Celebrate Kentucky Derby with Fresh Lemon Mint Juleps

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Since the Kentucky Derby is this weekend, I thought I would create the ideal springtime mint julep. My version is slightly different, made with fresh lemon juice and agave nectar. It’s traditionally served in an iced silver or pewter mug during the Kentucky Derby, but any glass is fine when it tastes this good (and I promise you, it’s fabulous). I used Gentleman Jack which is one of my favorite bourbons, but feel free to use your favorite. Enjoy a taste of Kentucky with every sip of this fresh drink.

A Sign of Spring: Strawberry Limeade

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Coming up with this recipe may seem simple to you because that’s what I thought when I submitted this recipe concept to a client for recipe development. Honestly, I made this recipe at least six times. I kept placing the strawberries in the blender and coming out with a fizzy product. It tasted great, but was very foamy and fizzy. The kids loved trying all the versions, but they even complained about all of the fizz. I realized that maybe I was making this too complicated trying create a lime simple syrup, different sugars, etc. until I realized why not just try chopping the strawberries in the food processor first and then stir them into simple limeade? This version worked great so I hope you will like it too.

Healthy Pomegranate Blueberry Smoothie

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Smoothies are very popular at my house. We make them several times a week, even in the wintertime for dessert, as an afternoon snack or for breakfast. My kids love to try new concoctions, which is great because we are always using fresh, healthy ingredients such as yogurt, fresh fruits and fresh juices not from concentrate. I am thrilled to indulge in smoothies as well as providing the kids with something so healthy that boosts energy levels, fills you up and makes you feel great. Sometimes I even sneak in a couple of tablespoons of wheat germ, crushed flaxseed, and they don’t even know it. Try this recipe or make one of your own as a fresh start to the New Year.


Pomegranate-Blueberry Smoothie

Prep: 5 minutes

Yield: 8 cups

Ingredients

2 (6-ounce) containers low-fat strawberry yogurt (I used Dannon Light/Fit)

3/4 cup pomegranate juice such as Pom

1 tablespoon honey

1 pint fresh blueberries

1 banana

11/2 cups cubed or crushed ice

Preparation

1. Combine all ingredients in an electric blender and process until smooth and frothy. Serve immediately.

Holiday and Christmas Morning Cranberry Punch

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Who doesn’t love a hot beverage this time of year to beat the winter chill? This mixture of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and cloves spice up cranberry and pineapple juice to comfort you this time of year. My sister, Natalie, makes this punch every year during the wintertime holidays, so I thought I would share it among friends. It is very similar to a recipe I developed when I was a Food Editor with Southern Living magazine. It’s perfect to serve Christmas morning to set off the festivities in a warm cheerful tone. Cheers! 

 

Spiced Cranberry Punch

Prep: 5 minutes

Cook: 10 minutes

Yield: 12 servings

Ingredients

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup water

11/2 quart cranberry juice

1 (48-ounce) container pineapple juice

Preparation

1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a large 5-quart pan; bring to a boil. Add pineapple juice and bring back to a boil. Serve warm.

Easy Christmas Gift Ideas-Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

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We love hot chocolate at my house! My kids consider it a real treat when I say, “Who wants hot chocolate?” They love it in the morning, after school, and sometimes, instead of dessert, after dinner. And my non-coffee friends will stop at Starbucks for hot chocolate as fast as I will get my latte (and for those who know me, that’s a lot). So, I thought what would be a simpler and better holiday gift than the gift of hot chocolate? This recipe is a breeze and tastes great. Feel free to give a large 1-quart container or several small 4-ounce jars. Whichever you choose, I know you and your friends will love this recipe. The only thing that is missing is the milk.

 

Hot Chocolate Mix

Prep: 5 minutes

Ingredients

13/4 cups powdered sugar

11/2 cups nonfat dry milk

11/4 cups unsweetened cocoa (I used Hershey’s)

4 cups miniature marshmallows

Preparation

1. Stir together all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Place in a large or small airtight jars and store at room temperature.

Gift Card Enclosure and instructions: Stir 1/2 cup  Hot Chocolate Mix into 1 cup warm milk, stirring well. Serve immediately.

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What to Serve with Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner-Prosecco and Pinot Noir

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So many friends have called in the past few days and asked me, “What are you serving with Thanksgiving dinner?” I suggest serving Prosecco and Pinot Noir since holiday meals feature a diversity of flavors. There is no single wine modeled for a certain dish. The joy comes from trying new possibilities. Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine. It’s not expensive, and it’s clean, crisp and easy to drink. Pinot is the perfect table wine for the holiday season because of its low tannins, good acidity, and fruit-forward flavors. Cheers and happy holidays!

Pomegranate Margarita

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My friend, Steven, called last night and said he was having relatives in Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  He asked me for a food favor. He said they were preparing a Mexican-themed menu, and asked me to help him with a recipe for a Pomegranate Margarita which was highly requested by his wife, Bridget. I thought this sounded like a really nice idea since many of us will be entertaining family and friends next week. This recipe has the right mix of tequila, Triple Sec and pomegranate juice. I just recommend using my ultimately favorite “Patron Silver” for the tequila.


