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The sun is beaming, in all of summer’s glory. A coastal breeze blows, as I feel the warm sand beneath my feet, and a cold drink in my hand. Isn’t Hawaii absolutely amazing?

Well, I’m sure it is. Unfortunately, I’m not on the Big Island (insert sad mainland face), but I DO have legitimate island envy. In the spirit of Friday, the hot weather—and being overdue for a drink recipe—there’s no better time than the present! What epitomizes the tropics better than a Mai Tai? There’s something about this rum & citrus libation that has me wanting some R&R, not to mention it’s delicious. In fact, wait . . . here’s a little Jimmy Buffett inspiration to get us in the mood—It’s 5:00 Somewhere.

There are as many variations of this tiki-themed drink, as days of summer. Well, which recipe is the best? That, my sun-worshiping friends is up to you! Since this post is up to me, I created a version that might not be the original, but still incorporates many Mai Tai elements I love—rum, and some other rum.

This was easy to make with just a shaker & fresh fruit juices. Time to fill our glasses, shall we? 

the dinnvervine Mai Tai

51

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 3 minutes

Total Time: 8 minutes

Yield: one 5.5 oz cocktail

the dinnvervine Mai Tai

Cool off this summer with our take on a classic tropical drink, the Mai Tai!

What to get...

  • 1 oz light rum (I use Bacardi)
  • 1 oz med dark, spiced rum (I use Captain Morgan)
  • 1/2 oz darker rum, as floater (I use a dark variety by Captain Morgan called “Tattoo”)
  • 1 oz juice of an orange (freshly squeezed)
  • 1 oz juice of pineapple, (freshly juiced, or from a can)
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 oz Cointreau
  • 1/4 oz Amaretto liqueur (I used in place of orgeat syrup)
  • *small splash of grenadine, for color, optional
  • *pineapple chunk for garnish, optional
  • *umbrella for garnish, optional
  • *sprig of fresh mint for garnish, optional

What to do...

  1. Squeeze/juice fruits as needed.
  2. Fill an old fashioned glass (chilled glass optional), fill ~1/2 way with crushed or shaved ice.
  3. In a cocktail shaker with ice cubes, combine all main ingredients, EXCEPT the darker rum for floater & grenadine (if using).
  4. Shake well for ~ 1 min, use strainer & pour directly into old fashioned glass with crushed ice.
  5. Pour 1/2 oz darker rum floater on top, and splash of grenadine (if desired), don’t stir.
  6. Add a cocktail umbrella with pineapple chunks, or a skewer & a sprig of fresh mint.
  7. Imbibe.

Notes

I prefer freshly squeezed orange, lime & pineapple, versus pre-made or concentrate juices, but you can use pre-made also. For the rum floater, I tried a newer variety of dark rum called “Tattoo” by Captain Morgan. It is a dark variety with a slight hint of orange & cherry, though it wasn’t sweet or too noticeable, but worked well with the citrus in this. Also, you can use Tripe Sec in lieu of the Cointreau, if you don’t have any. Double recipe as needed.

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Many folks debate the origin of this polynesian pour, but its roots have been widely accepted to be from California . . . I had no idea? There are two rumored pioneers, Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber—both restauranteurs in the Golden Sate. I wasn’t around in the 1940’s to compare them, but these guys were doing something right. Mai Tai’s have evolved into a timeless cocktail, loved by vacationers everywhere! I’ve tried many variations, some with pineapple juice, some grapefruit, and you know what? I’ve never met one I didn’t fancy. I don’t like mine too sweet, but I do prefer a splash of fresh pineapple juice, freshly squeezed orange, lime, and a few types of rum. Many varieties call for simple syrup and/or orgeat syrup, which is almond based. I don’t keep orgeat around, so I decided to substitute with a splash of Amaretto, which gave us a little of the smooth almond flavor. I skipped the simple syrup altogether, since the fruit was just enough. As for the rum, I used a light variety, and a dark spiced one (since I had some already). I topped off our creation with a traditional dark rum floater, which no Mai Tai should go without! The little umbrella . . . well, that’s optional, but it never hurts to be festive.

I thoroughly enjoyed sipping this to welcome the weekend. Sometimes you just need a moment of vacation . . . maybe next time, Hawaii.

