Pineapple Agua Fresca


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So oddly enough I’ve never been a huge pineapple fan. But right after the long harsh winter we had this year – I was craving ANYTHING that even hinted at summer! So once again, I was perusing the aisles of my new favorite Mexican grocery and they had these big beautiful pineapples stacked in neat little rows… and they literally called my name. No seriously. They did.

I was watching one of my go-to cooking shows, Mexican Made Easy and Marcela made this delicious looking pineapple agua fresca (which simply means water with fresh fruit). So I made it and it is incredible! I give all the props to Marcela Valladolid – she’s never steered me wrong.

I encourage you to make a big batch. It’s delicious at breakfast but also as a cocktail in the evening (or in the afternoon, who am I kidding?) – if you add gin, tequila or even champagne (which would then qualify as a brunch beverage – I like how this is playing out).

Ingredients
1 ripe pineapple (peeled and quartered with core removed).
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons chili lime salt
1 teaspoon sugar (*optional – if your pineapple is very ripe you won’t need to add sugar!)
1 lime (quartered)
2 cups water
2 cups ice

Tools Needed
Blender
A large mesh strainer
A spatula

Preparation
Don’t know how to cut a pineapple? Watch this helpful video – one tip for choosing a ripe one – tug on a leaf in the middle and if it comes out easily – it’s ripe!

Let’s Make Agua Fresca!
Once pineapple is cut into chunks put in blender, add about 2 cups of water (should be about 3/4 way up the pineapple), the vanilla and sugar (if using). Blend until smooth.

Put mesh strainer over a large-mouthed pitcher or bowl and pour the liquid in small batches into the strainer. Begin working a spatula back and forth pushing the liquid through the mesh until there is only pulp left. Be sure to scrape underneath the strainer to get all the juicy goodness! The juice should be frothy so don’t worry.

Once completed, pour into a pitcher filled with ice. While chilling, pour the chili lime salt onto a flat plate, run a lime wedge around the rim of a glass and dunk the rim in the chili lime salt. Then fill with your freshly made pineapple agua fresca and say, “Mmmm…Delicioso!”

Pico de Gallo


imageAs I mentioned in a previous post, I recently discovered a little gem of a Mexican market and I have since been frequenting their produce section. Yesterday I walked out with 3 bags of produce including a large pinapple and only spent about $6.00. Ole!

I don’t know about you but for me pico de gallo just screams summer!  Fresh tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, lime juice and cilantro. I want to put it on everything! Not only is it tasty and fresh – but it looks beautiful and makes everything much more appealing. You eat with your eyes first, I always say. So, yes… presentation can be everything. :)

Below is not only the recipe for my pico de gallo but how I am currently obsessed in using it: Refried black beans (vegetarian – no lard), Monterey Jack and Cojita cheese, a tablespoon of the pico de gallo all on a crispy tostada shell. *see photo

All of these items can be found in pretty much any grocery store – but I would encourage you to find a local Mexican market and support small businesses whenever you can – not only are they are affordable but you are helping immigrant families make a living.

Ingredients for Pico de Gallo
3-4 Roma tomatoes (or any red tomato – I prefer Roma as they are less acidic)
1 large white onion (use your favorite onion here – I prefer the white for this because it’s more traditional in Mexican food)
1 medium poblano pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 pinch of sea salt
1 small limek2-_ee8bec41-3654-4bee-802d-e27d6c7ad0f8.v1

Ingredients for Tostada
1 16oz can refried black beans (read the label and be sure to get the fat-free without lard)
1.5 tablespoons of Mexican crema (you can use sour cream if you must)
1 whole chipotle in adobo sauce (chopped small – include 1 tablespoon of the sauce from the can)

Additional items needed:
1 tablespoon of shredded Monterey Jack
1 tablespoon crumbled Cojita (Mexican crumbling cheese)
Small pre-cooked tostada shells (I get Charras from the Mexican Market – but your local grocery should have some similar)

Preparation
Pico de gallo:  Dice the tomato, onion and poblano for Pico de Gallo. They should be small dices of equal size. If I’m sharing this – I dice the poblano smaller than the onion and tomato – just in case people don’t like the spice as much as I do! Rough chop the cilantro and cut the lime in half. Mix all the ingredients except the lime in a bowl. Squeeze in the lime juice and add salt. This can be stored up to two weeks in the fridge.

