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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Soda Chanh (Vietnamese Lime Soda)

Soda Chanh (Vietnamese Lime Soda)
I'm sure that every household has at least a few must-haves sitting in their fridge at all times. Among a few other things, in my house, limeade is one of those things. We love lemonade, too—but it's limeade in some form or another that takes the cake. I try to make different forms to liven things up a bit, but for the most part, limeade is limeade. Freshly squeezed lime juice, sweetener, and water.

Whether it's a fizzy version like Neebu ka Sharbat (Indian Sparkling Fresh Limeade) or a flat one like Fresh Limeade with Chia Seeds, they all go quickly. This Vietnamese Lime Soda (or Soda Chanh) has sparkles and mint, which makes it extra refreshing. When researching it a little, it seems that some people use mint, some don't...some people rim the glass in salt, some don't. I chose to include both. You know, to add a little variety to our limeade routine.

As written, this recipe is particularly tart. We liked it, but if you want it a little sweeter, then simply make (and add) more simple syrup, or stir in some superfine sugar, honey, agave, what-have-you. I enjoyed the salted rim, but the kids said they'd rather have it without. In her book, Steamy Kitchen's Healthy Asian Favorites, Jaden Hair says that Gin makes a nice addition if you want to booze it up (my words, of course). I didn't try it...meant to, but I turned around and it was gone. But I squeezed an extra cup of juice to make another batch. This time, adult-style.
Sunday, March 29, 2015

Salmon Meatball Carbonara

Salmon Meatball Carbonara
I often mention that I am a huge fish and seafood lover, often teetering on the edge of being able to label myself a pescetarian. Seafood is so versatile, it cooks quickly, and it has tons of health benefits, it's available year-round—oh, and it tastes good. If you're unsure which way to turn when you're looking for seafood, a good place to start is by looking for the words Alaska seafood.

Alaska's cold waters and natural environment produce seafood with lean flesh, a firm texture, and superior flavor. Plus, those health benefits I mentioned earlier? Alaska seafood is full of high quality protein, vitamins, minerals and oils, plus it's one of the best sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. At the same time, it is low in saturated fat and sodium.

Did you know that just like produce, seafood has a season? You can find Alaska seafood year round either fresh, frozen, canned or smoked, but here's a look at when the certain varieties are harvested, so you can keep an eye out for your favorite fresh seafood at the market.
Friday, March 27, 2015

Banana Cream Pie w/ Shortbread Cookie Crust

Banana Cream Pie with Shortbread Cookie Crust #fridaypieday
Can we talk cream pies for a second? Pie shells filled with a rich pudding-like custard, and sometimes topped with a big cloud of whipped know the ones I mean. I'm about to make an admission that may stun and amaze you. Here goes: I can't remember eating more than a single slice of cream pie in my entire 39 years of existence. And I haven't actually made one myself until now.

I came close once, with this Coconut NO-Cream Pie that I made (which means that I also ate some) to share over at my friend Bea's blog, The Not So Cheesy Kitchen. But no cream filling is slightly (and by slightly, I mean extremely) different than rich, magnificent, actual custard filling. Just sayin'.

I've mentioned several times that I'm more of a fruit pie kind of girl, with nut pies coming in a close second. And of course I grew up eating pumpkin pie around Thanksgiving every year, but that's nowhere near a cream pie consistency. To make a long story short (which I suppose I really didn't), I decided it was high time that I try making an honest to goodness cream pie in my own kitchen. I had to start with banana, because I knew that would be universally accepted (if my home were the universe).
Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Don Draper's Old Fashioned | Mad Men

Don Draper's Old Fashioned #PartyLikeaMadMan
A term coined in the late 1950's to describe the advertising executives of Madison Avenue.
They coined it.

Ready or not, the final season of Mad Men kicks off in just over a week. Me? I only have a handful of episodes under my belt. You see, back when Mad Men first started, we were not yet living in the land of cable television. Crazy, right? I don't know what I'd do without it now. They were already into season twp by the time we did finally crawl out from under our rock. And can I just tell you, I hate walking into a show once it's already begun; much like starting a book series at the second or third book—I just can't do it. So, I put it off and put it off and...yeah...I put it off.

