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!

What Are You Drinking?

It has been a busy start to summer around here and my blog has suffered a bit. We had my mother-in-law visit, then we took a trip to Seattle and Chicago, and I promptly got sick with bronchitis when we got home. After that, we had a friend staying with us on the weekends while in town for work, spent some time downtown in Honolulu and had a beach party for the Fourth of July. Sprinkle in more ongoing house remodel projects, and you have the perfect storm for blog neglect.


Some of those home projects are pretty relevant to today’s post…

I do have a lot of ideas and inspiration jotted down in my trusty notebook, but I haven’t had the time to perfect any new recipes just yet. While I get back into my cooking routine, I thought it would be fun to talk about what I’ve been drinking instead!

I love ordering cocktails in restaurants, but it’s only been over the past few months that I’ve made it a point to try making them more at home. Our go-to was usually just wine or beer. As I started putting together our little bar area in our new kitchen, I discovered there’s something really appealing to me about the process of measuring, muddling and making a cocktail myself.

So without further ado, these are my three favorite drinks of the moment.

Old Fashioned


This will warm you up on a breezy summer evening… a perfect night cap

  • 2 tsp demerara or simple syrup (*see below for more on this ingredient)
  • 3 dashes of bitters
  • 2 oz bourbon
  • orange peel
  1. Add the syrup, bitters & bourbon to a glass. Stir gently, then add an ice cube and a sliver of orange peel.

My husband was the best man in the wedding we attended in Chicago and as a gift, the groom gave him a kit of all the things needed to make his favorite version of an old fashioned. While bourbon is definitely more up my husband’s alley than mine, I have to say, it’s growing on me.

I played around with the amounts a bit and this is the what we settled on as tasting the best to us. For such a traditional drink, there are a lot of different ways it’s made. Some people use sugar cubes instead of syrup, there’s different kinds of bitters to choose from, so experiment a bit.

For drinks like this, invest in an ice tray that makes large ice cubes. It won’t melt and dilute the drink as fast a bunch of little cubes. It also looks classier (I’m a classy broad, when I want to be), and presentation is just as important with cocktails as it is with cooking.

*Spoiler, the next two recipes include simple syrup as well. All it is is one part water and one part sugar. You bring it to a boil in a small pot, stir until the sugar dissolves, then turn the heat off and let it cool completely. You can infuse the syrup with herbs and other flavors as well, and it can be stored in the fridge for about a month. You can also go ahead and buy versions of it in the store, like the fancy demerara syrup that came in the old fashioned kit we were gifted.

Blackberry Mojito


This is what you want when you’re relaxing poolside on a sunny afternoon

  • 6-8 mint leaves
  • 2 tsp simple syrup
  • 4-5 blackberries
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 oz white rum
  • 4 oz club soda
  • extra limes, blackberries & mint sprigs for garnish
  1. In a glass or a cocktail shaker, muddle together the mint leaves, simple syrup, blackberries & rum.
  2. Strain the mixture into a glass with ice and top with the club soda. Garnish with a lime slice, berries & mint to your liking.

Mojitos are such a classic, refreshing summer drink. This is also a good cocktail to make a large batch of in a pitcher for a cookout or summer party. If you prefer, you don’t necessarily have to strain the muddled mint and blackberries, but I like having a simple presentation.

I’ve seen a lot of menus with different fruity variations of this cocktail, but blackberries are my favorite. Not only is the color gorgeous, but I love the tart flavor along with the mint and lime. It brings back the nostalgia of having blackberry bushes on the side of the house I grew up in. I used to pick them, now I drink them.

Rosemary Champagne Cocktail


Substitute these for mimosas to step up your brunch game

  • 1 oz rosemary simple syrup
  • 1 oz elderflower liquor
  • 6 oz champagne
  • rosemary sprig
  1. Pour the syrup & elderflower liquor into a wine glass or champagne flute. Top with champagne and garnish with rosemary.

Easy enough, right? This might be my signature drink. I love champagne, I love elderflower liquor, and I love fresh herbs from my garden. Infused simple syrups are a great way to utilize herbs, whether you grow them yourself, or have some from the store that you need to use up.

It’s also a versatile cocktail. I’ve made it with vodka and tonic water when I didn’t have bubbly around and sometimes I trade out rosemary for basil simple syrup. And between you and me, don’t break the bank on expensive champagne. Get the stuff under $10, because the delicately sweet elderflower and the fragrant rosemary are going to be the stars.

***

My goodness, it’s Friday already? I need one (or all three) of these drinks. What about you? Let me know what your favorite cocktails are for the summer, or feel free to give me some recommendations as I continue to populate my liquor collection.

I’ll be back soon with a new recipe… one you can eat, I promise!

Rustic White Pizza with Roasted Garlic & Mushrooms

Well, it’s been a little bit since I had a recipe for you guys to try. There’s a few behind-the-scenes things I’ve been working on for the blog that hopefully will be coming together soon. We’ve also been making great progress on our house. I plan on doing a post about the kitchen and garden once we get the last little finishing touches done.

Let’s get back to today’s recipe. I’m calling this a pizza. Some might want to call it a flatbread because it’s not round, but I’m sticking with pizza.

If you had told me to come get some pizza when I was a little kid, and you gave me this, I would have been totally bummed out. Mushrooms were always gross to me, like one of my big “no way” foods. I think a lot of picky eaters really dislike the idea of them. The way I got used to them was pizza. I’d try a little bit at a time, sometimes giving up and picking them off, but eventually, I grew to love them.