Refried black beans: In a large saucepan, add beans, crema and chipotle and adobo sauce. Cook over medium heat and stir until thoroughly mixed and heated.

Ready to Cook?

Spread a thick layer of the warm black bean mixture onto the tostada shell. Sprinkle the Jack cheese on. At this point, assemble as many as you’re going to make and then toast in the oven (or toaster oven… or microwave if you must) to melt the cheese. Once melted add a table spoon of the pico de gallo, and sprinkle on the Cojita crumbling cheese. Enjoy!

The Perfect Bite
The perfect bite is, of course, when it’s warm and you get the combo of warm beans and cheese with cool Pico. Oh it’s so delightful!

The Perfect Pairing
I made these tostadas for some friends last night and we paired them with my homemade Mojitos. I will link this to that recipe as soon as I get it up. The sweet, minty, lime and rum beverage is absolutely perfect with this – and cools down any spice you get from the peppers.

The Perfect Health

Tomatoes are considered one of the super foods. Intake of tomatoes has long been linked to heart health. Fresh tomatoes and tomato extracts have been shown to help lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. And good news! Summer is tomato season – and August, which is right around the corner, is their peak month. So chop, dice and splice away! Read HERE for more good news about the beautiful tomato.

Sopa de Albondigas


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This was inspired by by sister from another mister’s mother… yes, you heard me right. My best friend’s mother, Josie, used to have a pot of soup or beans or something on the stove all the time… which was made living next door quite delightful! I recently discovered a genuine Mexican market up the street from me (which I’ve missed since moving to Nashville from Los Angeles) and I went a little crazy shopping. Seriously – support local vendors any time you can. I mean, FIVE limes for $1.00 and they’re .85 each at Kroger! With the exception of the seasonings (which I already had) I got every ingredient listed below at my new favorite market. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

INGREDIENTS

Meatballs
1lb ground lean beef
1 lb ground pork (not sausage)
1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs (1/2 cup per pound of meat)
1 cup ground Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup per pound of meat)
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/4 cup fresh chopped oregano
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Soup

64oz (2 boxes) low-sodium chicken stock
1 medium white or yellow onion – diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 medium zucchini
1 large poblano pepper – diced
2 cups canned low-sodium unseasoned diced tomatoes (rinsed – don’t include juice)
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 ears of corn on the cob (cut into 1/2″ dials – see photo)
1lb peeled, de-veined shrimp (marinate in chili lime salt and olive oil for 1 hour)
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes (diced in 1 inch cubes – leave peel on)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (chopped or torn)
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
Meatballs:
Mix all of the meatball ingredients into a large bowl. Be careful not to over mix the meat. Just gently, with your clean hands (best tool in the kitchen!), fold the mixture over until it’s full incorporated. Using a small ice cream scoop, create 1.5″ balls… roll firmly in the palms of your hands and set aside. These can be done up to 24 hours in advance – just refrigerate.

Soup:
In a large soup pot saute the onion, poblano, and garlic in olive oil until softened (add garlic last so it doesn’t burn). Add the wine and seasonings (cumin, paprika, cinnamon. salt & pepper) and continue until some of alcohol is cooked off. Then add the chicken stock, canned tomatoes, potatoes and corn. Bring to a rolling boil then reduce to simmer for about 30 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook for another 15 minutes or until they have turned pink. Taste and add seasonings if needed. Garnish with cilantro before serving.

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Vegetable Lasagna with Homemade Ricotta and Béchamel Sauce


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I love lasagna. I mean, it’s layers of cheese and pasta and assorted yummy things. How can you not like it? But this particular recipe is especially good – and was created rather “accidentally” as I just started putting things together. I had ordered some spinach and garlic noodles from Papardelle’s. I first discovered them at their booth at one of my favorite places in the U.S… Pike’s Market in Seattle, WA. And I have been ordering from their incredible selection of pastas and oils ever since. I knew I wanted to do a vegetable lasagna with the green noodle layers… and a white sauce would let you see the color of the noodles. So I mixed up a traditional bechamel with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Then I added my homemade ricotta mixed with my homemade pesto Genovese and then the magic happened. I took lots of photos of the preparation to hopefully help take the mystery out of it all! Bon apetito!

