How to Make a Tequila Sunrise

The Tequila Sunrise is an easy drink to make. It contains only three ingredients (orange juice, tequila and grenadine), and it requires none of the annoying labors typically involved in making tropical-style drinks--like crushing ice, using a blender, or cutting up pieces of fruit.

Heck, you don’t even need a purple umbrella.

So, here's how to get a great-tasting and visually stunning drink for very little work:

Tequila Sunrise

4-6 ounces orange juice
1-2 shots tequila
1/2 shot grenadine

Pour orange juice into a highball glass filled with ice cubes. Add tequila.

Then gently add grenadine, letting it settle on the bottom of the glass.

Stir just before drinking.

We recently started a mission to make every single drink in the entire Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide. Partly it’s because we like to drink, but who knows, it could be valuable preparation for my next career as a bartender on some tropical island somewhere....

Since it was Laura’s birthday just a few weeks ago, and since she received a gift of two kinds of fancy white tequila from me (no it was not a Homer gift!), we’ve been lingering in the tequila section lately.

Most people have what we’ll euphemistically call “a tequila story.” We have one friend, now nearly 20 years removed from his tequila story, who still can’t sit in the same room with a bottle of the stuff. What a tragedy.

But fortunately, tequila is Laura’s favorite alcohol, probably because she actually doesn’t have a tequila story. At least not yet. :)

PS: It's day 27 of the Chocolate Fast!!! I think I can make it....

Related Posts:
The Gimlet
Mojitos in Miami
The Simpsons

Chocoholics Anonymous: The Chocolate Fast, Day 24

Only six more days to go. I'm pretty sure I can finish. But it doesn't seem to be getting any easier.

At my family reunion this weekend I was able to restrain myself, despite the fact that several unnamed members of my extended family took perverse pleasure in doing things like waving handfuls of M&Ms in front of my face. :) Don't worry, I thought it was pretty funny.

But now that I'm back home with nothing to do this evening, that pathological craving for chocolate has returned. And it's overwhelming.

Worse, there's a bag of Ghirardelli chocolates sitting in the fridge right now--only a few steps away from me. Ironically it was a gift from a friend of mine to be eaten when I break the fast.

Note to self: this whole chocolate fast thing is a great way to score free chocolate.

I know I can make it through the 30 days. But I now understand that this--THIS is privation. I'd better go brush my teeth.

Finally, let me share some more rather blunt feedback on the Chocolate fast:

From a reader in New Zealand: What the hell were you thinking?

From our friend Tatyana (best if said with a Russian accent): Why would you do this? Why would you suffer like this? What is the point?

I'm beginning to wonder the same thing!

Garden Gumbo Recipe

Today’s recipe, Garden Gumbo, is yet another laughably cheap dish. Like most of the recipes in this blog, it scales well and is easy to make. And since it contains brown rice and a wide variety of veggies, it will satisfy all of your daily nutritional needs in one easy dish.

What prompted me to share this recipe was reading about Congressman James McGovern's food stamp challenge. If you’re not current on the story, McGovern is a Massachussetts Democrat who ate all of his meals for one week on an “average” food stamp budget, which he defined as $21 a week or $3 a day. If you want to learn more about the subject, here's his blog.

Don't worry, I'm not trying to inject any political issues into this blog. I could care less. But what fascinates me is how everybody seems to think it has to be expensive to eat well in your own kitchen.

I’ve already written on the subject of not letting yourself get rattled by upfront spice costs, and other tips on how to make cooking at home laughably cheap. I've even made "laughably cheap" one of the primary tags on this blog under which you can find several unbelievably inexpensive yet delicious recipes--the most obvious one, of course, being fried rice for under $1.

To think that people will happily pay extra money for special food so they can lose weight (see Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig), and yet this guy lost three pounds in one week just by going on food stamps! The irony is not lost on me.

So today I’m using Congressman McGovern’s little PR coup as an opportunity to share with you my Garden Gumbo recipe, which is modified from one of my favorite cookbooks: Jay Solomon's Vegetarian Soup Cuisine.

