Happy St. Patrick’s Day! ~ Homemade Irish Cream

Irish CreamIt’s the month to celebrate all things Irish! 🙂 Every year I love to make an Irish dish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. This year, I decided to try making Irish cream from scratch, which is one of my favorite Irish treats. I was pleasantly surprised by how much this tastes like Baileys! My version is made with coconut milk instead of cream and I only used a little bit of maple syrup for sweetness. It isn’t quite as rich or sweet as the original Baileys, but my hubby (who is part Irish!) and I thought it was lovely. I hope you’ll give it a try and add it to your celebration on the 17th. 🙂

I filled tiny liquor bottles with the Irish cream and pasted festive little St. Patrick’s Day labels on the front. The free (and super cute!) artwork can be found at the website How to Nest for Less.

Homemade Irish Cream

1 can (approximately 14 ounces) full-fat coconut milk

1 teaspoon cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon espresso powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Irish whiskey (or more if you’d like it a little boozier)

2 tablespoons maple syrup (or more if you’d like it a little sweeter)

In a blender, add all of the ingredients. Blend until the cocoa and espresso are dissolved and everything is combined, about 15 seconds. Chill before serving. After it is chilled, it will separate a little, so pour into glasses through a strainer to ensure an even consistency.

Sláinte!Irish Cream

It’s National Margarita Day! ~ Kumquat Margarita

Kumquat MargaritaToday is National Margarita Day! This little known holiday can brighten up a dark rainy day in the middle of winter. 🙂

I had some kumquats left over in my refrigerator, and I thought this was a perfect use for them. If life gives you kumquats, make margaritas! 😉

Kumquat Margarita

Makes 1 drink

8 kumquats

1/2 ounce lime juice

1 1/2 ounces silver tequila

1/2 ounce orange liqueur

1/4 ounce agave nectar (or more if you would like it a tad sweeter)

Slice the kumquats and remove the seeds. Run one kumquat over the rim of a glass and dip the glass in kosher salt so the rim is evenly salted. Place all of the kumquats into a cocktail shaker and muddle them until their juice is released. Add the remaining ingredients and crushed ice. Shake until cold. Strain into the salt rimmed glass. Serve with more crushed ice.

Cheers!Kumquat Margarita

Polynesian Adventure ~ Tuvalu Tuna, Samoan Tropical Salad, and ‘Otai

OtaiTonight I took a culinary trip to three different Polynesian island nations on this beautiful summer evening! I tried recipes from Tuvalu, Samoa, and Tonga.

All of the recipes were from an inspiring food blog I admire called Global Table Adventure. I discovered the blog when I read the author’s memoir in which she shared her journey to make the website. She went on a culinary voyage in her own kitchen, cooking a meal from every country in the world. (That is 195 countries!) Then she wrote about the recipes and her experiences making them, as well as facts about the countries from which they came. She also added beautiful photos of the food as well as the countries she featured. I have already tried a few of the recipes ranging from a chicken dish from Panama (Arroz con Pollo) to a breakfast dish from Israel (Shakshouka). I have learned about dishes I have never heard of before, and even countries that I wasn’t aware existed. The blog has helped to open up my corner of the world to the greater world, filled my wanderlust, and ignited my passion for cooking on days when I’m not feeling very enthusiastic about making dinner. It really is a wonderful website, and I hope you’ll check it out. 🙂 I plan to cook many more adventures from this collection of recipes.Tuvalu TunaOn tonight’s Polynesian adventure, the main course was called Tuvalu Tuna. Before perusing through the collection of recipes on Global Table Adventure, I wasn’t familiar with the island of Tuvalu. I learned that it is the smallest member of the Commonwealth of Nations. (Coincidentally, all of the nations featured in this meal are a part of the Commonwealth.) In fact, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate) visited Tuvalu a few years back, and they experienced a little of the local food and dance. (If you need a smile, check out the second half of this video. 🙂 )

I lightened the dish a little from the original recipe by reducing the amount of oil to only 1 tablespoon, and using light coconut milk. I also served it with brown rice instead of white.

