Insta-Party: Carrot-tini and Feta Stuffed Sugar Snap Peas

Carrot-tini and stuffed snap peas

Well, it’s been a little quiet around Ready, Set, Party recently. But I swear I’ve been making good use of my time while away from here. The full-time gig has kept me busy heading up several major transitions. Let’s just say I’ve gotten an on-the-job MBA in change management. Besides that, two other major events have occurred while I have been absent.


#1 – New dog in the HOUSE! His name is Magnus and he only wears his tie to formal events. He’s an 8 month old, 70 lb bull mastiff puppy. He is a handful, but very sweet. Almost sweet enough that I don’t mind all the dog hair and slobber he leaves everywhere.

Clear Eye logo

#2 – I started a business! With an extremely talented, driven, and funny partner named Kylee. She’s the written word ying to my visual art yang. Our shared passion is helping small businesses with their marketing. So we do websites, copy, SEO, logo design, brand development, print and digital ad design, web-videos, and so much more! We have a handful of clients but we turned a profit in our first quarter in business! If you know anyone who needs marketing assistance, I’d be happy to speak with them. You can find our contact info on the Clear Eye Marketing website.

Carrot-tini and stuffed snap peas

But I have missed blogging and brainstorming ideas and recipes, fussing with photo styling, and sharing Insta-parties and such. So here I am, back again. I can only stay away from delicious food, drink, and celebrations for so long. This Insta-party makes delicious use of one of my favorite late-spring vegetables – the sugar snap pea. These are straight from my garden, still warm from the sun and incredibly sweet. Filled with a smooth, salty feta cheese stuffing, they’re additive little sweet-salty-crisp snacks.

Feta Stuffed Sugar Snap Peas

16 plump, fresh sugar snap pea pods

2 Tbsp walnut pieces

1 ounce feta cheese

1 Tbsp skim milk

1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Carefully split each pea pod along the flat top of the pea. Using your fingers, gently open the pod to create a pocket.

In a food processor, grind walnut pieces to a fine powder. Add feta, milk, and parsley and process to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine.

You can spoon in the filling or you can make a quick piping bag. Add feta mixture to a small plastic sandwich bag and push mixture down to a bottom corner, then  snip the corner and pipe filling into the pea pods.

Carrot-tini and stuffed snap peas

Carrot juice may not seem like an obvious choice for a cocktail. But neither did tomato juice until the bloody mary came along. Gin goes well with fruit juice, and it turns out, with root vegetable juice. I used a carrot juice blend from Trader Joe’s which was sweet with an earthy edge. And that color! This cocktail is pretty, unexpected, and most importantly, tasty.


Equal parts carrot juice blend and gin


citrus pepper for garnish (optional)

Combine carrot juice and gin in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake 100 times. If using garnish, rub a lemon around the rim of your glass and dip rim in citrus pepper. Strain carrot-tini into glass and serve.


In Season: Pumpkin Ale Floats

Pumpkin Ale Float
It’s time for another In Season post with Jen over at Cook It, Click It, Eat It. Up today – pumpkins! It’s nearly Halloween and there are pumpkins everywhere. I started researching drinks for this post and I found a lot of pumpkin smoothie type recipes, but nothing that really intrigued  me. Plus, they all called for only 1 or 2 tablespoons of pumpkin puree, which would leave nearly an entire can of pumpkin left over and wasted unless I wanted to drink 3 or 4 pumpkin smoothies everyday for a whole week. I didn’t think that was a good plan!
Pumpkin Ale Float

Finally inspiration struck while I was enjoying another pumpkin beverage that is everywhere right now – pumpkin ale. I’ve had Guinness floats before, so I thought why not try the same idea but with pumpkin ale instead of Guinness? And of course, why not serve it out of a hollowed out pumpkin? I’m sure you can follow my logic on that one.
Pumpkin Ale Float
There were doubters about this particular experiment. Even I was a little worried. Luckily, I attended a pumpkin carving party the day before the photoshoot, hence the Jack O’Lantern in the pictures. His look of surprise perfectly reflects how we all felt about the deliciousness of the drink! Like so much about the Halloween season, something initially scary can wind up being wonderful if given the chance. Just like Teen Wolf.

