Category Archives: Beverage

How to stay cool, plus a Keurig give-away!


Summer is winding down, but there are still a few scorchers ahead. And even through the fall and winter, sometimes it’s nice to have a frosty beverage pick-me-up. Iced drinks are my number one favorite way to keep cool, as they taste great and also cool your internal body temperature, making it easier to beat the heat.

It’s no secret that I love my caffeinated beverages, and have finally figured out the secret to Perfect Iced Coffee. This trick works with tea, juices, or any other drink as well. Try it yourself and see how great it is to no longer have watered-down drinks that are still icy cold.

This summer, Keurig is sponsoring a nation-wide #StayCool contest! If you share a photo of how you stay cool on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, you are entered in a contest to win a Keurig K Cup and other fun goodies!

  • On your mobile device, take a photo and share it on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #StayCool & #Sweeps. Make sure to share your location!
  • Your photo will appear on the interactive map where you can see how everyone else is riding out the summer heat. You’ll automatically get a chance to win a Keurig® brewer and Brew Over Ice K-Cup® packs!

In other exciting news, The Budget Epicurean is partnering with Keurig for a K Cup beverage give-away! Readers who enter will have the chance to win:

  1. A variety pack of Keurig K Cups
  2. Coupons for BOGO K Cups
  3. An ebook with drink recipes

Top three entries will receive the prizes in order. One other mode of entry is to send an email to BudgetEpicurean (at) gmail (dot) com with your name and how you #StayCool! Raffle ends 8/25/2014. Winners will be notified and posted about on 8/26/2014.

BudgetEpicurean Keurig giveaway, by Rafflecopter.

This is why I was super-pumped to get a Keurig K-Cup brewer! IMG_4471

I’ve long laughed at the idea of a one-cup wonder, as I tend to brew a big ‘ol pot of java on Monday and use it throughout the week (or freeze it… hint hint). However, I’ve been more and more curious as tons of new options come out for this bad boy. What if I only wanted one cup of hot coffee? What if I wanted to try a new type of tea? What if I wanted cold tea?


Well, now Keurig has the answer to all these dilemmas! Hot tea, any kind you want, just one cup, and no tea kettle required. Cold tea, perfect for sunny days, porch sipping, or watching your show on the couch. Coffees, flavored coffees, decaf too. All at the touch of a button.


I have to admit, I’ve only tried a few varieties so far and I’m already in love! This guy had earned its counter space the first day I had it. Set-up was a breeze, and it was ready to brew within minutes of leaving the package.


The first thing I tried was the Vitamin Burst acai berry Cold Brew. It smelled delicious the second it began brewing.


Simply fill up a tall glass with ice cubes, pop in the cup, and hit ‘brew’. Easy peasy.


This is a 24 oz cup I think, and it was done in less than a minute.


I just popped on some berries and a cute umbrella as garnish, and enjoyed!


The flavor is delightful, refreshing and light. I found the highest brew setting was just sugary enough for me, though you could choose lower amounts of water if you like it stronger.

keurig ice splash

Trying to re-create the ice cube “splash” on the box. =)


The Keurig obviously works wonders for coffee. For just one cup in the mornings or afternoon, pop in your favorite and hit the button. You can have six people with six different favorites, and serve up a hot fresh round in minutes. My counter is now half dedicated to beverages.


The brew-over-ice coffee is equally wonderful. Yes you will get some watered down effect, unless you use my tip

In case you missed it above, The Budget Epicurean is partnering with Keurig for a K Cup beverage give-away! Readers who enter will have the chance to win:

    1. A variety pack of Keurig K Cups
    2. Coupons for BOGO K Cups
    3. An ebook with drink recipes

Top three entries will receive the prizes in order. One other mode of entry is to send an email to BudgetEpicurean (at) gmail (dot) com with your name and how you #StayCool! Raffle ends 8/25/2014. BudgetEpicurean Keurig giveaway, by Rafflecopter!

Disclaimer: Keurig machine and K-Cups were provided by Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., all opinions are those of the Budget Epicurean.



Tropical Sunrise Shots

Summer is a great time for tropical drinks. Vodka is wonderful and orange juice is good for you, so make a Tropical Sunrise shot! You can also use tequila for a Tequila Sunrise. Perfect for beach parties or patio sitting, it gets you in the summer mood.


