Blueberry Pie-tini

Happy Blueberry Pie Day!

Blueberry Pie-tini | CaliGirlCooking.com

Should we have a cocktail to celebrate? A Blueberry Pie-tini to be exact? I think so.


I have to admit, when I decided to make a blueberry pie flavored cocktail, I was a little skeptical as to how it would turn out. I’m not usually one for the sweeter cocktails, I’d rather have a big ol’ piece of chocolate cake than a chocolate martini any day. But you know what, I’m not one bit upset about how this Blueberry Pie-tini turned out. In fact, I’m pretty dang excited about it.

I’m just starting to come out of the massive jet lag fog from our trip, and let me tell you, I am sooo glad we only had two days of work to get through before the weekend. No doubt we’ll still be recovering a bit for the next couple of days, and we’ll be enjoying some of these Blueberry Pie-tini’s while we’re doing it! Our big plans for the weekend include going to my niece and nephew’s annual silent auction at their school, visiting with my mom who will be down here for the auction, and soaking up the beautiful weather we’re supposed to be having. (Even though we didn’t hit any rain, the weather in Italy was a bit chilly for this California gang!)

Blueberry Pie-tini | CaliGirlCooking.com

Okay, but back to these cocktails. One of the reasons I think these passed my taste test of not being too “dessert-y” is because of all of the bright fruit flavors they get from both fresh blueberries and zesty lemon juice. I also once again made my own vanilla vodka, like I did for these Orange Creamsicle Martinis just a few weeks ago, which helps the mix not taste overly sweet. After all, we all know fresher is better!

Now, of course I had to go and add something a little more dessert-ish to really cement this whole “blueberry pie” idea, so I decided to use some honey-sweetened graham cracker crumbs and a little more lemon juice to rim the glasses. This step lends a pretty touch to the Blueberry Pie-tini’s, but if you’re more of a non-dessert cocktail lover, you could easily skip them and still have a delicious drink just the same.

Blueberry Pie-tini | CaliGirlCooking.com

So what do you think? Have I convinced you to make some Blueberry Pie-tini’s this weekend? If not this weekend, how about as a special treat for Mother’s Day in two weeks?

Regardless of whether you make these cocktails or not (although I highly suggest that you do) I hope that you have a wonderful weekend full of fun, food, drinks and friends! Xo

Blueberry Pie-tini | CaliGirlCooking.com

Blueberry Pie-tini | CaliGirlCooking.com
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Blueberry Pie-tini
Prep Time
5 mins
 

This refreshing martini has all of the amazing flavors of blueberry pie wrapped up into one little drink. The perfect springtime treat!

Course: Drinks
Servings: 2 cocktails
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces vodka
  • 1/2 of a vanilla bean
  • 2 finely crushed graham crackers
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon plus 1 1/2 ounces, chilled
  • 6 ounces fresh blueberries, chilled
  • 1 1/2 ounces simple syrup
  • Splash club soda
  • Lemon wheels, for garnish
Instructions
  1. The night (or up to three nights) before you want to make your cocktails, make the vanilla vodka. Place the vodka and vanilla bean in a small mason jar or sealable container and place in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.

  2. When making the cocktails, you’ll first need to prep the rims of your glasses. Pour the graham cracker crumbs onto one small round plate and squeeze the juice of ½ of a lemon onto another small round plate. Taking your martini glasses one at a time, dip the rims into the lemon juice first and then the graham cracker crumbs. Set aside while you make the martinis. 

  3. In a blender, combine the blueberries, 1 ½ ounces lemon juice, vanilla vodka and simple syrup. Pour evenly into the two martini glasses you’ve rimmed and top with club soda. Garnish with a lemon wheel, if desired.

Blueberry Pie-tini | CaliGirlCooking.com

Greek Nachos

Figures I would come back from Italy just to share a Greek recipe with you…

Greek Nachos | CaliGirlCooking.com

I guess you could actually call these absolutely to-die-for Greek Nachos a Greek-Mexican hybrid recipe though, since we’re taking one of my favorite Mexican food dishes and giving it a Mediterranean twist. I’m really not sure why the Greek Nacho path hasn’t been traveled down more often, because when you basically sub in Greek-inspired ingredients for your typical nacho fixin’s, the result is show stopping. You may never want to eat regular nachos ever again.


