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The Best Summer Drinks Give Away

It is hard to believe the summer season in these parts is nearing an end. When I think of summer I think of lazy cocktails by a beach or pool, and just relaxing. Source Books has a new book called the The Best Summer Drinks by Ray Foley. Ray is the publisher of Bartender Magazine and a mixologist extraordinaire. Name the brand or spirit and he has a drink for you. The book is alphabetized by recipe name, but a handy index lets you search by alcohol type and brand. Ray has also included a tasty chapter of Summer recipes with such as Grilled Honey Bourbon Chicken, Bacardi Lime Sherbet, and Kicked Up Cuervo Ribs.A glossary of tools and bar tending terms as well as basic instructions on hoe to properly rim your glass are included. The book is small and handy to place at the bar or give as gift with 500 recipes. I will be giving away 2 copies to randomly selected commenter's. Just leave a comment and tell me what your favorite summer memory and cocktail is.

Kahlua Banana Cream Fizz
adapted The Best Summer Drinks by Ray Foley
1/3 oz. Kahlua
1/3 oz. rum
1/3 oz.creme de bananes
Cream or milk on top
Blend the Kalua, rum, and creme de bananes together. Pour into a glass and top with milk or cream.

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Lolli Pies From the Smirnoff Summer Entertaining Extravaganza

One of the first recipes I will post from the my Smirnoff Summer Entertaining Extravaganza was the talk of the party. Lolli Pies. I cant say I deserve the credit for the conception of these treats. That would be this genius who's being touted all over the blogo sphere.I have seen some bloggers recreate these with canned fillings, but none of that at Coco Cooks. I decided to use the seasons bounty with fresh figs, pineapple and Blueberry fillings.
Its funny how grown folks are transformed to happy kids when presented with food on a stick. Couples fed each other pops, and others licked the sticks clean. Lolli Pies make everyone happy.

Lolli Pies
Egg Whites
Store Purchased Pie crust
Lollipop sticks
Parchment paper
Baking sheets
Pastry brush
Use any store purchased pie crust for ease and uniformity. Take a small cookie cutter and cut your circles.

On a parchment lined baking sheet Line our pops and indent sticks in center.Preheat oven to 375 F.

Fill. Take a broken piece of stick and press edges to seal.If sticks are to long break in half.

Once sealed, brush tops with egg whites. If you don't you wont get the glossy finish.
Bake at 375F for 10-15 minutes or until golden.Let cool and display in florist foam for presentation or package individually.

Fig Filling
(This recipe is large and made 2 jars of preserves without cornstarch, as well as filling for pops).
2 pints green figs
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch dilutes with water
Wash and quarter your figs. In a bowl allows figs, sugar, and Cointreau to macerate overnight.
Next day in a heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat the figs and sugar to a boil . Cook down for about 10-15 minutes until figs start to break down. Take an immersion blender and puree after you have removed from heat. Let cool.
For pop filling add cornstarch and water solution to the amount of fig filling you plan to use . Cook until thickened and translucent. Cool and fill.

Blueberry Filling

1 pint blueberries

1 cup sugar

1/4-1/2 cup water

2 tbsp cornstarch

In a heavy bottomed saucepan combine washed berries, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil until berries burst and all sugar is dissolved.Add 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with a bit of water to the blueberries. Stir until thickened and cornstarch solution is translucent. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Fill pops.

Pineapple Filling

1 pineapple peeled, cored,and chopped into small pieces

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups water

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tsp Jamaican Rum Extract

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan bring pineapple water, and sugar to a boil. Boil for 10 -15 minutes. Remove from heat and take an immersion blender to puree. Place back on heat. Stir until thickened . Add Jamaican Rum extract. Allow to cool and fill.

Filling recipes can be found here.

