“Chopped” at home

Hey there.  It’s all of a sudden back to school for me and the summer is gone!  One of my favorite things about this summer was my daughter’s sudden interest in “Chopped.”  She requests it and then states, firmly and without doubt, “Mama, I know who’s going to get chopped.”  She refuses to tell me because “it’s a surprise.”

Often on the show, the original idea that the chefs have doesn’t work and they have to revamp on the fly.  This happened to me a few nights ago, when I overcooked the broccoli.  Overcooked broccoli is mushy and gross so I decided to create a broccoli cheese puree.  Very Chopped of me.

I can’t really give you a recipe because I made it up and used what I had.  I put the mushy broccoli into the food processor and added garlic powder, parmesan cheese and a whipped cheddar cheese spread (I know! Processed!  But it was left over from a party and it seemed wasteful to throw it out).  At the end, I added a smidgen of melted butter- maybe a tablespoon or so.  I whirred it all around what came out was this:

My HipstaPrint 988444361_2To be fair, it doesn’t photograph well but it was very good.  Green and cheesy, creamy and salty.  Delicious next to the steak and potatoes the husband had requested.  I popped it in the microwave to heat it up before I served it and it was perfect.  Or at least a lot better than the mushy broccoli would have been!

My HipstaPrint 988444361Of course, if it really were chopped, I’d have gone for sure since it’s not very well plated.  But, for the chopped at home game, I’m calling it a win!



It’s been a long time since I’ve had a CSA. My mum joined one this year and often forgets to pick it up. Which means a phone call to me at the end of the day on Wednesday asking me to go pick it up. Of course I do. For a fee. The fee being, naturally, some of what she has received for the week. A few weeks ago she was away and in return for picking up the bag, I got all the produce.

In it were these.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_4 Know what they are?  I’ll give you a hint, Hannibal Lecter made them famous by saying he ate them as a side dish along with a nice chianti.

Fava beans.

Fresh fava beans are a bit of a pain to get to but in the end, I assure you they are worth it.  They look like lima beans but are nowhere near as mealy in texture and they have a nice, green taste, if that makes sense.  A bit bitter and tart but not overly so.  I ended up making a sort of succotash with mine and it was quite tasty.  The sweetness of the corn balanced nicely with the beans.

Fresh Fava Bean Sauté


about 1-2 pounds of fresh fava beans

2-3 ears of sweet corn

1/2-1 sweet onion


Prepare your fava beans.  This will take some time.  Get comfy.

First, you need to remove the hard outer shell which is somewhat fuzzy inside.  I tried this two ways.  You can use your knife to widen the slit down the middle.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_17Then pry it open with your fingers.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_11Sort of time shuck the beans out into a bowl.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_6The easier way to remove the beans, is to snap off the top part that has the stem.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_21Then pull it down to the bottom of the pod and the string that comes with it will make it easier to separate the bean pod.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_7My HipstaPrint 973334217_1While you’re doing this, set a pot of water on to boil.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_10Once all the beans are out of the fuzzy pod, add them to the water.  Let them boil for about a minute and then take them out.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_20Let them cool for a minute or two and then you’ll be able to sort of pop the bean out of the waxy coating.

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Do that for all of them.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_24Now you can use them for whatever you’d like.  I made this sort of succotash, as I said.

In a saute pan, melt a bit of butter and some oil- no more than a tablespoon of each.  Peel and chop your onion and add it to the pan.  Let it get soft and melty. Meanwhile, shuck your corn and add it to boiling, well-salted water.  Let it cook for a few minutes (it’s awful, I never time my corn!  I think it’s 4-5 minutes?) and then take it out to cool.  Cut the kernels off (there is no non-messy way to do this so just give in and make a mess) and then add them and the fava beans to the onion.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_18Season with whatever you like- salt and pepper for sure and maybe some garlic powder (or throw in some minced fresh garlic if you have it) or other spices that would compliment your meal (cumin and chili powder if you’re going Mexican, for example). Let it cook a bit so that bits of it get a nice brown color.

