drink: champagne jello shots

There was a time around the fall of 2000 that I became obsessed with alcoholic jell-o shots.  I brought them to every holiday party I went to that year, I experimented with flavors and layering.   I even bought special star shaped ice cube trays at Ikea.  Needless to say, sometime around the spring of 2001, one too many hangovers later, I stopped making them. Then this fall, they started popping up everywhere again but instead of being run of the mill jell-o and vodka shots, they were great flavors like Arnold Palmers (or John Dalys), Watermelon and Rootbeer.  Inspired,  I knew I had to figure out how to make Champagne Jell-o Shots for New Year’s this year. I found a few different recipes online but most of them seemed over the top fruity and sugary and I wanted to make one that still tasted like champagne.


3 boxes 3 oz. Peach Jell-o

1 box (4 packets) plain gelatin

3 c. boiling water

5 c. or about 1 1/2 bottles of sparkling wine (try to find a Brut or Dry version)


In a bowl, combine the Jell-o and gelatin packets, pour boiling water over, stir until combined refrigerate 15 minutes.   Then slowly pour in 5 cups (about 1 1/2 bottles of champagne).  Don’t be alarmed when this foams, just make sure you are using a large enough bowl to accommodate it.  Refrigerate for another 30 minutes.  Then pour into your pan.  Depending on how large you would like your shots you can either use one 9×13 Pyrex or multiple smaller pans. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, longer if possible.  Just before serving, add sprinkles (optional).

These were a crowd pleaser and would be a festive addition to your New Year’s Celebration.

Hope you all have a happy new year!


cook: Aunt Jean’s Tortilla Soup

Over the years I’ve come to realize I’m a fair weather cook. If it’s 90+ degrees outside (typical for Dallas) most evenings I find myself sipping margaritas with friends on a patio rather than cooking in the kitchen. However as the weather becomes cooler, I suddenly find myself in my kitchen more often than not. One of my favorite recipes to make when it’s cold and rainy outside is my Aunt’s famous tortilla soup. It’s become a winter staple and is a big hit with my friends. Please note you’ll need at least a 6 to 8 quartz pot as this recipe easily feeds 10 people.


1 large onion – chopped
2 4oz. cans of green chilies – chopped
6 cloves of garlic – crushed
3 tbl olive oil
4 medium tomatoes – seeded and chopped
2  32 fl oz cans Beef Broth
2 32 fl oz cans Chicken Broth
3 to 4 gluten free boullion cubes
4 cups of tomato juice (I prefer spicy bloody mary mix)
2 tsp of ground cumin
2 tsp fresh cilantro
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp of salt
1 tsp white pepper
4 tbl worcestershire sauce
4 tbl A-1 steak sauce
1 bag of tortilla chips
2 cups of Monterrey jack cheese – grated
2 lbs of  chicken – marinated overnight in Italian dressing, then cooked and cubed
1 bag of frozen shoe peg (white) corn
3 to 4 avocados – cubed

To start, place marinated chicken in the oven (preheated to 375) and bake for 30 minutes or until juices run clear. Then saute onions, chilies, garlic and olive oil until the onions are transparent. Add tomatoes, broth, tomato juice and seasoning. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. By this time the chicken should be ready to take out of the oven. Add cubed meat and shoe peg corn. Simmer the soup for an additional 10 minutes.

Garnish each bowl with sliced avocados, crushed tortilla chips, pour soup in the bowl and then top with grated cheese.


make: holiday photobooth

Every year on Christmas Eve, my family gets together with two others to celebrate.  This always ends up being a big party filled with food, booze, friends, laughter, photos and more booze.  Every year about half-way through we gather around a makeshift tripod (usually a ladder with some books on it) we take a group photo.  This year, in an attempt to spice things up and to ride the end of the photo booth trend into the sunset, I have decided to set up a makeshift photo booth at the party.  This way, families and different groups can gather together and take some non-traditional photos together.   For a backdrop, I’m simply going to hang a roll of wrapping paper from the ceiling.   Because I couldn’t resist making something homemade for this, I decided to make sets of Santa and Rudolph props.

For this you will need colored foam (found at any craft store), wooden dowels, scissors and foam glue. The templates can be found below, if you print these on 8.5 x 11 paper, they should work for adult sized props (you can also shrink them for kids).  You’ll see in the image below, I used an extra dowel to make sure the antlers didn’t fall over.

I hope that everyone has a blast with these and I can’t wait to share the pictures with you.  If you make these, please upload to pinterest and tag us.  I’d love to see your family fun!





stitch: Last Minute Christmas Ornament


I decided this weekend to make ornaments with extra Christmas fabric that I had laying around. So for those of you who who are the DIY type (and need a last minute gift for a friend or co-worker) this is a quick and easy tutorial.

