First Day of Summer Sangria, and Happy Birthday Ben!

Happy first day of summer, and happy birthday to my main squeeze!

Recently Ben and I went to Ponysaurus and Ben fell in love with this beer. It’s a weissbier with banana and clove flavors in it… how different! I admit I was skeptical, but I tried it and loved it too.

For Ben’s birthday (which is actually tomorrow, but we decided to celebrate early), I came across a banana flavored rum at ABC and decided to add a twist to the brew he loves so much. White sangria with pineapple, mango, and banana rum! Plus a touch of leftover Riesling from our weekend getaway to Williamston 🙂

Serve with a variety of cheese, spreads, sliced meat and crackers! These were just things I already had around… you may recognize the pesto– yep, still good.

White Sangria w/ Banana Rum
Recipe Type: Drinks
Cuisine: Summer, Cocktails
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 2
A different spin on a classic cocktail- perfect for summer!
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango slices
  • 1/4 cup frozen banana chunks
  • 1 small can pineapple chunks and juice
  • 2 tsp stevia
  • 1/2 cup banana rum (or other flavor)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • ice cubes, optional.
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, add the fruit and stevia. Mash with potato masher until cloudy.
  2. Add rum and wine, then stir to combine.
  3. Chill for at least 1 hour, then separate into two wine glasses over more frozen fruit and ice cubes (optional). Top with club soda for a little more fizz (optional).
White Sangria w/ Banana Rum
White Sangria w/ Banana Rum

This easy sangria will be a huge hit at your next backyard BBQ or cocktail party. Hooray for al fresco dining once again!

Happy Summer!

Coconut Vanilla Reboot Smoothie- Vegan and Dairy-Free!

Because life just tastes better through a straw…

I’ve been pretty excited about coconut water lately. I love that it’s just slightly sweet, but naturally-so (if you get the kind without any extra sugar, not from concentrate). My favorite so far is Organic Naked but I’ve liked a bunch of brands including Vita Coco and the Whole Foods 365 kind. I’ve been hearing a lot about how coconut water can do so much for you to recover following a hard workout. Low in calories and fat, it also has a high amount of fiber and electrolytes to both help you stay full and rehydrate following strenuous activity. In Durham during mid-July, this is super important! It actually gets hot here… who knew?

I was reminded about the importance of hydration in a recent post on my favorite blog, Kath Eats Real Food. In Kath’s own words, “we need every reminder we can get to stay on top of our water drinking this summer!” I understand that some of you may not be feeling the whole water thing. As someone who drinks about 4 L a day, it’s sometimes tough for me to imagine that some folks only drink about a cup’s worth! If it’s hard for you to “swallow” (heh) the recommended 8 cups (or however many your PCP recommends), try some of the tips Kath recommends: namely, adding some fruit juice or sparkling water, a sprig of mint, or some frozen fruit to give it a little more pep!

This smoothie is dairy-free but is still creamy enough to feel decadent. I used a half scoop of protein powder and handful of oats to thicken it up, but otherwise it’s really just coconut water and frozen fruit. You can add some ice cubes or more water to make it thicker or thinner as desired!

Enjoy, and stay hydrated!

Coconut Vanilla Reboot Smoothie- Dairy-Free!
Recipe Type: Smoothie, Vegan, Dairy-Free, Low-Cal
Cuisine: Breakfast
Author: Claire McCormick of “Claire Tastes”
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1
Because life just tastes better through a straw… this smoothie is low-cal, hydrating, and perfectly sweet. A great breakfast or post-workout snack!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 2 tbsp raw oats
  • 1/2 banana (mine was frozen)
  • frozen fruit of your choosing: I used some frozen watermelon chunks, strawberries and peach
  • 3-4 ice cubes
Instructions
  1. Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth. Add more ice or water if the consistency is too thin or thick!
Coconut Vanilla Power Smoothie
Coconut Vanilla Power Smoothie

Happy hydrating!

Do-It-Yourself Hot Cocoa Kit

Looking to save this holiday season? Feeling crafty? Tired of giving gifts that require you to simply click “Complete my order” or “This item contains a gift”?

