Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bloody Marti

As far as I'm concerned, there are two kinds of people in this world: Mimosa people, and Bloody Mary people.  Everyone has their brunch-time favorite, and I have to admit, I would consider myself more of a Mimosa gal.  That is, until I discovered the wonders of homemade Roasted Tomato Juice. 

For a while now, I've been debating whether or not to take the plunge and buy a juicer.  When Williams-Sonoma emailed me and asked for an inspired Bloody Mary recipe, I knew fresh tomato juice would be they key.

Roasted Tomato Juice adds a surprising, homespun twist on the classic Bloody Mary.  Roasting the already ripe, juicy summer tomatoes elevates their flavor to a whole new tomato-level. 

All of this topped with a fried pickle garnish?  I'd say we have a winner here!

I strained my Bloody Marti's into a martini glass, but this would be great over ice as well.  I went with classic ingredients, but you can always add more hot sauce, pickle juice, pickled veggies, shrimp; the possibilities are endless when it comes to Bloody Mary ingredients and garnishes! 

Roasted Tomato Juice (makes 4 cups)
* 8 ripe plum tomatoes
* 1 tbsp. olive oil
* salt, pepper

Bloody Martis (serves 2):
* 2 c. Roasted Tomato Juice
* 2 oz. vodka
* 2 dashes worcestershire
* 1 tsp. prepared horse radish
* 2-3 dashes tobasco sauce
* juice of 1/2 lime
* pinch of celery salt
* pinch of paprika, plus more for rim
* fried pickles, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400.  Slice tomatoes in half crosswise and lay, cut side down, on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast for 40 minutes, or until the skins have shriveled up and pulled away from the tomato.  Let cool for 10 minutes, then pull the skins off and discard. 

Place the tomatoes and any pan drippings in a blender (if you have a juicer, use that).  Puree the tomatoes until smooth.  Pour the tomato puree into a fine mesh strainer to rid the mixture of any seeds.  Set aside.

To prepare the martini, combine all Bloody Marti ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. To garnish the glasses, run a lime wedge around the edge of two martini glasses and dip into a shallow dish of paprika.  Strain the martini into the glasses and garnish with a skewer of fried pickles.  Enjoy! 

Fried Pickles

I might consider myself a fried pickle connoisseur of sorts.  I love fried pickles, and it's so hard for me not to order them when they're on the menu. Every restaurant has their own spin on the classic, whether it's fried dill chips, a surprising bread and butter pickle, spears, strips… there are just so many options!

My personal favorite is fried dill chips, with a super crunchy cornmeal crust.  

These pickles are so delicious and couldn't be easier to make.  My favorite brand of pickles doesn't sell chips, so I bough the whole pickles and sliced them up myself.  

* 2 c. pickle chips
* 1 c. buttermilk
* 3/4 c. flour
* 1/4 c. yellow cornmeal
*1/2 tsp. garlic powder
* 1/2 tsp. onion powder
* 1/2 tsp. paprika
* salt, pepper
* 16 oz. vegetable oil, for frying

Drain the pickle chips from their juice and place in a measuring cup.  Top with 1 c. buttermilk and soak while you prepare the dry ingredients.  In a shallow bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper.  Mix together with a fork.  

Use a slotted spoon to remove the pickles from the buttermilk mixture, then dredge them in the flour mixture.  Shake off any excess flour and place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet while you prepare the rest. 

Once all the pickles are coated, add oil to a 10 inch skillet (you want at least an inch of oil, if you have a bigger/smaller skillet, you may need more or less oil). Heat over medium heat for about 5 minutes, then test one of the pickles (if the oil is hot enough, it should immediately bubble up around the pickle). Fry the pickles in batches (don't crowd the pan too much or the oil will cool down) until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.  If the pickles are browning too quickly, reduce the heat slightly. Drain on a paper towel lined plate.  Serve with ranch dressing, or as a garnish for Bloody Marti's. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sriracha Lime Chicken Wings

One of my favorite things to include on the menu for any casual party is chicken wings.  Not only does  absolutely everyone love them (especially since I only buy the drumettes, they're a one-hander), but they're so easy to make in the oven.  Even better, they're great at room temperature, so they can be made a little bit early. 