Aside from these nachos, I don’t have too much other stuff to share with you today. More due to the fact that I’m a bit jetlagged (read: brain dead) from our trip and we’re driving back to Santa Barbara from the Bay Area today. Tomorrow, back to reality but at least we only have a few more days until the weekend! I fully intend on writing at least one (if not multiple) Travel Diary posts about my trip once I’ve had time to recover and soak it all in, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, let me tell you a little bit about these Greek Nachos. Because, yes, you want to know allllll about them.

Greek Nachos | CaliGirlCooking.com

We start in the most obvious of places: with the chips! We’re kicking off the Greek theme by replacing the typical tortilla chips with crispy plain pita chips, which in fact almost work better than tortilla because they tend to be thicker and sturdier – which means they can easily hold up to all of the tasty toppings we’re going to add!

Greek Nachos | CaliGirlCooking.com

The first matter of business in getting together said toppings is whipping up some healthy and tangy tzatziki sauce. I used a base of nonfat plain Greek yogurt and added lots of garlic, dill and cucumber. Make this the day before if you want, the flavors just get better as they sit.

We’ll also want to saute some eggplant as well as ground lamb with more garlic, olive oil, and some fresh lemon juice. And I’m going to take this moment right here to let you know that if you have never cooked with ground lamb before, you’ve REALLY been missing out. I love how it tastes so different than beef..It seems to give a whole new dimension to a dish (I’m also a huge fan of lamb burgers if you’re looking for more suggestions.)

Aside from putting together the tzatziki and cooking the eggplant and lamb, there’s very little involved in the preparation of our Greek Nachos. You’re going to need the requisite Greek ingredients (like tomatoes, garbanzo beans, red onion and fresh oregano) and you’re also going to track down some legit Greek cheese. I used a mix of feta and shredded Kasseri, which could also be replaced by halloumi or any other Greek cheese you’re able to find (I had the best luck at Whole Foods.)

To prep the actual nacho dish, you’re going to want to bring out your best cast iron skillet. Load up the bottom of the skillet with the pita chips, then pile on all of the prepared toppings that can stand up to a little more heat. We’re talking the lamb, beans, onions, tomatoes, and of course, cheese!

Greek Nachos | CaliGirlCooking.com

Pop all of that into the oven for about 15 minutes, top with the rest of the ingredients (like more fresh oregano and the tzatziki) and your Greek Nachos will be on the table in no time! Now how’s that for an easy Wednesday night dinner?

Greek Nachos | CaliGirlCooking.com

Greek Nachos | CaliGirlCooking.com
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Greek Nachos
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 

All of your favorite Mediterranean ingredients are piled high atop crispy pita chips. The perfect quick and easy dinner for any night of the week!

Course: Main Course
Servings: 5 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the tzatziki:
  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Persian cucumber, grated
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of pepper
For the eggplant:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or more as needed if dry)
  • 1/2 of a medium eggplant, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
For the lamb:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
All other ingredients:
  • 4-5 cups plain pita chips
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 6 ounces shredded Kasseri cheese
  • 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced
  • Additional fresh oregano for garnish
Instructions
  1. First, make the tzatziki. Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stir until well-incorporated. If you have time, cover and chill the mixture for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.

  2. To make the eggplant, heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add eggplant and garlic and stir to combine. Cook until eggplant is tender, adding more olive oil as needed, then season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Remove from pan and set aside.

  3. To make the lamb, heat another 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat (using the same saute pan.) Add the lamb, garlic and fresh oregano and cook until lamb is browned. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Turn off heat and set aside.

  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the pita chips evenly over the bottom of a medium cast iron skillet. Sprinkle the eggplant, lamb, garbanzo beans, cheese, cherry tomatoes and red onion evenly over the top. Place in the oven for approximately 12 minutes, and then turn the broiler on high for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until the cheese on top is starting to brown. 

  5. Remove the cast iron skillet from the oven, being careful to use potholders, and drizzle on tzatziki (you don’t have to use it all, just use however much you want.) Sprinkle with more fresh oregano before serving straight out of the pan!

Greek Nachos | CaliGirlCooking.com

Banana Bran Muffins

Who’s ready for some wholesomeness in their life??

Banana Bran Muffins | CaliGirlCooking.com

I sure am! Well, in about two days when we’re back from our Italy vacation, that is. At which point I completely intend to fill our kitchen with healthy(-ish) dishes with good-for-you ingredients, like these Banana Bran Muffins!