 Hali pau to you!

mai tai - 17

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In a world on-the-go, I like many people end-up choosing meals of convenience over nutrition—or I skip a meal altogether. Recent hot weather and resulting lethargy, have me in need of better planning, without processed foods & too often eating out (despite how much easier it seems).

I decided to revamp my shopping list, stocking more wholesome ingredients, and prepping them in advance! One meal I tend to forgo is breakfast. I’m usually not hungry early, so I will often juice during the day instead. On days when I’m not juicing (or just sick of spinach) I’m left with a daytime void. Recently, I came across a magazine with a Martha Stewart recipe for a chilled pudding made of oats & topped with fruit. I like the idea of this since the weather isn’t welcoming of a piping hot cereal, and I actually don’t fancy hot oats in general! I usually create my own recipes, and fine-tune them by trial and error. Though, this time I decided to give oats & this recipe a chance, changing it up a bit, opting for some sweet summer cherries. The result was better than I anticipated. They call it ‘clean eating’ these days, and it feels good so far (at least trying does).

Oatmeal Pudding with Cherries

51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4-5 servings

small bowl

Oatmeal Pudding with Cherries

Oatmeal pudding with fresh summer cherries! A quick & healthy breakfast or even dessert.

What to get...

  • 1 cup dry oats (I used old fashioned)
  • 2 cups vanilla almond milk or coconut milk (I use unsweetened)
  • 1 tsp ground golden flax seeds
  • 3 tsp maple syrup (100% pure)
  • bag of ripe cherries (we use about 1/2 cup pitted/bowl)
  • couple dashes ground cinnamon
  • dash of sea salt (cherries)

What to do...

    Cook Oats on Stove-Top:
  1. In a small pot combine 1.5 cups of the almond or coconut milk, oats, salt, stir and bring to a gentle boil, then simmer on low until oats have absorbed most of the liquid and are tender (~8-10 mins).
  2. Remove oats from stove and stir in the ground flax.
  3. Let oatmeal cool in a storage bowl, and then add in the remaining 1/2 cup milk and 2 tsps of maple syrup, stirring and chill for at least an hour, but preferably overnight.
  4. When ready to serve pudding, dish chilled oats into single serving bowl, top with prepared cherries (below).
  5. Cherries:
  6. Wash & dry ~1 cup of fresh, ripe summer cherries for topping (we use ~1/2 cup for each serving, so if you’re making more than 2 servings,increase topping accordingly).
  7. Slice cherries in half, removing pits and stems
  8. About 30 mins before serving pudding, combine cherries, dash of cinnamon, tsp of maple syrup & pinch of sea salt in a small bowl, set aside and let sit for ~20 mins.
  9. Use cherry mix to top the bowls of pudding.

Notes

This is as easy as cooking oats on the stove, cooling and pitting some cherries! A healthy breakfast alternative with fiber and serving of fruit and antioxidants. This stores well in the fridge, and you can add more sweetness in the form of Maple syrup, agave, or sugar as you prefer. The cherries & little maple syrup added enough sweetness for my taste.

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This recipe is simple since we prepare the night before, so it will be ready for you come morning. We’re keeping this dairy-free by using unsweetened almond milk, and using maple syrup instead of regular sugar. We’re getting our heart healthy fiber from the oats and ground flax. The ripe cherries are what make this for me (and bonus is they’re antioxidant rich). You still get the ‘oatmeal feel’ here, but in a cooler presentation. I wouldn’t have thought cold oats were too tasty—thanks for the recipe inspiration Martha

oatmeal pudding & cherries - 46

This is a nice breakfast, or dessert alternative if you’re watching what you eat and cutting out processed junk (sadly, I guess that means you too, Lucky Charms). Not that bacon and cheese won’t still be making appearances in my kitchen, but a little less frequently . . . for now.  

summer cherries

Enjoy these last days of summer!

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French Onion Soup - 39
I’ve been to France, and have to say I enjoyed much of the country & cuisine there. To be honest, I fell hardest for the most stereotypical dish one could think of—a savory bowl of French onion soup. Maybe the soup was my favorite because this was my first time ordering it (better late than never). I have no good reason, other than something always seemed unappealing about plain onions in broth. Well, until I finally had some—It’s DELICIOUS!

