Sweet Drinks & Cupcakes

Hey everyone! This is Ericka from The Sweet Life 🙂 I’m so excited to be here guest-posting on That’s So Michelle for the first time. Since this blog is one of my inspirations (and Michelle is one of my best friends), I’m honored!

It was desperately humid out last night but oh so summery so we wanted to sit outside for some drinks, apps and girl talk (pretty much my favorite things!)

We decided on Morton’s Steakhouse — and while getting steak would have been the best option — budgets don’t agree with Morton’s prices! Instead, I spent my precious dollar bills on my favorite drink — a lemon drop martini for the fat price of $14.75. Talk about missing happy hour 🙁 But licking the sugar rim was totally worth it! Michelle got the margarita, which was even MORE!

I was in the mood for something light so I got my absolute favorite appetizer, mozzarella and tomato salad with basil. Unfortunately, it was pretty puny and actually one of the most disappointing I’ve had. Michelle ordered the tuna tar tar with avocado and tomato, which looked amazing but also came out lacking in taste. A little salt helped the problem but it was also disappointing overall.

Of course we were NOT full by these pathetic little nibbles and I had never been to Red Velvet Cupcakery, which was right around the corner. I am a lover of cupcakes and was super-excited to try — what else — the red velvet flavor. All these cupcake spots opening up in D.C. have me craving them constantly but it turns out I’m rather picky. Though my cupcake was good, I still liked Hello Cupcake better and am dying to try Sprinkles, which Maggie swares by! Read more about my cupcake experience over at my blog!

Watermelon Granita

I don’t know why but I’ve always been intimidated by the term “granita” and thought it was too fancy for me to try on my own.

Well, it is fancy! But guess what, it’s also super easy, and really fresh and light. A perfect summer dessert. The flavor is so obviously watermelon without being cloyingly sweet. It’s just right. You have to try it.


I followed the recipe from my latest Bon Appetit Magazine . They also featured an Espresso and an Almond Granita as well. I’m definitely going to try the almond next.

Watermelon Granita:
4 cups (1 3/4 pounds) cubed seedless watermelon (from a 4-lb. melon)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Directions:
Purée all ingredients in a blender (I used a food processor) until smooth. Pour into a 9x9x2″ metal baking pan. Freeze mixture for 1 hour. Stir, mashing any frozen parts with the back of a fork. Cover and freeze mixture until firm, might as well leave it over night.

Using a fork, scrape granita vigorously to form icy flakes. Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover tightly with foil and keep frozen. Give it a quick scrape before serving.

My Buffalo Chicken Dip

Finally! I know that’s what my girlfriends are thinking as they read this post. I have been asked how to make this buffalo chicken dip a million times.  Ironically, it’s the one signature recipe I haven’t posted yet on this blog. There is a good reason for that …

Let’s face it…  It’s just not the prettiest dish. It looks like orange mush, but those who have tasted it will attest that it’s a perfect bite of spicy, tangy, chicken goodness.  Your friends will crave it and make you promise to bring it their next party.

The concept of this dish isn’t original, but it’s my technique that makes it better than the rest. Rather than poaching the chicken and pulling it apart with a fork, I poach mine and shred it into find crumbles in a food processor. Don’t skip that step, it’s just not the same without it.

You taste the chicken, but you just can’t put your finger on if there is really chicken in there. It’s so creamy, and so smooth…

I would also suggest that you only use Frank’s Red Hot Original cayenne sauce and that you most certainly do not use fat free ingredients. It’s worth running 3 miles to burn off after.

Michelle’s Buffalo Chicken Dip
 
2 eight ounce packages of cream cheese
1 cup ranch dressing
1 cup Franks Red Hot Original cayenne sauce
3 chicken breasts
1 package shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 large casserole pan
1 bag of tortilla chips
Chopped celery

Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees

Poach your chicken in boiling hot water with some salt for 10 minutes, turn off the burner and leave for an additional 5 minutes (over cooking the chicken will give it a gamey taste, gross)

Let the chicken cool then cut the breasts into smaller chucks. Using your shredding blade — that comes with most food processors — shred the chicken until it looks like crumbles or the way tuna fish looks when it’s mixed with a fork.