Okay, to be fair, these muffins do have lots of wholesome ingredients, but I’d be lying if I said they were completely healthy. Sure, they still have sugar, white flour and eggs, but they also have not one but TWO types of bran cereal and bananas, so there’s our balance right there. And let me tell you, if you’re looking for a little more roughage (aka fiber) in your diet, Banana Bran Muffins are the answer!

Before I get to these muffins, though, let me fill you in a little bit on what we’ve been up to on our trip since my last post on Friday! On Saturday morning we caught the train to Venice, which was a pretty cool adventure all in itself. The train systems in Europe always amaze me because they are so sophisticated and make going from one city (or country!) to another sooooo easy. The US sure has a lot to learn from them.

Once we arrived in Venice, we caught a private water taxi to our charming AirBnB just south of the famous St. Mark’s Square. We’ve basically been eating our way through Venice ever since and I can’t wait to write all about it in a Travel Diaries post for you when we get back! We head home tomorrow and, although I’m sad to see such an amazing adventure with so many people I love come to an end, I am looking forward to getting back into a healthier eating routine after all of this indulgence! I’m thinking these Banana Bran Muffins will be the perfect segue to gently ease myself back into the groove.

Banana Bran Muffins | CaliGirlCooking.com

So, I told you a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been really enjoying resurrecting old family recipes and posting them here on the blog so that they exist forever and ever (I hope!) I made my Mom’s Peanut Butter Chicken a little while back, the perfect comfort food dish, and just the other week I shared my Dad’s tried and true recipe for Hot Cross Buns.

These Banana Bran Muffins are actually my take on a recipe from my husband’s side of the family. It’s one he’s brought up over and over again whenever we talk about family recipes we want to try and make for each other, and so the last time we were at his parents’ house this recipe card was one of the ones we snapped a photo of from his mom’s overflowing handwritten recipes box.

Banana Bran Muffins | CaliGirlCooking.com

The first thing I have to say about this recipe is: Don’t be scared by the very large amounts of ingredients (three cups of sugar??? Five cups of flour??) That’s because this recipe makes a HUGE yield…we’re talking three dozen muffins, so just be sure you have a couple of really large mixing bowls to make your batter!

Banana Bran Muffins | CaliGirlCooking.com

And the great news is, once you make the batter, you can either keep it in the refrigerator for up to six weeks (can you believe it?) OR you can bake off all of the muffins (as I did) and freeze them in batches for future consumption. Up to you!

The main (really only) change I made to my mother-in-law’s original Bran Muffin recipe was adding mashed banana in place of the ½ cup of shortening called for. I figured this would help make the muffins a leeeetle bit healthier and it certainly made them nice and moist! Of course, after I’d made them, my husband informed me that his mom would sometimes sub in applesauce for the shortening, so there’s another option as well!

Oh, and if you’re not sure where to find both types of bran cereal, just hit up your local Trader Joe’s! Here’s a picture of both types mixed together below ↓

Banana Bran Muffins | CaliGirlCooking.com

Basically, these Banana Bran Muffins don’t take any longer than regular muffins to make, and once you do make them you’ll have enough to last you at least a month or two. If that doesn’t sound like the perfect semi-healthy baked good to you, I don’t know what will.

Banana Bran Muffins | CaliGirlCooking.com

And with that, I’m signing off for the day and off to explore more of the magical city of Venice! Be sure to follow along on my Insta stories for all the fun! Xo

Banana Bran Muffins | CaliGirlCooking.com
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Banana Bran Muffins
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

These easy-to-make muffins are incredibly delicious and full of plenty of wholesome ingredients like bran cereal and ripe banana. 

Course: Breakfast
Servings: 3 dozen
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 cups whole bran cereal
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup mashed banana (about 1 banana)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 5 cups flour, sifted
  • 4 cups bran flakes
  • 5 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare as many cupcake tins as you have (ultimately you will need three dozen, but you can always reuse the pans) by either spraying them with nonstick cooking spray or lining with cupcake liners.

  2. In a medium bowl, pour boiling water over whole bran cereal. Let stand while you prep the wet ingredients.

  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugar, banana, eggs and buttermilk. Add the whole bran that you’ve been soaking in the hot water. 

  4. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine the flour, bran flakes, baking soda and salt. Stir in the wet ingredients and continue to stir until no lumps of flour can be seen. The batter will be very thick and will thicken even more as it stands.

