Not Your Average Salsa

fruit_salsaI served this fruit salsa at a party I hosted over Labor Day Weekend and it was a huge hit. The original recipe from allrecipes.com suggests making your own cinnamon and sugar pita chips but I prefer to just buy Stacy’s Cinnamon and Sugar Pita chips (not really worth making your own).

Ingredients

  • 2 Kiwis peeled and diced
  • 2 McIntosh Apples peeled, cored and diced
  • 8 oz Raspberries, diced
  • 1 lb Strawberries, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons any flavor fruit preserves
  • Stacy’s Cinnamon and Sugar Pita Chips

How to Make it

  1. Mix everything into a bowl and refridgerate for at least 15 minutes.

Helpful Hints

  • Make this the night before! The prep will take some time so getting it done ahead of time will reduce your stress.
  • You can probably use whatever fruit you have laying around. I would stay away from bananas and melon – they tend to make everything taste like themselves.

Photo by the-girl-who-ate-everything.com.

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August and September: Whats in Season

squashback720Okay so I missed August. It always goes by so fast and before I know it I have anxiety about going back to school (even though its been 6+ years). Anyway, berry season is wrapping up so its a good time to stock your freezer if you want them throughout the year. It’s time to get ready for Fall!

Apples (August-November): If you haven’t read my post about apples you can read it here. One word: McIntosh.

Winter Squash (August – December): Winter squash is a broad term for basically all squash that you see in the supermarket (butternut, acorn, spaghetti etc.). It is harvested at the end of August through October and is great for soups. Epicurious has a great winter squash guide here.

Flowers

My favorite fall flowers are the Chrysanthemum and Alstroemeria.

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Classic Cocktails For America’s Birthday

photoEvery time I go out for a drink I always order the same thing (Jack and diet). One night I was at a speak-easy themed bar in downtown San Diego and asked the bartender to make me something different. That night I discovered the Sazerac and I now order them regularly (not everyone knows how to make it, though). This Fourth of July celebrate the birth of America with these classic concoctions.

Manhattan

The Manhattan was named after the borough in New York (are you really that surprised?). It is traditionally made with two and a half ounces of rye whiskey (I like Bulleit), one ounce of sweet vermouth and a dash of Angostura bitters. Serve in a martini glass with a garnish of maraschino cherry.

Sazerac

The Sazerac is the official cocktail of New Orleans and is thought to be America’s oldest cocktail. Muddle two ounces of rye whiskey, three dashes of Peychaud’s bitters and a sugar cube. Rinse an old fashioned glass with Absinthe to coat and pour the whiskey mixture into the glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Gin Rickey

The Rickey was invented in Washington D.C. and can be made with Gin or Whiskey. Add two ounces of your spirit of choice with the juice of half a lime to a highball glass with ice. Fill to the top with soda water and garnish with a lime wedge.

Martini

The Martini is commonly made with gin and vermouth in a ratio of 10:1. However, when the drink first originated it was made in a 1:1 ratio. Pour all ingredients into a shaker and mix well. Pour into a martini glass with a garnish of olives or lemon. Add a splash of  olive juice to make it a “dirty” martini.

Cheers!

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June and July: What’s in Season

Soo many berriesJune and July are my favorite months for berries. There are a lot that you can pick your self to use immediately or freeze to use later. I love to pick olallieberries for jam and strawberries for pie. I will also freeze a bunch to use in smoothies and pies throughout the year.

Olallieberries (June): An olallieberry is a cross between a youngberry and a loganberry. Each of these is a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry and a dewberry respectively. It looks like a blackberry but it has a great sweet and tart taste that makes it great for jams and pies. Olallieberry vodka is also awesome!

Strawberries (June-July): Strawberries have been around for a looong time and were even mentioned in ancient Roman literature. Technically strawberry season starts in May but I don’t like to pick them until June. I could eat my weight in raw strawberries but they are great in pies and mashed up on top of angel food cake with some whipped cream.

Raspberries (Mid June – July): Raspberries always remind me of my childhood. We had a couple of bushes in our backyard and my sisters and I would pick the ripe ones everyday. Pies and jams need a lot of fruit and since raspberries tend to be a little more expensive, I like to eat them raw.

Tips for picking your own:

  • Call ahead to see what time they open, what is available to pick and how much everything is per pound.
  • Bring cash and your own containers. Most places will have something you can buy if you don’t have anything at home to bring.
  • Think about what you are picking. If the bushes have thorns it is a good idea to bring some gardening gloves or you will be picking thorns out of your skin for weeks.
  • It is best to go when they open. Most places designate a certain area for picking each day. When the berries are gone they’re gone. It will also get really hot when noon rolls around.

Flowers

My favorite summer flowers are Gladiolus, Hydrangea and Iris.

