Spicy Jalapeño Margaritas

Jalapeño Margaritas / @loveandlemons

Happy Friday!

We’re getting the weekend started a little early today with my favorite late summer drink. It’s been nearly 100 degrees around here lately – and to that I say, let’s make it hotter! Bring on the jalapeños…

Jalapeño Margaritas / @loveandlemons

My #1 rule of margaritas is to never use margarita mix. Fresh limes are a must. My #2 rule: mess with this recipe and make it your own. Adjust the ratios to make your margaritas as sweet, sour and/or spicy as you like. (I always like mine on the tart & spicy side). Double the recipe if you’re having friends over.

These are best served with salsa and tortilla chips… which are best served in this gorgeous platter from Crate & Barrel, who so kindly provided us with the serving pieces & glassware for this post. Check out the full story we created for the Crate & Barrel blog along with some healthy tailgating recipes!

Mix & Match Mini Pizzas

Mix & Match Mini Pizzas / loveandlemons.com

If you’ve been following for long, you know that I have a slight obsession for all things that are mini. Mini skillets, mini pies, mini tacos – but my absolute favorite small food has to be mini pizzas. They’re quick and easy to make and a fun way to try lots of different toppings. These would be great for a summer party – you could even toss these little guys on the grill if you don’t want to heat up your house.

Mix & Match Mini Pizzas / loveandlemons.com

The first step to your mini pizza party is mini naan – I buy Stonefire Mini Naan all the time – they’re easy to keep on hand in the freezer, especially for last-minute pizza cravings. Bake them, toast them, grill ‘em… you get the idea.

Mix & Match Mini Pizzas / loveandlemons.com

Choose a bunch of toppings: I went with a mix of classic pizza toppings (mozzarella, tomatoes, pesto), and few that are a little unexpected (blackberries, poblanos, pepitas and grilled corn). I mixed a little smoked paprika with the tomatoes, and a drizzle of balsamic with the blackberries… my basic rule of thumb is to pair flavors that contrast each other – balancing ingredients that are sweet, salty, smoky, tangy, etc.

Mix & Match Mini Pizzas / loveandlemons.com

Whenever I do a post with multiple options, I hate to pick favorites. These were all quite tasty but Jack and I decided that there was one clear winner: the grilled poblano, corn and pepita pizza, dolloped with a little bit of kale pepita pesto. It’s a little spicy, but not too spicy… a little sweet because of the corn, a little smoky from the grill flavor. I’m starving just talking about it again!

Mix & Match Mini Pizzas / loveandlemons.com

Oscar Party Appetizers & Wine Pairings

Oscar Party Appetizer & Wine Pairings / loveandlemons.com

The Academy Awards are this weekend – have you seen all of the movies? We’ve binge-watched only a few of them, but so far my favorite is the Grand Budapest Hotel. Does anyone know where I can get Jack a hat that says “Lobby Boy?”

Whether or not you’re into the glitz and glam of it all, we love any excuse to gather over food and wine. We’ve partnered with Dark Horse Wine to create 3 fun Oscar-themed appetizers along with some unexpected wine pairings. To make things easy, most of this menu can be prepared in advance, and all of these Dark Horse wines are under $10 (Honestly – I was surprised when I heard the price because, to me, each one tastes much more expensive!).

Roasted Red Pepper Soup / loveandlemons.comOscar Party Appetizers & Wine Pairings Red-Carpet-Ready Red Pepper Soup with Dark Horse Big Red Blend

My favorite part of the Oscars is really the Red Carpet (aren’t the dresses everyone’s favorite?) I normally wouldn’t start a wine menu with a bold red, but I couldn’t resist the word play. In my opinion, “wine rules,” are meant to be broken.

Why we love this pairing: The Big Red Blend is just how it sounds – big and bold – yet we found it to be really smooth as well. We love it with this red pepper soup that’s creamy, tangy, and just a tiny bit smoky. Special bonus: this simple soup can be made the day before your party.

Endive Spears w/ Quinoa Salad / loveandlemons.comOscar Party Appetizers & Wine Pairings Best Dressed Quinoa Endive Spears with Dark Horse Chardonnay

I can’t think of a more glamorous looking vegetable than endive. It’s such a swanky way to serve salad as an appetizer. And, conveniently, the quinoa filling can be made in advance. Break out your best fruity olive oil and dress this to the nines.

Why we love this pairing: The creamy Chardonnay nicely contrasts with the bitter bite of the endive. The tangy dressing and sweet currants bring out the peachy vanilla nuances in the wine.

Pear & Arugula Mini Pizzas / loveandlemons.comOscar Party Appetizers & Wine Pairings Appetizer in a Leading Role: Pear & Arugula Mini Pizzas with Dark Horse Merlot

These little pizzas are easy but elegant – especially with bright, peppery arugula on top. They’re filling enough to be our “leading role” so that your guests will last through the too-long Oscar speeches.

Why we love this pairing: An unexpected layer of pear “pairs” (pun intended, so sorry) well with this fruit forward wine. Salty feta and peppery arugula bring out the spicier notes in the wine. 

Winter Wines (& Food Pairings)

winter wines & food pairings / @loveandlemons

Happy almost new year! I hope you all have some really fun plans tonight. Jack and I are going to have a pretty quiet night at home (because, omg, it’s freezing out!), but the wine will be flowing, nonetheless. Here are some bottles we’ve been enjoying recently. All are under $16(!), and are available at wine-carrying Whole Foods Stores.

Healthier Holiday Party Recipes

Healthier Holiday Party Recipes / @loveandlemons

Minty Pomegranate Spritzers Butternut Squash & Sage Crostini Avocado Pomegranate Crostini Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Is it just me or has every day this week felt like Friday? Since holiday party season is in full swing I thought I’d round up a few fun & festive recipes that are healthy-ish, and (mostly), finger food friendly.

Click on the images to go to each recipe (or see links below)…

Healthier Holiday Party Recipes / @loveandlemons

Parmesan & Fig Grilled Cheese Homemade Soft Pretzels Butternut Squash Croquettes Vegan Stuffed Shells Cookies! Almond Butter Cups  

Minty Pomegranate Spritzers / Butternut Squash & Sage Crostini / Avocado Pomegranate Crostini / Quinoa Stuffed Peppers / Parmesan & Fig Grilled Cheese / Vegan Soft Pretzels / Butternut Squash Croquettes  /  Vegan Stuffed ShellsCookies!  /  White Chocolate Almond Butter Cups