Tuvalu Tuna – Follow this recipe link to Global Table Adventure

I served the tuna dish with a simple salad from Samoa, which was the perfect accompaniment. It consisted of an unlikely combination of spinach, papaya, avocado, and cantaloupe, which worked together nicely.

Samoan Tropical Salad – Follow this recipe link to Global Table Adventure Polynesian AdventureI paired our dinner with a classic drink from Tonga called ‘Otai. I can’t think of anything that is more summery than watermelon, coconut, and lime blended together! (This was my second batch of ‘Otai, since it is that good!) I used a light coconut milk beverage like this, rather than a can of coconut milk. Serve in a tiki glass for the full Polynesian effect! I think this would also be lovely with a little rum to kick it up a bit. 😉

‘Otai – Follow this recipe link to Global Table AdventureOtai

Water Water Everywhere ~ Poolside Sparkling Watermelon Cocktails

Over Seafair weekend, we had a fun idea to get out our little inflatable pool and set it up on our back deck. It was a really hot weekend by Seattle standards, so it was a nice way to cool down in the mid afternoon heat. It kind of made our little corner of the world feel like a vacation spot :).

The pool then inspired me to make a poolside cocktail! I decided to make it a watermelon based drink to match the water and sea theme of the weekend :). We made sparkling watermelon cocktails with a little pink umbrella. I couldn’t decide whether the champagne glass or the martini glass with palm trees etched on the side was more fun, so I made one in each. One for Rob, one for me :).

Poolside Sparkling Watermelon Cocktails

Makes 2 drinks

3 cups fresh watermelon

A few squeezes of lemon juice

2 individual cans or bottles of sparkling wine (I used Sofia Blanc de Blancs minis, so we could make just two drinks without opening a full bottle of bubbly)

Puree the watermelon in a blender and strain.

Fill half of each glass with the strained watermelon juice. Squeeze a few drops of lemon juice into each. Top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a little umbrella if you’d like one more fun little touch!


Celebrating Cinco de Mayo ~ Mexican Sidecar

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Today I remodeled my favorite sparkling wine sidecar recipe to be a bit Mexican! 🙂 Swap out the cognac for tequila and swap out the lemon for lime. It has a similar flavor profile to a margarita, which is perfect for Cinco de Mayo. After our Irish Sidecars were such a bit hit on St. Patrick’s Day, I was inspired to try another version to fit this holiday.

Mexican Sidecar

3/4 oz Grand Marnier

1/4 oz lime juice

3/4 oz of tequila

Dry sparkling wine

In a cocktail shaker, mix the first three ingredients with ice until very cold. Pour into a martini glass, and top with as much sparkling wine as you would like.


March 17th ~ Irish Sidecar

Happy March 17th!

To celebrate this evening, I took my favorite cocktail recipe and switched it up to be a wee bit Irish. I’ll call it an Irish Sidecar. 🙂

I started with the recipe for the sparkling wine sidecar cocktail that I wrote about last March, but I replaced the cognac with Irish whiskey, and I changed the lemon juice to lime juice. The Irish flag is orange, green and white, and this drink includes all three colors. 🙂

Irish Sidecar

3/4 oz of Grand Marnier

1/4 oz lime juice

3/4 oz of Irish whiskey

Dry sparkling wine

In a cocktail shaker, mix the first three ingredients until they are very cold. Strain into a martini glass. Top with sparkling wine.

It goes perfectly with some Irish cheddar and crackers as a late night snack.


