Category Archives: Cocktails & Pick-Ups!

Crunchy Chinese Egg Rolls

Not only is this one of my favorite appetizers but it’s also one of my go-to “I’m beat” dinners.  I always have plenty left over for lunches the next day and if I’m just so dead-dog tired I can’t muster up the energy to include the meat or shrimp mixture, well, hey! It’s okay.  These egg rolls taste terrific with or without a little protein so if you’re doing a no-meat Monday or you are a vegetarian then these egg rolls are for you.  In fact, they taste just like the ones you get at a Chinese restaurant.   My boys love them and the following day they have an even deeper flavor after being crisped up in the oven for 10 minutes then swirled in a puddle of duck sauce and Chinese hot mustard and washed down with a couple of cold beers.  This recipe can be assembled the day prior to serving which makes for easy party prep.  Simply roll them all up, cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to cook.  And since they fry up in minutes you’re not chained to the kitchen yet you still have one more hot appetizer to serve your guests.  These are so dang good, kind of a sleeper and they’re not often served at home so check this out.  You may just have a new obsession.

Crunchy Chinese Egg Rolls

  • Servings: 21 egg rolls
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 21 egg roll wraps (Nasoya makes a 1-pound package and I find it in my produce section alongside the Asian vegetables)
  • 3/4 pound ground pork, chicken, shrimp or tofu
  • 8 minced cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce (I always use reduced sodium)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 16-ounce bag chopped cabbage and carrot coleslaw mix, if you can’t find chopped shredded is fine
  • 8 scallions (spring onions), sliced diagonally
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • sliced scallions or cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
  1. In a small pan brown the meat or shrimp with the garlic and ginger.
  2. Mix the salt, soy sauce and sesame oil and stir into brown meat.  Mix well.
  3. In a large bowl toss the cabbage mixture and scallions.
  4. Add the hot meat mixture to the cabbage and mix well.
  5. Place an egg roll wrap in front of you so there is a corner pointing up, down, left and right.  Kind of like a diamond.
  6. Place about 4 tablespoons of the meat/cabbage filling in the center of the wrap and fold the bottom point tightly over the filling and roll barely once.
  7. Holding the filling down, fold in the left corner then the right.
  8. Dip your finger in the water and moisten the top point.  This is your glue to keep the egg roll closed.
  9. Continue rolling up and set the finished egg roll aside.
  10. Repeat with the remaining filling and wraps.
  11. Heat 3 inches of oil in a large frying pan on high , about 375°.
  12.  Carefully place as many rolls as will fit in your pan without crowding and fry the egg rolls 2 minutes per side.
  13. Drain on paper bags or paper towels, scatter a little chopped scallion or cilantro leaves on them and serve immediately.
  14. Serve with duck sauce, hot Chinese mustard or hoisin sauce.


Parmesan, Pepper and Lemon Oyster Crackers

Ever been in the irritating position of being empty-handed or feel as though the cupboard is bare when guests or friends show up unannounced and uninvited?  I learned through experience a few years back and vowed not to be caught unaware come Christmas time.  Different versions of these little crackers have been around forever but I find the recipes calling for a packet of dried Ranch or Italian dressing to be far and away too salty.  I came up with this recipe by putting some of my favorite flavors together.  I mean, who doesn’t like parmesan?  Or lemon?  Plus I figured most everyone has these ingredients or some variety of them in their pantry.  That said, this is the ideal time to stock up on some holiday basics the next time you’re in the grocery store.   Various crackers, butter, both grated and shredded parmesan, frozen phyllo shells and dough, puff pastry, cream cheese, jarred pesto, dried cherries and cranberries, fig jam… obviously I could go on and on but you get the picture.  With a well-stocked pantry you can rustle up a remarkable AND good-looking appetizer at a moment’s notice.  I plan to post a few more easy and attractive appetizers that can be made at the drop of a hat.  So the next time the doorbell rings while you’re coloring your hair and you over hear your husband say, “Well, merry Christmas to YOU!  Come on in and have a drink!  Please say you’ll stay!”, you’ll be well prepared 🙂

These are great with cocktails or watching a football game.  Any leftover may be stored in a baggie, out of the refrigerator and are easily re-crisped in the oven at 350° for 5 minutes or so.  The pepper I love to use is a peppercorn medley by McCormick, found at probably every grocery store in the country.  The pink peppercorns in the medley give a lovely sweetness to the pepper flavors.  Lastly, only grated parmesan works in this recipe as shredded won’t stick to the crackers.  Feel free to use more pepper if you wish and enjoy!

