Apple Pie Martini

I am calling this a martini, but I don’t have any martini glasses so the next best thing was a mini mason jar. Kind of fitting for an apple pie martini though!

This drink was created when my roommate and I decided to have a modernized thanksgiving dinner and also wanted an ode to college. There were many a-night spent enjoying apple pie shooters. The traditional college way of enjoying an apple pie shooter is to lean your head back and have someone pour a little vodka in your mouth, a little apple juice, and then topping it with whipped cream and cinnamon.You must then lean forward and shake your head about to mix the shot together and by golly it tastes just like pie!

For tonights meal, I have made this drink acceptable for a 24 year old like me. Instead of a shooter and apple juice, it has morphed into a martini with apple cider (a little, tiny bit more mature…maybe).

Ingredients (makes 2 drinks)

  • 3 oz vodka
  • 3 oz apple cider
  • About a ½ cup whipped cream (not cool whip!)
  • A heavy sprinkle of cinnamon


Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Shake and serve in whatever glass you fancy.


Thanksgiving dinner: Modernized

Turkey sliders with gouda and cranberry mayo served with real green bean casserole and chipotle sweet potato fries. My beverage of choice tonight is an apple pie martini (along with the usual wine – tonights wine is Clarksburg Wine Company’s Delta Blanc  – it is alright but not my favorite).

HOLY. SMOKES. This was absolutely fantabulously wonderful. The thyme in the turkey burgers was an ode to the stuffing flavors that are usually present at thanksgiving. The cranberry mayo, caramelized onions, and gouda were the perfect toppers for the burgers – creamy, tangy and sweet all at the same time.

You can really use any kind of bread – I would suggest a dinner role as representative for a Thanksgiving regular: buttered rolls.

I would also like to note that this is the best green bean casserole that I have ever consumed. Making the cream of mushroom soup from scratch really makes a 100% difference in creaminess and overall amazingness. I think it is super important to use haricot verts instead of regular ole green beans because of their thickness and crunchiness. I also added parmesan, because, let’s face it, everything’s better with parmesan…

A few other side notes:

  1. You can freeze green bean casserole. Just make sure to freeze the topping separately.
  2. These sliders would make a wonderful hors d’ouevres.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 pound  ground white meat turkey
  • ½ tsp. each: ground thyme, paprika, and onion powder
  • 1 tsp. each: garlic powder, salt, and pepper
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 large tbsp. plain greek yogart
  • Cranberry Mayo
  • Caramelized onions (use 2 medium yellow onions)
  • 8 Dinner rolls
  • 1 bag Alexia’s chipotle sweet potato fries (or regular if you don’t like a little spice)
  • Real green bean casserole


Preheat oven to 400°. First make the green bean casserole. This can sit while you prepare everything else and be put in the oven during the last 20 minutes.

Mix the hamburger meat: put 1 pound ground turkey and add thyme, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, panko, and  greek yogurt. Mix altogether with your hands. Form into 8 smaller patties and press your thumb into the middle of the burger patty (this helps it not to become a ball when it cooks). Set the burgers on a plate and place in fridge.

Make the cranberry relish and then use that to make the cranberry mayo. Set both in fridge to let the flavors meld together.

All of the above can sit for at least 5 hours until you’re ready to cook everything.

Start baking the sweet potato fries.

Wrap the dinner rolls in tin foil and bake for 15 minutes.

Bake the green bean casserole (it takes about 15 minutes as well).

Drizzle a little olive oil into a cast iron fry pan and when the pan is nice and hot cook the sliders over medium high heat.  (I would not advise grilling these burgers unless you get a ground turkey with a fair amount of fat it in which is hard because turkey is so lean). Sear both sides and then lower the heat and allow to cook for 5 more minutes or so. When you flip the sliders add sliced gouda and melt. Take the sliders off the heat and allow to sit for a few minutes.

