Tag Archives: Bar Stool Fridays

Bar Stool Fridays – Healthy Cocktail Snack

I always enjoy snacks during happy hour.  And, even though I’m not consuming alcohol right now, that doesn’t mean I don’t want something to nibble while everyone is imbibing.  But, I don’t want to fill up on empty calories – I want a filling snack that tastes good and is good for me, too.

Enter the almond.

Why eat almonds?

1.  They help you lose weight.  Studies show people who eat a serving of almonds at least twice a week are less likely to gain weight.  Almonds are high in calories, though; stick to no more than 1/3 cup – a small handful – each day.  Pick whole, roasted almonds.  Sugar coated almonds are not a super food.

2.  They lower your risk of heart disease.  Almonds are high in monounsaturated “good” fats, which help lower cholesterol.  By adding almonds to a low-fat diet, you can reduce your chance of heart disease by 30 to 45%.  Choose nuts with little or no salt, which can raise blood pressure.

3.  They’re a quick source of protein.  No time to make eggs in the morning?  Here’s a fun fact: A 1/4 cup of almonds (approximately 20 – 25) provides just as much protein as a single egg, strengthening everything from your eyes to your nails.  So when you’re reaching for an afternoon almond snack, you’re not only satisfying cravings but also supporting your entire body.

4.  They help strengthen your bones.  Just one serving of almonds contains 10% of your daily recommended calcium intake, making for strong, resilient bones.  They’re also high in magnesium, which supports calcium in keeping teeth healthy.

5.  They may boost your immune system.  A recent study revealed that naturally occurring chemicals found in the skin of the nut improved the ability of white blood cells to detect viruses while also increasing the body’s ability to prevent viruses from replicating and so spreading inside the body.  They discovered that even after the almonds had been digested, there was still an increase in the immune systems defenses against viruses.

These spicy almonds are slightly addictive, so do watch your portions.  But, I think you’ll find they are just as good with cocktails as they are with ginger ale.

Spicy Almonds
Makes about 3 1/2 cups

1 lb natural almonds
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake almonds 10 minutes on a baking sheet.

Combine butter, honey, cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne in a large bowl.

Toss with almonds.

Return to baking sheet and bake an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with  salt while still hot.

Let nuts cool and break apart with hands.

Store in an airtight container.

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Bar Stool Fridays – Easy Does It Smoothie

Avocados can be used for so much more than just guacamole.  Not that I don’t enjoy guacamole – I just don’t like to limit my enjoyment of avocados to merely being scooped up by tortilla chips.

Did you know that the avocado is considered a fruit, not a vegetable?  Many cultures serve avocados for dessert adding sugar to the fruit.  This is not something I eat all the time because I do like avocados with my savory foods, but I encourage you to keep an open mind.  I’ve enjoyed avocado ice cream and find it a delicious addition to fruit salads, however, I understand that it can be a big taste transition to someone who’s only served avocados with their tacos.

Here’s an easy way to combine a sweet taste with your avocado by adding pineapple and orange juice.  Besides, this recipe entails little risk since it just uses one avocado and is a smoothie so it is easy to share with fellow adventurous taster.  Sweet, creamy, and healthy!

Avocado Smoothie
Makes 1 large smoothie

1 small ripe avocado (pitted and removed from peel)
1/2 cup diced pineapple
1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 – 3/4 cup orange juice
1  – 2 Tbsp agave syrup

Puree all ingredients in blender until smooth.  Adjust the amounts of  juice and agave syrup depending on your preference for taste and texture.

Pour into glass and serve right away.

Tips for selecting fresh avocados:

The best way to tell if an avocado is ready for immediate use is to gently squeeze the fruit in the palm of your hand.  Ripe, ready-to-eat fruit is firm yet yields slightly to gentle pressure.  The color doesn’t tell you enough about ripeness – the Hass avocado will turn darker as it ripens, but other varieties remain light-green even when ripe.  Avoid avocados with dark blemishes on the skin (like many in the above picture) or overly soft flesh.

If you don’t want to serve avocados for a couple of days, purchase hard, unripened fruit.  I find that leaving the avocados on my kitchen counter is adequate for ripening, but some folks swear by the process of putting the fruit in a paper bag and adding an apple or banana to help it ripen faster.

