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Insta-Grahams

Here is the s’mores modern rival. A hands-on tasty graham cracker-based treat that is perfect for a digital age. This hybrid is a clash of s’mores and the classic baked graham cracker toffee. These easy breezy snacks are loaded with kid-friendly toppings and only take a few minutes to assemble into creative iPhone-sized pieces. The variations are pretty much endless and only limited by imagination.

White Chocolate Selfie Insta-Graham

My nephew Uri with his Insta-Graham titled “White Chocolate Selfie.”

Norm’s Notes: Let Me Take a Selfie

When I visit my sister, I cook. I cook a lot! Feeding this crew is no easy task. She has five handsome young sons and one awesome husband who I’m lucky to call my brother-in law. I love the challenge of feeding this many people balanced meals and it is my pleasure to give them a break from the stove and add some variation to their usual diet.

The boys all love to watch me simmer away in the kitchen and I’m constantly in search of things that the party of five can all help make. So during my most recent weekend visit, almost on cue, serendipity stepped in and brought us the Insta-Graham. The creation was a true family affair. My sister provided the initial concept, the boys gave the flavor combos and names, and my brother in-law captured all of the fun on camera.  The three flavors are just the beginning of what you can do. Try out a variety of topping combinations to make your Insta-Graham into a one of a kind “selfie”. Don’t forget to add #Insta-Graham.

Peanut Butter Parfait Insta-Graham

My nephew Fabian is excited to chow down on his “Peanut Butter Parfait Insta-Grahams.”

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Sausage, Onion, and Potato Hash

If sitting on a sunlit patio in early hours of the day, while sipping hot coffee, reading the paper and eating a sensible breakfast sounds appealing, then I’ve got the ideal meal to match the mood. Awaiting is a home-style breakfast spread that features a smoky Sausage, Onion and Potato Hash. The robust flavor of the sausage permeates potatoes that are peppered with hints of sweetness from sauteed red onion and bursts of spice from fresh jalapeno. This morning meal is  tailored for cooks who want to be the one who “gets it while it’s hot,” and I’ve included some wonderful hints on how to assemble a hot cooked breakfast and join in on the fun around the table.

Norm’s Notes: Breakfast of Champions

My biggest issue with cooking breakfast is its à la carte nature. Pancakes, waffles, toast, eggs and many more often have to be made to order which often means the cook is the last to partake in the meal or the food quickly cools while guests wait for the cook to finish and to come to the table. In order for one to finally make it to the table and actually sip coffee sitting down, the number of hot cooked items has to be reduced. In this meal I made the hash the only hot cooked item, kind of; but it’s not complete on its own, the meal needed filler. So, I took a page from classic diner menus and added fresh tomato slices sprinkled with salt and pepper, fresh cut fruit and hard boiled eggs. Hard boiling eggs is a great way to include them in the meal without having to don the skills of a short order cook.

Begin by assembling a platter of sliced fruit, sliced tomatoes and shredded lettuce before starting the hash. Start boiling the eggs at the same time you begin cooking the hash so that they’ll be slightly warm when you’re ready to eat. Once the hash is finished and eggs are cooked, peel and cut the eggs and arrange them on the lettuce. Drizzle them and the tomatoes with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Don’t worry about transferring the hash to a platter. Just bring it to the table, place on a trivet and serve out of the skillet. It will help keep the hash warm throughout the meal, and reduces the amount of dishes you’ll have to clean later. Now all you need to do is serve the coffee and enjoy your wonderful breakfast.

Egg and Fruit Platter

Arranging the fruit, eggs, and tomatoes on a platter, in rows, cuts down on the amount of bowls and plates that you need to carry to the table. Adding a bit of shredded lettuce to the platter separates the savory tomato and sweet fruit. It will also act as a bed for the eggs, keeping them from rolling around on the platter and absorbing any of the fruit juices.

In case you need a refresher, here is how I boil eggs.

