Tag Archives: cocktails

Last Minute Budget Holiday Gift Ideas

20 Dec


It never fails: Five days until Christmas and one of two things always happened to me; I either ran out of money, time or both. I always forgot to give a gift to my dog walker, the neighbor who took in my mail if I forgot to, or to that customer that always remembered my birthday.  So, I  would always reach into my bag of tricks and produce a hand-made gift that always seemed to mean more to the recipient than anything I could buy. You can do the same thing without spending too much time, money or both!

1) Do you have a signature dish? Do you have a killer lasagna recipe? Do people salivate at the mere thought of your spinach dip?  Give a coupon that promises you will make the dish for them at a later time.

2) Another variation on this theme is to make your famous ( or infamous) BBQ sauce, Sugar cookies or other treats and creatively package them as gifts.

3) Instead of giving gift cards, give gift certificates toward your recipient’s favorite restaurant. Times are tough, and people are foregoing eating out in order to save money. They will appreciate the chance to get out of the house.

4) If your friend or family member loves  a good Bloody Mary, make your own mix. Package the mix in a mason jar and present it along with a small bottle of vodka for a homemade Bloody Mary kit. Here is a great recipe that I’ve had success with. I developed this recipe some 15 years ago when I worked at a funky little bistro in Federal Hill.

Bloody Mary Mix

1 32 oz. bottle of tomato juice

Juice of two limes

2 tsp celery salt

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

2 tbl. prepared horseradish

1 tbl. Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tsp. sugar

1 1/2 tsp. Old Bay (optional)

Mix together and package in either 12 oz. or 16 oz. mason jars and decorate with ribbon. Makes just about 3 – 12 0z. jars or 2 –  16 oz.

Here’s an easy sweet treat you can make for friends and family and the kids can help with this. I have loved chocolate covered pretzels since I was a kid and are cheaper to make than to buy. The sweet and salty treats can be made ahead and dressed up with colorful ribbons

Chocolate covered pretzel rods

I box pretzel rods

1 1/2 lbs.  good quality semi-sweet chocolate

1/4 cup heavy cream

2  to 3 cups of crushed candies such as peppermints, heath bars, mini peanut butter chips or  chopped nuts of your choice ( peanuts, pecans, walnuts).

Put together a double boiler by using a medium-sized pot and adding about 3 inches of water.  Using a metal mixing bowl; place the bowl inside the pot, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Set aside.

Chop up candies and/or nuts and place on separate plates. Take a sheet pan and cover  the bottom of the tray with either with parchment paper, foil or plastic wrap and set aside. Sort through the pretzel rods and remove the broken ones.

Chop up chocolate into uniform pieces and place in metal mixing bowl.  Add  the cream to the chocolate. place bowl back on the pot and turn on heat to medium and simmer. Stir chocolate mixture until chocolate and cream are melted .Turn heat to low.

Arrange an assembly line  as follows  pretzels, chocolate, candies or nuts and covered sheet pan.  Dip a pretzel into the warm chocolate and using a fork, coat completely. Remove coated pretzel with a fork and allow excess chocolate to drop off. When the dripping stops, roll pretzel in the candy or nuts and place on the covered sheet pan. Repeat until all of the pretzels are covered. Refrigerate until the coating sets.

Wrap 5 or 6 rods with  colorful plastic wrap and a decorative ribbon.

The point is to give from the heart, not from the wallet. Your homemade gifts will be greatly appreciated.

I will post more ideas tomorrow!

Nectar of the Gods

12 Jan

Yes Indeed!

Coffee.  Black and strong, sweet and creamy, frothed or not, we all enjoy this brew. According to the website Just About Coffee, the drink was used as a medicine in ancient Muslim societies, coffee made its way to the New World by explorers looking to cultivate the popular drink.

Coffee drinkers drink an average of 3.1 cups of coffee a day in the U.S., the website coffeeresearch.org reports.  The beverage is a part of American culture and it is with this absolute adoration of the heady beverage that I write this brief homage to my favorite coffee company: Porto Rico Import Company.

Storefron of the best coffee EVER!

