Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness

Archive for the tag “Pizza”

31-Recipe Challenge: Day 1 — Kicking it off!

Well, folks, the day has finally arrived–I have officially started  my one-month, 31-recipe challenge! Since I’ve been sick for the past week (battling an ear and throat infection punctuated with cold-like symptoms, yay winter), I started off slow, but delicious. My first recipe I tackled for this challenge–sausage and pepper pizza!

Sausage pizza 1

Now, I’m from New Jersey, where sausage and peppers can be found in every corner pizza joint (and you can bet they’ll be good, too!) They’re not usually my first choice, but let me tell you, this pizza rocks. I’m rethinking sausage and peppers now.

One great thing I learned from this recipe: making pizza dough from  scratch is super-easy. Like, crazy, crazy easy. Literally takes five, maybe 10 minutes, not counting the time for it to rise.  I don’t think I’ll be buying pre-made pizza dough anymore, it’s just not worth it.

Let’s take a minute here and let this sink in: I. made. homemade. dough. And it didn’t suck.  The non-baker inside me is freaking out and doing a happy dance! (And possibly a literal happy dance occurred at the time, as well. Not ashamed.)

The pizza got the stamp of approval from my toughest critic, the sausage pizza aficionado, if you will. (AKA…Kevin loved it!)

I *very, very* slightly modified this recipe from Joy the Baker for the pizza.  The main modification I made was using all-purpose flour in place of bread flour in the dough recipe, because, well, I’m not likely to use much bread flour again, so having five pounds of it seemed excessive. Frankly, though, the AP flour worked fine. I also used mild Italian sausage (patties, not links, since there was no casing) instead of spicy, because I have a low heat tolerance and actually wanted to be able to eat my pizza. As it was, I was reaching for the water anytime I took a bit with a little too much red pepper flake on it. (And there wasn’t much.)

Sausage pizza 2

I totally plan on making this one again, and keeping homemade pizza dough on hand in my freezer. It was so quick to make, even on a rushed post-work Friday evening, yet WAY beats any fast-food and even beats great pizza shop sausage pizza. Possibly because even the best Jersey pizza joints don’t usually put fresh bell peppers and arugula on their pizza.

Consensus: Day 1 a success.  The fun continues today with sweet potato tacos with avocado and apple, pomegranate and kale salad. And I’m getting really crazy tomorrow, combining the recipe challenge with a Super Bowl party! Yes, I may have the best-fed Super Bowl guests this side of Baltimore (see what I did there?).

See you soon for Day 2!

WIAW: Meatless Tuesday

First off, thanks to Jen from Peas and Crayons for hosting, as always!

I know it’s usually “Meatless Mondays,” but without even trying, yesterday became a “Meatless Tuesday” for me. (“Meatless Monday” didn’t really work out, though.)

My day was also book-ended by Bolthouse Farms shakes–just a weird coincidence. I’m a huge fan of the Bolthouse line–their juice smoothies are almost exactly like Naked juice, but even better and much cheaper! And they have so much variety, it’s impossible to get stagnant. They also have a line of protein shakes, and I almost always keep at least one big bottle in my fridge for those on-the-go days when I don’t always have time to stop and eat. My current resident is the chocolate Protein Plus shake. It has even more protein than the regular protein shakes–64 grams per 32-ounce bottle.  For those who are not mathematically inclined (like me), that’s 16 grams per 8-ounce serving! That’s a pretty killer protein dose. And the best part is, it tastes like Yoohoo and isn’t gritty, like some protein shakes.

It starts off my day well every now and then, and Tuesday was one of those days.

If the photo looks like it was taken in a rush in my car on the drive to work, that’s because it was.

Once I was settled in at work and an hour or two went by, I grabbed my “second breakfast,” which I was actually very excited about–a Fruit & Nuts with Yogurt KIND bar.  I love KIND bars, but they’re usually fairly expensive in the stores by me, so I don’t but them very often. My mom stocks up when they’re on sale, but since she’s strictly gluten-free, I tend to keep my hands off her food, since I can eat anything and she has limited options.  But she was out of town and it was calling to me, so I snagged it. I think it was the thrill of the chase that made my KIND bar even more appealing!

