Apple Cider Margarita

I have seen several versions of this seasonal cocktail but I’m not sure if I need to try another one. This one is festive and fabulous. I first tried it on Halloween and now plan to incorporate it into my Thanksgiving weekend menu. Perfect! 🙂

The recipe was adapted from thehealthfulideas.com, contributed by Veronika. I used gold tequila and added maple syrup.

For the Cinnamon-Sugar Rim:

  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • A lime wedge

For the Margarita:

  • 1.5 oz tequila
  • 0.5 oz Cointreau 
  • 0.5 oz freshly squeezed lime juice, or more, to taste
  • 2 oz apple cider
  • 0.5 oz (1 T) pure maple syrup
  • small dash cinnamon, optional
  • 1-2 dashes orange bitters
  • ice cubes
  • apple and/or lime slices, for garnish, optional

To Make the Rim:

  1. Combine the turbinado sugar and cinnamon on a small plate.
  2. Run a lime wedge around the rim of your glass and dip it in the sugar. Set aside.

To Make the Margarita:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add a handful of ice, and shake for 10-15 seconds until it’s very cold to touch. 
  2. Pour into a margarita glass (or another glass of choice) over ice.
  3. Garnish with an apple and/or lime slice, if desired, and enjoy!

Coconut Rice with Shrimp & Corn

This dish is a wonderful one-pot summer dinner. Creamy rice topped with fresh summer corn, backyard basil, and shrimp. Delicious.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Samantha Seneviratne. I modified the cooking times. I loved the fresh lime juice squeezed over the top. I may consider adding garlic next time- although it really was perfect as-is!

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 small jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped 
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups white rice, such as jasmine rice (I used Basmati rice)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp (I used tail-on, 21-25 count per pound)
  • fresh corn kernels from 2 cobs (about 1 1/2 cups kernels), can substitute frozen
  • 1 lime, zested, then sliced into wedges for serving
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn or chiffonade, plus more for garnish
  1. In a large, heavy pot (with a lid), heat coconut oil over medium. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  2. Add the onion, ginger and jalapeño and season with the 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the rice and sauté for another minute.
  4. Then stir in the coconut milk and 1 1/4 cups water. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer but avoid scorching.
  5. Stir in the corn kernels and an additional 1/4 cup of water, cover again, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp is cooked through and the rice is tender, 10 minutes. (Add more water by 1/4 to 1/2 cups throughout cooking as needed if the water has been absorbed, but the rice is still too firm.)
  6. When the rice is tender, add the shrimp, stir and recover. Continue to cook over low heat for and additional 2 to 4 minutes, or until shrimp is pink and fully cooked.
  7. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime zest and basil; season to taste with salt.
  8. Serve immediately with lime wedges and topped with more basil.

Simple Strawberry Cocktails

After picking eight heaping quarts of beautiful strawberries, I had to try a couple of new strawberry cocktails. I must say that it is difficult to make a strawberry cocktail that I would prefer to my favorite Strawberry-Basil Martini and (close second) The Union Square Strawberry Cocktail. Thankfully, we had plenty of strawberries and beautiful evenings to be able to enjoy all of them! 🙂

Both of these cocktails are incredibly simple and quick to prepare. The first is a Strawberry Gin & Tonic- perfect because one of my favorite summer cocktails is a classic gin and tonic. The recipe is from hometoheather.com. The second is a Spicy Strawberry Margarita. My husband made it as a celebratory cocktail on my birthday. ❀ He garnished the rim of the glass with a mixture of coarse salt and chile powder. The recipe was adapted from vinepair.com, contributed by Natalie Migliarini. Tasty and refreshing.

Strawberry Gin & Tonic

Yield: 1 cocktail

  • 1 shot gin
  • 1 wedge lime
  • tonic water, to fill
  • 1 mashed strawberry
  • lime wedge or slice, or strawberry, for garnish
  • ice
  1. Use a highball glass and fill about Πfull with ice.
  2. Pour the gin over the ice.
  3. Add your mashed berry, squeeze the lime wedge and fill with tonic water.
  4. Garnish with lime or strawberry and serve.

Spicy Strawberry Margarita:

Yield: 1 cocktail

  • 1.5 ounces tequila
  • 1 ounce of lime juice
  • 1/2 serrano or jalapeño chile, seeded (if desired), chopped or sliced into rings
  • 3 strawberries, chopped
  • 1/2 ounce agave nectar
  • salt and/or TajĂ­n or chile powder, for the rim
  • 1 cup ice
  1. Rim a rocks glass with salt and/or TajĂ­n or chile powder.
  2. Chop peppers and strawberries and add all ingredients into shaker, shaking to chill and combine.
  3. Pour chilled mixture, including the ice, into rocks glass.
  4. Garnish with a fresh strawberry, if desired.