INGREDIENTS
9 no-bake lasagna noodles (preferably spinach-garlic noodles but any will do)
2 cups homemade ricotta (recipe here)
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 medium zucchini
1 red bell pepper
1/2 of a medium sweet onion
1/2 cup sliced cremini mushrooms (baby bellas)
2 tablespoons olive oil (for sauteing)
2 large eggs salt and pepper to taste

Pesto Genovese (this is traditional pesto)
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Bechamel Sauce (also known as white sauce)
5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk (I use 2% – I wouldn’t use non-fat or it will not thicken properly)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

PREPARATION Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Get your mis en place together. Slice your zucchini into thin dials. I sliced mine using a mandolin and sliced them on the diagonal so they would cover more surface space. Dice your bell pepper and sweet onion. Slice or dice your mushrooms – depending on our preference. Saute onion, bell pepper and mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until tender. Set aside. Make ricotta mixture:

Mix ricotta, pesto and shredded parm - taste and add S&P if needed. Then add eggs and stir (don't mix or whip).

Mix ricotta, pesto and shredded parm – taste and add S&P if needed. Then add eggs and stir (don’t mix or whip).

Make bechamel. Do this right as you're ready to assemble your Lasagna or it will become too thick when it cools.

Make bechamel. Do this right as you’re ready to assemble your Lasagna or it will become too thick when it cools.

Begin layering: Start with covering the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of the bechamel sauce. And lay 3 dry noodles lengthwise. Next spread a layer of the ricotta mixture. Then spread a layer the sauteed vegetables (you should use all of them). Then sprinkle one cup of mozzarella. Top with 3 more dry noodles. Brush several tablespoons of bechamel sauce on top of noodles. Add another layer of ricotta. Layer zucchini concentrically. Add another cup of mozzarella. Top with 3 more dry noodles. Brush final layer of bechamel sauce onto noodles. Be sure they are completely covered so they will cook. Sprinkle with last cup of mozzarella. I happened to have some fresh (in water) mozzarella and I tore it and added it on top as well.

Your noodles may not perfectly fit. Don't be afraid to break off a corner here and there so they lay flatly. Try not to over lap or they may not cook through.

Your noodles may not perfectly fit. Don’t be afraid to break off a corner here and there so they lay flatly. Try not to over lap or they may not cook through.

Layer zucchini concentrically.

Layer zucchini concentrically.

I use a pastry brush so I'm sure to spread the bechamel evenly covering the entire noodle. Since they are no-bake noodles, they need moisture to cook.

I use a pastry brush so I’m sure to spread the bechamel evenly covering the entire noodle. Since they are no-bake noodles, they need moisture to cook.

The final layer!

The final layer!

READY TO COOK? Cover lasagna tightly with foil. It helps to spray the underneath of the foil with cooking spray to keep it from sticking to the cheese. Put lasagna in a 400 degree oven on the middle rack for 45-50 minutes – until bubbling. Remove foil and cook and additional 15 minutes until cheese starts turning a lovely golden brown. Remove and let set for at least 20 minutes so it will hold up better when sliced. The photo below is an example of cutting into it too soon. :)

When cutting the lasagna too soon out of the oven, it will start  to collapse and your layers will slide off each other. :)

When cutting the lasagna too soon out of the oven, it will start to collapse and your layers will slide off each other. :)

THE PERFECT BITE Of course the perfect bite here will be a perfectly stacked slice… which is why it’s all the more important to let your lasagna rest a bit before taking a knife to it! And it’s even better the next day…

THE PERFECT PAIRING This would go perfectly with my Backyard Salad (minus the chicken). It would also pair nicely with a Sauvignon Blanc to compliment the pesto and rich bechamel sauce. I found this great site that pairs wines with vegetarian foods – check it out! www.ohmyveggies.com

THE PERFECT HEALTH Meatless Mondays have become a recent trend and with so many chefs out there sharing their fantastic recipes – it’s so easy to find delicious, satisfying and healthy meals! Read HERE about the many benefits of taking at least one day a week off from eating meat.

Japanese Garlic Noodles


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Here in East Nashvville we have an amazing new restaurant called Two Ten Jack. It’s a Japanese-inspired izakaya…  which is a neigborhood pub usually featuring an array of ramen dishes. The first time I went I ordered the garlic noodles (I mean, why wouldn’t I?) and proceeded to fall deeply in love. I think I even had dreams about them. Then they did the horror of all horrors – THEY TOOK THEM OFF THE MENU!! I don’t even want to know why. There is no justifiable reason.