Wedding Anniversary, Part 1 ~ Hibiscus Royale Cocktails

To celebrate our wedding anniversary this year, we decided to try a few more recipes inspired by the Domaine Chandon website and cookbook. We tried a few of their recipes on our engagement anniversary last Valentine’s Day, so it seemed like a good choice to try a few more on our wedding anniversary to make a full circle J. On a beautiful summer night in our backyard, we got dressed up, lit a bunch of tea light candles all around the patio and enjoyed Chandon Hibiscus Royale cocktails, a curried apple salad with mizuna, sprouts and prosciutto, duck breasts with a celeriac potato purée and caramelized carrots and champagne sabayon over fresh berries.

I’ll begin with our pre-dinner cocktail and then add the other recipes over the month. It was a unique and romantic sparkling wine cocktail…Perfect for an anniversary :). I found the hibiscus flowers at a little specialty shop in Seattle called the Chef Shop. The rose water came from another specialty shop in Pike Place Market called DeLaurenti. Both are very fun places to visit if you are in the mood for a little culinary adventure! I think half the fun is exploring markets for new and different ingredients :).

Hibiscus Royale Cocktails

1 hibiscus flower (wild hibiscus flowers in syrup)

½ tbsp syrup from the jar of wild hibiscus flowers

1 small drop of rose water

Sparkling wine such as Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs

Combine the hibiscus flower, syrup and rose water in a champagne flute. Then top with the sparkling wine and serve immediately.

Makes one cocktail.


Simple Summer Celebration ~ Lemonade Sparkling Wine Cocktails

For a festive summer evening, I made a super simple cocktail made of lemonade sorbet and sparkling wine. Just add a little melon ball sized scoop of sorbet into the bottom of a champagne glass and top with the wine. (I used a lemonade flavor, but I’m sure just a simple lemon sorbet would be yummy, too.) It’s a like a root beer float with a kick! 😉

I made this summertime cocktail after we were surprised with an unexpected fireworks show across the lake from our house tonight. The full moon also happened to be out, and it was a gorgeous warm evening. It inspired me to make something summery and festive to match the beautiful night!


Happy Birthday USA ~ Fresh Oysters on the Half Shell with a Watermelon, Champagne and Cucumber Mignonette


Happy birthday USA!

Today is all about celebrating our country, and this year I decided to do that by celebrating our little corner of the country with some of the best treats that the Northwest has to offer.

We started with a plate of Penn Cove Select oysters on the half shell with a watermelon, champagne and cucumber mignonette. I think of sparkling wine when I think of the Fourth, since the sparkles remind me of fireworks :). The watermelon and cucumber also added a summery sweet freshness to the oysters’ salty brininess. I must admit, oysters are something I am just now beginning to enjoy. I’ve tried them in the past, but they were never my favorite choices. I liked this mignonette so much, that I had three of them! The most important thing is to get live oysters from a fishmonger that you trust. The recipe is based on one from Oprah.com, and I’d like to pass it along to you.

Fresh Oysters on the Half Shell with a Watermelon, Champagne and Cucumber Mignonette

12 shucked fresh oysters

1/4 cup watermelon juice

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1/2 cup champagne

1/2 tablespoon prepared horseradish

2 tablespoons minced English cucumber

2 tablespoons minced shallots

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon for garnish

To make the watermelon juice, place 1 inch pieces of melon into a food processor, and process until pureed. Place a coffee filter in a strainer, and place the strainer over a large cup. Pour the melon puree into the strainer, and let it drain into the cup. Discard the pulp.

Combine the watermelon juice, champagne vinegar, champagne, horseradish, cucumber, shallots and black pepper in a bowl. Mix well.

Serve about a teaspoon of the mignonette on top of each oyster. Garnish with the chopped tarragon. Serve immediately.

For the main course, we had a Dungeness crab boil…A classic American summer celebration dish with a Northwest twist. It was super easy and delicious. I always ask my fishmonger to dispatch and clean the crabs when I buy them. They are much sweeter if they are cleaned before they are cooked. For two crabs (about 2 lbs each), steam for about 17 minutes until they are cooked through. At the same time, in a separate pot, boil the potatoes and corn. That’s it! 🙂 It couldn’t be easier.

