Amy’s Juicy Lucy Burgers

Amy's Juicy Lucy BurgersBaseball Habit
When our kids first started to play little league, my husband and I swore we would not become those parents. You know who I am talking about. The almost obsessive, uber-involved people who live for game day, and volunteer for everything. We were convinced that would never be us. We were too laid back and easy going. No way would that happen to the two of us. Besides, we didn’t really even like baseball…

I’m not sure where it all went wrong. At first, it was just a little bit of tee ball a couple of nights a week. Just one or two innings here and there. No big deal. As the years went on, we found ourselves at the fields more and more often watching more and more innings. We just couldn’t get enough. It got so bad we even (gasp) starting watching baseball on TV! (Go Giants!)

Baseball was just the beginning, though. Softball came along and we were caught up in its tangled web of fast pitches. Now it’s to the point where our weekends are devoted to tournaments and our vacations are scheduled around potential plate appearances. I’ve even joined the league Board. We’re out of control. Can no one save us?

All kidding aside, this past weekend it was my pleasure to watch the sunrise at our fields as our league set up for our Annual Opening Day Parade and Ceremonies. Every year on Opening Day, the 1800 or so kids in our league and their parents gather to watch the teams parade through our city and end up at the fields where we are treated to a day of sunshine  (not always) and some great playing. It’s the one day of the year that you can bet that you will see literally everyone you know in the bleachers and it is a day that most of us look forward to with great anticipation.

It takes a lot to put something like that together, so dinners last week were not complicated. Friday night we had burgers ‘cause they are awesome. For me, I am all about the cheeseburger—the cheesier the better. This is why I am a big fan of Amy’s Juicy Lucy Burgers. (Juicy Lucy Burgers are a thing in Minnesota. You can Google it.)

If you have never tried your burgers this way, I highly recommend that you do. You may never go back to the ordinary cheese on top. This is one of the only times I will say that American Cheese is a must. But, mild or medium cheddar is an acceptable substitute.

Amy’s Juicy Lucy Burgers
Serves 4

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Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden Salsa

Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden SalsaSwimmin’ with the Fishes
Anytime the weather turns sunny and a smidge warmer, I tend to start eating more fish. Maybe it’s the looming promise of bathing suit season but at the first signs of spring, I feel the need to eat a bit lighter.

To say that I dramatically increase my fish intake would be a stretch. It’s a relative thing because I’m not a big lover of fish. I tend to gravitate more towards a cheeseburger.

When I do make fish, I like to go simple with a lot of flavor. That may sound contradictory but let me explain. If I had to pick my favorite fish recipe it would be this one, Salmon Roasted in Butter. It’s so quick to make and with some really fresh Salmon—it melts in your mouth.  One cannot live on Salmon alone, though. It would be boring.
Next best way to make fish? Grill it.

Next best way to make fish? Grill it.

Not all fish does well on the grill. But, Tuna is one of them. Because they are hearty and firm, Tuna steaks are perfect for the grill, and are a great alternative to red meat. They even work well as a burger (for those times when you crave a burger but have to be good). And it happens more than you think…

I usually just brush on some olive oil and sprinkle the steaks with a little salt and pepper. If I want to brighten the flavor up a bit I will top them with mango salsa or even better, with real salsa.

Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden Salsa
Adapted from Rick Bayless

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Amy’s Aram Sandwiches

Amy's Aram SandwichesLovin’ Lavash

Hi, my name is Amy and I have been on a bit of a lavash kick lately. I have been rolling whatever I have left over in the fridge in lavash, and calling it a sandwich. We had leftover pork loin the other day. I wrapped it up along with lettuce and some chutney and it was the bomb. Lavash is just so versatile and it’s a nice change from the usual white, wheat or sourdough.

For those who may not be familiar, Lavash is a thin, unleavened flatbread that originated in Armenia. Fresh lavash is soft and pliable which makes it easy to fill with your favorite ingredients and roll it up. You could use a flour tortilla as a substitute, but it doesn’t taste as good in my opinion.

What you fill your lavash with is entirely up to you. The possibilities are endless. The most popular version in my house is roast turkey, roast beef, lettuce and havarti cheese along with a little mayonnaise (and, depending on who’s eating it, some tomato). However, I have also used smoked salmon with cream cheese, red onion and a sprinkling of fresh dill. If you have any leftover grilled veggies they are fantastic in lavash with some spicy hummus…goat cheese works well in these too. And then there is the Greek version with lamb and tzatziki. For a little extra flavor, you can also throw your aram sandwich on the grill to crisp it up. Think of a bacon lettuce tomato and avocado lavash with a little bit of  grill on it. Seriously, I’m drooling right now…

So, the other great thing, besides versatility, is that aram sandwiches are convenient. Basically, it’s wrap, cut and go. And, if you cut them small and arrange them artfully on a platter, they are perfect if you have, say, a volleyball tournament and need to feed 12 hungry spikers.

