Posted in daily, recipe, salad, vegetable

Creamy Cucumber Salad

This salad has been a staple in my family for years during the steamy months of summer, especially when dad’s garden had a plethora of cucumbers. It’s simple enough to throw together in a pinch, and the sweet/tangy flavors make it a great accompaniment to almost anything. 

Five ingredients. Could this salad BE any easier?

Mix your dressing together first: Mayo, vinegar, a touch of sugar, salt, and pepper. Start will small(er) amounts. Whisk whisk whisk. Taste. If it’s too sweet, add a touch more vinegar. Too much vinegar? Add a bit more mayo. Taste again. Perfect.

Peel and slice cucumbers. I removed the seeds because I think they give me the burps. You can leave them in, though. Most people do.

Cut a red onion in half, remove the root end, slice in three lengthwise, then slice across thinly.

Toss cucumber and onion in the bowl with the dressing. Stir to combine and place in fridge for at least an hour to allow flavors to combine.

A tip: Don’t make a huge batch of this and expect to eat it all week. I don’t think it keeps very well past a day or two.

Creamy Cucumber Salad

  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced. (Seeds removed, if preferred)
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly.
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 TBS granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Whisk thoroughly. Taste and adjust as needed. Toss cucumber and onion with dressing and stir to combine. Place in refrigerator for at least an hour to allow flavors to combine, and serve.

Someone pass the barbecued chicken thighs.

Posted in Cocktail Friday, daily, drinks, recipe

Cocktail Friday: Drunk Arnold Palmer

This drink started out the same way as many do – take a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage and say, “You know what would make this better? BOOZE.”

I loved Arnold Palmers before I knew that’s what they were called. Half Iced tea, half lemonade, all tasty. Tart, sweet, and refreshing, it’s perfect for a lazy late summer afternoon. When you add whiskey? Even better.

You can make this drink according to your own level of taste/laziness/time availability. Make it all from scratch, buy the tea and lemonade pre-made, buy powered mixes for one or the other or both (though that might be a tad too sweet), or do a combination of any of the above.

For this one, I decided on the scratch method all the way. I started with a batch of sun tea. Pour four cups of water into a pitcher, add twelve tea bags, and set the pitcher outside in the sun for a good hour. Remove the tea bags (squeeze the excess water out), add four more cups of water, and refrigerate.

I didn’t make an entire pitcher of lemonade in deference to the lack of available space in my refrigerator, so I just made a small amount in my shaker before adding my tea. Pour 2 oz lemon juice in a shaker, followed by the same amount of cold water. Stir in 1 TB simple syrup (more if you like it sweet). Follow with 4 oz iced tea. Add 1-2 oz Honey Whiskey (or any whiskey you prefer) and ice. Shake for a few seconds, pour and serve.

Drunk Arnold Palmer

  • 4 oz iced tea
  • 4 oz lemonade
  • 1 Tb simple syrup (or to taste)
  • 1-2 oz Jack Daniel’s Honey Whiskey

Pour all ingredients into a shaker, add ice. Shake, pour, and serve.

It’s obviously easier to just make one pitcher each of lemonade and iced tea and make each drink as needed. Or you could make an entire pitcher of these at once. Just be sure my invite doesn’t get lost in the mail.

Posted in daily, food, recipe, vegetable

“Aw, Shucks”-Style Spicy Parmesan Roasted Corn

Midweek, Musikfest 2015. Is anyone else exhausted yet? And I’ve only been there twice so far!

I blame work, as per my usual. This past weekend wasn’t too bad but Friday and Monday were busy busy busy. And as of 6 pm Monday I went right into “Do ALL The Things!” Vacation Mode, so I haven’t given myself a minute to relax and breathe. I slept in a bit this morning, and plan on heading to my parents’ this afternoon for some pool time and dinner. I’ll most likely skip ‘Festing tonight to save my energy for the rest of the week, including the Snoop Dogg show Saturday night.

