Three Quick and Easy Summer Drinks

My hooligans are all away this week….two at sleepaway camp and one at Grandma Camp in Oklahoma.  That means I’ve had the week to do what I want, when I want.  The hubs and I have eaten out every night, watched “Bad Moms” (so inappropriate, but so hilarious), and been able to actually converse one on one in the evenings while walking the dog.  You know, rather than constantly reminding kids to skate/bike/skip on the right side of the street.  It’s been very pleasant. I’ve also had time to concoct a few beverages that may or may not contain alcohol…it’s up to you!  This week, mine do.


This one I didn’t actually create…Pimm’s Lemonade is a specialty at the Napoleon House in New Orleans, and I just tweaked it a bit. I first served this to my cooking club back in February when I taught a class on Mardi Gras menus. It’s perfect for summer, though (who am I kidding…I love it anytime!).  The Pimm’s liqueur may be a little hard to find. My amazing husband stopped at a big liquor store in “the city” on his way home from work. It’s also pricey…around $25 per bottle, but that makes at least a couple of pitchers of deliciousness.  Here’s how to make a single serving; it can easily be doubled, tripled, or made for a pitcher.

Pimm’s Lemonade

  • 1-1/2 ounces of Pimm’s (3 Tablespoons)
  • about 1/2 cup lemonade
  • about 1/4 cup seltzer water (I use lemon seltzer)
  • Tall thin spear of cucumber

Pour the Pimm’s over a tall glass of ice, add lemonade to fill 3/4 of the way, then top off with seltzer.  Use the cucumber spear as a swizzle stick, or give it a quick stir to combine.

Drinks-Blackberry-ChaosServThis Blackberry-Amaretto Refresher is a stroke of genius, y’all. My kids love the Izze sparkling sodas (and they’re really pretty healthy for them), so we usually have a big variety pack on hand. I was making a blueberry pie with amaretto in it and thought how fabulous blackberry and amaretto are together, as well. When I realized there were a few blackberry sodas in the pack, I just had to try it. It is the bomb, I tell you. To make yourself one, just pour a blackberry Izze over ice and add a shot of amaretto. See…I told you it was genius. It pairs well with popcorn for dinner, if you’re wondering.


Those other two drinks are really, really good, but this Lavender Limeade takes the cake for me.  Lime and lavender, on their own, are two of my favorite summer flavors, so I decided to combine them. I used some lavender syrup from Le Monin, but you can make your own following this post from last summer. It’s very easy to do. Like the Pimm’s Lemonade, this could easily be made as a pitcher of drinks. And I bet your friends would thank you!

Lavender Limeade

  • 8 oz lime seltzer water
  • 2 tablespoons lavender syrup
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Pour the seltzer over ice, add the lavender syrup and lime juice, and stir!  Garnish with fresh lavender, if you’d like.

I accompanied the limeade with a baguette slathered with gorgonzola and a plateful of fresh figs, some of my favorite things!  You could easily make this a cocktail by adding a shot of vodka or rum.  Vodka would make a sort of lavender Moscow Mule, and rum would be a bit like a lavender mojito (minus the mint, but you could add that, as well!).

We’re finally getting a few days over 80 here in the Pacific Northwest, so I’m sure I’ll find lots of reasons to make all of these drinks as summer winds down in the next few weeks. I hope you will, as well!



21 Seed Toast with Goat Cheese, Lavender, and Honey

I know, I know…you’ve fallen out of your chair with amazement that I’ve finally gotten around to writing a new post!  I’m pretty amazed myself.  As an excuse (or at least an explanation), since my last post in August, I’ve completed all of my coursework for teaching high school math.  Now all I have left to do is my student teaching when school starts in September.  I’ll graduate in December and be ready to teach all those reluctant math students (and hopefully at least a few who love math as much as I do!).Goat Cheese Toast ChaosServedDaily

But on with this post…my favorite local coffee shop, Schoolhouse Coffee, makes fabulous toasts.  Among their offerings, my two favorites are peach jam with sea salt and goat cheese with lavender and honey. I’m pretty sure you can figure out the peach jam and sea salt on your own, but I have a couple of tips for the goat cheese, lavender, and honey one. The shop uses fabulous fresh bread from an artisan bakery in Seattle, but I love Dave’s Killer Bread for the at-home version…usually the 21 Seed variety.

So, to make your own little taste of heaven, toast the bread and smear on a bit of butter.  Then, while it’s still hot, sprinkle about a tablespoon of goat cheese crumbles on each slice. I’ve tried using the goat cheese log, but it’s a little difficult to get to crumble (neatly), so I just buy goat cheese crumbles. Spread the cheese around a little, if you need to…it softens really quickly on the warm toast, so this is easy to do!

