Sparkling Summery Sangria…

I know it’s not technically summer yet, but we’ve already had our fair share of 90-degree weather here in Dallas. When it gets that hot, you need something cold and refreshing to cool you off.  Joel and I were working in the yard last weekend and got really hot; at the end of the day after all that digging, planting and sweating, a nice tall glass of this sangria hit the spot big time! I love drinks like this because they’re so easy to adapt, depending on what you have in your kitchen. We had a tangelo (sort of a cross between an orange and tangerine- delicious!), an apple, some fresh strawberries and pineapple and limes. All you need is a couple of hours for chilling and you’ve got a totally delicious, refreshing sangria!

Sparkling Summery Sangria

1 bottle dry white wine (a Sauvignon blanc would be nice, or even chardonnay)
1 cup 7-up soda
1 tangelo or orange, sliced into thin rings
1 lime, sliced into thin rings
5 or 6 strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
half an apple, cut into chunks
5 or 6 chunks fresh pineapple

Pour the wine and 7-up in a large pitcher and add the fruit. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

*feel free to use any fruit you have on hand- this would be great with just about anything! Melon, peaches, blueberries…anything you like!

Recipe source: Sing For Your Supper original

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Old Fashioned Chocolate Sodas…

They may not seem like much, but in the early 1900′s, flavored sodas (and ice cream sodas) became quite popular. So popular in fact, uptight teetotalers declared them “immoral” and banned them on Sundays. Sheesh. Nowadays, us Americans sure love a good ice cream soda, or “float” as it’s also referred to. I definitely do, but for some reason tend to forget about them. Until a few days ago when I saw a delicious looking chocolate soda on Amy Bakes Everything- it was so tempting, I just had to make my own! Of course I couldn’t resist adding a healthy scoop of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream to mine. ;)

The possibilities with sodas are endless! All you need is a flavored syrup (chocolate, caramel, strawberry, etc…) and a little soda water and you’re just about set! You simply MUST have whipped cream and a cherry on top, though! And it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to throw a little ice cream in there too. ;) We had SO much fun making and drinking these- they’re perfect for parties or even a little something for a late night sweet tooth!

Old Fashioned Chocolate Sodas
-inspiration from Amy Bakes Everything

You’ll need:
chocolate syrup, such as Hershey’s
whipped cream (yes, I used Redi-Whip. It was awesome.)
maraschino cherries
vanilla ice cream
club soda or seltzer water
colored straws (these aren’t required, but it sure tastes better through a pretty pink straw) :)

Place a little chocolate syrup in the bottom of your glass (I ended up using around 1/4 cup per glass- we like ‘em chocolaty!), top with one scoop of ice cream. Pour the soda water over slowly and stir (you may want to add a little more soda water after stirring if the foam deflates a little). Top with whipped cream and a cherry. Enjoy with a pretty pink straw.

Mmm, fizzy chocolate…..

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Gift-Giving Part II: Chocolate Coffee Mix

Here’s another quick and easy homemade gift idea: chocolate coffee mix. It’s so simple to throw together and tastes so good on cold winter mornings! In fact, I think a jar or two of this, a jar of spiced tea mix and some delicious homemade treats like cookies, peppermint bark or Chex Mix would make one heck of a gift basket for your friends, family and coworkers! Everybody loves gift baskets full of homemade goodies, right? Right!

This is another one of my mom’s yummy recipes (she has a ton of awesome holiday drink mix recipes!), and somehow I only just discovered it this year! I made a double batch of it and every morning I have a big cup- it’s a perfect way to start my day (believe me, when you teach high schoolers how to sing, you need something a little more special than regular coffee to get you geared up in the mornings…..maybe coffee with liquor in it…..or maybe just straight liquor…). ;) Make this chocolate coffee part of your gift-giving this year- your friends will thank you!