I would catch moments here and there, but I'd be sure to flip the channel before I gave myself any spoilers for my future binge-watching sessions. Now that the final season is getting ready to begin, I've finally started watching it. I did the same thing with Breaking Bad. I didn't watch a single episode, but then caught a marathon on a few weeks before the final season was going to begin. I was hooked. Let's just say that Netflix was on my tablet, which I carried with me everywhere I went, until I caught myself up. I did that in approximately four days. I know I probably shouldn't admit that, but it's truth.

So, I started Mad Men a few days ago, competely clueless to the fact that this show has a boat-load of food and drinks in it. Maybe somebody whose mind isn't trained to spot food inspiration at every corner wouldn't even notice, but really—it's almost all that catches my eye. The show itself opens with the handsome Don Draper scribbling on some bar napkins, trying to figure out his next great ad pitch, empty glass next to him. When the waiter asks him if he can get him another drink, he says:
Monday, March 23, 2015

Sweet and Sour Pork Burgers w/ Pineapple Slaw

This post is sponsored by the National Pork Board in conjunction with One2One Network. All opinions are my own.
Sweet and Sour Pork Burgers with Pineapple Slaw
What do temperatures going from from 0° to 70° in a matter of 7 days bring? Yes, flooding. But also, the flinging open of windows, the return of short sleeves, and the smell of outdoor cooking clinging to the air. The melting of the icy mounds that stood in my way of the garage door last week meant that it was time to wheel out the grill.

My husband volunteered (really) to check it over and gather all of the utensils while I made a quick trip to the store. Since I'll be partnering with the National Pork Board to bring you recipes and grilling tips over the next couple of months, I figured what way to kick off grilling season that with some pork burgers! I mean, burgers are simple to throw together, but you can customize them in all sorts of exciting ways—hello possibilities!

These pork burgers have a bit of an Asian-twist added to them by the addition of sweet and sour sauce. Any sweet and sour sauce will do. If you have a homemade version that you love, by all means, use it. If not, you can visit the international aisle at your local Walmart and find several options. Look for one that doesn't have chunks of fruit or veggies in it for this recipe, because we're going to add it to the pork and brush it on while the burgers are grilling to form a nice, glossy glaze.
Friday, March 20, 2015

Chicken Cordon Bleu Mac and Cheese

Chicken Cordon Bleu Mac and Cheese
I know today is the first day of Spring, but since it doesn't officially start until 10:45 pm tonight—I'm going to slide in one last comfort food dish. Okay, I can't actually guarantee it's the last one; you never know when the mood may strike. But you know, in the spirit of the weather turning warm(ish) and all...

So yes, this dish. It had been dancing around in my head for quite some time before I actually made it happen. I'd been thinking back to some of my favorite foods growing up. There were certain meals that I always looked forward to. Chicken a la King, Chicken Pot Pie, Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken Cordon Bleu...and I loved it when I heard my dad pounding out some chicken in the kitchen. That meant we were having either Chicken Cordon Bleu or Pepperoni Chicken Rolls. Hmmmm, I sense a theme here.

The funny thing is, even though these are some of my favorite childhood meals, I don't find myself making them very often for my own kids. What's wrong with me? I mean, chicken noodle soup and chicken pot pie are fairly regular, but none of the others. When I mentioned chicken cordon bleu, my kids looked at me without recognition registering on their faces. I mean, surely I'd made it once or twice before. Right? I racked my brain and think the last time I made it, my 17-year old was about 3 or 4. That meant that he didn't remember, and my two younger ones had never tried it. #momfail
Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Irish Porter Cake inspired by The Quiet Man | #FoodnFlix

Irish Porter Cake
This month's Food 'n Flix pick is an oldie, originally released back in 1952, starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara—The Quiet Man. This flick is set in the fictional town of Innisfree, Ireland...not to be confused with the isle of Innisfree, an actual place made famous in a poem by William Butler Yates, located on Ireland's western coast.

