Stirrings’ Holiday Cocktails

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Quarterback Sneak with a margarita rimmer cocktail garnish

It has been a blast creating new cocktail recipes for the Stirrings’ Stir It Up Holiday Mixology Challenge. I have a few recipes to share, so let’s kick-off the season with The Quarterback Sneak. It’s the perfect tailgate cocktail, but also fantastic for a Halloween party because there is a bit of trickery involved. Who doesn’t love a trick for a treat? By appearances, this cocktail is not what it seems. Can you guess the flavor just by looking at it? “Pomegranate” you say? Yes, it’s pink like pomegranate and even has pomegranate seeds floating around in it, but take a sip.

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What the what? Is that watermelon in October? Made with real juice the Simple Watermelon Martini is infused with fresh ginger and lemon and garnished with the Lemon Drop Martini Rimmer. Go ahead and treat all your guests to this sneaky and fun cocktail.

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Quarterback Sneak

1 cup (8 oz.) Stirrings’ Simple Watermelon Martini

2 (2-inch) slices fresh ginger

1 fresh lemon wedge, quartered

3 tablespoons Stirrings’ Lemon Drop Martini  Rimmer Cocktail Garnish, on a flat plate

½ cup (4 oz.) silver Tequila

ice cubes

1 (10 oz.) bottle club soda

Pomegranate seeds

In small saucepan, combine watermelon mixer and ginger. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon wedge into the pan and drop the wedge into the mix. Bring watermelon mixture just to a simmer; turn off heat and let steep 15 minutes to infuse ginger and lemon flavors and cool down. Remove and discard ginger and lemon wedge. Run a fresh lemon wedge around rim of 4 serving glasses; turn moistened glass edge in rimmer to coat. Fill glasses ¾-full with ice. Pour infused watermelon mix and tequila into a 2-cup measure; stir. Divide mixture evenly among glasses. Top off with club soda. Slice remaining two lemon wedges into thinner slices. Garnish each cocktail with a slice of lemon and fresh pomegranate seeds.

For a mocktail simply eliminate the tequila and top off your drink with additional club soda or your favorite flavored soda water. 

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Happy Halloween, Happy Tailgate Season and keep the Quarterback Sneak in mind for your next April Fool’s themed dinner party. Next up is The Bee Naughty cocktail.

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Do we agree that the second Halloween is over we roll right into the Thanksgiving-Christmas season? Already the mall is buzzing with Christmas music and holiday decorations, so let’s get a move on. I will be naughty for a moment and remind you that there are ONLY 55 days left until Christmas.

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The Bee Naughty features Stirrings’ Simple Lemon Drop Martini Cocktail Mixer and rimmer garnish by the same name. This cocktail is sweet, tart and bitter. It gets a bit of a sting from pan-roasted and crushed black peppercorn infused honey.

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Naughty or nice? This cocktail is both. For a mocktail just substitute some lemon flavored seltzer water for the vodka. Stirrings’ mixers and garnishes makes hosting a party simple and easy. All you have to add is some holiday decor, delicious food and wonderful friends.

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The Bee Naughty

5 whole peppercorns

2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons Stirrings’ Lemon Drop Martini Rimmer Cocktail Garnish

6 ounces Stirrings’ Simple Lemon Drop Martini Cocktail Mix

3 ounces vodka

ice

Toast peppercorns in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant; crush with a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder to a powder. Return pepper to skillet and turn off heat. Add honey stirring with a small spoon until warmed through and mixed with pepper. Place rimmer on a flat plate. Using the back of the spoon dipped in the honey mixture lightly dampen the edge of two martini glasses. Dip the glass into the rimmer rotating the glass until evenly coated. With the same spoon drizzle about a teaspoon of the honey pepper mixture down and around the inside of each glass. Pour half of the cocktail mix into the pan with the remaining honey and pepper; gently heat, stirring, until the honey is dissolved and fully blended with the cocktail mix. In a shaker, combine warm cocktail mixture, remaining cocktail mixture, vodka and ice; shake well. Divide cocktail among prepared glasses.

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Happy New Year! Let’s celebrate with the Winter Watermelon Pear Spritzer. It’s inspired by the places I have been and the people I love. Like Nantucket where the Stirrings’ company was born and my sweet William. This recipe sparkles with everything I enjoy about mingling fun and complimentary flavors. It is a lovely combination of winter’s finest fruits and fennel dressed up with the fresh taste of real watermelon juice from the Stirrings’ Simple Watermelon Martini mixer. Cheers to you and me and the sea!

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Winter Watermelon Pear Spritzer

¼ cup Stirrings’ Simple Watermelon Martini

¼ cup pear brandy (poire Williams)

1 slice fresh fennel

1 strip lemon zest

1 bottle chilled Prosecco or club soda

Fennel fronds for garnish

Pomegranate seeds

In small saucepan, combine watermelon mixer, pear brandy, fennel and lemon zest; bring just to a simmer. Remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature to infuse flavors. Remove and discard fennel and zest. Spoon 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons of syrup in each of 4 flute glasses. Top with Prosecco or club soda.

Option: run a lemon wedge around the rim of each glass and dip in Stirrings’ Lemon Drop Martini Rimmer.

For more delicious Stirrings’ recipes and beautiful photos check out their Instagram @stirringsPinterest @Stirrings MixersTwitter @stirringsmixers and “Like” the Stirrings Facebook page. Locally, their mixers and rimmer garnishes are available at Acme, Janssens, Hockessin Liquors and Total Wine & More. For more locations check here: Stirrings’ store locator.