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Bar Stool Fridays – Mango Citrus Cooler

So, if you caught my post yesterday, you probably understand why I’m avoiding alcohol.  So for the next few weeks, things will probably look different here on Fridays.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still want to enjoy happy hour on Fridays, though.  I can still pull out my cocktail shaker and mix up some drinks for me and the teetotalers I know.  That way we don’t feel like we are missing out on all the fun.  And, if I can get an infusion of Vitamin C, all the better.

Mango Citrus Cooler
Makes 1 drink

5 ounces mango nectar
2 1/2 ounces orange juice
1 Tbsp lime juice
club soda
orange wedge for garnish, optional
lime wedge for garnish, optional

In an ice-filled shaker, combine mango nectar, orange juice, and lime juice.  Shake well.  Strain into a tall glass filled with crushed ice.  Top off with club soda.  Garnish with citrus fruit.

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Bar Stool Fridays – Autumn Sangria

My husband and I recently visited my parents in Laredo, Texas.  Now, not to rub it in or anything, but the weather was pretty great.  Sunny.  Warm, but not hot.  Not humid.  Pretty great.

I was in the mood for a beverage with fall flavors, but I wanted to drink something refreshing that would be nice over ice…a drink for us to enjoy as we sat in the sun on the patio by the pool.

Autumn Sangria
Makes 8 servings

1 orange, sliced
1 apple, diced
1 lemon, sliced
1 bottle full-bodied and fruity red wine
1/2 cup brandy
4 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
3 – 4 Tbsp orange simple syrup (see note below)
ice

Add fruit to pitcher.

Pour in wine and brandy.  Add cloves and cinnamon stick.  Add simple syrup and stir.

Serve over ice.

To make orange simple syrup combine 1 1/2 cups sugar with 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan.  Add 1 Tbsp of orange zest and stir.  Simmer over medium heat until sugar dissolved and syrup is slightly thickened.  It will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for several weeks.

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Bar Stool Fridays – Soothing Toddy

With fall officially here, it is time to indulge in one of my cool weather favorites…the hot toddy.  It is a much needed balm when it is damp and cold and I’m recovering from a sinus infection.  The warm alcoholic drink soothes my sore throat and warms me all over.

You can use any type of spirit for your hot toddy.  The traditional recipe is a mix of whiskey, hot water, sugar, and lemon or orange.  I recommend you avoid the cheapest bottles, though.  I think the heat can make the alcohol taste even sharper, so I go with one of my favorite (and affordable) standbys – Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon.

Bourbon Hot Toddy
Makes 1 drink

lemon slice studded with cloves
1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
pinch of grated nutmeg
1 1/2 ounce bourbon
4 to 6 ounces boiling water
1 cinnamon stick

Drop the clove-studded lemon slice into the bottom of your heat-resistant mug.  Add sugar, nutmeg, and bourbon.  Pour in hot water and stir with cinnamon stick.

Cheers!

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Bar Stool Fridays – Dog Walking Adventures

The sun was shining and it felt warm on our skin.  Charley and I had encountered very few U.G.O.s (unidentified ground objects that he tries to consume) or chicken bones (yes, I live in a community where folks really throw chicken bones on the ground) on our daily midday walk around the neighborhood.  We didn’t pass anybody dealing drugs, I didn’t catch a whiff of urine from the alley…I may have even been smiling.  I was really enjoying this walk.

Now, I am definitely not a fearful person.  I walk through life with confidence, but I try to always be aware of my surroundings and I am far from trusting strangers.  However, I had no reason to be suspicious of the car driving toward us.  The driver had his window down with his arm resting on the frame.  He also seemed to be enjoying this lovely day.  And, because I look quite different than most individuals in my neighborhood and I may have been smiling, I was not surprised that he looked our way.  I didn’t find it threatening.  I was not even surprised when he stopped the car and began to speak to me.  Charley was paused to sniff what most have been a particularly fragrant section of tree and he also didn’t feel threatened by this man in the car.

“Uh wahh wahh meh like yah wahh that big black dawg?”

He was smiling when he said this, so for some reason my brain didn’t register this as something with which I should be troubled.  I smiled and replied, “What’s that?”

“Yew wanna walk me like your walkin’ that big black dawg?”

Hmmm…that was not what I expected to hear.  I thought he was going to ask for directions or comment on Charley’s size or shiny coat.  I had no expectation that someone driving down the road would pull over and ask a strange woman if she would walk him like a dog.  No expectation.

