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Cool and Refreshing Natural Spicy Soda

I gave up soda years ago but I still want a cool, fizzy drink everyone once in a while. To satisfy that craving I make my own soda mixing natural juices with seltzer so I can control the sweetness. It’s a lot easier than you think and much more healthy with none of the added chemicals or preservatives!

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What’s great is you can adjust the amount of syrup you want based on how sweet you like it. Also, the flavor combinations are endless! This ginger hibiscus spicy soda doesn’t burn as you might think but does give the drink a nice kick that will perk you right up. I also made lime ice cubes for a little added tartness.

hibiscus-soda

Making simple syrup is easy, just equal parts sugar and water and heating it up until sugar is dissolved and mixture is clear. Just think of all the natural flavors you can add. Get a little creative too and make a mojito soda by infusing mint leaves and limes when making the syrup or ginger and basil! It’s a wonderful alternative to the sugary stuff that’s out there now!

Spicy Ginger Hibiscus Natural Soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
handful of dried hibiscus flowers
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, smashed
2-3 slices of serrano chile
seltzer water

1. In a saucepan on medium heat add sugar and water and stir. Add the hibiscus flowers, ginger and serrano chiles and continue stirring until all the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil then remove from stove and let mixture cool off.

2. Strain mixture so you are left with just the syrup. In a tall glass, add ice, 2 ounces of syrup and top with seltzer.

Store the remaining syrup in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

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New York Style Jalapeno Pretzels

One thing I can’t resist when I go to the mall are those soft, buttery, pretzels from Auntie Anne’s. You know the ones, the smell hits you way before the pretzels come into view. They’re not the healthiest and covered in butter but they’re my little indulgence to get me through the next couple of hours of shopping. My favorite are the jalapeno pretzels so naturally I had to try my own version!

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These are more “New York style” pretzels rather than the chain’s version and much healthier too. No greasy, oily film covering them. I like the mall pretzels but something about making your own feels so much better eating!

pretzel-dough

These pretzels are soft and chewy and have just enough heat to keeps things interesting. They’re best when they’re fresh out of the oven and even better with spicy mustard!

soft-pretzel

You’re probably thinking “oh, I have no time for this”, but really, you do! With just a few simple ingredients to mix, a little time for the dough to rise and another few minutes for baking and voila, a New York style pretzel you didn’t have to travel all the way to city to get! That simple.

Jalapeno Soft Pretzel
makes 6-8 pretzels

adapted from Martha Stewart

1 tsp of dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp butter, salted
1 jalapeno, stem removed & chopped
2 tbsp baking soda
sea salt

1. Mix the first three ingredients and add warm water until mixture dissolves. Set aside until yeast mixture gets foamy.

2. In separate bowl mix flour and nutmeg then mix butter in with fork until mixture appears like crumble. Use fingers to mix if that’s easier.

3. Slowly add yeast mixture into flour and stir. Add chopped jalapeno peppers and mix with hands until you form a dough. Knead the dough until smooth and not sticky. Cover with plastic and let the dough rise for an hour, or overnight in the refrigerator.

4. Cut dough into 6- 8 pieces and roll out each into a long log. Shape each into your desired shape and place on a oiled baking sheet. Let the dough rise again for another 30 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 45o. Add baking soda to a pot of water over high heat and let boil. Boil each pretzel, a couple at a time and set a rack to drain.

6. Sprinkle pretzels with sea salt and place back on baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until brown.

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Spicy Crispy Chicken Breasts with Kale Salad

Crispy and crunchy chicken without deep frying? Of course, just follow this quick and easy recipe for crisp, hot and spicy chicken breasts. It’s a more healthy alternative to frying, doesn’t require much prep time and is tender and juicy.

breaded-chicken

The key to achieving that crispy texture is to double dip chicken in the wet and dry mixtures.  Browning the chicken on stove top with just butter and finishing it in the oven maintains that crunchy texture and also doesn’t leave with the oily mess you get from frying, never mind the extra fat too.

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Since white meat tends to get a little dry, soaking the chicken in the milk mixture for several minutes will also give you a tender and moist piece of chicken.

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Serve it on a bed of kale salad for a healthy dinner.

