Drink it on the rocks or with your favorite combination of herbs, spices, and/or juices. I prefer to drink mine with pineapple juice. I only use the pineapple juice sold at Trader Joe’s. It is in a carton and it is 100% pineapple juice. Peachello mixed with pineapple juice is my Warm and Fuzzy:

2 parts Peachello
1 part pineapple juice

ONEPour ingredients into a cocktail shaker.
TWOShake until thoroughly combined.
THREEPour over ice and enjoy.

Warm & Fuzzy

Warm & Fuzzy

Please always drink responsibly.

Inspiration Duplication: Homemade Ginger Beer

When I was at Embeya for dinner a few days ago, I inquired about the restaurant’s selection of nonalcoholic drinks. The house ginger beer was the first mocktail my exceptional server named.

Embeya's Ginger Beer

Embeya’s Ginger Beer

With my first sip, I tasted lime with a mild ginger flavor that didn’t hit you in the gut. The ginger flavor of this drink wasn’t as pronounced as traditional Jamaican ginger beers.

Embeya’s ginger beer was not too sweet. The ginger flavor did not overwhelm the drink. This smart combination created a universal mocktail pleasing to most palettes.

Let’s get started. First, you will want to decide how pronounced you would like the ginger flavor to be. Instead of grinding the ginger down in a blender with water & straining the mixture, I boiled the ginger. Boiling the ginger allowed me to control the intensity of the ginger flavor.

I made two batches. Notice the amber hue of the first glass below. This color is from the dark amber agave nectar that I used for the syrup. The second serving is much lighter in hue because I used light agave nectar to for the syrup.

Ginger Beer w/ Dark Amber Agave Nectar

Ginger Beer w/ Dark Amber Agave Nectar

Ginger Beer w/ Light Agave Nectar

Ginger Beer w/ Light Agave Nectar

Check out Embeya’s and mine side by side:

Ginger Beer Comparison

Ginger Beer Comparison

Homemade Ginger Beer

1/4 cup of Ginger Simple Syrup (recipe below)
About 1 cup of Sparkling Mineral Water

ONECombine ginger simple syrup & sparkling mineral water.
TWOPour over ice.

I use sparkling mineral water to give the beverage a slight beer taste that comes with the fermentation process.

I like to use agave nectar instead of white sugar to make my simple syrups. If you do not have agave nectar, use your favorite simple syrup recipe. Be sure to add the fresh ginger and lime juice. Don’t forget to remove the ginger from the simple syrup.

Ginger Simple Syrup

1 cup of Fresh Ginger Root (peeled & cut in cubes)
5 cups of Water
Juice from 1 Lime
1/4 cup Agave Nectar

ONEAdd water & ginger to a medium size pot.
TWOBring to a boil over medium heat.
THREETurn to low heat, cover the pot, & simmer for at least 10 minutes.
NOTE:The longer the ginger boils increases the intensity of the ginger flavor.
FOURRemove from heat.
FIVEStir in agave nectar & lime juice until thoroughly mixed.
SIXStrain mixture.
SEVENPour in an airtight glass container.
EIGHTStore in the refrigerator.

CONGRATULATIONS: You just made a ginger simple syrup.

I preferred the mocktail made with dark amber agave nectar. Make them both and you decide.

To make a cocktail, add you favorite clear liquor. I suggest light rum.

Staying on Track: ‘Chocolate’ Mint Shake

A few weeks ago, I posted a photo collage of a turtle cheesecake that I made. Needless to say, the collage didn’t help my friends who have made New Year’s resolutions to start eating healthier in 2014. I thought I was helping by posting the photo collage since pictures are calories free 🙂

This post is dedicated to anyone who wants to keep their New Year’s resolution. I made a ‘chocolate’ mint shake. I say ‘chocolate’ because I didn’t use cocoa powder. I used carob powder, my caffeine free substitute to cocoa powder since carob powder is caffeine free. If you have cocoa powder, feel free to use cocoa powder.

For this shake, I used mint leaves and avocado. You can use peppermint extract. Using mint leaves minimized the number of processed ingredients used for my shake since I don’t make my own almond milk. Using an avocado, gives you the health benefits that comes with this fruit. Also, the avocado is the ingredient that gives this shake its thick and creamy texture.

The raw ‘chocolate’ mint shake I made is a healthy alternative that will satisfy almost any sweet craving.

WARNING: If this is the first time you will use carob, do not expect carob to taste like chocolate.

3 Mint Leaves, washed and chopped fine
2 cups of Almond Milk
2 tablespoons of Carob Powder
½ Avocado chopped
¼ cup Agave Nectar
3 Ice Cubes

ONECombine all ingredients in a blender.
TWOBlend until smooth.

'Chocolate' Mint Shake

‘Chocolate’ Mint Shake

NOTE: This recipe is also good for people who love dairy, but dairy does not love them back.