The Most Refreshing Tropical Sangria

A unique, refreshing tropical sangria featuring some of the best flavors of the islands. Pineapple, mango, white wine and RUM all come together in a delicious drink that’s fit for a crowd.

A refreshing, make-ahead Tropical Sangria to feed a crowd!

Okay, I just want to start off by saying I am completely aware that this is the second tropical recipe I’ve posted in a row, but I don’t think you’ll blame me once you see what I have in store for you. This refreshing Tropical Sangria was inspired by our trip to Hawaii a couple of weeks ago, and I have to say it is one of the best sangrias I’ve tasted in a loooooong time.

If you think about it, it’s pretty amazing that there aren’t more recipes for Tropical Sangria out there in the world. I saw it on the menu of the pool bar at the condos we stayed at on Oahu and, although I never got a chance to try that one (well, I had the chance, the mai tai I had from them was just enough to discourage me from trying any more of their mixed drinks), I knew I wanted to try and make my own – and undoubtedly better – version as soon as we got home.

Mix up a pitcher of this refreshing Tropical Sangria before your Labor Day get-together!

If we’re thinking “tropical,” of course we’re going to go with a white wine base. And we’re not talking chardonnay – this white wine needs to be crisp, refreshing, herbaceous and, yes, tropical. I went for a Sauvignon Blanc, but a Pinot Grigio would be great as well.

The next step is to find the most tropical fruit that you can. Pineapple and mango always seem to be a safe bet here on the mainland, but you could also incorporate things like passion fruit, guava or even lychee if you can find them.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I like my sangria to be a little more “high octane” than just your average bottle of wine. And don’t even talk to me about adding any sort of soda water. I think it just waters things down wayyyyyy too much, especially since our Tropical Sangria is going to be served over plenty of ice. This is where the rum comes in! I mean, come on, there’s no liquor that’s quite more tropical than that.

Finally, there are a couple of other not-so-secret ingredients that really seal the deal, and they’re ingredients you’ll find in many of your favorite tiki drinks. We’re talking orange curacao and orgeat. Sure, you could leave them out, but I love the extra dimension they give the drink and they truly do make it taste much more tropical.

A great batch cocktail, this Tropical Sangria is perfect for your next cocktail party.

One thing I love about this drink (aside from how tasty it is) is that, unlike many other cocktails, this makes a huge batch. In other words, it’s perfect for a party! I recommend mixing it up in a pitcher in advance and getting the sangria nice and chilled – sans ice – until you’re ready to serve. When it comes time for your guests to whet their whistles, just scoop the ice into the individual glasses and pour the sangria over it. Don’t forget to scoop out some of the fruit into each glass! That booze-infused juiciness is the best part.

A glass of refreshing, boozy Tropical Sangria is just the cocktail you need for your next party.

If you ask me, this Tropical Sangria is the perfect drink for your long Labor Day weekend. No matter where you find yourself, everyone can use a little island flavor in their life, right?

The Most Refreshing Tropical Sangria
Prep Time
5 mins
Refrigerator time
30 mins
 

A unique, refreshing tropical sangria featuring some of the best flavors of the islands. Pineapple, mango, white wine and RUM all come together in a delicious drink that’s fit for a crowd.

Course: Drinks
Keyword: batch drink, cocktails, drinks, entertaining, mango, pineapple, rum, sangria, tropical, white wine
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 335 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cubed mango
  • 1 whole pineapple, cut into wheels and cored
  • 2 750mL bottles white wine (I recommend Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio)
  • 3/4 cup rum
  • 1/2 cup orange curacao
  • 1/2 cup orgeat
Instructions
  1. Place mango and pineapple in the bottom of a large pitcher. 

  2. Pour all other ingredients into pitcher and stir.

  3. Refrigerate until ready to serve (I recommend at least 30 minutes.)

  4. Pour into individual wine glasses filled with ice to serve. Be sure to scoop in some of the fruit!

A Summer Beach Picnic + Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust!

Some of early summer’s star produce comes together beautifully in this perfectly balanced Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust.

This Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust is the perfect dessert recipe for any beach picnic, BBQ or fancy dinner party!
Photo: Meg Sorel

As someone who left a sufficiently cushy job in the corporate world to become self-employed, one of the most frequent questions I’m asked is, “Do you ever miss being in an office with coworkers?” And my answer is always, “Honestly, no.” Sure, the self-employed world can be lonely at times, but I consider myself AMAZINGLY lucky to have found a solid group of like-minded ladies (and yes, even some men) who have also set out on their own and forged a path for themselves in the world of entrepreneurship, specifically in the food, beverage and entertaining bizzes.