When people talk about Musikfest, the conversation quickly goes from the big paid acts to all the amazing free acts to the beer to the food. Oh so much food. There’s succulent shish kabobs, tasty tacos, stuffed pretzels bigger than your head, ice cream sundaes bigger than your car, pickles on sticks, and – brand new this year! – fried butter. (Yes I tried it. Just a small bite. It was as horrible as you’d imagine.) But one of the foodie favorites of ‘Fest by far is Aw Shucks corn on the cob. Sweet corn on the cob, roasted over an open flame, dipped in melted butter, sprinkled liberally with a kicky southwestern spice mix and covered in parmesan cheese. There’s not enough adjectives to describe how freaking good this corn is. Everywhere around Musikfest you’ll see people walking around, ear of corn in one hand, light-up beer mug in the other, butter and spices covering their blissful faces.

Or maybe that’s just me.

In the past few years Aw Shucks has become so popular at area festivals and fairs that they have a permanent stand in the local AAA baseball stadium, so if you have a corn craving from April through August and there’s not some sort of fest going on, you can still get your fix.

Or you can just make it at home, like me.

I can hear you from here. “But Jenn! That’s not an ear of corn! YOUR BLOG IS FULL OF LIES.”

Oh calm down, kittens. As much fun as it is to eat corn on the cob, it’s also messy as all get out. The days I plan on partaking of Aw Shucks at ‘Fest I always take wet naps to clean up after. And a change of clothes. And sometimes a drop cloth. It takes dedication to eat that corn. It’s definitely not a dainty undertaking. My way, however, is much neater and less work to get to the good stuff.

First thing you’ll need is the Aw Shucks spice mix. The mix itself consists of granulated garlic, paprika, garlic salt, onion powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper, so you can “try” to recreate it at home, but there’s mysterious “other spices” listed in the ingredients, so it’s doubtful you’d get just the right combination. The mix is available at all Aw Shucks stands, on their website, and at certain farm stands in the valley. Which brings us to our next ingredient – the corn, of course.

I picked up a dozen ears at Newhards Corn Shed in Coplay, just a short drive up Mauch Chunk Road off of the 15th St exit on Route 22. A great little farm stand, reminiscent of the places I always shopped at with my mom and grandmother growing up in the Poconos. Some of the best corn I’ve tasted, too. If you’re buying your corn at the grocery store instead of Newhards you’re doing it wrong.

A baker’s dozen will run you about $6.50. My only quibble is that they appear to only sell dozen and half dozen bags, so like it or not, you’re buying corn for a crowd.

Shuck, de-silk, rinse, and pat dry. Place corn on your grill on high heat and roast, turning every few minutes, for seven to ten minutes total, until the corn is toasted and brown. Even darker in spots won’t hurt in the least – it’ll just lend to that authentic “Aw, Shucks” flavor. Had I a charcoal grill this would have been even better, but charcoal intimidates the hell out of me.

Next, de-corn your cobs. I’ve found that the easiest way to do this is the method I learned from Rachael Ray – one small bowl inverted in the bottom of a much larger bowl, stand the ear of corn up on its end, and cut down each side of the cob. Corn goes into the larger bowl and not all over the floor, boom.

Like so.

Once all the corn is cut from the cobs (and you’ve removed the smaller bowl), add melted butter, spice mix, and grated parmesan cheese.

Mix to combine. You don’t need additional salt or pepper — there’s more than enough in the spice mix and the parmesan cheese. Add the mixture to a casserole dish.

Grate some additional parmesan cheese and sprinkle just a touch more spice mix on top. Bake uncovered at 425 for approximately 15 minutes.

You can turn the broiler on for a minute or two to brown up the top if you like.

Almost as good as the original.

“Aw, Shucks”-Style Spicy Parmesan Roasted Corn

  • One dozen ears of corn, shucked and cleaned
  • 4 TB butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, with more for grating on top
  • 1/2-1 TB “Aw Shucks” spice mix, depending on your taste

Grill ears of corn over high heat for 7-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until browned and roasted. Remove corn from cobs. Stir in melted butter, parmesan cheese, and spice mix (Start with a smaller amount, and taste as you go to your desired spice level). Pour mixture into a casserole dish, top with additional grated cheese and sprinkle a bit more spice mixture on top. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, turning on the broiler at the end to brown and crisp the cheese on top, if desired. Remove from oven (duh) and serve. Makes an awesome side for steak or BBQ chicken.