  • 1 oz tequila
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • Splash grenadine or cherry juice
Step 1: Pour cold orange juice into a shot glass. Then carefully pour vodka on, if slow enough they won’t mix and will create two layers. I used raspberry vodka because that’s what I had and it adds another fruity flavor.
Step 2: Slowly pour in a dash of cherry juice, which should sink to the bottom. It makes a layered, colorful shot that’s delicious and pretty!

Please enjoy responsibly.

Perfect Iced Coffee


If you ever tried to make an iced coffee at home only to end up with lukewarm, watery coffee; or if you’ve ever tried to make a homemade Frappuccino and ended up with cold coffee-scented water, this post is for you.

My friend B is a bit of a Starbucks addict. Any time the S word is mentioned, off we go for venti frappuccinos. Because of the significant toll this takes on your wallet, we started experimenting at home. Regular hot coffee is a no-brainer; it is far cheaper to brew your own in the mornings, saving you $1-4 per day. About $5 per pound of coffee and $1 for 100 filters will give you a few months of java.

The problem is when it heats up outside, a steaming cup of coffee isn’t so desirable. When you pour hot coffee over frozen water, physics dictates that you end up with a watery, tasteless, lukewarm beverage. Then she came up with the most brilliant idea ever: freeze extra coffee into coffee cubes!

coffee cubes

We then pop these into a plastic bag in the freezer, and use them when the hankering for an iced coffee hits. They can also be blended into your own version of a frappuccino. Feel free to add in sugar, honey, creamer, cocoa powder, Hershey’s syrup…


This saves money twice: extra coffee is not wasted, it is instead frozen for later. Also you can use that frozen coffee for two different types of frozen caffeinated beverages during the warm summer months.


Step 1: Just fill your mug with coffee cubes, and pour more coffee over it. It is best to let the coffee cool down, or even put it in the refrigerator to chill before pouring. Physics still says hot liquid over frozen things will cause it to melt. =)


Step 2: Add in your creamer and/or flavorings.


Step 3: Give it a mix, and enjoy! Take your iced drink to work, school, the pool, a picnic, whatever. If you want a Frappuccino, simply fill a blender with coffee cubes, pour in a cup of cool coffee and flavorings, and blend until smooth. You can add whipped topping, cinnamon, Khalua… whatever your heart desires.

Iced coffee

Enjoy non-watery iced coffee every summer from now on!


Cinco de Mayo drink: Margarita Spritzer

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Most people will be celebrating early since the 5th of May is a Monday, so I figured I’d post this early as well. 
As with most holidays, I always wonder how they started and what they really mean. As I dug into the history of this one, I was surprised and learned quite a bit. 
Most people tend to think this holiday commemorates Mexico’s Independence Day, but that is not true. Mexico’s independence day is actually September 16th, not May 5th. The 5th of May is the day a Mexican city won a huge battle with the French. For a great 2-minute video, check out the History Channel
In 1861, Mexico was so far in debt to so many countries that the president Benito Juarez declared that they could not pay back any countries they owed. This made the French super mad, and they invaded. Good cheese isn’t cheap, you know.
So the French rampaged across Mexico, winning battle after battle. Then on May 5, 1862, in the state of Puebla, the Mexicans finally defeated the French, despite being less prepared, not well trained or equipped, and outnumbered 2:1 on the battlefield!
The French quickly regrouped and eventually took Mexico City, but that euphoria of an unlikely victory tasted sweet. Just like a cold margarita. The victory was so inspiring, American generals began using it as “inspiration for the Union struggle in the Civil War”. (*All quotes from the History Channel video mentioned above)
Mexican-Americans, and Americans of all kind, took to remembering that battle every May 5th with food, drinks, parades, dancing, game, and bullfights (from “Cinco de Mayo – the Basics“). Over time, the holiday died down in most of Mexico, except in Puebla where the battle was originally won. However, north of the border we never got out of the habit, and Cinco de Mayo is still celebrated every year with margaritas, Meixcan food, and other festivities. And now you know the “surprisingly American history behind this Mexican holiday”.
So to celebrate these brave Mexican fighters who didn’t want their tacos replaced with baguettes, make yourself a big ol’ pitcher of these Margarita Spritzers! With less “extras” and sugar, this version of the lime classic is lower on calories but big on taste, and how hard it hits is up to how much tequila you pour!
1 oz gold tequila
1 oz simple syrup*
1 oz lime juice
1 cup soda water (lemon-lime flavor is best)
Salt for rimming if you like
Fresh lime slices for garnish
Step 1: *Simple syrup – add 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 cups water to a pot. Bring to a gentle boil, or at least heat until all sugar is dissolved. Chill.