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Smirnoff Summer Entertaining Extravaganza: Second City Social Media Meetup

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* All photos courtesy of Mystic Image Photography/Kat Fitzgerald

I have to admit, I feel intimidated by thought of cooking for fellow food bloggers and people that follow me via Twitter and Facebook because of my blog. Food Bloggers are a confident, opinionated and sometimes even arrogant bunch in regards to their prowess in the kitchen. I love cooking and baking, but know I have so much to learn, yet still feel miles ahead of the average home cook. Another thing that intimidates me is cooking on a deadline and for a large group. All the "what ifs " enter my thoughts. But miraculously it always comes off.
My Auntie Mame graciously allowed me to host a Foodbuzz brunch for my fellow local bloggers and social media friends . Most were known to me, but there were some I had never met, yet felt comfortable in inviting. It was chance for us to from behind the computer screen and interact face to face to with food and drink. I invited around 25, and about 15 showed up. August being bad for people with travel plans. I cant get quantities right and as always had way to much food, but it didn't go to waste as people took some home. The purpose of the Foodbuzz sponsored brunch was to incorporate Smirnoff Tuscan Lemonade and/ or Mojito into our menus and event. I decided to reflect the diversity of Chicago, the Second City, but making dishes for various neighborhoods.
The menu was as follows:
Gold Coast
Marscarpone , port soaked figs, melon ham rolls
Greek town
Greek Quinoa Salad
Smirnoff Tuscan Lemonade Spiked Watermelon, Tomato, Feta, and Pine Nut Salad with Balsamic reduction
Little Italy
Cherry tomatoes stuffed with Ricotta and Basil Chiffonade
Angel Hair Pasta with Tuscan Lemonade Vodka and Shrimp
Corn Tortilla Bar
Smirnoff Mojito marinated chicken with pobalnos
Crock pot Chipolte Carnitas
Roasted Vegetables
Kayce's Elote Salsa
Salsa Verde
Mango Salsa
Sour Cream
Lolli Pies Pops in blueberry, fig, and pineapple
Sparkling Raspberry Smirnoff Tuscan Lemonade
Sorrel ( Flor de Jamaica)Smirnoff Mojtio Punch
My good friend Kat Fitzgerald of Mystic Images Photography was kind enough to take the photos for me. Kat was another instrumental one in me meeting Certain Someone. She's the tarot card reader who was at the dinner the night we met. Unfortunately Certain Someone was away, as he usually is, but Kat could validate he does he exist!

The recipes for the menu are not really complicated , but do take a little prep and time. I will posting the recipes throughout the week. But here are the Smirnoff cocktails to kick of the postings.
Sparkling Raspberry Tuscan Lemonade
*Raspberry Syrup
Smirnoff Tuscan Lemonade
Club Soda or Seltzer Water
*Raspberry Syrup
1 pint raspberries
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Rinse raspberries. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan add sugar and water. Bring to a boil and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Remove off heat. Take a mesh strainer and pour separating the pulp from liquid. Let syrup cool.

In a glass with ice, add 1/2 part raspberry syrup, to 1 part Tuscan Lemonade. Top off with Seltzer.

Sorrel ( Flor de Jamaica) Mojito Punch
*Flor de Jamaica is dried hibiscus flower and can be purchased at Afro/Carib and Latin markets
Sorrel infusion( Flor de Jamaica infused with hot water and lightly sweetened to taste.
In a glass with ice pour 1 part Sorrel infusion and 1 part Smirnoff Mojito. Garnish with mint.

I cant speak for others, but I had a great time. It was so nice to see various facets of my friends and interests interact in beautiful lakefront surroundings.Each guest brought their talents and charm. In the end we were even given a impromptu belly dance by Diana , a wonderful teacher and lady who radiated goodness and light.Kat,Beth, Ogi, Vicky, Russel,Goody and your guests, thank you for coming and allowing me to feed to feed you. Auntie Mame thanks for opening your home to my world .Foodbuzz and Smirnoff thank you for great products and allowing me to be create this event and meet some new great friends.And for my friends that couldn't make it, next time perhaps. In my opinion there is no better way to spend beautiful summer afternoon.