Supplies you’ll need:
2 pieces 3.5in x 3.5in Christmas fabric
Gold Ribbon (width is your choice)

Place first piece fabric right side down and place ribbon in the top corner. Then place second piece of fabric wrong side down and pin in place.

Stitch the edges with a zig-zag stitch and trim with pinking shears . . .

and viola, one less gift to worry about!

cook: buffalo wing dip

It’s that time of year when football season is heating up and friends start getting together for the Sunday NFL games.   It’s also this time of year that I start to get requests for my wing dip recipe.  This dip takes one of the best parts of watching football — chicken wings — and puts them in dip form.   I wish that I could claim ownership over this one but like so many of my tailgating recipes, this one is courtesy of my friend Keri in Texas.

Here’s the recipe:

2-3 Chicken Breasts (or thighs if you like dark meat)

12 oz. bottle of Frank’s hot sauce (I tend to use the regular unless I know the crowd will like it extra spicy)

16 oz. bottle of Blue Cheese Salad Dressing (I use Ken’s Chunky)

8 oz. cream cheese

Shredded Cheese

Fritos Scoops

Carrots & Celery

Start by poaching the chicken breast in lightly salted water, then shred using two forks.  If I have any leftover chicken stock in my fridge, I will add it to the water for more flavor but its not necessary.  Once shredded, spread the chicken evenly in the bottom of an ovenproof dish and pour the Frank’s hot sauce over until just covered.  You want to make sure that every piece has Franks on and around it.  This should take about an entire bottle.

Then in a sauce pan melt the cream cheese over low to medium heat and stir constantly, you don’t want it to burn.  Once it is melted, add the blue cheese dressing and cook for a minute making sure to stir until combined.  Then pour over the chicken and spread as necessary so that the whole pan is covered.  Sprinkle top with cheese.

Then you throw it in the oven for 20 minutes or so until its all super hot.  I do it usually at 325 or 350 (temp doesn’t really matter since everything’s already cooked it just depends on how fast you want it to happen).  Remove from oven and serve immediately (it’s best when hot).  I put this out with Fritos Scoops Chips, carrot sticks and celery stalks.

Do you have any tailgating traditions or favorite recipes?

whisk: garbage cookies

I love cookies and this time of year it seems like everyone is making a batch to share with friends at holiday parties.   My mom and I are planning to make Krumkake this weekend and I’m considering trying to make some of these as well.

In the meantime, I have a friend in town who requested that I make something for her.  Deep in the throws of the holiday party season, I needed something impressive but quick and easy — so I went with my tried and true garbage cookies.  These are a hybrid of Martha’s Kitchen Sink Cookie and the Compost Cookie at Momofuku.  Both are great recipes on their own but I brought them together to make what is (in my humble opinion) the best everyday cookie. The mix-ins for these can be anything and a lot of times depends on what’s in my kitchen cabinet.  I’ve used everything from goldfish crackers to reese pieces, get creative here and use what you like.  I’m currently obsessed with a childhood favorite, Rolos.  They are great for baking because they give you caramel and chocolate.  I really wish that Hershey’s made them in a mini size!  The trick to cutting them is to freeze them first, that way they don’t become a big caramel mess.

Here are the details:

Garbage Cookies

1 1/2 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

2 sticks butter (room temperature)

3/4 c. light brown sugar

3/4 c. sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. dried cherries

1 roll of rolos (chopped into chunks)

1/2 c. chocolate chips

1/2 c. toffee chips

1/2 c. potato chips (crushed into chunks)

Preheat oven to 350 and line sheet pans with either with parchment or a silicon liners such as sil-pat.  In a medium bowl, sift together flour and baking soad.  Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars.  Mix on high for 2-3 minutes until the butter is fluffy.   Reduce speed to low and add in the egg, mix until combined.  Then add in the vanilla.  Mix until combined.  Then on low speed, begin adding the flour approximately a handful/half cup at a time.  Mix until combine and repeat.  Once the flour is fully mixed in, start adding the remaining ingredients.  The trick here is to mix it just enough so that each cookie will have some of each flavor but too so much that the various mixed in items start to dissolve into the dough (potato chips are the worst for this).  I tend to add the potato chips at the very end and mix only a few times so this doesn’t happen.

Then using a cookie scoop or two tablespoons, drop the cookies on the cookie sheets 2 inches apart from each other and bake for 14-16 minutes until the cookies are golden brown.  Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool.

This recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies (depending on the size of cookie).

