Talk Like a Pirate – Eat Like a Pirate

Talk Like a Pirate – Eat Like a Pirate

All this “Talk Like a Pirate” nonsense is cracking me up. I’ve never participated in Talk Like a Pirate Day beyond making the “Rated ARRRR” movie joke, but butcher block lends itself surprisingly well to pirate lingo. Apologies to everyone I’ve forced to listen to puns about wooden legs and planks over the last few days. I’ll let Chef J take over for now, mateys!

Yo-ho, ya scurvy dogs! September 19th is National Talk Like A Pirate Day, not that I need to tell you, of course. We’ve been waiting all year for this spectacular holiday!

Talk Like a Pirate Day is a day to spend time with your family, honoring the grand tradition of using words like “scallywag” and telling people to walk the plank.

To properly uphold the legacy of the Jolly Roger there would likely be some pillaging, eating of spoiled meat, and hobbling around on peg-legs. That all sounds like little-to-no fun. Instead of doing any of that, let’s just talk funny, drink some rum, and maybe wear an eye-patch.

Try the beard-ticklin’ Cap’n Fizzy: 1 part dark rum to 2 parts Talk Like a Pirate ginger beer over ice, with a wedge of lime.

Or top 1 ounce of Goldschlager with 1 ounce of spiced rum for a Pirate’s Treasure shot.

Or for something everyone can enjoy, even in the morning, go for a classic Long John! Try to work some silver in there somewhere…

Long Johns(ilver)

  • 1 TBS dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 cups of all-purpose flour
  • Oil or shortening for frying

Combine the yeast and warm milk and let it sit until the yeast begins to bubble and foam.
Combine the sugar, shortening, salt, and boiling water and mix until the shortening has melted.
Combine remaining ingredients except flour in a mixer. Slowly mix while gradually adding the flour until the dough is smooth.
Switch to a dough hook attachment or transfer to a floured surface and knead until the dough becomes elastic.
Let the dough rest for about 10-15 minutes while you prepare the glaze.
Cut the dough into 16 equal strips, loosely cover and set in a warm place for about an hour or until they have doubled in size.
Carefully fry the dough in in small batches in 350° oil until golden brown, flipping once.
Remove from oil and allow to cool.
Top with glaze and enjoy!

 Glaze

  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp sugar

Bring the milk and butter up to a boil.
Add remaining ingredients and remove from heat.
Try adding ¼ chocolate chips or maple syrup for extra deliciousness.
Let the mixture cool and dip the top surface of each Long John.

Printer friendly recipe: Glazed Long Johns

Kick Off the NFL Season: Favorite Football Foods

Kick Off the NFL Season: Favorite Football Foods

Football season is upon us! Kick it off right with some great finger foods for your viewing parties. This week, I’d like to introduce you to my friend Sarah Buchanan (not to be confused with my other friend Sarah, who you got to hang out with a couple weeks ago!).  Sarah  is a native North Carolinian turned Southern Californian with a serious cookbook addiction. She blogs about her attempts to work through her massive cookbook collection at  Sarah Cooks the Books, where she is determined to utilize every cookbook she owns (and there are many – I’ve seen ‘em!) at least once.  So, Sarah, what kind of football food should I be making this season?

Kick Off the NFL Season: Favorite Finger Foods

by Sarah Buchanan

I’m originally from North Carolina and the beginning of football season is a big deal there. College football is the source of most of the insanity (NC State, UNC, or Duke. Your choice says everything about you.), but there’s some pretty serious love for the beginning of NFL season, too.

Basically, in North Carolina, football season was a thing to be revered. I haven’t lived in my new town for very long, but I’m going to guess that with the start of NFL season, there are football parties to be had here as well.

And the benchmark of any great football party? Great football food!

This salsa recipe isn’t the usual chunky kind you’ll often find. It’s more of a restaurant-style salsa, excellent with tortilla chips and, really, anything you usually dunk in salsa (veggie chips, baked pita chips, spoons, etc.) This was really popular at the last party I brought it to, and if you’re making apps for a large crowd, I would suggest doubling the recipe. It’s really easy to make, and one of the better salsas I’ve had. It’s the perfect football food!

