Craved Creations

craved creation: basilic

Basilic

When it comes to going out for dinner and drinks I can be fairly predictable with my drink order:

  • Greasy comfort food = beer
  • All other food = red wine
  • Drinks only, no food = vodka soda or dirty vodka martini

Every once in a while though, as I skim the lengthy list of signature cocktails at different restaurants, something interesting will catch my eye that I must try.

A couple of years ago when dining at Parc for brunch, their basilic drink had fun ingredients that made it sound like a must try:

Basilic Ingredients

The drink is extremely refreshing and bright and I absolutely love it!

With the simple ingredient list, I knew I would be making it on a regular basis. Now, it’s not exactly something you can easily order when you’re out at another restaurant, but trust me it is easy enough to get everything and make it at home.

I have made it several times over the past couple of years and it continues to be a great go-to drink.

With Parc out of reach for some, you can try my attempt at replicating this delicious libation yourself.

Cheers!

Basilic

craved creation: chickpea popcorn

Chickpea Popcorn

Every once in a while I like to venture to speakeasy bars for a little twist from the normal bar-scene.

If you’ve never been to a speakeasy bar, they’re pretty fun to experience — there’s usually an inconspicuous entryway, no windows, candle light, drink/food lists disguised in old novels and books…it’s definitely a change of pace from your every day bar.

When I was in school at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, we had a really amazing speakeasy bar — The Bookstore.

The entrance to the bar is a couple steps down from the main street and when you enter you find yourself in a makeshift “bookstore” where a “clerk” sits. The “clerk” then lets you in behind a curtain in the corner of the room into a wood-clad, candle lit room with virtually no windows.

When I visit there, the drinks are always fun to experiment with and try (my go-to is the Modern Champagne Cocktail), but the food there is just as special as the unique drink selection. One of the favorites from their snack menu is the chickpea popcorn with herb salt. So crispy, salty and delicious!

Now that I live in Philadelphia, and The Bookstore is a little more out of reach, I decided to make some chickpea popcorn at home.

There’s minimal effort required to make this delicious snack food — all you really need is a little bit of time to let them get perfectly crisped in the oven!

The chickpea popcorn would be great topped with some cayenne pepper for a kick, or some lemon zest for a punch of brightness — but, even with just plain salt they’re really delicious.

They’re great to serve as an appetizer for guests or just to make and have on hand for a snack any time!

I miss venturing out to The Bookstore, but this chickpea popcorn certainly helps make me feel better : )

Chickpea Popcorn

craved creation: lobster mac & cheese

Craved Creation: Lobster Mac & Cheese

Lobster. What a yummy gift from the big ol’ sea!

Lobster anything is hard to pass up when I see it on a menu while out to eat. Lobster bisque, lobster roll, lobster ravioli… mmmmmm!!!

A little while back I was out to eat with a girlfriend at Gypsy Saloon and their “signature lobster mac & cheese” caught my eye. She raved about how amazing it was there, so we ordered some to share as an appetizer — it did not disappoint! 

The dish was more “gourmet” than your everyday mac & cheese (outside of the lobster meat addition) — the three cheeses used are asiago, parmesan and goat cheese. This cheese trifecta had great balance and didn’t overpower the lobster meat in the slightest.

A few months later, Mirza and I went on a double date with some friends at Gypsy’s sister restaurant, Stella Blu. They had the same lobster mac offering (happy dance) so we ordered some for the table.

After having this for a second time, I knew I had to try and recreate this at home!

Lobster Mac & Cheese Preparation

I was really happy with how this turned out — extra cheesy and delicious!

Now, lobster can be a little expensive. I knowwww — but, this isn’t a dish I’ll be adding into the dinner rotation. Every once in a while it’s nice to indulge! (If you are looking to cut some costs, you can usually save some money by buying a whole, live lobster, rather than just the tails that are used in my recipe. However, it is a lot more hassle, so you’ll have to decide if the cost savings is worth it for you.) 

Also note that this lobster mac & cheese is fairly rich, so you can get a little to go a long way in terms of the servings.

This is a great dish to warm you up on a cool, rainy day.

If Gyspsy Saloon or Stella Blu are out of reach, here’s my recipe for delectable lobster mac & cheese!

Lobster Mac & Cheese
Lobster Mac & Cheese

craved creation: dried fruit & nut granola

Dried Fruit & Nut Granola

As I have mentioned before, breakfast is pretty much my favorite meal of the day. I think one of the reasons I enjoy this meal the most is that, growing up, I always looked forward to going out to breakfast with my family. (My parents worked different shifts when I was younger, so it was one of the times during the week when the four of us — I have a younger brother too — would spend some quality time together).

Going out to breakfast/ brunch is still something I always look forward to when the weekend arrives. In fact, one place I always enjoy is Cake Bakery & Bistro in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. The restaurant lives in a former plant nursery, which makes for a really open and bright space!

During one of my visits for brunch with a friend, we decided to order their House made dried fruit and nut granola with Seven Star plain yogurt as a starter (we were pretty hungry that particular morning). 

Now, I wasn’t expecting anything in particular. Some granola. Some fruit. Some yogurt. Pretty standard. Pretty AMAZING.

I’m not even trying to be dramatic. It was that good.

I knew immediately I would be wanting more of this in my life, so here is my version of Cake’s Dried Fruit & Nut Granola.

Dried Fruit & Nut Granola Preparation

The key thing I noticed at Cake was their proportion of granola to yogurt was about 2:1. Not something you may be particularly used to (at least I know I’m not). It’s like the yogurt was a side show for the main event — the granola.

If you get a chance to eat at Cake Bakery & Bistro, maybe you’ll get to try this goodness in a bowl yourself. In the sad event you can’t make it to Cake and try some, here’s my recipe for dried fruit & nut granola.

Serve it with a bit of plain yogurt — the granola has enough sweetness and flavor, trust me — and enjoy!

Dried Fruit & Nut Granola
Dried Fruit & Nut Granola

craved creation: shaken iced green tea lemonade

Craved Creation: Shaken Iced Green Tea Lemonade

With the first official day of summer upon us — I had to post about one of my absolute favorite summertime drinks: Starbucks’ Tazo Shaken Iced Green Tea Lemonade.

It is the perfect drink for hot summer days. Whenever I’m within a hop, skip and a jump from a Starbucks during spring/ summer, I will make an effort to stop by and get one.

One of the keys to their delicious beverage is that they use their Zen variety green tea, which has lemongrass and spearmint infused flavors that make for a minty, sweet delight. Combine that (in iced version) with lemonade and you have yourself your own version of the Starbucks iced goodness.

Here’s my craved creation recipe:

  • (16) Tazo Zen green tea bags, steeped (in 2 quarts of hot water) and chilled
  • (7) cups lemonade — I used Simply Lemonade
  • (1) lemon, sliced thinly
  • (1) lime, sliced thinly
  • Lots of ice

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and chill until ready to enjoy. I think the drink is sweet enough mixed with the lemonade, but if you get your Starbucks’ version of this sweetened, then you can always add some simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar heated on a stove until sugar is dissolved) to get there.

I’ve made this iced green tea lemonade twice recently, once enjoying a pool day with a girlfriend and, most recently, at the beach in OCMD with some friends. It was really easy to make, and was thoroughly enjoyed in the hot summer sun.

What are some of your favorite summer drinks?

Shaken Iced Green Tea Lemonade

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