Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad

June 2015 Family Dinner: Watermelon-Feta Salad

Y’all know what today is?

National Watermelon Day!

I swear–I can’t make this stuff up. My Hallmark calendar on the wall says it is— so it must be true.  And since I’m all about celebrating holidays, I wanted to share this delectable and light little number with you…

Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad.

June 2015 Family Dinner: Watermelon-Feta Salad

This type of salad appears to be all the rage this summer as I’ve seen various renditions all over the place. And how could it not be?

Peppery arugula leaves mixed with sweet watermelon cubes and piquant flavors of feta cheese. When we made this for our June’s Sunday Family Dinner, I opted to dress the greens with a Mint-Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette but it would also pair nicely with a thick balsamic reduction and extra virgin olive oil.

Need a couple other ways you could celebrate National Watermelon Day?

How about toasting the day with these bright Watermelon Soju-tinis? They are the perfect cocktail for warm summer nights.

Watermelon Soju-tinis

Want something booze-free? Then these Watermelon-Basil Aguas Frescas would be fantastic!

And if you’re looking for extra points, freeze some of it to make popsicles for your munchkins. Bright, refreshing, and you know exactly what’s in it.

Watermelon Basil Aguas Frescas

And with that dear friends, have a wonderful week and have a delicious National Watermelon Day!

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Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad
Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon finely minced shallots
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey or agave
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches black pepper, plus more to plate
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
5-6 cups baby arugula leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
¼ cup thinly sliced red onions
15-20 fresh mint leaves, roughly torn
3 cups cubed seedless watermelon
10 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Prepare the vinaigrette. In a jar, add the shallots, mint, mustard, honey, vinegar, olive oil, pepper and salt. Secure the lid tightly on the jar and shake vigorously for a minute until the items have combined and emulsified. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper as needed.

Place the arugula, red onions and torn mint leaves in a large bowl. Drizzle a few spoons of the vinaigrette over the greens and toss well. Try not to overdress the greens as it will wilt and become too soggy. Plate the dressed greens on a large platter. Top with the watermelon cubes and feta cheese. Sprinkle the platter with additional black pepper and serve.

Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake ….Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake

Yeah….I went there.

I just had to do it.

Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake

It wouldn’t be a Girl Scouts Cookies season if I didn’t bake something with them. I typically make some type of cupcake with the various cookies like my Thin Mints Cupcakes, Samoa Cupcakes, and Tagalong Cupcakes.

Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake

But this year, I wanted to change it up a bit. And since my siblings and I decided to pay tribute to the Emerald Isle for our Sunday Family Dinner yesterday, I knew I had to take the opportunity to use one of my favorites in our dessert– Thin Mints.

This time, in cheesecake form.

Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake

It all started with the crust that was made purely from melted butter and ground Thin Mints. Then, I took my standard cheesecake filling recipe and mixed it with melted dark chocolate. I poured a layer of the chocolate cheesecake filling over the crust and then sprinkled in mint & dark chocolate chips (more mint chip flavor, the better!). Another layer of the chocolate cheesecake filling gets poured on top and then a heavy sprinkle of chopped Thin Mints gets topped on that. The remaining chocolate cheesecake filling gets poured in and then it gets baked for about 50 minutes.

photo-61

Once baked, the cheesecake sets and ages overnight. And finally it all gets topped with mint scented whipped cream, even MORE Thin Mints and shamrock sprinkles. It is St. Patrick’s Day, after all!

Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake

This beauty was the perfect, decadent end to our Irish inspired Family Dinner. And although it was in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, it would be spectacular for any occasion—birthdays, holidays,…..or just because you’re a Thin Mints monster.

May the luck o’ the Irish be with you today—HAPPY ST.PATRICK’S DAY!!!!!!

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Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake
Makes one 9-inch Cheesecake

Ingredients:

Crust:
11 ounces Thin Mints Cookies
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
cooking spray

Filling:
8 ounces quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
24 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate and mint chips (or other chocolate mint candies of your choice)
1 cup chopped Thin Mints Cookies

Mint Scented Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon mint extract.

Garnish:
Thin Mints Cookies
sprinkles
Preheat oven to 325 ˚F.

Prepare the crust. In a food processor, pulse the Thin Mints Cookies until they are well ground. Pour them into a bowl and mix them with the melted butter until moistened and resembles the texture of wet sand. Cover a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray and press the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan and about one inch up the sides. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and cool to room temperature.