Spicy Chicken Breasts and Kale Salad

2 chicken boneless breasts
1 tsp Adobo, divided (found in supermarket Spanish food section or bodega)
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup whole milk
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp pequin pepper flakes
salt & pepper
1/2 stick butter

1. Season the chicken with 1/2 tsp of Adobo and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Set three shallow bowls in front of you and in first bowl add the flour. In the second bowl beat the egg, add milk and season with salt & pepper and mix. Add the bread crumbs to the third bowl, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, the pequin pepper flakes, the remaining Adobo seasoning and mix well.

3. Dip the chicken in each of the bowls starting with the flour first. Coat the meat with flour on both sides. Then add the chicken to the milk mixture and let it sit for about five minutes. If you have a little extra time let it soak in the milk mixture and leave in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Lastly, dip chicken in the seasoned bread crumbs until well coated.

4. Repeat step 3 except don’t let chicken soak in milk just dip quickly and cover in bread crumbs.

5. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat, add butter. When butter has melted, saute the chicken until you get a nice brown color on both sides.

6. Finish the chicken in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes until chicken is cooked all the way through. Remove from oven and let it rest for a couple of minutes. Slice chicken and serve over kale salad.

Feta & Red Onion Kale Salad

Chop a bunch of kale greens and toss with a little red wine vinegar, olive oil, thinly sliced red onion and crumbled feta cheese.

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Easy Brunch Recipe: Roasted Chiles and Vegetable Frittata

Oh my, I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted here. So sorry to have abandoned you so just wanted to let you all know that I’m still here! 🙂 I’ve just been so overwhelmed with work, home repairs, travel and wait for it……redesigning this blog!! Woo Hoo! Within a few weeks I’ll be able to share with you a brand spanking new Hot Lollies blog that’s bright and lively with great new spicy content to go along with it. I’ll still keep posting here until I make the switch over to the new design so please don’t go anywhere! You see, I even made a roasted chiles and vegetable frittata for you! How can you resist a spicy, hearty frittata?

baked-frittata

I saw this episode of Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa a while ago and immediately went online to bookmark this frittata recipe. I love Ina’s recipes. She makes the most luscious comfort foods look so easy to make. I don’t always get a chance to watch her show but this episode featured all the things to make with cheese so clearly I had to drop everything!

Ina made a bacon and Gruyere grilled cheese, a rib-eye steak with Stilton cheese sauce, a coconut cupcake with cream cheese frosting but what really hooked me was a roasted vegetable frittata. Tender pieces of lightly season roasted vegetables tossed with an egg and cheese mixture and baked to perfection! It’s a great way to start your Sunday morning with a bright and peppery egg dish. The chile peppers add nice heat that isn’t overwhelming and really lets the vegetable and cheese flavors come through.

I spiced up the recipe and also substituted a few things to make it just a little healthier. I switched the half & half for 2% milk and cut back on the oil by just drizzling a small amount to roast the vegetables. The original recipe also served twelve so I quartered the recipe and made them in ramekins instead of a cast iron skillet, you know, for portion control. 😉

egg-mix

frittata

Roasted Chiles Vegetables and Frittata
serves 2

recipe adapted from Ina Garten

1/2 small zucchini, 1 inch dice
1/4 red pepper, 1 inch dice
1/4 green pepper, 1 inch dice
1/4 red onion, diced
1/2 small cubanelle pepper
1/2 jalapeno, diced
habanero-infused olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
4 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1-2 tbsp fresh Parmesean cheese, grated
1 scallion, chopped
2-3 slices of habanero pepper, diced
2 tbsp Gruyere cheese
1 tbsp butter
salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, spread zucchini, peppers (except habanero) and onion on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper and toss around until nicely coated. Heat for 10 minutes then add the garlic and toss again. Heat for another 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven.

2. Turn down oven temperature to 350 degrees. In a bowl, beat the eggs, add the milk and beat again. Stir in the Parmesean cheese, season with salt and pepper and mix well.

3. Melt butter in a saute pan, add the scallions, habanero pepper and cook until soft. Add the roasted vegetables and mix well.

4. Spoon the roasted vegetables into two ramekins until each is 3/4 full and top off with the egg mixture. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes then top each with the Gruyere cheese and baked for a couple of minutes until cheese is melted.

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St Patrick’s Day Jalapeno and Cheddar Cornbread Muffins

Happy pre – St. Patrick’s Day!! Celebrate with these jalapeno and cheddar cornbread muffins for a spiced up morning. They’re playful, fun, easy to make and would look cute on your breakfast table. During the baking process the jalapeno slices transform into little shamrocks!