This recipe is inspired by a pizza in a restaurant in California that taught me that mushrooms are just like any other food… delicious when covered in cheese and garlic.

  • 1 full head of garlic
  • 3-4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups white button mushrooms
  • 2 small shallots
  • 1 store-bought pizza dough (or use your favorite recipe)
  • 1/3 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 Tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp truffle oil (optional)
  • 3-4 oz fresh mozzarella
  • fresh basil for garnish
  • salt & pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the very top off the garlic bulb so you can see the cloves inside. Carefully remove as much of the papery outer layer as you can, without pulling the cloves apart. Place the garlic in some tin foil, with the edges curled up, and drizzle with 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Wrap the bulb in the foil loosely and roast for 40 minutes, until the garlic is golden brown & fragrant. Set it aside to cool. (Do not try to squeeze out the roasted garlic yet.)
  2. While the garlic is cooking, clean and thinly slice the mushrooms. Finely mince one shallot, and thinly slice the second.
  3. On the stove top, put a Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown and shrink a bit. Add the minced shallot and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are translucent. Strain or drain as much of the excess liquid from the pan as you can, and set the cooked mushrooms aside to cool.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the ricotta, fresh thyme, truffle oil (if you don’t have truffle oil, use olive oil), and a pinch of salt and pepper. Squeeze the roasted garlic into the mixture. Use a fork to smash the cloves and incorporate them into the ricotta.
  5. Now that all the toppings are prepped, preheat the oven to the temperature suggested on your pizza dough. (I recommend using the dough in the pop can or a homemade recipe, as opposed to a pre-cooked crust.) Grease a large sheet pan (about 16″) with olive oil before placing the dough on it. Press the dough until it’s spread evenly and covers the pan. Pre-bake for about 8 minutes.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the crust. Next, add on the cooked mushrooms. Take a ball of fresh mozzarella and rip off small pieces. Space them out evenly over the pizza. Finally, top with the raw sliced shallots. Return it to the oven and cook another 6-8 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the crust is cooked to your liking. (Obviously, the longer you cook, the crispier it will be.)
  7. Top the pizza with freshly chopped basil, cut into squares and serve immediately.


Here’s what it looks like before cooking, so you can see the spacing of the toppings.

That seems lot of steps for a pizza, huh? It’s a word-y recipe, yes, but it doesn’t take a lot of time and effort when you are actually making it. You have that 40 minute window while the garlic is roasting to cut, prep and cook the other elements, then you just set them all aside until you are ready to assemble. You could probably make the mushrooms and the ricotta mixture a day ahead of time too.

Let’s talk about cooking the mushrooms… you have to do it. The biggest mistake people make with mushroom is just throwing them on a pizza and expecting them to cook properly with the rest of the pie. That’s how you get a bland, rubbery topping.

Your standard before & after

Cooking them beforehand brings out all the flavor and color you want, without any of that off-putting texture. (Which was a big turn-off for me back in the day.)

The roasted garlic/ricotta spread is my favorite part of this recipe. 1/3 of a cup might not seem like a lot, but you really don’t need to glob this all over. A nice, thin layer is all you need. That goes for regular pizza sauce too… a lot of times people go overboard with the marinara and you get a heavy, soggy pizza.


Once you smell that roasted garlic, you won’t miss the tomato sauce one bit

You could easily double the ricotta part of the recipe and make a couple different pizzas out of this at the same time. Hmm, I’m thinking sun-dried tomatoes, grilled zucchini and artichoke hearts. Or how about chicken with rosemary and capers? Some arugula tossed with lemon juice and prosciutto? The topping possibilities are endless with this base.

I also love a sheet pan for making pizza, mostly because I don’t have a pizza stone (yet). I am not good a stretching out a beautiful, symmetrical crust so I let the shape of the pan do the work. They say rustic is what you call food that isn’t pretty, but I think a rectangular pizza is quite nice. It’s also easier to cut into smaller pieces if you were serving this up at a party or as an appetizer.

Speaking of parties, I’ll be traveling over in the next couple of weeks to Chicago for a wedding, with a short visit to Seattle on the way. Hopefully I’ll have lots of fun stuff to share, maybe enough for a post! Or you can always follow my Instagram for extra photos and videos. In the meantime, go make a pizza!

A Tale of Two Weddings

Today is a different type of post. No food, no recipes, just a little more insight into who I am and some advice I have for others. Specifically, this is for anyone who is a future military spouse.

January 15th, 2015 was the day I got married. May 6th, 2016 was my wedding. Why? Let’s start at the beginning.

My husband and I met in college. We were together for many years, eventually moving back to where I grew up in Massachusetts, getting secure jobs and starting a life together. The only problem was he had a masters degree that was going to waste. Architecture was not an easy community to break into and jobs were scarce. After much deliberation, he decided to give the military a shot and try to become a part of the US Navy Civil Engineer Corps.

There was some back and forth. At one point, he was told there weren’t enough spots and he wouldn’t be selected. We sighed and accepted it and settled back into life as we knew it. Then he got a call… just kidding. There is a spot for him. Within a couple months, he was gone to basic training.

After that part was over and we were reunited, we had a few weeks together before he had to move to California to continue his training for the CEC. This is also were we would be stationed once he was officially in. We had to make some big decisions. The first one was that since he would be so busy with classes, then directly going on his first deployment overseas, it made more sense for my to stay in Massachusetts and keep working my full-time job for the better part of a year and spend time with my family and friends. The second big decision was… do we get married?