Next time I make these, I want to use Chex Mix… any other great ideas?  Maybe Captain Crunch?

swoon: Jean Paul Gaultier Exhibit at the DMA

Last month I attended the grand opening Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art with close friend and CityCraft owner Callie. She wrote a great recap of the opening here.  I highly recommend checking out the exhibit if you’re in Dallas. I’ve been back twice and plan to go again before it closes in February. The show is stunning, compelling and full of inspiration.

whisk: crack brownies

Not too long ago, I found this recipe for coconut caramel brownies on Pinterest… and immediately forgot about it.  Then a few months later, the weather turned cold, I got the itch to bake something new and rediscovered it.  After a couple of different tests, I ended up with what I lovingly refer to as my crack brownies.  I call them that because these are dangerously good and are probably my most requested recipe.  You can’t have just one because they are the perfect combination of salt and sweet.  There’s something for everyone: a pretzel crust, fudgy brownie, salted caramel, toasted coconut and a chocolate drizzle.  It’s like the seven layer dip of desserts.

Pretzel Crust

6 T butter

2 T brown sugar

1 1/4 c pretzels (crushed)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 8×8 pan with parchment paper.  In a food processor chop the pretzels into coarse bits.  Melt the butter add to pretzels along with brown sugar.  Stir until mixed and press into the pan.  Bake for approximately 10 minutes (you really just want it to start to stick together).

Coconut Layer

While the crust is baking, start toasting your coconut by spreading a thin layer of shredded coconut into a pan (you’ll need about 1 – 2cups and I use my toaster oven for this but you could easily use your conventional oven.)  Cook at 400 degrees for approximately 2-3 minutes.  Stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Watch it while cooking as the coconut will burn easily.  You want it to toast until it has a golden brown hue.   Set aside.

Brownie Layer

Now for my shameful confession: I don’t have a signature brownie recipe.  In part because I live at high altitude (and brownies are tricky up here) and also because I can’t find one better than boxed Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate.  They are simple, cheap and easy to make, plus they have chocolate chips in the mix which helps to give the brownie a fudge-like consistency.  So for this recipe, I make a batch and use half the batter for the brownie layer.  I either put the other half into a mason jar and freeze it for later, make a second batch of straight brownies or double the crack brownie recipe.  So for this layer, buy a box, make the batter, spread over the pretzel crust and bake according to instructions on the back of the box.

Salted Caramel

About 20 minutes after the brownies have started baking, I start the caramel process so that it can cool at the same time as the brownies.  There are several ways to make caramel, I have tried plenty and this is my personal favorite.  It’s adapted from a salted caramel ice cream recipe that I adore.

1 c. sugar

4 T unsalted butter

1 c. cream

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 heaping tsp. maldon salt

Over medium heat cook 1 c. sugar in large dry heavy skillet (mine is 10 inches), stir the sugar with a fork so that it cooks evenly.  Once it starts to melt, stop stirring and start swirling the skillet.  Allow the sugar to melt until it reaches a dark amber color.  At this point, add in the butter stir with your fork until it has melted.  Remove from heat.  Add in the cream.  The cream will cause the caramel to solidify a bit, keep stirring until it has melted back into caramel again.  At this point, add vanilla and set aside to cool for 20 minutes or so (until you can touch it without burning yourself).   Then add a heaping tsp of Maldon sea salt.  Stir until combined and pour over the brownie layer.

Couple of key things I’ve learned about making caramel

+ Take your time and stay alert.  Caramel will burn easily if you rush which will ruin the flavor and it won’t come together properly when you add the cream.  Once it starts to melt, the next steps happen very quickly.  Make sure that you have everything with you beside the stove so you can add them when you need to.  This stage will take you 20 minutes or so.  Be prepared to stir for that long.

+ Caramel is extremely hot.  I know this seems like a no-brainer but don’t try to taste it.   I have burned my tongue too many times because I always want to taste it to see if its ready.  You can’t.  You have to do this based on color alone.

+ Maldon is the best salt for this recipe.  I’ve tried Kosher and other Sea Salts but you really need a flaky salt in order to get those bursts of salt that make this caramel so great.

Coconut Layer & Chocolate Drizzle

While the caramel is still setting, sprinkle the coconut over it.  The caramel will “glue” the coconut to the rest of the layers.  Allow to cool completely.  I often start this at night and cover it with saran wrap at this stage and refrigerate it overnight.  Then in the morning, I place about 1c. of chocolate chips in a microwave proof bowl and melt the chocolate in 30 second intervals stirring until smooth.  Then using a spoon, drizzle the chocolate over the pan.   Allow the chocolate to set and then remove the entire brownie from the pan and peel away from the parchment.  Cut and serve.

Let me know if you make these!  And does anyone have a favorite brownie recipe they want to share with me?