These wings are surprisingly not spicy at all, but so full of flavor.  The Sriracha and lime provides a unique, tangy flavor, and i'll bet you can't eat just one. 

If you want spicy, i'd suggest upping the Sriracha measurement, or drizzling a little over the wings after they finish cooking.

* 2 lbs. chicken wings 
* 1 tsp. garlic powder
* 4 tbsp. butter
* 1 tbsp. flour
* 3 tbsp. sriracha
* 2 tbsp. honey
* 1 tbsp. soy sauce
* juice of 1 lime

Preheat oven to 400. Arrange the wings in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed lightly with cooking spray.  Pat the wings dry and season with garlic powder.  Bake the wings for 25 minutes, turning once. 

Meanwhile, prepare the sriracha glaze.  Melt butter over medium heat and stir in flour.  Cook the flour until golden brown, whisking constantly (about 1 minute).  Add the sriracha, honey, soy sauce, and lime, and bring to a gentle boil.  Continue to cook until the sauce is slightly thickened. Set aside. 

 After 25 minutes, remove the wings from the oven, position the rack in the upper third, and increase the temperature to broil. Brush the sauce onto the wings and broil for 3-4 minutes (keep an eye on them, some broilers are better than others and I think mine may be lacking!), or until golden brown.  Turn the wings, brush with more glaze, and broil the second side until golden brown.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Weekend Update - BHI

I'm off to a slow start this week after enjoying a lovely long weekend.  Sometime's a four day weekend is just what the doctor ordered.  What's even better? A four day work week, and the same next week with Labor Day!

Last weekend I ventured to one of my absolute favorite places, Bald Head Island, with my best friend Honor, her mom (and my Mom's best friend), my Mom, and my sister Laura.  We had such a relaxed ladies weekend with plenty of time at the pool, beach, lots of wine (and margs..and pina coladas… and more wine), great food and of course great company. 

Laura, mom & me
I love that Bald Head is only an hour away from me, but it feels like another world once that ferry reaches the other side. 

One of my favorite things about BHI is NO CARS! Tooling around in a golf cart is so much more interesting. 

Honor & me
When we were younger, Laura would always do Honor and I's hair and makeup and take our glamour shots, so it seems fitting that we should do the same this year.  Very glamorous indeed! "It's all about the volume ladies!"

Glamour shot time!!
Until next year my beautiful island! 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Surfer Dogs

A few weeks ago, I shared my love of Trolley Stop's Surfer Dogs on the blog, and I've been meaning to make a homemade version for a while now. 

If you don't live in Wilmington, you may not be familiar with our iconic hot dog spot.  The first time I had their famous Surfer Dog was when Mike's cousin Samantha had the Trolley cart at her wedding.  Bacon, mustard, and cheese sauce - how did I ever doubt you?

This combo on top of a freshly grilled all beef hot dog is a big winner, and it couldn't be easier to prepare.

Ingredients (serves 10 - customize the portions as needed!)
* 24 all beef hot dogs, buns
* spicy brown mustard, for serving
* 10 pieces center cut bacon
*2 tbsp. butter
* 2 tbsp. flour
* 8 oz. cheddar cheese, freshly grated 
* 8 oz. heavy cream
* 1/8 tsp. paprika
* 1 tbsp. dijon mustard
*dash of ground nutmeg
* 2-3 dashes hot sauce 
* salt, pepper

First, prepare the bacon.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange the bacon in a single layer.  Transfer to the oven and turn the temperature to 400 (starting with a cold oven helps the bacon get crisp).  Cook the bacon for 18-20 minutes, or until crisp, and drain on a paper towel.  When the bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble it into fine pieces.

For the cheese sauce, melt butter in a sauce pan over medium high heat.  Whisk in flour and whisk constantly for a minute or so, or until the flour is well combined with the butter and the mixture is golden brown.  Add the cream to the pan and season with mustard, paprika, hot sauce, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.   Bring this mixture to a simmer, until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Reduce the heat and whisk in the grated cheddar. 