So I set out to recreate them. It took some serious research and trial an error.  And I believe I’ve done it! And I’ve been told by a couple of friends that they actually like mine better – so take that Two Ten Jack. :) I add shiitake mushrooms and shrimp to mine so it’s more of a meal instead of a side. I also serve it with crispy roasted brussel sprouts that are sauteed in the same sauce I use on the noodles. I’m not gonna lie. It’s pretty darn amazing.

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Ingredients
Yellow Noodles. Now you can use regular ramen noodles (just throw away those flavor packets – ick!) or you can look for yellow noodles at your local Asian market (like the flour stick ones shown in the photo above).  But I discovered an even better noodle that gives you a heartier, toothier feel and holds onto to the garlic sauce beautifully. And believe it or not – they’re German! Spaetzle noodles can be found in specialty food stores (I found these in the gourmet section of World Market).  Be sure you’re getting the noodles and not the dumplings.
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Garlic Sauce
1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)
2 heaping tablespoons minced garlic, or more to taste
1 tablespoon Maggi seasoning sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon light brown sugar

optional (quantity is your preference – use a little or a lot!):
shiitake mushroom – julianned
jumbo shrimp – shelled, deveined, tails on or off – your preference

Preparation
Shell and devein the shimp. Julienne the mushrooms. Get a pot of boiling salted water on medium-high heat.

Ready to Cook?
Put noodles in boiling salted water. Ramen or Asian yellow noodles will only take a few minuetes. If you’re using the spaetzle it will take a little longer – about 7-8 minutes. Be sure to watch them and taste – you want them a bit al dente or they will over cook and become mush.

Prepare the garlic sauce using a saute pan on medium to low heat. Add the butter into the pan and when it melts, add the garlic and saute until aromatic but not browned. Add all the seasonings into the pan, stir with wisk to combine well. Transfer 3/4 of the garlic sauce into a bowl.

Saute the shrimp and mushrooms in the remaining sauce. Add more if needed. Drain and rinse noodles and toss with the garlic sauce. Add shrimp and mushrooms. Serve hot!

The Perfect Bite
If you’ve followed this blog long enough you know that my perfect bite usually consists of stacking your fork with each of the components on your plate. That’s exacty what you want to do here!

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Not My Mama’s Gringo Chili


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My mother, God bless her, was not much of a cook. She only had a couple of tried and true recipes in her “go to” list. The rest, in the era that was introduced to convenience foods, was boxed, canned and highly processed. I didn’t like food much as a kid… thanks to meals like Chun King canned Chinese food and powdered potatoes and canned meatloaf (yes, I said canned. It even had the can rings imprinted in the meat when you pushed it out.). Fortunately, during college I dated a guy whose mom was a gourmet Italian cook and I discovered a whole new world!

But one meal Mom used to make, that I absolutely loved, was what she called her “Gringo Chili”… and though the beans were canned, she did brown some hamburger and warm some flour tortillas… and that was HUGE for her! Mom grew up in New Mexico where you eat your chili with tortillas, not cornbread, so that’s how she served it to us. And we couldn’t have been hapataks_hot_curry_pasteppier!

My palate has improved over the years, so I needed to spice it up a little.  This recipe is a tribute her her.  I love the nostalgia this chili brings… but of course I had to make it my own. I made a huge crock pot of it and took it to work today and it literally disappeared in 10 minutes. What was the magical ingredient that everyone loved and kept trying to guess? That’s right… red hot curry paste!  It gives it heat and a depth of flavor that’s a little unexpected.  My boss even had sweat beads on his forehead – but he ate every last bit of it!

Ingredients (This serves about 10 people – adjust according to size you’re feeding… but you’ll definitely want leftovers)
1 pound ground turkey (feel free to use beef)
2 cans chili beans (use liquid)
2 cans red kidney beans (drained)
2 cans light red kidney beans (drained)
2 cans pinto beans (drained)
2 cans stewed tomatoes (drained)
1 small can diced jalapenos (optional if you need it tamer – us substitute with diced green chilies)
1/2 medium Vidalia onion )or any sweet onion) – diced finally
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon Hot red curry paste
Salt & pepper to taste

OPTIONAL for garnishing:
Sour cream
Monterey Jack cheese
Flour tortillas (warmed)

Ready to Cook?
Brown the meat in a large skillet, adding the onion, cumin, curry paste and salt & pepper. If using a fatty meat that will need draining, cook meat separately and saute the onion with the seasonings in another pan. Drain meat and then combine. This is the main reason I use lean ground turkey – no draining necessary!

