The best Champagnes for Christmas and New Years Eve

Bubbly tips to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year! Cheers!

The Wine Wankers

At this time of year, Champagne is your best friend!  It helps you survive the office Christmas party, the tension fuelled family get-togethers and finally the chiming in of the New Year.  Choosing the wrong Champagne, or indeed ‘sparkling wine’, could be a recipe for disaster – thankfully the Wine Wankers are here to set you straight! 

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Loving Autumn Apples + Fresh Appletini’s + The Best Fresh Apple Cake!


Welcome Autumn!  I am ready to celebrate the foods of Autumn, beginning with apples.


Apple Parmesan Peach Appetizer Spoons

10 appetizer spoon servings


3 Parmesan crisps

1/3 Gala apple, chopped fine

1/4 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons peach balsamic vinegar (I like Oliveto brand for this recipe)

6 macadamia nuts, chopped

Place the chopped apple in a bowl and pour orange juice over the apples. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place bowl in refrigerator.  Break Parmesan crisps into small pieces and place the pieces in the 10 appetizer spoons.  In a small bowl mix together honey and peach balsamic vinegar.

Remove apple from refrigerator and place apple pieces on top of the Parmesan crisp pieces.  Drizzle the honey and balsamic vinegar mixture over the apples.  Sprinkle macadamia nuts on top of the apples.

Keep Apples From Turning Brown

The trick to keeping apples from turning brown is to limit oxygen exposure to the cut surface of the apple.  Place orange juice mixed with honey (2 tablespoons honey to one cup orange juice) next to the cutting board as you are slicing the apples. There is a compound in honey that stops the enzyme responsible for oxidation.   Dip any cut surface of the apple into the orange juice mixture immediately. Immerse apple slices in the orange juice mixture and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

 apples greenapples red

apple martini

Fresh Appletini

(It takes a couple of days for the apple and cinnamon stick to infuse the vodka, but definitely worth the wait!)

2 “tini’s”

Chill martini glasses in freezer prior to serving

Place 1 cup vodka, 2 cinnamon sticks and 1 Honeycrisp apple, cored and cut into slices in a glass pitcher. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit in the refrigerator for 2 days.

Place 4 ounces of  the cinnamon apple infused vodka in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Add 1 ounce triple sec.  Shake vigorously.  Strain infused vodka into two martini glasses. Top each martini with chilled Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider. Garnish with apple slice and cinnamon stick.


Apple Cider in Apple Heaven

We are in the center of “Apple Heaven” in Roanoke Virginia.  It’s always a treat to sip on hard apple cider in autumn.  I asked my “twenty-something” niece for recommendations on Virginia hard cider because cider is her beverage of choice and she recommended:  Bold Rock ~ simple, delicious, and local (Charlottesville) and Woodchuck ~ amber flavor with wonderful sweetness, tastes natural and it’s gluten-free.


Sandy’s Fresh Apple Cake

This recipe was generously shared by my bubbly friend Sandy who is a wonderful cook and a fabulous cake baker!  She mentioned that all ovens vary so to watch the cake carefully, it may not take as long to bake in your oven. She also advised  that a knife should not “come out clean” when baking a cake, but it should have a little of the moistness of the cake batter on it…if the knife comes out clean then the cake will be dry.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease and flour tube pan.

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 cups plain flour

3 cups diced (Granny Smith) apples

1 cup coconut (optional)

Place oil and sugar in mixing bowl and blend with mixer.  Add eggs one at a time, beating as added.  Add salt, soda, cinnamon and vanilla.  Add flour, one cup at a time, stirring to combine and then fold in apples and coconut.  Bake in tube pan that has been greased and floured.  Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Ovens vary in temperature so watch the cake carefully.


In a large sauce pan combine 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 teaspoon  baking soda.  Bring to a rapid boil stirring constantly (about 2 minutes).

Pour over cake while still in cake pan.  Run a knife around pan to make sure sauce seeps down sides and around hole in the middle.  May have to wait for sauce to seep into cake.

Let cake cool in pan 1 hour and a half before turning out onto a cake plate. Let cool 2 to 3 hours. Enjoy!

Roanoke, VA ~ Dr Pepper Capital of the World

Dr Pepper wallpaper 1Dr Pepper wallpaper 1

I’m a Pepper, he’s a Pepper, she’s a Pepper, we’re a Pepper! Would you like to be a Pepper too?   Here’s a link to this 1970’s Dr Pepper commercial that includes this “Pepper song” proving that my generation is the coolest generation ?!

The commercial featured David Naughton, but Dr Pepper ended its relationship with Naughton after he appeared nude in An American Werewolf in London. (according to Wikipedia)

dr pepper photo

From the brand that has always celebrated its originality, here is the original Dr. Pepper. Dr. Charles T. Pepper was born in Montgomery County, Virginia, in 1830.  That’s right, the man that this delicious drink is named after is from right here in Virginia!  He later earned a medical degree from the University of Virginia and served as a surgeon for the Confederacy in the Civil War.  After the war, Pepper settled with his family in the town of Rural Retreat, where he practiced medicine and opened Dr. Pepper’s Drug Store. According to legend, it was there where he employed Wade Morrison, who would later become  the co-founder of Dr Pepper.

