Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thirsty Thursday: Strawberry Mint Julep

Since I'm rocking a bump for the next 23 weeks or so, my NOLA cousin Primeaux has offered to step in & help out with coming up with some tasty Thirsty Thursday cocktails for you all!  He's so kind, putting all those years of bartending experience to good use!  (He's made many improvements since our days of youth when all drinks incorporated pickle juice and a dare of some sort.)

Me & Primeaux, circa 1981.  Pre- pickle-juice dare days.

In honor of the 141st Kentucky Derby this weekend, Primeaux has come up with a delicious spin on the traditional Mint Julep.  Cheers!

American Pharoah winning the Arkansas Derby.  He's favored to win this year's Kentucky Derby & I can see why after that performance! (PS--post of Derby hats & more race photos to come soon!)

~ ~ ~ ~

It's practically May down here in the deep South. That means 90*+ days are just around the corner. I wanted to take a minute to post one of my favorite hot weather cocktails, the strawberry mint julep. it's a fruity spin on a Southern classic. It's very quick to throw together and is perfect for relaxing on the porch, or for toting around at your favorite outdoor gathering. 



INGREDIENTS:
4 Roses Bourbon
Lemonade
Simple syrup (that's not moonshine in the Mason jar)
Strawberries
Mint leaves



DIRECTIONS:
Slice up two strawberries and muddle together with six mint leaves and 2 oz of simple syrup in a mixing glass. Add 2oz of 4 Roses Bourbon and 2oz of lemonade. Fill mixing glass with ice and cap with a shaker or large plastic tumbler. Shake vigorously until chilled. Strain your cocktail into a rocks glass. Enjoy outdoors with plenty of sunshine (or while cheering your favorite pony this weekend!)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Earth Day: Geocaching & CITO

I don't think I've shared much here about this, but lately I've become infatuated with Geocaching.  It tapered off a bit during the winter months, so it's safe to say I'm a "fair weather cacher" (much like I'm a fair-weather SCUBA diver--I don't like being cold and I want to be able to SEE!).  But now that it's warming back up, Caching Season is back!

If you're not familiar, geocaching is like a global scavenger hunt.  People hide "caches" (containers of various sizes--VERY various sizes) with a log inside of them so you can sign it when you find it, and then share the GPS coordinates of that cache and perhaps a hint or two for finding it, or a few interesting facts for WHY they chose to hide something there.  Some caches are big enough to leave behind trinkets so you can trade with other cachers, while others can be VERY tiny.
The varying sizes of caches-- watertight Tupperware makes a good container for medium to large caches & trading trinkets, whereas "nano" caches up the difficulty and contain only a log.

And there are various types of caches--some are traditional, some are "mystery" caches so you don't actually know what you're supposed to be looking for, there are EarthCaches & Virtual Caches that don't actually have a log or box hidden anywhere--but you go to a certain location and gather information, then answer questions presented by the author of the cache, which proves that you visited that spot (these are often in state or National parks that don't allow the placing of a physical cache).  There are "multicaches" that require you to find the first clue, and then clues at each stop lead you to the final cache/log location.  Oh...and then there are "puzzle caches" that require a bit of effort to get to the actual log...
Our first puzzle cache, found about half a mile from my house in a tree.  You had to turn the structure to move it through the pipes & get the little log container out.

Geocaching has been around since about 2000, so prior to the days when EVERYBODY had a GPS built into their phone. Back then, the cache locations were shared on a website, and you had to print off the description page and then type in the cache coordinates to your GPS, and off you went.  The advent of the smartphone and apps has made geocaching much more easy & popular, and new caches are added every day. (You can download a free basic version of the app for both Android & iPhone--then there are some "premium" caches that are only visible on the app if you pay for the "member" version.  I recommend trying out the free app first to see if you enjoy it.)

I started geocaching about a year ago, though I had heard about it probably 10 years ago--back then, most caches were off the beaten path.  A friend went to Chicago and talked about all the fun they had finding urban caches and showed me the app.  Until then, it hadn't really occurred to me that there might be caches IN MY TOWN.  But, in fact, there are hundreds.  There are over 2.5 MILLION caches across the globe, so there's probably at least a few near you.  Even my little tiny hometown of 2,500 people has a couple--my husband's hometown has even more than that!  They're EVERYWHERE!  The first one I found was hidden on a guard rail at the auto parts store next door to my office.
This sneaky "log only" cache was hidden at a site I was working at!

Anywho, with Earth Day coming up on April 22, I wanted to share a bit about this super-fun way to spend a little more time outdoors (which is my favorite aspect of it--any excuse to not have to go to the gym for exercise, amiright?), because another big aspect of geocaching is the concept of "CITO": "Cache In, Trash Out".  Essentially, if you're going to be out treasure hunting, bring a bag with you and do a little cleaning up while you're out there.  It's good for the planet, good for your community, and good exercise---win-win-win. And around Earth Day, many areas organize "CITO Events" where you can gather together with other geocachers and join a cleanup effort.  For example, on Earth Day there's a cleanup planned for the shores of Lake Springfield, here in my area.

A super-sneaky cache hidden it what looked to be part of a fence...

