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Margaritas

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Time: Depends on how many you’ve already had

Inspired by: My love for Mexico.. and tequila makes all parties rock! While I already enjoyed Tajín® Clásico Seasoning, in numerous ways, my surfer friend Nicole was the one who suggested it as an alternative to salt for rimming a margarita glass. There is NO BETTER WAY. And I also thank her for this picture. We surf together every November (my birthday month) in Southern Mexico. She makes margaritas for us each night, while I make dinner. Her job (squeezing all of those limes!) is much more difficult. The picture above is the gift she made for my 49th birthday. Nothing could have been more perfect 🙂

Supplies: Margarita shaker, plate wide enough for dipping/salting the rim of the glass, and margarita pitchers if you are making these in larger batches

Ingredients:

  • 3 parts reposado tequila
  • 3 parts fresh lime juice
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • Tajín® Clásico Seasoning, salt, or salt with a bit of Cayenne mixed in to rim your glass

Preparation for One Glass:

  • Moisten the rim of your glass with a lime wedge and dip it into the Tajín or salt
  • Add to shaker: tequila (3 shots), lime juice (3 shots), Cointreau (1 shot), ice cubes, and shake well
  • Put some ice cubes into the glass
  • Pour the shaker contents into the glass while straining out the ice, then add additional ice as needed
  • Garnish with a slice of lime

Notes:  I do not like sweet margaritas – I prefer to really taste the tequila and the fresh lime. If you prefer yours sweet, add additional Cointreau or a dash of Agave syrup.  Fresh lime juice is the only way to go and rimming with Tajín is the final perfect touch to me. In case you are not familiar with the salty/chile/limey flavor of Tajín, I included a link above. These are pretty strong margaritas, but they rock! If you plan to be drinking them like they are going out of style, you might consider cutting the tequila quantity back just a bit!


Spiced Cashews

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Spiced Cashews

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

Inspired by: I’ve always loved cashews and almonds, but my favorite is when they are salty and spicy. I was headed out to a party a few nights ago and thought it would be fun to try my spice blend on some cashews. We loved them.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound bag of unsalted roasted cashews
  • 1-2 tablespoons Spice it Up …by Karen™
  • 1 teaspoon of melted butter (I used unsalted because the spice already has salt, but if you like salty go for the salted butter)

Preparation: Set the oven to about 200 degrees. Toss the cashews in the melted butter – just barely coat them. Then toss with the spice blend until they are covered well. Spread on a cookie sheet and put in the oven for about 5 minutes. Watch them carefully – they will brown very quickly with the butter. This gives them a slightly toaster look and taste and dries the butter out a bit.

Notes: I think anything salty and fatty is fabulous with wine – so these are perfect to nibble on while sipping wine!


Kahlua Coffee Sauce over Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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Kahlua Coffee Sauce over Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Kahlua Coffee Sauce over Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Time: 10-15 minutes to make; 1 hour to cool.

Serves: 8-12

Inspired by: My mom made this for me as a kid and I loved it. I never forgot it! I have no idea where she got the recipe. These flavors are very December “holiday-ish”.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons espresso (or, the original recipe called for 1 teaspoon instant coffee)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua
  • 1 quart of your favorite vanilla bean or french vanilla ice cream

Preparation: Boil sugar and water  for 5-10 minutes until it begins to thicken. Add spices and espresso and continue boiling for about 5 minutes. Take off heat and stir in Kahlua. If you prefer the alcohol to burn off or want it to thicken a bit more, you can continue to boil it for another minute or two. Let cool to room temperature and serve over ice cream.


Papaya-Cucumber Salad

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Papaya Cucumber Salad

Serves: 4-6 as a side dish

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

Inspired by: Tony Khalife, amazing musician/artist. He taught me so much about the beauty and nuances of food.  This was one of those many salads that he just threw together one day because it sounded good and we had the ingredients. It has become a favorite because it balances out many of the spicy dishes I love to make, and when I’m in Mexico, which is quite often in the winter, I can easily find all the ingredients at a tiny market. It is often my contribution to potluck parties there with friends.

