Tag Archives: agave nectar

Happy [Vegan] Thanksgiving

The past two Thanksgivings for Ms. S&C have been meat free. This means no turkey, no Virginia ham, and when she’s visiting family in Southwestern Va., it also means no gravy and no stuffing. Some of you may be thinking “What’s left to eat?” Trust me, you can have a rich and hearty vegetarian (or vegan) Thanksgiving dinner that’s reminiscent of the one you know and love. (And it may be one you feel better about eating.)

Start off with a cocktail we’re calling the Old Fashioned Pilgrim. Adapted from Imbibe Magazine‘s Maple-Cranberry Bourbon Smashed, we used the same ingredients as those in our cranberry sauce (yes, the same sauce that’s served alongside the tofurkey).

The instructions are easy: add a tablespoon of the cranberry sauce to two and a half ounces of bourbon (we used Buffalo Trace). Stir well. Fill glass with ice and garnish with an orange twist. Enjoy a sweet and warming seasonal variation of a classic drink.

cranberryorangesauce

oldfashionedpilgrim

The Old Fashioned Pilgrim is a lot like the classic Old Fashioned but made with fresh cranberries, orange, agave nectar, and cinnamon

Enjoy this beverage while you’re putting the finishing touches on this delicious all vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner.

  • Herbed Tofurkey (we used the Quorn Turk’y and roasted with fresh parsley, rosemary, and thyme)
  • Bourbon Mashed Sweet Potatoes (we mostly followed this recipe but eliminated the cream, almost all of the butter — used vegan butter actually — and the brown sugar)
  • Chorizo-style Protein & Apple Stuffing (we used Field Roast protein sausage in this stuffing recipe and subbed veggie broth and beer for the chicken stuff)
  • Roasted Cauliflower (there’s nothing to it: roast cauliflower with salt, pepper, and olive oil)
  • Cranberry Orange Sauce (we fixed this version with agave nectar so it could be used in cocktail as well)

veganthanksgiving

If you’re not used to eating a protein other than turkey and sausage, the taste will surely be different (and the tofurkey on its own could have used a little gravy), but the spicy stuffing and tart citrusy cranberry sauce are more than enough to give this all veggie dinner a lot of flavor.

Variations on a Fruity Theme

One of last year’s fave cocktail concoctions was most certainly this Fruity Bourbon Fizz, which combined tart cherry juice, bourbon, lemonade and sparkling wine with delightful results. For a recent mother’s day celebration, I was eager to put the cherry juice to good use again.

The R.W. Knudsen brand makes a delightfully tart, organic black cherry juice that has become more widely available in grocery stores as of late. The flavor is quite potent and a little certainly goes a long way – making it a great mixer for a crowd.

Since I already had tequila on hand, I decided to meld the liquor with the juice in a vibrant Cherry Margarita. Given the pow packed by the cherry punch, I like to give my guests a fair warning and introduce this as a Tart Cherry Margarita, so they’re fully prepared for the pucker that inevitably follows the first sip. Feel free to mellow out the tartness level with some extra agave syrup for sweetness – but personally, I find the bite refreshing!

A pitcher full of cherry tequila goodness.

Cherry Margarita
Serves 6.

  • 10 ounces tequila blanco
  • 6 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 4 ounces tart bottled cherry juice
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • Fresh cherries (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and stir well. Serve in chilled glasses over ice, with optional fresh cherries as a festive garnish.

Posted by Miss Mojito.

Healthy Sips

These next few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be taxing on a girl’s schedule, emotions and waistline. While I’m coming up empty on helpful advice for the former two, I’ve spent a bit of time brainstorming on solutions to the latter: How can we translate healthy eating principles to the cocktail world?

The most obvious change to make is the least fun: fewer drinks! But when it’s time to socialize and cocktails are in order, I need to be prepared.

So what’s the best way to balance (relative) healthiness and flavor in a cocktail? Here are a few tips I’ve discovered – some of them are super obvious, others are a bit more creative, but all will put a healthier spin on your cocktail indulgences.