Step 2: On two flat plates, pour onto one a tbsp lime juice and on the other some sea salt. Take a glass, and rub the rim in the juice. Then swirl it around in the salt so it sticks.

Step 3: In a shaker, combine (per drink) 1 oz tequila, 1 oz simple syrup, and 1 oz lime juice. Shake with ice until cold.

 Step 4: Pour over ice in rimmed glass, and top with soda water. Stir and garnish as desired.

This margarita requires NO triple sec, the source of most margarita’s zing and pucker, but it’s also a sugar bomb with calories galore. This is a super simple recipe, with endless customization choices.

Try any juice you like in place of lime; cherry, pomegranate, strawberries. I’m a total purist and prefer simply lime over ice, but you can blend it if you must. Check out CookingChannel‘s list of top 20 Margarita Recipes for inspiration.

This 5th of May, raise a glass to those brave Mexicans who kept the French in France and enabled this long tradition of May festivity. ¡Que viva México!

What do you do on May 5th?


Quick & Easy Blueberry-tini

This simple cocktail is super fast to whip up, for a house party or to relax in the evening after a long week. Sugary enough to mask the alcohol, be careful to count how many you make! Dangerously delicious.

1 oz vodka (can use flavored if you prefer)
1 oz blueberry martini mixer (can use juice & club soda instead)
Handful frozen berries
Rimming sugar (cute if it’s colored but you can use plain)

Step 1: On a flat plate, squeeze a lemon or lime. Or drizzle a tbsp of juice. Rub the rim of a martini glass in the juice to get the rim wet.

Step 2: On a separate flat plate, spread a circle of sugar. Take the wet-rimmed glass and rub it in the sugar so that it sticks.

Step 3: If you have a mixer, add ice, 1 oz vodka and 1 oz mixer and shake well. If not, just mix in a normal cup. Pour into the rimmed glass, and add a few frozen berries. You can get fancy and put more berries on toothpicks as a garnish. 

Step 4: Relax & enjoy!

What is your favorite drink?


History of Limoncello

Limoncello is a traditional liquor of Italy, with competing areas laying claim to its origin, including Sorrentini, Amalfitani, and Capresi. Production began sometime in the 1900s, but the businessman Massimo Canale first trademarked the name “Limoncello” in 1988 (source: Taste of Sorrento).

There are many other competing stories, such as limoncello being used in coastal towns to fight the morning chill, or its use among monks in monasteries to keep them cheerful between prayers. 

Limoncello has been growing in popularity as people begin trying their hands at home-brewing all types of alcohols, from wine and beer to whiskey and kahlua. The beauty of this type is that there are only four ingredients: citrus peels, alcohol, sugar, and water.

It does not depend on a specific type of alcohol, rum will work just as well as vodka. It also can vary between which type of citrus peel you use. The steeping time is typically at minimum one month, but I’ve read up to a year. 

By soaking the peels in the alcohol, you are sucking out all the depth of flavor and aroma from the peel’s essential oils into the liquid. This infusion is what can then bring flavor to other beverages. It is claimed that limoncello as an aperitif before or after a meal is a great digestive aid, and it is also sometimes enjoyed when mixed with champagne.

Typical Recipes

Limoncello is made by soaking the peel only of citrus fruits, most often lemons, in liquor for an amount of time. It is then strained and to it is added sugar dissolved in water. The liquid is then cured a little longer. It is then ready to be drunk as an aperitif or added to cocktails.

According to Discover Italian Foods, the traditional recipe calls for: 13 Sorrento or Amalfi lemons, 2 L good quality alcohol (type not specified), 650 g sugar (2 & 3/4 cups), and 1 L pure water. Soak the peels in the alcohol in a cool, dark place for one month. Filter, then make the syrup by boiling the sugar and water. Mix and store in the freezer.

