“One Night in Bangkok” – Thai themed Family Dinner

February 2014: Thai Fam Din

“One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy….”

Uh…not going to lie. That song rocks but I have no idea what any of the words are beside “one night in Bangkok“…But that didn’t stop my sibs and I from blaring that oldie but goodie when we had our last Sunday Family Dinner where we whipped up some of our favorite delish Thai inspired dishes…… it was the only right thing to do.

We started off with a few Thai Iced Teasthat the kiddos made using a quick recipe from White on Rice. This little number is full flavored—deep, deep black tea mixed up with a decadent douse of half and half. After a quick sip of this concoction I was convinced that there’s no need to order this out ever again. It’s so easy to make at home, plus, you can’t put a price tag on the entertainment you get when you pour the half and half into the tea to get a swirly -stormy mixture.

GORGEOUS!

Thai Iced Tea

And since the kiddos were set on their drinks, it was time for the 21+ to have a little drinky in our hands. I decided to mix up a little number that I appropriately called “One Night in Bangkok”.

Kaffir lime infused simple syrup, fresh lime juice, vodka, pineapple chunks, lime juice, mint and club soda.

Uh…YES, PLEASE!

One Night in Bangkok

We then moved on to some pre-dinner appetizers. Big seester made Thai Fish Cakes {Tod Mun Pla} with a Cucumber Salad that was my hands down, favorite dish of the night. They’re a common street food (LOVE street foods) in Thailand and she used the recipe found here.

Now, you may think fish cakes sound fairly mundane but do not underestimate these little buggers. They really knocked me off my feet by being incredibly moist and tender and were incredibly aromatic from the kaffir lime leaves. And you’ll never guess what’s in the fish paste……coconut milk!!!

I could’ve easily eaten a dozen of these fish cakes over rice and wish we would’ve doubled the batch! Oh wait– she did double the batch! :)

Thai Fish Cakes

Our second app for the night was my Pork Larb Gai Lettuce Wraps. It’s a dish that I make often but have tweaked several times over the years. Larb ( or laap, laab, etc.) can be made from a variety of proteins and is typically mixed with tons of fresh herbs, a fish sauce mixture, citrus, toasted ground rice, and depending on where in Thailand it’s made–pork/beef blood…..though I always it omit it.

Larb is DEE-LISH. If I was on a low carb diet, I’d eat it every day-all day. Since you can make it with anything, you can choose a really lean protein and the citrus & herbs makes it a very bright and satisfying dish.

Pork Larb

Big sis then made a Shrimp & Chicken Pad Thai using Alice’s recipe from Sweet Savory Life. It’s my go-to Pad Thai recipe whenever I want to make it at home and my overview of it can be found here.

Pad Thai

My other seester, T, made a big ol’ pot of Tom Yum Koong. Tons of seafood, aromatics and flavors that played with sour, sweet and a lots of spice!

Tom Yum Koong

She also made rich and hearty Beef Panang Curry.

Beef Penang Curry

And finally, dessert. As a nod to Thai flavors, I decided to pair one of my old recipes, Toasted Coconut Gelato with hot and crispy Fried Bananas. I mean, c’mon now. You CANNOT go  wrong with that!

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I’ve got to confess to y’all. Our Thai themed Sunday Family Dinner was awesome.

Sure, there were a lot of different dishes but they weren’t really heavy which allowed us to shovel it all in without feeling too bad. Definitely one of our more successful Family Dinners if I do say so myself. And since we started off with it, let me share with you how to make “One Night in Bangkok”.

One Night in Bangkok

ไชโย Folks and let’s see what next month has to offer!

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One Night in Bangkok
Serves 1

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
½ cup water
12-15 whole kaffir lime leaves, divided
¼ cup fresh pineapple chunks
2 lime wedges
3-4 mint leaves
2 ounces vodka
ice
3-4 ounces tonic water

Prepare the Kaffir Lime infused Simple Syrup. In a small pot, add the sugar, water and kaffir lime leaves. Bring the liquids to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat to a simmer and continue cooking the syrup on low for 5-10 minutes until it’s thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer the Kaffir Lime infused Simple Syrup to a resealable jar or container. It may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the pineapple chunks, lime wedges, mint leaves, 1 kaffir lime leaf and 1 tablespoon of Kaffir Lime infused Simple Syrup. Add the vodka and fill the shaker halfway with ice. Vigorously shake for 15-20 seconds and strain the liquids into a glass filled with ice. Top off the glass with the tonic water and garnish with additional pineapple spears, mint leaves and kaffir lime leaves.  Enjoy!