  • Use good liquor: Using high-quality liquor means you can usually go lighter on the mixer, or just add calorie-free soda water or water to let the flavor shine through. And Sister Mojito is teaching me to like scotch & soda, the perfect waist-friendly winter cocktail.
  • Make friends with citrus: A squeeze of lime or lemon

    Sparkling wine with pomegranate seeds & juice? Yes, please!

    can add tons of flavor while adding far fewer calories than other mixers.

  • Add instead of take away: I like to take advantage of a few mixers that add a healthy boost to my drink. Pomegranate juice for antioxidants, for example, or grapefruit juice for a smidge of vitamin C.
  • When it doubt, make it bubble: A bit of club soda added to white wine can stretch the drink into a refreshing spritzer without adding calories. And some bubbly champagne on its own rings in at a cool 75 calories.
  • Make friends with agave: This sweet nectar is a great alternative to simple syrup, and packs fewer calories.
  • Don’t take things too far: I tried to switch out my standard gin & tonic for a gin & soda. Bad idea.

Just because I’m relying on these simple tips doesn’t mean I’ll turn up my nose at a well-made margarita or mojito! But during the busy holiday season, it’s nice to have a few lighter options up my sleeve.

Miss Mojito wants to know: Do you have any tips for upping the health-factor in your drinks and cocktails? What’s your beverage of choice when you’re trying to be a bit calorie conscious?

Back to School with Top Chef

For all of us Eric Ripert fans out there, the last episode of Top Chef DC was nothing to celebrate. The dreamboat French chef/semi-regular judge did not make a cameo. Still, this week’s show offered a few interesting twists, turns and snippets of drama.

  • It seems that the confidence level for this particular group of chefs is off the charts. I hope they take the advice of guest judge Sam Kass, White House assistant chef, to “leave your egos at the door and just get to work.”
  • Is anyone else already getting a bit tired of Padma’s DC puns? This week’s Quickfire, for example, is the Bipartisandwich. It is a silly name for a silly challenge, which ties two chefs together in one apron and gives them use of one hand each to create an exemplary sandwich. This week we see another win for Angelo who, partnered with Tracy, created a flounder sandwich with an herby salad.
  • The elimination challenge is very au current: create a school lunch with $130 for 50 kids, working in teams of four. The goal here is to bring awareness to the First Lady’s initiative to end childhood obesity in a generation.
  • Fun fact: Tom Collichio comes by his love for food honestly – his mom ran a school lunch program for 20 years!
  • In an episode twist, the losers get called into judges’ table first. I think everyone’s relieved to see that Angelo is on the bottom rung – but given his immunity, he’s safe from elimination. His team gets no love for their lack of veggies, while the other lowest scoring team garners criticism for a blah chicken breast with sherry jus and a sugar-full pudding. But the criticism isn’t coming just from the judges: The teams start slamming each other on the judges’ floor – bad form! Ultimately, Jacqueline – who was in the bottom two last week – loses for her unhealthy and grainy banana pudding with strawberries.
  • Kelly wins for her pork carnitas tacos, made all the healthier by homemade oatmeal tortillas. Her teammates helped her out with a black bean cake with crispy sweet potatoes; roasted corn salad, and caramelized sweet potatoes with chocolate sherbet. The judges loved the colorful plate and the creative use of veggies, not to mention the tasty tacos.

Kelly’s winning dish of Braised Pork Carnitas Tacos
with Pickled Onions & Cilantro

Considering the target audience for this particular challenge, I’m looking toward some alcohol-free options for our Top Chef Drink Pairing. And with this week’s Mexican inspired dish, I think some Agua Fresca is in order. AKA “fresh water” in Spanish, agua fresca is essentially water infused with a smooth fruit puree. Easy, refreshing and perfect for a summer day. Just puree any soft fruit — melon or mango are some good options — and push through a sieve until super-smooth. Mix with water (1.5 cups puree to 3 cups water), some lime juice and a smidge of agave nectar. Yum!