Chocolate Coffee Mix
-from my mom’s recipe collection (not sure of the original source)

1/2 cup instant coffee (I’m sure espresso powder would be great as well!)
1 1/2 cups powdered Coffeemate creamer (original flavor)
1/2 cup Nesquik (powder)
1/4 cup sugar
dash salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix all ingredients in a blender or food processor until well combined.
To serve: use 1-3 heaping teaspoons per cup of boiling water.

*Also tastes delicious with a little crushed peppermint thrown in the mix!

**For gift-giving, I recommend making a double (or even triple!) batch since the recipe doesn’t yield very much


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Gift-Giving: Spiced Tea Mix

I’m a big fan of homemade gifts. Mainly because I enjoy food and drink so much, I guess I just expect everyone else to as well (that’s not always the case, but nevertheless, if you’re friends of ours, you can bet your gift will be edible). ;) My mom makes this spiced tea every year at Christmas and it’s just scrumptious. Really. There’s nothing more comforting than sipping a big cup of this while watching a Christmas movie, and I imagine it would be perfect after an afternoon of playing out in the snow….just a guess, seeing as how we don’t get much snow ’round these here parts!

As luck would have it, this recipe makes a very large amount, so there’s plenty to go around! It looks great in glass jars with a little ribbon or even cute little gift bags. Pretty much everyone who’s ever tasted this loves it- my father-in-law especially! It really is the perfect gift!

Holiday Spiced Tea
-I think this recipe has probably been around a very long time, but I got it from my mother, who got it from Baba many Christmases ago!

1 cup instant tea (unsweetened)
2 cups Tang (or any powdered orange drink- just NOT Gatorade)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves

Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl.
To serve: stir in 2 rounded teaspoons for every cup of boiling water. Enjoy!

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Quickie Post: Peach Simple Syrup…

One of my great loves is peach tea. There’s just not much better than sipping a cold, crisp glass of iced tea with the subtle kiss of peach on a hot summer day! For awhile now, I’ve been making my own. It’s so amazingly simple- all you need is a little peach simple syrup. Make one batch and add a little to individual glasses, or just dump the whole thing in a large pitcher for a crowd. You can also use it for tons of other things- drizzle it over a warm pound cake just out of the oven, flavor mixed drinks with it, brush a little over the tops of cupcakes before icing them to keep them moist…the list goes on! There are so many great uses for simple syrup, and this peach flavored one is definitely a keeper!

Peach Simple Syrup

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 peaches, pitted and sliced

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together the water, sugar and peaches. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

When the syrup is cooled, line a strainer with a paper towel (this will help catch all the peach fuzz and small bits) and strain the syrup into a storage container. Refrigerate until needed.

*This recipe only makes a small amount (enough to flavor one pitcher of tea), so I’d recommend doubling it if you want to use it for multiple things. Never hurts to have too much! :) It will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks at least!

Mmmm, yummy peach tea!!!

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Summertime!

Today is the first official day of Summer- did you know that? And in honor of the occasion, it’s a whopping 101 degrees here in Texas today (big shocker- it’s been in the triple digits for a while now…). Hubby and I went out running errands this weekend and nearly melted- it’s HOT. We immediately came home and jumped in the pool. And had a drink or two. ;-) When it’s hot like this, there’s nothing better than floating in the pool with a fruity drink in your hand, while listening to some cool, Caribbean music (my all-time favorite summer music is this CD- we listened to it non-stop on our honeymoon and now it’s our pool-time music of choice!). There are so many great Summery drinks out there- some of our favorites are Piña Coladas, Margaritas (hubby’s all-time favorite drink), and practically anything with coconut rum (lately, I’ve been making one with equal parts Sprite, pineapple juice and coconut rum- delish!). I’ve been wanting to try this Carolina Sangria for awhile now since I saw it in Southern Living a few weeks ago, and yesterday was the perfect opportunity. We had my parents over for Father’s Day and I decided to use them as guinea pigs (again!). My dad absolutely loved it- he said it was every bit as good as the “Paradise Punch” they had in Belize a few years ago! Yay! Looks like I’ve found another perfect Summer drink to add to our regular list!