I was (inexplicably) so excited by my late-night find that I had to snap a photo of my KIND-y victory in the moment. Only I would get this excited over a fruit and nut bar.

Lunch, unfortunately does not come with pictures but DOES come with an interesting story! The Twisted Tree Cafe is a vegetarian-vegan eatery right down the street from my office (like, two doors down), and, naturally, I’m there often, as are my coworkers. Well, the Twisted Tree was being featured on a new food show with Nathan Lyon about all sorts of healthy restaurants around the country. But, they were filming on a Tuesday, when the Twisted Tree is usually closed, so they invited a bunch of their regulars (us included) to come in for lunch that day. So, I got a free lunch (yay!) but unfortunately, no pictures. There was just way too much going on.

My lunch wasn’t huge, but it was filling and tasty (as always). I had a PB&J smoothie with bananas, strawberries, peanuts, oats and hazelnut milk. I don’t really care for hazelnuts, but the flavor doesn’t come through at all; it really just tastes like peanut butter and jelly. I paired that with one of their specials that I love–Quinoa Salad. It’s quinoa mixed with black beans, green bell peppers, cilantro and sweet white onions. We all know my feelings on raw onion, and yet I love this salad anyway–very crisp and refreshing, and so filling from the quinoa! (For those who don’t know, I don’t like raw onion, particularly the aftertaste. Scott Conant and I would make good dining buddies [reference for all the “Chopped” fans out there.]).

That being said, I’m going to be on television sometime this summer, as I was interviewed during the spot. I also sounded like someone significantly less intelligent since my whole knowledge of the menu–and vocabulary–seemed to fly out the window as soon as the camera was on. Let’s just hope good editing doesn’t make me look like a total spaz. But Nathan was really cool and it was fun to see how much staging and pre-production really goes into these shows.

I’ll make it up to you, though–I’ll post a picture of today’s lunch from Twisted Tree. (Yup, only my second week of WIAW and I’m already breaking the rules. I am such a rebel.)

Today was a Lentil-Grain burger with sundried tomato spread and a side salad. It was my first time trying this one and it’s so. good. Not that I had doubts.

Anyway, moving along. Anyone who follows me on Twitter or Facebook knows Kevin made some very impressive orange-cranberry scones over the weekend (from scratch!) I brought the leftovers into work and they’ve been sitting in the office getting eaten ever since. And they made a lovely dessert yesterday. I promised I’d get you the recipe, and I will, once I sit down with him and get it.

After work I had to go to the eye doctor (no biggie, just getting my prescription checked out, as usual.) There’s this really great bagel place in the same strip mall as the office, and I was really looking forward to getting a bagel with walnut-raisin cream cheese before my appointment. This place makes the cream cheese with actual big chunks of walnut–it’s awesome! Unfortunately, when I got there at 5:30 I found out they close in the afternoons…sad. I was still pretty hungry, though, as it was about dinnertime, so I popped into the pizza place next door and had the strangest piece of Margherita pizza I’ve ever seen and a much-needed glass of water:

The slices were square, like a Sicilian pizza, but with a regular thin crust. And the cheese was just one big slice of mozzarella on top. I loved the amount of cheese, but the basil was a little lacking. But I was hungry, and this was fast, so it sufficed.

That actually tided me over for most of the evening, til I was craving a snack around 9. I couldn’t quite settle on one thing, so I ended up popping a couple of chocolate macaroons in my mouth followed by a bag of Popchips. Conventional? No, but it worked. I washed it all down with another Bolthouse Farms drink, though this one’s more of a juice. It’s part of their 50/50 line, which is half fruit juice and half vegetable juice. This one mixed berry juice with purple carrot juice. I bought it on a whim, but the berry flavor’s a little too intense and too sweet, so I cut it with a lot of seltzer. About one part juice to three parts seltzer. I know I’m not getting nearly as much nutrition that way, but it’s much more palatable. It has four servings of fruit and four servings of vegetables per 32-ounce bottle, though.