Posted by Miss Mojito.

S&C Dinner Party: Nouveau Southwestern

The S&C family enjoy a good dinner party. We also enjoy cocktail parties,  holiday parties, a supper club, a book club, happy hours — pretty much any occasion when friends gather for a drink.

Sharing our so-called Nouveau Southwestern-style dinner party is actually long overdo. But, having fixed a batch of agave nectar margaritas over the weekend, Ms. S&C resurrected the blog post.

The Occasion: At last year’s Super Bowl party, friends LC (also known as Sister Mojito) & CA were the recipients of a door prize — Dinner with the S&C’s. Funny enough, this lucky couple also won the prize the year before.

The Menu: Typically, there is one ingredient or item that Ms. S&C likes to build a menu around. For this meal, pork belly was the inspiration. We called it nouveau because we used pork belly, agave, and because it sounds fancy. Southwestern because of accompanying ingredients of roasted corn, black beans and poblanos.

  • First course: Bacon wrapped shrimp with crispy basil
    Wrap bacon around shrimp, drop in a deep-fryer. Fry whole pieces of basil for a few seconds. Serve all on a plate garnished lightly with Sriracha hot chili sauce.
  • Second course: Southwestern-inspired chopped salad
    Prepare a salad of mixed greens, roasted corn, black beans, tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno. Serve with a simple vinaigrette.
  • Main course: Pork belly, stuffed poblanos, refried black beans
    Pork belly cooked for hours, poblanos stuffed with all kinds of good southwestern ingredients, served atop refried beans.
  • Dessert course: Fried ice cream
    Cinnamon ice cream served alongside cinnamon and sugar-dusted deep-fried tortillas.

The Drink: Eager to get a handle on a much-talked about ingredient, agave nectar, Ms. S&C decided margaritas would be the featured cocktail.

margarita

Similar to honey, agave nectar is becoming the preferred sweetener of the health conscious and natural food cooks. Extracted from the blue agave plant, the nectar has a lower glycemic index than sugar but still the same sweetness. Glycemic index relates to that “sugar rush” you hear about, and foods with a high glycemic index raises blood sugar quickly. And why do you need to know this? Well, you may not, but Ms. S&C has loved ones with diabetes, so she tries to pay attention to these things. More on the health benefits of agave nectar.

Agave Nectar Margaritas

Margaritas are one of Ms. S&C’s favorite drinks. Both tart and sweet, they are super easy to make, require only a few ingredients, and the proportions are easy to remember. Because Ms. S&C has tried a few variations using agave nectar, she strongly recommends the following: 1. use tequila blanco (the white, silver, unaged tequila), 2. do not use salt in this version, 3. as always, use only fresh juice.

Ingredients (serves one):

  • 1 and 1/2 oz tequila blanco
  • 1 oz lime juice (approximately the juice of one lime)
  • 1/2 oz agave nectar
  • 1/2 oz water
  • crushed ice
  • lime wedge

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Pour into a glass filled with ice (crushed ice works best). Garnish with lime wedge.

posted by Ms. S&C

The brothers Voltaggio

The second episode of Top Chef was typical Vegas – dice rolling, shots, bachelor and bachelorette parties. They even threw in a battle of the sexes. Though the episode focused on men vs. women, it looks like the season is shaping up to be Voltaggio vs. Voltaggio.

TC-ep2Todd English appears the second episode of Top Chef as a guest judge

The show started with the Quickfire Challenge, where the cheftestants rolled the dice and had to create a dish with the same number of ingredients (as shown on the dice). Michael V won with a nitro [liquid nitrogen] gazpacho, compressed cucumbers and toast point.

Both Voltaggio bros end up preparing the top two dishes of the Elimination Challenge. In the Elimination Challenge, it was men vs. women, and the chefs created dishes for a joint bachelor/bachelorette party, with the food complementing one of three shots: the Moscow Mule, tequila, and something called the Golden Delicious (which one chef described as sweet, gooey, and disgusting).