Keep in mind that all of these recipes calling for limoncello can also use any steeped liquor using citrus peels. You can make this with oranges, lemons, limes, tangelos, or grapefruit. As long as you make sure to only take the peel and not the pithy white inside, you’re good to go!

I decided to start small, and as I only had one gigantic grapefruit, that is what I started with. I scaled back the average recipe and made just one bottle of grapefruitcello.


  • 1 large grapefruit
  • 1 cup plain vodka
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ~time~

Step 1: Peel 1 large grapefruit and place peels in a glass jar. Pour the vodka over it and cover. Let sit in a cool, dark place. Mine only sat for 2 weeks rather than the traditional month or longer.

Step 2: Prepare the simple syrup by mixing the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Strain the liquor to remove the peels. Let syrup cool, then add to the filtered infusion.

Step 3: I’m storing this is the refrigerator for now. It probably won’t last too long!

This made about 150 mL of grapefruitcello. The taster shots were darn good, I can’t wait to mix up some tangy cocktails using this!

Limoncello cocktails

Limoncello can be drunk cold by itself between courses or after meals, you can use it in baking, or it can be added into cocktails for depth of flavor. This post from The Vintage Mixer is right up my alley in determining how to mix a cocktail.

Simply take 1 ounce limoncello, add 2-3 oz any complimentary liquid (juices, club soda, tea), add an additional liquor if you desire (1 oz gin, whiskey, rum), and garnish with something pretty! The website Limoncello Quest also has a massive list of creative drinks which use limoncello. 

I’m going to try a variation on a vodka cranberry and a lemon drop martini. Since I used grapefruit to make the grapefruitcello, I don’t need grapefruit juice. 


  • 1 oz grapefruitcello
  • 1 oz vanilla vodka
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/2 cup cran-cherry juice (or whatever kind you like & have)
  • Top off with sparkling water

Step 1: I had frozen lime juice cubes so I threw one of those in, as well as some re-freezable ice cubes so it didn’t get watered down. Add 1 shot (1 oz) of the grapefruitcello and 1 shot of vanilla vodka (bought pre-flavored or make your own by adding vanilla beans to plain vodka). Add in about 1/2 cup juice, and top it off with sparkling water.

I added a slice of lime wedge and a pretty stir stick, and my new signature cocktail is complete! Pretty and delicious. And with under 200 calories, about 15 g of sugar, and no fat, you can justify another one!

Have you made any homemade liquors? 

Super simple egg nog

History of eggnog: What’s in a name?

Egg Nog is one of the most popular beverages around Christmastime. But where did this dairy delight come from? There is plenty of debate but most sites agree that it is a descendant of the European beverage of “posset”, a popular beverage made with sweetened hot milk and wine. The original didn’t contain eggs, as dairy products were expensive and a rare commodity. In the Americas this wasn’t a problem, since most settlers kept their own cows and chickens, thus having plenty of access to both milk and eggs. Even today, the drink is far more popular in the US than the UK.
As for the “nog” part, CNN has an interesting article which puts forth three theories:
1. The word “noggin” describes the wooden mugs this beverage was often served in
2. The Norfolk slang word for strong ales served in these mugs was “nog”
3. In the early Americas, this drink was called “egg-and-grog”, which after having a few glasses morphed into “eggnnogg…”
Other countries have similar varieties, Time cites the Mexican “rompope” as well as the Puerto Rican version which adds coconut milk called “coquito”.
A perfectly valid excuse for consuming a carton by yourself is patriotism. Our forefather George Washington was quite fond of the drink, and the official White House recipe called for at least four types of liquor, a quart each cream and milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar and one dozen eggs. I can only imagine the holiday festivities after a few glasses of that…

