Friday, May 23, 2014

Berry-licious Memorial Day Weekend Cocktails!

Who's ready for more cocktails?!

Total Wine is back again to share a couple awesome, fresh strawberry cocktail recipes with us!
But keep the vodka and rum on the shelf.  We're branching out and trying a floral gin and a spiced and herbal Italian liqueur.  And pairing both with freshly muddled strawberries, along with a few other ingredients.


Kick off the unofficial start of summer by raising your glass with these tasty, refreshing and easy to make drinks.  Strawberries' sweet, juicy taste make them ideal for warm weather cocktails!

Numero Uno!

G’Vine Gin is a unique, ultra-premium gin from France, crafted by EWG Spirits and Wine located in the French region of Cognac.  While most of the world’s gin is made from grain spirit, G’Vine Gin is crafted from grape spirit.
G’Vine Floraison is a modern-style gin generously infused with the vine flower as well as over 9 different botanicals. These botanicals include juniper berries, ginger root, licorice, cassia bark, green cardamom, coriander, cubeb berries, nutmeg and lime. These botanicals are macerated over a two to five day process to extract their pure essence and distilled in the neutral grape spirit.  The extended infusion of the vine flower produces a floral gin that brings intricacies to any cocktail it is used for. Smooth and well balanced in the mouth, G’Vine is a full-bodied and delicate gin, unlike any other.  With a 40% abv - 80 proof, G’Vine Floraison is smooth, vibrantly floral and warmly spice. 

I "don't like gin. It tastes like a pine tree"
I love this gin!  Especially in this fruity and fresh cocktail!
It's like a strawberry mojito, with this great gin instead of the rum.
Check it out!

The Garden Cocktail
(like a fresh strawberry gin mojito)
So refreshing!
Created by Award-Winning Mixologist Junior Merino of The Liquid Chef


1 1/2 ounces  G'Vine Floraison Gin
1 ounce White Grape Juice
1/2 ounce Agave Nectar
1 Lime, cut into wedges
2 Basil Leaves, torn
1 Strawberry, chopped roughly.


In a Cocktail Shaker, muddle together Strawberry, Basil Leaves, Lime Wedges and Agave Nectar.
Fill with ice.
Add in G'Vine Gin and White Grape Juice.
Strain into a Cocktail Glass.
Garnish with 1/2 a Strawberry and a Basil Sprig.

For more info on G'Vine Gin, follow them on Twitter!

Numero Dos!
Averna Amaro – Italian liqueur
Centuries ago, Benedictine friars in Sicily created a recipe for an herbal tonic that became known for its healing powers as well as its delicious taste. Today, Averna is Italy’s premier Amaro, and one of the most celebrated Amaros in the world. Richly textured and made from 100% natural ingredients, Averna is distilled from a secret blend of flowers, herbs, dried fruits, spices and licorice. These ingredients are immersed in alcohol with a touch of caramel, and the final result is unique: A complex spirit with a smooth yet firm taste to the palate and a full-bodied, bittersweet finish.

This second cocktail is a bit richer, but the orange soda and fruit cut the richness, and it is really delicious!
I love trying new liqueurs, and this one is especially good.

The Top Cat 
Created by Tad Carducci of the Famed Mixologist Duo The Tippling Bros.


2 ounces Averna Amaro
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 strawberries, chopped roughly
4 ounces orange soda, chilled (I love the couple options at Trader Joe's! Think carbonated fresh juice, not "soda" )
Lemon slice to garnish


Place the strawberries in a cocktail shaker and muddle well.
Add the Averna Amaro and lemon juice to the shaker and then fill with ice.
Vigorously shake the mixture for about 30 seconds and then strain into a cocktail glass filled with freshly crushed ice.
Top the drink with the orange soda and then garnish with a lemon slice; serve immediately.

 Follow along with Averna on Twitter, for more recipes!

Both of these 'berry delicious cocktails will be crowd pleasers at your Memorial Day weekend barbeques and parties, as well as all summer long!

Check out more of my cocktail recipes: Here and Here!
and check out my Total Wine wine class review HERE!