Recently, a few of us got together to kick off summer with a beautifully styled beach picnic featuring some incredibly delicious food and wine. Since I’ve been itching to refine my pie-making skills, I offered to bring one showcasing some of my favorite fruits of the season thus, this Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust was born.

A fun and fresh Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with a flaky amaretto crust. The perfect summer dessert!
Photo: Meg Sorel

Here’s what everyone else brought/contributed (with live links to their posts/websites!)

Le Petit Chef

Denisse is a private chef and food photographer based here in Santa Barbara and brought the most refreshing Poached Lobster Salad with Peaches, Shaved Fennel and White Corn and delectable Crab Toasts with Heirloom Tomato & Charred Scallion Aioli.

The Oyster Tin

Jamie (also a private chef) just started this “micro-shuckery” here in SB and, let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted these oysters. She brought both raw and BBQ oysters to our little picnic and the BBQ sauce on the cooked ones was just insane!

FOLD

Not only does Viktoriya make some of the most beautiful table linens, she’s also a pro at food and prop styling, She made our entire picnic set-up look like a dream…I only wish I could bring her (and her beautiful napkins and tablecloths) along with me for every picnic I go on!

Wander & Wine

If you plan to serve wine at any get-together you’re hosting, you’ll want to invite Hana-Lee. She chose the perfect wines to pair with each of our dishes. I couldn’t believe what a perfect match the Riverbench Demi-Sec Sparkling Wine was for my Strawberry Rhubarb Pie!

Meg Sorel Photography

Even though she stepped in for another photographer at the last minute, Meg was an absolute dream to work with and captured all of the beautiful images you see here and on the others’ posts.

Seafood, pie, wine and friends. What more can you ask for with a summer beach picnic?
Photo: Meg Sorel

Okay, now back to this pie. First, raise your hand if you (like me) are totally intimidated by pie-making because of the difficulty of making pie dough, rolling it out and then not only getting it to fit just right in your pie plate but also baking it to a beautiful golden brown in perfect synchronization to whatever filling you put inside.

Well, I’m here to tell you good news and bad news:

First, the bad news – it is hard. And it’s most likely not going to be perfect on your first attempt. You will most likely need to refine your practice in order to get it “just right.”

Next, the good news – it gets easier! Practice makes perfect. Once you find a recipe you like and practice it a time or two, you start to get a better feel for how it should look, feel, etc. I’m happy to say that, now that I have a basic pie crust recipe that I feel totally confident in, I’ll be making so many more pies and, after trying this recipe, I hope you will, too!

This Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust is the perfect finish to any 4th of July picnic or summer BBQ!
Photo: Meg Sorel
A picture perfect summer beach picnic with seafood, pie, wine and great friends!
Photo: Meg Sorel

There are just a couple of little secrets I want to let you in on that make this “not-your-average” Strawberry Rhubarb Pie recipe:

  1. It’s a fairly popular notion that adding chilled vodka to your pie dough (instead of water) will make it extra tender and flaky due to the alcohol dissolving during the cooking process. You know I’m all about using booze when needed, but for this recipe you’ll find me subbing in amaretto for the vodka, adding that slight nuttiness that goes perfectly with the rest of the components of the pie. For all other aspects of the dough, I turned to my favorite Model Bakery (affiliate link) recipe as a guide – I knew they wouldn’t let me down!
  2. Although the ingredients for the filling are all pretty typical, there is one ingredient that may look a little odd – balsamic vinegar. I added this to bring depth and a slight tang to the filling that pair perfectly with all the almond notes tied in throughout.

I have to say, for being such a novice in this particular aspect of baking, this Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust was a pretty huge hit.

A perfect piece of Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust is just what you need to cap off a summer meal.
Photo: Meg Sorel

It’s also perfectly portable which makes it a great dish to contribute to any 4th of July celebrations you may be attending this week.

Read on for the recipe!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Amaretto Crust
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 20 mins
Chilling time
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time
1 hr 50 mins
 

Some of early summer’s star produce comes together beautifully in this perfectly balanced dessert that's perfect for any warm weather get-together.