Meyer Lemon Pielets with Brown Butter Press-In Cookie Crust

I have my own Meyer lemon tree but I did have to purchase the lemons for this special treat- this year anyway. My tree is very sparse at the moment- and not that happy. 😩 Hopefully it will have many lemons sometime in the future! Anyway, I love individual desserts. These were silky, creamy and delicious.

This recipe was adapted from The Book on Pie: Everything You Need to Know to Bake Perfect Pies by Erin Jeanne McDowell. Such a beautiful and informational book. The lemon zest and juice can be replaced with Key lime zest and juice for a lime version. Alternate press-in cookie crust variations are included below as well. Very nice.

Yield: 12 mini pies

For the Brown Butter Press-In Cookie Crust:

  • 113g / 4 oz / 8 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 50 g / 1/4 cup / 4 T granulated sugar
  • 21 g / 1 large egg yolk
  • 5 g / 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 210 g / 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 g / 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 15 g / 1 T water

For the Pielets:

  • 1 recipe Brown Butter Press-In Cookie Crust (ingredients above)
  • 99g / 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon
  • 288g / 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 60g / 1/4 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
  • 2g / 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1g / 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • lightly sweetened freshly whipped cream, for serving, optional
  • Meyer lemon zest, for garnish, optional

To Make the Crusts:

  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter begins to simmer and foam, the milk solids turn brown, and the butter smells toasty, about 10 minutes.
  3. Cool the butter to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the cooled brown butter and sugar on medium-low speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and mix on medium speed to combine. Scrape the bowl well.
  6. Add the flour and salt and mix on low-speed until fully incorporated, 45 seconds to 1 minute.
  7. Add the water and mix just until the dough is smooth, about 1 minute more.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C with a rack in the center.
  9. Grease the cavities of a muffin pan with nonstick spray.
  10. Divide the dough into 12 even rations in each cavity. (I used cookie scoops of various sizes.)
  11. Use your fingers to press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of each cavity.
  12. Use a small fork or tip of a paring knife to dock the dough all over.
  13. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes.
  14. Bake the crusts until they are lightly golden at the edges and appear set all over, 14 to 18 minutes. If the dough puffs up during baking, prick it with a fork when you remove the crusts from the oven so it lies flat again.
  15. Cool crusts completely. Then, use an offset spatula to gently unfold the cooled crusts onto a baking sheet. They should release easily. (I found that rotating them helped release them from the pan- the top edges of my crusts did crumble a bit though- still delicious.)

To Make the Filling and Serve:

  1. In a small pot, rub the sugar and the lemon zest together to combine.
  2. Add the cream and heat over medium-low heat, whisking, to dissolve the sugar. Do NOT let the cream come to a boil.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a large container with a pour spout and whisk in the lime juice, vanilla, and salt.
  4. Carefully pour the custard into the cooled crusts, filling each one just over 3/4 full.
  5. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the filling is set, at least 2 hours (or up to 24 hours). Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
  6. Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream and garnish with additional zest, if desired, and serve.

Notes:

  • The pielets can be made up to 24 hours ahead and kept refrigerated in an airtight container.
  • Any leftover filling can be chilled in a ramekin for a baker’s treat. 🙂

Alternate Press-In Crusts:

To Make an Oatmeal Press-In Cookie Crust: Replace the brown butter with room temperature butter. Replace the granulated sugar with 53 g / 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar. Replace 30 g / 1/4 cup of the flour with 74 g / 3/4 cup rolled oats.

To Make a Coconut Press-In Cookie Crust: Replace the brown butter with room temperature butter. Replace the granulated sugar with 53 g / 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar. Add 50 g / 2/3 cup toasted unsweetened shredded coconut with the flour.

Shrimp & Basil Stir-Fry

My herb garden has been beyond fabulous this year. I wanted to make sure that I made this dish before my beautiful basil faded away.

This dish was described as being “more addictive than Doritos.” 🙂 The recipe is from Bon AppĂ©tit, contributed by Andy Baraghani. I don’t usually follow a recipe precisely, but did on this occasion because I had never used Fresno chilies. Oops. The dish was tasty but beyond spicy. I regret not tasting my chilies for heat intensity. I will certainly do that next time, and will follow the recipe as written with milder chilies or remove the seeds and ribs for spicier chilies.