Parmesan, Pepper and Lemon Oyster Crackers

  • Servings: about 6 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons freshly cracked peppercorn medley, I like McCormick with a built-in grinder
  • 1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 9-ounce bag oyster crackers
  1. Pre-heat oven to 325°.
  2. In a small bowl combine and mix well parmesan cheese, lemon zest, peppers and salt.  Set aside.
  3. Place crackers in a large bowl and pour the melted butter over them.  With a large spoon, toss the crackers in the butter until they are completely coated.
  4. Pour the cheese and pepper mixture over the crackers and continue tossing until the crackers are covered with the parmesan mixture.
  5. Place the crackers in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until they become slightly golden.
  6. Serve immediately.

Artichoke, Olive and Garlic Tapenade

Every once in a while I say to myself, “You’re not buying anything at the grocery store today.  You just make do with what you have at home.”  And that’s when I come up with some recipes I’m positively crazy about.  Here’s one of them.  You probably have all these ingredients in your pantry and an added bonus is that it comes together in no time flat.  This “dip” is a delight served with cold, crunchy celery sticks.  Served with some whole grain crackers your family won’t be able to stay away.  I found some organic, gluten-free, non-gmo, vegan, black pepper crackers at the grocery store that totally rocked my taste buds.  “Mary’s Gone Crackers”.  Holy moly.  You’d NEVER know they’re so healthful.  And they’re pretty, too.


Spread atop grilled fish or chicken, this tapenade is a natural pleaser as all the flavors marry so darn well.  And guess what else?  It’s pretty low in fat calling for only a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  I hope you’re not put off by the one anchovy filet.  I promise, scout’s honor (even though I was thrown out of Girl Scouts when I sneaked out of a meeting to call a boy I liked from a phone booth), you will never know the anchovy’s there.  The rinsed, dried filet adds a deeper flavor and after being zipped through the food processor you’ll never even know it was there.  Leave it out and your dip will be flat and one-dimensional so give it a try.  Lemony and garlicky, it travels well to parties and keeps for days in the refrigerator…if it even lasts that long!


Artichoke, Olive and Garlic Tapenade

  • 2 14.5-ounce cans artichoke hearts, well-drained, moisture patted out
  • 1/2 cup green olives, pitted and without pimento
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 garlic clove
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 anchovy filet, rinsed and dried
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Place artichoke hearts and olives in a food processor and pulse until slightly chunky with pieces about the size of confetti.  Transfer to mixing bowl.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients to the food processor bowl and pulse until not quite smooth.  You want a bit of texture.
  3. Transfer to bowl with artichokes and olives and mix well.
  4. Serve with raw vegetables and crackers or cover and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Figs Roasted with Honey Goat Cheese and Prosciutto


For me figs are one of the best foods Fall has to offer.  Dark, autumnal and vaguely naughty, they are a seasonal food that is quite literally “here today, gone tomorrow”.  Late summer to fall is their main season and here in south Florida the availability is somewhat unpredictable since they’re trucked in from far away lands.  We try to eat local produce but I’m kind of a fig trollop and I don’t care WHERE they’re from OR who cultivated them.  I love me my figs!  Regardless, this recipe is a wonder blending sweet and salty, spicy heat and creamy coolness.  With a cocktail or two I can easily make this my dinner.  This little savoury is pretty enough for your cocktail party yet sturdy enough for Sunday’s football get-together.  It can be assembled in the morning and baked that afternoon or evening.  In the past I’ve only used chevre, plain goat cheese.  I’ve seen the honeyed goat cheese at my store, Publix, but until now, I’d never tried it.  Gentle Reader, it’s pretty perfect.  Just the right amount of sweetness, between the lush, sexy figs and the salty sharpness of the prosciutto, this hors d’oeuvre will have you rolling your eyes to the back of your head.  Enjoy!