Pumpkin Ale Float

I used butter pecan ice cream for the float, mostly because that’s what I already had in the freezer. But the nuttiness of the ice cream really worked, though I am quite sure vanilla ice cream would be a tasty substitution.

Pumpkin Ale Float (in a pumpkin), serves 1

1 smallish pumpkin

12 ounces pumpkin ale, I recommend Cottonwood’s Pumpkin Ale if you can find it

3 large scoops ice cream, butter pecan or vanilla

Cut the top off the pumpkin and scoop out seeds. Scrape out as much of the icky pumpkin innards as possible then give the pumpkin a good rinse and dry. Pour beer into the hollowed pumpkin and top with ice cream. Drink with a straw as drinking directly from a pumpkin is challenging.

Pumpkin Ale Float

Don’t forget to hop over to Cook It, Click It, Eat It and check out what Jen’s doing pumpkin-wise (and her spiffy new blog layout). Happy (almost) Halloween!

In Season: Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest Tasting

It’s time for another themed blog post with Jen at Cook It, Click It, Eat It. We chose Oktoberfest this time around since it is…October. Ironically, real Oktoberfest takes place mostly at the end of September, but I don’t like to get too caught up in specifics when there is beer to be sipped.

Oktoberfest Tasting

Since Oktoberfest is all about beer, I put together a fun quick tasting of several seasonal Oktoberfest beers. A beer tasting can get a little on the expensive side if you have to buy six packs of each beer. However, if you live near a Total Wine or store like it, stop by and make your own six pack and score single bottles of different beers to sample for significantly less money. For this tasting I picked up the following beers: Spaten Oktoberfest. Lake Front Oktoberfest, Harpoon Oktoberfest, Magic Hat Hex Ourtoberfest.

Oktoberfest Tasting

Aren’t they pretty? Even though they’re all the same type of beer, there are some noticeable color differences. We happen to have a set of 4 ounce tasting glasses because the husband home brews beer, but any small juice glass will work. A tasting serving should be about 4 ounces, so a 12 ounce bottle will yield 3 servings.

Oktoberfest Tasting

The husband and I worked our way through each one and wrote down our notes. Some crunchy pretzels helped clear our palates between sips. We started with the Spaten since it is the traditional German Oktoberfest. It was a good, very straightforward beer, not particularly complex but very drinkable. The American offerings were much more interesting, though, and we decided the Lake Front Oktoberfest was our favorite due to it’s sweet-bitter balanced finish and perfect fizziness.

 Oktoberfest Tasting

I whipped up a cute little beer tasting place mat to help us keep track of the beers and record our notes. You can download it here if you ever want to try your own beer tasting at home. I included a handy listing of beer terms at the bottom for inspiration during a tasting.
Beer Tasting Place Mat

Now, the picture below was staged, this is NOT how you want to end up after a tasting! We had a great time sampling the Oktoberfests, which was a type of beer I was not super familiar with. Make sure to jump over to Jen’s blog and check out the delicious food side of Oktoberfest, too!

Oktoberfest Tasting

In Season: In the Orchard

In the orchard

Well, summer has gone with nary a peep from me on this blog. So, my friend Jen, of Cook It, Click It, Eat It, and I decided that we both could do for a little motivation (and accountability) to kick start our blogs again. We came up with the idea of choosing a seasonal theme and each doing a post around the theme. Jen will be focusing mainly on delicious seasonal recipes and I’ll be concocting beverages of all sorts and possibly some quick crafty projects. We’ve mapped out seasonal themes through the end of the year, and TA-DA! Today is the first!

In the orchard

Even though it was in the upper 80’s here in NC over the weekend, the calendar says fall has officially arrived. And nothing quite says fall to me like apples. And decorative squash. And sweaters. And warm bowls of soup. And impending death to mosquito kind. But, back to apples. Apple cider, that staple of fall drinks, is quite a versatile cocktail ingredient. A steamy mug with a shot of rum and a cinnamon stick is just the thing for a cool fall evening. But not so much when the thermometer is still pushing past the 80 degree mark. So I set out to find an apple inspired drink that is also cool and refreshing. A little cider, some bourbon, and a hint of bitters solved my hot-weather, fall drinking woes.

