Saturday, September 23, 2017

Cucumber Mint Martini

Autumn approaches slowly in north Florida with heat and humidity continuing to hang in the air like a wet blanket.

This in-between time is a perfect for a late summer cocktail.  All good cocktail starts with quality ingredients-No exceptions.  We scored an artisan gin from Austin, Texas called austin reserve from our older son.  A gin with soft botanicals and a very smooth finish.  A new favorite.

There are just a handful of ingredients in this cocktail so, get your shaker out, invite a good friend, put on music and enjoy.




Cucumber Mint Martini
Serves 1
Recipe from Fried Chicken and Champagne


Ingredients:
4 cucumber wheels (1/8 inch thick)
10 small mint leaves
1/4 ounce simple syrup (see recipe below)
2 ounces good quality gin
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/2 Grand Mariner

Garnish: Paper-thin slice of cucumber 

Recipe for Simple Syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Mix water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir, mixing well.  Bring the mixture to a boil. stirring frequently.  When the sugar has completely dissolved, remove from heat.

Let the mixture cool completely.  Place in a container and refrigerator.  Keeps up to a month in the refrigerator.

Directions:
Muddle 4 cucumber wheels and mint leaves in a shaker.  Add the simple syrup. gin, lime juice, and Grand Marnier  Add ice to fill shaker.  Shake and strain into a martini glass; float the paper-thin cucumber slice on top.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Hurricane Irma's Baked Spaghetti


 A wild weather week for Florida! With time to prepare, evacuate, get out of the way, shelter in place or some combination there remains the stress of waiting and anticipating.  Mother Nature can be incredibly generous and she can be equally devastating.  This month alone Harvey doused Texas and Louisiana, and Irma exploded on the scene to wreck havoc on the peninsula of Florida.  Last year, almost on the same date we experienced hurricane Hermine.  Hate to think this is the new normal as storms are becoming bigger and stronger during hurricane season due to the warming of the ocean waters which is fuel for these storm systems.

During times of stress it is in our nature to find solace in traditional comfort foods.  While we waited and prepared for Irma's arrival a craving was building for an EPIC comfort meal to feed the family, or a crowd.  The dish was baked spaghetti and my friends there is no finer comfort.

The recipe below is my take on baked spaghetti but certainly you can change this recipe up as you like and I am sure it will be delicious.



Hurricane Irma's Baked Spaghetti
Serves a crowd  
(makes a 9x13 pan with generous portions)



Ingredients:
1lb. Thin spaghetti
2 jars (24 ounces) good quality Marinara Sauce
1lb. lean ground beef
Olive oil for cooking
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
16 ounces 4% small curd cottage cheese or Ricotta cheese (I prefer cottage cheese)
3-4 cups Mozzarella Cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling water add spaghetti and cook according to package directions.  Drain.  Return to cooking pot and add one jar of marinara sauce. Toss. Set aside.

While the spaghetti is cooking,  heat a large pan with a drizzling of olive oil.  Add chopped onion, sauté until translucent.  Add minced garlic, sauté for another minute.  Add Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Blend with other ingredients. Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink.  Add second jar of marinara sauce. Cook another couple of minutes. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, add cottage cheese or ricotta cheese with 1-2 cups of mozzarella cheese. Blend.  Set aside.

In a 9x13 baking pan add a layer of sauce, then spaghetti, then cheese mixture and repeat the layers ending with the sauce.   Top with mozzarella cheese and bake 30-35 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.

Enjoy!