Sunday, July 30, 2017

No Recipe Cooking- Not Quite 40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken

It's garlic season in the Midwest. Garlic scapes are making their appearance in farmers markets of gourmet food shops, and all my gardening friends are starting to harvest the garlic they planted last fall.While all the tulip lovers are planting flower bulbs, garlic lovers are planting bulbs of tasty garlic. You can buy specialty garlic bulbs from garden centers or seed catalogs, or you can buy heads of garlic from the grocery store, and plant those- same thing. Like flower bulbs, they require the cold temps of winter to complete their life cycle, and in the spring, as the ground thaws and the air warms, bright green spires of deliciousness being to poke out from the ground.

As your garlic grows you will notice the green shoots start to curl and take on a very unusual look- those are the scapes, and they are just as delicious as the bulbs. Much milder in flavor than the bulbs, scapes are favored by cooks of all levels- blended into a tasty pesto, they are a refreshing change from the licorice-like flavor of basil. Pickled scapes are absolutely wonderful on relish trays, crudite platters, charcuterie boards, anywhere you might use a pickle. If you let some of the scapes grow a bit you will end up with a small cluster of bulbs at the end of the scape- like teeny tiny garlic cloves. Hang on to those guys and plants the in the spring and they will produce a garlic that looks a lot like a scallion, but with flavor in the same garlic family. So delicious!

One of my very favorite, as well as a lot of other peoples' favorite, is that classic recipe for Forty Cloves of Garlic Chicken. You might have seen versions of this roast chicken that is literally roasted with at least forty cloves of garlic. It might seem like a lot, but that garlic mellows into something really beautiful. After you remove the bird from the pan, scoop out most of the cloves, leaving several in the pan to smash and stir into the pan juices. You will not regret it. This chicken itself has the garlicky flavor roasted into it and it's so amazing. You'll soon realize why the dish is so popular. That being said, something you don't have that much garlic on hand, but you do have a cut up chicken......and that's where this dish was born. It's not quite forty cloves of garlic, and not quite that popular recipe but it's pretty darn close and easy to put together and get on the table in no time.

So how do I make it? It's easy, and I rely on a couple products I can no longer live without, Sinful Food Signature Seasoning and Garlic Olive Oil. Here is what I do. Get a chicken- either a package of cut up whole chicken, or whatever pieces you like, legs, wings, thighs, or if you know how, get a whole chicken and break it down yourself. This is often the most economical way to buy chicken and if you break it down like I do, you cut the breast halves in half crosswise so you have four pieces of breast. Trust me on this, they cook quicker and more along the same time as the other chicken pieces and they don't dry out. You absolutely MUST get skin on, bone in chicken for this dish. Boneless skinless breasts just won't cut it. Grab a baking dish, something along the lines of a 9x13 pan or similar size, and spray well with cooking spray. 

Season the chicken pieces liberally with the Signature Seasoning and some fines herbes. Penzey's has a great fines herbes, it's one of my favorites. Arrange the pieces in the dish and tuck a handful of peeled garlic cloves in and around the chicken pieces, and drizzle with a couple tablespoons of the garlic olive oil. Pop in a 375 degree oven and roast for an hour and thirty minutes, until the chicken is golden brown, and the skin is super crispy and chicken is cooked.

Serve the chicken with a fresh salad or green vegetable and lots of crusty bread for sopping up those delicious juices. This dish is awesome even on weeknights and it's super easy because......there is no recipe to follow!

You can get your Sinful Food Signature Seasoning and Garlic Olive Oil by clicking HERE.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a "sponsored post." As a Brand Ambassador, the company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift or something of value. Regardless,  I only recommend products or services I believe are of good quality and safe. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Kick the Bread to the Curb- Italian Sub Salad

Something big big big is happening in our little house!! Love is in the air and a wedding is right around the corner. That's right, The Chef and The Baker are tying the knot. I've been waiting for this day forever, it seems. Our life has been quite an adventure so far and I just know the best years are yet to come. The planning has been in the works for some time and we're now closing in on the last couple months before the Big Day and still have lots to do. We're not going over the top, we are going to keep everything simple and casual. No fluffy white wedding gown, no tuxes, no limos, no expensive reception halls and fancy catered meals, we just want a relaxed get together with close friends and family to celebrate the beginning of our new life together. 