In the orchard

Apparently, there is some confusion over apple cider versus apple juice. I have no desire to enter into the debate, but I will say that I used Martinelli’s Apple Cider for this drink for two reasons. One, I was very taken with the attractive leaf motif on the glass jug. Yes, I admit to occasionally choosing grocery products based on prettiness. I am a shallow consumer with a weak spot for attractive packaging. Second, it was a lovely, clear, pale yellow, not dark brown and sludgy like some ciders. Not that there’s anything wrong with sludgy ciders (other than saying ‘sludgy cider’ makes me throw up in my mouth a little), but I wanted a clean, un-sludgy apple taste for this drink. If sludgy ciders are your thing, though, by all means feel free to substitute.

Bourbon & Apples

1/2 cup apple cider

1-1/2 ounces bourbon

dash of aromatic bitters

Combine all ingredients over ice and serve immediately.

In the orchard

I’d been kicking around ideas for a quick and easy apple craft for this post, too. I came up with a clove-studded monogrammed apple, mostly because I have a baggie full of cloves (don’t ask) that need using up. It was incredibly easy to do. I can just see these used at a fall place setting, lined up on a mantel, or nestled into a wreath. To make your own, lightly trace the letter onto the apple with a pencil. Then, using a toothpick, prick small holes about every 1/4″ along the letter outline and insert whole cloves into the holes.

Don’t forget to click on over to Jen’s blog at Cook It, Click It, Eat It and check out what kind of apple-y goodness she has going on for this themed post. I got a text from her with a sneak peek photo and it looked yummy! And stay tuned for more joint posts. Coming up next…OCTOBERFEST! Happy fall, y’all!

Insta-Party: Green Tomato Madness

Insta-Party: Green Tomato Madness

I recently spent a delightful weekend eating and drinking my way through Charleston, SC with my cousin, who I am lucky to also call a great friend. One evening found us at The Grocery for a very interesting and well-executed meal. It had been on my to-visit list for a few months mostly because they pickle and cure in house. You may not know, but i am quite the pickle aficionado. I dabble in the art of pickling and am an avid fan of others who pickle. You should hear me wax poetic about Gisella, our local farmer’s market pickle master. When I heard The Grocery was doing wonderful things in the pickling realm, it moved to the top of my must eat at list. My cousins, aunt, and uncle graciously humored me while I was in town.

Insta-Party: Green Tomato Madness

I had practically memorized their online menu so I expected to fully enjoy my meal there, but I didn’t expect to squeal with delight while reading…the bar menu. Four words: Dirty Green Tomato Martini. They pickle their green tomatoes before frying them (genius!) and then in another stroke of brilliant, non-wasteful thinking created a delightful cocktail by mixing the green tomato pickling brine with vodka. Trust me when I say our entire party was practically in a swoon over this drink. It’s a little sweet, a little salty, a little spicy, but not at all vinegary.

Insta-Party: Green Tomato Madness

Since I unfortunately live several hours from The Grocery and can’t visit frequently for a Dirty Green Tomato Martini fix, I pickled my own green tomatoes with the full intent to rip off, errr, recreate both their fried pickled green tomatoes and the martini. If you don’t feel up to pickling yourself, your local farmer’s market probably has its own version of Gisella doing wonderful work with pickled green tomatoes.

Dirty Green Tomato Martini, makes 1 drink

4 ounces vodka

1 ounce pickled green tomato brine

Wedge of pickled green tomato for garnish

Combine vodka and brine in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake 100 times and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with pickled green tomato wedge.

Insta-Party: Green Tomato Madness

To get pickled green tomato brine, you have to make pickled green tomatoes. Which are way tastier than I ever imagined. They are delicious fried (think fried green tomatoes meet fried pickles) but equally good straight from the jar. This snack really was a ‘what have we got in the fridge’ concoction, but turned out rather tasty. It was also a good personal reminder for me that virtually any combination of cracker+meat+pickle+cheese=delicious.

Pepperoni, Pickled Green Tomato, & Feta

Um, yeah, so not really a recipe, just combine bits of the pepperoni, green tomato, and feta on top of a cracker and eat.