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I served mine along with soy balsamic duck and a corn risotto.  The risotto (which I improvised) and the duck (which I overcooked) were not good.  This fava bean succotash was.  Make it today!

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Summer Travels

A few trips are happening just now. Thought I’d share a bit of them with you, and even show some of the food!

This past weekend, the husband and I did an overnight (kid-free) in the “land of love”- the Poconos (Thank you, Groupon).  It was fantastic.  A long drive for just an overnight but still worth it as we tend to be able to get along well in the car.  Chatting, music, napping- it was lovely.

We arrived at the Poconos Palace Resort around 4pm.  We had been talking about how wonderfully old-school and cheesy it was going to be and it did not disappoint.  The entire resort was based on a theme of love mixed with Kellerman’s from Dirty Dancing.  It could not have been better.


Our room had a circular bed and a heart shaped jacuzzi.IMG_0001 IMG_0003

We were handed a list of activities upon check-in.  (We were too late for most but did check out both the trivia and the Journey tribute band.)

IMG_0004We wandered around and found the lake (y’know, to practice your lifts) and the lovely balcony seating area.

IMG_0013 IMG_0012 IMG_0011We ate a lovely (not gourmet but absolutely filling and tasty) dinner and breakfast in the dinning room.

IMG_0015Before we checked out the band, we played a few games in the game area which included an indoor minigolf course.

IMG_0014 IMG_0016We tried to play shuffleboard but we don’t know the rules.  We made some up.  We also played some video arcade games and lots of pool.

The next morning we engaged in some archery.  Which I have never done before.  I was channeling my inner Katniss.  My husband hasn’t done it since boy scouts so I think between us, we did pretty well.

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Overall, it was a great little overnight trip.


I am now in Niagara Falls with my mum and kids.  It is the first time for all of us.  We stopped last night in Syracuse and partook of ice cream from Gannon’s, which is one of the 27 places to have ice cream before you die, according to Buzzfeed.

IMG_0034 IMG_0036 IMG_0035It was extremely tasty.

We are now in Niagara Falls, after a particularly awful car trip wherein my oldest lost her cookies and began to scream, spit and hit everyone around her.  I am NOT looking forward to driving her home in a few days.  Meanwhile, though, this is the view from our room:

IMG_0031 IMG_0032 IMG_0033I’ll just sit here and breathe while I look at it.


My Paradise

As you may know, if you read here at all, I have an, um, thing for food competition shows.  It actually started with Top Chef.  The first season.  Which was in– hang on, have to look it up– 2006.  It was one of the first shows of its kind and I was hooked.  I’ve watched multiple seasons since- though not recently- and my favorite challenge was always “Restaurant Wars.”  The chefs were divided into teams and asked to open a restaurant from furniture to food, in some absurdly small amount of time. They would be sent to Restaurant Depot for shopping.  Every single time I’d say, “I want to go (to) there!”  At one point I looked it up and found that you had to work in the industry to be able to shop there.  Alas, my professional baking/cooking days were behind me.

Until this year, when I got back in touch with an old high school friend who owns- wait for it- a restaurant.  And who is constantly shopping at Restaurant Depot.  He was kind enough to indulge my geekyness and…  took me with him!

photo 1I can’t even tell you how excited I was.  I got there early, before my friend, and he laughed at me via text, telling me to go in on my own.  I did and it was everything I could have hoped for and more.

photo 2All kinds of containers.

photo 3My first love, baking equipment and supplies.

At this point, I was getting a little crazy.  I wanted everything!

photo 2I mean, I don’t really need this but…  pancakes!

So I moved on to the food section, since I know it would be vast quantities that even I couldn’t eat before it spoiled.

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I was doing fine- wandered through the meat and seafood departments, knowing that I didn’t need a zillion pound fish.  I approached the canned goods with similar confidence.