Posted in Cocktail Friday, daily, drinks, recipe

Cocktail Friday: Blackberry “Caipirinha”

I learned a valuable lesson working on this recipe.

Rum hits me pretty goddamn hard.

I’ve got quite a bit of a low tolerance level, but I’m usually good for one to one and a half drinks. Not so with this sucker. Halfway through, and I was all, “Woah.”

No telling if it’s because of the brand of rum or just rum itself, but lesson learned.

My dad introduced me to caipirinhas a few years ago, when my parents and I were lounging out by their pool. He brought out this delicious looking cocktail with muddled limes, simple syrup, and rum, and I (mistakenly) said, “Oooh! Did you make mojitos?”

He GLARED at me.

“Mojitos are for pendejos, Jennifer. This is a caipirinha. It’s better than a mojito.”

The caipirinhas my dad makes are not the traditional Brazilian version. Mostly because it’s not easy to find Brazilian cachaça in Pennsylvania. So we use rum. Bacardi, of course. Because PUERTO RICO.

Blackberry Caipirinha

  • 2 oz. White Rum
  • 1-2 oz. Simple Syrup (to taste)
  • 1 oz Lime Juice
  • 6 Fresh Blackberries
  • Crushed Ice

Squeeze lime juice into a rocks glass. Add fresh berries and simple syrup. Crush with a muddler or the back of a spoon a few times to break up the berries. Add rum. Fill glass with ice. Stir and serve.

Because Daddy says mojitos are for pendejos. (But I’ll still probably make one soon.)

Posted in Cocktail Friday, daily, drinks, recipe

Cocktail Friday: Watermelon Margarita

You guys. I’m writing this on Tuesday, and let me tell you, it has been one hell of a week already. Which is why I’m glad I work ahead on these posts, because I needed this one tonight. And yes, I’m aware I’m a bit behind on National Tequila Day, but you know. Better late than sober.

This margarita. Oh, goodness. It’s so tasty. It’s not too tart, not too sweet, and gets you just the right amount of tipsy. The only thing that would have made this better was a big old bowl of chips and queso.

OOOH. QUESO.

Watermelon Margarita

  • 11/2-2 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 2 oz silver tequila (Patron, 1800, or don’t talk to me.)
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz lime juice

Puree the watermelon in a blender and strain it with a fine mesh sieve. Set aside.

Fill a tumbler with ice. Add tequila, cointreau, lime juice, and watermelon puree (you likely won’t use it all). Stir. Serve.

Yes, you could throw all of this back in the blender for a frozen version. And yes, you could rim the glass with lime juice and dip it in salt before pouring the drink. But why would you *want* to?

Posted in Cocktail Friday, daily, drinks, recipe

Cocktail Friday: Dirty Shirley Temple

While I was growing up in the Pocono Mountains, there weren’t a lot of different restaurants my family chose to go to whenever we wanted a nice meal. Hell, there weren’t a lot of restaurants, period. (Cut to 30 years later, when you can’t walk three steps without hitting yet another fast-casual chain, but I digress.) But there was one restaurant my family went to when there was something to celebrate, or we just wanted something besides a diner. I’m not sure if the restaurant had an official name, we just called it the Motel In Town, because that’s where it was.

At the Motel. In the town of Stroudsburg. We’re an uncomplicated bunch, from Monroe County.

This was my parents’ favorite restaurant in the area for years – a place where my mom could get a lobster tail, my dad could get a steak or some crab cakes, where I always ordered a plate of steamed clams because I liked to keep the shells (I was a weird kid, guys), and I always, always ordered a Shirley Temple, because I loved the idea of being able to order a “fancy” drink in a restaurant just like a grown up. I never knew that it was just Sprite with a cherry flavored syrup. I just knew it was pretty and came with fruit skewered by a plastic sword.