Since my soup epiphany, I’ve sampled a myriad of versions state-side, with mixed reviews. I don’t order this often when it’s hot out, though recently I’ve been buying a surplus of sweet summer onions. As luck would have it, Vidalia onions are making their coveted appearance on the West Coast, hooray! Being that I’m a Georgia girl by birth (and heart), I love a good Vidalia. In fact, when my family moved to CA, the parentals would have these precious veggies shipped-in! Vidalias are solely grown in Georgia and unparalleled in flavor—sweet & mild. They’re the original ‘sweet onion’ variety, and if you’ve yet to sample one . . . you’ll be hooked. Only during late spring & summer is this seasonal crop available, so I’ve been cooking with them constantly.

If the onions weren’t inspiration enough, I was recently gifted a cooking torch (jackpot)! Looking to test it out on something other than my candles, this soup came to mind.

Now we have an obscene amount of onions & a can of butane—let’s get this Parisian party started!

Vidalia French Onion Soup

51

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: pot of soup (4+ dinner size servings)

~2 cups (dinner portion)

Vidalia French Onion Soup

Savory French onion soup, with summer-sweet Vidalia onions!

What to get...

  • 5 Vidalia onions, peeled (or sweet white onions, medium size)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 quart beef stock (one 32 oz carton)
  • 1 cup white wine (dry, I used a Chardonnay)
  • 1/2 tsp white sugar
  • 3T flour
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • sea salt & coarse black pepper to taste
  • 1 French baguette, sliced into thin rounds (for making croute to top)
  • 8 oz shredded Gruyère cheese (~2 oz per serving, on croute to top)
  • *small cooking torch to broil cheese on top, optional.

What to do...

  1. Slice onions into thin slices, separating out segments (slicing onions in half vertically, then slicing into thin shreds is easiest, or using a mandolin).
  2. In a large dutch oven or soup pot, melt 1 stick butter, add chopped garlic & onions, 1/2 cup of the white wine, & pinch of sea salt, tossing & spreading out into a layer.
  3. Allow onions to cook over medium-low to caramelize, for about 30-40 mins, stirring every 10 mins or so (onions are done when they are a rich golden color & very soft).
  4. To onions on low, sprinkle with the 3T of flour, stir & slowly add other 1/2 cup white wine, stirring constantly to incorporate, and then add bay leaf and sprigs of fresh thyme (these will be discarded later).
  5. Return the heat to medium, add pinch ground black pepper & salt to taste. and gradually stir-in beef stock 1//2 cup at a time (add ~1/2 carton).
  6. Let pot come to a low boil then simmer uncovered on stove for 15 mins, stirring occasionally.
  7. As soup simmers, slice baguette into thin rounds (depending on baguette size, 3-4 rounds/bowl of soup to top & make broiled crouton).
  8. If soup is desired thickness, no need to add remainder of beef stock, though if you’d like yours thinner or with more liquid vs onion ratio (the bread topping will absorb additionally), then add more stock.
  9. In oven briefly toast baguette slices for a few minutes to crisp/harden.
  10. Dish-out individual ramekins or bowls with soup, top with crisped baguette slices, enough to cover top in a single layer, and sprinkle with ~2+ ounces shredded Gruyère cheese on top of baguette slices.
  11. Using a torch, melt (broil) cheese over top of bread/soup so it’s bubbly & slightly browning (without torch, place oven safe bowls under broiler for a couple of mins, or in a high-heat oven for several until cheese is bubbly).
  12. Garnish with a few fresh thyme leaves & serve immediately, hot.

Notes

The time listed to make this is mainly for the time it takes to caramelize the onions (up to 40 mins depending). Prep is mainly slicing onions & chopping garlic. I opted for a pre-shredded Gruyere/Swiss cheese mix that saved some time! Add as much or less liquid as you prefer, but the soup will thicken with addition of cheese & bread crouton. I prefer mine thick/loaded with onions, but you can use more liquid for a less dense soup. A cooking torch makes topping super easy, but an oven can be used to broil the cheese crouton instead!

