Game Day Guacamole

So, it’s that time of year again… (Don’t brag about New England, don’t brag about New England…)

That special day, when friends & family gather around the TV to chow down and cheer… (Don’t say Brady is the greatest, don’t say Brady is the greatest…)

Yes, the Super Bowl is upon us! (OK, I can’t help it…)

GO PATS! BEAT LA!

Whew, sorry about that. It’s a little hard to keep the level of humility under control when your team is once again headed to the big game. In all honestly though, I love Super Bowl Sunday no matter who is playing (but it’s always the Patriots).

Game day is the perfect excuse to pig out while the pigskin flies. One thing that is on many menus is good ol’ fashioned chips and guacamole, so I decided to share an easy recipe for the green stuff, with a little Lara twist to it, of course. Here’s what’s going to be in my bowl on Sunday:

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 2 limes, zested & juiced
  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup mango habanero salsa
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1-2 tsp chili powder
  1. Remove the avocados from their skins & place in a large bowl. Add the lime zest & juice. Mash with a fork until fairly smooth (some texture is just fine).
  2. Add the onion, salsa, garlic & chili powder. Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. Add a generous pinch of salt & pepper to taste.

YES, I added salsa to my guacamole. YES, I know that’s not really traditional. But my garden has been popping out habaneros like crazy this season, so I am always making my mango habanero salsa, which you can get the recipe for by clicking here (or above in the recipe). Sometimes I make it with pineapple instead of mango, equally delicious.

Since the salsa is always in my fridge, I’m always looking for new dishes to use it in. Feel free to use a store-bought version, or leave that step out if you want it to be more mild.

One ingredient you can’t skip it the fresh lime juice. Not only does it add flavor, but it actually keeps the avocado from turning brown quickly. Make sure you get that lime on there fast.


Keep that beautiful green bright

And of coooourse the easy thing to do would be buying a bag of tortilla chips, but it’s really easy to make them yourself. Just cut corn tortillas into triangles, place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with a touch of lime juice, chili powder and salt, and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until crispy. It’s like instant restaurant quality chips, and you can control the seasoning and salt levels.



Baked tortilla chips, before & after

Usually I like a make-ahead type recipe for party situations, but this is so quick to put together, I don’t mind making it the day of. Guacamole doesn’t last very long in the fridge, only a couple days.

Fun fact though, you can totally freeze it for a couple months. Just put it in a freezer safe bag and make sure to squeeze all the air out before sealing. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going that route before a party, but if you happen to have a lot leftover, it’s a good way to save it. Then down the road you can thaw it out for taco night or something else (because we all know how expensive avocados can be).

Well, whether you are into the game or not, I think we can all agree that Super Bowl Sunday is fun for everyone if you have the right snacks. What are you more excited for, football or food? I’m know ready for both.

(Go Pats!)

 

Eggs In Purgatory (With A Few Friends)

OK, first new recipe of 2019! It took a little while to sit down and do this, as I’ve had a lot going on. The holidays were lovely, and now I’m preparing for a trip next weekend, and I’ve been starting some new projects. I’ve taken a position as the Honolulu ambassador for an online influencer marking company called Zipkick, which is very exciting. Basically it’s my job to cultivate a local community, recruit more influencers and reach out to brands to connect them with the company and it’s network.

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a post about becoming an influencer and success on social media. We’ll see. I’m still shocked at how far The Picky Gourmet has come in 3 years. I never thought I’d be turning it into (hopefully) a career.

I also never thought I’d be doing an egg recipe. All the way into my adult years, eggs freaked me out. First off, there’s so many ways to cook them… whenever a waiter would ask how I’d like my eggs, I’d just say no thanks. Where do you start?

Scrambled seemed like an obvious choice, so that was my first attempt at liking eggs. Nope, nope, nope. I was not a fan. Still not a fan. I thought the fluffy, yellow eggs looked more appetizing than those weird runny yolks, but eventually, I learned the error of my ways.


The best part… so satisfying

I started practicing cooking eggs to give them another shot. I didn’t get far past the fried egg. I’m sunny side up/runny yolk for life now. Especially when it involves dipping some kind of bread into it. It tastes like melted, buttery goodness. Suddenly the whole “put an egg on it” movement made sense to me.

Then I heard about “eggs in purgatory”… baked eggs in a bed of spicy, thick tomato sauce. And you eat it with bread. I knew immediately this was going to be my jam. Honestly, I threw this together with what I found in my kitchen, and it’s one of the only times I’ve ever created a blog-worthy recipe on the first try. Here’s how I did it:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped artichoke hearts (from the jar)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped capers
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 pickled banana peppers, thinly sliced for garnish
  • chopped fresh basil & parsley for garnish
  • 1 loaf of sourdough or Italian bread, sliced & lightly toasted (I like to toast the bread first & keep it warm in the oven while making the rest of the dish)
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pan or skillet (about 12 inches ideally). Add in the onion, artichoke hearts, capers & garlic. Stir occasionally for 1-2 minutes, until the onions become translucent.
  2. Add the red pepper flakes, thyme, basil, paprika & oregano. Stir into the onion mix for a minute.
  3. Add the can of diced tomatoes & tomato paste. Season with a pinch of salt & pepper to taste. Let it gently boil for about 30 seconds, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally, letting the sauce thicken for about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Using the back of a spoon, create six divots in the sauce. Crack an egg in each cavity, then cover the pan. Cook for 4-6 minutes, until the whites are cooked & the yolk is to your liking (I prefer a shorter cooking time for a runny yolk).
  5. Garnish the dish with the sliced banana peppers, fresh basil & fresh parsley. Serve family style with toasted bread slices.




The three stages of cooking

Easy and delicious. My favorite things. This was one of those things I had to stop myself from eating because I was getting full but didn’t want to stop! I love the runny egg, I love the spices and herbs, and I love getting the salty pops from the capers and the sweet, vinegary bite of the peppers on top.

You can scoop individual servings into bowls for people, but I like just digging right into the pan with the bread. I love a recipe that looks (and tastes) impressive, without a ton of work. This is essentially just throwing a bunch of delicious ingredients together, and when you serve it out of the pan, clean up is that much easier.