Course: Dessert
Keyword: pie, rhubarb, strawberry, summer
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 669 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the crust:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup chilled butter-flavored shortening, cut into cubes (Can use regular shortening too)
  • 1/4 cup amaretto, chilled
For the filling:
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced (about 3 cups sliced)
  • 2 stalks rhubarb, sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
For the streusel:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon amaretto
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, crumbled
Instructions
  1. Begin making the dough at least an hour or two before you plan on baking your pie. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. 

  2. Next, using a pastry blender, cut in both the butter and shortening until dough is blended but crumbly with some pea-sized pieces. 

  3. Slowly mix in the amaretto using a fork until a loose dough begins to form.

  4. Using your hands, shape the dough into a thick disk. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or even overnight.

  5. To make the filling, combine strawberries, rhubarb, balsamic vinegar, sugar and flour in a large bowl. Mix until the fruit is evenly coated with the sugar, flour and vinegar. Refrigerate until you’re ready to bake your pie.

  6. Finally, assemble the streusel topping. Mix together all streusel ingredients in a medium bowl, using your fingers as needed to break up the butter pieces and make the mixture even and crumbly.

  7. Pull out your refrigerated pie dough about 15 minutes before you’re ready to start baking. This will allow it to come back down to room temperature a bit and make it easier to roll out. Once your dough is at a “roll-able” temperature, roll it into an approximately 13-inch circle and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan. You may need to trim some edges and work the dough a bit once it’s in the pan to get the crust as uniform as possible. Crimp the ends as desired and then freeze for 15-30 minutes.

  8. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove your crust from the freezer and pour in the filling, then top with the streusel. 

  9. Bake pie in your 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also at this point I recommend putting on a pie shield or covering the edges of your crust with foil to prevent it from burning. Bake pie at this new reduced temperature for one hour to one hour and 15 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Let cool before serving (preferably with vanilla ice cream!)

 

Mixed Mushroom and Leek Bruschetta

Boy, have I got a delicious treat for you today, and it comes in the form of this Mixed Mushroom and Leek Bruschetta!

Leeks and a medley of mushrooms combine to form a delicious appetizer that's perfect for picnics, entertaining and more!

I sure hope you’re on #teammushroom, because this recipe is chock full of them. If not, you should probably stop reading now and I promise you’ll have better luck with my next post ;-P But seriously, gimme all the mushrooms and nobody will get hurt. I love those little funghi and I’m getting my fair share of them thanks to this new favorite recipe for topping bread!

I’ve made something similar before as part of my homemade Bruschetta Bar, but this Mixed Mushroom and Leek Bruschetta climbs to a whole other level with not one or two but THREE different types of mushrooms plus more leeks than you’ll know what to do with (hint: eat them.) It’s healthy yet filling at the same time and, when piled on top of hearty, freshly baked bread (my fave is a darker sourdough or multigrain loaf) it can easily pass as a light meal.

Another bonus? Even though it CAN be served warm, Mixed Mushroom and Leek Bruschetta tastes just as good when served room temperature (or even cold), making it an ideal dish to serve for entertaining or to take with you for a picnic, to the beach, to a potluck, etc.

This Mixed Mushroom and Leek Bruschetta is perfect for everything from an elegant dinner party to a casual beach picnic.

As the mother of a very small child with what seems like no time at all to spend in the kitchen, recipes like these are the ultimate lifesaver right now. In fact, don’t put it past me to make a batch on a Sunday and head to the fridge for it multiple times during the week when I want something healthy and quick. As a certified carb lover, it also makes me feel like I’m working some slightly more nutrient-packed foods into my day-to-day.

This Mixed Mushroom and Leek Bruschetta appetizer is best served over slices of your favorite rustic, crusty loaf of bread.

I’m going to keep it short today because, well, it’s 75 degrees out and there are much better things I could be doing than sitting behind my computer, but I hope you are having a wonderful week!

As I’m getting more and more back into regular posts, I’d love to hear what sort of recipes you’d like to see from me. Cocktails? Healthy food? Seasonal fare? Meal prep? Entertaining?

Let me know in the comments below!! xx

Mixed Mushroom and Leek Bruschetta
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 

Sauteed leeks and a medley of mushrooms create the perfect appetizer, whether served warm at home for a light dinner or chilled at a casual beach picnic.

