Cocktail Trials: The House Punch

Mixing up punch

Like many thing, a good punch is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration

My husband has been arguing that our house needs its own punch. Every home needs some basics, he says, like an address, a bathroom, some furniture  … and an official punch recipe.

Greg, a huge Alton Brown fan, was inspired by the celebrity chef’s show on punches. In the episode, Brown points out that back in the day, all clubs had their own punch.  Liking the idea of my living room being transformed into an 19th century gentleman’s’ club complete with leather armchairs chairs and a library of well-worn books, I agreed to try the punch.

What Makes a Good Punch?

Armed with Alton’s golden ratio for punches,  I hit the grocery store drink aisle and gathered a selection of beverages that I thought would go well with gin, our house’s favorite liquor.

Here were our contenders (along with the ration Alton recommends).

1 of Sour (Key lime juice / Trader Joe’s sparkling limeade)

2 of Sweet (pinapple juice, sweet tea, Sprite)

3 of Strong (gin)

4 of Weak (a lager, club soda, Sprite, sweet tea)

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Summer shrimp boil

Over here, we celebrated Memorial Day with a different take on all-American cuisine. Rather than BBQ and apple pie, we cooked up shrimp boil and key lime pie.

I may be a convert to this Southern take on the casual summer dinner party. It’s great for a group dinner because everything is done at once. No idling around while you wait for the third round of burgers to grill. Our guests pretty much devoured everything, with just enough left over for next-day lunches.

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Grilling Mania! Making a whole meal over charcoal

Yesterday was 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Perfect grilling weather.

Taunted by a display of artichokes at the Trader Joe’s across the streeet from my office, I put together this meal. The whole thing is cooked entirely on the grill. (Although, you have to steam the artichokes first, so that may be cheating).

I didn’t really have a recipe for this. As it was a weeknight, I took a few shortcuts. The flatbread was Trader Joe’s pizza dough (I haven’t actually been able to make better myself), and the chicken kabobs were Trader Joe’s “Chicken Asada,” sliced up and threaded onto skewers.

The only part I made from scratch was the artichokes, and I bungled that by attemping to clean them first (as in this video), rather than steam them and scoop out the inediable insides afterwards. Despite being a hassle, the artichokes were a nice break from the salad/kale that I eat as a veggie side at least five days a week.

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Flavors of Summer: Grilled shrimp, watermelon salad and pineapple rice

For a meal involving all brand new recipes, this one worked out excellently. It’s the perfect summer dinner party solution.

All three of these dishes are currently on repeat at my house. It’s been two weeks since my initial experiment with the pineapple rice, and I am typing this as a third batch bubbles away in the ricemaker.

Pineapple Rice:

Adapted from Our Best Bites. When I lived in Beijing, my favorite restaurant made Dai food (a people who live in southern China near the boarder of Vietnam). One of their specialties was a delicious, sticky pineapple rice. I know that recipe didn’t have butter in it (like this one), but this is the closest I’ve found so far.


1 cup jasmine rice
2 T real butter
Juice from 1 large lime or two smaller ones (taste as you go, I add a lot!)
1 can crushed pineapple (You may want 2 small cans)
½ – ¾ C chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Time to break out the ricemaker!  Cook rice in 1 cup water and 1 cup pineapple juice (drained from the canned pineapple) s soon as it’s done, toss in the butter and stir to melt. Add lime juice, remaining pineapple juice, crushed pineapple and cilantro. Stir to combine, and then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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Must Be Summer(ish): Whole Fish, Bloody Mary and Thai Peanut Noodles

To celebrate that our grass grew in and we haven’t killed a single plant (yet), we marked Sunday’s sunny afternoon with bloody marys and an Asian whole fish feast. Here are the recipes:

Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary: The making of

I’ve only recently learned to love a Bloody Mary. Maybe it’s a grown up drink and a sign I am getting old. Or maybe it’s just that the Bloody Mary has been remade by the foodie crowd and no longer feature slimy V8. This recipe comes compliments of my friend from Brookyln, who, during a recent visit, made sure to stock our fridge with all the ingredients.