Every little girl imagines her wedding day. What she’ll look like, the venue and, back in the day, my fantasy probably involved Leonardo DiCaprio or a Backstreet Boy. I had songs I wanted to play. I had an idea of making my own dress with a train covered in white silk flowers, for some reason.

As I got older, I got more practical. I also got more anxious and the idea of planning a wedding seemed incredibly stressful to me. Before the military was in the picture, I was fine being in my mid/late 20s and just living with my boyfriend. I was in no rush. But now, I had to be.

We got engaged on Christmas Eve 2014 and were legally married about 3 weeks later. We did it this way for the same reason a lot of other military couples do it… money. I hated the idea. I hated that my loved ones wouldn’t be there, I hated that it was just at the courthouse, I hated that I would have to explain for the rest of my life why I have two anniversaries. But it just made sense from a practical standpoint. As a married couple, your housing allowance goes up, pay goes up and I could get onto the Navy’s health insurance, which was very important, since I was eventually quitting my job.

Our courthouse wedding happened when he moved to California and I went out to help him find a temporary housing situation and see where I would eventually be living next fall. It was strange. It was like going to the DMV. You fill out papers. You wait. You sign more papers. You wait. Then they brought us to a separate area to perform the ceremony, basically a blocked off section of cubicles with a plastic trellis arch and fake flowers. Unbeknownst to us, we had to do the whole “for better or for worse” deal, led by an extremely sassy judge and a witness who they pulled out of a random work station, who spoke little to no English. It was hard to keep a straight face, because it was unexpected and felt like a scene from a sitcom.

Afterwards, the judge asked if we had an iPhone, so she could take our picture. We did, and she did, and that was that. We drove to the beach and had champagne with a fancy lunch, trying to give some sort of weight to the day. We returned to our hotel and started calling up family members and our closest friends to say “guess what we did today…”, which was actually pretty fun. Some of them thought we might be doing the marriage thing that week, but I never fully committed to the idea until the day we decided to go through with it, so essentially we were calling everyone to say “Surprise! We eloped.”

A couple days after we got married, I flew back to Massachusetts. Besides one more trip in the spring to attend the annual Seabee Ball in California, I didn’t see my husband for the first 8 months of our marriage, another part of this whole plan I hated.

Now came the, uh, fun part: planning a real wedding ceremony. Actually, we decided early on we’d refer to it as a wedding “celebration”. As much as I wanted it, I dreaded it. I had this anxiety that people wouldn’t want to come, or think it was stupid that I was having a wedding month and months after being legally married. I felt like calling it a ceremony would be a lie and that everyone would be rolling their eyes as I walked down the aisle.

Looking back, it was a lot of internal struggle for nothing. I got on message boards and websites for other military couples and realized it was a more common practice than I had thought. I heard from (and eventually over the past couple years, met) a ton of spouses who went through the same process, with the same doubts. Will my real wedding not be taken seriously? Will my loved ones be annoyed? Does this mean anything? Should I even bother?

The answer was overwhelming this: HAVE THE WEDDING YOU WANT. You deserve to have a day that’s all about you. You deserve the dress, you deserve the first dance, you deserve the cake and the photos and the party. People who love you want to celebrate with you. (An open bar doesn’t hurt the cause either, wink wink.)

So I did it. I picked out my dream venue in Massachusetts, rustic and charming. I got my dream cake, layers of double chocolate, tiramisu and my favorite, strawberries with whipped cream. Best of all was my dress. My mother, sister and two of our best family friends took me to New York City for the day to shop at Kleinfeld Bridal, where they film “Say Yes To The Dress.” I did not elect to be on the show, but they did happen to be filming the day we were there, so it was very cool to see it. My consultant, Lisa, is prominently featured on the show. She was SO NICE and understood what I was looking for and didn’t put any pressure on me. I ended up trying on a dozen dresses, but going back to the very first one I put on that day, a romantic, lacy Maggie Sottero gown that I had fell in love with online. It was the perfect experience.

What I wanted the most out of my wedding was for it to be fun, for everyone. My brother in law performed the ceremony and was amazing and hilarious. Our bridal party was small, with only my sister and sister in law beside me, and my husband’s two best friends with him. I walked down the aisle to Ellie Goulding’s version of “Your Song”, we closed the ceremony with When In Rome’s “The Promise” (my 80’s movie moment, in my mind) and my husband picked out our first dance song, “Stay Young, Go Dancing” by our favorite band, Death Cab for Cutie. There was a late-night after party in a hidden basement club at the venue with pizza and french fries for everyone to snack on.

We definitely skipped some of the traditional aspects.We did our first look during our pre-wedding photos so we could get the formal portraits out of the way and actually join our guests during cocktail hour between the ceremony and the dinner reception. There was no gift registry, no throwing of the bouquet and no first dances with parents. We cut the cake while everyone was still finishing dinner, because we wanted to get to the party as fast as possible and not interrupt the dancing for anything, other than one epic group photo taken from the balcony. We did things the way we wanted, mostly with the goal to maximize the time we spent with our guests.

A lot of people kept giving me the advice to “prepare for at least one thing to go wrong” on the big day and to just roll with the punches and enjoy myself. Honestly, there were no glitches. We got our good luck rain, but fortunately it was only during the indoor ceremony. The beginning of the day when we were out taking our photos in the gardens was sunny and clear.