Beautiful even when it’s messy

This is also a great “pantry grab” recipe. Pretty much everyone has cans of tomatoes and tomato paste in their cupboards. If you don’t have jars of artichoke hearts, capers & banana peppers, that’s fine. This is a great way to use up the ingredients you do have and love. You can use jalapenos, or you can leave out the spicy pepper flakes altogether. You can add more garlic, or something healthy like spinach. You can substitute parmesan cheese for the salty capers or that last bit of jarred marinara sauce no one it going to use in place of the tomato paste. Use your favorite herbs and make it your own. As long as you have a thick, tomato sauce base, there’s a million ways to make eggs this way.

This is a fantastic option for a brunch where you want to have a few different dishes. It satisfies the need for eggs, without you having to make them to order or worry about cooking them correctly and you can even make the sauce the night before to save time. With just a few minutes on the stove top, you have a show-stopping dish.

I’m already trying to think of the next time I can make this. It would be perfect for a Super Sunday pre-game brunch (since the big game airs at 1:30pm out here in Hawaii) or for when my family comes to visit next month. Actually, this is just perfect for any breakfast, any day. I have a feeling this is going to become a staple in our household.

I promise to stop making it long enough to come up with a few new recipes soon. I’ve got some ideas that I can’t wait to try out when I’m back from traveling next week. See you soon!

Hawaiian Sweet Roll Stuffing

I am in full-on holiday mode here in Hawaii. I mentioned that my last few holidays were all over the place thanks to military life, but this year, we have all our decorations (and furniture) and there’s no traveling to do, so it’s on. Christmas movies, mulled cider, baking, twinkle lights, evergreen scented candles, gift shopping… I LOVE this time of year.

Speaking of gifts, if you don’t follow my Instagram, this would be a good time to start. My first ever giveaway is live! You have a couple more days to win one of two tropical care packages to warm up your holiday, curated by local Hawaiian businesses!

Annnnd while we’re speaking of things… speaking of Instagram… this post is because of a poll I did. I asked which recipe you wanted me to share for the holiday season and the vote was split down the middle. In my last post I shared my method of cooking turkey or chicken in a spicy Cajun style for a family meal. Today it’s all about stuffing (or dressing, depending on where you live.) I call it stuffing, despite never actually putting it inside anything other than a baking pan.

Since stuffing can really reflect where you come from regionally, I decided to put together the traditional flavors I’m used to, but with a twist.


If you couldn’t tell from the title, it’s Hawaiian sweet rolls!

I also used some goodies from my garden that I get to enjoy year round here, because honestly, it’s producing food faster than I can cook it sometimes.

For this recipe, I measured out exact quantities of my finely chopped veggies because I wanted to get the ratio right and not end up with either a dry or soggy stuffing.


I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: prepping vegetables is a zen experience for me

For grocery shopping purposes, I’ll include what you actually need to shop for. Always buy a little more than you think, it’s better to have too much than too little, and leftovers can always be thrown in the roasting pan of the main entree, put in a salad or a crudité spread, etc.

  • 1 package of King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls (12 rolls)
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp chopped sweet peppers (buy 2-4 depending on size, mine are the thin Italian kind I grow in my garden, but any small sweet pepper will work)
  • 3/4 cup chopped swiss chard leaves (buy the bushel)
  • 1/4 cup chopped swiss chard stems
  • 1 cup chopped celery (buy 4 stalks)
  • 1 cup chopped carrot (buy 2)
  • 1.5 cups chopped yellow onion (buy 1 large)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 14.5 oz can low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 large egg
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Chop the Hawaiian sweet rolls into cubes, about 1/2 inch (crouton size). In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with 2 Tbsp of olive oil & dried oregano & thyme. Spread the cubes evenly onto a baking sheet & toast for about 10 minutes until golden & crispy. Return to the bowl & let cool.
  2. Over medium heat, add the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil to a large skillet or pan. Cook the chopped pepper, swiss chard, celery, carrot & onion, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes until tender & the onions turn translucent.
  3. Stir in the chopped fresh thyme, parsley, sage & rosemary & the minced garlic to the veggies. Cook for 2 minutes until fragrant & remove from heat. Allow the veggies to cool for at least 5 minutes before tossing with the toasted bread cubes in the bowl.
  4. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the chicken stock with the large egg. Pour over the bread & veggies & gently fold it in, until well incorporated. Transfer to a greased 13×9 baking pan or casserole dish. (At this point you can cover & save for later in the fridge or freezer.)
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees & bake for 35-45 minutes.

Who doesn’t love a good stuffing? It’s a lot of ingredients, and admittedly a good deal of prep, but it’s worth it. When I made this for Thanksgiving, it was the first thing my guests requested for their to-go leftover plates.



You’ll also realize it’s worth it when you smell those herbs & garlic hitting the pan

One of my favorite things about it is that I can prepare it ahead of time and freeze it. Seriously, figuring out stuffing did just fine being frozen for a week or so was a game changer to my holiday meals. The key is to double wrap it in plastic and get most of the air out, then cover it in tin foil. Then I keep it covered and let it thaw out overnight in the fridge before the day I’m going to cook it. (If you prep it the day before, just leave it in the fridge until showtime.)


It looks so good but resist eating it out of the bowl… remember the raw egg

I love that stuffing can be made in so many different ways by just swapping out ingredient for ingredient. Maybe skip the carrots and go with granny smith apples? You can sub out the sweet peppers for jalapenos to add a little spice or if you want something meatier, cut back on the amount of vegetables and work in some sausage. Stuffing can end up being your personal signature on the meal.

I hope your holidays are shaping up to be as fun (and delicious) as mine are! I might not be back here until 2019, but as always, you can keep up with me on Instagram. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Spicy Cajun Turkey (…or Chicken)

Some people get the post-Thanksgiving blues once the big meal is done. Me? Not so much. Since I do all the cooking (which I always call my own personal sporting event), my husband does the cleaning, and then it’s time for CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS.

We have a rule in this house: no Christmas stuff gets put up before Thanksgiving. But the second those leftovers are in the fridge, I grab myself a glass of mulled cider and get to work on our tree. Maybe it’s a little bit of wanting to get my money’s worth out of my decorations, but mostly I just love the way a house looks with some extra glitter, tinsel & twinkle lights. The halls are decked from Thanksgiving night until New Years Day.

Now, you might think I am sad that my biggest cooking day of the year is over… again, not so much. I don’t go quite as “hard” as Thanksgiving, but Christmas is another reason to make a holiday feast, so I decided to share some recipes that can carry over.

I did a poll on Instagram asking my followers if they wanted my turkey recipe or my Hawaiian sweet roll stuffing recipe and the results were literally 50/50. So, ask and you shall receive! Today I’m going to start with the turkey.