  5. Scoop batter into cupcake pans and bake in 350 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove and let cool in pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Recipe Notes

You can bake off all of these muffins at once and freeze them in batches, or you can keep the batter covered in the refrigerator for up to six weeks to bake off when needed.

Banana Bran Muffins | CaliGirlCooking.com

Venetian Spritz

Ciao, bellas!

Venetian Spritz | CaliGirlCooking.com

This post comes to you from deep in the heart of Tuscany but, no, we’re not talking about wine today (well, kinda sorta not.) Nope, we’re talking about the trademark cocktail of Venice, the Venetian Spritz!


To be fair, the base of this cocktail is prosecco so, yes, there is wine involved, just not any of the big reds that we’ve been enjoying throughout our trip so far. But that all changes tomorrow when we head to Venice and the land of sparkling wine and spritzes!

If you’ve ever been to Italy, there’s no question that you’ve enjoyed (or at least seen tons of people enjoying) a spritz around 4pm in the afternoon, gathering at the sidewalk bars after a long day at work. It’s known as a classic aperitivo, or drink to whet the appetite and get it ready for a big meal. It’s also fairly low octane, with no hard alcohol involved, so you can drink quite a few during happy hour and still walk in a fairly straight line to dinner, which typically doesn’t start in Europe until 8:30pm at the earliest. Of course this later start time means you have to make your happy hour count when you’re in Italy!

Venetian Spritz | CaliGirlCooking.com

I have to admit, it took me a while to warm up to spritzes, because I wasn’t always a huge fan of Aperol, which is basically the only other primary ingredient in these cocktails besides prosecco. You can imagine how disappointing this was to me when I was in Venice last (about seven years ago) and didn’t even thoroughly enjoy the drink that represented this amazing place.

But I’m happy to report that I’ve aged a bit since then, and thankfully so has my palate. I now thoroughly enjoy the taste of Aperol, especially when accompanied by sparkling wine, which we all know is my absolute favorite!

I love that this drink is so easy to make, and even those of you who are reading this from home can make yourselves a Venetian Spritz (or two, or three) this weekend to enjoy with me in spirit. We’ll certainly be enjoying plenty of them as we explore the city over the next few days!

Venetian Spritz | CaliGirlCooking.com

Speaking of, I’m loving hearing all of your suggestions of places to eat, drink, shop and see while we’re there. Keep them coming! We really have no set agenda for this leg of our trip and love finding hidden gems.

Anyhow, I’m going to keep this short today, because who wants to be stuck at the computer when we have so many things to see and do on our last full day in Tuscany? We’re headed to Montepulciano today, and I’m so excited to show the hubs and the in-laws one of my favorite little wine towns in all of the land. Be sure to follow along on my IG stories to see all that we’re up to.

Now raise your glass and cheers a Venetian Spritz with me!

Venetian Spritz | CaliGirlCooking.com
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Venetian Spritz
Prep Time
5 mins
 

A classic Venetian prosecco cocktail that you can easily make at home. Just three ingredients are all you need to feel like you're in Italy!

Course: Drinks
Servings: 1 cocktail
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 ounce Aperol
  • 4 ounces prosecco
  • 1 orange wheel, cut in half
Instructions
  1. Pour Aperol into a champagne flute (or wine glass filled with ice if you want to be really traditional) and then slowly pour prosecco over top. Be sure not to pour too quickly or you will have a bubble over. 

  2. Take one half of the orange wheel and squeeze the juice into the drink. Use the other half of the orange wheel as a garnish, or additional juice if you want a little more sweetness to your drink.

Venetian Spritz | CaliGirlCooking.com

Turmeric Coconut Ice Cream (Vegan and Dairy-Free!)

Boy oh boy am I going to need a lot of this when we get back from Italy.

Turmeric Coconut Ice Cream (Vegan and Dairy-Free!) | CaliGirlCooking.com

Yes, I’m talking about turning to ICE CREAM to reset my diet after a week and a half of indulgence in one of the most foodie-friendly countries of the world. You know why? Because this Turmeric Coconut Ice Cream is h-e-a-l-t-h-y! That’s right. We’re talking vegan/dairy-free, where the only cream we’re speaking of comes from our good ol’ friend the coconut. Did I mention it’s darn delicious too?