Our main character, Sean Thornton, is an Irishman by decent, although he grew up in Pittsburgh. Looking to start over (I won't tell you why—I'll let you watch the movie to find out), he leaves the states and moves to this Irish town that he's known only through his mother's stories.

Though not particularly a foodie movie, there is plenty of inspiration to be had. First of all, it's March—and the movie is set in Ireland (exactly why I'm sharing this post on St. Paddy's Day). But even if it wasn't the month where everybody taps into their inner Irish, I would have went the same route. I can't think of Ireland without fond memories...from divided plots of land in all shades of green with sheep roaming freely to the whiskey distilleries and many glasses of beer to the breathtaking cliffs of the Giant's Causeway to the brown bread—Ireland will forever be a part of me.
Monday, March 16, 2015

Granary Loaf

Granary Loaf
Unbelievably, March is already halfway over. Today is the 16th, and that means it's Bread Baking Babes challenge reveal day! Our mission this month was set forth by Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups. She reeled us in with talk of a loaf that is "considered classic, simple, conservative but with a potentially unobtainable ingredient" and reminded us that creativity is as much a part of being a BBBabe as the love for baking bread is. We were to make a Granary-style loaf in which "good tasty bread", not authenticity was the goal.

Well, I may disappoint, because I went completely authentic. After doing a bit of reading on granary bread, I discovered that it's something of a treasure. People love it; it has a flavor all its own that comes from the flour which contains slowly toasted malted wheat flakes. Um, hello! I wanted to try the original before getting all creative up in here. So, I did what anyone who loves a good loaf of bread but can't find the proper flour locally would do—went directly to Amazon.

And guess what? I found it. Before I could think too hard (about the price), I added a bag of Hovis Granary Bread Flour to my cart and immediately checked out. It was shipping from the UK, so I had a good amount of time to anticipate its arrival. Three weeks later, the most expensive bag of flour I've ever purchased arrived on my doorstep.
Sunday, March 15, 2015

Irish Goodbye Cocktail

Irish Goodbye Cocktail
So, have you ever been at a party, bar, social gathering, what-have-you...and just wanted to leave? You don't want to get caught up in the 30-minute goodbye, so you quietly duck out the side door (the back door or the front door will work, too). Yeah, me too. Apparently there's a name for this—several, actually: ghosting, the French exit, and the Irish Goodbye.

In honor of the upcoming St. Paddy's Day festivities, Smirnoff has created a cocktail inspired by the tradition called (you guessed it), the Irish Goodbye. Intrigued by the two simple ingredients, I was delighted to mix one up for myself when Smirnoff sent a bottle of their Kissed Caramel flavored vodka for me to experiment with.

This caramel-kissed glass of hard cider definitely lives up to its name. It's fun and refreshing, and since it's incredibly easy to drink, it's got some mad sneaking abilities—so enjoy with care!
Saturday, March 14, 2015

Salted Honey Pie for Pi(e) Day!

Salted Honey Pie
I've always been a pie kind of girl. When asked the question "pie or cake?"—I choose pie every time. But I've talked about this before, so I won't bore  you if you've already read about my lifetime love of pie. With me making such a strong declaration over and over, you'd think I'd have more pie recipes on my blog. I'm going to work on that.

My goal is to share at least one pie recipe per month for the rest of the year, and what better day to start than National Pi(e) Day? This year, pi day happens to be incredibly special in the coolest, nerdiest of ways (if you don't know why, scroll down the last part of this post to find out).  I think warm pie with a scoop of ice cream and a mug of coffee is definitely something that should be enjoyed on a monthly basis.

I'd give anything to have an old theater in town that showed old Kung Fu movies. Then I could watch one (seriously, Kung Fu movies are another favorite of mine) and go get pie and talk about it afterwards. I'm like Alabama that way.
Friday, March 13, 2015

Smoky Chicken Paprika + Life From Scratch book tour stop

Smoky Chicken Paprika
"There are mysteries buried in the recesses of every kitchen—every crumb kicked under the floorboard is a hidden memory. But some kitchens are made of more. Some kitchens are everything."