Figs Roasted with Honey Goat Cheese and Prosciutto

  • Servings: approximately 50 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 4-ounce log of honey goat cheese or plain goat cheese plus 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound ripe, fresh figs
  • 1/2 pound prosciutto, thinly sliced…deli thin
  • honey to drizzle
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  2. In a small bowl break up goat cheese with a fork, add red pepper flakes and mix well.  Set aside.
  3. With a sharp paring knife or small knife, cut the figs in half vertically, from the stem to the bottom of the fig.
  4. With the tip of the knife dig a small well into the cut side of the center of the fig.  This makes it easier to stuff with the goat cheese.
  5. If the prosciutto has plastic paper in between slices, discard the paper and stack the prosciutto evenly.
  6. Slice the prosciutto lengthwise into even thirds.  You’ll end up with three even stacks of prosciutto strips.
  7.  Fill each fig half with a small amount of goat cheese, maybe a teaspoon or so.  A butter knife makes it quick.
  8. Wrap each stuffed fig half with a strip of prosciutto, wrapping the meat completely around the center and  place on a foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
  9. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until the prosciutto is crispy.
  10. Place on serving tray and drizzle lightly with honey.
  11. Best served warm.

The best Skinny Margarita

Don’t kid yourself for one second about that drink.  Don’t put your tankini away and hang onto that cute, little sundress.  It’s.Still.Summer.  But I know they’re getting a little snug…it may be summer and hot out but we still eat and drink all kinds of no-no’s.  Hot wings, lobster mac ‘n cheese, $12.00 designer cheeseburgers with fries, fried chicken and biscuit all washed down  with anything from ice cold beer to blender drinks with champagne.  We’re all guilty of those indulgences.  Except now we’re back from our marvelous vacations and things are getting tight.  Even your fat shorts can pinch at this point.  I was there and this is why.  I’ve always been a bourbon drinker.  I adore it.  Neat or with rocks I really enjoy my Wild Turkey.  Until one evening when I was pouring my second cocktail of the evening (!) and my husband mentioned in passing, “You’re not going to lose any weight if you keep drinking that.  You might as well sit down with a bowl of ice cream.”  Well.  THAT certainly hit home.  Right then and there I quit the brown.  Several days later I wanted a drink in an awful way.  I decided on a glass of wine.  I’m not a huge fan; I mean, it’s okay, so my reasoning was if I don’t particularly care for it I won’t drink much.  But after a month or so I realized I was downing two glasses a night, sometimes more on weekends.  That’s a lot of wine which translates to a lot of sugar.  Need we be reminded sugar converts to fat?  I might as well have sat down to that bowl of ice cream.  I had gotten bigger than ever.  Men no longer looked at me when I entered a room.  (I had always enjoyed that!)  My face was full, my neck was no longer long and graceful and I had the DREADED belly fat.  I looked like dump.  Realizing I had to make a change was easy and I quietly went about doing so.   A few years back I had tried the counting “points” diet and found it worked on me for only about six months.  I wasn’t about to start that grind again.  We are all fully aware we need a change of diet, practice portion control and exercise.  You have to start somewhere and I knew what I had to do.  I cleared all grains, ALL, from my diet.  Yes, that’s rice, (not easy for this Latina), potatoes, pasta and bread.  I cut out dairy which was not a problem since I had already switched from 2% cow’s milk to organic almond milk for my coffee.  But the cheese!  Oh, how I missed it!  Pizza was a double whammy.  Then I addressed the alcohol quandary.  Bourbon is really not high in calories unless you drink a large amount.  I thought I’d try tequila.  No, wait!  Don’t shut me out!  I, too, couldn’t stand tequila and that turned out to be a large part of my solution.  Many, many years ago while I was working temporary duty for Delta in San Juan I had the worst experience of my life after drinking waaaaaay too much tequila one night.  I puked my guts out.  I puked so hard I cracked a rib.  And to add to my woes I passed out on top of my glasses and cracked them, too.  That was over 35 years ago and I hadn’t had any tequila since that fateful night.  I shudder to think. Bleah.   Anyway, I figured there was probably some great tequila on the market now, smooth and rich, and maybe, just maybe, I could enjoy a bit with lots of fresh lime juice in a pretty glass packed with ice.  And I was right.  The key is in measuring.  You have to measure whatever you’re drinking.  Please believe me when I say you’re pouring a heck of a lot more than you think.  You’ll be surprised if you pour then measure the amount you’re having EVERY NIGHT.  Have one drink…just one.  That’s all you need.  And that’s another thing.  You don’t need it every night.  You don’t.  At the end of the day when you’re ready to rip apart the first person who crosses you, well, fine, if that’s what’s going to keep you out of prison.  Measure two ounces of tequila or vodka, add the juice of one whole lime or, if you’re having vodka add soda, and enjoy.  But if you’re not that stressed remember this.  Once you’ve lost any looks you once had, chances are you ain’t gettin’ them back.  Don’t be so ready to give them up.  Pour yourself a coconut sparkling water, (La Croix is my favorite), and sip on that awhile.  Do yourself an enormous favor and stay away from beer, wine and mixers like tonic or coke.  Your body will thank you and, come Fall, so will your favorite skinny jeans!