The second recipe I’ll share and would recommend for any potluck is a popcorn and peanut bark. It only has three ingredients, so it’s so easy to make. A lot of food brought to football parties is of the salty variety, so these are a little bit of sweetness for the sweet-toothed among us.

So what are your favorite teams? Who do you think will go all the way this year? (Go Panthers!) And, most importantly, what is your favorite football food?

Easy Restaurant-style Salsa 

Serves 12-ish Football Food

  • ½ cup cilantro
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 whole jalapeno, diced (remove seeds and membrane before dicing if you don’t like things super hot)
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 28-oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes with juice discarded
  • 2 10-oz. cans Rotel (any variety)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ½ small lime

Combine all ingredients in a large food processor.  Depending both on how large your food processor is and how much salsa you’re making, you may need to divide the ingredients up in several batches, then mix the batches together.
Pulse the salsa until it reaches the consistency you like and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Football Food

 Popcorn and Peanut Bark

Makes 1 pound of bark

  • 14 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate
  • 3 cups freshly popped popcorn (If you use microwave popcorn, make sure it’s unsalted and unbuttered. This is best if you pop the popcorn on the stove or use an air popper.)
  • ½ cup salted peanuts
  • A pinch of salt
  • Butter, coconut oil, or olive oil for the cookie sheet Football Food

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Spray or drizzle with butter/coconut oil/olive oil to prevent sticking. (You can also just use a nonstick liner.)

Melt the chocolate by either using a double-boiler, the microwave (microwave for 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each 15 seconds), or over very low heat on the stove. My preferred method is melting it straight on the stove, but your mileage may vary. If you use this method, pay very close attention and use very low heat to avoid burning.

Add the popcorn and peanuts to the chocolate and fold the mixture until everything is evenly coated.

Scrape the mixture onto the cookie sheet and spread into a thin layer. Sprinkle salt over the top as desired.

Put the cookie sheet into the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so, or until the bark is firm. Break the bark into clusters.

Football Food

Labor Day BBQ – Perfect Beer Pairings

Labor Day BBQ – Perfect Beer Pairings

Labor Day is next Monday — are you ready to say goodbye to Summer? WE ARE! There’s no better way to bid adieu to this nasty heat than with a nice, frosty brew. As you can see in the photo, Chef J inspired me to try a few new brews myself (I even found a few treats from nearby states!). Chef J has some pairing tips for your Labor Day fest featuring some AZ local brews. We’ve got some spectacular breweries around town and I bet you do, too. Even if you can’t get these exact ones, this is a great jumping off point to try something new in your locale!  Beer me, Chef J!

It’s time to get the crew together for one of the last excuses to fire up the BBQ this season. Labor Day is upon us once again! So mow the yard, skim the pool, and scrape down the ol’ grill. I usually go into some long-winded rant about how barbequing is a great way to waste the day away with friends and family, eat too much, and drink some delicious beer; since we have covered the ins and outs of grilling and smoking, it’s time to turn our attentions toward the sweet, sweet nectar that washes it all down. Though the suds market is still almost entirely controlled by cheap, bland, mass-produced swill, there are more and more craft breweries popping up all the time. Take a look around your town and chances are you’ll find a cold, refreshing gem or two.

So get your burgers pressed, your ribs rubbed, and your chickens ready to fly — but don’t forget about the main ingredient of the classic back yard party! Here are some of my local favorites for Labor Day. They aren’t all available everywhere, but wherever you are, there is probably a tasty brew not too far away.

Whatever you decide to grill up for Labor Day, there is a perfect beer to go along!