To serve, grill the hot dogs, add a thin line of spicy brown mustard, top with cheddar cheese and bacon bits. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Easy Summer Party Menu

Last  weekend, we had had friends over for a casual summer get together.  Sometimes the easy backyard barbecues are the best kind of party. 

I was really looking forward to seeing everyone and enjoying the party myself, so I went with a really easy menu that didn't keep me in the kitchen all night. 

We started with some store bought help - pre-cut carrot and celery sticks with french onion dip.  My menu was a little heavy, so some fresh veggies are always nice!

I made two types of wings: my old faithful, Asian Sticky Wings, and a new experiment, Sriracha Lime wings, which turned out delicious (recipe coming soon!).  I timed the wings so they were ready about 10 minutes before everyone arrived.  Cleanup was easy since I lined the baking sheets with tin foil. 

For a side, I went with store bought potato chips (original and cheddar and sour cream).  

Now for the main event - homemade surfer dogs!  Oh. My. Gosh.  I hate to toot my own horn, but these bad boys were off the charts.  Not only were they delicious, but SO easy to prepare.   I cooked 
the bacon a few hours before the party, so literally all I had to do was make the cheese sauce while Mike grilled the hot dogs. 

Roscoe, of course, donned his formalwear for the event. 

We rounded off the evening with a game of Cards Against Humanity - so fun! 

Stay tuned for my Surfer Dog and Sriracha Wing recipes! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Strawberry Orange Jam

Hello and Happy Monday!

I'm excited to be guest blogging over at Tiny Prints today.  With summer in its final stretch, I was feeling inspired to host a dinner al fresco.  Head over to the Tiny Prints blog to see my simple (with a little help from the fabric store), elegant summer table inspired by their beautiful invitations.

The strawberries have been so sweet and delicious this year, so I thought I'd make some canned Strawberry Orange Jam as a party favor.  That way, everyone can enjoy the strawberries' summer goodness all year round.  

I'm actually new to canning, but I'm already obsessed.  Preserving your own jam is so fun and satisfying!  

A bit of orange zest and juice added the perfect, subtle tang and cut some of the sweetness.

* 6 c. strawberries, chopped
* 2.5 c. sugar
* 1 naval orange, zested and juiced

Before you start making the jam, place a saucer in the freezer (this will help determine when the jam is set).

In a large dutch oven, combine strawberries, sugar, juice, and zest of one orange over medium high heat.  As the mixture begins to boil, stir it often and use a potato masher to break down the strawberries.    Keep this mixture at a soft boil for roughly 20 minutes, or until the gel stage is reached.

To test if the jam has reached a gel stage, place a small amount on the frozen saucer and return it to the freezer for 1 minute. Remove the saucer and run your finger through the jam.  If a line is created and the jam doesn't bleed through, the gel stage has been reached.

Ladle the hot jam into sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch. headspace. Process the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Carefully remove the canned jam and set it on a flat surface, being careful not to tilt the jars (the water on the lids will evaporate on its own).  Let the jam rest for 24 hours. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tory Burch Home

If you asked my husband, he might tell you that I'm a Tory Burch freak. Seriously, I love Tory Burch.  Ever since I bought my first pair of Reva flats many moons ago, I've been a huge fan. Her shoes are so comfortable and her purses are amazing.

As such, you can imagine my excitement when Tory (we're on a first name basis) announced her new home collection.  I could barely contain myself, and let me tell you - it does not disappoint!

It's a fairly small collection, but I'm loving the blue and white theme.  My absolute favorites are the blue Mackie Highball glasses - how gorgeous are they?

Tory Burch Home

 And everyone needs a designer nutcracker, right?  I think a few of these pieces will make my Christmas wishlist.  Can't wait to see what else Tory has in store for the home collection!


Sunday, August 10, 2014

A New Endeavor

I'm so excited to share a new endeavor with you all today!  I recently started writing the Chef's In section for one of my favorite magazines, Focus on the Coast. 

Each month, there will be a new theme and August is all about savoring summer.  I'm sharing three recipes that showcase summer produce, and even one to help cool down your pup in this warm summer sun! 