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Then, of course, I found this:

photo 1Oh.  My.  God.  I did not buy this, for good reason.  This does not mean that I won’t go back someday and buy it.  Maybe.

So a lifelong dream has been achieved, dorky as it was.  It was, as a friend described it, “Costco on steroids.”  I owe my friend, big time.  I’ll have to find a way to thank him, although, I’m pretty sure a vat of peanut butter sauce won’t cut it…..




Kitchen Basics: Hard-Boiled Eggs

Pretty quiet around here just now- it’s mid to late summer and I’m working hard to keep my mind in the moment– it is STILL summer, despite the feeling that it is almost over.  I’m trying to work out as often as I can, to hang with the kids (my oldest is in a day camp this week  and it’s breaking both our hearts!), and to be in the pool as much as possible.

All that said, I am also trying to see friends as often as I can.  The other night, for example, I heading to a friend’s house to drink wine, eat snacks and gossip.  I brought an easy and always appreciated snack, deviled eggs.  Some people like to get super fancy with their eggs and add mushrooms, bacon, chives, etc.  I keep mine super simple and traditional- nothing but the filling and a sprinkle of paprika.  Yum.

Deviled eggs were one of the first things I ever consciously saw made without a recipe (My grandmother almost always cooked without a recipe but I didn’t realize it at the time.).  It was summer, when my cousins and I were staying with my grandmother.  We were probably around 11 or so.  It was afternoon and we had spent the morning in the pool, watching stand up comedy on television and giggling.  Emily decided that she wanted deviled eggs.  Melanie agreed that this was a good idea.  I had never had a deviled egg but I almost never say no to food.

Off to the kitchen we went and I watched as Emily and Melanie made hard boiled eggs, peeled them, scooped out the yolk and mixed it into a bright yellow filling, no measurements, no recipe.  They used spoons to fill the eggs, added a sprinkle of paprika and then handed one to me.

I bit into it and my life was altered.  Slightly spicy and tart, creamy and cool- it was the perfect snack.  We made them many times over that summer and I’ve since bonded with The Hippo over them (It’s her southern heritage showing through).

The problem with deviled eggs is the hard boiling of eggs.  I can never, for the life of me, ever recall how long you’re supposed to boil the eggs.  Then there’s the peeling.  I am horrid at peeling hard boiled eggs.  I don’t have the patience, I get very frustrated and I usually end up ripping away most of the egg white.  When I peel them, the hard boiled eggs tend to look like someone was gnawing on them.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_18So, to the internet I went, in search of a way to make the eggs easier to peel and the amount of time needed to cook them.  If you do a search like this, you’ll see (as I did) that there are a number of ways to achieve the perfect hard boiled egg.

I tried the thumb tack method.  Basically, you prick the round end of the egg with a thumb tack or safety pin or something so that you break the air bubble that’s in there.  This makes the eggs easier to peel after they’re boiled.  And don’t leave the thumb tack in while you boil them.  This method worked for me!

Emily and Melanie’s Deviled Eggs


Eggs (Remember that one egg makes two deviled eggs and plan accordingly)- I usually use a whole dozen

yellow (not dijon, not brown, nothing fancy) mustard– about two to four tablespoons

mayonnaise– about two to four tablespoons

salt, pepper and paprika to taste

*Note about measurements:  I never measure.  I use a few spoonfuls or squirts and then taste.  I’m guess at the tablespoon measurement above based on how it looks.  You’ll have to taste as you go and start by adding less than you think you need– always easier to add more than to take away what’s already in there.


