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brown butter eggnog waffles

The big morning has almost arrived and between all of the shopping and wrapping of gifts, have you stopped to think about what you’ll be eating? A great way to begin the special day is with a tasty and filling breakfast (or brunch, depending on how early you awake) and serving Brown Butter and Eggnog Waffles will make it extra special. The golden brown squares have a crisp crust and moist fluffy interior with bits of brown butter streaked throughout. Also, the recipe helps put the last of the eggnog to good use. The batter is purposefully designed to be made the night before, saving you precious time. In the morning when you’re ready to make the waffles, simply heat and oil your waffle iron and cook until golden brown. Serve with a spoonful Strawberry and Orange Topping and a hefty dollop of whipped cream for extra decadence. Complete the meal by serving the waffles along side cooked thick cut bacon and plenty of orange juice. Happy Holidays!

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galette slice

Clove, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and the like are, in my opinion, front and center in too many holiday desserts. Although a certain amount of the familiar bouquet is enjoyable, when October rolls around America seems to go on spice overload. (I’m talking to you Starbucks!) This golden delicious free-form pie is a way to get your seasonal dessert fix, hold the spice. The flavor highlights the sweet goodness of baked fruit with bright notes of lemon and subtle tones of ginger and vanilla all wrapped in a sturdy crust. If plums aren’t available in your area, try making the galette with another variety of apple such as Braeburn or Gala. It’s truly easy as pie.

Norm’s Notes: H 2 Uh…oh.

When creating this galette recipe, I wanted to make sure the crust resisted becoming overly wet and soggy. This was not only to appease my dislike of gummy textures, but to insure the dessert would easily slice and transfer to plates once cooled. To accomplish the goal, I had to find a way to remove as much of the water from the fruit before baking. Tossing the fruit pieces in sugar and flavorings and allowing it to stand for 20 minutes released enough moisture to reduce the chances of a soggy underside without drastically altering the texture of the fruit. Once the excess juices were drained, two main benefits emerged. First, the bake time became more consistent; second, a syrupy glaze could be created from the reserved juices and drizzled on top after baking. You can use this trick on fruit pies, tarts and turnovers to relieve a soggy crust’s main culprit: excess water.
plum and apple galette

Holiday Plum and Apple Galette

makes 6 to 8 servings

FOR CRUST:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ cup chilled unsalted butter, cut up into ½-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup ice water

FOR FILLING:

  • 3 to 4 medium-size sweet green plums*, sliced (about ¾ pound)
  • 3 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into large pieces (about ¾ pound)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tbsp. turbinado sugar
  • Coarsely chopped roasted hazelnuts

*Red plums may be substituted

1. Stir flour and next 2 ingredients together in a large bowl until blended. Cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender until butter pieces resemble small peas. Stir ice water, one tablespoon at a time, into flour mixture just until dry ingredients are moistened and dough begins to form. Discard any excess ice water. Shape dough into a disk; wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes up to overnight.

2. Toss plums, apples, and next 5 ingredients together in a large bowl until coated. Let stand 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap chilled dough and place on lightly floured surface. Lightly dust top of dough with flour and roll to a 15-inch circle. Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

4. Drain plum and apple mixture, reserving juices. Toss plum and apple mixture with flour until coated and spoon into center of dough, leaving a 3-inch border. Fold edges of dough over plum and apple mixture, pleating as you go and sealing any cracks. Lightly beat egg white until foamy. Brush exposed dough with a thin layer of beaten egg white and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

5. Bake at 350 degrees 40 to 45 minutes or until fruit is tender and bubbling and crust is golden brown. Let cool on baking pan on a wire rack 20 minutes.

6. Bring reserved plum and apple juices to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Drizzle juices over exposed fruit and top with desired amount of hazelnuts.

 

 

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My sweet tooth is unstoppable, and there’s nothing I love more than creamy, chocolate-based holiday cocktails. Calories might as well be unicorns from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. I let myself indulge in foods I won’t see for another 12 months, like most of these lovely bevvies. So, get out all the garnishes and warm up with a decadent dessert cocktail this season.

Peppermint Mocha Toddy

Peppermocha Toddy Recipe

Photo + recipe courtesy of Old Forge Distillery

Ingredients

  • 3/4 ounce Old Forge Coffee Moonshine
  • 3/4 ounce Old Forge Chocolate Moonshine
  • 1/2 ounce white creme de menthe
  • hot coffee
  • whipped cream, for garnish
  • peppermint candy, crumbled, for garnish

 

Pour coffee moonshine, chocolate moonshine and creme de menthe into an Irish coffee mug. Top with hot coffee. Garnish with whipped cream and crumbled peppermint candy.