Once my brain processed what he actually said (and it did take me a couple of beats), I replied, “No.  No, thank you.”  (I have to say thank you ’cause I’m from Texas and we are nothing if not polite.)

He shrugged.  I turned away and Charley and I continued down the block as he drove away in the opposite direction.  My smile actually came back as we walked on because I found the exchange more amusing than intimidating.  I shook my head and thought, “This is why I enjoy so many bloody cocktails.”

So, I decided to make one.  Literally.  Well, with blood oranges…

This drink is inspired by the classic tequila cocktail, the Compadre, which translates to friend/partner from Spanish.  So, I’m calling it the Vecina Amiga, or the Friendly Neighbor.  Yeah, I am using the feminine, but it is pink.

The Vecina Amiga
Makes 1 drink

2 ounces tequila (I used silver)
1 ounce Campari
3 or 4 ounces blood orange soda (see NOTE)
ice
lime wedge, for garnish

Shake the tequila and Campari vigorously with ice.  Strain into an ice-filled highball glass.  Top with blood orange soda and stir gently.  Garnish with a lime wedge and serve.  Maybe you can even make one for your friendly neighbor.

NOTE: I found the “gourmet” blood orange soda in a local grocery store.  If you cannot find a similar product, mix equal parts of blood orange or grapefruit juice and club soda.  Taste, and if it needs to be sweeter, add a splash of simple syrup.

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Bar Stool Fridays – Bourbon Obsession

Should I be worried?

In honor of National Bourbon Heritage Month, I thought I’d share part of our collection of bourbon bottles.

My husband and I have long enjoyed bourbon, but since we returned from Kentucky, my husband has really ramped up his purchases.  Don’t misunderstand.  I certainly reap the benefits of his buying habits, but….I wonder if we should be plotting our roadtrips around shops that stock hard-to-find bottles of bourbon?  Or should a trip to the farmers’ market have to paired with a trip to a liquor store?  Is it bad that we cannot drive or walk by a sign that reads “spirits” without stopping to search for dusty bottles?

Hmmm…let me think about that while I sip this Manhattan.

Manhattan
Makes 1 drink

2 ounces premium bourbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth
2 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
splash of Maraschino liqueur or juice from jar of Maraschino cherries
Maraschino cherry for garnish

Combine bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters in an ice-filled shaker.  Strain into glass.  I prefer to drink it with ice.  Garnish with cherry and add a splash of liquid from jar.

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Bar Stool Fridays – Hurricane Irene

Dear Irene,

Please play  nice.  You see, we here on the East Coast really don’t need your rain and wind.  Wouldn’t you rather become a mild little thunderstorm and bring some much needed rain to Texas?  I think that drought-stricken state would be very grateful to you as a tropical storm.  It is pretty simple to get there.  Turn left and go due west, just past Louisiana.  You can’t miss it.

Thanks for considering my request.

Sincerely,
Cook in a Bar

My thoughts and good wishes are with the folks along North Carolina’s Outer Banks and Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  I hope Irene isn’t too harsh on you and your homes.

Please understand that I’m not advocating hunkering down and drinking away your sorrows like some old-timers used to do in locales like New Orleans.  I am, however, suggesting that everyone think about the people who will be impacted by the storm this weekend.  And, if it suits you, drink to their good health and fortune.

You might even consider making this drink – my version of a hurricane.  So, the original drink often calls for passion fruit juice or at least maraschino cherry juice to give the drink a pinkish hue..  No luck finding passion-fruit juice in local grocery stores that are being cleaned out in preparation for the storm.  But, as everyone should do in times of emergency, I got creative.  Luckily, I had a pitcher of watermelon agua fresca that I knew would add a bit of red color and a tropical flavor.  I suppose you could use another red juice (cranberry?  kool-aid?), if you prefer.

Hurricane Irene
Makes 1 drink

1 ounce dark rum
1 ounce light rum
1 ounce watermelon agua fresca
2 ounces orange juice
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce pineapple juice
dash of Angostura bitters

Add all ingredients to an ice-filled shaker and shake vigorously.  Strain into a crushed ice-filled goblet or wine glass.

I wish everyone a safe and dry weekend.

