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
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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…

Giant Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies

Giant Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter CookiesCookie Monster
If you ask my husband what he wants for Father’s Day, he will tell you without hesitation that he neither needs nor wants anything. He has said, however, that he would be okay with a clean and organized house. I wish I could say that is an easy request….

The love of my life is not a person that needs stuff (unless you count musical instruments). In fact, his preference is for the least amount of stuff he can get away with. Because of this, it is hard to recognize his awesomeness as a father in the usual ways. That is why birthdays and Father’s Day are usually celebrated with some sort of special food item.

There are many treats that our #1 Dad thinks are the best thing ever. The first would be ice cream. Whether it is a bowl of his favorite Tin Roof Sundae or an ice cream sandwich, anyone who thinks they might be able to keep a stash on hand for craving emergencies would be very, very wrong. You’d be lucky if either lasts the night. There is one other tasty treat that trumps even the most decadent ice cream and that treat would be cookies.

One of the first things I learned about my husband when we met was of his love of cookies. In fact, cookie was the first word he spoke as a child. To say that he has never met a cookie he didn’t like would be a massive understatement. But, his hands down, absolute favorite is classic peanut butter cookie dipped in melted chocolate.

While I love peanut butter cookies they are a variety I don’t make very often. Mainly because most of the cookies I make are for school functions and peanuts are generally a bad idea at school. So, to celebrate and thank the best father to my kids that I could ever have thought of, I will be making these to go with the milk in his World’s Greatest Dad mug.

Giant Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yields about 2 dozen giant cookies Read more…

Turkey Tacos Picadillo

Turkey Tacos PicadilloTaco Tuesday
In a not so shocking turn of events, we had tacos for dinner last night. We have tacos in some way shape or form at least once a week. So, this is not really news. We have a taco addiction and we are powerless to resist…

Ninety-nine percent of the time our taco fillings come straight off the grill. Usually, it’s skirt steak. Although, more and more I have been going the grilled chicken route, just to be a bit less heavy-handed with the red meat. Fish tacos are always tasty especially as it gets warmer. They’re even better if you are sitting on a deck and can wash them down with a cold Cerveza. (My mouth is totally watering…)

One of my sons, (We’ll call him the middle child even though he’s a twin because he plays that role perfectly.)is a big fan of all tacos. But, if pressed, he will tell you that he is partial to what I call American tacos. These are the loose ground meat tacos usually served in crunchy taco shells. I admit I am also a fan—especially when said meat is sprinkled over Fritos will cheese, lettuce, sour cream, and salsa. They’re a guilty pleasure. (Mom called them Mock Tacos and they’re kinda wrong but so, so good!)

For the same reason that I have been using a lot of grilled chicken lately, I went on a search for a loose meat taco with something other than ground beef. And, I was not surprised to find ground turkey as a popular option.

In the same way that turkey chili can be very good, ground turkey makes for a great taco filling. My one complaint about turkey though would be not enough flavor so I was looking for something with some oomph.

I played around with this recipe a bit and think I have found a winner. Feel free to up the spice or dial it back as per your preference and feed your inner middle child.

Turkey Tacos Picadillo

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