Uncle Billy’s Holiday Treat

Holiday Cocktail Recipe

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cheddar rosemary shortbread
Is it me or is the holiday season when unexpected company is expected? Even with annual knowledge of this reality, many of us manage to be ill prepared to easily entertain our drop in guests. This year, solve the problem by creating this quick and savory shortbread. The recipe requires no food processor, stand mixer, or any other counter top appliance; just a bowl, fork, and oven will do. It is crafted from pantry staples and intentionally allows one to use the odds and ends of cheese and butter that lie in various refrigerator compartments. You can make it from start to finish in under an hour or stir up a couple batches and store unbaked rolls in the freezer, allowing you to simply slice and bake upon unplanned arrivals.

Norm’s Notes: For all my shorties 
The key to any great buttery flaky shortbread is not only the butter to flour ratio, but the proper amount mixing and kneading. Over-kneading can produce too much gluten in the flour resulting in tough chewy dough. Not enough kneading and the cookie is unable to hold shape and falls apart when baked. The method in this recipe is designed to prevent overworking of the dough and yields a crispy yet tender cookie.

With the butter at room temperature, it gives off more moisture than chilled butter and is quickly absorbed into the flour mixture. Stirring in the cheese and shaping finishes the blending process leaving unincorporated pockets of butter dotted throughout the dough. Chilling sets the butter fragments in place and when baked, water trapped within the butter turns to steam and escapes the dough leaving behind little caverns throughout the layers of the cookie. The benefit of this technique is a shortbread that comes together with little effort and has a heavenly taste and crisp texture that disintegrates in your mouth upon contact.

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honey apple cocktail

While most folks will agree that a holiday meal isn’t complete without a serving or two of dessert, I believe a refreshing cocktail should be the finishing touch. Once delicious wedges of pie are all but a distant memory, proceed to your bar cart and shake up a tasty beverage to properly end your feast. This balanced drink is perfect for slow sipping and is not too overwhelming for a stuffed belly handle. Cheers to you!

Norm’s Notes: No Shrubs?

The Shrub (vinegar-syrup based cocktails) seems to be just as popular amongst today’s cocktail connoisseurs as they were before falling out of fashion in the later part of the 18th century. In case you’ve missed their resurgence, the sour-sweet tastes of shrubs provide mouth puckering flavors and a bit of earthiness to cocktails. In my opinion, traditional shrubs can be a bit too strong on the sour notes, but I do love the complexity vinegar gives to the taste of mixed drink. This cocktail channels my favorite parts of shrub trend and leans more towards the sweet side of “sour-sweet.” I favored the acidity from apple cider vinegar to liven up the drink in a very unexpected, yet pleasant way. If you aren’t feeling adventurous enough to add a splash of vinegar to your cocktail, omit it from the recipe and replace with 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice.

 

Honey-Apple Sipper:

Stir 3 Tbsp. bourbon, 1 tsp. honey, 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar, and 1/8 tsp. ground ginger together in a cocktail shaker until blended. Fill shaker with ice cubes, cover with lid and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled. Strain into a 12-oz. glass filled with ice cubes. Top with chilled sparkling apple cider. Garnish with fresh apple slices and rosemary sprig if desired. Makes 1 drink.

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persimmon pomegranate salad

Disrupting a traditional Thanksgiving menu with new recipes can be a tricky proposal. This year, make an effort to slip in a few non-traditional sides to perk up the table and bring your holiday meal into the modern era. Using savory flavors and seasonal produce such as persimmon, pomegranate, and blueberries will help usher in dishes that compliment the classics with ease. Don’t believe me? Take on this simple Persimmon, Pomegranate, and Herb Salad and refreshingly different Farro Salad with Pickled Blueberries and Fennel. The tastes will match your holiday favorites and make just enough to fill up the extra corner of space left on the plate after helpings casseroles and such have been dished.

Persimmon, Pomegranate, and Herb Salad

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 ½ lb.Fuyu persimmons (about 5 medium size)
  • ¾ cup pomegranate seeds
  • ¼ cup loosely packed parsley leaves, torn
  • ¼ cup loosely packed mint leaves, torn
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Remove stems from persimmons and cut into ¼-inch thick slices. Arrange slices on a platter and top with pomegranate seeds, parsley, and mint. Drizzle with vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste just before serving.