So, as you can see, it was a very Bolthouse-y and very veggie day for me! Also, VERY proud of myself for actually remembering to do this two weeks in a row!

Sometimes life gets in the way

Whoa. I’ll be honest, I knew it had been a while since I’d posted something, I did. but I didn’t realize it had been quite this long–two and a half weeks is quite a gap.

I’d like to explain. You see, I’m coming to the end of what may be the busiest month of my life. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m involved in theater and am currently in production for a cabaret-style show going up TOMORROW NIGHT! (Yikes!) Needless to say, that has encompassed an exorbitant amount of my time lately. One of my best friends from college also got married last weekend, and so wedding preparations and travel also added to my load. The last few weeks have been meticulously organized, with every minute of my days after I leave the office planned out.

Unfortunately, this kind of overload does not leave much time for culinary explorations, or even food shopping for that manner. So, I have been largely subsiding on frozen meals, take out and the occasional vegetarian treat from the cafe down the street from my office. The quantity, overall, as well, has often been minimal.

This feels like a dirty, dark confession from a self-proclaimed foodie and food blogger, but nonetheless, it is life. Sometimes we’ve all been just too swamped to sit down and prepare a delicious healthy meal or savor a wonderfully prepared dinner from our favorite restaurant.

I’ve been trying to get better about making something out of nothing–that is, looking in the fridge and pantry and trying to assemble a meal from what’s there, but it’s been pretty scant–perhaps I just lack the creativity and inspiration to create a fantastic meal out of deli ham, greek yogurt and plums. (Seriously, though, if anyone has suggestions I’d love to hear them! Let’s get creative, folks!)

Now that the weather’s warming up (though that’s a relative statement–it’s been an unseasonably warm winter) I’m getting inspired to expand my culinary repertoire.  I don’t know the first thing about gardening, but I want to grow fresh herbs. And I want to have picnics by the water. And I really can’t wait to bust out the grill again.

But right now I’m just trying to get through opening and closing night, so if that means subsiding on pizza, Kind bars and alcohol for the rest of the weekend, so be it. We all deserve it sometimes, after all.

But this situation has inspired me–what is your biggest gastronomical “sin?” I’ve actually had a double-whammy this month (whoa baby, I’m gonna be in trouble for this one):

  • First, the wedding prep. I borrowed a gorgeous dress from my younger sister for my friend’s wedding. But my sister is skinnier and narrower than me, so the dress just fit. Therefore, I was determined to drop a couple of pounds by the wedding so I could actually have some wiggle room in the dress. (Because, come on, I wanted to EAT! Is there any doubt about that one?) So the last two weeks were focused on a high-water, low-sodium diet culminating in a week where I ate a LOT of celery, yogurt and peanut butter and drank a ton of peppermint tea. Result? The dress fit with room to spare and I admittedly (and probably expectedly) gorged myself at the wedding. (Cocktail hour was mostly great with a few misses, same with the Viennese dessert table. The actual dinner? Barely touched it, didn’t even need it.) Fun note: By the end of the night, I indirectly got the entire bridal party drinking French martinis–and I wasn’t even in the bridal party! Such a trendsetter I am.
  • The second one’s no secret–the aftermath of the wedding diet resulted in me laxing up even a little more than usual on what I eat. I tend to try to stay pretty healthy with obvious and acceptable exceptions here and there. This week wasn’t awful, but more exceptions than I usually make. Plus, living off of frozen and drive-through food isn’t the healthiest, no matter which way you slice it (and definitely the antithesis to my low-sodium kick of the past weeks.)

However, we all do it, and we all recover. When life gives you lemons, sometimes you have no choice but to make really sweet, terrible-for-you lemonade. And you know what? You enjoy it.

