Summer Berry Smash

Summer Berry Smash

Has this ever happened to you?  You buy a watermelon, a huge watermelon (because it’s finally in season and you’ve been craving it since October), and then you realize you are going out of town in a few days?   I’m not naming any names,  but you (I) know who you (me, again) are…

Not one to let food go to waste, this was no exception.   Watermelon, meet blender.

It’s summer, people!  What do we need?!  Drinks!!!  When do we need them?!  RIGHT NOW!!!  
A libation that screams summer.  A drink that makes us think of lazy days, floating in the pool or feeling the sand between our toes.  One that  we have at backyard bbqs with friends and neighbors, watching the sun drop as the firepit glows with bright orange flames dancing around skewered, melty marshmallows.  This is that drink.

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Langostino Mac & Cheese with Crispy Bacon and Chives #SundaySupper #JuneDairyMonth

Langostino Mac & Cheese

This post is sponsored by Florida Dairy Farmers in conjunction with a social media campaign through Sunday Supper LLC. All opinions are my own.

This week, I am partnering with Florida Milk to talk a bit about what they do as a part of my post.  I happen to be a fan of farmers.  I grew up surrounded by family farms, so I have an appreciation for them.  I am also acutely aware that without them, food would be scarce to say the least. 

When I moved to Florida a few years ago, I, like most people, really only thought of beaches or theme parks and not much else. But, did you know there are more than 130 dairy farms here and most of those farms are primarily owned and operated by second and third-generation farming families.  They are hardworking men and women who care for their cows and the land, and they are leaders in their communities. Meet some of Florida’s Dairy Farmers here!

A few fun facts about Florida Cows

The majority of the dairy cows living in Florida are Holsteins (the black & white cows) and most dairy herds range in size from 150 to 5,000 cows.  That’s about 123,000 dairy cows in Florida (with Lafayette and Okeechobee being the leading dairy counties) that collectively produce about 2.34 BILLION pounds of milk a year.  That equates to 277 million gallons of Florida-produced milk at the grocery store.

Cheesy Goodness

I’m celebrating “Dairy Month” with one of my all-time favorite foods: Macaroni and Cheese.  It has long been one of my comfort foods.  Mac & cheese has been around for hundreds of years, so I’m sure it has been a comfort food for many.  When I was a teenager, it was my favorite after school snack.  You know the one –  the box with the shockingly orange powdered cheese.  I hadn’t yet learned how to make mac & cheese from scratch, so to my untrained palate it was gastronomic bliss!  I have since learned the delights of real macaroni and cheese.  Thankyouverymuch. 

While I still enjoy plain macaroni and cheese (probably more than I should), I wanted to “fancy it up” a bit and add in sweet langostinos with a handful of crispy bacon.  (Langostinos look like tiny lobsters, but are actually more closely related to certain species of crab.)  Normally, I use extra-sharp cheddar in my mac & cheese because I like the pronounced cheesiness.  However, when paired with the delicate flavor of langostinos, the cheese should complement and not overpower them so I went with a mellow cheddar.   Feel free to add in other cheeses.  Play around with the recipe, swap out one for another, try different combinations… just make sure you keep the same quantity.  Cooking should be fun and creative, recipes like this are a perfect place to start experimenting.

Baked

Mac & Cheese is perfection.  Pasta mixed with a creamy cheese sauce, topped with a layer of (even more) cheese & breadcrumbs and baked.  It’s so simple and satisfying.  
Enough talk, let’s get cooking…

Langostino Mac & Cheese with Crispy Bacon and Chives
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Ingredients
  1. 1 lb elbow macaroni, cooked according to package instructions
  2. 5 TB. unsalted butter
  3. 4 TB. AP flour
  4. 2 C. whole milk
  5. 1 C. Half & Half
  6. 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
  7. 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  8. 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  9. 2 C. shredded Cheddar cheese + 1/2 cup for sprinkling on top
  10. 1 1/2 C. langostinos, cooked
  11. 1 C. cooked bacon, chopped
  12. 2 TB. chives, chopped
  13. 1/4 C. seasoned breadcrumbs
  14. 1 TB butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. In a small pot, combine milk and half & half. Heat until warm, cover and set aside.
  3. In a medium pot, melt butter over low heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Turn heat up to medium and whisk roux for 2 -3 minutes. Add milk mixture and whisk to combine. Using a rubber spatula, go around the edges of your pan to make sure all of the flour gets incorporated.
  4. Continue whisking frequently until sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add dry mustard, salt, pepper and 2 cups cheddar. Stir continuously until smooth and uniform.
  6. Spray or butter 9x13 baking dish, set aside. In a large bowl, combine: cooked macaroni, cheese sauce, bacon, langostinos and chives. Stir to combine.
  7. Pour into glass baking dish. Stir together 1 TB melted butter, breadcumbs and remaining cheddar. Sprinkle over macaroni and bake for approximately 20 minutes, until bubbly and browned on top. Remove from oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Notes
  1. Langostinos are most often sold frozen, already cooked.
Pook's Pantry http://www.pookspantry.com/
 

