August 25, 2014

Fruit Flavored Simple Syrup

  
Do you know what a simple syrup is?  My mom taught me about it a couple of years ago, its just water and sugar and then, depending on what we are going to make with it, we add different fruits to give it lots of flavor.

Hi!  Its me Samantha and today I want to tell you about a really yummy way to make your own juice drinks at home!

YOu can add the simple syrup to water to make a plain juice however, I LOVE lemonade, my mom showed me how to make it when I was really little and I ask all the time if I can make it.  You can make plain lemonade or you can add flavors and make it extra fun and special and that is what I like to do with the simple syrups I make the most.

I make flavors like strawberry, raspberry, lime or blackberry, I want to try mango next. We make simple syrup a lot in the spring, summer and fall to use for making homemade water ice, sno-cones and drinks. It only takes a few minute to make a batch and you can keep it in your fridge till you are ready to use it.

Start with sugar and water in equal measurements, then add your favorite fruits...who knows what cool drinks you will come up with!  You can make one glass at a time or a pitcher full.  I like to make a big pitcher and then pack some for my lunch at school.

My friends always ask me about my homemade drinks and my SAMwiches, I have even taken orders and sold them at school, lol!  Mom says I should start a business!

My favorite homemade drink one is Strawberry Lemonade!

Let me know if you create your own favorite, I will want to try it!



Samantha is my just-turned-10 year old "Little Chef".  She has been busy in the kitchen since she was about 3 years old.  She loves cooking, baking, dancing and playing ice hockey. You can usually find her in the kitchen wanting to assist me or create something on her own.


Fruit Flavored Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Fruit of your choice, such as lemon, lime, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc

In a medium pot, combine water and sugar, add in 1 cup of your chosen fruit (if its lemon or lime, add in 1/2 cup of the juice only as well as a few strips of zest).

Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring a few times.  allow it to boil for a few minutes then remove it from the heat.   If you are using berries, use a potato masher or a muddler and mash them a bit at this point. Taste and adjust to your preference for sweetness (depending on the fruit used, sweetness will vary, however you do want it sweet, since you will be mixing it with water or lemonade later) Allow it to sit until it cools.  Once the mixture is cool, store in mason jars until ready to use.

Try combos like the Strawberry Lemon, Samantha likes best.  For that we use 1 cup water 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon and 1 pint of halved strawberries.  Later she adds water and ice to get the flavor she loves.

Enjoy!

Samantha &

August 22, 2014

Grilled Asian Chicken Wings Perfect for Tailgating


Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall...any time I can cook on the grill or get someone to cook on the grill for me...I am a happy, happy girl!

Take wings for example...I for one think they are DELICIOUS when made on a grill, the flavor is enhanced and the clean up is a snap!  Wings excite adults and kids alike, so they are a dish my family enjoys about twice a month.  When the kids know they are having a hangout at our house with their friends, they often say "mom can you make us some wings?" And I do!  Much less expensive than ordering a bunch of pizza's and the kids love them!

During our last trip to Whole Foods my son went over and pointed to the huge value pack of wings and said "mom, LOOK at these...can we get them?".  Of course I threw them in the cart, the price and the quality were both impressive.  That's one of the things I love most about Shopping at Whole Foods Markets, I can always count on the quality and freshness of their meats and seafood and I feel good about feeding them to my family.

When I grilled up all of those wings, I did half Asian and half with just a bit of salt and pepper for the kids and their friends and both were a hit!  I always find it fun to introduce new flavors or ideas to my kids friends...the only problem with THAT is they always come back looking for the next dish or dessert, lol! Literally!!  Many of the boys, when they see me outside and they happen to be riding by our house yell out "Mrs Kennedy...did you make anything today??"  "Mrs Kennedy, did you make any dessert??"

Its SO funny!!

These wings are crisp and full of flavor.  Perfect for tailgating, lunch, as the kick off of a BBQ or as a late night nibble with a beer or a cocktail! OR you can feed a gaggle of tweens with them...Enjoy!!

This is the fifth in a six-part series with Whole Foods Market, I was compensated to do this post however as always all opinions are my own.

Grilled Asian Chicken Wings

5 pounds of wingettes or chicken wings cut into drum and wing
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS minced ginger
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup honey
1/4 cup chili with garlic sauce (a little more if you like things HOT)
1/3 cup sesame oil
2 scallions, sliced (more for garnish)

Combine all ingredients BUT chicken wings in a bowl and whisk vigorously until combined. Remove about 3/4 cup of the marinade and reserve.  Place wings in the bowl and allow them to marinate 2-4 hours. When ready to grill, heat your grill to med-high and cook your wings till crispy and done, basting them often with the reserve marinade (remove 1-2 TBS of the marinade again, BEFORE you brush that first wing, for basting the wings one last time before serving them...mmm!).  Once wings are perfect on the outside, move them up to your grill basket or turn off the heat just below them and finish on indirect heat.  Cook time on the wings should be about 20 minutes...unless your wings are really large.   