Dessert was even easier and equally as delicious. We had a big bowl of Rainier cherries. They have a very short season, so they always feel like a special treat. They don’t need any help from a recipe :).

We paired dinner with a Chandon Liberty Sparkle cocktail from DomaineChandon.com. The recipe is basically the same as the Pomegranate Fizzes that I wrote about earlier this year, but with an added patriotic name for a red sparkling cocktail! It’s just a splash of pomegranate juice and a splash of Grand Marnier topped with sparkling wine.

I hope you have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Happy Cinco de Mayo ~ Sparkling Wine “Margarita”

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

I was inspired by a recipe on Domaine Chandon’s website for a sparkling margarita, which seemed very fitting for this evening. It replaces the tequila with sparkling wine for a lighter drink. My version of their cocktail also has much less sugar than the classic.

All you need is a lime, sparkling wine, and kosher salt. (I like drinks that are a little tart, but if you would like a little sweeter version, just add some agave nectar to the glass.)

Rim a champagne flute with kosher salt. Cut two very thin slices of organic lime, and squeeze the juice of the lime slices into the champagne glass. Drop one of the squeezed slices into the bottom of the glass along with some crushed ice. (You can omit the ice if your wine is very very cold.) Then pour the sparkling wine to the top of the flute.

This cocktail is reminiscent of a margarita, but the flavor is a little different. It sounds a little odd to have salt and lime and sparkling wine in the same drink, I admit, but I think it’s really refreshing. I would have never believed it until I tried it :). I hope you will give it a go!


Happy Mardi Gras! ~ Red Jambalaya with Chicken, Shrimp and Lobster and Chandon Sidecars

This year, we had red jambalaya with chicken, shrimp and lobster for our Mardi Gras celebration. I’ve been working my way through the recipes on the Domaine Chandon website, and this one caught my eye awhile back. It seemed perfect for tonight, so I saved it until now. I must say, it was worth the wait!  I would recommend it highly. I did make a handful of changes to make it a little healthier. I used brown rice instead of white, I only used 2 andouille sausage links (chicken or turkey preferred to pork) instead of a pound, I omitted the bacon grease or butter and replaced it with grapeseed oil and I used skinless chicken with the bone in. Other than those differences, I followed the recipe closely. We thought it was a delicious gourmet spin on traditional jambalaya.

Red Jambalaya with Chicken, Shrimp and Lobster

3 lbs chicken breasts and thighs with the bone in but skin removed

3-4 tbsp grape seed oil, or any other oil with a high smoke point

2 medium-sized onions, chopped

1 green pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 tbsp flour

2 links of sliced chicken or turkey andouille (about ½ lb) (if you would like less heat, you might want to use only one link)

3 cups tomato plus one extra medium tomato, chopped

½ tsp thyme

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp Tabasco sauce
(if you don’t like things very spicy, use a little less)

1 cup water

1 cup tomato juice

¾ cup uncooked long grain brown rice

½ lb jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 small lobster tails, shelled and cut into small pieces (may substitute 12 oz small shrimp, shelled and deveined)

½ cup scallions, diced (discard green stalks)

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped


Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbsp oil and sauté until just browned and remove from pan. (It will not be cooked through.) Do not discard oil.

In the same pan, sauté onions, green pepper and garlic until onions are translucent. Remove from skillet.

Add remaining oil and gradually add flour, stirring often. Simmer until the color turns light brown.

In the same pan, stir in sausage, chicken, onion, pepper and garlic mixture and tomatoes (except for the extra medium tomato). Cook 10 minutes on medium high, stirring continuously.

Add thyme, ½ tsp pepper, Tabasco sauce, water, tomato juice and rice. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

Stir in shrimp, lobster, scallions, remaining tomato and parsley. Cook an additional 5 minutes until the seafood is just cooked through.

Makes 8–10 servings.

