Happy Happy Hour: Sparkling Strawberry Sangria & Cheddar Cheese “Cookie” Stars

Sparkling Strawberry Sangria

Dana’s Sparkling Strawberry Sangria (love this presentation!)

I don’t normally post “Happy Happy Hour” this early in the week but since America’s birthday falls at the middle of the week this year, I wanted to share a summer cocktail and an appetizer recipe that couldn’t be more perfect for firework watching and beyond this summer… Sparkling Strawberry Sangria & Cheddar Cheese “Cookie” Stars!

Dana in the best apron ever!

Meet Dana (wearing the best apron ever)!

For this post we have a guest recipe maker… I met Dana a couple of weeks back, at a photo shoot I was hired to style at Elk Studios. Other then her usual job as Director of Operations, this particular day she had also taken on the duty of cocktail and appetizer chef as they were hosting a cocktail party that evening. Needless to say, I was totally in her business and demanded her recipes ASAP!

Strawberries being cut

Could strawberries be any more glorious than at this time of year?

Pitcher of Strawberry Sangria

Not only is this sangria delish, but its also beautiful… look at those colors!

Sparkling Strawberry Sangria with Lime and Basil:
Makes one generous pitcher full: about 10 to 12 cocktails
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:
• 2 Pints of fresh strawberries
• 1/2 cup agave
• 1 bottle dry white wine
• 1 bottle sparkling rose wine (I used prosecco)
• 1 orange, thinly sliced (or two peaches)
• 1 lime, thinly sliced
• 6 to 12 ounces sparkling water
• Basil leaves (or mint leaves if you prefer)

Instructions:
1. Reserve a few smaller whole strawberries for garnish then hull, slice and macerate the rest using one tablespoon of honey and one tablespoon of sugar (if your strawberries are amazing like mine were, you can cut some of the sugar). Let strawberries and sugar marinate for an hour.
2. Combine all the ingredients except the basil, sparkling wine and sparkling water, mixing with a wood spoon and mashing up a few of the strawberries in the liquid. Refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours (or overnight) prior to serving.
3. Before serving add in the bottle of chilled sparkling wine and sparkling water to taste (recipe calls for 12 oz but I only used about 6 oz). Stir in 1/4 C chopped fresh basil (I love a chiffonade “chop” here but tearing the leaves is also beautiful and rustic). Mix and serve cold or over ice with a fresh strawberry garnish.

Glass of sparkling strawberry sangria

Sparkling strawberry sangria with basil (I’m not a huge fan of mint but you can use one or the other or both!)

Strawberry sangria by the glass

It’s also simple to pair down this Strawberry Sangria recipe… The next day I used a few leftover strawberries and fruit and mixed up 2 cocktails right in the glasses we drank them from!

I don’t think Dana will mind but as a cookie maker I had to make a slight adjustment to this appetizer recipe. While cheese straws are totes delish, once I saw the cheese dough ball, I could not pass up the opportunity to make these into a festive shape…

Dana's cheese straws

For the perfect appetizer pairing with sparkling strawberry sangria, look no further than these cheddar cheese straws or…

SDB Cheddar Cheese Star Cookies

Cheddar Cheese Stars!

Cheese Stars or Straws:
Makes approx. 35 mixed size stars (I used a mix of 1.5″, 2.5″ and 3″ star cookie cutters)
adapted from the Lee Brothers

1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (I used white cheddar but it looks like Dana’s cheddar was yellow- love both looks!)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (note: these are spicy! cut the pepper if you prefer less hotness)
1 tablespoon cream or half-and-half

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper in five 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the half-and-half and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.
3. Using parchment paper, plastic wrap and a rolling pin, place the dough on the parchment paper and cover it with plastic wrap. Roll the dough through the plastic into an 8- by 10-inch rectangle that is 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife (or a pizza or pastry wheel), cut the dough into thin 8-inch strips, each 1/4- to 1/3-inch wide (dipping the knife in flour after every few inches ensures a clean cut). If using cookie cutters, cut out shapes using star cutters. Chill dough for 5 minutes in the freezer between cutting and baking to reserve shape, then re arrange on sheet, leaving at least 1/4-inch between them.
4. Bake the stars on the middle rack for 10 to 12 minutes. If making straws, 12 to 15 minutes… or until the edges are barely browned. Remove from the oven let cool.
5. Serve at room temperature.

My favorite note from this recipe from Dana? ‘Cheese stars will keep in the refrigerator, in a sealed container, for two days… but, they will not even last an hour at your party!’

Thanks to Dana for spreading the recipe love! Have a beautiful and delicious 4th! Happy happy hour!  Xo Dani