I'll admit it ain't easy to live on a grocery bill of $21 a week. But I'm here to tell you that IT CAN BE DONE. And today’s recipe is a perfect example. So thank you Congressman McGovern for prompting me to put out yet another inexpensive recipe--which by my math costs roughly 80c per serving.

Garden Gumbo
(modified without permission from Jay Solomon's Vegetarian Soup Cuisine)

1 Tablespoon oil (prefer olive oil)
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
8 cups water, chopped (...just checking if you're actually reading this)
1 14-ounce can stewed tomatoes

2 teaspoons oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if desired)

3/4 cup brown rice
1 15-ounce can red beans

In a large stock pot, heat the oil and add the chopped onion, green pepper, zucchini, celery and garlic. Add in the spices, then saute for 10 minutes on medium heat until veggies are softening.

Add water, stewed tomatoes and brown rice. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes.

Stir in the beans and simmer another 5-10 minutes, then serve! Serves 6+ easily.


Here my math on the cost of this dish:

green pepper---------------------75c
3-4 sticks celery-----------------25c
Band-aid for Dan's finger-------25c (nicely sliced while cutting celery)
3-4 cloves garlic-----------------25c
spices, oil--------------------------25c
stewed tomatoes------------------69c
brown rice-------------------------25c
1 can beans----------------------79c-99c

Total cost: $4.63 to $4.83 for 6 servings
Cost per serving: 77c to 81c

(Once again, I have to thank the genius finance professors at Columbia for giving me the skills to work out this one....Now if that MBA could only help me pick better stocks!)

How to Make Pickled Eggs

I have a confession to make. That last post on pickled beets? It was just an excuse to get to today's recipe.

Sure, pickled beets are good. In fact that's the only way I can convince Laura to eat a beet in the first place. But the best thing about making them is that you've completed 95% of the work toward making pickled eggs.

People who think plain old boiled eggs are bland and boring will change their minds in a hurry when they try these visually arresting eggs, dyed a rich reddish purple with their sweet and tangy taste.

Before you get started, obviously you will need to make a batch of pickled beets. So, if you haven't looked it over already, review the picked beets post briefly. If you need some quick help on making perfectly boiled eggs, feel free to take a quick look at my post on the subject.

Note that when boiling eggs for pickling you will want a fully done hard-boiled egg. Nothing is grosser than a chilled, pickled, runny, allegedly-boiled egg. For medium eggs, cook them at least 10 or 11 minutes, and add yet another minute or two more for large or jumbo eggs.

Now, here's the hard part: Peel the eggs and then drop them gently into the leftover pickled beet liquid. Once again, for God's sake, do not wear white for this part of the process!

You are now finished. Pretty challenging huh?

Again, you can use a plain old pasta jar (like I do) or you can use a more traditional Mason jar, whichever is most handy.

How to know how long to steep them:
After about 24 hours, the purple coloring will have only penetrated maybe an eighth to a quarter of an inch into the white of the egg. Of course the longer the eggs steep, the deeper the color goes into the egg, and the more the egg acquires the tangy pickled flavor. After four or five days you'll get to a critical mass where the eggs are "done"--for lack of a better word.

And just as with pickled beets, these eggs will keep for a month or longer in the fridge.

Note that you can theoretically make pickled eggs using the pickled beets recipe--but with no beets. They'll actually taste about the same, but in my opinion it's the arresting color that makes these eggs such an amazing food.

How to Make Pickled Beets

I'd like to thank my parents for introducing this recipe to me way back when I was a kid. It's both laughably cheap and easy to make. And because of the rich beet coloring, a glass jar filled with pickled beets looks quite visually stunning.

These babies will keep for up to a month in your fridge. And best of all, they are an instrumental first step in making pickled eggs, so save that bright purple liquid! We'll return to the subject in an upcoming post.
Pickled Beets

1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

(Optional: you can also add in 6-8 whole cloves and a 1-2 whole sticks of cinnamon to get that "my grandmother made this" look.)

Combine in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add 2-3 cups cooked and drained beets (about 5-6 medium-sized beets, either sliced or cut into smallish wedges--see below on instructions for cooking beets). Return to boiling and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Cool in refrigerator, then put beets and liquid into a glass jar or a sealable plastic container.