All my vendors showed up on time and exceeded my expectations, from the beautiful flowers (that included succulents, and even rosemary for the guy’s boutonnieres), to the delicious cake, to the incredible photographer. My maid of honor, my sister, made sure everything went off without any added stress to me. It was literally a dream come true, and I can’t think of how the day could have gone any better. It was the most fun and most magical day of my life.

And NO ONE acted like it wasn’t a real wedding. It WAS a real wedding. That’s why we choose to celebrate May 6th instead of January 15th. My husband I spent so much time apart that year we were legally married that it didn’t seem right until we said our own written vows and threw the party we wanted, surrounded by the people we love and who love us the most.

To anyone having to make these same decisions: Have the wedding, whenever it makes sense for you. Don’t focus on the timing and the paperwork, focus on what makes a wedding special to you. Do what makes you happy and what satisfies all those fantasies you had when you were a kid, dancing around your room with a blanket on your head for a veil. (Uh, I mean, not that I did that, or anything…)

So even though we’ve been husband and wife for over three years, Sunday was my second wedding anniversary. It’s not exactly what I imagined as a little girl, but there’s not a thing I would change about it now.

Sweet & Spicy Chicken Wings

Let’s start with the kitchen update: it’s still not finished.

I’ll be honest. I’ve watched enough HGTV remodel shows that I should know nothing ever goes right or on schedule, but the optimistic side of me thought maybe we could bang this kitchen out in a couple weeks. Well, the optimistic side of me is dead now.

We had a damaged cabinet to reorder and a lot of rainy days causing rescheduling. I have my oven and fridge, thank goodness, but can I please tell you how unpleasant washing dishes in a bathroom has been for the past 3 weeks? I will be crying tears of joy when my new farmhouse sink and dishwasher get installed.

Venting aside, I know all this hard work and inconvenience will pay off in a big way. I’m so excited to get it up and running, because I have a lot of recipes I am itching to try out.

Despite our house being a work in progress, we decided to have a couple of friends over to watch the Super Bowl a little while ago. When you have no kitchen and the big game is on, the only logical solution is to set up your deep fryer in the backyard and make wings.


When I made these yesterday, there was a sudden change in the weather. “I’m fryyyyin’ in the rain, just fryyyyin’ in the rain…”

We already had buffalo chicken dip on the menu, so I wanted to stray from the traditional hot wing flavor. I grabbed a bottle of sweet and sour sauce from the grocery store thinking it might be good, but at home I realized it was way too sweet, so I got creative. I threw all this extra stuff in from my fridge and panty (which right now is a bunch of bins in the front bedroom) and the sauce turned out better than expected.


The outcome of the game wasn’t great, but at least the wings were.

I guess you could say I…. winged it. I didn’t take notes that day, but I managed to recreate the magic for today’s post. Let’s get started!

  • 6-8 whole chicken wings, split into wingettes & drumettes (12-16 pieces)
  • oil for frying
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup pickling liquid*
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup sweet & sour sauce (I used this one)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp sriracha
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 lime, zest & juice
  • sliced green onions (optional)
  • pickled red onions (optional)

*I used the liquid from my pickled red onion garnish. If you do not have anything pickled to borrow the juice from, increase the water to 2 cups and the salt to 2 Tbsp

  1. Stir salt into the water until dissolved. Combine with 3/4 cup of pineapple juice (save the rest) and the pickling liquid. Pour over the wings in a large glass bowl or container and cover tightly. Refrigerate for 2-6 hours.
  2. Heat oil in a fryer or a large pot to 375 degrees. Discard the brining liquid and place the wings in large ziploc bag full of flour. Seal the bag and toss the wings around until they are evenly coated. Fry 6 to 8 pieces at a time in the oil for 8-10 minutes, until cooked through and crispy.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, combine the sweet and sour sauce, soy sauce, sriracha, garlic, red pepper flakes, lime zest, lime juice and the leftover 1/4 cup of pineapple juice. Simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to marry all the ingredients.
  4. When the wings are cooked, drain them on paper towels before tossing them in the sweet and spicy sauce. Serve immediately, topped with thinly sliced green onions and pickled red onion, if desired.

If you are having a large party, you obviously need to double (or triple) this recipe. In that case, you can keep cooked wings in the oven on the warming setting while you fry the rest of the them. Also, I highly recommend getting some of those deep aluminum foil pans from the store to carry these babies back and forth in. It makes clean up so much easier, especially if you pour the sauce over the wings in one of those instead of another bowl getting messy.

The first time I made these for the Super Bowl, I didn’t add any onions at the end. I put out some blue cheese for people to dip with, but honestly, I wasn’t feeling it. When I was gathering what I needed for this second trial, I happened to notice I had some green onions to use, so I tried those first. YUM!


I could use a heart-shaped eye emoji right about now.

Then I got crazy and decided to throw some pickled onions on there too, and oh my goodness. The two kinds of onion added another level of texture, aroma and freshness to cut through the sticky, rich sauce. Maybe I’m the only one who’s this in love with pickled veggies, but if you have been following me for a while, you know I always have something pickled in the fridge. Red onions, carrots & celery cut into matchsticks, sweet peppers, hot peppers… all my leftovers end up in a jar.

Here is a great guide to quick pickling if you are interested in trying it out! It’s super easy and then you always have awesome stuff to top off a dish (especially sandwiches).