Drizzle a little honey over each slice.  I’ve been waiting to make this at home once the local berry shack opened with their honey for sale.  It is the best honey I’ve ever had!  Last summer, I bought a couple of pints, not knowing how good it was, then I was forced to hide it in the “way back” of the cabinet so the kids wouldn’t squander it.  I managed to ration it out until almost Christmas, y’all.

Anyway, back to the toast. After the honey, sprinkle some lavender buds on top, and enjoy!  Or impress your family with your gourmet creation.  I bought food-grade lavender at a little farm in my town, but it’s available in gourmet sections of grocery stores, or at farmer’s markets. Be sure you’re using food grade, though.

Now, I’m off to enjoy my last full day of alone time before the hooligans are released for the summer.  Hope yours is off to great start…this toast will guarantee that at least your morning starts off well!Signature_thumb.jpg



Lovely and Simple Lavender Syrup

I know what you’re thinking…why in the world would I need lavender syrup?  Trust me, you do!  A couple of weeks ago we went to the Lavender Festival in Sequim (pronounced “squim” ) on the Olympic Peninsula.  Sequim is in the rain shadow of the Olympics, so they enjoy many more sunny days than we do here on the other side of Puget Sound. That’s why they can grow such wonderful lavender…it’s hot and sunny!

Lavender Farm CHaosServedDailyThe day we were there, that certainly held true…we arrived around 11:00, and by noon were in desperate need of shade and refreshment.  The food booths offered pretty much anything you could name, combined with lavender for the event.  While the rest of my family stuck with boring Italian soda flavors (cherry, root beer, and limeade), I thought the lavender one sounded refreshing…and it was!  They all tried it, and were sorry they hadn’t chosen that instead of their pedestrian flavors. Of course, they kept trying mine, and I really got to do little more than eat the ice, by the time they were done!

I thought it would be a simple enough task to find lavender syrup here in the home of coffee syrups, but it proved impossible.  I did find it available to order online, but at $15 a bottle, decided I could make it myself!  AFter steeping some of the lavender buds I bought at the festival in a simple syrup, I made Italian sodas for the family.  They declared them as tasty if not better than the one we shared in Sequim.  It’s a new family favorite with popcorn for movie night!


Lavender Syrup

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons lavender buds (I used dried, but you could also use fresh)

1. Combine all in a medium saucepan over medium high heat; bring to a boil to dissolve sugar.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

2. Strain, using a fine mesh strainer, into a jar and refrigerate.  Syrup-Strain-ChaosServedDai

3. To make Italian sodas:  Fill a tall glass with ice, add 2 tablespoon of the syrup, then fill with sparkling water/club soda. Stir well to combine.  If you’d like a cream soda, also add a tablespoon or two of cream. Enjoy!

You can find loads of other recipes using lavender syrup with a simple online search…I’m thinking I need to try out a lavender mojito, or perhaps a lavender, vodka, and lemonade slush!


Prosciutto, Basil and Balsamic Nectarines

Finally…a new post!  After being cajoled in person at Bunko and my neighborhood 4th of July party, as well as on social media, I found myself newly motivated to post today!  So thanks for the encouragement, y’all!

This is a super quick and easy recipe…Prosciutto, Basil, and Balsamic Nectarines.  I made a big plate of these for lunch yesterday, and, of course, just as I was sitting down to enjoy, the hooligans wandered in and “shared” them….good thing I’d made a lot!Nectarines-ChaosServedDaily

Prosciutto, Basil, and Balsamic Nectarines

· 3 nectarines, sliced into 8 wedges

· 8 wafer-thin slices prosciutto

· 24 small basil leaves, or 24 pieces of large basil leaves

· Balsamic vinegar glaze

Cut the each piece of prosciutto into 3 long “ribbons.”

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.

Place a basil leaf on a slice of nectarine and wrap with a ribbon of prosciutto.

Place in preheated skillet, with the side with the end of the prosciutto down, and let nrown. Turn and let other side brown, then remove from skillet.

Drizzle with balsamic glaze (and a little shaved Parmesan, if you’d like) and serve!

I had somehow run out of Parmesan, or I would have shaved a bit over the nectarines just before serving, using a vegetable peeler to make the shavings. Oh, and these are tasty with peaches, as well, if they’re in season where you live. These are really an appetizer, but I love them for a light lunch, too.