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May: What’s in Season

Okay, so May is half way over but I wanted to start a new category called “What’s in Season” so I can share fruits and veggies that you should look for at your local market. These choices should also be on sale at larger stores. There are about 50 fruits and veggies in season in May but here are a few that have seasons that are just starting, ending or are short. For a complete list visit The Southland Farmers Market Association.

Season is almost over!

Dates (January-May): Dates are thought to have originated from lands around Iraq and are mainly produced in the middle east. They are usually enjoyed pitted and dried and are delicious stuffed with cheeses and wrapped in bacon. 🙂
Cherries (April-May): Cherries are great right out of the bag but they are awesome in pies, jams, cobblers and even brandied. Look for cherries that are firm and glossy with the stems still attached. For pies and jams use sour cherries. I love Rainier cherries which are yellow with a kiss of pinkish red.

Season is just starting!

Apricots (May-June): Apricots are a great fruit to pick your self. They make great jams and go well with pork (apricot chutney?).
Figs (May-August): The fig is originally from the middle east and is one of the first plants cultivated by humans. If you can find fresh figs look for slightly wrinkled (but still plump) figs that are not weeping or leaking. Fresh figs are great in salads with goat cheese, arugula, radicchio, prosciutto and green apples.
Pears (May-October): Pears are interesting because not everyone likes their texture. My husband thinks they are a sweet version of a potato and will go on and on about how much he hates them. I tend to like them but only very ripe bartlett pears. They also go very well with pork.
Plums (May-September): Plums have really pretty flowers and are great raw. They are also awesome in a cobbler with some ice cream on top! I have found a decent amount of information about making plumb gin (fill a bottle of gin 1/3 full of chopped plums, 6-8 oz plain sugar, fill to top with gin, let sit for 4 months agitating weekly). I will try this and report back. 🙂

Flowers

My favorite spring flowers are daffodils, tulips and dahlia. Contrary to popular belief, Easter Lilies do not naturally bloom in spring. The bulbs need to be exposed to at least 40 weeks of “fake winter” and then bloom at a much higher temperature in a green house. If Easter Lilies were left to mother nature, they would bloom in mid summer.

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The Best Breakfast for the Best Mom!

I have always been a huge fan of breakfast – I even served it at my wedding! It’s my favorite meal to share with friends and family and in case you have been living under a rock – this Sunday is Mother’s Day! Here is a really easy pancake recipe to show Mom how much you care.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • Cooking spray

How to Make Them

  1. Combine the milk and vinegar in a large bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to “sour”.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.
  3. Whisk the egg into the soured milk.
  4. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone.
  5. Heat a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat and coat with cooking spray.
  6. Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface.
  7. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.

Helpful Hints

  • Add 1 cup of fresh blueberries to the batter for a easy twist or cut up some strawberries to serve on the side.
  • Bake some bacon using my hands off approach while you are mixing up the pancakes!
  • Any Mother’s Day breakfast isn’t complete without a mimosa! Pour a glass of champagne and top it off with just a little orange juice.

Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com (with a little twist).

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Spring Cleaning Tips and Tricks

It’s officially Spring, the days are getting warmer and it’s time to think about cleaning things out. I love spring cleaning because I love organizing and getting rid of stuff that I don’t need or use. Here are some tips on how to clean and freshen up our your home without being overwhelmed.

Do a little at a time

It might seem like you need to set aside an entire weekend to clean but you will dread it and get burned out really quickly. Instead make a list of things you would like to accomplish. Over the next two months complete one whenever you have some free time. For example, I might skip the gym and clean out all of the closets. Cleaning burns a decent amount of calories so I say it counts :).

Lose the emotional attachment

Have you used it in the past year? If not, toss it. This also applies to clothes and shoes but doesn’t necessarily count for special items like skis, camping gear etc. Put a 5 year limit on those.

Make a life box

My husband and I are each allowed one life box. We can keep anything that we want in our box without judgement or whining. This will allow you to hold on to the really special stuff without going over board.

Tackle ONE big project

Small projects like cleaning out closets and under beds will make your home tidy but put something on your list to change the way you FEEL about your home. You could give the guest room a coat of paint and new linens or get a closet organizer for your clothes. When things are organized, clean and fresh you will be less stressed (there are studies on this, I’m not making this up!) These bigger projects will make you feel better about your space.

Tackle ALL of those little projects

That stain on the carpet next to the couch, that thing in the refrigerator that you can’t identify, that stain on the wall… Write all of these things down and tackle one at a time. These little things are easy to complete and will make you feel like you accomplished something.

Photo by HappilyInsane1

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The Best Super Bowl Party Foods

The Super Bowl is right around the corner and is the perfect excuse to get together with friends, have a couple of beers and make a mess. Most people don’t expect too much but it is a good idea to have some food for grazing and getting pizza, subs or some type of delivery at half time is always appreciated. Here are some ideas for my favorite snacks during the game.