A dear friend sent me the store’s Cafe Blend coffee as a birthday gift seven years ago, and I’ve grown so fond of that I order it several times a year. I’ve given it as housewarming and birthday presents ever since.  You can keep your Starbucks;  I’ll take my coffee from these guys. They get a special ” Thumbs Up” from me because I ordered my coffee from them on a Thursday, and I got it the very next day. Sigh, now that’s customer service!

So, I’ve told you my favorite coffee. What’s yours?

Thanks to the following websites:

Coffee Research ( http://www.coffeeresearch.org)

Porto Rico Coffee Imports ( http://www.portorico.com)

Just About Coffee ( http://www.justaboutcoffee.com)

Coffee poster is courtesy of http://scienceblogs.com/retrospectacle

Ideas for throwing a Superbowl Party on a Budget

30 Jan

Well, I’m poor and maybe so are you.

But, you want to watch the game with a few friends, and don’t mind having Cletus and the gang over.  Don’t fret; there are ways you can still entertain and do it on a budget. All it takes is some planning, and a bit of creativity.

Have a Pot-Luck Party

There is nothing wrong about pot-luck. Suggest to the masses if they want to watch the game on your brand, spanking-new plasma tv that you bought, they may wanna bring a dish or two. It just takes some coordination, never leave it up to the masses. You are supplying the venue, so provide the paperware and beverages. Guide your guests to what they should provide. Everybody you invite should be willing to bear some cost. Have the guest that can’t cook bring some chips, a dessert or a dip. Tell them to bring enough for the amount of guests you are having.  Tell them if they are briniging a guest, the guest should bring something as well. Nobody shows up empty handed.

Avoid some pre-packaged food

Ideally when you buy that bag , box or tray of prepared food,  you should look at the realistic serving size, not the one put on the package. Example: Frozen Buffalo wings from some of the leading companies cost between $8.99 and $9.49 a pound for a 2.5 lb. bag. That’s spending between $3.59 and $3.79  a pound for just over 3-4 servings, especially if you have a bunch of hungry guys over. It’s just cheaper to make your own, especially if chicken wings cost between &1.69 and $2.49 a pound.

But CC, I don’t want to spend time making food; I just want to order it or just pop it into the oven and be done with it.

Only you can be the judge between the cost of convenience versus time. If you want to order wings from your local wing joint, call them NOW and make your reservation. You aren’t the only one wanting wings of fire for the shindig.

Making your own cold cut tray has its advantages. First, you can use sale cold cuts and cheeses and choose the ones you like.  Second, it’s just cost effective.   For $28, you can have 2 meats and 2 cheeses and have enough to feed a hungry crowd. Why pay extra for the kale and the  pile of unidentifiable lunch meat that nobody ever eats?


Alcohol ain’t cheap, y’all. How many times you’ve had to empty half-full cans of beer? It is a proven fact that people are less wasteful of things if they had to pay for them, and alcohol is no exception.

A note, however: You should be diligent with your guests if you are serving drinks. Cut them off if they appear to be too inebriated, and never serve alcohol after the third quarter ( this always eliminates that guy who won’t leave until all of the alcohol is gone).  You may save yourself a headache later on, especially if your state is one who holds a homeowner responsible for how much his guests drink.

The idea is to have fun. If you need any ideas for something to either serve or bring, try one of the following recipes:

Beer-Battered Chicken Fingers

Warm Crab Dip

Chicken and Brown Rice Meatballs

Dirty Rice

My soon-to-be famous Sangria

Now go and root for your favorite team!!!

My Official Inaugural Drink : The Barackatini

20 Jan

I first ran into the Obama cocktail a few days ago while pleading to Anthony Bourdain to let me give him a proper tour of Baltimore in a recent post.  In his blog, he wrote about this ghastly concoction containing come form of cocoanut  (probably Malibu rum), Blue curacao, and pineapple juice. Besides making your teeth chatter with all that extra sugar coursing through your veins, it just sounds just plain nasty.

Obama has an elegance about him, with just a hint of swagger. I suggest that a drink named after him contain these elements. I suggest we make something similar to the drink pictured above. This is the official (at least according to the website) Barack Rocks Cocktail.  The recipe is from The Nibble.com and can be found here.