So I know you’ve been wondering (just humor me…I know you haven’t wondered!)…what’s up with the long absence from blogging?  Well, life, basically!  Nothing exciting or traumatic…I had a really tough semester, but finished 21 credits and passed (with flying colors…I have to brag a little, I was so stressed about these tests!) all my state- and college-required exams on math content.  I have two more terms of coursework, then a term of student-teaching, and I’ll graduate in December of 2016.  I’m so glad to have a light at the end of the tunnel!

My favorite GI Joe retired from the military last October and started a new job helping veterans transitioning back into the civilian world.  Then, just last week, he switched to a healthcare company, where he’s a strategic planner.  Whatever that means.  What it means to me is that he’s pursuing a new career course that still lets him help others, which makes him happy!

The hooligans are thoroughly enjoying their summer, sleeping late, spending a ton of time at gymnastics practice, swim lessons, and various day camps, and generally being kids.  I crushed their little happiness bubbles a bit yesterday when I told them summer is one-third over this Friday…but they decided they need to squeeze in more fun, if that’s the case!

We had a great Fourth of July…as usual, starting off with funnel cakes and berries for breakfast, a small-town parade, the neighborhood cookout, and fireworks on post.  I hope yours was amazingly fun, too!



Pineapple Vodka Slushes

Finally…a new post!  What’s the occasion?  Well, I made these fabulous Pineapple Vodka Slushes that I haven’t had in a couple of years and I NEEDED to share them with you!

I hosted my book club last week, and we read The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.  It’s a wonderful, fairytale-ish book that will make you long to visit Alaska, with its lyrical descriptions of the wilderness. Anyway, I wanted the refreshments to have an icy, Alaska theme, so my friend Krista’s Pineapple Vodka Slush seemed perfect.  I know, pineapples are tropical, but the slush part fit my menu!

0115 Slush Title

Pineapple Vodka Slush

  • 8 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 oz. orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 46 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1 liter vodka

1. In a large stockpot, bring the water and sugar to a boil and cook 3 minutes. Let cool.

2. Add all the other ingredients and freeze for at least 24 hours. I put mine in big plastic containers with tight lids to freeze it.  It makes about 16 cups of liquid, so I use two extra large rectangular Glad containers.

3.  After it’s been in the freezer for 24 hours, use a fork to “shave” it…just break it up into large flakes.  I scoop it into 8 oz. Mason jars, put the lids on the jars, and store them in the freezer until party time. Or until I have a light-night craving for one! This fills 20 to 24 eight-ounce jars, so it’s great for a crowd, and it gives you a reason to have extra boxes of Mason jars.

You can also top them off with a little ginger ale or seltzer, if you’d like to really drink them rather than use a spoon. Slush-ChaosServedDaily

The rest of our menu, if you’re curious, included smoked salmon with lemon pepper cream cheese and crackers, pecan tarts (because the heroine was always baking pies), snowflake-stamped almond shortbread cookies, pull-apart garlic cheese sourdough bread, and strawberries with chocolate mousse dip (because they ate moose through the winter to survive, but I didn’t want to search for a source of wild moose). Then my friend Patty also brought an amaretto cheeseball with pound cake cubes to spread it on, which was divine!

As you might guess, we enjoy good food along with our literary discussions.  I hope you’ll give these slushes a try…they’re delicious anytime of year!


Brownie Bark with Peppermint Fluff

I should call this Brownie Crack, it’s so addictive!  And you know I don’t really like chocolate, but the crunch of this Brownie Bark combines perfectly with yummy Peppermint Fluff to make it irresistible.


For the Brownie Crackle, I wanted to copy the Brownie Brittle that you can buy almost anywhere now. Since I was in PJ’s, I didn’t want to drive anywhere, though, and figured it can’t be too difficult, right?  It’s really a combination of a thin brownie batter and the technique to make biscotti…double baking.   Here’s how you make your own!

Brownie Bark

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup finely chopped dark chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a small saucepan over medium low heat, melt the butter, then stir in the unsweetened chocolate and stir until that is melted. Let it cool slightly while you make the rest of the batter.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla, egg, and flour, then stir in the butter and chocolate mixture.

4. In a parchment lined jellyroll pan (a cookie sheet with a rim), pour the batter, then spread it out as thinly as possible. Sprinkle the chopped dark chocolate over it.

5. Bake for 10 minutes, until just set, and remove from oven. Lower oven to 350. Let the brownie cool completely (about 30 minutes), then break into bite-size pieces and place back on the parchment lined pan. Bake at 350 for another 10 minutes, until crisp but not burned.

The Peppermint Fluff is a recipe from Lauren’s Latest…so delicious, like all of her creations!  I did adapt it a little, by adding more cream cheese so it wasn’t quite as sweet, since the Brownie Bark is quite sweet.