I've mentioned before that my books of choice are usually fiction. I love getting lost in mysteries (bonus points if they're a culinary mystery), foodie cozies (even though I cringe at the term "cozy"), and the supernatural. My reading time is me time; it's escape time. I want to be sucked into another world. While this is almost always the case, I also love a well-written memoir—again, usually a foodie memoir—but any one that pulls at my insides will suffice. I also read cookbooks like novels, but if you spend any time at all around probably already knew that.

Today I'm sharing a peek at a great foodie memoir called Life from Scratch, written by Sasha Martin. Sasha also blogs at Global Table Adventure, where she introduces food from 195 countries via "table travel". Part of my personal philosophy is that discovering and exploring the foods of different cultures, countries, and people is the best way to become familiar with them, so I immediately knew I'd enjoy my time immersed in a memoir written by somebody who feels much the same way.

This is definitely a memoir that includes food, but it's so much more than that. Tales of her that start before she was even born, lay the foundation for a book filled with emotions that range from hunger to tears to warmth. Martin weaves her story with spice, vulnerability, and strength. And she tells it through food, cooking, and recipes.
Thursday, March 12, 2015

Matcha Shamrock Shortbread Cookies

Matcha Shamrock Shortbread Cookies
We're baaaaaack—I'm so excited to be spending time in the kitchen with my good friend Leslie from La Cocina de Leslie again (finally) for another edition of she made, ella hace! I don't know how it happened, but somehow SEVEN months has gone by since we last did a little kitchen collaboration. I tell you, time only goes faster with each passing year.

Since it's March, we decided to get in the Irish spirit and choose GREEN as our theme, in honor of both St. Paddy's Day and the start of Spring. I was totally down with this idea, because I'd been sitting on a bag of Matcha Green Tea Powder for a couple of months, just waiting for the right time to use it. Using it as a natural way to infuse green into some shortbread cookies shaped like shamrocks couldn't be more fitting.

This shortbread dough is perfectly buttery and delicate, flecked with tiny bits of almond, and the delicate taste of green tea lies subtley underneath. My oldest son and I are the shortbread lovers (total understatement) in the house, and we've both declared that these are our current favorites. We'll be making them throughout the year...shaped like shamrocks for St. Paddy's Day, leaves for the start of spring, pine trees for Christmas...or just plain slice-and-bake if no "special" shape seems to fit.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie
I love it when the second Wednesday of the month rolls around, because that means it's time for another round of the Blogger CLUE Society (more about this at the bottom of the post). Our theme this month is potatoes, and the blog I was assigned to do a little clue hunting on was none other than Cake Duchess, written by my friend Lora.

I came back several times to dig for potatoes on Lora's blog, changing my mind about what I was going to make every time. At first I thought I'd make her Purple Cauliflower and Potato Gratin, but apparently this isn't the time for purple cauliflower in my markets, because there was none to be found. Sure, I could have made it with white cauliflower, but that wouldn't have been as fun.

Next, I had my heart set on making something that I haven't made in a few years—homemade gnocchi. But not just regular gnocchi, potato and butternut squash gnocchi! There was a butternut squash sitting on my table, potatoes in the potato bin (and by potato bin, I mean a makeshift box that I keep in a dark spot in the kitchen). I even dusted off my gnocchi paddle. And then I just didn't.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Irish Soda Bread Scones

Irish Soda Bread Scones
You know you've made something beyond good when you want to smack your own ass as you walk by. These scones are one of those things. Tall, tender, lightly sweet and studded with currants and flecks of caraway seeds. I haven't even mentioned the thin, crackly sugar shell that tops them off. I've already made them three times in the last week.

These came about when I was pondering the fact (sort of) that I don't have many Irish or Irish-inspired recipes on my blog. And I happen to love Ireland. It was the site of my first-ever airplane landing, and a person never forgets the site outside the window as you descend into Dublin—a patchwork quilt of every shade of green imaginable. It will forever be a part of me.

