Dining Outside the Home: Coconut Jack’s Waterfront Grille in Bonita Springs, Florida! Have you ever eaten in a tiki hut along the waterfront? The open air seating is a sought-after request for a stunning tropical view. It feels like being on a river in the tropics the way the trees embrace the shoreline like an island oasis. There’s no doubt atmosphere affects our perception of being carefree and downright sexy. At Coconut Jack’s the local seafood is fresh, the cocktails are thirst-quenching, and the experience is memorable. Oftentimes, the chef features a daily special that will leave you smiling all the way home. If seafood is your go-to choice, there’s plenty to choose from and more to look forward to on a return trip back.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Iced Peach Spritzers! Ripe peaches are succulent and running-down-your-chin juicy. When you have an abundance of them, think peach cocktails. By adding a sparkling mixer, such as seltzer water or Prosecco, you’ll feel as though every meal is as special as dining out. The blend of flavors and textures is far from ho-hum. Both versions are suitable for mixed company. Go completely non-alcoholic or throw together a grown-up concoction made with a nice white wine and garnished with a sprig of fresh mint.
ICED PEACH SPRITZERS
4 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 8 wedges each
1/4 cup sugar
1 bottle white wine, chilled
12 ounces seltzer water
Layer peach wedges on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. To serve, place 3-4 frozen peach wedges into a stemmed glass. Add 3 ounces of white wine. Pour 1 1/2 ounces of seltzer water over top. Stir. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Icy Limoncello Slushie! Talk about refreshing. Imagine yourself strolling along the Amalfi Coast of southern Italy. Pause a moment near the rugged shoreline to allow the cool breezes to caress your skin. Admire the sheer cliffs where coastal roads hug towering rock formations. Pay attention to the landscaped vineyards and lemon groves winding down the slope that practically appear to plunge into the sea. This is home to Limoncello, an Italian lemon liqueur produced in the region. It is enjoyed as an aperitif or a digestive around evening mealtime, due to its pleasing effect on the palate. What better time to gratify your taste buds.
ICY LIMONCELLO SLUSHIE
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 cups ice cubes
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup Limoncello liqueur
Lemon and Limes, for garnish
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water. Heat 3 minutes, or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat. Add lemon zest. Allow mixture to cool for 30 minutes. Strain sugar mixture, using a sieve to remove solids. Pour simple syrup into a blender. Add ice cubes, lemon juice, and Limoncello liqueur. Process until smooth and ice chunks no longer remain. Pour slushie into glasses. Garnish with fresh lemon slices.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Cream Cheese Shrimp Dip! Appetizers are fun to serve for a gathering of friends or date night for two. I usually keep cooked, frozen shrimp on hand, which can be thawed in a few minutes. But I have also used tiny canned shrimp, which work very well. Obviously, the canned shrimp should be drained first. A few steps later and you’re good to go.
CREAM CHEESE SHRIMP DIP
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8 ounces cooked shrimp, tails removed and cut into chunks
10 ounces cocktail sauce, prepared
1/4 teaspoon dill weed
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Spread a thin layer of softened cream cheese onto a serving dish. Add a layer of cocktail sauce, expanding to the edges. Arrange bite-sized shrimp pieces over all. Sprinkle with dill weed. Garnish with green onion strips. Chill one hour. Serve with crackers.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Jell-O Shots With Sugared Cranberries! The holidays ring in the cheer with festive activities, enticing food, and snappy beverages. Make things awesome with dressed up Jell-O shots that cap off any occasion. Not only do they have an elegant look, but they satisfy the sweet tooth as a miniature dessert. By creating a garnish of fresh fruit with the sugared cranberries, it’s a classy finish with a gourmet twist!
JELL-O SHOTS WITH SUGARED CRANBERRIES
For Make-Ahead Sugared Cranberries:
2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup filtered water
12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup filtered water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved, about 3-5 minutes. Add cranberries. To prevent cranberries from bursting, do not boil. Stir until well coated. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cranberries to a wire rack. Let dry for one hour. Working in batches, roll cranberries in remaining sugar until well coated. Refrigerate for one hour or overnight. Store in airtight container.
Ingredients for Jell-o Shots:
3-ounce package raspberry gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup amaretto liqueur
1/2 cup ice water
Sugared cranberries Rosemary sprigs
Empty contents of raspberry gelatin packet into a mixing bowl. Add boiling water. Stir until completely dissolved, approximately 2-3 minutes. Add iced water and amaretto liqueur and iced water. Stir well. Pour into shot glasses. Refrigerate until set, 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with sugared cranberries and rosemary sprigs just before serving.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Vodka Jello Shots! As a child of the ’60s, one of my favorite desserts was fruit-flavored gelatin. Sometimes it would have sliced bananas, strawberries, carrots, or fruit cocktail mixed in. The recipe was pretty simple. Add water and stir. Nowadays, substituting part of the water for a popular distilled spirit turns a childhood dessert into a slurpable cocktail. Drink responsibly.