Nutritional info

First of all, eggnog is traditionally made with whole, raw eggs. According to, you can make a cooked egg base first then chill before mixing to be absolutely sure your nog is safe. According to popular belief, adding alcohol will kill any bacteria. But this is not true, so don’t count on copious amounts of rum or sherry to keep your eggnog sterile. If you have an immune deficiency or are paranoid about salmonella, you can use pasteurized eggs.
If you’re holding a frothy glass right now, you might want to skip over this part. But chances are even if you indulge, you do so with the awareness that eggnog is most certainly not a diet drink. Especially the sugar-stuffed, store-bought kind, which is only required to have 1% egg by the FDA to classify as eggnog. You can get up to 1/3 day’s worth of fat and cholesterol per glass depending on the brand. It is far better for you (and tastier, in my opinion) to whip up your own fresh. 
This recipe has only 250 calories, 2.5 g fat, 95 mg cholesterol, and a bonus 7.5 g protein per serving.
For an aged recipe that sounds wonderful (which I will try soon) see Alton Brown’s recipe on Mental Floss.
2 cups milk
4 tbsp creamer (flavored kinds will add that extra something)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp powdered sugar
2 whole large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla flavoring
Cinnamon & nutmeg to taste
*For an adult version, add 1 cup rum or liquor of choice

Step 1: Pour all the ingredients into a blender. Blend on high for a few seconds. Pour into a mug and dust with cinnamon. This makes enough for about 4 glasses.
Do you have any other favorite holiday drinks?

True Stories of Juicing


Raw Juice: what’s fact and what’s hype?
For several years now I’ve been dabbling in “healthy stuff” like juicing. As most things do, it began as just a curiosity, what’s it all about. I read articles and books and opinions of people who have tried juicing in various ways and for various amounts of time. There are some super-intense proponents of juicing, like this guy. His name is Joe Cross, and he claims juicing saved his life. He has a documentary on Netflix and free online called “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead” as well as a blog. Before you think “ok, crazy extremists who make these claims just want us to buy their juicer”, let me say that recognized sources like WebMD and even Dr. Oz tout the benefits of juicing while giving adequate attention to the possible drawbacks.

Fruit and vegetable juices retain most of the chemicals which make them so good for us in the first place, like chlorophyll, anthocyanins, antioxidants and flavonoids. It is important to note that although adding juice to a well rounded, healthy diet is an excellent idea, beware falling into thinking that juicing is the only or best way to be healthy, or that only juices are good for you and you should avoid whole foods. That is not at all what I’m saying. Juicing also takes out all the fiber from these wonder foods, fiber that your body needs for its normal digestive process. For a list of nearly 50 more fascinating raw food juice facts, check this out.

Now, before you rush out and buy a $300 juicer, consider your needs. Are you just beginning to dabble in this juicing craze? Do you just want a healthy beverage now and then, as well as pulp to put into soup and muffins? Are you already a hard-core health nut ready to begin adding daily juices to your diet? There are two types of juicers, a centrifugal juicer or a masticating juicer. Centrifugal machines work by chopping the food into tiny pieces and spinning it to separate the juices. They are typically smaller and less expensive. You won’t get as much of the nutrients, but they do the job. Masticating juicers work by mashing and grinding the food, producing a thicker, pulpier juice with the majority of the nutrients. They are typically larger and more expensive. You can check out a wide array on Amazon (not an affiliate link. I will get no benefit if you look or buy). 

Funny story, my juicer was actually free. I’m a member of an online community called SparkPeople which has nutrition and exercise trackers, recipes, articles, community boards and much more. I highly recommend it if you want a simple, informative website to keep track of your health stats. Anyways, there was a forum about juicing, and I posted in it that I was curious about juicing. It lead to several conversations about types of juicers, uses, etc. A fellow member sent me a personal message saying that she had just gotten a newer, larger juicer as a gift and had an old one she didn’t need anymore. Of course I was skeptical, but sure enough two weeks later a gorgeous little blue and white juicer showed up! 

My gorgeous gift, courtesy of a kind fellow Spark-er!


I was thrilled, and thanked her profusely. Since then I’ve dabbled on and off with various types of fruits and vegetables and recipes, and learned a little along the way. Following is a list of rules I’ve determined for myself. They may not all work for you, but enjoy learning from my experience.

Jen’s Five Juicing Rules: 

1. Take the time to cut off the peels. Seriously, juicing the peels too gives the final juice a bitter, sour taste that is not really pleasant, regardless of what other goodies are in there.Of course, mine is a centrifugal juicer, not meant for large pieces of whole fruit. If you have a masticating one, it might be ok.