Skinny Margarita

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 ounces of top shelf tequila
  • the juice of one large lime
  • fresh lime wedges, optional
  • ice
  1. Mix the tequila and lime juice in your cocktail glass.
  2. Add a few lime wedges if desired.
  3. Pack cocktail glass with ice, stir to mix and serve.

Feta, Honey and Black Pepper Appetizer


Greece 2016…and I can’t wait!  With a bangin’ new pair of sunnies I had been lusting after, also came the Christmas gift of vaca back in Greece this coming summer.  Although it’s hot and the sun shines year round in south Florida, it’s a different kind of heat.  There’s no humidity; it’s dry as a bone.  In all the years we’ve been traveling to Greece we’ve experienced rain TWICE.  That’s it.  Two times.  I’ve never been in the winter but the photos I’ve seen are gorgeous.  We typically travel to the Northern Aegean where they have seasons including autumn and winter.  It snows often, not huge amounts, just enough to be pretty.  And fall brings blustery winds that sometimes are downright cold!  Greeks are incredibly social people but the colder weather does at times keep them inside.  But we’ll be back for summer on Lesvos, where the white-hot rays of sunlight can be blinding and the ink-black night skies are covered with thousands of stars that look like tiny, twinkling pin-pricks.  That’s the Greece I love.  From the balcony of the bar at the resort where we stay, which juts out over the twisted, silver trunks of ancient olive trees; or our breezy balcony nestled into the side of a hill, to the waterfront dinners at the harbor of Molyvos, the night skies are a galactic showcase.  Anywhere on this magnificent island is the best place to star gaze.  So, more often than not, it’s Molyvos where we watch the sun set and the stars come out.  Along with all the locals and tourists, albeit not many tourists but there are some, we scan the harbor restaurants for the best seats of the night at the best eating places.  Sturdy, ladder-back chairs with woven rush seating do not beckon as they are not known for comfort.  But that is all you’ll find at the harbor; each leaning against the table on two legs until their patron for the night whips them out, legs clattering against the smooth but uneven cobblestones, and plops down.  All tables are square but can be quickly joined together for larger groups.  Each table is covered with a paper tablecloth, usually white with a large, blue map of the island printed in the middle.  And since the nights are typically windy, the table coverings are held down in one of two ways.  Either a huge, knotted, cloth-covered elastic, (think your hair!), slipped over and under the lip of the table or four steel pins which slide over the table rim, one on each side.  Really, really standard.  Any person reading this who has been to Greece is probably shaking their head, chuckling and thinking, “yup”.  I haven’t been the biggest fan of Greek wine here in the States but in Greece it’s a whole other kettle of grapes.  Wine is produced everywhere and produced well.  Think Plato and Socrates.  And don’t forget Dionysus, god of wine.  I’ve only had excellent cold, crisp whites and big, full-bodied reds and typically these are house wines.  Glasses in hand, we peruse the menus we know by heart.  We pretty much order the same dishes from our own predictable menu.  We begin with maybe a small bowl of local olives in olive oil with fresh oregano strewn on top.  While savoring those we might discuss what time we want to pick up the ferry to the other side of the island for tomorrows adventure.  I always go with early so we have the day ahead of us but that’s just me.  Plus the air is cold and fresh, the morning sunlight is blinding on the water, the salt spray is positively intoxicating.  The captain and I usually kick our shoes off and sometimes he lets me take over.  Scary but true!

And you thought I was telling stories.
And you thought I was telling stories.