Pomegranate Margarita

Prep: 5 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

Lime wedges 

Salt or sugar for the rim

Ice

8 ounces white tequila

4 ounces Triple Sec

1 cup pomegranate juice

2 limes, juiced (optional)

1/2 cup club soda

Directions

1. Pour salt or sugar onto a plate or shallow dish. With a lime wedge rub along the rim of a glass and dip glasses upside down to salt the rim. Fill glasses with ice. In a cocktail shaker with ice place the tequila, triple sec, pomegranate juice, and lime juice. Pour into the salt-rimmed glasses and top off with club soda. Garnish with a lime wedges, if desired.

For tequila, see www.patronspirits.com

Leigh’s Three Ingredient Banana Smoothie

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This smoothie is awesome, and I am not just saying it because my 9-year old daughter whipped it together one morning. I am very impressed though. It’s so simple and delicious, and my older son said, “How did she make this so good?” Try it and see. Feel free to add strawberries, blueberries or whatever fruit you prefer, but if you like bananas, you will love this with just these simple ingredients.

 

Three Ingredient Banana Smoothie

Prep: 5 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

2 (6-ounce) containers nonfat vanilla yogurt (I used Dannons)

2 ripe bananas

2 tablespoons honey

2 cup crushed ice

Preparation

Combine all ingredients in an electric blender and blend until smooth. 

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Election Night Party

Raspberry Lemonade from Sunset

   My friend called me yesterday, and said she was having an election night party and asked me what should she serve? I was stumped at first as her ideas were muffalatas and shrimp creole or pizza and lasagna. This was going to be a casual party with friends and children so it got me thinking…

   For those for McCain, I think Tex-Mex would be a great way to go so try my fajitas and guacamole with margaritas, rice or a salad, and you’re all set. 

   And if you’re pulling for Obama, I hear it’s Chicago deep dish pizza or chili that are his favorite foods. Since this election is so special and unique, my suggestion is to come up with something for everyone, so I hope you will enjoy some of my patriotic favorites.

 

Raspberry Lemonade

This recipe is so great, and kids love it! My son decided to take this on all by himself. You may want to double this recipe as it only serves 4.

Yield: Makes about 4 servings

Preparation

To make In a small bowl, with a potato masher or spoon, mash 1 cup rinsed fresh raspberries (6 oz.) with 2/3 cup sugar. Let stand 10 minutes. Press through a fine strainer into a pitcher (at least 1 1/2 qt.); discard seeds. Stir in 1 cup lemon juice and 2 cups water. Taste and add more sugar if desired. Pour into tall, ice-filled glasses.

And the celebration begins….

 

Honey Chiptole Barbecue Sandwiches

Honey-Chipotle Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches from Cooking Light

This recipe yields slow-cooked barbecue flavor in less than an hour. The sandwiches need to be broiled at the last minute.

Yield: 4 sandwiches (serving size: 1 sandwich)

Ingredients

1/2  cup  water

1  teaspoon  ground cumin

4  garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1  pound  skinless, boneless chicken breast

1  (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

1  teaspoon  ground cumin

1/2  cup  canned tomato puree

1/4  cup  cider vinegar

3  tablespoons  honey

1  tablespoon  Worcestershire sauce

4  (1 1/2-ounce) sandwich rolls

2  ounces  Monterey Jack cheese, thinly sliced

4  (1/8-inch-thick) slices red onion

Preparation

Combine water, 1 teaspoon cumin, 4 sliced garlic cloves, and chicken in a large saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 10 minutes or until chicken is done. Drain, and place chicken on a cutting board. Cut chicken across grain into thin slices; keep warm.

Remove 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from can; set aside. Remove 2 chipotle chiles from can; finely chop and set aside. Reserve remaining chiles and adobo sauce for another use.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon cumin; sauté 1 minute. Stir in tomato puree; cook 4 minutes or until mixture thickens to a pastelike consistency, stirring constantly. Stir in reserved 2 tablespoons adobo sauce, 2 chopped chipotle chiles, vinegar, honey and Worcestershire. Add sliced chicken to sauce; simmer for 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Preheat broiler.

Split rolls in half; arrange in a single layer, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Broil 1 minute or until lightly toasted. Remove top halves of rolls from baking sheet. Divide chicken mixture evenly among bottom halves of rolls, and top chicken mixture evenly with cheese. Broil chicken-topped rolls 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven; top with onion and top roll halves. Serve immediately.

Red White and Blue Potato Salad

This recipe uses a trio of potatoes, but use all of one type if you prefer. Blue potatoes are starchier than the others and tend to bleed, so cook them separately. If you need to, prepare this dish a day ahead, but add the blue potatoes just before serving. If your potatoes are larger than the ones we call for, cut them to a uniform size.

Yield 6 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

Ingredients

2  cups  fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise (about 10 ounces)

2  cups  small red potatoes, quartered (about 10 ounces)

2  cups  small blue potatoes, halved lengthwise (about 10 ounces)

1/4  cup  finely chopped red onion

2  tablespoons  chopped fresh parsley

1  tablespoon  chopped fresh dill

1  tablespoon  chopped fresh chives

3  hard-cooked large eggs, finely chopped

1/4  cup  red wine vinegar

2  tablespoons  olive oil

1 1/4  teaspoons  salt

2  teaspoons  Dijon mustard

1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper

1  garlic clove, minced

Preparation

Place fingerling and red potatoes in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes or until tender. Drain; cool slightly. Place potatoes in a large bowl.

Place blue potatoes in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes or until tender. Drain; cool slightly. Add blue potatoes, onion, parsley, dill, chives, and eggs to bowl; toss gently.

Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients. Pour over potato mixture; toss gently to combine. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.