Caipirinha Punch

I was up insanely early yesterday morning--I'm talking 3AM here, people!--in order to host a live cooking segment on the Telemundo morning show, Primera Edicion, here in NYC. The segment was all about summer entertaining, and I shared a couple easy recipes and one cocktail--a refreshing Caipirinha Punch.

I still need to photograph the other two recipes, but figured that I would quickly share the punch since it's pretty perfect for any World Cup (or other summer) parties you may have coming up! 

Now about that punch...this is a bit of a twist on the classic caipirinha, which is known as the national cocktail of Brazil. Made with cachaça, which is a type of rum, caipirinhas are tart and pack a powerful punch.

Seriously...these babies are STRONG!

I love them, but there are times when I want something a little bit lighter.

Hence, this punch!

All the flavors of a caipirinha, toned down with some semi-sweet wine. You stir all the ingredients together in a big pitcher and then chill until party time, at which point you add ice and sliced limes, then serve over more ice. It's cold. It's refreshing.

And it'll keep your guests happy without knocking them out--definitely the mark of a good party.

Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    

Caipirinha Punch
Makes 10-12 drinks (1 pitcher)

1 750ml bottle cachaça (about 3 1/4 cups)
1 750ml bottle semisweet white wine (such as moscato, Riesling, etc.)
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup triple sec or cointreau
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
3 limes, thinly sliced

Combine cachaça, wine, lime juice, triple sec, and sugar in a pitcher and stir well to combine. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Just before serving, add ice and sliced lime to the pitchers. Serve in glasses filled with ice.


Salmorejo (Spanish Chilled Tomato Soup)

Back in September, Eugene and I spent a couple weeks traveling around Portugal and Spain. I wrote a few posts about our Portugal trip, but I...uh...never quite got around to writing about Spain.


I have, however, kept a long list of dishes I tried while there, that I've been meaning to recreate. Chief among these was Salmorejo, a chilled, creamy raw tomato soup from the south of Spain that was one of Eugene's favorite things he ate during the entire trip.

Now that we're getting closer to tomato season (yay!), I figured it was time to finally share it. 

Salmorejo is similar in flavor to the better known gazpacho, but the texture is totally different. It's thick, creamy and absolutely luscious. The thickness comes from the addition of toasted bread, which absorbs excess liquid and thickens the puree.

The ingredients are otherwise super simple: ripe tomatoes, raw garlic, toasted almonds, fruity olive oil and a dash of sherry vinegar, then is served topped with chopped egg and jamon.

(I subbed a little fried cured chorizo, which I always have in my fridge. Bacon or prosciutto would also work well here!)

One thing I should note is about the preparation. The soup is made from totally raw ingredients, which means you don't have to turn on the stove, but there is still a trick to prepping the tomatoes. In order to get a really smooth and creamy soup, you have to first squeeze out the seeds and watery pulp.

It may be really tempting to skip this step, but DO NOT. It really makes a huge difference...and it's easy. And it's fun!

I explain how to best do this below--just trust me on this...

Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    

Salmorejo (Spanish Chilled Tomato Soup)
Serves 4-6

3 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chopped toasted sandwich bread (about 3-4 slices)
1/2 cup whole almonds
5 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes (optional)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
1/2 cup chopped serrano ham, chorizo, or crisped bacon


Place a sieve over a bowl. Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze over sieve in order to remove the seeds. Set the squeezed tomatoes aside and repeat with rest of batch. Use a spoon to press the seeds in the sieve to strain as much liquid as possible. Discard seeds, but reserve the liquid in the bowl.

Combine toasted bread, almonds, and garlic in blender and process until coarsely chopped. Add tomatoes, reserved tomato liquid, vinegar, paprika, and puree until very smooth. (Do in batches if you don't have a very powerful blender.) Add a teaspoon of salt, and the olive oil, then puree again. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt, if desired.

Transfer to a covered bowl and chill at least 2 hours, or until very cold. Serve topped with chopped egg and jamon, bacon or chorizo.

NOTE: The texture should be thick and creamy, but smooth--similar to a butternut squash soup texture.  If yours is too thick, add a bit of water. If too thin, add a bit more toasted bread.


Boat Drink (Fizzy Lime Coladas)

I was just out of college the first time I tasted Boat Drink.