If you are not into deep-frying or don’t want to deal with mess, you could always bake the wings. Frying really get the wings crispy fast though, which locks in all the flavor. Also, when you are smothering something sauce, I don’t see the point in adding a bunch of seasoning to the coating. Simple flour is all you need.


Wings straight out of the fryer, looking good enough to eat without sauce.

Brining is the other key to having yummy, juicy wings. Even if it’s only a salt water brine, do it. I added the sweet pineapple juice and vinegar-y pickle juice to impart more flavor and because the sugars and acids would tenderize the wings. I swear, when I bit into a couple of them, I got this amazing burst of pineapple right before the spice kicked in.

I’m not going to lie, wings aren’t the easiest, breeziest thing to execute. It takes a long time and some patience. You’re going to make a mess. But once you start eating these, and reap the benefits of all that hard work, it’s worth it.

It’s a little bit like remodeling a kitchen that way.

Boom, mic drop. Tied the wings right back to beginning of my post. Too bad I don’t take myself seriously enough to write a three paragraph poetic metaphor about chicken and kitchens. You’re not here for that anyways, you were here for these:

I’m so glad to be posting recipes again. I’ll be back in a couple weeks with more food and more updates! See you then.

All About Apples

I’m taking a stand. Pumpkin spice will not take over my seasonal baking. Apple cinnamon deserves to be back on top.

Apple cinnamon has become the Jan Brady of fall flavors, sitting around going “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” while everyone freaks out over pumpkin spice. Yes, it’s not the most exciting or trendy thing anymore, so we take it for granted, but I think it deserves more credit.

The nostalgia factor is huge here. I have always requested apple pie for Thanksgiving dessert. Also, I think there was a year of high school that I ate those frozen toaster strudels everyday. Always the apple ones. I actually had to stop eating them for a while because I burnt out on them, but obviously, I got over that.


“I can’t quit you.”

Look, there’s nothing wrong with pumpkin. I like it, but since everything out there on the market these days is pushing pumpkin spice, I thought I’d give you three quick recipes for reuniting with your first fall love.

Before we start… I used honeycrisp and granny smith apples for each recipe. I like using two kinds of apple for a couple different flavors. Of course you can swap these out for whatever your favorites are, but I really recommend using a tart apple and something sweet to balance it out. If you don’t know what to pick, here’s a helpful guide from Whole Foods.

Now for the recipes!

Apple Chips

  • 1 honeycrisp apple
  • 1 granny smith apple
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Preferably with a mandolin, slice both apples very thinly. Remove all seeds.
  2. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a bowl, and drop each apple slice in one at a time and flip to coat. Place the apple slices on a parchment lined backing sheet.
  3. Bake for an hour or two, flipping the apples every 30 minutes.


Use a paper bowl for the cinnamon sugar… between that and the parchment, clean up is easy!

If you prefer a chewier bite, cook them for only an hour. You can leave them in until they are as crisp as you want them to be, but just check when you are flipping that the sugar isn’t burning. Cooking times can vary depending on how thick/thin they are, so this is one recipe you just have to keep an eye on.

These are a great healthy snack! Despite the sugar, you still totally taste the apple flavor. You could drizzle them with some caramel sauce and serve them up as a sweet snack for a fall party, put them in a leafy salad for some texture or replace greasy potato chips as a sandwich side.

Sparkling Apple Cider Sangria

  • 1 honey crisp apple, cored & chopped
  • 1 granny smith apple, cored & chopped
  • 1 bartlett pear, cored & chopped
  • 2 Tbsps lemon juice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 cup rum
  • 2 1/2 cups apple cider
  • 1 750ml bottle of champagne or prosecco
  1. Place the chopped apples and pear into a pitcher. Add the lemon juice and stir or shake to coat the fruit. (This prevents browning.)
  2. Let the apples absorb the lemon juice for a minute, then add the cinnamon sticks, rum and apple cider to the pitcher. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  3. Give the contents of the pitcher a stir then pour in the champagne. Serve immediately, with fruit.

This is becoming a staple on weekends around here. This is the perfect cocktail for a autumn afternoon full of football or scary movies. The best part is eating all that fruit that soaks up the sangria!

P.S. The point of sangria is to fancy up cheap wines, so don’t blow your budget. Get some Andre or Cook’s, you know what I’m talking about. A bottle of wine or bubbly going into a sangria should be south of $10.

Apple Hand Pies

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 box (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry
  • 1 can of apple pie filling OR follow this easy recipe I followed to make my own!
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the egg yolk and water together to create an egg wash in a small bowl.
  2. Roll out both thawed puff pastry sheets and cut out four 6″ circles from each. (Eight total. You can use a bowl as a guide)
  3. Place a spoonful of the apple pie filling in the center of each circle, away from the edge. Using a pastry brush or your finger, coat the very edge of the circle with the egg wash. Fold the dough in half and use a fork to crimp the edges together, creating a half moon shape. Brush the whole top of the pie with egg wash and slice three small slits on top to vent.
  4. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the pies. Place them on a lined or greased baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

So I have done these a couple times with the canned apple pie filling, and it works out so well. Plus, it takes away half the work and you can have “homemade” pies in no time that make everyone think you spent hours on them.

This time I decided to make my own filling and to jar the rest for future baking, and it was super easy! If you went apple picking or just have a lot of them laying around, I’d say make your own. If you want to keep it simple, or maybe want to get the kids involved in helping make these, go with the canned.

Wrap these guys up individually in plastic wrap and they will last for a few days. They make a great sweet breakfast on the go!