Ingredients – Salad:

  • Papaya  – 1 cup diced
  • Cucumber – 1 cup diced
  • Slivered almonds – 1/2 cup
  • Jicama – 1 cup diced (optional)
  • Avocado – ripe but firm (optional) – 1 cup diced

Ingredients – Dressing:

Preparation: Put all ingredients into glass bowl and toss gently (if you include avocado add this at the end). I do not normally add the spice, but this is fun if you want to add some zing.

Notes: This is an easy salad to bring to a party. Use the entire papaya with the same cucumber and almond proportions. Dice the cucumber and papaya in advance and add the almonds and dressing near serving time.



Spicy Shrimp – Pan Fried

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Spicy Shrimp - Pan Fried

Time: 5 -8 minutes

Serves: 2 – 4

Inspired by: Minimal ingredients in the kitchen and being so hungry that I want to make something yummy in minutes! These are great on salad, pasta and quinoa or just to nibble on their own. Normally I prefer not to cook during a party, but I hosted a party last night and it was so easy to make these while everyone was hanging around the kitchen because it just took minutes.

Ingredients:

Preparation: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet or saute pan. Once it is hot, add the shrimp. Sprinkle with the spice (any amount to your liking – a small amount goes a pretty long way) and cook for about 2 minutes on each side and serve.

Wine Suggestions: These are yummy with any off-dry white such as a Riesling or possibly a Viongier or Condrieu. They are also nice with a medium-bodied red with some nice fruitiness or spice such as a fairly ripe Spanish Rioja, Southern Rhone or Merlot.


Easy Chocolate Mousse

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Easy Chocolate Mouse

Easy Chocolate Mouse

Time: only 10 minutes to prepare plus 5 minutes to make the whipped cream; chill for 50 minutes or longer.

Serves: 10 very small espresso cups or 6 larger servings per above picture.

Inspired By: This is a Rachel Ray recipe. I was watching a show once that had her on at the end and she whipped these up in less than 5 minutes. I love easy so I had to try it. She calls these “Chocolate Cups with Whipped Cream”. I think they are very chocolate mouse-like although perhaps a bit denser/richer. One of these days I’m going to try this with white chocolate or even butterscotch chips – I’d probably use a bit of amaretto when I do that.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup semi sweet chips
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons booze; amaretto, Kahlua, dark rum, hazelnut liqueur or whatever sounds good – I prefer Kahlua
  • 2/3 cup boiling milk
  • Whipping cream (plus a little sugar and vanilla to add in when whipping it)
  • Four mint leaves

Preparation:

  • Put your milk in a small pan on the stovetop and heat to a boil.
  • Put first five ingredients into a blender. Blend well – about 1 minute. Then stream in the boiling milk and blend until smooth – about 1 minute. The hot milk will cook the egg.
  • Pour into cappuccino or espresso cups and refrigerate for 50 minutes (or more – you can make these hours ahead, or even a day ahead).
  • Whip the cream with some sugar and vanilla (usually only 2-3 minutes).
  • Chill for 50 minutes. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and mint sprig.

Notes: These are very rich so I think they are even better with strawberries. Dip the strawberries into the chocolate – yum!!

Wine Suggestions: I would skip the wine – these are so rich, but I’ll add the same notes here I included with the chewy cherry brownies. I often hear people say they like red wine and chocolate. I can see how this might work in some unique cases of overripe, almost sweet wines, but I prefer my wine to be a bit sweeter than my dessert. I think a late harvest zinfandel or a tawny port could be awesome with chocolate, and fortified fruity wines like Banyules and Ruby Ports typically have cocoa or chocolate in the nose, as well as other berry fruits like cherry and raspberry and are classic companions to chocolate.


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