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This recipe takes more time to prep than actually cook. Though slicing onions is the least desirable task, with Vidalias so sweet you won’t shed a tear (unless you get crazy with the butane). Traditional French onion soup is served gratinéed (topped with a big, hot, cheesy crouton) and that’s where our torch came in handy, to melt the Gruyère. You can also broil the cheese & bread directly on the soup’s top, in your oven. I love how the caramelized onions pair with the salty beef base. Our toasted baguette soaks-up all of this flavor, and the bubbly cheese lends just enough richness. I knew this would happen! Even though it’s almost 90 degrees over here, now I want a hot bowl of soup!

Whether you’re new or not to Vidalias, French onion, or torches—I think you too will find this a favorite.

Bon appétit mes amis! 

French Onion Soup - 50

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Baking dessert seems better-suited for cooler months, but what to do amidst hot days of summer?

Unless you stick to popsicles & salt water taffy, you’ll probably need to fire-up the oven, and this was the house-heating dilemma I faced recently. I desired something delicious, non-frozen, and the idea of classic blueberry pie came to mind. I haven’t had a slice in years! I love all of this season’s fruits, but when fresh blueberries are ripe & sweet, I’m inclined to chose them (enter addicting blueberry muffins & patriotic Champagne cocktails). Though my delicious daydream sounded doable, pie means rolling dough, weaving crusts, and well . . . baking. Due to a time crunch—and a house now more likened to a Native American sweat lodge—I wanted this recipe to be simple, swift, and sub-500 degrees.

I decided to make miniature pies, and let them be topless!  That’s right, we’re only pre-baking a bottom crust, and burying it with tons of berries we prep on the stove—no more oven needed. Store bought pie dough makes this even easier (and it still turns out golden & flakey). Miniature-sized pies bake & set more quickly, not to mention they’re already portioned for serving (not that I needed another excuse to eat pie)! Shall we?

Miniature Blueberry Pies

51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 3, 5-inch miniature pies (12 ounces each)

1/2 - 1 mini pie

Miniature Blueberry Pies

A sweet summertime classic, blueberry pie, open-face style in miniature dishes. Easy and a new favorite dinnervine dessert.

What to get...

  • 1 package of prepared pie crust dough (store bought, 2 dough rounds/box)
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries (divided, rinsed and drained)
  • 1/2 cup white baker’s sugar (finer granule)
  • 2T cornstarch
  • 2T warm water (to be combined with corn starch)
  • 1/2 cup water (for heating with berries)
  • 1/4 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 fresh lemon, juiced
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 dash ground cinnamon
  • Whipped cream for topping, optional

What to do...

  1. Prepare miniature pie dishes with shortening or butter (to grease).
  2. Remove store bought, prepared pie crust dough from fridge and allow to warm enough to be unrolled (10 mins or so).
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Spread one pie dough (pre rolled into thin dough round) over prepared miniature pie dish, carefully pressing to fit dish, a large portion of dough will hang over the dish rim.
  5. With kitchen scissors, trim dough around dish rim, but careful tp leave about an extra inch over rim (as dough will recede and shrink in oven).
  6. With hands pleat/finish the edges of crust by lightly pinching, and then use a fork to poke several holes over dough (as it will bubble in oven).
  7. Bake miniature crusts for ~15 mins on 400, until they are golden brown (check to make sure they don’t over-brown and bubble while baking), then remove and cool on racks.
  8. While crusts bake, in a pot on stove, add 1 cup of the blueberries & the 1/2 cup water, heat on medium until a boil begins.
  9. In a small bowl combine cornstarch & 2 T warm water, whisking well to avoid clumps, set aside.
  10. Once pot begins to boil, reduce heat to a simmer & add pinch of salt, cornstarch mix and stir until well combined (mix will begin to thicken).
  11. Add sugar, dash cinnamon, juice of 1/2 lemon and zest, mixing thoroughly, let the mix simmer for about 5-8 more mins on low (while berries begin to burst and mix thickens-up, stir every few mins).
  12. Remove blueberry mix from heat & allow to cool for ~10 mins.
  13. Once crust and mix are cooled, spoon generous amount of blueberry filling into each par-baked crust, and allow to firm and gel for at least a couple of hours at room temperature.
  14. Top with whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream and serve!