Pin it to your Pasta board!

Mac & Cheese Pin

Want to meet the cows, get recipes from the Florida Milk Kitchen (including a lavender milk bath!) and see what’s new on the farms?  Check out Florida Dairy Farmers and keep up with Florida milk in the news and in the schools.

You can also keep up with Florida Dairy Farmers on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.

Here are more recipes from the folks at Sunday Supper featuring Florida milk:

Milk in the Morning:

Milk during the Day:

Milk in Desserts:

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement

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Summer Grain Salad #SundaySupper

summer grain salad

It’s the unofficial start to summer and you know what that means:  dining alfresco!  Whether it be picnics, backyard BBQ’s or lunch hours outside on a bench while soaking up a little sunshine, this grain salad has you covered.

It’s the perfect time of year to enjoy nature’s bounty of fresh vegetables.  If you are trying to eat a little cleaner and healthier, grain salads are for you!  The satisfying chewiness of whole grains, the crunch of fresh veggies,  the freshness of herbs and the zing of red wine vinegar make this salad a home run. 

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Food Wine Conference 2016 Recap #FWCon

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Where do I even begin? This past weekend was a whirlwind.

I arrived in Orlando on Thursday afternoon so I could spend some much needed time with old friends before the conference went into full-swing.   There were so many hugs and smiles followed by raucous laughter, eating and drinking.   Some of my friends I actually know in real life and some of them I met IRL for the first time last week.   We “talk” to each other every week online, in groups on facebook, through emails, etc. But we are spread out across the globe, so we rarely have the opportunity to see each others faces and just hang out and talk like friends do.  That was the absolute highlight of my weekend.  “Meeting” people I have adored for years and finally getting to wrap my arms around them.

Work Hard, Play Hard

This year, I was a brand ambassador for Idaho Potato and I have to tell you,  it was a match made in (potato) heaven.  I spent the majority of my weekend with the folks from Idaho Potato and I had a blast with them.   They were some of the most wonderful people I have ever met in my life.   Here’s evidence of how much fun we had – Idaho Collage
See those awesome potato gloves in the top right? Part of my swag bag from them…  I love them!  And Don & Linda!!!   The people from Famous Idaho Potatoes know how to have a good time!  

Thank A Farmer

One of the sessions I enjoyed most was our sponsors speaking about farming.  As you know, I grew up in a rural community and I was fortunate enough to be aware of  the source of my food.  I was surrounded by local farms and many of my classmates were farm kids,  so the sight of dirt-caked boots is not unfamiliar.   One common theme from each of the sponsors: Idaho Potato,  Certified Angus Beef, Cabot, CK Mondavi and Florida Strawberry Growers Association  was their passion and commitment.   Dan from Idaho Potato said something that really rang true :  “You have to love what you do to be a farmer”.  There is so much care and love that goes into what they do everyday and the amount of work that it entails to produce what they raise/grow on their farms is staggering.

Friendships, New & Old, are Good for the Soul

FWCon Friends Collage
So Much Fun with these Gals!  Copious amounts of food (and drinks!)  were consumed this past weekend, all with these beauties by my side.  This really is the BEST part of the conference for me.   It’s not all play…  we’re WORKING!   It might look like we are just hanging out and having fun all the time  (and we kinda are), but we are also talking shop most of the time.  How to grow our blogs, what photo editing program works best for us, what we learned in the session we just attended, etc.  Oh, and pass the margaritas, please…  

Oui, Chef!