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Just slice an extra jalapeno and top each muffin before baking.

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The cornbread muffins will be just a little spicy since the fat in the cheese helps balance the heat.

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Perfect with a mug of coffee!

jalapeno_muffin_coffee

I used regular cornbread mix which works for me! Its quick, it’s easy but if you have your own special corn muffin recipe go ahead and just mix in the jalapenos and the cheddar. Adjust your recipe if you add salt since the cheddar adds it’s own saltiness. Also, adding the cheese makes this recipe much more moist than a traditional cornbread recipe.

Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day and may the road always rise up to meet you!!

St Patrick’s Day Jalapeno & Cheddar Cornbread Muffins

1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
2 jalapenos, 1 diced & the other sliced
1/4 cup white cheddar cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl mix all ingredients except the sliced jalapeno.

2. Grease a muffin pan and pour cornbread mix into molds. Top each muffin with a jalapeno slice and bake for 20-25 minutes.

3. For a sweeter option, drizzle a little honey over the tops as they’re cooling.

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Comfort Foods: Spicy Soups from Around the World

Five spicy soups I’ve been wanting to make and now is the time! The weather here has been a little strange which has become the norm these days. One day its in the 20’s then it shoots up to 60 then back down to the 30s! Who can dress for this weather? Well one thing is for sure, Winter is here to stay for a while so stock up on your veggies and spices and let’s take a world soup journey. First up is an American nod to Mexico, then a tour of Asia and finally a pit stop in the sunny Caribbean…we can dream can’ t we? So get comfy in your over-sized sweater and thick wool socks and curl up to these awesome spicy soup recipes.

1. Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup from A Beautiful Mess. I can just taste the silky smooth sweet potato balanced with the spicy, smokey chipotle and looks so easy to make!

Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup

2. Indian Spiced Chicken Turmeric Soup from Spicie Foodie. I love Indian spice flavors and this soup is healthy and good for you. Studies show that turmeric has cancer fighting properties so get your fill here.

Indian_Spiced_Turmeric_Soup04

3. Yunnan Beef Stew from Lady and Pups. Just look at it, how can you resist this delicious bowl of short ribs, ginger, garlic, lemongrass and mint? Soul soothing!

4. Korean Spicy Green Onion Beef Soup, Yuk Gae Jahng from Week of Menus. This is my go to soup when ever I go to little Korea in NYC. This soup is peppery, bold and heart warming.

spicy_Korean_soup

5. Jamaican Pepper Pot Stew from My Wooden Spoons. This soup is gorgeous and just waiting to be devoured! Add a scotch bonnet pepper to the pot for extra heat!

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Meatless Monday: Buttery Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts! They used to be the vegetable I avoided until a friend of mine made me try them years ago. I always thought they would taste like cabbage, which I’m not a fan of, but they were surprisingly different and only resemble cabbage in appearance. Brussel sprouts are nutty, buttery, nutritious and so filling. They are the perfect accompaniment to grilled meats and seafood but can also be enjoyed alone. They are also one of the healthiest of vegetables, packed with all sorts of nutrients.

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Brussel sprouts are high in protein and fiber, low in calories and loaded with anti-oxidants to help protect against heart disease and cancers. Also, according to doctors and nutritionist, adding a little extra kick from spices will also help rev up your metabolism.  Sometimes I will have these after getting home late from a good work out at the gym. They are light, and quick and easy to make. They are so tasty there is really no reason not to add them to your diet.

Spicy Roasted Brussel Sprouts

1 lb brussel sprouts
1-2 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
dash of salt & pepper

1. Rinse the brussel sprouts in water and peel off a layer or two and cut each in half. Heat up a cast iron skillet or heavy bottom pan on medium heat and add butter. As butter is melting toss in brussel sprouts and stir.

2. Add the garlic, pepper flakes and the salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cook for about 8 minutes until the brussel sprouts are tender and nicely browned.

Enjoy in a bowl with a glass of white wine!

