Knock Off: Starbucks Shaken Passion Tea

While I like Starbucks, I typically find the coffee a bit too strong for my taste. When I go, I tend to buy the espresso drinks or tea in the winter and the Shaken Passion Tea in the summer. When I found a recipe on Pinterest for Shaken Passion Tea, I knew I had to try it. After 8 months of water, water, water, it was time. I was not disappointed. The shaken tea was easy to make and pretty close to what I would order at the store.

Shaken Passion Tea

Notes on Preparation:

  • I chose to prepare my Shaken Passion Tea in a large batch to bring to a party. However, It’s The Life recommends against it because over time, the lemonade flavor overtakes the tea. I had leftovers the next day and it was fine, but definitely keep in mind how long you keep this in the fridge.
  • You can buy Tazo Passion Tea in one of two ways – regular hot tea bags that come 20 bags to a box and are meant for individual use, or Iced Passion Tea which comes six bags to a box and are meant to make a pitcher at a time. Either one will work, I’ve helped out with the math below. 🙂
  • Since most people vary how much sweetener they add to their tea, and since the sugar in the lemonade will vary, I chose to omit this from the instructions below. However, if you know you like a little sugar (or other sweetener), you can either add it to the tea as the tea bags are steeping (i.e. for sugar, which will quickly dissolve in the hot tea) or portion it into cups individually in the form of a simple syrup (homemade or bought at Starbucks or another store). For your reference, 1 pump of Starbucks simple syrup is about 2 Tbs. of homemade simple syrup.

Knock Off: Starbucks Shaken Passion Tea

Adapted from It’s The Life

12-oz servings Water Tazo Passion Tea Bags Lemonade
14 1 gallon (4 qts) 4 iced tea bags or 20 hot tea bags (1 box) 42 oz.
7 2 qts. (64 oz.) 2 iced tea bags or 10 hot tea bags 21 oz
3 1./2 1 qt (32 oz) 1 iced tea bag or 5 hot tea bags 10-11 oz.
1 9 oz 1 hot tea bag 3 oz.

Make the Tea: Boil the appropriate amount of water. Turn off heat and add tea bags. Let steep 5+ minutes before removing the tea bags. If using sugar as a sweetener, stir in now. Allow to cool on the stove until room temperature. Refrigerate until cold and ready to serve.

Combine: When tea is cold, stir to combine tea with lemonade (and if using, simple syrup), preferably just before serving. If desired, shake in a jigger with ice to get the froth you might get when served at Starbucks.

Storage: Tea (without lemonade) will keep in the fridge for a week.

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix

It’s my second week participating in Meal Planning Magic‘s 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats. This week’s recipe is something you might keep to yourself or give away in a holiday care package (as I am doing) or as part of a hostess gift.

This Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix will be shared between myself and a couple of care packages some lucky family members will be receiving. I’ve had my eye on this recipe for quite some time, since last year’s Hot Chocolate Mix came out so well. But my fear of caramel held me back. You see, I burn caramel beyond saving every time I make it. This time though, I did it! One batch, no burning! It’s definitely cause for celebration! I enjoyed a nice cup of this hot chocolate while working on this post. After all, I can’t very well send a care package without verifying that the treat is good, can I? Sweet, chocolatey, and slightly salty, it’s a good thing I already packaged up the hot cocoa mix for those packages. Otherwise, they might not have gotten any.

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix

Adapted from PheMOMenmom via Pennies on a Platter

Makes 32 servings


  • 2 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c.cocoa powder
  • 1-3 Tbs. fleur de sel (I used 1 Tbs, but next time, I’ll be using 2 Tbs.)
  • 1 c. dry milk powder
  • 3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 10 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate chips

Make the Caramel: Place the granulated sugar in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. As the sugar begins to heat up, prep a rimmed baking sheet by covering with a piece of parchment paper. When sugar starts to melt (mine immediately turned amber), swirl mixture using the handle of the pan. Stay by the stove, swirling pan every so often until most of the sugar is melted and mixture is a deep amber. If you’re afraid of burning, lower heat a little and continue to cook. This step may take up to 20 minutes.

Measure vanilla out into a small prep bowl. When sugar is almost completely melted and amber, remove pan from heat. Add vanilla (the vanilla will bubble immediately) and quickly whisk in. The mixture will bubble, but continue whisking until mixture is smooth.

Pour onto prepared baking sheet, into a thin layer if possible, and allow to sit and harden for at least 1 hour.

Make the Mix: Break caramel into large pieces. Add half of the caramel to a food processor and turn on. When pulverized into a fine powder, add other half. When all of the caramel had been turned into a powder, add cocoa, fleur de sel, dry milk powder, and light brown sugar. Pulse until smooth. Finally, add the chocolate. Process until mixture is a fine powder, devoid of lumps.

Store in an airtight container.

Serve: 1 c. hot milk + 3 Tbs. hot cocoa mix


A Citrus Martini & Channeling Ina in the Hamptons

Slightly sweet and slightly tart, this Citrus Martini showcases 4 beautiful winter fruits in a light and refreshing cocktail. 