The Chef has had tons of experience as a caterer with different restaurants that he has worked at over the years. He has seen the easy to please couples and the bridezillas. He and I have both been to plenty of weddings, some have been simple church ceremonies followed by cake and punch at the church. Others have been private ceremonies followed by HUGE and lavish receptions at some pretty incredible locations- one couple even renting the entire zoo for their reception. As guests we had the entire zoo to ourselves, so we could enjoy cocktails while mingling with fellow guests and some really amazing wildlife. Iowa is a state blessed with some beautiful vineyards and wineries, and those are always popular locations for weddings and receptions. My son and his wife were married on the lakeshore at dusk out at the lake where our former Little Lake House is located. It was lovely with the changing colors of the setting sun sparkling off the water. He and I have both experienced weddings that offered a simple cake and punch service, to an appetizer buffet and keg of beer, to an elaborate multi-course sit down dinner with full service cocktail bar. Between the two of us, and our incredibly gifted friends and family, I'm sure we will have no trouble finding a menu that works perfectly for our plans.

Now all this wedding and reception talk has worked up an appetite! Since it's still blazing hot outside, I don't really want to fire up the stove and cook, but I'm hungry for something that's a bit more substantial that the typical salad. I'm not much of a cold sandwich person either, but there just has go to be a way to get the best of both, right? Today's recipe is a playful salad that's a fun twist on the sub sandwich shop classic- the Italian Sub. Crunchy Romaine lettuce replaces the sad shredded iceberg and adds more nutrition. Julienne bites of the best Italian sausages and Provolone cheese make the salad a filling and substantial entree with lots of the same veggie toppings you might add to your sandwich. Drizzled with a vinaigrette instead of heavy mayo helps lighten up the dish and instead of a big loaf of bread, a sprinkling of homemade garlicky croutons brings it all together. The croutons and dressing are made with Sinful Food infused olive oils for that extra bit of flavor. Give your salad a healthy sprinkle of the Signature Seasoning too, just like in the sandwich shops.

I also added some chopped baby herbs from our garden.
Fresh herbs add soooo much flavor.
You can get your Sinful Food olive oils and Signature Seasoning by clicking HERE.

Italian Sub Salad

1 head romaine lettuce
capicola or ham
sliced provolone
3-4 Roma tomatoes
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 red onion cut into julienne strips
half a day old baguette
1/4 cup Sinful Food garlic olive oil
1/3 cup Sinful Food Italian Herb olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Sinful Food Signature Seasoning
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano, or a big pinch dried

Chop the Romaine lettuce and add to a big bowl.

City the salami, pepperoni, and capicola into julienne strips and add to bowl. 

I found this package of three meats but you can use
whichever types you like.
Do the same with the sliced Provolone cheese. Add the vegetables and toss to combine.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the day old bread into cubes. Place in a large bowl and drizzle the olive oil over evenly, tossing to coat all the cubes. Spread out onto a baking sheet and place in the oven. Toast, shaking the pan every few minutes,until browned and crisp. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

I employed The Chef as the Crouton Maker
Make the vinaigrette by combining the Italian Herb olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano and Signature Seasoning in small jar. Shake to combine.

You can add any herbs and spices you like to the basic
vinaigrette recipe.
Add croutons to taste to the salad, drizzle with dressing. Toss to coat, sprinkle with Signature Seasoning and serve immediately.  

You can use any fresh veggies you like in this salad- whatever you might like on you sandwich! It's really delicious with some sliced pepperoncini too. I love those peppers, they add a little bit of bite with no real "heat" like hot peppers. I have a jar of pickled shishito peppers in the fridge, so I slice up a few and tossed them in the bowl- delicious!

