Live & Laugh

live & laugh: john’s beer dinner

Beer Chicken & Broccoli

Earlier last month we met again for our monthly cooking class and this go around was John’s turn.  He wanted to take on a bit of a theme for his night and made the delicious choice of: BEER!

We made a honey chili beer chicken and roasted broccoli with beer cheese sauce. Everyone chipped in and dinner came together fairly quickly — the results could have fooled me though, because this meal was yumtastic and tasted like the flavors had a while to come together.

Beer Chicken Prep

Maybe John cheated by using two favorable ingredients — ummm — cheese and beer — I’d eat that anytime and be a happy camper. (P.S. whenever I use the phrase “happy camper” I think of this hilarious Jim Gaffigan skit…)

Okay now that that’s out of the way, I think John had a great idea to make a beer-themed dinner and it was a huge success. The honey chili chicken was sticky and delicious and the roasted broccoli was perfectly roasted which gave it a great crunch; drenched in the rich beer cheese sauce that would be great paired with a million other foods (e.g. pretzels, bread, hot dogs, cardboard, etc.) made it extra special. Both dishes are a must try!

Great picks John and yummy execution!!

John's Beer Dinner

live & laugh: the mountains / hot toddy

Hot Toddy

This past weekend Mirza, Kia and I went to the Poconos for a long weekend with some friends. We found a great log cabin that sat on a cliff, giving us some amazing views. We kept things pretty low key, enjoying the warmth of the fires (both indoors and out), playing games, going for a hike, and lounging with wine and cheese while watching some of the Olympics.

The great thing about this trip was that our dogs got to tag along! Kia met up with Buddy & Chance, who are becoming good friends of hers, and they seemed to have a blast perusing the snowy terrain and relaxing in the warm cabin.

Pocono Mountain

I thought I’d take full advantage of the mountain-cabin-themed weekend and make hot toddys (below) and s’mores bites (I’ll post those later this week) for everyone to enjoy!

While I’m not usually a fan of whiskey, it’s subtle enough in this drink to be really pleasant. They’re warm, soothing and toasty nature made them perfect for the cold weather we were having.

Hot Toddy Ingredients

Hot Tea Honey & Whiskey Cloves Lemon with cloves Hot Toddy

Overall, we had an amazing weekend and it was great to get out of the city for a couple of days to be in the company of good friends and crazy pups! The mountains & hot toddy combo worked out really well — and I look forward to doing it again!

What’s your favorite vacation/beverage combination?

hottoddy5 hototddy

live & laugh: super bowl sunday

Super Bowl Snacks

Super Bowl Sunday — it is upon us.

While I am a football fan and enjoy watching a good game, I more look forward to getting together with friends and/or family for watching parties where the room is filled with yummy food, a variety of beverages, and good company. With that sentiment in mind, I thought I’d whip up some quick and easy appetizer ideas in case you’re looking for something delicious to have/bring this Sunday:

  • Crab & Artichoke Wontons –  I bought the crab & artichoke dip already made from Whole Foods (it was cheaper than buying all the ingredients to make it and much easier)
  • Artichoke & Spinach Tartelettes – I too bought this dip from Whole Foods (not necessarily cheaper, but definitely easier) and made the tart shells from scratch in a matter of minutes
  • Spicy Chili & Cheese Calzones – This is based on one of my favorite dips growing up, I made the dip this time, but bought ready-made pizza dough

When I’m making a lot of little bites, I won’t necessarily make everything from scratch if I can get comparable quality. So I took a couple short cuts this time, but all 3 turned out amazingly! Mirza and I taste tested the apps over the weekend (the calzones were our favorite), but I froze the rest to have for this Sunday.

Whether you’re a football fan or not, the Super Bowl is hard to miss. If you’re not into the game, you’re probably watching it for the commercials. If you’re not watching it for the commercials or the game, maybe you’re watching it for the halftime show. Okay — sure, maybe you’re not watching the Super Bowl at all, but heck, should that stop you from making delicious snack foods to enjoy?!

Answer: No!

Crab & Artichoke Wontonsingredients.

  • (12-18) wonton wrappers
  • (12) oz crab & artichoke dip
  • (½) cup canola oil


  1. Take wonton wrappers and lay flat on a work surface
  2. Add about 2 teaspoons of crab dip to the center of each wrapper
  3. Brush the edges of the wrapper with water and fold one corner over the dip to meet the opposing corner (forming a triangle)
  4. Press edges of wrapper together with your fingers to close and seal shut by pressing a fork along the edges — repeat until all wrappers are stuffed
  5. Heat oil in a small pan over medium-high heat, allow to heat up for a couple of minutes until oil is hot
  6. Add crab wontons to oil in small batches (don’t overcrowd the pan) and cook 1-2 minutes per side, until wrapper is browned and crispy
  7. Drain on paper towels before serving

Artichoke & Spinach Tartelettes


  • (10) tart shells — I used this recipe and formed the dough using a muffin tin to make mini tart shells
  • (12) oz artichoke & spinach dip
  • (½) cup parmesan cheese, grated (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF
  2. Bake tart shells for 15 minutes
  3. Fill each shell with the artichoke & spinach dip, evenly
  4. Sprinkle tops of tartelettes with parmesan cheese
  5. Bake in oven for 10 minutes until artichoke & spinach dip is hot and parmesan cheese has browned

