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…

On the Fly Blackberry Pie

On the Fly Blackberry PiePie on the Fly
Last Saturday, my sister and I grabbed our buckets and boxes and set out for Brentwood to pick fruit. We picked a lot of fruit. Peaches, pluots, cherries, and blackberries. I personally harvested almost 9 pounds of blackberries. And, I felt the fruits of that labor for an embarrassing two days after. I gathered that much because I had a jam plan for the blackberries and I wanted to make sure I had enough for a double batch.

Turns out I had more than enough to make the jam as well as a fresh blackberry pie.

My grandmother had a huge blackberry bramble in her garden and we used to pick blackberries every year to make in to jam. But, she also had a killer recipe for blackberry pie. And, I have no clue what that recipe was. Maybe she just eyeballed the sugar and cornstarch and threw it and the fruit together in a pie crust. But, for the life of me, I can’t find a copy of her pie recipe, or for that matter her jam recipe, anywhere.

So, while my jars were processing, I went on a hunt for a blackberry pie recipe. You think it would be easy—but you would be wrong. Most of the pies that have blackberries in them also have other fruits and I wanted a straight up blackberry pie. I never found one that was quite right. So, I eventually just combined a bunch of different recipes into one and went with it.

Turns out my Blackberry Pie on the Fly was darn tasty. In fact, the scent of the pie and our impatience prompted us to cut into it before it had finished cooling—which was a mistake. The blackberry goodness inside did not stay inside and oozed out of the crust into the pie plate. Note to self, the pie must be allowed to cool completely. The visual did not affect the flavor though and all traces of pie were gone by morning…

On The Fly Blackberry Pie
Yields 10 servings Read more…

Piri-Piri Chicken

Piri-Piri ChickenHot Chicken
Now that the weather has turned nice, I have been doing a lot of grilling. I mean I don’t think I have turned my oven on in at least two weeks. Well, at least not for dinner…

I have grilled ribs and burgers. I grilled some salmon a couple of different ways. And, of course, a whole lotta chicken. Chicken is the easy choice when your question to those who live under your roof about what sounds good for dinner gets no response. Just the sound of crickets. This happens nine times out of ten (which means we have what I want for dinner nine times out of ten). And, if they don’t like it, too bad. Ya should have spoken up when you had the chance!

I will say that their non-response gives me leeway to experiment a little. This can be a good thing when I am feeling like I am in a cuisine rut. It is how I found my latest obsession, Piri-Piri Chicken.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Piri-Piri Chicken hails from North Africa and is actually the invention of the Portuguese settlers who lived there. The piri-piri sauce is basically a hot sauce made from African Bird’s Eye Chiles. And it’s spicy y’all. You can buy it at specialty markets or online where there are a number of possibilities to choose from. You can also make your own but the challenge is finding the chiles. Bird’s eye chilies are hard to find fresh in the US. You can substitute other red chilies like Thai chiles, Fresno, New Mexico, or pequin—and they can also be difficult to find in markets. I’ve been asking our produce buyer to bring in Fresno chilies forever and he does, whenever he can find them, but it is sporadic at best. Now that we are heading into warmer weather we should see more in the markets so cross your fingers.

When I made my Piri-Piri Chicken, I made my own sauce but had to substitute with serrano chilies (since that was all I could find). While it tasted really good, it didn’t have that punch of heat I was looking for so I am going to try again. but this time I am going to do it with the Nando’s Peri Peri sauce that we carry in front of our meat counter.

Fair warning, you have to let the chicken marinate for a while so this is probably best done on a weekend. And, since the weather is going to stay beautiful, I would say you have your Saturday evening meal planned…

Piri-Piri Chicken 
Adapted from Epicurious
Yields 4 servings Read more…