Tips for successful wing grilling: 

  • Make sure your grill is HOT before you put your wings on.  
  • Give the wings some space, don't have them touching one another (this will allow them to crisp more effectively).  Keep your grill lid closed as much as you can to allow for an even cook.
  • Flare ups will happen when skin is involved...me I like a little char.  Watch your grill, move pieces around when flare ups happen and close the lid to put them out.  
  • Wing sizes vary and a drummette section will cook differently than a wingette section, so watch your grill and remove pieces that are done...when they are done.  Not all at once.
  • Give those babies a final brush with the reserved marinade (remember you reserved it BEFOE you ever brushed a wing).  Oh and you might need to sample a couple...ya know juuust to make sure they are good...enjoy!! 





August 18, 2014

Tapenade Sandwich


One of my favorite things to make (and nibble on) is tapenade.  I love the bold flavors and I enjoy that its not a heavy, calorie laden appetizer...plus there are capers involved!  I may or may not eat capers right off a spoon...ahem!

This summer I was tinkering with a sandwich idea and came up with this delicious combination. The combo of a fantastic fresh baked loaf of French bread with this easy to make tapenade is a home run!  Make it as a sammie or as small bites.  Either way its delicious!  Click here for the recipe.

Check out my recipe for and find out how YOU can win $25,000.00 from Mezzetta in their "Make That Sandwich" Contest!!  I SO wish I could "play"!  Good Luck! 



August 9, 2014

Grilled Jalapeno Poppers with Bacon Bits



My husband has long been obsessed with Jalapeno Poppers.

Oh the stories I could tell you about where he has gone to get the ones he loves most!  He's kind-of a Jalapeno Popper Connoisseur....or something like that!

So I made him this version, on the grill and he ate them right up!

Me thinks that means they were ok...you be the judge.


Grilled Jalapeno Poppers with Bacon Bits
4 large jalapenos
4 oz cream cheese
3 TBS shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup of cooked bacon chunks (cut from a slab of bacon) or pancetta

Preheat your grill.

Slice you jalapenos open.  Just take the top 15% part of them off, enough to allow you to see the seeds and stems inside of each one. Hollow out each pepper with a small spoon or mellon baller.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, cream together your cream cheese, cheddar cheese, salt and pepper.  Fill each pepper with the cream cheese mixture.

Place the peppers directly on the grill, close it an allow them to sit undisturbed for 5-6 minutes.  Turn off the burner below the peppers, but leave one one and continue to cook them on indirect heat for another 15 minutes.  If they begin to char more than you might like, move them to the top rack of your grill and finish them there.  Remove from the grill, sprinkle with your bacon bits and serve.

Colleen's Notes: The filling to pepper ratio will depend on the size of your peppers.
The funny thing about jalapenos is that you either get some tame ones or some that feel like they are blowing your head off - so you never quite know what to expect...beware and enjoy!


August 7, 2014

Pecan Encrusted Chicken with Dijon Sauce


Don't you just love making a dish or dessert for someone and they love it?  The other day, I made soup for my 12 year old son...as he took his first spoonful, he made a noise of such satisfaction then looked right up at me and said "Mom....Mom!  "This is SO good!"  Even my husband noticed the sound he made and it made him smile as well - and that...THAT right there is why I love to cook!

One day I was thinking about just what cookbook it was that made me fall in love with cooking and two books popped into my mind (that is if you don't count the Sesame Street Cookbook I received from Santa when I was 9 but THAT is another story).  I still have my first "real" cookbook.  The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook which I bought for myself when I was 18 or 19.  My dear "friend" is in pieces...literally! 40% of that giant book has completely fallen off of the spine.  I haven't touched it in years but I know that if I did, it would be like sliding on my oldest and most favorite pair of broken in jeans!  Sigh!

The cookbook that made me fall in love with both reading cookbooks cover to cover and the dream of opening a small food shop was The Silver Palate!  That book didn't have a single photo, just a few sketches but the LOVE of cooking for others enjoyment and cooking and entertaining in general jumped right off of its pages and into my soul!  I wasn't the only one because for its 25th anniversary, they released it again with photos and more.  I never did grab that one...just happy with my original I guess!

Do you have a favorite cookbook?  One that may have lit your spark when it comes to a love of cooking?

I decided to ask some of my foodie friends the same question and #CookbooksandCalphalon was born! Enjoy 17 food bloggers stories as well as the recipes that go along with them as we celebrate our love of cooking and the perfect pairing of Cookbooks & Calphalon!