Stay tuned for more recipe posts from the menu throughout the week. I will walk you through the Lolli pies ( inspiration from a fellow blogger) which were a hit.

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Perfect Fried Green Tomatoes

A lot of folks are privileged to have gardens. I love reading my fellow bloggers talk about what they are producing in their gardens. I tried container gardens on my balcony but living in the city its very hard to control the squirrels and such.So I gave up. I have always loved the tartness and flavor of green tomatoes and tomatillos.Something about them just perks my insides up. I came across some some gorgeous green tomatoes at the meat whole seller I go to. They have a basic produce section that's very 'country' and basic. I grabbed a few and didn't think about them until a few days later. Usually I order green tomatoes out at restaurants like the defunct neighborhood Dixie Kitchen.I'm not a big fryer but this simple recipe yielded perfect green tomatoes.

Perfect Green Tomatoes
4 green tomatoes
1 cup buttermilk or
1 cup milk with a few tsp of vinegar
( allow to sit for 5 minutes or more)
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 cup corn meal
1 tsp cayenne pepper
vegetable oil

Prep your station with a dish of buttermilk, a dish of
beaten egg, and a dish of corn meal . Mix 1 tsp of cayenne
and salt in the corn meal. Slice green tomatoes into 1/2
inch rounds. Dip each slice first in buttermilk, then egg, then
dredge in cornmeal.
Heat approx 1/2 cup of vegetable oil in a fry pan. Fry tomato
slices until golden and crispy on each side.Drain finished pieces
on paper towels. Sprinkle with additional salt if desired.* Serve with
hot sauce.Optional
Printed Recipe Here

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Boston on the Cheap

Head over to to see my article of dining and touring Boston on the Cheap.

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The Best Ever Crock Pot Boston Baked Beans

If you have followed me on Twitter you know I have been away in Boston the past week. What an amazing city! Coming from Maryland, I thought we had the edge on seafood. But Bostons seafood was amazing, On a limited budget I ate very well and worked off all the good food walking and touring this most important of American cities . One thing I saw were these cute little bean crocks to make authentic Boston Baked Beans. I love a good baked bean. I have been to many a picnic where cooks try to perpetrate by doctoring up canned beans. One of my favorite cooking memories were my mother and I attempting to make out our own baked beans from scratch. I remembered it took hours to cook. Craving baked beans, but not wanting to run the oven in this summer heat , I opted for my crock pot/slow cooker.Many of my foodie friends associate slow baking beans with winter and fall. But isn't a good baked bean dish quintessential to summer time and BB Q's? While I cooked this via crock pot, I finished them of in the authentic crock for 45 min or so sprinkled with brown sugar in the oven. Let me say the house smelled fantastic turning the key and entering to find the beans cooked perfectly.Enjoy.

Crock Pot Boston Baked Beans

1 lb dry Navy Beans or Great Northern Beans

12 oz-1 lb salt pork with rind

3/4 cup molasses

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

2 tbsp Dijon Mustard

1 onion chopped

1 onion studded with cloves( about 1 tsp worth)

4 cups water

ground black pepper

Soak your beans over night covered in cold water. The next day drain water. In a small pot of boiling water, boil the cubed or cut up salt pork for a few minutes to remove excess salt. Remove salt pork from water and place on the bottom of crock pot. Place the clove studded onion in crock pot. Cover with soaked dried beans. Add mustard,ground black pepper, chopped onion,brown sugar,molasses. Pour 4 - 5 cups of cold water over the beans and spices. Beans should be covered but not excessively so. The slow cooking adds moisture.Turn on your crock pot/slow cooker to the setting of 10 hours.

After 10 hours you can finish of individual servings on mini crocks sprinkled with brown sugar in a an oven at 350 F for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

I think this perfect for this months My Legume Love Affair #14 hosted by the founder Susan of the Well Seasoned Cook.

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