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a "sponsored post." As a Brand Ambassador, the company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift or something of value. Regardless,  I only recommend products or services I believe are of good quality and safe. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, July 24, 2017

Cooking with Wine- Fish Piccata

You should always cook with a wine you would drink. Wise words, and truly, words to live by if you are like me and love cooking, love wine, and love cooking with wine. It's no secret to you guys that I am deeply in love with Riesling. Maybe it's my German DNA but there is something about that grape that just appeals to me. Big plus- unlike a lot of other whites, it's never aged in oak. I absolutely hate that oak flavor in wine, especially white. I've complained about that before so I won't rehash it all here. I grabbed an inexpensive Riesling recently, from the Fetzer winery, and it's great for cooking and amazingly drinkable.  

We've covered the wine many times before, so let's talk about something a lot more fun- grocery shopping. Not just any grocery shopping, we all know how much I HATE a boring trip to the supermarket, but fun grocery shopping, gourmet shops, ethnic markets, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, small town grocery stores, you get the idea. In these kinds of stores I don't feel like I have to rush to get out. I like to take my time and check out all the unique items. At the supermarket, for example, they have balsamic vinegar. Might even have two brands. But at Gateway Market or Dean and Deluca they will have twenty different balsamic vinegars, and shelf after shelf of olive oil and all kinds of wonderful things. Olives? You guys know how I am about olives, right? I get in trouble at the olive bars. I'm an olive hoarder, and heaven help me if there is a bin of Peppadews on the bar........

The spice aisle is another danger zone for me. Right now in our kitchen there is a six foot tall shelf unit that is packed with spices. Literally packed. Peppers, herbs, spices, flavored salts, whole spices, ground spices, hot and spicy, smoky and sweet, spices for baking, spices for pickling. In spite of this enormous collection of delicious, I never fail to find something new when I'm browsing in the spice aisle. Maybe a new curry blend, or a new meat rub. It ends up in my basket.

The Chef is always crackling jokes about the pastas and grains we have accumulated in the pantry. There must be four different kinds of lentils in there. Wheat berries, bulgur, amaranth, teff, farro, a few different types of rice. Pastas. Lots and lots of pastas. The Chef is an Italian guy so of course we use a lot of pasta! I love collecting the unusual shapes that I don't find in the normal supermarket and use them for special recipes and pasta salads.

Of course no trip to a gourmet or specialty food store would be complete without at least a couple additions to our staples and condiments. You never know when you're going to need a tablespoons of capers, or a few anchovy fillets. Yes, I do need that many containers of cupcake sprinkles and absolutely we need eighteen different kinds of hot sauce.

Lately The Chef and I have been on a more healthy track when it comes to food. We still like an occasional "naughty" treat but for the most part it's been lean proteins like chicken, fish and lots of eggs, and tons and tons of fresh fruits and vegetables. This time of year there is everything under the sun available from farmstands to supermarkets. I'm going with one of my favorites, baby spinach, and some beautiful flounder fillets to make a deliciously light and flavorful version of one of my favorite Italian dishes, veal piccata. Briney capers and freshly squeezed lemon juice and a big splash of that beautiful Riesling will complete my dish. The Chef still needs his pasta, so I'm adding some buttered orzo, but you could easily swap that for rice or even quinoa or another grain for even more protein power.

The Sinful Food Garlic Olive Oil is the perfect oil for this dish. It adds a nice garlic flavor in the background without being overpowering. I think it makes the dish. You need to invest in this oil and you can get yours by clicking HERE.

Easy Fish Piccata with Wilted Baby Spinach

6-8 flounder fillets*
Signature Seasoning
2 teaspoons Sinful Food Garlic Olive Oil
1/3 cup Riesling
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained thoroughly
2 tablespoons butter
1 package baby spinach, washed and dried
hot cooked buttered orzo for serving

*Use can use any light flaky fish you like, such as tilapia, sole, etc.

Pat the fish dry on both sides. Sprinkle with Signature Seasoning. Dredge the fillets in flour and shake off the excess.

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet until hot. Add the fish and cook about 2-3 minutes per side, depending on thickness, until golden brown. Remove the fish to a plate and keep warm.