You can get turkeys for *super* cheap after Thanksgiving. I saw them for 99 cents a pound a couple days after, so it’s a great, economical way to enjoy the big bird more than one time a year. (Plus, if you overcooked it on Thanksgiving, this can be your redemption.)

Not everyone wants to deal with the whole turkey all over again, so I’m actually going to give you my recipe for a bone-in turkey breast. This is perfect for about 4-6 people, and actually what I made on Thanksgiving since we had a small crowd. And maybe you don’t want turkey again at all, which is understandable. I know a lot of people who go with ham on Christmas, but I’m a poultry and seafood only kind of gal. If you want to change it up just a little, you could also use this same preparation on a chicken!

There are two parts to this recipe… the brine and the rub.

First things first: you’ll need a bone-in whole turkey breastapproximately 4-7 lbs. (Mine was about 5 lbs this year.) Alternatively you could use a whole chicken. 

THE BRINE

  • 2 cups beer, anything light, or blonde, or a lager (I used Kona Longboard Lager)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 lemon, sliced in half
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs of fresh sage
  • 2 habanero peppers, sliced in half
    1. Put the beer, water, salt & brown sugar into a large stock pot and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt & sugar. One it starts to boil, add the remaining ingredients and lower the heat. Simmer it for 5-10 minutes, until fragrant.
    2. Let the brine cool completely. (Very important, you don’t want to start cooking the bird.)
    3. Place your turkey breast (or chicken) into a brining bag & carefully pour in the cooled liquid, including the lemon, garlic, herbs and peppers. Add more water if needed to submerge the breast fully. Tie the bag tightly, put in a pot or baking dish & refrigerate for 6 hours to overnight.

IN-BETWEEN TIPS 

  • If you have not heard of a brining bag, they are just thick, clear plastic bags you can get at the store. You can also use a sturdy trash bag or a plastic/glass container, if you have a big enough one. You don’t want it to be huge, because you don’t want to be adding a gallon of water to get the turkey submerged.
  • If you are hosting a large crowd and want to do a whole turkey or two chickens, keep the brining recipe the same but double the rub. The only difference is you definitely want put it in the fridge overnight to brine.
  • Before it’s time to cook, take the turkey out of the fridge, remove it from the brine, and pat it dry. Let it sit out and come up to room temperature. This is SO important. If the turkey goes in the oven cold, it takes longer to cook, and this way the skin starts to crisp up immediately, instead of having to warm up first.
  • If you are doing a whole turkey or chicken, you can re-use the lemons, garlic, herbs and peppers from the brine to stuff inside for extra flavor. For the turkey breast, you can put them in the bottom of the roasting pan to add flavor to the drippings.
  • I like to put veggies under my turkey in the roasting pan, but it’s not necessary. For the record, I used 3 chopped carrots, 3 chopped celery stalks and a chopped yellow onion. 

THE RUB (for bone-in turkey breast or 1 whole chicken… double for a whole turkey or 2 whole chickens)

  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted & cooled
  1. Remove turkey from the brine and pat dry. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Mix all the spices together in a bowl. Stir in the cooled, melted butter to create a paste. Slather the turkey all over in the spice mixture.
  3. Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan & tent it with foil, careful to keep it from touching & rubbing off the spice mixture. Cook for 30 minutes covered, then remove & cook another 30 minutes. Start checking the temperature every 15-20 minutes from here, until it reaches an internal temp of 155-160.
  4. Remove the turkey from the roasting rack, place on a cutting board, tent with foil and let it rest 30 minutes before carving. Reserve pan drippings to add to your gravy.

If you have kiddos or aren’t a spicy fan, leave the habaneros out of the brine and the cayenne out of the rub, and you will still have a tasty turkey. The rub goes on pretty thick and creates almost a crust, which really helps lock in all the flavor and juices.

I’ve been working on this for a couple years and it always gets rave reviews. Turkey has a reputation for being bland and boring, so you have to add a lot to get a lot out of it, but honestly it’s not a ton of work. Just a ton of ingredients.

Even if it’s not the holidays, you could do this with chicken any time of year, for any occasion. It’s a perfect Sunday dinner. And if you happen to see turkey breast on sale at the store, grab it and try this out one weekend. Serve it over some mashed potatoes or roasted vegetables. Slice it thin, and have incredible sandwiches all week long. Use the carcass to make stock for your next soup. Why does turkey just have to be for Thanksgiving?

Not just turkey either. In a few days, I’ll be back with my Hawaiian sweet roll stuffing! See you then!

Thank You

I said at the beginning of 2018 I wanted to share more on this blog than just recipes, and it’s taken me almost 11 months to really get that resolution started. Better late than never? So sorry foodie folks, it’s another personal post.

Every year, I have a little internal struggle around Thanksgiving. I love this holiday, and I love this time of year, and being a food blogger, it should be easy for me to sit down and write about Turkey Day. The problem is, the past few years, Thanksgiving hasn’t always been a huge event for me. Don’t get me wrong, I always cook a traditional meal with turkey, potatoes, stuffing, veggies and some kind of dessert, but military life gets a little bit in the way sometimes. I haven’t been able to sit down to a huge meal with my whole family in a while.

The turkey the past couple years has just been the breast. Sometimes one of the sides becomes a frugal after-thought, like a frozen bag of sweet corn. I have to cut recipes down to accommodate small groups… like when we first moved to California and didn’t know a lot of people yet. Or when it was just four of us navy wives, missing our spouses on deployment. Or last year, when it was only my husband and me, because (surprise) we were packing up to move again.

This year it’s a similar scenario. It’s our first Thanksgiving here in our Hawaii home, and I’m going a little bigger than I have been, but it’s still just going to be a couple friends and a low-key celebration. It’s still not a reason to practice really big recipes for a family feast and share here on my blog. But I don’t mind. It’s still one of my favorite days of the year.

Do I wish I could be with my family, or fill my house with dozens of friends? Of course. But it’s not in the cards, and Thanksgiving is not about wishing for what you can’t have. It’s about celebrating what you do have.

For the record, I think life in general is too short to be constantly complaining and thinking about how things could be better without working towards change. And this is coming from a gal who’s been diagnosed with anxiety and has panic attacks, one so bad this year, I was hospitalized. I’m only bringing up that tidbit to say I do understand that sometimes life is hard, or scary, or sad, but there’s something about the holidays that genuinely gives me hope and makes me want to appreciate the good things in life.