All these years later, I’ve had my share of “fancy” (and not-so-fancy) drinks, from the questionable malt beverages of my pre-legal years, to the Malibu Bay Breezes of my mid twenties to my now-usual order of Jack and Coke (or Ginger, in the summer), but I never thought to update my beloved Shirley to a more “adult” beverage until about two years ago.

This cocktail is the opposite of fancy. It calls for sugary soda and flavored vodka. It is horribly unsophisticated.

You know what else it is? Effective. This, my friends, is how I get what is called “White Girl Wasted”. It’s my go-to drink on game night, my Friday night stress reliever, and one of my favorite summer refreshments.

Dirty Shirley Temple

  • 1 oz Cherry Flavored Vodka
  • 8 oz Lemon Lime Soda
  • 1/2 oz Grenadine
  • Maraschino Cherries
  • Ice

Fill a tall glass with ice, crushed or whole. Add 1 oz. cherry flavored vodka. Fill with lemon-lime soda. Float 1/2 oz grenadine on top. Garnish with maraschino cherries and serve.

Tiny plastic sword optional.

Posted in casseroles, comfort food, daily, dinner, recipe

Chicken, Stuffing, Broccoli and Cheese Casserole: My Favorite Comfort Food

My mom used to make this casserole a lot when I was growing up. Matter of fact, I remember specifically requesting it for my birthday on more than one occasion. And we’re talking, like, into my 20’s. She found the recipe on the back of one of those cans of french fried onions — you know, the kind people use to make that awful green bean casserole at Thanksgiving? (Cream of Mushroom soup? No.)

The first time she made it, it blew my tweenage mind. It was some of my favorite things in one dish! I was never a picky eater growing up (quite the opposite, in fact), but I especially loved anything with or involving box mix stuffing.

I know, it’s terrible. I should feel dirty just saying it.

But I don’t. Stuffing mix is awesome, especially when you’re short on time or don’t have the room to bake a pan of home made stuffing or you just need something quick to serve alongside your main course.

Or if you want to make this casserole. It’s the most delicious mess you’ll ever put in your oven (and your mouth). It takes a little bit of work to put together, but you can easily make it a day or two ahead of time. You can take a couple of short cuts with it, too – use rotisserie chicken, or pre-made cheese sauce (WHY, precious?); but I would refrain from using frozen broccoli — it might get too watery.

First step is to cook your chicken. I used boneless/skinless breasts because that’s my go-to protein, but you can do a mixture of white and dark meat if you prefer. Even roast it with the skin on, just remove it before dicing up and adding to the casserole.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients – cut and steam the broccoli and set aside, make the stuffing according to package directions (stir in half of the can of the french fried onions at the end), make the cheese sauce and let it thicken a little bit.

Once your chicken is cooked through, dice it up, assemble the whole glorious mess, top with the remaining onions, and bake, covered, at 375 degrees for about 40-45 minutes.

Remove the cover and return to the oven for a few more minutes for those onions to get brown and crispy. Let cool and serve.

Oh heck yeah. Tastes like 1991. (What does 1991 taste like, you ask? AMAZING.)

Chicken, Broccoli, and Cheese Casserole with Stuffing

Serves: 8

  • 1 box stuffing mix
  • 1-11/2 lb boneless skinless chicken, roasted and diced into cubes
  • 2 cups fresh broccoli florets, steamed until fork tender
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups milk (stick with 2% or full fat)
  • 1 can french fried onions, divided
  • 2 TB unsalted butter (plus more for stuffing)
  • 2 TB flour
  • 1 TB dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Prepare stuffing mix according to package directions. Stir in 1/2 can of french fried onions. Set aside.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat, stir in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, until slightly brown and the flour is cooked out. Add paprika and stir together. Add milk slowly, 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly until thoroughly combined. Stir for 2-3 minutes until it starts to thicken. Add shredded cheese and continue to whisk until completely melted. Stir in dijon mustard. Cook cheese sauce for 3-5 minutes longer, stirring constantly, until it thickens slightly. Add salt and fresh ground pepper as needed. Set aside.