So, I decided it was time to work on beefing up my Irish repertoire. I mean, I didn't even have a simple loaf of soda bread to demonstrate my affection. I still don't...but I do have some tall, tender scones inspired by Irish soda bread to share today! If you have a soft spot in your heart for that beautifully craggly and rustic quick bread, you'll enjoy these currant studded, caraway seed flecked treats.
Monday, March 9, 2015

Savory Havarti Dutch Baby w/ Pears

Sponsored Post - Feed Your Creativity with Castello Havarti. All opinions are my own. Get creative with any of Castello's uniquely crafted cheeses. 
Savory Havarti Dutch Baby w/ Pears #CastelloHavarti
I've always loved the combination of sweet and savory. Fat pretzel rods dipped in chocolate, ham and pineapple pizza, chocolate covered raisins or peanut butter candies in a crunchy shell scattered throughout my popcorn are all good examples. The breakfast or brunch table is much the same. Whenever I serve orange rolls, I also serve bacon or sausage and slices of cheese to balance out the sweetness. Maybe I just love balance. This version of a Dutch Baby, sometimes known as a puff pancake or German pancake, is the perfect example.

The pancake itself is infused with shreds of rich, creamy Castello Aged Havarti cheese. The buttery taste of the cheese is right at home with the egginess that runs throughout the tender center and puffed, golden edges. And actually, it's perfectly delicious straight out of the oven, without adornment.

But I fancy a little adornment, so I topped it with some tender, lightly sweetened, cardamom-infused pears. The pears aren't actually super-sweet, they lean more towards buttery, a nod at the Havarti in the puff pancake. You could skip the dusting of powdered sugar if it seems too weird, but I found the combination to be oddly satisfying.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Pane Toscano (Tuscan Bread)

Tuscan Bread (Pane Toscano)
Tuscan Bread is one of the things that has been on my to-make list for quite a few years now. Honest to goodness, real, UNsalted Tuscan Bread (or Pane Toscano). Pane Toscano is a particularly large roundish loaf of bread that is traditionally cooked in the wood-fired ovens of Tuscany. Aside from being so large, its main distinction is its lack of salt.  It is made with sourdough or a bit of a starter, which gives it a slight tang, and it has a thick, chewy crust.

The dough is somewhat wet and slack, but the moisture in the dough, combined with a bit of steam (introduced here with ice cubes) and a super-hot oven, gives you that magical, sought-after crust crackle (sometimes called a singing crust) once the loaf is pulled from the oven.  Once you've removed the loaf from the hot oven and it begins to cool, the inside of the bread contracts a bit, which pulls at the crust. That thick, hard crust that was formed begins to form hairline fractures and cracks from the pressure, hence that much desired crackle.

I'll just say, that beautiful singing crust can incite quite the reaction. At one point, my whole family was gathered around the counter oohhing and aahhing over it.
Monday, March 2, 2015

Tuna a la Veracruzana

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Mazola® Corn Oil. Opinions are my own.
Tuna a la Veracruzana
You know how people start making all sorts of resolutions when the new year rolls in—a good lot of them having to do with being healthier, be it through diet, mind, or exercise? I'm not usually one of those people. I have mentioned it before, but for reference, I'm going to say it again. I live in the Midwest, and the beginning of January is freezing; we have snow on the ground. Boots, mittens, scarves, hats, and snow pants are parked in front of every available heat vent. Sleds, skis, and ice skates are the main (if not only) forms of outdoor recreation going on at that time.

Let's just say that a frozen nose and frozen toes don't defrost with the help of a salad. They get back to normal with bowls of hearty stew, roasts that have become meltingly tender while you played, and steaming mugs of hot chocolate. Yes, as far as I'm concerned, January is time for comfort food, not diet food.

But by the time March rolls around, I'll admit to being ready to lighten up a bit. Yeah, it's still cold around here, but now I'm actively wishing it away. My bones are tired of shaking. I want to feel the sun on my skin again. Which makes me think about shedding the winter layers. Which makes me think about the extra "warmth" around my bones. Now is the time I want to start eating better for me foods.