Norm’s Note: Sideboard Boost

Pickled Blueberries and Fennel are also great nestled along side turkey in lieu of cranberry sauce. The mixture offers a combination of crisp, sweet, and tart flavors that cleanse the palate in between forkfuls just as well as the favorite American chutney. To serve the quick pickled bounty, simply drain both the blueberries and fennel from the brine and combine in a small bowl. Reserve a couple tablespoons of the brine and stir in a tablespoon of olive oil. Toss the brine mixture with the blueberries and fennel and season with freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Pickled Blueberries and Fennel

Makes about 1 ½ cups blueberries and 1 ½ cups fennel

  •  1 ½ cups white vinegar
  • ½ cup cold water
  • ½ cup turbinado sugar*
  • 2 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 ½ cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 medium-size fennel bulb, thinly sliced

 

1. Bring vinegar and next 6 ingredients to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan.

2. Place blueberries and fennel in separate bowls and divide vinegar mixture evenly among the two bowls. Let stand a minimum of 1 hour before serving or cover and chill up to 1 week.

*Light brown sugar may be substituted.

farro salad with pickled blueberries

When farro’s tender yet hearty grains are paired with tangy pickled blueberries, sticky sweet dried cranberries, and fresh herbs a festive treat emerges.

Farro Salad with Pickled Blueberries and Fennel

Note: Cooking farro is very simple. All that is required is a lengthy simmer in water or flavorful broth over low heat until tender. However, if you are a farro novice the quick cooking variety, although little hard to find, truly saves you time and is almost as foolproof as minute rice.

Makes 6 servings

  • 2 ½ cups vegetable broth
  • 1 (8.8-oz) package quick cooking farro (such as Trade Joe’s 10 Minute Farro)*
  • 3 Tbsp. pickling brine, reserved from Pickled Blueberries or Fennel
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup drained Pickled Blueberries
  • ½ cup drained Pickled Fennel
  • ½ cup sweetened dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup sliced green onions
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped roasted salted pecans
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

1. Bring broth to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and keep hot. Cook dry farro in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, 2 to 4 minutes until toasted and fragrant.

2. Add hot broth to farro and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until tender. [Note: if using regular farro increase cooking time to 20 minutes.] Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in reserved pickling brine and olive oil; let cool.

3. Toss cooked farro, Pickled Blueberries, Pickled Fennel, and next 4 ingredients together in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

*1 cup regular farro may be substituted.

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Some people are really, really tired of pumpkin spice lattes. Me? Not so much. If you love pumpkin but can’t stomach the #PSL, then this Mood Board Monday is for you. Cookies, doughnuts, punch — the possibilities are literally endless when it comes to adding pumpkin pie spice. And if you’re not a pumpkin fan at all? Well, #sorrynotsorry.

Mood Board Monday: Pumpkin SpiceTop, L to R: Scarf, Print, Mug | Middle, L to R: Doughnuts, Stitching, Cookies | Bottom, L to R: Spice, Cocktail, Cake

Come back every Monday for an inspirational mood board. Miss a day? See all the posts here.

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I don’t really care that the calendar says the official start date of fall is whenever the Pumpkin Spice Latte becomes “a thing.” I personally enjoy the flavor throughout all seasons — my post-run smoothie always employs the use of pumpkin. Nonetheless, I do enjoy this time of year when the rest of the world embraces my affinity for the obligatory orange squash.

However, this year #PSL momentum has suffered an early blow with the news that it contains zero actual pumpkin, and is stuffed full of chemicals and unnecessary additives. While some food scientists have objectively defended the drink’s absence of actual pumpkin, some of us are left searching for a more natural alternative to our favorite seasonal swig.

HGTVGardens answered our prayers with their very own Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe. It is far more nutritious, uses fewer ingredients and contains actual pumpkin (WOO!). Plus, I would bet my yearly fall-flavored-grocery budget that this recipe is more affordable.