VODKA JELLO SHOTS
3-ounce package orange gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup iced water
1/2 cup vodka
Fresh mint leaves
Empty contents of orange gelatin packet into a large bowl. Add boiling water. Stir until completely dissolved, approximately 2-3 minutes. Add iced water and vodka. Stir well. Pour into shot glasses. Refrigerate four hours or until set. Garnish with fresh mint before serving.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Sipping Sangria! The weather is great, the weekend is here. Get ready to party. Psst. Wine lovers lean in. This crowd-pleasing punch can be thrown together beforehand since the flavor gets better with time. Choose your favorite dry red wine. No worries. It’ll sweeten up from the chopped fruit, juices, and agave nectar. Hold the fizziness until just before serving. The colors are not only festive but invigorating. Then sit back, cool off, and sip away.
5 cups dry red wine
1/2 cup apricot brandy
1/2 cup orange liqueur
1 1/2 cups blood orange juice
1/4 cup grenadine
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 cups sparkling water or carbonated beverage
1 lime, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
1 orange, sliced
1 apple, cut in wedges
Grapes for garnish
In a large pitcher, combine dry red wine, apricot brandy, orange liqueur, blood orange juice, grenadine, agave nectar, fresh lemon juice, and fresh lime juice. Stir well. Add lime, lemon, orange slices and apple wedges. Refrigerate for one hour. Before serving, add sparkling water. Stir. Fill stemmed glasses with ice, add sangria, and garnish with fruit.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Jiggers of Apple Cider Jello Shots! It’s a chilly winter’s evening where the crackling flames encompass the fireplace logs. My husband and I are snuggling under woolen blanket throws as we binge-watch another series on Netflix. I think we’re addicted. No judgement, please. Outside the windows, the ground takes on a blueish tint as the snow and ice reflect the elusive rays of fading daylight. From time to time, gusts of air beguile the wind chimes into dancing around in synchronized motion. It’s times like these where I slip my toes into sherpa-lined slippers and pad my way to the kitchen for a sinfully delicious elixir of life. You may, too. For adults only.
JIGGERS OF APPLE CIDER JELLO SHOTS
Ingredients for Jello Shots:
1 cup bourbon
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup sugar
2 packets gelatin
Ingredients for Serving:
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Whipped cream, for garnish
Star anise, for garnish
In a glass jar, combine bourbon and cinnamon sticks. Cover. Infuse flavor for two days; remove cinnamon sticks and discard. Set aside. Lightly spray 10-12 shot glasses with nonstick oil. Wipe away excess. In a saucepan, combine apple cider and sugar. Sprinkle gelatin over top. Allow to sit for 3 minutes, or until surface has a wrinkled appearance. Warm mixture on medium heat until sugar and gelatin have dissolved, about 2 minutes. Mixture will be smooth. Stir in spiced bourbon. Pour into prepared shot glasses. Refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours. To finish, combine sugar and ground cinnamon. Transfer mixture to a plate. Rub the lemon wedge around the rim of the shot glass. Dip into the cinnamon sugar topping. Place shot glass on a tray. Repeat with remaining desserts. Keep refrigerated. To serve, add a dollop of whipped cream and a star anise. Serve chilled.
Experience the Holidays: Mexican Shrimp Cocktail! One bite, one little taste, will leave you wondering how you didn’t know about this version of an old classic. So what’s the difference, you ask. Actually, quite a bit. But I’m not gonna lie to you. If you’ve been following my blog, you can often see there’s a method to my madness. One recipe can be a critical ingredient to another dish. Like today. Recently I featured Jalisco Pico de Gallo. I’m gonna tell you it is a key ingredient in my Mexican Shrimp Cocktail, slightly tweaked. On the upside, it makes preparation a snap. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.
MEXICAN SHRIMP COCKTAIL
1 1/2 cups Jalisco Pico de Gallo*
1/2 cup Clamato Tomato Cocktail**
1/2 cup ketchup
1 pound jumbo shrimp, precooked but chilled
1 avocado, cut into medium chunks
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
In a bowl, combine Jalisco Pico de Gallo, Clamato Tomato Cocktail, and ketchup. Mix well. Take at least half the shrimp, discard tails, and cut into chunks. Add the shrimp chunks to the sauce mixture. The remaining whole shrimp will be used for dipping. Gently fold in avocado chunks. To serve, divide shrimp cocktail into parfait glasses. Arrange whole shrimp on the edge of the glass. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
*Follow the link for recipe.
**I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.