We also had my take on a Chandon Sidecar cocktail to go with our dinner. We were first introduced to sidecars at one of our favorite nightspots in Seattle called the New Orleans Creole Restaurant, so I always associate them with Creole cooking. For our drinks, I used ¾ oz of Grand Marnier, ½ oz Meyer lemon juice (its a little sweeter than regular lemon juice, so we didn’t need any simple syrup to balance it) and ¾ oz of Cognac. Then top it with dry sparkling wine to your liking.

I hope you have a festive Mardi Gras! 🙂

Working my way through the delicious Domaine Chandon Cookbook ~ Deviled Quail Eggs with Caviar and Chives

This January, I have been working my way through the Domaine Chandon Cookbook: Recipes from Étoile Restaurant. I associate sparkling wine with the beginning of the year, so it seemed like the perfect cookbook for this month. (In case you aren’t familiar with the winery, Domaine Chandon is best known for its bubbly since it is the American little sister to Moët & Chandon.) Rob and I also had a very memorable visit to that winery a couple of years ago, so it’s a special place for us. We joined their wine club for a time, had a fabulous dinner at the restaurant and enjoyed their beautiful grounds on a warm September evening. So many recipes from the cookbook sounded delicious and inspired me to try them. Cooking fine recipes makes an ordinary meal feel a little special to me. As Rob said, it’s my art. It isn’t just the necessary fare, but something higher. So it makes me feel like we are living life well, even when it’s cold and dark outside. I ended up trying a healthier twist on quite a few of the cookbook’s recipes…deviled quail eggs with caviar and chives, pomegranate fizz cocktails, green vegetable gazpacho with shrimp, truffled popcorn, brandy spiced shrimp, coconut lime mussels, Parmesan soufflés with a leek purée, salmon and tuna tartare and chicken breasts with toasted orzo and a thyme infusion. Out of all of those very good recipes, we really enjoyed the quail eggs. They were absolutely adorable! Plus, I always enjoy cooking with something I’ve never tried before, and quail eggs were new to my kitchen. They are a little bit time consuming because they are so tiny, but if you are in the mood to spend some quality time making a gourmet creation, they are a lot of fun! It wouldn’t be like me to completely follow a recipe, so I did lighten them a little by omitting the crème fraiche and using Neufchâtel instead. The filling was a little firmer with this substitution, but we thought it was very delicious. I also used whole grain bread for the base instead of brioche.

Deviled Quail Eggs with Caviar and Chives

1 loaf sliced whole grain bread

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1 teaspoon lemon juice

20 quail eggs

2 tablespoons Neufchâtel cheese

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 ounce caviar

5 fresh chives, cut into 1 centimeter long pieces

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

With the rim of a sparkling wine glass flute, cut rounds of bread from your bread slices. (Take care to avoid the crusts). Pinch a small indentation into the center of each round with your index finger and thumb to hold the quail eggs. Place the bread rounds on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove and cool.

In a small bowl, combine the shallot and lemon juice.

In a medium saucepan, place the quail eggs and enough cold water to cover the eggs. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook the eggs for 3 minutes until they are hard boiled. Remove from the heat and carefully place the eggs in cold water for 5 minutes.

Peel away the shells, starting at the wide bottom end of each egg. Rinse each egg with cold water to make sure no little pieces of shell remain. Set them on paper towels to dry. Cut each egg in half lengthwise with a sharp knife. Remove the yolks with a very small spoon and place them in the bowl with the shallot and lemon juice mix.

Add the Neufchâtel, mustard, salt and pepper to the yolks. Using a fork, mash the yolk mixture until a thick paste forms and everything is well combined.

Using a very small spoon, fill the cavity of each egg-white half with the yolk mixture. Set each egg half in an indentation on top of the toasted bread rounds.

Place a tiny bit of caviar and one small slice of chive on top of each egg. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

These paired very well with pomegranate fizz cocktails from the cookbook. I made them with just a splash of Grand Marnier and pomegranate juice in a glass of sparkling wine. Garnish with a little bit of orange peel for an added special touch.