Category Archives: Entertaining

Kool. Aid. Pie.

Kool Aid Pie

Kool-Aid Pie (Pink Lemonade)


That’s what I said.

I love my mom more than anything. I really do. Where some mothers stop evolving past their role as “mom,” Hope has somehow recognized that, if she wants to continue being a part of her kids’ lives, she has to move on, treat us as adults, and help us tackle our adult problems with respect and support. She never ceases to amaze me in her capacity to love me and encourage me, in spite of the many mistakes I have made. I could go on and on about that, but this is not the place.

What also never ceases to amaze me is my mom’s complete and utter enthusiasm for what I call “gross-good” food. What is gross-good? Boiled down (ha) to the essence, it is food that sounds truly wretched on paper/in concept, but in execution lands on so many levels. Most often, these recipes are made up of processed ingredients that I rarely eat, require little to no effort, and are an overall affront to good cooking. My mom loves these recipes. LOVES them. Not only that, she relentlessly talks about them until you love them, too.

It starts something like this:

“Oh, I made this recipe you will love.”
“Really? What is it?”
“You take a package of cream cheese…”

She goes through the recipe, which usually takes all of 3 minutes, and then punctuates it with something like, “it’s wonnnnnnnderful.”

I then dismiss the conversation because that recipe is gross and I will never make it. Gross.

Over the next few weeks:
“Did you try that [disgusting recipe] yet?”
“No, I haven’t had time, sorry. Maybe for my next get together with friends.” (har, har)

“I made that [disgusting recipe] again on Saturday, have you had a chance to try it?”
“No, it’s not really my thing, mom. Sorry.”
“Oh, I know you will love it if you just try it. Do you need the recipe again?”
“No, I got it the first time, thanks.”

“Sally’s having a little cookout on Sunday and I am gonna make that [disgusting recipe]. Everyone loves it and keeps asking me to make it.”
“Oh, nice.”
“You should really try it. I know you think it’s weird, but if you just try it, I know you will love it.”

Eventually, I wear down, because this goes on and on and on. Her enthusiasm gets the best of me and I crumble like a graham cracker pie crust. Much like the one you will need for her latest gross-good conquest:

Kool-Aid Pie
You take a package of cream cheese, put it in a bowl, and get it to room temperature before mixing in one can of sweetened condensed milk with a hand mixer. Add one envelope of unsweetened Kool-Aid (any flavor you like – lemonade is particularly good, and black cherry is pretty much TDF) and mix until completely combined and smooth. Then, with a rubber spatula, fold in one container of thawed Cool Whip to combine; make sure there are no streaks left and that the mix is a single color. Press mixture into a prepared, store-bought graham cracker crust and chill for a few hours.

To serve, slice with a sharp knife run under hot water (this will help to make picture-perfect slices*) and top with additional Cool Whip, if desired.

Is it gross? Yes. Will you love it? Almost guaranteed. Welcome to a new category of “cooking” on Shallots Web. Thanks, Hopey.

Kool Aid Pie (Black Cherry)

Kool-Aid Pie (Black Cherry)

*Image quality is shite for this post, but I promise it will get better as I learn to use my new camera better.


Music, Music, Music

When I have company over for a gathering, I have a short list of “must-haves” (beyond the obvious good food and drink): a clean bathroom, fresh flowers, and an appropriate playlist. The first two items are self-explanatory, but the last one can be pretty nuanced, I think. For instance, I have two very talented friends that play in a band (River Rising). They come to my place every month or so for dinner and I always make a playlist for them that includes the bluesy bands that have influenced them and other music that I think they will enjoy. For a Dia de los Muertos dinner I held a few years back, I asked everyone beforehand to send me a few songs that pleasantly remind them of friends and family that have passed. There were a few tears shed, but for the most part, that gathering was a happy celebration of our loved ones.

Lately, I’ve been compiling a pretty universal playlist in Spotify called, “Dinner Party.” For me, this means one thing: jazz (mostly vocals). Something about the voices of Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, and Peggy Lee make me feel celebratory and slightly nostalgic, and that’s exactly the kind of mood I like for dinner or cocktails. I always add a few modern surprises (a thoughtful cover, a new orchestration of an old favorite), but for the most part, I stick to standards. I encourage you to check out this public playlist if you are a Spotify user (my username is fignatius), and I welcome suggestions for additions. This meant to be a living mix that will change over time, but certain tunes will always make the cut.

So, I ask: what’s your dinner party playlist?

Infuse Your Booze

Lemongrass, ginger, coriander

You may disagree, but I’m just gonna say that the flavored spirits coming to the market are moving from the acceptable to the dubious. I mean, when I start seeing gummyfish-flavored vodka, I think it is time to say, “whoa, there.” That said, there are a number of offerings that I really enjoy and I admit to buying them regularly (Absolut’s Wild Tea is definitely one of them). These products also inspire me to make my own infused spirits. Over the last couple of years, I’ve made some very successful potables (sour cherry vodka, jalapeno tequila, fig vodka for the Fig Cocktail) and some not-so-successful versions (peach-infused bourbon – not enough sweet, too boozy).

The best part about making infused spirits is that it is easy—and it doesn’t take very long to taste the results. In fact, when I make the jalapeno tequila, I only infuse the booze for about 15 minutes, which is just enough to give it a low-level, underlying kick. Similarly, cucumber vodka only takes about a day to develop a nice, fresh cucumber flavor.

My friends and I have a monthly brunch club and this month’s theme is Southeast Asian. Since we all bright something to the brunch, and since brunch usually means cocktails, I decided to come up with a new infused spirit to celebrate our gathering. Given that it’s summer, I thought some of the fresher and brighter flavors that come from that region would be appropriate; may I present lemongrass, ginger, coriander vodka:

Infused Vodka

My hope is that, after a few days, this will be delicious enough to drink just over ice mixed with club soda, but I am also cooking up a cocktail in my head; stay tuned for another post with the results of this experiment. In the meantime, celebrate the weekend! Get yourself a nice big jar, a big bottle of booze, and head out to the market for some inspiration! Bear in mind that the longer you infuse, the stronger the flavor will be, and that any spirit containing perishable food (fruit, citrus peel, etc) should be kept in the refrigerator when not in use.

PS – here’s a little tip from me about working with lemongrass; the sound’s not great, but you get the point.