Toasting the 86th Oscars with an “Aye-Aye Captain”!

Aye-Aye Captain

Hollywood’s biggest night is nearly upon us with the Oscars just a few days away. And like every year, I cannot wait to see all the gorgeous gowns! The glitz the glam – I love it!

This year I’m keeping things pretty low key but it would not be an Oscars Night if I didn’t shake up a few special-themed craft cocktails. Last year in honor of Life of Pi, I made the Sparkling Tangerine Tiger that was bright and dangerously delicious. For this year’s 86th Academy Awards, my cocktail is created in honor of Captain Phillips and is called the Aye -Aye Captain!

DSC_Aye-Aye Captain

And let me tell ya…you’re going to love this one. Fresh oranges, limes, mint, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and ginger beer. The spiced rum and ginger beer offer a great bite while the fresh citrus rounds out this delightful cocktail. But be warned, these beauties go down incredibly smooth.

If you’re hosting a shindig for the event, finger foods and small bites are definitely the way to go. Below are a few suggestions that would definitely win the hearts & tummies of your guests:

Aye-Aye Captain

Enjoy the Oscars!

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Aye -Aye Captain
Serves 1

Ingredients:

½ small orange, cut into small wedges (I used Cara Caras that are incredibly sweet & juicy)
½ lime, cut into small wedges
5 fresh mint leaves (more to garnish)
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1½  ounces Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
ice
3-4 ounces ginger beer

In a shaker, muddle ¼ of the oranges, 2-3 lime wedges, mint and sugar. Add the rum and shake well.

Fill a tumbler with ice. Strain and pour the liquid from the shaker into the glass. Top with ginger beer and garnish with citrus wedges and mint leaves. Cheers!

Day 3 of A Week of Holiday Cocktails – Mint Chocolate Martinis

Mint Chocolate Martinis

Is it a dessert?

Is it a cocktail?

Who the heck cares because it’s ridiculously amazing!

Mint Chocolate Martinis

These decadent martinis are the TRUTH as they combine the rich flavors of chocolate and mint — one of my favorite flavor combos. And with 5 different spirits in it, you know the Holiday spirit will be flowing should you serve these at your upcoming festivities.

Since these martinis are on the sweeter side, you can also opt to serve them as a dessert to avoid any baking or fussy pastries–not a bad idea if you’re trying to avoid unnecessary stress during holiday entertaining.

Mint Chocolate Martinis

We’ve got a bunch of little munchkins in my family so I’m often mixing up cocktails for the adults and mocktails for the kiddos. To make a non-alcoholic spin on these Mint Chocolate Martinis, fill a shaker with chocolate syrup, milk, a splash of heavy cream, dash of vanilla extract and a drop of mint extract. Shake it all up and strain into glasses–but don’t forget the candy cane rims!

Cheers to all!

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Mint Chocolate Martinis

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 candy canes
ice
3 ounces vanilla vodka
2 ounces Bailey’s® Mint Chocolate Irish cream
2 ounces
Kahlúa
1 ounce creme de cacao
splash of peppermint schnapps
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup

In a food processor, grind the candy canes until it becomes the texture of sand. Pour the candy on to a small plate. Wet the rim of each glass with water and roll the edge into the candy canes.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and pour in the vodka, Bailey’s®, Kahlúa, creme de cacao and peppermint schnapps. Shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds. Swirl the inside of 2 glasses with the chocolate syrup and strain the contents of the cocktail shaker between the two. Enjoy!