Add all the ingredients to a large stock pot or slow cooker.  If using a slow cooker, leave it on low for 6-8 hours. Or on high for 2-3 hours. If cooking stove top then cook over medium heat for 30-40 minutes or until you see all the juices rising to the top.

The Perfect Bite
As a kid, I used to roll my tortilla up like an empty burrito and use it to scoop the chili up instead of a spoon. I may or may not still do that. :)

The Perfect Pairing
The heat in this chili goes perfectly with an ice cold beer. My favorite is Negra Medelo.

The Perfect Health
The main component in chillies is a chemical called Capsaicin, which is responsible for the intense heat sensation. Capsaicin lowers blood sugar levels, improves heart health, boost circulation and protects against strokes. Eating chillies can have a very positive impact on people who are overweight or suffer from diabetes because they reduce the insulin levels. Known as circulation boosters, chillies can have a major impact on your health by boosting circulation and also act as a blood thinner to help protect against strokes.

Important! Frequent consumption of fresh chillies may cause stomach problems. Dry chillies don’t have the same effect. They still do contain Capsaicin but don’t harm your stomach.chili

The regular intake of chillies can help to minimize the effects inflammatory diseases have on the body. Capsaicin also provides effective pain relief if applied on skin and also has antibacterial properties..

The Great Benefits of Eating Chili – Chillies Help to Burn Fat
Capsaicin is also a thermogenic compound and increases the metabolic rate, which aids in the fat burning process. Chilli oil is used in anti-cellulite creams and it was proven to be very effective. I actually tried it myself and I was amazed. You can prepare chilli oil at home. Choose a base oil (preferably cold pressed – I used olive oil) and add a couple of chopped dry chillies. Pour the content in a small bottle and place it in a cool, dry place. Leave it there for about 2 weeks then start using it.

Red Anjou Pear, Walnut and Goat Cheese Galette


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For some reason I am just discovering the beauty of pears. I mean, I’ve always been aware of pears. They were just never really my first choice of fruit. And what I’m now (finally) discovering is that they are a wonderful Autumn fruit! Bosc pears, Bartlett pears, Concord pears and the ones I used in this galette – Red Anjou pears. Red Anjou pears are sweet and less acidic than their green counterparts. I also liked using the Red Anjous because I like the contrast of the color of the skin peeking out of the galette. And like Bosc pears, they hold up well when cooked. Bosc pears are probably my favorite as they are more woodsy and their sweetness is more like honey than sugar. Each has a distinct aroma and taste – so buy one of each and do your own taste-test!

Ingredients
Filling:
5-6 medium ripe (but not mushy) pears of your choice.
3/4 cup organic pear juice
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons corn starch
a pinch of salt

Crust:
You can either buy store-bought crust (no shame in that game) or you can make one from scratch. Check out this crust recipe. It’s from the Pioneer Woman… or I guess I should say it’s from my new BFF, Ree. Now that we’re tight twitter friends and all. :)  As you’ll see…it’s a lot of work.  And since I no longer own a KitchenAid stand mixer (moment of silence) I would have had to make it completely by hand. So yea, I bought my crust at Publix.
1/3 cup goat cheese crumbles
1/4 cup non-dairy vanilla creamer
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preparation
Preheat over to 425 degrees F. If using store bought pie dough let it sit out and get to room temperature. Wash and core pears, removing tops and bottoms. No need to peel. Cut pears into thin slices (about 1/4″ thick). You should be prepared to use the pear slices right away or they will brown. If not using them immediately, put in bowl of water with lemon to stave off browning.

Have your pie crusts rolled out and ready on parchment paper on a cookie sheet (or use non-stick spray). It’s important to fill your crusts while on the cookie sheet because they will probably fall apart if you try to move them once they’re filled. Note: If using store-bought this will be enough filling for two galettes that will each be 8″-10″ in diameter. I actually combined the two sheets of dough and re-rolled it out to make 3 smaller ones that I needed for 3 separate events. They were about 6″-7″ in diameter.