Four Peaks Peach Ale

Last time around I went on and on about my love for peaches. Unfortunately, more often than not, fruity beers come off as overly sweet and overpowering next to anything they are served with. Four Peaks Brewing Company has managed to capture the essence of a Labor Day perfectly ripe peach without it being too strong. This golden ale is incredibly refreshing and easy to drink. It goes great with a warm day and pairs nicely with lighter foods like fruits and cheeses, though it can be a cleansing addition to a plate of spicy ribs. [Pardon the interruption, but if you are anywhere near Arizona, get thee to a Four Peaks retailer immediately and try this ale. It is fantastic! -Candice]

San Tan Devil’s Ale

San Tan Brewery has a number of great beers, ranging from everyday staples to unique special occasion brews. This is my favorite of their offerings. Devil’s Ale has a golden red color with a rich citrus flavor. It has a strong body and a hoppy taste but doesn’t overwhelm; the flavors are delicately balanced. The gentle caramel makes it a good match for either grilled pork chops for a casual dinner or a big, fat cheeseburger on a hot afternoon.

Lumberyard Red Ale

Lumberyard Brewing Company has been supplying northern Arizona with a variety of their lovingly crafted beers for 20 years now, but their Special Bitter Red Ale is their most popular — and for good reason. It is incredibly balanced and gets along nicely with a wide variety of foods; from lightly buttered shrimp to spicy brisket to picant Gorgonzola. Using crystal and caramel malts along with a tempered serving of hops, Lumberyard has managed to create a full flavored beer that won’t get in the way on a hot day.

Nimbus Pale Ale

For those who like a strong PA (and there’s at least one at every party), Nimbus has crafted a Northwestern style pale ale that is almost out of control. While this beer is very clean and refreshing, it might not be the best introduction for novices looking at pale ales for the first time. The beer is hopped four times during the brewing process and five malts are packed into each batch, making this PA very intense. While the flavor packs a punch, the bitterness can stand up to fatty, spicy meats cooked over wood or charcoal. Not for the weak of palate, but definitely recommended for those looking for something bold.

Papago Coconut Joe

For years Papago Brewing Company has been a favorite watering hole of locals because of their huge selection of bottled and tap beers from their own stash and around the world. One of my favorites is their Coconut Joe stout. Even on the warmer days, this thick coconut and coffee beer hits the spot. Though it is very dark and tastes rich, it is an easily approachable stout for those who may not usually go for dark beers. The slightly sweet coconut and roasted coffee flavors can fit in with either grilled shrimp, barbequed beef, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a grown-up summer float!

What are your plans for Labor Day? Do you have a favorite brew to go with your favorite BBQ? Let us know in the comments!

Friendship Week – Transform Dinner Parties into Brunch Parties

Friendship Week – Transform Dinner Parties into Brunch Parties

 In honor of Friendship Week, we have my friend Sarah Weber here as a guest blogger to talk to us about throwing parties! Sarah and her book club friends come up with some really clever themes and the photos are always inspiring! This week Sarah will be sharing an awesome brunch party with some great ideas to spice up your next get-together. We can always use more ideas for feeding friendships. Take it away, Sarah!

Transform Dinner Parties into Brunch Parties

by Sarah Weber

Dinner parties are one of my favorite reasons for existing. They’re a great excuse to drink copious amounts of wine, build up friendships, and taste the kind of food that’s too much trouble to make for myself on a regular basis.That being said… when you’re having and attending the same dinner party over and over, things get a little stale. Enter brunch.

A themed brunch party is a great way to strengthen friendships and let everyone show off their creativity!

Friendship

I have a wonderful group of friends who get together friendship every month or so for a fancy dinner party — we formed a book club. So we decide on a book, read the book, and bring food and drink related to or themed around the book we read. We’ve been doing this for about a year, and those parties are among my favorite memories with friends.

My good friend Amy is a high school English teacher who blogs over at The Wordy Teacher. She hosted our most recent party. We read a book called Wonder by R.J. Palacio,which her entire school is reading as a One School One Book project. The book itself, I would highly recommend — it’s a quick read, and has overarching themes of “Be a little kinder than you need to be” and “Everyone deserves a standing ovation,” which I think are great principles to live by whether you’re a high school student or an adult.

mimosas

 

We were all feeling a little bit of the dinner party blues, so decided to mix it up by making our party a brunch. We had mimosas spiked liberally with peach-mango juice, which is a great twist.