This wouldn't be complete without a fun giveaway for you to enter...you can't cook without cookware and you can't use cookware unless you can cook...right?  So take a moment to enter our super fun Cookbooks & Calphalon Giveaway! 



AND.......


Also, now through September 1st, Calphalon is celebrating couples!  From the first meal they create together in their new home to the meal they share on their 25th anniversary, couple cook up memories! The cookware they choose serves as the foundation for which these “Couples Cooking” memories are made.
Calphalon wants to recognize these #CouplesCooking moments by asking couples to share pictures of the meals they cook together for a chance to win $1,000 in Calphalon cookware!



Calphalon is inviting couples to post photos of the meals they prepare with their significant other on Calphalon’s Facebook page. To enter, couples will be asked to share why the dish is unique or special to them and use the hashtag #CouplesCooking. How fun is THAT??
Follow the #CookbooksandCalphalon fun on social media for great recipes, tips and more and good luck in BOTH giveaways!
My Pecan Encrusted Chicken with Creamy Dijon Sauce was inspired by a combination of two recipes found in the two books I mentioned above and every time I have made it since I was a teen...people just love it! It is unusual and delicious...simple yet special.   From an intimate 2 person dinner to feeding a mountain house full of 20 people, this chicken always pleases!  Serve it with some grilled or roasted asparagus and some roasted potatoes and you have yourself a memorable meal!  Enjoy!

Check out these fabulous recipes from some of my friends and discover the book that made them fall in love with cooking as well!  I found it interesting that we were split down the middle as far as baking recipes vs cooking recipes, in my experience one love one more than the other!

Cooking:
Tomato Jam – Healthy. Delicious.
Lemon Basil Chicken Thighs - Mind Over Batter
Homemade Spinach and Cheese Ravioli - Food Lust People Love
Spaghetti Parmesan - Food Ramblings

Baking:
Cookie Dough Fudge Brownies – Sugar Dish Me
Plum and Pluot Galette - Fork Vs Spoon
Peanut Butter Squares - Kelly Bakes
Simple Apple Crisp – Real: The Kitchen and Beyond
Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake – The Redhead Baker
Beirut Tahini Swirls – Pastry Chef Online
Drinks:

Oat-chata – Healthy Slow Cooking


Pecan Encrusted Chicken with a Dijon Cream Sauce
4 good sized chicken breasts
Salt & pepper
8 TBS butter
3 TBS coarse-grained Dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
10 oz finely chopped pecans
3 TBS Butter
1 TBS olive or grapeseed oil
Sauce
2/3 cup sour cream
1 TBS coarse-grained Dijon mustard
Salt & Pepper

Pound your chicken breasts a few times with a rummer mallet or rolling pin until it is even and thin, then season them with salt and pepper. Set aside.  Melt 8 TBS butter in a frying pan, whisk in the mustard and scatter 1 tsp of fresh thyme leaves in.  Set your pecans out on a dish or paper plate and grab one piece of chicken, coat it in the mustard mixture, then immediately coat it in the pecans. Place on a baking sheet and repeat.

Preheat your oven to 225 degrees.  In a large frying pan,  melt 3 TBS butter, gently add in your chicken pieces (giving them enough space between one another to easily flip).  Cook for 3 minutes over medium heat, flip and cook for 2 minutes more.  Take chicken pieces out of the pan, and place them onto a baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes or until done (depends on the thickness of your chicken).

Meanwhile deglaze your frying pan with the sour cream,1 TBS of mustard, salt and pepper.  Heat it just enough to warm it through.

Serve chicken over-top of the sauce or drizzle sauce over-top - whichever you prefer.

Colleen's Notes: I like to pound my chicken with a rubber mallet, which I have had for years for just that purpose.  I always place the chicken, one piece at a time in a baggie and bam...bam...bam!  Love it!
This chicken is incredible moist and tender if cooked correctly, pan frying it for a bit then finishing it in the oven at a low temperature makes it perfect!  Don't leave out the Thyme - that little bit goes a long way with flavor!  Also you may want to wash your hands in-between coating each chicken breast...it can get messy!

Enjoy & Good Luck!

I was not compensated to write this post, I just thought it would be fun to share both the story and the giveaway.  Lucky for me Page Street Publishing and Calphalon were both happy to offer up fun prizes!

August 6, 2014

10 Cheesecake Toppings



Every wonder just what you could do to that store-bought or homemade cheesecake to take it from good to great?  I've got 10 ideas for you over on one of the sites I contribute to, including a fresh, easy, delicious and impressive Blueberry Compote Topping!

10 Ways to Top a Store-bought or a Homemade Cheesecake!

What's your favorite cheesecake topping?


Enjoy!