Notes

I used pre-prepared, store-bought pie crust dough (the package contained two measured & rolled-out dough rounds -essentially for top and bottom crusts). In this case, each prepared round makes one bottom pie crust. Using the trimmings from remainder of the two, there is enough dough to make a third mini pie crust. Or purchase another box of dough, and double blueberry recipe for 4+ pies. These save fine at room temp, covered, or if adding whipped cream refrigerate.

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I didn’t want these overly-sweet, so I refrained from copiously sugaring the mix. If your sweet tooth is bigger than mine, more sugar can be easily added to the warm berries (just test & adjust to your liking). I really love how these turned out—simply fresh & FULL of blueberry flavor! The pies set easily, and saved well at room temp (though I moved to the fridge after a day). These little beauts would go perfectly with vanilla bean ice cream, or in my case, with fresh whipped cream & a blueberry on top! (Sorry cherries, not this time.) Enjoy summertime while it lasts, and a simple seasonal dessert!

blueberry pie - 16

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Sometimes you just have to go BIG, and recently at a family party this proved true with the menu. When ordering the food (over-ordering the food), it was somehow miscalculated that everyone in attendance might need a metric ton of shrimp cocktail. Luckily for all involved, there was an abundance of fresh shrimp remaining, and I inherited a good amount to take home. Normally, my go-to leftover would be tacos, but being that I was out of tortillas these little guys were headed for a new destiny. On this Sunday morning, I envisioned something light & easy (insert, Commodores song HERE —I really can’t explain why a 1970’s archive of soul music resides in my subconscious, but please enjoy this jam anyhow). 

shrimp salad - 03

Since these were already cooked & peeled, a cold seafood-style salad was my next choice. I’m a fan of both crab & mixed seafood versions, but shrimp happens to be one of my favorite ocean proteins.

This light mix is perfect for lunch or an appetizer before a dinner. I decided to serve this as part of a brunch with friends. To make it easier to eat—and frankly more attractive—a few lemons were sacrificed as single-serving cups to hold our crustacean creation. What’s even better, is that this only takes a few minutes to prepare, chill and serve (and that means more time having a mimosa welcoming your guests). I wanted to highlight fresh, summer flavors such as lemon, dill, and chives. Many cold & creamy seafood salads boast a heavy addition of mayo, but keepying this a little cleaner, I used light sour cream, and a little bit of light mayonnaise. Not that I don’t love some good ol’ mayo (this excludes demonic Miracle Whip however), but the flavors here are subtle, so I want to taste the shrimp & fresh seasonings.

This is too simple, and even if you don’t have a surplus of leftover shrimp cocktails, boiling some for this is pretty quick too.

Summertime Shrimp Salad

51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4-5 servings

1 bowl/cup

Summertime Shrimp Salad

This chilled shrimp salad is easy, light and perfect for a summer lunch, or appetizer!

What to get...

  • ~1.5 cups cooked shrimp, chopped (~20 cocktail shrimp, boiled)
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 T fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tsp fresh dill leaves
  • 1.5 T Light Mayonnaise, (Best Foods preferably)
  • 1.5 T Light sour cream (I prefer Daisy brand)
  • 1/4 tsp dried mustard powder
  • kosher salt to taste
  • finely ground black pepper to taste
  • *Lemon rind (1/2) as cup (for serving), optional
  • *red lettuce leaves as serving garnish, optional

What to do...

  1. Chop, pre-cooked cocktail shrimps, into ~ 3rds per shrimp.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine chopped shrimp, celery, chives, lemon juice & zest, dill leaves. mayo, sour cream, and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. combine well and chill salad for about 1 hour or more preferable.
  4. Serve in small bowls or festive, hollowed lemon cup halves, with a lettuce leaf, or eat with crackers.
  5. Saves well in an airtight container, in fridge for ~2 days.

Notes

Easily doubled. Add more seasoning to your desired taste. Chilling ahead is beneficial, but not required (though it improves flavor). These work great in lemon ‘cups’ though also great all on its own, and with crackers. Enjoy!

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Wasn’t that refreshing? Well, it will be. I recommend this one for a hot day, when boiling your face over the stove is not appealing. I plan to enjoy my next helping with some sourdough bread and glass of white wine—cheers to the end of another great weekend!

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