After consulting a few buddies of mine, we decided to make up a martini (elegance) with a kick ( swagger). We came up with the Barackatini.

Note: This is what we thought a proper tribute to our next president. I am acutely aware that this may just be another form of another drink out there somewhere, so save all of the ” hey, that’s just a (insert drink name here) for someone who gives a fark, thank you very much.

The Barackatini ( serves two)

In a shaker with ice, pour the following:

2 healthy shots of raspberry vodka

1 heathy shot of Cointreau

splash of pineapple juice

splash club soda

Orange twist for garnish

Blue decorating sugar for rimming glass

Chill martini glasses for 20 minutes. Run a twist of orange around the rim of one glass and drop into martini glass. Repeat with the other glass. Place the rim of each glass into the blue sugar and set aside.  Shake  contents of shaker until well blended, and strain  into martini glasses. Enjoy!

In the spirit of the day, let us all rejoice in the realization of a dream deferred.

Mazel Tov!

A letter to Anthony Bourdain

12 Jan

Dear Anthony Bourdain,

I ran across your blog the other day, and  was ecstatic that you came to my hometown–Baltimore, Maryland.  Then, I was surprised at your choice of eateries; Mo’s Crab and Pasta Factory. I’m sure you went there as part of the show, and to meet some of the cast of  “The Wire.”

While I appreciate that you may have enjoyed yourself at the fixture that is Mo’s ( BTW- What the EFF is an Obama drink???? I am a martini, Irish whiskey and Grand Marnier girl, and will not entertain anything the color of Windex to enter my gullet) ; I would like to formally invite you back to my fair city to take you on a tour of some of my city’s best, but little known eateries.  I feel that you missed some of the best food that we have to offer.

By the way; I’m not talking about some high-priced chi-chi, frilly place, but good food and great atmosphere.  Places like The Blue Moon Cafe, who serves the best breakfast in the city. Big portions, and all of it is homemade.  And, Peter’s Inn, with  ambitious food and atmosphere crammed into a  tiny Fell’s Point row home. And, while in Fell’s Point, we have to go to Bar, the original hole-in-the-wall.

Can I get an Amen? Amen.

Oh, and we can explore Hampden, hon for some of the local bars, and then make our way to the Real Deal Jamaican-American carry out for some of the BEST jerk chicken I’ve had to date.

Afterwards, we can stop by Club Chuck for a nightcap before I put you on the train back to New York. Did I mention you will have to pay, because I’m poor. Really poor. But that’s another story for another day.

Please entertain the idea of escorting a retired chef around town so I  can show you all the flavors of the town I love so dearly, warts and all.

Sincerely yours,

The Culinary Chick

PS: Anyone within the Baltimore-area who wants to throw in their two cents, feel free to do so.

My soon-to-be-famous Sangria

11 Jul

The best time to serve this is the day after it is made. This allows all of the flavors to marry, and the fruit to leach out all of their flavors.

Makes 2.5- 3 quarts

Equipment you will need:

A large pitcher ( glass or plastic; not metal)

Wooden Spoon

sharp knife

Cutting board


1- 750 ml bottle of an inexpensive, but assertive dry red wine ( no Merlot OR Beaujolais; use a cabernet or a shiraz)

2 apples

2 oranges

2 plums

2 peaches

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups grape juice blend ( such as cran-grape, apple-grape, ect.), OR 2 cups cherry flavored Juicy Juice®.

1 cup citrus-flavored vodka


Thoroughly wash the all fruit, setting aside oranges. Cut and seed the apples,peaches and plums with the skins on. Dice fruit and place into pitcher. Cut the top and bottom off each orange, and place the orange on the cutting board with the cut side facing up. Using the knife, cut off the skin of the orange, removing the white pith underneath (If you take the short and  hand-peel the orange the usual way, it will make your sangria have a bitter aftertaste).  Cut the orange into three or four pieces, and add to pitcher.

Pour the sugar on top of the fruit. Then with the wooden spoon, mash the fruit in the pitcher until fruit is wwll broken up. Add Juice, vodka and wine; stir until blended. Place a lid on the sangria and let “age” for 24 hours.  To serve, pour into ice-filled tall glasses and enjoy.