 

Our kind hostess made each of us coasters featuring friendship our own faces drawn in the style of the book’s artwork. Cute favors are a great way to make a party more interesting and personal. Coasters are easy to make cheaply, too. Pick up tiles at the hardware store along with some felt to line the bottoms, and then decorate with scrapbook paper, paint, printed photos, whatever you fancy. Don’t forget to seal them (most hardware stores also carry spray sealant) to make them waterproof.

Amy made the most adorable mini quiches using a cupcake pan and Wonder-ful blue lemonade, a friend made cupcakes decorated with elements from the book art, and I made one of my favorite easy recipes to date — a sparkling champagne jello mold studded with fresh raspberries. Isn’t friendship great? friendship

Sparkling Jello Mold

Recipe slightly modified from seriouseats.

  • 3 TBS (3 envelopes) unflavored gelatin powder
  • 1 cup cold white cranberry juice
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 granulated sugar
  • 2 cups cold champagne (I used pink champagne — it turned out a pretty pale pinkish color)
  • 6 oz. (one little clamshell) fresh raspberries

Sprinkle gelatin over cold juice in a large bowl and let stand until gelatin is hydrated, about 1 minute. Use a slightly bigger bowl than you think you’ll need if you’ve never bloomed gelatin before.

Add boiling water and stir until gelatin completely dissolves. Stir in the sugar, then slowly stir in champagne. Carefully skim any foam off the top with a large spoon and discard.

Transfer to refrigerator. Chill until thickened but not set (the gelatin should still be jiggly, not entirely firm), 1 to 2 hours. I didn’t have two full hours because I am impatient, but after about 45 minutes (up to an hour and fifteen minutes), this is pseudo-set enough to try the next part.

Spoon in enough of the gelatin mixture to just cover the bottom of a 7 cup mold.

Add more than half of your raspberries, then pour in the rest of your jello mixture slowly. This will make the berries you’ve added move around a little bit. Add the rest of your raspberries to any spots that look sparse. Make sure your raspberries are completely submerged in jello.

Chill for several hours (overnight is good).

Before serving, dip the mold into warm water for no more than 10 seconds to help release. If you’re feeling brave, run warm water on the sides of the mold while you’re holding it, being careful not to get water in the jello mold.

Place a large serving platter upside-down over the mold. Holding both the mold and the platter firmly, invert. Gently shake mold to release Jell-O. Serve immediately.

This is a grown-up jello shot that you won’t even feel bad about bringing to a fancy grown-up party. It’s crisp and bubbly-tasting from the champagne, while the raspberries and cranberry juice give it a sweet and slightly tart flavor that is very refreshing in between mini quiches and hummus. The six of us easily ate an entire jello mold, with no leftovers.

Simplify Your Life Week: Smoothie Edition

Simplify Your Life Week: Smoothie Edition

National Simplify Your Life Week is August 1st through the 7th. I am all about simplifying my life (because I’m lazy, not because I’m organized…), and I want to share a couple of tips with you about one of my favorite things: SMOOTHIES! I love smoothies and so does my son, so we go through a lot of fruit and yogurt. Unfortunately, I was finding that we didn’t go through it quickly enough to use it all up before it went bad, so we were also throwing away quite a bit. I would justify this to myself with the fact that I had saved money by buying in bulk (so it was still cheaper than it would have been in an appropriate quantity from the grocery store), but wasting food just doesn’t feel good. So I started playing around with different ways to freeze and store my ingredients, and I think I have a pretty solid system working here. What’s more, I am now able to easily sneak vegetables into my son’s smoothies without him having a clue. Every time in the past that I tried to get him to eat a smoothie containing a handful of spinach, he would take one sip and act like I had given him poison. Now he doesn’t have a clue it’s in there and happily gulps down his healthy smoothie as a treat every day!

Simplify YOUR smoothie game with these tips!

Shopping Tips:

  • Purchase in bulk only items that can be easily frozen and stored or that you know you will be able to use in about a week.
  • Avoid buying pre-frozen fruits that contain added sugars. You want to be able to control the sweetness level and the types of sugars you are eating.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new. One of my favorite finds recently was juicy black cherries. Cherries are usually on the pricy side, but I found some fresh ones on sale and brought home a couple pounds, and I am so glad!

