There was a time when birthdays caused me great distress. Spending my childhood steeped in worry—about anything and everything—it’s no surprise my innate penchant for anxiety permeated most aspects of my life. Especially when it came to the oppressing passage of time. It felt like cold hands around my throat tightening with vice-like quality with each passing year. This was in my early twenties mind you!
I laugh about it now but I completely had a mid-mid life crisis. I was in a panic about growing older while my pitiful list of life accomplishments served only to mock me further. You’ve accomplished nothing as you’ve wasted another rotation around the sun Christine. What do you have to show for yourself? These days I’ve thankfully left most of this behind. I try not to look at where I should be and instead try to focus on where I am. As this birthday approaches I find myself excited. I’ve survived a lot in the past year and I’m ready to celebrate!
This year’s birthday (it’s 32 I don’t mind telling you) is all about celebrating everything little bit of myself, even what I consider my weaknesses or flaws. It’s about indulging and relaxing and reveling. So I’m thrilled to have the assistance of Twist Your Spirits to help accomplish this! Their artisan cocktail kits are the perfect way to celebrate my super cool awesomeness this year. They are all about empowering everyone to become their own mixologist.
I love making my own cocktails but I enjoy drinking them even more! This year, I’m seeking simplicity without sacrificing quality. Each Twist Your Spirits kit is carefully crafted by awarded by mixologists and includes all the tools you’ll need to create 8 delicious cocktails; you only need to provide your spirit! These are perfect for my upcoming birthday festivities. I can enjoy fun cocktails without having to engage in complicated, laborious drink making!
For today’s post I tried out the Smoke y Margarita kit. It incorporates Element’s Lemon mint shrub, Glossop’s smoked syrup, and some tart dried lemon slices for garnish. I added in a sliver tequila, and some fun lemon mint ice cubes, along with a smoked salt rim. I like that I can customize the drinks in my own way if I see fit, or simply enjoy them as is. These seemingly simple ingredients come together in perfect balanced flavor; both smoky and refreshing.
You can learn more about Twist Your Spirits and their amazing kits here.
Since I plan on taking every opportunity to indulge my craving this birthday week, I wanted to make some appetizers that reminded me think of home. I opted for delicious foods my mom would make throughout my childhood; green plantains and fried tortilla, pepper sauce, and lots of queso fresco for serving . I’m feeling a bit nostalgic and food is such a wonderful way to honor that nostalgia.
One of my favorite ways to eat plantains—particularly the green ones—was twice fried with a little salt. Tostones—also known as pacatnoes or platanos fritos depending on where you are from—are sliced green plantains, lightly fried, then smashed and fried again, until golden. They are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside and make a perfect snack or side dish.
Tortilla (yes, my family always refers to it in the singular) is a very simple type of fry bread with only two ingredients. They fry and puff up and form little interior pockets perfect for stuffing with queso fresco and hot sauce. Both dishes made constant appearances in my mom’s Nicaraguan meals!
You can serve them with a variety of condiments—in this case I made a roasted salsa and my mom’s pepper sauce. The latter is not so much a sauce as a jar of pickled accouterments. Sliced peppers, onions, and garlic cloves are tossed in a jar with vinegar and added to any dish as needed! I’m pretty sure all the women on my Mom’s side of the family have a jar of pepper sauce in the fridge. It’s delicious and simple. If you’re into to spicy pickled anything, this sauce is for you!
These Smoke y Margaritas paired perfectly with all of these lightly fried treats topped with salsa and pepper sauce. Bonus! You don’t have to be celebrating my birthday to enjoy this spread! You can totally make this for your next cocktail party with the help of any of Twist Your Spirits kits. But if you want to celebrate in honor of my birth, you can do that too!
This post was sponsored by Twist Your Spirits but all enthusiasm and sentiments are my own!
- For the Pepper Sauce*
- For a 16 oz. mason jar
- 1 ½ cups sliced peppers of choice (I used few jalapeños, a few Serrano, a few red jalapeños, and some yellow wax peppers).
- ½ cup white onions, sliced
- Whole, peeled garlic cloves, optional
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. granulated sugar
- Enough white vinegar to fill the jar
- For the Salsa
- 1 ½ lbs. tomatoes, halved & seeds removed
- 1-2 jalapeños, halved, stems and seeds removed
- 6 cloves garlic, skin on
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 1 lemon, halved
- 1 Tbsp. Olive oil
- Smoked salt
- Black pepper
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
- More lemon juice to flavor salsa
- For the Tostones and Tortilla
- Makes enough appetizers for about 8 people
- 4 green plantains
- 1 ½ cups self-rising flour** + about 1 cup water
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Smoked sea salt
- Queso fresco, for serving (not optional!)
- Avocado +lemon juice for serving, optional
- For the Drinks
- makes 8 drinks
- 1 Twist Your Spirits Smoke y Margarita Cocktail Kit
- 12 oz. tequila
- Juice from one lemon & smoked sea salt, for rimming the glasses
- Mint for garnish
- Make the Pepper Sauce
- Add peppers, onion, and garlic if using to a 16oz. mason jar.
- Fill the jar with white vinegar.
- Add in salt and sugar.
- Tightly secure lid and shake to mix.
- Keep refrigerated.
- Make the Salsa
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place tomatoes, jalapeños, garlic, onion, and lemon on a baking sheet.
- Bake for about 40 minutes.
- Place tomatoes, jalapeños, onion, cilantro, and garlic in a food processor along with juice from the roasted lemon and pulse to combine.
- Season with salt and pepper and more lemon juice if desired.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Make the Tostones
- To peel a plantain (if you’ve never done it) run a sharp knife down the length of the peel. Then carefully tear the peel away from the plantain.
- If you try to peel it like a banana, you’ll be in for a rude awakening.
- In a large pot, heat about 3 inches of vegetable oil on medium-high heat.
- Using metal tongs, fry plantains in batches, until lightly golden and they begin to soften. Then place them on a plate with paper towels to drain excess oil.
- Using a rolling pin or the bottom of a mug or glass, smash the plantains, then return to oil frying until they are dark golden in color.
- Remove and allow to drain once more, sprinkling immediately with salt.
- Make the Tortilla
- In a large bowl mix together flour and just enough water so that a shaggy ball forms. If you do add too much water, simply add in more flour.
- Sprinkle a little flour on a work surface and work the dough until a smooth ball forms.
- Roll out dough about 1/8 inch thick. Cut dough diagonally into strips and then again the opposite direction. We usually make diamond shapes but you can slice it in any direction.
- Fry tortilla in batches in the same oil you used for the plantains.
- Cook for about 1-2 minutes until golden brown, flipping once halfway through.
- Place them in a bowl lined with paper towels to drain.
- Serve Tostones and Tortilla with queso fresco, pepper sauce, roasted salsa, and avocado.
- Make the Drinks
- The best part of these kits is that they provide everything! You only need to provide the booze!
- Rim 8 tumbler glasses in lemon juice and smoked salt.
- Fill with ice cubes.
- Follow the directions on the Twist Your Spirits recipe card to make drinks.
- Garnish with provided dried lemons and some fresh mint if desired.
- *Ideally you want to make the pepper sauce 1-2 weeks ahead, otherwise the heat from the peppers won’t have time to mellow out.
- **Self-rising flour contains a little salt and baking powder in it already, which helps the tortilla puff up. So it’s just easier then using All-Purpose and having to add in extra ingredients!