Tomato juice
worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
tabasco (or another hot sauce).

Making the bloody mary

Fill a pint glass with ice and add 1-2 shots of vodka. Then, fill most of the way up with tomato juice. Add two or three good shakes worcestershire sauce, the juice of one lemon, salt and pepper (celery salt if you have it, or add celery seed in addition to the salt) and several shakes of hot sauce. Top that off with about a quarter to half a teaspoon of horseradish.

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Food reading for the week

Two articles this past week make for good reading for the DC area, food obsessed:

1. Ethnic Groceries: Washington Post writer Emily Wax visits the ethnic food markets of suburban DC. She explores H-Mart (the Korean grocery store, most notable for its amazing varity of Kimchi). Dama Pastry and Cafe (with serves Ethiopian coffee and baked goods — and which I don’t think actually qualifies as an ethnic market), Yekta Supermarket, (a well-organized Iranian and Middle Eastern food bazaar. It’s in Maryland, so unfortunately I’ve never been.) and Halal Meat and Grocery (an Indian grocery and another Maryland find).

Unfortuately, the article leaves out my favorite market, Great Wall. This Vienna-based Chinese market has an excellent selection of Asian fruits and veggies (including the best lychees in the summer), a stand where the butcher will fillet a whole fish to order and all sorts of Chinese goods that I loved during my three years in Beijing but have never seen elsewhere. More on the whole fish later.

2. Raw Milk: The New Yorker covers the sudden burst of interest in raw, or unpastuerized, milk.  I’ve never had raw milk, so I can’t comment on the taste or fabled medicinal powers. I’m always up for an adventure, so I’d be willing to ish ecoli to try it.

It’s Asparagus Season!

Salmon, asparagus and lemon pasta

Delicious-ness in action.

Early spring is asparagus season. One never to pass up a bargain, I currently have two bundles of $1.99 asparagus in my refrigerator.

I’m a fan of just coating asparagus in olive oil, sprinkling it with some salt and sticking it under the broiler for a few minutes.  But if you want an actual recipe for your asparagus, here is my personal favorite.

It’s easy, delicious and stolen from Jamie Oliver. However, I have taken the liberty of de-English-ing this by removing any quirky phrases and  mention of the metric system.

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Peep Diorama Mania

UPDATE: Alas, my Peeps diorama didn’t win. But at least my Twitter account got a shout out on the Washington Post website. If you are curious, check my 5 seconds of fame here.



Some people fantasize about winning the lottery or a Nobel Prize. I dream of one day taking my place among the winners of the Washington Post peeps diorama contest.  I’ve been blown away by the top entries each year I’ve lived in DC.  This year was the first time I actually got around to entering the contest myself.

My husband and I tackled the royal wedding last weekend. He worked construction on a very accurate, mini version on Westminster Abbey.  I handled Peep styling and costume design. Of course as a blogger, I had to give a shout out to my favorite royal wedding Internet memes frowning flower girl and Princess Beatrice’s horrible hat.

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Tomato Soup Love

bowl of homemade tomato soup

Tomatoes, you may taste bitter, but you are sweet to me.

It’s Valentine’s Day, so it’s time for some bad love-related puns to express my adoration of this recipe.

 Moosewood tomato soup, I think you are soup-er. Nothing warms my heart like a bowl of you. I am over the spoon for you, and I will forever be bowl-ed over by your love.

This recipe is great because it’s so quick and easy. Yet, it’s so rich that it tastes like it cooked for hours.

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How to Get Kicked Off of Top Chef

Someone will have to "pack their knives and go."

I’m watching Top Chef again. Just like last time, I’m moaning that every season is the same. Apparently, the chef-testants don’t watch the previous seasons, because this year — just like all the rest — several have broken the show’s cardinal rules.

In honor of the show I love to hate, here are the top things I’ve learned to never do on Top Chef.

On Top Chef, never, ever:

10. Volunteer to be front of the house during the restaurant wars episode. Yeah, the other cheftestants told you that you are a combination of charming and efficient — making you perfect for the job. That’s because they are smarter than you and know this role is the kiss of death.

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