Amy’s Aram Sandwiches
See filling and condiment recommendations in the post above, or get creative with your own. Read more…

Prosciutto Wrapped Figs And Blue Cheese

Prosciutto Wrapped Figs And Blue CheeseHeadin’ For the Hills 
Every year, for the last thirty years, my family and some of our dearest and closest friends gather at Tahoe for the first two weeks in August. The amazing thing about it, besides the amount of space we take up on the deck at Garwoods, is that the third generation of these families is now carrying on the tradition. We may not see much of each other during the rest of the year, but we all make sure we’re there in August.

During those two weeks we raft down the river, hike, jet ski, go out to dinner, and hang out on the beach catching up and gossiping. As the years go by the little kids become big kids, and the big kids get married, and add more kids ensuring the tradition continues.

One of the best parts is our End of the Summer Beach Barbeque, which happens on the last Saturday. We stay on the beach all day, play red rover, and watch the sun go down over the lake while munching on the grilled sausages and various other tidbits that everyone brings. One of my family’s favorite’s is below. Try them. They’re so good. See you in a week. I’m headin’ to the lake… Read more…

Plancha Salmon with Chimicurri

Plancha SalmonThe North American Female

When it comes to the Dad lottery, I hit the jackpot twice. I was lucky enough to have a father who thought my sister and I could do anything we wanted, and did everything he could to make sure we had the opportunities to try. We have no greater champion than our Dad (except Mom). That was my first Jackpot.

Because of his example, I knew exactly what I was looking for in a husband and father for my own kids—and I found him. My second jackpot. Our kids are very lucky because they have someone who loves them beyond measure, and especially just loves to hang out with them. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the same thing, but it’s just a different bond. Of course, it helps that he is still a child himself. In fact I am very sure that in some ways he never progressed past the age of thirteen…his mind works like theirs does. The stuff that they do that drives me bananas, he is equally skilled at, and most of what he does to get the kids laughing comes at my expense. It’s their favorite sport…

Case in point, my husband does these voices that crack the kids up. He’s got a whole battery of personalities. He even has a “Rocket” voice that imitates our Basset Hound. Of course, now we all use it…

The best voice was created out of boredom when we went on our trip to Yellowstone. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you The North American Female.

I was getting ready to go out, and I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth, and the rest of them were sitting on the bed opposite the bathroom door watching me get ready, like I was part of a zoo. As I was going about my routine, I heard this questionable British accent coming from the other room…and a lot of giggling.

I remember as a kid watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on Sunday nights at my grandmothers. There was always a narrator explaining what was happening on the screen usually a lioness stalking a gazelle. (Strangely, that is how my husband explains our courtship. Go figure.) Turns out my husband was  a Wild Kingdom fan as well; this voice was a cross between the Wild Kingdom guy and the guys who do color commentary for the British Premier league…(GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL!!!!!)

By the time all was said and done we had pee-ed our pants laughing, and I had mascara running down my face—because it’s just plain difficult to apply anything to your face with a running color commentary. It remains to this day one of my favorite memories of the four of them.

In honor of Father’s day and childlike fathers everywhere, I picked this week’s recipe from the cookbook I bought while we were in Yellowstone. It’s called Open Range by Jay Bentley and Patrick Dillon, and it includes a great group of recipes from Big Sky country. We ate well on that trip including some fantastic Salmon….

Plancha Salmon with Chimicurri
Serves 4
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Mongolian Pork Tenderloin

Mongolian Pork TenderloinCuttin’ The Mustard
We have our cookbook club dinner this weekend, and I have to admit, I have yet to sample many of the recipes from our book. It happens. Sometimes there’s just no time to actually cook, so I end up rolling the dice on a few recipes which I initially thought looked appetizing. (Well, that’s not totally true. I did make a few things…) The good news is our book is full of tasty bites. You might ask, how I can be so sure about the food, if I haven’t been cooking from the book? The answer is that I know it’s good, because the recipes are from Cindy Pawlcyn and Mustard’s Grill.

Known as a Truckstop Deluxe, Mustards Grill has been a Napa Valley landmark for the past 30 years, and no trip to Napa would be complete without eating there at least once. It has always been a favorite of my mother’s, and I remember as a kid being jealous of her going to lunch there with the rest of the Ya-Yas for birthday celebrations. Doesn’t get any better than a good lunch and some wine tasting with the girls!