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A Refreshing Blood Orange Cocktail

It’s cold outside but warm indoors and sometimes you just want to kick back, have a refreshing cocktail and just dream of summer. It’s also a great time to take advantage of seasonal citruses like blood oranges and spruce up a classic margarita cocktail. This sweet and tart fruit gives the margarita that extra tang and the spicy merken will just make you want to lick all around the rim! It’s all very simple, just squeeze a blood orange, a lemon and lime…

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Wet the rim your glass with a lime and dip in Merken spice…

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Get some good tequila, ice, simple syrup, lime slices, stir, sip and transport yourself to a sunny beach with warm sand at your toes, hear for the waves crashing in the distance and just breathe…

blood_orange_margarita

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Spicy Hot Cherry Chocolate Martini for your Valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope you are all having a super spicy hot day today and if not don’t sweat it, you will be after this spicy martini. It’s sweet, spicy and chocolatey with a touch of cherry. Perfect if you’re making it a girls night in or if you’re with your loved one.

spicy_cherry_chocolate_martini

Spicy Hot Cherry Chocolate Martini
1 serving

2 oz jalapeno infused Vodka
1 1/2 oz Godiva Chocolate Liquor
1 oz light cream
1/2 oz triple sec
1 tsp maraschino cherry juice
1 maraschino cherry

Add ice to a martini mixer, then add the rest of the ingredients except for the cherry and shake it hard. Pour into a chilled martini glass.

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Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja: Spicy Shredded Beef Over Rice

We got over a foot of snow here in Jersey on Friday and heard the Connecticut area got it far worse than us with over three feet of snow! I can’t imagine having to dig out of all that snow! I went out to shovel during the storm just to get a head start so shoveling the next day wasn’t too bad. This is some serious back breaking work but the best part is coming back inside to warm up and relax to a warm and hearty meal. I have always loved snowy days for this, knowing my Mom would have a hot meal for us after a day of snow angels, igloos and snowmen. Today I still want to play in it but instead do the necessary clean up, clear the car, slush around the city in my comfy boots and puffy coat, watch my dog hop around like a little bunny (he hates the snow!), then come back inside for an awesome meal. And I can do all this with my awesome slow cooker without having to fuss too much in the kitchen.

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So while you’re out playing, shoveling, organizing your cupboards or what ever you do when you’re snowed in, make this wonderful spicy dish popular in many Latin American homes. Ropa Vieja, or old clothes, is a well spiced, boldly flavored shredded beef dish served over white rice. It’s the comfort food I crave during cold, snowy days like these. This isn’t a dish that’s high on the heat index and most restaurants will serve a hot sauce on the side but I like mine spicy and have turned up the heat in this recipe.

This is one easy recipe where you pretty much just toss everything in and let the slow cooker do its thing. Before you do that though add the onions first. Having the onions on the bottom helps “prop” up the beef and ensures it does not stick to the bottom of the cooker and burn.

chopped_onions

I used this older slow cooker because my roast was only two pounds but the more modern cookers may have a built-in rack. If that’s the case then you don’t need to add the onions first. Add the remaining ingredients and set the slow cooker on high until the meat is fork tender.

ropa_vieja1

The meat will release a lot of juices but will eventually burn off during the cooking process so if you are like me and like a saucier dish, just add a little water and tomato paste. Just make sure you taste it to ensure the seasoning is right for you.

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Once the beef has finished cooking, remove from the slow cooker and onto a cutting board for shredding. After you have shredded the meat with a fork just add it back to the slow cooker and stir well.

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You can serve the beef over rice, have it with plantains or make a sandwich, this is a dish that will pretty much go with anything. Any leftovers can be frozen if you are not planning on having it within a week.

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Ropa Vieja (Old Clothes) – Spicy Shredded Beef

2 lbs chuck roast or flank steak, cut in half
4 small onions, quartered
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1/2 cup cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 oz can tomato sauce
2 chipotles in Adobo sauce
1 tbsp Adobo
1 tsp oregano

1. Turn on your slow cooker and add the onions to the pot.

2. Rinse the chuck roast and add to slow cooker so it rests on top of onions. Cutting roast in half will speed up the cooking time. Add all the remaining ingredients and cover the slow cooker

3. Cook on high setting for 4-5 hours or until the beef is tender enough to pull apart with a fork.

4. Transfer the roast to a shallow pan or cutting boarding and pull the meat apart with a fork.

5. Add the meat back to the slow cooker and mix well with the remaining juices. If meat isn’t saucy enough you can fill the 4oz can with water and add to meat. Add a little more Adobo seasoning if needed to adjust to your tastes.

6. Serve shredded beef over cooked white rice.

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