Plumerias blooming behind my home… a symbol of positivity in Hawaii

Here’s where it’s going to get a little mushy and/or serious. (“OK Lara, like the anxiety/live life to the fullest thing wasn’t mushy and serious…”)

Family is a word you hear a lot this time of year. I wanted to take some time and reflect on what that word has meant to me in my thirty-something years on this planet.

Let’s get the hard part out of the way… there are people out in the world I share blood & familial ties with, but they aren’t welcome in my heart or my home anymore. Yes, that sounds super harsh, but trust me, I tried many times to force those relationships to be something they are not. There’s only so many times you can be vulnerable and give second chances to someone before you realize that sometimes walking away is the healthiest and happiest route, even if it’s hard.

So for me, blood does not always equal family. Love equals family. Support equals family. Being able to be open, honest and your true self in front of someone equals family.

This post is not about being sad for the family members I don’t have in my life. I’ve moved on and know that I am better now. For the couple that have wronged me (mostly one, honestly), there are many more who have lifted me up, even if I don’t get to see and speak to them everyday. This is my chance to say thank you to them.

To my community theatre family that I grew up with: thank you. I spent the most awkward, formative years of life involved with a HUGE group of people who did nothing but encourage me to be myself, tell me I was beautiful when the kids at school told me otherwise, and taught me to celebrate all the little quirks and differences that make people special. I am so proud to have grown up surrounded by a community of people who never cared about gender, race, sexuality or anything superficial. They only cared about how you treated the people around you, and that everyone was able to be themselves. It shaped my philosophy and world view in the best way possible.

To my tight little group of girl friends who I have known since elementary school: thank you. Thank you for the sleep overs, the games, the dance parties and the stories we wrote. We weathered bullies and school yard anxieties and were there for each other if the guy we were crushing on passed us over at a dance. When we were together, we were able to be unabashedly silly. I know some of us drifted apart in high school and college, and we went down different paths, but I love that we found each other again. I am grateful for the way we support each other, and can still share stories, and at 30+ years old, we can still get down to some boy band jams when we need to. The reunions are few and far between sometimes, but it always feels like we are picking up right where we left off.

To my guys (and a couple girls), my high school friends who I ran around our hometown with like the lost boys: thank you. The memories we made are some of my favorites, from our parties that seemed to last all summer long, to our wintertime snowed-in adventures, to sharing music and deep thoughts in the parking lot of a 7-11 when there was nothing better to do. I don’t keep up with a lot of you these days, but I know some have found success, some have turned their lives around after falling on hard times, and sadly, some aren’t with us anymore. I still think of you and wish you the best.

To everyone who impacted my life at the Savannah College of Art & Design: thank you. No matter how much or how little we interacted, my times at SCAD were when I truly found myself and learned many lessons about the real world, relationships and adult friendships. I broke some hearts and had my heart broken and eventually found my soul mate. Some of you I luckily still talk to, if just in passing on social media. Some I see when we meet up at weddings or when we are in each other’s towns “on business” because we are all growing up. Some are on group messenger chats that have lasted years, and I get to talk to you all the time. I love seeing where everyone’s creativity has taken them and how much we all still support each other’s endeavors, and especially all the little families that have come from our years spent together in Savannah.

To my current Massachusetts friends, a lot of whom I met because of my job there: thank you. Some of you I worked with, some I got to know because of people I worked with, and some I knew long before and re-met (because of people I worked with, ha). Thank you all for helping me grow up while still having the time of my life. I’ll always cherish the standing open invite Friday parties at my house, backyard fiestas, taking over bars (especially on karaoke nights), and even the quieter hang sessions, on the couch, binging Netflix or just talking about life. I have known a lot of you for the least amount of time, but sometimes you feel like my oldest friends. The guys all became like brothers to me and the ladies, you accepted me into your lives and always made me feel like a true “gemstone”.

To everyone I’ve crossed paths with because of military life: thank you. While sometimes it takes me a little too long to warm up to new groups, I love that this community understands that it’s hard to move around and constantly say hello and goodbye to new friends. The strength of the people I have met in the navy, spouses included, never ceases to amaze me. A special shoutout to the ladies who stuck together during deployments and kept each other feeling positive and never, ever alone.

To my husband: thank you. For being my one, for being my best friend and partner, for never letting me doubt that you have my back, for teaching me to be spontaneous and seek adventure, for always holding my hand, and kissing me good night, and never forgetting to say “I love you” before hanging up the phone or leaving the house. You’re the best.

And of course, there’s my family. Thank you to my sister’s husband and her kids, for always being fun, and bold, and hilarious, and taking good care of her. It’s hard to imagine our family before you came along sometimes. Thank you to my in-laws who have become like second parents to me, my sister-in-law and her beautiful, growing family, and all the aunts, uncles, cousins & grandparents still with us on both sides, who are always a joy to be around and make things so fun. Thank you to those who aren’t with us anymore too, for many happy memories.

The biggest thank you goes to my mom and my sister. It absolutely sucks sometimes that I have missed so many holidays with you and the rest of the family these past few years, but you never make me feel guilty. It feels like both of you and your support got me to all those wonderful places to meet so many wonderful people, from the schools I went to, the theatre community I fell in love with and, yes, even my old job. You are proud of my husband and support our unpredictable, semi-nomadic life, and I’m so grateful for that. Thank you for being crazy (in the best way), and for always finding a way to have fun, and for being able to say everything we are thinking to each other with just a look sometimes. Thank you for being on my side, no matter what, and giving me the tools I needed to become a strong woman. And thank you for being strong women.

I love you all. Sometimes life gets weird and lonely, but man, I’m so lucky to have met so many fantastic people and seen so many amazing places. And on a lighter note, I’m lucky that I live in an age with technology that makes it easy to stay so connected. Facetime & Skype are lifesavers and I still have group texts going with a least a couple people from almost every group I mentioned above. So thanks, iPhone, even if you are spying on me!

This wasn’t the easiest thing to write, but being truly open and honest isn’t usually easy, even if it is coming from an optimistic place. I’m not always good at reaching out, and showing affections, so sometimes I am afraid to start. There’s always the fear that someone will want to rain on the parade, but I am reminding myself that to be a stronger person, sometimes you have to vulnerable and reach your hand out to others. Best case, you touch them and they reach back. Worst case, they turn away, and I’ve learned that that is their problem to work on, not mine.