On Sunday,  there was a cooking competition.  We had a handful of mystery ingredients and had about 10 minutes to figure out what to do with them.  There was Certified Angus ground beef,  Fingerling Idaho Potatoes, Blueberries from Wish Farms, wine from CK Mondavi and cheese from Cabot, a tomato based vinaigrette dressing and a sweet and spicy sauce… Everything had to used and the focus of our dish had to be blueberries.   We put our heads together and came up with a menu, I was nominated to cook (I had 15 minutes!) and then make 3 identical plates.  It was a little crazy, but we pulled together and made it happen with time to spare!hashed collage

 

Here are a few more shots from this amazing weekend!FWCON collage - misc
From making facial masks with Greek yogurt to dressing up for our Denim and Diamonds bash, a great time was most certainly had by all!

A huge thank you to Idaho Potatoes for making my first experience as a Brand Ambassador so fantastic!  They provided an AMAZING lunch for us and were gracious enough to give me links to the recipes so I could share them with all of you!!!

Thai Curry Idaho Potato Soup   https://idahopotato.com/recipes/thai-curry-idaho-potato-soup

Carnitas & Potato Hash:  https://idahopotato.com/recipes/dos-caminos-carnitas-and-idaho-potato-hash-1

Penne with Arugula Pesto, Idaho Red Potatoes and Spring Vegetables: https://idahopotato.com/recipes/penne-with-arugula-pesto-idaho-red-potatoes-and-spring-vegetables

Potato Cakes with Mint Chutney:  https://idahopotato.com/recipes/potato-cakes-with-mint-chutney

Salmon Calcutta with Idaho Fingerling Potatoes: https://idahopotato.com/recipes/salmon-calcutta-with-idaho-fingerling-potatoes

Chocolate Potato Donuts with Creme Anglaise:  https://idahopotato.com/recipes/chocolate-potato-donuts-with-creme-anglaise

Idaho Potato Pound Cake: https://idahopotato.com/recipes/idaho-potato-pound-cake-gluten-free

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Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp) #SundaySupper

Gambas al Ajillo

I was in my late 20’s the first time I went to Spain.  I remember crossing the border from France onto Spanish soil and the flood of emotion I felt.   It was as if I was coming home.  But, I had never been there before…  It was a surreal experience and I knew right then that I would be back.

I fell in love with Spain.   The food, the history, the culture… all of it.  I had been studying Spain and Latin America since I was 14 years old.  I had a degree in Iberian & Latin American studies (don’t ask me what to do with it), but I had never set foot in Spain.  (I did the study abroad program in Guadalajara, México)  It was over a decade in the making to be able to finally experience everything I had read in books.

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Italian Sausage and Peppers Burger #BurgerMonth

Sausage & Peppers Burger

When I realized that after 5 years of doing this blog, I didn’t have a single burger recipe on here, well… you can imagine my dismay.  I have failed.  In an attempt to make it up to you,  I made a burger with the flavors of Italian sausage and peppers.  
My most awesome carnivorous friend, Kita of Girl Carnivore put this epic #BurgerMonth event together and this is my contribution. 

It’s the quintessential Brooklyn street fair food.  There are food trucks at every single fair or festival selling that spicy sweet mix of sausage, peppers and onions.  The scent of it wafting through the air brings back memories of walking through booths of games, cotton candy vendors and frozen lemonade stands.   

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Honey Lemon Vinaigrette with Whole Grain Mustard

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The three most dreaded words in my vocabulary “Bathing Suit Season”.   It’s not that I have an issue wearing one, I hate shopping for them.   Come on, Girls out there…  Please tell me you have my back.   It could nearly be classified as torture.  I have to psych myself up for the task, give myself a little pep talk and promise myself a reward if I get it accomplished in record time.

When life gives you lemons, make a vinaigrette ~ Me.

The point is, we are eating ALOT of salads these days.  We always eat salad, but lately we are eating enough greens for a small village.   We have a few favorites, like this Butternut Arugula Salad, but I like to change it up fairly often.  One of the best ways to do that is with the dressing. Last year, we were at a family reunion and I was lucky enough to score 2 lbs of raw honey from a cousin who has bees.   That honey is incredible and makes the best vinaigrettes!   Making your own vinaigrette at home takes about 5 minutes and one of the advantages in doing it yourself is total control over the ingredients.  You know exactly what is in there.  No red dye #5,  no high-fructose corn syrup, no need for a PhD to decipher ingredients!   Just squeeze a few lemons, add in a little honey, blitz it & stir in whole grain mustard.  Easy Peasy, Lemony Squeezy.