I came across the cutest recipe for DIY hot chocolate mix wedding favors at BridalGuide.com and fell in love. They (almost) made me wish I’d waited another 5 months to get married in December just so I could give these little nuggets as favors! Easy as (wedding?) cake, you can make these using ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. Simply layer the ingredients in a pretty clear canister or antique-looking glass jar, and fasten a recipe tag on with some pretty, festive ribbon. Ta-da! Half your Christmas list is covered. These would be especially great for grandparents or those folks that you never know what to get because they don’t need anything (and would probably enjoy something homemade more than store-bought). You know, that whole “it’s the thought that counts” thing.

The original instructions were designed for pint-sized favors, just enough for two mugs of hot chocolate. I decided to multiply the recipe by two and a half in order to fill the 33 oz jar I had gotten from Sur La Table and figured it would serve about six using the entire jar. Feel free to adjust the recipe based on your own needs! I layered sugar, cocoa powder, powdered milk, and salt (see label below for amounts of each) and topped it all with Christmas-colored chocolate chips and some mini marshmallows.

photo 1 (63)

I made up a little tag to fasten around the jar with a navy ribbon, listing the ingredients and instructions for serving. Here’s your chance to get creative and personal! The label reads:

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
Cozy Cocoa Recipe

Ingredients:
1 ½ c. sugar
1 ½ c. unsweetened cocoa
1 ½ c. powdered milk
1 pinch of salt

Family Movie Night (serves 6):
Mix contents of jar in a large bowl with 8 cups boiling water. Stir well and serve!

Romantic Date Night (serves 2):
Combine ½ cup of each layer (sugar, cocoa, powdered milk) in bowl with 2 2/3
cups boiling water. Top with marshmallows and chocolate chips!

Again, play around with your own wording to make it as personal as you can! For example, I was making this for a friend as a Secret Santa gift, and because she was going home to visit her family and boyfriend for the holidays, I decided to make it a “Baby It’s Cold Outside- Hot Cocoa Date Night” theme. I also gave her some pretty painted floral mugs from Anthropologie, a half-dozen freshly baked thumbprint jam cookies (her favorite), extra mini marshmallows, a peppermint bark Ghirardelli  chocolate bar, and two cute little porcelain bunny spoons for “stirring up some romance” with her beau.

I had so much fun making these- I hope you do too! Happy gifting 🙂

 

The Best Cup of Coffee You’ll Ever Have

Last Christmas, Ben surprised me with an Aeropress kit. What the heck is Aeropress, you ask? I had the exact same response when I opened the package. “Ummm thanks dear! … Soooo, what is this exactly?” Well, that husband of mine had done his research. It turns out that Aeropress is a way to prepare coffee similarly to a French Press, with the idea of concentrating really finely ground coffee down to an espresso-strength concentrate, and then adding hot water to fill the cup to the strength of your liking. The concept behind Aeropress, which is described as a “High-Performance Sports Toy” on their website, is to use the ideal temperature of water, gentle air pressure, and total immersion of the coffee grounds to brew a smooth, rich, lower-acidity cup of coffee that only takes about a minute to make. I was skeptical at first- add water to my coffee? Won’t that just make it really weak? But I soon found that with a little bit of practice, the cuppa joe you get at the end is stronger and less bitter than any mug of drip that you’ll ever drink. Don’t believe me? Ask… actually, I don’t know anyone else with an Aeropress. So just believe me. With my new toy, Ben also got me a few months’ subscription to Tonx coffee. Tonx, a small company out of Los Angeles, is a really great  (though a bit pricey) way to try out different coffees from all around the world. Every 2 weeks I looked forward to receiving a small package of freshly-roasted (as in, within the last few days) whole beans from El Salvador, Ecuador, the Phillipines, Brazil, etc. with a little blurb on the quality and flavor of the coffee, and the profile of the community it came out of. I also soon ordered an automatic coffee grinder, which I absolutely adore. I highly recommend the Encore Coffee Grinder by Baratza. It’s not cheap, but it will allow you to grind your beans just the way you like them, is sturdy, relatively quiet (as far as coffee grinders can be), and convenient as you don’t have to manually turn a knob over and over and over just to get out like, a teaspoon of grinds. Given that the Aeropress requires a decent amount of ground beans to make the concentrate for a double-espresso strength cup (or 12 oz or so of regular brew), an automatic grinder is definitely a worthwhile investment. I’ve reserved my Aeropress-brewing days for Saturday and Sunday mornings, when I have a bit more time to sit and savor my coffee. It also means I get to look forward to it all week long! Want to know how to make it? Let me show you! Me last Christmas with my new “toy.” Excited to enter the world of snobby coffee-drinkers!