Slightly sweet and slightly tart, this Citrus Martini showcases beautiful winter fruits in a light and refreshing cocktail. 

The beginning of June was a whirlwind of travel for me – 4 states in 10 days. I got to hold my niece for the first time (I’m an aunt!) and attend my future sister-in-law’s bridal shower. I spent the time in between hanging with my parents, reading (the Graceling Realms series and The Little Giant of Aberdeen County), and playing in the kitchen.

But for one brief day, I got to channel the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. You see, my uncle just bought a place out in the Hamptons and Mom and I went to visit. We got up really early in the morning. We planned to arrive mid-morning, beginning the day with a couple stops for bagels and the makings for this Citrus Martini (Ina’s Juice of a Few Flowers) on the way. Unfortunately, fate was against us. Mom plugged the wrong town into mapquest and we ended up lost for over an hour. So no martinis for us.

While we missed out on morning martinis (don’t judge – mimosas are acceptable for breakfast/brunch, so these should be too!), but I did get a little Ina tour. We drove by Ina’s house, although we kind of debated about which one it was. And we took a quick trip to Loaves and Fishes, one of the stores Ina shops at. The shop carried absolutely beautiful pieces of silverware, serving pieces, and linens. It was a bit out of my price range, but I enjoyed meandering up and down the aisles, drooling at all the pieces I’d like to take home. I could have easily come home poor.

Even though I didn’t get my cocktail in the Hamptons, it was one of the first things on my list to make when I returned home. It was even better than I expected… slightly sweet and tangy, but not definitely not tart (which I expected based on the grapefruit, lemon and lime juice in the recipe). While I enjoyed my martini martinis as an evening cocktail, this would also make a fun alternative to a brunch mimosa.

Slightly sweet and slightly tart, this Citrus Martini showcases beautiful winter fruits in a light and refreshing cocktail.

Recipe Notes:

  • This is a recipe where it’s best to use freshly squeezed juice. It’s worth the extra few minutes.
  • This recipe can be scaled to serve a crowd. Combine the juices in a pitcher ahead of time (you may find that you want to strain the juices through a cheesecloth if too much pulp is in there). Refrigerate until serving. Mix juices and vodka in a cocktail shaker with ice and serve fresh.
Slightly sweet and slightly tart, this Citrus Martini showcases beautiful winter fruits in a light and refreshing cocktail.

Citrus Martini

Slightly sweet and slightly tart, this Citrus Martini showcases beautiful winter fruits in a light and refreshing cocktail.

Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1
Calories 198 kcal


  • 1/4 fresh lemon
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon
  • 1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 oz. good quality vodka


  1. With fresh lemon, cut off a little slice to use as a garnish. With the remainder, rub along rim of a martini glass.
  2. Sprinkle sugar on a plate. Dip rim of martini glass in the sugar, twisting and rotating a bit to ensure that sugar coats rim.
  3. Combine all juices and vodka in a cocktail shaker. Top with ice and shake vigorously until martini if thoroughly chilled. Pour into prepared martini glass.
  4. Garnish and serve.

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics p. 37. Affiliate link to the cookbook below the pin!

Slightly sweet and slightly tart, this Citrus Martini showcases beautiful winter fruits in a light and refreshing cocktail. 

This post was updated with new photos in March 2019.

Happy New Year & Champagne Cosmos


Since graduating college seven years ago, I feel like each year is busier than the last. 2011 flew by! I’m not even entirely sure why I was so busy. I did work quite a bit and spent some time doing home improvement projects, but that doesn’t account for a whole year. Oh well.

Here are some of my goals for 2012:

In the Kitchen

In 2012, I would like to regularly post two recipes each week. I’ve done alright with it in 2011, but really want to commit for 2012. I’d also like the posts to be bit more balanced – desserts and sweets should not outweigh breakfasts, lunches, dinners and sides. Part of the reason for this is that I find desserts easier to photograph. So clearly, I need to focus on really learning to use my camera better, perhaps making a light box, and taking more time to style and photograph my creations. Think I can keep the hubby away from dinner long enough to do that? 😉

I do have a bit of a bucket list for items I’d like to make, but I’m not going to swear that it’ll get done during 2012. I’d love to make perogis and stuffed cabbage (perhaps on Polish Day, if I can ever pick a date to get some friends and family together for it). Homemade pasta has been on my list for a while (I keep swearing that I’ll steal my mom’s Kitchen Aid attachment). Caramel and tiramisu continue to intimidate me (I’ve failed at both once before), but I swear it’ll happen eventually. If my brother comes to visit, homemade bagels will be attempted, per his request. The list could go on and on. If only I didn’t have to work or keep a clean house…

Off the Bookshelf

In 2009 I had set the following goals for myself (I apparently didn’t do a New Year’s post last year):

  1. Read all of Jane Austen’s works (6  books, 1 short fiction, and 2 unfinished fiction)
  2. Read Gone with the Wind, a book that has always intimidated me a little bit in its length
  3. Read the Lord of the Rings series. I love the movies, I just need to start the books!