Serve the sliders on top of a dinner roll with champagne mustard (or Dijon), the caramelized onions, and a healthy portion of the cranberry mayo. Skewer the sliders with a toothpick (or in my case, a wooden kebob because I ran out of toothpicks) to keep them from falling all over your plate.

Serve the sliders with green bean casserole and sweet potato fries.

Steak Pot Pie with Cabernet Sauvignon, Potatoes, and Mushrooms

Hurricane Sandy is on the rise and it is cold and rainy here. School has been closed for tomorrow, so I am taking this as a “snowday”. My roommate and I figured it is the perfect day to make a fire, carve pumpkins, have mimosas and drink our current favorite red wine (Espuela del Gaucho’s Malbec), which was the perfect accompaniment to the steak pot pie). So, we did just that. It was a wonderful fall day!

We also figured that we should have cold-weather meal, and what better than a steak pot pie filled with mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, Cabernet and Balsamic! I found this recipe on pinterest. Lindsey Weiss created this recipe in honor of her home town or Kansas City, and went on the Today show to make this delicious pot pie! I have changed the recipe slightly to suit my taste.

The first time I made this dish I did not use the right meat (I can’t remember what I used but it was too tough, even though it cooked for 3 hours). My parents brought me tenderloin tips from a local farm in Maryland and I used those this time and the dish turned out to be much more tender and flavorful! You could probably use beef cubes for stew, but I think I will only use tenderloin tips from now on.

This dish takes a while to make but it is well worth it!


  • 1 pound tenderloin tips (I have used other steaks, but find this one to be the best for this dish)
  • 2 tbsp. McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 yellow onions
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 cup shitake mushrooms (baby portabella’s would work as well)
  • 2 yukon gold potatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. fresh minced thyme
  • 1 tsp. fresh minced oregano
  • 1 tsp. fresh minced rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon, chilled (Merlot would probably work too)
  • 1 package prepared puff pastry sheets
  • 2 eggs, beaten


If using a cut of meat that is not already diced up, then dice the meat. In a large Ziploc bag, marinate the steak in Montreal steak seasoning, ¼ cup red wine, and ¼ cup balsamic vinegar.

Prep your veggies: Use a damp cloth to wipe the mushroom caps clean and remove the stems. Cut into small pieces (I don’t love mushrooms so I cut mine pretty small but you can make them bigger if you enjoy mushrooms). Peel and cut the carrots into ½ inch pieces. Cut the onion into ½ inch pieces. Mince the garlic. Wash and cut the potatoes into ½ inch pieces. Finely chop the fresh rosemary. Chill the red wine (it is best to have it at least slightly chilled so that the cornstarch doesn’t clump when it is added to the wine).

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the steak pieces in the olive oil just until browned (but not fully cooked). Use a slotted spoon to remove steak from pan and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium. In the same pot, sauté the onion and carrots until softened and aromatic (about 5 minutes). Add the mushrooms, potatoes, and garlic and sauté for 10 minutes, covered. Stir in paprika, thyme, oregano, rosemary, bay leaves, and a little salt and pepper.

Add the beef stock and browned steak into the pot. Stir to combine everything and reduce the heat to medium low.

Cover the pot and allow the stew to simmer gently for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. At this point, you want the meat to be very tender and the potatoes to be very cooked (you might want to taste a piece of each to check).

Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine the cornstarch with chilled red wine and whisk. Turn the heat up to medium and pour in the cornstarch mixture. Stir to combine. Allow the sauce to simmer rapidly until thickened, about 5 minutes. If the stew isn’t thick enough for you, add a little more wine to a measuring cup (even if it’s not chilled) and a little more cornstarch (about 1 tsp.) and whisk together, then add that to the stew and stir altogether.

Remove bay leaves from the filling and pour into a pyrex baking dish. You want the filling to almost reach the top so that the pastry has something to rest on.

Cut the pastry into strips (if needed) and place onto the casserole dish so that the entire dish is covered. Whisk 2 eggs together and brush the top of the pastry with the eggs.