I had been working my first "real" job as a web editor for a political nonprofit, and dating a handful of clever, beautiful boys. My favorite of these was a Capitol Hill staffer who knew how to live deliciously. In DC, where dates were generally just after-work drinks and dinner spent talking about politics, it was refreshing to spend my weekends with someone who was always organizing some kind of exciting plan--whole pig roasts in his backyard, boozy polo matches, black-tie charity galas, chili cooking contests...

One morning in early Fall, he called me and asked if I wanted to go sailing.

Always game for anything having to do with water, I quickly agreed, then asked, "When?"

"We're leaving for Maryland in an hour," he replied.

I was still in bed, likely hungover from the previous evening, but I shot out like an arrow and started getting ready. I put on my bikini, a pair of jeans and a navy cardigan, and stuffed my hair into a Fidel Castro-style military cap I was particularly fond of those days.

Used to me generally showing up late, he was surprised when I let myself into his place 30 minutes later, triumphantly shouted "I'M HERE!"

"Impressive," he said as I handed him a bag of ripe peaches to add to the cooler he was packing.

The boat belonged to a friend of his whose name I don't remember. He was a former Hill staffer who moved over to the (significantly more lucrative) lobbying side, and promptly bought a boat with his first big paycheck. There were 5 of us--three girls and the two guys--as we set sail on the Chesapeake Bay, the day warming up with each minute.

Once we were on our way, our host pulled a few bottles and a pitcher out of a bag and started preparing a concoction he called simply "Boat Drink." (I think he was inspired by the Jimmy Buffett song.)

Boat Drink was a mix of pulpy store-bought limeade, white rum, and Coco Lopez--a syrupy, sweetened coconut cream typically used to make Piña Coladas. He stirred it together over ice and then served us each generously-filled glasses, warning that it was significantly more lethal than it tasted.

One sip and I was in love. The day had warmed up, Van Morrison's Into the Mystic was playing on the stereo, and I had an icy glass of deliciousness in my hand. It was perfection, and I couldn't remember ever feeling any happier. At one point, as I sat next to my friend with our feet dangling over the side of the boat, I noticed that my cheeks actually hurt from smiling.

As the day wore on, it only got better. The hat and sweater came off, and my shoulders were warm from the sun. The salty air thickened and blew my curls into tangled mane that felt wild and lovely. And our gracious host made sure that our glasses were never, ever empty.

This is my version of that fine drink. I replaced the bottled limeade with fresh lime juice and club soda for a bit of fizz.  I like to puree the main ingredients in the blender so that they're smooth (the coco lopez can otherwise be a bit thick), but you can also whisk them quickly in a pitcher. When you add the ice and soda, the whole drink fizzes up with a puff of coconut foam that's a lot of fun to drink.

If you're wondering about the flavor, I'd say it's like a tart version of a piña colada made with lime instead of pineapple. If you like it sweeter, add more coconut cream. Stronger? Well, then, just add a bit more rum!

(Cocktail umbrellas and sailboats are totally optional, but definitely recommended.)

Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    

Boat Drink (Fizzy Lime Coladas)
Makes about 4 large cocktails

1 cup sweetened cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez)
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 1/4 cups white rum
2 cups club soda
Limes for garnish

Combine cream of coconut, lime juice, and rum in a blender, and puree until smooth. (Can also be whisked vigorously in a pitcher.)

Divide evenly into 4 16oz glasses filled with ice, stir once, then top off with club soda.

Garnish with a lime and serve immediately.


Coconut Milk Mojitos

When it comes to summer cocktails, my go-to lately has been mojitos made with no sugar. I think they're refreshing and love that they don't leave me feeling gross after a few.

When I was in low-carb friendly Miami, this was a stunningly simple request, but back here in New York, I've found that this is not as easy as it sounds.

At a restaurant the other night, the waitress looked back at me completely horrified, "But it's going to be SO SOUR," she exclaimed.

She looked at me suspiciously, then went off to explain my request to the bartender. She stood watching me as I took my first sip, convinced that I would change my mind, but I just smiled and said that it was perfect. She totally walked away shaking her head.

Unfortunately, the second round came sweetened and when I sent it back, it returned slightly more sour, but still way too sweet. Like they just added more lime juice to it, instead of starting from scratch.

Annoyed, I gave up and just let the drink melt to death on the table.

Fortunately, when I'm home, I get to play bartender and I don't have to worry about people slipping carbs into my drink. As delicious as plain mojitos are, I also really love flavored ones.  

Coconut mojitos are a favorite and so simple. There are many different ways to make them, but I think the BEST ones are made with real coconut milk, instead of just coconut flavored rum. It makes them creamy and so very satisfying with a natural coconut flavor.