Peppermint Fluff

(barely adapted from

  • 40 candy cane Hersheys kisses
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 7 oz jar marshmallow crème

1. Unwrap all the kisses and place in a medium bowl. Microwave, 30 seconds at a time, until melted.

2. Stir in cream cheese, then fold in the marshmallow crème.  This is best served at room temperature, since the brownie bark isn’t strong enough for cold cream cheese and marshmallow crème!

Click here for the printable recipes


Merry, Munchable Snacks

Today I’m sharing a roundup of four of our favorite snacks…they’re delicious year-round, but at Christmas, they seem even tastier!  Scroll down to find recipes for Merry Munch Snack Mix, Gingered Party Mix, Chocolate & Sea Salt Popcorn, and Perfect Homemade Kettle Corn.  They’re all delicious for family movie nights or while driving around looking at lights, but they’re also perfect to box up as a gift. So here we go….

Merry Munch

Merry Munch Snack Mix

  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 cups rice Chex
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 4 Tbsp butter, cut in cubes
  • ¼ tsp vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups cashews or roasted pistachios
  • 1-1/3 cups dried cherries or cranberries

1. Place powdered sugar in a large ziptop bag. Measure cereal into large bowl.

2. In medium saucepan, melt butter, chocolate, and peanut butter until smooth. Stir in vanilla.

3. Pour over cereal and toss to coat.

4. Place half the coated cereal at a time into the powdered sugar, seal, and shake until evenly coated.

5. Repeat with remaining cereal.

6. Add nuts and dried cherries or cranberries, and enjoy!

Click here for the printable version

I’m so glad you can buy the standard party mix, as well as many other variations of it. Why?  Because I don’t like it, but always made it for my family and guests, of course!

Now I can make the party mixes I actually like, such as this version, spicy with ginger and sweet with banana chips and dried cranberries, as well as full of crunchy almonds and caramel-coated toasted cereal. Pure deliciousness, and perfect for movie night or on a hike…or, of course, at a party!


Ginger-Honey Crunch

  • 6 cups Rice Chex® or Honey Nut Chex® cereal
  • 1 cup dried banana chips
  • 1 cup unblanched whole almonds
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger or cardamom
  • 1 cup flaked coconut (I was out of coconut, so this photo has none…but it adds a whole other layer of yumminess!)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries

1. In large microwavable bowl, mix cereal, banana chips and almonds.

2. In 2-cup microwavable measuring cup, microwave butter, brown sugar, honey and ginger uncovered on High about 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute, until mixture is boiling; stir. Pour over cereal mixture, stirring until evenly coated. Microwave uncovered on High 4 minutes, stirring and scraping bowl every minute. Stir in coconut and cranberries; microwave uncovered on High about 3 minutes or until cereal just begins to brown.

3. Spread on waxed paper or foil to cool. Store in airtight container. Makes about 9 cups of mix.

Find the printable recipe at

You know we are equal opportunity snackers here at Casa de Chaos, and love salty and sweet together.  Every Friday is movie night at our house, and, when I’m in a generous mood, the hooligans love this Chocolate and Sea Salt Popcorn Mix.

Chocolate and Sea Salt Popcorn Mix

  • 8 cups freshly popped popcorn
  • 4 cups mini pretzel twists
  • ½ cup roasted, salted pistachios
  • ½ cup butter
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 30 large marshmallows (not mini, not jumbo)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Spray a large roasting pan or rimmed cookie sheet with cooking spray. In pan, combine popcorn, pretzels, and pistachios. Set aside.

2. In large heavy saucepan, combine butter and chocolate. Heat, stirring, over medium low heat until melted. Stir in marshmallows and continue heating and stirring until they are melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

3. Pour over popcorn mixture and toss gently to coat evenly. Spread evenly in pan and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 275 for about 20 minutes or until crisp, stirring halfway through.

Click here for the printable recipe

I made this last week, when we had rain and about 148 percent humidity.  It was crisp when I took it from the oven, but got a little soggy soon thereafter. I packaged my mom’s with a note to reheat it at 300 degrees for 10 minutes, and it crisped right back up, she said. Not to mention that when I re-crisped my portion, it tasted even better warm from the oven, while we watched a little Denver Bronco football.

When I’m ready for a quick collapse on the couch for movie night, we just whip up some Kettle Corn and call it good. It’s actually pretty amazing, though, not just good!

I am kicking myself for not figuring this out sooner.  As in, before we paid enough for kettle corn that we could have financed a college education. Making Homemade Kettle Corn is so easy…and inexpensive!  For less than a dollar, we make enough for the whole family (that’s two batches, by the way).