Add the garlic, wine, juice and capers to the skillet. Cook for a minute to blend flavors and soften garlic. Increase the heat to high. Stir the butter in until melted, then add the spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted.

To serve, place about 1/2 cup orzo on plate, top with about 1/3 cup spinach, then the fish. Serve with sauce spooned over and additional lemon wedges.

This is the first time I've ever cooked flounder, and to my memory may even be the first time I've ever eaten it. I can assure you, it will not be the last! The flounder was probably the best tasting fish I have ever had. Zero "fishy" taste, and while that sounds almost silly, most people know what I mean. I purchased the frozen fillets at Aldi and they were quick to thaw, individually packed, had zero bones- just delicious. I am definitely going to stock up on flounder- can't wait to try it in things like fish tacos, stuffed fillets, etc.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a "sponsored post." As a Brand Ambassador, the company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift or something of value. Regardless,  I only recommend products or services I believe are of good quality and safe. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, July 21, 2017

Summer School- All About Tea Chapter Two

The second chapter in my Tea 101 class was a trip down memory lane, and a look at my life right now. This chapter spoke to me in two ways- one, the art of steeping, having lived in England for four years and experiencing high tea and being introduced to the British Brown Betty, and two, my new love affair with iced teas. I remember my mom making tea once in a while, with her old whistler tea kettle and big boxes of Lipton tea bags. Simple but exactly what she wanted. Today I have no fewer than ten different tea bags in my kitchen along with at least six loose teas. A bright turquoise vintage looking whistler sits on top of my stove, and a mug tree stands on the counter holding my favorite mugs. 

So back to the lesson. The water is key. Always start with fresh COLD water. To boil or not to boil? Well that depends on your tea. If you are using green tea or white tea you want the water to be ALMOST boiling. Boiling water "cooks" the leaves and results in a less flavorful cup. This was news to me! I thought I always had to use boiling water. Then the tea you choose is the next important step. Always use the best tea you can find. If you're using loose tea you want to use one teaspoon of loose tea for every 6 ounce cup of water. 

How long do I steep my tea? Again, that depends on the tea and how strong you like your tea. I usually shoot for 5 minutes, unless the box says something otherwise. Toss the bag or strain the tea into the cup and enjoy it. I like mine just as is, but you can add sugar, honey, milk, lemon, whatever you like.

This same chapter also touched on iced tea, which is nothing more than brewed tea, served over ice, but you already knew that. You want to brew your iced tea at double the strength of regular tea since you'll be serving it over ice which adds water to the drink. I have mentioned that iced tea is my new thing. It totally is. All my life I hated iced tea, hated the taste, hated the smell, and no amount of sweetener or flavoring would change my mind. One day, last year, I tried a nice glass of ginger peach iced tea at a coffee house in Hannibal, Missouri, with not a bit of added sugar, and it was mind blowing. I was instantly sold, and my love affair with all teas over ice began. I bought a couple different teas that very same day and have been trying new iced teas every chance I get.

Since we're talking about iced tea, let's make one I really really love-

Iced Matcha Lemonade

1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder
1 cup ice, plus more
1 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and fairly melted.

Pour over additional ice into two glasses and serve.

Today's photos feature my own teacups and teapot, which is a vintage-style whistler in a pretty turquoise enamel. The teacups are the only two I have, and they have no real historical or family significance. The photos do share a few of my extensive collection of tea towels, these particular ones are made by DII For The Home and feature some pretty French macarons and stripes almost identical to my teapot! They were perfect for these photos.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Foodie Field Trip- Wheatsfield Cooperative and a very cool recipe

I carry a list in my purse. Old school style. In a teeny little spiral notebook I actually have lists- restaurants I want to try, recipes I want to make, places I want to visit/check out such as ethnic markets. Without the lists, I'd never remember all the cool stuff I want to see, like the Wheatsfield Cooperative in Ames. The Co-op is a very cool store with roots reaching all the way back to 1974, when a group of like-minded citizens decided to form a sort of buying club. Today the co-op serves its member-owners as well as the general public with a full service grocery store that focuses on local produce, organic foods, sustainability, environmental and social issues.