**So tell me–what’s your biggest gastronomic offense? Trust me, I’m in no position to judge!**

Porta Patens Esto. Nulli Claudatur Honesto. “Be the door always open. Be it not closed to any honest person.”

First off, I’d like to apologize for the lag in posting. The last couple of weeks have been utterly crazy for me; I started up working full-time again, but didn’t quit my old job, plus I’m in the rehearsal process for a show that opens in three weeks. So I’m working 6-7 days a week and going to rehearsal, which unfortunately leaves little time to cook or enjoy a nice meal out.

But Monday I had a half day at work, so Kevin and I took the opportunity–and free time–to go out for a nice, sit-down meal. He and I have this little thing we do where we try to go to a new restaurant every month. Monday was our February opportunity though, admittedly, we cheated on this one a bit. We chose to go to Porta in Asbury Park, N.J. It was brand new to him, but I had been there. Just once. And not for dinner. I just went there after work late one night with a friend and we split a pizza and a carafe of their house red wine (more on that later.) So really, I hadn’t experienced Porta to its fullest, so it was still fair.


Porta is a pizzeria by name, but it is so much more than that once you step inside its wide white doors. The building looks like a converted garage, complete with three large bay doors on one end that open up to their patio and outdoor bar (dubbed “Porta National Park”) in the warmer seasons. Inside, Porta is arranged family-style, with large picnic-style tables rather than traditional individual seats. The back wall is lined with antiqued wooden doors, and in clear view sit their wood-fired pizza ovens, imported from Italy, with the open prep and cooking space. Porta also has a large bar, complete with a great wine list and varied beer options. (“Porta” is Italian for “door,” hence the door theme.)

By night, Porta becomes a bar and nightclub complete with a DJ, live music and dancing. But by day (well, Monday evening), it had a unique, modern-classic feel, pumping standards through the sound system rather than Top 40 dance beats. It mixed sophistication with a backyard feel.

But enough of that. Really, this is about the food. And the food is no less unique than the space itself. While the menu is small by normal standards, its anything but boring. Mostly appetizers and pizza with a few pasta options, Porta keeps it simple while keeping it special.

For appetizers, we ordered two salads to share: The Winter Caprazy and the Cavolo Nero. The Winter Caprazy is exactly what it sounds like: a seasonal take on the classic Caprese salad. This one included slow roasted tomatoes, black garlic and fresh oregano.

Full disclosure: I’ve never had black garlic or fresh oregano (only dried.) I’ve been missing out. Black garlic, while it looks a bit scary, is a sweeter, richer cousin to what we know. And fresh oregano blows the dried stuff out of the water. Upon eating it, I got that distinctive bite and slight hit to the sinuses that confirmed I was indeed eating oregano, but the flavor was so much milder and fresher than its spice rack counterpart. Where has this been all my life? Needless to say, everything worked together pretty well, with the roasted tomatoes imparting a sweeter, heartier flavor than the raw version. I don’t love roasted tomatoes, but this definitely made a pretty good winter version of one of my favorite classic Italian salads.

However, I don’t think the Winter Caprazy can hold a candle in creativity next to the Cavolo Nero. Tuscan kale, shaved sunchoke and watermelon radish with garlic crostini and parmigiano reggiano in a lemon-garlic dressing. This was my first introduction to kale, and what a way to start! This definitely makes me want to eat kale more often. My only complaint about this salad would be that the toppings (sunchoke, watermelon radish, garlic croutons) were a bit too scarce. As good as the kale was, it was a bit boring without the accouterments and we left some on the plate once we finished everything else. But it was delicious. I love radishes, so this was a treat to me, especially with how beautiful shaved watermelon radishes are.

Sliced watermelon radish. Photo via SmartSeeds

I need to find some watermelon radishes and use them in everything I make. Everything. They taste great, and they’re gorgeous! (New goal.)