Prick your eggs with a thumb tack.  Do this on the fatter, rounder end.  Place them in a saucepan and cover with enough cold water to cover the eggs by about an inch.  Put them on the stove to boil, over high heat.  Once the water is good and boiling (big bubbles, lots of steam), boil the eggs for one minute.  Then take them off the heat and cover the pot.  Let them stand for ten minutes (off the heat but covered).My HipstaPrint 973334217After ten minutes has passed, pour out all the water and shake the pan around, causing the eggs to smash against each other and crack.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_13Now fill your pan up with cold water and ice cubes.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_6Wait five minutes and then drain out the water and any leftover ice.  You are now ready to peel.  The method that worked well for me was to sort of roll the egg around on the counter, cracking the entire shell in kind of a spiderweb way.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_12Then peel the eggshell off.  Doing it near and under running water can help get all the little bits of shell off.  I found that with this thumb tack method, the shells slipped off more easily and in bigger pieces.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_5(Yes, one short of a dozen.  The husband always requires a hard boiled egg for him to eat plain.)  Next get a bowl ready and slice your eggs in half.  I find that if you do it lengthwise, there’s slightly more stability when you put them on a plate than if you do it the other way.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_4Scoop out the beautifully yellow yolk and dump into your bowl.  Set the egg white aside.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_11My HipstaPrint 973334217_17Once all the yolks are in the bowl, add the mustard and mayo.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_16Mix all together.  I use a fork but you could certainly use a whisk or a hand mixer.  It seems like the perfect use for The Hippo’s army fork.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_3Now taste it and add salt, pepper and maybe more mayo or mustard, depending.  Want it more spicy?  Up the mustard.  Want it more creamy?  Mayo it is.  Once it tastes as you want it to taste, get out a ziploc bag.  Scoop that filling into the bag.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_9Get as much of the air out as possible and sort of squish that filling into one corner.  Then ziploc it.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_2Snip off just the smallest bit of the corner.  Mazel tov, you’ve just made a piping bag.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_15Place all your egg whites on a plate or platter that you plan to serve from- as long as it will fit into the fridge, you should be set.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_10Use the piping bag to fill each egg white with the yellow-y goodness.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_8About halfway through, I always think there won’t be enough filling.  There always is.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_1Garnish with a bit of paprika.

My HipstaPrint 973334217_7Try not to eat them all since you are supposed to be sharing, right?

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Middle Eastern Night

One of my favorite nights of the summer comes when my friend C. and I get together to cook.  We did it three years ago to celebrate Julia Child’s 100 birthday.  We did it last year and focused on Italian food and Lidia Bastianich .  This year, because I was given a great cookbook and she was given a beautiful tagine, we focused on Middle Eastern food.

The menu was:  stuffed grape leaves, a number of Israeli salads (roasted eggplant dip, Israeli salad, cabbage salad, corn salad, taboulegh, hummus), marinated grilled lamb with tzatziki, a chicken tagine, couscous with a lemon vinegrette, ptitim (pearl or Israeli couscous) and pita.  For dessert we had baklava and a Cake of Kohevet (Chocolate Nut Cake).  My HipstaPrint 987039433_39C. made the tagine and I’m hoping to get her over here to blog it out for you.  Meanwhile, I’ll toss you a few photos of it:

My HipstaPrint 987039433_92 My HipstaPrint 987039433_60She also made an amazing lamb chop.  Amazing.  She plated them as well, in a very professional manner.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_62 My HipstaPrint 987039433_83 My HipstaPrint 987039433_8 My HipstaPrint 987039433_71The salads all came from either my memory of working in Israel or from the Ballabosta cookbook I was given in April.  I feel a bit uncomfortable providing those here since I feel like it’s somehow a copyright violation but I encourage you to check out the cookbook.  It’s really fantastic.  And I’ll provide you with some photos of the salads.

First up is the eggplant salad that I’ve blogged about before as well as the traditional Israeli salad.

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My HipstaPrint 987039433_23My HipstaPrint 987039433_58From the cookbook I made a traditional corn salad:

My HipstaPrint 987039433_47 My HipstaPrint 987039433_68 My HipstaPrint 987039433_56 My HipstaPrint 987039433_77I also made traditional taboulegh.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_64The last recipe from the cookbook was for a cabbage salad.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_87 My HipstaPrint 987039433_12 My HipstaPrint 987039433_33Plus the couscous (small and large- I apparently forgot to photograph the large):

My HipstaPrint 987039433_50Oh, and I threw together humus, because why not?