Spinach and other leafy greens:

  • Wash fresh greens thoroughly.
  • Add 1-2 cups of your preferred liquid (I use water, but coconut water is a good way to sneak in some extra nutrients) to your blender and top with a couple handfuls of greens. Simplify your Life
  • Blend on high and continue adding greens in small handfuls until your blender can’t handle any more. You don’t need this to be super watery, but it needs to be thin enough to pour. If you have a monster blender like I do, you’re going to basically be dealing with straight up liquid anyway. Working in smallish batches will simplify this process.
  • Pour your liquid greens into ice cube trays and freeze solid.
  • Empty your beautiful emerald cubes into airtight containers or zipper bags and store in the freezer.
  • Sneak one or two cubes into your kid’s smoothie when he’s not looking and laugh maniacally (on the inside) at your devious ways.

Fresh Fruits:

  • Wash/dry/peel as appropriate.
  • Cut into small chunks.
  • Line a tray with parchment paper and spread fruit pieces in a single layer.
  • Freeze solid.
  • Transfer to airtight containers or zipper bags and store in freezer.

Liquids:

  • Some liquids, like carrot juice, you just won’t go through fast enough to keep in the fridge. I buy the case of 3 bottles of organic carrot juice from Costco, and each one is supposed to be used within 7 days of opening. That’s not happening here. There are only a couple different smoothies I even like it in, and I am certainly not drinking them every day.
  • Freeze some or all in ice cube trays and then store in zipper bags or airtight containers. Most ice cube trays hold ¾ to 1 oz. per cube, so keep that in mind when you go to use them.
  • Some liquids are best left in their liquid state, such as almond and soy milks. Also, you’re going to need something in liquid form to even make your smoothie, so pick the ones that you will be able to go through before expiration. I like the cartons of almond milk because I use it in my coffee as well as smoothies, so I can easily use it up before it goes bad. Other things, like regular fruit juice, I have in the fridge anyway because my son drinks it.

Miscellaneous Tips:

  • Always put your liquids in first. I do: liquid, yogurt (silken tofu is good for a protein boost, too), spices/seeds/sticky stuff (like cinnamon, flax seed, honey or peanut butter), frozen fruits/vegetables, fresh leafy greens if I’m using them. Add more liquid in small amounts if your blender locks up.
  • Start out on a medium low setting and work your way up to full power. In the Vita-Mix, I can knock out a smoothie in about 30 seconds, but experiment slowly with your blender so you don’t burn out the motor.
  • To clean your blender, rinse it out thoroughly, add a drop of dish soap and a cup or two of hot water, then blend (with the lid on!) for 30-45 seconds on high. Rinse again with hot water and you’re all set for next time!
  • Designate a specific ice cube tray to carrot juice if you plan on freezing it. That stuff remains a sticky, staining mess even after it is frozen!
  • Simplify your life even more by portioning out ingredients for single smoothies into small zipper bags. Include everything but the liquids and fresh ingredients and you’ll be start to finish in about one minute!

This is how I make the sneaky smoothie for my son:

Berry Sneaky Smoothie Simplify your lIfe

  • 1 cup juice (usually grape)
  • ½ cup yogurt (plain, honey, or whatever is in the fridge)
  • 1 tsp. flax seeds
  • 1-2 spinach ice cubes
  • ½ of one banana, in frozen chunks
  • ½ cup frozen mixed berries
  • ½ of one apple, fresh or frozen

Add ingredients to blender in order listed. This is important because you need to hide the spinach in case your kid walks in on you. Starting on medium low and working up to high power, blend until you can’t tell there is spinach in there, 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on blender strength.

 

Peach Season! How to Pick the Perfect Peach

Peach Season! How to Pick the Perfect Peach

 Peaches are now in season and we couldn’t be happier! Do you know how to pick the perfect peach? Chef J has some great tips to help you out.