I’m writing this on Thanksgiving eve, to be posted late tonight, not sure of what response I will find in the morning. My food prep is done, my wine glass is almost empty, and I’m ready to go to bed with a heart full of love and gratitude, and a mind that feels free and clear. Isn’t this what the holidays are supposed to be about?

I hope everyone can find their own bit of happiness this season, and that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family, near or far.

Easy Pumpkin Ravioli in Brown Butter

First off, I hope everyone had a fun and safe holiday. We had a really low-key Halloween, drinking pumpkin beers, watching Hocus Pocus (which gave me a great costume idea for next year… yes, already planning it) and handing out candy. It didn’t stop me from dressing up in my cozy corgi onesie costume though!


The trick or treaters loved being greeted by two pups at the door

Next order of business is my kitchen is finally, finally, FINALLY finished! If you follow me on Instagram and check out my stories, you already saw it, but here’s the big reveal for the second time!


Before & after


Insert heart-eye emoji

If you don’t follow me on Instagram, you should. I’ve been working with a lot of cool companies and brands and expanding my influencer status lately. I always seem to have a fun promotion and codes for you to save $$$ on things I love.

OK, enough of that business. Let’s get down to the other business. It’s November now, and Halloween is over, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up on pumpkins! After all those holiday sweets though, I decided to whip up a light, savory pumpkin dish… then drown it in brown butter.

  • 8oz pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 8oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 24 frozen wonton wrappers
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh sage
  • freshly grated parmesan (optional)
  1. Mix together the pumpkin, ricotta, garlic powder, sage, thyme, cinnamon & 1 egg with a pinch of salt & pepper in a bowl.
  2. Lay out half of your thawed wonton wrappers on a clean, dry surface. Create an egg wash in a small bowl by whisking together remaining egg and about 2 tsp of water.
  3. Place 1 tsp of the pumpkin/ricotta mixture in the middle of each wrapper. Brush the egg wash around the edges & use the other half of the wonton wrappers to top the 12 raviolis.

    Gently push all the air out & seal them. *At this point, you can place them on a parchment lined sheet tray to freeze them. You will have plenty of filling left to make a big batch to save.
  4. To make the brown butter sauce, melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat, constantly stirring. If you let the fat of butter settle on the bottom, it will burn. Once it becomes light brown (about 4-5 minutes of cooking), remove it from the heat & add the minced garlic & sage, still stirring to keep it moving. Carefully transfer to glass measuring cup or bowl to stop it from continuing to cook in the hot pan.
  5. To cook the ravioli, bring heavily salted water to a boil. Cook the ravioli 3-4 at a time without crowding the pot, for about 3 minutes, until they are tender. Use a slotted spoon to remove gently them from the water. (They are delicate)
  6. Serve with a generous drizzle of the brown butter & the grated parmesan to your liking.

It’s nutty, it’s sweet, it’s savory, it’s light, but also buttery and indulgent… It’s a perfect fall meal.

I’ll be honest. I originally tried to make my own pasta dough and do more a traditional ravioli, but I don’t have a pasta sheeter (yet) and I couldn’t get it as thin as I needed. They were OK, but eh, just OK. There’s also something oddly more elegant about how the wonton raviolis look, so I think it’s a win-win: easier & prettier.


Right out of a fancy restaurant… or not.

Using the wonton wrappers is a huge shortcut. It makes it so easy to crank these guys out like an assembly line. Like I said before, you will have plenty of leftover filling if you want to make more than 12. I suggest 3 raviolis for an appetizer serving, or 6 for the main dish of a meal. If you have a bigger family and want to make more than that at one time, double up on the brown butter recipe.

I think making a bunch of these and freezing them before Thanksgiving would be a great plan for an unexpected appetizer. If you don’t want a bunch of pumpkin ravioli in your freezer, save the mixture and add it to a marinara sauce for a surprising autumn twist on spaghetti night or use it in a pumpkin lasagna with some alfredo sauce. Pretty much anywhere you would use ricotta, you can use this for instant fall flavor.


You can keep the leftover filling for a couple weeks in the fridge

For most of my life, I thought pumpkins were just for Jack-o-lanterns and pie. I think a lot of people only really encounter pumpkin in sweeter dishes & desserts, so this is a fun twist on an otherwise ordinary pasta dish. Obviously, you can fill those wontons with any kind of filling you like… cheese, spinach, meat, whatever you’re into. It’s insanely easy to make them this way, so go crazy. I have big plans for the rest of my wrappers.

What do you think? Have you ever tried pumpkin ravioli? Would you want to? If you try out this recipe, I think the outcome will surprise you. Give it a shot, while I get back to work on another fall recipe!

I’m Not Sorry. #MeToo.

This is not a food post. I’m not sorry.

This might get uncomfortable. I’m not sorry.

I’m disgusted with my country. I’m not sorry.

Today was the one year anniversary of the mainstream #metoo movement and it’s also the day an accused sexual assailant was appointed to the Supreme Court.

I can’t change this today, but I am registered to vote and ready to make a change once November rolls in. I have spent the past few weeks reading and listening to brave women coming forward with their stories and experiences, and I think it’s time to air some thoughts of my own out.

When I was very young, I’d have to guess about 5 or 6, a man exposed himself to me while I was running a lemonade stand on my safe suburban street. Even at that age, my first instinct was to say nothing, that I would be in trouble, that it was my fault. After about a day I spoke up. I remember talking to a police officer at my house. That’s pretty much all I remember.

I went to Mardi Gras one year with a group of college friends. We were walking down Bourbon St one night when I felt someone reach between my legs from behind. Thankfully I had pants on, if I had to find some silver lining in this disgusting situation. Some words were exchanged between him and the guys who were with me, but he ran off as quickly as he could into the crowd. Probably to go grab more girls by their… whatever word you want to use here. The current president know’s how to fill in that blank.

Our favorite spot in college to play pool was almost ruined for us when one night. A group of drunk guys decided to continuously walk by my girl friend and I, blatantly taking flash photos of us, sometimes right in our faces. (This was in the days of digital cameras.) Our boyfriends and a couple other male friends told them to stop, but they wouldn’t. We decided to leave, and as I walked up the stairs to street level in my dress, the guys took pictures up my skirt. My boyfriend (now husband, *swoon*) was behind paying the tab, saw this happen, and told the guy to delete all the photos. When he declined, his camera ended up in pieces on the floor in a puddle of beer. If I had been alone that night, those photos would probably be somewhere on the internet right now.