The co-op enriches the community as well, with educational programs focusing on health, diet and nutrition. The co-op's calendar is loaded with classes and programs with something for everyone, like a class on fermenting and kimchi, brewing beer at home, classes focusing on essential oils and using them for self-healing, recipe, baking and cooking classes of all kinds, and much more.

Kids 12 and under can join the Co-op Explorers Club. Programming with children in mind and free fruit when kids stop in to shop and cookies on birthdays make it fun for kids to learn all about where their food comes home and how to be a good citizen of the planet. The Nickel Club encourages shoppers to use reusable bags. For each reusable bag used the shopper gets a Co-op Nickel. The nickels can be redeemed on purchases or donated to the monthly cause. Since the program began in 2013 over $22,000 has been raised. That, my friends, is a LOT of nickels!

This is one time I'm ok with a sticker on my produce!
As you guys have been with me on several different shopping trips, you know the bulk of my food dollars are spent in the produce section. We all know fresh fruits and vegetables are good for us, and I live by those words. Checking out the unique and beautiful fresh produce in the Co-op store was my favorite part of the visit. Loads and loads of organic items and most, seriously, most of the produce was not only in-season but locally grown. That is hugely important to me and a lot of other people out there. Those huge grocery chains get produce from all over the world and it makes no sense to me to buy an imported tomato that was artificially ripened in a warehouse before being shipped when I can get a beautiful red ripe Iowa-grown tomato. Local wins every time for me. Not only is the quality better, the food is fresher and my purchase is putting money into the pocket of a local grower, who will then spend the money locally, and our economy is happy.

This weekend The Chef and I are committed to using up what we have in the house already- from our pantry, our freezer, and leftovers. I love repurposing leftovers into a whole new dish and the pasta sauce he made the other night was in the fridge waiting to be used. I've been craving zucchini for the last few days and that was all I really needed to make this dish happen. The Co-op had some gorgeous local zucchini, the cutest organic baby bella mushrooms and freshly baked baguette so my dinner was complete with just those three ingredients!

One tip I simply must share for making the zucchini boats- use a melon baller! After you cut the zucchini in half lengthwise you have to scoop out all the guts, and a melon baller is the perfect tool. The sharp edge of the cutting scoop makes it easy to get exactly the right thickness of remaining shell without poking through the bottom. Be sure to save all the scooped out zucchini because you'll chop it and add it to the filling.

Another tip for making this recipe successful is to use the super high quality olive oils and seasoning from Sinful Food. I used the Italian Herb oil but the basil or garlic would have been equally delicious. The garlic olive oil is also perfect for brushing over thick cut slices of Italian bread or baguette and grilled for easy garlic bread. Of course, the Signature Seasoning also makes the dish even better- no need to measure out a bunch of spices, the seasoning mix has it all!

To get your Sinful Food products for your own creations, click HERE.

Summer Zucchini Boats

2 medium zucchini, about 1 lb each
1/2 medium onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons Sinful Food Italian Herb olive oil
1 teaspoon Sinful Food Signature Seasoning

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. I left the stem attached but you can remove that if you want. Scoop out the inside of the squash, leaving about 1/2 inch shell. Place the zucchini boats on a baking sheet and set aside.

Chop the squash that has been scooped out and add to a bowl. Add the onion, garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes. Season with the Signature Seasoning. 

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add the Italian Herb Olive Oil. Add the chopped vegetables to the skillet and cook over medium high heat until softened and all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and stir in the breadcrumbs and the marinara sauce.

Spoon the mixture into the zucchini boats. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the boats. 

Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.

So delicious! Not only is this an easy recipe, it's healthy and low in calories. It's a great option for meatless dinners, and can be vegan if you swap out the Parm for a non-dairy cheese. My recipe was not vegetarian since I was using up some of The Chef's pasta sauce from the night before and the sauce was made with pork loin and salami. This dish had something to make everyone happy- locally grown zucchini, organic mushrooms, purchased from a food Co-op and finished with recycled pasta sauce! How's that for thinking outside of the box?