Course: Appetizer
Keyword: appetizer, bruschetta, make-ahead, mushroom
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 259 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 leek (white part only), sliced
  • 2 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 12 ounces mixed mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bellas, shiitake and cremini)
  • 1/2 cup cream sherry
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 loaf hearty bread, sliced
  • Olive oil to coat bread
Instructions
  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. 

  2. Add leek, shallots and garlic and sauté until leek is translucent and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir to combine.

  3. Add sherry, vinegar and fresh herbs and cook over medium heat until mushrooms release their juices and have wilted significantly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Remove mushrooms from heat and let cool. Turn oven on to medium broil and place rack in middle of oven. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. 

  5. Brush olive oil lightly over both sides of each piece of sliced bread and place on prepared baking sheet. Broil bread until golden, somewhere around 5 minutes for each side (keep a close eye on it, as oven temps vary greatly and your bread can go from golden to charred in a matter of seconds.)

  6. Let bread cool and then serve alongside mushrooms (you can either load the bread slices with mushrooms yourself before serving or let guests load their own.)

Indulgent Smoked Salmon and Bagel Breakfast Casserole

Good thing it’s Friday, because I’ve got an incredibly Indulgent Smoked Salmon and Bagel Breakfast Casserole to rock your weekend!

A hearty dish of Indulgent Smoked Salmon and Bagel Breakfast Casserole is delicious, easy to assemble and sure to feed a crowd at brunch!

That’s right, I’ve taken just about everything that goes into your favorite bagel breakfast – we’re talking cream cheese, chives, smoked salmon, the works – and turned it into a tasty casserole that will feed a crowd. I mean, what’s not to like about that?

To be honest, I’ve been wanting to make something along the lines of an Indulgent Smoked Salmon and Bagel Breakfast Casserole for a looooong time, but have been struggling to find just the right excuse to make it – or enough people to feed it to. So when my Santa Barbara Foodie Gals decided it was time for our first picnic of the warm weather season, and a brunch picnic at that, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to test this recipe out on a critical yet incredibly appreciative crowd.

One little piece of this Indulgent Smoked Salmon and Bagel Breakfast Casserole is all you need at brunch to start your day off on the right foot!

We opted to hold our season opener of a picnic at the Santa Barbara Mission Rose Garden, which is probably one of the most beautiful open, public spaces you’ve ever seen. It’s our favorite spot for picnics, with a large, open grassy area framed by a lush rose garden and our own historic mission, which still functions as a church today. If you’re ever in the Santa Barbara area and looking for some scenic spots in addition to your eating and drinking, this Rose Garden (along with the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, home to the Sunken Gardens) are not to be missed.

We had quite the spread at our SB Foodie Gals get-together, and my Indulgent Smoked Salmon and Bagel Breakfast Casserole was a huge hit (although not the only star of the show as quiche, mimosas and donuts were also in attendance.) Needless to say, I got the approval on the recipe so I’m super excited to share it with you today!

There's quite a bit of deliciousness in a hearty slice of this Indulgent Smoked Salmon and Bagel Breakfast Casserole!

You know I’m the hugest fan of balanced living and whole foods eating whenever possible, so you should also know I’m not messing around when I call this dish indulgent. Gluten, dairy, cheese, CARBS – we’ve got it all in this bad boy, hence my emphasis on enjoying it only once in a while, in great company. It’s a dish that can serve a crowd, so it would be the perfect addition to an otherwise balanced brunch menu. In fact, a fresh fruit salad and crudité platter would be the perfect accompaniments!

I roughly based this Indulgent Smoked Salmon and Bagel Breakfast Casserole recipe on my savory bread puddings, however I increased the quantities of certain things to account for the crazy absorption rate of the bagels (and to make it a bit more egg-y and “breakfast-like.”)

When it comes to bagels, feel free to use whatever flavor you prefer to pair with your lox. I used a combo of onion and pretzel, but I also think everything bagels, rye, salt or even plain would be just fab here.

A boatload of bagels form the base of this tasty smoked salmon breakfast casserole, perfect to serve a crowd for brunch!

Also, I baked the casserole pretty much right after I assembled it, but I’m venturing to guess that prepping it a little bit in advance (maybe even the night before?) might be a VERY smart idea. After all, after everything is mixed together and loaded in the casserole dish, your Indulgent Smoked Salmon and Bagel Breakfast Casserole is pretty much “set it and forget it,” and who doesn’t want that when you’re trying to entertain a crowd?