Best if served after a minimum of 48 hours of steeping in the pickling liquid.

A couple of additional notes:

On how to cook beets:
First cut off the stems/greens about one inch above the beet itself.

Rinse them off well, then cover with water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for roughly 50 minutes. The way you tell if a beet is done is the same way you tell if a boiled potato is done--just stick a fork in it and if the fork goes in pretty easily, it's done. Very high-tech.

Then, drain the cooked beets and refill the pan partway with cold water. Use your bare hands to quickly pull off the outer skins of the beets. They'll come off quite easily when fully cooked. Run cold water onto the beets as you're peeling them and you won't burn your hands.

You can either cut the beets into wedges (my preference) or slice them up. Sliced beets have a more typical look to them, but I've always felt they were harder to eat that way.

On the containers:
You can store pickled beets in either glass or Tupperware-type plastic, although I prefer glass. There's always a chance, depending on the plastic, that the deliciously purple beet color can stain your plastic irrevocably. Note also that it's a bad idea to leave the pickled beets in a saucepan or other metal container, as vinegar can corrode the metal and the metal can impart a metallic taste to whatever you're pickling.

If you want to get that "my grandmother made this" look, I encourage you to use traditional 1 quart mason jars (you can buy them by the dozen at Wal-Mart for cheap). But in our casual kitchen we just use carefully washed out jars of pasta sauce. They work just as well and they're free.

On modifications:
The pickling liquid can of course be modified to fit your tastes. I like the taste of the above recipe, which is a version I've modified myself from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, but I'm considering reducing the sugar content by 25% or so and adding even more vinegar. You can also substitute brown sugar if you prefer to use unrefined sweeteners. If you're a newcomer to this blog, be sure to take a moment to read my series on how to modify a recipe.

Finally, for God's sake don't wear anything white while you're making this dish!!!

Coming up next: pickled eggs

Related Posts:
How to Modify a Recipe Part 1: Basics
How to Modify a Recipe Part 2: The Six Rules
How to Modify a Recipe Part 3: Granola Before and After

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
If you enjoy reading Casual Kitchen, tell a friend and spread the word! You can also support me by purchasing items from via links on this site, or by linking to me or subscribing to my RSS feed. Finally, you can consider submitting this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to bookmarking sites like, digg or stumbleupon. Thank you for your support!

Chocoholics Anonymous: The Chocolate Fast, Day 13

Just a quick update on my chocolate fast now that I'm approaching the two week mark. I'm in utterly uncharted territory now. This is by far the longest I've ever gone without chocolate.

And remember how I claimed that this would be the longest month of my life? So far, it's really only been the second longest month of my life, right behind March 1990, when I had my wisdom teeth pulled (update: it has since become the third longest month of my life--the new first-place entry is February 2009, when I contracted adult-onset chicken pox).

So in that optimistic spirit, I thought I'd share a few of the experiences that I've had since I've been "on the wagon."

1) This is a conversation Laura and I had over the weekend, while I was struggling through Day 9 (not that I'm counting or anything):

Dan: Laura, I really want some chocolate--
Laura [interrupting]: Toughen up!

2) On Monday, one of my coworkers planted one of those evil foil-wrapped Dove dark chocolate squares on my keyboard. He thought it was funny. Definitely an unexpected liability of sharing this blog with colleagues at work.

3) And finally, two days ago I received a housewarming gift (from two wonderful Belgians who spent a couple of days with us) of an enormous bag of several different kinds of Belgian chocolates. Oh, the sheer TORTURE of it all! We all had a good laugh about my chocolate fast--although I was making one of those forced, phony-sounding laughs. I was busy plotting how I could sneak some without anybody finding out....

Chocoholics Anonymous: The Chocolate Fast, Day 6

I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into when I started this chocolate fast.

On Sunday May 6, which was day two, I think I actually experienced withdrawal symptoms. My wife will say I was just depressed because I had to go to work the next day. But we all know she doesn't understand.