In a heatproof bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave until smooth. Do this in 20 second intervals, stirring in between to ensure that you do not scorch the chocolate. Cool the chocolate mixture until room temperature.

Using a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the cream cheese and sour cream until its light and fluffy. Gradually mix in the sugar.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add  the vanilla extract and melted chocolate. Mix until well combined.

Pour 1/3 of the filling over the cooled crust. Sprinkle the dark chocolate and mint chips over the filling before pouring another 1/3 on top. Sprinkle the chopped Thin Mints Cookies over the top and then cover with the remaining filling. Gentle rap the pan on the counter to release any air bubbles

Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven with a pan half full of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the center is set. Turn off the oven and allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door propped open for about 30 minutes. (To prop the oven door, I use a wooden handled spoon to keep it ajar a few inches). Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack.  Allow the cake to cool for an additional 30 minutes.  Wrap well with plastic film and foil. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Carefully remove the sides of the pan by running a hot knife around the outside of the cake.

When you are ready to serve, prepare the whipped cream. Using a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the chilled heavy cream on high until it just holds stiff peaks. Slowly sprinkle in the sugar until you reach a thick consistency. Add in the mint extract and whip until combined.

Pipe the whipped cream on top of the cheesecake and garnish with additional cookies and sprinkles. Enjoy!

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!

Pomegranate Mojitos – A Super Cocktail!

Pomegranate Mojitos

Is it in poor taste that I’m starting off the week with a post on Cocktails?

Nah!!!!!!!!

Especially when the cocktails are these fab Pomegranate Mojitos! Mint + Pomegranate Juice + a little Booziness —how could that be bad?

Pomegranate Mojitos

And aren’t pomegranates a super food? So as far as cocktails go….you could think of this one as being somewhat “healthier” for you.

Yup. You’re welcome.
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Pomegranate Mojitos
Serves 1

Ingredients:

15-20 Fresh Mint Leave
½ lime, cut into small wedges
½ tablespoons sugar
2 ounces light rum
4 ounces pomegranate juice
2 ounces club soda
1-2 cups crushed ice

In a cocktail shaker, thoroughly muddle the mint leaves, lime wedges and sugar. Add rum, pomegranate juice and fill the shaker with ice. Vigorously shake for 20 seconds and strain the liquids into a tall glass filled with ice. Top off glass with club soda. Garnish with lime slices and mint leaves.

Toasting the Oscars with a “Sparkling Tangerine Tiger”

Sparkling Tangerine Tiger

I adore Oscars Season. The movies, the glitz, the fashion, the glamor, the festivities….

And like the Superbowl, I usually do a spread of my picks for the awards.

Sparkling Tangerine Tiger

At this point, I’ve watched 7 out of the 9 nominees for Best Picture. Not too shabby right?

And since I’m having a little shindig at mi casa to watch the event, my pals and I attempted to create a menu as an homage to some of the films:

Sparkling Tangerine Tiger

To pair with our Oscars bites, I wanted to serve my guests with a cocktail…..or two, or three.

As my nod to Life of Pi, I’ll be shakin’ up a refreshing cocktail using Bombay Sapphire Gin, fresh tangerines, limes, raw sugar, mint and a good dose of sparkling wine. Peppery, bright, refreshing, and just plain lovely. After much consultation from my cocktail lovin’ peeps, I’ve dubbed this concoction, the Sparkling Tangerine Tiger.

Rawwwrrr……

However you choose to cerebrate, hope y’all enjoy the Oscars tomorrow—I know we will!

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Sparkling Tangerine Tiger Cocktail
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1/2 tangerine, cut into small wedges
1/2 lime, cut into small wedges
10 fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon raw sugar
2 1/2 ounces Bombay Sapphire
ice
6 ounces sparkling wine
*garnish with additional mint leaves, lime wedges and tangerine wedges

In a shaker, muddle the tangerine, lime, mint and sugar. Add the gin and shake well.

Fill two glasses with ice. Strain and divide the liquids amongst the two glasses. Top each glass with 1/2 of the sparkling wine. Garnish with citrus wedges and mint leaves.

Thin Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes for St. Paddy’s Day!

Thin Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes

 

 

This is the time of year when I stock up on bottles of Guinness, Baileys and well…..all things Green.

To make dozens and dozens of Guinness and Baileys Cupcakes, of course!

But this year, I wanted to go a different route and since my niece (alright, more like my sister) was selling Girl Scout Cookies, utilizing the beloved Thin Mint® Cookies was a no brainer!

