3 Jul
2016

Forget fast-paced days. Instead, opt for a laid back, impromptu picnic. Pick wild flowers, skip through the countryside and sing the hills are alive with music. After you’ve tired yourself out from those crazy activities, find a sunny spot, lay out the spread and chow down on the yummy portable grub that you made.

 

Spicy Black Bean & Barley Salad
Pack that in your basket:
A red-checkered tablecloth.
A small garbage bag.
Napkins, utensils and wet paper towels.
Insect repellent. Remember to keep the buggers away from you and your food (shoo-fly).
Frisbee (or other toy).

Even though they’re transportable feasts, don’t bring too much. It is supposed to be fun, not back breaking and formal.

 

This salad is made up of hearty barley, spicy cilantro and crunchy bell pepper. The result is a nutritious, slightly chewy and yummy salad. This dish is perfect for picnic fare – it can be served cold or at room temperature.

2/3 cups barley (look for it in the ‘rice & grain’ aisle)

3 ½ cups water

1 15.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/3 cup red onion, chopped

¼ cup white-wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon olive oil

¼ cup cilantro, chopped

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 cayenne pepper

  1. Boil water. Once water boils, add barley and stir. Cover with a lid and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 40 – 45 minutes, or until barley is tender. Remove from heat. Place in colander and rinse in cold water. Leave in colander to drain.
  2. In a large bowl, combine black beans, corn, red pepper, onion, vinegar, olive oil, cilantro, chili powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Once barley is cooked and cooled, add to the vegetable mixture. Stir together. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves: 6

 

Shero Wraps Wickedly-Good Chocolate Chip Cookies
Hero hoagies step aside for their stylish sister sandwich, the shero wrap.   Wraps are your own masterpiece – throw in a little of this and a lot of that. I’ve put together a veggie wrap, but feel free to throw in some real or faux sliced turkey, chicken, roast beef or any other lunch-meat-longing. Wrap it up, and take it!

 

Four 8-inch spinach tortillas*

1 Tablespoon mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

½ pound Muenster cheese or favorite soy cheese, thinly sliced

4 red leaf lettuce leaves, cleaned

1 ripe avocado, peeled and thinly sliced

8 thin tomato slices

8 thin red onion slices

1 cup alfalfa sprouts

salt and pepper

  1. Lay tortillas shells on counter. Divide ingredients into fourths.
  2. Spread the center of tortillas with mayonnaise and Dijon, leaving the outer inch of the tortilla plain. Evenly place Muenster cheese, lettuce, avocados, tomatoes, onions and alfalfa sprouts on tortillas.
  3. Season wraps with salt and pepper.
  4. Wrap ‘em up. Gently but firmly roll up tortilla to form cylinder.
  5. Wrap each shero with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator until chow time.

* There are so many yummy flavored tortillas out there. They all work well with this recipe. Try:

Jalapeno & cilantro

Pesto & garlic

Sun-dried tomato & basil

Mild chili & peppers

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Makes: 4 tortillas. May want to make 2 wraps per picnicker

Sweet, salty, buttery, chocolaty… No, you didn’t die and go to heaven (but close)!

1 ¼ cups flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup chocolate chips

1 cup Heath or Scorn bars, chopped (look for milk chocolate toffee bits in the baking aisle)

¼ cup pecans, chopped (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper*.
  2. Sift (or stir) together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, cream butter for one minute, until light and fluffy.
  4. Add brown sugar and mix until combined. Add egg and vanilla; mix until well combined.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until combined.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips and toffee pieces (and pecans, if using).
  7. Drop rounded Tablespoons of dough on baking sheet. Space two inches apart.
  8. Bake for 10 – 11 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom of the cookie.

*   I bake one batch/baking sheet at a time – it ensures that they bake and brown evenly, and have consistent results. The recipe yields two batches.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Baking time: 10 minutes (per batch)

Serves: 19 cookies

Can be made up to three days ahead. These freeze well.

26 Jun
2016

Yes the lighting is dim for a reason in my photos. I had to cook by way of microwave light.

My time has been sliced dramatically since my baby girl Arya has been born. I get torn in every which way. My primary job right now is not that of an elementary art educator, or that of a food blogger, or even that of person who is able to drop everything and go have a blast throwing a few beers back with his friends. No, my primary job is that of a good husband and an even better father. So, you can see how it would be hard to juggle so many things and actually stay sane. Still, one needs to find release in life or sanity will fly out the window and for me that release comes in the form of a good blog post. I can set aside a few good minutes and get lost in words and photos.