Moving on…

Kevin, being the pizza-lover that he is, obviously could not resist the major part of Porta’s menu: the pizza. He ordered an Italian Stallion with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, Gorgonzola, sweet Italian sausage and long hots. (I could insert a joke here about him being an Italian stallion, but I’ll pass for his sake.)

As much as he loves pizza, Kevin hates blue cheese, but he bit the bullet and tried it on this pizza. And he didn’t hate it. Overall, he thought the pizza tasted great, but the generous drizzle of olive oil (and probably the grease from the sausage) made it a little soggy for his liking. He boxed half up to take home and said he’ll try to crisp it up in the oven before eating the leftovers.

I was in a pasta kind of mood that night, so I went ahead and ordered off their small, but not limited pasta menu. I went a little off the beaten path with a wild boar ragu with rosemary papardelle, rosemary, sage, red wine and parmigiano reggiano. If you hadn’t told me this was wild boar, I wouldn’t have known. But I’m so glad I tried it. It’s, unsurprisingly, very similar to pork, but a bit heartier and beefier. Sort of like a delicious pork-beef hybrid all stewed up and served over pasta.

Oh right, the pasta. Between the rosemary papardelle and the rosemary in the sauce, I expected a double whammy of in-your-face rosemary. But instead, it was subtle and underlying and I had to really look for it at times. Still, I ate almost the whole thing. Hearty, warm and inviting. It almost made me forget it was nearly 60 degrees that afternoon.

Pizza; Photo via http://www.pizzaporta.com/

Not the Italian Stallion, but another one of Porta'a pizzas. Photo courtesy of Porta Pizza.

And of course, what better to complement a great meal than some house red wine? Porta has a nice Italian wine list, but the standout is their house-made red and white wines, which can be ordered by the glass or the carafe. I’ve been here twice and only ever had one wine–the house red, a Cabernet. I thought about switching it up at dinner, but I figured, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Next time I’ll have to try their house white and eventually branch out to their other wine selections.

Kevin went a more traditionally American route–pizza and beer. Porta seems like the kind of place that would have tons of local and craft beers on hand, but most of their beer list is surprisingly generic. They have a few crafts, including three varieties of Six Point. Kevin had the “Bengali Tiger,” which he said was very pine-y with a citrus finish. He equated it to Pine Sol at one point, which I assumed was a bad thing, but he seemed to enjoy it. I picked up on the pineyness but not as much on the citrus. However, the back of the can did quote William Blake’s “The Tyger.” (Plus one for Six Point.)

Porta’s minimalistic atmosphere and inspired take on locally-sourced ingredients may be far too hip and trendy for some, but I actually found it a relaxing and enjoyable Monday evening. Is Porta a bit hipster? Yes. Are the food, drinks and service worth it despite that? Absolutely. It’s nestled on an obscure little corner of Asbury Park, right between the bustling downtown and the boardwalk and offers a casual retreat that’s still leaps beyond traditional pizzeria fare. So, if you’re looking for an original, quality meal in a quaint, casual environment, head for Porta.

Porta also runs several specials throughout the week, like gluten-free pizza every Tuesday and a 4-course family dinner every Sunday night. They weekend brunch every Saturday and Sunday and, of course, the club/bar scene at night.

I’ll have to check out the nightlife sometime and see if it lives up to the weekday fare. Come summertime I’ll have to give this another go too, of course.

Semi-homemade Superbowl

I know this is a few days late (the Superbowl was Sunday, after all), but I had to come right off the fun and pull a double, so here it is now.

This past Sunday, I threw a small Superbowl party for a few of my friends and family. It was a lot of fun, but to spare my sanity I took a semi-homemade approach to the party.Cover of "Bobby Flay's Grill It!"

To start, the menu:

Chipotle-honey glazed chicken wings (courtesy of Bobby Flay’s Grill It!. Recipe to follow.)
Plain baked chicken wings with three sauces: barbecue, sweet Thai chile, chipotle-honey
Homemade pizza
Giants blue margaritas
Snacks and appetizers: veggies and dip; chips, pretzels, salsa; mixed cookies

The first “homemade” part of the night was the chipotle chicken wings. It’s a recipe from Bobby Flay’s Grill It! cookbook that I’ve made before and really, really enjoyed. The original recipe calls for grilled wings, but since it’s February in New Jersey, I baked the wings instead. They were still delicious.