Post olives we may order some grilled bread and a little feta.  Dinner we’ll share.  The ever-present and proper Greek salad comes out crisp and oh, so satisfying.  Grilled octopus?  Sounds good.  With lemon and olive oil.  And it comes with french fries which I never order but can’t keep my hands off.  Greek french fries can be exquisitely delectable.  Fried in olive oil from the island to a golden crisp, dusted with fresh rosemary and local sea salt they are a treat.  Jimmy and I don’t really order meat in Greece because the Greek cuisine treats vegetables and fish so well.  The seafood and produce are like nothing we can get in the states.  Typically the owner of the restaurant or taverna will bring out a platter of fresh fruit with the check.  The fruit is their gift for patronizing their establishment.  Gorgeous, hot pink slabs of watermelon are common.  Or you may be surprised with fresh figs.  It’s heaven and I can’t wait!

Grilled bread with olive oil and fresh oregano and warm olives in olive oil round off this presentation. I also offer a small pot of honey for those who'd like more.
Grilled bread with olive oil and fresh oregano and warm olives in olive oil round off this presentation. I also offer a small pot of honey for those who’d like more.

This is a wonderful hors d’oeuvre which can be served alone or on a platter with other indulgences.  And you don’t really need amounts.  Let me walk you through this.  Place your Greek feta, and PLEASE purchase a high quality feta.  None of this store brand in cryovac, okay?  Anyway, put your feta on your tray or platter.  Drizzle it well with your favorite honey.  Throw a pinch of red pepper flakes on the cheese and follow with a heavy dusting, or to your taste, of freshly cracked black pepper.  Present and enjoy with pride!

Smoky Chipotle Dip, the best last minute party dip


I don’t know about y’all but I can’t count the times I’ve been caught off-guard with last-minute guests especially during the holidays.  I run to the store and pick up frozen sweet potato wedges and already cooked jumbo shrimp.  Chances are I’ll throw a couple of pints of grape tomatoes in my basket.  And another box of crisp bread sticks…can’t have too many of those.  I’ll head to the taco aisle and grab a small can of Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.   Back home I’ll throw the sweet potatoes in the oven and head to the bathrooms with tubs of Lysol wipes in my hands.  Two or three quick swipes, fresh towels, a new candle and I’m done there.  I turn down the lights in the house and turn on my current favorite battery operated candles, the nice ones…the ones made of wax.  I put them all over.  With the lights low and candles lit no one will see any dust or gently rolling dog hair balls.  I grab an empty laundry basket and run through the house filling it with everything in sight that’s supposed to be put away; stacks of papers, mail, recipes, the little box of washers I haven’t returned to Home Depot yet, stacks of books, an errant running bra, anything that falls in the clutter category and then I tuck that mountainous basket in the bedroom closet.  I clean myself up as best I can then head to the kitchen to prepare the most simple dip on the planet.  Spicy, smoky and creamy, Chipotle Dip is my bestie.  Two ingredients.  That’s all.  Two.  Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and mayonnaise.  It’s fantastic!  I drop one cup of mayo in the blender or mini-chopper and, depending on my guests tastes, one or two peppers with a tablespoon of the adobo sauce from the can.  That’s it.  The sauce from the chipotle tin adds such flavor because of the roasted tomatoes, onions and spices.  So blend until smooth and taste it for heat.  Add more peppers if you really want to see stars.  I have a hard time staying away from it.  James and Jimmy are crazy about it.  I put the dip in a pretty bowl, lay out a tray with all my vegetables and shrimp in bowls or glasses that show them off and I’m ready for guests.  Done.  Boom.  You’re welcome.


Smoky Chipotle Dip

  • Servings: one cup
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 cup of mayonnaise, reduced fat or light is fine
  • 1 or 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce plus 1 tablespoon sauce.  I buy the small 7-ounce cans and freeze the peppers and sauce I don’t use.
  1. Place 1 cup of mayonnaise in a blender or mini-chopper.
  2. Add 1 chipotle pepper and 1 tablespoon of adobo sauce.
  3. Blend until smooth.  Taste for heat and if you prefer hotter and one more pepper.  Blend, taste and adjust.
  4. Serve at room temperature with roasted sweet potato wedges, cold poached shrimp, grape tomatoes, crudite and bread sticks.