2012-12-25 12.39.55

First, here is what all the components look like (coffee grinder wasn’t included in the Aeropress package. Nor was the Eight O’Clock Coffee :P). From left to right, a funnel for drip-free hot water-pouring, filter holder and 350 micro-filters, scooper, Aeropress plunger (top) and chamber (bottom), filter cap, and stirrer.

photo 1 (54)

 Grind your coffee. Insert the plunger into the chamber until the rubber bottom lines up with the “4” line on the chamber. Flip the entire plunger/chamber over. Using the scooper, scoop 2 level scoops of finely-ground coffee (I used about a setting of 15 on the Encore) and pour into the chamber (this part is on top now). 

photo 2 (47)

Heat your water until just about boiling (but not quite). According to the “High-Performance Sports Toy experts”, boiled water added to the coffee isn’t the “correct” way of Aeropressing. So they say.

photo 3 (38)

Pour the hot water into the top of the chamber up until the “1” line. Steep for about 15 seconds.

photo 5 (11)

Using the stirrer, stir the coffee and water until the grounds have dissolved and you get a nice smooth mixture.

photo 6 (55)

Place one of the paper filters into the filter holder. Dampen the filter paper with a few drops of warm water.

photo 7 (48)

Screw the filter and filter holder onto the top of the chamber.

photo 8 (39)

Place the mug you plan to use on top of the filter holder, covering it completely. With one hand holding the mug securely in place, invert the entire complex so that the coffee/water mixture is free to drain out the bottom, directly into the mug.

photo 9(24)

Shake it up a little bit to get the bits of wet grounds that are still stuck to the bottom of the plunger. With gentle pressure, slowly press the plunger down into the chamber. This step is the key to getting your coffee to be less bitter and acidic! The air pressure is concentrating the coffee, so you want to be as gentle as you can as you plunge. The entire plunging should take 20-25 seconds. When you start to hear the hissing of air, it’s time to stop!

photo 10 (12)

This is what you end up with. Exciting, I know. Funny story: the first time I tried to Aeropress last Christmas morning, I thought this was the final step in the process. I thought to myself, “well gee, that’s lame! It hardly makes any coffee at all! I’ll just have to add 4 scoops next time!” I then gave it to my non-coffee-drinking husband to try. “Phew- that is STRONG!” he said as he took a tiny sip. I think one drop of that double espresso-strength concentrate kept him awake till New Years’!

photo 11 (40)

 Continue to add hot water to fill the mug, leaving room for milk if desired.

photo 12 (25)

 The finished product!

photo 13 (57)

And here you have it- with a little bit of milk: the best cup of coffee you will ever taste! Bold, smooth, and rich! 

photo 14 (49)

Will you Aeropress this holiday season?

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=ss_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=clairetastesblog-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B0047BIWSK&asins=B0047BIWSK&linkId=7G3GANDT4IBTE6JZ&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true

Blueberry Spritzer

A refreshing way to cool down a warm summer evening! I used the end of some of this blueberry wine that was given to us by two friends from VA. Topped it off with a touch of sparkling white grape juice and a few sliced grapes!

Berry Spritzer

Berry Spritzer_2

Ingredients:

1/2 cup blueberry wine

~1 cup sparkling white grape juice or flavored seltzer (mine was no-cal, but you could also use regular Sprite)

6 red grapes, sliced lengthwise

Split sliced grapes between two champagne or wine glasses. Fill each glass with 1/4 cup wine. Top with 1/2 cup (or to taste) sparkling water/seltzer. Cheers!

Creamy Piña Coladas

20120507-213255.jpg

2 cups unsweetened coconut-almond milk
2 cups chopped frozen pineapple
1/2 cup Malibu coconut rum, or to taste (I added about an eighth of a cup more to keep it more liquidy)
2 packets Splenda
1 tray ice

Combine ice, rum, milk, pineapple chunks and Splenda in blender and blend until smooth!