If you haven't tried out geocaching, I highly recommend it--especially if you have kids (really, the more eyes the better on some of these).  With kids, the bigger caches that have trinkets are probably the best at first--you can have your kids gather up a small baggie of little items that they wouldn't mind trading from around the house (stickers, small toys, keychains, erasers, etc.) so that when they find a cache, they can leave a trinket in exchange for whatever they take.  Once the "thrill of the hunt" is enough for them, they may enjoy the smaller "log only" caches that don't have room for trinkets.
My trinket stash.

There are also these things called "trackables"--you can get trackable tags from Geocaching.com, and attach them to a trinket, and then give the trinket a "mission"--like "I want to make it to Canada!" or "Take pictures of me in all the National forests!"--then register the trackable online and place it in a cache.  You'll get notifications when people pick up your trackable and can follow it virtually as it travels the globe!  
This little car was trying to make his way back to Utah, so I picked it up from a cache in Louisiana & brought it back to Missouri to shorten the trip.

Have you tried geocaching before?  If so, I'd love to hear about your favorite finds!  And remember to CITO!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thirsty Thursday: Strawberry Lemonade, Smoothie or Daiquiri

So, you may have noticed that I haven't posted many alcoholic drinks lately...
And that's because I'm in the process of waiting for a very special delivery:
(Yes, this was our official announcement. Just a little PhotoShop fun.  Please feel free to steal/share the idea--I found a screen shot online, a font that was similar, and then revised the text to suit and added the "Facility Scan" section by cloning parts of the "Shipped By" section.  I will likely revamp in a few weeks when we have an updated ultrasound and find out gender.) 

So, while I've been OK'd by my doc to have "a sip" of anything my husband is drinking, hard liquor and cocktails are generally out of bounds for me for the next 6 months or so.  

Fortunately, cocktails are the easiest beverages to make "mocktails" out of, so I'm planning to share recipes that could easily be made in either adult or kid-friendly versions.

Today's recipe is actually a smoothie we served at The Inside Scoop last summer, but with the weather warming up, this would be SO completely perfect for adding a little booze into for a backyard cocktail.


INGREDIENTS:
4 oz frozen sliced strawberries, unsweetened
4 oz lemon sorbet
6 oz lemonade (I've tried it with both regular and pink lemonade, and I liked the regular better--it has a more sweet-tart result) 
Boozification Option:  I think straight or flavored rum would work best in this, like Bacardi Limon, but a flavored vodka or white tequila would also work well with the acidity of the lemon.  If you go this route, replace a portion of the lemonade with the booze, to your preferred strength.
LIGHTER OPTION:  Use Crystal Light Lemonade instead--it'll be 140 calories instead of 267.

DIRECTIONS:
Blend all ingredients on high until well combined.  Some sorbets can be a bit sticky & not want to blend--just add a touch more booze or lemonade and you should be golden.

NUTRIFACTS: (without booze)
Calories267.4
  Total Fat0.2 g
     Saturated Fat0.0 g
     Polyunsaturated Fat0.1 g
     Monounsaturated Fat0.0 g
  Cholesterol0.0 mg
  Sodium33.9 mg
  Potassium159.9 mg
  Total Carbohydrate68.9 g
     Dietary Fiber1.8 g
     Sugars65.0 g
  Protein0.6 g

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Grilled Club (An Inside Scoop recipe)

This was probably the most popular sandwich we had on our menu--which is understandable since it was super-tasty. I still make them at home on occasion.  We initially introduced it as a "Special of the Month" early in Year Two, and it sold so well that we made it a permanent addition.

This is easiest to make if you have a George Foreman grill, panini press, or similar.  If you don't, you can still make it in a skillet or on a flat top like a traditional grilled cheese, but with all the fillings it can be tough to flip.  It will also cook faster in a grill/press, which is nice if you're in a rush or have several to make.


INGREDIENTS: (per sandwich)

  • 2 slices good bread (we like Orowheat 12-Grain, but anything more substantial than typical thin sandwich bread will work)
  • 1 Tbsp Herb Mayo
  • 2 slices provolone cheese
  • 4 slices Black Forest ham
  • 2-3 slices tomato
  • small handful fresh baby spinach
  • 2 small slices bacon, or crumbled bacon 
DIRECTIONS:
Heat up your grill/press/skillet/flat top; then spread half the herb mayo on the OUTSIDE of the first piece of bread.  Yes, you read that right.  You're using it to "butter" your bread.  Just trust me. (Sciency bit--the smoke point of mayo is higher than butter, so it's less likely to burn the bread before the guts of the sandwich get melty & hot.  And the oil & egg in mayo make for crispier, more evenly grilled bread.  And the fact that we're using the herb mayo gives a HUGE wallop of flavor.)

Lay that piece down, then begin assembly: 1 piece of cheese, ham, spinach, tomato, bacon, other piece of cheese, and then the last piece of bread, with the rest of the herb mayo facing OUT.

Grill until golden and the cheese is melty.  Serve warm with chips.

NutriFacts:

Calories423.7
  Total Fat17.5 g
     Saturated Fat7.5 g
     Polyunsaturated Fat1.0 g
     Monounsaturated Fat2.0 g
  Cholesterol70.0 mg
  Sodium1,230.9 mg
  Potassium41.9 mg
  Total Carbohydrate38.3 g
     Dietary Fiber6.2 g
     Sugars7.0 g
  Protein28.2 g