 

 

Thin Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes

These cuppies were a great alternative to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Rich and moist chocolate cake filled with chunks of  Thin Mint® Cookies and topped with a lightly minty buttercream and cookie. DEE-LISH!

But if you aren’t big on Thin Mints® (which may be slightly CRAZY!), try one of these other GREEN LOVING cuppies!

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Irish Cream Buttercream

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Irish Cream Buttercream

Fluffy Lime Cupcakes with Lime Whipped Cream

Fluffy Lime Cupcakes with Lime Whipped Cream

But no matter which sweet treat you choose, have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!!

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Thin Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 2 Dozen Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:
½ Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1½ Teaspoons Baking Soda
½ Teaspoon Baking Powder
½ Teaspoon Salt
1¼ Cups Granulated Sugar
5 Ounces Dark Chocolate, finely chopped
1 Cup Buttermilk
1 Cup Strong Brewed Hot Coffee
2/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
2 Large Egg
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 Cups Thin Mint® Cookies (or other chocolate mint cookies), roughly chopped

Buttercream:
4 to 5 Cups Confections Sugar, sifted
2 Cups Unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 to 5 Tablespoons Milk
½ Teaspoon Mint Extract

Garnish:
1 Dozen Thin Mint® Cookies, cut in half
Shamrock Sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper liners in muffin pans and put one cookie on the bottom.

Place finely chopped chocolate in a bowl and pour hot coffee over it. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit for a few minutes. Remove plastic and stir until smooth. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. In a mixing stand, beat egg for a few minutes until it becomes pale yellow. Beat in oil, buttermilk, and vanilla extract.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and slowly add the chocolate. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Fold in chopped Thin Mint® Cookies. Scoop batter into the lined cups–about 3/4 way. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cooling racks.

Prepare the frosting: In a large mixer bowl, whip the butter for several minutes until very light and fluffy. Slowly add about half of the powdered sugar a few spoonfuls at a time until incorporated. Slowly drizzle in the milk and whip until combined. Mix in the mint extract. Add the rest of the powdered sugar until your desired consistency has been achieved.

Fill a pastry bag and pipe frosting on top of cooled cupcakes. Garnish with ½ a cookie and sprinkles.

ENJOY!

Mojito Cookies……Havana is Calling.

Mojito Cookies

 

 

I know I should be a little more humble about this but…….

I make amazing Mojitos.

As in so freaking good, you would think you were being whisked away to the streets of Havana.

 

 

Mojito Cookies

 

So when I saw that my beloved neighborhood Cuban patisserie, Azúcar offered mojito cookies, I felt compelled to try my hand at making some!

Using a sugar cookie base from Baking Illustrated , I incorporated a “mint sugar” I made and fresh lime zest to give that bright kick that mojitos are so known for.

 

Mint Sugar

 

Chewy, crispy, slightly sweet, and minty.

 

 

Mojito Cookies

Now if there was only some subtle way I could sneak the rum into them…….. :)

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Mojito Cookies
Makes approximately 2 dozen
Adapted from Baking Illustrated Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
½ Teaspoon Baking Powder
½ Teaspoon salt
1 Cup Unsalted Butter, softened but still cool
1 Cup Granulated Sugar, plus ½ cup for rolling dough
1 Tablespoon Light Brown Sugar
1 Large Egg
1½ Cups Loosely Packed Mint Leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
1 Tablespoon Lime Zest
1½ Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse one cup of granulated sugar and mint leaves until the leaves have been ground down and combined with the sugar (see photo).

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Cream the butter, the mint sugar, and the brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg, lime zest and vanilla; beat at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Place the ½ cup sugar for rolling in a shallow bowl. Fill a medium bowl halfway with cold tap water. Dip your hands in the water and shake off any excess (this will prevent the dough from sticking to your hands and ensure that the sugar sticks to the dough). Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough into a 1½-inch ball between moistened palms, roll the ball in the sugar, and then place it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, moistening your hands as necessary and spacing the balls about 2 inches apart (you should be able to fit 12 cookies on each sheet). Butter the bottom of a drinking glass and then dip the bottom of the glass in the remaining sugar. Flatten the dough balls with the bottom of the glass until they are about ¾ inch thick, dipping the glass in sugar as necessary to prevent sticking (after every 2 or 3 cookies).

Bake until the cookies are golden brown around the edges and their center are just set and very lightly colored, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets about 3 minutes; using a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.