Carolina Peach Sangria
-adapted from Southern Living Magazine, June 2010

1  (750-milliliter) bottle white wine (I used Chardonnay)
3/4  cup  vodka
1 cup  peach nectar
6 tablespoons  thawed frozen lemonade concentrate
2 tablespoons  sugar
1 small (6-oz) can pineapple-banana-orange juice
1 cup  club soda, chilled

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with peach slices if desired.

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I whipped this up a couple of years ago for a party and time and time again, it never fails. Always delicious, quick and refreshing -a real crowd-pleaser! This would be great for outdoor parties when you need something cold and not too heavy or sweet; it could also be dressed up as a cocktail for a nice dinner party. I just love it….

Sparkling Raspberry Lemonade Punch

1 12-ounce can frozen raspberry lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 bottle white wine (I like Chardonnay)
1 liter ginger ale
ice
fresh raspberries, lemons or limes for garnish

Stir all ingredients together in a large pitcher. Garnish each glass with fruit and serve.

*You could also add a little Chambord (raspberry liqueur) for a little extra raspberry flavor! Yum!

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Party, Party, Party!

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Last night we had the family over for a big Christmas party. I love having people over during the holidays – I get to show off my Christmas decorations, serve my favorite snack foods, and most importantly, have a good time with the people I love. There were 16 people total, so of course there was lots and lots of food! I made 2 big batches of my toasted oatmeal cookies, a batch of M&M cookies, spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and peppermint bark (to name a few).

Toasted Oatmeal Cookies

Toasted Oatmeal Cookies

Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark

Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

M&M Cookies

M&M Cookies

My sister brought her famous “soggy sandwiches” (you assemble a bunch of turkey and cheese sandwiches, put them all in a big jelly roll pan,  pour melted butter over the tops, sprinkle with Italian seasoning, and bake for 5 minutes until the cheese melts – sinful!!), my Aunt Josie brought a chocolate roll-up cake, and Nana brought crockpot cocktail weenies. And my sweet Grandaddy brought me a big, beautiful Poinsettia! Some of my favorites from the party include:

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Sausage balls – SO good! It absolutely would not be a party in our family without these babies! Recently, my sister found that adding milk makes them a lot more moist. We love to use maple sausage – it adds such great flavor!

Sausage Balls
3 cups Bisquick baking mix
1 pound maple pork sausage
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup milk
pinch Cayenne Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl (it’s easiest if you have a Kitchen Aid mixer – use the dough hook), roll into 1 inch balls and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the balls are golden brown. Cool completely.

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My mom’s Christmas Wassail – just like the sausage balls, it really wouldn’t be Christmas without this wassail. My mom’s been making it every single Christmas since the  ’80′s and every year we look forward to it! It simmers for 2 hours, so the entire house smells heavenly! Keep the container that your apple cider came in to store any leftover wassail; then just pour yourself individual cups and microwave anytime you want hot wassail!

Christmas Wassail
2 quarts apple cider
1 46-oz. can pineapple juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon allspice
15-20 cloves, stuck into an orange or apple
3-5 cinnamon sticks

Combine all ingredients in a large pot or crockpot on high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 hours.
*You’ll notice all kinds of stuff floating around in my picture – I added some Williams Sonoma mulling spices that I had on hand; it’s not needed, though.

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And finally, my favorite – Granna’s Green Stuff. This is seriously the best stuff ever – fluffy…creamy…….green. Originally, my great-grandmother would always make this every Christmas, now her daughter-in-law, my grandmother (Granna), makes it a lot, as we request it a LOT! It’s GOOD!! This recipe is as close as I can get to my great-grandmother’s recipe – she never would tell anyone what was in it! I’m pretty sure this is it, though…

“Green Stuff” (It’s really called Lime Jello Salad, but we’ve always known it as green stuff)

1 (3 oz.) pkg. lime Jello
1 c. hot water

(Heat up drained pineapple juice for part of liquid.)
Mix. Stir until well dissolved. Set until jelly-like consistency then carefully whip with electric mixer.

