Pomegranate Mimosas and Corn Avocado Salsa

As you may know, my favorite recipes are those that are low effort, high impact.

Particularly during the holiday season, when we are busy making our lists and checking them twice, this kind of recipe can be the answer to the pot-luck holiday party challenge.

First up, Pomegranate Mimosas. Perfect for a ladies lunch or Christmas morning, this light and lovely beverage is a nice variation on the traditional champagne cocktail.

Pomegranate mimosas

Pomegranate Mimosas

  • 2 cups of pure pomegranate juice (like Pom Wonderful)
  • 1 cup of pulp-free orange juice
  • 1/2 cup of Cointreau (orange flavored liqueur)
  • Bottle of your favorite Champagne
  • Pomegranate arils for garnish

Mix together the first three ingredients. Be sure to keep this mixture and the Champagne ice-cold.

When you are ready to serve, sprinkle some pomegranate arils in the bottom of the Champagne glass (you can use a Champagne flute or beautiful vintage Champagne glasses as seen in the photo).

Pour some of the mixture and some champagne over the arils (I start with a 50/50 ratio then adjust based on people’s preferences) and enjoy!

I brought this to a luncheon at my pal Woody’s house which was beautifully decorated for the holidays complete with a Christmas village including this.

Christmas village W

Well done, Woody and Mr. Woody!

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Sometimes I think “healthy” and “delicious” are oxymorons when it comes to recipes. That is not the case, my friends, with this gem.

All credit for this low effort, high impact appetizer recipe goes to my friend, Clare.

Corn avocado salsa ingredients

Clare’s Corn Avocado Salsa

  • 3 Tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar (be sure to use white balsamic or the finished product won’t be as pretty)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard
  • 1 can of white corn, drained
  • 3 avocados, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup of onion (use a red onion is you like a little kick, or yellow onion if not)

Mix the first four ingredients then add to the bottom three ingredients. Serve with tortilla chips.

Pretty simple, eh?

The only tricky part of this recipe is keeping the chopped avocados from turning brownish. Clare recommends tossing the corn and onion then adding a little of the dressing as you add each avocado.

Be sure to put a tight seal of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the dip to keep air away from the avocado until serving. But, honestly, this salsa will be gobbled up so fast the avocados won’t have time to transform.

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There you have it. A couple of easy-peasy recipes to share with friends and family. Cheers!

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Two Melon Soup – A High Impact, Low Effort Recipe

Hi, folks!

We had a busy weekend which started with the celebration of this gal’s birthday.

the birthday girl

You may know her as “Momma” from the comments section of this blog. I know her as the best mom a gal could ever have.

Our two-day celebration was capped off with a delicious dinner at McCormick & Schmick’s.  By the way, did you know that they will print a special occasion message to the guest of honor on the top of your menus? Nice touch, McCormick & Schmick’s.

On Saturday night we had a mini-reunion with part of our Camino de Santiago group at the home of fellow pilgrims, Nora and G.

Before dinner, we plugged our computers into G’s gigantic and gorgeous television to share pictures from the trip. We scrolled through 300+ photos bringing back great memories of a most amazing journey.

In honor of the evening’s theme, Nora prepared a lovely and delicious paella.

paella and two melon soup

Paella is something I enjoy eating but would never attempt to make myself. Nora is a gifted cook who whips up dishes like this with her eyes closed.

I’m delighted to be the frequent beneficiary of Nora’s culinary skills and have, in fact, “borrowed” her recipes for posts (Panzanella salad).

Today I’m going to share another of Nora’s recipes with you.

See that pretty bowl of soup served with the paella?

This Two Melon Soup, served chilled, is the perfect, refreshing start to a summertime meal.

Also, Nora assures me that the recipe fits my requirements of being High Impact, Low Effort. The hardest part, she says, is pouring the soup into the bowls.

two melon soup

Nora’s Two Melon Soup

  • 1 ripe cantaloupe, diced
  • 1 small honeydew melon, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon minced fresh mint

Puree cantaloupe with lemon juice until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Rinse blender then puree honeydew with lime juice and mint until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

When ready to serve, either:

Transfer purees into two separate measuring cups. With one in each hand, pour simultaneously into the bowl, pouring equal amounts on each side.

or use Nora’s preferred method:

Tip bowl slightly to the side and pour in the desired amount of cantaloupe puree. Pour the honeydew puree into the other side of the bowl as you are lowering the bowl back to level.

Either way might take some practice but the result is beautiful.

Garnish with a mint sprig.

Easy, peasy. Or so I’m told.

Big surprise, Peter and I brought wine to enjoy with dinner.

First up, a bottle of Albariño.

Albariño is a white wine commonly grown in Galicia, the Northwest region of Spain. Galicia is the very same part of Spain we walked through on the Camino of St. James. Along the way, we enjoyed lots and lots of great Spanish Albariño. 

Peter and I brought a bottle from one of the few U.S. producers of Albariño, Hendry Vineyard. It was on a trip to Hendry’s winery in Napa that we first tasted Albariño and fell in love with it.

2014 Hendry Albariño

The 2014 Hendry Albariño ($22) is light and refreshing with good acidity. It is fruity and floral without going over the top. 

Floral, herbal and peachy aromas. On the palate, tangy citrus, nectarine and passion fruit flavors reflect the bright acidity.

