Pork Rillettes

Pork RillettesBeach Bites
Hitting the beach in the summer is awesome…the sun…the surf. There is nothing better than kicking back at the beach and relaxing. And, you’ll need it because as great as a day at the beach can be, the schlepping of all of the stuff you need is not.

I admire those people who can throw everything they need for a day at the beach into a cinch-sac and head out the door. I am not one of those people. I would like to be—but I am not. I require a chair and an umbrella at a minimum. And, of course, a cooler full of tasty food and refreshing drinks.

Of all the things you need for a day at the beach, I think the food it the hardest because it actually takes some preplanning. Because we head to the beach every summer when we go to Tahoe, my sister and I are now a well-oiled machine when it comes to packing lunch for 10 of us. But, you better be okay with a sandwich and some chips for lunch. That is just our routine at Tahoe.

Before we got married and even for some time after, my husband and I used to spend our weekends sailing the bay either on our own or with friends. Our favorite place to stop for lunch was on Angel Island and I always tried to pack something good to eat. Sometimes we hiked around to the south side and ate on the beach there. (We did that once for Fleet Week. The Blue Angels flew right over our heads. It was fantastic.) More often than not though we would find an empty picnic table or sometimes just eat on the boat. It goes without saying that whatever we brought had to be compact. The sailboat wasn’t that big. And, if you had to haul your lunch around an island, you didn’t want to bring a big heavy cooler. So I got good at making what I call snacky lunches.

Snacky lunches are basically picnics made up of a bunch different things that when you choose a little of this and a little of that make up a rather lovely lunch. They usually consisted of a fresh baguette, a variety of cheeses, assorted charcuterie, cut veggies, some dips or spreads, fruit, and something bite-size and decadent for dessert. Sometimes, if we had a bigger group I would add on an orzo or tomato salad.

Occasionally I would make Rillettes because it is the perfect picnic food. You can spread it on a fresh baguette or crackers and you store it in a mason jar for easy transport. If you are planning on hitting the beach in the near future, give this a try…

Pork Rillettes
Yields about 5 cups Read more…

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert

Strawberry Pretzel DessertKindle Cuisine
I am an avid reader. My husband likes to joke that he’s actually married to the back of my kindle. He may have a point. Usually, any free time I have is spent reading. I’ll read anything and everything but I love political thrillers, anything having to do with Black-Ops, and Romance novels of all kinds.

Because I read mostly on my kindle, I am able to do a web search whenever I come across something that I am unfamiliar with or want more info on. Usually, it’s a place, or in the case of the Black Ops stuff, some highly-technical super spy helicopter or whatever. Over the weekend, I came across something in one of my books that I just had to research. The main character in the story is a native of the state of Alabama and she kept talking about Strawberry Pretzel Salad.

Being the foodie that I am, I was immediately intrigued since I had never even heard of it before. But, the book presented it as a Southern staple along the lines of fried chicken or biscuits and gravy.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it is not, in fact, strawberries tossed in a bowl with pretzels and spinach leaves—since that is what comes to mind when I think of a salad. Instead, it is more like a cheesecake bar, though I am sure any devoted Southerner with better knowledge than me is going to roast me for calling it that. Whatever you want to call it, I have been obsessing over it and now I just HAVE to make it.

All of the pictures I have found online make it look so pretty and with the strawberries as good as they are right now, the timing is perfect. There are actually a number of recipes available online and all of them are similar, although some use frozen strawberries and some of them call for fresh. I am using fresh strawberries because it is summer and frankly, I think it will look prettier. I am also opting not to include pineapple. Not that I have anything against pineapple but I’m thinking that straight strawberry is a better place to start.

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert  
Adapted from All Recipes
Read more…

Bourbon Peach Cobbler

Bourbon Peach CobblerPeachy-Keen
I know that apple pie is the undisputed champion of 4th of July, but if you have walked through any produce department lately you may have noticed that peaches and nectarines are doing everything they can to get your attention. What is it about that fragrance that makes me stop in my tracks and throw a half dozen in a bag?

Truth is I am a bit mad for peaches and nectarines right now. It is the peak of their season and they are just so good. I think I have used them in every meal this week. Grilled and diced into a salsa to put on the pork chops I grilled them with or sliced up in a cool crisp salad with some Point Reyes blue cheese and some spiced nuts. Or just sliced and eaten by themselves. Then there are the smoothies and baked goods….