2. Know the limits of your machine. If you have one of the huge, fancy juicers you can pretty much throw a whole watermelon into, good for you! Most likely you do not, so know how large of a piece of food your machine can handle at a time, and if you’re doing a large batch clean it a few times throughout to keep it from clogging up.

3. Wash your juicer immediately once finished. Dried on fruit and vegetable bits are gross, start to smell, and are much harder to scrape off the inside of a fruit chute than fresh.  I promise the chlorophyll and phytochemicals in your juice won’t fall apart in the time it takes to give it a quick rinse.

4. Always throw in a little something sweet. Even the most hard-core purist who drinks three glasses of green juice a day has to admit kale, spinach and carrots alone don’t taste super great. Especially if you’re just starting out with juicing, give yourself some slack and add some apple juice or berries to everything.  

5. Don’t be afraid to try new things. I juiced anything I could get my hands on for a while. Sure I made some mistakes (see the list at the end of things that are HORRIBLE juiced) but I also found a lot of new fruits and veggies I didn’t know I liked. 

Prepping for juicing: lots of fresh fruits and veggies
This will become many tasty beverages for the week.
Mmmm green juice, that’s the best way to start the day.

Things that are seriously gross when juiced:
Garlic – maybe for cooking, but holy cow this stuff is strong! Gag-inducing, even in small amounts.

Things that will overwhelm the taste (use small amounts only):

Best things for juicing:
Berries (most of them)

Now that you know the facts, go ahead and find yourself a juicer (Amazon, Ebay, Walmart, Christmas present, Craigslist…) and get to creating! The Beginner’s Guide to Juicing is a great article full of helpful information, reviews of different types of juicers and blenders, and includes more recipe ideas.

Some recipes to get you started:

Citrus Refresher
~2 oranges, peels cut off
~2 apples
~2 large carrots
~1 lemon and/or lime

Green Machine
~1 large handful spinach or kale
~4 stalks celery
~1 large cucumber
~1 apple
~1 lime

Cold Crusher
~2 oranges
~1/2 a grapefruit
~1 apple
~1″ chunk ginger
~1 lemon

If you have any juicing stories, advice or recipes, please share!


Easy Halloween Themed Treats (no tricks!)


Halloween is easily one of my favorite holidays. I love to dress up, I love cooking and eating, I love candy (who doesn’t?!?) and I love throwing parties. And I have a confession: I’m in my mid-twenties, and I went trick-or-treating last year. Don’t judge just because you’re jealous. Never say no to free candy (unless given to you by a creepy stranger. Wait a minute…)

This year I decided to throw a Halloween party for some friends, and began planning far in advance. I love cute themed dishes, and picked some of the simplest sounding ones. I made a big list of what I thought was the best ideas, and didn’t really keep any recipes, I just made it like I thought it should be made. But if you’re the type who wants a list and steps to follow, then continue reading below and enjoy! If you have a favorite Halloween or fall-themed dish, please share in the comments! (Or email me with “Halloween treat” in the subject heading). The one I think sounds tastiest may appear on a future post!

Mystery Shots
These were test tubes filled with all sorts of delicious and terrifying ingredients! I had coffee, soy sauce, sriracha, dish soap, eggnog, orange juice, apple juice, grape juice, cranberry juice, water, rum, vodka, juiced carrot, cabbage or bell pepper. Obviously if the party involves kids don’t use alcohol and maybe not as many gross ones. But get creative, you can put in whatever you want! And use food coloring to hide the natural color of things, it keep them guessing.

Blood & Guts Potato Skins
Wash as many potatoes as you’ll have guests and cut potatoes in half. Spray a baking pan and bake cut-side down at 350 for about an hour. Scoop out the cooked insides and place in a bowl. Add a can of tomato sauce and salsa until stuffing is reddish and goopy. The salsa is supposed to make it look like chunks of gore. Re-fill the skins and bake another 10-15 minutes, serve. I added some refried beans to some, thinking it looked kind of like mud.

String Cheese Severed Fingers
Cut string cheese in half, use a knife to carve knuckles about halfway down. Make a slice half an inch from the edge, and insert a slivered almond as the ‘nail’.