Michael V reworked the ingredients (fresh ingredients, of course) from the Golden Delicious, and made an apple and ginger sorbet with a goat cheese cookie. The judges loved it, but his big bro Bryan V won with his sweet and sour macaroon, filled with guacamole, corn nuts and corn puree, which he paired with tequila. His dish was a modern version of the all-time favorite Mexican appetizer — chips and guacamole.

TC-macBryan Voltaggio’s sweet and sour macaroon, with guacamole
and corn puree, paired with tequila

For the drink pairing, S&C is hot-to-trot over tequila lately. Recent blog posts have highlighted watermelon margaritas and a modified cantarito. We’ve also shared recipes for cranberry margaritas, the pink panther, and a Q-cumber fizz. Using the categories on the right-hand side, you can search for all blog posts featuring tequila.

Because Ms. S&C recently drank a great Paloma at Bar Pilar in DC, she’ll share a new tequila drink, to go with Bryan’s macaroon (otherwise, she may have picked Miss Mojito’s cantarito). The traditional Paloma drink is made with grapefruit soda (same as the one at Bar Pilar — and similar to the cantarito), but the below recipe uses freshly squeezed white grapefruit juice and club soda, to add fizz. It was featured in a great article on tequila, from the Washington Post’s spirits columnist, which was recapped by S&C last year.

Paloma
serves one

Ingredients: paloma_wapo

  • Ice
  • 2 ounces blanco or silver tequila
  • 3 ounces freshly squeezed white grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce agave nectar
  • Sea salt, to rim the glass
  • 1 lime wheel, for garnish
  • Club soda

Directions:

Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full with ice and add the tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice and agave nectar. Shake well and strain into an ice-filled collins glass rimmed with sea salt. Garnish with the lime wheel and top with a splash of club soda.

Recipe Source: The Washington Post, from Apothecary in Philadelphia. Photo: Julia Ewan for The Washington Post.

posted by Ms. S&C

Pink Panther

At a recent dinner party for some girlfriends at my apartment, I was in need of a festive cocktail to provide ultimate refreshment on a hot summer day. For a girly gathering, I decided a girly drink was in order.

I’ve been dying to try the Pink Panther since I read about it in Eric Felten’s column for The Wall Street Journal. In this particular column, Mr. Felten examines the role of women in bar tending history, culminating in a recipe from New York bartender Aisha Sharpe, prepared especially for the James Beard “Women in Food” culinary gala.

The Pink Panther is an intoxicating–and simple–mix of lime juice, grapefruit, agave nectar and tequiPink Pantherla, muddled together with pink peppercorns. The pink peppercorn, which isn’t actually a peppercorn but a berry, lends a hint of sweet and mildly spicy flavor. Truth be told, the end result isn’t all that pink, as you can see from the picture, but it is all that tasty.

You’ll note that this recipe calls for reposado tequila, which got me thinking about the different types of tequila and just what makes one different from the other. Tequilas labeled “silver” or “platinum” are the purest form of the liquor – clear and unaged. Reposado, meanwhile, has been rested and aged. You can also find extra- and ultra-aged versions, but reposado is the first stage of aging. It’s typically a shade of gold, a color imparted from the aging process in oak barrels. The aging takes anywhere from two to 12 months. The reposado flavor tends to be a bit smoother than unaged versions.

But whatever type of tequila you have on hand, this recipe is one to try!

Pink Panther
Courtesy of Aisha Sharpe and Wall Street Journal.
Serves one.

  • 1 ½  oz reposado tequila
  • ¾ oz fresh ruby-red grapefruit juice
  • ½ oz fresh lime juice
  • ¼ oz agave nectar
  • 2 dozen pink peppercorns

Muddle half the peppercorns in a shaker together with the lime juice. Add the other liquids, shake with ice, and strain into a stemmed cocktail glass. Float the other pink peppercorns on the drink for garnish. [Note: Miss Mojito decided to serve her version on the rocks, and without the garnish.]

Posted by Miss Mojito.