Cut 2 slits into each pie to allow the steam to escape and brush pastry with the rest of the beaten egg. Place in the oven and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or just until the pastry is cooked through and golden brown. You might want to put a baking sheet on the rack below the casserole to catch any juices that overflow during baking. I made this mistake of not doing this and the entire bottom of the oven was covered in red wine and balsamic juices.

Serve with roasted broccoli, a salad, or asparagus.

Loredona Viognier

I have been on a big Viognier kick recently. I am trying to a new one night, which I must admit, is not my favorite. It is a little too acidic for my taste. I prefer my viogniers too be a bit smoother and fruitier (even though I don’t love sweet wines). It is on sale at Kroger for $7.99 from the regular price of $14.99.

Cranberry-Lemon Spritzer

I have been big into spritzers recently. I don’t really love water, so I’ve tried to find ways to disguise it. You can use any sparkling water flavor, and any juice. However, I particularly really enjoy the mix of cranberry and lemon. I find it very refreshing!


  • 1 can sparkling lemon water (I use Kroger brand)
  • 100% Cranberry juice (I like Ocean Spray)
  • Lemon or lime wedge, optional


Fill a glass with ice. Fill ¾ of the glass with sparkling water and top with cranberry juice. Spritz a lemon or lime on top and stir.

Fried Egg, Bacon, and Cheese Sandwich

Tonight I am having a breakfast dinner. There is nothing special about this sandwich except the taste of it. All you have to do is cook some bacon, fry an egg, lay cheese on top, and eat. So simple and delicious!

You can easily use scrambled eggs instead of fried and Canadian bacon or ham instead of regular bacon.

Since this is a brinner (breakfast dinner), I am having mimosas tonight. I just got some fairly cheap champagne (really sparkling wine) and some Simply Orange orange juice. Fill a champagne glass a little less than ¾ of the way full. Top with orange juice and indulge! You can substitute the orange juice for grapefruit juice or white-cranberry peach juice, or even do part OJ and part regular cranberry – kind of like a Madras but with champagne.

Ingredients (for 1 sandwich)

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 2 slices bread (I used regular ole honey wheat but you could use any kind really)
  • 1 slice American cheese (or any kind of cheddar)
  • 2 slices bacon
  • Salt and pepper


Cook your bacon until it is crisp and set on a paper towel to drain. Put 2 tbsp. butter in a sauté pan over medium high heat (I like my fried eggs crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside but if you don’t want them crispy then cook them on medium heat) and crack 2 eggs into the pan.

Season eggs with salt and pepper. Flip eggs after about 3 minutes, being careful not to break the yolk. Season other side of eggs with salt and pepper. Toast your bread (I use my broiler because I don’t have a toaster). Take toast out and set on a plate. Put cheese down on top of bread. Place eggs on top of cheese and then top with the bacon and second piece of bread. Cut on a diagonal and dig in!

Serve with hash browns or fresh fruit.

Pasta with Vodka Sauce and Basil Oil

I went to Martha’s Market this weekend and ended up only buying “foodie” things. I got this absolutely divine Basil Oil, a ceramic garlic grater and grater bowl, a garlic keeper, and Cherchie’s garlic and herb seasoning (can you tell I like garlic?!).

Tonight I have decided to make a creamy tomato sauce/vodka sauce. They are practically the same thing, except one has vodka and one doesn’t. I added about ½ cup of vodka to my sauce tonight, but you could easily leave it out or put a splash of wine in its place. You could also use penne or rotini pasta, or any other fun pasta (I wouldn’t suggest a pasta that is any thinner than linguine though).

The basil oil that I used for drizzling could easily be made at home, or left out altogether. I did a little research on how to make your own and it seems as though you basically just need good olive oil and lots of basil and you heat the mixture and then let it sit. But, I would do a little more research on your own if you choose to make your own basil oil (or really any other herb infused oil).