Day 2 of A Week of Holiday Cocktails – The Pomegranate Lush

The Pomegranate Lush

My seester’s in-laws have an old tree that grows the sweetest pomegranates I’ve ever tasted. The seeds are sugary sweet with just a hint of tartness. And the color is an intense deep shade of burgundy. I love to throw these gems into salads, parfaits, desserts and most recently, to flavor vodka. Infused vodkas are super easy to make and add a great flavor and kick to cocktails.

To make pomegranate infused vodka, fill a mason jar (or other clean, resealable container) about 2/3 way up with pomegranate seeds. Top off the jar with vodka and use a wooden spoon to crush up the seeds a bit to help release some of the juices. Cap the jar and refrigerate for about 2 weeks, shaking the jar every few days.

Voila! Pomegranate infused vodka at your disposal.

The Pomegranate Lush

This boozy goodnes is perfect for holiday cocktails because of it’s gorgeous hue and it packs a devilish punch. The vodka goes down quite smooth since it’s so tasty which can be a dangerous combo.

For this little number I wanted to combine the flavored vodka with a little bubbly…it is the holidays after all. Which is why I’m calling this The Pomegranate Lush –booze on booze on booze :)

Cheers!

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The Pomegranate Lush
Serves 1

Ingredients:

1½ ounces pomegranate infused vodka
dash of simple syrup
juice from 1 lime wedge
chilled sparkling wine

Pour the vodka, simple syrup and lime juice into a glass or champagne flute. Slowly fill the glass with the sparkling wine and enjoy!

A Week of Holiday Cocktails – The Spiced Apple Pie

The Spiced Apple Pie

I barely survived Thanksgiving weekend.

After a marathon meal and 18+ hours of Black Friday shopping (no, I’m not exaggerating), my sibs and I dived into a delish fall/harvest themed Family Dinner.

November 2013 Family Dinner

Since we were all consumed with preparing Thanksgiving dishes (times two for my sibs since they also had Thanksgiving with their in-laws), we wanted a menu that was pretty low maintenance.

For starters, we had a charcuterie and cheese platter to munch on. Then we moved on to roasted bone marrow – utterly decadent over toasted baguette slices and then topped with an herbaceous gremolata. For the entree, a slow-braised, saffron beef ragu. It’s a lovely spin on my seester’s delectable ossobuco that is slow cooked over a few hours. After the initial searing, you let the beef do it’s own magic with little babysitting. Perfect for recuperating shoppers. We served the rich ragu over a quick, yet utterly creamy parmesan polenta from Ina Garten.

The Spiced Apple Pie

To add some veggies to the dinner, I made a salad from dark hearty greens and topped them with homegrown pomegranates (from my seester’s in-laws) and thin starfruit slices from our mother’s old tree that now resides at our auntie’s house. I also threw in some Asian pear slices, goat cheese and a drizzle of a light Dijon based vinaigrette.

And for dessert (because there’s always room for dessert!), big sis made spiced-white wine poached Bosc pears that we enjoyed with vanilla ice cream. Quite a wonderful way to end the meal.

The Spiced Apple Pie

With a fall/harvest themed dinner, I created a cocktail that celebrated the flavors of the season. For this- and to kick off our Week of Holiday Cocktails, I’m delighted to share with you all the Spiced Apple Pie. It’s made from cider, warm spices and spiced rum. Truly apple pie in liquid form—with boozey goodness, of course :)

Another Family Dinner done and in the books and I can’t wait for December’s Family Dinner where all 5 Nguyen Siblings (and their fams) will be present! Totally a Win-Nguyen!

And here’s to the start of our Week of Holiday Cocktails!

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The Spiced Apple Pie
Serves 2

Ingredients:

ice
8 ounces unfiltered, apple cider
2½ ounces dark spiced rum
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
pinch ground allspice
pinch ground clove
dash vanilla extract
cinnamon sticks
apple slices

Fill a large cocktail shaker with ice and add all the ingredients except the cinnamon sticks & apple slices. Shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds and strain the contents between 2 glasses that have been filled with ice. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and apple slices. Cheers!

Southern Comfort Fare for Sunday Family Dinner

September 2013 Fam Din

For September’s Sunday Family Dinner, we decided to jump back to North America and head down South for our inspiration. Southern American Comfort Food to be exact.