Guacamole

This party favorite is a good source of healthy fats and tastes great with tortilla or pita chips. Check out my favorite recipe from Alton Brown. If you don’t feel like making it Whole Foods has the best ready made guacamole (although a little expensive).

Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is a great alternative to the tired pizza and wings. Pick up some mini rolls and your guests can create their own sliders. I recommend Sweet Baby Rays Original barbecue sauce. You can also make some jalapeno cornbread to go with it!

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Ill admit this doesn’t exactly look appetizing, but it tastes great and I always have friends request it. This Buffalo dip goes great with tortilla chips, bread or just about anything.

Treats

For a quick dessert check out my rice crispy treat recipe. Everyone will reminisce about how long its been since they’ve had one. Add some team spirit by stirring in a couple drops of food coloring to the melted marshmallow to support your favorite team!

Bean Dip

Don’t have time to make anything? Stop by your local Trader Joe’s and pick up their taco seasoned beef, bean and cheese dip. It was rated the best bean and cheese based dip by Bon Appetit. Check out the runner up and the dips to avoid here.

If you’re really pumped for the game try making the amazing food stadium from holytaco pictured above. Desperate? Lazy? KFC Game Day Bucket Go Boom.

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War of the Weevils

After a ton of holiday baking this year, I replenished my baking supplies and to my surprise, I found my food infested with small black bugs – weevils! Weevils are tiny herbivorous beetles that live in grains. They usually get into your cupboard through old flour and they will get into just about anything that isn’t sealed tightly. Here are some tips on how to win the war on weevils.

  1. If you find weevils in your cupboard – don’t panic. They won’t bite or sting you but you will want to address the problem immediately. They lay a ton of eggs and they infestation will just get worse.
  2. Get a new garbage bag and toss everything that isn’t in a tightly sealed container. This includes all grains, crackers, cereals, dry beans, rice, pasta and anything that has a bug on it. I found some on my disposable plates and cups so I tossed those too.
  3. Wipe down all shelves thoroughly with soap and water and replace any shelving paper. Toss all paper towels used to clean in the same garbage bag.
  4. Put the garbage bag outside. Keeping it inside might make the problem come back.
  5. Replace any non-contaminated food into your cupboard. Do not put any grain based food in the cupboard for about three days. This is to make sure you killed all bugs. Chances are you will need some sort of grain in the next couple of days so store any newly bought cereals, pastas or crackers in the fridge. Store any newly bought flour in the freezer.
  6. After about three days, if you don’t see any more bugs, feel free to put everything back in the cupboard. If you do see a few more bugs, wipe down the cupboard again and make sure you tossed all grains.
  7. Some people recommend freezing the infested flour and sifting out the bugs so you can still use it – gross. Just toss it. You have already tossed half of your cupboard and if you miss any, you will have to go through this process again.

How to Avoid Weevils:

  1. Freezing newly bought flour will kill any weevils that might be in there already (never microwave – it won’t work). I recommend purchasing brand name flour at a well known grocery store so the flour stays on the shelf for the shortest period of time. It is a little more expensive but it is less expensive then replacing your whole pantry.
  2. Always store flour in a tightly sealed container. I really like the OXO Good Grips POP Containers and I store all of the grains in these. Why did I get an infestation then? After I purchased the flour, I just tossed it into the cupboard. It was open a little and they got out!
  3. Don’t purchase any more flour then you will use in a couple of months. You don’t want it sitting on the shelf in the store and you don’t want it sitting on the shelf in your home.
  4. Some people think storing bay leaves in your flour will discourage infestation. I haven’t tried it but it can’t hurt.
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Simple Stock

It’s the perfect time of year for soups and stews and one of the key ingredients to these dishes is stock. Stock is made from a few key components: chicken or beef bones and mirepoix. Mirepoix is a classic combination of equal parts celery, carrots and onion. After you make the stock, you can freeze it, use it right away or store it in the fridge for about four days.

Ingredients

  • Leftover chicken or beef bones (whatever you have is fine)
  • One onion, cut in half, skin on
  • Two carrots, unpeeled, broken in half
  • Two celery stalks, broken in half

How to Make It

  1. Add all of the veggies and bones to a large pot.
  2. Fill the pot with water.
  3. Add one tablespoon peppercorns and two bay leaves.
  4. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about two hours.
  5. After two hours, strain the stock into a bowl and dispose of the veggies and bones.
  6. Use right away, storge in the fridge until you are ready to use it or freeze.

Helpful Hints

  • I like to use chicken on the bone in my stock. I then use the chicken in the soup that I am making after I remove all the bones.
  • I usually don’t add salt to my stock until it is incorporated with all the other components in my soup. If you would like to add salt, add a teaspoon at a time, wait a couple of minutes and then taste again. If it needs more, repeat.
  • If you want to make a vegetable stock, don’t add the bones!
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