This vinaigrette is good for more than just salad, I use it in a summer pasta salad (post coming soon) and it’s a great marinade for chicken!  This recipe makes about 3 cups of dressing and it will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 – 7 days.   Five minutes of work for a vinaigrette you can use all week!  That’s a pretty good deal.

Honey Lemon Vinaigrette with Whole Grain Mustard
A light homemade salad dressing with honey, lemon and mustard
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Prep Time
2 min
Cook Time
3 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
2 min
Cook Time
3 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 6 fl. oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4 big lemons)
  2. 6 TB raw honey
  3. 1 TB whole grain mustard
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 1/4 tsp pepper
  6. 1/2 cup olive oil
  7. 1 1/2 cups canola or grapeseed oil
Instructions
  1. Combine lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper in a deep bowl or container. I like to use quart containers (Tall deli containers or large soup containers from takeout)
  2. With an immersion blender (or regular blender), combine all ingredients for about 15 seconds and SLOWLY drizzle in olive oil, then canola oil.
  3. The texture and color will begin to lighten as it emulsifies.
  4. You will see oil on top and then suddenly, it will be a perfectly blended dressing that holds together instead of looking separated.
  5. When dressing is nice and thick, add in whole grain mustard and give it one last blast with the immersion blender to combine everything & Voila! Dressing, Done!
Pook's Pantry http://www.pookspantry.com/

Food, Wine & Fun #FWCon

In a few short weeks, I will head to Orlando once again to attend the Food Wine Conference.  This is one of my favorite blogging conferences for many reasons.  I get to see my friendshave lots of laughs (which is always needed) and I have the opportunity to learn so many things.

I cook for a living.  Six days a week, I’m in front of a stove and this is a nice change of pace to be able to put my “blogger hat” on for a few days and learn about blog-related things.  This conference isn’t just for bloggers or Chefs, it’s for anyone who really has a passion for food and likes eating, drinking wine, hanging out with super fun people and learning along the way. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?  

Speaking of learning…  I am MOST excited about 3 of the speakers this year:  Lenny & Denise of Chez Us,  Denise Vivaldo, Food Stylist Extraordinaire  and Kita Roberts of Girl Carnivore.   I will be the nerdiest nerd with my notebook in hand, ready to soak up every tidbit of knowledge they are droppin’.

Another bonus for me this year is getting to meet some of the #SundaySupper people in person.  Isabel started The Sunday Supper Movement about 6 years ago and it has grown exponentially since it’s launch.  So much so, that this conference is a direct result of it.  As a blogger, the world in which we exist is inside our computers or phones.  We don’t have offices to go to every morning or company lunches where we all hang out.  We have the internet.  It can be a little isolating at times, but the beauty of these groups that we belong to is the camaraderie that comes with it.   Thanks to the social media sharing, it’s not all that odd to see people taking photos of food anymore, but we don’t just snap a pic and move on.  We have to check the lighting, adjust a single piece of lettuce, wipe a smudge on a plate, etc.  This isn’t weird to ANYONE else in the blogging world,  that’s just a normal day.  It’s nice to be around people who “get me” and don’t look at me sideways for taking 73 photos of the same thing before I’ll eat it.

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As if that’s not enough, I was chosen as a Brand Ambassador this year.  I’m beyond excited and I can’t wait to find out who my brand partner is and start working with them!  There are so many great sponsors this year from Florida Strawberries to Cabot Cheese, you know there will be lots of good things to eat!  And, as a brand ambassador, I get to pass a little savings along to you!  How great is that?!WEB2015FWCon-242-689x460

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I will be posting tons of photos on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram  with the hashtag #FWCon so you can follow all the adventures!

Oh yeah, and did I mention where we stay?!  I have to tell you, Rosen Shingle Creek Resort is stunning.  I mean it,  it is absolutely beautiful. Don’t believe me?  Here’s some hard evidence:

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photo courtesy of Rosen Shingle Creek

We get to stay here!!!! There are pools, bars, restaurants, huge meeting rooms, etc. and the best thing of all?!  A culinary school On. The. Property!  I nearly lost my mind when I found that out on my first visit.

As you can tell, I’m a little excited about this conference.  You can head over to the website now to REGISTER and use my special code:  PooksPantry to save $50.

There are fun contests like this one or this one from Florida Dairy Farmers.  Enter for a chance to win a FREE ticket to the conference!   