The period (full stop) after “Dr” in the Dr Pepper logo was discarded for stylistic and legibility reasons in the 1950s.

dr pepper logo

Dr Pepper beef

Appetizer Pictured above:  Skewered Dr Pepper Glazed Pearl Onions and Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Sauce

Makes 30 appetizers

Dr Pepper Glazed Pearl Onions:

12 ounces Dr Pepper

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup white vinegar

2 tablespoons lime juice

30 small pearl onions, peeled according to package directions

Combine Dr Pepper and soy sauce in a sauce pan and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes to reduce the liquid by half.  Remove from heat and add vinegar and lime juice.  Stir to combine.  Pour the liquid over the pearl onions. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.

For the beef tenderloin cubes:

3/4 pound beef tenderloin

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped fine

1/2 tablespoon black pepper

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Cut the beef tenderloin into 1 inch cubes and place in a bowl.

Combine salt, pepper, garlic and butter. Pour butter mixture over the beef cubes and toss to combine.

Evenly spread the coated beef cubes on a baking sheet. Broil beef cubes until the cubes are cooked to desired doneness (3 to 5 minutes).

Skewer a pearl onion and a beef cube on a small bamboo skewer. Repeat until all pearl onions and beef cubes are used.

Horseradish Sauce:

Mix 1/2 cup mayonnaise with 1/2 cup sour cream. Add 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish and stir to combine. Chill sauce until service.

Serve the skewers on a platter with the horseradish sauce for dipping.

cherry dr pepper

Here’s a recipe for Outrageous Cherry Dr Pepper Cake from The Slow Roasted Italian:

Dr Pepper bottles with metal caps

Saturday Session – Saturday afternoon my father would bring home a case of Dr Pepper (glass bottles with the metal pop tops). He was the Producer/Director at WDBJ 7 – the CBS affiliate that produced Saturday Session sponsored by Dr Pepper. We loved this special treat!

Downtown Roanoke

Roanoke, Virginia, Dr Pepper capital of the world.

Dr Pepper Sign

Enjoy Dr Pepper at 10 o’clock, 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock!

From the Highly Unofficial Dr Pepper website (

“Drink a bite to eat at 10, 2, and 4 o’clock,” was the slogan for an ad campaign for Dr. Pepper that began in 1927.  A study that year authored by a Dr. Walter H. Eddy “found that human energy dropped to its lowest point at 10:30am, at 2:30pm and again at 4:30pm daily.” J.B. O’Hara of Dr. Pepper asked Tracy-Locke-Dawson Inc. (an ad agency), to design a campaign around that information. The agency held a contest, and Earle Racey, one of their copywriters, won with his “10-2-4” idea–the idea being that drinking the sugary, caffeinated soda at 10am, 2pm, and 4pm would perk you up and get you through those impending energy drops a half-hour later. The slogan has endured in one form or another ever since.

Dr Pepper Park

…in Roanoke, Virginia…a fun place to be…

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Falling in Love with Food Tours!

Today I fell in love with my hometown, Roanoke, Virginia all over again by taking The Historic Downtown Roanoke Food and Cultural Tour.


My culinary crush began at “The Grand Old Lady” Hotel Roanoke (pictured above) where we were served their  legendary peanut soup and spoon bread pictured below.


As we proceeded on our tour our lovely and lively guide Amelia made good on her promise to combine the vibrancy of downtown Roanoke, its colorful past, plus our city’s impressive food culture into a unique experience.

downtown roanoke lebanease

Our next stop was Cedars Lebanese Restaurant where we enjoyed Sambousek (meat pies) served over Tabouleh. When we entered this restaurant we were greeted with warm aromas of lemon and Mediterranean spices. I will definitely frequent this restaurant using one of the coupons that was generously included in our tour pamphlet.

event_435462230Imagine our delight when we stumbled upon the Southwest Virginia Ballet in costume for the Cinderella! The photograph above (that’s our fabulous tour guide Amelia on the far right front) was taken by at the Taubman Museum.


In between Taubman Museum and Billy’s Restaurant sits Appalachian Press (beautiful assortment of printed greeting cards available here).  This location was originally Ferris Grocery Store (note the name on the front step).


Billy’s Restaurant was an all-around favorite with our group.  We wet our whistles with Devil’s Backbone award-winning Vienna Lager.  Then we enjoyed Billy’s signature Shrimp and Grits (pictured above). This dish is made even more remarkable with a local twist ~ bits of Smithfield Ham!

At this point we were getting pleasantly full, not only with food, but historical information about Roanoke.  Since I am a native Roanoker, I was surprised to learn so many “new to me” tidbits of information about Roanoke.


 Our next stop was Firefly Restaurant located in the historical Downtown Roanoke Market Building. We were treated to Curried Chicken Mango Salad (pictured above). Firefly locally sources many of their ingredients.  They have an awesome juice bar!



 When my parents moved to Roanoke in 1952 their favorite (and actually only “fast food” choice) place to get a hamburger was the Texas Tavern. Fast forward 63 years and we are still enjoying this little gem of a restaurant which was also on our tour.


The Little Green Hive delighted us with strawberry, mango and banana smoothie samples.


 Our last restaurant stop on the tour was On the Rise Bakery and Restaurant where we enjoyed fresh coconut cake…yum!


Roanoke, Virginia, Star City of the South

The Historic Downtown Roanoke Food and Cultural Tour

order tickets from:


questions? call 540-309-1781



Photos from our fabulous Downtown Roanoke Market ~ lettuce plants and herbs are starting to “sprout” all over the market!

Looking forward to attending these tours too:

Historic Downtown Roanoke Sunday Brunch Tour

Roanoke Craft Beer Tour

Blue Ridge Wine Tour

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