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Hurricane

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Most of the cocktails I make are for one or two people.  But every so often I need to make a pitcher because I’m having a party. See, it’s so much easier to serve people when you make a big pitcher as opposed to shaking and mixing a separate cocktail for each and every guest that walks through the door. So, since Memorial Day is Monday, and the whole weekend is devoted to outdoor cooking and partying, now seemed like the right time to share a cocktail that’s perfect for pitchers: the Hurricane.

The Hurricane is really an alcoholic punch made from a couple different alcohols and several different juices. It’s nice and sweet and the color just screams “summer”. Also screaming summer are those classic plastic red Solo cups. But while those cups do make serving cocktails to a large number of guests much, much easier, the Hurricane deserves to be (and should be) served in the stunning hurricane shaped goblet. After all, how do you think the cocktail got its name?

party hurricane

Although no one knows who’s behind the delectable elixir, we do know where it was created: New Orleans’ very own Pat O’Briens. As a matter of fact, they’re still serving it to this day (though it’s definitely not in its original form.) Now it tastes like a heavily boozed up glass of overly sweet Tang. But when the cocktail was originally created during WWII, it was a drink to be reckoned with. See, back then they didn’t have powdered fruit punches or pre-mixed cocktails. Back then a cocktail was made with what you had on hand, and during the 40’s, bars had a lot of rum on their hands. What they really wanted was whiskey. But since whiskey was so hard to import during the war, distributors forced bars to buy large amounts of rum in order to secure a single case of good whiskey. The bartenders at Pat O’Briens decided to put all that rum to good use and came up with the cocktail we now know as the Hurricane. Serving it in a glass shaped like a hurricane lamp only added to the cocktail’s panache.

While you can absolutely make this drink for one, it’s ideal for a party. It’s pretty, it’s potent, and if served in a beautiful hurricane glass, it’s a hit.

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Hurricane (serves at least 10)

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. light rum
  • 12 oz. dark rum
  • 10 oz. grenadine
  • 10 oz. fresh orange juice
  • 10 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 3 – 5 tablespoons superfine sugar (depending on your taste)
  • 1 large orange, sliced

Directions:

  1. Mix all the ingredients, except the orange slices, together in a large pitcher until the sugar dissolves. Add ice and the orange slices.
  2. Serve in tall glasses over ice with a straw.

Smokey Bourbon Baked Beans

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Memorial Day is this weekend which means that it’s officially the start of summer. But more than that it means outdoor parties and food on the grill. I love grilling all sorts of things: chicken, steaks, kabobs… But the foods that seem to be most popular this time of year are hot dogs and hamburgers. I know my kids are big fans and let’s face it, there’s nothing easier than throwing a few burgers and dogs on the barbecue. But you can’t just serve hot dogs and hamburgers, right? You need to have a side or two.

While French fries, tater tots, fruit and potato salads are popular choices, nothing goes better with hot dogs than baked beans. I’m not talking about a can of beans, either. Yes, cracking open a can and warming them up on the stove is very easy and there are some good brands out there. But you know what’s better than the can? Homemade.

Now don’t get scared. I know a lot of homemade bean recipes require buying dried beans and soaking them over night and then simmering them on the stove for hours. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of time. With two energetic boys under the age of 6, I just don’t have all day to hang at home while my beans simmer; and something tells me a lot of you don’t either. But thanks to Melissa’s Steamed Six Bean Medley, you don’t need 24 hours (or more) to make a fantastic side for your grilled entreés.

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I’ve talked about Melissa’s awesome line of steamed veggies before. They make cooking so much easier because most of the work is already done for you. Instead of soaking and then cooking, you just cut open a bag and add them to whatever dish you’re making.  You can even eat them straight out of the box if you want. While this recipe does require some cooking time it’s only so the beans can soak up all that wonderful smokey flavor that we associate with baked beans. But if you think you’re going to have to stand over the stove, don’t worry, I’ve taken that out of the equation as well. All you’ll need is a slow cooker.

That’s right. No standing over the stove and occasionally stirring for several hours. You simply have to mix up the sauce, throw it and the beans in the slow cooker and then go about your business. You can pick up the kids, get them to their various after school activities or just focus on making the rest of the dinner. Whatever you need to do, you can get it done and still have these delectable beans on the table by the time your guests arrive. And the best news is, you can leave that can opener in the drawer.

dogs and beans

Smokey Bourbon Baked Beans

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1/2 pound bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 packages Melissa’s Steamed Six Bean Medley

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the molasses, sugar, mustard, bourbon and water in a medium bowl until well combined.
  2. Line the bottom of your slow cooker with half the bacon. Top with the beans and onion and finally the rest of the bacon.
  3. Pour the molasses mixture over the beans.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Cover and cook the beans on low for 6 hours, stirring once or twice.  Transfer the beans to serving bowl and serve.

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My sons are picky eaters. It seems that whenever I ask A what he wants for dinner, he comes back with a very short list: pizza, chicken nuggets or hot dogs. Every so often I’ll get a request for tacos or quesadillas, but most of the time it’s the first three. So while Friday night has been deemed Pizza night, the rest of the week I make dinners that sound appealing to me. Then to ensure that my boys will at least take a couple bites, I try to include something I know they’ll like. T’s a big fan of meat and rice and A loves salad.