PSL

Makes 1 PERFECT #PSL:
1/2 to 1 cup milk (I use vanilla almond milk)
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
1 to 2 tablespoons of natural maple syrup or sugar (try brown sugar or black strap molasses if you’re really in the mood)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
1 to 2 shots of espresso or 1/2 cup of coffee (the stronger the better in my opinion)
whipped cream for added #nomnoms

Here is all you have to do:

Whisk together milk, pumpkin and sugar in a saucepan set on low, stir until the mix is steaming. Remove the mix from heat, stir in the vanilla extract and spice and whisk until frothy. Next step, pour your new heaven-sauce mixture into a large mug, add the espresso, and enjoy. Guilt-free, chemical-free and “waiting-45-minutes-in-line-while-you’re-already-late-for-work”-free.

A latte isn’t enough for you? Click here to see every pumpkin idea, recipe, and tip our editors have to get your fix.

Have your own favorite latte recipe? Share it with us, or tell us your thoughts on the #PSL.

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The unofficial end of summer is (sadly) here (sad face). It feels like we were just talking about ways to start up the grill for summer cookouts. As another season approaches, it seems only right we close out the most carefree time of year with a few refreshing concoctions. Whip up these cool and colorful drinks by Cooking Channel’s Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark as you soak up the long weekend.

Izze Cocktail Recipe

Photo + Recipe: IZZE Sparkling Juice

Vanilla Clementini

Throw it back to childhood snow cone days with this adult version that’s also a martini. (!!!)

Ingredients

1 1/2 ounces vanilla vodka
1/2 triple sec or orange liqueur
3 ounces IZZE Sparkling Clementine
2 cups finely-crushed or shaved ice
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

Instructions

In a glass, combine vodka, triple sec and IZZE Sparkling Clementine and stir lightly. Pour over shaved ice and top with a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk. Serve with a spoon (and be prepared to make seconds).

Yield: 1 serving

Izze Cocktail Recipe

Photo + Recipe: IZZE Sparkling Juice

Grapefruit Lavenderita

Put a spin on the Paloma with a dash of lavender.

Ingredients

2 ounces lavender-infused tequila
1/2 Campari
3/4 fresh-squeezed lime juice
6 ounces IZZE Sparkling Grapefruit

Instructions

Add first three ingredients to a tall glass filled with ice and stir. Pour IZZE Sparkling Grapefruit over and stir. Garnish with a fresh lavender blossom and tell someone that you got them flowers.

To infuse tequila, add one tablespoon of dried lavender flowers to 8 ounces of tequila and let sit for 1 hour. Strain and store tequila in a sealed jar or bottle.

Yield: 1 serving

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Steak Frites

Steak frites may be the perfect meal. Think about it; rich beefy goodness paired with salty crunchy potatoes and topped with a delectable sauce. What is there not to love about that? In my opinion, this combo is great any way it’s prepared, but this version is currently my favorite way to cook up the classic. I took advantage of a super sale on primo beef from my local butcher and picked up center cut filets rather than my beloved strip. The filets are pepper crusted on one side and drizzled with a savory red wine sauce to complement the cut. I upgraded from sticks to circles and fried up a crispy potato chip that easily swabs the plate picking up every last drop of precious sauce. The meal is completed by adding a quick green salad of peppery baby arugula and sliced green onions that are lightly dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt (no recipe needed, just make it to personal taste). This is really a dinner (or lunch) for two, so it’s okay to spend a little extra on your steak and be a little indulgent as you take on this culinary classic.

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Everyone is talking about coconut oil — the benefits, the uses, the reasons to have it at home, at work, etc. I’m an advocate for the superfood and love having it in my medicine cabinet as well as in my pantry. Beyond that, I can’t get enough of coconut water and milk, especially in my smoothies. So let’s just give a round of applause for coconuts! What’s your favorite way to use this fruit?

Mood Board Monday: CoconutsTop, L to R: Santa Fe Dry Goods, Flickr, My Baking Addiction | Middle, L to R: Justina Blakeney, Celebrations at Home, Vintage Blog | Bottom, L to R: Roxana’s Home Baking, Free People Blog, Honestly Yum

Come back every Monday for an inspirational mood board. Miss a day? See all the posts here.

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Sweet Potato Salad

Falling somewhere between appetizer and side dish, this unique tasting salad is a welcome alternative to mayonnaise-laden versions offered at backyard barbecues. The tender sweet potato slices tossed with a lime-based dressing and fresh herbs, then topped with crispy tortilla strips and queso fresco offer a combo of flavors that are bound to get the conversation going at any gathering. The recipe easily doubles to accommodate more people and you can make the recipe to serve with grilled chicken for a colorful and interesting weeknight dinner.

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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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