To follow all the fun and happenings at the Food Wine Conference, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and G+. Don’t forget the hashtag #FWCon !

Hope to see you there!

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As a brand ambassador, I receive a credit when my code is used.

 

 

Oh I couldn’t… Well, maybe just a little

 

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Bread Pudding is one of those desserts people just don’t make very often anymore, since carbs have been deemed the devil and all…

So of course I’ve decided to make it, put 3 different kinds of chocolate in it and cover it with a sauce that tastes like melted ice cream.

I figure this is the perfect indulgence after a month of Lenten sacrifice.   It would make a great dessert anytime, quite honestly.  It is one of the easiest desserts to make because it requires very little effort and it does not demand hours of babysitting to ensure perfection. Thank you Very Much…

For this bread pudding, I prefer brioche (brioche is a buttery, eggy bread) but if you can’t find it use french bread, challah or plain white bread.  If you are lucky enough to live near a good bakery, ask them for the “eggiest” bread they have if they don’t bake brioche.

There really isn’t much to it: cut up some old bread, mix it up with a few other ingredients, let it soak for a bit while you get on with other things and then put it in the oven to bake.  I mean really, what else can you ask for in a dessert?

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Caramel Buttered Bourbon

This post is sponsored by Four Roses Bourbon. The content and opinions are mine and not shared by the sponsor.

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It’s Opening Day and what better way to celebrate than with a little bourbon?  Four Roses Bourbon wants to help you celebrate Opening Day with a Bourbon Cocktail and the idea was to incorporate ball park food.  I love a good hot dog as much as the next girl… but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to combine a hot dog and bourbon.

So, I started thinking about what I love about bourbon and it’s the caramelly smokiness that gets me.  An old-fashioned is my drink of choice, so I am *quite* familiar with bourbon.  Ahem.   Which leads me to the question “what do I eat at ball games that I can combine with bourbon?”. Answer: Caramel Corn.   The flavors are already there and I wanted to come up with a drink that would enhance the flavor profile of the bourbon without masking it.

The Girl and I love baseball and lucky for us,  the Grapefruit League is here.  We take road trips all over Florida to watch Spring Training games and now Opening Day is finally here!  Growing up in Ohio, the Cleveland Indians have always been my team.  I know you are only supposed to have ONE favorite team, but I must divulge this bit of info:  I lived in NYC for 17 years, how could I not root for the Mets?  I’ve been to more Mets games in the old stadium than all the other games combined!  (Don’t even talk to me about the Yankees…)   We take it pretty seriously, as you can see.  

On to the recipe!  There are only 2 elements to this libation, making it pretty easy to whip up if you are having a few people over.  You can easily double or triple the simple syrup recipe, put it into a nice little pitcher, set out your bottle of Four Roses and your guests can help themselves!   The Bourbon and the Buttered Caramel Simple Syrup.  That’s it!  (BOOM… Mic Drop)

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Caramel Buttered Bourbon
Serves 2
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Prep Time
2 min
Cook Time
8 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
2 min
Cook Time
8 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 6 ounces (4 shots) Four Roses Bourbon
  2. 1/2 TB unsalted butter
  3. 1/2 tsp vanilla
  4. 4 TB light brown sugar
  5. 4 TB water
  6. granulated sugar for rim of glass / caramel corn for garnish
Instructions
  1. Combine butter, vanilla, sugar & water in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and let it continue to simmer for 5 - 8 minutes, until sugar has completely dissolved and syrup has thickened just slightly.
  2. Pour 3 ounces (2 shots) of bourbon in a glass and add syrup to taste. Stir to combine. Garnish if desired.
  3. Suggestion: start with 1 tablespoon of syrup, you can always add more to taste.
Notes
  1. A word on ice: I use a muffin tin to make large ice cubes for my drinks. They are the perfect size for the glasses I have and they don't water down the drinks as quickly as smaller cubes.
  2. Because there is a smidge of butter in the syrup- if you add ice, the drink will get a bit cloudy. There's nothing wrong with your drink, it's just the butter getting cold.
Added Bonus
  1. I had some simple syrup left over and I also had leftover ham from Easter... Throw a splash of bourbon into the syrup, and glaze the ham with that magical concoction!
  2. You're Welcome.
Pook's Pantry http://www.pookspantry.com/
#Opening Day @4RosesBourbon