– Tasting notes via Hendry.com

Albariño reminds me a bit of Viognier in that it is a pretty versatile food wine. It pairs best with shellfish like mussels and clams but is also great with chicken. It’s the perfect white wine to serve with paella.

For the red wine lovers in the group, we brought a bottle of 2007 Clos Mogador Priorat from Spain.

2007 Clos Magador

This bold red Spanish wine, a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carinena, is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Albariño.

The 2007 Clos Mogador Priorat is dark and juicy and immensely satisfying. It brings flavors of licorice, blackberry, and black cherry. It’s a little bit spicy and a little bit smoky.

Oddly, though, because of the hearty nature of paella, this wine played well and did not overpower the flavors in the main course.

You have to love a dish with which you can pair both a light white wine and a bold red wine. Something for everyone.

For dessert, Nora made (you won’t believe this) homemade non-dairy rocky road ice cream with mini-marshmallows, almonds, and dashes of cayenne and red pepper.

That’s what I call a “HIGH EFFORT, HIGH IMPACT” recipe!

We ended the evening re-watching the movie that inspired us to do the walk in the first place, The Way.

This film from 2011 stars Martin Sheen and is written, produced and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez. Dedicated to Sheen’s father, Francisco Estevez, who hailed from Galicia, the film was inspired by a trip Sheen took with Emilio’s son on which they walked part of the Camino. A real family affair.

Although the movie tells the sad story of a dad completing the pilgrimage on behalf of his late son, it also captures the beauty, the community, and the spirit of The Way.

I highly recommend it!

And if you can get Nora to make some Two Melon Soup and paella for you – even better!!

I’ll bring the Albariño.

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Bread Salad

Nora brought this delicious panzanella (aka bread salad) to not one but TWO girls’ nights in the last couple of weeks.

The recipe is originally from The Barefoot Contessa, tweaked with a little Nora love. It is a great summer salad and so delicious you will want to dive into the bowl…I’m not kidding.

panzella

PANZANELLA

3 tablespoons good olive oil

1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)*

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced

20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

1/2 cup good olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.

For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

*I use sea salt and rosemary bread from Fresh Market and brown it in slices before I cut into cubes.  It just saves me a little time!

Mo’s note here: You know how most salads aren’t as good as leftovers? They get too soggy from the dressing. This salad is the exception, my friend. By the next day the crunchy bread has absorbed some of the dressing making for a different but equally yummy treat.

Enjoy!

 

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Girls’ Night In

A few years ago I took the personality test from the book  Now, Discover Your Strengths.  One of the categories I scored pretty high on was that of RELATOR. (Relator, not Realtor…I don’t sell houses. Just to clear that up.)

Now I might not be the most self aware gal on the block but the fact that I like to connect with people was not much of a revelation. I love, love, love getting together with girlfriends for what I like to call “Girl’s Night In”.

I bought this print by Liz Lyons Friedman because it sums up Girls' Night In so perfectly

I bought this print by Liz Lyons Friedman because it sums up Girls’ Night In so perfectly

Here’s how it works. I set a date once a month, for instance the third Thursday of every month. Trying to coordinate the schedules of 10 women is nearly impossible. By sticking to a set day each month everyone can plan ahead and come when they are able. If you can make it – great! If not, we will see you next month. I host the girls at my house because I love to host. We just like being “in” rather than out a a restaurant because it is more intimate, we never feel rushed, it is more economical and you never have to figure out how to split the check!

Everyone brings a dish to share.  But the rule is, if you’ve had a crazy day and can’t contribute, come anyway! Girls’ Night In is meant to be a stress reliever not a stress creator. We alternate between salads and appetizers and always have a beautiful smorgasbord of deliciousness.  Big surprise – I supply the wine.

We meet at 7, but everyone shows up when they can.  Some nights we fold our tents by 9, other nights we go wild and stay up until 11.

I hosted this type of get together for years with our moms and tots group . With everyone’s busy lives, we might not have seen each other all month so there is usually a lot to catch up on.  Even after moving to San Diego, I have continued the get togethers, just less frequently.  Whenever I come home to Chicago I have all the moms over and it’s like I never left! I mentioned to Clare today that the gals could hold the party without me on the months that I am not in town.  She said, “We could, but we don’t.” That cracked me up. And made me appreciate my role as the Relator.

GIrls Night In

You bring the food, I’ve got the wine covered.

It’s such a great model, that I’ve extended Girls’ Night In to other circles in my life.

Just the other night I hosted a group of women I used to work with.  I can always count on this being a night of raucous laughter and a full recycling bin. If laughter is the best medicine, then these gals could heal the world.

Belle, acting as the designated driver, fills up her SUV with the rest of the attendees. Belle also brings THE most delicious desserts. Zsa Zsa, Nora, Woody and PJ (all wonderful cooks) bring a salad or an appetizer, Clare brings some yummy and/or exotic bread because it is her favorite food group and yes, I provide the wine. Afterwards there is a flurry of emails asking for and trading recipes. PJ brought a fabulous watermelon and feta salad. I asked for the recipe and her response was:

Ok, better get pad of paper out-it’s uber-complicated.   Arugula, watermelon (cubed), feta and balsamic vinegar. Toss.

My idea of a perfect recipe: high impact, low effort. And delicious.

Girls’ Night In is good for my heart and good for my soul.

How do you celebrate with your girlfriends?

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