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a "sponsored post." As a Brand Ambassador for Sinful Food, the company compensated me via a cash payment, gift or something of value. Regardless,  I only recommend products or services I believe are of good quality and safe. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, July 15, 2017

ArtWeek and Al Pastor

Des Moines' summer season of festivals is in full swing. This weekend Des Moines hosted it's 20th annual Arts Festival in Western Gateway Park. What started decades ago as Art in The Park near the Des Moines Art Center has grown and evolved into a huge festival with nearly two hundred artists from all over, features food and live music, and has been the recipient of a number of major awards including the Gold Grand Pinnacle Award for the past three consecutive years. It's hard to believe but more than two million people have visited the festival. I remember around the ten year anniversary the festival was usually held on the downtown bridges, but it quickly outgrew the limited space in that part of downtown and found it's current home in Western Gateway Park.

The same weekend as the downtown arts festival there is also an equally popular arts festival held at the State Fairgrounds called ArtFest Midwest. The Varied Industries Building on the fairgrounds is the scene and 250 regional artists display their works. It's a bit more casual than the downtown festival but just as exciting- and air conditioned! Besides being able to view, and purchase, art from local and regional artists, there are also a lot of activities for kids and a lot of tasty food choices as well, with many vendors who will also be there for the State Fair in August. There is a free shuttle bus to take visitors back and forth so you can catch both without having to drive and park. Pretty convenient.

You might wonder what this has to do with food...... there actually is a roundabout connection. The festival in Western Gateway Park is not only a showcase for artists from all across the country, it's also a preview of coming attractions for "fair food" and a great opportunity to try out some of the food trucks that are increasing in number every summer. Since the city loosened the restrictions allowing food trucks, it's been growing like a wildfire. This year downtown Des Moines, the Capitol complex, and many of the larger office parks regularly see food trucks parked and open for service during the lunch hour. People here are embracing this new way to try food you might not normally try. The city has come a long way from the early days of Mexican food trucks set up in odd locations, often out of the way from the action of downtown, and around office areas. It wasn't that long ago that truly was the only kind of food truck in the city, and although some of them looked a little sketchy, alot of people swore by them for authentic Mexican food at great prices. For a lot of us, it was an introduction to tacos like we'd never seen before.

Tacos al Pastor is becoming a very popular menu item in Latin restaurants and food trucks these days, and for good reason. The tender juicy pork takes on the sweet pineapple flavors and hint of spice from the peppers. You often see the pork cooked on rotisseries like the ones used for gyros, and carved off the pile of stacked pork cuts for each serving. It's fantastic and one of my favorite Mexican/Latin dishes. Of course at home, we don't have one of those fancy rotisseries and don't need to make that much pork at one time. That's where the pork chop comes in. As an Iowa girl I grew up loving a juicy Iowa pork chop as much as any other all American food and as an adult I appreciate the way pork lends itself to many different flavors and cuisines. In this simple version of al Pastor the chops are marinated in sweet pineapple and orange juices, warmed up with chili powder, cumin and chipotle pepper, with onion and garlic for kick. I grill these chops to get some good caramelization and grill marks from the sugars in the marinade. I had more marinade than I needed for my pork chops so I threw a couple chicken breasts in there as an experiment. I bet they will be just as delicious. I might even make a little bowl of pineapple, cilantro and jalapeno salsa to serve with the chops. This recipe is perfect for thick-cut Iowa chops.

Pork Chops Al Pastor

1 cup crushed pineapple with juice
zest and juice of one orange 
zest and juice of one lime
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2-3 chipotle chilies with a little adobo sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
6-8 inch thick pork chops, bone-in

In a blender or food processor, place the onion, garlic and chipotle peppers. Add some of the pineapple and puree the vegetables. Combine all other ingredients except chops and mix. 

Pour over chops in a large zip top bag and distribute over the chops. Allow the chops to marinate in the mixture for at least four hours.