Place 6 eggs in a large saucepan and cover with cold water until fully submerged. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover with lid and let stand 7 to 10 minutes. (Less standing time means a more tender cooked yolk.) Drain. Rinse with cold running water until cool to the touch. Peel eggs and slice into quarters.

Breakfast Spread

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Peach Cornbread Slice

The fragrance of ripe peaches is as sensuous as Number 5. They draw you into their presence and urge you to fit just one more in the bag. Once the juicy flavor grenades are brought home, usually two fates await. They will be quickly devoured within the first few days or left to sit around with the best of intentions, ultimately lending themselves to over ripening. Here is an option for what to do with peaches that are on the verge of too ripe: bake up a rich cakey peach cornbread. The recipe uses up a lot of pantry staples keeping the need to go shopping for ingredients to a minimum. It’s slightly sweet, making it able to be served with a smear of creamy butter for breakfast or topped with whipped cream for dessert.

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Island Style Lunch

Maybe it’s the afternoon showers cooling temperatures from oppressive to pleasant or the fact that I’ve watched three surfing documentaries this week, but I’ve craved the tropics. My desperate grasp for a taste of island life has led to a bit of over purchasing, leaving my counter piled high with mangoes and limes. (Don’t judge. They were really cheap and I couldn’t resist.) Now, to use up the bounty, I’ve been eating them with just about every meal. Mango-lime smoothies in the mornings, mango sprinkled with lime juice and chili powder for a snack and my personal favorite, mango slaw with lime dressing to go with lunch or dinner. The slaw recipe is the highlight of the excessive purchase and inspired a lunch/dinner meal where it pairs with marinated short ribs and white rice. The short ribs showcase a salty sweet marinade and cook up quickly on the stove-top or grill, while fragrant hot cooked rice rounds out the plate and balances the robust tropical flavors. The menu is suited for a sensible lunch gathering with a few friends and maybe a few beers. It’s refreshing, yet filling, but won’t leave you so full the rest of the day is unproductive. Enjoy.

Marinated Short Ribs

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Crispy Chicken

Here is a skillet supper that truly uses one pan to create all the components of a great meal. Crispy Chicken Breast Filets, flattened to quicken the cooking process, are paired with sweet corn medallions, bulb onions and fresh tomatoes. It’s a delicious party menu that utilizes peak seasonal ingredients to keep the flavor high and costs low. Outside of the pan, I’ve also included a dessert of Cherry Cream Pie which is a revelation in contrast to the recipes found on the back of cream cheese packets.

Norm’s Notes: Seasoning Salt and Blends

In today’s culinary world, salt and pepper reign as the undisputed kings of flavor enhancement. The numerous variants of sodium chloride and pungent berries are prized among cooks who often adjust and combine different types to meet specific uses. However, store-bought seasoning salts and blends, popular with most home cooks, often get no love. Since many peoples’ cabinets are littered with half full cylinders of them, I think salt and pepper elitism needs to be addressed.

Seasoning salts and blends are great because they will go with just about anything you can think of, quickly enhancing the taste of foods with little effort. The main problem is many of the seasonings lose potency and pungency over time. So that seasoning you bought for that one recipe you made, for that thing, two years ago, may be past its prime. A good rule is if you haven’t used it within the current calendar year, it probably needs to be discarded, but check the expiration date to be sure. My advice is to use seasoning salts and blends often and boldly. Shake a bit on fresh cut veggies, salad, eggs, grits or anywhere you would use salt and pepper or hot sauce. If anyone sticks their nose in the air about your love of seasoning salt and blends, smile at them, shake on more, and enjoy.

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If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain,” then National Pina Colada Day was made for you. And how perfect that it falls in the dog days of summer when nothing seems more refreshing than a cold, tropical cocktail in hand. So “put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up,” I say. But if you’d rather skip past the drinks and head straight to dessert, then try these pina colada baked doughnuts or pina colada key lime pie. Both look exceptionally sinful.