There you have it. Three different recipes using apples. Bonus points to anyone who goes all out and makes all three of these in one day! Send me pics if you do.

Where do you stand in the apple vs pumpkin debate? I hope I made a good argument for my beloved apples today. Let me know what you think of these recipes, or what your favorite fall treats are!


Cheers!

S’Mores Puffs aka S’Monuts

Alright everybody. We are in the last half of summer. For one reason or another, I think we are all feeling that creeping dread of looming responsibilities, whether it’s back to school shopping, having to say goodbye to the beach or prepping for big life changes (like our upcoming move).

How about we forget about that stuff for a few minutes? I have a dessert recipe that uses only 5 ingredients. Yup, only 5, and they are all things that are probably in your kitchen right now.

One of my favorite summer treats is s’mores. Why?

Exhibit A

It’s a classic, so I decided to take the idea of s’mores and mesh it with one of my favorite dessert hacks: frozen puff pastry sheets. This recipe is so easy, there’s no need to even give you measurements. You need a bag and/or box of each of the following items:

  • frozen puff pastry sheets
  • milk chocolate chips/bars
  • marshmallows
  • graham crackers
  • one egg (for egg wash)


I left the poor egg out of the family photo

Boxes of puff pastry typically have two sheets in them. Once they are thawed, I like to put it on parchment paper with a dusting of flour. This keeps it from sticking and makes clean up really easy because you can prep everything on it, or you can use a large cutting board.

You want a 12×12 inch square, so you might need to roll the dough out a bit before you cut it into 16 pieces (cut it in half length and width wise, then repeat). Since we are going to be sandwiching the dough together, each sheet makes 8 puffs.

Whisk together an egg with a Tbsp of water for your egg wash. And no, water doesn’t count as an ingredient! Put some chocolate chips (or break up a chocolate bar into small pieces) in the center of one square then brush the edges of the dough with egg wash. Place a second square on top and use a fork to seal the edges. They will look like giant raviolis, it’s kind of funny.


Stuff as much chocolate as you want in there, just make sure to leave room on the edges

Heat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a baking sheet… you probably could have done that earlier. I don’t know why I’m not writing this like a typical recipe, it just seemed easier this way. And it’s too late now!

ANYWHO.

Put a couple graham crackers into a ziploc bag and crush them up into a powder. I wanted to get cinnamon ones at the store, but they didn’t have any! I cheated and added some cinnamon to the crushed crackers, but you don’t have to. Use whatever kind you want.

Put your weird, mutant raviolis onto the baking sheet. I like to smush the edges in to the center, kind of rounding them out a bit before I brush them with egg wash and generously sprinkle on the crushed graham crackers.


Ready to get baked

When they bake, they come out kind of looking like donuts that way. Or maybe I should say cronuts, because they are flaky like croissants… wait, did I just invent the s’monut? (I’m calling that, and immediately editing the title of this post.)

Bake them for about 10 minutes, until they are golden and puffed up. Take them out of the oven and top them with marshmallows. I had mini ones on hand, that were kind of a pain in the butt to balance on top, but I got it done. Next time I think I am going to get the big ones and cut them in half. Bake them for another 3-5 minutes until the marshmallows start to melt and brown.

Optional toppings would be a sprinkle of powdered sugar or a drizzle of chocolate sauce if you really loooooove chocolate.


There’s enough chocolate inside for me

Let them cool a little, because the chocolate inside can be quite hot. Oh man, though. These fresh from the oven are like heaven. They also hold up really well on the counter for a couple hours or you can keep them in the oven on warm if you are waiting for guests.

This would be an adorable sweet treat at a summertime brunch, or an outdoor bridal/baby shower. I had my friends try these, and when I told them how simple they were to make, their minds were blown.

This would also brighten the mood on a rainy weekend when you can’t get outside to make real s’mores. This is a super easy recipe to make with kids, they will love to be on dough duty. The beauty of these puffs is that they are not meant to look perfect, they are just meant to be delicious.

C’mon. It’s the end of July. If you are doing summer right, you’ve been spending it with friends and family, outside and grilling. Someone always brings stuff for s’mores, and there’s always stuff leftover. Try this out!

Grilled Honey-Lime Chicken with Mexican Street Corn

Last weekend, our busy summer continued with a quick trip to Massachusetts. My husband hadn’t been back since our wedding about 15 months ago. To fill you in, I grew up in MA and my family still lives there. My husband and I also lived there together for a few years before we moved to California, so we have many loved ones around the South Shore. If only we had time to see them all! (Just an excuse to go back again…)

One of our best friends had her 30th birthday party, an all-day affair that started by the pool, moved on to margarita machines & tacos on the porch and then the hot tub at night. The rest of our short weekend was spent mainly on the back porch of my childhood home, grilling and enjoying adult beverages, while watching my niece and nephew swam with our family’s two Labrador retrievers.

It was a perfect July weekend in New England, spent nearly entirely outdoors and fairly unplugged from the world.

One thing that got drilled into my mind was how much I want a backyard when we move. We live in a gorgeous, contemporary townhouse that is a block from a park and walking distance to shopping, groceries, restaurants and more. I love it, trust me, but the one compromise was not having our own private outdoor space.

I want a backyard. I want my dog to have her own space. I want to grow herbs and vegetables. I want a pool, whether in-ground or inflatable. Most importantly, I want a grill! I know my husband agrees, too.

For the time being, I rely on my Cuisinart griddle/grill/panini miracle machine, which is what I used last night when I decided I wanted to have a cook out in my kitchen.