Do you know the teaches of peaches? Peaches are second only to apples in the U.S. We love ‘em and we grow a lot of ‘em. This rockin’ rock fruit grows all over the country, and the world, but they do best in warm climates. The sweltering summer months (which I have complained about extensively) are the perfect time for peach picking. So far, my tree has produced three. It’s still young, but I’m impatient, so I must go forth into the world to purchase my perfect peaches. Lucky for me, Arizona grows some of the most delicious golden globes! This means I can get my goodies closer to where they came from — so they can stay on the tree longer and travel less distance.

Peaches will continue to ripen after they have been picked, but the sugar only develops while they are attached — so the longer they can hang around in the sunshine, the sweeter they will be.

When you are searching for that perfect peach to take home, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Look
Keep an eye out for dark bruises, blemishes, or holes. You want lots of yellow, red, orange, and pink when perusing peach pigments — stay away from shades of green! Try to pick fruits with a well-defined cleft; you know, the peach “butt” — this indicates the fruit had a good life on the branch.

Touch
Ideally, you want a peach that is firm but yielding. Like many things in life, a good peach will be supple but grow soft and mushy over time. It will continue to ripen and get softer, so a peach that is a little on the hard side might be good if you are not going to use it for a couple of days, while a softer one will probably be a bit sweeter and would work well in a cobbler.  A firmer peach is great for grilling — burning the peach just a bit gives it a nice smoky, caramelized flavor that goes well with vanilla ice cream, pork chops, and bourbon!

Smell
The smell of a ripe peach is intoxicating. It may be harder to find that sensual summer scent in the supermarket, but you should follow your nose to the most fragrant fruit available. A peach with no aroma is a peach with no flavor, and that’s really no peach at all!

Listen
Just kidding, peaches don’t talk. I don’t care what the banana says. Once you have your peaches you can do whatever you want; it doesn’t matter to me. They’re your peaches. But I like to keep them out on the counter where they can get some air. Keeping them locked up in a bag will cause them to soften rather quickly — so do that if they are too hard. If you find that you have more peaches than you can deal with, cut them up and freeze them. You can add some citrus juice to keep them from browning, but they will be fine for a couple months as long as they are in an airtight container. I load up at the end of the season, chop them up, and pack them into 2 cup portions in zipper bags. Then it’s quick and easy to thaw them out into the fall and winter when I’m feeling peachy.

 

Meatless Monday, Leftovers Tuesday: Pasta w/ Grilled Veggies

Meatless Monday, Leftovers Tuesday: Pasta w/ Grilled Veggies

Meatless Monday is a popular movement that my family has participated in for quite some time. We don’t eat a ton of meat to begin with, but carving out Mondays as being specifically meatless is a good reminder to examine the impact we have on our environment and the farming industry. When we first started being intentional with our Monday meals, we went gung-ho experimenting with new vegetarian recipes. With each passing week, we built up our repertoire of meatless recipes, which carried over into the rest of the week as we found more vegetarian dishes we liked. After a while, though, I got lazy and we ate a lot of spaghetti. Sometimes I mixed it up and used penne, but it got pretty sad in my kitchen.

A few months ago I decided to stop being such a loser in the kitchen and actually cook something. With vegetables. And effort. And, yeah, pasta. I was going for baby steps, okay! Because I am terrible at meal-planning and grocery shopping, I stared into my fridge and pantry for a while before settling on a small pile of ingredients that seemed like they’d like each other. Not only did they like each other, I liked them, too! A lot. I liked them even better cold the next day.

Allow me to introduce you to my new go-to Meatless Monday meal, which conveniently doubles as Tuesday’s lunch.

This easy pasta dish tastes great at all temperatures and can be customized to your liking. Try adding eggplant and roasted tomatoes or using feta instead of mozzarella. One of my favorite lunches, in fact, is to throw a handful of feta in with the cold dish and sprinkle with olive oil and lemon juice (or red wine vinegar); it makes a bright and refreshing summer lunch!

Honey Pasta with Grilled Veggies

Serves 2-3 as a main course; 4-6 as a side. Double the recipe for lunchtime leftovers.