Spicy Chili & Cheese Calzones


  • (8) oz cream cheese, softened
  • (15) oz spicy chicken chili — or your favorite kind
  • (1) tbsp sriracha hot sauce
  • (6) oz cheddar cheese, grated
  • pizza dough
  • flour for rolling dough


  1. Preheat oven to 450ºF
  2. In a bowl, combine cream cheese, chili and hot sauce — mix well
  3. Divide pizza dough evenly into 16 pieces, form into balls
  4. On a well floured surface, roll out one of the pizza dough balls into a small, thin circle (about 8 inches in diameter — I’m totally guessing, but roughly that)
  5. Add 2 tablespoons of chili cheese mixture to center of dough
  6. Top with a large pinch (roughly 1 tablespoon — guessing again!) of cheese
  7. Carefully take the top of the dough and stretch over the filling to meet the other side of the dough, forming a semi-circle
  8. Pinch dough and fold edges to seal the calzone (you can also pinch closed using a fork)
  9. Poke 3 tiny holes in the top of the calzone with a sharp knife before placing on a baking sheet
  10. Repeat with reaming dough and filling until all the calzones are made
  11. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until dough has browned and cheese is melted*

*NOTE: The cheese may ooze out of the holes you poked into the calzone, it’s okay, don’t freak out — it just makes a nice crispy cheesy crust on top : )

live & laugh: cara’s moussaka

Moussaka & Greek Salad

Last night was our January cooking class and we took a little culinary trip to Greece!

Cara was in charge of this class, so she pulled from a recent trip to Greece for her dish. She decided she wanted to make moussaka (the eggplant version, it can also be made with potato) and found this delicious recipe!

We also made a greek salad as a side to round out the dish.

Moussaka Prep

Moussaka is conceptually similar to lasagne because it’s a layering of different ingredients that creates a hearty, one-dish meal (perfect for this time of year!); but, instead of pasta, there’s eggplant. The layers were as follows:

  • Eggplant
  • Ground beef
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Eggplant
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Bechamel sauce
  • Parmesan cheese

After an hour in the oven, it came out beautifully!

This greek dish is seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg which brings a lovely warmth with every bite. Having the greek salad on the side with the fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, bell pepper and feta cheese was perfect. It was a refreshing bite that paired nicely with the moussaka.

Here are the recipes for the moussaka and greek salad again if you’d like to take a flavorful journey to Greece!

Cara's Moussaka

live & laugh: champagne 3 ways

Champagne 3 Ways

With only 5 days left in 2013, I thought it’d be appropriate to write about one of my favorite things: champagne

While champagne straight-up is delicious and special all on its own, I thought I’d mix it up a bit and offer a few different ways to incorporate champagne into your upcoming New Year’s celebrations:

  1. Cranberry Champagne – beautiful and delicious, this drink is perfect for ringing in the new year
  2. Champagne Vinaigrette  if you’re hosting dinner, this salad dressing is extra special with its touch of effervescence
  3. Champagne Cream – layered with berries in shot glasses for fun dessert shooters
  4. BONUS – if there’s champagne leftover in the morning, my lemon blueberry prosecco pancakes are a great go-to

Each of these champagne recipes are really delicious and would be wonderful on any occasion, so give one a whirl or have fun creating your own champagne concoction!

This will be my last post for 2013 — I’m going to take the rest of the year off to unwind, plan some fun things for LLC 2014 and, of course, cook! Thanks so much for all your support, 2013 has been a truly amazing year!

Have a fantastic, fizz-filled (and safe) New Year’s!!


Cranberry Champagne



  1. Add 1 tablespoon cranberry puree to bottom of glass
  2. Fill glass ¾ full with champagne
  3. Garnish with frozen cranberries

Champagne Vinaigrette


  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon champagne (optional if you have some on hand, otherwise, add ½ tbsp more vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • ¼ extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper


  1. Combine mustard, vinegar, champagne, honey and garlic in a small bowl and whisk
  2. While whisking, slowly add olive oil and continue to whisk until emulsified
  3. Season with salt & pepper to taste

Enjoy over a simple salad of greens and halved grape tomatoes!

Recipe adapted from Food Network

Champagne Cream


  • 4 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
  • ½ cup champagne
  • ½ heavy whipping cream
  • ⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced
  • 1 pint blueberries


  1. Combine heavy cream, 1 tablespoon sugar and vanilla extract into a bowl
  2. Whip (with a hand mixer or stand mixer with whisk attachment) until soft peaks form (about 5-6 minutes)
  3. Chill whipped cream until ready to use
  4. In a heavy saucepan, beat egg yolks and sugar with a mixer until thick and lemon-colored (about 5 minutes)
  5. Slowly add champagne while continuing to beat with mixer
  6. Place the saucepan on the stove over low heat
  7. With hand mixer or whisk, beat on low speed for 1 minute
  8. Continue beating over low heat until mixture reaches 160° (about 5-6 minutes)
  9. Cool quickly by placing pan in a bowl of ice water, stir for 2 minutes
  10. Press plastic wrap onto surface of custard
  11. Refrigerate for 20 minutes
  12. Fold in whipped cream
  13. Spoon 1 teaspoon champagne cream into shot glass, top with berries and repeat layers until you’ve reached the top of the glass

Feel free to sub your favorite berries — and if you don’t want to go through the work of making little champagne cream & berry shooters, you can simply spoon a mix of berries and cream into a glass or bowl!

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home

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