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.

Magnus

#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.

Carrot-tini

Equal parts carrot juice blend and gin

ice

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.

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: For Bella

Bella's Insta-Party

We haven’t felt much like partying here at Ready, Set, Party recently. We had to say good bye to our dog Bella last week. Loss and grief are always difficult, but the unexpectedness of her death gives this particular loss an extra sting. But even though I’ve been mournful instead of  festive, I wanted to do an Insta-Party dedicated to Bella with some of her favorite things. Each one brings a smile for the memories and a tear for the loss.

Bella's Insta-Party

We had an unfortunate margarita accident a few summers ago. In the time I was gone to get paper towels, Bella had managed to lick up a good portion of the spill. Without thinking, I blurted out ‘Bella, stop drinking all the tequila!’ which caused a massive round of giggling. Because really, who has to tell their dog to stop drinking tequila?

The husband put together this lovely fresh citrus margarita for the Insta-Party and we laughed again about our crazy dog with a taste for the hard stuff.

Bella's Insta-Party

Fresh Citrus Margarita, makes 1 drink

juice from 2 clementines, or one orange

juice from 1/2 lime

juice from 1/2 lemon

2 ounces tequila

1 ounce Triple Sec, orange liqueur

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake 100 times until ice cold. Serve in a chilled glass (with a salt rim if you so desire).

Bella's Insta-Party

Bella also really liked carrots. Maybe more like was madly in love with carrots. She would perch nearly underfoot whenever I was peeling them and wait not-so-patiently for scraps. She was also quite an acrobat and excelled at catching peels in midair. I knew her Insta-Party had to feature carrots, but it was incredibly sad to have to compost all the peels instead of tossing them to her and seeing her toothy grin.

Fresh Carrots with Asian Mayo Dipping Sauce, serves 2

3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 3″ long sticks

1/4 cup mayonnaise (light is OK, but full-strength Duke’s would be better)

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 green onion, chopped

dried red pepper for garnish

Combine mayo with soy sauce and vinegar. Top with chopped green onions and a sprinkle of red pepper. Serve with carrot sticks.

Bella's Insta-Party

This is my favorite picture of Bella. It captures so much about her in just one image – inquisitive, happy (just look at that tail!), and most memorable – constant energy. She will be greatly missed in our suddenly very quiet little part of the world.

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.

Insta-Party: Caviar topped teeny tiny potatoes and the Duke of Marlborough

Caviar stuffed mini potatoes and the Duke of Marlborough

You may not believe me, but this week’s Insta-Party was born out of desperate necessity. Everything ingredient was either a leftover that needed using up or a staple I always keep on hand. Yes, my fridge is the kind of place where you might come across ‘leftover’ caviar. I discovered the tiny jar shoved in the back of the condiment shelf while looking for something else. (Yes, I have a whole shelf devoted to condiments in my fridge, too.)

Me: Oh, no, we still have half a jar of that caviar left. How long is caviar good for? We need to use it up before it spoils.

The Husband: Damn these first world problems.

Caviar stuffed mini potatoes and the Duke of Marlborough

Caviar stuffed mini potatoes and the Duke of Marlborough

Our liquor supply was also shamefully low, but a quick internet search turned up a recipe for something called a Duke of Marlborough. We always have a bottle of reasonably good dry sherry on hand for cooking and the Husband likes to keep bottles of every variety of vermouth on hand ‘just in case.’ I’m not sure in case of what, maybe the zombie apocalypse? In case Don Draper stops by and needs a perfect martini? ANYWAY, turns out sherry and sweet vermouth combined with a bit of bitters was all the rage back in the day. Dudes, this is an old recipe, we got our 16th century drinking on with this one! Even better, those old dukes were apparently on to something. It was tasty! I drank it straight up, but if soda water had been invented in 1582, they surely would have added a splash or two.

Duke of Marlborough, makes 1 drink

1 ounce sweet vermouth

1 ounce dry sherry (and for God’s sake, do NOT use cooking sherry if you value your tastebuds at all)

1 dash bitters

1 strip orange peel

Combine vermouth, sherry, and bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, but not freezing cold. This drink doesn’t need the 100 shake treatment. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the orange to release some of the oils and drop into the drink. If you want to add some soda, now is the time to do it and stir gently to combine.

Caviar stuffed mini potatoes and the Duke of Marlborough

Now, don’t these little potatoes look fancy schmancy? They’re embarrassingly easy to make, so keep them in mind the next time you want to impress and/or seduce someone you’re feeding. These little potatoes can be found under a few different names: Dutch creamers, small new potatoes, and sometimes (mistakenly) fingerlings. My favorite though is Trader Joe’s straightforward title of ‘Teeny Tiny Potatoes.’ If you can’t find them, just boil some regular sized thin-skinned new potatoes and half or quarter them.

Caviar Topped Teeny Tiny Potatoes, makes 1 dozen

1 dozen very small potatoes, boiled and chilled

2 Tablespoons cup sour cream

1 Tablespoon whitefish caviar (look in the seafood department’s refrigerated case)

fresh parsley for garnish

Top each potato with a bit of sour cream and a bit of caviar. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Insta-Party: Amaretto Sours and Prosciutto Wrapped Artichokes

Amaretto sour and prosciutto wrapped artichoke hearts

It’s SPRING, y’all! At least it is in my little corner of the world. The Bradford pear trees are in full bloom, the redbuds are ready to pop and there are daffodils everywhere I look. Plus, I have finally made it through the big project at work that has kept me busy, busy. busy and which taught me that I actually don’t mind working 12 hour days or 6-day work weeks in pursuit of a common goal with people I enjoy. More details to come on the project as the final pictures come together. At the end of the project, I was asked if I felt like I was letting my baby out into the real world, and in a way I do. But I think it fits perfectly into spring’s spirit of renewal and rebirth.

This week’s Insta-Party feels like a little spring party to me. It should be eaten al fresco on a porch under the sun with a slightly chilly breeze blowing Bradford pear blossoms across the yard.

Amaretto sour and prosciutto wrapped artichoke hearts

I really like me some amaretto sour. It’s sweet, it’s sour, and it tastes decadent. That could be because one amaretto sour has approximately 1.5 million calories in it, but who cares? I like to squeeze a little fresh orange juice into mine to add some freshness to the bottled sour mix.

Amaretto Sour, makes one drink

2 ounces amaretto liqueur

2 ounces sour mix

juice from half an orange

Combine all ingredients and serve over ice in a rocks class.

Amaretto sour and prosciutto wrapped artichoke hearts

It’s a proven fact that like bacon, prosciutto makes everything it touches taste better. These are super tasty cold, but I wouldn’t complain if you wanted to stick them under a hot broiler for a minute to melt the cheese and crisp the prosciutto.

Prosciutto Wrapped Artichokes, makes one dozen

3 whole artichoke hearts from a can (not the marinated artichoke hearts), drained and cut into quarters

12 small (1/2″ x 1″ approx) slices Asiago cheese

2 pieces very thinly sliced prosciutto, each cut into 6 long strips about 1/2″ wide

Vinaigrette of your choice

Place 1 slice cheese on each artichoke heart quarter. Wrap a thin strip of prosciutto around each stack of cheese and artichoke. Arrange on a platter and drizzle a little vinaigrette over each piece.