I am sad to say that I only accomplished one of those – reading Gone With the Wind, which I finished earlier this year. I’ll be keeping the other two goals on my list for the year. In addition, I would like to read the Eragon series (which I had been putting off until the final book came out) and Paullina Simons’s Tatiana & Alexander books (I’ve read the first, but would like to reread it and finish the trilogy).

Also, like last year, I want to work on reading through and donating the many mystery novels that line my bookshelves. Until I have a bigger house and more bookshelves, I cannot just keep them all! I have to be selective!

Please share! I’d love for you to share your cooking and/or reading goals for 2012. What are your plans for the new year? Leave a comment, but before you go, check out this recipe for Champagne Cosmos, a nice change from your glass of New Year’s champagne. The touch of cranberry-lime-Grand Marnier takes the edge off the champagne and sweetens the drink just a little bit. Love it! We drank four batches of this over Christmas week, and I fully intend on bring some to our New Year’s Eve party tonight.

Champagne Cosmos

Champagne Cosmos

Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 16
Author Liz


  • 2 bottles of champagne or prosecco
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lime juice from 1-2 limes
  • 1 c. cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1/2 c. Grand Marnier
  • lime curls for garnish


  1. In a small pitcher or large (2 cup) measuring glass, combine lime juice, cranberry cocktail, and Grand Marnier. Stir to combine.
  2. Pour a couple tablespoons of cranberry mixture into champagne flute (will be about an inch of cranberry mixture in bottom of the champagne flute).
  3. Top with champagne and garnish lime curls.

This recipe was adapted from Fine Cooking No. 96 p. 62

A Bit of Comfort: The Princess Bride & Hot Cocoa

When things are tough, I usually curl up and lose myself in a book. I burrow under a blanket with tea, hot chocolate, or wine by my side. I let the characters take my problems away. The Princess Bride is one of my favorite books to curl up with. I can read it over and over again. As the weather turns chillier and the blanket comes out (along with this book!), I heat up a glass of hot chocolate and get ready to spend a long afternoon on the couch. The hot chocolate recipe is a new favorite recipe of mine. I’ve given it as a gift, but not going to lie, I kept lots for myself.

One of my favorite food blogs is Everyday Annie (previously Annie’s Eats). It’s the first blog I check in the morning; it’s the first blog I check for recipe ideas. Annie is a full-time doctor, wife and mother. Every time I read her blog, I’m amazed at how much she has accomplished.

Last week, on Thanksgiving day, Annie’s father passed away unexpectedly. As I was blessed with a wonderful day with my parents, in-laws, and siblings, Annie was grieving. Tears come to my eyes as I try to imagine what she must be going through. Annie, I’ve never met you, and you probably don’t follow my blog. But this post is dedicated to you and your family. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

The Princess Bride

By William Goldman

The Princess Bride is a classic. You know the movie? Well, the book is even better.

A father reads aloud to his his sick 10-year old son a story by S. Morgenstern. The story that has everything in it: “Fencing. Fighting. Torture, Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions. Miracles.” (p 9-10) Years later, Goldman gives the book to his own son for his tenth birthday and goes on to discover that S. Morgenstern’s story is not what he thought it was. Goldman discovers that his father only read him the “good parts.” This book is Goldman’s 1973 adaption of S. Morgenstern’s tale, leaving out the boring family genealogies and pages upon pages of descriptions where nothing happens.

Buttercup was a milkmaid and the prettiest girl alive. She falls in love with her “farm boy” Westley, who leaves to make his fortune in America. Not long after he sets sail, Buttercup receives a letter saying that his ship was taken by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never leaves prisoners alive. That was the last Buttercup heard of her one true love.

Buttercup’s beauty wins her a an engagement to Prince Humperdinck of Florin. Just before their wedding, Buttercup is kidnapped. Twice. The next two hundred pages is packed with fighting, plotting, deceiving, and revenge as Westley struggles to rejoin his one true love.

If this story rings a bell, it’s because the movie was pretty true to the plot as well as the dialog. However, like all movies, it’s impossible to fit everything into two hours. Read the book. You’ll learn the stories behind Fezzik and Inigo – how they ended up with Vizzini the Sicilian, what Fezzik’s childhood was like, and how Inigo’s father died at the hands of the 6-figured man. These are the pieces that make me like the characters even more.

Recommendation: Read it. Please.

Grade: A+

And to go with The Princess Bride…. make some of this hot chocolate mix. Give some as gifts or hoard it all. But if you give it as a gift, you should at least hoard a little bit. You’d be sad if you didn’t. And then make it every night with a generous dollop of whipped cream. It’s rich, it’s decadent. It’s grown-up hot chocolate. It’s amazing.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

This recipe was adapted from Gourmet (2005) via Everyday Annie


  • 2 c. vanilla sugar
  • 3/4 lb. good quality semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 4.5 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 c. Dutch process cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa since I’m unable to find Dutch process cocoa powder)

Place all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until chocolate is finely ground (mixture should be completely combined).

Makes 38 servings (2 Tbs. mix or 1 c. hot chocolate).

Serve: Mix 2 Tbs. mix with 1 c. warm/hot milk or water, stirring until all chocolate is melted.

Storage: Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.