Disclaimer:  I was compensated in several mini-bar size bottles of booze in exchange for sharing these recipes.  Booyah.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Drugstore Concealer Reviews

So, if I had more nerve, I'd post a "before" picture of the dark circles under my eyes in this post, but, well, ain't nobody (me) wanna see that. So, too bad.

However, I will tell you, they are there, loud and proud, so I find most drugstore concealers to, ehem, suck balls.
You see all these ads and commercials claiming their product works great, but if you spend the money, try it, and it doesn't work for you at all, then you are back to square one, and out the $10.  Such a bummer.

So, one day at the store, I decided to just take one for the team, and buy four different concealers at the same time.  Figuring I'd increase my odds, and save three more trips to the store a different week.

Here we go!

1.  Almay Smart Shade Concealer
This whole smart shade trend really works pretty well (how do they do it?!?!) with foundation and BB creams. So, I thought I'd give it a try with concealer, too. Not the greatest result.  Was too orange/dark. You need a lighter shade to cover the dark circles, and this one I think tried to match them in color.  Fail.  The coverage is thin, too, because the cream/liquid is so thin.  It doesn't stick very well in place.  It covers dark circles and facial redness fairly smoothly in texture, but the color and coverage isn't good. It stays a bit tacky, too - never really dries.

2.  Revlon Colorstay Undereye Concealer
This stick comes with a sponge applicator brush attached, which is great.  And the coloring was good.  But the texture of the concealer wasn't smooth at all.  It clings to any wrinkles or peach fuzz hairs on your skin, making the result look very lumpy and textured.  Also, it stays very sticky, and doesn't dry.

3.  Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Circle Treatment Concealer    Winner!
This one is my fave.  It comes with a rounded sponge tip to apply the concealer, which works well.  I still use my ring finger to blend it a bit further once I'm done.  The color is great.  Works for dark undereye circles, and skin redness both.  The coverage is great, without looking caked on.  And it dries smoothly; the least sticky of the bunch. Which means if you apply powder over it later, the texture still stays smooth.

4. Almay Wake Up Undereye Concealer
This would be my second favorite.  The brush tip is decent for application, and the color is great.  The coverage is very good. Very smooth.  Only issue is it is very shiny and a bit sticky.  I wish it dried matte and a bit more powdery.

So there you have it.  These are just my opinions, but hopefully it is helpful!  I definitely recommend trying the Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Concealer.  I have used it daily, and it is pretty great.  I know I may find better in higher quality/price range products, so I may eventually venture into Sephora or Ulta a try a couple there!  But for me, the winner of the drugstore options works great.

All opinions are my own.  I was not compensated in any way for this post.  I just like sharing my experiences!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Homemade Churros with Chocolate Ganache Dipping Sauce

Cinco de Mayo celebratory Mexican food dinner menu items are all too easy to come up with, but dessert took a bit more brainstorming.
Dulce de leche cake.  Flan.  Fresh fruit.  or...
The churro! With chocolate ganache dipping sauce!  The clear winner.

A churro is basically just a Spanish fried doughnut, rolled in cinnamon and sugar. 
They can be made with out without eggs in the dough, and it actually seems they may be tastier without.

You will need a piping bag (like for frosting cupcakes) and a large star tip.
If you haven't worked with these before, Michael's craft store has a great baking section where you can find both for a couple bucks.  I love the plastic disposable piping bags that you don't have to clean.
And get a tip like this one: Wilton Star Tip

Makes about (10) 4 inch long churros, depending on how large your piping tip is, and how long you make them.
Or you can make bite size churros, like the original recipe link below!
Adapted from Cooking Classy
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
3 Tbsp butter
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

Vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Combine 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon in a shallow dish or plate and set aside.

Combine milk, water, butter, 2tsp sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, then slowly whisk in some flour, gently getting the lumps out. Switch to a spatula and add remaining flour. Stir until incorporated. Dough will form a smooth ball.

Pour an 1 1/2" deep of oil in a large frying pan and heat over medium, until temperature reaches 360 degrees.