Now, you know I’m no stranger to ice cream, and I’m certainly no stranger to the full-octane kind. This Fresh Mint Dark Chocolate Chip Ice Cream is still one of my favorite recipes to date, and as soon as fig season rolls around you can bet I’ll be whipping up this Maple Bourbon Fig Ice Cream on the reg. But to me, this Turmeric Coconut Ice Cream just screams spring and warmer weather. Sure, we can still enjoy our Golden Milk Lattes in the cool, often foggy mornings (here in SB at least,) but once the sun breaks through and the temperatures start to climb into the high 70’s, you can bet a healthy frozen treat will sound a whole lot better.

Turmeric Coconut Ice Cream (Vegan and Dairy-Free!) | CaliGirlCooking.com

In case you’ve been living under a rock lately, here’s a quick recap of all of the great things turmeric can do for your body:

Help with heartburn and indigestion
Tame joint pain and inflammation
Support brain health
Fight cancer cells

So you can see why it’s been getting so much hype lately. Up until now, my go-to use of turmeric has been in our morning smoothies a few times a week, especially if the hubs and I are recovering from a tough workout or just not feeling up to snuff. But now I get to enjoy it for dessert too! Turmeric Coconut Ice Cream is definitely going to be a new staple in our household.

Turmeric Coconut Ice Cream (Vegan and Dairy-Free!) | CaliGirlCooking.com

I have to admit, making ice cream out of coconut milk was quite the learning process. I’m not sure if I just fail at shaking canned coconut milk vigorously enough, or if TJ’s full-fat coconut milk just tends to be chunkier, but man I struggled when I used their stuff for my first go-around.

I did a little research when I first decided to give this Turmeric Coconut Ice Cream a shot, and found two recipes online that seemed intriguing. The first method (when I used the Trader Joe’s brand of coconut milk) was from my friends at The Kitchn, which involved heating things up with cornstarch over the stove and then putting the pudding-like mixture in the refrigerator to thicken overnight. Unfortunately, when I pulled the mixture out the next morning, I was greeted with an incredibly thick film over the top and completely runny bottom. I tried salvaging it in the ice cream maker but with no luck. Now, I’m not sure if the problem was the brand of milk or the method, but I decided to try a different angle for my second time around.

The second recipe that had caught my eye was Minimalist Baker’s easy technique for basic coconut ice cream. This one involved whirring all of the ingredients together in the blender before pouring it all into the ice cream maker, no overnight chilling or vigorous shaking required. I’m happy to say this second attempt was a success and we had a batch of delicious Turmeric Coconut Ice Cream ready to consume after just a couple of hours of firming up in the freezer.

One thing I will mention is that this ice cream gets quite hard and icy after it is completely chilled. All this means is you’ll have to take it out of the freezer 10-20 minutes before you want to enjoy it so it can soften up a bit to the consistency of soft serve.

Turmeric Coconut Ice Cream (Vegan and Dairy-Free!) | CaliGirlCooking.com

Okay, folks, I’ve got to sign off because we have a very exciting day today. We’re taking a cooking class from the amazing owners at our villa and I cannot wait to eat allllll of the fresh pasta. I’ll try to post updates on my Instagram stories if our WiFi service is good enough! Xo

Turmeric Coconut Ice Cream (Vegan and Dairy-Free!) | CaliGirlCooking.com
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Turmeric Coconut Ice Cream (Vegan and Dairy-Free!)
Prep Time
10 mins
Total Time
4 hr
 

New "it" superfood turmeric is the star in this vegan, dairy-free ice cream made solely from coconut milk. The perfect healthy warm weather treat!

Course: Dessert
Servings: 8 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 14-ounce cans full-fat coconut milk Trader Joe's brand did not work for me!
  • 1/4 cup cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Be sure to freeze your ice cream machine canister the night before you want to make this!

  2. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on medium-high until sugar dissolves and everything is well-combined.

  3. Pour mixture into ice cream maker and churn according to maker’s directions. 

  4. Transfer ice cream to an 8- or 9-inch loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap, being sure to press the wrap down on the surface of the ice cream. This will help it from preventing too much of a film as it freezes.

  5. Freeze for 4-6 hours. Remember to remove the ice cream from the freezer 10-20 minutes before you want to enjoy it so it can soften up a bit!

Turmeric Coconut Ice Cream (Vegan and Dairy-Free!) | CaliGirlCooking.com