Tonight I am drinking a delicious new Viognier. I got talking with the wine lady at Kroger and she gave me a lot of suggestions of new wines. This was one of them. Fruity, buttery, smooth. Really tasty.


  • Fettuccini noodles
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (14 oz. each)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • ¾ cup half and half (or heavy cream)
  • ½ cup vodka
  • About 15 fresh basil leaves
  • Olive oil
  • Basil oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¾ cup fresh parmesan cheese (grated)
  • Hand immersion blender


Slice the basil. Mince the garlic and chop the onions as follows: cut the ends off the onion and stand it on either end. Cut down the middle. Lay each half of the onion so that is flat and cut into 4 parts. Turn so that the 4 parts are horizontal and slice into ¼ inch pieces.

Add a little olive oil to the pan and over medium heat cook the onions and garlic for a few minutes. Add the vodka and let cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the tomatoes along with salt and pepper and let cook for about 20 minutes. Use a hand immersion blender to puree the ingredients until mostly smooth. Let cook for another 10 minutes.

Add the basil and the half and half or cream. Stir to combine. Taste the sauce to check for seasoning. Add ½ cup parmesan cheese and stir around.

Serve over pasta with crusty bread and a green and garnish with parmesan cheese and a heavy drizzle of basil oil (we had ours with broccolini and Asiago cheese bread).

Shrimp and Grits

Don’t let the picture fool you – it may look like simple cheesy bacon grits you would have for breakfast, but this is a creamy, delicious meal for any time of day.

Apart, these ingredients are both delicious, but when combined they are pure bliss. I first had shrimp and grits one hungover morning about 4 years ago (I can’t believe it took me so long!). I went to Maya, one of my favorite restaurants here in town, for brunch and they had shrimp and grits with a black truffle sauce and I instantly fell in love. Unfortunately, since that day I have not seen that particular take on shrimp and grits on their menu. They now serve it with a smoked tomato sauce, which I do not enjoy nearly as much. I think this is because I like a creamy sauce to go with this dish. Since this day, I have been on a quest to find/make the perfect shrimp and grits and I think I am just about there.

As you might have already figured out, I am no expert on wine and food pairings. I just know what wines I like and figure that I should share them with other wine lovers. So, tonight, I am enjoying a delicious new wine I have found. And, in fact, I just posted a Malbec by the same brand. It is Espuela del Gaucho’s Torrontes. It is absolutely wonderful. And, again, on sale at the Kroger’s for only $8.99 instead of the original price of $18.99. What a steal!

Ingredients (serves about 4)

  • 20 raw jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • ¾ cup sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 10 strips bacon, (I use low sodium)
  • 5 tbsp. butter (I use unsalted)
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire
  • 2 tsp. white wine (I used pinot grigio but a sauvignon blanc would do fine as well probably)
  • ¾ cup quick grits
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. flour
  • ¼ cup half and half
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (optional – for grits)
  • Salt and pepper (a fair amount because the grits needs lots of seasoning)
  • Olive oil
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Paprika
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)


Start by marinating the shrimp in olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper, garlic powder, 1 clove chopped garlic, 1 tsp. chopped shallots, and a little Cajun seasoning.

Next, cook the bacon until it is nice and crunchy. Set bacon aside and drain most of the grease, but leave some in the pan to sauté the shallots and garlic in. Crumble the bacon.

Begin the sauce by sautéing the shallots and garlic in a little bacon grease over medium heat until slightly translucent. Add 3 tbsp. butter and use a whisk to get all of the bacon bits from the pan combined into the sauce. Add the flour and whisk again. Add a few dashes of Worcestershire, a sprinkle of paprika, the wine,  a ½ cup cream and red pepper flakes (if wanted…I add just a few). Whisk again. Lower heat to low and let the flavors meld, stirring occasionally.