When ready to cook, remove chops from marinade and discard marinade. 

Grill chops using a grill or grill pan to 145 degrees for pork. Since I threw a couple chicken breasts in the marinade those guys will cook to 165 degrees.

Check out those grill marks!
Serve chops with cilantro rice or some roasted potatoes and avocado tomato salad or grilled corn. I just love the combo of pineapple, citrus and a bit of heat from chilies and you know I am allllll about the Iowa pork. 

The chicken turned out delicious!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Girls Night IN with pasta and Greek Salad

Girls Night In. Now that is my kind of evening! Jessica and I have been spending a lot of time together in recent weeks, getting back to the way we used to hang out and cook, read through cookbooks, drink a bottle of wine, watch a movie and just relax. Since we've been thrift shopping we both have some cool new cookbooks to flip through and that means lots of recipes to try. We pick a weekend night, buy a bottle or two of wine, and pick a movie. We cook, we laugh, we sit on the deck and enjoy the cool evening breeze and just catch up. 

Friday night we went to see a new movie that's out- Paris Can Wait. It's a cute story of a woman, played by Diane Lane, and friend, played by Arnaud Viard, traveling across France to get to Paris. She is in a hurry, but the friend, her husband's business partner, is a Frenchman and wants to share the beauty of his homeland with his new friend. The places they stop are fascinating, as she learns about the ancient history of France, and along the way they stop to eat. And eat. And have wine. Beautiful wines, beautiful foods. She is not only learning about France, but also about herself along the way. It's great movie, Jessica and I both loved it and swore we would go there one of these days. Since we had enjoyed this moving so much she asked if I had ever seen Midnight in Paris. I had not, so she said hey, let's make some dinner, open a bottle of wine and watch the movie! So just like the old days, we had a girls night in planned.

I offered to cook, and I was craving spaghetti and meat sauce. A quick trip to the grocery store, a side trip to Starbucks for a beverage, and we headed back to my house for our evening. First on the agenda- let that beautiful bottle of wine breathe while I cut up the vegetables for salad. I've also been craving The Chef's Greek salad for a while so I got that going while Jessica got the meat started for the sauce. Once the salad was chilling in the fridge and the meat sauce was simmering, we poured a glass of wine and headed for the deck. The sounds of the city made a nice backdrop to our conversation on my tiny deck packed with pots of herbs and peppers growing. We played music- all kinds of music, some rock, some Amy Winehouse, some Lady Gaga, some Latin, some 70s.....and worked our way through that bottle of wine.

After dinner we watched the movie and the evening wound down with a slice of apple pie and cinnamon swirl ice cream. That, my friends, is my idea of a perfect Girls Night.

The Baker's Greek Salad

1 English cucumber
4 Roma tomatoes
2 medium bell peppers
1 red onion
1 cup Kalamata olives
8 oz chunk Feta cheese*
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper

Cut the cucumber into quarters lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/4 inch chunks. Place in large salad bowl.

Cut the Roma tomatoes into quarters lengthwise, then similar sized chunks. Cut the bell peppers and red onion into chunks. Halve the olives. Add to the bowl.

Cut the Feta cheese into bite sized chunks. Add to vegetables in the bowl. Drizzles the olive oil over, then the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and toss gently to coat everything but not so rough that the cheese breaks up. Serve. Salad also holds well in the fridge.

* I used HyVee brand Tomato and Basil Feta. It was so delicious in this recipe I highly suggest you find a tomato and basil Feta for your salad. If HyVee is not in your area, I'm sure other brands are available. 

The Greek salad was the perfect side dish to our homemade meat sauce and spaghetti. We paired it with a Tempranillo and Malbec blend that was the perfect dry red for pasta. Innovac!on is an Argentinian wine from the Santa Rosa vineyard in Mendoza. 70% Tempranillo and 30% Malbec, the hand-picked grapes are handles in small batches. The grapes are sustainably farmed with irrigation provided by pure mountain spring water in he vineyard that is wildlife friendly and conservation-minded.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."