I love apple pie but I am having a hard time getting excited about it for the 4th. Instead, my mind is filled with visions of gooey cobbler mixing with cool vanilla bean ice cream and it’s making my mouth water. Even better? This recipe also includes a splash of Bourbon…

Bourbon Peach Cobbler 
Adapted from Tyler Florence and the Food Network
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…

Summer Watermelon Salad

Summer Watermelon SaladBits and Pieces
Fun fact: I will not bite directly into fruit.

And yes, I realize how strange that sounds…but let me explain. I have always had sensitive teeth so biting into, say, an apple is not a fun experience. I always cut my apples up. Same goes for other large pieces of fruit. Peaches, nectarines, plums, and especially melons.

Next week is the 4th of July. (I know. It snuck up on me, too.) For those who have been paying attention, I am sure you have seen all of the ads both digital and in print that show the bucolic standard picnic table set up with all of the usual fixin’s—burgers, hot dogs, corn, potato salad, flag cake, and, without fail, a giant watermelon.

There is nothing that screams summer as much as a huge watermelon. There something kind of nostalgic about it. It’s not difficult to picture a Norman Rockwell-esque scene in your mind of a young kid with an American flag in one hand and a slice of watermelon in the other. And without question, cut into more manageable slices, a cold watermelon is a great way to cool off from the summer heat. For me though, I have to find other ways to cool off.

I don’t care how fun it is to spit the seeds at your siblings, the thought of biting into a thick slice of watermelon makes me cringe. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy watermelon for the 4th. I just get more creative. There are a number of ways to incorporate watermelon into your 4th of July menu. Personally, I like it in a salad as an alternative or a compliment to the usual potato or macaroni salads.

There are any number of watermelon salads out there. Some you make with feta and mint others have grilled corn and cucumbers. I like the simpler ones like the recipe below because it seems more like a salad to me and you get the best of summer produce plus it looks pretty on the platter. Not to mention you can feed a lot of people…

Summer Watermelon Salad
Yields 4 to 8 servings Read more…

Turkey Burrito Bowls

Turkey Burrito BowlsHot Prepper
I have recently become a food prepper. More accurately I should say I have tried to become a food prepper. I’ve only been doing it for a couple of weeks. In an effort for my husband and me to eat healthy, better-portioned, balanced meals during the week (mainly for lunch), I have jumped on the food prepping bandwagon. The kids are into it too, but it’s mainly for us old folks. Here’s what I have learned…

Having a variety of pre-portioned meal choices that ready for you to grab on the way out the door to go to work is fantastic. Finding different recipes for tasty meals is easier than ever because there are some great cookbooks out there and not all of them are Keto books. (I’m not doing Keto. Too restrictive. I’m just making healthier choices.) Even better, the variety of flavors is unlimited. In fact, for those people like me who prefer a bit more International flavor, there are so many options to choose from. Eating this way also forces you to find the freshest ingredients possible and you will be proud to look into your shopping cart and see all of the fruits and vegetables. (Gold star for you!)

I have also learned that having good meal containers is a must. It is also a pain in the neck. Good reusable containers are great…but you have to store them when not in use. I don’t know what it’s like in your house but in my house, the “Tupperware/Gladware” situation is a nightmare. And, while I did find some really great containers on Amazon, I have now only added fuel to the dumpster fire that is my food storage predicament.

Another thing I learned? Food prepping takes time. Part of the reason I wanted to get into this was to save time on the busiest days during the week and while I knew that to do it the way I wanted would require an entire Sunday to get everything ready, the reality is I don’t always have an entire Sunday. Doing it on a slow night during the week is an option. But, again those are few and far between. There’s a reason that people out there have meal prep businesses and are doing very well at it.

So my conclusion about my little experiment is this: Food prepping is totally worth it—but not if it causes you even more stress. My plan for going forward will be to prep when I can, freeze when I can, and not be beholden to the perfect vision of multiple meal choices for multiple days in an organized refrigerator that resides in the clean kitchen that lives in my head.

This recipe for Turkey Burrito Bowls is one that I plan to make whenever I can regardless of food prep planning because it’s darn good…

Turkey Burrito Bowls
Yields 4 servings Read more…