  • ½ lb. pasta, cooked (I prefer rotini, but anything similar will do) Meatless Monday
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow squash, thinly sliced
  • Any other grillable veggies you like, thinly sliced
  • ½ yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp of your favorite dried herbs (I just use Herbes de Provence)
  • Olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 TBS honey
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese (get the good kind), roughly chopped or torn

Coat all your sliced veggies in olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dried herbs. Grill over medium-high heat for a couple minutes on each side until tender and sporting sexy grill marks (they’re like tan lines for vegetables). I usually use a grill pan rather than an outdoor grill, but you should go with whatever method you prefer. Set your grilled veggies aside and let them cool slightly while you get the onions going.

In a large, oiled sauté pan over medium-high heat, cook onions until they just start to brown. While the onions are cooking, give your grilled veggies a rough chop.

Meatless Monday

Can you smell this?!

Throw your basil in with the onions and sauté for a minute or two. Add the grilled veggies to the pan. Mix the lemon juice and honey together with a fork and pour into pan, followed by the cooked pasta.  Stir gently until everything is warmed through. Season to taste. I love this with a lot of salt, but go slowly — it is very easy to go from “just right” to “OH NO!”

Serve hot, room temperature, or cold. Sprinkle with mozzarella just before serving.

Store leftovers in single portion containers for a quick and easy lunch the next day. Meatless Monday

Printer friendly recipe: Meatless Monday Honey Pasta

No-Cook Meals – Chill Out With This Cool Summer Salad

No-Cook Meals – Chill Out With This Cool Summer Salad

 No-cook meals are the way to go when the temperature skyrockets and the humidity leaves you in a crying, sticky heap on the floor (that’s not just me, right?).  Chef J has you covered with this super summer salad. Customize it to your tastes and use as a side or the main course. Pick up a loaf of bread on your way home from work and call it a night. No-cook meals could very well save my sanity this summer, so thanks, Chef J!

This town is too hot! So instead of cooking, we’re just going to throw some stuff together, grab a beer (or glass of white wine with an ice cube…), and plop down on the couch. Turn down the AC and crank up the Netflix — we’re chilling out with a cold salad! The kids still say “chilling out,” right? Never mind; I don’t care what the kids are saying these days.

You can add some grilled chicken, salmon, or shrimp to the mix if you would like. You can also throw in some avocado if you can find some good ones at the market. Or toss everything together and wrap it up in a tortilla so you can eat it in the car. This salad is great with whatever fruit you have growing on your tree or a handful of fresh berries; just don’t over-think it. Be cool!

No-cook meals are all about being cool.

Summer Salad

Makes two large or four small portions.

  • 4 big handfuls of salad greens No-Cook Meals Sumemr Salad
  • 1 cup of cubed watermelon, save the juice
  • ½ of a white nectarine, sliced
  • ½ of an English cucumber, sliced
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 2 TBS chopped parsley
  • 2 TBS chopped basil

Vinaigrette:

  • 2 oz. watermelon juice
  • 2 TBS pink lemonade
  • 2 TBS vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • a pinch of salt & white pepper

Whisk all ingredients together until emulsified.

Season to taste.

Arrange everything so that it looks pretty or just toss it together. Serve it with plenty of air conditioning and maybe a light, citrusy summer ale.

Printer friendly recipe: No-Cook Meals

Celebrating Sustainable Seafood – Shrimp & Chorizo on Grits

Celebrating Sustainable Seafood – Shrimp & Chorizo on Grits

There is nothing quite like seafood in the summer — it’s so light and fresh, it just makes the heat a little more bearable! Chef J has some wise words on using sustainable seafood, and is also willing to share a wonderful recipe with us. As always — thanks, Chef J!

If you would like to jump into a contentious issue, as I always do, investigate the ins and outs of sustainable seafood. The effects of fishing have far-reaching implications, and unfortunately, here in my neck of the woods they are often neglected or unknown. My neck of the woods happens to be in the middle of the desert — so the only bodies of water out here are over-chlorinated swimming pools and smelly canals… But that’s no excuse for not knowing where one’s food comes from!