I think the natural sweetness of the coconut milk is enough in the coconut mojito, but if you like something a bit more traditional, I've also included directions for adding a little sugar. You can also easily multiply the drink and make it by the pitcher.

Just add ice, a few straws, and you have yourself a party!

P. S. Want more delicious latin recipes? Check out my eCookbook: The Puerto Rican Christmas Table with 40+ recipes and full-color photos. Click here to learn more!

Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    

Coconut Milk Mojitos
Makes 1 drink

10 mint leaves
1 lime, cut into small wedges
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
2 ounces white rum
2 ounces coconut milk
Iceclub soda

Combine mint leaves, lime wedges, and sugar (if using) in bottom of a tall glass. Use a wooden spoon or muddler to the muddle the mint, lime and sugar together until the lime juices and natural oils are released. Add the rum and coconut milk, stir, then fill the glass with ice and top off with club soda.

Serve immediately.


22 Easiest Ever Dinner Recipes

Looking for easy dinnertime inspiration? Scroll down for 22 of my favorite and easiest dinner recipe ideas!

1. Fiery Asian Chicken Cutlets
These spicy chicken breasts are amazing sliced over a salad or in Banh Mi style sandwiches. Especially good paired with my quick soy sauce veggie pickles.

2. Turkey Quinoa Meatballs
Cooked quinoa takes the place of breadcrumbs in these tender turkey meatballs. Make a big batch to enjoy for quick dinners all week long.

 3. Mushroom & Goat Cheese Stuffed Zucchini
My favorite easy vegetarian dinner recipe! Hollowed out zucchini boats filled with a creamy and hearty mushroom filling.

 4. Orange & Ginger Glazed Salmon
Tangy orange marmalade is the secret behind this easy Asian-inspired salmon dish. 

5. Crispy Roasted Lemon Chicken Thighs
Easy enough for weeknight dinners, it's also an elegant dish to serve for company. Just add a side of rice or mashed potatoes and a salad, and you have a perfect meal.

6. Latin Spice Roast Chicken with Chimichurri
Three meals in one! Delicious roast chicken the first night, then make chicken salad the second day, and turn the leftovers into a spicy homemade chicken soup. Talk about convenient!

7. Mustard & Panko Crusted Salmon Fillets
I love this easy and crunchy salmon dish made with a few ingredients.

8. Cooked Shredded Chicken for Easy Weeknight Meals
Learn how to make a huge batch of shredded chicken that you can keep in the freezer for quick and healthy meals all week long! (Plus! A BUNCH of recipe ideas for the chicken.)

9. Pan-Seared Shrimp with Mango Salsa
This one is perfect for hot days when you want something lite. Ready in just a few minutes!

10. Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup
Feeling under the weather or in need of something a little comforting? This easy homemade tomato soup recipe is just the thing. Perfect with a grilled cheese!

11. Whiskey Orange Chipotle Chicken Thighs & Drums
One of the most popular recipes on my site, and with good reason! This is always a crowd-pleaser and perfect when serving a big group (or just a hungry family!). I include variations for a non-alcoholic version.

12. Chipotle Roasted Eggplant
This one is perfect for those meatless mondays. Just 3 ingredients and perfect on top of a salad, in a sandwich, or just on its own with a yogurt sauce. Spicy and satisfying!

13. 10-Minute Broiled Chipotle Salmon Fillets
Chipotle Tabasco is the secret ingredient behind these easy and spicy salmon fillets. How gorgeous does that glaze look?!

14. Crispy Pan-Fried Fish with Lemony Arugula
One of my go-to recipes. Try this with cod, tilapia, hake, sole--really just about any milk white fish will work. Crispy and delicious!

15. Chimichurri Fish Tacos
I'm such a fish taco fan, and this is one of my favorite ways to make them at home. The tangy herb sauce blitzes right up in a blender and then can be used for lots of other great recipes, too!

16. Easy Lemon Garlic Chicken Breasts
The quickest and tastiest chicken marinade ever. Be sure to check out the neat trick for making clean-up a breeze!

17. Roasted Garlic Mushroom Sauce for Nearly Everything
Learn how to make this sauce and you'll be set for a dozen different dishes. Serve them on top of grilled chicken or fish, add to a burger, toss with cooked pasta or rice, serve on its own as a side, puree with a little cream into a soup--seriously so many things you can do with this basic recipe!