Strawberry Pina Colada Pops

Photo and recipe courtesy of Cornelia Guest

 Spiked Strawberry Pina Colada Pops

Ingredients

3 cups fresh pineapple, cubed
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup rum
1 cup strawberries, sliced

Instructions

Puree all ingredients (except strawberries) in a blender until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and discard solids. Add strawberries, pour into ice-pop molds and freeze for 30 minutes. Insert sticks and continue to freeze overnight. For best results, leave ice pops in the freezer for at least 24 hours.

10 More Recipes to Try

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Watermelon Salad with Quick Pickled Jalapeno

Whether you’re lugging home a 15-pounder to slice into wedges or grabbing a pre-cut version, my guess is that your watermelon will generally be served plain. May I recommend you add some intrigue to your melon by pairing its sweet succulent flesh with the fruity spice of jalapeno and acidic tang of lime? The Latin-inspired combination transforms plain ol’ watermelon into a complex dish with loads of sweet and spicy flavor. These 3 recipes are all paired with fresh jalapeno and lime to provide a few more interesting ways to enjoy summer’s unofficial fruit.

Norm’s Notes: Pick a Pepper

I don’t know if it’s because of drought or my selection habits, but most of the chiles (especially jalapeno) I’ve had this year are really, really spicy. Although I generally like spice, sometimes there is such a thing as too hot. If you are in the same boat and want to keep the heat of chiles to a minimum, remove the seeds and inner white membrane with a sharp knife. Doing this will not only reduce the heat level, but will help bring out more of the chiles’ fruity flavor. Also, thinly slicing or finely dicing the peppers helps to evenly distribute the spiciness in a dish, allowing for a more predictable heat level and giving a peppery pop of flavor to each bite.

Delicious Recipes

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While you embrace the Fourth of July with tasty seasonal fare and vibrant fireworks, don’t forget about a festive, signature party beverage. With the summer heat bearing down, these icy concoctions will certainly hit the spot.

Fourth of July Recipes

Courtesy of Cornelia Guest

Star-Spangled Spiked Smoothie

Ingredients

1 ounce vodka
1 cup mixed berries (fresh or frozen)
1 8-ounce container vanilla yogurt
coconut flakes, for garnish

Instructions

Combine vodka, berries and yogurt in a blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with blueberries and coconut flakes.

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In case you haven’t heard, it’s National Candy Month! However, June is quickly drawing to a close, which means there’s only 5 days left to celebrate this tasty occasion. You can either gorge on candy from your local convenience store, or you could go for a slightly different approach. In the spirit of Ogden Nash’s wise words, “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker,” here are 6 candy-inspired cocktail recipes for you to try:

6 Candy-Inspired Cocktails: Heath Bar Cocktail Recipe

Heath Bar Cocktail: Heath Bars are one of my personal faves, so this toffee-flavored cocktail topped with shaved chocolate looks absolutely irresistible to me! GET THE RECIPE>>

MORE CANDY COCKTAILS

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Greek Style Baby Artichoke Salad

Baby artichokes are one of those farmers’ market purchases many people commit to due to a persuasive salesperson or solely based on their attractiveness, but soon regret the purchase when left pondering “how do I cook these?” To solve this common problem, here is an illustrated guide on the bare necessities to preparing those prickly pears into something delicious. Included are 4 simple ways to serve these babies to your friends and family.

Norm’s Notes: Trimming Baby Artichokes in 3 simple steps

STEP 1:

Trimming Artichokes Step 1

Pluck away any leaves attached to artichoke stem. Remove tough outer layer covering the stem with a vegetable peeler or paring knife.

STEP 2:

Trimming Baby Artichokes Step 2

Cut away top ¼ portion of leaves, leaving a flat surface, cut artichoke in half lengthwise.

STEP 3:

Trimming Baby Artichokes Step 3

Examine each artichoke half to see if the choke (the fuzzy parts right above the heart and just below the purple line ends) is a bit overgrown (the fuzz will tend to stick out from the cut side if overgrown). If they are, carefully scrape away choke with the tip of a paring knife.

Artichoke Recipes

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