Taking a Chance & a Brain Freezing Granita

margarita granita

A chance meeting on a plane ride from Kansas to Philadelphia blessed me with a new friend named Valerie. We met for coffee today and she gave me the most beautiful book.book

I immediately turned to April 16th which is the day my son died to read: “there is a reservoir of love and compassion in the human community. We don’t need to be afraid to show our vulnerability, because to mourn when we are bereaved is not a sign of weakness but a stepping into the circle where all the brothers and the sisters can put their arms around us and hold us close, if we give them a chance.”

Smokehouse Cranberry Cheese Bread

Smokehouse Cranberry Cheese Bread

The words bring me to what I did just 2 nights ago. I took a chance and gave a bread baking class to 6 total strangers. Min, the hostess, found me on Facebook after learning I was a CHOPPED champion and winner at the National Festival of Breads. She knew my story and she reached out. Min, like Valerie, is that part of humanity that is filled with love and compassion.The group wanted to pay me to teach them how to bake bread, but I offered to do it only if a donation could go to the local food pantry in memory of my son. We baked, we shared a meal and our stories. I celebrated William the best way I knew how teaching kind folks how to bake. We laughed and yes, I got a little teary, but the important thing, I let them in and fell into the “reservoir of love and compassion.”

tree heart photo by Bev Poulin

tree heart photo by Bev Poulin….if ever there was a reservoir of love and compassion

Now back to Valerie for just a another second. I almost screwed up our coffee date due to what I like to call brain freeze. Since losing William my brain gets a little muddled and I notice I am no longer “as sharp as a tack” (my dad used to say that). Just can’t keep track of dates and times among other things like I used to. So, in honor of my brain freeze, Valerie, this one is for you. Thank you for the book and for taking a chance on me. You better eat it slow.

right out of the blender it is more like a sorbet

right out of the blender it is more like a sorbet

Fresh Fruit Watermelon Margarita Granita

6 cups cubed red seedless watermelon, frozen*

2 limes, peeled

1 orange, peeled, seeded

¼ cup water

4 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons tequila

2 tablespoons cointreau or other orange flavored liqueur

To freeze watermelon place it in a single layer on a foil lined rimmed baking pan; freeze several hours until solid. (I usually just do this the night before or early in the day). Combine all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Can be eaten right away which makes it more like a sorbet or pour mixture into a metal 8-inch pan and freeze until solid. Scrape with the tines of a fork and scoop into serving dishes. Garnish as desired.

Here comes the brain freeze! And if you really want to take a chance try it with a sprinkle of chili powder on top. It is my new favorite way to eat all things frosty.

avocado ice cream topped with chili powder

avocado ice cream topped with chili powder

Summer View: Will’s Bench &Grilling Tips

Grilled Steak

juicy grilled steak

Will’s Bench at Lake Elise in Middlebury, CT  is a wonderful place to sit and watch the world go by. Peaceful and filled with wildlife, the area is perfect for bird watching or fishing for large mouth bass. Dogs sniff the banks and often dive in for a cool swim. I especially love sitting on the bench on a summer morning having coffee with old friends. The kind of friends that are tried and true, have been around through thick and thin and after all these years are still willing to sit in silence and shed a few a tears or laughs recalling the antics of our kids. The morning mist rises off the clear water flecked with lily pads as the warmth of the sun breaks through.

BFF's Bev & Carol

BFF’s Bev & Carol

Friends like Bev and Carol are priceless. Every griever needs at least one Bev or one Carol in their life, but preferably both. They are the kind of selfless people who know how to step outside themselves for the good of another. It comes natural to them. Their simple presence creates a safe and comforting atmosphere that invites the sharing of feelings and healing. So much healing has taken place on this now weathered wooden bench on the edge of a lake–even on the day that bird pooped on my hand.

summer view from the bench

summer view from the bench

Another summer view

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IMG_0211Let me know if you ever get to Lake Elise, but until then let’s get grilling. We all love a good steak, so it being summer let’s share a few grilling tips plus a delicious recipe that also includes grilled watermelon. That’s right-grilled watermelon.

  1. Take the chill off your steak by removing it from the fridge 30 minutes before grill time. It will cook more evenly.
  2. Pat the steak dry with paper towels to avoid steaming the meat.
  3. Crank your grill up to HIGH. Lightly grease the grate.
  4. For gorgeous grill marks and delicious caramelized flavor follow the 10-2 rule of grilling (see recipe for explanation).
  5. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

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Grilled Steakhouse Rib-Eye & Watermelon Wedge

1/2 cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup blue cheese dressing

4 (1-inch thick) ribeye steaks

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 small, seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut into thick wedges

¼ cup crumbled blue cheese

2 green onions, thinly sliced on bias

8 fresh mint or basil leaves, thinly sliced plus additional sprigs for garnish

Heat grill to high. In small saucepan, over high heat, combine, wine, honey and Worcestershire sauce. Bring sauce mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until reduced to a syrupy consistency; set aside. Season steaks on both sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Place steaks on hot, lightly greased grill rack pointing one edge towards 10:00. Grill 2 to 3 minutes creating well-browned grill marks. Rotate steak so that same edge now points toward 2:00. Grill 2 minutes. Now repeat process on other side of steak. Reduce heat to medium. Grill steaks, 3 to 4 minutes more or until medium-rare (125 degrees on an instant read thermometer). Transfer steaks to plate; cover with foil and let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, season watermelon with salt and pepper; place on lightly greased grill rack for 2 minutes per side or until charred grill marks begin to form. Arrange steaks and watermelon on serving plates. Drizzle dressing over watermelon. Drizzle wine sauce over steaks. Sprinkle with green onions, herbs and blue cheese. Garnish with fresh herb sprigs.

perfect grill marks following the 10-2 rule

perfect grill marks following the 10-2 rule