18. Turkey Bacon Meatballs
Seriously one of my favorite meatball recipes ever. Lean turkey + smokey bacon = meatball perfection!

19. Cleaning Out the Fridge Fried Rice
Turn leftovers into the most perfect bowl of homemade fried rice ever!

20. Basil Arugula Pesto Pasta
Got wilting herbs? Turn them into a tasty and easy pasta sauce!

21. Sweet & Spicy Broccolini with Sausage
Sauteed veggies and spicy Italian sausage are a quick and comforting weeknight dinner recipe.

22. Cold Sesame Soba Noodle Salad
Another great summertime recipe. This cold salad is rich with flavor, but light for those hot summer nights. 

Inspired Living: Be Good To Yourself


Frozen Mojito Coffee

So here's something a little weird about me...I actually didn't start drinking coffee regularly until earlier this year.

I definitely used to enjoy the occasional after-dinner espresso or iced coffee on a hot summer day, but I was never the type to wake-up and instantly make myself a coffee to start the day. And at brunch, I'd much sooner order herbal tea or a cocktail before a cup of joe.

But this year, something changed. I think it was the brutal winter, which hit me hard and left me needing a bit of a jolt in the mornings.

I started getting into the habit of making myself a steaming mug of coffee topped off with a thick layer of foamy steamed heavy cream. It became a daily ritual that I looked forward to, and then once the sun came back and the days started heating up, I had to find a new way to start my day.

This Frozen Mojito Coffee has become a definite favorite. Fresh mint blended with strong coffee, a tiny bit of sugar, cream and ice until it's frosty. I love how refreshing it is, and the mint is unexpectedly wonderful with the coffee.

Note that despite the name, it's virgin, though I suspect it won't be long before this Puerto Rican girl throws a shot of rum in there for a weekend twist--if you try it before I do, let me know how it is!

The recipe below will give you a lovely base, but please feel free to play around with it. Use your favorite milk--they all work. I actually always skip the sugar because that's how I take my coffee, and sometimes I go wild and add a spoonful of dark cocoa to it like in the picture above...just 'cause.

Here's to great summer mornings!

Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!  

Frozen Mojito Coffee
Yields 1 serving

1 1/2 cup double-strength or cold-brewed coffee, chilled
1 1/2 cups ice
2 tablespoons raw turbinado sugar (use more or less according to taste)
10 large fresh mint leaves, rinsed and patted very dry
1/4 cup whole milk, half & half, or heavy cream (or whatever you usually use!)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a glass and sip immediately.

Pistachio Mint Pesto

If I were forced to rank herbs by order of preference (what kind of a weirdo survey is this!?) mint would probably be second. Cilantro is first, of course, and then mint, which I have been putting in everything lately.

(Seriously...even my coffee, but I'll share more about that another day.)

A few weeks ago, I hosted a Sunday brunch for my parents and in-laws. It was a hot day, and I wanted to keep the meal light, so I served a variety of light Spring-like things: a whole baked herbed salmon, roasted vegetables, whipped feta, an overflowing cheese plate, etc.

Along with the salmon, I made a Pistachio Mint Pesto that ended up being one of the biggest hits of the meal.

If you've never really branched out beyond the classic Italian basil-pine nut pesto, I really urge you to play around. The recipe is so flexible--you just need some kind of herbs (or even a mix!), some kind of nut, some garlic, some oil, and a few seasonings. You can add cheese, too, but I preferred to keep this particular one dairy-free and then serving crumbled feta on the side.

Mint and pistachio are a natural pairing in Middle Eastern dishes, and since that's the feel I was going for, it worked out beautifully. Because I've been rebelliously adding fresh lime to everything despite the cost, I also included it in this recipe, and loved the brightness it added.

A big batch of this will keep well in a sealed container in the fridge for about a week. Eugene and I enjoyed the leftovers along with grilled shrimp and chicken, and on top of scrambled eggs. It's one of those handy little sauces that makes summer eating so incredibly easy and satisfying.

Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!  

Pistachio Mint Pesto
This makes a chunky pesto, if you like something creamier, increase the oil and puree until smooth.

Yields: about 1 1/2 cups

2 cups fresh mint leaves, rinsed and patted dry
1 cup roasted salted and shelled pistachios
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large fresh lime, juiced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Use a knife to finely chop mint, then place in a small bowl.

Combine pistachios, garlic, salt, and lime juice, and place in food processor. Pulse until coursely chopped. Combine with mint and stir to evenly distribute. Stir in olive oil. Taste and adjust salt, if necessary.

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