Assemble the casserole:

Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick spray. Spread the stuffing mix in the bottom of the dish. Top with steamed broccoli florets (you can absolutely chop your broccoli smaller than I did, hide it for those kiddos if you need to!). Spread roasted and chopped chicken over the broccoli. Pour cheese sauce over the entire casserole. Top with remaining french fried onions. Cover casserole with lid or foil and bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes. Remove lid and return to oven for 5-10 more minutes, until onions have crisped and browned slightly.

Remove from oven, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes (or longer, this stuff’s like molten lava), and serve.

Yes.

Posted in Cocktail Friday, daily, drinks, recipe

Cocktail Friday: Bourbon Lavender Lemonade

A couple of months back I took a day trip with a friend to Asbury Park, NJ. It was a gorgeous spring day and we were able to do a little shopping, a little sight seeing (I’ve never been to Asbury Park but Sara was a regular visitor back in the day so she gave me a tour and a little history lesson), and we saw a great music act perform Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black album with a 25-person orchestra in an old school bowling alley. Complete with tiki bar!

Before the show, however, we stopped in one of the numerous restaurants in town for dinner and a cocktail. Being a whiskey and/or bourbon kind of girl, I decided to order their lavender bourbon lemonade, which was so tasty and such the perfect summer cocktail that I knew I would have to re-create it at home, post haste.

So I did.

Start by making a lavender simple syrup. Stir 1 cup of sugar into 1 cup of water over medium to medium-high heat on the stove top and simmer until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from heat, add 1 tsp of dried lavender and allow to cool. Strain lavender from the simple syrup and set aside (store covered in refrigerator for up to a month).

For the drink: Run a lemon quarter around the rim of a rocks glass and dip in sugar (I used granulated sugar today, next time I will perhaps use Turbinado sugar, mainly for aesthetics). Fill glass with crushed ice. Add lemon juice, lavender syrup, bourbon, and stir.

Sip while sitting on the patio and watch the evening go by.

Bourbon Lavender Lemonade

1 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice

1-1.5 oz. lavender simple syrup (see instructions above)

2 oz. Bourbon (Maker’s Mark or Knob Creek preferred)

Fresh lemon, cut in quarters

Sugar for rim of glass

Run a lemon around the rim of a rocks glass, dip in sugar. Fill glass with crushed ice. Add lemon juice, simple syrup, and bourbon. Stir and serve.

Enjoy, guys.

Posted in daily, recipe, salad

Quick and Simple Recipe: Meditteranean-Style Bulgur Wheat Salad (AKA Not Tabbouleh)

I didn’t make tabbouleh this weekend.

I made a salad that tastes a whole lot like tabbouleh. And it looks…a little bit like tabbouleh. But it’s not tabbouleh, in the truest most traditional sense. And I’m okay with that.

Start with bulgur wheat, cooked. I get mine from the bulk bins at my local grocery store. Cook 1 cup of bulgur in 2 cups of water at a low simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Set aside and let cool.

Now get to chopping. Seed and dice 1/2 english (hothouse) cucumber, finely dice one half a red onion, dice 4 plum tomatoes, mince 2 cloves of garlic, and finely chop a large bunch of italian parsley.

Toss all vegetables with the bulgur, dress with 2 TB olive oil, the juice of two lemons, and season with salt and pepper. Serve as is.

Or throw tradition totally out the window and top with a little crumbled feta cheese.

Because who doesn’t like a little culinary anarchy every now and then?

Meditteranean Style Bulgur Wheat Salad

  • 1 cup bulgur, cooked
  • 1/2 english cucumber, seeded, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch of parsley, chopped fine
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • crumbled feta, optional

Cook bulgur according to directions. Set aside and let cool. Add all vegetables, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Stir together and refrigerate for a few hours to let flavors combine. Top with crumbled feta (if desired) and serve.