I crave chocolate constantly. I'm thinking about it ALL the TIME.

And I'm getting no empathy at home either. Here's Laura's take on it:

I just don't get this no chocolate for a month thing. It's preposterous. Just don't eat any. How hard is that? What's the big deal?

And to give you an idea of how my cards are stacked gene-wise, here's what my one of my sisters had to say:

YIKES!! 30 whole days without chocolate? I made it three days once or twice... and ONE time I made it for 10 days. It sucked.

So there you go. Maybe it's the chocolate withdrawal talking here, but it sure seems like everything's against me.

Related Posts:
The Greatest Chocolate Mousse in the World
Ten Strategies to Stop Mindless Eating
An Admission of Mindless Eating Guilt
The Chocolate Gene
Chocoholics Anonymous

Chocoholics Anonymous

For those of you out there who, like me, are burdened with the chocolate gene, our lives are never lived in half-measures. I’m sure many fellow gourmet chocoholics out there can sympathize when I tell you that I need to eat at least some chocolate pretty much every day of my life.

I’ve already admitted in these pages that my love for dark chocolate borders on pathological. My favorite kind of chocolate? Lindt dark chocolate--either in chocolate bar form or truffles. Followed closely by anything by Ghirardelli. I’m also a huge fan of Dove dark chocolate, either in chocolate bar form or in those truly evil individually wrapped red foil squares.

Other personal favorites include Perugina, now a tiny division of Nestle. Again, I take it in dark bar form only. Lots of people like Godiva dark chocolate, but I’ve always felt it was overrated and overpriced.

Finally, I can’t leave out our favorite source of locally made dark chocolate goodies: New Jersey’s own Nagel’s Candy Barn, often staffed by Mrs. Nagel herself. There are two glorious locations--Route 10 West in Randolph, NJ and Route 23 North in Wayne, NJ.

And of course in my lowbrow moments, I’ll furtively snag a Hershey’s Special Dark from the convenience store in the lobby of the office building where I work. Special Dark is sort of my Thunderbird fortified wine, if you will. And to extend the metaphor, milk chocolate to me is the proverbial Nyquil. I’ll eat it only if I’m truly desperate and that’s all there is in the house.

The 30-Day Trial

But after the atrocious turn my eating habits took about a week or so ago (where I broke exactly 9 of my 10 strategies to avoid mindless eating), I’ve decided to attempt to swear off chocolate in all forms for one month. Perhaps I should italicize the word attempt because there is no guarantee I’ll succeed at this.

I struggled to pick an appropriate length of time. I’ve already proven to myself in the past that I can make it for a couple of days without chocolate, so it seems like going for just a week would be too easy. It wouldn’t be a real test of my mental and physical resolve.

And I just couldn't conceive of giving up chocolate for a year. Life just wouldn't be worth living on those terms.

But there is a bit of a tradition of using one month as a good test period to abstain from things, Lent being an obvious example. And the 30-day trial is starting to get some traction in many areas of the blog world these days.

So, as I’m finishing off the bar of Cadbury dark chocolate we bought last week, I’ve settled on one month. Starting today, I will go “off the chocolate” until June 5th.

It will be the longest month of my life, I’ll guarantee you that.

The Chocolate Gene

“What does it feel like to crave chocolate?”

I’m a little bit mortified to admit it, but my wife actually asked me this recently.

When somebody asks this kind of a question, it tells you a lot. Don’t get me wrong—Laura is a wonderful person. But she has one congenital defect and that’s an obvious lack of a chocolate gene.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t really explain to her what it feels like to crave chocolate. Perhaps other chocolate fanatics out there can empathize with me. It’s just a fact of life for us. It just is. It’s like telling a blind person what “blue” looks like. You just can’t do it.

I’ll share another conversation I had with Laura many years ago. Again, this one was equally mortifying:

Dan: “What kind of chocolate do you like?”
Laura: “Um, I like vanilla.”

I was speechless (for once!). Vanilla? What is that? Could it ever work between us?

Coming up: One Month of Chocolate Abstinence

Related Posts:
The Greatest Chocolate Mousse in the World
The Chocolate Gene