This Indulgent Smoked Salmon and Bagel Breakfast Casserole is the perfect make-ahead dish to serve at your next brunch!

Indulgent Smoked Salmon and Bagel Breakfast Casserole
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 

This make-ahead casserole is loaded with bagels, smoked salmon, cream cheese and all your other favorite bagel toppings, and is perfect to serve a crowd!

Course: Breakfast
Servings: 10 servings
Calories: 530 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 9 bagels (your choice of flavor), cubed
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cubed and softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, plus 1 additional cup for topping
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 cup milk of your choice
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 4 ounces smoked salmon, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, plus 1 additional tablespoon for topping
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour melted butter into a 15-quart baking dish and turn to coat dish. Set aside.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients (except the 1 cup of Parmesan and 1 tablespoon of chives for topping.)

  3. Pour mixture into prepared casserole dish and sprinkle 1 cup grated Parmesan over top.

  4. Bake in 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, or until eggs are fairly set (they may continue to cook a bit after removing the casserole from the oven so don’t fret if they’re still a tiny bit runny.)

  5. Let cool slightly and sprinkle on additional tablespoon of chopped fresh chives before serving.

Lavender Collins

There’s no better way to get back in the cocktail game than with a light and refreshing Lavender Collins!

This Lavender Collins is a fun, fresh take on the classic gin cocktail.

It’s been a hot second since I’ve done a cocktail Friday post, and I figured that, this being the first official weekend of spring and all, it’s the perfect time to do so with a drink that just epitomizes the season. And it’s my favorite kind of cocktail – not too boozy, not overly sweet, tons of intriguing flavor…Oh, I do hope you enjoy this Lavender Collins as much as I did.

I’ve been wanting to  whip up a cocktail using lavender and gin for quite some time now – ever since I saw the combo in a cocktail recipe in Food & Wine mag – but then this little thing happened where I got pregnant and, well, I really couldn’t think of any nonalcoholic version that would do the flavors justice. So I shelved the idea and I’m so glad I’m just now circling back to it because it really is the perfect drink for the season!

A Lavender Collins is the perfect cocktail for Easter, Sunday brunch or any spring get-together.

We’ve endured quite the rainstorm over the past couple of days, but today the sun is finally starting to poke back through again. I realize our “storm” is probably quite miniscule compared to what all you out on the East Coast ever experience, but I must say it’s days like the ones we’ve just had that remind me how lucky we are to live in an area that only sees this type of weather a few times a year.

Weather aside, I couldn’t be more excited to step into spring with this Lavender Collins. I mean, not only am I totally jazzed that I can enjoy cocktails again, I’m also pretty stoked about the flavor of this boozy beverage.

Make a delicious Lavender Collins with just gin, lavender simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and club soda!

And it doesn’t take much! We’re talking about a four-ingredient recipe right here (okay, maybe six if you count the simple syrup ingredients separately) and about 15 minutes between you and your new favorite Friday cocktail for the foreseeable future.

The most difficult (and really, not that difficult) part of this whole recipe is making the lavender simple syrup, but as long as you can boil water and get a hold of some fresh (or culinary) lavender you should be a-ok.

Other than that, all you need is your favorite gin, some fresh lemons and club soda. Who knew something so delicious could be so easy?

A Lavender Collins is the perfect cocktail to kick off the first weekend of spring!

If you’re a fan of floral, botanical flavor and a light, refreshing drink to kick off your weekend, then this Lavender Collins is for you.

How will you be spending the first weekend of spring??

Lavender Collins
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
20 mins
 

A light, refreshing take on the classic gin cocktail with tons of botanical flavor - the perfect drink to enjoy all spring!

Course: Drinks
Servings: 1 cocktail
Calories: 223 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 3/4 ounce lavender simple syrup (see Notes)
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ounces club soda
  • Culinary lavender and lemon wheels, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients except garnishes in a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Stir to combine.

  2. Sprinkle on culinary lavender and hang a lemon wheel on the rim for garnish. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

To make the Lavender Simple Syrup: Combine 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and 3-5 sprigs of fresh lavender in a small saucepan and bring to a heavy simmer. Turn down to a low simmer and let cook until mixture has reduced by half (about 10-15 minutes.) Pull out lavender sprigs and bring to room temperature before making your cocktail.