Ready to Cook?
Toss pear slices, pear juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, corn starch and salt into a non-reactive pot and cook on stove top over pear4medium heat, gently stirring until sauce thickens and pears are all covered. Do not cook the pears – just heat long enough to become thick and jammy.  Remove from heat and let cool. Once filling is cool to the touch (this is important – if too hot it will melt  your dough and tear it), spoon into the center of your crusts piled about 2.5″ high and leaving about 2″ of room around the edge to fold over. Fold crust up and over filling and circle around pinching and overlapping the edges until circle is complete. The filling should be visible (see photo). Now brush vanilla creamer on the dough and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.

Place on middle rack and bake for 20-25 minutes (depending on size).  TIP: To keep your crust from getting too dark lay a piece of tin foil flat on top of galettes to shield them. Then remove the last 5 minutes for perfect browning. Do not wrap tin foil tightly or your dough will steam. Just simply lay it on top.

Once out of the oven, sprinkle with chopped walnuts and goat cheese crumbles. Lavender sprig optional. :)

The Perfect Bite
Slice the gallette like you would a pie.  Though it is best served warm, do let it cool and set once it’s out of the oven as it tends to fall apart if too hot.  My perfect bite is to make sure I get walnuts and goat cheese on each fork-full. I kept a few of each on the side just in case.

The Perfect Pairing
I personally did not want to add anything to my little slice of pear gallete, but surely a nice dollop of homemade whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream would be lovely with this! And a perfect beverage to pair with these red pears? Try it with my Red-Headed Martini. Unless you’re having it for breakfast (ah go ahead… no judgment here).

The Perfect Health
Pears provide a very good source of fiber and are also a good source of vitamin B2, C, E, copper, and potassium. They also contain a significant amount of pectin, which is a water soluble fiber. Pears are actually higher in pectin than apples. This makes them effective in helping to lower cholesterol levels and in toning the intestines. They are often recommended by health care practitioners as a hypoallergenic fruit that is high in fiber. Read more about the health benefits of pears here.

The “Blushing Dutch” Martini


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I love a summer cocktail. I also love experimenting with different flavors combinations. The good news about these ingredients is that you can change them up. Try lemons and raspberries. Cilantro and cucumber. Blueberries and mint. The Vling mixer comes in cranberry pomegranate, citrus and regular tonic. So have fun with it!

Ingredientsphoto
New Amsterdam Berry infused vodka – 1 part
Vling cranberry pomegranate mixer – 3 parts
Sweetened lime juice – a splash or so to taste
Fresh lime – 2 slices per glass

Preparation
Slice limes. Chill glasses in freezer.
Fill cocktail shaker halfway with ice  and fill with first three ingredients. Shake lightly (the Vling mixer is fizzy!). Poor into chilled glasses and enjoy!

The Perfect Bite
Of course there’s no “bite” in a cocktail unless you’re chomping on the vodka-soaked fruit – which is amazing! But also, a good tip is to keep vodka (and gin) in the freezer – makes for a perfectly chilled drink on a hot summer day.

The Perfect Health
Let’s be honest. It’s a cocktail. But using the Vling is helpful. It’s lower in calories and sodium then other tonics and is filled with electrolytes to help offset the dehydration that happens form alcohol. So there’s that!

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Miso Soup with Soba Noodles and Roasted Chicken


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If you’re like me soba noodle always sound a little intimidating. Do they require special handling? Are they high maintenance? The answer is yes… and no.  Super simple to cook – 3 to 4 minutes tops. And the only special handling is to remember that they continue soaking up liquid… so best to store leftovers dry.  Honestly, they are best freshly made but they cook so quickly it will just take minutes to prepare next time you need them! And since they’re lower in carbs and calories than regular pasta noodles… these buckwheat gems are worth it!

Ingredients (serves 2)
1 quart chicken stock or low-sodium broth (I actually used my garlic broth for this)
4 ounces of organic soba noodles
1/4 cup fresh miso paste (found in Asian or specialty stores)
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice (or any fresh lemon)
1 cup roasted or rotisserie chicken breast (or other cooked chicken breast), warm or at room temperature
Thinly sliced scallion greens, for garnish

Ready to Cook?
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In a medium pot, bring the broth to a simmer. Do not use salt or oil like you do for white pasta.

Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook until al dente, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the noodles, and using tongs, transfer them to bowls.

Meanwhile, ladle 1 cup of the broth into a heatproof bowl and whisk in the miso. Return the miso-broth to the pot and cook until hot, but not boiling. Add the lemon juice. DO not omit the lemon juice – you need the acidic to cut through the saltiness of the miso.

Top the noodles with the chicken. Ladle the hot broth on top of the noodles, garnish with the scallions and serve.photo 1

The Perfect Bite
I love to use chopsticks to scoop out the noodles and chicken… then slurp the broth from the side of the bowl… just as they do in Japan. But no shame in using a spoon if you prefer. Just get every last drop!

The Perfect Pairing
Try 2012 Terres Dorées Beaujolais l’Ancien Vieilles Vignes or 2012 Tissot Arbois Poulsard Vieilles Vignes each pairs beautifully with the salty richness of this soup.

The Perfect Health
Soba (buckwheat) Pasta: Due to their buckwheat content, soba noodles are a slow-releasing carbohydrate, meaning they’re a source of good long-lasting energy. In addition, you can cut calories virtually in half when you switch from regular white pasta to soba noodles. Buckwheat contains the vitamin B compound choline. Health Hokkaido lists that buckwheat, specifically the choline compound, assists with increasing metabolism and decreasing fat accumulation. Read more here.

Homemade Dill Pickles


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I love pickles.

Always have…  but it was never something I thought I could make myself. I imagined the process was complicated and required all kinds of equipment – who knew?! You really just need some canning jars – wide mouth are the best – and a few essential ingredients. Kirby cucumbers are the classic pickling cucumber. Be sure to pick ones that are firm and not overly ripe. English cucumbers don’t hold up well and get mushy – and waxed cucumbers are bitter and won’t pickle well. So go to Pubix (where I get mine) or your local Farmer’s Market and grab a bunch. I used about 6 pickles to make one quart, cut in coins.

Ingredients (makes 2 pints or 1 quart)
1 1/2 pounds Kirby or Persian cucumbers
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 teaspoons dill seed (don’t be tempted to use dill weed – it makes a huge mess!)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 and 1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 tsp of sugar

Preparation

  1. Prepare the jars: If you are planning to can your pickles for long-term storage, bring a large pot of water to a boil and sterilize the jars and their lids. If you are planning to make refrigerator pickles, simply washing the jars and lids is fine.
  2. Prepare the cucumbers: Wash and dry the cucumbers. Trim away the blossom end of the cucumber, which contains enzymes that can lead to limp pickles. Leave the pickles whole, cut them into spears, or slice them into coins, as preferred.
  3. Add the spices to the jars: Divide the garlic, dill seed, and red pepper flakes (if using) between the pint jars: 2 smashed cloves, 1 teaspoon dill seed, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes per jar.
  4. Pack the pickles into the jars: If making spears, trim the ends if they stand more than 1/2 inch below the top of the jar. Pack them in as tightly as you can without smashing the cucumbers. If making coins, try to pack them in tight up to an inch from the top.
  5. Bring the pickling brine to a boil: Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a small sauce pan over high heat. Bring to a rolling boil. Pour the brine over the pickles, filling each jar to within 1/2-inch of the top. You may not use all the brine.
  6. Remove air bubbles: Gently tap the jars against the counter a few times to remove all the air bubbles. Top off with more pickling brine if necessary.
  7. Tighten the lids: Place the lids over the jars and screw on the rings until tight.
  8. Optional — Process the pickles for longer storage: For longer storage, place the jars in a boiling pot of water. When the water comes back to a boil, set the timer for 5 minutes and remove the jars immediately. Make sure the lids pop down; if they do not, refrigerate those pickles and eat them first. NOTE: this method will make your pickles softer… so if you like more of a crunch… skip this process.
  9. Cool and refrigerate: Let the jars cool to room temperature. If you processed the jars, they can be stored on the shelf. If unprocessed, store the pickles in the fridge. The pickles will improve with flavor as they age — try to wait at least 48 hours before cracking them open. They will start looking like pickles in a few hours… but will taste best after a couple of days.

 

pickle jars

before

before…

 

after

after…

 

 

Enjoy!