There’s a member of my family I can’t talk to anymore, for what started as personal reasons, but lately the issues have been amplified. This person openly mocks survivors and wishes harm against females & politicians with opposing views. This person will always be associated with me and it turns my stomach.

And these are just some of the highlights, the things I’m cool with sharing at this point. I’ve had a boss at a restaurant job who had too many drinks after work and said in front of me and many co-workers that he only hired me because he thought I was attractive. I’ve had a guy threaten to kill me when I didn’t want to go out with him. I’ve had guys spread rumors about what I supposedly did with them, sometimes to the point of me needing to provide alibis, because no one was going to just take my word for it. Then let’s add on a million cat calls and creepy comments over the years. Deja vu, ladies?

I’m positive at least one of the men who have shaped my current point of view will read this, and I hope with all my heart they recognize their mistakes and try to be better. For the record, I don’t need apologies or your repentance. But the shallow part of me hopes you wake up in a cold sweat at night the way I do sometimes.

The point is, this shit happens ALL THE TIME. This is what growing up surrounded by rape culture feels like. Although legitimately upsetting, I consider the things I have experienced to be minor in the grand scope of it all. Still, watching Dr Christine Blasey Ford testify, I was sweaty, I was nauseas and eventually so worked up, I didn’t know if I wanted to punch a hole in a wall or cry. Not because I experienced exactly what Dr Ford did, but because I’m so exhausted by story after story of women not being believed.

Even now I feel some weird lingering guilt while I write this post, this feeling like I shouldn’t be talking about this. It’s uncomfortable. It might offend someone. People will think you are exaggerating or looking for attention.

Part of that is right. I do want attention, but not just for my stories. I want attention for the greater sum that my stories add too. If you think you don’t know someone effected but the event this week, you are wrong. Everyone, men included, should be able to share what’s happened to them without being afraid. Why should we be embarrassed? The creeps who did these things are the ones who should be drowning in shame, not us.

I made a promise to myself a few months ago: stop saying sorry when you aren’t.

The more we speak up, the more people will realize that this happens everywhere, all the time, to anyone. The more we speak up, the more potential predators will learn that their actions do have consequences and we aren’t putting up with this anymore. The more we speak up, the louder we get. Like those those two beautiful, strong, LOUD women who told Senator Flake to look them in the eye and tell them why he was going to vote for an accused sexual deviant to be appointed to the highest court in the land. Like all the women I see daily on social media, baring their souls and sharing their truth. Like Christine Blasey Ford.

I believe her.

I believe survivors.

I believe we can take this country back.

 

Shrimp Street Tacos with Mango Habanero Salsa

It has been a busy start to fall here! First off, last month I celebrated my 32nd birthday… yikes. It was a low-key day of brunch, day drinks and football, since my last couple birthdays have been very eventful.

Year 30 was celebrated on a party bus (literally, a school bus), cruising up Highway 1 in Southern California with my friends. It was bittersweet though, because two days later most people on that bus, including my husband, went off on deployment for 7 months.

31 was the first birthday I spent in Hawaii, but it wasn’t as fun as one would expect. We actually flew home from our house hunt on my birthday, and spent most of the day stressed out and making real estate offers. We were actually negotiating one house that fell through due to stubborn sellers, but it was a blessing in disguise, because I love the house we ended up with.

My husband’s birthday is a month and a day after mine, so funny enough, we made our first offer on our current home on my birthday and closed all the paperwork on his! It doesn’t feel like a year ago, especially since the home renovation is stillllllllll going on, but…

EXCITING NEWS. After a visit from the electrician on Saturday, my kitchen will be DONE. 100% done. I have been dying to share before and after pictures, but couldn’t bring myself to do it with a couple lingering projects. Make sure to follow @thepickygourmet on Instagram or Facebook to see the reveal next week!

For now, let’s get to tacos. Coincidentally, today is National Taco Day! Hurry up, you might still have time to run to the store (or, you know, a drive-thru). If you missed it this year, there’s always Taco Tuesday. Read on and you’ll be prepared.

Growing up in New England, I wasn’t a taco fan. When I was a kid (you can do the math now that you know how old I am), a taco was usually a hard shell full of dried ground beef, some cheese and maybe some shredded lettuce. Over the past couple decades though, with the help of food trucks and inventive chefs, more authentic and more inventive tacos have been pushed into the mainstream.

My time living in California really made me fall in love with them. I don’t eat red meat so chicken, fish & shrimp tacos are my preference. I love that kind of Baja, tropical, street taco style that is all over SoCal. That’s what inspired this post.

I am calling these street tacos not because I am selling them out in front of my house from a cart, but because this isn’t a very strict recipe post. It’s more of a blueprint of how to set up a really awesome build-your-own taco spread.


Coming soon, to your kitchen… if you want

Let’s start with the main attraction here, my mango habanero salsa I’ve been working on for a few months!

Mango Habanero Salsa

  • 1-2 habaneros
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 mango
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp agave syrup or honey
  1. Cut the habanero (or habaneros, if you are adventurous) in half and remove the seeds. Be very careful, wear gloves if you can and immediately wash your hands after.
  2. Chop the bell pepper, onion and carrot down to a similar size as the habanero halves. Make sure to remove the seeds from the pepper and to peel to carrot. Add all the veggies and garlic to a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast the veggies at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until tender and some char appears on the onion and peppers. Set aside to cool.
  4. Peel and remove the pit from the mango (it doesn’t have to look pretty). Put the mango and the roasted veggies and garlic into a blender with the apple cider vinegar and agave. Blend until smooth.

This recipe makes enough to fill a mason jar and trust me, that will last you a while. This can get spicy, so a little goes a long way. And it’s not just for tacos! I love to use this as a marinade for grilling chicken or to mix a dollop into some ketchup for a spicy, sweet dip for fries.

But we’re talking tacos. Here’s the rest of what you need to make my shrimp street tacos:

  • Small Corn Tortillas
    • Some packages will actually say street tacos. Besides being traditional, I like the small tortillas because guests can make as little or as much as they want and try different combos
    • Alternatives: Of course, you can use whatever tortilla you like. If you want something larger, if you just prefer the flour ones or those whole wheat versions, go for it. You just need a vessel.