For anyone that doesn’t know, a chipotle pepper is a smoked jalapeño. It’s a bit spicy and quite smoky. You can find them canned in the grocery store in adobo sauce. The recipe calls for pureed chipotles–I used my bullet blender to puree them quickly and with minimal mess. It took about 30 seconds. It also calls for ancho chile powder. An ancho chile is a dried poblano and also takes on a bit of a smoky quality, but it, too is on the milder side of the chile spectrum.

Image courtesy of Clarkson/Potter Publishers and Bobby Flay's "Grill It!"

Courtesy of Clarkson/Potter Publishers and Bobby Flay's "Grill It!"

The recipe also includes a step for trimming and dividing the wings, but I didn’t need to take that step. I used a combination of frozen wings and packaged fresh, divided wings. Both were from Perdue and had no added hormones or chemicals, and both saved me a lot of time!

Chipotle-honey glazed chicken wings with toasted sesame seeds and green onion

1 cup honey
3 tablespoons pureed canned chipotle chiles in adobo
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons ancho chile powder
Salt and pepper, for seasoning
4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (The recipe called for canola, I used vegetable because I had it on hand)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons Spanish paprika
3 pounds chicken wings
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted (see below)*
Green onions, thinly sliced

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Whisk together the honey, chipotle puree, mustard, 1 tablespoon of the ancho chile powder, 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a small bowl. Divide the glaze evenly between two bowls–a small one for brushing the glaze and a large one for tossing the wings later.
3. Stir together the remaining 3 tablespoons of ancho chile powder with the coriander, cumin and paprika in a small bowl.
4. Rinse the chicken wings under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut the tips off the wings if necessary and discard (or freeze and use for chicken stock.) Cut each wing into two pieces through the joint, if necessary.
5. Place wings in a large bowl, add the spice rub and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and place wings on a baking sheet in an even layer. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-11 minutes until golden brown. Turn wings over and brush with the small bowl of glaze. Place wings back in oven for 15-20 minutes, brushing with the glaze every few minutes and turning once during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
6. Remove wings from the oven, toss with the remaining glaze and place back on the baking sheet. Turn the oven to broil and broil the wings until glaze caramelizes and the skin is crispy.
7. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions.

*To toast sesame seeds: put a single layer of seeds in a frying or saute pan and toast over medium-low heat, shaking the pan every couple of minutes to prevent burning, until lightly golden brown and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool completely.

Make ahead: Follow the recipe up through Step 5, then put wings aside or refrigerate. Before serving, reheat wings in the oven at 375 degrees, then broil.

These wings were a hit and cleared off the plate completely. But, I have friends who are somewhat picky eaters, so to accommodate everyone’s taste, I also made plain baked wings (just salt and pepper) with three dipping sauces. I bought bottled barbecue sauce (Jack Daniel’s Master Blend). I put out the remainder of the chipotle-honey sauce, and I whipped together a Thai chile sauce. I used the leftover sweet chile sauce from the last post’s Thai lettuce wraps and added some store-bought sweet chile sauce to fortify it and make it a bit thicker. (Mine was more like a vinaigrette; the added bottled sauce was thicker and more gelatinous, so together they made a good dipping sauce.)

My boyfriend Kevin also made his “famous” pizza, which is a semi-homemade masterpiece. It uses store-bought or pizza shop dough (you can walk into pretty much any pizzeria and ask for their dough. They’ll usually sell it to you for just a few dollars, and if you know it’s a good pizza place, you know you’re getting good dough.), jarred tomato sauce and a store-bought shredded mozzarella mix. Of course, you could certainly make the dough and sauce from scratch and shred your own cheese, but this way is quick and still yummy.