Cook the grits. I just follow the directions on the back EXCEPT that I use half milk and half water to cook them in, instead of all water. SO, I used ¾ cup grits (which makes 4 servings) and 1 ½ cups milk and 1 ½ cups water. Bring the liquids to a boil, add 1 tsp. salt and then add the grits and immediately stir. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until nicely thickened. Make sure to stir fairly frequently. When the grits are cooked, take them off the heat and add the shredded cheddar cheese, 2 tbsp. butter and lots of ground black pepper. Stir until the cheese is evenly distributed and melted. Taste them. They might need a little more salt or pepper. Cover and let sit until dinner (you may need to add a dash of milk and put them on low heat to re-warm).

Using a cast iron skillet (if possible), warm the pan on medium high heat and pour the shrimp and marinade into the hot pan. Cook until just pink and remove from heat.

To serve: In a shallow bowl, put a nice serving of grits. Top with the shrimp and spoon sauce over top. Add the crumbled bacon and a small squeeze of lemon. Enjoy the amazingness.

Espuela del Gaucho

I am always on the prowl for new wines and today’s weather was incredibly cold for this time of year. So, to warm my bones I stopped by the  Kroger (or as we say here in Charlottesville, Krogers) and picked up a new red. It is a rather light Malbec with a quite delicious and fruity taste. It is usually $18.99 but is currently on sale for (I believe) $8.99. A wonderful deal!

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

I had planned to make fried eggplant stacks with goat cheese and marinara, however, I opted for a healthier, but similar eggplant dish tonight. I am calling it grilled eggplant parmesan. It is basically grilled eggplant topped with marinara and smothered in mozzarella and it’s SO good!

There will be lots of extra marinara. I usually make a large batch (sometimes I double the recipe listed below) and freeze it. You can easily defrost it and add a little cream and cooked ground beef and you have a nice bolognese type sauce. You can make stuffed shells. You can make spaghetti with marinara. You can make pizza. You can make baked ziti or lasagna – or even tortellini. The possibilities are endless.

It is raining here in Charlottesville tonight and all day it was fairly cold. So, naturally I wanted some red wine to warm mah bones. Tonight I am having No. 8 Cellars Pinot Noir. It has been on sale at Kroger recently and is normally $17 (I believe), however, it has been on sale for $8. Can’t complain about that!

Serves 2-3

Ingredients for the Eggplant

  • 1 medium sized eggplant (I was making this for myself only, so I just used half of the eggplant)
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • ½ cup fresh mozzarella, shredded (maybe ¾ cup if you tend to graze while cooking – I always end up eating some of the fresh mozz while I’m cooking)

Ingredients for Marinara

  • 2 cans of diced or petit diced tomatoes (I always get salt free)
  • 15 or so basil leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tspn. salt and 10 grinds of freshly ground pepper


Finely chop the garlic. Then, chop the onion into ½ inch long pieces. Put the olive oil into a large sauté pan (I usually just do about 4 rounds of the pan which is probably about 2 tbsp. olive oil) and add the onion. Cook on medium heat until mostly translucent. Add the garlic, tomatoes (with all the juices) and the tomato paste. Stir all together. Cook over medium heat (covered) for 25 minutes.

While the tomato mixture is cooking, wash and stack the basil leaves.

Roll them up and slice into thin strips.

After the tomatoes have cooked for 20 minutes or so, add the basil and mix together. Let cook for another 10 minutes on low. Puree until fairly smooth with an immersion blender.  Continue to let cook, uncovered, until dinner is ready. You might need to add a little water to the marinara if it gets too thick.

Start the grill and shred the fresh mozzarella.

Cut the eggplant into ¼ inch thick slices. Sprinkle both sides with a little garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. When the grill is really hot, add the eggplant. Cook about 5 minutes on one side, then flip over and cook for 5 more minutes. You want the eggplant to be nice a char-grilled and soft.

Take it off the grill when done a put the eggplant slices on a sheet pan and top with marinara and a mound of mozzarella. Stick under the broiler until the cheese is melted. Put a thin layer of marinara on each plate and place the broiled eggplant on top. Serve with bread and chow down!