Remove the packaging from your cream cheese and place both packages in your casserole dish. To make sure your cream cheese is spreadable place the casserole dish with the cream cheese in the oven for about 10 minutes.

When the cream cheese is soft, pour in your cup of ranch and then cup of hot sauce and stir until it’s all mostly combined. Then about a quarter at a time mix in your shredded chicken. Next sprinkle in about half of your bag of shredded cheddar and mix. Heat in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the dip is warm.

Sprinkle more cheese on top and cover with foil until you serve with celery and tortilla chips.

Strawberry Margarita Jello Shots

So, typically my lemon or orange peel jello shots are my go to party trick, but I was feeling sassy this weekend and wanted to try something new.

I found the recipe for these strawberry margarita jello shots on Bakers Royale. They weren’t as easy to make as I had assumed.  Here are are the instructions adapted from Bakers Royale and some tips to make sure you don’t have the problems I did.

Strawberry Prep (About two plastic containers of strawberries should do it, but you will have left over jello for sure)  Cut the bottoms of the strawberry flat to get them to stand upright. When you do so, make sure that you do not cut off so much that there is a hole at the bottom. *REALLY  be careful about cutting off the bottom of the strawberry. Just the littlest hole (even a teeny tiny one) will make your jello leak out of the berry.

Use a paring knife or small spoon to hollow out the berries. Don’t get too into emptying the strawberry, just do your best.  *Look for the biggest strawberries you can, they hold the most jello. 

Jello Mix
1 regular (small) box Strawberry Jell-O
1 cup tequila,
1 cup water
Sugar and sliced lime for garnish

(For a kid friendly non-alcoholic version just use cold water or lemonade instead of tequila!)

Instructions
Boil one cup of hot water in a saucepan, then add in Jell-o powder and whisk until powder is completely dissolved, about 2 minutes. Set aside. Measure out 1 cup of  tequila and set aside.

Add cold tequila to hot Jell-o mixture and stir to combine.

Pour mix into strawberries and chill overnight. Pour some sugar on a plate and rim your strawberries with it. You don’t need to wet the berry it will stick on its own. Garnish with cut lime triangles to finish. Keep really cold until serving.

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Grilled Eggplant with Tomato and Goat Cheese

Remember how I said I never liked zuchini as a kid and now I love it?  Well I’ve never really liked eggplant either but while roaming the grocery store looking for healthy dinner options, those big, strange, purple vegetables called to me.

And guess what?!  Just like zucchini,  I am now a fan of eggplant.  Maybe it had just never been prepared the way I like it.  Or maybe all the breading and cheese that was melted on top of eggplant Parmesan was too much of a reminder that it wasn’t chicken. 

But this grilled eggplant dish,  topped with  grape tomatoes,  basil and goat cheese,  complements the soft and juicy vegetable perfectly.

What foods did you hate as a kid and now you love?  Brussels Sprouts?  Spinach?

Grilled Eggplant with Tomato and Goat Cheese  Serves Two or more

2 Eggplant (any kind, I used graffiti)
Olive oil
2 Garlic cloves
Grape tomatoes
Crumbled goat cheese
Basil
Zest and juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper

*Heat up a grill-pan on medium heat. As it is warming slice your eggplant into 1/3 to 1/4 inch circles. Mince one garlic clove and toss it into a bowl with about 1/2 a cup of olive oil. Brush the olive oil and garlic onto the eggplant slices. Salt the slices and allow them to sit for 5 minutes. Grill the eggplant for 5-6 minutes on each side.

*Chop your grape tomatoes into smaller pieces and mix gentle with chopped basil, minced garlic clove, and crumbled goat cheese. Squeeze in the juice of 1/2 of a lemon and grate in the zest.

*Top your eggplant with the tomato and goat cheese mixture and salt and pepper. Serve.