My HipstaPrint 987039433_73The second couple that joined us brought homemade stuffed grape leaves and baklava.  So good, both of them.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_19 My HipstaPrint 987039433_81What I can give you the recipe for, however, is the amazing cake I made.  It is a cake of Kohevet and it was, once again, delicious.  Whenever I make one of her cakes, there is always a moment in which I doubt her.  I push through and she has never failed me.

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A reminder that when I work from her recipes, this is what I have:

My HipstaPrint 987039433_59So, this cake is in three stages.  The base dough, the filling and the topping.  Ingredients are organized accordingly.

Kohevet’s Chocolate Cake With Nuts

For the dough:

1 1/3 cup of flour

1/3 cup of sugar

100 grams (a touch more than 7 tablespoons) of salted butter (I used unsalted but added a pinch of salt to the dough)

1 egg yolk

Special equipment:  springform cake pan

For the filling:

200 grams (about 7 ounces) bittersweet chocolate

100 grams (a bit more than 7 tablespoons) butter (I used unsalted)

1/4 cup cold water

1 packet of plain gelatin (you won’t use all of it, maybe a teaspoon or so)

4 eggs separated

2 tablespoons brandy (I only used one)

2 teaspoons of instant coffee powder

1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts, pecans and almonds)

2 tablespoons sugar

For topping:

2 cups heavy/whipping cream

2 tablespoons of confectioners sugar


Make the dough.  Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius (356 Fahrenheit).  In a medium bowl, mix together the flour sugar, butter and egg yolk.  It helps if the butter is soft and cut into small pieces.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_26I mixed in the butter with a fork, a pastry cutter and then my hands.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_3I then added the egg yolk.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_24It will be a dough that sticks together if you press it- kind of like a shortbread.  Grease your springform pan.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_57Press 2/3 of the dough into the pan to form the bottom.  If the dough isn’t stiff enough, add another spoon or two of flour and then press it into the sides of the pan to form the crust.  I didn’t need to so you’ll have to eyeball it yourself.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_67Bake for 15-20 minutes or until it is a golden brown.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_44Set aside to cool.  Meanwhile, in a double boiler, heat the chocolate and butter.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_34While it is melting, combine the gelatin and the cold water in a small bowl.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_76When the chocolate and butter are melted, smooth and combined,

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add the water/gelatin and cook for about two minutes.  Then take it off the heat.

In another bowl, mix the egg yolks, brandy and instant coffee powder.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_1Once it is combined, add a few spoonfuls of the warm chocolate mixture and whisk.  You’re bringing the eggs up to temperature so that you don’t scramble them.  Once it’s up to temperature, add the rest of the chocolate and whisk until combined.

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Add the nuts and stir.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_9In (yet another) bowl, whip the egg whites and sugar, until they reach stiff peaks.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_18Fold the egg whites into the chocolate nut mixture by hand, so that it becomes mousse-like.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_28Take the ring of the springform pan off the base.  If you can, remove the base cake from the base of the pan.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_70Place it on the cake plate you plan to use for serving.  Pour the chocolate mixture into the base.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_91Cover and put it in the fridge.  Let it set for an hour or two.  About an hour before you want to serve it, whip the cream with the sugar until it is a lovely whipped cream consistency.  Spread it over the cake. My HipstaPrint 987039433_85


My HipstaPrint 987039433_10If you want to be fancy, you can grate some chocolate over the top of the cake just before you serve it.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_52This cake was so good.  It was just sweet enough with a hit of salt from the dough at the bottom.  One bite and I was back in Kohevet’s kitchen in Israel, at her table, on a Saturday afternoon, eating cake and laughing.

A Healthier Option (and a bonus drink!)