I made my husband shuck it.

I have a serious obsession for corn on the cob in the summertime, and cheesy Mexican street corn is a huge fad here in California. Once you try it, there’s no going back. I love it so much, I decided to use the flavors to inspire a chicken marinade to make a complete meal… an extremely quick and easy meal, I might add.

For the chicken:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1 lime, zested & juiced
  • 1 Tbsp hot sauce (optional)
  1. Combine salt, pepper, chili powder, smoked paprika and garlic powder and rub generously on both sides of the chicken.
  2. Whisk together the olive oil, honey, lime zest & juice, and hot sauce. Pour over the chicken in a bowl, cover and marinate for an hour or two.
  3. Cook the chicken on the grill over medium heat for about 10-12 minutes on each side, turning only once, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. (Same practice for a grill pan indoors.) Use any extra marinade to brush on the chicken as it cooks.

For the corn:

  • 4 ears of corn, shucked and cleaned
  • 1/4 cup Mexican crema or mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 3-4 oz Cotija cheese
  • 1 lime, zested & cut into slices for garnish
  1. Grill the corn over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, turning occassionally, until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl or dish, mix together the crema or mayo with the smoked paprika and chili powder. Crumble the cheese onto a large plate or a piece of parchment paper.
  3. When the corn is cooked, brush on the crema mixture generously on all sides and roll it in the cheese. Sprinkle with lime zest, and if you choose, an extra dash of chili powder.
  4. Serve the corn along with the chicken, and give the whole dish a nice spritz of fresh lime juice at the end.

This serves two people, but it’s essentially just a couple of sauces, so it’s not hard to double or quadruple up. Can we talk about how super easy this is? It’s simply taking a piece of chicken, a couple pieces of corn and using fun flavors to make them exciting.

I always have a jar of leftover Mexican crema in the fridge after taco night, so I used that instead of mayonnaise, which is popular. If you don’t have enough of either, sour cream is another option. Often times street corn is made with a mixture of mayo and crema or sour cream, so really, use what you have. It’s essentially just the glue to hold on all the good stuff.

I love Cotija cheese. It’s a salty, crumbly Mexican cheese and it’s really easy to find in stores. I get it from Whole Foods or even Target. It’s similar to Parmesan, but don’t substitute that stuff in the plastic tube for Cotija. Go get the good stuff. Use it in salads. Use it in tacos. Make cheesy street corn every night because it’s summer and you can do what you want.


Trust me. COTIJA.

For the chicken, I wanted to mimic the flavors of the corn with a simple marinade that I made straight from items in my pantry. It can be made in advance, just like the crema mixture for the corn, so when it’s time for the meal, you throw everything on the grill and get it done in 20 minutes. It’s perfect for a party or perfect for a relaxed week night dinner.


A digital thermometer is a must-have. (Unless you enjoy dry chicken.)

This recipe has a lot of cooking options. Obviously, on the grill is the preferred way, but I had to settle for my indoor grill set-up. If you don’t have either of those things, I really wouldn’t be mad at you if you boiled the corn and prepared the chicken in a hot skillet. There’s no excuse to not try this delicious meal out for yourself.

If anyone has any grilling tips or brand recommendations to share, I’m taking notes already. Mark my words, next summer I’ll be sharing grill recipes from my own backyard! Until then, I’ll keep improvising.

Mediterranean-Spiced Chicken Sandwiches

Most people would say their favorite thing about summer is the weather or being on vacation. Well, here in southern California, as an adult with no children, those distinctions aren’t as prevalent in my life. My favorite part is spending time with loved ones. Summer means beach trips, pool days and cook-outs. It means parties!

I’m lucky to be surrounded by a great group of friends here in Ventura county, but being a military spouse means moving around a lot and next fall we will be on to our next adventure (stay tuned for that official announcement in a couple months… it’s pretty exciting!). I’m looking forward to some fun times and day trips while we are still California residents.

Summer is also time for friends from all over the country to come visit us, and we’re working on our own plans to visit them too! Travel has been on my brain lately, especially when I was coming up with this weeks recipe.

Travel… summer… cook-outs… naturally, this lead me to creating a chicken sandwich. I don’t eat red meat, so the chicken sandwich is my burger. The problem with chicken on a grill is it can be so dry and bland, so my go-to move was to drown it with hot sauce.


Don’t you dare put hot sauce on this

Here’s my new alternative: mediterranean-spiced chicken sandwiches with marinated cucumbers & onions and a lemon-dill yogurt sauce. It sounds like a tall order for grilling out, but you can prep everything the night before. There are three parts to this recipe, so let’s break it down!

Marinated Cucumbers & Onions

  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
  • dash of salt & pepper
  1. Slice the cucumber, preferably with a mandolin, so it’s paper thin. Divide the cucumber & sliced onions into two mason jars (or any glassware with an air-tight lid).
  2. In a bowl, combine the water, vinegar and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the rest of the ingredients (you can omit the crushed red pepper if you do not want heat) and pour into the jars, making sure all the veggies are submerged. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before use.

These are so delicious, I was snacking on them while I was working on everything else. This will make much more than you need for a couple sandwiches, but keep it around for a couple weeks in the fridge, throw them on every sandwich you can think of! They are also a great little side dish.


Pretty enough for a photo… I’ll spare you a photo of the yogurt sauce

Lemon-Dill Yogurt Sauce

  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dill weed
  • 1/2 lemon, zest & juice
  • dash of salt & pepper
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl & whisk until well-incorporated.