1/2 pkg. (4 oz.) cream cheese
1 can (15 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1 c. whipping cream

Whip cream until stiff. Add cream cheese. Mix in Jello and blend thoroughly. Fold in pineapple and nuts. Put into a serving bowl and chill for at least 4 hours.

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Just look at that fluffy green goodness!! Anyway, we had an absolutely delightful party last night – thanks to everyone who came and brought delicious food and great company!


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A Big Week!

Well, this has been one crazy week. We are opening Carmen Saturday night and the rehearsals have been nuts lately! BUT- it’s going to be one fantastic show…this is by far the best opera I’ve ever been in- I’ve enjoyed it the most, too (regardless of the hard work). For those of you who don’t know the story of Carmen, here is a little background.

It’s definitely been a long couple of days. We started dress rehearsals Tuesday and I have three costume changes – one of which is a big, black, velvet Spanish lady costume with a ginormous Mantilla on my head that feels like it weighs about 50 pounds. It’s hotter than hades up on stage, too, which doesn’t help matters. My wig looks like something that came out of grandma’s attic and there’s a fall that attaches to the back, making it look like I have a jerry curl mullet. I have to smoke a fake cigarette, which I’m sure looks incredibly awkward since I’ve never smoked a day in my life and really have no idea how to hold it and look semi-natural.  BUT – it’s all worth it to be a part of this amazing show – the music is fun to sing, the lady who plays Carmen is fantastic – you can’t take your eyes off of her! – and there’s an overall sense of pride being a part of something so magnificent.

Anyway, in honor of this weekend’s big premier, I thought a little Sangria might be fitting. I *love* sangria. Love, love, love it! I made this recipe the other night with quesadillas and black bean salad- so refreshing and delicious! Now that summer is on its way, I have a feeling there will be lots of pitchers of sangria!

This recipe is pretty straight forward – I didn’t use the traditional shot or two of brandy, but it was still pretty tasty!

Red Wine Sangria

One bottle of your favorite red wine (I used Menage a trois)
2 or 3 cups Ginger Ale (however much you want, really- I didn’t measure, I just poured some in!)
2 blood oranges, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
A handful of sliced strawberries (again – however much you like)
One package frozen peaches, thawed, with their juice

Mix everything together in a large pitcher and chill until ready to serve. *If you want to be really cute and clever, you can freeze some grapes to use as ice cubes.

Everybody wish me luck for Saturday! Here’s hoping I don’t fall on my face, drop my fake cigarette, or my jerry curl mullet partially fall off and dangle to one side (again….). Enjoy your weekend!

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A New Favorite…

One of our favorite restaurants, Texas de Brazil, has a signature drink that hubby and I love to order everytime we go – its called a Caipirinha. Or as my mom likes to call it- a “grown up limemade” – made from fresh limes, sugar and sugar cane rum – this has got to be one of the most refreshing cocktails I’ve ever tasted.

Well, hubby had had a pretty rough day at work, and I thought it might be a nice treat to come home to a nice cold “grown up limemade” (that’s what I’ll just refer to them as from now on, mmkay?) It was a little tricky to find Sugar Cane Rum, but I must say, well worth it! The recipe is so incredibly easy, and the result – so incredibly relaxing! Hubby enjoyed two of them (like I said, it was a hard day!)! I think now we’ve found our new “go-to” cocktail!

The Caipirinha (fondly referred to as “Grown Up Limemade”)

Sugar Cane Rum (such as Cachaca, or whatever kind you can find!)
1 lime, cut into 8 small pieces
Simple Syrup (I used 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water and ended up with plenty)
Crushed ice

Put the lime pieces in a glass and crush with a pestil until all the juice is worked out; pour desired amount of simple syrup over the limes (I used probably around a tablespoon, but you can use more depending on how sweet or sour you like it). Add the ice, then pour a shot or two of the rum into the glass (also depending on how strong you like it – I didn’t add a whole heck of a lot, but you certainly can!) Give the glass one last stir and serve! Mmmmm!!

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