A few days ago a friend facebook messaged me and a few other people saying that she  remembered one of us making a salad for a cookout and that it it had lime and black beans and avocado but she couldn’t find the recipe.  I recalled that I had made it, sent her a link to the recipe and went about me day.

But found myself, at various points in the day, zoning out and thinking about avocados, limes and black beans.  I needed to make the salad.  Luckily, in continuing my no/low sugar summer, it is also a sugar-less and healthy recipe.

It’s an Ina Garten recipe, of course, and it’s amazingly good.  I leave out the jalapeno because I’m not that brave.  I’m sure it would be good with it.  It’s also a really simple salad to throw together and… bonus, if you squeeze fresh lime juice for the dressing, you can make yourself one of my favorite summer drinks, a vodka gimlet (which is not sugarless.  But I think it’s worth the sugar to drink it.).  Yum!

Guacamole Salad (Foodnetwork/Ina Garten)


1 pint of grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1 yellow (or orange or red, your call) bell pepper, seeded and cut in a  large-ish dice (cut in bite sized squares)

1 can black beans (15 oz), drained and rinsed

1/2 cup of red onion, diced small (about 1/2-1 medium sized onion)

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (I left this out, I don’t like jalapenos)

1/2 teaspoon of grated lime zest

1/4 cup fresh lime juice  (about 2 limes)

1/4 cup good olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

2 ripe avocados, seeded, peeled and cut into large-ish dice (like the peppers)


Start by mincing your onion.  I like to soak mine in a bit of ice water to take some of the sting out of the raw onion.  I find if I eat raw onion, it makes everything taste like onion for the next three days.  Same with raw garlic.  So, I soak mine first.
My HipstaPrint 942372553_13 My HipstaPrint 942372553_1Slice your tomatoes and chop your pepper.  Throw them into a large bowl- perhaps the one you plan to serve from- so that you’ll have room to mix it all together and coat with the yummy dressing.

My HipstaPrint 942372553_7Rinse your beans.

My HipstaPrint 942372553_6Add them to the bowl, along with your drained onion.

My HipstaPrint 942372553_3Zest your lime.  A micro-plane is great for this- make sure to just zest the green part.  The white part is bitter.

My HipstaPrint 942372553_17Sprinkle the lime zest over your salad.

My HipstaPrint 942372553_12Now, juice your limes.  I have an old school juicer that was my grandmother’s.  I love using it because it’s loud, simple and brings me back to making orange juice with her on those summer mornings.

My HipstaPrint 942372553_11Kind of hard to juice the lime and take photos.

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Whisk together your fresh lime juice (if you have extra, save it for the bonus drink at the end of the post), the pepper, salt, garlic, cayenne pepper and olive oil.  It will emulsify and be delicious.  Pour this over the salad and mix well so everything is coated.  If you are serving immediately, add your avocado pieces.  If you’re not serving immediately don’t cut your avocado yet!- wait until you’re ready to serve.  Toss the avocado in and mix gently so that it also gets coated.  Serve it at room temperature.

My HipstaPrint 942372553_9We had ours with steak.  After several months of eating little to no meat, I’ve had a sudden craving for red meat.  Not sure what that’s about but I’m going with it.

My HipstaPrint 942372553_2If you have some lime juice left, you can make my absolute favorite summer grown up drink, a vodka gimlet.  Make some simple syrup (ratio of 1:1, sugar and water.  So, if you use a cup of water, use a cup of sugar- mix it together in a sauce pan and heat until sugar is dissolved and it comes to a boil.  Take off the heat and let it cool.).  Fill a cocktail shaker (or large glass, like we use!) with ice.  Pour in 1 oz of lime juice (fresh!), 1 oz of simple syrup and 1 1/2 oz of vodka (I like Tito’s) or gin (why?  Why would you use gin?  Blech!) into the shaker.  Shake well and pour into a chilled glass.  Try not to drink too many.

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