You know….the type of food that kind of sticks to your ribs but is OH-SO-GOOD! Worth every calorie.

September 2013 Fam Din

So we gathered the fam to my seester T’s house on a September Sunday—which just so happened to be one of the craziest, scorching last days of summer. (Which explains why our hair was done up like fräuleins to combat the heat!)

And how cute are my seesters‘ with their fams?

Seeblings

To combat the heat and toast our monthly Family Dinners, we started off with cold, refreshing cocktails—my version of a Sparkling Hard Lemonade. Freshly made lemonade, vodka, citrus soda, lemon slices, and fresh mint sprigs all in a mason jar….to keep with the Southern theme. :)

Sparkling Hard Lemonade

And what’s a Southern meal without collard greens?

Collard Greens

Eldest seester, N, stewed down these green beauties with this lovely ham hock. Salty, porky, slightly bitter and just darn tummy -lovin’!

Ham Hock

And since we were dabbling in the South, I had to channel Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Matherson, and Mary-Louise Parker. Yeah..you know what I’m talking about….

Fried Green Tomatoes

My version was quick, crispy, slightly tart and deep fried.

So. Good.

Fried Green Tomatoes

I also took the lead with our main dish…..Crispy Fried Chicken.

It was a no brainer that I opted for Chef Thomas Keller’s beloved Lemon-Brined Fried Chicken. It’s one of the most popular dishes from his restaurant Ad Hoc and after trying it, I don’t doubt it!

The recipe is not difficult but it does take time. The citrus and herbaceous brine makes the chicken so incredible juicy and aromatic. And the crust–when done well, it becomes surprisingly light and almost feathery!

We did have a little trouble with our chicken as we fried them in Dutch Ovens on the outside barbecue burners. But since the burners couldn’t hold a consistent level of heat, we kept on having to adjust the temperature and move the chicken around. Nothing too crazy but it did take a bit longer than expected.

Fried Chicken

Unfortunately these photos didn’t do it justice (I went from using my DSLR to my iPhone) but the rest of our dinner was just as scrumptious! Seester T made rich Mac & Cheese and down-home delish Cheddar Biscuits with Sausage Gravy. There was also some grilled corn but I just couldn’t fit it in my tummy!

Southern Family Dinner

Now I’m told that original Southern Comfort Food was rich and filling in order to give folks the sustenance and energy to do a full day of hard, physical work. We DEFINITLEY didn’t do any of that after inhaling this goodness but we DID take a 15 minute stroll around the block. :) Better than nothing, right?

And then we came back from our walk to have some dessert….

Caramel Apple Pie a la Mode that was INSANELY good. So good that I actually didn’t feel bad about eating it after our gazillion calorie dinner.

As I said before….Worth Every Calorie.

#fact

Caramel Apple Pie a la mode

And with that dear friends, we wrapped up another successful Sunday Family Dinner!

October’s Theme?

New England Fare! Lobstah’s and shellfish beware! :)

Watermelon Soju-tinis

Watermelon Soju-tinis

Did you check out our last Sunday Family Dinner?

If you did, you may have said to yourself…. “Huh…something’s missing. Where are the cocktails????”

And rightfully so! Because what’s a Sunday Fam-Din without a specialty cocktail? Not one of ours for sure!

Watermelon Soju-tinis

Since Korean fare was the theme for August, I knew I wanted to use soju for our signature cocktail. Soju is a distilled alcohol and is traditionally made from rice. To me, I liken it to the flavors of sake–but I’m no expert. So for all of you soju aficionados–don’t bust my chops!

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At a family party last year, my younger cousin NhuMy picked up some fresh watermelon agua fresca and turned it into delish watermelon martinis. My seester T and I loved it so much that I wanted to take the same flavors to make Watermelon Soju-tinis.

Watermelon Soju-tinis

Using fresh watermelon that eldest seester, N, had in her fridge (my niece, Nina, is a watermelon-monster), I made a refreshing and light agua fresca. Thrown into a shaker with some lime juice, soju, zest and ice—and we had fantabulous cocktail.