When I thought of the August heat, the first thing that came to my mind was a cool, refreshing granita.  This Agua de Sandia granita is the perfect treat and it couldn't be easier to prepare. 
Photo by Jason Armond for Focus not the Coast

For my second recipe, I went with an oldie but goodie - my Tomato & Goat Cheese Bruschetta.  Ripe tomatoes and local goat cheese are the showstoppers here. 
Photo by Jason Armond for Focus on the Coast

We can't forget about our pups this time of year!  I made Roscoe some Elvis inspired pup cream, complete with yogurt, bacon, banana, and peanut butter.  When Mike and I get frozen yogurt, Roscoe gets his own treat! 
Photo by Jason Armond for Focus on the Coast 

Check out the complete recipes on the Focus on the Coast website! 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Weeknight Dinner Party Tips

Hope everyone is having a great week!  I'm a bit exhausted myself.  It has been go-go-go lately!

This week was my hubs, Mike's, birthday.  The big 3-5!  We celebrated Sunday at his parents with the whole family, then had his parents and brother over Tuesday for a smaller dinner. 

Weeknight dinner parties can be tricky, especially after a busy day at work.  If i'm not prepared, I get even more stressed out at work thinking about all of the things I could be doing at home.  

Here are a few tips for a seamless dinner! 

1)  For the menu, stick with what you know.  Fortunately Mike's favorites are all pretty easy. When you only have an hour and a half after work before your guests arrive, it's not the time for experimenting. On the menu:

Simple Green Salad  
New York Strips
Noodly Rice (my favorite growing up, fine egg noodles, browned in butter, and cooked with the rice)
Roasted Asparagus
Dinner Rolls

2)  If you're making the entire meal, don't stress about a starter and dessert.  I went with two of my favorite Trader Joe's appetizers: Spanikopita and Parmesan Pastry Pups (doesn't that sound so much better than pigs in a blanket?!)  Mike requested a TCBY cake for dessert! 

Don't mind the pic - I was in a hurry! 

3) Make a to do list, preferably the night before.  That way, you feel like you're getting things done as you cross off the details, and you won't overlook anything.  No detail is too small (even setting out butter!)
 Here's what was on my list:
Wash Lettuce
Set out steaks, season with salt and pepper
Trim asparagus
Wash asparagus, season with olive oil, salt, pepper
Bake Spanikopita, Pastry Pups
Assemble Salad
Set out butter
Bake rolls

4) Don't choose too many things that have to be cooked in the oven or on top of the stove at the same time.  I cooked the Spanikopita and Pastry Pups together, then transferred them to a platter and cooked the rolls on the same tray. 
On top of the stove, I seared the steaks, and cooked the rice (which isn't very involved). 

5) Do as much as you can in advance.  I did all of my grocery shopping and set the table on Sunday, leaving minimum prep work for the day of. 

All in all, it was a pretty effortless dinner part, and the birthday boy was pretty happy with his new record player and vintage albums to play with! 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Buffalo Roasted Chickpeas

I'm one of those people that sees "buffalo" on a menu, and I have to order it.  Buffalo shrimp, buffalo wings, buffalo wraps.  I just love that flavor. 

Unfortunately, "buffalo" doesn't usually imply that you're going to get something nutritious.  When in need of an a buffalo fix, you can do no wrong with these crispy Buffalo Roasted Chickpeas.  These chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans)  pack a punch with that buffalo flavor we all love, and also provide a great source of protein and fiber. 

These make a great snack as is, but would also add a nice crunch to a salad. 

Ingredients (as a snack for 2, easily doubled):
* 1 (7.5 oz) can chickpeas
* 1.5 tbsp. hot sauce (I use Frank's)
* 1/2 tbsp. butter

Preheat the oven to 450.  Drain the chickpeas and rinse them under water.  Drain thoroughly and pat dry with a paper towel. 

Combine butter and hot sauce and melt in the microwave (about 10 seconds).  Pour the buffalo sauce over the chickpeas and toss to coat.  Place the chickpeas on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes, shaking once or twice so the chickpeas are evenly browned.  Enjoy!