That’s it! Easy. Again, you will probably have left overs, but this a great alternative spread for mayo or ranch on sandwiches. Also, it’s great to use as a dip for veggies for your afternoon snack! Last but not least…

Mediterranean-Spiced Chicken Breast

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  1. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap. Using a mallet or rolling pin, pound the chicken until it’s 1/2″ thick all around. Trim down to “sandwich size”. (Save your scraps!)
  2. Brush chicken breasts with EVOO. Mix the spices together in a small bowl, and rub generously onto both sides of the chicken. Use right away, or refrigerate up to overnight.
  3. Grill the chicken for about 5 minutes on each side over medium heat, flipping once, until it reaches 165 degrees internally.

OK! Here’s the star of the show. This chicken is delicious on it’s own for a weeknight dinner over rice or veggies, and can totally just be cooked in the oven instead of on the grill. I actually used a grill pan on my stove-top, because I don’t have my own backyard here in my townhouse. Womp, womp.

My recipe is only for two breasts/sandwiches because it’s just me and hubby over here, but it’s pretty easy to double this one up. (The cucumber and yogurt sauce recipes will make enough for like 8 sandwiches, at least.)

I have a complex where I hate when ingredients are two small or two large for the sandwich, hence my note to trim down to “sandwich size”. If I end up taking a lot of decent meat off, I save the trimmings. Keep them in the fridge for a stir-fry or a pasta dish.


Naked chicken, waiting for all the toppings

Now that we have everything we need…

BUILD THAT SANDWICH!

Do I really need to do bullet points here? Take your favorite, hearty sandwich roll and lightly toast it. Top it with the chicken, right off the grill. Pile on those marinated cucumber and onions. Add something fresh and green, like arugula. Spread that yogurt sauce evenly on the top bun, smush it all together and go to town.

As for the potato wedges, those are just russet potatoes that I sliced and soaked in water for an hour. Then you rinse and dry them, toss them with a dash of salt, pepper, garlic, parsley & paprika and bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes. Ta-da!


Would you like fries with that?

I’m actually mildly obsessed with this sandwich. The chicken is so yummy… we did used half the spice rack on it for good reason. The cucumbers and onions are spicy, sweet and tangy all at once without overpowering the other elements. The yogurt sauce brings it all together, with a bright, fresh note from the lemon and dill. I like greens on my sandwiches, so I also added arugula, but you could use any leafy greens you like and have on hand.

OK, honestly, since I have sat down to type this out, I have gotten up twice. First was to get the jar of cucumbers, which I have been picking at ever since and second was to make sure I had more chicken defrosted (I do, yay!) because now I’m craving one of these bad boys.

I love recipes were I can prep components ahead of time, so when I am hungry and want food in face immediately, it’s not a hassle. When the cook-out starts, it will take you just as long to put this sandwich together as it would a burger with ketchup, tomato and lettuce. And trust me, anyone who thought a burger was the right choice will take one look at this and change their minds.


Couldn’t even make it through the photo shoot

Happy Summer everyone! I’ll be back sooner than later with a couple bonus mini-recipes. See you then!

On The Side: Easy Panzanella

Hey everyone, I’m a little behind on my blog schedule, I know. That’s because the countdown is ON for my husband coming home from deployment. I have been concentrating on that so much, I completely forgot to type up my recipes this week!

Yes, that is recipes… plural. I’m going to keep things short and sweet with two mini recipe posts over the next couple days, each featuring a different side dish.

You know when you have a great star of the meal, like a fantastic marinade for chicken, and you just end up throwing some rice or steamed veggies next to it? Yeah, that’s OK, but these are a little better.

First up is panzanella, which is quite literally bread salad. I’m resisting the urge to say “that’s my kind of salad!” in my best dad-joke voice, but I suppose I failed just by typing that.


I love carbs

Anywho, let’s dive in.

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 6 cups cubed ciabatta bread (bite-size)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • salt & pepper
  1. In a small sauce pan, heat the balsamic vinegar & honey over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. (You can prepare the rest of the dish while it simmers.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the bread cubes with the extra virgin olive oil, garlic powder & dried basil until well coated. Spread them out on a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 12-15 minutes, until toasted & golden.
  3. Salt & pepper the halved cherry tomatoes to taste and toss in a bowl with the sliced red onions and bread. Drizzle on some of the balsamic vinegar, reserving half to dress individual servings.

This is so quick and easy, but comes out looking so beautiful. You can add more to it if you like. I threw some sliced green onions in because I had extra from a different dish. Fresh basil or parsley would be fantastic, or if you want to add a salty element, you could use capers or olives. If you don’t want to bother with the balsamic reduction, a simple dressing of oil & vinegar will do the trick.

I opted for some really pretty rainbow tomatoes, because it adds so much color to the dish. Again, not set in stone. Same thing with bread. I think a ciabatta or sourdough is best, but it’s not wrong to know what you like and eat what you like. If you want to use a baguette and roma tomatoes, I’m sure it’ll be great.

I wanted this to be something that could come straight out of your pantry on a weeknight. I imagine this next to a beautiful piece of fish or grilled shrimp skewers, perfect for dining outdoors in the summer. It’s filling without being heavy, and flavorful without overpowering whatever the main course may be.

I’ll be back in a couple days with my second side dish idea. You know this next recipe will be easy, because it’s straight out of the slow cooker. See you soon!