The rice is always easy, but for A, I need to make sure the salad is made up of the veggies I know he likes: lettuce, avocado and cucumbers.  Yes, my oldest is a huge fan of cucumbers. He likes all kinds, but especially Persian cucumbers. I think those are his favorite because they’re nice and small.  Sometimes he’ll just grab one out of the fridge and gobble up the whole thing by itself. So, when I found this recipe from Food and Wine magazine for lamb chops with a cucumber relish, I knew I had to make it. See, if I made this recipe, I knew both my boys would be eating dinner. T would gobble up the lamb and rice and A would have no problem eating each and every piece of cucumber. And maybe by eating all the cucumber, A would also get a piece or two of the lamb.

Not only did A lap up every last piece of cucumber, just as I expected, he ate a healthy portion of the lamb chop as well. So, it turns out a meal my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed, the boys enjoyed too. That’s win/win and a dinner I’ll definitely be making again.

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Lamb Chops with Cucumber Relish

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 lamb chops
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons mint leaves, torn
  • sea salt for garnish

Directions:

  1. Rub 1 tablespoon of oil over the lamb chops and season generously with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. While the lamb sits, mix the cucumber with the lemon zest, lemon juice, raisins, mint and another tablespoon of oil in a medium bowl.
  3. Heat 2 large grill pans or cast-iron skillets over high heat. Divide the remaining tablespoon of oil between the pans. Add the lamb and cook until nicely browned on both sides, about 12 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer the chops to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle the lamb chops with sea salt, spoon the cucumber relish on top and serve.

 

Bellini

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There’s no cocktail more popular on Mother’s Day than the Mimosa, and while it’s a delicious brunch or breakfast choice, there’s a champagne cocktail I like even more. The Bellini.

The Bellini is a champagne based cocktail that uses peach nectar instead of orange juice. While orange juice is much easier to come by (you can get it year round) peach nectar, at least fresh peach nectar, is only available in the spring and summer. Yes, it’s true you could get your peach juice out of a can, but there’s nothing in the world better than fresh peaches. And… it just so happens, peaches are back in season, just in time for Mother’s Day. It’s true. I’ve actually seen them in the grocery stores and farmer’s markets; and if I can juice my own peaches for this cocktail, believe me, I’m doing just that.

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But I wasn’t the first to juice my own peaches and mix them with some champagne. No, that honor goes to Giuseppe Cipriani, the chief barman of Harry’s Bar in Venice. Cipriani supposedly created the cocktail in 1948 and its pink color is how he chose the name. It reminded him of the color in a Giovanni Bellini painting. The cocktail became a specialty at Harry’s in Venice and then again at the Harry’s in New York, when a French entrepreneur came up with the idea of creating a trade of white peaches between Venice and New York.

Both white and yellow peaches are currently in season. And while I’m partial to the yellow, either one would make a yummy cocktail to serve Mom.

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Bellini

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. peach nectar
  • 4 oz. sparkling wine or champagne

Directions:

  1. Pour the peach juice into a champagne flute. Slowly add the sparkling wine. Stir and sever immediately.

Chocolate Chex French Toast

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As I’m sure you know, Sunday is Mother’s Day; and while it’s traditional to go out to a restaurant for brunch to celebrate, its easier and more kid friendly to make a nice breakfast at home.  Maybe even serve it to Mom in bed.  What can you make that’s both kid-friendly and special for Mom? French Toast! But better than plain French toast is French toast covered in Chocolate Chex!

I love French toast. Whenever we go out for breakfast, I almost always order French toast because it’s made with a nice thick egg bread and soaked in heavy cream. It’s decadent and a delightful treat, the perfect choice for Mother’s Day.  While always special, covering the French toast in Chocolate Chex makes it even better. Not only does the Chex add a nice crunch, the chocolate makes it sweet. You don’t even need syrup. (It’s totally okay if you want to use it, though.) But my favorite thing about French Toast is how easy it is to make. It’s so easy in fact, the kids can even help.

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How can they help, you ask? Simple. Give them the Chex to crush. Have them beat the eggs. If those assignments are too difficult, they can simply dip the bread into the egg mixture.  If you have more than one child, you can make an assembly line so everyone can get in on the action. There are so many options, it makes for quite a fun morning. Plus, since the kids will be helping, it’ll be way more special than going to a restaurant. Sounds like the perfect Mother’s Day to me.

chex box

Chocolate Chex French Toast

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 loaf of challah, sliced
  • 2 cups Chocolate Chex, crushed

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla in a large bowl. Place the crushed Chex in another bowl and set the two bowls up in an assembly line.
  2. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Dredge each slice of bread in the egg mixture. Then dip in the crushed Chex, making sure to press down so the cereal sticks.
  3. Place the Chex-coated bread in the skillet and cook, 2 – 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown.  Transfer the French Toast to a plate. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the rest of the loaf of bread.
  4. Serve immediately with a little powdered sugar and syrup.