One recipe I did make is the famous Mongolian Pork Chops, though I did it with pork tenderloins, because it was easier—and I’m a rebel. The ruling from my family was whether I use tenderloin or pork chops, the marinade is a definite keeper, and I plan on putting it into the summer grilling rotation. There is a lot of sugar in the marinade, so be careful when you grill…

Mongolian Pork Tenderloin  Read more…

Salmon Skewers à la Amy

Salmon skewersSpring Broken

We had a great Spring Break: we saw Boston, we saw Gettysburg, we saw D.C. It was ten days of non-stop activity—and now, I hurt. I think we must have walked at least 20 miles. (That may or may not be an exaggeration). We saw some really amazing things, but our feet and legs are paying the price…and we’re still on east coast time.

I am looking a mountain of laundry in the face; I’ve no energy to even bother with it. And don’t even get me started on cooking dinner. The problem with dinner is that we over-indulged while away, so it’s time to start eating better. Simple and healthy is the mantra for this week. Last night we grilled salmon. It’s easy, it’s versatile, it’s healthy, and its tasty anytime, but especially mid-week.

There are many recipes out there for Salmon Skewers, and this is my own take. You can do teriyaki, blackened (Cajun) style, miso glazed…whatever floats your boat. Same goes for whatever you choose to thread in between the pieces of salmon or you could go full on protein and just do the salmon.

My favorite version is the one below that uses the Napa Valley Spice Rub from Whole Spice that we carry here at the store. (Check out our Spice Section.) Great for warm weather dinners!

Salmon Skewers à la Amy
Serves 4 Read more…

Spiced Lamb Sliders with Harissa Mayonnaise and Cucumber

Spiced Lamb Sliders Super Bowl, Schmooper Bowl

I sat down to write a post about Super Bowl food, but find myself less than excited about the entire thing. I’m not sure if it’s because I have no real interest in the two teams playing, or if it’s because I see the potential for mass hysteria on the roadways. Or maybe I’m just kinda cranky…it’s been known to happen.

It’s weird, really. I have always been a football fan. Some might say a rabid football fan. (Go Ducks!) But for some reason, this year I don’t care all that much. Don’t get me wrong, I will watch the game, and I may even invite a few folks over to join us. But my excitement will be more for the commercials and food than any thing else.

However, if there is something to be excited about it’s these sliders—they are the bomb! (Just ask my kids, who couldn’t stop eating them—even with the Harissa Mayo.) They are the perfect finger food, and therefore they are perfect for your Super Bowl spread…with our without the game.

Spiced Lamb Sliders with Harissa Mayonnaise and Cucumber
Adapted from Market Math Cookbook by Food & Wine Magazine
Yields 12 sliders Read more…

Spicy Beer Marinated Flank Steak

Flank SteakThe Fast and the Flank Steak

At any given time you will find boneless chicken thighs and at least one flank steak in my refrigerator or freezer. Chicken thighs are all-purpose, and juicier than chicken breasts. They can be sautéed, grilled, sliced up for panini, thrown in pasta…the possibilities are endless.

Flank steaks are equally versatile—plus inexpensive. You can butterfly them, stir fry them, fill them, roll them up and roast them like in this recipe for Italian Stuffed Flank Steak, you can throw them on the grill for great tacos or slice ‘em up to top a salad.

One of my favorite ways to prepare flank steak is with this Spicy Beer Marinade that I have been using for years. It travels with us up to Tahoe in the summer for use on Tri Tips when we need to feed a crowd.

For mid-week cooking, I like it on a flank steak. Mix the ingredients together the night before or in the morning before you go to work. Pour it in a Ziploc bag with the flank steak. Pull it out when you get home, throw it on the grill for a few minutes, and dinner is done! Pair that with your favorite tossed salad and some roasted baby potatoes and you have an awesome mid-week hot weather meal. Now we just need some hot weather…

Spicy Beer Marinade
Makes 2 1/3 to 3 cups
Recipe adapted from The Complete Meat Cookbook
by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly Read more…

Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Lemongrass Marinade

TGrilled Pork Chops with Sweet Lemongrass Marinadeop Five?

We had our cookbook club dinner over the weekend and the consensus was that our chosen book left us a bit underwhelmed. There were some very tasty recipes (Hot Pot!!!), and then there were others that just didn’t impress. Our conversation turned to the recipes we have made from past cookbooks that we absolutely loved, especially the ones that have become staples for our dinner table.

One of my favorites, and one we all agreed was great, is a grilled pork chop recipe that I have been making since the weather has gotten bit warmer. (Not that temperature really matters all that much. I have no problem grilling in the rain if necessary.)

These pork chops are courtesy of Charles Phan’s Vietnamese Home Cooking and they are fantastic. I love how the smell of the freshly chopped lemongrass lingers in my kitchen. Heaven!

I like to marinate the pork chops overnight in the fridge to give them as much flavor as possible. Getting them in the marinade the night before makes for a super-fast and easy mid-week dinner you can serve with steamed rice and some stir fried bok choy…or whatever floats your boat.

Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Lemongrass Marinade
Adapted from Charles Phan’s Vietnamese Home Cooking
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