The key, in my opinion, is a old-fashioned stovetop popper, the kind with a tight lid and crank to stir the kernels while they’re popping.  We bought ours a few years ago, when we discovered that the built-in microwave in our house doesn’t properly pop popcorn. Crazy, right?  Anyway, we invested in a stovetop popper (one with a metal gear on the crank, not plastic that’s grey to look like metal in the photos online…ours was around $40), and have been happily popping away ever since.

Then, the morning of the 4th of July, we were headed to a parade and had no snacks to take. We decided to pop up some corn, and I suggested we throw a little sugar in with the butter and oil…voila, perfect Kettle Corn!


Here’s the simple how-to:

Homemade Kettle Corn

  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels

1. Melt the butter and coconut oil in the popper over medium high heat.  Add the sugar and the popcorn and replace the lid. Crank and crank until the popping slows, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to burn it, since the sugar can make that easy to do!

2. Pour it into a bowl, salt it, and ENJOY!

See…I told you it was easy!  This has become our favorite snack, whether for movie night or to take along to a parade or hike.

There you have it…four tasty ways to snack your way through the holidays. I can pretty much guarantee that we will have enjoyed all of them well before December 25!  Hope you do, as well!


Kid-Made Acorn Sugar Cookies

Just in case you’re looking for another dessert to add to the meal on Thanksgiving, here are some super cute cookies my hooligans made Sunday afternoon.  The did the cookie making, I made the icing, then they iced them…so I think that counts as made by them!


I found the acorn cookie cutter at World Market, and they used our favorite Best Butter Cookie recipe from Land o’Lakes. Of course it’s our favorite…it’s like 50% butter!

For the frosting, I made pretty thin royal icing…2 Tbsp meringue powder, 1/4 cup water, 2 cups powdered sugar.  They dipped the front of the cookie for the light tan base coat (see how here), then dripped the darker brown icing and swirled it around with toothpicks, like we’ve made Halloween and Fourth of July cookies before.  I love this method of decorating cookies for kids because 1) it looks really pretty and polished and is very forgiving and 2) it’s a thin layer of frosting, just the right proportion of cookie to icing. We used Americolor gel colors….for the tan, I used 1 drop of yellow and 1 drop of brown.

Princess Thundercloud’s teacher has a birthday on Thanksgiving, so we’re going to take a few of these to her on Wednesday as a little pre-birthday treat. I hope she likes them as much as we do!


Homemade Kahlua and Irish Cream

Yep, I’m cheap. I mean, thrifty.  Whatever…I hate spending tons of money on big bottles of liqueurs when I can make them at home. Not to mention that they make great gifts…a little handmade gift to spice up your coffee…what’s better than that?


This is really easy, y’all…here are the recipes for both.  The Kahlua does need to sit for 2 to 3 weeks, but you have plenty of time before Christmas.

Homemade Kahlua

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp espresso powder (or 3 Tbsp instant coffee)
  • 1 whole vanilla bean
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups good-quality vodka

1. Combine the sugars and water in a small saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves. Stir in espresso powder. Remove from heat and let cool.

2. Pour into a quart size jar. Add the vodka, vanilla, and vanilla bean.

3. Refrigerate for two to three weeks, until flavor develops.

Homemade Irish Cream

  • 1 can (12 oz) sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
  • 1 cup Irish whiskey
  • 2 teaspoons dark cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee
  • 1 cup heavy cream

1. Combine all in a quart jar and shake until well mixed.

2. Store in refrigerator and shake well before serving.

Click here for the printable recipe.

Give a little bottle of each, along with a bag of coffee, for a perfect neighbor or hostess gift!  I did write directions to refrigerate on the backs of the tags, just to be safe. I think these are a perfect thing to keep on hand for the holidays, in case friends drop by…a fresh pot of coffee and the addition of one of these, and you’re the hostess with the mostest!


Pretzel Bites with Beer Cheese Dip

As the fall rains have blown in here in the Pacific Northwest, I am reveling in all the possibilities for comfort foods. One day last week, the hubs was picking up the kids from school on a blustery, rainy day, and I decided to whip up some pretzel bites and Beer-Cheese Dip for their afterschool snack. And, of course, I made enough for the whole family, not just the kids!


The pretzel bites are organic ones from Costco, and they are quite good by themselves (or naked, as we say in Casa de Chaos).  But combined with this quick and easy Beer Cheese Dip…they totally rock!

Beer Cheese Dip

  • 1 cup beer
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1. Pour the beer into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Stir in the flour, boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Stir in the shredded cheese until it melts, then add the Worcestershire.

2. Serve with pretzels, carrots, or apple slices.