 

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Bar Stool Fridays – Cure for What Ails Ya

After a week of alcohol related posts, I thought it appropriate to provide a recipe for when you’ve been having much too good a time with too much of a good thing.  You know what I’m talking about here, right?

Yep, that’s right.  Hangovers.  Ugh.

I’d like to say that now that I’m older it never happens to me, but that would be a lie.  I sometimes lose track and overindulge.  Nothing horrible, mind you, but it has its impact, nonetheless.

I always enjoy hearing about what works for folks the morning after a night of revelry.  Is it a sports drink and reality TV?  Drive-through breakfast and Diet Coke?  Bloody Marys with your ham and eggs?  The raw egg in your Prairie Oyster drink?  I also get a kick out of reading recipes for archaic methods like the classic “corpse reviver” cocktails that basically just prolong your inebriation, like a combination of brandy, applejack, and sweet vermouth.

What causes the pain of a hangover?  Your body is suffering from dehydration and malnutrition.  Alcohol saps your body of water and drains it of its supply of vitamins and nutrients.

My strategy is to avoid a hangover from the start.  Yeah, I know that the obvious solution is to drink in moderation, but …well, you know.  So, anyway, I find that trying to consume a lot of water helps me to stay hydrated.  I drink water both before partaking of alcohol and during the consumption.  I also try to eat, especially something with sugar.  Dessert, anyone?  This helps slow the absorption of alcohol in my body.

The next day I try to drink even more water, but I also find some bubbles (carbonation) can soothe my stomach.  My mother swears by Lemon Schwepps.  While I also enjoy the flavor of bitters and club soda, if I’m feeling ambitious or I have a sympathetic bartender, I try to go for a bit of Vitamin C, too.  It goes great with breakfast tacos, which are a part of my favorite morning after meal.

Spicy Campari and Orange Juice
Makes 1 drink

1 ounce Campari (bitter orange liqueur)
2 ounces orange juice
1/2 oz chile pepper infused simple syrup (see below)
3 to 5 ounces of chilled club soda

Combine Campari, juice, and simple syrup in an ice-filled shaker.  Shake well.  Strain into an ice-filled glass.  Top with club soda.

Sip slowly and take off those sunglasses.

Chile Pepper Infused Simple Syrup – Regular readers of this blog may have figured out by now that I always have some simple syrup on hand.  It is indeed simple so there is no reason not to.  In a small saucepan, combine equal parts water and sugar (1 cup is easy) over medium  heat.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.  If you want to flavor your syrup, say with chile peppers or lemon or ginger, add the pieces now and let it simmer for just a minute.

Turn off the heat and let the syrup cool and the flavors infuse.  Strain out the addition before using.  It can be stored in a covered container in your refrigerator for a couple of weeks, so you can always have some on hand to flavor your cocktails.

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Bar Stool Fridays – Herbal Limeade

This post is due to the influence of two remarkable women in my life.  One, is my sister-in-law Sarah, who gently and without prejudice, pointed out to me that not all of my readers enjoy alcohol quite as much as I apparently do.  Point taken and appreciated, thank you.

The other is my amazing friend Wendy who is one of my biggest champions and always pushes me to be more creative.  Wendy has decided to start presenting me with random ingredients and in Iron Chef style makes firm suggestions of what kind of dish I should make.  In this first example she offered me freshly picked Thai basil and demanded, I mean requested, I make a drink with it.

Okay, ladies, I hope you like the results.  This post is for you.  Thanks for the ongoing support.

Thai Basil and Mint Limeade
Makes about 24 oz

1/2 cup basil and mint infused simple syrup
zest of 1 lime
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 cups water or club soda
Thai basil sprigs for garnish

To make herbal infused simple syrup, combine equal parts of water and granulated sugar in a saucepan.  Heat on stovetop and stir until sugar dissolves.  Turn off heat and drop in sprigs of Thai basil and mint (about 1 to 2 oz) into the hot syrup.

Let the herbs steep until the syrup has cooled to room temperature.  Remove herbs.  Add lime zest.

Measure and pour syrup into pitcher.  Add an equal amount of fresh lime juice, and stir.  If you like it a little sweeter, add only half the amount of lime juice.

Now add water or club soda.  I added twice as much water as juice and syrup, but you may prefer a slightly weaker taste and may want to add more water.

Serve over ice with a sprig of Thai basil or mint for garnish.

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