If you don't have a thermometer, you can test the oil by carefully (stand back!!) flicking a few drops of water into the oil, and it should spatter, but not go totally crazy. If it doesn't, heat the oil a bit hotter, and if it flies sky high, turn it down a bit. (Fool proof plan, right? LOL. Someone please send me a thermometer ;) )

Transfer dough to piping bag fitted with star tip, and pipe churros into hot oil, using clean scissors to snip dough from tip when desired length has been piped into the pan.

Pipe about 3 or 4 at a time in the pan, let cook a couple minutes until golden, then flip to cook the other side.
Using tongs, pull churros from pan, and lay onto paper towels to remove excess oil. Then, toss into cinnamon sugar mixture to coat.

Repeat with remaining dough.
You can try and make pretzel or heart shapes for fun, too. 

Now, for the dipping sauce!

Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from Good Life Eats
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces high quality semi sweet chocolate (If we are being real, any chocolate chips will work fine. I'm no Ina Garten.)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Place chocolate in medium heatproof bowl, and set aside.
Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until bubbles form at the edges and it is close to boiling. Do not quite actually bring to a boil.
Add vanilla to cream, stir, and pour cream over the chocolate in the bowl.
Let sit to soften chocolate for 1 minute, then whisk until smooth.

Transfer to smaller (or cuter!) serving bowl, if needed, and serve chocolate ganache sauce warm for dipping churros.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Cinco de Mayo Cocktails

With Cinco de Mayo coming up next week, I thought I'd mix up a few delicious tequila cocktail recipes to celebrate!

And SOMEDAY one of us will finally test out these amazingly cool pinata cookies, courtesy of Sandra Denneler over at She Knows.
They definitely would take some time and patience, but they are such a cute idea!!

Photo Credit/Source: She
Someone please make me some!!

Alas, over here, we'll just be drinking instead ;)

I love classic drinks with a slight twist, especially when that twist involves fresh fruit or veggies!
Drinks with just a few, fresh, real ingredients are my jam.

These three cocktails really caught my eye (and tastebuds!), and I knew I had to add them into my summer refreshment rotation!


Cucumber Blended Margarita
Adapted from: Real House Moms  
Makes 1 cocktail

Seedless (English) cucumber, 6" piece, sliced roughly
1/8 cup fresh lime juice
1.5 oz triple sec  (if you don't have a shot glass for measuring, 1 oz is a 1/8 cup)
1.5 oz silver tequila
1 cup ice

Blend all until smooth.
Pour into glass, and garnish with cucumber slice and straw.

Next up...!

Frozen Peach Margarita
Adapted from: We Are Not Martha 
Makes 1 cocktail

1 fresh peach, peeled, and sliced or cubed.
1/2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1oz triple sec  (if you don't have a shot glass for measuring, 1 oz is a 1/8 cup)
2 oz tequila
1/2 Tbsp agave syrup  - More or less, as needed to sweeten peaches
1 cup ice

**Note: In the later summer months I will absolutely use fresh peaches. But for now, frozen (no sugar added) peaches will have to do. And they do work well! Yum.

Blend all until smooth
Pour into glass, and garnish with lime slice and straw.

And finally,

La Paloma: (The Paloma Cocktail combines tequila and lime with grapefruit juice and club soda, for a fizzy, refreshing cocktail)
Adapted from: Eat Live Run
Makes 1 cocktail

sea salt
1/3 cup grapefruit juice
1.5 cups sparkling water / club soda
2oz silver tequila
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp agave syrup

Rub cut lime over rim of glass, and roll rim in sea salt.
Combine all ingredients
Serve over ice, and garnish with lime or grapefruit slice and straw.

**Note: I used not-from-concentrate bottled grapefruit juice this time, but obviously freshly squeezed juice is tastier, if possible.  Though, this Simply brand is a great alternative! 

***Also, this other Paloma adapted by Pure Wow, adds in my new fave liqueur, St Germain! That would be delightful!
Check it out here, for the full recipe:  St. Germain Paloma

Stay tuned, tomorrow, as the Cinco de Drinko Mayo festivities will continue with some homemade churros! With chocolate ganache dipping sauce!  See you then.

What are you doing to celebrate?!