Kevin’s “famous” semi-homemade pizza

1 package store-bought pizza dough or pizzeria dough (I like the stuff in the refrigerated section that comes in the bag, not the frozen or canned ones)
1 jar tomato sauce (this time, we used Ragu 7-herb tomato sauce–the more flavor, the better)
1-2 packages pizza cheese blend (I prefer 4 or more–this one had mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan and Romano)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pat out pizza dough as per instructions on the package and stretch onto a baking sheet. Bake for 2 minutes to par-bake the crust. Remove from oven, spread with sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Add any spice you desire (oregano, garlic, basil, rosemary, Italian spice blend, etc.) Add any toppings you would like, as well (pepperoni, mushrooms, sausage, peppers, the list goes on.) Bake pizza at 375 degrees for 12 to 18 minutes or until you start to smell the spices. Remove from oven and let cool at least five minutes before cutting into slices.

In addition to some store-bought snacks and desserts and plenty of beer, I made one signature cocktail for the game–Giants blue margaritas. (I’m from New Jersey; it’s no secret who we were rooting for.) The blue color can be off-putting, but this recipe uses no food coloring, just orange-flavored blue liquor in place of the usual orange-flavored triple sec, so the taste is very similar. When I usually make margaritas I use pineapple juice as a sweetener, but the yellow juice would have turned the color green, so I had to come up with a clear alternative in the form of lemon-lime soda. It also added a bit of fun effervescence.

Giants blue margaritas

2 parts gold tequila (Jose Cuervo is my go-to)
1 part Blue Curacao
1 part fresh lime juice
1 part lemon-lime soda
1/2 part Rose’s lime juice
Agave syrup to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher or shake together in a glass and add agave syrup to sweeten to taste. For a large group, my one part was 1 cup. For individual margaritas, one part can equal one or two ounces. In that case, the recipe would call for 2 ounces of tequila, 1 ounce of Blue Curacao, 1 ounce of fresh lime juice, 1 ounce of lemon-lime soda, 1/2 an ounce of Rose’s lime juice and agave to taste.

If you want to make the same margarita but you don’t want it to be blue, simply substitute triple sec for the Blue Curacao.

This was adapted from my usual margarita recipe, which are pineapple-cilantro margaritas, inspired by the flavor profile of pineapple salsa:

Pineapple-cilantro margaritas

2 parts gold tequila
1 part triple sec
1 part fresh lime juice
1 part pineapple juice
Agave syrup to taste
Fresh cilantro

Muddle some fresh cilantro at the bottom of a glass. Mix all other ingredients together in a pitcher or in the glass and pour over the cilantro. (Note: do not add the cilantro directly to the pitcher; add cilantro to each glass individually. As the margaritas sit, the cilantro flavor intensifies, so if you leave the fresh cilantro in the pitcher, it will eventually become over-infused with the cilantro flavor.)

Like I said, this was inspired by the flavor profile of cilantro salsa. I’m not a fan of spicy drinks, though, so I do not add any jalapeños to my margaritas. If you like the heat, though, you can definitely shake a few jalapeño slices into the cocktail for the full pineapple salsa effect.

If you like salt with your margarita, salt glasses as follows: on a small plate or saucer, pour a bit of Rose’s or fresh lime juice, enough to just cover the bottom of the plate. You can also run a small slice of fresh lime along the rim to dampen it. Cover the bottom of another small plate with Kosher salt. Dip the rim of the glass in the lime juice, then in the salt to cover the rim. Pour in your margarita and enjoy!

All in all, the semi-homemade approach to the Superbowl was a success both with my guests and with me. By the time everyone arrived, we had delicious food for them and I was able to fully enjoy myself since everything was done. Made from scratch can be great, but when it comes to entertaining, sometimes it’s more important to have the time to enjoy yourself. The best part is, these recipes are great any day of the week, not just for the Superbowl. Enjoy! (And by the way, congratulations New York Giants!)

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