This sets the stage for yesterday evening. I was at an outstanding Tampa Bay Bloggers meetup learning how to bring in some extra assets to help out the household. I had to come home later than normal on this Monday evening and I felt bad that I missed baby Arya’s swim lessons with mommy, but I NEEDED to do this.

I had some light meal options that accompanied our blogger meetup at Dough. While they were definitely delicious, they were indeed light snacks, but I was considerate of my better half and snuck home a bouquet of Ramen Encrusted Chicken Bites that were left by their lonesome on my way out of the bakery.

ramen-encrusted-chicken-nuggetsleftovers-3

As I opened the garage door, my wife sneakily opened the inside door and gave me a quick shush with a swipe of her finger across her lips. I knew exactly what that meant. She had enough and baby Arya was getting some much-needed rest for herself momma. Come to find out my wife wasn’t very hungry as she had already heated up some leftovers I made from the night before. Come to find out she wasn’t that hungry. That’s alright, more for me (she did snag one after all though).

Right away I thought to myself, “How can I create something unique and tasty, rather than just nuking these crunchy bites of goodness in the microwave”? I figured I would create an easy breakfast concoction, my go to for an easy dinner option. I also knew I was on a mission not to wake the baby or there would be Hell to pay.

So all I did was cook up a couple scrambled eggs (I love Lady and Pup’s version of scarmbled eggs), chop up the chicken crispy pieces, toss them in the egg pan with some shredded up mozzarella, gave a few squirts of Sriracha, and let it all melt together for a minute. In the meantime, I toasted up some bread and heaped the egg/chicken mixture on top for an unorthodox breakfast sandwich packed with flavor. For an extra blast of umami, I hit it with some BLiS Blast, which is a barrel aged triple pepper hot sauce.

The point I wanted to make here is that you work with what you have. I didn’t have the means to create an elaborate meal, but so what? The meal was delicious nonetheless and it was a fun challenge to keep quiet enough not to wake the sleeping baby because anyone with a baby knows that will get you in deep shit.

19 Jun
2016

Happy Easter to all of my “Peeps”. Hope you all have a blessed day. Easter is one of my favorite holidays because I get to celebrate my risen savior. Actually I get to celebrate Him all year long. So to all the “Peeps” in my life have a very Happy Easter.

What Easter dinner table would be complete without deviled eggs? I have often wondered why we serve “Devil”ed eggs on a day that celebrates Jesus. Did you ever wonder the same? But every Easter dinner I’ve ever been to always has them. Forgive me, I digressed.

eggs1Ok, so deviled eggs are standard fare for any Easter gathering (or any family gathering for that matter). And have you ever noticed that the family member that doesn’t cook is the one delegated to bring the deviled eggs?

That’s because they are easy deviled eggs. I was that family member for many years.

Now I like my deviled eggs really basic. Don’t go adding any fancy ingredients like relish or I probably won’t eat them.

So I want to share my very basic recipe with you so you can make basic deviled eggs.

Basic deviled eggs ingredients

After the eggs are done and peeled, slice them in half lengthwise and remove the yellow portion to a bowl. Place the white halves, cut side up, on a plate or deviled egg platter.

eggs2Mash the yellows with a fork then add mayonnaise and mustard.

You will notice that I am not giving you any measurements for this recipe because it truly is a matter of personal taste and consistency. and of course depends on how many eggs you are preparing.

Start with the mayonnaise.

Mix in a heaping tablespoon at a time until you reach the consistency that you prefer.

Some people like theirs really creamy but I prefer mine a little stiffer. I want to be able to taste the egg flavor over the mayo.

When you have them to the consistency that you want them add mustard to give them an extra zip of flavor. Add the mustard a teaspoon at a time until it reaches the desired flavor that you like.

eggs3Now it’s time to stuff the egg whites. If you want them to be really pretty and look like you slaved in the kitchen for hours, use a cake decorator with an open star tip.

If you are not quite up to that difficulty then go for the simple method. Put the yellow mixture in a zip lock bag and zip it closed. Cut one corner off the bag and pipe the filling into the egg whites.

Sprinkle with paprika or chili powder to garnish. Ta Da!! Done, easy, simple. You just made Basic Deviled Eggs.I knew you could make basic deviled eggs.

How simple was that? Your family will thank you for your contribution.