  • Shrimp
    • Here’s my big shortcut. All I used was a bag of frozen shrimp (raw, cleaned & deveined) and my favorite bottled Caribbean jerk marinade. Just an hour of marinating and about 4 minutes in a skillet or on a grill pan, and you have perfect shrimp. I like the jerk marinade to play up the sweet and spicy aspects, but you could use any flavor you want… chipotle, barbecue, etc. If in a pinch, some olive oil, honey and hot sauce can be whisked together for a quick sauce.
    • Alternatives: Any other protein. Beef, chicken, pork or fish. If you have a big crowd to feed or are feeling ambitious, try making more than one. Just make sure it’s either shredded or cut to bite size pieces. Tofu is a good option for vegetarians, as are hearty vegetables like cauliflower, squash or potatoes. (I just found out about potato tacos a couple years ago, and trust me, they are fantastic.)

  • Fresh Salsa
    • Since we have the super spicy, super smooth mango habanero salsa, I like to contrast that with something fresh and with some texture. I threw together some chopped red sweet peppers from my garden with white onion and avocado, in equal parts. I did about 2/3’s of a cup of each, then simply tossed it with some sea salt and the zest and juice of a lime.
    • Alternatives: I usually go with a traditional pico de gallo, with tomatoes. If my spicy salsa was tomato based, I might do a fresh salsa with mango or pineapple. I’m really into balance and giving people options, but at the end of the day, if you know everyone will be happy with one sauce or salsa, that’s fine. For me personally, my husband and I loveeee spicy stuff but our guests aren’t always down for that.

  • Garnishes
    • My rule of thumb here is to have at least three extra things to dress up your tacos. It sounds like a lot, but it’s easy. I’m always start with something pickled, because it adds texture and I love that vinegar-y pop of flavor. I have to have my pickled onions and my husband loves pickled jalapeños. I make my own at home, but you can find this stuff in stores too. Next is something to tame all that heat, and that’s easy. Sour cream. I might get wild and mix a little lime juice and zest in there. Lastly, something fresh, and for me, that’s cilantro.
    • Alternatives: You don’t have to do pickled things and cilantro if that’s not your jam. Classic toppings like shredded lettuce, cheese, chopped onions, avocado, fresh jalapeños and beans are great for adding texture and freshness. For the cooling aspect, you could use guacamole or Mexican crema.

My favorite thing about throwing a taco party is that almost everything can be made in advance. When it’s time to eat, everything goes out on the table and your guests get to help themselves.

The more options you provide, the more fun combos you can make. My plate looked like a bunch of snowflakes, each taco unique and beautiful in it’s own way.


Where do you start?

This is easy enough to do for Taco Tuesday and fun enough for a weekend party with a few cervezas. It’s perfect to break up the monotony of chicken wings and dip on Sunday if you are a football fan. Trust me, your friends will love this. (And if they don’t, they might not be your friend.)

How are you celebrating National Taco Day? Let me know what your favorite taco toppings are. If you need me, I’ll be digging into all the leftover goodies I have from this post! See you next time!

On The Side: German-Style Potatoes with Pesto

This time last week, I was sitting around waiting. My pantry was packed, my bar stocked and all my laundry and dishes were cleaned and put away. The backyard was stripped of decorative string lights, the grill was anchored to the deck and the patio furniture was in my dining room. Devices and back up batteries were charged, movies were downloaded to the laptop and a stack of board games and puzzles was waiting in the closet. I was incredibly prepared for Lane to hit Hawaii, marking our first hurricane as homeowners.

Except it never happened. At least not for Oahu. The big island of Hawaii and Maui got the majority of the rain and wind, but Lane slowed, weakened and veered away from the rest of the state. We only got gray skies, some gusty winds and barely a sprinkle here. I’m obviously very happy that we didn’t have anything worry about but man, what a weird weekend, waiting for a hurricane to hit and it never showing up.

The plan had been to spend the storm snacking and drinking and playing games… and we stuck to the plan. I also spent a lot of time cooking. One of the first things I made was a pesto. I had trimmed my herb garden in the backyard to avoid damage, so I had a lot of fresh herbs to use. I used mainly my sweet Italian basil, with some Greek basil and curly parsley thrown in (simply because I had it.)

Pestos can be made with any type of herb, even though basil is traditional. I don’t always have pine nuts lying around (which are very expensive), and I have some other nut allergies, so I tend to skip that step with my homemade pestos. I use roasted garlic to fill in a bit for that toasted pine nut flavor. I just whipped up the herbs, garlic, and some fresh parmesan cheese in the food processor with extra virgin olive oil and voila!


Easy, nut-free pesto. But you can always get some at the store too.

I didn’t record or measure anything while making this pesto, because I figured I would just use it on a sandwich or something when the power was out, which was of course going to happen when hurricane Lane hit. To my surprise, my oven was active all weekend. When I was looking around for things to make and remembered I had this pesto to use, I was inspired to make this recipe. It’s German potato salad with a pesto twist!

  • 1lb small red potatoes, quartered
  • 14.5oz can of low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 lemon, juiced & zested
  • 1/2 cup pesto (homemade or favorite store-bought)
  1. Place the quartered potatoes in a pot & pour in the stock & water, making sure the potatoes are submerged. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cover & cook for 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender. Gently strain out the liquid, salt & pepper the potatoes, & set aside to cool.
  2. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, red onion & the white & light green parts of the green onion. Cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring consistently just until the onions start to brown.
  3. Add the vinegar & lemon juice, reduce the heat to medium-low & let it simmer for a couple minutes. Stir in the pesto, then pour the entire mixture over the potatoes. Gently stir to coat.
  4. Transfer to a serving dish & serve warm or at room tempature, garnished with lemon zest & sliced tops of the green onions. Yields about 4 servings.

Typically, German potato salad will have bacon and mustard in it, but I used the pesto to take their places. I suppose this is a kind of an Italian-German fusion dish! It’s also a flavor bomb. You get the fresh lemon, the punch of the herbs and the onions and then the tangy vinegar comes in. The soft, cooked potatoes just absorb it all.


Before the pesto hits, the color of the onions is fantastic

Speaking of those potatoes, they taste great all on their own because of using the stock. Think about, stock or broth can replace water in a lot of recipes, and all it does is just ramp up the depth of flavor. I like chicken stock, but if you want to keep it strictly vegetarian, veggie stock is great too.

This dish can be served really at any temperature, but I like it just above room temp. It would be a great side to bring to a cookout, especially since it’s an easy recipe to double or triple up on. I’m personally not a big fan of mayo-based potato salads, especially when it’s sitting outside all day in the sun. This version is guaranteed to be delicious all day long, no matter how hot or cold it is.