Anyone having a strong reaction to this post? Totally grossed out by a pickle-based martini or pickled green tomatoes in general? Or are you intrigued and would give it a shot? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Insta-Party: Bitter Orange with Hummus, Feta, Cucumber Bites

Insta-Party: Bitter Orange with Hummus, Feta, Cucumber Bites

Yikes! I haven’t done an an Insta-Party in almost a month. Life has been busy, but that is totally unacceptable! I actually have had several real-life Insta-Party’s over the past few weeks (one was a romantic picnic next to a bubbling stream!) but they have all been off-camera. So I broke out the camera finally to bring you a fun and super quick Insta-party to liven up your Wednesday. Or Thursday, or any day, really!

Insta-Party: Bitter Orange with Hummus, Feta, Cucumber Bites

These yummy little snacks were so easy to put together. I tend to keep hummus in the fridge for snacking with baby carrots or pretzels, and a cucumber is always in there to be tossed on a salad or with some vinegar for a quick veggie side. And I literally get nervous whenever I use the last bit of feta, so it is always in stock. Put together, these are a tasty little bite of the Mediterranean.

Hummus, Feta, Cucumber Bites, makes about 20 bites

1 cucumber

3 Tablespoons prepared hummus

2 inch cube of feta, cut into 1/4″ cubes

Chopped pimento, for garnish (optional)

Slice the cucumber into 1/2″ thick rounds. Spread a little hummus on each slice and top each with a small cube of feta and piece of pimento. Eat immediately.

Insta-Party: Bitter Orange with Hummus, Feta, Cucumber Bites

Don’t let the name fool you, this is a sophisticated little drink that benefits greatly from the addition of a drop of bitters. I shook a small quantity with ice, but this would be equally enjoyable in a larger portion served on the rocks. I specify Fee Brothers bitters only because I am partial to them. Feel free to use whatever bitters float your boat.

Bitter Orange, makes one drink

1 ounce vodka

1/2 ounce fresh squeezed orange juice (half of a little clementine should do it)

1 drop Fee Brothers Old Fashion Aromatic Bitters

Combine vodka and orange juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake 50 times and strain into an aperitif glass. Add drop of bitters and enjoy immediately while still very cold.

Insta-Party: Gin Sunrise and Smoked Salmon, Pesto Crostini

Gin Sunrise and Smoked Salmon Pesto Crostini

I wish I had something funny or clever to share with you about this Insta-Party. But alas, I am lacking witty anecdotes for it! The tastiness of this one will have to speak for itself. I will point out my brand-spanking new little tray. It’s bamboo! It’s actually a tiny bar cutting board! I only paid $3 for it! I’m more excited than I should be about it!

Gin Sunrise and Smoked Salmon Pesto Crostini

A quick note about smoked salmon. There are multiple varieties out there that fall into two main categories: cold smoked and hot smoked. The hot smoked salmon is cooked in the process of smoking and produces a very firm piece of salmon, just like if you cooked it at home yourself. Cold smoking first cures the salmon with salt, but the fish is technically uncooked, so it retains the silky smooth texture of raw fish. Before you say, ew, gross, if you’ve ever had bagels and lox, you’ve eaten cold smoked salmon.

My local grocery store stocks little trays of what they call ‘nova bits’ which are small trimmings of cold smoked salmon. I would imagine they’re the pieces that get cut off to make the expensive shrink wrapped packages of lox look so tidy. However, the leftover bits are rather inexpensive and perfect to use for cooking! I’ve never seen them at any other grocery, though, so if you can’t find them, a package of cold smoked salmon cut into strips will work just fine.

Smoked Salmon, Pesto Crostini, makes 10 crostini

10 rounds cut from a French baguette

1 Tablespoon prepared pesto

1/4 cup cold smoked salmon, cut into strips

Spread a little of the pesto on each bread round. Lightly toast until bread is golden and crispy. Top each piece with a strip or two of smoked salmon and serve warm.

Gin Sunrise and Smoked Salmon Pesto Crostini

Isn’t this just a pretty drink? The husband made this one up special. It’s tequila sunrise’s more sophisticated cousin with the herbal gin, bitter tonic, fruity orange, and sweet grenadine making a complex but oh-so-drinkable concoction.

Gin Sunrise, makes 1 drink

2 ounces gin

2 ounces tonic water

2 ounces orange juice

splash of grenandine

Fill a cocktail glass with ice. Combine gin, tonic water, and orange juice in glass and stir to combine. Pour a splash of grenadine after mixing and allow to settle at the bottom prior to serving.