Looking for a mocktail? No worries! The agua fresca chilled with ice is just as delish!

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Watermelon Soju-tinis
Serves 2

Ingredients:

6 cups fresh watermelon, cut into large chunks
1 cup chilled water
juice of 1 lime
1-2 tablespoons sugar (optional), depending on sweetness of the watermelon
ice
3 1/2 ounces soju
lime zest
watermelon wedges for garnish

In a blender, add the watermelon chunks, water, lime juice and sugar (optional). Blend until smooth. Pour liquid through a sieve to strain.

Fill a large shaker with ice. Add the soju, 5 ounces watermelon agua fresca, and 1-2 pinches lime zest. Shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds and strain the contents between 2 glasses. Garnish with watermelon wedges. Cheers!

Korean Feast for Sunday Family Dinner + Happy Birthday Nina!

August 2013 Korean Family Dinner

My eldest niece, Nina, turns 15 today *gulp*

Don’t ask me how it happened but within a blink of the eye, our super chubby little baby turned into a beautiful and intelligent young woman. The bday gal requested Korean for last week’s Sunday Family Dinner and we willingly obliged.

We LOVE Korean food! And as I’ve shared before, our mom went through an extensive phase where she cooked all types of Korean dishes to dazzle her guests.

August 2013 Family Dinner

As always, we cooked way too much food. But what can we say, we wanted a “little” bit of everything and leftovers are a good thing in our book. A HUGE thanks to Emily Kim, author and founder of Maanchi, whose recipes were heavily used in our menu that night.

As for the menu…..

What’s a Korean meal without some type of Kimchi? Eldest seester started a week before our dinner and prepared a ridiculous amount of Kimchi—and I mean a TON OF KIMCHI! Though I’m not complaining as we each got to take a jar home.

Kimchi

We had crispy, Grilled Pork Belly served with an acidic, vinegar based dipping sauce…….

Grilled Pork Belly

A huge pot of bubbling Soondubu Jjigae – Soft Tofu Stew with lots of seafood……

Soondubu Jjigae - Soft Tofu Stew

Plates of Haemul Pajeon - Seafood Pancake……….

Haemul Pajeon - Seafood Pancake

You can see that the there’s definitely more “filling” than batter in these pancakes.

Haemul Pajeon - Seafood Pancake

And there was a huge pan of Ddeokbokki – Spicy Rice Cakes which is one of my personal faves. Mimi (my oldest friend/ex-roomie) used to make this all of the time for me in grad school and it’s carboliciously, delicious.

Ddeokbokki - Spicy Rice Cakes

We also had Galbijjim – Braised Beef Short Ribs that just fell off the bone. Slightly sweet and incredibly tender. Man, my mouth is watering just remember this goodness…..

Galbijjim - Braised Beef Short Ribs

And there was some Kimchi Bokkeumbap – Kimchi Fried Rice.

Kimchi Bokkeumbap

And last, for dessert, Patbingsu – shaved ice. We adorned ours with sweet red beans, fresh fruits, mochi, tapioca and a drizzle of condensed milk.

Patbingsu - Shaved Ice

And that’s how we roll–Korean style!

Happy 15th Birthday Nina-love!!!! May this year bring you success in school (and tennis), laughter, happiness and adventures (in moderation, of course :) )

xoxo!

August 2013 Family Dinner

Because it’s Paloma o’clock somewhere…..

Palomas

Have you all been asking yourself where has the summer flown by? I feel like just a second ago we were celebrating all of the May babies and now Labor Day is just a hop, skip, jump away! Wowsers!

Time is FLYING BY! Where is Hermione and her Time-Turner when you need them?

And although I’ve been struggling to find time to complete my endless to-do lists, I can always pause to say…

TEE-GEE-EYE-EFF!!!!!!

Oh Friday….how I love thee……

Palomas

To toast off this beautiful Aloha Friday, I would recommend mixing up a few of these bright and refreshing Palomas. I think Palomas are often underrated and can quickly be overlooked for its more popular cousin–the Margarita.