Posted in daily, food porn, recipe

Cubano Sandwiches: My Weekend Project

In the day-to-day minutiae that has become my post-operative diet, I do get the occasional craving for a certain food or meal. I try to stay as vigilant as possible, but I’m not averse to treating myself to something tasty from time to time. This weekend was one of those times, and I blame Jon Favreau. Last week I watched the movie Chef on Netflix, forgetting just how much food porn was involved. If you haven’t seen Chef, you should. It’s totally funny and adorable, and one of my favorite movies of 2014. The soundtrack is pretty swinging, too. But the best part about the movie? The Cubanos.

Have you ever had a Cubano? It’s a hot pressed sandwich brought to the states by Cuban immigrants in Florida. It’s a soft fluffy roll, spread with good old yellow mustard and stuffed full with roasted pork, deli ham, swiss cheese, and pickles, and traditionally toasted on a flattop grill, or a plancha. It’s heaven on a bun, and damn it, I wanted one this week. So, while I was avoiding the arctic tundra outside, I set to making Cubano magic this weekend.

We start with a mojo (mo-hoe), or citrus marinade for the pork roast. Zest one grapefruit, two oranges, and two limes, juice all the fruit, and toss it all with the pork roast along with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Allow to marinate for about 25-30 minutes. Truss pork shoulder with string (or do like I didn’t and leave it in the string it comes in, silly goose), sprinkle all over with Goya Adobo seasoning, and spread minced garlic over the top (I honestly prefer the jarred garlic for this). Roast at 400 for an hour and a half to two hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the roast reads 140-145 degrees (or however done you prefer your pork).

Cover with foil and allow to rest. Slice thinly and set aside. The pork can be made ahead of time – you can even make this as a main dish and use the leftovers when you’re in the mood for Cubano goodness.

Mmm, pork. Porky pork pork.

Now, time to make the sandwiches! Grab your other ingredients. 

Sliced deli ham, deli swiss cheese, mayonnaise, yellow mustard, sliced dill pickles, and a soft roll. I used small club rolls to keep the sandwiches surgically-altered-stomach-friendly, but any soft roll will do.

Cubanos assemble! Spread each side of the roll with mayo and mustard, and layer the pork, ham, pickle, and cheese from bottom to top. Top with remaining half of roll. (Note: I heat the roasted pork and ham in a pan slightly before assembling, to make sure the sandwich is warm all the way through.)

Now, heat up your grill, griddle, or pan. I used my good old panini press. If you have a press with flat plates use that instead. If you don’t have a sandwich press, you can make these between two pans, using a couple large cans to weigh the top pan down. Spread the outside of the sandwich with some softened butter (I KNOW. You can skip this, but your bread might not be as toasty good as one would like.), and press on the grill until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted and gooey.

Yum.

Slice in half and serve your new favorite sandwich.

Cubano Sandwiches

  • 3 lb Pork Shoulder Roast
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 2 limes
  • 2 oranges
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 tsp Goya Adobo seasoning
  • 2 TB jarred minced garlic
  • Soft sliced rolls
  • Sliced deli ham
  • Sliced domestic swiss cheese
  • Sliced dill pickles
  • Mayonnaise
  • Yellow Mustard
  • Softened butter for toasting

Place pork roast in large bowl. Zest all fruit and set aside. Juice fruit and pour into bowl with pork and toss with zest, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Truss pork and place on roasting pan. Sprinkle Adobo all over roast. Spread minced garlic on top of pork and roast in oven at 400 degrees until a meat thermometer inserted in the middle of the roast reads approximately 140 degrees. Remove from oven, cover with foil, and allow to rest. Slice thinly and set aside.

Heat a slice of pork and ham each in a small pan until warmed through and slightly browned. Spread mayonnaise, then mustard over each half of roll, top bottom half with pork, ham, pickle, and cheese, and top half of roll. Spread softened butter on outside of roll and toast sandwich on a panini press or sandwich grill for 3-5 minutes until the roll is toasted and cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!