The spicy-sweet sauce was delicious and I still enjoyed it. This dish also comes together very quickly and is perfect for a weeknight meal. We ate it over brown Basmati rice with tomato slices on the side. The tomatoes really helped offset the heat. 🙂

Yield: Serves 3 to 4

  • 3 Fresno chiles, coarsely chopped (seeds and ribs removed, to taste)
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 T vegetable or grapeseed oil, divided
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled, deveined, patted dry
  • 2 cups basil leaves (about 1 bunch)
  • lime wedges, for serving
  • 1 cup of rice (cooked in 2 cups stock or water), for serving
  1. Blend chiles, garlic, sugar, fish sauce, salt, and 3 T oil in a blender until smooth. (I used a Vitamix.)
  2. Transfer marinade to a medium bowl and add shrimp; toss to coat. Let sit 10 minutes.
  3. Heat remaining 1 T oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high.
  4. Using tongs, just when oil begins to smoke and working in batches if needed, add shrimp, leaving marinade behind, and cook, turning once, until lightly charred around the edges, about 1 minute per side.
  5. Remove pan from heat. Add basil and toss vigorously until basil is wilted.
  6. Transfer shrimp mixture to a platter. Serve with rice and lime wedges alongside.

Spicy Coconut Grilled Chicken Thighs

This is another incredible and full-flavored grilled meat dish. I used the marinade on boneless, skinless chicken thighs but it would also be wonderful with shrimp or flank or skirt steak according to the original recipe. I love that the residual marinade is cooked down into a sauce for serving.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Molly Baz. I marinated ten chicken thighs but would add up to five more next time. I also used a mixture of harissa and sambal oelek for heat. Fabulous.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 1 3-inch piece fresh ginger
  • 5 large garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek and/or harissa)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 T light brown sugar
  • 1 3/4 tsp Morton kosher salt
  • 2 T vegetable oil, plus more for grill
  • 2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs (use 10 to 15 thighs)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves with tender stems
  • lime wedges, for serving
  1. Prepare a grill for medium heat.
  2. Finely grate ginger and garlic into a medium bowl.
  3. Add coconut milk, chili paste, lime juice, brown sugar, salt, and 2 tablespoons oil and whisk to combine.
  4. Add chicken and toss to coat. Let sit at least 15 minutes or up to 4 hours.
  5. Remove chicken from marinade, letting excess drip back into bowl, and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.
  6. Pour marinade into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2–3 minutes.
  7. Clean and generously oil grate of grill (if there are a few flare-ups while you do so, not to worry, they will burn off).
  8. Grill chicken, turning once and basting occasionally with marinade, until you see some good grill marks and chicken is cooked through, 8–10 minutes.
  9. Transfer chicken to a platter. Brush with remaining marinade. Top with cilantro and serve with lime wedges alongside.

Spicy Pork Kebabs with Fennel, Cumin & Red Onion

This is a full-flavored, weeknight summer dish. I served it with sautéed Napa cabbage, grilled radicchio, grilled fennel, and brown Basmati rice on the side. We squeezed fresh lime juice over the grilled meat, but next time I may also serve it with a garlicky lime-yogurt sauce.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used cubed pork tenderloin instead of pork shoulder and modified the proportions.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 Ÿ pounds boneless pork shoulder OR 2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lime, plus some wedges for serving
  • ÂŒ cup cilantro or basil, leaves and tender stems, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 jalapeño or other green chile, seeded if desired (I used an unseeded Serrano chile)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 Âœ tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 small red onion, sliced, for serving
  1.  Season pork lightly with kosher salt and put it in a bowl or resealable bag.
  2. Juice the lime into a blender or food processor and add cilantro, fish sauce, garlic, chile and honey. Blend until the chile and garlic are puréed, then add fennel, cumin, coriander seeds and pulse four or five times to bruise the spices and mix them in.
  3. Pour mixture over the pork, tossing to coat the pieces. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes while you heat the grill, or up to 24 hours.
  4. When ready to cook, heat the grill or broiler with a rack positioned 4 inches from the heat source.
  5. Thread the pork onto skewers, leaving a little space between cubes. Grill over the highest heat possible, or broil on high, for 2 to 5 minutes, then flip the skewers and continue cooking until the meat is browned all over and charred in spots. It should be just cooked through: A little pink is OK, but there shouldn’t be any red spots.
  6. Serve the pork with cilantro sprigs and onion slices on top, and lime wedges on the side for squeezing.

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