Mummy Dogs
By far the most adorable thing, and likely the only way I’ll ever make pigs in a blanket from now on. Cut hot dogs in half. Unroll a tube of crescent dough and make half inch slices. Wrap a small piece around the top, and a larger piece around the bottom 2/3. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. Use mustard or ketchup to draw eyes.

Monster Wedges
Cut unpeeled, washed apples into quarters such that they can still stand alone. Remove the seeds and stem. Cut another small wedge halfway down, insert slivered almonds randomly for teeth. Use whatever candy and either syrup or cream cheese or peanut butter to stick on eyes.

Severed Hand ice cubes
For these, you need some gloves and some time. Fill gloves with water and tie well, put in freezer for several hours. When it’s floating in your beverage, they look like severed hands. I used cranberry juice to make a red, ‘bloody’ one, you can use food coloring in the water for any color.

On the topic of beverages, dry ice is definitely worth investing in! It was only $1.29 per pound at my local grocery store, and 5 pounds was plenty to last the whole night, throwing in small pieces as they evaporated. It bubbles and smokes, and causes real ‘cauldron’ noises! People of all ages are guaranteed to be fascinated by this.

Orange and Black Fruit Kebabs with Toffee Dip
Alternate chopped cantaloupe with blackberries and blueberries to create colorful skewers. The dip is 1 package cream cheese, softened at room temperature, 1 tsp cinnamon and nutmeg, 1/4 cup coffee creamer in some holiday flavor (caramel, apple, toffee, pumpkin, etc) and 3/4 cup brown sugar. Mix well, and sprinkle toffee bits over top. You could also drizzle on caramel, mix in a tub of whipped cream, or mix toffee or chocolate into the dip. Party-goers said this should be eaten with a spoon!

Dirt Cake
Make a package or 2 of chocolate pudding and refrigerate. Crush up a handful of Oreos in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or your fist and sprinkle on top as the ‘dirt’. Add gummy worms and viola! A dessert no kid (or grown-up) can resist. You can get creative and add mini tombstones, trees, ghosts etc to look like a real graveyard too.

Doritos Pumpkin Cheese Ball
Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of this, but trust me when I say it is adorable! Mix 2 packs cream cheese, softened, with onion soup mix or dried onion, 1/4 cup sour cream and 2 tbsp ranch dressing. Make it into a ball, roll it in mashed-up doritos chips, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least an hour before serving. Use the stem of a green bell pepper as the pumpkin top.

 Have a spook-tacular Halloween!

August’s new food: Young Thai coconut pina cooladas

I have a friend who is Asian, and as such eats some foods I, as an American, have not yet tried. I was over her family’s house, and I was offered coconut milk. I said sure, not realizing they meant a real coconut, which her aunt promptly chopped open with a giant butcher knife, stuck in a straw and handed to me. Fresh, raw coconut water is strange at first, but very refreshing. It has a hint of sweetness, and is supposed to be helpful in reducing inflammation and fever because of its cooling properties.

So now my friend and I had two young coconuts to take home, and I had to make something out of them. I considered coconut cream pie (not the kinda cheater version I made earlier) but it usually uses a more mature coconut because the flavor gets stronger with age. So the other thing that naturally comes to mind (for those of age) was pina cooladas. I’d never liked them much, but hey, it’s probably better when I make it, most things are. =)

Meat of 2 young coconuts
1 can pineapple chunks with juice
~1/4 cup lemon/lime juice
~1/3 cup cherry rum
Lots of ice

 Step 1: Cut at an angle around the top of the coconut. Then stick a knife point into the hull, and cut a circle out of the top. Pop the top off with the knife and enjoy the tasty juice, or use it in the drink or other smoothies.

 Step 2: Scoop out all the meat with a spoon and put it into a bowl or right into the blender.

 It might be difficult, so use the spoon to pry the meat from the edges first.

 Step 2: Add the coconut meat, pineapple, lemon or lime juice and rum. (To taste)

Step 3: Add ice and blend well. Pour into a beverage container and enjoy!

This would be adorable for a party with some pineapple wedges or maraschino cherries. I read some recipes that used cherry juice or cherries too, hence the cherry rum. The coconut is smooth and cool, the pineapple acidic and bright, the cherry sweet and tart and the lemon juice adds that citrus zing. A great summertime beverage, and quite healthy for you too (minus the booze part).