Cookbook Reviews

Pub and Grub Forum Logo

Pub and Grub Forum Logo

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Smokey Citrus Bloody Mary

Here is a little secret about me...I am cheap. I prefer to make dishes/drinks at home versus going to a restaurant, particularly if we will be having drinks with the meal.
On that note, Pat and I love a good Bloody Mary drink on a lazy Sunday morning  I will partner them with a nice little brunch. Problem is that I can't stand commercial Bloody Mary mix, so I went on a search for a homemade one. I found this recipe on Allrecipes and we loved it. I made it the day before just to give the flavors a time to meld. The nice thing about this mix is that even though it made a ton of mix, we were able to put it in serving size packages and freeze it.
I decided to partner this with a citrus vodka. It had a sweet yet smoky taste to it. We also tried a plain vodka version, and it was awesome too. What I liked about this recipe is that I seemed it could be easily adaptable for a Bloody Maria which has a tequila base. We even tried it straight with no alcohol and it was pretty dang tasty.

Garnish these as desired. I like the "meal in itself" component of these drinks and will go crazy with my garnishments. I have used green onions, celery stalks, green olives, large shrimp, chunks of cheese, chunks of summer sausage, etc. I am reminded of that photo where the Bloody Mary is garnished with a baby cheeseburger, a chicken sandwich and a buffalo wing.

So, here we go!:
1 (46 fluid ounce) can HIGH QUALITY tomato juice
1/3 cup steak sauce
3 tablespoons hickory smoke-flavored
barbeque sauce
1 teaspoon ground celery seed
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
Lemon wedges
1)  Stir tomato juice, steak sauce, barbeque sauce, celery seed, garlic salt, cayenne paper and black pepper in a large pitcher. 
2) Serve in glasses over ice. Add 1.5 ounces vodka and top with 4 oz of mix.  
3) Garnish each serving as desired above.

Stephanie O'Dea's Crock Pot Minestrone Soup

Sorry for the messy bowl. It didn't want to clean up for me!


This recipe is a classic example of why I love Stephanie O'Dea's cookbooks so much that she is my "go to crock pot girl". I have every cookbook that she has written and make meals at least once a week from them. I have only found a very small handful of recipes from each book that I have said yuck to. When I do my meal planning, all of her books are front and center on my desk.

One comment that I will make in regards to these cookbooks that is a common complaint, not only from myself, but friends who are regular users of Stephanie O'Dea cookbooks, is that the actual cooking times are less than what Stephanie recommends in her cookbooks. Most of the time, this isn't an issue, but just be aware of that ahead of time. With this soup, because it is a soup, this wasn't an issue.

This soup was awesome and simple. I simply threw everything, but the pasta, in the slow cooker in the morning. After I came home in the evening, I added the macaroni to cook while I made the salad to go with it. It was PERFECT! It was incredibly rich and loaded with veggies. It made plenty enough that not only did we have enough for dinner, but lunches after.

I partnered this with a Caesar salad and Bread Machine Focaccia Bread. So yummy!

I made a couple of additions due to my love of tomatoes. I included a couple of cans of tomato sauce and an extra can of diced tomatoes.  Plus, I felt that the broth was a bit too weak for MY likings and I thought this really made it pop. I will do my additions in red and feel free to choose whichever method preferred.

One other change that I made is that I used canned beans versus the dry beans that Stephanie called for. Using the dry beans required extra steps that I will cop to being too lazy to do. The canned worked fine and I will be using those in the recipe below.  I used black beans because that is what I had in the house and I liked how small they were

On a last note: Wanna make it vegetarian? Stephanie says that vegetable can be switched out for the beef broth.

So, here we go!:


8 cups beef or veggie broth
1 (14.5 oz can) diced tomatoes (2 cans)
1 can pinto, black, lima or kidney beans
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 small onion diced (or 1 T. dried minced onion)
1 T. Italian seasoning (2 T.)
1 t. Kosher salt
1 t. coarse ground black pepper
1 or 2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
1 (10 oz) package chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 cup dried pasta (I used elbow macaroni)
Parmesan cheese to pass at the table


1) In 6 qt crock pot, place first 8 to 11 ingredients. Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours.

2) Turn crock pot to HIGH, add pasta. Cook an additional 30 minutes or when pasta is fully cooked.

3) Ladle into serving bowls and pass the Parmesan.