Like Margaritas, Palomas are made up with tequila and fresh citrus juices– though the latter relies mostly on fresh grapefruits and limes. Since I adore the slight sweetness and pretty hue of pink grapefruits, I opt to use them in this delightful cocktail.

In a nutshell? It’s summer in glass!

So when things get crazy, push the pause button because it’s Paloma o’clock somewhere!

Cheers Friends!

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Palomas
Serves 2

Ingredients:

ice
6 ounces fresh pink grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup (more if needed depending on the sweetness of the grapefruit)
3 ounces premium tequila
grapefruit soda or soda water
granulated sugar
grapefruit wedges

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the grapefruit juice, lime juice, simple syrup and tequila. Add the top and shake vigorously for 20-25 seconds. Pour into two glasses that have been rimmed with sugar and filled with ice. Top off with the grapefruit soda or soda water. Stir slightly and garnish each glass with grapefruit wedges. Cheers!

Summer Grilling Family Dinner + Fresh Peach Bellinis

Grilled Lobster with Cilantro Chile Butter

We’ve got a fair amount of July Babies in our family. Though, let’s be honest…with a family as large as ours, there are a lot of babies year round. Big Seester N, Big Seester P, brother-in-law, niece, several cousins, an auntie, an uncle….and that just includes the family in the states!

For July’s Sunday Family Dinner, we celebrated 2 of our July babies—Big Seester N and my brother-in-law R. As for theme? We kept the menu quite straight forward but pretty dang delicious.

Summer Grillin’

And of course, since we were celebrating, there had to be a bit of decadence. In the form of lobsters. Lots of lobsters.

N was totally freaking out Lucasaurus with them.

July 2013 Family Dinner

Seester T staffed the grill for a good portion of our meal which totally amused her hubs, the birthday boy.

July 2013 Family Dinner

Now what’s a Sunday Family Dinner without cocktails? Surely not one of ours!

This month we toasted with Fresh Peach Bellinis. Granted they weren’t grilled but they definitely were a nod to summer using wonderfully sweet, white peaches. After adding a few spoonfuls of fresh white peach puree and a squeeze of lime to champagne flutes, I topped off each glass with bubbly Prosecco.

Simply perfect.

Peach Bellinis

And of course, we had to take our mandatory-monthly Seesters pic while holding our cocktails.

Seesters

Our menu included:

Grilled Rosemary Flatbread.

Grilled Flat Bread

Grilled Pacific Oysters……..

Grilled Oysters

A few Grilled Ginormous Prawns…….

Grilled Prawns

Rosemary Garlic Lamb Rib Chops……….

Grilled Lamb Chops

and Grilled Lobsters with Cilantro-Chile Butter…….

Grilled Lobster with Cilantro Chile Butter

Did I mention that our kiddos have quite the refined palates?

And I think they’re uber adorable.

July 2013 Family Dinner

For dessert? Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée that my niece, Nina, made. Although technically not made on the grill, she did torch the tops to brûlée it.

Totally counts. :)

Creme Brulee

The kiddos also made this adorable sign for the birthday babies—I loved that they used their nicknames!

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Not only was the dinner scrumptious but it was fairly low maintenance with at least 80% of the “cooking” done on the grill. The cherry on top? It made clean up a breeze!

Peach Bellinis

And for those who cannot travel to Venice to try the original Bellini at Harry’s Bar, give my version a spin. My Seester said it’s pretty darn close to the real thing :)

CHEERS to another memorable Sunday Family Dinner!

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Fresh Peach Bellinis
Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 ripe white peaches, pitted and quartered
1/4 cup water
1-2 tablespoons sugar, optional
4 lime wedges
chilled Prosecco or other sparkling wine

Add the peaches and water into a blender. Depending on the sweetness of the peaches, add sugar as needed. Puree until smooth. Optional: Strain the peach puree through a fine-meshed strainer.

Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the peach puree into each glass. Squeeze the juice of a lime wedge into each glass and slowly top with the chilled Prosecco. Gently stir each glass before serving. Cheers!

Note: The Bellinis shown here are garnished with yellow peaches, however, the cocktails were made with the traditional white peach.