Yes, no matter the weather… whether it’s a hurricane or not… sigh.

Hawaiian-Inspired Fried Chicken & Pineapple Waffles

Where does one get their cooking inspiration? A lot of people will refer back to their childhood, and learning to cook with family or the food that comes from their parents or grandparents culture. A lot of people will refer back to where they grew up and turn it into buzz words: their southern roots, their island flair, their spicy attitude.

For me, I didn’t grow up in a house where people loved to cook. Since my family tree is full of mutts (a term used lovingly) from places like Lithuania, Russia and other random European countries, there wasn’t a cultural cuisine that we practiced. Dinner was just dinner, and if there was something special about it, it went over my head because I was probably refusing to eat it as I heated myself up some chicken nuggets.

I grew up in New England, which immediately is associated with seafood… which I hated when I was little. Basically, my cooking style just kind appeared after a while when I finally decided to start eating better and cooking in college. I’m not even sure you can call it a style, but when put on the spot I always blurt out “comfort food with a twist.”

My motto is “I cook what I like.” (My blog e-mail is actually icookwhatilike@gmail.com, if you wanted to get in touch.) I started out in cooking by learning to make the very limited amount of dishes I enjoyed, and branched out from there. That’s pretty much my approach now to individual recipes: start with something I know, and figure out how to make it my own.

Since I don’t have my own built-in family food culture, my inspiration comes from restaurants, books, people and of course, the wonderful places I’ve lived in and traveled to. Today’s recipe was actually inspired by a little breakfast spot down the street from me that makes “Hawaiian waffles”.


Diced pineapple, toasted coconut & coconut syrup. YUM.

As I was eating them, my mind wandered from the beaches of Oahu to Savannah, GA, where I lived for almost 5 years. My absolute favorite brunch dish is chicken and waffles, so I decided I wanted to see what that would look like on a tropical vacation. Thus, a recipe was born.

This isn’t as hard to make as it looks, but there are a lot of components going on here. Let’s break it down:


The Salsa – this is the easiest place to start, because you can make it a day or two in advance. You’ll probably have leftovers, and you’ll be happy about it.

  • 1 cup pineapple, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup mango, finely diced
  • 1-2 jalapeños, finely diced
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • sea salt
  1. Combine the pineapple, mango, jalapeño (1 or 2 depending on how spicy you want it) and red onion in a bowl. Add the zest and juice of the lime, chili powder & a pinch of sea salt. Cover tightly & refrigerate, up to a week.

The Brine – it’s super important to brine fried chicken so it doesn’t dry out. I like adding pineapple juice to mine because the acid makes the meat even more tender & flavorful.

  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 6 oz pineapple juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  1. Mix together pineapple juice, water, salt & chili powder in a large glass bowl or tray. Submerge the chicken fully. (Add a little extra water if you need to, depending on your vessel.) Cover & refrigerate for 2 hours to overnight.

The Breading – this step can be messy. I like to use ziploc or paper bags to toss the chicken around in. If I’m doing a big batch, those disposal aluminum trays from the grocery store work great.

  • 1 1/2 cups flour, divided
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  1. Mix together 1 cup of flour with the garlic powder, chili powder, salt & pepper. Toss the chicken until evenly coated.
  2. Mix together the remaining 1/2 of flour with the panko bread crumbs. Dredge the chicken in the beaten eggs & immediately toss in the panko mixture until evenly coated.
  3. Fry as you please- I tried out my new air-fryer for this recipe, so if you have one, follow your models instructions for cooking fried chicken. You can also fry in oil, at 350-375 degrees for about 15 minutes, until the internal temperature is 160. If you prefer to do “oven-fried”, I would suggest lightly spraying the breaded chicken with canola or vegetable oil spray to ensure a crispy crust.


The Toasted Coconut – I tried to incorporate coconut into the breading, but it would burn, so it became it’s own, easy step.

  • 3/4 cup shredded cocounut
  1. Cook the coconut on a lined baking sheet in the toaster oven or oven at 350 degrees. Stir & toss the coconut every 45 seconds to a minute until golden brown.


The Waffles – don’t worry, with everything else going on, I don’t expect anyone to make these from scratch. You can also make these as pancakes if you don’t have a waffle iron.

  • 20 oz can of pineapple slices in pineapple juice
  • 1 box of instant waffle/pancake mix (the kind where you only add water)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
    1. Place 8 pineapple slices onto paper towels & pat dry. Reserve 1/4 cup pineapple juice.
    2. Mix the batter to the boxes instructions for 8 waffles, subtracting a 1/4 cup of the water required. Substitute it with the 1/4 cup of pineapple juice. Stir in the cinnamon & vanilla until smooth.
    3. Pour the batter onto a greased waffle iron, preheated to about 400 degrees, careful to not overfill. Drop a pineapple slice into the center of each waffle, close the iron & cook for about 5 minutes, until golden brown. Sometimes the extra moisture in the pineapple will require an extra minute or two of cooking.

The Sauce – there’s more? We’ve come too far for boring old maple syrup.

  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup sriracha
  1. Mix together the maple syrup, honey & sriracha until blended. Drizzle & serve!

To Assemble – this makes four servings, so put two waffles on each plate. Place the fried chicken alongside the waffles and drizzle with the spicy syrup. Top with the tropical salsa & the toasted coconut. ENJOY.

We did it!


Savory, spicy, sweet, fried, fresh, fluffy, crunchy… hmm, sounds like the seven dwarves in my foodie remake of Snow White.

If I am at a new spot for brunch and I see chicken and waffles on the menu, I am all over it. Number one, it’s a good way to judge a restaurant by getting something from the breakfast and the lunch menu. Number two, it’s dang delicious.

I love the contrast of sweet and spicy in this version, so this is basically heaven to me on a plate. The salsa, the toasted coconut and the pineapple waffle are all tropical flavors, but they are also all pretty sweet. The spice infused throughout, particularly in the sauce, perfectly balances everything. This recipe is a smorgasbord of flavors and textures.

And about that salsa. I have used different variations of it in recipes like my crab cake sandwiches and all the time on Taco Tuesdays, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. I love the color and freshness it brings to a dish, especially one like chicken and waffles, that would otherwise be be very monochromatic.

So where do you get your inspiration from? Maybe you should make this recipe and see if it gets your creative juices going. Although, it’ll probably just get you ready for a nap, especially if it’s paired with a couple mimosas.

Time to get back to the kitchen and dream up my next recipe!