The results of over-fishing can be felt all over the world; with prices skyrocketing, supplies dwindling, and ecosystems crumbling,  there has never been a more urgent time to look into ways to sustainably provide food while taking into account the fragility of the resources we use.

In other words: look before you eat. Just like with any kind of food, you should be aware of where it comes from and what it took to produce it. If you like tuna, pay attention to how it gets to you — because realistically, you probably won’t be eating it in 10 to 15 years.

There is a loud debate over farm raised versus wild caught aquatic cuisine; it’s not black and white, there is no unifying theory, and people can’t or won’t agree on a lot of the details. Such is life. But, you can look a bit deeper into the food that you purchase and consume, and that’s always a good thing. Here in Arizona we have access to lots of seafood; some good, more bad — but the options for eating sustainable seafood are available. I won’t go into details that I can’t properly explain and that you probably don’t want to hear, but if you care about the earth and stuff, you should take a look at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

For this simple recipe, we are using farmed, U.S. shrimps.

Shrimp & Chorizo on Grits

  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup coarsely ground grits (white or yellow- whatever floats your boat)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • 2 oz. butter
  • 2 cups shredded Oaxaca cheese

Bring the milk to a simmer.
Stir in the grits and spices.
Let it cook until it’s done. That sounds vague, but depending on how coarse the grits are it could take anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes. Go with the instructions on the bag.
When the grits are soft, remove them from the heat and stir in the butter, then cheese.
Season to taste.

  • 1 TBS butter
  • 6 oz. raw chorizo sausage, loose
  • 1 lb. raw shrimp
  • 6 scallions, sliced- separate the greens and whites
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground chipotle
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 TBS chopped cilantro

Melt the butter in a sauté pan and add the chorizo and white part of scallions.
Cook for 5-6 minutes until the chorizo is done.
Add the shrimp and spices, cook for 2 minutes.
Add the lime juice and remove from heat. Stir vigorously to emulsify.
Pour the shrimp and chorizo over the grits and top with green scallions and cilantro.

Printer friendly recipe: Celebrating Sustainable Seafood

You’ll Scream for this Easy Homemade Ice Cream

You’ll Scream for this Easy Homemade Ice Cream

We are celebrating Dessert Week, and I enlisted my friend Alicia to blog her favorite dessert this time of year, homemade ice cream.  You may recall, she is the one who made me my delish Amaretto Spice Cupcakes for my birthday.  Enjoy.

The summer heat always gets me in the mood for a cold, sweet dessert and I was inspired recently after watching a few cooking shows to try making homemade ice cream. This easy recipe is a perfect cure for an ice cream craving and will have you saying, “more please” in no time at all! The plus side is that you know each and every ingredient you are using and can create a flavor all your own.

Since there is no ice cream maker needed, anyone can enjoy the taste of homemade ice cream with just a mixer and a little imagination.

Base Ingredients:

  • 1 – 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 – 16 oz. carton of whipping cream

Ready. Set. Whip!

Whip the condensed milk and whipping cream in a large bowl with a stand or hand mixer until it looks like whipped cream. That’s your homemade ice cream base.

Flavor Ingredients:

  • Mint Chocolate Chip - Add chopped chocolate and 3 to 4 capfuls of peppermint extract to taste.
  •  Java Chip – Add 2 tbsp of espresso powder & chocolate chips to the base.
  • Rocky Road – Mix in a packet or 2 of hot cocoa mix & marshmallows.

Try your favorite fruit, chocolate, or be courageous and add some French toast to your homemade ice cream. You never know where your imagination might take your taste buds.

Freeze. Eat. Enjoy!

The possibilities are endless and the best part is that you control exactly what you’re eating. I recently gifted some homemade ice cream to my son’s preschool teachers. You can purchase ice cream containers at a local cooking store and fill them with a custom flavor. Get creative with a custom name, and anyone who receives this sweet gift will be gleeful. Homemade Ice Cream Alicia

Alicia’s Homemade Ice Cream

-Alicia Thompson is a working mom who dabbles in the kitchen and has a serious sweet tooth. For more reads, follow her at @omg_imsoexcited and read her blog at www.ohmygoshimsoexcited.wordpress.com